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Freedom Borough

Beaver County, Pennsylvania

Freedom Borough Hall is located at 901 Third Avenue, Freedom PA 15042.
Phone: 724-758-5744.

Neighborhoods

Beginnings [†]

The history of Freedom as a unified Borough is fragmented by both time and space; a function of the physical characteristics of the land and the process of growth and expansion. It is necessary to look as far back as the early 1800's and as far away as Germany to begin to comprehend the history of Freedom.

In 1831 Bernard Muller, known in Germany as Count Maximilian de Leon, emigrated to this country and established the Harmony Society with about 40 followers in the Village of Economy. Dissension ensued between Muller and the leaders of the society and he proceeded to break away from the Society and establish his own village. The Count purchased land in Philipsburg. This required that the boatyard and manufacturing facility that were located on the purchased land be relocated. Stephen Phillips and Jonathan Betz, operators of this boatyard, determined that an area further downstream would be suitable for this kind of activity because of the great depth of the water and the amount of land that was available. The two men quickly purchased 101 acres on the Ohio River from General Abner Laylock, for $2,000 and established their boat- building business as Phillips and Betz and soon after as Phillips and Graham in 1832. The village that developed around the boatyard was incorporated as the Borough of Freedom on April 16, 1832 under the provisions of the Act of Assembly.

The original Borough included only the land north of Dutchman's Run along the Ohio River to what is now Rochester and East Rochester Boroughs. Before this, Captain William Vicary, a Philadelphia sea captain, established residence on a plot of land south of Dutchman's Run. Construction on his now' famous three story mansion began in 1826. It was constructed of massive stone bricks drawn by sledges to the site. Ramps had to be built in order that the huge stones could be dragged into place by workers who received a salary of $.25 a day plus dinner. In 1837, Captain Vicary surveyed the remainder of land that he owned between Dutchman's and Harvey's Run. This area was incorporated in 1867 as the Borough of St. Clair, named for General Arthur St. Clair. The southernmost section of the Borough, known as the Vicary extension was later annexed by the Borough of St. Clair. The two Boroughs existed as separate political jurisdictions until they merged on May 4, 1896, by a charter of incorporation issued by the Governor of Pennsylvania under the Act of June 6, 1893. The Boroughs had, since their original incorporation, maintained a single post office and almost identical social and business interests. At this time, their combined population was almost 1500.

During the 19th century the boat-building interest of the original firm of Phillips and Betz, or what eventually came to be known as the Freedom Boat Building Society, established itself as one of the largest boat builders in Beaver County. The prosperity of this venture prompted the growth of a variety of ancillary activities, the largest of which was that of John A. Baker and Company which manufactured steam engines, supplying the boat builders located along the Ohio River.

McKee and Company established a wagon manufactory in the Borough of Freedom, trading and selling their wares in the most western and southern regions of the nation. The company ceased business in the early 1880's, and the site was purchased by the Craig Manufacturing Company, what later came to be the Freedom Casket Company, in 1889. The firm specialized in the manufacture of cloth caskets, robes, casket lining, and other goods associated with the business of undertaking. It was located in the center of the Borough along the Dutchman's Run. In the early 1900's it expanded at this location and added 2 new buildings totaling 35,000 square feet. The company's products were sold in the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia.

The Freedom Oil Works Company, or as it is better known, the Valvoline Oil Company, was organized in 1879 by Stephen A. Craig and H.S. McConnel. It was incorporated in 1889 under the laws of Pennsylvania. The refinery employed many people and maintained distributing offices that covered not only the State of Pennsylvania but West Virginia and Ohio as well.

The history of the Borough of Freedom is closely associated with the great number of churches, representing a variety of denominations, located within its bounds. The first to be established was the Methodist Church, organized in 1836 by the Rev. Joshua Monroe. Services were held in the schoolhouse until the church building was completed in 1842.

The history of Freedom in this century is inextricably woven to that of Beaver County. As industrial development flourished along the Ohio and Beaver rivers, Freedom became a link in the process of these manufacturing operations. Most of the residents of Freedom Borough found employment in one of these businesses or at the rail yards that traverse the flat land located along the Ohio River.

Comprehensive Plan for the Borough of Freedom, 1989, www.pacounties.org, accessed September, 2019.

Nearby Towns: Alquippa City • Baden Borough • Beaver Boro • Bridgewater Boro • Conway Boro • East Rochester Borough • Economy Boro • Monaca Boro •