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



[p. 7] The county of Lawrence is situated nearly in the centre of the State from north to south, and along the Ohio line. It is bounded north by Mercer county, south by Beaver county, east by Butler county, and west by the State of Ohio. Its superficial area is about three hundred and sixty square miles. The latitude of the court house is about 41 degrees north, and its longitude about 3 degrees and 20 minutes west from Washington. It is situated in the Beaver valley, and is wholly drained by that stream and its numerous branches, the principal of which are the Shenango and Mahoning rivers, and the Slipperv Rock and Neshannock creeks. The Conoquenessing creek flows for about four miles through the southern part of the county, in Wayne township, and enters the Beaver river exactly on the line between Lawrence and Beaver counties. The principal of the smaller streams are the Little Neshannock creek, in Wilmington township, Hettenbaugh run, in Hickory; Big run, in Shenango; Taylor's and Jameson's runs, in Plain Grove; Little Beaver creek, in the southwest part of the county; Hickory creek, in North Beaver, and Deer creek, in Pulaski township.

The scenery shows great variety in different portions of the county. Along the Shenango, Mahoning and Beaver rivers, are extensive bottoms on one side or the other, from the north and west lines of the county to a point near the old town of Moravia, where the hills close in and hug the river, generally very closely, from thence to the southern line of the county. Along the Mahoning, the bluffs in the vicinity of Edenburg and below are quite precipitous and afford much picturesque scenery; the bottom lands generally alternating with the hills on the opposite side of the river. Along the Shenango the hills are less precipitous, and the valley is very beautiful and highly cultivated. The Neshannock valley abounds in fine scenery from the Mercer county line to New Castle. Broad and fertile bottoms alternate with high, steep, and in places, precipitous hills, showing perpendicular escarpments of rock, overhung in many localities by a dense growth of hemlock, giving the landscape a look of primitive wildness seldom found away from mountainous regions. In the neighborhood of New Castle the scenery is surpassingly beautiful; the hills generally rising gradually to various elevations of from sixty to three hundred feet, being disposed in a system of terraces or plateaus, forming enchanting sites for residences, and giving every variety of view. The location of the city is scarcely surpassed for pleasing and varied scenery by that of any town in the State.

The wildest and most stupendous views are found along the Slippery Rock and Conoquenessing creeks, where dame Nature has been prodigal of her material and arranged it in the grandest and most picturesque manner. These streams flow through deep and narrow gorges, walled by perpendicular masses of sandstone, over whose loose fragments and bowlders they tumble and foam in wild and ceaseless confusion.

Here is a magnificent field for the student of nature, and a splendid region for the Summer tourist and pleasure seeker, and it needs but the advent of a railway to bring hither thousands from the busy centres of trade and population.

The city of New Castle is situated very near the geographical centre of the county, of which it is the commercial as well as the civil capital. A great number of roads converge upon this point from all the towns and hamlets of the county, while several lines of railway traverse the principal valleys giving ample facilities for travel and commerce with all parts of the country.

For civil purposes, Lawrence county is sub-divided into seventeen townships, one city, and two boroughs, arranged with a view to accommodate in the best possible manner their respective inhabitants. The distances of the several post-offices from New Castle, is as follows, given in miles and tenths:

Enon Valley Station, 14.7 miles.
Wurtemburg, 12 miles.
Harlansburg, 10.3 miles.
Princeton, 6.9 miles.
Chewton, 8.1 miles.
New Wilmington, 10.4 miles.
Pulaski, 10.6 miles.
New Bedford, 11.4 miles.
Edenburg, 5.2 miles.
Eastbrook, 4.7 miles.
Plain Grove, 12.4 miles.
Volant, 9.9 miles.
West Moravia, 6.4 miles.
Mahoningtown, 2.3 miles.
Newburg, 11.4 miles.
Mt. Jackson, 6.4 miles.


