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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 18 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 18 of 192)
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Wayne's name and victories. As soon as
tidings of the treaty reached Washington,
word was sent by the President to Gov. Mifflin
that the temporary obstacles to the establish-
ment were removed. It being too late in the
season when the good news arrived at LeBopuf
to do any effective work at Presque Isle, the
detachment remained at the former post until
early spring. The force there on the 27th of
March, 1795, consisted of ninety-nine in all.

Maj. Craig, of the United States Army,
stationed at Pittsburg, reported to the Secre-
tary of War on the 24th of May, 1795, that
" the State troops at LeBcEuf are nearly all
disbanded. Capt. Buchanan," he says, " who
commanded at that post (Denny having left),
arrived here yesterday with the greater part
of the men under his command, who are all
discharged." In Buchanan's communication
to the Governor, of June 19, he states, how-
ever, that Lieut. Mehaffey, with twenty-six
men, marched from Pittsburgh with Commis-
sioners Irvine and Ellicott toward LeBoeuf.
He, Buchanan, expected to start that day with
the balance of the escort. This would imply
that a new set of men had been enlisted for
the purpose.




While Ellicott was at LeBoeuf, in the sum-
mer of 1794, he laid out the town of Water-
ford, the plan of which was afterward sanc-
tioned by the Legislature. An act for laying
out towns at Presque Isle, LeBoeuf, Venango
and Conewango (Erie, Waterford, Franklin
and Warren) passed that body in April, 1795,
being the second in regard to the first-named

About two hundred men from Wayne's
army landed at Presque Isle early in the spring
of 1795, under command of Capt Russell
Bissell. They set to work at once, cutting
timber for block-houses, of which two were
erected on the bluff overlooking the entrance

to the harbor, just east of the mouth of Mill
creek. They also cleared a good deal of land
to raise corn for the use of the garrison. A
sawmill was put up, and by 1796 a warehouse
and stockade were completed. The supplies
of food, etc., for some time were mainly ob-
tained by vessel from Detroit.

In June, 1795, Ellicott and Irvine, com-
missioners, arrived, accompanied by a corps
of surveyors, and escorted by State troops
under command of Capt. John Grubb, to lay
, out the town of Erie, which was done during
I that year. Troops remained at the post until
! 1806, but were few in number. [See chapters
relating to Erie city and the several townships
I for a further account of the early settlements.]


Legislation ix Regard to Land .\nd Early Land Sales. — [See Chapter I, Erie City.

ONE month after the cession of the Tri-
angle, in 179:2, the General Assembly
passed an act for the encouragement
of emigration to the newly-acquired
territory. This measure, generally
known as the "actual settlement law," was
in substance as follows :

The lands north and west of the Rivers
Ohio, Allegheny and Conewango are to be
sold to any person who will cultivate, improve
and settle the same, or cause them to be im-
proved and settled, at £7 10 shillings for
every hundred acres, witli an allowance of six
per cent, for roads, etc.

On application to the Land Office, giving
a description of the lands applied for, a war-
rant is to be issued to the applicant for any
quantity not exceeding 400 acres.

No title shall vest in the lands unless the
grantee has, prior to the issuance of his war-
rant, made or caused to be made, or shall,
within two years next after the same, make or
cause to be made an actual settlement thereon,
by clearing, fencing and cultivating at least
two acres for every hundred in one survey,

and erected a house, and resided or caused a
family to reside on the same for the five years
immediately following; and in default thereof
new warrants shall be i.ssued to actual settlers ;
^'provided, tliat if any siic/i actual settler or
grantee '' sliall, by force of arms of the enemies
of the I'll i ted States, be prevented from mak-
ing- s/ich settlement, or be driven therefrom,
and shall persist in his endeavors to make
such actual settlement, then, in either case, he
and his heirs shall be entitled to have and to
hold such lands in the same manner as if the
actual settlement had been made.''

The la*ids actually settled and improved to
remain chargeable with the purchase money
and interest, and if the grantee shall neglect
to apply for a warrant for ten years after the
passage of this act, unless hindered by death
or the enemies of the United States, the lands
may be granted to others by warrants reciting
the defaults.

land companies.

