Newry Borough Hall, PO Box 245, Newry PA 16665; phone: 814-695-0168.
The story of the little town of Newry from its beginning follows very much the pattern of all such settlements that sprang up in Pennsylvania in the late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century.
Their beginnings were humble, to be sure. Some were destined to grow in size and importance, others to reach only a limited stage of development and there to remain until a quirk of fate should some day force them onward to greatness or backward into oblivion. Newry is an example of this latter type of town. From its very beginning the number of inhabitants was small but in its early history it was noted as an active business center, as was Williamsburg, the only town in Blair County older than Newry.
Its founder, Patrick Cassidy, a native of Newry, Ireland, was born in 1738 and came to America when a boy of fourteen in the employ of a British military officer. He fought on the side of the colonists in the American Revolution, and shortly after the Revolutionary War he purchased of Samuel Pryor and John Gilbert three hundred acres of land which included the site of the present town of Newry. It was not until 1787 that he became a permanent resident on this land which was, as yet, unimproved. He became a proficient surveyor and his name can be found on many of the early surveys of the county. He plotted the towns of Williamsburg and Hollidaysburg and of course, the town of Newry of which he was proprietor.
A recent search of the records at the courthouse in Huntingdon uncovered the following description of the plan of the town of Newry which was recorded there on September 25, 1795. This then seems to fix the approximate date of the founding of Newry.
"A plan of the Town of Newry, situate on the waters of the southwest branch of the now Juniata, Frankstown Township, County of Huntingdon and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, at present containing ninety-six lots and each lot containing two-hundred feet deep as laid down by the plan, except for the lots adjoining the market square which said four lots are one-hundred twenty (120) feet deep. The three streets are each sixty (60) feet wide viz., Allegheny, Second, and Bedford Streets. The north and south alleys are each sixteen (16) feet wide and the other alleys the course of which runs north and south are thirty (30) feet wide, named in the plan of said town: East Outward Alley, East Alley, West Alley, and West Outward Alley. The whole plan laid off on the ground to the four Cardinal points of the compass and the said town is thus laid off on part of the tract of the land called Gilbertborough in the patent to Samuel Walles, bearing date the ninth of July, one thousand seven hundred eighty-three and by several good and sufficient body of conveyances recorded in the office of Recorder of Deeds in the County of Huntingdon in conveyance to Patrick Cassidy in fee simple. Witness my hand and seal the twenty-fifth day of September one thousand seven hundred ninety-five."
Although the original plot contained ninety-six lots, additions of approximately fifty lots were made by the proprietor, Patrick Cassidy, on the north and south. At the time of its founding Newry was an important point on the highway-that was then chiefly used in crossing the Allegheny Mountains. The building of the pike through Duncansville and Blair's Gap, and the completion of the canal and the Portage Railroad diverted the trade and precluded the change of its growth and general prosperity. The business was wholly confined to several stores, which in trade with the surrounding country, kept the place from decline.
At an early date in its history it contained a hat factory, furniture, shoe, wagon and tin shops, and a carpet weaving establishment, but these have long since disappeared. The business establishment of Adam Hoover is the only one yet remaining which finds its roots buried deeply in the history of the town, since it was started by the ancestors of the present owner in the year 1833. Newry once boasted of a railroad that operated both passenger and freight service connecting with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Duncansville. It went into operation in 1870 and was abandoned as an unprofitable enterprise about 1900. In the January quarter-sessions court held at Hollidaysburg in 1876, a petition that the town of Newry be incorporated as a borough was favorably acted upon.
The first borough election was held April 25, 1876, and resulted as follows: James Conrad, Burgess; Jonas Ansman, Constable; John Hoover, Frank McIntosh, A. B. Weaver, M. B. Smith and S. W. Noel, Councilmen. The history of religious development always goes hand in hand with the growth of a community. The first services, Protestant and Catholic alike, were held in the rudely constructed log houses of the early settlers. There is a tradition that Lutheran ministers held services in private homes for the people of Newry as early as 1785, and it is a known fact that the prince-priest of the Alleghenies, Demetrius Gallitzin, attended to the spiritual wants of his far-flung flock from his headquarters at Loretto as early as 1796. In the year 1816, Patrick Cassidy, who was a Catholic, donated a plot of ground to both the Lutheran and Catholic congregations upon which to build their first permanent church buildings. The first Lutheran church, built of logs, was replaced by a brick building in the year 1832, and finally by the present structure in 1874. The early ministers were Rev. Schmick, Rev. Martin Hoffman, and Rev. Charles Guenther. The first Catholic church was built on the present site in 1816. It was replaced in 1832 by the church which is in use at the present time. The building is in a state of good repair even though it is now one hundred and thirteen years old. The first pastor of the Catholic congregation was the aforementioned Father Gallitzin. A number of changes in the pastorate took place until the Rev. James Bradley became pastor in 1832 and remained at his post for fifty-one years.
The years have been kind to Newry. No great changes have taken place to detract from its serenity and the beauty of its surroundings. And, too, the early days still live in the perpetuation of the old family names as one generation succeeds another.