Historical Society Newsletter April 2024
April 12, 2024

Note to Members

Warmer days and longer daylight hours bring us all out to perhaps shake out the dust and prepare for a new season. Likewise, it is time for us to figuratively and somewhat literately shake the dust out of our Historical Society and Museum.  Although April is the official month for our opening to the public, we have been busy with projects, some already made know and some yet to be resolved.

Restoration of Minetta Spring had been in the forefront and a bid was submitted for resetting and repointing the stonework, along with replacement of missing parts. Although the location is in Jackson Twp, rather than Evans City, we felt that it had to be repaired, regardless of its location. Funds were needed to accomplish the task and the search was on to find a donor. A discussion with Jackson Twp Supervisors by Dean Zinkhann proved to be very fruitful. They gratefully contributed the funds to cover the bid. We heartily thank them for their interest and support. 

With that out of the way, we are now clear to concentrate on pursuing the trolley station procurement. As of now, however, things are still in limbo, but we remain hopeful that all will be resolved soon. Other news of some new artifacts will be forthcoming as soon as arrangements are completed. 

We have long needed to replace members that have retired from our Board of Directors. The pandemic had made this difficult. We are very fortunate to welcome Joyce Beahm to our numbers. Beahm’s have long been a staple business family in Evans City. Joyce will certainly bring much of their heritage to our Board. Their business, called “Top it Off”, a custom counter-top and cabinet company, occupies the space that “Step Saver Kitchens” once occupied. We have chosen Step Saver as our featured history subject on further pages.

I have adopted a challenge or determination for your Historical Society’s future. ECHS hopes to be bold enough to break out of the confines of our museum, to take on larger projects. We have started with Minetta Spring and the Trolley Station. We look forward to whatever historical endeavor presents itself.  I spoke about this when interviewed by Tricia Pritchard on the Butler Buzz on Armstrong cable channel 101. She hopes to conduct more interviews as future projects develop.

Our Spring activities begin with our all-member dinner April 22 at The Stables in Connoquenessing. Doors will open at 6pm with dinner served at 6:30pm. Our speaker will be, Brad Pflugh on Butler County and the Civil War. Brad is an avid historian, serving as VP of the Butler Historical Society and teaching history at Knoch High School and Butler County Community College. We can’t wait to hear what he will share so we hope to see you there. Make your reservation now.

Rick Reifenstein

William Schenck & Company,

better known as Step Saver!

If you own or have owned an old house in our vicinity, chances are that at one time it had kitchen cabinets made of birch with Formica counter tops. And more than likely it was a Step Saver Kitchen, made right here in Evans City. 

Step Saver closed in early 1980’s. Beahm & Son now occupies the Step Saver building.

Started by Bill Schenck in 1944 by building kitchen cabinets in a garage, he grew the company to a million dollar a year business by 1950’s. Production moved into the roller-skating rink in Mars. The big move came in 1948 when they were running out of room. The Evans City Chamber of Commerce was looking for new industries. Together with officials of the community, it offered the young company – William Schenck & Co – 5 ½ acres if the firm would build a manufacturing plant on it. Bill snapped up the offer. A concrete block building was soon being built. Since first constructed it was enlarged at least 4 times.

Things slowed, a little, in 1950 after the “big snow” caused a partial roof collapse. Staff pitched in to repair the roof and machines and they were back in production in 8 days.

Employee teamwork was a key part of the success of the company. There was a “Welcome Mat” for each new employee, an employee hand book and a “factory board of directors”. Each year 9 employees were elected to the board. These directors took to the board any issues or problems. As such the plant had a very family spirit. With employee input new machinery and ideas made the plant more productive, and employees were rewarded for this. A Doweler was one such piece of machinery. It drills holes, injects glue and inserts dowel pins, becoming an essential part of the production line.

 Kitchen and bathroom cabinets and counters tops were manufactured under the names of Step Saver Kitchn cabinets, Curvform sinks and counter tops and Vani-Lavs the combination bathroom sink and vanity. There were special designs for rotating corners, snack bars, built-in appliance cabinets as well as numerous other special made the Step Saver line adequate to arrange just about any conceivable kitchen layout for the largest of homes or tiny city apartments.  Cabinets even came in a knocked down version for the consumer to put together. Step Saver cabinets were sold throughout western PA and Ohio. 

How People Saw Evans City

From History of my Life, Samuel Young

Evans City is certainly the most progressive of all the towns in the County, except Butler. It has a population, which for enterprise cannot be excelled and in every effort that goes to make a thriving, populous and thorough going town. It certainly bears off the palm. Our first recollection of the town is as far back as 1840, when we used to travel by wagon, horseback, stage coach or buggy to reach our destination near French Creek. The town then contained but few houses and they were of the most antiquated style, some of them looking as if a great wind would topple them over. But the passing years have made a great change. A few of the old landmarks yet remain, but only a few, and in place of an old town the place assumes a most presentable appearance, with its elegant homes, its beautiful churches and every other improvement that adds to and builds up a town. When we contract the condition of the town in its early day with its present business-like appearance, we are surprised. 

In 1800 Robert Boggs took up 475 acres of the Breakneck bottom lands, and built a mill of logs. In 1832 the village of Evansburg was laid out by William Purviance for Thomas B Evans, the founder of the town. The residence of Mr Evans was the first house erected on the town plot. Peter Pfeiffer built the first brick house and it was regarded for sometime as the best building in the place. Stores and a tavern followed: and then for years the town seemed to have been completed. The advent of the railroad, however, infused new energy into the people, and all kinds of buildings went up in rapid succession, until as of now Evans City takes rank as the second town in the county. It possesses the very elements to make it still greater and more important as a business point. 

It is true, the lack of manufacturing establishments slows its advancement to a certain extent, but as time rolls on this will be overcome. Already the big planning mill and lumber yard of Dambach & Son and the large broom factory of George Ifft & Son employ quite a number of men: and these will be followed by other industries that must add to the businesses as well as the prosperity of the place. 

The merchants are all sharp, shrewd and active, and the amount of trade carried on is very large and profitable, and the small beginning has grown to wonderful proportions. George Ifft & Son are the oldest merchants and have built up an immense trade; then follows HF Eicholtz, Boggs & Kline, Wahl, Bishop & Company, Thomas Donaldson and others. Henry Young largely represents the furniture interest, and to this add the tinners, drug stores, millinery establishments, tailoring houses, hotels, blacksmith shops, three harness shops, grist mill, butchers and nearly every calling requisite in such a town, is represented with an army of the best carpenters in the country, who are never idle, a the new buildings going up in the town and vicinity, and the work demanded in the various oil fields, shows and gives them constant and profitable employment.

Recently Found

A recent cleanup around the Library/Museum building revealed a headstone at the side of the building. 

We at the museum were not aware of the stone being there. The headstone is for a William Turner, born 1872 – died 1873. We have had several different stories on how it got here. If anyone has information about this headstone, please contact the Evans City Historical Society or Board Member.

Update: we have gotten information that the headstone may have come from the old cemeteries above St Matthias or St John’s churches.

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