History of Madison Township, Pa.
From: History of Clarion County, Pennsylvania
Edited by: A. J. Davis
Published By: D. Mason and Co., Syracuse 1887

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By W. W. Deatrick.

THIS township, lying in the southwest corner of the county, was formerly a portion of Toby township, and before the formation of Clarion county, extended into Armstrong county as far as the mouth of Mahoning Creek. This township has itself suffered some further diminution of territory since the erection of the county, the present Brady township having been formed from it not many years ago.

The northern and eastern boundaries are straight lines, except a slight indentation on the north, made by the borough of Rimersburg. The southern boundary is very irregular, defined by the tortuous course of Redbank Creek.

The township is underlaid by several beds of good bituminous coal, and the ferriferous limestone is largely exposed in the bluffs along the Redbank Creek and its tributaries. Much of the land has been suffered to deteriorate, but by the liberal use of lime readily procurable from the above-mentioned stratum, and burned by means of the coal so near by, progressive farmers are fast restoring their fields to their pristine fertility.

The limestone is largely quarried from the hills near Lawsonham, as well as in many other places through the township. A short distance east of Lawsonham are situated the lime quarry and kilns of James Brown, of Brookville, established several years ago.

Early Settlements. - This territory seems to have been settled about the beginning of the present century, possibly even before the close of the last century some of the pioneers may have taken possession In what is now the Conner school-house district, a log house was built in the year 1800 by Thomas Conner. It is also asserted that in this house his son, Mr. John Conner, still living, was born in the same year. According to some, Alexander McCain settled here, and made improvements on what is known as the old McCain farm, near the Redbank coke yard, as early as 1801. Mr. McCain was one of the pioneer school masters of this section of the country, working in the summer, and teaching in the winter. He was justice of the peace for several years. It was related of him that he was an excellent Biblical scholar, quoting the sacred Word with rare aptitude. He was also known as an enthusiastic and extreme abolitionist.

About this time John McGee settled on the neck of the Great Bend. In 1705 a house was built by John and David Meek, near Rimersburg. About this time the road from Watterson's on the Allegheny River to Corsica, known as the Watterson road, was laid out.(1) It was the first road in the county. In 1807 James Rankin erected a log house in what is now the Rankin school district. In 1812 David Lawson, a surveyor and land agent, located near what is now Lawsonham, this name having been given by him to his home soon afterhis settlement. Later in life he represented the county in the Legislature, and figured prominently in county affairs.

In 1813, or later, Fleming Davidson, who had previously resided near Curllsville, built a log dwelling, two stories in height, thirty by fifty feet, on what afterwards became known as the Reed farm. Davidson was at one time military brigade inspector. About the same time Mathew Hosey came into possession of the property which had been improved at an earlier date (vide supra) by David Meek. Mr. Hosey was a soldier in the War of 1812, and was at Fort Meigs. Among the early settlers should be mentioned Peter Benninger, a German. He took up land on the Allegheny River, above the mouth of Catfish Run. He performed an unique feat which must not be passed by. With no other assistance than that of his wife and his old mare, he erected their log barn, which was a fair size, and which, sheltering his crops and stock, stood for many years. Another pioneer was Malachi Buzzard, who settled on the hill above Catfish, and was illustrious principally as a hunter.

The Wattersons, too, likely settled on this side of the river early in the century. About a hundred years ago the elder James Watterson made improvements on the west side of the Allegheny River. July 20, 1803, is the date of a land warrant to Elizabeth Watterson, a daughter of the same, later married to John Bruner. February 17, 1827, Mrs. Bruner sold to James Watterson, son of the James Watterson above mentioned, and father of James Watterson, sr., of Redbank, the tract of land lying east of the river, and now owned partly by Redbank furnace, and partly by James Watterson, sr., and George Leonard. The second James Watterson lived early in the century in a shanty which stood but a short distance above where the Watterson mansion now stands. At that time the Indians were still about, and their huts occupied the the flat which is now the site of the furnace.

