Mifflinville, this most beautiful and admirably located village, was laid out in 1794 by John Kunchel (Kunkle) and William Rittenhouse, on the "flats" almost in the center of the Mifflin Township, upon the banks of the Susquehanna River, directly opposite a cleft in the Montour Ridge on the northern side of that stream. The original draft of the town's charter described it as "situate on the south side of the river Susquehanna, opposite three islands (now gone) in Catawissa Township, Northumberland County (of which it was then a part), about thirty miles above Sunbury, and the same distance below Wilkes-Barre."
The last part of this description reveals the motive of the proprietors in founding the town. The erection of Northumberland County in 1772, and of Luzerne County in 1786, with their seats of justice sixty miles apart, made it probable that the formation of a county from adjacent parts of each would eventually be necessary; so these enterprising founders took time by the forelock and built for the future, with the desire of capturing the county seat. This desire, however, failed of accomplishment. At one time it was hoped to secure the location of the Columbia County Courthouse here, but it was merely a suggestion of disgruntled politicians and had no effect on the final decision. In 1808 an unsuccessful effort was made to induce the projectors of the Mauch Chunk and Towanda turnpike to locate its course through the town, but the inducements were insufficient. On a later map of this State by Reading Howell this turnpike is traced through Mifflinville (or Mifflinburg, as it was then called). This was but an error of the maker of the map, however.
In laying out the town the founders were most generous in the matter of streets and alleys. Front Street was laid out one mile in length and the town plat extended the same distance to the rear. The streets were named in a systematic manner, and a space of great size reserved for the projected courthouse and public square. All of the streets are wide, Market and Third being 132 feet across. Ten corner lots on Fourth Street were reserved for houses of worship, the title remaining in the corporation, with a perpetual lease to occupants. Two lots were set aside on Third Street for German and English colleges, which failed to materialize.
The first house in the village was built by Peter Yohe, who came from Berks County. It stood on a lot adjoining the present "Creasy Hotel." He must have come from the home county at an early date, as he was obliged the first year to go to Wilkes-Barre for corn, his crop having not yet matured. Other old houses were those of John Reynolds, Christian Kunchel and Michael Wehr, located respectively on Race and Third, Market, between Front and Second, and Front, above Market, streets. Matthias Heller built the first tavern on Front Street, to cater to the trade of the river raftsmen. Later another public house was built by Jacob Harman, who opened the first store in the township. The first regular physician to locate in the town was Dr. Clement Millard, of Philadelphia, in 1825.
The first iron plow in Columbia County was brought to Mifflinville by Samuel Smitn, who had it made for him in his native city of Baltimore. He located at the eastern edge of the town soon after its founding.
The building of the "North Branch canal" might have greatly helped the town had there been any convenient and rapid method of communication with the opposite shore. For many years ferries had been operated at this point, but the shallow stages of water, alternated by freshets and ice gorges, made the Susquehanna River an unreliable means of communication. Efforts were then made to have a bridge erected across the river, but the project failed by a small margin to receive financial backing. This disheartened the proprietors of the village, and they ceased to supervise the affairs of the community. The result was that many lots were occupied without warrant or purchase, and the titles of many at the present time are based solely on "squatter rights." Many of the residents also encroached on the wide streets, alleys and squares, the result being that in many places there was hardly passageway for a single vehicle. The old spirit of civic pride was not lost, however, and in 1835 a meeting of thirty-one citizens was held to discuss the propriety of opening the streets. Capt. S.B.M. Yants was called to the chair, and Benjamin Seidle was appointed secretary. A town committee was elected for six years and empowered to take measures to resurvey the town, rent the public lots and call all necessary meetings of the citizens. This committee consisted of John Keller, S.B.M. Yants, Benjamin Seidle, Samuel Harman and Charles Hess. Though never regarded as a legally constituted body, these town committees were never opposed in their actions.
