Mifflin County History
Boroughs and Towns
"A History of the Juniata Valley and Its People," John W. Jordan, 1913


Mifflin county has but four boroughs - Lewistown, McVeytown, Burnham and Newton Hamilton - though there are a number of flourishing and important villages that have never been incorporated. Foremost among these are Allensville, Belleville, Granville, Maitland, Mattawana, Milroy, Reedsville, Wagner and Yeagertown.

Lewistown had its beginning in 1754, when Robert Buchanan came from Carlisle and established a trading post where the borough now stands. He bought the site from an Indian chief named Pokety, and the settlement that grew up around the trading post was at first called "Poketytown." It was also called Old Town and Kishacoquillas' Old Town. In 1856, upon the breaking out of the Indian hostilities. Buchanan was warned of his danger by Kishacocjuillas, the Shawnee chief, and returned to Carlisle. He came back to his trading post some years later, and in July, 1762, took out a warrant for his land. Poketytown is described in the Columbia Magazine in 1788 as "consisting only of a tavern and a few scattered hovels and containing nothing worth notice."

When Mifflin county was erected in 1789, the county seat was located by the organic act at the mouth of the Kishacoquillas creek, and when the town was laid out later in the year by Samuel Edmiston and James Potter, it was given the name of Lewistown, in honor of William Lewis, who was a member of the legislature from Berks county and to whose efforts was largely due the location of the seat of justice at that point, instead of below the long narrows, on the site now occupied by the county seat of Juniata county.

"The United States Gazetteer" for 1795, the year Lewistown was incorporated as a borough, describes it as "the chief town in Mifflin county, Pennsylvania, situated on the north side of the Juniata river at the mouth of Cishicoquilis creek. It is regularly laid out and contains about 120 dwellings, a court-house and a jail. A court of common pleas and general quarter sessions is held here the second Monday in January, April, August and November. It is 150 miles W.N.W. of Philadelphia."

By the act of incorporation the first borough officers were named as follows: Joseph Cogill, chief burgess; George McClellan, burgess; Robert Patterson and Michael Concannon, burgesses' assistants; James Robertson, town clerk; Jeremiah Daily, high constable. It was further provided that these officers should serve until the first Monday in May, 1796, when the first borough election should be held. A supplementary act, approved by Governor Snyder on February 6, 1811, provided for the election, "on the Friday next preceding the third Saturday of March next, and on the same day in every year hereafter," of a chief burgess, an assistant burgess, five reputable citizens to be a town council, and one reputable citizen to be a high constable.

On February 23, 1815, the burgess and council passed an ordinance providing that every owner of a house "shall furnish the same with leathern fire-buckets, which buckets shall be kept in the entry or such other part of the house as shall be most easy of access, and be marked with the owner's name or initials thereof, and shall be kept in good repair for using at all times in case of fire." This was the first step toward providing fire protection. An engine was purchased not long afterward, and in April, 1817, was placed under the direction of the corporation of the borough of Lewistown, "for the better and more perfect organization of a Fire Engine Company," the first record of a regularly organized company until August, 1834, when the "Kite Fire Company," composed of boys, was formed. The Juniata Fire Company was incorporated by the act of June 22, 1839. In the spring of 1843 two companies - the Fame and the Henderson Hook and Ladder Company - were organized. In October, 1877, the council purchased a Silsby steamer, which was named "Henderson," and placed in charge of the company of that name. The steamer was kept in the old Lutheran church on Third street, which had been bought by the borough some years before for that purpose. In 1913 there were five companies in the city, including the one at Lewistown Junction across the Juniata river. Two of these companies are equipped with steam engines; there are two automobile hose trucks, a hook and ladder truck, etc. The Henderson Company is still located on Third street; the Fame and City companies on Valley street, and the Brooklyn Company is located on Hale street.

A police force, consisting of a captain and first and second lieutenants, was organized under the ordinance of February 4, 1850. These officers were authorized "to appoint a proper number of citizens in each ward to patrol the streets and alleys during the night." The reason for this action was that a short time before there had been a number of serious fires which were believed to have been the work of incendiaries and the police force was established to capture the offenders. The present force consists of two patrolmen.

