John Miller.

A twentieth century history of Erie County, Pennsylvania : a narrative account of its historic progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume 1) online

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The Erie Cemetery. It is a perpetual corporation, the charter pro-
viding that all vacancies that may occur shall be filled, "from among
the lot owners." The first managers under the charter were, Charles
M. Reed, George A. Eliot, William Kelley, John Galbraith, Elijah Bab-
bitt, William Himrod and A. W. Brewster. George A. Eliot was



elected president ; William A. Brown, secretary, and J. C. Spencer,

The survey of the grounds was made by H. Daniels, and he, assist-
ed by Samuel Low, laid out the cemetery, sparing, as far as possible
the magnificent trees which occupied the wooded portions and plant-
ing trees, mostly maples and elms, on that part which had been under
cultivation. Work was not begun until December, 1850, and the
inclement weather of the winter greatly retarded proceedings, but on
May 20, 1851, the dedication exercises took place, the opening address
by George A. Eliot, Esq., president of the board, and the dedicatory


address by Rev. George A. Lyon, D. D. A strange and significant
circumstance is, that the first burial in the new cemetery was that of
Alexander W. Brewster, a member of the board of managers, and the
most active worker to secure the organization of the corporation. It
is also worthy of note that before the annual meeting in January, 1853,
two others of the corporators, W. Windham Reed and John Hughes,
were also buried in Erie cemetery.

The superintendents of Erie cemetery have been : Samuel Low,
from the time of its opening until his death in June, 1869 ; Cassius W.
Low, his son, until December 4, 1871 ; Joseph Vance, until October 1,
1889 ; Henry W. Hay, until his death in 1892, and from that time until
the present, his widow, Mrs. E. E. Hay, has filled the position with


exceptional ability, introducing much that is generally approved in the
conduct of cemeteries elsewhere, and removing features that were
harsh and even repulsive in connection with old time burials. She
gives personal attention so far as possible to the work, and the develop-
ment of the cemetery in orderliness, and beauty and in keeping with
the tenets of the landscape gardener's art is in marked degree.

The handsome mortuary chapel was erected in 1888, and exper-
ienced cemetery managers have declared it unsurpassed by anything
of its nature in the country. The cemetery was, early, surrounded by
a high iron fence, the entrance provided with massive cast iron orna-
mental gates, beside which there stood the porter's lodge, covered with
woodbine, and it was necessary on Sundays that visitors should ex-
hibit a ticket before they would be permitted to pass in. The ticket
abomination was remedied years ago — just how long since none can
tell. The gates, flush with the line of the street, and the little lodge,
octagonal, and like the frustrum of a tower, gave place in 1896 to a
handsome entrance, the supports great square columns of brown
stone, the gates wrought iron of artistic design and recessed. The
new lodge, built the same year, is commodious enough to be the office,
a place of meeting for the corporators, and a convenient resting place
in case of need. In 1908, the main drive from the entrance to Walnut
avenue was macadamized, and ever and alwa}'S, new shrubbery, new
flowers, new lawns and new driveways and walks are being added,
while, on the part of the lot owners, the monuments erected are in
keeping as to taste, with the work of the managers.

It was in 1848 and 1852 that the Catholic churches sought to find
a location for cemetery purposes beyond where the city would grow
up and surround it, but in a good deal less than twenty years what
had been sought to be provided against came upon them. The city
had grown up into that which had been a rural neighborhood, and a
new location was desired. This was found in a tract of land on the
Lake road four miles west of the city, which was bought by Bishop
Mullen, and was consecrated as Trinity cemetery on Sunday, May 23,
1869. It was a notable occasion, and the ceremonies were witnessed
by thousands. The procession, including the various Catholic socie-
ties, the sections headed by four bands, formed in the city and marched
out to the cemetery, escorting Bishop Mullen and the clergy. Arrived
at the grounds, the throng gathered around a massive cross erected in
the center of the field, the clergy and the choir in the center. A short
address in English was made by Bishop Mullen, a sermon in German
was delivered by Father Wenderlein, and then the ceremony of conse-
cration took place. The cemetery obtained its name from the fact
that the date of its consecration was Trinity Sunday. Joseph Scheloski
was the first superintendent, and served for ten years — until his death.
Joseph Haas, Sr., succeeded, serving until April 1, 1887, and was fol-


lowed by his son, Joseph Haas, Jr., and he in turn was succeeded by
Philip Weschler, the present superintendent. The agreement for the
purchase of the cemetery was made by Bishop Young, and one of the
first interments at Trinity was his body, removed from the South Erie

Immediately west of Trinity cemetery, on the Lake road, two
acres of ground was secured for burial purposes by St. Stanislaus
Polish Catholic church. The land was bought October 15, 1889, and
dedicated November 2, of the same year.

