VILLAGE OF WEST NEWTON.
In 1837 a petition was signed by various lot holders in the village of West Newton praying the court to incorporate
their village into a borough according to an Act of Assembly passed on the first day of April, 1834. This was refused
by the court on June 1, 1838. In 1842 the legislature passed an act, a section of which related to. West Newton,
and read as follows: "That so much of the third section of the Act of the first of April, 1834, entitled 'An
Act to provide for the incorporation of boroughs' as requires applications for the incorporation of boroughs to
be laid before the Grand Jury be, and the same is, hereby repealed as respects Westmoreland county in the case
of the application for the incorporation of West Newton in said County, and the Court of Quarter Sessions of said
Court is hereby authorized to incorporate. West Newton into a Borough, on application, at their first term if the
said Court think proper to do so." After the passage of this act the citizens again asked the court to incorporate
them, and on the 26th of February 1842. the court granted the prayers of the petitioners, and the borough was therefore
declared duly incorporated. Judge Thomas White was then on the bench. The first election was held at the school
house where the township elections had been held. By an order of the court of September 3, 1853, the privileges
of the Act of Assembly of the 3rd of April, 1851, were extended to the borough of West Newton.
The whole valley of the Youghioghney river from McKeesport to Connellsville is one continuous hive of industry:
It is filled with towns, villages and hamlets, and manufacturing of almost all kinds is carried on there throughout
the entire district. In addition to this, from almost every hill, coal mines, shafts, tipples, etc., may he seen
in every direction. Added to these are hundreds of coke ovens which continually send forth their volumes of smoke.
This valley is perhaps the busiest in the county.
West Newton is built about half way between Pittsburgh and Connellsville and about fifteen miles from the mouth
of the Youghiogheny river. It is situated on a plane at the southwestern base of a hill which rises high above
the floors, a clapboard roof, greased paper windows, and was built in all other ways fertile agricultural region.
It is one of the best and wealthiest of the older towns in Westmoreland county. The founders of. the town of West
Newton were men of high culture and intellect. Prominent among them were the Markles, Plumers and Blackburns. They
were generally of Scotch-Irish 2nd Yankee extraction, and at a later period came quite a number of Germans. At
present the population is composed in part of foreigners of almost every nationality, this being clue to its diversified
The town was laid out in January, 1796. by Isaac Robb, who came from New Jersey and took up the land upon which
it is now built. When the army to quell the Whisky insurrection in 1794 passed through this section they tore down
Robb's fences, and this aggravated him so that he refused to put them up again. He thereupon made a lottery and
sold off the lots for a town. The survey and plotting were made by two men named Davis and Newkirk. The founder
of the town was, therefore, Isaac Robb, who after this became a trader on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, going
down with goods as far as New Orleans. In 1807 his boat lay at West Newton, and, when visiting it cue night when
the river was rising rapidly, he missed his bearings and fell into the water and was drowned, although he was said
to be a splendid swimmer. Originally the town had been called West Newton, but, being founded by Mr. Robb, for
many years it was universally called Robb's Town in honor of him. But in 1835, when they began to talk of having
the village incorporated, the original and proper name was restored to it, and by this name it has since been known.
Still farther back, in 1796, the place was known as Simrall's Ferry, which the reader may have noticed in the account
of the Whisky Insurrection.
Jonathan Plumber came west as a commissary with General Braddock's army in 1755, and filled a like position with
Forbes' army in 1758, and was the father of George Plumer, of whom we have spoken as a member of congress (1821-27).
The town of West Newton began to grow about 1806, and from that time until 1820, when the national road was built,
there was a great deal of shipping by keel boats to Pittsburgh. When slack water dams were introduced in the Youghiogheny
river, travel by steamers became quite extensive. The first steamer to come up that far was the "Tom Shriber."
The slack water navigation was abandoned because the clams were swept away by high water, it being difficult to
hold them on account of the fall of the river. The Pittsburgh and Connellsville railroad was opened up and passed
West Newton in 1855, and this added greatly to the importance of the town.
The first schoolhouse in West Newton was built before the beginning of the last century, and most likely as early
as 1795. Its first teacher was a man named Grim, who was succeeded by William Blackburn, Nathaniel Nesbit, William
Baldwin and others. It was a house built of round logs, with a clay flcor, a clapboard roof, greased paper windows,
and was built in all other ways like the school houses of that early period, which have been heretofore described.
In 1809 a schoolhouse was built on the farm of John Caruthers, and its first teacher was William Baldwin. A school
was taught in the town in 1816 by N. R. Smith. This school was held in a cabin, and when this became too small
the school was removed to the building owned by Colonel James B. Oliver. In 1820 the first brick schoolhouse in
the town was built. It was an eight cornered structure, and when finished was the finest schoolhouse in the county.
Its first teacher was N. R. Smith, who afterward became princicipal of the Greensburg Academy. Among the other
teachers in this school house was Edgar Cowan, who afterward became a United States senator from Pennsylvania.
