Peters Twp. (pp. 887-899)PETERS was the tenth on the list of the thirteen original townships formed under the act erecting Washington County, passed March 28, 1781, the eighteenth section of which act authorized and directed the trustees to divide the county into townships before July 1, 1781. The territory originally embraced in the township comprehended the present township of Peters, the north part of Union township and all that portion of Allegheny County lying east of Chartiers Creek and south and west of the Monongahela River.
History of Washington County, Pennsylvania*
The first effort to divide the township was made in September, 1784, when a petition to that effect was presented to the court of Washington County. The court decreed the division and certified the same to the Executive Council. No action was taken till Nov. 21, 1786, when the Council confirmed the order of the court dividing Peters and erecting upon the part taken off the township of Dickinson. In the meantime the new township had assumed separate jurisdiction and elected township officers1, without waiting for the confirmation by the Council. Dickinson continued a township of Washington County till it became a part of Allegheny County upon the erection of the latter. This township of Dickinson was formed from the north part of the territory of the original township of Peters. The part of the old township which was thus thrown into Allegheny County was all that part of Peters north of a line running from Chartiers Creek at the mouth of Miller's Run eastwardly to the Monongahela River, at a point opposite the mouth of Perry's Run. In 1789 the township was further reduced in territory by the extension of Allegheny County southward to its present boundary line between Chartiers Creek and the Monongahela. In 1834, Union township was formed from Nottingham and Peters, thus reducing Peters to its present area and boundaries, which are: on the north by Allegheny County, on the east by Union, south by Nottingham and North Strabane, and west by the last-named township and Cecil, the western boundary being marked by Chartiers Creek, which is the most important water-course of the township, though Peters Creek, which marks the eastern boundary against the township of Union, is also a mill-stream of considerable size.
[1 In the election returns of constables in Washington County, made at the March term of court in 1783, the township of Dickinson appears in the list, with the name of Oliver Elliott as constable. ]
Settlements --The assessment-roll of Peters township for 1788 shows the names of a number of military men, some of whom were well known as prominent actors in the events and campaigns of preceding and succeeding years. Among these were Gen. Edward Hand, Gen. John Neville, Maj. William Lee, Col. John Campbell, Col. David Philips, and Capt. Joseph Beeler. The names of William Fife, Philip Ross, David Steele, Daniel Shawan, Aaron Work, and John Watt, - these were all residents in that part of old Peters township which is now embraced in Allegheny County, except Capt. Joseph Beeler. Gen. Hand's residence was on the river early opposite Pittsburgh. He was assessed in the year mentioned on thirteen hundred acres. David Steel was in the service in 1776 under Capt. Isaac Cox, and himself rose to the grade of captain. On the 1st of March, 1778, he was with the troops who rendezvoused at Cox's Station, under Cols. Isaac Cox and John Canon. His residence was where Peter Simmons now lives. The property was owned by Daniel McClure in 1800. Steele was a surveyor of good repute, and well known through the county. There are no descendants of his now living in this region.
Col. John Campbell lived (as before stated) in that part of old Peters which is now Allegheny County. (Another of the same name lived in Union township, where he was justice of the peace for many years.) Col. Campbell was assessed in 1788 on two hundred and twenty-eight acres of land in Peters. In the same year Jacob Bowsman was assessed on two hundred and ninety acres. He lived on the south side of the Monongahela, opposite Pittsburgh.
The Rev. John Clark was assessed on one hundred acres in 1788. He was the Rev. Mr. Clark mentioned in the annals of the Whiskey Insurrection as being present at the Mingo Creek meeting in 1794, and as having counseled and warned the infuriated people present not to break the laws of the United States or engage in hostile acts against the government.
Lieut.-Col. Stephen Bayard was another resident in the same part of the old township, and was a very prominent man in his time.
Col. David Phillips, who appears on the roll above mentioned as taxable on three hundred acres in old Peters, was a relative of the person then known as "Preaching David Phillips," who was assessed on three hundred and thirty acres. All the persons above named, except the last, were residents in that part of old Peters township which is now included in Allegheny County.
Within the present limits of the township the first tract of land taken up was that called "Benton," granted on a Virginia certificate, Feb. 11, 1780, to James Matthews, "situate on the waters of Chartiers Creek, to include his actual settlement made in the year 1774." He died on the tract; his widow survived him several years. They had three sons, Paul, James, and Robert. The first and last named emigrated to the West. James settled near Washington, Pa. He had two sons, James and William, of whom the former is now living near the McMurray post-office. William removed to the West. A daughter of his married Andrew Crawford, and settled in Peters. Of the original tract called "Benton," above mentioned, a part passed from the Matthews family, through intermediate hands, to John and William McMurray.
About 1765 two brothers of Scotch-Irish descent, named Joshua and James Wright, came from the Cumberland valley and settled on Peters Creek, in Nottingham township. The brothers went resolutely to work, and cleared a sufficient amount of their land to put in a crop. Joshua then returned to their home in the East and married Charity, a daughter of John Harris, from whom the city of Harrisburg derived its name, and soon returned with his bride to his forest home. Sept. 16, 1779, Joshua Wright purchased from his brother James all his share of their joint purchase. After this sale James Wright went to live in Kentucky, where he was killed by the Indians.
Joshua Wright engaged in the New Orleans trade, and about 1783, while on his way to that city in one of the flat-bottomed, square-prowed boats, was attacked and captured by Indians and taken to a point near Sandusky, Ohio, where he was burned at the stake. The family thus left without a protector were his wife and three children, Lydia, Enoch, and Agnes.
Joshua Wright had sold to Daniel Townsend, his brother-in-law, four hundred acres of the original eight-hundred-acre tract purchased by himself and brother James. Charity Wright, the widow of Joshua, afterwards married a Mr. Colvin, who lived on Pigeon Creek. Her daughter Lydia married John Laird, and settled on a part of the land which she inherited from her father, and upon which she died. After her death her brother Enoch purchased the property. The other daughter, Agnes, became Mrs. Joseph Barrows. Enoch, the only son, was but a boy when his father was killed. He became a man of influence, and filled many positions of trust and honor in his neighborhood. He had but one child, his son Joseph, who became a Methodist minister. Joseph Wright was a close student, and in the later years of his life was engaged in work upon a dictionary. He had reached the letter M at the time of his death. And it proved labor lost, as the completed manuscript was entirely destroyed in the hurricane which swept over this township in 1854. Rev. Joseph Wright left a family of ten children, as follows: Darthula, who married Dr. James Miller, and died in Pittsburgh; Catharine, who married Thomas Rankin, and settled upon the farm her father gave her on Mingo Creek. She raised a large family of children, who emigrated to Nebraska, and she now lives with them. Lucinda Wright married John Storer, and settled on a part of the home farm. Dr.John Storer, of Hillsboro', is her son. Joshua Wright had that part of the original Wright tract called the homestead, which he still owns. The old log house in which Joshua Wright first lived stood where the garden now is. He now lives in Washington, Pa., where he is engaged in banking. Enoch Wright settled on a portion of the Wright land, but in 1866 left it and emigrated to Iowa. Joseph, another son of Rev. Joseph Wright, also inherited some of the original property, but sold it, and died in Pittsburgh. Margaret married Dr. C. M. Townsend, and lives in Peters township, near Bower Hill. Mary Wright married Rev. J. C. Brown, of the Methodist Church. Hopkins, another son, owns a part of the home farm, and Charity, who married Dr. D. M. Anderson, also lives on land inherited by the children of Joshua Wright.
