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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 19 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 19 of 192)
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This result settled the dispute for good.
There being no further question of title, the
county began to fill up rapidly. Some of the

adverse settlers left in disgust and despair ; but
the majority entered into arrangements with
the companies to purchase the land which
they had improved.


One of the wildest, if not the most reck-
less, land speculations ever known in Erie
county took place in 1836, being confined
mainly to the borough of Erie and vicinity.
j It grew out of the important internal improve-
j ments conceived and set in operation about
1 that time, added to a tremendous over-issue of
j papermoney throughout the countrjr. The canal
to Beaver had been surveyed, a charter had
been granted for the railroad to Sunbury, and
considerable work had been done by the Unit-
ed States Government in building piers and
deepening the harbor. A widespread impres-
sion sprung up that Erie was destined to be-
come a great city. The charter of the United
States Bank at Philadelphia expired in 1880.
In the early part of that year, the State Legis-
lature chartered the United States Bank of
Pennsylvania with a capital- of $35,000,000.
This institution established a branch at Erie,
erecting the old custom house on State below
Fifth street, and the residence adjoining, for a
banking office and cashier's house. The stock
of the Erie branch, amounting to |200,000,
was all taken on the 27th of February, 1880.
These matters combined gave an extraordinary
impulse to real estate in the borough of Erie.
The price of town lots jumped up 100 per
cent. In a single week the sales of real estate
amounted to over half a million dollars. One
lot, purchased in February for lj!10,000, was
resold in Buffalo within a month for $50,000.
The speculation lasted until 1837, when the
banks failed throughout the Union, causing a
terrible revulsion. Although the speculation
in this county was limited to Erie and its vi-
cinity, a general spirit of adventure prevailed
in the whole nation, and thousands of persons
were ruined by their faith in inflation and the
speculative tendency of the time. The history
of that day is one of the best arguments that
can be produced against the theories of those
who believe in the issue of a large« volume of
paper curreiTcy without taking proper steps
for its redemption and security.

[For an account of the land sales and set-
tlements at Erie, see the chapter on that sub-
ject under the heading of Erie Citj.]

/^hc/u^ / /LC/^L^


First Settlers ix the Countv-

si Marriages, Births and Deaths.

AS may be seen by the preceding chap-
ters, the first known American citi-
zens wlio located permanently within
the bounds of Erie county were
Thomas Rees and John Grubb, who
reached Erie in the spring of 1795 and re-
mained until their deaths. At a later date in
the same year William Miles and William
Cook, with their wives, made a settlement in
Concord township, near the Crawford county
line, where they were the sole residents for
some years. A month or so later. Col. Seth
Reed, accompanied by his wife and sons,
Manning and Charles Johni came to Erie in a
sail boat from Buffalo, which was piloted by
James Talmadge, who took up lands during
the season in McKean township. These
three ladies were the first white persons of
their sex who are known to have resided in
the county. The other settlers during 1795
were Rufus S. and George W. Reed, James
Baird and children, Mrs. Thomas Rees and
Mrs. J. Fairbanks, at Erie; Amos Judson,
James Naylor, Lieut. Martin, and Martin
Strong, in Waterford ; John W. Russell,
George Moore and David McNair, in Mill
creek ; Capt. Robert King and family, Will-
iam and Thomas Black and Thomas Ford and
wife, in LeBoeuf ; Jonathan Spaulding in Con-
neaut ; Michael Hare and two men named
Ridue and Call, in Wayne ; James and Bailey
Donaldson, in North East, and James Blair in
Girard. So far as the records show, these
were the only white people living in the
county that year. Among the settlers during
the interval between 1795 and 1800 were the
following :

nW—lVas/i/ri.i^>io/! toxviiship, Alexander
Hamilton and William Culbertson ; Eric,
Capt. Daniel Dobbins ; Mill Creek, Benjamin
Russell, Thomas P. Miller, David Dewey,
Anthony Saltsman and John McFarland ;
Greenfield, Judah Colt, Elisha and Enoch
Marvin, Cyrus Robinson, Charles Allen, Jo-

seph Berry, John Wilson, James Moore'
Joseph Webster, Philo Barker," Timothy Tut-
tle, Silas and William Smith, Joseph Shat-
tuck, John Daggett, John Andrews and
Leverett Bissell ; hlcKean, Thomas and Oliver
Dunn ; Fairvicw, Francis Scott ; Summit,
George W. Reed ; ^'ort/l East, William Wil-
son, George and Henry Hurst and Henr}' and
DverLoomis; SpriiigyiclJ, 'S&vaueX Holliday,
John Devore, John Mershom, William ]SIc-
Intj're and Patrick Ager ; Vcnaitgo, Adam
and James Reed, Burrill and Zalmon Tracj- ;
Waterford, John Lytle, Robert Brotherton,
John Lennox and Thomas Skinner.