Joseph Rankin, afterwards for a number of years justice of the peace, then assemblyman, and later associate judge of the county, was one of the early settlers. He and his brother Benjamin settled in what is now Toby township, but some time after he moved into Madison township. These two brothers married two sisters, which was not so remarkable as the fact that the two families lived amicably in the same house, strictly observing the following peculiar arrangements: Joseph, being the eldest brother, did all the managing of affairs in which the male portion of the household had any part; on the other hand, Mrs. Benjamin, being the elder of the two wives, had absolute control of the female portion of the family, their cares, and their belongings, even to chastising all the daughters of both families, while Mr. Joseph did the whipping that was needed by the boys on both sides of the house.

Voting Places. - When Madison township was first formed the elections were held at Lawsonham. At a later date the voting place was changed to New Athens, where it still remains.

Schools. - Perhaps the first school in the township was kept near Lawsonham, about half a mile from John Lawson's. For a long time the teachers were hired by Mr. Lawson to give instruction to his children, and to such of the neighbors' children as could attend. Later, about 1829, the teacher was hired for a year, and was paid partly by the Lawsons, and partly by the parents of other children who attended.

Furnaces. - No less than five iron furnaces have been in operation in this township: Pike Furnace, Wildcat Furnace, Catfish Furnace, Sarah Furnace, and Redbank Furnace.

Pike Furnace was located on Fiddler's Run, a short distance above Lawsonham. It was built in 1845 by Lawson, Duff; and Orr, under whose management it was operated for five years. Then Duff and Orr had it in charge for ten years, while from 186o to 1867, it was in the hands of Mr. Orr alone. In the latter year it was blown out. It is now entirely in ruins.

Wildcat Furnace on Wildcat Run, something over a mile from Rimersburg, was built in 1843,(2) by Lawson and Flick. Its ownership was various at different times. Lawson withdrawing from the firm, it was owned by Flick alone; later it was operated by Thompson and Hutchinson. These parties failing in the business, it went out of blast for a time. It was afterward repaired and iron making was resumed by Miller and Freeman. It was a steam cold blast (2). So the Geological Report, p. 201. In 1845 according to Judge Lawson. charcoal furnace, and was finally abandoned in 1863. Its ruined stack still stands near by the Sligo Branch Railroad. The geological survey report records that this was one of the most successful of all the Clarion county charcoal furnaces.

Catfish steam cold blast furnace stood at the mouth of Catfish Run. It was built in 1846, by Joseph Over and others. It was owned by Alexander Miller, and leased by J. L. Miller, when in blast.(3)

Sarah Furnace was built, in 186o, by the Plummers. Originally a charcoal furnace, it was afterwards converted into a coke furnace, and operated as such after the other charcoal furnaces were abandoned. The furnace was located on the east bank of the Allegheny River and north of the mouth of Catfish Run.

Red Bank Furnace, situated at the junction of Redbank Creek with the Allegheny River, is the only exclusively coke furnace ever operated in the county. It was built in 1859 by McCullough and Reynolds. When running at its full capacity, it produced one hundred and sixty five (165) tons of iron per week, and employed from three hundred and fifty to four hundred and fifty men, including miners and cokers. It used the native carbonate ores dug from the surrounding hills, and also that brought from the Lawsonham and Sligo diggings. The coke works were situated at the top of the hill. The coal for this and for Sarah Furnace was mined from the Freeport Upper coal contained in the summits overlooking the river above Brady's Bend, and was coked in open hives at the pit mouth. There were twenty four of these hives equivalent to about one hundred and fifty ovens.(4) An inclined plane reached from the furnace to a point on the ferriferous limestone, two hundred and fifty five feet above the railroad station. From the plane head a narrow guage railroad, laid with sixteen pound rails, ran off in opposite directions along the outcrop of the ore. One branch ran up to the coke pits and coal banks, a distance of nearly two miles. The hills around are terraced by the enormous masses of shale removed in mining the ore. In 1878 the furnace began making coke in the ovens at the base of the hill. Forty two ovens were erected. Since December, 1883, the furnace has been out of blast. It blew out for repairs, and owing to the low price of iron, and its inability to compete under such prices with larger furnaces and those mining ore at less expense, it has not resumed. In November, 1886, the furnace owners again began the manufacture of coke, mining at present the lower vein of coal, known as the Catfish vein, averaging three and a half to four feet in thickness. The coal and coke are shipped mainly to Buffalo and Rochester. Two hundred tons of coal and forty tons of coke are shipped daily from the works. One hundred and thirty men are employed at present. In 1865 the firm became Reynolds and Moorehead. In 1878 the owners were Alexander Reynolds's sons, and since 1881 the company has been known as David and John D. Reynolds. Four thousand tons of pig iron are yet stored in the furnace yard, waiting an opportunity for a favorable sale. In connection with the furnace is a company store, managed since 1859 by David Reynolds, who, since 1867, has been superintendent of the entire plant The company owns houses sufficient to accommodate about one hundred families. Formerly there were more, but many have become ruinous. About fifteen hundred acres of land, containing quite a field of ore, as yet untouched, are in possession of the company. Just previous to going out of blast the furnace was most active.