The building is still standing, and is preserved as one of the heirlooms of a former generation to the present
town of West Newton. It is still used as a school building, and the picture given in this work is a true representation
of it. In 185o, this being found too small, another brick building was provided on Third street, and used for schools
for fifteen years. In 1865 the first ward building was erected. In 1884 more room was demanded, and another fine
building was erected, now known as the Second Ward School. In the sixties Rev. O. H. Miller conducted a select
school, and soon thereafter George Richey organized an academy, which succeeded well for several years. In 1894
Reverends Drs. Eaton, Meloy and Garvin opened the West Newton Academy as a college preparatory, and normal school.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized with eleven members on the 28th day of February, 1839, by the late
venerable Rev. Dr. Samuel Wakefield. This society built a small brick church on Second street, where they worshipped
for nearly forty years. In 1880 they erected their present beautiful edifice. For a more extended sketch of Dr.
'Wakefield, see chapter on general church history.
The Lutheran Church was the first to form a society in West Newton. It was organized by Rev. Jonas Mechling in
January, 1830. For several years they held services in the eight cornered schoolhouse built in 1820. In 1835, as
we have said, they joined with the Presbyterians in erecting the building of which we have spoken. This was used
by both societies for seventeen years, at which time (1852) they sold their interest to the Presbyterians. They
accordingly built an edifice immediately afterward which they occupied until 1899, when they erected their present
Previous to 1835 the Presbyterians of West Newton worshipped at Sewickley Church, about three miles distant. In
that year they united with the Lutherans, and the two congregations erected a two story frame building on Vine
street, the Lutherans owning the one fourth of it, and to be used by both churches. On January 8, 1851, a regular
church was organized in West Newton, most of whose members came from Sewickley church. The same year they purchased
the interest of the Lutherans in the partnership building, and in 1875 a new building was begun which was dedicated
May to, 1879. It is a neat Gothic style edifice costing about $22,000. They organized a Sunday school over eighty
years ago, and both it and the church in general are in a most flourishing condition.
Bethel Church of God was formed in West Newton in 1845, and in 1852 a small brick church was built near the present
one, which was erected in 1879 and improved in 1884. "That the pastor may be free from worldly cares and avocations,"
Mrs. E. Allender erected and gave to the society a comfortable parsonage. Among those who have been pillars for
a long time in this church are the names of Obley and Schaaf.
In 185o the United Presbyterians organized a church with forty five members, and the same year erected a building
on Vine street, afterwards used by the Baptist people. In 1883 they erected their present church on Main street,
costing $20,000. The Roman Catholic Church was organized in 1884, and a year later was erected a $3,000 church
on Second street. The last church to organize here was the Baptist Church in May, 1885. Formerly they worshipped
at New Salem. In 1896 they built a church, and in 1905 completed one of a larger and more, modern style.
The chief industry of this borough is the United States Radiator and Boiler Company. It was first established at
Saltsburg, but in a few years removed to West Newton, in 1895. It first occupied the present site of the stove
works, but in 1889 bought the old building of the paper factory, to which have been added several modern structures.
Their product is radiators and hot water plaits. They employ as high as Three hundred and sixty men, and do a thriving
business, selling their goods in almost every part of the Union. The Standard Stove and Range Works of Pittsburgh
own a good sized plant at this point, and employ from fifty to seventy five men. The Roller Flouring Mills of West
Newton do a large business, as does the one in "West Side" of the town across the river. The railways
of the borough are the Baltimore & Ohio, the Pennsylvania, and the Lake Erie railways. The banking business
is in the hands of the Farmers and Merchants' and the First National Banks. West Newton has one good weekly paper,
the Times. A first class planing mill does a large business in the borough.
The largest industry West Newton has ever possessed was the paper mill built in 1859 by S. B. and General C. P.
Markle, though the business had been established in 18o8. Here paper was produced with rags until 1865, when straw
pulp was employed, and later wood pulp. In 188o a structure 329 by 534 feet was built, with the largest and most
complete set of modern machinery found in Pennsylvania. The company met with loss by three great fires, but rebuilt
at once, and continued until General Markle died, when the plant passed into the hands of a Mr. Parsons of New
York, who carried on the business until 1893, when the machinery was moved to New England on account of the increasing
amount of sulphur found in the formerly pure water. This was caused from the coal land being worked. Nothing but
the purest of water will admit of good paper making. hence the plant was removed.
The old bridge which spans the river at this place is an old fashioned wooden structure built by a company incorporated
in 1831 by Alexander Plumer, J. C. Plumber, James Bell, Jacob Baughman, Frederick Steiner, Andrew Smith, Joseph
Stokely and William Linn. Its original cost was $58,000, of which the state paid 58,000, and the citizens $10,000.
Some years after its construction the sheriff of the county was directed to sell the state's interest at auction.
As no one outside seemed to take any interest in the matter, the enterprising stockholders bought up the shares,
which were worth about fifty dollars at that time, for from five to seven dollars each. About 1890 the county bought
out the company and made it a free bridge.