This township, formerly a part of Mercer County, was erected from the eastern part of Neshannock Township during the winter of 1859-60. It comprises an area of about 9,800 acres, and is rich in both agricultural and mineral resources. It is watered by the Big Neshannock Creek and its tributaries, on all of which there is extensive water power. The principal branch of the Neshannock in the township is East Brook, or what was formely[sic] known as Huttebaugh or Hettenbaugh Run. On this stream there are a number of dams, located within a comparatively short distance of each other.
The surface of the township is more or less hilly and broken, owing to the many streams which flow through it, and the summits of the highest hills or ridges are probably 300 feet above the Neshannock Creek. The creek forms the boundary between the townships of Hickory and Neshannock. The New Castle and Franklin Railway, now operated by the Pennsylvania Company, passes along the left bank of the creek, until it reaches East Brook Station, where it crosses to the other bank. "Along the creek is found some most romantic scenery. In places the channel is narrowed down to a rocky gorge, with precipitous overhanging piles of sandstone frowning upon the valley, their sides and summits covered with a dense growth of hemlock, and an occasional gloomy-looking ravine, affording greater solemnity and loneliness, which is hardly surpassed in its effect anywhere. The rock is sandstone, and generally piled up in thin and broken strata, caused by some mighty upheaval, although in a few localities the strata are thicker and afford very good building stone. They rest usually on a lower stratum of shale, or slaty fragments, approaching the coal measures.
"Springs are numerous and constant; timber is abundant; desirable building sites are found in almost every locality; the lover of the beautiful in nature can have his most exquisite taste gratified; the manufacturer finds every facility for promoting his business in its various branches; the health of the community is excellent; schools and churches of the best character serve to immense advantage in furthering the social, moral and intellectual standing of an already prosperous and refined people; numerous and costly improvements evince the taste and refinement of the inhabitants; the student of geology and history finds his research amply rewarded; and, taking into consideration these manifold advantages, with others we have not space to mention, the township may be classed as one of the first in the county.
Coal of an excellent quality has been found in the township, but the vein is quite thin, and on that account chiefly, not much worked. Some, however, is mined for local use, and a considerable quantity has been taken to New Castle, the glassworks at Croton formerly making use of it. This was obtained from a bank just outside the city limits on the Harlansburg road.
Iron ore of a good quality has been found in paying quantities along the Neshannock Creek, but the same disadvantages attend its development which are met with in opening the coal veins, or at least some of them. It lies generally close to the surface, and in taking it out the land is broken to a greater or less extent, rendering it unfit for agricultural purposes. On account of these drawbacks, comparatively little has been done toward bringing out in full the resources of the township in this line.
The township contains the village of Eastbrook, and the station of the same
name on the New Castle and Franklin Railway. The railway was completed in 1874 and affords ample facilities for shipping the products of the neighborhood, both agricultural and mineral.
In a few localities limestone is quarried, but is not of sufficiently good quality to be used as a building stone. A lime kiln was put in operation a number of years ago, a short distance from the city limits of New Castle on the Harlansburg road. The stone has a bluish cast, and is by no means equal to that found in greater quantities in other portions of the United States. It has been used for fluxing purposes in blast furnaces.
Sandstone is found largely throughout the township, and is utilized for building purposes, and also ground up and used in the manufacture of window glass. The sandstone deposit forms the principal geologic foundation of Hickory Township.
The first coal-bank opened in the vicinity was worked about 1830. A coal-bank was opened on the Harlansburg road, by Michael Ryan in 1870, on land belonging to Anthony Henderson. The vein averaged about two feet in thickness, and was largely used by the Croton Glass Works.
A considerable number of persons have been engaged in the business, and a few banks have been worked out. The coal veins increase in thickness as they trend northward, and reach the maximum thickness somewhere in the neighborhood of Stoneboro, Mercer County. They also dip to the south on about the same grade as the beds of the different streams.
In the year 1798, Robert Gormley, an immigrant from Ireland, settled on the farm now owned by John H. Gormley. He had first worked for a while east of the mountains. While in the eastern part of the state, he witnessed a transaction between a Revolutionary soldier and a person to whom the soldier sold a tract of land, donated him by the State for his services during the war. The price paid for the land was a quart of whisky, the hero of Revolutionary fields considering that worth more than the land, which he said was "somewhere out West, but didn't know exactly where." The tract thus cheaply disposed of embraced 500 acres.
Mr. Gormley also purchased 500 acres, which was divided among his brothers, John and Thomas, who had followed him from Ireland, William Patton, and himself-making 120 acres each. The price paid was fifty cents per acre. Schoolhouse No. 5 is located on a part of the tract. Mr. Gormley built a hewed log house, 20 by 22 feet, in 1804, and it was considered a very remarkably fine house for the time. It stood until the fall of 1869.
