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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 67 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 67 of 192)
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82; John Eberle, 1883, to September, 1890;
J. R. Jordan, September, 1890, to date.

City Electrician. — William Crane, May,
1892, to date.

Building Inspector. — (Appointed by the
Mayor) Charles N. Spencer, 1895.

Water, Eire and Police Ojfcials.^A list
of the principal officers in the Water, Fire and
Police Departments will be found in the en-
suing chapter.

School Officials. — For an account of the
School Board and public schools of the city,
see chapter on Schools and Academies.

Park Superintendents. — A list of the Park
Superintendents will be found in the chapter
describing the Public Parks.


The following is a full list of the persons
whose commissions as Justices of the Peace
and Aldermen within the city limits have been
recorded at the courthouse since 1823, and
the dates when first commissioned :

A— Adam Acheson, April 18, 1878.

B— A. W. Brewster, October 26, 1837.


Gideon J. Ball, March 8, 1838.
E. P. Bennett, April 12, 1866.
Geo. D. Buckley, April 20, 1871.
James R. Burns, March 17, 1877.
C— A. A. Craig, April 16, 1853.

E. Camphausen, April 13, 1859.
Frederick Curtze, April 10, 1860.
Samuel Cummins, April 11, 1865.
Thos. Crowley, March 18, 1875.
Clark M. Cole, April 8, 1886.

D— T. F. Downing, April 14, 1857.

M. Detzel, April 20, 1871.

P. Diefenbach, April 15, 1873.

Albert T- Doerr, April 16, 1895.
E— G. A. Ebisch, April 20, 1871.
F— A. B. Foster, March 8, 1888.

John Ferrier. April 11, 1876.

A. A. Freeman, April 9, 1881.
G— E. D. Gunnison, March 15, 1825.

Henry Gingrich, April 13, 1853.

Geo. W. Gunnison, April 12, 1864.

Geo. P. Griffith, November 6, 1869.
H— Richard O. Hulbert. Julv 1, 1832.

Christian Heck, April 14, 1840.

P. B. Honecker, April 14, 1868.
Tos. P. Hollen, May 18, 1892.
I— Gustav Jarecki, May 24, 1862.
k— Wm. Kellev, August 1, 1828.

Geo. Kellogg. April 14, 1840.

F. W. Koehler, April 14, 1863.
Wilson King, March 14, 1874.
Jos. W. Kelso, July 6, 1878.
Julius Koenig, September 21, 1885.

L— Wilson Laird, May 10, 1852.

F. P. Liebel, April 25, 1871.
M — George Moore, March 26, 1828.

James McConkev, Nov. 27, 1835.

M. M. Moore, ISIarch 14, 1874.

Daniel McMahon, December 3, 1883.
P— Halsey Pelton, April 11, 1848.
R — Louis Rosenweig, April 9, 1872.
S— Giles Sanford, December 13, 1823.

Jos. M. Sterrett, January 15, 1886.
James Skinner, April 20, 1871.

S. Merwin Smith, April 10, 1849.

John Sweeney, June 25, 1850.

F. Schlaudecker, March 18, 1875.

C. Swalley, April 11, 1876.

H. H. Strieker, April 5, 1888.

Jacob E. Swap, April 16, 1894.
T— John A. Tracy, April 10, 1849.

Wm. Thornton, June 21, 1855.
W— Sam Woods, April 11, 1876.
Z— Reinhard Zimmer, April 6, 1883.


The City Manual for 1895 gives the follow-
ing as the annual salaries of the city officers
and employes named for the year 1895. The
salaries paid in the Water, Fire and Police
Departments will be found elsewhere :

Gcicra! List.

Mayor $2,000

City Controller 1,500

City Controller's Clerk 480

City Treasurer 3,000

City Solicitor 1,500

City Solicitor's Clerk 600

City Assessor (SI, 200 triennial year) each... 600

City Health Officer 1,200

Health Officer's Clerk 600

City Clerk 1,140

Assistant City Clerk 1,140

Sergeant-at-Arms 780

Harbor Master 300

Superintendent of Central Park 540

Pound Keeper 540

City Electrician 720

Building- Inspector 720

Cifv Engineer'' s Department.

City Engineer $2,250

Deputy City Engineer 1,300

City Engineer's Clerk 1,080

First Assistant Engineer 900

Second Assistant Engineer 900

Rodman 720

Rodman 600

Chainman 600

Axeman 540

.Street Department.

Superintendent of Streets $ 840

Superintendent of Sidewalks 840

Ward Foreman, 20 cents an hour while actually

Laborers, 17>^ cents per hour while actually en-
Teams. 40 cents per hour while actually engaged.


