This township forms a part of what was one of the original townships of Mercer County, of the same name, in 1805. The territory at that time included at least three of the present townships in both Mercer and Lawrence Counties, embracing over one hundred square miles. It was one of the thirteen original townships of Lawrence County, and then included the whole of Hickory Township, with portions of Union and Pollock Townships, the latter now included in the city of New Castle. The present township includes an area of about eighteen square miles, or 11,520 acres. It is bounded on the north by Wilmington and Pulaski Townships; on the west by Pulaski, Mahoning and Union; on the east by Hickory Township, and on the south by the city of New Castle and Union Township. It is comparatively level in the central and northern portions, but more broken and abrupt as it approaches the Shenango and Neshannock Rivers. There are no streams of much magnitude. On the west side of the township are Fisher's and Camp runs, and on the east are two small creeks flowing into the Neshannock. There are considerable bottom-lands on the Shenango and Neshannock Rivers, which are rich and productive. Numerous springs abound in all parts of the township, and the water is excellent. Of minerals it has a large share. The greater portion of the township is underlaid with coal, which has been extensively mined in the central portions, particularly in the neighborhood of Coal Centre. Fisher's Run rises in the coal region, and its waters are colored red by oxydes from its source to its mouth.
Potter's clay abounds, and on the Watson property a pottery was successfully worked for many years. Sandstone is very abundant along the valleys of the two rivers, and a stratum of limestone is found in the southern portion of the township. Iron ore is also abundant. Brick clay is found in many places. The workable coal lies about fifty feet below the surface, and is about four feet in thickness. The northern margin of the coal lies under a stratum of slate rock about twenty feet thick, while the south end of the basin underlies a stratum of sandstone of about the same thickness.
A second stratum of coal lies about sixty feet below the first, and has a thickness of some three feet. This has been worked very little. Lying between the two is a very pure vein of coal, but only about eighteen inches in thickness.
The limestone formation lies at about the same elevation as the coal. A thin stratum of this stone at the bottom underlies the iron ore.
The coal lies in a nearly horizontal position with a slight declination to the southwest. The bottom of the workable vein is somewhat undulating. A narrow-gauge railway for the transportation of coal runs from New Castle into the center of this township. The township also produces the iron known as "blue ore," the vein being from six to eighteen inches in thickness.
There is fine water-power up the Neshannock at Jordan's mills, perhaps the best on that stream. There are no towns or villages of any considerable importance, with the exception of the mining town of Coal Centre, of which notice will be found on another page.
The improvements are generally good, and there are some very fine residences. Two of the main roads from New Castle to Mercer pass through this township; one by way of the Old Shenango Church and New Wilmington, and the other a mile and a half east, passing through the village of Fayetteville, in Wilmington township. The last mentioned was the first one opened, and was traveled extensively until the other was opened, which, being somewhat shorter, took off much of the travel.
One of the first settlers in Neshannock Township was Thomas Fisher, who came from Westmoreland County, according to the statements of Rev. Thomas Greer, in November, 1798, in company with David Riley, a young man then living with Fisher. Each man had a gun and an axe, and a couple of dogs accompanied them. They encamped the first night in the present Lawrence County, at a point about four miles above where New Castle now stands, on Camp Run, near the Shenango River. They constructed a cabin of poles, and built a fire outside, using the cabin to sleep in, for fear of the wolves, which were so plenty they were obliged to take their dogs inside to save them from destruction by the ravenous beasts. It would appear that after selecting lands in the neighborhood, Fisher and Riley returned to Westmoreland County, where they staid over winter, and in the spring of 1799 removed to the valley of the Shenango. They came by way of the Youhiogheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers, and thence up the Beaver River in canoes, bringing a few effects with them. Mr. Fisher was married, but had no children. A young woman by the name of Rebecca Carroll lived with the family, and came with them. Mr. Fisher also had a sister, who either came at the same time or some time afterwards, and remained with them until her death. Mr. Fisher purchased several farms in the vicinity, and improved them more or less, raising several crops without fencing. He brought along quite a number of fruit trees, which he planted. The Indians were quite plenty in those days, but were peaceable and disturbed no one. About 1808 or 1810 Mr. Fisher sold his property on "Camp Run," where he first settled, to Rev. William Young, and purchased land about three miles above New Castle, on a small stream now known as "Fisher's Run," and erected a saw-mill, and afterwards a grist-mill, about forty rods from the Shenango River, at the place where the "Harbor" road crosses the run. The exact date of the building of these mills is not known, but it was somewhere from
1806 to 1810.
Some years after their settlement Mr. Fisher and his wife started on a journey to visit friends in Westmoreland county, and Mrs. Fisher died suddenly on the road. They were alone, and Mr. Fisher "waked" the corpse in a waste-house by the roadside all night. After his wife's death two nieces kept house for him. Their names were McDowell. He lived on this place until his death, which occurred February 28, 1848, at the age of eighty-four years. He was found dead in his bed and was buried in the little cemetery at King's Chapel. He was a very pleasant and affable man, and a general favorite in the community. Before his death he gave David Riley and Rebecca Carroll, the latter of whom afterwards married Samuel Farrer, each one hundred acres of land.
John Fisher, a nephew of Thomas, was born at Ligonier, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, in 1788. In 1809 he removed to what is now Lawrence County. He took charge of his uncle's saw-mill, and operated it for some years. His son, Thomas Fisher, the 3d, named for his grand-uncle, was born at the mills in 1809, a short time after he came. Mr. Fisher was a practical surveyor, and had set his compass and planted his "Jacob's staff" in all parts of Lawrence County. John Fisher raised a company and took it to the field during the war of 1812-15. About the year 1817 he and his uncle Thomas erected a fuling and carding-mill at Eastbrook, now in Hickory Township, on the "Hettenbaugh Run," which was operated until about 1827. Captain John Fisher lived at Eastbrook until his death in 1841.