Anthony Dunleavy came from Ireland about 1745, and settled near Winchester, Va. While living there he married Hannah, a daughter of Judge Alexander White, of that State. In 1772 he removed to the western part of Pennsylvania, but which he supposed was Virginia, settling upon a tract of land that is now included in Peters township. The tract contained three hundred and seventy-three acres, and a patent for it was granted to Mr. Dunleavy May 24, 1787, under the title of "The Tower." He made this his home for some years, but in 1700 (1800) removed to Kentucky. Previous to this, however, he disposed of some of his land to John Reed and Dennis Dunleavy. Some of the property is now in possession of Harvey McMurray.
Anthony Dunleavy had a family of four sons and three daughters, of whom Francis was the eldest. In the spring of 1782, Francis Dunleavy entered the Latin school or academy of Rev. Thaddeus Dodd, then in operation in Amity, on Ten-Mile Creek. While in school a call was made for troops to which he promptly responded, but was absent only ten days. And when the call for troops for the Sandusky expedition was made he again volunteered, and served through that disastrous campaign. After his return and as soon as peace was restored he was sent to Dickinson College. Having completed his studies he put himself under the care and teaching of Rev. James Hoge, of Winchester, Va., and later taught a classical school in that State. Upon the removal of his father's family to Kentucky in 1790, he went out with them, and two years afterwards opened a classical school at Columbia, Ohio, in which he was associated with John Reily, of Butler County, Ohio, for several years. Mr. Dunleavy finally removed to Lebanon, Warren Co., Ohio, which he made his permanent home. He was sent to the Legislature two terms to represent the Northwest Territory, and was a member of the convention of 1802 which framed the first constitution of Ohio. He was also a member of the first Legislature of the State after Ohio was admitted, and he held the office of presiding judge of the Court of Common Pleas of the First Circuit for fourteen years. After retiring from the bench Judge Dunleavy continued the practice of law for some ten years. He retired from active business some years before his death, which occurred Nov. 6, 1839.
John Swearingen, whose name is often found in the records of Yohogania County Court, was a resident of Peters Township, and lived upon the land which has since been known as the Borland property. The tract, which was called "Oswego," contained three hundred fifty acres, for which the patent was granted in 1790. In 1796, Mr. Swearingen sold his land to Andrew Borland. In 1808 the latter gentleman sold one hundred and three acres of it to Joseph Henry, who, in turn disposed of that part to William Caldwell, and it is now owned by Mrs. Joseph Caldwell, The sawmill on Brush Run was built by Henry Borland while he owned the property. It afterwards belonged to Robert and Joseph Caldwell, and is now in the possession of their descendants. A part of the Swearingen tract is now owned by Moses Hickman.
John Brackenridge owned land in this township as early as 1779, as the records of November 1st of that year show him to have sold one hundred acres to James Matthews, who lived near him. Mr. Brackenridge was elected a justice of the peace on June 18, 1800. He continued to live upon this place, and in February, 1826, died leaving his wife, Catharine Brackenridge, two sons, and three daughters, - John, William, Margaret, Jane, and Agnes. The farm in this township, which at that time contained one hundred and sixty-seven acres, was sold by Mrs. Catharine Brackenridge, John Gilfillam, and Alexander Brackenridge, the executors of the estate, to William Arthur. It passed from one to another, and in 1855 was purchased of James T. Smith by Harvey McMurray, the present owner. Brush Run, a branch of Chartiers Creek, passes through this tract of land. Many years ago a pottery was located upon this stream, the site of the building being near Mr. McMurray's present residence. The business was operated by a man named Bracken, and the clay used therein was found upon the McCloney farm, a short distance east of the pottery. This business was discontinued, and as early as 1830, or before, a woolen-mill was established upon Brush Run by James and William Hannah. In 1840 this mill was remodeled and made into a flouring-mill by William Arthur, and this branch of industry was continued until the destruction of the property by fire in May, 1866. In 1881, Mr. McMurray rebuilt the mill, upon nearly the same site and using the same water-power. The new mill is still in operation, and Mr. McMurray has also a store at the same place.
Daniel Townsend was a native of New Jersey, born at Little Egg Harbor in 1749. He was a soldier in the Revolution. In 1780 he came to this township with his family, and purchased of Joshua Wright, his brother-in-law, three hundred and fifty acres of land, which had been previously surveyed to Wright. A warrant of acceptance was issued to Daniel Townsend for this property March 17, 1790, and the patent was granted a few days later, the tract being named "The Sale." On this farm Mr. Townsend lived and died. Of his children, Elijah settled upon the southeast portion of the homestead, and died there in 1871, leaving a family who still own the farm. Joseph, the other son of Daniel Townsend, married a daughter of Col. William Blackmore, and also made his home upon a portion of his father's farm. He died there in 1871, aged seventy-five years, leaving a family of four children. The daughters of Daniel Townsend were seven in number. Catharine married John Bird, and settled in Beaver County, Pa.; Naomi became Mrs. Uriah Burton, and lived in Peters township; Julia became the wife of Peter Sharp, and went with him to Gallipolis, Ohio; Margaret married William Chisler, and removed to Ashland County, Ohio; Rebecca, now Mrs. John Hozer, settled in Mercer County, Pa.; Ruth is Mrs. Stephen Higby, living in Sandusky, Ohio; and Lydia, who married Arthur Devore, went to Marion, Ohio. Of the children of Joseph, second son of Daniel Townsend, Dr. C. W. Townsend is the eldest; Daniel died leaving a family; Elijah T. is county commissioner, and lives on the homestead; and Margaret, who married J. W. Boyer, lives in Union township.
Before the year 1780, Col. Joseph Beelor was living in Peters township, and owned a tract of land on Chartiers Creek, above the present residence of David G. Phillips, the property now owned by Mr. Phillips and Mrs. Brown. He was actively engaged in the expeditions against the Indians, ranking as colonel under the authority of Virginia until 1781 (by reason of his office of county lieutenant of Yohogania County). He was a justice of the peace under the jurisdiction of Yohogania court, and in 1782 and 1795 was licensed to keep tavern in this township. Col. Beelor passed his life upon his farm in this township. His daughters, Margaret and Mary, settled near him. His only son, Joseph Jr., lived on the farm now occupied by Robert Wilson, on Little Chartiers Creek, adjoining the farm of Moses Coe, He left several children to inherit his property, which was divided equally among them, each receiving a tract of ninety acres.
John McLoney came from the eastern part of Pennsylvania and settled in Peters township at a very early date, but did not receive patents upon the land he located until 1785. He was elected sheriff of Washington County in 1805, and after serving the term of his office kept a tavern from 1808 to 1811. He died at his homestead in this township Feb., 24, 1823, aged eighty-five years. His son, Luke McLoney, also lived and died upon the homestead. It is now owned by Harvey McMurray, and the old log house in which he and his father both lived and died, and in which Margaret McLoney, a sister of Like, was born, is still standing upon the farm. Margaret McLoney is still living unmarried at the age of ninety-seven years at Bower Hill, with a niece, Mrs. Jones Fawcett. John McLoney, a son of Luke McLoney, and grandson of John McLoney, Sr., resides on the National road, in West Bethlehem township, having purchased the Myers farm there a few years ago. He relates many interesting reminiscences of the pioneer days which he gathered from his father and grandfather, some of which occurred within the protection of the block-house then located on Chartiers Creek.
