John the blacksmith and Sarah the innkeeper

Deep in central Pennsylvania, the lush valley of Morrison’s Cove stretches for twenty miles under the shelter of the mountains. It lies under Tussey Mountain to the east, and Lock and Dunning Mountains to the west. After the Revolution German families moved into the valley, drawn by its fertile soil and numerous streams. This land is far northwest from Philadelphia, so any early farmer who wanted to prosper had to find a market for his produce. In the early 1800s they sent wheat, corn, rye, peaches and apples on wagons over the steep mountain roads to local towns like Huntingdon. Sometimes they made the grains into whiskey or flour and sent by the barrel on wooden flat-bottomed arks down the Juniata River to the Susquehanna and then to Baltimore. The arks floated down the Juniata with the spring freshets and had no way of  navigating back upstream, so they were sold in the city for lumber and had to be rebuilt each spring. These early farmers had to be their own blacksmiths, carpenters and wagon makers in such a remote place.

Then iron ore was discovered in the Huntingdon County valleys and the economy boomed. Iron-masters like the Royers, the Stewarts, and Peter Schoenberger moved in and built iron forges and furnaces. Furnaces burned day and night to convert raw ore into useable iron. The valleys had almost everything the iron-masters needed: iron ore, water power, and expansive forests to provide the charcoal fuel. But it took skilled workers to man the furnaces, so they hired blacksmiths, wagon makers, forgemen—many from Lancaster County. These people brought a new mix to the valley. Many were Scotch-Irish Methodists, unlike the Germans who were often Lutheran or Brethren. Because of the timing, the religion, and the occupation, it is likely that our Long family of Morrison’s Cove were ironworkers.

In 1810 only one Long family was living in the north end of Morrison’s Cove, probably in the little town of Franklin Forge. The family included John Long, his wife, and their five children, two boys and three girls. We know some of the children’s names because the family needed help to pay for their schooling. (In those days the town paid for the education of children between five and twelve years old when their parents could not pay the fees.) In 1811 the town paid for three daughters of John Long – Catherine, Elizabeth, and Mary. The following year only Elizabeth and Mary were listed; perhaps Catherine was too old. In 1815 Daniel Long was on the list, probably a brother of the girls. By 1820 John Long was no longer living in the town. Perhaps he had died and his wife had remarried.  This might have been the family of John C. Long.

In 1811 John C. Long was born in the Cove, as noted in the Bible record made years later by his son David.  We know that he was a Methodist because my grandmother remembered stories about him. (The iron masters approved of the Methodist church because it kept the men from drinking too much and missing work. The keepers of the local stores disapproved because it kept the men from buying their whiskey.) We know he was a blacksmith from the 1850 census record. The iron masters employed many blacksmiths, who repaired the tools and furnace parts and shoed the horses and mules that plodded back and forth day and night carrying the iron ore, fuel, and finished pig iron. This was a skilled, specialized trade, and a blacksmith could make as much as $400 a year. Given the large family he was to have, John would need a good salary to support them.

In about 1832, when he was about 21 years old, John married Sarah Zeigler, the daughter of Barney and Fanny Zeigler. She lived in Petersburg, about 18 miles up the Juniata River. This was a full day’s journey over the abysmal roads of the time, “hardly more than broad paths through the forest”, so how did John meet Sarah? If he was working for the iron masters, as seems likely, they moved their workers around as needed. John might have been sent to Petersburg for a time, to work in the forge there. Barney was already there, supporting his family by working in the Petersburg forge. He was a German, probably born in York County, who moved up to Petersburg and raised his family there. (His son Barney Junior, also a forgeman, later moved to Johnstown and survived the great flood with his wife.)

John and Sarah married, settled in Franklin Forge, Woodberry Township, and started their family, one that eventually grew to twelve children, including three sets of twins. One of his sons followed John into the blacksmithing trade, while others were farmers, a stone mason, and a wagon maker. Some of the children stayed close to home, never moving more than twenty miles away, while others moved west into Kansas and Iowa. John must have been a good father; three of his sons named their first son John.

John and Sarah rented a house in Franklin Forge, far from her Ziegler family across Tussey Mountain. Who supported her during her frequent cycles of pregnancy and childbirth? Perhaps it was fellow members of the Methodist church in nearby Woodberry. Founded in 1800, it first met in the house of Jacob Akely, then in a brick church built in 1831. In 1841 John Long was listed as an exhorter; was this our John? The exhorters were not trained ministers and did not preach a sermon; they led the prayer services and encouraged people to lead godly lives.

Through the 1840s and 1850s John worked as a blacksmith, while Sarah kept the house and raised the children. The people who lived around them were a mixed group – carpenters, fence makers, laborers, farmers, boatmen, Daniel Royer the wealthy iron master, forgemen, teamsters, lock tenders. The laborers lived in modest houses, valued at $400 or so, while the wealthy farmers owned property worth thousands of dollars.

