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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 87 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 87 of 192)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

pany would have been warranted in going
500 or 1,000 feet further into the bowels of
the earth.


The usually insignificant stream of Mill
creek, which flows nearly through the center
of the city, is subject to sudden and sometimes
destructive floods.

In 1878, James Dods worth and daughter,
who lived near the creek on Seventh street,
were drowned by an extraordinary rise in the

In May, 1893, an unprecedented fall of
rain swelled the creek into a torrent. The
bridges and culverts became clogged, and the
stream was forced out of its channel in several



places. On the night of May 16th, it broke
over Eighteenth street, and a large body of
water ran down French street nearly to
Eleventh, tearing up the asphalt paving and
the sidewalks and driving many families out
of their homes. A boy named Jacob Heberle
was drowned, and various persons narrowly
escaped death. It was estimated that the
damage to property along the stream amounted
to $100,000. The city suffered a loss of quite
$15,000 in injuries to bridges, culverts and
streets. A number of people had to be re-
lieved by the public and were generously
cared for by the ladies of the Erie Bureau of
Charities and other kind-hearted citizens.


Probably the two greatest eflorts for char-
ity in the history of the city were made by the
Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks — the
first in the form of a fair, and the second in the
shape of a charity edition of the Daily Hera/ J.
The fair was held in the Central Market House
during the month of January, 1894, and the So-
ciety was aided by the ladies of a number of the
city churches. The cash receipts were
$5,130.51, and the disbursements $451.53,
leaving a net profit of $4,678.98, which was
placed in the treasury of the Bureau of Chari-
ties. Donations of packages for the worthy
poor were received, in addition, to the value
of $1,000.00.

The Elks' Charity Herald was printed on
April 23, 1895, and reached a circulation of
some 50,000 copies. It embraced thirtj'-two
pages of the usual size of the Daily Herald,
all of the matter in which was written and
edited by the Elks and their friends. The
Treasurer of the Erie Bureau of Charities re-
ceived a check for $2,420.50, the net proceeds
of the enterprise.

The Order of Elks is entitled to unusual
credit for inaugurating and carrying out to a
successful conclusion the most notable charity
undertakings ever known in the city.


The earliest musical convention in Erie of
which any record is at hand was held in 1855,
under the direction of W. H. Bradbury. Later
ones were conducted by Profs. Taylor, Emer-
son, Webster, Palmer and Root. The Erie
Liedertafel was organized September 2, 1862,
being an outgrowth of the Arion Society, a
small German organization. Prof. Charles

Diefenbach was the first Director of the Lieder-
tafel. The Union Musical Association, or-
ganized in 1868, and conducted in succession
by L. M. Little and G. F. Brierly, was a no-
table institution in its day. The Orpheus
Society, still in existence, was founded in No-
vember, 1878, with Henry Catlin as President
and G. F. Brierly as Director. An association
under the name of the Harugari Maennerchor
was started in January, 1872, which was
changed to the Erie Ma;nnerchor in 1875. The
Ladies' society, in connection therewith was
formed in 1885. The lot on State street upon
which the building of the Maennerchor stands
was bought about 1887, and the corner stone
laid in 1889. Among other musical societies
have been the Teutonia, with Prof. John
Eckert as Director, and the Schurzo, of which
F. Brevillier was President.

The latest musical organizations of promi-
nence (not otherwise noted) have been the
Erie Conservatory of Music, organized in
June, 1898, with G. W. Hunt as Director and
Miss Laura Carroll Dennis as vocal teacher ;
the Erie Church Musical Society, organized
September 14, 1894, with H. N." Redman as
Director; and the Erie Vocal Society, organized
in October, 1894, with H. J. Fellows as Director.
The Conservatory of Music, which atone time
seemed quite flourishing, was discontinued in
August, 1895. During its short career it de-
veloped some of tiie finest musical talent now
in the city.

Two other well-known organizations were
in existence in 1895, viz. : The Crecilian
Qiiintette, formed in 1891, composed of Mrs.
Geo. B. Swaney, Mrs. P. E. Eggleston, Mrs.
C. C. Colby, jr., H. R. Barnhurst and Geo. E.
Barger; and the Schumann Qiiartette, formed
in 1893, with Mrs. J. P. Covert, Mrs. C. W.
McKean, Mrs. VV. H. F. Nick and Miss
Louisa Whitehead as its members.