The Pearsons were early settlers in this township. The family is a very extensive one, and were originally Quakers, who came over from England with the celebrated William Penn in 1682. Johm Pearson, grandfather of James, Thomas, Charles, Johnson and George Pearson, together with his son George made a visit to the West in the fall of 1803, coming all the way from Darby, seven miles from Philadelphia, in Delaware County, where they resided, on horseback, through Washington, Beaver and Mercer Counties, and returning by way of Pittsburg. The old gentleman purchased altogether, in what is now Neshannock Township, about one thousand acres of land. It was most probably during this visit that the old gentleman donated about two acres of land for church and burial purposes where the United Presbyterian Church stands. He granted the land upon conditions that it should be well kept and substantially fenced. The old gentleman never resided in Lawrence County, but made frequent visits to his lands, which included the coal lands on the Peebles' farm and a two-hundred-acre tract some two miles farther north, where Bevan Pearson first settled about 1804. The latter afterwards removed to Mercer, where he held several offices in the new county. George Pearson afterwards settled on two hundred acres of his father's land. He soon afterwards purchased a tract containing one hundred acres of one McClaren, and soon after purchased another tract of the same amount of another McClaren. The McClarens were from Ireland, and settled here at an early day.
Subsequently, George Pearson left this section and lived in Charleston, S. C., for several years. After his return he married Miss Sarah Reynolds, daughter of James Revnolds, who was also a Quaker. It is customary among these people to publish the intentions of a couple wishing to marry in the "meeting" for some time previous to the marriage. In this instance there was no Quaker "meeting" within many miles, and the only roads were bridle paths, and so the young couple made a virtue of necessity and employed Ezekiel Sankey, Esq., father of Ezekiel and Daniel Sankey, to perform the ceremony, without waiting for preliminaries, and the necessary arrangements were soon made and the "twain were made one flesh" at the house of Jesse Du Shane, in New Castle. This was about the year 1810. The Quakers in the eastern part of the State, hearing of this violation of their rules, sent a deputation to the new settlement to persuade them that they had done a great wrong, and must confess before "meeting" and have the ceremony performed a second time, according to Quaker usage. But the young people concluded they had committed no great fault and so refused to comply. They were accordingly solemnly read out of the society.
Mr. Pearson lived on his farm in this township until about 1855, when he came to New Castle, where he afterwards died at the age of ninety-three years. He was a soldier in the War of 1812, and was out in Captain John Junkin's Company-"Mercer Blues"-who were with Harrison on the Maumee and Sandusky Rivers. After his return he was twice called out to Erie. It is not known whether he held a commission or not, but it is probable. He went once as a substitute for his brother Thomas. He afterward received a land-warrant for his services, which he located in Hancock County, Illinois.
Marinus King and his family, from Bellefonte, Centre County, Pennsylvania, settled in the Fisher neighborhood about 1803. "King's Chapel" was named in his honor, he being one of the prominent members. He raised a family of seven sons and two daughters.
David Riley, heretofore spoken of, lived with Thomas Fisher until 1807, when he married Sarah Richards, and improved the farm adjoining Fisher's.
Mr. Riley raised two children-a son and daughter. The latter afterwards became the wife of Rev. Thomas Green. Mr. Riley died September 18, 1870, aged eighty-five years, and Mrs. Riley on the 20th of February, 1872, aged ninety-one years. They had lived together sixty-three years. In their old age they were taken care of by their son-in-law, Mr. Greer.
Samuel Ferver came to this location from Beaver Falls in 1806. He was a millwright by trade, and erected one or both of Thomas Fisher's mills. He married Rebecca Carroll in 1808, and lived on the farm adjoining those of David Riley and Thomas Fisher until his death, March 15, 1862. His wife was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church for over fifty years. They raised a family of seven children-six boys and a girl. Rev. William Young came at an early day, probably about 1806-7. He was a native of Ireland, and came from Centre County to this township. He was a great preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church, a man of talent and a very acceptable minister among the people. He died in 1829, aged seventy-four years. Robert McGeary, from Virginia, settled in the township about 1803, and remained until his death, at the age of ninety-two years. He left a large and respectable family.
Lot and William Watson, brothers, came from Centre County, Pennsylvania, and settled in this township about 1806-08, on lots numbers 1854 and 1855. William built the large stone house about 1810-12, and Lot put up a good brick residence some years later upon his farm adjoining on the south. For some years after their arrival they lived in log cabins. They were both out in the War of 1812. Lot Watson, son, of William, held a State appointment on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railway in 1856. Both the Watsons raised large and respectable families. William Richards, before mentioned, came, according to Mr. Green, in 1802, from Centre County, Pennsylvania, with his family, consisting of his wife and seven children, three sons and four daughters, and two sons-in-law, and located in the King's Chapel neighborhood, where the family settled near each other.
Mr. Richards was a Revolutionary soldier, and an exhorter in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was a large and commanding-looking man, and possessed of more than ordinary talent. He died in 1839. His wife survived him only a short time. They are both buried in the King's Chapel cemetery. His son-in-law, Robert Simonton, came with him and lived in the township some twenty years, when he removed to Neshannock Falls, now in Wilmington Township, or near there, where he lived until his death, at the age of about eighty years. He raised a family of five children.
John Rea, another son-in-law of Mr. Richards, who also came with him, was a blacksmith by trade, and settled in the neighborhood, where he reared the premium family of twenty children, and died at the age of eighty years.
