Benjamin Whitman.

Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r online

. (page 114 of 192)
Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 114 of 192)
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worked at the most menial labor. Believing that
right must win, he persevered. His rare energy
eventually placed him in easy circumstances. From
chopping wood, he entered the dry goods business, but
never stood behind a counter until he stood behind his
own, in the village of Wattsburg; but the field was
too limited for the scope of his commercial genius,
and while still conducting his store with the greatest
success, he branched out into the lumber trade on a
large scale, and had soon established a large and ex-
ceedingly prosperous business, that soon necessitated
the assistance of a partner, in the person of William
Sanborn, and thus was founded the well-known and
successful firm of Janes & Sanborn. In March, 1860,
Mr. Janes' attention was first attracted to the possibil-
ities of the then undeveloped oil trade, and he pur-
chased 200 acres of land on what was known as the
"gumbed," in the township of Inniskillen, Ontario, at
nine dollars an acre, from the disgusted owner, who
was anxious to sell at that price, on account of the
"stinking oil." Mr. Janes subsequently sold a large
portion of this land for §400 an acre. Before disposing
of his Canadian tract he, in March, 1861, leased a
body of land at Burning Springs Run, West county,
"Va., for $5,000. Later he sold a half interest in this
lease for §50,000; but the firing on Fort Sumter, and
subsequent excitement, compelled him, before the
transfers had been fully made, to close out his Virginia
lease at a considerably lower figure, and he was barely
able to get out of the State in time to avoid coming in
contact with hot-headed Southerners, who were feel-
ing very bitter toward Northern men. Mr. Janes was
the last " Yankee " to leave, and hastily closed inter-
ests representing S100,000 for $7,000, and another
Northern man, who was but a few hours later than
Mr. Janes, lost his life by even so short a delay. At
this time the Tarr farm, which was a little later to cut
so tremendous a figure in the oil development, was
just coming into prominence, and Mr. Janes, nothing
daunted by his disastrous Virginia experience, was
one of the first men to grasp the possibilities of that
tract of land, and paralyzed not only the owner,
"Jim" Tarr, but all the men interested in oil develop-

ment, by offering him $60,000 for his farm, that a year or
two previously was regarded as dear at five dollars an
acre. In the development that rapidly took place,
Mr. Janes was able to clean up a handsome fortune on
royalties, and, in addition, sold back one-half of the
farm to Tarr for $40,000, and two-thirds of the remain-
ing half to Clark & Sumner, of New York, for $20,000,
leaving him the balance of the farm, which was ex-
ceedingly valuable, clear. A little later, after watch-
ing carefully the enormous labor and expense required
to get the oil to convenient shipping points by team-
ing, he became the first advocate of piping oil, his
crude idea eventually developing into the great pipe-
line system of to-day. In this connection, Mr. Janes
organized ajcompany to pipe oil, and applied to the
State Legislature for a charter, but the application
was defeated in the House by the then powerful team-
ing interests, who saw disaster in the success of piping
oil. In later years Mr. Janes had the satisfaction of
seeing his idea perfected, and also in receiving from
Representative Beebe, of Pleasantville, Pa., who led
the opposition Xo his first pipe-line scheme, sincere
expressions of regret for the part he had taken in
defeating a plan that was to be of such great benefit
to the locality he represented. One of the famous
law suits of that day was brought by Heman Janes
against one of the men who was paying him a royalty,
the amount involved being $125,000. Edwin M. Stan-
ton, President Lincoln's great secretary of war, was
Mr. Janes' attorney, and was paid a fee of $5,000 for
his services in this case. As population grew, Mr.
Janes built upon the farm one of the finest hotels ever
put up in the oil country up to that date. The rapid
oil development attracted Mr. Janes' attention to the
necessity for better refining facilities, and he, in con-
nection with Clark & Sumner, to whom he had sold
an interest in the Tarr farm, built the first large
refinery in the State, calling it the " Standard." Later
they sold to Rockafeller, and the latter, when he
became the head of the large corporation which was to
so dominate the oil trade, gave the same title to the
big association known ever since as the Standard Oil
Company. Mr. Janes' various oil investments were so
extensive that it would take too much space to detail
them in this brief sketch; but it is sufficient to say that
up to that time no one man had made so many bold
and masterly moves in the various details of the
development of the oil trade, and in suggesting im-
provements in methods of handling the product. He
was especially notable in great financial exploits, in-
volving hundreds of thousands of dollars, and his
keen insight as to the value of an investment was
never at fault. Many Erie citizens will recall the nar-
row margin by which Erie missed being the great oil
refining center of the United States, when the Standard
Oil Company was seeking to locate large refineries on
the lake coast. Heman Janes was one of the hard
workers who sought to bring this large plant to Erie
and had his efforts been properly seconded and en-
couraged, Erie would have been the big oil refining
center, instead of Cleveland. Mr. Janes' activity was
not confined solely to trade, and he was one of the
founders and earnest workers in the Simpson
Methodist Episcopal Church; and was also one of the
incorporators of the Chautauqua Sunday School As-
sembly, acting as one of the trustees for seven years.
As chairman of the committee, he was appointed by
the Methodist Conference to transfer the property



from the camp meeting association to the Sunday
School Assembly, of which he was one of the incor-
porators. He was one of its staunchest friends
through its darkest days, and backed it heavily finan-
cially. In its present prosperity and success he feels
amply repaid for all his trouble. In principle, strictly
and aggressively temperate, Mr. Janes has never used
intoxicating liquors nor tobacco in any form, and
thereby has set a worthy example to the rising gener-
ation. He has had a prosperous career in the lumber
business, which he finally relinquished to deal with
even greater success in oil and oil lands and real
estate, and he now possesses wealth with which to
gratify every wish. Mr. Janes has from boyhood been
identified with the Methodist Church, and has ever
been one of its staunchest supporters. In his eleventh
year his remarkable conversion led to the first revival
that ever took place in Erie county, and although his
efforts were derided, the " Trundle Bed Prayer Meet-
ings," as enemies styled these gatherings, were the
means of converting many people, young and old, to
the Lord. In the cause of temperance Mr. Janes has
been especially active, and has had to endure annoy-
ance from those who opposed his views. Aggressive
in action, he recognized that the laws relating to the
handling of liquor were not observed, and in an
earnest, conscientious effort to enforce respect for
these laws, he secured indictments from the grand
jury against liquor dealers in 1870. This raised such
a storm of persecution, that for a time, to protect him-
self from threatened danger, the mayor brought him a
shot gun and seventy rounds of cartridges, and bade
him defend himself, if necessary, at any cost. Mr.
Janes was married, October 9, 1838, to Maria M. Rouse,
youngest daughter of Judge Rouse, of Erie county.
Five children were the result of this union: Margaret
Melvina, died at the age of 17; Melancton Wallace,
married to Ella M. Smith, now living in Kansas;
Caroline R. Vinnie, died at the age of 2 years; Heman
D., married to Julia A. Williams, of Chicago, now
living in Cleveland, Ohio, and William D., married to
Ella Dickinson, of Erie, living in Saginaw, Mich.
Heman Janes has always been too radical in his ideas
to make a successful politician, hence has only held
one political office in his life, that of school director;
in this contest he ran against big odds, that he might
further the interests of a school building that needed
attention. His first vote was for Fremont, and he ad-
hered to the Republican party until the Prohibition
party was started, since which time he has staunchly
supported it. A short sketch of this remarkable man
was published in 1872 by the Atlantic Publishing
Company, under the title of " Representative Men,"
compiled by Augustus C. Rogers, which particularly
emphasizes the sterling worth of this man, and justi-
fies this appreciative sketch. Mr. Janes lives in an
attractive home on Twenty-first street, which is in odd
contrast to the little log cabin in which he started life.
Upright, temperate, uncompromising in questions of
principle, Heman Janes has aimed to impress the
lesson that right firmly adhered to will win against all

The Clark Family. — For the purpose of this
sketch, it is not necessary to go farther hack than to
David Clark, son of one of the early settlers of Wind-
sor, Conn., who left that place and was married in
Sheffield, Mass., in 1723. His son, David, was born in

