Big Beaver Township,
Lawrence County, Pa History



[Formerly known as a township til 1849 when Lawrence County was formed from parts of Beaver and Mercer counties. In the formation of Lawrence County, it split Big Beaver Township, leaving part of it in Beaver County and part of it in Lawrence County. The part of Big Beaver in Lawrence County is now known as New Beaver Borough.]



Big Beaver was one of the original townships of Lawrence County. It has an area of about ten thousand acres, being one of the smaller townships of the county. Big Beaver River forms its eastern boundary and receives numerous small branches, which have their sources in the township. The Erie & Pittsburg and the Pittsburg & Lake Erie Railways traverse the township in a north and south direction, keeping close along the river. The Pittsburg, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway crosses the southwest corner, and besides these are numerous tracks running to the limestone quarries and coal banks in the eastern part of the township. The township contains the villages of Newport and Clinton, and the borough of Wampum, which latter was incorporated on the 19th of February, 1876. Wampum and Clinton contain a large proportion of miners and men who work in the limestone quarries and coal mines.

EARLY SETTLEMENT.

The first settlers were John and Robert Davidson, who left Ireland in the year 1791, and came to America, landing at Philadelphia. Robert went to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he bought some property, and afterwards returned east to Pittsburg. In the early part of the year 1796, the two men came to the spot where Wampum now stands, and settled a two-hundred acre tract. Their mother, with four other sons, left Ireland in 1793, and for three years after landing in the United States staid in the eastern part of Pennsylvania. In March, 1796, they came to Lawrence County. The land in the vicinity of where they settled was surveyed into tracts of 200 acres each, and any person locating on one of these tracts was entitled to one-half for settling, and by paying $100 could get the other hundred acres. Thomas Davidson came out a year or two after the rest arrived. The seven boys were John, Isaac, Robert, Charles, James, Andrew and Thomas. They settled from one hundred to three hundred acres each, along the Big Beaver River, and part of the farms are still occupied by their descendants. Their lands extended into what is now Beaver County, the farm of James Davidson reaching a short distance across the line.

Robert Davidson was, for a short time, agent for Benjamin Chew, who controlled a large quantity of land in Big Beaver, Wayne, Shenango, Perry and Slippery Rock Townships. He was also the first postmaster when the office of Wampum (called Irish Ripple Postoffice, from the rapids in the river) was established.

The farm of John Davidson, Esq., was probably settled, about 1798 or 1800, by John Somerville, and included 200 acres. Andrew Davidson traded his 100 acres to Somerville for the farm. The first house built on the place was a small log cabin, which stood in an orchard on the east side of the road, opposite John Davidson's residence. John Somerville, who settled this farm, was cousin to the John Somerville who afterwards became a Methodist preacher. To distinguish them apart, when mentioning them, they were nicknamed "Big" and "Little" John.

James Davidson was married to Elizabeth Somerville about 1805, and his was the first marriage in the Davidson family after they settled.

Alexander Wright came, soon after 1800, and purchased 100 acres south of the Somerville or Andrew Davidson farm. This tract was Population Company's land and extended north to the Chew land. Jesse Lightner bought the hundred acres next east of Wright's and running to the river.

Most of the Davidsons became extensive landholders, it being among the best in the township, and afterwards valuable owing to its location on a well-traveled highway and the coal it contains.

A tract of land was surveyed in pursuance of a warrant issued April 14, 1792, and granted by the Commonwealth to Charles Massey. The Pennsylvania Population Company became possessed of this tract, among others which they held in the county, and it was transferred to the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank by William Griffith and wife, and John B. Wallace and wife, December 1, 1818. William Grimshaw was the banking company's attorney and sold it to David Crawford, September 19, 1833. From him it was purchased by James Cochran.

On the dissolution of the Pennsylvania Population Company many of the lands in the neighborhood became the property of William Griffith and John B. Wallace. The title was vested in Griffith, in trust for an undivided moiety, for Wallace. Maurice and William Wurtz, of Philadelphia, also had a claim, and their attorney was H. J. Huidekoper, who sold a portion of the land to James Davidson. The first improvements on the place now or lately owned by Mr. Cochran, which includes portions of the Davidson and Crawford land, were made by a squatter, who staid only a short time on the farm. Mr. Crawford was, however, the first actual settler.

