Earliest Settlement, and more particularly from its Organization,
in 1846 to June 1896.
Containing, also, a map of the City of Altoona, the metropolis of the county, and a description of all the other Boroughs and smaller Towns, giving population and present condition. Also, a general resume of the various business enterprises, and a directory of the places of interest and natural curiosities which strangers should see.
especially for the Patriotic
Citizens of the County and Visitors to the
JUNE 11 AND 12, 1896.
A SOUVENIR OF THAT IMPORTANT EVENT.
CHARLES B. CLARK, ESQ.,
OF THE BLAIR COUNTY BAR, AUTHOR AND PUBLISHER.
ALTOONA, PA., 1896
COPYRIGHT, 1896 BY CHARLES B. CLARK.
EVERY one of the 100,000 visitors to Blair County during the Semi -Centennial Celebration will want to know something about this favored county, and every one of the 80,000 inhabitants should be able to tell them about it to give facts and figures regarding the past and present, to tell other parts of our history which to a certain extent is legendary, and to show on what substantial foundations our hopes for continued prosperity and future greatness are based.
It was to supply
this desideratum that the present work was undertaken by the author at a very
late date, after learning that the committee of arrangements had failed to get
it done as they had contemplated. On account of the very limited time for
preparation and research the subject has not been as exhaustively treated as
could be wished and some errors may be found resulting from the lack of time
necessary to properly verify all data, but it is confidently believed that it is
accurate enough for all practical purposes, and complete enough to fill the
minds of the visitors with admiration and cause the heart of the citizen to
swell with pardonable pride at the growth already achieved and the glowing
future lying so bright before us. To meet the very considerable expense involved
it was necessary to insert some advertising matter, and to the business men who
have thus assisted, sincere thanks are due and are hereby publicly expressed by
C. B. CLARK.
ALTOONA, PA., June 10th, 1896.
BLAIR COUNTY is now fifty years old, having fully completed a half century of separate existence as one of the sixty-seven counties of the great State of Pennsylvania, the second State in the Union in population and wealth, and today, in a grand demonstration, with pomp and ceremony befitting the occasion, she celebrates her semi-centennial; proud of her achievements in the past, glorying in her present greatness and confident of continued and increasing prosperity for the future.
In June, 1846 she began her independent career with a population of about 16,000, with eleven townships and three small boroughs, Hollidaysburg, Gaysport and Martinsburg, 594 square miles of surface and a total assessed valuation of $4,200,000. And now, while her bounds have not been enlarged she has sub-divided some of her townships so that the number is at present fifteen, one large city has grown up during this period within her limits and there are ten independent boroughs and numerous small villages. The population of the county exceeds 80,000 and the assessed valuation is $32,000,000.
Blair County has within its bounds some of the loftiest mountains, the most beautifully picturesque scenery and the greatest natural curiosities in the State. It has considerable mineral wealth and many fertile and well watered valleys.
In it are the head waters of the Blue Juniata river, and passing through, from east to west, is the main line of the richest railroad in the United States, perhaps the richest in the world, the P. R. R. Here has been the birthplace or early home of some of the most noted people of the State, some whose name and fame are world wide, not as leaders of great armies but as financial giants, originators of great enterprises, directors and managers of colossal industries; eminently successful business men.
The territory now included in Blair County was a part of Cumberland County from July 6, 1754, to March 9th, 1771, when Bedford County was erected and it became a part of that. It was included within the limits of Bedford from March 9th, 1771, to Sept. 20th, 1787, when Huntingdon County was formed and all except North Woodbury and Greenfield townships were included in that County. It remained a part of Huntingdon from Sept. 20th, 1787,
to Feb. 26th, 1846, or, perhaps more properly, till about June 1st, 1846, when it became a separate county, being formed from a part of Huntingdon County and the two townships of Bedford before named. No further division or change is probable for many years as the present constitution of the State prohibits the erection of any new county, the boundary lines of which will pass within ten miles of any existing county seat.
The organization of the new County began to be agitated in 1838 and on January 21st, 1839, a public meeting was held in the Methodist Episcopal Church, of Hollidaysburg, to take action in the matter. Christian Garber was chosen president of this meeting and a committee consisting of William Williams, Peter Cassiday, Dr. James Coffey, Peter Hewit, John Walker, Samuel Calvin, Esq., and Edward McGraw was appointed to define the boundaries of the proposed new county, draft petitions, procure the necessary signatures thereto and present them to the State legislature. This work was performed by the committee but the matter was held in abeyance for several years, on various accounts, before its final consummation. A bill offered in 1843 failed to go through and it was not until the session of 1845-6 that the necessary Act of Assembly was passed and approved by the governor, Francis R. Shunk, whose approval thereof is dated February 26, 1846, but the formation of the county cannot properly be said to have been completed until June following.
Hon. John Blair, from whom Blair County received it name, was born at Blair's Gap, now in Allegheny township, in the year 17--.
His father, Captain Thomas Blair, a native of Scotland, was a soldier in the Revolutionary Army and after the independence of the colonies had been achieved be came, probably about 1785, to what is now Blair County, then part of Bedford, and established a home in the Gap which has since borne his name. The stream that comes through this gap was also called Blair's Run after he settled here. Whether it had an earlier name is not known. Captain Blair, in 1794, owned four hundred acres of land, two saw mills, two distilleries, several slaves and considerable other personal property. He died at the home be had established here, September 10, 1808
His son John was born at the old homestead and passed nearly the whole of his active life in this part of the State. Being an enterprising and sagacious business man as well as a public spirited citizen he devoted much of his energies to the public improvements of the State, the pike in 1818 to 1820 (being president of the company,)
and the canal in 1828 to 1832, and when the new county was formed it was but natural that it should be named after him although he had been dead for a number of years. His death occurred January 1st, 1832, in the same neighborhood as his birth, and his remains were laid to rest in the burying plot at ----.
The only lineal descendants of Captain Thomas Blair and Hon. John Blair, known to be living in this part of the State are Thomas S. Blair, a great-grandson of the Captain, now past 60 years of age who lives retired in Tyrone, and George D. Blair, of Tyrone, banker, a son of Thomas S. and therefore a great- great-grandson of the founder of the family here.
The following is the material part of the act establishing Blair County as approved by the governor Feb. 26, 1846 :
SEC I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in General Assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That the territory within the townships of North Woodbury and Greenfield, in the county of Bedford, and the territory within the townships of Allegheny, Antes, Snyder, Tyrone, Frankstown, Blair, Huston and Woodbury, and within that part of Morris township lying west of the line lately run by William Reed and other viewers, under an order of court, for the purpose of dividing the same, in the county of Huntingdon, are hereby erected according to said boundaries into a new and separate county, to be called Blair; and the inhabitants thereof shall, from the fourth Monday of July next, have all such courts, jurisdictions, offices, rights and privileges as the inhabitants of the other counties of this Commonwealth are or may by entitled to.
SEC. 2. That each of the portions of said Morris township, according to the said division line made by William Reed and others, shall hereafter be separate and distinct townships for all purposes ; the portion lying westward of said line to be called Catherine township, and shall hold its general and township elections at the house now occupied by Walter Graham.
SEC. 3. That the qualified electors of said new county shall, at their next general election, elect three citizens thereof as commissioners for said county, one of whom shall serve one year, one for two years, and one for three years, and to be accordingly designated on the ticket of the electors, and the said commissioners, together with their successors in office, shall be qualified and elected according to existing laws respecting such officers ; and at the same time said electors shall also elect three citizens to serve as county auditors,
to be designated as to their term of service as aforesaid, one thereof to serve for one year, one for two years and one for three years, who, together with their successors in office,. shall be qualified and elected in the same manner as the auditors of other counties.
SEC. 4. That said commissioners shall have full power to take to themselves and their successors in office sufficient deeds and assurances in law for such lots or pieces of ground as shall have been selected for sites for the public buildings of said county under the provisions of the thirteenth section of this Act.