Lawrence county belongs, geologically, to the region included in the sixth bituminous coal basin of Pennsylvania, and the coal to the Clarion group (the northwest outcrop of the lower measures). The rocks of this region, and, indeed, of all Western Pennsylvania, belong to the Paleozoic series; that is, the lowest sedimentary rocks containing evidences of organic life. Capping some of the highest hills is found the ferriferous, or iron-bearing limestone; but the greater portion of this formation, which once probably overlaid a vast region, has been denuded, and carried away to the valley of the Mississippi, and far out into the Mexican Gulf by the tremendous washings of the latter ages of the glacial epoch, the subsequent attrition of rains and frost, and the cuttings of the streams. This formation is, in the neighborhood of New Castle, about seventeen feet in thickness, with from three to five feet of hard bluestone at its base. This limestone is extensively used for fluxing purposes in blast furnaces, and contains about ninety per cent of carbonate of lime. At Wampum a company is extensively engaged in the manufacture of hydraulic cement from the substratum of blue stone. Quarries of this stone are extensively worked at New Castle, and in Taylor, North Beaver, Mahoning and Slippery Rock townships, and perhaps other localities.

At the New Castle quarries of Messrs. Green, Marquis and Johnson, one mile east of the post-office, this formation is immediately underlaid by about one foot of coal, of inferior quality, mixed with shale. Below the coal seam appears the Tionesta sandstone, with a thickness of about sixty feet. Below the sandstone is a second stratum of coal about eighteen inches in thickness, and underlying this is a stratum of fire clay twelve feet in thickness. Sixteen feet below the clay is a third stratum of coal, with a thickness of about four feet. The distance of the upper surface of the Tionesta sandstone above the surface of Neshannock creek, at New Castle, is 240 feet. The lowest twenty feet consists of shales.

The following is a section, showing the stratification on Big Run, below New Castle: [p. 8]

Tionesta Sandstone, about                   50 feet.
Blue Shale, with iron ore,                   6   "
Coal,                                        l  "
Blue Shale argillaceous),                    8   "
Rotten Sandstone,                            2  "
Blue and Brown Shale, with sandstone,        2  "
Bituminous Shale,                            2 to 3 feet.
Mercer Limestone,                            A small amount.
Blue Shale,                                  3 feet.
Shale and concretions of iron ore,  Interval of 25 to 30 feet.

*Section on a creek emptying into the Neshannock, two miles above New Castle, in Neshannock township:

Tionesta Sandstone,                         50 feet.
Iron Ore,                                    6 inches.
Limestone and Chert,                         2 feet.
Interval,                                    8  "
Blue Slate,                                  2  "
Clay,                                        6 inches.
Black Shale,                                 1 feet.
Light colored Shale,                         3	 "
Light blue Shale, with bands of sandstone,   4 or more.
Interval,                                    6  "
Mercer Limestone,                            1  "
Light colored Shale, with sandy seams,       5   "
Bituminous Coal,                             6 to 8 inches.
Slate,                                       2 feet.
Bluish, crumbly Shale                        2  "
Grayish, rotten Sandstone.                   1  "
Flaggy Sandstone,                            8   "
Brown Shale,                                 5 to 6 feet.
Bituminous Shale,                            1  "
Bluish or gray, slaty Sandstone,             5 feet.
Sandstone,                                  70   "

Section one mile northwest of New Castle:

Tionesta Sandstone,                         50 feet.
Coal and Bituminous Shale,                   3 inches.
Brown and blue Shale,                        1 to 3 feet.
Limestone Chert (ferruginous),               2       "
Coal,                                       12 inches.
Light colored Shale,                         6 to 8 feet.
Argillaceous Sandstone,                      2       "
Light colored Shale,                        12 to 13 "
Biturainous Shale and Conl,                  4 feet.
Blue sandy Shale,                            6  "
Flaggy Sandstone (argillaceous at top),     75  " or more

Section at the gas well of the Shenango Iron Works, of Messrs. Reis, Brown & Berger, bored in 1874-75:

Gravel,                                     15 feet.
Blue Mud and Quicksand,                    125  "
Slate Rock,                                  3  "
Slate,                                      61  "
Sand Shale,                                 14  "
Slate Rock,                                 54  "  Gas.
Gray Sand,                                  44  "
Slate Rock,                                 26  "
White Sand,                                 78  "  Salt water.
Slate Rock,                                 35  "
Red (sand) Rock,                            70  "  Gas.
Slate Rock,                                151  "  Gas.
Gray Sand,                                  43  "  Gas.
Slate,                                      70  "
Sand Shales, (very hard),                   30  "
Slate,                                      75  "
Gray Sand,                                  31  "
Red Rock,                                    3  "
Slate,                                     226  "
Hard Shales,                                21  "
Slate,                                     155  "
Sand Shales,                                47  "
Hard Slate                                  68 feet.
Gray Sand,                                  50  "
Slate,                                     154  "
Gray Sand,                                   8  "
Slate,                                      64  "
Gray Sand,                                  15  "
Slate,                                      69  "
Gray Sand,                                  17  "
Slate,                                     103  "
Gray Sand,                                  80  "
Very hard Slate,                           190  "
Black Sand,                                 10  "
Very hard Slate,                            30  "
Additional, with about same changes,       525  "
Hard Slate at bottom.                    _____
Total,                                   2,800  "

*From Geology of Pennsylvania.

