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BENZINGER TOWNSHIP—BOROUGH OF ST. MARY'S.
Benzinger Township General Description—Early Land PurchasesResident Tax-payers In 1844—Elections—Voters In 1846—PopulationBusiness.
Borough Of St. Mary's Location, Etc.—Beginnings Of The Town—RemIniscences Of Charles Luiir—Municipal Affairs—Fires—IndustriesBank—Hotels—Churches—Convents And Convent Schools — Academics —Public Schools—Societies—Miscellaneous.
BENZINGER TOWNSHIP is divided into the Mississippi and Atlantic basins by the Appalachian chain. In the eastern half are found the head waters of West Creek (which runs to Emporium to unite with the Sinneuia homing. This creek is fed by the north fork coming down from Jarrett's Summit), and Trout run or north branch of Bennett's branch. Elk creek, which heads near the Cascade mines, east of St. Mary's, flows in a general westerly course to Ridgway. Powell's run parallels Elk creek a few miles north, and Crooked creek drains the extreme northern part of the west half of this township. The greatest elevation is on the divide between the head of Crooked Creek and the north fork of West Creek. This is said to be as high as Jarrett's Summit, 2,245 feet, as determined by Col. Jarrett, September 15, 1855. At Rathbun depot, the elevation is 1,316 feet, and at the point where West creek crosses the east line, 1,280 feet or twenty-eight feet higher than Beechwood depot.
Round St. Mary's the lands have been cultivated for forty years, and as the hills are low, this section of the county tells at once of its agricultural .wealth. The coal deposits in the neighborhood of St. Mary's are extensive, and have been a source of wealth to the county for over a quarter of a century. About two and three-fourth miles north of St. Mary's, at the old school-house (1,830 feet), a coal vein was discovered at an elevation of 1,780 feet. A general measurement of the strata shows 67 feet of gray sandstone, shale and slate, 3 of K. U. coal, 33 of sandy slate and shale, 18 inches of K. M. coal, 55 feet of sandstone and shale, 3 of Dagus coal, 3 of fireclay, 17 of shale, 16 inches of coal, 10 feet of sandstone and shale, 10 of limestone and shale, 13 of shale, a layer of coal, 16 of shale and 2 feet of coal, showing the lower productive measures to be 235.3 feet thick at St. Mary's. Ten miles south the'Freeport limestone is only 40 feet above K. U. coal. From the center of warrant 4401 southwest to northeast corner of warrant 4395 the boldest exposure of sandstone in this township is found.
In 1842 the idea of establishing a colony on Elk creek was conceived, as related in the history of St. Mary's. Lands were purchased from the Fox Land Company of Massachusetts, September 20 of that year, for $24,668.62, or 75 cents per acre, the last payment being due in 1849.
The agreement between the trustees of the United States Land Company and Mathias Benzinger, of Baltimore, dated April 18, 1844, provided for the sale of 35,090 acres of land to the latter, on warrants numbered from 4112 to
4408, out of which 100 acres for a church lot and 1,980 acres for roads were to be deducted. The price paid was 75 cents per acre, or $24,757.72.
The resident taxpayers of Shippen township (Benzinger township in 1845) in 1844 were Martin* and Charles Herbstritt, Bartle Guire, John Addelberger, Nicholas Hill, Adolph Stockman, Paulus Dimel, Mathias Wellendorf (blacksmith), Sebastian Krauss, John Karker (cordwainer), Frank Keller (tailor), Charles Kellar, John Rittman, Anton Avers, Dill Baltason, Charles Schriober (matchmaker), Herman Koch and Nicholas Roth (cordwainers), Lawrence Stockman*, Benedict Heubel, Julius Forenbaum (cordwainer), John So6enheimer (tinner), George Hasselman, George Weis and Joseph Stockman. Each of the above named owned one or more town lots, except Joseph Stockman, who was a single freeman. Rev. Alexandre, a Hungarian count, was the trustee of a sawmill —an eleemosynary institution In 1845 the names of Anthony Antonaves, John Walker, Matthias Glaus, Francis Smith, Anthony Fochtman and Andreas Fleisman appear on the roll.
The first election was held in February, 1846: George Weis* and Ignatius Garner were chosen justices; N. Hill*, constable; Adam Vollmer*, Louis Vollmer*, F. J. Kellar, F. Schmidt*, Valentine Muller* and B. Weidenboerner*, directors; L. Stockman*, Ignatius Garner and Michael Langenfeldt*r auditors; L. Stockman*, clerk; George Wonder* and F. X. Biberger, in the west, inspectors; Adam Vollmer*, judge of election, and Adam Vollmer, assessor. Anton Hanhauser was chosen justice in 1849; J. Graham* and E. C. Schultz in 1850.
The Benzinger election of February, 1890, resulted in the choice of John Glesner and Charles Sneider, supervisors; J. B. Heindl, N. J. Tierney and Ignatius Schaut, school directors; John B. Gerber, and W. A. McCoy, auditors; J. J. Vollmer, collector and constable; George Nissel, overseer of poor; J. M. Meyer, clerk, and Paul Busch, treasurer.
