HISTORY OF RIMERSBURG BOROUGH.
By W. W. Deatrick
LOCATION. - The borough and post village of Rimersburg is situated in the southwestern part of the county, partly
in Madison township, and partly (the greater part) in Toby township.
Previous to 1829 the site of the town was a barren, covered with a dense growth of underbrush, through which deer
and other wild animals roamed.
Early History and Settlement - In the year named John Rimer built a rude cabin on the lot of ground at present
known as the Henry Crick property. Here, in primitive style, an abundance of old time rye whisky was served to
the thirsty pioneers from the bar established by Rimer. The tavern became quite a popular resort, and was often
the scene of boisterous revelry.
The next building was "slab cabin," which stood where James H. Abrams's residence now stands.
It is on record that in 1833 a number of the pioneers celebrated the Fourth of July near one of these cabins. When
the proposition was made that it would be in order to have the Declaration of Independence read, the company were
considerably nonplused because of an inability to procure the historic document. James Pinks, however, came to
the rescue, by producing a child's handkerchief, on which the Declaration was printed. D. R. Lawson, as orator
of the day, then read it in such a manner as to elicit the hearty applause of the assembled company.
In 1839 Mr. Rimer and several other land owners laid out a number of town lots, and from the description given
of the event by some of our older citizens, the sale must have been an unique affair. The lots were sold at dollars
apiece. At the consummation of the sale of each lot a good drink of whisky was taken by seller, buyer, and each
of the bystanders. Doubtless if the number of lots sold was at all considerable, the company must have been in
a hilarious state by the time the auction was ended.
As an inducement to settlers it was proposed to name the prospective village in honor of the man who should, after
the town was laid out, build the first house. James Pinks purchased a lot and erected a house, rather a shanty,
of moderate diminsions, one and a half stories in height, upon the piece of ground lying at the intersection of
the Lawsonham road with Main street, where it stands at present, the house owned by Mrs. William Abrams, and occupied
by Dr. J. H. Hepburn as a residence and office. Part of the original building is said to be included in the present
structure. Here Mr. Pinks kept a little store. It is claimed by some that Mr. Pinks kept store here as early as
1812, and that it was the first store in Clarion county. A barrel of sugar, a sack of coffee, a box of tea, and
a few other articles were sufficient supplies for nearly a year. Mr. Pinks became the first postmaster of Pinksville,
as the village was then called, the post office having been removed from Maple Grove, about a mile distant, where
it had formerly been.
The town grew rapidly at first, the location being elevated and pleasant, being, moreover, on the Clarion and Watterson
road. This was the third public road laid out in the county, and was for many years quite a thoroughfare, traversed
by stage coaches and numerous teams. To accommodate the traveling public three hostelries were erected in Rimersburg,
two being at at present used as hotels, and now known respectively as the Sheridan and Berlin Houses. The old Forest
House is now used as a residence. The titles of these hotels have varied from time to time as their proprietors
Incorporated as Borough. - In the year 1853 Rimersburg was duly incorporated as a borough. James Pinks was one
of the first councilmen. The borough, as originally laid out, was a rectangle three hundred rods long by one hundred
rods wide, the general direction being south southeast. Previous to 1862 the dead of the community were interred
in the Bethesda graveyard of the Presbyterian Church, near town, and in the burying grounds belonging to the Methodist
Reformed and Associate Presbyterian congregations within the borough limits. In the year named Peter Swifter, Abram
Probasco, Samuel Horsey, R. Klingensmith, David Crick, John Amer, sr., James Feely, and perhaps some others, formed
a company, bought a tract of land northeast of town, and laid it out in lots for a general cemetery. Shortly afterwards
the cemetery association was incorporated by law, and either by the incorporation act, or by a borough ordinance,
further interments within the borough limits were prohibited. Many of the dead in the Methodist and Reformed grave
yards were raised and reinterred in the cemetery, since which these grounds have not been used, and are now in
a shamefully neglected condition. As the burying ground of the Associate Presbyterian congregation was so near
the borough limits the members of that denomination strongly objected to abandoning it, and made a strenuous effort
to have their grave yard cut out of the borough. Considerable feeling and strife was thereby engendered, the town
council and the majority of the citizens strongly opposing the proposed measure. To the surprise and chagrin of
their opponents the Associate Presbyterians finally gained their point, securing a special act of the Legislature
(passed April 14 1863), by which " the lines of the borough of Rimersburg are . . . so changed as to exclude
the grave yard of the associate congregation of Cherry Run Church and the lot of John Boils from said borough limits,
and include the said grave yard and lot of John Boyls within the township of Toby, from which they were taken."
