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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 31 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 31 of 192)
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Youngstown, Ohio, and subsequently to the
Junction, a short distance below New Castle.

The following figures show the elevation
in feet above tide-water of various points on
the road : Summit, near Conneautville, 1 ,141 ;
Greenville, 984; Sharon, 853; New Castle,

/f} Q^

"^ ^'V-^ZT'



802. In crossing- the dividing ridge south of
Conneautville, the summit is approached from
the north for two or three miles by a grade of
fifty-two feet to the mile.

Mr. J. A. Wood held the position of mas-
ter mechanic of the road, with headquarters
at Erie, for some twentj- years.


A railroad, known as the Oil Creek R. R.,
was completed between Corry and Miller
Farm in 1862. In 1865, a majority of its cap-
ital stock was purchased by Dean Richmond,
representing the Lake Shore and New York
Central Companies, and by Thomas A. Scott,
representing the Pennsylvania Company, and
placed in the hands of Samuel J. Tilden, of
Xew York. ;i> (niNtre for the three corpora-
tions. Tlu' ic.Kul w as extended to Petroleum
Centre in IcStjC). where it connected with the
Farmers' road to Oil City. Not long after-
ward, the Allegheny Vallej- R. R. was com-
pleted to Oil City, from Pittsburg, making a
continuous line from the latter cit}-. The fail-
ure of the wells on Oil creek robbed the road
of its prosperity, and it was sold out upon mort-
gage, and purchased by the Alleghenv \'alley
R. R. management.

The Cross-Cut R. R. was built from Corry
to Brocton in 1867, to secure a lake outlet for
the Oil Creek R. R., and a connection with the
Lake Shore R. R., independent of the Phila- I
delphia and Erie R. R.

All the above roads were consolidated un-
der one management, as the Buffalo, Corry and
Pittsburg, and have since become a part of
the Western New York and Pennsylvania
system, which embraces over six hundred
miles of track within the two States.

ANO) U. R.

The Atlantic and Great Western R. R. was
completed to Corry in June, 1861, and extended
westward through the southern porlion of the
county in 1862. It was intended and is still
operated as the western extension of the Erie
Railway (now the New York, Lake Erie and
Western),withwhichitconnects at Salamanca,
N. Y. The track was originally six feet wide,
but the gauge was changed about 1884 to the
general standard of the country. The above
name was adopted about 1882. In March,
1883, the load was leased to the New York,

Lake Erie and Western Company for ninety-
nine years.


This road extended from Titusville to
Union City, where it connected with the Phila-
delphia and Erie R. R. It was originated in
1865, and completed in Februarj'. 1871. It
was operated by the Pennsylvania R. R.
Companv for some years, and finally aban-
doned about 1892 or 1808.

new york, chicago and st. louis r. r.
(the nickel plate).

The New York, Chicago and St. Louis
R. R. Company was organized in 1880 to build
a railroad from Buffalo to Chicago by way of
Dunkirk, Erie, Cleveland, Fostoria and Fort
Wayne. The grading of the road commenced
in Jnne, 1881, and the first through passenger
train reached Erie from the West in the after-
noon of August 31, 1882. The train returned
from Buffalo on the 1st of September. Regu-
lar passenger trains commenced running on
Monday, October 23, 1882.

In the winter of 1882-83, a majority of the
stock of the road was purchased in Erie by
William H. Vanderbilt and others in the in-
terest of the Lake Shore R.R.,and it has since
been run in harmon)^ with that line, although
a separate organization and an apparent com-
petition are kept up.

The principal office of the company is at
Cleveland. The main shops are at Chicago.
Division shops are located at Fort Wayne,
Ind., and Btllevue and Conneaut, Ohio. The
divisions for engine service are : Buffalo to
Conneaut ; Conneaut to Bellevue ; Bellevue to
Fort Wayne ; Fort Wayne to Chicago.

Instead of the culverts used by the L. .S. and
M. S. R. R., this route crosses the gullies of
the lake shore streams by iron viaducts, some
of which are of unusual height and length.

The distances bv the Nickel Plate R. R. are
as follows: Buffalo to Erie, 87.48 miles; to
Conneaut, 115.51 miles: to Cleveland,- 183.79
miles; to Bellevue, 247.86 miles; to Fort
Wayne, 370.63 miles; to Chicago. 524.74


This, the latest road entering Erie, was
opened for business in the spring of ^1892.


