Much of the final conformation of Patterson Heights, of Beaver
County, of Western Pennsylvania, and indeed of the whole Northern
Hemisphere, was a result of the great northern ice cap formed during the
glacial periods. Expanding and contracting through the millennia, like a monstrous gelid amoeba, it scoured the land beneath.
By the end of the last glacial period, 10,000 years ago, the wall
of ice impinged on the northwestern corner of Beaver County, the terminal
moraine extending from Koppel southwestward across the southern portion
of South Beaver Township to the present Ohio line.
The effects of the glacier were considerable, but the
foundations of our area were planted in rock laid down some 300,000,000
years ago, prior even to the formation of the Atlantic Ocean. Sand and
clay, later under pressure to become shale and sandstone, were deposited
as erosion products from a massive mountain range to the east. The coal
and petroleum deposits found in more modern times are testament to the
periods when lush vegetation covered the land, and limestone beds were
formed on the exoskeletons of shellfish during periods of submergence
below the sea.
The Homewood Anticline, a fold and resultant thickening in an
underground sandstone layer near Homewood, bears witness to the
formation of the Atlantic Ocean and westward tectonic movement of the
American continent. The east coast's moving faster than the west resulted
in buckling of the surface, and the Appalachian Mountains are a present
day manifestation. Underground, the Anticline represents a result of the
same asynchronous movement.
The Allegheny Plateau, of which Patterson Heights and Beaver
County are a part, lifted above the surrounding area, floating on a sea of
lava. The elevation, erosive forces, and rain created a generous system of
waterways, even in pre-glacial times. However, the drainage was north
into a large ancestral Erie Basin. The Monongahela River flowed north,
and was joined by the lower Allegheny at Pittsburgh, and continued north
up the Ohio River Valley, just as today. At the Beaver, however, the flow
continued north, instead of south as it does now, through the present
Beaver and Mahoning River valleys and thence through the Grand River
Valley to Lake Erie.
The ancestral Ohio River arose south of Wheeling, and flowed
north along the Ohio River Valley, joining the Monongahela near Wampum.
The middle and upper Allegheny Rivers, rather than flowing into the lower,
as today, also flowed north, and emptied directly into the Erie Basin.
A massive upheaval of land north of Beaver County and the
encroaching glaciers dammed the northern flow, and for years much of
Southwestern Pennsylvania was covered by Lake Monongahela.
Eventually, glacial waters found their way to the Mississippi and Ohio River
valleys, thus draining Lake Monongahela, and resulting in our present
Although the glacial advance had more effect on the lands
north of us, much sand and clay washed downstream subsequent to glacial
melting. The deposition of these products and rapid down-cutting, as the
result of flow reversal and glacial melt, resulted in the high terraces along
the lower Beaver, on which towns, such as Beaver Falls, were built.
From "Patterson Heights Borough: The First 100Years"
By James W. Smith
Those of us who, in our youth, scoured the Alum Rocks, and overturned shale along the sides of the Incline searching for Indian arrowheads, had no idea of the age of our discoveries; but some of these artifacts may have dated to the time of the Monongahela people. These prehistoric denizens of Beaver County have been dated back more than 6,000 years, and may have represented the first citizens of Patterson Heights. W know little of these prehistoric people, however, for they disappeared without a trace sometime early in the seventeenth century.
The flints we unearthed, however, were probably the work of the Delaware, who migrated to this area in the early- to mid-eighteenth century. Dispossessed of their land along the Delaware River in eastern Pennsylvania by the Iroquois, they were forced further westward by continuing pressure from white settlers. Their initial settlement in this area was on the Allegheny River in Kittanning in 1725, but near the middle of the century, the principle part of the tribe settled at Sawkunk—present day Bridgewater—and Kuskuskee, near the confluence of the Mahoning and Shenango Rivers, where they form the Beaver. The Delaware were joined during this period by the Shawnee, another serially dispossessed people, and remnants of Wyandott, Mohican, and other tribes. The powerful Iroquois nation maintained a presence in the area as well, and, according to Washington’s Journal, such famous chiefs as Tanacharison and Monakatoocha, resided at Logstown.
The Seven Years’ War, as it was known globally, or the French and Indian War, as it was known in this country, forced the Indians to take sides, and the Iroquois maintained their longstanding allegiance to the British. The Delaware and Shawnee, long the enemy of the Iroquois, aligned with the French. Their brief occupation of Beaver County ended in 1758, when, following the fall of Fort Duquesne, General Forbes drove them into Mahoning County and other parts north.
