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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 54 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 54 of 192)
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The township contains some of the best grape,
fruit and vegetable farms in this section.


The tract along the Waterford pike known
as the Academy lands consists of 500 acres
set apart by the State for the maintenance of
Erie Academy. They commence at the west
line of the Cochran and Evans farms, and lie
on both sides of the road, which runs through


them at an angle. These lands were originally
let out to tenants for ninety-nine years, but in
1851 or 1852, legislation was secured which
authorized their sale, and most of them have
been disposed of in fee simple.

The lands from the city limits west to the
Herrman place are a portion of the tract of
2,000 acres, less 100 for the support of the poor,
ceded by the State to the borough of Erie, for
the construction of a basiu at the harbor, in
contemplation of the opening of the canal.
They were sold at public sale on the 1st of
August, 1833, and brought from nine to twenty-
two dollars per acre.

The original surveys in the township were
made in 1795 by George Moore, uuder the di-
rection of Thomas Rees, the first State Sur-
veyor in the county. In laying out the coun-
try, as directed by law, a reservation was
made of certain lands bordering the town of
Erie, which were withheld from sale and set-
tlement. This tract was known as the Erie
State Reservation. It commenced at the head
of the bay, ran southward three miles, then
parallel with the lake and bay eight miles, and
from there to the shore of the lake, excluding
the portion embraced within the town site of
Erie. Outside the reservation, all the terri-
tory in the township, and in fact, in the Tri-
angle, was laid out in 400-acre tracts, with an
allowance of six per cent, for roads.

By some mistake of the surveyors or dis-
parity in their instruments, a piece of land was
left between the Erie Reservation and the
other lands of the township, open to general
settlement, which is known by the general
name of the " Gore." It started "at nothing"
at the head of the bay, ran south by west, about
500 feet out of the way, to a point some eighty
rods south of the reservation ; thence eastward,
on a parallel line, to the F. W. Koehler farm ;
and thence north to the lake, varying from 400
to 500 feet, to a point about thirteen rods east
of the reservation line. This land was sold in
general to the parties owning farms bordering
on the same.


The streams of the township are Two,
Three and Four-Mile creeks, east of Erie ;
Mill creek and Cascade run, emptying into the
bay within Erie city ; the Head run, Kelso
run and Fassett run, on the west side ; and

Walnut creek on the south, with its branches,
Thomas run and Rhodes run.

Mill creek is created by two branches,
which unite near the southeastern line of the
township. The creek received its name be-
cause the first mill in the county was built at
its mouth. As late as 1885 there were no less
than four gristmills and thirteen sawmills
along this stream, all propelled by water-

Walnut creek, the largest in the township,
rises in Summit and enters Mill Creek town-
ship near Kearsarge, where its valley widens
out to the extent of a mile. From there it
flows through the south part of the township
in a general westerly course to Fairview,
where it suddenly turns to the north, joining
the lake at Manchester. Some of the earliest
settlements in the county were made in the
valley of this stream at Kearsarge and west-
ward. Near the Nece milldam it receives
Thomas run, which is joined by Rhodes run
about a mile above. Both of these rise in
McKean township, the first having a length of
about four and the latter of three miles.

Two, Three and Four-Mile creeks were
named because of their supposed distance from
Central park in Erie. The first two are small
streams, rising near the central eastern portion
of the township and flowing directly to the
lake. Four-Mile creek rises in Greene town-
ship, runs along the western edge of Harbor
Creek township, enters Mill Creek at Wesley-
ville, and reaches the lake about a mile and a
half north of that village.

Cascade creek is formed by two branches
which unite on the pioneer farm of the Scott
estate. The creek empties into the bay at the
Pittsburg docks. It was at the mouth of Cas-
cade creek that Perry built the brigs Lawrence
and Niagara in 1813. The little stream at the
Head rises in a swamp south of the Catholic
Cemetery. A mill once stood at its mouth,
the ruins of which remained until fifteen or
twenty years ago. Fassett run, which
empties into the lake in the northwest corner
of the township, was a fair-sized stream in
the days of the canal. It at one time gave
power to a sawmill. Kelso run rises in what
was called the Tracy swamp, and empties into
the lake above the Head. Though only a mile
long, it is quite a stream in rainy seasons.

The township has within its limits a large
number of bridges, of which those over Wal-



nut creek are the most important. The one
at the town line across the hitter stream was
built jointly by the Commissioners of Fair-
view and Mill Creek. The old Philadelphia
and Erie R. R. bridge over Mill creek, once
quite a formidable piece of trestle work, has
been replaced by a culvert and embankment.


