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Memories of Beaver Falls-Part III

Milestones Vol 25. No. 1

By Clarence Macartney

News-Tribune - September 15, 1952 from collection of J. B. Wilson Submitted by David Carson

(Editor's Note: This is the third and final chapter of reminiscences of early Beaver County by Dr. Clarence Edward Macartney, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, and a boyhood resident of Beaver Falls.)

Part III

If, fifty years ago, the minister in the Methodist Church at Homewood had stood up in the pulpit and said, "And thou, Homewood of Beaver County, though thou be little among the hundreds of hamlets and villages, through thee shall pass one day the nation's greatest highway, indeed, the greatest in the world; and thou shalt be the only town or hamlet touched by the great road," he would have been regarded as getting a little "soft on top." Yet so it has come to pass. The magnificent highway skirts and touches Homewood alone among all the towns of the county. For a century now the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the railroads of different names which preceded it, has sent its trains roaring through Homewood, to Chicago or New York. But the railroad never was able to put Homewood on the map as the Pennsylvania Turnpike has done.

Rome was a great road builder. Her best known road today was, and is, the Appian Way, running from Brindisium at the heel of Italy to Rome. But the real Queen of Roman roads was the Via Egnatia, running across Macedonia from Neapolis on the Aegean Sea to Dyrrachium on the Adriatic Sea. I have walked over that road from Neapolis to Philippi where Paul was beaten and thrown into prison. It is still, after the wear and tear of so many centuries, a reasonably good road. Rome did things well, and her great highways knit the empire together and bound the far flung provinces to Rome. But the Pennsylvania Turnpike is the greatest of all roads.

Approaching the Beaver Valley entrance and gateway from the direction of Beaver Falls, one gets a splendid view of the turnpike as it vaults the Beaver by the beautiful bridge. Glittering in the afternoon sun, or when the moon takes up the tale at night and spreads its mantle over it, the bridge looks like a highway that had come floating down out of the heavens.

Now the nation's traffic goes roaring and flashing across this northwest section of Beaver County. Yet, last night, coming down to Homewood and the Beaver Valley entrance from the direction of New Galilee, I found myself on a byroad that I had never traversed before. It led through a quiet wilderness valley where I heard no sound of traffic and saw only one or two habitations. Beaver County is now a great industrial county, and an avenue for the nation's greatest roadway. Yet in all parts of the county one can come upon quiet sequestered byways which make one think of what the consumptive livery stable helper said about a Grecian Urn: "Thou still unravished bridge of quietness, Thou foster child of silence and slow time." LARGEST FARMS

Most of the largest farms lay in the direction of Darlington, New Galilee and beyond. Of the six largest farms in the year 1876, four were in Chippewa Township. The acreage of the six largest farms was as follows: WashingtonJohnston farm, South Beaver Township, 540 acres; William Thomas farm, 475 acres, Chippewa Township; John Harbison farm, 400 acres, Chippewa Township; Andrew Stevenson farm, 372 acres, Hanover Township (the only large farm on the South Side); John Wilson farm, Chippewa Township, 340 acres; the Daniel Dawson farm, 330 acres, Ohio Township; the Joseph Swartz farm, Chippewa Township, 325 acres.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, and even more so before that time, most of the ministers in the country, and in the villages owned good farms. One of the old illustrations displays a handsome home and big barns and outhouses on the farm of the Rev. Samuel Patterson, near New Galilee. In this way the country preachers supplemented their meager incomes.

An old drawing shows the splendid home of the Rev. Arthur Bradford and the barns and fences indicate a prosperous and well-kept 90 acre farm. Bradford was for a time minister of the Mt. Pleasant Church at Darlington. A few years before the Civil War he took a leading part in the establishment of the Free Presbyterian Church, so called because of its strong anti-slavery stand. During the Civil War, Bradford served for a time, under Lincoln's appointment, as United States Consul at Amoy, China. I have gone through some of his correspondence with the State Department; long and careful letters addressed to Frederick Seward, son of, and assistant to, William H. Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State. Bradford afterwards demitted the ministry and became a belligerent freethinker and rationalist. Yet his service to the cause of Negro freedom was most distinguished.

All of the illustrations and cuts of Beaver County farms, published in 1876, the Centennial year, show numerous sheep grazing in the fields. Today sheep are a rare sight in Beaver County. Perhaps the reason is that the great sheep ranches of the West have pushed the small sheep raiser off the map.


Like every other section of the country, Beaver County has had its share of interesting personalities. For the present I confine my recollections to Beaver Falls. Among the outstanding businessmen were: Frank B. Brierly, whose hardware store, the first store, stood on Main Street, or Seventh Avenue, at Fifth Street; J. D. McAnlis, the jeweler, who for years did business on Seventh Avenue at the corner of Eighth Street. The jewelry business, now carried on by James McAnlis, the grandson of J. D. McAnlis, goes back farther into the past, with unbroken history, than any business in Beaver Falls; and John T. Reeves, head of the Economy Bank, which stood high above the street then, where the Brodhead Hotel now hangs out its shield of welcome. Across the years I can clearly see Mr. Reeves, with his white square beard, standing on the steps in front of his bank.

Dr. Mercer, who operated a drug store in Bernardtown, on upper Eighth Avenue, some distance beyond the "Marginal" railroad, was a familiar, and somewhat singular, figure in Beaver Falls in my boyhood days. Rather unprofessional looking, his diagnostic skill was highly regarded. I remember well his drug store, for I was carried there for first aid one day when Billy, our horse, frightened by an engine on the "Marginal", ran away and deposited me on the street. Perhaps that does injustice to Billy, for, so far as I can remember, he never ran away, no matter how frightened he was, as on one dark night when we emerged from the double passage covered bridge from New Brighton to Beaver Falls, just as a P.&L.E. engine, shooting red flames from its stack, went thundering up the grade. Perhaps it would be fairer to the memory of Billy to say that I was the frightened one when he accelerated his pace and showed some alarm at the "Marginal" engine, and so fell off.

