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History of Freeland, Pa.
Munsell on Butler Township, 1880

Butler Township

This township was taken from Sugarloaf at the August sessions of 1839.  Part was annexed to Hazle November 30th, 1861.

Upon the banks of the streams have been and are still quite a number of mills and manufacturing establishments, while many have gone to decay.

Mr. Samuel Benner, of Conyngham, writes us as follows in regard to a tree in this township which constitutes a noteworthy natural curiosity:  "The tree is a white oak with a rock oak limb; is nearly nine feet in circumference about two feet form the ground.  The limb starts about fifteen feet from the ground, and is nearly the size of the main tree.  The tree stands in a field west of the main road leading from Hazleton to Drum's, nera the foot of Buck mountain and about fifty-five yards from the road.  Some suppose an acorn to have dropped into a rotten spot of the tree, srpouted and formed the limb; but I have it directly from Daniel Grosz (dead a number of years), who cleraed the land nearly fifty years ago, that the rock oak tree had leaned against the white oak and formed the connection and that when he chopped off the rock oak near the ground he found it so much decayed and burnt near the junciton with the white oak that it broke off there, and the upper part remained attached to the white oak, where it can be seen yet."

Butler's first settlers, mills, etc.

As soon as peace was assured to settlers they began to make permanent settlements in this beautiful valley.  From the very favorable reports brought back by the party of men sent out to bury the victims of the Sugarloaf massacre, others were induced to journey to this new Eldorado.

The first settler was G. H. Reip, who came about 1782 and located on lands now owned by Joseph Woodring.  He died in 1794, and was buried at the German church.

Among the pioneers was John Balliett, of Whitehall, Lehigh (then Northumberland) county, who emigrated hither in the spring of 1784 and located on what is now known as the Beisel farm, about one mile west of Drun's, and about the same distance southwest of Hughesville.  The Indian trails, crossing mountains and streams, afforded no passage for wagons, and precluded his "moving" more than what he was able to carry on horseback.  His children were placed in two bee-hives -- typical, perhaps, of that industry that transformed the wolderness into a smiling garden - and these were tied together and hung across the back of one of the horses.  In descending Broad mountain, south of Buck mountain, on their journey, the cord uniting the hives broke and in the language of the old nursery-maid's song, "down came rockaby, baby and all."  After a short gymnastic exercise in turning somersaults down the mountain side, the children were again comfortably ensconced in the hives, and the party moved on their way rejoicing.  Upon reaching their destination Balliett and his family improvised a rude habitation by setting poles around and against a tree, over which some sort of a covering was thrown to shelter them until a house could be built.  Their first house, which was of logs, was in a yar or two after destroyed by fire, together with all their household goods except a bed.

Balliett was soon followed to this place by others from the same county, the earliest of whom were men named Reab, Benner, Shober, Dolph, Hlil, Bachelor,Spaide and others, whose descendents still live in this valley.  These pioneers coveted none of the superfluities of this life, or the expensive follies of the present day, but were humbly thankful for their "daily bread" and for the rough couches upon which they were wont to repose their weary limbs.  As soon as they raised any crops of grain they were obliged to carry their grists on foot or horseback to Sultz's mill, on Lizard creek, one mile below the present town of Lehighton, and usually waited until the grist was ground (which was generally done during the night), and returned the following day.

Balliett's was not only the first farm settled upon, but here was the first orchard set out, the little trees being brought from his former residence on horse-back.  His was also the first log house, and his is supposed to have been the first frame house built in what is now Butler township.

The pioneer saw and grist mills on the Little Nescopeck creek, in the southwestern part of the township, were built by Redmond Conyngham.  The saw-mill was built in 1809 on lands now owned by N Beishline, and went to decay many years ago.  The grist-mill was built in 1814 on the opposite side of the creek, where Silas Jacobs now lives, and is now owned by Charles Knelley.

The pioneer saw-mill on the Big Nescopeck creek, in the northeastern part of the township, was built in 1813 by Samuel Woodring, near the site now occupied by A. Straw & Son's saw-mill; and in 1820 Redmond Conyngham built a grist-mill on the site now occupied by Straw's saw-mill.

The pioneer carding-mill was buit about 1810 at what is now Ashville, on the Little Nescopeck creek, on the Linderman property; and the first woolen-mill was built in 1835 by Philip Drum, on the Little Nescopeck, a short distance above Ashville.