Almost simultaneously with the enactment
of the " actual settlement law,'" the Pennsyl-


vania Population Company was formed at
Philadelphia, to settle and dispose of the lands
in the Triangle. John Nicholson, the famous
land speculator, was elected president. Pre-
vious to the organization of the company, Mr.
Nicholson had applied for 390 warrants in the
Triangle. These he transferred to the corpo-
ration, which paid for them and perfected the
title. The company took up about 500 addi-
tional warrants in Erie and Crawford coun-
ties. The lands located by the Population
Company embraced the whole Triangle except
the town plot of Erie, the Erie State Reserve,
the Garrison Reserve and Irvine's Reserva-
tion, in addition to tracts in the southern part
of Erie county. The corporation was dis-
solved in 1814, after the last war with Great
Britain, and the remaining lands and unset-
tled contracts for the sale of lands passed into
the hands of individual members.

The Population Company, on the 8th of
March, 1798, issued instructions to their
agents, offering the following inducements to
settlers in Erie county :

A gift of 150 acres each to the first twenty
families that shall settle on French creek.

A similar gift to the first twenty families
that shall settle in " the Lake Erie territory."

A gift of 100 acres each to the next fifty
families (after the first twenty) who shall set-
tle on French creek.

A similar gift to the next fifty families
(after the first ten) who shall settle in the
Lake Erie territory.

The settlers were privileged to locate on
any lands of the company they chose, and if
they cleared at least ten acres, and erected a
comfortable house thereon, in which they re-
sided, were to have a deed after two years.
In case they were driven off by the Indians,
no part of the two years was to run against
them, and no title was to vest in any person
or his heirs who abandoned the lands before
receiving his deed.

Thirty thousand acres were offered for sale
to actual settlers, in tracts not exceeding 300
acres, at $1 per acre, payable at the option of
the purchaser, in three years, with interest
the last two years.


Some time after the Revolution, a number
of wealthy gentlemen living in Holland, or-
ganized under the name of the Holland Land

Company, purchased of Robert Morris, the
financier of the Revolution, vast bodies of
land in western New York and northwestern
Pennsylvania. They also took up by warrant
large tracts in Erie and Crawford counties,
besides those purchased from Morris. The war-
rants were issued to them at various times in
1793, 1794 and 1795. The lands of the Holland
Company in Erie county lay south of the
Triangle line, across the entire width of the
county. Maj. Alden, the first agent of the
company, was succeeded by William Miles.
In 1815, H. J. Huidekoper, a member of the
corporation, came on from Holland, took
charge of the company's affairs, and establish-
ed his office in Meadville. The lands remain-
ing unsold were bought by Mr. Huidekoper
in 1833. William H. Seward, afterward
famous as a statesman, was agent for the
company in western New York, having his
oflice in Mayville or Westfield.


An association was formed at Harrisburg
on the 18th of August, 1796, under the title
of the Harrisburg and Presque Isle Company,
for the purpose of " settling, improving and
populating the country near and adjoining
to Lake Erie." It was limited to ten persons,
among whom were Richard Swan, Thomas
Forster, Samuel Laird and William Kelso.
The company purchased thirty-seven Erie in-
lots and eight outlots at the public sale at
Carlisle in August, 1790. They also obtained
possession of 480 acres at the mouth of Wal-
nut creek, and of some land at Waterford.
Mr. Forster came on as agent, in company with
Mr. Swan, in the spring of 1797, and located
on the Walnut creek property. By the fall
of that year, they had a sawmill erected, and
the next year a gristmill was commenced,
which was completed in the fall of 1798.
They laid out a town at the mouth of the
creek and called it Fairview. Both Forster
and Swan took up large tracts in the vicinity
on their own account. The title to a portion
of the company's property was disputed by
the Population Company, and, after long
litigation, the Walnut creek site was sold at
Sheriff's sale.


The Legislature in 1783 directed the laying
out of large tracts in the northwestern and



western portions of the commonwealth, to be
known as Donation Districts, and to be ap-
plied in fulfillment of a promise made on the
Tth of March, 1780, " to the officers and pri-
vates belonging to this State in the Federal
army, of certain donations and quantities of
land, according to their several ranks, to be
surveyed and divided off to them, severally, at
the end of the Revolutionary war." The Do-
nation District was divided into sub-districts,
each of which was known by its number. The
Tenth District commenced about a mile' east
of the borough of Waterford and extended
eastward across the present townships of
Amity and Wayne to the Warren county line.
It was surveyed on the part of the State, in
1785, by David Watts and William Miles.
Few of the soldiers for whose benefit the lands
were set aside, moved onto them, the patents
having generally been disposed of at a small
price to speculators.