The first voters in February, 1846, were the officers named and Joseph Gernzer*, John Wonder (at Baltimore, now in Fort Wayne, Ind.), John Sosenheimer, Casper Buchhage*, Matthias Wellendorf*, Michael Derlet*, Anton Fochtman*, Carl Schrieber*, F. Eisenhauer*, Augustus Osterman*, Anton Kuntz*, Bertol Guyer*, Francis Schmidt*, F. J. Kellar, Fred Miller*, Francis Bonnert*, Peter Burget*. Joseph Korbe*, Michael Frey*, Joseph Kern*, and Bernard Weidenboerner*. All the voters and officers of 1846 are dead, with the exception of Ignatius Garner, John Sosenheimer and John Wonder.
The population in 1880 was 1,976, exclusive of St. Mary's, which then was credited with 1,501 inhabitants. In 1888 there were 56 Republican and 367 Democratic votes recorded in the township, pointing out a population of 2,115. while in the borough there were 43 Republican, one Prohibitionist, and 308 Democratic votes given, showing 1,760 inhabitants—a number under the present population. The election on the prohibition and suffrage amendments of June 18, 1889, is noticed as follows by one of the local journals: "Six hundred and forty-one votes were cast in St. Mary's borough and Benzinger township, out of which the amendment received 32. In the borough '295 votes were cast, 280 against and 15 for the amendment; two votes were lost, probably by two persons getting two prohibition tickets instead of one prohibition and one suffrage. Majority in the borough against the amendment, 263. In the township 346 men voted: 329 against, 17 for; majority, 312. Total majority in the precincts, 575." In St. Mary's borough were George Weis, Lee & Rom. Charles Fisher and G. Schoening, dealers; Joseph Luzr, A. Fochtman, James Graham and John Haus, hotel keepers, in 1850. In Benzinger township
were 263 dwellings, 270 families, 1,270 persons, 114 farms and two manufacturing concerns. In 1852-53, M. Hans and Joseph Windfelder had breweries here and Philip Stephen a distillery.
The mines of the St. Mary's Coal Company were opened in September, 1803, and mining operations commenced in July following. In 1883 the Dagus coal was still taken out by this company, each side of the tracks of the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad, where the bed ranges from thirty-four to forty inches in thickness. Mr. Patton was then superintendent, and he resided near the summit of the hill, 160 feet above the working coal bed, and seventy feet above a three-foot vein he discovered in drilling a well.
The Keystone mines, formerly owned by the Benzinger Company, of which Dr. O. S. Sanders was president, and W. H. Finney, secretary, are one and onehalf miles east of the depot at St. Mary's. They were worked up to the period when D. Eldridge abandoned it. The extreme western opening was 1,825 feet above tide, and the coal bench was thirty-six inches in depth. Just east, at an elevation of 1,835 feet, was another opening into this Dagus bed. The mines were purchased by J. K. P. Hall, in 1889. The Cascade mines were opened east of the Keystone tract in 1878, by Kaul & Hall, with James Black, superintendent. The elevation is 1,815 feet and the depth of seam forty inches. Since 1880 Martin Dippold is superintendent, and W. A. McCoy has been weighman since the beginning. This mine employs 130 hands, and produces 80,000 tons annually. Their railroad system is one and one-half miles of standard track. The Silver Creek mine on the Monastery lands, just northwest of St. Mary's, was opened late in the "seventies," and explored to a depth of 253§ feet. The mine was worked by Eldridge until the deposit was exhausted.
The Scahonda coal tract, north of the depot, comprises the "Four Fingers" —prongs of the plateau—underlined by Alton coal, at a depth of fifty feet. The vein is thirty-six inches in depth. At a depth of seventy-eight feet a twenty-fonf-inch vein of Alton coal was discovered. William C. Young's mine on the east side of the creek, is 1,880 feet above tide. Weidenboerner's opening on warrant 4405 is 1,817 feet above tide, and shows thirty-six inches of cannel coal. The deposits are said to be of little commercial value.... The Hazel Dell mine, just east of St. Mary's, was opened in 1879 by the Cascade Coal Company, and was under the management of Daniel Geary, for some years, until P. J. Fleming succeeded him. Mr. Cook is the present mining boss. There are forty-five men employed and the product is 100 tons per day.... The Tannerdale Coal Company was incorporated in June, 1866, to develop the coal deposits in Benzinger township. The members were Isaac and I. T. Lulam, W. H. Hewitt, A. Stoutenburgh, P. S. Henderson, J. Kirkpatrick, F. A. Leash, Pamelia, Kate M., Lizzie C., M. and W. M. Singerly.
The only bed mined up to 1884, was the Dagus. three miles northeast of St. Mary's, within a half mile of the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad. The elevation of the opening was 1,750 feet. One mile east, on the Shabler farm, at an elevation of 1,675 feet, another mine was opened in the Clermont coal, and on the same farm at 1.660 feet a bed of the Alton upper coal.. . .The Kaul mine, adjoining the borough limits, was opened years ago and purchased by Mr. Kanl from Windfelder & Hill, in 1872. This mine may be said to be the supply mine of the borough.... The Elk Creek mines were developed by Kaul & Hall, in 1877, with Superintendent Eldridge in charge... .In June, 1876, the Young mines were opened at Scahonda. In September, 1879, the St. Mary's test oil well was down 2,011 feet, and No. 2 was located on the Leonard Wittman farm, five miles north of No. 1, on Powell's run, 2,500 feet.