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Munster Township, located in the east-central part of Cambria County, was created 100 years ago [from 1804 -1954 sesquibook]. It was formed from Allegheny, Washington, and Cambria Townships, December 9, 1854, and derived its name from the village of Munster.
Historians are at odds whether the Cambria town was called after the community of Munster, Ireland, or Munster, Germany. The first settlers were Irish.
Nevertheless the derivation of the name from the German town can be explained logically. Rev. Father Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, the prince of the Alleghenies, was a dominant figure in county life in 1802 when Munster began to spring up. It is said the venerated priest named the new settlement for Munster, Germany, where he lived part of his youth.
One of the early biographers reports that Father Gallitzin and Edward Victor James, one of his parishoners in Loretto, had some disagreements. This caused James to move to Munster where in 1808 he entered the real estate business and laid out the community in lots and streets.
Each lot had a frontage of 60 feet and extended 180 feet in depth. They were offered for sale at $16, but there were few takers. The town never has had a large population. It had 80 residents about 1820 and 67 in 1840. The latest census showed only 550 people living in the entire township.
While Munster never has acquired a place of prominence, it once reportedly competed with Ebensburg and Beulah to be designated as the county seat.
The naming of Ebensburg, which took place in 1805, was a setback to Munster which had one distinct advantage over the other two towns. It was located near the Gallbreath Road -- the first road built in Cambria County.
Erected in 1790, "Storm Place" was the first inn to spring up in the county. The hostelry was located along the Galbreath Road in Munster Township. In those days, road houses were few and far between.
Robert Burgoon became proprietor of the establishment in 1799. Some of his descendants still reside in the county. Other outstanding residents of Munster for many years were members of the Peter Collins family. On May 18, 1820, Peter Collins was married to Sarah Meloy by Rev. Father Gallitzin. They had 12 children -- Philip, James, Thomas, Elizabeth, Cornelius, Catherine, Mary, John, Peter, Sarah, Joseph, and Ellen.
Philip and Peter Collins were contractors. They worked chiefly in the building of railroads, including some in Cambria County. Thomas Collins were elected to the General Assembly in 1852. He accepted the Democratic nomination for secretary of internal affairs in 1894 but was not elected.
Philip Collins, in addition to his contracting work, was principal founder of the newspaper, the Philadelphia Times, in 1875. It was sold and merged with the Philadelphia Ledger in 1899.
Some of the other early settlers who attained prminence included Cornelius Dever, Philip Dever, Jacob Glass, Joseph Criste, and J. J. Thomas. E. V. James, who laid out the town, was named first county prothonotary in 1807.
The William Penn Highway, U. S. Route 22, passes through the center of the township, following much the same course as the original Huntingdon, Cambria, and Indiana Turnpike, which was completed in 1820. The first brick road was built in 1912. Since then, other improved highways have been constructed.
Munster also at one time was a station stop on the Ebensburg & Cresson Railroad. The line was chartered May 5, 1859, and opened in July 1862. It was 11 miles long.
Late last century a man named Mickey Smith, who had killed a Johnstown policeman, escaped from Ebensburg jail the day before he was scheduled to be hanged. He reportedly made good his escape while a guard on duty was playing a fiddle. Smith hid out for a time in a cave on the old Smith Farm in the township. He never did pay for his crime at the end of a rope.
At one time there was a barn in Munster, behind what is now the Noel junkyard, which faced directly north and south. The roof was sloped so that rain water which dropped off the west side flowed into a creek to the Conemaugh River and eventually emptied into the Gulf of Mexico. The water which drained off the east side traveled toward "Halfway House" to Chest Creek, to the Susquehanna River and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean.
Munster is located on the crest and western slope of the Allegheny Divide.
The township is bounded on the east by Cresson and Washington Townships, on the South by Portage and Summerhill Townships, on the west by Cambria Township and on the north by Allegheny Township.