Water, Fire and Police Departments.

THE earliest step towards securing a
public supply of water for Erie was
in 1835, when the borough was au-
thorized by act of Assembly to borrow
SfSO.OOO for the purpose. The pro-
ject was never carried out, and the town
continued to depend for fire protection, as it
had for a number of years, upon wells or tanks
sunk at the intersections of the principal
streets. In dry seasons men with carts some-
times supplied the citizens with water from
the springs, streams, bay or lake, according to
the use it was intended for.

In 1840 or '41 the city constructed its first
" water works," if such they can be called.
They consisted of lines of pump-logs laid in
some of the most thickly built-up streets. The
supply was taken from a large spring on the
Reed farm, south of Eighteenth street and
west of Parade. Though comparatively in-
significant, these simple gravity works were
very useful in their day. They gradually
ceased to be used, and were totally discontin-
ued when the supply of the Reed House was
taken from the present works.


In 1858 a movement was made in Councils
to supercede the pump-log system with some-
thing more in accordance with the demands of
the people. After making a preliminary
survey, the matter was allowed to rest until
1865, when, by an act of the Legislature, John
W. Shannon and certain other citizens, were in
corporated under the name and style of the
" Erie Water and Gas Company." The
company shortly afterward organized in ac-
cordance with the provisions of the general
law of the State relative to the formation and
organization of gas and water companies, ap-
proved March 11, 1857. By their charter the
Erie Water and Gas Company were privileged
to have a capital of .$100,000, to build and
maintain gas and water works, to increase the

capital to an amount sufficient to cover the
cost of erecting works, and to furnish and
contract to furnish water and gas to individual
persons, corporations, etc. The Mayor and
Councils of the city of Erie and the Commis-
sioners of Erie county were authorized to con-
tract with said company for supplies of water
and gas.

On the 16th of July, 1866, the City Coun-
cils appointed a committee to engage the ser-
vices of a competent engineer " to examine
and report plans for both sewerage and
water." H. P. M. Birkinbine, of Philadel-
phia, was secured, and made a report Febru-
ary 23, 1867, which put the cost of erecting
water works at $350,000, the supply to be
taken from the bay. March 9, 1867, the
Erie Gas Company, then, as now, supplying
light to the city, secured an act supplementary
to their charter, authorizing them, in con-
formity with the provisions of the gen-
eral law of March 11, 1857, to introduce
water wherever they were authorized to in-
troduce gas. This was done as a sort of
checkmate to the new company.


Two days after this act had been approved
by the Governor, the Cit}' Councils passed a
resolution directing the Mayor to enter into a
contract with the Erie Water and Gas Com-
pany to supply the city with water for fire
purposes for twenty years, from July 1, 1868,
or as soon thereafter as the works could be
completed, provided it should not be later
than two years from the date of said contract ;
if not completed within that period the con-
tract to be null and void. By this contract it
was to be stipulated that the city should pay
a yearly rental of $9,000 for fifty fire plugs,
and the contract was to be further subject to
the following conditions, viz. : that the said
water and gas company should commence
building within one year from the date of con-



tract; and that, if within one year from the
date thereof, tlie city should begin the con-
struction of water works of sufficient capacity
to supply the wants of the community, said
contract should be annulled. The city was to
have the right at any time within five years
to purchase the works of the company on cer-
tain specified terms. The contract thus pro-
posed was duly entered into, but was never
carried out.


The scheme of taking water from the bay
was strongly opposed by a large number of
citizens, who advocated a resoit to the springs
on the ridge south of Erie, and other streams
rising on the same ridge or near it, or to Mill
creek, or to the head waters of French creek, or
to Lake Pleasant. It was argued that the water
of the bay, on account of its liability to con-
tamination from the inflow of sewers and of
the canal, then in operation, was not fit, or
at least not likely long to remain fit, for use
for drinking and culinary purposes, and it was
further urged, as a great objection to the
plan, that the cost of pumping would be
large and continuous.

The other side contended that there were
no springs of sufficient size to give an ade-
quate supply ; that the nearby streams were
no purer, or would not be for any length of
time, than the bay water; that Lake Pleasant
was a small body, which would be exhausted
as the city grew in size, and besides, would
require a pumping station, the same as if the
supply were taken from the bay ; and that the
pumpage from the bay would cost no more in
the lorg run than would the dams, reservoirs,
etc., which it would be necessary to construct
in order to bring in and render available by
gravity, at a head sufficient to serve all pur-
poses, the water of the various sources named.

