Samuel P. (Samuel Penniman) Bates.

History of Erie county, Pennsylvania online

. (page 85 of 187)
Online LibrarySamuel P. (Samuel Penniman) BatesHistory of Erie county, Pennsylvania → online text (page 85 of 187)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Thomas Hinton, Jr., Robert and Wilson Johnston, John B. Jones, Caleb
Lyon, David McNair, Joseph McGahen, William Miles, Barnabus McCue,
Andrew Norcross, John, James M. and David Phillips, Thomas Prentice, James
Perry, James M., Thomas E. and Robert R. Reed, Ralph Spafford, Thomas,
Samuel and John Smith, Benjamin Saxton, Zaimon and Burrill Tracy, Na-
thaniel Wilson, John Warren and John Yost. In 1817, William Miles was
assessed for 2,400 acres in Venango Township, most of which were at Watts-
burg and Lowville. They were valued at $3,400.


The following is a list of the citizens of Venango who have held State
and county positions: Canal Commissioner, John Phillips, 1826 to 1829. As-
sembly, John Phillips, 1809. 1810, 1811, 1812 aad 1824; Wareham Warner,
1856 and 1857. Prothonotary, Giles D. Price, December 28, 1875, to Janu-
ary 1, 1882. Clerk of the Courts, Charles L. Pierce, November 20, 1867, to
November 14, 1873. County Treasurer, John Warren, 1817; elected from
Erie, where he had moved. County Commissioners, John Phillips, 1804 to
1807; Samuel Low, 1836 to 1840, elected from Harbor Creek, where he
moved in 1834; Jacob Fritts, 1860 to 1863; Daniel W. Titus, 1875 to 1881.
Clerk to County Commissioners, Giles D. Price, chosen in January, 1883.
County Auditors, Samuel Low, 1832; Daniel W. Titus, 1872; C. R. Gray,
1878 to 1881. Col. J. S., M. Rush and Joseph Warner, well known busmess
men of Erie, were born at Lowville. The first named was a Colonel in the
Union army during the late war. D. B. Foote was a Captain in the same serv-
ice, and Dr. S. F. Chapin a Surgeon.

WAR or 1812.
Following is the muster roll of Company E of the One Hundred and Thirty,
sixth Regiment Pennsylvania Militia, at the breaking-out of the war of 1812;


Captain, William Dickson; Lieutenant, Robert Davison; Ensign, Thomas Da-
vison; Sergeants, Arthur Davidson, John Dickson, David Phillips; privates,
James Donaldson, David McNair, Bailey Donaldson, Thomas Johnson, John
Hunter, Samuel Smith, George Davidson, John B. Jones, John Smith, James
Smith. James White, Thomas Prentice, Samuel Henderson, Thomas Henton,
Griffith Henton, "William Henton, Zalmon Tracy, Burrill Tracy, Thomas B.
Eeed. Capt. Dickson moved from the county in April, 1813, and Lieut. Da-
vidson assumed command, continuing during the war. The company was
called out in June, 1813, and for some time guarded the shipyards at the
mouth of Cascade Creek, where Perry's fleet was building. They remained
until the fleet sailed and were then sent home, but were ordered into service
again when the news came in January, 1814, that the British had taken


Venango is one of the best watered townships in the county. The West
Branch, which rises in Findley's Lake, N. Y., enters the township from Green-
field, and crosses its entire width from north to south, past Lowville and Watts-
burg. The East Branch takes its rise near Sherman, N. Y. , and coming in not
far from the southeast corner, flows in a southwestern course into Amity,
where the two unite near the township line, just outside the borough limits of
Wattsburg. The West Branch, which is very crooked, has a length of about
twelve miles in Venango, and the East Branch of about four miles. The
tributaries of these streams are as follows: Of the West Branch, Middlebrook,
Alder and Fritts Runs; of the East Branch, Stafford Evin. Several streams start
in the southwest corner of Venango and unite with French Creek proper in

Lake Pleasant, in the extreme southwestern part, near the comers of Ve-
nango, Greene, Amity and Waterford, is a beautiful body of water, about
three-fourths of a mile long and a third of a mile wide, with a depth of
twenty-live to fifty feet. Its outlet is a stream about the size of Le Boeuf Greek
at Waterford, that never diminishes except in the dryest seasons. After fur-
nishing power to several mills, it falls into French Creek about three miles
south, in Amity Township. The North East, Colt Station, Phillipsville &
Waterford road, one of the first in the county, runs just above the head of the
lake, and the Lake Pleasant road from Erie follows its east bank and outlet to
French Creek.

