HISTORY OF EAST BRADY BOROUGH
By Miss Clara Campbell.
Early History of rite Site of East Brady. Brady's Bend proper is that loop or bend in the Allegheny River, commencing
just below Catfish, and reaching almost to the mouth of Redbank. It embraces a circuit of about eight miles by
the river, and is less than one mile across its narrowest part. The surface is hilly, almost mountainous. The hills
rise to the height of several hundred feet, and in many places fronting the river are very rocky and precipitous.
Those who have been brought up in this neighborhood do not appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the scenery, and
it is also strange that so few know of the romantic interest attached to the early history of the place; for here
was a favorite camping place and battleground for the dusky denizens of the primeval forests. The Bend received
its name from the famous scout and Indian fighter, Captain Samuel Brady. In 1782 Captain Brady pursued a party
of Indians who were on their way north with a number of prisoners taken from Hannahstown, Westmoreland county.
After nightfall their camp was discovered and Brady appeared and addressed them in their own tongue. They supposing
it to be another Indian party, gave him full particulars as to their prisoners, strength of their band, etc. The
pursuing party forded the river above, went down to the encampment, surrounded and killed the Indians, and rescued
the prisoners. Among these prisoners were the father and aunt of the late Peter Henry, of this place, then children
of ten and twelve years of age.
East Brady, the second largest town in the county, is situated in this bend in the Allegheny River, at a point
opposite to what was formerly known as "The Great Western." The main portion of the town lies in a valley,
but a number of houses are built on the surrounding hills. Some of the most picturesque scenery of the Allegheny
may be viewed from the town. The sides of the hills are covered with trees, shrubs, and projecting rocks. These
combined form one of nature's grandest displays. It is the half way point between the cities of Pittsburgh and
Oil City, which makes it an important railroad station. It is also the starting point of the trains of the Low
Grade division of the Allegheny Valley Railroad, and is always thronged with trains arriving from or starting for
that route. Its religious, educational, and mining interests are quite extensive and will be treated of under their
proper heads. The population, composed principally of the laboring classes, in 1880, numbered over fifteen hundred.
Name, Early Settlements. - During the days of the prosperity of the iron works, boats stopped at this side of the
river, at what was then called Cunningham's Landing. Nothing was here at this time except the farm house of J.
M. Cunningham, and a few other buildings occupied by men who toiled among the farmers or kept the ferry leading
to Brady's Bend. As the town is on the east side of the river, it has since received the name of East Brady. The
reasons that the town is built where it is are, first, the necessity of homes for the employees of the Brady's
Bend Iron Company, who could not be provided for on the west side of the river; second, the building of the Allegheny
Valley Railroad through this section of country. The land upon which the town is built was all formerly owned by
J. M. Cunningham, esq., and by the iron company. Mr. Cunningham was born April 21, 1820, at a point opposite Kittanning,
Armstrong county. He first came here in 1854 and built the house in which he still lives, and which now stands
on the outskirts of the town. Although having undergone repairs several times, it presents very much the same appearance
that it did over thirty years ago. He is the father of five children, one son and four daughters, all of whom are
living. Mr. Cunningham opened a hardware store in 1867, and still does quite an extensive business in that line.
The town, as it now appears, is of comparatively recent origin, having sprung up within the past twenty years.
A house was built where the Round House now stands in 1853; in 1854 the large house facing the river, known in
later days as "The Temperance Hotel," (the only one in the town) was built and occupied by M. Sedwick.
