Hopewell Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania powder mill

The following excerpt is from Rupp's 1846 book "The History and Topography of Dauphin, Cumberland, Franklin, Bedford, Adams, and Perry Counties". It indicates that in 1840 Bedford County had a powder mill where two workmen produced 4,000 pounds of gunpowder with a capital investment of $800.00. Powder was used for rock blasting in mines and road construction, in addition to being used as the propellant for firearms.

The following item is from the 1848 printing of the 1844 book "A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America". At least some of the contents of the book are based on the 1840 census.

The following excerpt is from the Hopewell Township portion of the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania". It describes the approximate location of an old powder mill in Hopewell Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. I don't doubt the basic premise of the one-time existence of an old powder mill, but the alleged circa 1756 construction date is in my opinion difficult to believe. That was a period of horrific raids against the civilian population of Pennsylvania and Maryland by French-allied Indians. These raids drove much of the surviving population eastward for safety, and the year of 1756 was especially bad until the British counterattacked at Kittanning in September. The raids came from the west and penetrated far eastward of what is now Bedford County. In 1757 some of my own family members were killed and others were captured in Berks County. I cannot imagine anyone starting a new powder mill enterprise during that dark and bloody period in what was then part of the far western frontier.

The following image from the 1877 atlas of Bedford County shows the location of the referenced Brollier sawmill. The approximate location of the sawmill is roughly 40.053341, -78.3511982.

The following excerpt from the 1861 Walker map of Bedford County shows the approximate site of the powder mill being used as a sawmill, with a Brollier living nearby. There is no mill symbol at this location on the circa 1819-ish Melish-Whiteside manuscript map of Bedford County.

The Whiskers' 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" lists various powder mill operators in Hopewell Township, as follows:

  • William Reynolds, who died in 1769. The booklet also states that he is identified with a mill (type not specified) and a grist mill on a 1768 Cumberland County tax list.
  • Robert Woodcock, 1812 to 1824, $440.00 value. The booklet indicates that Woodcock's powder mill is probably the one described in the 1884 book as preceding the Brollier sawmill.
  • (Widow) Rebekah Alexander, 1829.
  • Thomas Alexander, circa 1829 to 1832, $600.00 value.
  • John Lane, circa 1835.
  • Alexander Reedy, 1838, $200.00. The booklet indicates he had two powder mills, and seems to imply that one of those powder mills was in Wells Township in what is now Fulton County and was formerly owned by Jared Osborne.
  • Joshua Edwards, circa 1838, $232.00 value.

    Because of the values listed, some of the above names seem to be based on tax records. The Whiskers' 1983 booklet does not imply that all the Hopewell Township powder mill operators it lists were associated with the powder mill at Tatesville.

    Since the powder mill operation dates listed above span many years, perhaps one should understand how the limits of Hopewell Township changed over time. The 1884 book states, "Hopewell township was organized in October, 1773, from a part of Barree. Barree was one of the original townships of Cumberland county prior to the formation of Bedford county in 1771. Hopewell, as organized, included Hopewell township, as it now is, all of Broad Top and Liberty and a great part of Huntingdon county. It was territorially large enough for a county of itself." Huntingdon County was formed on September 20, 1787, reducing the size of Hopewell Township considerably. The 1884 book also states, "Broad Top township was organized from a part of Hopewell, about the year 1834." and states, "Liberty Township was organized about 1845."

    The little I have found about individuals who may be the powder mill operators listed in the 1983 booklet follows:

    Robert Woodcock
    I did not find a Robert Woodcock household in the 1810 census of Bedford County.

    I found two Robert Woodcock households in the 1820 census of Bedford County, both in Belfast Township. On modern roads, it is about 18 miles from Tatesville to the nearest point in present-day Belfast Township, which is now in Fulton County.

    John Lane
    In a transcript of the 1830 census of Hopewell Township, a John Lane household has one male in the 70 to 80 age group, one male in the 20 to 30 age group, one male in the up to five age group, two females in the 20 to 30 age group, and three females in the up to five age group.

    No John Lane household appears in a transcript of the 1840 census of Bedford County.

    Alexander Reedy
    In a transcript of the 1820 census of Hopewell Township, an Alexander Reed household has one male in the 26 to 44 age group, one male in the 16 (sic) to 26 age group, one male in the 16 to 18 age group, two males in the up to ten age group, one female in the 26 to 45 age group, and two females in the 10 to 16 age group. Two members of the household were engaged in manufacturing.

    In a transcript of the 1830 census of Hopewell Township, an Alexander Reed household has one male in the 50 to 60 age group, one male in the 10 to 15 age group, one male in the 5 to 10 age group, one female in the 40 to 50 age group, one female in the 15 to 20 age group, and one female in the 5 to 10 age group.

    In a transcript of the 1840 census of Bedford County, an Alexander Reed household appears in Hopewell Township with one male in the 40 to 50 age group, one male in the 20 to 30 age group, one female in the 40 to 50 age group, and two females in the 5 to 10 age group.

    Joshua Edwards
    A Joshua Edwards household appears in the 1830 census of Hopewell Township with one male in the 20 to 30 age group, one male in the up to five age group, and one female in the 20 to 30 age group.

    The only Joshua Edwards household I found in a transcript of the 1840 census of Bedford County was in Broad Top Township, which comes within about 1.7 air miles of Tatesville. The household is listed with One male in the 30 to 40 age group, one male in the 10 to 15 age group, one male in the 5 to 10 age group, one male in the up to five age group, one female in the 15 to 20 age group, and one female in the up to five age group.

    The following excerpt from the Fulton County portion of the 1884 book puts an individual named Joshua Edwards in Wells Township in 1850.
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    An individual named Joshua Edwards is buried at the Wells Valley Methodist Cemetery in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, where his very legible tombstone indicates he died on September 21, 1871 at the age of 67 years, 6 months, and 27 days. By my calculations, that means he was born on February 25, 1804. That would make him 34 years old in 1838.

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