The boatmen and lock tenders were there because of the Pennsylvania Canal, which was built in the early 1830s. After the Erie Canal was finished in 1825, Pennsylvania feared it was losing business to New York, so the legislature authorized the construction of a series of canals to open up the center of the state for safer and cheaper transportation. The Juniata Branch of the canal had 86 locks and 25 aqueducts, ran parallel to the Juniata River between the Susquehanna and Huntingdon, then merged with the river west of Huntingdon. The canal boosted the economy for a while, but the canal era was short-lived, as the railroads made them obsolete by the 1850s. Each generation saw an innovation in transportation. While John’s sons became blacksmiths or wagon-makers, his grandsons were more likely to work for the railroads.

In the fall of 1860 or the spring of 1861 John and Sarah left the valley of Morrison’s Cove and moved across Tussey Mountain to Porter Township, Huntingdon County. They had six children still at home, and Sarah was pregnant with her third set of twins! It must have been a difficult move for her. Since the Juniata Iron Works was in nearby Alexandria, John might have been transferred by his employer. But it’s also possible that at age 50, John was getting too old to be a blacksmith. By the 1870 census he was listed as a farmer, owning his own land, with four children still at home. On December 11, 1878, three days before he died, John made his will. He left everything to Sarah, after her death to be equally divided among the children. He stipulated that if any of the children stayed home to care for Sarah they could keep an account of their expenses and charge these to the estate. This would encourage them to take care of her, since it would not count against their share.

John’s death left Sarah a widow, with a farm that she owned free and clear. Three of her sons – Abraham, Samuel and Wesley – had left for the Midwest and had families of their own. Her son Robert stayed on with her for a while to run the farm, while her daughter Jennie also lived with her. Sarah would survive John by over thirty years. She found a way to support herself and her family by opening a boarding house with her daughters Sarah and Jennie. The property, called the Park House Inn, was on the road northwest to Tyrone. It was a well-known local establishment. After Sarah died in 1910 at the age of 94, it was run for years by the two daughters.

John and Sarah are buried together at the Methodist cemetery in Alexandria, Porter Township. I have an old, yellowed picture that is probably of Sarah. Her hair is parted in the middle and pulled tightly back. She is wearing a dark dress with a high ruffled collar. Her protruding ears and square jaw line would be passed down to several of her grandchildren. Although her face is wrinkled with age, she is smiling at the camera, and at us.


John C. Long, b. 1811, Morrison’s Cove, Huntingdon County, m. Sarah Zeigler about 1832, died Dec. 14, 1878 in Porter Township, Huntingdon County, buried in Alexandria.

Sarah Zeigler, b. Nov 16, 1816, m. John C. Long about 1832, died Oct. 29, 1910 in Porter Township, Huntingdon County, buried in Alexandria.

Children of John and Sarah:

Abraham, b. Nov. 1832, d. 1908 in Jasper County, Iowa, m. Nancy Pursell, moved to Iowa, farmed there, named his oldest son John.

Joseph H, b. 1834, d. 1864 of injuries sustained in the Civil War, m. Caroline Snare [Note: some discrepancies in the census records for him.]

Elizabeth, b. ab. 1837, alive in 1850, no further record

William, b. ab. 1841, alive in 1850, no further record

Wesley Howe, a twin, b. Sept. 30, 1845, d. 1926 in Atchison Kansas, m. Lucy Boals about 1871, moved to Iowa, then Kansas, worked as a blacksmith. Had sons John and Bert.

Emaline, a twin, b. Sept. 30, 1845, alive in 1860, no further record

David, a twin, b. Nov. 13, 1849, d. 1932 in Tyrone, Blair County, m. 1882 Mary Elizabeth Huston. A wagon maker,  named his son John.

Sarah, a twin, b. Nov. 1849, d. age 91 on Sept. 14, 1940, unmarried, kept the Park House Inn at Alfarata Park, d. there, buried at Alexandria Presbyterian Cemetery

Samuel, b. Oct. 1851, m. Lydia Emma, lived in Iowa, Oregon, and Florida, a blacksmith and truck farmer, died in 1942 in Florida

Jane, b. Dec. 1856, unmarried, d. 1929 in Porter Township, buried at Alexandria Presbyterian Cemetery

Robert H., b. July 7, 1860 in Franklin Forge, a farmer, m. Katherine Riley, d. March 17, 1939 in Porter Township, buried at Alexandria Presbyterian Cemetery

Oliver A., b. July 7, 1860, d. in Alexandria on March 31, 1951; m. Mary Brandt, she died January 26, 1924 from a copperhead bite, both buried at Alexandria Presbyterian Cemetery

Note: In the census record of 1910, Sarah Zeigler Long said she had borne 13 children, of whom seven were alive. There is one missing from this list, who must have died before 1910.



Wiley & Garner, Biographical & Portrait Cyclopedia of Blair County

Federal census 1800 to 1940

Tax lists, in J. Simpson Africa, History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties

Isenberg family website

“Furnaces and forges”, PAGenWeb for Blair County

Keith Koch, “Bellefonte—The Iron Plantation”, Bellefonte Secrets, July 2008

Pennsylvania v. Espy, Huntingdon County Court of Common Pleas ruling

Obituary of Sarah Zeigler Long

Will of John C. Long

Family Bible of David Long, son of John and Sarah


Ancestry Family Trees

Research by Mimi Reed, Huntingdon County Historical Society

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