The settlers of this area were not to be so easily freed of Indian conflicts, however. Pontiac aroused the Indians in 1763, and the frontier was again terrorized until the campaign of Colonel Bouquet, who camped in this area at Tuscarawas before proceeding to eastern Ohio to inflict an overwhelming defeat on the Indians. In 1774, the acquisitive governor of Virginia, Lord Dunsmore, attempted to clear the upper Ohio of Indians. His goal was the takeover of much of present day southwestern Pennsylvania, including the southern portion of Beaver County. The plan backfired badly, however, and in the end the Indians countered by driving most of the settlers east of the Monongahela.
The shot fired at Lexington, and heard “round the world,” reverberated less resoundingly in the west, as the main conflict never spilled over the Alleghenies. The Iroquois, however, remaining faithful to their British allies, increased their raids on the settlers. At this point, a name to become famous in Beaver County history was introduced with the appointment of Brigadier General Lachlan McIntosh as commander of the Western Department, headquartered at Fort Pitt. McIntosh arrived with a large contingent, charged with subduing the western Indians, and capturing the British garrison at Fort Detroit.
In the fall of 1778, in preparation for his proposed campaigns against the Indians, McIntosh established his now famous fort at the site of present Beaver. That this undertaking was not universally acclaimed may be deduced from the words of Colonel Daniel Brodhead in a letter to General Armstrong:
“…and it was owing to the General’s determination to take Detroit, that the very romantic Building, called Fort McIntosh, was built by the hands of hundreds who would have rather fought than wrought.”
This is the same Daniel Brodhead who was a member of McIntosh’s staff, and who would relieve him in the following year as commander of the Western Department. He was also the same Daniel Brodhead for whom Brodhead’s Road, the first road from this area to Fort Pitt, was named. In 1794, he would purchase 800 acres of land extending westward from the Beaver River and including the lower end of Beaver Falls, much of Patterson, and the present-day Patterson Heights.
Unfortunately, the cessation of the Revolution in 1783 did not mean the end of the Indian troubles along the frontier. The Treaty of Fort McIntosh in 1785, along with that at Fort Stanwix (Rome, NY) the year before, negotiated the purchase of most of Western Pennsylvania from the Indians, as well as the return of prisoners from Fort Detroit. These treaties represented the first made between the Indians and the United States, but were promptly ignored by the Indians. Said Colonel Brodhead:
“…and the Indians of the Miami confederation gave great annoyance. The army of General Josiah Harmar (1789) and that of General Arthur St. Clair (1791), which had been sent against this confederation, had met with frightful defeat, as a consequence of which the national government was humiliated and the whole country plunged in gloom.”
Emboldened by success, the Indians increased their harassment along the frontier. The situation became intolerable, and President Washington selected the Commander in Chief of the Army of the United States, Anthony Wayne, to lead an expedition against the Indians. Known as “Mad Anthony” for his tremendous energy and his extreme daring in battle, Wayne began organizing an army known as the “Legion of the United States” at Pittsburgh in 1792. The army proceeded down the river and camped that winter at the now famous site of Legionville in Beaver County. In the spring of 1793, he continued on to Fort Washington (Cincinnati), and finally gave the Shawnee (et al) a severe mauling at the Battle of Fallen Timbers on the Maumee. The Treaty of Greenville ended the Indian hostilities north of the Ohio, and opened the entire area for further settlement.
Driven by the true pioneering spirit, James Patterson arrived in the Beaver Falls area, with his family, in 1829 aboard a Conestoga wagon. True to the Scotch-Irish penchant for entrepreneurship, he had packed the latest machinery and was looking for manufacturing prospects in Western Pennsylvania. Available for purchase were 1300 acres along the west bank of the Big Beaver, about four miles from its mouth. The location was ideal for manufacturing, the then designated middle falls of the Beaver providing a readily available cheap source of water power.
General Daniel Brodhead had succeeded General Lachlan McIntosh as commander of the Western Department in 1779. Headquartered at Fort Pitt, he was in an ideal position to assess the vast uninhabited lands in this region. When the Land Act of 1792 opened for sale and settlement the lands lying north of the Ohio and west of the Allegheny Rivers, Brodhead moved with alacrity and
"...at once applied for a warrant for two tracts of 400 acres each, embracing the 'black walnut bottoms,' the land upon which the future metropolis (sic) was laid out."