Robert Bell, who purchased the tract "Curious Bend," of Anthony Boley in 1795, came from near Carlisle, Pa. He was married before coming to Peters township, and lived until his death upon the property he purchased here. Anthony Boley first built a cabin below the spring-house, and then put up a better one where the residence now stands. In this first cabin Robert Bell made the early home of himself, wife, five sons, and two daughters. These children have all died except the son Robert and a daughter, who was the youngest child. She married William Barr, and lives on Mingo Creek, near Kammerer's, in Nottingham township, The son Robert, who inherited the homestead, is still living upon it, and is eighty years of age.
John Moore was an early settler in this township, locating upon the land now owned and occupied by his son, Robert Moore. The farm of Dr. Hugh Thompson was on the west side, Ephraim Norton's farm was on the north side, and that of Robert Guthrie bounded it on the east.
The Rev. David Phillips was emphatically the leading clergyman of the pioneer days of Peters township. He was born in Wales in 1742, and emigrated from that country to America with his father's family, settling in Chester County, Pa. He married during his residence at that place, and in 1780 came into Washington County and took a warrant for land which now lies in both Allegheny and Washington Counties. This tract of land was surveyed to him as three hundred and ninety acres, under the title of "Norwich," and he obtained the patent for it March 4, 1786. In 1809 he sold one hundred and fourteen acres of this land to his son Isaac, and the land upon which the present house of worship of Peters Creek Baptist Society stand was granted by Mr. Phillips for the church site. Rev. Mr. Phillips was a member of the Great Valley Baptist Church before coming to this section, and had held a captain's commission in the Revolutionary War. He reared a large family of children, and when he died at the age of eighty-seven years, having given more than forty years of his life to the exclusive service in the cause of Christ, he left numerous descendants. Among them were Rev. T. C. Phillips of New York City; Joshua Phillips, of Pittsburgh, Pa.; J. M. Phillips, of Chattanooga, Tenn.; Byram Pratt, residing in the State of Pennsylvania; and Henry and Archibald Bass, both living in Tennessee. It is said that a full company of lineal descendants of Rev. David Phillips served in the Union army during the late Rebellion, and that at the present time the persons living who trace their lineage directly back to him number nearly one thousand. The old Phillips homestead is now occupied by Charles Phillips.1
[1 The preceding is mainly based on information received from Samuel King, of Allegheny County.]
Enoch Philips came to Peters township, and on April 2, 1796, purchased one hundred and four acres of land of John Allison, a part of the tract patented by Anthony Dunleavy, under the title of "The Tower," this portion of which he sold to John Allison, May 17, 1792. Enoch Phillips continued to reside upon this land for a long time. He kept one of the taverns known here at an early day, it being located at the forks of the road near his farm. He was a soldier in the war of 1812. His son, David Phillips, also kept a house of public entertainment in 1826, occupying the same house his father did at an earlier date. His son, David Phillips, has a farm in this township, and there is still standing upon it a house built in 1814. David Phillips, Jr., was elected to the office of justice of the peace April 10, 1855, and served two terms.
James Mitchell came from Ireland to this country, and served for a time in the Revolutionary war. On Oct. 15, 1791, having come into Peters township, he purchased a part of the tract of land called "Crookston'" of about three hundred acres. The tract was granted to Richard and Levi Crooks on a Virginia certificate, and patented May 1, 1786. James Mitchell made his home for life on the place, save a few years that he lived in Williamsport, now Monongahela City. Mr. Mitchell filled the office of justice of the peace for many years, and was one of the first elders in Peters Creek Church. He had one daughter, who became the wife of John Wright, of Monongahela City. Mr. and Mrs. Wright settled on the Mitchell homestead, and it is still in the possession of their descendants.
Andrew Devore was one of the early settlers of Peters township, although no accurate dates of his investments have been found. He, however, owned a large tract of land, taking it up as one of the original settlers. A portions of the tract is now owned by James Johnston.
Churches--Peters Creek Baptist Church was constituted Nov. 10, 1773, the covenant made and executed on that day being signed by the following persons, viz.:Rev. John Whittaker, minister; members, Thomas Applegate, J. Barrett, Henry Semmons, Peter Elrod, Christopher Miller, Mary Whittaker, Margaret Jaret, and Ailey Lemmons.
The church thus formed used as a place for their religious services a log house which was built on the Robert Estep property, which is now in Union township, but then belonged to the territory of Peters township. The Rev. John Whittaker preached for them for some time after, but for what length of time is not known, as no church records are extant until the year 1793. From a road record filed in the recorder's office at Washington, in this county, it is seen that in 1783 this society presented a petition that a road might be opened "from McKee's Ferry to the Peters Creek Meeting-House."
The trustees of Peters Creek Baptist Church purchased a building site of John Cox and wife, the transfer being made Sept., 10, 1788, according to the tenor of a deed recorded on page 462, Book 2, vol. i., of Washington County records. The church edifice was built on property now owned by Benjamin Lytle, adjoining the Bradford mill.
Among the relics having reference to the early history of the church is an ancient subscription paper which is now in possession of E. M. Townsend, of Peters township, and of which the following is a copy:
"We, the under-subscribers, do promise to pay or cause to be paid the sums annexed to our names, for the use of the Rev. David Phillips, for his labour in the gospel, into the hands of William Phillips, and that on or before the first day of March ensuing.
"Witness our hands this second day of May, 1789.£ s. d. William Phillips................................. 2 0 0 Lemuel Sayer..................................... 2 0 0 Joseph Phillips.................................. 1 0 0 Samuel Foster.................................... 1 0 0 John Masters..................................... 7 6 Peter Sharp...................................... 1 4 0 Richard Masters.................................. 1 0 0 Daniel Townsend.................................. 2 0 0 Peter Rowletter.................................. 1 0 0 Abram Whittaker.................................. 1 0 0 Thomas Rigdon.................................... 1 0 0 William Rigdon................................... 12 0 John Mallory..................................... 6 0
This paper shows that Rev. David Phillips was serving the church at that time. The church then consisted of two branches, one at Elizabethtown and one at Peters Creek. Rev. Mr. Phillips was called to the ministry of these two churches in April, 1781, and in the May following was ordained by a council consisting of Rev. Mr. Woods and William Taylor, and from that date preached at Elizabethtown, Finleyville, and Budd's Ferry, on the Youghiogheny River, until 1793. In the assessment-roll for Peters township in 1784 he is mentioned as "Preaching David Phillips," to distinguish him from Col. David Phillips, also a resident of the township.
In 1793 there occurred a revival in the Peters Creek branch, through which the church was greatly augmented in numbers, and on Jan. 1, 1794, they chose Rev. Mr. Phillips for their pastor. The consolidation with the Elizabethtown branch soon followed, and the two were afterwards one society, and one pastor served both, there being two houses of worship in use, one at or near Gastonville, and one at Elizabethtown.
On April 3, 1810, the property at Gastonville was sold by the pastor and Daniel Townsend and Charles Daily, trustees of said church, to James Gaston. Two years later Samuel Gaston became the owner of the land. The proceeds of the sale of the church property were applied to the erection of a hewed log house upon another building lot, which was the gift of the pastor, Rev. Mr. Phillips, and which was used until 1832, when it gave place to the present brick edifice. Rev. Mr. Phillips continued to discharge the duties of pastor of the Baptist Church until 1824, when he became disqualified by his great age. He died in 1829, of paralysis, leaving many relatives and friends, and loved and honored by all who knew him.
From 1824 to 1829 the church was supplied by several ministers, among whom were Revs. Charles Wheeler, John Winter, and Joshua Bradley. During this time the quiet of the church was so greatly disturbed by the doctrines preached by Rev. Alexander Campbell and others of his faith that on Aug. 5, 1829, a meeting was held and the society adopted the Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith, in concurrence with its former church covenant and discipline, as generally expressive of its views of Scriptural doctrine.