All of the great highways in the county,
which center at Erie city cross Mill Creek
township. The most important of these are
the Lake road from east to west, the Buffalo
road from the east, the Wattsburg plank and
Lake Pleasant roads from the southeast, the
Edinboro plank and the Waterford pike and
plank road from the south, the McKean road
from the southwest and the Ridge road from
the west. The Lake road extends across the
township from Harbor creek to Fairview,
entering Erie by Sixth street and leaving by
Eighth, a variation due to the gullies in the
western part of the city. The railroads are
the Lake Shore, the Philadelphia and Erie,
the Erie and Pittsburg, the Pittsburg, She-
nango and Lake Erie (commonly known as
the "Peasley"), and the New York, Chicago
and St. Louis (abbreviated into "The Nickel
Plate"). The Philadelphia and Erie, Erie
and Pittsburg, and Pittsburg, Shenango and
Lake Erie terminate at Erie ; the two others
are through routes between the East and
West. The railroad stations in the township
are Belle Valley and Shannon, on the Phila-
delphia and Erie ; the Junction, on the Erie
and Pittsburg; and West Mill Creek, on the
Pittsburg, Shenango and Lake Erie.

The canal between the Ohio river and Erie
traversed the township from the Fairview
line to the bay at the latter city. It was
opened in 1844 and discontinued in 1871. The
bed of the canal was bought by the farmers
along its line, and only slight traces of this
once important improvement remain.

The Erie Electric road extends along the
line of the Lake road from the city limits to
the Head, and is a great comfort and conveni-
ence to those who have occasion to visit the
numerous places of public interest west of the


The churches of Mill Creek township are
the Presbyterian at Belle Valley, the West-

minster (Presbyterian), the Asbury (Metho-
dist) and St. Paul's (Lutheran). The West-
minster and Asbury churches are on the Ridge
road, west of the almshouse ; St. Paul's
Church is at the McKean line in the south-
west part of the township.

The Presbyterian Church at Belle Valley,
first known as the Presbyterian Church of
East Mill Creek, was organized by a commit-
tee consisting of the Rev. Geo. A. Lyon,
D. D., and the Rev. Nathaniel W. West, the
second Monday of December 1841. The origi-
nal members, probably thirty-eight in number,
came from the First Presbyterian Church of

The organization took place in the school-
house, which served as the general place of
worship for the congregation till 1843, when
a church building was erected at a cost of
$1,200, with a seating capacity of 300.

This building was dedicated on the 6th of
January, 1843, and, being substantially con-
structed in the beginning, remains, and hav-
ing been remodeled and improved several
times, notably in 1885, 1892 and 1894, it con-
stitutes an attractive and suitable house of

The ministers, who have served the
congregation as pastors and supplies, as near-
ly as can be gathered from the somewhat de-
fective records, were as follows, serving in
the order in which their names appear: Revs.
N. W. West, William Fuller, William Smith,
James F. Read, D. D., William Ottinger,
Joseph Vance, J. Rodger Wilson, Hezekiah
Webster, Alexander Ross, J. Bell, H. C.
Foster and J. P. Irwin. Those who served
for the longest periods were the Rev. ]. F.
Read, D. D., pastor from 1849 to 1852 ; Rev.
Joseph Vance, pastor from 1854 to 1871 ;
Rev. H. Webster, pastor from 1879 to 1885;
and Rev. J. P. Irwin, supply from 1888 to
October, 1895, when he resigned.

LTnder the faithful ministration of the above
pastors, the church has been greatly prospered.
The contributions have been liberal and the
number of accessions to the membership has
been constant and encouraging, the church
having on several occasions enjoyed seasons
of wonderful spiritual awakening. Under
the ministry of Rev. Joseph Vance, at one
time ten, at another eight, were received on
confession of their faith. Under Rev. H.
Webster, in 1880, eleven, and in 1882, seven,



were received, most of them on examination ;
while, during the ministry of Rev. J. P.
Irwin, thirty -one were received on confession
at the same communion. Thus, while, owing
to unfavorable location, the church has never
attained the proportions of a strong, self-sup-
porting body, there has been a gradual in-
crease in numbers and a material improvement
in facilities — a parsonage, quite conveniently
located and suitable, having been purchased
by the congregation in 1888.