:k was

d down on Twelfth street


November, 1891. The depot, at Twelfth and
Sassafras streets, was built in the spring of
1892, and the first passenger train reached
Erie in June of the same year. The road ex-
tends from Erie to Butler, following, in the
main, the route of the old canal, and trains
enter Pittsburg from Butler over the track of
the Pittsburg and Western R. R. The distance
from Erie to Pittsburg by this road is 152i
miles. At Cranesville, in this county, the
road branches, one track coming to Erie and
the other extending to the lake at Conneaut,
O., a distance of 14 4-10 miles from the first-
mentioned point. The first is used for the
passenger and general freight business, and
the second for the coal and iron ore traffic.
Arrangements have been made with the Grand
Trunk R. R. of Canada by which powerful
boats are run between Conneaut and Port
Dover, summer and winter, carrying cars
loaded with coal and general merchandise.
These boats were first put in operation in
August, 1895.


Below are the distances by this road to the
most important points between Erie and Pitts-
burg :

Wallace Junction... 14.4 Meadville 60.3

Girard IS.S Hartstown S2.2

Elk Creek Siding- ... 17.3 Adamsville 55.0

Lockport 20.2 Greenville 63.6

Cranesville 23.7 Shenango 65.6

Albion 2-1.9 Fredonia 74.5

Pennside 28.6 Mercer Junction. . . 81.3

Shadeland 31.2 Mercer 82.1

Springboro 32.5 Grove City 91.1

Conneautville ,''5.6 P. & W. Junction. .121.1

Dicksonburg 39.8 Butler 121.6

Harnionsburg- 42.9 Pittsburg- 152.6

Meadville Junction 44.9


Books were opened in 1886 for subscrip-
tions to build a railroad, twenty-three miles

long, from Erie to the State line, three miles
east of Wattsburg, where it was designed to
connect with a branch of the Erie railway.
The scheme was to make Erie the terminus of
the latter thoroughfare. When the Erie and
North East R. R. was built, the project was

The Erie City R. R. Company was
chartered, in 1853, to build a road from Erie
to some point on the State line in North East,
Greenfield or Venango Townships, as a con-
nection of the Erie Railway. Its organization
was maintained until the Atlantic and Great
Western R R. was completed, when the pro-
jectors concluded that further effort to induce
the Erie Railway to come to the harbor of
Erie would be useless.

The Erie Southern was designed to give
Erie a connection with the N. Y., P. & O. R. R.
road at Cambridge, and the Oil Creek R. R. at
Titusville, opening up a new route, b)' way
of McKean and Edinboro, for the coal and oil
traffic. The project was much talked about in
1873, considerable subscriptions were obtained,
and the city voted the corporation a block of
water-lots, besides the right of way on Liberty
street. A small amount of digging and gra-
ding was done in the southwestern part of the
city, when the enterprise was given up.

Another railroad was projected from Erie
to Mill Village via Waterford, the purpose
being also to secure a connection with the
New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio. Surveys
made by Col. Irvin Canip, in 1882-83, de-
veloped the fact that the length of the pro-
posed road would be but nineteen miles from
the depot at Erie to the one at Mill Village.

Of late the scheme for building a road from
Erie to the " Nypano " at Cambridge has
been much discussed, and it is safe to predict
that this line, or one connecting with the lat-
ter system at Mill Village, will be built before
many years.


Public and Private Schools, Academies, Seminaries, Etc.

IN providing a frame of government for the
Colony of Pennsylvania, William Penn
declared that wisdom and morality " must
be carefully propagated by a virtuous ed-
ucation of the youth," and that the Gov-
ernor and Councils should " erect and order
public schools." The wise example of the
founder was followed i)y the heroes of the
Revolution, in framing the Constitution of
177G, with a requirement that "a school or
schools shall be established in each county."
The Constitution of 1790 went still further'by
declaring that the Legislature might provide
for the establishment of schools throughout
the State "in such manner that the poor may
be taught gratis."

