History Lower and Upper Burrell townships, Westmoreland County, Pa.
From: History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
By: John N. Boucher
Published By: The Lewis Publishing Company
New York, Chicago, 1906


Lower and Upper Burrell townships were organized in 1879 by a division of Burrell townships into two parts. The petition of the citizens of Burrell township asked for a division on account of various reasons therein stated, and on December 22d they presented their petition to the court, with Judge James A. Logan on the bench, and on January 18, 1879, the prayer of the petitioners was finally granted, and the townships were named Upper and Lower Burrell. The original Burrell township had been taken from Allegheny township in 1852, while Judge Jeremiah Murry Burrell was on the bench, and the new division was named in his honor. The boundaries of the old township were north by Allegheny county; on the east by Washington county; on the southeast by Franklin township, and on the west by the Allegheny river, which separates our county from Allegheny county. The entire township of Burrell (that is the present Upper and Lower Burrell townships) is underlaid with coal, which is now being mined.

The early settlers of these townships were largely of Scotch-Irish extraction. The Crooks family located on Pucketoes creek in 1791. William Ross came from Ireland, and after a short sojourn in Franklin and Adams counties moved to Burrell township. He died August 28, 1839, in the eighty seventh year of his age. John Stewart settled there also, with his brother William, the latter living until 185o. John Bales settled in Burrell township in 1805. Other early settlers were the McLaughlins, Byerleys, Millers, Hummels, Donnelley, Hunters, Skillens, Moores, Logans, Shearers, Leslies, Blacks, Georges, Swanks, Milligans, Sands, Woodslayers, Rowans, Nelsons, Gills, Ludwigs, Dugans, Henrys, Lanes, Ingrams, Crawfords, Caidwells, Fredericks, Kunkles, McWilliams, McCutcheons, etc. One of the first pioneers in the township was James Johnston, a Revolutionary soldier who lived to be one hundred and three years old. David Alter was another early settler. His father was born in Switzerland, and came to America before the Revolution. His oldest son, Joaseph, was the father of the renowned Dr. David Alter. David Alter was born in 1775, and was a captain in the War of 1812. He was the builder of Alter's mills, on Pucketoes creek. All of these early settlers from 1780 to 1792 were subjected to severe treatment on the part of the Indians who came into this township from the Indian country north of the Allegheny.

One of the oldest churches in the original Burrell township was the Puckety United Presbyterian Church. It is located about two miles southeast of Chartiers Station. Several families from Adams and Franklin counties, among whom were the Rosses, Crooks, etc., had settled with the Watts, Skillens and others in this section, and soon formed a religious denomination. They were supplied with pastors at various times between 1795 and 1804, when they began to have regular supplies. At a meeting of the Monongahela Presbytery in 1803 an application was received from these people for a regular minister. Rev. Mungo Dick was appointed to preach to them, and also at the Yough meeting house, afterwards known as Bethesda Church. Later they were supplied by Rev. Henderson, Rev. Buchanan, and Rev. Galloway. These ministers all journeyed long distances on horseback through an almost unbroken wilderness, for there were but few roads and no bridges in the northern part of the county at that time. They preached at first in a grove on the Ross homestead. In 1806 William Ross finished a barn, and it was used as a place of worship for some months. Later came the "tent" at the forks of a road not far from Chartier's Station. The "tent" was a temporary affair made by putting four posts in the ground and closing the spaces up on three sides and putting a rude roof over the top of it. Here the first regular services were held until a church was erected, which was about 1816. It was a log structure thirty two by twenty eight feet, and had no ceiling. It was warmed by a ten plate stove. Rev. McConnell was an early pastor there, and resigned as pastor in 1833. A second church of brick was built there in 1837.

The Bethesda Lutheran Church is located near the Allegheny township line, and was organized in 1864. Before that time the Lutherans had services in a schoolhouse on the Ross farm, which was erected in 185o. Their pastors were Revs. Erhart, Hoover, Barry, M. G. Earhart, who preached also at Han-key's Church, in Franklin township. The Presbyterian congregation was organized in Parnassus in 1842 by Revs. James Graham and S. M. McClung. The Methodist Episcopal Church is also a congregation and a church in Lower Burrell township, a short distance from Tarentum. In 1868 the Reformed Presbyterian Church was organized at Parnassus, and they built a frame structure there in 1870.

Upper Burrell township has five schools, with 505 pupils enrolled. Lower Burrell has eight schools, with 182 pupils enrolled.


The borough of Parnassus is very beautifully situated on the eastern bank of the Allegheny river, in Lower Burrell township. The Allegheny Valley railroad passes by it, and was built in 1855 and 1856. The town took its name from a church called Parnassus Church, on the Logan homestead. John W. Logan laid out the town shortly after the building of the railroad. The borough was incorporated by Act of Assembly passed April 9, 182. The first section of the Act directed the court of quarter sessions to appoint three persons to make out the boundaries of the borough and make a report to the court. C. F. Warden, John M. Dickey and J. F. McCullough were accordingly appointed, and they filed their report on August 6th. Since then Parnassus has gradually increased in population and in business industries, and nearby are the thriving towns of New Kensington and Arnold. All should be incorporated in one borough, and we understand such a project is in contemplation. In that event the incorporation would be one of the first towns in the county.


