Pennsylvania USGenWeb Archives

Clearfield County

History of Clearfield County

by

Lewis Cass Aldrich

published 1887

 

Chapter 24

 

Copyright

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HIST0RY
OF
CLEARFIELD COUNTY
PENNSYLVANIA

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES
OF SOME OF ITS PROMINENT MEN AND PIONEERS

EDITED BY
LEWIS CASS ALDRICH

SYRACUSE, N. Y.
D. MASON & CO., PUBLISHERS
1887

 

 Chapter 24

Pages

414

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Page 414

HISTORY OF CLEARFIELD COUNTY.

 

CHAPTER XXIV.

HISTORY OF BELL TOWNSHIP.

 

     THE township of Bell was organized at the same time, under the same procedure, and by the same commissioners that laid out and erected the other townships of Burnside and Penn, to the formation of which several distinct bodies, the older townships of Pike and Chest surrendered their territory, the latter yielding to the new erections a major part of her lands, and the former somewhat less.

 

     As near as can be determined at this time (the Quarter Sessions records being so defective as to give no light on the matter), the first petition was presented to the court at a term thereof in December, 1834, which petition, with the names of signers thereto, was as follows :

 

     " To the Honorable Thomas Burnside, Esquire, and his associates, Judges of the court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Clearfield county, now holding court for the same, December term 1834.

     " The petition of the undersigned, citizens of Pike and Chest townships, most respectfully sheweth, That they, with many others, labor under many disadvantages, as well as the public in general, by the said townships being so large, many of us being from twelve to fourteen miles from the place of holding the elections, and the supervisors having to go all over them. In many


 

 

 

 

Page 415

BELL TOWNSHIP.

 

cases parts of the roads are nearly neglected, to the great injury of the public ; and in truth, the loss of money by them, having to travel so far that half the day is spent before they get on the ground to work. We therefore pray your honors, to appoint suitable citizens to lay off part of said townships, in a separate township, if they shall deem it meet, and your petitioners will ever pray.", Signed, " William Haslet, George Walters, James Elder, John. McCracken, jr., Greenwood Bell, Jacob Walters, Henry Ross, Moses C. Evans, Thomas Logan, Thomas Campbell, I. W. Campbell, William McCracken, jr., John Henry, James B. Graham, Matthew Irvin, Samuel McCewen, John J. McCracken, George Ross, David McCracken, David Ferguson, James Reed, Arthur Bell, John Weaver, Peter Smith, John Smith, jr., John D. Sunderland, Timothy Lee, James Mahaffey, sen., John Mahaffey, Thomas Mahaffey, James Mahaffey, jr., Michael Sunderland, Milton Cooke, Benjamin Hartshorn, and Peter Owens." Nearly all of these were residents of that part of Pike and Chest that was formed into Bell township.

 

     Upon the presentation of this petition, the court made an order appointing Alexander B. Reed, David Ferguson, and James Allport, viewers, to examine into the matter and make report to the next Quarter Sessions Court.

 

     This was followed by no less than three supplemental petitions, numerously signed by inhabitants of that part of the townships proposed to be divided, and who were more or less directly interested in the matter ; and the fact appears that nearly every resident of the locality took part in the proceedings, either as petitioners or remonstrators, although no record other than the viewers' report shows a remonstrance.

 

     In their report made in February, following, the commissioners say : " The undersigned, commissioners, appointed by the Court of Quarter Sessions, to lay out new townships from parts of Pike and Chest, which shall be more convenient for the inhabitants of said townships, after having examined the petitions and remonstrances referred to them by the court, and consulting with the people, do report the (annexed) diagram to be agreeable to the prayer of the petitioners, and for the general benefit of the inhabitants of the same. As witness our hands this 4th day of February, 1834. Signed, A. B. Reed, James Allport, David Ferguson."

 

     There is an evident clerical error in the report, wherein it is dated in the year 1834, as the petitions were not referred to the commissioners until the month of December, 1834. The date should read as February 4, 1835.