Of the early bands, the best remembered
was that led by M. W. Mehl, which was in
existence when tlie war broke out, and accom-
panied the troops to the front. Sometime dur-
ing the war or soon after, Anton Knoll started
his famous band, and long remained its leader.
It was allowed to run down, but was reorgan-
ized in the fall of 1895.


A contract was made by the County Com-
missioners on the 27th of October, 1829, for



twenty to eighty cords of stone at if5 per cord.
David Kennedy, on tiie date last mentioned,
offered to furnish 100,000 brick for the pro-
posed new jail at $3.25 per thousand. This offer
was thought to be too high and was not ac-
cepted. On the 24th of September, 1835, the
County Commissioners contracted for 100
cords of " good, dry, hard wood," at $1.12^
per cord. Subsequent contracts were made
as follows: $1.50 per cord in 1837; $1.45 in
1840; $1.25 in the fall of 1841 ; $1.06^ in the
fall of 1842. The 'brick for the courthouse
were furnished in 1852, by Daniel Youngs, at
$3.87i per thousand.

When Gunnison's tannery was built, in
1857, wages were much lower than now.
Common laborers received from fifty to sev-
enty-five cents per day, and carpenters $1.25.
Bricklayers received $1.75 per thousand for lay-
ing brick. It may be safely stated that wages
and salaries have advanced in Erie since 1860
from twenty-five to fifty per cent.

A noteworthy feature of the iron manu-
facture in prie is tiie difference in prices be-
tween the early GO's and to-day. " The class
and capacity of engine and boiler that twenty
years ago commanded $2,800 to $3,000 as the
purchase price can now be bought of equal
capacity and superior finish for $450 to $500.
The difference in cost is the result of cheaper
material, better facilities for manufacturing,
and the more general application of machin-
ery in all processes of manufacture."

" The extremes in prices of flour reached
within the last thirty-five years have been
equally remarkable. Within that time a bar-
rel of flour, of average grade, has been sold
for twenty-two dollars, and the same grade
for $3.60. The high price was of course
largely owing to the war, while the low price
was the result of general business depression
and abundant crops."


Up to twenty or twenty-five years ago the
peninsula abounded in cranberries, the pro-
tection of which was carefully looked after.
An act of Assembly imposed a fine of not less
than ten dollars, nor more than twenty-five
dollars, on any person who should gather
cranberries between July and October. The
first Tuesday of October was "Cranberry
day," a great event in olden times. Large
parties would cross the bay the night before

and remain until morning. The event was
regarded as a general holiday, and awaited as
eagerly as the Fourth of July or Christmas.


The following were the pioneers of Erie in
their respective trades : Jonas Duncan and
John Teel, carpenters ; Peter Growotz, mason
and bricklaj'er ; Robert Kendall, cooper ; John
Morris, hatter ; Thomas .Stewart and Archi-
bald McSparren, tailors. There was no regu-
lar copper or brass smith until 1822, when
Charles Lay opened a shop on the south side
of East Park.

TAXES IN 1820.

The total borough tax in 1820, as shown by
the duplicate of that year, was $ 1 75.20. Ruf us
S. Reed stood highest in valuation of real
estate, viz. : $6,798, followed bv the heirs of
John Kelso with $3,740; P. S. V. Hamot,
$8,120; Tiidah Colt, $2,940; John W. Bell,
$2,052 ; Giles Sanford, $2,012 ; Thomas Laird,
$1,579; Samuel Hays, $1,552; Benjamin Wal-
lace, $1,461 ; heirs of William Wallace, $985;
Thomas H. Sill, $730. The corner where the
Dime Si^vings Bank stands, with the build-
ings then occupying it, was valued at $1,600;
the four lots occupied by the Reed House and
Ellsworth House, at $656; the Teel House
with two lots, on Peach, from Ninth to Tenth
streets, at $290; house and two lots, corner of
Seventh and Sassafras, at forty-nine dol-
lars; Farmers' Hotel, Fifth and French
streets. $587; lot corner French and Sec-
ond, $850; Dobbins' house and lot, $575;
two lots of George A. Eliot, corner
of Peach and Sixth, present site of Mrs.
Strong's house, $300 ; the lot on which Carter's
and Murphy's stores stand, $150; house and
two lots, northeast corner of State and Tenth,
$164 ; sixteen lots, corner of Twelfth and Par-
ade, on the west side of the latter street,
sixty-four dollars ; thirty-two north of these,
$172. The lots on which the Exchange, Rin-
dernecht and other blocks stand, were pur-
chased by John Warren in 1824 for $300. Tax
was then collected by the High Constable.


