History of Toby 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. Derrick

TOBY township was one of the first townships in what is now Clarion county. It is extended from the present line of Porter and Monroe townships westward to the Allegheny River, and from Mahoning Creek northward to the Clarion River, or, as it was then called, Toby's Creek, from which stream the township derived its name. Some time prior to the erection of Clarion county this territory was divided by an east and west line, making two townships, Madison and Toby. Since then the territory of this mother of townships has been from time to time reduced by division, until it has acquired its present moderate dimensions of some twenty eight square miles.

Peter Walley and Joseph (?) Greenwald came to what is now the Independence school district before the close of the last century. According to the statement of some old residents, Greenwald settled on what is now the McClure farm, and in 1797 erected a dwelling house of logs. About 1831 when Mr. John McGarrah purchased his present home from Mr. Walley, he boarded for a while with the Walley family, who told him that "they had cleared and seeded about three acres in wheat, in the year 1797." Mrs. Walley was a sister to Peter(1) Greenwald.

John Miller, an honest old German, better and more familiarly known as "Honnes" (Johannes) Miller, was here at a very early date, at or before the beginning of the century. He first squatted on the tract of land later owned by Rev. Henry Koch, and now by Mr. William Koch, and also was for a while on the "old Thompson farm." He took up in all a tract of seven hundred acres. The upper (southern) half of this he soon sold to William Thompson, retaining the lower end. On this, in 1807 or 1808, he built a grist mill, long known as "Honnes Miller's" mill, and occupying the site of the present Millerstown mill.

William Thompson came in about 1803 or 1804, emigrating from Indiana county. For twenty two years he served as constable. He was a boatman,. and was on the river a large part of his time, running keel boats up and down stream to quite a distance. The old log house in which he lived is still standing on the "old Thompson farm," as it is called, though now owned by Alexander Bole.

The Mooreheads, David and John, were early settlers, or rather squatters, for they remained only a short time.

Peter Wiles, an early settler, lived about half a mile from Millerstown, and must have come in about the same time as Miller and Thompson. His sister was married to "Honnes" Miller. Joseph Whitmore at an early date made improvements on what is now the Elder farm. John Hepier came in probably about 1812 or 1815. In the latter year Jacob Rimer, father of Major David Rimer, moved into the township. He and several of his sons were itinerant tailors.

Captain J. C. Kissinger was here in the year 1819, having moved from Butler county. His first wife (née Mary Steel) bore him nineteen children. Marrying again, several years after, he had by his second wife (née Mary Stevens), fifteen more children, in all thirty four. Some time after the birth of the eleventh child, Mr. and Mrs. Kissinger left home on a business trip to Butler county, leaving one of the children with Mrs. Kissinger's brother, and taking the babe with them. During their absence their house took fire, and not only were their house and barn with their contents consumed, but their nine children also were burned to death in the awful holocaust, their bones being found amid the ashes of their home.

In 1820 Adam Crick, father of the venerable John Crick, moved from Huntingdon, now Blair county, to a piece of land near "Honnes" Miller's mil Soon afterwards he moved to the William Courson farm, and thence to the Fullmer farm near Mount Airy. From that place he moved to the farm now owned by his son. John Hepler was also one of the early settlers, coming perhaps as early as 1812 or 1815.

Among the first improvements were distilleries, of which there were several in this township. There was one about a mile and a half below Millerstown operated by a man named Byers. Another was on the farm now occupied by G. W. Ramsey. In those days a bushel of rye could be exchanged for six quarts of whisky, or for thirty cents in cash. The whisky was generally taken. When the harvest was ready to cut, the neighbors would gather in from far and near with their sickles and help their comrade to reap his field. As now a days at a vendue, a large supply of provisions and refreshments were necessary, and of these at that time an abundant supply of whisky was regarded as entirely indispensable. The farmer whose field was to be reaped would rise long before daylight, and with a one horse sled, or a hand sled (for other vehicles they had none) he would start for the nearest distillery to obtain his supplies. He would take with him a six or eight gallon cask, and getting it filled would be back before breakfast. A quart was the regular daily rations of each man. Whisky was used in large quantities at logrollings, at raisings, sales, "hutchings," in fact everywhere and by everybody.

