Samuel P. (Samuel Penniman) Bates.

History of Erie county, Pennsylvania online

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about fifteen miles.

Crooked Creek rises in Lockport Borough, and flows through Girard and
Springfield to Lake Erie, a short distance from North Springfield. It is about
ten miles long.

The Head Eun is the small stream that enters Presque Isle bay just above
the Massassauga pleasure ground.

Cascade Eun is historical because a portion of Perry's fleet was built at its
mouth. It falls into the bay at the Pittsburgh docks, in Erie City.

Mill Creek is formed by two branches, the one rising in the extreme south-
eastern section of Mill Creek Township, and the other in the northwestern
part of Greene. They unite near the southeastern line of the first-named
township, and the stream enters the bay within the city limits of Erie. Mill
Creek cannot be less than eight miles long.

Four Mile Creek rises in Greene, runs through the western edge of Harbor
Creek, and enters the lake in the northeastern corner of Mill Creek Township,
after a course of about eight miles.

Twelve Mile Creek heads on the line of North East and Greenfield Town-
ships, and joins the lake in Harbor Creek. Its length is about seven miles.

Twenty Mile Creek rises in Chautauqua County, N. Y., and empties
into the lake in North East Township, near the State line. It is from sixteen
to eighteen miles long.


Lake Erie. — The whole northern front of the county is bordered by Lake
Erie and Presque Isle Bay, giving a shore line, with ih& various indentations,
of fully forty-five miles. Lake Erie is one of the chain of " Great Lakes," con-
sisting, besides itself, of Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan, St. Clair and On-
tario. No one of these, except St. Clair, is excelled or equaled in size by any
body of fresh water elsewhere in the world. The name Erie has been "held to
mean ' cat,' thus giving the title of Cat to the tribe of Eries, and Cat Lake to
the body of water." This, however, is disputed by one writer, who claims
that the word ' ' means raccoon in the original, and that the error as to meaning
came into vogue by the confounding by the early French explorers of the wild
cat with the raccoon, both of which animals abounded, but the latter being the
most numerous." Eecent measurements give the following results:

"The greatest length of Lake Superior is 335 miles; its greatest breadth,
160 miles; mean depth, 688 feet; elevation above the ocean, 602 feet; area,
82,000 square miles.

"The greatest length of Lake Michigan is 300 miles; its greatest breadth,
108 miles; mean depth, 600 feet; elevation, 581^ feet; area, 23,000 square

"The greatest length of Lake Huron is 200 miles; its greatest breadth,
169; mean depth, 600 feet; elevation, 581^ feet; area, 23,000 square miles.

"The greatest length of Lake Erie is 250 miles; its greatest breadth is 80
miles; its mean depth is 84 feet; elevation, 573 i^ feet; area, 6,000 square miles.

"The greatest length of Lake Ontario is 180 miles; its greatest breadth,


65 miles; its mean depth is 500 feet; elevation, 246J feet; area, 6,000 square

" The length of all five is 1,265 miles, covering an area of upward of 135,-
000 square miles."

Lake Erie receives the outflow of Lake Huron through the St. Clair
Eiver, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, aad empties itself through the
Niagara Eiver into Late Ontario. The outlet of the latter is the St. Law-
rence Eiver, which, after a course of some five hundred miles, falls into the
Atlantic Ocean within the Dominion of Canada, the volume of water which it
carries down being greater than that of the Mississippi. By some geographers,
the lakes are regarded as expansions of the St. Lawrence, which would give
that river a length, from the source of the St. Louis, the most remote tributary
of Superior, of about twenty-one hundred miles. Lake Brie is the fifth and
most southerly of the chain. Its breadth varies from thirty to eighty miles.
The narrowest part of the lake is between Long Point, Canada, and Presque
Isle, and the widest is between Ashtabula, Ohio, and Port Stanley, Canada.
The average depth of Lake Erie is less than that of any other of the chain,
except St. Clair, which renders its navigation the most dangerous. It has
few natural harbors, that of Erie being the best, but the mouths of a number
of the larger streams have been dredged and protected by breakwaters, offering
good facilities for shipping.