1797 — Waterford, John Vincent and Wil-
son Smith ; Wayne, Joseph Hall and

Prosser; Union, Hugh Wilson, Andrew
Thompson, Matthew Gray, Francis B. and
Robert Smith; Elk Creek, Eli Colton; IV-
naiigo, Thomas, John and David Phillips ;
Springfield, Oliver Cross ; Eairviev.', Thomas
Forster, Jacob Weiss, George Nicholson, John
Kelso, Richard Swan, Patrick Vance, Patrick
and John McKee, Jeremiah and William
Sturgeon and William Haggerty ; LcBa'iif,
Francis Isherwood, James, Robert and Adam
Pollock; Conneant, Col. Dunning McNair;
Mill Creek, John Nicholson, the McKees and
Boe Bladen ; Wasliiiigton, Job Reeder, Sam-
uel Galloway, Simeon Dunn, John and James
Campbell, Matthias Sipps, Phineas McLene-
than, Matthew Hamilton, John Mc Williams,
James, John, Andrew and Samuel Culbertson,
and Mrs. Jane Campbell (widow) ; Xortli
East. Thomas Robinson, Joseph McCord,
James McMahon, Margaret Lowry (widow),
fames Duncan, Francis Brawley and Abram
and Arnold Custard ; Harbor Creek, William
Saltsman, Amasa Prindle and Andrew El-

11^%— Erie, William Wallace; Wayne,
William Smith and David Findley ; Union,
Jacob Shephard, John Welsh, John Fagan
and John Wilson ; Elk Creek, George Hay-


barger and John Dietz ; \'e>iango, William
iVllison and wife ; Springjicld, Nicholas Le-
Barger ; Fa i rvic-d; , John Dempsey ; Comicaiit,
Abiathar and Elihu Crane; Washington,
Peter Kline; Girard, Abraham and William
Silverthorn ; North East, Thomas Crawford,
Lemuel Brown, Henry and Matthew Taylor,
^^'illiam Allison, Henry Burgett, John, James
and Matthew Greer ; Watcrford, Aaron

1799 — Watcrford, John, James and David
Boyd, Capt. John Trac)^ M. Himebaugh,
John Clemens, the Simpsons and Lattimores;
Eric, John Teel ; McKcau, Lemuel and
Russell Stancliff ; Sii/ninit, Eliakim Cook.

The above is not claimed to be a complete
list of the settlers up to 1800, but is as nearly
full as can now be obtained. Emigration
was slow the first five years in consequence
of the land troubles. After 1805, the county
commenced to fill up more rapidly, and to
attempt to give a roll of the settlers would
exceed the limits of a work like this. [See
the City, Township and Borough Chapters.]


Most of the people named above were
from New England or New York, but quite
a number were Scotch Irish from the south-
ern counties of Pennsylvania, and a few were
of Pennsylvania Dutch descent. The New
Yorkers were in general from the interior of
that State, and the Pennsylvanians from
Dauphin, Cumberland, Lancaster and Nor-
thumberland counties. The Riblets, Eber-
soles, Loops, Zucks, Browns, Stoughs, Zim-
mermans, Kreiders, and others of that class,
came in at a period ranging from 1801 to
1805. From that time the people who
settled in the county were almost universally
of New England and New York origin until
about 1825, when another emigration of Penn-
sylvania Dutch set in, which continued until
1835 or thereabouts. Among those who
located in the county during this period were
the Weigels, Warfels, Mohrs, Metzlers, Ber-
gers, Brennemans, Charleses and others
whose names are familiar. The foreign ele-
ment began to come in at a comparatively
recent date — the Irish about 1825, and the
Germans from five to ten years after. The
first settlers were a hardy, adventurous race
of men, and their wives were brave, loving
and dutiful women.


The earliest marriage was that of Charles
J. Reed, of Walnut Creek (Kearsarge), to
Miss Rachel Miller, which occurred on Decem-
ber 27, 1797. The earliest recorded birth was
that of John R., son of William Black,
in Fort LeBoPuf, August 29, 1795. Mr.
Boardman, of Washington township, was
born in the Conneauttee valley the same j-ear

The earliest known deaths occurred in the
years below :

Ralph Rutledge, killed by the Indians at
Erie, May 29th, 1795. His son was fatally
shot at the same time, and died shortly after,
in the fort at LeBoeuf.

Gen. Anthony Wayne, in the block-house
at Erie, December 15, 1796.

