History of that part of the Susquehanna and Juniata valleys, embraced in the counties of Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Union and Snyder, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania...
Edited by F. Ellis and A. N. Hungerford.
Published in Philadelphia by Everts, Peck & Richards, 1886
The town of McAlisterville, with its present limits, is situated on a site originally taken up by the authority of two warrants. The warrant on the east was taken out by William Giltnockey the 3d day of February, 1755, and was for a large tract of land which later passed to Hugh Watts, who sold to Peter Springer, who patented it May 20, 1812. He lived on the place now occupied by Judge Jacob Smith. The old school-house, built in 1818, was on the tract now owned by Judge Samuel Watts.
In later years, when McAlisterville began to thrive, lots were sold by Peter Springer on his land, and the town grew to the east along the road. This tract of land was warranted February 3, 1755, which was the first day on which warrants were issued from the Land-Office for “the new purchase.”
The tract of land on which McAlisterville was originally laid out was warranted by William Armstrong, of Delaware, February, 3, 1775, the same date as the adjoining tract of Giltnockey’s. He located other lands in what is now Mifflin County, where he resided. Edward Armstrong warranted a tract of land southeast of it September 8th the same year. Alexander Armstrong also took up a tract of land on application No. 1201, September 12, 1766, east of William Giltnockey and James Diven. Peter Springer also bought this property. William Armstrong retained the tract he warranted until January 8, 1779, when he sold it for two hundred and forty pounds to Joseph Bogle, of York County, who, on the 19th of February, the same year, conveyed it to William Stewart, who at once moved upon the place, as his name is found in May, 1780, among the list of those who organized for the defense of the frontier. He built a log house on the place, and resided there in 1791. The reader is referred to the erection of Greenwood township and the enlargement of its boundaries, in 1791-92, for mention of William Stewart’s house. It will be noticed that in the petition William Stewart’s house was mentioned as being on the east side of the line, and in Greenwood township. But Hugh McAlister, who purchased the property May 21, 1790, applied to the court, asking that William Stewart’s house may be and remain in Fermanagh township. This was granted, and the line ran east of the Armstrong land and through the lot on which the old Jacob Hamerly house now stands, leaving the most of the Armstrong land in Fermanagh township. Hugh McAlister came into possession of the land in the year 1792. The tract was surveyed to him as one hundred and sixty-six acres, March 31, 1792. The tract was then bounded on the west by lands of Widow Mitchell, on north by Hugh McElroy, east by Hugh Watts (later Peter Springer) and on the south by William Shaw. Hugh McAlister conveyed it to his son Hugh, March 23, 1804, who received a patent for it May 23, 1804.
The old log house that many years ago was torn down, and which stood on the road leading from the hotel corner toward the church, and on the farm now owned by Judge Watts, is supposed to have been the old Stewart house. In 1807 Nicholas Myers built a house on the lot now owned by Squire William Dunn. This lot was sold to Henry Lauver, September 14, 1813, and in 1819 was conveyed to John Showers. It passed through several hands, and in 1840 came into possession of William Dunn.
Hugh McAlister, in 1810, employed William McAlister to survey and lay out a town, which was done. Seven lots, each containing half an acre, were laid out, three on the south side of the road and four on the north side. On the 27th day of December, 1810, Hugh McAlister and his wife, Catharine, sold to John Lauver, a blacksmith, lots Nos. 1 and 2, on the north side of “McAlisterstown,” in consideration of sixty dollars, with the “free privilege of using water out of the spring forever, but no power of hindering any other person the same privilege,” John Lauver owned a log dwelling-house east of the new town some distance, which he tore down and moved to the lots and erected thereon. These lots later came to Henry Lauver, and the house was torn down in 1856, and the store now owned by Isaac T. McAlister was erected on the site. The spring mentioned is on a small lot adjoining, now owned by Hugh McAlister and just east of Dr. A. J. Fisher’s residence. In the next year, 1811, Hugh McAlister erected, on the lot on the south side directly opposite No. 1, a stone house, which is still standing, and in which Thomas Gallagher, of Licking Creek, and James Knox, of Mifflin, opened a store, which they kept until 1815, when they sold to Hugh McAlister, who kept there until his brick house was finished, in 1817, when he moved the store to the room in the east side and kept till his death, in 1844. He remained several years and was succeeded by William McCamman. He moved up town, in a small log house built by Nicholas Myers, now occupied by William Dunn. After a few years he moved to Liverpool. In 1816, Hugh McAlister began the erection of the brick hotel now standing, and finished it in the next year, where he lived until his death, in 1843. The brick house came to John North, a son-in-law, April 1, 1846 who opened it as a store and kept it for ten years, and in 1856 changed it to a hotel. It was sold in 1875 to William W. Sharon, who now keeps it. Herman Cavneny, a school-teacher and stone-cutter, lived in the stone house several years and also had his marble-shop there. It was kept as a tavern by Dr. Thomas Rowland, who remained about two years and returned to Chester. John E. McAlister was the landlord from about 1825 to 1842. It was later kept by Edward Margretz, --- Barth, Jacob Auman and last, in 1877, by Cyrus Seiber.
