EARLY HISTORY OF HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP
by Clifford J. Smith
Rivers have played a major role in the history of mankind. When the French first met the Iroquois in the seventeenth century, those redskin inhabitants of the Great Lakes basin spoke of a great river which rose to the south of their land and flowed west. This was the Ohio, the “Beautiful River of the Iroquois.”
Although explorers navigated the Ohio during the seventeenth century, there was no settlement in the future Beaver County until about 1743. Kakowatchiky, a Shawnee chief, moved with his band from the Susquehanna Valley, to Logstown. Here with the cooperation of the Ohio Mingoes they built a village, which during the next ten years became the most important center for the fur trade of the Pennsylvania traders.
Also this site was the focal point for treaty making. In 1748 large delegations of Delawares, Shawnee, Iroquois and Wyandot assembled at Logstown to receive presents which Conrad Weiser hauled over the mountains with his packhorse train. The ensuing treaties were designed to strengthen the Indian alliance with the British in the struggle with the French as these two great powers vied for the control of the strategic Ohio Valley.
In 1752 Christopher Gist’s Journals recorded that “the Shawnees have a large cornfield where the corn stands ungathered.” This cornfield site in due course of time became part of Hopewell Township. Its present site embraces the location of the former Jones and Laughlin Tube Mill.
Of the many who plied their fur trade at Logstown, John Gibson may be claimed to be the first settler in Hopewell Township. In 1769 at the opening of the Pennsylvania Land Office, an entry was made of 300 acres of land to include the old Indian cornfield opposite Logstown for the use of John Gibson who having drawn at a lottery the earliest number. In 1771 Gibson settled upon the land, built a house, cleared and fenced 30 acres of land. There were no white neighbors nearer than Fort Pitt. At the opening of the American Revolution, Gibson abandoned his home to accept a commission of colonel of the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment.
Flowing through Gibson’s land was a stream which came to be known as Logstown Run. It meandered through a narrow valley (now Franklin Avenue) which was banked on both sides by steep hills of virgin forest. Before reaching the Ohio River the steep hills took a precipitous drop to form a level expanse of ground. This was to be the future site of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation.
In 1778 the sound of the axe and of falling trees echoed along the ridges and valleys of what was to become Hopewell Township. General Lachlan McIntosh with his entourage of axe men, soldiers and packhorses was blazing a road along the historic Cherokee Path which led to the edge of the Ohio River where it turned in a southwesterly direction. Later this road was named the Brodhead.
Upon crossing the river the soldiers set about the task of erecting Fort McIntosh (now Beaver). This was the first fort built by the Continental Army north of the Ohio River, a direct challenge to the British stronghold at Detroit and a bulwark against the incursions of the Indian allies of the British. During the course of the Revolutionary War, this area was important in General Washington’s overall military strategy.
The Indian danger was a deterring factor to permanent settlements until General Anthony Wayne, who trained his legions at Legionville, inflicted a crushing defeat on the Indians at Fallen Timbers in Ohio in 1794. The resulting Treaty of Greenville in 1795 provided the assurance that the Indian danger was past. Settlers began to stream westward.
The Ohio River became a principal avenue of the Gateway to the West. As they floated along the Ohio aboard their keelboats and flatboats, some of the early pioneers were attracted by the green slopes of the future Hopewell Township and steered for shore. Those who came by land resorted to pack-horse transportation, invariably following Indian trails. The horses were equipped with ingeniously constructed wooden packsaddles which could tote a two-hundred pound load.
Slowly and laboriously these early settlers, most of them Scotch-Irish, began the arduous task of shaping a civilization out of a wilderness. The wilderness was literally the “common-wealth” of these migrating Americans. From the beginning the greatest wealth of our country has been wood, the basic resource which the resourceful pioneers used in building their homes, barns and churches and from which .their primitive tools and artifacts were fashioned.
