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
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
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
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.
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