The growth of the town caused Peter Springer, about 1813, to lay out lots on the east of the new town on the Giltnockey tract, which were soon after sold. In 1814 a petition for a road was made from McAlistertown to the county line on Shade Mountain, near Romick’s Gap. Viewers were appointed and report made, but not confirmed. It was afterwards, however, laid out and opened.
A post-office was established at the place about 1815, and a mail-route opened from Fannetsburg, Franklin County, to Selinsgrove, and mail first carried in saddle-bags. Hugh McAlister, then keeping store, was postmaster. In 1820 a petition was sent in to the Postmaster-General, by Captain William Turner, to have the name of the post-office changed to Calhounville about 1821, which it retained for about four years and was changed to its former name. Hugh McAlister was reappointed and held the position until his death, in 1843. He was succeeded by J. B. Wilson, Calvin B. North, John North, James Davis, Dallas North, S. B. Caveny, John Muthersbough and William W. Sharon, the present incumbent, who has held the position since April, 1873.
Soon after the town was started Hugh McAlister built a tannery on the Main Street, which was conducted by John North, a tanner, and who, in 1822, married Jane, a daughter of Hugh McAlister. In 1825 Hugh T. McAlister came into possession and continued until 1845, when it was sold to Henry Bohn, who continued several years and sold to Peter Witmer, by whom, in later years, it was abandoned.
A school was taught in the settlement in 1812-14 by Stephen George, who was an early teacher throughout the county. The first school-house was built in 1818, and was a little east of the village. It is still standing on the original site and is now owned by Samuel Watts. Other teachers who taught there were Stephen George, William Pelaw, --- McCormick, Matthew McKinstry, James Murray, Sarah Abrams, Samuel Mathers, Samuel B. Wilson (1828), William P. Huntington (1830), William J. Jones, James M. Sellers, William Quick, George Lewis and William Kinsloe.
The school-house was abandoned in 1855 and the present house was built by Jacob Bechtel, and is now, with the exception of the orphan school, the only school of McAlisterville. William W. Sharon was the first teacher. The German school-house was built about 1827 and used until 1855. Christopher Clark, Benjamin Landis, George Keller and William Dunn were the teachers in the German school-house.
Hugh McAlister says that in his remembrance there were twelve distilleries between the mouth of Lost Creek and Richfield, which were all running in the winter. It as the only market for corn and rye, and each farmer took a barrel of whiskey in part pay. The distilleries were owned by Lewis Horning, near the mouth of Lost Creek; James Bryson, on the old Samuel Bryson farm at Jericho, of which David Kauffman was the distiller; James Alricks, at the Oakland Mills; William, Robert and James Turner, west of McAlisterville; John Jameson; David Shellenberger; William McAlister, Robert McAlister; William Sellers, at Evandale; John Grabel, at Richfield.
Of merchants who have been in business in McAlisterville since 1835 are the following: Hugh Wilson, from 1835 to 1856. The business was continued by his sons—J. B. Wilson & Co.—for several years, and sold to Feghtly & Strayer.
In 1857 David Myers erected the store building on the corner where Isaac McAlister now has a store. It was the site of the first building in the town. The firm of D. Myers & Co. was composed of David Myers, Reuben Caveny and James M. Sellers. The firm had several changes, and, in 1862, the store was sold to Isaac McAlister, who now keeps it.
In 1876 S. S. Beaver built the store building, and opened a store, now conducted by Joseph Page, who purchased in 1882.
S. S. Beaver, after the sale of his store, in 1882, opened a drug-store, which, in 1884, was purchased by Murray & Smiley.
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH.—About 1830, the Rev. --- Elsemoyer, a German minister, came to this neighborhood and began preaching in the German language to the people of the Lutheran and German Reformed denominations. Meetings were held in the old school-house in the upper end of the village. A Lutheran congregation was soon formed, with John Seighman and Daniel Showers as trustees.
