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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 64 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 64 of 192)
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sale, and the balance within one year, to-
gether with lawful interest. No sale was to
be valid, and no patent was to be issued, until
these terms were complied with.

Reservations were to be made of sixty
acres on the south bank of the harbor and
near the entrance thereof, thirty acres on the
peninsula at or near the entrance to the har-
bor, and one other tract of 100 acres on the
peninsula, for the use of the United States in
erecting forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-
yards, etc. It was further provided, " That if
"the mill sites on the creek running near the
" ruins of the old French fort siiould fall within
' ' the cessions hereby made to the United States,
" the same shall nevertheless be and hereby
" are reserved for the use of tliis State, with
"the right of erecting mills thereon, but no

" buildings (mills excepted), shall be erected
" within 600 yards of the center of any fort
" which may be erected by the United States
" on either of the lots ceded to them as afore-
" said."

By an act passed February 19, 1800, that
portion of the law of 1795 which made it ob-
ligatory for purchasers of lots to erect houses
thereon before becoming bonafide owners, was
repealed ; and lots previously forfeited on ac-
count of non-compliance with said law were
allowed to be pre-empted by their former
purchasers at the original price, provided ap-
plication was made within twelve months
from the date of the statute. The leniency
here adopted was continued by subsequent
enactments, thus making it easy for the first
settlers of Erie to become owners of real


The first permanent American settlement
effected on the site of Erie occurred in the
spring of 1795, when Thomas Rees, who had
been appointed Deputy Surveyor of the land
district, pitched his tent near the mouth of
Mill creek. The previous year he had done
some surveying in this portion of the State,
but, on account of Indian threats, the under-
taking was abandoned for the time being. On
the 31st of March, 1796, he was appointed by
Governor Mifflin Justice of the Peace for the
district consisting of " the township of Mead,
in the county of Allegheny," which then em-
braced all of the territory now comprising
Crawford and Erie counties. Mr. Rees and
Wm. Wilson, of Greenfield, appointed on the
same day, were the first Justices in Erie county,
their term of office being " so long as he shall
live and behave himself well."

Soon after the arrival of Mr. Rees, a de-
tachment of Wayne's army, under the com-
mand of Capt. Russell Bissell, landed at
Presque Isle, and began the erection of two
block-houses on the high point east of Mill
creek. The work was completed during

Gens. William Irvine and Andrew Elli-
cott, the State Commissioners appointed to
lay out the town, arrived in June, 1795, ac-
companied by a corps of surveyors, and
escorted by a company of State troops, com-
manded by Capt. John Grubb. This latter
gentleman located permanently in Erie, and.



though subsequently living on a farm, may be
called the second settler of the town.

On the last day of June or 1st of T"Iy'
1795, Col. Seth Reed, with his wife Hannah,
and sons Manning and Charles J., dropped
anchor in the harbor and landed on the
peninsula, thinking it more secure from In-
dian attack than the main land. The family
had come from Buffalo, in a sail boat owned
and operated by James Talmadge. Col. Reed
built a rude one-story log cabin, covered with
bark, near the mouth of Mill creek, and, con-
cluding that the settlement needed a public
house, put up a sign as the " Presque Isle Ho-
tel." This was the first building erected in
Erie, and though insignificant in appearance,
was provided "with plentj' of good refresh-
ments for all itinerants that chose to call."
Mrs. Hannah Reed was the first white
woman to locate at Erie, and as such her
name deserves perpetuation as the pioneer of
her sex. In September, 17ti5, Col. Reed's
sons, Rufus S. and George VV., came on, and
with them Mrs. Thomas Rees and Mrs. J.
Fairbanks. The following year the colonel
erected a two-story log house on the south-
west corner of Second and Parade streets,
which he placed in charge of his son Rufus
S., who kept a tavern and store in it until
1799, when it burned down. The next year,
Rufus S. Reed rebuilt it, and for a number of
years afterward carried on business at that

The only settlers of 1795, besides those
mentioned, were James Baird and family,
and George and John T. Moore. The Moores
went back to the east, but returned in 1798
to remain permanently. Doubtless a number
of persons came and went, but investigation
has failed to find the names of any others who
located permanently during that year.