Col. Seth Reed, at Walnut Creek, March
19, 1797.


The majority, if not all, of the settlers
were in moderate circumstances, and were
content to live in a very cheap way. They
had to depend on the produce of their little
clearings, which consisted to a large extent of
potatoes and corn. Mush, corn bread and
potatoes were the principal food. There was
no meat except game, and often this had to
be eaten without salt. Pork, flour, sugar and
other groceries sold at high prices, and were
looked upon as luxuries. In 1798—99, wheat
brought $2.50 per bushel ; flour, $18 a barrel ;
corn,|2 per bushel; oats, $1.50; and potatoes,
$1 .50. The mills were far apart, the roads scarce-
ly more than pathways through the woods, and
the grists had to be carried in small quantities
on the backs of men or horses. Few families
had stoves, and the cooking was done almost
entirely over open fires. The beds were
without springs and were made up in general
by laying coarse blankets upon boxes or rude
frames. All clothing was homemade. Every
house had a spinning wheel, and many were
provided with looms. Liquor was in com-
mon use, and there was seldom a family
without its bottle, for the comfort of the
husband and the entertainment of his guests.

The first buildings were log cabins con-
structed of unhewn logs laid one upon another
with the crevices filled in with mud. Tiiese
gave way, as the condition of the people im-
proved, to structures of hewn timber in which
mortar was substituted for mud. Hardly any


of the houses were plastered. Many were
without window glass, and wall paper was
unknown. As saw mills increased, frame
buildings of a better character were substi-
tuted for the log cabins, and occasionally a
brick or stone structure was erected, which
was talked about in all the country round as a
marvel of architecture. The people were sepa-
rated by long distances ; for years there were
few clearings that joined. In every house
there was an immense fire-place, in which
tremendous amounts of wood were consumed,
which practically cost nothing.

When a new residence or barn was to be
erected, the neighbors were invariably invited
to the raising. On such occasions, liquor or
cider was expected to be freely dispensed, and
it was rarely the case that the invitations were
declined. These raisings were the merry-
making events of the day, and generally
brought together twenty-five to fifty of the
settlers, who worked hard, drank freely, and
flattered themselves when they were through
that they had experienced a jolly good time.


All the cooking and warming, in town as
well as in country, was done by the aid of
fires kindled on the brick hearths or in the
brick ovens. Pine knots or tallow candles
furnished the light for the long winter nights,
and sanded floors supplied the place of rugs
and carpets. The water used for household
purposes was drawn from deep wells by the
creaking sweeps. There were no friction
matches, by the aid of which a fire could be
easily kindled, and if the fire went out upon
the hearth over night, and the tinder was
damp, so that the spark would not catch, the
alternative remained of wading through the
snow a mile or so to borrow a brand from a
neighbor. Only one room in any house was
warm, in all the rest the temperature was at
zero during the extreme winter nights. The
men and women undressed and went to their
beds in a temperature as cold as our barns and

Churches and schoolhouses were sparsely
located, and of the most primitive character.
One pastor served a number of congregations ;
and salaries were so low that the preachers
had to take part in working their farms to pro-
cure support for their families. The people
went to religious service on foot or horseback,

and the children often walked two or three
miles through the woods to school. There
were no fires in the churches for a number of
years. When they were introduced they were
at first built in holes cut in the floors, and the
smoke found its way out through openings in
the roofs. The seats were of unsmoothed
slabs, the ends and centers of which were laid
upon blocks, and the pulpits were little better.
Worship was held once or twice a month, con-
sisting usuall}' of two services, one in the
forenoon and one immediately after noon, the
people remaining during the interval and
spending the time in social intercourse.


A dense forest covered the county, when
it was opened to settlement, which aijounded
with deer, bears, wolves, panthers, rabbits,
foxes, raccoons, squirrels, oppossums, minks,
skunks, martins, and some wild cattle, or
" buffalo," as they were called by the French.
Every man kept a gun and went into the
woods in pursuit of game whenever the sup-
ply of food in his household ran short. Deer
were abundant for years. There were numer-
ous deer-licks, where the animals resorted to
find salt water, at which the hunters lay in
wait and shot them down without mercy.
Packs of wolves often surrounded the cabins
and kept the inmates awake with their howl-
ing. A bounty was long paid for their scalps,
varying in amount from $10 to |12 per head.
Accounts are given of sheep being killed by
wolves as late as 1813. Occasionally a pan-
ther or wild cat terrified whole neighborhoods
by its screaming. The last panther was shot
at Lake Pleasant by Abram Knapp in 1857-

The country was full of pigeons, ducks,
geese, pheasants, partridges, and turkeys in
their season, all of which fell easy victims to
the guns or traps of the pioneers. The lakes,
of course, contained plenty of fish, and most
of the small streams abounded in trout. It
does not appear that the county was ever much
troubled with poisonous snakes. There were
some massassaugies and copperheads on the
peninsula ; but the interior seems to have been
remarkabh' free from dangerous reptiles.

