History Franklin Township Westmoreland County, Pa.
From: History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
By: John N. Boucher
Published By: The Lewis Publishing Company
New York, Chicago, 1906


It is impossible from the court house records to determine the date of the organization of Franklin township. It. was some time between 1785 and 1788, for in 1785 it is not mentioned in the list of townships, but in 1788 it and Salem are both mentioned as having constables in attendance at court. The early settlers were William Meanor, Robert Hays, Michael Rugh, Finley, Stitt, John Hill, Matthew Gordan, and others. William Meanor is said to have bought a piece of land from an Indian for a keg of tobacco and a rifle, and upon this land he built the first house in the township. This was about 1759. On April 3, 1769, immediately upon the opening of the land office, Robert Hays applied for a piece of land in this township, the price of which was forty five pounds, two shillings and six pence. He was granted a tract of 339 1/2 acres. Soon after this he built a house upon it, close to a house afterwards built and lately occupied by David Steel. They were both built of logs, with puncheon floors and wooden chimneys. The wooden chimney was made of small ends of logs with plastering between them, and the plastering was made thick enough to overlap and thoroughly cover the inside of the logs or sticks composing the chimney, so that the smoke and sparks would in no way touch the logs. The furniture consisted of rude wooden tables, split logs for benches, deer horn rifle racks, etc. The first settlers came from the counties east of the Alleghany mountains. They were prosperous, and others followed rapidly, so that the wilderness was transformed into fertile fields even before the Revolutionary war. They had great troubles with the Indians, because their northern boundary lay near the Indian country across the Kiskiminetas, then the central part of Westmoreland county. In 1788 Michael Rugh and his wife, son and daughter, were captured by the Indians and taken to their camp in the northern part of the state. They were kept there in captivity during the winter of 1778 and 1779, and from there in the spring of 1779 they were taken to Canada and held there for three years, after which, at the close of the Revolution, they were sent to New York city, from which place they made their way back to their home, which has since descended to John Haymaker, the present owner. Michael Rugh resided on his home until his death in 1820. During their captivity their son died, but his wife survived all these hardships, and died in 1809. His daughter, who was also taken a captive, survived, and was married to Jacob Haymaker, in 1794. Michael Rugh was elected to the house of representatives after the state government was formed. Robert Hays and son were also early settlers, and were captured by the Indians, and held by them for three years, during which time the son acquired a taste for the wild life of the Indians, and was with difficulty persuaded to leave them. Even after he returned to Westmoreland, it is said that he spent nearly all of his time in fishing and hunting. When his father was released he returned to his farm, and at a later raid of the Indians, when he was assisting in the defense of his home, he was killed in his own doorway.