The Hebrew cemetery, on the Ridge road, or Twenty-sixth street
as it is now, was purchased in 1858. It is located a short distance
west of Erie cemetery, on the summit of the ridge.

Lakeside Cemetery Association was incorporated in 1895, and
secured a tract of land 135 acres in extent on the lake shore, about a
mile east of the city limits, and in August of that year began the work
of laying out drives and lawns. It is beautifully situated, including
a fine little vale through which a stream winds, falling into the lake
by a little cascade. The lots are sold subject to a perpetual care pro-
vision, and trees, shrubbery and hedges have been planted. Near the
northern edge of the cemetery, overlooking the blue waters of the
lake, a plot was secured in which were interred the remains of Capt.
C. V. Gridley, commander of Admiral Dewey's flagship Olympia in
the battle of Manila. Later the plot, named Gridley Circle, was
marked by four antique cannon of silver bronze taken at Cavite when
the Spanish surrendered the place, and sent to Erie by the United
States government. Later John P. V. Gridley, a son of the Captain,
who was killed by an explosion on the U. S. S. Missouri, was buried
in the same plot.


^ Early Newspapers in Erie. — The Gazette, Observer, and Other

Weeklies. — The Dispatch the First Daily. — Papers

AND People Recalled.

I wonder if any of the thousands of Erie readers of newspapers
of the present time ever laid aside the sheets they have been perusing,
long enough to bestow thought upon what newspaper effort in Erie in-
volved ; how many an attempt to establish business in publishing
came to wreck; what an army of men have, first and last, been con-
nected with journalistic work in Erie ; what the amount of booming
and bolstering and exploitation of Erie's claims and charms has been,
and how many fond hopes were blasted along with the enterprises that
failed for lack of support. Sometimes in the bitterness of heart that
failure in business induced, the disappointed printer has declared that
"Erie is no newspaper town, anyway"^and the fact that there is only
a single instance on record where a publisher contrived to make a
competence out of the business in Erie seemed to warrant the as-
sertion. And yet, Erie, if judged by the number of newspapers that
have from, time to time been published here must be a great town for
papers, for there have been no less than forty-four different journals
published in Erie, and if weekly editions of daily papers, and daily
editions of weeklies, should be taken into the account, there were more
than fifty since the appearance, in 1808, of the Erie Mirror.

Now just imagine the puffing and blowing of all this half hundred'
newspapers combined into one blast; what a gale that would be! It
would be sure to move something. But has it not? In that hundred
years who can tell the amount of good that has been done for the city
of Erie by the efforts of those newspapers, devoted to the work of
keeping the advantages and charms of Erie before the public eye; to
an unceasing effort to maintain local pride, quicken local enterprise
and invite outside capital? Erie has grown from the little hamlet
perched on the bluff near the entrance to the bay, to be a great city
with miles of mills and factories and leagues of handsome homes ; with
a thousand business enterprises and tens of thousands of contented and
prosperous citizens; from the "sleepy borough," as it was one time
called, to one of the most populous and progressive cities of the state,


wide awake to improvements and abreast of the times in all that con-
tributes to the comfort or convenience of its people. How much of
all this is due to the efforts of the newspapers? Who shall say? No
doubt very much was the result of the agitation, the suggestion and
sometimes the criticism of the local newspaper, and even the ephem-
eral sheet that endured for but its brief day may have lived long
enough to point a finger in the direction of progress, and encourage
effort toward the development of Erie's commerce and industries.

