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


Derry township, the oldest in the county and at one time including the entire county, was erected by the court of Cumberland county more than twenty years before Mifflin county was organized. In August 1754, about a month after the purchase of the lands in the Juniata Valley from the Indians, Cumberland county organized four townships "on other side of the North mountain." These townships were Tyrone, Lack, Fannet and Aire (or Ayr). Early in the year 1767 a petition was presented to the court by the settlers living north of the Juniata, asking for the erection of a new township in that region, and at the July term the court defined the boundaries of Derry township as follows: "Be- ginning at the middle of the Long Narrows; thence up the north side of the Juniata as far as Jack's Narrows; thence to include the valleys of the Kishacokulus and Jack's creek."

The boundaries as thus established embraced all that portion of the present county of Mifflin lying north of the Juniata river and part of what is now Brady township in Huntingdon county. Just when that portion of Mifflin county south of the Juniata was taken into the town- ship is not shown by the records, but when the assessment of 1768 was made the names of the settlers living in that territory were included, so it is probable the annexation was made soon after the township was organized. The assessment rolls for that year included the names of seventy landowners and over 25,000 acres taken up on land warrants.

One of the earliest settlers on the Kishacoquillas creek, on the south side of Jack's mountain, was Everhart Martin, whose first land warrant was dated April 2, 1755. Later he entered several other tracts, a large part of which became the property of the Freedom Iron Company and later of the Logan Iron and Steel Company. It is not certain, however, that he ever lived upon the lands thus entered in his name. His son Christopher built a saw-mill on the creek opposite Yeagertown at an early date. Mention has been made of Samuel Holliday, who came to what is now Bratton township in 1755. He located on the Juniata, near the present borough of McVeytown, where he built a grist-mill, which was probably the first one in Derry township. It was built about the time the township was organized. The site of this mill was afterward occupied by the Troxwell tannery. Robert Buchanan located a trading post at the mouth of the Kishacoquillas creek, where the borough of Lewistown now stands, before the purchase of the lands from the Indians in 1754. When the French and Indian war began he went back to Carlisle and did not return to his trading post until about 1762. On July 2, 1762, he took out a warrant for 201 acres of land "lying on the northwest side of the river and extending above the mouth of the Kishacoquillas creek." His son Arthur and his daughter, at the same time, took out warrants for land in the vicinity, the former for ninety-six and the latter for 218 acres. John Early, on August 2, 1766, took up part of the land where the village of Kellyville was afterward built. John Rothrock came from Northampton county before the Revolution and settled four miles northeast of Lewistown, where his son Joseph continued to reside until his death. George Rothrock settled in Ferguson's valley in 1773. About the same time Matthew and George Kelly settled in the south end of the Dry valley and received warrants for their lands on October 1, 1776. During the closing years of the Revolution and in the decade following a number of settlers came into Derry township. In 17S4 Robert Forsythe came and afterward became one of the pioneer merchants of Lewistown. Andrew Gregg took up a tract below that of Jane Buchanan in 1787. built a cabin and put in a stock of goods. Two years later he was appointed one of the trustees to organize Mifflin county. John Alexander also came in 1787 and purchased a large tract of land of Christopher Martin in Little valley. The following year Ulrich Steely entered 100 acres on the south side of Jack's mountain. James Mayes took out a warrant on March 9, 1790, for 250 acres near the present village of Yeagertown, and his brother Andrew settled in the same neighborhood, where, in 1792, he took up a large tract of land. In 1793 Philip Minehart was running a saw-mill in that part of Derry afterward cut off to form Granville township, and the next year Joseph Strode built a grist and saw-mill on Brightfield's run. Other settlers came in before the close of the century, and in 1800 the population of the township was 1,135.

A school house was built at an early date on the farm of George Rothrock, in the Ferguson valley, and early in the nineteenth century one was erected near the present village of Vira. It was a log structure and was used as a church and school house until 1843, when it was sold to the Freedom Iron Company, who removed it to Freedom and converted it into a dwelling. Upon the adoption of the public school system in 1834 Joseph Matthews and David Hough were appointed school directors, and they divided the township into five districts. In 1912 there were twenty-six teachers employed in the several schools of the township, exclusive of the borough of Lewistown, which is located in Derry township.

By the formation of new townships from time to time Derry has been reduced in size until it is only about six miles square. On the north it is bounded by Armagh and Brown townships, the line being the summit of Jack's mountain; on the east by Decatur township; on the south by Juniata county and the Juniata river, which separates it from Granville township; and on the west by Granville.



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