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History of Crow's Run, New Sewickley Twp.

Milestones Vol 29. No. 4

By Joseph Harold Thompson


New Sewickley Township, situated in the eastern part of Beaver County, is composed of about 19,279 acres of land which is of a hilly nature but very fertile.

The southern part of the township is drained by Crow's Run, which flows southwest through a deep and narrow valley and empties into the Ohio River at Conway, Pennsylvania.

Crow's Run Valley contains coal, clay, oil, limestone, and vast amounts of Mahoning sandstone, which is very good for building purposes. The land in the Crow's Run area was known as Indian lands until March 12, 1783, when it was set aside as part of the depreciation lands awarded to those men who served in the Revolutionary War. This land, until 1789, was priced as low as fifty cents an acre.

In 1740 John McKee was born and later in his life was exiled from Ireland in 1765 due to the unrest and turmoil in his native land and his disagreement with the Imperialistic authorities. To save his life he chose America to be his future home. Coming to New England, he found there the same turmoil that he had left behind in Ireland. Being a hater of tyranny from the very foundation of his nature, he joined himself in sympathy with the colonists, and was one of the "Indians" assisting in the destruction of the tax-ridden tea in the Boston Tea Party. He served two years in the Revolutionary War and was present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. For his services in the war, he was awarded 800 acres of land in New Sewickley Township beginning with the Ohio River and extending back over the hills for a distance of two miles, thus including the Crow's Run Valley. John McKee kept a store of goods, traded with the Indians and was on friendly terms with them. In 1825, McKee sold 238 acres to Michael Conway, which included much of the Crow's Run Valley. The funds from this and sale of other lands were later used to help finance the construction of the railroad from Pittsburgh to Beaver County. John McKee died December 14. 1834 at the age of 94 and was buried in the family plot at the homestead, located at the top of the hill overlooking Crow's Run. His headstone reads:

In memory of John McKee who departed this life December 14, 1834, aged 94, emigrated to this adopted country in the year A.D. 1765, was at the destroying of the tea in Boston, present at the Declaration of Independence, served two years in the Revolutionary War and took his share in the glorious struggle of gaining our Independence.

In smaller letters beneath the inscription is found, "J. W. Thompson, stonecutter."

The above can be found on page 475, Bausman's History of Beaver County, 1904.

J. W. Thompson was a son of Joseph Thompson, who was also a Revolutionary War soldier. His severance pay was ten pounds and ten shillings. He came to "Old Brighton,' which now is Beaver Falls, in 1795. He later settled on 200 acres in what is now North Sewickley Township. There he opened a grist mill, a distillery and was a skilled stonecutter.

I am a direct descendent and six generation of Joseph Thompson's; therefore I am interested in this bit of biography. Because of neglect and vandalism to the McKee burial plot, interested citizens and the American Legion in 1942 had the tombstone removed and placed in the Oak Grove Cemetery near the Soldier's Monument.

Thomas McKee, born in 1782 in eastern Pennsylvania, the son and only child of John McKee, inherited the land from his father and lived on the paternal homestead all of his life, prospered, and became quite well-to-do. He built a grist mill on Snake Run about one mile above the confluence with Crow's Run.

This Crow's Run Valley, beginning in 1880 and for the next four decades became a busy industrial region for the production of clay, coal, oil, building stone, brick making, and building of railroads. The creation of these enterprises was due to the foresight and endeavors of the Park Brothers of Crow's Run, who gave their share to the development of Beaver County.

William Park, born in Cookstown, County Tyrone, Ireland, emigrated to Philadelphia in May 1791, learned to be a stone mason and located in Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County, in 1796, where he instituted the first Masonic Lodge in that region. He was a member of 479 F. & A. M. at Tullaghage, County Tyrone, Ireland. He died at the age of 88; his wife Mary McGahey died at the age of 94. They had the following children: John, James, David, Jane, William, Robert, and Thomas. David Park, son of William Park, became a wagon maker, married, and settled in Wilkinsburg about 1844, then moved to Beaver County and purchased a farm in New Sewickley Township about one mile from Freedom. He married Ann Hamilton and had the following children: James, George, William, John, David, Theodore, Elizabeth, and Mary.

This is the J. H. Park lower brickyard on Crow's Run in 1924.

James I Park, son of David Park, learned to be a wagon maker from his father, then engaged in the lumber business in Freedom for thirty years. He married Emily McDonald and had the following children: William A, John H., George I, and Ann.

The members of the Park family who were to establish their various enterprises in Crow's Run were James I Park (the father) and his sons William A., John H., and George J. Park. John H. assisted his father in the lumber business and later entered into business on his own account. He opened a general store in 1880 at Park Quarries under the name of J. H. Park & Company. He also opened a stone quarry there and in 1882 established another quarry at New Galilee, Pennsylvania. From these quarries he shipped fine building stone to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and surrounding areas. Some notable buildings erected from this stone were the Pittsburgh Post Office; Pennsylvania Station at Pittsburgh, Pa.; the First Presbyterian Church in 1890, Beaver, Pa.; Carnegie Library in 1902, in Beaver Falls, Pa.; and much of the stone used in and about the Court House in Beaver, Pa.


