Mercer County PAGenWeb


DAVID AGNEW —The late David Agnew was, for many years, one of the leaders in the development of the infant iron industries of West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, and during the last years of his life a leading and beloved citizen of Sharpsville, Mercer county, where he died on the 24th of August, 1882. He was born at Frankstown, Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania, on the 25th of September, 1805. His entrance into the field of industries in which he labored until the last was made in youth, when he obtained a clerkship with Dr. P. Shoenberger, at Maria Forges, Bedford county, and about 1823 was transferred to the main works in Pittsburg. Remaining in that city until 1832, Mr. Agnew then removed to Wheeling, West Virginia, where, in partnership with Dr. Shoenberger, he erected a rolling mill, the first in the city and perhaps in the state. While a resident of Wheeling he was appointed a member of the county court: was one of the founders of the Wheeling Merchants’ and Mechanics’ Bank, of which he was a director and acting president, and subsequently served as postmaster of the city for four years, being appointed by President Tyler.

In 1846 David Agnew removed to Sharon, Mercer county, and in partnership with Dr. Shoenberger and others erected the Sharon furnace. Afterward were organized the Sharon Iron Company and the Sharon Iron Works, of which he was manager. Many of the earlier furnaces of the Shenango valley proved unprofitable, and were closed on account of the dearness of the ore. But while running the old Sharpsville furnace Mr. Agnew,  with his brother John P., procured a few tons of Lake Superior ore as an experiment, and its introduction by them revolutionized the manufacture of iron in Mercer county and western Pennsylvania. In 1856 Mr. Agnew removed to Erie, where he remained for two years looking after the affairs of the Sharon Iron Company, when he severed his connection with that firm and located at Parkersburg, West Virginia, to engage in mercantile pursuits. During the last three years of the Civil war he was superintendent of the rolling mills and blast furnaces at Mount Savage, Maryland; then returned to Parkersburg and resided there until the spring of 1869, when he became a resident of Sharpsville. From that time until his death in 1882 his main business was the supervision of the iron, coal and railroad interests controlled by the estate of General James Pierce. He was also deeply concerned in local public affairs, both as justice of the peace and as elder of the Presbyterian church. He was prominent in organizing the Sharpsville church, contributed liberally to the erection of a new edifice and saw it completed shortly before his death. On December 29, 1829, Mr. Agnew married Miss Eliza C. Lightner, a native of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, who died in Sharpsville, February 6, 1888. They had five sons and one daughter—John L., Theodore P., William H., David L., Charles E. and Mary M.

Charles E. Agnew has lived in Sharpsville since 1869, and from 1873 to 1903 was cashier of the Iron Banking Company. That institution was then reorganized as the First National Bank of Sharpsville, and he has continued in the same position with this institution.

Source: (Twentieth Century History of Mercer County, 1909, pages 362-363.)