By the act of April 10, 1826, the borough of Lewistown was authorized to establish a system of water-works and to borrow, not to exceed $8,000, for the purpose, the work of construction to be commenced within five years. Work was commenced early in 1829 and continued for some time, Init the supply of water was never delivered to the people of the town. The Lewistown Water Company was incorporated on April 16, 1838, with a capital stock of $15,000 and power "to purchase springs, streams of water or water-power for their purposes." Work was begun on the reservoir in June, 1839, and it was completed in 1843, when the first hydrants were placed on the streets. The first water came from half a mile west of the borough limits, where some springs along Minehart's run were leased by the company. The capital stock was increased $10,000 in 1843, and in 1846 twelve acres of land, including the springs, were purchased of David W. Hulings. In 1865 there were about two and a half miles of pipe laid. Since then the lines have been extended and the capital stock increased from time to time until the company now supplies Lewistown, Burnham, Yeagertown, Reedsville and Milroy. Besides the old source of supply at Minehart's run, new sources have been developed at Cooper's gap. north of Lewistown, Laurel run and Treaster's run, also north of the city. The five distributing reservoirs established at convenient points have a capacity of 15,000,000 gallons, and the cpiality of the water is unsurpassed, as shown by analyses.

The Lewistown & Reedsville electric railway was established in 1900. The first line ran from Lewistown to Reedsville, a distance of about six miles. Subsequently the tracks were extended across the Juniata to Lewistown Junction and a branch east of Lewistown runs to Burnham and to Burnham Park, an amusement resort established in 1905 by the street railroad company.

On April 6, 1855, the Lewistown Gas Company was incorporated. and before the close of the year a plant was erected at the foot of Market street. The Electric Light Company was chartered in 1889, and some years later both these companies were merged into the Penn Central Light and Power Company, which fnrnishes gas and electric light and power to a number of towns and boroughs in the Juniata Valley and adjoining territory.

In 1800, the first United States census after Lewistown was incorporated, the borough had a population of 523. Each census year has shown a substantial increase, until in 1910 the population was 8,166. The borough has four banking institutions, a high school and four ward school buildings of modern t}-pe. the principal streets are paved with brick, there are a number of well-appointed mercantile houses and manufacturing concerns, good hotels, local and long distance telephone service, good transportation facilities, and a number of fine church edifices of different denominations.

McVeytown (formerly Waynesburg) was founded by John McVey, who took out a land warrant for 200 acres of land where the borough now stands, in July, 1787. Samuel Holliday had settled there in 1762, but it was not until 1795 that Waynesburg was laid out. John Haman and Edward Dougherty were also early settlers. The completion of the canal in 1830 gave an impetus to Waynesburg and brought an increase of population. On April 9. 1833, Governor Wolfe approved an act to incorporate Waynesburg as a borough under the name of McVeytown. The first election was held on March 21, 1834, at which John M. Barton was elected burgess; G. H. Galbraith, Richard Miles, John Haman, Revel Elton and William Rook, members of the town council. By a supplementary act, approved on May 9. 1841, the boundaries of the borough were extended and the burgess and council were granted additional powers. A local newspaper called The People's Friend was started by William D. McVey in the spring of 1842, and the first public school building in the borough was erected on a lot donated by Samuel Holliday. It was torn down in 1844 and a larger one erected in its place. In 1840 the population of McVeytown was 348. This had increased to 679 in 1880, since which time there has been a slight decrease, the census of 1910 showing 514 inhabitants. Including the railroad station of Mattawana (also called McVeytown) on the opposite side of the Juniata, the population in 1910 was 785. McVeytown has a national bank, several good stores, churches of different religious faiths, a money order postoffice, etc.