The town was laid out in three sections,
each about one mile square, and extending
from the bay south to Twelfth street. The
First section ran from Parade to Chestnut ; the
Second from Chestnut to Cranberry; and the
Third from Cranberry to West street. The
outlets extended south to Twenty-sixth street,
east to East avenue, west to the western
boundary of the almshouse farm, and north to
the bay of Presque Isle, thus embracing the

front of the harbor from its entrance to
within a short distance of " The Head."

The streets running east and west were
laid off twenty rods apart, with State street
running north and south as the center of the
first section ; those west of State, and paral-
lel with it, being named after trees, and those
east of it after nationalities, excepting Parade,
which was so called on account of starting
from the old French fort and parade ground.
Parade street, which is almost identical with
the French road to Fort LeBcEuf, was for
years the only avenue leading into the town,
except the Lake road, from the east side of the
county. The streets running parallel with
the bay were numbered from one to twelve,
though First street was called Front, and has
since been known by that title. At the cen-
ter of each section, a plot of land was re-
served for public uses. That in the First sec-
tion, now Central Park, was long occupied by
the court house and market house.

The town was incorporated as the borough
of Erie in 1805, having previously formed a
part of Mill Creek township for official pur-

In 1832, the Third section, both in and
outlots, was donated by the Commonwealth to
the borough, divided into fifty acre lots and
sold to the highest bidder, excepting 100 acres
located in the southwest corner, which were
reserved for an almshouse farm. The money
obtained from this sale was to be used in
building piers and wharves, and constructing
a canal basin in the bay of Presque Isle.


In 1884, the borough limits were extended
into the bay 1,800 feet, and four years after-
ward the sale of one row of water lots in the
Second section was authorized, to pay the ex-
pense of grading and improving the streets
in said section. By the act of March 10, 1848,
the borough limits were extended so as to em-
brace the territory bounded on the east by
Ash, south by Eighteenth, and west by Lib-
erty streets, the northern boundary being the
north shore of the peninsula, " the jurisdiction
of the corporate authorities being extended to
the island of Presque Isle."

The borough was divided into the East
and West wards in 1840, State street being
the dividing line.

On the 14th of April, 1851, a city charter



was granted. In 1858, the city was divided
into four wards, and so remained for twelve
years. Under the act of February 25, 1870, a
third extension of the city limits occurred,
taking in the borough of South Erie and other
territory. Two more Wards were erected at
that time. vSince then, no change has taken
place in the corporate limits of the city.

By a city ordinance of March 18, 1869, it
was declared that " the northern boundary of
" all water lots in the bay of Presque Isle or
"harbor of Erie, lying west of the canal basin,
" shall be a line drawn from the northwest
"corner of the canal basin pier westward,
" parallel to Second street, to the western
"boundary of said water lots." The same
ordinance provided that " all the streets of the
" First and Second sections of Erie that cross
" Second street at right angles are extended
"into the bay at the northern boundary of
" said water lots."


The city limits extend on the cast to about
1,750 feet east of East avenue ; on the ivcst to
the center of Cranberry street; on the south
from Cranberry to a little east of Holland
street, about 1,950 feet south of Twenty-sixth
street ; and from a little east of Holland street
to the eastern city limits, about 2,300 feet
south of Twenty-sixth street.


