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Full text of "A twentieth century history of Erie County, Pennsylvania : a narrative account of its historic progress, its people, and its principal interests"

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Volume I 










R 1915 I 


By John Miller. 


It may well be questioned whether, west of the Appalachian range 
of mountains, there is to be found a locality that, in its time, has played 
a more important part in the world's history than Erie county has. 
Lifted into prominence in the historical landscape as the distance of 
time widens the perspective, Erie county incidents tower in the back- 
ground, landmarks in the history of America and of the world. 

We read that the French, in pursuance of a policy, built a fort at 
Erie (Presque Isle), constructed a military road to Lake Le Bceuf, where 
another fort was built, and there established a line of communication 
by batteaux down the streams to the forks of the Ohio. But how few 
have recognized the fact that the building of the two Erie county forts 
and the construction of that portage road was the overt act leading up 
to the grand climax ; that the culmination occurred when Legardeur de 
St. Pierre, at Le Boeuf, in curt, soldierly fashion, made reply to the 
message of Dinwiddle, carried into the wilderness by Washington ; that 
that reply, delivered upon Erie county soil, precipitated a conflict in which 
three nations were involved, known in American history as the French 
and Indian War and in the history of Europe as the Seven Years' War? 
That the military work of the French in Erie county was at the time 
regarded as of a serious nature has been understood, else Governor Din- 
widdle would not have commissioned his most trusted officer. Col. 
George Washington, an express messenger to carry dispatches in the 
depth of winter so far into the heart of the great forest. But how 
serious it was, and how important as bearing upon the history of the 
world that occupancy of the French was to be, only time, as it widened 
the horizon of historic vision, could tell. Forts Presque Isle and Le 
Boeuf and the "Old French Road," viewed in the light shed upon them 
by the world's history, matured by time, acquire a significance beyond 
what has generally been bestowed upon them. 

Another incident lifts Erie into prominence in history. It is in con- 
nection with the Second War for Independence. Well may it be said 
that, but for the part played by Erie in the War of 1812 the result of 
that conflict might have been different. Surely it is not exaggeration 
to say that the great naval battle on Lake Erie was the decisive en- 
gagement of that war. Had it not been for Capt. Daniel Dobbins's 
representations to President Madison, there probably would not have 
been built an American fleet for service on Lake Erie ; and had it not 
been for Capt. Dobbins's thorough knowledge of the lake and of the 
situation of affairs, and his energy in carrying out his plans, for which 


he won the approval of the President, the American Nation might have 
had a hopeless task in its efforts to stem the tide of disaster that was 
overwhelming the northern frontier. That glorious victory of September 
10, 1813, in which the Erie-built ships humbled British naval pride by 
defeating an entire squadron — the first instance of the kind in British 
history — may well be regarded as the turning point in that war, the 
winning of which confirmed, and forever established, American inde- 

Let Erie not forget the distinguished part it has played in the history 
of the world. 

In this History of Erie County an effort has been made to set 
down in as orderly fashion as possible, the occurrences that have trans- 
pired, so far as can be ascertained from the records. By records, let it 
be explained, is meant not alone the writings of those who have written 
accounts of the happenings from time to time, but those relics that were 
left by the original owners and occupants of the soil, meagre though 
they are in quantity, obscure in quality, and perhaps misleading or un- 
certain in character. With no written language and with nothing but 
traditions passed from father to son through no telling how many genera- 
tions, Indian history is necessarily hazy ; scarcely more so is that history 
the only record of which is found in the isolated mounds and mysterious 
earthworks scattered about and overgrown by centuries of forest. That 
Erie county had been occupied by that mysterious race, that in this sec- 
tion, at least, preceded the Indian of the white man's ken, there are numer- 
ous proofs in what survives of their work. Whether they were an 
earlier and distinct race, or merely the forebears of the Indians that still 
survive, is a matter for the ethnologists to settle. At any rate, they 
once were here, and Erie county seems to mark the ultimate boundary 
of their possessions. For the elucidation of the history of the red man — 
that child of the "stone age" — indebtedness is acknowledged to the writ- 
ings of F. W. Halsey, John Fiske and Francis Parkman. 

As to the period of French occupancy, covering, so far as Erie 
county is concerned, the six years from 1753 to 1759 — the narrative of 
the building of the forts, the construction of the portage road, and the 
incidents of the war that, centering at Fort Duquesne, finally resulted 
in driving away the French — it is proper to state that the main reliance 
has been on the historical works of Francis Parkman ; of Frank H. 
Severance of the Buffalo Historical Society, and the anonymous History 
of Western Pennsylvania, published in 1846 by Daniel Kauffman of 
Pittsburg (its author, "A Gentleman of the Bar"). The story of Wash- 
ington's visit to Fort Le Bceuf — our Waterford of today — 'is from the 
journal kept by George Washington himself. 

Mention must be made of the work done by the late Miss Laura 
Y. Sanford. whose excellent History of Erie County has been exceed- 
ingly serviceable, especially with reference to the beginnings of the per- 
manent settlement of Erie. To the historical account of the building 
of Perry's fleet, the Battle of Lake Erie, and the disposition made of 
the ships and prizes, written in 1876 by Capt. W. W. Dobbins, a son 
of Capt. Daniel Dobbins, the writer of this history is indebted. Ac- 
knowledgment must be made of the sennce rendered by the late 


Benjamin Whitman, who, with commendable zeal, took advantage of 
opportunities that happily then existed of gathering into orderly shape 
an iinmense store of facts relating to the early settlement of the county, 
still available when collected, a third of a century ago, from the lips of 
pioneers now passed from the stage of human affairs. From the writ- 
ings of the late Hon. James Sill; of the late Rufus L. Perkins; of the 
late Lewis W. Olds; of Thomas C. Miller, Rev. J. P. Irwin, Robert J. 
Moorhead, Dr. Edward Cranch, J. Elmer Reed, the late Capt. N. W. 
Russell and Mrs. Isaac Moorhead, much has been obtained, while of 
the living, who yielded to interviews, it would be in vain to give a list — 
unwise to attempt it, because in a list that would be so extended many 
might inadvertently be omitted. 

Other sources of information have been the records in the City Hall, 
(in the search through which Mr. Thomas Hanlon, for many years City 
Clerk, has rendered invaluable service) ; the well preserved newspaper 
files in the Public Library; many excellent scrap-books (not omitting 
some made by the late M. S. Vincent), and the city directories, back to 
the first number published by Henry W. Hulbert in 1853. Acknowledg- 
ment must be made of the assistance furnished by the Postmaster 
General's ofiice : by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Schaef er ; 
by Hon. Isaac B. Brown of the State Department of Internal Afifairs, 
and by Collector B. B. Brown of the Erie Custom House and Isador 
Sobel, Postmaster of Erie. 

Covering the Civil War Period, besides what the newspapers of the 
time afforded, indebtedness is acknowledged to the writings of Rev. John 
Richards Boyle, and George L. Kilmer ; to Bates's regimental histories ; 
to numerous magazine articles, and to Capt. E. L. Whittelsey and Capt. 
James Hunter. 

These acknowledgments are here made to account for the absence of 
foot-notes, and it is trusted this explanation will be taken as sufficient 
excuse for the omission of these marks of authority or verification in their 
place. That the history which follows may be accepted with as tender 
criticism as the indulgent reader can conscientiously grant is the hope 
of the author. 

J. M. 

Erie, September, 1900. 



I. The Scene of the Story 1 

II. The Earliest Inhabitants 10 

III. The French in Possession 19 

IV. Washington's Mission 30 

V. The Fall of French Power 40 

VI. PoNTiAc's Conspiracy 49 

VII. The Triangle 57 

VIII. Ready for the Settlers 65 

IX. Coming of the Pioneers 72 

X. Death of Anthony Wayne 81 

XI. Settlement Begun 88 

XII. Out the Roads 97 

XIII. The County Organized 107 

XIV. The War Cloud's Shadow 117 

XV. Non-Combatants 138 

XVI. Perry Meets the Enemy 137 

XVII. After Victory was Won 147 

XVIII. The Religious Development 160 

XIX. Schools of the County 175 

XX. Early Industries 187 

XXI. How Commerce Grew 303 

XXII. The Peninsula 214 

XXIII. The Canal Built 234 

XXIV. Coming of the Germans 245 

XXV. The Railroads Enter 258 

XXVI. The Railro.\d War 267 

XXVII. The Railroads Built 294 

XXVIII. Slavery in Erie 308 

XXIX. Erie's War Regiments 324 

XXX. The Lake Navy 341 

XXXI. Minute Men and Conscripts 352 

XXXII. The War Debt Paid 363 

XXXIII. The Bench and Bar 374 

XXXIV. The Spanish War 390 

XXXV. Notable People 400 



XXXVI. The Grape Belt 412 

XXXVn. Political Record 419 


I. Amity 437 

II. Concord 440 


IV. Elkcreek 451 

V. Fairview Township and Borough 455 

VI. Franklin 463 

VII. Girard Township and Borough 466 

VIII. Greene 477 

IX. Greenfield 481 

X. Harborcreek 486 

XL Le Bceuf and Mill Village 491 

XII. McKean and Middleboro 496 


XIV. North East 510 

XV. Springfield and East Springfield 522 

XVI. Summit 528 

XVII. Union and Union City 531 

XVIII. Venango and Wattsburg 541 

XIX. Washington and Edinboro 547 

XX. Waterford Township and Borough 556 

XXI. Wayne 563 

XXII. The City of Corry 568 


I. The Site of the Town 585 

II. The Town of Erie 591 

III. The Borough Chartered 604 

IV. Becomes a City 623 

V. Erie's Harbor 641 

VI. Burning of the Erie 657 

VII. In Time of War 665 

VIII. Public Markets 680 

IX. Erie's Industries 688 

X. Vanished Industries 713 

XI. Business Affairs 727 

XII. Electricity Enters 739 

XIII. By Trolley Route 748 

XIV. Public Buildings 763 

XV. The Medical Profession 779 

XVI. The City Schools 788 

XVII. Erie Churches 802 

XVIII. Social Organiz.\tions 830 

XIX. Hotels, Theatres, Sports 845 

XX. Parks and Resorts 855 

XXI. Iournals and Journalists 869 

XXII. "Conclusion 881 





The Heart of the Greatest Forest in the World. — The Woods, 

Hills, Streams and Lakes, and General Physical 

Features of the County. 

It would not be proper to enter upon the history of this or any 
other section or part of the American continent without turning back to 
the beginning of it — the beginning as we have come to understand it — 
and dating our start on the 12th of r)ctober, 1-1-92, the day when Columbus 
discovered America. No ; on second thought, I had better not put it that 
way, though this is entirely in accord with historical convention. The 
best way to put it is : the day upon which Columbus discovered there was 
a western shore of the great Atlantic sea. It is better this way for two 
reasons. First, America had long had its existence and was not sooner 
known to the inhabitants of the eastern continent simply because none had 
been possessed of the energy, the enterprise, the good judgment, the 
abounding faith and the indomitable will the great Genoese was endowed 
with. The other reason is that after all Columbus did not discover 
America; he just fell short of it; and though it did happen to him that 
once upon a time he viewed the mainland of America he did not know 
it. When he passed through the strait that makes Trinidad an island 
and viewed the land upon his left he believed that too to be of the same 
nature as all the rest of his discoveries in the western hemisphere, only 
an island. In truth it was the main land of South America. But even 
had he known the real character of the land he was viewing, as a dis- 
coverer of the continent he had been forestalled. 

But that vaster moiety of the western continent, that portion that 
was in time to attain to the proud position of standing in the fore-front 
among the nations of the world? The beginnings of that, applying the 
measure of time that has ever since been employed by European people, 
date from the voyages of John and Sebastian Cabot, sailors enlisted in 
the service of Great Britain, who, in 1497-1499, pushing their adventurous 
prows in the direction of the setting sun and choosing a course nearer 
to the latitude of the nation under whose flag they sailed, found and 
explored a marvelous coast, extending hundreds of leagues, from Labra- 
dor to the Gulf of Mexico. It is this discovery, or voyage of exploration, 
if you please, that most concerns us — that, in fact, had most to do with 


the advancement of the new continent, and the whole world in fact. 
It was the real discover)- of America. For it was an enterprise belonging 
to the race that was to build up, beyond the Europeans' setting sun, 
an empire vaster in area, greater in power, and incalculably higher in 
liberty than any nation the world had ever seen. It was Columbus who 
gave the cue ; it was the Cabots with the Anglo-Saxon behind them who 
entered upon the stage as the actors of the opening scene of the world's 
greatest nation-drama. 

Let us now spread before us the map of this discovery of the Cabots 
— this new continent as it was when first viewed bv the eyes of those 
European mariners. What manner of land was it? 

It was the greatest forest in the world, extending from the Atlantic 
coast to the Mississippi river (generally) and from the Gulf of Mexico 
northward, to the shores of Hudson's bay, and then further northward 
and westward, to the mouth of the Mackenzie river on the shore of the 
Arctic ocean, and up into Alaska. Nor did it end there, for, crossing 
the continent, this stupendous forest reached southward again in two 
spurs, one the great timber country of Oregon, Washington and British 
Columbia ; the other the timber tract of the Rocky mountains. It was a 
forest of hundreds of species of trees, ranging from the palmettos and 
pines and live oaks, cypresses and gums and magnolias of the south, to the 
spruces and firs and birches that in the extreme north become dwarfed by 
their proximity to the icy zone into mere shrubs. 

Almost in the geographical centre of the eastern or main section of 
this great forest is the area that is the scene of this history. It is truly 
a goodly land. Perhaps no other part of the great North American 
forest, of equal area, could boast of a greater variety of trees, certainly 
no other could produce more species valuable to the race of man. And 
in vast abundance, too, are those timbers that are to become an adjunct 
toward the founding and development of a commonwealth never before 
approached. There is no means by which to calculate the influence upon 
the building of this nation that was exercised by the white pine and the 
hemlock spruce, which at one time were abundant here. The same is 
true, though prolsably in lesser degree, of the chestnut and the several 
oaks : of the cherry and the walnut ; of the tulip-tree or whitewood, and 
the cucumber ; of the ash and maples and beech ; of the cedars and elms 
and hickories ; of the birches and linden or basswood. 

Everywhere they grow within easv reach, forming a covering so 
dense that the sunlight scarcely prevailed to reach the ground beneath 
to stimulate the humbler growth that through the slow process of evolu- 
tion had come to accommodate itself to the conditions that prevail. 
Literally it is a trackless forest, for the few and widely separated Indian 
trails scarce merit the name of paths — the red man's highway through 
the great forest is not overland ; the streams are his true thoroughfare ; 
the rivers of varying degree and the lakes his means of communication. 


And conceive what must have been the surprise of the earliest 
of the European explorers when, having penetrated the recesses of the 
forest, they were stopped upon the shore of a vast sea that seemed to 
stretch illimitable ; a sea without a tide ; a sea of pure sweet water ; that 
lay before them a glassy mirror in time of calm, or in storm was even 
more terrible than Old Ocean himself. And more wonderful still, to 
learn, as exploration progressed, that within the confines of this great 
forest there extended a series of these seas or lakes, extending hundreds 
of leagues in a diagonal direction, some (the greater of them) joined 
together as a chain, others separated by varying distances, the whole 
covering the equivalent of thirty degrees of the earth's latitude. 

Its streams, too ! Perhaps the grand Montafia of Brazil, the principal 
rival of the great North American forest, can boast of more numerous 
navigable water-ways in the tributaries of the Amazon, but certainly 
no continent can produce, in section habitable for a progressive race, a 
system as complete, for purposes of communication or as aids to in- 
dustry, as that (or those, if you please) with which the great forest of 
North America was furnished. They abounded, and their courses seemed 
to lead in every direction. It was possible for the early explorers to 
penetrate in every direction — to the north or south, to the east or west — 
by employing the rivers, and white man and savage alike were prompt 
to put them to use. 

This stupendous forest, nearly a thousand leagues in greatest extent, 
was inhabited, but it was not populous, neither as regards man nor the 
lower animals, though in respect to species or kind there were many 
varieties in both classes. Mankind was represented by a race of brown 
men, mistakenly called Indians, and quite as erroneously spoken of as 
red, the color designation due no doubt to the almost universal custom 
of the savages of painting their faces and bodies, the favorite hue being 
red. Of these Indians there were many tribes or nations, differing in 
appearance and language and mode of life. They were children of 
nature, their industries insignificant, and even agriculture as a means 
hy which to obtain subsistence but little practiced. From the forest they 
obtained a large proportion of their food. The chestnut, the acorns of 
the white and chestnut oaks, the beech, hazel, hickory, pecan, walnut, 
butternut, wild plum and cherry, service berry, berries of species of vi- 
burnum and wild grapes, besides the fruits of the several brambles and 
berries of the heath family of shrubs, all contributed to the bill of fare of 
the savage. The maple yielded sugar ; other trees were made to yield 
sustenance from their inner bark, while plants of humbler growth con- 
tributed root, stem, leaf or seed to help supply the necessary food. 

More important, however, were the animals that were hunted ; for 
their flesh, or for their skins, or for their tendons that were required for 
bow-strings or thread. The \'irginian deer and the bear were found 
throughout nearly the entire range. The elk, and in the north, the moose. 


The bison or buffalo, in the beginning of the white man's acquaintance 
with the North American continent, was not strictly a denizen of the 
great plains of the interior. Its range extended east to the Alleghany 
mountains, and as late as the year 1795 was to be found in what is now 
central New York. To this day its presence in the eastern part of the 
great forest is certified by the name borne by a populous city, and in 
this county of Erie by the lake and stream named after it — Le Bceuf. 
And the fauna included animals of the carnivora — the cougar or panther, 
the wolverine, the lynx, the wolf, the fox, besides furbearing animals 
such as the beaver, the mink, squirrels, the hare or rabbit, the muskrat, 
the skunk. These denizens of the forest, as well as the great game, all 
contributed to the support of the savages who represented the human 
race as lords of the great North American forest. In the process of 
time these animals were to play an important part in working out the 
destiny of this continent. It will appear in the course of this narrative 
how important this part was. 

The location of Erie county is very near the geographical centre of 
this vast forest that stretched, north and south, over forty degrees of lati- 
tude. It was, before the advent of the white man, a typical section, repre- 
sentative of the American forest at its best, for here the arboreal vegeta- 
tion, favored by situation and climate, reached its perfection. There 
were lacking several species to be found only farther south ; there were, 
however, other species that do not thrive in the south, while many that 
here attain to vigor and great proportions do not grow much farther 
north. It is a fertile tract, and, comparatively level, especially favored the 
broad-leafed trees or hard woods. Many chestnuts, tulip-trees and syca- 
mores attained to truly gigantic proportions, reaching quite to the recorded 
limit of height. The white pine was best on the southern slope of the 
county's great divide, having in the early days been reasonably abundant 
in the valleys of French creek and its tributaries. The hemlock spruce, 
a slow growing but valuable timber tree, was more generally distributed, 
frequently dominating restricted districts. The chestnut was especially 
abundant on the lake shore plain. The most plentiful of all the species 
of trees was the beech, particularly on the uplands, while the sugar and 
red maples were universal and abundant. The oaks of several species or 
varieties (such as the white, red, black, scarlet and chestnut) were well 
distributed, seldom, however, forming groves or woods as did the hem- 
lock, chestnut, maple and beech. The basswood, the tulip-tree (poplar or 
whitewood of the lumberman) the cucumber, elms of two species, cherry, 
tupelo, white ash, hickories, walnut and butternut and the black and 
yellow birch were common and generally distributed, though according 
to all accounts that can be obtained the paper or canoe birch was not 
a denizen of this county, or if so, was scarce. The black ash chose the 
swampy places and the sycamore was not content unless its feet were 
in the water. There were three indigenous poplars, two of which favored 


sandy situations, near the water, and the third, indifferent, was best 
suited with a heavier soil. There was but one willow that attained to 
the dignity of a tree — the black or swamp willow — ;the numerous 
species of willow trees of the present time, coming as immigrants with 
the white man, just as the Lombardy poplar did. Besides these there 
were the tamarack of the swamps, and the ironwood, and, sometimes 
attaining to the stature or habit of a tree, the service berry, the flowering 
dogwood, the pawpaw, the wild plum, the witch-hazel, the blue or water 
beech and the alder. The red cedar or Virginian juniper, frequently a 
good-sized tree, once was plentiful enough to yield material for fence- 
posts, and probably the black spruce, the white cedar and the locust were 
among the trees of Erie county. On the peninsula is to be found an 
oak, that does not grow upon the mainland. 

Topographically Erie county is interesting. Generally speaking it 
consists of a series of ridges that extend with comparative regularity 
parallel with the lake shore, highest in the east and gradually falling 
away as they extend toward the Ohio line. The high dividing ridge 
(Erie county's great divide) which separates the waters of the Alle- 
gheny tributaries from the water that discharges into Lake Erie, crosses 
the New York state line near Colt's Station in Greenfield township, where 
it is 1,000 feet or more above the level of the lake. It then passes in 
nearly a straight line to Strong's, on the turnpike ten miles from Erie 
in Waterford township, where it is from 850 to 875 feet above the lake 
level. From Strong's westward it becomes less distinctly marked 
and much depressed, and is altogether lost before reaching Con- 
neaut township. Conneaut lake in Crawford county is a little more 
than five hundred feet above Lake Erie. From this dividing 
ridge there are four tolerably well marked terraces to, and 
parallel with, the lake. These terraces are higher and better defined near 
the New York state line, and become much depressed on reaching Elk- 
creek and Fairview townships, with the exception of the lowest, or north- 
ernmost one, which extends into Ohio. The streams which empty into 
the lake in some instances run, each within one of these terraces for a 
considerable distance before they find an opening through which they 
can pass to a lower level. This is most notable toward the western part 
of the county, the best examples being Walnut creek and Elk creek, 
which rising due south of Erie, flow westward long distances before they 
finallv discharge into the lake. Conneaut creek, rising in Crawford county 
and flowing north, after passing Albion takes the characteristic westerly 
course into Ohio doubling upon itself before it finally turns northward 
to the lake. The streams to the east of Erie, on the other hand, have a 
more direct course from the high dividing ridge. The valleys and ridges 
south of the divide are none of them regular or easily defined ; they are 
numerous and scenically beautiful. Toward the east, in the neighbor- 
hood of Corry, the hills are higli, but they gradually become dwarfed 


toward the west. The approach to the lake by the streams from the 
interior is marked generally by sharp steep ravines or by narrow tortuous 
valleys or glens many of them wooded and charming in high degree. In 
places, especially where the streams have pierced the high ridges, the can- 
yons or breakers that have been formed are grand and impressive. The can- 
yon of Wintergreen gulf, is perhaps the most notable of tliese, while 
the high bluff known as the Devil's Backbone, with its almost perpen- 
dicular sides brought together at the top to a narrow trail or footpath, 
thrust into the ox-bow bend of Elk creek, in Girard township, reaches 
the degree of sublimity. The brow of the bluffs of many of the streams 
is not infrequently rendered impressively picturesque by more or less 
extensive groves of hemlock spruce, overlooked by some happy chance 
v.-hen the lumberer was abroad with his all-devouring saw, and it is par- 
donable to breathe a wish that these relics of the great forest that once 
was, may long remain. 

The county's streams are trivial as a rule, particularly so at the 
present time. During the summer season it frequently happens that once 
important and constant streams are as dry and dusty as the country roads, 
being sometimes for weeks without even scattered pools of water to be 
found in their beds. Those that empty into the lake, during their best 
estate, which is now more than three-quarters of a century ago, were 
wild and turbulent ; then invaluable as a means of furnishing power for 
the industries of the time. The principal streams that empty into the 
lake are Crooked creek, Elk creek. Trout run. Walnut creek and Mill 
creek, and, eastward. Four-mile, Six-mile, Twelve-mile, and Sixteen-mile 
creeks. Conneaut creek passes through a corner of Erie county only. The 
streams of the Alleghany water-shed are different, swift-flowing to be 
sure, near their source, but, nearing the county's southern line, tamed 
into a condition that rendered them serviceable for the commerce of the 
early time and important factors in aiding the development of the 
county in its youth. The streams of the southern watershed are of but 
three systems. The main, being French creek with its numerous tribu- 
taries, and the others Conneauttee creek and its tributary. Little Con- 
neauttee, which rise in McKean and Franklin townships and drain Wash- 
ington township ; and Hare creek and its tributaries which have their 
source in the east half of Wayne and after a course of a few miles flow 
into the Brokenstraw in Warren county. The townships drained by 
French creek and its tributaries are, Greenfield, Amity, Concord, part of 
Wayne, Union, Le Boeuf, Waterford, Venango, and the southern halves 
of Summit and Greene. 

The lakes of the county are three in number and all are small — ^mere 
ponds. The most important is Lake Le Boeuf in Waterford township, 
known to the white man from the beginning of the French occupancy, as 
the route from the fort down French creek, led through this lake at the 
very start, for at only a few rods distance down from the fort the lake 


receives Le Boeuf creek, which leaves it again but a short distance to 
the south. This lake is about two-thirds of a mile long by a half mile 
in width and contains a small island in the center, sometimes inundated 
during a high stage of water. Conneauttee Lake in Washington town- 
ship is about a mile long and half a mile wide, but this is its measurement 
since reinforced by means of a dam in the outlet built to obtain power 
for a flour mill. Naturally it was probably three quarters of a mile in 
length. Lake Pleasant, the smallest of the three is about a half-mile long 
by one-third wide. All three of the Erie county lakes are the product 
of glacial action, the result of the scooping-out process by the movement 
of the ice, which formed bowl-shaped excavations where the water 
collects as it is drained from the surrounding hills. Doubtless Lake Le 
BcEuf was at one time much larger in area ; before the upper part had 
become filled with the peaty soil formed by the decaying vegetation 
reinforced by the alluvion carried by every spring freshet and deposited 
a little at a time upon the edge but constantly encroaching. The lakes are 
most beautifully situated, with surrounding hills of green in summer 
time, but unfortunately in two instances less attractive now than before 
the surrounding woods were removed. 

The most beautiful waterfall of the county is in the vicinity of 
Howard's Stone Quarry in the northern part of Franklin township. 
The water is from Falls creek (the name derived from the cascade) and 
Falls creek is a tributary of Elk creek. This miniature Niagara is of 
a height of about fifty feet, but of no great width. The stream, which 
above the fall traverses a rather level tract, flows in a comparatively 
shallow bed which is superposed upon a rather thick stratum of the fine 
hard sandstone that was the product of that quarry during its business 
activity, and it is over the edge of a break in this stratum that the water 
is carried into a deep and narrow gorge with steep sides, the left covered 
with a growth of trees, the right almost perpendicular. Numerous 
cascades are found along the shore where the streams empty into the 
lake. The larger streams long ago wore away their rocky bottoms so 
that for many years a considerable length of slack water distinguished 
their estuaries. This condition is especially marked at the mouth of Elk 
creek. The slackwater at the mouth of Walnut creek is short, backed 
by a series of steep rapids that flow over the bottom of shale, composed 
of alternate hard and soft laminae. Until within recent years — a score 
or so, — the fall at the mouth of Cascade creek was one of the most 
charming in nature, though small, and near the mouth of Six-mile creek 
there is still to be seen a little cascade which pours into a beautiful pool 
below, a delightful bit of natural scenery. 

The soil of Erie county is varied. Bordering upon the lake, at its 
edge lying from fifty to sixty feet above the level of the water, there 
is a fertile plain, comparatively flat, varying from two to three miles in 
width, the soil of which is generally a sandy loam, largely alluvial in its 


character, though midway there extended from near Moorheadville to 
the Ohio hne a strip of land in places a half-mile wide of a swampy 
character. The soil in this was of no great thickness, being underlaid, 
at the depth of a foot or two in some instances, by a stratum of hard 
rocky shale or sometimes "hard-pan" clay. When cleared the soil of this 
swamp, became peat, in dry seasons took fire in places and, smouldering 
sometimes for weeks, burned out the supports of the trees in the 
woods upon which it encroached, with the result that the trees fell, 
a complicated mass of wreckage. Much of this swampy land in time 
became valuable to the cultivator. Back upon the hills the soil is 
generally clayey, stiff and hard to work, and at one time the land was 
regarded as of no particular value to the farmer, and fit only for grazing. 
"The Beechwoods" section was esteemed a poor part to have one's lot 
cast in. But the progress made in agriculture changed old-time notions, 
and now there is no part of the hill country that is not regarded as 
valuable. The wider valleys of the southern part, especially the valley 
of French creek has an alluvial soil of great 'depth and fertility. The 
most noteworthy swamp of the county is the "Tamarack Swamp," named 
from the larch which there has its habitat. It extends from near Water- 
ford, west into McKean township, and is the source of tributaries of 
both Elk and Le Boeuf creeks. 

Geologically Erie county is poor indeed. There is no coal, no iron, 
no oil, no metal of any kind, no limestone and no building stone worth 
working. Its foundation is what is known as the Portage sandstone and 
shale in irregularly alternate strata. But little of value has been obtained 
from the rocks of Erie county. At Le Boeuf, where the sandstone is 
rather coarser in texture, some building stone has been taken out, and 
at one time considerable was done at the Howard quarry in the north- 
ern part of Franklin township. Neither of these locations now yields any 
product to be depended upon. The Erie rocks are distant from the coal 
measures, as from the petroleum region, and though in the past drilling 
yielded small quantities of oil, and even to this day gas can be obtained 
by boring, neither is constant nor long in term of production and there- 
fore, not being dependable, there has not developed here a local oil or 
gas business. Scientifically there is a measure of interest in the rocks 
hereabout because of the occurrence of a formation called cone-in-cone, 
useful only to the geological collector for his cabinet. There are also 
a few fossils, chiefly of the lowest orders of plants, found in the slaty 
shales or the heavier strata of blue sandstone. At one time bog iron 
in some quantity was quarried from the swamp of the Lake Shore 
plain, but it soon became exhausted. Coming within the considerations 
of geological science there must not be overlooked the numerous erratic 
bowlders to be found everywhere over the county, sometimes lying upon 
the surface or embedded in the soil, and often plentiful in the streams, 
where the action of the water has laid them bare, evidence that this 


section was included in the region affected by the influence of the glacial 
epoch (the ice age), and numerous pebbles or small bowlders have been 
found in this vicinity that bore scratches, the effect of the grinding 
process as they were carried over harder substances under the weight 
of the massive glaciers during their steady but deliberate progress. In- 
deed the bed of Lake Erie itself, the shallowest of all the Great Lakes, 
is by geologists pronounced the result of glacial action that scooped out 
the immense basin. 

Now this story, brought up to date, is the story of the Erie county 
part of that great American forest. It is difficult for us today to con- 
ceive what that forest primeval was — perhaps even to fully understand 
that it was ; that where the city stands was once an echoing woods from 
which, upon its floor, the sky could scarce be seen ; that it was a tract 
of land cut by ravines well nigh impassable, with woods, woods every- 
where ; that then there was no view of green hills to the south, and 
smiling fields of grain billowing in the breeze ; no stretches of growing 
corn like an army of plumed warriors ; no long avenues bordered with 
vines upon which the purple clusters are ripening in the autumn sun ; 
no gables looking out from the sheltering orchards that surround ; no red 
school-house upon the hill — only the narrowly circumscribed view within 
the aisles of the forest. No sounds of industry ; no rumble of wheels ; 
no clang of church-going bell ; no cheerful call of friendly greeting — 
only the sough of the wind among the hemlock boughs, or the rustle of 
the leaves ; the plash of the waves upon the beach ; the song of the wood- 
thrush or the warbler or the vireo among the branches ; the shrill cry 
of the flicker, of the echo of the woodpecker's rat-tat upon the hollow 
trunk. This was what prevailed when the white man was yet to come. 
We know what Erie and Erie county now is — but it is profitable also 
to consider what it was from which that we now have is come. 


The ^Ioukd Builders and What They Left as Records. — The Erie 

Tribe and Their Extinction by the Indians 

OF the Six Nations. 

Who were the original inhabitants of Erie county, and what manner 
of men were they who first called this part of North America their 
home? The answer is found in the remains they have left behind, 
relics of the works they constructed, that after an existence of several 
centuries are still to be seen and traced in outline. They were not the 
work of any tribe or nation of Indians with which the European became 
acquainted. Modern ethnologists pronounce them to have been the 
same, to all intents and purposes, as the Indians of the seventeenth cen- 
tury with which the white man became acquainted only that they were 
the ancestors of the later race. But there have been others who regarded 
them as entirely different, bestowing upon them the title of the Mound 
Builders. The most recent investigators are of the opinion, speaking 
generally of the Mound Builders, that there was no definite period of 
their occupancy of this part of the continent, or that covered their activity, 
pointing out that in some of the mounds there have been found imple- 
ments and weapons that had been procured from the white men; while, 
on the other hand there are those of a different way of thinking who 
claim that these relics had been placed in the mounds, already long 
constructed, by Indians of later years who selected these tumuli as 
places of burial for their dead, citing instances where iron tomahawks 
had been dug up from a mound upon which trees centuries old were 
growing. There is therefore still the question remaining to be answered : 
Who were the Mound Builders ? 

That there was a race of mound builders, and that they have left 
numerous evidences of their activity is, however, undisputed, and that 
their work is confined within very well defined boundaries is 
acknowledged. That they were anterior to the Indians the Europeans 
found here is also generally conceded, but by what appellation they went 
among themselves ; what their origin was ; how long thev endured ; what 
brought about their extinction ; nothing is known — only that they were 
and are not. 


They had no written history, nor is there anything pertaining to 
them in hieroglyphics to be found anywhere ; only remains of their works, 
and these, widely distributed, are counted by the thousands. The Mound 
Builders were probably numerous at one period, for many of their re- 
mains would indicate this, such relics as extensive defenses of the char- 
acter of forts : mounds that were the places of sepulture, perhaps of 
chief men; works that may have been temples of worship; others of 
singular form, the purpose of which conjecture may busily occupy itself 
with ; and yet others of such diversity of forms and designs in each 
group that nothing in the circumstances or conditions of the people 
of the present period can suggest an explanation for. 

The territory of the Mound Builders was a vast one, including the 
whole interior of the continent of North America within the boundaries 
cf the Alleghanies, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf 
of Mexico. They were always, it would appear, dwellers by the streams, 
which undoubtedly were their highways, and these streams the popula- 
tion appear to have followed practically to their sources. 

As to their system of government or mode of life there can be 
nothing known, save that scant degree of knowledge that comes from 
inference; based upon the relics that have been found. They were of the 
stone age (as, of course, were the Indians of the Discovery), but upon 
the borderland, for it can be determined they were, for their position 
in the scale of development, skilled miners of copper and galena; they 
were artisans in a rude way ; their stone implements they fashioned to 
their use; with these they wrought in wood, forming various utensils; 
they were potters ; they undoubtedly constructed boats or some other 
form of embarkation ; they had a system of barter or exchange, and 
therefore a commerce. All of this comes from deduction based upon the 
relics that have been found. 

It will serve, here, to introduce briefly an account of some of the 
most notable works of the Mound Builders, so-called. Fort Ancient, 
on the Little Miami river, in Warren county, Ohio, thirty-three miles 
northeast of Cincinnati, is situated upon a plateau or terrace, all of 
which it occupies, and the total area of the fort or fortification is about 
one hundred acres. Yet, following the brow of the hill, upon which it 
stands, with all the bends and irregularities, the wall that encloses this 
fortification is five miles in length. The embankment that forms the 
enclosure is composed of stiff clay, and, ranging from five to twenty feet 
in height — the average between nine and ten feet — the wall contains 
628,800 cubic yards of excavation. The fortifications had over seventy 
gateways or openings, and it is the supposition that these spaces were 
at the time the fort was in use filled with timber gates or stockades. The 
presumption is that what is now called an embankment was orginally 
a wall of sundried brick, averaging twelve feet or so in height, but long 
ago modified by the action of natural forces — rain, frost, wind and the 


slow process of change by the operation of vegetation — into the rounded 
embankment, grass-grown or covered with brambles, that was its condi- 
tion when the white man first found it. The enclosure and the hill 
were covered with the primitive forest — that is to say, there was no 
means by which the timber covering of Fort Ancient could be distin- 
guished as differing from the woods that composed the adjacent forest. 
This was undoubtedly a work of defense, and military men who have 
surveyed and studied it pronounce it remarkably strong, and presenting 
evidence of the military genius of that strange and unknown people. 

Other notable works of the same epoch are the fortification at 
Bourneville, near Chillicothe. Ohio, 140 acres in area, surrounded by a 
stone wall two and a half miles in length; the famous mounds scattered 
through Ohio and down the valley of the Ohio river, some of them 
eighty feet in height; the sacred enclosures or temples (so-called), a 
notable one on the Licking river, near Newark, Ohio ; the symbolical 
mounds, such as the Great Serpent, in Adams county, Ohio, and the Big 
Elephant mound in Grant county. Wisconsin ; and the curious and inter- 
esting plantation or garden. 

Now, taking into account the character of these works, many of 
them prodigious in their proportions ; and their vast number, for there 
are upwards of ten thousand in the state of Ohio alone, the inference 
is logical that there must have been a large population. There is also 
the other natural inference, namely, that they were an agricultural people, 
for otherwise they could not have existed in such numbers. The result 
of a careful computation of the possibilities of support without the aid 
of agriculture is that it would require 50,000 acres for the support of 
one hunter who subsisted upon nothing but the chase. This would give 
the whole state of Ohio a population of only 509 able-bodied men sup- 
ported from the flesh of wild beasts. The evidences from the works that 
remain as relics of the mound building Indians are that an infinitely 
greater number at one time occupied that land. The construction of 
such a work as Fort Ancient would alone employ a force many times 
greater than the entire population of the state, had they been dependent 
upon hunting for their subsistence. On the other hand, the product of 
a single acre of maize may support 200 men for a year. \\'as it not, 
then, the cultivation of this remarkable grain that had made possible the 
construction of these numerous works, themselves proof of the existence 
of a numerous population ? 

And here comes in a most interesting and embarrassing fact ; the 
existence of maize or Indian corn. It is a vegetable problem, a puzzle 
alike to the botanist and the cultivator. It is a puzzle, because undoubt- 
edly having had a native or wild origin, it is known now only as the 
highly developed grain, differing in no essential particular from what it 
was when the European first became acquainted with this western con- 


tinent. The original of the Indian corn is not known, though the botanists 
have for many years been dihgently searching for it ; that it has been 
highly developed from its original form is the general belief, and if 
this is true how many centuries — how many thousand years — -have been 
necessary to bring it to its present perfection. If it is the result of 
careful and intelligent cultivation, that careful and intelligent cultivation 
was bestowed upon it by the aborigines of America, for zea mays, as the 
botanist has named the Indian corn, is an American plant. and its existence 
here may be proof of the extreme antiquity of the human race in Amer- 
ica; perhaps to establish the fact that the Mound Builders were an 
earlier and distinct race as compared with the Indians of the Discovery, 
or perhaps that even the builders of the mounds were modern as com- 
pared with the cultivators who developed the maize. 

But, to return to these builders of the mounds and defenses, occupy- 
ing the vast territory they did, and existing in such numbers as they 
seem to have, how did it come about that they disappeared from the 
face of the earth, leaving none behind to tell their story, nor even a 
tradition to come down to later days? There is no answer and there 
ib no relic to invite inference or excuse conjecture. Were they driven 
out by an incursion of nomadic hostiles ? Was their land overrun as were 
European countries by the Goths and the Huns? Or was there no 
change beyond the gradual drifting into new modes and customs? 

And when did the change take place? It was before the advent of 
the red man, whom the white man, come from Europe, mistakenly 
called Indians. It was long before their time, because there is no 
tradition that the white man has ever had from the red that tells of any 
race but themselves. It was so long ago that forests have grown up and 
decayed upon the works this mysterious people left behind them. Cen- 
turies are undoubtedly repeated between their exit from the stage of 
human afifairs and the entrance of the people who came to be known 
as the American Indian — the people we have known for now upwards 
of 300 years. 

This race of Mound Builders — if it was indeed an earlier and a 
dififerent race — has left in Erie county a part of the record of its exist- 
ence, for what is now Erie county appears to have been the northeastern 
corner of the territory occupied by these interesting and remarkable 
aborigines. If they were a race distinct and preceding the American 
Indians, then they were perhaps the earliest inhabitants of Erie, and 
should be given this place at the beginning of a history of the county. 
If they are not a distinct and separate race but only the progenitors 
of the modern Indian they were still the earliest inhabitants. So that in 
any event they are entitled to place. Their relics are comparatively 
numerous. Among the best known is that found in Wayne township 
a short distance from Corry, which consists of a circular embankment 
of earth surrounded by a trench from which the earth had been dug, 


the whole enclosing about three acres. This embankment, still visible, 
is reduced to between one and two feet in height, but when discovered 
by the early settlers was higher and covered with forest trees. A little 
west there was another and smaller circle of much the same character, 
which being plowed over was at length obliterated. Smaller than the 
Wayne mound or circle is that of the John Pomeroy place on Conneaut 
creek, near Albion. It encloses an area of a little less than an acre, 
and the embankment of this was three feet high and six feet broad at 
the base. Large trees grew upon this and an oak, when cut down indi- 
cated an age of 500 years. On the same farm there is an interesting 
mound a hundred feet long and fifty feet wide by twenty-five feet high. 
There are stories of finding the skeletons of giants in one of the Conneaut 
township mounds, but the measurements given are incredible. Remains 
of works of a similar character exist in Girard, Springfield. Harbor- 
creek, Fairview, Le B(xuf and \'enango. 

In the neighborhood of Wintergreen Gulf, on both sides of Four- 
mile creek, there are a number of relics of ancient aboriginal defenses, 
one on the west side being especially well preserved and notable because 
of the belief on the part of the early settlers that it had been a French 
fort. There are traditions of cannon balls having been found embedded 
in trees that grew hard by and stories made to fit these traditions of an 
engagement between the British, who occupied a similar fort on the 
east side of the ravine, and the French on the west. There is a tale that 
has been told of two strangers who came in the early day, speaking 
a strange language and carrying unfamiliar instruments for surveying, 
who haunted the old fort, at length dug in a spot determined by careful 
measurements, finding a chest of treasure which was carried away. They 
were French men, according to the story, and obtained their data for 
locating the valuables from an old manuscript which gave an account of 
the fight with the British, the concealment of the treasure and the evac- 
uation of the fort. 

But it is all a romance. The fort, if it be a fort, indeed, was there 
long before the French came this way, and for years, — maybe centuries 
— was in as ruinous condition, almost as it is today. 

The earliest historical inhabitants of this part of the American con- 
tinent belonged to an Indian nation known as the Fries or Cats, and it 
i.-? from this Indian nation that the second of the Great Lakes takes its 
name. This nation was never known by the name Eriez. as has been 
mistakenly stated, the error in the orthography of the name having been 
due to the lettering of a French cartographer who inscribed in the 
drawing of the lake the name "Lac des Fries," with a turn in the 
wrong direction in forming the letter "s." The various synonyms of 
the Eries were Eirgas, Eriehronon, Riguehronon and Carantoiians. By 
some the mistake has been made of giving Kahkwa as a synonym of 


the Erie nation. The Kahkwas of Seneca tradition were the Attiwau- 
drons or Neutral nation who inhabited the opposite side of Lake Erie. 

But little is known of the Erie nation, as the French, who were the 
pioneers in this region, had little or practically nothing to do with the 
tribes south of the lake and did not occupy or attempt possession of this 
territory until after the Eries had ceased to e.xist as a nation. En- 
trenched as far west as the Sault Ste. Marie, and engaged in commerce, 
missionary work and exploration to the western end of Lake Superior 
and beyond, and by at least two routes to the Mississippi and down that 
stream, their common route — their almost universal thoroughfare — had 
been the Ottawa river to Lake Nipissing, the Severn river and Georgian 
Bay to Lake Huron and the west. Even after they had established a 
garrison at Detroit, when they had come to employ Lake Erie to a 
limited extent as a route of travel, they avoided the southern shore, 
and, leaving Lake Erie at the mouth of the Grand river, proceeded north- 
eastward across the Niagara peninsula of Canada to Lake Ontario on 
their journeys to the eastward. They had never sent missionaries to the 
Eries, and even the ambitious and enterprising Jesuits had left the nation 
that inhabited the country to the south of Lake Erie uncared for. Their 
existence was known, however, as Champlain's adventurous interpreter, 
Etienne Brule, visited them in the summer of 1615. 

The Eries were, however, known to their kindred of the Iroquois 
confederacy, for the territory of the Cats (this French appellation, sin- 
gularly enough, was also the name given by the eastern Indians to the 
Eries) extended eastward as far as to the Genesee, the frontier of the 
Senecas, and upon the eastern shore of the lake to the Niagara river. 
They were known as a tribe of great warriors and noted for their feroc- 
ity ; they fought with poisoned arrows, and for a long time were a 
terror to the Iroquois. How numerous they were has never been even 
conjectured; nor is it related, either by the earliest of explorers nor by 
Indian tradition that they had any town or permanent abiding place, or 
locality where they practiced agriculture in the extremely limited way 
in which it was done by other Indian peoples of the great forest. From 
all accounts, though their territory was quite extensive, their number 
was small. As a matter of fact modern ideas of the numbers of the 
Indians at the time of the Discovery and of the various explorations, 
are ridiculously extravagant, for they were few and scattered and wide 
stretches of country occurred that seldom or never felt the impress of a 
moccasined foot. The Iroquois though powerful as a confederacy — the 
most powerful in the history of the Indians of North America — -were 
never a numerous people. F. W. Halsey, in the Old New York Frontier, 
says "Just before the Revolution it is unlikely they numbered more than 
15,000, if so many. When their influence was greatest, and they had not 
begun to suffer from the white man's vices, they are believed to have 
numbered 25,000, though never more." When it is considered that the 
Vol. 1—2 


Iroquois, when in the summit of their power, represented the population 
of the entire state of New York, the largest state east of the Mississippi, 
it will be acknowledged that the country was very sparsely settled indeed. 

The Eries were of the same family as the Indians of the Five Nations 
or Iroquois. There were as many nations out of that famous confederacy 
as included in it that were still connected by blood. Besides the Eries 
there were the Hurons, up near Georgian bay; the Tobacco nation, just 
south of the Hurons ; the Neutrals occupying the southern part of the 
present Ontario peninsula, and the Andastes, whose country extended 
south through eastern Pennsylvania. There were thus, it will be observed, 
five nations of the Iroquoian family that existed out of the confederacy ; 
and a sixth, of the same blood, there was, but that in time, moving north, 
united with the Iroquois, and the confederacy became the Six Nations 
of American history — this was the Tuscarora nation of the Carolinas. 
All of the other nations, out of the confederacy, were in turn exterminated 
by the Iroquois, who pushed the war against them relentlessly, nor ever 
ceased until as nations they no longer existed. And yet they were all of 
one kin ! 

To the reader of history this extermination of related nations will 
appear as something monstrous and without excuse or explanation, save 
on the score of natural ferocity. But there is a good explanation fur- 
nished. It was not because they had not joined the confederacy, but 
because, according to the ethics of Indian life, they were unfit, and their 
manner of living was an abomination — according to the tenets they were 
criminals. Let us present the case: 

In the organization of the savage communities of the continent, one 
feature, more or less conspicuous, continually appears. Each nation or 
tribe — to adopt the names by which these communities are usually known 
— is subdivided into several clans. These clans can not locally spparate, 
but are mingled throughout the nation. All the members of each clan 
are, or are assumed to be. intimately joined in a consanguinity. Hence 
it is held an abomination for two persons of the same clan to intermarry ; 
and hence, again, it follows that every family must contain members 
of at least two clans. Each clan has its name, as the clan of the Hawk, 
of the Wolf or of the Tortoise; and each has for its emblem the figure 
of the beast, bird, reptile, plant, or other object, from which its name 
IS derived. This emblem, called totem by the Algonquins, is often tattooed 
on the clansman's body, or rudely painted over the entrance of his 
lodge. The child belongs to the clan, not of the father, but of the 
mother. In other words, descent, not of the totem alone, but of all rank, 
titles and possessions, is through the female. 

Now the violation of this tenet or doctrine of clanship, it is asserted; 
was the real cause of the bad blood that existed between the Iroquois and 
the dissenting nations of the same family. Mr. Fiske points this out as 
especially applicable to the Eries. And it appears that even in the case 


of the Eries the confederacy was willing that they should "bring forth 
fruits meet for repentance," as the opportunity was afforded to' do this. 
It was of no avail. The peace was broken in the making. The Eries 
and the Iroquois could not exist as separate nations and they would not 
be joined as one. 

It was the year 1653 that the doom of the Eries was sealed. The 
Iroquois, to whom war was apparently necessary for existence, had 
carried on for a considerable period, hostilities, that ended only when 
the Hurons, the Tobacco nation and the Neutrals were totally wiped 
out (1650), and followed this up with a period during which they haras- 
sed the Algonquins and the French. At length, however, in 1653, they 
made treaties of peace with the latter, and for a term lived in amity with 
the colonists and their late Indian enemies. In the following May, an 
Onondaga orator on a peace visit to Montreal, said to the governor: 
"Our young men will no more fight the French ; but they are too warlike 
to stay at home, 'and this summer we shall invade the country of the Eries. 
The earth trembles and quakes in that quarter; but here all remains 
calm." Early in the autumn Father Le Moyne, who had taken advantage 
of the peace to go on a mission to the Onondagas, returned to Montreal 
(the source of the Indian history of this period was naturally the French) 
with the tidings that the Iroquois were all on fire with this new enterprise. 
and were about to march against the Eries, with eighteen hundred 

The occasion of this new war, says Parkman, is said to have been 
as follows : The Eries had made a treaty of peace with the Senecas, and 
in the preceding year had sent a deputation of thirty of their principal 
men to confirm it. While they were in the great Seneca town, it happened 
that one of that nation was killed in a casual quarrel with an Erie 
whereupon his countrymen rose in a fury and murdered the thirty depu- 
ties. Then ensued a brisk war of reprisals, in which not only the Senecas 
but the other Iroquois nations, took part. The Eries captured a famous 
Onondaga chief and were about to burn him, when he succeeded in con- 
vincing them of the wisdom of a course of conciliation, and they resolved 
to give him to the sister of one of the murdered deputies, to take the 
place of her lost brother. The sister, by Indian law, had it in her choice 
to receive him with a fraternal embrace or to burn him ; but, though 
she was absent at the time, no one doubted that she would choose the 
gentler alternative. Accordingly he was clothed in gay attire and all the 
town fell to feasting in honor of his adoption. In the midst of the festivity 
the sister returned. To the amazement of the Erie chiefs, she rejected 
with indignation their proffer of a new brother, declared that she would 
be revenged for her loss, and insisted that the prisoner should forthwith 
bo burned. The chiefs remonstrated in vain, representing the danger in 
which such a procedure would involve the nation : the female fury was 
inexorable; and the unfortunate prisoner, stripped of his festal robes. 


was bound to the stake and put to death. He warned his tormentors 
with his last breath that they were burning not only him, but the whole 
Erie nation, since his countrymen would take a fiery vengeance for his 
fate. His words proved true ; for no sooner was his story spread abroad 
among the Iroquois than the confederacy resounded with war-songs from 
end to end, and the warriors took the field under their two great war- 
chiefs. Notwithstanding Father Le Moyne's report that eighteen hundred 
warriors were sent against the Fries, their number according to the Iro- 
quois account did not exceed twelve hundred. 

They embarked in canoes on the lake. At their approach the Fries 
fell back, withdrawing into the forests toward the west till they were 
gathered into one body, when, fortifying themselves with palisades and 
felled trees, they awaited the approach of the invaders. By the lowest 
estimate the Fries numbered two thousand warriors, besides women and 
children — the Iroquois stated the Fries numbered between three thousand 
and four thousand, but this is no doubt an exaggeration ; perhaps even 
the former statement of two thousand is excessive. 

The Iroquois approached the Erie fort and two of their chiefs, 
dressed like French men, advanced and called on those within to surren- 
der. One of them had lately been baptized by Father Le Moyne, and 
he shouted to the Fries, that if they did not yield in time they were 
all dead men, for the Master of Life was on the side of the Iroquois. 
The Fries answered with yells of derision : "Who is this master of your 
lives?" they cried; "our hatchets and our right arms are the masters 
of ours." The Iroquois rushed to the assault, but were met with a shower 
of poisoned arrows which killed and wounded many of them and drove 
the rest back. They waited awhile and then attacked again with unabated 
mettle. This time they carried their bark canoes over their heads like 
huge shields to protect them from the storm of arrows — for though the 
Fries had no fire-arms they used their poisoned arrows with great effect, 
discharging them with surprising rapidity. Planting their canoes upright 
against the palisades and mounting them by the cross-bars like ladders, the 
Iroquois scaled the barricade with such impetuous fury that the Fries 
were thrown into a panic. Those escaped who could ; but the butchery 
was frightful, and from that day the Fries as a nation were no more. 
The victors paid dearly for their conquest. Their losses were so heavy 
that they were forced to remain for two months in the Erie country, to 
bury their dead and nurse their wounded. 

From that time forward until permanent settlement by the white 
man, this portion of the country was a possession of the Seneca nation 
of the Iroquois confederacy, but it was such in name only, for it was 
rarely visited by any of the Indian race. 


The Coming of the Expedition to Open a Way to the Forks of 

THE Ohio. — Forts Presque Isle and Le 

BojuF Built in 1753. 

After the Discovery there were three of the European nations that 
took active steps to obtain possession, in whole or in part, of the new 
continent of America. The Spanish, following along the latitudinal 
parallels that had bounded the westward course of Columbus, were 
prompt to claim, and by conquest obtain, that portion of the new world 
that lay within or was adjacent to the tropics. The British selected the 
north Atlantic coast. The French, contesting with the British for the 
same coast, obtained footing on that part of it extending from the Nova 
Scotian peninsula, northward and, entering the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 
made their settlements gradually farther westward up that great river. 

Each of these three nations was characterized by a distinct spirit 
in the conduct of its operations. With the Spanish, the impelling mo- 
tive was the desire for gold and all their efforts were marked by a spirit 
of conquest distinguished at once by greed and cruelty. The story of 
the subjugation of Mexico and of the conquest of Peru is in each case 
a tale of horrible inhumanity. If the Spanish figured as explorers it 
was ever with the yellow lure of gold in their eyes and their progress 
left a trail of blood behind. Even the religion which the Spanish car- 
ried with them as an inseparable part of their organization was as cruel 
as the spirit of their soldiery. It was different with the French. Theirs 
was a commercial enterprise ; in that resembling the Spanish. But it 
was cleaner commerce, and there was no thought of bloodshed in it, un- 
less stress of circumstances called for it. Their idea was to make the 
natives useful to them ; for the wealth that was to come to France, it 
was designed, should be produced by the furs that were to be collected 
"by the Indian hunters in the great forest, and though they, too, as was 
the case with the Spaniards, had linked the church with the military in 
their great enterprise of acquiring a vast area of territory, their priests 
had set out upon a peaceful crusade. It was their purpose to convert 
to Christianity the savages of the new world. England's purpose was 
■different entirely from that of both the others; it was to open up a new 


land to be converted into homes for the surplus population of the moth- 
er country. 

As between these three great movements toward acquisition in the 
newly discovered land we have to do with but two, the French and the 
English. And, as concerns the history of the county of Erie, chrono- 
logically the French come first, for they were the earliest of the white 
people to identify themselves with affairs of the southern shore. 

Early in the seventeenth century the French began their work of 
exploration of the interior of the American continent, and it is prbper 
to say that this work of exploration was pursued with great enterprise 
and zeal. Much of it — indeed the most of it in the early years — was 
done by the Jesuit missionaries, whose work was directed more toward 
the Christianizing of the Indians than the extension of the power of the 
French king, although the importance of the temporal power was at no 
time lost sight of. So, between the missionary priests and the com- 
mercially-minded governors, who contrived to make a good deal of per- 
sonal profit out of the extension of French sway, the work of explor- 
ation and discovery was diligently pushed. At one time it was be- 
lieved that a navigable route to the other side of the continent could be 
found by way of the St. Lawrence and the great lakes, and the hope of 
this put spurs in the sides of exertion. In the process of time the ex- 
plorations of the French led them to the westernmost end of Lake Su- 
perior, and even to the Rocky mountains ; while the Mississippi was 
reached by two different routes and explored to its mouth. 

But with the work of exploration proceeding to this prodigious ex- 
tent and covering a long term of years — more than half a century — it 
is a remarkable fact that so important a feature of the geography of 
the country as Lake Erie and Niagara river (or more particularly Ni- 
agara Falls) remained undiscovered. This lake was not known to the 
French, except by report until 1669, and the great cataract remained a 
thing of report until 16?8. when the La Salle expedition proceeded up the 
Niagara river to set about building the Griffon, the first vessel that ever 
sailed the upper lakes (save the canoe of the Indian). 

Another remarkable thing is that Lake Erie became known by 
what might be called a back-door discovery, for it was first visited by 
Joliet, returning from a western tour in 1669 and the exploration of 
the lake at that time was not complete, because after reaching Long Point, 
through fear of the savages on the shore of the southeastern end. the ex- 
pedition entered the mouth of Grand river, and proceeded overland to 
Lake Ontario. 

There was a good reason for the failure of the French to make 
these explorations. There was a stumbling block in the way. That ob- 
stacle was the Iroquois confederacy. With almost every other family 
of Indians the French made progress. It seemed to be impossible with 
the Indians of the Five Nations. Their route to the west there- 


fore took them as far away as possible from the land where their fears 
lay, and they chose to travel up the Ottawa and across to Georgian bay. 

In the course of time matters changed somewhat. The French 
having established themselves in the north and the west set about ac- 
quiring what remained of the continent, and gradually, as their growing 
courage permitted, entrenched themselves in advanced posts, and setting 
up a bold claim, proceeded by extending their occupancy to make good 
their claim. It was in 1720 that Father Bobi, a priest of the Congrega- 
tion of Missions, drew up a paper in which he sets forth the claim of 
France with much distinctness, beginning with the declaration: "Eng- 
land has usurped from France nearly everything that she possesses in 
America," and adding that the plenipotentiaries at Utrecht did not know 
what they were about when they made such concessions to the enemy. 
. . . He maintains that the voyages of Yerrazzano and Ribaut made 
France owner of the whole continent, from Florida northward ; that Eng- 
land was an interloper in planting colonies along the Atlantic coast, and 
will admit as much if she is honest, since all that country is certainly a 
part of New France. In this modest assumption of the point at issue, 
says Parkman, he ignores John Cabot and his son Sebastian, who dis- 
covered North America more than twenty-five years before the voyage 
of \'errazzano and more than sixty years before that of Ribaut. Far- 
ther along in his statement of the case Father Bobi declares that. "France, 
always generous, will consent to accept as boundary a line drawn from 
the mouth of the Kennebec, passing thence midway between Schenec- 
tady and Lake Champlain and along the ridge of the Allfeghanies to the 
River Jordan (the French Broad, in North Carolina), the country be- 
tween this and the sea to belong to England, and the rest of the continent 
to France." 

This is a sufficiently clear statement of the position of France with 
relation to the new American continent, and this statement will help to 
an understanding of the motives behind the aggressive manifestations 
observed with reference to the French during most of the seventeenth 
century. The activity of the French was stimulated by the fact that 
here and there manifestations appeared of a disposition on the part of 
the English to break over the border as the French had been pleased to 
define it. It was especially aggravating to them that the English had so 
much influence with the Iroquois nation, and, to prevent the spread of 
the British into the interior it v.^as decided to take firm steps. The Miss- 
issippi was theirs. They claimed by reason of that fact, that all the 
tributaries of that river, and the countries they drained, were also theirs. 
The crown had granted a charter to a body called the Ohio Com- 
pany. This involved La Belle Riviere. It was therefore incumbent 
upon the French that possession should formally be taken of the land 
they claimed. It was this disposition of England's that impelled the 
French to send forth the expedition of Celoron. \\'ith a force of .TOO 


men Capt. Celoron, in 17-19 proceeded from Montreal, and landing at 
the mouth of Chautauqua creek at a place now known as Barcelona, 
on the south shore of Lake Erie, carried the canoes and luggage of the 
expedition across the high ridge, a distance of about twelve miles, and 
embarked upon Chautauqua Lake. Traversing the lake and following 
the stream at its outlet they entered the Alleghany river and passing 
down, stopped at the mouth of every important affluent and buried a 
lead plate the inscription on which was to the effect that the King of 
France had taken formal possession. 

But the effect of the Celoron expedition was not what had been 
hoped for. Something more imposing must be done. It was decided to 
send forth an expedition to occupy the Ohio. This was an enterprise of 
Gov. Duquesne's and was decided upon only after giving the subject due 
consideration as well with reference to its military results as to any 
other — and it is not to be doubted that a leading purpose of the French 
was to impress the Indians and win them over by this show of power and 
enterprise, for the natives were very susceptible to any demonstration of 
an ostentatious character. Although the colonial minister advised against 
it and charged Duquesne : "Build on the Ohio such forts as are absolutely 
necessary, but no more. Remember, His Alajesty suspects your advisers 
of interested views," a word of caution that the governor could not 
fail to understand the meaning of, for graft and jobbery and corruption 
flourished at the French Canadian capital ; Duquesne would not be 
turned from a purpose that to his way of thinking led to obvious ad- 

The decision to organize and send out the expedition was quickly 
reached and Duquesne mustered the Colony troops and the Canadians. 
From these he selected a force of rather more than a thousand men, 
increased by subsequent detachments to fifteen hundred, an army that 
seemed to the Indians a mighty host, and led them to declare that the 
lakes and rivers were covered with boats and soldiers, from Montreal to 
Presque Isle. The Mohawk warriors on the St. Lawrence who saw 
them pass hastened home to report the news to Johnson. 

The importance of this expedition called for a man of ability to be 
its leader. Now at Quebec and ^Montreal there had developed a society 
as gay and lively as even the mercurial French could desire, and there 
were fair women as well as brave men ; and festivities and flirtations and 
all the flounces and trimmings that gay society demands. Prominent in 
this society was a young military officer named Pean. He was rich — 
through illicit trading in furs, and other jobbery. Pean had a handsome 
wife, and she was popular. She was admired by Pean's superior of- 
ficers — ^by Governor Duquesne. If there had not been a somewhat 
parallel case reported in the scriptures where a soldier named Uriah 
had a wife whom the King admired, the incident of Pean might be 
set down as original and Frenchy, for what happened to Uriah was 


the fate of Pean — except that the latter was not killed. It was desired 
that Pean should have command of the expedition in order that he might 
be lost in the wilderness and separated from his handsome wife. Gov- 
ernor Duquesne, however, decided that though Pean must go, he could 
not go as the head of the expedition. 

For the position of commander of the Ohio expedition Sieur Marin 
was chosen. He was a soldier of parts, seasoned by long service, and 
qualified by wide experience in the wilds of America, as an explorer, and 
when occasion demanded, as a fighter of Indians. And Pean went also. 
He was Marin's lieutenant. It was not a service that permitted the 
company of ladies. His handsome wife was left behind. 

It was early in the spring of 1753 when the expedition under Marin 
to occupy the Ohio set out from Montreal. All told there were 1500 
men. It was not a large army as armies generally are regarded. But, 
considering that they traveled by bark canoes ; that they were outfitted 
with tools for heavy construction work as well as with weapons ; and 
besides, of a miscellaneous and extensive stock of merchandise and 
"stuffs ;" also that the boats, the tools and arms, and the stock had all 
to be carried over the steep and long portage at Niagara Falls, it will 
readily be granted that not numbers alone count in the making of an 
army. For the time and the place it was a great army. 

It moved in two detachments. Its orders were to land at an ap- 
pointed place and build a fort and thence penetrate into the interior, to 
establish a thoroughfare to the Ohio river. The first detachment, skirt- 
ing the south shore of Lake Erie, landed at Barcelona, Celoron's old 
slopping place, and set about constructing a suitable defense. The main 
body, however, coming along soon afterwards, proceeded to Presque Isle, 
which was a new discovery of the French. It was declared that the route 
from Presque Isle wais far better than that which Celoron followed, and 
Duquesne, speaking of the bay at this point called it "The finest in nature." 
All of which tends to show how thorough the knowledge of the wilder- 
ness by the French was, and how reliable their exploration. 

Arrived at Presque Isle the expedition at once set about erecting a 
fort. The site chosen was just within the entrance of the bay, on the 
top of the bluflf west of the mouth of Mill Creek. The location with 
reference to the survey of the city as it is today, was a little east of 
the foot of Parade street, the west wall probably near the east line of 
Parade street, and the north wall or side some distance north of the 
brow of the present bank or bluf?, for a considerable amount of material 
was taken from that steep hillside from time to time by the railroad, and 
more by the burners of brick in the yard close by. 

The fort was constructed of squared chestnut timbers about ten feet 
high, planted as a palisade or stockade. Within this enclosure there were 
the necessary quarters for officers and men, a store-house, a magazine 


and a well. It was 120 feet square. This description of it is given by 
an Englishman, a conscript to the French, who afterwards made his 
escape, and the description given would indicate that it was a plain square 
structure of the stockade plan with a gate opening to the south. There 
are good reasons for doubting the accuracy of this description. When 
Washington was at Le Boeuf, (an account of his visit is given in a later 
chapter) he learned that the fort at Presque Isle was built on the same 
plan as that at Le Boeuf but larger. He gives a soldier's description of the 
defense, and part of his duty being to be accurate in his observations, 
what he has reported of the fort he saw is doubtless reliable. An ac- 
count given of the fort describes it as four large houses of solid timber 
construction, with p"alisaded bastions at each of the four corners. 

This accords better with what is known of the science of military 
engineering of the time, and it received verification many years after- 
ward — long after the site had become grass-grown and on the surface no 
trace remained of any work of any sort that had occupied that place. 
It was early in the seventies while earth from the side-hill was being 
removed for railroad construction that the lower portions of much de- 
cayed timbers were exposed to view. Erie then had a devoted anti- 
quarian, assiduous in the work of collecting — Capt. W. F. Lutje. News 
of such a discovery was not slow to reach Capt. Lutje's ears, nor was 
he tardy in acting upon the impulse to look into the matter. He went at 
once, and. adding to the instincts of the antiquarian the experience of an 
artillery officer, it did not take long to decide what the ruins had been. 
It was one of the bastions of the French fort. The side next the shore 
was not intact. Part of it had fallen during the work of excavating that 
had progressed from below, but the points where the angles occurred for 
the flank and the other face, both of which of course extended inward, 
were seen, and by the use of the shovel could be verified as part of the 
bastion formation. In the judgment of Capt. Lu-tje that bastion had 
contained the armory or arsenal because of the remains of weapons, in 
numbers, that were found. It is also worthy of note that one who visited 
Fort Presque Isle during its occupancy by the French spoke of the bas- 
tions and added the information that the cannon intended for use in 
them had not been mounted. Undoubtedly therefore it was a fort of 
full military scientific character that the French erected at Presque Isle. 

When Fort Presque Isle had been built the energies of the entire 
force were directed toward the construction of a military road extending 
southward to the Riviere aux Boeufs. where another and smaller fort, 
called Le Boeuf. was built. This road extended in a practically direct 
line to the second fort, and a considerable part of the road is still in 
use. The French engineers paid no regard to natural difficulties or 
obstacles ; the route was made direct. Ravines, swamps, hills or steep 
places were taken as they came. But little excavation was done and 
bridges of a rough and somewhat primitive character were employed in 


crossing the two streams where bridging was necessary. The swamps 
were crossed by corduroy construction. The important thing to be ac- 
compHshed was to take the shortest possible route. In the city of Erie 
Parade street is practically on the route of the French road, and obtained 
its name by that circumstance. A section of the corduroy work of the 
French remained in upper Parade street until somewhere in the decade 
of the sixties. At the Cold Springs the road turned to a due southerly 
direction and is the Old French Road of the present city. It ends by 
that name at the edge of Mill Creek ravine, but on the opposite side is to 
be found again as a part of the Waterford plank road, and continues as 
such till the Summit township line is reached, when the Waterford 
road turning to the east, the French route- disappears. It is for an inter- 
val only. Presently it is again found and in use for a stretch of several 
miles, straight south through Summit until, a short distance from the 
southern line of Summit it had been abandoned. Traces of it remained 
as an open lane through the woods coming out very near to Major 
Strong's on the Waterford turnpike, in \\'aterford township, the pike 
very nearly occupying the site of the original road, from thence in to the 

But it is time to return to Fort Presque Isle and the expedition to 
occupy the Ohio. It has been stated that the fort was built and the 
road constructed. But this was not accomplished without much hard 
work and encountering great difficulties. Marin, commander of the 
expedition, a gruff, choleric old man of 63, but full of force and capacity, 
spared himself so little that he was stricken down with dysentery, and 
refusing to be sent home to Montreal was before long in a dying condi- 
tion. His place was taken by Pean, his lieutenant, of whose private 
character there is little good to be said (remarks Parkman) but whose 
conduct as an officer was such that Duquesne calls him a prodigy of 
talents, resources and zeal. Pean wrote at the end of September that 
Marin was in extremity, and the Governor, disturbed and alarmed, for 
he knew the value of the sturdy old officer, looked anxiously for a suc- 
cessor. He chose another veteran, Legardeur de Saint Pierre, who had 
just returned from a journey of exploration toward the Rocky moun- 

Meanwhile the expedition was already justified by its effects. At 
first the Indians met the French with jealous suspicions. At Fort Le 
Boeuf the Half-King, a famous Indian Chief, came and ordered the 
French to leave the country, but Marin received him with such con- 
temptuous haughtiness that the Indian went away shedding tears of 
rage and mortification. In time the attitude of the natives changed. The 
Indians were daunted and made submission to the French and without 
distinction came to the French camp and offered help in carrying bag- 
gage. It was heavy work to carry the cumbrous load of baggage across 


the portages. Much of it is said to have been superfluous, consisting of 
velvets, silks and other useless and costly articles, sold to the King at 
enormous prices as necessaries of the expedition — silks and velvets for 
the soldiers of a campaign in a forest wilderness ! where tanned deer- 
skin was none too tough a material out of which to make their clothing. 

There was a third fort planned — at Franklin — and it was the pur- 
pose to send Pean down the river with the remainder of the force, hoping 
thus to inspire with terror the wavering tribes, and also to strongly re- 
inforce the French who were to build a work of defence at the forks of 
the Ohio. But the plans went all astray. Fevers, lung diseases and 
scurvy were making fearful havoc, and at length the resolute but dying 
Marin was compelled to bitterly acknowledge his work but half done. 
Selecting out of his force three hundred to garrison Fort Presque Isle 
and Fort Le Bceuf the rest were sent back to Montreal. 

Legardeur de Saint Pierre, the successor of Marin, arrived at the end 
of autumn, and chose to make his headquarters at Fort Le Boeuf. where 
he spent the winter, the command at Presque Isle being assigned to a lieu- 
tenant named Reparti. 

It seems incredible that that campaign of a summer devoted to 
military engineering in this portion of the country should have proved 
so disastrous to the French. In their work of constructing forts and of 
road-building they were not molested by the natives, but on the contrary 
assisted. And yet the hardships encountered had reduced them to a 
really pitiable state. When the miserable remnant arrived at Montreal 
Governor Duquesne was so shocked by their altered looks that he 
wrote of them : "I reviewed them and could not help being touched by 
the pitiable state to which fatigues and exposures had reduced them. 
Past all doubt if these emaciated figures had gone down the Ohio (the 
Alleghany is meant) as intended, the river would have been strewn with 
corpses, and the evil-disposed savages would not have failed to attack 
the survivors, seeing they were but spectres." 

Forts Presque Isle and Le Boeuf were evidently intended for a 
double purpose. They were not only to serve notice to all concerned 
that formal possession had been taken of the territory by the French, and 
to keep open a route of communication, but they were depots in that 
line of communication between the French capital in Canada and the 
forts to be built upon the Ohio river proper, the design of Governor 
Duquesne undoubtedly being to constitute the fort at the forks of the 
Ohio, as it was then called, the central or strong position of the French 
defences in the west. 

There was also another motive that animated the French. They 
had long enough been intimate with the savages to understand how 
strongly they became impressed by the manifestation of power and of 
enterprise, and they were anxious to so impress the natives as to win 
them as allies. That this could be successfully accomplished in the new 


region the French were opening up their former experience had led 
them to expect and their later experience while constructing the port- 
age road to Le Boeuf had confirmed. They had almost completely won 
over the Indians, notwithstanding the vexatious rebuff administered to the 
Half-King. This chief, however, as may appear later, remained a faith- 
ful ally of the English. 

It does not appear by anything that has yet been written on the 
subject, how the French obtained the accurate knowledge they possessed 
of the route they had selected, for there is no point where a shorter 
or less difficult route between the waters of Lake Erie and the navigable 
streams of the interior could be secured. If the Indians of this section 
had been allied to the French, or even on friendly terms there might be 
an explanation at hand. But they were not. There had been no trading 
between the French and Indians in this section of the country. There 
was, however, a Frenchman of considerable fame, an Indian or adopted 
Indian, who had penetrated far beyond the regions of French influence. 
He was an interpreter and at times a guide. Into the region south of 
this, along the Alleghany river, he had taken his way and in 1753 was 
posted at Venango with a commission from the French. His name was 
Joncaire, the son of the more famous Joncaire of the east, and his in- 
fluence with the Indians was great. Besides the Indians he had allied 
with him at that post there was a small contingent of French. It was 
undoubtedly through Joncaire and his explorations, and the information 
he had obtained from the savages that the route by way of Presque Isle 
to the Ohio river became known to Governor Duquesne. 

It is no easy matter at this late day to obtain accurate information 
with reference to the true character, mode of construction, and other 
details of Fort Presque Isle and of the settlement that may or may not 
have been located adjacent to it, because contemporary accounts vary so 
widely. From the work on the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, pub- 
lished by the State at Harrisburg in 1906, this account of the fort 
and the settlement are obtained : 

"In 1755 it is said 356 families resided near the fort, and in 1757 
there were 480. These were soldiers, carriers, traders, missionaries, 
mechanics. Indians, etc. Being a central point and Fort Duquesne, Fort 
Niagara and Detroit on the borders, it was at times filled with stores and 
1000 men (it is said) have been at one time between Presque Isle and 
Le Boeuf." 

Sir William Johnson, in 1756, undoubtedly from information ob- 
tained from Indians or scouts, for personally he never visited it, says : 

"The barracks within the fort are garrisoned with 150 men, supported 
chieflv from a French settlement near it, of about 150 families ; Indians 


pretty numerous : have a priest and school teacher ; grist mills and stills 
in this settlement." 

Fred Post's journal of 1758 would seem to indicate that the fort 
was made of palisades planted in the ground, in this respect quite con- 
trary to what is said of it by others who describe it. His journal says : 

"An Indian from Presque Isle reports the fort so out of repairs a 
strong man might pull any log out of the earth. There are two officers 
and thirty-four men in the garrison there and not above ten Indians, 
which they keep constantly hunting for the support of the garrison." 

Thomas Bull, an Indian spy, in 1759 speaks of Fort Presque Isle 
as a bastioned fort. "The garrison," he says, "consists of two officers, 
two merchants, a clerk, a priest and 103 soldiers. The commander's 
name is Burinol. The fort is square with four bastions. There are no 
guns upon the walls yet, but four 4-pounders in one of the bastions, not 
mounted. The wall is only of single logs, no bank within, a ditch with- 
out. A magazine, a stone house, stands in the right bastion next the 

Capt. Pouchot, chief engineer of the French army in America, in 
1763 gives a description of the fort which may or may not be accurate, 
as what he says of the situation of the fort and of the country back of 
it, do not at all agree with fact. If the fort was constructed on \^auban's 
principle, as we understand it, there certainly were bastions. Capt. 
Pouchot says : 

"At Presque Isle there is a good bay, but only seven or eight feet of 
water. This fort is sufficiently large. It is built piece upon piece with 
three outbuildings for the storage of goods in transitu. It is 120 feet 
square and 15 feet high and built on Vauban's principle, with two doors, 
one to the north and one on the south. It is situated on a plateau that 
forms a peninsula, which has given it its name. The country around is 
good and pleasant. They keep wagons for portage to Fort Le Bceuf, 
which is six leagues. Although it is in a level country the road is not 
very good. The fort at Riviere au Bceuf is square, smaller than the 
one at Presque Isle, but built piece on piece." 

Thomas Forbes, lately in the King of France's service, in 1754 
writes : 

"This fort is situated on a little rising ground at a very small distance 
from the water of Lake Erie. It is rather larger than that at Niagara, 
but has likewise no bastions nor outworks of any sort. It is a square 
area enclosed with logs about twelve feet high, the logs being squared 
and laid on each other and not more than sixteen or eighteen inches 
thick. Captain Despontaine is commandant in this fort and his garrison 


was thirty private men. We were eight days employed in unloading 
our canoes here and 'carrying the provisions to Fort Le Boeuf, which is 
built about six leagues from Presque Isle at the head of the Buffaloe river. 
This fort was composed of four houses built by way of bastions and 
the intermediate spaces stockaded ; Lieut. St. Blieu was posted here with 
twenty men." 


His Journey to Erie County and its Purpose. — The French Com- 
mandant Refuses to Obey British Orders. 

There was a marked difference between the system of the govern- 
ment exercised by the French in America and the English colonies on 
this side of the Atlantic. The English had established not one but num- 
erous colonies along the Atlantic coast, each having its own char- 
ter from the Crown. Each lived, then, a life of its own, shut within 
its own limits, not dreaming of a future collective greatness to which the 
possession of the west would be a necessary condition. No conscious 
community of interests held them together, nor was there any authority 
capable of uniting their forces and turning them to a common object. 
Some of the servants of the Crown had urged the necessity of joining 
them all under a strong central government as the only means of making 
them loyal subjects and arresting the encroachments of France; but the 
scheme was plainly impracticable. Each province remained in jealous 
isolation, busied with its own work, growing in strength, in the capacity 
of self-rule and the spirit of independence and stubbornly resisting all 
exercise of authority from without. If the English-speaking population 
flowed westward it was in obedience to natural laws, for the King did 
not aid the movement, the royal government had no authority to do so, 
and the colonial assemblies were too much engrossed with immediate local 

In the French colonies all was different. Here the representatives 
of the Crown were men bred in an atmosphere of broad ambition and 
masterful and far-reaching enterprise. Achievement was demanded of 
them. They recognized the greatness of the prize, studied the strong and 
weak points of their rivals, and with a cautious forecast and a daring 
energy set themselves to the task of defeating them. 

If the English colonies were comparatively strong in numbers their 
numbers could not be brought into action; while if the French forces 
were small, they were vigorously commanded and always ready at a 

But though there was not a governor general of the American colo- 
nies ; a central official who represented the Crown, there was one in- 
dividual among the colonial governors who failed not to take notice whert 

* Parkman's Half Century of Conflict. 


there were manifestations of encroachment by tlie French. This in- 
dividual was Governor Robert Dinwiddie of \'irginia, a dour, hard- 
headed Scotchman, jealous of his rights and so autocratic that he was 
nearly all the time at loggerheads with his assembly. Now Robert Din- 
widdie was of the opinion that pretty nearly all the interior of the conti- 
nent was part of his colony of Virginia. He refused to recognize a border 
line or boundary in the crests of the Alleghany range of mountains. 
Moreover, he kept himself posted. There were countrymen of his 
as industrious and enterprising as explorers as almost any of the French ; 
who left their names upon streams and lakes and mountains as monu- 
ments of their energy and perseverance. These were not lacking among 
the stragglers across the mountains, into the wilds of the forest in the 
interior. So Robert Dinv^iddie had means at hand of learning when 
his territory was being trespassed upon. Before the summer of 1753 was 
ended he had been informed that the French had taken possession and 
built forts at Presque Isle and Le Boeuf. 

Governor Dinwiddie was a man of action. He became busy at 
once. Calling in a young officer, "one of the adjutant-generals of the 
troops and forces in the colony of Virginia," he commissioned him to 
proceed through the wilderness bearing despatches to the French, de- 
manding why they had invaded the domains of King George the Second 
of England, and commanding them to retire. The young officer was 
George Washington, his destination was Fort Le Bceuf, and the story of 
his journey through the wilderness, across the "Allegheny Hill" and up . 
the Alleghany river and its tributaries, forms one of the most interesting 
narratives in the history of the continent. His commission was brief and 
to the point. It was as follows : 

"I, reposing special trust and confidence in the ability, conduct, and 
fidelity of you, the said George Washington, have appointed you my 
express messenger ; and you are hereby authorized and empowered to 
proceed hence, with all convenient and possible dispatch, to the part or 
place, on the river Ohio, where the French have lately erected a fort 
or forts, or where the commandant of the French forces resides, in 
order to deliver my letter and message to him ; and after waiting not 
exceeding one week for an answer, you are to take your leave and re- 
turn immediately back." This commission was dated the 30th day of 
October "Annoque Domini, 1753." 

Washington, at the time he received this important commission, was 
less than twenty-two years old, but his conduct of the expedition in the 
face of incessant dangers and hardships, his success in foiling the in- 
trigues of the French and defeating their designs upon his Indian com- 
pany, and the success he achieved in obtaining important and reliable in- 
formation, could not have been exceeded by a seasoned veteran. He 
Vol. 1—3 


tells his own story of the expedition, kept in a diar_v or journal and sub- 
mitted as his report to Governor Dinwiddie. He says : 

I was commissioned and appointed by the Honorable Robert Din- 
widdie, Esquire, Governor, etc., of Virginia, to visit and deliver a letter 
to the commandant of the French forces at the Ohio, and set out on the 
intended journey on the same day : on the next I arrived at Fredericks- 
burg, and engaged Mr. Jacob \'anbraam to be my French interpreter, 
and proceeded with him to Alexandria, where we provided necessaries. 
From thence we went to Winchester, and got baggage horses, etc., and 
from thence we pursued the new road to Wills' Creek, where we arrived 
on the 14th of November. 

Here I engaged Mr. Gist to pilot us out, and also hired four others 
as servitors, Barnaby Currin and John McQuire, Indian traders. Henry 
Steward and William Jenkins ; and in company with these persons left 
the inhabitants the next day. 

The excessive rains and vast quantities of snow which had fallen 
prevented our reaching Mr. Frazier's, an Indian trader, at the mouth 
of Turtle creek, on Monongahela river, till Thursday the 22d. We were 
informed here, that expresses had been sent a few days before to the 
traders down the river, to acquaint them with the French general's 
death, and the return of the major part of the French army into winter 

The waters were quite impassable without swimming our horses, 
which obliged us to get the loan of a canoe from Frazier, and to send 
Barnaby Currin and Henry Seward down the Monongahela, with our 
baggage, to meet us at the forks of Ohio, about ten miles below ; there 
to cross the Allegheny. . . . About two miles from this, on the 
southeast side of the river, at the place where the Ohio company intended 
to erect a fort, lives Shingiss, king of the Delawares. We called upon 
him to invite him to a council at Logstown. 

^ :^ :^ ^ ^ ^ 

Shingiss attended us to the Logstown, where we arrived between 
sun-setting and dark, the twenty-fifth day after I left Williamsburg. We 
traveled over some extremely good and bad land to get to this place. 

As soon as I came into town. I went to Monakatoocha (as the 
Half-King was out at his hunting cabin on Little Beaver creek, about 
fifteen miles of¥) and informed him by John Davidson, my Indian in- 
terpreter, that I was sent a messenger to the French general ; and was 
ordered to call upon the sachems of the six nations to acquaint them 
with it. I gave him a string of wampum and a twist of tobacco, and 
desired him to send for the Half-King, which he promised to do by 
a runner in the morning, and for other sachems. I invited him and the 
other great men present, to my tent, where they stayed about an hour 
and returned. 

2oth. — Came to town, four of ten Frenchmen, who had deserted 
from a company at the Kuskuskas, which lies at the mouth of this river. 
I got the following account from them : They were sent from New 


Orleans with a hundred men. and eight canoe loads of provisions, to 
this place, where they expected to have met the same number of men 
from the forts on this side of Lake Erie, to convey them and the stores 
up, who were not arrived when they ran off. 

:^; :Jc :}: jji ^; ^ 

About three o'clock this evening the Half-King came to town. I 
went up and invited him with Davidson, privately, to my tent ; and de- 
sired him to relate some of the particulars of his journey to the French 
commandant, and of his reception there ; also to give me an account of 
the ways and distance. He told me, that the nearest and levellest way 
was now impassable, by reason of many large miry savannas ; that we 
must be obliged to go by Venango, and should not get to the near fort 
in less than five or six nights sleep, good traveling. When he went to 
the fort, he said, he was received in a very stern manner by the late 
commander, who asked him very abruptly, what he had come about, 

and to declare his business He informed me that they had 

br.ilt two forts, one on Lake Erie, and another on French creek, near a 
small lake, about fifteen miles asunder ; that on the lake the largest. He 
gave me a plan of them of his own drawing. 

26th. — (This day was devoted to a pow-wow with the Indians at 
which Washington laid before them the business in hand and solicited 
their co-operation in accordance with the instructions and request of the 
governor. There was much delay and evident reluctance on the part of 
the Indians to comply, so that it was not until the 30th that the journey 
could be resumed, and then but four of the natives had joined them. The 
journal continues under date of the 30th November) : 

We set out about nine o'clock with the Half-King Jeskakake, White 
Thunder and the Hunter, and traveled on the road to \'enango. where 
we arrived the fourth of December, without anything remarkable hap- 
pening but a continued series of bad weather. 

This is an old Indian town situated at the mouth of French creek, 
on Ohio; and lies near north about sixty miles from the Logstown. but 
more than seventy the way we were obliged to go. 

We found the French colors hoisted at a house from which they 
had driven Mr. John Frazier, an English subject. I immediately re- 
paired to it. to know where the commander resided. There were three 
officers, one of whom. Captain Joncaire, informed me that he had the 
command of the Ohio ; but that there was a general officer at the near 
fort, where he advised me to apply for an answer. He invited me to 
sup with them, and treated us with great complaisance. 

The wine as they dosed themselves pretty plentifully with it, soon 
banished the restraint which at first appeared in their conversation, and 
gave a license to their tongues to reveal their sentiments more freely. 

They told me that it was their absolute design to take possession of 
the Ohio, and by G-d they would do it ; for that, although they were 
sensible the English could raise two men for their one, yet they knew 
their motions were too slow and dilatory to prevent any undertaking of 
theirs. They pretend to have an undoubted right to the river from a dis- 
cover}' made by one La Salle, sixty years ago : and the rise of this ex- 


pedition is, to prevent our settling on the river or waters of it, as they 
heard of some famiUes moving out in order thereto. From the best 
intelligence I could get, there have been fifteen hundred men on this 
side Ontario lake. But on the death of the General, all were recalled 
to about six or seven hundred, who were left to garrison four forts, one 
hundred and fifty or thereabout in each. The first of them is on French 
creek, near a small lake, about sixty miles from Venango, near north 
northwest ; the next lies on Lake Erie, where the greater part of their 
stores are kept, about fifteen miles from the other ; from this it is about 
one hundred and twenty miles to the carrying place, at the falls of Lake 
Erie, where there is a small fort at which they should lodge their goods 
in bringing them from Montreal, the place from whence all their stores 
are brought. The next fort lies about twenty miles from this, on On- 
tario lake. Between this fort and Montreal, there are three others, the 
first of which is nearly opposite to the English Fort Oswego. From the 
fort on Lake Erie to Montreal is about six hundred miles, which, they 
say, requires no more (if good weather) than four weeks voyage, if 
they go in barks or large vessels so that thej' may cross the lake ; but 
if they come in canoes, it will require five or six weeks, for they are 
obliged to keep under the shore. 

December 5th. — Rained excessively all day, which prevented our 
traveling. (Here occurs an account of the efforts put forth by Joncaire 
to seduce the Indians, efforts that were continued during the (Jth and into 
the 7th, causing great trouble to the young commander). 

7th. — Monsieur La Force, commissary of the French stores, and 
three other soldiers, came over to accompany us up. We found it ex- 
tremely difficult to get the Indians off today, as every stratagem had 
been used to prevent their going up with me. I had last night left John 
Davidson (the Indian interpreter,) whom I brought with me from town, 
and strictly charged him not to be out of their compiany, as I could not 
get them over to my tent ; for thej' had some business with Kustalogo, 
chiefly to know why he did not deliver up the French speech-belt which 
he had in keeping: but I was obliged to send Mr. Gist over today to 
fetch them, which he did with great persuasion. 

At twelve o'clock we set out for the fort, and were prevented 
arriving there until the 11th by excessive rains, snows, and bad traveling 
through many mires and swamps ; these we were obliged to pass in or- 
der to avoid crossing the creek, which was impassable, either by fording 
or rafting, the water was so high and rapid. 

12th. — I prepared early to wait upon the commander, and was re- 
ceived and conducted to him by the second officer in command. I 
acquainted him with my business, and offered my commission and letter ; 
both of which he requested me to keep until the arrival of Alonsieur 
Reparti. Captain at the next fort, who was sent for and expected every 

The commander is a Knight of the military order of St. Louis, and 
named Legardeur de St. Pierre. He is an elderlv gentleman and has 
much the air of a soldier. He was sent over to take the command im- 
mediately upon the death of the late general, and arrived here about 
seven daj^s before me. 


At two o'clock the gentleman who was sent for arrived, when I 
offered the letter, etc., again, which they received, and adjourned into a 
private apartment for the captain to translate, who understood a little 
English. After he had done it. the commander desired I would walk 
in and hring my interpreter to peruse and correct it, which I did. 

]3th. — The chief officers retired to hold a council of war, which 
gave me an opportunity of taking the dimensions of the fort, and making 
what observations I could. 

It is situated on the south or west fork of French creek, near the 
water ; and is almost surrounded by the creek, and a branch of it, which 
form a kind of island. Four houses compose the sides. The bastions 
are made of piles driven into the ground, standing more than twelve 
feet above it, and sharp at the top, with port-holes cut for cannon, and 
loop-holes for the small arms to fire through. There are eight six-pound 
pieces mounted in each bastion, and one piece of four pounds before the 
gate. In the bastions are a guard-house, chapel, doctor's lodging, and the 
ccmmanders private store round which are laid platforms for the can- 
non and men to stand on. There are several barracks without the fort, 
for the soldiers' dwellings, covered, some with bark, and some with 
boards made chiefly of logs. There are also several other houses, such 
a? stables, smith's shop, etc. 

I could get no certain account of the number of men here ; but. 
according to the best judgment I could form, there are a hundred, ex- 
clusive of the officers, of whom there are many. I also gave orders to 
the people who were with me, to take an exact account of the canoes, 
which were hauled up to convey their forces down in the spring. This 
they did and told fifty of birch bark, and a hundred and seventy of pine; 
■besides many others, which were blocked out, in readiness for being 

14th. — As the snow increased very fast and our horses daily became 
weaker, I sent them off unloaded, under the care of Barnabv Currin 
and two others, to make all convenient dispatch to Venango, and there 
to wait our arrival, if there was a prospect of the river's freezing; if 
not then to continue down to Shanapin's town, at the forks of Ohio, and 
there to wait until we came to cross the Allegheny; intending myself to 
go down by water, as I had the offer of a canoe or two. 

As I found many plots concerted to retard the Indians' business, 
and prevent their returning with me. I endeavored all that lay in my 
power to frustrate their schemes, and hurried them on to execute their 
intended design. They accordingly pressed for admittance this evening, 
which at length was granted them, privately, to the comriiander and one 
or two other officers. The Half-King told me that he offered the wam- 
pum to the commander, who evaded taking it, and made many fair prom- 
ises of love and friendship ; said he wanted to live in peace and trade 
amicably with them, as proof of which he would send some goods im- 
mediately down to the Logstown for them. Rut I rather think the de- 
sign of that is, to bring away all our straggling traders they meet with. 
as I privately understood they intended to carry an officer, etc., with 
them. And what rather confirms this opinion. I was inquiring of the 
■commander by what authority he had made prisoners of several of our 


English subjects. He told me that the country belonged to them ; that 
no Englishman had a right to trade upon those waters ; and that he had 
orders to make every person prisoner who attempted it on the Ohio, or 
the waters of it. 

I inquired of Captain Reparti about the boy that was carried by 
this place, as it was done while the command devolved on him, between 
the death of the late general, and the arrival of the present. He acknowl- 
edged that a boy had been carried past ; and that the Indians had two or 
three white men's scalps, (I was told by some of the Indians at Venango, 
eight) but pretended to have forgotten the name of the place where the 
boy came from, and all the particular facts, though he had questioned him 
for some hours, as they were carrying past. I likewise inquired what 
they had done with John Trotter and James ArClocklan, two Pennsyl- 
vania traders, whom they had taken with all their goods,. They told me 
that they had been sent to Canada, but were now returned home. 

This evening I received an answer to his honor, the Governor's 
letter from the commandant. (The reply will be given at the end of 
this journal). 

15th. — The commandant ordered a plentiful store of liquor, pro- 
visions, etc., to be put on board our canoes, and appeared to be extremely 
complaisant, though he exerted every artifice which he could invent to 
set our Indians at variance with us, to prevent their going until after 
our departure ; presents, rewards and everything which could be sug- 
gested by him or his officers. I cannot say that ever in my life I suffered 
so much anxiety as I did in this atTair; I saw that every stratagein, 
which the most fruitful brain could invent, was practiced to win the 
Half-King to their interest; and that leaving him there was giving them 
the opportunity they aimed at. I went to the Half-King and pressed him 
in the strongest terms to go ; he told me the commandant would not dis- 
charge him until the morning. I then went to the commandant, and 
desired him to do their business, and complained of ill-treatment; for 
keeping them as they were part of my company, was detaining me. This 
he promised not to do, but to forward my journey as much as he could. 
He protested he did not keep them, but was ignorant of the cause of 
their stay ; though I soon found it out. He had promised them a pres- 
ent of guns, etc., if they would wait until the morning. As I was very 
much pressed by the Indians to wait this day for them, I consented, on 
a promise that nothing should hinder them, in the morning. 

16th. — The French were not slack in their inventions to keep the 
Indians this day also. But as they were obliged, according to promise, 
to give the present, they then endeavored to try the power of liquor, 
which I doubt not would have prevailed at any other time than this ; 
but I urged and insisted with the King so closely upon his word, that he 
refrained, and set ofif with us as he had engaged. 

We had a tedious and very fatiguing passage down the creek. Sev- 
eral times we had like to have been staved against rocks ; and many 
times were obliged all hands to get out and remain in the water half 
an hour or more, getting over the shoals. At one place the ice had 
lodged and made it impassable by water ; we were, therefore, obliged to 


carry our canoe across the neck of land, a quarter of a mile over. We 
did not reach Venango until the 22d, where we met with our horses. 

This creek is extremely crooked. I dare say the distance between 
the fort and X'enango cannot be less than one hundred and thirty miles 
to follow the meanders. 

23d. — When I got ready to set off, I sent for the Half-King to 
know whether he intended to go with us, or by water. He told me 
that White Thunder had hurt himself much, and was sick and unable to 
walk ; therefore he was obliged to carry him down in a canoe. As I 
found he intended to stay here a day or two and knew that Monsieur 
Joncaire would employ every scheme to set him against the English, 
as he had before done, I told him I hoped he would guard against his 
flattery, and let no fine speeches influence him in their favor. He de- 
sired I might not be concerned, for he knew the French too well for 
anything to engage him in their favor ; and that though he could not 
go down with us, he yet would endeavor to meet at the forks with Joseph 
Campbell, to deliver a speech for me to carry to his Honor the Governor. 
He told me he would order the Young Hunter to attend us and get 
provisions, etc., if wanted. 

Our horses were now so weak and feeble, and the baggage so heavy 
(as we were obliged to provide all the necessaries which the journey 
would require), that we doubted much their performing it. Therefore, 
myself and the others, except the drivers, who were obliged to ride, 
gave up our horses for packs to assist along with the baggage. I put 
myself in an Indian walking dress, and continued with them three days, 
until I found there was no probability of their getting home in reasonable 
time. The horses became less able to travel every day ; the cold increased 
very fast ; and the roads were becoming much worse by a deep snow, 
continually freezing ; therefore, as I was uneasy to get back, to make 
report of my proceedings to his Honor, the Governor. I determined to 
prosecute my journey the nearest way through the woods on foot. 

Accordingly, I left Mr. Vanbraam in charge of our baggage, with 
money and directions to provide necessaries from place to place for 
themselves and horses, and to make the most convenient dispatch in 

I took my necessary papers, pulled off my clothes and tied myself 
up in a watch-coat. Then, with gun in hand and pack on my back, in 
which were my papers and provisions, I set out with Mr. Gist, fitted in 
the same manner, on Wednesday, the 26th. The day following, just 
after we had passed a place called Murderingtown (where we intended 
to quit the path and steer across the country for Shannapin's town), we 
fell in with a party of French Indians, who had laid in wait for us. One 
of them fired at Mr. Gist or me, not fifteen steps off, but fortunately 
missed. We took this fellow into custody, and kept him until about 
nine o'clock at night, then let him go, and walked all the remaining part 
of the night without making any stop, that we might get the start, so 
far as to be out of the reach of their pursuit the next day. since we were 
well assured they would follow our track as soon as it was light. The 
next day we continued traveling until quite dark, and got to the river 
above Shannapin's. We expected to have found the river frozen, but it 


was not, only about fifty yards from each shore. The ice I suppose had 
broken up above, for it was driving in vast quantities. 

There was no way for getting over but on a raft ; which we set about, 
with but one poor hatchet, and finished just after sun-setting. This was 
a whole day"s work ; we next got it launched then went on board of it and 
set off; but before we were half way over we were jammed in the ice, 
in such a manner that we expected every moment our raft to sink and 
ourselves to perish. I put out my setting pole to try to stop the raft that 
the ice might pass by ; when the rapidity of the stream threw it with so 
much violence against the pole, that it jerked me out into ten feet water; 
but I fortunately saved myself by catching hold of one of the raft logs. 
Notwithstanding all our efforts, we could not get to either shore, but 
were obliged, as we were near an island, to quit our raft and make 
to it. 

The cold was so extremely severe, that Air. Gist had all his fingers 
and some of his toes frozen, and the water was shut up so hard, that 
we found no difficulty in getting off the island on the ice in the morning, 
and went to Mr. Frazier's. We met here with twenty warriors, who 
were going to the southward to war ; but coming to a place on the Great 
Kenhawa. where they found seven people killed and scalped, (all but 
one woman with very light hair, ) they turned about and ran back, for 
fear the inhabitants would rise and take them as the authors of the 
murders. They report that the bodies were lying about the house, and 
some of them much torn and eaten by the hogs. By the marks which 
were left they say they were French Indians, of the Ottoway nation, who 
did it. 

As we intended to take horses here, and it required some time to 
find them, I went up about three miles to the mouth of the Youghiogany. 
to visit Queen Aliquippa, who had expressed great concern that we passed 
her in going to the fort. I made her a present of a watch-coat and a 
bottle of rum, which latter was thought much the better present of the 

Tuesday, the first of January we left Mr. Frazier"s house and 
arrived at Air. Gist's, at Monongahela, the second, where I bought a 
horse and saddle. The sixth, we met seventeen horses loaded with ma- 
terials and stores for the fort at the Fork of the Ohio, and the day after, 
some families going out to settle. This day we arrived at Will's Creek, 
after as fatiguing a journey as it is possible to conceive, rendered so by 
excessive bad weather. From the first day of December to the fifteenth 
there was but one day on which it did not rain or snow incessantly ; and 
throughout the whole journey we met with nothing but one continued 
series of cold, wet weather, which occasioned very uncomfortable lodg- 
ings, especially after we quitted our tent, which was some screen from 
the inclemency of it. 

This is Major Washington's report of a most remarkable journey. 
It is abbreviated in two or three places by the omission of Indian speeches 
and debates, but the narrative of his difficulties and dangers and his 
marvelous escapes from savages and the floods, given as he wrote it, is 


an illuminating picture of what was in this wonderful man from the 
very beginning of his life. 

The mission was successful only in the information Washington was 
able to obtain. The letter of Governor Dinwiddie had declared that the 
land on the Ohio belonged to the Crown of Great Britain, and complained 
of the intrusion of the French. He demanded to know by what authority 
an armed force in time of peace had crossed the lakes, and requested 
tlieir speedy departure, also bespeaking courteous treatment for Major 
Washington. The reply of M. de Saint Pierre was characteristic of the 
soldier, placed where he was to obey the commands of his superior of- 
ficer. He would, he said, transmit the letter to the governor of Canada, 
to whom, he said, "it better belongs than to me to set forth the evidence 
and reality of the rights of the King, my master, upon the land situated 
along the Ohio, and to contest the pretensions of the King of Great 
Britain thereto. His answer shall be law to me. . . . As to the 
summons you send me to retire, I do not think myself obliged to obey it. 
Whatever may be your instructions, I am here by virtue of the orders of 
my general ; and I entreat you, sir. not to doubt one moment that I am 
determined to conform myself to them with all the exactness and resolu- 
tion which can be expected from the best officer." In conclusion he says : 
"I made it my particular care to receive Mr. Washington with a distinc- 
tion suitable to your dignity, as well as to his own quality and great merit. 
I flatter myself that he will do me this justice before you, sir, and that he 
will signify to you, in the manner I do myself, the profound respect with 
which I am, sir," etc. 


The Building of Fort Duouesne. — Defeat of Braddock. — The En- 
suing Campaign. — Pittsburg Won by the British. 
— Fort Presoue Isle Abandoned. 

The history of Erie now for a time becomes intermingled with the 
history of the big world ; the building of a fort here in Erie and another 
at Le BcEuf or Waterford precipitate a crisis that plunges two nations 
into hostilities; the grievance that had been for years standing between 
the kingdoms of France and England is at length brought to an acute stage 
by the Expedition to Occupy the Ohio, the first work of which was 
to erect a fort on the shore of Presque Isle Bay. 

The action taken by Governor Dinwiddie was one of the incidefits, 
the result of the renewed aggressions of the French, that was to set the 
British nation on fire ; it was one of the first steps toward the declaration 
of the war that came to be known in history as the Seven Years War. 
As has been stated, Erie was naturally mixed up in the trouble, being 
formally taken possession of as French territory. The history of that 
trouble, is to a certain extent the history of Erie. It is proper, then, 
to look into the matter a bit and learn the relative merits of the con- 
tentions set up by the disputing parties, and what the results were, es- 
pecially as Erie was to continue to figure in affairs until the French were 
finally driven from the North American continent. 

