Beaver County, Pennsylvania Genealogy

City of Beaver Falls

History of Beaver Falls Borough

This busy manufacturing center is situated in the valley of the Big Beaver Creek, about three and a half miles from its mouth. The town occupies mainly a plateau some fifty or sixty feet above the creek, and has thus excellent natural drainage. The hills on either side, especially to the west, rise boldly to a height of perhaps two hundred feet, with immense perpendicular cliffs, making very wild and picturesque scenery. The high ground here was formerly covered with those blocks of granite known to geologists as "erratics," which are supposed to have been transported hither from the Canadian highlands by icebergs and deposited as the bergs melted.

Very early the immense water-power afforded by the Falls of the Beaver at this point, and the consequent possibilities of successful manufacturing being carried on here, impressed themselves upon all visitors. Among those who perceived these advantages at an early period was General Daniel Brodhead, who, while commandant at Fort Pitt (1779-1781), became well acquainted with this locality, and on the very day that the celebrated Land Act of April 3, 1792, was passed by the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, offering for sale the vacant lands within the Commonwealth, he, being then Surveyor General of the State, took out two warrants of four hundred acres each for lands lying on Walnut Bottom Run, opposite the great, or Middle Falls[1]  of the Beaver, on which the town of Old Brighton (now part of Beaver Falls) was afterwards located. In August, 1801, Brodhead sold these two tracts of land to David Hoopes of Chester County, Pa., for three thousand dollars. Previous to 1800, Dr. Samuel Adams, spoken of in our chapter on the medical history of the county, had settled at the Upper Falls of the Beaver on a tract of four hundred acres, and had built a dam, erected a sawmill, and made other improvements. His land extended from what is now Seventeenth Street, Beaver Falls, north to what is known as Twenty eighth Street, College Hill borough; and west including what is now called Mount Washington. The place was later named for him, "Adamsville."

Footnote at the bottom of page 666:   [1]   In early times there were three general divisions of the Falls of the Beaver, named respectively the "Upper Falls," the "Middle Falls," and the "Lower Falls." They were situated about as follows: the Upper Falls, were near the present Fetterman Bridge; the Middle Falls, near the present Tenth Street Bridge, and the Lower Falls near the Fallston Bridge. Day's Historical Collections says (page 108): "The Beaver river, within five miles of its mouth, falls 69 feet. 'The Falls' originally consisted of a succession of rapids for about two thirds of that distance. By individual and state enterprise the stream has been made to assume a succession of pools and dams. Five miles from the mouth is a dam of 15 feet: a mile below, another of 20 feet; a mile below that two others, giving together a fall of 19 feet; and near the mouth another, with a fall of 15 feet at low water." The date of this publication is 1843. The dams are to-day about the same, except that at the point where it is said there were two, which is at Fallston, there is now but one, and the second one named in the excerpt ("20 ft.") has been built higher. This was done by the Beaver Falls Water Power Co., which supplies by means of it extensive manufacturing establishments.

In 1801, David Hoopes, who, as stated above, had purchased from General Brodhead two four hundred acre tracts at the Middle Falls, took possession of the same, and, with others, began to build mills. Hoopes, Townsend & Co. erected a sawmill, which was shortly afterwards burned, but soon rebuilt, and later a flouring mill, the second of its kind in the valley, was added. They soon began also the erection of a forge near the mills, but before it was finished the entire property was sold to Isaac Wilson. The latter took hold of the plants in 1805, and completed the forge the following year, and commenced soon to build a charcoal furnace. September 13, 1808, Mr. Wilson sold a half interest in the whole property to Messrs. Barker & Gregg for $16,000, and the firm was then known as Isaac Wilson & Co.

In 1806 a town plot was made by this firm and lots were sold, and a brisk business began to be built up. In 1808, Wilson, Barker & Gregg were operating their iron blast furnace, and manufactured for several years stoves, pig-iron, hollow-ware, etc., using the kidney ore found on the ground. In April, 1812, Barker & Gregg purchased from Wilson for $15,000 the other half interest in the property. The plants later became the property of Oliver Ormsby of Allegheny County, who actively operated them under the able management of John Dickey and James Glenn until 1818. The financial depression then became so great that the furnaces could not be worked profitably, and the whole property was allowed to go down. When David Hoopes came on from Chester County to take possession of this property at the time referred to above, he had found several settlers seated on the lands and claiming them under the provision of the law of 1792, relating to securing title by "settlement and improvement." General Brodhead had instituted suit in the United States Court of Equity against these persons and had secured judgment in his favor, but Hoopes had trouble with them also and had to buy from some of them fifty acres at one time and fifty at another. Had it not been for this trouble about the title, the Harmony Society, which later did so much for the development of the business interests of Beaver Falls, would have located here instead of going to Posey County, Indiana. Shortly before their removal thither they had tried to purchase these two tracts, with the improvements thereon, for $32,000, but were discouraged from the purchase by the difficulties in the way of securing a clear title to a large part of the property.