This place, together with Arnold and Parnassus, adjunct towns, has a population of between nine and ten thousand. It was started as a "boom town," promoted by a party of Pittsburgh capitalists, incorporated as the Burrell Improvement Company, with Samuel E. Moore as president, and Joseph P. Cappeau as secretary and treasurer, who secured parts of the Stephen Young and the late Rev. Alex. Young farms. Engineers were set to work early in the spring of 1891 to lay out and plot the town of Kingston (later styled New Kensington). The sale of lots began June loth. Free railway transportation was widely issued from the Pittsburgh office of the Land Company, and fully fifteen thousand people came to look the ground over. The sale continued for three days. It took a stout heart to pay fabulous prices for lots when the corn rows were so plainly in sight and only furrows marking the streets, avenues and alleys, with muslin signs bearing the names of proposed manufacturing plants to be built. Yet in the face of all this newness of "things yet to be," some $63,000 worth of lots were sold the first day, and the sales in the three days amounted to over $135,000.

The pioneer plants built were the Pittsburgh Reduction Company's works, which have ever since been the real life of the borough, and the Excelsior Glass Works, making the famous "Excelsior Lamp Chimneys," which concern finally merged into that of the Reduction Company. Then followed, one after the other, factories including the Sterling White Lead Company, Bradley Stove Works, Pennsylvania Tin Plate Company, the Hunt Air Brake Works, Cold Rolled Steel Plant, Enameling Works, Plate Glass Company, Glenn Drilling Company, and Chambers Glass Works of Arnold borough: a nail works and a piano factory survived hardly long enough to have a place in history. Some of these plants removed to other places, some were merged into others, and some fell into a dreamless sleep and are numbered in the defunct list today. In 1905 the Pittsburgh Reduction Company is in the front rank of manufacturing plants of the borough. It is exclusively engaged in the work of reducing that most wonderful metal, aluminum, from clay by a secret process in which electricity is a medium, and finally working it out into a hundred and one different articles of commercial value to the domestic life and to the arts and sciences the world over. This company commenced on a modest scale, employing less than a score of workmen, but has so rapidly grown that six hundred skilled and unskilled workmen now find employment. The same concern has branch works at Niagara Falls, New York, East St. Louis, Illinois, and in Canada. The New Kensington works makes the metal into "pigs," and also furnishes large amounts of finished goods, including automobile beds, ocean cables, etc. Just now they are supplying vast quantities of aluminum for the subways of New York and Brooklyn. At first it was sold for three dollars per pound, but by cheap process it has become a cheap commodity, yet it affords large profits, amounting to one hundred per cent. in recent dividends on the stock.

Another great industry of New Kensington is the works of the American Tin Plate Company, (now a part of the property of the consolidated American Sheet and Tin Plate Company) now equipped at this branch plant with seven hot mills and twelve tinning sets. The annual product capacity is 350,000 boxes of tin plate. The number of men employed is about five hundred. This is styled the "Pittsburgh plant." The "Pennsylvania," another plant of the same company, became a part of the American Tin Plate Company in December, 1898, and is now equipped with six hot mills and twelve tinning sets. The annual product capacity being 300,00 boxes of tin plate.

At Arnold borough the Chambers Glass Works was built in 1892, and finally came to rank as the largest single window glass plant in America, and is now a part of the great American Window Glass Trust.

The Columbia Drilling Company are makers of all sorts of earth drills, from the smallest tube well size to those used in oil and gas wells, where the depth ranges from one to three thousand feet. They sell in all parts of the world, including Alaska, Peru, Siam and Siberia. The Clay Pot Factory, wherein are made pots suitable for melting various substances, has become no small concern. There are also good roller flour mills in operation at this point, as well as two large breweries, one having a capacity of 5o,000 barrels per year. These were started in 1897.

The three banking houses of this place, are, the First National, established in 1892 with a $50.000 capital; the Logan Trust Company, with $100.000 capital, with J. W. Logan as president, and J. R. Alter as cashier, and the Parnassus National Bank.

New Kensington was incorporated as a borough November 26, 1892, and one year later was divided into wards: First, Kensington: second, Arnold. A dissatisfaction grew up, and Arnold was made a borough of itself, but at present steps are being taken to reunite the two places. Here one finds all modern improvements and true progress on every hand. The borough officials have ever been of the true type of citizens. The first burgess was D. H. McCarty, succeeded by B. C. Shaffer, and he by R. Henderion. The present burgess is M. H. Mainwaring. The present council is: Solomon Shaner, president; David Thomas, J. B. Morehead, H. H. Klingensmith, Henry Sayers, David H. Webb and Samuel Heister.

This place has an excellent sewerage system, extending to every part of the borough, and all streets west of the railroad are paved with vitrified brick. There has been erected at an expense of $12,000 a commodious town hall and a secure "lockup" for the confinement of law breakers. There are three well drilled fire companies, two of which number fifty members each. Not in business alone does New Kensington rank high among the boroughs of Westmoreland county, but it has splendid facilities for the development of the secular and spiritual mind as well. It has twenty school rooms in two good buildings, and an enrollment of 1141 pupils.

The following religious denominations are represented here, and many have fine church edifices, in which to worship after their own peculiar faith, while others are in the mission stage of their history. The first in the field was the Lutheran congregation, as a mission, with Rev. Carl Zinmesiter, pastor, in October. 1891. Then came the following: St. Joseph's Reformed, First Methodist Episcopal, First Baptist, Zion's German Lutheran, Trinity Reformed, Episcopal, First Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran, St. Mary's Polish Catholic, St. Peter's Italian Catholic, First Church of Christ, African Methodist Episcopal, German Baptist, and Colored Baptist.

The newspapers of the place are the Keystone, (Republican), and the Dispatch. (Democratic), both weekly journals, alive to the best interests of the community.

The borough is provided with excellent water from a private corporation, and also with modern electric light and natural gas plants. Its natural adaptability and rare beauty as a town site is not excelled in the entire Allegheny valley, and its connection by electric line with Tarentum, Natrona and various other points, makes it accessible and a desirable place in which to reside.

Return to [ PA History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]

All pages copyright 2003-2012. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy