Crawford County, Pennsylvania
History & Biography
STEUBEN TOWNSHIP—ERECTION—BOUNDARIES—LANDS—EARLY SETTLERS—LUMBERING—EARLY
MILLS—TRYONVILLE—PROPOSED RAILROAD—CLAPPVILLE—TRYONVILLE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
BOROUGH OF TOWNVILLE—INCORPORATION—OFFICERS—POPULATION—BUSINESS INTERESTS—NAME—EARLY RESIDENTS—SCHOOLS—PRESS—RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS—SOCIETIES.
STEUBEN in organization is the most recent of the eastern townships. It was formed in 1850 or 1851 from parts of Troy and Athens. Except for one tract of 500 acres, which projects above the northern line, the township would in shape approximate a rectangle, the length of which is twice or thrice its width. Athens lies to the north of it, Rome and Oil Creek on the east, Troy on the south and Randolph and Richmond on the west. The main portion is within the Seventh Donation District. Along the east line are four Holland tracts, and between them and the Donation lands a narrow strip or gore. The land of Steuben embraced within the Seventh Donation District consists of twenty-eight 200-acre tracts, seven 300-acre tracts and seven and two fractions of 500-acre tracts. The 200-acre tracts were drawn by private soldiers, the larger ones by
commissioned officers. Muddy Creek, flowing east and northward, drains the western part, while Oil Creek courses southward through the eastern. Between the two, along the tributaries of the latter, is some lowland, too wet for tillage. The assessed acreage of the township is 14,394, of which 3,086 acres were in 1882 unseated.
The land has been settled very slowly. Three-quarters of a century have elapsed since settlement began, but there are yet a number of tracts which have not been reduced to purposes of agriculture. Dennis Carrol is reputed to have dwelt in the eastern part as early as 1808, and for a score of years to have been its sole occupant. He however often moved from place to place, and was also an early settler of Rome. His cabin was built on the L. B. Preston place, 500 acres, Tract 134, and here he remained until his wife died, when he removed to near Erie City.
Philip Navy, a native born German, in 1821 came from Lancaster County to Tract 1354, in the northwestern part of the township. He had exchanged his house and lot at Lancaster for the property, and learned on his arrival that he had paid for the land at the rate of $8 per acre, when it was worth scarcely one-fourth that amount. He was obliged to leave his family at Newtontown, Troy Township, for two weeks, while he cut a road through to his property and erected a cabin. No one was then living within a radius of six miles of his home. He was a cabinet-maker by trade, but his only vocation here was preparing the ground and tilling the soil. Oak and chestnut grew on his farm, and these were not felled, only girdled. The small brush and trees were cleared away, and crops planted amid the bare skeletons of the trees. In beech and maple land,
owing to the tenacity of life of these trees girdling was impracticable. One day, when ill and without meat, Mr. Navy employed Samuel Winton to hunt for him a day for $1. The huntsman came, killed five <page 654> deer and returned home seven miles on the same day. Mr. Navy died about 1824.
In 1822 a settlement was made in the vicinity of Townville. John Baker, Zephaniah Kingsley, George Northum and Silas Mason came that year and settled in one locality. The latter two settled on Tract 1371, just west of Townville; Northum, on the I. D. Gillet place; Mason, on the Jeremiah Pond farm. Both came from Fort Ann, N. Y. A few years later Northum moved to Erie County, near the lake, and Mason to Ohio. John Baker settled in the northwest corner of Tract 125, just north of Townville. He was a Baptist, and remained on the farm till death, leaving eight sons and one daughter. His son Casper yet occupies the farm. The Kingsleys settled within the present corporate limits of Townville. Harvey Hull settled about the same time at Townville. Walter Wood, from Vermont, came to Randolph Township prior to 1824, soon after which year he married the widow of Philip Navy, and after a brief residence on the farm removed with the family to near Centreville.
David and James Tryon, brothers, originally from Litchfield, Conn., about 1828 removed to the site of Tryonville from Rome Township, where, about three-fourths of a mile below Centreville, they had been operating a fulling and carding-mill. They came with the intention of lumbering, and had purchased two 500-acre tracts, 136 and 137, and some adjoining land well forested with pine. They made the first improvement of note in this portion of Steuben, and at one time had three saw-mills in operation on their land here. They are yet living near Tryonville. James R. Maginnis, son of William Maginnis, of Troy Township, in 1829 settled with his family just east of Tryonville Station. Reuben Phillips, in 1831 or 1832, emigrated from Waterloo, N. Y., and settled on Tract 124 above Townville, where he remained engaged in agriculture through life. He was of Quaker extraction, and died leaving three sons and two daughters.
The above are all the settlers known to have founded homes within the bounds of Steuben prior to 1831. Among the next to arrive were the Winstons, Samuel and John Gillet, George Pond, Ebenezer Smith, Daniel Hopkins, James Bly, Richard Hanna and Jeremiah Palmenter. Most of these remained in the township through life, and now have lineal descendants here. Accessions have constantly been made to the population to the present time. In 1860 Steuben contained 898 inhabitants; in 1870, 1,020; in 1880, 782.