Sheffield, and died there December 12, 1824, at the
age of 80. The last named was the father of Henry
Clark, who was born May 3, 1779, at Sheffield, and
came to Erie county when only 16 years of age, in
1795. He settled in Harbor Creek township, took up
a large tract of land, cleared and cultivated it, and
there lived the quiet and uneventful life of a farmer
until his death, January 9, 1859. He reared a family
of five sons and three daughters: William, David,
Prudence, Joel, Sallie, Henry, Jane and Chauncey.
Only two are now living, Joel and Chauncey, residents
of Erie. William, his eldest son, born in 1801, was
the first white male child born in Harbor Creek town-
ship. Henry Alden Clark, grandson of Henry Clark,
son of Chauncey G. and Emeline Elizabeth Clark,
born in Harbor Creek, Erie county. Pa., January 7,
1850. He attended the Erie Academy in the fall of
1864; State Normal School in Edinboro, Pa., 1865-66;
Willoughby Collegiate Institute, in Willoughby, Ohio,
from the tall of 1866 to the spring of 1868; taught
school the following winter, and from the spring of
1869 to the fall of 1870, attended Erie Central high
school, in Erie, Pa., graduated from that school and
entered Harvard College in the fall of 1870, and re-
ceived the degree of A. B. with the class of 1874. Dur-
ing the following year he was engaged in the publica-
tion of the "Harvard Book;" entered the Harvard
Law School in the fall of 1876, and graduated in 1877;
entered the office of Jonathan M. Wood, Esq., Fall
River, Mass., in the fall of 1877, and formed a co-
partnership with him in February, 1878, under the firm
name of Wood & Clark; was formally admitted to
practice law in March, 1878; meantime engaged in the
publication of the "College Book;" dissolved partner-
ship after a continuance of a little over a year, and
started alone. In the fall of 1880 he entered into
partnership with Hugo A. Dubuque, under the firm
name of Clark & Dubuque, which continued until
August, 1882; thence removed to the city of Erie, Pa.,
being temporarily connected with the Edison Electric
Light Company, and Edison Company, for isolated
lighting, both of New York, having general charge of
the business in the District of Columbia, Maryland,
and Western Pennsylvania, and subsequently New
York. He resumed the practice of law in Erie, Pa.,
and in the fall of 1890 bought the Erie Gazette, a pa-
per on which Horace Greely set type in his younger
days. Subsequently the Gazette consolidated with the
Erie Ditipatch Company, limited, and on May 4, 1892,
he dropped journalism entirely. In February, 1890,
he was chosen chairman of the Republican city com-
mittee, and in June, 1890, of the county committee;
has been several times delegate to State conventions,
and has taken a somewhat active part in politics.
He was elected trustee of the Erie Academy Novem-
ber 17, 1893. July 18, 1878, he married Sophy G. Mc-
Crearv, daughter of General D. B. McCreary, lawyer,
Erie, Pa. He has two children, Sophy Annette, born
July 13, 1880, and Henry McCreary, born February
10, 1889.

Frederick Wittich, one of the early pioneer set-
tlers of Erie, was born October 17, 1805, in Cassel,
Prussia, Germany. He was the son of Adam Eber-
hard Ernst Wittich and Elizabeth (Stafler) Wittich, of
St. Goar, Rhine and Mosel Department, under the
sovereignty of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1810 his father
removed to America and settled in York, Pa. His



mother died when he was very young, and at the age
of 9 he was brought to America and Hved with his
sister, Mrs. Johnnett Hummerick, of Carhsle, Cum-
berland county, Pa. About 1826, at the age of 21, he
came to Erie, and did business on Eighth, between
State and French streets. In 1834 he bought a lot on
the southwest corner of State and Tenth streets, near
the edge of town. Near this corner was a deep ravine
intersecting State street, and in inclement weather it
had to be crossed on logs and fallen trees. On this
piece of ground, in 1834, he built the first carriage fac-
tory in the town of Erie. It was large and complete,
and his strict business integrity soon won him a suc-
cessful trade, which was maintained until about 1867,
when he retired and converted the factory into busi-
ness stands. About 1837 he erected what was then
considered a very fine two-story brick residence block,
renting it for many years, and being very desirable
residence property, always had the Isest class of ten-
ants. Latterly it was used for business purposes until
1891, when it gave place to the handsome and sub-
stantial Wittich Block of to-day. In making the ex-
cavation for the foundation of the new structure the
logs laid across the ravine for a passage-way above re-
ferred to, were found to be in a good state of preser-
vation after the lapse of more than sixty years. June
21, 1832, Frederick Wittich was married by the late
Rev. Geo. A. Lyon to Elizabeth Forbes, a native of
Dundee, Scotland, born December 31, 1805. She died
September 5, 1834, and left two children, Frederick,
who died soon after his mother, and James Forbes.
Mr. Wittich took for his second wife Miss Mary Berst,
Rev. Geo. A. Lyon performing the marriage cere-
mony, September 27, 1835. Coming as a bride to the
modest home just then completed on Tenth street, on
part of the lot mentioned above, it has been her cher-
ished home all these years, which she still enjoys, at
the ripe old age of 86. The original house is the rear
part of the old homestead, the brick addition having
been added in 1851. The many years have told on
her but lightly, and she is still in the possession of all
her mental faculties, taking a lively interest in the
affairs of to-day. Erie's Centennial recalled to her
mind very vividly the great political rally of 1840,
when Erie was filled to overflowing with people from
all parts of the State. So great was the crowd that
the homes of the citizens were thrown open to the
visitors. The parade was grand, and the town rung
with the cheers of " Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too," and
the old log cabin, built for the occasion, was the cen-
ter of attraction. Good old times never forgotten.
Mrs. Wittich is the oldest daughter of Conrad and
Catherine (Guntner) Berst, the former born in Paulitz,
Rhine, Germany, in 1779, and the latter born in Man-
heim, Lancaster county. Pa. Mr. Berst came to
America in 1798, at the age of 19. He was married in
1807, in Manheim, Lancaster county, where his daugh-
ter, Mrs. Wittich, was born, November 20, 1809. Her
earliest recollection was when her father came hur-
riedly in the house, amid the sound of fife and drum,
caught her up, a little tot, in his arms that she might
see the return of the soldiers after the war of 1812, her
grandfather Guntner being one of the returned sol-
diers. Another early remembrance was shaking
hands with General Lafayette in 1825, when he passed
through Lancaster on his visit, with his son, to Amer-
ica. She was then 16 years old. Mr. Berst left his
farm and mill in Lancaster county, and with two-horse