Oil and Gas. - No profitable oil wells have been struck in this township, although considerable prospecting has been done and a number of test wells, a dozen at least, have been sunk. About 1869 a well was drilled by the Brookville Oil Company at the mouth of Turkey Run, near Lawsonham. At 1,050 feet some oil was found, but on going deeper a flow of salt water was struck that rendered the well worthless. At nearly the same time gas was struck in a well on the Kissinger farm. In 1877 a well was sunk on the A. B. McCain farm: This was a slight producer, for a while pumping four barrels of oil per day. At Catfish a well gave signs of oil, while another on Catfish Run proved a dry hole. In 1875 several wells were sunk near New Athens, but with no results. In 1882 David Reynolds drilled a well near the furnace at Redbank. Some little oil and considerable gas was found. The gas was allowed to escape until recently, when it has been utilized in firing the engines of the works, and in heating and lighting the store and adjacent houses. The same or the following year Mr. Reynolds sunk another well near Coppock's, in Sandy Hollow. Gas was found which is allowed to waste, burning at the discharge pipe. In 1885 three wells were drilled one on the farm belonging to Harrison Connor's heirs, which proved a dry hole; a second on the A. B. McCain farm, which gave a small show of oil and gas, and had a good sand; the third on the Wallace Mortimer farm, claimed to be dry.

For years past natural gas springs have existed on Catfish Run, and have been fired and allowed to burn at various times. One of these springs recently burning exhibited a steady flame about two feet high and covering an area three or four feet in diameter. "It issues from fissures in a rock lying just below water level in the stream, but its source is undoubtedly in some much deeper stratum."(5)

Coal Mines. - A large quantity of coal has been mined from the Freeport upper coal bed by the Sligo Branch Coal Company (Limited), whose works are situated just east of Rimersburg. These works were opened in 1874, and the first coal was shipped in 1875. In 1887 the company employed about seventy five men. In January, 1880, the works were leased by William Sharpe and F. W. Abrams, and operated by them until July of the same year, when a strike occurred and the operators left. In June, 1881, S. Coon and W. H. Craig assumed control and worked the mines until April I, 1887. In working this mine a serious difficulty was experienced in the form of an unexpected dip of the strata, which rendered the draining of the mine almost impossible. A new company has now taken charge of the works. The water is being successfully siphoned out of the flooded portions of the works. Additional tracts of coal land have been leased, and the mines will be extended and operated more extensively than heretofore.

In the latter part of 1886 Thomas Mitchell, of East Brady, secured extensive leases of coal lands and began mining this same bed of coal, driving several entries into the hillside near the ruins of old Wildcat furnace. The new mines are known as the Diamond Coal Works, and when fully opened will give employment to a large number of men. A number of cars of coal are now being shipped daily from these mines.

Operations have also been begun by another company, in which Hon. Galusha A. Grow is a prominent partner, further down the ravine on the opposite side of the stream. The intention is to operate these works extensively also. At present writing no coal has yet been shipped from these mines.

