- Next meeting: To be announced.
- 6:30 p.m.
Join us in preserving our rich history. Volunteer for the Historical Society Committee. Donations of historical materials welcome!
“Kirwan Heights Industrial District Explored” by John F. Oyler
2016 Historical Society Meeting Minutes
- March 15, 2016 Minutes
- May 17, 2016 Minutes
- June 21, 2016 Minutes
Members Currently in Formation
The Collier Township Historical Society shall arrange to collect various historical documents, property and other items, which it shall receive and collect on behalf of the Township of Collier, which shall become the final owner of any items collected and or documented. For more information, please call the Township Office at 412-279-2525. The Collier Township Historical Society adopted bylaws on June 21, 2016. Historical Society By Laws
Brigadier General John Neville
John Neville was born in Prince William (now Fauquier) County, Virginia, on July 26, 1731. His father was Joseph Neville, Sr., and his mother was Elizabeth Bohannan.
In 1754 he married Winifred Oldham (1736-1797), and that same year, he served with George Washington in the ill-fated campaign against the French at Jumonville. This defeat at Ft. Necessity marked the beginning of the French and Indian War, and later, in Europe.
In 1755 he served under General Edward Braddock in the unsuccessful attack on Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh). Presley Neville was born in 1755 at the family home in Winchester, Virginia. There John became a landowner, a Justice of the peace and sheriff of Frederick County, and Vestryman of the Episcopal Church. Amelia was also born in Winchester, in 1763. Three daughters did not survive. Presley graduated in 1775 from the University of Pennsylvania with high honors in French classics.
The Virginia Provincial Council set John to command Ft. Dunmore (Pitt) in 1775. The dispute between Virginia and Pennsylvania over boundary lines was settled in 1777. He remained there until 1777, when, as a colonel of the Fourth Virginia Regiment, he served at the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Germantown and Monmouth (and Valley Forge?). Presley served as Marquis Lafayette’s aide-de-camp for two years. Both John and Presley were captured in the Battle of Charleston in 1780. Following his release in 1782, Presley married Nancy Morgan, daughter of General Daniel Morgan.
In 1783 John was brevetted a Brigadier General by the Continental Congress, and he was elected to the Superior Executive Council of Pennsylvania.
Involvement with Churches
Since there was no church structure for the Episcopal congregation, a frame church was erected in 1790 on William Lea’s Kings-grant land, supported by the Neville family and other neighbors. Neville also sponsored the seminary education of Francis Reno in nearby Canonsburg, which led to Reno’s ordination in 1791, and his call to be the first resident Episcopal priest at St. Luke’s Church.
John Neville was called by President George Washington to be Inspector of Revenue for this district, to demonstrate that the excise tax on distilled spirits initiated in 1791 by Alexander Hamilton could be collected somewhere west of the Allegheny Mountains. Because frontier churches were also community meeting places, perhaps St. Luke’s Church was a meeting place for Federalist supporters, “The Friends of Order.” The anti-Federalists, “The Friends of Liberty,” largely Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, did utilize Mingo Creek Presbyterian Church for their meetings.
In 1794, Neville was rebuffed by irate farmers on Tuesday, July 15 when he and Marshal David Lenox tried to arrest William Miller. Angry farmers on July 16 challenged Neville to resign his Commission and destroy all tax records. Young Oliver Miller was killed. On Thursday, July 17, 500 Anti-Federalist farmers attack Neville’s mansion, named Bower Hill, and after their leader, Major James McFarlane was killed, the mansion was burned down. This insurrection is called the Whiskey Rebellion. Neville and other plantation owners in the Chartiers Valley moved away. Neville went to Pittsburgh and to Montour’s Island in the Ohio River, which he renamed Neville’s Island.
Death & Burial
John Neville died July 29, 1803. He and Winifred (1797) were buried in the burial ground at Trinity Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh. In 1900, their graves were moved to Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, due to commercial development in the city.
More information can be obtained form the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.
