History of Slippery Rock, Pa.
From: A History of Butler County, Pennsylvania
Published By R. C. Brown & Co., Publishers 1895


CHAPTER LX.
SLIPPERY ROCK TOWNSHIP.


ORGANIZATION - CHANGE OF BOUNDRIES-PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS - COAL BANKS - SALT WORKS - NATURAL GAS INDUSTRIES - SCHOOLS AND JUSTICES OF THE PEACE - CHURCHES - VILLAGES.

PRIOR to 1800 Butler county formed a portion of Allegheny, its territory being divided into tour townships, one of which was named Slippery Rock. Its area comprised the northwestern quarter of the county. In 1804, when the county was divided into thirteen townships, its territory was considerably reduced. A further reduction took place in the final re-subdivision in 1854, when it was cut down to its present area. The township derives its name from Slippery Rock creek, which flows in a westerly direction through its territory.

The elevations of the divide between this creek and the Wolf creek range are from 1,150 to 1,300 feet above ocean level. The soil partakes of the character of the limestone on which it rests.

Coal is abundant and gas reservoirs numerous. A coal bank on the Isaac Davidson farm is supposed to have been opened in the thirties. On the Lewis Patterson farm, Stephen Osmer opened a mine, which was abandoned in 1845 Thomas McGaffic opened a bank on the same farm, after the war, which was a producer down to 1887. On the Ezekiel Wilson farm is an old slope near where the Edward Christley mine was worked. The W. S. Bingham hank was opened in the eighties. Banks were at one time worked on the John Wolford and the Nathaniel Cooper farms, but were abandoned years ago. Coal is still mined on the farm of John Reed, north of Centreville.

Fifty years ago two salt wells were drilled on the Edmund Smith farm, north of Centreville. Gas flowed with the water, and it was determined to use the vapor for fuel . The result was disastrous, pans and machinery being blown up,

The population in 1810 was 458; in 1820, 865 ; 1830, 1,541; 1810, 1,507: 1850, 1,490; 1860, six years after the resubdivision of the county, 993; 1870, 879; 1880, 1,424; 1890, 1,247.

PIONEERS.

It is a matter of considerable difficulty to determine who is entitled to the credit of being the first person to settle in this township. There is evidence going to show that temporary settlements were made as early as 1796, but the identity of the first actual settler has not been discovered. The first permanent settlers, however, appear to have been Nathaniel and Zebulon Cooper, a brother and nephew of Stephen Cooper. They came from Washington county, Pennsylvania, in 1796, and selected lands on both sides of Wolf creek, on which they settled in 1798. In 1800 Stephen Cooper, who bad for some time previous been making his home with them, settled upon 200 acres of land, comprising the present site of Centreville. It is stated that Nathaniel Cooper found a few brush cabins on Wolf creek, evidencing temporary occupation, and soon afterward learned that Adam Barber, David Cross, John Burrows and William Burrows were here before him. The Burrows were assessed in 1803.

John, James and Hugh McKee, who arrived in this county from Ireland in 1797, were also among the earliest settlers. Their four sisters and their parents came shortly after, but none of them appear to have owned property here in 1803. Adam Funk, who had 400 acres in 1803, came about 1798. Jonathan Adams, John and Jacob Stillwagon, John Moreland, Alexander McDonald and John Slemmons appeared about 1800. Philip Snyder, who came in 1801, was a celebrated maple sugar maker until his death in 1857. John Walker settled here in 1805. William Bigham, a Revolutionary soldier, his sons Thomas and Hugh Bigham, the former a soldier of the war of 1812, and Samuel Cross came in 1806. James Stephenson and Samuel Weakley in 1817; Philip Kiester in 1818; Joel Beckwith in 1819; Thomas Mifflin in 1820; Dr. John Thompson, John Christley, the cabinet-maker; Michael Christley, Samuel Kerr, who worked in Thompson's furnace, and Samuel Bard, the tailor, in 1822; William Hill in 1823; Cornelius Gill, James A. Patterson, John McNulty and Samuel Caldwell, the blacksmith. in 1825; Peter Sowash in 1826; John Neal in 1827 ; William Miller in 1830, and Joseph C. Swearingen, Henry Wolford, Jonathan Maybury and John Reed within the decade ending 1840. Whather on the farm, in the industries along the creek, or as village builders, afi were thorough pioneers, who laid the foundations on which the prosperity of this division of the county rests.

