The community of Freedom was founded in 1832 by Jonathan Betz and Stephen Phillips, co-owners of a steamboat building business. They purchased about 100 acres (0.40 km2) of land for $2,000.00 from General Abner Lacock. The original village was surveyed and plotted by Simon Meredith. All of the lots, streets and alleys were located with special preference to the steam-boat building business, the only business at the time. Later, an additional 39 acres (160,000 m2) were purchased from Captain William Vicary for $2,500.00. Vicary himself retained some property in the area, including a stone house; today, the house remains a local landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
About 150 people first located in Freedom and it grew rapidly. The town was laid out on a Tuesday and by the following Saturday, fourteen houses had been built.
In 1833, Freedom contained 40 dwellings, 47 families, and about 320 people. Boat building and distilling were its two main businesses.
By 1837, Freedom had grown to a population of about 600, and 100 dwellings. New businesses included a foundry, and steam engines manufactured by J. Baker and Company, a large steam sawmill, and an extensive distillery and gristmill owned by J. Stahl and Company. The merchants at that time were: Phillips and McConnell, Stile and Fisher, Phillip Bentel, John Donnan, J. W. Mead, three innkeepers: Samuel Furnier, J. W. Snead, and Thomas G. Kerr and two physicians: Drs. William Smith and T. F. Robinson.
Prior to 1832, land on either side of Dutchman’s Run was forest, extending north to the home of Abner Lacock and south to the stone home of retired sea captain William Vicary. After Freedom was established, Captain Vicary surveyed a town on his land south of Dutchman’s Run. It was called Vicary, but in 1867, the village was incorporated as St. Clair, named for General Arthur St. Clair. The southernmost part of the town, called Vicary Extension, was annexed at a later date. In 1896, the borough of Saint Clair joined with Freedom Borough as Greater Freedom. Saint Clair Borough was located in what is currently Freedom's second ward. It was laid out by Captain William Vicary and was often called Vicary or Vicary Extension.
1235 Third Ave.
Freedom, PA 15042
Hours: Tues. - Thurs. 10am - 2pm
Contact: Brenda Applegate
The Vicary House was constructed in 1826 for a Philadelphia sea captain, William Vicary. Today the beautiful mansion overlooks the Ohio River in what is now Freedom. The house is constructed of large sandstone blocks quarried from the property. It is a fine example of local vernacular style of architecture.
Thanks to the efforts of the BCHRLF, the public is able to enjoy the house with tours by costumed docents, educational programs, archaeological digs, reenactments, and an 1800's fashion show that showcases this historical treasure while educating its visitors. Visit in the spring and summer to see the beautiful gardens surrounding the house. The house offers more than just tours. It is very interactive for people of all ages to attend. The Vicary House also produces programs for children to learn about history also. Call or visit to see what is new and what events are upcoming.
Directions from Pittsburgh - Take Route 65 N from Pittsburgh for 24 Miles. Get off on the Freedom Exit. The Vicary House will be on your right.
Local Directions - The house is located on the main street of Freedom. Parking is available in both the rear of the house, and on the street. Visit the Old Economy Village just up the road when traveling to the Vicary House.
Abner Lacock (July 7, 1770 – April 12, 1837) was an American surveyor, civil engineer, and politician from Rochester, Pennsylvania. He served in both houses in the state legislature and represented Pennsylvania in both the U.S. House and Senate.
Abner Lacock was born on July 7, 1770, near Alexandria in the Colony of Virginia. He moved with his parents to Washington County, Pennsylvania, as a youth. In 1796 he moved to Beaver, Pennsylvania.
He was a justice of the peace in 1796. He also worked as an innkeeper and served in the Pennsylvania State Legislature from 1801 to 1803. He was an associate judge of the Beaver County Court from 1803 to 1804. Abner served again in the State legislature from 1804 to 1808. He was member of the Pennsylvania Militia and served as brigadier general in 1807. He was a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate from 1808 to 1810.
Lacock was elected as a Democratic Republican to the Twelfth Congress. He was re-elected to the Thirteenth Congress but resigned before it commenced, having been elected Senator. He was elected to the United States Senate as a Democratic Republican in 1812. He served as chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Pensions during the Fifteenth Congress.
After he left Congress, he was appointed a State commissioner to survey routes for for canals and railways in Pennsylvania in 1825. He again served in the State legislature from 1832 to 1835. Abner was appointed to survey and construct the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal in 1836.
Abner died near Freedom, Pennsylvania, in 1837. Interment in Lacock Cemetery in Rochester, Pennsylvania.
Abner was frequently referred to as General Lacock after he served as a brigadier general in the state militia.
Years back, a retired teacher from the Freedom School District relayed the tale of the Freedom Boat Yard Bell.
In 1832, two guys named Jonathan Betz and Stephen Phillips founded Freedom. These rapscallions also owned a steamboat business and thought that Freedom would be the perfect spot for it. The entire town was built around this steam boat yard and all road pretty much lead directly to it. By 1837, Freedom had grown into a population of about 600 people, and mainly relied on this ship yard and also a distillery as the main businesses.
As years went by, this steam boat yard had a list of almost 70 ships built. This boat yard was on the Ohio River, between what was then known as Independence Street and Betz Street. It was really the entire span of town. Probably from the ramp off of 65 coming from Rochester to a bit past Gilarno’s Auto Repair. The whole town, at that time, either built boats or distilled booze.
The Freedom Bell
This ship yard had a few buildings on its site, a shed and a saw mill, among them. Inside the shed was a bell that the entire town used. It rang at the beginning and ending of the work day for the boat yard and it was also used as the fire bell, the church bell and the school bell. Everyone in town knew the sound this bell made, not only because it was always ringing but because apparently it made a pretty unique sound.
Losing the Freedom Bell
This not-so-little bell kept ringing for years and years, until 1884. That is when the volcano on the island of Krakatoa, Indonesia exploded. This caused tsunamis and destruction worldwide, including massive flooding of the Northern Hemisphere…. And of the town of Freedom.
The ship yard including the saw mill and shed and the rest of the buildings were washed away with the flooding of the Ohio River. Some history claims that residents saw it floating away, ringing loudly as it sailed down the river. Everyone that watched it head down the river just assumed it was gone forever.
Finding the Freedom Bell
It kept floating down the river until a farmer in West Virginia saw it and somehow captured it. He brought it onto his field and he was using it as a farm bell. Years later, fate brought a couple of the old Freedom boat yard workers into West Virginia and into this farmer’s field where they heard the distinct tone of the bell ring again.
These guys had heard that bell ring for years at the start and end of their work shifts so they knew it was the same bell. They asked the farmer where he got this bell and sure enough, the farmer explained how it washed up in the flood! The farmer let the boat yard workers return the bell to Freedom.
Bringing the Freedom Bell Home
So the bell came back to its home in Freedom. Although, since the ship yard shed was no longer there, it went on top of the building that was being used as the town jail and the fire house. This building was eventually torn down in 1913 to make room for a new fire house and a new bell was purchased.
The old boat yard bell was then moved to the then-new Central School Building and was raised to the belfry during a dedication ceremony. There it rang as a school bell until the building was sold in 1969.
As the janitor was clearing out the school, the story behind this bell and its journey came to light. Because of the history of the bell, it was then moved to the Freedom Senior High School and eventually to the Middle School where it rang for special occasions and would be permanently left on display for all to marvel at.
Ever wonder where the slogan 'Freedom: Yours, Mine, Ours' came from? Click on the links below for more information, as well as a glimpse of how our town was preparing for the 1976 Bicentennial!