In commercial importance, Lake Erie excels any other of the chain. The
Falls of Niagara, twenty miles below its foot, forbid direct navigation between
Erie and Ontario. This has been remedied by the construction of the Welland
Ship Canal. Vessels pass through this artificial channel to and from Lake Onta-
rio, the St. Lawrence Eiver and the Atlantic Ocean.* The lake seldom freezes
over more than a few miles from shore, but instances have been known of the ice
being clogged between Long Point and Presque Isle so that teams and wagons
have crossed. Navigation usually closes about the 1st of December and opens
early in April, though it has sometimes begun much sooner. Several winters
are recorded when vessels have sailed every month of the year. The streams
that flow into Lake Erie are small, scarcely adding as much to its supply
as it loses by evaporation. The body of water that flows over Niagara Falls
is estimated not to exceed that received by the lake through the Detroit Eiver.
The lake abounds in fish, the most common varieties being white fish, pickerel,
bass, perch, herring, sturgeon and mutton-heads.

It is subject to fluctuations of several feet in the height of the water, ac-
cording to the direction of the wind. The general surface is also higher in
some seasons than in others, depending on the winter and spring weather
along the upper lakes.

Some unaccountable phenomena are reported by old settlers along the
shores of the lake. Just after sunset on the 30th of May, 1823, several swells
were observed at the mouths of Otter and Kettle Creeks, Canada, being twen-
ty miles apart, and the water suddenly dashed to a height of nine feet at the
former point and of seven at the latter. The weather was fine and the lake
had previously been calm. A similar incident was witnessed at the mouth of
Sixteen Mile Creek, in 1820, at that of Cunningham Creek, Ohio, in 1826, and
again at that of Grand Eiver, Ohio, in 1830. At the second point named, the
water rose fifteen and at the third eight feet. Water-spouts are of frequent
occurrence, and as many as three have been seen at one time. A whirlwind
was experienced at Conneaut, Ohio, in September, 1839, which lifted the
water of the lake to a height of thirty feet. Three monster waves are reported

*The Welland Canal was begun in 1324 and opened In 1829.


as having dashed upon the dock at Madison, Lake County, Ohio, the first of
which was fifteen or twenty feet high. " In 1844 or 1845, a wave came into
Euclid Creek fifteen feet in height, carrying everything before it. On Novem-
ber 18, 1845, the water at Cleveland suddenly fell two and eight-tenths feet
during a high wind from the southwest. The Toledo Blade records a change
of ten feet on December 5, 1856."

A remarkable phenomenon occurred at Cleveland in July, 1881, which ie thus
described by the Signal Service officer at that port : " At 5 :30 in the
morning there was a slight breeze from off land in a southerly direction, and at
6 o'clock there was almost a calm, while to the northward a dark cloud appeared
like a curtain, and at the same time was heard a rumbling sound. At 6:20
there came up a large green colored wave, with no crest, which approached
from the northwest with great rapidity, and soon after the passage of the wave
the wind returned to its original quarter. The cloud, wave and wiad seemed
to travel together. The wave was about nine feet above the present level of
the lake. The highest barometer in the country occurred in the city yesterday
morning, viz., 30.15. The recoil of the wave along the line of the shore caused
two smaller receding waves, parallel to the shore, and from fifty to seventy-
five feet apart. "

Similar occurrences are reported as having happened on the other lakes.
Col. Charles Whittlesey, of Cleveland, has kept a record of some of the most
prominent of these events, from which 'we learn that " on Lake Superior, in
1879, opposite Isle Royal, there was a sudden fall of four feet in the waters.
When they returned, they did so with a rush, the vibration continuing for
several hours. In 1834, the waters above the Sault Eapids suddenly receded,
and in half an hour returned with great velocity. In August, 1845, Dr.
Foster states that while in an open boat between Copper Harbor and Eagle
River, an enormous surge, twenty feet in height and crested with foam, rolled
toward the shore, succeeded by two or three swells. Dr. Foster observed
repeated flows and reflux of the waters in 1847, 1848 and 1849, which preceded
or followed storms on the lake. In 1858, D. D. Brockway reported, in a per-
fect calm, a sudden rise of one foot and three inches, and in another two and
one-half feet. The Lake Superior News of July 17, 1855, reports extreme
fluctuations between the hours of nine in the morning and four in the evening.
Father Andre, in 1670, while on Green Bay, reported a three-feet rise, but
this was accompanied by a northwester. On April 14, 1858, the Milwaukee
Sentinel reported a change of level in Lake Michigan of six feet."

