In the year 1798, when Greenfield Township was formed out of Woodberry, the region was primarily inhabited by farmers. Of course at that early date certain of the residents practiced necessary trades such as blacksmithing and tanning. As early as 1807, John Ulrich Zeth is believed to have constructed a grist mill and a saw mill in the vicinity of the present-day town of Claysburg. The first public record that we have which notes these tradesmen was the 1811 Greenfield Township Tax Assessment. In the return for that year we find Nicholas Burk and Henry Heltzel listed as blacksmiths. Jacob Glass worked as a distiller. (Jacob) Peter Schmitt, son of pioneer residents, Jacob and Rosanna Schmitt, was a cooper, and in 1814 and 1815 Jacob Schmitt Jr (Peter Schmitt's brother) operated a tavern. In 1822 the Greenfield Township Triennial Assessment listed Thomas Dodson as a cooper. Joseph Dodson Sr was a shoemaker. Peter Helsel took up his family’s trade as a blacksmith; he joined Frederick Claar, Isaac Conrad, Jacob Hengst and George Stine in that profession. John Coho was a waggoner. John Melone was a tanner. Samuel Brallier was a shoemaker. David Davis and Jacob Koginour worked as tailors. Adam Shafer owned a distillery.
Nothing on the order of an industry existed in this region until about 1831 when Peter Shoenberger began construction of the Sarah Furnace. In 1838 the Martha Forge, also constructed by Shoenberger, began operation. Both iron works were in operation through the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s. The rich limestone and iron ore deposits throughout the surrounding region made this an ideal location for iron forges and furnaces. The construction of the iron works created jobs and, in turn, created the need for housing for the workers. The ultimate result of the construction of the iron works was the establishment of a number of small villages in Old~Greenfield Township.
A village developed in the vicinity of the Jacob Schmitt, Sr farmstead through the early 1800s, prior to the coming of the iron works. Being composed mostly relatives of the Schmitt family, the village became known as Smith Corner. The tavern operated by Jacob Schmitt, Jr and the blacksmith shops of Henry Heltzel and Peter Helsel were located here in the early 1800s. Thomas Dodson’s coopers shop and Joseph Dodson Sr’s shoemaker’s shop were located in the vicinity of Smith Corner.
The village of East Freedom (in present-day Freedom Township) sprang up at the "Johnstown and Bedford Crossroads", so-called for the McKee to Johnstown Road and the Frankstown to Bedford Road. The village started with the establishment of a saddle and harness shop by Joseph McCormick, a hotel by George Kephart and a shoemaker shop by George Yinger in 1838 on property owned by Edward McGraw at the crossroads. A town plat was laid out in 1839 or 1840. Other residents and tradesmen purchased lots, and by the 1850s there were fifty-three structures in the new town.
The village of Puzzletown was laid out about the year 1840 by a man by the name of Baird (or Beard).
The village of Leamersville sprang up around a tavern built and operated by Perry Trout, William Leamer and Bernard Lorenz at an early, but unknown date.
A village grew up around the Sarah Furnace complex. That village, established around 1832, became known as Sproul, and was furnished with a church, school and storehouse by ironmaster Shoenberger. The Sarah Furnace village had just about disappeared by the turn of the century. In 1911 the General Refractories Company decided to build a plant in this area because of the abundance of gannister rock in the Dunnings Mountain. The site of the Sarah Furnace was chosen for the new plant and by 1917 the company had constructed sixty-eight company-owned houses for its workers. The town was named for then General Refractories president, William C. Sproul.
The village of Claysburg developed around the grist mill of John Ulrich Zeth, being convenient to both the grist mill and the nearby furnaces and forges. In 1838 Conrad Ling constructed a stone building to be used as a tavern. In 1839 and 1840 a town plat was laid out on properties owned by George B. Spang and Jacob Zeth. In 1840 a general store was opened in the new town by Philip Pringle and Abraham Klotz. Other mercantile businesses were opened in the town over the next few years. Storekeepers included David and Daniel Longenecker, John Irvine, John Walker, George Vickroy and George W. Mauk.
A collection of workers' houses sprang up in the vicinity of the Martha Forge and Furnace near Frankstown/McKee Gap in the 1840s, but the village of McKee was not laid out until 1871, when it was platted by A.K. Bell, then president of the Hollidaysburg and Gap Iron Company. By the time the village was laid out, the Martha Furnace had aquired the name of the Gap Furnace and had been merged with the Hollidaysburg Rolling Mill.
The only village of any size to develop in Juniata Township was Butlersville, later renamed Blue Knob. It was not established until the 1850s. The rugged terrain of the Allegheny Mountain, over which the township of Juniata spreads, prevented many villages from growing within its bounds.
The village of King developed in the southern part of Old~Greenfield Township. The village, comprised mostly of residences, a school and a blacksmith shop, grew up in the Indian Path Valley along the western slope of Dunnings Mountain during the 1830s.
The village of Lewistown, later renamed Queen, was one of the last villages to appear in Old~Greenfield Township; it was not laid out until the year 1854. The village, laid out on land owned by David Lewis, became the home of two stores, a blacksmith shop, a church and school.
The village of Marietta, later renamed Pavia, was established in 1849 by John Corl. Pavia was the only village of any size to appear in the southwestern corner of Old~Greenfield, in the region that would be formed into the township of Union, later renamed Pavia Township. Pavia Township, like Juniata, is primarily located on the eastern slopes of the Allegheny Mountain, and the difficult and rugged terrain prevented more villages from being established within its bounds.
Friesville is the name given to a village that developed to the west of Claysburg around a grist mill built by Henry Black (or Adam, Henry's father) in the early 1850s. The property was purchased, in 1872, by Jacob Fries.
