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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 59 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 59 of 192)
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again burned at a comparatively recent date,
when it had become known as Church's mill.
Added to his other business, Mr. IMiles cleared
a great deal of land, opened roads, secured a
mail route, and had a postoffice established,
with himself as Postmaster. In 1822 he es-
tablished a gristmill and sawmill at Watts-
burg, and in 1828 laid out that town, naming
it after his wife's father, David Watts, sr., of
Carlisle. Mr. Miles died in Girard township
in 1846 at the age of 87. William Cook fol-
lowed Mr. Miles to Union with his family in
1801, where he died in 1880. He had been a
surgeon in the Revolutionary army.

A prosperous career.
Previous to 1855 the settlement consisted
of but a few buildings surrounding the mills,
and gave no promise of the bright future that
proved to be in store for it. In that year H.
L. Church, A. L. Summerton and D. Kl. Mc-
Leod moved over from Warren, rebuilt the
mills, started a store and sold some lots. A
town was laid out by David Wilson under
the patronage of James (a son of William)
Miles — who owned much of the property —
which included only a trifling part of the
present borough. About 1856 Mr. Summer-
ton surveyed the plat since known as Sum-
merton Hill. Prior to that, in 1852, James
Miles had been made a director of the Phila-
delphia and Erie R. R., and by his influence
the route was carried to Union instead of by
way of Wattsburg. In 1858, the road was
opened to Union. In 1859, P. G. Stranahan,
who had been a farmer and hotel-keeper on



the Moravian flats in LeBcEuf, purchased the
Miles homestead, laid out an addition to the
town on the south side, and sold off a large
number of lots, continuing to make additions
and sales for ten years. The Atlantic and
Great Western R.R. being built through Union
in 18(52, gave increased value to property on
that side of the town, and in 1865 James Sill,
P. G. Stranahan and Joseph Sill bought and
laid out the Black farm into lots. In 1866,
James Sill purchased the Tourtellott farm, on
the north side, and in 1873, E. W. Hatch the
Smiley farm, adjoining, both of which were
surveyed and a large number of lots sold.
Another addition was made by T. B. Shreve,
south of the Atlantic and Great Western R. R.,
about the latter year.


The first strong impulse was given to
Union by the opening of the Philadelphia and
Erie R. R., and this circumstance was followed
by another in the summer of 1859, which may
be said to have been the making of the town.
This was no less an event than the develop-
ment of natural oil as an article of commerce at
Titusville. In 1862, three oil refineries and
several large cooper shops were running to
their fullest capacity. The completion of the
Oil Creek R. R. during the latter year gave a
sudden check to this thrifty condition of
aflfairs, by doing away with the hauling by
wagons and diverting the oil traffic to Corry.
The town had a live population, however, and
gradually picked up again. In the fall of
1870, Woods & Johnson started the largest
barrel factory that had then been built upon
the continent. In 1865, James Sill and P. G.
Stranahan originated the Union and Titusville
R. R. It was not completed, however, till
February, 1871, after the oil center had
changed from Titusville, and never realized the
hopes of its projectors. The road was operated
for several years and finally abandoned.

While upon the subject of oil, it may be
stated that for many years — commencing long
before Drake's discovery at Titusville — the
fluid was gathered oh the banks of the creek
at Union. The most prolific yield was at the
foot of the hill, below the Stranahan resi-
dence. A well was sunk there about 1859, to
a depth of 100 feet, and deepened to 900 feej
in 1864, and other wells were put down along
the stream.


Union City contains Presbyterian , Method-
ist, Baptist, Episcopal, Catholic and United
Brethren church buildings.

The Presbyterian congregation was organ-
ized with nine members, by Rev. John
Matthews in 1811. The first church building
was erected in 1831, on a lot donated by Will-
iam Miles, who also contributed fifty dollars;
and the present one, which cost $12,000, was
dedicated February 24, 1874. The sheds were
built in 1875, and a fine chapel, the gift of
Mrs. Jane Gray, widow of Robert Gray, was
added in 1879. Mr. and Mrs. Gray were the
only original members who lived to worship
in the new church.

The Methodist Episcopal congregation
was organized by Rev. Ira Eddy in 1817, and
had Rev. John P. Bent as its first pastor. The
first church was built in 1847, and the second
and present one in 1862, costing $10,000. A
movement is in progress to secure a new and
better building.

