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Spring Mills

Gregg Twp, Centre County, PA

Beginnings [1]

Of all the towns in Penn's Valley, Spring Mills is the most delightfully located. Nestling at the base of Egg Hill which rises abruptly from the surrounding country, it is an ideal spot for a town's situation. The confluence of Penn's and Sinking creeks occurs within the town limits, and their united waters wind through its entire length. One-half of the residents are on the north side of the stream, the other half live on the south side, the dwellings being located along the eastern slope of Egg Hill. There is a large and beautiful spring rising suddenly near the present hotel property, the depth of which has never been known, all previous attempts to reach the bottom having failed. Spring Mills is the site of the Union Sunday of that name, which was organized in 1828, and has existed ever since. During its history, great good has been done through its influence, and the amount of its benefactions to the community is not to be measured by apparent results.

It has been a matter of dispute among authorities as to who were the first settlers at Spring Mills, and where authorities differ we will not presume to decide. Certain it is however, that previous to 1800, there was built a mill just below the big spring. In 1805 this mill was operated by Jacob Maize, who in 1812 took up his abode in Mifflinburg, Pa. Mrs. Allison, mother of Archibald, lived at this time on the main road, and kept the only hostelry of that day. At this time there was also in the place a blacksmith shop and a log school house, which indicates the estimate thus early placed on education by these early settlers. The old mills were replaced by newer and larger ones, as the demands on their capacity increased, until the present building was erected in 1852, by Robt. H. Duncan, Esq. He continued to operate it until 1887, when it became the property of Hon. W. M. Allison, ex-member of the House of Representatives. It was probably in 1820 when the first store was opened, and in the same year postal facilities were afforded the village. Thos. Huston being the postmaster and storekeeper. A saw mill was erected at an early date just below the present dam, and cut the lumber for the building of the town. Near where the churches now stand on the hill, a log school house stood, with clapboard roof and windows improvised out of old newspapers, which being greased with hogs' lard to make them transparent, frequently became the prey of red squirrels.

The town is now the centre of much business activity, owing to the fact that the Lewisburg & Tyrone R. R. passes through. The distance by rail to the county seat is twenty-four miles, by road, across Nittany mountains, about fifteen. The industries and business interests are represented by the Allison flouring mill, the creamery, four general stores, a furniture wareroom, and such other branches of trade and occupation as are to be found in a well equipped country town. The population of the neighborhood about six hundred, is amply provided with schools and churches, there being three of the former and five of the latter located in the village.


The leading business man of the town to-day is Hon. W. M. Allison, a descendent of the Allison's who came from Scotland about 1760, and settled in Spring Mills, where the subject of this biographical notice was born in 1850. His father Wm. Allison, Esq., was one of the associate judges of Centre county, and was closely identified with the history of Penn's Valley through his long and useful career, exercising an influence over a wide area of country, by his business energy and sterling worth. The Hon. W. M. Allison, the present head of the house, is a worthy scion of his distinguished predecessor. Associating himself with business enterprises, he developed the talent necessary to manage successfully a large estate, and to-day, besides his many interests, he owns thirteen hundred acres of the finest farming land in the valley. In 1889 he was elected to represent the interests of his native county in the Legislature. His religious tenets are those of the Presbyterian church.


Dr. F. H. Van Valzah, who has for many years been regarded as the most eminent physician in this locality, was born in 1847. His father F. R. Van Valzah, M. D., was practicing medicine in the county so far back as 1839, and attained an enviable reputation as a skilled practitioner. He located in Millheim in 1840, and settled afterwards in Spring Mills, where he remained until his death, which occurred in 1874. Dr. F. H. Van Valzah succeeded to a large and lucrative practice on the death of his esteemed father, which has been increased by his own excellent medical skill. He is one of Penn's Valley's most public-spirited citizens, and by reason of his professional skill, and large means, he wields an immeasurable influence in this part of the valley. He is one of the prominent supporters of the Presbyterian church at Spring Mills, and a contributor to all the various denominations.


A name which stands as the synonym for the popularity, honor and integrity of its owner, is that of Prof. D. M. Wolf, D. D. Dr. Wolf was born in Walker Township in 1837, and received the rudiments of his later scholarship at his native town, attending Aaronsburg Academy some time later, where he prepared for college. He was graduated from Franklin and Marshall college in 1863, and from this time on has filled many positions of trust in educational spheres. In 1872 he became pastor of the Bellefonte Reformed church, but resigned to accept the chair of Ancient Languages in his Alma Mater. Ill health compelled him to terminate this honorable vocation. After teaching for some time he was elected county superintendent. As an educator Dr. Wolf holds an enviable place in the esteem of hundreds of his pupils. He is still engaged in this vocation as principal of the Spring Mills Academy.