The first of Erie's papers was the Mirror, established in 1808. At
that time the population of the entire county was hardly more than
2,000, and of Erie proper, less than 400. It is not remarkable that the
Mirror did not long endure to cast its reflections. In 1813 the suc-
cessor of the first newspaper venture appeared in the Northern Sentinel.
which in its struggles for existence "played many parts," appearing
successively as the Genius of the Lakes, the Phoenix, and finally as the
Reflector, yielding to the inevitable in about 1820, when it pulled up
stakes and moved holus-bolus to Mayville, N. Y. These early days
were not auspicious for newspapers. There was one called the
Patriot, started by a Mr. Zeba Willis, in 1818, which was published
•here for but a single year, when it was moved to Cleveland and be-
came in course of time the Herald, long one of the principal daily
newspapers of that city, and eventually merged in the Cleveland

In 1820, the Gazette was started by Joseph M. Sterrett. At that
time the population of Erie was 635, and of the entire county 8,541,
but it endured for a longer period than any of Erie's newspapers,
covering a period of 70 years. It was followed by the Observer, start-
ed in 1830, and published for 67 years. The Dispateh was begun in
1851 in W'aterford, moved to Erie in 1856, in 1864 began the publica-
tion of the Daily Dispatch, and has continued to this date, through
varied fortunes and misfortunes, but always recognized as a paper of
Erie and for Erie to the best of the abilities of its several editors.

Perhaps a survey of newspaper chronology may be worth pre-
senting. Following the Gazette and Observer these appeared : Chron-
icle, 1840 ; Commercial Advertiser, 1846 ; Constitution, 1852 ; True Amer-
ican, 1853 ; Express, 1857 ; Daily Bulletin, printed for a short time in the
Observer office, 1861 ; a daily edition of the Dispatch, (moved to Erie
in 1856), 1861 ; Unsere World, 1851 ; Zuschauer, 1852 ; Erie Presse, 1860 ;
Leuchutthurm, 1870 ; Republican, 1867 ; Daily Bulletin, 1874 ; Argus,
1875 ; Advertiser, 1876 ; Lake Shore Visitor, 1874 ; Lake City Daily. 1878 ;
lornal de Noticias, (Portugese), 1877 ; Herald, 1878 ; Graphic. 1880 ; Star
of Liberty, 1882 ; Sonntagsgast, 1881 ; Times, 1888 ; Sunday Globe, 1891 ;
News, 1892 ; Highland Light, 1892 ; Arbeiter-Zeitung, 1891 ; People, 1892 ;
Sunday Messenger, 1894; Truth, 1895; Morning Record, 1895; Daily
Journal, 1896. Besides these, B. F. H. Lynn, who founded the Daily


Dispatch, somewhere in the early seventies published a .very readable
weekly called the Western Pennsyhmnian, which, however, was not a
financial success and was merged in the Gazette. Soon afterwards D.
F. H. Ohr published a weekly for a short period, its name is not now
recalled. Besides these, there was John M. Glazier's Record, and the
Echo, a newspaper after its kind, and last of all the numerous progeny,
the Post. Reading over the list it would appear as though there was
little left in the newspaper vocabulary for future newspaper projectors
to select a name from.

The first of the newspaper men to take up a stable position among
his fellow citizens was Joseph M. Sterrett, who, for years filled a very-
important place in afifairs in Erie. There was a time when the Whigs
swore by the Gazette and the ofSce was the political storm center of
this portion of the state. All the leaders of the Whig party counseled
with Mr. Sterrett and made his office their headquarters and the source
from which instructions and orders emanated, and for years after Mr.
Sterrett left it, after Mr. Gara, his partner and successor, also had long
ceased to be connected with it, the Gazette office was still the Mecca
toward which the Republicans of the old regime turned their faces
when they sent up their political prayers. It was in 1830-31 that Hor-
ace Greeley worked as a journeyman printer on the Gazette, and there
can be no question of the important influence his brief career in Erie,
associated as he could not help being with the conditions as they then
existed, had, upon his future course, for he afterwards remarked that
there was more politics to the square foot in Erie than in any other
place in the whole United States. Mr. Sterrett was the oracle whom
all consulted. Was it any wonder, then, that he should be given
preferment in a political way? He held the offices of county commis-
sioner, state senator, associate judge and postmaster of Erie. And yet
no man ever spoke of Judge Sterrett as a boss. He was universally
respected, and to his death in 1888, maintained the esteem of his fel-
low citizens. The writer remembers him only as an aged man of the
kindliest disposition and most engaging manner, an interesting talker
and ever disposed to friendliness.

