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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 50 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 50 of 192)
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borough and Miles Grove, a little east of the
latter place.

The Pittsburg, Shenango and Lake Erie
R. R. (" Peasley") comes in from the south
and connects with the "Nickel Plate " north
of Girard borough, through which it passes
and which is its station.

The old Erie canal entered Girard on the



east from Fairview, along the foot of the first
rise, cut through the ridge to Elk creek, crossed
that stream by an aqueduct ninety-six feet
above the water, and 500 long, and followed
the valley of Hall's run southward. Its route ;
in the main, is followed by the " Peasley "
road from the Lake Shore plain southward.


The chief stream of Girard is Elk creek,
which comes in from Fairview, flows nearly
through the center of the township from east
to northwest, and empties into the lake about
a mile and a quarter beyond Miles Grove,
after a length of thirty to thirty-five miles.
The Little Elk rises in Elk Creek township,
runs north eight or ten miles and unites with
the main stream near the Fairview line. Hall's
run flows through Lockport and falls in a lit-
tle south of Girard borough. Brandy run
heads in Fairview township ; and Spring run
empties into Elk creek southwest of Miles
Grove. The valley of the chief stream is nar-
row and precipitious in the eastern portion of
the township, but further west and north it
widens out with steep bluffs on both sides.
At the junction of the Little Elk there is a
high peak, resembling part of a Roman pro-
file, with its base at the water's edge, which
has received the title of " The Devil's Nose."
A short distance south is the natural curiosity,
famous over the western portion of the county
as "The Devil's Backbone." The Little Elk
runs along the base of an almost perpendicular
hill for a quarter of a mile, then rounds the
bluff and comes back to a point opposite the
one which it left, forming a sort of loop. At
the narrowest place, the crest or backbone is
not more than two feet across, and the height
is over 100 feet. The other streams of the
township are Crooked creek and several rivu-
lets flowing into the lake in the northeast.
Crooked creek rises near Lockport, runs
through the southwestern portion of Girard
and the northeastern part of Springfield, and
empties into Lake Erie about three-fourths of
a mile beyond the village of North Springfield.
It has a course of some ten miles.


The mouth of Elk creek figured extensive-
ly in the early plans of public improvement,
as well as in the Courts of the county and
State. When the canal was under discussion.

there was a bitter strife as to the adoption of
the eastern route by way of Waterford, or the
western one by way of Girard. The Legis-
lature, by recommendation of the chief engi-
neer in charge, adopted the western route.
Next came a dispute as to whether the ter-
minus of the canal should be at Erie or at the
mouth of Elk creek, which was settled in fav-
or of the former. On the third of March,
1887, pending the decision in regard to the
terminus, a contract was entered into between
James Miles, Thaddeus Stevens, and Charles
Ogle, a Congressman from this State, looking
to the building of a city at the mouth of the
creek. Miles was to dispose of 200 acres of
land on both sides of the stream to Stevens
and Ogle, in consideration of $5,000, and
$95,000 from the sale of lots ; Stevens was to
work for the adoption of the site as the ter-
minus of the canal ; and Ogle was to obtain
an appropriation from Congress for the im-
provement of the harbor. The project failing.
Miles sued Stevens and Ogle for the $5,000.
The case was carried to the Supreme Court
and decided in favor of the defendants.
Some curious testimony came out in the course
of the trial.

While the country was being cleared, the
mouth of Elk creek was considerable of a
shipping place for staves and lumber. A
warehouse formerly stood on the lake shore
for the convenience of trade. Qiiite a fishery
is now maintained at the outlet of the stream.


The mills and factories of the township —
not naming for the present those of Miles
Grove — are as follows : On Elk creek —
Nason's gristmill, at the mouth of Spring run ;
the West Girard grist, saw and cider mills,
and a planing-mill, sash and blind factory at
the same place. On Spring run, Thornton's
woolen-mill and Brown Bros.' hand rake
factory and cider-mill. A gristmill is said to
have been established on this stream by Mr.
Silverthorn, as early as 1799. On Brandy
run, Rossiter's tannery; on one of the lake
streams, Godfrey's sawmill. The first mill
on Elk creek, within Girard township, was
built at West Girard in 1814, by Peter Wol-
verton. It burned down while owned by Mr.
Rowley and was rebuilt.