First and foremost, there was the English claim. This is given 
precedence here because, being founded upon original discovery, it dates 
back to the voyages of John and Sebastian Cabot in 1497 and 1499. Their 
exploration, limited only to the coast line, extended, however, from 
Labrador practically to the Florida peninsula, through no immediate ad- 
vantage was taken of this discovery by the English. It was not until 
1607 that the colony of Virginia was established. From that time on, 
however, during the seventeenth century England was no laggard in re- 
spect to the interest it took in America. Though the actual settlement 
by the English was along the coast, upon the narrow and comparatively 
level strip between the Appalachian range of mountains and the Atlantic, 
England, however, did not place such restricted longitudinal bounds, 
either upon its territorial claims or colonial grants, but, profoundly igno- 
rant of what was implied in the language of some of the grants made. 


generously extended the patent to the western sea. It was certahily a 
comprehensive claim that the English Crown set up. Now English 
colonization meant something. As has been set forth in an earlier part 
of this work, the English colonists settled in America, not for transient 
gain ; not for short-lived military glory ; not to be servants of a grasping 
military power ; but to establish homes and to become permanently 
located. Beyond practicing their full domestic duties, within the laws of 
the Crown, their ambition did not lead them. And while, therefore the 
government at London claimed all the territory to the west no well ar- 
ranged plan was ever put in operation to take formal possession, nor 
was there ever any movement, either by the government or the colonists 
to explore the interior. True, there were individuals here and there 
who, following their instincts as hunters, or pursuing the business of fur 
traders, ventured into the wilderness, and before the century was half 
measured, lent their Anglo-Saxon or Celtic names to outposts and settle- 
ments. But they were few and far between. England held the continent 
of America only by the shadowy title of a claim. But as history has 
repeatedly shown, an English claim generally means something. 

France, too, had a claim upon America, based, as has already been 
shown, first, upon the discoveries of Verrazano and Ribaut ; second, upon 
its colonization ; and third upon its exploration. As to the first claim, 
there are doubts, due to the question of priority ; the second is of little 
value except as it refers to Canada, east of Lake Ontario, for the settle- 
ment of all of the rest of America consisted of practically nothing more 
than military camps or missionary stations among the Indians. But as to 
the third, there can be no question that the French had a good claim ; 
better by far than that of England, and if it then had become as well 
established as an international law as it did later there can be no doubt 
that exploration gave a good title to France. The claim was, however, 
set up, and the French Crown set itself about maintaining the claim. 

The origin of the trouble that assumed an acute form at the time 
the expedition under Marin was sent out to occupy the Ohio, was a 
grant conferred by the English Crown upon or to a company organized 
principally in Virginia and Maryland, with a few stockholders in Eng- 
land. It was called the Ohio Company, and among its members were two 
brothers of George Washington, Lawrence and Augustine. This com- 
pany was organized in 1751, and was given a patent to 600,000 acres of 
land on the banks of the Ohio on the conditions : that within seven years 
they would settle one hundred families upon the grant, and that they 
would build a fort and garrison it. These conditions the Ohio Company 
forthwith proceeded to carry out in good faith. The land was allotted to 
them west of the mountains, quite within the territory that in his bom- 
bastic declaration Father Bobi, voicing the opinion of the French govern- 
ment, had declared to belong to the Crown of France. It was this overt 
act on the part of the English that had decided France upon taking more 


decisive steps than the planting of lead plates at the mouths of tributary 
streams, as Capt. Celoron had done. These plates, beneath the surface 
of the soil were not sufficiently in evidence. The newer and the better 
plan was to plant forts ; moreover these forts were also to be depots on 
a line of communication with the centre of activity, the point where the 
soldiers of France were to turn back the British invaders, come, it is 
true, in the guise of peaceful settlers. 

This determination on the part of the French to resist immigration 
by the English, and more particularly the building and garrisoning of 
forts, was naturally taken by England to be tantamount to a declaration 
of hostilities ; it was at least an invitation to a declaration of war. This 
was soon to come. 

Early in 1754 French activity was renewed, and as soon as conditions 
permitted a large force arrived at Fort Presque Isle, destined for the 
Ohio. At the head of the expedition now was M. Contrecoeur, who had 
been appointed to succeed Saint Pierre. The force consisted of 1000 
men, and carried with them eighteen cannon. There was halt made only 
sufficient for the necessities of the expedition. To Le Boeuf they pro- 
ceeded and immediately embarked for the Forks of the Ohio. There they 
arrived on the 17th of April, and halted within a short distance of an 
unfinished fort that the English were erecting. It was in command of 
Ensign Ward who had a force of forty-one men, who were engaged in 
work upon the stockade. The disparity between his force and that of 
the French was so great that Ward recognized the hopelessness of his 
situation, and accordingly, when summoned by ContreccEur to surrender, 
though he was reluctant to do so, he finally yielded and was permitted to 
depart. The French immediately took possession, and at once, under 
the direction of the Chevalier de Mercier, a captain of artillery and an 
accomplished engineer, the fort was greatly enlarged and strengthened, 
and in a month was completed. It was named Fort Duquesne, in honor 
of the French Governor General, and was of sufficient capacity to receive 
a garrison of 1000 men and of sufficient strength to resist any force that 
was likely to be brought against it. It was the first act in the memorable 
Seven Years War. 

George Washington, commissioned as a lieutenant-colonel by Gov- 
ernor Dinwiddie, had been sent to the frontier, and was at the time at 
Great Meadows, not far distant. His force was small, ill provisioned, 
lacking ammunition, and in no manner whatever, fit to cope with the 
force of French that had been garrisoned at Fort Duquesne. He was 
resolved, however, not to slight his duty in any particular. He con- 
structed in a hasty manner a defense he called Fort Necessity, and this 
he made his base of operations. From there he proceeded to scout, fol- 
lowing rumors of his Indian allies. On the 28th of May, with a com- 
pany of forty and some Indian allies he discovered a force of French, 
under M. Jumonville, concealed in a ravine, and surrounded them. There 


was a brisk engagement that lasted fifteen minutes, resulting in the de- 
feat of the French. Ten of their number had been killed, including 
Jumonville, twenty-two were taken prisoners, and one escaped to Fort 

Retaliation was decided upon by the French. A force under Coulon 
de Villiers, a brother of Jumonville, was to be sent out to meet the En- 
glish. Washington's force was much inferior, both in numbers and condi- 
tion, for a scarcity of provisions had greatly reduced the abilities of his 
soldiers. Washington's force had advanced to within but a comparatively 
short distance of the French Fort. His scouts and advance guard had 
penetrated almost to Fort Duquesne, and these and trusty Indians kept 
him posted. They reported the arrival of a large reinforcement from 
Canada, and that without further delay De Villiers would march at 
the head of 800 French and 400 Indians to attack the English. It was 
now near the end of June. Expected reinforcements had not arrived and 
his men were weak from lack of food. Under these discouraging condi- 
tions it was reluctantly decided to retreat, and accordingly the small army 
fell back upon and occupied Fort Necessity, hoping for the arrival of 
the New York companies reported last at Alexandria. On July first they 
reached their fort and set about strengthening it. On the third of July 
the French army came up. Their method of attack was to fire from 
behind the trees of a near-by hill, and soon the engagement was general, 
although the French did not attempt to take the position by assault. 
But the English force in their weakened condition soon became 
exhausted, their guns became unfit for use owing to the storm, their am- 
munition was about all spent, and the expected reinforcements having 
failed, Washington was in such extremity that when the French pro- 
posed a parley he acceded and in the end was compelled to make an 
honorable capitulation. The losses of the English were twelve men 
killed and forty-three wounded. On the fourth of July Washington 
led out the remains of his gallant band in good order and abandon- 
ing the field returned to Virginia. 

The intelligence of the defeat of the English forces at length 
awakened the British government, partially, from its lethargy. Promptly 
it was decided to send out an adequate force to punish the French and 
head ofif their invasion. General Edward Braddock "one of the bravest 
and most accomplished soldiers of the empire," was selected to command, 
and sailed for America in December. He had with him two regiments 
of 500 men each, under Colonels Halket and Dunbar. In April the plans 
of a general campaign were matured, the principal feature of which was 
that the first of three expeditions, to be commanded by General Brad- 
dock in person, and to consist of his English regulars, the levies from 
Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, with such Indians as might be 
induced to join them, were to proceed first to take Fort Duquesne. This 
accomplished he was to advance, reducing all the French forts in turn 


until he should reach Niagara. The fort at Presque Isle was to be greatly- 
strengthened, and vessels of war were to be built here for the defense 
of the lake. "He anticipated a series of conquests as easy as they would 
be considerable, and already felicitated himself upon the prospect of 
spending a merry Christmas with Governor Alorris in Philadelphia."* 

Gen. Braddock's army left Alexandria on the 20th of April, but were 
halted at Fredericktown, Md., for want of transportation facilities, and 
there was a long delay until Benjamin Franklin contrived to procure the 
necessary wagons. Col. Washington reported on June 10, as an aid- 
de-camp to Gen. Braddock and became, by reason of his experience in 
the American wilds, trusted by the General to a certain extent — indeed 
so far as the military education of the English soldier would permit. It 
would have been better for the English cause had the faith in Washington 
been more implicit. On the 9th of July, 1755, the last stage of the march 
upon Fort Duquesne was entered upon. As skillfully as possible the 
forces were brought across the Monongahela at the fords, and by two 
o'clock the army was reunited on the right side of the river, and with 
guides and flanking parties was advancing, when suddenly a heavy firing 
with a wild and terrible Indian war cry was heard in front. It was the 
savages allied with the French, who had opened the fray, Contrecceur had 
prepared an ambuscade. With 830 French and Canadians and 700 Indians 
he had posted himself in an open wood filled with fallen trees and high 
grass, above the river. No better defense for the Indian mode of fighting 
could have been provided. The attack was furious and unexpected and 
soon the entire English force was in a panic. An attempt to rally and 
charge with the bayonet was futile ; no enemy could be seen, and yet 
the furious firing continued. The provincial companies scattered to 
fight Indian fashion ; the regulars were compelled to remain in mass — 
a means to their destruction. The officers proved to be prodigies of valor ; 
the General himself was in the thickest of the fight, but the troops were 
palsied with fear. At length, after the fight had continued until five 
o'clock, Braddock fell, mortally wounded. The battle was over and the 
English retreated. 

After the defeat of Braddock there was a long period of inactivity, 
due to political conditions in the mother country. The difficulty was 
to procure a capable ministry, the favorites of the King proving quite 
inadequate to the task before them. At length the Crown yielded to the 
universal demand of the people and Williain Pitt, "the great commoner," 
was given the post of prime minister. Then was England's star in the 
ascendant. Mr. Pitt took charge of the government of England in June 
1757. Among the matters and things that fell to his care was the con- 
duct of the Seven Years War, that up to this time had proved disastrous 
to England. With a skill that will ever be regarded as remarkable Mr. 
Pitt, appreciating the necessities of the situation, addressed himself to the 
* Lossing, Biography of Washington. 


work, and from that time on the English army turned its face the other 
way ; its was a victorious career. 

The situation in America was properly regarded as of the highest 
importance. The question that was up for settlement between France 
and England was: which of the two nations should be master in Am- 
erica. The British had established on this side of the Atlantic, thirteen 
colonies, the aggregate population of which was 1,300,000, while the 
French in America hardly numbered 60,000 in all, and many of these 
were soldiers of the Crown. Assuredly England had an interest to main- 
tain in the new world, and, that interest becoming greater every year, 
the question of mastery was one that demanded a settlement. Mr. Pitt was 
determined that there should be one, and he proceeded forthwith. At 
last England was fully awake. Pitt was alive to the interests of the 
colonies, and it was not long after he assumed the reins of authority 
before there was something doing. 

At Fort Presque Isle and at Le Boeuf there were busy times during 
the two summers of 1754 and 1755. In the former year activity began 
early, as early as the lake was navigable. It was evident to the French 
Governor General that two things were necessary to the success of the 
plan he had formed and begun to carry out. These were prompt action 
and an adequate force ably commanded. The visit of Washington to 
Fort Le Boeuf and the letter of Governor Dinwiddie, instead of intimidat- 
ing the French had had a contrary and double effect. It discovered to 
Duquesne the fact that his plans were known to the enemy, and it deter- 
mined him upon such action as would either forestall the English in any 
attempt at establishing adequate defences at the Forks of the Ohio, or 
else enable him, if such work were in progress, to put a stop to it. He 
well knew that what he had already done in building the two forts and 
constructing the military road from Presque Isle to the head of navigation 
on Le Boeuf creek, had opened a means for the rapid and uninterrupted 
transportation of troops and all the necessities that an expedition called 

This force, under Contrecoeur it was, as has already been re- 
lated, that captured the English fort and, enlarging it, gave it the name 
of Fort Duquesne. But there were other detachments at quite frequent 
intervals, in June of that year (1754) a force of 800 having crossed on 
the portage road to Fort Le Boeuf on the way down the Allegheny river. 
Nor was the activity confined alone to the detachments moving toward 
the front. Both of the garrisons had their hands full with the work cut 
out for them. Fort Presque Isle was the principal depot, the base of 
supplies, for the army down the river. Everything required for the sup- 
port of the army, the provisions, the arms, the ammunition, had to be 
carried from Montreal. There was no other source from which these 
could be drawn. All of those were stored at Fort Presque Isle, to be 
sent forward as required. At Le Bceuf there was not only the work of 


trans-shipment, but more important, that of providing the means of 
transportation. The latter work consisted of constructing the batteaiix 
that were to carry troops and the army supphes. These batteaux were 
large canoes formed out of tree-trunks of sufficient size, and the demand 
for canoes of wood was constant, for but few of those sent down the 
river ever returned. Indeed in time practically all the timber available 
had been used up, and Governor Duquesne lamented that there were 
no longer pine trees of sufficient size out of which batteaux could be 

The activity of the French continued during the year 1755, and this 
activity affected the two Erie county forts. But from that time on the 
life of the two garrisons was one of routine chiefly, and dullness char- 
acterized them. It is a mistaken idea that there was anything of the 
nature of social gaiety existing either at Presque Isle or Le Boeuf. The 
soldiers stationed at these places were "at the front" in the scene of 
being in active service. It is the general belief that there existed, during 
the French occupancy, a small town or settlement hard by the fort, 
across, or on the right bank of Mill Creek. This is certified to by Indian 
spies and escaped prisoners, but so far as search among published records 
has been made nothing has been found to establish the fact that there 
was such a town. But it is not at all impossible that the alleged state- 
ment of an escaped prisoner is true when he said there was a town of 
100 families close by, though it is much more probable the town was 
inhabited by Indians, especially when the fate of the fort at the end of 
the war is taken into account. That, however, remains to be told 

When the Pitt ministry came into power there was a revolution in 
sentiment among the English in America. Mr. Pitt's letters to the 
colonies were well adapted to produce union, action and energy in the 
provinces of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas. They 
were told that England would soon send to their assistance a powerful 
army, to act in conjunction with the provincial troops. The effect was 
electrical. The provinces vied with one another in making provisoins 
for defence, and in the spring of 1758 there was an English army of 
50.000 men ready for action, 20,000 of whom were provincials — the most 
formidable army ever seen in the new world. Three expeditions were 
organized : against Louisburg ; against Ticonderoga, and against Fort 
Duquesne. The last was under Brig. Gen. Forbes, and amounted to about 
7,-000 men, with Washington in command of the provincial troops. The 
advance was slow, owing to the ill-advised determination to construct a 
new road over the mountains. However, a force of 800, under Major 
Grant, consisting of Highlanders and provincials, was sent forward to 
reconnoitre. Grant's zeal, however, outran his discretion. Contrary to 
orders he pushed on to Fort Duquesne, attacked the French and was 
terribly defeated, losing 270 killed, 42 wounded and several taken prison- 


ers, among them Major Grant and Major Lewis. This battle occiuTed 
September 14. 

Emboldened by this success the French decided to attack Col. Bou- 
quet in his camp at Loyalhanna, and with a force of 1,200 French and 
200 Indians, under De \'etri, made an assault on October IS. The action 
was spirited, and lasted four hours, but the French were defeated and 
compelled to retreat. The main army of the English was advancing, but 
moved slowly. When it arrived at Fort Duquesne November 25, nothing 
was found but smoking ruins. The French had set fire to the fort and 
the outlying houses and fled. Of the 500 men in the fort at the time of 
its evacuation part retreated down the Ohio river and the remainder, 
with Gov. M. de Ligney, proceeded to Fort Presque Isle. Fort Duquesne 
now became Fort Pitt, and eventually Pittsburg, named in honor of the 
Great Commoner. 

The loss of Fort Duquesne for the moment paralyzed the French in 
the region south of the lakes. They recognized the fact that the force 
which had come against them at the Forks of the Ohio was one of great 
strength, and also that it was largely composed of British regulars, who 
unlike the provincials would not be in haste to return to their private 
affairs, even at the expense of leaving the work of a campaign half-done. 
It was their immediate belief, therefore, that the British would follow 
up their advantage. This undoubtedly would have been done but for 
the lateness of the season and the rapid approach of winter. The fact 
that when General Forbes had reached Loyalhanna and foimd the moun- 
tain tops white with snow, had almost decided him upon deferring his 
movement against Fort Duquesne until spring. So, now that there had 
been so much more accomplished than was expected in the beginning of 
November, there was a resolution formed to do nothing more than to 
strengthen Fort Pitt and hold it. Of this fact the French were ignorant 
at the beginning, and De Ligney pushed his retreat quite to Presque Isle. 

The inactivity of the British during the winter, however, had given 
the F'rench an opportunity to gather their wits together again. Indeed 
they had by the opening of the year 1759 reached a determination to 
make a strong effort to recover Pittsburg and the control of the Ohio, 
and Presque Isle suddenly assumed a position of great importance 
in French affairs. In obedience to an order from Vandreuil 
the French population of the Illinois, Detroit and other distant posts, 
joined with bands of western Indians, had come down the lakes with the 
avowed purpose of recovering Pittsburg, though Gen. Stanwix, who 
succeeded Gen. Forbes on the latter's death, recognizing that that post 
was really in imminent danger, was exerting himself to provide succor 
for it. These mixed bands of whites and savages were gathered chiefly 
at Presque Isle, with numbers also at Le Boeuf and Venango. Here at 
Presque Isle were such notable officers of their time as Capt. Aubry, 
Ligneris and Marin and other partisan chiefs, the best in Canada. 
Vol. 1—4 


But while they were endeavoring to organize for a descent upon 
Pittsburg, expecting reinforcements from Canada to give them sufficient 
strength for the undertaking, steps had been taken to complete the work 
laid out by the Council of war at Philadelphia early in 1758, with re- 
ference to the campaign to the Ohio and thence up the Allegheny. Sir 
William Johnson had been commissioned to carry out the plan of cam- 
paign the other way 'round. He was to reduce Fort Niagara. Sir Wil- 
liam Johnson was an interesting character. He was a native of Ireland, 
and a nephew of Sir Peter Warren, who owned a large tract of land 
at the mouth of Schohaire Creek (now the town of Florida, N. Y.) 
Johnson became Warren's agent, and also engaged in the fur trade on 
his own account. Johnson was different from the others of his time who 
occupied a like position and occupation ; unlike the typical fur-trader, he 
dealt with strict honesty and humanity toward the Indians, the result 
being that he won the fullest confidence and affection of the Indian tribes. 
He became so thoroughly identified with them as to be regarded in the 
course of time as one of themselves, and his influence with the Iroquois 
was so great that he was depended upon by the British government to 
efifect adjustments when troubles with the Indians threatened. He was 
not a military man by training, and yet was put in a position of command 
at the attack upon Crown Point in 1756, and won. With the prestige of 
that command in mind it came about that to him fell finally the task of 
taking Fort Niagara. 

Fort Niagara, situated at the mouth of the Niagara river, on Lake 
Ontario, was, in the summer of 1759, in command of Capt. Francois 
Pouchot. Learning that the English were coming to attempt to take Ft. 
Niagara Pouchet sent a messenger in hot haste to Presque Isle for aid. 
for his force he felt to be inadequate. It consisted of 486 men, but of 
these, according to his own account, given later, there were but 370 cap- 
able of bearing arms. On the 24th of July 110 French and 200 Indians, 
under Aubry and Ligneris, arrived at Niagara from Presque Isle. But 
this succor was in vain. The relief party was overthrown and Fort 
Niagara fell into the hands of Sir William Johnson on July 25, 1759. 

After the final defeat at Fort Niagara the French retreated from the 
field, took to their boats and canoes and hastened back to Lake Erie. 
Their destination was Presque Isle. Here their halt was brief. Mes- 
sengers were sent post haste to Le Boeuf and Venango. Each fort was 
burned in turn, and the garrisons of these three forts, joining the fugitives 
from Niagara, the retreat was pursued for Detroit. Thus the whole 
region of the upper Ohio and of the Niagara frontier was left in the 
undisputed possession of the English. This ends the history of the French 
occupancy of Erie county, though there lingers to this day the relics of 
that occupancy in names that have become attached to localities, lakes 
and streams. 


Fort Le Boeuf Burned. — Brave Defense of Fort Presque Isle 
Against the Indi.kns. — Its Final Capture. 

After the fall of Fort Niagara and the final expulsion of the French 
there was naturally a season of relaxation in the vicinity of Fort Pitt. 
There had been good grounds for fear so long as Niagara held out, for the 
French had fully determined upon recovering the fort at the Forks 
of the Ohio, and it was with the purpose of making a bold stroke for the 
recovery of Fort Duquesne that there had been a mobilization of forces 
at Fort Presque Isle. The victory of Sir William Johnson at Fort 
Niagara, however, had changed the situation entirely. The skies were 
at length clear, so that it was possible to do something besides strength- 
ening the defenses at Fort Pitt, which had been previously decided upon. 
There were other posts to be cared for, and Gen. Stanwix. early in 
1760, ordered Major Rodgers to take formal possession of Forts Venango, 
Le BcEuf and Presque Isle, and strengthen them, as well as to occupy the 
forts westward on the Great Lakes. 

According to some authorities the forts in this corner of Penn- 
sylvania when abandoned by the French were left intact : but Parkman 
says they were burned. The latter is the likelier story. That was what 
befell Ft. Duquesne when it was found to be no longer tenable, and when 
the fleeing fugitives from Niagara carried to the French at the three 
forts that remained in Pennsylvania the intelligence of utter defeat, and 
they knew that nothing remained but to retreat to the west, it was only 
according to the rules of war, to leave nothing for the enemy. The 
three forts were undoubtedly destroyed by fire. 

It was not until the succeeding year that Major Rodgers came this 
way and, finding the fort in ruins, rebuilt it. It was not built according 
to its original plan. The new plan consisted of a stockade enclosure with 
a block house, the second story of which extended out over the first 
al! round, occupying a position at or near the northwest corner of the 
stockade. There was a house of logs for the commander of the post, 
other smaller houses, a stone magazine (which the French had left), and 
a well, all within the stockade, which was provided with strong gates. 

Having rebuilt the fort as an important part of the act of taking 
possession, it became quite as important that it should be held ; therefore 


it was garrisoned. But it was not a ver_v large force that was stationed 
at Presque Isle. Now that the French power was obliterated, and that 
there were no enemies to fear nor peaceful settlers or subjects of Great 
Britain to protect, the holding of this outpost was regarded as a mere 
matter of form. The same sentiments prevailed with reference to Fort Le 
Bceuf, and the same methods were pursued. 

But there was a fate hanging over both of these forts of which the 
too confident English commander had not the remotest idea. There was 
a foe even more subtle than the French that he would have to deal with, 
and in the hands of this wily individual the garrisons left in charge of 
the new English defenses were as little more than nothing. Both Presque 
Isle and Le Bceuf were to have the bitter experience of fierce and deter- 
mined Indian fighting, for both of these were soon to fall at the hands 
of the braves of Pontiac. 

Singularly enough, after passing up the lake, at Detroit, Major Rod- 
gers met and had an interview with Pontiac. He was celebrated as a 
chief of the Ottawa nation and is supposed to have been the principal 
leader, in the battle of the Monongahela, of the Indians who were the 
real cause of the defeat of Gen. Braddock. When he learned that 
Major Rodgers was proceeding up the lakes to take possession for the 
English, Pontiac set out, with a force of his warriors, to meet him. After 
his first salutation he sternly demanded of the English officer his business 
in his (the Indian's) territory, and how he dared to venture upon it 
without his permission, and added that though the French had been 
defeated, he had not. Major Rodgers having answered that he came 
"to confirm peace with his nation and open a friendly acquaintance for 
the mutual advantage of both," Pontiac replied: 'T shall stand in the 
path you are walking in till morning." intimating to Alajor Rodgers that 
he could not proceed without hi? permission upon full deliberation. After 
a time Pontiac permitted the detachment to proceed, and, with his war- 
riors accompanied it to Detroit, when he sent messengers to the neigh- 
boring tribes, soliciting them, with him. to embrace terms of friendship' 
with the English. 

The Ottawas, of which Pontiac was a chief, had from the beginning 
been strong friends and allies of the French. They were not friendly, 
on general principles, with the Indians of the Six Nations, though at 
peace with them. It was a politic peace. The Iroquois was a much too 
warlike people and too powerful a confederacy for the Indians of the 
north to provoke — indeed in their wars of conquest the Iroquois had in- 
vaded the lands of the Ottawas to a very considerable extent and no 
doubt would have pushed their conquests further if the barrier of the- 
French had not stood between them. Pontiac and his Ottawa warriors 
were at Fort Duquesne as the allies of the French, having found their way 
thither along with the French forces that had traversed the route bv way 
of Fort Presque Isle and the route down the Venango river. Generally 


;speaking it was a trait of the Indians to take sides with the stronger 
power. It was not, however, with Pontiac and his braves. He remained 
true to his Erench friends, and though he made a pact of peace with 
Major Rodgers and the Enghsh, as the sequel will show, it was only a 

It was not long after the deal with the English at Detroit that 
Pontiac set about developing his scheme — in history it is known as Pon- 
tiac's conspiracy — which was intended to completely wipe out all the 
English in the interior from Fort Presque Isle — and even Niagara — to 
the farthest post west. And it was done with the consummate skill of 
a master. The French, adepts in intrigue, could learn from this Indian 
chief many points in the art which they believed peculiarly their own. 
Drake, in his history of the Indians, says : "There was more system 
employed by this distinguished man than perhaps by any other of his 
countrymen upon any similar undertaking, not excepting even Metac- 
omet or Tecumseh. In his war of 1763, which is justlv denominated 
Pontiac's War, he appointed a commissary and began to make and issue 
bills of credit, all of which he afterward carefully redeemed. . . . He 
had also, with great sagacity, urged upon his people the necessity of 
dispensing altogether with European commodities, to have no intercourse 
with any whites, and to depend entirely upon their ancient modes of 
procuring sustenance." 

The operations planned by this famous savage covered a wide ex- 
panse of territory — Michilimackinac on the west and Niagara on the east 
were the limits, and Fort Pitt on the south. In all there were a dozen 
forts, and all were to be attacked practically simultaneously. The organ- 
ization was so complete that the forces assigned were ample, provided 
the stratagem of the Indians availed to secure the initial advantage, to 
completely overcome the garrisons of the forts. Destruction was the 
purpose and slaughter the intent. Among the posts marked for destruc- 
tion were the two in Erie county. 

Fort Le Boeuf was at the time commanded by Ensign Price and his 
force consisted of only thirteen men. It was on the 17th of June, 1763, 
that, early in the day, the Ensign discovered that his small defense was 
surrounded by the savages. It was easy to decide that his case was 
hopeless, for he was greatly outnumbered. Surrender, however, was 
not to be considered, for in that no hope appeared. In the hands of the 
hostiles nothing short of death could be looked for, and, having taken 
counsel with his brave followers, it was decided that with nothing but 
death before them, the best to be done was to sell their lives as dearly 
as they might. All day therefore he kept up a show of resistance ; as 
good a show as was possible. When night fell, however, along with his 
handful of followers he contrived to escape through a drain, and, eluding 
ihe braves, succeeded after great hardships in reaching Fort Pitt. During 
the night the Indians renewed the attack on the fort, which, now defence- 


less, was easily set on fire and totally destroyed, the Indians believing its 
defenders had perished in the flames. 

There was a different story at Fort Presque Isle. Having utterly 
destroyed Fort Le Boeuf the Indian force at once proceeded in the direc- 
tion of Presque Isle, reaching here June 22. There was a force of two 
hundred Senecas and Ottawas, all fighting braves, and immediately upon 
reaching the fort fierce hostilities were begun, for the garrison put up a 
most courageous and stubborn defense. The garrison was under com- 
mand of Ensign Christie of the Royal American regiment. It is not a 
matter of record that the garrison expected the attack, and yet they 
were as well prepared as though, like good soldiers, they had been alert 
and learned that the savage enemy was coming. 

The fort was admirably situated for defense. Standing on the crest 
of the lake bluff, it could be approached only from the land side, and 
the most was made of this circumstance. From the account given by 
Parkman it would seem as though the stockade had fallen into decay or 
been destroyed or removed. But the fort was in excellent condition. It 
was a large block house, two stories high, and so constructed that the 
diameter of the upper story exceeded that of the lower story by several 
feet, enabling the occupants to fire through openings in the floor upon 
an enemy who attacked the walls of the lower story. But, though the 
building was solidly constructed of massive timbers, it had the vulnerable 
feature of a shingle roof, and this served as a point of attack by the 
Indians, who exerted their ingenuity to set fire to it. Again and again 
they were successful, but the besieged were able by the use of water, of 
which they had a reasonably good supply, to extinguish the flames, for 
by wise forethought openings covered with planks had been left in the 
roof. But the fires were frequent and at length the supply of water 
in the barrels was becoming exhausted. 

What could be done? There was a well in the parade ground, but 
it was out of the question to try to reach that. There seemed to be but 
one resource, and that to dig a well in the blockhouse itself. A detail of 
men was assigned to this duty. The floor of the lower story was torn 
up and while a part of the force kept up an incessant fire to hold the 
enemy at a distance, the others, with the energy of desperation, were 
working at the well. It was toilsome work and tedious. Before it was 
half completed the cry of "Fire" again went up and it was necessary 
to brave the dangers of being hit by the bullets or shafts of the savages 
and tear the blazing shingles from the roof. 

By this time it was evening. From the earliest morning the beleag- 
ured garrison had kept up the fight, never knowing a moment's rest. 
Nor were they now to find relief from their toil. All night long from 
their entrenched positions the Indians kept up their fire in an evident 
determination to wear out the defenders of the fort. Thev were able 


to do so because of their much greater number, which permitted some 
to fight while the rest slept. 

Morning broke, but with no promise nor hope for the devoted Christie 
and his gallant band, and yet they held out. All day long the fight 
raged. Several times the blockhouse was on fire, but fortunately, in 
each instance the flames were extinguished. Hard by stood the house 
of the commander of the fort. It, too, was a structure of logs. This 
the Indians set on fire and it was burned to the ground, but without 
communicating, as the Indians no doubt intended it should, with the 
blockhouse. Again night fell, but the firing continued incessantly until 
midnight, at which hour some one from the ranks of the Indians called 
out in French for the garrison to surrender, as it would be useless to 
attempt further defense, for preparations had been completed to fire the 
blockhouse above and below at the same time. 

It seemed a horrible alternative. Ensign Christie demanded to know 
if there was anyone among the Indians who could speak English, where- 
upon one attired as a savage stepped forward for a parley. There was 
little left to choose in the offer that was made. "Surrender and your 
lives will be spared ; refuse and you will be burned to death !" But 
Christie was not disposed to trust an Indian promise of mercy, even 
if he believed they were able to set fire to the blockhouse. He resolved 
to hold out to the last. He answered, however, that he could not give 
a reply before morning, and he was given that respite. 

On the morning of the third day two men were sent out on the 
pretense of treating with the Indians, but in reality to learn whether there 
actually were preparations being made to burn the fort. The report con- 
firmed the fears of the garrison, and they decided to surrender on the 
terms offered, which were that they would be permitted to abandon this 
part of the country. In spite of the agreement, however, the whites were 
surrounded as soon as they emerged from the fort, and seized, and after 
being held in captivity at the Indian camp for several days, were sent to 
Detroit as prisoners of war. At that time Pontiac himself, with his braves 
were besieging Detroit, but failed in his enterprise. Christie contrived to 
escape from his custodians and gained the fort in safety, enduring with 
Major Gladwin and his force the long and perilous siege that Pontiac 
conducted in his vain attempt to take Detroit. 

There is, however, another account of the taking of Fort Presque 
Isle by Pontiac's Indians. It was given by Mr. H. L. Harvey, formerly 
editor of the Erie Observer, who was, says Miss Laura G. Sanford in 
her history of Erie county, a gentleman of research and integrity. Mr. 
Harvey says : 

The troops retired to their quarters to procure their morning re- 
past : some had already finished, and were sauntering about the fortress 
or upon the shore of the lake. All were joyous in holiday attire and 


dreaming of naught but the pleasure of the occasion. A knock was 
heard at the gate, and three Indians were announced in hunting garb, 
desiring an interview with the commander. Their tale was soon told. 
They said they belonged to a hunting party, who had started for 
Niagara with a lot of furs : that their canoes were bad, and they would 
prefer disposing of them here, if they could do so to advantage, and re- 
turn rather than go farther ; that their party were encamped by a small 
stream west of the fort about a mile, where they had landed the previous 
night, and where they wished the commander to go and examine their 
peltries, as it was difficult to bring them, and they wished to embark 
where they were, if they did not trade. The commander, accompanied 
by a clerk, left the fort with the Indians, charging that none should leave 
the fort, and none be admitted until his return. Well would it probably 
have been had this order been obeyed. After the lapse of sufficient 
time for the captain to visit the encampment of the Indians and return, 
a party of the latter, variously estimated — probably one hundred and 
fifty — advanced toward the fort, bearing upon their backs what ap- 
peared to be large packs of furs, w-hich they informed the lieutenant 
the captain had purchased and ordered deposited in the fort. The 
stratagem succeeded ; when the party were all within the fort, it was 
the work of an instant to throw off their packs and the short cloaks 
which covered their weapons, the whole being fastened by one loop and 
button at the neck. Resistance at this time was useless, and the work 
of death was as rapid as savage strength and weapons could make it. 
The shortened rifles, which had been sawed ofi for the purpose of 
concealing them under their cloaks and in the packs of furs, were at once 
discharged, and the tomahawk and knife completed their work. The 
history of savage warfare presents not a scene of more heartless and 
blood thirsty vengeance than was exhibited on this occasion. The few 
who were taken prisoners in the fort were doomed to the various tortures 
devised by savage ingenuity, and all but two w^ho awoke to celebrate 
that day, had passed to the eternal world. Of these one was a soldier 
who had gone into the woods near the fort, and on his return observing 
a party of Indians dragging away some prisoners, escaped, and im- 
mediately proceeded to Niagara; the other was a soldier's wife, who 
had taken shelter in a small stone house, at the month of the creek 
used as a wash-house. Here she remained unobserved until near night 
of the fatal day, when she was made their prisoner, but was ultimately 
ransomed and restored to civilized life. She was afterward married 
and settled in Canada, where she was living at the commencement of the 
present (last) century. Captain D. Dobbins, of the revenue service, 
has frequently talked with the woman, who w'as redeemed by a Mr. 
Douglas, hving opposite Black Rock, in Canada. From what she wit- 
nessed, and heard from the Indians during her captivity, as well as from 
information derived from other sources, this statement is made. 

Though Pontiac's forces were successful against almost all the 
smaller forts it was quite different with the others. Detroit, though long 
beleaguered and almost in extremity was at length relieved, and Fort 


Ligonier and Fort Pitt, both in Western Pennsylvania were successfully 
defended by the English. There was vigorous campaigning in this state. 
For a time Fort Ligonier, ably defended by Lieutenant Blane, was in 
great danger, but relieved by reinforcements was later placed out of 
danger by Colonel Bouqviet, then on his way to Fort Pitt. The principal 
part of the work of subduing the Indians in the vicinity of the Ohio was 
done by Colonel Bouquet, a valiant Swiss soldier at the time in the service 
of England. In August, 1763, he administered a stinging defeat to the 
Indians at Bushy Run, in Westmoreland county, and drove the savages 
across the Ohio for the time entirely subdued, so that for the rest of the 
year the country, from Fort Presque Isle to Sandusky and south to the 
lower Muskingum. Indian hostilities were at an end. 

But it was not for long. As early as February, in 1764, savage 
atrocities were resumed. The Indian campaign was no longer directed 
against the fortified places. The settlements and the isolated farmsteads 
were now the objects of attack. For relief from these it was resolved 
to organize a double expedition. Col. Bouquet, who had wintered at 
Fort Pitt, was to lead an army, composed largely of fresh troops, through 
southern Ohio. Col. Bradstreet was to head another column by a northern 
route along the lake. 

Colonel Bradstreet had been selected because of his success during 
the French and Indian war. He had especially distinguished himself by 
the capture of Fort Frontenac, a post of great strength. His command 
was carefully organized and included a battalion of New Englanders, 
five companies of a total strength of five hundred men under Lieutenant- 
Colonel Israel Putnam, a man who in the Revolutionary war, soon to 
■succeed, was destined to achieve renown and be enrolled among the 
immortals of the beginnings of United States history. He was indeed 
already famous as an Indian fighter and seasoned as a frontier soldier. 
Bradstreet was an egotistical character, and notwithstanding the fame 
that had come to him because the fortunes of war had favored him, was 
greatly overrated. The route of the expedition under Bradstreet was 
westward along the south shore of Lake Erie ; its objective point Detroit 
first, and then Michilimackinac. On the way up Lake Erie the army 
encountered a severe storm in the vicinitv of Fort Presque Isle and here 
on August 12, 1764, while awaiting improvement in the weather condi- 
tions, a small party of Shawnee and Delaware Indians met the com- 
mander, and representing that they had come as commissioners to treat 
for peace, solicited a conference. Colonel Bradstreet, manifesting a 
disposition to accept them at their own valuation, his officers. Col. Putnam 
leading, promptly objected, protesting that all the evidences were against 
them. Their credentials were lacking. They bore but a single belt of 
wampum and yet professed they were delegated to conclude an extensive 
treatv of peace. This was the objection advanced by Putnam and the 
rest of the officers. It did not serve with the opinionated Bradstreet, who 




imagined he saw in the incident an opportunity for a personal triumph. 
He accepted the overtures and agreed to peace terms, allowing the Indians 
twenty-five days in which to confirm the agreement on their part by 
reporting at Detroit. This done, Bradstreet sent a dispatch to Colonel 
Bouquet, reporting that he had concluded a treaty of peace with the 
Indians and there would therefore be no need of pushing the expedition 
up from the south. Bradstreet may have been deceived ; no doubt he 
was. Bouquet was not. He knew at once what the plan of the Indians 
was, and it turned out that he was right. The Indians at no time meant 
/ to conclude a peace, but had adopted the expedient of meeting Bradstreet 

and making a profession in order to gain a savage advantage. 

Bradstreet having, as he imagined, cleared the way toward the settle- 
ment of the Indian troubles, pushed on toward Detroit. Nothing was 
done toward garrisoning Fort Presque Isle, nor does it appear that any 
special notice or account, was taken of it. As for Colonel Bouquet, he 
immediately set about prosecuting his campaign with vigor, and it turned 
out that this was necessary. Even Bradstreet was soon free to admit it. 
By the end of 1764, however, the savages were completely subdued and 
Pontiac's war was at an end. The result was that for a period of several 
years there was peace with the Indians. In this county there were no 
Indian hostilities after the sanguinary affair between Pontiac's Indians 
and Ensign Christie at Fort Presque Isle. 


A Piece of Debatable Ground and Its Claimants. — How It Came 
To Be. — It Is Bought by Pennsylvania. 

During the period of the Revolution, from 1770 to 1783 — that 
period of travail that was to bring into being a new nation among the 
nations of the earth ; that was to drag tyranny from its pedestal ; that 
was to set in the firmament a new star to shine brighter and brighter 
as time sped, a guide to liberty; a period that had awakened the whole 
world and made the despots of the Old World tremble upon their 
thrones — during that period Erie remained locked in the fastnesses of 
the great forest, utterly oblivious to what was shaking the political foun- 
dations of the world. Forgetting all, itself forgotten, it peacefully slum- 
bered by the side of the fresh water sea that stretched the curve of its 
horizon before it, no sound to vex it more rude than the pounding of 
the billows driven upon its strand as the autumn equinoctial gale swept 
in. To it came no echo of Lexington or Concord, Bunker Hill or 
Saratoga, Stony Point or Trenton, and to it there came no thrill when the 
tidings of Yorktown were borne afar by the couriers. To Presque 
Isle they could not penetrate. In its isolation there was for it no news. 
When information could by any accident find its way to the garrison by 
the side of Lake Erie it had become ancient history. 

Presque Isle was a British outpost when the War of the Revolution 
began. It was a British outpost when the great conflict was ended. It 
continued to be a British outpost after the war was over, and, after peace 
had been ratified : after the United States of America had been enrolled 
among the nations of the earth, recognized even by the nation that had for 
seven years fought to prevent its being an independent state — even then 
Presque Isle continued to be a British outpost. It was one of the very 
last of the British possessions in America, won by the American patriots, 
to be surrended to the new republic. As late as 1785, two years after the 
treaty of peace at Paris had been ratified, Mr. Adams, minister of the 
L^nited States at London, complained to the British Secretary of State 
that Presque Isle and a number of other posts had not been surrendered 
to the Americans. 

But when at length Presque Isle was finally relinquished by the 
British, it was bettered onlv in a moderate degree. It became, for a 


time no man's land. And the story of how this came to be and to be 
understood is now to be told. 

No sooner was the independence of the United States won than 
action began with reference to properly defining the boundaries of the 
state, and the matter came officially before the general assembly of Penn- 
sylvania in September, 1783. It was necessary, however, to have the 
cooperation of the adjacent states, for, as regarded the western portions 
of all, there was much doubt and uncertainty. Virginia was under the 
impression that what is now Erie county was a part of its territory, 
a belief that had been entertained from the beginning, for it was this 
impression that had induced Gov. Dinwiddie to send Major Washington 
an express messenger to Fort Le Boeuf to demand that the French retire. 
Therefore, now that these states had become commonwealths in the new 
Union, it was important that their boundaries should be definitely defined ; 
important with reference to legal titles and especially with reference to 
the execution of civil and criminal laws. In so far as the state of Penn- 
sylvania was concerned — and this had weight with the others — the work 
of locating the boundaries was based upon the grant of King Charles to 
William Penn. The terms of description of the grant were brief and 
extremely simple. The Delaware river was to be the eastern boundary. 
Then, following that river to the forty-third degree of latitude, that point 
was to be made the starting point, from which five degrees west on the 
forty-third degree was to be measured. On the south the starting point 
was to be where the New Castle circle (the northern boundary of Dela- 
ware) crossed the fortieth parallel of latitude and along this parallel 
the line was to be continued west to the limits of the north line. New 
York was entitled to nothing south of the north line ; Maryland and 
\'irginia had no claim north of the south line, and Virginia had no rights 
east of the west line. Now the southern boundary had long been settled 
by the survey made by Alason and Dixon in 1763. It was the northern 
and western boundaries that remained to be determined. 

Though the subject of boundaries came up, as has been stated, in 
1783, it was not until late in 1785 that the start was made upon the 
survey, and that start consisted only in determining the point where the 
northern line was to begin. There was some doubt when the charter to 
Penn was granted whether the Delaware extended as far north as to the 
forty-third degree. The commissioners, David Rittenhouse on the part of 
Pennsylvania, and Samuel Holland on the part of New York, found that 
it did, and in December of 1785 marked the place where the survey was 
to start, doing nothing more because it was so late in the season. In 1786 
Andrew Ellicott was appointed commissioner for Pennsylvania and James 
Clinton and Simeon Dewitt commissioners for New York. During the year 
1786, ninety miles of the boundary line was surveyed and ne.xt year, 1787, 
the survey was completed, the line being 259 miles and 88 perches from 
the starting point on the Delaware river to its termination at Lake Erie 


five or six miles east of where the western boundary line reaches the lake. 
This new boundary line was permanently marked by stone monuments 
placed a mile apart, and lettered, on the one side to indicate New York 
and on the other to indicate Pennsylvania. The location of the western 
line was determined in 1786, Andrew Ellicott serving as commissioner 
on the part of Penns}lvania. 

This survey of the state boundaries settled one thing, but it unsettled 
another. The question immediately arose, if not in one form, then in 
another, where is Presque Isle — in what state is it located? For this 
comedy of errors, or of misunderstandings, came up.. It turned out that 
there was a tract of land claimed first and last, by no less than four states, 
Virginia, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. As to the claim of 
the first, it was effectually settled by the survey. The survey on the other 
hand, seemed to establish the title of New York to the piece of territory. 
However, there was a better authority. The royal charter, in the case 
of New York as in that of Pennsylvania, was the declared law. This 
charter defined the western boundary of New York to be the meridian 
of the western end of Lake Ontario, and the surveyors agreed that the 
western end was just outside of Burlington Bay, and this fixed the 
boundary line just twenty miles east of Fort Presque Isle. The claims 
of Massachusetts and Connecticut were also based upon royal charters. 
But these placed no western limits upon the territory granted. The tri- 
angle, therefore, belonging neither to New York, Pennsylvania nor Vir- 
ginia was logically a part of the territory of either one or the other 
of these New England states. In this troublesome situation the United 
States government effected a settlement of the difficulties by becoming 
owner, Connecticut, however, reserving to itself the territory west of 
the Pennsylvania line and between the lake and the forty-first degree of 
latitude, a tract of country to this day known as the Western Reserve. 

After the survey, when it came to be known that the Triangle which 
had been in dispute was held by the United States government, there 
arose a strong desire on the part of Pennsylvania interests to secure it 
•as part of the state. Gen. William Irvine had been sent to the northwest 
by the state authorities to examine and report upon the qualities of the 
lands of that section and make report. When this was done and it came 
to be known that the state had no harbor on the lake, and that the 
triangular tract was in every way desirable, there arose a strong desire 
to possess it. This was especially manifest in Philadelphia where the 
progressive citizens, eager to extend whatever commercial advantages 
offered, saw in the possession bv the state of so fine a harbor as Gen. 
Irvine described, determined upon securing it. Accordingly an organiza- 
tion was effected, the state authorities enlisted in the measure, and at 
length a contract was made between the delegates of the state of Penn- 
sylvania and the United States government for the sale of this tract of 
land to Pennsvlvania. The act under which the title was authorized on 


the part of the state was approved by Governor Mifflin April 13, 1791. 
The patent from the United States to the state of Pennsylvania, was 
signed by George Washington, President ; and Thomas Jefferson, Secre- 
tary of State, April 23, 1792. The consideration was $1.51,640.25, and 
it was paid in continental certificates. 

But there was another title to be cleared up. The Indians of the 
Six Nations claimed ownership, control or right over the land that was 
to be disposed of. In the Indian claim there was nothing specific — no 
metes nor bounds — it was in a general way as their land the claim 
was made, and notwithstanding the indefinite character of the claim set 
up by the aborigines it could not be ignored. Accordingly negotiations 
were opened with the Indians which resulted in a conference on January 
9, 1789, at which time the representatives of the Indian Six Nations 
signed a deed transferring the land. The price paid for the land to the 
Iroquois was $2,000 by the state of Pennsylvania and $1,200 by the 
United States. 

Even this was not the end of claims that were against that triangular 
piece of territory. It turned out that objections arose with reference 
to the transaction of 1789, as there were Indians who claimed they had 
not been represented in the deal, whereupon the trouble was straightened 
out at the end of a pow-pow, and a new deed was given bearing date 
February 3, 1791. Both of these deeds were signed by Cornplanter, 
one of the most famous Indians in the history of that race, and by Half 
Town and Big Tree, also important chiefs in the Iroquois confederacy. 
No sooner had this second settlement of the land claim been made than 
a dispute arose between representatives of the Senecas and other tribes 
and trouble seemed to be brewing. The upshot of it was that $800 more 
was paid when a final release was executed, which became recorded as 
a quit-claim deed. 

With this the title of Pennsylvania to the Triangle was fully cleared 
up. "Thus we have for the Triangle, settlements and considerations 
made by the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Vir- 
ginia, and by direct conveyance from the United States to the state of- 
Pennsylvania, reinforced by a deed relinquishing all rights and claims, 
except for hunting, from the Six Nations of Indians, and subsequently by 
another quit-claim deed representing Indians who appear to allege dis- 
satisfaction or bad treatment. The title of Pennsylvania to the Triangle 
seems to have been acquiesced in and regarded as complete and sufficient 
as a basis of all subsequent titles."* 

Though the part of the county south of the Triangle came to Penn- 
sylvania through no such tribulation as has just been recounted, there 
were aspects in the acquisition of that not without interest. Of course 
it was embraced in the charter given by Charles II to William Penn, but 
was not part of the territory purchased from the Indians in 1768 — or 
previous to the war of the Revolution, that is to say, in Colonial times. 
* Dept. Int. .\ffairs, Report 1906. 


It was acquired after Pennsylvania had become a sovereign state of 
the American union. It came about this way: 

A conference by commissioners of the United States and commis- 
sioners representing the state of Pennsylvania was held at Fort Stan- 
wix, in New York (now Rome, N. Y.) at which negotiations were 
made and perfected by which the Indians conveyed to the state of 
Pennsylvania the territory north of the Ohio and Allegheny rivers, and 
extending from a point in Armstrong county, generally in a northeasterly 
direction to a point in the state boundary line near the center of Bradford 
county, including all land from this line north to the New York state 
line and westward to the line of Ohio, which it will readily be under- 
stood embraced the land up to the old state line in Erie county. The 
deed to this land from the Indians is dated October 23, 1784. 

The Indians whose title was supposed to be transferred or passed 
by the above deed, were those known as the Six Nations. But there were 
other Indians who claimed rights and ownership in Pennsylvania. The 
Wyandottes and Delawares, after the assignment by the Six Nations 
had been made, came forward with their claims to the whole, or a large 
portion of the same territory. No claims were more difficult to adjust 
than Indian claims of this character, unless the simple method of buying 
ofif all claimants were adopted. Indeed there was no other way to 
get around trouble, trouble of the most serious kind. For a dissatisfied 
Indian was not slow to become a hostile Indian if he felt himself in any 
way aggrieved. Accordingly another conference with relation to the 
same territory was held at Fort Mcintosh (now Beaver, Pa.) where on 
January 21, 1785, the Wyandotte and Delaware Indians conveyed their 
title or claim to the state of Pennsylvania. 

Hence, for the land south of the old state line in Erie county there 
was first the charter of Charles II to William Penn bearing date 
March 4, 1681, by which the commonwealth derived title on its estab- 
lishment through the Divesting Act of 1779; then the title so obtained 
was reinforced by the deed of purchase from the Iroquois or Six Nations, 
dated October 23, 1784, and by a second deed from the Wyandottes and 
Delawares, January 21, 1785. It is interesting at this point to note the 
fact that, whatever title or claim the people of the white race may have 
had to the territory of Pennsylvania, every foot of it was purchased 
from the Indians, the original owners of the soil. In some instances, 
as has appeared, the land was purchased twice over. 

The purchase of the Triangle and its addition to Pennsylvania 
naturally rendered the survey of that portion of the boundary line ex- 
tending from the southwest corner of the state of New York to the shore 
of Lake Erie obsolete, but the monument erected at the west end 
of the line, to mark the completion of the survey, standing originally on 
the crest of the bluff, was in the course of time carried away by the 
sloughing of the steep clay hillside as the frosts left the soil in the spring. 


It was regarded as too important a landmark not to be perpetuated. 
Accordingly the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 
at the session of 1905 passed an act appropriating $500 for the erection 
of a new monument to mark the end of the old state line which would 
at the same time stand as a record of the historical events associated 
with the place and the county. It stands near the shore of the lake in 
Springfield township about half way between the eastern and western 
boundaries of the township. 

The work of properly locating the new monument was entrusted 
by Secretary Brown of the Department of Internal Affairs to Mr. J. 
Sutton Wall, chief draftsman and surveyor of the Department. It was- 
important of course that it should in fact represent the termination of the 
line, and a careful survey was made by Mr. Wall with that purpose in 
view. The old stone, which had been a slab from a rather thick and hard 
stratum of the shale which crops out near the water's edge, had entirely 
disappeared having it is believed been picked up by the gatherers of stone 
for pier-filling when the Conneaut docks were in course of construction. 
The new monument, it was desired, should occupy a position where 
there would be no danger of its sliding down the blufif and yet be on 
the line of the original survey. The assistants of Mr. Wall in the work 
of choosing the location were O. P. Eaton and J- C. ^Vilson of Corry, 
Charles Bovee of North Springfield and Ralph C. Benedict of West 
Springfield. Careful search under the guidance of Joseph R. Hewitt of 
Springfield township resulted in finding the last of the milestones, the 
259th. It was found in a broken condition, between the properties of 
Henry Kenuth and C. G. Kimmel. 

According to the report of the survey of the original boundary, 
the last stone or monument had been placed eighty-five rods west of 
the 259th milestone. Measuring from that milestone, west 85 rods, 
Mr. Wall found that in the year 1906, when his survey was made, the 
location of the stone would have been about half way between the edge 
of the blufT and the waters of the lake, indicating that not less than one 
hundred feet of the land of the top of the bluff had been carried away 
by the sloughing or sliding of the land, since the original monument 
had been placed, in 1787. 

For the new monument a site was selected on the summit of a small 
ridge or knoll, five hundred and sixteen feet west of milestone No. 259. 
There twenty feet square was staked oiif and subsequently bought by 
the state, in the center of which the monuinent was to be erected. In 
April, 1907, the work of erecting the monument was entrusted to the care 
and superintendence of Mr. Benedict. A substructure of broken stone 
and concrete was made and upon this the monument was erected, the 
work being completed on the 23d of April, 1907. 

This monument was formally dedicated at a mass-meeting, com- 
posed principally of citizens of Erie county, including Senator Sisson 


and the members of the House of Representatives on September 10, 
1907, an appropriate date, being the ninety-fourth anniversary of the 
Battle of Lake Erie, where Commodore Perry, in command of a fleet, 
the best part of which was built at Erie, won the most notable naval 
victory up to that time, capturing an entire British fleet. 

The dedication proved to be an auspicious occasion. Not only 
vi'as there a large and representative gathering, but the people assem- 
bled there came impressed with the proper spirit, ready to enter into 
the doings of the day with appreciative interest. By common consent 
the chief feature of the program had been assigned to Hon. Isaac B. 
Brown of Corry. As secretary of Internal Affairs at Harrisburg, he 
had taken especial interest in the enterprise of preserving the terminal 
mark of that historic survey. Becoming deeper interested in the project 
as the details of the work progressed, he had taken to a study of the 
history that the monument proposed to be erected would recall to a 
thoughtful inind, with the result that he had accumulated an extensive 
store of historical facts. He was therefore made speaker of the occasion. 
His address was a historical review of the country round about, history 
tliat the monument was intended to stand for and commemorate. It is 
therefore, not the last milestone in the old state line, but marking the 
place where that line terminated is a monument of the events associated 
with the coming of the white race into the county of Erie and into 
western Pennsylvania. 

This monument is a monolith of New England granite, equally 
four sided with a pyramidal top. On each of the four sides there is 
a bronze panel securely fastened. These bear proper inscriptions, which 

Northern side : "The lands north of this line and easterly to the 
western line of New York, purchased from the Indians January 9, 1789, 
and February 3, 1791, and deeded to the state of Pennsylvania by George 
Washington as President of the United States, and Thomas Jefferson as 
Secretary of State, March 3, 1792." 

Southern side : "Lands in northwestern Pennsylvania included in 
the Charter to William Penn of March 4, 1681, purchased of Six Na- 
tions. October 23, 1784, and from the Wyandotte and Delaware Indians, 
January 21, 1785." 

Eastern side: "Easterly 516 feet from this monument stood the last 
milestone, the 259th from the Delaware river." 

Western side : "Erected in 1907 by the State of Pennsylvania to 
mark the location of the old State Line established in 1786-7." 

There may seem to be a discrepancy between the terms of the grant 
of King Charles to William Penn and the survey as actually made in 
1786-7, that survey being on the 43d parallel ; for it will be found in 
the original grant that the language used is, that the territory is bounded 
"east by Delaware river . . . unto the three and fortieth degree of 
Vol. 1—5 


north latitude." This is the explanation : The grant is to the degree, 
not the parallel : and the forty-third degree begins at the forty-second 
parallel. The Triangle, then is in the forty-third degree. 


Grievous Indian Troubles at Length Disposed of. — Provisions Made 
BY Which Land Could be Acquired. 

The ownership of the Triangle having been determined, it would 
seem as though nothing remained but to open the land for settlement in 
order to bring this way a population that even in those early days had 
turned its face westward, following the star of empire. This the State 
proceeded to do with all the expedition that could be e.xpected. As early 
as 1791, the year after the commonwealth of Pennsylvania had adopted 
its first constitution, a favorable report on a proposition to open up a 
route from east of the mountains to Lake Erie was received and acted 
upon by the state legislature. Just after the constitution had been 
adopted Timothy Matlack, Samuel McClay and John Adlum were ap- 
pointed commissioners to proceed up the Sinnemahoning and cross to 
any stream that might discharge itself into the Allegheny river nearest 
the mouth of French creek, up which stream they were to proceed to 
Le Bceuf, and thence, over the portage road to Presque Isle. It was the 
report of this commission that was received by the legislature in 1791, 
and the result was the passage of an act appropriating 100 pounds for 
the improvement of French Creek from its mouth up to the road leading 
to Presque Isle. This was part of an act designed to improve the navi- 
gable waters of the state and to open roads. 

Two years later there was organized the Pennsylvania Population 
Company, whose managers were John Nicholson, John Field, Theophilus 
Casenove and Aaron Burr. This companv undertook to stimulate settle- 
ment, but their efforts were for the time thwarted by the Indians. 

It had been supposed that, with deeds in fee and deeds of quit- 
claim, which had been secured from the Indians, all doubts about the 
title had been set at rest. But they were not. The Indians were possessed 
of peculiarly fine ideas of their rights, and, without any comprehension 
of white men's laws it was no easy task to satisfy them. As a rule the 
white man was impatient with what appeared to be their vaccilating dis- 
position, while the Indian, failing entirely to understand the newcomers, 
was suspicious that every overture was an effort to overreach him. The 
result was in every instance a long drawn out dispute, in which the 
white man, undertaking to enforce his law, was opposed by the only law 


the Indian knew — the law of force. Few people, even at this late day, 
can fully appreciate what the exact relation was that existed between 
the two races at that time. The white man then certainly did not, and the 
Indian could not. The fact of the matter is the white man who was 
the product of many centuries of education and culture, was dealing 
with a man of the stone age. It was as though the ancestors of the 
race then come into the life of this continent, were pitted against their 
descendants who for far more than a millenium had been making steady 
progress upward. In much that was possessed of the attributes of man- 
hood by the white man, the Indian was as a child. He knew nothing 
whatever of civilization. He had no written language. Even his 
hieroglyphic record was restricted to the totems that designated family 
or tribe and the commonest objects of nature about him. His only 
history was in traditions which lived but so long as the particular family 
concerned endured. 

What wonder, then, that, when it came to the weighty negotiations 
that involved their parting with their ancestral rights, they were slow 
to comprehend and reluctant to consent? With no ideas beyond what 
had been their mode of living, how could it be expected they could un- 
derstand what a new mode involved, or believe that a better could obtain? 
They could only see in the new system a deprivation of their means of 
livelihood, a change that would bring hunger and suffering to them. 
Their lands were theirs to hunt over. From the chase they obtained 
sustenance for themselves and children. Deprived of these they could 
not live. And then, when it came to the final test, they knew of no 
resort but that which had obtained among them from the beginning, so 
far as they had knowledge — the law of force. 

It was this attitude of the Indians that caused the delay in the 
settlement of this part of the country' after all the obstacles of the white 
man's law, as between claimants among the white men. had been re- 
moved. Moreover, it seemed at the time as though the Indian was receiv- 
ing encouragement in his opposition to the settlement of the country — 
that his dissatisfaction was being stimulated ; for the evidences seemed 
to show that representatives of the British government were stirring 
up discontent among the Indians. Cornplanter. one of the noblest of 
the American savages, and friendly with the Americans, was himself 
dragged into the plots and schemes of those who were endeavoring to 
stir up dissensions and discourage the occupancy of the territory on the 
south of Lake Erie. These representatives of the British, establishing 
themselves at Buffalo Creek, called frequent conferences with Indians. 
Gen. Wilkins, in 1793, reporting on the Indian situation from Fort Frank- 
lin, said, "The English are fixed in their opposition to the opening of the 
road to Presque Isle (from Le Bceuf), and are determined to send a 
number of English and Indians to cut them off." Their idea, it would 
appear, was to claim the Triangle lately acquired by Pennsylvania, as. 


being territory not included in the royal grants, either to New York 
or Pennsylvania, therefore the property of Great Britain. And in fur- 
therance of this scheme or plan, the Indians were urged on to defeat the 
efforts of the Pennsylvania authorities to secure peaceful possession. 

Old Cornplanter was loyal to his American friends. He favored 
the transfer made by the Indian nations through him. But Joseph 
Brant was opposed and he stirred up a strife that threatened to be violent. 
Brant was one of the most remarkable Indians that ever lived. He was 
probably the first of his race to receive a high-grade education. He was 
a college graduate ; had learned all the arts and graces of civilization ; 
but when he had attained the highest point that the school education 
of the day could give him, he threw it all at his feet, and, putting on 
his dress of buckskin returned to the woods and the ways of the tribe 
in which he had been born. It was Brant who led in the fight against 
adopting a treaty of peace and he pertinaciously resisted its adoption. 
Cornplanter was trusted by the white people. They had had experience 
of his fidelity : but of the other it was different. There had been no 
massacres by the Indians here up to this time, nor in the immediate 
vicinity of Erie, but with Brant breathing out threatenings none were 
willing to take the risk that seemed to be involved, not even with as- 
surance of the friendship of Cornplanter. 

The outcome of the Indian troubles that were now in evidence was 
a decision to send forces for the garrisoning of Fort Franklin and Fort 
Le Bceuf. There had been a force at Fort Franklin but it was deemed 
inadequate under the more threatening condition of affairs. Capt. Denny 
was sent with a force to occupy Le Bceuf, but directed to proceed no 
farther. Accordingly he established himself there and built two small 
block houses. 

In the Triangle matters were at a stand-still. No white man at- 
tempted to become a settler. The Pennsylvania Population Company 
had appointed Thomas Rees a deputy surveyer for land in the Triangle, 
-which in 1792 he entered in his book of record, and next year he made 
an attempt to go out and survey them ; but, proceeding by way of Buf- 
falo Creek, he was halted there and informed by the Indians that if he 
went to Presque Isle to make his surveys he would be killed. This dis- 
couraged him for that season. The next year, 1794, he did come ; and 
prosecuted his work. But he did it alone. He saw no white man, and, 
living in constant fear of the savages, made what haste he could to reach 
Fort Le Bceuf, where there was a garrison under Major Denny. Early 
in 1795, Deacon Hinds Chamberlain of Le Roy, N. Y.. in company 
with Jesse Beach and Reuben Heath, made a journey along the south 
shore of Lake Erie. He reports: "At Presque Isle we found neither 
whites nor Indians — all was solitary." Under such a state of affairs it 
l)ecame a necessity that the conditions applying to contracts for the pur- 
chase of land in the Triangle should be changed. 


Now there were a number of ways by which the public land of the 
Triangle could be secured by settlers and these may be profitably set 
forth here. First there was the Actual Settlement Act, passed by the 
General Assembly of the Commonwealth in 1792. immediately after the 
Triangle had been acquired. This act provided that the land would 
be sold to any person who would cultivate, improve and settle the same, 
or cause them to be improved and settled, at seven pounds and ten 
shillings for every one hundred acres, with allowance of six per cent for 
roads, etc., but no one settler was allowed to claim more than four 
hundred acres. The definition of actual settlement was set out with 
care. "No title shall vest in the lands unless the grantee has, prior to 
the issue of his warrant, made or caused to be made, or shall, within 
two years next after the same make or cause to be made an actual set- 
tlement thereon by clearing, fencing and cultivating at least two acres 
for every one hundred in one survey, and erected a house, and resided 
or caused a family to reside on the same for the five years immediately 
following; and in default thereof new warrants shall be issued to 
actual settlers.'' In view of the Indian troubles, however, there was a 
notable modification in the terms made which "provided, that if any 
such actual settler or grantee shall, by force of arms of the enemies of 
the United States, be prevented from making such settlement, or be 
driven therefrom, and shall persist in his endeavors to make such actual 
settlement, then, in either case, he and his heirs shall be entitled to 
have and to hold such lands in the same manner as if the actual settle- 
ment had been made." However, the lands actually settled and improved 
were to remain chargeable with the purchase money and interest, and if 
the grantee neglected to apply for a warrant for ten years after the 
passage of the act, unless hindered by death or the enemies of the United 
States, the lands might be granted to others by warrants reciting the de- 

It was almost simultaneously with the passage of the Actual 
Settlement Act that the Pennsylvania Population Company, already 
mentioned, was formed at Philadelphia. Altogether this company 
acquired 890 warrants, partly in what is now Erie county and partly in 
Crawford, and these holdings embraced the whole of the Triangle ex- 
cept the town plot of Erie, the State Reserve, the Garrison Reserve and 
Irvine's reservation — the last named in what afterwards became Har- 
bor creek township. For the purpose of inducing settlers to locate here 
these offers were made: A gift of 150 acres each to the first twenty fami- 
lies to settle on French Creek, and a similar gift to the first twenty to 
settle in the Lake Erie territory; a gift of 100 acres to the next fifty 
families, after the first twenty to settle on French creek, and a similar 
gift to the next fifty to settle in the Lake Erie territory. Settlers were 
privileged to select whatever lands thev desired, and if ten acres were 
cleared and a comfortable house built on the land, in which thev resided, 


they were to have a deed in two years. In case they were driven off 
by the Indians no part of the two years was to stand against them, but 
no title was to vest in any person who abandoned his land before re- 
ceiving a deed. Thirty thousand acres of land was offered for sale to 
actual settlers at one dollar per acre payable at the option of the pur- 
chaser in three years, with interest the last two years, but no tract was 
to exceed 300 acres. The first agent of the Pennsylvania Population 
Company was Thomas Rees, Esq., who was succeeded in 1796, by 
Judah Colt, who continued to transact the business affairs of the com- 
pany in this county until it was dissolved in 1814. 

The Holland Land Company early acquired a large amount of 
land in Erie county. It was composed of a number of wealthy men 
living in Holland, and soon after the close of the War of the Revolution, 
bought of Robert Morris, the financier of the Revolution, vast bodies of 
land in western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania. Besides 
the land purchased of Morris and what was acquired in this county the 
company had large holdings in Crawford. Those in Erie county were all 
south of the old state line. Major Alden was the first agent of this 
company and was succeeded by William Miles. In 1815 H. J. Huide- 
koper, a member of the corporation, came from Holland to take charge 
of the company's affairs and established himself at Meadville, being the 
original of that notable family. 

The third land company to be interested in the settlement of Erie 
was the Harrisburg and Presque Isle Company, formed at Harrisburg 
in 1796, for the purpose of settling, improving and populating the coun- 
try near and adjoining to Lake Erie. Among those who joined to form 
this company were Richard Swan, Thomas. Forster, Samuel Laird and. 
William Kelso, names later to be prominently identified with affairs in 

These were the great land companies that, it turned out, were to be 
the means of bringing settlers into this section of the country. They 
had troubles, some of them, at the beginning, for it early appeared that 
the Actual Settlement act had. perhaps inadvertently, been nullified, 
the discovery being made that all the available land in the Triangle had 
been disposed of by the state to the Pennsylvania Population Company. 
This necessitated the passage of an act by the Legislature, in 1794. to 
provide that no further application should be received at the land office 
for unimproved land in the Triangle, and that no warrant should issue 
after June 15 of that year for any land within the Triangle except in 
favor of persons claiming by virtue of some settlement and improvement 
having been made thereon, and that all applications remaining in the 
land office after that date, for which the purchase money had not been 
paid, should be void. However, applications might be received and war- 
rants issued until January 1, 1795. in favor of any persons to whom a 
balance might be due in the land office on unsatisfied warrants issued 


before the SDth of March, 1792, for such quantities of land as might be 
sufficient to discharge such balances. 

Out of the legislation, of 1792 and of 1794 the difficulties above al- 
luded to. grew, for when proclamation was made in 1795 by the gover- 
nor, declaring that the Indians had been conquered and that the north- 
western section of the State was open for settlement, a considerable num- 
ber of people immigrated, some buying from the land agents, and 
others setting up claims on the ground that the land companies had 
forfeited their claims. The claims of the latter were controverted by 
the land companies, who set up the plea that the hostility of the Indians 
had prevented them from making the improvements called for by the 
act, which act also made allowance for such a contingency. The land 
companies were sustained by the courts, the Holland Land Company 
also successfully maintaining its title in the United States courts, being 
a foreign company. 

Besides the tracts of land taken up by the land companies above 
mentioned there were others set off by the State which should be men- 
tioned. During the progress of the Revolutionary war. in 1780. a 
promise was made "to the officers and privates belonging to this State 
ill the Federal Army," that they were to be given certain donations and 
quantities of land, according to their several ranks, to be surveyed and 
divided off to them, severally, at the end of the Revolutionary war. The 
tenth of these Donation Districts was located within Erie county and be- 
gan about a mile east of Waterford and extended eastward to the War- 
ren county line. It was surveyed on the part of the State in 1785 by 
David Watts and William Miles. There were but few of the Revolu- 
tionary soldiers who moved onto them, the great bulk of the patents hav- 
ing been disposed of to speculators. 

Then there was the Aloravian Grant. This land was voted by the 
State in 1791 to the "Society of the United Brethren for propagating 
the Gospel among the heathen," in recognition of its services in main- 
taining at its own expense missionaries among the Indians. In Erie 
county two tracts were located, the "Good Luck" tract of 2875 acres 
in Le Boeuf township and the "Hospitality" tract of 2797 acres in 
Springfield township. William Miles was the first agent of the Hos- 
pitality tract and John Wood of Waterford was the first agent of the 
Good Luck tract. (In 1850 these tracts were sold to N. Blickensderfer 
and James Miles). 

There were four state reservations : The Irvine Reserve of 2000 
acres in Harborcreek township was donated by the Commonwealth to 
Gen. William Irvine as a special reward for his services in the Revolu- 
tion. The Erie State Reserve began at the head of the bay, extended 
south three miles, thence east eight miles, then north three miles to the 
shore of the lake, and included all land within those boundaries e.xcept 
what had been originally set apart for the town of Erie. The Waterford 


Reserve consisted of ISOO acres in Waterford township and -iOO acres 
in Le Boeuf. The Garrison tract was laid out at the eastern end of the 
town of Erie on the shore of the bay and lake and included about one 
hundred acres, and is the only state reserve in Erie county that remains 
to this day the property of the commonwealth. Upon it stands the 
Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home. 

Finally there was, by act of the legislature in 1799, held back from 
each of the reserve tracts of Erie and Waterford 500 acres "for the use 
of such schools and academies as may hereafter be established by law." 

Above has been given an outline of the disposition made by the 
State, of the public lands, prior to and soon after the beginning of the 
first settlement of the county. Through the various legislative acts en- 
umerated it will be seen how titles to the land of the county originated. 
It will show how preparations had been made for the coming into Erie 
county of the hardy pioneers who were to make an opening right here 
in the Great Forest of North America. 

For the Indian troubles were now at an end at and in the vicinity 
of Presque Isle, if only the settler could be made to feel satisfied of that 
fact. It had been a protracted and difficult task to reach a basis satis- 
factory to the Indians, and there is no doubt it would not so soon have 
been reached but for the activity and friendliness of the great chief 
Cornplanter. He was tireless in his efforts to have peace established. 
He was a loyal friend to the whites, whom he had come to understand, 
and finally succeeded in satisfying his people, although having been 
charged before a council with having accepted a bribe for the sale of 
Presque Isle. When, therefore, a conference to be held at Canan- 
daigua had been appointed by the President, with Timothy Pickering 
as the sole representative of the Government, for the purpose of estab- 
lishing a firm and permanent friendship with the Six Nations, it was 
agreed to by the Indians, who came in force. The meeting was held 
in October, 1794. The result of the conference was that a large tract 
of land west of the Phelps and Gorham purchase in New York was 
reserved to the Indians, with $14,500 in goods, whereupon fifty-nine 
sachems signed a treaty of perpetual peace and friendship with the 
United States. Thus was the remaining obstacle in the way of the 
inaugurating of a final settlement here removed. 


The Surveyors at Work. — Arrival of Col. Reed and His Family 
AND Permanent Settlement Begun. 

And now the stage has been cleared for the beginning of a new 
drama of human interest. That which had preceded was essentially of 
the military sort, and before that, what might be denominated of the 
border kind. But the new one is the domestic drama that, in its work- 
ing out, has many a thrilling situation, introducing, to be sure, more 
than one military scene, and more than one spectacular effect. Indeed 
as we shall see, even the "grand transformation" of the mimic stage 
is here to be put on with great effect. 

It is now 1795, in the great American forest. It is three full cen- 
turies since the Cabots made the civilized world acquainted with the 
western continent. It is three hundred years since the Europeans came 
to know of the existence of that stupendous expanse of woods that 
stretched from the tropic waters of the Gulf to the billows of the Artcic 
sea. Three hundred years ! And yet the scene of our narrative upon 
the shore of Presque Isle bay and the terraced hills of the interior, 
is the same forest primeval, inviolate, save for the mere thread the 
ambitious French had stretched between the lake and the river. Most 
impressive must the view have been to the first comer, as, scanning the 
country to the south from the point of vantage of the frail embarkation 
of the time upon the lake, he beheld that grand panorama of arboreal 
verdure, impressive in its vast extent as it steadily unfolded during his 
progress westward and as steadily continued unchanged. It was as 
though it had never before been seen by man, for, as creation might 
have left it, it still remained. 

But the change was impending. A new race in this part of the 
continent was about to appear, a race as unlike that which had preceded 
it as could well be. The French after an occupancy of six years, in a day 
burned behind them all their works, and no trace remained. Those 
who are now to take up the work and assume the duties of ownership, 
to have and to hold, after six years will have made marks not so easily 
obliterated. For they are of that people who had come into this western 
world to establish homes, and while they pursued commerce and trade 


and the industries of their time, held superior to these the homes they 
were to establish. 

It is not easy to determine from the evidence available, just at 
what date the earliest settler in Erie county arrived, nor is the day of 
the month, nor even the month of the year II'OS reliably set down which 
marks the date of the arrival here of the earliest settlers. Nor can it 
be told from any records extant which part of the county is entitled to 
claim the honor of receiving the first settler. There had been a garrison 
maintained at Le Boeuf for some time, rendered necessary by the fear 
of the Indians, and it would appear as though, under the protection of 
that body of military there might have been found someone daring 
enough to have taken up land and set about establishing a claim. So 
far as can be learned this was not done before the year 1795, and during 
that year there appears nothing to show at what time in that year im- 
migration began. Statements appear in the histories that "early in the 
year" a detachment of soldiers arrived to erect blockhouses ; "early in 
the year" Captain Grubb escorted the surveyors here ; "early in the 
year" Thomas Rees came on to engage in the work of surveying the 
land of the Pennsylvania Population Company. Careful and inquiring 
search, however, places the date of all the arrivals above mentioned — 
and they were the first of the permanents — after mid-summer ; that is to 
say, none of them before the latter part of June. 

It appears, from what he wrote at the time, that in the year 1795 
Deacon Hinds Chamberlain of LeRoy, N. Y., looking for a place to 
buy desirable land cheap, made a journey to Presque Isle, having as 
companions Jesse Beach and Reuben Heath. The narrative of his trip 
bears no date or dates, so that it is not possible to state how early in 
the year their visit here was made. This party of men were the first 
arrivals here, but, according to the story as told, they were not here 
much if any before mid-summer day. Mr. Chamberlian writes : 

"At Presque Isle we found neither whites nor Indians — all was 
solitary. There were some old French brick buildings, wells, block 
houses, etc., going to decay, and eight or ten acres of cleared land. On 
the peninsula there was an old brick house forty or fifty feet square. The 
peninsula was covered with cranberries. 

"After staying there one night we went over to Le Bceuf, about 
sixteen miles distant, pursuing an old French road. Trees had grown 
up in it. but the track was distinct. Near Le Boeuf we came upon a 
company of men who were cutting out the road to Presque Isle — a part 
of them were soldiers and a part Pennsylvanians. At Le Boeuf there 
was a garrison of soldiers — about one hundred. There were several 
white families there and a store of goods. Myself and companions 
were in pursuit of land. By a law of Pennsylvania, such as built a log 
house and cleared a few acres acquired a presumptive right — the right 


to purchase at five dollars per hundred acres. We each of us made a 
location near Presque Isle. 

"On our return to Presque Isle from Le Boeuf we found there Col. 
Seth Reed and his family. They had just arrived. We stopped and 
helped him build some huts ; set up crotches, laid poles across, and cov- 
ered them with the bark of the cucumber tree. . . . James Baggs 
and Giles Sisson came on with Col. Reed. I remained for a considerable 
time in his employ. It was not long before eight or ten other families 
came in." 

This narrative of Deacon Chamberlain is informing but not instruc- 
tive in so far as it relates to the dates of the advent of some who 
were undoubtedly among the very earliest settlers here. It would appear 
from the Deacon as though no others but the Reed party were here. But 
there were others. 

Undoubtedly the first comer was Thomas Rees. He had been here 
the year before as a surveyor. He came in 179.5 also as a surveyor, ac- 
companied by a force of assistants, but this time, as it turned out, he 
was to become one of the settlers in the Triangle. He came early. He 
erected a tent or marquee on the high ground near where the French 
and English forts had been, and with this temporary shelter, at once his 
office and his dwelling, pursued his occupation as surveyor. For a time 
he was alone, except for his force of assistants, and it was during this 
period that there "dropped in" upon him a small party of travelers who 
claimed his hospitality for a day or two. It was Louis Philippe of 
France and his younger brother and an attendant. They were prosecut- 
ing a journey through the wilds for recreation and having recuperated 
on the hospitality of Mr. Rees. proceeded eastward under the care of an 
Indian guide provided by their host. 

The next arrivals at Presque Isle were the commissioners sent out 
by the state to locate the town of Erie. These commissioners. Gen. 
William Irvine and Andrew Ellicott, were appointed in pursuance of 
an act passed by the state legislature in April. 1795, and, for their 
protection as well as for that of the settlers, they were escorted by a 
company of state troops under command of Capt. John Grubb. They 
reached Erie in June, or early in July, the exact date being uncertain, 
though the probabilities are it was during the latter part of June. The 
great majority of those who formed this expedition were transients — 
enlisted men whose only interest lay in the dutv placed upon them as 
soldiers of the state. There were exceptions to this last statement, how- 
ever, especially notable being that of the commander, Capt. Grubb, who 
became a permanent settler and rose to a position of honor, influence 
and distinction in the county, in which he lived until his death in 1845. 

The first permanent settlers who came with the expressed pur- 
pose of making their homes in the Triangle were Col. Seth Reed and 
his family, with others who accompanied him. Col. Reed was a soldier 


of the Revolution and was in command of a regiment at Bunker Hill. 
He was a native of Uxbridge, Mass., a physician, but upon the close 
of the Revolutionary war decided to remove into the west. At first he 
located in Ontario county, N. Y., where he acquired a large tract of land, 
but after a time, becoming impressed with what he had heard of the 
region on the south shore of Lake Erie, decided upon a change of location. 
At Buflfalo he met John Talmadge, who had fitted out a small sailing 
craft to run between that port and Erie, and engaged passage for his 
party. They arrived here the last day of June or the first day of July 
in the evening. Coming into a strange land, with rumors of Indian 
depredations still current, they were in fear and camped on the peninsula. 
They were themselves in turn objects of fear, for, discovering the camp- 
fires on the peninsula, the small garrison of Capt. Grubb judged that 
a band of hostile Indians had landed there with the intention of making 
an attack, and extraordinary precautions were taken to guard against 
a night surprise. The next morning a boat bearing a flag of truce piit 
out from the shore, and soon the mystery was cleared up. Col. Reed, 
his family and the others of his company were given a cordial welcome 
and immediately crossed over to the mainland. Col. Reed's was the first 
family to settle in the Triangle, and the house he soon afterwards erected, 
a log structure, was the first house built in Erie. Moreover, it was the 
the first hospice, for it was given the name of the Presque Isle Hotel. 
To this day, from the date of the first settlement of Erie, there has 
ever been a hotel with which the name of Reed has been associated. 
The house Col. Reed built was near the mouth of Mill creek on its left 
or west bank. The members of his family who came to Erie at that 
time were his wife and sons Charles John and Manning. His other 
two sons, Rufus S. and George, came by way of Pittsburg, in Sep- 
tember. The coming of Mrs. Reed with her husband was an inspiration 
to others of the gentler sex. In September along with Rufus and George 
Reed, there came Mrs. Thomas Rees and Mrs. J. Fairbanks. During 
the same year James Baird and children became settlers at Erie. 

Settlement during the year 1795 was not confined to Erie or the 
lake shore. Throughout the county the progress had begun, and it is a 
source of marvel at the present day that those pioneers had the splendid 
courage and hardihood to settle down in the midst of the dense forest, 
miles away from any others of their kind, and hew out of the wilderness 
a place of abode. Earlier even than the coming of the Reed family, first 
settlers in the Triangle, was the advent of William Miles and William 
Cook, who about the first of June, made a settlement in Concord town- 
ship, near the Crawford county line, and brought their wives with them. 
At Waterford the same year (Waterford that year was laid out by the 
state commissioners) Amos Judson, James Naylor, Lieut. Martin and 
Martin Strong settled. Capt. Strong came by way of Presque Isle, or 
Erie, the last of July. The first settlers in Millcreek, as the township 
is known today, were John W. Russell, George Moore, David McNair. 

;g history of ERIE COUx\TY 

In Le Boeuf, Capt.. Robert King and family, William and Thomas Black 
and Thomas Ford and wife settled. In Wayne, Michael Hare and 
j\Iessrs. Rideau and Call ; in North East, James and Bailie Donaldson : 
in Conneaut, Jonathan Spaulding; in Girard, James Blair, and in Mc- 
Kean. James Talmadge, the skipper who brought Col. Reed to Erie, were 
the first settlers. All these were immigrants to the county of Erie in 
the year 1795. It was a small beginning, but it was an actual beginning. 

The fears of Indian hostilities were not by any means laid by the 
beginning of 1795, notwithstanding official proclamations. Too often 
had treaties with the savages been made only, it would seem, to be soon 
broken, and though it appeared as though the conclusion of peace reached 
at Canandaigua was morally certain to endure, people continued to take 
council of their fears. Xor was it any wonder, when it is considered 
that taking up a home in the new country that was here being opened 
up involved isolation remote from any friendly assistance, and with no 
means of ready communication. It is but necessary to consider for a 
moment such a case as that of Jonathan Spaulding, settled alone in the 
trackless and almost impenetrable forest west of Albion, twenty miles 
away from the nearest military post (Waterford) and ten miles distant 
from his nearest neighbor, Mr. Blair at Girard. It surely did call for 
masterful courage to become a settler in the wilds of the great American 
forest in those days. 

Nor were the times of alarm yet entirely past for in the first year 
the settlement was thrown into a panic of fear by the report that two 
men had been massacred by the Indians at a place a short distance south 
of town that was being then surveyed. The greatest excitement and 
apprehension prevailed in the garrison, and every precaution was exer- 
cised and expedient employed that military experience could suggest, in 
order to be fully prepared in case of an attack by the savages. The story 
of the massacre is that two men, Ralph Rutledge and his son on the road 
between Le Boeuf and Erie, had been attacked by Indians a little more than 
a mile away from Erie and killed. The father, it developed, was dead 
when the discovery was made by passers-by, but the son though scalped 
was still alive, but died soon afterward. The scene of this tragedy, was 
by tradition located about where Turnpike street crosses the railroad, near 
the Union Depot, and for years the spot was viewed with superstitions 
fear and called Rutledge"s grave. Undoubtedly there was error in locat- 
ing the scene of the tragical occurrence at that place, for it was a long 
distance from the French road, which was the only known route between 
Le Bceuf and Erie, and it was upon that road that the murder was 
committed. At that early day there was a dense hemlock wood border- 
ing Mill creek in the neighborhood of the so-called Rutledge's grave, 
and the spot being remote from travel, if the men had been attacked and 
murdered there, there was not one chance in a thousand that their 
bodies would ever have been found. It is far more likely that the 
scene of the murder was at the upper end of Parade street which was 


the thoroughfare into tlie interior from Erie, and the only traveled road. 

However the crime was committed and no doubt the people of that 
time knew its location well, but made no other record of the fact than that 
it occurred upon the road. Later, however, the murder of the Rutledges 
cut an important figure as affecting the business of the time. There arose 
disputes about the rights of landed interests, under the settlement acts. 
The Pennsylvania Population Co., which had not been able to comply 
with all the conditions imposed, cited this outrage as evidence that the 
country had not been pacified and set up a claim for an extension of the 
probation in accordance with the terms of the act. Rival claimants 
charged -that the murder was not the work of Indians, but of the Popu- 
lation Co., which benefited by it. In the end, however, it came to be 
generally regarded to be the work of the savages. 

It has been said that it was the killing of the Rutledges that brought 
about the erection, that year, of the American defenses at Erie, but this 
is a mistake, for there was not a sufficient lapse of time between the 
discovery of that tragedy and the beginning of the work on the block- 
houses and stockades. As a matter of fact, they were almost coeval. Un- 
doubtedly the soldiers detailed for that work were already on their way 
if not on the ground when the murder was discovered. 

In was in July, 179.5, and toward the latter part of the month when 
a detail of Gen. Wayne's soldiers, under command of Capt. Russell Bissell 
arrived here, and began the work of erecting military defenses. The 
earlier forts had occupied sites on the high ground near the bluff on 
the west of the Mill creek valley. The French fort was not far distant 
from the east line of Parade street, the finding of ruins having established 
this fact, and it is quite likely the fort built during the English occupancy, 
that was taken in Pontiac's war, occupied practically the same site. 

The American defenses, however, were built on the high ground east 
of Mill creek, the tract to this day has been known as the Garrison 
Ground, and is now a part of the grounds belonging to the Soldiers' 
and Sailors' Home. It was admirably fitted for a place of defense, 
with the steep bank fronting on the north, the almost equally steep slope 
from Mill creek on the west and the abrupt bluff of the rather wide 
ravine or valley of Garrison run on the east. There was but one side, 
therefore, open to attack. This piece of ground was made ready for 
the purpose to which it was to be put, under the direction of Capt. Bissell, 
a skillful Indian fighter if not military engineer. He cut down all the 
timber, back a considerable distance, and erected on the cleared space 
an extensive stockade that contained within it two houses — (by some 
authorities there were three). All of these houses were built of logs 
and the principal one was a blockhouse of the usual American backwoods 
design, two stories high with the upper story much larger in diameter 
than the lower one, in order that in case of a close siege the enemy 
might be fired upon from above if an attempt were made to force an en- 
trance through the door or set fire to the building at its base. Besides 


cutting away enough timber to make room and material for his fortifica- 
tion. Captain Bissell was a sufficiently experienced Indian fighter 
to know that it was best to push the woods back as far as possible in 
order that there should be no screen through which the savages could make 
a sheltered approach. To secure this end he caused ten acres of ground 
to be cleared and cultivated, manifesting double good sense by this pro- 
vision for the maintenance of his garrison. 

Happily there was no real need of the defenses built by Wayne's 
soldiers. The Indians had been fully subdued by the vigorous campaign 
of Mad Anthony in the west, and the peace of Canandaigua was of a 
character to give the authorities, at least, full assurance that all trouble 
with the aborigines in this part of the country was at an end. In one 
respect, however, the erection of the fortification was valuable, and even 
necessary. It imparted a sense of security to the settlers, already on 
the ground, and to those who contemplated moving in. The hardships 
of a pioneer in the forests of America were alone enough to daunt 
any but the most courageous. The hazard of Indian depredations added 
was too much for even the hardy first settler to willingly accept. There- 
fore the construction of the fort and its occupancy by a garrison of 
sufficient strength became a much needed guaranty for the purpose of 
ensuring the settlement of the country. 

It has been stated by writers of the history of the Triangle that 
the detail of United States troops for the building of a fort at Presque 
Isle was sent here early in the spring of 1795, and that the work was 
begun immediately. This, however, is not in accordance with what 
has been stated by a number of persons who visited this section during 
the summer of that year. Deacon Chamberlain, who landed at Presque 
Isle in the latter part of June found no one here, neither whites nor 
Indians, and Captain Martin Strong, who landed at Presque Isle the 
latter part of July, on his way to Le Boeuf, where he was to serve 
a? an assistant surveyor, writes that at that time the soldiers were at 
work felling trees for the stockade. A month later another of the new- 
comers reported that work on the defenses were still in progress. It is 
therefore more than probable that the fort was not completed until the 
end of the summer. 

In August, 1795, Judah Colt, then in Canandaigua, learning that 
the land in the Triangle was open for purchase and settlement, decided 
to come this way, and in company with Augustus Porter, set out for 
Presque Isle. They traveled by horseback to Buffalo, where they took 
passage with Captain William Lee in a small vessel which Mr. Colt 
calls a shallop, and, reaching here, found signs of activity. On the high 
ground that commanded the entrance to the bay the United States troops, 
he says in his autobiography, were erecting a fort while on the west 
Gen. Irvine and Andrew Ellicott were engaged in the work of laying 
out by survey the town of Erie. They had come to buy land — Mr. 
Colt and Mr. Porter — and, well pleased with the appearance of the 


country, whose vigorous growth of timber gave evidence of fertile soil, 
each bought 400 acres. That the early impression was a lasting one 
is proved by what followed, for Mr. Colt became in time not only a 
permanent settler but one of the most prominent and influential men of 
the county. He is not reckoned among the very first settlers, and yet 
he is really entitled to be included among those who came here in the 
first year of its permanency. 

Above the statement is made that the American fort commanded 
the entrance to the bay, and this is literally true. At that time there 
was no channel from the lake into the harbor such as we of today know. 
That is purely artificial and was constructed, many years after the period 
of which we are now writing, as a straight short cut in from the outside. 
Long after Erie came to be settled the bay continued to be entered by a 
somewhat shallow tortuous channel that, leading in from the lake passed 
the foot of the garrison bluff at a distance of 150 yards or so, and before 
reaching the mouth of Mill creek turned northwestward, almost in the 
direction of Misery bay, into the deep water of the main bay. This 
channel was not much above six feet deep, and was not wide, and in the 
course of time was to prove a troublesome feature. But this will appear 
in its proper place. When, in the course of events the important im- 
provement of a direct entrance had been constructed and the old channel 
was abandoned, it gradually filled up and a broad beach formed outside. 
Pools or ponds remained that for a long period were known as the pike 
ponds, but they gradually filled up. first by the growth of rank vegetation 
and then by its decay and the gradual encroachment of soil carried 
in by the streams and the wind which drifted the sand. After the Penn- 
sylvania Soldiers' and Sailors' Home had been established the work of 
fi!ling-in was hastened to completion by Major \V. W. Tyson who con- 
verted the flat into a fertile garden to supply the Home. The sole re- 
maining relic of Capt. Bissell's original work on that defense of 1795 
is the well dug within the stockade, which is still serviceable at times 
by means of a modern pump, from which the blue-coated veterans of the 
Soldiers' and Sailors' Home can quench their thirst. 

It is interesting to note that not a few of the names that became iden- 
tified with Erie county on that first year of the permanent settlement 
have endured until the present tirne. The name of Rees is still an 
honored one in Erie, and Reeds of the fourth generation after the Colonel 
are yet living here. The name of Miles has all these years been prom- 
inent in the western part of the county. Judson and Strong are still 
Waterford names, and have figured in distinguished fashion in the years 
that have passed. The Kings and Blacks of Le Boeuf have not died 
out, while Spaulding continues to be a name well known and respected 
in Conneaut township. Captain John Grubb has none of his name in 
Erie county today but of his blood there is a numerous progeny of 
excellent people. 
Vol. 1—6 



(From portrait in Erie Public Library.) 


The Fort That Anthony Built ..\nd How It Came to Be the 

Place of His Burial. 

There is not on the entire coast, east or west, certainly not within 
a half-score miles of Erie either way, a spot at once so charming as a 
view point and so strong as a site for military defense, as the piece of 
ground that was selected by Captain Bissell upon which to erect the 
American Fort Presque Isle in 1795. It is so to this day, whether con- 
sidered as a coign of vantage or a place upon which to erect a fort in 
case it became necessary to guard the entrance of the harbor. At the 
time the fort was first built, it will be easy for anyone well acquainted 
with the locality to understand, the view from that eminence must have 
been wonderfully fine. Then there was at no time a curtain of smoke 
to obscure the wide sweeping arc of the horizon, nor to dim the perspec- 
tive of the lovely panorama stretched out to the east along the coast, 
where point succeeded point, jutting out into the blue of the water, each 
succeeding timbered promontory of softer hue until the last is dim 
and blue in the distance. Directly out from the site of the fort, stretched 
the low lands of the eastern end of the peninsula, separated from the 
mainland by the winding channel. And the charm of that peninsular 
landscape was fine indeed, notwithstanding its level character. Nearer 
the bluff there were pools or small ponds margined by the rank growth 
of rushes and cat-tail flags, where the soldier blackbirds mustered in 
the summer time, or the stately blue heron stalked about on his stilts 
as he occupied himself at his fishing or expanded his marvelous stretch 
of wings as he sought a new location for his piscatory pursuits. Be- 
yond, the ponds are larger, and the fringing growth of more permanent 
vegetation — the willow peculiar to the peninsula, and the cottonwood 
coming on. The largest of the ponds to be seen is in later days to be 
known as the lake pond, and the still larger body to the west and separ- 
ated by a mere spit of sand will in time acquire the name of Misery 
Bay. And further still is seen the stretch of sand lying like waves 
thinly covered with a grass that raises its tall culms and panicles of 
golden plumes high above it. And yet farther the wide flat beach upon 
which the surf rolls thunderous in the northwest gales or whispering 
in the summer calms. Out of this shining sand the summer gales 


form fantastic shapes, drifting it into ridges and dunes, changing con- 
stantl)^ even where the tall, blue-bladed sand grass establishes a precari- 
ous hold. West of that, beginning in the northern bight of Misery 
Bay the peninsula woods begin, frequently opened up, however, to 
give place to many a lakelet peacefully sleeping protected by a growth 
of sturdy forest trees. The eye sweeping to the west takes in the Bay — 
Presque Isle Bay — with its high wooded bluffs on the mainland side 
and the wide-extending curve of the peninsula on the other, gleaming 
and scintilating in the golden light of the western sun. Duquesne was 
right when he pronounced it the "finest in nature." 

It is the year 179G. The fort is yet barely a year old, but already 
has monotony settled drearily upon its garrison, the tedious rounds of 
duty become tiresome. For idleness is not happiness in perfection, 
and even the joy of drinking in the beauties of the scene is not a joy 
forever. Better to the men of that garrison would a brush with the 
Indians be than to be forever working without a purpose. But into 
the life of this garrison came an incident. It is to be marked in the rec- 
ords of the nation's history. It was the coming of Gen. Wayne. 

General Wayne had proved, in the war of the Revolution, to be 
one of Washington's ablest lieutenants. It had come to be the rule to 
give him the brunt of the battle, for none better than he could be de- 
pended upon to inspire his troops with the courage and determination 
necessary to make the stand or to force the fighting. The remarkable 
charge at Stony Point was evidence of this, Wayne's soldierly scaling 
the steep declivity and carrying the works in a bayonet charge without 
firing a shot, while the enemy poured volley after volley of musketry 
and charges of grape and canister upon the impetuous continentals 
from the heights above. It was one of the grandest charges in all 
history and a triumph that properly made General ^V'ayne a popular 

Therefore when, the war over, trouble arose with the Indians of 
the west, President Washington naturally selected as the man who 
should command the force that was to reduce the savages to subjec- 
tion and punish their British allies, his trusted lieutenant General An- 
thony Wayne. General Wayne, though having retired to private life, 
promptly accepted the place and at once set about preparations to 
retrieve the disasters of St. Clair out in what is novi' western Ohio and 
eastern Indiana. He was so successful in his plans that he brought on 
an action with the savages at Fallen Timber on the Maumee river 
on Aug. 20, 1794, and achieved a complete victory. It was such a 
crushing defeat for the Indians that, far and near, they yielded and 
sued for peace, and Wayne, having been commissioned by Washing- 
ton, met the conquered red men and made treaties of peace with them, 
treaties of such a character that thev were ever afterwards observed. 


and the splendid territory long known as the west, and later as the middle 
west, was opened up for settlement. Wayne's victory gave this nation 
Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. 

The treaty work of Wayne occupied most of the year 1795. He 
visited the east, and in Philadelphia and other cities was received with 
many marks of enthusiastic admiration. Returning to the west to 
complete his labors, he concluded them in the summer of 1796, and 
then, his duties at an end, turned his face homeward. 

It was in the fall of 1796 that \^'ayne set out upon his return to 
his home in Chester. It was a journey through the wilderness 
no matter which direction he took from the scene of his labors in 
the west, with little to choose. He decided upon that route which en- 
abled him to use the transportation facilities of the lake, and em- 
barked upon a small vessel at Detroit for Presque Isle, intending to 
proceed thence across the country to his home in the eastern end of 
the state. Upon his journey down the lake, however, he was seized 
with the gout, a disease with which he had previously been afflicted, 
and upon reaching Presque Isle was so ill that he was compelled to 
take to his bed, being accommodated in the second story of the block- 
house. A summons was sent to Dr. J. C. Wallace at Fort La Fayette, 
for there was no medical aid to be procured in Erie. As a matter 
of fact there was but a handful of people here at the time and they 
were sturdy pioneers who thought they had no use for a medical 
man. Dr. Wallace had been surgeon under Wayne during his Maumee 
campaign, and the general, taken seriously ill and evidently appreciat- 
ing the gravity of the situation, dispatched an aide to summon the 
doctor. It was a long journey, too long to be traversed within the 
necessary time. When Dr. Wallace had reached Franklin he was met 
by another courier, bearing the intelligence that General Anthony Wayne 
was dead. 

The general died on Dec. 15, 1796, in the little blockhouse of the 
fort that was the sole work of military defense for this out-post on the 
frontier. He liad anticipated the coming of the end, and calmly set about 
whatever preparations could be made, directing among other matters 
and things considered, that his body was to be interred in the basement 
of the blockhouse, at the foot of the flagstaff; and there he was buried. 

It is interesting as illustrating one of the inaccuracies of accepted 
history, to note the error in statement with reference to the death of 
General Wayne that has been made by his biographers. Both Headley 
and Duyckinck state that Wayne died in a rude hut at Presque Isle 
and was buried on the lake shore. It was quite a different matter in 
reality. The soldier died within a military fort and was buried be- 
neath the pole from which floated the flag of his country. His was 
a soldier's death and a soldier's burial, and the site of his grave was 
of his own selection, the little fort becoming his mausoleum. 


For thirteen vears the body remained entombed within the block- 
house that stood on the hill commanding the harbor entrance. The 
post of Presque Isle had become the borough of Erie and had begun 
to attract people to it from other parts of the country, but the grow- 
ing population did not affect Garrison hill. There the grave of Mad 
Anthony remained undisturbed — until after the thirteen years succeeding 
his death. Then in 1809, came Colonel Isaac Wayne from Chester 
county — a son of General Wayne — and his errand was to convey the 
remains of his father back to the old home and there bury them along 
with those of his kin. 

It was not easy traveling then for it was a wilderness that occupied 
practically all of the state ; a wilderness of forests and mountains, 
without roads or bridges or means of communication other than the 
blind trail through the woods. Colonel Wayne drove to Erie from 
the east on a sulky with a single horse. He was under the impres- 
sion that it would not be a difficult matter, after the lapse of thirteen 
years, to remove what had been left of his father's body. The work 
of decay, it was natural to believe, had greatly reduced it. It could 
easily be packed on the back of the sulky and thus carried to Chester. 

But it turned out vastly different. \Mien it was disinterred, to the 
surprise of everyone who had to do with it, the body was found to 
be in an almost perfect state of preservation, one foot and part of one 
leg alone having been afi'ected by decay. It was a dilemma that pre- 
sented itself to Colonel Wayne with this condition of affairs revealed. 
It was out of the question to remove the body as it was found. In his 
difficulty Colonel Wayne called in Dr. Wallace, his father's old sur- 
geon, for advice. What can be done to carry out the purpose of the 
journey? was the question that was asked. The surgeon declared he 
could provide a remedy for the trouble, and he was given a free hand. 

Taking the body he proceeded to separate the flesh from the bones. 
It was no easy matter even for a skilled anatomist such as Dr. Wallace 
was, and it became necessary at length to dismember the remains and 
boil the parts in a large kettle until the flesh was soft enough to sep- 
arate from the bones. It was a gruesome proceeding, and one not 
pleasant to think about, and Colonel Wayne declared, when he learned 
what had been done, that if he had known what the actual state of af- 
fairs was he would at once have had the body reinterred and a monu- 
ment erected over the place where his father was first buried. 

The work of Dr. Wallace proceeded until the skeleton of the Revo- 
lutionary hero was stripped clean, then putting the viscera and flesh 
back into the coffin along with the knives and other implements that 
had been employed in the work of dissecting, that was returned to the 
original grave in the basement of the blockhouse, while Colonel Wayne 
proceeded eastward with the bones of his father, which were eventually 
buried in St. David's church at Radnor, Delaware county, close by the 


Chester county line. It is a grim, and even horrible tale, this of the 
boiling of the body of the heroic Wayne, and is so much out of the 
common that some are not ready to believe it. But yet it is a fact. 
In the lobby entrance of the museum of the public library may be seen 
the kettle in which General Wayne's body was boiled. It is a mam- 
moth affair, similar to those used in olden times in the manufacture 
of potash or "black salts." 