Early in the year 1829, Rev. William Shadrach, a young man who had just commenced to preach, was given a trial in the church, and so pleased the people that he was called to the pastorate of the church, which he accepted. This relation existed for six years (the new brick church being built at a cost of $1250, and the cemetery renovated and improved during the time), when it was dissolved at the pastor's request. Revs. William Penny and Benoni Allen seem to have served the church jointly for the next three years, and were then succeeded by Rev. James Estep, who was unanimously chosen pastor.
This relation continued for nearly a score of years, when Dr. Estep became enfeebled by old age and was obliged to resign, although the occasionally filled the pulpit afterwards. He died Feb. 26, 1861, after having given more than half a century to the ministry.
Rev. David Williams, who came to preach in the church in January, 1859, remained four years, and, under his teachings the church grew and prospered greatly. Of Rev. George Saymore's service here it has been said, "His pastorate took place during the great Rebellion, which moved the heart and tried the spirit, resources, and patriotism of every loyal citizen, and this church felt deeply the paralyzing influence on its prosperity and piety." The Rev. J. W. Collins commenced his labors with the people of Peters Creek Baptist Church in March, 1866, remained two years, and through his influence a number of new members were added to the church, and the building was repaired and improved. Rev. A. G. Collins succeeded him in 1869 and labored three years, when Rev. Henry Lewellen came to the place, and is still in charge, having served all the years in a most gratifying manner.
Since the organization of the Baptist Church the persons who have served as its deacons have been Joseph Phillips, Sr., Joseph Higbee, Charles Daily, Ephraim Estep, Isaac King, William Benson, John King, Joseph Phillips, John Maits, Sr., John Maits, Jr., Samuel Hetts, Peter Boyer, Samuel Boyer, Edward Riggs, and Isaac Phillips. Between six hundred and seven hundred persons have been received on profession of faith, and the contributions of the church to the various evangelical societies have been very liberal in proportion to its ability. Of the many persons who have gone out from this church to engage in ministerial work, Charles and John Rigden labored in Ohio, James Estep and Henry Wade were two of whom but little has been learned, Joshua Phillips is now preaching in Ohio, and J. W. Higbee is in the University of Lewisburg as a licentiate. Sidney Rigden went from here and for some time was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pittsburgh. He first became interested in the peculiar tenets advocated by Rev. Alexander Campbell, and afterwards made a total wreck of his faith and the hopes of his brethren by associating himself with Joseph Smith in originating and espousing Mormonism.
For more than a hundred years this church has been enthusiastic and generous in the advancement of religion, and for upwards of forty years has ably and creditably sustained its excellent Sabbath-school. The church edifice has always belonged to the old original territory of Peters township, but at one time was in the part since set off as Union township, then in Peters township, and is now within the limits of Library, Allegheny County, but a little distance from the county line.
Peters Creek Presbyterian Congregation--A full century ago a religious association was formed in this section, which became the nucleus of the Peters Creek United Presbyterian Congregation, one of the most prosperous and influential religious institutions in Peters township. In January, 1809, this congregation purchased a site whereon they built a house of worship. It was on a lot containing two acres, surveyed from the tract "Crookston," granted to Richard Crooks in 1786, and sold by him in 1791 to James Mitchell. The purchase was made by John Frear, Andrew Borland, Robert Thompson, and Joseph Logan, who were the trustees of the church and they paid ten dollars for the land. The deed conveying the property stipulated for the church the "liberty of the spring west of the meeting-house, and a foot-path to the spring from the meeting-house, and of a road from the main road between James Moss' line and James Mitchell's' line." The following details of the rise, growth, and prosperity of this church are chiefly taken from a historical sermon by the pastor, the Rev. R. M. Patterson.
A portion of the emigrants from Scotland and the north of Ireland who settled in this country were originally connected with the Associate Reformed Church of Scotland. Petitions had been sent by members in the eastern part of Pennsylvania to the Synod of Edinburgh as early as 1754 for missionaries, again in 1758, 1761, and 1770. In the year last named came the Revs. John Smith and John Rogers. Some of those who had emigrated had found for themselves homes in Washington County. They were men like those who sent the first petitions home to Scotland for preaching; they were anxious to have the means of grace ministered to them. Application was made to the Presbytery of Pennsylvania in 1773, and in answer to their prayers Revs. Smith and Rodgers visited this section. It seems that the most central and accessible place of meeting was at Canonsburg. In 1775 the Rev. Matthew Henderson (who came to America as a missionary in response to the call of 1758) came to Canonsburg and ministered to their spiritual wants. The result of this visit was the making out a call for him to become their pastor. He accepted this call, and began his pastorate in 1781. This call, from the best data to be had, was a joint one from three congregations, - Chartiers, Buffalo, and Mingo Creek. The early history of the first and second of these congregations is in a measure complete. Of Mingo Creek there remains nothing but a fragment here and there. So that of the origin of this congregation but little is known and that little not well known. It appears that the first place of meeting together for worship was at or near Daniel Darragh's on Mingo Creek.
That the congregation then called Mingo Creek and the one now called Peters Creek is one and the same appears from the fact that Mrs. Darragh offered the congregation a lot of ground on which to build a church; and at the same time James Mitchell, Esq., offered a lot for the same purpose; and by a vote of the members and those interested Mr. Mitchell's (being the better offer) was accepted, and the church located where it now stands.
There seems to be no doubt but this congregation formed part of Rev. Mr. Henderson's pastoral charge. He was one of those members of the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania who went into the union which gave rise to the Associate Reformed Church in 1782, but he did not remain long with that body. He withdrew and was received back into the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania on the 20th of October, 1789, when a letter was addressed to him by Presbytery, and also to the three congregations over which he had the pastoral care, viz.: Chartiers, Mill Creek, and Mingo Creek. From this it seems evident the first pastor of this congregation was the Rev. Matthew Henderson, although there is no record to show that he was formally installed over it as a part of his charge, or that the congregation was organized by the election of elders during his ministry. It is probable none were elected, and that the members either went to Chartiers on communion Sabbaths, or the session of Chartiers came with the pastor to assist in the dispensation of the supper.
In the absence of any data to prove the installation of the Rev Mr. Henderson or the election of elders, it is shown that the labors of Mr. Henderson were with a congregation in its swaddling bands, unable to walk or even bear a name, for it was not released from these or had an official name until October, 1795.
A short time after the Rev. Mr. Henderson's death, October, 1795, different ministers visited the congregation and preached to them, but only one name is remembered as having been spoken of by the fathers, Rev. James Proudfit.
In the summer of 1796, a call was made out for Rev. John Smith, and he, having accepted the call, began his pastoral labors about the 15th of November. He remained as pastor of this congregation, it is believed, until the early summer of 1803, when he was released by the Presbytery of Chartiers, and at its meeting Aug. 31, 1803, he was suspended from the ministry.
From this time till 1808 the history of the congregation is a blank, but now the congregation is again settled by the Rev. Dr. Bunce taking the pastoral charge if it in connection with Pittsburgh. This relation continued with perfect harmony between pastor and people until the year 1814, when the relation was severed that his whole time might be given to Pittsburgh.
The congregation was again placed on the list of vacancies, and not until 1817 was it again named with the settled congregations.