A number of other small villages dot the landscape of Old~Greenfield Township. Most of them started out as, and still consist of only a few residences. They existed then, as they do even today, as "villages" in the sense of being communities of families and friends. Although they might never have had a post office or a church or school, they are still villages. They include the Muleshoe Run Extension of Foot of Ten in Juniata Township; Donnertown, Jugtown, the Snowberger Development and the Hazenstab Development in Freedom Township; Cotton Town, Musselman Grove, Klahr, Fredericksburg and Polecat Hollow in Greenfield Township; Stifler Corner in Kimmel Township; and Diechland Point, Crist Ridge and Ickes Hill in Pavia Township.
As was noted previously, many of the villages that emerged in Old~Greenfield Township were a direct result of the iron works that were built by the Shoenberger family. Prior to the coming of the iron works, the region lying between Dunnings Mountain and the Allegheny Mountain range was inhabited primarily by Euro-Americans of German or Swiss ancestry. Following the construction of the furnaces and forges, the promise of jobs lured many Ulster~Scots to the region. The census returns for the years 1850 through 1870 show many Irish names of young men residing with the already established German families in this region.
The construction of the railroads throughout the entire central Pennsylvania region in the period of the 1860s through the early-1900s brought about a new period in the history of Old~Greenfield Township. Before discussing the benefits that the railroad industry brought to Old~Greenfield Township, it should be noted that, unlike many other regions where canals had previously handled the transportation requirements of the iron industry, no such canals existed in Old~Greenfield Township. The iron ore that was mined in the surrounding region was transported to the forges by horse and wagon and the finished product was transported to points such as Hollidaysburg and Johnstown in the same way. In fact that is why the town of East Freedom became established where it did, at the crossroads of the road that linked Hollidaysburg and Bedford and the one leading from the Martha Forge and Furnace over the Allegheny Mountain to Johnstown. The railroad did not present a threat to the welfare of this region, as it did to those regions which had invested a lot in the canals; in fact it promised greater benefits for the shipment of the products of the iron works.
Other than the transport of raw materials and products of the iron works, one of the main purposes of the railroad was the transport of mail. Therefore, railroad stations, where mail could be collected and dispatched, were constructed at each and every point along the line where there were a collection of houses. Each station, therefore, became the location of another post office, and as a consequence, each of those stations/post offices were given names, recorded on maps and acquired the distinction of being "towns." It didn't matter if there were any businesses in the vicnity prior to the establishment of the railroad station/ post office. After the railroad station was built and the post office was in operation, many people found that it was both convenient and to their benefit to locate their businesses close to that point. It enabled them to more easily ship their products and to receive their own purchases.
Over time, the iron industry was pushed further and further westward as the available natural resources of iron ore, limestone and timber were depleted in this central Pennsylvania region. The demise of that industry might have meant the loss of many jobs for the people of this region, but the railroad industry prevented the region from falling into ruin. Because of the railroads and the establishment of post offices along its lines, many of the villages in the Old~Greenfield Township region actually prospered and grew during the latter half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries despite the loss of the iron works.
The advent of the automobile did not drastically change Old~Greenfield Township. But in the 1950s the construction of the State Route 220, designed to handle the increasing automobile traffic throughout the entire of Blair County, unwittingly effected the next major period in the history of Old~Greenfield Township.
The original Hollidaysburg to Bedford Road had already been designated as State Route 220, but in 1957 the "new" Route 220 was constructed and given that designation, and the old road was redesignated as Bedford Street. Despite that fact, to this day people still refer to the original road that linked Hollidaysburg to Bedford as "old Route 220." The new Route 220 was laid out through farm fields and other undeveloped tracts of land parallel to the old road. The construction of the new Route 220 in 1957 changed the face of the landscape, and also changed the way the local residents viewed the necessity and importance of the towns that had, for one hundred and twenty-five years, thrived in this region. The new Route 220 provided a better constructed surface to travel on, and combined with the fact that it by-passed all the towns, the speed limit could be higher than it has been on the old road. A number of business owners whose shops were located in the towns realized that more and more of the traffic that had once went right past their shops would now be traveling on the new road. They could foresee the loss of business by casual passersby if there were less travelers actually passing their doors. At first there were only a few businesses which made the move to locate along the new road. But as the years passed, more made the move until by the 1980s there were very few businesses left in some of the towns such as East Freedom and Claysburg.
The migration of the businesses from the towns to the "rural" lands stretching along the new Route 220 caused a subtle transformation to occur in the basic nature of the towns. They did not stagnate and disappear, but they certainly did not thrive and grow as they had for over a century. They simply became more residential in nature with only their churches and schools maintaining the aspect of the "urban" centers they had once been. The towns’ edges had once been clearly delineated by the grid of streets lined with houses and other buildings. Now, the businesses that spread out along the new Route 220 began to stretch toward each other and only a signpost at the ends of each town revealed that town’s limits.
The new pattern of development, i.e. outside of the established towns and along Route 220, has continued over the past forty years. More recently, though, has been the influx of large-scale business operations. Taking advantage of landowning families who had stopped farming their land and were willing to sell any size tracts, a number of businesses (such as the News Printing Co., Inc.) moved from their cramped locations in the nearby towns and built large, sprawling buildings in which to operate. Some enterprising businessmen in the Claysburg area established the William S. Ward Industrial Park, to which a number of businesses moved. Other similar ventures, in which an individual or group has purchased a large tract of land and then leased smaller portions of that tract to a number of businesses, have begun to appear throughout the Old~Greenfield Township region.