20th Century History of New Castle and
Lawrence County Pennsylvania and Representative Citizens



[p. 21] Topographical — Geological — A Geological Section — Seral Conglomerate Sandstone — Coal — Petroleum.


Lawrence County is situated nearly in the center of that tier of counties which forms the extreme western part of the State of Pennsylvania, its western boundary being the Ohio State line. It is bounded on the north by Mercer County, on the south by Beaver County, on the east by Butler County, and on the west by the State of Ohio. Its superficial area is about 360 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. Situated in the Beaver Valley, it is drained by that stream and its numerous branches, among which, and the most important, are the Shenango and Mahoning Rivers, and the Slippery Rock and Neshannock Creeks. There are also the Conoquenessing Creek, which flows for about four miles through the southern part of Wayne Township, empties into the Beaver River; Deer Creek, in Pulaski Township; Little Neshannock Creek, in Wilmington Township; Hettenbaugh Run, in Hickory; Big Run, in Shenango; Taylor's and Jameson's Runs, in Plaingrove; Little Beaver Creek, in the township of that name, and Hickory Creek, in North Beaver.

Along one side or the other of the Shenango, Mahoning and Beaver Rivers, from the north and west lines of the county to a point near the old town of Moravia, are extensive bottoms, but at the point mentioned the hills close in and thence hug the river closely for most of the way to the southern line of the county. Along the Mahoning, in the vicinity of Edenburg, are found some precipitous bluffs, which afford much picturesque scenery; the bottom lands generally alternating with the hills on the opposite side of the river. Along the beautiful valley of the Shenango the hills are less precipitous, and the land is highly cultivated. The lover of fine scenery will find his wishes gratified in the Neshannock Valley, where it abounds from the Mercer County line to New Castle. As a former historian has truly written, "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 [p. 22] 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 60 to 300 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 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 centers of trade and population."

Lawrence County is sub-divided civilly into one city, three boroughs and seventeen townships.

The commercial and civil capital is the city of New Castle, which is situated very near its geographical center. Upon this point, a great number of roads converge 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.


Geologically, Lawrence County belongs to the region included in the sixth bituminous coal basin of Pennsylvania, the coal belonging to the Clarion group, which is the northwest outcrop of the lower measures. The rocks of this region belong to the Paleozoic series; that is, the lowest sedimentary rocks containing evidences of organic life. On the tops of the highest hills is found the ferriferous, or iron-bearing limestone; but the greater portion of this once extensive formation has been denuded, and carried away to the valley of the Mississippi, and thence to the Gulf of Mexico, 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." In the neighborhood of New Castle this formation is about seventeen feet in thickness, being underlaid with from three to five feet of hard bluestone. This limestone contains about ninety per cent of carbonate of lime and is extensively used for fluxing purposes in blast furnaces. The bluestone has been extensively used in the manufacture of hydraulic cement, quarries of it existing at New Castle, and in Taylor, North Beaver, Mahoning and Slippery Rock Townships.

At New Castle, one mile east of the postoffice, 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:

Tionesta sandstone, about 50 feet.
Blue shale, with iron ore, 6 feet.
Coal, 1˝ feet.
Blue shale (argillaceous), 8 feet.
Rotten sandstone, 2˝ feet.
Blue and brown shale, with sandstone, 2˝ feet.
Bituminous shale, 2˝ to 3 feet. [p. 23]
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 feet.
Blue slate, 2 feet.
Clay, 6 inches.
Black shale, 1˝ feet.
Light colored shale, 3˝ feet.
Light blue shale, with bands of sandstone, 4 feet or more.
Interval, 6˝ feet.
Mercer limestone, 1˝ feet.
Light colored shale, with sandy seams, 5 feet.
Bituminous coal, 6 to 8 inches.
Slate, 2 feet.
Bluish crumbly shale, 2˝ feet.
Grayish rotten sandstone, 1˝ feet.
Flaggy sandstone, 8 feet.
Brown shale, 5 to 6 feet.
Bituminous shale, 1˝ feet.
Bluish or gray slaty sandstone, 5 feet.
Sandstone, 70 feet.

