History of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania

Lawernce County Seal Color
More than two hundred years ago, the present site of Lawrence County was the home of the Kuskuskie Indians, the seat of the Ohio Valley Regency of the six Nations of Central New York, known as the Iroquois. Most of the Indians, however, had left the area by 1798 when John Carlisle Stewart of New Castle, Delaware claimed the tract of land lying between the Shenango and Neshannock Rivers – now present day New Castle.

In the late 1790’s when settlers began moving into the area (Lawrence County), this was part of Allegheny County, but on March 12, 1800, two new counties, Beaver and Mercer, were formed from part of Allegheny County. As early as 1820 the movement to form a new County was underway. It was a long struggle to get the new County authorized by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Opponents of the idea advanced several reasons but the underlying reason for the opposition was political. For a number of years the fight seemed hopeless. On March 20th the Governor William F. Johnson signed the Act and, remembering the slogan of the advocate of the new County , “Don’t give up the ship,” the new County was named in honor of the hero of the Battle of Boston Bay in 1813, Captain James Lawrence.

The first election held in Lawrence County, as such, was in 1849 when David Emery was elected Sheriff; James D. Clarke was elected as Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts; Joseph Justice was elected as the Treasurer; James McClure as Register Recorder; County Commissioners elected were John K. Swisher, James Oliver, and John Randolph; County Auditors elected were Isaac P. Rose, William Work and A. Galloway. James L. Warnoch was elected Coroner.

At the time of the organization of the County, it was divided into thirteen civil subdivisions or townships, namely; Pulaski, Wilmington, Slippery Rock, North Slippery Rock, Mahoning, Neshannock, North Beaver, Big Beaver, Little Beaver, Shenango, Wayne, Perry and North Sewickley.

The first court held in Lawrence County convened in the First Methodist Episcopal Church in New Castle, on Monday, January 7, 1850. It was presided over by the Honorable John Bredin, assisted by the Honorable Jacob Bear, associate judge.