The first constable elected in Franklin township was Samuel Sword, and the first schools we have any information concerning were established in 1800. In these reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic were the only branches taught. An early grist mill was built at Murrysville, and a saw mill of William McWilliams was built near by, at which the timber for the surrounding meeting house was sawed. About 1776 Jonathan Hill, father of Jacob Hill, took up a tract cif land near the township line. The land is now owned by the Geigers, Slocum, Silvis, Steel and others. In the spring he set out to procure apple trees to plant on his land. On his return he was waylaid on the hill near Joseph Lauffer's house, and scalped by the Indians and killed. He was buried on the site where Drum's Church is erected. His son, Jacob Hill, inherited his property and erected an old fashioned distillery on it. Among the early settlers in the county were the Wilsons, Borlands, Humes, Bethumes, Riddles, Wallaces, Beemers, Remaleys, Andersons, Waips, Hamiltons, Lairds, Longs, Elwoods, Fergusons, Hays, Pattersons, McCutcheons, Haymakers, Berlins, McCalls. Rughs, Kings, Chambers, Snyders, Kuhns, Oglees, McAlisters, Tallants, Dibles, Wigles, Beacons, Parks and Taylors. In 1794 one of the soldiers who came from eastern Pennsylvania to put down the Whisky Insurrection. was Jacob Berlin. Prior to that an uncle of his, Jacob Berlin, had removed to that part of Franklin township now included in Penn township. The young soldier was released from military service in Pittsburgh and came to visit his uncle. He liked the country so well that a year later he returned with a young wife and made his home in Franklin township. The maiden name of his wife was Eve Carbaugh. Later hem settled on the Fink and Lauffer farms. Many of the early citizens of this township walked to Brush creek, fifteen miles away, regularly on Sunday to attend church, because there was no nearer house of worship. There their children were baptized by Rev. John William Weber. Near Emanuel Church, as it is now known, formerly stood a log dwelling where Rev. Weber frequently preached prior to his death, which occurred in 1816. In 1828 the Lutherans in connection with the Reformed Church built a church which was called Union Church. The site for it was donated by Philip. Drum and Peter Hill, both members of the Reformed Church. Philip Drum was a Revolutionary soldier, and lived in this community until he was ninety six years old. The members of this church hewed logs on their own farms and hauled them to the place where the church was built, and when they had a sufficient number on the ground they called in their neighbors and erected the church. The women of the country met on the same day and provided a good dinner. The principal men who took part in this church building were Philip Drum, John Keinerer, Philip Cline, Michael Cline, John Cline, Peter Hill, John Lauffer of the Reformed Church, and George Hobaugh of the Lutheran Church. The church was seated with rough boards or trestles. In 1845 this church was enlarged by cutting out the one end and adding to it a frame structure of fourteen feet. The whole building was at the same time weather boarded, and a high pulpit, known as the "Wine Glass Pulpit," was constructed. Rev. Veinel ministered to these people until 1852 and 1853, when there were seventy three communicants. After him came Nicholas P. Hacke, who held services there over four years, preaching one half of the time in German and one half the time in English. In 1856 a building committee was appointed, and they erected a new building of brick, sixty five by forty four feet, and twenty eight feet to the square. It was of Gothic structure and cost a little less than 3,000.00. It was dedicated on Easter Sunday, in April, 1858. Dr. Hacke was its pastor until 1867. His successor was J. F. Snyder. In 1873 this charge was united with that of the Olive charge, and in 1876 a parsonage was erected on a lot donated by Peter Pifer. The first Lutheran pastor who preached at this church was Michael John Steck, who was succeeded by Jonas Xlechling, Zimmerman Myers, A. letter, S. J. Fink and others. The Olive Reformed Church was built by old settlers, who were called together by Rev. Veinel in 1816. A congregation was organized, but the date is not exactly known. Two lots were offered to them, and two log houses were built in 1817. One was known as the Beemer Church, and the other was known as the Hankey Church, taking their names from the man who had donated the lots upon which they were built. Mr. Weinel preached to both these people until 1837. He was followed by Rev. Voight in 1840, who continued to preach to them for sixteen years, when age compelled him to retire, in 1858. Rev. R. P. Thomas then supplied the Hankey Church, and the Beemer Church was so dilapidated and out of repair by this time that it was abandoned. In the meantime both congregations had been almost entirely absorbed by the Lutheran Church, because neither places had had regular services. At a meeting of the Westmoreland Classis in 1867 the Beemer Hankey Church matter was brought up, and Rev. T. F. Stauffer was appointed to preach to them and unite the congregations. Hankey's Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in 1856, though preaching had been held in the old log structure known as Hankev's Union Church since 1817. The corner stone of the new edifice was laid in 1859. The first pastor was Rev. L. M. Kuhns, and the membership at that time was quite large.

The Murrysville Presbyterian Church was organized in 1830 by Rev. Francis Laird, and services were at first held in the house of the founder of Murrysville, Jeremiah Murry. He ministered to them until 1850, and died April 6, 1851, aged eighty one years, and in the fifty fourth year of his ministry. He was followed by Rev. L. L. Conrad, who also preached at this church and at Cross Roads, and who was followed in 1854 by Rev. William Edgar. In 1866 Rev. G. M. Spargrove began preaching there. In 1869, however, a brick house in which the members had worshipped from 1840 become too small, and in its stead a two story brick structure was erected. A year or two later a tornado carried off a large part of the roof and greatly damaged the house. Mr. Spargrove continued pastor of this church until his death, October 30, 1880.

