Sunday, January 6, 2008

Field Trip Needed: Mahaffey, PA

I need to make a visit to the Borough of Mahaffey, in western Pennsylvania, somewhat southeast of Punxsutawny. I'm adding it to my list of places to visit to learn more about family history.

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Mahaffey is the only populated place in the US that I know of that is named for a relative of mine. There is a small lake named Mahaffie created by the US Farm Service out in Oklahoma.

I had been aware for some time that there is a place called Mahaffey in Pennsylvania, but it is only recently that my genealogical wanderings led me to a reference to the person it was named for, Robert Mahaffey, who was the grandson of my great-great-great-great-grandfather's brother. That makes him my second cousin, four times removed. It's probably more useful to say he was second cousin to my great-grandfather, Doc Mahaffie.

Back around 1750, a group of Mahaffeys emigrated from Ireland to Pennsylvania, settling originally in Cumberland County. There were either two sets of two brothers who were cousins, or more likely there were four brothers. Records are sketchy; our best source is a family history from the early 20th century.

In any case, one of those original American Mahaffeys was Charles, whose son Andrew changed his name's spelling to Mahaffie and produced JB, who produced Doc, whose son Charles was my grandfather. The elder Charles Mahaffey's brother Thomas, meanwhile, fathered William, who fathered Robert Mahaffey, who appears to have founded the settlement that now bears his name.

I had already shown Robert Mahaffie (1815 - 1900) in my family tree, but it wasn't until I found an extract from Twentieth Century History of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, and Representative Citizens, by Roland D. Swoope, Jr. (published by Richmond-Arnold Publishing of Chicago in 1911), that I had a reference to a founder of Mahaffie:
Robert Mahaffey equaled his father in enterprise. He engaged also in lumbering and later cleared up a large farm in Bell township and also conducted a general store and in addition, operated a mill. His various enterprises prospered and each one assisted in the developing of the other and ere long many settlers had been attracted to his neighborhood, a village resulted and in his honor was named for the man of energy and progress, who had had the foresight to select this certain section of the wilderness as his place of investment.
Today Mahaffey is something of an also-ran among the many municipalities and boroughs of Pennsylvania. I couldn't find a town government in my Google-searching. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania doesn't link to one. And I couldn't find anything via the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities or the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.

The 2000 US Census found 402 residents; all of them white with a median age of between 39 and 40 years. According to the Bell Township/Mahaffey Borough Joint Comprehensive Plan (found via the PA County Planning e-Library) prepared in 2000, population at Mahaffey reached a peak of 801 in 1920. A lack of economic opportunities, likely tied to the shift away from an agrarian economy in the eastern US, led to high levels of out-migration.

But Mahaffey looks like an interesting place. It sits among the hills and along a mid-sized stream. There are some recreation areas nearby and a Mahaffey Camp, "A Christian Center for Spiritual Growth," up the road.

I think I may need to take a field trip to see the place for myself.

32 comments:

jason330 said...

I love this passage.

His various enterprises prospered and each one assisted in the developing of the other and ere long many settlers had been attracted to his neighborhood, a village resulted and in his honor was named for the man of energy and progress, who had had the foresight to select this certain section of the wilderness as his place of investment.

What an awesome trip. I'd love to tag along and do a kinf of half assed documentary or something.

Can you hold off until after I win the lottery?

maryb95 said...

Hi, I grew up in Mahaffey and my parents still live on Banner Ridge. Don't plan on spending more than a minute there, it doesn't have a traffic light to slow you down. Only businesses are Rainey's General Store, Snyder's restaurant, and the funeral home. Plan to spend the rest of your day in Punxsy seeing groundhog Phil at the library. ;)

Don said...

I 2nd that Mahaffey field trip notion! As does my father Don Mahaffey Weaver I, well, he 3rds it!!

Regards,

Don Mahaffey Weaver II

Mike Mahaffie said...

Don!

Are you guys related to Robert Mahaffey or any of the PA Mahaffeys? I'd love to explore and see if we can make the family tree connection. Feel free to e-mail me at mmahaffie@comcast.net if you'd like to pursue this.

pammahaffie said...

I too am a descendant of Andrew Mehaffey. My grandfather was Alexander Guy (J.B.'s younger brother). I am still looking for the information regarding his father etc. If you get to Olathe, Kansas, visit the Mahaffie Stagecoach and Farmstead. They have a new museum dedicated to J.B. and his family etc. It's wonderful. Good luck with your visit to PA. Post the trip so we can experience it with you.

Mike Mahaffie said...

Pam!

It is exciting to hear from you. I maintain a rather large family tree at geni.com and would liove to make a connection to you and add you to that tree. Once I make that connection, you would be able to trace the tree back up from Alexander Guy. We have information up to his great-great-grandfather.

I have only one or two generations down from Alexander Guy, though. As far as I have learned, he had a daughter by a first wife and two sons by a second. I have names of the daughter's husband and children, but nothing for the sons. Adding you, and your family knowledge, would really help expand that part of the tree.

Please contact me at mmahaffie@comcast.net and let us explore this further!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I just happened to stumble upon your site because I was looking at maps of Mahaffey, Pa. My aunt and uncle live in Mahaffey,Pa. My aunt and uncle's name is Mahaffey, not sure if your related to them in any way but I thought you might be interested since your looking for relatives. Their names are Paul and Betty Mahaffey.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mike, this was very interesting reading because my name is Andrew Mehaffey and i thought i only had five children.

Mike Mahaffie said...

Andrew, I wonder if we can trace our family trees back to a common ancestor? Do you have information on your family?

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of driving around the Mahaffey later summer -- my mother lived there as a child - graduated from Mahaffey High School - class of 1929. My grandfather had a small farm in McGees Mills -- not too far from the covered bridge.