Speaking of horses, let me say, in connection with my mention of Frank Brierly, that soon after we came to Beaver Falls with Geneva College, our family was catapulted into a long standing friendship with the Brierly family one Sabbath, when Hunter, a splendid black horse, predecessor to Billy, and who also came from Northwood, Ohio, taking fright at the fireengine ran away and deposited the family in front of the Brierly home, next to the Covenanter Church, into which we were carried. Yet, after such a smashing runaway and upset, none of us was hurt. I landed safe in the arms of Mary Miller, our nurse.

Another personality, quite unlike, however, some of those I have just mentioned, was Bill Dunn. Bill Dunn lived in a shack on the Steffin Hill road, and when it so pleased him, worked in our garden or about the house. His trademark as he did his digging and picking was a derby hat. He had another distinguishing mark, too, a knee which he could not bend, and which gave him a swinging gait as he walked, something after the fashion of a pivot gun.

I think that in previous articles I mentioned Valentine the cobbler, whose shop was just across from the Driller Works. In his later years, being a German, and having sailed many years before the mast, he built a small schooner just back of his shop, and planned a voyage to the Fatherland. Either in the Ohio, or the Mississippi, the ship upset, and Valentine returned to the more prosaic task of the awl and hammer.

I must not omit to mention Murray, the blacksmith, whose black unpainted smithy stood under the trees not far from the end of the Fetterman bridge. There was a tradition, too, that Murray had studied at Yale. I am glad that in this horseless and buggyless age I can recall standing in Murray's shop when he was shoeing our horse. Big blue veins stood out on his hammer arm as he struck the hot iron on the anvil, making the sparks fly upward. I can hear the hissing music, too, of the hot iron as it was thrust for cooling into a bucket of water. One of Lincoln's favorite anecdotes was of a blacksmith who had several consecutive ideas about what he would do with a fine piece of iron he had secured. At first he started to make a wagon wheel tire of it; then changing his mind, he began to fashion several horseshoes of it; but before they were finished he had another idea and began to hammer out railroad spikes. This, too, he soon abandoned. From one project half completed, he turned to another. At length there was not much left of the iron with which he had started. Looking with some disgust upon the remnant, he said, "At least I can make a fizzle out of you," and thrust it hissing into the bucket of water. Not a few fizzles in life, and out of good life material, too, because no one plan was adhered to.

"Captain" Boyle, so called because he had captained a boat on the old canal which ran along the east shore of the Beaver, was another interesting personalitiy. In his retirement Captain Boyle was always arrayed in a white, and collarless, "boiled" shirt. He was something of a practical joker, and liked to set children on the trail of robins and other birds by telling them that if they sprinkled salt on a robin's tail they could surely catch him. And, indeed, that was true.



Among my school teachers the one who stands out above the others was Benjamin Franklin, a veritable Nestor among the wielder of the ruler and the birch rod in Beaver County; only what he wielded with particular prowess was a strap,, slit into strips at the end away from the handle, and which, when provoked beyond measure, he would draw from the depths of the tails of his brown cutaway coat and lay it on a malefactor's backside. He was also quite an artist with his long pointer, and did not hesitate to send it hurling across the classroom in the direction of some evil doer. But that was before the days when teachers who chastised bad boys were sued for assault and battery. Recently I was asked to appear' in a court as a character witness in behalf of a teacher who had been hailed into court by the parents of an unruly scholar, whom, in a moment of impatience, he had slapped. None of the numerous character witnesses was called, for when only a little testimony had been given for the plaintiff, the visiting judge, from one of the northern counties, where teachers still punish unruly scholars, threw the case out of court, saying the punishment was well deserved, and permitted, too, by the Pennsylvania law; and with the unmistakable accent that it would be a good thing for our youth if more scholars received the same medicine.

The last time I saw Benjamin Franklin was when he was taking toll at the end of the New Brighton Bridge. He never said "children" in the school room, but always "Childer," which, I believe, was not altogether a wrong and ungrammatical utterance, but a relic of old English. Franklin looked like a model for the popular cartoons of Uncle Sam - - cutaway coat, white goatee, and all. May he rest in peace!

In my early Beaver County school days I was under the following teachers: Calvina Harbinson and James Speer at the Brick School in Chippewa Township, and about which I wrote in my first article; Frank Thompson, Miss Given, and Mrs. Newton Long, one of the best of teachers, and Benjamin Franklin at the College Hill School; and in two private schools, Miss Kennedy, whose school was in her home, opposite the College campus, and another, whose name, but not whose pleasant face, I have forgotten, in a private school near the Anderton Brewery in Bernardtown. (If any reader can supply her name, I would like to have it.)

I was never tempted to say with the Psalmist, "I know more than all my teachers." These beautiful September days, with the morning mist rising from the river, and the fields strewn with the blue aster and the goldenrod, and the woods, beginning to array themselves in the lovely colors of the autumn, carry me back to the September mornings, when, after having been given a verse for the day by our mother, we set forth for the Brick School in Chippewa Township: first, past the brick house at the end of Boyle's lot, then through the corn field beyond the Partington barn, and sometimes turning aside to get a golden russet apple from the Partington orchard, then on down the long lane leading to the bridge, over the bridge and up the road to the school. Sometimes mother or father would pick us up at the school with the carriage and take us with them up the long hill to the Swartz farm, or in the other direction to Wallace's Run, then a beautiful and picturesque glen.

Life has many teachers. Happy is the man who can say, with Laban, I have learned by experience.