About the same time another was built, near this, and used as the residence of the ferryman, Thomas Horton, for
many years. The town was regularly laid off in lots in 1866. The first house built after this was by P. McKenna,
near where the St. Cloud Hotel now is. The growth of the town was very rapid, and when, in 1867, the railroad was
completed to this point, quite a little village was here. The first engine, No. 17, came up the road June 25, 1867,
and great was the excitement among the pioneers when they saw the huge monster steaming up the iron track. The
report had gone forth that it might be expected on that day, and the country people from far and near flocked to
see it. Ones who were present say that there was none of the "small boy curiosity" exhibited on the occasion,
but that the fathers of the town kept at a respectable distance from their distinguished visitor. The road did
not extend further than this point till in 1869, when the line was completed from Pittsburgh to Oil City. The postoffice
was established in the year 1867. In 1869 a bridge was built across the Allegheny here. It was the property of
the Brady's Bend Iron Company. For several years it was unsafe for travel, and in 1884 it fell. It has been replaced
by an iron one, owned by the citizens of the town. The first store was that of J. M. Brown, opened in 1867. It
was soon followed by that of J. C. Wallace & Company. A planing mill was started, small coal mines were opened,
doctors took up their residences here, churches and school houses were built, secret societies were organized,
and the interests and population of the town steadily increased. It reached its height of prosperity before the
closing of the iron works, and since then has grown very little. It owes its present standing to the railroad and
two large coal mines, which now give employment to the majority of the population of the place.
Coal Mines. - The Brady's Bend Mining Company opened the first large mine in 1878, just above the town, under the
direction of Hon. G. A. Grow. In just ninety days after the work began the men went inside and began taking out
the coal, at the price of eighty cents per ton. The mine has ever since given employment to a large number of men,
one hundred and sixty being the most engaged at one time. C. F. Hartwell, of Oil City, is general manager, and
George Henry, esq., has the contract under him of taking out the coal. Large quantities of coal are shipped daily
to northern markets.
Pine Run Mines were opened by Messrs. Stephenson and Mitchell, the following year, '79. They were located on land
leased from what was in earlier days known as the "Martin farm." Work began here July 3, and by August
27 (thirty days), the mines were ready for inside work. Looking after their interests themselves, the proprietors
of these mines have spared nothing to make and keep everything in the best working order, and the mines have been
very productive. The highest number of men employed at a time was one hundred and forty.
Strikes. - The employees of the mines have a number of times become dissatisfied, either with the price paid or
the manner of weighing the coal, and have gone out on strikes. Sometimes the strikes lasted only a few weeks; other
times for months. They have always been compelled to come to the companies' terms. They have gained nothing, but
have lost their time, injured the business of their employers by not furnishing coal to fill their contracts, and
have at times become charges upon the public.
Schools. - Soon after the first settlement of the town a small school house was built, and a public school opened
under the management of H. M. Burns, now a minister in the Erie M. E. Conference. In 1872 the town had become so
populous that a larger building was necessary. A substantial one, containing four rooms, was erected at a cost
of $4,700. This school at first was not a success, but when, in 1876, Prof. T. W. Orr, a graduate of Edinboro,
took charge, it began to improve. By his interest and untiring zeal, he soon got the school into better habits
of study and recitation. He was principal for four years, and at the end of that period the school stood among
the best, if not the very best in the county. In 1883 the number of grades was increased to five. In the past five
years the school has given ten teachers to the county, all of whom are doing good, earnest, faithful work in behalf
of the rising generation. For a number of years all the teachers except the principal have come out of the school.
The principal has charge of the highest grade. The present incumbent, Prof. L. L. Himes, has occupied the position
four years. He is a man of large experience in school work, having had control of the New Bethlehem schools for
nine years previous to his coming here. The professor is also one of the leading educators of the county, and well
deserves the esteem in which he is held by the people of East Brady.
Oil and Gas. - This is an important shipping point of the oil territory surrounding the town. The oil is stored
in large tanks and sent out when required. Several wells have been drilled in and about the town, but only one
of these has proved of any value. Within the past year two natural gas wells have been put down, and an abundant
supply of gas obtained. The "Caloric Gas Company' was formed by citizens of the town, and pipes are being
laid, and the town fast becoming supplied with it for fuel and light.
Churches. - The first church built was intended as a union house of worship. This was soon after the settlement
of the town. For some time it was used as such, but as the United Presbyterians were the only people that sustained
a minister, it soon came to be under the exclusive direction of its members. Its membership was always small, and
within the past few years it has ceased to hold services at all. Shortly after this the other Protestant denominations
formed societies; the Methodists early in '68, and the Presbyterians shortly after.