David and Robert Ramsey came, originally, from Ireland, with their father, who settled first near the site of Youngstown, Ohio, some time previous to 1812. They afterwards removed to Little Beaver Township.

William Whan came from Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, about 1808-9, with his wife and two children-a son and a daughter-and settled 200 acres.

Samuel Naugle came about 1800 and settled near the site of the village of Newport.

Robert Paden came to the township about 1800 and settled in the northwest part, where members of the family still reside.

James McCandless was an early settler in the same neighborhood, but, possibly, came after Mr. Paden.

James Patterson came from County Armagh, Ireland, and in 1822 located on a farm subsequently owned by his son, Robert Patterson. The tract originally included 400 acres, and was patented by George Leslie, in 1795 or 1796. The place occupied by Robert Patterson was first improved by William McKim, about 1832.

The New Castle & Darlington Railway was intended to intersect the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne & Chicago road at New Galilee, Beaver County, and, about 1858-59, was graded from New Castle to within a mile and a half or two miles of that point. Owing to the fact that much of the grading was paid for in calico, the road was called the "Calico road." It was, however, never completed.

The Beaver Valley Railway was opened for travel in the fall of 1863, and now forms a part of the Erie & Pittsburg Railway. It was built from New Castle to Homewood, Beaver County where it connected with the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway, and, for four or five miles out from New Castle used the old grade of the New Castle & Darlington Railway.

The Beaver and New Castle wagon road was laid out by the State, being surveyed about 1801. It was sixty-six feet wide, and was called the State road. In 1839 it was re-surveyed and the route graded through.

MILITARY.

Among the early settlers of Big Beaver who served in the War of 1812 were the following:

Andrew Davidson, who came in 1796; was out a short time at Erie.

David Ramsey went to Erie from Youngstown, Ohio, where he was living at the time. He afterwards removed to Little Beaver Township, Lawrence County Pennsylvania.

John Whan was married in the fall or winter of 1813, and was out two months at Erie immediately afterwards. He served in Capt. Wilson Kildoo's company.

James Paden went to Erie, and probably his brother Hugh, also. The Padens lived in the western part of the township.

Militia organizations were kept up after the war was over, and held regular drills and musters under the militia law of the State. The annual review days were looked upon as grand holidays; whisky flowed in unlimited quantities, and the song and merry shout resounded on every such occasion.

During the War of the Rebellion, Big Beaver was represented by many a gallant son who fought in the ranks of the Union army. More on this subject may be found in the chapter devoted to the military history of the county.

SCHOOLS.

The first school in what is now Big Beaver Township was kept in a vacated log cabin, which stood on the Baker farm, just in the edge of the present county line. Richard Johnston was the teacher. The first building erected specially for school purposes stood about twenty rods north of where the Methodist Church at Clinton now stands. It was built of very large, round logs, about the year 1820. A "one-eyed, cross old man," named Robert Creighton, first taught in it. Before this schoolhouse was built, Creighton taught in James Davidson's old log weaving shop, the loom having been removed to make room. Just below the old log schoolhouse was a spring, where the pupils went to drink.

MANUFACTURERS. In 1876 an establishment was built on the hill just south of the limits of Wampum borough, for the manufacture of cement, the company being known as the Wampum Cement and Lime Company. The article manufactured is said to be superior to any other cement known. It took the first prize at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia. The man employed to make it was a German named William Pucall. The company was organized about 1869-70, as the "Wampum Mining and Manufacturing Company." The principal ingredients used in the manufacture of this cement are limestone and blue clay. The limestone is quarried in the hill above the works, and the clay is taken out in the valley below. In the process of making, the limestone is first ground to flour and bolted, after which it is mixed in certain proportions with the clay and put into a "dry-kiln" and dried. It is then baked in another kiln and finally crushed, ground and bolted, when it becomes ready for use.

