History of Lawrence County Pennsylvania, 1770 - 1877, by S.W. and P.A. Durant.


[p. 58] This was also one of the original townships of Lawrence county. In area it is about ten thousand acres, being one of the smaller townships of the county. Big Beaver river forms its eastern boundary, and receives numerous small branches, which have their sources in the township.

The Erie and Pittsburgh (formerly the New Castle and Beaver) railway, traverses the township in a north and south direction, keeping close along the river. The Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway crosses the southwest corner; and beside these there are numerous tracks running to the limestone quaries and coal banks in the eastern part of the township. The old route of the New Castle and Darlington railway also passes from north to south across the centre. This road was never completed. The P. F. W. & C. R. W. follows the valley of the Little Beaver creek, and cuts off a small portion of the township. Where it crosses the creek the company has erected a fine iron bridge, built to accommodate a double track, although but one track has been laid.

The township contains the villages of Newport and Clinton, and the borough of Wampum, which latter was incorporated on the 19th of February, 1876. Wampum and Clinton contain a large proportion of miners and men who work in the limestone quarries.

The western part of the township was settled late, and is but thinly populated.


The first settlers in what is now Big Beaver township, were the Davidsons, who located on the eastern border, along the river.

John and Robert Davidson left Ireland in the year 1791, and came to America, landing at Philadelphia. Robert went West as far as Cincinnati, Ohio, where he bought some property, and afterwards came back to Pittsburgh. In the early part of the year 1796, the two men came to the spot where Wampum now stands, and settled a two-hundred acre tract. Their mother, with four other boys, left Ireland in 1793, and for three years after they landed in the United States, staid in the eastern part of Pennsylvania. In March, 1796, they came to Lawrence county. The land in the vicinity of where they settled was surveyed into tracts of two hundred acres each, and any person locating on one of these tracts was entitled to one-half for settling, and by paying one hundred dollars could get the other hundred acres. Thomas Davidson came out a year or two after the rest arrived. The seven boys were John, Isaac, Robert, Charles, James, Andrew and Thomas. They settled from one hundred to three hundred acres each, along the Big Beaver river, and part of the farms are still occupied by their descendants. Their lands extended into what is now Beaver county, the farm of James Davidson reaching a short distance across the line. The Andrew Davidson farm was the one which is now owned by Thomas Whan and the heirs of John Whan, and is farther back from the river than the others.

At that time the Indians was still plenty in the neighborhood, and it is said that the town of Wampum takes its name from the fact that the Indians who made the spot their camping-ground wore the wampum belt. One or two of their chiefs are buried near the place.

Robert Davidson was, for a short time, agent for Benjamin Chew, who controlled a large quantity of land in Big Beaver, Wayne, Shenango, Perry and Slippery Rock townships. He was also the first postmaster when the office at Wampum (called Irish Ripple P. O., from the rapids in the river), was established.

The farm now owned by John Davidson, Esq., was probably settled by John Somerville, and included two hundred acres. This was about 1798 to 1800. Andrew Davidson traded his one hundred acres to Somerville for the farm. The first house built on the place was a small log-cabin, which stood in the orchard, on the east side of the road, opposite John Davidson's present residence. This orchard was planted in the neighborhood of 1800, by James Crawford, who was merely a squatter, and occupied the vacant cabin for a short time only.

John Somerville, who settled this farm, was cousin to the John Somerville who afterwards became a Methodist preacher. To distinguish them apart, when mentioning them, they were nicknamed "Big" and "Little" John.

James Davidson was married to Elizabeth Somerville, about 1805, and his was the first marriage in the Davidson family after they settled.

Alexander Wright came, not long after 1800, to the same neighborhood, and purchased one hundred acres south of the Somerville or Andrew Davidson farm. This tract was Population Company's land, and extended north to the Chew land. Jesse Lightner bought the hundred acres next east of Wright's, and running to the river. None of the Lightners became actual settlers, but merely "squatted" for a while. The Lightner and Wright land composed the north two hundred acres of the four-hundred acre tract on which James Davidson originally settled.