On the 2d day of April, 1817, a call was made by the congregation for the pastoral labors of Rev. Alexander Wilson, and was by him accepted, and on the 8th day of October he was ordained and installed pastor of this congregation. The Rev. Mr. Ramsey preached the ordination sermon from Eph. iii 8, and the Rev. Mr. Anderson delivered the charge to pastor and people. The relation thus formed continued through a period of twenty-two years, when it was dissolved by his own act in severing his connection with the Associate Church and uniting with the Associate Reformed Presbytery of Monongahela, and shortly after was settled in Cadiz, Ohio, where he remained about twenty years. He died in Philadelphia , Pa., June 20, 1867, in the seventy-fifth year of his age.
After the Rev. Mr. Wilson's withdrawal the congregation was without a settled pastor for about eighteen months, when, about the beginning of July, 1840, Mr. James Brown, a licentiate of the Associate Synod, having received and accepted a call to become pastor of the congregation, began his labors, and was ordained and installed Sept. 11, 1840. He continued his pastorate until the first Tuesday of December, 1843 when he was released. He then took charge of the congregation of Keokuk, Iowa.
The congregation thus left vacant by the resignation of the Rev. James Brown after a short but successful and acceptable pastorate, were without a pastor until the 14th of October, 1845, when the Rev. James C. Herron was ordained and installed. This relation he sustained until 1852, when he was released to enter upon the mission to California, to which he had been appointed by Synod.
Again for a period of about two years the congregation was vacant. In the August of 1854, Mr. James B. Whitton began his labors as pastor and on the 25th of October following he was ordained and installed. Two years after his settlement he received and accepted a call from a congregation in the city of New York.
After the usual length of interval between pastorates, Mr. A. Y. Houston began his labors on the first Sabbath of January, 1858, and on the 17th of February was ordained and installed pastor. He remained with the congregation until December, 1864.
On the 21st of June, 1867, the Rev. John Patterson began his labors in the congregation and was in the following September installed as pastor. He was released on the 30th of April, 1872, and was installed by the Beaver Valley Presbytery over the congregations of Mountville and Camp Run Aug. 25, 1874.
The Rev. R. M. Patterson, the present pastor, began his labors on the first Sabbath of January, 1873, and was installed on the 6th of February by the following committee of Presbytery: Rev. D. M. B. McLean, William Weir, and Thomas Balph. Thus in a period beginning with the first known election of elders, of eighty-one years, this congregation has had but sixty-one years of pastoral care, divided among nine pastors, being on an average of a little less than seven years to each one.
The first elders of the church, elected in October, 1795, were James Mitchell, Thomas Douglass, Neil McNeil, and John McCormick. When or by whom they were ordained and installed is not known. During Rev. Mr. Smith's pastorate David Bower and Adam Gott (Gault) were elected elders. It is not known that there was any change in the session from that time till August, 1812, when Mr. Gott (Gault) died. In 1824 James Anderson, a member of the session, died. No record of his election as elder is found.
During the years 1825-26, Messrs. George Murray and Daniel Leggett were elected and ordained. In 1828 the session was increased by the election of Frederick Whitely, Hugh Lusk, and probably Hance Dunlap. These men were ordained and installed by Rev. Alexander Wilson. In 1830 another change occurred by the death of Mr. Thomas Arthur. The time of his election and ordination is unknown. Until July of this year, 1830, in so far as known, the four elders who constituted the first session still remained members of it; but at that time Mr. John McCormick died. Thus far the church was without a minute-book. On the 28th of May, 1831, the minutes of Peters Creek session begin. The roll of members is as follows: D. Bower, James Mitchell, Hugh Boyd, Hugh Lusk, Frederick Whitely, John Calahan, Hance Dunlap, and George Murray. On the 27th of September, 1831, Mr. David Gibson was elected an elder, and on the 14th of October was installed, he having been an elder in the Secession Church. On the 11th of May, 1836, the session was enlarged by the election of James McCormick, Sr., James Crawford, and James McNeil. They were ordained and installed on the 26th, and their names added to the roll of the session. Between the 28th of May and the 18th of August two members of session, viz., Frederick Whitely and Daniel Leggett, were removed by death. The record of Jan. 7, 1839, records the death of David Bower. He had been an elder about forty years. James McCormick, Sr., who was elected a member of session in 1836, was in 1839 called away by death. On the 18th of January, 1841, Archibald McCallister and Ebenezer Archer were elected members of session, and on the first Sabbath of the following March were ordained. The following note is found in the minutes in the year 1841: "James Mitchell, a very aged member of the congregation, and during most of his life a member of the session, was removed by death about the 1st of January." He was the last of the four original elders. He served the church as an elder forty-six years. From May 28, 1831, until Jan. 17, 1839, the minute-book reports thirty-nine meetings of sessions, and James Mitchell was at thirty-six of them. May 13, 1843, Ebenezer Archer was chosen clerk.
On the 16th of April, 1846, James McFadden and James M. Bryant were elected elders. They were ordained and installed on the 7th of May. The record of Oct. 26, 1849, shows that John Wilson and William Murray had been elected members of session, and at this meeting it was ordered that they be ordained on the first Sabbath in November. The session was again enlarged by the election of William Howie, Andrew Crawford, and Richard Patterson. Messrs. Howie and Crawford were ordained, and Mr. Patterson installed, he having been an elder in Centre Presbyterian congregation. On the 12th of February, 1863, James McCormick, Samuel Murray, and James R. Wilson were ordained and installed members of session. The last addition to the session was made Sept. 2, 1867, by the election of Thompson Benton, Harvey Wadsworth, and Edward Wright. The former of these was installed, being an elder in the congregation of Union, and the latter ordained and installed on the 28th of November, 1867. The present members of session (1882) are Thompson Benton, (clerk), James McFadden, Harvey Wadsworth, Richard Patterson, Edward Wright, James McCormick, and James K. Wilson. The present trustees are Harvey McMurray, James Crawford, John Patterson, William McConkey, A. W. Pollock, and Alexander Douglas.
In 1841 the report to the Synod shows a membership of two hundred and four, and the same in 1851. In 1861 there is reported only one hundred members; in 1871, one hundred and sixty-nine; and there is now reported (1882) one hundred and fifty-six members of this church.
Peters Creek Christian Church1--The Christian Church in Peters township, near Library, Pa., was the offspring of the agitation in the Baptist Churches of Western Pennsylvania about the year 1830. In 1829 the Baptist Church at Library had a great many accessions under the labors of William Shadrach, then pastor of the church. These converts were not committed to the doctrines of the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, and were disposed to allow greater freedom in the exercise of that "soul liberty" which had reflected glory upon the Baptist denomination. [1 By Rev. W. L. Hayden] Among these accessions was Henry Bennett, who, not agreeing with the Baptists in doctrine, was accused of heresy, and in 1833 was excommunicated because he believed in baptism for the remission of sins, as taught in Acts ii 38, and that in conversion the Holy Spirit operates only through the word of God. About this time William Shadrach stated in the monthly church meeting that there was a report in circulation that some of the members of the church had embraced the heresies taught by Alexander Campbell, and moved that a committee of five be appointed to draft articles of faith expressive of the views of the church in contradistinction to these heresies. This motion prevailed, and the committee was composed of William Shadrach, Enoch Wright, Esq., Daniel Van Voorhis, Samuel Boyer, and Edward Riggs. At the instance of the committee the chairman, William Shadrach, wrote five articles setting forth the Baptist faith on the points in question. Four member of the committee signed these articles, but Edward Riggs refused to sign the paper for two reasons, viz.: First, he did not believe the articles were in contradistinction to the teaching of A. Campbell; and, second, if he did so believe, he would not sign them, for they, as Baptists, had no more right to proscribe Mr. Campbell in the articles of faith than they had to proscribe any other man with whom they might disagree. He believed in "soul liberty." At the next meeting of the church William Shadrach read the articles to the church, and moved that they be annexed to the church covenant, and that all the members be required to sign their names to the amended covenant, or be dealt with accordingly. A small minority of the members complied with this requirement, but a large majority declined to commit themselves. The minority then passed a resolution that all the members who did not sign the newly-amended covenant should be suspended from the fellowship of the church until they did so. Soon after this action this same minority removed the lock from the door of the meeting-house, and put a new one in its place, and thus retained possession. While these events were transpiring, David Newmyre preached occasionally at the house of Edward Riggs, who was yet a deacon in the Baptist Church. This aroused suspicion, and an ineffectual attempt was made to get him out of his position. At length in 1835 he was called a heretic and a disturber of the church and disowned. After his exclusion the most of the discontented members went back, and were reconciled to the church, the obnoxious articles having been previously expunged from the covenant.