Anonymous said...

Greetings, I am the oldest son of James Mahaffey. Seems a group of them made it down to Meridian Miss. There is a road named Mahaffey Rd, filled with Mahaffey's. Grandfather was a logger too.

Regards,
H. "Easy" Mahaffey
easymahaffey@yahoo.com

Rich said...

Ran across your post here - I, too, grew up in Mahaffey and still own the farmette where I grew up there along Rt.36, east of town. I would be happy to share info about Mahaffey if I could be of any help.
Rick Auden, Laporte, PA 18626
rauden@epix.net
auden.richard@gmail

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike, I work in Mahaffey PA and it is a wonderful little town. The people are very nice and it is a close knit town. If you love the outdoors, beautiful scenery, whitetail deer, bear, fishing, covered bridges, four wheelin, and we even a Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War, Melvin Brown. Yes it is a quiet town, but that's the way we like it.

Mike Mahaffie said...

Anonymous, It is indeed a great little town. We made our way out to Mahaffey for a quick visit last summer. Nice place!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,
I just recently moved to Pa and was surprised to find out a city had the last name of my grandfather. What surprised me more was reading about how some chose to change the spelling of Mahaffey. I grew up hearing that story from my grandfater as small child until his death in 1984. My grandfather always said he had relatives in the north. My grandfater's name was Jim Mahaffey. I really don't know any other relatives from my grandfather's side of the family

Thanks Kathy
Kathyheller90@yahoo.com

Sawnie Robertson said...

There was a reunion of all of the Mahaffey Clan around 2000 on the island off Scottish shore. It was huge. All of the same sound, regardless of spelling, could go. Actually, each variation had to have been recognized as legitimate. I learned about this when I met the woman sitting next to me in a Gaelic language class in Denver, Colorado. She was a Mahaffie and was going to attend the worldwide reunion. She shared some copies of documents she had received. I learned that we were actually Scots who were persuaded by an English king to move to Ireland to help subdue the Irish through intermarriage, etc. Thus, we were the Scotch Irish of Northern Ireland. My mother, a Mahaffey, was always proud that her family had migrated from Ireland and then Pennsylvaniz to Louisiana and Texas. It is a sad thing to me that the generations before us did not have the Internet. Learning Gaelic, however, could not have been helped by it. I gave up that study, figuring that, if my Scottish ancestors want to talk to me in the afterlife, they will have to speak English.

bob dull said...

my father grew up in banner ridge. he was bob dull. my mom was from mahaffey. she was helen louise mcgarvey. my graddma winifred mcgarvey/calhoun and great grandma maude may ergler ran a boarding house there years ago. our relatives were sunderlins, dehavens disbennets and kaufmans. my dads parents irvin and evelyn dull moved back to mahaffey in about 1965 and lived there lives out there.bob dull

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Mahaffey and my parents still live on Banner Ridge. Not much to see really. Blink your eyes and your through it.

bob dull said...

my dad grew up on banner ridge near the church. in the 50s my grandfather and dad and i tore the house down and hauled the wood to cloe and stacked it on my grandfathers strawberry farm behind the barn. i was small and had the job of straightening all the nails as they saved them too. all are gone but me and ill bet that old wood is still stacked and rotting behind the barn and the nails have rusted away.

DaveP said...

My name is David Passmore. I currently live in Pittsburgh PA. My grandfather Kenneth was born in Mahaffey (son of Ira). My dad (also David) lives in State College and is a professor at Penn State. I drove through Mahaffey once, and I am very interested to learn more about it.

Anonymous said...

I am descended from John Mahaffey, born somewhere in Pennsylvania in about 1798. I have been unable to trace his family back further. I have looked at Mahaffey Descendents online, but can't figure out a connection. But genealogy is addictive and I'm always trying to connect with Mahaffeys to see if I can learn more. If you, or anyone reading this thread has more information on possible parents for John, I'd love to hear from you. dweeks48@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was John Mahaffey from Easley, South Carolina. I would love to find out more about the Pennsylvania Mahaffeys.

Kyra Mahaffey said...

I was very surprised to read this and enjoyed it as well. I am a Mahaffey and from Mahaffey Pennsylvania. It is a small little town but lots of family :) Not many people can say they have a town named after them :)

Anonymous said...

I love Mahaffey PA

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mike!!
I grew up in Mahaffey, PA. Yes, I am a Ma 1/2 E!! Probably not the same now as I remember the town. I have not been back since 1990.
I wish you the best on your search.

Mike Mahaffie said...

HA! That's the first time I have ever seen "Ma1/2E." I like it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

My daughter will be visiting the town this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. My Dad is a Mahaffey from western PA.... Tarentum.
Edward and Alice were his parents.

Anonymous said...

There's also another part of the Mahaffeys that you forget. Mehaffey. It must related somehow I'm guessing

catherine beckhausen said...

my maiden name was Mahaffey. I am from those that went to the west coast some time back. My great grand father´s name was William Mahaffey. his brothers name was Earl. I know that they along with some cousins went to Washington state, There are still many of us there. There is a camp mahaffey along the kalama river in washington state. good fishing, if I may say so, They all came from the east coast, dont really know from where though.
I also know of Mahaffey´s that live in Canada ( east coast).
so if you are ever on the west coast , give it a look .

Unknown said...

my father was born in mahaffey P.A David Bennett jr. I know his mothers (my grandmother) maiden name was Mary Ruth Brubaker im looking to find any info on my family

jacqueline miller said...

my father was born in mahaffey P.A David Bennett jr. I know his mothers (my grandmother) maiden name was Mary Ruth Brubaker im looking to find any info on my family

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