This change rendered the northern boundary of the borough irregular in a very peculiar way.
Selection of Name. - Originally, the southern part of the village was known as Pinksville, and the northern end
as Rimersburg. When a name was to be selected for the whole town when incorporated, there arose quite a controversy
in the matter. One party desired to retain the name Pinksvillè. Others proposed Sloansville, in honor of
Colonel Levi Sloan. A third party claimed that the town should be called Rimersburg, after its earliest settler,
Several accounts are current explanatory of the final selection of the name. Some say that it was a compromise
between the claims of the Sloan and Pinks factions. Another, and probably the correct version of the matter, is
that the name Rimersburg was chosen because the consumers of Rimer's old rye whiskey were more numerous and influential
than the patrons of the Pinksville post office and the customers at James Pinks's store. However that may be, the
present generation of Rimers are among our most respected and temperate citizens, and our town has been for years
an example of practical prohibition.
School houses. - In early times there were two school houses in or near the present borough limits, one was called
Benn's school house, and stood near where Mr. Thomas Wilson's house now stands; the other, built in 1835, probably
before the erection of Benn's school house, was known as Jackson's schoolhouse. This occupied nearly the site of
the present Reformed Church. It was a rude structure of logs, with a gable towards the Lawsonham road. In the one
end was an immense fire place. It had a rough puncheon floor, and seats of slabs. Along the walls were ranged high
seats for the writing pupils, part of whom faced the walls, seated at rude desks made of a flattened log resting
upon pins inserted in the timbers of the building. This building had glazed windows, and not, as the "County
Atlas" states, merely sashes filled with greased paper. The window in front was a regular double sash window,
while the other sides were lighted by a double row of panes of glass, set in immovable sash extending nearly the
whole length of the sides of the room.
In ___ the first public school was erected on the back street. It contained two rooms, and was built of logs.
In 1875 this building was replaced by a neat weather boarded building, painted white, containing two rooms, and
equipped with patent desks. The location, however, is most unfortunate, being on the back street, in close proximity
to stables and other uninviting surroundings.
Clarion Collegiate Institute. - Shortly prior to 1858, the people of the Reformed Church in this section of country,
proposed the establishment of a classical academy. Several sites were proposed, among others Curllsville and New
Bethlehem. However, as a larger amount of money was contributed for the proposed institution by the people of Rimersburg
and adjacent neighborhood, and as Rimersburg was then a thriving and growing village, being on the principal thoroughfare
of the county, the school was located here and named Clarion Collegiate Institute.
In the spring of 1858 the school was opened, with Rev. Lucian Cort, A. K, as principal, and until the Institute
building was ready for occupancy, was conducted in the Reformed Church near by. In 1859 the Institute was incorporated
under a liberal. charter from the State. In 1871 a new charter was granted.
July 6, 1859, the corner stone of the building was laid, on which occasion Rev. Henry Harbaugh, of blessed memory,
delivered an address on Christianity and Mental Development. In 1860 the building was completed, and was immediately
occupied by the school. The first catalogue, issued in that year, shows that one hundred and six pupils had been
in attendance during the year 1859-60. At this time Rev. Abner Dale was associated with Mr. Cort as a co-principal.
In the winter of 1860-61, on account of failing health, Mr. Dale severed his connection with the school and congregation,
and in the following spring Mr. Cort also resigned, entering pastoral work for a while, but soon engaging again
in educational work elsewhere.
Rev. Joseph H. Apple (now D. D.), was his immediate successor. For nine years, years of discouragement and trial,
for it was the time of the civil war, which depleted the attendance in institutions of learning everywhere, Dr.
Apple stood at the head of the school, and during this time did noble and successful work. Many of his students
exchanged their books and gowns for swords and muskets, while many others turned their energies to the work of
teaching, or entered the gospel ministry.