Robert Gormley was married in 1807-08, to Sarah Hammond, of Washington County, and John Gormley married her sister, Elizabeth. The first birth in the Gormley family was probably that of Martha, daughter of John Gormley, about 1809. The first deaths were also in that family, two sons and a daughter dying during the year 1822.
The first road through the neighborhood was what is known as the Harlansburg road. Previous to its being laid out, the only highways were zig-zag paths through the woods, following the best route they could around hills and across streams-the latter always being forded. Grain was carried to mill on pack-saddles, and Mr. Gormley often "packed" corn from Beavertown, where he paid a dollar a bushel for it. Wheat could not be raised to any extent for some time, on account of the great number of squirrels, deer, "ground hogs," and other animals which came into the fields and destroyed the crops.
Deer were so tame that they would come into a wheat field in broad daylight, and had to be repeatedly driven off. Wild turkeys were also exceedingly plentiful, and in the fall of the year created sad havoc among the fields of buckwheat.
Agriculture was carried on according to somewhat primitive methods. The first metal plow in the neighborhood was owned by Francis Irvin (or Irwin), and Robert Gormley had the second one. The plows in use before these had wooden mould-boards, and a paddle was carried to clean the plow at the end of every furrow. The harrows also had wooden teeth, and both plows and harrows were rude and clumsy affairs, compared with the vastly improved implements of the present, although they answered their purpose and their owners were content, knowing of no better ones.
Robert Gormley died March 26, 1858, at the ripe old age of eighty-six years, and sleeps by the side of Sarah, his wife, in the old Neshannock graveyard, his wife having died on the 18th of June, 1853, at the age of sixty-five years. Though sixteen years her husband's junior, she made him a loving and exemplary wife for forty-four years. John Gormley died December 27, 1848, aged seventy-nine years, and his wife, Elizabeth, followed him March 27, 1858, aged seventy-four.
William Patton was originally from Ireland, and settled first in Center County, Pennsylvania. From there he came to Lawrence (then Mercer) County, and settled on a portion of the Robert Gormley tract. When he came from Center County, he had a horse and an ox harnessed together to haul his goods. Mr. Patton and the Gormleys afterward donated ten acres each to Thomas Speer, in order to get him to settle near them. Mr. Speer was from South Carolina, and came to Hickory Township about 1805-6. He lived to a very old age, and died within a few years past.
"Some time during the year 1802 Samuel McCreary came from the Buffalo Valley, in Union County, in the eastern part of the State, and located on the east side of Neshannock Creek, about two miles northwest of the present village of Eastbrook. He was the first settler on the place, and made the first improvements. He built a round log house, and lived in it with his wife and one child, Enoch McCreary who was but two years of age when his father came to the county. Mr. McCreary's brother, Thomas, accompanied him, and they each took up a tract of one hundred acres. Shortly after their settlement Thomas McCreary died, and his was consequently one of the first deaths in the neighborhood. Samuel McCreary was out several times to Erie during the War of 1812-15. He eventually became the owner of some 600 acres of land in the vicinity of the place where he settled, chiefly lying along the Neshannock Creek. He died shortly before the breaking out of the Southern rebellion. The McCrearys were originally from Ireland, emigrating from that country at some period subsequent to the War for Independence between the American Colonies and Great Britain. He was the father of ten children. The first birth in his family after he came to Lawrence County was that of his daughter, Betsey, about 1804. In 1806 another daughter, Sarah, was born, and in 1808, a son, Thomas.
Robert Simonton, who lived for a number of years in Hickory Township, settled originally on the Shenango River, in Neshannock Township. He was out during the War of 1812, and went to Erie. He died about 1853-54, at an advanced age. John C. Wallace, also a soldier of 1812, having served as captain of militia at that time, was an early settler in the southeast part of Hickory township.
Jacob Baker settled near Mr. Wallace in the southeast part of Hickory Township, and was a soldier of 1814. He lived in the county in the neighborhood of fifty years, a part of which time he resided in New Castle. Abel McDowell came from Westmoreland County early, and lived for several years with his uncle, Thomas Fisher. He afterwards located in the northwest part of Hickory Township.
About 1812-15, George Hinkson came from Chester County, and located in Washington County, where he stayed until about 1817, when he removed to Belmont County, Ohio. There he lived for eleven years, or until 1828, when he again packed up his worldly goods and came back to the Keystone State, this time locating in Hickory Township, on a 500-acre tract, later owned by his son, Aaron Hinkson, and others.
All the lands in the township are "donation lands," and the fact that the territory was not settled until a comparatively late day is attributable to that circumstance. But few of the original patentees ever located in the county, and the land at time was deemed too far away to be reached. It was not, however, until the completion of the Erie Extension Canal that the growth of any part of the western portion of the State became marked; but since that time the development has steadily and generally gone forward.