The township owns one iron bridge over the Bast Branch at the Tanner
place, and a covered wooden bridge over the West Branch at Lowville. All of
the other bridges are ordinary open wooden structures. The one over the West
Branch at Wattsburg was the first bridge in the county. It was built origi-
nally by the County Commissioners, through the influence of William Miles in


The chief avenues of Venango Township are the Erie &. Wattsburg
Plank Eoad; the old Erie & Wattsburg road by way of Phillipsville, which
branches off from the former at the Siegel farm in Greene Township; the
Wattsburg & North East, up the West Branch and through Greenfield; the
Waterford & North Bast through Phillipsville and Colt's Statiou; the Erie
& Lake Pleasant, by way of French Creek and the lake; the Wattsburg & New
York, up the East Branch to Clymer and Sherman; the Union & Wattsburg;
the Wattsburg & Corry; and the cross road from A. N.Woods to M. S. Eouse^s.
The old Erie road was opened in 1809, partially changed in 1828 and improved
in 1832; the Waterford & North Bast in 1804; and the Wattsburg and North



^-^U^^i^ W^'^t^


East in 1798. The latter was the great route for conveying goods between
Lake Erie and the Allegheny until the road was opened between Presque Isle
and Waterford. The Erie & Wattsburg Plank Eoad was commenced in
1852, completed in 1853 and abandoned as a toll road in 1865, after all the
gates had been torn down by a party of indignant farmers. The road from
Erie to Lake Pleasant was opened as far south as the Martin Hayes place in
Greene, in 1821-22, and completed to French Creek in 1826-27. From Erie
to Wattsburg by the Lake Pleasant road is eighteen and three-quarters miles;
by way of Phillipsville eighteen miles, and by way of Lowville twenty miles,
the latter route, however, having the advantage of better grades. Venango is
without a railroad, the nearest station being at Union. In 1853, the Erie City
Eailroad Company was chartered to build a road from the bay of Presque
Isle to the State Line, three miles from Wattsburg, where it was to connect
with an extension of the New York & Erie from Jamestown, N. Y., making a
continuous route between the lake and the Atlantic Ocean.

The valleys of both branches are quite wide, running from a mile to a mile
and a half, and spreading out to about three miles at Wattsburg, where they
come together. Along Alder Run, Middle Brook and Stafford Run, the flats
are from a quarter of a mile to a half mile in width, and upon the outlet of
Lake Pleasant they are very similar to those along the branches. The value
of farm property is from $30 to $60 an acre in the valleys, and from |20 to
$50 in the hill region. Most of the marketing is done at Wattsburg and Low-
ville. A good stone quarry has been opened on the farm of David E. Foote,
and another on that of J. H. Sears.


The manufacturing interests of Venango Township are as follows, not includ-
ing those of Wattsburg Borough: At Lowville — A grist mill run by water; a saw
mill by steam and water, and a steam shingle and heading mill. The grist mill
was built in 1822, has been remodeled since, and has frequently changed owners.
At Phillipsville, a cheese factory. In other sections — A steam saw mill on the
plank road near Eobinson's Corners; a steam shingle mill on the farm of Will-
iam S. Henderson; and a steam saw and cider mill on the farm of John H.
Bennett, upon the East Branch. There is also a steam saw and shingle mill
owned by Henry Jenkins, and Jones' steam shingle mill. Besides the above,
there is a creamery in Amity, just outside of Wattsburg, where much of the
milk in the south end of the township is disposed of.

The schools require two joint and eleven full buildings as follows: Joint
schools — Wales, in the northwest corner, maintained by Venango and Greene;
and the Venango and Amity, on the south line, near the center. Full schools—
Milltown, in the northeast; Phillipsville; Titus, on the road from Phillipsville
to Milltovm; McNair, in the north part, near the center; Lowville (a graded
school); Sears, a little northwest of the latter village: Henderson, in the north;
Maple Grove, on the old Erie road; Moore, on the Wattsburg & New York
road; Wicks, on the cross road from Wood's Corners to the State line; and
Tower, on the same road.

Not far from the year 1818, a school was held in the dwelling of B. Tracy,
situated about one and a half miles east of the present borough of Wattsburg,
taught by a Mr. Lewis. In the Phillipsville settlement, about the year 1833,
a frame sohoolhouse was erected not far from the present site of the school
building now at that village. A log schoolhouse had previously been used by
the settlement, in which taught at one time Amanda Tracy. Among the teach-
ers in the frame house were Norman Chapin, a Mr. Pelton, and Benjamin



Grant. Later teachers in this neighborhood were William Wood and Miss
Sylvia Brown. In the summer of 1819, Ann Riddle taught a school in the
neighborhood of the old Middlebrook Meeting-house. Near the line between
Venango and Greenfield Townships, but in the former, stood what was known
as the Campfield Schoolhouse, in which school was taught during the decade
beginning with 1822 (at periods) by Warren Loomis, Milan Atkins and Lo-
renzo Rogers.


