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


[p. 126] The territory now comprised in the three townships of Washington, Plain Grove and Scott, was formerly known as Slippery Rock township, Mercer county; but when, in 1849, that county was divided and a portion of it assigned to the new county of Lawrence, the township was called North Slippery rock, on account of the adjoining township in Beaver county, also set off as a part of Lawrence county, being called Slippery Rock. North Slipper Rock was cut in two April 13th, 1854, and two townships formed from it, viz: Washington and Scott. Washington included the northern portion of the old township, and Scott the southern, and North slippery Rock township was known no longer. February 14th, 1855, the eastern portions of both Washington and Scott were taken off and a new township erected called Plain Grove. On the 15th of February, 1859, the shape of the several townships was finally settled by enlarging Washington on the east by the addition of a strip three-fourths of a mile in width from Plain Grove, and another strip on the south, half a mile in width, taken from Scott. This left Washington township as it is at present, containing about ten thousand eight hundred acres, or sixteen and seven-eighths square miles. The origin of its name is apparent to all, and is another evidence of the desire of a community to perpetuate the name and memory of the man who was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

As the township is less cut up by streams than are most of the others in the county, its surface is less broken and hilly, although it has the features common to Western Pennsylvania, marked in a less degree. It contains abundance of fine farming lands, and is exclusively an agricultural township. A portion of it was not as early settled as the balance, consequently those who did locate in that portion have not had the time to make as fine improvements as those in other parts. The greater portion, however, is in a highly improved condition, and bears witness to the energy and industry of its inhabitants, from the first who entered the wilderness as pioneers, to the present generation.

Neshannock creek flows across the northwest corner of the township, and just as it enters Wilmington township it receives the mingled waters of several smaller streams or "runs," which unite a short distance to the east, and have their sources in Washington township.

[p. 127] In the southern part of the township, Hettenbaugh run, or East brook has its principal source at a fine spring on the farm of Michael Jordan, and is also fed from numerous other springs in the vicinity. It flows in a southerly course until it gets into Scott township, when it curves to the west and keeps that direction for about four miles, across a corner of Scott and through Hickory, and finally, after affording a motive power for a number of mill-wheels, and having its current breasted by no less than seven dams, it discharges its waters into the Big Neshannock creek at Eastbrook station.

In the northeast part of the township, and lying partly in Plain Grove, is a cranberry marsh, originally covering some ninety or one hundred acres. Some seasons the yield of berries is very large. The land, as it lies, is not fit for cultivation, but could probably be drained and made comparatively valuable.

A portion of the village of Volant is in the northwest corner of the township, on the small strip which lies west of the Neshannock creek. The New Castle and Franklin railway is built along the west bank of the creek, and has about half a mile of track in the township.

Timber was originally abundant and of an excellent quality, but has been largely cut away, and the portion left standing is but a meager quantity compared with the grand forest which covered the country when it was first settled.

Coal underlies the township to some extent, but is not worked within its limits. Samuel Slater mines a fine quality just across the line in Scott township, and the vein very probably reaches far into Washington.

Iron ore, of the blue quality, abounds along Neshannock creek, but at present is not worked in the township. It is so hard and contains comparatively so small a per centage of iron, that it is not manufactured as actively as the softer ores which are found in the eastern part of the county, along Slipper Rock creek and its tributaries, although furnaces have formerly been in operation for working it, one at Neshannock Falls, in Wilmington township, having run for some ten or twelve years, getting its supply of ore along the creek.


Probably the first white settler in the township was George Hettenbaugh, originally from Germany, who came in 1797, and settled the farm now owned by George and Michael Jordan. Mr. Hettenbaugh had two sons with him--Michael and George. They brought a good share of their provisions on their backs, having their household goods packed on the backs of four horses--a fine start for pioneers. Old Mr. Hettenbaugh set out the first orchard in the neighborhood, and a few of the trees are yet standing. Hettenbaugh run takes its name from this family, who settled at its source.

The same year the Hettenbaughs settled, a number of families came to the township and located in the immediate neighborhood.