SEC. 5. That the return judges of elections in said county of Blair shall meet at the place where the courts may be held in said county, and having received the returns shall dispose of the same as is directed by law with respect to other counties.
SEC. 6. That one person shall fill the offices of Prothonotary, Clerk of the Courts of General Quarter Sessions of Oyer and Terminer, and of the Orphans' Court in said county of Blair, and one person shall fill the office of Register of Wills and of Recorder of Deeds in said county.
SEC. 7. That until the court house shall be erected, as hereafter authorized, the several courts of said county of Blair shall be held in such house, within said county, as shall be designated by the commissioners thereof, elected at the next general election.
SEC. 8. The county of Blair shall be annexed to and compose part of the Sixteenth judicial District of this Commonwealth, and the courts shall be held and commence as follow, to wit : On the fourth Monday of March, July, October and December in each year and the first court shall be held in said county of Blair on the fourth Monday of October next.
SEC. 12. That the said county of Blair shall be attached to and connected with the Seventeenth Congressional District, and the qualified electors of the county of Blair, together with the counties of Huntingdon, Centre, Mifflin and Juniata, shall continue to elect a member of Congress, and the qualified electors of the counties of Blair, Huntingdon and Bedford shall continue to elect a Senator of the State Legislature; and the said counties of Blair and Huntingdon shall each elect one member of the House of Representatives of this Commonwealth.
SEC. 13. That the Governor be and he is hereby authorized and required, on or before the first day of May, next ensuing, to appoint three judicious and disinterested persons, not residents in the counties of Huntingdon, Bedford, or Blair, as Commissioners, whose duty it shall be, after being duly sworn, to perform their duties with fidelity, to run correctly, ascertain, and mark the boundary lines of said county of Blair and to fix upon a proper and convenient
site or location for the seat of justice of said county of Blair, and for a court house, prison, and county offices within and for the said county of Blair; and that the said Commissioners, or a majority of them, having run, ascertained and marked the boundary lines aforesaid or caused the same to be done and fixed the site or location which they shall have chosen for the purpose or purposes aforesaid, shall, on or before the first day of August next, by a written report under their hands and seals, or a majority of them, certify, describe and limit the site of location which they shall have chosen for the purpose or purposes aforesaid; and make out a correct plot or draft of the said county of Blair, and shall transmit the said report and draft to the Secretary of the Commonwealth; and the said Commissioners shall each receive two dollars per day for their services, together with their reasonable expenses in running, or causing to be run, the said boundary lines, and in doing what is required to be done by them, out of the moneys to be raised in pursuance of this Act, Provided, that the said Commissioners, in and on or before fixing the site and location of the seat of justice, court house, prison and county offices for the use and benefit of said County of Blair, shall and are hereby authorized and required to receive propositions and agreements from any and all persons willing and desirous to make the same for the building of said court house, prison and county offices, or any of them, at their own expense, free of charge to said county, or for the giving of money, land or other valuable things for, towards, or in part of the expense of building the same, or any of them, by which propositions and agreements the person or persons making the same shall be bound to and for the use of the said County of Blair, if the terms and conditions of the same, or any of them, are acceded to and concurred in by the said Commissioners; and the said Commissioners shall take into consideration and be influenced by said propositions and agreements in fixing and determining upon the site or location of the seat of justice, court house, prison or jail and county offices of and for the said County of, Blair; And that in case the seat of justice, court house, prison or jail, and county offices of and for said County of Blair should be located by the said Commissioners at or within the limits of Hollidaysburg or Gaysport, in said County of Blair, the bond bearing the date the twenty-ninth day of August, Anno Domini eighteen hundred and forty-five, in the penal sum of twenty thousand dollars, conditioned to indemnify and secure the inhabitants of the said county, created or to be created by this Act against any increase of county taxes by reason of or for the erection of the said court house, public offices and jail of said county, created
or to be created by this Act, signed by James Gardner, Samuel Calvin and others, and deposited in the office of the branch of the Exchange Bank of Pittsburgh at Hollidaysburg, on said day shall be binding on the obligors therein and thereto according to the terms and conditions thereof and other like or similar bond or instruments of writing which may be given by other persons in relation to the location of the seat of justice of said County of Blair at any other point, town or place, within the limits of the said County of Blair, shall in like manner be binding on the obligers or signers therein and thereto * * * * *
A supplement to the foregoing Act was passed during the same session of the Legislature and approved April 20th 1846, which provided that the October term of court should begin the third Monday of the month, the July term was changed to the second Monday in June and it also provided that "the Governor shall, on or before the second Monday of June next, appoint three judicious persons as Commissioners of said county, to serve until their successors shall be duly elected and qualified, who shall perform the usual duties of County Commissioners, together with such duties in relation to jurors and a place for holding the courts as by said Act were imposed on the Commissioners to be elected at the next general election. "
From the text of the foregoing Acts it is apparent that the county of Blair could not have a complete and separate existence until its boundaries were definitely ascertained and fixed by a Commission to be appointed later. It is also apparent that the Act was framed with great care and with the view of outlining a complete modus operandi for consummating the wishes of the people resident in the territory embraced. It is evident also that some over conservative people, fearing that taxes might be increased to provide for the new county buildings, had interposed such objections to the project that it became necessary for others more broad-minded and liberal to step into the breach and give their personal obligations, to the extent of a twenty-thousand dollar bond, that this would not occur. The names of James Gardner and Samuel Calvin were consequently incorporated in the Act, and for the deep devotion to the public welfare, denoted by their generous deed, have been thus immortalized. while the names of the petty objectors to a grand object are now buried in deserved oblivion. All honor, then, to those noble spirits who have been found in every age and every clime ready to lay both life and fortune on their country's altar when occasion demands the sacrifice.
Under the Act just recited the Governor appointed on the Commission to run the county lines and determine the location of the seat of justice, Henry McBride, of Westmoreland County; General Orr, of Armstrong County; and Judge Christy, of Juniata County, who acted promptly, established the county lines as they now are and chose Hollidaysburg as the County seat. The choice of Hollidaysburg was a foregone conclusion, it being then the largest town in this part of the State and the residence of most of the active workers for the new county the only other towns of importance in this vicinity were Frankstown, Martinsburg, Williamsburg and GaysPort. Altoona and Tyrone, now so greatly exceeding it in population and importance, were undreamed of. The number of townships in the county at its formation was eleven, since then four more have been added by dividing the original ones. The townships are now Allegheny, Antes, Blair, Catharine, Frankstown, Freedom, Greenfield, Huston, Juniata, Logan, North Woodbury, Snyder, Taylor, Tyrone and Woodbury, of which the following have been formed since 1846, viz: Juniata in 1847, Logan in 1850 Taylor in 1855, Freedom in 1857.
thus segregated, separated from the other civil divisions of the Commonwealth
and established as an independent county by the highest authority in the State,
is well defined by natural boundary lines most of which are tops of mountain
ranges, and Blair County is in fact a little empire by itself, though by no
means a little county, surrounded on all sides by mountains of considerable
elevation; ingress and egress being had only through a few gaps or breaks in
these ranges. Dry Gap, Kittanning Gap and Blair's Gap on the west, to Cambria
County, the eastern limit of the Mississippi Valley; a narrow gap north of
Tyrone up the Bald Eagle creek to Center County, and another east of the same
town and down the Juniata river to Huntingdon County; still another from
Williamsburg eastward along the valley of the Frankstown branch of the Juniata
to Petersburg, in Huntingdon County--the route of the old canal--and two or
three wagon roads South from Martinsburg and Claysburg into Bedford County. Its
extreme width from east to west is about twenty miles and its length north and
south thirty miles; area, 594 square miles or 380,160 acres. The entire county
may be regarded as one great valley containing numerous detached mountains and
large hills, interspersed with many smaller fertile valleys and little streams,
besides the larger valley and three branches of the Juniata river.*
*The Indian name for this river was Scokooniady.