Justice of the Peace John A. Grenoble may well be reckoned among the solid business men of Spring Mills. Born not far from where he now resides, he has all his life been interested in his native town, and his father at his decease in the last year, made him one of his administrators. He was elected justice in 1894, receiving the indorsement of all the political parties. He is a member of the Reformed church.

John Shook, of Spring Mills, is also deserving of notice in this issue. As one of the owners of the "Spring Mills Creamery" he has contributed largely to the prosperity of the valley, by opening a market for one of its staple products. He is of genial disposition, kind in his deportment, and is held in high esteem among his fellows for his consistent Christian character. He is an adherent of the Lutheran church.

The name of Charles Miller is worthy of mention in this volume as an old resident, who enjoys the esteem of all respectable people in this section. Honest in his business relations, kindly in his deportment, his friends are legion. He has been officially connected with the M. E. church for almost fifty years, and still serves it in the capacity of trustee.

David Burrell and Jeremiah Condo are two well-known men in this section of the country. They served gallantly in the field during the civil war, and after being honorably discharged, they resumed their vocations in their native town.


Some men who boast of being "self made" are flat failures, but Sheriff Condo is a notable exception. He was born at Spring Mills in 1855, and comes from a stock known far and wide for the sturdiness of its character. The son of a blacksmith, he for a time in his earlier years, followed the occupation of his father. Then he tried clerking, and left the latter to become salesman for a Philadelphia firm, in which vocation he has been successful. In the Fall of 1893 Mr. Condo was elected sheriff of Centre County, which position he is now filling. He is a member of the Evangelical church, and a Mason. As sheriff he is one of the most popular officers ever in the service of the county, and has made a host of friends by his courteous and faithful discharge of duty.


Wm. Pealer, one of Spring Mills' solid business men, was born near Hublersburg in 1844. His parents were respectable, but poor, still they managed to afford their son the advantages of the common schools during the Winter, until he was eighteen years of age, when he attended the academies at Hublersburg and Pine Grove Mills. Having thoroughly equipped himself for pedagogical pursuits, he followed for three years with eminent success the profession of teaching.

His business career was begun in 1868, when he began to clerk for Major Fisher, at Penn Hall, but in three years he was promoted to be book keeper, and continued so for ten years. In 1882 he associated with J. D. Long, in business at Spring Mills, but continued in partnership only one year. On the dissolution of this partnership, Mr. Pealer opened up his present establishment, where he has continued a mercantile trade for twelve successive years. In 1883 he was appointed postmaster, and ten years later was again favored, which term he is now filling. He is the owner of considerable property here, and in Nittany valley, and is also one of the founders of the Spring Mills Creamery Co. He is a member and official of the Lutheran church.


W. R. From was born in Boalsburg in 1848. Twenty years later he engaged in milling in Woodward, and has followed that occupation ever since. At Spruce Creek he operated the mill in 1872, removing to Potter's Mills in 1874, where he followed his occupation for eight years, when he settled at Spring Mills, where he has since remained.


T. M. Gramley, at present one of the owners of the Spring Mills Creamery, was born in Brush valley. Having prepared himself for teaching, he followed that profession for many years with decided success. Having purchased an interest in the Spring Mills Creamery, he removed thither with his family, and purchased the Wilson homestead, where he at present resides. Assiduous in business, under his labors, the industry with which he is connected has flourished, and ranks among the leading establishments of its kind in the state.


J. G. Evans was born September 1, 1812, near Linden Hall, this county. April 1, 1816, his father moved to the farm which became the family homestead, a short distance south of Spring Mills. He was third in a family of twelve — six brothers, and six sisters — all of whom lived to mature age. In his twentieth year he went to Milton to learn plastering, which he followed successfully for twenty years. February 6, 1838, he was married to Rebecca, the youngest daughter of Judge Kryder, deceased, of Penn Township. They lived in George's valley near the Cross church until 1853, when they took possession of the old homestead, on which they spent the next fifteen years. His retirement was only nominal as he has been continuously active to the present. He has been an elder of the Salem Reformed church for many years, and has at various times represented the charge of Classis, and the Classis on the floor of Synod. February 6, 1888 they celebrated their golden wedding, and though almost at the close of the fifty-eighth year of their wedded life, they are still remarkably vigorous and active. Of their three sons the oldest, L. Kryder, is in the twenty-fifth year of his pastorate of Trinity Reformed church, Pottstown, Pa.; the second, J. Wells, is in possession of the old homestead, and the third, John M., is the successful pastor of the Denmark-Manor (Reformed) charge, Westmoreland County, Pa.