Erie was originally nearly all at the mouth
of Mill creek. Travelers from the east entered
by Parade and East Sixth streets, the latter
intersecting the Lake road near the eastern



limits of the town. From Mill creek, the
town gradually extended up Second, Third,
Fourth, Fifth and Sixth streets to French,
which was lontj the main business artery.


A custom prevailed, prior to 1810, which
required every man to spend each Saturday
afternoon in grubbing out stumps from the
streets. There was also an ordinance in opera-
tion until June, 1846, requiring every person
who got on a spree to dig three stumps from
the highway as a penalty. Whether it had a
tendency to decrease intemperance, the ancient
chronicles fail to relate.


In 1818 there was a fine drive on the sand
beach of the bay, from State street to the
mouth of Cascade creek. It had been used
for several years,' and was a favorite resort
among those who were fortunate enough to
possess a saddle horse or suitable turnout.
With all the talk of late years about low water
in the lake, it is doubtful if it has been worse
than in seasons long ago. The average depth
of water in both bay and lake depends very
much upon the rainfall along the entire upper


This popular organization was founded on
the 12th of September, 1888, by a number of
gentlemen living in the city and neighboring
townships. Its first exhibition was held on
that date, and it continued giving displays of
fruits and flowers at intervals of one, two or
three months until 1891. In the latter year it
organized an annual chrysanthemum exhibit,
and continued the same till 1894, when a gen-
eral display of flowers was made. L. H. Couse
has been President and G. Lyman Moody
Secretary of the society from its organization.


The ruins of a large brick structure, erected
near the eastern end of the peninsula long
prior to American occupation, were still to be
seen in 1795. Who its builders were, or what
the purpose of its erection was, is unknown.


The letter carrier system was introduced
into Erie on April 1, 1867, under the postmas-

tership -of Judge Sterrett. The first carriers
were Phineas Wheeler, Jacob Rindernecht,
Peter W. Smith, Thomas Lee, George Mo-
meyer, George Mallory and Spencer H. Booth.


This valuable publication, which may be
said to be one of the " institutions " of Erie,
was commenced by W. P. Atkinson in June,
1871, and has been printed by the same gen-
tleman ever since. It is issued regularly in
June of each year. The first Directory of the
city was published in the spring of 1860, by
H. W. Hulbert, who conducted a small job


The Lake Shore Masonic Relief Associa-
tion was organized April 16, 1872, for the pur-
pose of more effectually assisting the widows
and orphans of worthy brethren. By the pay-
ment of a small assessment, the family of each
deceased member received a considerable sum
in case of his death. Its secretaries (who were
the executive officers) at various periods were :
E. A. Simons, A. A. Adams, Dr. W. H. Luce
and Wm. Himrod. The association was dis-
solved by the action of its board of directors
in the latter part of 1891.


Among the best known artists have been
Moses Billings, who was long the leading
portrait painter, Mrs. I. B. Gara, Mrs. John
Abell, Miss Ella Babbitt, C. A. Prescott
and Miss Sara H. Woodruff. Miss Rosina
Hayt was long employed as teacher of
drawing in the High school. The first regular
art school was established by Miss L. O. Card,
now Mrs. Henry Catlin. The Sevins Art Store,
started in 1850, by J. T. Sevins, father of the
Sevins Bros., present owners, has been largely
instrumental in fostering a taste for fine paint-
ings and engravings. F. J. Bassett has been
longest in the photographic business of any
person now in the city. L. B. Chevalier was
for years the leading "general utility " artist.
He was a man of a good deal of skill in his line,
and gave his attention to all classes of work.


The first Masonic society in the city was
constituted September 1, 1814, and was
known as Lodge No. 124. Its officers were :



W. M., Giles Sanford; S. W., Rufus S.
Reed; J. W., John C. Wallace. The war-
rant of the Lodge was vacated for delinquency
March 7, 1825. Presque Isle Lodge, No.
235, the second in order, was constituted
March 13, 1849, having for its officers : W.
M, Wm. Flint; S. W., James C. Marshall:
J. W., W. W. Reed; Secretary, C. G. How-
ell ; Treasurer, Smith Jackson; Senior Dea-
con, Wm. Wyatt ; Junior Deacon, Daniel
Dobbins; Tyler, John Lantz. It disbanded
May 3, 1864. The dates of organization of
the later lodges will be found under the head-
ing of societies.