The method employed for preparing Wayne's body for removal in 
reality gave him two graves, for more in weight and more in bulk 
was reinterred in the Erie grave than was taken away. That this was 
not the judgment of the people generally is to be believed in view of 
the fact that the burial place was so lightly regarded and in time so 
utterly neglected. In the course of time the blockhouse became so di- 
lapidated that the doors hung by a single hinge, and the place that was 
at one time the principal defense of Erie became a cowshed — and yet 
it was the burial place of General Wayne. 

One night a lot of hoodlum lads of Kingtown, playing around the 
old blockhouse, either by accident or in the spirit of mischief set it 
afire. It was burned to the ground. In the course of a short time 
every trace of it had disappeared and its original location was a mat- 
ter of pure guess work — if. indeed, anyone cared so much about the. 
old structure as to do any guessing. 

In the course of time, however, there arose one who did care to do 
some guessing, and who cared to do a great deal more. It was Dr. Ed- 
ward W. Germer. The doctor was a good deal of an antiquarian. He 
was also well posted in historical matters, and not averse to yielding 
admiration to anyone of heroic proportions. Dr. Germer was long health 
officer. He was the pioneer health officer and a mighty good one he was 
too. Long ago there used to be a brick yard at the foot of Ash street, or 
rather just south of the P. & E. railroad on Ash street. Right alongside 
this brick yard there stood a plain old-fashioned two-story frame house. 
Whether it was a farmhouse of other days or a dwelling erected by the 
maker of bricks I never learned. When it was best known to east-siders 
it had an evil cognomen. It was called the pest-house. It was the 
city hospital for treatment of contagious diseases, established through 
the efforts of Dr. Germer and maintained by him through arrange- 
ment that never was quite clear. 

Dr. Germer had for his chief assistant, as keeper of the pest-house, 
a Mr. Katzmeier, and when business in the hospital was dull owing to 
the absence of smallpox. Dr.' Germer found plenty of work for Mr. 
Katzmeier and his son to do. Dr. Germer was an ardent admirer of 
the hero of Stony Point, he knew the story of his death and burial, 
and he was acquainted with the fact that his body had, according to 
common report, been removed to the eastern part of the state. Dr. 
Germer. however, held that notwithstanding what had been done there 


was still a grave of General Wayne on Garrison hill and to find this 
grave was the task he assigned his man Katzmeier. After a vast amount 
of excavating at length they struck a promising trail. There were a 
variety of things thrown out with the dirt excavated — fragments of 
tinware, potsherds, scraps of leather and such things as accumulate 
in a rubbish heap around old houses. At leiigth there was found a 
place that seemed as though it might have been a grave, the sides be- 
ing more compact than the centre. It was followed downward and 
at length there was uncovered a piece of decayed wood covered with 
leather and studded with brass headed tacks. The doctor carefully 
dusted and cleaned it and set to studying the arrangement of the tacks. 
He could make out. at length : 

-A. W. 
"Ob. Dec. l.j. 


Translated it meant, very clearly : "Anthony Wayne, died Dec. 1-5, 
1T9G." The object of his search had been found. Extending his ex- 
ploration he found the sides and bottom of the coffin, but so decay cil 
that the\- fell to pieces when touched. Inside, however, he found some 
knives and other implements, proof of two things : The truth of the 
story that when the work of separating the flesh from the bones of 
Wayne's body was completed the knives were thrown into the coffin ; 
proof also of the fact that it was Wayne's coffin that had been found — 
if proof in addition to the lid were required. 

Dr. Germer's work and discovery was a reminder that General 
Wayne had more than one grave. The doctor maintained that after 
all that on Garrison hill was the most important as being the first 
place of burial and as containing more of the body than that at Radnor. 
A movement was then set afoot to properly mark the Wayne grave 
which brought about the erection upon the spot where the first one 
stood of a reproduction of the Garrison hill blockhouse. We have it 
today as one of the most noteworthy structures on the grounds of 
the Pennsylvania Soldiers' and Sailors' Home. 

The new blockhouse, a restoration or replica if you please, as 
nearly as could be effected from hints in old woodcuts and sketches 
made in years gone by while the blockhouse still stood there, was really 
made possible by the eflports of Dr. Germer. He was undoubtedly the 
original strenuous man. When he set out to accomplish anything he 
generally got there — in his lexicon there was no such word as fail. 
Having found the grave of the famous American soldier he determined 
it should be suitably marked. He did not rest until it was. And how 
could it be more appropriately marked than by erecting upon the site 
of the original an exact reproduction ? 


The commissioners who erected the new blockhouse were Dr. E. 
W. Germer, Hon. D. T. Jones and Captain J. H. Welsh. The archi- 
tect of the blockhouse restoration was Ernest E. W. Schneider. 

It is now a little museum of relics of General Wayne. Hanging 
inside, preserved in a frame and protected by glass, is to be seen what 
remained of the coffin-lid, with the legend that established its identity 
beyond doubt: "A. W. ob. Dec. 15, 179G," formed by brass-headed 
tacks driven through the covering of leather. On exhibition too are 
the knives that were used in the work of dissection, and a number of 
other relics that have interest as being connected with the great man 
who was buried there. Even the grave has been preserved by having 
the space bricked up. 


(Burial Place of General Wayne.) 


Where the People Came From, Who Opened Up the Wilderness, 
And Who They Were. 

In those early days there was no chronicler of events, no news- 
paper, nor any other of the modern means of setting down occurrences 
as they transpired. Even the journals kept by the few who felt inter- 
ested in preserving an account of what was being done, were deficient 
in everything, or almost everything, except matters of purely personal 
import. It was with the people of that time as with the people of to- 
day, the present demands were for something entirely different. There 
were clearings to be made, houses to be built, food to be procured — a 
hundred and one things to be done with none too much time in which 
to do it. During the daytime every minute was employed by the work 
in hand, and the evening not only found the men and women, busy all 
day, much more ready to seek their rest than to write up an account 
of the doings and gossip of the day, but the chances are without any 
facilities at hand to write a journal if they felt inclined to do so. The 
fact is, the people regarded life as they were then experiencing it such 
an every-day, uneventful sort of existence as not to be worth the mak- 
ing a record of. They could not know that, four or five generations 
later, not only their descendants but an entire community would have 
read an account of their struggles, homely though they might have 
been, with deepest interest. So, much that would have been of value 
to the people of the present time is forever lost. 

However, it is known that the permanent settlement of this part 
of the countrv had begun, and that every year was adding more to the 
population. The business of the company that had organized for the 
purpose of bringing about the settlement of the Triangle did not begin 
in real earnest until the year 1796, and it was through Judah Colt, who 
had paid a flying visit to Erie the year before, that this was brought 

Mr. Colt, it will be remembered, came to Presque Isle in August, 
1795, along with Augustus Porter, for the purpose of buying land, and, 
after arriving here, they did invest in some of the acres that were 
available. Mr. Colt obtained more than the 800 acres he and his friend 
had secured. He obtained an excellent opinion of the country ; so 


good an opinion that he decided it would be a good business venture 
to secure a large tract. For the purpose of doing so he went to Phila- 
delphia in March of 1796, and there made an ofifer to the Pennsylvania 
Population Company of one dollar per acre for 30,000 acres of land 
in the eastern part of the Triangle. The company declined to sell 
in so large a quantity. But they were favorably impressed by Mr. 
Colt and immediately made him an offer to become their agent. He 
accepted. The terms were that he was to have a yearly salary of $1,500, 
and all his expenses were to be paid by the company. Immediatel) 
he set about the duties of his new position. In April he was at New 
York where he made purchases of "provisions and sundry kinds of 
goods, farming and cooking utensils such as are generally wanted in a 
new country." These were shipped to Albany, across the portage to 
the Mohawk and, through the lakes to Presque Isle. There were de- 
lays enroute. At Oswego there was a British garrison which would not 
allow the flotilla of batteaux to pass, and an empty boat had to be dis- 
patched to Niagara to obtain from Gov. Simcoe permission to proceed. 

On the 22d of June Mr. Colt arrived at the town of Erie; his 
freighted boats did not reach here until July 1st. Then, as he says in 
a journal he kept, he "proceeded to business."' Mr. Colt was accom- 
panied to Erie by Elisha and Enoch Marvin, brothers-in-law, all of 
them New Englanders, from Connecticut, though they had for a time 
been residents of Canandaigua, N. Y. The freight having arrived, Mr. 
Colt and his brothers-in-law set to work to get affairs to rights. They 
erected a tent or marquee near the old French fort, and this became 
their residence through the summer. 

It would seem as though the natural place to establish headquarters 
for the business of disposing of land would be the principal town or 
settlement. Mr. Colt held different ideas on the subject, and these were 
founded upon the belief, which proved well founded, that most of the 
immigrants seeking homes would come overland. He therefore selected 
a location out in the eastern part of the Triangle near the summit of 
the divide, in what was afterwards to be known as Greenfield township. 
This place was called Colt's Station. 

Now there were two sections of the east from which the new^ set- 
tlers came into Erie county. A large contingent came from New^ Eng- 
land. Many of them, to be sure, had halted by the way. This was true 
of Col. Reed. It was also true of ]\Ir. Colt. Theirs had been a sort of 
trying-out process ; and it was the same with many of their New England 
fellows. In their migration they had rested for a time, only long enough 
to acquire the belief that farther west there was better opportunities 
open to them. It was not so much that they were rovers as that they 
were real home-seekers, looking for a permanent abode, and that the 
conditions suited to their mind had not been found in their earlier 
locations. Even in those early days, with the very imperfect means of 


communication that existed, intelligence of the new country that was 
being opened up somehow extended eastward to where the home-seekers 
were. So they decided upon pursuing their search, and entered upon 
ic with the faith and courage which have always distinguished the 

Perhaps an even larger contingent of the first settlers came from 
Eastern Pennsylvania. These were largely of the Scotch-Irish race, so- 
called. Originally, they came from the province of Ulster, the northern 
part of Ireland, and had settled in the eastern counties of the state. No 
better stock could be found upon which to build a law-abiding, solid com- 
munity. Along with the Scotch-Irish came quite a sprinkling of "Penn- 
sylvania Dutch." They were in reality Germans originally, become 
Americanized. There were probably more of this race among the early 
settlers here than the names would indicate, for it had become to a 
considerable extent obligatory upon the Germans of the eastern counties 
that they should Anglicise their names, so that, for instance, Shaefer be- 
came Shepherd, Schneider was changed to Taylor, Zimmerman was Car- 
penter, and so on. But many truly German names appear among the 
earliest settlers, such as Weiss, Braun, Ebersole, Stuntz, Gudtner, Riblet, 
and others. It was natural that there should be a large influx from the 
eastern part of the state, for Philadelphia was from the first much inter- 
ested in this section, the purchase of the Triangle as an addition to the 
state of Pennsylvania being largely due to the initiative and subsequent 
encouragement of Philadelphians. The Pennsylvania Population Com- 
pany, also, was a Philadelphia concern. 

There were, however, a number of influences at work to bring about 
the settlement of Erie county, besides the efforts of the great land com- 
panies. There was the lesser enterprise of the Harrisburg and Presque 
Isle Company, composed of ten persons, of whom three, Thomas Forster, 
Richard Swan and William Kelso, became actual settlers among the 
earliest in the county, Air. Forster having built the first mill in this 
corner of the state. These three men came from Dauphin county, a part 
of the contingent that the eastern section of the state contributed to the 
opening of the extreme northwest. With these influences at work the 
county began to fill up. 

In 1796 the new settlers were: Erie, Capt. Daniel Dobbins. Mill- 
creek, Benjamin Russell, Thomas P. Miller, David Dewey, Anthony 
Saltsman, John McFarland. Fairview. Francis Scott. Waterford, John 
Lytle, Robert Brotherton, John Lennox, Thomas Skinner. Washington, 
Wm. Culbertson and Alexander Hamilton, Greenfield, Judah Colt, 
Elisha and Enoch Marvin, Cyrus Robinson, Charles Allen, Joseph Berry, 
John Wilson, James Moore, Joseph Webster, Philo Barker, Timothy 
Tuttle, Silas and William Smith, Joseph Shattuck, John Daggett, John 
Andrews and Leverett Russell. McKean, Thomas and Oliver Dunn. 
Summit, George W. Reed. North East, William Wilson, George and 


Henry Hunt, Henn' and Dyer Loomis. Springfield, Samuel Holliday, 
John Devore, John Mershorn, Wm. Mclntyre, Patrick Agar. Venango, 
Andrew and James Reed, Burrill and Zalmon Tracy. 

In 1795 David Watts came to this county, and with William Miles 
were the first surveyors for the state of the Tenth Donation District. 
It was on that district in Concord, that Miles and Cook, with their wives, 
who were sisters, settled in 1795, a month before the arrival at Erie of 
Col. Seth Reed, thus making them the first white settlers in Erie county. 
Miles had a romantic history. He was born in the valley of the Susque- 
hanna, which was subject to frequent Indian raids. In one of these he 
was captured by the savages when a mere child and carried into Canada, 
where he was spared with the idea of being adopted into the tribe. He 
was held for a long time but eventually obtaining release returned to 
his people. His Indian experience turned out to be of advantage to him 
later in life. He was a son-in-law of David Watts of Carlisle. 
When Watts came to Erie county to make the survey, for which he 
was commissioned by the state, Miles was made his assistant. Sub- 
sequently Miles laid out lands for a number of settlers and also laid 
out the village of Wattsburg, which was named after David Watts. 
He located 1400 acres at Wattsburg and 1200 at Lake Pleasant. Mr. 
Miles acquired a very extensive tract of land in Concord, and moved 
later- to Union where he built saw and grist mills. A son, James Miles, 
purchased 1600 acres of land in Girard township, embracing the mouth 
of Elk creek, and the name of Miles was long among the most prominent 
in the county. 

In the vear 1797 the accessions were more numerous than during 
the preceding year, as was of course to be expected. Washington wit- 
nessed a larger influx than any other section, the settlers including Job 
Reeder, Samuel Galloway, Simeon Dunn, John and James Campbell, 
Matthew Sipps, Phineas ]McClenethan, Matthew Hamilton, John ]\IcWil- 
liams, James, John, Andrew and Samuel Culbertson and Mrs. James 
Campbell, a widow. Fairview benefitted next with these: Thomas Forster, 
Jacob Weiss, George Nicholson, John Kelso, Richard Swan, Patrick 
Vance, Patrick and John McKee, Jeremiah and William Sturgeon and 
William Haggerty. To North East came Thomas Robinson, John Mc- x- 
Cord, James McMahon, Margaret Lowry (a widow), James Duncan,*^ 
Francis Brawley and Abram and Arnold Custard. In Harborcreek 
William Saltsman, Amasa Prindle and Andrew Elliott settled ; in Water- 
ford, John Vincent and William Smith ; in Wayne, Joseph Hall and Mr. 
Prosser; in Elkcreek, Eli Colton ; in \^enango. Thomas, John and David 
Phillips; in Springfield, Oliver Cross; in Le Bceuf, Francis Isherwood, 
Tames, Robert and Adam Pollock; in Conneaut, Col. Dunning McNair; 
in Millcreek, John Nicholson, the McKees and P.oe Bladen. 

The last named has the distinction of being the first of his race to 
become a permanent settler in Erie county, and the family he established 


still retains an honored place in the community. In the book of entry 
his name appears as Negro "Boe," and by that appellation he was long 
known. But later his family name of Bladen had place regularly on the 
lists as a freeholder and a citizen, while yet even in Pennsylvania, men 
of his race were held in slavery. 

The fresh arrivals during 1798 included William Wallace at Erie. 
He was the first lawyer to take up his abode in the county. In North 
East there were more settlers than in any other township during the year 
1798, and including a number who founded families represented to the 
present time. These settlers were : Thomas Crawford, Lemuel Brown, 
Henry and Matthew Taylor, William Allison, Henry Burgett, John, James 
and Matthew Greer. The Silverthorns came the same year into Girard, 
William and Abraham the pioneers of that name. In Conneaut, Elihu 
and Abiather Crane ; in Washington. Peter Kline ; in Fairview, John 
Demsey ; in Springfield. Nicholas Lebarger ; in X'enango, William Allison 
and wife; in Wayne, William Smith and David Findley ; in Elk creek, 
George Haybarger and John Dietz. Union township was recruited that 
year by Jacob Shephard, John Welsh, John Fagan and John Wilson, and 
Waterford added to the list of settlers Aaron Himrod and John T. Moore. 
Many of these names have ever continued prominent in the affairs of the 
county, most of them still identified with the townships in which they 
originally settled. 

Among those who entered the county in 1799 to become permanent 
residents were these: At Waterford, John. James and David Boyd, Capt. 
John Tracy, John Clemens, the Simpsons and the Lattimores ; at Erie, 
John Teel : at McKean, Lemuel and Russell Stancliff ; at Summit, Eliakim 

In thus designating the townships in which the settlements were made 
it is proper to state that the classification is a latter day matter, for con- 
venience sake. Prior to the beginning of the nineteenth century there 
were no such township designations. What is now Erie county was Erie 
township of Allegheny county in 1800 and before that belonged to other 
and different counties as may be explained in a future chapter. Nor has 
a complete list of the earliest settlers been given. That would be an 
impossible task. But out of the total of the earliest to become permanent 
residents in Erie county have been selected those who, having actually 
done so, became the heads of families that have figured in the affairs of 
the county during its history. Nor has there been an attempt to prolong 
the list beyond what might be as actual first settlers, only five years of 
the beginning being included in this list. 

Immigration into this county was steady and as proportionately large 
as any other new section of the period could show, but there were prac- 
tically none of foreign birth for many years after the county was opened 
up for settlement, the exceptions, as for instance, the Agers of Springfield. 


natives of Ireland, having settled first in Eastern Pennsylvania. The 
real Irish immigrant did not begin to arrive in Erie until about 1825, and 
the Germans from over seas sometime later, the influx of settlers with 
German names who appeared contemporaneously with the Irish, being a 
second migration this way of Pennsylvania Dutch from the region about 
Lancaster county, and including such well known names as Warfel, 
Weigel, Mohr, Berger, Brenneman, Metzler and Charles. 

During the first five years of the settlement there were a number of 
instances where changes of residence or location were made. Mr. Colt 
at first set up his residence at Erie, or Presque Isle, and the year later 
decided upon Greenfield, where he established a little hamlet called Colt'^: 
Station. This was chiefly for business purposes of course, Erie being 
reckoned as his home. Quite different was the case of Col. Seth Reed. 
The first of the white settlers in Erie county, he was also the first to be 
called away by death. But before he died he had removed to the Walnut 
creek flats about where Kearsarge now is located. Col. Reed, when he 
came to Erie did not immediately "locate." He built a temporary dwel- 
ling which he made to serve as a hotel until a better could be built, which 
was the next year. No sooner was the new Presque Isle Hotel built — ■ 
like its predecessor, of logs, but larger — than giving it in charge of his son 
Rufus, he moved out to the farm he had taken up on the banks of Walnut 
creek, and there he died in 1797. 

Thomas Forster who in 1797, came with Richard Swan and John 
Kelso to this county and opening business in Fairview at the mouth of 
Walnut creek, brought his wife in 1799, and taking up his residence in 
Erie, continued to live in Erie until his death, occupying positions of 
prominence and trust during the entire period. No citizen of early Erie 
stood higher in the esteem of his fellows than Col. Thomas Forster. 

David McNair located in what became Millcreek township, but 
entered two tracts, one in the flats of Walnut creek and the other on 
the northern slope of the first ridge in what was afterwards South Erie, 
which eventually became his home. 

John Kelso, who came from Dauphin county in 1797 with Col. 
Forster, settling at first in Fairview township and giving a fair start to 
the hamlet which became known as Manchester because it was the site 
of so many industries, after a time moved to the region near the head 
of the bay, still a Kelso neighborhood, and later came to Erie, where 
in time he rose to eminence, becoming an associate judge, afterwards a 
brigadier general of militia, and filling, from time to time many positions 
of public trust. 

As Col. Seth Reed's was the first death among the white settlers, 
the marriage of his son, Charles J., to Miss Rachel Miller, Dec. 27, 1797, 
was the first espousal among the newcomers. There was then no clergy- 
man of any denomination. The lack of a minister was easily supplied, 
Thomas Rees, Esq., a justice of the peace, tying the nuptial knot. 


The earliest births recorded were that of John R. Black, son of 
Wilham Black, in Fort Le Bceuf in August, 1795, and Mr. Boardman of 
Washington township, born in the same year. 

It has become a proverbial saying that the life of the pioneer was a 
life of hardship, and perhaps there has never been a more impressive 
example of what real hardship actually implied than was afforded by 
the experience of Martin Strong, who came to Erie county from New 
England in 1795. He traveled the entire distance on foot, and upon 
arriving here was compelled by circumstances to accept work of any 
kind that offered. When he had a chance to work at 50 cents a day, he 
gladly accepted the offer, though it was to hew planks, or puncheons as 
they were called, in the woods, these puncheons being used as flooring 
in the log houses. He continued at this work for several days, until his 
contract was finished, when, upon making a settlement with his employer 
he discovered he was indebted for board at the rate of 75 cents per day. 
He refused to pay the difference, whereupon his compass and chain — for 
he was a surveyor — were seized and held until he consented to pay the 
charge and redeem them. It was only the beginning of the hardship he 
was called upon to endure. Having taken employment with the Holland 
Land Company as a surveyor, he located on the Summit, in Waterford 
township, and continued at work until November, when, dreading the ap- 
proach of winter with its loneliness in the woods and the rigors of the 
season, he embarked in a dugout canoe of his own construction and pro- 
ceeded from Waterford down the creeks by the old French route to 
Pittsburg. There finding no occupation for him, he offered himself to" 
the highest bidder to do any kind of work. He secured a bid of three 
dollars a month and board, and accepted it, working faithfully for three 
months, and serving so well that his ap]ireciative employer oft'ered to 
add fifty cents per month if he would remain longer. This he declined, 
however, and returned to his Erie county farm and took up the toil of 
hewing out a home in the wilderness of woods. 

The disparity between wages and board in those first years of the 
settlement has been noted, but it was not without reasonable excuse — 
unless that the wage scale should be so extremely low. It cost something 
t(j live at that time. Wheat, in 1798-99 sold at $3.50 per bushel, and 
flour at $18.00 a barrel. Corn was $2.00 a bushel and potatoes $1.50. 
The commonest food of the time was corn meal and potatoes — indeed little 
else was to be had, pork and flour being among the luxuries. The only 
meat obtainable was game, and that was not had in daily supply. It is 
not to be wondered at, therefore, that the price of board was high ; rather 
that under the circumstances it was so low. 

There was no commerce in the early years of the settlement. Every 
thing that entered into the domestic economies was produced on the farm. 
Not only the food, but the clothing: and in respect to the latter the whites 
who came in to conquer the forest were little if any better oft' for the 


time being than the savages. Later there was an improvement in condi- 
tions ; when the farmers became wool-growers. Then, however, it wa.s 
an improvement in degree. The clothing was made in the house of the 
farmer, the wool spun into yarn or thread and woven into homespun on 
the homely wheels and unhandy looms that were part of the necessary 
outfit of every pioneer home. It was a long time before food or fabrics 
were brought in from the outside world, and quite as long before the 
conveniences of the woolen mill in the locality was available to lighten 
the toil of the housewife. 

Implements of every kind were difficult to procure and many a crude 
makeshift had to be employed. There v^'as no table-ware of even ordinary 
china, nor multiplied utensils for kitchen use. The stove was yet a long 
way in the future, and the household furniture was of the rudest kind, 
hewn out with the axe and put together without nails. The houses them- 
selves were of the same crude order of construction, consisting of a 
hollow pile of logs roughly roofed over, with a fire-place in one end. There 
were no windows of glass ; no iron hinges for doors ; not a nail was em- 
ployed in the building. The house even stood without a foundation, and 
consisted of but a single room which was at once the kitchen, the living 
room, and the bed chamber. The fire-place was built of bowlders, the 
chimney built up square of sticks plastered with clay, and clay and moss 
were used to stop up the chinks between the logs of the enclosing walls. 
The roof was made of split clapboards held in place by logs laid upon 
each course and they were not always good roofs — rather, they were 
sometimes not very poor roofs. The lock on the door was the wooden 
latch with the string pulled in — when the latch-string was out the visitor 
might deem himself welcome. If there was any floor better than the 
ground packed hard from use it was made of puncheons hewn out of the 
Icigs in the woods. The sleeping accommodations were mostly shelves, 
but often a shake-down on the floor. It was in such a home as this that, 
almost without exception the first white natives of the county were born 
and grew up ; it was surrounded by such poor make-shifts of house fur- 
nishing and equipment that the pioneer mothers reared their large fami- 
lies while the multitudinous domestic duties were performed. Few remain 
who remember those rude pioneer homes, the very difficulties of which 
gave to the time and the place a healthy, hardy, industrious and frugal 

Nor were these inconveniencies in domestic life the only hardship to 
be endured; the only drawback to progress. It was a struggle for ex- 
istence all along the line and all the time. It is sometimes said the woods 
abounded in game, and that food was plentiful for that reason. But in 
this abundance of game there was itself a drawback, because the animals 
were so very destructive to the farmers' crops. At times the squirrels 
would become so numerous as to become a plague, and on occasions these 
and other wild game would feed upon the crops in such numbers as to 

Vol. I— 7 


nearly destroy it, and the deer would trample down the wheat and some- 
times ruin the whole crop. It was in self-defense rather than for sport 
that hunting parties were oragnized and went out to ruthlessly slay. 

But there were compensations. The social life had its pleasures, 
quaint and curious to us, but interesting when told. The late Lewis Olds 
graphically described the visiting custom. "The mode of visiting," he 
said, "was a little different from what it is now. Neighbors and friends 
went several miles in both winter and summer to visit each other. Nearly 
all visiting )vas done with an ox-sled in winter, for every settler had a 
yoke of oxen. The sled-box, filled with straw, with plenty of blankets or 
coverlids, as they were then called, made a very comfortable way of 

"These old settlers never considered it a visit unless they staid all 
night ; but how were half a dozen or more visitors in addition to the family 
to sleep over night in one small room without sleeping accommodations? 
Necessity knows no written law or custom. After a good supper and 
visit they were ready to go to bed about midnight, and the bed arrange- 
ments were quickly made. They took what beds were in the house and 
spread them out upon the floor as far as they would reach and the rest of 
the bed they made of straw, generally reaching across the whole floor. 
The whole bed on the floor was now covered with blankets, reserving 
enough for covering. These old settlers generally had plenty of cover- 
lids and sheets, for their wives and daughters spun and wove them by 
hand. I knew one girl in my neighborhood, who was married a little 
late in life and went west when Iowa was first settled, who was credited 
with taking with her forty pairs of blankets or coverlids and fifty pairs 
of sheets, all made with her own hands. 

"When the bed for the visitors was ready for occupancy the man and 
his wife laid down in the centre of the bed on the floor — and like the 
Indian they did not forget to have their feet toward the large fire-place 
in which was kept a steady fire whenever the weather was cold. The 
women visitors occupied the bed next to the wife and the men the side 
next to the husband. No scandal ever resulted from this manner of 
sleeping when on a visit. A divorce was seldom heard of in the early 
settlement of the country." 


The First of the Highways. — And then the Turnpikes, and at 
Length the Short-lived Plank Roads. 

Naturally the first requisite of the settlers, after having provided 
a place of abode (too often it was entitled to no better name than a place 
of shelter, and a rude one it was at that), was a cleared space of ground 
upon which to cultivate the crops necessary for their sustenance. The 
clearing was begun just as soon as possible but was prosecuted chiefly 
in the winter when other farm work was not so pressing. The mode of 
procedure was first to cut out the underbrush and small timber, and after- 
wards to fell the high trees. These were cut in lengths convenient to 
handle, and then logging bees were in order. The neighbors gathered, the 
logs were piled, and, with the heaps of brush, were burned. The stumps 
that remained were not all immediately removed. That was too serious 
an undertaking. But many of the smaller stumps and roots were grubbed 
out and it cost a prodigious amount of hard labor to get a small area of 
ground in condition for cultivation. Many a field was devoted to grain, 
half of the area of which was taken up by the great stumps that could not 
readily be got rid of, and it must have been a great trial to the patience 
of the plowman to prepare the soil for the sowing of his crops. The 
reaping was a difTerent matter. That was comparatively easy as hus- 
bandry was conducted in those days. There were no reaping machines. 
Even the grain cradle was an invention yet distant in the future. To the 
sickle or reaping hook the stumps ofTered an indififerent obstacle, and as 
for the other crops, the corn and the roots, the hoe, even in the condition 
the ground was in, could be handled with passable facility. But farm 
work then was hard work under any circumstances. The horse cultivator 
and the shovel plow had not been dreamed of. It was the brawn of arms 
and legs and of back that wrested from the earth the bread that was eaten 
in the sweat of the brow. 

Therefore for a considerable period, little was thought of but how 
to increase the acres of tillage. The solicitude of the settler was for the 
daily bread. If he could by industrious toil obtain enough for himself and 
his rising family he was well content. The question of a market for 
the product of his farm was one which did not greatly trouble him for 
the time being. 


But it was not very long before the question of communication be- 
tween settlements did come to the fore. Even in the wilderness, where 
the pioneer had planted his home, and where it was his expectation, for 
a time at least, to be shut in apart from the great world outside, his social 
instinct was not entirel)' suppressed. Therefore the subject of roads came 
up, introduced primarily by those of the community who had occasion to 
go from place to place on business, or to have facilities to accomodate 
the business that it was desired should come their way. These were the 
land agents, the surveyors and, too, the newcomers who were seeking 
homes. But the farmer had an interest, too, for he had needs that his 
piece of ground would not supply, and a need always in a new community 
is neighbors — for the house-raising, for the logging, for help when the 
barn is to be built, and for social intercourse with his fellows. Therefore, 
as time passed the need of roads began to be felt. 

In 179.5 there was but one road in the county, the road built by the 
French, more than forty years before. It was not the best road in the 
world. It was in fact a very poor road. It was for most of its extent 
merely an avenue cut through the forest, corduroyed here and there where 
it was necessary to cross boggy tracts, but scarcely any attempt had been 
made at grading. A small part of it had been improved to the extent of 
grubbing out most of the stimips, a circumstance that in the course of time 
obtained for it the name of the grubbed road, later abbreviated into the grub 
road — sometimes thought to be a name obtained from Capt. Grubb, but er- 
roneously so. Even during the time of its use by the French it was 
scarcely entitled to the name of road, it was so difficult a thoroughfare to 
traverse. No doubt it had been the intention of the French to have 
eventually improved it into a true military road, but it had never advanced 
beyond being a portage, and most of the supplies carried over it was on 
the backs of the soldiers and the Indians. It is current tradition that 
along this road for many years cannon balls were frequently found, and 
other military relics, thrown away no doubt by the over-laden porters 
who were toiling under their excessive burdens. It was a mighty poor 
road, but until 1797 was the only thoroughfare in Erie county, as was 
stated above." 

In the year 1797 the first road undertaken by the permanent settlers 
was begun. This road was the work of the Pennsylvania Population 
Company and was built by Thomas Rees in Harborcreek township. 
At about the same time Judah Colt set about constructing a road to the 
station of the company in Greenfield township. This road extended from 
Freeport, as the mouth of Sixteen-mile creek was named, to Colt's station, 
a distance of nine and a half miles. It passed through what was after- 
wards North East village. A year later this road was extended south 
to the Forks of French creek, now the borough of Wattsburg. The in- 
terest of Mr. Colt as agent of the Population Company did not really ex- 
tend any farther than to Wattsburg, for the lands of the company in Erie 


county were confined practically to the Triangle and Wattsburg is located 
on the old state line. 

At about the same time that the Population Company's road south 
from the lake was built another road was projected, this for the use and 
benefit of the farmer folk at Erie in West Millcreek. Mr. Forster 
had built a mill at the mouth of Walnut creek, eight miles from Erie. It 
was the first mill in the county, and the first of several that were in time 
to occupy that beautiful valley and later, to give the hamlet the name of 
RIanchester. The road projected in 1797 and opened in 1798 was to 
enable the farmers to get to the mill to have their grain ground. The road 
to Forster's mill followed the route of the lake road of today, generally 
speaking, having been located sufficiently far south to avoid the deep 
ravines that are so numerous near the brow of the bluff. 

Contemporaneously two other roads were laid out, one to Conneauttee 
lake, where Alexander Powers had located, and another to Conneaut 
creek, in the neighborhood of Albion of the present day. Col. Dunning 
McNair's station as agent of the Pennsylvania Population Company. A 
tliird road was surveyed, to the headwaters of Beaver creek, where Jabez 
Colt was assistant agent of the Population Company. Nearly all of the 
earliest roads were the work of the Pennsylvania Population Company, 
a fact the reason of- which is apparent. 

These were the only roads up to the beginning of the nineteenth 
century. But they were not all that had been projected. In those early 
days there were no other means of communication in the interior, ex- 
cept by wagon roads, and it was early the care of the state to make pro- 
vision for roads. Not only were all the land titles conferred made con- 
ditional upon a percentage of the land sold being reserved for roads, but 
the legislature planned certain routes of communication, the main route 
to extend diagonally the length of the state, from Presque Isle to Phila- 
delphia. The first act, of 1791, covered the section from Presque Isle 
to Le Boeuf, and it was the proposed opening and use of this road by 
the people of Pennsylvania that stirred up the trouble between the state 
authorities and the Indians, in which the British took so prominent a 
part. It was not until these difficulties had finally been settled that the 
legislature thought it worth while to proceed farther with this road 
across the state. In 179.5 an act was passed for a survey of a road from 
Le Bceuf to Curwensville in Clearfield county, by way of Meadville and 
Franklin, the ultimate purpose being to have a road constructed down 
the valley of the Juniata and the Susquehanna to Harrisburg, Lancaster 
and Philadelphia. " No doubt there were dreamers then who contemplated 
the splendid enterprise of a stage line from Philadelphia to Erie, a journey 
by which would have been as serious an undertaking as a present-day 
trip across the Atlantic— it would have taken a longer time and have 
yielded a world more of discomfort. The continuous road has become a 



reality; the stage service did not materialize, because the railroad "but- 
ted in." 

But there did come a stage service to Erie, for this town and others 
on the line in the county were on the direct route of an important thor- 
oughfare that came in time to be much traveled. The great south shore 
stage route came pretty soon after the main roads were built. These were 
the Buffalo road on the east and the Ridge road to the west. The former 
was projected in 1801 but was not a road for travel until 1805, and then 
it did not follow a direct route from Buffalo to Erie, — as we would regard 
it today — ^but, on reaching \^^esleyville turned north, following the valley 
of Four-mile creek to the Lake road, and entered Erie on that thorough- 
fare. This route continued until 1812. when the court ordered the Buffalo 
road to be completed through to Erie. The Ridge road was opened in 
1805, the same year the Buffalo road came into use. As its name indicates 
it was surveyed on the first ridge, and this it followed in as nearly a 
direct course as conditions would permit, through !Millcreek, Fairview, 
Girard and Springfield townships into Ohio. These roads — the Buffalo 
road and the Ridge road — became the route of travel by stage from 
Buffalo to Cleveland. But few relics of those stagin days remain to 
the present. There is one, however, that may sometimes excite the curi- 
osity of the tourist by twentieth century auto car, who notes its name in 
dingy letters, still legible, through the much-worn paint, and wonders why 
it should ever have been called what its name proclaims it to be, the 
"Half-way House." It is an old stage station ; a wayside inn, and 
marks half the journey between Buffalo and Cleveland. It stands on the 
Ridge road at the corner formed by the road leading down to Trinity 
Cemetery — the "Head road," of a few years back. It is a long time 
since it offered refreshment for man or beast, and even fell into ill re- 
pute through the occurrence of a wicked crime. But there it stands, a 
marker upon the road, as it may have stood for most a century, and to 
this day the smithy, that was a necessity at every stage station, stands by 
its side, and you can hear the ring of the anvil as your auto rushes by 
with its trail of dust behind. 

The Lake road, as such, was opened in 1806, entering Erie from 
the east on Sixth street and from the west on Eighth street. A goodly 
part of the west Lake road is considerably older, for that is the road to 
Forster's mill that came into use in 1798. The Lake road traverses the 
length of the county, from east to west, but the section west of the city 
has always been rather more traveled than the other section. 

The most notable of all the Erie county roads, however, is the Water- 
ford Turnpike, famous as the avenue over which passed an inland com- 
merce of remarkable proportions considering the period. This road, 
conceived by Thomas Forster, was decided upon as a prime necessity 
because of the extremely bad condition of the French road, and for the 
purpose of its construction and maintenance a company was organized and 


incorporated. The first election resulted in the choice of Thomas Forster, 
president ; Henry Baldwin, John A'incent, Ralph Alarlin, James E. Herron, 
John C. Wallace, William Miles, James Brotherton and Joseph Hackney, 
managers, and Judah Colt, treasurer. The route selected was up what 
is now State and Peach streets, following the latter in its bend to the 
true southerly direction, thence across the second ridge, at Nicholson's 
hill, and through the town of Walnut Creek, southeastward to Waterford. 
It was considerably longer by this route than by the French road, but it 
became necessary to consult the interests of property owners who had 
stock in the enterprise. Work on the Turnpike was not concluded until 
1809, and even then it was far from being a good road, and according to 
all accounts in no good sense a turnpike at all. In so far as the road itself 
was designated by the workings upon it, there were places where it was 
apparently from one to two miles wide, but in reality, was lost in wide 
expanses of clearing where nothing whatever had been done to the road 
itself, the travelers being allowed over these stretches to make their own 
selection of what seemed to be the easiest route. And yet this Turnpike 
was to become one of the most important commercial thoroughfares of 
the time in the state. It was the salt trade which promoted this com- 
merce. During the first years of the nineteenth century, salt was not pro- 
duced in Western Pennsylvania and the country still farther west. It 
was freighted from Salina in New York State, to Oswego, thence by boat 
to Niagara, where it was carried past the Falls to Schlosser, loaded in 
small boats and taken to Black Rock where it was laden upon larger 
vessels and conveyed to Erie. At this port it was discharged from the 
vessels and then loaded upon wagons, drawn usually by three yoke of 
oxen, and hauled to Waterford where it was again trans-shipped and on 
flat boats built for the purpose was floated down French creek and the 
Allegheny river to Pittsburg. Not all the salt boats returned, but there 
was east bound freight by that route: whiskey, bacon, glass, manufactured 
iron and flour. Most valuable of all the commodities handled, however, 
v/as the salt, which came as near to being the circulating medium of the 
time as anything so bulky could. But its value was not uniform through- 
out its journey. Every stage of the progress westward in its course, in- 
creased its value. It required from four to six months for transportation 
from Salina to Pittsburg, and of one hundred barrels to leave the springs 
seventy-five barrels were required to pay the charges. The freight from 
Buffalo to Erie was 87^ cents per barrel, the storage here 12^ cents; 
hauling from Erie to Waterford was $1.50 per barrel, and freight from 
Waterford to Pittsburg $1, per barrel. Frequently it required four days 
to haul a load of salt from Erie to Waterford. and not rarely a part of a 
load was set down by the wayside to be returned for. if the road happened 
to be unusually soft. 

Now this road, the property of a corporation, being a private enter- 
prise, was not for public use without pay. Every one who used it was 


required to pay toll. There was resistance to this exaction at the be- 
ginning, and the question of the right of the corporation to levy toll, 
and. indeed, the constitutionality of the act, came before the courts. The 
decision was in favor of the Turnpike company, and thereafter all passers- 
by paid toll, at the northern end to Robert Brown, just south of the city 
limits, and at the southern end to Martin Strong, on the summit, about 
where the Turnpike joined the old French road. The short street extend- 
ing diagonally from State street to Peach, just north of the railroad, 
(Turnpike), was a part of the W'aterford and Erie Turnpike, and that 
is how it got its name. 

The W'attsburg road was constructed in 1809. and its route was from 
the French road at Cold Spring, now the southern end of Parade street, 
the locality even yet known as Marvintown, in a southeasterly direction 
through Phillipsville to Wattsburg. It is very nearly a direct route, and 
was continued in use as the main thoroughfare to Wattsburg until the 
plank road was built. 

The Station road as it is known today, was originally the Colt's 
Station road and was built by the Pennsylvania Population Company to 
afford more direct communication between the station of the company in 
Greenfield, as well as to form a part of a main road from Erie to Alay- 
ville, X. Y. This road began at Wesleyville where it branched off from 
the Buffalo road, and was constructed in 1813. 

The Lake Pleasant road was opened, at its northern end in 1821-22, 
extending then from the Wattsburg road, at the. Davidson place about a 
mile east of Erie, to a point in Greene township. In 1836 an extension 
was decided upon, which carried it past Lake Pleasant to French creek 
where it meets the road from Wattsburg to Union City. 

These were the principal county roads out of Erie up to the end of 
the first quarter of the nineteenth century. From time to time other 
country roads were laid out and improved as the growing population re- 
quired them, and the establishing of a new road in time came to be very 
much an every-day affair. Today there are, perhaps hundreds of roads, 
good, bad and indifferent in the county of Erie, and the end of road- 
making is not yet. 

In the year 1850 a pretty general movement for the construction 
of plank roads arose, and there was no great difficulty experienced in 
enlisting capital in these enterprises, the common belief being that the 
stock would yield liberal returns. That year two companies were formed. 
The first was for the construction of a road from Erie to Edinboro, and 
it was completed in 1853. It followed the course of the Waterford 
Turnpike to a short distance south of Walnut creek, and there turned 
to the right. It is the course of the Edinboro road of the present time 
and is probably as favorable a route as could be found by which to 
cross the several ridges that are characteristic of Erie county's topog- 
raphy. Simultaneously the Edinboro and Meadville plank road was 


completed, affording direct communication between Erie and Meadville 
over wliat in its day was believed to be the most perfect system of coun- 
try road construction. But the enterprise proved to be a financial fail- 
ure, notwithstanding the great increase in travel the better road brought 
about. In 1868 it was decided by the corporation to abandon the road, 
which was taken over by the road commissioners of the townships 
through which it passed. 

The Erie and Waterford Plank Road Company was organized in 
1850, and the road was finished in 1851. Abandoning both routes that 
had previously been pursued, the plank road corporators were able to 
find a much more advantageous location for a road. Beginning at the 
head of State street the survey followed up the course of Mill creek 
to the upper end of the hamlet once known as the Happy Valley, at a 
point where the old Erie County Mill was located. By a winding course 
it passed up out of the valley of Mill creek and turning east, adopted 
the route of the French road when that thoroughfare was reached, to 
which it held to the line of Summit townsliip. when it again turned • 
eastward and, crossing a low ridge entered upon the valley of Walnut 
creek. The route was up this valley by a gentle grade until the divide 
was passed, when the valley of Le Boeuf creek was entered upon and 
followed to Waterford. It is today the road of easiest grades in Erie 
county of all that lead in a southerly direction. But it did not pay the 
investors, and was abandoned to the township commissioners at the 
same time the Edinboro road was. 

A third plank road was projected in 1851 by the Erie & Watts- 
burg Plank Road Company, and completed in 1853. Generally it fol- 
lowed the route of the old road to Wattsburg. Like the other enterprises 
of a similar character the Wattsburg road was a financial failure. It 
quickly got into bad condition and repairs were not made. There were 
four toll gates on the road, and notwithstanding it had become well- 
nigh useless, toll was collected regularly as at first. In 18G5 the farmers 
became exasperated, organized a party of wreckers, and starting at 
Erie demolished every gate in turn and proclaimed an open thorough- 
fare. Threats of prosecution were made, but nothing was ever done 
and the toll system on the Wattsburg road was forever at an end. The 
road passed into the care of the several townships and, the last lingering 
piank having long ago disappeared the appellation of the "Wattsburg 
Plank Road," also soon passed into oblivion. 

Allusion was made above, in this chapter, to the staging days on 
the Buffalo-Cleveland route. The beginnings of this business was in 
the establishing of a mail route. At first the carriage of the mail was 
alone considered and this was done by a post rider. The mail service 
between Buffalo and Erie was begun in 1806. and then there was one 
trip a week. This continued for a long time before it seemed necessary 
to extend the service farther west. The regular stage business between 


Erie and Buffalo was not begun until 1820, when weekly trips were 
inaugurated, a stage leaving Buffalo Saturday at noon and arriving in 
Erie on Monday at 6 p. m. ; returning it departed from Erie at 6 p. m. 
on Tuesday and reached Buffalo at noon Thursday. In the begin- 
ning of 1824 a mail-stage made semi-weekly trips between Erie and 
Cleveland and in 1825 a daily stage was run between Erie and Buffalo 
and Erie and Cleveland — that is to say, a stage started every day from 
every terminus but did not necessarily traverse the entire route within 
the twenty-four hours of that day. 

In 1827 a notable stroke of early enterprise occurred in the be- 
ginning of a four-horse mail-coach service between Buffalo and Cleve- 
land, and Rufus S. Reed of Erie was among the incorporators of the 
company. The company carried a daily mail, and it is a pleasure to 
state that it was a paying enterprise. Parenthetically it will be pardoned 
if the statement is made here that as a rule anything with which Rufus 
S. Reed had to do was a financial success. 

The mail service between Pittsburg and Erie was begun in 1801, and 
in accordance with the universal custom of the time the mail was car- 
ried on horseback and there was but one trip a week. The route was 
by way of Waterford and Aleadville. When the Waterford Turnpike 
was opened a regular stage line went into operation, and in 1826 the 
service was improved so that three trips each way were made every 
week. Later there was a daily mail and stage service, which continued 
until the advent of the railroads. 

Long after the railroads were in operation, however, there was 
stage service out of Erie, run regularly between here and a number of 
the county towns. The stage business between Erie and Edinboro may 
have yielded some profit, the latter being the normal school town, and 
a considerable amount of commerce naturally carried on between them. 
It is questionable, however, whether the stage business between Erie 
and Wattsburg ever paid. The stage accommodations were not in any 
sense luxurious, the vehicles consisting, in each case of ordinary "crack- 
ey" wagons of two and sometimes three seats, drawn by a single pair of 
horses. The principal and dependable source of revenue of these stage 
lines was the contract for carrying the mail. These were what used to 
be called "star routes" — perhaps in the postofifice department they are 
still known by that appellation. But neither of these two stage lines 
is now in existence. The Edinboro stage went out when the trolley line 
came in, and the Wattsburg stage line ceased operations on or about 
February 28, 1905. 

All the roads, and the stage lines that used them, which have been 
mentioned above, were simply the main roads out of Erie. No attempt 
will be made to name or locate the many others. It is proper to state, 
however, that all of the roads of which mention has been made, are still 
in existence and extensively used, save one. They have all been greatly 


iinproved, — and goodness knows, they needed that — but none of them 
are really good roads, save perhaps for a short period each year when 
travel and weather conditions combine to render them so. Recently, 
through the stimulus of a state fund derived principally from license 
fees derived from the owners of automobiles, permanent improvements 
have been made in spots. The first work of this kind was done in 1906, 
Springfield township on the Ridge and Station roads where about four 
miles was macadamized. The next improvement of the kind was made 
a year later to the Buffalo road from Wesleyville east a mile and on the 
Station road from Wesleyville east a mile. About the same time the 
Edinboro road was macadamized from the southern city limits up and 
over the summit at Nicholson's Hill beyond Kearsarge to Walnut Creek 
about three miles. A fourth section of macadam was laid on the Ridge 
road from Weigletown nearly to the county farm ; a fifth, on the Watts- 
burg road, from the city boundary to Greene township line, over two 
miles; and a sixth from Waterford station on the Philadelphia & Erie 
Railroad to the borough. These improvements are prophetic of what is 
surely to be, for the road question is being taken more seriously than 

But the exception, noted above! The most ancient of all the coun- 
ty's roads ; that which was one of the factors in bringing on the Seven 
Years War of England ; that was a bone of contention between British 
and American interests for years ; that engendered the most threatening 
Indian troubles of this section ; that was the rock of offence to retard 
settlement, and that after all the difiiculties and trials had been settled 
was the only dependable avenue of communication with the interior — 
the old French Road; it literally fell by the wayside. It is possible to 
trace its route here and there. Within the city there is a short section of 
it that retains its name, though much the greater part within the cor- 
porate limits must be content to pass under the name the orig'inal char- 
acter of the thoroughfare suggested as appropriate to the surveyors of 
the town — Parade street. But beyond, it comes to an abrupt and in- 
glorious end when it reaches the edge of the narrow valley of Alill creek. 
Beyond that it is lost in the Waterford "Plank" road, which appropriated 
it as far as to the Summit township line. Then it disappears altogether 
for a space, to again appear and be of service for a few miles until 
a second time a boundary line of Summit wipes it out. What matter 
that the section at the Waterford end of the turnpike once belonged to 
the French road? For long years all proprietary rights of this char- 
acter have been reversed. The French road at its southern end is lost 
in the turnpike, and that thoroughfare the building of which wore 
out an army of 1500 French soldiers, and that brought brave old Marin 
to his grave, has disappeared from the map, except for a few dotted 
lines laid in by pure guess-work. That which was the cause of Wash- 
ington's perilous winter journey through the wilds of the great forest; 


which wiped out the brave Gen. Braddock; which brought on the action 
in that great theatre that extended from the forks of the Ohio to the 
Plain of Abraham — that rude thoroughfare from Presque Isle to Le 
Bceuf is 'gone, past even the abilities of the most devoted antiquarian 
to locate it. 


The Need of a Court. — Wager of Battle Case. — The First Court. 
— Townships Formed. — County Buildings. — A Costly Fire. 

In the beginning Erie county was a part of Lancaster county. Or- 
iginally, in Penn's grant, there were but three countries. Lancaster county 
extended west to the western boundary of the colony and north to the 
northern line, thus including so much of Erie county as was then a part of 
Pennsylvania. Years later there was a new subdivision of the state, and 
the county of Cumberland was organized so that its western and north- 
ern boundaries extending to the state limits, including Erie. Upon third 
subdivision Bedford county obtained a claim to this corner of the state. 
Then there was a fourth reorganization, when the- county of Westmore- 
land was formed, so as to occupy the western end of the state, and this 
arrangement endured until the year 1788, when by act of the legislature 
that section of the state north of the Ohio river and west of the Alle- 
gheny to the Ohio state line was set off as a county and named Alle- 
gheny county with Pittsburg as the county seat. Erie county as it is 
today then became Erie township of Allegheny county, and this state of 
affairs endured until the year 1800. 

It might seem that, with the sparse population of this section up 
to that time, the arrangement by which Erie was a part of Greater 
Pittsburg, would be all-sufficient for the people living here. But it was 
not altogether so. By the year 1800 the population had nearly reached 
1500 — the census figures are 1468. The area of the county is 772 square 
miles, and the population was therefore, at the beginning of the nine- 
teenth century, not quite two to the mile. Nevertheless the need of a 
county organization was felt to a greater or less degree, especially with 
reference to the administration of justice. 

While Erie was still within the limits of Allegheny county an inci- 
dent occurred which will illustrate the need there was for court service 
within convenient reach. Among the earliest settlers in the neighbor- 
hood of Waterford were two men with their families, one of the name of 
Vincent, the other named McNair. Both had become possessed of land, 
or thought they had, in accordance with the permanent settlement act; 
but it turned out that both were claimants of the same parcel of ground. 
They got together with reference to the matter and after some discussion 


concluded that to carry the dispute to court at Pittsburg would cost more 
than the land was worth. So there and then they decided to settle the 
matter by a fist fight, the winner to have full right and title to the land. 
The fight took place accordingly and Mr. Vincent was victorious. The 
combat occurred in a log barn not far from the village of Waterford, 
and, upon losing, Mr. McNair acknowledged I^Ir. Vincent to be the owner, 
and withdrew as gracefully as circumstances would permit. 

It is interesting to know that this method of settling a dispute was 
quite within the provisions of the common law as it existed at that time. 
There was on the statute books of England an act that provided for deter- 
mining a variety of questions, by what was known as wager of battle — 
or wager of battel — as it was literally given, though the mode of pro- 
cedure was different in detail from that pursued by the Erie county 
pioneers named. According to the law the proceeding and the contest 
were to take place before a magistrate and wands or sticks were to be 
used as weapons. In principle, however, the adjudication of the fist 
was eflfective to determine the question legally, and the title to the prop- 
erty passed or vested lawfully in Mr. Vincent. 

But it was a barbarous method. It had come to be regarded so in 
England, and though fallen much into disuse there — indeed seemed to be 
becoming obsolete — it was looked upon as so much of a disgrace to the 
code that it was repealed about 1818 : for a law is law until it is re- 
pealed whether practiced or not. The occurrence in this county of the 
settlement of a dispute by wager of battle will indicate the pressing need 
that existed to have facilities within reach for the respectable and 
honorable trial and adjudication of questions of law that might arise. 
There had therefore developed a movement for better providing the 
now rapidly growing population with the full rights of citizens. Most 
of the settlers were poor men, and the expense that attached to bringing 
questions or matters in dispute before court at Pittsburg was so great 
as to be prohibitory, thus being in effect a denial of justice. It is proper 
to state also that the wager of battle was not regarded with general favor 
as a method of settling land titles. 

An act of the legislature, passed March 12, 1800, created the coun- 
ties of Erie, Butler, Beaver, Crawford, Mercer, Venango and Warren, 
naming the county seat of each. It turned out, however, that the action 
taken by the legislature was somewhat premature, for while the people 
of the northwest corner of the state were in need of better facilities than 
had been possessed, they were not yet able to afford them. As separate 
counties they could not sustain the expense necessary to carry on the 
business of their courts. Accordingly, on April 9, 1801, an act was 
passed joining Erie, Crawford, Mercer, Venango and Warren as one 
county for governmental purposes, under the name of Crawford, with 
Meadville as the countv seat. From that time until 1803, to all intents 


and purposes the five counties were one, a single set of county officers 
serving for all and one member of the legislature representing all five. 

In 1803 Erie county was organized for all judicial purposes, this 
being done at the public-house of George Buehler, at the corner of Third 
and French streets in Erie. Originally there were sixteen townships 
established : Millcreek, Harborcreek, North East, Greenfield, Venango, 
Brokenstravv, Union, Le Bceuf, \\''aterford, Conneauttee, AIcKean, Beav- 
erdam, Elkcreek, Conneaut, Springfield and Fairview. It used to be 
maintained by the late Capt. N. W. Russell that an erorr was made 
when the names were given to the townships of Millcreek and Harbor- 
creek, or rather, when the names selected were applied on the map ; 
because it is evident that Harborcreek more properly apphes to the county 
division upon which the harbor fronts, while the principal stream of 
Harborcreek — Six-mile creek, — was notable from earliest times as a 
source of water power which was utilized almost its entire length within 
the township. The stream called Mill creek would have better been 
named Harbor creek, because the harbor of the earliest times was at its 
mouth. However, there was a reversal of appropriate names made on 
the first of the maps of Erie county, and no objection was ever raised 
in an official or authoritative manner; so the names stand. 

Subsequently changes were made both in the names and by the 
subdivision of townships. In 1820 Brokenstraw became Wayne and Con- 
cord, the former named after the Revolutionary general who died within 
the limits of the county. In 1826 Amity was set ofif from Union. In 
1832 Girard was formed from parts of Springfield and Fairview and 
named in honor of Stephen Girard, the great merchant and Philanthropist 
of Philadelphia, who owned an extensive tract of land in that township 
and Conneaut. Conneauttee was changed to Washington in 1834, the 
new name of course in honor of the Revolutionary general and first 
president. In 1840 Beaverdam took the name of Greene, from General 
Nathaniel Greene. Franklin was formed in 1844 out of parts of McKean, 
Washington, Elkcreek and Fairview and named in honor of the great 
printer, statesman, philosopher and scientist. Summit was formed in 
1854 from parts of Greene and McKean. Thus were evolved in the 
process of time the twenty-one townships comprised by Erie county. 

The courts, however, continued for a long time to be of the itinerary 
or circuit order, as was naturally to be expected. The judicial district 
was changed from time to time as the convenience or facilities of travel 
rendered advisable, including by several apportionments as many as five 
counties. As was noted above, in 1801, there was an act that for the 
time being joined Erie, Crawford, Mercer, Venango and Warren into 
one county with Meadville as the seat of justice. The action taken in 
1803 and did not change the metes and bounds of the judicial district, but 
it made Erie the county seat of Erie county, and in its turn the court 
for the countv of Erie of the fifth judicial district was held at Erie. It 


was at the court of this district, held in Erie April 9, 1803, with Judge 
Jesse Moore of Crawford presiding, that Erie county was erected as an 
independent shire. By the judiciary act of Feb. 24, 1806, Butler, Mercer, 
Venango, Crawford and Erie became the sixth judicial district. In 1818 
Erie, Crawford, Mercer, Venango and Warren composed the district ; 
ii: 1825, Erie, Crawford, Mercer and Venango; in 1851, Erie, Crawford 
and Warren; in 1860, Erie, Crawford, Warren and Elk; in 1870, Erie, 
Warren and Elk; in 1874, Erie county alone, but from 1806 the Erie 
district continued to be, no matter what the apportionment, the sixth 
judicial district. 

The erection of Erie into an independent county at Judge Moore's 
court in 1803 brought about a complete county organization, with John 
V'incent of Waterford, Abiather Crane, of Conneaut, and James Weston 
of Le Boeuf, as county commissioners. The other county officers at the 
beginning were: Callender Irvine, prothonotary, the duties of that office 
then including those of the register and recorder and clerk of the courts 
of the present time; Mr. Irvine, however, was not commissioned until 
July 4. Wilson Smith of Waterford was elected sheriff in October, 1903, 
Alexander Stewart of Crawford, appointed by the governor, serving for 
Erie as well as for the adjacent county until Mr. Smith had been qualified. 
Abraham Smith of Erie was elected coroner at the same election. Until 
1850 the officer now known as the district attorney was known as deputy 
attorney general and was appointed by the attorney general of the State, 
and the first deputy appointed for Erie was William N. Irvine. John 
Hay was the first treasurer, appointed in 1804 by the commissioners. 

At the time of the organization of Erie county, it was still very 
sparsely settled. The census of 1800 showed a population of 1,468, so 
that there were few if any more than 2,000 inhabitants in 1803, when 
it had been decided that it was populous enough to stand alone. While 
there were a few centres of population, referred to at times as villages, 
such as Waterford, Manchester and Erie, they were merely hamlets, the 
county seat itself scarcely entitled to the dignity of being called a village. 
There was not an organized borough in the entire county. And yet the 
village of Erie had been spreading out and occupying the ground, a few 
straggling houses, surrounded by rail fences that enclosed considerable 
areas of ground, extending as far west as French street. It was in one 
of these, a public house kept by George Buehler, a wood cut of which 
is still extant, that on a morning in April, 1803, a horn, blown by the 
court crier, announced that the Honorable Jesse Moore was about to 
open the first court ever held in the county of Erie. The house dignified 
in this fashion, standing on the lot at the corner of Third and French 
streets, surrounded by its post and rail fence, was in its day the most 
pretentious building in Erie. Ten years later it was to be further dis- 
tinguished by becoming the headquarters of Commodore Oliver Hazard 
Perry, the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie. It was dignity enough for 


the time, however, that it was to be in fact the scene of the organization 
of the most important covinty in the northwestern part of the state. For 
a number of years the courts of this county were accommodated in 
private houses, sometimes at Buehler's, again at Conrad Brown's, across 
the street, and again at the log house on the corner of Second and Holland 
streets, used as a jail. 

The boroughs all came later. It was not until 1805 that Erie was 
organized into a borough (it became a city in 1851) ; Waterford was or- 
ganized in 1833; Wattsburg, in 1834; North East, in 1834; Edinboro, in 
1840; Girard, in 1846 ; Albion, in 1861 ; Union Mills, in 1863, and changed 
to Union City, in 1871 ; Fairview, in 1868 ; Mill Village; in 1870 ; Lock- 
port, in 1870 ; Elgin, in 1876 ; East Springfield, in 1887 ; Corry became 
a borough in 1863 and a city in 1866. 

The population of Erie county in 1800, according to the census 
report was 1,468; in 1810, 3,758; in 1830, 8,541; in 1830, 17,041; in 
1840, 31,344; in 1850, 38,742; in 1860, 49,432; in 1870, 65,973; in 1880, 
74,688; in 1890, 86,074; and in 1900, 110,412. 

As has been stated, the county at the beginning had to be satisfied 
to be a tenant, temporarily renting the rooms in which its courts were 
held, and it was not until after Erie had become a borough that a move- 
ment was set on foot to have a court house built. Even then the expense 
was too great to be undertaken unaided. The state legislature, however, 
having made an appropriation of $2,000 to assist, the rest of the money 
was obtained and in 1808 the first courthouse was built. It was erected 
in the public square, now known as East Park, or the eastern section of 
Central Park. At that time there was a rather deep and precipitous 
ravine passing diagonally through East Park, cutting off the southeast 
corner. The location of the courthouse was on State street, between that 
ravine and North Park Row. In its day it was regarded as a notable 
example of architecture, much the best in this part of the state. It was 
a plain structure of brick with a tower or cupola surmounting it. This 
building stood until March 23, 1823, when it was burned, and, with it, 
the records of the county, including those of land titles that had been 
entered up to that time, were all destroyed. The loss to the county, 
resulting from the destruction of the records was a grave one, from 
which many complications have arisen, and the effects of which remain 
to a considerable degree to the present time. The fire occurred on a 
Sunday morning, early, and more or less speculation was indulged in 
as to its origin, the most generally accepted opinion being that it was 
caused by the janitor emptying ashes into a barrel in the basement. 

Meanwhile it became necessary to provide a suitable place in which 
to hold court, for a term was just at hand. The Academy building had 
just been completed and the commissioners obtained a lease of one of 
the rooms for court purposes, to be used until the courthouse could be 
rebuilt. During the period of two years, in which the Academy figured 
Vol. 1—8 


a- a sort of dual temple — of learning and justice — the tones of the school 
bell mingling with the mellow tootings of the court crier's horn, might 
have given the impression to the temporary sojourner that a serial cele- 
bration was being observed in the little borough upon the lake shore. 
A year after the destruction of the first courthouse — in 1834 — the county 
commissioners awarded a contract for a new courthouse, to occupy the 
same site as the old, and it was completed early in 1825. It was built 
very much after the plan of the first house, and was provided with a 
cupola or belfry in which was hung the bell of the Queen Charlotte, 
one of the prizes taken by Commodore Perry in the battle of Lake Erie 
in 1813. The bell before it did service on a British ship of war, had 
been used at Fort Erie, and with patriotic intentions was presented 
to Captain Finnis for his flagship. When the naval station at Erie 
was discontinued it was bought by Rufus S. Reed, who presented it to 
the borougli, and, hung in the courthouse tower for more than a quarter 
of a century, it was used to summon the populace upon every public 
occasion. After the courthouse was abandoned for a newer and grander , 
building the bell was employed to give notice of fires until it was acci- 
dentally cracked, and retired from service, finding a resurrection in 1893, 
when it was presented to the city and now hangs in the main corridor 
of the City Hall, useless as a bell but invaluable as a relic of the "brave 
days of old in Erie." 

For years that courthouse was the heart of the town of Erie. Not 
only was it employed for the accommodation of the court, but every 
other public or semi-public function occurred at the courthouse. Church 
meetings, lectures and concerts, political gatherings, assemblages to dis- 
cuss public affairs — anything in which the people or any part of the 
people were interested were held in the courthouse, and the bell, calling 
indifferently upon the entire populace was frequently the only advertise- 
ment necessary for the appointed proceedings. The town of Erie, then 
of a population of less than a thousand and known as "The Sleepy Bor- 
ough," by its envious neighbors, was not at all different from any other 
little country town of its size — of the time, let it be added, for the small 
towns of the present day that are not in touch with the ouside world by 
daily newspapers that find their way in fresh from the press, are very rare. 
In 1821 Erie was a rural village. It had some people who were getting 
on ; some who had become rich ; but the great majority were the struggling 
plain people who in their hours of leisure found nothing better to do — 
nothing that could be done — but to gather in groups in the evening in 
front of some popular store ; in the village tavern ; in the office of the 
Gazette, or any convenient place, and exchange opinions, swap stories 
or perpetrate practical jokes upon one another. The announcement by 
the ringing of the courthouse bell that there were to be doings there, was 
therefore always welcome, and whether the character of the meeting was 
known or not, there was no difficulty in obtaining an audience. Generally, 


however, all the people knew beforeliand what sort of a meeting was in 
contemplation. Town talk in those days was exactly what the term 
would imply. Everybody knew everybody else's business, not except- 
ing that of the stranger within the gates. 

Erie became known early as a hotbed of politics. These curbstone 
meetings (though for that matter the actual curbstone was far away in 
the future), were great schools of politics. It was a long time before 
the political boss came to be. There may have been political leaders 
among the people then — good talkers ambitious to air their opinions and 
often accepted at their own valuation, but in a good measure every man 
was a politician and every one in his turn had his say. It continued to be 
thus for many years, and when, in 1830, Horace Greeley came into town 
from his father's farm in Wayne township, a tramp printer in search of 
a job, he became so deeply impressed with this peculiar attribute of the 
Erie people that, writing of his experience in Erie many years later, 
he did not omit to speak of it. In those days Joseph M. Sterrett had 
already become a political leader. This was only natural. He had 
started the Gazette in January, 1820, and, being an editor, was looked 
upon by the people of his time as a man of authority among them, es- 
pecially with reference to political matters. In later years office and the 
emoluments pertaining came to him, but the honors of politics, as pol- 
itics then were, were his almost from the beginning of his editorial 
career. Country journalism then was a great institution, and the "jxiwer 
of the press" almost extravagantly potent. 

And the publication of the Gazette, along with the perennial caucus- 
ing at the corner grocery, and in front of the village tavern did wonders 
toward the development of the town and county. Whatever scandals 
may have existed in those days, it has not come to the surface that 
anything of a public nature developed. It is true that when the new 
courthouse had been completed a defect in the construction of a gable 
or cornice was discovered, but it was not attributed to jobbery or an 
attempt made to overreach. The defect was called to the attention of the 
contractor, and he promptly made it good. 

It was true of Erie county at that time as of the Orient in the olden 
time when it was said, "The poor ye have always with you," but the 
system of caring for them was different from what obtained later. At 
the beginning of things in Erie county each township was required to 
take care of its own poor, and the voters of the township elected two 
overseers, whose duty it was to make provisions in aid of the indigent. 
"Wliether it was a good way to do, or whether it was not does not ap- 
pear as a matter of record. But it is proper to presume it was not satis- 
factory, for in 1840 an act went into effect creating a county board of 
directors of the poor, and that year James Benson, of Waterford, was 
elected for one year ; Thomas R. Miller, of Springfield, for two years, 
and George W. Walker of Harborcreek for three years. Thereafter 


annually one director was elected to serve for three years. At the same 
time the question of erecting a county almshouse was voted upon by 
the people. The year before an almshouse proposition was voted down 
by a majority of lo-t, but in 1840 the issue prevailed by the close vote 
of 1,599 to 1,594; so the house was built. 

In the year 1832, while John H. Walker was a member of the 
State legislature, he secured the passage of an act providing for the 
sale of the third section of reserve lands, of 2,000 acres in Millcreek 
township, the proceeds to be used for the construction of the canal basin 
in Erie harbor, but reserving from the tract a hundred acres to be used 
as a county-farm upon which an almshouse should be built. Commis- 
sioners to make a selection out of the reserve tract, for the county-farm 
were appointed and these. William Miles, George Moore and David Mc- 
Nair, chose the piece of ground on the Ridge road, about three miles 
west of Erie — a farm, by subsequent additions, of 118 acres. It was 
upon this farm — now one of the finest in Erie county — that the first 
almshouse was built, and completed in 1841. While John D. Stranahan 
of Le Boeuf was a representative in the Legislature — 1867-G8 — an at- 
tempt was made to change the location of the almshouse to the southern 
part of the county, an act with that provision having been passed, but 
at the next session it was repealed. 

In the year 1870 in accordance with the provisions of a new act, all 
the old directors went out and a new board were elected. These were 
Lewis W. Olds of Erie, Stephen A. Beavis of Corry, and W. W. Eaton 
of Fairview. This board proceeded at once to erect a new almshouse, 
and procured plans. Mr. Olds from the beginning advocated the erection 
'^^ a commodious brick building, and though there was vigorous opposi- 
tion from without, his plan prevailed with his fellows of the board and 
a building far beyond the needs of the time was erected at a cost of 
$118,000. It was the most expensive public building of the time in the 
county. The wisdom of Mr. Olds was very shortly demonstrated. From 
time to time additions and improvements have been made to the building 
until it will now take its place as a thoroughly modern institution of its 

For a long time the boundary line between Erie and Crawford coun- 
ties was in dispute, and this was settled by the passage of an act by the 
Legislature in 1849-50, which provided for the appointment of a com- 
mission to make a survey and permanently mark the line. In pursuance 
of the provisions of the act Humphrey A. Hills of Albion was appointed 
commissioner for Erie county, and Andrew Ryan for Crawford county, 
and they chose H. P. Kinnear of Warren as the third member. By the 
commissioners Wilson King was chosen as the surveyor to represent 
Erie, and Mr. Jagger surveyor for Crawford. David Wilson, Mr. King's 
deputy, however, did most of the engineering work. The surveyors ran 
a perfectly straight line from east to west which added a long narrow 


strip to the southern edge of Erie county. A number of people who 
beUeved themselves citizens and tax payers of Crawfotd county came in 
time to know they lived in the county next on the north. 

There were a number of other engineering inaccuracies discovered 
in the county in the course of time. A notable one is "the gore," as it is 
still known, in West Millcreek. It is a long narrow strip of land lying 
between the respective surveys of the engineers who laid out the Erie 
Reserve and those who located the line of the territory granted to the 
Pennsylvania Population Company, lying next and adjoining on the 
south, east and west. The existence of this gore was not discovered 
for a considerable time. It was due to the variation of the two sets of 
instruments employed. The engineers of the Population Company, start- 
ing from the same point on the blutif above the lake on the east line 
of the present farm of the Sterrett heirs, occupied by Alexander Rob- 
inson (the farm just east of Henry Y. Hartt's farm in West Millcreek) 
that the other engineers did, proceeded south, supposing they were fol- 
lowing the other line. In fact they were not, their line running slightly 
to the west, forming a steadily widening wedge as they progressed south- 
wardly, and the new line taken as a base line, being inaccurate, when 
the turning point was reached the easterly line was just as inaccurate. 
An additional mistake was made in the chaining in this later survey, 
which extended the first line too far south. Near its southern end the 
divergence was so considerable that out of this gore Capt. John Grubb, 
one of the earliest settlers, an officer of the military guard of the sur- 
veyors, afterwards had articled to him the farm of 400 acres upon which 
he so long lived. There is a somewhat similar gore east of the city. 

Another discrepancy is pointed out in the report of the Secretary 
of Internal Affairs for 1908. According to the statements contained 
therein it appears that in 1790 when the western boundary line of New 
York State was established by Andrew Ellicott, its southern terminus 
was 50 rods, or 825 feet east of the 235th milestone of the original 
northern boundary of Pennsylvania. In 1894, however, Thomas Rees, 
Deputy Surveyor, locating the warrants in the Triangle, made the 225th 
milestone his starting point, which he recognized as the southeast corner 
of the Triangle district. A new survey for the correction of the war- 
rantee map of the county was therefore ordered by the Secretary of 
Internal Affairs. 

An account of the building of the present courthouse, begun in 
1852, would naturally be included as part of the history of the county, 
but, located as it is in the city of Erie, it has been decided 
advisable that the story of that important public building shall 
form a part of the history of the city. For considerations of a similar 
nature it is deemed proper that the action taken by the county commis- 
sioners to meet the demands of the State at the time of the War of the 


Rebellion shall be given an account of in the chapters that will tell of the 
part taken bv the County of Erie in that memorable conflict. 

From the beginning the business affairs of the county have been 
managed by a board of commissioners, three in number, elected by the 
people. From 1800 to Jan. 1, 1876, each commissioner was elected for 
three years, but only one in each year, so that the board was a continuous 
body. It was, however, as a rule of one political complexion. From 
1831 to 1876 the commissioners were all of the Whig or Republican 
parties. The new constitution of 1873, effected a change by providing 
that the minority political party should have representation on the board. 
To secure this elections for county commissioners are held once in three 
years, and no citizen is permitted to vote for more than two candidates, 
although commissioners may be re-elected. The commissioners' clerk is 
appointed bv the commissioners, and from the organization of the county 
there have been but ten regularly serving, one other acting pro tem, from 
November, 1829, to February, 1830. The first clerk, Thomas Wilkins, 
served twenty-six years ; James Skinner served twelve years ; G. W. Col- 
ton, eleven years ; A. J. Sterrett, over eighteen years, dying while in 
office; G. D. Price, seven years, and A. J. Robison the present clerk, 
from 1890. The other clerks served for terms varying from two to 
five years. 

Not coming distinctively under the management of the county author- 
ities, but yet a prominent factor in county development during the later 
years of the county's history, is the Twentieth century innovation in the 
management of the mail service, now firmly established and invaluable 
to the farmers, the rural free delivery. This was introduced in 1900, 
when six routes were established from Erie. In 1909 the rural routes 
in Erie county numbered about seventy-two, the extensive service due 
to the active interest taken by Erie's member of Congress, Hon. Arthur 
L. Bates. The routes, with the year in which they were established, are: 
Albion, three in 1904, and one in 1907; Avonia, one in 1904; Corry, 
eleven in 1901; Cranseville, one in 1903; East Springfield, one in 1903; 
Edinboro, six in 1902 ; Erie, six in 1900, and two in 1907 ; Fairview, one 
in 1904; Girard, four in 1902; Harborcreek, two in 1903; McKean, two 
in 1903; Mill Village, one in 1904; North East, four in 1902, two in 1903 
and one in 1905 ; North Springfield, one in 1903 ; Union City, seven in 
1901; Waterford, eight in 1901; Wattsburg, four in 1903; Wesleyville, 
one in 1905 ; West Springfield, one in 1907. 


Erie in 1812. — The Uprising. — Erie's Soldiery. — Capt. Dobbins and 
THE President. — Building of Perry's Fleet. 

For a period of years the pioneers of Erie count)', contented in the 
humble homes they had hewed out of the great forest, and long relieved 
of anxiety from fear of attack by the savages or of any other foe, dwelt 
in profound peace nor ever permitted their thoughts to turn toward 
anything that even hinted at grim war. The area, of cultivation upon 
their farms had steadily broadened ; new settlers had come in to lend 
the cheer and comfort of their society; industries had begun in a small 
way, and commerce had ventured to spread its white wings for its 
initial fiight. But in the minds of the new community planted in the 
woods there was nothing but what made for peace. Suddenly this was 
dispelled. War against Great Britain had been declared. Into that 
great conflict Erie came. The little village upon the lake was destined 
to play a prominent part in the history of the nation for it was Erie 
that made possible one of the greatest victories of that war, one notable 
in the history of the world. Perry's victory on Lake Erie had its working 
out through Erie. 

Consider what it meant — that victory of Commodore Perry over 
the British fleet in these waters. It was in fact the decisive battle of a 
war that was the second war of American independence ; the contest 
that compelled Great Britain in fact, as had previously in only shallowest 
form, to acknowledge the United States a sister nation ; that forced from 
the arrogant Briton a recognition of the full rights of the American 
nation. The war of 1812 was a confirmation of the status of the United 
States as an independent nation, and the victory achieved by Commodore 
Perry with the fleet of vessels built in the harbor of Erie was the 
severest blow up to that time administered to Great Britain by any foe, 
because it humbled British naval pride as it had never been before. 
For the first time in history a British fleet had been utterly defeated 
by an enemv — previously a single vessel had been compelled to yield, but 
Perry defeated an entire squadron. The part Erie had in that famous 
victory was therefore no insignificant one. 

But what was the war of 1812 about, and what led up to the famous 
victory? The late Senator Sill presented the matter in a manner more 


terse than any other statement of the case recalled and the liberty is taken 
of making free quotation from what he once wrote regarding it: 

The war of the Revolution left many matters not altogether set- 
tled. For example, there was the question of what the Americans had 
really won. The thirteen colonies occupied a narrow strip along the 
Atlantic coast. They did not extend west of the Alleghanies. The 
British therefore contended for the retention of the frontier posts, in- 
cluding Fort Presque Isle, at Erie, with the facility thus offered of 
inciting the Indians to the massacre of the frontier settlers. There was 
also the question of the nonpayment of claims or debts due to American 
citizens from British subjects or Tories who had left this country and 
sought protection under the British flag; the retention by the British of 
slaves or persons "held to service," claimed by Americans ; the arrogant 
demand by the British of the right of search of American vessels and 
the impressment of sailors of alleged British nationality; and that the 
promise made by King George at the solemn audience, so long deferred, 
when John Adams, the first American minister, was received by that sov- 
ereign as the ambassador of the United States, that, now that independ- 
ence was acknowledged "the community of race, the identity of lineage 
and the uniformity of religion should cause friendship between the two 
countries," was made to the ear to be broken by the sense. 

The irritation which had existed between France and the United 
States, culminating in a declaration of war under the administration of 
the elder Adams in 1797-98, had been succeeded by disgust at the ar- 
rogance of Great Britain, as manifested by her order in council of May, 
180(), ordering a blockade of the European coast, from Brest to the 
Elbe, thus inhibiting American commerce, which evoked, in the way of 
retaliation. Napoleon's decree of Berlin, Nov. 21, 1S06, declaring a block- 
ade of the British Islands, followed in course by a second order by the 
king and council forbidding trade between the United States and any 
European country under Napoleon's power, which again excited re- 
taliation on the part of the French in the Milan decree of Dec. 7, 
1807, in which Napoleon declared "denationalized," whether found in con- 
tinental ports or on the high seas, any vessel which should submit to 
starch by a British vessel, or should touch at or set sail to or from any 
port of Great Britain or her colonies. Under the effects of these acts 
American commerce was swept from the seas, causing universal distress 
to the United States, enhanced as it was by the embargo proclaimed by 
President Jefferson, inhibiting all commerce through American ports 
and also, the unhappy incident of the attack of the British ship Leopard 
upon the American frigate Chesapeake, and the incident of the Little Belt. 
These, with the continued eft'ort to assert the claim to right of search 
of American vessels and the seizure of American sailors, became in- 
tolerable, and nothing during this period was more irritating than the 
conduct of the British minister, who was the same person who had been 
minister to Denmark to demand the surrender of the Danish fleet before 
the bombardment of Copenhagen. Here he was called Copenhagen Jack- 
son, and he was just as irritating at Washington ; and when, upon the 


meeting of congress in 1811, the wrongs and indignities suffered by the 
United States were elaborated in a ringing report of a congressional 
committee, that congress — of which Henry Clay was speaker — upon 
the urgent recommendation of President Madison, on the 18th day of 
June, 1812, declared war against Great Britain, and though still loaded 
with the burden of debt caused by the Revolution, and its people, im- 
poverished by the paralysis of commerce which had so long existed, 
found that no other course was practicable on the part of the United 
States than to enter upon a war on sea and land. 

The declaration of war in June, 1812, found the nation altogether 
unprepared to enter into a contest with so powerful a nation as Great 
Britain. We had no army or navy. We were still prostrate under the 
burden of debt incurred for the Revolutionary war. There were no rail- 
roads to afford swift transportation — indeed, even the turnpike roads 
that were passable were few and very far between. Steamboats came many 
years later ; there were no canals. Communication was difificult and 
travel slow and laborious. It was therefore no small task that the Amer- 
icans addressed themselves to when they undertook to redress grievances 
by the science of war, and war with the most powerful nation on 
the earth. 

Britain, on the other hand, offered a striking contrast. Rich and 
powerful, possessed of a strong and well organized army and the greatest 
navy in the world, flushed with victories, and having wide resources ; 
besides having the advantage of such a splendid avenue into the interior 
as the St. Lawrence and with Canada available for massing her forces, 
the tremendous advantage she possessed, observable now, was undoubt- 
edly apparent then. 

And yet the United States, believing its cause to be a just one and 
the necessities of the situation pressing, did not hesitate, having decided 
upon war, to enter into it with all the ability it possessed. It was a dis- 
couraging experience that marked the opening of that great contest. Save 
on the sea, where the Americans proved more than a match in the en- 
gagements that had taken place, disaster was the order of the day. The 
American army was repeatedly worsted, and well nigh placed out of the 

It was a very sparsely settled country that bordered the southern 
shores of the Great Lakes in the year 1812, and the means of communi- 
cation were lamentably deficient. This was true not only of this par- 
ticular locality but of the entire northern frontier. The postal service 
amounted to practically nothing at all, and it is worthy of note that the 
information of the declaration of war at the American capital was first 
received by the American settlers through Canadian dispatches sent to 
their several posts. When Mackinaw was taken in July, the first in- 
telligence the garrison there had that a state of war existed was when 
a heavy force of British and Indians that had landed upon an uninhab- 


ited part of the island the night before, captured the American defenses 
without firing a gun. 

At the time of the capture of Mackinaw, Captain Daniel Dobbins, 
in command of a merchant vessel named the Salina, was at that post. He 
had with him Rufus S. Reed and William W. Reed, the former and 
Captain Dobbins being owners of the vessel. They were taken and held 
as prisoners, and the Salina, along with another that had been captured 
were made cartels to convey the prisoners and non-combatants to Cleve- 
land. When they arrived at Detroit they were taken possession of by 
General Hull, and again they fell into the hands of the enemy on the 
surrender of that important post. Now Captain Dobbins, who had 
sailed the lakes extensively for a number of years, had during the peace- 
ful times that had preceded, made the acquaintance of Col. Nichols 
of His Majesty's service, and through the friendship that had resulted, 
in the hour of need obtained from the Colonel passes for himself and 
the two Reeds, and they accompanied Col. Lewis Cass and Capt. Saun- 
ders, who w^ere in charge of paroled prisoners, across the head of the 
lake in open boats, to Cleveland. It was a perilous passage of three 
days, but the entire party reached their destination in safety. At 
Cleveland Capt. Dobbins obtained a small sloop and navigated it down 
the lake to Erie. All along the coast the inhabitants were thrown into 
a state of alarm at the sight of the vessel, for the news of the surren- 
der of Detroit by Hull had spread. 

Upon his arrival at Erie, Capt. Dobbins found Gen. David Mead 
here, and was commissioned by the General to bear dispatches to Wash- 
ington. It is proper at this point to relate what was doing in a mili- 
tary way at Erie. Upon the breaking out of the war Gov. Snyder had 
organized the militia of the State into two divisions, and the western 
division was under the command of Major General Adamson Tanne- 
hill of Pittsburg. Gen. David Mead was of his staff, and the brigade 
of which the Erie county militia was a part was placed in command 
of Brigadier General John Kelso of Erie, with Dr. John C. Wallace 
in command of the Erie regiment. Among the officers of the Erie 
regiment were Captains Andrew Cochran, Zelotus Lee, James Barr, 
William Dickson, Robert Davidson, Warren Foote, John Morris, and 
Smith and Donaldson. There was a military company in existence 
in Erie at the outbreak of the war, commanded by Capt. Thomas For- 
ster, which immediately tendered their services to the President, and were 
accepted. They did not form a part of the Erie regiment, but, as will 
be seen later, performed an important part in the work in hand. 

Active duty was entered upon immediately by the Erie troops. 
Capt. Barr's company was sent to Sandusky and remained there through 
the winter of 1812-13. Capt. Cochran's company of Springfield kept 
guard along the western coast of Erie county, and Capt. Foote and his 
company were assigned to keep sentry at the head of the peninsula. 


Before the close of June Gen. Kelso ordered out his brigade for the 
defense of Erie and the brigade was mobilized on the John Lytle farm 
near what is now Waterford station on the P. & E. Railroad. Up- 
wards of 2,000 men were gathered there from Erie, Crawford, Mercer 
and other western counties. Later in the season 4, .500 men were or- 
dered to march to Bufifalo, which was menaced by the enemy, and the 
western Pennsylvania force remained the winter through. Meanwhile 
Erie was in a state of continual alarm. The British had, for those 
times, a powerful squadron of vessels on Lake Erie, and every place 
upon the coast was in continual fear lest they should be bombarded 
by these ships. Erie was in especial fear. On August 25 these ships 
appeared off Erie, and immediately expresses were sent over the county 
conveying the intelligence. Gen. Kelso took prompt action, and on Sept. 
4 obtained an order from the government that the State field pieces 
be sent to Erie. Because they were slow to arrive Gen. Kelso, through 
Gov. Snyder, sent a message, signed by prominent citizens, urging that 
efficient action for the protection of Erie be speedily taken, and on 
Sept. IG the General was notified that one brass piece and four 4-pound- 
ers were on their way to Erie. Later, because of the absence of the 
troops at Buffalo, Gen. Kelso was ordered by Gov. Snyder to employ 
volunteers, if practicable, for the defense of Erie. 

Meanwhile an altogether different line of action was being taken up. 
It was related above that Gen. Mead had commissioned Capt. Dobbins 
an express messenger to Washington bearing dispatches. These gave 
the first authentic information to the President of the surrender of 
Mackinaw and Detroit. Immediately a cabinet meeting was called be- 
fore which Capt. Dobbins appeared, and to the President and his ad- 
visers gave a full account of the situation on the frontier. Particular 
stress was laid upon the fact that the enemy was possessed of a power- 
ful fleet, with which the government had nothing that could cope. The 
great need on the lakes, Capt. Dobbins suggested, was a naval force 
strong enough to meet the British. The suggestion met with approval. 
Then the question arose with reference to the most suitable point for a 
naval depot on the lakes. Capt. Dobbins at once named Erie, and point- 
ed out its many advantages. The suggestion was adopted. He was 
offered a sailing master's commission in the navy, which he accepted 
and he was then ordered to Erie with instructions to immediately begin 
the construction of gunboats. 

Upon his arrival at Erie Capt. Dobbins was ordered to report to 
Commodore Chauncey at Sackett's Harbor, whose jurisdiction included 
Lake Erie as well as Lake Ontario, or to the commanding officer at 
Black Rock, for further instructions, which order he obeyed, receiving 
from Lieut. Elliott at Black Rock a reply to the effect that in his opinion 
Erie was not a safe or suitable place for naval construction and direct- 
ing that nothing be done until Com. Chauncey should be heard from. 


Upon receipt of Elliott's letter 2\Ir. Dobbins at once wrote a rejoinder 
in which he set forth the advantages of Erie, and very soon afterwards 
proceeded to Buffalo himself, and though he did not find Lieut. Elliott 
there, feeling the importance of the situation, employed a skillful ship 
carpenter, and returning to Erie, late in October began work upon the 

At that time there was a stream of considerable size that emptied 
into the bay between what are now Peach and Sassafras streets, and at 
its mouth there was a wide beach. The stream was called Lee's run. 
On the beach at the mouth of Lee's run, some little distance west of the 
village of Erie, IMr. Dobbins established his navy yard. The site of that 
navy yard is now occupied by the gas works. Erie at that time had 
a population of approximately 500. There were few mechanics among 
them and no ship carpenters. However, under the superintendence of 
the carpenter enlisted at Buffalo, every man who could swing an axe or 
handle a saw was put to work. The few house carpenters the village 
boasted of were impressed into the service, and all sorts of expedients 
were resorted to in order to provide tools and appliances for the work. 
Much of the material had to be got out of the trees uncut, and most 
of the timbers and planks had to be sawn by hand. It was a rather dis- 
couraging prospect, and the winter overtook them while at work, but 
operations were not permitted to lag for a moment. Progress was be- 
ing made every hour. And at that, it will be remembered, the work was 
progressing without instructions from either Com. Chauncey or the com- 
manding officer at Black Rock. Mr. Dobbins, however, knew his ground, 
and felt the necessity of the case. Besides that, he appreciated the fact 
that during the winter season he had a far better chance of pushing the 
work without being molested by the enemy than during the season of 
navigation. So the work went on. 

About the first of January, 1813, Commodore Chauncey, accompa- 
nied by Henry Eckford, naval constructor, arrived at Erie on an official 
visit. They were so well pleased with the character of the work and 
the progress made that they commended Mr. Dobbins, and, satisfied as 
well with the advantages offered by Erie, gave instructions to get out 
timber and prepare for the building of two "sloops of war." While this 
added greatly to the amount of the work appointed to be done at Erie, 
it was quite to the liking of Mr. Dobbins, because the decision of the 
Commodore vindicated his judgment when to the President and his 
cabinet Mr. Dobbins had declared Erie to be the most suitable place on 
the great lakes at which to establish a navy yard and build vessels that 
should be employed to oppose the British. 

Mr. Dobbins (he had ceased to be Capt. Dobbins when he accept- 
ed the more dignified, because naval, billet of sailing master) was in 
charge of affairs at Erie when Com. Chauncey or the officers immedi- 
ately under him were absent, and had even higher warrant than a com- 


mander's orders for exercising his own discretion, for his instructions 
with reference to building a fleet for Lake Erie were first from the 
President. When, therefore, he received orders to get ready to build 
two larger vessels, he first chose the location at which they should be 
built. For two reasons he decided best not to build them at the new navy 
yard. In the first place he was not sure there was water enough to 
launch them, at the mouth of Lee's Run, and secondly, it would be pref- 
erable to do the work far enough up the bay so that they could not easily 
be discovered by the enemy, or if it became known they were being built, 
it would be a much more difficult matter to get at them and the chances 
of successfully resisting such an attempt would be greater. A place 
exactly suited to the work in hand was found on a strip of beach, suffi- 
ciently wide for the "purpose, at the mouth of Cascade creek. The 
spot was about a mile west of the village and the water there was deep. 
This place was without delay decided upon. In relation to the city of 
today the shipyard of the sloops of war was directly at the foot of Cas- 
cade street. 

At that time Cascade creek was a stream of rather large volume, ap- 
proaching in size Mill creek, and flowing through a valley of greater 
breadth than most of the streams that empty into the bay. was discharged 
over a stratum of hard shale rock in one of the most beautiful little 
water falls imaginable, the heighth of the cascade being about ten or 
twelve feet. The exact location of the cascade was to the east of the 
lines of railroad that now extend down from the junction. Within 
recent years the surveyors of the railroad, the better to serve the interests 
of the road, cut a new channel for the creek so that it skirts the west- 
ern side of the railroad right of way. This explanation is parentheti- 
cal and substituted for a foot-note. 

Immediately upon selecting a location a large force of men were 
set at work to get out the material, this being Mr. Dobbin's interpreta- 
tion of the Commodore's order to prepare for the building of the sloops 
of war. The material was obtained from the trees then standing in 
the forest hard by. The best kind of oak timber grew in abundance, 
and it was easy to select the choicest of stuff. With a sailor's knowledge 
of what entered into the hull of a ship, not only was care exercised 
to have the right sort of material for ribs and planking and ceiling, but 
natural knees and other special parts were carefully selected. And the 
work was pushed and so much celerity exercised that the keels were 
ready to be laid and much of the timber was ready when Mr. Noah 
Brown, master ship builder from New York, with a gang of twenty- 
five carpenters arrived about the tenth of March. On the fourteenth 
of March Mr. Dobbins, writing to the Department at Washington, re- 
ported the keels of the larger vessels ready to lay and the gunboats 
ready for calking. 


But all the while there was a harrassing care on the mind of Mr. 
Dobbins. There was the fear of the prowling spy and the secret in- 
cendiary of the enemy. A need quite as great as the mechanics to for- 
ward the construction of the vessels was an adequate force to protect 
and guard. The chief reliance from the beginning had been upon Capt. 
Thomas Forster and his company of sixty volunteers, supplemented by 
such of the workmen as could be detailed for guard duty. For a con- 
siderable period, and during practically all of the winter of 1812-13. 
Capt. Forster's company constituted the only protection of the town of 
Erie and the vessels on the stocks. 

Commodore Perry arrived at Erie March 27, 1813, and at once 
assumed command. He established his headquarters at the Buehler 
house, on the corner of Third and French streets.. The defenseless con- 
dition of the town and vessels at once claimed his attention and he imme- 
diately sent for General Mead who called out a sufficient military force 
for a guard, and in a short time a thousand militia were in camp, ulti- 
mately reinforced by several hundred volunteers from the interior of 
the State. They were encamped on a tract of ground from which the 
timber had been cut to supply material for the shipbuilding operations 
at the yard below, and which was then and for years afterward known 
as Stumptown. It was located on Peach street and west to the side of 
the ravine, from the brow of the bluflf southward. 

While there was plenty of material of one kind at hand, though 
crude, in the standing timber, there was a plentiful lack of other things, 
most notably iron. All the stores in the village were ransacked and 
everything convertible found its way into the smith's forges to be ham- 
mered out into bolts and spikes and nails. But the stock was soon ex- 
hausted and Pittsburg was drawn upon. Nor was there a sufficient 
force of workmen. Perry wrote to the Secretary of the Navy, and 
carpenters and blacksmiths were ordered on from Philadelphia. Mr. 
Dobbins was dispatched to Black Rock for seamen and such arms and 
ordnance as he could transport, and on March 30, Sailing Master Tay- 
ler arrived with twenty officers and seamen from Sackett"s Harbor, 
Perry was not idle a minute, nor did he overlook a single item of detail. 
He made a trip to Pittsburg where he made arrangements to have can- 
vas for the sails, cables, anchors and other supplies sent on from Phila- 
delphia, and also succeeded in obtaining four small field pieces of ar- 
tillery and a quantity of muskets besides engaging the service of Capt. 
Wooley to supervise the casting of carronades and shot. Returning 
to Erie about the tenth of April, in conjunction with Gen. Mead he 
had a redoubt thrown up on the elevated point where the land light- 
house stands, another on Garrison hill, and another on the blufif in 
Stumptown overlooking the navy-yard. 

Meanwhile he was busily engaged getting together the armament 
of his ships. During his absence at Pittsburg it had been possible to 


get from Buffalo only a single 12-pounder gun because of the floods. Mr. 
Dobbins had charge of transporting the ordnance from the station at 
Conjaquade creek, below Black Rock, and found it to be an exceed- 
ingly difificult task, difficult in the overland passage, and perilous after 
navigation opened, alike from the storms and the menacing enemy. But 
at last the greater part of the guns, including a number of 33-pound- 
ers, weighing 3,000 pounds each (great guns in those days), were safe- 
ly got through to Erie. 

On the twenty-third of May, Perry took his departure for Buffa- 
lo, accompanied by Mr. Dobbins, his errand being to bring up from 
Black Rock the vessels that had there been converted into ships of war, 
and which were to serve as part of his squadron. Com. Chauncey was 
engaged at the time in preparations for a sortie upon Fort George, and 
offered Perry the command of the seamen and marines that might land. 
The young commander eagerly accepted, and in the capture of that 
post on May 27 bore a conspicuous part. 

The fall of Fort George was a fortunate circumstance, as it vastly 
aided Perry's present enterprise which was to get the vessels he had 
come for up the river and into the lake. The British had for the time 
being retired from the Niagara. The work of getting the vessels out 
began on May 28, but it was not until June 13 that they were above 
the rapids and ready for the trip up the lake to Erie. The flotilla con- 
sisted of: Brig Caledonia (prize), armament two long "i-l-pounders and 
one long 12-pounder; schooner Somers (formerly the Catherine), two 
long 18-pounders: sloop Trippe (formerly the Contractor) one long 
24-pounder ; schooner Ohio, one long 24-pounder ; schooner Amelia, 
one long 24-pounder. Perry assumed command of the Caledonia, and 
Mr. Dobbins was in command of the Ohio, and on the IGth of June got 
away for Erie. While the flotilla was anchored at Dunkirk on the 
way up it was learned that the British fleet, on the watch for it, was at 
the same time anchored off Twenty-mile creek, half-way between Dun- 
kirk and Erie. The enemy was eluded, however, and on June 19, the 
vessels had crossed the bar and were safely anchored at Erie. 

A few days later the whole of Perry's fleet, that was before the 
end of the season to so signally distinguish itself, was afloat in Presque 
Isle bay. Capt. Dobbins's gunboats (for he was Captain when he pro- 
posed them to the President and his cabinet) were launched the end 
of April. They were the schooners Ariel and Scorpion, 63 tons each ; 
and the sloops Porcupine and Tigress, 52 tons each. The Lawrence, 
named by the Navy Department in honor of Capt. James Lawrence who 
fell while in command of the Chesapeake, was launched on June 25, 
and the Niagara on the 4th of July. Compared with the war ships of 
the present time. Perry's vessels were mere toys. The two. "Sloops of 
War," the principal ships of his fleet were in extreme length 110 f eet ; 
30 feet beam, anrl !) feet hold, and were pierced for twenty guns, with 


two stern ports. Both were built after the same model. Mr. Brown, 
the master builder, gave the ships the shallow depth of hold in order 
to have a good heighth of "quarters" or bulwarks and at the same time 
avoid showing a high side above the water, as well as to secure a light 
draft. It is the tradition that Air. Brown said to one of the workmen 
who was particular in finishing his job: "We want no extras — 'plain 
work is all that is required. They will only be wanted for one battle. 
If we win that is all that is wanted of them; if the enemy is victorious, 
the work is good enough to be captured." 

The work of fitting and arming progressed now with rapidity, but 
Perry had before him the most difficult of all problems to solve, namely, 
the manning of the fleet. His dependence was upon Commodore Chaun- 
cey, but from him he got practically no assistance. He endeavored to 
obtain soldiers who, if they could not be converted into sailors might 
serve as marines, but no sooner did a detail reach Erie than they were 
immediately ordered away again. He endeavored to enlist landsmen, 
but without success. From time to time a detachment would arrive but 
when the ships were fully ready to sail, on July 25, they were only 
partially officered and manned. From the Department at Washington 
and Gen. Harrison, in command of the army at the western end of 
the lake, he had frequent letters urging a prompt forward movement, 
but it would have been suicidal to have proceeded as he was. To fur- 
ther aggravate the situation the British fleet repeatedly appeared in 
the offing and at one time made so bold as to approach and send their 
compliments, to which the gunboats, running down to the entrance, re- 
plied. Men were sent from New York by way of Sackett's Harbor, 
but did not reach Erie. By August 1st Perry had succeeded in enlist- 
ing about 100 landsmen from among the troops and his chief marine 
officer Lieut. John Brooks, had enlisted about forty as marines. These 
enlistments, with what had been received from time to time made a 
total of about 300 men, enough. Perry concluded to cope with the ene- 
my before they got the Detroit, their new ship, out. 

On Sunday, August first, the squadron was moved down to the en- 
trance and early in the morning of Monday preparations were made to 
get the large vessels over the bar and out into the lake. Placing all the 
other vessels in a position of defence, the Lawrence was kedged 
down to the bar. Her armament was removed and placed on the beach 
and rolled up on timbers, and everything that could be done to lighten 
her was done. The "camels" were got alongside. These camels, an 
invention of Mr. Brown, were oblong decked scows, provided with 
valved openings in the bottom. When the camels were laid alongside 
the valves were opened, permitting the scows to sink until the decks were 
at about the level of the water. Heavy timbers were thrust through the 
portholes of the ship, projecting over the camels. These were blocked 
in place, and then the valves were closed and the water pumped out of 


the camels. Thus the vessel was hfted and floated over into the deep 
water outside. Then without delay her guns were got aboard and she 
was again in trim. The same method was pursued with the Niagara, and 
on August 5, the entire fleet was outside and in readiness for the work 
for which it had been called into existence. 

Commodore Perry has achieved deserved renown for the splendid 
victory he won from the British fleet on Lake Erie. Quite as important 
was the service he rendered before his ships crossed the harbor bar, 
service that called upon him for the best of his energies ; for patience 
under all sorts of discouragements and trials, even to enduring the 
censure of the Department at Washington for delay that he strove hard 
to prevent but was powerless to avoid; for tireless industry that never 
considered the time or the season when work was to be done ; for loyal 
zeal that was an inspiration to everyone with whom he came in con- 
tact, and to whom he was known ; for his splendid example of honesty 
and uprightness ; for his spirit of optimism that was communicated to 
everyone associated in the work. Services such as have been mentioned 
are overlooked when rewards of merit are distributed, but without them 
in getting forward the preliminary work there would have been no 
victory on the Tenth of September. 

Vol. 1—9 


The Women Worked While the Men Fought. — The Panic of 
Some. — Com. Perry's B.\ttle Flag. 

Erie at the time of the building of Com. Perry's fleet was a strag- 
gling little village of about five hundred inhabitants. This statement 
applies only to the permanent residents. The town, begun on the west 
bank of Mill creek, had gradually spread westward, occupying the 
ground in a sort of tentative way to the edge of the next ravine. That 
was located a short distance west of French street, and the lower end is 
visible to this day. All the streets from Parade to French had been 
located. They were part of the survey of 1795, made by Irvine and 
Ellicott. but the town of Erie was not a built-up place ; only an un- 
pretentious little community of scattered houses. ' It had no definite 
boundaries, though French street was, generally speaking, its western 
limit. There were houses farther west. Capt. William Lee lived in a 
house at about the foot of Peach street and it was from the Captain 
that the little run in the gully hard by got its name. At the foot 
of State street General John Kelso had built a house in which he lived 
There is a Kelso house standing there to this day. 

Now this little community was a community of peace, and, like 
every other peaceful little place, had a fear and horror of war. In Erie 
it began to be acute when rumors of the attack and capture of other posts 
found their way in from the outside, and when at length soldiers began 
to arrive, and, later the ships of the enemy paid occasional visits, panic 
seized upon many and not a few fled from what had come to be re- 
garded as imminent peril. Even the family of the General were among 
the fugitives, feeling sure of safety from British cannon only when they 
had found asylum at Reed's tavern in Waterford. 

Among the settlers, however, there were not a few possessed of 
Spartan courage ; who bravely determined to hold their ground until 
there was actual evidence of trouble. Some even went farther than that. 
There were families that spared the head of the house for the garrison 
at Erie, while the women staid at home to look after the farm, and be- 
sides, to render whatever assistance was within their power. Nor were 
the women unincumbered in this work. In the woods families grew up, 
and on many farms that boasted only a few acres of clearing in the forest 


there were troops of little ones, children of tender years, left alone with 
the mother to care for the farm and themselves, while the father was 
doing duty as a soldier at Erie. Stories of these days and of situations 
such as referred to have come down to the present, and I was so fortu- 
nate as to meet an aged lady who could relate a story of that stirring 
time. Mrs. Dowler, of Maple street, tells a tale of what occurred when 
her mother was a little girl. 