The religious edifices of Venango are a Methodist Episcopal Church each
at Lowville and Phillipsville. The Lowville congregation was organized in
1875, and built its house in 1876, at a cost of |2,500, Rev. J. A. Kummer
being the first pastor. This appointment is on the Wattsburg Circuit, with
which it has been ever since its organization.

The congregation at Phillipsville was organized some years prior to 1848.
The church building was erected in 1862, on land deeded to the society by
Norman Chapia. In 1849, this charge was on the Wesleyville Circuit, with
which it continued until the formation of Greene Circuit in 1864. It is now
on Greene, the pastors of which since that period have been as follows; S. L.
Wilkinson, J. K Mendenhall, T. D. Blinn, C. L. Barnhart, R. D. Waltz, W.
Hoover, J. Akers, Z. W. Shadduck, I. N. Clover, A. Bashline, J. C. Ridout
and J. O. Osborne. In addition to the above congregations, the United Breth-
ren hold services in the Macedonia and Wick's Schoolhonses, and the Methodists
in the Tower Schoolhouse.


The Middlebrook Church, the first house for religious worship in the coun-
ty, stood about a mile and a half north of Lowville, along the Wattsburg &
North East road, upon a tract of two acres deeded by John Warren to the con-
gregation, to be held as long as used for church and cemetery purposes. The
first services, held in August, 1801, in the woods on the east bank of the
West Branch, near a spring now owned by Enos Mann, were attended by every
man and woman in the township, the young men having previously cleared
the ground and provided a pulpit and seats by chopping down and squaring
the timber. At their conclusion, a motion by John Hunter that a church
building be erected, was eagerly adopted. On the nest Thursday, all the able-
bodied men and boys met, concluded upon a site, and put up a structure— all
within the same day — which though more modest than modern churches,
doubtless afforded the people as much satisfaciion. The first church was re-
placed in 1802, by another of more pretentious style, built of hewed and split
logs. Services were regularly held in this building, until the Presbyterian
Church at Wattsburg was erected about 1828, when most of the congregation
dropped off. Rev. Absolom McCready was the pastor in charge for a time.
He was succeeded, in 1802, by Rev. Robert Patterson, who continued until
April 22,1807, having charge at the same time of the congregation of Upper and
Lower Greenfield. The congregation at Middlebrook continued to decline un-
til April 30, 1829, when it was dissolved and attached to the one atWattsburg

In the Middlebrook Graveyard were interred the bodies of many of the fore-
most Presbyterian pioneers in the county. Most of the remains have been
taken up, and the old burying place is no longer interesting except from its
associations. The other cemeteries and graveyards of the township are the
Lowville, Wattsburg and Phillipsville, the old Butler Burial Ground on the
J ames W . Davis place and some family inelosures.


The pleasant village of Lowville is on the West Branch of French Creek,
eighteen miles southeast from Erie, and two north of Wattsburg. The Watts-
burg Plank Road runs through the place and constitutes its main street. Be-
sides the mills, church and school above noted, Lovtrville contains the town
house of Venango — a frame building 24x40 in size and 16 in height, built in
1872, at a cost of $675 — one dry goods store, one general store, one grocery,
one wagon shop, one blacksmith shop, one shoe shop, and about thirty houses.
It has a lodge of the Knights of Honor, organized in 1877, with twenty-nine
members. The Lowville Cemetery, a tract of four acres, on the bank of the
creek, contains some costly monuments, is neatly laid out and carefully
kept, and a credit to the place. Several soldiers of the last war with
Great Britain are buried in the cemetery. Lowville owes its origin to the en-
terprise of Samuel Low, who moved there in 1822 from Genesee County, N.
Y.,and established the grist and saw mill. Mr. Low's business proving unsuc-
cessful, in 1834 he changed to Harbor Creek. Col. Wareham Warner carried
on a tannery at Lowville with success for some years, but collapsed about 1860
or 1861. The village contained ninety-nine inhabitants by the census of

Phillipsville was founded by Gen. John Phillips, of political fame, who
took up a large quantity of land in 1797 in company with his brother David,
and opened a tavern about 1810 on the Waterford & North East road, a few
rods west of the corners, which has been torn down. The village is foiirteen
miles from Brie and five from Wattsburg, in the midst of a beautiful rolling
country, at the crossing of the Waterford & North East road by the old Erie
& Wattsburg road. The village contains, in addition to the church, school and
mills before referred to, a dry goods and grocery store, a shoe shop, and a
blacksmith shop. It has about a dozen residences, and numbers probably sixty
people. There is an organization of the State Police and a Grange, the latter
possessing a hall of their own. The cemetery covers two acres, and is fairly
kept up.