Hance Greer, father of Rev. Thomas and John Greer, came originally from County Fermanagh, Ireland, to America in 1804, and first settled at Noblestown, Allegheny County, about twelve miles from Pittsburg, on Chartier's Creek. In 1810 he removed to Sewickley Bottom, where he resided until 1826, when he again removed to Zelienople, Butler County, Pennsylvania, where he died in 1848.
John Greer, his second son, settled in Neshannock Township in the fall of 1821, with his wife and two children. He built a house and moved into it in March, 1822.
Mr. Greer, being a man of good ability and an energetic business man, acquired a handsome property. He was quite a prominent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and he filled the office of steward at King's Chapel for many years. He lived with his son, William Y. Greer, a well-known citizen and business man. His daughter, Mrs. William Ferver, lived near him. She raised a family of six children, four sons and two daughters.
Thomas Greer, the youngest son, came in 1830, and settled on a small farm near his brother. He was a blacksmith by trade, and a man of energy and great industry, and very successful in acquiring property. His children, three daughters and one son, settled around him. He held several positions of honor and trust in the Methodist Episcopal Church-was one of the early class leaders, and was local preacher for twenty-seven years.
Frederick Rheinholt, from Germany, settled in the township in 1828. He was a shrewd son of the "Fatherland" and accumulated property with the proverbial thrift of the Teuton. He died March 30, 1874, aged seventy-four years. He raised a family of three sons and five daughters.
James Stackhouse and family, accompanied by his son-in-law, Andrus Chapin and wife, settled in the township in 1834. They were all members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Stackhouse died in 1868, aged ninety-five years. His wife died a short time before. They, like many other of the early settlers, are buried at King's Chapel. Mr. Chapin died September 24, 1870, aged sixty-six years. He was twice married, and reared a large family of children. William Hunt settled in 1830, bringing his aged mother with him. He raised a family of four sons and two daughters, and gathered a handsome property around him. He died in 1851, and is buried at King's Chapel. His family were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Ebenezer Donaldson settled in the township in March, 1819, just after the "big snow" of that winter (1818-19). His cousin, Isaac Donaldson, came some time previous to the War of 1812 and was out at Erie during that war. Both the Donaldsons were from Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
Robert Reynolds, from near Hagerstown, Md., came to what is now Taylor Township, Lawrence county, in 1804, and located near what is now Lawrence Junction, where he remained about one year, when he removed to Neshannock Township, and settled on the Neshannock Creek, about four miles above New Castle, in 1805. He bought a claim of 200 acres. Some time previous to 1811 he purchased the 200-acre tract where the village of Eastbrook now is, and about 1813 sold it to Thomas Fisher, 1st. He served in the War of 1812, most probably in Captain John Fisher's company. He returned from the army in feeble health. About 1819 he purchased a farm on the old county line, two miles east of New Castle, and removed his family to it. Here he died in 1873, at the age of ninety years, surviving his wife about five years. This couple reared twelve children-eight sons and four daughters. When Mr. Reynolds left the old place in Neshannock Township he rented it for a few years, and then his sons, John F. and William F., purchased it, paying the old gentleman $10 per acre for it. John F. Reynolds built a "still-house" about 1824, and carried on the business for six or seven years. He afterwards, about 1835, sold his interest in the property to his brother, and removed to New Castle, and engaged in the business of tanning with his brother Robert, but after a short partnership, finding it less profitable than he anticipated, he sold to Robert and purchased a farm of ninety-four acres, then in Shenango Township, afterwards in Pollock Township, and now in the Fifth Ward of the city of New Castle. Joseph B. always lived in New Castle, where he held the office of Justice of the Peace. He died several years ago. Isaac lived on his father's place, east of New Castle, until his death. Michael, the twin brother of Joseph, also lived in New Castle until his death. Peter studied medicine and practiced on the eastern shore of Maryland. The sisters, Nancy, Mary, Ann and Christy Ann, are all dead.
John Moore, from near New Castle, in the State of Delaware, settled on a portion of tract No. 1859 about the year 1804. He had a wife and two children at the time of his settlement. Altogether he raised a family of seven children-three sons and four daughters. John Moore was a Revolutionary soldier in the American army. He was a drummer, and had a brother in the service who was a fifer. Their father was also an officer in the army and served through the war. The sons received warrants for their service, and John sold his warrant and located his brother's on the land where he settled. He lived on the place until his death, August 15, 1842. He went with Captain John Fisher's company to Erie during the War of 18l2, and received a land warrant of one hundred and sixty acres for his services. The land where he located in 1804 was a fine tract, gently sloping towards the southwest, well timbered and having a great number of copious springs in various parts of it.
Alexander Hawthorne purchased the tract No. 1825, next north of Mr. Moore, about 1805-6. He lived for some years at New Castle, but built a house and barn on the land and put on a tenant. Some years later he removed to his farm and lived upon it until his death, in 1864. David Adams settled on tract No. 1852, about 1825. He had purchased the tract some time before, and leased it to one Robert Sankey. Adams sold and removed to the neighborhood of Petersburg, Ohio, somewhere between 1835 and 1840.
Martin Hardin, from the Eastern Shore, Maryland, settled on tract No. 1836, about 1811-12, and made the first improvements, though he never owned the land. One S. R. Smith was the owner, and he allowed Hardin to cultivate it and make what he could, provided he kept up repairs and paid, the taxes. Hardin was industrious and succeeded in accumulating the wherewith to purchase a farm, to which he removed, and remained upon it until his death.
John Maitland, from east of the mountains, came into the township at an early day, and leased or rented land for several years. He finally bought tract No. 1870 which had been occupied by one "Billy" Hosier, a sort of squatter for a number of years. "Billy" had put up a cabin and "destroyed considerable timber." Maitland moved upon the tract about 1830, and remained there until his death, about 1865.
