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


Sewickley township was erected in 1835, and was named after the Big Sewickley creek, which flows from its southwestern boundary. It is bounded on the north by North Huntingdon township; on the east by Hempfield township; on the south by South Huntingdon township, and on the west by the Youghiogheny river. Among the early settlers were Gasper Markle, Jacob Painter, Anthony Blackburn, Caruthers, Carnahans, Campbells, Marchands, Milligans, Pinkertons, Gilberts, McGrews, and others.

Anthony Blackburn settled there in 1778, but removed to Canada a few years later. One of his sons returned and spent the remainder of his days in Sewickley township. The sons who remained in Canada served in the British army in the War of 1812, and were on the northwestern frontier. These boys while residents of Sewickley township had been schoolmates of General Joseph Markle. After the war was over one of them paid a visit to Westmoreland, and stated that a few days before the commencement of the siege at Fort Meigs he was lying with a company of Indians concealed near the fort, and that while there Joseph Markle and his orderly sergeant, John C. Plumer, and a part of his company passed close by, and that he (Blackburn) recognized his old acquaintances and schoolmates, Markle and Plumer, and permitted them to pass by without firing upon them. This perhaps saved the lives of all the party.

One of the most noted families in the township of Sewickley was the Markle family, but as its history has been considered in another part of this work nothing further need be said here.

Another noted family was the Guffey family. William Guffey, the progenitor of the family, came from Ireland, bringing with him his wife and children about 1738, and later settled in Sewickley township, in Westmoreland county, where he died in January, 1783. His son, James Guffey, was born in 1736, two years before his father left Ireland. His oldest son, John Guffey, was born in Sewickley township, August 6, 1764, and was married to Agnes Lowry, who was born April 18, 1773. His second wife was Rebecca Stewart. James Guffey was his oldest son, and was one of thirteen children. James was born at the Guffey homestead, December 15, 1791. He was a soldier in the cavalry company under General Joseph Markle in the War of 1812, and was engaged in the battle of Mississinewa. Upon his return from the army he married Hannah, a daughter of James and Mary P. Scott, who was born March 6, 1791. Her father had also come from Ireland. They settled on the Guffey homestead in a log house, and it was he who built the present brick house on the homestead in 1833. He died March 22, 1841, and his wife survived him until June 1o, 1878. From these people came the Guffey family, one of the most noted families in Western Pennsylvania.

The Greenawalt family was another noted one in the township. Its founder was Jacob Greenawalt, who was a native of Lancaster county Pennsylvania, and who settled on a farm in Sewickley township, about 1798. He was married to Martha Brenneman, and they had four sons and five daughters. From this family came Captain Caleb Greenawalt, who served with distinction in the Civil war.

Mars Hill Baptist Church was organized by Rev. Milton Sutton, in 1840. He was followed by Revs. R. R. Sutton, T. P. Rockefeller, T. G. Lonham, D. Webster, R. C. Morgan and others. Rev. O. P. Hargrave was afterwards their regular pastor for nearly a quarter of a century. They have now a very valuable church property.

About two miles north of Millgrove is situated a United Presbyterian church, and a mile farther north is a Methodist church.


(This narrative was contributed by a descendant of one of the founders of Sewickley Meeting, from whom it came to the publishers direct.)

The Society of Friends, or Quakers, as they were called by others in derision, arose in England about the year 1650. They endeavored to carry out in practice the doctrines of the New Testament, and accordingly were opposed to all wars and the use of oaths, while they upheld a free gospel ministry and the equality of all men. They soon became the objects of a bitter persecution which filled the prisons to overflowing and caused the deaths of many through barequality of all men. They soon became the objects of a bitter persecution which William Penn obtained from King Charles II in 1681 the charter for Pennsylvania, with the view of founding a colony where religious liberty might be enjoyed, there were many who were ready to face the trials of a new settlement rather than those they had endured in the Old World.

The first meeting of Friends in Pennsylvania was held at what is now Chester, in Delaware county, and on the Delaware river. With the constant influx of immigrants the settlements were extended into the interior, and new meetings were set up as necessity demanded. It may be explained that aside from meetings for worship there are meetings for business, and these are designated as preparative, monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings. Two or more preparative meetings may form a monthly, two or more monthly meetings may form a quarterly, and usually several quarterly meetings form a yearly meeting. The monthly meetings are the principal executive branch of the Society, and exercise an oversight over the membership in various ways. New meetings are established by them, subject to the approval of the quarterly meetings, and there has been a kind of genealogical succession, so to speak, throughout their history. Beginning with Chester Monthly Meeting, in 1681, we have Concord, set off in 1684; Newark, (now Kennet) from Concord, in 1686; New Garden, from Newark in 1718; Nottingham, in 1730; Hopewell in Frederick county, Virginia, in 1736; Westland, Washington county, Pennsylvania, in 1785; Redstone, Fayette county, 1793, and Providence, by division of Redstone, in 1817.