Lumbering was the chief vocation of the early settlers, and lumber exportation continued uninterruptedly until the development of the oil regions created a home demand for it. Pine grew in abundance in early times. It was the only product in demand. The lumber had a value here of from $4 to $8 per 1,000 feet, and about twice that amount at Pittsburgh, the cost of rafting and loss suffered from the freshets equaling the original cost of the lumber. Many pine shingles were also made and shipped to Pittsburgh, where they commanded a price of about $1 a thousand. The shingles were at that date split out and shaved by hand. An average days work for a shingle maker was 1,500. Like the lumber they were conveyed to Oil Creek and rafted down the stream to the markets on the river below. The right of nonresident owners to the timber on their lands was not held in very high respect and many of the early lumbermen had no scruples in cutting and sawing the pine wherever it could be conveniently found, unless the owner was personally present to oppose such a procedure. The pine has now nearly disappeared, and the hemlock remaining is rapidly being converted into lumber. Its
bark is sold to considerable profit at the Titusville Extract Works. The stream of <page 655> people brought to Titusville during the palmy days of oil excitement created a considerable home demand for lumber in the erection of buildings and derricks. The rapid growth of Titusville materially benefitted the rural districts of Steuben, as well as other townships, by the demand at high prices of vegetables and grain. The manufacture of black salts was another source of income to the pioneers. Immense quantities of elm, with less of ash, beech, and maple, were felled and burned that the ashes might be leeched and the lye evaporated into black salts, which commanded a price of $2.50 per 100 pounds at Meadville and other places, where it was refined into pearl ash, used by the settlers as a substitute for soda. The presence of oil in Oil Creek Valley induced the purchase of land in considerable quantity in the eastern part of Steuben by speculating oil companies at a price far above its value for agricultural purposes. The title to much of this laud is still held by the speculators in petroleum. Wells were drilled but proved wholly unproductive.
No very early schools were held in Steuben. The earliest was probably kept within the bounds of Townville Borough. Several early saw-mills were built on Muddy Creek at Townville. About a half mile below the village a grist-mill was erected on Muddy Creek by Ebenezer Smith, but a few years later it was destroyed by fire and not rebuilt.
Tryonville. is a village in the eastern part, containing a population of per haps 150. The first settlement here was made by the Tryons. They kept a few groceries on hand for the accommodation of their mill hands, but the first considerable stock of merchandise was brought by E. B. Lee about 1848. The first tavern stand was kept by Lyman Jones. James Tryon kept the first school. The mills which formerly flourished here and gave origin to the village have now disappeared. The village straggles out to considerable length on either side of Oil Creek and besides its several stores has the usual complement of small industrial shops incident to such a place. Tryonville Station is located about a half mile to the northeast. Here the Union & Titusville Railroad branches from the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia, both continuing side by side up Oil Creek Valley, through the township. Along the railroad near the station quite a little hamlet has sprung into existence, where lumbering is actively carried on.
As early as 1872 the Pennsylvania Petroleum Railroad graded a road-bed northwestwardly through the township. The track was also commenced, when operations were permanently suspended. Every year since the construction of the road-bed the rumor has gained currency among the people in this locality that the road was about to be finished, and hopes of its ultimate completion are still entertained by a number.
Clappville is a hamlet on the route of the proposed road, and about a mile southwest from Tryonville. It consists of a little store, eight or ten dwellings and a thriving saw-mill. Ralph Clapp, a Methodist minister, settled here about 1840. He started a saw-mill, but remained only a few years. John Matthews came about the same time. The present mill was built by Stafford Radure.
Tryonville Methodist Episcopal Church, the only religious society in the township, was organized in 1833. Its original membership was small, including James Tryon and wife, David Tryon and wife, and Mrs. Harriet Matthews. James Tryon, who was chiefly instrumental in effecting the organization, was its leader forty years, the present leader, David Titus, being his only successor. Services wore held in the schoolhouse until 1870, when the present church edifice was erected. It is a well finished frame structure about 31x54 in size, and cost in its erection about $7,000. The membership is now about twenty- <page 656> five. This appointment is now a part of Hydetown Circuit; it was formerly attached to Titusville Circuit.
BOROUGH OF TOWNVILLE.