Its geographical position is about thirty miles southwest of the center of the State, and it lies between the 40th and 41st degrees of North Latitude and between the 78th and 79th degrees of Longitude west of Greenwich.
The geographical center of the county is in Frankstown township about three miles northeast of Hollidaysburg. The center of population which at the formation of the county was not far from Hollidaysburg, is now within the limits of Altoona City and firmly anchored there.
The principal mountains within the county, aside from the Alleghenies on the western boundary and Tussey's Mountains and Bald Eagle Ridge on the east are Brush Mountain, Canoe, Dunning's, Short, Cove and Lock Mountains.
Of the valleys, Logan is the largest, extending from Altoona to Tyrone, the western portion of this, in earlier years, was known as ''Tuckahoe;" Sinking Valley, in Tyrone Township, in which Sinking Run, after a course of several miles, disappears in the earth: Scotch Valley, extending from Frankstown north-eastwardly and Morrison's Cove in the southern part of the county; Canoe Valley along Canoe Creek; and many others not dignified with a name.
The streams of the County are Frankstown branch of the Juniata, which is the largest and flows north-east from Greenfield Township through Freedom, Blair and Frankstown townships and between, Catharine and Woodbury, to Porter Township, in Huntingdon County, where it empties into the main stream near Petersburg, on the Penn'a R. R. Beaver Dam branch of the Juniata, which flows through Allegheny and Blair townships, separates Hollidaysburg from Gaysport, and empties into the Frankstown branch near the village of Frankstown; and the Little Juniata, the true stream, which rises in the Allegheny Mountains, in Logan Township and flows south to Juniata Borough, near Altoona, thence north-eastward to Tyrone, thence south-eastward through Huntingdon County and after being joined at Petersburg by the Frankstown branch and at Huntingdon by the Raystown branch, it flows on as a noble river to its confluence with the Susquehana, fifteen miles west of Harrisburg. The other streams are Bald Eagle Creek, coming in from Center County on the north, and emptying into the Juniata near Tyrone, Moore's Run, Sinking Run, Hutchison's Run, Elk Run and Three Springs Run all in Snyder Township; Taylor, Bells Gap, Laurel and Beaver Dam Runs in Antes Township; Elk, Arch Spring and Sinking Runs in Tyrone Township; Homers, Mill, Kittanning, Burgoons and Brush Runs in Logan Township; Blair Creek, Sugar and Brush Runs in Allegheny Township;
Old town and Robinson's Runs and Canoe Creek in Frankstown Township; Canoe Creek, Fox, Roaring and Yellow Springs Runs in Catharine Township; Clover and Piney Creeks in North Woodbury, Huston and Woodbury Townships; Haltar and Plum Creeks in Taylor Township; Poplar and Roaring Runs in Blair Township; Poplar, McDonald and Donaldson's, South Dry and Paw Paw Runs in Freedom Township; Bobb's Creek, Blair Creek, Blue Knob, Poplar and Dry Runs in Juniata Township;, Beaver Creek, Pole Cat, South Poplar, Amelia's, Bobbs, Diamond, Queen Esther's, Pine, Smoky and Roaring Spring Runs in Greenfield Township. The water of all these numerous streams is discharged into one or the other branches of the Juniata.
Retrospectively we note the development and growth of this territory. As a part of the great province given to William Penn in 1681 by King Charles the Second of England, it remained an unexplored forest inhabited only by roving Indian tribes, until about 1750. If any white man visited it prior to that date he left no permanent record of the fact and our earliest knowledge of it begins with the brief mention by Conrad Weiser, Aug. 20, 1748, that he passed up the Juniata river and stopped at Frankstown.*
In 1750 it formed part of Cumberland to which it belonged until the formation of Bedford County in 1771. During this period it was opened up for settlement and clearings were made and settlers located in Morrison's Cove (about 1760) and at Hollidaysburg and vicinity (in 1768.) Some of the early settlers were massacred by the Indians. In 1771 Bedford County was formed and included all of Blair until 1787, during which period occurred the Revolutionary war, the colonists gained their independence and began to be governed to some extent by laws of their own framing yet the great body of English law, as applicable to the business and social relations of the community, were retained and enforced until specially repealed by legislation that conflicted therewith, and to this day some English statutes, enacted prior to the Revolution, are held to be in force in Pennsylvania.
Some considerable improvements was made during this period, especially the cutting of a wagon road through the forest on the old Indian trail over the mountains, and some other local roads, but nothing like a town or village with shops and stores was founded in this region until a later period.
Frankstown being no doubt the log hut of Frank Stephens (or Stephen Frank as
some historians give it, while others
say old Frank an Indian) and perhaps one or two other Indian traders and the wigwams of some Indians who came
with furs to trade for the white man's tinsel and toys or perhaps a musket and anmmunition. It is said that an Indian
village was known here as early is 1730 and that its Indian name was "Assunnepachla," meaning meeting of many
waters. How much of fact is contained in this fiction no one now knows.
In 1787 Huntingdon County was erected and included all of Blair except North Woodbury and Greenfield townships, continuing thus until 1846. During this period Frankstown, Hollidaysburg, Gaysport, Williamsburg, Martinsburg and several other small places were laid out, and some of them incorporated as boroughs, the pike road, from Huntingdon to Blairsville, passing through the county on the line of the old state road, was constructed and a few years later the canal and Allegheny Portage Railroad, and Hollidaysburg became a place of considerable importance, so much so, in fact, that the people were averse to paying tribute to Huntingdon by taking their suits there for trial and aspired to become independent of the mother county. The formation of the new county of Blair was agitated and having been successfully achieved in 1846, the next great improvement was the building of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the founding of a great city - Altoona.
OFFICERS AND FIRST OFFICIAL ACTS.
The Commissioners appointed by the Governor, to run the boundary lines, performed the duties imposed on them so expeditiously that by the first of June, 1846, all had been concluded and the Governor appointed county officers as follows, to serve until their successors should be duly elected and qualified, viz Valentine Lingenfelter, William Bell and William C. McCormick, County Commissioners; Benjamin Betts, Sheriff; George R McFarlane and Daniel McConnell, Associate - Judges; Jeremiah Cunningham, Prothonotary and Clerk of the Courts; John M. Gibboney, Register and Recorder and John Cresswell, District Attorney.
On the eighth day of June, 1846, the County Commissioners were sworn into office by Ephriam Galbraith, a Justice of the Peace, and held their first session. The next day they agreed on a plan for a court house and put up notices to contractors to bid for its construction. H. A. Caldwell was employed as clerk to the commissioners at a salary of $150. per year. and Robert H. McCormick was appointed County Treasurer, to serve until the next election. Rooms were also rented to use for county offices until the court house should be erected. On the fourth day of July, 1846, the contract for the first court house was let to Daniel K. Ramey, and the stone house of John Mahoney was leased for a temporary jail. On Monday, the 27th day of July, 1846, the first court in the county was held in the Methodist Episcopal Church of Hollidaysburg; Hon. Jeremiah Black presiding. Judge Black held twelve terms of court in the county, when the judicial districts of the state were reorganized, and Blair County, with Huntingdon and Cambria was made the twenty-fourth district and Governor Johnston appointed George Taylor, of Huntingdon, President judge.
The first suit brought originally in the Common Pleas Court of Blair County was for divorce, Mary Armstrong vs. John Armstrong, subpoena issued June 23, 1846.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing in connection with the first court in the county was the number of lawyers admitted to practice therein. On the first day of the term, July 27, 1846, no less than forty-nine attorneys were sworn in and the following day three more. Evidently it was thought that Blair County was destined to be one of the most important in the state.