Alexander Anderson came to America from Ireland, about 1789-90. Some time during the year 1797 he came to what is now Washington township, and settled the farm now owned by his grandsons, John and Joseph Totten. Either the same season or next, Mr. Anderson planted some corn, potatoes, &c., and soon set out an orchard, the second one in the vicinity. The old orchard now standing on Henry Jordan's place was set out about 1812-13.

James and John Smith came the same year (1797) from the Chartiers valley, and helped swell the settlement begun by the Hettenbaughs.

James Sharp and family came about the same time and settled in the same neighborhood, as did also M. McLaughlin, who located on the farm now owned by Jonathan Bonny.

Dennis McConnell was also out about the same time, or perhaps a little later.

Joseph Campbell came among the first settlers, and settled near where Henry Jordan now lives. He became quite prominent in after years.

William Michaels came in early and made some improvements on a place, but owing to the fact he had no title to the land, he was obliged to leave it. A few years after, or in the Spring of 1802, Robert Mason located on the same farm.

Henry Jordan came to the township with his wife and eight children, in the Fall of 1802, from York county, Pa., and bought two hundred acres of land, one hundred of which his son Henry now owns. In January, 1803, Michael Jordan, now living on a part of the old Hettenbaugh farm, was born. Another child, Mary, was born in April, 1806. The other children were: Henry, born October 7, 1788; John, Nathaniel and George (twins), Susan, Kate and Elizabeth. Of these, five are yet living: Henry, George, Michael, Susan and Mary.

Mr. Jordan's son Henry was fourteen years old when his father came to Lawrence (then Mercer) county, and remembers the time well. He says he was in New Castle "when all the buildings in it were not worth ten dollars!" As he was the oldest son, he had the work of such a personage to do, and was often sent to New Castle to mill. He was married May 14, 1814, to Ann Anderson, whose father, Alexander Anderson, has been previously mentioned as one of the early settlers.

The first death in the Jordan family, after they came to the township, was that of one of the children, Elizabeth Jordan, who died in the Winter of 1805-6. The land originally settled by the Jordans was bought for one dollar and seventy-five cents per acre.

Henry Jordan, now living at the advanced age of eighty-eight years, raised a family of eight children, the oldest, Alexander, born August 20, 1815, and the youngest, Sarah, March 3, 1833. His wife died August 28, 1870, aged eighty-one years.

In 1803 the Jordans raised corn on land which had been cleared by Joseph Campbell.

Kinzie Daniels came from New Jersey about 1805-6, and located southwest of the Jordans.

The farm now owned by Solomon and Samuel Brown was originally a four-hundred-acre tract, surveyed in pursuance of a warrant issued to Lawrence F. Dickinson, April 14, 1792, and patented by the President of the Pennsylvania Population Company, in trust for said company, in December, 1799. The company conveyed it to Paul Busti April 22, 1813, and it was taken by Thomas Astley June 24, 1813. Astley, by his attorney, Enoch Marvin, of Pittsburgh, granted two hundred acres of it to John Gilkey, August 18, 1814. Gilkey was the first settler on the tract, and afterwards (February 20, 1815,) sold part of it to Charles Gilkey, the latter personage being the one from whom Mr. Brown bought the land. Charles Gilkey died a number of years since.

Samuel Brown, father of Solomon Brown, came from Lancaster county about 1805-10, and settled in Beaver county.

About the year 1828, Robert Donley came to the township from Westmoreland county, and settled on the farm now owned by John Donley. Mr. Donley was originally from Ireland, and though at such a late day, he was the first settler on the one-hundred-acre tract which he bought and located upon, in the northeast part of the present township of Washington.

William Martin came from Ireland, and settled in Washington township about 1818-20, purchasing two hundred acres of land of a Mr. McClurg. Some improvements had been made on the place when Mr. Martin came. He was married before he left Ireland, and brought his wife with him. He died in 1870, at the age of seventy-four years.

The first settler on the place now owned by Samuel Collins was Robert Collins, who bought the land of Thomas Astley and Enoch Marvin, in 1837, and made the first improvements on the place. Mr. Collins was a descendant of the Dennistons, who were early settlers in Springfield township, Mercer county.