In recognition of its services in maintain-
ing missionaries at its own expense among
the Indians, the State, in 1791, voted to " the
Society of the United Brethren for propaga-
ting the Gospel among the heathen " — com-
monly known as the Moravians — two grants
of land of 2,500 acres each, with allowance,
to be located respectively on " the River Con-
nought, near the northwestern part of the
State," and on " the heads of French creek."
The society located 2,875 acres in LeBopuf
township, which they named the "Good
Luck" tract, and 2,797 in Springfield and
Conneaut townships, to which they gave the
title of " Hospitality." These lands were
leased until 1850, when they were purchased
by N. Blickensderfer and James Miles. The
first agent for the Moravians was William
Miles, of Union, who was succeeded by his
son James as manager of the " Hospitality,"
and by John Wood, of Waterford, as manager
of the " Good Luck " tract.


In laying out the lands of the county for
settlement, the State reserved four tracts,
which are briefly described below :

Irvine's Reservation consisted of 2,000 acres
in Harbor Creek township, donated by the com-
monwealth to Gen. William Irvine as a special
reward for his services during the Revolution.

The tract which became known as the
Erie State Reserve commenced at the head of
the bay and ran south three miles, then east-
ward, parallel with the lake, eight miles, then
back to the lake shore three miles, excluding
the lands originally embraced within the limits
of Erie. These lands were first surveyed by
George Moore in 1795, again by John Coch-
ran in 1796-97. and finally by Thomas Rees in
1799. The latter laid them out in three tiers
— the one furthest from the lake consisting of
150-acre tracts, the second mainly of 130-acre
tracts, and the last, or nearest to the lake, of
tracts ranging from 50 to 100 acres. None of
the lands were sold until 1801, and but few
before 1804. Those_ who bought earliest paid
from $3 to $4 per acre; one-fifth in hand, the
balance in four equal annual payments. One
party who owned 411 acres deeded the whole
of it, in 1804, for a male slave. The final sale
of the Reserve lands took place on the first
Monday of August, 1888, when a number of
fifty-acre tracts on the bank of the lake west
of the city were purchased at from $9 to $22
per acre.

The Reserve at Waterford consisted of 1,800
acres in Waterford township, and 4(X) in Le-
Ba_'uf. Provision for its sale was made in the
act of 1799, and most of the tract had passed
into private hands by 1804.

The Garrison tract was provided for in the
act of 1794, for laying out a town at Presque
Isle, which directed the Governor to reserve
"out of the lots of the said town so much land
as he shall deem necessary for public uses ;
also, so much land, within or out of the said
town, as may, in his opinion, be wanted by
the United States for the purpose of erecting
forts, magazines, arsenals and dock-yards."
It lies on the bank of the bay on the east side
of Mill creek, and is now occupied in whole
or in part by the grounds of the Soldiers' and
Sailors' Home.


By an act passed in 1799 it was provided
that in the sales of land 500 acres should be
held back from each of the Reserve tracts at
Erie and Waterford " for the use of such
schools and academies as may hereafter be es-
tablished by law" in those towns. The lands
that fell tothe share of Waterford Academy
lie in LeBocuf township, at the mouth of Le-
Bo-uf creek. They were sold oft" about 1840.


The Erie Academy grant was in Mill Creek
township, and extended some distance along
the Waterford turnpike, commencing near the
present southern boundary of the city. The
land has mainly passed into the iiands of pri-
vate owners.



Under the act of 1792, the territory north
and west of the Ohio, Allegheny and Cone-
wango rivers, was divided into five districts,
each of which was assigned to a deputy sur-
veyor. District No. 1, embracing the Tri-
angle, was assigned to Thomas Rees, Jr.,
who left for Presque Isle in the spring of
1798. After long delay, on account of In-
dian threats, he reached his destination ; but
the attitude of the Indians was so hostile,
and reports of Indian murders so frequent,
that he abandoned the field and returned to the
East. In the spring of 1795 Mr. Rees came
on again, put up a tent at the mouth of
Mill creek, and resumed his duties as a sur-
veyor. About this time he was also appointed
agent for the Population Companj-. He em-
ployed several assistant surveyors during the
season, among whom were George Moore and
David McNair, and by fall reported the sale
for the company of 74,790 acres to some 200
different persons. Few of these, however,
made an immediate settlement upon the land,
through fear of Indian depredations. Mr.
Rees resigned both as deputy surveyor and
agent for the Population Company at the be-
ginning of 1796, and from that date until tiie
spring of 1802 served the State as commis-
sioner for the sale of lots, etc. He was suc-
ceeded in the first position by John Cochran,
and in the second by Judah Colt, who con-
tinued until his death. Mr. Rees took up a
large tract in Harbor Creek township, about
one mile south of the present Buffalo road, to
which he cut a highway in 1797. The sev-
eral parties who acted on the part of the State
for the sale of lots and lands were as follows :