EARLY INDUSTRIES.

The Mt. Etna furnace was established in 1822 by Dr. John Thompson, with Samuel Kerr as foreman. It was opened in 1823 and run for six years, when it was sold by the sheriff to David McJunkin, by whom it was carried on until 1835, when W. S. Bingham rented and operated it until 1838. it was next leased by Ephraim Rose, Robert McGowan and others, and continued until 1841, when work ceased.

Hickory furnace, founded in 1836 by Joseph C. Swearingen, was sold a few years later by the sheriff to William Stewart and C. C. Sullivan, who rebuilt it and opened the new iron works in June, 1846. This furnace stood opposite the present Kiester mill, which was also erected by them in 1843. It. was closed in 1860, having been in operation twenty-four years.

The Bard & Bingham foundry at Centerville was opened in 1838. Some time after Isaac Pearson established a foundry, which W. S. Bingham purchased in 1848, and which has been carried on down to the present.

Charles Coulter's fulling and carding mill on Slippery Rock creek, which was burned March 11, 1824, was one of the first industries of the kind in the township.

Wolf Creek woolen factory, operated in 1845 by Samuel Curry, northwest of Centreville on Wolf creek, appears to have produced the goods named in the list of the Hopewell manufacturers at a lower price. Here carpets were manufactured at from forty to fifty cents a yard, and Kentucky jeans at thirty-seven cents and a half a yard. The factory is now operated by William Curry.

James Layton carried on tile old Samuel McMurry carding and cloth-dressing concern on Slippery Rock creek.

The Scott Stephenson and the William Fleming, later the Christley tanneries, were the first industries of this character at Centreville, or in the township. The Christley tannery occupied the present site of George Maxwell's barn. The Stephenson concern was purchased in 1839 by John Covert from John Hodge, and later by Samuel Taggart from John Covert. in 1842 Perry Covert establithed a new tannery, which was operated for half a century, when tile expense of obtaining hemlock bark resulted in its closing down.

The Thompson grist mill of 1822, situated on Slippery Rock creek, southeast of Centreville, passed away years ago. The Etna mills now occupy the site. The Wolf Creek mill, now owned by J. H. Christley, was established in 1832 by James and Robert Vincent. It was afterwards owned by W. F. Rumberger, and later by the McKnights.

A flouring mill, erected by Stewart & Sullivan on the Browningtom and Franklin turnpike, at the falls of Slippery Rock creek, was opened July 14, 1844. The equipment consisted of four pairs of buhrs, with a capacity of from thirty to forty bushels an hour. The sawmill, in connection with the flouring mill, was driven by water power. The sawmill went out of existence years ago. A new buhr mill was erected to replace the old. It is now owned and operated by John Kiester.

Among the early sawmills were McKuight's, on Wolf creek; Kiester's, on Slippery Rock creek, and the Neyman mill on Long run, between Kiester and Centreville. Of late years portable mills have been operated in diflerent parts of the township. One of these mills, owned by John W. Ralston, exploded near Branchton November 26, 1888, killing Jesse Hall, Carlyle Cross and George Kelly, and seriously injuring Lewis Ralston and Joseph Dickson.

SCHOOLS AND JUSTICES.

The first school house was erected on the Wolford clearing about one mile and a half northeast of Centreville. It was here that such teachers as Stephen Cooper, William Parker and Adam Dunn instructed the youth of the settlement. About 1822 or 1823 a log school house was erected on the Abraham Snyder farm in the northwestern part of the township, where Eli and Asenath Beckwith and Rachel Colton taught. In the thirties the Stillwagon school was built on the John, Samuel and Robert Mawha farm, south of Centreville.