The following interesting reminiscences were contributed to the Erie Ob-
server of May, 1880, by James D. Phillips, of Union City, a son of one of the
pioneers of Venango Township:

"Thomas Phillips, with his sons John, David and Thomas, Jr., and his
daughters Elenor, Hannah and Polly, moved from Northumberland County,
Penn., in the year 1797. His daughter Elenor married John Hunter, Polly
married Burrill Tracy, and Hannah married Nathaniel Wilson. John Phil-
lips took up 1,400 acres of land, Thomas, Sr., 200, and David 200 acres.
Messrs. Tost, Donaldson and others followed about the same period. James
Phillips, son of Thomas, Sr., and brother to John, David and Thomas, Jr.,
moved from Lancaster County, Penn., in 1827. He left Waterford on the
morning of the 1st day of June at sunrise, and cut the road most of the way
to Phillipsville, a distance of eight and a half miles, arriving at sunset.
James Phillips died in 1846 at the age of seventy-five years and eight months.
James D. Phillips, son of James Phillips, and grandson of Thomas, Sr.,
is now the only living representative oE the Phillips family in this coun-
ty. John Phillips was Paymaster General in the war of 1812, under Gen.
Harrison. He received his money, to pay off the army, in silver at Pittsburgh,
and carried it through the wilderness to Fort Meigs on pack-horses. He
served for years as the first Representative of this county in the State Legisla-


ture at Lancaster; afterward, he was appointed Canal Commissioner of the State.
and subsequently was appointed and served as Justice of the Peace for several
years. He died in the fall of 1846. The first post office at Phillipsville was
established in 1829. James Phillips, father of James D., was appointed
Postmaster. A post route was established at that time from Jamestown, N. Y.,
via Phillipsville, to Erie. The mail was carried by Mr. Polly on foot from
Jamestown to Erie, with nothing from Phillipsville to Mill Creek Township
to mark the way through the wilderness except blazed trees. The county at
that time was a home for the bear, the wolves and the deer. Levi Butler and
sons Jackson and Timothy, from Onondaga, N. Y. , made their settlement in
1828-29. The first schoolhouse was built in the year 1828, of logs. * * *
The grist and saw mills were at Lowville, Colt's Station, Lattimore's, at Wa-
terford, and Miles, at Union Mills. The mode of getting to Erie from Phil-
lipsville was via Colt's Station, North East and then up the Bufifalo road to
Erie, a distance of twent3 - eight miles to get the distance of fourteen miles
across. Had no roads for wagons, and consequently used oxen and sleds in
tfie summer or winter to carry our produce and get household supplies, salt,
etc. The products of Venango Township at that time were maple sugar and
black salts — the salts taken to Colt's Station and sold for $2.50 per hundred, half
cash and half store pay ; the cash part to pay taxes and to buy leather for
shoes. We paid oar school teacher $12 a month in maple sugar at six cents a
pound. "


The first clearing at Wattsburg was made in 1796 by William Miles, who
built a storehouse as a depot of supplies for the surrounding country and for
the purchase of furs. At that time the headquarters of the Population Com-
pany were at Colt's Station, and all the trade between the lake and the Alle-
gheny was carried on in canoes up and down French Creek. The first road
was opened to North East, by way of Greenfield, in 1800. In 1809, through
the persuasion of Mr. Miles, joined to that of the Eussells, of Belle Valley,
and others, the county opened a road from Erie to the Forks of French Creek,
as the site was then called, which, in general, followed the route of the old
Wattsburg road, though it was afterward changed in some places. Previous
to 1822, the West Branch had to be forded, but in that year Mr. Miles got the
county to build a bridge on the same site used for the purpose to-day. This
was the first permanent bridge erected in Erie County. During the same sea-
son he erected a grist mill and saw mill, and in 1822 he induceTl Lyman Rob-
inson, a surveyor at North Bast, to move over and build a tavern. He located
in 1795 on the head-waters of Oil Creek, near the Crawford County line, in
Concord Township, where he remained until 1800, when he changed to Union.
In 1828, Mr. Miles laid out Wattsburg, naming it after his father-m-law, David
Watts, of Carlisle. In February of the same year, he had a post office estab-
lished at Wattsburg, and at the same time a weekly mail route was opened
between Erie and Jamestown, by way of the infant village. The mail was
carried for years on the back of a man, who walked the whole distance Mr
Robinson acted as agent at Wattsburg for William Miles for many years, and
after his death served in a similar capacity for his son James Miles. The
large tract of 1,400 acres taken up by Mr. Miles was not originallv in his own
name, but in that of Watts, Scott & Co. » •■



