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McCartney--Memories of Beaver Falls

Milestones Vol 30. No. 4

By Clarence E. MaCartney

Sometime ago I was asked why it was that in my historical writings, dealing with western Pennsylvania, and even with Beaver county. I had said nothing about my boyhood days, Beaver Falls. For that omission I shall try to make due amends by these informal recollection of Beaver Falls as I knew it.

I was not yet a year old when I arrived at Beaver Falls in the arms of my nurse, Mary Miller. She had come to Northwood, 0., some months before my birth, and was with our family for perhaps ten years, when she married a Beaver Falls barber, Chilton, I think it was, and went to live in Uniontown. I remember distinctly a lad, William Penny, who lived with a numerous family of that name on Mt. Washington. He used to go hunting with my older brothers, Ernest and Robertson. I recall the night that, on one of those hunting expeditions, Robertson was bitten through the hand by a muskrat supposedly dead, which he picked up by the tail. It was a ghastly wound; but when they got home, father coolly, by the light of a lamp on the kitchen table, cleansed the wound and put in several stitches. Today people would faint and then call for the doctor.

While our house was building on College Hill, Ferncliff, now the residence of the president of Geneva college, we lived in what was known as the Reeves summer cottage. It stood among the rocks and under the oak trees just on the southeast border of the college lot, and at what would be now the extreme corner of the Geneva college stadium. While we were living there thieves broke through and stole. Father and mother always had the impression that an attempt to chloroform them had been made. Afterwards, father's pantaloons, with some of the money that had been taken, were found up what was then called Dead Man's Hollow, and his gold watch was recovered through the arrest of a man in a saloon at New Castle, who was boasting how he had robbed a house at Beaver Falls.


We had many burglar alarms during the early days at our home, Ferncliff, for it stood in what was then quite a lonely and isolated place. I remember coming home late one summer day after a picnic across the river, and finding the house ransacked, suitcase slit up with a knife; but evidently the burglars had been disturbed in the midst of their operations, for, although mother's bureau drawer had been opened, her beautiful Cairngorn brooch and other jewelry had not been taken. There was a time, some years later, when there was an epidemic of foot padism on College Hill and in Beaver Falls. John Bole, son of R. A. Bole, the miller, was shot by burglars who broke into the Bole home one summer night. An amateur posse was constituted, and I can remember roaming the hill, armed with our formidable and loud reverberating ten-gauge shotgun, a real menace, to friend and foe. While I'm on this subject of burglars and holdups, let me recall the incident which had to do with the son of a wellknown family on College Hill. One night he arrived panting and distraught at the home of Dr. H. H. George, the president of Geneva college. His clothing hung from him in strips, and he declared that he had been held up and robbed by a bandit who had cut him with a knife. A rescue party went forthwith down the boardwalk with him, and retrieved his watch, which had been lost in the struggle with the bandit. But after a season it was noted that, although his clothing and his underwear had been cut to tatters, there was not a scratch on his body! This looked a little suspicious, and it turned out that the young man wanted to get a trip to Chicago, to the world's fair, I think it was, and thought that by thus working on his father's feelings he could secure that trip.


My father, Dr. J. L. McCartney, of Geneva college, brought from Ohio with him a splendid high spirited horse known as Colonel Hunter. A man, John Eckels, was driving mother, Ernest, Robertson, Albert and myself down to the Covenanter church at Beaver Falls one day, when the horse took fright at the fire engine, and ran away, smashing the buggy and throwing us all out, hither and yon, on the road. Father and my sister, Wilhelmina, came out of the Covenanter church just in time to see Hunter dashing madly down the street with fragments of the harness and the carriage dragging behind him. We were taken for the first aid into the home of Frank Brierly, just adjoining the church. It was the beginning of a long friendship between our families. Mr. Brierly had the chief hardware store in Beaver Falls. At that time it stood far down in Main street; afterwards unhappily called Seventh Avenue. As we had two acres of ground to our home and a horse, cow, chickens, etc., we were always building some kind of structure, and it seems to me now that Albert and I spent a good portion of our time down at Brierly's store, always greeted in a friendly way by the affable Mr. Brierly, and loading up the buggy with nails and putty and glass, chicken wire, and other domestic paraphernalia.

After that wreck and runaway, mother would no longer ride behind Colonel Hunter. Father, therefore, sold him to Slater McAnlis on a farm near New Galilee and purchased in his stead from one Mitchell, undertaker and blacksmith at New Galilee, a three-year old iron-gray horse known as Billy. His gentleness was guaranteed. But the first time Father took him out, he behaved worse than Colonel Hunter. Father then took him back to Mitchell at New Galilee, saying he could not use him; but Mitchell declared that there must be some mistake. He had brought Billy up from a colt, and there was not a wild hair in him. He persuaded father to give him another trial, and if he should prove fractious or intractable, he was to return the horse and get his money back. Father gave Billy another trial, and henceforth he was our kind and gentle and faithful family horse for many years.

Sometime ago, when preaching at Darlington, I was greeted by a lady who said she was the daughter of the Mr. Mitchell who had sold Billy to father. When I reminded her of how Billy at first was inclined to be wild, she related this incident. When she was three or four years of age, she was missed one day at the house, and after several hours was found in Billy's stall, asleep between his hoofs. The faithful and wise animal had stood there, evidently for a long time, not moving lest he should tread upon the child.