 

     The commissioners also suggest names for the townships, as the following note will show, which note is a part of their proceeding : ,

" The undersigned, without presuming to dictate to the honorable court, most respectfully suggest the names affixed to the numbers (below), as appro­priate ones for the respective townships : No. 1, Cherry Tree, ' Burnside ;' No. 2, Bells, ' Bell;' No. 3, Grampian Hills, ' Penn ;' No. 4, Chest Creek, ' Chest.' "

 
 

 

 

Page 416

HISTORY OF CLEARFIELD COUNTY.

 

The numbers and the names immediately following them are used for the purpose of designating the several localities by which they were formerly known. The face of the plan or draft of Bell township annexed to the report of the commissioners, bears, in the handwriting of the court, these words : " This township named ' Bell,' for the late A. Bell, esq., who was an early settler, and his son, Greenwood Bell, esq., who resides therein. By the Court. T. B.''

 

     The laying out and division made under these proceedings was confirmed on the 4th day of May, 1835, by Hon. Thomas Burnside, president judge.

 

     As laid out by these proceedings, Bell township had an extreme length, north and south, of eight miles, and a general width of six miles, with a large tract in addition, that embraced lands on both sides of the river Susquehanna, and extending in a direction east by northeast for a distance of something over five and one-half miles. This irregularly shaped addition was attached to the territory included by the township, with the evident intent of retaining as much as possible of the lands bordering on the river. By a subsequent township erection, however, a part of these lands have been surrendered to the formation of Greenwood, by which Bell, as now constituted, is of comparatively regular form, and contains an area of about fifty-five square miles. It is bounded north by Brady ; east by Penn, Greenwood, and a small portion of Chest ; south by Chest and Burnside townships, and west by Indiana and Jefferson counties.

 

     In the northern part of the township the land is very high, the crest of the divide between the waters of the Susquehanna River and Mahoning Creek, often reaching a height of two thousand two hundred feet and over above tide water. This high land marks the uplift of the second or Chestnut ridge anticlinal axis, and is capped by the so-called Mahoning sandstone.

 

     From this ridge southwardly and southeasterly towards the West Branch, the measures dip rapidly, so that at the place known as Mitchell's Camp, the land is about three hundred and fifty feet above the river, while near McGee's it is scarcely two hundred feet.

 

     The high country north several miles from the river is, as yet, but thinly settled, by far the greater part being heavy timber lands, but the lumbermen are rapidly devastating these lands, and a few years hence the agricultural pro­ducts will replace the native forests. Along the ridge road running from the Irish Settlement to Punxsutawney, and north of the road, many good farms have been cleared up. In the matter of streams, that powerful auxiliary to the lumbering business, the township is exceedingly fortunate. The river Susquehanna enters from Burnside on the south, and flows a generally southeast course, winding and turning around many hilly and rocky bends, as far as old Chest post-office, and for a short distance below it. Here is a second bend to the southeast, which direction it follows to the town of Mahaffey, where it receives the waters of Chest Creek, the main tributary to the river in the

 

 

 

 

Page 417

BELL TOWNSHIP.

 

southwest portion of the county. After passing Mahaffey, the course of the river is generally east by northeast until it leaves this township and enters Greenwood on the east.

 

     Chest Creek, a stream of considerable size, enters this township from old Chest, on the southeast, and flows a generally northwest course, much less devious and winding than the river, and discharges its waters at or near the hamlet of Mahaffey, on the south or southeast side of the river. The other tributaries to the river which discharge their waters therein from the south are North Run and Deer Run. Snyder Run is a rivulet in the southeast part of the township, a tributary of Chest Creek.

 

     On the north of the river the streams that discharge therein are Bear Run, Whisky Run, Miller's Run, and Laurel Run, neither of which are of any considerable size. The northern part of the township is drained by the head­waters of the east branches of the Mahoning, which flow westward into Jefferson county. Curry's Run has its source in the northeast part of the township, near the locality of Mitchell's Camp.

 

     As Bell township is situate somewhat remote from the county seat, and, as the tide of pioneer settlement came from the country down the river, and to the east and northeast, and none from the western counties, civilization, or at least settlement in this locality, was deferred until the lands lower down had been taken up and improvements commenced. There was, however, no part of the West Branch valley in the whole county that offered greater natural attractions and inducements to the pioneer than the vicinity of the mouth of Chest Creek, near the site of the present active hamlet of Mahaffey.