Henry Falls purchased the two tracts, Nos. 1854 and 1855, at a very early date, and afterwards, about 1806-8, sold them to the Watson brothers, William and Lot, the latter l854 and William 1855.
John Young settled on tract No. 1863 as early as 1810. The east half of this tract was owned by Dr. William Shaw, of New Castle. Young sold out afterwards and removed to Hickory Township.
James Mitchell, from Franklin County, Pennsylvania, settled with his family in this township about one mile north of the old Associate Reformed Church, in 1806. He had three sons, William, Peter and Thomas. William was married before he came here. Both the old gentleman and his son, William, died soon after they settled. The old gentleman purchased a farm for each of his sons, and they settled near him. Peter, the second son, was married about 1815 to Sarah Wilson, daughter of Samuel Wilson, who settled near New Wilmington, about 1806. Peter lived on his place until his death, in 1843. He was a prominent member of the United Presbyterian Church, and filled several township offices. He had four sons, James, Wilson, William and John.
Thomas, third son of James, lived and died on a farm in the township, where his family still reside. James (the old gentleman) owned and operated a distillery when he lived in Franklin County, and wagoned his liquor to Baltimore, where he sold it for gold. Traveling was sometimes dangerous in those days, and he took the precaution. to bore an auger hole in his wagon-axle, into which he put his gold, and then plugged up the hole.
John Pomeroy, father of the late Judge Pomeroy, from Derry Township, Westmoreland County, settled in the township in 1815.
The McGearys, McCrearys, and Gibsons were all early settlers.
William, the oldest son of James Mitchell, had three sons, Wilson, James and Joseph. Wilson and James lived in New Castle. Joseph died on the old farm about 1870. Wilson and James are also dead.
Peter Mitchell built his second house of hewed logs about 1826. It had the first, or one of the first, shingle roofs in the township. All others were made of clapboards.
James Reynolds, who had been connected with Joseph Townsend in the erection of a grist-mill at the Narrows, on the Neshannock, as early as 1803, sold his interest to John Carlyle Stewart, about 1811, and removed to the place now occupied by Jordan's mill, on the Neshannock Creek, where he purchased a tract of 200 acres, covering the water power, it being a part of Donation tracts Nos. 1897 and 1898-patented by the State, October 18, 1786, to John Sullivan, a soldier of the Revolutionary army, who assigned his patent to Richard North, in September, 1795. North deeded to James Reynolds, March 31, 1812. At this point, which is probably the finest water power on the creek, Reynolds erected a grist and saw-mill. The gearing was mostly of wood. The grist-mill contained two run of stone, made from material found in the vicinity. The bolt was a primitive affair, and was turned by hand by means of a crank. The mill was driven by a large breast-wheel.
Mr. Reynolds carried on the milling business until his death, which took place about 1831-32. His heirs, by different deeds dated from 1833 to 1839, transferred the property to Frederick Zeigler, who tore away the old grist-mill and built a new one, still standing. He also built the large stone house on the hill, now, or lately, owned by George Reynolds. The new grist-mill contained three run of burrs. In addition to his other work, Zeigler built a distillery, which was in operation a good many years, in connection with the grist mill. The business was finally abandoned about 1855-56. Zeigler sold the property, September 3, 1850, to William F. Reynolds, who built a new dam and tore down and rebuilt the saw-mill in 1857. In May, 1868, he sold to John G. and Peter Reynolds the mills and water power and forty-four acres of land. These parties deeded the property to James Robinson, April 3, 1871. This transfer probably included about seven acres of land, and the total consideration was about $5,200. Henry Jordan purchased the property of Robinson, May 1, 1875. Mr. Jordan rebuilt the dam in a most substantial manner, and made extensive alterations and improvements in the grist and saw-mills at an expense of over $2,000. The mill is now one of the best in the country, and has long done a good business in both merchant and custom work.
The New Castle & Franklin Railway crosses the creek at this place (where the company has a station), on a truss bridge constructed of wood and iron, and the creek is also spanned by a fine iron road-bridge near the mills. The creek flows here in a deep, narrow gorge worn through the rock, whose precipitous cliffs are overhung by a dense growth of hemlock and other trees making a most picturesque and enchanting locality.
Johnston Watson, son of William Watson, started a pottery on his farm near the United Presbyterian Church about 1825, before his marriage. He had learned the potter's trade of one White in Mercer County, and had also worked at the business in Beaver County. The clay was found on Isaac Gibson's place. The "slip clay" was brought from near Pulaski.
A coal mine was opened on Thomas Falls' land as early as 1845. Several other mines have been worked out in this vicinity.
A small mining town called Coal Center sprung up around the shafts of the New Castle Railroad & Mining Company. It has one or more churches, a justice of the peace, two or three groceries, several blacksmith and wagon shops, and some fifty or sixty dwellings.
Some of the earliest schools in the township were taught on the Watson and Baker farms, most probably in the dwellings, from 1812 to 1815. The first teacher was Miss Sarah De Wolf, who taught in many parts of the country, and was very popular, if we may judge from her record. Miss Tidball was also one of the earliest teachers. A school was afterwards opened in an empty house on the King farm, now owned by Thomas Greer. This was taught by John Galbreath, in the years 18l6-17-19. A man named Andrews succeeded Galbreath, and taught in the years 1820, 1821 and 1822.
