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The Beaver County That Might Have Been--Place Names That Have Changed

Milestones Vol 26. No. 2

By Denver & Genie Walton

Have you strolled, lately, down the streets of Mogadore? Or have you driven, perhaps, on the highways and byways of Meadow Township? Did you pass through Groveland on your way to Adams Township or Falls Township?

You might have been living in one of these communities had history but taken a slightly different course.

Although none of these places exist in Beaver County today, these names were proposed for new towns and townships during the years of development of present-day Beaver County.

Take the village of Shannopin, for instance.

Long a thriving community in Hopewell Township, the villagers, in 1909, petitioned the Beaver County Courts that their hamlet be incorporated as a borough. The court was sympathetic with the petitioners and granted the change but ordered that the proposed name, "Mogadore," be dropped. "South Heights" was suggested by the Court, accepted by the residents, and a town was born.

In 1896, some of the residents of Borough Township (Vanport) petitioned for borough status. This community was to have been called "Groveland," and was located near Beaver, between the Beaver Cemetery and the Ohio River. The Court denied the petition, however, so "Groveland" was never to be. Shortly thereafter, the settlement was annexed by the Borough of Beaver.

The village of Colona, in Moon Township, was also denied borough status, following a petition in 1914. This community became part of Monaca, when that town absorbed the remnants of Moon Township in 1931.

The only other Beaver County community to have been denied incorporation by the court was "South New Castle," in 1848, a part of Shenango Township. Later, in 1901, after this land had been removed from Beaver County to form a part of Lawrence County, South New Castle finally achieved borough status.

Speaking of Moon Township, few county residents know that there have been three Moon Townships in Beaver County, but today there are none. Most of Southside Beaver County was once part of Moon Township, Allegheny County (which remains in existence today).

When the county was formed in 1800, six townships were created. From Beaver Township, Allegheny County, North Beaver and South Beaver were formed. Sewickley Township was formed from Sewickley Township, Allegheny County. The portion of Moon Township, Allegheny County that was to become part of Beaver County was divided into two townships (by the Raccoon Creek) and called First Moon and Second Moon Townships. And finally, a part of Hanover Township, Washington County became Hanover Township, Beaver County.

This arrangement left three rather odd-shaped communities in the South Side. Dissatisfied residents, irked because many lived farther from their own township meeting hail than those in the neighboring townships, petitioned for a redistricting, which was granted in 1814. The new county now had four townships, on the Southside, with none of the original boundaries in evidence. Hanover remained, and Moon Township contained parts of the other two townships (other Southside townships were formed from later divisions of these.)

The new Moon Township thus contained a substantial area, including present-day Monaca, Center, Potter and most of Raccoon. The size was reduced considerably over the years until in 1914, the last new township to have been erected in Beaver County was formed by the division of Moon Township. The larger portion was to be called Center Township, and the smaller, about 1/20th the size of Center, remained on the map as Moon Township.

This historical name finally disappeared when Moon Township became the 4th and 5th wards of Monaca, in 1931 (Monaca Heights and Colona Heights.)

The Court was not always sympathetic with the residents of communities who desired a change of township boundaries.

We might have had a Logstown Township (from the eastern part of Hopeweil, 1890) if the petition had been granted.

Chippewa residents would be living in Adams Township today if their forefathers had had their way.

Part of Brighton and New Sewickley (near Fallston) were proposed to create a new Fails Township.

Baden Township was to have been formed from parts of Economy and New Sewickley. Later, a small portion of this area was incorporated as the Borough of Baden.

When South Beaver Township was first divided, the two new townships were to be called Field and Meadow Townships. The names were not approved by the court, however, so Field Township became Little Beaver (later, Darlington Township) and Meadow Township became Big Beaver. This change reflects a trend in naming new communities in those days. Similarly, in Allegheny County, a part of Moon Township became Crescent Township, and East Deer Township gave birth to Fawn Township. Six communities in Beaver and Allegheny Counties preserve the name of the old Sewickley Township.

In addition to the towns that never were, five boroughs existed earlier in our history but are absent from the map today. Greersburg, founded in 1820, became Darlington Borough in 1830; Phillipsburgh, incorporated in 1840 from the village of New Philadelphia, became the borough of Monaca in 1892. College Hill Borough merged with Beaver Falls Borough to create the City of Beaver Falls in 1930.

St. Clair Borough, born in 1867, disappeared into Freedom Borough in 1893. And in 1928, Woodlawn Borough, already the largest community in Beaver County, merged with the tiny Borough of Aliquippa (now West Aliquippa) and adopted the name of the smaller town. (Probably because of the over-abundance of Woodlawns in the state.)

Today, Beaver County consists of 54 communities, 30 Boroughs, 22 Townships, and two third-class cities. The only recent changes on the map (apart from minor annexations by ambitious boroughs) were the incorporation to borough status of four of the larger townships. Economy Township became Economy Borough in 1958, and since then, Big Beaver, Industry and Ohio Townships have followed. Ohiovile Borough (from Ohio Township) is the only new name in evidence.