The first settlers in the Hopewell area were uncertain for a period of time whether they were to be Pennsylvanians or Virginians. Between these two states there was a land dispute which emanated from overlapping claims in the early charters. The Plat Map of Hopewell records that Virginia certificates were granted to Nathan Kirkendall (patented 1787) and to Benjamin Kirkendall (patented 1789) whose lands were on the site now occupied by the Green Garden Plaza. A similar certificate was issued to William Douglas (surveyed 1785) whose land bordered on Raccoon Creek near Independence Township.
Among the pioneers who settled in the Hopewell area during the 1790’s were William Greene, Hugh Morrow, Robert Ritchie, Robert Temple, and Elihu Veazey. After serving in the Revolutionary War, Robert Agnew settled on Raredon’s Run and James Jordan settled near Five Points. In 1785 William Davis, a corporal in the Eighth Pennsylvania Line, received a Revolutionary War grant located back of Plan 11 Extension. This land was farmed by William Davis’s descendants until the 1950’s. The Beaver County Centennial Directory indicates that descendants of these family names continued to farm the homestead lands.
One of the early settlers who became an outstanding leader in the Hopewell area was David Scott who served as the first Justice of Peace and who gave the village of Scottsville its’ name. A native of Scotland, Scott was the quartermaster for the army of General Anthony Wayne. In 1792 he was assigned to build the barracks and fortification at Legionville where Wayne was to train his troops preparatory to launching an expedition against the formidable Indians of the Old Northwest. A construction accident caused David Scott to break his leg. As compensation for the injury, the government granted to Scott 500 acres of land which now embraces the Hopewell Shopping Center and environs.
With the increased influx of settlers and with the growing number of land disputes emanating from the Land Act of 1792, there was a need for courts of justice more readily accessible to the people. On March 12, 1800, this need was met with the creation of Beaver County, carved out of Allegheny and Washington Counties. The county’s population had reached 5776.
For political purposes there were formed six townships with three on the South Side, namely, First Moon, Second Moon and Hanover with a total of 2004 inhabitants of whom 413 were taxable. On October 9, 1810, a petition containing 108 signatures was presented to the November Sessions of the Courts asking for reorganization of townships on the South Side so that officers could better discharge their duties and so that citizens could more conveniently attend township meetings and exercise their right of franchise. It was not until 1812 that Hopewell Township, originally a part of First Moon, came into being.
Another political division was effected in 1848 when the southern section of Hopewell became Independence Township, named after a village within its bounds. This had been a place of election and the site of militia muster under the command of Alexander Thomson, major of militia. Its post office was appropriately named Seventy-Six.
The official tax lists of Beaver County offer evidence that enterprising men were soon providing goods and services for the early settlers which made work less laborious and life a bit more comfortable. Mills for grinding grain and sawing. logs were established at convenient places within the township. The first grist mills were crude affairs operated by waterwheels and using wood gears and the familiar stone millstone. White’s mill, the first, was a classic example of this type of operation.
Along Trampmill Run were located the grist mills of Johnson, Veazey, Davis and McCormick. Raredon’s Run supplied the water power for the grist mills of Wilson, Eaton and Ferguson; the latter also operated a sickle shop. The farmers around Bocktown had the services of Alexander P. Morrow’s grist and saw mills. Log cabins gave way to frame buildings by virtue of the saw mills operated by Thompson, McCormick, Davis and William McDonald, the latter located on Logstown Run. At Scottsville David Scott ran a tannery and sickle factory. Carding mills such as those run by Veazey and Johnson relieved the women of the tedious task of making home-spun cloth.
In 1878 John Anderson built a steam mill in New Sheffield. It was the first flour mill operated on a wide-scale commercial basis. Under the respective ownerships of Anderson, Johnston, Bickerstaff and Kaste, this mill with a store outlet on Sheffield Avenue in Woodlawn, served the surrounding farming community for over seventy years. This land mark was located at the corner of Mill Street and Brodhead Road, now occupied by the BP Service Station.