Southwest of Girard borough, the remains
of an ancient mound are or were lately to be


seen, which was one of a chain of four, ex-
tending in a southwesterly direction through
East Springfield toward Ohio. These mounds
are exactly alike, consisting of round earth-
work inclosing a space of about three-fourths
of an acre, with apertures at regular intervals.
Similar remains are to be found in Conneaut,
Harbor Creek, Waj-ne and Concord town-
ships. On a hill between Girard and Lock-
port was an Indian burial ground.

In 1882 the bones of a mastodon
were plowed up on the farm of W. H. Pal-
mer, some of which were in an excellent state
of preservation. The animal was estimated to
have been fifteen feet long, exclusive of tusks,
and about thirteen feet high.


The churches of the township, outside of
Miles Grove, are two Methodist, one United
Brethren and one Christian.

The Methodist Episcopal Church at Fair
Haven, in the southwest part of the township,
was organized January 7. 1815, at the house
of Mr. Webber, and reorganized in 1860.
The building was put up in 1861.

The church of the same denomination at
Fairplain, on the Lake road, was organized in
1840 and erected its building in 1841.

The Church of the United Brethren, on
the State road, near the Elk Creek township
line, was organized in 1870.

The Christian Church building is on the
Population road, on the line between Girard
and Franklin.

The cemetery at Girard is the common
burial place of the township, but a number of
small graveyards exist in various sections.

A loghouse stood in the southwestern part
of the township, in which school was taught
in 1819 or 1820. This building was destroyed
by fire and another was erected in the same
locality. Many years ago there was a log
schoolhouse about three-quarters of a mile
south of the village of Lockport. About 1822
school was taught in a frame building on the
Ridge road at the foot of Girard Hill. An-
other was held in a private house, one mile
east of Girard about 1823.


The village of Miles Grove, or Girard Sta-
tion, as it is known to the traveling public, is
situated on the Lake Shore R, R., a little

over a mile east of the intersection of the
Erie and Pittsburg R. R., one and three-quarter
miles north of Girard and sixteen by rail
west of Erie. Its population was 471 by the
census of 1880, and 570 by that of 1890.

The place was named after Judge Miles,
who influenced the erection of the depot, the
ground for which was given by Austin H.
Seeley, who laid out the lots. It grew slowly
for some years, but received an impetus by
the completion of tiie Erie and Pittsburg R. R.,
which caused it to be made a general stopping
place for the trains. Another start was
given to it by the location of A. Denio's fork
and agricultural works, which furnish employ-
ment to about seventy persons. These works
— now known as the Otsego Fork Mills —
were brought to Miles Grove, part in 1874,
and the balance in 1876, the citizens subscri-
bing $4,000 to $5,000 to induce their removal.
The industry, or rather a portion of it, was
originally established at Albion, at which
place a fire destroyed the handle department
in 1873, when the entire business was trans-
ferred to Miles Grove.

The Novelty Works were started in 1883,
being owned respectively by the Novelty
Manufacturing Company (limited), and the
Keystone Manufacturing Company, and con-
tinued until 1892, when the business was re-
moved to Saginaw, Mich. The buildings
remain, but are not in use at the time of

The Ideal Foundry was established by Mr.
Hanchett in 1890 or '91, and has done a good

The village contains an Episcopal, a Pres-
byterian and a Methodist Church, a fine
schoolhouse, a copper tempering works, a
hotel — the Lommer House — built by A. M.
Osborn, in 1865, and a number of stores and
shops. The Lake Shore R. R. has valuable
improvements at Miles Grove.

The home of the Miles family, in the val-
ley of Elk creek, near its mouth, about a mile
north of west from Miles Grove, is a stately
brick mansion. When Judge Miles died, he
owned 1,600 acres in one body, extending
two miles or more along the lake. He was
born in Northumberland county, February 16,
1792, and died March 27, 1868.

The Episcopal church was erected in 1877,
mainly with a sum of money left by Mrs.
Bell, a daughter of Judge Miles, on a tract of



land donated by J. Robert Hall, agent of the
latter's estate. The first services of this con-
gregation were held in 1860, but there was no
regular rector until 1862.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was
built in 1867. It was originally used in part
by the Presbyterians. James »Sampson do-
nated the land on which the building stands.

The Presbyterian Church was built in the
winter of 1885-6, at a cost of $10,000, all but
$1,600 of the sum being contributed by Mr.
A. Denio. The title to the church property
is vested in the trustees of the First Presbyte-
rian congregation of Girard borough, with the
condition that at any time the Miles Grove
congregation feel able to sustain a separate
organization and minister the property is to
become their's. For twenty years the pastor
of the Girard Church has officiated at Miles
Grove, the latter contributing at present about
one-third of the sum necessary to his support.