Wattsburg was incorporated as a borough in 1833, its limits being thus
described: "Beginning at French Creek where the old State line crossed the
same, being the south boundary of Venango Township; thence east along said
line 100 perches; thence north 180 perches; thence west 180 perches, more or
less, to the creek; thence southward by its windings, to the place of beginning."
The town stands on the wide and fertile plain just above the junction of the
two branches, twenty miles by the plank road, eighteen by the old road, and
eighteenand three-fourths by the Lake Pleasant road from Erie, and eight miles
from Union. It contains three church buildings, Methodist Episcopal, Pres-
byterian and Baptist. The Methodist Episcopal congregation was organized
in 1827, by Elder Knapp, who went there as a missionary in 1820. The first
edifice was erected in 1831, and the present one, which cost $3,400, in 1861.
a H. Moore was pastor for 1881, 1882 and 1883. The circuit embraces Watts-
burg, Lowville and Hatch Hollow.


The Presbyterian congregation, organized in 1826, is the legitimate suc-
cessor of the old Middlebrook society, the history of which is given in the
sketch of Venango Township. The first church was built in Wattsburg about
1828, and the second in 1855, costing $1,350. The pastor when the first
building was put up was Eev. Absalom McCreadv, who began preaching for this
congregation in February, 1826, and the following April his time was divided
between the two congregations. His installation took place on the second
Tuesday of September, and he severed his pastoral relation with the church
October 1, 1833. In November of that year the Wattsburg Church was recog-
nized by the Presbytery as a separate congregation. Eev. Alexander McCand-
less became the successor of Mr. McCready and served until April 1, 1834.
Kevs. O. Pitch McKean, and J. B. Wilson preached for the congregation at
Wattsburg, in the order given, from 1834 to 1837.

The Baptist Church at Wattsburg was organized April 6, 1850, with
twenty-two charter members. On the 25th of that month the church was duly
recognized. The meeting-house was erected in 1851. The pastors of the
church have been Eevs. F. Kidder, J. W. C, Covey, James A. Newton, S. Ak-
erly, W. J. Hughes, and C. W. Drake (closed labor in 1872 on account of sick-
ness). In 1875, he renewed his pastorate and remained with the church
until 1877. For several years following, the church had no regular pastor."
Eev. Charles Bowman became pastor in 1881 and remained about one year.
The charge is now without a pastor.


Wattsburg is the headquarters of no less than three secret societies — a Ma-
sonic Blue Lodge, instituted in 1875; a lodge of the Knights of Honor, in
1877, and a Grange, in 1874 — all of which are in a flourshing condition. The
Masonic Lodge commenced with seven members, C. E. Gray being first Mas-
ter, and has increased to twenty- eight. This society and the Grange have
creditable halls of their own. There is also a branch of the State Police, es-
tablished in 1877, a co-operative insurance society, and a section of the Sunday
School Scientific Circle of Chautauqua Lake, which latter holds frequent meet-
ings for the discussion of Biblical history. The manufacturing establishments
are a grist mill, saw mill, sash factory and two planing mills run by water, a
handle factory and a sash and blind factory owned by Wood & Page, run by
steam. There is also an extensive broom and fork handle and shingle factory


carried on by Patterson, Gross & Baldwin The water-power fovdefhj the
two branches of French Creek is considerable, and, with railroad facilities, the
town could not fail to become a point of importance.


Amono- the business interests of the borough, other than those mentioned
above wer°e (in 1883) one tailor shop, one dry goods store, three groceries, four
general stores, two furniture stores, one wagon shop, one hardware store, one
clothino- store, one meat market, one hotel, two shoe shops, four blacksmith
shops one jewelry store, one drug store, one bakery, one photograph gallery,
one dental office, one harness shop, several millinery stores, one barber shop.
A roller skating rink was built and opened in the summer of 1883. The
town gives support to four physicians, two attorneys, two Justices, one
dentist, and one draughtsman. It is the headquarters of three stage lines-
one running to Union and back each day; one to and from Erie daily, by way

Online LibrarySamuel P. (Samuel Penniman) BatesHistory of Erie county, Pennsylvania → online text (page 85 of 187)