The prominent members who were left out, under the leading of David Newmyre, planted a congregation of Disciples of Christ at Edward Riggs' house in 1836, consisting at first of six members, to wit: Edward Riggs, James Boyer, Samuel Blackmore, Henry Bennett, Sarah Moore, and Sarah Philips. These persons united themselves together to maintain public worship on every Lord's day according to the order of the primitive church, and were governed by the New Testament alone.
The infant church continued to meet in the dwelling-house of Mr. Riggs for about three years, and slowly increased in numbers, some coming from the Baptists, and others from the world by conversion. The preachers during this time were Robert Forrester, Warrick Martin, Richard Ward, James Darsie, and John T. Smith. Those added by immersion were Mary Tidball, Josiah Philips, Obadiah Higbee, David Higbee, Davis Hammond, Benjamin Abbott, and Margaret Philips.
In the autumn of 1839 a brick meeting-house was competed on a lot a little east of the site if the present house. In the spring of 1840 Thomas Campbell visited the congregation and set in order the things that were wanting by setting apart Edward Riggs as elder, and James Boyer, Obadiah Higbee, and William Morrison as deacons. On March 7, 1840, John Boyer gave a deed to James Boyer, John Philips, and Edward Riggs, trustees of the Disciple or Christian Church, of a lot containing three thousand square feet, for the consideration of one dollar. The congregation met in the brick house which had been erected on this lot for nineteen years, when, by reason of some fault in construction, it was declared unsafe for meetings.
On the 22nd of March, 1856, John Philips and Edward Riggs, trustees of the property belonging to the church gave a deed to James Boyer of the lot above described, for the consideration of one dollar. On the 23d of the preceding January, James Boyer and wife gave a deed to John Philips and Edward Riggs, trustees, etc., for the lot now owned by the church. The present frame house was built on this lot in 1858. In the same year Edward Riggs moved to California, Pa., and the oversight of the church devolved chiefly upon David Higbee, who was chosen as elder, and was ordained to the office on Jan. 10, 1859, by his brother, Jesse Higbee, assisted by Thomas Strathem and Henry Bennett, on the occasion of the formal opening of the new house. At the same time John Philips was set apart as deacon. Here the church has met ever since.
Most of the time the church has been without a settled preacher, and the elders before named, with others sometimes associated with them in counsel and official responsibility, have endeavored to feed and care for the flock of God over which they had been made overseers. A few times preachers have located with them and preached regularly, but seldom more frequently than every other Lord's day. Beside this, the church has enjoyed frequent visits from preaching brethren, and had the labors of some able men in protracted meetings, which resulted in the edification of the church and in additions to the membership.
Among the preachers not already mentioned who have labored, statedly or occasionally, with this church are the following, viz.: R. Milligan, William Baxter, Henry Langley, Samuel Church, Robert Ashworth, J. Bryson Piatt, L. P. Streator, Marcus Bosworth, James E. Gaston, W. W. Eaton, Charles Berry, Henry Bennett, W. J. Loos, J. L. Darsie, M. L. Streator, William S. Loyd, E. L. Allen, N. P. Lawrence, O. G. Hertzog, A. Wilcox, Carroll Ghent, Thomas Strathern, J. F. Rowe, J. C. Hay, Benjamin Franklin, L. F. Bittle, S. B. Teagarden, and W. L. Hayden.
On Nov. 11, 1879, John S. Galley was set apart as elder, W. L. Hayden officiating, and has since shared in the oversight and the public instruction of the congregation. He has acted as superintendent of the Sunday-school, which numbers about twenty-five pupils. In this work E. B. Philips has been an efficient aid, and has sometimes been called to the superintendency.
The congregation has been constantly depleted by emigration, and has thus been a feeder for other churches, But it has steadily and quietly held on its course, and received into its fellowship about one hundred and fifty members. The present membership is forty, all of whom are regarded in good standing, and the church is in a peaceful and healthy condition.
In all its history this rural church has borne faithful testimony to the truth of God, has been careful to maintain good works, and to promote righteousness in the measure of its ability and influence, and still abides as a monument of fidelity to cherished convictions and of Christian steadfastness.
Centre Presbyterian Church1--This Christian organization had its origin in the year 1828. It was organized by persons who had been members of neighboring congregations of the same denomination, namely, Chartiers, Bethel, Bethany, and Mingo. Because its house of worship was nearly the same distance from each of the four churches above mentioned the congregation was called Centre. The increased population in that vicinity and the inconvenience of going several miles to a place of worship led to the organization of Centre Church.
[1 By Rev. Francis J. Collier]
The Presbytery at first only allowed the people to organize, build a church, and have preaching occasionally and the administration of the sacraments. At a later period they were permitted to call a pastor. Having received permission from Presbytery, the people soon built a brick church, fifty feet in length and forty in width, at a cost of twelve hundred dollars, on a piece of land donated by Daniel Bell. Their next step was to send a petition to the Presbytery, in session at Canonsburg, Jan. 5, 1830, asking the privilege of calling a pastor, and their request was granted.
Under the first action of the Presbytery, Centre Church was regularly organized on the 29th of August, 1829, which was a year and four months after the people began to hold religious services. Dr. Matthew Brown, president of Jefferson College, being appointed by the Presbytery, presided at the organization of the congregation. Daniel Coe and George Craighead were elected, ordained, and installed as ruling elders. On Dec. 10, 1830, Jacob Bell, an elder from Chartiers Church, Samuel Wilson, an elder from Bethel, and Alexander Anderson, an elder from Bethany, were added to the session of Centre. Since that time the following-named persons have served as elders, viz.: John Barr, William Park, and John Fife, ordained Aug. 3, 1834; William Crouch, an elder from Chartiers Church, elected Sept. 25, 1836; William Hill, Richard Patterson, and Joseph Van Eman, ordained Jan 14., 1844; Thomas Fife, Samuel Van Eman, and Arthur J. Hopper, ordained April 1, 1855; James Espy, an elder from Bethel Church, installed May 9, 1860; William R. Craighead, William H. Barr, John B. Bell, and Robert L. Park, ordained April 23, 1876.
Under the second action of the Presbytery, allowing the people to call a pastor, a meeting was held four months afterwards, on May 4, 1830, and they united in a call to Rev. John H. Kennedy, Professor of Mathematics in Jefferson College. Prof. Kennedy accepted the call, and served the church for ten years, when he resigned on account of ill health. He died of consumption Dec. 15, 1840.