The membership of this church and con-
gregation has comprised many of the best
families in the community, and the session,
which originally consisted of Messrs. George
Davison, Samuel Low and Hiram Norcross,
has included men of excellent character, such
as Messrs. Converse Clark, Myron Hayes, D.
H. Sanford, W. E. Hayes, Clark Wood, W.
M. Hilborn, John Cook, H. H. Miller, F. W.
Perrin, W. W. Conrad and A. J. Tate.

An interesting Sabbath-school has been
sustained for many years, and the women of
the congregation have ever been active in all
good work, having maintained missionary and
other societies, during past years, while at
present there are Home and Foreign Mission-
ary Societies, a Missionary Aid Society and
the Senior and Junior Christian Endeavor

Rev. E. B. Russell, and Revs. Edward and
Joseph H. Vance have gone out as ministers
from this church, and others now occupy
prominent and useful positions in the churches
and localities to which they have gone.

The congregation of Westminster Church
was organized by Rev. Johnson Eaton in
1805 at the mouth of Walnut creek, in Fair-
view township. Worship continued at that
place till 1833, when a building was erected in
Swanville. In 1845 a portion of the congre-
gation was set apart as the church of Stur-
geonville, and erected a building in Fairview
borough. This left the church building at
Swanville to one side of the territory in which
the bulk of the communicants resided. In
1851 the building was removed to the western
part of Mill Creek township. The n.ame of
Fairview Church was retained till 1861, when
that of Westminster was adopted. Mr.
Eaton continued as pastor for the congrega-
tion until his death June 17, 1847. A new
and handsome brick building was erected in
1894, and formally dedicated November 30th

of that year. It stands on or nearly upon the
site of the original structure.

Asbury Methodist Church, in the western
portion of the township, was built in 1846,
and remodeled in 1894. The congregation
was organized in the first-mentioned year.

St. Paul's German Lutheran Church, in
the southwest part of the township, was
erected about 1837, and overhauled in 1873.
No regular services have been held in the
building for several j^ears.

One of the first schools was opened in the
southeastern section of the township about
1805 or '6, and lasted until 1821. A school
w'as established about the same time as the
other in the Love neighborhood, and main-
tained until the common school law went into
operation. School- was taught in the Reed
residence, at or near Kearsarge, in 1809. In
1812 the neighbors united in putting up a
building on the north side of the ridge, on or
about the site of the present Lake View
school. Other schools were kept up by private
subscription, previous to the adoption of the
common school system, but no reliable account
of them is at hand. Mill Creek was the first
township in the county to adopt the one-term
school system, which was done about 1863
or '64.


Mill Creek has no settlements of much
size, Belle Valley, Weigeltown and Kearsarge
being the largest. Belle Valley is a scattered
collection of houses along Mill creek, on the
south side of the Second ridge, about four
miles from Erie. This place, though settled
at an early date, never attained to much im-
portance, having at present not over 100 resi-
dents. The Presbyterian Church has a grave-
yard connected with it which contains the
graves of some of the most worthy of the
original settlers. The Belle Valley postoflice
was established in 1855, being long supplied
by the Wattsburg stage.

Kearsarge was formerly known as Walnut
Creek, and was once a point of more import-
ance comparatively than at present. At
Kearsarge are a store, hotel, schoolhouse,
brickyard, and a number of residences. The
settlement is on the Edinboro road, four miles
from Erie. This is one of the oldest settled sec-
tions in Erie county. Col. Seth Reed having lo-
cated on the site in 179G. The postoffice at





33 J

Kearsarge supplies portions of Mill Creek, Mc-
Kean and Summit townships.

The first frame barn in the county was
erected by Charles J. Reed, on the Zimmerly
place at Kearsarge, in 1799, and the first
frame house on the same farm by the same
gentleman, in 1800. It was here also that the
first white couple married in the county took
up their residence. Charles J. Reed, son of
Col. Seth Reed, was united in matrimony to
Miss Rachel Miller, on the 27th of December,

Weigeltown, on the southwestern edge of
Erie city, at the junction of Brown's avenue
with the Ridge road, was named after Geo.
Weigel, sr., who bought fifty acres at the
sale in 1833, and laid out the north side of the
Ridge road front into building lots. The vil-
lage was then a mile and a half out of Erie,
and was a convenient stopping place for
farmers and travelers.

About a mile westward, on the Ridge
road, is Warrentown, a small collection of
houses lining the south side. It was named
after John M. Warren, whose father took up
a large tract of land there.