These various mills were places of assembly for the scattered settlers of the country, where they came not only to get their wheat and corn ground but also to hear the news, to barter, to gossip, to get that contact with their neighbors which reduced the loneliness of living in isolation. Such mills became the nuclei of villages which grew up around them and points at which post offices were established. In due course of time, the self-sufficiency of home manufacturing activities was transferred to the village shoemaker, blacksmith, cabinet maker, harness maker, wagon maker, tailor and hatter.
The gravitation of people to such service centers stimulated the growth of New Sheffield which after 1850 became the largest village in Hopewell Township. People were on the move – travelers, drovers, itinerant peddlers, hucksters and agents who made daguerreotype pictures. A stage coach line from Pittsburgh to Beaver traveled the Brodhead Road through New Sheffield.
In 1853 Charles Johnston of the Village of New Sheffield petitioned the Beaver County Courts to operate a public house of entertainment. The twelve signers of the petition testified that the inn or tavern was necessary to accommodate the public and entertain strangers and travelers. One of the petition signers, Benjamin Hall, conducted a large distillery on his father’s farm when whiskey sold for twenty-five cents a gallon. It might be presumed that Benjamin supplied the refreshments for the thirsty travelers who patronized the Johnston Tavern.
In 1866 Dr. J. F. Cooper, a doctor at Allegheny City (Pittsburgh’s North Side), bought 425 acres in New Sheffield which acreage now embraces the Cooper Plan and the Aliquippa Hospital site. Desirous of train service to Allegheny City, Dr. Cooper requested that the Pennsylvania Railroad establish a station. stop at Legionville. The request was honored providing that a crude road from New Sheffield following the Logstown Run to Woodlawn would be improved and extended to the Ohio River where Charles Bruce ran a ferry service. The task was accomplished by the cooperative effort of the area farmers who made possible the first train service for the people of Hopewell Township.
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, New Sheffield served not only as the center of local government but as the trading and merchandising center.
In 1863 William M. Calvert began his mercantile career by opening a general store which when destroyed by fire was replaced with a two-story building. For a number of years he served as the postmaster. Nearby Calvert’s store Robert Temple operated a blacksmith shop. Other general stores were established by D. E. McCallister, Scott and William Orr. One of the scenic spots near New Sheffield was Warnock’s woods. This natural setting was the community park where the Fourth of July celebrations and church picnics were held. It served the folks of both New Sheffield and Woodlawn into the 1920’s.
In the early history of Hopewell Township Presbyterianism was the prevailing religious faith. New Sheffield had two churches – the Mt. Carmel U.P. and the Raccoon U.P. Church – and family records reveal that services for Mt. Carmel (originally White Oak Flats) were held as early as 1794. The congregation had supply ministers until August 21, 1810, when Reverend Andrew McDonald was installed as the regular pastor.
It was not until 1814 that a house of worship, made of hewed logs, was erected where the Mt. Carmel Cemetery now stands. In 1877 this church site was moved to its present location where the church was built on land donated by Dr. J. F. Cooper. Adjacent to the church was a long shed which served as a shelter and feeding place for the horses which brought the faithful worshippers in their farm wagons, spring wagons, buckboards and buggies.
Raccoon Church was organized along the banks of the Raccoon Creek in 1823. As was the case for so many early congregations, the members met in homes and barns. In 1837 the first building was erected at the west edge of the present cemetery. By 1867 the second building was built on the present site of the church.
In the 1880’s the introduction of the extractive industries, natural gas and oil, brought a season of prosperity to some areas of Hopewell Township. Natural gas, so extensively found in the oil regions, was for a time regarded rather as an annoyance than as a valuable product. But a wonderful change took place as its usefulness as a fuel both for domestic and manufacturing purposes and as an illuminat came to be appreciated. Some farmers gave up their agricultural pursuits to engage in the more lucrative extractive industries.