A school building was erected on the Barker farm about forty rods east of King's Chapel, where a school was taught by Samuel Richards in the years 1823, 1824 and 1825. This building was unfortunately burned, but the people soon managed to build another, in which James Watson taught in 1826, and John Maitland in 1827. Mrs. Mary Maitland taught a select school for young ladies, where they learned needle work in addition to other things. She was a very successful teacher. About 1829-30, the school building near by was moved upon the church lot at King's Chapel, where one Gillespie taught in 1831 and 1332. In 1833 and 1834 William Lockhart was the teacher, and John Mitchell also taught. A school was taught in the Pomeroy neighborhood about 1820, by Thomas Gillespie, whom the scholars of those days remember as a terrible fellow with the rod. One Holloway and Robert Madge were also early teachers. About 1810-12 a log school-house was built in the eastern part of the township, near where John Graham now lives. The first teacher was a man named Stoops.
At this time (1908) there are seven schools in the township, all good, substantial buildings of brick and stone, costing an average of $1,000 each. The total number of scholars is 338. Total expenditures, $4,078.61.
The Methodist Episcopal Society, known as "King's Chapel," claims the honor of having been the first organization of this denomination in Lawrence County. In 1802 William Richards came with his family from Center County, Pennsylvania, accompanied by John Rea and Robert Simonton, his son-in-law, and their wives, and settled in the neighborhood of "King's Chapel." Mr. Richards was, a soldier in the American army during the Revolutionary War. At the close of the war he had engaged in the iron business at Bellefonte. He had been licensed as an exhorter in the church previous to settlement in what is now the county of Lawrence, and soon after his settlement commenced holding religious meetings in his own house.
At that time Rev. Asa Shinn was the preacher on Shenango circuit, and often preached in Mr. Richard's cabin. In 1803, George Askin was on the circuit, and under his superintendence a class was formed in the Richards neighborhood, consisting of William Richards and wife, Mary Rea, Robert Simonton and wife, Rachel Fisher, Rebecca Carroll (afterwards Mrs. Ferver), and Mrs. Warner. Several persons from Edenburg joined the class, and, according to Hon. David Sankey, several others from New Castle. A class was soon after formed by Mr. Richards at New Castle, and meetings were held alternately at that place and at King's Chapel. The first of these meetings were held in New Castle about 1810. The following are the names of those constituting the class in New Castle, according to Rev. Thomas Greer: Arthur Chenowith and wife, John Bevin and wife, William Underwood and wife, Robert Wallace and wife, and Phillip Painter and wife. Soon after they were joined by Michael Carman and wife, and Mr. Carman was appointed leader.
Marinus King and family, from Center County, settled at King's Chapel in 1804, and joined the class. The meetings were held both at the house of Richards and of Mr. King, in 1806 and 1807.
William Young and family joined the settlement at an early day and united with the church. Mr. Young was also a licensed preacher and a man of more than ordinary talents. Others came to the settlement, and soon quite a large community were gathered here. The meetings were now held at three places-Rev. Young's, Richards' and King's.
In 1821 John Greer and wife joined the settlement, from Sewickley, Allegheny County. Mr. Greer had married a daughter of Rev. William Young. He was appointed steward soon after his arrival, and his house was made a preaching station alternately with the first three mentioned. Some time afterwards a small building was erected on the ground where King's Chapel now stands, which was used both for church and school purposes.
Thomas Greer and wife came to this locality from Zelienople, Butler County, in 1830. They had certificates from the church at that place, and were received into the church at their new home. Mr. Greer was soon after appointed class-leader and exhorter, which he held with great success until 1852, when he was licensed as a local preacher. He also held the office of ordained local elder for some years.
In 1835 a new and neat frame church was erected in the place of the old one, 30x40 feet in size, which was occupied until 1856. During this period of twenty-one years the church experienced a revival of religion every year, with one or two exceptions. During the first session of the Erie Conference, Rev. Bishop Hamlin preached at King's Chapel. The session was held in New Castle, and Major Ezekiel Sankey brought the Bishop out in a two-horse carriage, accompanied by quite a number of the brethren from New Castle.
A large number were added to the church during the period between 1835 and 1856, and the house became too small to accommodate the wants of the society. In 1856 the frame church was removed, and a brick structure erected in its stead, 40x50 in dimensions. It was in this house that Ira D. Sankey, the famous Gospel singer, recently deceased, made a public confession of the Christian religion, and united with the society. Mr. Sankey was converted under the labors of Rev. J. T. Boyles.
The congregation of King's Chapel replaced the church which had been built in 1856, at a cost of $3,000; with a new one, more commodious and modern, in 1899, containing an audience room and an apartment for Sabbath School at a cost of about $5,000. The names of the pastors since 1877 are as follows: Nathaniel Morris, J. K. Mendenhall, D. W. Wampler, J. L. Mechlin, C. M. Morse, C. W. Foulk, H. H. Blair, Frederic Fair, S. L. Mills, J. C. A. Borland, H. W. Hunter, F. R. Yates and A. B. Smith, the present pastor. The names of the church officers at present are: Trustees, W. McQuiston, Frank B. Chapin, George Greer, F. W. Hutchinson, Andrew McKay, Harry Green, David B. Reynolds, Miller Kegrise and David R. Greer; stewards, J. R. Shearer, Harry Green, Eugene Robinson, William McQuiston and D. R. Greer. James R. Shearer is superintendent of the Sabbath School, which has about sixty members. The number of church members is about 120.
A Methodist Episcopal church was built about 1884 or 1885, in what is usually called Coal Center, on the eastern border of the township, and Rev. A. B. Smith is pastor of this as well as King's Chapel. The Free Methodist Church, in the center of the township, was built about 1891 or 1892, and of this Rev. J. Grill is pastor.
PRIMITIVE METHODIST CHURCH
The Primitive Methodists first began to have meetings at Coal Centre about 1866. The first local preachers were William Borle, Henry Blews, Edward Blews, Jr., and Samuel Simon. The original society consisted of about ten members. Rev. Thomas Dodd was the first itinerant who preached here, about 1870. He staid only a short time. The second itinerant preacher was Benjamin Barrar, who staid with the society for two years, when he was succeeded by Rev. Thomas Bateman, who preached at Coal Centre once a month. The society at one time numbered as high as twenty members, but hard times and the consequent removal of some of the people to other localities reduced it to a very small number. There is now no organization in the township, the former members attending at New Castle.