Formation of Collier Township
Brief History Beginning in 1875
- January 12, 1875 – A petition of citizens of Robinson, North Fayette, and South Fayette was presented in court for redistribution of territory comprised within their limits. J. B. Stilley, Captain John Gilfillan and Alexander D. Burn were appointed to take this matter under consideration.
- February 26, 1875 – J. B. Stilley, Captain John Gilfillan and Alexander Burns reported in favor of forming a new township.
- May 11, 1875 – The measure was adopted.
- June 7, 1875 – By a decree of court, the new township was formed. Collier Township was named after the Honorable Fredrick H. Collier of the common pleas bench of county courts.
December 1911 – Collier Township became a first-class township.
- First Minutes of a Collier Township meeting was December 18, 1911.
- First Township Commissioners were:
- P. F. Hormel, President
- J. R. Dillon, Vice President
- J. J. Walker, Secretary ProTem
- Peter Klein
- James Lane.
- First Township Solicitor – J. F. Wallace – was appointed December 18, 1911 to a one-year term. Salary was $300 per year.
- December 28, 1911 – Special Board of Commissioners meeting designated the Hotel McGrogan in Walkers Mill as the official meeting place. Meetings were to be held the first Tuesday of each month at 1:30 p.m.
- First Township Clerk – J. Scott Walker – appointment date unknown, but as of January 3, 1912 he is listed on the minutes. Salary $200 per year.
- First Township Road Supervisor – H. W. Walk – appointed February 13, 1912 with a salary of $70 per month ($840 per year), nine hours to constitute a day. Day Laborers received $1.80 per day, nine hours to constitute a day, and two men with a four-horse team in a road scraper were paid $10 per day, nine hours to constitute a day.
- Dedication of Current Township Building – October 17, 1987 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. but the first official Board of Commissioners meeting was held October 6, 1987 in the new meeting room.
- Summer 1999 – Flag and Veterans Monument started at Collier Township Building.
- Fall 1999 – Panhandle Trail – dedication of first mile October 31, 1999.
June 16, 2000 – Dedication of Phase II of the Monument and Celebration of Collier Township’s 125th year.
Isaac Walker of Walker Mill, PA
Presented with notes by Charles M. Ewing – Revised 1994 by Jerry D. Leeper
The following narrative was written at an early date by Isaac Walker, of Walkers Mill, Penna. While but a small scrap in the records of the western movement as a whole, it is, however, an important contribution to the perspective of that horrible picture of the Indian wars as they affected our pioneer stock. The narrative as now presented is a verbatim copy of the original manuscript. When the transcript was made some forty years ago, the original document was in the possession of the late Mr. William Green, of Boyce Station, Penna.
Gabriel & Isaac Walker
Gabriel and Isaac Walker were born in Lancaster County, Penna. Gabriel in 1735 and Isaac in 1746. They emigrated in 1772 and purchased land adjacent to and west of the Ewing tract. Gabriel built his cabin on Robinson Run, and Isaac built his near the confluence on Scott’s Run and Robinson Run. For several years after settlement Isaac traveled back and forth to Lancaster Co. in the fall and spring for lead, tinware, axes, etc., which at that time were much in demand, the country being an unbroken wilderness. The only means of conveyance was by pack horse, the road, only a trail over the mountains and through the valleys.
Colonel H. Benton has said: “The Buffalo and the Elk were the first engineers in the art of road making.” In 1779 Isaac married Mary (Stewart) Richardson, whose husband had been killed by the Indians on the Loyal Hanna. He brought his new wife to his western cabin where they settled down to the joys and hardships of pioneer life. (Note) Gabriel Walkers cabin was located near the present Rennerdale Station, and Isaac’s near the old Walker home at Walkers Mill. Mrs. Richardson’s husband, William Richardson, was tomahawked and scalped by the Indians, November 2, 1777, three miles from Ligonier, PA.