Taken altogether, while they had to en-
dure many privations and hardships, it is
doubtful whether the pioneers of any part of
America were more fortunate in their selec-
tion than those of Erie county.


Gristmills, Sawmills, Factories, Tanneries, Breweries, Etc. — [See Chapters XIII
and XVI, Erie City History.]

THE first mill in Erie county was built
at the mouth of Mill creek in 179G,
under the direction of Capt. Russell
Bissell, of the l^nited States army, to
supply timber for barracks, dwellings,
etc., for the use of the troops who had been sent
forward as a protection to the settlers. It
gave name to the stream and stood until 1820,
when it burned down. The dam was just east
of Parade street, nearly on a line with Fourth.
In 1831, George W. Reed and William Him-
rod built another sawmill on the old site, the
frame of which was standing for more than
thirty years after its erection.

The second sawmill was built by John
Cochran in 1800, on the site of what became
known as the Eliot or Densmore mill. The
following year, he added a gristmill, both
being constructed of logs. In the year 1816
John Teel replaced them by a frame, which was
subsequently operated by John Gray and son
James, Jonathan Baird and John McClure.
In May, 1836, upon the death of John Coch-
ran, it fell into the hands of his son Robert,
and about 1845 was sold to Gen. C. M. Reed,
who conveyed it to George A. Eliot. In
1850, Mr. Eliot gave the control of it to his
son John, who in March, 1871, sold it to
Henry Shotwell; thence it passed into the
possession of William Densmore. When Mr.
Teel rebuilt the mill, the contract price was
$3(K). He took in part pay for his services the
two outlots bounded by Chestnut, Sassafras,
Twentieth and Twenty-second streets. The
land alone, included in this property, is now
worth .$(50,000.

In 1806, Robert Brotherton built a saw-
mill at or near the site of the present Hope-
dale mill. The farm and mill were pur-
chased by John Gingrich, and the latter was
discontinued when timber became scarce in
the neighborhood. An oil mill was subse-

quently erected there by C. .Siegel. Upon
his father's death, Henry Gingrich inherited
the property, and about 1850 built a flouring
mill, which he called " Hopedale." This mill
was operated for some years by Oliver & Ba-
con, who left it in 1865, and it was then taken
in charge by its owner, Henry Gingrich.

During the years 1807-8, another sawmill
was erected on Mill creek at its intersection
with Eighth street, by Thomas Forster and
William Wallace, who got control of the wa-
ter-power from Twelfth to Parade streets.
About 1810, R. S. Reed purchased the prop-
erty and built a gristmill below. In 1822,
George Moore bought these mills and added a
carding and fulling-mill. Some time during
the winter of 1834-35, the mills were pur-
chased by E. D. Gunnison, who became asso-
ciated in business with Abraham Johnson, and
they built and named the Fairmount flouring-
mill. Gunnison sold his interest to John H.
Walker, who converted the carding and full-
ing mill into a plaster mill, and built a large
tannery opposite and a number of dwellings
for the workmen. Jehiel Towner was miller
for man)- years. The tannery burned down
and the mill fell into the hands of Liddell,
Kepler & Co. In the spring of 1859 it was
bought by P. & O. E. Crouch, and is now
owned and operated by J. B. Crouch & Co.

Rufus S. Reed built a gristmill on Mill
creek in 1815. It was located on Parade street
between Fourth and Fifth, and the dam
crossed the stream just below Sixth street.
He afterward added a distillery, both of which
were carried on by him until his death. The
mill stood until some twenty years ago.

The same year ( 1815), Robert Large erected
a gristmill near the corner of Eleventh and
French streets, with the dam above Twelfth.
It did not, however, prove successful, and in
1822 was sold to Alvah Flint, who converted


it into a cloth, carding and fulling-mill. This
was kept up until 1840, when the ■ site and
water-power were purchased by Vincent,
Himrod & Co., who erected a foundry subse-
quently known as the Erie City Iron Works.
It is now occupied by Althofs planing mill
and the Ball Engine Works.