The county oficers, appointed by the Governor, only held their offices until the end of that year as their successors were elected at the first general election after the formation of the county, and this occurred October 13th, 1846, resulting in the election of Samuel J. Rover for High Sheriff; Joseph Smith, Prothonotary and Clerk of the Courts; Louis H. Williams, Register and Recorder; John K. Neff, Edward McGraw and William Bell, County Commissioners; Charles E. Kinkead, Wm. P. Dysart and James Wilson, Auditors; Joseph Morrow, Treasurer and Capt. Joseph C. Morgan, Coroner.
AGRICULTURE, SAW AND GRIST MILLS AND DISTILLERIES.
The first settlers of Blair County were in search of farming land and agriculture engaged their attention entirely for many years. The coal in the mountains, the iron ore in the valleys were unknown or unsought, until the beginning of the present century and the timber, from which fortunes were made in after years, was only desirable for fuel and the few logs necessary to construct their humble habitations, or make rails to enclose the fields cleared by dint of much hard labor. To them the big trees of the forest were a hindrance requiring days of toil to cut down and burn up. Millions of feet of logs were rolled together in heaps and burned to make the cleared fields in which to plant corn, grow wheat, oats and other grains.
The first manufactories established in the new county were saw and grist mills, but these were very small and insignificant in comparison with those of a later day and were invariably run by water power. A saw mill that would cut 2000 feet of boards in a day was a good one for those times, and the grist mills ground from morning till night to make three to four barrels of flour. The earliest mills that we have a record of were those of Jacob Neff at Roaring Spring, erected sometime between the years 1763 and 1770 and that of Thos. Blair at the eastern end of Blair's Gap about 1785. A saw mill was usually found near a grist mill, and the same dam supplied the water for both.
Following close on the erection of grist mills came the establishment of distilleries. Our forefathers were not intemperate neither were they tetotallers, whiskey was a necessity as well as flour and tobacco, nearly all kept it in the house and used it freely on various occasions, especially log rollings and house raisings. These early "stills" which are evidenced by the assessor's lists were probably very small affairs capable of producing but a few gallons of spirits per day, but the product was undoubtedly perfectly pure, it was made only for home and neighborhood consumption, no evidence being discoverable that any was sent away for sale until after the completion of the canal in 1832-3.
Prior to the year 1800 our
researches have discovered nothing in the line of manufacturers except the few
grist and saw mills and stills, but soon after the beginning of the present
century the erection of iron works was commenced and some tanneries and
woolen mills were built, as well
as more distilleries; Etna
Furnace and Forge built in 1805-6 by Canan, Stewart & Moore, was located in
Catharine Township, near the Juniata and was the first iron works within the
present limits of Blair County; Tyrone Forge, built by John Gloninger & Co.,
in 1805; Cove Forge was built next by John Royer in Woodbury Township in 1810 -
was operated continuously for more than seventy years; Allegheny Furnace, near
the present site of Altoona, was the third and was built in 1811 by Allison and
Henderson, and later was owned and rebuilt by Elias Baker; Springfield Furnace,
in Woodbury Township, was built by John and Daniel Royer in 1815; Rebecca
Furnace, by Dr. Peter Shoenberger in 1817 on Clover Creek; Mary Ann Forge built
about 1830 by Edward Bell & Son, and Elizabeth Furnace in 1832; Antes Forge
at Tipton, 1828 by Dysart & Lloyd - three fires operated until 1855 and
discontinued ; the upper, lower and middle Maria Forges in Freedom in 1828 to
1832 and Sarah Furnace in Greenfield Township in 1832, built by Peter
Shoenberger, (the latter was demolished in the winter of 1881-2); Elizabeth
Furnace and Mary Ann Forge in Antes Township about 1835 by Edward Bell. Harris'
Pittsburgh Directory, for the year 1837, gave a list of the iron works in the
Juniata Valley and those in the present limits of Blair County were, Elizabeth
Furnace and Mary Ann Forge, owned by Edward Bell; Antes Forge, by Graham &
McCamant; Tyrone Forges, William Lyon & Co.; Allegheny Furnace, E. Baker
& Co.; Etna Furnace and Forge, H. S. Spang; Cove Forge, Royer &
Schmucker. All these were run with charcoal for fuel.
Strange as it may appear, the market for the first iron produced in the Juniata Valley was found in Pittsburgh, and it was transported at a great expense, first on the backs of horses and mules across the Alleghenies to Johnstown, and from there floated in flat bottomed boats down the Conemaugh to the Allegheny and on that stream to its destination. Later, when the pike had been constructed, it was hauled on wagons until the canal was built. The value of a ton of iron then was several times over that of to-day.
Later iron workers were, the Duncansville Rolling Mill, 1833-4; the Bellrough Foundry at Gaysport, built in 1837-8; the Hollidaysburg Furnace in Gaysport, in 1855, and Chimney Rock Furnace in
Hollidaysburg later in the same year. These two were much larger than any former furnaces built in the valley and cost about $60,000 each and used bituminous coal and coke. In 1857 the Juniata Furnaces were built at Williamsburg and in 1860 the Hollidaysburg Iron and Nail Company's Rolling Mill was erected although that name was not adopted until 1866. The McKees Gap or Rodman Furnace was built in 1862. In 1855 there were thirty-two iron and steel working establishments in Blair County including the Pennsylvania Railroad Co.'s Foundry and the Ax and Pick works of J. Colclesser at Eldorado, but before the year 1870 the iron industry in Blair County, as well as the other parts of the Juniata Valley, began to languish on account of the cost of production and the fact that cheaper ore and improved methods at Pittsburg and other large iron centers had reduced the market price below a profitable point for these manufacturers.
* In 1882 there
were ten furnaces in blast, in Blair County, with a total capacity of 1000 tons
of iron per week when running full time. There were also four rolling mills and
two nail mills. The furnaces were Allegheny, in Logan Township;
Bennington, in Allegheny Township; Number One furnace, in Gaysport and Number
Two furnace, in Hollidaysburg; Springfield furnace, in Woodbury Township; Gap
furnace, in Freedom Township; Rodman furnace, in Taylor Township; Frankstown, in
Frankstown Township; Elizabeth, in Antes Township; Rebecca furnace, Huston
Township. Of these, the Bennington, Frankstown and Numbers One and Two were
owned by the Cambria Iron Company of Johnstown; Allegheny by S. C. Baker;
Springfield by John Royer, Gap by Hollidaysburg and Gap Iron Works Co., Rodman
by John and Peter Duncan; Elizabeth by heirs of Martin Bell and Rebecca by heirs
of Edward H. Lytle. The Rolling Mills were, those of Altoona Iron Co., at
Altoona, Portage Iron Co. at Duncansville, Hollidaysburg Iron and Nail Co. at
Hollidaysburg. In addition to which was a large Foundry and Machine Shop in
To the rising generation the term forge as applied to iron works has but a vague meaning and an explanation will be necessary. The product of the iron furnace is pig iron and is in too crude a state to use without further reduction, this work is now performed in rolling mills, with costly machinery, but the rolling mill is a comparatively recent institution and in the earlier years the pig iron from the furnace was worked into bars in merchantable shape at forges, wherein the pig metal was heated to a pliable state and hammered into shapes,
*Africas History of Blair and Huntingdon Counties
more of the dross removed, and made into bars that ordinary blacksmiths could use by being hammered with trip hammers on a large anvil. Nails were also made at these early forges by the slow processs of hammering each one out singly, this was before the invention of nail cutting machines and nails then cost much more than they do now; 8 to 20 penny nails were quoted in 1819 at $12.50 per hundred weight at the forge.
OTHER MANUFACTURES OF EARLY DAYS.
Soon after the beginning of the present century some other lines of manufacture than those above mentioned were begun. In 1806 or 1808 Willis Gibboney built fulling and wool carding works on Burgoon Run just above the present site of Eldorado, which he operated until 1828 when he moved to Duncansville and built a similar establishment there.