In addition to Erie, Irvine and Ellicott laid
out the towns of Franklin, Warren and
Waterford — the latter in the summer of
1794. On returning to the east, they were
appointed State agents, in conjunction with
George Wilson, for the sale of lots in the
towns named. Tiie following is a copy of
their advertisement, printed in 1796 :

" Agreeably to instructions from His Ex-
" cellency, Thomas MifHin, Governor of this
" Commonwealth, we shall offer for sale the
" following town and outlets of Erie, VVater-
" ford, Franklin and Warren, at the time and
"places hereafter specified, viz. : The sale of
" that portion of town and outlots of the sev-
" eral towns to be disposed of in the city of
" Philadelphia will commence on Monday,
" the 25th day of July next. That portion of
" the town and outlots of the several towns to
" be disposed of at Carlisle will commence at

"that borough on Wednesday, the 8d of
"August next; and the sale of that portion
"of the town and outlots of the said towns to
" be disposed of at Pittsburg will commence
" at that borough on Monday, the 15th day
" of August next.

" William Irvine,
" Andrew Ellicott,
"George Wilson,


In all, 169 inlots and thirty-three outlots
in Erie were disposed of at Philadelphia,
Carlisle and Pittsburg in 1796, from which
$4,165.20, in principal and interest, were re-

prices paid for lots.

The following statement of prices paid by
the Harrisburg & Presque Isle Land Company
at the public sale of lots in the town of Erie,
held at Carlisle on the 3d and 4th of August,
1796, will be of interest in this connection :


No. 1359, corner Seventh and German % 7

No. 1403, Seventh, near State 18

No. 1996, Sixth, between German and Parade 8

No. 2809, corner Fourth and Liberty 40

No. 2810, corner Third and Liberty 41

No. 2838, Third, near mouth of Cascade 21

No. 3277, Second, corner Parade on road to

Fort 260

No. 3292, corner Second and German 260

No. 3420, corner Liberty on Lake •. 106


No. 277 for $38 No. 418 for.

No. 278 for 33 No. 519 for.

No. 283 for 49 No. 523 for.

No. 378 for 56 No. 565 for.

other sales of lots.
Later sales of inlots were as follows :
In 1796.

Lots 2045-'46-'47 and '48, being the block
bounded by State, Peach and Fifth streets and
North Park Row, to Thomas Forster, Thom-
as Huling and Alexander Berryhill, for $152,
twenty-one dollars, seventy dollars and $112

Lot 2050, at the northwest corner of Sixth
and Peach streets, now occupied by the resi-
dence of Mrs. Gen. Reed, to Alexander Addi-
son for thirty-four dollars.



In 1801.

Lot 1402, west side of State street, be-
tween Seventh and Eighth, to Thomas
Hughes, for thirty doUars.

Lot 1399, east side of State street, be-
tween Seventh and Eighth, to Wm. G.
Snyder, for thirty dollars.

Lots 1289 aiid 1290, east side of State
street, between Eighth and Ninth, to Andrew
Willock, for thirty dollars each.

Lot 2049, site o"f First Presbyterian Church,
to Thomas Hamilton, for thirty dollars.

Lots 2041-"42-'43 and '44, the Reed and
Ellsworth House properties, to Thos. Forster
and David McXair, for fifty-four dollars,
thirty dollars, ten dollars and twenty-one
dollars respectively.

I?i 1S(U.

Lot 1401, west side of State street, be-
tween Seventh and Eighth, to Samuel Smith
for thirty dollars.

Lot 1400, east side of State street, between
Seventh and Eighth, to Abraham Smith, for
thirty dollars.

Lot 1936, site of Wetmore House, to
Abraham Smith, for twenty-five dollars.

Ill ISO 4.

Lots 1287 and 1288, west side of State
street, between Eighth and Ninth, the first to
John Hay, for fifty-four dollars, and the second
to John Vincent, for thirty-one dollars.

Lot 727, east side of State street, between
Ninth and Tenth, to Samuel McKelvey, for
twenty dollars.

Lots 729 and 730, west side of State street,
between Ninth and Tenth, to Joseph F. Mc-
Creary and Basil Hoskinson, for twenty dol-
lars each.

