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


[p. 56] The first actual settlers within what is now the borough of Wampum, were Robert and John Davidson, brothers, who came from Ireland, in 1791, and landed at Philadelphia. From there Robert went to Cincinnati, where he purchased property. From Cincinnati he returned to Pittsburgh, and from thence he and his brother John came to the tract covering the site of Wampum borough, in March, 1796. Their mother, with the rest of the family, left Ireland in 1793, and remained in the eastern part of Pennsylvania until the boys had made a settlement at Wampum, when they joined them. Thomas Davidson, a half brother, came out a year or two later, and joined the settlement. They settled on a two hundred acre tract, of which they received half for settling, and afterwards purchased the balance for one hundred dollars. There were seven sons in the family, and they all settled in the vicinity, along the Beaver river. Robert Davidson erected a gristmill on the site of the present mill owned by Edward Kay, about the year 1830. It was run by water from springs, and contained two run of stones. Mr. Davidson operated the mill until his death, in 1846. It was repaired and run by his heirs about four years, when it was sold to Captain Archibald Reed about 1850. Reed operated it for a number of years, and sold to Mr. Lewis Zeigler, who owned it until about 1870, when it was purchased by Messrs. Lowrie & Mellon, who commenced rebuilding it, and expended a large sum of money, but before it was completed they sold to Edward Kay the same year (1870). When completely rebuilt and repaired, the mill was three stories in height, with a basement 32 by 40 feet in dimensions, and contained four run of stone. The water-power proving insufficient, a powerful steam-engine was put in 1871. The total cost of the mill, to Mr. Kay, as it now stands, including original cost and subsequent repairs and improvements, has been about fourteen thousand dollars ($14,000).

The people of the borough of Wampum are extensively engaged in mining and manufacturing.


The first furnace was built by Porter R. Friend & Co., of Pittsburgh, in 1856. (The firm consisted of P. R. Friend, Harvey Childs, and G. W. Richardson.)

This firm operated it for a number of years, but the business was so unprofitable that the property was finally sold at assignee's sale, August 1, 1866. Samuel Kimberly purchased the establishment on behalf of the "Eagle Iron Company," of Cleveland, Ohio, though the latter company never really owned it. The name was changed to "Wampum Furnace Company."

In 1868-69, Edward Kay purchased an interest in the property. The company originally consisted of five members--George Worthington, Wm. Bingham, and S. S. Mather, of Cleveland, Ohio; Samuel Kimberly, of Sharon, Pa., and Edward Kay of Wampum. Mr. Worthington died about 1871, and his interest was purchased by the surviving partners. The present capacity of the works is about twenty tons of metal, daily, or about seven thousand tons per annum.

The works are employed in the manufacture of pig-iron exclusively, using Lake Superior ores mostly. A small proportion of the red limestone ore [p. 57] found in Shenango and Wayne townships, is used in connection with the lake ores.

The company own, in connection with their furnace, extensive limestone deposits, and are, therefore, able to supply themselves at the minimum cost with these very necessary materials.

The amount of coal taken out of their mines annually is from 40,000 to 50,000 tons, a large share of which is shipped. The capital invested in the furnace property, in coal mines, stone quarries, cars, coal-shutes, &c., equals fully $250,000. In busy times, they employ over two hundred men; at present, the number is about one hundred and fifty. The pig-iron is mostly sold in Pittsburgh, though considerable quantities are shipped to New York, Chicago, and other points. The company have eighteen coking-ovens in connection with their works, and do their own coking, thereby saving a large expense in the handling of this important fuel.

The average yield of iron from the Shenango and Wayne ores, is about thirty-five per cent. The bulk of this ore is at present being shipped at the rate of about ten car loads daily, from Wampum Station to various points--New Castle, Youngstown, &c.

The coal business at this point is quite extensive. The firm of Davidson, Green & Co. work about sixty miners, and handle annually thirty to forty thousand tons. Captain O. H. P. Green, of this firm, claims to have been the first man to export the Beaver Valley gas coal to Erie, which was in 1852. In the Spring of that year he commenced the coal-mining business near Homewood Junction, on his own land, in North Sewickly township, Beaver county, and shipped one thousand tons of the coal to Erie, at a very low price, in order to introduce it in that market. The captain invested several thousand dollars in the business, in which he continued some two years by himself, when he took in, as partners, Abner C. Fenton and Henry Manning, of Youngstown, Ohio. In 1854 he sold his interest in the business to Jonathan Warner, of Youngstown, Ohio.

Captain Green had previously been connected with the canal business, commencing by working as a common laborer when fifteen years of age, near Greenville, Mercer county. When the canal was completed, he had gone into the boating business, in which he continued until he engaged in coal-mining and shipping. After he sold out his interest in the coal business, he returned to his old occupation on the canal. He owned and operated several boats in his own name, and also had a partner, Captain M. S. Marquis, and together they owned and operated as many as twelve boats at one time.

In 1857 he removed to the vicinity of Edenburg, where he purchased at various times several farms, on one of which is situated the famous prehistoric mound, near the site of the old Indian town of Kush-kush-kee.* He continued to do business on the canal until about 1866. The bulk of his transactions was on the "Cross-cut" canal, which ran from Mahoningtown to Cleveland, Ohio, though he did business on the Pennsvlvania branches more or less. In 1867 he removed to New Castle, where he still resides. He is at present a member of the firm of Green, Marquis & Johnson, at New Castle, extensively engaged in the limestone business, and also of the firm of Davidson, Green & Co., at Wampum, where they are engaged exclusively in the business of mining and shipping coal.

*See History of Mahoning township.

