Independence Township was erected out of Hopewell Township May 18, 1853. It is bounded on the north by Jefferson and Cross Creek, south by Donegal, east by Cross Creek and Hopewell and west by West Virginia. Its length is seven miles and breadth four miles. Until 1904 Independence was the only town.
It occupies land patented to Thomas Shannon and Thomas McGuire in 1788 on surveys made two years earlier. But since these were issued by Pennsylvania on titles from Virginia (which once claimed the area) it may have been settled even before the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
At first the area was called “The Forks,” because it was where the road from Wellsburg (West) Virginia to Washington had a fork running towards Cross Creek and Pittsburgh.
In 1801 and 1802 William McCormick bought two 50-acre tracts from Shannon and McGuire. He probably had a tavern, since Robert Harvey, who married his widow, operated one there. By 1800 the area now included in Independence Township already had a doctor, two innkeepers, two millers, four blacksmiths, a carpenter, a mason and a cooper, or barrel maker. Horse breeding-now so popular in the area-apparently came early, as David Boyd (who came there in 1805 as a teamster) is reported to have had a “a great taste for horses.”
McCormick laid out the village in 1803, with quarter-acre lots selling at from $8.50 to $20 each. Thirteen early buyers purchased lots, some more than one, and William Gilchrist ran a store there in the early 1800s.
Thomas Potts built the first brick house in Independence, and it was later occupied by James McCreery, who kept a tavern there.
Today, as in former years, farming and storekeeping are the principal interests of the townsfolk, though some work in larger towns or at industrial plants within a short drive of the village.
The name of Independence provides a minor mystery, since not even a legend as to its reason has come down to us.
From the time the village was founded it had been called “Williamsburg,” for William McCormick, but when it got a post office, that had to be changed, since it had already been taken by a town in Blair County.
John Doddridge, a man of English descent, made the first permanent settlement within the bounds of present Independence Township, when he came here from Bedford County, Virginia, in 1773. One probable reason for his locating here was that his wife, Mary Wells, was a niece of Alexander Wells, who had settled down “on the Creek.” Near the center of the tract of land on which Mr. Doddridge settled, he built his home and here too, he built the block-house which was known as Doddridge’s Fort. This location was on land owned until her death by Mrs. Mary Carl . To mark the site of the Fort, a road-side marker has been placed nearby on Route 844. Like other early settlers, Mr. Doddridge had trouble with the Indians, and so had this fort erected for the protection of his own and his neighbors.
Mr. Doddridge’s son, Joseph Doddridge, grew up in this area, and he became a well educated clergyman, as well as a medical doctor. His fame is still recognized in the Cross Creek Valley because of his having written “Notes on the settlement and Indian wars of the western part of Virginia and Pennsylvania.” This book deals with early pioneer life in this area. Also, his name is associated with some of the early Episcopal churches in this area, notably St. John’s Church in Brooke County, West Virginia.
Before John Doddridge built his fort, there was another similar fort over the hill which Same1 Teter had built on what is now known as the Manchester Farm.
The present Manchester farm is a blend of the old with the new, reflecting the lives and manner of living of all the members of the family who have lived here over the years. The farm and home are now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Painter and their family. Mr. Painter is a great-great-grandson of the Pioneer, Isaac Manchester. The Painters conduct a dairy and a large, modern, farm operation.
The Doddridge-Manchester community, lying just south of the mining community of Avella, is still strictly rural. The former Doddridge Farm, and the Manchester Farm-and adjoining tracts of land are real farms, with cropping and stock-raising being carried on on all of them.
Extending in a southerly direction from that point to the valley of Buffalo Creek is the Mount Hope area named from the former Mt. Hope United Presbyterian Church which once stood about three miles out on this ridge. The improved road which runs the entire length of the Ridge is sort of a “sky-line drive” with beautiful scenery in the valley of Sugar Run to the west and a less well defined valley lying to the east, as one drives south on the ridge. In these valleys and on the ridge itself lie many good farms. In earlier times these were the homesteads of the Liggett, Welch, Buchanan, Meloy and Woodburn families, and now these farms are of the Smiths, Narigons, Kotichecks, Uilsons, Carls, Kimbles, Millers, and others, on most of which modern farming and stock-raising are carried on. The modern stock-farm of John Dryer could be included in this community, or in the Doddridge-Manchester Community, since it lies on the edge of both communities.
The village of Avella was established soon after the Wabash Railroad was built through the Cross Creek Valley in the years 1901-1904.
The origin of the village’s location is much earlier and involves the area’s first settler, Alexander Wells , who came here in 1772, and realizing the value of the valley as a place to locate, he set about to acquire large tracts of land here. At a point in the Browntown part of Avella, Mr. Wells established a mill which was a landmark for many years. This mill was used by Mr. Wells and other nearby settlers for grinding grain into flour and meal for family use and for grinding grain for feed for their animals. There was, also, a sawmill operated in connection with the grist mill, and in early times, the mills were operated by use of water power from the Creek.
As with most pioneer mills, the Wells mill became a center for trade as other settlements were made nearby, and for many years, a store was conducted in connection with the operation of the mills. Mr. Wells operated the mills himself for about twenty years, and when he offered them for sale in 1796, they were purchased by his nephew, Richard Wells, who was also his son-in-law. When the waters in Cross Creek were high enough to permit it, flour ground at Wells Mill was shipped to the Ohio River by flatboat and -would there by loaded onto a larger boat and shipped to New Orleans for sale. This practice of shipping down the Creek to the river was continued until the building of the railroad many years later.
Two of the families who came into the Avella community and became prominent here after the Wells family had died or moved away were the Campbells and Browns. Their two families eventually owned most of the land on which Avella is now located.
Following the building of the railroad, Mr. Samuel S. Campbell, the elder, laid out much of his farm in building lots, realizing that this was a logical place to build a town. Mr. William J. Brown, who owned adjoining land farther down the creek, also laid out some of his farm into building lots, and on these two “plans” much of the new town was built. There are regular parallel streets in Mr. Campbell’s part of town, but most of Mr. Brown’s lots were laid out along the so-called Browntown Road. By arrangement with the Wabash Railroad a station was established on Mr. Campbell’s farm and very near to the house in which he lived. Coal mines were quickly opened following the completion of the railroad, and this resulted in a quick influx of families from southern European countries whose men had come here to work in these mines.