 

     It will be remembered that the first subdivision of the county into townships was in the erection of Bradford and Beccaria, the latter having as its north boundary the direct line from the head of Little Clearfield Creek to the mouth of Chest Creek, and thence southerly up the river to the county line. So much, therefore of the lands now in Bell, and south of a line so drawn, was in Beccaria township. This division was made in the year 1807. Six years later, in the year 1813, all lands now included within Bell, that lay west and north of the river, were erected into Pike township, which erection remained intact and undisturbed, excepting the formation of Brady, until the erection of Chest township in 1826. Bell, therefore, as has already been fully stated, was formed from parts of Pike and Chest townships in the year 1835, and at the same time that Penn and Burnside were created.

The pioneer of the township was Johannes Ludwig Snyder, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. He came to this country about the time of the French and Indian War, with his father's family. The father, too, was a soldier in the war for American independence. Prior to the settlement of Johannes, or John, as he was generally known, in this county, he lived at Lewisburg. He came to this locality about the year 1820, and settled on lands on Chest Creek. Mr.

 

 

 

 

Page 418

HISTORY OF CLEARFIELD COUNTY.

 

Snyder attained an age in life far beyond that allotted to man, being, at the time of his death about one hundred and fifteen years. He died in the year 1860. His wife, it is said, also lived to the age of one hundred and eight years. By trade Mr. Snyder was a gunsmith, but during his life in this county gave his attention to farming.

 

     At the same time, or soon after, John Smith, who had married one of Snyder's daughters, came to the locality. He is brought into prominence from the fact of having built the first school-house in the township about 1827 or 1828. He made an improvement on the site now occupied by the hamlet of Bethlehem. This pioneer school was a small log building, not unlike the others of the county at the time, and stood the needs of the community until 1835, about the time of the organization of the township, when it was removed and a more pretentious school-house erected.

 

     The next settlement was made about 1823, by the Sunderlin family, former residents of Union county. The head of this family was Samuel Sunderlin, who for many years lived in the township an honest, conscientious, upright man. He was prominently connected with the early religious meetings in the locality, and was the first class-leader of the Methodist Episcopal society. His improvement was made on the river above the site occupied by McGee's mills. He had sons who came at or about the same time. This family name is quite numerous in the township at the present time.

 

     The year 1826 witnessed the advent of three other families to the township, the McGees, the Wetzels and the Johnsons. The former, of which Rev. James McGee was the head, came from Centre county. He cleared a farm and made substantial improvements in the township. Soon after his coming he built a saw-mill, and three years after a grist-mill, they being among the first erections of the kind in Bell township. The saw-mill stood on Deer Run, on lands that remained in the family many years. It was of the primitive style of mills incident to that period, known commonly as the flutter-wheel mill, but as years advanced and progress and improvement in mill machinery developed, this mill was replaced by one more substantial. The second was burned and a third erected in its place by other and younger members of the McGee family. James McGee, the senior, was appointed postmaster at Chest, the name of the station on the old pike leading from Curwensville to Indiana, in the year 1833. The grist-mill built by Mr. McGee in 1829, stood on the river near and below the mouth of Bear Run. It was a log structure, odd in design and of narrow proportions, but sufficient for the wants of the settlement at that time. Burr stones were out of the question, but a pair of " country stones" did the work for the community, perhaps just as well. The descendants of James McGee are still numerous in the township, and among them is some of the substantial and progressive element of the town­ship. The pioneer died in the year 1855. A small town or hamlet known as McGee's Mills, situate within the township is named after this family.

 

 

 

 

Page 419

BELL TOWNSHIP.

 

     Rhinehart Wetzel was a German by birth, and came to this country during his youth. His people lived in the Juniata valley, where Rhinehart married, and from whence he came to this county. He made a farm above McGee's. His descendants yet reside in the township. George Johnson, who came about the same time, settled near the mouth of Chest Creek, where he cleared a farm, but the loss of his wife, by death, changed his plans, and he made his future residence with Robert Mahaffey, his son-in-law.

 

     The next year, 1827, John Weaver came to the township from Union county, his former home. He located on the river above McGee's Mills about two miles. At the time of their death, both he and his wife, were over eighty years of age.