Her mother, Mrs. Chandler Munn, well known to what remains of 
our older inhabitants, when a child, lived with her parents on a farm a 
short distance out on the Buffalo road. It was on the road then newly 
opened from Wesleyville westward. Mrs. Munn was then but a little 
girl, but the events of the time made a deep impression upon her mind. 
When the necessity arose, her father broached the subject to his wife. 
They needed him at Erie. Their home was in danger from the enemy 
and it was his duty to go and repel an attack if it should be made. And 
would she consent that he take up arms and be a soldier in defense of 
their home? Yes; she consented. Cheerfully as circumstances would 
permit, she bade him go. 

But then the thought of the situation his wife and family would be 
left in came up and he considered and debated it first with himself and 
then with his wife. Isolated as she was, with no telling what danger 
might menace, and with their brood of little ones, what could she do? 
There was only one recourse that suggested itself to his mind. They 
must pack up and go over to Waterford. He proposed this to his wife. 
She promptly declined it. No. He must shoulder his rifle and join 
the meagre force at Erie. She would remain. If there was danger from 
the British she would have sufficient warning, and it would then be time 
to retreat. And so the father went down to the fort. 

She was a prudent woman and full of true heroism. Left alone, she 
neither repined nor lived in idleness. Her first course was, with a 
generalship worthy a seasoned campaigner, to organize her little force 
and prepare for whatever emergency should arise. The older of the 
children were schooled upon the duty each was to perform in case there 
should be a sudden flitting necessary. Then the wagon was placed ready 
for immediate use, and care was taken to know it was always in order. 
The oxen were not permitted to stray — they were kept where at a min- 
ute's notice they could be yoked into the wagon. Carefully, as the com- 
mander of a garrison might with the troops under his command, the 
mother drilled her little flock. 

Meanwhile the father was doing duty at the fort. It stood on Gar- 
rison Hill, now a part of the Soldiers' Home grounds. There was a 
mere handful of men and they were principally raw recruits from the 
village and the country round about. They had come from near by 
and farther. Some were from Meadville and places at a considerable 
distance : more were from near by. They were few in number, but they 


were of the right stuff. They were the brave pioneers who had set out 
to clear up and build a countr}-. Used to the hardships of the wilderness ; 
made expert in the use of their rifles by a life that called them not infre- 
quently to battle with wild beasts; schooled in courage and self-reliance, 
though few in numbers they still formed a force of no contemptible 

One day a British ship appeared in the offing. She was reconnoiter- 
ing the shore. From the fort -it could be seen that she was making close 
observations, undoubtedly to determine how large a force the Ameiicans 
had. The commander of the fort decided to aid them in their computa- 
tions. He marched his men out in companies and battalions ; then count- 
termarched, and repeated the manoeuvre in such a fashion as to make it 
appear that he had a large force at command. Down the hill and back 
again each company as it disappeared behind the fort, wheeling to re- 
peat the manoeuvre, it seemed as though there might be a thousand men 
in garrison at Erie. After an hour or two the vessel hauled her yards 
and bore away up the lake. The scheme of the astute commander had 
been effective, for the British did not return. The soldier's service at 
Erie was not one of great peril, neither was it one of hardship, and realiz- 
ing the condition of the fort, he thought of his loved ones back in the 
wilderness as yet in safety. 

Meanwhile the daily rounds at the farm went on, each remembering 
the duty demanded should an emergency arise. One day a wayfarer, 
carrying his rifle over his shoulder, stopped at the clearing. He was bound 
for Erie to take service for the American cause. Could he be served with 
food and drink? Cheerfully the request was granted. Then ensued the 
natural conversation, concerning the situation of affairs. Like most of 
the recruits, he carried his own rifle, that being part of what was volun- 
teered in his country's behalf. It transpired in course of the conversa- 
tion that the new recruit confessed he was not supplied with all the am- 
m.unition necessary. He had no bullets. At once the mother rose to the 
occasion. She could supply the want. Taking her best pewter platter 
she proceeded to melt it, and, in a little hand-mould, cast a supply of 
bullets which the new recruit packed away in his pouch and took his 
departure for the fort to join the modest little garrison. 

Steadily time was passing. Spring was moving into surhmer. For 
their living the family on the farm had to depend upon what the farm 
would produce. The land must be tilled, the crops planted and properly 
attended to and the business of the little establishment looked after. 
With the father gone the force was short-handed, and the outlook by 
no means serene. Had he been at home and working even to the extent 
of his ability the struggle would have been hard. How much more 
difficult was it, therefore, with none but the wife and family to perform 
the labors of the field. How very much more difficult was it with the 
added cares and apprehensions incident to the conditions that prevailed, 


demanding that time should ahvays be given to keeping everytliing in 
readiness for the dread emergency. All the while, as the work in the 
fields or about the house, or in attendance upon the stock was kept up, 
ears were constantly alert for the sound of booming guns that should 
announce that the bombardment of the American garrison by the British 
had begun. 

For all the people were alive to the situation. They knew that the 
Americans were entirely destitute of anything like a naval force. Out in 
the country, as well as at the garrison, it was known that the hope of 
the Americans was anchored upon the fleet of vessels then being built on 
the shores of Presque Isle bay. They were also aware of the fact that 
the British knew of their situation and were making preparations to 
strengthen their maritime force ; and they believd the British purposed 
an early attack upon the little town. The beginning of that attack was 
the signal for the yoking of the oxen, the hasty packing of the household 
valuables and the toilsome journey along the wretched roads through 
the woods across the hills to a place of safety at Waterford. 

Work was steadily progressing on the American ships, and as they 
neared completion another difficulty presented itself in addition to the 
many that had been encountered in the work. It had been a task of the 
giavest proportions to build a war fleet in the wilderness so far from 
a source of supplies. Nothing that entered into the construction of 
ships was available in sufficient quantity save only the timber, and that ex- 
isted only in the standing trees. Grim determination, however, had pre- 
vailed, and at last when the summer was about half over the ships were 
launched, and progress was being rapidly made toward their equipment. 
But the principle need was yet unsupplied. Men were neces- 
sary. The energetic young commander was driven almost to 
despair by his inability to secure an adequate force, and strenuous 
efforts were put forth. Recruits of every sort were welcomed, lands- 
men as well as sailors. Slowly these came in. More than one stopped 
at the little farm house as they tramped towards Erie, and more of the 
family pewter was moulded into bullets to provide the defenders with 
the necessar)' anmiunition with which to make their defense efifective. 

The summer began to wane. In the course of time the fleet was 
sufficiently manned, the ships had been floated over the bar and the brave 
little American fleet had set out to meet the enemy. It was not the end 
of the care and anxiety. On the contrary, the sailing of the fleet pro- 
duced an intensity of the feeling of concern. It even amounted to ap- 
prehension. For weeks at a time absolutely nothing was heard from 
Perry. Apprehension became keener. One day a sail was sighted in the 
offing. All eyes were strained to make her out. Slowly she approached 
and at length it was possible to identify the vessel. It was the schooner 
Ohio, commanded by Capt. Dobbins. 


Was she the bearer of evil tidings? Had she come back to report 
that there had been an engagement and that she herself was all that 
remained of that proud little fleet of vessels that had gone forth to offer 
battle to the enemy ? Anxiously the eyes ashore continued to study the 
approaching ship, and endeavored to read the story she was coming to 
tell. As she approached nearer it could be noticed that she was still 
trim and intact. There were no torn nor punctured sails. Every spar 
was in perfect condition. There was no damage to her hull. At length 
she came to anchor, and it was learned that all was well with the fleet. 
The Ohio had returned for necessaries. The rest of the vessels under 
Perry's command were in first-class shape. They were looking for the 

One day early in autumn, the people, as usual alert and eager for 
intelligence of the fleet, were astir as had become the custom, and were 
scanning the horizon in every direction for some sign of a sail. It was 
a calm and pleasant day, the 10th of September. It seemed like summer, 
and there was a sound in the west that betokened a storm. A low rumb- 
ling as of distant thunder was heard. And yet it was not like thunder 
either. There were no intervals of silence. Besides, the weather condi- 
tions in the west did not favor. The rumbling continued, but it did not 
become louder as it would have if a thunder storm were approaching. 
Nor was there any accession to the clouds in the direction whence the 
sounds proceeded. What was the cause of the phenomenon ? For what 
seemed a long time the sounds continued. At length they ceased. Was it 
the noise produced by a battle? If so, how had it resulted? 

The noise produced by that engagement on September 10, 1813, was 
as though it were a proclamation of emancipation to this entire region. 
One who actually heard it stated that the cannonading on that day was 
distinguishable, as distant thunder, as far east as Dunkirk. It suggested 
thunder, but yet was unlike thunder, for it was continuous. 

Perry had met the enemy, and he had lowered the ensign of his 
proud enemy. The little fleet built out of the forest that surrounded 
Erie had gone forth to meet the flower of the greatest navy on the 
earth and rebuked the arrogance of a power that sought to destroy the 
young republic. "We have met the enemy and they are ours," was 
his dispatch, but the thunder of his guns had sent the proclamation in 
advance to all the lake region. The people of Erie quickly learned the 
news and at last people felt free to seek their nightly repose assured it 
would not be disturbed by the cannonading of an enemy. 

Out at the little farm on the Buffalo road there was even greater re- 
joicing than in the village of Erie. The long and painful task was at an 
end, and the full reward of patriotism had come. Perhaps the pewter 
bullets had not been necessary to decide this issue, but a loyal woman's 
will and wish were moulded into every one. And there was more than 


that which entered into the bullets. There was part of the courage and 
fortitude of that wife who, sending her husband to the front, took up a 
man's place on that liomestead in the woods and there did as true and 
efficient work in her country's behalf as though she had been a man and 
with rifle on shoulder had stepped in time to the fife and drum on the 
march to meet her country's enemies on the battlefield. It was not only 
her caring for her brood of little ones and keeping the farm business 
going ; it was not only her ready sacrifice of her husband's services ; it 
was not only her moulding bullets for the recruits who passed that way. 
It was the splendid example of patriotism she presented that undoubtedly 
imbued her husband and the stranger recruits who passed that way w'ith 
a heroism such as made the victory of Perry possible and kept the flag 
of liberty in the sky of freedom. 

That heroic mother was Mrs. Lowry ; she was the ancestor of a 
numerous progeny. Her sons and daughters numbered nine, and all were 
characteristically prolific. They were of leading families in this portion 
of the country. Senator Morrow B. Lowry was of that line. The Barrs 
were connections — four Lowry brothers married four Barr sisters, and 
many relatives survive still in Erie and vicinity. 

In the year 1813 there stood where Walther's block now stands, at 
the corner of Eighth and State streets, a house of logs which was the 
Laird residence, and all the land, from about where the Olds block now 
stands, south to Ninth street w-as part of the Laird homestead. A hos- 
pitable home was that of the Lairds and they were widely acquainted. 
The home was, however, isolated. It was beyond the pale of Erie, out 
in the country, and away from such sources of information as were avail- 
able at that period. It was a time of intense anxiety at Erie. There was 
a state of war, and Erie was a scene of activity in connection with that 
war. There was a fleet of vessels under construction and the people were 
in a state of apprehension and dread, living in constant fear of an attack 
by the Birtish who had a large fleet upon the lakes and who were known 
to be disposed toward employing the savage Indians to aid them in their 
land forays. As a matter of fact their system of intrigues with the In- 
dians was one of the express causes for the declaration of war in June, 

The people of Erie were fearful that the British, who knew the ships 
for Perry's fleet were being built here, would land a large force above 
or below Erie and, approaching from east, west or south, would attack 
the little town, murder the inhabitants and destroy it. Many expected 
nothing less, knowing the custom of the British of enlisting the aid of the 
red men. It is true there was a force of militia at Erie, but the people 
lirre knew how inadequate it was, if the British did not, and this knowl- 
edge of the exact condition of affairs added to, or gave grounds for, the 
a])prehension that prevailed. 


One day in the summer of 1813 Mrs. Laird was standing before her 
door, no doubt considering in her mind the troublous state of the times 
and the dangers that seemed to menace, when she heard, proceeding from 
the woods to the south, a yelling that could not be mistaken for anything 
else than the cry of the savages. She waited, however, for a few mo- 
ments to be sure she heard aright. Again the horrid yell was repeated 
and this time it sounded nearer. They were approaching, and rapidly- 
What could she do? This was the thought that first took possession of 
her, for there were two duties that instantly rose before her mind : She 
ought to give notice of the approach of the Indians, and she ought to 
save her own life. Self-preservation is the first law of nature. But she 
was a brave woman, and no doubt was ready to take great risks for the 
benefit of the people in Erie. She resolved upon performing the higher 
duty, and with this purpose in view advanced to look up the road to see 
what her chances were of getting to the settlement in advance of the 

Too late. They were already in view. There was a large company 
of them and many were mounted. They were painted in grotesque fash- 
ion and wore their feather head-dresses and as they proceeded their yells 
were accompanied by wild gesticulations and the flourishing of weapons, 
and Mrs. Laird's blood froze in her veins with the fear the dreadful sight 
produced. She quickly recovered, turned, and almost flew to her house, 
which she entered, having barred the door behind her, waited in the 
keenest apprehension for the attack she was sure the Indians would make 
upon her unprotected home. 

Attentively she listened as they approached, nearer and nearer. At 
length she could see them. Onward they proceeded until they were oppo- 
site the house in the road. But they did not stop. They did not even 
look toward the house, but gesticulating and wildly shouting they passed 
away toward the village. 

Fear began to give place to curiosity as they disappeared from view, 
and she at length summoned courage to emerge and follow, seeking in- 
formation. It did not take long to learn that the band was composed of 
friendly Indians ; that it was Chief Cornplanter and a company of his 
braves come to Erie to ofifer his services to General Mead in defense of 
the American cause. 

It was a happy relief from what had been a period of terror, for 
Mrs. Laird was sure for a time that there was nothing in store for her 
but a cruel death at the hands of the savage Indians. 

But not all of the dwellers in Erie were panic-stricken when wars 
and rumors of wars were rife. Even when the British fleet temporarily 
blockaded the port and seemed to be threatening the town, there were 
many who yet had the courage and faith to remain at the post of duty. 
Not alone the men. There were women as well who seemed to be fear- 


less; at any rate had faith to beheve that the defenders of the American 
cause who had gathered here would be able to successfully defend the 
place and its inhabitants. It is a tradition that there were even gay times 
during that period, especially among the young people; that there were 
gatherings in the evening and modest social functions, for the youth of 
that date differed not greatly from the youth of any other age, and a 
uniform was attractive to a girl in 1813 as at any other period, and the 
boys of the town of Erie were jealous then just as they are now when 
the uniform enters upon the scene. 

It will therefore be apropos to speak of another leading incident of 
these stirring times, an incident that has to do with the pioneer families 
of Erie and of the house that in its day was an historical landmark. This 
incident is the construction of the flag which became the fighting standard 
of Commodore Perry. 

When it came time to christen the two brigs that were to be the 
principal ships in the Lake Erie fleet, one was called the Niagara and the 
other the Lawrence, in honor of the gallant commander of the Chesapeake. 
Perry having decided to make the Lawrence his flag-ship, a party of Erie 
ladies organized to make a suitable flag and hit upon the appropriate 
design of a blue standard bearing the words of Lawrence's dying orders 
to his brave but defeated crew : "Don't give up the ship." The ladies 
were organized and the work directed by Mrs. Margaret Foster Steuart, 
who was assisted by Dorcas Bell, wife of Captain William Bell, an officer 
of the revenue service, and his two daughters and by the three daugh- 
ters of Captain Thomas Forster. The work was done in one of the large 
rooms of the house of Thomas Steuart. This house stood on Fourth 
street between French and Holland. It was built of logs, and was the 
largest dwelling house of its construction in Erie, with considerable 
architectural pretentions. The room in which the work was done was 
quite spacious, and like all such rooms in those pioneer times was provided 
with a wide-mounted fire-place in which great logs were burned. Though 
it was summer time, the cheerful glow of the wood fire at night lent its 
charm to the scene, for it is tradition that there were merry times at that 
flag making. The young officers of the fleet were regular callers, osten- 
sibly to see how the work progressed and offer suggestions. That romance 
was not foreign to these gatherings is proved by the fact that all the 
young girls of that happy party subsequently married naval officers, 
thus laying the foundation of Erie's reputation, justly earned by subse- 
quent events, of being the mother-in-law of the American navy- 

That flag saw heroic service. It floated over the grave young com- 
mander of the American fleet until the Lawrence, becoming disabled in 
the fierce fight of September 10, it was hauled down and carried to the 
Niagara, where it was again hoisted to the main truck and floated until 
it became the standard of victory — until another terse message was writ- 
ten to adorn its page in history: "We have met the enemy and they are 


ours."' The original flag is now in the museum of the Xaval Academy 
at Annapolis. Some four or five years ago a replica of the original 
Lawrence flag was made for the Perry Day celebration by the daughters 
of Frank H. Steuart, great-granddaughters of Margaret Foster Steuart, 
who made the flag of 1813, and it is now to be seen in the museum of the 
public library. 

The old Steuart log house has passed away, having given place to 
aid in making a path for modern progress. Though homely in aspect, 
and a true representation of the pioneer in America life, its contribution 
to the history of this nation, 

"In the brave days of old," 
was neither insignificant nor without interest even in these modern times. 
It furnished a chapter in the story of Erie's patriotism, that has been il- 
lustrated upon every occasion of demand by prompt response when the 
country called for service. 


The Gre.-\t Fight. — The Fl..\gship Lawrence Knocked Out. — The 
Shift to the Niagara. — The Victory Won. 

Perry had gotten his squadron safely over the bar, but it was not 
without hazard. As a matter of fact there was for a time, while the 
work was in progress, extreme peril. The Lawrence was the first of 
the ships to be lightered across the shallow part of the channel- Her 
guns had been taken out and placed upon the beach, disposed in such a 
manner that they could be handled with facility when the time came to 
return them to their places on the vessel. It was of the utmost importance 
to keep in mind the fact that contingencies might arise, and the sagacious 
young commander never lost sight of the possibilities. As it turned out, 
just such a contingency as was regarded possible actually happened 
except that the attack did not take place ; but the failure of the enemy to 
make the attack, as afterwards learned, being due entirely to conditions of 
the weather. It all came about in this way : 

The Lawrence having gained the outer water and been equipped 
again with her armament, the smaller vessels — all but the Niagara — were 
navigated through and anchored, close in-shore around the Lawrence. 
The Niagara had been kedged up to the edge of the bar, and her guns 
were being removed to the beach, when, right in the midst of this work, 
the ships of the enemy were seen to be approaching. It was a hazy morn- 
ing, early, and the wind was from the southeast. From the top of Gar- 
rison Hill the British ships could be seen standing in toward Erie, not 
distinctlv as if the weather had been clear, but plainly enough to be made 
out. Immediately the intelligence was communicated to Perry. There 
was hurry and bustle. Perry expected an attack ; he felt sure that his 
movements had become known, and the enemy, understanding the exact 
situation, had come with the intention of utterly destroying his squadron. 
He therefore made hasty preparations to give them as warm a reception 
a? possible. If necessary he would run the Lawrence ashore under the 
guns of the battery on Garrison Hill, where a field battery had also been 
planted, and thus save her. He had also mounted on the beach many 
of the Niagara's guns, which had been landed, and the heavy guns of the 
smaller vessels. Undoubtedly, whatever the result, there would have been 
a warm time. After standing off and on, reconnoitering for an hour or 


more, the British fleet bore off and headed across the lake. This was so 
unexpected a result that Perry called Mr. Dobbins to make inquiries as 
to what the appearance of the coast from the offing would be. The reply 
was that in the hazy condition of the weather the shore line would, at 
the distance the enemy were, show very indistinct. It satisfactorily ex- 
plained the circumstance, but the incident put spurs in the side of the 
active young commander, and "hurry up" was the order of the day. 

Perry, however, was too sagacious to let the British fleet sail away 
without learning something about it. Therefore he dispatched the Ariel, 
Lieut. Packett, to follow at a distance and learn if possible their desti- 
nation. On the return of the Ariel Packett reported that they had gone 
to Long Point. It was afterwards learned that this was true, and after 
landing a courier, they bore up the lake, and did not appear outside the 
Detroit river until September 10. It was also learned, in the course of 
time, that the enemy had been deceived by the haze at the time that 
reconnoitre was made, and also, that, observing they were followed 
by the Ariel, the landing at Long Point was made more for the purpose 
of deceiving the American scout than of landing the courier. But at the 
time both sides were deceived. 

The work of preparation, stimulated by that early morning call 
of the enemy, went on without abatement, so that by evening of the 5th 
of August the American commander had his ships ready, and, determined^ 
not to be idle while waiting for officers and men, and concluding he could 
cope with the enemy before they got out their new ship, made ready to 
sail for Long Point, where he believed he would be able to find his foe. 
His vessels being but half-manned he accepted a supply of volunteers 
from the army, and at 4 o'clock on the morning of August 6, set sail. 
The squadron on this initial cruise comprised the Lawrence, Com. Perry ; 
Niagara, Lieut. Daniel Turner ; Caledonia, Purser Humphrey McGrath ; 
Ariel, Acting Lieut. John Packett ; Scorpion, Sailing Master Stephen 
Champlin : Somers. Sailing Master Thomas Almy; Tigress. Master's 
Mate A. I\IcDonald ; Porcupine, Midshipman George Senat. The Ohio 
and Trippe were left behind for the want of crews. The Amelia was 
condemned as unseaworthy- The course taken was to Long Point, and 
nothing being seen of the enemy there, the cruise was continued to Port 
Dover, and along the coast as far as Grand River, without making any 
discoveries, so the squadron returned to the anchorage at Erie. 

Immediately preparations were made for another cruise, the 7th 
and 8th being occupied with the work of taking on provisions and stores. 
But Perry hesitated upon entering on a cruise up the lake. The re- 
sponsibility of encountering the enemy with his ships but half-manned 
was one too grave to be accepted off-hand, especially as the probabilities 
were the British squadron was now reinforced by the new ship Detroit, 
and he was earnestly discussing the situation with Purser Hamilton at 
his headquarters ashore, when Midshipman John B. Montgomery reported 


at his door and handed him a letter frcn Lieut. Jesse D. Elliot, then 
on his way to join the squadron with a number of officers and ninety 
men. This intelligence was as welcome as sudden and unexpected. Im- 
mediately he proceeded aboard his ship and despatched Lieut. Packett 
with the Ariel down the coast to meet the reinforcing party and hasten 
their arrival. The Ariel returned on the 10th, and the officers and men 
were at once distributed among the ships of the squadron. Perry's heart 
was light. The force of seamen was not yet altogether adequate, but he 
was now supplied with competent and reliable officers and the men were 
greatly superior to any he had yet recevied. At the same time new com- 
missions were received, through Commodore Chauncey. Perry and Elliot 
were made of the grade of Master-Commander. (Perry has been alluded 
to in these chapters as Commodore. He did not, in fact, attain to that 
rank until some time later, but, known universally since the great sea- 
fight as Commodore Perry, it seemed proper, even while alluding to ear- 
lier events, to identify him with his historic title.) Messrs. Holdup, Pack- 
ett, Yarnell, Edwards and Conkling were promoted to the rank of Lieu- 
tenant, all having previously acted as such. 

Mr. Dobbins, being ordered to engage pilots, selected Azial Wilkinson, 
James Lee and one other whose name is not of record, and on the morn- 
ing of August 12, the squadron set out for the head of the lake. The 
squadron consisted of the following vessels: Lawrence (flagship) eigh- 
teen 33-pound carronades and two long 12-pounders, Com. O. H. Perry; 
Niagara, same armament. Capt. Jesse D. Elliot ; Caledonia, three long 
12-pounders, Purser Humphrey McGrath; Ariel, four long Im- 
pounders, Lieut John Packett ; Trippe, one long 32-pounder, Lieut. Joseph 
E. Smith ; Tigress, one long 32-pounder, Lieut. A. H. M. Conkling ; 
Somers one long 21-pounder and one long 12-pounder, Sailing Master 
Thomas C- Almy ; Scorpion, one long 2-1-pounder and one long 12-pound- 
er, Sailing Master Stephen Champlin ; Ohio, one long 24-pounder, Sailing 
Master Daniel Dobbins ; Porcupine, one long 32-pounder, Midshipman 
George Senat. 

On the IGth the squadron arrived off Kelly's Island, without having 
seen the enemy, and the next day anchored off Sandusky, when Perry dis- 
patched an officer to Lower Sandusky to inform Gen. Harrison of his 
arrival. On the ITth Gen. Harrison and staff, accompanied by twenty 
Indian chiefs, visited the squadron, the Indians being greatly impressed, 
as was the purpose, by the show of strength. The result of the con- 
ference was a decision to make Put-in Bay the rendezvous of the squad- 
ron, and in that safe harbor the vessels lay until the 25th when a cruise 
to Maiden was made, with a hope of tempting the enemy to come out. 
But it could not be done. The new ship Detroit was not ready. The 
ships could be seen by the Americans, but because of the powerful bat- 
tery on Bar Point, it was decided imprudent to make an attack on the 
British then. 


A new danger now menaced the American fleet. Sickness set in, 
consisting of bilious fever, dysentery and chills, ali'ecting mostly those 
from the seaboard, and being due to the change of fresh water, as well 
as to the bad quality of the provisions. Perry was himself taken down, 
and a number of his officers, including Surgeons Barton and Parsons, 
the latter however, vi'ith wonderful fortitude, continuing his work though 
it was necessary to carry him on a cot to visit the sick. 

On the 31st a welcome reinforcement of fifty volunteers including 
several officers and a surgeon, W. T. Talliaferro, was received from 
Harrison's army. They were mostly Kentuckians, and had been boat- 
men on the western rivers, and soon made excellent marines. The force 
now numbered 490, all told, and the work of drilling proceeded with 
assiduity, resulting in an excellent degree of proficiency. Perry became 
convalescent after confinement for a week, and as soon as he was able 
to take the deck again, became impatient to bring on action. For a 
second time he visited Maiden, and although it was discovered that the 
Detroit was now fully equipped, the American challenge was not ac- 

Perry then sailed for Sandusky to communicate with Gen. Harrison 
and there found letters from the Department that contained so much of 
rebuke and censure that on the first impulse of the mortification he felt, 
he wrote a letter applying to be detached from the command on Lake 
Erie. However, on sober second thought, he laid his first letter aside and 
he wrote vindicating his conduct and rebutting the charges of extrava- 
gance and unreason that had been brought against him. Some changes 
of officers now took place. Lieut. Smith was ordered to the Niagara and 
Lieut. Turner to the Caledonia ; McGrath was also sent to the Niagara in 
his legitimate capacity as pursuer, and Lieut. Holdup was placed in com- 
mand of the Trippe. On August 22, the Ohio had been sent to Erie for 
provisions, and returned on September 3, but was immediately dispatched 
on a similar trip as the stock of provisions was not only inadequate, but 
having been hastily cured, soon became putrid in the unusually warm 
weather that then prevailed. She did not return until after the fight. 

And now the events of a tedious though busy campaign were 
rapidly approaching a culmination, although the impatient and impetuous 
Perry was almost of the opinion that the summer would end without 
bringing about the meeting he was so eager for. Projects for forcing mat- 
ters were discussed, and abandoned because of the lateness of the season, 
and there was perplexity in the problem however it was considered. But 
a change came almost with startling, certainly with unexpected, sud- 
denness. Three men, friendly to the Americans, made their escape from 
Maiden, and sought an opportunity to communicate with Perry. Their 
story was a thrilling one. The forces at Maiden, he was told, were 
suffering from lack of provisions, a condition of affairs that had brought 


about a council of the military and naval commanders. It was deter- 
mined that the British squadron must immediately sail and give battle 
to the Americans, or effect communication with their depot of supplies 
at Long Point. It appeared they were in extremity. 

The men also brought valuable information regarding the British 
naval force. Their flagship, the Detroit, Commodore Barclay, was 
armed with nineteen long guns ; the Queen Charlotte, Capt. Finnis, seven- 
teen carronades ; the Lady Prevost, Lieut. Com. Buchan, thirteen long 
guns ; the brig Hunter, Lieut. Bignall, ten guns, mixed armament ; the 
Little Belt, three guns ; the schooner Chippewa, Master Campbell, one 
heavy gun. The force consisted of 33 officers and 490 men, including 
troops serving as marines, and volunteers. It thus appeared that the 
two forces were singularly evenly balanced. But the British had some 
advantages. Their soldiers serving as marines were veterans, while the 
marines of Perry's fleet, obtained from Harrison's army and at Erie 
were raw recruits. Their men, being just out of port, were all in health ; 
there were a hundred on the sick list in the .American squadron. 

.And then there was a striking contrast between the commanders. 
Perry, aged 27, was not only a young but an inexperienced officer, who 
had never been in a single engagement, ship against ship, much less 
squadron against squadron. In fact he had never seen any war service 
except in the Mediterranean during the trouble with Tripoli, and during 
a short time while in command of a gunboat flotilla at' Newport, R. I. 
Situated as he then was with a squadron and armament hastily gotten to- 
gether, he was besides hampered by the sickness prevailing among his 
officers and crews, and he himself was but just out of a bed of sickness. 
On, the other hand Commodore Barclay was a seasoned veteran, who 
had served under the great Nelson in the battle of Trafalgar, besides 
other naval combats, and was now in command of a squadron that 
with three exceptions had been in active service under Capt. Finnis as 
cruisers for more than a year, and Finnis was an e.xperienced officer 
second in command to Barclay. But Perry was young and filled with 
energy, courage, initiative and spirit, and was unusually well endowed 
with wisdom, and confidence in himself. Moreover he had the faculty 
of inspiring his men with his patriotic confidence. He was like a great 
commander of many years later : he did not know when he was beaten. 

It was on the 9th of September, in the evening, that he received the 
intelligence that necessity had driven the British to decide upon action, 
and he summoned his officers on board the Lawrence to apprise them of 
the situation and give his final instructions, for he now expected to meet 
the enemy next day. He claimed the honor of fighting the enemy's 
flagship with the Lawrence, and assigned the Niagara to meet the Queen 
Charlotte. He showed them his fighting flag, made by the ladies of Erie, 
inscribed with the dying words of Lawrence, "Don't give up the ship," 
wrought in letters of white upon a blue ground. It was to be a signal to 


close with the enemy. He gave them counsel and advice, and they then 
took their departure for their own vessels to get all in readiness for what 
was expected on the morrow. 

The morning of the tenth of September, 1813, broke calm and fair. 
It was reckoned early fall as the computations by the calendar go, but 
in temperature, and the hazy calm that prevailed it was as summer. The 
air scarce stirred, only enough to mark a catspaw here and there upon 
the smooth surface of the yet sleeping lake that surrounded the little 
island, an indenting bay of which sheltered the American squadron. At 
the moment the scene was an embodiment of peace, and even the strokes 
of the ships" bells as they noted the passage of time appeared to be 
softened in the cool of the morning, partaking in the indistinctness of 
their sounds something of the quality the haziness of the early atmos- 
phere imparted to the sight. 

At length, lifting above the eastern horizon, the sun rose. It seemed 
to clear away the haziness off toward the northwest, for almost simultan- 
eously with the sunburst, came the call from the lookout at the masthead 
ot the Lawrence : "Sail, ho !" Immediately there was a stirring below 
and Lieut. Forrest, the officer of the deck, calls back: "Where away?" 
"To the northward and westward; in the direction of Detroit river," 
answered the lookout. The news was communicated to the com- 
mander of the squadron, and at once all was stir and bustle. 
The word was passed to the other vessels of the squadron, and the or- 
derly bustle spread to every one. Orders were called and with cheerful 
alacrity the sailors sprang to their post, laying hold upon the halliards as 
the anchors were buoyed by others of the crew. Soon all were under 

The vessels of the enemy had been slowly but steadily lifting above 
the horizon line, for they were favored in making their way out of the 
narrow passage of the Detroit river by a light southwest breeze that 
had sprung up with the sun. While the sailor men were busy with the 
work of getting the ships under way and putting things in readiness for 
the encounter which now was near at hand, the officers were watching 
the movements of the enemy's ships as they very gradually drew nearer. 
There were six of them. Presently from the masthead of the Lawrence 
was displayed the signal ordering the vessels to get under way. In half 
an hour the whole squadron was beating out through the narrow pass- 
age. There is a small island in front of the entrance, called Rattlesnake 
island and Perry was putting forth every endeavor to pass to windward 
of it so that he might obtain the weather gauge on the enemy, a very im- 
portant and desirable consideration. It was a difficult maneuver in the 
light wind, and after losing much valuable time with little hope of ac- 
complishing his desire in the end, Perry, even with the prospect, in 
consequence of having to endure the smoke of the enemy's guns, of being 
at a disadvantage, gave orders to go to leeward of the island, "for I am 


determined to fight the enemy this day." Scarcely was the order given 
than the wind died away completely, and in another minute was blowing 
from the southeast. As it stood he was not only enabled to pass the isl- 
and to windward but Perry had secured the wind of the enemy. 

It was now ten o'clock in the forenoon, and the Americans had 
emerged into view of the British, who were now tacking, from behind the 
heights of Put-in Bay island. Immediately the enemy hove-to. the 
squadrons at the time being eight miles apart. The formation of the 
American line was with the Niagara in the lead, as it was expected the 
Queen Charlotte would lead the other squadron, and the Niagara was 
assigned to engage the Queen. It was, however, discovered that the 
British line was formed dififerently, and accordingly a halt was made 
for consultation. Through Capt. Brevoort, the marine officer of the 
Niagara, who was well acquainted with the vessels of the enemy and 
their armament (except the Detroit), it was ascertained that the ar- 
rangement of the enemy was as follows : The schooner Chippewa led ; 
next the flagship of the squadron, the Detroit ; then the brig Queen 
Charlotte, followed by the brig Hunter, the schooner Lady Provost, and 
last, the sloop Little Belt. They were sailing in close order on-a-wind. 
Perry quickly changed his line, placing the Lawrence in the lead, to 
meet the Detroit, with the Scorpion and the Ariel on her weather bow — 
being fast sailors, they were to be employed as dispatch boats to carry 
orders if necessary, and to support any portion of the line that might 
require it ; the brig Caledonia to meet the Hunter ; the Niagara, to engage 
the Queen Charlotte, and the rest of the vessels, namely, the schooners 
Somers, Porcupine, Tigress and Trippe, to engage as they came up 
wherever they might seem to be useful. 

It was now half-past ten o'clock and there was a three-knot breeze, 
and the line being formed all bore away for the enemy in truly gallant 
style. At this juncture Perry brought forth his battle flag, and muster- 
ing his crew aft and unfolding the flag, mounted a gun-slide and addressed 
them: "My brave lads, the inscription on this flag is the last words of 
the gallant Captain Lawrence, after whom this ship is named, namely; 
'Don't give up the ship!' Shall I hoist it?" "Aye, aye, sir," was the 
unanimous response of the men ; and then it was hoisted to the truck, 
the roll was broken and the blue folds were given to the breeze, three 
rousing cheers were given for the fighting flag and three more for the 
gallant young commander. Ship after ship of the squadron took up 
the cue, and cheers passed all along the line in response to the motto, 
"Don't give up the ship." It was the expectation that by the noon hour 
the conflict would be on. Accordingly Perry anticipated the dinner hour 
by ordering the noonday grog served at once, when the bread-bags and 
kids were also brought forth and lunch was dispatched. The commander 
now visited every part of the ship, examining every gun and fixture and 
satisfying himself that the vessel was in a state of thorough preparedness. 
Vol. I— 10 


Then he passed among his crew, greeting them individually in a most 
kindly way and encouraging them to do their best. All that a sagacious 
commander could do was done by Perry to have his ship and force in 
thorough fighting trim. 

The meal over and everything pertaining cleared awa,y there was 
now a period of almost absolute idleness and a death-like silence pre- 
vailed. The breeze had fallen away into nearly a perfect calm and 
over the gleaming surface of the water the ships moved, without forming 
a ripple, almost imperceptibly. Grim indeed was the appearance of the 
flagship now to those borne onward upon her. her decks sprinkled with 
sand in order to ensure a foothold when blood would flow as the result 
of the strife and friend made compact with friend to convey messages 
to loved ones from those who should fall in the battle. 

At half-past eleven the wind had died away to almost nothing, but 
yet the American ships were slowly approaching their enemy who since 
the appearance of Perry's squadron from behind Put-in Bay Island 
had remained hove-to waiting for them to come up. 

It is a quarter before twelve. The Americans hear the mellow 
tones of a bugle proceeding from the Detroit, the signal arranged for 
cheers from the British fleet. Following the cheers the band struck up 
"Rule Brittania." A puff of white smoke was seen suddenly to arise 
al the same instant and from the Detroit there came toward the Lawrence 
a solid shot, describing a parabola, but falling short. The distance, a 
mile and a half, was too great. But the silence was broken. The battle 
at last was on. The Americans continued to advance, and in a few 
minutes more a second shot was fired. It took effect in the Lawrence. 
Immediately all the long guns of the British fleet opened fire on the 
Lawrence, and being in close order they were in a position that gave all 
range of the flagship and the two schooners. Perry now gave orders 
for the Scorpion to commence firing with her heavy guns, which was 
done, the Ariel at the same time sending a shot toward the foe, both of 
which took effect, whereupon the Lawrence and the Caledonia began 
firing with their long guns as they continued to advance. 

Now the condition of the wind was telling against the flagship. As 
things stood the advantage was all with the British, for, being arranged 
in compact order it was possible to direct the fire of practically all the 
long range guns of their squadron upon the Lawrence, which was the 
only American ship within reach, and she was already beginning to suffer 
badly from this concentrated fire. As for her ability to return the fire, 
this was limited. Her broadside armament was of carronades — short- 
range guns. Had the wind been sufficient to enable her to advance so 
rapidly as not to give the enemy so much time for long-range practice, 
she would have been able to take the position that Perry desired, and 
thus render her broadsides effective. When Perry found that the fire 
of the enemv was having such disastrous effect, hoping that his carron- 


ades might reach, brought his ship by the wind and tried a division 
of his broadside guns. It was of no avail ; the shot fell short. Perry 
now bore up and in the face of storm of iron ran up to within half musket 
shot of the Detroit, when he brought his vessel by the wind on the port 
tack and commenced with her broadside battery in good earnest. 

It had been ordered on the night before, at a conference of the officers, 
that when the battle flag of the commodore was displayed the ships were 
to close with the enemy, but for some reason, though the blue flag of 
Perry was flying from the peak and he was himself in the thick of the 
fight, the Niagara held back, content to use only her long 12-pounders, 
for she was entirely out of range for her carronades. Consequently, for 
a time the battle was maintained by the Lawrence, Caledonia, Scorpion 
and Ariel, the assistance of the Niagara's 12's being almost inconsequent. 
Presently the Queen Charlotte, finding that she was not able to engage 
the Niagara, and that therefore she could afford to neglect that ship, 
passed by the Hunter and in close order with the Detroit turned her 
broadsides upon the Lawrence, and in this unhappy situation the Amer- 
ican flagship sustained the fire of these two heavy ships, besides random 
shots from the others, for over two hours. By this time every gun on 
the Lawrence had been dismounted, two-thirds of her crew had been 
killed or wounded, and she was so badly cut up aloft a.s to be un- 

It was a dreadful scene of carnage that was presented upon the 
unfortunate Lawrence. Her surgeon. L'sher Parsons, wrote, "For more 
than two hours little could be heard but the deafening thunder of our 
broadsides, the crash of balls dashing through our timbers, and the 
shrieks of the wounded. These were brought down faster than I could 
attend to them, further than to stay the bleeding or support a shattered 
limb with splints and pass them forward upon the berth deck. When 
the battle had raged an hour and a half, I heard a call for me at the 
small sky-light, and stepping toward it I saw the Commodore, whose 
countenance was as calm and placid as if on ordinary duty. 'Doctor,' 
said he, 'send me one of your men' — meaning one of the six stationed 
with me to assist in moving the wounded. In five minutes the call was 
repeated and obeyed, and at the seventh I told him he had all of my 
men. He asked if there were any sick or wounded that could pull a rope, 
when two or three crawled up on deck to lend a feeble hand in pulling 
at the last gun." 

All hope of winning out with the Lawrence was at an end. She was 
a useless, helpless, shattered wreck, and there was but one of two things 
to be done : surrender or desert her if opportunity offered. This would 
seem to be the situation. It might have been with another. Rut Perry 
was difi"erent. The British might take by force, but not by surrender, 
and as for desertion — well, as the sequel shows, he did desert after 
a fashion. But his desertion was one of the most glorious exploits in 


the naval history of the world. Ending that one small boat remained 
in seaworthy condition, with the enemy's shot still pouring an iron hail 
into the devoted wreck, he ordered the boat launched and manned, and 
then, with his fighting flag under his arm, he ordered his crew to pull 
for the Niagara. 

His course of action was prompt. Ordering Elliott to bring up the 
gunboats, he addressed himself at once to the work of bringing the 
Niagara into the fight. Was he wise in this decision? Had there been 
no accidental favoring circumstance, could he have won out? Calm 
judgment will decide he was wise and determine he was right, for un- 
questionably he knew the exact situation upon those ships of the enemy 
and that with a fresh crew and a new armament he could win. However, 
the story of what happened is to be told. For a brief time there was a 
cessation of hostilities, during which both squadrons drew up, the bat- 
tered Lawrence dropping out of the line. It was now a quarter past 
two o'clock, and a fresh breeze had sprung up, which enabled the Niagara 
to obtain a commanding position abreast of the Detroit, which she held 
without other maneuvering until the smaller vessels of the squadron 
had been brought up. 

The time had now come. Running up the signal for close action, 
the Niagara turned and headed for the enemy's line. The intention 
of Perry was to break through the line, delivering a raking fire as he 
passed. This purpose the enemy, observing Perry's maneuver, under- 
stood, and to prevent being raked the Detroit drew up. At the same 
moment the Queen Charlotte undertook to pass the Detroit to leeward 
so as to offer a broadside to Perry as he passed, but the Niagara came 
down so rapidlv, reserving her fire until the very last, that the British 
leaders were taken unprepared, and were both swept by the starboard 
broadside of the Niagara before either could send a shot in reply, while 
at the same time the port broadside was poured into the Lady Prevost 
and the Chippewa. So sudden was the act of the Niagara that the 
British were entirely disconcerted, and by an error in navigation which 
was the result of Perry's impetuous dash, the Detroit and the Oiieen 
fouled and were again raked by the vigilant Perry, followed by like 
treatment from the Caledonia which came in upon the heels of the new 
flagship. The British were now at the mercy of the American squadron. 
Rounding to, the Niagara poured broadside after broadside into the 
enemy, the smaller vessels of the squadron contributing their share to- 
ward the destruction. So fierce was the American onslaught that fifteen 
minutes after the Niagara had rounded-to, an officer appeared at the 
taffrail of the Queen Charlotte with a white handkerchief fastened to 
a boarding-pike which he waved as a symbol of surrender. The battle 
was over. 


Return of the Ships with Their Prizes. — What Became of Them. 
— The Story of the Execution of Bird. 

The victory had been won by the Americans after one of the most 
notable sea fights in history. The battle had raged for nearly four hours, 
practically all of the time at short range, the fighting on both sides of 
the most heroic order, and the victory tor the gallant young commander 
a decisive one. When the smoke of the conflict had drifted away reveal- 
ing the positions occupied by the ships, it was found that they were 
intermingled in such a manner as to indicate the nature of the final act 
of the contest. The Niagara lay close under the lee of the Detroit and 
Queen Charlotte, the Caledonia, Trippe and Scorpion, which had followed 
the Niagara, being hard by. A little distance to the westward lay the 
Chippewa and Lady Prevost of the British squadron, with the Somers, 
Tigress and Porcupine abreast of the Hunter. All were in close prox- 
imity. Away to the west, where she had drifted helpless/y, lay the 
bruised, battered and disabled Lawrence that had fought with such grim 
valor, the flag again floating from the splintered stump of a mast, hoisted 
when the shout of triumph was raised from the decks of the victorious 
American ships. 

The first duty to demand the attention of the Commodore now was to 
communicate the result of the action upon which so much depended. Hav- 
ing been ordered to act in conjunction with Gen. Harrison, the first dis- 
patch was indited to him — a dispatch which has become classic. Using 
the back of an old letter with the top of his cap to write upon, he wrote: 

U. S. S. Niagara, Sept. 10, 1813,-4 p. m. 
Dear General : We have met the enemy and they are ours ; two 
ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop. 

Yours with great respect and esteem. 

O. H. Perry. 

A few minutes later a more formal note was composed to be sent 
to Hon. William Jones, Secretary of the Navy, and although it was in 
keeping with official traditions, it can hardly be considered as happy as 
the note to Harrison, which was an inspiration. To the Secretary, using 
the fly leaf of the letter that served for the other dispatch, he wrote : 


U. S. Brig Niagara, off the West Sister 
Head of Lake Erie, Sept. 10, 1813, — 1 p. m. 
Sir: It has pleased the Ahnighty to give to the arms of the United 
States a signal victory over their enemies of this lake. The British 
squadron, consisting of two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one 
sloop, have this moment surrendered to the force under my command, 
after a sharp conflict. 

I have the honor to be, sir 

\'erv respectfullv your obedient servant. 

O. H. Perry. 

These hastily prepared dispatches were at once sent by schooner to 
the headquarters of Gen. Harrison at the mouth of Portage river, about 
twelve miles distant. 

And now there fell to young Perry a much less pleasant duty : to 
take possession of the ships his valor and that of his men had won. As 
yet he did not know what the efifect of his firing had been, nor could he 
have judged to what a state of extremity he had reduced his brave enemy. 
On board the Detroit he found Commodore Barclay grievously wounded. 
This gallant officer had suffered the loss of an arm in an engagement 
under Lord Nelson. His remaining arm had been taken while command- 
ing in the fight he had just lost. On the same ship First-Lieut. Garland 
was mortally wounded and Purser Hoffmeister was severely wounded. 
On the Queen Charlotte Capt. Firinis and Lieut. Gordon of the marines 
were killed and First-Lieut. Stokes and IMidshipman Foster wounded. 
On the Lady Prevost Lieut. Com. Bignall and Masters-Mate Gateshill 
were wounded ; on the Chippewa -\Iasters-l\Iate Campbell was wounded. 
The British casualties were forty-one killed and ninety-four wounded. 

The casualties on the American vessels were : 

Lawrence. — Killed : John Brooks, lieutenant of marines. Midshipman 
Henry Laub, Quartermaster Christian Mayhen ; Wounded : First-Lieut. 
John Yarnall, Second-Lieut. Dulaney Forrest, Purser Samuel Hamilton, 
Midshipmen Thomas Claxton and A. Swartwout. The total of the losses 
on the Lawrence were twenty-two killed and sixty-one wounded : besides 
which there were thirty-one sick and unfit for duty. 

Niagara. — There were no officers killed, but First-Lieut John J. 
Edwards, Acting Master Webster and Midshipman John C. Cummings 
were wounded. The total of the losses on the Niagara were, two killed 
and twenty-three wounded, while twenty-eight were on the sick list. 

Midshipman John Clark of the Scorpion was killed. The casualties 
of the other vessels of the American squadron were : Caledonia, three 
wounded; Somers, two wounded; Ariel, one killed and three wounded; 
Trippe, one wounded ; Scorpion, two killed. The total losses of the 
squadron were, twenty-seven killed and ninety-three wounded. 


Perry's duties in connection with taking formal possession of the ships 
of the enemy being over, he now repaired to the shattered hulk that had 
been his battleship, on the deck of the Lawrence, that had been beaten but 
had not surrendered, to receive the British officers when they should come 
to formally surrender. The details of this incident are best told by 
Surgeon Usher Parsons : 

"About four o'clock a boat was discovered approaching the Law- 
rence. Soon the Commodore was recognized in her. He was returning 
to resume command of his tattered ship, determined that the rem- 
nant of her crew should have the privilege of witnessing the formal 
surrender of the British officers. It was a time of conflicting emotions 
when he stepped upon her deck. The battle was won and he was safe, 
but the deck was slippery with blood and strewed with the bodies of 
twenty officers and men, some of whom sat at table with us at our last 
meal, and the ship resounded with the groans of the wounded. Those 
of us who were spared and able to walk met him at the gangway to 
welcome him on board, but the salutation was a silent one on both sides — 
not a word could find utterance." 

Dr. Parsons at a later date (during his address in Cleveland on 
Sept. 10. 1860, when the Perry monument there was unveiled) gave addi- 
tional particulars of what occurred after the Commodore boarded his 
brave but battered ship. "Perry walked aft, when his first remark was 
addressed to his intimate friend Hambleton, then lying wounded on the 
deck. 'The prayers of my wife,' said he, 'have prevailed in saving me.' 
Then, casting his eyes about, he inquired, 'where is my brother?' This 
brother of the Commodore was a young lad of thirteen years, a mid- 
shipman. He had been a close companion of Perry's and was well 
known and much beloved, both on shipboard and on shore at Erie. He 
was an active lad, of a sunny face, alert, and possessed of the heroic 
spirit. When the Commodore left the Lawrence to bring up the Niagara 
the boy had been left behind — it may be that in the great haste of the 
departure, not being present, he was at the moment out of the mind 
of the heroic commander, intent upon the critical undertaking he was 
'entering upon. At any rate having returned to his ship the thought of 
the brother was one of the first to come into his mind. The lad, during 
the action had played a very strenuous part. He had acted as aid in 
running with orders to different parts of the ship — for you must know 
that in the din and uproar of battle orders can hardly be heard three feet 
distant. A general stir was made to look him up, not without fears that 
he had been knocked overboard. But he was soon found in his berth 
asleep, exhausted by the exercise and excitement of the day." He was 
uninjured though exposed a hundred times in places where nothing short 
of a miracle saved him from harm. 


Shortly afterwards the British officers arrived, one from each of 
the defeated vessels, and as they advanced with the hilts of their swords 
extended to Perry for his acceptance, it was with great difficulty that 
they picked their way across the deck, strewn as it was with the wreck- 
age and carnage of the fight. Commodore Barclay could not appear. 
He was too grievously disabled. Lieut. O'Keefe of the Forty-first Royal 
Regiment represented the wounded Commodore and carried his sword. 
Commodore Perry received the humbled officers graciously and with be- 
coming dignity, requesting them to retain their side arms ; and inquired 
with deep solicitude after Com. Barclay and the wounded officers, ten- 
dering them every assistance at his command, but regretting his inability 
to furnish a medical officer as he had not one to send. 

In the evening, as the sun was set and the western sky still tinged 
with the crimson glory that distinguishes the early gloaming in this lake 
country, there was a solemn ceremony performed ; the burial of the 
brave lads whose lives had gone out in the fierce fire of that conflict. 
Each was lashed in his hammock, with a shot at his feet, and while the 
burial service of the Episcopal Church was being read by the chaplain, 
they were lifted overboard and sank to their eternal rest. 

On the morning of Sunday, the l'2th, the funeral of the officers of 
both squadrons took place on the shore at Put-in Bay. In this solemn 
ceremony those who had before been enemies joined, in the presence of 
death become comrades and messmates. Both squadrons had been sailed 
into the bay of the island, and anchored together, and when the cere- 
mony was about to be entered upon the flags of both nations were 
displayed at half-mast. The bodies of the dead officers were each placed 
in a boat, and then with measured stroke the crews rowed them ashore, 
while the bands of both fleets joined, played a funeral dirge, minute 
guns being fired alternately from the Lawrence and the Detroit. Arrived 
at the shore, the crews of both the .\merican and the British ships — the 
latter for the time being losing their character of prisoners of war — 
massed and formed in procession to the spot chosen as the burial place 
oi' the dead. There the Episcopal Church service was read, and the 
military salute was fired over the graves and, honored as became heroes 
who had died in line of their loyal duty, they were at rest, surrounded 
by that inland sea upon which they had nobly put forth their best and 
given their all for what to them had seemed to be the right. There 
were three buried from each squadron : Lieut. Brooks and T^Iidshipman 
Laub of the Lawrence ; Midshipman Clark of the Scorpion ; Capt. Finnis 
and Lieut. Stokes of the Queen Charlotte, and Lieut. Garland of the 

From the dead Com. Perry now turned to the living. First, he was 
required to dispose of the prisoners of war now on his hands. Nearly 
a hundred of these were wounded ; many of them seriously. Among 
those badly wounded was Commodore Barclay unable to leave his bed 


on the Detroit. Toward him the American Commodore exercised the 
tenderest solicitude and care, the due of one brave man to another. No 
military hero ever bore into battle a nobler badge of valor than that 
Com. Barclay carried into the Battle of Lake Erie — an empty sleeve. It 
was a mark of distinction he obtained at Trafalgar, under Lord Nelson 
But, unhappily, his bravery in the battle of Lake Erie, bestowing another 
badge of the same kind, totally disabled him for the rest of his life. 
He gave his remaining arm. No wonder that Perry entertained such 
tender feelings for the stricken commander of the fleet that had opposed 
him. For his use the flagship of the British squadron was reserved. 

Of the other wounded there was a sorting out. Those but slightly 
injured duly cared for then became as ordinary prisoners of war, 
and with the prisoners were turned over to Gen. Harrison, who dis- 
patched them under escort to Chillicothe, Ohio. Meanwhile the Lawrence 
had been carefully overhauled and put in a passable state of repair. To 
the Lawrence were moved all the badly wounded of both fleets, save Com. 
Barclay, and the gallant old craft was dispatched to Erie. It was on the 
23d of September that she was discovered rounding the eastern end of 
the peninsula. The entire populace turned out to witness her arrival. 
Slowly the badly battered brave old boat limped the few remaining 
fathoms of her journey and at length cast anchor just outside the 
entrance. There was a disposition to cheer, for she was the first of the 
ships that had gone out from Erie to meet the enemy, to return — the 
first tangible evidence to the people that there had been a battle and a 
victory won. But there was also a strong disposition to shed tears, 
v/hen the awful story of the fight was read from the scarred hull. The 
true errand of the Lawrence was at once communicated, and there were 
immediate preparations to receive and properly care for the charge that 
had been given to the people of Erie. Hospitals in Erie were a long, 
long way in the future, but such as they were every facility the town 
possessed, was placed at the disposal of the invalids, and no distinction 
was paid. The appeal of suffering humanity to duty went not disre- 
garded. The citizens did nobly for the wounded out of that great battle. 

Perry's duties were not yet at an end. He had been assigned to 
support and act in conjunction with General Harrison and in the dis- 
charge of this duty there was still much to do. He now proceeded to 
reorganize his fleet. Having sent his old flagship to Erie, he transferred 
his flag to the Ariel and set about making the necessary arrangements 
for transporting Gen. Harrison's army to the Canadian mainland. His 
victory over the British squadron had given the Americans command on 
the lake, but the work was not complete until the army had done its 
part. A fleet of transports was therefore organized; which consisted of 
the Niagara, Caledonia, Somers, Ohio, Trippe, Scorpion, Ariel, Tigress 
and Porcupine of the American squadron, and the Hunter, Lady Prevost, 


Little Belt and Chippewa of the British, and with this fleet, after having 
dispatched the Lawrence to Erie, he sailed on the 19th for Camp Portage. 

General Harrison's army had been strongly reinforced. He had 
called upon the "Veteran of King's Mountain," the venerable Gov. Shelby 
of Kentucky, for volunteers, and the redoubtable hero, though in his 
sixty-sixth year, responded with alacrity, placing himself at the head of 
a force of 3,500 mounted men that the patriotic state, alive with enthu- 
siasm had promptly put in the field. With such men as Henry, Desha, 
Allen, Caldwell, King, Childs, R. M. and J. Johnson, Trotter, Adin, Crit- 
tenden, McDowell, Walker and Barry as subordinates. Gov. Shelby set 
out to join Harrison. At Tiffin they heard the news of Perry's victory, 
and this put spurs in their sides, and they hastened their pace, arriving 
at Camp Portage Sept. 15. Four days later transportation was in 
readiness. All with the exception of Col. R. M. Johnson's regiment, 
which was to proceed around the head of the lake, took the boats. In 
due time they were landed in the vicinity of Maiden which post it was 
found had been evacuated by Gen. Proctor. Perry, at this juncture, 
finding there were no activities to engage him with the ships, volunteered 
under Harrison, and with the army hastened in pursuit of the British, 
who were overtaken at length. The battle of the Thames was the result, 
in which Gen. Proctor was defeated and Tecumseh, his chief Indian ally, 
was killed. Detroit had also fallen into the hands of the Americans, 
and the victory was now complete. Returning to Detroit a reorganization 
was again effected. Gov. Shelby's volunteers were disbanded. A portion 
of the squadron was made ready to transport the remainder of the 
army to the lower end of Lake Erie to assist in the operations on the 
Niagara frontier, and the Ohio, Somers, Scorpion, Tigress and Porcu- 
pine were left under the supervision of Col. Cass, in command of the De- 
partment of Michigan to transport prisoners to Camp Portage. 

At Detroit Perry found letters from the Secretary of the Navy, 
highly complimenting him upon his splendid services, and announcing his 
promotion to the rank of Post Captain ; also granting him leave of 
absence to visit his family in Rhode Island. There being nothing now to 
detain him, Perry took Harrison and his staff on board the Ariel, and set 
sail. A call was made at Put-in Bay where Perry found Barclay much 
improved and able to be moved. The meeting was most cordial, and 
the American officer with pleasure informed Barclay of his success in 
obtaining a parole for him to return home. The wounded officer with 
his attending surgeon were then taken on board the Ariel, when she set 
sail for Erie. Being a fast sailer, she passed the rest of the squadron, 
which had preceeded her, and as the Ariel came into view off the point 
of the peninsula, a throng of citizens assembled and fired a salute of 
welcome. Perry and Harrison were received with great enthusiasm 
at the landing place. The invalid British officer was assisted up the hill 
by Perry and Col. Gaines, and was accommodated as his guest at the shore 


quarters of Perry. In the evening tliere was such a demonstration as the 
village of Erie had never seen before. There was a torch-light proces- 
sion, with, suitable transparencies, and the wildest cheering was kept 
up incessantly. But "the bravest are ever the tenderest." Perry had 
always in mind his invalid guest, and requested that the demonstrations 
near his quarters should be characterized as much as possible by quiet- 
ness, and the appeal was not in vain. Ne.xt day Perry sailed away from 
Erie, not, however, without paying a farewell to the brave Lawrence. 
At every point on the way to his home the gallant young hero was feted, 
and Perry's name became a synonym of valor throughout the land. He 
never returned to Erie. 

Some time afterward a board of officers from Lake Ontario, 
assisted by Henry Eckford, naval constructor, made an appraisement of 
the prizes taken by Perry, their valuation being. $255,000. Of this 
amount one-twentieth went to Com. Chauncey. $18,750 ; Perry and Elliot 
were each awarded $7,140 (as no part of the prize could be awarded 
Perry for his general command. Congress made him a special grant of 
$5,000) ; $2,295 was awarded to each commander of a gunboat, lieuten- 
ant, sailing master and captain of marines; the midshipmen got $811 
each ; the petty officers $447 each, and each marine and sailor received 

The two principal ships of the enemy wintered at Put-in Bay. They 
were too badly crippled to be moved eastward during the stormy weather 
of Autumn. Of those left at Detroit with Col. Cass, the Ohio came to 
Erie to winter, the Somers, Scorpion, Tigress and Porcupine taking up 
winter quarters at Put-in Bay. Of those that went east with the troops, 
the Ariel and the Hunter were driven ashore at Buffalo and wrecked; 
the Trippe and the Little Belt, laid up at Black Rock were burned by 
the British when they invaded Buffalo that winter. The Niagara, Cale- 
donia, Hunter and Lady Prevost were brought to Erie, so that there 
were, with the Lawrence and the Ohio, six vessels that spent the winter 
at this port. The harbor of Erie then was not as the harbor of Erie is 
now ; not even as it was a few years subsequently to the year of the 
great victory off Put-in Bay. There were no docks nor other works of 
shelter for ships. Even the navy yard was useless as a shelter ; it was but 
a collection of sheds on a piece of beech at the mouth of Lee's run. The 
only good anchorage that offered shelter was the small deep bay that 
made into the peninsula from its southern shore and near its eastern end. 
It was then nameless. This little bay was made the anchorage of the 
portion of the American squadron that was to winter here under the 
command of Capt. Elliot, and during the winter the lack of a name 
was supplied. From their bitter experience, isolated in what in summer 
time is a charming bit of water, but in winter is the reverse, it was 
called Misery Bay, and by that name it has been known ever since. 


Now there was a bitter controversy that grew out of the engagement 
of September 10. 1813. It was the general opinon, freely expressed, that 
Elliot had failed in his duty by not supporting his commander during 
the engagement. Perry himself accused Elliot of something very near 
to treachery for holding the Niagara back, instead of supporting the 
Lawrence in accordance with the plan agreed upon before the battle 
was begun. So heated did the controversy become that it almost 
led up to a courtmartial of Elliot. At this late day the circumstances of 
that fight viewed in the dispassionate light now possible, there certainly 
does appear to be something that would call for a better explana- 
tion than ever was given, why the Niagara held aloof, even refusing to 
engage the Queen Charlotte, so that the latter ship was permitted to 
join the Detroit in its attack upon the Lawrence. It is therefore not 
strange that at the time contention between partisans ran high. During 
the winter a dispute, growing out of this matter led to a dual between 
Midshipman George Senat, who commanded the Porcupine, and Acting 
Master McDonald, which resulted in the death of young Senat. The 
fight took place near the corner of Third and Sassafras streets. Young 
Senat was a social favorite in Erie, and was engaged to marry an Erie 

But the war was not yet over, nor had rumors of war died out. 
In December the British crossed the Niagara and burned Black Rock and 
Buffalo, and it was reported, that flushed with victory they were pur- 
suing the fleeing Americans and intended to move on Erie, burn it, and 
destroy the vessels in the harbor. This called the militia into renewed 
activity. Gen. Mead, with a force of 4,000 men established a garrison 
here, occupying barracks in Stumptovvn — west of Peach street and north 
to the bank of the bay. Happily there was no British invasion back of 
the rumor. Most of the citizen soldiers remained through the winter, 
but there were no other alarms at Erie, for rumors of British invasion 
of American territory had ceased. The only interest Erie had in the war 
with Great Britain from that time forward was in connection with the 
movements of the naval vessels. 

In April Capt. Elliot was detached from his command at Erie and or- 
dered to Sacketts Harbor, Capt. Arthur Sinclair being assigned to the com- 
mand of the Lake Erie squadron, with instructions to prepare an expedi- 
tion with the expectation of recapturing Mackinaw. In the meantime 
Mr. Dobbins, relieved from cruising duty was ordered to proceed with 
the Ohio and stores, to Put-in Bay, to assist in refitting the prizes Detroit 
and Queen Charlotte, and to navigate them to Erie. This duty was 
accomplished when they arrived here on May 1, and were afterwards 
taken across the bar and moored in Misery Bay. On the 2oth of June, 
Capt. Sinclair sailed with his fleet of eight vessels for Mackinaw. But 
it was a bootless cruise. The fort was judged to be too strong, and the 
Captain decided it best to be discreet rather than valiant. On the return 


the schooners Scorpion and Tigress, left behind to watch the enemy, 
eventually fell into British hands. The rest of the squadron continued 
down, intending to proceed to Buffalo. But the Lawrence was too 
badly crippled to continue to the end of the lake. A bad storm on Lake 
Huron had well nigh sunk her. So she was dropped at Erie and found 
at last a resting place in Misery Bay. At Buffalo the Somers and Ohio 
were left after Capt. Sinclair returned to Erie with what remained 
of his squadron. A little later these vessels were captured by the British 
while they lay off Fort Erie. 

This brings the narrative to the point where the characters must be 
disposed of before the action comes to an end. Of the ten vessels thac 
composed Perry's original squadron, at the end of the war but four 
remained. The Ariel was driven ashore and lost at Buffalo; the Trippe 
was burned by the British at Black Rock; The Scorpion and Tigress 
were taken by the British on Lake Huron, and the Somers and Ohio 
suffered a like fate at Fort Erie. Of the others, the Caledonia became 
a merchantman ; the Porcupine entered the revenue marine service ; the 
Niagara became a receiving ship for a time, but at last, found a place 
of rest at the bottom of Misery Bay, not far from where the Lawrence 
.had been sunk. The ownership of these vessels changed from time to 
time. They were sold when the navy yard at Erie was abandoned, in 1825, 
to a Mr. Brown, and there were other transfers, until in 1857 they 
became the property of Leander Dobbins. On the 10th of September, 
1875, what remained of the Lawrence was sold to Capt. John Dunlap 
and Thomas J. Viers. The latter raised the hulk early in 1876, and 
removed it to Philadelphia to exhibit it in a sideshow of the Centennial. 
But the enterprise was a disastrous financial failure. There was nothing 
showy in the few ribs and planks that were all that remained for exhibi- 
tion, and besides, in the year of the Centennial it was a difficult matter to 
convince even the few who went to see the pitiful remains, that they 
represented in any degree whatever the flagship of the squadron that had 
won so famous a victory. It was a most unfortunate speculation; chiefly 
unfortunate to the city of Erie which should ever have possessed and 
cherished a relic with which its name has been so prominently linked, 
and connected it with a historic event that for a second time placed its 
name prominent in the history of the world. There remains today one 
other relic of that gallant fleet. The Niagara still rests upon the bottom 
of Misery Bay. At times there is a suggestion made that steps shall 
be taken to preserve it, and convert it into a sort of patriotic shrine. 
Thus far, however, nothing more has been done than to indulge in 
patriotic platitudes that pass, like the gale, and a great calm succeeds. 
The Niagara lies undisturbed. 

Out of the activities at Erie during the war of 1812, there have 
grown, naturally, more than one romance. The meetings and the part- 


ings that were inaugurated at the time the battle flag of the Commodore 
was being made grew into romances of the usual sort, while that of poor 
Midshipman Senat ended in a tragedy. But there was another "tragedy," 
that, getting itself into the then popular form of a ballad enjoyed for 
more than half a century a considerable degree of popularity. It was 
"The Mournful Tragedy of James Bird." 

The true story of Bird is this : He came to Erie with a brigade 
of volunteers from the interior of the State, and was detailed with a 
squad of men (he was the sergeant) to guard stores in a small blockhouse 
at the Cascade, where the larger vessels of the fleet were being built. 
Though in command, he sanctioned the pilfering of the stores he was sent 
to protect, and when information was given to the military commander, 
he, with his party, made mutinous demonstrations, but soon were con- 
quered. Lieut. Brooks of the marines was at the time recruiting for the 
squadron and Bird, being a man of pluck. Brooks wished to secure him. 
Under the pressure of the situation (recruiting for the navy being very 
discouraging) Bird, with the others, was told that the ofifense would be 
overlooked provided they enlisted as marines. They did so, and Bird 
served gallantly on board the Lawrence during the action and was 
wounded. At the time the squadron was preparing for the Mackinaw 
expedition. Bird was placed with a file of marines to guard the govern- 
ment store, whence he deserted, taking John Rankin, one of the guard, 
with him. Soon afterwards Charles M., a son of R. S. Reed, while on 
his way returning to school at Washington, Pa., on horseback, after a 
vacation, stopped at a tavern at Butler, and there saw and recognized 
the deserters. Resuming his journey young Reed soon met Sailing Master 
Colwell with a draft of seamen destined for Erie to join the squadron. 
Reed knew Colwell, and gave him information regarding the deserters 
the result being they were apprehended and taken back to Erie. While 
on the passage of the squadron to Detroit, they, with a sailor named 
John Davis, who had deserted a number of times and committed other 
oflfenses, were tried by court martial on board the Niagara. They were 
all three condemned to death. Efforts were made to have Bird's sen- 
tence commuted to imprisonment in consideration of his gallantry in 
the battle of Lake Erie, but without success. The President decided that, 
"having deserted from his post while in charge of a guard, in time of 
war, he must therefore suffer as an example to others." All three were 
executed on board the Niagara while at anchor in the roadstead at Erie 
iu October, 1814, and were buried on the "Sand Beach." 

The story that was current as tradition was to the effect that having 
obtained a furlough to visit his sweetheart, he had overstaid his time ; 
and one version of the tale, which locates his lady love at Dunkirk, 
furnishes details of his efforts to return, efforts that included riding a 
borrowed horse until it fell exhausted, when he pushed forward on foot 
double-quick, but all in vain. He was arrested for desertion, tried and 


condemned. The narrative then relates the particulars of an effort to 
obtain a pardon, which was successful, but the messenger arrived on the 
ground only in time to hear the report of the volley before which he fell. 

The ballad, however, would seem to have been written by someone 
familiar with the true story, and, doubtless, of Bird's home. That there 
was wide sympathy felt for Bird, chiefly because of his service on the 
fleet, there can be no doubt. The tenacity with which the popularity 
of the ballad endured is proof of this. It is now rare; rare enough to 
excuse its appearance as part of the history of the region in which it 
was so long a popular feature of nearly every entertainment or public 

The Mournful Tragedy of James Bird. 

Sons of Freedom, listen to me. 

And ye daughters, too, give ear; 
You a sad and mournful story 

As was ever told shall hear. 

Hull, you know, his troops surrendered. 
And defenceless left the West ; 
Then our forces quick assembled 
The invaders to resist. 

Among the troops that marched to Erie 

Were the Kingston Volunteers ; 
Captain Thomas then commanded, 

To protect our west frontier. 

Tender were the words of parting, 

Mothers wrung their hands and cried ; 

Maidens wept their love in secret, 
Fathers strove their tears to hide. 

But there's one among the number, 

Tall and graceful is his mien ; 
Firm his step, his look undaunted, 

Scarce a nobler youth was seen. 

One sweet kiss he stole from Mary, 

Craved his mother's prayers once more, 

Pressed his father's hand and left them, 
For Lake Erie's distant shore. 

Mary tried to say "Farewell, James!" 

Waved her hand but nothing spoke, 
"Good-bve, Bird, may Heav'n protect vou" 

From the rest at parting broke. 


Soon they came where noble Perry 
Had assembled all his fleet ; 

There the gallant Bird enlisted, 
Hoping soon the foe to meet. 

Where is Bird? — the battle rages, 

Is he in the strife, or no? 
Now the Cannons roar tremendous, 

Dare he meet the hostle foe? 

Aye, — behold him ! there with Perry, 
On the self-same ship they fight ; 

Though his messmates fall around him, 
Nothing can his soul affright. 

But, behold a ball has struck him ! 

See the crimson current flow. 
"Leave the deck !" exclaimed brave Perry ; 

"No," cried Bird, "I will not go!" 

Here on the deck he took his station ; 

Ne'er will Bird his colors fly ; 
"I'll stand by you, my gallant captain. 

Till we conquer or we die !" 

Still he fought, though faint and bleeding, 
Till our Stars and Stripes arose. 

Victory having crowned our efforts, 
All triumphant o'er our foes. 

And did Bird receive a pension? 

And was he to his friends restored? 
No, nor never to his bosom 

Clasped the maid his heart adored. 

But there came most dismal tidings 
From Lake Erie's distant shore ; 

Better if poor Bird had perished 
Midst the cannons' awful roar. 

"Dearest Parents." said the letter, 
"This will bring sad news to you. 

Do not mourn your first beloved. 
Though it brings his last adieu. 

"I must suffer for deserting 

From the brig Ni-ag-a-ra, 
Read this letter, brothers, sisters, — 

'Tis the last vou'll have from me !" 


Sad and gloomy was the morning 

Bird was ordered out to die. 
Where's the breast, not dead to pity, 

But for him would heave a sigh? 

Lo! he fought so brave at Erie, 

Freely bled and nobly dared, 
Let his courage plead for mercy. 

Let his precious life be spared. 

See him march and hear his fetters, 

Harsh they clank upon his ear ; 
But his step is firm and manly. 

For his heart ne'er harbored fear. 

See! he kneels upon his coffin, 

Sure, his death can do no good ; 
Spare him ! — Hark ! — Oh God, they've shot him, 

Oh, his bosom streams with blood. 

Farewell, Bird! farewell forever! 

Friends and home he'll see no more; 
But his mangled corpse lies buried 

On Lake Erie's distant shore. 

Vol. I— 11 


Earliest Services. — First Church Built .\t Middlebrook. — Coming 
OF the Other Dexomixations to the County. 

Christian religious effort came into Erie county only with the white 
man as a settler, and not, as in other parts of the American continent, 
in the form of missionary effort exerted for the purpose of converting 
the Indians from paganism. \\'hile the first Europeans to take possession 
here were the French, this section of North America had not been fav- 
ored as had the Canadian country to the north, and the region to the 
west that is now Ohio, with the labors of the Jesuit and Recollet mis- 
sionaries of the Catholic faith. The French occupation of the Erie 
county region was only a military expedient, and from the start this 
territory was held by a doubtful tenure. None recognized this more 
fully than the French themselves. They came into it without any previous 
preparation having been made, and while they occupied it none of the 
work of Christianizing the aborigines that had been their rule of action 
elsewhere was exerted here. This work of converting the natives was a 
distinguishing characteristic of French colonization for the church and 
the state operated hand in hand, and the failure of missionary Fathers to 
devote special attention to the savages was one of the most striking 
'evidences of the fact that the French were not, here, sure of their ground. 
There were priests with the French soldiery. Every garrison had its 
chaplain. Every fort had its altar. But beyond the services that were 
conducted in the forts there is no record that missionary effort was put 
forth. Father Hennepin's labors did not include the territory that was 
afterwards to be the county of Erie. And when, upon the fall of Fort 
Niagara the slender thread upon which the hopes of the French hung 
was broken, and Le Boeuf and Presque Isle were abandoned, with the 
French went away into the west all the Christianity that had ever had 
place here. 

And as it had been previous to the coming of the French, so it was 
until the permanent settlement was begun at the end of the Eighteenth 
century. The services of the Moravians as missionaries in Pennsylvania 
were recognized when Erie county was laid out, by setting apart for them, 
grants of land, but even the Moravians were not missionaries here. Mis- 
sionary effort came only with the pioneers of the permanent settlement, 
and the pioneers in religious effort were the Presbyterians. The religious 


history of Erie county therefore very properly begins with the Presby- 
terian church, and the history of the Presbyterian church in Erie county 
cannot be better told than it has been by the Rev. J. P. Irwin, from 
whose excellent work the particulars herein set forth have been obtained. 

Presbyterianism in Erie county dates from the earliest settlement. 
It was embodied in the religious faith and polity of many of the pioneers 
who had previousl}' belonged to that communion. The territory now in- 
cluded in the county became a center where two streams of population 
met and mingled. The one, which for a time was the larger, came from 
central and southwestern Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland and was 
principally composed of Scotch-Irish, to whom Presbyterianism seemed 
as natural as water to the fish. The other came from New England 
and eastern New York. This was largely of Puritan extraction, essen- 
tially one in faith with the Presbyterians, and while in some instances 
inclined to Congregationalism, yet easily adapting themselves to existing 
conditions, joined in the propagation of the Gospel and the establishment 
of churches under the Presbyterian form of government. In this way 
the Presbyterian church became the first to occupy the field, and in many 
localities seems to have enjoyed the good will and support of the entire 

At first it was customary for the inhabitants of a particular com- 
munity to meet at the house of a neighbor, or convenient grove or barn, 
and hold a devotional meeting, when in the absence of a minister a 
sermon would sometimes be read, selected from some favorite author. 
The first meeting of this kind of which we have record, and possibly the 
first religious meeting held in the county, was at the home of Judah 
Coh, at Colt's Station, in Greenfield on Sunday, July 2, 1797. On that 
occasion we are told a sermon was read on the te.xt. I Cor. 14 :40, "Let all 
things be done decently and in order," the subject being chosen on ac- 
count of the riotious conduct of certain persons in the community. Sim- 
ilar services were held in other places, notably at the home of William 
Dundas at Lower Greenfield (now North East), where a number of Pres- 
byterian families had settled, bringing their Bibles and psalm books 
with them. 

The whole territory was then missionary ground, included in the 
bounds of the Synod of, Virginia, and the Presbyteries of Redstone and 
Ohio, which were organized respectively in 1781 and 1798, and were 
deeply interested in the condition of the people and occasionally sent 
missionaries into the field. The first clearly attested visit of this kind 
was that of Rev. Elisha McCurdy and Rev. Joseph Stockton, in the 
summer of 1799. They came into the county by way of Le Boeuf or 
Waterford. After preaching there they came on to Presque Isle, where, 
we are told, they were kindly received by Col. J. C. Wallace and remained 
for a time, preaching to the soldiers stationed in the garrison, who 
together with the citizens of the town, formed a respectable congregation 


and were forward in their attendance on the public worship of God. 
After this the two separated, Mr. Stockton going to North East and 
Mr. McCurdy going up the lake, visiting a number of settlements — at 
the mouth of Elk creek, Crooked creek, Silverthorn, Lexington, Conneaut 
creek, finally arriving at the outlet of Conneaut lake, where he was joined 
by Mr. Stockton and after laboring a short time in that vicinity returned 

Two years later, August, 1801, according to the journal of William 
Dickson, who subsequently became an elder in the church at North East, 
Rev. James Satterfield visited the county. One of his meetings was held 
under a large beech tree on the bank of French creek, center of Venango 
township in a clearing made by Robert Donaldson. The place had been 
prepared by five young men the Saturday before. The pulpit was con- 
structed of split logs raised a little from the ground. Mr. Satterfield did 
not arrive until about time for service to begin, owing to the fact that 
he had lost his way and lain out all night in the forest. Next morning, 
refreshed by a good breakfast of Indian bread and potatoes furnished by 
two young men at their cabin, according to Mr. Dickson, he came to his 
work in the spirit, preached two sermons and administered the ordinance 
of baptism. This meeting seems to have been attended by every man, 
woman and child in the township and was the beginning of better things. 

At the close of the service Mr. James Hunter, an aged citizen of the 
place, and who had been an elder in Dr. Bryson's church in Northumber- 
land county, asked a number of young men to meet him at a certain comer 
on the next Thursday morning and to bring with them their dinners and 
axes. And then Mr. Hunter stated the object: "If we wish to prosper, 
while we build houses for ourselves we must build one for God." As the 
result of the engagement, a place was selected on two acres of ground do- 
nated by a Mr. Warren, near the center of the township and the first meet- 
ing house in the county was erected before sunset that day. This was the 
church of Middlebrook. It was a house of logs, roofed with split clap- 
boards, and not a nail or a piece of iron entered into its construction. 
When the work was finished Mr. Hunter called for a collection for the 
support of the Gospel and everyone present contributed, and this, Mr. 
Dickson states, was the beginning of a fund that never failed and no 
nrinister who preached there was permitted to go away unpaid. 

According to the same journal Messrs. McCurdy and Satterfield 
came, a few days after the building of this meeting house and organized 
a church in it. They came from lower Greenfield — now North East — 
where they had organized a church a few davs before, so that the church 
of North East seems to have been the first church organized in Erie 
county, but the congregation at Middlebrook had the first house of wor- 
ship. It is learned from another source that Elisha McCurdy, with his 
wife and famous praying elder, Philip Jackson, visited Mr. and Mrs. 
Judah Colt at Colt's Station. After remaining a short time they went, 


bj previous appointment to North East, where, assisted by Revs. Samuel 
Tait, Joseph Stockton, James Satterfield, and^ probably, Mr. Boyd, they 
administered the first communion in the county, of which there is any rec- 
ord. The meeting was held in a grove near the home of William Dundas, 
and was largely attended. About 300 were present and 40 communed, and 
among those admitted for the first time were Mr. and Mrs. Judah Colt, 
who became two of the most faithful and useful members of the Pres- 
byterian church. 

It was at this time the Erie Presbytery was formed. It was con- 
stituted by an act of the Synod of Virginia, October 3, 1801, and was 
made to include all the ministers and congregations northwest of the 
Ohio and Allegheny rivers unto the place where the Ohio river crosses 
the western boundary of Pennsylvania, an extent of territory from which 
a number of presbyteries have since been formed. The first meeting 
was held at Mt. Pleasant (now Darlington) in the spring of 1802, and 
consisted of eleven members — seven ministers and four ruling elders, and 
at that time applications were made for supplies from Presque Isle, and 
upper and lower Greenfield. The only calls that resulted were from the 
North East and Middlebrook churches, where Rev. Robert Patterson 
was installed, this being the first pastoral relation ever constituted in 
Erie county. As pastor Mr. Patterson received $200 per vear for two- 
thirds of his time, the other third to be spent in missionary work, and 
the missionary visitations took him to almost every settlement in the 
county. He served until 1807, and did good work in Erie county in 
preparing the way for the establishment of churches. During these 
years other ministers made occasional visits to this region. In a letter 
to Rev. A. H. Carrier, Mrs. Capt. Dobbins said : "The first preaching 
I heard after my arrival in Erie was by the Rev. Samuel Tait, in the 
summer of 1803. Mr. Tait occasionally stopped with us but usually 
with Mr. Colt." 

The second minister to make pastoral settlement in Erie coimty was 
Rev. Johnston Eaton. His first visit was in August, 1805. He then spent 
a year in Southern Ohio, returning in 1806, and preaching his first sermon 
in Swan's log tavern. In this year he organized the churches of 
Walnut creek or Fairview and Springfield. Feeling that it was "not good 
to be alone" in such a wilderness, in 1807 Mr. Eaton married Miss EHza 
Cannon of Fayette county, whom he brought, together with all their 
household goods to Erie on horseback. A log cabin was built near 
Walnut creek and a home established, Mr. Eaton making a considerable 
portion of the furniture with his own hand and Mrs. Eaton performing 
nobly the hard lot of a pioneer minister's wife. The old church of 
Walnut creek or Fairview, when organized in 1806, consisted of twenty- 
five members, with George Reed, Andrew Caughey and William Arbuckle 
elders. Mr. Eaton was ordained and installed pastor in 1808, the service 
being held in the barn of Mr. Sturgeon, Sturgeonville, and the relation 


thus consummated between pastor and people continued up to the death 
of Mr. Eaton in 1847. 

A meeting house was erected in 1810. It was constructed of logs 
and heated at first by burning charcoal in a big sugar kettle. This old 
building, after being enlarged several times, gave place to a frame build- 
ing located near Swanville, and this was afterwards moved to West Mill- 
creek and has been supplanted by the present neat and comfortable brick 
building located on the Ridge road and known as the Westminster 
church, the name having been changed in 1861. This is claimed to be 
the legitimate successor to the original church of Fairview. In 1843 a 
colony came out from the original church and formed what was known 
as Fairview Village, the name being changed to Fairview and Man- 
chester in 1854. Again in 184.5 another colony came out from the old 
church and formed the church of Sturgeonville, but in 1870 this and the 
Fairview \'illage churches were happily united, forming the church of 

The church of Springfield was organized in 1806, with thirty mem- 
bers and Isaac Miller, James Blair and James Bruce, elders. The church 
of Girard was a colony from Springfield and was organized in 183.5, with 
Robert Porter and Philip Bristol elders. 

North East church was organized in 1801 with Thomas Robinson and 
John McCord elders. 

Middlebrook church, 1801 ; dissolved in 1859. 
Waterford, 1809, or 1810 ; present membership over 100. 
Union City, 1811, with eight members. Matthew Gray, elder; present 
membership over 250. 

Erie First church was organized in 1815 and chartered in 1825, its 
elders Judah Colt and George Davison. It was called the mother church, 
and is still so known because of the number of colonies that have pro- 
ceeded from it. The first was Belle Valley church, in 1841, George 
Davison, Hiram Norcross and Samuel Low elders. Park church was 
organized in 1855, with S. S. Spencer elder. Central church was or- 
ganized in 1871 with David Shirk and Joseph French elders. Chestnut 
Street church was organized in 1873 from a mission Sunday-school es- 
tablished by Park church. Eastminster church, out in the- Metric Metal 
neighborhood was organized in 1894, from a mission Sunday-school estab- 
lished bv the First Presbyterian church of Erie. 

Edinboro church, first known as Washington, was organized in 1819. 
Beaverdam church, organized prior to 1826. was dissolved by the 
Presbytery in 1886. 

Wattsburg was first reported organized in 1833 ; vacant. 
Church of McKean organized in 1837 with David Russell and 
Gideon Johnson elders; became Congregational in 1859. 


Harborcreek church was organized in 1842, being a colony of 58 
members from the church at North East, with Myron Backus, Samuel 
I-vingsley and James Moorhead elders. 

The church of Corry was reported organized in 1868. 

Millvillage church was organized with 26 members in 1870, but 
is now vacant. 

The First United Presbyterian church of Erie, was organized in 1811 
as the Associated Reform church, with A. McSparren, Thomas Hughes, 
D. Robinson and Alexander Robison elders. 

First U. P. church of Waterford was organized in 1812 as an As- 
sociated Reform church with fourteen original members. 

Brown Avenue U. P. church was organized in 1900 with Matthew 
Barr, W. B. Munn, G. L. Dunn and J. A. Davison elders. 

The Presbyterian church of East Greene was organized in 1849, 
but is now vacant. 

The Methodists followed closely upon the heels of the Presbyterians 
in their missionary work among the pioneer settlers of Erie county. 
Methodist circuit riders visited Erie and held meetings here as early as 
1801, but there were stations and stated meetings in the county before 
there were such in the village of Erie. Methodist effort began in the 
western and southwestern townships of the county. The first meeting 
of which there is any record was led by Rev. Joseph Bowen, a local 
preacher, at the house of Mrs. Mershon, near West Springfield in Sep- 
tember, 1800. A class was organized near Lexington, in Conneaut town- 
ship in 1801, and the same year a great revival occurred at Ash's Corners, 
in Washington township. In 1801 the Erie Circuit was formed by the 
Baltimore conference, with Rev. James Quinn as circuit rider. The Erie 
Circuit as organized covered the counties of Erie, Crawford, \'enango 
and Mercer. The gospel was preached statedly throughout the county 
of Erie, while the village of Erie was a field almost entirely unoccupied. 

The first church building was erected in 180-4 about a mile south 
of West Springfield and the first quarterly meeting was held in that 
church in July, 1810. The meetings at Erie were held at long intervals, 
conducted by the circuit riders, whenever and wherever circumstances 
favored. In the winter of 1810-11 there was an awakening of interest 
brought about by a meeting for worship which was held in a log tavern 
on the west side of French street, where the public library now stands, 
and it would appear that a congregation had partially been established 
about that time. It was not until 1826, however, that a class was reg- 
ularly organized. Rev. Samuel Gregg in his "History of Methodism ; 
Erie Conference," says: "Erie was a flourishing village in which though 
Methodist preaching had been frequently enjoyed by the people, no 
permanent organization had been made until the year 1826. Mr. James 
McConkev and wife, members of the ]\I. E. church of Baltimore, moved 


to Erie to reside and Mr. David Burton and wife attended the meeting 
at Harborcreek and were there converted, and invited Mr. Knapp to 
establish an appointment in Erie. The same winter a class was formed 
composed of the above named persons and a few others. Mr. McConkey 
was appointed leader and soon after secured the lot on Seventh street for 
$300, on which the first church was built." 

This class, organized with Mr. McConkey as leader, held its class 
meetings at a log school house located on the east side of French street 
between Second and Third. The Mr. Knapp referred to in Gregg's 
"Methodism," was the Rev. Henry Knapp, who was in charge of the 
North East appointment. Methodism in the city of Erie traces its origin 
back to 1826. to this class holding its meetings in a log school house. The 
meetings for stated worship on Sunday were generally held by the circuit 
preachers in the old Court House, then situated in West Park. The ap- 
pointments for Erie were filled as follows : 

18"i() — ^Xathanael Reedey and E. Stevenson. 

1827— Job Wilson and A. W. Davis. 

1828— J. W. Davis and J. Jones. 

1829— S. Ayers and D. C. Richey. 

1830— J. S. Barris and A. C. Young. 

In the year 1833, while the little church was still worshipping in 
the Court House, a subscription that was circulated among the brethren 
realized $55 as the amount paid out by the first church that year for 
the support of the pastor. The Sunday school was organized 1829-30 
with E. N. Hurlburt as superintendent, and the corps of teachers were 
Miss Mary Converse, Miss Mary Coover, Thomas Richards, Peter Bur- 
ton, Thomas Stevens, Miss Amanda Brown, Miss Rebecca Watkinson. 
Francis Dighton and John Dillon. The place of meeting was a small 
one-story frame building on East Fourth street, between French and 
Holland streets. The circuit riders at Erie from 1830 to 1833 were: 

1831— J. P. Kent and A. Plimpton. 

1832 — J. Chandler and E. P. Steadman. 

1833— J. Chandler and S. Gregg. 

In 1834 Erie was made a station and Rev. E. P. Steadinan was 
assigned by the Conference to this charge. The previous year this 
minister had been at Warren, Pa., and a large brick church had been 
built. The people there desired his return. By consent of the two presid- 
ing elders Mr. Steadman was sent to W'arren, and Mr. Plimpton to Erie, 
but the result was the First M. E. church became vacant and had to 
be supplied. This change from a circuit to a station made the First 
church at Erie as an organization complete with the continuous minis- 
tration of its own pastor. The church had the following officers : Trus- 
tees, James McConkey, E. N. Hurlburt, John Richards, David Burton : 
Stewards, James McConkey, E. N. Hurlburt, B. Loege, James Thomp- 
son ; Class Leaders, James McConkey, David Burton, James Thompson. 


The Erie Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church was organ- 
ized in July, 1836. In that year, the Erie church, while worshipping at 
the Court House made an eiifort to raise a building fund and erect a 
church, but though a plan was adopted and estimates made the project 
fell through. In the fall of this year at an official meeting it was decided 
that the sacrament of the Lord's supper should be administered every 
four weeks and a public collection be taken at the same time. At a 
public meeting held a little later, November 7. 1836, the pastor's salary 
was fixed at $136 a year. At a special meeting held January 16, 1837, 
the church appointed John Richards and C. Heck a building committee 
with power to prepare plans, make estimates, etc. The plan adopted was 
for a frame church 32 feet by 45 feet, with a basement and gallery, but 
the building was not erected until 1838, on the lot purchased by Mr. 
McConkey in 1826, on the north side of Seventh street midway between 
Peach and Sassafras streets. The church was dedicated by Rev. H. J. 
Clark, D. D., President of Allegheny College, on January 1, 1839, and 
received the name of "Wesley Chapel." 

The growth of Methodism in Erie was steady and reasonably fast. 
In 1840 three new classes were formed and in 1842 two more were added 
making seven classes in all. In 1844 it became necessary to enlarge 
the chapel and raise the basement in order to accommodate the worship- 
pers, and at the same time pews were put in, theretofore the custom 
having been to place the men on one side of the house and seat the 
women on the other. 

Two other things made the year 1844 notable in the history of Meth- 
odism. The ninth annual session of the Erie Conference was held in 
Erie in July, with Bishop Beverly Waugh, D. D., presiding. During 
that same year occurred what came to be spoken of as the Great Debate, 
between the pastor of Wesley Chapel, Rev. C. Kingsley, afterwards 
Bishop Kingsley, and Rev. Mr. Gififord, pastor of the Universalist 
church at Erie. The discussion turned on the distinctive tenets of Uni- 
versalism and the debate lasted seven days. From 1840 to 1850 the 
pastor's annual salary ranged from $120 to $150. 

In 1852 a committee was appointed consisting of the pastor. Rev. 
J. W. Lowe, J. Hanson and J. L. Reno to select a place for a second 
church. They secured a lot south of the railroad and organized a Sunday 
school. It was in Millcreek township, some distance south of the city 
limits at that time, but in a rapidly growing section. Out of that effort 
grew Simpson church. In 1859 the two churches were managed by a 
joint board of officers and it was agreed that Simpson church should 
pay into the common fund tliree dollars for every five dollars paid by the 
First church. 

In 1859 the board of trustees of the First church voted to erect 
a new church, at a cost not to exceed $10,000, and the committee ap- 


pointed to solicit funds and build the church were W. Sanborn, James 
S. Stewart, J. Hanson, John Burton, J. B. Johnson, H. P. Mehaffey, 
Thomas Willis, A. A. Craig and W. C. Keeler. This committee on Jan- 
uary' 26, 1859, accepted a plan for the new church submitted by Mr. 
^^'ilcox of Buffalo as architect. C)n June 9 of that year the trustees and 
building committee awarded the contract for all the wood work to George 
Brubaker, and for the mason work to Gillen, Brown & Cummings. The 
amount of the contracts was $14,000. November 14. 1860, the new 
church, a large and elegant brick edifice on the southeast corner of Sev- 
enth and Sassafras streets was dedicated by Bishop Simpson. However, 
the child had outrun the parent in the matter of Erie Methodism, for 
the new building of the South Erie church was completed more than a 
year earlier, and was dedicated June 19, 18.59, by Bishop Simpson and 
named in his honor. There came over to the First church organization 
a debt on the new church of $8,776, which was entirely canceled during the 
pastorate of Rev. D. C. Osborne, 1862 to 1864. 

The earliest of the other congregations in Erie county were: Mill- 
village, organized in 1810 ; North East, in 1812 ; Fair Haven, in Girard 
township, in 181.5; Girard borough, in 1815; Waterford borough in 1816; 
Union City, in 1817 ; Fairview, in 1817; Middleboro or McKean, in 1819; 
Korthville, in 1820; Wattsburg, in 1827, and Wesleyville, in 1828. The 
name of Wesleyville was bestowed upon that hamlet by Rev. Keese 
Hallock, the minister of the Methodist church, a name the inhabitants 
very cheerfully adopted. 

Methodism had its real beginning in Springfield township. John 
Mershon was married to Miss Bathsheba Brush of Greene county in 
January, 1799, three years after his settlement in this county. When the 
bride came to her new home she brought with her a church letter from 
the Methodist minister at the place of her former residence. She induced 
Rev. Joseph Bowen, a local preacher of the denomination at Franklin 
to hold services in the Mershon house in September. 1800. and later, in 
the same year, he came again. These were the first Alethodist services 
held in Erie county. In the spring of 1801 a class was organized near 
Lexington by James Quinn, and in 1804 a church was erected about a 
mile south of AN'est Springfield, which was long known as the Brush 
Meeting House. During the year 1804 nearly a hundred persons were 
converted through the instrumentality of a powerful sermon preached 
by Rev. John Gruber. Presiding Elder. 

The territory included in the Erie conference of the M. E. church 
extends from the Ohio line to about the middle of Chautauqua county, 
New York, and as far south as New Castle in Lawrence county. There 
are six presiding elders' districts named, Erie, ]\Ieadville. Clarion. Frank- 
lin, Jamestown and New Castle, and of these, the Erie district includes 
the churches of Erie, Fairview, Girard, Greene', Greenfield. Harborcreek, 
McKean. Millcreek, North East, Summit. Springfield, \\'aterford and 


Wesleyville. The congregations of this denomination in Erie county 
with the dates when they were organized, so far as can be learned with 
certainty is as follows : Albion, before 1850 ; Ash's Corners, Washington, 
1867 ; Asbtiry, Millcreek, 1846 ; Asbury, Union, 1840 ; Beaver Dam, 1838 ; 
Carter Hill, 1835; Cascade St., Erie, 1903; Cherry Hill, 1858; Concord, 
1879 ; Corry, 18G2 ; Cranesville, 1830 ; Crane Road, Franklin, 1867 ; East 
Springfield, 1825 ; Edenville, Le Bceuf , 1839 ; Edinboro, 1829 ; Elgin, 1854, 
Eureka, 1867 ; Fair Haven, 1815 ; Fairplain, 1840 ; Fairview, 1817 ; First, 
Erie, 1826; Franklin, 1866; Girard, 1815; Gospel Hill, 1816; Hamlin, 
Summit, 1837; Harborcreek, 1834; Hatch Hollow, 1835; Keepville, 
1867; Kingsley, Erie, 1907; Lockport, 1843; Lowville, 1875; McLane, 
1863; Miles Grove, 1867; Alill Milage, 1810; Middleboro, 1819; North 
Corry, 1870; North East, 1812; Northville, 1820; Phillipsville, 1840; 
South Harborcreek, 1830 ; Simpson. Erie, 1858 ; Sterrettania, 1842 ; South 
Hill, McKean, 1860; Sharp's Corners, Waterford, 1838; Sherrod Hill 
and Tower School House, in Venango, dates not known ; Tenth 
Street, Erie, 1867; Union City, 1817; Waterford borough, 1814; Watts- 
burg, 1827; Wales, Greene, 1850; Wellsburg, 1833; Wayne street, Erie, 
1889; \A'esleyville, 1825; West Greene, 1827; West Springfield, 1801. 
In this alphabetical arrangement of the Methodist churches, singularly 
enough, scripture has been verified, for the West Springfield church, the 
first of the denomination to be organized in Erie county (in 1801) is the 
last on the list. 

The Lutheran church came into existence in Erie county through 
the efforts of that portion of the early population that immigrated here 
from the Pennsylvania German settlements in the eastern part of the 
State. The Pennsylvania German element in the settlement of Erie 
county entered almost with the beginning, dating back as early as 1801, 
and between that and 1805 such names as Riblet. Wagner, Ebersole, 
Brown, Stough, Lang. Zimmerman and Kreider appear on the records. 
These settled mostly in the rural districts south and east of Erie. There 
was another influx of this same German-American people in 1825 and 
a few years later they included the Warfels, ]Mohrs, \\'eigels, Metzlers, 
Bergers, Brennemans, and others. They were all of the Protestant faith, 
the original immigrants in America coming principally from the Palat- 
inate. These having been connected with the beginnings of the Lutheran 
church in America brought to their new home in Erie their faith as well 
as their German Bibles and their hymn books, copies of which are still 
occasionally to be found. 

These people though separated in an almost unbroken wilderness 
from the spiritual facilities to which they had been accustomed, did not 
permit their faith to die out. It was soon after the settlement had been 
begun that the Lutheran Synod of Eastern Pennsylvania was applied to 
for aid in a memorial setting forth how deplorable it was "to do without 


sermon, baptism, catechetical instruction and the Lord's supper," and 
begging for a pastor to visit tliem occasionally. There is no distinct 
record of the time of the first pastoral visit or of the minister, but a 
Rev. Mr. Muckenhaupt was one of the first. The first record book 
of St. John's in South Erie was begun September 1, 1811, showing 
that then there was a congregation in existence, and that it had been for 
some time is proven by the entry in the record that on August 18 and 19, 
1808, twenty-four baptisms took place. From that time to the present, 
the record shows, the congregation has been in continuous existence. 

The earliest of the Lutheran missionaries were : Rev. Mr. Mucken- 
haupt, 1808; Rev. Mr. Scriba, 1811; Rev. Mr. Sackman, 1813; Rev. Mr. 
Rupert, 1814. The record of the last named is that in his missionary 
term of four months he preached thirty-eight times, baptized 107 children, 
gave communion to 117 persons and traveled 1,142 miles. He received 
$112 from congregations and his long journey cost only $11.03 for trav- 
eling expenses. 

The Synod at Frederickstown in 1815 sent out Rev. Carl W. Colsen, 
who became a resident pastor in this district, taking up his abode in 
Meadville and serving the Erie congregation as well — in fact he served 
four Lutheran churches in this part of the state, and died at Meadville 
in ISKi. Father C. F. Heyer succeeded, serving from 1817 to 1818. 
Pastor Rupert returned and served for a number of years. The Rev. 
Mr. Heilig was the first resident Lutheran pastor at Erie, in 1832. 

The meetings of the Lutherans were held at first in dwellings and 
school houses in Eagle Village, then nearly two miles away from Erie. 
It was a hamlet largely settled by the Pennsylvania Germans. In 183.5. 
however, there having been a strong reinforcement of European Ger- 
mans, on January first the Lutheran church was reorganized, the new 
constitution signed by 100 male members, and the church became known 
as St. John's. Rev. Karl Fred. Stohlman was chosen pastor and did 
efifective work both at Erie and outside, establishing missionary stations 
at Drake's Mills and Walnut Creek. He secured for St. John's church, 
from Conrad Brown. Sr., the five acres of ground bounded by Peach, 
Sassafras, Twenty-Second and Twenty-third streets of the present 
city of Erie. He served until 1838, and was succeeded by Rev. Michael 
Kuchler, a most progressive man, who, besides organizing congregations 
at Girard, Fairview and Millcreek, and the first Sunday school at St. 
Johns, also erected the first Lutheran church in Erie county, which, 
located in the piece of ground donated by Mr. Brown, was dedicated 
as St. John's church, August 8, 1842. From that time forward the 
growth of St. John's was steady and large until in time it became the 
largest Protestant church organization in Erie, with over 1,200 com- 
municants, and 3,500 souls under the care of its pastor. 

Meanwhile the process of swarming, which has for long distin- 
guished it. began during the pastorate of Rev. C. G. Stuebgen, a number 


of members separating to form St. Paul's German Evangelical church. 
This was in about 1850. Again in 1861 there was another secession 
which resulted in establishing the first English Lutheran church, now 
known as the Luther Memorial. Then came Zion's, Bethany, Trinity, St. 
Stephen's, St. Matthews, St. Luke's and Grace in Erie, while outside 
there are St. Paul's at Drake's Mills, St. Johns at Girard, East Greene 
congregation, St. Peter's in Millcreek, Trinity church at McKean, St. 
Peters at North East and Grace at Conneaut, all daughters or grand- 
daughters of St. John's the original Lutheran church of Erie. 

At first St. John's church was itself a suburban body, located on 
Federal Hill, away outside of the town of Erie. While it grew within 
itself, the town became a city and the city extended its boundaries until 
at length the Lutheran church was not far from the center of the city, 
occupying an establishment, thrice rebuilt, and now one of the finest 
churches in Erie. 

While the Roman Catholic church was identified with the French 
occupation of Erie, from 1753 to 1759, the real history of the church 
in this county, as representing its permanent establishment here, did not 
begin until the permanent settlement of the county had been effected. 
There are no records of the earliest of the missionary labors of this 
church in Erie county, but it is well known that during the first years of 
the Nineteenth century there were frequent visits made by priests, who 
at irregular periods, came on religious errands, to minister to those of 
their faith who were among the pioneers. The first organization among 
the Catholics began somewhere about 1830. in the township of McKean, 
and it resulted in the erection of a church in 1833. This was the first 
church of that denomination built in Erie county, even taking the French 
into consideration, for, during the military occupancy the priests con- 
nected with the garrisons held services in chapels that were merely 
apartments in the forts. St. Francis church stood about two miles north 
of the borough of Middleboro, and it was resorted to by the faithful 
from long distances, and for several years was the only church of the 
Catholic faith in the county. The influx of the Germans early in the 
thirties, and of the Irish, at about the same time, added to the borough 
of Erie a religious element new to the community, for many of the 
Germans and most of the Irish were adherents of the Roman Catholic 
church. The pioneers in Erie were the Germans. The first of that race 
tc find his way to Erie, Wolfgang Erhart, who came in 1830, was a 
Catholic, and when, soon afterwards, others from the Fatherland were 
added to the small colony, the thought of forming a church came to the 
front, realized in 1833, when Father Mosquelette, came here from Phil- 
adelphia and said mass in a log house belonging to Mr. Erhart. Next 
year the same priest accompanied by Rt. Rev. Francis Patrick Kenrick, 
bishop of Philadelphia, again visited Erie, and this time also was fur- 


nished a place of worship by Air. Erhart. and upon that occasion a 
number of persons were confirmed. This put energy into the faithful, 
and taking courage from the success that had attended the effort of the 
Beech Woods church — at :\IcKean — a lot was procured on Xinth street 
between Parade and German, and a frame church was built in 1837. 