The strife about these, and questions of pav-
ing, sewerage, etc., was carried on with consid-
erable feeling, and several public meetings
were held to discuss the points in dispute. The
Mayor's election of 1867, when Orange Noble
was chosen, was made to turn mainly upon
this issue. It resulted in the triumph of the
party in favor of immediate and extensive
city improvement.


Strengthened by the verdict of the elec-
tion, the friends of the present system of

water works immediately applied to the Leg-
islature for an act authorizing their construc-
tion. The act of April 4th, 1807, followed.
It is entitled " A further supplement to the
charter of the city of Erie, to provide for the
appointment of Water Commissioners, and
to define their powers and duties." This act
made it the duty of the Judge of the Court of
Common Pleas to appoint three persons as
Commissioners of Water Works — one to
serve one year, one two years, and one three
years — and one to be named annually there-
after at the May term of Court. The first
appointees were William L. Scott, Henry
Rawle and William W. Reed. On June 29,

1867, the Board was permanently organized
by the election of William W. Reed as Pres-
ident, and the appointment of William
Brewster as Secretary. Mr. Birkinbine was
selected as the engineer to plan and superin-
tend the construction of the works. After
examining the plans used in several cities, the
Commissioners adopted that in operation in
Detroit, Mich., but in September it was
abandoned for the present system.


The location of the works at the foot of
Chestnut street was agreed upon in Novem-
ber, and in the same month a contract for a
pair of " Cornish Bull " engines was made
with the West Engine Company, of Norris-
town. Pa. In December the contract for the
stand-pipe was awarded to the Erie Cit)- Iron
Works, and early in 1868 contracts were let
for the buildings, including the stand-pipe
tower, to John M. Kuhn, and for the
crib work of the inlet or conduit from the
bay, to James Dunlap. The excavation
for the foundation was commenced April 7,

1868, and from that time the work of con-
struction made steady and rapid progress.
The raising of the iron stand-pipe, a straight
wrought-iron tube five feet in diameter and
217 feet high, was a feat worthy of special
record. It was accomplished in a way sug-
gested by George Selden, of the Erie City
Iron Works, by the use of heavy blocks and
tackle rigged on a derrick. The top of the
pipe was first raised a short distance and
stayed. The next lower section was then put
on, and so, section by section, until the full
height of the pipe was reached. Around this
pipe the brick tower was afterward built. It


rests on a very heavy foundation of stone,
octagonal in stiape, which extends with taper-
ing sides to a height of thirty-one feet above
the level of the lake. Its base area is a circle
of twenty-four feet. Forty-five feet above the
top of this foundation — the intervening dis-
tance being built of brick — is a belt course of
stone five feet high, and from thence the
stand-pipe is a circle, inside of which is a
spiral staircase to the top of the platform,
which is fourteen feet in diameter, enclosed by
a substantial iron railing for the safety of
visitors. The tower is lighted by nine win-
dows. It is claimed that the stand-pipe is the
highest for its purpose in the world. By ad-
ditions made since the original stand-pipe was
erected, its height above the zero level of the
bay is nearly 260 feet.


In 1870 the Commissioners called the atten-
tion of the Cit)' Councils to the immediate
necessity of purchasing a site for a reservoir.
This recommendation resulted the next year in
the purchase of about seven acres of land from
the Cochran estate, on the south side of
Twenty-sixth street, between Chestnut and
Cherry. The work was completed in 1874.
The bottom of the reservoir is 210 feet above
the surface of the bay ; the height of its sides
is twenty-eight feet perpendicular, and it holds
about 34,000,000 gallons, or enough for six
days' supply to the city, under average condi-
tions, with the present population. The water
is forced to the reservoir from the pumping
station through two pipes, one twenty inches
and the other thirty inches in diameter.


The first engines purchased — two in num-
ber — were of the kind known as the "Cornish
Bull Engine," originally designed by the
celebrated inventor, James Watt. Their
pumping capacity is, single, 2,500,000 gallons
per day ; double, 4,000,000.

In 1885 the Commissioners became con-
vinced that the limit of safety in the matter
of water supply had been almost reached, and
that an additional pump must be provided.
The following year a contract was made with
the Holly Manuwicturing Company, of Lock-
port, N. Y., for a Gaskill engine of 5,000,000
gallons capacity per diem. The contract

price was $24,850 for engine and foundation.
The work of building a new engine house and
placing the new pumping engine in position
was completed early in 1887, and the
machine accepted June 11 of the same year.
The engine is one of the most wonderful in
existence, having performed a duty that has
seldom or never been surpassed.