Mills. - A grist mill was built on the mouth of Catfish Run as early as 1807 or 1808, perhaps earlier, by John Mortimer. The Pike Furnace Mill, near Lawsonham, was erected by John Lawson about 1824. This mill was swept away by a flood. The property then passed into the hands of Jesse Flick, who rebuilt the mill. He sold it to Henry Yeager, but before the latter came into possession of it, Mr. Flick was accidentally killed, being caught in the machinery and crushed to death. The mill, or parts of it, was several times swept away by floods. After Henry Yeager, it passed into the hands of the owners of Pike furnace, by whom it was rebuilt and improved. It still does a good country trade.

Guthrie's Mill, recently better known as Kissinger's Mill, was built by William Guthrie about 1830. It afterwards passed into the hands of the Kissingers. For some time it was run as a steam mill, but is now in a dilapidated condition.

For many years there was a saw mill at Lawsonham. It was built in 1812 or 1813, by David Lawson. It was in operation until a few years ago when it was taken down to make room for the Low Grade or Bennett's Branch Railroad, which passes over the site of the mill.

From early times Watterson's Ferry has been of considerable importance. The ferry was established by James Watterson, grandfather of James Watterson, sr., of Redbank. The present rope ferry was put up after the furnace was built, about 1860. Until the building of the railroad, Watterson's Ferry was to a large extent the head of navigation on the Allegheny, and was the river depot for all the back country. When the river was up, the trade was carried on by steamboats; when the waters were low the service was performed by keel boats. As an instance of the business done here in former times, it may be noted that in "the year of the big frost" eleven thousand barrels of flour were stored here by James Watterson, sr. A large warehouse stood where the Allegheny Valley Railroad yard now is. As high as thirty wagons were here loaded with goods in a single day. The products of the back country, grain, seeds, tar, etc., were received here, and from this point shipped down the river. Before the lumber supply of the county was so greatly diminished, great numbers of rafts passed out of the Redbank Creek and down the river. At times the creek was jammed with rafts for half a mile from its mouth, and some of the rafts piled on top of others. During the rafting season Watterson's was indeed a busy place. Eleven hundred meals have been served to raftsmen in twenty four hours. A large hotel, three stories in height, was built to accommodate the traveling public, but it often proved too small, every room being filled, and some of the wayfarers finding beds in the barn. As might be imagined, quarrels and riots were not infrequent, and for four or five knock downs to occur in a single day was no uncommon occurrence. When the railroad cam; however, some twenty years ago, the fame of Watterson's Ferry subsided.

Churches. - A large portion of the church going inhabitants of the township worship at Rimersburg. The Methodist denomination, however, has two chapels, one at Lawsonham and one at Sandy Hollow. Rev. Clinton Jones, pastor at Rimersburg, also serves these two congregations.

Some of the sons of this township have attained to a greater or less degree of celebrity. Among these may be mentioned Hon. J. B. Lawson, who was elected to the offices of commissioner and associate judge of the county, and also was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly; Rev. Thomas B. Lawson, a brother of the last, an Episcopal clergyman, now resident in Missouri; Hon. David Lawson, son of Judge Lawson, attorney at law, resident in Clarion; Rev. Orr Lawson, of Dakota, and Dr. Chalmers Lawson, of Brookville, both sons of Judge Lawson; J. A. Summerville, formerly member of the Pennsylvania Legislature; his son, Dr. John Summerville, of Monroeville; Captain Newell Hosey, now probate judge of Green county, Missouri, a graduate of Allegheny College at Meadville; John Klingensmith, ex sheriff of the county; Jacob Truby, of Catfish, former assemblyman, and others.

1. Judge Lawson. The county atlas says it was the third.
2. So the Geological Report, p. 201. In 1845 according to Judge Lawson.
3. This account of the furnaces is taken largely from Report VV., of the Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvanian.
4. Geological Survey, VV., p. 71.
5. Geological survey, V V., p. 72.

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