WAMPUM BOROUGH.

This borough was first settled by two brothers, Robert and John Davidson, who came from Ireland, in 1791, landing at Philadelphia. Robert first went to Cincinnati, where he purchased property; he subsequently returned to Pittsburg, and thence he and his brother John proceeded to the tract covering the site of Wampum Borough, in March, 1796. Their mother, with the rest of the family, left Ireland in 1793, and remained in the eastern part of Pennsylvania until her sons had made a settlement at Wampum, when they joined them. Thomas Davidson, a half brother, joined the settlement a year or two later. They settled on a two hundred-acre tract, of which they received half for settling, and afterwards purchased the balance for $100. The family consisted of seven sons, all of whom settled in the vicinity, along the Beaver River. Robert Davidson erected a grist-mill on the site of the mill afterwards owned by Edward Key, about the year 1830. It was run by water from springs, and contained two run of stone. Mr. Davidson died in 1846. His heirs ran the mill about four years, or until 1850, when it came into possession of Captain Archibald Reed. It afterwards passed through several other hands and was at different times enlarged and improved.

The people of the borough of Wampum are extensively engaged in mining and manufacturing.

BLAST FURNACE.

The first furnace was built in 1856 by Porter R. Friend & Co., of Pittsburg, who operated it for a number of years, but the business was so unprofitable that the property was finally sold at assignee's sale, August 1, 1866. Samuel Kimberly purchased the establishment on behalf of the "Eagle Iron Company," of Cleveland, Ohio, though the latter company never really owned it. The name was changed to "Wampum Furnace Company." Its capacity was about twenty tons of metal, daily, or about seven thousand tons per annum.

The works were employed in the manufacture of pig-iron exclusively, using Lake Superior ores mostly. A small proportion of the red limestone ore found in Shenango and Wayne Townships was used in connection with the red ores. The company owned, in connection with their furnace, extensive coal and limestone deposits. The amount of coal taken out of their mines being annually from 40,000 to 50,000 tons. The capital invested in the furnace property, in coal mines, stone quarries, cars, coal-chutes, etc., was fully $250,000. This business was discontinued and the works dismantled many years ago.

The coal business at Wampum is quite extensive. The firm of Davidson, Green & Co. formerly handled annually from thirty to forty thousand tons. Captain O. H. P. Green, of this firm, claimed to have been the first man to export the Beaver Valley gas coal to Erie, which was in 1852. The captain invested several thousand dollars in the business, in which he continued some two years by himself, when he took in, as partners, Abner C. Penton and Henry Manning, of Youngstown, Ohio. In 1854, he sold his interest in the business to Jonathan Warner, of Youngstown, Ohio. Captain Green had commenced industrial life as a common laborer when fifteen years of age, near Greenville, Mercer County. When the canal was completed, he had gone into the boating business, in which he continued until he engaged in coal-mining and shipping. After he sold out his interest in the coal business, he returned to his old occupation on the canal. In partnership with Captain M. S. Marquis, he owned and operated as many as twelve boats at one time. In 1857 he removed to the vicinity of Edenburg, where he purchased at various times several farms, on one of which is situated the famous prehistoric mound, near the site of the old Indian town of Kush-kush-kee. (See history of Mahoning Township.) He continued to do business on the canal until about 1869. In 1867 Capt. Green removed to New Castle.

In addition to the coal business at this point, there has been a considerable trade carried on in quarrying and burning limestone. Large quantities of cement are also manufactured from the lower stratum of limestone, familiarly known as the "blue-stone." The coal of this valley is bituminous, and has excellent coke and gas-producing qualities.

Wampum was erected into a borough by the Court of Quarter Sessions, February 19, 1876. Edward Kay was the first burgess. The first post-office was established at Wampum about 1832, by the name of "Irish Ripple," so called from the rapids in the Beaver River. It was moved back and forth between Wampum and Newport until about the year 1868, when the people of the former place had the name changed to "Wampum," since which it has remained there. The name "Wampum" is said to, have been derived from a tribe of Indians who formerly dwelt there, and who wore the wampum belt. The town is picturesquely situated on the Beaver River, nine miles below New Castle.

