Click Here to Return to Index

Click Here to Return to Milestones



Milestones Vol 25. No. 2

By Gilbert Trumpeter February 9, 1965 Monaca, PA

In the year 1769 the Colony of Pennsylvania ordered the survey of lands in the wilderness that was then claimed by the Colony of Virginia as belonging to that colony. However, although the survey was ordered on July 25, 1769 nothing was done until after the Revolutionary War. By that time Virginia had given up serious claims to this area, and what is now Monaca was then a portion of a vaguely defined township called Smith Township in Washington County. This was in the year 1785.

In that year, on April 15, 1785, a William L. Lungan surveyed a tract of land along a bend of the Ohio River where much of Monaca is now located. This tract contained about 330 acres and lay roughly between the river bank and the top of the hill in about the middle of Monaca. On his survey he named this 330 acre tract "Appetite". This, then, is the first recorded name of what is now downtown Monaca.

On September 5, 1787, this 330 acre tract called "Appetite" was patented by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to an Ephriam Blame. His patent being recorded in the Rolls Office in Patent Book 11, page 137. Not much is known about Ephriam Blame, but it is known that on June 17, 1801 he sold "Appetite" to a Robert Callender who seems to have died shortly thereafter, for there is a record of his will, dated November 15, 1802, wherein he authorized John Wilkens, Jr., George Wallace and Alexander Addison to sell the tract. This they did on December 29, 1804, so Robert Callender must have died sometime between November 15, 1802 when he made his will and December 29, 1804 when the tract was sold.

The Buyer was a John Niblow who paid $3960.00 for the 330 acre tract, what is now the main part of Monaca. However, at that time it was probably entirely wilderness except for what the Indians might have cleared. This Niblow, kept the land until 1813 when he and Rebecca Niblow, his wife, sold "Appetite" for $3912.00 to a Frances Hilveti. This Hilveti did not do too well, and in some manner became indebted to Frederick Rapp, the leader of the "Economite Society" who were settled at Economy which is now Ambridge, PA. The amount of this debt is listed as being $3012.54, and when Hilveti could not pay it, Frederick Rapp had James Lyon, who was then Sheriff of Beaver County, sell "Appetite" at a public sale.

In the sale, "Appetite" is described as a 330 acre tract having erected on it two log houses, one kitchen, one large sheep house, single roofed, and one cabin roofed stable, and was further described as having 84 acres cleared of which 16 acres were in meadow. The sale was held on August 30, 1821 and Frederick Rapp, leader of the "Economite Society" was the high bidder at $1960.00.

Now Northwest and adjacent to this tract known as "Appetite" was a tract owned by a Stephen Phillips, who operated the first traces of a flourishing business, a boat building yard, which business was later known as Phillips and Graham. Forty-one boats were built there during the period of 1822 to 1832.

The tract of land known as "Appetite" was purchased by Stephen Phillips and John Graham from Frederick Rapp for $2400.00 on April 24, 1831.

It was around this time that the "Economite Society" located about 5 miles up the river from what is now Monaca, began having internal troubles and part of them split away intending to form their own society and to be known as "The New Philadelphia Society". After a winter of turmoil and dissension, in which legal aid was invoked on both sides; a compromise and division were agreed upon. On March 6, 1832 the following agreement was signed:

1. Count Maximillian De Leon and his adherents were to leave Economy within three months, taking their personal clothing, household furniture, etc., but relinquishing all claims upon company property, real estate, money, etc.

2. The Society was to pay the seceders the sum of $105,000.00 in three installments within a year. Shortly after their exit from Economy they bought the village of Philhipsburg and organized the "New Philadelphia Society" with Count Maximilian De Leon as their leader.