The work of resurvey was given to Ezra E. Hayhurst and so well did he accomplish the duty that the original plans of the founders were practically duplicated. Thus the village was again given the proud title of chief among the many lovely towns of eastern Pennsylvania. The resurvey was accomplished in but five days.
An old magazine published in 1847 states that "Mifflinburg" then contained about thirty dwellings, several stores and taverns, a Lutheran and a Methodist church. At that period the tanneries were the only industries of the village. With no facilities for transportation until the construction of the North and West Branch railroad, Mifflinville has never offered any inducements for the location of industries, and after that road was built the greater attractions of the larger towns to the east and west diverted any projected manufactories or mills. In 1855 a small powder mill was opened in the town by Matthew Brown and Samuel Snyder, to supply the nearby coal mines. The mill was blown up three days after its opening, but rebuilt and operated as long as the mines were operated in Beaver Township.
The station of the Pennsylvania railroad here was called Creasy, owing to the similarity of the town's name to another on the same line of railroad. The bridge here was built in 1907.
There are but three survivors of the Mexican War in Pennsylvania and Mifflinville has the honor of being the home of one of them, John S. Myers, who served as a marine in the bombardment and capture of Vera Cruz in 1847. In 1914 he was ninety-five years old — the oldest man in the town, and one of the liveliest.
The Lutheran and Reformed congregations were the first to avail themselves of the generous donations of the founders of Mifflinville. In 1809 articles of agreement for the erection of a union church at Race and Third Streets were signed. The building was begun the same year, but not completed until 1813. In January, 1882, the union between the two congregations was dissolved, the Lutherans preparing to build a home of their own, the dedication of which took place in December, 1883.
The Lutheran congregation was organized in 1809 as St. John's by Rev. J.P.F. Kramer. Previous to that time the Lutherans had been occasionally served by Rev. Mr. Shelhardt, one of the pioneer pastors of the Susquehanna Valley. Before 1890 the services here were held every four weeks, the German and English languages being used alternately.
For a time after the separation the Reformed congregation worshipped in the old church, calling it St. Matthew's, but in 1887 erected a building, a frame, similar in design to the brick Lutheran church directly opposite. Among the first pastors of this congregation were Revs. Dieffenbach, Shellhamer, and Hoffman. Following were Revs. A. J. Tobias, A. R. Hottenstine, Philip Steery, G. B. Dechant, Lutin Fetterolf, Charles H. Matchler, J. Alvin Reber, Alfred J. Herman, Frederick A. Cook, and Rev. R. Ira Gass, who took charge June 12, 1910.
During the winter of 1859-60 a division of the Lutheran Church in the western part of the State on doctrinal lines caused a like dissension in Mifflinville, and a number of members separated, forming an English Church under the control of the General Synod, the main body being, under the charge of the General Council. The seceding members built a brick church on the public square and were served successively by Revs. E. A. Sharretts, Henry R. Fleck, David Truckenmiller, William E. Krebs, M. V. Shadow and J. E. F. Hassinger. After having been disused for a number of years the church building in 1914 was converted into an amusement hall by the young people of the town, who repaired and refitted it, with a stage and folding seats.
Methodist services here were first held in the home of Samuel Brown, and when the number of attendants grew too large, in the barn of Henry Bowman. In 1819 Samuel Brown built a small frame house near his private burying ground, for a chapel. It was small in size, and had a gallery around three sides, which could be reached only by a ladder, for the young people. The pulpit resembled a bird's nest and was affixed to the wall some distance above the floor. It was a tight fit for the portly form of Rev. Marmaduke Pearce, who had to ascend to his perch by a small ladder. During the years following 1831 a frame church was built in Mifflinville and used by the congregation, and in 1861 the large brick church was erected. The old "Brown" church was torn down in 1862.
The chief occupation of the Mifflinville town committee was the care of the old cemetery in the center of the town plat, with its roofed-over stone wall and ancient tombstones.