Robert Gardner erected a wool carding and fulling works at the eastern end of Blair's Gap near the old grist mill, about 1832 which he operated successfully for many years. In 1834 there was quite a large woolen mill at Williamsburg, perhaps the most extensive one ever in the county. There was a fulling mill owned and operated here in 1820 by John Smith. In 1832 or thereabouts Daniel Colclesser established an ax and pick factory where the Gibboney woolen mill had previously been and it was run with 5 to 6 men for many years, has not been totally abandoned yet. In 1821 Wm. McFarland had a cabinet shop in Frankstown and in 1830 a bucket factory was in operation at Williamsburg, and in..... a hat factory at Newry.
As early as 1800 Christian Hoover was assessed as owner of an oil mill and so continued until 1830 or later, but we have no particulars as to what kind of oil was made, doubtless it was but a small quantity of linseed oil. Michael Sellers, of Woodbury Township, was assessed with one tannery in 1800, and Joseph Patton had one at Frankstown in 1810, Francis Smith built a small tannery a Duncansville about 1810 which was afterwards enlarged so as to be quite a pretensious establishment, remains of which are still standing. David Caldwell owned a quite extensive tannery at Gaysport before the organization of Blair County, which he operated successfully for many years. Numerous other small tanneries were built and operated in the territory between 1810 and 1860. In 1862 Louis Plack erected a large one at Altoona, the latter ceased operations about 1884 and was torn down in 1889-90, and now there is not a single tannery operated within the county except the one at Tyrone.
The following brief sketch, copied from a historical work written by Sherman Day and published in 1843, covers the subject so completely and concisely that the present writer does not feel competent to add a word or alter a syllable:
"The Indian tribes who "dwelt among the primitive forests of Pennsylvania - as well as those of Delaware, New Jersey and a part of Maryland - called themselves the Lenni Lenape, or the original people. This general name comprehended numerous distinct tribes, all speaking dialects of a common language, (the Algonquin,) and uniting around the same great council-fires. Their grand council house, to use their own expressive figure, extended from the eastern banks of the Hudson on the northeast to the Patomac on the southwest. Many of the tribes were directly descended from the common stock; others, having sought their sympathy and protection, had been allotted a section of their territory. The surrounding tribes not of this confederacy, nor acknowledging allegiance to it, agreed in awarding to them the honor of being the grandfathers--that is the oldest residents in this region. There was a tradition among the Lenni Lenape, that in ages past their ancestors had emigrated eastward from the Mississippi, conquering or expelling on their route that great and aparently more civilized nation, whose monuments, in the shape of mounds are so profusely scattered over the great western valley, and of which several also remain in Pennsylvania along the western slope of the Allegheny Mountains.
The Lenna Lenape nation was divided into these principal divisions: The Unamis or Turtle tribes; the Unalachtgos or Turkeys, and the Monseys or Wolf tribes. The two former occupied the country along the coast, between the sea and the Kittatinny or Blue Mountain, their settlements extending as far east as the Hudson and as far west as the Potomac. These were generally known among the whites as the Delaware Indians. The Monseys or Wolf tribes, the most active and warlike of the whole, occupied the mountainous country between the Kittatinny Mountain and the sources of theSusquehanna, and they had also a village, and a peach orchard in the forks of the Delware, where Nazareth is now situated. These three principal divisions were divided into various subordinate clans, who assumed names suited to their character or situation.
The Shawanos, or Shawnees, a restless and ferocious tribe, having been threatened with extermination by a more powerful tribe at the south, sought protection among the friendly nations of the north, whose language was observed to bear a remarkable affinity with their own. A majority of them settled along the Ohio, from the Wabash to near Pittsburgh. A portion was received under the protection of the Lenni Lenape's, and permitted to settle near the forks of the Delaware, and on the flats below Philadelphia. But they soon became troublesome neighbors and were removed by the Delawares (or possibly by the six nations) to the Susquehanna valley, where they had a village at the Shawnee Flats below Wilkesbarre, on the west side of the river. During the revolution and the war of 1812 their name became conspicuous in the history of the northern frontier.
The Lenni Lenape tribes consisted, at the first settlement of Pennsylvania of the Assunpink, or Stony Creek Indians; the Rankokas, (Lamikas or Chichequaas;) Andastakas at the Christina Creek, near Wilmington; Neshaminies, in Bucks County; Shackamaxons, about Kensington; Mantas or Frogs, near Burlington; the Tuteloes and the Nanticokes, in Maryland and Virginia, (the latter afterwards removed up the Susquehanna); the Monsey or Minisinks, near the forks of the Delaware; the Mandes and the Narriticongs near the Raritan; the Capitanasses, the Gacheos, the Monseys and the Pomptons, in New Jersey. A few scattered clans, or warlike hordes, of the Mingoes, were living here and there among the Lenapes.
Another great Indian Confederacy claims attention, whose acts have an important bearing upon the history of Pennsylvania. This confederacy was originally known in the annals of New York as the Five Nations, and subsequently, after they had been joined by the Tuscaroras, as the Six Nations. As confederates, they called themselves Aquanuschioni, or United People; by the Lenapes they were called Mengue, or Mingoes, and by the French the Iroquois, The original Five Nations were the Onondagas, the Cayugas, the Oneidas, the Senecas, and the Mohawks. In 1712 the Tuscaroras, being expelled from the interior of North Carolina and Virginia, were adopted as a sixth tribe. The language of all the tribes of the confederacy, except the Tuscaroras, was radically the same, from the borders of Vermont to Lake Erie, and from Lake Ontario to the headwaters of the Allegheny, Susquehanna, and Delaware rivers. This territory they called their long house. The grand council-fire was held in the Ononodaga valleys. The Senecas guarded the western door of the house, the Mohawks the eastern, and the Cayugas
the southern or that which opened upon the Susquehanna. The Mohawk nation was the first in rank, and to it appertained the office of principal war chief; to the Onondagas, who guarded the grand council-fire, appertained in like manner the office of principal civil chief, or chief sachem. The Senecas, in numbers and military energy, were the most powerful.
The peculiar location of the Iroquois gave them an immense advantage. On the great channels of water conveyance to which their territories were contiguous, they were enabled in all directions to carry war and devastation to the neighboring or to the most distant nations.
Nature had endowed them with a height, strength and symmetry of person which distinguished them, at a glance, among the individuals of other tribes. They were as brave as they were strong; but ferocious and cruel when excited in savage warfare; crafty, treacherous, and over-reaching, when these qualities best suited their purposes. The proceedings of their grand council were marked with great decorum and solemnity. In eloquence, in dignity, and profound policy, their speakers well bear comparison with the statesmen of civilized assemblies. By an early alliance with the Dutch on the Hudson, they secured the use of firearms, and were thus enabled, not only to repel the encroachments of the French, but also to exterminate, or reduce to a state of vassalage, many Indian nations. From these they exacted an annual tribute, or acknowledgment of fealty; permitting them, however, on that condition, to occupy their former hunting grounds. The humiliation of tributary nations was, however, tempered with a paternal regard for their interests in all negotiations with the whites, and care was taken that no trespasses should be committed on their rights, and that they should be justly dealt with. To this condition of vassalage the Lenni Lenape, or Delaware nation, had been reduced by the Iroquois, as the latter asserted, by conquest. The Lenapes, however, smarting under the humiliation, invented for the whites a cunning tale in explanation, which they succeeded in imposing upon the worthy and venerable Mr. Heckewelder, the Moravian missionary. Their story was, that by treaty, and by voluntary consent, they had agreed to act as meditators and peacemakers among the other great nations, and to this end they had consented to lay aside entirely the implements of war, and to hold and keep bright the chain of peace. This, among the individual tribes, was the usual province of women. The Delawares, therefore, alleged that they were figuratively termed women on this account; but the Iroquois evidently called them women in quite another sense.