Seral Conglomerate Sandstone.--"Down the Beaver the rocks are not well exposed. The seral conglomerate sandstone passes under the water level above the mouth of the Conoquenessing creek. At Wampum Hill, a bed, supposed to be the Mahoning limestone, is seen 42 feet above the Beaver, river. At the mouth of the Conoquenessing the Tionesta sandstone is seen on the hill, where large blocks are lying on the surface, and on Slippery Rock creek, from its mouth up to the bridge at the Mercer turnpike. There it passes under the water level.

"From the mouth of the Conoquenessing down towards Brighton, the Tionesta sandstone may be seen on both sides of the Beaver river, declining gradually to a lower level, until at length it sinks into the bed of the river and forms the upper fall above Brighton. At the junction of the Shenango and Mahoning rivers the seral conglomerate sandstone is well seen, and also in the immediate vicinity of New Castle. In some portions it is highly argillaceous, but above the middle of the bed it is thick-bedded, soft, and but little mixed with argillaceous bands. Its whole thickness is about one hundred feet. The Tionesta measures average sixty feet, and the upper or Tionesta sandstone, which is more solid in this locality than the seral conglomerate, may be estimated at about the same thickness.

"Beneath the main seral conglomerate appears a bed of brown shale containing ore well exposed at the west end of the bridge over the Shenango river.

"This ore may be properly considered the representative of the upper shale ores." *

*State Geological Survey

In the vicinity of Willie Roy furnace, on Slippery Rock creek, near the mouth of Muddy creek, is a very interesting locality to the geologist.

Here have been discovered extensive deposits of iron ore. It is situated immediately upon the upper surface of the ferriferous limestone, which is abundant in the vicinity. The limestone caps the hills in all directions cropping out along the slopes. This ore yields an average of forty per cent of the finest iron, and frequently gives fifty per cent. It is slightly inclined to "cold short" at the furnace.

Upon the highest hills, and located about thirty feet above the limestone is a three-feet vein of coal. Between the coal and limestone, and next below the coal is a stratum of fire clay, and underlying the clay are shale and slate. The ore was extensively mined at one period by the process of "stripping," which developed a coarse, gray slate down to within a short distance of the ore, below which was a stratum of red slate, followed by six inches of white clay.

Below the clay was a coating of flint, sometimes a foot in thickness, and lying below this upon the limestone was found the ore, lying where the stone was open, in pockets. Where the rock was close and compact, the ore was found more regularly deposited. This limestone is from ten to twelve feet in thickness, resting upon shale and slate, which extend to a depth of thirty feet, and below this comes in the Tionesta sandstone, which is exposed in many localities, and forms the fall on Muddy creek, a most remarkable and interesting one.

Immediately under the sandstone a very extensive deposit of what is technically known as "blue ore" is found, mingled with black slate. It is finely exposed near the furnace and also at the falls. Beneath this ore-vein are alternate shale and slate.

A short distance below the furnace, at James Allen's old mill, may be seen exposed in the bed of the creek a second vein of very hard ore--probably as extensive as the first mentioned. It lies about thirty feet below the [p. 9] "blue ore." The limestone vein of ore follows the formation along the creek to its junction with the Beaver river. Five miles southwest of Willie Roy furnace is the Lawrence furnace, and the same stratifications are continuous between the two points, with similar developments of ore. The limestone is very abundant, and the ore correspondingly so, and is of the finest quality.

These deposits follow the creek for forty miles, increasing in amount as they approach the Beaver river. West of Lawrence furnace, three miles, in Shenango township, are located the famous "Houk banks," where the entire limestone formation is displaced by a deposit of iron ore, fifteen feet in thickness, one of the most extraordinary in the county. The same kind of formations and deposits exist in similar quantities, and under similar conditions, in Wayne township.