Rev. Charles Knepper was next entrusted with the care of the school. For a while the school prospered, and a paper,
The Collegiate Monthly, was published. Serious difficulties between principal and students were engendered, and
these resulted in the establishment of a rival academy in the public school building, and finally in the retirement
of Mr. Knepper from his position, after two years' service.
For about a year the regular management was temporarily suspended, and a private school was carried on by Mr. R.
B. Huey, who rented the building for this purpose.
In the spring of 1873 Rev. J. J. Pennepacker, A. M., became principal, and conducted the school successfully for
several years until a severe personal injury compelled him to relinquish his work. He was succeeded in 1874 by
Professor A. J. Davis, later superintendent of public schools of Clarion county, and at present principal of the
new State Normal School at Clarion. Mr. Davis continued in charge until November 1, 1880, and at times was assisted
by enthusiastic and able instructors, among whom may be mentioned Rev. Pennepacker; Dr J T. Rimer, now of Curllsville;
Rev. A. Fleming, now rector of the Episcopal Church at North East, Erie county; Mr. W. A. Beer, of Callensburg,
and others. During the incumbency of Professor Davis the school was prosperous and considerable repairs were made.
Rev. J. J. Pennepacker became principal again at the close of the year 188o, and occupied that position until in
January, 1882, he resigned and entered the pastoral work.
For nearly a year the school was closed, and the buildings were becoming dilapidated, and the grounds sadly
neglected. In October, 1883, a call was extended to Rev. W. W. Deatrick, A. M., to become principal. He accepted
the call, reopened the institution January 7, 1884, and has remained at its head from that time to the present
The school now enjoys an unusual degree of prosperity. Very extensive repairs have been made to the building, both
on the exterior and on the interior. The beautiful natural grove in which the institute stands has been improved
and beautified. Within the last few years an extensive and valuable collection of mineral and other specimens has
been gathered, a library of nearly five hundred volumes has been acquired, and other important improvements have
The institute building is a three story structure, forty by sixty feet, surmounted by a cupola. The lower floor
is occupied as a residence by the principal, the second is devoted to recitation rooms, and the third contains
the dormitories of the students.
The institution is owned and controlled by Clarion Classis of the Reformed Church, and is managed by a board of
trustees appointed by that body, yet the school is not sectarian; students are admitted irrespective of their denominational
relations. As now constituted the board of trustees consists of Rev. J. F. Wiant, president; Rev. W. W. Deatrick,
secretary and treasurer; Rev. A. C. Bowling; Rev. David B. Lady; and Mr. Philip Bittenbender.
Churches. - There are four religious denominations represented in the town by organized congregations and church
edifices. There are the Associate Presbyterians, Reformed, Methodist Episcopal, and Presbyterian.
Associate Presbyterian Church. - The Associate Presbyterian Church adjoins a pleasant grove in the northern part
of the village. Rev. Robert Bruce, resident within a short distance of Rimersburg, is pastor.
The Reformed Church is a brick building situated on the west side of Main street, just north of the ground of the
Clarion Collegiate Institute. The congregation known as the Jerusalem congregation, was organized early in 1841
by Rev. Henry Koch, out of material previously belonging to the church at Curllsville. For some years the congregation
worshiped at Amber's schoolhouse about three quarters of a mile north of Rimersburg. Rev. Koch served them for
several years until his death, August 7, 1845. In 1846 Rev. Hoffman took charge. He was succeeded in 1848 by Rev.
L. D. Leberman. The church building was erected in this year. Rev. Leberman remained a year, and was followed by
Rev. George Wolff, who served this people some five years. Rev. N. E. Gills entered upon the pastorate as his successor,
March, 1854. In. June, 1856, Rev. J. G. Shoemaker became pastor, continuing in that relation until in June, 1860,
the congregation was erected into a separate charge. Rev. Abner Dale served the new charge for about six months.
Early in 1861 Rev. Joseph H. Apple became pastor, and continued at the head of the church and of the Clarion Collegiate
Institute, of which he was principal, until near the close of 1869. Rev. C. Knepper ministered to the congregation
during 1870 and 1871. For three years the charge was vacant until December, 1874, when Rev. J. J. Pennepacker became
pastor. This arrangement held until in 1879, when the congregation was again joined to the Curllsville charge,
with Rev. John M. Evans, as pastor, who in his turn was followed by Rev. David B. Lady, who since the beginning
of 1885 has ministered to the spiritual necessities of the people. The congregation now numbers over one hundred
Methodist Church. - The Methodist Episcopal Church, also on the west side of Main street, is somewhat south of
the center of town. This is a neat frame structure of considerable size, and surmounted by a cupola containing
a sweet toned bell.