Erie— 1800, Thomas Rees, Jr.; 1802, John
Kelso; 1805, Thomas Forster ; 1809, Conrad
Brown; 1810, John Kelso ; 1811, Robert Knox.

Waterford— 1800, David McNair and
James Naylor; 1805, John Vincent; 1809,
Charles Martin ; 1811, James Boyd.

Wilson Smith was appointed deputy
surveyor for the town of Erie April 25th,

Judah Colt, who had been appointed to
succeed Mr. Rees as agent of the Population
Compan)', came on in that capacity on the
1st of July, 1796. He assisted in his
duties by Elisha and Enoch Marvin. Singu-
lar to state, they preferred the high lands in
Greenfield township, and the first permanent
settlement in the county, outside of Erie and
W^aterford, was made early in 1797 at Colt's
Station. [See Greenfield.] Mr. Colt died
in 1832, and left a large estate. His succes-
sor for most of the members of the company
was Judah C. Spencer. A few of the mem-
bers placed their interests in charge of
Thomas H. Sill. Dunning McNair estab-
lished an agency for the company on Con-
neaut creek in 1797, later in the year than the
settlement in Greenfield, and made contracts
with most of the early settlers of that region.


In 1794 the Legislature passed an act
which provided that no further applications
should be received by the land office for any un-
improved land within the Triangle. This was
after it had been ascertained that the territory
was not sufficient to supply the warrants
issued to the Population Company. The
same act directed that no warrant should
issue after the 15th of June of that year, for
any land within the Triangle except in favor
of persons claiming byviitueof some settle-
ment and improvement having been made
thereon, and that all applications remaining
in the land office after that date for which
the purchase money had not been paid, should
be void. It was stipulated, however, that
applications might be " received and war-
rants issued until the 1st of January, 1795,
in favor of any persons to whom a balance
might be due in the land office on unsatisfied
warrants issued before the 29th of March,
1792, for such quantities of land as might be
sufficient to discharge such balances;" pro-
vided, that the act should not be "so con-
strued as that any warrants, except those
wherein the land is particularly described,
should in any manner affect the title of the
claim of any person having made an actual
improvement before such warrant was entered
and surveyed in the Deputy Surveyor's books."
Another act, passed in September of the
same year, made it unlawful for any appli-
cation for lands to be received at the land


office, after its passage, " except for such
lands where a settlement has been or here-
after shall be made, grain raised and a per-
son or persons residing thereon."


At an early date David Watts and William
Miles, the first surveyors under the State, lo-
cated 1,40C) acres at Wattsburg and 1,200
acres at Lake Pleasant. In 1796, Mr. Miles
also purchased four tracts on the lake shore
from the Population Company, on which he
agreed to place settlers. Martin Strong, who
came to the coiintj' in 1795 as a surveyor for
the Holland Land Company, took up a large
tract on the ridge, in Waterford and Summit
townships. David McNair chose 800 acres of
the Walnut creek flats, at Kearsarge, besides
other extensive tracts. He at one time owned
some of the most valuable property in the
county, including half of what is now South
Erie. George Fisher, of Dauphin county, se-
cured a vast body of land in Waterford and
Washington townships, and William Wallace,
who was the first lawyer in the county, be-
came the owner of numerous tracts in various
townships. Many sales were made by the
different companies between 1796 and 1799,
and by 1800 a good share of the county had
passed into the hands of actual settlers, or
persons who intended to become such.