St. Teresa's Catholic Church was organ-
ized about 1857. Catholic families settled in
Union about 1854, and were attended for
several years from Pittsburg. Father Emer-
and, O. S. B., held services for several years.
At the opening of the rebellion, he enlisted as
Chaplain of a regiment under General Rose-
crans and was killed in service. Rev. T.
Lonnergan, of Corry, took charge of the con-
gregation in 1860, and under efforts put forth
by him a church was immediately built. The
parochial school was built in 1866 and enlarged
in 1875, and the parochial residence was erect-
ed in 1874. The school has an average at-
tendance of seventy. It is in charge of the
Sisters of St. Joseph. Attached to the church
is St. Teresa's Academy and Convent. Rev.
David Hanley is the present rector.

The Baptist Church was formed with
eleven members in August, 1859, by the with-
drawal of members residing in Union City and
vicinity from the Wattsburg Baptist Church.
In 1862 Rev. A. D. Bush accepted a call to
the pastorate, under whose labors a meeting-
house was erected.

The United Brethren society was organ-
ized about 1872, succeeding an old class which
formerly met at Kimball's Hill, two miles
northwest from the borough. Services were



held in the Presbyterian church until 1876,
when a church was erected.

The first Episcopal services were held in
1866, in the old town hall, and continued in
various places for many years. A building
lot was bought in 1877, and the foundation
for the present site laid in 1888. The build-
ing was consecrated by Bishop Whitehead on
St. Matthew's day, September 21, 1893. On
April 8, 1894, the mission became a regularly
organized parish, connected with the diocese
of Pittsburg.

Evergreen cemetery, the principal burying
place of town and township, is a piece of high,
dry, gravelly ground, on the Concord road,
near the southeast edge of the borough. It
was originated by David Wilson, who laid
out the plat and was the first President of the
company. The cemetery was dedicated in
September, 1865.

The Catholic cemetery, near the other,
was consecrated about 1860, and embraces
about two and a half acres.

The soldiers' monument in Evergreen cem-
etery was dedicated on May 30, 18»4.


The earliest newspaper in the town was
the Union Mills Bulletin, started by William
C. Jackson in 1865, and continued by him for
one year, when the oflice was purchased by
H. G. Pratt and Fi. Burrington, who changed
the name to the Star. These gentlemen held
out for about a year and then moved to Corry,
where the establishment was merged with the
Republican. The town was without a jour-
nal until November, 1870, when the Union
City Times appeared with Robert Troup as
editor. The Times was printed in the JDis-
fatch office at Erie for about two years. In
August, 1878, H. D. Persons and L. B.
Thompson bought the office, taking possession
September 1 ; six months afterward, Mr.
Thompson retired from the firm. Mr. Per-
sons continued the management until the
spring of 1875. By an arrangement with the
owners of the Corry Republican the two
offices were moved to Erie May 1, 1875, and
their material was used in the publication of
the Argus, which had a brief but brilliant
career. After the failure of the Argus, Mr.
Persons took his office back to Union and re-
established the Times on the 12th of August,
1875. The establishment was purchased by

Dr. D. P. Robbins in November, 1877, who
leased it to McLean & Moore November, 1879.
In May, 1880, Mr. Moore sold his interest to
A. F. Moses, who in turn conveyed it a year
later to J. C. McLean and W. G. Lefevre.
It was then published under the name of the
Times Publishing Company until May, 1882,
when F. E. & J. C. McLean became sole
proprietors, and have continued ever since.
The office was burned out in the great fire of
April 24, 1879, and was replaced by Dr. Rob-
bins in two weeks — a splendid piece of enter-
prise for the time.

In February, 1875, Mr. L. B. Thompson
moved the Enterprise from Waterford to
LTnion City, and issued it until June of the
same year, when it was bought by Pratt Bros.
& Hubbard. Mr. Hubbard soon retired from
the firm, and Pratt Bros, continued the paper
at Union until November, 1877, when the
office was moved to Corry and used as the
basis of the Corry Herald.

The Union City Advertiser was begun in
the summer of 1874, by Hildreth, Young &
Co., to give publicity to their photocrome
business. The work was done in the Water-
ford Enterprise office, and shortly after the
removal of that paper to LTnion City, as above
stated, the Advertiser was discontinued.

Early in 1879, M. H. Fenno started an
edition of the Corry Herald for Union circu-
lation, calling it by the name of the Record.
Its list was purchased by F. E. McLean in
November, 1879, and combined with that of
the Times.


The most extensive fire that Union has
known broke out in the Stranahan Block
about half-past 3 o'clock on the morning of
April 24, 1879, and swept down both sides of
Main street to the creek, destroying buildings
and goods estimated to be worth $75,000, not
more than half of which was covered with in-
surance. The burnt district was rebuilt with
a better class of structures than before.

