A Township is Formed
In 1800, Mercer County was taken from Allegheny County, and Neshannock Township was one of its original townships. At that time, the Township covered more than 100 square miles, encompassing an area that is now three townships in both Mercer and Lawrence Counties.
By 1820, the citizens of nearby New Castle were pushing for the creation of a new county, as the existing line between Beaver and Mercer Counties passed directly through the rapidly growing community, resulting in numerous complications for the city and its residents. Finally, in 1849, the State Assembly passed a Bill creating Lawrence County, and Neshannock became one of the original thirteen townships. Eventually, Pollock Township, which is now part of New Castle, as well as Union and Hickory Townships took portions of the land from the original Neshannock Township to form their own boundaries.
The history of this area goes back nearly 100 years before any settlement or subdivision activity. During the early 1700's, the Beaver Valley provided a natural route for explorers, traders, missionaries, and soldiers traveling from the Ohio River north and west to Lake Erie or northern Ohio. During this time, the Neshannock area was inhabited by many Native American groups. It was the Delawares that gave it the name Neshannock, which means "Place of Two Rivers." The State had claimed the land after giving the Native Americans a small compensation, and in 1785, set aside an area, including Neshannock, to be subdivided and donated Pennsylvania veterans of the Revolutionary War. However, the Native Americans were dissatisfied with the transaction and refused to leave the area. The resulting danger delayed any actual settlement of the area until about 1798.
First Settlers and Industries
Neshannock's first settler was probably Thomas Fisher, who in 1799, cleared a farm on Camp Run, and several years later, established a grist mill and saw mill on Fisher's Run. Most of the early settlers were farmers, and New Castle served at the commercial and manufacturing center of the region. However, rich clay deposits in Neshannock attracted a potter named Johnston Watson who set up a business on the New Castle-Mercer Road. As early as 1845, the extensive coal banks in the Township were mined, and the first organized company, the New Castle Railroad and Mining Company, got its start in 1866. This remained a principal mining firm, and it established a narrow gauge railroad between New Castle and the mines. A small mining town known as Coal Centre, or Coaltown, grew up in the area.
In 1852, a nine-mile oak plank turnpike was completed between New Castle and New Wilmington, passing through the Neshannock coal fields. It was eventually extended to Mercer and was an important artery for transporting coal and farm produce, as well as for passenger use.
The Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad, completed in 1864, followed the Shenango River along the western edge of the Township. Ten years later, the New Castle and Franklin Railroad opened a line along Neshannock Creek. This provided Neshannock with transportation connections with the south, Lake Erie area, and the Pennsylvania oil region. Further, it helped cause the closing of the Erie Canal, which had provided connection between the Ohio River and Lake Erie paralleling the Shenango River, since 1845.
In 1900, Neshannock was home to 1,080 residents, most of which were engaged in farming, the main land use until the suburbanization movement from New Castle brought increased residential development to the Township. By 1985, the Township's population reached nearly 9,000. Today, the Township hosts an estimated 9,600 residents.