Notwithstanding these noble sentiments,
little progress toward the schooling of the
masses was efiFecteil until a comparatively re-
cent period. Generous endowments were
made by the State to colleges and academies,
but the idea of " common schools," open alike
to rich and poor, and supported at the public
expense by a system of equal taxation, was
slow in winning the approval of property
owners. "Pay schools," in which the chil-
dren were trained for a moderate compensa-
tion, were common, however, almost every
district having one or more, according to its
population. The primary schools in Erie
county, up to 1884, were all of this character.


In 1821 Governor Heister, in his message
to the Legislature, declared it to be " an im-
perative duty to introduce and support a lib-
eral system of education, connected with some
general religious instruction." Governor
Shultze's message to the Legislature of 1827
contained this passage : " Among the in-
junctions of the Constitution, there is none
more interesting than that which enjoins it as
a dut)' on the Legislature to provide for the

I education of the poor throughout the Common-
[ wealth." In 1828 the same executive stated
in his annual message that he could not for-
bear from " again calling attention to the sub-
ject of public education. To devise means for
the establishment of a fund and the adoption
of a plan by which the blessings of the more
necessary branches of education should be con-
ferred on every famil}' within our borders
would be every way worthy the Legislature
of Pennsylvania.""

The first practical step in the direction of
a common school system for Pennsylvania was
taken when George Wolf, of Northamption
county, was elected Governor in 1829. The
question of public schools entered largelj' into
the canvass preceding his election, and the
Democratic leaders were generally pledged to
some sort of a measure for the purpose. In a
speech delivered during the campaign. James
Buchanan said : " If ever the passion of envy
could be excused in a man ambitious of true
glory, he might almost be justified in envying
the fame of that favored individual, whoever
he may be, whom Providence intends to make
the instrument in establishing common schools
throughout the Commonwealth." Gov. Wolf's
inaugural address took strong ground in favor
of the education of the masses, and the Legis-
lature of 1830, in accordance with his recom-
mendation, set apart a sum of monej' to be
placed at interest and used at some future
period in establishing a common school sj-s-
tem. The Governor continued to urge the free
school idea until the passage of the act of
1834-5. The original law made it optional
with each township, ward and borough to
adopt the system.


Strange as it may seem, there was violent
opposition to the measure in some parts of the
State. The persons interested in colleges,
academies and pay schools objected to it


through fear of a loss to their revenues ; the
wealthy and the snobbish disliked it because
they did not want their children to mix with
the " vulgar herd ;" the penurious dreaded an
increase of taxation ; and a hundred objections
were urged that seem too absurd now for any
reasonable person ever to have believed. At
the ensuing session a motion for the repeal of
the law was oflfered by John vStrohm, of Lan-
caster county, and eloquently opposed by
Thaddeus Stevens, then a representative from
Adams. Mr. Stevens closed his remarks with
this thrilling sentence : "If the opponent of
education were my most intimate personal
and political friend, and the free school can-
didate my most obnoxious enemy, I should
deem it my duty as a patriot, at this moment
o'f our intellectual crisis, to forget all other
considerations, and I should place myself un-
hesitatingly and cordially in the ranks of him
whose banner streams in light." The bill
was saved, but was improved and made more
acceptable during the administration of Gov.
Ritner, who succeeded Gov. Wolf.

Probably no one man did more effective
service in building up the system than Thomas
H. Burrowes, who was Gov. Ritner's Secre-
tary of State, and, as such, official head of the
school department. During Ritner's admin-
istration the annual State appropriation was
increased from ^75,000 to 1400,000, and the
number of schools to 5,000.

The act passed in 1849 made the adoption
of the system obligator)' throughout the State.
The law of 1854, providing for County Super-
intendents, teachers' examinations, and other
important measures, was prepared by Hon. H.
L. Dieffenbach of Clinton countv, acting head
of the School Department, with the assistance
of Governor Bigler and Secretary of State
Charles A. Black. After that came the normal
school act of 1857, making a complete system,
and giving to Pennsylvania the conceded pre-
eminence of having the best school laws
in the Union.