At the point where the McKean road and
the road from the Head intersect the Ridge
road, are the Half-Way House, a grocery,
blacksmith shop and a number o f dwellings.
The hotel was opened by Thomas Willis in
1822 or 1823. It then stood about half a mile
west, on the original line of the road. The
building was moved about the time the road
line was changed, some thirty-five years ago.

In 1847 a man named Frederick Reidel
was convicted : t Pittsburg of the murder of
his wife, but the night before the date fixed
for the execution he cut a vein in his arm and
bled to death. His body was delivered to his
brother, who brought it to Erie county and
buried it secretly in a graveyard on the south
line of Mill Creek township. The matter
soon leaked out and the indignation of the
people compelled him to remove the remains,
which were again buried on the east side of
the cross road between the Half-Way House
and the Catholic cemetery, some fifteen or
twenty rods north of the Ridge road. In No-
vember, 1858, George Reidel had an alterca-
tion with Buttennelly, then owner of the
property where the Half-Way House stands,
and shot the latter dead within a short dis-
tance of his brother's grave. He was sen-

tenced to the penitentiary for nine years and
served out his term.

Between Warrentown and the Half-Way
House, a short distance north of the Ridge
road, is the Erie County Almshouse. Less
than a mile west of the Half-Way House is
the West Mill Creek Hall. Near by is the
Westminster Church, and further west is the
Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church. The
West Mill Creek postoffice, which supplies
the vicinity with mail matter, is about one-
fourth of a mile west of Westminster Church.

In the Mill Creek valley, some two miles
south of Erie, was a considerable settlement
known as the Erie County Mills, which once
contained a grist and sawmill, fulling-mill and
brewery, all of which have gone down.


Passing over from the Half-Way House
to the Lake road, the first point of interest is
Trinity cemetery, the burial place of the
Catholics of Erie and vicinity. It embraces
thirty acres purchased by Rev. J. L. Coady,
Vicar-General of the diocese, of Wilson and
Richard Laird in June, 1867. A little east
of the cemetery is the road to the Head of the
bay, which has been for many years the chief
pleasure resort of Erie. The hotel and other
buildings erected at this point were burned
down in December, 1882, and rebuilt in 1885.
At the junction of the Lake and Head roads
is the Algeria farm, famous as a breeding
place for trotting horses. It was here that
Rayon d'Or, for which animal Hon. Wm. L.
Scott paid $40,000 in France, was kept and
begot some of the fastest horses in America.
Further east, on the bank of the bay, is the
site of the Lone Fisherman's Inn, afterward
the Tracy Point Hotel, now leased by the
Sommerheim, a German association, organ-
ized in the fall of 1894. Still eastward are
the buildings of the Kahkwa and Cascade
clubs, the Frontier farm of the Scott estate,
and the former site of the Mt. Hickory Iron
Works. The latter were started in 1872, and
the mill was burned December 9, 1883, and
never rebuilt. Across the Lake Shore R. R.
from the rolling-mill site was the old Reed
Garden, once a favorite resort. It was opened
as a public garden in 1840 or 1841, and was
one of Gen. Reed's pet enterprises. Nearing
the city the old fair grounds are seen, about
half a mile to the south of the Lake road.



These grounds were first opened for a fair by
the State Agricultural Society in 1872. In
addition to the above the Eaglehurst club
have a good building on the Marshall farm,
west of the Head, and there are numerous re-
sorts and summer residences all along the
Lake road between the city and the west line
of the township.

East of the city on the north side of the
Buffalo road are the original Erie county fair
grounds, now owned by the estate of H. C.
Shannon. This property was purchased by
the Fair Association in 1860, and fairs were
held there in '60 and '61. The war for the
Union breaking out in the latter year, they
were taken for military purposes, and the
Eighty-third, One Hundred and Eleventh and
One Hundred and Forty-fifth regiments were
organized on the premises.

On the Edinboro road, a mile or so south
of the city limits, quite a village has sprung
up on the Evans farm, incident to the estab-
lishment of the coffin factory. This enterprise
was originated by Robert Evans, who sold out
at a heav)' loss. Near by is the site of Glen-
wood Park, embracing the Evans farm and
the valley of Mill creek, which is intended to
be the main park of Erie city. It is an ideal
location for the purpose, and if the plans of
its projectors are carried out will be one of
the most beautiful pleasure resorts in the

On the Lake road, east of the city, upon
the Reed farm, are the new grounds of the
Erie Fair Association, organized in January,
1895, for the development of fine trotting and
racing stock. A short distance beyond, at
the mouth of Four-Mile creek, is the Grove
House, a favorite summer resort, opened to
the public in 1887.