The pioneer school-house, built of logs, stood near what is known as the German Church, and went to decay many years ago.

John Balliett, one of the pioneer settlers, was also the pioneer tavern keeper.  He located on the farm now owned by John Beisel, west of Drum's.

Philip Woodring was the pioneer blacksmith.  He located here in 1800, on the place now owned by Henry Koenig.

The first merchant in this township was Henry B. Yost.  He located here in 1832, on the place now owned by D. W. Jenkins, sen.  Mr. Yost was also the pioneer postmaster.  The mails were received once a week, and the name of the office was East Sugarloaf.  This was previous to the formation of the township of Butler.  Cyrus Straw is the present postmaster and receives a daily mail.

George Hughes's saw-mill, above Straw's, was built in 1833, and is still standing.  The house where William B. Doud lives, owned by Mr. Straw, was built in 1812.  The first weavers here were Michael Klouse, Elias Balliett and Jacob Schauber.  They all lived a little southwest of Hughesville.  The oldest graveyard in this township is the one in the corner of the lot opposite the M. E. Church.


The first house built here was the one in which Andrew Straw now lives.  The first tavern in this place was built by George Drum, and kept as a hotel by Abram Drum in 1820, where the present hotel stands.  The first store here was kept by Henry B. Yost, in 1837, where D. W. Jenkins now lives.  The first shoemaker was Isaac Drum, who in 1842 had a shop in what is now the barroom of Drum's Hotel.  The first blacksmith shop was on the hill above Cyrus Straw's, on the Wilkes-Barre road.  John Sheide was the blacksmith.  The shop has gone to decay  There was also a shop at the four corners near the Little Nescopeck, where George Krissinger lives, half a mile south of Drums.  The first doctor at Drums was Samuel Beers.  He lived where Silas Andrews now lives.  The first school-house stood in the corner of the roads southwest of Drum's hotel.  The first postmaster at Drum's was Henry B. Yost.  He was appointed in 1839, and kept the office opposite where George Roth's blacksmith shop now stands.  The present postmaster is Cyrus Straw.

At present there are at Drum's a church (Methodist Episcopal), a school-house, a blacksmith shop, a shoe shop, a tailor shop, a harness shop, two stores and a hotel.  The population is about 200.

Religious interests at Drum's

The first regular preaching, that we have any account of, at what is now Drum's was in 1833 or 1834, when the Baltimore Conference of the M E. Church commissioned Rev. Joseph Lee as a missionary on the old Jeansville circuit, which took in White Haven, Beaver Meadow, Mifflin and other places, including Drum's, which was on the route form White Haven to Mifflin.  There was no church here then.  There was one at Hughesville, a mile and a half distant, but at that "no Methodist need apply" seemed to be the sentiment of the managers.  The school-house at Drum's seemed to be the only available place, and that was not sure; for it was said by some that "if the Methodists git in here once, the devil can't git 'em out."  But those days of unrest and fear of the "sect" have long since passed away.  Lee was one of those aggressive preachers who not only always went armed with the Bible, but for small arms and weapons of warfare used Wesley's sermons; and the feather that broke the camel's back was that he had them to sell, thereby breeding dissensions among the elect.  After preaching by him once or twice in the school-house, the trustees of the school district became alarmed, and decided that it was "prejudicial to the cause of the Redeemer's kingdom here on earth,and to the morals of this community and against the wishes of the people to allow Methodist preaching in the school-house, and more especially so in the evening."  James Gilmore, father of Henry Gilmore, being present, gave notice that his house was not controlled by trustees and that the Methodists could occupy it any time.  Therefore for about six years the services were held alternately at Gilmore's house and Mr. Hoover's house, where Andrew Straw now lives.  In the summer and on extra occasions the meetings were held in James Smith's barn.

In 1840 it was decided by the congregation that it was expedient to build a union church.  The church was built of wood, 32 by 41 feet, and stood in the corner of the burying ground opposite the present M. E. church.  It was built by subscription or contribution, and John Strunk, the builder, was appointed to apportion to each subscriber the amount and kind of timber he must furnish for the building.  James Gilmore's share was as follows, as per bill given him: 2 sills, 41 feet long 8 by 10, $5.46; 3 sills, 32 feet long, 8 by 10, $6.39; 6 sills, 16 feet long, 8 by 10, $2.14; 24 joists, 10 feet long, 5 by 6, $6; total, $19.99; 9 sleepers, 25 feet.  The church was dedicated in December 1840, by Revs. J. A. Ross, E. McCollum and G. H. Day, all Methodist preachers.  The first Methodist class was formed in the fall of 1840, with Henry B. Yost as leader, and among the early  members were Catharine Hunt, Harriet J. Yost, James Smith, Daniel Durst and others.

Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church - The society worshiping in this church is merely a continuation of that worshiping in the old union church.  But as the old church had served its purpose, and many repairs were necessary to make it what the congregation and the times demanded, a public meeting was held May 20th, 1870, when it was decided to build a new church.  A building committee was appointed, consisting of Rev N. W. Colborn, Cyrus Straw,A. P. Goedecke, Stephen Drum and Andrew Straw.  May 19th, 1870, the committee met and decided upon the site where the church now stands, known as the school-house lot, and the balance of the lot was donated and deeded by George Drum to the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal church and their successors in office, June 11th, 1873, Jonah P. Drum and Daniel P. Raikes witnesses.

The church is of wood, of modern architecture, 34 by 56 feet, with basement, and cost $7,500.  Andrew Straw was the builder.  The building was commenced in June, 1873; the first public service was held in the basement February 18th, 1874, and the church was dedicated July 12th, 1874.

The following named clergymen have served in the years given as preachers on this charge, which is now composed of Butler, Sugarloaf and Black Creek, and known as Conyngham charge: Joseph Lee, 1833, 1834; Thomas Hill, 1833-1842; James H. Brown, James Clark and G. H. Day; J. A. Ross and Thomas McClure, 1843; Revs. Messrs. Consor and Barnhart, 1844; G. H. Day, 1861; 1862 ,1863, B. P. King; 1864, 1865, Josiah Forrest and J. C. Hagey; 1866, James F. Porter; 1867, Henry S. Mendenhall; 1868, 1869, James B. Cuddy, C. S. Benscoten, and Pemberton Bird; 1870-72, A. S. Bowman, and N. W. Colburn; 1873, J. Farron Brown and J. B. Moore; 1874, J. Horning, in place of Mr. Moore; 1875, 1876, J. Stiner; 1877-79, G. M. Larned, the present pastor.  The present membership is 84; value of the church property, $8,000.

The Sunday-school connected with this church was organized May 6th, 1844, as a union Sunday-school, and is still under the same auspices.  The first officers were as follows:  Superintendent, James Smith; president, Isaac Drum; secretary, Henry Gilman (the only one now left of the original school); treasurer, William Harker; managers - Adam Beisel, Daniel Drust, Mrs. Beisel, Mrs. Yost, and Mrs. Hunt.  A constitution and by-laws were adopted August 25th, 1844.  At present the superintendent is Cyrus Straw; president, N. S. Drum; vice-president, John S. Spencer; secretary, A. A. Drum; librarian, Mary Jacobs; treasurer, Josiah Drum; managers - Cyrus straw, Henry Gilmore, John T. Spencer, Mrs. Hedian, Mrs. L. Straw, Miss E. Jacobs.  The total number of scholars is 193; average attendance 95; volumes in library, 471; collections for the year for missions, $33.88.

The first Presbyterian preaching in this vicinity was in 1835 or 1836, by Rev. Mr. Gaston, who came here soon after Joseph Lee.  Mr. Gaston preached in the church at Hughesville; and about 1840, when the union church was built at Drum's, the Presbyterians formed a church and society, and assisted in building the union church.  James Gilmore was the leading man of that denomination at the time.  Their church was small, but they have succeeded in holding together a membership of about 20, with Henry Gilmore as their leader.  Rev. Homer S. Newcomb, of Conyngham, is the pastor, occupying the pulpit of Trinity M. E. Church on alternate Sunday evenings, if not occupied by the pastor of Trinity Church.


Hughesville has a population of about 150.  The place was named in honor of George Hughes, an early settler.  The old sawmill at Hughesville was built in 1836 by H. Brenner.  The grist-mill at this place was built in 1853 by George Hughes, and April 22nd, 1854, commenced running as a flouring mill.  The first store here was opened by Sheide & Wenner, where Dr. Hevener now lives.  Henry Benner was the first blacksmith; his shop stood near the sawmill.  The first shoe shop was started in 1868 by J. W. Woodring, and it is still in operation.  The first tavern was opened by the present proprietor, Stephen Krehns, in 1870.  There are here at present a grist mill, a store, a shoe shop, a blacksmith shop, a school-house and a church - St. John's - owned and occupied jointly by the German Reformed and Lutheran congregations.

