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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 14 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 14 of 192)
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Baskin run and Slaughter run ; in Union
township, Scotchman's, Wilson, Mulvin,
Carroll, Pine, Tolbert and Benson runs.

Conncant Creek. — In Conneaut township,
the East branch, the West branch and Marsh
run. The tributaiies of the East branch are
Frazier's run in Elk Creek township, and
Crane and Jackson runs in Conneaut town-

Elk Creek. — In ^IcKean township, the
South branch ; in Fairview township. Fall's
run; in Girard township, Little Elk. Hall's
run, Brandy run and Spring run.

Walnut Creek. — In Mill Creek township,
Thomas run ; in Fairview township, Bear and
Beaver Dam runs.

Mill Crcek.~ln Mill Creek township,
Bladen's run.

Four-Mile Creek. — In Harbor Creek town-
ship, McConnell run.

I Sixteen-Mile Creek. — In Xoith Easttown-

j siiip, the Borough branch.

1 Hare Creek, the only tributary of the -

I Brokenstraw flowing from the county, joins

I that stream in Warren county, below Corry.

I Its chief inlets in Erie county are Bear creek

' and .Scioto run.

! The Conneanttee is joined by the Little

Conneauttee a short distance across the line,
in Crawford county, and by Pratt and Her-
bert creeks in Washington township.


i -\ feature of the lake shore streams deserv-

j ing of mention is the fact that, while those
eastward from Erie City flow directlj- to the
lake in a general northwesterly course, those
in and west of the city run almost exactlv
westward until within a short distance of the
lake, when they suddenly turn to the north,
i and soon after unite with the great current
J whicii pours over Niagara. This is the more
noticeable of Mill creek, which rises in Greene
[ and empties into the lake at Erie ; Walnut
I creek, which also rises in Greene, flows across
j Summit, Mill Creek and Fairview townships,
I and terminates at ^Manchester ; and Elk creek,
I whicii rises in Waterford, crosses McKean,
Fairview and Girard townships, and enters
I the lake below Miles Grove. Conneaut creek
' is to some extent an exception to the rule, ris-
ing as it does in Crawford county, flowing
nearly due north through Conneaut township
; to within a short distance of the Girard line,
and then bending abruptly westward, forming
the boundary line between that and Spring-
field townships, finally entering Ohio, and,
after a devious course, becoming the harbor of
Conneaut in that State.

All of the streams in the county were
formerly much larger and more reliable than
now. The cutting off of the timber has had
an alarming effect in drying up the streams,
j and the seasons of high water, which were
once of two or three weeks' duration, now
! last only a few days.


; French Creek — the most important in the

I county — was variously known to the Indians

as the Toranadakin and Innungah, the latter

word havinef some reference to ''a rude and


indecent figure carved upon a tree," which
the Seneca tribe found when they came to
this region after having conquered the Eriez.
The French first gave it the name of the River
Aux BfTufs, but changed it to the River
Venango, being a corruption of the Indian
word Innungah. When the Americans occu-
pied the country, they dropped both the Indian
and French names, and gave the stream the
plain appellation of French creek. The main
stream is created by the junction of the East
and West branches in Amity township, just
south of the borough limits of Wattsburg.
The East branch takes its rise in Chautauqua
county, N. Y., near the village of Sherman,
and the head of the West branch is usually
said to be in Findley's lake, about two miles
over the New York line, in the same county,
each having a length of about twenty miles.
After the junction of the East and West
branches, the creek traverses Amity, Water-
ford and LeBoeuf townships, leaving the
county to enter Crawford in the last named.
It passes through the whole width of Craw-
ford county from north to south, nearly in the
center of the county, and after watering half
of Venango county unites with the Allegheny
at Franklin. Its length from Wattsburg to
Franklin cannot be less than a hundred miles.
It was along the valley of this creek that
Washington traveled on his visit to the French
at Fort LeBoeuf, and he descended the stream
in a canoe on his return journe)'.

Outlet of Lake Pleasant. — This stream, as
its name indicates, carries off the excess of
water in Lake Pleasant. It issues from the
foot of the lake in Venango township, and
empties into French creek in Amity, after a
course of some three miles.

The South Branch.— The South branch of
French creek rises in Concord township, and
unites with the main stream in LeBoeuf, a
short distance below the Philadelphia & Erie
Railroad bridge. It lias a length of perhaps
twenty miles.