The ladies comprising this Order number
110 in the Erie diocese. Besides the paro-
chial schools previously referred to, they have
charge of the Villa Maria Academy, St.
Joseph's Orphan Asylum, St. Vincent's Hos-
pital and the Old Folk's Home. At their
annual retreat held in Erie on August 14,
1895, Sister Eugenie was elected Mother Su-
perior for the fourth time. The Mother Su-
perior is chosen every three years by a vote of
the sisterhood.


For many years Alfred King was the
largest buyer, seller and shipper of barley in
Erie. He established an ale brewery near
Twenty-sixth street and the cemetery, and a
malt house on Parade street, between Seven-
teenth and Eighteenth, which was afterward
operated by Birdsall & Parsons, Wm. Dens-
more, the Straus Brothers & Bell, of Balti-
more, and by Jacob Weschler. The property
is at present owned by the Straus estate, of
Baltimore. After closing out the Parade
street malt house, Mr. King started one at
Fourteenth and Holland streets, which was
subsequently operated by the Messrs. McCar-
ter, J. S. Riddle and others. It is now used
as a machine shop.

Mr. W^eschler, who was formerly an em-
ploye of Mr. King's, built a malt house on
West Ninth street in 1873, and erected the
original building of the mammoth enterprise
at Parade street and the Lake Shore R. R. in
1883. He was the most successful person in
Erie who ever engaged in the malt business,
which was probably due to his familiarity with
all of its details. Following Mr, King in ale

brewing came Downer & Howard, who have
always done a prosperous business. An ac-
count of the earlier breweries will be found in
the General Chapters devoted to manufac-
tories, and the history of the breweries at pres-
ent in operation is briefly given under the ap-
propriate heading in the portion of the work
relating to Erie city.


Among the early lumber dealers in Erie
were George Selden, William Truesdale,
Henry Jaques, Janes & Sanborn and William
Walker. The dealers of those days bought
most of their material from the country people
in the vicinity of the city, and shipped large
quantities by lake and canal to Hudson river
points. Some of the merchants also took
lumber from the farmers in exchange for
goods, money being scarce then, a man con-
sidering himself very fortunate if he could get
enough to pay his taxes. When the canal
was opened southward, great quantities of
lumber came to Erie from Girard, Lockport,
Albion, Conneautville, Spring Corners, Harts-
town and other places along its line.

Heman Janes, who continued the business
after Mr. Sanborn retired, sold out to Finn &
Stearns. The latter firm, in 1860, bought the
first cargo of pine lumber ever imported into
Erie from Canada. George and Thomas H.
Carroll located in Erie in 1866, and have con-
tinued the business ever since. They removed
to their present site in 1871. Other lumber
firms were Ketcham & Bannister, who started
about 1867; Wheeler & Hill, in 1869 or 1870,
and Clemens, White & Co., in 1871. Mr.
White withdrew from the latter firm in 1873,
and finally it fell solely into the hands of
James McBrier, who remained in the business
until the spring of 1888.

The first planing mill in Erie was fitted up
in an old building on Eleventh street, near
Holland, by the three Carter brothers, about
the year 1844. It was a sad and curious cir-
cumstance that two of the brothers each had
a hand cut off" by the rip-saw in the mill.
The next firm to start a planing mill was
Constable & Jones, whose business is contin-
ued by the Constable Bros.


It is interesting to note the affinity of pop-
ulation for the lines of travel. Before the era



of railroads Wattsburg, Waterford and Edin-
boro were the principal business marts out-
side of Erie city. The operation of the canal
built up Albion, Lockport, Girard and Fair-
view, but when that thoroughfare was aban-
doned their growth ceased. It is true they
had railroads near them, but not through
them. Corry, North East, Union City and
Mill Village have been created within a com-
paratively short time by railroads.


A large amount of Erie county capital is
employed in other counties and States. Will-
iam L. Scott, William A. Galbraith, J- F.
Downing, Addison Leech, W. B. Trask, T.
M. Walker, the Reeds, John C. Brady and
others of Erie ; L. Hammond and T. A. Allen,
of Corry ; Samson and Alfred Short, of North
East; W. C. Culbertson and R. S. Battles,
of Girard; and C. M. Wheeler, of LeBcEuf,
have large investments in various portions of
the United States, and some in Canada.


That Erie is a remarkably healthy locality
was strikingly manifested in its comparative
exemption from the ravages of cholera in 1832
and again in 1849, when neighboring cities
suffered so severely. The death rate is low
and epidemics are unknown. The late Dr.
Germer, City Health Officer, used to take par-
ticular pride in claiming, and showing the
figures to prove his claim, that Erie was one
of the healthiest if not the very healthiest city
in America.