 

     About the same time, 1827, and from the same place, Union county, there came to the township the family of Peter Smith. They located on the river above Weaver's, and nearly opposite Samuel Sunderlin's, well toward the south part of the township.

 

     William Ramsey, a former resident of the county in the vicinity of Clearfield Bridge, moved into Bell township and commenced an improvement on Chest Creek, on the site now of Mahaffey's grist-mill, in the year 1830. Here, soon after, he built a saw-mill, and still later a woolen or fulling-mill. At the place from whence he came, Clearfield Bridge, there stood the woolen-mill of Robert Elder, and there Ramsey received his instruction in the line of woolen manufacture. His venture in the new locality did not prove successful and was subsequently remodeled into a grist-mill, supplied with a pair of burr-stones. He also engaged in lumbering, but afterward, about 1839, sold his interests here and emigrated to Illinois, then a new country, where he died some years ago. To William Ramsey is accorded the distinction of having built the first frame dwelling-house in Bell township, all previous places of abode having been constructed of round or hewed logs.

 

     In the spring of the same year, 1830, Thomas Campbell, also a former resident of Union county, came to Bell and located on lands along the river, be­tween one and two miles above McGee's mill. Here he began an improvement and made a good farm, on which he lived until the time of his death in 1865 Mr. Campbell was one of the first school directors elected in Bell township after its organization in the year 1835. His son, James A. Campbell, was a teacher of a school in the township in the year 1836, soon after the adoption of the new school system, but prior to the formation of a separate school district in the township.

 

     About the year 1831 Nathaniel Sabins came to the township and made an improvement on lands in the bend of the river opposite the mouth of Chest Creek, on the site now occupied by the hamlet of Mahaffey. Sabins was the huntsman of the settlement, and an inexhaustible fund of hunting stories are extant, the result of his prowess and skill with his gun.

 

 

 

 

Page 420

HISTORY OF CLEARFIELD COUNTY.

 

     Another of the old settlers of the township was Asaph Ellis, who came to the township about the year 1835. He built a saw-mill on the river and engaged extensively in the lumber business. Mr. Ellis was elected justice of the peace, the first person elected to that office after the township was formed, and held the position about twenty years, giving general satisfaction in the adjudication of such questions as were submitted for his determination.

 

     Unquestionably a mention of the old families of Bell township would be incomplete without some record of its first pioneer ; a pioneer family not only of the locality that was formed into Bell township, but of the county as well. The family referred to was that of Arthur Bell, who although they occupied and improved land in that part of the township, that in 1875 was erected into Greenwood township, yet they were in fact the pioneers of the upper part of the county. Arthur Bell, sr., came to this county soon after the coming of Daniel Ogden, and was undoubtedly the second pioneer adventurer up the West Branch. He arrived in time to assist Ogden in the erection of his cabin above the site of the old Indian village of Chincleclamousche, after which he went further up the river to his claim where he at once commenced an improvement. Soon after he came to this locality he became possessed of the dignified title of " Squire," having been commissioned as justice of the peace by Governor Thomas McKean, for townships then a part of Lycoming county, Loyal Sock, Lycoming and Pine Creek. This will be made clear when it is stated that prior to the year 1804, all that part of the county that lay on the west and north sides of the West Branch River formed a part of Lycoming county, and it was on the west side that 'Squire Bell took up his abode. His friend, Daniel Ogden was then a resident of Huntingdon county, the river being the dividing line between Lycoming and Huntingdon counties. By his marriage with Mary Greenwood, Arthur Bell had seven children, viz. : Greenwood, Letitia, Rebecca, Mary, Rachel, William and Grier, the last named being the first white child born in the county. From November 27, 1812, until November 21, 1815, 'Squire Bell held the office of county treasurer. Greenwood Bell, the oldest son, afterward settled in what is now Greenwood township, and with the exception of Dr. John P. Hoyt, was the first settler therein. The Bells became a numerous family throughout the county. It has been erroneously supposed that Bell township was so named in honor of Greenwood Bell, but such seems not to be the case. The record made in the early part of this chapter was taken from the original papers on file, and the version therein given cannot be questioned. The words, in the handwriting of the court, are, " This township named Bell,' for the late A. Bell, esq., who was an early settler, and his son, Greenwood Bell, esq., who resides therein."