'They always alleged that the Delawares were conquered by their arms, and were compelled to this humiliating concession as the only means of averting impending destruction.' In the course of time, however, the Delawares were enabled to throw off the galling yoke, and at Tioga, in the year 1756, Teedyuscung extorted from the Iroquois all acknowledgment of their independence.
This peculiar relation between the Indian nation that occupied, and that which claimed a paramount jurisdiction over, the soil of Pennsylvania, tended greatly to embarrass and complicate the negotiations of the proprietary government for the purchase of lands; and its influence was seen and felt both in the civil and military history of Pennsylvania until after the close of the revolution.
The term savage, as applied to the aboriginese, is naturally associated with the idea of barbarism and cruelty- to some extent perhaps justly; yet a closer acquaintance often discloses in them traits that exalt the human character and claim the admiration or sympathy of civilized man. The Indian considers himself created by an almighty, wise, and benevolent spirit, to whom he looks for guidance and protection; whom he believes it to be his duty to adore and worship, and whose overruling providence he acknowledges in all his actions. Many Indians were in the habit of seeking out some high mountain from whose lonely summit they might commune with the Great Spirit, and pray to him. But while they worshipped the Creator they were not unmindful of their duties to their fellow-creatures, They looked upon the good things of the earth as a common stock, bestowed by the Great Spirit for the benefit of all. They held that the game of the forest, the fish of the rivers, and the grass or other articles of spontaneous growth, were free to all who chose to take them. They ridiculed the idea of fencing in a meadow or a pasture. This principle repressed selfishness and fostered generosity. Their hospitality was proverbial. The Indian considers it a duty to share his last morsel with a stranger."
The term Logan, as appeared to various sections of country, public-houses, halls, etc., in this region, was derived doubtless from the Cayuga chieftain known to the first settlers in the Tuckahoe Valley as Capt. Logan. He came here from the valley of the Susquehanna prior to the year 1768, and settled at the spring, near Davidsburg, now owned by David Henshey, a locality still known as Logan Valley.
On the Susquehanna it appears he was the chief of a band of warriors, but in an engagemen with another tribe he lost an eye by
an arrow from the enemy. This was considered by the indians a mark of disgrace, and he was deposed. He abandoned his tribe therefore, and took up his residence in the Juniata Valley. Capt. Logan, of course, was not his proper name, but a title bestowed upon him by the whites. He was a man of medium height and heavy frame, but was fleet of foot and always on the move. During the revolutionary war he resided at the beautiful spring, now in the heart of Tyrone City. A firm friend of the Americans during the struggle for independence; he it was who discovered and disclosed the diabolical plot of John Weston and his tories.
Although he had learned to read from the Moravian missionaries when a lad, he knew very little of the forms of land purchases; so through his ignorance of the customs of civilized communities, he failed to purchase the spot on which his cabin stood. As a consesequence, after the war, some envious white man bought the land and warned the friendly savage off. He was too proud and haughty to contest the matter or even bandy words with the intruder; so about 1785 be left and located at Chickalamoose, where Clearfield now stands, and there continued until the Great Spirit called him to a happy hunting ground.
Undoubtedly there is some fiction mixed with the stories of the Indian depredations and massacres in the early settlement of this country and the narratives are often highly colored. This results from the fact that they were not accurately recorded at the time, if at all, and are chiefly personal recollections of the witnesses thereof after many years had elapsed. Some even being based on recollections of aged persons who heard it from the lips of parents or grandparents when they themselves were young. Yet the actual facts were certainly bad enough and may have been even worse than the story as we have it to-day although the particulars as to individual action, dates, names, and locations are far from correct. One can readily conceive the terror of women and children and even strong men, situated in a vast forest region, thinly populated with whites, and infested by Indians whose numbers, though unknown, the imagination would be sure to exagerate to myriads, when a rumor became current that a massacre was contemplated or occasional lurking savagaes were seen, and it is certain that the early settlers of this region did live in the constant and well grounded apprehension of harm from this source for a period of twenty years, during which time authentic records prove that within the limits of Blair a score or more of men, women and children were slain by the red men.
The state of mind of the colonists in this region in 1777 may be seen by the following extract from a letter written to the president of the Council by George Woods and Thomas Smith, two justices-of-the-peace, and dated at Bedford, Pa., Nov. 27th, 1777: "Gentlemen:--The present situation of this country is so truly deplorable that we should be inexcusable if we delayed a moment in acquainting you with it. An Indian war is now raging around us in its utmost fury. Before you went down they killed one man at Stony Creek; since that time they have killed five on the mountain against the head of Dunning's Creek, killed or taken three at the Three Springs, wounded one and killed some children at Frankstown, and had they not providently been discovered in the night and a party gone out and fired on them, they would in all probability have destroyed a great part of that settlement in a few hours. A small party went out into Morrison's Cove scouting, and unfortunately divided; the Indians discovered one division, and out of eight, killed seven and wounded the other.
In short, a day hardly passes without our hearing of some new murder, and if the people continue only a week longer to fly as they have done for a week past this county will be a frontier. From Morrison's, Crayls and Friend's Coves, Dunning's Creek, and one-half of the Glades they are fled or forted, and, for all the defense that can be made here the Indians may do almost what they please. We keep out ranging parties, in which we go out by turns, but all that we can do in that way is but weak and ineffectual for our defense, because one-half our people are fled. Those that remain are too busily employed in putting their families and the little of their effects that they can save and take to some place of safety."
What is known as the great Cove massacre occurred in 1762 (this is now known as Martin's Cove, in Blair County) and the number of killed and captured is unknown now but of the captives were the family of John Martin, consisting of his wife and several children. In July, 1780, Captain Philips was surprised and overcome by a hostile band of Indians in Woodcock Valley, and all his men, ten in number, were killed, except his son Elijah. Captain Philips and his son were held in captivity for some time, with the expectation, no doubt, that they would be ransomed. They were carried to Detroit and from there to Montreal, and finally made their escape, or were liberated by the British to whom the Indians had delivered them.
In the autumn of 1788 the wife and three of the children of Matthew Dean, great grandfather of justice John Dean of the Supreme Court, were slain by the Indians at their home in Canoe Valley, Catharine Township, about three miles west of Waterstreet, while Mr. Dean and the other children were at work in the fields some distance away and a son of Captain Simonton who was at the Dean residence, was carried away and never recovered. In 1781, in Tyrone Township, Jacob Roller was shot and scalped by Indians while out hunting and a man named Bebault, living alone, was killed at his house nearby, by the same band. In the summer of 1777 or 78, a man named John Guilliford cleared a small patch near where Blair Furnace Station, in Logan Township, now is and erected a cabin near the present site of John Trout's house. The next spring after putting out some crops he became alarmed for his safety and fled to Fetters Fort but soon after believing the Indians to have gone away he ventured back to see how his crops were coming on, but they must have been lying in wait for him as he was found the same day by two hunters, Coleman and Milligan, lying dead on the
threshold of his cabin, having evidently been shot by the Indians as he was entering the door. He was buried near the spot by these two men who then endeavored to follow the murderers and avenge the death of their neighbor but in this were unsuccessful. About this time Thomas Coleman while hunting alone came upon two unarmed Indians who were carrying off two captive children: and leveling his rifle at them with a stern command to halt! they quickly dropped the children and fled.
Coleman was a great Indian fighter well known and feared by the red men of the Juniata valley. It is said that he killed a number of them to avenge the death of a brother slain by the savages years before in the Susquehanna valley.
In August, 1781, Adam Holliday with several of his children was at work in a field just above where Gaysport now stands when they were attacked by Indians, Mr. Holliday seized the youngest child and suceeded in making his escape with it but his daughter Janet and a son Patrick, were captured and killed.
SLAVERY IN BLAIR COUNTY.
In Blair County, since its organization, slavery never existed, but in the territory of which it is composed it was not unknown as late as 1800, the assessment lists of the county disclose the fact that a few negro slaves were held in bondage here. In 1794 there were three slave owners in Allegheny township.