An extensive deposit of the "blue ore" also underlies the coal lands of the New Castle railroad and mining company, in Neshannock township. It is found at a depth of about seventy-five feet below the workable coal vein, and the stratum is from six to eighteen inches in thickness. Iron ore is also abundant in the vicinity of the Croton glass works, where two firms are at present operating--Messrs. P. and G. Cluse and Mr. David Hoover.


The first discovery of coal within the bounds of Lawrence county, was probably made by John Stockman, in Big Beaver township, about the year 1810. This mineral is found in various parts of the county, the most extensive deposits being along the Beaver river, in Big and North Beaver. It is also found underlying a large area in Neshannock township. Another deposit occurs in the west part of Union township.

The coal of the Beaver valley proper, is everywhere known as the "Beaver valley gas coal," from the abundance of illuminating gas which it contains. This gas can often be seen spurting "out from the coal in a common grate, and burning with a bluish, white flame. It is also an excellent coking coal. The workable veins, or seams, are from three to four feet in thickness, and are found at various depths, according to the topography of the locality. The Beaver valley coals closely resemble those of the well-known Pittsburgh measures, being in continuous seams, or nearly so, while the deposits in Neshannock and Union townships resemble more closely those of the celebrated Mercer or Sharon block coals, being found in basins, or "swamps," as the miners and dealers call them, sometimes several hundred acres in extent, and again only in small "pockets." The aggregate of coal mined annually in Lawrence county, approximates 200,000 tons, quite a large proportion of which is consumed in the immediate neighborhood of the mines, for manufacturing and other purposes.

In Neshannock township are found quite extensive deposits of firebrick and potter's clays, the latter of which is utilized upon one of the Watson farms, where a pottery has been in operation for many years. It is also manufactured into various forms at New Castle.

At New Bedford are found mineral springs highly impregnated with iron; and similar springs are also found on the farm of Jesse Moore in Neshannock township.


The first discovery of petroleum in the pebble or sand rock deposit, was made by Colonel Drake, near Titusville, in Crawford county, Pa., in 1859.

"The Pennsylvania oil-sands lie in the middle Devonian system, and the Canada oil limestone in its lowest part. It would take three thousand feet to reach the horizon of Canadian petroleum by borings on Oil creek."*

Geologists and oil producers and dealers have divided petroleum into two grades or classes--light and heavy oils. The light oil forms the great bulk of the commercial article, and is found in the eastern portion of the oil-producing region of Pennsylvania, in the more porous formation of the pebble rock; while the heavy or "amber" oil is only found in the western portion of this territory, and in the closer grained and more compact rock. This rock is of similar materials throughout the oil region but varies in its texture, and produces a crude or refined oil according as it is more or less compact in its grain. The oil-bearing rock dips from the west a little towards the southeast, at the rate of some fifteen feet per mile, and, consequently, the borings on the Allegheny river and its branches are much deeper than along the Ohio State line.

Prof. J. P. Lesley's report on the oil territory, in speaking of this rock, says: "Every foot of gravel rock may be considered to consist of three- fourths quartz, &c., and one-fourth cavity, cleaned out by long percolation, and now occupied by water and oil. The proportion which the oil bears to the water in the bed is unknown. But supposing the oil to occupy only the uppermost four inches of the whole pebble rock, we have under each square mile 551,706 barrels."

This estimate has been proven by experience to be very low, the actual yield having exceeded 1,500,000 barrels, in many instances.

"The oil is generally found at a certain level, independent of any strata; it has an oxidized tint from the possible accession of atmospheric air, and when this has occurred to any considerable extent, it has transformed a light into a heavy oil."*

The probable area of the oil territory in Pennsylvania is about 3,200 square miles, of which the light or commercial-oil territory occupies some- thing less than 2,000 miles. Lawrence county is supposed to lie mostly within the heavy oil district. The Pennsylvania oils are found at depths varying from 150 to 1,200 feet below the surface.

Soon after the discovery by Colonel Drake, borings were made in various parts of the country. In 1860, great excitement was produced in the western part of Lawrence county, along the valley of the Mahoning, in consequence of the discovery that oil existed in that locality. The first well in the valley was put down by D. W. C. Strawbridge, some time in that year, about one-and-a-half miles above Edenburg, on the northeast side of the river. Oil was found at a depth of about 157 feet, but it proved to be only the leakage from fissured rock. Several hundred barrels were, however, taken out, when the surface water got in and stopped operations.