 

     While the lands of the township were yet a part of the older formations of Pike and Chest, these pioneer families, mindful of the necessity of religious meetings in the community, held occasional worship at houses, and prior to

 

 

 

 

Page 421

BELL TOWNSHIP.

 

1830 had formed a society of the Methodist Episcopal denomination. This society then, as well as at the present time, in point of numerical strength, has largely predominated. Samuel Sunderlin was one of the first class-leaders of the society, whose services were frequently had in the absence of any pastor. As early as 1826, Rev. Timothy Lee became a resident of that part of the upper country now included within Burnside township, and sermons were delivered at his house from time to time, until about the year 1840, and afterward in Bell at the place where James Sunderlin's house was erected.

There was no church edifice in the township earlier than the year 1860, at which the Methodist Episcopal society erected a house of worship near the site of the school-house, well up toward the south part of the township. This school building was used for a place of holding church service before the edifice was built.

 

     The Protestant Methodists were strong, numerically, at an early day, and organized about the year 1830. Their early services were held at the house of John Weaver, that stood near the river and opposite to where the Methodist Episcopal church was afterward built. One of the first ministers of this society was Rev. Robert Simonton. This society, some years later, built a church at Franklin, now Mahaffey.

 

     As is usual in all pioneer settlements where land must be cleared and farms put in shape for cultivation before other affairs pertaining to the welfare of the community can be looked to, the first ten years of life in Bell township witnessed but slight advancement in matters of education. As stated before, the first school-house in the township was built by John Smith, about the year 1827, near the present hamlet called Bethlehem, or Ostend post-office. This was replaced by a building more suited to the wants of the growing community some seven or eight years later. James A. Campbell, a descendant of one of the pioneer families, was the first teacher here.

 

     The first board of school directors was chosen in the month of March, 1836, the first year after the erection of Bell as a township. They were with the term for which they were chosen as follows : Thomas Campbell and Albert Ramsey, one year ; Hugh Fullerton and James Elder, two years, and Jacob Walters and Peter Smith for three years. Jacob Walters was made president, Peter Smith, secretary, and James Elder, treasurer of the board. For several years there were but three schools in the entire township, and they being opened only a few months during each year. The total number of scholars in the township was one hundred and forty-one, of whom seventy-eight were males and sixty-three females. Teachers' wages paid were, for males sixteen dollars, and females, from eight to ten dollars per month, without boarding. As an evidence of growth in population it may be stated that there are at present in the township ten well appointed schools with over three hundred scholars in attendance during the school season.

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Page 422

HISTORY OF CLEARFIELD COUNTY.

 

     In the year 1836, next succeeding the year in which Bell township was laid out and erected, Jacob Linefelter was, as assessor, required to make an enumeration of all freemen and all real and personal property taxable by law, also a valuation of all offices and posts of profit, professions, trades and occupations, taxable by law; and also all single freemen of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, then residing within the township. From the enrollment so made the following list of taxables is taken : Lewis Snyder, Jacob Snyder, George Snyder, Benoni Simmons, Robert Pennington, John Rorabaugh, Russell McMurray, Thomas Tozer, Barck Tozer, John Tozer, William Ramsey, Silas Salley, Frederick Smith, John Smith, Peter Smith, Nathaniel Sabins, David Michael, Samuel and John Sunderlin, Andrew Barnhart, John Weaver, Thomas Campbell, Christopher Rorabaugh, John McGee, Philip Johnson, James Campbell, John Rorabaugh, John McCracken, Gilbert Tozer, Sebastine Snyder, Daniel Snyder, George Smith, James Sunderland, Henry Smell, Charles Gilsey, Nelson Young, David McCracken, Charles Elder, Peter Smith, Reinhart Wetzel, James McGee, Robert Montgomery, Hugh Fullerton, George Johnson, Alpha Holmes, Frederick Tanner, Alsaph Ellis, Jacob Walter, William Haslet, George Ross, James Elder, George Walters, Moses Evans, Joseph McCracken, Greenwood Bell, Arthur Bell, Cyrus Thurston, Jacob Linefelter, George Thomas, Elihu Mott, Alburn Ramsey, Daniel Taylor, John Ross, William McCracken, Lucretia Young, Robert Dougherty, and McGee.