The next great fire occurred on Monday
night, the 24th of July, 1882, and destroyed
property to the value of $50,000. It origi-
nated in the boiler-house of Hineman &
Cheney's chair and furniture factory, and
burned down eight buildings, besides damag-
ing two others. The insurance was not much
more than one-fourth of the loss.



Another fire on the evening of Wednes-
day, May 28, 1884, burned down a row of
frame buildings adjoining the Johnson House,
occupied by seven business firms. The loss
was about $12,000.

The fourth great fire occurred on the after-
noon of January 9, 1895, and destroyed prop-
erty estimated to be worth |27,000, on which
there was an insurance of about $13,000. It
started on the second floor of the Cooper

Union City was visited by a destructive
flood on the 4th of February, 1882. Another
followed in June, 1892, which was the most
disastrous in the history of the borough. The
track of the Philadelphia and Erie R. R. was
badly cut up between Corry and LeBceuf Sta-
tion, numerous bridges were injured or de-
stroyed, and portions of the low lands in the
borough were overflowed, inflicting immense
damage. The flood of the latter year extend-
ed over a large portion of the State, being due
to heavy and long continued rains.


The first successful school was established
about 1820, in a building which stood on High
street. The first tavern was opened by David
Jones in 1829. The first store was started in
1831 by Fleming & Brewster, of Erie. The
old portion of the Stranahan residence was
built by William Miles in 1828.

A tavern was built in 1832, near the Miles

mills, by Asa Walton and Washington Web-
ber. The property was purchased in 1838 by
Capt. A. Tourtellot, who rebuilt the house.
D. Dunham & Sons started a tannery in 183(5,
and continued until 1871.

Union City has an ususual number of man-
ufacturing establishments for a place of the
size, nearly all of which have been prosperous.

The borough has suffered severely fiom
bank failures, but the energy ot the citizens
has enabled them to overcome these misfor-
tunes as well as the fires and floods.

The date of organization of some of the
secret societies was as follows :

Eureka Lodge No. 8(36, F. and A. M., in

Clement Lodge No. 230, I. O. O. F., Au-
gust 26, 1871.

Nineveh Encampment No. 248, I. O. O.
F., May 18, 1874.

Union City Grange No. 89, June 29, 1874.

Israel Lodge No. 50, Knights of Honor,
December 11, 1874.

Jno. W. McLane Post No. 102, G. A. R.,
Tune 24, 1876.

Union City Lodge No. 1015, I. O. G. T.,
February 27, 1878.

Banner Union No. 12, E. A. U., August
22, 1879.

Union Council No. 198, R. A., May 3,

Star Council No. 58, R. T. of T., August
5, 1880.



THE name of Venango river was given
by the French to the stream afterward
called by the English and still known
as French creek. It is a corruption of
the Indian word Innungah, which is
said to have been the Indian term for the
stream. Venango was one of the original
townships of the county, and has been known
by the same title from the beginning. It is
bounded on the north by Greenfield, on the
east by French Creek township, Chautauqua
county, N. Y., on the south by Amity, and
on the west by Greene. The township has
regular lines, and is nearly square, having
a width of about six and a quarter miles by a
breadth of seven. The population was 490 in
1820, 683 in 1830, 812 in 1840, 1,019 in 1850,
1,301 in 1860, 1,650 in 1870, 1,445 in 1880,
and 1,351 in 1890. The east line of Venango,
Greenfield and North East townships forms
the boundary between Pennsylvania and New
York, which is exactly on a parallel with the
western extremity of Lake Ontario. The
south line of Venango is a part of the original
northern boundary of the commonwealth.
The villages are Lowville and Phillipsville,
both of which have postoffices. The highest
point in Erie county is said to be in Venango
township, near the Greenfield and New York
lines. The only postoftice outside of the
above is Lake Pleasant, near the lake of the
same name.


The first white man who is known to have
visited Venango township was William Miles,
who came out as a surveyor with David
Watts in 1785, fell in love with the flats at
the junction of the East and West branches,
and returning in 1795 took up 1,400 acres,
including the site of Wattsburg. He was fol-
lowed in 1796 by Adam Reed and his son
James, who located 400 acres on the East
branch, and at a later period built the first

