by *Union County Historical Society
The borough of Mifflinburg is on land received from the Penn Proprietors by Ensigns Foster and McMeen for service in the French and Indian War. They sold the land to George Nagle. The McMeen tract then passed to Elias Youngman, a hatter, and his wife Catharina (daughter of George Nagle) in 1781.
In 1792, Elias Youngman laid out Youngmanstown (“Younkman’s Stettle”). The surveyed town began where South Third and Fourth streets meet, continued north on Third to Walnut, west to Seventh, south to Green and east back to Third, encompassing Chestnut and Market, Fourth (John), Fifth (High) and Sixth (Catherine) streets. A spring ran through town, providing water for the residents.
By March 1793, Youngman had sold 32 town lots, 60 by 120 feet each, and 56 outlying lots of 1 acre each. That same year, Youngman has 208 acres, two cows, two horses and one still.
George Rote purchased the Foster tract. In 1775 he had 30 acres farmland, two horses, five cows, nine sheep and one servant. Rote had surveyor Frederick Evans lay out a town in 1797 that became known as Rotestown or Rhodestown. The lots were of differing sizes, depending on the purchasers’ wishes.
Residents in 1793, living in log houses with perhaps a log stable or shop, included Thomas and Elias Youngman, gunsmith John Dreisbach, blacksmith John Earnhart, mason Ludwig Getgen, weaver Henry Longabaugh, tavern keeper Martin Withington, storekeepers Robert Holmes and John Irvin, tailors Henry Neal and Jacob Welker, carpenters Nicholas Sampsel and Christopher Wagner, jobbers Jonathan Holmes, Nicholas Reeder and William Welker; and storekeepers Robert Holmes, John Irvin and George Youngman.
While goods and raw materials arrived from the coast and Europe, early towns were largely self-sufficient.
By 1796 the town had a shoemaker, William Black; nailor Michael Bartges; saddler Nathan Evans; tanner John Leighty; cropper Henry Noll; another tavern keeper, Kimber Barton; another tailor, Charles Ross; and another carpenter, Michael Lyman. George Youngman was commissioned a justice of the peace. He became postmaster in 1798, when the post office was established.
Youngmanstown was the largest town in Buffalo Valley by 1799. Newcomers were clockmaker John Ely, school teacher George Paget, wheelwrights John Patterson and Andrew Patton, and brewer Henry Hassenplug (the only brewer in the county).
Other new taxable residents were shoemakers James Ayers, John Carmony and Peter Young; tanners Moses Carothers and Daniel Clark; jobbers Adam Clark, Michael Colins, Patrick Moss and James Skiles; farmers Christopher Eilert and Christopher Wagner, laborer Simon George, joiners Christian Derr, John Gibbons and Michael Layman; coopers Adam and Nathan Herring, carter Phillip Peters, tailors Jacob Crotzer, Rudy Nicolas, Jacob Walker, Charles and George Russ; blacksmith Jacob Schoch, carpenters Michael Schoch and John Crotzer, tavern keepers James Foster and Richard VanBuskirk, hatter John Webb, and Jacob Rockey.
By 1802, schoolteacher Christopher Derring, silversmith Peter Withington and surveyor Frederick Gutelius had come to Youngmanstown. Gutelius would become a justice of the peace, and county commissioner in the newly-formed Union County in 1813.
In 1827 Youngmanstown and Rotestown were incorporated into the borough of Mifflinburg (for Thomas Mifflin at right, the first governor of Pennsylvania). There is a bend in the streets where the two towns joined.
Mifflinburg was a Hub
Mifflinburg was a hub of business in the 1800s. In 1825, a turnpike joined Mifflinburg east to Lewisburg and Northumberland, and west to Aaronsburg and Bellefonte. The first railroad from Lewisburg to Mifflinburg was built in 1871. The Lewisburg Center and Spruce Railroad Company, by 1885, ran to Laurelton, Spring Mills and Lemont, where it connected with the Bellefonte and Tyrone Railroad.
As was the case in other towns in central Pennsylvania, residents came and went in Mifflinburg. Older families’ children moved west to the new territories. Newcomers and new occupations joined the population.
Buggy manufacturing began in Mifflinburg in the 1840s and soon became an important industry, eventually supporting a large portion of the population at the shops of the Berry Bro’s, F. Brown, the Gutelius’s, J. Hoover, A. Hopp, W. Hursh, D. Miller, D. Moss, and the Taylors. The skills of woodworkers, blacksmiths, carpenters, wheelwrights, tanners, painters, upholsterers and many others were needed to make a buggy, carriage or sleigh.
Quality work, imaginative and aggressive salesmen, and customer service (making to order and for the needs of specific communities) influenced Mifflinburg’s buggy-making success. Buggies were driven by horses to many area towns and later on sent via rail to distant states. In 1899, the various buggy works made more than 2,000 buggies, carriages and sleighs, which were sold all across the U.S. The community thrived.
But this success was not to last. The automobile was soon to become the vehicle of choice. With the advent of the auto industry in the early 1900s, some buggy manufacturers turned to the production of wooden auto bodies, which sustained them into the 1920s.
The history of Mifflinburg’s buggy works is presented by the Mifflinburg Buggy Museum, which preserves and interprets the original William Heiss coachworks building, buggies, and tools associated with the trade.
Learn more about Mifflinburg’s history at the Herr Memorial Library in Mifflinburg and at the Union County Historical Society in Lewisburg. *Elaine Wintjen is on staff at the Union County Historical Society.
For more information, call 570-524-8666 or email hstoricl @ ptd.net.