Lot 1280, site of the Downing block, to
John Leninger, for thirty dollars.

Lot 728, east side of State, between Ninth
and Tenth, to John Lewis, for twenty dollars.

Lots 735 and 736, site of the Erie Academy,
to Samuel McKelvey, for twenty dollars each.

In 1806.

Lots 1937-'88-'39 and '40, between State,
Peach and Seventh streets and South Park
Row, to Joseph Kratz, for $110; and lots
3326 and 3327, corner of State and Fourth

streets, to the same party for eighty-eight dol

I/i 1815.

Lot 753, the site of St. Peter's Cathedral,
to John Gray, for twenty dollars.


There is even a greater difference between
the prices paid for out-lots when originally
purchased and the value of the same ground
to-day than there is in regard to the inlots.
For instance, outlot No. 375, located between
Peach and Sassafras and Fourteenth and
Fifteenth streets, now the site of the Union
Depot, was bought by David McNair, March
1, 1801, for twenty dollars. Mr. McNair also
purchased on the same date, outlot No. 376,
bounded by Peach, Sassafras, Fifteenth and
Sixteenth streets, at the same price ; and out-
lot 407, comprising the block lying between
Twelfth and Fourteenth and State and Peach
streets, for twenty-five dollars. On the 23d of
November, 1805, William Wallace bought for
twenty-five dollars, outlot No. 406, extending
from Twelfth to Fourteenth, and from State
to French streets. Joseph Kratz purchased
outlot No. 540, which lies in the eastern part,
between Ninth and Tenth streets, January 23,
1806, for twenty dollars.


In 1796 Capt. Daniel Dobbins cast his
fortune with the little hamlet, followed in
1798 by William Wallace, George Moore and
John T. Moore, and in 1799, by Jonas Dun-
can and John Teel. From the latter year un-
til 1815 the following persons became resi-
dents of the place : Col. Thomas Forster, John
Gillespie, Thomas Hughes, Thomas Wilson,
Robert Irwin, John Gray, Richard Clemment,
Judah Colt, Capt. John Richards, John Wil-
son, John Cummins, Mary O'Neill, Robert
Knox, Stephen Wolverton, Giles Sanford,
William Lattimore, W. W. Reed, John Dick-
son, Capt. William Lee, David Cook, P. S.
V. Hamot, Gen. John Kelso, Barnabas Mc-
Cue, Thomas Wilkins, George Gossett, Basil
Hoskinson, George Landon, Holmes Reed,
Hugh Cunningham, William Lamberton, Ar-
chibald McSparren, James Duncan, George
Leninger, Willard Cotton, Thomas Laird,
Joseph Kratz, Mrs. Silverthorn, Robert L.
Curtis, Marmaduke Curtis, John Lewis,



George Schantz, Samuel Hays, Robert Hays,
John McDonald, James Sydnor, Robert
Brotherton, Jonathan Stratton, James Wilson,
George Moore, Thomas Large, Robert Brown,
Callender Irvine, Robert Large, Jonathan
Baird, Isaac Austin, B. Rice, Amos Fisk,
Peter Grawotz, George Buehler, Thomas
Stewart, John E. Lapsley, John Hay, Rufus
Clough, David McNair, Ezekiel Dunning,
John Woodside, John Miller, James Mc-
Conkey, William ' Bell, John C. Wallace,
Thomas H. Sill, Jacob Spang and Rev.
Robert Reid. There may have been
others, but their names are " lost 'mid
the rubbish of forgotten things." Many
of the pioneers had families, and the children
are often better remembered than the parents,
whose energies were spent in building up
homes for those who bear their names.


The earliest settlements, as before stated,
were at the mouth of Mill creek. From
there the place grew westward, up Second,
Third and Fourth streets, to French, which
was long the main business avenue. For
many years the town was almost wholly
north of Sixth street, and the territory south

of that was looked upon as being in the coun-
tr}\ John Teel, who made his home at
Ninth and Peach streets, used to relate that it
was a common occurrence for strangers to
stop at his house and inquire how far it was
to Erie.