Thomas Astley was a Philadelphia "land-jobber," and had control of a number of tracts in Washington and Plain Grove townships. Enoch Marvin was a surveyor, living in Pittsburgh, and Astley appointed him his attorney or agent. It is probable that Marvin himself afterwards became interested in land speculations. Many stories are told of his being threatened, while surveying different tracts, by those who had squatted on them. It is related that at one time an Irish woman came out of her cabin and threatened to "smash his compass" if he went any farther in that direction, and to save the instrument he wisely pulled up stakes and left for a more congenial atmosphere. At another time a settler or squatter came out with his rifle and threatened to "shoot him if he stuck another stake." Marvin was simply doing his duty, but so many against one was too great odds, and he finally desisted from his work, took his surveyor's instruments and left.

It will be seen that the principal or first settlers came into the township between 1797 and 1800, and this generally in the southern part. After the first installment the township was slowly filled up, many tracts having their primitive wildness unbroken for as much as forty years after the first settlement was made.

After the year 1800 the only Indians seen in the township were occasional hunting parties or individuals, who camped out once in a while in the neighborhood, and, besides what hunting they did, trapped some for beaver and otter, which abounded quite plentifully in some localities. These Indians were always peaceable and well disposed, and the settlers had no fear of them. They belonged to the tribe of the Seneca nation whose chief was Cornplanter, and had three villages in what is now Mercer county--one near Mercer town, one at the bend of the Shenango river and one on the [p. 128] border of what is known as Pine Swamp, a few miles northeast of Mercer village. Occasionally, also, parties of them encamped on the banks of Slippery Rock creek, about the mouth of Muddy creek, and in other places, but they had mostly disappeared from Western Pennsylvania as early as 1800.

Adam Grim came from the foot of Laurel Hill, in Fayette county, first to Washington county, where he staid three or four years, and afterwards to Washington township, Lawrence county, in the month of July, 1814 or 1815. He rented a farm of Thomas Bozel, who had purchased it and made a settlement and improvements several years before. This was the farm now owned by Jonathan Burley. Mr. Bozel, after renting his place to Grim, purchased a piece of land near Harlansburg, in the present township of Scott. Grim staid on the Bozel farm three years. He brought his family with him, consisting of his wife and four children, and they passed through Harlansburg, July 4, when the annual review of militia were going on.

Abraham Grim, Sr., came from Germany when a boy, some gentleman paying his passage. Young Grim staid with this man until he became of age, and afterwards married a girl named Mary Wise, who was raised in Reading, Berks county.

Abraham Grim, Jr., purchased sixty-two acres of "population land" about 1830, situated east of the present village of Lockeville or Volant post-office, and has lived on it ever since.

REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIERS.--Henry Jordan, Sr., settled in 1802, had served during the Revolution, and is the only one among the settlers of the township who took part in that struggle, as far as we have been able to ascertain, although it is possible there were others. Of the SOLDIERS OF 1812, the number is greater. Henry Jordan enlisted in the Fall of 1812 for six months, and went with Captain John Junkin's company, the "Mercer Blues," to Fort Meigs, or rather through by way of Mansfield and other points to Sandusky and the Maumee river or "Miami of the lakes," where he helped build Fort Meigs. Mr. Jordan is the only surviving member of the original "Mercer Blues," and his evidence refutes many of the stories told of the siege of Fort Meigs and Harrison's memorable campaign. Mr. Jordan's time expired some during the Spring of 1813, and he was afterwards out three times to Erie. His three brothers, John, Nathaniel and George, were also out at Erie, and John Jordan died at Black Rock, in the Winter of 1813.

Samuel Anderson, a son of Alexander Anderson, was out in 1813 to Eire.

WAR OF THE REBELLION.--In the four years, from 1861 to 1865, Washington township was also well represented, and sent many of her sons to do battle with the foe that was striking viciously at the vitals of the country. The regiment represented principally by Lawrence county men was the One Hundredth or Roundhead Regiment, commanded by Colonel Daniel Leasure, of New Castle, and numbers joined this regiment from Washington township. A dozen other regiments had men in them from Lawrence county, and probably some of them had representatives from this township.