In 1892, the demands upon the works re-
quiring more pumping capacity, the Commis-
sioners contracted for a Worthington hori-
zontal compound condensing high duty en-
gine, of 12,000,000 gallons capacity, the price,
set in place, to be $46,300. An additional
engine house, to accommodate the new engine,
was built in 1893, and the engine itself was
accepted January 6, 1894.


The original intake pipe extended but a
short distance into the bay. In the fall and
winter of 1895 a new and larger pipe was
laid to deep water in the bay, with the ulti-
mate purpose of carrying it through the pen-
insula into the open lake. It is made of
wrought iron and laid in a trench, dug by
steam dredges, in the bottom of the bay.
The size of the pipe is sixty inches interior
diameter, and its length will be 8,200 feet, to
twenty-three feet of water in Big Bend.

The improvement of the grounds around
the works, resulting in a beautiful little park,
was begun in 1883, under Commissioners Lie-
bel, Sherwin and Whitman.

The cost of constructing the works, up to
December 31, 1894, inclusive of street piping,
fire hydrants, house connections, etc., was
$1,311,781, of which $685,677, in bonds,
were advanced by the city, which were sub-
ject, when sold, to a considerable discount.
The balance of the cost has been paid from
the net earnings of the works.

The gallons of water pumped each year
were 384,062,415 in 1873; 815,939,685 in
1883; and 1,816,596,518 in 1894.

The receipts from water rents were $25,-
500 in 1873; $48,269 in 1888; and $111,822
in 1894 — the latter sum being collected, with
slight changes, under the rules and regula-
tions adopted by the Board in 1885.

The length of water mains in the streets of
the city was a little over 89 miles in 1894, and
the number of fire hydrants set in place 479.



One Water Commissioner is appointed by
the Court of Erie county in May of each
year. The Commissioners from the begin-
ning of the works have been as follows : i

1867 to 'G8 — Wm. L. Scott.

1867 to '72— Henry Rawle.

1867 to '79— Wm. W. Reed.

1868 to '72— John C. Selden.

• 1876 to '77— Matthew R. Barr.
1872 to '78 — John Gensheimer.

1877 to '81— iVI. Liebel.

1878 to '81— J. M. Bryant.

1879 to '85— G. W. F. Sherwin.
1881 to '87 — Benjamin Whitman.

1885 to '90— George W. Starr.

1886 to '91— C. Kessler.

1887 to date— C. J. Brown.

1891 to date — Wm. Hardwick.

1892 to date— T. W. Shacklett.

The Secretaries and Treasurers of the
Board have been as follows : Wm. Brewster,
appointed June 14, 18()7 ; Joh" C. Perkins,
October 26, 1868; B. F. Sloan, January 1,
1879; William Himrod, June 1, 1891 (present

The official who has been longest in the
employ of the department is George C. Gens-
heimer, who was appointed Clerk April, 1877,
and promoted to be Assistant Secretary in


The salaries paid the Water Commission-
ers and their principal employes in 1895 were
given as below in the City Manual for that
year :

Commissioners — Wm. Hardwick 1 $4.00

C. J. Brown - per day,

T. W. Shacklett )

Secretary and Treasurer— Wm. Himrod. $2,000.00
Assistant Secretary — Geo. C. Gens-
heimer 1.440.00

Bookkeepers — John Kolb 1,080.00

R. H. Bear 960.00

W. W. Todd 840.00

Clerk— M. L. Whitley 660.00

Inspectors— John D. Spaflford 815.00

Wm. McCleery 780.00

P. F. Weinheimer 780.00

Meter Taker— Perrv E. Thurber 780.00

Supt. of Street Work— R. T. Walker. . . 1,320.00

per day 2.7S

Foremen of Street Work— Fred'k Sim-
ons and Fred'k D. Gross, each,

per day 2.75

Chief Engineer— F. A. Roth 1,320.00

Assistant Engineers— Geo. R. Miller. . . 960.00

John Kelly 960.00

Firemen— R. W. Simons 660.00

Joseph Burns 660.00

Jacob Mullen 660.00

Watchman at Pumping Station— Michael

Flynn 660.00

Janitor at Pumping Station — Nathan

Block 600.00

Keeper of Reservoir— Samuel Phister.. 480.00


The earliest movement of which there is
any record to secure fire protection in Erie
was on February 22, 1826. when tiie Active
Fire Company was organized. Its roll of
membership included nearly all the grown
male residents of the borough. R. S. Reed
was president and chief engineer; Daniel
Dobbins, second engineer; E. D. Gunnison,
secretary, and John Riddell, treasurer. The
company was first furnished with buckets, but
subsequently the town purchased a small fire
engine, which did service for some years. Its
supply of water was taken from wells and
tanks sunk at the street intersections.

