History


The City of Beaver Falls occupies a plateau, fifty -five feet above the river. The immense perpendicular cliffs to the West, rising broadly to the height of two hundred feet, create a picturesque scene. This natural beauty of the landscape is only enhanced as the Beaver River runs through the valley created by the rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania. The three divisions of the Beaver River were named Upper Falls, Middle Falls and Lower Falls – the Middle Falls being now known as the City of Beaver Falls.

Originally occupied by the Delaware Indians who had relocated from the eastern part of the state, the Falls were now occupied by many who settled along the river to engage in trapping, exploring and seeking out their fortune. Although the first settlement of trappers, explorers and fortune-seekers proved to be temporary, the Economites of Harmony chose to settle south of Beaver Falls proper, they saw the promise of a community to be laid out and populated.

The water power of the Falls was soon recognized as a source for successful manufacturing and was utilized by General Daniel Brodhead, previously a commandant at Fort Pitt. On the day of the Land Act of April 3, 1792, vacant lands within the Commonwealth were offered for sale, and he took out two warrants on Walnut Bottom Run, opposite the Middle Falls.

Brodhead then sold the land in 1801 to David Hoopes, who along with others began to build mills. Hoopes, Townsend & Company erected a sawmill, which burnt down and was rebuilt. Later a flouring mill was added, the second of its kind in the valley. They erected a forge near the mills in 1804. However, before construction was completed, the property was sold to Isaac Wilson who completed the project in 1805. He sold half interest to Barker & Gregg in 1808 and the company became known as Isaac Wilson and Company. Once the blast furnace was completed, it operated making iron and stoves hollow-ware using kidney ore found in the ground. In April of 1812, Barker & Gregg purchased the other half interest in the property. The plants later became the property of Oliver Ormsby of Allegheny County who operated them successfully until financial depression in 1818 became so great that the furnaces were no longer profitable to operate and the land was no longer used.

In 1806, a town plot was laid out on this property by two brothers named Constable from Brighton, England. They got to name the new town and called it Brighton, in honor of their home. This name was retained for some years, but when a town was laid out on the east side of the Beaver River, which was first called East Brighton and afterwards New Brighton, the town on the west side came to be generally known as “Old Brighton” and continued to be designated so until the time when the Harmony Society became owners of the property on the West Side. The later place was thereafter called Beaver Falls (The History of Beaver County, Bausman p.667-68).

Revival of the area came in 1829 when James Patterson of Chester County purchased 1300 acres from Oliver Ormsby and did much to revive trade of the region with his varying enterprises. He built a flour mill with a capacity of 200 barrels a day and a cotton factory which employed thirty-five men and yielded 3,000 pounds of yarn a week.

In 1859, the Harmony Society had several mortgages on the property and purchased it at a sheriff’s sale for the sum of $34,500. A new survey of the area was made in 1866 which greatly enlarged the plot, establishing a large town. It was extended along the Beaver River about 3 miles. Beaver Falls was chartered as a borough in 1869 and the area grew into one of the most active manufacturing centers of western Pennsylvania under the guidance of the Harmony Society. It was stated that nothing was made that could not be produced by the factories that were found in the city of Beaver Falls. Years followed and many workers were proud to be a part of such an industrious and busy town. They raised churches, factories, businesses and schools. With the emergence of the Geneva College in 1848, their children were able to stay, worship, learn, and play in the town in which they had been raised.Thus, the quality of life was exceptional in Beaver Falls.

Many changes have occurred in the city of Beaver Falls, as in most towns in this part of the country. Yet, people still thrive here and consider Beaver Falls to be “home.”