After Prof. Kennedy's resignation there was a vacancy for one year, and only occasional service was held. In 1841, Rev. Alexander B. Brown, Professor of Belles-Lettres and Adjunct Professor of Languages in Jefferson College, became stated supply, and preached at Centre about four years.
Rev. Robert W. Orr, Professor of Civil Engineering and Natural History in Jefferson College, was chosen pastor in 1845, and his ministry at Centre lasted seven years, or until 1852. Towards the close of his pastorate a new church edifice was erected, a few rods south of the old one, on higher ground. It was built of brick and cost two thousand dollars. The building was begun in the spring of 1851 and finished early the following year.
Rev. William F. Hamilton, a native of Monongahela City, Pa., a graduate of Washington College in 1844, and of Allegheny Theological Seminary in 1849, succeeded Rev. Robt. W. Orr in the pastorate at Centre. It was his first charge. He began to preach there in September, 1852. He was installed May 2, 1853. His labors continued until April, 1855, when he was released by the Presbytery of Ohio. He removed to Uniontown, Pa. For several months subsequently the pulpit was supplied by various ministers of the gospel.
Centre Church again enjoyed the ministrations of Rev. Alexander B. Brown, D.D., who returned after an absence of ten years, during which period he served first as a professor and then as president of Jefferson College at Canonsburg. His health being impaired, he resigned his office as president in 1856, and removed to a farm which he purchased in the vicinity of Centre. For two years he preached to the congregation as often as his strength would permit, and there being for a while an evident improvement in his health, he yielded to the entreaties of the people and became their pastor in 1858. His labors, which greatly promoted the spiritual welfare of the church, were continued until Dec. 18, 1862, when, owing to physical debility, Dr. Brown gave up his charge. The people met at that time and passed resolutions expressing their sympathy for Dr. Brown in his severe affliction, and declaring their high appreciation of his services, talents, and piety. He died on the 8th of September, 1863. In the graveyard at Centre a handsome marble monument, erected by the willing hands of a loving and grateful people, marks the spot where his body reposes. Dr. Brown's labors at Centre, from 1841 to 1845 and from 1856 to 1862, though much interrupted, covered a period of ten years.
One month after the death of Dr. Brown the congregation called Rev. Francis J. Collier, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, a graduate of Jefferson college in 1858, and of Princeton Theological Seminary in 1862, and who was at the time of his call a licentiate of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, in which city he resided. He began his labors at Centre in November, 1863, and continued until February, 1871, two months after the dissolution of his pastoral relation. During his pastorate of seven years and three months one hundred persons were added to the membership of the church, more than nine thousand dollars was raised for various objects, the edifice was painted, papered, carpeted, and otherwise improved, and the first building, then standing, was torn down. William Park, an esteemed elder, amiable, generous, and devoted, a man full of faith and good works, was called to his reward Nov. 6, 1870. An affection of the eyes influenced Mr. Collier to resign. After leaving Centre he went to Europe in the spring of 1871 with Rev. Dr. William P. Breed, of Philadelphia. On his return he was recalled to Centre, but declined. In 1872 he settled at Downingtown, Chester Co, Pa., where he has labored since.
In August, 1872, after a vacancy in the pastorate of a year and a half, the congregation called Rev. Ezra S. Heany, a native of Reiglesville, Bucks Co., Pa., a graduate of Lafayette College in 1867, and of the Western Theological Seminary, Allegheny, in 1870, then pastor of Mount Pisgah Presbyterian Church, near Pittsburgh. He was installed Nov. 14, 1872, and was pastor until April, 1878, five years and five months, when he was released by the Presbytery of Pittsburgh. After leaving Centre he took charge of a church at Strasburg, in Lancaster County, Pa., to which he has since ministered.
The church was without a pastor, and the pulpit was supplied by different ministers for a year after Mr. Heany left. On the 9th of June, 1879, Rev. Alexander B. Brown, son of Rev. A. B. Brown, deceased, a member of the congregation, a graduate of the Western Theological Seminary, Allegheny, and a licentiate of the Presbytery of Pittsburgh, was elected pastor. After preaching some months he was ordained and installed Dec. 15, 1879. Under his faithful ministry the church is prospering. A neat dwelling for the sexton was built during the past year. The church has a membership of one hundred and fifty-six, and there are one hundred and thirty-five persons connected with the Sunday-school.
Schools--The first school recollected in Peters township was held in a little log cabin on the Blackmore property, where John Galley now lives, in the year 1800. The cabin was first built for a dwelling, but was converted to the use of this first school. A little later another school-house was built on the farm of Abram Ward, the one now owned by John Swagler, This school was taught by Ephraim Sayers. In 1805 a school-house was put up on the farm of James Gailey, where Messrs. Burke, Flemming, and Crawford were teachers at different times, and which was made to do service for many years. In the year 1809 a log school-house was in use about a mile up the run from the forks of Chartiers Creek, which was rather old then. Martha Reed was the earliest teacher now remembered in this house.
Peters township accepted the new school law in 1835, and shared in the first State appropriations. In that year the township was divided into four districts, - Bower Hill, Townsend, Craighead, and Dennison. The number of taxable persons in the township at that time was two hundred and forty-eight, and the amount of money collected that year was $204.35. In 1836 the township received $79.22 from the State, and the next year $287.75. The first new building put up after the adoption of the school law was on the road from James Johnston's farm to Bower Hill. The township remained divided into four districts until 1859, when the section known as Townsend, Bower Hill, and Dennison Districts was made into four districts, the new one being given the name of Wright District.
This was the first township in the county to establish a higher grade of schools, adopting the graded school system in 1876, with A.B. Stanford as principal. The graded schools were thrown open to all the pupils in the township who were sufficiently advanced to profit thereby.
In 1863 Peters township contained five school districts, employed eight teachers, and had two hundred and ten pupils enrolled, The total amount collected for school purposes was $1250, and the mount expended was $539.75. In 1873 there were five teachers in the five districts, and two hundred and twelve scholars in attendance. The amount of tax levied for school purposes was $1528.57, and total receipts $1920.56. The cost of the schools that year was $1768.55. In 1880 the number of districts had increased to six, with seven teachers employed, and one hundred and forty-three pupils enrolled, The receipts for schools were $1887.63, and the total expenditures $1812.99.