St. John's Church, of Hughesville

This church was organized December 26th, 1799, when the first meeting was held.  Two organizations are worshiping in this church, the Evengelical Lutheran and German Reformed denominations.  January 12th, 1800, a meeting of the two congregations was held, at which it was resolved to build an ediface for both church and school purposes.  Public services were held in private houses until the fall of 1808, when twelve acres of land were purchased of Stephen Balliett, and a log church was built on the bank of the Nescopeck, nearly opposite the present church.  The structure was built by voluntary subscription, and was to remain a German Reformed and Lutheran church and school-house.  Rev. George Mann was the pastor at the time.  April 18th, 1809, Rev. Frederick W. Van de Sloat, a German Reformed preacher, visited this people, when the consistory and members of both denominations requested him to draft a constitution and by-laws for the government of the congregation.  The constitution and by-laws drawn by him, and subscribed to by members of both denominations, provided that the German language should be used exclusively in all public services except for schools, and that no services of any kind should be held in the church after dark.  The subscribers to this document were John Balliett, Goerge Drum, Philip Woodring, Jacob Speth, George Wenner, Samuel Earles, Jacob Balliett, Peter Hill, John Balliett, sen., Peter Sheide, Michael Beishline, Jacob Drumheller, Andrew Maurer, Philip Ruth, Jacob Fuse, Jacob Wenner, Henry Maurer, George Beishline and Goerge Bitterle.  The twelve acres of land purchased of Stephen Balliett included the grave yard and the lot upon which the present church building stands.  In 1825, the old church and school building having become not only superannuated but too small for church purposes, the congregation built a larger one, nearly where the present church stands, and this in turn gave place to the present beautiful edifice.  January 31st, 1868, it was decided at a joint meeting of the congregations that a new and a larger church building was a necessity, and a building committee was appointed, consisting of Jacob Thomas, Charles W. Kneeley, Simon Santee, Daniel O. Klinger and George Hughes.  The ministers at this time were Rev. H. Hoffman, German Reformed, and Rev. S. S. Kline, Lutheran.

The elders at the time of building the new church were George Hughes, George Drum, Henry Beck and Michael Beishline.  The deacons were John A. Kleigh, Daniel Dauber, Charles W. Knelley and Reuben Beninger.  The church is of wood, 45 by 60, with basement story, and is finished throughout in the latest and most substantial style of architecture, costing $14,000.  It was dedicated September 24th, 1873, by Rev. Messrs. Bauer, Kepner and Steinmitz.  The pastors, besides those named, have been:  Rev. John N. Seizer, in 1826; Rev. Frederick Croll, in 1812; Rev. John A. foersch, 1846; Rev. H. Daniels, 1847-51.  The present pastors are:  John M. Clemens, German Reformed, and J. H. Neiman, Evangelical Lutheran.  The present church officers are:  Reformed elders, George Drum and Henry Koenig; Reformed deacons, L. Dreucher and J. Hemerly; Lutheran elders, H. Walp and F. Rifenberg; Lutheran deacons, A. Smith and William Kemp.

Butler mining interests

At No. 3 breaker, Upper Lehigh, there are 7 engines, with a total of 425 horse power.  There is also one mine locomotive above ground.  There are employed at this slope 156 men and boys under ground, and 97 on the surface.  Amount of coal mined in 1878:  158,148 tons.

Justices of the Peace

The justices for this township, with the dates of their election which, where not otherwise mentioned, are also the dates of commission, have been as follows:  Walter B. Godfrey and Thomas Hughes, April 14th, 1840, 1845; Fillmore Santee, April 12th, 1842, and April 13th, 1847; Jacob  Drum, April 13th, 1847 and 1852, April 14th, 1857; Samuel Benner, April 13th, 1852, April 14th, 1857, and elected April 29th, 1862; Henry Gilmore,  May 3d, 1862 elected, April 9th, 1867, April 10th, 1872, and elected March 26th, 1877; Daniel P. Rake, April 9th, 1851, and April 10th, 1872; Charles Bock, elected, March 17th, 1877.

-- From Munsell, William Watkins. History of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming Counties, Pa.: With Illustrations, and Biographical Sketches of Some of Their Prominent Men and Pioneers. New York: W. W. Munsell & Co., 1880.

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