Penn Trails

1843 History of Somerset County

Contributed by Nancy Piper


Somerset County

Somerset County was taken from Bedford, by the act of 17th April, 1795. Length 38 miles, breadth 28; area 1,066 sq. miles. Population in 1800, 10,188; in 1810, 11,284; in 1820, 13,890 ; in 1830, 17,741; and in 1840, 19,1550. The county is composed of a high and rather level table-land, between the Great Allegheny mountain and Laurel hill. It abounds in what are called glades-level wet lands, about the head-waters of the numerous streams that rise in this county. The climate of this elevated region is too cold, and the summers too short, for raising corn; and the land is generally too wet for wheat. Oats, rye, hay, and potatoes are the principal crops, for which a ready market is found among the numerous drovers and wagoners crossing the mountains by the " glades road." This road, not being macadamized, affords a softer path to the tender feet of the fat cattle of the west. The glades, when properly managed, form productive dairy farms. The well-known glades butter bears the palm in Baltimore and Washington. Besides the Allegheny and Laurel Hill mountains, the Negro mountain, a bold ridge, runs up from Maryland, nearly to the centre of the county; the Little Allegheny mountain forms the southeastern boundary; and Savage mountain crosses the southern boundary from Maryland, and unites with the Little Allegheny near Wills' creek. Laurel Hill creek and Castleman's river water the southern end of the county, uniting with the Yough'ogheny. Wills' creek drains the valley between the Great and Little Allegheny mountains; and the Quemahoning, Stony, and Shade creeks water the northern end, flowing into the Conemaugh, in Cambria co. Seams of coal, from three to five feet in thickness, are opened in various townships. In some of the shales between the coal-seams occur thin flaggy bands of iron-ore, of considerable purity. There likewise exists a bed of limestone, nearly three feet in thickness. Iron-ore prevails about Elk Lick creek, near Castleman's river, and in many places along the western declivity of the Allegheny mountain. Bog-ore is also found, but the deposits rarely give evidence of a large supply.

The citizens of this county are chiefly of German descent, and German is the prevailing language. In 1830 this population was divided into the following religious sects: the Lutheran, having 17 churches, German Reformed 12, Methodists 8, Mennonists 5, Baptists 4, Omish 4, Presbyterians 2, and Roman Catholic 1.

The principal business of the county is grazing. The raising of sheep, with a view to wool-growing, for the last few years, has claimed the attention of the farmers. A furnace and forge were established by Messrs. Mark Richards & Co., on Shade creek: the forge only is in operation. Another forge was owned by D. Livingston, but is not in operation.

The national road passes through the southwestern part of the county. Glade turnpike, from Washington to Bedford, passes through the centre; a clay turnpike runs seven miles south of the Glade road. The Chambersburg and Pittsburg turnpike passes ten miles north of Somerset, through Stoystown. The Somerset and Cumberland turnpike opens a communication with the Baltimore railroad, at Cumberland. About two miles north of the Glade turnpike, 14 miles east of Somerset, is the lowest depression in the Allegheny mountain.

[Source: Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, by Sherman Day, Philadelphia, 1843, Page 615-619]



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