Was established sometime about 1840-45, and William Hoover was the first postmaster. It was kept for a while in the mill which stood on the west side of Neshannock creek. James Rice afterwards opened a store near where Abraham Grim now lives, and had the post-office removed to it, and acted as postmaster. When the new town of Lockville was laid out, in 1872, the office was removed to that, and is at present kept by William Graham, in the store belonging to Graham Brothers, near the railway station.

The only grist-mill in the township is the one on the Neshannock, at Lockeville, and a history of it will be found under the description of the village, in the sketch of Wilmington township.

A Seceder church was organized, and a building erected on the Martin farm about 1835-6. The house was frame, but has long since been abandoned, and has gone to decay. Rev. Mr. Boyd was probably the first preacher who had charge of the society. The church-lot and cemetery were both taken from the farm of William Martin, and included an acre of ground. The cemetery is still in use, and is inclosed by a substantial fence, and kept in good repair. Meetings have not been held for many years, and there is now no church-building in the township.


In early days schools were primitive affairs, and for the want of suitable buildings were often kept in private houses, or other convenient places, and when buildings were put up at all, they were simple and rude log-structures, with huge fire-places, slabs with three legs stuck in for benches, and windows made by leaving a hole in the side of the house, and putting in small sticks and covering them with paper, oiled, to make them nearer transparent. In most cases more light came down the huge chimney than was let in at the windows, and the wind itself was not backward about whistling down the chimney and driving the smoke into the room. Schools were carried on by voluntary subscriptions, and the school-houses were built by the same means. The number of text-books was exceedingly limited, yet proved sufficient for the demand. The teachers were generally males, and coupled with their general fund of knowledge was a remarkable proficiency in the use of the birchen rod. Many are the amusing anecdotes told of experiences in the schools of those times--of all manner of tricks played on the master, serious conflicts thereafter, teachers who were "turned out" and those who proved equal to the emergency; exploits at "spelling-schools," &c., &c., and the generation that took active part in them all is now fast thinning down to a few individuals--the only links between the accomplished present and the ruder past.

Twenty years ago many of the original settlers were living, but they are now numbered with those who have "gone, but are not forgotten," and when those who live look back to the time the country was settled, and recollect that it has been twice the average life of man since their forefathers first set foot on the virgin soil now teeming with the products of industry and frugality, they must realize that "time, the tomb-builder," though his flight be unseen, is yet certain and steady, and, as the faces of their grandfathers and grandmothers seem to rise before them in a shadowy row, the effect must be still more striking, and the conclusion will be arrived at that change is constantly going on--old landmarks are passing away, and still time, in his remorseless fight, looks neither to the right nor left, and

"---Pauses not to muse, like other conquerors,
Upon the fearful ruin he has wrought."

A school-house was built in the Fall of 1803, on the Jordan farm, of logs. It stood near the small run, just west of the present residence of Henry Jordan. The first teacher was Joseph Campbell, mentioned in another place as one of the early settlers. The school consisted of from twenty-five to forty pupils, many of whom came a distance of several miles to attend. This was the first school-house and the first school within the present limits of the township. Mr. Jordan donated the land it stood on.

The next building for school purposes was erected on land donated by Kinzie Daniels, about 1807-8. John Mitchell was the first teacher, and was made the object of sundry practical jokes, such as the boys who attended his school knew too well how to invent and carry out.

Another school-house was put up not long afterwards, on the Robert Mason farm, but who the first teacher was is now uncertain.

These three buildings were the first ones erected in the township, and were used for a number of years. Uriah Ramsey, now living in Plain Grove township, was one of the first teachers in Washington after the establishment of the free-school system.

There are now five schools in the township, the buildings partly built of wood and partly of brick. The enrollment of school-children in 1875 was one hundred and fifty-eight, of which ninety-two were males and sixty-four were females. The average attendance was one hundred and four. The amount of moneys expended for school purposes for the school year ending June 1, 1875, including the erection of a new frame school-house, was $1,480.28. Of this amount six hundred and forty-six dollars were paid to teachers. The schools at present are in a prosperous condition, and the houses generally comfortable, neat and substantial.

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

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Updated: 21 Mar 2001, 18:01