DAVID AGNEW, deceased, was born at Frankstown, Huntingdon Co., Penn., September 25, 1805, and died at Sharpsville, Penn., August 24, 1882. Ere reaching manhood he obtained a clerkship with Dr. P. Shoenberger, at Maria Forges, in Bedford County. About the year 1823 he removed to the Doctor’s iron works, at Pittsburgh, where he remained until the spring of 1832, when he removed to Wheeling, Va., having entered into partnership with Dr. Shoenberger for the erection of a rolling mill at that place, the first in that city, and believed to be the first of the kind erected in that State. He was about the same time connected with a forge and furnace at Hanging Rock, Ohio. While a resident of Wheeling he was appointed by the governor a member of the “County Court;” was instrumental with others in establishing the Merchants’ & Mechanics’ Bank, of Wheeling; was a director, and for a time acted as president of that institution, and subsequently was appointed by President Tyler postmaster, which office he held for more than four years. During his term of postmaster Polk was elected President, and when the new administration came into power an attempt was made by the politicians to have Mr. Agnew removed; but the Postmaster-General, having examined into the affairs of the office, and finding that they were conducted in such an able and business-like manner, protested so strongly against any change being made that Mr. Agnew, though of different political faith, was permitted to retain the office. Wheeling, at that time, was one of the most important points along the line of the National Road, being a distributing office. Mr. Agnew resigned about a year later. In the year 1846 he removed to Sharon, this county, and, in connection with Dr. Shoenberger and others, built the Sharon Furnace. Afterward, together with Gen. Curtis, Mr. Boyce and other citizens of Sharon, the Sharon Iron Company was formed, and the rolling mill at Sharon, known as the Sharon Iron Works, was erected, of which Mr. Agnew was a director and manager. About the year 1846 there was considerable excitement in Mercer County in regard to the coal and iron business, which led to the erection of quite a number of blast furnaces along the Shenango Valley, but the expectations of these pioneers in the iron business of this county were destined to disappointment. The Lake Superior ores had not been obtained, and confined, as they were, to the native ores, and the use of mineral coal, with a general want of knowledge and experience in the working of these materials, it is not surprising that the business proved unprofitable, and was generally abandoned, so that very few of these old furnaces remain, having, since the introduction of Lake Superior ores, been superseded by larger and more perfect establishments. The connection of the iron ore of Lake Superior with the coal of Mercer County has produced an entire revolution in the manufacture of iron in Mercer County, and throughout Western Pennsylvania gener­ally. Mr. Agnew and his brother, John P. Agnew, were the first to use Lake Superior ore in a blast furnace. While running the old Sharpsville Furnace they procured at great expense, a few tons of ore for that purpose, which, it is believed, was the first time it had ever been so used. In 1856 Mr. Agnew removed to Erie where he remained two years, looking after the business affairs of the Sharon Iron Company, at the end of which time he severed his connection with the firm, and went to Parkersburg, W. Va., and engaged in mercantile pursuits. In 1862 he went to Mount Savage, Md., and took charge of the rolling mills and furnaces in that place, and returned to Parkersburg about the close of the war, and stayed until the spring of 1809, when he came to Sharpsville.

In an acquaintance of over fifty years Mr. Agnew witnessed many seasons of prosperity and adversity, as well as great im­provements, in the iron industries of the county. Since 1869 he resided in Sharpsville, having the general supervision of the books and accounts con­nected with the various iron, coal and other concerns in which the late Gen. Pierce was interested, and in the capacity of secretary and treasurer of the Sharpsville Railroad Company. The business of the Pierce estate was closed in 1881, and notwithstanding its extensive and varied character, and the immense amount of labor involved, under Mr. Agnew’ s wise management, and comprehensive acquaintance with the affairs thereof, it was settled in a comparatively speedy and satisfactory manner to all concerned. In politics Mr. Agnew was a Republican, but never took an active part in any of the campaigns of the party. In 1873, just before the borough of Sharpsville was formed, he was elected a justice of the peace, but could not devote much time to the affairs of the office, though he did considerable work in drawing up deeds, legal documents, etc. In religion Mr. Agnew always took an active and earnest part, being a leading member of the Presbyterian Church. He was elected an elder of the Fourth Street Church in Wheeling, and was honored with that position in the church of his choice wherever he resided. He was prominent in organizing the church here, and lived to see a very neat edifice erected and dedicated but a short time before his death, toward the building of which he contributed liberally. Mr. Agnew was married in Pittsburgh, December 29, 1829, to Miss Eliza C. Lightner, Rev. Francis Herron, D. D., performing the ceremony.

The deceased left two children: Charles F. and Mary. His widow died February 6, 1888, a consistent member of the Presbyterian Church. Her four oldest children also are dead. Their names were John L., Theodore P., William H. and David L. John L. has one son, J. Ford, who lives in St. Louis, Mo.; Theodore P. has one daughter, Nellie, who lives with her mother at Fredericksburg, Md.

Source: (History of Mercer County, 1888, pages 835-837)

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