Most of the Davidsons became extensive landholders, it being among the best in the township, and afterwards valuable owing to its location on a well-traveled highway and the coal it contains. James Davidson finally went to Jennings county, Indiana, where he purchased twenty-eight hundred acres of land in about the poorest part of the State.

James Cochran owns a farm originally belonging to the Pennsylvania Population Company, and sold afterward to David Crawford. It is part of a tract originally surveyed in pursuance of a warrant issued April 14, 1792, and granted by the Commonwealth to Charles Massey, whose patent was issued March 12, 1799. The Population Company became possessed of this tract among others which they held in the county, and it was transferred to the Farmers and Mechanics' Bank by William Griffith and wife, and John B. Wallace and wife, December 1, 1818. William Grimshaw was the banking company's attorney, and sold it to David Crawford, September l9, 1833. Mr. Cochran purchased it of Crawford in 1837.

On the dissolution of the Pennsylvania Population Company, considerable of the lands in the neighborhood became the property of William Griffith and John B. Wallace. The title was vested in Griffith, in trust for an undivided moiety for Wallace. Maurice and William Wurtz, of Philadelphia, also had a claim, and their attorney was H. J. Huidekoper, who sold a portion of the land to James Davidson. The first improvements on the place now owned by Mr. Cochran, which includes portions of the Davidson and Crawford land, were made by a squatter, who staid only a short time on the farm. Mr. Crawford was, however, the first actual settler.

James Patterson came from County Armagh, Ireland, and in 1822 located on a farm now owned by his son, Robert Patterson. The tract originally included four hundred acres, and was patented by George Leslie, in 1795 or 1796. The place where Robert Patterson now lives was first improved by William McKim, about 1832.

David and Robert Ramsey came, originally, from Ireland with their father, who settled first near the site of Youngstown, Ohio, sometime previous to 1812. They afterward removed to Little Beaver township, Lawrence county, Pennsylvania. David Ramsey's son, John, is now living in Big Beaver township. He was born on the place in Little Beaver to which his father removed subsequent to the war of 1812.

William Whan came from Westmoreland County, Pa., about 1808-9, with his wife and two children--a son and a daughter--and settled on the farm now occupied by the heirs of John Whan. Mr. Whan settled two hundred acres.

Samuel Noggle settled at an early day, probably about 1800, near the site of the village of Newport. His grandson, Samuel Noggle, is living in the same locality at present.

Robert Paden came to the township in the neighborhood of 1800, and made a settlement in the northwest part, where members of the family are still living.

James McCandless was an early settler in the same neighborhood, but, probably, came subsequent to the settlement of Mr. Paden.

The New Castle and Darlington railway was intended to intersect the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago road at New Galilee, Beaver county, and was graded from New Castle to within a mile and a half or two miles of that point. Much of the grading was paid for in calico, hence the road was called the "Calico road." This was about 1858-59. The road was never completed.

The Beaver Valley railway was opened for travel in the Fall of 1863, and now forms a part of the Erie and Pittsburgh railway. It was built from New Castle to Homewood, Beaver county, where it connected with the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago railway, and, for four or five miles out from New Castle, used the old grade of the New Castle and Darlington railway. The stations on the Erie and Pittsburgh road, in Big Beaver, are [p. 59] Newport, Wampum, Thompson's Siding, and Rocky Point, the latter nearly opposite the mouth of Conoquenessing creek.

The Beaver and New Castle wagon-road was laid out by the State--was sixty-six feet wide, and called the State road. It was surveyed first somewhere in the neighborhood of the year 1800. In 1839, it was re-surveyed, its location changed in some places, and the route graded through.


A number of the early settlers of Big Beaver served in the war of 1812. Among them were the following, of whom all but one resided in the township at the time:

Andrew Davidson, who came in 1796, was out a short time at Erie.

David Ramsey went to Erie from Youngstown, Ohio, where he was living at the time. He afterward removed to Little Beaver township, Lawrence county, Pa., where he has a son now living. Another son, John, is living in Big Beaver.

