History of Bell, Pa.
From: Clearfield County, Pennsylvania and Representative Citizens
By: Roland D. Swoope, Jr.
Published By Richmond-Arnold Publishing Co., Chicago


This township was organized by a decree of Court on May 4th, 1835. It is situated in the extreme western end of the county, having for its western boundary part of the dividing line between Jefferson and Clearfielci Counties, and part of the dividing line between Indiana and Clearfield Counties. It is bounded on the north by Brady and on the east by Penn and Greenwood Townships and on the south by Burnside and Chest Townships. The principal occupation of the inhabitants of this Township is agriculture, although in the last few years some coal operations have been opened up in the township.

The population, according to the census of 1910 was 1682.

The township is well watered by various streams, chief among which are Chest Creek, which enters the township on the southeast and discharges its waters at or near the borough of Mahaffey, on the south or southeast side of the river; North Run and Deer Run, which discharge their waters therein from the south; and Snyder Run, a small tributary of Chest Creek. The streams discharging into the river on the north side are Bear Run, Whiskey Run, Millers Run, and Laurel Run, all of which are small tributaries. The northern part of the township is drained by the headwaters of the east branches of the Mahoning, while Curry’s Run has its source in the northeast part of the township.

Bell township was settled somewhat slowly, as the tide of emigration came from the country down the river, and from the east and northeast, and it was moreover somewhat distant from the county seat. When the natural advantages of the location near the mouth of Chest Creek became better known, however, settlers came in abundance and today their labors and those of their descendants are visible in the• present thriving borough of Mahaffey.

The pioneer of the township was Johannes Ludwig Snyder, a Revolutionary veteran, who came to this country with his father’s family about the time of the French and Indian war. Coming from Lewisburg about 1820, he settled on lands on Chest Creek. He died in 1860 at the remarkable age of 115 years. His wife, it is said, lived to the age of 108 — a truly venerable couple.

He was followed soon after by John Smith, who built the first schoolhouse about 1827 or 1828, it being succeeded in 1835 by a more pretentious building.

Samuel Sunderlin and family came about 1823, having previously resided in Union county. His improvement was made on the river above the site occupied by McGee’s. He was a sterling citizen and the first class leader of the M. E. church.

The McGees, Wetzels and Johnsons came in 1826, the Rev. James McGee coming from Center county. He erected a saw-mill and later a grist mill and in course of time made many substantial improvements in the township, in which example he was followed by the younger member of the family. He died in 1855. Later settlers were John Weaver, Peter Smith, William Ramsey, Thomas Campbell and Nathaniel Sabins. The last mentioned, who came in 1831, was the Nimrod of the settlement and many stories are still extant of his prowess in hunting. Mr. Campbell was on the first school directors after the organization of the township in 1835, his son, James A. Campbell being a successful teacher.

Another old settler was Asaph Ellis, who came about 1835, built a saw-mill on the river and engaged in lumbering. He was the first justice of the peace elected after the township was formed.

The Bell family were the pioneers in the upper part of the county. Arthur Bell, Sr., was undoubtedly the second pioneer adventurer up the West Branch, following Daniel Ogden, whom he assisted in the erection of his cabin. He was known as Squire Bell, being commissioned a justice of the peace by Gov. Thomas McKean. The township was named for A. Bell, Esq., and his son, Greenwood. There was no church edifice in Bell township until the year 1860, when the Methodist Episcopal society erected a house of worship. Their society had been formed, however, as early as 1830. The Protestant Methodists were also organized about that year, their early services being held in the house of John Weaver.

Mention of the borough of Mahaffey will be found in the succeeding chapter of this volume.

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