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Memories Of Beaver Falls

Milestones Vol 24. No.2

By Clarence E. McC'artney Beaver Falls News-Tribune January 16, 1943

(from clipping file off. B. Wilson) Contributed to Milestones By Dr David Carson

Editor's Note: Dr Clarence Edward McCartney of Pittsburgh, noted pulpit orator and author of numerous books rich in historical lore of Western Pennsylvania, has written a series of five articles for The News-Tribune concerning Beaver Falls, his birthplace (in fact he was born in Northwood, Ohio, dmc) and boyhood home.

My first religious training I received, of course, in a godly home. Some of the people in Beaver Falls will still remember my mother, who was a remarkable combination of high education, superior intellect, devoutness, and a deep interest in human beings. On Sabbath afternoons, when the weather permitted, we had a little church service of our own on a rock down the hillside, where mother read to us from the Bible, pointed us to the Redeemer of the world and sang to us hymns out of a red cloth bound hymn book, such as "There is a Happy Land" and "Safe in the Arms of Jesus." This was an altogether unusual thing in a home of the Covenanters; but at the same time and first of all, we were firmly grounded upon the Psalms. It was our mother's custom when the children set out for school in the morning to give us a parting verse from the Word of God, which we repeated after her and were to carry with us through the uncertain day. Every morning, too, about 10:00 o'clock, we knew that our mother was in the drawing room spending an hour in devotion and in prayer for her children. When we think of her there come to our mind the words of Christ, "0 woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt."

The church of my boyhood days was the Reformed Presbyterian, or the Coyenanter, church which stood, and the building still stands, on the corner of Ninth Street and Seventh Avenue. The minister was an able and friendly man, Dr. R. J. George. he lived in a fine brick house on Cedar Street, or Eighth Avenue, just near the Presbyterian church; and often on the Communion Sabbath some of our family would go to the minister's house for supper between the afternoon and evening service. In his family there were five children, two boys, McLeod and Roy, and three daughters, Grace, Maude and Ruth. All now have passed on save Ruth, who is an instructor in the Scripps College for Women at Claremont, California, and a gifted writer herself. I had a pleasant visit with her when I was in California last summer.

In those days the Covenanter church was filled to capacity. All the professors and their families and the students of the college came down there to worship. The great occasions were the Sacramental Sabbaths. These services commenced on Friday. There was another Preparatory service on Saturday, and after the sermon on that afternoon we marched up the aisle to receive from the hands of one of the elders the Token which permitted us to partake of the Lord's Supper. They were generally handed out by a Mr. Paisley, somewhat bent and stooped and clad on those occasions in broadcloth. I remember approaching him with some trepidation and wondering if he would withhold from me the Token. It was a great sight to see the congregation in different groups swaying down the aisles of the church to the music of the Forty-Fifth Psalm: The daughter of the King, All glorious is within; And with embroideries of gold, Her garments wrought have been.

With the clear view of memory, I can people those pews again. Just behind us sat the family of Dr. H. H. George, president of the college; just to the left, Culbertsons and the aged Mrs. McAnlis; far in front sat the McCagues; clear over against the wall, next to the Brierley's house, the Johnstons, the Paisleys, and the Pearces; and so I could go 'round the church. Although there was no organ, there was splendid singing. Everyone sang, and the singing was led by a good choir, Eva Lebrannon, Maude George, Will Cook, one of the Maxwells, Joe Dodds and others. Always there were plenty of babies present to punctuate with their cries the exhortations of the preacher. Even now I can hear the long withdrawing wail of an infant as its mother carried it down the stairs at the back of the church to the basement below. Sitting in our pew, too, we could see a house on a hill which has now been razed for the most part, and frequently through the open window we could hear the crowing of a rooster. But it was not Peter's cock, for in that church, Christ was never denied in the pulpit.

My first attempts at public speaking and preaching were made at home before the assembled and patient family. Two of the texts I remember showing that I took in the whole compass of Christian doctrine, "There shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth," and "Jesus wept." My first venture outside the family was in the study of Dr. George Kennedy, who had baptised me as an infant at Northwood, Ohio, and who now encouraged me to hold forth to him in his study, and rewarded me with a white lozenge when it was over.


My most ambitious effort, in the way of public speaking, came when I was about twelve or thirteen. A number of boys, Henry George, my brother Albert, Rutherford Glover, and I think Howard McAnlis, formed a little stock company and ventured forth with father's magic lantern. To this day I can see McLeod George, Henry's brother, now a physician residing in Denver, sitting in the waiting room of the old car barn at the foot of College Hill, and writing out for us the posters which we had printed. All I remember now is the heading THREE RISING STARS, referring to Henry, my brother, and myself. We tried it out first in the school house at Homewood. What an adventure it was. We next perpetrated our lecture at New Galilee. Before the lecture we tried to stir up the interest of the populace by marching around with a drum and fife and cymbals. Henry and Albert ran the lantern and I did the lecturing. Rutherford Glover took the money at the gate, which did not keep him very busy. The lecture consisted of scenes from "Rock of Ages," "The Soldier's Dream Before the Battle," and "Little Hal, the Captain's Son," the story of a youth who climbed up to the top of the mast of Old Ironsides, and then became so dizzy that he could not come down and was like to fall and perish. His father, the captain of the ship, pointed a rifle at him and commanded the boy to jump. "Jump on fire!" he cried. The slide showed little Hal diving down from the mast into the sea, and then clambering up on the deck and, dripping with water, welcomes into his father's arms. For a humorous interlude, we had pictures of a fellow riding a greased pig. In some way we worked the slide up and down so that it gave pretty good imitation of a running pig and a fellow holding on to his back, but generally falling off. This, you see, was the origin of the moving picture!

