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Washingtonville Borough

Washingtonville Borough Hall, PO Box 127, Washingtonville PA 17884; phone: 570-649-6330.

Beginnings [1]

Washingtonville Borough and Danville Borough are the oldest settlements in Montour County. Washingtonville Borough is the only borough in Montour County outside of Danville Borough, the date of its charter being April 28, 1870. The first burgess was H. C. Snyder, and Joseph B. Seidel, Andrew C. Ellis and James A. Miller were the first councilmen. The first known settlement of Washingtonville antedates the war of the Revolution. Among the early buildings of the community were the Bosley water, grist and sawmill, built prior to 1788. The structure which housed these industries was destroyed by fire in 1826, and subsequently another building was erected. This mill formed the nucleus of a fort which was built to afford protection to the residents of the few homes which had sprung up in the vicinity. The fort was locally known as Brady's fort, although State historians define the blockhouse as "Boyle's Fort." Portholes were pierced in its walls, and for a while a small howitzer was mounted within the inclosure. This armament gave protection to the settlers who fled to the shelter of the fort at the approach of savage bands of red men. The fort was named after two Revolutionary heroes, Samuel Brady and Hugh Brady, and the name of "Boyle's Fort," as mentioned in the histories of the State, is apparently a mistake. A great famine affected this and many other localities of the State in 1788. Philip Maus purchased a quantity of grain in that year from John Montgomery, who inhabited Paradise farm, and delivered it to the Bosley mill. At the time the place was called Washington. From old records it is ascertained that in 1788 Samuel Smith, Adam Hempleman and Robert Rogers were settlers in the village, and their wants were relieved by the grain secured from Paradise farm, which they obtained from the mill. The ownership of this business later passed from the hands of Bosley to Samuel Hutchinson, who eventually became a leading man of the community and its principal property owner. He successfully conducted the mill for a number of years and also owned and managed a large farm in the vicinity. Mr. Hutchinson was a virile man, with unusual intelligence, and had strong and independent views on all subjects, particularly that of religion. Through his generosity the Presbyterians of the village received a donation of land upon which, in 1832, they erected a Presbyterian church. Samuel Hutchinson, a son, is also identified with the early life of Washingtonville. He taught school, and later removed to a larger sphere of activity in Huntingdon County, becoming a lawyer and eventually being elected to Congress. Before achieving that honor the younger Hutchinson had served his Commonwealth from the judicial bench.

The first postmaster at Washingtonville was Mathew Calvin, and the first physician was Dr. Newcombe. The first hotel in the place was built and conducted by one Allen, who before the Revolution realized the possibility of the occasional traveler passing through the community. Robert Walker was the first blacksmith. He was an excellent mechanic and evolved the Walker plow, an agricultural utility which became celebrated in that day and time. His industry and enterprise resulted in the building of a foundry and factory for the manufacture of plows and kindred products. Eventually he moved to Lancaster, where he died. Nathaniel Spence was the first merchant of the place. Succeeding him was William McCormick, a native of Ireland, who later rose to considerable prominence in the village.

The question of where the old Washingtonville fort stood is a matter of some uncertainty. Some think that the site was located across the creek, adjacent to the present borough limits, while others contend that it stood just back of what is now Front Street, between Church and Water Streets, within the borough limits.

The first schoolhouse was built after the Revolution came to a close. The structure was a square pen of unhewn logs, and light and air were provided for by the omission of a log when the structure was erected. The building was roughly thrown together and in every sense primitive and typical of the pioneer days. Early in the nineteenth century Washingtonville had achieved considerable distinction as an important place, and was included in the route of the mail stage as it passed through Montour County. In 1838 four hotels and four stores were doing business there. The leading business men of the time were James and David McCormick, sons of William McCormick; Neal McCoy, son of Robert, and the firm of Grim, Derr & Dye.

The Excelsior Hotel was started in 1837 by James T. Heddens, who conducted it for forty-four years. After his death his wife, Fannie Heddens, kept it until 1906, when E. E. Frymeyer bought it. The hotel was burned in 1891, but at once rebuilt. Mrs. Heddens was one of the most popular hotelkeepers in Montour County, and her house saw many a party of diners from Danville and Bloomsburg.

The other hotels of the town were kept by William Snyder and A. L. Heddens.

The woodworking shop of James Stecker, for many years a well known landmark on the road at the outskirts of Washingtonville, was totally destroyed in October, 1909. Stecker had accumulated many fine and rare specimens of wood and had hundreds of fine tools, all of which were lost. He never rebuilt the shop.

The town hall here was built in 1908. For a number of years the authorities used a large meat refrigerator for a lockup. This is said to be the origin of the word "cooler" as referring to a jail.

The old covered wooden bridge across the creek was removed in 1908 to make way for a steel one.

Reference

Historical and Biographical Annals of Columbia and Montour Counties Pennsylvania, Vol. 1, J. H. Beers & Co., 1915.

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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