In addition to the coal business at this point, there are three firms engaged in quarrying and burning limestone. These are John K. Shinn, Williams & Co., and the Wampum Cement and Lime Company, the latter of whom manufacture large quantities of cement, which is made from the lower stratum of limestone, familiarly known as the "blue stone." This company are also engaged in coal-mining. The coal of this valley is bituminous, somewhat similar to the celebrated Pittsburgh coal, and excellent for coke and gas- producing qualities.

R. D. Davidson does a large business in lumber, having a planing-mill in connection. His mill was recently burned, but will be soon rebuilt and in operation. He is also a manufacturer of brick, and an extensive breeder of poultry.

Wampum was erected into a borough by the Court of Quarter Sessions, February 19, 1876. Edward Kay was the first burgess, and is also the present incumbent.

The first post-office was established at Wampum about 1832, by the name of "Irish Ripple," from the rapids in the Beaver river. It was moved back and forth between Wampum and Newport until the people of the former place had the name changed to "Wampum," since which it has remained there. This was about the year 1868. The name "Wampum," is said to have been derived from a tribe of Indians who formerly dwelt there, and who wore the wampum belt.

The town is picturesquely situated on the Beaver river, nine miles below New Castle, and about forty miles from Pittsburgh, at the foot of the precipitous bluffs which inclose the narrow valley of the Beaver.

Including its mining population, the borough contains, according to the estimate of its best informed citizens, about twelve hundred inhabitants.

There are two religious societies, Methodist Episcopal and United Presbyterian. The borough schools are at present using the basement of the M. E. Church, the school building having been burned in the Fall of 1875. A fine new building will be erected during the season of 1877. According to the school superintendent's report for 1875, there was one school with one teacher, and one hundred and fifty scholars.

There are one very convenient hotel, five stores of various kinds, two blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, one harness shop, two shoemakers, several milliners, &c.

Of secret orders, there are a lodge of Odd Fellows, which meets in Chewton; one lodge of the Ancient Order of United Workmen; one lodge Order of United American Mechanics; one grange Patrons of Husbandry, and a lodge of those who are in favor of the withdrawal of the national bank currency and the substitution of "greenbacks" by the government.

Prominent among other improvements is the fine iron bridge spanning the Beaver river at this point, built by T. B. White and Sons, of Beaver Falls. It is about four hundred feet in length, and cost some $30,000.

The Pittsburgh and Erie railway passes through the place. A narrow- guage railway is in process of construction from Wampum to the iron ore beds, in Wayne and Shenango townships, extending a distance of about four miles. At present the ore is hauled to Wampum with teams. Large quantities of it are exported to various points in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and if the demand continues to increase, the railway will become a necessity, and will no doubt be pushed to an early completion.


The Methodist Episcopal Church of Wampum was organized May 15, 1871, with six members, who formed a class. A Sabbath-school was put in operation by Wm. Thompson in 1869, with about ten scholars which soon increased to twenty-two.

The first meetings of the society were held in what is now a cooper shop at the foot of the hill south of town, which was originally erected for a school house. The Rev. J. E. Johnston was the first pastor and preached for about six months. The Rev. N. Morris succeeded him in 1872, and Rev. J. E. Johnston followed him and continued for two years. After him came Rev. C. F. Edmonds who also remained two years, and was succeeded by Rev. George H. Brown, and he by Rev. John Perry in October, 1876, who is the present pastor.

A church was erected in 1871 at a cost of about $4,000, of which Mr. Edward Kay contributed about $3,000. The present membership numbers about 120. A portion of the congregation reside in Chewton, on the opposite side of the river. The society supports a Sabbath-school with ten officers and teachers, and sixty-five or seventy scholars. The school has a library of some three hundred volumes.

The present Trustees are: Edward Kay, Joseph Grandy, Alex. Lowrie, Joseph Thompson and James Wise. The Stewards are: Joseph Frazier, Joseph Butler, Joseph Grandy, James Wise, Theodore D. Froi de Veaux and John Shuler.


The United Presbyterians of Wampum asked the Beaver Valley Presbytery to grant an organization at Wampum. The Presbytery considered the matter favorably, the only difficulty being the want of a suitable house of worship.

Accordingly, about the latter part of August 1875, a party of six men selected a lot on Beaver street, and on the first day of September work was commenced on the foundation, and on the second Sabbath of November following, there was preaching in the new house. The building is of brick, and 40 by 60 feet in size, and 18 feet in height to the ceiling. It is well finished throughout and will comfortably seat 300 people. The total cost was $3,140.

On the 8th of October, 1875, the session appointed by the Beaver Valley Presbytery to organize a congregation at Wampum, met at the house of W. H. Witherspoon. The members present were: Rev. J. I. Frazier (Moderator), Robert Mehard, A. M. Barbour and A. D. Gililand. A sermon was delivered by Rev. J. I. Frazier, from Matthew 16-18, after which the following persons presented certificates of membership: Mrs. Margaret Davidson, Wm. McMillen, Mrs. Eleanor McMillen, W. H. Witherspoon, Mrs. Christine Witherspoon, W. W. Davidson, Mrs. Nancy Davidson, Mr. Asa Eckles, Mrs. [p. 58] Elizabeth Eckles, Alice Minor, Mrs. Mary Whan, Miss Bell Whan, Mrs. Matilda Davidson, Wm. Witherspoon, Mrs. Emily Witherspoon. An election for Elders, by ballot, was then held, resulting in the choice of Asa Eckles and Wm. Witherspoon.

On the lst of July, 1876, an invitation was extended to Rev. J. J. Imbrie, to become pastor of this congregation, which was accepted, and Mr. Imbrie took charge and has been since laboring with a good degree of success. The congregation at this writing (January, 1877), numbers forty persons.

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