Lakeside Cemetery, a new project, is lo-
cated on the north side of the Lake road,
between the city and the Reed faim last re-
ferred to.

For a further account of some of these
places see Erie city.


The first sawmill in Mill Creek township
was built by John Cochran, in 1800, and the
first gristmill in 1801, on the site of the one
known later as the Eliot or Denmore mill.
The second grist and sawmill in the town-
ship was established on the site of the old

Erie County Mills in 1802, one mile up the
creek from Cochran's mill, at the forks, by
Robert McCullough. A sawmill was built in
1816 by Foote & Parker on the R. H. Arbuckle
place, which went down a good many years
ago. The first sawmill on Walnut creek in
Mill Creek township was built by James Love
in 1816.

The present mills, factories, etc., are as
follows : The Glenwood Paint Works, occu-
pying the site of the Eliot or Densmore mill ;
the coffin factory, on the Edinboro road, and
a brickyard near by ; Ball's brewery, on the
Lake road, west, and Voight's, just south of
the city limits; a planing, saw and cider-
mill near Kearsar^ ; a brickyard at the
latter place; a shoe factory (idle) east of the
city; a glue and fertilizer factory (established
in 1869) near the Buffalo road between Erie
and Wesleyville ; a sawmill and a feed,
cider and sawmill on Walnut creek, and
a grist, saw, shingle, feed and cider-mill
on Thomas run. Some of the most impor-
tant mills, such as the Erie County and the
Eliot gristmills, once famous in the county,
have gone down for want of water-power and
support, the latter being chiefly due to their
proximity to the city.


The first settlers within the township were
Col. Seth Reed, David McNair, George
Moore, James Baird, Capt. Russell Bissell,
David Dewey, Francis Randall, J. W. Rus-
sell and Thomas P. Miller, who contracted
for lands in 1795, but did not locate till 1796
Their number was increased the same year by
John Grubb, Benjamin Russell, Anthony
Saltsman and John McFarland, In 1797,
William Saltsman, John Nicholson, the Mc-
Kees, Jacob Weiss and Boe Bladen, a free
colored man, were added to the colony. All
of the above were New Englanders, except
the Saltsmans, who were from Northumber-
land county, Bladen, who was from Maryland,
and Weiss, from Cumberland county, in this
State. Joseph Henderson made his location
in 1798. In 1800, William Bell came in from
Lycoming county, Joseph F. , William, Sam-
uel and David McCreary from Lancaster
county, and James Wilson, John M. W^arren
and John Cosper from New York. William
Bladen and Samuel and Joseph Conrad, from
Maryland, and the Ebersoles and the Riblets,



from Eastern Pennsylvania, settled in the
township in 1801 ; Hamlin Russell, from New
England, Andrew Caughey and sons, Joseph

B. McCreary and George Reed, all from
Lancaster county ; James Love and the Ar-
buckles from Cecil county, Maryland ; John
McCoy, John Robinson, Robert McClelland,
John Pherrin, James Dumars and William
Henry, in 1802. The Arbuckle family located
first in Fairview, but Joseph, Adam and John
changed to Mill Creek.

The date of the arrival of other pioneers
is as follows : In 1803 John Kelley, from
MifHin county ; in 1804, Christian Ebersole,
from Lancaster county; George Bissell, War-
ren Foote and Andrew Martin, from New
England ; Abraham Wagner, David Robin-
son and John Mosier, all from Eastern Penn-
sylvania ; in 1806, James B. Wilson, from
Dauphin county ; in 1807, John Fagan ; in
1809, John Ryan; in 1810, George Hay-
barger, Spencer Shattuck, William Whitley,
Alexander Robinson and sons, and Andrew
and John Norcross ; in 1811, John Evans,
John Burton, sr., James Stewart, John Mc-
Crea and Robert Evans; in 1812, N. W. Rus-
sell and Calvin Foote; in 1813, Conrad
Brown, sr., James Gill and I. M. Martin; in
1815, Samuel Flickinger, Jonas Parker and
George and Arthur Davidson ; in 1816, S. B.
Wagner and Asa G. Olds; in 1817, William
Miner, Christian Thomas, James Cronin and
Agnes Herrman ; in 1818, Robert Davidson,

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 54 of 192)