teams brought his family and household effects to
Erie in 1830. He rented a farm, which is now in the
city limits. Five years later he removed to the West,
locating on a farm in Indiana. His daughter, Mary,
with her husband, Frederick Wittich, remained in
Erie. Mr. Wittich united with the First Presbyterian
Church under the ministery of Rev. Mr. Lyon, in
1834, and was his life-time friend. His wife added her
name to the church roll in 1842. Both remained con-
sistent and devoted members of the church, he to the
time of his death, and Mrs. Wittich still retains an
active interest in church matters. Their family con-
sisted of eight children: Catherine; William and
Frederick, twins; Eliza, Jennett, Mary Elizabeth,
Susan Lyne and Johnnett. Frederick Wittich died
September 4, 1876, at the age of 71. He was a de-
voted citizen, gentle and unassuming, and, with all,
brave and aggressive in all good works. With a band
of co-workers^ he was active in the temperance cause.
Among his associates in this cause were John Law,
James Lytle and Jehiel Towner, all of whom are gone
to their reward. Lieutenant William Wittich, with his
twin brother, Lieutenant Frederick J. Wittich, at the
first call for troops, joined Erie's three months' regi-
ment commanded by Col. McLane. The regiment
was mustered in April 28, 1861, and after the expira-
tion of their time the brothers re-enlisted in Co. I, 83d
P. V. I., July 29, 1861. After passing safely through
the battles of Yorktown and Hanover Court House,
in the desperate conflict of Gains Mill, Frederick Wit-
tich was disabled, taken prisoner and sent to that
Southern torture pen. Belle Isle, where for five weeks
he was compelled to endure the strain that killed
many of the prisoners. He was released in time to
participate in the battle of Bull Run, where he espe-
cially distinguished himself. At Gains Mill the Eighty-
third suffered the loss of 265 in killed, wounded and
prisoners, having borne the brunt of many a desperate
charge, and at Malvern Hill they suffered further
heavy loss. In this fight Sergeant William Wittich
won his promotion to a lieutenancy by capturing a
Confederate battle-flag under heroic circumstances,
and received his advancement by order of Gen. Por-
ter, and as a further compliment to his bravery the
First division of Porter's corps was passed in review,
while the man they honored lay ill in an ambulance,
the captured trophy beside him, with the stars and
stripes waving over it. It was intended to have Gen.
McClellan present, but he was called away on an im-
portant mission. The second Bull Run engagement,
August 31, 1862, was another disastrous fight for the
Eighty-third, and they lost half of their remaining
force, and were reduced from regimental to almost
company proportions, only seventy-one stacking arms
that night at Centervilie. Among the killed was
Lieutenant William G. Wittich, who had command of
the company at the time, one of the bravest men of
that heroic band. Not more than 200 feet from where
he fell lay his brother Frederick, badly wounded. He
had borne his part throughout the day with the endu-
rance and courage of a true soldier, and was promoted
to a second lieutenancy, and was again promoted July
3, 1863, receiving a first lieutenant's commission. At
the battle of Laurel Hill he was shot through the
thighs, and was discharged September 7, 1864, by ex-
piration of his term of enlistment. On his return to
Erie he received the appointment to a postal clerk-
ship, and for eight years served in the postal service,



when rheumatic troubles, resuhing from his wounds,
compelled him to resign from the service. He en-
dured much suffering, and finally answered the last
roll call January 13, 1895. He e.\|)ired at the old
homestead on West Tenth street, tenderly watched by
his venerable mother and loving sisters.