In 1884 William C. Kelley bored a gas well at Raccoon Creek on John Zimmerly’s farm near New Sheffield. The Phoenix Glass Company of Monaca obtained leases on much of this land to use the gas as an industrial fuel. In March 1886 Kelley formed the Raccoon Oil Company in partnership with his brother, E. H. Jennings and Henry Cooper, the son of Dr. J. F. Cooper. Employing about forty-two men, the company produced 2,000 barrels of oil daily.
Charles Eachel, whose grandfather, Andrew, settled in Hopewell Township in 1810, followed farming until thirty years of age when he entered the oil business. On his farm of 106 acres there were six oil wells. The discovery of oil on the 225acre farm of Joseph Wallace added materially to his income.
Gas wells were scattered throughout the township. Some of the more productive ones were found on the farms of Dr. J. f. Cooper and William Calvert in New Sheffield. Along the present Kane Road, Elishu Veazey operated a well as did the Todds in the area now called Plan 12 (Hollywood). C. I. McDonald supplied gas to the people of Woodlawn from his well near Logstown Run. The veneer of civilization began to show as candles and oil lamps gave way to gas illumination.
An 1876 map of Beaver County shows that in addition to New Sheffield there was only one other village in Hopewell Township, namely, New Scottsville, both located along the Brodhead Road. For a period of time most of the travel from New Sheffield went by way of Scottsville to a steamboat landing at West Economy where Rachel McDonald ran a ferry service.
Caldwell’s Historical Atlas of Beaver County (1876) shows that New Scottsville consisted of a cluster of about fourteen houses. The Atlas contains a lithographic sketch (p. 74) of a substantial home and farm buildings belonging to Robert C. Scott, the son of David Scott who founded Scottsville. Other members of the Scott family were Isaac, a clerk, Robert W., a farmer, and David R., a ferryman. Other prominent families were those of Alex Laird, John Green, Benjamin Hall, and J. H. Shuster, all engaged in farming. Offering their respective services were Daniel Shaffer, wagon maker, Joseph Belford, blacksmith shop, Stephen Lawson and Andrew Wilson, both boatmen.
The New Scottsville one-room school was located where the present Hopewell Junior High School now stands. The Old Seceder Church, later the Ohio U.P. Church, was organized in 1821 when members of the congregation met in homes, a barn and some summers in a tent. The first building was completed in 1831 with an addition in 1854. It is significant to note that the first full time pastor for the Ohio U.P. Church was not called until 1950, the year when the population of Hopewell had increased by 87 per cent.
Early records reveal that the first schools in Hopewell Township were built of logs. John Scott who was born January 31, 1804, at New Scottsville walked from his home to attend a log schoolhouse at Service Creek. Living near New Scottsville, Joseph Wallace, born December 24, 1803, attended a log schoolhouse near the present location of the Raccoon U.P. Church. Later he attended a log schoolhouse located between the Morrow farm and the old McCullough farms. However, in the thinly settled areas there was little opportunity for formal schooling unless pupils were willing to walk great distances.
It was not until April 1, 1834, that the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted the Public School Act which provided for free, tax-supported schools.
To implement this law school directors were elected and on November 4, 1834, one delegate from each school district met at the Beaver Court House to “assess and levy a tax for common school purposes.” James Irons represented Hopewell Township and later Thomas Bryan and David Scott were appointed inspectors for the Hopewell schools. The sum of $3,727.66 was allocated for the common schools of Beaver County with Hopewell’s share at $184.50.
Although there was an organized effort by disgruntled tax-payers to repeal the 1834 School Act, one-room, upgraded schools began to appear at convenient locations in Hopewell Township. The textbooks such as Cobb’s Speller, Western Calculator, English Reader and Kirkham’s Grammar attest to the fact that the teaching of the “three R’s” was predominant.