We have said that in 1806 a town was plotted on this property by Isaac Wilson & Co. The survey for this was made by two brothers, named Constable, from Brighton, England. As a favor they were allowed to name the new town, and they chose the name of their home town for it, calling it Brighton. This name was retained for some years, but when a town was laid out on the east side of the Beaver, which was first called East Brighton and afterwards New Brighton, the town on the west side came to be generally known as "Old Brighton," and continued to be so designated until the time when the Harmony Society became the owners of the property on the west side. The latter place was thereafter called Beaver Falls, though that name is said to have been sometimes applied to it in the earliest days of its existence.

After the suspension of activity in the industries at this point of which we have spoken, the property remained idle until 1829, when it was bought from Mr. Ormsby by James Patterson of Philadelphia. Mr. Patterson acquired by this purchase 1300 acres, and the same year brought his family and some machinery to the place and began to improve the property, building a flouring mill with a capacity of 200 barrels a day, and a cotton factory which employed thirty-five hands and yielded 3000 pounds of yarn per week. Mr. Patterson did much by his various enterprises to revive the trade of the whole region.

In 1829 Archibald Robertson built a steam paper mill in Brighton, which was operated successfully until 1849, when Mr. Robertson becoming convinced that water-power was more economical, built another paper mill at the head of the falls. Mr. Robertson manufactured an excellent quality of printing and wall paper, employed a considerable number of hands, and did much for the general business interests of the valley. This second mill was in 1876 under the control of Frazier, Metzgar & Co.

Harris's Pittsburgh Business Directory for 1841 gives the following showing of the business occupations of the people of Brighton:

Laborers - David Ames, Jeremiah Maid, Emory Maloy. Millwright - James B. Angel. Paper makers - John Baker, James C. Fulton, James Roberts, H. Woods, Jessie Zeigler. Innkeepers - Luke Bland, Widow Sutliff. Blacksmith - David Boiles, William J. King. Farmers - John Boiles, Robert McGaughey.

Engineers - William Carter, Daniel Loomis. Carpenters - Robert Calhoun, Joseph Reeves. Calico printer - William Clayton. Clerks - J. K. Dean, C. H. Gould, William Harrison. Coal diggers - Charles Day, Nathan Dillon.

Machinists - James M. Greig and James Wilson. Canal-boat captain - George Hemphill. Tanner - John R. Hoopes. Foreman flouring mill - H. Huggins. Sign painter - Samuel Kennedy. Cabinet makers - Horatio Large, Henry Sims, Sr., Henry Sims, Jr. Forgemen - John Martin, James Richards.

Tailors - Ephraim Martin, William Wallace. Brick-maker - Robert Moffit. Teamsters - Joseph Mahaffee, John Murrell. Cooper - Peter W. Maltby.

Foreman cotton factory - Andrew Nelson. Storekeeper and flour merchant - James Patterson. Shoemaker - William B. Platte. Wheat agent - Ira Ransom. Paper mill owner - Alexander [Archibald] Robertson. Soap manufacturer - Isaac Warren. Saddler - David Whitla.

During the ownership of the lands here by James Patterson a town had been plotted by him, July 4, 1849, the plan of which was acknowledged before William Richardson, J. P., on the 4th of August following. The names of the streets starting with the creek were - Water, Front, and Second; those running at an angle of forty five degrees with the former were - Tank, Main, and Cedar; those at a right angle with the latter - Factory, Mill, Race, Mulberry, Linden, and Oak.

In 1859 the Harmony Society, which held several mortgages on this property, purchased it at sheriff's sale for the sum of $34,500, the deed being dated September 14th of that year. In 1866 the Society made a new survey of the town, and greatly enlarged its limits, extending it along the Beaver Creek nearly three miles, and began actively to carry on and to aid various manufacturing and other enterprises. The growth of the town in population and business became as a consequence very rapid, and in 1868 it was felt by the citizens that they should have the advantages of a borough incorporation.

Source:  History of Beaver County, Pennsylvania: And Its Centennial Celebration, Volume 2
By Joseph Henderson Bausman   (1904)
Pages 665-669

Beaver County Historical Research & Landmarks Foundation
The Official Historical Society of Beaver County, Pennsylvania
City of Beaver Falls

City of Beaver Falls Home Page

Beaver Falls History

City of Beaver Falls
715 15th Street
Beaver Falls, PA 15010
Phone: 724-847-2808       Fax: 724-847-4748

City of Beaver Falls,   Beaver County,   Pennsylvania

Old Brighton, now Beaver Falls, 1853
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