Meanwhile a very similar process was in operation in the northern 
part of the town among the English-speaking adherents of the Catholic 
faith. Rev. Father McCabe held services in the house of John Sullivan 
in 1837, and this arrangement continued until at length the congregation 
that had been formed, although poor, decided that they would build a 
church. This was accomplished in 1844, when work upon St. Patrick's 
on Fourth street, between French and Holland was begun. The adher- 
ents of this church were not confined to the borough of Erie alone. The 
farming community east of Erie as far as the boundaries of Alillcreek 
township contained a number of Catholics, among them the Crowleys, 
the Pagans and others, and these farmer people were among the most 
liberal contributors and most faithful workers. The moving spirit was 
Father R. Brown, who remained five years, long enough to see the 
building enclosed but not long enough to see it completed. That good 
fortune fell to his successor, Rev. Father Reynolds, who. however, re- 
mained but one year. 

Originally Erie was attached to the diocese of Philadelphia, and 
later to that of Pittsburg. In 1853 the diocese of Erie was set off from 
that of Pittsburg, and included the counties of Erie, Crawford, ]\Iercer, 
Venango, Forest, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield, Cameron, Elk, McKean, 
Potter and Warren, thirteen counties, and Rt. Rev. Michael O'Connor 
was transferred from Pittsburg to the see of Erie. St. Patrick's Church 
then became the pro-cathedral. In 185-4 he was re-transferred to Pitts- 
burg, and Rt. Rev. J. M. Young was consecrated as the Bishop of Erie, 
April 23, 1854. He died September 18, 186G, and Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen 
was consecrated August 2, 1868. Bishop Mullen had charge during the 
period of greatest extension in the history of his church, but his greatest 
work was the erection of the splendid cathedral at the corner of Tenth 
and Sassafras streets. The corner stone of this church was laid in 1875 ; 
it was dedicated August 2, 1893, having been eighteen years under con- 
struction. Bishop Mullen was dearly beloved, not alone by those of his 
faith, but beyond the denominational boundaries. It is doubtful if there 
ever was a more devoted worker in the cause of his religion — to the 
people of Erie who had come to know him well, and universally, without 
regard to class, condition or religious faith, respect and love him, it ap- 
peared as though there was no such faithful industrious worker any- 
where. The multitudinous demands upon his time and energies found 
him always ready and never idle, while he carried about with him a 
spirit of cheerfulness that was inspiring. He had the satisfaction^ of 
seeing the church establishment that was under his most immediate 


personal charge develop steadily. In the city the churches, including 
the cathedral, numbered eleven, the parochial schools seven ; there had 
been established, in addition to the church establishments in operation 
w^hen he assumed the duties of his high office, a number of institutions, 
among them St. Vincent's Hospital, the Villa Marie Academy and the 
Old People's Home ; a new cemetery had been consecrated and a hand- 
some cathedral church built, and at all times the duties pertaining to his 
extensive diocese of thirteen counties had been faithfully performed. 
It was not to be wondered at, then, that, with the hand of old age laid 
upon him he should become wearied with his unceasing labors. 

It was on August 2, 1868, that he was consecrated as Bishop in the 
Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul at Pittsburg, and came to the see 
of Erie. For more than thirty years his unremitting toil had been 
continued. Recognizing the situation his church on February 24, 1898, 
appointed Rt. Rev. John Fitz Maurice coadjntator bishop with the 
right of succession. August 10. 1899, Bishop Mullen resigned, for he 
felt that his labors were at an end. He died April 22, 1900. His fun- 
eral was a notable event in the history of the Catholic church and 
of Erie. Archbishop Ryan presided and his assistants were Rt. Rev. 
Ignatius Horstman, of Cleveland, and Rt. Rev. Edmond F. Pendergast, 
auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, with all the Erie clergy taking part. 
Throngs of people viewed his remains as they lay in state in the cathe- 
dral, which is his noblest monument, and in one of its crypts all that is 
mortal of the good Bishop rests forever from his toil.' 

Bishop Fitz Maurice succeeded Bishop Mullen, as it was appointed 
that he should do, and has continued the work which his predecessors 
so ably inaugurated. He is respected by all as the head in the Erie dio- 
cese of the historic church in whose service he faithfully labors. 

Of other religious denominations in the county, the oldest and per- 
haps the most numerous in membership is the Baptist. The first or- 
ganization of this denomination so far as can be learned was that effect- 
ed at Lowry's Corners in Harborcreek township in 1822. The church 
had its origin in the Hoag school house where meetings were held until 
the building of a meeting house. After a time, however, it went down, 
and there is no record to show how long it endured. There was a Bap- 
tist church organized in Springfield township in 182G, which, continu- 
ing with excellent promises of permanence, built in 1833 on the Ridge 
road two and a half miles west of East Springfield. In 1831 a church 
was established in Erie. It was one of the results of a religious re- 
vival in the First Presbyterian church, and the organization of the body 
was effected by a council called for the purpose at which some became 
members on letters and others upon profession. The church building 
was erected in 1833. The Baptist denomination may have had an even 
earlier start at North East. There was one of unrecorded date, built in 


the eastern part of the township that became disintegrated. As a success- 
or of the original a church was built in 1832 on the Buflfalo road a short 
distance east of the village, but it also, in time, fell away. There was 
a Free-will Baptist church built at Newman's Bridge in Waterford town- 
ship in 1832, and other churches established were: At McLane in 1838; 
at West Greene in 1848; at Wattsburg in 1850; the Elk Creek Baptist 
church in Franklin in 1867. The First Baptist of Erie became at length 
the head centre of the Baptist denomination in these parts, not only by 
its missionary work multiplying the church organizations in the city, but 
stretching its hands still farther, the Wesleyville church having grown 
from a mission Sunday school established by the First Church of Erie. 

The Christian denomination, so called, though not strong in num- 
bers, came among the earliest, its first church being that organized in 
Springfield in 182() by Rev. Asa C. Morrison, with Rev. Josiah Marsh 
as settled pastor. In Fairview a church was established in 1835. It 
was not until 1888 that a church of the denomination was organized in 
the city of Erie. 

The Universalists came in the beginning of the forties, churches 
being established in Springfield. Girard, Elkcreek and Erie, and some 
of these associations continue in active existence to the present. 

The United Brethren is of more recent times. The first church, per- 
haps, was that organized in 1853 in Elkcreek a mile north of Cranes- 
ville. In 1857 a. church was established at Fairview; at Branchville 
in 1865 ; at Beaverdam in 1870 ; in Girard township on the State road 
near the Elkcreek township line in 1870, and at New Ireland in Le 
Boeuf in 1876. 


The Beginnings of Education. — .The Public School Laws. — Devel- 
opment OF Free Schools in the Rural Districts. 

The early years of the permanent settlement were years of toil; 
almost unintermittent hard labor. Each individual had his part to per- 
form in the work of conquering the wilderness; of hewing out of the 
forest primeval a space that was to be reckoned as home; by which 
or out of which, he was to obtain the necessaries of life — and for years 
it was barely an existence that was wrenched from the soil. There 
was, therefore, much to think of connected with the actualities of the 
then present time. Where there were only adults in the family, of 
'course all worked ; but where there were children they too worked. 
There was not a time for anything else, and the Scriptural fiat "He that 
shall not work neither shall he eat" was extended to be very compre- 
hensive in its embrace. It seemed, indeed, that it had to be, for the 
struggle for existence demanded it. 

But it is not for a moment to be considered as possible that the 
pipneers of Erie county had entirely lost sight of the interests their off- 
spring had in something more and better than the life of toil that was 
the portion of the cattle; that they did not think about educating their 
children. This would be incredible ; for the settlers were of Scotch- 
Irish and New England stock. When this is said it will be at once un- 
derstood that any period of apparent indifference to schooling was only 
due to a forced condition of things. As a rule the earliest settlers were 
men and women of education; some of them of quite high attainments, 
and all of them respected the knowledge derived from books. There- 
fore, very early in the history of Erie county the schools came into be- 

There was no system of public education at the beginning of the 
Nineteenth century. And yet it was enjoined as part of the charter 
of the land. The founders of the state— further back still, William 
Penn, the founder of the colony, insisted upon the importance of edu- 
cation. He declared that wisdom and morality "must be carefully 
propagated by a virtuous education of the youth," and that Governor 
and Council should "erect and order public schools." Good citizenship — 
intelligent citizenship — was desired, and to insure this there must be 
education. The heroes of the Revolution made the matter still more 

Vol, 1—1:3 


specific by incorporating in their constitution of 177G a requirement 
that "a school or schools shall be established in every county," while 
the constitution of 1790 took a step yet farther in advance by declaring 
that the Legislature might provide for the establishment of schools 
throughout the State "in such a manner that the poor may be taught 
gratis." It will thus be observed that from the very beginning Penn- 
sylvania was committed to the policy of the education of all of her 

And this principle early found expression as regards the educa- 
tional needs of tlie people of Erie covmty, for, long before Erie county 
had been created, when, in fact a mere handful of people had settled 
down in this section of the woods, the Legislature, in its act pro- 
viding for the sale of the public lands, in 1799. provided that 500 acres 
should be held back from each of the Reserve Tracts at Erie and Water- 
ford, "for the use of such schools and academies as may hereafter be 
established by law" in these towns. These provisions, declarations and 
enactments tend to show that in this State of Pennsylvania the educa- 
tion of the people was ever held as of the greatest importance. However, 
it was years before, upon this foundation, there was erected the splen- 
did structure which is now the pardonable boast of the citizens of the 
Keystone state. 

Before the schools of Erie county are considered in detail, it will 
be profitable to review the evolution of the public school idea in Penn- 
sylvania, through which the splendid public school system of Erie coun- 
ty has been developed. It took years to get at the real beginnings of a 
public school system. That seemed to be one subject which the law 
makers hesitated to take up and pass upon. It had not been lost sight 
of. As early as 1821, in his annual message to the Legislature Gov. 
Heister took occasion to refer to it and to declare it to be "an impera- 
tive duty to introduce and support a liberal system of education, con- 
nected with some general religious instruction." No heed was paid to 
this injunction, perhaps because of the connection suggested. In 1827 
Gov. Shultze took up the subject, saying: "Among the injunctions of 
the Constitution there is none more interesting than that which enjoins 
it as a duty on the legislature to provide for the education of the poor 
throughout the Commonwealth." This suggestion was as barren of 
fruit as Gov. Heister's had been. Perhaps it ought to be, because of 
its class distinction, and yet it was within the terms of the Constitu- 
tion, to which he referred. He had not lost interest in the important 
subject, for the next year he said that he could not forbear from "again 
calling attention to the subject of public education. To devise means 
for the establishment of a fund and the adoption of a plan by which 
the blessings of the more necessary branches of education could be 
conferred on every family within our borders would be every way wor- 
thy the Legislature of Pennsylvania." 


Real interest now began to be taken in the important subject. In 
tlie gubernatorial campaign of 1829 the policy of public education be- 
came one of the issues, and was discussed from the hustings. The 
people were awake with reference to its importance and the governor 
elected, George Wolf, was a friend of public education. In his inaugural 
address he took an advanced position with reference to education, and 
continued to urge the matter upon the attention of the Legislature until, 
at the session of 1834-35. the first common school act of the state was 
passed. This act made it optional with each township, ward and borough 
to adopt the system of free public education. Immediately strong oppo- 
sition to the measure sprang up. The colleges and private schools op- 
posed the act being put in force, because they saw, or thought they saw, 
a loss of their revenues ; the wealthy were not in favor of it because 
they disliked the idea of their children mixing with the children of the 
poorer people; penurious people objected because it would result in 
increased taxation, and various other interests fought it with a vigor 
that, now the system has become so popular, seems absurd and incredi- 
ble. At the next session of the Legislature an attempt was made to 
repeal the law, but there were valiant champions of the system among 
the lawmakers. Prominent was Thaddeus Stevens, who made a power- 
ful speech closing with this vigorous sentence: "If the opponent of 
education were my most intimate personal and political friend, 
and the free school candidate my most obnoxious enemy. I should 
deem it my duty as a patriot at this moment of our intellectual crisis, 
to forget all other considerations, and I should place myself unhesitat- 
ingly and cordially in the ranks of him whose banner streams in light." 
The measure was saved. Later, during the administration of Gov. 
Ritner the free school law was amended and strengthened. Now, estab- 
lished, the principle of public education made steady progress. In 1819 
an act was passed making it obligatory upon townships and other dis- 
tricts to adopt the public school system. In 1854 it was extended by 
providing for county superintendents of education and the examination 
of teachers. In 1857 the act to provide for state normal schools, for 
education in the science of teaching, was passed, and this was followed 
by supplementary normal school acts at nine dififerent sessions greatly 
extending the efficiency of these schools. In 1867 the law providing 
for teacher's institutes was passed and at the same session it was en- 
acted that the Courts of Quarter Sessions shall have authority to an- 
nex lands for school purposes. In 1883 evening schools were provided 
for. In 1875 provision was made for public or free education in con- 
nection with homes for friendless children. In 1893 it became law that 
all school books and supplies should be furnished free of cost to pupils 
in the public schools. In 1895 the earlier high school law was enlarged 
and extended, and at the same session provision was made for parks 
and public playgrounds in connection with the schools, and, perhaps 


not less important as a feature of free education, a prohibition was 
placed upon teachers wearing a religious garb or emblem. In 1897 it 
was enacted that when it became necessary transportation might be 
provided for children of the schools. In 1899 the minimum term per 
year of seven months was fixed and a maximum of ten months. In 
1901 district superintendents or supervising principals were provided for, 
and at the same session physical culture in connection with the schools 
was made allowable. The act of 1907 provided for compulsory educa- 
tion; for township high schools; for schools for adults, including for- 
eigners ; that the minimum salary of teachers should be $50 per month ; 
and providing a retirement fund for teachers — the two latter provisions 
wisely insuring a better grade of teachers. Besides these numerous en- 
actments to raise the standard of education in the State, the legislature 
renders all the provisions operative by most liberal appropriations to 
the public schools in addition to the local taxes, the moneys so appro- 
priated being proportionately distributed to the various districts in the 
State. The appropriation for 1907-08 amounted to $15,000,000 ; of which 
sum $125,473.75 was paid to the various districts of the county of Erie 
for the year 1908. Pennsylvania may pardonably boast of having the 
best school laws in the Union. 

This review of the school laws is made as an introduction, for the 
reason that the development of the system in the State may tend to 
show what the encouragement for advancement in Erie county was, 
and also, that Erie county kept pace with every forward movement made 
by the State Government in connection with the education of its citi- 

With the review of the educational enactments that has been pre- 
sented it can readily be concluded that in the pioneer days of Erie coun- 
ty the facilities for obtaining an education were vastly different from 
what they are today. The schools were then all pay schools, and prac- 
tically all were domestic schools, held in the residences of the teachers 
or some other convenient place, and, in view of what the school curricu- 
lum of these latter days is required to include, it may occasion a jolt 
to the sensibilities of some of the good patrons of schools of the pres- 
ent to learn that one of the earliest schools of the county— perhaps the 
earliest of Fairview township— was held in the log tavern of Captain 
Richard Swan. But taverns were differently regarded in the earliest 
days from what they came to be later, and what was then considered 
a good creature of comfort and in universal use, in later times was held 
in altogether different esteem. The systems of teaching in the first days 
of the Nineteenth Century were different too from what they had come 
to be at the end of the same cycle. The graded school was then far 
away in the dim, distant future. The teachers, however, let it not be over- 
looked, were men of at least some fair degree of learning, and not a few 


were quite well educated in at least the three most essential branches, of 
reading, writing and arithmetic. It has been said they were men. This 
was practically the invariable rule at the beginning. They were not 
only school teachers but school masters, with all the term might imply, 
and it was law, although unwritten law, that the master was privileged 
to use the birch as an accessory toward the inculcation of learning. 
Whether the unspared rod was especially effective or not, it is not possi- 
ble at this late day to determine ; but this is known, that many who were 
scholars of those little backwoods schools exhibited a marked proficiency 
when as adults they were launched out into the world, to contest with 
others for place and preferment. 

The earliest school in Erie county, so far as either record or tra- 
dition goes, was that established on the Brookins farm in North East 
township in 1798. It is true with reference to these earliest temples of 
learning, as with other matters and things pertaining to the first set- 
tlers, that practically nothing has come down to modern times 
in the form of records. It is not possible therefore to say who taught 
that first school, or whether it was one of the Brookins connection or 
a stranger who had come as a pioneer pedagogue among the other pion- 
eers. Only that the school was taught there before the Eighteenth 
century had reached its close. But the spirit of education was already 
abroad in this corner of the great forest. They sprang up in nearly 
every locality where any considerable number of people had settled. In 
the year 1800, it is recorded that school was opened in Waterford, but 
here, too, the record omits the name of the master. In 1802 a school 
was opened in the Moorhead district of Harborcreek. and if not the 
first teacher, among the first was Walter Patterson. In the year 1804 
what was the first school house in the county was built in Fairview town- 
ship on what was known as Schoolhouse Run, about a mile from the 
mouth of Walnut Creek. Previous to that time Fairview's seat of learn- 
ing was found in the log tavern of Capt. Swan. The first teacher in the 
first distinctive school house in the county was John Lynn, a Revolu- 
tionary soldier. The second teacher was William Gordon, and it was 
his son, John Gordon, the first adult to die in Fairview township, who 
was buried in the grove on the lake shore that is now known as Gor- 
don's Point, a part of the farm now owned by Matthew Taylor. 

In the year 1805 the second school in North East township was 
begun. This school occupied a building built for school purposes, that 
stood where the present park is located and was known to the people 
of the township as the Old Log School. It continued in service until 
1817. and longer as a relic. The same year, 1805, witnessed the begfn- 
nings of education in Millcreek township, a school being opened then in 
Eagle village. The rural town of that name was long ago swallowed 
up by the city of Erie. It stood at the intersection of Peach and 
Twenty-sixth streets. The first teacher of the Eagle \'illage 


school was James Hampson, the progenitor of one of the most prominent 
families of North East, father of Justice George A. Hampson. This 
school continued until 1831. Girard's first school was established in 
1809, with John J. Swan as teacher. He was but 16 years of age and 
among the pupils enrolled were young men of 20. Swan was a famous 
teacher and his school attained to renown. Children walked from three 
to six miles to attend school in Girard. The dates of the earliest schools 
in the other townships are: McKean in 1811, with Seth Spencer as 
teacher; Union township in 1813, with William Craig, as the first teach- 
er. The first school at Union borough (at first it was known as Miles's 
Mills, then as Union Mills, and now is Union City) was established in 
1818. In Elkcreek in 1815 Maxon Randall opened a school in his own 
log cabin. The same year a school was built at Edinboro in Washington 
township that was the most pretentious of the time, being constructed 
with plank sides and serving as well for all sorts of assemblies and public 
meetings. In 1816 A. Young taught school in Greenfield township. In 
1820 a school was opened in Le Boeuf township with Miss Elizabeth 
Strickland and Miss Hannah Hall as teachers during the summer and 
James Skinner during the winter. 

These were the beginnings of education in Erie county. They 
marked the day of the school master, and, likewise the first innovation 
in an ancient regime, for, with the beginning of the second decade in 
the century the school ma'am came upon the scene. During this period 
and up to 1834, the schools were all pay-schools. Such a- thing as free 
instruction, or schooling paid from a public fund had not been thought 
of. It is true the state government had made provision for education, 
and that provision extended to Erie county, when in 1799 five hundred 
acres were held back from each of the reserve tracts at Erie and Water- 
ford, "for the use of such schools and academies as may hereafter be 
established." But this provision was not in behalf of free education. It 
was the intention, while endowing schools liberally, that, nevertheless, 
the education obtained at these schools should be paid for. The liber- 
ality of the state did not stop at academies, which it seemed to be the 
purpose to secure for every county in the state, but was extended to the 
higher institutions of learning as well. 

In Erie county the state grant for education was not put 
into effective use until 1832 when work was begun on both 
the Erie and Waterford academies, the former being ready to receive 
pupils in 1823, and the latter in 1826. For many years these were the 
principal institutions in the county where a good education could be 
obtained, and long after public education was in successful operation 
here, the academies continued to flourish. The fact is, the beginnings 
of free education imparted little more than the rudiments, and there was 
need of a means by which a more advanced schooling could be secured. 
During a considerable period of their history the attendance upon the 


two state academies was very large, for patronage was not restricted 
to residents of Erie county, nor even to the state. At Water- 
ford, especially, the foreign enrollment was large, necessitating in time 
important additions to the building for the accommodation of the out- 
of-town pupils. 

The need for education in the advanced branches in the course of 
time brought about the establishment in various parts of the county 
of academies, organized and operated upon private capital, or by cor- 
porations holding charters from the state. Many of these — indeed all — 
were of a most excellent character. As the record (unhappily all too 
scant in each case) is reviewed there is not one of the seven that had a 
term of prosperous existence that did not attain to high repute as an 
institution of learning. The first of these private academies was that 
established at Albion in 1838. and called Joliet Academy. Its first prin- 
cipal was Elijah Walker, and during its career of nearly a quarter of a 
century became widely known and popular, having pupils from various 
counties of Pennsylvania as well as from other states, and, having in- 
stituted a department for the education of teachers, many who afterwards 
had charge of public schools were fitted for their work at Joliet Academy. 
In 1850 a corporation was organized at Girard for the purpose of estab- 
lishing an academy there, and a handsome and commodious building 
was erected. Its first principal was J. E. Pillsbury and it flourished 
until 1862, when it was merged in the public schools. In 1855 West 
Springfield Academy was established with John A. Austin as principal, 
and in 1856 an academy was opened at East Springfield, with B. J. 
Hawkins as principal. Ten years later, and after most of the private 
academies were being turned over to the public school, a third academy 
was instituted in the same township, at North Springfield. In the course 
of time all gave place to the public schools. There is no date obtainable 
of the organization of the academy at Fairview, but it is recorded that for 
many years it thrived on the patronage obtained from adjacent town- 
ships as well as from Fairview. The last of the academies, and the most 
pretentious of them all, was Lake Shore Seminary opened in the year 
1869 at North East, with J. P. Mills, A. M., as principal. It was an 
enterprise of the M. E. Church, and started with abundant promise. 
Financial misfortune overtook it, however, and in 1881 it was sold and 
the Redemptorist Fathers became its purchasers and converted it into 
an institution to educate young men for the priesthood. 

The era of free schools in Pennsylvania began with the passage 
of the act of 1834. The era of free schools in Erie countv dates from 
the same year. That act made it optional with the counties to establish 
a system of public education. In November, 1834, a convention in the 
interest of free schools in Erie county was called to meet in Erie, and 
every township or prospective district in the county was represented, and 
public education was immediately launched. Unlike the Grecian myth, it 


did not spring full grown and full panoplied at its birth. It was necessary 
with public education in this county, just as in every other county of 
Pennsylvania, to pass through the various stages of evolution that ex- 
perience demonstrated were necessary to give to the State's citizens 
a due and proper degree of schooling. But Erie from the first was 
abreast of the times. The district school was not as frequent as in later 
years, but quickly every township was provided with one or more schools, 
in accordance with the degree of population. It would be wrong to say 
they were good schools, for at the start the educational ideas of the rural 
school directors were crude, and the qualifications of those who could be 
obtained as teachers were limited. Moreover, the means at the disposal 
of the township and borough school boards were extremely meagre. This 
was necessarily so. as the population in many portions was sparse. Teach- 
ers were frequently paid salaries as low as five dollars per month, and 
"board around." The schooling was free, but after all, the scholars paid 
for their tuition in a way. As an early settler relates from experience: 
"The settlers were few, and the children with their lunch baskets filled 
with corn bread, cold potatoes and pickles, came long distances to at- 
tend school." 

At first the school funds were obtained from an appropriation by 
the county commissioners, the first, called for by the school convention 
of 1834, being $3,000, with a proviso that the people of each district might 
vote whether an additional amount should be raised by taxation. The 
people were not all well enough disposed toward education to take upon 
themselves any addition to the burden. At Wattsburg, for example, it 
is of record that in the year 1834 the people decided against the additional 
tax by a vote of nine to seven — an interesting record, indicative as it is of 
the population of that independent borough at that time. Perhaps, how ■ 
ever, the expense of school books and supplies was an excuse that might 
render the result of that referendum pardonable. All the necessaries were 
then to be bought and paid for by the parents whose children were being 
educated. The school books in use in the early days were Webster's 
and Byerly's Spelling Books, the English Reader, and Daboll's Arithme- 
tic, while writing was taught in copybooks with paper covers, the teacher 
being required to be sufficiently expert in penmanship to set the codv 
.•\lthough later a perhaps better order of books obtained, such as Cobb's 
Spelling Book; Goodrich's, Parley's, and Mitchell's Geographies; Par- 
ley's- and Mitchell's Histories; -the unnamed First, Second and Third 
Readers ; Smith's Grammar, and Davies's Arithmetic, the tuition re- 
maining upon the same plane as before it cannot be said that the ad- 
vance was materially for the better. Just before the adoption of the 
public school system for Erie the copyright (or sales-right) for one-half 
of the state of Pennsylvania in Cobb's Spelling Book was bought by 
Joseph M. Sterrett and Oliver Spafford, who published it profitably for 
manv years. It will not be out of place to say a word here, in this re- 


view of Erie county schools, in reference to "Uncle" Oliver Spafiford. 
He was in his time the Benjamin Franklin of Erie county. Like Benja- 
min he was a true philosopher, and was esteemed as such by all the 
people of Erie. He was identified with the printer's art. He was a 
great friend of learning, and it is an open question whether he was better 
pleased with the profits of his enterprise as a publisher of school books 
than with the character of the business. He was highly respected, and 
trusted by everybody and in turn called everybody his friend. His apt 
sayings were often quoted, and his example emulated by the people of his 
home town. He was himself an educator, and his name properly belongs 
with those who taught. 

The most noteworthy advance, in the early history of the schools, 
came toward the middle and end of the decade of the fifties when aid 
was afforded by the two important acts of ISo-t and 1857. The first 
provided for county superintendents of schools, and Erie was prompt 
to act in accordance with the new law. That year William H. Arm- 
strong was chosen county superintendent, and immediately set about 
organizing the schools of the county into something like system. The 
chief difficulty at the beginning lay in the inability to obtain all the cap- 
able teachers required. It was a difficulty not soon overcome — indeed 
never entirely removed until the act of 1907, which act fixed the mini- 
mum teacher's salary at $.50 per month, and this law was made effective 
by liberal appropriations by the state. During the early years, however, 
there was no real remedy for the trouble. There were districts, or 
schools, in which the average attendance was as low as ten scholars. In 
a community as sparsely settled as this attendance would indicate, it will 
not be difficult to understand why an adequate salary could not be paid, 
and it will be just as easy to understand why, under these circumstances, 
a teacher of good qualifications could not be obtained. At length a 
system of examinations was adopted, and at about the same time, in 1857. 
there was passed an act (mentioned above) providing that normal schools 
should be established. This provision for educating young men and 
women in the science of teaching was of the highest importance. Erie 
county was immediately and directly concerned. 

In the year 1857 the Edinboro Academy was built. It is not men- 
tioned in the list of academies of the county above, for the reason that 
its career was so soon to be merged in a grander enterprise. The trustees 
of Edinboro Academy were P. Burlingham, E. W. Gerrish, F. C. Vunk, 
Lewis Vorse, C. Reeder, J. W. Campbell and N. Clute, and the first 
principal was J. R. Merriman. That year the "act to provide for the 
training of teachers for the common schools of the state," the Normal 
School Act, was passed. Pursuant to the act the state was divided into 
districts and the Twelfth district was set oflF, to contain the counties of 
Erie, Crawford, Venango, Mercer and Lawrence. Immediately the Nor- 
mal School Act became effective the people of Edinboro exerted them- 


selves to have the normal school for the northwestern district located at 
that place, the academy being offered as the candidate. Hon. Joseph 
Ritner of Cumberland county, J. R. McClintock of Allegheny, and J. 
Turney of Westmoreland were appointed inspectors, and the county 
superintendents of the Twelfth Normal school district were notified to 
attend for the inspection and examination of the school on January 23, 
1861. The result of this inspection and examination was that the school 
was officially recognized as the State Normal School of the Twelfth Dis- 
trict of Pennsylvania, and J. R. Thompson was appointed the first prin- 
cipal, serving from 1861 to 18G3. He was succeeded by Prof. J. A. 
Cooper, who filled the position with distinction from 1863 to 1893. Prof. 
M. G. Benedict was principal from 1892 to 1896; Dr. J. R. Flickinger 
from 1896 to 1899, and Prof. John F. Bigler from 1899 to the present. 

By the time that graduates from Edinboro began to seek for employ- 
ment in the public schools of the county the troubles with regard to the 
quality or qualifications of teachers available began to diminish. How- 
ever, for a long period — indeed up to quite recently — examinations of 
candidates for teachers were held regularly by the county superintendent. 
Graduates of the Normal school, however, who held certificates from 
that institution, were eligible without examination. In 1867 teachers' 
institutes became a feature of the county public school system, tending 
toward its betterment while in 1893 the free text book act went promptly 
into effect. 

The county superintendents of public instruction were: William 
H. Armstrong, from 1854 to 1860; L. W. Savage, 1860 to 1863; D. P. 
Ensign served six months in 1863 and resigned, when Julius Degmeier 
served out the unexpired term, to 1866 ; L. T. Fisk 1866 to 1869 C. C. 
Taylor, 1869 to 1878; Charles Twining, 1878 to 1884; James M. :\Ior- 
rison, 1884 to 1889 ; Thomas C. Miller, 1889 to 1896 ; Thomas M. Mor- 
rison, 1896 to 1902; Samuel B. Bayle, 1902 to 1908; Isaac H. Russell, 
1908 to date. County superintendents are elected by a convention of the 
school directors of all the districts in the county, and the superintendent 
is elected for a term of three years. The total number of public schools 
in the county, outside the cities of Erie and Corry is 2.50. including 340 

The most important work accomplished in connection with the public 
schools of the county was that of establishing a graded course of study 
for every school, so that by the system adopted scholars pursued a course 
that led logically from the primary department to the high school, the 
certificates obtained at the final examination in the grammar grade of any 
county school being sufficient for admission to any high school. This 
important work was accomplished by Superintendent Miller in 1892. As 
a natural result of this admirable system it soon became necessary to 
introduce another innovation in the county school system, and township 
high schools began to be built, thus endorsing and perpetuating the graded 


system by establishing permanently the highest grade recognized at this 
day of free school education. 

There are twenty-six high schools in the county outside of the cities 
of Erie and Corry. A few of them are not fully equipped, nor possessed 
of pretentious buildings, but many of the high schools boast admirable 
establishments, complete in practically everything that a modern school 
demands. In some instances the high school is located so that the borough 
and the township are both served ; in others there are more than one 
school in a township, the design being to meet the requirements of the 
situation. The township and borough high schools of the present time 
are : Albion, occupying a fine new building, completed the beginning of 
the year 1909, and serving both the borough and the township of Con- 
neaut; Edinboro, an excellent school depending chiefly upon the borough 
for its attendance; Elkcreek, at Wellsburg; Fairview township, two 
schools, one in the south and one at Avonia ; Fairview borough, a school 
of long standing that was formerly an academy ; Girard borough, a natural 
development where an excellent academy laid the foundation; Girard 
township, at North Girard, occupying one of the finest buildings for the 
purpose to be found in the county, built in 1901 at a cost of $25,000; 
Greenfield, at Little Hope ; Harborcreek, a new school specially built 
in Harborcreek village in VM)2. at a cost of $15,000; Millcreek, three 
high schools, one on the Buffalo road, between Erie and Wesleyville, the 
Glenwood school on the turnpike south of the city, and the new high 
school on the Ridge road west of Erie built in 1902 and costing $15,000 — 
the east and west schools are four room houses and the Glenwood school 
has two rooms ; Middleboro and Millvillage are both provided ; North East 
township is privileged to patronize the excellent school that has been 
maintained for a long time in the thrifty borough of the same name; 
Springfield township, township of academies in the olden time, true to its 
traditions, supports three high schools — one in East Springfield borough, 
one in North Springfield and one in West Springfield. Summit has no high 
school building but contrives to impart an education of the high school 
grade to every pupil of the township who desires it enough to pursue the 
course. Union City, a bustling manufacturing town, supports a high 
school of the first order. Venango maintains two high schools — one at 
Lowville and one at Phillipsville — and counting the excellent school at 
Wattsburg the township has three. Washington has a high school at Mc- 
Lane. Waterford has converted the old academy, the building begun 
in 1822 and first employed as an educational institution in 1826, into a 
high school, in which, besides the usual high school branches, there have 
been special lines taught, such as the science of agriculture. The Scotch- 
Irish race has made its mark in Erie county by planting schools with 
lavish hand, and fostering them and improving them to the highest de- 
gree for which the law gives warrant. Four of the townships (by in- 
cluding their boroughs) have three high schools each — Fairview, Mill- 


creek, Springfield and \'enango, and one, Washington, has two. In the case 
of Fairview it would be well not to overlook the fact that there is more 
than a sprinkling of German names upon the rolls of the taxables, and 
there the immigrants from Fatherland should be included with the 
Celtic people with which race so many of Erie county's people pride them- 
selves upon being connected. 


First Saw and Grist ^Iills. — The Enterprise of M. Blancon. — 
Steam Mills. — The Passing of the Woolen Industry. 

The pioneers who settled in the midst of the great forest at Erie had 
very Httle that would contribute to comfort, as a rule, for while there 
were soine of the earliest settlers who brought quite a fair store of cloth- 
ing and bedding with some few utensils, and there were two or three who 
brought slaves with them, the great majority had scarcely anything be- 
yond what they were wearing at the time and the axe with which an open- 
ing was to be carved out of the forest. The axe was the universal tool. 
A cross-cut saw was now and then to be found, but the axe was in the 
hands of everyone. The hammer was the most useless of all tools when 
the construction of habitations began in this part of the country, for there 
were no nails ; the auger was a much more-to-be-desired tool — but the 
axe ; always the axe. It was with that tool the logs were cut out of the 
trees into proper lengths for the cabins in which the new-comers were 
to live ; it was the same tool that squared their ends and fitted them so 
they could be built up and held together ; the same tool was useful to 
get out the rafters and frame them so they would stay in place; it was 
the axe that split the clap-boards of which the roof was to be formed, 
and the poles that were to hold the roof-boards in place ; it was the axe 
that filled in the gap at the gable ; that split slabs for the door and punch- 
eons for the floor ; that did all that was done for the rude carpentry of the 
time, except the boring of the holes — for the small amount of this sort of 
work that was done it was often necessary to resort to the slow process 
of burning holes with a piece of heated iron, for the auger was a mechani- 
cal luxury. But, when the holes had been made it was the axe again that 
fitted the pins they were intended to receive or the rounded extension at 
the edge of the slab that was to be inserted into holes above and below, 
and form a hinge. 

While therefore the axe was the universal tool with which civiliza- 
tion was being hewn out of the wilderness the need for something that 
would lighten labor and hasten the progress of civilization came early. 
It was therefore directly upon the heels of settlement that the mills came, 
and the need of adequate protection from the rigors of the winter season, 
to be supplied by something to supplement the crude architecture of the 


first year or two, brought the saw-mill first. Some historians have ven- 
tured the assertion that the French, during their occupancy of Fort 
Presque Isle, operated a saw-mill. This is probably a mistake. No evi- 
dences of any remains of a mill were ever reported. The French did 
manufacture brick. There were samples of their handicraft in this respect 
that came over to the permanent settlers, both on the mainland and on the 
peninsula, a small magazine having been built just across the old entrance 
to the bay on the east end, and some curious structures, never accurately 
described, that were called "the chimneys," that stood for years near the 
west end of the peninsula beyond the Big Bend, and gave their name of 
the chimney ponds to the most westerly of all the small bodies of water in 
the peninsula. There is not, however, any tradition of remains to indi- 
cate a saw-mill — indeed, the saw-mill had not been invented as early as 
the French occupancy of Erie ; it did not come into use anywhere until 
about the beginning of the Nineteenth century. The saw-mills that came 
just after the settlement of Erie were, therefore, not only the first in 
Erie county, but among the first to be built anywhere. 

The first saw-mill built here was that of Capt. Russell Bissell, who 
built the American block houses upon Garrison Hill. That was in 1796, 
and it was constructed for the use of the military. The first saw-mill for 
commercial purposes may have been that of Thomas Forster, built near 
the mouth of Walnut creek, a place afterwards to be known to local fame 
as Manchester. That mill was built in 1797. However, the same year 
Mr. Brotherton erected a saw-mill at Waterford, so it cannot be positively 
stated which was the earlier, Forster's or Brotherton's. From that time 
on, however, the mills multiplied, until, in the course of a few years almost 
every section of the county was supplied. In 179S Thomas Rees built one 
for the Population Co. on Four-mile creek. Others of the earliest mills 
were: Leverett Bissel in 1799 on French creek in Greenfield; in 1800, 
John Cochran on Mill creek near what is now Glenwood Park, and Wil- 
liam Miles at Union ; in 1801, Capt. Holliday on Crooked creek in Spring- 
field ; in 1802, John Riblet on Four-mile creek south of Wesleyville, and 
Lattimore and Boyd in Waterford township ; in 1803, D. Dobbins and 
James Foulk, on Twelve-mile creek ; in 1804, Robert McCullough on 
Mill creek above Glenwood Park. From 1814 for a number of years the 
saw-mill business increased prodigiously and in fact continued until 
recently, checked only when the industry had well nigh depleted the for- 
ests of merchantable timber. 

The grist-mill was not long behind the sawmill. Hulled corn and the 
coarse meal of home make could be made to serve for a time as a sort of 
emergency ration, but there was a crying demand for something better. 
Larger areas in cultivation with an increase in the amount of the pro- 
duct, put the farmers in a position to be able to pay the toll, so the grist- 
mill came in good time. It was in 1798 that the first mill in Erie county 
to grind corn was built at Manchester by Wm. Forster. This was the 


first grist-mill in the new west of that day, and the writer has had it from 
the lips of a son of a Cleveland pioneer, that his father had upon several 
occasions driven his ox-team from near the Cuyahoga river to Erie (no 
doubt Manchester was really the place) to have a load of corn ground 
into meal for himself and neighbors, the trip requiring full two weeks 
for the accomplishment of its purpose. It was a long and toilsome jour- 
ney in those days through the forest, and dangerous as well, for the peo- 
ple were in constant fear of savage men as well as of savage beasts. They 
were more happily circumstanced at Erie, for not only was the new grist 
mill nearer at hand, but one of the first roads opened in the county was 
that between Erie and the mouth of Walnut creek. The Silverthorn mill 
on Spring Run, in Girard township, was built in 1799. In 1800 William 
Miles built a grist-mill, at Union in connection with his saw- 
mill enterprise and the same year James Foulk built a grist-mill 
at the mouth of Six-mile creek where there was a splendid natural water- 
power at hand. William Culbertson's mill at Edinboro was opened in 
1801. Capt. Holliday added a grist-mill to his saw-mill enterprise in 
1803, two years after the latter was begun, and it was in the same year 
that the Dobbins and F"oulk grist-mill, supplementing the saw-mill, was 
built. It was in 1804 that the Erie County mill that did business up to as 
late as 1880, was established in the Happy Valley, just south and east of 
Glenwood Park. Col. Tuttle's mill on Sixteen-mile creek was built in 
1807. These were the earliest mills. But others followed rapidly, and 
among the new mills were many that assumed greater proportions, and 
essayed a higher order of product, for the farmer did not confine himself 
to growing but one crop, and as progress was made tastes became more 
fastidious. Many of the milling industries of today are but the continua- 
tion of industries that had their foundations laid in the early years of the 
century that has just passed. 

Not a few of the flouring mills of the county achieved more than a 
neighborhood reputation, and continued in active and increasing business 
until at length the competition, at first of the mills located by the side of 
the railroad, later by the introduction in the larger mills of the roller 
process, and still later of the great mills of the west made their business 
unprofitable. There were a number, however, that contrived to survive 
for a long time. The mill at the point where the Ridge road crosses Wal- 
nut creek is an example. Built by S. F. Gudtner, it eventually became 
known as Weigle's mill and prospered until the great flood of 1893 which 
affected every one of the streams that empty into the lake, washed away 
the dam. and though there was a partial recovery, the business was not 
brisk. About 1900 the mill was destroyed by fire, after having stood for 
nearly a century. The Sterrettania mill in South Fairview, owned by 
David S. Sterrett, was a notable industry in its time, and another Fair- 
view enterprise, the Dietly mill, was the most persistent of all. The 
Cooper mill near Wesleyville was for many years of great importance. 


The mill of Amos King at Albion continued to do a prosperous business 
for a long period of time. This is also true of the mill on Elk creek in 
West Girard. Joseph Hall's Elgin mill of Beaver Dam run, Jacob 
Brown's mill on Le Boeuf creek in Greene township and the Backus mill 
on Six-mile creek, all began business in the beginning of the Nineteenth 
century and prospered for many years. Mill Village became a centre of 
the milling industry at an early day. Its name would indicate this. 
Situated near the main siream of French creek with several affluents in 
the vicinity it was happily circumstanced, and among numerous saw-mills 
and other industries that came and went the grist-mills of Burger, Wheeler 
and Thompson endured. The Burger mill prospered for nearly a century. 

These were all, however, the modest enterprises of the usual country 
development, that came into existence because of the neighborhood demand 
and proved their necessity by their long continued operation. There were, 
however, other enterprises undertaken upon a large scale and with many 
demonstrations of great promise that were by no means as durable, nor 
as reliable an index of the real business of the community in which they 
had been planted. 

For many years there stood on the west side of Cascade street, ex- 
tending from where Seventh street is now opened through, to Fifth street, 
an imposing structure, standing three stories high in the main part, and 
with its additions and contiguous buildings occupying very nearly half 
a square. Painted white, and located a good long distance west of the 
city as it existed even until after war times, it was the most notable object 
in the landscape, which it dominated from every direction, for the land 
all about it was cleared, save a small grove of giant trees of the hemlock 
spruce a little to the northwest. In the sixties it used to be spoken of 
simply as "the old mill" ; but few visited it and fewer still could tell any 
thing about it. There was then not a window sash left in it, nor a door, 
and the floor of the first story was gone. The fields about were used as 
pastures and the cattle, seeking shelter, made free use of it. In one cor- 
ner there stood, nearly intact, a large steam engine of an obsolete pattern 
even for those days, its cylinder of remarkable length and its general 
appearance commanding the attention of anyone at all versed in mechanics. 
Covered with dust and encrusted with the rust of many years it was a 
silent witness of industry that prevailed at one time, though then it was 
long since the hum of business activity had ceased to echo through those 
silent and deserted rooms. Even as it stood the desolation was eloquent 
of which we are speaking being Gen. C. AI. Air. Reed was a bold adven- 
the place a story of enterprise. 

That mill was built in (or about) 1839 by P. C. Blancon. He was 
a Frenchman. He had a Frenchman's characteristic ambition to do things 
upon a large scale, and his venture in Erie was gauged accordingly. Pre- 
vious to coming to Erie he had located in Philadelphia. Whether he had 
engaged in business there or not does not appear from anything that can 


be ascertained but he came at length to Erie, and this is how it came 

One of the most prominent citizens of early Erie for many years was 
P. S. V. Hamot. He had, early in the history of the town engaged in 
business here with great success, the result being that in time he was rated 
perhaps the wealthiest man of Erie. There was a sort of rivalry between 
Mr. Hamot and the Reeds, the head of the latter family about the time 
of which we are speaking being Gen. C. M. Mr. Reed was a bold adven- 
turer in many lines, among them being commerce and merchandising. All 
the early generations of the Reeds owned vessels and stores and ware- 
houses, and for a good part of the time Mr. Hamot filled the relation of 
banker to the house of Reed. Something occurred to set Reed and Hamot 
edgewise toward one another. What it was even tradition is silent re- 
garding. The business relations between the men continued, however, 
without anything noticeable coming to the surface to indicate any deep- 
seated feeling. At last, however, something did happen. That was the 
advent in Erie of Mons. Blancon. He had been induced by Mr. Hamot, 
himself a Frenchman, to come to this place with a view to engaging in 
business. Whatever the rest of the people here thought, the Reeds at 
once suspected there was a purpose in bringing M. Blancon to Erie. 

In those days all the land west of Erie was covered with a splendid 
growth of timber. In the level tract a part of which about midway be- 
tween the Lake Road and the Ridge Road was low and wet and inclined 
to be swampy, there were large quantities of walnut and other valuable 
timber, and the character of these woods was an important factor in de- 
termining M. Blancon upon locating here. However, he had conceived 
an enterprise of too gigantic proportions for even the character of the 
adjacent forests to fix its limit, though it had much to do with bringing 
about a decision. What the full scope of the Frenchman's prophetic 
vision was his completed industry will serve to show. It was not long 
after his arrival here before he had decided to stay and embark in busi- 

The first step taken was to invest in land, and he bought up an im- 
mense tract extending westward from Cascade street, which was regarded 
as the western limits to which the city might extend. Then he planned 
for the heart of his industry. In those days the power almost universally 
used in shops and mills was water. There existed a reasonably good 
source of power on the property, in Cascade creek, then a comparatively 
constant stream. It was not, however, adequate to the demands of M. 
Blancon's enterprise. He decided to employ steam. Therefore he located 
his mill on the extreme eastern edge of his property, and set about pro- 
curing his machinery. He went to the seaboard cities to obtain what was 
required. His engine and boiler were bought in Philadelphia. There 
were no railroads in those days, nor regular system of freighting. As a 
consequence he had to team his machinery all the way to Erie. Six 
Vol. 1—13 


yoke of oxen were required to haul the boiler from Philadelphia and six 
weeks of time were consumed in the trip. The route was over the 
mountains to the lower end of Chatauqua Lake, up the east side of the 
lake to Mayville and then westward. 

It was a notable occasion when that caravan entered and passed 
through Erie ; notable because of its size, and notable because it repre- 
sented the first steam plant for a mill in this section of the country. The 
building erected was a splendid construction. The frame of great tim- 
bers, hewn square, possessed the strength of a fortification, and solidity 
characterized it from foundation up. Nor was there any unnecessary 
delay in pushing the construction forward. The work was well done and 
it was done quickly, and before the end of 1839 was in active operation. 

But what was made or manufactured at that mill? It might be 
almost as reasonable to ask what was not made there. 

It was a saw-mill of far more capacity than any that ever had been 
operated in or near Erie. It was also a grist or flour mill. It was a 
planing mill and a manufactory of sashes and doors. It was likewise 
a cooperage, and that of great capacity. It was a woolen factory. Be- 
sides all these it was a distillery, and as an adjunct of the last named, 
of course, the fattening of hogs and the production of pork was a side 

But would Erie in those days support, and therefore warrant the 
operation, of an industry of so great proportions? M. Blancon did not 
expect Erie to be his sole market. Indeed he looked for little to come from 
the small town that then existed here. To manufacturing he added com- 
merce. The shipping of those days on the lake was confined chiefly to 
saihng vessels. The Reeds were engaged in steamboating, but yet much 
the greater part of the freight carrying was done by sailing vessels. M. 
Blancon did not own vessels, but he chartered boats for the entire season. 
The first vessels employed were the Swan, a schooner of 50 tons. Captain 
Ball ; and the schooner Lumberman, of 75 tons. Captain Winschel. These 
were small vessels, but they compared well with what were in vogue at 
the time, and they had an advantage in their small size, for then there was 
no dock or wharf at the point where they were to receive and discharge 
cargo, and therefore they could be floated nearer in to the shore. The 
place W'here they landed was at or about the mouth of Cascade creek. 
At that time there was not a very extensive beach there. The coast was 
bold and rocky and the water deep, so that it was possible to approach 
very near to shore. These vessels received at this point their cargoes of 
lumber or pork or whatever, and then proceeded to Buflfalo where there 
was a ready market. Returning, they brought whatever supplies were 
needed for the community — it was of considerable size — ^that had sprung 
up about the mill. Then the boats would proceed up the lake to Toledo 
and Monroe, to take on grain. This was carried to Erie to be converted 
into flour or whiskey. So through that rude, bare harbor which today 


contains immense docks provided with all the marvelous appliances of 
modern times, but then was nothing but the natural beach, there swiftly 
grew up a commerce notable for the time. From that point was carried 
.umber, flour, cloth, staves, whiskey, pork; various products of the planing 
mill, in demand in the west, and mill stuffs the by-product in the manu- 
facture of the flour. Recounting the achievements of this Frenchman in 
this American wilderness the story takes on the aspect of a romance. 

What brought it to an end? and how long did it endure? 

It is not certain that there is a good and reliable answer to either 
question, but there is a pretty circumstantial story with reference to the 
reason for the winding up of the business of the Blancon mill, and this 
it is proper to relate first. At the time the enterprise under consideration 
was in operation there was a navigable strait or opening at the head of the 
bay; that is to say, it was navigable, at least part of the time, for vessels 
such as were then doing business on the lake. The depth of the strait 
varied, the direction of the wind determining the stage of water. As a 
rule, except during strong east winds, there was water enough in that 
strait to float vessels of eight feet draft, such as the Swan or even the 
Lumberman were. It is stated by as reliable an authority on lake marine 
matters as Mr. Andrew Blila that the brig Virginia, of 200 tons burthen, 
had made the passage of the strait, and the logs of Capt. Dobbins and 
others of later date, sailing the revenue cutters of olden times, record the 
fact that there was water enough in that channel to enable these vessels 
to pass. 

Now it was through the channel at the head of the bay that the 
vessels trading with the Blancon mill passed. There was no other course 
permitted according to accounts, but why the eastern channel was not 
free to all who wished to use it there has been no explanation, except 
that the Reed interest was opposed to it and this opposition was sufficient 
to be effective. The use of all the docks that then existed in the harbor 
were denied to the French company ; but this might be and still the 
company could have enjoyed free access from the east as well as from 
the west to their landing place at Cascade creek, unless, as has been 
stated, there was in reality some influence to prevent. At any rate, as 
the story goes, the Blancon interests succeeded in getting an appropriation 
to deepen the western channel so as to make it dependable at all stages 
of water, but Gen. Reed, who was then the representative of Erie in 
congress, succeeded in getting the appropriation employed to close the 
opening up. Of course this cut off all access the Blancon mill had with 
the outside world, and the natural result was produced. The mill closed 
down. It remained idle a year. Then the Reed interests, as the story 
goes, had a channel cut across the peninsula near the Big Meadows — 
almost at the west end of the peninsula where it is narrowest. This 
channel was cut to enable the Reed steamboats, passing up and down the 
lake between Buffalo and the upper ports, to more conveniently stop at 


Erie. As soon as this new channel was made business was resumed at 
the mill. The final closing of the means of communication with the bay 
and the lake at this western end according to the narrative, permanently 
closed the most promising industry of early Erie. 

There is another story, however, though not so well constructed as 
that regarding the western channel, which accounts for the death of the 
enterprise. This story associates with M. Blancon a number of other 
French gentlemen, one by the name of Dimanville, who also, for a time, 
took up his residence in Erie. These had all borne equal share in capita- 
lizing the enterprise. After a few years' trial, however, they became dis- 
satisfied, declined to put any more money into a losing venture and all, 
with the exception of M. Blancon, returned to France. Possibly this 
presents the most plausible of all reasons for the abandonment of so 
bold an undertaking, and one that seemed to the wondering people of 
Erie to be doing an immense business. 

There are some still living who entertain the idea that the failure 
of the business was due to either extravagance on the part of M. Blancon 
or lack of attention, or both. He is remembered as a man of elegance 
proverbial of the French: He was very much devoted to society. A 
splendid dancer, he not only never absented himself from any social 
function at which the dance was a feature, but was himself a leader in 
providing or arranging entertainments of that character. But being a 
Frenchman, his terpsichorean proclivities are not, for that very reason, 
necessarily a confession of judgment in a charge of business incapacity or 
laxness. A Frenchman can be an elegant gentleman, a social lion, a prac- 
ticed gallant and at the same time a good business man. Therefore it is 
quite probable the second reason was that which brought about the clos- 
ing of the big mill. The business did not pay in this new country. There- 
fore it was discontinued. 

There seems to be confirmation of this in the fact that upon the de- 
cision being arrived at to discontinue business Hon. Gideon J. Ball was 
selected by the French company to wind up its affairs. The abandon- 
ment of the venture was complete, so radically complete that there was no 
effort made to realize anything of moment out of the company's holdings. 
Flundreds of acres of land were owned, all of which was sold for the 
taxes, and it is said the Hamot, Tracy, Reed, Ball and Lyon farms, be- 
tween Erie and the head of the bay, were all bought from the Blancon 
company through the county treasurer. 

]M. Blancon's venture, as near as can be learned, did not last above 
four or five years, but it was big while it lasted. Everything was on a 
tremendous scale as things were then measured. But it flattened out with 
exceeding promptness. The popular Frenchman left Erie, perhaps re- 
gretfully, no doubt regretted. But he went without any cloud upon his 
business reputation. He left ample means to settle all his indebtedness and 


a man of ability and probity to attend to the business. M. Blancon 
amassed wealth as a wine merchant in New York after leaving Erie. 

That old mill would doubtless have been standing to this day if it 
had been left to itself, so very strongly had it been built. But it was not. 
For a time part of it was occupied by Mr. Clemens Buseck as an oil cloth 
factory. That was the last industry it accommodated. 

After a time it became a place of shelter for a horde of foreigners. 
There is no way now of telling what their nationality was. Quite likely 
there were many nationalities represented, for they were laboring people 
brought in by the railroad and the building of docks there — that was in the 
last half of the decade of the sixties. It has been said that at that time 
there were hundreds of families and more than a thousand people sheltered 
under the shingles of the old mill. It became a neighborhood nuisance in 
time, and at length the complaints of the neighbors reached the ears of its 
owners, Messrs. Scott & Hearn, and then the main part was promptly 
torn down. For a number of years longer the two-story extension toward 
Sixth street was permitted to remain and was occupied by railroad labor- 
ers. That too is now gone, and with it went out the most romantic and 
picturesque business venture ever identified with the name of Erie. 

There still remains on Seventh street west of Cascade, a three-story 
frame dwelling house that was the home of the superintendent, and it is 
still sound and in service for residence purposes. At the time the Scott 
Block was built in 1874-5 the walnut lumber used for the casings and fine 
finishing of the interior was obtained from the timbers of the old mill 
by the builders. Constable & Ramsey. 

The importance of an industry to the community in which it is placed 
is not always measured by its size. This fact would seem to be established 
by what is recorded of the Blancon mill. The Erie of that time boasted 
a population of 3,500 or thereabouts, but it had no perceptible iniluence 
upon the town to have the mill that included a most unusual number of 
industries suddenly removed. There were no failures of business re- 
corded, nor was the growth of the place retarded. Business in the city 
proper continued much as it had previously done. And yet it is a matter 
of note that in every particular branch covered by the French enterprise 
it easily led all others. Old citizens declare that the product of its dis- 
tillery more than doubled that on Eleventh street, near German, in which 
the Reeds were interested. It was also true that in its other branches it 
was a leader. Its business, however, was with the world outside of Erie. 
Its raw material, save the timber cut in the adjacent forests, was brought 
from a distance, and its finished products found markets elsewhere. There- 
fore, save the wages paid to its operatives, little of the money the mill 
earned was distributed in Erie. For that reason the discontinuance of the 
business of the mill of many industries caused only a temporary and not 
very noticeable shock to the community. 


Perhaps this was due to the fact that, doubtlessly stimulated by the 
example of the Frenchmen, new industries along much the same line, were 
started here. For this, credit might be due to M. Blancon. This is true, 
however, of the new industries: They had more intimate relation with 
the place than the other had. There was the Reed flouring mill, for ex- 
ample, that about this time was in its most flourishing condition. That, 
built in 1815, stood near Fifth and Parade streets, and obtained its power 
from the water of Mill creek. It was one of the oldest, and. for a num- 
ber of years, was one of the most productive of the many mills that bor- 
dered that stream. That mill stood until the early seventies, though it had 
been abandoned for some years before it finally yielded place for the 
march of progress. 

The success of the steam saw-mill on Cascade street prompted a simi- 
lar enterprise on the part of the Reeds. That mill, however, was located 
beyond the city limits, out to the east, at or about the Downing farm. In 
those days there existed a beaver dam a short distance north of the 
Buffalo road. The water was furnished by the little stream that flows be- 
tween the Downing property and Schaal's, and, long after the animals 
that had constructed it were extinct the pond impounded by the dam re- 
mained and was a familiar feature of the landscape. It was alongside 
this beaver dam, or pond, that the new steam saw-mill was built, and for 
many years it did a prosperous business. That, of course, was before the 
time of the railroad, but evidences of the existence of that mill remained 
until recently in the heaps of sawdust, that, though nearly covered by 
vegetation, were still plainly to be seen. It is doubtful whether, at this 
late day, any traces of the ancient beaver dam and pond can be found, but 
there are people still living who remember it very well. It was an ad- 
mirable site for a saw-mill, as there was water enough to meet all the 
requirements, and a splendid forest, rich in valuable timber trees. A little 
of this forest remains to this day, though it is greatly altered in its original 

These industries, while of great benefit to the growing town of Erie, 
were, nevertheless, hardly entitled to the distinction of being rated as city- 
builders, though of course they contributed their mite. 

It is early in the morning, the beginning of June, thirty-five years ago, 
and the sun has just looked over the tops of the somewhat lofty hills upon 
the left of the roadway over which we are passing. To the right there is 
a thicket of young beeches clad in soft foliage of delicate green, choicest of 
all the spring tints. Just beyond a stream glides smoothly down, for its mur- 
muring is only of the gentlest sort as the melodious sound of its plashing 
among the pebbles, where the little rapid is formed by the narrowing 
channel, comes modulated through the fringe of blue beech and alders 
that stand guard over the laughing water; and just beyond rises, almost 


perpendicular, a scaur of slaty soapstone rock that bears upon its summit 
a crown of sombre hemlock spruce. 

Overhead, upon the wide-stretching limb of a giant liriodendron that 
seems as though extending a hand of benediction over the passing way- 
farer, a wood thrush has take his position and is pouring forth the ecsta- 
sies of his matin hymn, a melody that finds in every heart responsive to 
nature, an answering echo. 

Between the steep wooded hill upon the left, and the beechen thicket 
upon the right, under the station of the singing thrush, we pass as through 
a massive portal, and, crossing a rustic bridge, have entered the Happy 
Valley. Do not search for it upon the map, for you will not find it ; as 
well look for the giant tulip-tree, in which the thrush is singing, upon the 
charted record. It is not there. And yet the Happy \'alley is reality — a 
delightful reality; for it is a joy to visit its seclusion, to note its multitud- 
inous charms, its quiet industry and abundant content on this early 
summer morning. 

As we cross the bridge we note the beginnings of the charming little 
community, for directly before us there rises the steep slope of a some- 
what lofty hill-side, covered to its summit with apple trees in bloom, a 
cloud of blush-white blossoms. Upon the left hand can be seen the waters 
of the creek flowing down past the high clay blutt, gleaming in the sun, 
its left bank bordered with a row of soldierly Lombardy poplars, and close 
by. a little old mill. Just opposite there is a cottage painted white and 
nearly buried in the foliage of the prune trees and the ornamental shrub- 

We pass along, and observe just beyond the cottage, a road 
that leads up out of the valley. It is the Shunpike, romantically located 
and rurally rough, but its leafy canopy has ever been a favorite haunt 
of the thrush. The road we are pursuing bends to the left where the 
Shunpike joins it, and part way up the hill, embowered in the blooming 
apple trees there is another white cottage from the chimney of which 
ascends the light blue smoke indicating preparations for the early 
morning meal. Now the road winds easterly and then southerly ; modest, 
but substantial homes upon our left, the orchard-planted hill upon the 
right, for perhaps a furlong ; then the hillside changes its aspect, forest 
trees taking the place of those laden with the pink-white promises of 
fruitage. Opposite there is now a long row of stately Lombardy poplars 
that stand guard between the road side and the stretch of placid water — 
the slack-water above the mill-dam. Across, clothed with oaks and 
chestnut, beech and hemlock spruce, with undergrowth of dogwood 
and hornbeam and bramble, the steep hillside rises up from the water. 
The margin of the pond is decorated with clumps of blue violets and 
through the openings in the shrubbery on the hill may be seen, here and 
there, a patch of trilliums or cardamines ; a bell flower or an anemone. 
The kingfisher shoots across the surface of the water crying his rattle- 


like call ; from the orchard we hear the song of the robin and the oriole ; 
borne over from the meadows on the hilltop by the morning breeze 
comes the liquid melody of the bobolink. 

Now we have reached the end of the column of stately poplars and 
are about to cross another bridge, but here the road forks. To the 
right it passes a large structure set into the side-hill, (a brewery it is), 
and proceeds in a winding course up the side of the hill until it leads 
out along a branch of the main stream. 

To the left the road passes over the creek and upon either side there 
are habitations and industries. On the right there stands a large grist 
mill, and at a short distance up stream a saw mill. Opposite on the east 
side of the road and at the base of another orchard-covered hill-side, is 
located a spacious tavern, shaded by two large pine trees, and, on either 
flank there are dwellings of more modest proportions. Near by on the 
other side side of the road are to be seen the large stables and the horse- 
sheds that are part of the establishment of the wayside caravansary. 
Beyond, the road proceeds across another bridge and then passes up 
out of the valley on its way toward the ancient town of Waterford. 

This was the Happy Valley of the end of the sixties. It was a place 
of industry and thrift. Its population numbered forty souls ; its indus- 
tries the manufacture of woolen cloth, the grinding of corn and wheat ; 
the brewing of beer and the manufacture of lumber and shingles. Its 
name, bestowed in a spirit of facetiousness, was, nevertheless, apt enough 
tt) have been taken seriously. Peace and plenty and contentment reigned 
there and thrift and industry characterized its people; its name was not 
a misnomer. 

But things are changed now in the Happy Valley. After forty years 
the aspect of the place is vastly different. You will not find the grist mill 
there — its only relic is the deep pool below the old water-wheel, grown 
up in summer with cat-tail flags and bordered with elders and osier 
willows. The sawmill long ago disappeared, become a ruin through neg- 
lect. The brewer's business failed and after a time the disused building 
was destroyed by fire. Even the mill pond is no longer to be seen. In 
its stead there is a deep cut made by the spring and fall freshets, and even 
the guardian poplars have been ruthlessly attacked. The trim and tidy 
appearance of the hamlet ; the pretty old-fashioned gardens of roses and 
lilies, hollyhocks and sweet williams, June pinks and larkspurs, are un- 
cared-for now. No longer are there flocks of doves to be seen circling 
about ; the grist mill and the brewery that fed them are now gone. Even 
the dwellings are not all occupied. 

The Happy Valley — happy valley still — though not set down on any 
map or chart of Erie county by any distinctive name or title, is not 
difficult to find. It is located just beyond Glenwood Park, on the old 
Waterford plank road (which is the extension of State street), and 
extends from the old woolen mill property up to the old Warden tavern. 


a distance of a scant half mile. It is one of the most charming valley 
spots in Erie county, and, contiguous to Glenwood Park, ought to be 
bought and added to it, for its possibilities in the hands of a landscape 
engineer are great. 

Nearly everyone who drives out into the country for pleasure ; many 
who have gone out awheel, know this hamlet, though much reduced from 
its best estate, yet charming still. 

But some details about it in the days of its prosperity and the 
statement of some of the causes that brought about its decay are in 
place. Perhaps they will be found entertaining — possibly instructive. 

The last one of the original industries of the Happy Valley to dis- 
appear was the old woolen factory, owned for forty years by Jacob 
Albrecht. It occupied its place by the portals of the Happy Valley for 
half a century, having been built by John Jewett in 1853. Mr. Jewett 
operated it for ten years, but only on a small scale, having but a single 

In 1863 Jacob Albrecht took the mill. He was a practiced hand at 
the business of spinning and weaving; he was young, industrious and 
thrifty. Moreover he was ambitious. There seemed to be here a good 
opening for the practiced weaver. The place was upon a main road from 
the country and was near the city. Though he possessed but little capital 
he had unbounded faith in his abilities, and possessed a splendid stock of 
energy. So he contracted to purchase the mill and the acres and priv- 
ileges that went with it. When he began business the mill contained but 
a single loom. In a short time more machinery was needed. At Yankee- 
town, which was about three miles up the stream, near Belle Valley, 
there was another woolen mill, and Mr. Albrecht, learning that the Gun- 
nisons, who owned it, had decided to engage in the manufacture of 
wooden pumps, bought the looms and other machinery, so that in time 
the mill at Happy Valley was operating four looms, one a power machine, 
the others operated by hand. There was other machinery as well: his 
■spinning jacks and jennies, that numbered many spindles, and a complete 
outfit of all that was necessary. He gave steady employment to seven 
hands, and turned out a considerable variety of goods, flannels, blankets, 
tweeds and such. 

But he was not making swift progress financially, because untoward 
circumstances came upon him. More than once his dam was washed out, 
and the interest to pay made a hole in his profits. Then in 1873 came the 
great panic, and the bottom fell completely out of his business. For a 
time there was nothing doing. However, he kept up his courage and 
renewed his industry, eking out a meagre living in the struggle that the 
conditions of business brought about. And so he continued for twenty 
years longer, until the fateful year of 1893 came and visited him with 
dire disaster. 


At this time his was the only surviving industry of all that had made 
the Happy Valley a busy hive. One after another those farther up 
stream had withdrawn from the field. He was alone, and his factory, 
though the worse for wear, and his machinery of ancient pattern, was 
yet serviceable. But there came a visitation in the night that all but 
ruined the last of the Happy Valley's industries. It was in May, 1893, 
and Mr. Albrecht relates his experience in a manner that has something 
of the dramatic in the method of its telling: 

"I could hear the rain," he said, "and the roar of the rushing water; 
but it was dark. There was no moon, so I could see nothing. When the 
morning came we hurriedly dressed and as soon as the light broke we 
were eagerly looking for the creek. We saw with surprise and some fear 
that the water filled all the valley above and, running across the road, 
extended up to within a few feet of our door-step" — his home is the 
white cottage that stood opposite the mill. 

"Soon it became light enough so we could see that there was a heap 
of timber of all kinds jammed against the bridge, and the culvert of the 
tail race from the mill was clogged. The water was running in a 
swift torrent across the road and cutting deep gullies in it. At length 
with a noise of awful rending the bridge let go and went away down 
stream with all the mass of timbers following ; the stone abutments went 
with the bridge; and the road itself seemed to be going with it, and 
through the yawning chasm a torrent nineteen feet in depth swept re- 

It covered all the lower ground. It poured through the lower story 
of his mill, pushing one side in and the other side out, and swept it 
clean. The spinning jenny, the mill wheel, everything fixed or movable 
that the lower story contained was gone in a moment's time. Even the 
floor went when the other contents were carried away, and Mr. Albrecht 
expected at any time to see the old factory that had stood in that spot for 
forty years, yield to the pressure and go sailing down stream. But it 
did not ; it stood fast. 

After a time the worst of the flood was over and there was possible 
a tour of inspection. The extent of the damage to j\Ir. Albrecht was 
appalling. Not only had he lost the most important part of his power 
supply in the destruction of the water wheel and its connections, but his 
dam was wiped out of existence. Not even a vestige of it remained. It 
is one of the last, possibly the very last, of the woolen factories of Erie 

There was a time when the woolen industries of this country were of 
great importance, and included some mills of almost mammoth propor- 
tions — they were, at least, so for the period of their existence. This 
was true of the Grimshaw mill at North East, and the Flynt and Brewster 
mills in Erie ; the Cass mill on Six-Mile creek in South Harborcreek, and 


the Thornton mills were all sizeable plants, much larger than that out in 
the Happy \'alley. 

At the time Mr. Albrecht's mill was in the hey-day of its existence 
there were thirteen mills manufacturing cloth in Erie county. There 
were two in North East township, one besides the Grimshaw mill; one 
at Waterford, one at Wattsburg, one at McKean, two in Fairview, one 
at Girard. one at Albion, two in Harborcreek, one or probably two, in 
Springfield, and the Albrecht mill in ^lillcreek — all these without taking 
account of the mill at Yankeetown. Of all these mills there is not today 
a single one in operation. The Grimshaw mill was destroyed by fire 
many years ago, and never rebuilt. When Mr. Grimshaw collected his 
insurance of $20,000 he decided not to invest in what his judgment 
taught him to be a waning industry as it is conducted here. He invested 
in a farm and his production of wool was confined to the fleeces stripped 
from his flocks of sheep. 

The most persistent of the weavers were the Thorntons at Albion 
and Fairview. They made excellent goods, their flannels and blankets 
being among the finest and most substantial obtainable anywhere. But 
this branch of textile industry no longer thrives in Erie county. 

But we must return to the Happy \'alley. There were other features 
of it worthy of note that have not been touched upon. That grist mill 
that stood at tlie upper end of the hamlet was built in 1802, and was one 
of the first mills erected in Erie county. It was built by a man named 
Butt, and the saw-mill that stood a short distance farther up stream was 
part of the same enterprise. Later it was owned by Mr. Hershey and 
later yet by H. Scheloski. It was known as the Erie County mill and 
was still standing in the early eighties. Now all that marks its former 
location is the deep circular pool into which the water poured from its 
driving wheel. 

Standing against the western hillside — indeed, built into it — for 
many years there stood a brewery. That particular site was chosen 
because of two strong springs of pure water that poured out of the hill. 
The brewery was built in 18G-1 by the Knolls, of Erie. It was a well 
planned establishment, extensive cellars having been excavated into the 
hill, and Mr. Knoll, who built it, had been connected with the Erie 
County mill for some time. The real cause of the failure of that 
biewery's business is not known, but it came into straightened circum- 
stances. In its distress old John Gelchesheimer, who used to keep a 
little beer hall on Peach Street, near Twentieth, and his son-in-law. Mr. 
Haas, became interested in it, but it went out of business about 1880, and 
some time afterwards was burned. It is probable that, like the grist mill 
on the other side of the creek, it was found that the state of competition 
without the transportation facilities enjoyed by the mills near the rail- 
road operated to its disadvantage. It is also hinted that rumors of a rail- 


road to pass up Mill Creek valley and right through the property of one 
of these helped to decide the question in favor of abandoning business. 
At the present time the Glenwood Wine Co. uses the cellars of the old 
brewery for the wine business. 

There now remains the old tavern. It is the best preserved of the 
old landmarks of the once prosperous hamlet in the Happy Valley. The 
date of its erection is not obtainable. It was undoubtedly in the fifties, 
if not earlier. It was an admirable location for a wayside inn, being 
about four miles out of the Erie of its prosperous days, and 
close by a grist mill. When Mr. Albrecht moved into the valley, it 
was kept by a Mr. Warden, and afterwards S. Gloth kept it. As it 
stands today it has a really inviting aspect and a promise in its fine old- 
fashioned homeliness of old-fashioned hospitality. Beautifully, even 
picturesquely, situated, it is a pleasant spot at which to rest, and in the 
days of its business prosperity was deservedly popular. 


The First Vessels and the Earliest Captains. — Steps Taken to 
Open the Bay. — ^A Century of Protection. 

It was away back in the spring of 1753, when the entire south 
shore of Lake Erie was an absolutely unbroken wilderness, the lake 
itself an insert in the heart of the stupendous forest expanse which 
stretched from the Mexican Gulf to the Arctic sea, that the commerce 
of Erie began — that the waters of Presque Isle Bay were first parted 
by the prow of a white man"s vessel. Before that the waters of the 
lake had rolled before the breeze onward to the shore, unvexed by any 
device of man, save, now and then, by the paddle of the Indian, as, tak- 
ing advantage of their most amiable moods, he propelled his canoe of 
birchen bark along the coast. But in 1753 the new era began, when 
Sieur Marin and his expedition paddled their batteaux through the 
tortuous entrance into the beautiful sheet of water that Duquesne had 
pronounced "The finest in nature." Prophetic expression, done later 
less tersely, less comprehensively and less poetically in the now hack- 
neyed phrase, "The finest harbor on the chain of lakes." It is true the 
commerce of the Frenchman was not commerce in the generally ac- 
cepted sense. But it was commerce nevertheless ; all the commerce 
there could then be, for there were none to be supplied with the neces- 
sites of life or the luxuries — if indeed luxuries were demanded — ex- 
cept the soldiery of the expedition sent out to accomplish an allotted 
task. And, luxuries having been mentioned it may be pardoned if one 
should hark back to what has been said of the French regime here, 
and recall the fact that among the stores sent into this forest wilder- 
ness there was a considerable quantity of silks and velvets, of no 
particular use to the red man of the woods or the soldier turned sap- 
per and miner, but of a good deal to the governor and his subordinates 
to whom the money for which they were sold to the King "came in 
handy." This then was the beginning of the commerce of Erie. 

It is a far cry from the batteau of birch bark or a hollowed-out tree 
trunk to a 10,000-ton steel steamship, but yet this port of Erie has wit- 
nessed the evolution, great as it is ; and that evolution covers an inter- 
val of scarcely more than a hundred years. Less than a century ago, 
when Com. O. H. Perry had a pressing errand to Buitalo, he employed 
a row boat and a detail of men from the naval establishment at Erie to 


transport him thither, and it was only a few years earher when there 
was not an embarkation of any kind upon the waters of Lake Erie of 
greater proportions than those employed by the Frenchmen who first 
made Erie known to the civiHzed world. It would not be proper to 
omit the statement that the enterprising Frenchmen had navigated 
this lake by a sailing vessel many 3'ears before, La Salle having in 
IGTS-TO built the schooner Grififon at a point on Niagara river above 
the falls, a place now named La Salle, after him, and sailed one voy- 
age in it. But it was one of the ships that sailed and never came 
back. It was, moreover, a ship with which we have nothing to do, for 
there is nothing in any of the records of that unfortunate cruise to show 
that she even sighted this portion of the shore. 

The beginnings of navigation that concern us — navigation by sail- 
ing craft that traded with, or called at, Erie, were undoubtedly at the 
time the permanent settlement of this county began, and the first so 
far as any records go, who navigated a sailing craft to Erie was 
James Talmadge, who brought Col. Seth Reed and family to Presque 
lile in 1795. Captain Talmadge, however, ceased to be a navigator, be- 
coming a pioneer settler in this goodly land. Later in the same year 
Captain William Lee navigated a sailing vessel of small size, bring- 
ing to Erie Judah Colt and his party, but, unlike Talmadge, Lee had 
the true instincts of the sailor, and was the first settled navigator of 
this port, for here he took up his abode and his name entered into the 
early geography of the place. His vessel was engaged as regularly 
as business would admit between Buffalo and Erie, carrying light 
freight and passengers, but it is related that when headwinds became 
troublesome, passengers besides paying their fare, had to "work their 
passage" by taking their turn at the oars. The first sailing vessel built 
in the vicinity of Erie was the Washington, of thirty tons, constructed 
by the Pennsylvania Population Company at the mouth of Four-mile 
creek, and launched in September, 1798. She was not only the largest 
vessel of her time but the first to be built on the south shore of Lake 
Erie. For twelve years she did business on Lake Erie in the service 
of her owners. Next year after the building of the Washington, in 
1799, Captain Lee and Rufus S. Reed built the Good Intent at the 
mouth of Mill creek, and she became a regular trader between Erie 
and Buffalo, but in ISOG sank off Point Abino with all on board. Other 
early Erie vessels were the Harlequin, built by Eliphalet Beebe, in 1800, 
but unfortunately, wrecked the same year, her entire crew being 
drowned; in 1801, the Wilkinson, of sixty-five tons, and in 1805 the 
Mary of 100 tons. 

And now began what might be called the real commerce of Erie. 
It was the period when the salt trade flourished ; when that necessary 
commodity was in demand in the west, and the best known source of 
supply was Salina, in New York State. Not only was there a moder- 


ate "boom" in vessel property, but the accompaniments profited as 
well. Warehouses came into existence. Storage and commission, 
as well as forwarding flourished. Erie was the entrepot for the salt 
trade for the whole of the interior — Pittsburg and down the Ohio 
river. The salt was transported to Waterford, and a new turnpike 
road was constructed to facilitate the traffic, and Erie became a terminal 
of both lake and inland commerce. For the period Erie was perhaps 
the most important port on the lake. Among the pioneer Jake cap- 
tains were Daniel Dobbins, William Lee, Thomas Wilkins (a third 
generation of the Wilkinses today has a commander on the bridge of 
a modern steamship) Seth Barney, C. Blake, James Rough, John F. 
Wight, William Davenport, Levi Allen, John Richards, George Miles 
and Charles Hayt. In the course of a short time Capt. Richards aban- 
doned sailing for shipbuilding, at which he was very successful. Then 
came the steamboat days, and not long afterwards the period when 
the canal gave stimulus to the commerce of Erie. 

The experience of the navigators engaged in the salt trade demon- 
strated the fact that there was something to be desired in connection 
with Erie's harbor. Rather, it ought to be said, these navigators con- 
firmed the verdict brought in by Com. Perry in 1813, because the 
most pressing need found in the Erie harbor by those engaged in carry- 
ing salt here was a way to get in, just as Perry's great need was a way 
to get out, and they are both in effect the same. Erie was then a 
small place. In the year 1830 its population was only 635. It will 
probably strike the reader that, being of such diminutive proportions, 
there could not be much hope that any call that it might raise for as- 
sistance to the general government for aid in this matter would bring 
success. But the cry went up, just the same. 

There had been a new incentive for the cry. A new era had al- 
ready dawned. In the year 1818 there was launched at Buflfalo a new 
maritime device. It was called, without reference to official designa- 
tion or adopted name, the Steam Boat, and this steam boat began at 
once to make more or less regular trips to the various ports on the 
lake. Erie was on her list, and here she was a regular visitor. But 
she was unable to get inside the bay. This was the circumstance which 
prompted or provoked the cry, and this crj^ found utterance in the 
columns of the Genius of the Lakes of October 3, 1818. Nor was it a heed- 
less, purposeless call. There was a plan behind it and a motive in it. 
The purpose of the call was to secure if possible the election to Congress 
of Thomas Wilson, with the expectation that when he got to Washing- 
ton he would be able to obtain an appropriation. And, like nearly 
every other movement in aid of a public betterment this had been fitted 
out with a plan, which was to cut down hemlock trees and, piling them 
on each side of the tortuous channel at the entrance to the bay, by 



this means hold the sand in place and prevent its being washed down 
into the current, by which means a more constant and uniform depth 
might be preserved. What the people wanted was an appropriation 
ample enough to cut these trees down and pile them in place. Mr. 
Wilson was elected. An appropriation was secured. The improvement 
of the harbor entrance was promptly begun. But the newspaper ap- 
peal and the editors' hemlock tree plan were neither of them in it. 
There were far greater things in store for Erie. 

"C'^/ser yOty. '£> " ^ <^^ '' ^otyjir. 


(Sketch by F. G. Lynch from illustration in Genius of the Lakes) 

The condition of affairs at Presque Isle Bay came to the at- 
tention of the government first through Com. Perry's experience, and 
immediately afterwards by the Commodore's report and recommen- 
dation. To this had been supplemented memorials from Erie men, 
some of whom had acquired quite extensive vessel interests. When, 
therefore. Erie had secured a representative in Congress prompt action 
was taken. The very next year a general survey was 'made of the 
harbor by the government. Following this up the State appointed 
Thomas Forster, Giles Sanford and George Moore a commission to 
survey Erie habor, and appropriated $15,000 for the work. Again the 
general government came forward and in 1823 appropriated $20,000, 
which was available in May, 1824, to begin work with. 

There is a tolerably reliable, though crude, map of the entrance of 
the bay as it existed in 1818. It was published in the Genius of the 
Lakes. This map illustrates the eastern end of the bay with its long 
and winding channel passing between two long sandbars in the form 
of tongues, one extending from the mainland out nearly to the penin- 
sula ; the other somewhat similar in form extending from the eastern 
end of the peninsula almost to the mainland. The plan adopted by 


the government was, not to deepen the natural entrance that existed, 
but to close it, cutting instead a straight passage directly across both 
bars from the bay to the anchorage outside. When that passage had 
been cut, two long piers, one on the north of the passage and another 
on the south, and 200 feet apart were built, extending from deep 
water inside to the deep water outside. These piers were flanked 
by the breakwater that closed the original entrance and another ex- 
tending north up into Misery bay as far as the mouth of Niagara pond. 
Then there were built a series of short piers diagonally from the west- 
ern end of the south pier toward what- eventually became the north- 
ern end of the Public dock. This original plan has been adhered to up 
to the present time. 

But while the original plan still obtains, there have been remark- 
able changes made in the works at the harbor entrance. Subsequent- 
ly it became necessary to widen the space between the piers to 350 
feet. The channel piers holding the sand upon each side in place, en- 
sured ample depth of water between them; for the almost constant 
flow of the water in or out kept the channel there scoured clean down 
to the very rock foundation. This scouring process, however, de- 
posited the sand at each end, forming troublesome bars, and at the 
eastern end this was complicated by the action of the seas and prevail- 
ing current of the lake carrying vast bodies of sand down the north- 
ern coast of the peninsula and around the point, depositing them along 
with the scourings of the channel immediately outside the entrance. 
For a long time a great amount of dredging was required, both inside 
and outside to maintain a clear channel, and this was generally 
accomplished so that the shipping of the time found it usually service- 
able. The channel was first ready for use in 1827 ; by the year 1829 
there was from seven and a half to fifteen feet over the bar, and in 
1833 it was uniformly twelve feet ; by 1844 the action of the water 
between the piers had scoured the channel to 18 feet. But all the 
while the trouble about the terminal bars continued and meanwhile 
the piers were falling into decay. With the renewal of the piers 
came the widening of the channel, and, from time to time, to remedy 
the trouble of the formation of the bars, the piers were extended. In 
1880 there was an extension eastward of 242 feet; in 1891, 452.15 feet, 
and in 1893 there was a third extension of 301.4 feet. Since that time 
extensive permanent improvements have been made upon these piers 
by constructing the whole of the superstructure of concrete. 

Meanwhile there was trouble in another direction. In the win- 
ter of 1828-29 there occurred a breach in the isthmus at the head of the 
bay which was of so threatening a character that the engineers felt 
called upon to give it their entire attention, and the whole of the year's 
appropriation from Congress, $7,390 was required to stop the gap. 
The second break occurred in the winter of 1832-33. This was carefully 

Vol. I— 14 


examined by Lt. Col. Totten under direction of the chief of engineers, 
who recommended that the breach be studied for a season with the 
purpose in view of determining whether another entrance at the west- 
ern end of the bay might not be maintained. Meanwhile the breach 
greatly widened until in 1835 there was an opening a mile in width. 
In that year Lieut. T. S. Brown submitted plans for an opening, guarded 
by piers 400 feet apart, and work was begun upon it and an ex- 
tensive plant established there, including barracks for the workmen. 
The work continued until 1839, when appropriations ceased and noth- 
ing whatever was done until 1852. Meanwhile the opening was util- 
ized to a certain extent. Occasionally a vessel would venture 
through. The steamer Ohio, drawing 7i feet, and the brig Mrginia, 
drawing 5^ feet, besides the revenue cutter Erie are recorded as 
having made the passage, but it did not come into general use. Faint- 
hearted attempts to complete the work begun were made ; then efforts 
were put forth to save the work that had been done, but at length, 
in 1857 the work was entirely abandoned and no attention was paid 
to the matter, one way or another, until 1861, when Col. T. J. Cram was 
assigned as engineer to have charge of Erie harbor. He found the 
breach at the west end of the bay entirely closed, nature having effect- 
ually done the work. 

Though the break had been closed the whole of the damage 
wrought had not been repaired. There was a portion of that isthmus 
where trees thickly stood at the time the first breach occurred that 
was washed entirely away, and the repair made by nature was com- 
plete only during an ordinary or low stage of water. During strong 
westerly gales the seas still washed over a section about 500 feet in 
length. There was a different belief in connection with an opening at 
the head of the bay from what had been. During the twenty-three 
years of the existence of the passage or channel at the head ample 
opportunity had been offered to observe the effect. The result was 
convincing that it was dangerous to the harbor. Col. Cram's first 
work was to strengthen the weak place, but in 1874 during a heavy 
gale in November, the seas again broke through. Col. Blunt was then 
in charge and he first got the passage closed and then proceeded with 
a bulkhead protection consisting of lines of piles faced with plank, 
and this was reinforced with an abatis of brush and limestone. Up- 
wards of a mile of the bulkhead protection, first and last, was con- 
structed along that shore, and much of it remains to the present time, 
although the greater part is now in a state of decay. However, sur- 
veys indicate that there has been a constant accretion of sand in the 
bight at the west end of the peninsula, so that at the present time and 
probably for the future there is no apprehension to be felt that there 
will again be such an opening formed as that of 1834. During the 
heaviest northwest gales it still occurs that the water, raised by the 


pressure of the wind and carried forward by the impetuous seas, will 
sweep in a strong stream across into the bay cutting gullies of con- 
siderable depth. Upon the subsidence of the wind, however, when the 
water falls back to normal, its level is considerably below the land, 
and in the course of a short time the depressions made by the torrents 
are drifted full of sand by the wind and sometimes dunes of considerable 
height were formed. 

Some danger from the erosion of the north shore was apprehended, 
and not without cause. In 1873 the government erected a brick light- 
house on the summit of the arc of the north shore. This lighthouse, 
long generally known as the Flash Light, was in reality the third 
lighthouse built for Erie harbor. The first which was the first 
on the lakes to be built by the government, was located on a piece of 
land east of the city and opposite the entrance to the harbor — a sightly 
piece of ground on a high blufif, ceded by Gen. John Kelso, in 1818. 
The lighthouse then built stood until 1858, when a new house was 
built of Milwaukee brick, but that in turn gave place in 1866 
to a tower of gray sandstone, one of the handsomest on the coast. 
It cost the government $20,000. In 1880 the Lighthouse board decided 
to discontinue this light, but so strong a protest was made by the citi- 
zens, who secured the backing of the vessel interests, that it was re- 
stored and continued until finally abandoned and dismantled, the light 
was last exhibited December 26, 1899. The second lighthouse estab- 
lished here was the beacon or Harbor Light at the east end of the north 
channel pier which was placed in position in 1830. Wrecked by a 
collision with a schooner, it was replaced in 1858 by an iron tower, 
which has from time to time been moved farther eastward as the pier 
has been extended. This with its complement of range lights is prob- 
ably the most important of the harbor guides of Erie. 

It was in 1873 that the lighthouse on the outer shore of the penin- 
sula was built, and it cost $15,000. It was planted a considerable dis- 
tance back from the shore line among the dunes of which Presque 
Isle is formed. In the course of time, however, by the process of 
erosion the water steadily advanced inland until at length the light- 
house property was seriously threatened. Nor was this washing away 
of the land confined to that vicinity. The same force was in operation 
all along that low coast, for, when saturated with water, the sand is 
exceedingly mobile. In places the washing away of the sand had pro- 
duced so much weakness that during heavy gales the seas swept across 
the low ridges, filling the ponds behind them with sand and overturning 
the largest of the timber. The first attention of the engineers was 
given to the saving of the lighthouse property. With this end in 
view a pier or mole was constructed out into the lake at right angles 
with the shore and a short distance east of the lighthouse. The efTect 
was immediate and satisfactory in every particular. The sand was 


caught in the upper angle and accumulating, both by the action of the 
seas, and by being drifted when dry by the wind, in the course of time 
formed a beach more than 1,000 feet wide, and apparently forever re- 
moved the danger to which the property had been exposed. This ex- 
pedient was resorted to farther west, where trouble had occurred, and 
piers Nos. 1 and 2 were built and are successfully employed. 

The credit for the revival of interest in the harbor of Erie, by which 
the improvements made were of a permanent character is due to Hon. 
Samuel A. Davenport, who, while a member of Congress, devoted his 
efforts to that especial work. The son of one of the earliest prominent 
lake navigators, it was not unnatural that he should take an interest 
in Erie's harbor. Besides that natural bent, if you please, Mr. Daven- 
port had that quality of good citizenship, which, being observant of a 
public need, feels the necessity of providing a means to remedy it. 
When he was named in connection with the nomination for congress- 
man-at-large, the fact that he was interested in securing from the Na- 
tional government the means to render Erie harbor secure, and besides, 
bring it up to the requirements of the time, induced a number of Erie 
men of prominence, regardless of their party affiliations, to take an in- 
terest in his candidacy. The result was that, in 1896, he was elected. 
Immediately Hon. S. A. Davenport addressed himself to the work in 
hand. Never before was the subject entered into with so much 
thoroughness and detail. Mr. Davenport found, when he came to pre- 
sent the matter to the engineers department, and the committee of Con- 
gress to which it belonged, that he could barely obtain a hearing. 
There were reports on file and records of their kind, but these seemed 
to be of a character adverse to hope, and at a distance so remote as 
Washington it was apparently impossible to secure the attention de- 

Mr. Davenport was not discouraged. Returning to Erie he called 
the camera into requisition and secured photographs of the government 
work of years before, all gone to decay. He obtained pictures in large 
number, of bulkhead remains; of the piling in ruins, of the channel 
piers fast disappearing — in short of the actual condition of things as 
they existed at the time. Besides he was prepared with data con- 
cerning the demands of commerce of the time, and statements of fact 
with reference to the inadequate conditions at Erie to meet the de- 
mands. When he returned to Washington he was fortified. What he 
presented to the committee was interesting. It was convincing. It pro- 
duced an instant effect. A visit to Erie was decided upon by the com- 
mittee of Congress, and when it was seen that the pictures told but 
half of the story, the matter was settled. It was late to get a place in 
the general appropriation measure, but a way was found to take care 


of the case. An appropriation was voted for $375,000, a tliird of it 
available immediately. 

It was out of this fund that the piers on the north shore of the 
Peninsula were constructed so as to prevent the erosion of the coast, 
and the work that has made the channel piers permanent, by con- 
structing the superstructure of concrete, is also a part of the better- 
ment that resulted. The deepening of the channel so that vessels of 
twenty-two feet draft may enter was another work that resulted, and, 
for the first time in the history of the harbor of Erie there were funds 
that seemed sufficient for the needs available with which to do 
the work. It is proper to add that Erie has not lacked for 
means since the work was inaugurated by Mr. Davenport. The 
present representative in Congress from the Erie district, Hon. 
Arthur L. Bates, continues the work, made easier to his hand by what 
was done when Mr. Davenport inaugurated his campaign of informa- 
tion. The appropriations that have been made by Congress for Erie 
harbor, from iirst to last have been as follows : 

1823 $ 150.00 June 10. 1873 $ 15,000.00 

May 2G, 1824 20,000.00 June 2:i. 1874 20.000.00 

May 25, 1826 7,000.00 March 3. J8T5 30.000.00 

March 2, 1827 3,000.00 August 14, 1876 40.000.00 

May 19, 1828 6,223.18 June Hi. 1878 25.000.00 

March 3. 1829 7.390.25 March 3, 1879 25.000.00 

March 2, 1831 1.700.00 June 14. 1880 25,000.00 

July 3, 1832 4,500.00 March 3. 1881 20,000.00 

March 2, 1833 6,000.00 .August 2, 1883 20.000.00 

June 28, 1834 23,045.00 July 5, 1884 50.000.00 

March 3, 1835 5,000.00 August 5, 1886 37.500.00 

July 2, 1836 15,122.80 August 11. 1888 83.000.00 

March 3. 1837 15.000.00 September 19. 1890 40,000.00 

July 7, 1838 30.000.00 July 13, 1892 '. 40.000.00 

June 11, 1844 40,000.00 August 18, 1894 10,000.00 

August 30, 1852 30.000.00 May 11, 1896 1,289.33 

1864 (allotment) 15,000.00 March 3, 1899 125,000.00 

June 23, 1866 36,961.00 June 13, 1902 125,000.00 

March 2, 1867 25,000.00 March 3. 1905 125,000.00 

1868 (allotment) 40,000.00 March 2, 1907 120,000.00 

1869 (allotment) 22,275.00 Received from sales 4.724.39 

June 11. 1870 20.000.00 — 

March 3, 1871 29.000.00 Total $1,442,880.95 

1871 (allotment) 10,000.00 

The United States Life-saving service on Lake Erie was organ- 
ized in 1876 by Captain Douglas Ottinger of Erie of the revenue ser- 
vice. Capt. Ottinger was for many years interested in the saving of life 
from the efifect of storms on the coasts of the United States. He 
claimed as his the invention of the life car, an important device in its 
day, made famous at the beginning by the rescue of a large number 
of persons from the Ship Ayrshire on the coast of New Jersey. His 
claim as inventor of this device was contested by Capt. Francis, 
but Capt. Ottinger's connection with the service, and the number 


of other inventions in connection with the rescue of people from 
wrecked vessels, became recognized at an early day. When, there- 
fore it was determined to establish the Life Saving service on 
Lake Erie, the work of effecting an organization was assigned to 
Capt. Ottinger, then in command of the revenue cutter Com. Perry. 
Shortly afterwards, he was succeeded in regular charge by Capt. 
D. P. Dobbins of Buffalo, a native of Erie, who continued until his 
death, August 20, 1892, when he was succeeded by Capt. Chapman 
of Oswego, with headquarters at Buffalo. The Ninth district as 
finally organized, under the supervision of Capt. Chapman, includes 
Lakes Ontario and Erie and the Falls of the Ohio, at Louisville, Ky. 
The stations on Lake Erie are at Buffalo, Erie, Ashtabula, Cleveland, 
Fairport and Point Marblehead. 

At Erie the original life saving station was built in 1876 on the 
north shore of the peninsula near its eastern end, with Clark Jones 
in charge. It was found to be an inconvenient place, being diffi- 
cult of access, and not a good location to render efficient service, 
except in the immediate vicinity. Accordingly in 1877, the station was 
removed to the north channel pier, at the harbor entrance, and in 
the same year William Clark took charge. He served efficiently 
until 1891, when he was drowned while trying to rescue the pas- 
sengers of the steamer Badger State, aground in a storm on the 
north shore of the peninsula. His successor was Capt. Andrew 
P. Jansen, still in charge. Since the station was located on the 
channel pier the equipment was added to from time to time with a 
view to keeping the efficiency of the service to as high a degree as 
possible, a notable addition to the apparatus being a new and im- 
proved self-righting and self-bailing life boat of the English pat- 
tern, a boat that had been on exhibition at the Columbian Exposi- 
tion at Chicago, which was put into service at Erie in 1894. 

The light-houses of Erie have already been alluded to. The 
original Erie Light, that was established on the point east of Erie 
and opposite the old-time anchorage near the entrance to the bay, 
was established and the first tower built in 1818, and it was the 
first lighthouse on the chain of great lakes. It was rebuilt of brick 
in 1858, and again rebuilt of stone in 1866, when an improved lan- 
tern of French manufacture was installed. The keepers have been: 
Capt. John Bone, 1818 ; Robert Kincaide, 1833 ; Griffith Henton, 1841 ; 
Eli Webster, 1841; James W. Miles, 1849; John Graham, 1854; Gen. 
James Fleming, 1858, and A. C. Landon, same year; John Goalding, 
1861; George Demond, 1864; A. J. Fargo, 1871; George W. Miller, 
1885, until the light was discontinued. 

The Presque Isle Pier Head, or Beacon Light was erected on 
the north pier in 1830, and its keepers have been : up to 1861, with 
dates of appointment not set down, ^^■illiam T. Downs, Benjamin 



Fleming, John Hess and Leonard V&ughn ; George W. Bone was 
appointed in 1861 ; Richard P. Burke, 1863 ; Frank Henry, 1869 ; Chas. 
D. Coyle, 1884; Robert Hunter, 1889; Thomas L. Wilkins, 1898. 
Assistants: James Johnson, 1873; C. E. McDannell, 1881; WilUam 
H. Harlow, 1885; Robert Hunter, 1886; Thomas L. Wilkins, 1889; 
Edward Pfister, 1893 ; John W. Reddy, 1894. 

Presque Isle Light, generally known as the flash-light, was built 
on the north shore of the peninsula in 1873. Its keepers have been, 
Charles T. Waldo, 1873 ; three appointments were made in 1880, none 
of which held — they were George E. Irvin, A. J. Harrison and O. J. 
McAllister. At length, in the fall of the same year George E. Town 
of North East was appointed and held the position until 1883, when 
Clark M. Cole took it; Lewis Vannatta entered in 1886; Lewis Wal- 
rose in 1891, and Thomas L. Wilkins in 1893. 

The United States weather and signal ofifice was established at 
Erie in 1873, and has been located in the Federal building ever since 
it was completed. 



Its Attractions. — Changes That Have Taken Place. — Cranberry 
Day. — Its Transfer to the U. S. Government. 

Presque Isle Bay is such by reason of the peninsula — it is the pen- 
insula that gives the bay its name. The peninsula is a tract of low 
sandy land with a coast (its northern boundary) of about eight miles, 
which is its greatest length. Its greatest width is about a mile and a half, 
but nearly half the area enclosed by its boundaries consists of water, 
contained in numerous small lakes or ponds, many of them communicat- 
ing but more of them landlocked, and almost without exception beautiful 
little bodies of water. The origin of the peninsula, according to Mr. J. C. 
Quintus, a government engineer for several years stationed at Erie, 
was the action of the water which by the current that sets toward the 
east, accelerated by the winds, carrying the sand in its progress, formed 
a "hook." Undoubtedly at the beginning the hook was a small affair, 
but, the action continuing in time this hook, growing larger, and higher 
as the sand was heaped up during the high stages of water that prevail 
during westerly gales, the hook, when the wind subsided was above the 
level of the water. Drying in the sun, the sand was carried about by the 
winds forming dunes that raised the surface still higher, each storm 
making a fresh contribution of material which in its turn became operated 
upon by the wind. Meanwhile the current was extending the hook 
toward the east, and from time to time as the storms from the opposite 
direction acted upon the prolongation of the hook there was a tendency 
to curve the end of it in towards the mainland. By this process bodies 
of water were enclosed behind these spurs, and thus the ponds were 
formed. This process has been continuous ; it is not yet at an end. \^ery 
many residents of Erie of the present day have, by observation been able 
to verify this scientific theory, for they have witnessed the formation of 
the deep round pond northeast of the channel lightkeeper's dwelling, 
which, twenty-five years ago, was a wide-mouthed bay, known as Horse- 
shoe Bight, opening directly from the lake. It is now landlocked. 

There is no manner of determining the length of time required for 
the formation of the peninsula. It is possible it may have had its be- 
gmning in the glacial epoch, when the bed of Lake Erie was plowed out 
b}' the stupendous force of the immense body of ice, that, covering it. 


moved slowly toward the east. It may, however, have begun ages after- 
ward, and exactly in accordance with the theory laid down by Mr. 
Quintus. The same processes are in constant operation on the ocean 
coast. Some historians have made the mistake of stating that within 
the memory of man it was a treeless waste. This statement can be 
made to apply to the eastern end, but not to the main peninsula. There 
are trees in the interior — pine, hemlock and oak — that undoubtedly are 
centuries old. while the floor contains the remains of fallen giants that 
were probably prostrate when the settlement of Erie was begun. And 
there is another fact not to be lost sight of, namely, that all the timber 
now growing there undoubtedly sprang from the seeds of trees that 
already occupied the ground. Those who have frequented the peninsula 
for forty years or more cannot from comparisons drawn from memory 
say that there is an appreciable difference in the general size of the 
trees with which it is timbered. 

It is a tract of virgin forest. Save w-hen the ^Marine Hospital cor- 
poration had control no timber has been cut on the peninsula, and then 
the cutting was confined to the red cedar. It has always been carefully 
guarded. Nor have any changes or permanent works been made or 
erected there — and here also a saving clause, because, to protect it from 
the influences of the storms the government constructed two moles or 
piers, one to prevent encroachment upon the Presque Isle lighthouse 
property. The Board of Commissioners of Water Works in pursuance 
of their enterprise to extend the intake pipe of their system out into the 
open lake beyond, opened up and deepened the lily pond at the west end 
of Big bend, and upon a reservation obtained for their use are construct- 
ing settling basins and laying out the grounds adjacent. But the growing 
timber has been spared. The unanimous sentiment of the people, as 
well as the scientific judgment of the U. S. government in whose 
custodv it is, are for the preservation inviolate of this magnificent tract 
of forest. 

The peninsula is composed of lake sand. The greatest altitude is 
about twenty feet. It consists of a series of ridges or drifts, more or 
less well defined, that extend about parallel and run in an almost 
due easterly and westerly direction. They are in fact ancient dunes now 
covered with timber. In the older part the soil has become modified 
by the formation of vegetable mould, and in many of the depressions 
there are peaty deposits, increasing year by year. Some of the ponds of 
the olden time are now practically filled up by the accumulations of 
this humus. 

In the early sixties when the writer first became acquainted with 
the peninsula — and it was true for a score of years afterward — there 
was a constant entrance maintained by the natural currents, from the 
main bay into the first pond. It was not of uniform depth or width and 


was tortuous and sometimes difficult of passage. Upon occasions, when the 
water was low in the bay and the flow had been outward for a consid- 
erable period, it was a difficult matter to navigate a boat through that 
passage, for, besides the current setting out, there was always a bar 
formed outside that in a low stage of water was likely to have not more 
than two or three inches of water over it. The currents or tides of the 
lake are just as regular as the winds, but not more so. When there is 
a strong wind from the west after a calm the water in the bay rises, and 
there have been instances where in severe storms the water has washed 
over the public dock. When the wind subsides the water recedes. On 
the other hand, an east wind after a calm lowers the water in the bay. 
The reason for this is apparent. Erie is near the eastern end of the 
lake. Besides, it is on the narrowest part. A gale from the west, there- 
fore, drives the water down the lake, and the contracted space between 
Long Point and this shore causes it to rise, even more than it would were 
the lake open and free. 