It is of interest to note that on January 10, 1852, the County Teachers Organization proposed the following resolutions: “That an education that does not embrace the full development of. the moral as well as the physical and intellectual powers is unworthy of the support of a Christian community.” and secondly, “That the Bible should be read daily in all our schools, and the pupils instructed in the general principles of Christianity.”
Advanced academic training beyond the common school was provided by the Woodlawn Academy which was chartered on April 7, 1879. This was not a tax-supported institution since the two-story frame building which cost $2500 was financed by the selling of shares at $25 each. At one time the enrollment had. reached 100. Students who came from a distance found lodging with local residents. Reverend P. J. Cummings, pastor of the Mt. Carmel Church, was the principal of the Academy for many years. The affairs of the Academy were administered by a Board of Trustees with the following officers – Dr. William Woods, president, C. I. McDonald, secretary, and Robert Brown, treasurer.
On March 4, 1889, the New Sheffield Academy on Mill Street was incorporated with a capital stock of $1600. It, too, was financed by the selling of shares valued at $25. John W. Zimmerly was president of the Board of Trustees and James S. Calvert served as secretary. That the New Sheffield Academy was in operation as late as July 7, 1915, is attested to by the transfer of one share of stock from John W. Shannon to William C. McCoy. Both the Woodlawn and New Sheffield Academies were used as meeting places for religious groups, fraternal organizations and literary societies.
Very few of the early settlers in Hopewell Township had access to any type of medical care. The nearest doctor was at Fort Pitt. The resourceful pioneers had to concoct their own remedies for their ills. The forest from which they fashioned their primitive tools was also the source of their homemade remedies. For example, holly bark was used to relieve chills and fevers; slippery elm for the cure of sore throats. The early wonder drug was sassafras. Used as a tea or tonic it was supposed to cure any ailment.
In due course of time some of the native sons entered the medical profession. Dr. Thomas Bryan, born on April 6, 1797, in Hopewell Township, started the practice of medicine near his birthplace in 1830. About the same year Simon Strouss, born near Hopewell Church, practiced medicine at the home of Jack McElhaney near Raccoon Creek. Another general practioner was Dr. Hugh Davison who studied under Dr. R. S. Kennedy who was located at Scottsville. This village also had the services of Dr. George W. Langfitt. Dr. Franklin D. Kerr came from Hookstown to establish an office at Shousetown (Glenwillard). During the 1880’s Doctors John S. Boyd and John B. Crombie provided medical care for New Sheffield.
Although there was no hospital in Beaver County until 1894, the nearest approach to hospital service was provided by the Beaver County Home for the Poor. Previous to 1852 the poor were supported by the township in which they resided. As early as 1831 discussions were held at the court house regarding the care of the poor and the indigent sick. However, it was not until 1853 that a building was erected near the mouth of Raccoon Creek to institutionalize the unfortunate. The home was under the management of a steward and physicians were elected annually to provide medical care.
The April 15, 1880, issue of The Star, a county newspaper, carried a story about the inmates of the County Home. There were seventy-eight inmates ranging in ages from one to eighty-seven years, both male and female. Of those in mates 44 were sane, 21 insane, 8 idiotic, 3 blind, one deaf and dumb, and one deaf, dumb and blind.
On October 25, 1811, the scattered settlers along the Ohio River must have been amazed at an unusual sight. The first steamboat, the New Orleans, with sparks flying and emitting loud chugging noises was making its maiden voyage. Built on the Pittsburgh waterfront under the supervision of Nicholas Roosevelt, this l50-feetlong craft was constructed at a cost of $40,000.
This event marked the advent of increased river transportation and opened an avenue for employment. The occupational listing in the Beaver County Centennial Directory shows that thirteen Hopewell men were employed as boatmen and one pilot. The four sons of John McDonald of Woodlawn were all river captains as were Oliver and John Douds, and U. G. and Tom Jones. Thaddeus Jones, a pilot and ferryman, rented pleasure boats to the public which added materially to his wealth. Joseph Wallace engaged in keel boat building and helped to construct the first steamboat built at Shousetown.