In the summer of 1834 a lot was purchased of Hugh McAlister, in McAlisterville, and in the season of 1835 a frame church was erected. The Rev. S. R. Boyer, who took the charge of Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Lewistown, March 1, 1835, assumed charge also of this congregation and served until he resigned, March 15, 1846. He was succeeded by the Rev. Jacob Martin, 1846-48; Rev. Levi F. Williams, 1848-58; Rev. Philip Willard, 1858-61. From the time the Rev. S. R. Boyer took charge of the church in 1835, until 1861 the congregation was in a charge with Mifflintown, Thompsontown and Centre. At this time, 1861, Mifflintown became an independent charge, and the congregation remained one with Thompsontown and Centre. The Rev. M. L. Shindell became pastor and remained until 1865. The congregation was without a pastor one year, and, in 1867, the Rev. A. Kopenhover assumed the pastoral relation, and remained fifteen years in the service. In the fall of 1883 the Rev. William Wieand was called, and accepted. He served until the summer of 1885, and resigned.
During the pastorate of the Rev. A. Kopenhover, and mainly through his influence and zeal, the present brick church was built, in 1876, on the site of the old church, at an outlay of four thousand dollars, much work and material having been contributed by the members.
I.O.O.F.—McAlisterville Lodge, No. 716, was chartered May 20, 1870, with the following list of officers: D. B. McWilliams, N. G.; G. Shivery, V. G.; W. W. Sharon, Secretary; S. M. Shelley, Assistant Secretary; J. W. Muthersbough, Treasurer. Meetings were held in the second story of McAlister’s store until about 1875, when the Odd-Fellows’ Hall was fitted and is still used. The lodge has a membership of fourteen.
THE SOLDIERS’ ORPHAN SCHOOL.—This institution was originated as an academy in 1855, the first trustees of which were H. T. McAlister, Wm. McMeen, Abraham Seiber, Montgomery Jameson, R. W. Jameson, Saml. Watt and David Myers. A subscription list was obtained, and in the summer of 1855 the three-story brick building, forty-eight by fifty-four feet, now standing on the west side of the street, was erected at a cost of about three thousand dollars. The Rev. Philander Camp, a Presbyterian minister from Bradford County, was elected principal. He served two years and was succeeded by Mr. Diven, who taught two terms. In 1858 the stockholders sold the property to Professor George F. McFarland, then principal of the Freeburg Academy, who enlarged the accommodations and conducted the academy until 1862. Having then a good normal class composed largely of teachers, he enlisted them in the service of the United States, and took the company to Harrisburg, where it was assigned to the One Hundred and Fifty-first Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, of which he became lieutenant-colonel, and one of the teachers, W. L. Owens, captain of the company.
Returning after the battle of Gettysburg, in 1863, in which he was badly wounded, Colonel McFarland re-opened the academy, and in the following autumn converted it into a soldiers’ orphans’ school. From this time forward it received soldiers’ orphans, the number reaching sixty-one by April 1, 1865, and one hundred and forty-one the following December. At the first vacation July 27, 1865, the children were accompanied by Dr. Burrowes, State superintendent of schools, to Mifflintown, where the first concert was held in the court-house. The large audience was deeply interested in the performance, the explanation of the system by Dr. Burrows and the patriotic speeches that followed. It was one of the three schools that visited Harrisburg, March 16, 1866, and influenced the Legislature to abandon the pauper bill and continue appropriations for the support of the schools.
The school also participated in the ceremonies incident to the reception of the battle-flags, at Philadelphia, July 4, 1866. Twenty-two acres of land bought were adjoining the original purchase. The corner-stone of a new building was laid, with interesting ceremonies, July 23, 1866. The Hon. S. P. Bates, LL. D., delivered the address. The building is of brick, thirty-nine by sixty-seven feet, and four stories in height.
On the 1st day of January, 1876, the control of the school passed into the hands of Mr. Jacob Smith, of McAlisterville, who had for many years been steward of the institution. He remained in charge of the institution until September, 1880, when he was succeeded by Colonel George F. McFarland, who, in June 13, 1883, leased the property to George W. Wright, of Mercer County. The school is now under the charge of Professor J. M. Sherwood, who was in charge of the Mercer soldiers’ orphans’ schools for five years previous to taking charge of this in September, 1884. The roll of the institution shows that one thousand one hundred and eighty-five children have enjoyed its advantages as a home and a school. Twenty-eight deaths have occurred, and nine hundred and seventy children have been discharged, leaving at present in the institution one hundred and eighty-seven children.
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