LeBivufCrcck was known to the French
as the River Aux Bocufs, being at first sup-
posed to be the main stream. It was so named
from the number of cattle discovered by them
on the flats near its mouth. The creek is
formed by two stems, the eastern one of which
rises on the Venango township line, and flows
across Greene township, while the western
has its source in Summit township, the two

coming together on the northern boundary of
Waterford township. On the edge of Water-
ford borough the creek enters Lake LeBoeuf,
from which it issues somewhat increased in
size. It joins French creek in LeBoeuf town-
ship. From the head of the East branch to
the mouth of the creek, the distance is about
twenty miles.

French creek, all three of its branches —
the East, West and South — and LeBoeuf creek
were at one period navigable for rafts and
flat-boats, and before the building of good
roads were the chief avenues for bringing
goods and provisions into the county from the
southern part of the State. There has been
no rafting to speak of on the branches of
French creek for forty years, and the busi-
ness on the main stream may be said to have
suspended about 1861 or '62.


Conncaut Creek, the second largest in the
county, rises south of Conneautville, Crawford
county, flows in a general northerly direction
through Conneaut township, nearly to the
Springfield line, then turns abruptly westward
and continues into Ohio. In Ohio it flows
nine miles westward to Kingsville, then
makes another sudden bend to the east, and
comes back eight miles to Conneaut, where it
turns again to the north, and, after a further
course of about a mile, empties into Lake Erie
not far from the Pennsylvania line, forming
Conneaut harbor. It is a very crooked
stream, the length from head to mouth being
fully sixty miles, while the distance by an
air line is not more than twenty-five. The
East branch of Conneaut creek rises on the
northern edge of Crawford county, flows
through Elk Creek township, and unites with
the main stream northeast of Albion. In the
latter borough it is joined by Jackson creek,
which rises on the Elk creek and Conneaut
line, near Crawford county. The East branch
is about ten miles long, and Jackson creek
some five miles.

Elk Creek rises in Waterford township
and flows in a general westerly course through
McKean, Fairview and Girard townships to
Lake Erie, north of Miles Grove. The length
of Elk creek is between twenty-five and thirty
miles. An effort was made to have the mouth
of this stream made the terminus of, the canal,
and various projects have been advocated for



establishing a harbor there. The name of Elk
creek was given from the number of elk found
in its valley. Falls run starts in Franklin
township and joins Elk creek in Fairview.
Brandy run rises in Fairview township and
unites with Elk creek in Girard. The Little
Elk, which also joins the same stream in
the latter township, rises in Elk Creek town-
ship. They are all small.

Walnut Creek, so named because its banks
are lined with walnut trees, rises on the west-
ern edge of Greene township, and flows
through Summit, Mill Creek and Fairview,
entering the lake at IManchester. Its length is
about fifteen miles.

Crooked Creek rises in Lockport borough,
and flows through Girard and Springfield to
Lake Erie, a short distance from North
Springfield. It is about ten miles long.

The Head Rn)i is the small stream that
enters Presque Isle bay just above the Massas-
sauga pleasure ground.

Cascade RiDi is historical because a portion
of Perry's fleet was built at itsmoutii. It falls in-
to the bay at the Pittsburgh docks, in Erie City.

Mill Creek is formed by two branches, the
one rising in the extreme southeastern section
of Mill Creek township, and the other in the
northwestern part of Greene. They unit enear
the southeastern line of the first named town-
ship, and the stream enters the bay within the
city limits of Erie. Mill creek cannot be less
than eight miles long. It received its name
from the fact that the first mill in the county
was built at its mouth.

Four-Mile Creek rises in Greene, runs
through the western edge of Harbor Creek, and
enters the lake in the northeastern corner of
Mill Creek township, after a course of about
eight miles.

Tkvelve-^lilc Creek heads on the line of
North East and Greenfield townships, and |
joins the lake in Harbor Creek. Its length is
about seven miles.

T-Mci/ty-Milc Creek rises in Chautauqua
county, N. Y., and empties into the lake in
North East township, near the State line. It
is from sixteen to eighteen miles long.

Besides the above there are a number of
smaller streams which are referred to else-


In the interior of the county are three small
lakes — LeBcEuf, Pleasant and Conneauttee

— all of which lie on the south side of the
dividing ridge, and empty into French creek.

Lake LeBa-uf. —Th\s lake is in Waterford
township, on the southwestern edge of Water-
ford borough. It is about two-thirds of a
mile long, by half a mile wide. The lake is
fed by LeBojuf creek and Boyd and Trout
runs. Its outlet falls into French creek, in Le-
Boeuf township.