OF A GREAT THOROUGHFARE AND BLAIR COUNTY'S PART IN IT.
The growth and development of the channels of travel is an extremely interesting study. As early as 1740 and 1750 white men traversed old Indian paths leading from Harrisburg up the Susquehanna to the Juniata; up the Juniata to its headwaters in the Allegheny mountains and across these, through narrow gorges, whose highest point was considerably less elevated than the main ridge. These paths, or trails, were only passable for pedestrians and all the rivers and smaller streams had to be forded.
After passing the Alleghenies the headwaters of the Conemaugh river were reached and its course followed to the site of Johnstown, thence on to the Allegheny river and down that stream to Pittsburg. Occassional short cuts were rnade from one bend of the stream to another where the path would be a considerable distance from its channel, but generally the streams were followed pretty closely. This was the earliest thoroughfare between the east and the west in this part of the wilderness. About the year 1788 a road was cut through on nearly the same lines. It extended from Huntingdon westward to Frankstown on the site of Hollidaysburg and Duncansville, and up the Blair Creek and gap to near where Cresson has since grown up and from thence to the confluence of the Conernaugh and Stony Creek rivers. It was barely passable for wagons, and the large streams were not bridged.
This road was paid for by the state was constructed by Robert Galbraith, a resident of Blair County, and it served the purposes of a highway for the early settlers, for 25 years. Soon after the beginning of the present century the idea of a pike road along the same route with bridges over all the streams was entertained and public spirited citizens urged its construction, and aided to build it. By 1820 it had been accomplished, through private enterprise largely and John Blair, a native and resident of this county, was president of the Huntingdon, Cambria and Indiana Turnpike Road Company.
No sooner was the pike completed than the project of a canal between Philadelphia and Pittsburg was set on foot and although its construction would be a detriment to the turnpike, yet John Blair, president of the Turnpike Company, was so public spirited as to aid and encourage it to his full ability, and he lived to see it completed to Hollidaysburg. The canal was exclusively a state institution, the cost being too great for private enterprise at that time, but Blair County people were leaders in the movement and high in the councils of
control, Hollidaysburg was a port of entry and the location of a great basin at the western terminus of the eastern division. The canal, supplemented by the Allegheny Portage Railroad across the mountains, was a wonderful thing in its day, but still the people were not satisfied and the first boat had hardly traversed the full length of the canal and passed over the mountains on the new railroad, demonstrating the value of such a mode of travel and transportation, than the idea of an all rail route began to take definite shape and in ten years time a company to build it was incorporated although it would cost much more than the canal and must be done entirely by private enterprise. The Pennsylvania Railroad Company had its birth in 1846. Simultaneously with the beginning of this road in whose construction and management Blair Cemity and Blair County people have had a most prominent place, the management of the Pennsylvania canal tried to preserve their ascendency by doing away with the inclined planes on the mountain road and the New Portage was begun; thousands of dollars of the public moneys was spent and a road without inclines was constructed almost parallel with the ''Old Portage. '' It was a useless effort, for the Permsylvania Railroad Company had their all rail route finished and public sentiment was so strong against state managernent of the Public works, as the canal and Portage railroad were called, that they were sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, who, by the purchase, absorbed a parallel and competing line and became master of the situation. The State received about one-fourth the cost of these works by the sale. The Pennsylvania railroad deviated a little from the route of the old canal, pike and first public road, following the little Juniata almost to its source, near the site of Altoona, and crossing the mountains through the Kittanning Gap. This railroad company, which soon forged ahead of all others and whose gross receipts per annum are now more than twice that of any other railroad in America, had for its president many years, Thomas A. Scott, whose youth was largely spent in Blair County, and who may with propriety be called a Blair County man. Blair County contains the principal shops of the company and is the headquarters of the General Superintendent, and General Superintendent of Motive Power.
Thus in less than 100 years an uninhabited forest has been changed to a rich, populous and productive region, and a scarcely distinguishable trail, passable only on foot, has been superseded by a steel railroad over whose length, glide almost with the speed of light pondrous trains of cars bearing thousands of tons of freight or hundreds of travelers. Blair County has taken a prominent part in this Progress and if any further improvement is possible Blair County People will be found leading the van.
Beginning very early in the history of this region we find schools were established by private enterprise of public spirited citizens long before the enactment of our present wise and liberal school laws. Subscription schools were quite common and the little log school house, erected by the people of a district by mutual agreement, and supported by their voluntary contributions, was found in every community.
In 1834 the general common school law was enacted and since then education has been as free as the air they breath to every child of this favored state. Tution was free from 1834 to 1893; the text books, however, had to be furnished by the parents or guardians, but the legislature, in 1893, provided that the directors must furnish pupils text books for use in the school room without charge.
The length of terms in the country districts are now six to seven months and in the boroughs and City of Altoona, eight and nine months. Altoona has twelve large school buildings, the aggregate value of which is nearly half a million dollars. Over six thousand pupils are in attendance and one hundred and forty teachers are employed at salaries ranging from $30.00 to $100.00 per month. Prof D. S. Keith has been Superintendent of the city schools for sixteen years. The borough public schools of Tyrone and Hollidaysburg are in an equally flourishing condition. Prof. H. S. Wertz is superintendent of the schools of the county, outside of Altoona City. The higher education of the youth of the county has received some attention; and the graduates of Altoona, Tyrone and Hollidaysburg schools are well fitted for useful life or to enter college, if they so desire.
In 1860 a school of some considerable pretensions was established at Martinsburg under the name of the Franklin High School and Blair County Normal Institute. The name was afterward, changed to Juniata Collegiate Institute. It was erected by a joint stock company at a cost $8,000.00 and was a chartered institution. Some years later, not proving a financial success, it was sold to the Lutheran Synod for $3,000.00. Later it was owned by J. G. Herbst who sold it to Prof. Lucian Cort for $5,000.00. Prof Cort, in 1868, enlarged it at a cost of $8,000.00, to its present dimensions, 100 feet front and 75 feet deep. It is a brick building, four stories
in height and will accomodate eighty boarding students. In 1875 it was purchased by Prof. P. H. Bridenbaugh for $10,700 who, for a number of years carried on a very successful school. Later, while still in the possession of Prof Bridenbaugh, it was used for several months to shelter the inmates of the Blair County Alms House when the old one burned down. At present no regular school is in operation there.
The Hollidaysburg Female Seminary, at Hollidaysburg, is one of the finest buildings in the county. It is constructed of stone and is 150 feet in front, extends back 160 feet; four stories in height and was erected in 1869 by a joint stock company at a cost of $75,000. It is now owned by Major William Williams, one of Hollidaysburg's most prominent and wealthy citizens, and is conducted by Mrs. Hitchcock and is a well managed and flourishing school with many boarding scholars, and many others who live at home and attend during the day. It contains a large and well appointed school hall, laboratory, recitation, reading, music and art rooms as well as the residence rooms of the principal and dormitories of the pupils. The location is one of great beauty, on an eminence from which the view of the surrounding country is superb. The campus consists of five acres of ground. Rev. Joseph Waugh was the first principal, serving from 1869 to 1877 after which time Prof W. P. Hussey held the position. The school, while not sectarian, is yet in control of Presbyterians and may be classed as a Presbyterian institution. All honor to this church, which in years gone by, has established more seminaries in the United States, probably, than any other protestant denomination.
In Altoona there are several business colleges, so-called, wherein short-hand, typewriting and business and commercial forms are taught, the leading one now being "Anderson's School of Business and Shorthand" in the Mateer building.
The Roman Catholic church, always solicitous to educate the youth of her adherents in their own faith, have parochial schools in connection with all their churches in Altoona, Hollidaysburg and Tyrone, where all branches of learning are taught in a systematic and thorough manner, especial attention being paid to music in the girls' school in the convent of St. John's church, Thirteenth street and Thirteenth avenue. A large three-story brick building for a boys school also belongs to St. John's church and stands on the opposite corner from the convent and church.