Bay of Presque Isle. — The Bay of Presque Isle, forming the harbor of
Erie — the only one in the county — is a quiet and beautiful body of water,
aboat five miles long, with a breadth ranging from a mile and a quarter to
nearly two miles. The long and narrow sand bank which divides it from the
lake is known as the Peninsula, or in French as Presque Isle, meaning " nearly
an island." Within a hundred years, the bay extended by a narrow channel
half a mile further westward than it does now, the action of the sands and
the earth brought down by the two little streams at the head having caused the
restriction of its limits. The entrance to the bay is at its eastern end, between
two long piers which create an artificial channel 200 feet wide. Before the
Government improvements were made, the mouth of the bay was nearly a mile
in width, and obstructed by a bar which afforded only six to eight feet of
water. Now the largest vessels upon the lake can enter easily, and when with-
in the bay are secure against the worst storms. Two noble lighthouses direct
mariners to the entrance, while the course of the channel is made clear by a
series of range lights. At the head of the bay, the peninsula is only a few


rods in width, and so low that the water sometimes washes over during
winter gales. Within a few years, this neck has been protected by a barrier
of piles and heavy timbers, at the cost of the General Government. A channel
was opened across this portion of the peninsula many years ago, and several
vessels passed through, but the experiment was unsatisfactory, and the passage
was allowed to close up. The greatest depth of water in the bay is nearly
opposite the Pittsburgh docks, where the lead touches bottom at twenty-seven

Misery Bay is a small subdivision of the bay proper at its northeastern
extremity. Its name was suggested by Lieut. Holdup during the war of 1814,
when the vessels of the Lake Erie squadron were anchored there. The gloomy
weather that prevailed, and the uncomfortable condition of the crews made the
title eminently appropriate. Within this little bay were sunk two of the ves-
sels of Perry's fleet, the Lawrence and Niagara. The former was raised and
taken to the Centennial Exhibition in 1876; the latter still lies at the bottom
of the bay on the side next to the lighthouse. Both of the bays freeze over in
winter, and usually continue closed until about the 1st of April. They
abound in fish, and are a famous resort for anglers. A number of pleasure
yachts ply upon the quiet waters of the bays, and sail boats and row boats are
always to be had at the boat houses along the public pier. (For a further ao
count of the bay and harbor, see Erie City.)


In the interior of the county are three small lakes — LeBceuf , Pleasant and
Conneauttee — all of which lie on the south side of the dividing ridge, and
empty into French Creek.

Lake LeBceuf . — This lake is in Waterf ord Township, on the southwestern
edge of Waterford Borciugh. It is about two-thirds of a mile long, by half a
mile wide. The lake is fed by LeBoeuf Creek and Boyd and Trout Runs. Its
outlet fails into French Creek in LeBceuf Township.

Lake Pleasant, in the southwestern corner of Venango Township, is about
two-thirds of a mile long by a third of a mile wide, with a depth of five to
fifty feet. It has no tributary streams except two tiny rivulets, and is appar-
ently fed by springs in the bottom. The outlet joins French Creek in Amity

Lake Conneauttee lies on the northern side of Edinboro, and is partly in
that bor.ough and partly in Washington Township. Its length is about a mile,
and its width a little over a half mile. The deepest water is about fifty feet.
Big Conneauttee Creek enters at its northern extremity, and leaves at the
southern, continuing on to Crawford County, where it unites with French


Where there are so many streams, it follows as a consequence that there
must be a great number of bridges. None of these are very extensive or cost-
ly compared with the immense structures that are found in other parts of the
Union. The most important public bridges are those which span French
Creek in Amity, Waterford and LeBoeuf Townships; Conneaut Creek in Con-
neaut Township, and upon the line between that township and Springfield;
the South Branch of French Creek in Union City and Township; Elk Creek
in Fairview and Girard Townships; Walnut Creek in Fairview and Mill
Creek Townships; the Big Conneauttee at Edinboro; and LeBceuf Creek in
Waterford Tovraship.


