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Leechburg Borough

Armstrong County, Pennsylvania

Leechburg Borough Hall is located at 260 Market Street, Leechburg PA 15656.
Phone: 724‑842‑8511.

Beginnings [1]

The borough of Leechburg was incorporated by act of March 22, 1850, and the first election, held on the first Friday in May of that year, resulted in the election of David Leech as burgess, and Addison Leech, J. T. Johnston, Jonathan Hetrick, Wm. R. Carver and Jacob Ulam as councilmen. Alexander Gordon was elected justice of the peace. The officials of the borough in 1913 are: James B. Smail, burgess ; R. E. Gosser, president of the council; Joseph Stanier, Frank Truxell, W. H. Ashbaugh, Frank Munshower, James Campbell, councilmen; John A. Hill, clerk; James B. Kifer and T. Lee Van Geisen, justices of the peace; Lee Bush and A. J. Elliott, overseers of the poor; C. J. Nieman, treasurer; C. O. Morris, solicitor; J. H. Stivenson, constable; J. M. Anderson, assessor.

Located in a deep bend of the Kiskiminetas river, five miles from its junction with the Allegheny, Leechburg has all the advantages of geographical location and scenic beauty. Although this spot had all the necessary requirements for a townsite, there were but few settlers there before 1821. It was not until the building of the Pennsylvania Canal from 1826 to 1829 that there were enough people living in the place to entitle it to the name of village. "Oldtown," just one mile east, across the Kiskiminetas river, below Carnahan's run, and "Jacksonville," two miles west, each had more population than the settlement of "Friendship," as the site of Leechburg was then called. The first house here, a log one, was located near the site of the present Grace Lutheran church, back of the lot on which the high school now stands. It stood near a large spring north of Siberian avenue, near Spring alley. Addison Leech had the water of this spring piped to his residence on Market street, the present residence of Hon. Joseph G. Beale. For many years this spring supplied a large number of the citizens with water; in fact it was almost a public resort until the waterworks were built in 1891.

The site of Leechburg was for the most part patented by White Mattock, an Indian chief, in August, 1783, while John Vanderen had also patented a parcel of land part of which Leechburg now occupies since Feb. 10, 1773, ten years before. White Mattock's grant consisted of 192-1/2 acres and the main business and residence portion of Leechburg is on this tract. Among the early owners of Leechburg's site was John Walker, to whom this land was surveyed in October, 1773, but he seemed never to have taken out title papers. Other later owners were William P. Brady, Jacob Mechling, Frederick Steif, Joseph Hunter, Matthew Shields and David Leech. The site was later called "White Plains," and the names of White Mattock and Matthew Shields appear in most all old deeds, especially those which came from David and his son Addison Leech. The first two settlers in Leechburg, as far as any history records, were Joseph Hunter, mentioned above, and Michael Moorhead, a drover by occupation. They owned cabins near the "Big Spring." Leechburg was very prosperous in the past during the building of the old Pennsylvania canal, and was the headquarters of the promoters and builders of that famous connecting waterway between the Atlantic ocean and the waters of the Mississippi valley. This canal west of the Allegheny mountains was supplied entirely by the waters of the Conemaugh and Kiskiminetas rivers (they being the same stream under different names), and did more to develop the middle and western States than any other enterprise before or after. It paved the way for the construction of the Pennsylvania railroad and supplied a convenient and cheap means of transporting food and merchandise for the early inhabitants of the western part of the State.

David Leech came to this place in 1827, having the contract to build the Pennsylvania canal dam, in partnership with a man named Trux. The dam was 36 feet high and 574 feet long, and boats commenced to use the canal in 1829. Leech used the water from this dam to run his flouring and saw mills and a woolen factory from 1829 to 1832. Thereafter he was engaged in building freight and passenger boats for use on the canal. His was the second boat to pass through the canal to Pittsburgh. In all, he had at one time eight boats in constant use on the canal, until it was superseded by the Pennsylvania railroad, the railroad company purchasing it from the State.

These mills, after David Leech's death, came into the hands of his son, Addison, and after him were operated by R. D. Elwood & Bro. The old mill building is now used by the Leechburg Oil & Paint Co. as a manufactory of paints and painters' supplies. In addition to the above-mentioned enterprises the founder of Leechburg was, soon after he settled here, engaged in the mercantile lines of trade and together with his sons was afterward extensively engaged in the same business. He was, from 1853 till 1856, an active member of the firm of Leech, Chamberlain & Co., engaged in the construction of the Allegheny Valley railroad from Pittsburgh to Kittanning. His vigorous constitution began to yield to the weight of years, the numerous cares and responsibilities of his active life and to the approach of disease, in 1857, and he died November 3, 1858, regretted and esteemed at home and abroad.

The growth of Leechburg began with the completion of the canal. The first brick house was built in 1830 by Solomon Moore. It has long since been removed to give place to a more modern dwelling. Leech was a great builder himself, and there are several of the substantial brick homes of his construction still in use. The old Leech residence is still in a fine state of repair.

  1. Armstrong County Pennsylvania: Her People Past and Present, Volume I, J. H. Beers & Co., Chicago, 1914

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