John Whan was married in the Fall or Winter of 1813, and was out two months at Erie, immediately afterward. He served in Captain Wilson Kildoo's company.

James Paden went to Erie, and probably his brother Hugh, also. The Padens lived in the western part of the township.

Militia organizations were kept up after the war was over, and held regular drills and musters under the militia law of the State. The annual review days were looked upon as grand holidays, and "every one was there to see." Whisky flowed in unlimited quantities, and "the song and merry shout resounded" on every such occasion.

During the war of the rebellion, Big Beaver was represented by many a gallant son who fought in the ranks of the splendid Union army, against the country's traitorous offspring who had dared to fire upon the flag beneath which they had been nurtured--the flag of all flags, whose colors are the same as heaven's own--the "banner of stars."

"Columbia, the gem of the ocean;
    The home of the brave and the free;
The shrine of each patriot's devotion;--
    A world offers homage to thee.
Thy mandates make the heroes assemble,
    When Liberty's form stands in view;
Thy banner makes tyranny tremble,
    When borne by the red, white and blue."


The early schools in the township were kept in vacant cabins. The first one in the neighborbood was taught in a vacated log-cabin, which stood on the Baker farm, just in the edge of what is now Beaver county. Richard Johnston was the teacher.

The first building erected specially for school purposes, stood about twenty rods north of where the Methodist Church at Clinton now stands. It was built of very large, round logs, about the year 1820. A one-eyed, cross old man, named Robert Creighton, taught first in it. Before this school house was built, Creighton taught in James Davidson's old log weaving shop, the loom having been removed to make room. Just below the old log school house was a spring, where the pupils went to drink.


The Wampum Cement and Lime Company built an establishment in the Spring of 1876, on the hill just south of the limits of Wampum borough, for the manufacture of cement. The business is carried on quite extensively, and the article manufactured is said to be superior to any other cement known. It took the first prize at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia. The man employed to make it is a German, named William Pucall. The company was organized about 1869-70, as the "Wampum Mining and Manufacturing Company." The present members are William P., John K. and Joseph A. Shinn. William Shinn is president, John, secretary and treasurer, and Joseph, superintendent.

The principal ingredients used in the manufacture of this cement are limestone and blue clay. The limestone is quarried in the hill above the works, and the clay is taken out in the valley below. In the process of making, the limestone is first ground to flour and bolted, after which it is mixed in certain proportions with the clay and put into a "dry-kiln" and dried. It is then baked in another kiln, and finally crushed, ground and bolted, when it becomes ready for use.

The works are in a frame building, just below the Beaver and New Castle State road. The limestone is brought down from the quarries on cars, a track having been built from the factory to them for that purpose. The stone is the bluish-gray limestone found throughout the county. The coal taken out of the hill near the quarry.


About the year 1800 the tract of land occupied by Newport was settled by Conrad Coon, who came, with his wife and three children--two girls and a boy--from Lancaster county, Pa., and located on the place.

Forty acres of land were laid out into lots by John Coon, in 1833. A number of small houses were built soon afterward, James Morrison probably erecting the first one. These were all log houses, put up for temporary use until frame buildings could be constructed.

James Morrison and John Noggle built the first frame houses, and they are still standing, in the upper part of town, near the bank of the river.

The first store was a general stock, opened in a frame building by Cyrus Savers, very soon after the town was laid out.

Samuel Smith opened the second store.

A store owned by Joseph Aley was burned down in 1876, and at present there is but one in the place--a grocery, owned by Thomas Tindall.

Aaron Reed opened the first blacksmith shop. He finally removed to Wampum and started a shop there. At present the town of Newport is without a shop of that kind.

Joshua Pierce built the first wagon shop. Mr. Pierce died, and Edward Yoho afterward opened one. His is the second one in the place, and is now running.

William McCloskey opened a tailor shop, which he carried on for a number of years. At present the town is without one.