Justices of the Peace--Peters was an original township and independent district till 1803. Upon the laying out of election districts it was embraced with Nottingham in District No. 6, and so remained till 1838, when it became a separate district. Following is a list of justices of the peace of the township from its erection to the present time, viz.:
John Douglas, July 15, 1781 George Bentley, March 4, 1811 Robert Thompson, July 15, 1781 James Gordon, Dec. 7, 1811 John Douglas, March 3, 1789 William Wallace, Jan. 20, 1817 James Mitchell, Aug. 24, 1790 John Bower, Jan. 16, 1819 John Campbell, Feb. 8, 1799 Wash. Parkinson, Dec. 13, 1820 John Breckenridge, June 18, 1800 Joseph Pollock, Jr., Dec. 3, 1822 John Hair, July 4, 1806 Enoch Phillips, March 1, 1823 Simeon Hailman, Jan. 7, 1808 Dennis Darragh, March 6, 1823 Enoch Wright, March 29, 1808 Elijah Townsend, Dec. 3, 1823 S. Bentley, Jr., Feb. 18, 1830 Ebenezer Archer, April 15, 1845 Enoch Wright, Oct. 16, 1830 Robert Caldwell, April 9, 1850 Dennis Darragh, Nov. 11, 1830 John Bower, April 11, 1854 Ephraim Estep, Jan 23, 1834 David Philips, April 10, 1855 George Gibbony, Dec. 6, 1834 George E. Smith, May 13, 1858 James McGrew, Nov. 18, 1835 David Philips, April 10, 1860 Elijah Teeple, Dec. 7, 1835 George E. Smith, April 14, 1863 Levi Finley, Feb. 16, 1836 David Philips, June 3, 1865 John Clemens, March 18, 1836 George E. Smith, April 14, 1868 John Kennedy, June 1, 1836 David Philips, Nov. 30, 1870 John Samuels, Nov. 1, 1836 George E. Smith, April 25, 1873 John McLoney, April 14, 1840 George E. Smith, Jan. 29, 1874 Elijah Townsend, April 14, 1840 David Philips, Jan. 31, 1874 John Bower, April 9, 1844 George E. Smith, March 25, 1876 John Bower, April 10, 1849 John H. Murphy, March 27, 1879
Physicians--Dr. Hugh Thompson was the earliest resident physician of Peters township of whom any knowledge is obtained. He lived very near Thompsonville, and practiced his profession over a large tract of county. He died many years ago. His son, Robert Thompson, familiarly called "Doctor Bob," succeeded to his father's large practice, retaining it for a long time. He eventually removed to Bridgeville, where he married a Mrs. Beltzhoover, and died in the house now occupied by Dr. Donaldson. A daughter of Dr. Hugh Thompson married Dr. Carlisle, of Thompsonville, where he lived and died.
Dr. C. W. Townsend was born in Peters township, and is a son of Joseph Townsend. He studied medicine with Dr. William B. Lauk, of Finleyville, attended lectures at a medical college in Ohio in 1847 and 1848, and in 1849 and 1850 pursued his studies at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He commenced to practice while residing upon the old homestead in this township, but in 1860 purchased the farm at Bower Hill on which he still lives. He has a practice that extends through his own and several adjoining townships.
Dr. David M. Anderson is a native of Beaver County, Pa., and is a brother-in-law of Dr. Townsend. In the early gold excitement in California he accompanied his father to that State going from there to South America; remained there two years and commenced the study of medicine during his stay in that country. He returned to this State about the time that Fort Sumter was attacked, and entered the Western army in the capacity of surgeon. He remained in the service until the close of the war, when he went to New York City and graduated from Bellevue Medical College. He came to Peters township, married a daughter of Rev. Joseph Wright, and commenced and still continues the practice of medicine here. He is also extensively interested in coal operations, his mines lying along the line of the Pittsburgh Southern Railroad.
Thompsonville--This village has grown up at the point in Peters township where Moses and John Thompson settled in 1814. They opened a store at Thompsonville, next commenced the mercantile trade at Library, in Allegheny County, and then at Finleyville, in Washington County. In these different places the brothers accumulated a little money, and then began an extensive trade between New Orleans and Pittsburgh, being the first in that line in this section of country. Afrerwards they opened a broker's office in Pittsburgh. During the panic these men made considerable money, operating in bank paper, and after that they engaged in the wool trade. In one year, 1859 or 1860, they purchased wool at twenty-five cents and held it until, by reason of the war, it brought them one dollar and five cents per pound for their whole investment. In 1860 they bought the fine farm in Union township, upon which they went to live. John Thompson died not long afterwards, and Moses died in 1880. The widow of Moses Thompson is still living on the farm in Union township. The subjects of this sketch were in no way related to Dr. Hugh Thompson, also an early settler of Peters township.
Post-Offices--Of the several post-offices which have been established in Peters township the first was at Thompsonville, the office being in the store of Moses and John Thompson, and Moses was appointed postmaster. The office was established about 1815, or soon after the Thompson brothers settled in this township. The persons who succeeded Moses Thompson in the office of postmaster were James Moore, James Reed, Dr. John Fife, James Pollock, Robert Caldwell, David G. Moore, A. W. Pollock, H. H. Brown, J. J. Vaneman, D. J. Moore, D. F. Brown, and William C. Wright, the present postmaster.
On Aug. 21, 1880, a post-office, known as the McMurray office, was established in this township. James McMurray is the postmaster, having received this appointment when the office was established.
There is an office at McComb's Station, on the Pittsburgh Southern Railroad, called the Venetia post-office. This office has existed only since September 1880, and Leonard McCormick is the postmaster.
The office at Bower Hill was established under the administration of James Buchanan. John Bower was the first postmaster appointed, and has been the only one, continuing in the office from that time until the present.
ELIJAH TOWNSENDElijah Townsend was born in Peters township, Washington Co., Pa., May 8, 1784, the eldest son of Daniel and Lydia Townsend. His father was among the first settlers of Peters township. He emigrated from England with his brothers John and Isaiah. His children were Judith, Rebecca, Catharine, Elijah, Oma, Charity, Lydia, Margaret, and Joseph. All were married and raised families; all are deceased (1882) except Margaret.
Daniel Townsend was a well-to-do farmer, owning at the time of his death about four hundred acres of land in Peters township, which was divided between his sons Elijah and Joseph, and is still owned by his descendants. He was born Aug. 13, 1747; died July 31, 1833. His wife, Lydia, was born Dec. 5, 1751; died Sept. 5, 1819. Elijah Townsend always lived in Peters township. He was a prosperous farmer, owning at the time of his death a number of farms in addition to the homestead farm. He was a great reader, and was emphatically a self-educated man. In politics he was first a Democrat, but in later years of his life became identified with the Republican party. At an early age he united with the Baptist Church at Library, and was an active member and a liberal supporter of that church for many years. The last years of his life and at the time of his death he was a member of the Maple Creek Church.
He was an officer in the war of 1812, and was justice of the peace in Peters twenty-one years. No successful appeal was ever made from his decisions. No stronger evidence could be furnished of his sterling good sense and excellent judgment. His advice and counsel were often sought in settlement of questions of difference among neighbors. The poor always found in him a steadfast friend.
He was united in marriage April 30, 1807, to Nancy, daughter of Edward and Mary Riggs. The marriage ceremony was performed by the Rev. David Phillips.
Mrs. Townsend was born June 20, 1787. Their children were Mary, born Feb. 28, 1808, married to Robert Phillips; six children living; she is deceased. Lydia, born Jan. 16, 1810, wife of F. K. Cooper, a farmer at Ginger Hill; two children. John, born Jan. 30, 1812, a merchant at White Mill Station, married Catharine McLaughlan; four children. Eleanor, born Jan. 25, 1814, wife of Dr. John Gousher, a physician residing in Cleveland, Ohio. Mrs. Gousher is deceased; four children. Rebecca, born Jan. 22, 1816, wife of John Hill; four children. Daniel, born March 22, 1818, twice married; first wife, Nancy Larimer, by whom he had three children; second wife, Rosanna Tenant, one child. Edward R., born June 22, 1820, married Jane Larimer; three children living. Elizabeth, born June 22, 1820, owning and residing at the homestead. Joseph, born Dec. 25, 1824; died in infancy. Enoch Wright, born Oct. 12, 1825, a physician living in Greensburg, Westmoreland Co., Pa., married Sarah Garner. Margaret Ann, born Nov. 16, 1827, living at the homestead. William, born Jan. 15, 1831, married Mary A. Devore, one son.
Mr. Townsend died May 18, 1871; his wife June 11, 1861.
*Boyd Crumrine, "History of Washington County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men" (Philadelphia: L. H. Leverts & Co., 1882).
Transcribed by Janet Van Duser of Phoenixville, PA in June 1998. Published in June 1998 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at http://www.chartiers.com.
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