Phinneyville

Situated east of Brandonville and below Sheppton is the small valley of Phinneyville. It was named after a man named Phinney. At the time of settlement in was one large forest of tall trees. The exact date of settlement is unknown. Log cabins dotted the present road when Stephen Girard of Philadelphia purchased half of Phinneyville.

George Lorah took care of these lands which was cleared on each side of the road. After Girard’s death, these farms were rented out to farmers with certain restrictions. They were to fertilize the soil with a certain amount of fertilizer each year; they were not allowed to sell straw. Hay had to be sold at $25 a ton.

A few years later these farms were sold to private owners. They were comprised of 113 acres each. Joshua Lorah laid out the town into 180 lots but died before they were all sold.

The oldest house was owned by Edward Konschnik . It was formerly occupied by John Lorah. The first settlers were the Blues, Lorahs, Peifers, Zimmermans, Bucks, Millers, Johnsons, Deebels, Clarks and Bittlers.

John F. Deebel was born in Baden, Germany, but came to Phinneyville and purchased tracts of land there. In 1874, he sold out to his son, Samuel, who prospered in the lumber and farming business. He also had the finest orchard in Phinneyville.

On the Henry Johnson farm at the upper end of Catawissa Valley, was a large sawmill where the present tunnels are. These tunnels are great works of engineering. They drain Green Mountain, Lehigh Valley and many other mines. The water of these mines runs into the Catawissa Creek.

The first settlers of Phinneyville attended the Old White Church on the road to Ringtown. But the inconvenience of traveling prompted them to use an abandoned school house as a church. The temporary Church was soon razed and the public school house was erected on the land. A church was built situated on land given by Mr. Buck. The building was a small log structure. The seats were uncomfortable hand-hewn backless benches. The parishioners would hasten to the church at the time of services to secure the rear seats to rest their back against the wall.

At first all services were conducted in German and were very lengthy. Due to the scarcity of hymn books, the minister used to read a line, then the members of the congregation would sing it. This they would do for the entire hymn.

The first minister was Rev. Shellhamer who rode on horseback over the Indian trails from Conyngham. Some of the later ministers were Sando and Miller.

The present “Little White Church” situated on the same spot where the former Church stood was built in 1895, through the aid of Mrs. Torbert. The lumber for this church was donated by the brother of James Lorah. Its construction was supervised by Rev. Nathan Sechler.

The first marriage ceremony performed by Rev. Sechler was that of Sara Brandon and Charles Bloom. The earliest baptism on record in the old church is that of Samuel Emanuel Peifer, November 15, 1874.

“Little White Church” adequately describes this building of worship at Phinneyville. When viewed from a distance, it appears as though an artist had sketched this small white edifice against a background of green pastures with a white cloud tinted in blue.

To the rear of the church is the cemetery which gives some important information to the historian. When this cemetery was laid out, tombstones were unknown in this section. The only markers were old shale stones, marked with crude inscriptions in German. One marker shows the burial of Thomas Gottschall in 1827. Many of the pioneer settlers are buried in private cemeteries.

This cemetery is the resting place of many prominent men and women of the early days of Union Township, among them George Spiece, a soldier of the War of 1812, who died in 1842. Prior to his death, he lived the life of a hermit near a stream in the upper section of the Catawissa Valley which was later the Wolfe farm. It is still known by the older people as “Spiece’s Run.” For many years after his death, there was no tombstone to mark his grave. In 1916, James Lorah, L.F. Brandon and J.M. Stauffer erected a monument to his memory.

There are also two Civil War veterans buried here: Elias Peifer, grandfather of the present Peifer family and the other an unknown soldier.

Clarence Deebel, Allen Faust, Fred Dietz and John Dietz served in the World War.