The comparative growth of the town, now
city, is shown by the following figures from
the United States census reports :


1820 63S

1830 1,329

1840 3,412

1850 5,858

1860 9,419

1870— First ward 3,364

Second " 5,031

Third " 3,730

Fourth " 4,526

Fifth •' 1,497

Sixth " 1,498-19,646

1880— First " 4,629

Second " 6,583

Third " 5,378

Fourth " 5,799

Fifth " 2,348

Sixth " 3,000-27,737

1890— First " 6,492

Second " 9,925

Third " 7,318

Fourth " 7,292

Fifth " 4,360

Sixth " 5,187-40,634


Brief Description of Erie — Its Streams, Streets, Buildings, Etc.-
SIGNS — City Finances.

-Local Divi-

ERIE CITY is beautifully situated on
the south shore of Presque Isle bay,
which forms its harbor, eighty-eight
miles west of Buffalo, and ninety-five
miles east of Cleveland, in the midst
of the very garden spot of the Lake Shore
region. The country immediately adjacent
to the city is a famous fruit, grape, grain
and berry section, and the climate is as
healthful as can be found anywhere in Amer-

ica. The bluff on which the city stands is
from fifty to seventy feet above the aver-
age surface of the bay, and from there the
land ascends by gentle degrees to a height of
over 200 feet in the southern portion. The
location is an ideal one for a city, affording
as it does, the best of facilities for drainage
and sewerage, combined with easy access to
all parts of the country, splendid markets and
rare opportunities for business and pleasure.


The area of the city is given in Hanlon's
Manual as nearly seven square miles, and it
contains more than 4,426^ acres.

By official measurements, the elevation of
the bluff along the bay front, beginning at
Parade street and running west on Second, is
as follows : Parade street, nineteen feet ;
German, fifty-eight ; Holland, fifty-nine ;
French, fifty-eight; State, fifty-six; Peach,
fifty-nine; Sassafras, sixty-three; Myrtle,
sixty-three ; Chestnut, sixty-seven ; Walnut,
seventy; Cherry, fifty; Poplar, sixty-one;
Liberty, seventy. Starting at Second street
and running south on State, the following are
the elevations : Second, fifty-six feet ; Third,
sixty-five; Fourth, seventy-one ; Fifth, seventy-
five; Sixth, seventy - seven ; Seventh, eighty -
two; Eighth, eighty-five ; Ninth, eighty-eight;
Tenth, ninety; Eleventh, ninety three; Twelfth,
ninety-five. Crossing over from State to Peach
street and following the latter southward,
Thirteenth street has an elevation above the
bay of 100 feet ; Fourteenth, 104; Sixteenth,
120; Eighteenth, 126; Twenty-first, 144;
Twenty-second, 157; and Twenty-fifth, 194;
while the bottom of the reservoir on Twenty-
sixth street is 210 feet.


The site is divided into two distinct water-
sheds by the stream of Mill creek, which flows
through a ravine of considerable depth, ex-
tending the entire width of the city from
north to south. Other streams within the
city limits are: Garrison run, Cascade run,
Little Cascade run and the Lighthouse run.
All of these empty into the bay from the high
lands in the south, and have cut quite formid-
able ravines in the bluff' at and for some dis-
tance above their mouths. Mill creek received
its name because it furnished water for the
first mill in the county ; Garrison run because
it passed through the military reservation or
garrison grounds ; the two Cascade runs from
the falls in their course just before entering the
bay, and Lighthouse run on account of passing
near the land lighthouse. Lee's run and
Ichabod run, once sparkling little streams, have
been taken into the sewers — the latter into
the one which follows the line of the old canal,
between Peach and Sassafras streets, and the
other at Seventeenth street. Ichabod run,
which was a tributary of Mill creek, furnished

motive power for a brewery, distillery and
woolen factory.