Another well was bored on the Angus farm, now owned by J. McWilliams, by a party consisting of Colonel J. M. Power, Frank Zeigler, Dr. D. Douds, N. Henkston, George L. Reis, Samuel Harnett, and Colonel D. H. Wallace. The depth of this well was 230 feet, and the production reached 1,000 barrels, when the same difficulty that the Strawbridge well had encountered, put an end to the working. This well was in swampy ground, and the muck was completely saturated with oil, which can be pumped to-day from the spongy soil in considerable quantities.

A correct knowledge of the peculiar characteristics of the oil-bearing rock, and of the proper and necessary mechanical appparatus for obtaining it, was then in the future, and not until vast sums bad been expended, and reliable information obtained by costly practical experience, did the operators know how to proceed. Tubing the wells to keep out the surface water was not at first thought of. People supposed that all that was necessary to procure the oil was to bore a well and commence pumping. The operations extended from Edenburg up the Mahoning river as far as Lowellville, in the State of Ohio. Hundreds of wells were sunk, and the country was covered with derricks. Oil was invariably found at about the average depth of 300 feet, and always of the same variety--the heavy amber, or lubricating oi1. The oil-bearing sand rock of this vicinity is very close-grained, and acts as a filter, so to speak, cleansing the oil of a great share of the foreign matter which is found in the oils produced on the eastern margin of the district, where the rock is more open and porous.

This rock has been traced from a little west of the Ohio line eastward to the Slippery Rock, dipping gradually toward the southeast. Borings have penetrated it at New Castle, on the Big Run, and in the Slippery Rock hills, west of the creek.

The result of the crude experiments has been a general "drowning out" of all the wells in the valley, and unless some heavy corporation could buy or lease all the oil lands, and clean out and plug all the wells in the region, leaving only a few of the best for practical operations, there can be no success in the business. If this could be done, there is no doubt but oil can be obtained in paying quantities, though it can never be produced from this rock as rapidly as the lighter oils of the Allegheny valley. The rock has an average thickness of about 30 feet. J. D. Bryson drilled a well on the Douglass farm, near the north end of the bridge at Edenburg, in 1861. Oil was found in the usual pebble rock, at 330 feet. A dozen wells were drilled in this vicinity, and all obtained oil at about the same depth. Mr. Bryson afterwards sunk the well first spoken of to a depth of 700 feet. When down about 400 feet, a solid, but comparatively soft white sand rock was struck, having a thickness of about 40 feet. Gas and salt water were found in this rock, which flowed so strongly as to completely clear the well of the debris of the drilling. Below this formation a red sand rock was found with soap stone, or shale, lying between. The red rock was about 30 feet in depth, and, underlying it, were shales.

Oil had flowed on the surface of a spring where the Strawbridge well was sunk, since the early settlement of the country. Wells were also sunk at [p. 10] Lowell and Youngstown, Ohio, but they were so near the western margin of the oil territory that very little oil was obtained.

Operations were carried on in the Mahoning valley for about four years, and a few isolated wells were worked until within a few years; but the surface water gradually compelled the abandonment of the whole region. Some future day may see the locality in the hands of a wealthy corporation, the wells cleaned and plugged, and a successful business inaugurated, for there is no doubt but the material exists in large quantities, requiring only judicious management to develop a large and profitable industry. Experimental operations have been carried on for a number of years along the Slippery Rock creek, at times promising complete success; but the same difficulties encountered along the Mahoning have existed here, and only a general system of operations, under one control, will make the business profitable.

Dr. Gemmill, at the iron bridge on the Slippery Rock, has been experimenting for a series of years, and is reported to have lately succeeded in making a valuable discovery. At the latest accounts there were three wells in one vicinity producing altogether twenty-three barrels of fine lubricating oil daily. In 1863, Messrs. Smith & Collins sunk a well in this vicinity, which yielded altogether about four thousand barrels, when the surface water drowned it. A company, known as the "New Castle Oil Company," with abundant capital, are operating on the Slippery Rock, and there is evidently a determination on the part of operators to test the matter thoroughly. A new oil-refinery has lately been put in operation at New Castle for the refining of these lubricating oils.

Lawrence county is rich in minerals. Her coal and iron deposits, her ferriferous limestone, and her fire-clays and inexhaustible building stone, are tangible realities; and, predicating nothing upon her prospective and even probable wealth in oil, these first-mentioned minerals alone will eventually be utilized to an extent not now foreseen, and she cannot fail of becoming one of the most prosperous counties in the State.

*State Geological Survey

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