 

     From this assessment it appears that there were in the township in the year 1836 nearly seventy taxable inhabitants, a fair proportion of whom were single freemen. Jacob Linefelter, the pioneer assessor of the township, may have led us into a possible error in the spelling of some of the foregoing names. In those days schools were not as numerous as at present, and the reader will charitably overlook any error in the orthographical construction of the proper names quoted above.

 

     The largest landholders at the time, with the number of acres owned by each, were as follows : John Smith, three hundred acres ; Peter Smith, five hundred ; David, Michael and Samuel Sunderlin, two hundred each ; Andrew Barnhart, two hundred ; George Smith, four hundred and thirty ; Reinhart Wetzel, two hundred ; James McGee, six hundred ; George Johnson, three hundred ; William Haslet, two hundred and thirty ; George Walters, two hundred ; Greenwood Bell, four hundred ; Arthur Bell, three hundred ; Cyrus Thurston, George Thomas, and Daniel Taylor, three hundred each ; William McCracken, two hundred ; Lucretia Young, four hundred, and Dougherty and McGee four hundred and fifty-five acres of land.

 

     The saw-mills then in the township were owned, respectively, by William Ramsey, John McCracken, Hugh Fullerton, George Walters, Greenwood Bell, and Dougherty and McGee, the latter being a double mill. They had also a grist-mill, as had Greenwood Bell and William Ramsey.

 

 

 

 

Page 423

BELL TOWNSHIP.

 

     Growing then, from this, a record of the township, its taxables and its industries as they existed in the year 1836, there has been a steady and healthful increase not only in the population but in industry and improvements of every kind. Where fifty, and even less years ago, there stood but the primal forests undisturbed by the pioneer woodman's ax, there now stretch out on every hand broad and well cultivated acres of lands. The lumber trade has, in the past, been as fully recognized a pursuit of the inhabitants as that of agricul­ture, and although materially lessened during the last ten years, is yet carried on to a considerable extent, but in the more remote localities, away from the larger streams of the township.

 

     In the development of the resources of Bell township, and among the families who have taken an active part therein, two names are noticeably conspicuous, the Mahaffeys and the McGees. In honor of the first named, and in recognition of his enterprise and integrity, the hamlet of Mahaffey is so called, and for the latter is named the settlement known as McGee's Mills.

 

     Mahaffey and Its Founder—On the banks of the river Susquehanna, opposite, and about the mouth of Chest Creek is the site on which this town has been built. Its growth began slowly, there being nothing to stimulate it prior to the building of the Bell's Gap Railroad. The land hereabouts was owned mainly by Robert Mahaffey. He was born in Lycoming county on the 4th day of May, 1815, and came to the country of the Upper Susquehanna with his father's family in the year 1828, locating near the site of Burnside borough. Robert was the third of six sons born to William and Nancy (Bennett) Mahaffey. In 1841 Robert married Mary, daughter of Rev. James Mc­Gee, who bore him three children—William, James, and Mary. Soon after his marriage he purchased the lands at the mouth of Chest Creek and commenced an improvement, and erected a log house in which he lived for a quarter of a century, after which his present commodious residence was built.

 

     In 1847, about a year after the death of his wife, Robert Mahaffey married Mary C., daughter of George Johnston, by whom he had seven children— Robert F., Emery, Harry, Elizabeth S., Nannie, Alice, and Elsie.

 

     In 1878 the grist-mill on Chest Creek was built. This is a substantial frame structure, having three run of stone, with water as a motive power.

 

     The Mahaffey saw-mill, a new building erected in the year 1886, to replace older mills owned by him, is located on the river, a short distance from the town.

 

     In 1886 the Bell's Gap Railroad was extended to the town and a comfort­able depot erected. This road is now being further extended to pass McGee's and reach the rich Punxsutawney coal and coke fields, about twelve miles dis­tant from Mahaffey.

 

     In the same year, 1886, a large tannery was built in the town, but on the east side of the river. It furnishes employment for about forty persons.

 

 

 

 

Page 424

HISTORY OF CLEARFIELD COUNTY.