The American Cement Tile Manufacturing Company is a prosperous concern engaged in the manufacture of a fine grade of tile without wire reinforcement. They are practically without competition in their line of business. The president of the company is Isadore Meyers; vice-president, Joseph Freund; superintendent, James H. Stewart. The plant covers about twelve acres of ground, the main building being 565x65 feet, and there are about sixty people employed.

A successful milling business was established in Wampum in 1883, by John J. Miller and Jacob Pitts. They purchased a mill near the railroad and started the milling enterprise which has since developed into the Wampum Milling Company. The partnership lasted until 1900, when Mr. Miller died. The property and business are now owned and conducted successfully by Mrs. Sarah J. Miller and her sons-Charles W. and William J.

Wampum has two comfortable hostelries which offer shelter to the passing traveler:

The Arlington Hotel was purchased by its present proprietor, Kasper N. Trunk, of its former proprietor, James Stewart, in May, 1902, and is being conducted by him with success.

The Wampum Hotel is conducted by John H. Conn, who purchased it of Charles Stapf in March, 1907. Mr. Stapf had been its proprietor for about eighteen years, its former owner having been Jacob Hyle.

The Wampum Hardware Company is a thriving concern of its kind, carrying a large stock of general hardware and explosives for mining purposes. Besides its main store building it has a storage room across the street and another in the vicinity of the railroad tracks. The business was purchased in February, 1905, by F. M. Davis & Brother, Dr. Charles Davis, who are carrying it on very successfully.

The firm of Miles & Aley are also engaged in the hardware business here.

A general store is carried on by Frank P. Major, while David M. Marshall is engaged in business as funeral director and furniture dealer.

William W. Yoho carries on a blacksmith shop.

The financial needs of the borough and the vicinity are accommodated by the First National Bank.

The first meeting to organize this bank was held December 29, 1902, and the bank was organized March 10, 1903, with the following officers: W. H. Marshall, president; W. H. Braby, vice president; W. H Grove, cashier; airectors-W. H. Marshall, W. H. Braby, S. P. Major, Joseph Stiglitz, F. M. Davis, Geo. H. Mehard, W. H. Grove, J. H. Stewart, W. H. Phillips, F. M. Withrow, M. S. Marquis, T. D. Wilson, and Joseph Freund. The capital stock was placed at $25,000. W. H. Grove acted as cashier until November 1, 1906, when C. C. Johnston succeeded him and still holds office. The president and vice-president are still the same. The bank is located on Main street, the intention, however, being to build a modern bank structure on property owned by the bank just across the street. In January, 1907, H. E. Marshall, son of the president, was elected assistant cashier, which position he still holds.

A fine school building was erected in 1877. The borough has several religious societies.

There are two convenient hotels, and the usual stores of various kinds, blacksmith shops, wagon shop, etc.

Of secret orders, there are a lodge of Odd Fellows, one lodge of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, one lodge Order of United American Mechanics, and one grange Patrons of Husbandry.

The Beaver River at this point is spanned by a fine iron bridge built by T. B. White & Sons, of Beaver Falls. It is about four hundred feet in length, and cost some $30,000.

The Pittsburg and Erie and Pittsburg and Lake Erie railways pass through the place. A narrow-gauge railway connects Wampum with the iron ore beds, in Wayne and Shenango Townships, extending a distance of about four miles. This was built to facilitate the shipment of ore to various points in Pennsvlvania and Ohio.

METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH.

The Methodist Episcopal Church of Wampum was organized May 15, 1871, with six members, who formed a class. William Thompson organized a Sabbath-school in 1869, with about ten scholars, which number was soon increased to twenty-two. The Rev. J. E. Johnston was the first pastor and preached for about six months. He was succeeded in 1872 by the Rev. N. Morris, and he by the Rev. J. E. Johnston, who continued for two years. Subsequent pastors were Rev. C. F. Edmonds, Rev. George H. Brown, and Rev. John Perry.