West Girard is in the valley of Elk creek,
after which it was originally named, mostly
on the west bank of the stream, about half a
mile from the borough of Girard. It was
rather an important place in early days, being
the site of one of the stage company's stables,
and a changing place for their teams. The
village then boasted a number of stores, four
taverns, two tanneries, an oil mill, distillery,
and several smaller establishments, all of
which were allowed to run down. It received
its worst blow by the building of the canal on
the opposite side of the creek, which caused a
transfer of the business to the present bor-
ough. Its principal establishments now are a
grist mill, a planing mill and sash and blind-
factory, and a sawmill. The village contains
thirty houses, and 135 inhabitants. An iron
bridge over Elk creek marks the site of two
or three other bridges which have been washed
away by the destructive floods of that stream.


[see girard township.]

At the close of the last war with Great

Britain, the site of Girard borough was partly

included in the farm of John Taylor, whose

log house was the only building there, At a

later date the land was owned by Daniel
Sayre, sr., who purchased from Mr. Taylor.
Mr. .Sayre sold to Joseph Wells, who erected
the first frame building within the borough
limits. The original town was on the other
side of the creek, now known as West Girard.
When the canal was located on the east side
of the stream, several parties commenced
building on the present site, and it was not
long until a town was laid out. The first
buildings in the village were near the canal,
and the first tavern occupied a site a little
west of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In
1846, the village was incorporated as a bor-
ough. Its first officers were : Burgess, Mason
Kellogg; Council, John McClure, jr., Leffert
Hart, H. McConnell, George H. Cutler;
Clerk, L. S. Jones. The census gave Girard
a population of 400 in 1850, 616 in 1860, 704
in 1870, 703 in 1880, and 626 in 1890.

Girard occupies a pleasant site along the
Ridge road, which constitutes its main street,
on high ground overlooking the lake shore
plain and the valley of Elk creek, sixteen
miles west by public road from Erie, ten east
from the Ohio line, two and a half south of
the lake and one and three-quarters from the
railroad station at Miles Grove, with which
it is connected by the old Depot road and Rice
avenue. The latter thoroughfare, which was
projected by Dan Rice while in the height of
his prosperity, was opened in the winter of
1867-68. The old Erie canal passed through
the borough by a deep cut. Its route is now
mainly occupied by the " Peasley " R. R., of
which Girard is an important station.


The Methodist Church, which has few
superiors in this county, was erected in 1868
at a cost of $30,000. The congregation was
organized in 1815, and built its first edifice
in 1828.

A Presbyterian Church, to which a grave-
yard was attached, was erected in 1835, the
congregation having been organized May 16th
of that year. This building was remodeled in
1893, at a cost of $8,500.

St. John's Catholic congregation was or-
ganized about the year 1853, and soon after
put up a church building. The congregation
was attended by visiting priests for a number
of years. A regular pastor was supplied in
1870, who also has charge of the congregation




at North East. Rev. Father Briody is the
present pastor in charge.

The Universalist society was organized
some years previous to 1852, in which year
tliey erected their church building.

St. Johannis congregation of the Evangel-
ical Lutheran Church was organized in 186t5,
and purchased the ground and building occu-
pied by the Methodist Episcopal society prior
to that date, in 1869.


The Girard cemetery is a tract of ten acres,
containing many costly monumeuts. The or-
ganization was chartered in March, 1861, and
the property was laid out the same year.

The Girard Academy was built by sub-
scription in 1850, and opened in 1851. It had
a students' boarding house attached, and for
awhile was very successful. The property was
transferred to the school board about twenty-
five years ago, and has since been occupied by
the common schools of the borough. The lat-
ter were graded in the winter of 1872-8.

The first school that was held in Girard
township was taught in what is now
Girard borough in the year 1809. In 1827,
the village school was held on the lower floor
of a log building that stood a little to the rear
of the site of the drug store of Smith & Lowe.


The hotels of Girard borough are the
Avenue House, finished in 1879, and the
Rhodes House, which has been in operation
forty years. Girard has been unfortunate in
the matter of hotel buildings, the old Girard
House, which occupied the site of the present
Avenue House, and the Central House of
Joshua Evans, which stood on the east side of
the public square, having both been burned.
In the days of stage coaching on the Ridge
road, the locality was a famous one for taverns,
there having been no less than eight, within
two miles, in 1835.