Lake Pleasant, in the southwestern corner
of Venango township, is about two-thirds of
a mile long by a third of a mile wide, with a
depth of five to fifty feet. It has no tributary
streams except two tiny rivulets, and is appa-
rently fed by springs in the bottom. The out-
let joins French creek in Amity township.

Lake Conneauttee lies on the northern side
of Edinboro, and is partly in that borough and
partly in Washington township. Its length is
about a mile, and its width a little over half a
mile. The deepest water is about fift}- feet.
Big Conneauttee creek enters at its northern
extremity, and leaves at the southern, continu-
ing on to Crawford county, where it unites
with French creek.


Where there are so many streams, it fol-
lows as a consequence that there must be a
large number of bridges. None of these are
very extensive or costly compared with the
immense structures that are found in other
parts of the country. The most expensive
public bridges are those which span French
creek in Amity, Waterford and LeBn>uf town-
ships, and Conneaut creek in Conneaut town-
ship, and upon the line between that town-
ship and Springfield. The iron bridges of
the "Nickel Plate" railroad over Crooked,
Elk, Walnut and Twenty-Mile creeks are the
longest and costliest in the county.

The Lake Shore railroad formerly overcame
the gullies of Twenty-]Mile creek, Sixteen-
Mile creek. Walnut creek, Elk creek and
Crooked creek by extensive trestle works,
which have been replaced by substantial cul-
verts and embankments that cost many thou-
sands of dollars. All of the streams upon the
line of this road are now spanned by stone cul-
verts or iron bridges.

The aqueducts of the canal over Walnut
creek, in Fairview township, and Elk creek,
in Girard, were at one time looked upon as
wonders of engineering and mechanical skill.


Lake Erik — Bay or Presqiie Isle — Misery Bay — The Peninsula and the Fishing
Industry. — [See Chapter V.. Erie City.]

THE whole northern front of the county
is bordered by Lake Erie and Presque
Isle bay, giving a shore line, with the j
various indentations, of fully forty-five |
miles. Lake Erie is one of the chain
of -'Great Lakes," consisting, besides itself,
of Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan, St.
Clair and Ontario. No one of these, except
St. Clair, is excelled or equaled in size by any
body of fresh water elsewhere in the world.
Recent measurements give the following re-
sults :

" The greatest length of Lake Superior is
iVSb miles; its greatest breadth, 160 miles;
mean depth, 688 feet; elevation above the
ocean, 602 feet ; area, 82,000 square miles.

" The greatest length of Lake Michigan \
is 300 miles ; its greatest breadth, 108 miles; j
mean depth, 600 feet; elevation, 581:^ feet; \
area, 23,000 square miles.

"The greatest length of Lake Huron is
200 miles; its greatest breadth, 169; mean
depth, 600 feet; elevation, 58^ feet; area,
23,(KX) square miles.

" The greatest length of Lake Erie is 250
miles ; its greatest breadth is 80 miles ; its
mean depth is 84 feet ; elevation, STSj-",,- feet ;
area, 6,000 square miles.

"The greatest length of Lake Ontario is
180 miles; its greatest breadth, 65 miles; its
mean depth is 50() feet ; elevation, 246i feet ;
area, 6,000 square miles.

"The length of all five is 1,2(55 miles, and
the area covered by their waters is upward of
135,000 square miles."


A prominent writer in one of the maga-
zines furnishes the following information :

" The first discoverers of Lake Ontario
gave it the name ' St. Louis ;' another party
of travelers called it ' Frontenac,' after the

great pioneer. Then came the English, who
preferred to call it 'Ontario.'

" Lake Huron was named after the Indian
tribe that lived upon its borders.

" Lake Michigan was for many years called
' Lake Illinois,' from the tribe of Indians who
lived near it. In 1719 the pioneer Sener gave
it the present name of Michigan.

" Champlain was the first one to describe
Lake Superior, and on his map it is called
'Grand Lac' Later on, the Jesuit fathers
called it ' Tracey,' or ' Superior.'