Was organized in 1846 or 1847 by Rev. Samuel Henderson, who became its first pastor. The church was mainly organized through the efforts of Benoni Wilkinson, who lived on a farm just west of town. Mr. Wilkinson deemed it necessary that Newport should have a Presbyterian church, and he, being an elder of that denomination, went to work to establish one, his efforts proving successful.

The original congregation had in the neighborhood of thirty members, and in a comparatively short time the number increased to about eighty. The membership at present is about ninety.

The first meetings of this congregation were held in a large house which was built by John Jackson, and afterward left vacant by him. Jackson went to the State of Iowa. A portion of the time, meetings were held in the school-house.

The present commodious frame church was built about 1848, on land donated for that purpose by Robert Davidson.

As before stated, Rev. Samuel Henderson was the first pastor. The second pastor was Rev. James S. Henderson, who stayed two years. Following him came Rev. Amos S. Billingsley. The next pastor was Rev. J. Johnston, who continued in charge four or five years. Rev. Boyd came next, and was followed by Rev. R. S. Morton. The present pastor, Rev. George S. Rice, came next after Mr. Morton, and was installed in 1874. He has charge of this and "Slippery Rock" congregations, the latter in Wayne township, which is the larger organization. Mr. Rice lives near the church in a fine parsonage, lately built.

A Sabbath-school has been held in connection with the Newport Church from the time it was organized, and generally has a large attendance. Its first superintendent was David S. Pollock.

The post-office at Newport was originally established at Wampum, and took its name "Irish Ripple," from the rapids in the Beaver river at that place, and the nationality of the settlers who located there. The office was established through the efforts of Benjamin Chew, Jr., of Philadelphia, who was out attending to his business in the neighborhood, and at that time there was no post-office nearer than New Castle, nine miles away. "Irish Ripple" post-office was established about 1832-34, with Robert Davidson as first postmaster. It was afterward removed to Newport, where it was kept until 1856, when it was again taken to Wampum. From that time it went back and forth between the two places until the name was changed to Wampum, and the office located permanently at that place. After this, Newport petitioned for an office, and finally secured one, giving it the old name of "Irish Ripple."


Limestone is abundant in the township, and besides that manufactured into cement, large quantities are quarried for use at the iron furnaces in different places, the one at Wampum requiring a considerable portion.

Sandstone is also quarried in various places. It was extensively worked at and below Thompson's Siding, along the railroad, but those quarries are not at present in operation.

[p. 60]

Thompson's Siding is just above Rock Point station, and is merely used as a passing point for trains.

Coal is worked more extensively in this township than in any other in the county. The old Beaver Valley Coal Company, now the Wampum Furnace Company, are mining on a six-feet vein, on the farm of John Davidson, Esq., and numerous smaller banks are also worked in the neighborhood. The principal mines are at Clinton, in the southern part of the township.

Coal was discovered in the township by John Stockman, as early as 1810. Stockman was a blacksmith, and settled in what is now Beaver county, in 1804. He and an Irishman named McMullen, had a blacksmith shop a mile and a half south of the present line between Lawrence and Beaver counties.

Previous to Stockman's discovery of coal, their fuel had been charcoal. When Mr. Stockman discovered the coal, he dug along the hill and took off the outcrop only, carrying it down on a horse in a sack. This discovery was made in "Possum Hollow," on the James Davidson farm, just within the present limits of Lawrence county.


Was laid out by James Davidson about 1829-30. The original number of lots was small. Mr. Davidson's house was the first one in the place.

A crockery manufactory was established by Sanger & Nesbit, and afterward became the property of Andrew Davidson. There was also a store and a blacksmith shop. The crockery establishment was only carried on two years. The store was continued for a number of years, and finally closed, and there is now none at the place.

A Methodist Episcopal Church was organized about 1823-24, by Rev. John Somerville, who became its first pastor. Mr. Somerville had previously been an itinerant preacher, and located afterward in the neighborhood.

Some of the original members of this church were Mrs. James Davidson (sister to Mr. Somerville), Andrew Davidson and wife, John Davidson and wife, and Charles Wilson and wife. This John Davidson was a distant relative of the other Davidsons.