The wrench factory was built in 1874 by a
corporation under the State laws,with a capital
of $8,000, the people of Girard subscribing
half the stock. It failed in 1875, and was pur-
chased at sheriff's .sale by C. F. Rockwell, \V.
C. Culbertson, C. F. Webster and R. S. Bat-
tles, forming a limited partnership.

Theo. J. Ely's novelty works started in
1892, using the old furniture factory as a basis.

The establishment burned in the summer of
1894, and was rebuilt and enlarged the same


The public square was a gift from Joseph
Wells, when the town was laid out. Its chief
object of interest is the soldiers' monument, a
handsome shaft of marble, designed by the
Chicago sculptor, Leonard Volk, inclosed by
an iron railing, and dedicated November 1,
1865. It cost $6,000, the whole of which was
paid by Dan Rice. The principal speakers at
its dedication were Gov. Curtin, of Pennsyl-
vania, Gov. Todd, of Ohio, and Gen. Alfred
B. McCalmont, of Franklin. It is claimed
that this was the first monument erected to
the memorj' of the L^nion soldiers.

The Dan Rice property, on the north side
of the square, embraced two and a half acres,
inclosed on three sides by a heavy brick wall,
and ornamented with statuary, walks, arbors,
trees, shrubbery and flowers. The mansion
was a large frame building. Within the in-
closure was a fine conservatory and a brick
barn which cost $26,000. The cost of the wall
around the grounds was $3,000. Dan Rice's
first purchase in Girard was in 1853, when he
bought the original premises from Col. John
McClure for $18,000. In 1856 he moved
there, and from that date continued to add to
his purchase until he had possession of the en-
tire square, at a cost of about $60,000. He
lost the property through financial embarrass-
ment and it is now owned by Carl Jones, who
tore down the old house and built another.


Girard borough and township have fur-
nished a goodly proportion of the public men
of the county. Among the number have been
George H. Cutler, State Senator from 1878 to
1875, Speaker of the Senate, then the second
highest oflice in the Commonwealth, from the
close of the session in 1874, and President pro
tem. during the session of 1875; VV. C. Cul-
bertson, elected to Congress in 1888; Theo.
Ryman, member of Assembly in 1848; Leffert
Hart in 1849; Henrv Teller'in 1860 and 1861 ;
George P. Rea in 1868 and 1869 ; H. A. Traut,
from 4888 to 1885; Myron Hutchinson, Asso-
ciate Judge, from 1841 to 1850; James Miles,
from 1851 to 1856; S. E. Woodruff, District
Attorney from 1853 to 1856, and United



States Register in Bankruptcy for this Con-
gressional District from 1867 to 1879 ; U. P.
Rossiter, elected District Attorney in 1893 ;
George W. Evans, elected Sheriff in 1894;
Calvin L. Randall, elected Register and Re-
corder in 1884 and '87 ; James C. Marshall,
Prothonotary from January 14, 1839, to No-
vember 16, 1839, and Samuel Perley from
1851 to 1854 ; Jeremiah Davis, County Treas-
urer from December 1 , 1856, to December 23,
1858; L. T. Fisk, County Superintendent of
Public Schools from 1866 to 1869; Myron
Hutchinson, County Commissioner from 1828
to 1830, and James Miles from 1835 to 1888 ;
D. W. Hutchinson, Mercantile Appraiser in
1877, and J. M. Ball in 1894; Wm. Riggers,
Jury Commissioner from January 1, 1880, to
January 1, 1888; George Piatt, County Sur-
veyor many years and present City Engineer
of Erie ; John Hay, Director of the Poor from
1853 to '57, and Wm. Hopkins from 1890 to
1893; James Miles, County Auditor from
1840 to 1843, and Philip Osborn from 1864 to
1867. Senator and Secretary of the Interior
Teller, of Colorado, was a resident of Girard
township while a boy. D. W. Hutchinson
was Register of the United States Land Office
at Bismarck, Dak., during the first Cleveland
administration, and Marcus N. Cutler held a
clerkship at Harrisburg during a long period.
T. C. Wheeler was United States Assistant
Assessor for nine years, being appointed
under President Lincoln. Mr. Osborn, above
named, was Keeper of the Marine Hospital at
Erie for several years, ending in 1883. Mr.
Marshall moved to Erie in 1844 and Mr.
Woodruff about 1872.