When the water rises in the bay, naturally it flows into the ponds 
of the peninsula ; when it flows out with the subsidence of the body of 
water in the lake ; it is drained from the peninsula ponds. Thus was 
maintained a free navigable entrance. There is none now between the 
outer bay and the first pond, but not because there is a change in the pro- 
gram of nature — that the lake tides have ceased. Not at all. It is 
because the hand of man has interfered. There is a field of wild rice 
growing inside the entrance that it is almost impossible to force a boat 
through. That rice is not indigenous there. It was sown many years 
ago by the Fish and Game Association for the purpose of attracting the 
v^'ild duck in the fall. That plantation of wild rice is what closed the 
entrance to the first pond, and it did so by forming a dam. Since it 
obtained its growth the free flow of the water has been retarded, and 
the stream being never at any time sufficient in volume to scour out 
the channel, the action of the waves, and the force of the winds has at 
length effectually bottled up the ponds, and now it is impossible without 
constant work to maintain even an artificial entrance. 

The first of the ponds, which is circular in form, is of considerable 
extent, and has a low island in the centre. In the olden times this pond 
co-uld be distinctly seen from the mainland lying calm and blue in its 
emerald surrounding, a picture itself. Now it is but indistinctly seen, 
the growth of aspens and cottonwoods that came up when the channel 
was closed, cutting off the view. Then not only was the view unob- 
structed but the navigation of the water was free, nothing more than 
clumps of rushes or perhaps a snag of a button-bush stump offering 

On the west, nearly opposite the little island, there was a winding 
but deep channel that led to the west, into a smaller pond of very irregular 
form that extended north and south, and had an arm extending like a 


canal, it was so long and of such uniform width and depth, in a northerly 
direction. It terminated in a pine wood, under the large trees of which 
there were the remains of a trapper's hut. 

Passing out of the second pond through another deep canal, evidently 
produced by old-time currents, entrance is found to a small circular 
pool, so filled with a growth of spatter-dock and toad-lilies that progress 
is retarded. A few yards, however, brings one to another passage, the en- 
trance to Long Pond, as lovely a stretch of water as could be found 
anywhere, extending northwest and southeast, at least a mile and may- 
be a mile and a half. Up at the end of the pond there is a good firm dry 
landing that admits into the heart of a splendid woods that forms the 
centre of the peninsula. From that point it is possible to walk across 
to the lake shore, through the deep woods, penetrating thickets of alder 
and willow where the ground is low, and then proceeding across the 
parallel lines of sand dunes in the little intervales of which the red 
cedar trees made vigorous growth, to the shore of the lake, the northern 
boundary of the peninsula. 

Lying right at the door of a populous city, the peninsula is a piece 
of virgin forest into which we may step and be in close communion with 
nature, for the forest is yet inviolate. Go in the springtime and listen to 
the voices that come from woods and thickets, from shores and swamps. 
The birds that know no fear, that find perfect security to build their nests 
and rear their young; the four-footed creatures, the chipmunk, the deer 
mouse, the hare, the muskrat, the mink; the batrachians and chelonians, 
the snakes and the newts — most of them so wild they do not know 
enough to be afraid. 

There is here a wilderness garden that can hardly be surpassed. 
In early May may be found many a stretch of low sand dunes that have 
been carpeted with the glossy evergreen leaves of the bear-berry, stretches 
acres in area, the air vocal with the melodious hum of a million bees, 
the air an ocean of delicate perfume. A week or two later mammoth 
beds of blue lupine cover sometimes an acre in extent, one mass of 
ultramarine, while here and there, on the edge of the patch or close by, 
is to be seen a clump of the brilliant orange of the hairy puccoon, and 
in the shady places growing where its feet are always in the cool damp- 
ness, the wild lily of the valley, as sweet scented as any convallaria 
ever was. 

Or here is another trip. It is along a ridge that used to be entered 
upon at the lightkeepers' boathouse when it was on the interior pond, 
and the route is toward the west, but not to be undertaken if not immune 
to ivy poisoning, for the ivy grows rank on each side the path ; it 
even hides the trail from view and grows higher than pedestrians' heads. 
The path passes out into an open woods, consisting of pines and oaks on 
the ridge, red maples, and an occasional tupelo or wild cherry on the 


lower ground, and beyond, forming the margin of the pond, alders and 
willows, with himibler shrubs such as the winter berry, the button bush 
and the Carolina rose. The air is full of the fragrance of the pines, 
and vibrates with the music of the warblers and vireos and song-sparrows. 
Along the ridge the course leads, passing the loftiest point on the pen- 
insula, some twenty feet or more above the level of the lake. Soon 
lower ground is reached, but the woods are still heavy and they stretch 
more extensively on every hand. Here are to be found the big pink 
moccasin-flower, one of the most showy of our native orchids, and it 
grows here by the hundreds — yes, by the thousand. Gather them. Hands- 
ful, armsful will not exhaust them. And this is but one of the peninsular 
haunts of this beautiful flower. 

Or, visit the peninsula in the season of wild roses. Where can 
there be found a grander rose garden? The passage up into Niagara 
pond in rose time is between solid walls of the Carolina rose with the 
air fairly heavy with the perfume, so numerous are the flowers. What 
is true of Niagara pond holds good from end to end of the peninsula in 
rose time. 

And so it is with every period of the summer season — when the 
pontederias and the arrowheads are in flower; the button bush and cor- 
nels are in bloom ; when the wild grape has its turn at perfuming the 
air; when the rose-mallow blooms in the shallow water and the nympheas 
float out where it is deeper ; when the skullcap and the false dragonhead 
appear among the sedges ; and when, rounding out the season of flowers, 
we may gather the centaury and later the fringed gentian or make a 
bouquet of the fragrant leafless utricularia and equally sweet-scented 
ladies tresses, with purple gerardias to complicate the color scheme. 

Nor is everything to be found on the peninsula common and cheap. 
Quite the contrary. Let me make a few quotations from so good an 
authority as Gray's ]\Ianual. Gth Ed. Here is a plant called Utricularia 
resupinata, which after the description has this note as to its range: 
"Sandy margins of ponds, E. Maine to R. I., near the coast; also N. 
New York and Presque Isle, Lake Erie." Thus according to the book 
our peninsula has a special credit mark. It is only proper to add that 
this species of bladderwort is one of six found on the peninsula. 

Here is another plant with its notation in Gray's Manual: "Eleo- 
charis quadrangulata * * Shallow water; central New York to 
Michigan and southward ; rare." It is found growing in the first pond. 

Again ; a fern, a delicate plant that cost a painful experience with 
mosquitoes to collect when first discovered here: "Botrychium simplex 
* * Maine to N. Y., Minn, and northward ; rare." It is a peninsula 

Our water lily has an interesting story. It is not the water lily of 
the east, but an altogether different species. That of the coast is Nymph- 
aea odorata, is sweet scented and is sometimes pink. Our water lily is 


Nymphaea reniformis, is never pink and has no fragrance or sometimes 
a slight odor as of apples. Years ago it was noted as growing only in the 
vicinity of Meadville, having been reported by Allegheny College. It 
grew in Conneaut lake. Now observe: The lilies we have here came 
from Conneaut lake. The seeds undoubtedly came down the canal — 
lilies are abundant wherever there is enough of the canal left to accom- 
modate them — they passed down from the canal through a little stream 
that empties into the pond at Waldameer and there they were first 
established in this vicinity. From there they worked eastward over the 
peninsula, the seeds carried perhaps by the water fowl, until now almost 
every pond of the peninsula has the white water lily growing in it. 

Another plant that is generally rare — that was not reported from 
the shores of Lake Erie until within a few years, is a peninsula willow, 
Salix adenophylla, and a sedge, local and restricted in its habitat is Carex 
nigro marginata. Then there are a number of plants that grow on the 
sea-beaches which are frequent on the peninsula — the beach pea, the 
orange spurge, several rushes, the sea-rocket and several sedges and 

Thus it may be seen tliat the peninsula possesses rare things well 
worth the seeking by those who are interested in plant life, and it 
proved an especially interesting field for study to the botanists of the 
Natural History Society when that organization was in active existence. 
Indeed it was through their work that the knowledge of many of its 
peculiar forms of plant life became known to the botanical world, and 
Presque Isle was added to the list of stations where rare and local plants 
were to be found. 

Let it not be understood that this brief list furnishes anything 
like a catalogue of the plants or even of the showy flowers 
that are to be collected upon that tract of land. Far from it. 
Hundreds of species beginning with the lyrate rock-cress which flow- 
ers soon after the snow melts, and the blue violets of the sheltered 
nooks, and continuing in a procession of floral beauty until the 
grass of Parnassus and the fringed gentian close the books of the year, 
is to be enjoyed by the lover of nature who haunts the peninsula. And 
there the magnificent forests, vocal ever, sometimes with the sighing of 
the wind or the howling of the tempest, almost uninterruptedly by the 
music of the birds ; fragrant with the pungent scent of the pines, the 
balm of the cottonwoods when their buds are bursting in the spring, 
the perfume of the wild grapes or the roses, or the aromatic odor of the 
sweet-gale or the mints of various species; the charm of the shifting 
sunshine and shade, and above all, its remoteness : its delightful seclusion 
and its perfect rest, make the peninsula an ideal haunt for the lover of 

Just west of Misery bay there is a cove called the Graveyard pond, 
and there are traditions concerning the way in which it came by its 


appellation: One is that on the little ridge between it and the larger bay 
the burial place of the Perry fleet was located. Perhaps there is no 
truth in the traditional tale ; it is fact, nevertheless, that the pond has 
borne its gruesome title ever since the American fleet of 1813 was berthed 
in Misery bay. 

Back in the seventies a number of Erie men, with what warrant 
is not known, but probably through the Marine Hospital proprietorship 
of the peninsula, opened up a resort a few rods west of the first pond, 
on the shore of the bay, and named it Crystal Point. It was a beautiful 
spot, and there having been built a number of rude booths where refresh- 
ments were sold, and the ground having been parked and provided with 
seats and paths and accommodations for dancing the place acquired con- 
siderable vogue. The steam yachts of the time made pretty regular trips 
across and the business of the place attained to quite large proportions. 
But it could not stand prosperity. In the course of time it retrograded 
to a place of low character, where bad liquor was the chief commodity 
tiaded in, and as a consequence it became of such evil repute that it had 
to be suppressed. In its last days in fell into the hands of Jim — or 
"Skipper" — Nesbitt. 

Later, Jim moved from Crystal Point to a spot a short distance 
west and became a squatter, erecting a poor cottage there, where he lived 
with his mother. With the other place entirely abandoned and its build- 
ings removed, the "Skipper" called his place Crystal Point, and soon the 
old point was forgotten by its name, which became firmly attached to the 
skipper's ranch. Jim had some good points in his makeup, but unfortu- 
nately they were very few compared with the rest of his composition. 
His place earned an unsavory reputation until he left the city. 

While he lived at the point there was a tragedy. His old mother 
lived with him and kept house for him. One day in the late summer she 
set out to gather berries, but she did not return in the evening. Jim 
loved his mother — and this was one of his good points — and he became 
greatly concerned when she did not show up before the darkness fell. 
It was a vain proposition to search the woods and thickets and morasses 
in the dark, but it was tried, in hopes that in same way, by sight or 
hearing, he might get track of her whereabouts. But he could not. All 
the next day the search was kept up and again night settled down upon 
the woods. Another day of vain search — how many days cannot now 
be stated — at length her lifeless body was found where she had fallen ex- 
hausted by her vain endeavor to find her homeward way. 

When the skipper gave up his ranch on the point it was taken by 
Jdke Geib. Now Jake was a man of energy and resource. The pitiful 
shack of Squatter Nesbitt was soon replaced by a modest but attractive 
little establishment that was an inn of decided pretensions. An excellent 
boat landing was constructed and the grounds to the extent of several 
acres were cleared of underbrush and became exceedingly attractive. 


It was just when Geib had his resort in thoroughly good order that the 
hotel at ]\Iasassauga Point burned, and the grounds at the Head were 
closed for a season. The public, hungry for a place of resort, turned 
toward Crystal Point, and Jake Geib welcomed them with the glad hand, 
and prospered accordingly. Geib had been mine host of the Arcade 
previously ; it was he who had given that hostelry its name. He there- 
fore had the confidence of Erie people and their patronage, especially 
as there was no other way to turn. 

In due course there came a change in the management of affairs on 
the peninsula. The War Department took it in charge, and the edict 
went forth that no one should make it a place of abode or have thereon 
a place of public resort. Squatter sovereignty on Presque Isle went out 
with that government fiat, and though Crystal Point may still be located 
by those who knew it in the days of its prosperity it is now a deserted 
place, rapidly recovering its old state of nature. 

The Big Bend ! There were gay times at the Big Bend picnic ground 
in its time, and there are many in Erie who still remember it as the 
favorite resort of churches and Sunday schools for their summer out- 
ings. Picnics there had far more of rusticity than the present-day func- 
tions of the same name. Then there was no "merry-go-round" for the 
children to patronize and no ice cream or pop-corn stand at which to 
spends nickels. The woodfire down by the beach, with a Gipsy crane 
from which to suspend the big coffee pot. portable tables with seats of 
logs or planks supported by fallen tree trunks, swings, and plenty of 
row-boats — these were the features of the picnics at Big Bend. 

Not all the attractions ; one of the best was the stroll along the wood 
path across to the northern shore, where the fresh breeze from the west 
rolled in a splendid surf upon the beach, that was thickly strewn with 
driftwood, bleached and bare. It was a delightful relaxation, having 
mounted one of the huge boles of the fallen trees, there so common, to 
idly watch the combers as they came ashore, or to follow the course of 
some passing ship in its course up or down the lake. 

It was also a fine ground thereabout for flower-gathering. The sea- 
son of picnics is the season of water-lilies, and in the land-locked pond 
a few rods west these abounded. So did the rose-mallow and, over to- 
ward the lake side, there was a glade where the butterfly weed grew in 
abundance. The wild sunflowers were then in bloom and the false 
dragon-head and the purple and yellow fox-gloves, while the bracted 
convolvolus grew abundantly almost everywhere. It was a rarely fine 
place for a picnic and in its day its popularity was commensurate with 
its deserts. 

The "flash-light," as it is popularly called here, or "Presque Isle 
light," as it is known on the charts, was established in 1873, and the 
lighthouse went into operation in July of that year. The establishing 


of that light station did much toward enabhng the general public to ob- 
tain a better knowledge of the interior of the peninsula, because one of 
the first conveniences constructed for the light-keeper's use was a plank 
walk extending from the lighthouse directly to the boat landing on 
Misery bay. Intended for the light-keeper, it is a question whether the 
general public did not get a good deal more out of that walk than those 
it was built for. 

The peninsula is a splendid collecting field for the ornithologist. It 
was the first field worked by the late George B. Sennett, who became one 
of the leading ornithologists in the United States. Since the Carnegie 
museum was established at Pittsburg the peninsula has been made a place 
for bird study to the extent of keeping a force of naturalists employed 
throughout an entire season. 

Then there is Misery bay. But there is a story in Misery bay alone. 
The harbor of Perry's ships and prizes, it has been occupied by relics of 
that fleet, of one sort and another, for nearly a hundred years, and now 
there is resting beneath its waters the remains of the vessel that was the 
flagship when that splendid victory was won. Misery bay is now the 
most popular part of the peninsula, for it has convenient landing places 
and just enough beach and shade to spread such a cloth as a small party 
requires. Once it was a scene of business activity. At one time the Erie 
Ice Company had a large storage house there, and daily brought cargoes 
over to the city on scows. It proved too expensive, however, and was 
finally abandoned. There was also at one time a manufactory of caviar 
on the point that juts into Misery bay from the west, and this factory 
of Mr. Meyer's was what gave that spot the name of Sturgeon Point. 

They were the only manufactories ever established on that piece of 
ground. Perhaps in the future the ultra utilitarians may succeed in de- 
spoiling the peninsula of its charms. It may be that in time it will sup- 
port enormous glass factories and immense furnaces of iron, and these 
will, possibly, be regarded in the light of improvements. It will mean so 
great an addition to the "business" of the city and such an increase of 
population ! It is worth all sorts of work to bring it about, say these 
iconoclastic town boomers. 

It is quite possible it may come in time ; but, it ought never to come 
at all. _The peninsula should be a natural preserve for the people of Erie 
forever; it should belong to all the people. It is possible to make of 
Presque Isle one of the finest parks on the continent, a park that shall 
be a delight to every sort and class and condition of Erie people. This 
ought to be its future, and it will if good sense shall prevail. 

It is something like 38 years since Erie lost from its calendar a red- 
letter day that, for a time at least, was looked forward to as an event 
of interest, if not of importance. It was a purely local holiday, and be- 


cause of enactment by the state legislature, legally a holiday. It was, 
moreover a holiday with which there was a certain amount of juggling 
by the councilmen, and, in an attempt to perpetuate it, the fostering care 
of the respected city father who had its interest at heart produced its death 
by inanition. It passed from remarkable vigor almost directly to an early 

"Unwept, unhonored and unsung." 

That holiday was Cranberry Day, and the date of it was the first 
Tuesday in October in each year. 

It was a funny thing to legislate about, to be sure. Think of the 
grave and reverend legislators up at the state capital, in all solemnity 
passing on three readings a bill to legalize Cranberry Day for the benefit 
of the people of the little town of Erie — population then 3.500! And 
the governor of the great state of Pennsylvania affixing his signature and 
the seal of the commonwealth to the act that created Cranberry Day ! Yet 
so it was ; no holiday, not even the Fourth of July, had a better legal 
title to its existence than Cranberry Day had. 

But what was Cranberry Day, and why was Cranberry Day? 

Cranberry Day was the beginning of the open season for cranberry 
picking on the peninsula. The act passed by the state legislature in 1841 
declared it to be contrary to the peace and dignity of the commonwealth 
and subversive of the good order of the community as well as of the great 
state of Pennsylvania for any person to pick cranberries on the peninsula 
of Presque Isle between the first of July and the first Tuesday in 
October of each year, and the first Tuesday of October was therefore a 
day of great rejoicing and a holiday to the dwellers in Erie and the strang- 
ers within their gates. It was Cranberry Day, and the manner of its cele- 
bration may be told presently. But meanwhile a word about the cran- 
berry and its especial habitat in this vicinity. 

It may not be especially illuminating to state that the cranberry is 
Vaccinium macrocarpon of Alton, for that is neither here nor there ; but 
it is here or there to know that the cranberry grows on the peninsula ; that 
it is found in many places there, from end to end of that tract of land 
wherever the conditions are favorable for its growth. But in the olden 
time there was one especial place designated as the cranberry marsh (with 
the accent on the "the," and the marsh sometimes pronounced "mash"). 

The big cranberry marsh was as near the middle of the peninsula as 
anything could well be. Let us try to locate it to those who have a little 
knowledge of the topography of the peninsula. Directly opposite the 
public dock, as may be seen from the blufifs at the foot of State or Peach 
Street there is a pond extending some distance up or back into the pen- 
insula. It is of considerable area and extends, as open water, bog and 
swale, back to a wooded ridge that extends east and west for a long dis- 
tance. It is a ridge of sand generally four or five feet in height — in 

Vol. 1—15 


some few places as high as 15 feet — which begins a short distance in 
from Misery bay and extends perhaps a couple of miles to the westward 
until lost in the woods. Just beyond this ridge there is a depression that 
begins at a point that might mark the place where a straight line extended 
from French street would cross it. From this point the big marsh 
stretches away to the west a distance of nearly a mile, with a width of a 
furlong or so. Near the eastern end there is a small landlocked pond, 
but most of the area of this stretch of low, level land is bog. Forty years 
ago, standing near its eastern end one could see almost to its farthest 
extremity and the surface had the appearance of a low green meadow. 
The trailing cranberry plants then constituted its chief vegetation. Now 
it is different. The view is limited by the clumps of willow, or alder or 
young poplar (principally cottonwood or aspens) that have been ap- 
propriating the ground, while over the most of the still open space the 
choke-berries, button-bush, ilex and \'irginian cherry are fast taking pos- 

But how was this marsh reached, being in the heart of the peninsula? 

There were a variety of roads, all centering in the marsh. That 
most traveled was reached by landing at the head of Misery bay. the spot 
where the light-keeper's boathouse is now located. Passing across the 
bit of low ground that is encountered as soon as the beach is left, and 
then turning toward the west, a short distance, brings one to the end of 
a ridge of sand, the sides covered with trees and shrubbery, interlaced 
with grape vines, greenbriars, bittersweet and other woody climbers and 
the summit adorned with a long row of giant cottonwoods that stand, half 
solitary, as markers of the trend of the ridge upon which they grow. The 
plank walk that now leads to the light house on the northern shore of 
the peninsula, skirts the end of the ridge and then parallels it for a con- 
siderable distance. 

Beginning at the end of the ridge the trail proceeds, upon the sum- 
mit most of the way, leading directly to the big cranberry marsh. It is 
a path easy to follow, notwithstanding it is for long distances com- 
pletely overhung with the growth of choke-cherry, poison ivy and other 
shrubs with which it is bordered. This, which was the Misery bay route, 
was most followed — indeed, only the initiated sought the marsh by any 
other avenue. 

But there were other ways to get there and an excellent one was 
to row up into the first pond, or little bay, pass through a channel or canal 
to the east, and, passing in a northerly direction, enter a beautiful little 
pond that extended up to and washed the steep sides of the main ridge, 
of which mention has already been made — the same ridge as that up 
which the route from Misery bay leads. The point of debarcation is 
near the upper end of the pond, at the point long occupied by the light- 
keeper's boat house. From the landing to the cranberry marsh the dis- 
tance is only a couple hundred yards. 


A third way of reaching the marsh was to pass in through the channel 
that enters the peninsula from the western bight of Misery ba}-, row 
northward through the pond that is reached by this route, and then, forc- 
ing the boat through the shrubbery and between the tussocks of sedge, 
efifect a landing near the upper end. which is within a few steps of the 
main path on the ridge, and about half way up to the marsh. 

Yet another way was to land up in Big Bend and walk directly 
across through the big woods to the head of the marsh. But this was 
the most difficult of all and none but those well posted in woodcraft un- 
dertook it. 

So here we have one direct route and a number of more or less 
obscure paths all leading to the cranberry marsh. These obscure paths 
had much to do with Cranberry Day, for had it not been for these paths 
and the fact that they gave the poachers secret admission to the ground 
and opportunity to surreptitiously gather the crop, there would have 
been no need to enact a law for the protection of the interests of others 
ill the cranberries. 

A law, I said. The plural term should be employed, for the laws 
became numerous as the cranberry interest developed importance. 

The earliest of laws relating to the peninsula had to do with guard- 
ing the timber from the depredations of irresponsible parties. It was 
as early as in 1833 that R. S. Reed was appointed commissioner by act 
of the state legislature to have charge of the peninsula and protect it from 
depredations that might endanger its growth of woods. The cranberry 
crop was not mentioned, however, until 1841, but there can be no doubt 
that the reason for the passage of the act specifying a closed season was 
because there were greedy people ready to forestall their fellow citizens. 

The act of the legislature, however, proved inadequate, and it is to 
be presumed that it was because that act seemed impotent that the more 
powerful council of Erie was appealed to. At any rate, the business of 
gathering the cranberry crop clandestinelv had been proceeding pretty 
steadily. To remedy this state of affairs the councils of Erie, in 1865, 
passed the following ordinance : 

"That it shall be the duty of the committee of councils on public 
grounds to sell at public auction at the market house in the city of Erie 
on the first Saturday of July in each year hereafter or on such other day 
as such sale may be adjourned to. to the highest and best re- 
sponsible bidder or bidders the right to pick and gather and appropriate to 
his, her or their own use, all the cranberries growing or being upon the is- 
land or peninsula opposite to the city of Erie, and the person or persons 
who become the purchaser or purchasers of said right shall be invested 
with full property in the said cranberries for the year for which the same 
are sold and shall have the powers and authority of police officers of said 
city in and upon the said island or peninsula, with full power to arrest and 
bring forthwith before any magistrate of said city any person or persons 


guilty of taking or carrying away any of the cranberries growing or being 
upon said island, other than the purchaser or purchasers or those duly 
authorized by him. her or them to do so, and also with the power to ar- 
rest and bring before the proper authority any person or persons who 
shall violate any of the provisions of this ordinance or any of the ordin- 
ances of said city relating to said island or peninsula." 

The conditions added were : That berries were not to be picked be- 
fore the first Tuesday of October ; the purchaser to faithfully guard the 
peninsula and its timber; provides a fine of $20 to $100 for the offense 
of picking cranberries before the first Tuesday of October; that the same 
penalty shall attach to any person who shall pick cranberries after the first 
Tuesday in October without consent of the purchaser; provides imprison- 
ment for violators of the ordinance of 1860; to protect the trees and 
shrubs of the peninsula ; and, finally, that one-half of the fine imposed 
shall go to the informer in a case of violation. 

Here was a rather radical proceeding on the part of the city ; but it 
must not be overlooked that in those days Erie was pretty much the whole 
thing in this locality, and, besides, if the city government did not take a 
fatherly interest in the peninsula who would? Harrisburg was too far 
away and the governor was not familiar enough with the situation to look 
after its welfare as we here on the scene were. Therefore the action of 

But the ordinance did not work satisfactorily at all. The poachers 
continued to be too active. They employed a device called a rake. It 
was on the principle of a scoop-shovel, consisting of a wooden rake or 
comb, with long fingers, forming one side of a box that was provided 
with a handle behind, so that it was possible to scoop or comb or rake 
the vines, obtaining the berries by wholesale. Thus the purchaser of the 
right to pick berries was defrauded, and the ordinance was nullified. 

But there was another and a strong objection. The course provided 
by the ordinance took the fruit away from the people, and there was a 
protest. In pursuance of this Mr. Phineas Crouch introduced in Select 
council the following, resolution, which was adopted September 16, 1867: 

"That the city solicitor shall be required to frame an ordinance that 
shall secure to all the right and opportunity to pick cranberries on the 
peninsula on the day appointed, and that shall make it unlawful for any- 
one to there use or have in possession with seeming purpose to use, any 
rake or other instrument for the purpose of gathering cranberries." 

This ordinance gave Cranberry Day a new birth. It provided also 
as swift a death. 

With eager avidity the people of Erie seized upon the new holiday 
and put it to its proper use, but it was not until a year later than that upon 
which Mr. Crouch introduced his Cranberry Day resolution that the first 
big celebration of the day on the peninsula took place. It is memorable, 
at least to a portion of the present population of Erie. 


Extraordinary precautions had been taken to guard the marsh and 
unusual efforts put forth to keep the poachers away. For most of the 
month of September the marsh was guarded by a detail of sailors from 
the revenue cutter Commodore Perry, then commanded by Captain Dou- 
glas Ottinger, and it was believed that but little if any robberies had been 

Time rolled round, and at length it was the evening of the day be- 
fore Cranberry Day. The weather was charming. There was no frost, 
although the sky was clear, but the mildest sort of temperature with the 
gentlest wind prevailed. By scores — by hundreds, indeed — the people 
flocked to the other side and spent the night beneath the trees along the 

With the break of day they started to move in towards the marsh, 
but from the other side the people were crowding in rapidly increasing 
numbers. Row boats, sail boats, fish boats, steam tugs — every available 
craft in the bay pressed into service, and Misery bay was a sight to see 
with its collection of craft of every size, style and condition afloat on its 
surface or drawn up on the shore, and there was a steady stream of 
people extending all the way from Misery bay to the utmost bounds of 
the cranberry marsh. 

And, just as diversified as were the craft in which they were trans- 
ported, were the people who had been passengers. If any had gone over 
expecting to get a haul of cranberries they were disappointed. A hand- 
ful was about all that anyone could get. 

But the great majority had gone over for the frolic and that path 
from Misery bay was so much trampled, and its borders as well, that 
the air was loaded with the spicy fragrance of the sweet gale bushes that 
had been crushed by the passing throng. To this day the odor of that 
fragrant shrub recalls to mind that greatest of all Cranberry days. 

The marsh that morning in October was populous with men and 
women, boys and girls, and from end to end there was a broad path 
trampled in the cranberry vines by the hundreds of feet that had passed. 
Here and there at regular inter^-als were to be seen stacks of muskets, 
standing where the sailors of the revenue service had placed them while 
the Jackies themselves were to be seen hard by, some of them endeavoring 
to obtain their share of the berries, others guiding or directing inquiring 

Hilarity reigned. There was little berry-picking. But the shout and 
the merry laugh went up from end to end of the bog. Probably all had 
provided something to eat, and at numerous places could be seen picnic 
parties seated on the dry sand of the higher parts of the ground, or some- 
times on boughs arranged to keep the picnickers out of the wet. And 
that was the celebration of Cranberry Day. 

The rush for home was something fierce and it was the day aftei 
Cranberry Day before all succeeded in getting ofif. Many camped out all 


night, numerous parties sitting around a fire on the beach until day broke 
the next morning. 

That resokition of j\lr. Crouch's gave force and virtue to Cranberry 
Day. It alone was the cause of that greatest celebration of the occasion. 

Mr. Crouch's resolution also abolished Cranberry Day. There never 
again w^as such a general observance of the day as that first after the pas- 
sage of the resolution. There never was more than one or two afterwards 
of any kind. It seemed to be unanimously voted a delusion and a snare. 
At any rate in the course of half a dozen years Cranberry Day was not 
even mentioned, and now it is only a tradition. 

And yet all the laws relating to it stand unrepealed. Legally, Cran- 
berry Day exists at the present time. Legally, people have no right to 
gather cranberries on the peninsula before the first Tuesday of October. 
Legally, anyone who informs upon one who picks cranberries before Cran- 
berry Day is entitled to half the fine which the magistrate has a legal right 
tc impose. 

The machinery is all in existence yet ; all that is necessary is to 
set it in motion and again we will have Cranberry Day. 

People whose memory carries them back to the last of the cranberry 
days will remember that upon that occasion the marked feature was the 
presence of a number of Jackies, gathered in groups here and there in 
the extent of the picking-grounds, with stacks of muskets adjacent to 
each group ; and no doubt many to this day have wondered why upon 
that occasion conditions should be different from what had theretofore 
prevailed. Previous to that time the same state laws had been in effect 
that forbade any from trespassing upon the cranberry preserve before 
the first Tuesday of October, but there had not before been the necessity, 
if there was then, of calling upon the blue-jackets to see that the regu- 
lations made by the state legislature should be enforced. 

As a matter of fact the case was not that year in the hands of the 
state or city government. It was in the mighty hands of the government 
of the United States and the conditions found to exist on the cranberry 
marsh when the big crowd of that Tuesday morning reached the scene 
of operations was proof that there had been a change. 

As a matter of fact it had been taken formal possession of by the 
representatives of the United States government a short time previously, 
and the story of how it came about may prove interesting. 

The peninsula at various periods in its history has had the fortune 
to be cared for and be answerable to various authorities or powers. Once 
it was geographically, a part of New York state ; but when the triangle 
was added to Pennsylvania, then of course, there was a change of owner- 
ship on the part of that body of land — on the principle that the tail should 
go with the hide. After Erie obtained a corporate existence one of the 
first things it began to exercise an autocratic rule over was the peninsula. 


Erie did not govern itself with more wisdom than was shown in any 
other country village of its size, but yet it always felt called upon to 
exercise authority over the tract of country on the farther side of the 
bay. So, whatever the real ownership of the peninsula might be Erie 
assumed the right to govern it. at least to the extent of saying that there 
should be no timber cut nor fruit gathered there. Generally the guar- 
dianship of the peninsula was exercised jointly by the state and by the 
city, the laws being made by the state legislature, no doubt through the 
influence of the members from this county, and the enforcement of the 
laws attended to by the city. A change occurred, however, toward the 
end of the sixties, and this is how it was brought about. 

In 1867, by act of the legislature there was incorporated the Marine 
Hospital of Pennsylvania, which was granted the extensive piece of 
ground known as the garrison tract and voted a large appropriation for 
the erection of a fine building upon it. The corporation, obtaining some- 
thing like $100,000, all but $10,000 from the state, began the erection 
of the hospital building. Two years later, by act No. 83, approved Feb. 
4, 1869, there was passed a supplement to the incorporating act. This 
supplement reciting in its preamble that 

"The councils of Erie have so neglected the management and 
supervision of the peninsula which forms the northern boundary of 
the harbor of Erie, as to prevent any adequate revenue arising there- 
from, therefore, * * That section 1-1, of the act of April 2, 
1868, entitled a further supplement to an act to incorporate the city 
of Erie, be so amended as to place the supervision and control of the 
said peninsula in the power of the board of directors of the Marine 
Hospital of Pennsylvania * * and the said board of directors are 
hereby empowered to exercise such supervision, disposition and control 
of same by leasing, or otherwise, as to them shall be deemed for the best 
interests of said hospital." 

The peninsula thus passed from the possession of the state into the 
control of the Marine Hospital corporation. Just what was done during 
the period of its possession by the corporation has not been made a 
matter of accurate and detailed record, and no doubt will never be fully 
known. But whatever else occurred on the peninsula during the brief 
period of two years when it was in possession and control of the Marine 
Hospital, the peninsula came to be dragged into city politics and in the 
campaign of 1871 cut a very imposing figure. Among the numerous 
campaign aids of that time were a number of big posters stuck to all 
the dead walls of the city bearing in prominent letters the words, "Who 
stole the peninsula and tlie cedar posts?" and similar conundrums which 
it was expected the people would answer at the polls. That was the 
bitterest fight on the mayorality issue that the city ever witnessed, and 
resulted in the election of Hon. W. L. Scott. 


Following closely upon the heels of the municipal election there 
crime about another change in the status of the peninsula, and this change 
was effected at Harrisburg. 

During the legislative session of 1869 the Marine Hospital corpora- 
tion was again to the fore with a demand for another appropriation. It 
was necessary, in order to render the hospital which had by this time 
been partially built, fit for occupancy, to have another appropriation from 
the state of $30,000. 

The legislature, however, did not grant the necessary funds without 
tacking a condition and this involved the peninsula. There were two 
amendatory acts approved on the same day. One, No. 679, approved 
May 11, 1871, repeals the first section of the amendment approved Feb- 
ruary 4, 1869, the section quoted above, which empowered the Marine 
Hospital corporation to exercise "supervision, disposition and control," 
etc.; the other. No. 667, approved May 11, 1871, appropriating $30,000 
for "fitting the building for the reception of patients," but on condition 

"That the Marine Hospital corporation shall reconvey to the state 
by good and sufficient deeds, to be approved by the attorney general, all 
lands in any way granted to the Marine Hospital by its act of incorpora- 
tion and the buildings nov^^ thereon, with the appurtenances, to be held 
by the state for the uses and purposes defined in said act of incorpora- 
tion ; and on the further condition that the said Marine Hospital corpora- 
tion shall convey to the United States of merica all the title it may have 
to the peninsula of Presque Isle obtained from the state of Pennsylvania 
by the act of February 4, 1869, to be held by said United States, as near 
as may be, in its present condition, and only for the purposes of national 
defense and for the protection of the harbor of Erie, but in all other re- 
spects to be subject to the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the state of 
Pennsylvania; and the consent of the state of Pennsylvania is hereby 
given to such transfer of title only for the purpose, and under the limi- 
tations herein before mentioned." 

Thus it will be seen that the peninsula, so far as an act of the 
legislature could convey it, and to the full extent to which it could be 
'accepted by the United States, passed over to the control of the general 

It happened one day in August, 1871, that the collector of customs 
was called upon in his office, the old custom house on State street, near 
Fourth, by Attorney Laird, who asked him whether he had a right to ac- 
cept a deed in the name of the government. Whatever the collector may 
have known or thought about his prerogatives, one thing he knew, and 
that was that he was the ranking government officer in these parts. His 
reply was that no one else than he could do so for the government. 

"Then will you accept it?" was the question. 

"I will," the collector replied. 

He did; and having accepted the deed he proceeded at once in due 


course to make it effective, which was by having it recorded. It appears 
of record as follows : 

"The Marine Hospital of Pennsylvania, a corporation duly incorpo- 
rated by the state of Pennsylvania, send greeting. Know ye, that the 
said Marine Hospital of Pennsylvania for and in consideration of the 
sum of one dollar to them in hand paid by the United States of America 
at and before the ensealing and delivery hereof, the receipt whereof 
they do hereby acknowledge and thereof acquit and forever discharge the 
said United States of America, by these presents have remised, re- 
leased and forever quitclaimed and by these presents do remise, release, 
and forever quit-claim unto the United States of America, all the estate, 
right, title, interest, property, claim and demand whatever of them the 
said Marine Hospital of Pennsylvania in law or equity, or otherwise, of, 
in, to or out of all that certain piece or parcel of land, being the peninsula 
lying to the northward of and enclosing the Bay of Presque Isle, (and 
here follows the detailed description), * * containing 2,02-1 acres 
* * to be held by the said United States as near as may be in its present 
condition and only for the purposes of national defense and for the pro- 
tection of the harbor of Erie. To have and to hold all and singular the 
premises hereby remised and released, with the appurtenances unto the 
said United States of America to the only proper use and behoof of 
the said United States of America." 

This instrument was dated May 25. 1S71 ; signed by M. B. Lowry, 
president of the Marine Hospital. It was approved June 27, 1871, by F. 
Carroll Brewster, attorney general of Pennsylvania, and sworn to on the 
latter date before J. R. Warner, notary public. The deed was recorded 
in Erie county deed book. No. 40, page 631, August 18, 1871. 

Nor did the action of the collector stop here. He had control over 
the revenue cutter, and, calling Captain Ottinger, its commander, to his 
office, he directed him to take formal possession of the peninsula in the 
name of the United States of America. 

Now there was not a man then living to whom such an order was 
more acceptable. No one loved authority more and none could carry 
out an order of the kind more efficiently. With all the circumstance and 
ostentation that could distinguish a naval commander, dressed in the full 
uniform of his rank, and with a sufficient force of blue-jackets he landed 
upon the wilderness of Presque Isle and in full accordance with the rules 
governing such procedure, with which Capt. Ottinger was no doubt 
familiar, he entered upon and took formal possession of the land. 

Nor was that the end of his official act. He caused to be published 
in the columns of the Dispatch a formal notification to all concerned of 
the changed conditions of affairs across the bay, proclaimed the land 
the property of the United States, and warned all not to trespass upon 
that property. 


Xor did he permit his care and defense of the new United States 
territory to relax by the lapse of time. He was too faithful to any duty 
entrusted to him to permit any lax methods while so important a matter 
was under his charge. His guardianship was maintained to whatever 
extent he regarded necessary. And that was how it came about that on 
that cranberry day in 1871 the jackies stood guard in the cranberry 
marsh and the unusual sight of stacked muskets was there to be witnessed. 

But, after all, that collector of customs had transcended his authority. 
His duty required him to receive and account for government moneys, 
and he was also custodian of government propert}', whether buildings 
or goods in bond. He had no right to accept a deed to land or an acces- 
sion of territory, unless directed explicitly to do so. He realized that 
fact himself. But it did not deter him from at once reporting the matter 
to his superiors in Washington. 

When the matter came to the attention of Secretary Boutwell he 
stated that the collector at Erie had clearly exceeded his authority. And 
that was all there was of it then. The collector was not rebuked nor was 
the action taken reversed. As a matter of fact, the collector was sustained 
by the course pursued by the secretary. It even came to the attention 
of President Grant who said the collector had no power to do what he 
did, but yet he had done right. 

United States District Attorney Swope was sent to Erie to look into 
the matter, but he made no changes in the status of affairs. On the 
contrary, upon his return and report, there was sent to Erie a military 
commission consisting of Gen. Gottfried Weitzell, Gen. Comstock, and 
another, who reported to the collector and then proceeded to make a 
tour of the peninsula. The result was that the commission declared the 
land admirably adapted for military purposes and well fitted for fortifi- 
cations and for a garrison. 

The outcome \i-as that the' war department assumed charge of the 
peninsula and exercises supervision of it to this day, Capt. James Hunter 
being its custodian for years. The authority for this disposition of the 
peninsula comes from an act of congress passed in 1871, that directs the 
secretary of war to receive and accept the title passed under the state 
legislative acts of May 11, 1871. 

Will there ever be anything done with the peninsula by the govern- 
ment more than to let it remain in its present delightful state of nature ? 
Who can say ? There was a time when there was every prospect of great 
and important changes being effected there. That was during the lifetime 
of Hon. W. L. Scott. It will be remembered that the peninsula was an 
issue in the campaign in which he was elected mayor, and he was on the 
side that favored the change which eventually came to pass. \\'hen he 
learned the purpose back of Capt. Ottinger's order published in August. 
1871, he was greatly pleased. 


\\'hen. however, he became a representative in congress he laid plans 
for mammoth changes on the eastern end of the peninsula. It was his 
purpose to eventually secure a military garrison for Presque Isle, and the 
plan included the construction of a fine macadam boulevard all the way 
around the outside of the peninsula to the garrison at its eastern end, a 
drive that would be without an equal anywhere else in the country. 

His friends also report a plan of his to have converted Misery bay 
into a naval station, with facilities for building and repairs and all the 
requisites to make it as fully equipped as a complete naval headquarters 
should be. His plans regarding the peninsula are, however, only a few 
of the mammoth projects he had in mind to bring about, if death had not 
stepped in and cut short his career. They may yet be realized, for the 
peninsula remains, and all the attributes that recommended it when the 
militarv commission visited it and when Mr. Scott planned, are still 


A State Enterprise. — Intended to Connect Tidew.\ter and the 

Lakes. — Finished to Erie p.y a Local Company. 

■ — Its Closing. 

Among the very earliest enterprises to engage the attention of 
the leading statesmen of the new-born American republic was that 
of internal commerce. Long anterior to the railroad, when, indeed, 
such a method of communication between distant points had not 
even been dreamed of by the most fertile of mechanical imaginations, 
the means of ready communication with the interior was regarded 
as a pressing need, and believed to be one that would rapidly in- 
crease in importance as the country was developed. President Wash- 
ington was one of the leading advocates in his time of a system of 
canals. The streams had been utilized to a considerable extent, but 
not practically, for they were not always serviceable and generally 
were navigable but one way. The solution, however, was easy 
enough, and that was to construct canals, following the course of the 
rivers when the rivers themselves would not answer — for there was a 
good deal of slack water in every stream. The early years of the 
Republic, therefore, became an era of canal projects. 

In Pennsylvania the canal idea took root early. As far back 
as 1762 the feasibility of connecting the Delaware River and Lake 
Erie was discussed among the numerous projects for internal com- 
merce that came up for attention among the progressive men of that 
time. There can be no doubt something of this sort was in the minds 
of the Philadelphians who took so much interest in securing the Tri- 
angle as a part of the state, mainly because of its splendid harbor. 
The plan or definite proposition of connecting Lake Erie with the 
Delaware did not come to a head, however, until the year 1833, 
when the state legislature passed an act creating a commission to 
survey or explore a route for connecting Lake Erie with French 
Creek by canal and slack water. The outcome of this was a con- 
vention that met in Harrisburg in August, 1825, at which there were 
representatives from forty-six counties, Giles Sanford attending from 
Erie. The result of this convention was the adoption of a series 
of resolutions in favor of a canal from the Susquehanna to the Alle- 
gheny river, and from the Allegheny to Lake Erie. 


Immediately afterwards the State embarked in the enterprise, 
incurring a heavy debt for the purpose, and by 1834 had completed 
a canal as far as to Pittsburg, the first boat from the east reaching 
Pittsburg in October of that year. Then ensued a vigorous and bit- 
ter contention regarding the route for the extension to Lake Erie. 
There were two routes that seemed to be available, and each had its 
partisans. What was known as the eastern route extended up the Alle- 
gheny river and French creek, following the old French route, to 
Waterford, whence it was intended by some means to get over the 
summit to Erie. The other, known as the western route was down 
the Ohio from Pittsburg, up the Beaver and Shenango rivers, and 
thence across another summit, to Lake Erie. The only way of settling 
the question at issue was by having surveys made, and when this 
was done the engineers reported in favor of the western route. The 
adoption of this route, however, opened up another controversy. This 
was with reference to the terminus of the canal, one party favoring 
the mouth of Elk creek, and the other the harbor of Erie. It got 
into the legislature. Hon. Elijah Babbitt represented Erie in 
the session at which the matter came up to be disposed of, and 
through his eiiforts Erie was made the lake terminus of the Penn- 
sylvania canal. 

West of Erie, in Alillcreek township, there was a state reserve 
tract of 2.000 acres of land. It was the third section of the town 
of Erie. In the year 1833 Hon. John H. Walker, then a representa- 
tive in the Legislature secured the passage of an act ceding this 
land (the third section), to the borough of Erie, for the purpose of 
building a canal basin, reserving out of the section, however, 100 acres 
for the county alms house. The controversy with reference to 
the terminus was not finally settled until 1836, when work was under- 
taken by the State. In 1838, operations began at Erie, which took the 
form of a public celebration. The Fourth of July was appropriately 
chosen as the date, and the ceremonies of the occasion were in keep- 
ing, consisting of a demonstration on the streets of the village, speech- 
es and at the proper time, "breaking ground" for the new public work 
that meant so much to Erie. Captain Daniel Dobbins was given 
the honor of throwing out the first shovelful of earth. Work on the 
canal was prosecuted by the state in a rather desultory fashion, until 
1842. when, having expended $4,000,000, the legislature decided to call 
a halt. It only required the appropriation of $211,000 to complete 
the work, and put the Erie extension of the canal in operation, but 
the legislature was not willing to appropriate. 

However, it was quite ready to make a free gift of what had 
cost four million dollars if any other interest would complete the work. 
There was another interest right on the spot. By an act passed at 
the session of 1842-43 the Erie Canal Company was incorporated. 


The company was organized with Rufus S. Reed as president and 
C. M. Reed as treasurer. To this new corporation was ceded all the 
work that had been done, on condition that it would finish the canal 
and operate it. Promptly the corporation set about the work. That 
well-watered stock was calculated to put spurs in the sides of far 
less enterprising men than the Reeds, who were the moving spirits. 
Construction progressed rapidly, both on. the line of the canal and at the 
terminus. At the harbor an extensive basin was constructed. This 
consisted of the extension of State street into a causeway out to a 
dock that extended east and west about 400 feet each way. The basin, 
enclosed by the east and west extensions was protected from westerly 
gales by Reed's dock. The outlet of the canal was just east of 
Reed's dock. The canal was completed in 1844, and on De- 
cember 5th of that year the first boats arrived at Erie. They were 
the packet Queen of the West, crowded with passengers, and the R. 
S. Reed, loaded with coal. It was another day of celebration at Erie. 

Fishing for chubs at the corner of Eighth and Chestnut streets 
is not a popular sport nowadays. And yet there are men still living 
in Erie who no doubt in their time have cast a line there and caught 
their string of fishes. But the conditions were different then. 

Nor is it so very long since fishing was a pastime that might be 
engaged in in that now closely built up and populous section of the 
city. Until the year 1871 the conditions were admirably favorable 
for the peaceful sport, and almost any summer day there might be 
seen a group of boys seated on the grassy bank a short distance from 
the Eighth street bridge busy with their poles and lines intent upon 
capturing the wary chubs which there were found in plenty. 

They were fishing in the canal. 

The bridge was a short distance west of the intersection of Eighth 
and Chestnut streets, and was a considerable distance above the grade 
of the present street. It was necessary that it should be so in order to 
afford headroom, as the horses upon the towpath had to pass beneath. 
The towpath was on the western or northern side of the canal. The 
fishing ground, therefore, was on the opposite side, near the eastern 
end of the bridge. 

There was a lock a short distance further up the canal, and, be- 
tween Eighth street and the lock there stood a grocery store (Glover's 
grocery) much patronized by the boatmen and by the people of Erie 
living in the neighborhood. An interesting sort of a place it was in 
its day, odorous with its miscellaneous stock, coal oil, codfish and ship 
chandlerv affording the dominant elements of the overpowering smell, 
which was at times modified by cabbages and other vegetables, become 
stale for the lack of cold storage 


It was a great place for loungers and story-tellers. Perhaps 
the narratives that were dealt out were not technically to be denomi- 
nated sailor's yarns, but they were certainly yarns and plenty of them 
entertaining enough, to judge from the interest they excited among 
the crowds that sat about on the barrel-heads and boxes chewing fine- 
cut that had been weighed out of a big pail, or smoking the same rank 
form of the weed in short clay pipes. The men wore heavy boots into 
v/hich the legs of their trousers were thrust, and coarse shirts, often 
of dark blue flannel. They were not all canalers, but, as a rule, there 
was a large proportion of that trade or profession, for at times, while 
one boat was locking through there would be one or more on each of 
the levels above and below, awaiting their turn at the lock, and mean- 
while their crews would drop in at Glover's to talk matters over and 
compare reckonings — such reckonings as these inland sailors thought 
important to make. 

The Eighth street bridge was the last bridge in the city that 
spanned the canal. Below there were bridges at Sixth and at Fourth 
streets. Seventh, Fifth and Third streets were closed and some of the 
intersecting streets, where the canal interfered. 

The level at Eighth street extended from a short distance below 
Seventh street where the weigh-lock was located. This lock had a 
building of two or three stories erected over it, the lower story being 
open, and displaying only the heavy beams of the frame upon which 
the superstructure was built. It was close to the gas works that 
occupied a position on Seventh street near Myrtle and extended about 
half-way to Sixth street. The coal necessary for the manufacture of the 
city's supply of gas came by way of the canal, and there was a slip 
tc form the necessary harbor to accommodate the gas works. 

There was another slip communicating with this same level. The 
canal extended diagonally across this portion of the city, and this 
other slip was constructed parallel with Chestnut street, beginning at 
about Seventh street and reaching almost to Eighth. This w^as Bur- 
ton's slip and in it the boats were moored that brought coal to Burton's 
coal yard. That yard was located just east of where A. P. Burton's 
residence now is, on Eighth street near Chestnut, and no doubt the sub- 
soil of that lot to this day bears trace in the carboniferous character 
of its make-up, of the time when it was one of the principal coal de- 
pots of the city of Erie. 

On the bank of the canal just south of Seventh street stood Alf 
King's malt-house. This w^as one of the pioneer warehouses and man- 
ufactories of its kind in Erie, for Alfred King introduced the business 
of malting to this part of the world and set in motion the cultivation 
of barley as a feature of the farming industry of Erie county. The 
King malt-house was a frame structure and it was a memorable oc- 
casion when, in the early summer of 1SG5, it was burned. There were 


no water works or steam fire engines in Erie in those days and even 
with the plentiful supply of water that the canal afforded the Perry 
and Goodwill engine companies found they were not in it when it came 
to battling with the destroying element, feeding upon such combustible 
material as that structure was composed of. 

That level was famous in its day. It was known as the weigh- 
lock basin, and at Seventh street was three or four times the ordinary 
width of the canal. Sometimes boats would be massed here by the 
score, awaiting their turn at the weigh-lock, many of them, however, 
finding business at the various warehouses that occupied positions on 
the margin of the canal or awaiting opportunity to discharge cargoes 
at the coal yard, the gas works or the wharves of those in other lines 
of trade. Among the warehouses was one owned by the Burtons which 
stands to this day but is now transformed into a double dwelling situat- 
ed on Chestnut street about half-way between Seventh and Eighth 
streets, and is now the property of Richard O'Brien's estate. 

In the early days of the canal there was conducted a packet ser- 
vice of considerable importance. The packet lines went no farther 
north than the weigh-lock basin. That was the Erie terminus of 
the passenger business on the canal, and it was the scene of great 
activity as long as the passenger business continued. In the 
course of a few years, however, the packets disappeared from the 
canal. While it lasted, and at least during the first years of the 
passenger boats there were lively times on that aqueous thorough- 
fare, the emigrant business alone being something remarkable for those 
days. Very many Germans found their way to the west over the Erie 
canal, passing from the Lake Erie route to the Ohio and thence to 
Cincinnati and other cities that have been largely populated by people 
of that nationality, and Erie first obtained the Teutonic element of 
its population through Germans who had come, intending to pass 
through, but attracted by the charms of the city on the lake. 

The weigh-lock basin, however, was not by any means all there 
was of the canal in Erie. Far from it. That artery of trade was lined 
with industries all the way from Ninth Street to the outlet lock at 
the harbor, and even farther. 

Just below the weigh-lock, at Sixth street, there was a large 
cooperage. Adjoining the barrel factory on the east there was a coal 
yard in which for a time W. W. Todd, had an interest, and on the 
opposite side of Sixth street, occupying the space up to what is now 
the corner of jMyrtle, there was another coal yard, that of E. \\'. Reed. 
All that space on Sixth street, now covered by handsome residences, 
that extends from the Kuhn block to the corner of Myrtle street, was 
occupied in the olden time by the canal and the coal yard. The 
Morrison residence occupied a fine elevated position west of and over- 


looking the turbulent waters of the canal and the roar of the waste 
water as it fell into the level below after passing around the lock 
was constantly in the ears of the dwellers in that vicinity. 

There was another lock at Myrtle street, between Fifth and Sixth, 
and the waste water was utilized in its passage around this lock, for 
supplying power to the Canal mill, for many years operated by Oliver 
& Bacon. On the level below John Constable had established his 
planing mill business, and it is conducted by his sons to this day on 
the old site, though very greatly enlarged. 

From this point down to the outlet the locks were frequent and 
the levels between locks were short. There were, however, numerous 
industries of one sort and another occupying whatever space was 
advantageous, among them being yards for the building and repair of 
canal boats. Prominent among these boat builders were Messrs. 
Bates and Foster, who long prospered. 

Above the Glover lock there were also industries. The pottery 
that for many years did a successful business in the manufacture of 
brown earthenware, was noteworthy and Burger's shipyard was an- 
other deserving of mention. 

It may thus be seen that the route of the canal through Erie was 
marked as a section of its greatest business activity. And yet, in 
commerce, its terminus was greater than all, for the bulk of the 
business that the canal brought to Erie was done at the harbor, and 
more than one colossal fortune had its foundation laid in the busi- 
ness brought to the harbor of Erie by the canal. The Public Dock, 
east and west, was alive with business enterprises in which such 
names as Reed, Scott, Rawle, Hearn, Richards, Walker and others, 
familiar to this day as leaders' in business and wealth in Erie, were 

Today there are but few traces remaining of that once famous 
artery of inland commerce. The deep hollows from Fourth street 
down, between Peach and Sassafras streets, called, now, the remains 
of the old canal, are not, strictly speaking, so much the remains of the 
canal as of the ravine that was utilized by the canal company at the 
time that waterway was constructed. In early days there was a 
stream called Lee's Run, which found its way to the bay through a 
deep guUey, and what remains unfilled below Fourth is in fact that 
gulley. Still it is also a remnant of the canal. 

Let us look over the route in order to locate its course, and learn 
what remains at present of the canal. 

Following the course backward from the bay : it started from the 
slip at the east side of Reed's dock, a wharf devoted to the soft coal 
business. Proceeding southward it nearly paralleled Peach street 
to Fourth, but there began to bend toward the west. It crossed 

Vol. 1—16 


Sassafras between I-^ourth and Fifth, and Fifth more than lialf way 
between Sassafras and Myrtle. 

Myrtle was crossed near Sixth, and Sixth a short distance west 
of Myrtle. Chestnut was crossed at about Seventh, but there was in 
reality no Chestnut street south from Sixth to the canal, for all that 
tract back half way to Walnut street, was occupied by what was 
known in the olden time as the Mulberry Orchard, a fine grove of 
that species of tree which was a favorite haunt of the youth of the 
town when the berries were ripe. Mawkish to the uncultivated palate, 
this fruit was greedily devoured by the bo3fs. West of the canal 
Seventh street was such only in name east from Walnut to the canal. 

The crossing of Eighth street was a short distance west of Chest- 
nut ; and of Ninth at about Walnut. At Cherry, Tenth street was 
crossed and until within a few years there remained the trace of a 
lock between the rear of the little U. B. church and the old house at 
the corner of Twelfth and Poplar that, standing diagonal with the 
course of the two streets was the last relic that, architecturally, sug- 
gested the canal. From there the canal can still be traced through 
the grounds of the Erie Pail factory or the Williams Tool Company, 
crossing Liberty street near the railroad, under which it formerly 
passed, the old channel of the canal being still plainly seen at that 

On the south side of the railroad there is a remnant of the old 
waterway leading in the direction of the Erie Forge Company's plant. 
and the main building of that company stands at a bias because the 
canal compelled it to be so placed. The course of the canal through 
the old Car Works property cannot now be traced ; it was long ago 
filled up; but, proceeding in the general direction indicated by the 
remnant existing east of the Forge Company's works, an important 
trace is found just west of Raspberry street below Seventeenth, and 
from that point to beyond the city limits it is easily followed. 

Occupying a commanding position near the center of the com- 
mon west of Raspberry street there is seen the well-preserved ruin 
of an old lock, in which every feature is prominently seen. Of course 
the stone of which it was built long ago disappeared. Yet the 
remains plainly indicate every part and detail of it. On the north 
side there is the gravel towpath, still made use of, but as a footpath 
affording a short cut to Eighteenth street. Just south is the narrow 
but deep excavation that indicates the position of the lock. Grown 
up with willows and sumachs, it is a tangle of shrubbery, but it still 
contains water nearly all the year round, encouraging a growth of 
sedges and cat-tail flags. Just south of the mound that indicates 
the other side of the lock there is easily traced the wier that carried 
the surphts water from the level above to the level below, and just 
below the lock there is a large circular pool of water that never dries 


up and is filled with a rank growth of rushes, sedges, and other 
marsh plants. It is the basin formed below the lock, caused by the 
rush of water as the lock was being emptied, a feature of the upper 
end of every level. It is the only well defined relic of the canal still 
to be found within the limits of the city. 

Above that lock the course of the canal is easily followed as it 
crosses Eighteenth street and then west, parallel to the Nickel Plate 
Railroad, past the Erie Chemical Co.'s plant, where it has received 
the waste of that factory, changing the color scheme of the mud into 
a resemblance to mortar. From that point westward its remains are 
frequently met with. Here and there stretches of several hundred 
yards are found, one place, not far from Asbury chapel, the old bed 
being filled with water that supports a luxuriant growth of cat-tail 
flags and is a favorite nesting place of the soldierly red-winged black- 

The deep ravine of Walnut creek was spanned by an aqueduct, 
the ruins of wliich a few years ago were to be seen at the eastern 
side of the gorge not far from Swanville station. The canal passed 
through Fairview and at what we know today as Wallace Junction 
turned southward, passing through Girard. It is the route of the 
old canal that the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad traverses and that 
course is faithfully followed even at the point south of Girard, where 
there was a mammoth curve along the side of a high side hill. It 
passed through Lockport and Albion, Springboro and Conneautville, 
and Conneaut Lake was the main feeder of the canal, for that marked 
the summit, furnishing the supply of water that made the canal 
possible. In many places south of Girard there still remain traces 
of the canal, and there are long stretches, filled with water, in which 
thousands of waterlilies bloom during June and July. 

While the canal had undoubtedly vastly increased the business 
of Erie harbor and had transformed it into a very busy place, it must 
not be overlooked that conditions then were not as they are now — 
this with reference not alone to Erie, but the country generally. 
What was great then would not be so regarded now. At the time 
the canal business was at its best, the harbor was full of shipping, 
and nothing could be more picturesque than the aspect of the lake 
beyond, its expanse of blue dotted with the white sails of numerous 
crafts, beating their way up or down the lake, against the wind. At 
times as many as a score ; sometimes even twice as many, could be 
counted from Garrison Hill, their white sails filled with wind, as they 
held their course tacking to make way against the wind, and it made 
little difference whether they were intended for Erie or merely pass- 
ing by, they came within view through the necessities of navigation. 
But they were not large vessels. Not many were above 500 tons bur- 


den, and nearly ail were sailing vessels, mostly schooners. The 
carriers of coal and grain and ore ; of lumber and limestone, or other 
bulky commodities were nearly all schooners, with now and then a 
bark or brig. Steam vessels were very few, and did not begin to be 
common until about the end of the decade of the sixties, and then 
they were frequent rather than common. The visit of a "propeller" 
to Erie was a subject of comment. The entire business of the canal 
for the year 1845 was 1.5,000 tons — not enough to meet the capacity of 
two steamers of the present time. The best record of the canal for a 
season was 150,000 tons of coal. 

The Erie Extension canal went out of existence as the result of 
a collision with a railroad — that is to say, there was a railroad built, 
and the canal being inimical to the interests of the railroad the canal 
was gobbled. It was in 1864 that the Erie &' Pittsburg Railroad was 
built. At once the full strength of the rivalry between them was 
felt. The railroad suffered because of the canal, and the canal was 
not as profitable as before because of the railroad. Each was in 
the other's way. For a time there was talk of enlarging the canal, 
and before long the talk crystallized into action, and a company 
was formed with sufficient capital to undertake the work. At 
that time the stock of the canal was controlled by Gen. C. AI. Reed. 
He wanted to sell it. The new companj^ knew this, and having com- 
pleted the preliminaries and secured the necessary funds, representa- 
tives called upon Gen. Reed to take over his holdings. To their sur- 
prise and chagrin they were told that the canal had already been 
sold. It had been bought in the interests of the Erie & Pittsburg Rail- 

The canal was not immediately closed. It could not well be 
with the state charter in existence. But the manner of its operation 
left much to be desired — more even than had previously been the 
case. In 1871 the aqueduct across Elk creek fell, and that was the 
end of the Erie Extension canal. Today its picturesque ruins con- 
sist of a stretch here and there of water overgrown with lilies, or at 
rarer intervals, a lock not yet fallen into complete decay, for, down in 
the neighborhood of Albion there are yet occasionally to be found 
locks with most of their masonry undisturbed. 

During its existence the canal did much for Erie in a business 
way. More than one Erie fortune came out of it, and more than one 
Erie industry of today can trace its history back to the canal as its 

It was an Erie institution. It was through the efforts of Erie 
men in the legislature that it came lawfully into existence, and that it 
was financially backed by the state until nearly completed. It was 
by means of Erie capital that it was finished, and Erie men operated 
it. It must not be overlooked that the efforts of William W. Reed, 


long its superintendent, his capable management and his eminent 
technical abilities, made it a success commercially and financially. If 
the movement to enlarge it and continue it in operation had won out 
there can be no doubt but that the history of the old canal would have 
been repeated in the new. 

Mr. William W. Reed did not depend upon his own judgment 
with reference to the feasibility of enlarging the canal, although his 
long connection with it and his intimate knowledge of all that per- 
tained to its operations placed him in a position to form a pretty 
reliable estimate of what could be done with it. Nor was it his 
experience in the operating of the canal as it existed that he alone 
depended upon to form judgment. He was himself an engineer, and 
as well acquainted with the geography of this part of the state as 
perhaps any man living in this locality, and he had devoted a good 
deal of time and attention to the business of calculating the pos- 
sibilities from conditions known to exist. However, he decided to 
put the question up to one who could speak with authority, and there- 
fore laid the matter before W. Milnor Roberts, the chief engineer of 
the canal when it was built and then (in 1867) employed as govern- 
ment engineer on the work of the improvement of the Ohio River. 
Mr. Roberts made the following report: 

"W. W. Reed, Supt. Erie Canal. 

"Dear Sir: — My attention was called last winter to the project 
of enlarging the Erie Canal so as to make it of sufficient capacity 
for boats of 250 tons burthen. Since then I have reflected upon it 
considerably. I feel quite confident that it is possible that there is 
sufficient water in French creek to feed it when finished, and that 
the change can be effected from its present to the enlarged size for a 
sum much less than many supposed. I regard it as a noble project, 
worthy of the most careful and deliberate investigation, and will 
cheerfully aid in any way in my power in its future development. I 
consider that, in connection with the improvement of the Ohio river, 
upon which I am now engaged in the service of the government, it 
may become one of the most important and valuable avenues of com- 
merce in our country. I need not here enter into details, but at the 
proper time I will with pleasure do so. My long connection and 
familiar acquaintance with your canal will enable me to do so without 
occupying much time. 

"I trust that you will succeed in turning public attention favor- 
ably in this direction, believing that the scheme will bear investiga- 
tion and prove to be practicable. 

"Very respectfully yours, 

"W. Milnor Roberts. 

"Civil Engineer." 


This report by Air. Roberts was a powerful aid toward further- 
ing the project for canal enlargement that Mr. Reed had been for 
some time nursing, and made possible the organization of a company 
to take over the canal, and make the desired improvement. He 
had succeeded in forming the company and raising the money needed, 
supposing that when that had been done the rest was only the mat- 
ter of arranging the details of the work. It was therefore a grievous 
disappointment when he learned that he had been forestalled. He 
was not much more than an hour late. Perhaps his missionary work 
had been misdirected. It might have been better to have expended 
a greater degree of his persuasive energy upon his relative. General 
Reed, who held the destinies of the canal in his hand. But he did 
not work it from that end, and the railroad interests did, and what 
was more to the point, they understood the importance of the maxim 
of David Harum, though not then enunciated : "Do it fust." 


First Arrivals from Europe in 1830. — The Important Part they 
Assumed in Social and Business Affairs. 

With the third decade of the nineteenth century there came to 
Presque Isle the pioneers of another invasion, but unlike that of the 
French, who were first to occupy the land, the newcomers were not 
to be dispossessed. But it was an altogether different sort of an 
invasion. Those who began then to land upon the shores of Erie 
came without weapons in their hands or a hostile banner waving 
over them. They came in peace, and they came with the sole pur- 
pose of becoming part and parcel of the community into which they 
entered. No doubt many of them had learned the art of war — per- 
haps most of them. The people of Erie were to learn in time that 
they were not entirely without military training or soldierly instincts. 
But they came not to do battle with the people who were already 
here, nor to acquire possession for a foreign prince or potentate. 
They came instead with tools in their hands and a determination in 
their breasts to be builders and not destroyers. The}' came to carve 
out a place for themselves in a new country, and to set up for them- 
selves homes where they could enjoy the sweets of liberty and have 
and hold the fruits of their labor ; where they could rear their fam- 
ilies and gather about them the comforts of life. 

The Germans who sought America and found their way as far 
inland as Erie, beginning as early as 1830, had taken up the resolu- 
tion to emigrate from the Fatherland solely to better their condition. 
They were of the intelligent, studious kind, who did not come to the 
resolution blindly when they decided to break old home ties and seek 
a new country. They had come to know about the land across the 
sea, and those who ventured first did not keep to themselves what 
they had learned about the new world. So that those who came after, 
came upon the best of information, and with a pretty reliable notion 
of what they were coming to. They were nearly all people who had 
been, in their home land, workers, and not a few of them skilled arti- 
sans. An examination of the directory of 1853, the first ever printed 
in Erie, serves to show that among the Germans of that early time — 
and they were then all immigrants who were of the German race in 
Erie — there were carpenters and joiners, masons, plasterers, painters, 


tailors, shoemakers, bakers, barbers, coopers, brewers, watch-makers, 
moulders, butchers, turners, dyers, stone-cutters, tanners, weavers, 
soap-makers, confectioners, saddlers, teamsters, gardeners, cabinet 
makers, machinists and general laborers. In point of fact, there was 
no trade or occupation that did not have some representatives among 
the Germans who in that early period of the history of the city al- 
ready constituted an important element of the population. Indeed 
they had begun to move forward, for among the business houses and 
industries of the time it was shown by the book that there were Ger- 
mans in business as grocers, clothiers, dealers in shoes, contractors, 
hotel keepers, saddlers, keepers of meat markets, tallow chandlers 
and makers of soap. 

It is no eas}^ matter at this late day, to record the first comers 
to Erie of the Teutonic race. No care was taken at the time to pre- 
serve a list and set down the dates of the arrivals. It is not here as 
it is at the ports of entry on the tide water, that the registry lists of 
vessels are obtainable to show who were the passengers. Once ad- 
mitted into free America, they were individually at liberty to go 
wherever they chose to go in search of a home.' Many of them elected 
to follow compatriots who had been for some time in the United 
States, and early a large colony of Germans had become established 
on the banks of the Ohio at and near Cincinnati. Not a few of those 
who settled in Erie were on their way to join these colonists, but, 
stopping here on their way, went no further, well pleased with the 
prospects presented and the advantages apparent at Erie. It was 
in much the same way that Buffalo and other lake ports first obtained 
the German element of their population. Among the very earliest 
names, if not the first to be enrolled among the citizens of Erie, was 
that of Wolfgang Erhart, in 1830. Two years later ^^^ F. Rinder- 
necht, from Wuertemberg, and Stephen Erhart, brother of \\'olfgang. 
arrived here, and it was not many years before they were among the 
most prominent business men of the place. About the same time 
came Charles Koehler, and in 1833. Cassimir Siegel began his career 
of usefulness and business success, as a merchant, a contractor on 
the building of the Erie Canal, a manufacturer of linseed oil at Hope- 
dale, and activities so varied as to be "too numerous to mention" at 
this late day. Conrad Doll came from Nassau in 1833, and came to 
take a forward place. Andrew Blila came with his family in 1833, and 
his son Andrew W., who was a child of three j-ears at the time, is 
still living, the oldest of the German settlers now in Erie in point of 
residence here. Others who settled at Erie during the thirties were 
Philip Fenningham, Anthony Blenner, Lawrence Loesch, John Gens- 
heimer, Casper Doll, and Philip Diefi'enbach. 

At first they came scatteringly. Not every year had its immi- 
grant who was to become of note sufficient to get into the imperfect 
record of the time. There were many wlio did not tarrv in the citv. 


but turned their faces toward the rural districts, where it was neces- 
sary to hew an opening in the forest with the axe in order to find a 
place to set up a home, and before long they had set their mark upon 
the country of which they had become a part, roads and hamlets tak- 
ing on names of unquestioned German origin. In jNIillcreek, Greene, 
Summit, McKean and Fairview, German neighborhoods sprang up, 
and in localities where families of particular faiths or religious de- 
nominations gathered together in numbers, churches came into ex- 
istence, as was the case, for instance, at the village in Greene town- 
ship, which takes its name from St. Boniface's church. During the 
next decade — that of the forties — they came in greater numbers. 
Among them were Frederick Curtze, the Veits of McKean, the 
Haucks of the same township, Jacob Eller of Greene, John M. Win- 
schel, Matthias Leuschen, John A. Scheer, Ignatz Kaltenbach, An- 
thony Mehl, John Metzner, J. F. Walther, George Schneider, Jacob 
F. Gingenbach, Charles G. Steinmetz, Adam J. Beck, M. Mehl, George 
Kuch, John B. Sitterle, Adam Schneider, ]Marcus Conrader, Joseph 
Kraus, Peter Wingerter, C. M. Conrad, ]\Iichael Link and Alois Lich- 

By the time Erie had blossomed out into a city the German 
signs upon the streets had come to be a notable feature of the place, 
and it is questionable whether they did not dominate the character 
of the little town. At that time there was not much of the city in a 
business way except upon French street, but the first important 
breaking away is due to the Germans. Not a small proportion of the 
immigrants from the Fatherland were of the Catholic faith. These, 
with the characteristic tendency, flocked together, and selected the 
eastern part, of the town, settling in the vicinity of German and 
Parade streets on Eighth and Ninth streets. There they had erected, 
as early as 1838, a frame church, and as the time passed the community 
grew, until the building was altogether inadequate, so that in 1854 
it was decided to build larger, and a fine large brick edifice, St. Mary's 
church, was undertaken. John Gensheimer was the leading spirit 
in this enterprise, his coadjutors being Messrs. Englehart, Schlind- 
wein and Emling. Meanwhile the colony had become a business cen- 
tre as well as a religious community, and the grocer, the dealer in 
meats, the baker and the brewer found place and prospered in busi- 
ness, for the neighborhood, beyond the valley of ]\Iill creek, was be- 
coming populous. 

So the Germans were making a peaceful conquest of "the borough, 
now city, of Erie." They were getting ahead. They were prosper- 
ing. Among the most notable improvements of the time was the 
erection, in the year 1853, of one of Erie's tall buildings of the time, 
that of John Gensheimer, at the corner of Seventh and State streets, 
still a notable structure on Erie's principal business thoroughfare. 
But the Germans were everywhere. The first city directory, published 


by Henry W. Hulbert in 1853, contains the names of the following 
Germans, then in business in Erie: 

Manufacturers — Gustave Brevillier, soap and candles; Henry 
Jarecki, brass and machine work; Jacob Kneib, starch; George 
Sciineider, soap and candles ; Christian Schwingel, oil cloths ; J. J. 
Fuessler, leather. 

Brewers — Fred Dietz, Jacob Fuess, Joachim Knobloch, Jacob 

Grocers — John Dietly, George Conrad, John Gabel, Matthias 
Hartleb, John G. Hemmerle, Joseph Kerner, Fred Kneib, ]\Iartin 
Metz, W. F. Rindernecht, Schaaf & Co., Jacob Seib, C. Siegel, F. & 
M. Schlaudecker, George ^^'itter, John Wolf. 

Clothiers — John Gensheimer, Dieffenbach Brothers, Wagner & 

Physicians — Dr. C. Brandes, Dr. Chas. Sevin. 

Shoes — Joseph Eichenlaub, Christian Sexauer. 

Meat markets — Fred & Frank Eichenlaub, John Knapp, Henry 
R. Musser. 

Cabinet makers — John J. Henrichs, John Kern, Martin Esser. 

Jewelry — August Jarecki, Gustav Jarecki. 

Saddlery — ^V. & S. Erhart, E. Hemmerle, John Lantz, F. Mut- 

Smiths — Anthony blotch, Klick & Sutter. 

Miscellaneous — Jacob Kunz, hatter; I. Lorenz, dyer; M. Mehl, 
barber; Wm. Nick, druggist; August Roemer, books; Otto Schirler, 
weaver; Gregory Ehret, cooper; J. T. Sevin, repairer; Benjamin 
Schlaudecker, hotel keeper; William Sexauer, upholstery and house 
furnishing; John Aleuser, carriage painting. 

These were all on the mainland, but there were Germans among 
those who did business on the public dock, then very much in trade. 
Among the merchants of the harbor were Jacob Dreisigaker, Dan- 
iel Knobloch and Michael Schlindwein, grocers ; Philip Klein, clothier, 
and Henry Neubauer, shoes. 

The population of Erie was then less than 7,000, and it may be 
seen, by the list given, that the Germans were holding their own. 
As a matter of fact, the increase in population was greater in propor- 
tion among the Germans than those who were English speaking, and 
this condition continued until about the period of the Civil W'ar, when 
there was a falling off steadily until in the course of time there were 
few additions direct from the Fatherland. 

The Germans are notable for a number of things, prominent 
being the tenacity with which they adhere to customs, and that 
spirit which in Scotland is called clanishness ; and this last character- 
istic naturally becomes developed in a community of people of com- 
mon nationalit}' settled in a new and distant land. In the case of 
the Germans established in Erie it did not matter so much that the 


language of the people differed from theirs, because, there being so 
many of them they could get along very well among themselves. They 
became a self-contained community. Many of the merchants had no 
customers except those who spoke their own tongue, and the signs 
over their doors were in the language of the country from which they 
came; they had their own church organizations; they had societies of 
their own, so that in Erie at that time there existed a section of 
Germany — in all but the laws, for whatever may have been the social 
and business practices of these colonists from continental Europe, 
they observed and respected the American laws to the full extent of 
their understanding of them. 

There was, however, among the' German first-comers a strong 
desire, that became crystallized into a determination, to perpetuate 
here the customs to which they had been born and in which they had 
been reared. There were many of these that were admirable, even 
from the view-point of the Americans who had, in themselves, in- 
herited ideas of what was proper and desirable. Therefore, the or- 
ganization of fraternities that had the club idea as their basis came 
early. The German Beneficial Society, that was organized in 1842, 
and was prosperous for fully thirty years, was one of the first of 
these associations, and there were others that though of briefer ex- 
istence, still flourished until they were merged into later and perhaps 
broader organizations. The general comradeship that was observed 
was, however, the chief characteristic to distinguish the German 
people, and especially the disposition to gather in the evenings or 
during holidays in garden, grove or hall and, sitting in groups, par- 
taking of the cheer reminiscent of the Fatherland, engage in conver- 
sation, or listen to the music, which was always a feature of these 

Toward the end of the decade of the fifties there was a move- 
ment started, and soon an organization was perfected, that was direct- 
ly in line with this spirit of adherance to the customs of the old 
country. The exact date has not been preserved, but it was about 
the year 1857 that the German Free School Society came into exis- 
tence. The chief spirit at the inauguration of this society was the 
late J. F. Walther. In his young manhood he was more enthusiastic- 
ally loyal to the traditions of the land from which he sprang than in 
his later days, after he had absorbed more of the spirit of Ameri- 
canism. At the time the German Free School Society was organized, 
however, he very much favored preserving the Germans in America — 
at least in Erie — a people apart. So this society was organized to 
establish a German free school, in which children should be edu- 
cated in the language of Germany, and the plans had progressed to 
the extent that it was decided to build a school at the corner of Ninth 
and German. There were many supporters of the principle ,for 
which the Free School Society stood. But it is proper to state that 


not all the Germans, nor not all the members of the Free School So- 
ciety, favored the radical purpose that was declared to be the funda- 
mental principle of the movement. There were members who openly 
objected to restricting the education to German only. Among the 
chief of these objectors was Frederick Brevillier, who was not op- 
posed to educating the children in the language of their German 
parents, but was opposed to restricting their schooling to this tongue, 
while they were residents of, and to become citizens of, a nation of 
which the language was the English. At that time he was a director 
of the East Ward School, and he had in his official capacity come to 
have an understanding of what the provisions of the state were for 
the education of its children, and appreciated the fact that these 
provisions were so wide in their scope that there were none who 
did not come under their influence. However, among the Germans 
the German free school idea became thoroughly grounded, and the 
plan was put into execution, teachers being hired and the work of 
education proceeding, the organization was maintained. In 1871 
the directors of the German Free School Society were, J. F. Walther, 
William Nick, P. Liebel, Joseph Richtscheit, H. Neubauer, A. Liebel, 
F. T. Brevillier. It came about in 187? that the School Bokrd of Erie 
decided to add German to the studies in the public schools, and when 
this had been actually entered upon the German Free School Society 
formally turned over to the School District of the city of Erie all 
of its property, wound up its affairs and went out of existence. 

The Germans, though never indififerent to the government and 
politics of the nation, state or city, did not for many years take a 
prominent place among those who were "in politics." It was not, in 
fact, until quite recently that any of that race came to figure promi- 
nently in general political affairs. And yet they were not without 
their representatives among those who had to do with the public 
business from the very beginning of the city's existence. The first 
councils, elected in 1851, included F. Schneider as a member of the 
Select, and L. Momeyer of the Common Council. Up to the Civil 
War period there was no council organization without one or more 
Germans on its roll, except during the period of the Railroad War. 
For some reason the natives of Deutschland did not seem disposed 
to mix up in that aftair. The rolls show the following names of 
German councilmen who served from time to time during the period 
mentioned, some of them being frequently re-elected : Schneider, 
Momeyer, Siegel, Mutterer, Rindernecht, Wild, Kneib, Koch, Doll, 
Sevin, Fuessler, Hartleb, Mayer, Schlaudecker, Boyer, Blenner, Bootz, 
Kuhn, Englehart, Gingenbach, Richtscheit and Walther. 

After a time the Germans began to forge ahead — to be elected 
to office in the civic bodies to which they had been elected. In 1869 
F. Schlaudecker was president of the Common Council ; in 1873 P. A. 
Becker was president of the Select Council, and in 188.3 Mr. Becker 


was elected Mayor. Under his administration occurred two im- 
portant steps in civic advancement, namely : the lighting of the city 
with electricity, and the laying of the corner stone of the City Hall, 
the latter, which took place July 31, 1884, being marked by an im- 
posing ceremony over which he presided. In the politics of the 
county the first recognition accorded the Germans was the election, in 
1877, of E. E. Stuerznickel as sherifif. The next year Capt. Gustav 
Jarecki was elected to represent Erie in the State Legislature. Two 
other Germans were elected to the office of Sherifif, W. O. Mehl in 1888, 
and E. C. Siegel in 1891, but these were Germans of the second gener- 
ation, and they are about as good Americans as any who claim 
citizenship under the flag of the Union. Michael Liebel, elected Mayor 
of Erie in 1907, and again in 1908 for three years, is also of German 
blood but of American birth. 

Nothing so contributed toward breaking down the barrier be- 
tween the Germans and their English-speaking fellow citizens as the 
War for the Union. Nothing ever occurred to exhibit their spirit of 
loyalty to the land they had adopted as that important crisis in the 
history of the nation. When the call went forth for volunteers to 
enter the army of defense, the Germans were among the first to re- 
spond. Many of them had had military training in the land of their 
birth, and of these not a few entered as officers, while the rolls of the 
rank and file in the several regiments contained the names of hun- 
dreds of Germans. They enlisted as American volunteer soldiers, 
and they served as American soldiers, doing valiant service where- 
ever duty called them. One of the Erie regiments was organized and 
commanded by a German, Col. Schlaudecker, and the list of officers 
who went out from Erie from among the Germans includes the 
names of Mueller, Lutje, Wagner, Sexauer, Cronenberger, Woeltge, 
Liebel, Diefifenbach, Zimmerman and Mehl. 

Industrially the Germans have contributed materially to the pro- 
gress of the county. In the milling business, as weavers, tanners, 
manufacturers of lumber and products of wood, of shoes, soap and 
candles, musical instruments, machinery ; as brewers, maltsters, dyers, 
refiners of oil, chemists — in all these lines and others, the Germans 
have had prominent part. The manufacture of oil cloths, which for 
years was one of the most important of Erie's industries, was pur- 
sued exclusively by Germans. One of the greatest of Erie's present 
industries was founded, developed, and carried forward to its present 
splendid proportions by a single family of Germans. It would be 
difficult for the people of the present time to understand how im- 
portant to the community the oil cloth industry was, the financial 
proceeds of which furnished for a time most of the ready money 
that came into Erie, a result that was due to the genius and skill 
of Schwingel, Woelmer, Dief¥enbach, Curtze, Camphausen and Beck- 
ers. And the city owes much to the splendid business foresight of 


Henry Jarecki who appreciated and promptly took advantage of the 
opportunity offered by the discovery of petroleum to build up out 
of small beginnings the gigantic industry that now bears his name. 
There are those who are later comers into Erie's industrial world, 
not so much in its history by the measure of years, but greatly so in 
the standard of importance. The advent of the Behrends — Ernst R. 
and Dr. Otto F. — in 1898, when the great Hammermill paper manu- 
factory had its beginning, was the opening of another chapter in the 
history of manufacturing in Erie county. 

For many years the social life of the Germans in Erie, character- 
istic of that people, was an example to those of the other race and an 
inspiration, and nothing perhaps exerted a stronger influence than the 
Erie Liedertafel. This society was organized in 1863. As its name 
indicates, it was a musical association. But, being German, it was 
more. It was social. It was the nearest approach to a club that 
Erie had known. It appealed to the rest of the population of Erie 
to such an extent that not a few who had little or no knowledge of 
the German language became members. And yet it remained dis- 
tinctively German. As a social organization it quickly became im- 
mensely popular. Musically it took high rank, and the name of the 
Liedertafel in connection with any undertaking of a musical char- 
acter was accepted as a guarantee. It maintained a well drilled 
chorus, directed by capable musicians paid for their services, and the 
public performances in concerts drew large and critical audiences. 
There was also later a mixed chorus, and from time to time operas 
were produced in a manner to win the approval of the most com- 
petent critics. Soon after the organization of the Liedertafel the 
first Saengerfest held in Erie took place (in 1866), which was one 
of the most notable events of the period. There was formed, after a 
time, an auxiliary, called the Liedertafel Ladies Society which proved 
a valuable adjunct. It turned out in the end, however, that the 
Liedertafel could not endure. It was not that those who had formed 
and maintained it for many years had lost interest or enthusiasm. It 
was due to the fact that death had thinned the ranks, and, out of the 
next generation, there were not recruits to fill the vacancies. They 
were becoming Americanized. The newer clubs, and the newer 
associations, together with the effect of their American education 
was working a change. In all the attributes that distinguish the 
German, those of the second generation were also German — except 
that which clung to the old country customs and traditions. There 
are not so many in proportion who are singers or players upon in- 
struments of music, and the means of enjoyment and facilities for 
amusement are so numerous, and so different from what they were, 
and, also, so attractive to the younger generation, that the old associa- 
tions and the old customs have fallen into neglect. The Erie Lieder- 
tafel after an honorable and brilliant career, fell asleep about 1905. 


The same experience is to be recorded of the Erie Turnverein, 
organized in 1868, and for many years a highly successful institution. 
The annual fests or picnics of the Turners at Cochran's Grove were 
events that appeared on the calendar in red letters. Other turner 
societies were the turnvereins of South Erie and East Erie, both of 
which were most popular and successful soon after their organiza- 

In 1873 there was dedicated with considerable circumstance the 
hall or club house of the Philharmonia Society, at the corner of Ninth 
and Parade streets. Col. M. Schlaudecker was its president, and it had 
a large membership. The house was provided with parlors, dining 
room, grill room, a bowling alley and an assembly hall, and besides, 
a finely shaded garden, provided with seats and tables. A feature 
of the organization was a full military band under the leadership of 
Prof. Anton Kohler, a skilled musician. For a few 3^ears the Phil- 
harmonia prospered. Then the membership began to fall away, and in 
the course of time it went out of existence. Its club house eventually 
came into the possession of the East Erie Turnverein, and to this day 
it is known as the East Erie Turn Hall. 

There were other German societies organized at various dates, 
some of which proved enduring, others going out of existence after 
a time. The Herrmann's Sohne was organized in 1858. The German 
Friendship Benevolent Society began in 1863. The Casino Club 
was organized in 1865 by F. Curtze, A. Roemer and P. A. Becker. The 
D. O. Harugari was introduced in Erie in 1867, Mozart and Bismarck 
lodges being formed in that year. Under the encouragement of this 
order a large German library and a museum of considerable preten- 
sions were established and for years maintained. The museum was 
under the direction of Capt. W. F. Lutje, an enthusiastic collector 
and antiquarian, who brought it up to a high degree of excellence. 
Another feature in connection with the activities of this order was 
the organization in 1SG9 of the Harugari Maennerchor, a musical 
society that attained to distinction. Other lodges of this order are, 
Erie lodge, 1872; Fritz Reuter lodge. 1888; Germania degree lodge, 
1874; life insurance section, sixth district of Pennsylvania, 1876; 
Elizabeth lodge, the women's degree, 1891. The Erie Saengerbund, 
organized in 1871, was a musical society for years popular among 
the German Americans, but it finally went out. The Erie Maen- 
nerchor, organized in 1872, became immediately popular and pros- 
perous. It has manifested a degree of stability that gives promise 
of an extended existence. A piece of ground on State street above 
Sixteenth was acquired and a handsome and substantial music hall 
was built in 1889, which contains, besides the club rooms required for 
the organization a commodious hall with a fully equipped stage, in 
which concerts are given, and several engagements by German the- 
atrical organizations have rendered it a popular playhouse. The 



Maennerchor is still in existence and has a large membership. I'he 
Siebenburger is the latest German organization, founded in 1898, and 
occupying a commodious hall at the corner of Twenty-first and 
French streets. 

Perhaps nothing contributed more to the Americanizing of the 
Germans than intermarriage. It began early, a good deal earlier 
than is generally understood. One of the first, perhaps the very first 
of the Germans to take a wife from among the American women wa3 
William F. Rindernechf, and his example found very many imitators, 
not only among the second generation, but among the natives of the 
Fatherland. Today it is a very common matter that a German man or 
woman shall select as a life mate one of another nationality, and 
most of all are ties formed with Americans. By German, in this 
connection it is to be understood not to refer alone to those who 
have come from the old country, but to those of German blood. 
Nor are there lacking those who, proud enough of their ancestry, yet, 
recognizing the logic of fact, proclaim themselves, not Germans nor 
German-Americans, but Americans pure and simple without any quali- 
fication whatever, no matter what significance there may be in a 


No account of the Germans in Erie would be complete without 
allusion to Dr. E. W. Germer. Fie was one of the noblest char- 
acters this town of Erie ever knew ; grufif and rugged outside as a 


chestnut burr, but with a heart of gold. There is no lack of Erie 
people who remember the good doctor, some because of his splendid 
social qualities ; many because of his inflexible purpose in connection 
with his position of health officer, and no telling how many because 
of his generous nature, for he never paraded his beneficences, and if 
the newspaper fellows learned anything of this trait of his character 
it was incidental, and not through any parade or boast on his part. 
I well remember my first acquaintance with Dr. Germer. It was on 
the day when, after the surrender at Appomattox, the city was pre- 
paring for a proper celebration. Eager to have his compatriots duly 
represented in that great demonstration, preparations for which were 
crowded into a few hours of a single day, he was early at one of the 
centres — the office of the Dispatch — with an order for handbills, to 
be distributed. They were to be printed in two languages, and he had 
the German portion headed in the largest letters to be procured : 
"Reiter heraus." As early as possible the German type was pro- 
cured from the Ztischatier office, and the doctor himself attended to the 
distribution of the bills, enlisting the aid of a sufficient number in the 
work in hand. The result was noticeable in the greatly increased 
body of horsemen in the procession. 

But it was as a sanitarian that he stood pre-eminent, and in that 
connection that he became famed. He vyas the first health officer 
of Erie and as such exercised an autocratic power that was remarkable 
in the fact that in spite of his tyranny he retained his position until 
his death. When Dr. Germer first assumed the position of health 
officer Erie was like any other country town of the period, number- 
ing among its inhabitants not a few who kept pigs and geese. Against 
this civic abomination the doctor waged instant and unrelenting 
war. It had been the practice to allow the pigs and geese quite free 
range, and the commons and even the streets in certain portions of 
town were none too good to be pastures for these creatures. When, 
therefore. Doctor Germer moved upon this public enemy, as he de- 
nominated it, there was war, and a merry war it was. This was 
especially true of the First ward, where the Celtic housewife was 
ready to dispute the ground and defend her property, and there was 
comedy sure enough when the doctor's red face surmounted by a 
pompadour of tawny hair appeared on the scene. 

The lingual acquirements of a healthy and irate Irish woman are 
proverbial and her cutting wit are well known. But the doctor was 
something of a talker himself when occasion demanded, and humor- 
ous as well. Nothing more entertaining can be conceived than the 
dialogues that ensued during his numerous raids. But he had his 
way. He ferretted out every pigsty and smashed it, and protests and 
threats were of no avail. He was absolutely fearless where timidity 
might have been excusable. He was also impartial. The Second 
ward was compelled to come to time along with the First. 

Vol. 1—17 


There were in those days no sanitary poHce or constables. Dr. 
Germer was all there was of the department of health. He made his 
own investigations and served his own notices. More than that, 
he personally executed his mandates. An instance of this was wit- 
nessed one day when he undertook to suppress a nuisance in rear 
of the old Zimmerly house, a frame building that stood on the site 
of the Park View House of today. Notice had been served and the 
date fixed when the nuisance complained of was to be suppressed. 
It had not been complied with. The doctor fixed it. 

Probably the first thing in the shape of a sewer that Erie ever 
possessed consisted of a covered drain extending from Peach street, 
near Seventh, diagonally across the West park, under Brown's Hotel 
and the rear of the Gallagher building adjacent, and passing north 
under the brick building on Fifth street at one time occupied by the 
Dispatch office. The kitchen of the Zimmerly house was connected 
with this drain by a four-sided wooden conduit exposed for a height 
of about 10 feet perpendicularly, from the sink extension of the kitchen 
to the ground of the low-lying back yard. The pipe — if it could be 
so called — was, of course, without traps of any sort. Besides it was 
not tight, and much of the slop and waste that passed down it 
leaked out through the seams of the corners. This was the nuisance 
and it was to execute his order for its suppression that the doctor had 
come. He was armed with the necessary process. That was an axe. 
Passing through the hotel from the front door to the back he de- 
scended the flight of steps to the ground in the back yard and, wield- 
ing his process, applied it w-ith such good effect that in the space 
of a few seconds the nuisance was removed. Then he proceeded up- 
stairs to the kitchen floor, and turned his axe upon the sink, nor 
stopped until it was a complete v^^reck. That was Dr. Germer's way, 
and it was a good way. Before the day was over the necessary 
changes were being made. 

Dr. Germer was a scientist. His sanitar\- ideas were based 
upon scientific principles, and he had a way at command always 
of convincing. Sometimes force was his way. Oftener that was 
not necessary. When it came to fighting trichinosis there were a 
number of methods employed. The doctor was a skilled micro- 
scopist, and he employed the microscope to good purpose in dem- 
onstrating the presence of trichinae in pork, while his lectures 
and newspaper articles were informing to the general public. Of 
course trichinosis was a new ailment then, and it was not easy 
to convince people who believed it to be a new medical fad. It 
w-as a still harder task to convince the butchers who had meat to 
sell. Force became necessary with the butchers, but in time the 
reforms he set about were accomplished and the meat market men 
came to submit with a sufficient degree of grace to the inspections 
that were forced upon then. 


Dr. Germer's fame was not always bounded by the limits of Erie 
city. In the course of time he was known and respected throughout 
the state and had the honor of being the first president of the state 
board of health. It was during his connection with that body that 
he suddenly acquired national fame. He was attending a health con- 
vention at Washington, when he brought forward the subject of 
prohibiting the importation of rags, especially from the southern Med- 
iterranean countries where Asiatic cholera was at the time prevalent, 
and his address where he ridiculed the idea of praying to Heaven for 
the suppression of a plague due to people's own neglect, caught the 
entire country. It came to be known as the grasshopper speech be- 
cause he employed that pestiferous insect as an illustration in a way 
that was as humorous as it was convincing. 

It was through Dr. Germer's personal efforts that a hospital was 
made available when an epidemic of virulent smallpox came down 
upon Erie, and it was his labors, well directed and diligently pursued, 
that discovered the grave of Mad Anthony Wayne, long lost through 
the indifference of Erie people. He was a marvelously entertaining 
story-teller, and, brusque and gruff in speech, had a heart as tender 
as woman's where distress appeared. There was not a selfish thought 
in his mind — and yet there were very many who judged him other- 
wise, and not a few who rated him "queer." 

During an epidemic of smallpox he was not only health officer 
and phvsician to the afflicted, but undertaker as well. Aided by his 
lieutenant, Katzmeyer, of the pest-house, he buried the dead of the 
pestilence during the night time, and added to the duties of under- 
taker that of clergyman as well, reading the burial service by the 
light of the lantern his assistant held before committing "earth to 
earth." And yet he was no professor of religion. His beneficences 
were unnumbered. He was the physician of the poor, and the greater 
part of his practice as a doctor was for pure love of his kind. Dr. 
Germer deserves a monument in Erie. 


The Erie and North East Line. — To be the Terminus of the New 
York and Erie.^The Road From the West. — Other Plans. 

Commercially Erie maintained from the beginning a place right in 
the van in the march of progress. When lake commerce had its begin- 
nings in the early years of the Nineteenth Centnr)', Erie's imports 
in the salt trade, with exports of bacon, whiskey and ilour, constituted 
the bulk of the commerce of the great lakes, and this condition pre- 
vailed for a number of years. It was not until about the time of the 
war with Great Britain, which began in 1813, that lake mariners made 
bold to push their efforts to secure trade farther west than Erie. As 
a matter of fact there was little trade west of Erie that could be se- 
cured, for all the western country was still unsettled, barring a few 
outposts and trading stations where barter in furs was the chief busi- 
ness transacted. So in the beginning Erie was a leader in commerce. 

Soon afterward followed the era of steamboats, and in this branch 
of commerce Erie was quick to forge to the front. The population 
ot the town of Erie was not large, but it included one man who, for 
genius in commerce and general business, was remarkable. No man 
of his time, perhaps, exhibited more brilliant abilities in business than 
Rufus S. Reed, and Erie's early prestige in commerce was due to 
the activities of Mr. Reed. LTnder him the steamboat business was 
begun. His son Charles M., who had inherited his father's instinct, 
took to steamboating, and in a few years it developed to really pro- 
digious proportions, especially for the period. He was not only in 
control of the steamboat business, but brought it to a degree that was 
far in advance of the times. And under his management the busi- 
ness of steamboating was exceedingly profitable. Gen. Reed also identi- 
fied himself with the stage business, and though that did not compare in 
magnitude with the business of the boats, it, too, was financially success- 
ful. Yet again was his business foresight and shrewdness manifested 
when, taking advantage of a fortunate situation that offered, he be- 
came the leading spirit in the canal enterprise. 

There was yet another direction in which he could reach out and 
become identified with the advance of progress. He saw the dawn of 
the railroad era approaching and was among the very first to become 


identified with it. When the building of railroads came to claim the 
attention of the business world, and had with some degree of success 
been begun in the east, the feasibility of introducing the railroad 
into the new west became at once apparent to Mr. Reed and those 
engaged in business in Erie, at that time, and when a convention was 
at length proposed to consider the subject of extending the railroads 
then undertaken in New York State farther west, the Erie men were 
ready to take a hand. In 1S31 a convention in the interest of railroad 
extension was held at Fredonia, N. Y., and Messrs. C. M. Reed, P. 
S. V. Hamot and Thomas H. Sill attended as representatives of Erie. 
In those days railroad charters, granted by the states, conveyed au- 
thority only to the state boundaries, so that when it was proposed to 
extend the project of building a new railroad parallel with the shore 
of Lake Erie westward beyond the boundary of New York, it be- 
came necessary to obtain a charter from the state of Pennsylvania 
for that part of it to be constructed in Erie county. There was an 
agreement entered into on the part of those representing New York 
State railroad interests to build a road to the Pennsylvania State line, 
while the representatives from Erie agreed to organize and build from 
the western terminus of the New York roads to Erie. 

It was in furtherance of the plan adopted at Fredonia that the 
Erie & North East Railroad Company was organized, but it was not 
incorporated until 1848. Nor was there immediate progress. The 
Erie men interested in the enterprise were desirous of obtaining a 
distinct business understanding with the projectors of the New York 
reads, so that it was October, 1846, before books were opened for 
subscriptions to the stock of the new company. Nearly all the stock 
was taken by Erie men, the leaders being Charles M. Reed, John A. 
Tracy and John H. Walker, and the inducement for undertaking the 
work was a contract with the Dunkirk and State Line Railroad Com- 
pany which provided that a road to extend the New York & Erie rail- 
road would be built to connect with the Erie & North East Railroad 
at the State line. 

Erie people were very ready to aid the enterprise of building an 
extension of the New York & Erie Railroad, for it was the expecta- 
tion, and the understanding that Erie would thus become the terminus 
of a railroad 'that would give direct communication with New York 
City. It meant much to the people of Erie who saw in the future a 
splendid development of the fine harbor of which it was justly proud, 
a development that was certain to prove of immense benefit to the 
whole people. The charter obtained at Harrisburg for the Erie & North 
East Railroad, established the terminus at the harbor of Erie. 

In pursuance of the contract with the Dunkirk & State Line Rail- 
road work upon the Erie & North East Railroad was begun in 1849, 
and the track was laid of the gauge of six feet, which was that of the 


New York & Erie. Railroad building in those days was not as it is 
now. Progress was slow ; very slow as compared with what is done 
today. There were but twenty miles of railroad to be constructed. 
The surveys under the direction of Milton Courtright of Erie were 
completed in the spring of. 1849 and contracts for the construction of 
the road were let on the 26th day of July of the same year, but the 
road was not completed until the beginning of 1853, the first train 
over the new road entering Erie on the 19th of January of that year. 
This tardiness turned out to be an unfortunate matter for Erie. The 
Dunkirk & State Line road did not at once enter upon the performance 
of its part of the contract, and meanwhile there came on the scene a 
new competitor, — a rival, — in the form of a railroad to be a continua- 
tion of the New York Central from Buffalo to the west. The fact 
that this new opposition was developing was not unknown to the Erie 
& North East Railroad Company, and the knowledge may have been 
somewhat responsible for the delay. But the local road had no re- 
course. Bound both by their contract and the state charter, they were 
under obligations to build a six-foot track. This they did, and the 
railroad completed, it was operated as an independent link, for at the 
New York State line the road that should have connected with it had 
been built of an entirely different gauge. 

Meanwhile railroads from the west had been projected along the 
lake shore, and, under a charter from the State of Ohio, the Cleve- 
land, Painesville & Ashtabula Railroad was built, extending from Cleve- 
land to the Ohio-Pennsylvania State line. There remained here an- 
other Erie county link necessary to connect the western road with Erie. 
A curious expedient was resorted to in order to supply the want. The 
Franklin Canal Company was chartered at Harrisburg in 1844. It had 
to do with the operation of a canal between Meadville and Franklin, 
but on the 9th of April, 1849, the charter was so amended as to author- 
ize the building of a railroad on the route of the canal from Mead- 
ville to Franklin, and to extend it northward to Lake Erie and south- 
ward to Pittsburg. This charter, by some sort of legal logic was so 
construed by Judge John Galbraith as to make it apply to a separate 
railroad line between Erie and the Ohio State line, and the railroad 
was built, completing a line of communication between Cleveland and 
Erie, the first train being run from Erie to Ashtabula, November 23,, 

Thus it will be seen that Erie was pretty early in the midst of 
railroads. And so it was, in a different way, however, than people of 
today would understand such a situation. Because there was this com- 
plication : The railroad that entered Erie from the west was of the 
gauge of 4 feet 10 inches ; the railroad east from Erie was a six-foot 
gauge, but it led. twenty miles east to another railroad of 4 feet 10 . 


inch gauge. This made trouble, for these two breaks — with two others 
in New York State — were not agreeable to the travehng pubHc, and 
neither were they to the railroad companies ; none of the railroad com- 
panies were suited. Therefore the railroad companies set about cor- 
recting the evil, and this precipitated a state of aflfairs at Erie which 
will be told of in detail in the ne.xt chapter. However, the Erie stock- 
holders of the Erie & North East Railroad had continued to hope for 
the construction of a road of uniform gauge with their line from the 
State line to Dunkirk, until on January 18, 1853, this hope was aban- 
doned, the formal declaration to that eiTect being given in the follow- 
ing annual report of the Secretary, J. C. Spencer, Esq. : 

The Erie & North East was the first commenced and the first 
road completed on the lake shore. It was made a six-foot track in 
accordance with a contract between this company and the Dunkirk & 
State Line Company, the latter having been got up by the New York 
& Erie interest to be used for the purpose of making a six-foot con- 
nection with this road at the state line, which connection the New 
York & Erie Company by a written agreement with this company guar- 
anteed should be made. The Bufifalo & State Line Company, being 
identified with the central line of New York roads, the gauges of 
which are four feet, eight and a half inches, complained that our 
laying the six-foot track only would be doing injustice to them. This 
company, therefore, with the consent of the New York & Erie Com- 
pany, agreed to furnish a track for each of the roads mentioned, cor- 
responding to their respective tracks, six feet, and four feet eight and 
a half inches. Thus matters remained for some weeks, when, for 
reasons best known to themselves, without notice or any consultation 
with this company, the New York & Erie agreed with the Bufifalo & 
State Line Company, the former in violation of their contract with 
this company, and both regardless of the wrong they were inflicting 
on the public, to introduce between this road and theirs a four feet 
ten inch track — a track different from all the roads with which it con- 
nected, and between which it only formed an intermediate link, thus 
compelling all freight and passengers passing between the east and 
the west to change cars both at the state line and at Dunkirk or Buffa- 
lo, as the case might be. Whatever inconvenience or expense, there- 
fore, is incurred in consequence of these two changes, is solely at- 
tributable to the Bufifalo & State Line Company sanctioned by the 
New York & Erie Company. 