James Forbes Wittich was married in Erie, by Rev.
Dr. Cleveland, to Cornelia Scott. They had six chil-
dren: William, Elizabeth, Earl B., Emily Cornelia,
Mary and Jessie. His second wife was Marietta Odell,
by whom he had one child. James F. Wittich was
commissioned a first lieutenant September 22, 1862, in
Co. K, 145th P. V. I. Eliza Wittich was married to
Dr. Henry Gilbert in Erie, at the home of her parents,
by Rev. Geo. A. Lyon. They had two children, Mary
S. and Woodland. Susan Lyne Wittich was married
to Alonzo Lucius Littell, November 30, 1870, in the
city of Erie, at the home of her parents, by Rev. Geo.
A. Lyon. They had three children: Frederick J.,
Williams S. and Mary Olive. Frederick J. Littell has
entered Case School of Applied Science, in Cleveland,
Ohio, expecting to take up the four-year course of
mechanical and electrical engineering.

Joel Olds was born February 22, 1791, among the
granite hills of Alstead, Chester county, N. H. When
asked one day by one of his friends why he was not
named George Washington, the reply was that " Wash-
ington living was not the hero of to-day. One must
die to see glory." He was the son of Phinea and
Polly (Gale) Olds. In 1795 they moved up among the
rugged hills of the Green Mountain State, locating at
Williamstown, Vt., among the Gale relations. In the
spring of '96 his mother died, leaving him and his lit-
tle brother, Asa G., with only a father to care for
them. (Their father was a zealous Free Mason, and
was influential among the order.) Joel attended then
the district school, tvvo miles away, and it comes down
to us that it was no uncommon sight to see him with
dinner basket in one hand, leading his younger
brother, trudging o'er the stony way to the little log-
house, where they sat on log benches without backs.
He grew to manhood, working among the rocks and
stumps of his father's acres. He married Rhoda Par-
ker, May 5, 1814. Soon after, he, with his father-in-
law, Jonas A. Parker, began making preparations for
moving to the Western Reserve. Saving the choicest
seeds from the harvest was one principal occupation,
particularly the apple seeds, and many a tree is still
standing on the Olds farm and on neighboring farms,
that grew from that pint of seed which he brought. It
was not until 1815 that this little company was ready
to start. The snow had fallen and the sleighing was
fine. Some of the neighbors had come in to bid them
God speed, for on the morrow they were to start.
Among the number was Davis Harrington, a young
man of the neighborhood, who had long looked with
favor upon Katie Parker, a sister of Mrs. Olds. It
was a long way to the Western Reserve, and money
was scarce. Could he only speak the words? Soon
there was a little stir of excitement. Katie's things
must be unpacked. A minister was summoned, and
then and there Katie became Mrs. Col. Harrington.
The next morning two ox-teams, one owned and driven
by Joel Olds, the other driven by Ira Parker, with
their long sleds loaded with household goods, started
on their long journey. Later in the day, Mr. Parker,
with the women and children of the party, followed

with their horse team, carrying food and cooking uten-
sils. About 3 o'clock each day the horse team would
pass the ox teams, and by 4 o'clock put up at some
tavern, get the privilege of cooking their food by the
great fire-place and spreading their beds, when ever
they were permitted. Thus they drove on day after
day across the great snowy wilderness of New York
State. Arriving in Buffalo, they heard the glorious
news that peace had been declared. After six weeks
of journeying they stopped at Eagle Tavern, on Fed-
eral Hill, and put up for the night. What must have
been their disappointment in the morning to find it
raining. They tarried until the rain should cease, but
to their great dismay the sleighing entirely disap-
peared, and thus it is that we have in our midst to-day
the Oldses and the Parkers. Yes, and even our own
Judge Gunnison. See what Trumbull county, Ohio,
lost, and Erie gained. What might it have been had
it not rained. The rain having ceased, they looked
about them for habitations, where they might spend

Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 114 of 192)