A close inspection of our County map reveals still more peculiarities. The town of Racine, Beaver County, PA, is nowhere to be seen. Nor is West Bridgewater on the map. Yet mail from all over the nation is delivered in these two communities every day. It seems that Homewood Borough has a Post Office called Racine, PA, and Bridgewater Borough residents have their mail sent to West Bridgewater, PA.

Independence Township once had a Post Office called Seventy-six, PA.

Incidentally, what other County in this great nation can boast of Harmony, Economy, Industry, Freedom, and Independence? (Nearby Washington County offers Amity, Prosperity, and Good Intent - check your road map!)

The Borough of Ellwood City creeps over our northern boundary to include a few acres of Beaver County. A check of voting districts for the county, however, shows no Borough of Ellwood City - merely an Eliwood District of North Seckley Township from which the land was separated in 1918.

A school map of Beaver County also ignores Ellwood City, but includes the Borough of Enon Valley, legally outside of Beaver County. This came about when the County School Boards of Beaver and Lawrence Counties decided to avoid splitting Ellwood City Schools. So Lawrence County supervises the schools in our part of Ellwood, while Beaver County takes care of Enon Valley schools in return.

Probably the most peculiar incident in the historical geography of Beaver County is the story of Beaver Borough. Unlike other Western Pennsylvania County seats, Beaver started out big and has grown steadily smaller. But that's another story.

Also - where in Beaver County was Water Cure? And you Aliquippa area old timers where was White Oak Flats?

Beaver, the seat of government in Beaver County, is unique among the frontier towns of early Western Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Butler, Washington, New Castle - - all started as tiny frontier settlements, expanding to assume governmental responsibilities in their respective counties and taking their place among the cities of a growing Pennsylvania.

Following quite a different course, Beaver started out big and (with one exception) has managed to grow smaller and smaller in area over the 164 years of its existence.

Beaver was originally part of South Beaver Township created along with Beaver County in 1800. When the borough was incorporated in 1802, the boundaries of community extended far beyond the present borough limits.

Including land from both sides of the Beaver River, the present-day communities of Rochester, Rochester Township, Bridgewater and Vanport were included within the new borough of Beaver, as well as much of Brighton Township. Despite this admirable beginning, the decline began shortly.

Less than two years later (1804), the land east of the Beaver River was removed from the borough. That same year, Borough Township was erected, identical with the boundaries of Beaver. This was a political move designed to free the residents of Beaver from paying taxes to South Beaver Township. (The laws of that period did not make a new borough entirely independent from the township from which it was formed.)

In 1806, more outlying land was removed, this territory reverting to South Beaver. Then, in 1914, the "Academy Lots" were removed from Beaver, thus setting apart a portion of Borough Township outside of Beaver, the land that was to become the Vanport of today. Finally, in 1835, the community that we know today as Bridgewater was removed from Beaver and established as a separate borough.

Only once, and not until 1896, did Beaver move to increase its territory. At that time, a portion of Borough Township, called Groveland, was denied incorporation by the court and was incorporated shortly thereafter by the Borough of Beaver. So much for Beaver and its neighbor with the contradictory name, Borough Township.

Beaver County is rich in place names which have become obscure over the years. Few communities are known today by the names known to the earliest settlers of the county. Not even "old-timer" Beaver. Before its incorporation, Beaver was known as: The old French Town, Shingastown, King Beaver's Town, Amockwi, and Fort McIntosh. For its small size, Beaver appears to have had quite a few names in its time.

But these early names can be found everywhere. Let's look at the Southside: Hopewell Township today is full of places like Hillcrest, Clark Manor and Sunset Hills, but contained communities such as Scottsville, Gringo, Shannopin, Aliquippa Park, New Sheffield and West Economy. New Sheffield, incidentally, was known to the Indians of this area as White Oak Flats, notable for the extensive stretch of level land on top of a hill. (It is the topographical equivalent, in miniature, of a "notch" or mountain pass.) Despite the remarkable growth of New Sheffield recently, this community lacks unity for it is divided between Hopewell and Aliquppa and the name New Sheffield appears nowhere on legal records.

Hopewell originally included all of Independence Township and the voting place was at Independence Village until 1848. Early Post Offices in Hopewell included Ethel Landing (near South Heights), Woodlawn and Zeller.

Center Township, formerly Moon Township, once contained such villages or post offices as: Shafer's, Baker's Landing and Bunker Hill. Potter Township once boasted the thriving community of Bellowsville, nowobscured by industrial expansion. Today we find Kobuta and Josephtown. Monaca has been known as New Philadelphia, as well as Philipsburgh and also contains areas once known as Dockter's Heights (known also as "Skeeter Hill") and Colona. Monaca was named for an Iroquois Indian Chief, Monacatootha. Fortunately, the town fathers had the wisdom to shorten the name. Monaca also has a Post Office called Water Cure, named for an early health resort still standing at the corner of Sixth Street and Atlantic Avenue.