A post office was established as the Park Quarries where John H. Park was postmaster and a general store. In 1885 the Park Fire Clay Company was organized at Park Quarries with G I. Park president, W.A. Park treasurer, and John H. Park as superintendent. There were two brickyards, known as #1 and #2 works, situated on the west side of Crow's Run. The capacity of the works was 250,000 bricks daily. There was a paving brick, burned hard and sized 4x4x9 inches and weighing 9 pounds. The employees numbered 350 men. These bricks were shipped to all points in the United States and Canada.

In 1884 John H. Park built a railroad from Park Quarries to connect with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Conway, Pa., a distance over three miles, to serve their industries. It was called the North Shore Railroad. It later was sold to the Ohio River Junction Railroad Company of which William A. Park was treasurer.

The clay mines were opened to supply the clay for the brickyards and clay also was shipped as one of their products. A scarceness of labor became a problem, and they built over twenty-five houses and an African American church for their employees.

On June 19, 1902, the peace and tranquillity of the village was disturbed by a murder, the second ever to occur in Beaver County, by two of the African American employees in a dispute over a woman of dissolute character. William M. Payne shot and killed Allen Austin in June of 1902. Payne was tried, convicted, and hanged on June 9, 1904, in the jail yard at Beaver by Sheriff Howard Bliss.

At a place called Wallace City, situated at the crossroads of now Route 989 and the Freedom-Freeport Road near the headwaters of Crow's Run, an oil boom started in 1900. The first well drilled on the Robert Wallace farm produced 1400 barrels per day; and before it was brought under control, thousands of gallons flowed down Crow's Run to the Ohio River. The well with the largest production, 2600 barrels per day, was drilled on the Whipple farm. Thirty wells were drilled on the Stewart farm, seventeen on the Whipple farm, twenty-two on the Kramer farm, and seventeen on the Wallace farm. Others were Morgan, McElhaney, Stewart, Buck, and Landis farms. Three pipelines were laid and 500 barrel storage tanks were built to market the oil. Natural gas was found on several farms; the one on the Kline farm was till producing in 1950. Wallace City took its name from the first well drilled on the Robert Wallace farm; and although it was made up of the usual service buildings such as boarding houses, blacksmith shops, livery stables, and other temporary buildings associated with the industry, no permanent residences were ever erected. It never even became a village or a hamlet.

The oil boom was of brief duration; and when dry holes began to be drilled, the business began to collapse, and by 1910 the derricks and buildings were being torn down and began to disappear. Today in 1970 there is nothing visible to remind us of oil wells; at Wallace City, Mother Nature has reclaimed the land. The crossroads are still there, but they are paved now instead of axle deep in mud.

During the oil boom at Wallace City, the Park brothers realized the need for transportation. They extended their North Shore Railroad on up Crow's Run over three miles from their stone quarries to Wallace City. In order to do so, they had to blast two tunnels through solid rock, one about one-fourth mile long. Their plans were to extend the railroad on to Callery Junction, Pa., and connect with the Pittsburgh and Western Railroad at that point. After the collapse of the oil boom, they decided not to extend the railroad any further. The upper No. 2 brickyard closed in 1919. On June 28, 1924, a hurricane which struck the area of Beaver County causing tremendous damage to property, caused a flood of Crow's Run that washed out sections of the railroad tracks, storage buildings, and caused large piles of bricks stored for shipment to topple into the stream. It was a severe loss to the owners.

In 1929 the cement industry began to dominate the paving industry; and together with the depression at that time, the No. 1 and last brickyard closed its operations. The brick kilns and buildings were sold as salvage. The Borough of Freedom purchased a number of them and paved many of the streets with the bricks. The balance of them were sold to a real estate firm in Ambridge, Pa.

The last business venture of the Park brothers was the attempt to construct an interurban trolley line between the Beaver Valley and Butler, Pa.

In 1905-'06 rails were laid in Freedom on 4th Avenue between 2nd and 7th street, also in Rochester, entering on Case Street via Pinney Street, Connecticut Avenue, Jefferson Street, and leaving town via New York Avenue and northbound ending at the borough line. It also required a bridge in Freedom between Seventh Street and Ninth Street across Eighth Street and Dutchman's Run. Due to rival competition and difficulty in obtaining right of way, this business venture was abandoned with tremendous loss. It was the last business venture of John H. Park.

William H. Park, born June 13, 1882, died June 20, 1968. He was married on June 12, 1916, to Lena Evelyn Keiber, a registered nurse, born in Lincoln, Nebraska, August 1, 1891. They had one son, William H., born 1919, died 1939. Today Mrs. William H. Park, Evelyn to her friends, lives in the residence adjacent to where the Park Quarry Store and post office once stood. She has with her keen memory and gracious manner supplied much of the information and valuable pictures which go to make up this history. To her I am most grateful.

Other accounts of this history are to be found interspersed in the various histories of Beaver County listed: Caldwell's Atlas 1876, Warner's History of Beaver County 1888, Book of Biographies 1899, Bausman's 1904, Genealogical and Personal History of Beaver County 1914

All these events took place in the Crow's Run area. Today to traverse the same region one would find nothing visible to remind us of a once very busy industrial community. Nature has reclaimed it.

It has been the purpose of the writer to place the various events in their proper sequence to enable the reader to follow the course of events as they occurred.
By Joseph Harold Thompson November 1, 1970