The borough of Newton Hamilton is located upon land entered by Hugh Brown in 1762. The town was laid out about 1802, and in 1828 Elijah Davis opened a store. John Postlethwait started a tavern called the Logan House the following year. Robert Thompson & Company and Richard A. McDowell & Company were among the early mercantile firms. A school was taught by Samuel Cross in 1830 in a house next to the old Sigler residence. In 1838 a stone school house was erected and was used for many years, when the present building was erected. By an act of the legislature, approved on April 12, 1843. Newton Hamilton was incorporated as a borough, and the first election was held in March, 1844, when John Morrison was elected burgess; Robert A. McDowell, Benjamin Norton, Joseph H. Morrison, John W. Smith, Samuel D. Postlethwait, Samuel Drake, Charles Knox and James D. Morrison, members of the first town council. A Presbyterian church was organized in the spring of 1838, a Methodist church having been organized some twelve years sooner. In 1872 a camp-meeting association was organized and purchased thirty-six acres near the borough. In 1850 Newton Hamilton contained nearly 100 taxpayers and a total population of 353. Very little change has been made in the number of inhabitants since the incorporation, the population in 19 10 being 340. A postoffice was established at this point in 1836, with Philip Strouse as the first postmaster. The borough is located on the main line of the Pennsylvania railroad twenty-two miles southwest of Lewistown and not far from the Huntingdon county line.

Allenville (or Allensville), one of the old settlements of the county, was laid out about 1806. A store was opened soon after that, and in 18 19 Christopher Howell opened a hotel and also engaged in merchandising. A Presbyterian church was built in 1800 and a Lutheran church in 1827. Allensville is located in the western part of Menno township, not far from the Huntingdon county line, and being some distance from a railroad its growth has not been what its founders anticipated. In 1910 it reported a population of 338. It has a money order postoffice, and is a rallying point and trading center for that section of the county.

Belleville, one of the most important unincorporated towns of Mifflin county, is situated in Union township, almost due west of Lewistown, and is the terminus of the Kishacoquillas Valley railroad. The first settler here was Joseph Greenwood, who started a blacksmith shop, and the little village that grew up around his shop was at first called Greenwood. A postoffice was established about 1800 by the name of Belleville, and that name was afterward applied to the village. Kirk & Steel were the first merchants. Among the early industries was a sickle factorv, established in connection with his blacksmith shop by Jesse Tanier. The first tavern was opened by James Poe in the early '30s. As Belleville grew and its limits were extended it absorbed the old town of Mechanicsville. which was laid out in 1832 on the farm of David Zook. Belleville is the headquarters of the Kishacoquillas Mutual Fire Insurance Company, which was incorporated by the Mifflin county courts on February 9, 1854. The town has two national banks, a number of good mercantile establishments, churches of various denominations, and the Union township high school is located here. The population in 1910 was 1,000.

Burnham (formerly Logan) is the outgrowth of the iron industry at that point, beginning with the establishment of Freedom forge in 1795. A small settlement grew up about the forge and in time developed into a considerable village. The plant of the Freedom Company was purchased by the Logan Iron and Steel Company in 1871, when the village took the name of the new company. North of the original works a new establishment was started in November, 1868, for the manufacture of steel bv the Bessemer process, but it was discontinued the succeeding year. In 1S71 William Butcher, of Philadelphia, bought the plant and began the manufacture of steel tires, but became financially embarrassed and turned the works over to his creditors, who organized the Standard Steel Company, and the village later came to be called Burnham, after one of the head men of the Standard Company. At the January sessions of the court in 1911 a petition was presented asking for the incorporation of Burnham as a borough, and on June 26, 191 1, the court granted the prayer of the petitioners, fixed the boundaries and ordered an election for the 20th of July following. At the election R. L. Eward was elected chief burgess; A. M. Plank, tax collector; J. L. Groninger, constable; Miller Leeper, Cloyd Williams, David Thomas, A. K. Andrews, John Ward, Albert Reich and Frank Broome, councilmen. Subsequently the borough limits were extended to include a wider scope of territory. Burnham is a station on the Milroy Branch of the Pennsylvania railroad, four miles north of Lewistown, with which it is connected by electric railway. The population in 1910 was 585.