The iron bridges of the "Nickle Plate " railroad over Crooked, Elk, Walnut
and Twenty Mile Creeks, are the longest and costliest in the county. This
company have made use of iron almost entirely in crossing the numerous
streams along the lake shore. State street in Erie is spanned by three good
iron bridges belonging to the raibroad companies. The Philadelphia & Brie
Eailroad has a lofty trestle work over Mill Creek, near Belle Valley, and fine
wooden bridges over LeBceuf Creek, in Waterford Township; Prench Creek in
LeBoeuf ; and the South Branch in Union and Concord.

On the line of the Erie & Pittsburgh road, Crooked Creek is spanned by
a formidable bridge and trestle work in Girard Township, while other bridges
of importance cross Conneaut Creek in the township of the same name. The
townships which are subjected to the most expense on account of bridges are
LeBceuf, Conneaut and Springfield.

The Lake Shore Eailroad formerly overcame the gullies of Twenty Mile
Creek, Sixteen Mile Creek, Walnut Creek, Elk Creek and Crooked Creek by ex-
tensive trestle works, which have been replaced by substantial culverts and em-
bankments that cost many thousands of dollars. Most of the streams upon
the line of this road are now spanned by stone culverts or iron bridges. It is
not to be doubted that wherever culverts are practicable the example of the
Lake Shore Company will eventually be imitated by the other railroad cor-

Within the limits of Erie almost all the city bridges over Mill Creek have
given way to durable stone culverts. An elegant culvert was thrown across the
East Branch of Conneaut Creek, in Conneaut Township, for the use of the
canal, which still remains, and is used for a public road.

The aqueducts of the canal over Walnut Creek, in Fairview Township, and
Elk Creek in Girard, were at one time looked upon as wonders of engineering
and mechanical skill.


Pke-Histoeic Remains and Natdeal Curiosities.

MANY indications have been found in the county proving conclusively that it
was once peopled by a different race from the Indians who were found here
when it was first visited by white men. When the link of the Erie & Pitts-
burgh Railroad from the Lake Shore road to the dock at Erie was in process
of construction, the laborers dug into a great mass of bones at the crossing of
the public road which runs by the rolling mill. Prom the promiscuous way
in which they were thrown together, it is surmised that a terrible battle must
have taken place in the vicinity at some day so far distant that not even a tra-
dition of the event has been preserved. The skulls were flattened, and the
foreheads were seldom more than an inch in width. The bodies were in
a sitting posture, and there were no traces that garments, weapons or orna-
ments had been buried with them. On account of the superstitious notions
that prevailed among the workmen, none of the skeletons were preserved, the
entire collection as far as it was exposed being thrown into the embankment
further down the road. At a later date, when the roadway of the Philadel-
phia & Erie road, where it passes through the Warfel farm, was being
widened, another deposit of bones was dug up and summarily disposed of as
before. Among the skeletons was one of a giant, side by side with a smaller



one, probably that of his wife. The arm and leg bones of this native Amer-,
ican Goliath were about one-half longer than those of the tallest man' among
the laborers; the skull was immensely large; the lower jawbone easily slipped
over the face and whiskers of a full-faced man, and the teeth were in a per-
fect state of preservation. Another skeleton was dug up in Conneaut Town-
ship some years ago which was quite as remarkable in its dimensions. As in
the other instance, a comparison was made with the largest man in the neigh-
borhood, and the jawbone readily covered his face, while the lower bone of the
leg was nearly a foot longer than the one with which it was measured, indi-
cating that the man must have been eight to ten feet in height. The bones of
a flat head were turned up in the same township some two years ago with a
skull of unusual size. Kelics of a former time have been gathered in that
section by the pailful, and among other cinriosities a brass watch was found
that was as big as a common saucer.

An ancient graveyard was discovered in 1820, on the land now known as
the Drs. Carter and Dickinson places in Erie, which created quite a sensation at
the time. Dr. Albert Thayer dug up some of the bones, and all indicated a
race of beings of immense size.


Equally curious are the pre-historio mounds and circles found in Wayne,
Harbor Creek, Conneaut, Girard, Springfield, LeBoeuf, Venango and Fair-
view Townships. The principal one in Wayne Township, which is still in
a fair state of preservation, is in the valley of the South Branch of
French Creek, near the road from Corry to Elgin, and but a short dis-
tance east of the large springs which furnish water for the State fish-hatch-
ing establishment. It consists of a vast circle of raised earth, surrounded
by a trench, from which the earth was unquestionably dug, the whole
enclosing about three acres of unbroken ground. The embankment has been
much flattened and reduced by the elements, but is still from one to two feet high
and from three to four feet wide at the base. When the first settlers discov-
ered it, the intei'ior of the circle was covered with forest trees, and stumps are
still to be seen on the embankment, the rings of which represent an age of
several hundred years. Half a mile west, a little to the north of the road, on
a slight eminence, was another and smaller circle, which has been plowed
down, leaving no vestige behind.