The Ramsey distillery was subsequently converted into a pottery, and still later it was, for a while, used as a school house. Of the school teachers of that early time, many were hard drinkers. The following is told of one of the old masters who wielded the birch in the distillery school house: He was accustomed to get on a spree about once a week. The next day he would be very cross, and instead of giving the boys their usual recess, he would devote that time to the exercise of discipline, flogging the scholars for misdeeds actual or imagined, and doing it all without respect to person, inasmuch as he would flog a whole seat full at a time. On one occasion he got drunk, and while in the school room he fell off his seat in a drunken stupor. While he was lying outstretched on the rough puncheon floor, two of the boys in a caper of fun seized him by his heels and dragged him at a lively rate around the room. When it became apparent that this rough usage was restoring him to consciousness, the boys abruptly fled, and prudently remained in concealment until their master's wrath had subsided.

The school houses, even when erected for that purpose, were primitive in style. Over sixty years ago one was built on the Riegel farm. It was of round rough logs. The floor was made of puncheons, and there were puncheon desks along the walls supported by pins let into the latter. The fireplace was immense, and the front of the chimney being supported by posts, there being no jambs, logs as long as eight feet were easily admitted into the fireplace. The chimneys were constructed beaver like, of sticks and mud.

Early in the century the manufacture of salt was carried on by the Robinsons near Upper Hillville, for many years. From this place the country for many miles around was supplied with salt.

The first good grist mill in this section was Craig's Mill, on Licking Creek. It was built about 1829; was a frame building erected by James Craig and Christopher Over, practical mill wrights. It has been remodeled and repaired several times, and now does the grinding for quite a considerable section of country.

The abundant supplies of coal, limestone, and iron ore which underlie this township, are practically untouched. There has been no mining except of coal and limestone for home consumption.

Some prospecting for oil has been done, but so far without profitable results. In 1877 a well was drilled near Rimersburg by Watson and Brosius. Salt water was struck at 500 feet, and the well cased at 540 feet. Gas was struck in what was called the "First sand," at about 800 feet; its quantity was small, not enough being obtained to fire the boiler. The well was drilled to 1,350 feet without finding oil in paying quantities. In May, 1878, a well wasP drilled along Cherry Run, on the Plyer farm, near the Methodist camping ground. A large flow of gas was struck and some little oil, but not enough to pay for pumping. Several other wells have been sunk, two in 1886, one on the John Myers farm, near Amos Polliard's, and the other on a farm a mile or two distant. Both ventures were failures.

Churches. - At present there are in the bounds of the township three houses for religious worship. These are the Methodist Episcopal Church, on Cherry Run, built shortly before the war, served by the pastor of the Sligo Circuit, and the Independence M. E. Church, located in the southwest corner of the township. This latter church was built in 1876. Near the Watterson road, about two and a half miles northeast of Rimersburg, is the United Presbyterian Church of Cherry Run. The following account of this congregation has been furnished by Rev. Boyd McCullough, at present acting pastor:

"This congregation originated in a division of the Seceder Church of this place (Rimersburg) in 1858. Strange to say, this separation was caused by a union. It was in this year that different small bodies of Presbyterians coalesced to form the United Presbyterian Church of America. These small bodies originated mostly in Great Britain, and their division sprung from the evils of the union of church and state.

"The main body of Presbyterians used to accept the royal bounty in the North of Ireland, and still depend on state support in Scotland. But they receive it on conditions which interfere with their spiritual liberty. In short, the sovereign is the head of the church, to the dishonor of Christ who has the only right to rule.

"The Reformed Presbyterians for this reason refused to take the oath of allegiance, or to hold office under the king, because they considered this would be acknowledging his claim of supremacy over the church.