Samuel Casteel, a veteran of the second war with Great Britain, came from Allegheny County in 1816, and located near the Neshannock Creek, southeast of the present Eastbrook Station. By his industry and frugality he amassed considerable property, and when over eighty years of age, the sound of martial music, or the strains produced by a more pretentious band of brass instruments, would awaken the old military fire within him, and recall to his mind the scenes and incidents during the strife of more than sixty years before.
Thomas Glass, John McKnight and John Stunkard came from near Pittsburg in the year 1825, and purchased a 500-acre tract. The McKnights and Stunkards still reside on the old homestead. These persons were the first actual settlers on the tract, although two or three squatters had been there before them. One of these squatters was a roving character named Chair, who did little else than hunt.
The Covenanters or Reformed Presbyterians organized about 1818, and held their first meeting in William Patton's barn. Rev. William Gibson presided at the organization, and also took charge of the congregation as its first pastor. After the first meeting in the barn, they held "tent meetings" in a rude structure made of corner posts and roof, and fit only for warm weather worship. The "tent" was put up principally for the use of the minister, while the congregation occupied log seats in front of it. Their first church was a rude log building, about 22 by 24 feet in dimensions, and covered with a shingle roof, being about the first roof of the kind in the neighborhood.
About 1833 a frame church was commenced near the site of the old one, and finished some two years later. This building was burned down in April, 1867. A building committee was at one[sic] appointed, and work was immediately begun on a new structure-the fine brick church now standing. Just one year from the day the old church was burned, or April 14, 1868, the first sermon in the new building was preached by Rev. Mr. Martin. In the fall of 1868 or 1869, owing to considerable trouble having been previously experienced in securing preachers, the church changed to a United Presbyterian congregation.
The Associate Presbyterians built a church east of Eastbrook, about 1840-41. The building, a roomy frame structure, is still standing. The denomination is now United Presbyterian. The first pastor was Rev. William A. Mehard, and the second Rev. R. Audley Browne. The building occupies a pleasant situation in a grove, on the hill which rises on the South side of Hettenbaugh Run, or Eastbrook.
A Methodist Episcopal society was organized in 1847, and meetings held in schoolhouse "number two," a mile northwest of Eastbrook. It is not definitely
known how many members there were in the original congregation. On the 17th of March, 1851, an acre and fourteen perches of ground were purchased of Robert Rea and wife, and the frame church erected, which is still standing. The trustees, at that time (1851), were Samuel Black, Cornelius Miller, Robert Rea, Enoch McCreary and William Rea. A graveyard occupies a portion of the ground purchased.
About 1815-16 a round log schoolhouse was built near the south line of what is now Hickory Township, on the road running south from Neshannock United Presbyterian Church. A hewed log schoolhouse was put up in the corner of the graveyard, near the old Neshannock Church, about 1828-29. This was the only hewed log schoolhouse in this part of the country, and the first teacher was a man named John Tidball.
There are at present seven schools in the township. The total value of school property for 1908 is about $6,000. The number of pupils enrolled for 1908 was 169. The total expenditure for school purposes in 1908 was $3,452.23, of which amount $2,448 was paid to seven teachers.
For many years subsequent to the settlement of the township there were no grist-mills erected, and the nearest one in the early times was to the south, in the present Shenango Township.
About 1825 Henry Reynolds built a grist-mill on Hettenbaugh Run, a mile east of the village of Eastbrook, and operated it until 1837, when he sold out to William Adams and went West. This mill was the first one erected within the present limits of the township, and became very popular, the work done being excellent. The supply of water in the run is usually large enough so that no inconvenience is experienced with a low stage. It is fed almost entirely by springs.
The "Eastbrook Mills" were built originally by John Fisher, in 1836, and rebuilt in 1959. The mill is a fine, large building, containing three run of stone.
About 1816-17 Thomas and John Fisher built a sawmill near the site of the grist-mill. Two have since been erected at the same place, the last one is still standing, though unused and much dilapidated.
A woolen mill was built east of Eastbrook about 1830-32, by Lot Moffatt who sold out in the spring of 1837 to Joseph Burnley & Company. These parties operated it until about 1840, when they in turn sold to James Glover. Glover died and the mill became the property of his daughter, Mrs. J. B. Hardaker, and it was afterwards carried on for some time by Mr. Hardaker, though doing but a small business.
About 1872 John Hickson built a shop on the south branch of Eastbrook (Hettenbaugh Run) for the manufacture of pruning shears, using an engine which had been used since 1861 in a saw-mill on the same site.