The circles in other portions of the county are or were similar in their
general features, with one exception, to the above. Those in Harbor Creek
Township were situated on each side of Four Mile Creek, slightly southeast
of the big curve of the Philadelphia & Erie road, on points overlooking and
commanding the deep gulf of that stream. The one on the west side of the
creek is still in a good state of preservation, but the other has been obliter-
ated. The two Conneaut circles were near together, while those in Girard and
Springfield, four in number, extended in a direct line from the western part
of the former township to the southwestern part of the letter. One of the
circles partially occupied the site of the cemetery at East Springfield. In
Fairview Township, there was both a circle and a mound, the first at the mouth
of Fort Run and the second at Manchester. The latter, at the close of the
last century, was about six feet high and fifteen feet in diameter. Somebody
had the curiosity to open it, in the hope of finding treasure, but was rewarded
with nothinc more than a small quantity of decomposed bones. A tree was
cut on one of the embankments in Conneaut that had attained the age of 500
years. The circles in LeBoeaf and Venango were very much like those above
described. 10


The position of some of these embankments woiild seem to favor the idea
that they were provided for warlike purposes, while no speculation of that
character is warranted by the location of others. That they were not the work
of the Indians, as our fathers knew them, is the only thing of which we can
be positively certain. The knowledge we possess of the red men assures us
that they had neither the. will nor the skill to provide such inclosures, either
for defense or as places of worship. Every instinct of the mind impels us to
the belief that they are the remains of a superior race to the Indians, who dis-
appeared so completely and mysteriously that no trace of their numbers, their
habits, their character, their origin, or their destiny exists in history or in


Other evidences of a different population from the red men, as well as of
an utterly distinct animal kingdom, have been found in the county. In the
year 1825, while one Francis Carnahan was plowing along the lake shore in
Harbor Creek Township, he turned up a strange looking bead, which he
cleaned and carefully preserved. It fell into the hands of L. G. Olmstead,
LL. D., a traveler and archaeologist of some reputation, formerly a resident of
Erie City, but later of Fort Edward, N. Y. , who unhesitatingly pronounced it
to be one of the celebrated " Chorean beads" of ancient Egypt, and kept it
until his death as a relic of rare interest and value. Similar beads taken from
tombs near the Nile are in the Egyptian collection in New York City, one
other is in a like collection in Boston, and altogether, there are some thirty in
the great museums of antiquity in Europe. They were employed in worship
and worn as amulets, and were among the most cherished possessions of the
ancient people of Pharaoh. Presuming the Harbor Creek bead to be genuine,
of which Mr. Olmstead was thoroughly convinced, how came it there and what
is its history? To say the least, it adds additional testimony to the proof fur-
nished us by the mounds and circles that a race of people inhabited this section
anterior to the red men, who were far in advance of, them in progress and in-
telligence. Who they were, where they came from, and what became of them
remains an unsolved problem.

The skeletons of extinct species of animals have frequently been found in
the county, but perhaps the most extraordinary discovery of that nature was
made near Girard Borough in the early part of May, 1880. A man in the
employ of Mr. W. H. Palmer, while plowing, turned up some bones of a
mammoth, which, upon investigation by scientific persons, were thought to
indicate an animal fifteen feet long and from twelve to thirteen feet high.
One of the teeth weighed three and a half pounds, having a grinding surface
of three and a half by four inches, and pieces of the tusks led to the opinion
that they must have been eight or ten feet long. The most curious feature of
the case is that animals of this class at the present day are natives of the
tropics and require the equatorial heat and vegetation of the same region to
enable them to reach maturity.

An equally puzzling revelation occurred some twenty-five years ago in
digging a ditch on the Strong place, in Girard Township, near the Springfield
line. During the work, a basswood stump was removed, and the men employed

Online LibrarySamuel P. (Samuel Penniman) BatesHistory of Erie county, Pennsylvania → online text (page 24 of 187)