Between 1875 and 1900 the showboat or floating theater brought entertainment to the villages and towns along the Ohio. Occasionally the shrill tones of the calliope announced that a showboat was going to dock at Aliquippa (West) for a one-night performance. Aliquippians were treated to the rollicking antics of the minstrels and the tear-jerking melodramas.
In 1877 the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad was chartered to construct a railroad which was to run from Youngstown to Pittsburgh along the south side of the Ohio River. When this matter was discussed at a meeting in 1874, Jones and Laughlin officials were present with other Pittsburgh firms that manifested an interest in the project. On February 10, 1879, freight was started over the single track line and on February 24 regular passenger trains were running. At last Hopewell Township had its own train service.
Among the large-scale purchases of stock to fund this line was the Harmony Society of Old Economy. But it is of interest to note that much of the stock was also subscribed by farmers along the proposed route. In the files of the Mill Creek Historical Association is a five-dollar share dated September 26, 1877, which was subscribed by John Miller, a farmer of Hopewell Township. In building this line, Logstown Run was spanned by an enormous iron trestle.
To stimulate its passenger trade, the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad built an amusement park at Aliquippa (West). On land leased from the Jones family, the park covered over 100 acres of wooded land. Through this sylvan setting there meandered Jones Run with picturesque rustic bridges. The opening day on July 1, 1880, welcomed the first excursion train which carried school children from the South Side of Pittsburgh. On July 5, 1880, following the long holiday weekend, R.V. Jones, Superintendent of Transportation, reported that “excursion trains ran every hour to Aliquippa from McKees Rocks.”
Aliquippa Park developed into a popular recreational attraction for school groups, church groups, unions, industrial parties and social clubs. One union organization picnic involved around 2,000 persons and required six special trains. Pleasure seekers were afforded such attractions as tennis courts, dancing pavilion, merry-go-round, laughing gallery, pony rides, roller coaster, photograph gallery, boating on the Ohio, souvenir stands and a baseball field. An unpublished history of the P & L E Railroad by George Swetnam, historian and special feature writer for the Pittsburgh Press, states that Jacob Henrici, head of the Harmony Society and then president of the P & L E Railroad, gave the Aliquippa Park its name in honor of the Indian Queen, Aliquippa. When the village adjacent to the park. Was incorporated as a borough in 1894 it took as its official name – Aliquippa (now West).
Settlements were made in West Aliquippa as early as 1791. Jonathan Hill was living on Crow Island at that time although his land was not patented until April 3, 1811. However, the Hopewell Plat Map shows that in 1786 there was a survey of 235 acres for James McKee who because of Indian danger was living in McKees Rocks. But his grandson, John McKee settled on 125 acres of his grandfather’s land in 1843. Another grandson, James Jones, settled on the remaining portion of the land. The McKee and Jones families played an important role in developing Aliquippa.
The McKee family in 1875 founded the first Lutheran Church in Hopewell Township. Prior to that year, those of that religious conviction ferried to Baden to attend services. Built in the area now called Logstown (Baker Street), the Lutheran Church was on a site which embraced a small cluster of homes, the Jones School and a general store. Of the original congregation of eleven, five were members of the McKee family. In 1912, the Lutheran Church relocated on Locust Street in Woodlawn.
Crow Island was important to the economy of West Aliquippa. At the head of the island on the east side along the main river was the old Greenwood Landing, a port of call for the river packets which were in the early days the only means of reaching Pittsburgh. The island produced corn and vegetable crops which were shipped to commission merchants in Pittsburgh. There was gas under the soil of the island. Joseph Craig sold it to the Manufacturers Light and Heat Company who piped it to the mainland.