Granville, a station on the main line of the Pennsylvania railroad, takes its name from old Fort Granville. Walter Owen opened a store here in 1865, and the next year the railroad company made it a passenger station. A postoffice was established in that year imder the name of Granville, the place having been known prior to that time as "Wolfkill's Siding." In 19 10 Granville reported a population of 219.

Maitland is a village of 159 inhabitants on the Sunbury division of the Pennsylvania railroad, five miles northeast of Lewistown. A writer in 1885 describes it as having "a postoffice, store, depot, school house and a few dwellings." That description would apply to the village to-day, except the number of dwellings has slightly increased.

Milroy, situated in the western part of Armagh township, twelve miles north of Lewistown, was originally known as Perryville, after an early settler. In 1850 the name was changed to Milroy, a postoffice by that name having been established there some time in the early part of that year. An iron furnace was started at Milroy in 1828, and in 1868 Joseph Wagner established a foundry. Another early industry was a tannery started by James Milroy while the town was in its infancy. James Johnson was one of the pioneer merchants, and John Fertig had a distillery at Perryville. It was located in the basement of his house, which was the first dwelling in the village. A Presbyterian church was built in 1833, and a Methodist congregation was organized in 1825, when a small house of worship was built. It was replaced by a larger edifice in 1846. A Lutheran church was established in 1857. Milroy is the terminus of a branch of the Pennsylvania railroad that connects with the main line at Lewistown Junction. It has a bank, a good public school, several good mercantile establishments, etc., and in 1910 reported a population of 1,000, but it is not incorporated.

Reedsville, with a population of 900, is located in the Kishacoquillas valley and is a station on the Milroy branch of the Pennsylvania railroad, seven miles from Lewistown. The first settler at this place was Judge William Brown, who built a saw-mill and a grist-mill, and until the village was laid out, aljout 1838, the place was known as "Brown's Mills." At the time the village was laid out there were about twenty houses there and a tavern had been conducted for many years. A large brick hotel was built soon after the town was laid out. Reedsville is also connected with Lewistown by electric railway. It has a bank, the Brown township high school, several good stores, hotel, etc., and is supplied with water by the Lewistown Water Company.

Wagner, a station on the Sunbury division of the Pennsylvania railroad, had its beginning in 186S, when the railroad was completed. A tan-yard had been started there in 1853 by William Mitchell & Son, and doubtless had some influence in securing the location of a station. Soon after the railroad was opened for business a postoffice was established and a store opened. In 1910 it had a population of 158.

Yeagertown, situated on the Kishacoquillas creek, about a mile above Burnham, and connected with Lewistown and other points along the Kishacoquillas by electric railway, is the outgrowth of a settlement that grew up about the saw-mill and grist-mill erected there at an early date. James Mayes settled in that section in 1790 and built a tavern which was kept by different persons for many years. In 1S42 Jacob Yeager came with his family from Dauphin county and purchased the mill property. Simon Yeager opened a store in 1857, though he had been a resident of the village for a number of years prior to that date. Jonathan Yeager opened a tavern in 1845, and Jeremiah Yeager bought and rebuilt the mill in 1859. Through the activity of the members of this family the place came to be known as Yeagertown. In 1910 the village had a population of 600. The Derry township high school is at Yeagertown, which has a number of stores and some manufacturing enterprises.

In addition to the boroughs and villages above enumerated and described, the postoffices of Mifflin county are Kishacoquillas, five miles northwest of Lewistown; Mattawana, just across the Juniata from McVeytown; Naginey, the first station on the railroad south of Milroy; Paintersville, on the Sunbury railroad, eight miles from Lewistown; Ryde, on the main line of the Pennsylvania railroad, seventeen miles west of Lewistown; Shindle, eleven miles northeast of Lewistown on the Sunbury division; and Strodes Mills, on a branch of the Kishacoquillas creek, six miles southwest of Lewistown. There are ten free rural delivery routes in the county, to wit: Four from Lewistown, two from Belleville, and one each from McVeytown, Milroy, Newton Hamilton and Reedsville.



Return to Mifflin County, PA AGHP



2012 Mifflin County Pennsylvania AHGP