For an audience that night in New Galilee I think there were three women and one Negro, a hired man on one of the New Galilee farms. In this connection it is interesting to note that although slavery never established itself in any degree in Beaver County, there were three slaves owned in the early part of the nineteenth century by a James Nicholson, a farmer in Big Beaver Township. These were Pompey and Tamor Frazier, and Betsy Matthews. At his death Nicholson willed the farm to these three slaves. When the two Fraziers died, the farm belonged to Betsy, who in 1840 married a man named Henry Jordan. Betsy then sold part of her farm, and upon that part the village of New Galilee was afterwards built.

After the Reeves Bank, the first bank established in Beaver Falls was the First National. My father, J. L. McCartney, was one of the first group of directors. The others were J. M. May, John Reeves, Simon Harold, H. W. Reeves, H. C. Patterson, and J. C. Whitla. Judge Henry Hice was the president, and Joseph Wilson the vice president. One of my Scottish uncles, Patrick Robertson, was the cashier. At that time the bank stood on Main Street, or Seventh Avenue, a block or so below Brierly's store. My uncle lived in an apartment back of the bank. Now and then, I would go down and stay with him overnight. That was a great experience, especially the pistol under his pillow. He dined at the old Merchant's Hotel, which stood across from the Fort Wayne depot. In that hotel they had a very talkative and profane parrot and dining there one night with my uncle I listened for the first time to profane speech.

Our family was frequently in the two Reeves homes, that of Henry, which was quite a show place on Sixth Avenue, with a little country home, or summer house, on a hill back of it, and that of John Reeves, which stood high up back of the bank. I can clearly see Mr. Reeves, standing at the head of the steps leading up the bank, a fine picture with his white beard.



In those early days Beaver Falls was a busy manufacturing center. Among those which I remember were the Chemical Works, off toward the Ft. Wayne Railroad, the Howard Stove Company, the Emerson Saw Works, the Champion Saw Works, the Shovel Works, down near the old P & L E station, the Ax Works, in the same general locality, the Beaver Falls Planing Mill, the Keystone Driller Company, the Union Drawn Steel Company, and last but not least, the Hartman Steel Co. Their plant was along the Marginal Railroad, and part of the site now, I think, is occupied by the Keystone Driller Company. Driving home at night it was a brave sight to see the molten metal pouring out of the furnaces, and workmen in leathern aprons and with great iron tongs in their hands, waiting to convey the metal to the mold. Just alongside, too, was a perpetual geyser of natural gas, an undying flame, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of cloud (sic; fire?) by night. Two other plants that I remember well were the Water Works which stood between the P & L E R. R. and the river, some distance above the Fetterman Bridge. The engineer there was a William Carothers.

The family lived on a little mound near the river and down the hill from our home, FERNCLIFF. There was a boy Billy and two sisters, Mattie and Maisie. The other plant was the Paper Mill, which stood a little below the Fetterman Bridge and near the dam. It had a screaming, wailing, siren, which could be heard all over that part of Beaver County, and which, I think, in volume, outdid any of the air-warning sirens which we hear today.

Among the physicians of Beaver Falls whom I remember, was the physician of our childhood days, Dr. Boyd. He was of the homeopathic school, and I can still taste those little sugary pills which floated in the little glass bottle. Other well known physicians were the two Grimms and the two Simpsons, Beaver Falls and Brighton. Some of the doctors had rather unusual names and they had a rhyme or sequence which ran as follows:

"Ague, Sheets, Coffin." I think there is one that I have left out in this sequence; showing that the paths, both homeopathic and allopathic, led sometimes alike to the grave.

Every now and then father had to drive down to Beaver to pay his taxes, and some of the boys generally went along. The judges, Agnew, Hice, and Wickham, were notable figures in those days. Later on Sharp Wilson sat on the bench. He had been a student under father at Beaver College (Geneva dmc). The year after I left college, which goes on considerably from these childhood recollections, I reported the Court proceedings for the Beaver County Times, and got to know not a little of human nature, of the workings of the Law, and of the pleading of the barristers. Some that I remember now were Cunningham, John Buchanan, Rankin Martin, R. H. Holt, Moorehead, Barrett, Baldwin, Weyand and others whose names now escape me. When I was reporting court there, a man was tried for murder and sentenced to be hanged. The first since the celebrated Eli Sheets case of Blackhawk and Darlington notoriety, an account of which trial you will find in my book "Not Far From Pittsburgh."