Although Brodhead apparently meant to settle the area, he, and all others, were prevented from doing so by the Indian wars of the Northwest, which did not end until the Indians' defeat at the hands of General "Mad Anthony" Wayne.
The land did not lie fallow until the coming of Patterson, however. In the 1800's Beaver County was formed from parts of Allegheny and Washington Counties, and divided into six townships: North Beaver, a strip of land later ceded in the formation of Lawrence County in 1849, South Beaver and Sewickley, both north of the Ohio and divided by the Beaver River into South Beaver on the west and Sewickley on the east; First Moon and Second Moon, both south of the Ohio, divided by Raccoon Creek; and Hanover in the far southwestern corner. The Brodhead purchases were located entirely in South Beaver, and in 1801 were sold to Daniel Hoopes for $3000.00. The 1794 survey delineating in part the land purchased by Hoopes, and probably including Patterson Heights, states:
"Beginning at a black oak on the bank of said creek, then by land of Daniel Hill's west 344 perches to a maple thence by land of James Bryant north 210 perches to a stake and thence by land in the name of Jonathan Hill and the aforementioned survey of Joseph Williams each 400 perches to a black oak in the said creek and then down the several courses thereof to the place of beginning, containing 440 acres and the usual allowances."
Hoopes Townsend and Company took possession of the above along with an adjacent similar plot. One historian describes the future Beaver Falls along with part of the future Patterson Heights at that time:
"The town occupies mainly a plateau, some 50-60 feet above the creek, and thus has excellent natural drainage. Hills on either side, especially to the west, rise boldly to a height of perhaps 200 feet with immense perpendicular cliffs, making very wide and picturesque scenery."
Hoopes Townsend and Company erected a saw mill, a flour mill, and a forge. The site and businesses subsequently passed through the hands of Isaac Wilson, Messrs. Barker and Craig, and finally absentee owner Oliver Ormsby of Allegheny County. A blast furnace had been added in 1807 and for a time business flourished. About this time a town plan was laid out by the brothers Constable from England, who named the site for their home town, Brighton. When James Patterson arrived in 1829, he was 30 years old. Immigrating from County Down a six weeks of age with his parents, he had lived in Albany until their deaths and had then moved to Philadelphia with his sister. A successful stint in manufacturing was followed by his exodus to Western Pennsylvania.
Patterson found the once thriving community in an advanced state of depression, resulting from the nation's first great financial crisis of 1819, and a scarcity of timber, causing the price of charcoal to render the forge non-profitable. Patterson changed all of this, however, and according to Richard in the 1888 History of Beaver County:
"The same year he (Patterson) made the purchase of Mr. Ormsby of some 1300 acres and began at once to rebuild its shattered fortunes. The revival of business was instrumental in circulating vast sums of money throughout the country in exchange for wheat, wool, etc."
Although the future township and heights were to bear his name, the focus of Patterson's activity was obviously the lower portion of what is now Beaver Falls. He eventually erected a flour mill, a cotton mill, a cooper shop, a saw mill, and a charcoal furnace, each with varying degrees of success. He was also credited with building the first dam on the Beaver River. He served as one of the early postmasters of Beaver Falls (then Brighton), and when a branch of the U.S. Bank was located in New Brighton, he was named one of the directors.
On July 4, 1849, a plan for Brighton (now the lower end of Beaver Falls) was laid out by Patterson and accepted by the local Justice of the Peace. Although the names have changed, the street plan is the same as today.
Despite taking possession of the property in 1829, Patterson was to spend the next 35 years attempting to clear the title. In his own words and speaking in the third person:
"Mr. Patterson had great difficulty in consummating the purchase with Mr. Ormsby, in consequence that he [sic] and the other owners of General Brodhead's title to the land having piled up a bill of $10,000 damages against the General....The General's heirs would not make deed without this balance being paid to them. Mr. Patterson, to avoid lawsuits and trouble, agreed finally to pay the balance due to heirs of General Brodhead. Notwithstanding all of this, he was destined to contend at lawthrough many vexatious costly and damaging lawsuits..."
Finally, in 1865, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the last of these suits in Patterson's favor. The arsenal at Harper's Ferry had been destroyed in 1861 and Congress needed to establish a national armory somewhere in the west. Despite strong lobbying, Rock Island, Illinois, was chosen over Beaver Falls. Again in Patterson's own words:
"Having failed in his last effort to make sale of the whole property to the United States Government for armory and a foundry for big cannon, Mr. Patterson surrendered the property to the Harmony Society..."
From "Patterson Heights Borough: The First 100Years"
By James W. Smith