New Washington Borough, located in southwestern Clearfield County, has always been a municipality that covers a large land area and, yet, has a small population.
Chest Creek makes up part of its eastern boundary and it is also bordered by Burnside Township and Newburg Borough. The borough has a fascinating local history that parallels the growth of frontier growth of central Pennsylvania.
James Gallaher, an American Revolutionary War and 1812 War veteran settled in New Washington in 1816, after purchasing 400 acres of land there.
John Ludwig Snyder, another Revolutionary War veteran, settled there and led a full and active life until his death at age 114. His wife lived to be 108.
Those numbers are proven and not exaggerations! They were likely the oldest couple on the planet at the time.
Lumbering on Chest Creek, farming and small business made for an early economic base in New Washington. The present PA Route 36, then a dirt trail, was nearby. Churches and stores grew and bigger trends and events came and went.
By the early 20th century, the Women’s Suffrage Movement was in full swing nationwide and in Pennsylvania.
A ballot referendum to allow women’s voting was offered to (male only) voters in November of 1915.
The previous August, suffrage groups sponsored a Justice Bell truck that travelled the rutted roads of rural Pennsylvania in order to garner support for the measure. (See Throwback Thursday articles Aug. 20, 27 and Sept. 3).
The truck, carrying its two-ton Liberty Bell replica on its bed, stopped in small communities. Suffrage organizers used the truck as an attractive platform to state their case for women’s voting.
The Justice Bell truck stopped in nearby Mahaffey for a rally. Women from New Washington enthusiastically attended.
The photo shows a group of them who supplied their own truck and driver. They apparently put some chairs on the truck bed and eagerly packed themselves on the vehicle.
Young and old alike look to be dressed in their summer white dresses to be “Pilgrims to Mahaffey”.
Their home-made canopy provided some shade and the ladies stated their purpose by painting “New Washington Women Want to Vote” near to top for all to see.
They would, though, have a five-year wait, as the ballot referendum failed state-wide but passed by a two to one margin in Clearfield County.
The 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1920, settled the issue.