History of Independence Township

The lands that are now Independence Township were originally part of Hopewell Township and the Village of Independence (in the general area of where Village Road and Independence Road meet today) was the site of the only voting place for all of Hopewell Township. This proved a travel hardship in those days for people living on the far side of Hopewell Township and the citizens petitioned the courts to divide Hopewell. On October 19,1848 Independence Township was born when it was officially chartered as a municipal government, within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, consisting of 23.66 square miles or approximately 15,143 acres. Raccoon Creek, Service Creek and Raredon Run flow through the Township. Although Independence Township has soil rich in limestone, sandstone and shale it had no workable coal deposits so the people got that commodity from Hanover or Hopewell Townships. Early settlers, in the 1800s, fled to Fort Dillon, south of Frankfort Springs during Indians raids. The Township’s population in 1890 was approximately 932 and had over 10,000 acres of cleared land.

The Township had two post offices during the 1800s until Rural Delivery began. One was the ‘Seventy Six’ post office located in the Village of Seventy Six, also known as the Village of Independence, and one was the ‘Duluth’ post office located in the Duluth settlement which was near the present day intersection of Route 151 and Independence Road.

The New Bethlehem United Presbyterian Church was organized June 19,1865 in the Bocktown School House by Rev. J.M. Witherspoon. The church building was erected in 1869 where it stands today at the intersection of New Bethlehem Church Road, Pickens Road and Church Hill Road. The Bocktown School building also still stands near the intersection of Route 151 and Church Hill Road. In addition to the Bocktown School the Township had five other one-room schools Gorsuch, Butler, Backbone, Independence and Hardscrabble.

The Village of Independence, aka theVillage of Seventy Six, is an area rich in history having had the Seventy Six post office which was located in the Reed-Hood house, vacant for many years but still standing, next to Morley’s Auto Repair; a blacksmith shop; a grist mill on Raccoon Creek where the mill race is still visible; and a covered bridge over Raccoon Creek until it came down in about 1947.

The original Township building, aptly named “Independence Hall”, circa 1920, was located on Independence Road near the intersection with Ridge Road and served as the seat of local government and community social hall. This structure still stands but is no longer owned by the Township, it presently houses Kaufmann’s Gun Shop.

Please excuse any errors or omissions as this brief historical sketch was comprised of information found in old Township files. There is surely much more history and countless stories to be told but they may never be heard unless the history makers of old passed them along. “Listen closely to the stories of the aged ones for therein lies the lessons of history.”

COURTESY OF BEAVER COUNTY BICENTENNIAL ATLAS

 

Independence Township occupies much of the Raccoon Creek Valley in southern Beaver County. Independence village, the site of "Seventy-Six" Post Office, was Hopewell Township's first polling place and chief village until that township was divided to form Independence Township in 1848. Forner's Mill, located here, was powered by water from a unique underground mill race. The blacksmith shop nearby was a Masonic Lodge for many years. The last covered bridge in Beaver County was also here until it collapsed in 1948.

George McElhaney, an Indian scout during the Revolutionary War, settled along Raccoon Creek south of Independence village shortly after the war. Nearby, the township's other village of note developed as Bock's Mill (later Bocktown). The post office here was called Duluth. Backbone School, one of the county's more interesting place names, was named for a high, narrow ridge in a loop of Raccoon Creek in the southwest corner of the township. New Bethlehem United Presbyterian Church, founded in 1865, is the township's oldest.

Industry in the township has been wholly related to agriculture, except for some petroleum wells in the southwest corner. The township changed little in the first part of the twentieth century, but evidence of the new growth has become visible in more recent years.

A massive dam was built on Service Creek in 1955 to provide water for the Ambridge Municipal Water Authority. New home construction is proceeding along Route 151 near the Independence Elementary School and westward.

In the begining there where three roads running through the Township.  The earliest was Brodhead road running from Fort McIntosh near Beaver to the Monogahela river in Pittsburgh, another road ran from Beaver to Burettstown through Frankfort Springs, and the third was known as the Georgetown-Pittsburgh road which passed through Independence and by Service Church.

Reed-Hood House built in 1880 is the site of the original '76' post office for Independence Village, it is located on Independence Road.

Independence Hall built in 1920 is the original 'Seat of Government' and community social hall is located on Independence Road.