About 1816-17 some members of the Reynolds family put a man named Buckmaster as a tenant on the tract of land near where Eastbrook now stands in order to hold their claim. Thomas Fisher, having an eye on the same tract, kept a close watch, and when Buckmaster left it for a time he put a man on the place and kept him there till he became entitled to the land by settler's right. Buckmaster afterwards settled elsewhere and the Reynoldses also.
A man named Terry was a very early settler in the neighborhood, and located on the farm now owned by John McCreary, northwest of Eastbrook. A part of the tract is owned by James Patton.
John Fisher was a soldier of the War of 1812, and came from the Ligonier Valley in Westmoreland County. He settled the tract, including the site of Eastbrook, about 1819, this was the third tract he had
located upon, the first being in 1809. His brother, Thomas Fisher, came afterwards.
Thomas Fisher, (the first) came to the county in 1802, and located in the present limits of Neshannock Township, on the Shenango River, where he put up a carding machine, said to have been the first one in the State west of the Alleghenies. About 1817 Thomas and John Fisher built a woolen-mil1 in Eastbrook, above the site of their saw-mill.
John McCartney also built a woolen-mill about 1850, and operated it for some time. It was afterwards bought by David Stewart, and still later by James Craig. The mill was in operation the greater portion of the time, for many years, and its capacity was often taxed to the utmost to supply the demand for the products, but little if any manufacturing is now done there. The manufactures were stocking yarn, woolen blankets and barred flannel.
The saw-mills built along the brook since the country was settled have been almost without number, and we have merely mentioned the first ones and not taken the trouble to hunt up all of them. Many of the old frames are yet standing.
The first store at Eastbrook was kept by John Fisher, about 1835-6. It was a general store and still stands at the west end of the bridge. Another store the same class was opened in 1838 by T. H. Harrah, who afterward built another, which he and J. B. Hardaker operated together. James McFarlane & Co. also kept a store for a year and a half or two years subsequent to 1844, the firm afterward being changed to Dickey & McFarlane. McFarlane finally removed to Morris, Grundy County, Illinois, and Hardaker & Harrah continued the business. Hardaker & Simonton were in it from 1852 to 1856. In the spring of 1860 John Waddington went into the firm, which was known for a time thereafter as J. B. Hardaker & Co., then it was again changed to John Waddington & Co.
The first postoffice was established in 1837, the petition being circulated by John Waddington. The candidates for the position of postmaster were T. H. Harrah and John Fisher; the latter was the successful man, after Harrah had done most of the work to get the office established. However, Harrah afterwards had his ambition satistied, and obtained the office after its affairs had been administered by Fisher and Alexander Carpenter.
The first shoe-shop was opened by Oliver Bascom, about 1840; after him Carson Campbell had a shop; Samuel Douglas opened one about 1841-3.
The first blacksmith-shop was opened by Phillip Crowl, in 1832. He has had quite a number of successors.
John McNickel had the first wagon shop in 1840, and it afterwards became the property of his son, John M. McNickel.
The village and postoffice take their name from the stream which flows through the place. The stream was named by Thomas Fisher (the first), the spot on its banks upon which he located being just five miles directly east of the place where he first settled on the Shenango.
The first schoolhouse in the village was built in the neighborhood of 1825.
"About 1843 a volunteer rifle company, known as the 'Eastbrook Rangers,' was organized, and drill was kept up for seven years. The officers were: Captain, Andrew Buchanan; first lieutenant, Alexander Carpenter; second lieutenant, John Staton; orderly sergeant, William McConahy. The company numbered about 100 members and was uniformed with white pants, blue coats and red sash, and a hat trimmed with cord and green feather. They were armed with common rifles, in the use of which they were very expert. The officers held commissions from the Governor of the State.
"Another company was partially organized in 1860, just before the rebellion broke out, but when the war came on they consolidated with a small company from Princeton, in Slippery Rock Township, and the two were mustered in as Company F, of the 100th (Roundhead) Regiment, which afterward
(Pg 248) saw much hard service in the Carolinas, Virginia and elsewhere."
This place was established at the completion of the New Castle and Franklin Railway. Thomas Walton opened a grocery store soon after and a number of dwellings were erected, a short sidetrack laid, and a fine iron and wooden truss wagon-bridge built across Neshannock Creek, which stream here makes an extensive and beautiful bend, receiving just east of the station the waters of East Brook or Hettenbaugh Run.
"Part of an extensive colony of German Mennonites, or Amish, occupies a considerable portion of the north and west part of the township, the remainder of them being in Wilmington, Neshannock and Pulaski townships. They came principally from Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, and have schools, and a church of their own, the church building being in Wilmington Township. They are a quiet, industrious class of people, keep their farms in good order, and but two or three of the original families have left the township since they came into it."