gristmill in the township. Thomas Smith set-
tled in Lowville in the same year, and was soon
followed by Burrell and Zaimon Tracy. In
1797 John and David Phillips became possessed
of 1,100 acres on which Phillipsville now
stands. In 1798 William Allison and wife, from
Northumberland county, with theirsoii James,
a boy of three years, settled near Lake Pleas-
ant. From that time to 1800 a number of
colonists went in whose names will be found
in the list of taxables further on. In 1822,
Lowville was settled by Samuel Low and his
brother-in-law. Dr. Wright, both from Gene-
see county. New York. Timothy Butler and
father from Onondaga county. New York,
made their settlements in 1816, John R. Smith
about 1826, David Bailey in 1828, and Dr. D.
T. Bennett, from Delaware countv. New York,
in 1829. William Blore, the Chapins, the Ti-
tuses, and others took up their residence in the
township in 1830. The Norcrosses and the
Davisons, who had located on the highlands
west of Lake Pleasant, changed to Mill Creek.
John Warren, another of the early settlers,
moved to Erie in 1810. During the interval
between 1810 and 1820 there was little in-
crease ; but about the latter year a new popu-
lation, mainl}' from New York, commenced
going in, whose descendants generally re-

The taxable citizens of the township in 1800
were as follows : William Allison, Hezekiah
Barker, Philo Barker, Henry Bontz, John
Boyd, John Carnahan, William Carnahan,
Thomas Carnahan, John Clark, Thomas Da-
vison, sr., Francis, Robert, George, Arthur
and Thomas Davison, jr., John and William
Dickson, Bailey, John and James Donaldson,
John Dickson, jr., Samuel and Stuart Hender-
son, Stephen Hazleton, James and John Hun-
ter, Thomas Hinton, jr., Robert and Wilson
Johnston, John B. Jones, Caleb Lj'on, David
McNair, Joseph McGahen, William Miles,
Barnabus McCue, Andrew Norcross, John,





James M. and David Phillips, Thomas Pren-
tice, James Perry, James M., Thomas E. and
Robert R. Reed, Ralph Spafford, Thomas,
Samuel and John Smith, Benjamin Saxton,
Zalmon and Burrill Tracy, Nathaniel Wilson,
John Warren and John Yost. In 1817, Will-
iam Miles was assessed for 2,400 acres in
Venango township, most of which were at
Wattsbiirg and Lowville. They were valued
for taxable purposes at $3,400.

The first child was Robert, son of William
Allison and wife, who was born in 1799, soon
after his parents moved into the township.
The first death was that of Adam Reed, in
1805. Samuel Henderson came with William
Miles from Carlisle in 1795. He and his
brother, Stuart, located 400 acres of land in
the spring of 1798, and then went to Fayette
county and married.


Below is the muster roll of Co. E of the
One Hundred and Thirty-sixth Regiment
Pennsylvania Militia, at the breaking out of
the war of 1812: Captain, William Dickson ;
Lieutenant, Robert Davison ; Ensign, Thomas
Davison ; Sergeants, Arthur Davison, John
Dickson, David Phillips; privates, James
Donaldson, David McNair, Bailey Donald-
son, Thomas Johnson, John Hunter, Samuel
Smith, George Davison, John B. Jones,
John Smith, James Smith, James White,
Thomas Prentice, Samuel Henderson, Thomas
Henton, Griffith Henton, William Henton,
Zalmon Tracy, Burrill Tracy, Thomas E.
Reed. Capt. Dickson moved from the county
in April, 1813, and Lieut. Davison assumed
command, continuing during the war. The
company was called out in June, 1813, and
for some time guarded the shipyards at the
mouth of Cascade creek, where Perry's fleet
was building. They remained until the fleet
sailed and were then sent home, but were
ordered into service again when the news
came in January, 1814, that the British had
taken Buffalo.


The list of citizens of Venango who have
held State and county positions is as follows :
Canal Commissioner, John Phillips, 1826 to
1829. Assembly, John Phillips, 1809, 1810,
1811, 1812 and 1824; Wareham Warner,

1856 and 1857. Prothonotary, Giles D. Price,
December 28, 1875, to January 1, 1882.
Sheriff, M. V. B. GifFord, elected 1885. Clerk
of the Courts, Charles L. Pierce, November
20, 1867, to November 14, 1873. County
Treasurer, John Warren, 1817 ; elected from
Erie, where he had moved. County Com-
missioners, John Phillips, 1804 to 1807 ; Sam-
uel Low, 1836 to 1840, elected from Harbor
Creek, where he moved in 1884 ; Jacob
Fritts, 1860 to 1863 ; Daniel W. Titus, 1875
to 1881. Clerk to County Commissioners,
Giles D. Price, chosen in January, 1883.
County Auditors, Samuel Low, 1832 ; Daniel
W. Titus, 1872; C. R. Gray, 1878 to 1881. Mr.
Price served about four years as Deputy Col-
lector of the United States at Erie, and was
prominently named as a candidate for Audi-
tor General and State Treasurer on the Re-
publican State ticket.