"Much complaint is justly made on account of the unnecessary 
obstructions, and none regret their existence more than this company. 
It was out of the power of this company to prevent them, and is there- 
fore out of its power to remove them — they can only be removed by 
those who placed them there. 


"It is thought by some of our friends in Buffalo and Cleveland 
that Congress, in the exercise of its power to establish post roads, 
may remove such nuisances. If so, it is but reasonable to suppose 
that the Buffalo & State Line Company will be compelled to change 
their imported gauge to one of their own state, and thereby remove 
llie obstructions they have made on this important thoroughfare. 

"This being the first report of the directors to the stockholders, 
and a desire to place this company in its true position on the question 
of gauge alluded to, we trust will be considered a sufficient justifica- 
tion for this somewhat lengthy statement. 

"By order of the board of directors. 



This report gives a full and fair explanation of the influence that 
was at work. The New York Central and the New York & Erie 
were in contention, and the former had prevailed. Under the circum- 
stances the New York & Erie was unable to carry out its contract with 
the Erie & North East. What was then to be done? Only what busi- 
ness sense suggested. In time the short line of road from Erie to 
the New York state line was compelled to accommodate itself to the 
circumstances that had been forced upon it by the opposing interests. 
By this time two-thirds of the stock of the Erie & North East road 
were held by Buffalo & State Line parties. The railroad war was the 
result, for the people of Erie lost all patience when it became evident 
their hopes for Erie harbor were not to be realized. And yet the 
Erie & North East Railroad Company was not to blame. It was simply 
manifest destiny. 

That the railroad company was not to blame, seems to be fully 
justified by what occurred subsequently. The officers and directors of 
the Erie & North East Railroad Company had not lost hope of making 
Erie the terminus of a direct line of railroad to New York. That was 
their original plan, but it had been frustrated by the manipulations 
of the shrewd managers of railroad affairs in New York state. Forced 
into an acceptance of the plan agreed upon between themselves by 
the New Y^ork railroads, the Erie men seemed to have been defeated. 
But thev were not ready to acknowledge themselves altogether beaten. 
The ambition to have a direct route to New York independent of the 
New Y^ork Central was not dead, and hope was not destroyed. The men 
who had been the pioneers in railroad construction, thwarted in their 
original effort, got together and organized an altogether new enter- 
prise, and it was named the Erie City Railroad Company. It was 
officered as follows : Milton Courtright, president ; J. C. Spencer, secre- 
tary and treasurer; Chas. M. Reed, Prescott Metcalf, Ira W. Hart, 
I\Iiles W. Caughey, John A. Tracy, John McClure, John H. Walker, 


J.-imes Skinner, Pressly Arbuckle, \Vm. M. Arbuckle, J. C. Spencer and 
Wm. C. Curry, directors. 

From the title assumed it might be supposed, as names signify to- 
day, that the purpose of the company was to build a railroad in the 
city of Erie. That was not the intention. The design was to build a 
railroad to Erie, and the plan as it took shape was to build a line to 
connect the Erie railroad with this city — in reality to bring about a 
change of plan adopted by a New York company so as to end the pro- 
posed extension of the road at Erie instead of continuing it through 
over the route selected for what was then known as the Atlantic & 
Great Western, but later as the N. Y'., P. & O. Railroad. For this pur- 
pose the proposition was to construct a line 81 miles in length from 
Little Valley, a point west of Olean, by way of Jamestown to Erie. 
The route had been carefully surveyed and, as Civil Engineer Thos. 
Hassard stated, partially graded. It was a route that was declared 
to be of very favorable grades and of easy curvature, an admirable 
route for such a line of railroad. 

It was directly on the heels of the Erie railroad war that the new 
company was organized, and the first declaration made was in the form 
of a pamphlet issued early in 1858, which contained a report of Mr. Has- 
sard, in compliance with a request made by IMr. Courtright, president of the 
Erie City Railroad Company. The request was that Mr. Hassard sjiould 
furnish "the result of your surveys, corrected to the present adopted 
line" (of the A. & G. W.) "as compared with the route from Little 
Valley here, thence by the Lake Shore road and Cleveland to Cen- 
tral Ohio and westward, and what view the New York & Erie Com- 
pany took of the matter after having the facts laid before them, to- 
gether with your own views as to the efifect such a line would have 
upon the New York & Erie Company, if encouraged by them, taking 
into consideration the great natural channel through which business 
from the west flows, or as to the value of the line itself, with your 
views on the subject generally." The reason assigned by Mr. Court- 
right for calling upon Mr. Hassard for this report was that "having 
made all the surveys for both of these routes, and being still connected 
with the main line, I have taken the liberty to apply to you as the 
only engineer who can give definite and reliable information on the 

The report of Mr. Hassard was most favorable for the Erie en- 
terprise. The result of his surveys, he stated, were to demonstrate 
to the New York & Erie Company the fact that any line passing south- 
ward through Crawford county and Central Ohio would be longer than 
their own line in connection with the roads already built, and would 
also, in grades and alignment be far inferior; besides, not having any 
local advantages to make up for these deficiencies, they decided not 
to embark in a project which would bring them into competition with 


roads well established, already doing a very profitable business, and 
from these shorter lines, easy curvature and low grades, and large 
local business, able to carry all the through traffic at such low rates as 
to render the success of the new line very doubtful, if not impossible. 

He added : The only line by which the New York & Erie can save 
distance and make a good connection with the roads west and south from 
Erie, is the Little Valley & Erie route, via Jamestown. This will give 
a good line with easy curves and grades, very moderate cost, and con- 
nect with the Lake Shore road at its termination in the city of Erie, thus 
making the whole railway interest west of that point friendly to a con- 
nection which will keep the great western traffic of the Erie Railroad 
upon the present lines. 

The comparison of routes that followed was instructive and interest- 
ing. Making Little Valley the starting point, it was shown that to Cleve- 
land there was a saving in distance via Erie of 33 miles and 75 miles less 
of new road to be built. To Cincinnati there was a saving of 18 miles 
with 300 miles less of new road to be built. To St. Louis there was a 
saving of 64 miles with 300 miles less of new road to be built. To Chi- 
cago a saving of 31 miles with 193 miles less of new road to be con- 

Thus it was shown that with reference to every trade center of the 
west the Erie route ofifered great advantages both in distance saved and 
in the amount of new road necessary to be built, besides the other very 
important consideration of being far preferable in grades, alignment and 
curvature. The question of cost was also introduced, the statement show- 
ing that $10,000,000 more would be required to build the 300 miles 
necessary to complete the A'. & G. W. line as surveyed. 

Great hopes were built upon the influence to be exerted in behalf of 
the Erie connection by the western roads. All these lines, said the 
engineer, are directly interested in preventing the construction of any 
line running parallel to their routes and in direct conflict with their in- 
terests, as in the case of the Atlantic & Great Western, and as a matter 
of safety to themselves would unite in opposition to any such project, as 
well as to the New York & Erie Railroad Company if favored by them. 

It seemed like a good proposition — a "dead open and shut," as the 
boys say — 'that the only thing to be done and the easiest thing to be ac- 
complished was to build that 81 miles of road which would give a con- 
nection with Erie and the roads west. But it was never done. The 
reason why is not far to seek. The antagonistic interests that had 
in the preliminary fight been able to win out were in a better position 
to wage another war than they were before. Besides they realized the 
importance to their line of the business of the western roads quite as 
much as the projectors of the new road did, and they had a tremendous 
advantage, namely, a road already completed. Moreover, they were 
shrewd enough to know a far better way to get around the question of 


interesting the western roads. They took an interest in them as stock- 
holders. The upshot of the business, of course, was that the Little Valley 
connection was never built. The A. & G. W. road was, however, and 
the judgment of Engineer Hassard was vindicated for before many years 
it went bankrupt. 

Sunmiing up the results of the past, it is now apparent that had the 
New York & Erie lived up to its contract with the Erie & North East 
Railroad it might today have been the principal line between New York 
and the west, and Erie might have been one of the great cities of the 

As has been related, those in control of the New York railroads 
declined to carry out the contract entered into between the Dunkirk & 
State Line road and the Erie & North East Railroad, and then undertook 
to induce the latter to reconstruct its twenty miles of road so as to 
accord in guage with both the road from the west and that which 
had been built east from the Pennsylvania-New York State line. Fail- 
ing to win out by persuasion the expedient was resorted to of obtaining 
control of the stock of the Erie & North East Railroad, and this was 
accomplished, nearly two-thirds of the shares having passed into the 
hands of the company subsidiary to the New York Central Railroad by 
the middle of 1853. This coup having been accomplished the Erie 
& North East Railroad Company set about making preparations for the 
change of gauge. As soon as the work was begun it precipitated a violent 
opposition which became known as the "railroad war," but in spite of 
the opposition the work, begun on December 7. 1853, progressed and on 
February 1, 1854, was completed and the first train arrived at Erie from 
the east. 

Out of the controversy precipitated by this change of guage there 
came a series of legal troubles that will be presented in the chapter 
devoted to the Railroad War, and these, properly adjusted, in due time 
two new corporations came into existence, known respectively as the 
Buffalo & Erie and the Cleveland & Erie Railroad Companies. These 
companies were operated separately for a number of years. Both used 
the passenger and freight station that had been built in 1851, but separate 
round-houses were erected, the B. & E. at Holland street in 1863 and 
the C. & E. at Chestnut street in 1863. Trains were run through over 
both roads, after a time and though separate organizations were main- 
tained the traveling public were accommodated by a service prophetic 
of what was to be even if not yet what it is at the present day. 

Of course railroad consolidation could not stop with such an in- 
'ident as that in which the Erie & North East was concerned. When 
that dispute had been settled all the railroads from Buffalo to Chica- 
go were of uniform gauge, but during the sixties various deals brought 
about the consolidation of the Cleveland & Erie with the Cleveland & 


Toledo, and of that combined road with the Alichigan Southern and 
into this, called the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, the Buffalo & 
Erie was merged in 1869. Meanwhile important improvements had 
been made in Erie, and changes were effected. A new union passen- 
ger station was built in 1864, to be used jointly by the lake shore 
roads and the Philadelphia & Erie, this tripartite arrangement re- 
quired by the settlement in court at the conclusion of the Railroad War. 
A large freight depot was biiilt at Sassafras street in 1877. At the 
time it was built it was supposed it would be sufficient for all time. 
Four years ago, however, a much larger freight station was completed 
and equipped with loading and unloading devices, such as a traveling 
crane and other modern conveniences that are required to bring it 
up to date. 

For a number of years after the consolidation into the L. S. & M. 
S. Railroad Erie was the terminus of two divisions, and engines on 
through trains were changed here. This, however, was abolished in 
1891, and the round-house at Chestnut street was abandoned and linally 
torn down. During all these years since the railroads parallel with 
the shore of the lake were first built there has been a system of im- 
provement steadily in progress. At first the streams and ravines were 
crossed by wooden trestles and bridges. There were many of these 
within the limits of Erie county. Gradually they were filled up, the 
streams being covered by arch culverts or bridges covered, with their 
approaches, by earth filling. In several instances these fills are of pro- 
digious proportions, notably those of Twenty-mile creek, Walnut creek 
and Elk creek. The double-tracking of the road w'as accomplished years 
ago and at the present time the work of four-tracking the road is 
nearly completed through this county. 

Controlled at present by the New York Central Railroad Com- 
pany, the L. S. & M. S. forms one of the leading railroads in the land. 
Perhaps it is the foremost of them all. The train service has advanced 
to a remarkable degree. One innovation has followed another with such 
frequency that the introduction of a novelty ceases to attract spectators, 
as used to be the case in the olden time. When the "Fast Mail" was 
introduced in the seventies people crowded to the station to see it. Now 
the "Twentieth Century Limited" flies by with scarcely a head turned 
to look in its direction. The Reeds had a prophetic vision with reference 
to railroads when in the thirties they turned their minds that way. but 
that vision stopped far short of what now has become commonplace. 


What Was in Controversy. — Extreme Bitterness Engendered. — 
Violent Methods Employed. — Serious Personal Encounters. 

On the 7th of December, 1853, there broke upon Erie a storm that 
for intensity of violence, duration and wide-spreading effect, was 
probably never equaled in any other American community. So bitter 
was the feeling engendered that for a quarter of a century afterwards 
one approached the subject only with the greatest caution, and it was 
hazardous to mention it, for it was possible with but slight reference 
to circumstances of the period in question to start a small conflagra- 
tion. Today, however, it may safely be spoken of, for most of those 
who took part in that memorable conflict have passed over to join the 
silent majority, and those who remain have permitted time to heal 
the fever that then raged through the entire community. But people 
now living in Erie cannot realize the depth and bitterness of feeling 
that, in the winter of 1853 and for several years afterward, prevailed 
among the people of Erie. The occurrence that dates from December 
7, 1853, was the "Railroad War," today sometimes referred to jokingly, 
or mentioned to provoke a laugh. At that time it was far from being 
a joke; it was the most serious thing possible. As one who was of it 
remarked, there was more acute bitterness engendered by that con- 
flict of the fifties than resulted even from that of a decade later — deeper 
animosities between former friends, more painful differences in fami- 
lies, and more lasting injuries to interests and to society than any 
community, north or south, could show as the result of the war that 
resulted from the rebellion of the states in 1861. 

The cause of the uprising of the people has been set forth in the 
chapter that precedes this, being the attempt of the railroad interests 
to abolish the break or difference of gauge between two connecting 
lines of- railroad that existed at Erie. The reason why this proposi- 
tion excited the people to the degree it did and led them to deeds 
of violence and the exercise of injustice upon fellow citizens was be- 
cause they saw, or thought they saw in what the railroad people 
proposed to do, the usurpation of their rights and the positive injury 
of their property. It appeared, as they viewed the development of the 
case, as though a plot had been deliberately conceived to ruin Erie. 
Because this was the situation here: The people of Erie desired to 
have a railroad that would connect the harbor of Erie with the eastern 


cities. They had been promised such a railroad, and the charter that 
by the state had been granted for that railroad had provided that the 
terminus of the railroad should be at the harbor of Erie. It was with 
disgust that they noted the fact that the terminus of the road not only 
was not at the harbor, but almost beyond the boundaries of the city, 
more than a mile away from the harbor, and to their chagrin it was 
found impossible to offer any inducement sufficient to bring the 
road's terminus to the bay. 

However, there remained a hope to the people in the fact that 
a charter had been obtained for the Sunbury & Erie Railroad, which 
was to form a section of a road from Erie to Philadelphia, and. while 
inducements continued to be set before the Erie & Xortheast Railroad 
Company with the purpose or hope of yet securing the harbor terminus, 
so long as the conditions then existing were maintained by the rail- 
roads the people were not greatly disturbed, \\hen, however, it was 
proposed to change the gauge of the road so that traffic could be 
carried on uninterruptedly through Erie, the spirit of revolt was at 
once excited. For they saw in this the closing forever of opportunity 
and the wreck of the project of obtaining a line of railroad to Phila- 
delphia. So long as there was a break of gauge at Erie there was 
a chance for business to be done by a railroad from the harbor. If the 
break of gauge were abolished the Sunbury & Erie would not be on 
even terms with the other roads. And neither would any other rail- 
road enterprise at Erie. This was the judgment of the business men 
of the time, and in view of the situation they believed they were 
striking a blow for their liberties and for civic life when they pro- 
posed to stop by any means in their power a proceeding that was to 
bring upon them as individuals and as a community such disaster. 
The grievance was not that of being deprived of a chance to sell 
peanuts or coffee and sandwiches at the railroad station, as has some- 
times been stated. It was a matter of far deeper concern. 

Of course in this twentieth century we look at railroad consoli- 
dations in a vastly different light, and many through lines of rail- 
road from the west to the east have not prevented the development of 
Erie harbor and many other harbors besides. But in the beginning 
of the fifties the people did not view railroad affairs as they do now, 
and when they believed they were being wronged by the railroad 
corporations they could not wait for the tard}' course of existing law. 
They made laws of their own and enforced them. 

So the matter came before the citizens. It was the talk of the 
business circles, of people on the streets, and came up in councils. 
At length official notice was taken of the matter. On December 6, 
1852, just a year before the destruction of the bridge, councils after 
discussing the matter passed the following resolutions. 


"Whereas, The joint resokition granting to the FrankUn Canal 
Company the right to cross the streets of the city with their railroad 
where the same is now located, is not sufficiently guarded and re- 
stricted to protect the rights of the city; and whereas, the city council 
will at all times be ready to grant all the facilities in their power to 
railroads terminating here, when the same will promote the interests 
of this city, when the policy of such railroad companies shall become 
settled and fixed with regard to width of track, etc. ; therefore, 

"Resolved, etc., that the joint resolution granting the use of the 
streets of the city to the Franklin Canal company, passed November 
12, 1852, and also the resolutions passed March 14, 1850, granting 
the Erie & North East Railroad Company the use of State street from 
the depot to the lake on conditions therein named, for railroad pur- 
poses, be and the same are hereby repealed." 

It looked like an open breach. But in realitj" the people of Erie 
were not over-hasty. They knew what the city rei uired in a business 
way and meant to have it if such a thing were possible. Of course, 
there were all sorts of gatherings and not a few of them characterized 
by fervid utterances. But there were many cool-headed men who 
counseled an appeal to reason and good sense. It would be sure to 
win out, they believed. They had faith in Erie and in the business 
advantages that Erie possessed. The commerce of this port was not 
a thing to be lightly regarded they were sure, and no railroad company 
could, after considering what the splendid harbor of Erie offered, turn 
aside and decline to accept it. They were undoubtedly waiting for 
overtures of some sort. This seemed to be the attitude assumed by a 
fair contingent of the people. 

It was in furtherance of this view of the case that the councils 
again attempted to win over the Erie & North East Railroad Com- 
pany. The situation had been up for consideration and a committee 
appointed to examine and report. On May 30, 1853, the report was 
submitted and councils unanimously adopted the following resolution, 
submitted by A. P. Durlin. chairman: 

"Resolved, That the city councils will give all the aid in their 
power to the Erie & North East Railroad Company in procuring 
ground in the canal basin for depots, etc., in case they will run their 
road to the dock." 

It was a generous proposition, to be sure, though there was noth- 
ing positive promised. It showed at least that there was a disposi- 
tion on the part of the representatives of the people, and, after the 
liberality manifested when the use of State street was freely voted, 
such a resolution ought to have carried much weight. It is not at 
all certain that it did. From what subsequently developed it ap- 
pears as though the representatives of the railroad had been tempor- 


izing. This would appear from what occurred at the meeting of June 
15, 1853. 

It was an adjourned meeting of councils. Messrs. C. M. Reed, J. 
H. Walker and Smith Jackson were present. Mayor King stated 
that the purpose of the meeting was to confer with relation to the 
subject of extending the Erie & North East Railroad to the dock. 
Mr. Reed said he wished the railroad to be connected with the harbor 
and that it was also the wish of the board of directors, and it was 
desirable to know what facilities the city was able and willing to 
extend to the company. The up.shot was that a committee, consisting 
of Messrs. Durlin, Sterrett, Smyth, Barr, Henry and Hearn were ap- 
pointed to "confer further" with the directors of the road. 

What the result of the conference was does not appear. So far 
as can be ascertained from the records of the councils there was no 
conference, for there was no report. For a month there was silence 
on the subject of the railroad contention in the halls of councils. At 
length a bomb was exploded among the city legislators. It was at a 
meeting held on July 18, that it was stated to the councils that meas- 
ures were now being taken to effect the change of gauge on the Erie 
& North East Railroad, and there would be a meeting of directors in- 
terested on the following day at Buffalo for the purpose of com- 
pleting negotiations to that end. On motion the mayor was directed 
to call a public meeting at 9 o'clock a. m., to take the subject into 
consideration and devise measures if possible to prevent the accom- 
plishment of the design. 

This was what marked the beginning of the conflagration. It 
was the first of the great mass meetings that set the populace in a 
flame of excitement. They practically slept upon their guns. From 
that time forward there was no hour, day or night, when the "first 
tap of the court house bell would not be responded to by a vast con- 
course of people. Nor were the speakers lacking. There were plenty 
ready to harangue the people and too many of them were neither 
judicious in the choice of their language nor fair in their criticisms. 
The mischief — the wickedness — of the whole proceeding, consisted 
not so much in the noisy advocacy of the claims of Erie and the 
boisterous arguments in favor of justice, as the personal attacks and 
the fierce invective employed. Men who had long before been friends 
became bitter enemies, and the enmity extended to the families. As 
time passed the bitterness and the heat of the attacks increased, for 
neither party manifested any disposition to retreat. 

The public meeting was a stirring one of its kind, and if councils 
were desirous of feeling the public pulse they must have been satis- 
fied that they had done so, and read the symptoms aright, for that 
evening the following ordinance was unanimously adopted and became 
known thenceforward as the ordinance of July 19, 1853. It was 


the motive power for all the violent proceedings against the rail- 
roads that were subsequently taken. Here it is : 

"Whereas by their act of incorporation the councils of the city 
of Erie are empowered and required to ordain and enact all such by- 
laws, rules and regulations as shall be deemed expedient to promote 
the good order and benefit of the city thereof ; to regulate and improve 
and keep in order the streets and remove therefrom, all obstructions ; 
and, whereas, two railroads, the Erie & North East, and the Frank- 
lin Canal Company's railroad, of diverse gauges or width of tracks, 
enter into and meet in said city, the gauge of track of the former 
being six feet, and of the latter four feet ten inches ; and whereas, 
the good order and benefit of said citizens and the proper regulation 
of said streets require that there should be no change in said re- 
spective gauges, except as hereinafter provided ; therefore, 

"Be it ordained and enacted, etc.: That the said Erie & North 
East Railroad Company is hereby prohibited from putting down or 
using any other gauge or width. of track, or using any cars or loco- 
motive engine of anj' other width or gauge of wheels than six feet ; 
and the said Franklin Canal Company is hereby prohibited from put- 
ting down or using any other width or gauge of track, or using 
any car or locomotive engine of any other width or gauge of 
wheels than four feet ten inches, in said city, under the penalty 
of $.500 for every such ofifense, and under an additional pen- 
alty of $500 per day for each day that any track put down or used 
in violation of this ordinance shall be suffered to remain, or cars or 
locomotives used after prosecution for the first or any subsequent 
ofifense: Provided, the Erie & North East Railroad Company may, 
if they deem it expedient so to do, put down and use in said city a 
track of the gauge or width of four feet 8i inches with cars and loco- 
motives to exactly correspond, anything herein contained to the con- 
trary notwithstanding. 

"2. In case any railroad track shall be [)ut down on or across 
any of the streets of this city in violation of the provisions of this 
ordinance, the high constable is hereby authorized and required to 
cause the same to be forthwith removed ofT of such street or streets; 
and he is hereby authorized and required to employ a sufficient force 
for that purpose. 

"3. Each and every resident of this city is hereby on request by 
the high constable, required under the penalty of $5 for every neglect 
or refusal, to aid him in the discharge of his duties hereinbefore en- 
joined upon him ; and all persons are hereby prohibited under the 
penalty of $100 for every offense from resisting or obstructing the 
high constable or any person called to his aid in discharge of the 
duties above enjoined. 

"4. Nothing herein contained shall confer, or be construed as 
conferring, any right to construct or maintain in said city upon or 
across any of the streets thereof any railroad track for the construc- 
tion and maintenance of which a legal authority dies not exist in- 
dependent of this ordinance." 
Vol. 1—18 


Fortified behind a councilmanic act that abrogated all the civic 
rights the railroads had possessed, the people seemed to have for a time 
recovered from the fever that had possessed them. The interest had 
not waned ; the excitement only had subsided, and that was due to 
the fact that there was nothing doing by the railroad people toward 
carrying forward their purpose of changing the gauge. Of course, 
there was nothing doing either toward building termini at Erie har- 
bor. But then, by this time everyone well knew what the upshot 
would be : that is to say, all knew that the railroads would never be 
satisfied with anything short of a change that would eiifect a uni- 
formity of gauge, while the people of Erie were determined to pre- 
vent it. But in the meantime there was a lull in proceedings. 

All the while, however, the citizens kept viligant watch upon the 
railroads. Every movement was noted, and every sign of activity re- 
ported. The people were on the qui vive, sleeping with open ears ready 
to be awakened with the first stroke of the bell and to rendezvous 
at the park. Now and then action was given to the drama by one 
or another who delighted to play the role of leading heavy. The 
favorite hyperbole of one of the principal speakers was "a 'helmit' by 
the wayside," which he declared was what the railroad people pro- 
posed to convert Erie into, and the people, sympathetic in the extreme, 
shuddered at the thought of that lone "helmit" — or even hamlet, as 
some interpreted the orator. 

This period of comparative quiet no doubt induced a number 
of the leading citizens to attempt a sort of forlorn hope. Whether they 
had any reason to expect that what they proposed could ever be 
carried out does not appear, but as a proposition it certainly was 
possessed of no small degree of merit. 

On the evening of November 14. a committee consisting of C. 
M. Reed, John H. Walker and Smith Jackson from the Erie & North 
East Railroad Company, and M. Courtright. C. ?il. Tibbals and G. J. 
Ball were in attendance on a meeting of council and presented a 
memorial over their signatures for the consideration of the council, 
setting forth certain propositions having in view the adjustment of 
the difficulties existing in this city in connection with railroads. The 
propositions embodied in the memorial were : 

First — That there shall be a railroad of uniform gauge from the 
harbor of Erie to the city of New York. Second — That it is equally 
desirable and important to the trade and commerce of Erie that we 
should be in connection by railroad of uniform gauge with Pittsburg 
in Pennsvlvania and Cincinnati and Columbus in Ohio. In view of 
the accomplishment of these objects it was proposed that the Frank- 
lin Canal Company should extend their road southwardly from Girard 
or Springfield to the coal fields in Mercer county, and that the Buffalo 
& State Line Railroad Company, or stockholders thereof, shall make 


or cause to be made a reliable subscription thereto of $100,000, or 
at their option to the Pittsburg & Erie Railroad, the Cleveland, Paines- 
ville & Ashtabula Railroad Company to take or cause to be taken 
$50,000 of the Erie City Railroad, the Franklin Canal Company to be 
at equal expense with the Erie City Railroad Company in purchasing 
the right of way and constructing the Erie City Railroad to the harbor 
of Erie from the present line of railroad, engine houses, repair shops, 
etc., to be built at Erie in due time. 

"The acceptance of the propositions made by the Buffalo & State 
Line Railroad and the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula Railroad 
involves the necessity of a Change of the gauge of the Erie & North 
East Railroad." 

Memorialists urged that the building of the Erie City Railroad 
depended upon the acceptance of the proposed compromise. 

Various other considerations were also presented in the memorial 
in justification of the acceptance of the propositions. After hearing at 
length the remarks of the committee on the subject matter of the 
memorial, on motion further action was postponed and a resolution 
to meet the next evening at 7 o'clock passed both councils. 

It seemed like a peace offering. It was the gage of battle. At 
that moment the eruption broke forth, first with the awful rumblings 
of earthquake, and finally with destruction in its train. The memorial 
had been presented and considered. It was to be further considered at 
a meeting one day in the future. But what a contrast that meeting 
and its proceedings afforded to what might have been expected from 
the character of the memorial and the manner of its disposal by the 
councils ! 

The meeting was held, pursuant to adjournment, on the evening 
of November 1.5. The record at the city hall says : 

"Mr. Sterrett was appointed mayor pro tem and T^Ir. Durlin 
clerk pro tem, when the following resolutions, adopted by the Com- 
mon Council, were concurred in by the Select: 

"Resolved, etc., that the ordinance passed July 19, 1853, shall be 
strictly enforced and the mayor is hereby directed to use all dxie dili- 
gence to see that no infraction of the same be permitted. 

"Resolved, That the mayor is hereby authorized and directed 
to appoint 150 special police officers to aid and assist him in executing 
the said ordinance. 

"Resolved, That the mayor forthwith issue his proclamation 
calling on the citizens of Erie, both civil and military, to hold them- 
selves in readiness at a moment's warning to assist in maintaining 
the ordinances and peace of the city." 

It will strike most people that this is a most remarkable "further 
consideration" of a proposition so beneficient as that submitted by 
Messrs Reed. \\'alker and Courtright and others. But it must not be 


overlooked that the people were keeping posted with regard to the 
movements of the railroad companies, and the fact that all hands 
"got busy" at once, and that from that moment forward there was 
something doing all the time, serves to show that the members of 
council knew exactly where they "were at." Events occurred thick 
and fast. Within a week the mayor had complied with the order of 
the councils and issued his proclamation. It was characteristic of 
Mr. King. Here it is : 

To My Fellow Citizens, 

The Military and Our Friends from the Country, Who Have Volun- 
teered Aid. 

Believing it my duty to take the best Legal Advice as to the 
legality of the Ordinance of July, I submitted the question to three 
legal gentlemen of unquestioned ability, who have furnished me with 
the following opinion. This opinion I have caused to be printed and 
laid before you. that you may see that the City Authorities are acting 
cautiously and advisedly in the matter. 

This opinion fully sustaining the Ordinance, I shall see that it is 
enforced if occasion requires. This can be done by the regular city 
officers, if not resisted, and I hope there will be no resistance, but we 
must be ready to enforce the Law if there should be resistance. 

I therefore caution and beseech our citizens generally not to in- 
terfere, or to do any act calculated to bring about collision or to 
disturb the peace. 

My object is to see the Law executed and peace and order main- 
tained. If I need aid I shall not fail to call on you. 

Thanking you a thousand times for your readiness and profifered 
aid in maintaining the honor and rights of the city, I subscribe my- 
self. Your Obedient Servant, 

A. KING, Mavor. 

Erie, Nov. 21, 1853. 

(Then followed an extended legal opinion, regarding the ordi- 
nance of July 19, 1853, signed by Elijah Babbitt, James C. Marshall 
and Matthew Taylor. The opinion sustained the ordinance.) 

Thereupon this resolution was adopted: "That the promptitude, 
energy and efficiency manifested by our mayor in executing the instruc- 
tions of the councils in reference to the contemplated change of gauge of 
the Erie & North East Railroad receive their entire approval and com- 

Matters were swiftly coming to a head. The unrest in the city per- 
meated every interest. The principal business of the time was that which 
pertained to the issue between the city and the railroads and every new 
phase of the situation brought about a meeting of the councils. Laws 
were enacted with a facility that is astonishing, viewed at this distant 
day. Everyone was in a fever of excitement, and the members of coun- 
cils worked overtime to keep pace with the speed with which matters 
progressed. There was a special meeting called for Saturday afternoon, 


November 26, and though the call was of the briefest kind, all the mem- 
bers were in their places. 

It was stated to the councils that the track of the Erie & North East 
Railroad was probably about to be taken up and changed to the 4 foot 10 
inch gauge ; that the ties had been spotted through the whole distance 
and preparations completed, and the presumption and reported declara- 
tion of some of the directors was that the change was to be effected be- 
fore the next morning. 

Several resolutions were ofTered and discussed with a view to pre- 
vent the anticipated action of the railroad companies. After a spirited 
debate of some length the following was adopted: 

"Resolved, That the chief of police be instructed to give notice to 
the captain of artillery to detail a sufficient number of men to hold them- 
selves in readiness to fire the signal gun at a moment's warning, and 
also that the said chief of police be directed to order a sufficient number 
of men to watch the track from Erie to North East and give notice im- 
mediately whenever any change of track is made or attempted." 

By the time the resolution had been adopted it was past the hour for 
the ordinary evening meal, so there was an adjournment until evening 
when business was resumed. It was a meeting of talk. It could not be 
called a stormy time for the talk was all one-sided. It ended in the 
adoption of the following: 

"Resolved. That the mayor be instructed to call out the police force 
of the city to remove the bridges from the streets of the city, now used 
by the Erie & North East Railroad Conipany at any time he, the mayor, 
may deem necessary, in order to preserve the present railroad gauge, 
and to preserve the peace of the city, in accordance with the ordinance 
of July 19, 1853. Also any bridge or obstruction crossing any street used 
by the Western Railroad Company within the limits of the city." 

Councils then met in Wright's block, corner of Fifth and State 
streets, now the Harlan building. Outside there was a vast throng, filling 
the streets and the hollow roar of the people massed about the building 
could be heard inside. The instant the resolution was adopted it was 
known outside and there went up a great shout. The people were ready 
on the instant to follow the mayor up the street to the railroad and set 
about the work of demolition. 

But the time was not yet ripe. The occasion was not yet opportune, 
and notwithstanding the mutterings of the crowd, by the officials it was 
deemed expedient to put the will of the constituted authorities into a form 
more strictly legal. To that end the business was continued until the 
next Monday evening, when the following, known thereafter as the 
ordinance of November 28, was enacted : 


"Whereas the Franklin Canal Company and the Erie & North East 
Railroad Company have respectively caused to be placed upon, over, and 
across divers of the public streets of the city of Erie, certain iron rails 
for railroad tracks and certain bridges, embankments, ditches, timbers and 
other erections and constructions, all of which are without authority of 
law and obstruct the free use of said streets respectively as public high- 
ways, therefore: 

"Be it ordained, etc., that the mayor of the said city of Erie be and 
he is hereby authorized and empowered to issue his order to the high 
constable of the same, directing him to remove from such streets or any 
of them all or any of such track or tracks, bridge or bridges, embank- 
ments, ditches, timbers, erections and constructions whatever or any 
part thereof, by whomsoever made or caused, and the high constable, on 
the receipt of such order, is hereby required forthwith to carry the same 
into effect and to employ a sufficient force for that purpose. 

"8 — Any person who shall in any manner obstruct the high con- 
stable in carrying such order into effect, or shall replace or aid in re- 
placing any such track, bridge, embankment, ditch, timber, or other erec- 
tion or construction, upon or over any of said streets, after the same shall 
have been removed as aforesaid, shall forfeit and pay to the use of the 
city a penalty of $90 for every such offense. 

"3 — That all privileges or grants of privilege (if any exist) to any 
railroad company to place or maintain any track, bridge, embankment, 
ditch, timber or other erection or construction upon, over or across any 
street in this city, are hereby annulled and revoked and the placing or 
maintaining of any such thereon forbidden." 

This was the final act before the breaking of the storm. Thereafter 
speeches and enactments gave place to action. The railroad war was on. 

It was on December 7, 1853, that the storm which had so long been 
threatening broke, and from talk the people resorted to action. It was a 
memorable occasion, and yet at this day there are none to be found who 
can give with particularity the proceedings of that occasion. The crowd 
of people who marched to the railroad crossing of State street has been 
frequently denominated a mob, moving without order or system, but 
led by the mayor on horseback. Some who live today, even among 
those who supported the citizens as against the railroad authorities — the 
Rippers, as they came to be known — have no knowledge of a well-planned 
organization. Col. J. Ross Thompson, whose father was an attorney 
representing the opposition to the railroads, and who has a very clear 
recollection of the matter, declares that so far as he could see and to the 
extent of his knowledge there was no system or order in the demonstration. 
Mayor King rode at the head on a large bow-backed horse, and was 
followed by a vast throng that extended from the park to Eighth street, 
that was steadily increasing in numbers. The colonel joined in the throng, 
as everybody in town did, and with them, tramped up through the muddy 
street to the railroad. There was no music ; so far as he could see there 


were none armed, and he saw nothing of tools. It was as though all 
were animated by a desire to see what was to be done. There was no 
denying the fact that there was common sympathy, and that all in that 
crowd favored the city's side in the controversy. It was very much like 
any other notable event in which the populace turned out to see the 

It is a rather different story that the late George Burton related, so 
far as particulars are concerned, and yet he had no knowledge of the 
preliminary organization. It will be remembered that the city councils 
authorized the qualifying of a force of 150 special police constables. 
This was what the mayor did, according to Mr. Burton. It was a sworn 
posse that the mayor headed. How they were distinguishable does not 
appear, nor when they were mustered, nor where. So far as can be 
learned there had been no public meeting that day. But, as Mr. Burton 
recollected it. tliere was organization, and it was this force of special 
constables, headed by Mayor King, that led the procession. They had 
prepared for work, and they were proceeding in strict conformity to law. 

In those days the general aspect of the ground about the railroad 
was vastly different from what it is at present. The railroad passed 
over a long bridge or trestle that extended from French street almost 
tf> the Turnpike, crossing the valley of Mill creek. The creek itself flowed 
over a part of what was State street, according to the surveys, the road- 
way being close to the bed of the stream. The trestle was constructed 
of wooden timbers quite similar to present day erections of its character. 

Arrived on the ground, according to Mr. Burton's account of the 
transaction, the city engineer, by direction of the mayor made an ac- 
curate survey, marking carefully upon the bridge the street lines. Then 
members of the posse, with saws cut straight down through the timbers. 
The first rail displaced was pulled up by Robert T. Sterrett, a stockholder 
in the Erie & North East Railroad. The work begun, the demolition of 
that portion of the bridge that crossed State street was quickly accom- 
plished. At no time did the constables go beyond the street lines. Mr. 
Burton stated. They kept strictly within the law. As soon as the State 
street bridge was torn down the force of constables proceeded to French 
street, where precisely the same rules were observed, and that too, was 

After all, it was not quite so dignified a proceeding as the telling of 
the story thus far would seem to indicate. There may not have been any 
weapons carried by the crowd. But though weapons were lacking missiles 
were not, and these were of a decidedly miscellaneous character. Some 
people in the crowd had provided a plentiful supply of rotten eggs, 
in anticipation of their coming in handy. And they did. Of course, 
the railroad officials had no thought of seeing their property destroyed 
without at least protesting. They did protest. Mr. Ira W. Hart, a leader 
among the railroad people, proceeded out upon the trestle and ordered 


the men at work on the demoHtion of the bridge to desist. Mr. J. F. 
Tracy, another railroad official, also appeared on the scene. It was 
the cue for the carriers of spoiled eggs. At once from a hundred dif- 
ferent directions there was a rain of rotten eggs. Some who were not 
fortunate enough to be provided with these sulphuretted hydrogen 
grenades, resorted to solid shot. Stones were hurled, and in the storm of 
missies the railroad people were compelled to beat a hasty and ignomin- 
ious retreat, while the populace, jeering and shouting, kept up the bom- 
bardment as long as any of the enemy were in view. Even the most 
zealous of the supporters of the citizens" cause will hardly attribute this 
demonstration to the force of constabulary who were at work enforcing 
the law. To the populace it was a hilarious incident, and it is probably 
fortunate that no serious damage was done. 

One of the remarkable things in connection with this railroad dis- 
turbance, long continued as it was, is that there were so few casualties. 
In the city, aside from some personal encounters, there was not even 
a single case reported of bodily injury. Col. Thompson, in speaking 
of this feature of the controversy, attributed it to the vast preponderance 
of the opponents of the railroad. If the forces had been anything like 
evenly matched there can be no doubt but that there would have been 
more than one bloody engagement, for the feeling of hosility was fierce 
and very bitter. The railroad men recognized their inferiority in strength, 
and for that reason did not attempt forcible resistance. They confined 
their efforts to strategy, using the courts to the best of their ability, and 
by various devices and technicalities succeeded in standing off their op- 

After the outbreak of December 7. however, they took fright and 
many of them fled from the city. It is a fact that the house of John H. 
Walker was pelted with stones. The Erie people "had it in" for Mr. 
Walker, whom they termed a turncoat. As may be shown later, Mr. 
Walker doubtless had good and sufficient reason for a change of belief, 
but people in those days were not looking for excuses for any of the 
Shanghais. Fearing violence, many men left the city, and among them 
Mr. ^^'aIker, w4:o boarded a locomotive in the western yard and was 
taken into Ohio. It is related by Mr. F. F. Adams that Mr. Tracy, driven 
from Erie in the same way, took up his residence for a short time in 
Waterford with a relative until the storm should blow over. 

There can be no doubt that encouragement was given to the irrespon- 
sibles of the community by the passage of a resolution by councils on 
December 5, just two days before the assault upon the bridge. Of 
course, it was meant to protect the constabulary, but the element that 
thrives on disturbance was not of a discriminating character, and readily 
interpreted the act as favoring them, and they carried on their nefarious 
work with impunity. The resolution was : 


"That the faith of the city be, and the same is hereby pledged to 
indemnify any and all citizens of the same for any injury in person or 
property which they may sustain while acting under the ordinances of the 
city relative to railroads, and while acting under the direction of the 
mayor or high constable." 

As a matter of fact the sentiment was so strongly against the rail- 
road people that they had no chance whatever, for though it was well 
known the attack upon Mr. Walker's house had been made there were 
no arrests effected. The feeling was intense and from opposition to 
a measure that was regarded as against public policy and civic interests, 
it grew into personal animosity. How much this was fostered by the 
orators of the time it is difficult at this late day to state. No doubt some 
of the speakers were not judicious in the language they employed. There 
are relics of the time to indicate this, though I am sure not all of the 
speakers were of that sort, for a leader among them was the late Gideon 
J. Ball, as conservative and well-balanced a man and citizen as ever I 
knew. But it was the order of the day to strengtlien and embellish every 
utterance pertaining to the railroad difficulty by a profusion of superla- 
tives that, read at this distance, are interesting examples of style. And 
there were all sorts of expedients employed to foster personal ill feeling. 
Examples of this are found in the brochure called the "E-pistoI of John," 
printed anonymously, but. it is said, immensely popular among the Rip- 
pers during the troublous times of the early fifties. All of these things 
had their efifect in stimulating hatred, which was permitted to extend to 
the cruel length of including the women identified with the hateful opposi- 
tion as members of the families of the Shanghai men. It was not excus- 
able and did not carry out the claim of many leading Rippers that the 
business in hand was done dispassionately. One of the leaders in the 
controversy, writing an account of the first attack on the bridges, said : 
"The fact is the law was strictly enforced and the officers and spectators 
quietly dispersed," but he omitted the spoiled eggs or any mention of 
them, nor did he mention the cruel boycott that was established. These 
are stains upon the honor of the Ripper cause. 

The performance by the mayor and his force of constables naturally 
stirred up increased excitement, and, especially beyond the city's bounds 
was the unfavorable result of the controversy manifest. Leaders among 
the Rippers attributed it to the activity of the railway interests that had 
bribed the newspapers. The real trouble, however, came from the inter- 
ruption of travel. When people are stopped in their journey they do 
not care a copper cent about the merits of the case; their only interest 
is in getting on. Stopped at Erie by the people of the place, who had 
broken the connection, travelers had neither patience nor charity to ex- 
pend upon the subject. It was an outrage in their opinion, and they were 
ever free to express their opinion. So it became Erie against the world. 
It was not necessary for the railroad men to put forth a single efifort to 


spread the ill-feeling against Erie that was engendered by the controversy 
here; it spread of its own accord through the agency of the traveling 

The people of Erie recognized that this state of affairs existed, 
though, as has been said, they attributed it to the efforts of the Shanghai 
interests. It affected the people here deeply. It got into the councils, 
when, on December 12, 18.53, the following resolutions were adopted: 

"Resolved, That the mayor be requested to telegraph to the governor 
of the state, inviting him to visit the city at his earliest convenience. 

"Resolved, That the mayor be instructed to procure the publication 
of a manifesto setting forth fully and clearly the facts in relation to the 
present railroad controversy for general circulation. 

"Resolved, That a committee of two from each body be appointed 
to confer on the propriety of applying for an injunction on the Erie & 
North East Railroad." 

The committee consisted of W. C. Braley and Adam Acheson, of the 
Common Council, and P. Sennett and J. B. Smith, of the Select Council. 
Thus it may be seen that while the representatives of the people were 
anxious to preserve the reputation of the community they did not propose 
to take any backward steps. On the contrary, they were determined to 
continue in the course they had marked out. In order to add strength to 
their position, George S. Russell was appointed an additional constable 
and David Zimmerman, James Cummings. Henry Martin and Hezekiah 
Bates were appointed police constables. The duties of these men were to 
prevent as far as possible any meetings for discussion of matters pertain- 
ing to the trouble, the expressed desire being that there should be no 
fomenting of strife. The course pursued, however, rather tended to ag- 
gravate the trouble, as the so-called Shanghais naturally came most gen- 
erally under suspicion. Complaints of this discrimination became fre- 
quent, and, as a matter of fact the Shanghai genus became marked wher- 
ever an individual appeared. 

The determination of the people to make the matter a state issue now 
came to the fore, and it is worthy to be noted that this new piece of 
stratagem turned out in the end to be what won out for Erie. There was 
a meeting of councils held on Jan. 19, Hon. Charles ^V. Kelso being 
present, who, in a speech submitted the following resolutions, which were 
unanimously adopted : 

"Whereas, The Franklin Canal Company, incorporated bv act of 
9th April, 1849, to construct a railroad from the north end of their canal 
in Crawford county to Lake Erie, and from the south end thereof to Pitts- 
burg; and under the pretended authority of said act have constructed no 
other road than one leading from the Ohio state line as an extension of an 
Ohio road, commencing at Cleveland to the termination of the Erie & 
North East Railroad, leading from Erie to Dunkirk and Buffalo, at a 


point in the southern section of the city of Erie about one mile from the 
harbor thereof, and at a great distance from the point of termination as 
required by their charter. 

"And "whereas, Such road was constructed by those owning and 
operating the New York and Ohio roads east and west of Erie with a 
view to secure a continuous and uninterrupted transit through Pennsyl- 
vania, to the great injury of the interests of Erie city and county and of 
the state of Pennsylvania, tending to defeat the main objects of the legis- 
lature of Pennsylvania in incorporating said company, and is clearly un- 
authorized, illegal and a gross abuse of the privileges of the said company. 
Therefore, be it 

"Resolved, That in the opinion of the mayor. Select and Common 
Council of the city of Erie it would greatly advance the interests not 
only of the city and county of Erie, but of the state of Pennsylvania if 
the state would resume the rights and privileges of the said Franklin Coal 
Company, as is provided in the 8th section of their act of incorporation. 

"Resolved, That the Erie & North East Railroad Company, by 
Pennsylvania if the state would construct and own a railroad from the 
harbor of Erie to the CMiio state line, to connect there with an Ohio road, 
and we recommend such action. We believe that the interests of the 
state, which are deeply involved by the proposed construction of other 
roads, which are required by law to terminate at this harbor would be 
best guarded in this manner from the powerful influences, which inter- 
ests, rivaling hers, and in direct antagonism to them can employ upon any 
incorporated company. 

"Resolved, That the Erie & North East Railroad Company, by 
failing to finish their road to the borough of Erie and the harbor thereof, 
as required by their charter, and by locating it in a manner so as to ter- 
minate it a distance of about one mile from the harbor, for the purpose of 
facilitating a connection with the illegally constructed Franklin Canal Com- 
pany's railroad, so as to secure an uninterrupted transit through and past 
this place and harbor to the ruin of the commercial interests of the only 
port which Pennsylvania possesses on the lake frontier, have misused and 
abused their privileges, and they should be required to complete the road 
according to the requirements of their charter. 

"Resolved, That copies of the above resolutions be transmitted by 
the mayor to the governor of the commonwealth at Harrisburg, and that 
he be requested to call the attention of the legislature at its approaching 
session to the subjects to which they relate." 

Besides, Mr. Kelso offered a petition to be signed hv the mayor and 
councilmen, setting forth charges and asking the state legislature to in- 
stitute an investigation, when, if the charges are found true, the state 
was to resume the rights and privileges granted in the canal company 

At the same meeting G. J. Ball was present and submitted this resolu- 
tion, which was adopted. 

"Resolved, That the railroad connection proposed to be renewed be- 
tween the east and west at Erie shall lie treated as a Pennsylvania ques- 


tion, and we will make common cause with our brethren of Philadelphia 
and other portions of the state in its consideration and settlement, and 
when adjusted as it must be with a due regard to the rights and sov- 
ereignty of Pennsylvania a just portection will be found secured to all 
interests at home and abroad." 

And still another series of resolutions were adopted, making that 
meeting a sort of field day for the local congress. They were, as all the 
others had been, carried unanimously. 

"Resolved, That the mayor and councils of Philadelphia be earnest- 
ly requested to extend to us their aid and sympathy in this our unequal 
contest with the most powerful monopolies in New York and Ohio, while 
contending for our and their most valuable rights. 

"Resolved. That the immediate subscription on the part of Phila- 
delphia to the stock of the Sunbury & Erie Railroad in our opinion, would 
do more than any other act to settle the controversy, as we have reason 
to believe that the principal object aimed at by New York and Ohio in 
obtaining a through gauge is to defeat the Sunbury & Erie Railroad, and 
thereby deprive Philadelphia of her just share of the lake trade." 

It was a brave bid for outside sympathy and aid, and it won out as 
the sequel may show. 

Now, the railroad troubles were not confined to the city of Erie. 
Some of the most dramatic incidents of the entire war took place in Har- 
borcreek, a short distance west of the station. It is worth while before 
giving an account of what happened at the grand climax to relate what led 
up to it. When the route of the Erie & North East Railroad was original- 
ly surveyed a perfectly straight line was laid out from end to end. At 
the present time, if the weather be clear, one standing in Fifteenth street, 
near the JMorton house, and looking east along the railroad could see the 
track beyond North East, but for the natural curvature of the earth's sur- 
face. As it is the road stretches in an absolutely straight line as far as 
the edge of the horizon. There are varying grades, but the line is direct. 
It is not so with the highway known as the Buffalo road. At the present 
time, all who have traveled east will remember, there is a crossing of the 
Buffalo road between Six-Mile creek and Harborcreek village. When the 
road was built, however, the road was difTerently laid out. Inclining 
slightly toward the north, it crossed the line of the railroad on a tangent 
that was nearly parallel ; soon there was another tangent that brought 
the road again to the south of the railroad ; and a few rods further along 
again the road crossed to the north. Thus, at three different points, within 
a very short distance, the railroad occupied a considerable portion of the 
public road; at one point 30 rods, at the second 40 rods, and at the third 
point 80 rods — in all 150 rods of the highway was appropriated by the rail- 
road, and in such a manner as to render it emphatically a nuisance. 

The action of the railroad company in practically appropriating 150 
rods of the public highway was vigorously opposed from the start by the 


Harborcreek people. It was declared to be an unwarranted infringement 
upon public liberties, for the highway existed legally before the railroad 
did. The contention lasted for a considerable time, until at length the 
railroad- company, representing that a contract had been entered into be- 
tween the Erie & North East Railroad Company and the New York &. 
Erie Railroad Company by which a through line between Erie harbor and 
New York was to be built, a line of road that would give the farmers of 
Erie county direct access to the best markets in the country, obtained the 
consent of the people of Harborcreek to permit conditions to remain as 
they were. 

When, therefore, instead of building the line of road that it was 
represented had been contracted for the railroad interests took steps to 
effect a consolidation that would favor the west and discriminate against 
the farmers of eastern Erie county, there was an instantaneous uprising 
in opposition. The road commissioners of the township ordered the re- 
moval of the railroad track from the highway, and it was promptly done. 
The railroad people followed soon afterwards and relaid the track. Again 
it was torn up by the order of the road commissioners, and again it was 
relaid by the company. Then came the most noteworthy incident in the 
history of that war. 

It was on the 27th of January. The force under the road commis- 
sioners were again at work removing the obstruction from the highway 
when a train carrying a large force of men, stated by some to be 300, 
came on from the east. They were laboring men, track layers and work- 
men in the employ of the Buffalo & State Line Railroad Company. The 
train was in charge of Charles Coffin, conductor. As soon as this party 
arrived on the scene Conductor Coffin and C. C. Dennis, superintendent 
of the B. & S. L. road, advancing, commanded the workmen to desist and 
leave the place. They refused, declaring they had a right to be at 
work upon their own highway. Thereupon Coffin drew a revolver 
and renewing his order advanced upon the workmen, who, however, 
stood their ground. Thereupon the conductor, cocking his pistol, pulled 
the trigger. It only snapped, but again it was cocked, and a 
second time snapped. On the third attempt, however, it was 
discharged and the ball hit a man named George Nelson on the head. 
He fell but was soon on his feet again, the ball having been deflected by 
the bones of his skull and causing a wound over the right ear. Coffin 
followed up the attack by aiming his pistol at Wm. Cooper, but the gun 
snapped both times the attempt was made to fire. At the same time the 
followers of Coffin charged upon the farmer people with shovels and 
picks, and W. W. Davison, a prominent citizen of Harborcreek, was hit 
on the back of the head with a pick and seriously injured. Though the 
railroad force was vastly superior in numbers the farmer people made 
a bold attempt to arrest the leaders, but were frustrated. 

When the news of this affair reached Erie its effect was like that of 
applying a spark to gunpowder. Instantly the whole town was astir. The 


military sprang to arms and at once headed toward Harborcreek. Every 
conveyance obtainable was immediately seized. Farmers who had come to 
town with loads of wood for sale were surrounded, their wood pitched 
out on the roadside and their sleighs appropriated. In all manner of 
vehicles the people proceeded toward the scene, and Col. Thompson, speak- 
ing of the incident, states that, having been that day at the scene of the 
occurrence in Harborcreek and on his return, he was astonished to meet at 
the bend in the Buffalo road, near Saltsman's, a vast throng of people. 
Instead of carrying the news of the affair himself he was met almost 
half way by the crowd, eager for revenge upon the railroad men. It 
was incredible to him that the intelligence could travel so swiftly. But 
here was evidence of it. The military were there, with their muskets 
and a company in charge of a cannon, while it appeared as though thou- 
sands more were included in that vast throng. 

That battle of the crossing did not end the doings at Harborcreek. 
The people there were vigilant. The leaders there were John Kilpatrick, 
Ira Sherwin, Archie Kirkpatrick, the Davisons, John Jacks, and many of 
the most substantial people of the country round about. The track was re- 
peatedly torn up. 

At length the railroad people got the matter before the United States 
court at Pittsburg, and a deputy U. S. marshal was sent here to serve an 
injunction process. It was at this time the celebrated incident occurred 
which has become historic in connection with the trouble. The officer 
of the court proceeded to serve the writ upon the rippers who were then 
on the ground, and who ignored the officer. Demanding recognition he 
flashed the legal document. 

"What is that?" Archie Kirkpatrick inquired. 

"An injunction under the seal of the United States Court," the 
officer answered, referring to the stamp of authority which it bore. 

Kirkpatrick seized the document and throwing it upon the ground 
stamped upon it with his heel. 

"Now it has the seal of Harborcreek," said the quick-witted if not 
overly respectful farmer. 

It cost him considerable in the end, however, as in the course of 
a short time officers of the U. S. circuit court arrested John Kilpatrick, 
Ira Sherwin. Archie Kirkpatrick and John Jacks, and took them to 
Pittsburg and locked them in jail for contempt of court. They remained 
in prison for a considerable time. By the time this occurred, however, 
there was a strong sentiment favorable to Erie prevailing in Pittsburg, 
and among those who manifested friendliness were Sheriff Magill and 
his wife, who had charge of the Erie prisoners, and treated them with 
unusual kindness. This so pleased the people of this city that the ladies 
of Erie presented a service of silver to Mrs. Magill as a token of appre- 
ciation of the kind treatment extended to the Ripper prisoners. 


A closing feature of the stirring incident of December 27, at Har- 
borcreek, is one which contained in many of its aspects much of comedy. 
It is only proper to state, however, that there are two versions to the 
story. That which seems the most likely to be true is that the defenders 
of the highway, become zealous in their efforts to effect the capture 
of those responsible for the grievous injuries inflicted upon certain of 
the citizens, pushed their efforts to such an extent that a number of 
them boarded the cars with the purpose in view of capturing the train. 
It was a clever stratagem, and because of the boldness of its conception 
no doubt merited success. According to the story told by the railroad 
people it might have been successful but for a single fact, as the boarders 
manifested such gallantry that they were driving the occupants forward 
and out. But they had made one important mistake. They had attacked 
from the rear. Xo sooner was it learned what was in progress back in 
the train than the engineer started the train in motion. Discovering this 
the boarders made haste to reach the doors and beat a hasty retreat. 
Necessarily, they had to proceed in single file. [Meanwhile the speed 
was rapidly increasing until the train was going so rapidly that two of 
the invaders, William Cooper and another, were afraid to jump, and so 
were given a free ride to a point beyond the state line. 

Mr. Cooper in a sworn affidavit, next day. stated that he was on board 
the train because of a special invitation given by Supt. C. C. Dennis. 
As soon as he and another were got aboard, he states, the doors were lock- 
ed so that escape was impossible. Thus they were carried unwillingly to a 
point which he believed to be several hundred yards beyond the New 
York and Pennsylvania state line, where they were forced to leave the 
car. Then, he says, he was set upon by a large body of men and 
badly beaten, and at the conclusion a man named Bill Kasson kicked him 
al' the way back into Pennsylvania. It is related that subsequently he 
exhibited to sympathizing friends the evidences of his maltreatment. 

It was not the end of the incident. j\lr. Cooper instituted legal pro- 
ceedings against the people whom he alleged had encroached upon his 
liberties, his bill of complaint charging them with kidnaping and assault 
and battery. It came to trial in due course, when the result was that 
the learned judge ruled that, being a white man. the charge of kidnaping 
would not hold. If he had been a child (a legal infant) the charge 
might lie, or if adult, he had been a negro, then too, he would have a 
case. But, being a man, and a white man, he could not establish a case 
of kidnaping. So that count fell through. Then, as to the assault and 
battery charge, according to the complaint the offense was committed 
in New York state, which placed it beyond the jurisdiction of a Penn- 
sylvania court. Therefore Mr. Cooper had no redress. But he became 
a hero, none the less, among his Ripper friends, while the incident gave 
the Shanghais an opportunity to crow, which they did. 


It became the subject of one of the popular ballads of the time, 
for in those days the redoubtable Maj. Fitch was in the prime of his 
mentality, and his penchant for grinding out rhyme found opportunity 
not to be wasted in so stirring an incident as this. Old Maj. Fitch was 
perhaps the very last of the minstrels, long subsequent to the aged 
Palmer that Scott rated the last of his honored profession. And Maj. 
Fitch, or rather the major's so-called poetry, enjoyed immense popularity 
while the so-called peanut war lasted. 

The warfare continued in Erie, though the action was along what 
might be termed legal lines. The railroad company succeeded in carry- 
ing their case to such an extent that U. S. Marshal Frost was sent to 
Erie to see that the orders of court restraining the city of Erie from 
interfering wirh the railroad people were carried out. The citizens com- 
plained that he lent himself to the railroad cause, and not a few 
alleged that he was in the pay of the railroads. The statement has been 
made that he superintended the work of relaying the tracks and rebuild- 
ing the bridges. 

It did not avail, however, for the trestle was a second time torn 
down, and upon this occasion it is said to have been a most picturesque 
travesty. The work was done by women ! That is to say, all those en- 
gaged in tearing up the rails and pulling down the bridge wore women's 
clothes. But now and then something would occur that would give the 
snap away and induce a roar of laughter. Someone of the party wanted 
a jack-knife or a bit of his plug tobacco, and, forgetfully, would hoist 
up his skirt to extract it from his breeches pocket, disclosing his big 
boots encasing the legs of a pair of heavy trousers. Again a number 
of the women got in the way of one of the long ropes attached to the 
timbers of the bridge, and when the oxen were started up and the rope 
sprang taut it overturned a bunch of them and revealed a lot of big 
leather boots kicking out of the feminine skirts. 

But there was a step taken at length to dispense with the services 
of Mr. Frost. One day in the latter part of January, Messrs. Thompson 
& Grant received a telegram from the office of the attorney general at 
Harrisburg to arrest the United States marshal. The process was a writ 
of capias in trespass vi et armis for illegal arrest and false imprisonment. 
No sooner was the message received than the attorneys set out to 
obey the command it contained. They waited only long enough to put 
on coats and hats. To their astonishment the street in front of their 
office on Park row was filled with people. They told no one what they 
were about to do, but the people formed a procession in their wake. At 
every street crossing there were accessions to their ranks. When they 
had reached the furnaces (Eleventh and State streets) on their way 
to the station the men had all thrown down their tools and quit work 
to go along and witness the arrest. Thomas B. Vincent was sheriff at 


the time, and he was a Shanghai, but he was in duty bound to carry out 
the orders of the attorney general. The United States marshal was 
accordingly arrested, taken down to the county jail and locked up. 

The speed with which such a crowd could be gathered in those 
exciting times was thus again exemplified. It is said that before three 
strokes of the court house bell could be struck a thousand people would 
be collected in the park. No doubt this was pretty near true. But the 
case of the arrest of the U. S. marshal was a little different because 
there was no ringing of the bell and every effort had been made to keep 
the business secret. News flew on the wind in those days and seemed 
to penetrate walls. 

At that time there was published in Erie a newspaper called the 
Constitution, owned by J. B. Johnson, a learned and prominent member 
of the bar of Erie county. Mr. Johnson, was a Shanghai, and his 
paper, vigorously conducted, was a thorn in the flesh of the Rippers. 
Not only did Mr. Johnson wield a caustic pen. but there were others who 
wrote strong stuff for the Constitution. 

Mr. Johnson had from the first incurred the hatred and hostility 
of the leaders of the Rippers by his able defense of the railroads, as 
well, as has already been remarked, as by his caustic manner of ridiculing 
the men and methods of the opposition. This finally led to a violent 
encounter and the first real bloodshed of the war. The story is related 
by an eye witness : 

One day, he says, as he was coming into the Constitution building 
he observed Morrow B. Lowry and Arch Kilpatrick entering Mr. John- 
son's room. Their only business there, he knew, was to make trouble; 
therefore he decided to see what went on. So he followed them in. 
Mr. Lowry carried a heavy whip and Kilpatrick was armed with a big 
cane. The words of introduction by Mr. Lowry were few and to the 
point, and almost before Mr. Johnson had time to see what was on he 
was given a sounding blow over the head that dazed him and sent his 
spectacles flying. David B. McCreary was present and immediately took 
a hand. Looking about for a weapon of defense, Mr. McCreary found 
a stout stick used for a poker for the big wood stove. Seizing this and 
swinging it with all the force he could he struck Lowry behind the ear, 
bewildering him for the moment and cutting a big gash from which the 
blood flowed freely. 

Turning to Kilpatrick, Mr. Lowry called to him to attend to Mc- 
Creary, but, not understanding what his orders were, Kilpatrick ad- 
vanced upon Johnson with his cane drawn to deliver a blow that might 
have been fatal. In this emergency McCreary seized a heavy chair 
near-by and swung it with such good aim that it struck Kilpatrick square 
in the face, stunning him and knocking out two of his teeth. Kilpatrick's 
cane was dropped in the melee, which Mr. McCreary secured, and 
finally Mr. Lowry, finding that Kilpatrick was really out of the fight 

Vol. 1—19 


and the odds were thus against him, but hurhng invective at Johnson 
and McCreary. with Kilpatrick quitted the field. That law office, said 
the witness, looked like a slaughter house, for the blood was fairly 
spurting from the wound in Lowry's head and had stained his ruffled 
shirt front and fallen in a stream to the floor, while Kilpatrick was 
bleeding but little less. 

This was not the only sanguinary incident of that memorable cam- 
paign. One April morning in 185.5 John H. Walker, one of the leading 
Shanghais, was on his way to the court house and was almost to the 
steps of the building when he was met by Rodney Cochran, a prominent 
Ripper, Mr. Walker was one of the principal lawyers of Erie and, the 
day being raw and cold, was muffled up and holding his wrap close 
about him, while at the same time he held his law books in his arms. 
Meeting him there by the steps Mr. Cochran demanded of Mr. Walker 
that he at once stop proceedings in the suit for damages which he had 
brought against Cochran. Mr. Walker promptly refused to do so. Just 
as promptly Cochran struck him a violent blow that felled him. Arising 
after a brief interval, his hat battered and his face bloody, Mr. Walker 
passed into the court house. Judge Agnew presiding at the time, and 
made a statement to the court in detail of what had occurred and 
entered a formal complaint which resulted in the judge ordering the 
arrest of Cochran. 

But the incident had its sequel, and a decidedly melodramatic sequel 
it was ! At the time of the assault upon Mr. Walker, his son John 
W., now known as Major Walker, was teaching school in the south. He 
was then a young man of splendid vigor and a veritable athlete, skilled 
among other things in the art of boxing. A year later, John W. was at 
home, and somehow it became known that he had it in for Rodney 
Cochran in retaliation for what had been done to his father. The antic- 
ipated occurrence was witnessed by General McCreary and the facts 
are obtained from him. 

John Walker and Joseph R. Ferguson were standing in front of the 
Constitution office, in which building was the office of General McCreary. 
They were engaged in conversation. Soon Mr. Cochran came along 
from the bank with which he was connected, evidently intending to call 
at the Constitution office on business, for he held in his hand a draft. 
It appeared as though neither Walker nor Cochran had seen the other 
until they were face to face, less than an arm's-length away. However, 
as soon as Walker saw and recognized Cochran he aimed one blow at 
him with such good effect that, taking him on the ear it landed him all in 
a heap in the entry-way. Mr. Walker was on the point of following 
up his advantage when Mr. McCreary and his companion in the office 
hastily dragged the fallen man inside and, locking the door urged 
Ferguson to get Walker away. 


This was done. Standing on the corner that the city hall now 
occupies, there was in those days a small two-story building called the 
Park hotel, towards which Walker and Ferguson went. Meanwhile, 
Mr. Cochran had gathered himself together and he was furious. He 
stormed about until he was permitted to depart. Once outside he seized 
a brick and pursuing his late assailant until he had nearly overtaken him, 
threw it with all the force he could command. It struck only a glancing 
blow, but spoiled Mr. Cochran's equilibrium, and before he could recover 
his balance he was again stricken such a blow that he was thrown, 
dazed and bleeding through the door of the Park Hotel. This time Mr. 
\Valker followed him up and throwing him across a table beat him 
without mercy. 

This was not the end, however. That night, eager for revenge, Mr. 
Cochran addressed a mass meeting and told the excited citizens how 
he had been decoyed into the Constitution office by a gang of railroad 
hirelings and his life had been attempted. At once a movement was 
made toward the newspaper ofifice. The doors were broken open, the 
books carried out and burned in the street, then the type was thrown out 
into tl'.e street, the press dismantled and finally the building was torn 
down and next day only a heap of ruins marked its site. After the 
demolition of the printing office, the crowd visited in turn the residences 
of Mr. Walker, Air. Tracy and Mr. Johnson, all of which were bom- 
barded with stones, but unable to do more than batter the shutters 
which had been closed in anticipation of such an event ( for by that time 
it had been learned what was going on the park), nothing was accom- 

Nor was the trouble confined to the men ; the women were equally 
infected with the fever, and they tried a weapon as cruel and deadly in 
its eflfect as any that could be employed. The Tibbals dry goods store 
was one of the principal stores in that line in Erie in those days. Mr. 
Tibbals, without taking any active part in the controversy became known 
as a Shanghai. It was so with a number of other merchants. For the 
purpose of punishing these men all the women of the town were called 
to meet to take action. Not all the women came, but the great majority 
of Erie women were in attendance. The action was quick and sum- 
mary. They voted not to trade with the Shanghai merchants, and each 
of the merchants v\'as named as he was put under the ban. 

Then there was another grievance. The railroad controversy at last 
got into the pulpit. It cropped out in the sermons, it was present in the 
prayers. Allusions, of an unpleasant nature were made to those who 
were selling their birthright and to the powerful who were oppressing 
the weak. At length it could no longer be borne, and the result was that 
a number of members withdrew from the old church, and that is how 
the Park church originated. For many years it was known as the 


Shanghai church, and it was so until a new generation came upon the 

The last surviving member of the councils of that stormy time was 
\Vm. G. Arbuckle, who died recently at the old family home over in Jeru- 
salem. He remembered well to the last the incidents of the time, and he, 
too, remarked the facility with which crowds would be brought together, 
and the rapidity with which intelngence of the doings of even an execu- 
tive session spread to the people — as though the walls of the council 
chamber leaked. That day when the ordinance was passed which made 
resistance effective was memorable. Before the meeting, as Mr. Arbuckle 
related it, the members were "seen" by a prominent citizen connected 
in a business way with the railroads. It is not known that he was a 
stockholder, but he was a spokesman. He, having gotten the members 
of Select Council together in a retired place before the meeting, laid the 
matter before them. The lay-out was in the nature of a temptation. 
The company is rich, said the emissary. They do not care for the 
matter of a few thousand dollars. 

"Now, I am not saying what the rest of us might have done under 
such pressure." said Mr. Arbuckle at an interview. "This I do say, that 
there was not money enough nor human power sufficient to move A. 
P. Durlin. He was a rock. Even if all his coadjutors in council 
had joined with the tempter, he was not to be moved. We let Mr. 
Durlin speak for the rest of us." 

In the process of time the scales of justice swinging now up one 
side and again up another, brought about the trial of the mayor and 
members of the Erie council in the U. S. Court at Pittsburg. It was no 
small undertaking to proceed to the scene of the trial, for the Erie men 
had to traverse a hostile country. The route laid out was by rail to Cleve- 
land and thence to Pittsburg. But it was dangerous for a party of Erie 
councilmen to appear in the city of Cleveland, so strong was the feeling 
against them. Therefore, the train was stopped some distance east of 
Cleveland, and the Erie party proceeded in wagons across the country 
to a station on the C. & P. road. That the arrangement afforded great 
relief to the Erie men, Mr. Arbuckle relates in his reminiscence of the 
times. The city fathers of 1853 were vindicated by being acquitted in 

The councils of Erie had sent an invitation to Gov. Bigler to come 
to Erie, and he did, arriving here on Jan. 31. Meanwhile the matter had 
come before the state legislature and upon the lines proposed in Mr. 
Kelso's address and resolutions approved by councils at their meeting 
of December 19. An act was passed by an almost unanimous vote an- 
nulling the charter of the Franklin Canal Company and investing the 
governor with plenary power to make such disposition of the road as in 
his judgment would best promote the interests of the state. 


It was in furtherance of the requirements of this act as well as in 
response to the appeal of the people of Erie that Gov. Bigler came here. 
He was received by a vast throng of people. Eleven hundred men on 
horseback escorted the governor from the train and a larger number 
than that in the cavalcade followed in its wake. He was quartered at 
Brown's hotel, and the reception that night was a memorable occasion. 

The governor promptly took over the road as state property, and 
proceeded to operate it. The road here referred to, let it be understood, 
was the line extending from Erie to the Ohio state line. It was now out 
of the hands of the company, but the arrangements made were that it 
was to be run in connection with the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula 
road, under proper restrictions to protect the interests of Erie and of the 
whole state. 

It was the beginning of the end. The matter was quickly carried 
into the supreme court of the state, by whom William M. Meredith, 
Edw. M. Stanton, afterwards Lincoln's secretary of war; W. G. Hearst, 
J. H. Walker and Judge James Thompson were commissioned to bring 
about a settlement. Briefly the terms were that the Erie & North East 
Railroad was to contribute $400,000 to the construction of the Erie & 
Pittsburg Railroad ; the C. P. & A. road, or the Erie county extension 
of it, was to contribute $500,000 to the Sunbury & Erie (now Phila- 
delphia & Erie) road; both roads were to build lines to the harbor and 
the charter was to be restored to the Franklin Canal Company. The con- 
ditions of this agreement were accepted promptly by all parties con- 
cerned and the railroads became what they are today, — developing in 
time into the Buffalo & Erie and Cleveland & Erie, and at length into 
divisions of the great Lake Shore & Michigan Southern and New York 
Central route. 

For a time during its progress it appeared as though the trouble 
might assume a really warlike attitude. It is doubtless true, as Col. 
Thompson points out, that because the situation was so one-sided, the 
Rippers being so strong numerically, there were no serious casualties nor 
loss of life. But for a time it seemed as though there might be a change 
in this respect, for a movement was made to induce the government at 
Washington to take a hand. Representatives of the railroad interest 
sought the national capital and laid the matter before the president, 
praying for the assistance of the war department, all other means 
tried having failed. 

It was in vain, however, as the president, after carefully considering 
the matter, decided that the question at issue was for the state of Penn- 
sylvania to dispose of. The theatre of action was altogether within the 
confines of Pennsylvania, and there was not then the same feeling with 
reference to obstructing the carriage of the mails that there is now. So 


the effort fell through and the dispute was permitted to go before the 
legislature and the courts of the commonwealth. 

But it was an anxious and a trying time, especially for those in 
ofificial position, and the mayor and others in Erie had many sleepless 
nights. I remember hearing Mr. King state that even years afterwards 
if there was a ring at his doorbell in the night it brought him to his feet 
before he was awake. During the whole of that troublesome period he 
was in a state of high nervous tension. It was not so much fear of what 
the railroad people would do, though in the minds of the public the 
Shanghais were the invaders. The apprehension was lest certain ele- 
ments among the citizens would take advantage of the troubled state of 
affairs and commit serious depredations. Such occurrences did take 
place, the stoning of the homes of railroad sympathizers and the demol- 
ition of the Constitution office being examples. With the purpose of 
maintaining order along these lines, the militia were called into service, 
and there was a prohibition of discussing the railroad trouble in public 
places. While all these precautions were well meant they were not 
always understood or duly appreciated. No doubt they aggravated feel- 
ings of hostility that developed into hatred. It was a lamentable state 
of affairs that endured for years, and that was finally softened by the 
interposition of a more serious matter, the great War of the Rebellion. 

And yet, even after the close of the war, the feeling had not en- 
tirely died out. I well remember the answer given the enterprising 
editor of the Sunday Gaccttc as late as the middle of the seventies. Maj. 
Gideon J. Ball was a frequent visitor at the office of the Gazette. He 
often spent the greater part of an afternoon reading the exchanges and 
chatting with the editor. One day he was asked by Mr. Frank A. Cran- 
dall to give some particulars about the railroad war. The response was 
prompt, short and emphatic: 

"If you place any value on your standing in this community," said 
Maj. Ball, "never say a word about the railroad war. Do not even 
mention it." 

And that was all that Maj. Ball, than whom no one probably was 
more familiar with the subject, ever said to the Ga::ctte man about that 
famous trouble. And the editor did want to get that story to print. 
There were many instances of personal encounter, some of a violent 
nature, one upon the court house steps, all indicating the depth of feeling 
that prevailed. It is related by a citizen yet prominent in business 
affairs in Erie that on the evening of Gov. Bigler's visit to Erie there 
was an informal public reception at Brown's Hotel. The corridors were 
filled with people, and of course nearly all were of the Ripper party. While 
proceedings were at their height Mr. Frank Tracy came in, and pressing 
his wav through the crowd, passed up the stairway. His appearance created 
a stir throughout the whole of the assemblage, and my informant noticed 
that several after passing signs between them, quietly slipped out. At 


once their purpose was conjectured. They had gone for a few baskets 
of rotten eggs with which to pelt Mr. Tracy when he was leaving the 
hotel. It would be a catastrophe, with the governor present, to permit 
any such outrage. How could it be stopped? My friend thought a 
moment and then proceeded to act. Finding Mr. Nottingham, of the 
C. P. & A. Railroad, who was present, he quietly told him what was on 
the tapis, and urged him to get Mr. Tracy out by some other way. It 
was done. The incident, however, will illustrate the state of feeling at 
the time. 

But after the greater trouble came upon the people the spirit of 
rancor and hate gradually subsided. Men could not keep step in the 
ranks of the army of the Union and cherish the old enmity. For a time 
the terms Shanghai and Ripper continued to have sinister meaning, but 
now they are but ghosts conjured up from the distant past. 

The railroad war was not without its beneficent effect upon Erie. 
But for that war perhaps the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad would not 
have been built. The railroad disturbance here opened the eyes of the 
people of the rest of the state and especially of Philadelphia. That city 
itself subscribed for a million dollars of the stock of the new line, at 
that time the longest line of railroad in the state and by many looked 
upon as too great an undertaking ever to be realized. The road was 
eventually built and has done marvelous work in developing the com- 
merce and building up the harbor of Erie. The railroad war was not 
entirely useless. Let us not therefore vainly consider the might-have- 
beens, that we cannot be so sure of. 


The Philadelphia & Erie. — Lake Shore Road. — Erie & Pitts- 
burg. — The Erie, and Roads to the Oil and Coal Regions. 

One of the principal motives on the part of those called Rippers, 
in the Railroad War, for the attitude they assumed, was the belief that 
if the railroads that then existed at Erie were permitted to adopt a uni- 
form gauge, that would mean the death of the Sunbury & Erie Rail- 
road. The railroads did carry out their purpose of establishing a uni- 
form gauge and the Sunbury & Erie Railroad did not die. But it came 
so near to it at one time that there were many who believed there was 
no life left in it. 

But it will be necessary here to tell about the Sunbury & Erie 
Railroad. From the very beginning of the history of the State there 
existed in Philadelphia a strong interest in the northwestern cor- 
ner of Pennsylvania. Indeed if it had not been for Philadelphia's strong 
interest there would not have been any northwestern corner worth speak- 
ing of. It was through the interest felt in Philadelphia that the Tri- 
angle came to be purchased and made a part of the Commonwealth. 
Nor did the interest end when the adornment of a triangular chimney 
was put upon the drawing of the State where it appeared on the maps. 
The interest endured. No sooner had sales begun under the Pennsyl- 
vania Population Company — a Philadelphia corporation — than the sub- 
ject of communication by turnpikes and stage lines was taken up, and 
among the earliest roads surveyed were a series, connecting with one 
another, that led from the city on the Delaware to the harbor on Lake 
Erie. When the era of canals succeeded, communication between Phila- 
delphia and Erie again came up, and at length it was really brought 
about that canal service from tidewater at the eastern end of the state 
to the great fre,sh water seas of the interior was established. Then, 
when the culmination of transportation methods, the railroad, was 
reached, again the subject of connecting the two remotest corners of 
the state came forward among the very first of the projects to receive 

As early as the year 1830 the building of a railroad, or series of 
railroads, between Philadelphia and Erie was projected, and along prac- 
ticallv the same route as that which was finally adopted, but the project 


did not materialize. In 1833 Stephen Girard, who had landed inter- 
ests in this county, organized a company with a view of building a 
railroad to extend from Philadelphia to Erie, and began at Sunbury to 
build a road eastward that was to be a link in the chain, his route being 
by way of Pottsville. The enterprise was halted, however, after a few 
miles were built, owing to a financial depression, and when the cen- 
tral link in the chain was eventually built it was by an altogether dif- 
ferent route. It extended from Sunbury to Harrisburg, and was part 
of what came to be known afterwards as the Northern Central Railroad. 

The Sunbury & Erie Railroad was chartered by the legislature in 
1837. An organization was at once effected, the stock of the new 
company was taken by the United States Bank, and engineers were 
engaged to survey a route in 1838 and 1839. Of course the survey re- 
vealed problems and disclosed the fact that the building of a railroad 
of such great length, far greater than had ever before been attempted 
in Pennsylvania, would be a costly — a very costly — undertaking. The 
survey, however, served to show that the enterprise was feasible, and 
an available route could be found. But the cost of the road was the 
principal obstacle, so from practically the beginning the progress of 
the proposed road was halted. But it was never abandoned, so that 
from time to time enough work was done upon it to keep its charter 
alive. But the work on the route could not always continue unless 
there was money with wbich to pay for it, and in the course of time 
the money was exhausted for the amount of the subscription by the 
bank, far from being enough to build and equip the road, was not 
even sufficient to procure final surveys, the result being that in 1853 all 
work was stopped and the entire force of engineers, including the 
chief, were discharged. This was the year in which the Railroad War 
at Erie was begun. 

It was also the year of the resurrection of the .Sunbury & Erie 
Railroad, for many of its supporters had believed it to be dead — an 
undertaking too great to warrant hope in its being successfully carried 
out. Its restoration to life and activity was so sudden and complete 
that it came to be marveled at. And yet it was not at all strange. When 
the news of the upheaval at Erie reached Philadelphia, and the cause 
of the trouble came to be known, immediately there was awakened 
a powerful interest in behalf of the railroad that was to give communi-- 
cation between that city and the lake, and this interest grew so rapid- 
ly that early in 18.54 the city of Philadelphia subscribed $1,000,000 
toward the construction of the Sunbury & Erie Railroad. Intelligence 
of this was telegraphed to Erie, when the city went wild in a delirium 
of joy. For an entire night there were goings-on of the most extrava- 
gant character to testify the delight of the people. The city of Erie 
subscribed $300,000 to the enterprise, besides 1.50 wate? lots for dock 
accommodations, and the county of Erie subscribed $200,000. A little 


later the State exchanged a portion of its canals for $3,500,000 of Sun- 
bury & Erie bonds ; and next year the Cleveland & Erie, under condi- 
tions imposed by the court, subscribed $500,000. Thus there was se- 
cured to the new railroad a fund of $5,500,000. and the enterprise was 
now an assured success. 

Construction began promptly. By the end of 1854 the road was 
in running order from Sunbury to Williamsport, a distance of forty 
miles. W'ork was begun at this end of the road in 1856, and in 1859 
it was completed from Erie to Warren, a distance of sixty miles. It 
is hardly proper to say it was completed in 1859, although trains could 
bt operated over it, for the Erie terminus yet required that much should 
be done. The actual terminus then was on the east bank of Millcreek, 
for the stream had not yet been bridged, and a mere shanty served as 
a station building. However from this unpretentious depot the business 
of the road at Erie started, and for a considerable time freight was 
received and forwarded and passengers arrived and departed to and 
from Erie, Waterford and even Union Mills (now Union City). By 
December the road was complete to Warren, and ready for regular 
business, and the circumstance was celebrated by an excursion from 
Erie to Warren. The terminal passenger and freight station, on Front 
street at the foot of State, and the bridge over ]\Iill creek had now 
been finished and the excursion, which occurred on December 12, 1859. 
was a notable affair. The Wayne Guards, which represented all that 
was desirable in the social life of Erie at the time, figured prom.inently, 
especially at the grand ball at Warren, when their brilliant uniforms 
lent gaiety to the affair, and the gallantry of the boys toward the ladies 
oi' the river town, earned for the soldiers a due measure of fame. The 
tickets were good to return on until the 17th of December, and dur- 
n,g those five davs there was much going to and fro between Lake 
Erie and the Allegheny river. 

The freight business of the new road started very auspiciously, 
especially along a line upon which Erie then, and for years afterwards, 
built great hopes. A record of the time exhibits the following state- 
ment of crude oil received at the Erie station : 

1859 August 2341 barrels 

November 21 barrels September 2327 barrels 

December 304 barrels October 2775 barrels 

1800 Xovember 3069 barrels 

January 63 barrels December 6431 barrels 

February 115 barrels 

March 414 barrels '■"'"■ 

April 980 barrels January 15092 barrels 

May 1159 barrels February 9421 barrels 

June 772 barrels March 4383 barrels 

July 1432 barrels April 5521 barrels 

Meanwhile work upon the other divisions of the road was progress- 
ing. In the spring of 1861 the name of the corporation was changed 


to the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad Company, but soon afterwards the 
War of the Rebellion having broken out, the stockholders were seized 
with alarm, and readily accepted the proposition of the Pennsylvania 
Railroad Company to lease the road for 999 years, the lease being exe- 
cuted in 1862. Work was then pushed rapidly by the lessee and in 
18(14 it was completed. The first train to be run through was a special 
excursion train from Philadelphia, which reached Erie on October 5, 
18(i4. It was a great event in the annals of Erie, and called forth the 
following from the Dispatch printed on October 6 : 

Yesterday was an eventful day for Erie — one pregnant with great- 
er importance than any other which has hitherto transpired. All hail 
to the iron bond which now joins Erie with Philadelphia and the sea- 
Ijoard. We have already elaborated on this subject so much that we 
cannot now extend our remarks without useless repetition. Suffice it 
that at 6 o'clock last evening a special train arrived in this city from 
Philadelphia, having on board 300 of the most substantial and reliable 
men of the State, who came forward to participate in the opening of a 
railroad which will prove to be the greatest enterprise of the State, 
both in point of prosperity and power, as well as one which will greatly 
enhance the entire interests of the Commonwealth as a State and as a 
people. The delegation was made up of citizens of Philadelphia. Harris- 
burg and intervening points, comprising merchants, manufacturers, ship- 
pers, editors, railroad directors, farmers, tradesmen and men of every 
line and caste in the business world. They were received at the Lake 
Shore depot by a committee appointed by the city councils and escorted 
to Brown's Hotel, headed by a brass band. At Brown's they partook 
of an excellent supper, ordered by the railroad company. They were 
waited upon by our principal citizens and many of them invited to 
private residences as guests to be honored and cordially entertained. 
In the evening a brilliant display of fireworks was made in honor of 
the event, the principal feature of which consisted of a very fine piece 
extended in front of the market house on which was blazoned the words 
"Philadelphia and Erie: The Delaware and the Lakes." The guests of 
the city were handsomely entertained during the entire evening and 
we hope were not disappointed in the good will and hospitality of our 

The Dispatch of October 7 contained a detailed report of the con- 
tinuation of the festivities. The morning of the 6th was devoted to 
excursions on the bay and lake on the large stream tug Magnet, Capt. 
D. P. Dobbins. In the afternoon the guests, headed by Mehl's band, 
marched from Brown's Hotel to Farrar Hall (it was located where 
Park Opera House now stands) where a banquet was served. It was 
presided over by John H. Walker, once one of the leading "Shanghais," 
and he made a most excellent opening speech, concluding with a toast 
to William G. Moorhead, the president of the P. & E. Railroad, who 
in turn at the conclusion of his address introduced Governor Andrew 


G. Curtin. The Governor was free to compliment all in connection with 
the road and to congratulate the people of Erie and of the State. 

At this point occurred an incident more interesting than any other 
portion of the proceedings because it illustrated a condition, happily 
long past, that at the time was most discouraging. When the Sunbury 
& Erie Railroad was undertaken it was looked upon as an enterprise 
of such gigantic proportions that there were not lacking prophets who 
foretold the complete failure of an effort of such proportions. It was 
the longest line of railroad that had been chartered by one company, 
and by many was spoken of as the giant. What Mr. Moorhead did 
at this juncture was to present to the assemblage a bottle of champagne, 
which was accompanied by a letter of explanation written by Hon. J. W. 
Alaynard, to this efifect : 

"Please accept the accompanying bottle of champagne with 
my kindest regards. It was presented to me by T. H. Dupuey, Esq., in 
1853, with the inscription on the label : 'To be opened when the Sun- 
bun & Erie Railroad is finished through to Erie and the first train passes 
over it." 

"Air. Dupuey was at that time chief engineer on the road. The work 
had then been suspended for the want of funds. Alany who had been of 
the most sanguine of its friends were then with the most desponding. 
Our prospects were truly gloomy : the contracts suspended ; the entire 
engineer corps, including its chief, dismissed : and many thought the 
giant was dead. It was indeed a marked case of suspended animation." 

This letter shows the situation that the revulsion of feeling caused 
by the Railroad War, changed as by magic, allusion to which has already 
been made in this chapter of railroad history, and at the banquet the pay- 
ment of Mr. Dupuey "s wager of a bottle of champagne that the railroad 
would never be built, was greeted with cheers. Judge Maynard was not 
able to be present to make a personal tenderof the stake, wherefore the 
letter that was read by President Moorhead. 

Speeches by Councilman Wister of Philadelphia, the editor of the 
Philadelphia Press and other gentlemen closed the proceedings with which 
the auspicious event was celebrated. 

From the opening of the Western Division in December, 1859, the 
passenger and freight business was done at the little frame station 
on Front street at the foot of State, until 1864, when the passenger busi- 
ness was transferred to the new union depot, finished that year, an ar- 
rangement in accord with the ruling of the court at the time the Railroad 
War troubles were straightened out, under which the Philadelphia & 
Erie was vested with proportionate rights in the union station. The old 
station was continued in use as a freight depot until the completion of 
the new freight station on Parade and Fifteenth streets in 1880. At that 
time also the transfer station that had been maintained farther east was 


abandoned, provision for transfer having been made in connection with 
the new station. The extensive repair shop at the "Outer Depot," was 
built soon after the road was opened, additions for the repair of cars and 
other work being made as the business of the road demanded. 

The first general superintendent of the road was Joseph D. Potts, 
who took charge in 1864. The general officers of the company were 
then located in Erie, in Wrights' block, corner of State and Fifth streets 
(now Harlan's), but in 187-i they were removed to Williamsport. There 
were three divisions of the road. Eastern, Sunbury to Renovo ; Aliddle, 
Renovo to Kane ; Western, Kane to Erie. Samuel A. Black, appointed in 
1859, was the first superintendent of the Western division. He was suc- 
ceeded in 1862 by William A. Baldwin, who retired in 1868, when Major 
John W. Reynolds was appointed, serving efficiently until the ^liddle and 
Western divisions were consolidated Jan. 1, 1901, being at that time ap- 
pointed resident agent. Aleanwhile there had been wonderful develop- 
ments in progress both at the port and at the outer depot. East from the 
freight depot the yards had been extended for a distance of two miles 
or more affording accommodations for the storage of thousands of cars. 
At the harbor the developments are entitled to more extended mention, 
and form part of the history of Erie harbor, for the business of the Penn- 
sylvania Railroad did not stop at the docks. An extensive fleet of vessels, 
these of steadily increasing tonnage, carried on the business beyond Erie 
upon the great lakes. 

Provision had early been made for a railroad to connect Erie with 
Pittsburg. Allusion was made in the chapter on the Railroad War to 
the Franklin Canal Company, which had been chartered to build a rail- 
road from Meadville to Franklin. This road was to have been extended 
south, along the valley of the Allegheny, to Pittsburg, and north from 
Meadville to Erie, but by the curious hocus-pocus of the time, haiving been 
permitted to build from Erie to the Ohio line instead of from Meadville 
to Franklin, when the day of final settlement came, it ceased to exist in 
connection with its original route. The court that declared the charter of 
the Franklin canal forfeited provided, however, for the construction of a 
railroad from Erie to Pittsburg. This was done by the requirement that 
the Erie & North East Railroad Company should subscribe $400,000 to 
a railroad to connect Pittsburg with Erie. A charter was obtained from 
the legislature in 1856 for the Erie & Pittsburg Railroad and the com- 
pany was organized, the principal subscribers being men who had been 
connected with the Erie & North East Railroad Co. Their subscriptions 
added to the $400,000 provided by the court, gave immediate impulse 
to the new undertaking, so that work was at once undertaken. An ar- 
rangement having been made to enter Erie over the line of the Cleveland 
& Erie, work on the Erie & Pittsburg road proper began at a point west 
of Elk Creek, known as Cross's, and the road was graded to Jamestown, 


in Mercer county, and the track laid as far as Albion. It was not until 
1864 that the track was laid all the way to New Castle, where the E. & P. 
proper ended, connection being there made with the New Castle & 
Beaver Valley railroad to Homewood, where another connection with the 
Pittsburg, Ft. Wayne & Chicago enabled it to reach Pittsburg. 

Meanwhile work had been progressing on the short piece of road 
by which access to the harbor was to be obtained. This extended from 
the Dock Junction, at the Lake Shore Railroad two and a half miles west 
of Erie, down the valley of Cascade creek to the bay. At the harbor 
docks were built and provisions made for extensive yard accommodations, 
while yard facilities at the junction were also provided for and a line of 
track was laid from the junction to the shops of the company, then located 
at Sassafras and Twelfth streets. Originally constructed to be a feeder 
ol the Lake Shore Railroad, and operated by the E. & P. Company, in 
1870 the Erie & Pittsburg Railroad was leased for a period of 999 years 
to the Pennsylvania R. R. Co. and a year later the lease was transferred 
to the Pennsylvania Company, a separate corporation, organized out of 
the Pennsylvania Railroad Company to operate the roads west of Pitts- 
burg and Erie that had been controlled by the latter. The superintendents 
of the Erie & Pittsburg road have been R. N. Brown, J. L. Grant, W. 
S. Brow^n, J. J- Lawrence, F. N. Finney, J. M. Kimball, and H. W. 

When the Erie & Pittsburg Railroad had been completed, extensive 
shops were established in Erie, occupying the square south of Twelfth 
street. Previously the shop had been the McCarter car works, but when 
the railroad company came into possession they were greatly enlarged 
and included every adjunct of an iron works except a foundary, and a 
large car repair shop as well. At these shops for years locomotive repairs 
to the extent of re-building were carried on, and the equipment was com- 
plete for all the requirements of a railroad of the period. Gradually, 
however, the work was transferred elsewhere. The Pennsylvania Com- 
pany, owning extensive shops at Allegheny, the rebuilding of locomotives 
was the first important class of work to be removed. However, the 
shops remained in operation until 1898, when they were abandoned, faci- 
lities for repairing having been established at the Dock Junction. In 
1902 the round house in the city was abandoned and torn down, that hav- 
ing been replaced by a new round house at the Junction. There, while 
the repair plant is not quite as extensive in the variety of work done, it 
is much larger in capacity as indeed it must needs be, with the prodigious 
increase of the business of the present over what has been in the past. 

The headquarters of the Erie & Pittsburg road were at Erie until 
1881, when they were removed to Youngstown and subsequently were 
established at the Junction, a short distance from New Castle. From 
1881 until the beginning of 1908 the general freight office of the Erie and 
Ashtabula divisions of the Pennsylvania Company was maintained at 


Erie, but in the latter year it was moved to Youngstown, and the road is 
now represented in Erie by Mr. E. E. Bradley, agent. Although there 
are frequent rumors of an intention to obtain a separate right of way 
for the E. & P. from Cross's to Erie nothing more tangible than the 
rumor has developed. 

The Atlantic & Great Western Railroad was a project of the decade 
of the fifties. Whether the ultimate purposes of the projectors of the 
Erie Railway enterprise would have been definitely accomplished if the 
road of six feet gauge had been built through to Erie and 
the harbor of Presque Isle Bay made the terminus of the road 
can never be known probably. And if it had been the limit of their 
desire at the time, it is yet more than likely they or their successors would 
have been moved, as the railroad business advanced, to do exactly what 
the others did, and, leaving the harbor push out into the west. However, 
the outcome of the clash with the New York Central interests, before 
the line between Dunkirk and the Pennsylvania State line was built, 
precipitated what, in accordance with the speculation just enunciated, 
might have occurred. Headed of? on the lake shore, the Erie Railroad 
decided to ptish a line to the westward at some distance to the south. 
This western extension was the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad, and 
is the same enterprise it was hoped to forestal by building the line of 
road from Little \'alley to Erie harbor, for which the Erie City Railroad 
Company was organized in 1853. This extension connected with the 
line of the Erie Railway at Salamanca, and was completed as far west 
as Corrv in June, IStSl. In 1S62 it was constructed westward and passes 
through Concord, Union and Le Boettf townships leaving Erie county 
and entering Crawford directly south of Mill Village, the road following 
the valley of French Creek. This road was originally of the gauge of 
six feet, and for a considerable time the oil country roads, built of 
narrower gauge, because they had a large interchange of freight with the 
A. & G. W., had a third rail in use in order to accommodate the wider 
gauge cars of the Erie system. The broad gauge was, however, in 1884, 
changed to the standard gauge of the country. 

The A. & G. \\'. Railroad, financed originally principally by English 
■capitalists, did not prove a profitable enterprise, and after a number of 
years of unsuccessful operation became bankrupt. In 1882 it was re- 
organized as the New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio Railroad, and in 1883 
was leased for ninety-nine years to the New York, Lake Erie & Western 
Railroad, and it is now operated in connection with the Erie Railway, 
all other names and terms being sunk in the one word "Erie." 

The dream of making Erie, or if not Erie then some part or place of 
Erie county, the centre of the petroleum business, possessed a very large 
pioportion of the people of the county with great pertinacity for a time. 


At one period it seemed as though Corry had been elected to be that 
centre, located as it was upon two railroads, one leading to New York 
as well as to the west, and the other to Philadelphia and the great lakes. 
A little later Union (now Union City) sprang into prominence as a rival 
of Corry for the oil business, and the results of this spirit of rivalry was 
the organization of a company to build the Union & Titusville Railroad. 
The enterprise came into existence in 18G5. and Titusville was then the 
centre of oil. The road was built and completed for operation in 1871, 
when it came under the control of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. 
This was an excellent arrangement for the latter, as by it a direct line of 
its own into the oil country was obtained. But there were changes im- 
pending. When the Union & Titusville road was built oil, both crude 
and refined, was carried in barrels. A few years wrought a revolution. 
Oil was transported in pipe lines, or if carried on the railroad was con- 
veyed in tank cars. Besides that, the business did not drift toward Erie 
at all, but in the direction of Cleveland, and worse yet, the production 
of oil in the original oil region fell away until it became of insignifi- 
cant proportions. There was a corresponding falling away of the rail- 
road's business until in 1S92 of 1893 it was abandoned. The Pennsyl- 
vania Railroad Company, however, still exercises control over the fran- 
chises of the road. 

When petroleum was discovered in Crawford county and the first 
big strike in 1858 on Oil Creek, started the great oil excitement, all that 
region of country was 'to all intents and purposes a remote wilderness. 
If was not thickly settled and the only means of communication were 
the rudest of dirt roads. When, therefore, a strike that produced 1,000 
barrels of oil every twenty-four hours was made and the facilities for 
caring for all this wealth were as nothing, it is not strange that people 
got busy and that this spurt of activity was in the direction of securing 
a railroad. As a matter of fact there was more than one railroad enter- 
prise, but in 1862 a road had been finished from Corry to Miller Farm. 
It was a railroad laid in a hurry. Thomas Struthers was the chief pro- 
moter and pushed it to completion in three months. They used to say 
of it in the early days that they didn't stop to grub out the big stumps 
but went around them with the railroad. It was probably a libelous state- 
ment, but it certainly was a rough road to ride upon. Nevertheless it 
was a boom to that part of the country. For three years it was operated 
by the original company, but in 18(!5 the controlling interest in its stock 
was purchased by Dean Richmond and Thomas A. Scott, the former 
representing the New York Central and Lake Shore equally, and the 
latter the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, and Samuel J. Tilden was 
made trustee of the three corporations. Next year, 1866. the road was 
extended to Petroleum Centre, where a connection was made with the 
Farmer's road to Oil City. In the early days there had been considerable 


freighting of oil down the Allegheny river and some as well down Oil 
creek. But soon after a continuous line from Corry to Oil City had been 
built the Allegheny \'alley Railroad was completed and there was then a 
continuous line to Pittsburg. Another link was built in 1867, which was 
intended to give the Oil Creek road direct connection with the Lake Shore 
road. This was called the Cross-cut road and extended from Brocton to 
Corry, by way of Mayville, at the head of Chautauqua Lake. 

There was thus established a continuous line of railroad from the 
Lake Shore road at Brocton to Pittsburg. The failure of old Oil region 
pioved disastrous to what had been a prosperous business venture, and 
in the course of time the Oil Creek road fell into the hands of the Alle- 
gheny \'alley management and becoming part of the Western Xew York 
& Pennsylvania system they were consolidated as the Buffalo, Corry & 
Pittsburg Railroad. It is now operated by the great Pennsylvania Rail- 
road Company, which runs trains through from Buffalo to Pittsburg. 

The New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, popularly known as 
the Nickel Plate, was built by a company organized in 1880 to build a 
road from Buffalo to Chicago by way of Erie, Cleveland, Fostoria and 
Fort Wayne. It furnished one of the most striking examples of a rail- 
road built in a hurry and at the same time quite well built. Grading was 
begun in June, 1881, and in August 1882 the first through train passed over 
the road, the entire 52.5 miles having been completed in a little more than 
a year. In Erie, from French street to the western city limits the rail- 
road occupies the centre of Nineteenth street and this portion of the track 
was laid, ties and iron, so that a locomotive and cars could pass over it, 
during daylight on Sunday April 2, 1882, Sunday having been chosen 
in order to evade the service of court process. Regular trains began to be 
run over the Nickel Plate Railroad on October 23, 1882. 

In the beginning it was said this road was built by an organization 
known as the Seney syndicate, and paralleled the Lake Shore road for 
the purpose of creating a market for it. Whether this was true or not 
does not signify, but in the winter of 1882-83 a controlling interest in the 
road was purchased in Erie by Wm. H. Vanderbilt and others in the in- 
terest of the Lake Shore railroad. At the time it was built it was under- 
stood by the citizens of Erie that, as a compensation for practically 
abandoning Nineteenth street to its use, extensive shops were to be erected 
and maintained here. This was never done, however, nor did Erie be- 
come the terminus of a division, that dignity going to Conneaut, where 
the shops were built. The station of the road is at Holland street, but 
for several years the principal passenger business at Erie was done at 
Peach street, a room in the old Densmore building being rented by the 
company for that purpose during that period. 

Soon after the Erie Extension Canal, that had been acquired by the 
Pennsylvania Company, had been closed, a movement was set afoot to 
Vol. 1—20 


organize a company to build a railroad over the route or right of way 
of the canal. The prime mover in this enterprise was the late Hon. 
William W. Reed and the road he projected came to be popularly known 
as the "Canal Bed road." Mr. Reed had long been connected with the 
canal, and it was he who was the leader in the organization that had been 
effected to acquire the property and greatly enlarge it, a project that was 
thwarted by the sale to the Pennsylvania Company. Air. Reed had faith 
to believe that that piece of property could be made profitable, if not as a 
canal, then as a railroad. He was thoroughly familiar with all of its 
physical features, and had unbounded faith in the practicability of what 
he proposed. Nevertheless be encountered great difficulty when it came 
to disposing of the stock, and more than one severe disappointment fell 
to his share. At one time he had reason to believe that a company of 
Dutch capitalists would furnish the necessary means, but reverses in 
other matters prevented them, and not long afterwards Mr. Reed, having 
other undertakings on his hands besides the Canal-Bed road, met with re- 
verses on his part which practically ruined him. Among his other as- 
sets that were put up to pay his debts, was the right of way of the canal 
railroad, which was advertised for sale by the sheriff. The official name 
of the railroad was the Erie, Shenango & Pittsburg Railroad. For some 
reason the sale of the right of way did not attract many buyers, and the 
result was that Miss Sarah Reed, sister of William W., was so fortunate 
as to become its owner. 