John D. Long, the subject of this sketch, was born in the town of Stroudsburg, Pa., February 12th, 1837. In 1841 his parents moved to Centre county, Pa., and located on a small farm a short distance northeast of Aaronsburg. His school days were very limited, as the greater part of his time was employed on the farms in the neighborhood until his 19th year, when he was apprenticed to Michael Nofsker, a noted carpenter and builder of his day, with whom he remained about one year, and then engaged with several other builders until the Spring of 1860, when he moved to Ohio, and in the following year located at Fort Wayne, Indiana. The war was just then commencing, and abandoning his trade, Mr. Long entered the 15th Indiana regiment June 14th, 1861, and participated in many lively skirmishes and several desperate and sanguinary engagements. At the fiercely contested battle of Murfreesboro, Tenn., Mr. Long was struck below the knee by a shell, shattering the bone almost to splinters. After his convalescence and discharge from the army, and owing to his wound, he was unable to resume his former occupation, and after considering the matter thoroughly, concluded that saddlery would be the best business he could engage in, in his then disabled condition.

Having a brother engaged in that business in Petersburg, a small village in Huntingdon County, Pa., he made arrangements with him to learn the trade, and move there in the Winter of 1864, and immediately embarked in his new undertaking. After obtaining sufficient knowledge of the trade, he succeeded his brother in the business, and remained in the village for several years. Returning again to Penn's Valley, Mr. Long commenced the saddlery business at Penn Hall, where he continued for some time, and then moved to a small building on the pike, a short distance below Spring Mills, but this location being rather inconvenient and the room too small, he secured a larger and more comfortable building near the railroad, where he continued until 1881, when he abandoned the saddlery trade entirely, and entering the mercantile world, became one of our most prominent and active business men, displaying his public spirit by being willing at all times to enter into any enterprise, encourage any new project or undertaking which would promote the interests and welfare of the town. Previous to the Rebellion, Mr. Long in politics rather inclined towards Democracy, but after the war, he became a staunch Republican, and a politician of some note, wielding considerable influence with the sturdy farmers of Penn's Valley, and at all times advocating the principles and policy of the Republican party. He never sought office, or courted political favors, and the only recognition he ever received for his services, was the appointment of postmaster at Spring Mills, under the administration of President Harrison. This position he ably filled, giving universal satisfaction to the public, and retiring from office, left a record that any one might be proud of. Mr. Long for the last few years has lived a retired life.


C. P. Long began his mercantile career in a building situated on the pike, just east of Spring Mills, at the age of 15 years. This building was formerly occupied by his father as a saddlery shop. In this room Mr. Long commenced business in May 1881, with a stock of candies valued at less than one dollar, and laid the foundation for his subsequent mercantile career. Here he remained until the following October, when he removed his business to the building at the northwest corner of the roads where Sinking creek forms a junction with Penn's creek, having use for only about one-half of the southern side of the room. Here he gradually increased his stock by carefully adding such merchandise as was most in demand, until he had accumulated quite a moderate stock of goods, and finally occupied the entire room. In this building he continued until December 15, 1888, when he purchased the stock and fixtures of G. R. Spigelmeyer, (now of "Racket" fame at Bellefonte) who then occupied the brick building known as Duncan's store throughout Penn's Valley. The store room Mr. Long greatly improved by enlarging, and making some considerable changes in the several departments. That accomplished, he applied himself closely to business, studying the tastes and wishes of his customers by constantly adding to his stock new and desirable goods and in a very brief period, commanded a large and satisfactory trade — the largest ever done on the site.