A church was erected in 1871 at a cost of about $4,000, of which Mr. Edward Key contributed about $3,000. Of the present membership a portion resides in Chewton, on the opposite side of the river. The society supports a Sabbath-school with some ten or more officers and teachers, and sixty-five or seventy scholars. The school has a well selected library.

UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.

The United Presbyterians of Wampum asked the Beaver Valley Presbyterians to grant an organization at Wampum.

Accordingly, permission having been obtained, about the latter part of August, 1875, a lot was selected on Beaver Street, and on the second Sabbath of November following, there was preaching in the new house. The building is of brick, 40 by 60 feet in size and of a capacity to comfortably seat 300 people. The total cost was $3,140.

On the 7th of October, 1875, the session appointed by the Beaver Valley Presbytery to organize a congregation at Wampum, met at the house of W. H. Witherspoon.

The members present were: Rev. J. I. Frazier (Moderator), Robert Mehard, A. M. Barbout and A. D. Gilliland. A sermon was delivered by Rev. J. I. Frazier, from Matthew 16-18, after which the following persons presented certificates of membership: Mrs. Margaret Davidson, William McMillen, Mrs. Eleanor McMillen, W. H. Witherspoon, Mrs. Christine Witherspoon, W. W. Davidson, Mrs. Nancy Davidson, Mr. Asa Eckles, Mrs. Elizabeth Eckles, Alice Minor, Mrs. Mary Whan, Miss Bell Whan, Mrs. Matilda Davidson, William Witherspoon, Mrs. Emily Witherspoon. An election for elders, by ballot, was then held, resulting in the choice of Asa Eckles and William Witherspoon.

On the 1st of July, 1876, an invitation was extended to Rev. J. J. Imbrie, to become pastor of this congregation, which was accepted, and Mr. Imbrie took charge and subsequently labored with a good degree of success. The congregation at this writing (January, 1908) numbers one hundred persons.

WAMPUM PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.

The Newport church was moved to Wampum in 1889, and from that time it was called the Wampum Presbyterian Church. Rev. George S. Rice was the pastor of the church here for a few months after it was dedicated, resigning some time late in 1889. He was pastor for several years at Newport. Rev. J. C. Pickens was installed pastor on December 23, 1890, and remained until February, 1902, when he resigned. Rev. B. J. Long was installed and ordained pastor in May, 1902, and remained until December, 1906. He was succeeded by the present pastor, Edgar R. Tait, who was installed December 17, 1907. The elders of the church are Thomas Wilson, Abner Gibson, D. M. Marshall, C. M. Kirkbrige, John Marshall, Edward Cochran and Dr. H. H. Davis.

C. M. Kirkbrige is the superintendent of Sabbath-school and has been for seven years. The church has a membership of 160; the Sabbath-school of 175. The church was united under one pastorate with Moravia Presbyterian Church until December, 1907, when, having become self-supporting, they called the present pastor.

VILLAGE OF NEWPORT.

The tract of land upon which the village of Newport now stands was settled about the year 1800 by Conrad Coon, who came, with his wife and three children, from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and located on the place.

John Coon laid out forty acres of land in 1833. A number of small log houses were built soon afterwards, James Morrison probably erecting the first one.

James Morrison and John Naugle built the first frame houses, in the upper part of town, near the bank of the river.

The first general store was opened in a frame building by Cyrus Szvers, very soon after the town was laid out. Samuel Smith opened the second store. A store owned by Joseph Aley was burned down in 1876.

Aaron Reed opened the first blacksmith shop. He finally removed to Wampum and started a shop there. Joshua Pierce built the first wagon shop. Mr. Pierce died, and Edward Yoho afterward opened one. His was the second one in the place, William McClosky opened a tailor shop, which he carried on for a number of years.