The first beer brewery in the city was
built in 1815, by Maj. David McNair, on Turn-
pike street, near where the Erie City mill was
afterward erected. He added a distillery in
1823, and in 1827 built a grist mill on State
street, south of the Lake Shore R. R., the
motive power for all being furnished by the
water of Ichabod run. This stream came
down from the ridge on the west side of the
city and emptied into Mill creek near the
State street bridge of the Lake Shore Railroad
company. The small amount of water that
remains has been carried into the sewers.
The mill w-ent down, and in 1849 the Erie
City mill was built by McSparren & Dumars,
to use the water of the same stream. It
became the property of William Densmore,
who still carries on the milling business at the
corner of .State and Sixteenth streets.

Jacob Diefenthaler was the second beer
brewer in the city. He was succeeded by
John Knobloch. The brewery was located
on the east side of French street, between
Third and Fourth. Mr. Jacobi started a beer
brewery in the same locality, which he sold
out to George L. Baker, who converted it into
an ale brewer^-. The former then built a beer
brewery on Fourth street near Poplar, which
had quite a successful run. Jacob Deitz es-
tablished the brewery afterward operated by
Charles Koehler, now owned by Frederick
Koehler & Co. An ale brewery was started
by James Carnagie on Myrtle street, east
side, between Second and Third, about 1837,
which only continued a few years. The Eagle
brewery (Jackson Koehler's) was founded by
Fry & Schaff in 1846, and long operated by
Henry Kalvelage ; the National brewery
(Conrad's), by Jacob Fuess, about 1848.
A Mr. Heilman was in the brewing business
for some time. One of the most prominent
of the early breweries was that of Alfred
King, on the Ridge road, a little west of Erie
cemetery. Mr. King also did a large business
in barley and malt.


The pioneer tannery of Erie was erected
by Ezekiel Dunning, on Holland street, be-
tween Fifth and Sixth, about the beginning
of the present century. It was long known
as Sterrett's tannery, and was kept in operation
until 1852. The next tannery in the order of
time was established in 1805, by Samuel and
Robert Hays, on the corner of Ninth and
French streets. The latter sold his interest to
Samuel, and he in turn was succeeded by his
sons, W. B. and J. W. Hays, who carried on
a tannery in Erie for many years. William
Arbuckle, who learned the trade with Samuel
Hays, started a tannery in 1820, on Eighth
street, west of Myrtle, which he ran until 1880,
when it ceased operations.

A fulling-mill was started about 1830, at
the northwest corner of Tenth and Myrtle
streets, by John Glover. It was abandoned
about 1840.'

The first brickyard in the county was
opened in 1808, by Isaac Austin and B. Rice,
and was located east of Parade, between Sec-
ond and Third streets. From brick made in
this }"ard, James Baird erected the first brick
house in Erie county. It stood on German,
between Front and Second streets, was two
stories in height, and occupied for many j'ears
by Thomas Wilson. The building was used
as a hospital in 1813 for the wounded prison-
ers captured at the battle of Lake Erie, and
was burned down in 1827.

When there was not one-fifth of the pop-
ulation, a distillery was to be found in almost
every neighborhood. Some families were as
particular about laying in their barrel of
whisky as their barrel of pork, and would
rather be without the latter than the former.


The second and third sawmills in the
county were put up in 1797 — one by Thomas
Forster at the mouth of Walnut creek, and
the other by Robert Brotherton, on LeBrpuf
creek, near the Waterford station of the
P. & E. R.R. The latter added a gristmill in
1802. In 1798, a fourth sawmill was built
near the mouth of Four-Mile creek by Thomas
Rees, for the Population Company. The
fifth was built by Leverett Bissell, on French
creek, in Greenfield township, in 1799.

During the year 1798 the first gristmill in


the count}' was built at the mouth of VVahuit
creek under the superintendence of Thomas
Forster. The other mills established outside
of Eiie City before the last war with Great
Britain were as follows :

One on Spring run, Girard township, by
Mr. Silverthorn, in 1799.

A grist and sawmill by William Miles, at
Union, in 180*3, later known as Church's mill.
In the same year, a small gristmill, by James
Foulk, at the mouth of Six-Mile creek.

A sawmill by William Culbertson, in 1801,
and a gristmill in 1802, at Edinboro, since
known as Taylor & Reeder's mills.

A sawmill by Capt. Holliday, in 1801,
and a gristmill in 1803, at the mouth of
Crooked creek, in Springfield township.

A sawmill in 1802 or 1803, by John
Riblet, Sr. , on Four-Mile creek, half a mile
south of Wesleyville.

Lattimore's and Boyd's sawmills, in
Waterford township, about 1802. Gristmills
were added to each at a later date, and allow-
ed to go down some fifty years ago.

A grist and sawmill, in 1803, by Capt.
Daniel Dobbins and James Foulk, near the
mouth of Twelve-Mile creek, since known as

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 19 of 192)