Click Here to Return to Index

Click Here to Return To Milestones Vol 10 No 4



By Mrs. Richard (Marjorie Stockton) Douthitt
Milestones Vol 10 No 4--Fall 1985

In 1845 the hills surrounding New Galilee, Enon Valley and Darlington were covered with huge trees. When William McClurg came to Beaver County, he must have been pleased with the surrounds for he bought several acres of land then and more in 1851. This land was situated in a fine spot with a fresh stream of water running through the pasture and wonderful springs pouring from the hillsides. He built a five room log house near one of the springs. As his family grew, more room was needed - so a five room frame house was built which enclosed the log house within it - making it into a large, fine looking ten room frame house.

About this time Mr. McClurg decided to build a stone spring house, just a few feet from the back door of the main house, with the intention of living in it. The inside dimensions of the spring house were 161/2 ft. by 181/2 ft. with one door and one window on the lower floor where the spring water came in through a trough laid in a tunnel. The upstairs had two outside doors, six windows and two fireplaces which were set side by side with what appeared to be one chimney, but were actually two separate chimneys. The top stone was hand cut to form the two chimney openings out of one single piece of stone. This chimney was not completed until 1873 . And that date was chisled into a block of stone near the top of the chimney wall. Above the second story of the spring house was an attic with one window.

Set into the hillside the way it was, the temperature remained almost constant - winter and summer. The tunnel through which the spring water came was constructed with stone walls laid up like the rest of the spring house and then covered with more hand cut stones made into an arched roof which extended about 20 feet, or more, into the hillside. Behind the chimney and above the tunnel was a "French drain" to keep the wall that was set into the hillside dry. Behind the tunnel was a coal mine, that ran quite a distance into the hillside with large dome shaped rooms. Many tons of earth must have been moved to build the tunnel, but the hillside above it in 1970 appeared as if it had never been touched with a shovel.

Along one side of the lower level of the spring house was a cistern and trough. The cistern was cut from a solid piece of stone about 51/2x5l/2x4l/2 feet. When this was full of water it overflowed into the trough which was made from a solid piece of stone 151/2x2l/2x2l/2 feet. The trough was cut out about ten inches deep and was cut out about 19 inches wide. The stone walls of the building were a full two feet thick, clear to the attic. Some stones were 61/2 feet long in the wall. All the stones above ground were faced stones. The huge trough and cistern were hauled into the spring house with oxen by Mr. William Wallace (some relative of Fred Wallace) who lived for several years in the red brick house that was torn down to make room for the New Darlington Post Office. William Wallace's grand daughter, Mrs. Melvin McGeehon was Neva Luke. She is living (1973) in East Palestine, Ohio. She gave most of the background information about the Old Stone Spring House. Her husband's father was - McGeehon and William McClurg was his grandfather - (or great-grandfather). All the work must have taken quite a while. Mrs. Neva McGeehon (died 1977) told me that Mrs. William McClurg kept track of how much it cost to build the Spring House and it was well over $3,000.00.

After William McClurg died this property was known locally as the McGeehon Place fo a good many years. It was bought and sold several times. At one period, it was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Fred McGeorge (Mildred Hocanson) parents of Mrs. Wayne Cook (Ruth McGeorge).

Later, Mr. and Mrs. John Burgett (Gladys) acquired the place. The big ten room house was still in good condition when it accidentally burned to the ground in 1939. After the big log and frame house burned, the Burgett family moved into the Spring House. One corner of the slate roof was damaged, but they did some repairs, put a chimney up to one of the fireplaces, built a new floor above the lower level and used the upper part for bedrooms. The kitchen had running water straight from the underground spring. They dug coal from the mine and slid it in through a tunnel to the stove in buckets. One of the Burgett daughters, Mrs. Ben Leroy (Betty) McCoy, wrote: "Never was such water to be had and never things kept as cold as the long cooling trough kept them". Mr. Burgett died in 1941 and the family moved away soon after.

After the Burgetts moved, someone moved in a small house from somewhere else and placed it on top of the big house foundation. People by the name of Rust lived there for awhile and Fleshman and Hills, possibly others, but although there was a fine big barn on the place no one seemed to prosper and the place was not kept up. Mr. Blair Ferguson acquired the place and did some shallow strip mining (or had it done).

At last Mr. and Mrs. Francis Cashbaugh bought the place and kept ponies on the pasture land. They sold the deep coal to Cornelius (Red) Dodds who started stripping coal in the area.

On a beautiful day in late March 1970, 1 stopped acrosst he valley from the Old Stone Spring House and found that the strip mine operations were getting near and the Spring House was going to be in the way of the operation. I had not heard this - and as I had always admired the setting and stonework of the building, I set out to try to interest others in trying to save it.

Mr. Dodds, the coal stripper owner was contacted and told me that they could not possibly by-pass the building. After talking to neighbors, newspaper people, writing to the Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation, and to Mr. Albert Miller of Meadowcroft Village, Mr. Dodds said he would temporarily by-pass the building.

Mr. and Mrs. Fred Wallace offered to donate land on their hillside to relocate the Spring House if it could be moved. Several members of the Little Beaver Historical Society worked hard that hot summer. Those who helped remove slate, haul chimney stones, remove window frames, rafter joints, attic flooring and original nails were: Robert Lackner, Marjorie Douthitt, Dick Douthitt, Mr. and Mrs. Robert McRobert, Charles Townsend 11, Charles Townsend III, Velma Wallace, Ralph Anderson, Vivian McLaughlin, the Bob Pyle family, Ralph Veon, and Bill Stitt.

Rochez Industries, Pittsburgh, acquired the strip mine from Mr. Dodds and on July 3,1970, members of the Little Beaver Historical Society witnessed the toppling of the stone wall. This was a noisy, hard, hot, sad job - tearing down the beautiful Spring House that had been put together so carefully to last forever - but it was the lesser destruction.

Interest dwindled as time went on. Finally coal on the McChesney Brothers land was stripped and the coal company built a better bridge. Hope resumed that now that the bride was no problem someone would be found to haul the stones.

Mr. Cashbaugh died and Mrs. Cashbaugh called me to tell me that she was going to sell the land where the stones are piled.

After the land was sold, Robert Lackner inquired about the stones and Mr. Blair Ferguson, who now owns the land, told him the Society can still get them (if they are able).

Ruth Douthitt gave me an article from some magazine in 1972 that said funds might be available to restore a Landmark if an organization was eligible. More information was to be available by writing to "America the Beautiful Fund". I wrote and when I received their answer, I gave the material to Vivian McLaughlin. She wrote and sent pictures of the Spring House and its sad condition. Later the pictures were returned with their thanks and a letter saying that a book entitled, "Old Glory" would be published. A short time ago, we were happy to find on page 88 of "Old Glory" a small article and the picture of our Old Stone Spring House.

Editor's Note: There is still considerable interest in the Old Spring House but its future remains uncertain. However the Spring House's troughs have been brought on to the museum's property as of October27, 1985.