The first newspaper was the Girard Free
Press, started about 1845, by S. D. Carpen-
ter, who took Horace Greeley's advice, went
West and became a prominent politician. The
Express, its successor, was purchased by T.
C. Wheeler and William S. Finch, November
7, 1854, and the name was changed to the Pe-
publicaii. It bore the novel motto, " Intle-
pendent on all subjects, rabid on none." In
1855 Samuel Perley moved to Girard from
Erie, merged the material of his city office
with that of the Rcpiiblica?t, and conducted a
paper for several years. From that date sev-
eral futile efforts were made to establish a
paper until 1807, when the Cosmopolite en-

tered the arena as the successor of the Crisis,
which had been founded at Conneautville by
T. G. Fields, under the auspices of Dan Rice,
to advocate his election to the Presidency.
Charles Stow became editor of the Cosmopo-
lite, and gave it a reputation the country over.
After a brief suspension, it was bought by Ja-
cob Bender & Bro., in the spring of 1872. In
the spring of 1873 Charles Bender went out
of the concern, but returned in 1876, and in
1880 purchased the interest of his brother.
The office passed into the hands of Murphy &
Nichols November 28, 1889, who have con-
ducted the paper since.

The first bank was organized in 1859 by R.
S. Battles and C. F. Webster. The firm dis-
solved in 1876 and Mr. Battles has continued
the business. The First National Bank was
organized in 1863, and kept up until its char-
ter expired. Mr. Battles was cashier during
the whole period of its existence, managing
both the National and private banks.


The secret societies are : Lake Erie Lodge,
No. 347, F. & A. M., a Harugari lodge, a
Mystic Circle and a lodge of the United

The old State line passes through the
borough, running within six feet of the north
east corner of the Avenue House.

The adoption of Girard as the residence of
Dan Rice had the effect of drawing other
caterers to the public amusement there, and in
course of time it became known far and wide
as a " show town." Among the famous show-
men who made it their residence were Dr.
James L. Thayer, who started as an employe of
K ice's ; Charles W. Noyes, one of his pupils ;
Abe Henderson, Agrippa Martin and Seymour
Pease, all at one time owners or part owners
of circuses. No less than five shows have
been organized in the borough, viz. : Dan
Rice's, Thayer & Noyes', Rice & Forepaugh's,
Anderson & Co. 'sand G. R. Spalding & Co.'s.
Dan Rice wintered his shows there from 1856
till the spring of 1875.

Henry Ball, Esq., who died on the 12th of
March, 1895, was known as one of the oldest
Justices of the Peace in Pennsylvania. He
was first elected in 1852, and held the office
from that date until his death, a period of
forty-three years.

The Robert Wilcox Library, one of the


most creditable features of the borough, owes
its origin to the liberality of Robert Wilcox, a
native of Girard, who bequeathed $5,000 for
the purpose. The building was dedicated on
the 8d of May, 1895.

Denman Thompson, the celebrated come-
dian, was born near the borough of Girard on
the 15th of October, 1833, of New Hampshire
stock. His most famous part was in the play
of the '• Old Homestead," which he partially
wrote, and which had a degree of popular
favor second only to " Uncle Tom's Cabin."
He closed his theatrical career in New York
in 1895, at the age of 62, after being on the
stage nearly forty-tive years.


[see girard township.]

The postoflice name of Lockport is Platea.
The town. started about 1840, during the con-
struction of the canal, and derives its name
from the fact that there were twenty-eight
locks within a distance of two miles. These
had an average lift of six and one-half feet,
and were used to overcome the rise from the
lake shore plain to the valley of Conneaut
creek. The borough is about four and a half
miles from Girard and four from Albion.
The town owes its origin to the enterprise of
Silas Pratt, who had a contract for building
the locks and who owned the land. Foresee-
ing that a town must grow up along the locks,
he started a store and built a church, hotel
and several houses. Mr. Pratt failed in 1848
or 1849, and was prevented from fully carry-
ing out his projects. The canal caused a con-
siderable trade to spring up, and the town
was once quite a flourishing place. Ezekiel
Page, who invented a way of turning the
blade and handle of an oar together, erected a
building four stories high and 180 feet long

by eighty wide. He became embarrassed
about 1855, went South and was found dead

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 50 of 192)