Benjamin Soules was the first person to
establish a lime kiln in Erie in 1834, near the
foot of French street. Prior to that, all lime
was brought from Buffalo or the western end
of the lake. At a later date lime kilns were
established at various points by Smith Jack-
son, Halsey Pelton, Dr. Seymour and per-
haps others, all of which were abandoned.
Henry & Ormsbee started a kiln about ISGO,
and about 1862 another was built by Spooner
& Neiler. These gentlemen, in 1864, bought
out the Henry & Urmsbee plant, took John
R. Cochran into partnership, and founded the
Erie Lime and Cement Company. In due
time the concern was purchased by Spooner
Rea, who conducted it until 1895, The

latter gentlemen moved the plant to the foot
of French street, where they had kilns and a
dock. The limestone used was from Kelly's
Island, and the gypsum from Grand river,


The following are extracts from the records
of the borough councils :

June 23, 1817—" Resolved, That Giles
Sanford and John Teel be a committee to re-
ceive proposals from Gen. Kelso, Capt. Dob-
bins and Major Wallace to work on certain
streets to the amount of their respective taxes."

May 19, 1832—" Resolved, That a public
meeting be held by citizens of the borough of
Erie regarding the prevalence of cholera mor-
bus and for the adoption of preventive meas-
ures. Meeting held Saturday morning, June
28d, Capt. Daniel Dobbins Chairman, Edwin
J. Kelso Secretary. Two hundred hand bills
were circulated announcing the meeting."

March 25, 1842 — "Tax rate fixed at five
mills on the dollar "

November 24, 1843 — " Resolution passed
to pay James Duncan five dollars for keeping
fires for the town watch."

"Resolved, That the Weighmaster shall
receive all of the receipts from his office as
compensation for his services."


The Eagle Brewery Bottling Works, cor-
ner of Twenty-second and State streets, was
purchased December 1, 1892, by its present
proprietor, Edward Heuer, the inventory
valuation being at that time $10,000. All of
the newest bottling appliances and machinery
generally have been added, and the plant had,
in 1895, an inventory valuation of $25,000.
Eight men were employed in the works in
1893 ; twenty are now employed. In 1893,
2,486 barrels of beer were bottled, or more
than 60.000 dozen bottles ; in 1894, 8,683 bar-
rels—over 92,000 dozen bottles ; in 1895, 5,000
barrels — 125,000 dozen bottles. The only
beers bottled by this concern are Jackson
Koehler's " Export" and " Special Brew."


Probably the greatest picnic ever held in
Erie was that of the Railroad Firemen and
Trainmen, held at the Head, on Saturday,
August 17, 1895. The reports of the railroad



companies show that 9,500 persons came to
Erie by rail on that day, and this number was
certainly increased by 5,000 or more from the
city and vicinity.

The picnics of the Harvest Home Associa-
tion have always been well attended, and some
of them have only been second in size to the
above-mentioned. These gatherings have al-
ways been held at the Head, usually or in-
variably in August of each year.

Some of the picnics of the Roman Catho-
lic Church, for charitable purposes, which
have been generally held in Cochran's Grove,
have been remarkable gatherings. It is no
uncommon thing for these picnics to realize a
net profit of .12,500 to .153,000.

The Elks' Fair, in the People's Market
House, from Monday, October 21, to Satur-
day, October 26, 1895, was attended by 17,872
persons, and the gross receipts were about


Capt. John Dunlap, whose memory goes
back as far as any person who is familiar with
the lake business, is of the opinion that the
first to establish a coal trade at Erie were the
Renos, one of whom was the father of the la-
mented Gen. Reno. Soon after they start-
ed, Joy & Webster went into the same line of
business, and they were succeeded by others
whose names are better known.

Capt. James Dunlap was for years the
principal dock builder at the harbor. When
his son, Capt. John Dunlap, grew up, he
took him into partnership, and, for a long
period, the firm built and repaired all the
docks in Erie harbor. In due time Mr. Bow-
ers, a son-in-law of Capt. James Dunlap,
engaged in the business and has continued it


Probabl_v the most important event, in its
effect upon the reputation of the city through-
out the State, was the visit of the Pennsyl-
vania Editorial Association in 1888. The
members of the Association, with their ladies,
in all numbering some three hundred persons,
reached Erie by special train on the evening
of June 26, and remained three daj-s. Their

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 87 of 192)