At the time the church was organized, it was a missionary station called the "Beaver Creek Mission," and was afterward changed to the Petersburg, Ohio, circuit, and finally to the Enon Valley circuit, to which it now belongs.

Mr. Somerville preached until age and disability obliged him to stop, and afterward, although the church had regular pastors, the size of the circuit was such that they would be able to get around but few times during the year, and Mr. Somerville occasionally filled the pulpit in their places.

Meetings were at first held in Mr. Somerville's, and, possibly, in Robert Davidson's house, also often in barns and groves during warm weather. The frame church now standing was built about 1834, on land taken from the James Davidson farm. The graveyard was laid out about the same time and at the same place. It was enlarged about 1872. The present membership of the church is about seventy.

When the Enon valley circuit was established two ministers were placed in charge. Afterward some of the appointments were discontinued and but one minister appointed.

The pastors since Mr. Somerville have been: Revs. Blackburn, G. D. Kinnear, J. K. Miller, Samuel Crouse, David R. Hawkins, John White, Robert Hopkins, Charles Thorn, John Murray, W. H. Tibbals and F. D. Fast, H. L. Chapman and J. S. Lemmon, G. D. Kinnear and Albert Baker, R. Cunningham and N. P. Kerr, R. Cunningham and J. C. Castle, A. Huston and G. A. Sheets, J. Z. Moore and M. J. Ingram, Robert Hamilton, J. J. Jackson, J. G. Gogley, J. W. Kessler and the present pastor, S. G. Miller.

A Sabbath-school was organized about the time the church was built, by Rev. J. K. Miller, with John Somerville as first superintendent. The present superintendent is R. J. Davidson, who has held the position about ten years.

The Clinton Coal Company was organized and a track commenced in 1865, and in 1866 mining was began on an extensive scale. The company has a shipping station on the railroad called Point Rock station. They have an excellent lot of miners, and can run out with them about one hundred and eighty tons of coal per day. The total number of men employed is about eighty. The greatest amount of coal taken out in one year by this company was 37,000 tons. Their coal is principally purchased by the Pennsylvania Railway Company.

The Clinton Coal Company established its present store in June, 1866. A store had been kept here before by Pierce, Somerville & Co., who were finally merged into the Clinton Coal Company.

Scott, Tait & Co. commenced mining on a large scale in "Possum Hollow," in 1853. They had begun work in 1851 in "Beaver Hollow," but afterward sold out that mine to William Fruit, who began to work it in 1853. Scott, Tait & Co. built a train road from their mine to the river, where the coal was loaded into canal boats and shipped. William Fruit, the Reeds of Erie, and others afterward bought the "Possum Hollow" mine and worked it for some time, finally disposing of it to John Wilson. Wilson in turn sold to Wilson, Lee & Co. The present firm is Lee & Co., or Lee & Patterson.

The vein in which they are working is called a "three-feet" vein, and runs from two feet ten inches to three feet in thickness. It is of the best quality known for making gas, excelling the Pittsburgh coal in that respect, and the only coal that can compete with it for that purpose is the Youghiogheny coal.

The old tram-railway, built by Scott, Tait & Co., was finally abandoned, and the present track laid in 1865. It is about one mile in length, and is owned jointly by Lee & Patterson and the Clinton Coal Company.

Mssrs. Lee & Patterson employ about eighty men, and ship their coal in the Winter principally to Bradley, Reis & Co., at New Castle, and in the Summer to W. L. Scott, at the docks at Erie, Pa.

Both companies have considerable transient trade.

The number of schools in Big Beaver township in 1875, outside the borough of Wampum, was five. The number of school children enrolled was two hundred and sixty-six, of whom one hundred and thirty-seven were males, and one hundred and twenty-nine females. The average attendance for the year was one hundred and seventy. Eight teachers received, for an average term of seven months taught, the sum of $1,264.20.

From the 1770 - 1877 History of Lawrence County by S. W. and P. A. DURANT.

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Updated: 28 Dec 2000, 17:40