Methodist Episcopal. - Up to 1876 the membership of this church did not number over twenty five. In the fall of
this year, Rev. J. Boyd Espy came here as pastor, taking up his residence in the town. During the winter of '76
and '77, under special services directed by him, more than one hundred and fifty were converted and added to the
church. From this date it became the leading church of the town. Its meetings had been held in a store room, fitted
up for that purpose. In the same year, 1877, a large two story church edifice was erected at a cost of 5,000. In
1885, under the labors of Rev. J. C. McDonald, more than one hundred were again brought into the church. Francis
Murphy, the world famous temperance lecturer, united with this church in 1880, and held membership for several
years. Prof. E. O. Excell, the now national famed singer, was among the first members of the organization. It is
the only one of the churches that holds regular Sabbath morning and evening services. The membership now is almost
Presbyterian. - This church was early formed, the first organization taking place in the old school house. It
continued in a prosperous condition for many years, under the efficient pastorate of Rev. T. S. Negley. In 1880
Rev. Negley received a call to another place. A short time after this the building used as a church was destroyed
by fire. The people becoming divided, almost nothing was done for several years. In i885, again uniting their forces,
they built a very beautiful little church, costing them about $3,500. Since then they have held services half time.
Their minister, Rev. B. F. Williams, is a rising young man, and is highly esteemed by his people. Membership now
is eighty five.
Baptist - This was the last of the churches to become established in the town. Their first organization was in
1882, with seventeen members. They at once went to work and constructed a church, costing $3,000, which was dedicated
the following year, 1883. Its people are noted for the cheerfulness and promptness with which they support the
gospel. Rev. T. J. Collins has been in charge of the church for the past three years, and is an earnest worker
for the master.
St. Eusebius's Roman Catholic Church was built in 1877. At its completion the first pastor was settled in the town.
Previous to this all members of this church attended at Brady's Bend. The church building is valued at $3,400,
and the residence of the priest - Father Brady - at $1,500. The membership consists of forty five families, embracing
about three hundred persons.
Physicians. - The Drs. Wallace, residing at Brady's Bend, first practiced here for several years before establishing
an office. Drs. R. S. and J. A. then opened an office and drug store in the town. Dr. J. A. removed to Bradford
some years since, but R. S. still attends to a large practice here and in neighboring towns, besides being railroad
doctor on a section of the A. V. R. R. Dr. R. Robinson, a graduate of Jefferson College, class of '62, came here
in December, 1870, and began professional service. He has ever since kept quite an extended line of visits. Dr.
F. X. Felix was early in the town. For some years he was away, but returned and continued to practice medicine
here until his death in 1878.
L. C. Longwell, dentist, came to town in 1871, and still remains the only one in his profession
Banks. - The present bank began business in December, 1878, under rather unfavorable circumstances. The Citizens'
Savings Bank having failed to meet its demands, closed the previous May. This had a tendency to make the people
a little cautious about trusting their money to the keeping of the new bank, which is a branch of the National
Bank of Kittanning. The business here is conducted under the direction of J. W. Hill, Esq., who is cashier and
Fires. - East Brady has been visited at different times by fire. The two largest are of recent date, the first
of them occurring October 27, 1882. The fire broke out at 6 o'clock, P. M., in the store of D. Carmody. How, is
not certainly known, but it is supposed to have caught from the explosion of a lamp in an upstairs room. The family
were all below, and the fire had made such headway before it was discovered that, with no better preventatives
than the town then possessed, nothing could be done to stop its spreading very rapidly. Buildings on either side
quickly took fire, and it continued to spread until a crossing was reached broad enough to prevent its onward march
of destruction. Thirteen buildings in all were burned. Some of the most important of these were the Presbyterian
church, the drug store of Dr. R. Robinson, a large three story block belonging to Mr. Hertwick, used for a meat
market, lodge rooms, and private dwellings, and the millinery store and residence of Mrs. M. I. Scott. Much property