Below is a list of parties who entered into
agreements with the Population Company for
the purchase of lands in 1796-97 and 1798, all
being for full tracts except the one in the
nameof George Hurst, which was forSOO acres :

James Baird.
Russell Bissell,
Richard Clement,
Joshua Fairbanks,
Thomas Gallagher,
John Grubb,
Thomas P. Miller,
Thomas Rees, Jr.,
Beriah Davis, '
Elihu Crane,
Patrick Kenned\-,
Morrow Lowry, .
Rowland Rees,
William M. Grundy,
James O'Harra,
Laton Dick,

George Balfour,
Negro " Boe,"
Isaac Craig,
Thomas Forster,
Thomas Greer,
Samuel HoUidav, .
Francis Brawley,
Abraham Custard,
Miles Crane,
Abiathar Crane,
John Sanderson, •
William Lee,
Robert Lowry,
John Mill,
Judah Coll,
Charles John Reed,

Benjamin Richardson,
David Hays,
Francis Scott,
Joseph McCord,
George Hurst,
William Paul,
Israel Bodine,
John Kennedy,
George Nicholson,
Thomas Dunn,
Henry Hurst,
William Dunn,
Martin Strong,
Richard Swan,
J. F. Vollaine,
John McKee,
John Oliver,
Mary Reed,
Milhall Condon,
David Long,
Peter Grasoss,
Joseph L. Rowley,
William G. Tysner,
Freeman Tuttle,
Hamilton Stone,
John Anderson,
John Shaffer,
Thomas Hughes,
David Seely,
John Morris,
bavid McCullough,
William Sturgeon,
Hugh Trimble,
Robert Brown,
John Nichols,
Robert Mclntire,
Samuel Barker,
George Tracy,
Oliver Dunn,
Oliver Thornton,
Timothy Tuttle.


Mr. Colt's first years as agent of the Pop-
ulation Company were much disturbed by
hostile manifestations and costly litigation to
maintain the real or assumed rights of the or-
ganization. The causes of the troubles, in
brief, were as follows : The law of 1792 pro-
vided that any actual settler, or grantee in
any original or succeeding warrant, who
should be driven from the country by the ene-
mies of the United States, and who should
persist in the endeavor to make a settlement,

Benjamin Russell,
Anthonj' Saltsman,
James Herman,
Azariah Davis,
Arnold Custard,
William Barker,
Samuel Barker,
Israel Miller,
George Lowry,
James Dunn,
Ezekiel Dunning,
William Parcell,
Hugh Spears,
Elihu Talmadge,
Alex. Vance,
Hugh McLaughlin,
Rufus S. Reed.
Stephen Oliver,
Alex. McKee,
Stephen Forster,
James Greer,
James Foulke,
John Hay,
Bernard Tracy,
Zelmar Barker,
Daniel Dobbins,
John Cummings,
John Daggett.
Samuel Holliday,
Patrick McKee,
Henry Strowman,
Jeremiah Sturgeon,
James Leland,
Peter Prime,
John Gordon,
George W. Reed.
John Cochran,
William Weed,
William Baird,
Thomas Greer,


should be entitled to hold his lands in the
same manner as if an actual settlement had
been made. The Population Company and
the Holland Company claimed that by their
several efforts to occupy the lands in 1798,
'94 and '95, they had fulfilled all the condi-
tions of the law. In the spring of 1795, a
proclamation was issued by the Governor de-
claring that the Indians had been conquered,
and stating that the northwestern section of
the State was open to settlement. The effect
of this was to induce a number of people to
emigrate to the county, some of whom pur-
chased from the agents, while others set up
adverse claims, asserting that the companies
had forfeited the lands.

The companies alleged that peace was not
really secured until 1796, citing the Rutledge
murder as proof. To this the adverse claimants
replied that the murder was not committed
by the Indians, but was the deed of white
men in pay of the company, to relieve them
from their embarrassment. The principal
seat of the troubles was in Greenfield and
North East townships; but they extended
in some degree to Conneaut, Harbor Creek
and other sections.

The Holland Company also had difficulties
with various parties who claimed to be actual
settlers. Among those who became involved
in litigation with the company was William
Miles, who had located and placed settlers up-
on lands which the company complained had
been allotted to them. The Miles suits were
ultimately settled by amicable arrangement,
and he became the agent of the companj'.

The .Supreme Court of Pennsylvania de-
cided against the adverse claimants, creating
an intense feeling of indignation and disap-
pointment throughout the Northwest. This
settled the business, so far as the Population
Company was concerned, it being a State
corporation, wholly composed of citizens of
Pennsylvania. The Holland Land Company,
being a foreign concern, brought their action
in the United States Circuit Court, where the
decision was precisely like that of the State
Supreme Court. It was appealed to the Su-
preme Court of the United States, where the
other courts were fully sustained in an opinion
rendered by Chief Justice Marshall in 1805.

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 18 of 192)