 

     The hotel, known as Mahaffey's, was built about seven years ago, but recently has been enlarged. Its proprietor is Emery Mahaffey.

The first mercantile house was established here about seven years ago by Robert Mahaffey. There are now several stores in the town, a majority of them having been started within the last two years.

 

     The Methodist Protestant Church, built about sixteen years ago to replace the old church mentioned heretofore in this chapter, stands on an elevated piece of ground in the town, a short distance from the river. It is a substantial frame building, one story in height. Prominent among its members have been the families of James McGee, Philip McGee, James Stevenson, David Mitchell, James Weaver, and others.

 

     A society has recently been organized and efforts are making for the erection of a Lutheran Church at the town. Ground has been selected but the edifice is yet to be built.

 

     Prior to the building up of the town this place was known as " Franklin," so named by Robert Mahaffey. It was changed to its present name about eight years ago. Mr. Mahaffey has been postmaster ever since the office was established in the place.

 

     Mc Gee's Mills.—This point was among the early settled localities of the township, having, previous to its present name, been known as Chest. It is located at the mouth of Bear Run. The first settlement was made here in 1826 by Rev. James McGee, a former resident of Centre county. In the vicinity there has lived the descendants of James McGee to the present time. His children were as follows: Thomas A., Philip, John, James, Henry, Elizabeth Ann, who married John Mitchell ; Margaret, who married John Weaver, and Mary, who became the wife of Robert Mahaffey.

 

     In the year 1833 a mail route was established, leading from Curwensville to Indiana, and at this point a station was made called Chest. James McGee was made postmaster, and the office has ever since been held by some member of the family. From the settlement and subsequent improvement made in this vicinity the town is now known as McGee's Mills. The grist-mill from which this name is derived, is operated by Henry Holmes McGee, son of Thomas McGee.

 

     The settlement here is quite small, consisting of a few houses, a mill, shop, two stores, one of which is just started, and a hotel, also newly built. The extension of the Bell's Gap Railroad has given an impetus to its growth.

 

     Bethlehem.—This is a small hamlet, situated about two miles south from Mahaffey, and nearly a mile from Chest Creek. It has no industries. A mail station is established there for the convenience of the inhabitants of that part of the township. The office is designated as " Ostend." The land in this vicinity was cleared about the year 1820, by John Smith, one of the pioneers of the township. The first school-house in the township was erected near this

 

 

 

 

Page 425

BIGLER TOWNSHIP.

 

place. H. L. Henderson formerly kept a store at Bethlehem, but sold the business to Robert Mahaffey. It was discontinued after a few years, the proprietor having transferred the stock to a new store building at Mahaffey. James Mahaffey managed the Bethlehem store.

 

     The pioneer church of Bell township, and, in fact, the only church except that at Mahaffey, is that of the Methodist Episcopal Society, in the Sunderlin neighborhood, in the upper part of the township. This church was built in the year 1860, although the society held meetings in private dwellings and school-houses many years prior to the church erection. It is a plain but substantial frame building, standing on the west side of and near the river. Among the families whose names are prominently mentioned in connection with this society are those of Thomas A. McGee, Henry L. McGee, James B. Sunderlin, Levi Sunderlin, Thomas Sunderlin, Joseph Work, Jacob Campbell, Robert Mahaffey, Joseph Campbell, and others.

 

     Troutdale Grange No. 677, P. of H. was organized March 15, 1876, by Deputy J. B. Shaw, with a charter membership of twenty-nine persons. The first master was David Logan ; secretary, H. H. McGee. This society is made up from the substantial agricultural element of the township, residing mainly in the southwest part. The meetings are held in the Troutdale school-house. The present master is Philip McGee ; secretary, Belle Wetzel.

 

     Present Schools of the Township.—There are, in Bell township, ten well- appointed schools, named and located as follows : Franklin, at Mahaffey ; Bethlehem, at Bethlehem ; Banner Ridge, in the eastern part of the township ; Susquehanna, near the M. E. Church on the river ; Troutdale, southeast from McGee's Mills ; Pleasant Ridge, in the northern part ; Sunnyside, in the western part ; Rock Springs, in the northeast part ; Summit, in the northern part ; and Hillsdale, in the western part of the township.

 

 

 

 

   

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