Fox Township- An Overview
Fox Township-Early History
Originally, all of Clearfield County was one election district called "Chincleclamouche", an Indian name. After 1807, when
two new townships were organized south of the West Branch, only that part of the river was known by the old name. Fox Township
was to eventually emerge from the Chincleclamouche area.
In the early 1800s, this land patented to Samuel M. Fox, then deceased was offered for sale and settlement by his heirs. In 1814, Chincleclamouche was divided into two new townships, Pike and Lawrence. A petition circulated by Leonard Morey requested that the area be made formally into a new township. The Clearfield County Court, granting the request, named it Sinnemahoning on February 27, 1814, a name that did not please everyone. On the presenting of another petition, the name was changed to Fox Township in honor of Samuel M. Fox.
In 1820, Fox Township really came into being when the northern part of Pike Township was cut off. Included in this area were the settlers around Kersey and Toby Valley, as well as area of Horton, Huston and Jay Townships in Clearfield County. In 1848, Horton, Huston and Jay Townships were separated, leaving the area which is now Fox Township.
About 1810, William Kersey, land agent for the Fox and Norris Company, traveled the Indian trail over Boone's Mountain to Little Toby Creek and Elk Creek to erect a grist mill. It later burned and was not rebuilt.
Early settlers found a wealth of natural resources here. Coal, lime and iron ore were found. Nathanial Hyatt opened the first coal mine in 1847 and the Kersey Coal Company opened a mine in 1866.
Centerville, now Kersey, was plotted for John Green in 1846. Mail was carried by horseback from Milesburg to Smethport. In 1876 the post office was called Kersey.
One of the oldest buildings in the area is the John Koch building. Formerly owned by John Green, John L. Bonham and his second wife, Elizabeth, had a gunsmith shop and bakery in it. In 1863, it was transferred to John Koch, a native of Germany.
Businesses operating in the early 1900s included the Corbe Funeral Home, a third generation business which ended with the death of Daniel Corbe in 1978.
One of the first settlers who came to Fox township was John Kyler in 1812. Kyler was a native of Centre County. During his lifetime, he increased the original 50 free acre grant to 200 acres. He died in 1853. That area became known as Kylers Corners.
Kyler operated a sawmill there, which was located on Little Toby Creek as the stream was then known. Later, Nels Strandberg operated a store and sawmill at Kylers Corners. Other early residents drove mules in the Kyler mines, were carpenters, blacksmiths and schoolteachers.
Earlyville was laid out in 1865 by Dr. Charles R. Early who opened a coal seam there. By 1867 the town was comprised of the terminal buildings of the Dagushonda Railroad, which ran a branch line through Earlyville, a Presbyterian Church, which was later moved to Dagus Mines, a tanner, several stores and a number of homes.
Today, no businesses remain in Earlyville. The railroad and some of the early homes are gone as well. However, the Earlyville Cemetery located at the top of the hill on Route 948 still exists.
The village of Coal Hollow was built by the Northwestern Mining and Exchange Company for miners and their families. A company store, owned by J.H. Steele and Company, was also built there. The store closed in 1979. Early settlers of Coal Hollow were of Italian and Swedish descent.
In 1909, a band was formed in Coal Hollow. A band hall was located on the side hill towards South Kersey where dances were held until the 1930s.
Early businesses in Coal Hollow included a barber shop, mule barn, tipple and mine repair shop and a shoe repair shop. The only white house in Coal Hollow at the time, was used by visiting mine officials.
A ball diamond was located on the main street in Coal Hollow. Two peculiar games popular at the time were "balla puda" which was similar to tennis but used tamborines covered with cowhide instead of rackets and boccie which was played with balls on an outdoor alley.
The Northwestern and Mine Exchange Company built the village of Dagus Mines to house their employees, who numbered in the hundreds. The Eureka was the first mine opened in Dagus Mines. A spur of the Dagushonda Railroad ran to it. The mine petered out at the start of World War I.
The Post Office in Dagus Mines was established in 1880.
A large company store, with stock valued at about $20,000 was opened by J.H. Steele. The store was later G.H. Gatto's store. The store carried everything from mining supplies to clothing, footwear, groceries and feed for farm animals. Into the hillside behind the store was a building for the dynamite, black powder and squibs used in the mines. At the side of the store building was a hitching rail to tie the horses while shopping was done.
Where the Fox Township Medical Center is located today, the Dagus Mines Union Hall once stood. Besides union meetings, medicine shows often appeared there. Across the street from the union hall was the Hau Hotel.
Squab Hollow was a small mining village served by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The depot was named Cuneo Station for John Cuneo, a farmer in the area. The station is no longer in existence.
In the early days, wild passenger pigeons and the young pigeons or squabs, abounded in the area and could account for the name.
Children from Squab Hollow attended the Graveyard Schoolhouse, a walk of about one mile.
Shelvy Summit is located on the Kersey-Ridgway Road. It was named for Mr. Shelvy who owned a farm in the area. The Pittsburgh, Shawmut and Northern Railroad ran through the area and had a depot in Shelvy Summit. The depot has since been torn down and there are mostly farms in the area now.
Most likely named after a family in the area, Gillen was a flag station on the Shawmut Railroad. It is mostly a farming area now.
Gardner Hill is located in both Fox and Jay Townships. However, the major portion is in Fox Township.
Prior to 1853, Gardner Hill was forest land, hills and valleys. The first settler, Oliver Gardner, for whom the area was named, made his way up the Bennetts Branch with his wife. In 1850 the region had three settlers. A few more years would pass before any more settlers arrived.
With farms springing up all around, the Pennsylvania Lumber Company became interested in Gardner Hill's resources and purchased some land from Oliver Gardner.
With farming, trapping and lumbering attracting more people to the hill, a young man named Dodge decided that a successful lumber business might be set up. He opened a large sawmill and men came from miles around for employment.
In 1884, a fire raged over the hill destroying not only a large amount of timber, but also Dodge's mill. At that same time, the first settler, Oliver Gardner, died.
Around 1885 the first road was put over the hill. This road, known as Ridge Road, went from Force to Toby Valley. With the advent of so many families, the Hollobaugh School, a one room school for the first eight grades was built in 1888. Students choosing to continue their education after eighth grade had to stay in Penfield and attend school there.
In 1905, the Byrnedale-Gardner Hill Road was constructed.
In 1917, Five Points Mining Company purchased land and opened a coal mine. Soon a town of forty houses and a general store appeared.
Toby Valley, situated on Little Toby Creek, was supposedly the hunting grounds of the Iroquois Indian Nation for many years. The first white settlers located near the headwaters of Little Toby Creek in 1784. Land tracts were obtained by several families willing to attempt a permanent settlement in the wilderness area. The struggle against nature's elements required great stamina, much hard work and much time before signs of progress could be noticed.
The most plausible source is that Toby was named after a man, Tobias, who long before any settlement was attempted, traveled along the waters of the creek, exploring and camping for periods of time in the wilderness.
Lumbering was the first industry to attract settlers to the area. With the arrival of more settlers, lumbering and logging became a flourishing industry, not only for commercial gain, but also to make land available for farming.
Coal mining made an early appearance in Toby Valley. Mining hastened and increased the number of settlers in the valley. The first mine opened for commercial purposes was operated and owned by Judge Kyler in 1848. One mile north of his mine was another owned and operated by Enos Hayes. These were the first of many smaller mining operations where the coal was mined with pick and shovel and removed from the mines by mules.
Mining on a much larger scale began with the opening of a mine by the Northwestern Mining and Exchange Company about 1866. It was known as the Limestone Mine.