The chief avenues of Venango township
are the Erie and Wattsburg plank -road ; the
old Erie and Wattsburg road by the way of
Phillipsville. which branches off from the
former at the Siegel farm in Greene township ;
the Wattsburg and North East, up the West
branch and through Greenfield ; the Water-
ford and North East, through Phillipsville
and Colt's Station; the Erie and Lake Pleas-
ant, by way of French creek and the lake ;
the Wattsburg and New York, up the East
branch to Clvmer and Sherman ; the Union
and Wattsburg ; the Wattsburg and Corry ;
and the cross road from A. N. Woods' to
M. S. Rouse's. The old Erie road was
opened in 1809, partially changed in 1828,
and improved in 1832 ; the Waterford and
North East in 1804 ; and the Wattsburg and
North East in 1798. The latter was the route
for conveying goods between Lake Erie and
the Allegheny until the road was opened be-
tween Presque Isle and Waterford.

The Erie and Wattsburg plank road was
commenced in 1852, completed in 1853 and
abandoned as a toll road in 1865, after the
gates had been torn down by a party of indig-
nant farmers. The road from Erie to Lake
Pleasant was opened as far south as the Mar-
tin Hayes place, in Greene, in 1821-22, and
completed to French creek in 1826-27. From
Erie to Wattsburg by the Lake Pleasant road
is eighteen and three-quarters miles ; by way



of Phillipsville eighteen miles, and Ly way of
Lowville twenty miles, the latter route, how-
ever, having the advantage of better grades.
Venango is without a railroad, the nearest
station being at Union City. In 1858, the
Erie City Railroad Company was chartered to
build a road from the bay of Presque Isle to
the State Line, tlvee miles from Wattsburg,
where it was to connect with an extension of
the New York and Erie from Jamestown, N.
Y., giving a continuous route between the
lake and the Atlantic ocean. Surveys were
made, but no grading was ever done, and the
project was finally given up. It was at one
time proposed to build the P. and E. R. R by
way of Wattsburg.


The township is one of the best watered
in the county. The West branch, which
rises in Fmdley's Lake, N. Y., enters the town-
ship from Greenfield, and crosses its entire
width from north to south, past Lowville and
Wattsburg. The East branch takes its
rise near Sherman, N. Y., and coming
in not far from the southeast corner, flows
in a southwestern course into Amity, where
the two unite near the township line, just out-
side the borough limits of Wattsburg. The
West branch has a length of about twelve
miles in Venango, and the East branch of
about four miles. The tributaries of these
streams are as follows : Of the "West branch,
Middlebrook, Alder and Fritts runs; of the
East branch, Stafford run. Several streams
start in the southwest corner of Venango and
unite with French creek proper in Amitj-.

Lake Pleasant, in the extreme southwestern
part of the township, near the corners of Ve-
nango, Greene, Amity and Waterford, is a
beautiful body of water, about two-thirds of
a mile long and a third of a mile wide, with a
depth of five to fifty feet. Its outlet is a fair-
sized stream that never diminishes except in
the drj-est seasons. It falls into French creek
about three miles south, in Amity township.

The township owns one iron bridge over
the East branch at the Tanner place, and a
covered wooden bridge over the West branch
at Lowville. All of the other bridges are
ordinary open wooden structures. The one
over the West branch at Wattsburg was the
first in the county. It was built originally by
the County Commissioners.


The valleys of both branches are quite
wide, running from a mile to a mile and a half,
and spreading out to about three miles at Watts-
burg, where they come together. Along Alder
run, Middle brook and Staft'ord run, the flats
are from a quarter of a mile to a half mile in
width, and upon the outlet of Lake Pleasant
they are very similar to those along the
branches. The value of farm property is from
thirty to sixty dollars an acre in the valleys,
and from twenty to forty dollars in the hill
region. Most of the marketing is done at
Wattsburg and Lowville.

The mills and factories of Venango town-
ship are as follows : At Lowville — a grist-
mill, sawmill and a shingle and cider-mill.
The gristmill was built in 1822, but has been
twice remodeled. In other sections — a saw-
mill near Robinson's Corners; a saw and
shingle-mill on the Clymer road; a cheese
factory, a sawmill and a saw and shingle-
mill at Phillipsville. There is a creamery just
outside of Wattsburg, where much of the milk
in the south end of the township is disposed of.

The last white pine tree in the township
stood on the Jamestown road, about half a
mile east of Wattsburg. It was cut down in
March, 1895. The butt measured four feet,

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 59 of 192)