A Monumental Task

Rear: Elaine (Campbell-McCollough) Callahan, Sid Callahan, Steven McCollough, George Beck. Front: Dianne (McCollough) Sefter and Devin Corbett with the restored McCollough Monument

The McCollough Monument on Oak Road in Chicora is nearly 100 years old.  Erected in 1927 by the heirs of Captain John McCollough, it commemorated 130 years since John and Elizabeth (Spangler) McCollough settled one of the first homestead farms in Butler County. The Monument was erected by Curtis Foy Emrick McCollough, Clarence B. McCollough, and Theodore O. McCollough on the north side of Oak Road on the Oliver Merrill McCollough farm.  Theodore was a cement finisher for the Pennsylvania Department of Highways and knew concrete forms and finishing.  The Monument was made of concrete with a white marble stone, which is likely the reverse of Captain John McCollough’s tombstone from the Wilson Cemetery.  The inscription reads SITE FIRST LOG CABIN HOMESTEAD BUILT BY CAPT. JOHN McCOLLOUGH 500 A. TRACT 1797 MARKER PLACED BY HEIRS 1927.

Over 95 years, the McCollough Monument began to show its age.  The back corner of the Monument was fractured by a high-powered rifle. Lichens and moss crept across the white tombstone. The freeze and thaw of 95 winters created cracks in the cement.  Last summer Sherrie Ann (Murray) Worstell, a 4th great-grandchild of Captain John and Elizabeth McCollough, decided to restore the Monument.  With her Uncle Sid Callahan and Aunt Elaine Callahan (daughter of Nellie Cleora McCollough), they initiated a project to clean the Monument and repair the broken corner. The project quickly grew, and Uncle Sid organized others in the community to lend a hand.  Devin Corbett (son of Marilyn McCollough), Steven McCollough, and George Beck (son of Sheila McCollough), all 4th great-grandchildren of Captain John and Elizabeth, were enlisted.    

Devin and his work crew pressure washed the marble monument.  A crack in the marble was repaired with epoxy. Devin and George repaired the cracks in the cement and finished the surface of the Monument with a smooth layer of hydraulic cement.  Once again, the Monument glows in the setting sun above Captain John and Elizabeth McCollough’s homestead.

George Beck and Devin Corbett add hydraulic cement to restore the McCollough Monument.

The Butler Eagle ran a front-page story on the project on September 7, 2022.  

McCollough descendants spruce up marker

By Eric Freehling, Eagle Community Editor

FAIRVIEW TOWNSHIP – At one time, it was said around Chicora if you weren’t a McCollough, you knew one or would become one.

Some of the far-flung descendants of the family patriarch, Capt. John McCollough, gathered Friday to spruce up the marker placed along Oak Road in 1927 to mark the place where the Indian War of Western Pennsylvania veteran built a log cabin in 1797 on a 500-acre tract of land.

The inscriptions reads, “Site First Log Cabin Homestead Built by Capt. John McCollough 500 A. Tract 1797 Marker Placed by Heirs 1927.” 

Steven McCollough, of Sarver, the great-great-great-great-grandson of John McCollough, said family legends says the other side of the marble marker carrying those words is the original gravestone of the founding father, left behind when his body and that of his wife Elizabeth were moved from the Broken Down Cemetery to Hilltop Cemetery.

The restoration project was started by Sidney Callahan, whose house is just up the road from the marker. In fact, he and his wife, Elaine (McCollough), built their house in 1970 on land that had been known as the McCollough picnic grove until World War II.

Sidney Callahan said, “Capt. John McCollough had seven children, four of them boys. In those days, land went to the sons, so the 500 acres were divided into four farms of 125 acres (each).

“They lived on the property and made their living farming,” he said.

Three of the McCollough descendants – Curtis, Clarence, and Theodore – set up the monument in 1927 to mark the 130 years since John and Elizabeth settled on the farm.

Callahan said part of the property was set aside for a picnic pavilion that hosted and annual picnic from 1909 to 1943.

“It was always held on the third Wednesday in August,” he said. “Horses would haul in barrels of water. There was a spring, but this saved on time.”

“A field across from the monument on Oak Road was used for baseball games during the picnics,” he added.

“1943 was the last years for the picnic,” Callahan said. “It was considered unpatriotic to spend the gasoline to drive to the picnic while there was a war on.”

After the war, the picnics never resumed, he added, saying that from time to time artifacts are found in the field that’s used as a ballfield.

Steven McCollough said, “The family’s gotten spread out all over the country, but there’s still McColloughs here.”

In fact, his brother, Mark McCollough, who recently retired as a wildlife biologist in Maine, wrote a history of the McCollough family with his father, Curtis.

Titled “Descendants of Capt. John McCollough 1770-1847 and Anna Elizabeth Spangler 1779-1858 Pioneers of Butler County, Pa.” the book outlines how John McCollough, who was in the Westmoreland County Militia during the Indian wars in Western Pennsylvania during the 1790s, moved to what is now Butler County when the land west of the Allegheny River became available for settlement.

Mark McCollough said, “John McCollough continued to serve in the militia.  He became a captain during the War of 1812, when he led Butler County militiamen to Erie in 1813.” The fear was that the British would attack Erie crossing the frozen lake from Canada.

They didn’t attack and he returned in a month and a half,” Mark McCollough said.

Later in life, John McCollough left the farm to his sons and moved to Butler, where he ran a pottery business from the original log cabin jail down the hill from the Butler County Courthouse.

Mark McCollough said his family still owns the farm from Captain John left to his son, William Wallace McCollough.

His mother, Roseanne McCollough, grew up in Chicora as Roseanne Byrnes. She was the one wh0o quoted the saying about know, being or soon becoming a McCollough.

“Well, I only lived about a mile away from their farm, but I didn’t know them very well,” she said. “His father Theodore farmed and worked for PennDOT. Curtis and I met at a Karns City basketball game.”

Callahan, Steven McCollough, George Beck of Chicora, another great-great-great-great-grandsons of John McCollough, as well as Devin Corbett, and other McCollough descendant, turned out Friday to try and loosen decades worth of moss and grime from the stone and marble marker.

Then Corbett turned a pressure washer on the monument and began blasting away the dirt and debris.

“After it dries, we’re going to use hydraulic cement to fix the cracks and seal the seams,” said Corbett.

Corbett said he went to Ryan Ritzert, a concrete contractor, for advice on patching the stone marker.

Callahan said he has contacted a gravestone maker in Sligo named Dana Logue about dressing up the lettering on the marble section.

It is heartening to see McCollough descendants who are proud of their heritage and maintaining our links to their ancestors and history!

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