was destroyed, also many household goods were greatly damaged. As is usual in cases of this kind, little presence
of mind was exhibited by the persons willing to aid. The bedding and wearing apparel were carefully carried down
stairs, while the looking glasses, bedsteads, wash stands, &c., were thrown from the windows. The estimated
loss by fire was $25,000. Second fire, June 3, 1883. Scarcely had the people become settled again, when another
great fire broke out. Dr. Robinson had almost completed a new building on the site of the one destroyed by the
previous fire, and it was with great difficulty that it was prevented from taking fire again. The livery stable
in which the fire started adjoined his building. Carpets were thrown over it and kept wet during all the time the
fire raged. This fire began just where the last stopped, and burned an entire square. Its further progress was
prevented by a large brick block. It is supposed to have been an incendiary fire. The fire, which was discovered
by the policeman about 11:30 o'clock P. M., on a Sabbath evening, continued till morning. The Central House, a
large four story building, the best hotel of the town, was among the burned. A more picturesque sight than the
burning of this house is not often seen. The fire seemed to blaze from all the windows at the same time, then it
fell. The residence of Mr. Stephenson, the store of the Pine Run Mining Company, the bank, the East Brady House,
and the home of Mrs. Martha Wallace, were among the property destroyed by this fire. The goods from the stores
were carried into the street, and men, women and children might be seen making their way hurriedly towards the
bridge, carrying suspicious looking packages. The loss was fully as great or perhaps greater than that caused by
the first fire. Most of the places destroyed have been rebuilt, some, perhaps, not so substantially as before.
The stand of Dr. Robinson is the best of the new buildings. The "Pioneer Drug Store" is always ready
to attend to customers. Mr. Hertwick has a fine new building on the burnt district. The Central House, though not
rebuilt, was moved into a large brick building formerly used as a store, and the house, having undergone many improvements,
is still the leading hotel of the town. Its old site is occupied by the store of the Klein Brothers.
Fire Department and Companies. - The hook and ladder was purchased by some of the careful citizens of the town,
Messrs. McCafferty, Weiseman, Riston, and Wahl, before either of the foregoing fires took place, but could not
be used to great advantage in such large fires. The hook and ladder, with the building in which it is kept, cost
After the second fire, the community at large began to think it was time to do something to prevent such ravages
in the future. An effort was made, funds raised, and two extinguishers and a fire bell purchased. Fire companies
were organized, fires were built on the outskirts of the town and the strength of the engines and working abilities
of the companies fully tested.
At present three companies are sustained; the "Peerless," with Dr. Robinson as foreman; the "Jumbo,"
William Cunningham, foreman, and the "Hook and Ladder," William Pollard, Br., foreman. These companies
are always on the alert, and a very few sounds from the fire bell are sufficient to arouse them and start them
on the fire track. Although they have been called out a number of times when unnecessary, they never fail to respond,
and deserve praise for the manly spirit shown at all times. Their work is entirely gratuitous. They have so far
succeeded in extinguishing all fires that have broken out.
The Press. - The first newspaper published in the town was the Independent, by Colonel Samuel Young, in 1869. This
was in the prosperous days of the town, and was made a live sheet by its enterprising editor. It succumbed in about
five years, and shortly after the same gentleman sent out a small sheet, the Advertiser, which lived but a few
months. The town was then without a paper until 1879, when C. M. Riley commenced the publication of a huge blanket
sheet, the Argus. This died after a brief three weeks' career. In 1881 F. A. Tozer started the East Brady Times,
and continued to send it forth for about three years. Rev. J. W. Martin was next on the list of newspaper adventurers.
He issued the first number of the Church Index in December, 1883. It was a small monthly, devoted to the church
interests of this place and Rimersburg. In July, 1884, he changed it to a weekly, under the name of East Brady
Index, continued One year. Hastings and Graham began the Review November 27, 1885. In June, 1886, N. E. Graham
purchased H. L. Hastings's interest and is the present editor and publisher. The Review is a successful journal.
It is devoted principally to home interests, and is a credit to the town, as well as to the editor.