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New Castle City

New Castle Borough municipal offices are located at 230 North Jefferson Street, New Castle PA 16101; phone: 724-656-3515.

Photo: New Castle County Courthouse, Pennsylvania Bureau of Historic Preservation, National Register documentation collection, www.arch.state.pa.us.

New Castle is home to several properties that are on the National Register of Historic Places — Lawrence County Courthouse, ca. 1855, 1886, 1944, located at the intersection of Court Street and County Line Street; the North Hill Historic District a residential neighborhood located immediately north of the central business district.

Beginnings [1]

Though the site upon which the city of New Castle stands was formerly headquarters for a tribe of Delaware Indians, it was not until the year 1798 when John Stewart, John MacWhorter, Hugh Wood and John Wood came to the juncture of the Shenango and the Neshannock, that New Castle became an established settlement.

These four men came from the neighborhood of New Castle in the state of Delaware and the portion of land which they settled was along the boundary of what was called the first and second "donation" districts. This boundary also separated the counties of Beaver and Mercer, from which counties in the year 1849 the county of Lawrence was created.

It is thought that the four original settlers located upon this land by virtue of a warrant drawn for military service by some one related to one of them, presumably, Major Robert Stewart, father of John Stewart.

The first survey of the new village was made by MacWhorter and when this survey was completed, the name of New Castle was bestowed upon the village in honor of New Castle, Delaware, the former home of the settlers. The town site as laid out occupied about one-half of what is now the downtown business district of New Castle, the boundaries being the Shenango and the Neshannock, and a line passing east and west, which ran about a block and a half north of the Diamond and a line running north and south, which ran about a block and a half east of the Diamond, this latter line being the present Apple Alley.

From the very start New Castle enjoyed a steady growth, settlers representing all the trades, professions and businesses coming to it from other parts of Pennsylvania, as well as from Virginia and Delaware, and it was not long until there were many cabins, mills, stores, churches and "taverns."

There is some question as to who was the first justice in New Castle, but it is very likely that John Stewart, being the largest land owner and leading citizen, was the first one to hold this office, which office was the first element of government introduced into the new community.

When settlement was first made the nearest post office was that at Fort McIntosh, where the town of Beaver now stands, and the mails were carried from this office to New Castle. In 1812 the first post office was established in New Castle, President Madison appointing Joseph T. Boyd postmaster, which position he held for more than 25 years.

About this time also the city limits were enlarged by several additions, and in 1825, the population being almost 300, the legislature created the borough of New Castle, Robert McConaghy becoming the first burgess. At this same time the city was re-surveyed owing to the fact that errors had been made in the original survey, and the work of this re-survey was carried on by three citizens, Joseph Justice, Nathaniel McElevy, and Joseph Emery.

The year after the creation of the borough the first newspaper ever published in New Castle, known as the New Castle Register, commenced its career under the direction of David Crawford, printer and editor. The first church to build in New Castle was the Presbyterian, the congregation erecting its building in 1804. About 1814 the Seceders built their structure on North Jefferson Street and shortly after the Methodists began their building which was on what is now South Jefferson Street.

Up until 1833 there were no railroads or canals in what is now Lawrence County and the only lines of communication were by way of country roads and paths, but in that year the Erie Extension Canal was completed from Beaver to New Castle and commerce on this barge canal became an important factor in the business life of the community. Real prosperity of New Castle seems to date from the opening of the canal and a further impetus to growth was made when in 1835 contracts were let for a canal from Mahoningtown to Youngstown, Ohio, the latter joining the Erie Extension Canal. The canal became the chief mode of transportation in the county, the first railroad in the county not being built until the Civil War.

T

he history of iron and steel making in the city of New Castle probably dates to the year 1810 'when John Stewart, the original settler, operated a forge for the purpose of manufacturing iron. Whether or not he actually made iron from iron ore is questionable, but that he had a forge is undoubted. In 1838, however, the Aetna Iron Works was erected by James D. White and at the same time a nail factory was built by a man named Wilder who came from Massachusetts. James H. Brown, a former Youngstown, Ohio, man was at the same time engaged in the construction of a rolling mill. The iron works began operations in 1839 and from that time until the present, the making of iron and steel and their products has been the chief industry in the city of New Castle.

Both commerce on the canal and the iron industry made further progress, when in 1845 the canal was completed from New Castle to Erie and in 1846 when R. W. Cunningham erected a cupola foundry, new nail factories and rolling mills being buil't at the same time.

New Castle ca. 1885 [2]

This city is the county seat of Lawrence County, and is situated in its centre, on the Shenango river. Its population is about 12,000, and is one of the most enterprising and favorably located cities of Western Pennsylvania or Eastern Ohio. Its railroad connections are full and complete, having direct connection with all the great trunk lines of the country. It reaches the Ohio river and Lake Erie through the Pennsylvania system of railroad. The Pittsburgh&Lake Erie Railroad offers a competing line both to the Lake and the Ohio river, and also forms a connecting link with the New York, Pennsylvania&Ohio, Lake Shore, and New York Central railroads.

Another line is also offered in the Pittsburgh&Western R. R., and through it, connections are made with the Baltimore&Ohio lines. The Buffalo, New York&Philadelphia R. R. terminates in this city, and embraces a distributing system of 800 miles in the northeastern part of the State.

There are two competing telegraph lines and five express companies. It will be obvious from the above facts, that manufacturers and shippers are offered by this city, systems of distribution seldom equaled and very rarely surpassed. This promising city has great advantages in the manufacture of iron and its products, in being favorably and centrally located in the great coal, limestone, and iron fields of Western Pennsylvania, thousand of tons of which are annually shipped to all parts of the country. Added to these advantages, is the fact that the city is the commercial centre of a large area of a rich and fertile farming country.

In addition to its manufactured gas, natural gas will be introduced in a few months, a company having been formed for that purpose.

With its fine water works system, elegant public buildings, and small debt, a conservative, yet pushing policy, developed in its population, together with its excellent banking system, the city is certainly very promising, and persons desiring to locate a manufacturing industry of any kind would do well to enquire of the officials of the Board of Trade, who will furnish all information required.

  1. Rook, Charles Alexander, editor, Western Pennsylvanians: A Work for Newspaper and Library Reference, 1923, Western Pennsylvania Biographical Association; James O. Jones Co., Pittsburgh
  2. Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania: Their Industries and Commerce, Resources and Prospects, 1885, Jos. Eichbaum & Co., Printers
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