SHENANGO CHURCH (UNITED PRESBYTERIAN)
The history of Shenango congregation was for about a quarter of a century the history of almost the entire Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in the boundaries of what is now Lawrence County. To most of the churches of this denomination Shenango stood in the relation of a mother church.
The white frame-house of worship stands three and a quarter miles north of New Castle, on the road to Mercer via New Wilmington. Around it stand primeval oaks, and behind it slumber many of the dead that once worshiped within its walls. The lot was donated for church and burial purposes by John Pearson, of the Society of Friends, who had obtained titles among the earliest to a large tract of land lying between Shenango and Neshannock Creeks.
Of those who organized Shenango Church and constituted its early membership none, perhaps, settled in the wilderness earlier than 1805-6. The names of James Mitchell, Hugh Braham, John Cunningham, William S. Rankin (afterwards of Mercer), Jean Sankey (wife of Ezekiel Sankey, and grandmother of Ira D. Sankey, Mr. D. L. Moody's celebrated evangelistic co-laborer), George Kelso, Dr. Alexander Gillfillan (settled in New Castle in 1813), Robert McGeary, Mrs. Jane Cubbison, wife of James Cubbison, with others, seem to have settled in 1806, or soon after, and to have been from the first supporters, and then, or soon after, communicants in the new organization. An occasional minister of the Monongahela Presbytery, from the neighborhood of Fort Pitt, as the new borough of Pittsburg was still called throughout the country, rode through these and other opening settlements in Northwest Pennsylvania, giving them an occasional Sabbath's or week-day's preaching. Among these were Rev. John Riddell, D.D., and Rev. Mungo Dick, who were men of great ability and learning. But it was not till 1811 that this community of Associated Reform people received a pastor, and then his labors were divided equally with Mercer and Mahoning congregations. How long before this date the congregation was regularly organized, is not known. Their first pastor, James Galloway, first preached to them and other new stations in the Northwest, in the summer of 1810. His first records extant show that in 1813 the session consisted of Hugh Braham, John Cunningham and William S. Rankin; but James Mitchell, who died in 1812, had been an elder in Franklin County before his arrival, in 1806, and was from the first, an earnest friend of the Shenango enterprise. The next record of the eldership shows that in 1821, Rev. J. L. Dinwiddie, ordained as elders, Peter Mitchell, son of James Mitchell, and Walter Oliver, who had immigrated some years before to Shenango Valley.
James Galloway, the first pastor, and the earliest Associate Reformed minister settled in Northwestern Pennsylvania, was born August 4th, 1786. His family removed that year from Big Cove, Bedford County, to Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County. He was born in the latter place. He had graduated at Jefferson College in 1805, had entered for a legal course in Greensburg, but, upon the death of his legal preceptor, had placed himself as a candidate for the ministry under the Monongahela Presbytery, and afterwards had enjoyed the excellent training for four years of that distinguished theologian and pulpit orator, John M. Mason, D.D., in the Associate Reformed Seminary in New York City. He was licensed to preach, June 28th, 1810. He was eminently social in his qualities, of lively wit, of tender sensibilities; in the pulpit earnest, grave and edifying. His visit to the new settlements was most acceptable. December 17th, a call was made out for him by the three congregations of Mercer, Shenango and Mahoning. The Presbytery placed it in his hands February, 1811. An appointment was made for his Ordination and installation for April 10th, in the Shenango settlement. There was as yet no church. The preaching had mostly been conducted hitherto in Peter Mitchell's house or barn, which was already crowded with people, many of the audience being from Mercer, fourteen miles north, and Mahoning, thirteen miles west. Thus was ordained the first of a long line of pastors in the Associate Reformed Church of this region and placed officially by the Presbytery over their people in what now comprises territorially the two entire counties of Mercer and Lawrence.
Under Mr. Galloway's ministry, the lot donated by John Pearson was occupied by a small, log building, put up by the sturdy settlers in the spring of 1812, and first used for worship before it was yet floored. On this ground, in that year, the Lord's Supper was first dispensed. The corners of this log building were four large boulders, which can still be seen just north of the present church. When the latter was erected the logs were removed to the northeast corner of the lot, and did humbler service for years as a schoolhouse, which at last fell in disuse and decay.
Mr. Galloway had hard service in so extensive a charge. He had to fill his appointments often by crossing the Neshannock, Shenango and other streams when they were swollen with rains; and not unfrequently did his horse swim the Shenango, while his master, seated in a canoe, held the bridle-reins. A deep-seated cold followed his preaching in wet clothes upon one occasion after such exposure. He never got well, though he continued his labors for months while gradually growing worse, till, in April, 1818, he resigned his charge. The 21st of May he died. His home had been in Mercer, and there he lies buried. His wife was Agnes Junkin, whose father, Joseph Junkin, was one of the earliest members of his Mercer congregation. They were married March 12, 1812, by his brother-in-law, Rev. George Buchanan, Associate Reformed pastor in Steubenville, Ohio. They had three sons, two of whom survived him, and one of whom, nineteen years later, succeeded him in the pastorate of Shenango. Mrs. Buchanan and Mrs. Galloway were sisters of Dr. D. X. Junkin, once pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of New Castle.