The number of children of school age, reported in June, 1893, was 164 males and 120 females in the township, and seventy-eight males and Seventy females in Centreville borough. The school revenue in 1893, was $2,843.46, including $1,267.48 State appropriation, and in the borough $1,378.57, including $329.04 State appropriation. The assessment of the township in 1894 was $361,699, and of the borough $91,661. The county tax was $1,446.79, for the township and $366.64 for the borough, while the State tax levied in the township was $133.02, and in the borough $180.93.

The justices of the peace elected for Slippery Rock township from 1840 to 1894, inclusive, are as follows: Alexander McBride, 1840 ; James I. Hoge, 1840-45; Thomas Mifflin, 1845-50; William Moore, 1850; Nathaniel Cooper, 1854-59; Jacob Kiester, 1855-60-65; C. D. DeWolf, 1804; H. H. Vincent, 1866-71-82; Jesse Kiester, 1873-77-82 ; Dawson Wadsworth, 1877 ; Jacob Kiester, 1884; John Reed, 1887-92 ; W. G. McLaughlin, deceased, 1887-92 ; W. J. Morrison, to fill vacancy, 1893.

CHURCHES.

The Methodist Episcopal church at Hickory Mills, was established in the thirties, but the organization died out before the war. Members of the Centreville class detached themselves and with recruits formed classes in Cherry and adjoining townships.

Bethel United Presbyterian Church is the successor of the Covenanter society. In 1833 the Reformed Presbyterians organized and held meetings in the log school house near the north line of tile township. Rev. Andrew W. Black served as pastor from 1833 to 1838 the elders being Samuel Hogg and Samuel Braham. For a decade subsequent to 1838 the pulpit was vacant. In 1848 Rev. Josiah Hutchman became pastor. He was succeeded in 1852 by Rev. David Kennedy, who organIzed the Sunday school. The pulpit was again vacant from 1855 to 1858, when Rev. J. F. Hill became pastor and remained until 1860. About this time the original organization passed out of existence. In 1808 a reorganization took place, under the present name, with Rev. William Hutchinson as pastor, sixty two members being enrolled, Rev. W. D. Ewing, Rev, J, O. McConnell and Rev. A. B. Dickey have been successive pastors of this congregation, which now numbers thirty-four members.

VILLAGES.

Mt. Etna was the pioneer village of the township. It grew up around the furnace established in 1822, on Slippery Rock creek, by Dr. John Thompson. A postoffice named Slippery Rock, which was moved to Centreville in 1826, was established there in 1824 with William Ferguson as postmaster. The village passed out of existence many years ago, and is now but a memory.

Kiester, formerly Hickory Mills, is situated on Slippery Rock creek southeast of Centreville. The location is one of the most beautiful in the county, and the water power inexhaustible. The Kiester mills located here forms one of the most important industries of the township. The little village is a station on the Pittsburg, Shenango and Lake Erie railroad, contains a postoffice, named in honor of the Kiester family, with John Kiester, postmaster, and a general store. Slippery Rock Park, which adjoins the village, is one of tile most picturesque and beautiful places in tile county, and a favorite resort lor visitors during the summer.

Brauchton is situated at the junction of the Hillard branch of the Pittsburg, Shenango and Lake Erie railroad with the main line, The general store of J . A. Morrison, known as the W. J. Hindman store, a good depot building and eight cottages constitute tile village.

Wick is situated in the northeast corner of the township, on the Pittsburg, Shenango and Lake Erie railroad. The depot building, a few cottages and the Critchlow lumber yard, a postoffice and store carried on by Ephraim Adams compose the town. A deposit of blue limestone has been utilized for burning lime and making land plaster. The enterprise has been carried on, with occasional interruptions, for several years by W. B. Bard. The station was named for H. E. Wick, now a resident of Butler. He. was the first postmaster.

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