The building of the J. C. Russell Shovel Company in 1891 followed by the founding of the Vulcan Crucible Steel Company stimulated the growth of West Aliquippa. The budding village boasted of two hotels – the Columbia Hotel built by John C. Weigal in 1893 and the Central Hotel built by George Jeffreys at about the same time. The St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church was the first of that faith to be established in Hopewell Township. On October 12, 1892, West Aliquippa had its first post office with postmaster Joseph Stubert in charge.
On September 18, 1893, a petition to the Beaver County Courts to have the Village of Aliquippa incorporated as a borough was presented. John McKee was one of the 53 signers of the petition. On January 22, 1894, Aliquippa became the first borough to be carved out of Hopewell Township
Another borough created out of Hopewell Township was that of South Heights. It was formerly known as Shannopin, reputedly the home of Shannopin, an Indian warrior. In the 1880’s, newly discovered oil fields brought undreamed prosperity and an influx of people to the village. At one time, the single-track line of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad was located on the present site of Jordan Street. Early in this century, there were located in the village a brick factory, the Keystone Torpeda and Power Company and the Riverview Land Company. By vote of 150 inhabitants the name Shannopin was changed to South Heights which was incorporated as a borough on April 16, 1910.
The third and largest borough from Hopewell Township was that of Woodlawn. Late in the eighteenth century, John McDonald, born in 1738 at Lishanavich, Ireland, acquired a vast acreage of land along the Ohio River. His holdings extended from Shousetown (Glenwillard) to Phillipsburg (Monaca). His descendants were among the first permanent settlers in Woodlawn and were largely instrumental for the growth of the village.
In 1801 William McDonald built a home near the present site of the Sheffield Towers. Over one-hundred years later this home was enlarged to become the office of the Woodlawn Land Company. In 1810 the Reverend Andrew McDonald, pastor of the Mt. Carmel Church, settled at the old orchard near the present Tube Mill entrance. John McDonald’s will of April 20, 1814, bequeathed to his twin sons, William and Andrew, land within the present area of Franklin, Sheffield and Hopewell Avenues, Station and Kiehl Streets, and extending beyond Plan 6 as far as Scottsville.
In the 1870’s, the lower end of Sheffield Avenue became the business, social’, educational and religious center for the rural people of the surrounding countryside. Searching for a name for a post office to be located in a wooded hill and valley terrain, Mattie McDonald, inspire~ by its natural beauty, offered the name Woodlawn.
Thus, on November 13, 1877, Woodlawn had its first post office with c.1. McDonald, husband of Mattie, as the first postmaster. Born November 23, 1846, at Logstown Bottom on the place where his grandfather, Andrew McDonald, settled, C. I. McDonald was a contractor. He operated a sawmill and supplied lumber to the area. He helped in the construction of the P & L E Railroad.
The McDonalds were prominent leaders in the founding of the Woodlawn Academy and the Woodlawn Church. As early as 1810, religious services for those of the Presbyterian faith were held in the McDonald sawmill and later in the Academy building. On land donated by C. I. McDonald, the Woodlawn Presbyterian Church was dedicated in April of 1898. Of the forty-two charter members the family names of the McDonalds, Marattas, Ritchies, Cochrans and Douds were predominant. Other descendants of early settlers were the Bruces, McCunes, Davises and Suttons.
At the turn of the century, the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation of Pittsburgh was compelled to find room for expansion. Its choice fell upon Woodlawn and in 1905 its agents began to purchase property here. The McDonald tract and several farms adjacent to it were first acquired. Early in 1906, the company made public announcement of its intentions. On November 10 of that year, P. M. Moore arrived to take charge of excavations. He was soon followed by J ones and Laughlin officials, among whom were J. H. Gano, H. J. Johns, C. B. Lewis and Joseph Turney.