The second pastor, Rev. James L. Dinwiddie, D.D., was ordained and installed over the Shenango and Mercer congregations, at Mercer, November 22, 1820. He was born in Adams County, February 23, 1796, and had pursued his college studies, but without being graduated, at Washington College. After Dr. Matthew Brown, President of Washington, became president of Jefferson College, the board of the latter conferred the honorary degree of A.B. upon him, and at a later date the degree of D.D. These honors were well bestowed. He was one of the most finished scholars of his church. He was a man of brilliant mind, of perfect address socially, and in the pulpit eloquent. It was a sad day in Shenango Church when, after a ministry of thirteen and a half years, he preached his last sermon, preparatory to the acceptance of a call in Philadelphia (Sixth Presbyterian Church). This Philadelphia charge he resigned seven years afterwards, rejoined the Presbytery in which he was ordained, and became pastor of the Second Associate Reformed Church, of Pittsburg, and professor of Biblical Literature and Sacred Criticism in the Theological Seminary, Allegheny. His pastorate in Pittsburg, after a term of two years, was relinquished in April, 1844, to devote himself more entirely to his professorship, to which he had been elected September 13, 1843. In the midst of his labors, when he was just fifty years of age, he was struck with paralysis of the brain, February, 1846. He never recovered his splendid powers. He died in Baltimore suddenly, from a second stroke, January 11, 1849.
Mr. Galloway's pastorate in Shenango ended in 1818, and Mr. Dinwiddie's in 1834. Important changes had meanwhile taken place in the northwest. The country had greatly developed and the churches had gained by this growth. The Associate Reformed Church as well as the others had made decided progress. A pastor had been settled in Erie, in 1812-Rev. Robert Reed,-who died in that city after a pastorate of thirty-two years.
In Butler, Rev. Isaiah Niblock, D.D., had commenced in 1819 a long pastorate of forty-five years. In 1820 two congregations were formed on the borders of Shenango: one at Mount Jackson, five miles southwest of New Castle; the other at Slippery Rock, now called Center, five miles southeast. At Center and Harmony, a pastor was settled-Rev. James Ferguson-and an arrangement was made for him to preach part of his time in New Castle, but his pastorate only lasted from September, 1823, to April, 1824. Rev. David Norwood was afterwards settled as pastor over Center, Mount Jackson and Mahoning. He resigned his charge, October 16, 1833. In Crawford County, Rev. S. F. Smith had been settled as pastor, in 1828, over the congregations of Sugar Creek and Crooked Creek, a relation which continued till his death, March 10, 1846.
Out of these five pastorates, with several other congregations (the whole number being fourteen), a new Presbytery was formed. It was constituted in Mercer on the first Wednesday of January, 1829, called the Presbytery of the Lakes, and territorially occupied six counties. Of all the original congregations in these bounds not one has been the mother-church of so many new congregations as Shenango. Up till the union of 1858, seven congregations had been formed on its borders or within its original territory. In addition to Center and Mount Jackson, already mentioned, in the year 1840, Eastbrook was organized to accommodate those members who lived across the Neshannock, and in the same year was also formed the Deer Creek or Beulah congregation, west of the Shenango, from which locality attendance at Shenango Church had become very difficult, owing to the fact that the completion of the Erie Extension canal had, by means of the dam at New Castle, made a pool or level extending for seven miles up the stream, that destroyed all the original fords for this distance.
Later, namely, 1849-51, during the pastorate of Rev. R. A. Browne, D.D., three more congregations-New Castle, New Wilmington and the Harbor,-were also struck off from Shenango, as will be seen further on in this article. And so far had the church grown in these six counties of the northwest that in 1852 an act of Synod provided for the erection of two more new Presbyteries, called the Presbyteries of Lawrence and Butler. The Presbytery of Lawrence was organized in New Castle, in the Associate Reformed Church, on Jefferson Street, April 20,1853. Rev. John Neil, pastor of Mount Jackson and Center, preached the opening sermon from Heb. xiii, 17, and constituted the Presbytery with prayer. Mr. Neil was elected moderator, and Mr. Browne, clerk. Three other ministers, with these, constituted the Presbytery, namely: Robert William Oliver, pastor of Beulah and Bethel (Mercer County); William A. Mehard, pastor of Eastbrook and New Wilmington, and John P. Chambers, without charge. The Presbytery included thirteen congregations, four of which, however, were located outside of the city. At the union of 1858 the Lawrence Presbytery was merged into the United Presbyterian Presbytery of Mercer; and still later, Shenango and all the congregations south of that latitude to the Ohio River, were merged again in a new Presbytery called Beaver Valley, which was erected November 7, 1871.
This episode gives a brief view of the history of Shenango Church in its surroundings and relations. What remains to add has reference to its own special history. From the resignation of Rev. James L. Dinwiddie, 1834, till 1841, with the exception of one brief pastorate of a year and a half-that of Rev. John Mason Galloway-the congregation of Shenango was a vacancy, its pulpit filled only by supplies from the Presbytery of the Lakes.
Rev. Mr. Galloway, was succeeded by Rev. Thomas Mehard, who was ordained and installed June 30, 1841, in Shenango, Eastbrook and Beulah, the two latter, as already stated, having been organized the previous year. Beulah was first known as Deer Creek. Some years later the congregation decided to change their place of worship to West Middlesex, three miles distant; but a portion of the members remained to worship in the old building, and are now the Reformed Presbyterian Congregation of Beulah. Mr. Mehard was a graduate of the Western University, Pittsburg, and of the Associate Reformed Theological Seminary, Allegheny. He was genial in his disposition, agreeable in his address, and pleasing and edifying in the pulpit. His ministry was full of labors and fruits, with large promise of future usefulness, when, suddenly, at the close of his fourth year of pastoral duty, he was called away by death. The stroke startled the entire community as well as his congregations and his wife, who was left with two infant daughters to mourn his loss. He died at his home in New Castle July 16, 1845, at the age of twenty-nine years.
