Potter Township History
Long before the white man came to the United States, the Delaware and Shawnee tribes belonging to the Algonquin family lived in the area around the mouth of the Beaver River and on the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny. Then, in the early 1700’s an occasional white trapper or missionary would come through the territory, most usually down the Ohio River, and so began a very lucrative trade with the Indians. When the colonies still belonged to England, a group of men formed the Ohio Company, which was organized in Virginia in 1748, through a petition, which was approved by the King. Their charter gave them a grant of 500,000 acres of which Potter Township was a part. The company thrived for a short time, but it was only in existence for four years. The Indians remained in control for many years, but slowly the white man, with the push of the Revolutionary War, pressed westward. In 1770, George Washington, who no doubt was on a surveying trip, paused at the mouth of Raccoon Creek while sailing down the Ohio and noted: “at its mouth and up, it is a good body of land.”
Settlers came to this area during and soon after the Revolutionary War. However, life was hard and many were driven back over the mountains. One of these settlers was Robert Wallace, who built a farm up Raccoon Creek. In 1782, hostile Indians raided the farm, scalping Mrs. Wallace and their infant son. Soon after that, two brothers, Anderson and William Braden came down the Ohio from across the Alleghenys and settled on the land, which is now Kobuta. Shortly after their trip out, William was killed by the Indians, and Anderson, not one to be stopped easily, traveled back over the mountains east, and brought back other members of the Braden family. One of these, James Braden, staked out a large area in the vicinity of Raccoon Creek. With the help of other settlers, he drove out the Indians, once and for all. The land was deeded to James by the Virginia Certificate Patent on September 11, 1785, and was known as “Naiad’s Delight”. After the claim was settled, James returned home to get his future wife, Mary Phillips, and returned to the area, bringing with him a man by the name of Douds, who has many descendants living throughout the Beaver Valley.
James Braden had two daughters, Becky and Margaret, who married the Potter brothers, James and Robert, respectively. They eventually inherited the two Potter farms, which came to a total of 1200 acres. A later member of the Braden family, William, owned the area which now holds the Tank Farm. He sold this to Raymond Jefferies, who in turn sold it to the United States government just prior to World War II. Bob Braden, who owned the land that is now Kobuta sold it to Charles A. Weaver and John C. Bardell of Moundsville, West Virginia. Prior to the turn of the century, Robert Potter and Joseph Frank worked at several little industrial enterprises in and around this area. They dug a well (on the East Side of Raccoon Creek) out of which came both gas and salt water. They put the salt water in large flat pans, burned off the gas under the pans and made salt, which they shipped about 10 barrels a week. The boys also worked in a few small coalmines, and built a new sawmill and gristmill. They would take in work from the surrounding settlers and charge them for sawing the wood and grinding the feed. Some of the prices in those days (1800) seem rather interesting in this modern time: one gallon of whiskey, $1.85; sugar $.35 a pound; one bushel of salt $13.75.
Much of the land where Kobuta now stands remained in the hands of the Potter and Braden families until November 16, 1892. At that time, one Theodore Hostetter purchased a 196-acre tract for the sum of $20,000.00. Mr. Hostetter had accumulated quite a fortune in the manufacture of bitters and decided to come to this section. About a year later, he purchased an additional 68 acres. After the acquisition of this property, Mr. Hostetter became very active in the planning of his country estate. At first this activity was mostly confined to the improvement of the grounds. Then, in the late 1890’s the famous Hostetter mansion was built. It was a replica of the California State Building. The home was constructed principally of California red wood, but contained at least one log from every state in the Union, and was the scene of many gay parties.
It has been said for years it was in this unusual home that Mary Roberts Rinehart, celebrated author, conceived her idea and wrote her novel, “The Circular Staircase“.
The approach to the Hostetter mansion was befitting to such a home. Tall stately poplars lined a curved road from the old road to the mansion. When driving to the home, one would first come to a covered bridge spanning Raccoon Creek, go for a short distance and then turn sharply to the right onto the driveway. It was a memorial sight to see Mr. Hostetter driving the “Tally-Ho” (a four-in-hand coach) pulled by six beautiful horses with Hiram, the darkie, riding in back.
The Hostetters’ had a polo field and it was the scene of many a fast and hard-riding game. In addition to the mansion and polo field, there were three barns to keep the many well-bred horses in and a house of considerable size for the tenant.
At first, those people from Pittsburgh who came to attend the gay weekend parties, journeyed by boat to Monaca and there were met by the Hostetter surrey, but later a landing was built on the river below the home so the guests might make the entire trip by boat.
Twenty-five bedrooms took up a large part of the house, and there was a large drawing room and expansive banquet hall. The cost is estimated at upwards of $100,00.00. This home at the time of the death of Mr. Hostetter was taken over by the Allegheny Trust Company of Pittsburgh. A caretaker and his family were placed in the home to look after the bank’s interest. For this service, he received free rent and ten dollars monthly. Late in August 1936, the house caught fire and was completely destroyed. For a period of years the grounds were used for Boy Scout camping.
Another house of quite a history is the house on the Tank Farm now known to many at the “Old Stone House”. It is said that this in one of the oldest houses in the county, the other one being the Barclay house near Barclay’s Crossing. This house was purchased by Mr. Ray Jefferies and later sold for the Tank Farm. During the time Mr. Jefferies had the farm, he remodeled the house and put many modern conveniences in it. He also developed Alum Rock Park for picnicking and swimming.
Boys and girls belonging to the 4-H Club will be interested to know that for several years the county-wide picnic was held there and the surrounding woods made an ideal place to hide the watermelons. It was here that this tradition first started.
It is also told that at the spring below the house an Indian was killed. Maybe this made restitution for the massacre of several whites prior to this time.
It is interesting to note that Potter Township has existed only a relatively short time. When the Township was first dreamed of, it was necessary to have an area of not less than six square miles to organize a township. Wash Potter, an attorney, arranged for the survey and three square miles was taken from Moon Township, and three from Raccoon Twp. A vote was arranged and at the election in May 1912, the vote was in favor of a Township called Potter.
Of the original families of the Township, the only ones still living in the original homesteads are the Dunn and the Douds families.
Note: Mrs. Nagy who lived on Frankfort Road wrote this “History of Potter Township”. Since its writing, there is only one original family still living in the Township on the original homestead. That is the Douds-Floyd family. That homestead is 110 years old as of 2008.