Hundreds of laborers were busily engaged in “getting the ground in shape.” The problem of providing lodgings for so many workmen was a serious one at first. Temporary expedients of boxcars and bunkhouses were resorted to. Meanwhile, some merchants attracted by the promised boom had gathered here and opened up for business In a group of flimsy frame buildings on Sheffield Avenue. As a harbinger of things to come, a small frame building carried a large sign which read: J. Sharon McDonald – Banker and Broker – Real Estate – Insurance – Foreign Exchange – Steam Ship Agency. This was a service for foreign laborers whose influx was to change the ethnic composition of the town.
A form of government other than the township type was going to be needed to provide services for the rapidly expanding population. A petition for the incorporation of the borough was filed on July 13, 1908, at the June Session of the Court of Quarter Sessions. The petition was signed by E. H. Wilker, Frank D. Baker, and, in all, 27 resident freeholders. displeasure with the boundary lines provoked opposition from fourteen freeholders. They filed suit against the incorporation and gave six reasons for their stand the last of which stated “The said incorporation is merely desired by the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company to subserve their private and selfish interests.” The case was carried to the Superior Court which dismissed the appeal. Woodlawn was incorporated as a Borough on December 15, 1908. The first election for borough officials was held on February 16, 1909, in the Woodlawn Academy building.
The quiet, pastoral little village of Woodlawn where life was simple, predictable, uncomplicated and provincial in its customs and thin king was gripped by inevitable change. Predominantly AngloSaxon in its culture and Protestant in its religion, the village which nested peacefully between the wooded hills was rudely awakened by the vibrant throb of industrial activity. Within a short span of time, hundreds of people came pouring in with strange languages, new customs, different religions, and diverse cultures.
The central theme of Pennsylvania history is the way in which a commonwealth of yeoman farmers became a commonwealth of industrialists, city dwellers and labor unions. The development of Beaver County exemplifies this central theme of the State. Its evolutionary growth was from agriculturism to industrialism, from ruralism to urbanism, from simplicity to complexity. Hopewell Township witnessed these remarkable changes as it slowly evolved into urbanism.
A name is a term of identification – and names often help document an area’s history. Hopewell has some such names. The primary road in Hopewell takes its name from Col. Daniel Brodhead who. used the road, which had been cut through the wilderness by General Lachlan McIntosh, as a supply route from Fort Pitt to Fort McIntosh during the Revolutionary War period.
Maratta Road takes its name from an early settler Peter Maratta who married Nancy McGee. There is “McGee Avenue” in “Agnew” Heights. We have Davidson Heights, Temple Heights, Wallace Circle, Sohn Road, Laird Drive, Steuers Road, Morrow Way, Buss Road, Veazey Cemetery, and Scottsville. All early family names in Hopewell Township. There are streets named for United States presidents, while other streets are named for states. Perhaps the most difficult name in the Township to document is “Hopewell.” How did we come to be known as Hopewell Township and where did the name originate?
“History of Beaver County” published by A. Warner & Company in 1888 suggests that Hopewell was so named because of its connection with Washington County. A portion of Washington County did become Beaver County in 1800, and there existed a Hopewell Township in Washington County at that time. Did settlers from Hopewell Township, Washington County settle in the area, which subsequently became Beaver County, and influence the naming of the township that was formed in the readjustment of townships in Beaver County in 1812?
The “History of Beaver County” written by Rev. Joseph H. Bausman states: “The name Hopewell was probably taken from a Presbyterian church, organized about ten years earlier, on the farm of Orion Aten. Three or four years later the church was removed a mile farther south in Findlay Township, Allegheny County, where the graveyard may still be seen.” A grave mark identifying Adrian Aten as having served in the Revolutionary War is located in the “Old Hopewell Cemetery” which is maintained by the present Hebron U. P. Church of Clinton (formerly known as Hopewell Church, then Hopewell-Hebron Church). The original Hopewell Church burnt down during the Civil War period. Early records were destroyed in that fire, so we do not know whether Adrian Aten was related to the Orin Aten identified in Bausman’s history.