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The Story of Darlington

Milestones Vol 25. No. 2

By Gladys L. Hoover

(Editor's Note: This "Short History of Darlington, "compiled by Chalmers Elder of Darlington, is continued in this series.)

An early postcard view of Darlington.

The Company who built the first railroad through Darlington was formed by a special act of the legislature of Pennsylvania, and bears the date of March 3, 1852, to build a railroad from the John Nickerson farm, (who willed his farm to his three slaves, Pompey, Tammer, and Betsy), to a place on the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad, now known as New Galilee. Thence by Darlington and the north fork of the Little Beaver Creek to the Cannel Mines in Cannelton. The charter allows an extension to the Ohio state line.

The act of the legislature provides penalties and rules, allows lateral branches, and also dividends twice a year; it prohibits their men, cars or engines to do any work on Sunday, and that lands are not to be purchased exceeding $200 per acre. The first directors were John White, John McCowan, Edwin, Morse, Atkinson, Martin, and Mathew Elder. They organized under the name of "The Darlington Cannel Coal Company," with capital stock of $150,000 to be raised by issue and sale of stock. The capital stock was divided into blocks of six thousand shares of twenty-five dollars each.

The railroad was completed to the Cannel Mines in 1855, the track being laid on 6 x 8 wood stringers in notched ties, using the iron strap rail, 1 x 2 x 3 inches spiked down on top of the wooden stringers. For some years the gondola cars were hauled from the mines to New Galilee by horses. The company then purchased a steam locomotive which was called the "Economy". It did a good job for several years. The cylinders were set at about a 45 degree angle and both attached to the wheels in exactly the same way. For that reason, it was possible for both to stop on dead center. When this happened, the engineer would have to get a crowbar and pry it off before the engine would start.

The company got into financial troubles and since their creditors were the Economite Society, they had to take over the company under the trusteeship of Henrici and Lentz. They operated it until 1880, when they found they were losing money, and sold it to the Pittsburgh, Lisbon and Western Railroad for $40,000. This transaction was a loss of $100,000 to the Society. At one time, the railroad was called The Pittsburgh, Marion, and Chicago. They had ambitious ideas and stopped at Lisbon, Ohio. The company, as it made the fill and grades west from Cannelton, hired the farmers close to the road to use their horses to pull the scrapers. In part pay, when the road was finished to Chicago they were to have a free round trip ticket. It never got further than Lisbon.

For the next 40 years, besides hauling freight, the company maintained passenger service. The passenger train made two round trips a day, and also hauled express and mail.

In 1920, the steam train was discontinued and its place was taken by a single car powered by an internal engine. This was discontinued in 1930. After the bridge across the Little Beaver Creek between Darlington and New Galilee (sometime in the thirties), the service from Signal to Lisbon, Ohio was discontinued. The terminus to the road now is Darlington on the east and Youngstown on the northwest.

The early settlers of western Pennsylvania were deeply religious. Many of them came here to escape the religious persecutions which raged at that time in Europe. The ones who came to this region were mostly either of Scotch-Irish or German decent. Therefore the history of Darlington would not be complete without the history of the churches which were formed here and some of the men who were prominent in them.

The first church to be organized in Darlington was the Mt. Pleasant Church. It was so called because the men who were instrumental in the organizing of it were from a place of that name further to the east in Westmoreland County. At the meeting of the Presbytery of Ohio at Chartiers Church, near Canonsburg, Oct. 25, 1796, the Rev. John McMillan and Thomas Marquis were appointed to supply "on the northwest side of the Ohio, on the second and third Sabbaths of November, 1796." The request for these men was no doubt made by a group of people who wished for a church to be established. However, the first record of the church as an organization is October 24, 1797. Dr. McMillan and Mr. Marquis may have organized this church in 1796. It is first recognized by the name of Mt. Pleasant in 1797. The ministers appointed to supply the church during 1797 and 1798 were Rev. McDonald and Rev. Mr. Patterson.

In the question of where to locate a house of worship, the people were directed by the Presbytery to place it not less than seven, nor more than eight miles from New Salem, and not less than four or more than five miles from Big Beaver. The first place selected for the church was on a part of what is now known as Wilson's Cemetery. In a small grove they built a small frame stand, which answered for a pulpit. In front ofit and on each side were erected rough sheds under which the congregation assembled. They also put up a 'coarse' log cabin which they occupied in stormy weather. Later they moved the tent to the slope of the hill a few rods east of the present building, and worshipped there for two seasons. But failing to obtain that lot, they finally obtained the piece of ground half mile east of town on what is now known as the John McCowan property. John Martin donated four or five acres to the church. They used this building for a number of years.

The next move they made was into the town and the building was 50 x 70 feet. It faced southwest and had one door in front and one on either side opening into the cross aisle. The pulpit stood opposite the front door. In front of the pulpit was a little platform with a font, upon which the leaders of the music stood. One would 'raise the tunes,' the other would 'line out two lines at a time,' and the whole congregation would join in the singing. It must be remembered that at that time many people had not had the opportunity to learn to read.

This building was remodeled in 1842 or 1843. Altogether the edifice was used at least one half century. The next building was in 1861 and was in use until 1963 when it was badly damaged by a storm and replaced by the present structure. The church was blessed by several pastors. The three who had the longest terms of service were Rev. Thomas Hughes, Rev. Henry Potter and Rev. Robert Henry. The present pastor is Rev. George VanLeuven. Anyone wishing more history of the Mt. Pleasant Church can find it in the files on that subject in the Historical Society building at Darlington.

The second oldest church in Darlington is the present Reformed Presbyterian Church. It was originally a split off the Mt. Pleasant Church in 1847. Members were known as the Free Presbyterians and were unique in the fact that they did not differ from the mother church on theological questions, but on one of practice, namely slavery. A large group both in the north and south who belonged to the Presbyterian USA believed that it was not in the Christian concept to either own slaves or in any manner engage in the slave trade.