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Barr Township, 32.8 square miles of rolling Pennsylvania countryside, is situated in the northeastern part of Cambria County. It was created September 4, 1872, from lands formerly belonging to the townships of Blacklick, Cambria and Susquehanna.
It was named by Henry Scanlan, a surveyor, after the Barr family of Johnstown, who never lived in the township but owned land there in the early days of the Commonwealth. The Census of 1880 listed its population as 900 and 70 years later the 1950 Census counted 3,084 inhabitants.
Lumbering and farming were the earliest industries and coal mining became an important means of livelihood in the township when its surface was found to be richly underlaid with coal.
The village of Nicktown grew up around the Catholic parish of St. Nicholas which was established there with 38 members in 1861. This beautiful country village of about 220 people sits on a high level spot near the center of the township. The St. Nicholas Church, parish buildings and graveyard are located on 15 acres of land reserved for that purpose from a tract acquired from Father Lemke of Carrolltown by Bernard Lambour who had emigrated from Alsace-Lorraine.
In its early days the village was called Blacklick Settlement because of its location near the headwaters of Blacklick Creek. It was later called St. Nicholas for the parish but was renamed Nicktown in 1873 when a post office was established there. The application for a post office disclosed that there was already a St. Nicholas post office in eastern Pennsylvania. The first postmaster was Nicholas Lambour whose father had owned the land which became the church site.
The village of Marstellar, a coal mining community of nearly 1,000 people, is the northeastern part of the township on Moss Creek. It was so called for a man of the same name associated with the mining industry around which the town is centered.
The little village of Watkins, also located in the northern part of the township, had its origin in homes provided for miners who worked in the Watkins coal mine.
West Branch, another small coal mining settlement in the northern part of the township, was named for its location on the west branch of the Susquehanna.
Other names prominently related to Barr Township's early history are: Ager, Baker, Beck, Byrne, Fresh, Gessler, Griffith, Hammond, Hoppel, Kallenger, Kirsch, Kline, Kritzer, Krumenacker, Lantzy, Lehmier, Lieb, Soisson, Sutton, Weiland.
One of the most prominent of Barr Township's native sons is Father Maximilian Duman O.S.B., a botanist noted for his explorations into the arctic and botanical interpretation of Army aerial photographs.