The old town of Murrysville has in the past twenty five years become greatly noted because of a gas well which was struck there in 1878. The town was laid out by Jeremiah Murry. He had been born in Ireland, and we believe his name was McMurry, he having dropped the "Mc" before coming to America. The town was on the northern turnpike, and was built about 1820. Murry came to this country in r78t, in his twenty second year, living first in the Cumberland valley, where he stayed but a few months. He then crossed the Alleghany mountains cm foot, as a peddler, with his pack on his back. His first stop in this county was at Anderson's blockhouse. After selling his goods he invested in land upon which he located his farm and selected a mill site, which was clearly observable to his keen eye, but had not been noticed by prior settlers. He and a man named Cole, the latter a hunter whose cabin was destroyed by the Indians, were the first settlers in this section. The old Forbes road crossed Turtle creek near where the town of Murrysville is now located. The old Franktown road crosses the stream at nearly the same place. Both are marked by a sulphur spring. Murry built a cabin and kept a little store on the bank of the creek near where the Presbyterian church is erected. When the turnpike was made he established the town and built a brick residence which was the first house of any pretension in the town. He was a storekeeper all his life. He had married Ann Montgomery in Cumberland valley. One of his daughters, Sarah, was married to Dr. Benjamin Burrell, who was the father of Judge Jeremiah Murry Burrell, of the Westmoreland courts. Dr. Burrell died December 21, 1832, aged nearly forty one years.

Near the house built by Murry, Dr. Stewart built a brick house in 1832, and a man named McWilliams also erected a brick tavern which was for many years kept as a public house in that place. Dr. Burrell was the first physician in Murrysville, and at his death came Dr. Charles J. Kenlev and Dr. Z. G. Stewart. Dr. Zachariah G. Stewart was born in Huntingdon county, in 1805, and was the son of Thomas H. and Anna Harris Stewart. He read medicine in the east and located in Pittsburgh. After practicing there a short time he removed to Murrysville in 1828. There he was married to Jane, a daughter of Rev. Francis Laird. He remained in the practice of medicine in Murrysville until 1858, when he removed to Canonsburg that he might better educate his children. He died in Canonsburg in 1863 from overexertion on the Gettysburg battlefield, where he had hastened with many other physicians when the news of the great battle in Pennsylvania called for medical aid from all sections of the state. His wife died February 23, 1879. She was the sister of Harrison. P. and John M. Laird, late cf Greensburg. Jeremiah Murry was for many years the leading business man, merchant, justice of the peace, etc., of the neighborhood. He was a man of much native intellect, energy, and enterprise, and was very wealthy for that age. It is said that in one direction to the northeast of Murrysville, he could travel five miles on his own land, much of which had been purchased with merchandise sold from his store. He had a son, General James Murry, who was a man of considerable talent and fine address. Dr. J. S. Murry, a son of James Murry, was a noted physician: J. M. Carpenter, a prominent attorney of the Pittsburgh bar at the present time, is a great grandson of the original Jeremiah Murry.

An old academy of note at this place was the Turtle Creek Academy, which was founded in 1861 by Francis Laird Stewart, a son of Dr. Z. G. Stewart. For sane years it was held in a frame building belonging to the Doctor. When the new Presbyterian Church was built it was held in the basement of the church. Mr. Stewart was succeeded as principal by Rev. G. M. Spargrove, who conducted it until his death, in October, 188o, and was succeeded by Rev. J. I. Blackburn.

The celebrated Murrysville gas well was the most noted feature of the old town. It was found on real estate owned by Henry Remaley, on the bank of the Turtle creek. They were boring for oil when they struck an immense gas well at a depth of fourteen hundren feet. It was the first gas well in this county, and its equal in output has never since been struck. For some years it was allowed to blow, and all its power went to waste. In 1880 it was utilized for the first time by Haymaker Brothers and H. J. Brunot, who erected a lampblack works there and carried on the manufacture of lampblack from the escaping gas on an extensive scale until September 18, 1881, when the works caught fire and burned to the ground. It was a very cheap method of manufacturing carbon, and was cue of the wonders of the age. The well was said to be the largest in the world. Its flaming fire issuing from the earth could be seen at night a distance of eight or ten miles, and its roaring sound was distinctly heard for five or six miles. It was visited by hundreds of people who came from all parts of the world. Among them were many distinguished scientists of that day who wished to examine into its working and to analyze its gas. Later the gas of this well was piped to Pittsburgh, and other wells were bored in the same community, which doubtless struck the same vein and produced the same quality of gas, though of less quantity. Gas linens were laid from this region to Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Greensburg, and various other surrounding localities, and for some years gave a great impetus to the industries of western Pennsylvania. The reckless manner in which the gas was wasted soon brought about a diminution in the cutput, the popular opinion being at first that the supply was inexhaustible. Today the Murrysville field produces but little gas, and the supply for these places has been searched for and found in other localities.

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