In 1773 John Parrish, of Philadelphia, in company with Zebulon Hested and John Lacy, paid a visit to the western Indians, and from the journal of the first the following is somewhat condensed:

8 Mo. 12th, Left Pittsburgh to visit some Friends in the new Settlement about Redstone (Governor of Virginia just arrived at Pittsburgh) went down the Monongahela about 6 miles and forded; went to one Francis Fisher's a Friend who received them kindly had a large Family of Children. 13th. Had a Meeting with his & 3 other Families. 14th. Cross'd the same Fording Place back into Braddock's Road & pass'd thro' the Field of Battle (the Bones yet in Sight) travell'd down the Road about 30 miles from Pittsburgh; put up at McDole's a Presbyterian, a private House. 1st Day ye 15th stayed all day. 16th. Turned back 3 miles into the Redstone Road & in about to miles riding came into a small Settlement of Friends, between the two Sewickillys; and not far from Yohageni are settled Joseph Blackburn, Wm. Read, Simeon McGrey, Anthony Blackburn, Danl Dalmmond, James ____, Jos. Bedsworth, Gilbert. Had a heavenly Meeting the 12th Jos. Blackburn's, about 30 or 40 persons being present, mostly promising Youth; went towards the upper End of Redstone & lodg'd with Daniel Hammand. 18th crossed the 2 Redstone Creeks along by the Fort (hilly fertile Lands) & got to Josias Crawford's where were kindly received, and next Day by him acompanied to his Brother James's. (See PenHennaagazine, xvi, 446.)

A Westland Monthly Meeting, 10 mo.mob5, 1788: "Redstone Preparative Meeting informs this that the friends on the Waters of Sewickley creek request the holding of a meeting among them." A committee was appointed to visit them, who reported, 12 mo.mob7, that they had an opportunity with Friends on Sewickley, and believed further care to be necessary. The request was granted for them to hold a meeting at James McGrew's until further convenience can be made, on the first and fourth days of the week, to begin at the eleventh hour, and the first meeting to be held on the eleventh day of next month. TweTwelven were appointed to sit with them at the opening of the meeting. i mo. 24, 1789: "Part of the Committee appointed to have the care of the meeting on Sewickley attended the opening thereof to their satisfaction." 5 mo. 16, 1789:f "Several of the committee appointed have visited the meeting on Sewickley divers times" and find "further care will be profitable." The old committee of twelve was released 9 mo. 26, 1789, and a committee of four appointed to extend what care may be needful. On 3 mo. 26, 1791, the committee was released, and the case referred particularly to the care of Providence Preparative Meeting.

The minutes of Redstone Monthly Meeting, commencing 4 mo. 26, 1793, and of which Providence Meeting, Fayette county, was a branch, show that Joseph Talbot, wife Mary and four children, Sarah, Elizabeth, Allen and William settled at Sewickley in that year. Abner Gilbert produced a certificate from Friends in Chester county, 8 mo. 31, 1798, an unmarried man. The meeting was not yet permanently established, but was "indulged" to be held for definite periods. On 12 mo. 28, 1798, "Providence Preparative Meeting informs that friends of Sewickly request the establishment of their Meeting & also the priviledge of holding a preparative, which being considered by this Meeting Rees Cadwalader, Jonas Cattell, William Dixon, John Cope, John Cadwalader & Henry Troth are appointed to sit with friends of that Meeting, feel after their situation the propriety of such an establishment & report their sense thereof to next Meeting." Finally, on 8 mo. 30, 1799, it was agreed to establish the meeting, and the decision was forwarded to the quarterly meeting for approval: but it was not till 1826 that it was made a preparative meeting of business. Abner Gilbert was appointed an overseer 6 mo. 2, 1809, and appointed a member of the "Meeting for Sufferings" 3 mo. 29, 1851, in the room of his brother Benjamin, deceased. James Means was appointed an overseer 9 mo. 1, 1815.

The will of James A. McGrew, dated 11th of 4th month, 1805, contains the following clause: "I give and bequeath unto the Members of Sewickley Meeting all that piece of land struck off by meets and bounds the other day, to Friends, their heirs and assigns forever, provided as soon as the privilege of a Meeting is taken from them it is my will that it fall to my son James, to his heirs and assigns forever, except that part that is enclosed within the fence round the burying ground it is my will and pleasure that that stand forever for a burying ground."

By indenture dated 12 mo. 12, 1832, James A. McGrew, of North Huntingdon township, son of the above James and Rebekah. his wife, released all reversionary interest in the land to Benjamin Gilbert and George Gilbert, trustees for the Sewickley Preparative Meeting. The amount of land was said to be seven acres, and that it was part of a tract patented to the said James A. McGrew, February 13, 1816. A resurvey in 1851 made it a little less than seven acres. The present meeting house was erected about sixty years ago. The Means, Hammond, McGrew and Blackburn families were from Adams county. Benjamin Gilbert was from the vicinity of Philadelphia, about 1787, but could not have been the person mentioned by Parrish.


Suterville is a thrifty borough on the Youghiogheny river, and in Sewickley township. It was laid out about 1870 by the late Eli C. Suter, who was a large owner of land on the banks of the river. It is four miles below West Newton, and has gradually increased in population until it now contains about 1200 people. Its chief industry is mining coal and making coke. It has splendid transportation facilities for these products on the Baltimore & Ohio and the Pittsburgh, McKeesport & Youghiogheny railroad.

Its churches are the Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist, each of which are strong societies.

The Allegheny and Westmoreland Bridge Company constructed a bridge across the Youghiogheny river at this place in 1896. It is about seven hundred feet long, and is a very handsome structure. The town was incorporated in 1902 by the courts of Westmoreland county. John Kellner was its first chief burgess, while Matthew Osborne, Samuel Rudebaugh, John Keegan, Louis Oberdick, Philip Rinehart and James Hopkinson were the first councilmen. Their first borough election was held August 16, 1902.

Suter's Ferry was a well established crossing at this place fifty years ago. It was owned and operated by Eli C. Suter, the founder and godfather of the town. He was a man of strong character, good business habits and great energy. As long as he lived he could not be otherwise than the leader of his community.

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