The school building attached to St. Mary's German Roman Catholic church, situated on the corner of Fourteenth street and Fourth avenue is also a fine brick building and from its elevation is a prominent landmark, seen from many parts of the city.
CHURCHES OF THE COUNTY.
The first permanent white settlers of Blair County, coming into the southern end of the Great Cove, or Morrisons Cove, as it is now called about1760 or earlier, were Dunkards, and that is probably the first religious denomination to obtain a foothold in Blair County territory, followed closely, however, by the Presbyterians and Methodists .
We have not been able to
discover any historical incident concerning this sect that would prove of
special interest to the readers of this sketch, but it is a well attested fact
that these people were deeply pious, conscientious in their business relations
with their fellows and noncombatative. They were plain and unasuming, and did
not leave any monuments to their memory in the shape of large and costly church
edifices; being content to worship their Creator in plain, and what many would
consider, insignificantly small and poor buildings. Many of their descendants
are still found in the county and they have a few places of' worship, one in
Altoona, but not being an aggressive people, their numbers do not keep pace with
the population of the county.
That the Dunkards
preceded the Presbyterians may be disputed by some but the foregoing statement,
we think, will be found correct. It is however recorded in Africa's history of
Blair County, published in 1883 that in 1756 when John Armstrong marched to
Kittanning, in September of that year, that he was accompained by Rev.Charles
Beatty a Presbyterian minister, and that he preached a sermon one Sunday morning
to the little band of soldiers while encamped at Beaver Dams, the location of
McCann's Mills, now in Blair County. The truth of this assertion is not doubted
or denied but it is likely that the Dunkards, who resided here, as above stated,
held religious services at a still earlier date, and that the congregation
consisted of residents of territory now within the bounds of Blair County
That the Dunkards preceded the Presbyterians may be disputed by some but the foregoing statement, we think, will be found correct. It is however recorded in Africa's history of Blair County, published in 1883 that in 1756 when John Armstrong marched to Kittanning, in September of that year, that he was accompained by Rev.Charles Beatty a Presbyterian minister, and that he preached a sermon one Sunday morning to the little band of soldiers while encamped at Beaver Dams, the location of McCann's Mills, now in Blair County. The truth of this assertion is not doubted or denied but it is likely that the Dunkards, who resided here, as above stated, held religious services at a still earlier date, and that the congregation consisted of residents of territory now within the bounds of Blair County .
In 1770 or 1772, however, there was a sufficient number of people in the vicinity of Frankstown and Hollidaysburg to make a small congregation and the Presbytery at Carlisle sent the Rev. Dr. King, of Mercersburg, here, who preached the first Presbyterian sermon to residents of Blair in that year at the house of William Holliday.
Rev. Mr. McDougal, from Path Valley, also came here at a very early day and preached occasionally. After the close of the Revolutionary war preaching was quite frequent by Presbyterian ministers who were stationed farther east, and who occasionally endured the fatigue of a long ride through the forest to preach to the early settlers at Hollidaysburg. A tent or pavilion was erected at Blue Spring, where services were held about 1784 or 1785. This was replaced or superseded in 1790 by a church building and it was called Bard's Meeting House, from Rev. David Bard, a Presbyterian minister, who located here in 1788. A congregation was regularly organized at this time, and Captain Thomas Blair, father of Hon. John Blair, Thomas McCune and James Smith, Sr., were the first ruling elders. The stated salary of Rev. Bard was $100 per annum. The Bard Meeting House stood on the present cemetery site and was constructed of unhewn logs. It was occupied as a church till 1818 when it was destroyed by fire. A hewed log building was immediately erected, and stood until 1837, when a brick church was built, in its stead, on the corner of Walnut and Clark streets, where the present elegant and commodious church - erected in 1869-70 - now stands. Rev. Bard was retained as pastor until his death in 1816, during part of which time he was a member of the House of Representatives in the Congress of the United States. Rev. James Galbraith succeeded Rev. Bard and served the congregation here and at Williamsburg until 1835. For the following three years the congregation was served by John A. Dunlap, a licentiate. In 1838 Rev. William J. Gibson, of Philadelphia, was called and remained until 1841. Next came Rev. David McKinney, D. D., who preached until 1852, being succeeded by Rev. David X. Junkin, from Washington, D. C., who was installed January 7, 1854.
In 1860, on account of ill health, Rev. Junkin was granted leave of absence for six months, during which time the pulpit was filled by Rev. William Alexander, a licentiate of the Huntingdon Presbytery.
December 11, 1860, Dr. Junkin severed his connection with this congregation and Rev. David Sterritt suppiled the pulpit until September, 1861.
Rev. David H. Barron, then pastor of the Mount Pleasant Church, was called August 4, 1861, and preached his first sermon here, as pastor elect, the second Sunday of September, 1861. He was formally installed November 12, following. The erection of a new church edifice was agitated in 1868 on account of the lack of sufficient pew room in the old building and the weakness of the walls,
and on Sunday, the sixth day of December, of that year there being a heavy snow on the roof, the assembled congregation pronounced the building unsafe and it was abandoned. The following Sabbath services were held in the court house and so continued until the completion of the chapel of the new church.
The corner stone of this new church -the present one- was laid September 9, 1860, and services were held in the chapel, for the first time, June 5, 1870; it cost $60,000.00.
In the corner stone were deposited sermons of Revs. W. J. Gibson, David McKinney, David X. Junkin and D. H. Barron; also photographs of each of these ministers, besides other appropriate articles.
This building, which is the largest church in the county was completed and public services first held in the main or audience room December 31, 1871. Rev. Barron is still pastor, now serving his thirty-fifth year in that capacity.
The history of this church is given at greater length than can be allotted to the others on account of its age and prominence in the presbytery.
The Methodists made themselves known in Blair County about 1800, and their first church in its territory was erected in 1816, at Williamsburg. They now have twenty-three churches in the county valued at $260,000.00; 6,195 members and 6,950 Sunday School scholars. The Presiding Elder of the district, which includes other counties than Blair, Rev. D. S. Monroe, D. D., resides in Altoona. He is also secretary of the Grand Conference of all the Methodist Episcopal bodies in the world.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church is strong in the county, and its history here dates back to 1820, or earlier, when their first congregation was organized in Williamsburg. They have twenty churches in the county, seven of which are in Altoona.
The First Baptist Congregation in Blair County was organized at Williamsburg in 1829, and the next at Hollidaysburg in 1833. They now have over 1,200 members in the county; twelve churches and five preachers. This denomination numbers, among its membership, some of the most prominent families in the county and the number of regular attendants at the Baptist Churches is, doubtless, 5,000 to 6,000 persons.
The Roman Catholic Church is quite strong in the county, having four large churches in Altoona City, with several thousand adherents and church property valued at $350,000.00. They built their first church in Altoona, the St. Johns, in 1852. They also have churches and many members in Tyrone and Hollidaysburg .
(Historical narrative continued on page 60, after colored leaves.)
St. John's Roman Catholic Church and Convent, from corner Thirteenth Avenue
and Thirteenth Street, Altoona, Pa.
Soldier's Monument, Fairview Cemetery, Altoona, Pa.
Erected in 1867.
School Building, Seventh Avenue between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Streets,
Resort Hotel, on the summit of Wopsononock Mountain,
Six Miles from Altoona,
on the Clearfield and Northern Railroad.
Blair County Court House,
Cor. Allegheny and Union Streets,
Erected at a Cost of $110.000.
Dedicated July 2d, 1877.
Electric Light. Hot Water Heat.
Modern Conveniences. Reasonable Rates.
JAS. W. GROMILLER
UNITED STATES HOTEL
Wayne and Juniata Streets, Hollidaysburg, Pa.