For several years after the county was
established, the population was too sparse to
sustain more than a few schools. These were
wholly private, parents paying the teachers
a stated sum for each of their children who at-
tended. The first schools of which a record can

be found were established in Waterford about
1800 ; at Manchester, in Fairview township, in
1804; at Erie in 180G; at Union in 1820; and
at Phillipsville in 1828. Others were opened
at an early date, on Federal Hill, within the
present limits of Erie ; in Springfield ; and in
Mill Creek township. The earliest school
buildings in Waterford and Erie were
erected in 1800 and 180G respectively, being
built by the free contributions of the citizens.
By 1812 almost everj' village and township
had one or more " pay "' schools. These were
increased by degrees so that when the law of
1834 went into force it found every district
fairly well supplied with educational facilities.
The school buildings were generally built of
logs, and were very poorly arranged and ven-
tilated. The "schoolmasters," as they were
called, were plain men, who made no preten-
tion to a knowledge of more than the rudi-
mentary branches. They believed in the use
of the rod, and applied it with vigor for every
small offense. A ready knowledge of " the
three R's" — Readin', 'Ritin' and Rithmetic —
was all that was supposed to be necessary for
the average child.

The first Catholic parochial school was
established in connection with St. Mary's
Church, in Erie, in 1850, and the second in
1863, in connection with St. Patrick's Church.
The Catholic parochial schools of the county
in 1895 numbered 2,560 children, of whom
2,055 were in Erie City, 355 in Corry, 70 in
Union City and 80 at St. Boniface, in Greene


The school books most universally used in
the beginning were Webster's and Byerly's
Spelling Books, the English Reader and Da-
boU's Arithmetic. The teacher was expected
to be a good penman and to be able to " set
the copy" himself. A better class of books
came in at a later date, including Cobb's
Spelling Book, Goodrich's, Parley's and
Mitchell's Geographies, Parley's and Mitchell's
Histories, the First, Second and Third Read-
ers, Smith's Grammar, and Davies' Arithme-
tics. Cobb's Spelling Book was introduced
into this section in 1827. The copyright for
one-half of the State of Pennsylvania was
purchased by Joseph M. Sterrett and Oliver
SpafFord, who published the work in Erie for
many years, realizing a snug profit from the



enterprise. Mr. Spafford ;it one time also
published the " English Reader."

Erie count)- was one of the foremost in
taking advantage of the common school law.
The act required that the Directors of each
county should meet annually in convention
with the County Commissioners and determine
the amount of school tax to be raised. The
first convention for this purpose was held in
the court house soon after the passage of the
law, and was attended by representatives from
every district in the county. A levy of $2,000
was voted unanimously, and the people were
requested to decide by vote whether an addi-
tional sum should be raised in the several dis-
tricts. An extra tax of $1,000 was voted in
Erie, the active spirits in having it done being
E. Babbitt, George Kellogg, Dr. William
Johns and William Kelly. In a few years the
law was changed so as to leave the amount of
tax to be designated by the Directors of the
several districts, in which shape it still re-


The spelling school was a once popular in-
stitution, in both town and country. As us-
ually conducted, the pupils of the district
school would assemble on some winter eve-
ning and choose two of the best spellers for
leaders, who, in turn, would select from six
to a dozen others on each side. These would
range themselves in standing rows on opposite
sides of the building, and the teacher or some
other competent person would give out the
words to be spelled from a book that h; d been
agreed upon. The pupil who missed a word
had to take his seat immediately, and the ex-
ercise continued until but one of the contest-
ants remained upon the floor, who became the
hero of the occasion. Sometimes half a dozen
spelling matches would occur in an evening.
Two or more schools would often meet in
rivalry, and the event would be the talk of the
neighborhood for a month or so. In many
districts, the spelling school was the regular
winter amusement, old and young attending,
and all looking forward to the evening with


While the State was slow in adopting the
common school svstem, the liberality she dis-

played in founding colleges and academies
proves that it was wholly through doubts of
its policy, and not because good educational
facilities were not appreciated. Provision was
made at an early day for an academy in each
county, and generous appropriations were
made to colleges and universities. The Water-
ford and Erie Academies were incorporated in
1811 and 1817 respectively, the buildings for
both being completed in 1822. A bountiful
donation of lands was given by the State for
the support of each institution. Both are still
in operation.

The Erie Female Seminary was incorpo-
rated in 1838 and went into operation soon
after, receiving an annual appropriation of
$800 from the Legislature for several years.
It kept up till about 1866, but never had any
buildings of its own. The last location of the
seminary was in the Hamot House, on the
bank of the bay, at the foot of State street.