The fifth pastor of Shenango, succeeding Mr. Mehard a year after his death, was Robert Audley Browne. Mr. Browne was born in Steubenville, Ohio, December 3, 1821; was graduated at the Western University, 1839, and the Associate Reformed Seminary, Allegheny, 1843; licensed by the Monongahela Presbytery in his twenty-first year, and ordained without charge by the same Presbytery, December 31, 1844. He was at that time stated supply in the Second Reformed, now Third United Presbyterian Church, of Pittsburg. He visited the congregations of Eastbrook and Shenango in July, 1846; was at once called, and was settled over these congregations in September following. He was pastor of Eastbrook three and a half years, and of Shenango over thirteen years, demitting that congregation to the Presbytery, January 9, 1859. The last ten of these years his pastoral charge included the congregation of New Castle, in which he still continued to be pastor, and in which, after an interval of absence, he remained pastor until his death. When he entered on his pastoral work in this part of what was then Mercer County, it was evident that the growth of population and change of its business centers had left the Associate Reformed Church without organizations at several desirable points. Of these, New Castle, a growing town, was the most important. An organization was effected here by order of the Presbytery (Lakes), December 25, 1849. The same winter one was similarly formed in New Wilmington. By these organizations the session of Shenango was reduced to two elders, and its membership diminished from over 100 to forty-nine. From one-half of their pastor's time they were able to retain him only for one-fourth. They were still further weakened, about 1874-75, later by the organization of the Harbor congregation, four miles distant, on the other side of the Shenango pool or slackwater, though in general their number during the years before 1859 ranged at about fifty communicants.
The union of the Associate and Associate Reformed Presbyterian Churches agreed upon in 1858, occurred during Mr. Browne's pastorate. It brought Shenango into closer relations with a number of Associate congregations in this region, though it added but little strength to the membership.
The sixth pastor was Rev. William Findley, D.D., born in Mercer, and reared under the ministry of Rev. James Galloway and Rev. James L. Dinwiddie. He was a graduate of Jefferson College and of the Associate Reformed Seminary, Allegheny; was licensed by the Lakes Presbytery May 16, 1832, and, after visiting the churches in South Carolina and elsewhere, was ordained by the same Presbytery, and installed pastor over White Oak Spring and Prospect congregations in Butler County, at White Oak Spring Church, May 25, 1837. In 1857 he became Professor of Latin Literature in Westminster College, and resigned his charge and removed to New Wilmington. In 1867 he was transferred to the office of general agent of the college. This office he resigned in 1871, and after supplying the churches by Presbyterial appointment for some years settled, in 1876, at Chesley, Ontario, where a new and active congregation in the United Presbyterian Presbytery in Samford erected for him a church and parsonage. He was in vigorous use of his powers, clear and forcible as a thinker and reasoner, and strong as an expounder of the Scriptures.
During his term as professor in Westminster College, he held for over six years, conjointly, the pastorate of Shenango congregation, namely, from July, 1859, till April, 1866.
He was followed in the pastorate by Rev. R. T. McCrea, a student of Westminster College, from Blacklick Station, Indiana County, Pa., who graduated from the college in 1863, and from the United Presbyterian Seminary, Allegheny, in 1866. He was ordained by the United Presbyterian Presbytery of Mercer, at Shenango Church, and installed pastor of Shenango and Lebanon congregation November 9, 1869. He resided near his Lebanon Church, Worth, Mercer County. August 26, 1873, he resigned his Shenango congregation, and afterwards Lebanon also, and was subsequently laboring in the ministry in Iowa. He was a young man in the vigor of his powers. During his pastorate of four years, the roll of Shenango was increased to seventy members.
In July, 1875, the congregation secured and retained for some time in connection with the Harbor, the services of Rev. A. Y. Houston. Mr. Houston was a man of experience, prudence and fidelity. He was ordained and installed in his first pastorate, that of Peter's Creek, Allegheny County, February 17, 1858. After that he was pastor successively of the United congregations of Palestine and Clarkson Ohio, and of Rygate, Vt. He was succeeded at Shenango by Rev. J. J. Imbrie in 1880, Rev. R. A. Brown in 1885, Rev. R. W. McGranahan in 1892, Rev. J. W. Brinley in 1900, Rev. W. V. Grove in 1904, and Rev. L. S. Clark in 1907.
The history of the first church edifice has already been given. The second was built in 1826, in the midst of Mr. Dinwiddie's ministry. The contract, as illustrative of the hardships of the times and the scarcity of money, provided that the builder for enclosing and flooring the house, 42 by 53 feet square, was to receive in payment "good and sufficient subscription lists" to the amount of $518, and that, instead of cash, wheat at 66 2-3 cents per bushel, and other products of the country at proportionate rates, should be a legal tender. This building, thus contracted and paid for, had its pulpit located in front, between the doors, a style of church architecture preferred by Mr. Dinwiddie, but not always by his hearers, who, if they entered late, were thus forced to face all who were in their seats before them. This was afterward changed, however, and the seats were faced about. The contract for building did not include the pews, and therefore, at the opening for service, families provided their own seats according to their preferences as to style and material, and without regard to uniformity, which made the interior present an odd appearance until one became accustomed to it. In one case the head of a household, who had located his seat well up toward the pulpit, and furnished it with legs too long for convenient range of vision to those who sat behind him, afforded some amusement to his fellow-worshipers by his change of countenance when he entered the meeting-house one Sabbath morning and found his seat had been lowered to a level with its neighbors. To many, near and far, who have worshiped there in the quiet Sabbaths of more than half a century, pleasant and sacred memories cluster around the old church.
Source: 20th Century History of New Castle and Lawrence County, Pennsylvania and Representative Citizens - Pages 256-272
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