A man who had ceased to be reckoned among the ranks of the
newspaper fraternity at a comparatively early day, although he went
in and out amongst us until within a few months, was Henry Catlin,
editor of the True American for a number of years and until its discon-
tinuance, after the breaking out of the war of the Rebellion. His was
a most delightful personality. He was a gentleman of rare parts. A
man of peace, he was nevertheless of leonine courage. It took a man
of heroic mould to assume the role he did, even in Erie, a stronghold
of WHiiggery and Republicanism, for his paper was the only sturdy ex-


ponent of abolition in this part of the country. It was a matter of con-
science with him ; whether or not it were a paying investment finan-
cially did not so much enter into his calculations as whether his views
were, right. He believed they were, and he courageously defended
them. He was an aider and abetter of the Underground Railroad move-
ment ; as a believer in the iniquity of the institution of slavery and as
a sympathizer with the bondman risking life for his liberty he was ever
ready to lend a hand and contribute from his purse to the cause of
negro freeedom. Nor did he fear to face the opposition and boldly ap-
pear in public places as the champion of an enslaved race.

Once he announced in his paper that there would be a public ad-
dress delivered in Erie by Frederick Douglass, the eloquent freedman.
It raised a storm of indignant protest from the supporters of slavery
in Erie, and they served notice upon him that he took his life in his
hand if he dared to introduce that nigger to Erie as an instructor. If
they had any idea that these threats would intimidate him they little
knew Henry Catlin. The contrary was the eitect. ^^'hen Mr. Douglas
arrived at the station Mr. Catlin was there to receive him. Taking
the bag of Mr. Douglass in his hand, the editor of the True American
walked down State street arm in arm with the representative of the
despised race, and not a hand was lifted nor a voice of challenge or
protest raised. Before this splendid exhibition of courage the very
rabble was dumb, and when he introduced the speaker from the stage
that evening he was greeted with applause.

The True American went out when the booming of Union guns
and the tramp of Union feet proclaimed the doom of slavery. No
longer was it required that a paper should exist to advocate alone the
abolition of that cursed institution. It was in fact dead when the first
shot was fired upon the stars and stripes in Charleston harbor, and all
that breathed the spirit of loyalty were united in and animated by the
one desire of crushing the rebellion and restoring the Union. Faction
died out, and, recognizing the aspect of affairs, Mr. Catlin furled his
fiag and retired from the fight as a victor, well satisfied that the right
would prevail.

We have known Mr. Catlin as a useful citizen — the people now
living can testify that the city was better because he had lived in it.
and that his eiTorts in behalf of this community continued to the very
last. Without ostentation or vainglorious pretense, he bent his ener-
gies to add to the culture of his home town. In literature, in art, in
music he maintained a step in the lead and his co-workers cheerfully
followed. It was an attribute his fellows in every worthy eiTort recog-
nized and respected.

In September, 1846, there came to Erie, to become associated with
Joseph M. Sterrett in the management of the Gazette, Isaac B. Gara,


a native of Lancaster county, a Whig from the foundation up, and a
newspaper man by instinct and training. At the age of 19 he had
edited a Whig paper in the eastern part of the state, and it was the
beginning of a continuous career as an editor until he retired in 1866.
Soon after he became associated with Mr. Sterrett, the editorial con-
duct of the Gazette came into his hands, and his work was marked by
a care and a ready command of language that commended his writings
to the many readers of the Gazette. He had a style peculiarly his own,
and, unlike Kipling of our day, had no objection to adjectives or ad-
verbs. One feature of his editorial work is that he never was abusive
and seemed not to understand vituperation. It appeared to be a rule
of his life to speak only good of people, and his criticism of the oppo-
site political faith was, by his kindly methods, made possibly more ef-
fective as a weapon than it would have been if he had resorted to
verbal violence. As a natural result he soon became popular in Erie
and a leader socially, in politics and in business figuring in all the
public doings of the time.

It is told of Mr. Gara that his custom was to set his own editorials
at the case. By this arrangement he was spared any vexations that
might have been caused by the work of the intelligent compositor, ;>.
standing grievance of the profession, if traditions go for anything.
He retired from active journalism in 1866, but never lost his interest
in newspaper work or public affairs, and almost to the day of his
death was a frequent contributor to the newspaper press, both of
Erie and elsewhere.