"The Associate Presbyterians pursued a middle course. They accepted no royal bounty, but they held office and took the oath of allegiance, at the same time explaining that they acknowledged the king as sovereign of the state, but not of the church.

"But the Associate Church divided again on the Burgess oath in Scotland, which all must take to enjoy all the privileges in a borough. The Anti Burghers, while they took a general oath of allegiance, would not take this. The Burghers found their way clear to take it.

"Emigrants settling in America generally sent back to the mother country for ministers. The result was that the different persuasions of the Presbyterian family soon had their counterparts in America.

"When the independence of the United States was acknowledged in 1783, a union was effected among these churches here. As was natural, Christians in this country still retained their attachment to and connection with churches in the old country. These did not all approve of the arrangement. The offspring of this union, known as the Associate Reformed Church, was, in the old country, only acknowledged by the Burgher Church. The Reformed Presbyterians and Associate Presbyterians of the Anti Burgher school continued to send over ministers to preach to their members who emigrated to America.

"In 1840, when the old generation had all passed away, a. movement was made for union again. They were so particular about the conditions, however, that eighteen years were spent in discussion and negotiation. In 1858, to the great joy of many, the union was effected. Rev. John McCauley, the pastor of Cherry Run, was opposed to the course. But forty two of the members left a pastor whom they loved and respected to follow their presbytery and synod. They asked no division of the church property, but built a house of worship for themselves. Their pastors have been Revs. S. C. Reed, William A. Black, and M. S. Telford. Rev. Boyd McCullough is at present provisional pastor."

The Reformed people of the township now worship at Rimersburg and Curllsville, but to them must be ascribed the honor of erecting the first church in Toby township. Some fifty eight or sixty years ago they built a church about three fourths of a mile north of Mt. Airy, and about forty rods to the west of where Nail's school house now stands. A school house was also built at the same place. Rev. Henry Koch was their minister at that time. The church was used, however, for but a short time, for almost before it was entirely finished it, with the school house, was destroyed by fire. There were some dead buried at this place. Now, however, the passer by would fail to note their resting place. After the loss of their church the most of the people worshiped at Churchville. At last a number uniting with others living about Rimersburg organized a new congregation, which, after holding service for some years in Amber's school house, finally built the brick church in Rimersburg, where now the Reformed people of Toby township generally attend.

Prior to 1864 several camp meetings were held by the Methodists at various places. It was then determined to establish a permanent camp ground. This has been successfully accomplished and the Cherry Run camp meeting is a matter of annual interest to the people of the township. Under the name of the Cherry Run Union Camp Ground the association was chartered in 1864. The grounds embrace ten acres. In 1873 they were enclosed by an eight foot board fence. There are in the enclosure one hundred and three lots, a number of private cottages, several boarding houses, four two story cottages, and one stable three hundred feet long, owned by the association. The amphitheatre, eighty by one hundred feet, was erected in the spring of the present year (1887). The association is controlled by nine trustees; of these three are are elected from each of the neighboring Methodist congregations, Rimersburg, Curllsville, and Sligo.

The original election place (about 1812) for Toby township was at McKibben's, now in Perry township. When the first election was held there were not enough voters present to form the board at the opening of the polls. So, as it is related, McKibben, who was plowing, was called from his work to become a member of the board. The next election place was on the farm now owned by the heirs of Michael Reichard. Subsequently elections were held at McElvey's, near the present Gardner Station. Thence they were moved to Daniel Fullmer's, at Mount Airy. Then (about 1855) John Crick's house became the place. After some twelve years the polling place was removed to Myers's school house, where the elections have been held ever since.

Toby township has produced some men who have attained to prominence. Among these may be mentioned Rev. Huey Newell, a Presbyterian minister, now resident in Venango county; Dr. D. L. McAninch, of West Freedom, and Dr. J. T. Rimer, practicing physician at Curllsville; Dr. Robert N. Huey, at one time principal of the C. C. I. at Rimersburg, but now in the West, and Thomas Stewart, associate judge.

1 Is it not Joseph Greenwald ? vide supra.

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