Other companies of later date were as fol-
low : Red Jacket Fire Company No. 1, or-
ganized in 1837 ; Perry and Eagle Fire Com-
panies, in 1889; Mechanics, No. 3, in
1844; Vulcan, in 1848; Phffinix Hook and
Ladder Company, in 1852 : Parade Street
Company, in 1861.

The first city fire organization with gen-
eral officers was formed in 1851, but was not
very eff'ective. As the population increased
and fires became more numerous, the people
grew clamorous for a more efficient fire or-
ganization. In 1861 the steamer "Ke^-stone,"
a third-class Amoskeag, was purchased and
used for a period of twenty years when it was
sold to parties in Conneaut, Ohio. Some time
afterward the steamer " McLane," named
after Erie's gallant soldier-citizen. Col. John
W. McLane, was procured. This was ultimate-
ly sold to the Silsby Manufacturing Company,
of Seneca Falls, N. Y., in part payment for
the steamer "D. T. Jones,'" of that make.


The fire apparatus of the city was operated
under a volunteer system until March, 1871,
when the latter was replaced by a paid de-
partment, which has been growing in effi-


ciency ever since. Under the system then
adopted, it has increased its facilities until it
embraced the following apparatus in 1895:


No. 1. — Style, New American ; located on
Fifth street, between State and French. Ac-
cepted October 12, 1894.

No. 2. — Amoskeag ; located on Parade
street, between Eleventh and Twelfth. Ac-
cepted September, 1893.

No. 3. — Silsby ; located on Peach street,
between Thirteenth and Fourteenth. Ac-
cepted June 2, 1882.

No. 7. — LaFrance ; located at the south-
west corner of Twenty-sixth and Peach streets.
Accepted January 12th, 1891.

Two steamers in reserve — one a remodeled
Silsby (the old D. T. Jones), accepted Febru-
ary 1, 1894, and the other a Manning, accept-
ed April 19, 1895, are located temporarily on
Nineteenth street, between Myrtle and Chest-


One located on Fifth street, between State
and French.

One located on Parade street, between
Eleventh and Twelfth.

One located on Peach street, between
Twentieth and Twenty-first.

One located on Nineteenth street, between
Myrtle and Chestnut.

One at the northwest corner of Fiftii and

One at the southwest corner of Twenty-
sixth and Peach.


One located on Peach street, between
Thirteenth and Fourteenth.


One located on Peach, bet\\een Thirteenth
and Fourteenth streets.


One of Holloway's make, located on Peach
street, between Thirteenth and Fourteenth.

Two six gallon Babcock fire extinguishers
and a twenty-five-foot splice ladder have been
placed on each of the hose wagons, and an
extinguisher of the same size on the hose reel.


The department owns six brick buildings,
the locations of which are sufficiently indica-
ted above. The house on Peach, between
Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets, is the de-
partment headquarters. The first floor in each
building is used for the apparatus, and the
second for dormitories, etc. The rooms are
neatly furnished with comfortable beds ; also
with tables, chairs and other necessary articles.
The men sleep in the houses and are ready at
any moment for an emergency. When an
alarm of fire is sounded the firemen do not wait
to reach the stairs, but spring to a man-hole
in the second floor, and, grasping an iron rod,
slide to the ground floor. The poles of the
steamers, etc., are elevated with the harness
attached. The intelligent horses are so well
trained that they rush to their places under
the harness before the cart or engine, and by
the time the driver reaches the floor they are
in position. The touch of a spring fastens
the harness and throws the door wide open at
the same time, and in less than twenty seconds
they are on their way to the fire at full speed.

The several engine houses were built as
follows: No. 1 alsout 1862 (remodeled in
1870) ; No. 2 in 1876 ; No. '6 in 1873 ; No. 4 in
1872; No. 5 in 1870; No. 6 in 1881 ; No. 7 in


The department as now organized is com-
posed of sixty-five officers and men, thirty-
two being uniformed and regular members,
and thirty-three minute or call men. The
force is made up as follows ;

One chief, salary

One assistant chief

Four steamer eng-ineers, each
Four steamer stolcers, each , . .







One extra man 720

Three reg-ular men (chemical eng-ine) each. 720

Twenty-nine minute men or call men, each 200

The salary list for 1895 amounted to

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 67 of 192)