The History of Rostraver Township
The History of Rostraver Township
Although this area had been claimed in 1754 as a hunting ground by the Mingoes, Rostraver's first settlers found no American Indian towns or villages when they arrived. The Mingoes, however, were by no means the first American Indians to populate this area. Evidence indicates that ancient tribes of considerable size had established no less than nine separate American Indian fortifications within the confines of present-day Rostraver Township. One of those fortifications was strategically located on Rostraver's highest peak - 1,416 feet at Shepler's Hill, known today as Indian Hill.
The first actual settler in Rostraver was Isaac Hill, who at age 18, left his home in Carroll County, Maryland in 1754, situated in the southwest corner of the present township. The next settlers George Weddell and his family, who migrated from Hagerstown, Maryland, in 1758. They constructed a frontier stockade called Fort Weddell near the present Route 136, 2 1/2 miles from West Newton. The only remaining trace of this settlement is the family burial site. Some of Rostraver's settlers came directly from Europe. Among those who came from Europe were the Irish, including the McClains from County Down, Ireland. Fond memories of the tiny village of Rostraver in County Down is believed to have led these pioneers to give their growing community the name it carries today.
When Westmoreland County was organized on April 5, 1773, Rostraver became one of its original Townships. The size of the township was decreased to its present 36 square miles when Fayette and Allegheny counties were formed. Many of the early settlers have descendants still living in or around Rostraver. Among these are the descendants of Matthew Beazell, who laid out the plans for Webster in 1833, and Benjamin Fell, for whom Fellsburg was named. It was Joseph Budd Sr. who donated the land for the Salem Baptist Church and, along with Nathaniel Hayden, David Davis and others, assisted in organizing the church in 1792. Another founding father of Rostraver was Colonel Edward Cook, who owned the Rehoboth Valley. One of Cook’s contemporaries was James Cunningham, whose distillery was used to air many of the grievances that led to the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. Rev. James Finley organized both the Rehoboth Presbyterian and Round Hill Presbyterian churches in one day. Christopher Houseman, who served during the Revolutionary War under Captain John Van Meter, settled here when he received a grant for the land called St. Kitts in 1787. Stephen Lowry in 1774 established his farm just off of the present-day Route 201, three miles from West Newton. George A. Martin brought his family to the hill overlooking Turkey Hollow in 1785. John Porter brought his family here from Ellicott Mills, Maryland, in 1778 or 1779. Colonel John Power was a young Revolutionary War officer who married Margaret Finley, the daughter of Rev. James Finley, in 1778. Serving as both a teacher and a doctor for the area in those days was Dr. Bela Smith, who arrived here between 1785 and 1789. When James Stewart received his patent for 210 acres in Rostraver in 1784, it was signed by Benjamin Franklin. In 1779, Robert Todd settled on the tract of land where the old Concord school stands. It is a one room school house and was built in 1830. Another pioneer, Mary Timms, and her son migrated here from Hagerstown, Maryland around 1800. Since many pioneer descendants still live here, most of these names are quite familiar to today’s Rostraver residents. Respect for the spirit of Rostraver’s founders creates a balanced blend of history and progress that insures a healthy, pleasant community in which to live, work and raise families.
The Rostraver Township seal was created in 1959 as part of the township's emergence from a third class to a first class township. The following description of the seal was presented in the First Annual Report for the year 1959 to the citizens of the township covering the first year as a First Class Township.
The seal was designed primarily to remind us of our antecedents and give us pride in the beginnings of our municipality. When Westmoreland County was created, April 6, 1773, our Township of Rostraver was also born, two years prior to the Declaration of Independence. The small shield or Coat of Arms pays homage to our earliest founders. The Indian adversary, whose villages slowly gave way to the rude settlers of the pioneer in buckskin, who braved the dangers of the new "West," and made it secure for the farmer whose plow broke the soil and moved civilization west of the Alleghenies. The early schoolmaster brought learning to the frontiers for a better, enlightened citizenry more capable and resourceful in times of stress. Combined with all these were the dauntless men of the cuurch who inspired mankind to struggle for a better way of life.
The Rostraver Township Municipal Building has a time capsule buried right outside the front doors in the landscaping. Items placed in this time capsule was by the Commissioners and employees at the era. It was buried on September 5, 1976 and is to be opened on September 5, 2076.