The Newport Presbyterian Church was organized in 1846 or 1847 by Rev. Samuel Henderson, who became its first pastor. The church was mainly organized through the efforts of Benoni Wilkinson, who lived on a farm just west of town. Starting with thirty members, the congregation in a comparatively short time increased to about eighty. The first meetings were held in a large house which was built by John Jackson, and afterward left vacant by him. A portion of the time meetings were held in the school-house. The present commodious frame church was built about 1848, on land donated for that purpose by Robert Davidson. A Sabbath-school has been held in connection with the Newport Church from the time it was organized, and generally has a large attendance. Its first superintendent was David S. Pollock.

The postoffice was originally established at Wampum, and took its name "Irish Ripple," from the rapids in the Beaver River at that place, and the nationality of the settlers who located there. The office was established through the efforts of Benjamin Chew, Jr., of Philadelphia, who was out attending to his business in the neighborhood, and at that time there was no postoffice nearer than New Castle, nine miles away. The first postmaster was Robert Davidson, about 1832-34. The office was afterward removed to Newport, where it was kept until 1856, when it was again taken to Wampum. From that time it went back and forth between the two places until the name was changed to Wampum, and the office located permanently at that place. After this Newport petitioned for an office, and finally secured one, giving it the old name of "Irish Ripple."

COAL, LIMESTONE, ETC.

Limestone is abundant in the township, and besides that manufactured into cement, large quantities are quarried for use at the iron furnaces in different places.

Sandstone is also quarried in various places. It was formerly worked quite extensively at and below Thompson's Siding, just above Rock Point Station.

Coal was discovered in the township by John Stockman, a blacksmith, as early as 1810. Stockman settled in what is now Beaver County in 1804. In partnership with an Irishman named McMullen, he had a blacksmith shop a mile and a half south of the present line between Lawrence and Beaver Counties. Previous to his discovery of coal, they had used charcoal for fuel. After discovering the coal, Mr. Stockman dug along the hill and took of the outcrop only, carrying it down on a horse in a sack. This discovery was made in "Possum Hollow," on the James Davidson farm, just within the present limits of Lawrence County. Coal has since been worked extensively in the township, the principal mines being in the vicinity of Clinton.

CLINTON.

This village was laid out by James Davidson about 1829-30, his house being the first one in the place.

A crockery manufactory was established by Sanger & Nesbit, and afterward became the property of Andrew Davidson. It was only carried on for two years. There was also a store and a blacksmith shop.

A Methodist Episcopal Church was organized about 1823-24, by Rev. John Somerville, an itinerant preacher, who became its first pastor, locating afterward in the neighborhood. Some of the original members of this church were Mrs. James Davidson, Andrew Davidson and wife, John Davidson and wife, and Charles Wilson and wife. At the time the church was organized, it was a missionary station called the "Beaver Creek Mission," and afterward changed to the Petersburg, Ohio, circuit, and subsequently to the Enon Valley circuit. Mr. Somerville preached until the age of disability obliged him to stop, and afterward frequently substituted for the regular pastors. Meetings were at first held in Mr. Somerville's, and possibly, in Robert Davidson's house, also often in barns and groves during warm weather. The frame church now standing was built about 1834, on land taken from the James Davidson farm. The graveyard was laid out about the same time and at the same place. When the Enon Valley circuit was established two ministers were placed in charge. Afterward some of the appointments were discontinued and but one minister appointed. A Sabbath-school was organized about the time the church was built, by Rev. J. K. Miller, with John Somerville as first superintendent.

The Clinton Coal Company was organized and a track commenced in 1865, and in 1866 mining was begun on an extensive scale. In one year this company took out 37,000 tons of coal, which was principally purchased by the Pennsylvania Railway Company.

Scott, Tait & Co. commenced mining on a large scale in "Possum Hollow" in 1853, having previously begun work in 1851, in "Beaver Hollow." They built a tram road from their mine to the river, where the coal was loaded into canal boats and shipped. William Fruit, the Reeds of Erie, and others afterward bought the "Possum Hollow" mine and worked it for some time, finally disposing of it to John Wilson. Wilson in turn sold to Wilson, Lee & Co. It afterwards came into the posession of Lee & Co., or Lee & Patterson.


Source:   History of New Castle and Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1908, p 227-234



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