Towards the close of 1892, it was very evident that the store room was entirely too small for his rapidly increasing business, and that greater accommodations and a larger store room were absolutely necessary. Early in 1893, he opened negotiations with D. E. Bible for the purchase of his stock and property, situated on an elevation southeast of the town proper, and at the foot of Egg Hill. Here Mr. Bible had erected a very imposing dwelling and store room on the site formerly known as Grenoble's store, which was destroyed by fire a few years previous. After some little delay the sale was effected, and Mr. Long entered into possession. In the mean time, he had in successful operation a general store at State College, still in his possession under the supervision of J. F. Condo, a gentleman of experience and well qualified for the position of managing and conducting a large and rapidly increasing business. Early in the fall of 1895, Mr. Long purchased the stock of J. H. Holmes, a merchant of that town, and moving into the building consolidated both stocks. The store room being larger and more convenient than the one vacated, his facilities for doing business are very considerably greater. As his lease of the brick store did not expire for some months after his purchase of the Bible property, Mr. Long was proprietor and operated three stores at one time.

In addition to his other large interests, he has in operation an extensive brick yard, located south of the town and adjacent to the railroad, with all the necessary machinery. The clay used in the manufacture of these bricks is of a very superior quality, and found in large quantities on the premises. The kiln has a capacity for burning 200,000 bricks, and the yard when in full operation gives employment to about ten men. These works were erected more as a public enterprise than for any pecuniary benefit to be derived from the undertaking, as an incentive for others to operate — to entertain any project whereby the town would be improved and benefited. Any movement or scheme, any enterprise likely to be advantageous to Spring Mills, always found in Mr. Long a willing and strenuous advocate. Immediately on acquiring the Bible buildings, Mr. Long remodeled the entire structure, and greatly improved the dwelling attached by introducing many conveniences and rearranging the whole interior. The store room was enlarged by adding a warehouse or storage room of 20x25 feet at the western end of the building. Inclusive of this addition, the main store room is 48 x 108 feet, receiving light through four windows extending from top shelving to the ceiling. At the western end of the store, a room 25x30 feet is divided off and separated from the main room by heavy movable glass frames or sashes, and used exclusively for clothing, boots, shoes, hats, caps and wall paper. The entrance being a continuation of the central aisle of the store through a handsome doorway of 8 feet. A space of 10x15 feet on the northern side of this room, is partitioned off for the general offices. The desks being so arranged that Mr. Long has an unobstructed view of the whole interior of the store. The rooms are elegantly and artistically fitted up, handsomely papered throughout with embossed hangings of a very rich and delicate shading. The counters, shelving and general fixtures are of hard wood and finished in oil. For elegance of interior, conveniences and facilities for transacting business, this establishment will rank with any in Centre county.

The Methodist Episcopal church of Spring Mills was organized about 1836, and first worshipped in the school between the latter town and Penn Hall. Later a site was donated on the hill and a frame church was erected which was occupied until 1887, when the present site was improved with a modern building. The present pastor is R. W. Illingworth, A. M.

The organization of the Presbyterian church in Spring Mills dates back into the last century, the Allison family being adherents of that faith. In connection with the Methodists they erected what is now used as a town hall. Some years after they built a splendid edifice near the old site in which they have worshipped for many years. The cemetery that adjoins the church is used as a burial place by the community. The pastor in charge is Rev. Davis who was called to preside over the people within the last year, temporarily.

The members of the Lutheran church resident at Spring Mills until recently had no organization at that point, but a society was formed and at present they worship in the Presbyterian church. The pastor is Rev. Rearick of Centre Hall.

There are two Evangelical congregations in Spring Mills but only one church. That branch known as the Evangelical church, worshipping in the town hall, as the edifice which was erected before that late division occurred, was turned over to the Esher faction. Linn's history credits Gregg township with but one building; lately, however, this denomination has multiplied and there are now several well established societies. Some of the properties are still in dispute, but it is hoped that all difference will be harmoniously adjusted, and that this body of Christians will be as aggressive in good as in days gone by.

The adherents of the Reformed church have a neat edifice on Penns creek just east of the M. E. church. It was erected in 1891. The membership embraces many of the well-known men of this section. It is in the charge of Rev. Isenberg.

The academy at Spring Mills, under the supervision of Dr. Wolf, is one of the leading schools of the valley, and has always enjoyed a high reputation by reason of the great educational advantages it affords.

There is also located in Spring Mills a Grange Hall, owned by the Patrons of Husbandry, and a Knights of the Golden Eagle Castle, both of which have a large membership on their rolls, and are in a flourishing condition.

  1. Illingworth, Ralph W., A Passing Glance at Penn's Valley, Milton, PA: Milton Printing Co., 1896.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Cooper Street • Egg Hill Drive • Long Street • Penns Valley Road • Railroad Street • School Street • Sinking Creek Road • Water Street