It was not very long afterwards until interest in the Canal road was 
revived. An organization that came to be known as the Huidekoper and 
Dick syndicate, of Meadville, decided the property was worth buying and 
developing, and came forward with a proposition. The negotiations en- 
tered into resulted in the sale of Miss Reed's property, whereupon the 
new owners organized the Pittsburg, Shenango & Lake Erie Railroad 
Company. It was given out that this new corporation purposed acquiring 
dock facilities at the harbor of Erie, and some sort of a deal was entered 
into to that effect, the deal, with an agreement to build a costly station 
at Erie, obtaining from the city a franchise for a track on Twelfth street 
from Raspberry to Sassafras. It is not definitely known what caused the 
failure of the dock project at Erie harbor, though it is surmised the rail- 
roads already on the ground contrived to occupy the land in advance. 
The docks were never built at Erie. Neither was the railroad permitted 
to enter Erie at grade, and it became necessary by a deep cut to effect 
a passage underneath. The track into Erie was laid in November, 1891, 
and in the spring of 1892 the road was opened for business. 

The Shenango road did not follow the route of the old canal out 
cf Erie. Running west on Twelfth to Raspberry street, a curve began 
there which carried it under the tracks of the Erie & Pittsburg and Lake 
Shore railroads into the valley of Cascade creek, out of which it passed 
on a short piece of its own track to a junction with the Nickel Plate at 


the Green Garden road, and from there to Wallace Junction, fourteen 
miles from Erie, the Nickel Plate track is used. Almost immediately 
upon leaving the Nickel Plate road the canal right of way is entered 
upon, and this was followed through Erie and Crawford counties. Failing 
to secure harbor facilities at Erie a branch line was constructed from 
Cranesville to Conneaut, Ohio, and there the estuary of Conneaut creek 
was converted into what in time became one of the most notable iron-ore 
ports on the lower lakes. 

In the year 1896 the interest of the Pittsburg, Shenango & Lake Erie 
Railroad passed into new hands and the road then became known as the 
Pittsburg, Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad, the word Bessemer becoming 
the trade or traffic appelation and the ownership, spoken of generally as 
the Carnegie interests. Under this latest management the road made 
gigantic strides. Originally it terminated at Butler and reached Pitts- 
burg on the Allegheny side of the river of the same name over the Pitts- 
burg & Western, and trains are still run that way, although the connecting 
line is now the Baltimore & Ohio. But the Bessemer owns its own line 
of road to the Monongahela, and up that river, and practically the entire 
route is now double tracked, has a road-bed of broken slag, and the 
rails are laid on cross-ties of steel. At Albion, in this county, very ex- 
tensive yards have been constructed, with capacity for the storage of 
3,000 cars, and in every detail of construction and equipment of road and 
rolling stock the Bessemer road is a Twentieth century institution. In 
Erie the station, built in 1898, is not of the upset price specified in the 
franchise terms, but provision against the future was made by the pur- 
chase of the old church property at the corner of Twelfth and Peach 
streets. Whether or not an imposing station shall occupy that site is an 
unsettled question, for the reason that if grade crossings shall be abol- 
ished, the probabilities are that all railroads entering Erie will use one 
common Union Station. 

None of the railroads entering Erie has a more checkered history 
than this road, for, be it known, there have been from first to last sixteen 
charters obtained to cover the consolidated properties that now go to 
make up the Bessemer system. Mr. Reed's enterprise was but the 
northern end of what is now an important railroad, made up of numerous 
railroads, and it was with this ultimate end in view, of course, that Mr. 
Reed conceived the idea of building the "Canal Bed" railroad. Data 
furnished by the present management of the Bessemer, makes it possible 
to furnish a sort of catalogue of the various organizations that were 
finally fused into one practical and profitable railroad. 

The Bear Creek Railroad Company, organized 1865, and its name 
changed to Shenango & Allegheny Railroad Company in 186~, under 
various acts of the Legislature. 

The Ohio River & Lake Erie, 1868. 


The Erie, Shenango & Pittsburg, a reorganization of the Ohio River 
& Lake Erie, 1878. 

The Northeastern Ohio, in 1888. under the general railroad law of 

The West Penn & Shenango Connecting Railroad Company (for- 
merly called the Connoquenessing Valley Railroad Company) in 1881. 

The Pittsburg. Butler & Shenango in 1889, by a reorganization of 
the last above named company after a judicial sale under a decree of 
the Mercer county courts. 

The Erie Terminal Railroad Company, one of the constituent com- 
panies, organized in 1891. 

The Conneaut Terminal Railroad Company, also one of the con- 
stituent companies, organized in 1892. 

The Pittsburg, Shenango & Lake Erie Railroad Company. There 
were five organizations of -this name, the first being a reorganization 
in February, 1888, of the Shenango & Allegheny (formerly the Bear 
Creek) road. The second, organized June 8, 1888, by the consolidation 
of the Pittsburg, Shenango & Lake Erie and the Erie, Shenango & Pitts- 
burg. The third, organized June 9th, 1888. was a consolidation 
of the Pittsburg, Shenango & Lake Erie and the Northeastern Ohio. The 
fourth was formed in August, 1890, under an agreement filed in Penn- 
sylvania and Ohio in October of that year, consolidating the Pittsburg, 
Shenango & Lake Erie and the Pittsburg, Butler & Shenango. The fifth 
was formed under agreement in March, 189.3, filed the same year in 
Pennsylvania and Ohio, consolidating the Pittsburg, Shenango & Lake 
Erie, the Conneaut Terminal, and the Erie Terminal. 

The Butler & Pittsburg, one of the constituent companies, was or- 
ganized in 1896. 

The Pittsburg, Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad Company was 
formed under agreement dated December 32, 1896, filed in Pennsylvania 
and Ohio in January, 1897, consolidating the Pittsburg, Shenango & 
Lake Erie and the Butler & Pittsburg Railroad companies. 

The Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad Company is a corporation orga- 
nized December 31, 1900, under the railroad corporation act of Penn- 
sylvania. On April 1, 1901, this company entered into a lease and agree- 
ment with the Pittsburg, Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad Company, under 
the terms of which the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad Company assumes 
control and operates the property of the P., B. & L. E. R. R. Co. for a 
period of 999 years, with the Carnegie Company as guarantor. 

This is railroad evolution illustrated by one of the best known of 
Erie's railroad corporations. 

There were other Erie railroad enterprises, but these proved to be 
still-births. One, it is true developed to a point where the "throwing of 


dirt" had begun, but none of them really succeeded in effecting a genuine 

There had always been a strong hope entertained that connection 
with the Erie Railway might be secured. It was with that purpose in 
view that the first railroad in Erie county was built ; it was because that 
that railroad when built did not bring the Erie Railway's terminus to 
Erie that the "Railroad War" occurred ; it was in the hope of retrieving 
that disaster by yet bringing the Erie Railway here that the Erie City 
Railroad was organized in 1853, and the same motive was behind the 
organization of the Erie Southern Railroad in 1875. The plan at that 
time was to construct a line of road from Erie to Mill Village, and this 
was the first big project undertaken by the Board of Trade after its 
organization. It made quite a promising start. Among the leading 
promoters were the Carrolls, J. C. Spencer, Myron Sanford, John Clem- 
ens, F. F. Adams, J. R. Cochran, and many others of the leading busi- 
ness men of the time. Subscription books were opened and the first in- 
stalments on the stock paid in. But the enterprise eventually fell through. 
Thomas H. Carroll was treasurer of the company. In about a year after 
the company was organized the payments made by subscribers were re- 
turned by the treasurer and the company went out of existence in a 
business like way 

Again in 1882 there was another railroad flurry. This project was 
chiefly in the hands of Senator Morrow B. Lowry, and it was called the 
Pennsylvania Petroleum Railroad. Its plan was to build a short line 
of road, from Erie through Edinboro to connect with the Erie Railway, 
and work was actually begun at several points. In Erie Liberty street 
had been secured, and grading was done from Twenty-sixth street to 
Eighth, the purpose being to follow the valley of Little Cascade creek 
to the harbor. But the stock subscribers were not of enduring faith. 
Notwithstanding work had actually been begun the bottom dropped out 
of the enterprise with exemplary suddenness, and in a comparatively 
brief space of time the Pennsylvania Petroleum Railroad was lost to 


Gen. Kelso's Slaves.— Slaves Sold for Salt.— The Rees and Moor- 
head Slaves. — The Underground Rah.road. 
Slavery was abolished in Pennsylvania in 1780, but it was not a 
radical abolition at that date. Slaves existed for a considerable time 
thereafter, and Erie county has had slaves, though not in large numbers. 
The exact conditions of emancipation in Pennsylvania are concisely set 
forth by Judge John Reed of the Ninth District of Pennsylvania in his 
Modification of the Commentaries of Blackstone, published in 1831. He 

"No child born since March 1, 1780, or imported from abroad, can 
be a servant for life or a slave. By an act of the Legislature of that 
date, all servitude for life, or slavery of negroes, mulattoes and others, 
'Is utterly taken away, extinguished and abolished forever.' 

"The first sort of servants in Pennsylvania is the children of slaves 
who, under particular regulations, are bound to serve until twenty-eight 
year's of age. As slavery existed at one time, to a considerable extent, 
it was deemed prudent by the Legislature to abolish it gradually. It 
was therefore provided at the date of the act above referred to, that 
a particular registry of all negro and mulatto slaves should be made in 
a given time, by the clerk of the Court of Quarter Sessions of the proper 
county, and of' the children of such slaves as should be thereafter born, 
within 'six months after their births respectively and all such children 
so recorded were declared to be servants till twenty-eight years of age, 
but their children were to be free. As none but the children of persons 
in being on the first of March, 1780, are subject to this sort of servitude, 
it also will soon have passed away. The slightest defect in the registry, 
either of parent or child, or non-compliance with the requirements of 
the act, is fatal to the title by which such service is claimed. Many have 
been discharged." 

It will thus be seen that slaves, living at the time the act was 
passed, remained slaves until their death, but their children were slaves 
only until they reached the age of twenty-eight years, while the children 
of the latter were free from their birth, even though the parents had not 
yet reached the age limit which gave them freedom. 


In the year 1797 — or 1798, for the date is not known exactly, Gen. 
John Kelso came to this county from Dauphin county and settled on the 
land of the Harrisburg & Presque Isle Land Company in Fairview, near 
the mouth of Walnut creek, five years subsequently moving to Erie and 
building a home on the bank of the bay at the foot of State street — there 
b a Kelso house still standing on the old site, at the northwest corner of 
State and Second streets. Gen. and Mrs. Kelso brought with them to 
Erie, a family of seven children and besides Charley Logan and his wife 
Fira (a slave) with her three sons who under the law were also slaves 
until they were twenty-eight years old. That family circle of fourteen 
(including the slaves) was a large establishment for pioneer times. It 
would be a large one even now. Before long Mrs. Kelso found it too 
large, and by her advice two of the boys were sold. George, the oldest, 
was disposed of to Rufus S. Reed, the consideration being one hundred 
barrels of salt. Bristow, the ne.xt boy, was sold to Mr. Brown. These 
slaves continued in service here until their manumission by the expiration 
of the lawful probationary period ; and after having obtained their free- 
dom they became established as useful if humble citizens of the place. 
For many years Bristow was the ice cream caterer of the town. The 
mother, Fira, was famous as a cook, and the reputation for hospitality 
that the Kelso home achieved was due to Fira's skill. During the last 
days of her long life she was free. Perhaps, her old master, the General, 
was quite willing to keep her after she was past service, and it may be 
that she desired to leave him, but at any rate she died at the age of 
101 years while living with her son George. 

Thomas Rees, when he settled in Harborcreek township, brought in 
three probationary slaves. One was named Robert McConnell, another 
James Titus, but the name of the third is not known. These served 
until the expiration of the probationary period under the emancipation 
act, when Mr. Rees provided for the two former by giving them fifty 
acres of land near Gospel Hill. From these three slaves descended the 
colored element of the population of Harborcreek. which in the process 
of time reached a considerable number, more of the black race being 
settled in that township than in any other in Erie county. 

Another instance of slavery was found in the Moorhead family, one 
of the pioneers of that family having brought to Erie a slave woman and 
her son. A search for particulars relating to this case brought the fol- 
lowing, obtained from the History of Lancaster County, Pa., by Franklin 
Ellis and Samuel Evans : 

"The Moorheads were a family of Scotch-Irish settlers in this town- 
ship, but not as early as some others. Thomas Moorhead took out a 
patent, August 17, 1701, for a tract of land about a mile north of Alt. 
Joy. He died in 1763. leaving a widow, Christiana, and the following 
sons and daughters: James. Robert. Elizabeth, Jan;. Margaret and 


Christian. Thomas Moorhead divided his land between his sons, James 
and Robert. James was a soldier of the French and Indian war and a 
captain in the war of the Revolution. He married Catherine Byers, 
daughter of John Byers, of Salisbury township. For some time he 
v/as engaged in hauling military stores from Philadelphia to Boston dur- 
ing the Revolution. When returning from one of his trips, and when 
passing through Connectici he bought a colored woman named Phoebe 
and brought her to his home here and took her with the family when 
he moved to Erie." 

While living in the family of Mr. Moorhead as a domestic servant 
on the farm in Lancaster county, Phoebe became the mother of a boy 
named Caesar Augustus. This occurred in 1790. Caesar, then, came to 
Erie county along with his mother when the Moorheads about 1801 or 
1802, settled in the section of Harborcreek that has ever since been 
known as Moorheadville. Few of the oldest people now living in that 
part of the county remember Phoebe, who continued until her death to 
fill the place of a house servant in her master's family, but many knew 
Cffisar, who became a notable character, not only in Moorheadville, but 
in Erie as well. He married an Erie woman of his race but con- 
tinued with the Moorheads whom he regarded as his own people, and 
even after he became free by the operation of the law he continued to 
remain on the old place. His former master gave him a piece of ground, 
four acres in extent, with a small house, and stocked it with a cow and 
other animals and here he lived until his death at about the age of eighty. 

The Honorable John Grubb was a slave holder, and as near as can 
be ascertained it came about in this manner. When the estate of his 
father-in-law, Thomas Cooper of York county, came to be settled up, 
there was a negro slave of the name of Jack, aged twenty-five, that had 
to be disposed of, and he was put up for sale. Mr. Grubb became the 
purchaser for one hundred pounds. It is not certainly known whether 
this slave was brought to this county and became one of the force of 
negro farm laborers maintained by Judge Grubb at his country place 
in West Millcreek, but if he was, undoubtedly he had been freed soon 
after coming here, for the Judge was well known to be among the earliest 
of anti-slavery men of these parts. 

P. S. V. Hamot at one time held a number of slaves, but there are 
no records that show how these were acquired, nor is it known how 
many he held. In an Erie newspaper of June. 1825, Mr. Hamot adver- 
tised a runaway slave, of the age of nineteen years. 

Judge Cochran also was the owner of a slave for a number of years, 
and until the legal period of his servitude expired, but the character of 
his bondage, according to all accounts, unlike what real slavery is 
understood to be, was of the mildest sort. 

Erie county has, however, a better record as an anti-slavery section 
than as one of forced servitude, and strangely enough, as will be shown, 


among the leaders in helping fugitive slaves to their freedom the names 
oi Judge Grubb and the Moorheads have prominent place. It was during 
his term of service as associate justice that Judge Grubb distinguished 
himself as the friend of the fleeing negro. It is related that he presided 
ar the trial and hearing of a case where an alleged fugitive slave had 
been apprehended and it was desired to remove him from Erie county to 
the South. It was the first and probably the only case of its kind ever 
tried here, and the decision then rendered the first of its kind in the 
state. Consequently it was much commented upon. The captors of the 
fugitive, full of swagger and bluster, brought the runaway to the court 
house roped upon a mule, and seemed to be intent upon impressing the 
court and people with their importance. There was a great crowd in 
attendance. John H. Walker was the attorney for the negro, and after 
hearing the case the court decided that no crime had been committed by 
the black man which would subject him to be apprehended under the 
laws of the Commonwealth, and he was therefore entitled to his freedom 
from the arrest. And the Court closed his decree in these virile words: 
"He is free. Let no man lay hands upon him." 

It was in 1836, soon after the occurrence narrated above, that the 
Erie County Anti-Slavery Society was organized, with Joseph Moorhead 
a J president and William Gray as secretar}'. 

Later came that other organization, mysterious in its character 
but active and efficient in its operations, that went by the name of the 
Underground Railroad. Erie's prominence as a station on the Under- 
ground Railroad in the days when that peculiar product of slavery 
thrived, though then understood and appreciated by those initiated into 
the freemasonry of that peculiar cult, is little known today. Possibly 
even yet there are some who do not fully understand what the Under- 
ground Railroad was but the great majority of intelligent people do not 
need to have the term explained to them. Erie was a central point at 
v/hich many lines converged, and from Erie other lines diverged, one 
going east, by the shore of the lake, another across the water to the 
land of freedom from slavery, the route generally from the mouth of 
Four-mile creek (for a reason later to be explained) to Long Point light- 
house. Here and hereabout there were many active agents of the Under- 
ground line and several depots, some of them still standing although the 
agents who employed them for their beneficent purposes have long since 
passed over. 

It will interest many to have some of these depots pointed out — 
that is, those that remain standing. They are few. At the foot of French 
street nearly the last building on the west side near the foot of the hill 
— part of the old Bethel property — is what was long known as the 
Himrod station. This property was owned in those days by William 
Himrod, a man of large heart, generous impulses, a lover of his race, 


and one of Erie's most valued and exemplary citizens. Peculiarly sit- 
uated, rambling in its plan or arrangement, and convenient to the harbor, 
it was a most admirable situation for the last point in the long journey 
toward freedom. Another depot was the Josiah Kellogg house on Sec- 
ond street, a handsome old-fashioned brick edifice that stands back from 
the street and just on the edge of the hill whence slopes now the lawn 
of a portion of Lake View Park. These are.about the only pkces left 
in Erie of the numerous houses in which the fleeing black men from the 
south were concealed while endeavoring to make their way to Canada 
and freedom. 

At the time there were way-stations a short distance away. For 
example there was one well-known depot at Eagle Village on Federal 
Hill, but it long since disappeared — about the time that Eagle Village 
itself became lost, and even Federal Hill has been missing from the 
geography of this region since the city's boundaries embraced and oblit- 
erated both. 

For "those days" were the years back of the si.xties. Enduring from 
a period soon after the war with England in 181"-3-13, the Underground 
Railroad went out of existence with the booming of the guns diat fired 
on Fort Sumter that April morning in 1861, but during its existence 
thousands of men and women, and not a few babes in arms, passed over 
the lines of that mysterious thoroughfare and found freedom. "And Erie 
was pretty nearly on the main line. 

The principal routes that led into Erie were those that came up from 
Kentucky, for that portion of \'irginia which was contiguous to the 
Ohio, and that formed the pan-handle conspicuous against the western 
boundary of Pennsylvania had but few slaves — the mountainous sections 
of every country have ever been the homes of free men. So, from Ken- 
tucky chiefly the runaway slaves came. Their course northward was 
generally along or parallel with some stream that was an affluent of the 
Ohio, such rivers as the Beaver or Shenango, and yet there were 
other considerations that caused these lines or routes of travel to 
vary. Negroes traveling alone and on foot, as would be the 
rule of fugitive blacks, had small chance of effecting their final 
escape into Canada unaided. They were too valuable to be permitted 
to run away from their masters without an effort to recover them, 
and there were plenty of professional man-hunters ready to put forth 
even laborious efforts to win the big rewards almost invariably offered 
for the recovery of slaves that had escaped. Therefore, lone negroes 
had but small chance of effecting their ultimate escape unless they were 
assisted, and parties of fleeing slaves had still less chance. 

They were aided. Even in the state from which they ran away 
there were white men ready to befriend them, furnish them with food 
and clothing and even money, and to direct their steps towarr] the land 
where freedom was theirs to enter upon. But it must not be taken for 


granted that this aid, generously extended, made the way plain and the es- 
cape easy. On the contrary, with all that the friends of the fugitives could 
do in the way of hiding them as they rested, if there were not means 
also to help them secretly on their way, they would surely have been 
captured, for the hunters after runaway blacks had the skill of sleuth- 
hounds in following a trail and a patience, industry and endurance 
that would deserve unstinted praise if they had only been employed in a 
more deserving cause. 

Therefore the routes and the courses pursued varied. All tended 
toward the north. The pole star was the beacon by which the course 
in a general way was steered, and the trend of the streams marked the 
way, afifording many aids in time of distress. But the hunters in pursuit 
and the expedients necessarily adopted from time to time, changed the 
survey of the underground line as new parties of fugitives passed over it. 

Many of the fugitives escaped into the southwestern part of Penn- 
sylvania, where they were sure to find friends, and in Washington county 
there were many stations on the line where the passengers were for- 
warded to Pittsburg, thence north up the streams that flow into the Ohio, 
and through Mercer county found their way to Meadville and then into 
Erie county. 

One favorite route was from Aleadville by way of Cambridge and 
Mill Village to Union (it was then known as Union Mills), and then up 
over the Lake Pleasant road. The records of the faithful conductors of 
the lines from the lower or southern part of the county are defective. 
There had been but little attempt made to preserve the noble roster. In 
the days when they were in service these conductors were known onlv to 
the members of the guild, and these, each for his individual safety as well 
a? for the safety of the others bound to him by a sort of freemasonry and 
the stronger tie of deadly peril mutually shared, kept secret the member- 
ship while the business of operating the road called for their services, and 
afterwards — well, then there were other things to think of and most of 
the conductors who were young enough to enlist took upon themselves 
that other peril of serving as a soldier of the Union and going forth 
to fight for the preservation of the integrity of the nation. There was 
thus a break in the continuity of that other service that caused many 
names that should appear upon the rolls to be dropped and never re- 

Some, however, are still well remembered, though many of them 
are camped with the dead. Among these the name of Hamlin Russell 
is preserved, and at his place in Belle \'alley, between the Wattsburg 
and the Lake Pleasant roads, was situated the last station on the route 
through Union City before reaching Erie. Arrived at Hamlin Russell's, 
although the fugitive might well believe his trials nearly over as he 
could from there see the blue waters of the lake that marked the last 


boundary between him and freedom, there were still desperate chances 
to be taken and eternal vigilance to pay as the price of liberty. 

Erie, however, held a number of faithful and fearless men who were 
in frequent communication with Mr. Russell, ready to receive the pas- 
sengers, and if the pursuit was hot, to effectually conceal them. Among 
the most prominent of these Underground Railroad men of Erie in those 
days (the forties especially, and into the fifties) was Jehiel Towner, and 
many a black man owed his escape from slavery to this staunch and 
faithful friend of the persecuted race. Not less reliably the friend of the 
fugitive was the late Henry Catlin, Mr. Towner's son-in-law, and more 
than one fleeing wretch was safely concealed in the paper bins and other 
corners of the office of the True American until he could be forwarded 
safely on his way to freedom. 

Thus has one route of the railroad been located. But there was 
another branch of the Meadville line. This led through Corry and 
Beaver Dam in Wayne township, up to W'attsburg. Xow at Watts- 
burg there lived for years a faithful minister of the gospel known 
to all the countryside as Parson Rice, and this man was also privately 
known as one of the most active and efficient of the conductors on 
the Underground Railroad. Air. Rice was especially well acquainted 
and trusted in the Gospel Hill neighborhood in South Harborcreek 
and also in that other locality known since its settlement in 1813 or 
thereabouts as Wales, and his course when entrusted with a passenger 
was towards Erie through South Harborcreek. There was one place 
highly regarded as a depot on the line, and that was the woolen mill 
of John Cass in the valley of Six-mile Creek. 

Long ago the valley of that stream fairly swarmed with indus- 
tries, such as woolen mills, tanneries, grist mills, saw mills and the 
like, and traces of these remain to this day, although it is many years 
since the last of them was abandoned and the building, disused, fell 
into utter decay. 

Situated well up the stream in a rather narrow valley enclosed 
by high and bluff, heavily wooded sides, was the Cass woolen mill, 
shut in from the world, so far as any of its occupants could see. It 
was quite a large building, two stories in height, with a number 
of outbuildings contiguous and adjacent. This mill was a favorite 
place for the concealment of runaway negroes, (if concealment were 
necessary), until they could be taken to Wesleyville to be sent across 
the lake. 

But there was still another route, and that led to Erie from Ohio. 
Many slaves that entered Ohio as far west as Cincinnati worked their 
way eastward as they traveled toward the north, for Cleveland was 
a favorite place of deportation, and so also was Ashtabula. It was 
not always possible to get out of Cleveland by steamer or sailing ves- 
sel, for the espionage there was particularly sharp. Ashtabula also 


was carefully looked after, for was not that under the shadow of Joshua 
R. Giddings, the great anti-slavery champion, and his partner Ben 
Wade, not less violently an abolitionist? Therefore it became necessary 
to adopt a new route. This led, variously, considerably to the south, 
and Warren and Youngstown were frequently in the track. There is 
a little town not far over the Pennsylvania line in the Buckeye state, 
noted for its devotion to education as many another place in the West- 
ern Reserve is, and also at one time known as the place of abode of a 
Universalist clergyman named Charles L. Shipman. Later we came 
to know Mr. Shipman as of Girard, a venerable hale old gentleman with 
a patriarchal beard, and eyes that could win the friendship of a stran- 
ger at a glance — Elder Shipman he is familiarly and affectionately called 
by all who know him and many who do not. Elder Shipman was the 
principal conductor in his younger days at Andover, and there were 
few who would put more painstaking care into the work of forwarding 
his passengers. There have been cases on record where he conveyed 
them himself to Linesville; then to Albion, where the old tannery was 
a refuge : and then to Girard. Here there was an honest farmer man 
named Elijah Drury, a friend and coadjutor of Elder Shipman, whose 
aid was efifectual in forwarding their charge to Federal Hill or Eagle 
Village. That was situated where the Ridge road crossed the Edin- 
boro or Waterford pike (now Peach and Twenty-sixth streets) two 
miles from Erie, and here a good old doctor. Dr. John Brown, took 
charge, either forwarding the passenger to Erie, or to \\'esleyville, ac- 
cording as the coast was clear. 

These all were roads that entered Erie. There were as many that, 
departing, gave opportunity for the fugitive slaves to complete their 
escape. Mention has already been made of the Himrod property at 
the foot of French street. This was a famous depot or waiting room 
for passengers who were to embark at the port. Of course, it will be 
understood that forwarding runaway slaves by vessel was one of the 
most difficult methods of all. No other mode of travel was as closely 
watched. But yet there were many shipments out of Erie harbor. 

The most important point of sailing, however, was from the port 
of Wesleyville — the mouth of Four-mile Creek. Few communities had 
so large a contingent of Underground Railroad men ; in few places was 
the anti-slavery sentiment so strong. The leader at Wesleyville was 
Frank Henry, a remarkable man from whatever point of his many- 
sided character he might be viewed. Brave and bold as a lion, he had 
the heart of a child and the gentleness of a woman. Pure of heart, 
he abominated iniquity and yet had had experience with the world so 
that he knew men, their wickedness and their wiles, as well as their 
virtues. He was tireless in waiting upon duty and never weary in 
relieving distress or assisting the unfortunate. To know Frank Henry 
was to love him. And yet Frank Henry could hate, and did hate. 


though there were very few that he did not promptly forgive as soon 
at- the neat of passion had passed. Frank Henry was the leader or 
perhaps, talking of a railroad, might be styled the superintendent. But 
there were others zealous in the work. Thomas Elliott was one of 
them and the Chamberses, and a goodly contingent from the Welsh 
settlement, besides Mr. Trimble and old Major Fitch. 

The principal depot or waiting room at Wesleyville was the little 
old iMethodist church, and there many a hunted fugitive found an asy- 
lum. Few of the worshippers knew the use to which the church was 
put, for though perhaps all of the membership and congregation were 
heartily in sympathy with the cause for which the Underground Rail- 
road stood, there was danger in a too general knowledge of it. and 
only the elect were permitted to be aware of the doings of those who 
had the business in charge. The church of those times was a primi- 
tive affair, with a gallery around three sides and a garret above, and 
this loft was pressed into service for the concealment of the passen- 
gers when services were held, the fugitives remaining in the garret 
until after the congregation had dispersed and then taking up their posi- 
tion around the big box stove plentifullj' supplied with cordwood in 
case the night was cold. Here they waited until a favorable opportunity 
afforded by which they could be embarked for a passage across rhe 
lake to Long Point. 

As the water route was not available at all seasons, there was 
yet another route over which the runaway slaves were forwarded. 
This was overland. A convoy was provided, generally a team with 
a good wagon or sleigh. By this conveyance the runaways were car- 
ried eastward where, assisted by the Moorheads, they were turned 
over to Elder Nutting at the state line, who conveyed them to the Knowl- 
ton station at Westfield. — whence they were forwarded to Fredonia, 
where Mr. Pemberton took charge and they eventually reached Buffalo, 
at which point there was little difficulty in landing them on the opposite 
side of the Niagara river. 

These were the routes of the Underground Railroad through this 
part of the country and hundreds of escaping slaves passed over it. 
As has been already stated, the business of aiding these fugitives in 
their efforts to gain freedom covered many years, and the business was 
especially brisk in the fifties. Sometimes but a single person claimed 
the attention of the zealous conductors, again there were large parties, 
and it is yet among the traditions that the barn of Henry Teller at 
Girard has sheltered so many at one time that it was crowded. Possi- 
bly this is somewhat of an exaggeration, but there is no doubt but 
that as mam^ as half a score at one time have been traveling together. 

Many an adventure full of stirring interest took place on the Un- 
derground Railroad, and many a time have the conductors been hard 
put to find a means to carry forward their work. But they were fer- 


tile in expedient, and full of courage. Perhaps the most interesting 
story-teller of all the train was Frank Henry. He had a talent that 
way. Franic is still well remembered in Erie, for he lived until October, 
1889. At that time he was assistant city editor of the Dispatch, but 
previously, for a term of years, had been keeper of the lighthouse at 
the entrance to the harbor, a position he was compelled to relinquish 
because of rheumatism which afflicted him terribly, a disease that was 
a relic of the times when, as a conductor on the Underground, he en- 
dured all manner of hardships and exposure in the inteiest of the cause. 
It was in the year 1880 that he was first induced to relate some of his 
experiences to the public, and many of these given to Air. Frank H. 
Severance, then editor of the Gazette, were published and subsequent- 
ly appeared in a historical work entitled Old Trails on the Niagara 
Frontier. Here are a few of the stirring stories that Mr. Henry told. 

In the year 1841, Captain Daniel Porter Dobbins, afterward super- 
intendent of life saving stations in the Ninth U. S. district, was a 
resident of Erie. The Dobbbins residence, let us state right here, was 
ar old-fashioned house of generous and hospitable proportions, that 
stood on the corner of Third and State streets, where the Sands block 
is now located. The house itself was moved round the corner to make 
room for that block, and is still standing on Third street, somewhat 
altered from its original appearance. 

In politics Captain Dobbins was one of the sturdy old-time Demo- 
crats, not ,1 few of whom, in marked contrast to their "copperhead" 
neighbors, secretly sympathized with and aided the runaway slaves. 
Captain Dobbins had in his employ a black man named William Mason, 
who, tired of receiving nothing but blows as a reward for his toil, 
had some time previously left his master determined to gain his free- 
dom oi die in the attempt. After a varied experience he succeeded in 
reaching Erie and was given employment by Captain Dobbins. He was 
a stalwart negro, intelligent above the average, altogether too fine a 
prize to let slip easily, and the professional slave hunter lost no time in 
hunting him out. 

For many years prior to the Civil War a large class of men 
made their living by ferreting out and recapturing fugitive slaves and 
returning them to their old masters, or, as was often the case, selling them 
into slavery again. Free black men, peaceable citizens of the northern 
states, were sometimes seized to be sold to miscrupulous men ever ready 
to buy them. There was but little hope for the negro who found himself 
carried south of i\Iason and Dixon's line in the clutches of these men 
who were generally provided with a minute description of the runa- 
vv'ays from the border states, and received a large commission for cap- 
turing and returning them to bondage. 

One day, as Mason w-as cutting up a quarter of beef in Captain 
Dobbins' house, two men came in, making plausible excuses. ^lason 


observed that they were watching him closely and his suspicions were 
aroused at once. 

"Is your name William?" one of the men asked. 

"No," said Mason curtly, pretending to be busy with the beef. 

Then they told him to take off his shoe and let them see if he 
he had a scar on his foot. On his refusing to do so they produced 
handcuffs and called on him to surrender. Livid with desperation and 
fear. Mason rushed at them with his butcher knife, whereupon the fel- 
lows took to their heels. They then proceeded to get a warrant from 
a magistrate upon some trumped-up charge, and put it in the hands of 
an officer for execution. 

While the incident in which the butcher knife figured was occur- 
ring, Captain Dobbins came in and to him Mason hastened in appeal. 
Swearing "by the hosts ob heaben" that he would never be taken alive, 
he begged piteously for the help and protection of his employer. His 
appeal was not in vain. Calling upon Mason to follow he hurried 
with him to the Josiah Kellogg house, then one of the finest places in 
Erie. It still stands on Second street, east of French, a fine old fashioned 
brick house overlooking the harbor. Mrs. Kellogg at once com- 
prehended the situation and soon the fugitive was so well hidden that, 
as the captain said, "The devil himself could not have found him, sir." 

Expeditious though they were, they were none too quick. Cap- 
tain Dobbins had scarcely regained his door, when the slave hunters 
came back with the sheriff and demanded ]\Iason. 

"Search the premises at your pleasure," said the captain, and 
the house was ransacked from cellar to garret. Of course Mason was 
not to be found. At that time there lived in Erie a big burly negro named 
Lemuel Gates, whose strength was only surpassed by his good nature and 
who was ready to lend himself to the cause of humanity. The captain 
owned a fast horse and while the sheriff and the hunters were still linger- 
ing about the house on the watch, he hitched up. and taking Lemuel upon 
the seat by his side, drove otf in the gathering darkness. He took good 
care that the spies should see him as he drove past at a furious pace, and 
then headed direct for Hamlin Russell's place at Belle Valley. The chase 
was on and Captain Dobbins won out. Telling Mr. Russell what he was 
about, and slipping a coin into Gates' hand, with the injunction to make 
tracks for home as fast as he could, the captain took up his course for the 
city again. At the point where the Lake Pleasant road and the Watts- 
burg road join the pursuers were met. 

"Where is Alason," they demanded. 

"Find out," said the captain, who drove leisurely homeward, while 
the slave hunters worked themselves into a fine passion in a fruitless 
search of Mr. Russell's premises. 

Early one morning a few days afterward Captain Dobbins saw a ves- 
sel round the point of the peninsula, sail up the channel and cast an- 


chor in Misery bay, awaiting a lull in the stomi then prevailing. Soon 
a yawl put off, and reaching shore, was met by the captain, who 
found in the skipper of the vessel an old shipmate — who heartily en- 
tered into Captain Dobbin's plans. 

But there were serious difficulties in the way. It would not do 
to openlv borrow a boat, but after a search an old and leaky skiff was 
found. It was a desperate hazard, but the best that could be obtained, 
so the captain decided to make use of it. At that period there were no 
docks or steamboat landings at the eastern end of the bay as now. 
The waters broke upon a shingly beach at the base of the bluff upon 
which the Kellogg house stood. Concealing the skiff in the leafy top 
of a tree that had fallen into the water. Mason was called when night 
had fallen, and after some difficulty found a place in the skiff. That 
frail bark leaked like a sieve. Mason wore a stiff "plug" hat and this 
was called into requisition to bail the water out and keep the crazy 
craft afloat. Meanwhile the wind had risen, and both men worked with 
the energy of despair. Captain Dobbins at the oars and Mason bailing. 
For a long time it seemed a hopeless task, but at length the schooner 
was reached and Mason was taken aboard. The cargo was staves, 
among which the negro was safely concealed. Captain Dobbins then 
set out upon his return and reached the mainland in safety, before 
break of day. 

Knowing that pursuit was now impossible, for there were no tugs 
in those days, Captain Dobbins quietly told the officer that he was 
tired of being watched and would- show where Mason was. At the 
time there were a lot of his friends gathered about him for the affair 
had created a great stir. 

"Do you see that sail?" asked the captain, pointing to the vessel 
in the offing which was steadily retreating. 

"Well?" was the impatient answer. 

"Mason is aboard of her." At that there was a hilarious shout on 
the part of the bystanders, while the crestfallen "nigger-chasers" sneaked 

"Pretty well done — for a Democrat," said Mr. Russell to the cap- 
tain a few days afterwards. "After your conversion to our principles 
you will make a good abolitionist." 

"In the summer of 1858," said ^^Ir. Henry — ."Mr. Jehiel Towner 
sent me a note from the city of Erie asking me to call on him that 

It is only proper here to say that these notes were of a peculiar 
character, possible of interpretation only by the initiated and there- 
fore harmless if they should fall into improper hands. It Js possible 
to give Mr. Towner's note, and here it is: 
Vol. 1—21 


Erie, Pa., 51, 7, 5881. 
Dear Frank: 

The mirage lifts Long Point into view. Come up and see the 
beautiful sight. I can't promise a view tomorrow. Truly. 


"When night came," said Mr. Henry, "I rode into town from my 
home in Harborcreek and saw Mr. Towner. 'There are three passengers 
hidden in town, Henry,' said he, 'and we must land them somewhere on 
the Canada shore. You are just the man for this work. Will you under- 
take to get them across ?' 

"You must remember that we never had anything to do with 'runa- 
way niggers' in those days, nor even with 'fugitive slaves;' we simply 
assisted passengers." I knew well enough that there was a big risk in the 
present case, but I promised to do my part, and so, after talking over 
matters a little, I drove home. 

"The next night just about dusk a wagon was driven into my yard. 
The driver, one Hamilton Waters, was a free mulatto, known to every- 
body around Erie. He had brought a little boy with him as guide, for 
he was almost as blind as a bat. In his wagon were three of the strang- 
est-looking 'passengers' I ever saw ; I can remember how oddly they 
looked as they clambered out of the wagon. There was a man they 
called Sam, a great, strapping negro, who might have been -10 years old. 
He was a loose-jointed fellow, with a head like a pumpkin and a mouth 
like a cavern, its vast circumference always stretched in a glorious grin; 
for, no matter how badly Sam might feel, or how frightened, the grin 
had so grown into his black cheeks that it never vanished. I remember 
how, a few nights after, when the poor fellow was scared just about out 
of his wits, his grin, though a little ghastly, was as broad as ever. Sam 
was one of the queerest characters I ever met. His long arms seemed 
all wrists, his legs all ankles ; and when he walked his nether limbs had a 
flail-like flop that made him look like a runaway -windmill. The bases 
upon which rested this wonderfully-made superstructure were abund- 
antly ample. On one foot he wore an old shoe — at least number twelve 
in size — and on the other a heavy boot ; and his trousers-legs, by a grim 
fatality, were similarly unbalanced, for while the one was tucked into 
the boot-top, its fellow, from the knee down, had wholly vanished. Sam 
wore a weather-beaten and brimless 'tile' on his head, and in his hand 
carried an old-fashioned long-barreled rifle. He set great store by his 
'old smooth-bo,' though he handled it in a gingerly sort of way that sug- 
gested a greater fear of its kicks than confidence in its aim. Sam's 
companions were an intelligent looking negro, about 25 years old, named 
Martin, and his wife, a pretty quadroon girl, with thin lips and a pleas- 
ant voice, for all the world like Eliza in Uncle Tom's Cabin. She carried 
a plump little piccaninny against her breast over which a thin shawl 


was tightly drawn. She was an uncommonly attractive young woman 
and I made up my mind then and there that she shouldn't be carried 
back to slavery if I had any say in the matter. 

"The only persons besides myself who knew of their arrival were 
William P. Trimble and Major F. L. Fitch. The party was conducted 
to the old Methodist church in Wesleyville, which had served for a long 
time as a place of rendezvous and concealment. Except for the regular 
Sunday services and a Thursday night prayer-meeting, the church was 
never opened, unless for an occasional funeral, and so it was as safe a 
place as could well have been found. In case of unexpected intruders 
the fugitives could crawl up into the attic and remain as safe as if in 

"It w-as my plan to take the passengers from the mouth of Four- 
Mile creek across the lake to Long Point light house on the Canada shore, 
but the wind hung in a bad quarter for the next two or three days, and 
our party had to keep in the dark. One rainy night, however — it was 
a miserable, drizzling rain and dark as Egypt — I was suddenly notified 
that a sailboat was in readiness off the mouth of Four-Mile creek. At 
first I was at a loss what to do. I didn't dare go home for provisions, fcr 
J had good reason to believe that my house was nightly watched by a 
cowardly wretch, whose only concern was to secure the $500 offered by 
Sam's former master for the capture of the slaves. In the vicinity lived a 
well-to do farmer, a devoted pro-slavery Democrat.'' (This man was Gen. 
John Kilpatrick, a notable leader of the Rippers in the Railroad Wat). 
"Notwithstanding his politics, I knew the man was the soul of honor, 
and possessed a great, generous heart. So I marshaled my black brigade 
out of the church and marched them off through the rain, single file, to 
his house. In answer to our knock our friend threw open the door; then, 
with a thousand interrogation points frozen into his face, he stood for a 
minute, one hand holding a candle above his head, the other shading 
his eyes, as he stared at the wet and shivering group of darkies, the 
very picture of dumbfounded astonishment. In less time than it takes 
to tell it, however, he grasped the situation, hustled us all into the house 
and shut the door with a most expressive slam. 

"'What in ■ does all this mean?' was his pious ejaculation. 

"He saw what it meant, and it took few words of explanation on 
my part. 'They are a party of fugitives from slavery,' said I, calling our 
friend by name. 'We are about to cross the lake to Canada ; the party are 
destitute and closely pursued ; their only crime is a desire for freedom. 
This young woman and mother has been sold from her husband and 
child to a dealer in the far south and if captured she will be consigned to 
a life of shame.' The story was all too common in those days and needed 
no fine words. The young girl's eyes pleaded more forcibly than any 
words I could have spoken. 


" 'Well — what do you want of me?' demanded our host, trying hard 
to look fierce and angry. 

" 'Clothing and provisions,' I replied. 

" 'Now, look here," said he, in his gruffest voice, 'this is a bad job 
— bad job.' Then, turning to the negroes: 'Better go back. Canada is 
full of runaway niggers now. They'e freezin' and starvin' by thousands. 
Was over in Canada t'other day. Saw six niggers by the roadside with 
their heads cut off. Bones of niggers dangling in the trees. Crows pickin' 
their eyes out. You better go back, d'ye hear?' he added, turning to 

"Poor Sam shook in his shoes and his eyes rolled in terror. He 
fingered his cherished smooth-bore as though uncertain whether to shoot 
his entertainer or save all his ammunition for Canada crows, while he 
cast a look of helpless appeal upon his companions. The young woman, 
however, with her keener insight, had seen through the sham brusqueness 
of their host. Though she was evidently appalled by the horrible picture 
of what lay before them across the lake, her heart told her it was im- 
measurably to be preferred to a return to the only fate which awaited 
her in the south. Her thoughts lay in her face and our friend read 
them ; and not having a stone in his broad bosom, but a big, warm, 
thumping old heart, was moved to pity and to aid. He set about getting 
a basket of provisions. Then he skirmished around and found a blanket 
and hood for the woman, all the time declaring that he never would help 
runaway niggers, no sir! and drawing (for Sam's delectation). the most 
horrible pictures of Canadian hospitality that he could conjure up. 'You'll 
find them on shore waitin' for ye,' said he ; 'they'll catch ye and skin ye 
and hang ye up for a scare-crow.' Seeing that Sam was coatless, he 
stripped off his own coat and bundled it upon the astonished darkey 
with the consoling remark : 'When they get hold of you they'll tan your 
black hide, stretch it for drumheads and beat "God Save the Queen" 
out of ye every day in the year.' 

"All being in readiness, our benefactor plunged his hand into his 
pocket and pulling it out full of small change thrust it into the woman's 
hands, still urging them to go back to the old life. At the door Sam 
turned back and spoke for the first time : 

" 'Look hyar, massa, you's good to we uns and fo' de Lo'd I tank yer. 
E'f enny no'then gemmens hankah fur mj' chances in de souf I 'zign in dar 
favo.' 'Foh de good Lo'd I tank ye, massa, I does, suah.' Here Sam's 
feelings got the better of him and we were hurrying off, when our en- 
tertainer said : 

" 'See here, now, Henry; remember, you were never at my house with 
a lot of damned niggers in the night. Do you understand?' 

" 'All right, sir. You are the last man who would ever be charged 
with abolitionism, and that's the reason why we came here tonight. 
Mum's the word.' 


"The rain had stopped and the stars were shining in a cheerful way as 
we all trudged down the wet road to the lake shore. Our boat was 
found close in-shore and Martin and his wife had waded out to it, while 
Sam and I stood talking in low tones on the beach. Suddenly a crash like 
the breaking of fence boards was heard on the bank near by and to the 
westward of us. We looked up quickly and saw the form of a man 
climb over the fence and then crouch down in the shadow. Up came 
Sam's rifle and with a hurried aim he fired at the moving object. His 
old gun was trusty and his aim true, and had it not been for a lucky blow 
from my hand which knocked the gun upwards just as he fired there'd 
have been one less mean man in the world and we should have had a 
corpse to dispose of. I scrambled back up the bank, with my heart in 
my mouth, Ell confess, just in time to see the sneak scurry along in the 
direction of the highway. I watched a long time at the creek after the 
boat left and seeing no one astir, started for home. By the time I reached 
the Lake road the moon had come up and a fresh carriage track could 
be plainly seen. I followed it a short distance down the road, where 
it turned, ran across the sod, and ended at the fence which had been 
freshly gnawed by horses. It then turned back into the highway, fol- 
lowed up the crossroad to Wesleyville, and thence came to the city. 

"The fugitives reached the promised land in safety, and I heard from 
them several times thereafter. The man Sam subsequently made two or 
three successful trips back to the old home, once for a wife and afcer- 
wards for other friends. He made some money in the Canada oil fields 
and some time after sent me $100, $.50 for myself to invest in books, and 
$50 for the fishermen who carried them safely across to Long Point and 


Lincoln's Call and Erie's Response. — Heroic History of Erie's 
Soldiers in Every Arm of the Service. 

And now comes the most difficult task of all in connection with 
furnishing a history of Erie County : the task of setting forth what 
the heroic boys from Erie did on the battle fields of freedom ; how 
gallantly they defended the government ; what they endured and what 
they suffered. An adequate history of the Erie regiments would re- 
quire, not chapters, but volumes. Brave men went into that awful 
conflict from every part of the Union, but none braver than the Erie 
boys ever carried a gun or faced a foe ; and none more nobly did 
their whole duty. Loyally they followed the flag wherever the way 
led ; whether on the march through scorching heat or biting cold ; 
or if it meant a bivouac in the rain and a bed in the mire ; or a 
skirmish, or a stand before an advancing foe ; whether it called for trie 
furious charge, even upon a hopeless hazard. And it was the same, 
whether it were the routine duty of the camp, the construction of a 
work of defence, the laying of a corduroy road, the building of pon- 
toons, or even the awful and sickening duty of burying their dead in 
the dreadful trenches. It was theirs to feel the weariness of travel 
from the forced march ; the racking fever that came out of the 
swamps; the hunger and the thirst that stress of circumstances 
brought them to; the torture of the fearful wound of minie ball or 
bursted shell ; the horror of the prison pen, and the long, long, weary 
term of suffering in the hospital. It was theirs, ma3'hap, to carry 
out of the dreadful fray wounds that would stay by them the rest of 
their days, or to leave leg or arm behind, or even to yield up their 
lives, their bodies perchance to lie in unknown graves, mingled it 
might be in the heaps of slain in trenches. 

That was war; such war as no one living will ever want to see 
repeated. Through such dreadful experiences hundreds of Erie boys 
passed, not many of them unscathed. In such, hundreds fell. Heroes, 
all of them, each is the subject of a separate story, but a story that 
can never be told, unless by the Recording Angel. Here, in this 
record, an attempt can only be made to give an outline of what, as 
regimental bodies, the sons of Erie did who went away from their 


homes, impelled by high patriotic duty, to pledge themselves, even 
to the sacrifice of their lives, for the salvation of their country. 

It is related in a later chapter with what celerity the Erie regiment was 
organized in response to President Lincoln's call for 75,000 men for 
three months' service, and how readily they went away from home, 
expecting at once to engage in warlike service. They never got 
nearer to the scene of action than Pittsburg, and there the expiration 
of their term of enlistment found them. Though idle, they were not 
disinterested in what was occurring. The disaster at Bull Run alarm- 
ed but aroused the Erie men at Pittsburg as well as the people of the 
whole nation, and, as soon as the meaning of the news of that defeat 
came to be comprehended, Col. McLane telegraphed to Mr. Cameron, 
the Secretary of War, for authority to raise another regiment for 
active service. On July 24th he received the order he sought. At 
once he sent hand bills throughout the northwestern counties of the 
state, calling for a thousand able-bodied men, and the officers and 
soldiers of the old regiment began recruiting. The old fair-ground, 
near Wesleyville, was selected for the camp of redezvous and called 
Camp McLane. Nearly 300 of the old regiment re-enlisted for the 
new one, but the response for this new body was not by any means 
as prompt as for the first, so that it was five weeks before the re- 
quired number was obtained. On the 8th of September the last 
company was mustered in, and on the same day the regiment was 
mustered by Capt. Bell of the regular army. From that date until 
the 16th of September the time was occupied in drilling and filling the 
ranks to the maximum number. It was a memorable occasion when 
the new regiment, the Eighty-third, left Erie for Washington. 

The Eighty-third Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers was or- 
ganized with John W. McLane as colonel ; Strong Vincent, lieuten- 
ant-colonel ; Dr. Louis Naghel, of Indiana, major. The companies 
were these : 

A, Titusville, Captain Morgan. 

B, Meadville, Captain Morris. 

C, Erie, Captain Graham. 

D, Edinboro, Captain Woodward. 

E, Waterford, Captain Campbell. 

F, Meadville, Captain McCoy. 

G, Tionesta, Captain Knox. 

H, Conneautville, Captain Carpenter. 
I, Erie, Captain Brown. 
K, Erie, Captain Austin. 

Having reached the front, where at any time active service might 
be demanded, no time was wasted in bringing the command up to as 


high a standard of proficiency as possible. Col. McLane, a born 
soldier, was a strict disciplinarian, and in this respect was ably sup- 
ported by the brigade commander, Gen. Butterfield. Drill and prac- 
tice in all the evolutions and details of a military occupation were 
kept up until the Eighty-third became so noted as to win special com- 
mendation from the general, and, a little later, in open competition 
was awarded an entire outfit of uniforms and equipments that had 
been imported from France. This outfit consisted of all the tents, 
tools and equipments necessary for a regiment, dress and fatigue 
uniforms, shoes, underclothing and a hundred and one things neces- 
sary and unnecessary — things, that might by any circumstances or 
conditions to arise be useful or ornamental, but which in the service 
that ensued proved to be of no value whatever. The uniforms, for 
example, while showy enough, were found, when tried on, to be en- 
tirely unfit. The coats, broad enough at the shoulders, were so 
narrow-waisted that unless the men wore corsets the\r could not be 
buttoned on. However, it was a prize trophy and valued accordingl}' 
until it had to be abandoned. The Eighty-third Regiment was ac- 
companied to the front by Mehl's band, regularly enlisted, under M. 
W. Mehl leader, and consisted of 17 musicians. It soon came to be 
regarded as a superfluity, and on August 11, 1862, was mustered out. 
The serious work of the regiment began in May, 1862, when it 
had its baptism of fire in front of Richmond. The first hard fighting 
was at Gaines' Mill, June 27, 1863, one of the bloodiest on the Con- 
federate side and one of the most stubborn on the Union side of any 
of the war, and in this battle the Erie regiment distinguished itself, 
but paid dearly for its valor. The Eighty-third had the hottest 
corner, and the brigade commander sent word to the colonel to hold 
the position. "He needn't have sent me any such word," said Col. 
McLane, "I intend to hold it." And they stood fast, until at length 
the enemy took the position, walking over McLane's body in doing so. 
The regiment retired only after having been a second time recalled 
by the same brigadier who had at first ordered them to stand. The 
Eighty-third had the experience of many hard battles before the war 
was over, but none in which there was harder fighting or more 
thrilling bravery displayed than at that opening battle. The Erie 
regiment, screened by a hastily built breastwork of logs, held a 
position on the extreme left of the Union army, and, aided by artillery, 
repulsed the foe in three furious charges, when it was discovered that 
they had partially succeeded in their design, to break through, sweep 
down the river bank, secure the bridges, and cut off retreat. Finding 
itself cut ofif from the rest of the army with the foe advancing upon 
the right as well as in front, there was nothing for the Eighty-third 
to do but come out from cover and fight in the open. Heroically they 
stood to it while men fell thick and fast on all sides. Col. McLane 


was instantly killed by a minie ball and Major Naghel, second in com- 
mand, was killed by a shell. The regiment, now led by Capt. Camp- 
bell, fought even fiercer than before; the wounded upon the ground 
endeavoring to use their muskets with eiifect. Such bravery was not 
to be withstood. In the end the Confederates gave way. 

It was only a breathing spell. The fight was resumed at length, 
the captain commanding ordered a retreat to the log barricade, and 
this position, occupied also by the Forty-fourth New York and Six- 
teenth Michigan, was held until after night-fall, when, surrounded by 
the enemy, it was decided to effect a retreat by squads, which was 
successfully accomplished. In the first battle the Eighty-third had 
61 men killed, the largest number of fatalities of any one battle in its 
eventful history. 

After an interval of three days the Eighty-third was again called 
upon for severe duty. On July 1, 1862, the battle of Alalvern Hill 
occurred. The Erie regiment was not in the line of fighting when the 
battle began, but the impetuosity with which the rebels charged one 
part of the line, early made it necessary to call in the Eighty-third as 
support. Coming upon the scene it was found that a Union battery of 
artillery that had defended its position with great gallantry for a 
considerable time, was moving away, driven by the enemy. The 
latter, the Erie boys met and stood oS with splendid fortitude though 
their ranks were thinned by the galling fire. The battery, seeing the 
turn in afifairs, faced about, and resuming its position, aided by the 
infantry, repulsed the enemy. Goaded by the repulse, the Confeder- 
ates fought with fierceness and the battle became bloody in the ex- 
treme. The rapid fire of the soldiers of the Eighty-third was re- 
sistless and in the end the Confederates were forced to retire. But it 
was a costly fight for the Eighty-third; the loss in the engagement 
was 33 killed, 115 wounded and 18 missing. With the loss at Gaines' 
Mill the total for four days was 363 killed, wounded and missing, out 
of 554 that entered. The killed and those who died of wounds in these 
two engagements were 111. 

The next battle was Second Bull Run or Manassas, Aug. 31, 1863, 
another fiercely contested engagement on the part of the Eighty- 
third, which left upon that field 2G dead, and among the wounded, 
Lieut. Col. Campbell, the major and one captain ; two lieutenants be- 
ing among the killed. The total loss in dead and wounded was 97. 
Captain Judson, in his history of this valiant regiment, speaking of 
its condition at about this time, remarked, upon the regiment going 
into camp on an old campground : "At night they laid down to rest 
in the old camp which they had left over three months before. But 
what a contrast did the Eighty-third of now present to the Eighty- 
third of then ! They left that camp with over 600 muskets. -They re- 
turned to it with about 80. The whole regiment scarcely filled one of 
the old company streets." 


At Antietam, at Chancellorsville, and at Fredericksburg the regi- 
ment, recruited from time to time, took part, doing gallant work, 
especially at Fredericksburg, but fortunately without serious loss at 
either place. At Gettysburg, however, the work done by this regi- 
ment was of the most important character. Upon it the success ui 
that field, the decisive battle of the war, depended. The Eighty-third 
at Gettysburg had been placed in the vale between the two Round 
Tops. Col. Vincent, commanding the brigade, however, comprehend- 
ing the importance of occupying Little Round Top, led his command 
thither, and becoming strongly posted, resisted every effort of Gen. 
Hood to take it by his charges in front, and of Gen. Longstreet by 
flank movement. It was the key of the battle, and was held with a 
stubbornness that had come to be regarded as characteristic. The 
soldiers, screened by the scrub oaks and the bowlders, fought des- 
perately. Col. Vincent, standing on the top of a huge bowlder, 
urged his men on to yet more daring deeds, but fell at length, mor- 
tally wounded, living long enough, however, to learn that the victory 
had been won. Another officer, Capt. Sell, received a wound from 
which he died. 

The Eighty-third then entered upon the Wilderness Campaign, 
taking part in the battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Laurel 
Hill, North Anna, Bethesda Church and Petersburg. The term oi 
enlistment having expired, the regiment was reorganized September 
7, 1864, into six companies. The last notable engagement was that 
of Peebles Farm, September 30, 1864, when the regiment, then re- 
duced to a battalion, charged upon the Confederate works and won 
to first place its banner upon the parapet of the enemy's redoubt. It 
was a fighting regiment from first to last, and really never knew 

It was not until years afterward that the grim story of its 
service, as compared with the rest of the Union army was told by the 
aid of cold figures from the official records. George L. Kilmer, com- 
menting upon the results of that dreadful war, says: "Pennsylvania 
lost more men killed in the Civil war, in proportion to her quota, 
than any other L^nion state, and the Eighty-third Pennsylvania lost 
more men numerically, killed in battle, than any other regiment in 
the state, and stands second in the list for the highest losses in killed 
among the Union regiments." These official figures from the records 
at Washington are instructive. The original muster was 1,000 men, 
the total enrolment, 1,808; the killed, 282; died of diseases, accidents, 
etc., 153; officers killed, 11; officers died of disease, etc., 2; total of 
killed and wounded, 971. In so far as the official records show, the 
Eighty-third regiment suffered greater losses than any other in the 
service. The regimental record of the Fifth New Hampshire shows 
a total loss of 2S5, but this included men missing and not again heard 
from. From the records on file at Washington it appears that the 


actual loss of the Fifth New Hampshire was 277. In the record of 
the Eighty-third the missing were not entered among the fatalities, 
those actually killed in battle or who died of wounds numbering 282, 
which was 15.5 per cent of the total enrolment of 1,808, and the total 
killed and wounded, 971, being more than 53 per cent of the total 
that had served from first to last. The losses in each of its numerous 
engagements were as follows : 

Hanover Court House 1 

Gaines' Mill 61 

Malvern Hill 50 

Manassas (Second Bull Run) 26 

Chancellorsville 1 

Fredericksburg 4 

Gettysburg 18 

Guerillas in Virginia, Dec. 10, 1863 1 

Wilderness 20 

Spottsylvania, May 8th 57 

Spottsylvania, ]May 10th 2 

North Anna 2 

Bethesda Church 1 

Siege of Petersburg 15 

Peebles Farm 10 

Hatchers Run 5 

White Oak Road 1 

Gravelly Run 4 

Total 282 

With so many casualties there were necessarily many changes 
among the officers and these may be given as they appear in succes- 
sion on the rolls. The colonels were John W. McLane. Strong Vin- 
cent and O. S. Woodward; lieutenant-colonels, Hugh S. Campbell and 
Dewitt McCoy; majors, Louis H. Naghel and William H. Lamont ; 
Surgeons, William Faulkner and J. P. Burchfield. The captains of 
the Erie county companies were : C, John Graham ; D, O. S. Wood- 
ward (colonel), Chancey P. Rogers (colonel): E, Hugh S. Campbell 
(afterwards colonel and provost marshal for this district), Amos M. 
Judson, W. O. Colt (colonel) ; I, Hiram L. Brown (afterwards col- 
onel of 145th Regt.), John M. Sell and John H. Borden; K, Thomas 
M. Austin and John Hechtman. Lieutenants of Erie companies : C. 
Aaron E. Yale. John W. \'annatta, Bethuel J. Gofi, Joseph Grimier; D, 
Plympton A. White; E. W. O. Colt (colonel), James H. Barnett, 
Alex B. Langley. Edward L. Whittelsey (captain of Co. A. in new or- 
ganization) ; I, John M. Clark, Wm. J. Wittich, Fred C. Wittich, 
Abner R. Edson ; K, Wm. E. Bates, Henry Austin, Edmund \\'. 


Reed, Noble L. Terrell. The regiment was formally mustered out 
July 4, 1865. 

Following very closely upon the organization of the first three 
years' regiment from this county came that of another which, when 
mustered in, came to be known as the One Hundred and Eleventh. 
The commission to raise this body of troops was issued to Matthias 
Schlaudecker, a prominent German citizen of Erie, on September 2, 
1861, only a few days before the Eight3--third had mustered in its 
last company and completed its organization, and Col. Schlaudecker, 
securing hearty co-operation, went about the work of recruiting at 
once and with vigor. He sent out patriotic appeals and had them 
circulated in Erie, Warren, Crawford and Elk counties, and at the 
very beginning secured valuable aid from George A. Cobham, Jr., of 
Warren and Thomas M. W'alker. of Erie. An office was opened in 
Erie and the fair ground not far from Wesleyville, that had been the 
camp of the Eighty-third, was secured as the place of rendezvous, 
and named Camp Reed. The work of enlistment progressed rapidly 
and the ranks were filled with the best of material and the work of 
drilling and instruction went forward under the direction of Col. 
Schlaudecker. Schlaudecker, who had been major in the Erie (three 
months) Regiment, was an experienced military man, having seen 
service in the German army ; he was, therefore, capable to teach these 
"young ideas how to shoot." When orders reached Erie on Jan- 
uary 24, 1S62, for the regiment to start, it was in readiness except for 
the regimental organization, and this was quickly eft'ected by the 
election of M. Schlaudecker as Colonel; George A. Cobham, Jr., Lieut. - 
Col.; Thomas M. Walker, Major, and John A. Boyle, Adjutant. The 
regiment included these officers of the line: 

Company A — Capt. Josiah Brown. 
Company B — Capt. Arthur Corrigan. 
Company C — Capt. Richard Cross. 
Company D — Capt. Elias M. Pierce. 
Company E — Capt. Samuel M. Davis. 
Company F — Capt. John Braden. 
Company G — Capt. William A. Thomas. 
Company H — Capt. John P. Schlaudecker. 
Company I — Capt. Frank ^^'agner. 
Company K — Capt. Jonas J. Pierce. 

Next day, January 25, 1862, the regiment moved for the front, 
reaching Harrisburg on January 27th, where the outfitting and equip- 
ment were effected, and on March 1st, Baltimore was reached. 

In the middle of May the regiment was sent to Harper's Ferry 
to reinforce Banks, then retreating down the Shenandoah, but was 
prevented from getting into action by the defeat of Banks at Win- 


Chester. The first service was at Charleston, when the enemy's skir- 
mishers were driven. Subsequently the regiment was attached to 
Cooper's brigade of Sigel's division, remaining for some time inactive. 
Afterwards, toward the close of June, it was assigned to Prince's bri- 
gade of Augur's division. Soon afterward followed the battle of Cedar 
Mountain, August 9, 1863. There had been a great deal of sickness 
in the regiment. Large numbers were ill in the hospital, and Lieut. 
Col. Cobham was one of these thus disabled, while Col. Schlaudecker's 
illness was so serious that he was furloughed on that account. The 
command of the regiment therefore devolved upon Major Walker. 
The battle of Cedar Mountain was a desperate struggle which lasted 
from 2 o'clock till dark, the One Hundred and Eleventh being finally 
driven back with a loss of 19 killed, 61 wounded and 13 missing. This 
was the regiment's real initiation. 

The next important battle in which it participated was Antietam, 
where for eight hours it was engaged in severe fighting and bore it- 
self so gallantly that it was presented on the field with a stand of 
colors. It went into the fight with 300 muskets and lost 33 killed, 71 
wounded and 7 missing. Captain Corrigan was among the killed ; 
Major Walker, Capt. Wagner and Lieuts., Todd, Bancroft, Cronen- 
berger. Black and Woeltge wounded. 

Then the regiment moved to Loudon Heights, toward Leesburg, 
and Fredericksburg, and went into winter quarters at Fairfax. A 
month later it took part in the "Mud March," and while at Acquia 
Creek was transferred to the Second brigade. Second division. Twelfth 
corps. Col. Schlaudecker having been honorably discharged in No- 
vember, at the end of January Lieut. Col. Cobham was promoted 
to colonel; Major Walker to lieut. -colonel, and Adj. Boyle to major. 
The One Hundred and Eleventh won high commendation on inspection 
from Gen. Hooker. 

May 1st to 6th, 1863, the regiment participated in the campaign 
in the vicinity of Chancellorsville, out of which it came with a loss 
of 6 killed, 8 wounded, and 3 missing. 

In July it was at Gettysburg, engaged first in fortifying Gulp's 
Hill and afterwards in defending that position, which was done with 
splendid courage and spirit, resulting at length in driving the enemy. 
In that engagement Lieut. -Col. Walker's report was that his com- 
mand expended 160 rounds of ammunition to the man. The loss was 
6 killed and 17 wounded. 

On September 21th the Eleventh and Twelfth corps were de- 
tached from the Army of the Potomac and transferred to Rosecranz's 
army at Chattanooga. It was a holiday time for the soldier boys, 
transported as they were, though in box cars, across Ohio, Indiana 
and Kentucky, and with their corps, the One Hundred and Eleventh 
reached Murfreesboro on October 6th. Meantime there had been 


large additions made to the regiment, though 100 of the recruits, draft- 
ed men, deserted enroute. 

On the 28th of October, at W'auhatchie, in the night, a determined 
attack was made by the Confederates, who had been reconnoitering 
from Lookout Mountain. The enemy in three brigades came stealthi 



down, but were met by the One Hundred and Eleventh and checked 
until the remainder of the Union forces became organized, when, 
though the attack was a determined one, it was met with unsurpassed 
valor and the foe withdrew with heavy loss. The regiment lost at 
Wauhatchie, 13 killed, 31 wounded and one missing. Major Boyle 
and Lieut. Pettit were killed ; Lieut. -Col. Walker, Capts. Warner and 
Wells and Lieuts. Haight, Tracy and Black were wounded. 

On the 34th of November began the famous engagement by 
which Lookout Mountain was stormed and taken by the Union 
troops, and in this action, which lasted two days, the One Hundred 
and Eleventh bore conspicuous part, distinguishing itself by gallant 
fighting in the "Battle Above the Clouds." Col. Cobham, in the 
series of engagements was acting as brigadier general, and Lieut. - 
Col. Walker led the regiment. 

The campaign ended on December 1, 1863. when the regiment re- 
enlisted for a second term, and departed for home, December "3Sth, on 
Veteran Furlough. It was an occasion memorable in Erie when 
the regiment arrived, on January 14, 1864. The streets were gay with 
flags, bells rang, cannon boomed and the band was playing. Escorted 
by Ex-Col. Schlaudecker and a company of marines, the regiment 
was marched to \A'ayne Hall, on French street, where a dinner was 
spread, and then the veterans were free to visit their homes for the 

The holidays were over on the 26th of February, when the regi- 
ment returned to the front, to become part of Sherman's army that, 
early in Alay, set out upon a campaign that was a continuous series of 
engagements, ending in brilliant victories. The first engagement was 
at Resaca, May 15th, when the One Hundred and Eleventh, leading 
the advance up the fortified hill, planted its colors on the ramparts. 
It was a heroic action, but it w-as impossible to hold the position, 
and the brave boys retired, not defeated, however. They found shel- 
ter a little below, and every effort that was made to flank Cobham, 
in command of the brigade, was futile, and in the night time the men 
performed the most original exploit of the campaign, as sappers and 
miners under-mining the fort, and dragging it, with its guns down 
the mountain by the use of drag-ropes. The loss at Resaca was 30 
killed and wounded, among them Capt. ^^'oeltge killed and Capt. 
Wells wounded. 

From May 25th to June 1st. at New Hope Church, there was 
fighting without cessation, out of which the regiment came with a 


loss of one officer (Capt. Todd) and S men killed ; Lieut. Tracy and 40 
men wounded, and 3 missing, an aggregate loss of 53. 

The battle of Pine Knob was fought June l-tth. The One Hun- 
dred and Eleventh was in the right of the line and led the attack of 
Geary's division. Charging furiously on the enemy, he was driven 
over the first ridge, then over the second, and the Union forces halted 
only before the third ridge, but held their ground. Here the night was 
passed ; and during that time Sergt. John L. Wells, upon a personal 
solitary reconnoitre, discovered the enemy's peculiarly strong points, 
and reporting them to headquarters, saved a possible defeat and won 
a promise of promotion from the commanding general. Having soon 
afterwards been taken a prisoner of war, the promotion did not come 
to him until 1869, when Gen. Geary, then Governor of Pennsylvania, 
remembering his promise, sent to Sergeant \\'ells a commission as 
brevet Lieutenant-Colonel (We know him now as Capt. ^^'ells). The 
regiment lost at Pine Knob, 14, of whoni' two were killed and two mor- 
tally wounded. 

At Gulp's Farm on June 17th, in a charge on the entrenched 
enemy, the regiment lost 3 killed and 5 wounded. At Grier's Planta- 
tion, on the 21st, the enemy was driven and there was a loss of one 
man killed and Lieut. Haight and 9 others wounded. The battle of 
Kenesaw was fought on the 2Tth, the regiment having but two cas- 
ualties as the result. 

The battle of Peach Tree Creek was the most disastrous in the 
history of the regiment. Close to Atlanta, it was one of the hardest 
fought in the campaign. The action began on July 19th, and in the 
first charge the One Hundred and Eleventh lost one killed and two 
wounded. Next day on the same field the regiment was engaged in 
the fiercest fight of its history, in thirty minutes losing 80 in killed and 
wounded, out of scarcely more than 200 men. Among the killed 
were Col. Cobham, and among the wounded Lieuts. Hay, Moore, Sex- 
auer, Gould and Dieffenbach. Sgt. Maj. Logan J. Dyke lost an arm in 
this fight. Col. Cobham had for a year led the brigade of which his 
regiment was a part. 

The siege of Atlanta followed, lasting from about the 22d of July 
until September 2d. On the latter date Col. Walker was sent on a 
reconnoisance with the One Hundred and Eleventh Pennsylvania, 
the Sixtieth New York and details from the One Hundred and Sec- 
ond New York, and Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry. He found the 
entrenchments vacant, and pursuing the reconnoisance, found that 
the Confederates had evacuated. The city was entered by Col. Walk- 
er's force and Col. Coburn's of the Third division, the One Hundred 
and Eleventh and the Sixtieth New York heading the line, and in 
front of the city hall Col. AValker took possession of .Atlanta in the 
name of General Sherman. 


For a time the soldiers had a rest. They had earned it. The 
One Hundred and Eleventh, was assigned to provost guard duty, and 
occupied a commodious and comfortable house in the heart of the 
city. The army remained until after the election of President Lin- 
coln for the second term, and then, early in November, set out on the 
famous march to the sea, and the subsequent chase of Johnston up 
into North Carolina. But the days of fighting were over. There was 
no more fight left in the southerners. On April 14, 1865, Johnston 
surrendered, and the campaign was over. And so was the war, for 
on the 9th of the same month Gen. Lee had surrendered to Gen. 
Grant. Meanwhile the One Hundred and Ninth had been merged 
with the One Hundred and Eleventh and Lieut. Col. Walker had 
been promoted to a full colonelcy, and later, by brevet was made a 
brigadier general. 

The regiment was mustered out July 19, 1865. The record shows 
that from first to last this regiment had an enrolment of 1,847 ; its total 
deaths were 304, and its total deaths and wounds 549. The historian 
of the regiment, John Richards Boyle, D. D., says, however, '"But 
as 100 of its substitute recruits almost immediately deserted and 42 
others who were assigned to it never reported, and as 310 other officers 
and men were merged into the command from the One Hundred and 
Ninth Pennsylvania after the fighting was over, the actual strength 
of the regiment in the field was not more than 1,395. Even this esti- 
mate is excessive, as a number of names are counted twice because of 
second enlistments. The casualities of the regiment, therefore, during 
its field service were about 40 per cent of its total strength. Four of 
every ten of its men fell in defense of the American commonwealth. 

The organization of the One Hundred and Forty-fifth regiment, 
did not occur during the flush of the first patriotic uprising, when en- 
listments were rather easily secured, but came well along in the sec- 
ond year of the war and twelve months after the second Erie regiment 
for actual war service had been begun to be enlisted. When it had 
been decided for a third time to call upon the young men of this part 
of the state to come forward and enlist in defense of the government, 
something was known of the horrors and risks and hardships of war. 
The enlistments at this time were therefore a proof of the deep seated 
patriotism that animated the men who came forward to offer them- 
selves to whatever the hazard of war might have in store for them. 
The regiment was organized September 5, 1862. It was more largely 
than any other an Erie county regiment, companies A, B, C, D, I and K 
having been recruited in this county, companies E and F in Warren 
county, H in Crawford and G in Mercer. The organization was under 
these field officers: Colonel, Hiram L. Brown; Lieut. -Col., David 
B. McCreary ; Major, J. W. Patton. Col. Brown had been a member of 
the Wayne Guards, a captain in the Three-months Erie regiment; 


and a captain in the Eighty-third, wounded at Gaines Mill. Lt.-Col. 
McCrear}' had been a member of the ^^■ayne Guards and a lieutenant 
in the Three-months regiment. The officers of the line were: 

Company A — Capt. J. W. Reynolds. 
Company B — Capt. M. W. Oliver. 
Company C — Capt. Dyer Loomis. 
Company D — Capt. Charles M. Lynch. 
Company E — Capt. Samuel M. Davis. 
Company F — Capt. John Braden. 
Company G — Capt. W'm. A. Thomas. 
Company H — Capt. J. Boyd Espy. 
Company I — Capt. Washington Brown. 
Company K — Capt. J. \\'. Walker. 

There was no time allowed for drill or to perfect the command 
in discipline, for the call for troops at the front was urgent, and by 
the 11th of September the regiment was on its way forward without 
arms or equipment. Halting for two days at Camp McClure, they 
were equipped with Harpers Ferry muskets, and on the I'/th went 
into the fight at Antietam, where the boys, fresh from their Erie 
county homes, and not yet versed in the soldier's primer, frustrated 
by their bravery and address the enemy's attempt at a flank movement. 
For two days afterward they were engaged in picket duty. Thus 
was the hard work of the soldier and the danger of it handed out 
to the boys at the very beginning. But worse was to come. The 
enemy in making his escape did it so precipitately that the field was 
left thickly strewn with his dead many of whom had lain on the 
field four daj's. The pollution of it was past conception and the 
horror of it beyond being appreciated except by the awful e.xperience 
of it. The cleaning up of this field and the burial of the dead was 
assigned to the One Hundred and Forty-fifth. As a result, within 
a week between 200 and 300 were disqualified for duty — by sickness. 

Fredericksburg followed soon afterwards, and in this severe en- 
gagement, the regiment took part in much of the hardest fighting. 
Of those who crossed the river at the beginning of the engagement, 
500 in number, 226, nearly one-half, were either killed or wounded. 
Captains Wood, Mason and Brown, and Lieutenants Clay, Brown, 
Carroll, Vincent, Riblet and Hubbard — nine commissioned officers — 
were either killed or mortally wounded. Col. Brown received two 
severe wounds, one of which was believed at the time to be mortal. 
Captain Lynch and Lieuts. Long and Stuart were among the wounded 
and the only field officer in the entire brigade who escaped uninjured, 
were Col. Von Shock of the Seventh N. Y., and Lieut. -Col. McCreary 
of the One Hundred and Fortv-fifth. 
Vol. 1—22 


In the spring of 1803 the regiment was assigned to Hooker's 
army for the pending campaign, and when at length the army moved 
the One Hundred and Forty-fifth was detailed to construct corduroy 
roads to facilitate the movement of artillery and heavy wagon trains, 
and later to assist in laying pontoons at United States Ford. In 
Hooker's army the Hundred and Forty-fifth was attached to the Sec- 
ond Corps, and on May 1, while the regiment was being mustered 
for pay, the first gun of Chancellorsville was fired. Immediately the 
corps was thrown forward on the road leading to Fredericksburg, 
the First division forming the advance line. At evening a position was 
taken by the division in a slight ravine where works of defense were 
constructed, but at daylight the main body withdrew, leaving only a 
heavy skirmish line in the works. The fight raged during the whole 
of the 3d, resulting at night in the complete route of the Eleventh 
Corps, on the extreme right, and during the night the battle still raged 
furiously. Early in the morning of the 3d a detail of 150 men of the 
Hundred and Forty-fifth, and 100 from the other regiments of the 
brigade, under Lt.-Col. McCreary were ordered to the relief of the 
skirmish line, left in the works. There they were fiercely engaged and 
successfully resisted the enemy, foiling every attempt to turn Han- 
cock's flank. When the army fel' back the troops on the skirmish line 
failed to receive orders, and, along with the detail from the Hundred. 
and Forty-fiftli, fell into the enemy's hands. The rest of the regi- 
ment meanwhile was engaged in supporting the batteries around 
the Chancellor house, which had been massed to resist the advance of 
Stuart, and was exposed to a severe fire of musketry and artillery, 
and Major. Patton was mortally wounded. 

Gettysburg was the next engagement of importance, the regiment 
meanwhile doing picket duty and moving forward with the troops 
of its division in an endeavor to head ofl: the enemy, who was moving 
northward. The opportunity to checkmate the army of Lee did not 
come until on July 1, 1863, the field of Gettysburg was reached. In 
this famous battle the Second Corps had the duty of replacing the 
Third Corps, badly broken in the terrible action of the \\'heat Field. 
The brigade of which the Hundred and Forty-fifth was part, was 
led by Col. Brooke, who heroically took his stand where the conflict 
was still in fearful progress, and at length drove the enemy in con- 
fusion from the position he had attained, silencing a battery. It 
was a position that could not be held, however, for the enemy in heavy 
force were executing a flank movement on the right, exposing the 
brigade to capture or annihilation. There was no alternative but to 
retire. The Hundred and Forty-fifth held the extreme right of the 
brigade in this terrible encounter, and suiifered severely. Out of 200 
men who entered the fight there was a loss of upwards of 80 killed 
and wounded. Capt. Griswold and Lieuts. Lewis and Finch were 


mortally wounded; Col. Brown, Major Reynolds, Adj't Black and 
Capt. Hilton were wounded, the last named losing a leg. 

Afterwards, until October, 1863, the regiment remained quiet, 
when it became actively engaged in the forced marches under Meade 
against Lee, and had part in the engagements at Auburn Hill and Bris- 
toe Station, suffering the loss of a number killed and wounded. 
Though for a considerable period there were no battles recorded by 
fame in which the regiment bore part, it was till constantly occupied, 
enduring gallantly the toil and hardship of the soldier's life. On Nov. 
36, with its brigade it set out on the Mine Run campaign and upon 
reaching Germania Ford, it was found that the pontoons were in- 
sufficient to construct a liridge. Col. Brooke however, volunteered to 
wade the stream, now breast-deep and wintry cold, and the men 
without a murmer followed. After a brisk charge they drove the 
enemy from newly constructed works. The Hundred and Forty-fifth 
was part of Gen. Warren's force which marched from before daylight 
on the 29th of November until dark for the purpose of turning the 
enemy's flank. 

During the winter, near Germania Ford, the regiment was re- 
cruited to nearly the original strength, and on May 5 and 6, 1864, again 
in motion, hotly engaged the enemy at Brock Road. Capt. J. Boyd 
Espy's company, sent out on the 5th to form a junction with the 
outposts, stood at its post for nearly two days without food or water, 
it being supposed at headquarters that they had been made prisoners. 
But they were accidentally discovered and relieved. It was here that 
Col. Brown was placed temporarily in command of the Third brigade. 
Major Lynch assuming command of the regiment in the absence of 
Lt.-Col. McCreary. 

At the Po River, May 10, 1864, occurred the battle of Spottsylvan- 
ia. The attempt of Hancock to withdraw a force with which he had en- 
deavored to take a strong defensive position on the other side of the 
river, brought on a spirited attack by the enemy. This was met by 
the brigades of Brooke and Brown with such a determined front 
and eft'ective fire that the foe was driven back. The woods in rear of 
these brigades took fire and for a time they were in deadly double 
peril, but succeeded in making a safe passage back. Lieut. Baker was 
killed in this action. On the 11th the fighting was resumed, the en- 
emy putting forth desperate efforts and losing heavily, but being 
defeated in the end. The Hundred and Forty-fifth was a heavy loser 
in this day's fight. Capt. Devereaux, and Lieuts. Sampson and 
Brockway being among the killed, and Capt. Espy and Lieut. Free 
among the wounded. 

At Cold Harbor on May 16, after a most desperate charge upon 
strongly constructed works, the men of the Hundred and Forty-fifth 
in the face of a fearful artillery fire, were compelled to throw them- 
selves upon the ground. There, by a flank movement of the enemy, the 


entire force was captured, including Lt. Col. AlcCreary, Capts. Lytle, 
McCreary, Smart, and Dean and Lieuts. Mackintosh, Rounds, Car- 
lisle and Linn, together with about 80 enlisted men. The men were 
taken to Andersonville, the officers to Macon and afterwards to 
Charleston, at the latter place being exposed to the fire of the Union 
guns. On July 22 Major Lynch was taken prisoner. 

During the remainder of the year 1864, what was left of the com- 
mand did duty in the trenches besides being engaged in the battles 
of Reams Station and Deep Bottom. In the spring of 1865 the regi- 
ment, at the battle of Five Forks, rendered efficient service with the 
detachment sent to the aid of Gen. Sheridan, and had part with 
its division and corps in bringing the war to a close, by the capture of 
Richmond and the final victory at Appomatox. It participated in 
the Grand Review at Washington May "23 and 24, and on May 31 
was mustered out. The war over and the prisoners released, it was 
with feelings of mutual joy that Col. McCreary and his fellow 
officers rejoined the regiment, and together they set their faces 
toward their home, arriving in Erie on June 5. 

At the time of the breaking out of the war of the Rebellion, be- 
sides the Wayne Guards there were in Erie two small companies of 
Artillery, one under the command of Capt. C. F. Muehler, called the 
Perry Artillery Company. Among the very first offers in response 
to the call of President Lincoln for volunteers was Capt. Muehler's 
company, and it was at once accepted. It was found, however, when 
it came time to organize it, that it was far short of enough to fill the 
ranks of a battery of that arm of the service. At about the same 
time Capt. Peter B. Housum of Franklin undertook to raise a battery 
of artillery and achieved only partial success. However, by consoli- 
dating the two there was an adequate force, and this was accomplished 
at Pittsburg November 6, 1861. In the organization Capt. Housum 
was promoted to Lieut. Colonel, and the officers chosen for the com- 
pany were C. F. Muehler, captain ; Alanson J. Stevens, first lieuten- 
ant, and Samuel M. McDowell, second lieutenant. The company 
was then mustered in as Muehler's Independent Battery B., and al- 
though Capt. Muehler resigned soon afterwards, from its muster in 
until its muster out at the end of the war it continued to be known 
as Muehler's Battery. Before the battery was finally mustered out, the 
vicissitudes of war made many changes among its officers ; promo- 
tions came upon the heels of death with unfortunate frequency. 
Capt. Muehler's resignation promoted Lieut. Stevens to captain, but 
in succession came Captains McDowell and Jacob Ziegler, while 
the lieutenants first and last were Stevens, McDowell, Ziegler, Lutje, 
Shatzer, Hassinger, John Muehler and Camp. 

In this organization the late William L. Scott took peculiar inte!- 
est and far more than common pride and he was able frequently 


to be of great service to it. Through his attachment to this bailery 
there grew up between him and Capt. W. F. Lutje (for he was brevet- 
ed after his forced retirement by a wound) a s.trong friendship that 
endured as long as Mr. Scott lived. After the company was mustered 
in it proceeded to Camp Nevin where it was drilled and instructed, 
and during the last days of 1861 was stationed at Mumfordsville and 
Nashville and early in 1862 was moved to Corinth. It was with the 
main army in northern Alabama and Mississippi, and with the other 
forces, by forced marches headed Bragg on his way to Louisville. 
Too late to have part in the fight at Perryville on October 8, 1862, it 
joined in the pursuit of Bragg and brought him to a stand at Mur- 
freesboro, where the battery was in the thickest of the fight, doing 
signal service and receiving the congratulations of Gen. Rosecrans. 
On September 19, 1863, it was again hotly engaged at Murfreesboro, 
and here Capt. Stevens was killed. 

Then for a time the battery was shut in at Chattanooga, but 
on November 25th took a prominent part in the battle of Mission 
Ridge, where Bragg was swept from the field. During the winter 
most of the men re-enlisted, and next spring the battery moved with 
Sherman on his campaign, and during two hundred days was at- 
tached to the Fourth corps. At Kenesaw, in a fierce fight, Capt. Mc- 
Dowell was killed. Jacob Ziegler then became the commander of 
the battery. On the fall of Atlanta, Sherman sent Thomas back into 
Tennessee to look after Hood, Muehler's Battery accompanying, 
where it took part in all of that army's engagements, including Frank- 
lin and Nashville, where the final victory occurred. After the sur- 
render of the armies in the east the battery was sent to Texas, where 
it remained on duty until October 12, 1865, when it was mustered out. 

Three companies or troops of cavalry were recruited in this 
county, and they were assigned to as many different regiments. The 
first company organized was that of Captain George H. Russell, the 
recruits coming chiefly from the neighborhood of Union City. It was 
mustered in March, 1862, and was assigned to the Twelfth Pennsyl- 
vania Cavalry, as Company L. Its officers from first to last as the 
fortunes of war effected the changes, were Captains, George H. Russell, 
Elmer F. Jennings, W. H. McAllister, (promoted afterwards success- 
ively to Major and Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment) O. B. Tour- 
tellot; Lieutenants, Melvin H. Fenno, Henry A. Drake, Bela B. 

Captain Thomas Lennon of Erie organized a company which 
was mustered into the service in September, 1862, and became Com- 
pany C of the Sixteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry. Its ofi&cers were : 
Captains, Thomas Lennon, Andrew F. Swan (promoted to Major), 
Robert C. Caughey (breveted Major), Joshua M. Carey; Lieutenants, 
after Swan and Caughey, James P. Crawford (discharged on ac- 


count of wounds), Samuel H. Brown, Albert L. Hazleton (discharged 
in 1863), Lockwood Caughey (died of wounds at the battle of Deep 
Bottom), George W. Brooks, John N. Minton. 

Captain Miles' Company was mustered in October, 1862, and was 
assigned as Company I to the Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry. Its 
successive officers were: Captains, W. W. Miles (killed at Millwood, 
Dec. 7, 1864), George R. Wetmore ; Lieutenants, C. C. Holliday, Alex. 
G. Warren, Freeman P. Bartlett, Edgar J. Pierce. 

All the regiments in which these companies served were under 
Gen. Pleasonton and later Gen. Sheridan, in the Army of the Potomac, 
bearing their part in the operations of that army. Capt. Swan's com- 
pany took part in the battle of Gettysburg with Gregg's brigade, 
and Col. McAllister's command was concerned in the battle of Win- 
chester under Sheridan. 


SiiAMEN Enrolled for Lake, River and Coast. — The Part Played 
BY the Michig.\n. — The Plot to Capture the Ship. 

Nor were there Erie boys lacking when it became necessary to 
strengthen the navy, for the blockading service, for the gunboat service 
on the rivers, and later for the engagement of the Confederate forces, 
both afloat and strongly fortified ashore, in most of the southern coast 
cities. Here there was a most liberal response to the call for recruits 
to the naval service. It had always, from the settlement of the white 
race here, been a chracteristic of the place that her people largely 
inclined to follow the water. Here most of the prominent lake navigators 
and steamboat men before the breaking out of the war had lived, and 
from this port sailed not only these, but no reckoning how many rated 
from the raw apprentice to the first-class seaman. And Erie enjoyed 
the fame of having here built one navy, of having stationed here the 
only American naval vessel of the Great Lakes, and of being as well 
a port in which the traditions of heroic service in the navy had made 
her young men ambitious. Then when the great opportunity offered, 
and patriotic duty made so strong an appeal, it is not to be marveled at 
that by the hundreds they were ready to offer their services and enlist 
under the flag. 

The Michigan was then stationed at Erie, and there most of the 
recruiting was done. Here the story of the Michigan may properly be 
told. She is not now known as the Michigan but by the figurative equiv- 
alent of Wolverine, for the name of the State was desired to be bestowed 
upon a battleship of the modern navy in order that in dignity Michigan 
might be classed with its sister states. But yet the old Michigan or the 
Wolverine stands unique in the American navy and in the world in a 
number of respects. She is the first iron ship of war ever built. She 
was made possible by the passage of an act in Congress on September 
9, 1841, appropriating $10(1,000 for the construction of a vessel of war 
on Lake Erie. It will thus be seen that not only is she the first iron 
vessel but the oldest ship in active service as part of the American navy 
at the present time. 

The Michigan (or Wolverine) was built in Pittsburg, taken apart, 
transported to Cleveland by ox-carts, thence to Erie by lake, assembled 


and completed at this port and launched November 9, 1843. She went 
into commission on August 15, 1844, with Mr. Inman in command, and 
has therefore been a vessel of the United States navy in continuous ser- 
vice ever since, a period of sixty-five years. Built at that early date she 
of course conformed to the ideas of that time, being of the side-wheel 
pattern, but to this day more than a half century later, no change has 
ever been made in her hull or machinery, her armament alone being 
changed from time to time, and this continuing to the present, her crew 
obtains full instruction in everything up to the calibre of the ship, that 
modern practice requires. The second captain of the Michigan was 
Stephen Champlin, who commanded the Scorpion of Perry's fleet in the 
Battle of Lake Erie. 

Sixty-five years is a long period of service for a war-ship, but per- 
haps in the case of this ship it might be said she has had no service. 
It would not be proper to say this. She did not have hard war service, 
but she had by no means been idle, and before this chapter is finished 
it may be learned that she also performed real war service and had her 
adventure. At the beginning she seemed to be regarded very much in 
the light of a school for the young officers of the navy, and assignment 
to the Michigan was a service all were eager to secure. Perhaps it 
was not alone for the experience to be derived from connection with 
the representative of Uncle Sam's navy that sailed the unsalted seas. 
Looking back over that period and permitting the history like a moving- 
picture show to pass before our gaze, there may be a general condition 
that will color it with a rosy tint. For here were conditions. Erie, that 
always boasted of a high order of society, was also famed for the beauty 
of its daughters. The American navy from the days of Paul Jones 
bed renown for the gallantry of its sons. Here were the foundation 
elements of romance. The result: for years Erie has been known as 
the mother-in-law of the American navy. And the title belongs to her. 
From first to last there have been as many Erie wives of naval officers 
as the years that number the service of the old ship, — yes, and more. 

Besides the work of lending aid in case of distress, which in the 
olden days was frequently done, there have been occasions when the 
Michigan was of service in other ways. In the year 1853 it became 
necessary for the government to take cognizance of the doings of a 
man named James J. Strang. He was a Mormon. He placed himself 
at the head of a considerable colony and, setting forth that he had a 
divine commission as the successor of Joseph Smith, established himself 
on one of the Beaver Islands in northern Lake Michigan and proclaimed 
himself king. He went so far as to sink a trading schooner and was 
carrying things with a high hand. At this juncture orders came to the 
taken back to Detroit. A little later, 1853 or 1854, there was a threat 
warlike act was accordingly fully and faithfully performed, Strang being 
Michigan to go to Detroit, take on the sherifif and arrest the king. This 


of a Fenian invasion of Canada from Buffalo, but it was frustrated by 
the presence of the Alichigan. In 1866, however, the Fenian trouble 
became more serious, for then the iivaders did obtain a footing upon 
Canadian soil and a fight ensued in which several were killed and 
wounded, but upon the retreat of the Fenians a number of arrests were 
made by the Michigan, which put an end to the Fenian war. The ac- 
count of the Michigan's services while guarding the Confederate prisoners 
at Johnston's Island concludes this chapter. 

The roster of the Michigan for the year 185-3 shows the following 
officers : Capt. Bigelow, First Lieutenant McDougal, Second Lieutenant 
Collins, Third Lieutenant Crossen. The second lieutenant of that time, 
a citizen of Erie then and for years afterward for he made Erie his home 
and his children atttended school here, was destined to become a man 
of far more than ordinary fame — ^indeed, to attain to distinction. It was 
during the war of the Rebellion. He had a most excellent record through- 
out all that great conflict. In 1861 he commanded the Anacosta of the 
Potomac fleet and was at the engagement of Acquia Creek ; in 1862 of 
the Unadilla of the South Atlantic squadron, took part in the capture 
of Port Royal; in 1864 as commander of the Octarora in the West India 
service. It was that year that Commander Napoleon Collins distinguished 
himself. He was transferred to the Wachusett on special service, and on 
October 7 entered the port of Bahia, Brazil. It does not appear what his 
errand there was unless that may be judged from what occurred. At 
that period there were a number of Confederate privateers scouring the 
seas and destroying American commerce, and the Government was ex- 
ceedingly desirous of destroying the destroyers, but no matter how alert 
the Yankee captains endeavored to be they were not equal — or had not 
been — to the task of capturing any of these very elusive craft. Com- 
mander Collins found the Confederate privateer Florida in the harbor 
of Bahia. Presumably his orders were to trail her with a view to cap- 
turing or sinking her. But Napoleon Collins, seeing the Florida within 
easy reach choose not to run any chance of losing her. Right there, in 
that Brazilian port, he went about capturing her and succeeded, and 
then he conveyed her to Hampton Roads, where she was sunk. Of course 
this exploit created a stir. The Brazilian government promptly lodged 
a protest against so flagrant a violation of the neutrality laws, and of 
course the government at Washington was under the necessity of taking 
cognizance. Secretary Seward ordered that Collins be tried by court- 
martial. It is presumed that the enterprising Collins lost nothing by his 
temerity, for in 1866 he was promoted to captain, in 1871 advanced to 
commodore, and in 1874 became rear admiral and was given command 
of the South Pacific squadron and died at Callao August 5, 1895. 

For many years the Michigan has been employed in making surveys 
on the Great Lakes, and also in affording opportunities for instruction 
and drill to the volunteer naval reserves. Its most important work, how- 


ever has been that of recruiting for the navy, and this is kept up to 
the present time. But, as was stated at the beginning of this chapter, 
at and during the period of the War of the RebelHon recruiting was a 
most important service. Early, about sixty young men went to New 
York to enhst under the command of Lieut. T. H. Stevens, formerly of 
the Michigan. During the war the old ship was in command of Capt. 
John C. Carter, and he enlisted upwards of 700 men, who were sent 
forward in detachments, sometimes to New York, or to Philadelphia or 
Washington, but many were sent to Natchez or St. Louis or to some one 
of the river towns that were for the time being headquarters for the 
gunboat service. These were enlistments of ordinary seamen, but in that 
great war Erie was represented as well and largely in the lists of naval 
officers of the time. I'he lists included these: 

Regular officers, U. S. Navy — R. B. Lowry, Thomas H. Stevens, 
R. N. Spotts, James E. Jouett, James W. Shirk, Leonard Paulding, D. 
Lauman, Napoleon Collins, Captains and Commanders ; W. H. Ruther- 
ford, chief engineer ; W. Maxwell Wood, surgeon ; J. P. Loomis, \\'alter 
W. Chester and George A. Lyon, paymasters. 

X'olunteer service — Masters: John H. Welsh, M. J. Cronin, James 
C. Marshall, Jr. ; Ensigns : A. J. Louch, M. E. Flannigan, Patrick Don- 
nelly, William Slocum, James Hunter, George W. Bone, Felix McCann, 
Philip Engelhart, James S. Roberts, C. M. Bragg, John Dunlap, Frank 
Oliver, James Downs, J. M. Reed, John Sullivan, Norman McLeod, 
Warren Burch, the two Reeds, Patrick Murphy and Braxton Bragg; 
Engineers : Patrick Maloney, Robert Riley, William Bass, Bennett Jones, 
P. H. Fales, Jonas Slocum, William Moran, John Miles, George Odell ; 
Gunners: John Murray, William Barton, Thomas Carpenter; Carpenters: 
J. G. Thomas, John O. Baker ; Master's Mates : Patrick Sullivan, Horace 
Sprague, Robert Roberts, Thomas J. Dunlap, William Marsh, Henry C. 
Warren, William E. Leonard, Jesse H. Rutherford, Joseph K. Kelso, 
James Cummins, Henry Van Velsor. 

In the summer of 1864, the lake frontier was plunged into a state 
of feverish excitement and apprehension. There were rumors of threat- 
ened attacks upon the lake cities ; rumors that the rebels, driven to des- 
peration by their reverses in the south, had planned a diversion to effect 
the capture of a number of steamers, which were to be manned and 
armed by Confederate refugees in Canada, and, reinforced by the rebel 
prisoners at Johnson's Island, these were to attack all the great cities on 
the lake and destroy them. Here in Erie the alarm was keen, and for a 
time there was great activity. It did not long endure, however, and many 
people came to regard the rumor as a cruel canard. 

It was not a false report. On the contrary there was ample founda- 
tion for it all, but the real extent of the plot is known to but few — how 
near the desperate rebels came to carrying out their purpose, which for 


the beginning was to capture the U. S. steamer Michigan and release the 
prisoners at Sandusky, and then, with a thorough-going, well-armed 
naval vessel to range the lakes, destroy at their will everything along the 
shores — how near it came to being carried out, one who had a hand in 
foiling the rebel plans still lives to tell, and he has furnished a detailed 
and reliable account of the whole proceedings. The narrator of the yarn 
is Capt. James Hunter, who during the time was an officer on the 
Michigan, that was then engaged in the duty of guarding the harbor of 
Sandusky and Johnson's Island, at its entrance, where the Union military 
prison was located. The story of this affair is the history of the most 
active part played by the Michigan in that famous war. 

Recently Capt. Laird, preparing a history of the old ship, asked 
Capt. Hunter to give an account of the attempt of the rebels to capture 
her, and the captain furnishes the story appended, which is given in 
practically his exact words : 

Capt. James Hunter, of Erie, Pa., was ?n ensign in the U. S. navy 
during the war of the Rebellion, and served on the Great Lakes and on 
the seaboard during that war. He was on board the U. S. S. Michigan, 
Great Lakes, from September, 1861, to February, 1862, then ordered to 
sea, serving on the gunboat Port Royal, with Capt. George U. Morris, 
who commanded the Cumberland during her engagement with the Merri- 
mac ; was ordered back again from about 'Slay. 18G3, to October, 1864, 
to the Michigan, Commander John C. Carter, U. S. navy, then in com- 
mand. Acting Master Martin was executive officer, and the other officers 
were Ensign Chas E. Eddy, Ensign Pavey, Gunner Murray, Third Assist- 
ant Engineers Bennett Jones, Robert Riley and William Baas. Engineers 
Riley and Baas are still living in Erie. 

For those days the armament of the Michigan was considered quite 
a powerful one. It consisted of fifteen guns — one 68-pounder Paxton 
gun, smooth bore, pivot, mounted forward ; six 30-pounder Parrotts, 
rifled, forward on spar deck; six 85-pounder Dahlgrens, aft on quarter 
deck, and two 12-pounder Howitzers, on hurricane deck. The following 
is the statement of Capt. James Hunter of how the Confederates at- 
tempted to capture the U. S. S. Michigan and release the rebel prisoners 
of war confined on Johnson's Island, Sandusky, Ohio, while the man-of- 
war was acting as guardship over them : 

The U. S. S. Michigan was ordered to go to Johnson's Island, and to 
report to Commandant Hill to assist in guarding the 2,600 Confederate 
officers confined as prisoners of war on the island during 1863-64. Upon 
arrival of the ship took bearings of entrance to channel so as to get the 
elevation and range and then fired the ship's guns on trial. 

The Michigan now commanded the channel and entrance to the 
harbor. A tug, the Gen. Burnside. was hired to go out each night on 
patrol duty. Ensign Hunter in charge, with Boatswain's Mate Peter 
Turley and a complement of men, whose orders were to search every 


vessel coming into the harbor, and if necessary signal to the Michigan 
with rockets that a vessel had refused to stop and be searched. During 
the day the man-of-war's boats performed this patrol work. 

After being at Johnson's Island some time the Michigan's officers 
were introduced to a Mr. Cole, by a U. S. army officer, while Mr. Cole 
was stopping at the West House, a Sandusky hotel. There were only 
three line officers to stand deck duty on board the Michigan, consequently 
each could only get ashore every third day for two or three hours in the 
afternoon, as two of these officers must be on board at all times. 

"While we were on shore," says Mr. Hunter. "^Ir. Cole was 
always on hand to meet us and gave us every social attention possible in 
a seeming effort to win our favor, and Ensign Pavey and Mr. Cole 
formed a very close friendship. Mr. Cole endeavored to lavish his money 
on us whenever opportunity ofTered. at one time sending a case of cham- 
pagne to Air. Pavey, but the other officers, outside of Mr. Pavey, did 
not indulge in any of the wine — for their own private reasons. When 
I went ashore he asked me how I liked the wine. I told him it was sent 
to Mr. Pavey. therefore Mr. Pavey would have to drink it. He said he 
sent it to all the wardroom officers, and that he would send us another 
case, which he did, evidently to gain our favor. The single case, however, 
was all the wine that ever came aboard, notwithstanding other stories. 
Subsequently Ensign Pavey was, for neglect of duty, detached from the 
ship and ordered to the seaboard, and ]Mr. Cole lost his most intimate 
friend on the Michigan." 

There had been a great many rumors that the Confederates would 
make a bold attempt to capture the Michigan and release the rebel pris- 
oners on Johnson's Island, and Ensign Hunter was sent under secret 
orders several times to visit the Welland canal, Port Stanley and Detroit, 
because he could pass as a Canadian, having sailed much on the Gre