The city has nearly 106 miles of streets
opened and in use, of which 19.438 miles had
been paved up to August, 1895. The material
used in paving, not including the work done
in 1895, was as follows : Stone, 6.951 miles;
sheet asphalt, 9.274 miles; vitrified brick,

The names of the thoroughfares within and
adjacent to the city limits, as given on the
map at the water office, are as follows :

North and South Streets.
Ash, Gilson, Perry,

Brandes, Harrison, Plum,

Brewster, Hazel, Poplar,

Cascade, Hess, Raspberry,

Caldwell road. Hickory, Reed,

Cedar, Holland, Ross,

Cochran, Kellogg-, Sassafras,

Cherry, Liberty, ScouUer,

Chestnut, North avenue. State,

Cottage avenue. Maple (E. side), Vine,
Cranberry, Maple (S. Erie), Wallace,

Division, Myrtle, Walnut,

East avenue, Newman, Wayne,

Elm, Parade, Wilson,

Evans, Payne, Wood.

French, Peach,

German, Penn,

East and Wist Streets.

Front, Eighteenth, Atkins,

Second, Nineteenth, Burton,

Third, Twentieth, Canal,

Fourth, Twenty-first, Center,

Fifth. Twenty-second, Columbus.

Sixth, Twenty-third, EUott,

Seventh, Twenty-fourth, Huron,

Eighth, Twenty-fifth, Lake road,

Ninth, Twenty-sixth, McCarter,

Tenth, Twenty-seventh Nagle,

Eleventh, Twenty-eighth, Park Place (N.),

Twelfth, Twenty-ninth, Park Place (S.),

Thirteenth, Thirtieth, Prospect,

Fourteenth, Thirty-first, Queen,

Fifteenth, Thirty-second, Ritner,

Sixteenth, Thirty-third, Short,

Seventeenth, Thirty-fourth, South.

Diagonal Streets.

Brown's avenue. Orchard avenue.

Bluff road. Railroad,

Buifalo road, Scott,

Chestnut lane, Summit,

Eliot avenue. Turnpike,

French road. Turnpike road(S. Peach),

Horton, Warfel,

Hill road, Waterford plank road,

Marvin avenue, Waterford avenue,

Moorhead, Wattsburg road.



State street, including Nortii :ind South
Park Places, is the main business thoroughfare
of the city. The next in importance are
Parade street, in the German section. Turn-
pike street, and Peach street, from Twelfth to
Twentj-sixth. State and Parade, being wide,
straight, nearly level streets, are admirably-
adapted for the purpose to which they have
been placed. A large business is also done on
north French, west Eighth, west Eighteenth
and a part of Sassafras streets.

The finest residence streets are Sixth,
Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and
Twenty-first, running east and west, and Sas-
safras, Myrtle, Chestnut and Walnut extend-
ing north and south, on which are some as
handsome homes as can be found in any city
twice the size of Erie. Elegant residences,
however, are to be found on a number of other
streets ; and several of these bid fair to com-
pete in course of time with the present favor-
ites. The homes of the middle and work-
ing classes are generally neat, handsome and
comfortable. Indeed, it is a subject of re-
mark, that an untidy or unprepossessing home
is the exception rather than the rule in Erie,
and that the working people are better housed
than many of the rich in other communities.
On most of the residence streets pretty little
grass plots line the outer edge of the side-
walks, and there is scarcely a locality, apart
from the business sections, that is not bounti-
fully shaded.

The city contains four parks within its
limits, proper, viz. : Central, at the intersec-
tion of Sixth and State streets ; Cascade, at
West Sixth and Liberty streets ; Lakeside, on
Front, between German and Sassafras streets ;
and the park surrounding the water-works.
All of these will be treated of at more length
in another chapter.


A number of the street names have been
changed from what they were originally.

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 64 of 192)