Academies were established at West
Springfield in 1858, at East Springfield in
1856, at Girard in 1859, and at North Spring-
field in 1866, which were conducted for some
years with a certain degree of success. All
have become merged into the common school

The Normal School at Edinboro is the only
State educational institution in the countv. It
was founded as an Academy in 1857, and re-
organized as a State Normal School in 1861.
This school has been quite prosperous and has
the promise of a long and useful career.

The Lake Shore Seminary was established
at North East in 1870 under the auspices of
the Methodist Episcopal Church. Liberal
contributions were secured and a fine building
was erected. The institution became involved,
and the property was bought in at Sheriff's
sale by the principal creditor. The latter, in
1881, sold the building to the Redemptorist
Fathers, who re-dedicated it as St. Mary's
College. It is conducted as a preparatory
school for young men intending to enter the
Catholic priesthood. The buildings have re-
cently been much enlarged and improved.

St. Benedict's Academy of the Catholic
Church, is on East Ninth street, in Erie, ad-
joining St. Mary's Church. The institution
has extensive buildings, with a boarding place

Villa Marie Academy, the latest Catholic
educational institution, is located in Erie, near


the western city limits. It was dedicated May
9, 1892, and is managed by the Sisters of St.
Joseph as an institution for the higlier educa-
tion of young ladies. The grounds, which
occupy a whole square, were donated by the
lamented Father Thomas A. Casey, who also
furnished the means for the erection of the

Besides the above, there are St. Thomas'
Academy at Corry and St. Teresa's Academy
at Union City, attached to the Roman Cath-
olic Churches of similar name in those places.

Additional particulars of the above institu-
tions will be found in the sketches of iheir
respective localities.


The public schools of the county, as of the
State at large, are under the control of Direc-
tors, who are elected by the people of the
several districts at the spring elections, a
certain number going out each year. Gen-
erally speaking, each city, borough and
township is a district by itself. There are
three independent districts in the county, how-
ever, viz. : Belle Valley, Elk Creek and
Franklin, and Lake Pleasant. The State
grants every district an annual appropriation,
which is apportioned according to the number
of pupils. Teachers are employed by the
Directors of the district in which they are
to serve, but must have passed an examination
and received a certificate of competency from
the County Superintendent. The latter holds
an annual examination in each district, and is
expected to visit every school in the county
once in each year.

A teacher's institute, or gathering of the
teachers in the county, for mutual benefit, is
held annually, under the direction of the
County Superintendent. The cities of Erie
and Corr)' each have local institutes, which
meet at frequent intervals during the year.

Within tiie last year a movement has been
started by Benjamin Whitman. Dr. A. A.
Freeman, Prof. Missimer and others for the

establishment of free non-sectarian public li-
braries throughout the State, to be under the
control of the school Directors in the several
districts, and supported by a general tax upon
the public. The act drafted by Mr. Whitman,
assisted by the above named gentlemen, pass-
ed the Legislature, largely through the labors
of Senator McCreary and Representative
Gould, and was cordially approved by Gov.
Hastings. The law, in the opinion of its
friends, will give Pennsylvania the best public
library system in America, if not in the world.


The first convention for the choice of a
County Superintendent was held in Erie in
1854. William H. Armstrong was elected at
a salary of $800 per year. The following is
a list of the County Superintendents since the
adoption of the law creating the office :

William H. Armstrong, Wattsburg, 1864
to 1860.

L. W. Savage, Springfield, 1860 to 1863.

D. P. Ensign, Erie, served six months in
1863, and resigned.

Julius Degmier, Erie, appointed for six
months, and then elected to serve until 1866.

L. T. Fisk, Girard, 1866 to 1869.

C C. Taylor, Elk Creek, 1869 to 1878.

Charles Twining, Union, 1878 to 1884.

James M. Morrison, Girard, 1884 to 1889

Thos. C. Miller, Mill Creek, 1889 to date.

The office of City Superintendent of the
schools of Erie was filled from 1867 to 1890
by H. S. Jones. H. C. Missimer, who still
fills the position, was elected in 1890.

V. G. Curtis was the Superintendent of
the Corry schools for many years. He was
succeeded bj- A. D. Colegrove, who holds the

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 31 of 192)