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 feet.
Coal, 12 inches.
Light colored shale, 6 to 8 feet.
Argillaceous sandstone, 2 feet.
Light colored shale, 12 to 13 feet.
Bituminous shale and coal, 4 feet.
Blue sandy shale, 6 feet.
Flaggy sandstone (argillaceous at top), 75 feet 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 feet.
Slate rock, 3 feet.
Slate, 61 feet.
Sand shale, 54 feet.
Slate rock, 54 feet. Gas.
Gray sand, 44 feet.
Slate rock, 26 feet.
White sand, 78 feet. Salt water.
Slate rock, 35 feet.
Red (sand) rock, 70 feet. Gas.
Slate rock, 151 feet. Gas.
Gray sand, 43 feet. Gas.
Slate, 70 feet.
Sand shales (very hard), 30 feet.
Slate, 75 feet.
Gray sand, 31 feet.
Red rock, 3 feet.
Slate, 226 feet.
Hard shales, 21 feet.
Slate, 155 feet.
Sand shales, 47 feet.
Hard slate, 68 feet.
Gray sand, 50 feet.
Slate, 154 feet.
Gray sand, 8 feet.
Slate, 64 feet.
Gray sand, 15 feet.
Slate, 69 feet.
Graysand, 17 feet.
Slate, 103 feet.
Gray sand, 80 feet.
Very hard slate, 190 feet.
Black sand, 10 feet.
Very hard slate, 30 feet.
Additional, with about same changes, 525 feet.
Hard slate at bottom.
Total, 2,800 feet.


The seral conglomerate sandstone passes under the water level above the mouth of the Conoquenessing Creek. There is a bed of what is supposed to be the Mahoning limestone, at Wampum Hill, about forty-two feet above the Beaver River. At the mouth of the Conoquenessing, large blocks of Tionesta sandstone may be seen lying on the surface of the hill, and the same is true of Slippery Rock Creek, from its mouth up to the bridge at the Mercer Turnpike, where it passes under the water level.

In general, the rocks on Beaver River are not well exposed. The Tionesta Sandstone, however, may be seen on both sides of the river, from the mouth of the Conoqueessing down towards Brighton, 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 100 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 [p. 24] 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."

A very interesting locality to the geologist is the vicinity of Willie Roy furnace, on Slippery Rock Creek, near the mouth of Muddy Creek. Here extensive deposits of iron ore have been discovered, situated immediately upon the upper surface of the ferriferous limestone, which is abundant in the vicinity, cropping out along the slopes of the hills, especially on or near their summits. This ore yields an average of 40 per cent of the finest iron often giving 50 per cent.

According to the State Geological Survey, there is, also, "upon the highest hills, and located about thirty feet above the limestone a three-foot 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." This ore was at one time extensively mined by the process of "stripping," which developed a coarse, gray slate down to within a short distance of the ore, below which appeared a stratum of red slate, underlaid by six inches of white clay. Below the clay was a stratum of flint, about a foot or less in thickness, and under this, lying upon the limestone, was found the ore, which lay where the stone was open, in pockets. Where the rock was close and compact, the ore was found more regularly deposited. The limestone is from ten to twelve feet in thickness, and rests upon a thirty-foot stratum of shale and slate. Below this comes in the Tionesta sandstone, which is exposed in many localities, and forms the remarkable and interesting fall on Muddy Creek. Immediately under the sandstone there is a very extensive deposit of what is technically known as "blue ore," which is 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 second and extensive vein of very hard ore may be seen exposed in the bed of the creek, a short distance below the furnace, at James Allen's old mill. It lies about thirty-feet below the "blue ore." The limestone vein of ore follows the formation for forty miles 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. Both the limestone and ore are very abundant, increasing as they approach the Beaver River, the ore being of a very fine quality.

Three miles west of the old Lawrence furnace, in Shenango Township, are located the famous "Houk banks," where the entire limestone formation gives place to an extraordinary deposit of iron ore, fifteen feet in thickness. Similar formations and deposits exist also in Wayne Township.

In Neshannock Township there is an extensive deposit of the "blue ore," from six to eighteen inches in thickness, underlying the coal lands of the old New Castle Railroad & Mining Company. It occurs at a depth of about seventy-five feet below the workable coal vein. Iron ore has also been found in considerable quantities in the vicinity of the glass works.

The quarrying of limestone is now one of the leading industries of Lawrence County, more than 5,000,000 tons being quarried during the year, and more than one-third of this production being within the limits of the city of New Castle. From these quarries about 30,000 tons of clay are also taken. A comparatively recent report says, "The limestone of New Castle and Lawrence County is unexcelled for purity, being high in carbonate of lime and low in phosphorous, the supply inexhaustible, [p. 25] and the demand from the leading blast furnaces in the country is constantly increasing."