The history' of this society dates back to 1817, when a class was organized at the house of John Lawson on the
road leading to Lawsonham, near the lime quarry. Meetings were held in private houses until 1832, when a log church
was built about one half mile east of Rimersburg, on lands then owned by John Bingham, who gave to the society
thirty acres of land. On part of this ground was a grave yard used for many years, but of it there is now little
or no trace, the land having passed into other hands, and being under cultivation. In 184o, under the pastorate
of Rev. R. Peck, a new church was commenced near where the present church stands, but was not completed until 1848,
under the pastorate of Rev. G. F. Reeser. In this building the congregation continued to worship until 1871, when
the present church was built and dedicated under the pastorate of Rev. W. M. Taylor. The old building was bought
by Mr. Alfred Warren, who had it removed across the street and fitted up for a town hall.
The society has been served by the following named pastors:. James Babcock, Nathan Callender, John C. Ayers, John
Johnson, Job Wilson, Abner Jackson, A. C. Barnes, John Scott, C. Morrison, S. W. Ingram, Lewis Janney, J. W. Hill,
J. K. Hallock, J. F. Hill, F. Guthrie, R. Peck, I. (?) Mershon, J. Mortimer, John Graham, J. W. Klock, S. C. Churchill,
D. H. Jack, Thomas Benn, H. M. Chamberlain, J. Hildebrand, G. F. Reeser, J. R. Lyon, A. Keller, J. Whippo, J. Crum,
S. Hollen, R. A. Crathers, D. M. Stever, J. G. Thompson, G. W. Moore, J. K. Mendenhall, R. Beaty, G. Dunmire, S.
Coon, B. Marsteller, C. M. Heard, T. Graham, A. D. Davis, J. J. Bentley, R. B. Boyd, P. W. Scofield, W. M. Taylor,
J. M. Zelie, E. R. Knapp, R. Peete, J. C. McDonald, J. A. Hovis, Levi Beers, and since 1886, the present pastor,
The congregation is united in a circuit with the societies at Lawsonham, Sandy Hollow, Phillipsburg, and Wattersonville.
Presbyterian Church. - The Presbyterian Church is near the southern end of town on the west side of Main street
also. It is a frame, weather boarded, white painted building. The church is known as the Bethesda Church.
The history of the congregation dates from 1834, when a Sunday school was organized by a Rev. Mr. Andrews, a missionary
of the American Sunday school Union. The school was first held in a school house near Sandy Hollow, Madison township.
Mr. Alexander McCain was the first superintendent. The Sunday school was moved from place to place until the erection
of the Bethesda Presbyterian Church, where it has been held ever since, except when, for a short time previous
to the removal of the church edifice to Rimersburg, it was held in the latter place. Though started as a union
school, it has always been under Presbyterian management, and the school led to the organization of the congregation.
May 19, 1836, the Bethesda Presbyterian congregation was organized in connection with the Allegheny Presbytery,
by Rev. John Core, with thirty five members. In 1841 a church edifice, a frame building, was erected about a mile
west of Rimersburg, where there is a burying ground which has been used from that time to the present.
About 1862 the building was moved to Rimersburg and placed in its present position. In 1886 repairs were made which
enhanced the appearance of the building quite considerably.
The first trustees of the church were Isaac Hull, S. T. Kerr, John Morris, and James L. Armstrong, and the first
ruling elders were James Patton, Alexander McCain, and William Rankin.
The following ministers have served the congregation: Revs. John Core, J. Coulter (twice), John Glenn, Abram
Boyd, Dr. Young, John Turbet - these from the organization to 1840; since then the following: Revs. McGarrah, Montgomery,
D. McCay, L. Greer, Crane, Moor, Sherrard, Simpson, Hawk, W. C. Beebe, T. S. Negley, and W. J. Wilson, the last
being in charge at present.
In connection with this church there is a Women's Missionary Society, which is deserving of notice as being in
existence for over fifty years. Organized February 27, 1837, it celebrated its semi centennial in February, 1887.