Soon after his retirement from business he was appointed deputy
secretary of the commonwealth, a position he filled ably but for a brief
period of time, resigning to accept the position of postmaster at Erie,
the appointment coming from President Grant. He served two full
terms. Upon the conclusion of his service in the postoffice he re-
mained in Erie, leading the life of a retired gentleman, yet active in
every good work that claimed the attention of the people. With his
wife he was very active in charity.

No man was better known to the people of Erie. He was the
model of a fine old gentleman — a gentleman of the old regime, who
greeted his numerous acquaintances as he met them with character-
istic courtesy. He was invariably accompanied by his wife, and his
habitually cheerful countenance, his suavity of manner and unfailing
optimism were a perpetual charm. He grew old gracefully, and his
penchant for always saying kind things, no matter what the circum-
stances, in time became a subject of remark, sometimes with the pur-
pose of provoking a smile. He always took great interest in politics
and during campaigns was often a speaker from the hustings, travel-
ing even to the remote sections of the county in this work. It was re-
lated of him on one occasion that having consented to speak at a Re-


publican meeting somewhere in the neighborhood of Beaver Dam, it
chanced that the weather was wretched. It was necessary to drive
over muddy roads from Corry, through driving sleet, and when the
destination was reached the only entertainment that had been pro-
vided was a meal at a farmer's house where the provision consisted
chiefly of salt bacon and other such homely fare. None of the party
fully relished the spread and silence settled down upon the table and
continued for a considerable space. At length Mr. Gara found voice.
"They have excellent salt out here," said he. And then the table broke
into a roar. Good nature was restored and the general verdict was
that Beaver Dam never before had so spirited a political meeting and
that district was heard from with due effect when the votes were

Another philosopher of the olden time was Sidney Kelsey. He
was a sort of a plodder, but few could equal him in quoting from
Shakespeare or the Bible. He was a disciple of Uncle Oliver Spafford,
and from him had imbibed a portion of the wisdom that caused Uncle
Oliver to be known as the Benjamin Franklin of Erie. Sid Kelsey was
constitutionally opposed to directness in telling his story. He ap-
proached it by stealth and stratagem, and thereby made it much more
ornate according to the tastes of the day in which he lived.

The most notable writing that Sid Kelsey ever did appeared
anonymously, and the fame that came to him posthumously was very
mild and weak compared with what it might have been had he been
less timid about acknowledging his authorship. It was he who wrote
the "E-pistol of John," that created so much stir during the most ac-
tive period of the railroad war. It appeared as a brochure and excited
such a degree of interest (to us it seems much greater than the merits
of the work warranted), that Mr. Kelsey was fearful of consequences
and kept his secret locked up in his breast until a short time before his
death, when he confessed it.

Of all the editors Erie ever boasted, however, none could equal
for enterprise and push and energy, B. F. H. Lynn, the founder of the
Daih Dispatch. Ben. Lynn was no idler. He was phenomenally ac-
tive, and. waking or sleeping, his mind was filled with the business in
hand, and that business was the publication of the Dispatch. His en-
terprise became extravagance, for in the course of two or three years
he had brought the Dispatch up to the grade of papers that had com-
munities of 100,000, or upwards, to draw support from. He gathered
about him a corps of editors and printers that were away above Erie's
class in those days, and he had his own way of establishing and main-
taining the esprit de corps that made his force effective. When the
anniversary of the paper came there would be a big picnic with a


chartered special train and Mehl's band. On New Year's day there
would be a big dinner to the entire force. If he achieved a big news
scoop all hands were invited across to Capt. Graham's for an oyster
supper. He figured as a leader in Fourth of July celebrations, and
had a prominent part in the demonstrations with which the Union
victories toward the end of the war were celebrated.

Get the news and print it regardless, were his orders, and one
time he had the narrowest possible escape from losing his life through
the publication of a news item. The Dispatch had alluded to the place
kept by one Felix McCann as a doggery, and Felix was naturally very-
much put out about it. About the middle of the forenoon he came
into the office — it was then on Fifth street — and passing up stairs,

Online LibraryJohn MillerA twentieth century history of Erie County, Pennsylvania : a narrative account of its historic progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume 1) → online text (page 98 of 101)