" Lake Erie was named by the Iroquois
' Erike,' from a tribe living on its shores.
The French called it 'Racoon,' or 'Cat
Lake,' and on various old maps it appears as
'Lac de Conty,' 'Lac Herrie,' ' Lak Erie,'
' Lac Erocoise.' or 'Eriez.' "


Lake Erie receives the outflow of Lake
Huron through the St. Clair river. Lake St.
Clair and the Detroit river, and empties itself
through the Niagara river into Lake Ontario.
The outlet of the latter is the St. Lawrence
river, which, after a course of some five or six
hundred miles, falls into the Atlantic ocean,
the volume of water which it carries down
being greater than that of the Mississippi.
The breadth of Lake Erie is from thirty to
eighty-four miles. The narrowest part of the
lake is between Long Point, Canada, and
Presque Isle, and the widest is between Ash-
tabula, Ohio, and Port Stanley, Canada. The
average depth of Lake Erie is less than that
of any other of the chain, except St. Clair.
It has few natural harbors, that of Erie being
the best.

In commercial importance, Lake Erie ex-
cels any other of the chain. The falls of
Niagara, about twenty miles below its foot,
forbid direct navigation between Erie and


Ontario. This has been remedied in part by
the construction of the Welland Ship canal,
opened in 1829, and built and operated by the
Canadian Government. Vessels pass through
this artificial channel to and from Lake On-
tario, the St. Lawrence river and the Atlantic
ocean. The lake seldom freezes over more
than a few miles from shore, but instances
have been known of the ice being clogged
between Long Point and Presque Isle so that
teams and wagons have crossed. Navigation
usually closes about the 1st of December and
opens early in April. Several winters are re-
corded when vessels have sailed every month
of the year. [See chapter on lake naviga-
tion.] It is subject to fluctuations of several
feet in the iieight of the water, according to
the direction of the wind and tiie amount of
rainfall on the upper lakes.

Some puzzling phenomena are reported by
old settlers along the shores of the lake. Just
after sunset on the 30th of May, 18253, several
swells were observed at the mouths of Otter
and Kettle creeks, Canada, being twenty miles
apart, and the water suddenly dashed to a
height of nine feet at the former point and of
seven at the latter. The weather was fine and
the lake had previously been calm. A similar
incident was witnessed at the mouth of Six-
teen-Mile creek in 1820, at that of Cunning-
ham creek, Ohio, in 1826, and again at that of
Grand river, Ohio, in 1830. At the second
point named the water rose fifteen and at the
third eight feet. VVater-spouts are of frequent
occurrence, as many as three having been seen
at one time. A whirlwind was experienced
at Conneaut, Ohio, in September, 1839, which
lifted the water of the lake to a height of
thirty feet. Three monster waves are report-
ed as having dashed upon the dock at Madi-
son, Ohio, the first of which was fifteen or
twent)' feet high. "In 1844 or 1845 a wave
came into Euclid creek fifteen feet in height,
carrying everything before it. * * * The
Toledo Blade recorded a change of ten feet on
December 5, 1850." The records of lowest
water are for 1808, "18, '34 and '95. and of
highest for 1813, '88 and '58.


T/ic Bay of Presque Isle, forming the har-
bor of Erie — the onlv one in the countv — is a

beautiful body of water, about four and one-
half miles long, with a breadth ranging from
a mile and a quarter to a mile and a lialf.
The long and narrow sand bank which divides
it from the lake is known as the Peninsula, or
in French as Presque Isle, meaning " nearly
an island." Within a hundred years the bay
extended by a narrow channel half a mile
further westward than it does now. The en-
trance to the bay is at its eastern end, between
two long piers, which create an artificial
channel 200 feet wide. Before the govern-
ment improvements were made the mouth
of the bay was nearly a mile in width,
and obstructed by a bar which afforded only
eight to ten feet of water. Now the largest
vessels upon the lake can enter easily, and
when within the bay are secure against the
worst storms. Three lighthouses direct mari-
ners to the entrance, while the course of the
channel is made clear by a series of range
lights. The greatest depth of water in the
bay is nearly opposite the Pittsburg docks,
where the lead touches bottom at twenty-
seven feet.

Misery Bay is a small subdivision of the
bay proper at its northeastern extremity. Its
name was suggested by Lieut. Holdup during
the war of 1814, when the vessels of the Lake
Erie squadron were anchored there. The
gloomy weather that prevailed, and the un-
comfortable condition of the crews, made the
title eminently appropriate. Within this lit-
tle bay were sunk two of the vessels of Per-
ry's fleet, the Lawrence and Niagara. The
former was raised and taken to the Centen-
nial Exhibition in 1870; the latter still lies at
the bottom of the bay on the east side. Both

I of the bays freeze over in winter, and usually

j continue closed until about the 1st of April.

i [For a further account of the bay. harbor and

i peninsula see Erie City.]