This valuable mineral, it is thought, was first discovered within the bounds of Lawrence County, by John Stockman, in Big Beaver Township, about the year 1810. It has also been found in various parts of the county, most extensively along the Beaver River, in Big and North Beaver Townships. It underlies a large area in Neshannock Township, and other deposits occur in the west part of Union Township. The land that is underlaid with coal is poor farming land. The coal found in the Beaver Valley proper is known as the "Beaver Valley gas coal," from the large amount of illuminating gas which it contains. It is also an excellent coking coal. The workable veins are from three to four feet in thickness, and are found at various depths in different localities. There are many mines in Big Beaver Township and Wampum is now the only point in the county from which coal is shipped. The Beaver Valley coals closely resemble those of the well known Pittsburg measures, being in continuous seams, or nearly so, while the deposits in Neshannock and Union Townships resemble more closely those of the celebrated 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." Near Mercer County shafts have been sunk and machinery installed, but the mines are not being worked, perhaps because at present mines in Mercer County can be worked more profitably.

In Neshannock Township have been found quite extensive deposits of fire-brick and potter's clays, which have been utilized in the potteries. Some of the clay found within the city's limits is especially adapted to the manufacture of the best kind of brick, and is extensively utilized.

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


Petroleum was first discovered in the pebble or sand rock deposit, near Titusville, in Crawford County, by Colonel Drake, in 1859. These oil-sands lie in the middle Devonian system, thus differing from the Canada oil limestone which occurs in its lowest part. By geologists and oil producers petroleum has been divided into two classes—light and heavy oils. The former, which constitutes the great bulk of the commercial article, is found in the eastern portion of the oil-producing region of Pennsylvania, in the 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, composed of similar-materials, but varying in texture, produces a crude or refined oil, according as it is more or less compact in its grain, and dips from the west a little towards the southeast, at the rate of some fifteen feet per mile. It consists of about three-fourths quartz, etc., 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 not absolutely known, but in many instances the actual yield has exceeded 1,500,000 barrels per square mile.

Says Prof. J. P. Lesley: "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 Pennsylvania oils are found at depths varying from 150 to 1,200 feet below the surface. [p. 26] Lawrence County is supposed to lie mostly within the heavy oil district, which covers an extent of about 1,200 square miles.

In 1860 there was great excitement in the western part of Lawrence County, owing to the discovery that oil existed in that locality. The first well in the valley of the Mahoning 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, however, were taken out, when the influx of surface water stopped operations. Another well, 230 feet deep, was bored on the Angus farm, subsequently owned by J. McWilliams, and the production reached 1,000 barrels, when the same difficulty that the Strawbridge well had encountered put an end to the working.

The early operators were unfamiliar with the peculiar characteristics of the oil-bearing rock, and did not have the necessary mechanical apparatus for obtaining the oil. Not until vast sums had been expended, and positive knowledge obtained by costly practical experience, did they discover the right way to proceed.

Tubing the wells to keep out the surface water was not at first thought of. Notwithstanding the numerous failures, 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 oil. The oil-bearing sand-rock of this vicinity has been traced from a little west of the Ohio line eastward to the Slippery Rock, dipping gradually toward the southeast. It is very close-grained, and acts as a filter, 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. Borings have penetrated it at New Castle, on the Big Run, and in the Slippery Rock Hills, west of the creek. It has an average thickness of about thirty feet.

Operations were carried on in the Mahoning Valley for about four years, and a few isolated wells were worked for a number of years, or well along into the seventies, but the surface water gradually compelled the abandonment of the whole region. In the hands of a wealthy corporation, with the wells cleaned and plugged, a successful business might be inaugurated, for there is no doubt that the material exists in large quantities, requiring only judicious management to develop a profitable industry.

Late in the seventies, at the iron bridge on the Slippery Rock, there were three wells in one vicinity producing altogether twenty-three barrels of fine lubricatin oil daily. In 1863, Messrs. Smith & Collins sunk a well in this vicinity, which yielded altogether about 4,000 barrels, when the surface water drowned it.

Lawrence County has extensive mineral resources, without counting oil. Her coal and iron deposits, her ferriferous limestone, and her fire clays and inexhaustible building stone, are tangible assets that, when utilized to their fullest extent, cannot fail to make her one of the most prosperous counties of the state. A part of this prosperity she is already enjoying, but the end is not yet, and with the improved and more economical methods of operation that the future will doubtless provide, there will come an expansion of wealth and greatness not now conceived of, but from which our citizens will all profit in greater or less degree.

20th Century History of New Castle and Lawrence County Pennsylvania and Representative Citizens Hon. Aaron L. Hazen Richmond-Arnold Publishing Company, Chicago, Ill., 1908

Preface | Table of Contents | Chapter II
Explanation/Caution | Lawrence Co. Maps | Lawrence Co. Histories
Updated: 5 Apr 2002