“Shortly before this the Revolutionary War broke out and the Indians were incited by the British government to make war on our white settlers. A reward of $8 apiece was offered for every scalp taken. This barbarity continued to the close of the war, and was a disgrace to the English nation.” WALKER 39
“In September, 1782 a band of Indians, about twenty-five in number, approached the cabin of Gabriel Walker. They concealed themselves nearby, intending to surprise the family at dinner. An intervention of providence saved them from destruction, two travelers with guns on their shoulders came at this time, Indians are a cowardly race, and these waited to do their bloody work until the travelers and extra guns had taken their departure. Before this occurrence, however, the younger members of the family including the bound boy Bill Harkins, were send to hoe Timothy Grass in a field near the house. After seeing the strangers leave, Mr. Walker started to the field, and while on his way saw the Indians creeping toward the children. He called to them to run as the Indians were coming. They started to run but were soon captured by the Indians. Five children were taken prisoners, but Mr. Walker made his escape. Two Indians pursued Bill Harkins, but not being swift on foot ran to the corn field and through it to Robinson Run, which stream he followed down to the Ewing Fort over two miles away, where he spread the alarm.”
“Mrs. Walker was in the house with two children when the alarm was given, she started to make he escape, snatching up her baby to run, but the other child said, “Mother don’t leave me for the Indians,” so she grasped them both, and under the cover of the high weeds back of the house she managed to conceal herself and so made her way to the fort. Young Harkins in his flight also gave the alarm to Isaac Walker, who also with his family made their way to the fort.”
Woodville State Hospital
The information and photographs on this page were written and provided by Anna Murphy. Thank you for your contributions.
Woodville State Hospital History
The Woodville State Hospital opened in 1854 and closed in 1992 after 138 years. The Woodville State Hospital was located in Collier Township between Hilltop Road and Thoms Run Road. When it was first established, it housed the poor but later on became a home for the mentally ill. At its peak, the Woodville State Hospital housed more than 2,300 mentally ill patients. At the time it closed, Woodville housed around 460 patients.
Although the hospital closed in 1992, the State considered closing it previously. The Welfare Department proposed closing Woodville in 1983 but many people lobbied to keep it open. In 1984, Dixmont State Hospital was closed instead. A few years later, Karen F. Snider who was the deputy secretary for mental health in the state Department of Public Welfare at the time, recommended to close Woodville State Hospital. She said that she made that suggestion because Woodville Hospital and Mayview Hospital were closest together in the state system of 14 facilities. Governor Robert Casey was facing a projected $1 billion state budget deficit so he made the decision to close the hospital and consolidate its services with Mayview by June 30, 1992.
Preparing for Closure
The closing of Woodville State Hospital affected various stakeholders. The Woodville State Hospital’s patients were worried about moving. They were worried that they would not have the same doctors who knew them personally and treated them very well. Also they were worried that there would be changes in their medications. To the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the closing meant saving five million dollars and to Allegheny County it meant a challenge to secure as much money as possible for the mental ill. To the workers and the union that represented them, it meant lobbying to make sure that no one lost their job.
In the months before the closing and during the closing, Woodville stopped accepting new patients. Their current patients were evaluated to determine where they would be placed. When the hospital finally closed, the patients were discharged to either Mayview State Hospital in South Fayette or to community programs. Today, all that is left is a cemetery where some of the patients of the Woodville State Hospital that passed away are buried.
Woodville State Hospital Cemetery
Although Woodville State Hospital no longer exists, the Woodville State Hospital Cemetery does. The cemetery has rows of concrete markers where the patients that passed away over the years are buried. On the top of each concrete marker/gravestone there is a number instead of the name. The Woodville State Hospital kept record of each patient that was buried and what their number was. However, when Woodville closed the hospital the records went missing. Today, about 200 of the records have been retrieved.
Over time, the cemetery was overgrown by plants that surrounded it. The cemetery is located right next to and partially in the woods. Recently Collier Township, with the help of volunteers, has been clearing out the overgrown plants in the cemetery and removing trees that are in the way. Now if you visit the cemetery, you can easily see and access the gravestones.
Finding a Gravestone
If you know someone or know of someone that was buried in the Woodville Cemetery you can look on the list of records for their name. If they are on the list, the list will provide you with the number of the gravestone in which they were buried.