Presque Isle, or •' The Peninsula," as it is

j best known, which forms the harbor of Erie.

i is a low sand formation about six miles long,

j and varying in width from three hundred feet,

; at the " Head," or place where it joins the

mainland, to a mile and a half in its widest

part. It is covered with trees and bushes.

j representing nearly every variety in the north,

and contains several small " ponds," lakes

and lagoons. Large sums of money have


been spent to prevent the heavy fall and
spring waves from washing through the pen-
insula at its narrow points. A break occurr-
ed during the winter of 1828-9, another dur-
ing that of 1832-3, and a third in No-
vember, 1874, all of which were promptly
closed at the cost of the U. S. Government.
Constant vigilance is required to keep the
storms from breaking through the neck of the
peninsula, a result which, it is generally
thought, if not speedily corrected, would cause
great injury to the harbor. Several attempts
have been made to propagate willows for the
purpose of strengthening the neck, but they
have not been successful, though a consider-
able growth of those trees has sprung up
naturally. It was at one time contemplated
to open a channel from the west into the har-
bor and a good deal of money was expended
in that direction. After a few years of ex-
periment, the project was given up as im-
practicable. It is a matter of local tradition
that several vessels entered the bay through
the entrance thus created. The peninsula is
constantly eroding on its north and widest
part, and extending at its eastern projection.
[See Erie City.]


The extracts below, from a communica-
tion written by Henry W. Babbitt, of the
General Land Office at Washington, are of
historical value. After speaking of the pur-
chase of this section by Pennsj'lvania, a full
account of which is given further on, he saj's :

" By act of Legislature of February 4,
18(59, the State of Pennsylvania conveyed the
said Presque Isle to Marine Hospital (the pre-
decessor of the Soldiers" and Sailors' Home)
at Erie, Pa. (Congressional Record, 49th
Cong., 1st Sess., page 3,790). By act of tiie
Legislature of Pennsylvania of May 11, 1871,
title to said Peninsula or Presque Isle was
tendered to the United States Marine Hos-
pital, at Erie, Pa. (Ibid).

•' By act of Congress, approved August 5,
1880 (U.S. Statutes, v. 24, page 312), the
secretary of war is authorized and directed to
receive and accept title from said Marine
Hospital as tendered by said legislative enact-
ment of May II, 1871; $37,500 being the
sum appropriated to pay for the same.

" From the letter of December 7, 1889, on
this subject, from 'Ihomas Lincoln Casey,

brigadier general, chief engineer U. S. A., to
Hon. B. F. Gilkerson, second comptroller U.
S. treasury department, I am advised that the
deed of said Marine Hospital, conveying title
to said Peninsula, or Presque Isle, to the
United States, is dated May 25, 1871 ; that
the acting judge advocate of the U. S. army,
on the 18th of November, 1886, rendered an
opinion that the acceptance of said deed,
under the provisions of said act of Congress of
August 5, 1886, might be signitied by enter-
ing upon and taking possession of the land in
behalf of the United States ; that the honor-
able secretary of war approved this opinion
and directed, December 14, 1886, that tiie
necessary action be taken. Accordingly, in
pursuance of this order, the land was entered
upon, and taken possession of, in behalf of the
United States, by the war department,"
(which now controls the same).

Capt. James Hunter, of Erie, has been
custodian of the Peninsula, appointed by the
U. S. government, since 1886.


From Capt. John Fleeharty's valuable
and interesting contribution to the work is-
sued by the State Fish Commisioners in con-
nection with their exhibit at the World's
Columbian Exposition, the following facts
are gathered :

"Ever since the appearance of the white man
on the shore of Lake Erie it has been noted
for the quantity, variety and fine quality of
its fish. Long before the advent of the whites
the Indian was aware and appreciated this
fact, and fish in connection with game was
his whole food supply. In addition to the
fish in the lake, all of the small streams empty-
ing into it abounded with brook trout and
other species of small fish. The writer when
a boy has taken them within half a mile of the
Union depot in a small stream coming down
from the ridge, and emptying into Mill creek
in the neighborhood of Sixteenth and State
streets. Big Cascade creek also abounded
with them. * * * UpperMill creek, Walnut
creek and Trout run were noted for their fine
fishing. In fact, without particularizing, all
of the streams in Erie county were prolific in
fish, and all of them contained many brook

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 14 of 192)