Mrs. Matilda Sawyers, the present president, has occupied that position uninterruptedly for twenty years.
Independent Order of Odd Fellows. - The Independent Order of Odd Fellows have a lodge and hall in town. The lodge
is known as Iron County Lodge No. 485, and was instituted May 20, 1853, in a room in the tan house owned by Major
Reed. This room was occupied until December, 1865, at which time the new lodge building was ready for occupancy.
The hall, which is a neat frame building on Main street, near the center of the town, was dedicated January 17,
1866. From 1853 to 1887 about eight hundred members have been initiated into the order by this lodge. Six other
lodges sprang into existence and drew a large part of their membership from this body. Some prominent men, as Revs.
O. M. Sacket, J. C. McDonald, J. C. Rhodes, and John P. Norman, were initiated in this lodge; also the following
gentlemen, who have held official positions. in the county: Johnson Wilson, ex-commissioner; David McClay, ex-State
senator; J. H. Wilson, present State senator; also Major Newlen, iron dealer and furnace master, as well as other
business and professional men.
In the same building are held the meetings of Phoebe Lodge No. 123, of the Daughters of Rebecca. This lodge has
been in existence some three or four years.
Rimersburg is also the headquarters of the Rimersburg Anti Horsethief Association. This society was organized July
16, 1883, and meets annually on the afternoon of the first Tuesday in March. At the organization the membership
was small; the roll at present contains the names of eighty seven members.
Business Houses. - Rimersburg now contains four general merchandise stores, those of W. H. Craig & Co., John
Snyder, John Arner, and Alfred Warren. Mr. J. R. Wick, for many years postmaster, deals in groceries; S. H. Kaster
& Brother have a well stocked hardware store, and do an extensive business in the sale of farming implements;
drugs are dispensed by J. W. Kerr and by Samuel Arner, M. D.; there is a millinery and mantua making establishment
carried on by Mrs. B. Mcllhenny. From September, 1876, to September, 1879, a bank, known as the Farmers' Deposit
Bank, was in operation; but since the latter date the town has been without any institution of the kind. The Western
Union Telegraph has lines passing through the town, and an office located in John Snyder's store and operated by
Mr. William D. Snyder. William Stopp and William Ditty are justices of the peace.
Manufactories. - In former days there were two tanneries in active operation in the town, one where 'Squire Stopp's
blacksmith shop now stands, erected by Reynolds Pinks, and afterwards owned and operated by Major P. Reed, lately
deceased, and the other owned and operated by Mr. Pinks, on the lot of ground in the rear of the residence of Mr.
George W. Wilson.
Some time in the sixties a steam grist mill was built by James Dickey, at the eastern edge of the town, on the
road leading to the coal works. After running about eight years, and having passed into the possession of the Messrs.
Abrams, it was pulled down in 1873 ands removed to Bear Creek, where it shortly afterwards was destroyed by fire.
The principal manufactories of the town are the furniture and undertaking establishment of John E. McGuigan, and
the foundry of S. H. Kaster & Brother. The foundry was established about 1855, and at present does a considerable
business, producing a large annual output of plows, stoves, grates, and other castings. J. M. Steltzer carries
on the manufacture of wagons in connection with his blacksmithing business.
Mines. - Underlying the town are thick veins of excellent bituminous coal, which, outcropping in the ravines east
of town, are extensively mined, both for home consumption and for shipment to foreign points. The nearest mine
is within half a mile of the borough limits, and is generally known as the Sligo Branch Coal Company's mines.
Professional Men. - Besides Rev. Jones, pastor of the Methodist Church, Rev. Boyd McCullough, provisional pastor
of the Cherry Run U. P. Church, and Rev. Deatrick, principal of the Clarion Collegiate Institute, the professional
men of the town are Rev. Samuel Coon, local preacher of the Methodist Church, and Messrs. John H. Hepburn and D.
E. Wiles, doctors of medicine. Dr. Callihan for a number of years was a practicing physician here, until his removal
to California several years ago. Dr. E. D. Sharpe also practiced medicine here for some years, until his death
in 1876. The post of the Grand Army of the Republic of Rimersburg was named after Dr. Sharpe. Among the other physicians,
resident and practicing in Rimersburg, were Drs. Elliott, William Wick, Skeer, Kelley, Graff, Norman, McDowell,
McCandless, and Limberg.