On July 21, 1832, over 800 acres of ground, including the locality of the boat yards and tract known as "Appetite", was sold to Count Maximillian De Leon and his associates (seceders from the Economite Society) for the sum of $22,000.00. The deed for the land was signed by Stephen Phillips and his wife, (Roda) and John Graham and his wife, (Elizabeth). During the first year of this Colony, fifty houses were built, a hotel and factories. The erection of a church took place during that first year, it being the first substantial stone church in Beaver County, and was designed by the Count himself. This marked really the beginning of the town, Phillipsburg, so called in honor of Stephen Phillips. The town was laid out by Abner Lacock, then county surveyor.

The customs of this new settlement were somewhat similar to that of the Economites but more liberal. Marriage was encouraged, and the return of the normal relationship of man and wife urged. During the first month, twenty young men and women were united in marriage by a German minister, the Rev. Daubert of Pittsburgh. All things were held in common. The society was under the government of a Board of Trustees, with Count De Leon as the leader. After the first year of happiness and contentment, great disappointment and dissatisfaction began to be felt among these colonists. The building of the church, a hotel, factories, and dwelling houses required all the money they had on hand. The income from these new enterprises during the first year, of course, was small. It was, therefore, only too natural that financial difficulties would set in. The Count proved to be a poor business manager. In less than 18 months the strained financial condition of the society compelled a dissolution, which was duly announced to the world in the following:


The undersigned, members of the "New Philadelphia Society", at Phillipsburg, in the County of Beaver, and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, have been authorized by said society to give public notice of the dissolution of their partnership. The public will, therefore, take notice of the dissolution of their partnership heretofore existing in Phillipsburg aforesaid, and transaction of business under the title of the "New Philadelphia Society", has this date been dissolved by mutual consent. All persons having claims against said partnership are hereby requested to present the same for settlements; and those indebted to said company are required to make payment to Abner Lacock, Stephen Phillips and Adam Schule, who are fully authorized to settle and adjust the accounts of said partnership.

Given under our hands this 10th day of August, 1833.
Maximillian De Leon
Samuel G. Goentgen
John A. Zickwolf
Jacob Wagner
Jacob Schaefer
Anthony Knapper

Thus terminated the second attempt to establish, in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, a social and business organization on the community basis. The property and debts were divided among the members and the community system abandoned. Many of the .New Philadelphia Society" members scattered to other places.

Those who remained at Phillipsburg engaged in co-operative business for a time and then dissolved, each one endeavoring to solve the problems of life by personal industry and accumulation.

One of the earlier business enterprises was the First Woolen Mill, later known as the German Manufacturing Company. The Woolen Mill was later disposed of to Dr. Edward Acker, who established a "Water Cure and Health Resort" which met with considerable success for a time. He, in turn, sold it to a Dr. Clemens Baelz in 1856, who continued it for a period with satisfactory results. Later the Water Cure buildings were sold to Dr. W G. Taylor for the "Soldiers' Orphan School", the first of this kind in Western Pennsylvania. The school was opened in March, 1866, and was conducted as such until the time when it was totally destroyed by fire on August 22, 1876.

The Post Office address was changed from Phillipsburg to "Water Cure" in memory of the old medical and health resort, to prevent confusion, since another village by the name of Phillipsburg existed in the State of Pennsylvania. Mail service in those pioneer days was somewhat different than what we are accustomed to now. Then, envelopes were not used; but the sheet of paper served both for the message and envelope. The sheet of paper was folded with the clear side exposed on which was placed the address. The rate of postage was: single letters by land conveyed not over 40 miles 8 cents - 40 to 90 miles 10 cents -90 to 150 miles 13 cents and over 500 miles 25 cents.

During the September term of Court, Beaver County, in the year 1839, a petition was presented for the incorporation of the town. The decree was granted on March 6, 1840, which date marks the legal origin of the Borough of Phillipsburg, the primitive name having been restored. At that time the population was largely German, the remanants and descendants of the "New Philadelphia Society".

In the year 1892, the Borough of Phillipsburg was re-named "Monaca", deriving its name from the famous Indian Chief "Monacatootha", chief of the Indian tribe that at one time roamed the hills in this section.