Townville Borough was incorporated in 1867, and its first officers, who were elected October 8 of that year, were as follows: W. B. King, Burgess; Horace C. Rounds, Thomas Shonts, Salmon Phillips, Byron Smith and John Hawthorn, Council; A. F. Titus, Constable; H. C. Birchard, Clerk and Secretary. Mr. King was re elected Burgess in 1868, and his successors have been: C. Delamater, 1869—70; W. R. King, 1871—72; G. R. Hoyt, 1873; C. Delamater, 1874; Thomas Shonts, 1875; John F. Wykoff, 1876—77; John Fetterman, 1878; Charles Stewart, 1879; S. N. Atkins, 1880, H. A. Drake, 1881; B. S. Childs, 1882; T. Radle, 1883; B. S. Childs, 1884. The borough is irregular in outline, and situated in the southwest part of Steuben Township on the south side of Muddy Creek. Its population in 1870 was 280. By an error it was by the census of 1880 accredited with 610 inhabitants. The population is now between 370 and 380, and it was no greater in 1880. Main Street, the principal thoroughfare, extending northwest and southeast, is lined with dwelling-houses for a distance of almost a mile. It is intersected in the southeast part of the village by Fremont Street, and the business of the place clusters near the intersection. Townville contains three dry goods or general stores, two drug and hardware stores, one furniture, one clothing, one tin and two millinery stores, one water saw-mill, two steam saw-mills, one of which does an extensive planing business, one grist-mill, one bowl factory, one cheese factory, one jelly factory, a broom handle factory, a tannery, three large carriage shops, one harness, one blacksmith, one gun and two shoe shops, one hotel, three physicians, one dentist, four churches, three societies, a newspaper and a handsome school building.
The village was founded by Noah Town, who in 1824 emigrated from Granville, N. Y., to the wilderness, in what is now the eastern part of Randolph Township, whence three years later he moved to Meadville, and in 1831 came to what is now Townville. He was by faith a Congregationalist. He cleared a farm and erected the first saw-mill in this locality on Muddy Creek about 1833, transporting a considerable amount of lumber by water to Pittsburgh by way of Oil Creek, whither he teamed it. Mr. Town also kept the first store in the village. He afterward removed to Erie, where he died. Zephaniah Kingsley had in 1822 or 1823 come with his three sons, Zephaniah, Calvin and Ransom, from Fort Ann, Washington Co., N. Y., and settled on Tract 1370, in the western part of the present village. This region was then densely forested, and it was years before the first road was laid out. Ransom Kingsley built a saw-mill on Muddy Creek about the same time Noah Town constructed one. Mr. Kingsley was also the first Postmaster; the office was called "Kingsleys." Harvey Hull moved in soon after. John Baker erected a third saw-mill on Muddy Creek. The place settled slowly, and in 1849 contained about eight dwellings. Its settlers then included Noah Town, engaged in mercantile business; Joseph and Lyman Town, his sons, engaged in farming; Ransom Kingsley; Harvey Hull, a farmer; Amby Higby, who had a cabinet shop; James Boyles, a carpenter; William Boyles, a shoe-maker; Thomas Boyles, a painter; and F. W. Post, a blacksmith. Dr. Adams, the first resident physician, came in soon after and remained several years. A. Hamlin started and has ever since operated the only tannery, and Lewis Wood about 1850 erected the steam grist-mill. The country around was then largely covered with timber, and various mills and factories of wooden wares have since been operated.
The schoolhouse was erected about 1860 by the Township Directors, the citizens of the village adding the second floor for a public hall. The necessity for greater school accommodations has converted this upper apartment into a schoolroom. A school is also conducted under the auspices of the Episcopal Church, the building for which was commenced in 1878, and is not yet quite completed.
The Townville Weekly News was started in the spring of 1881 by J. L. Rohr, its present editor and publisher. The paper is a live local sheet, and has received the support of the community. In politics it is Independent.
As nearly as can be ascertained the Methodist Class at Townville was organized in 1845. J. A. Pond, Harvey Hull and Gamaliel Phillips were of the original class. Soon after Mr. Langworthy, Dr. William Nason and Dr. Luther Pearse were prominent members. Meetings were held in the schoolhouse until about 1849, when a frame church was erected on the northeast side of Main Street. It was occupied until 1877, when the present handsome and commodious structure, 40x6O, was erected on the opposite side of the street at a cost of $5,000. The society now numbers about 100 members. It was formerly attached to Saegertown Circuit, but the circuit of Townville was organized in 1862, and it has since been filled by the following ministers: R. Gray, 1862—63; M. Smith, 1864—65; J. Shields, 1866; A. L. Miller, 1867—68; J. W. Blaisdell, 1869—71; J. Eckels, 1872—74; D. W. Wampler, 1875; J. F. Perry, 1876—77; D. S. Steadman, 1878—80; J. S. Albertson, 1881; M. V. Stone, 1882—83. The circuit includes four appointments, Townville, Guys Mills, Mount Hope, in Randolph Township, and Troy Center.
Troy Baptist Church was organized in the Kingsley Schoolhouse within the present borough limits of Townville, October 28, 1836. Its earliest membership included Zephaniah Kingsley, Samuel B. Gillet, Abraham Winston, Nelson Winston, Daniel Lamb, William Lamb, Ransom Kingsley (the first Clerk), Elder Otis L. Durfee, William Gillet, Samuel N. Frost, Ezra Frost and a number of female members. Its pastors were: Elders William Lamb, Dude and Otis Durfee. The society disbanded about 1843. Steuben Baptist Church was constituted February 13, 1851, including in its constituent membership about half of those of the old Troy Church. The church edifice was erected in 1851—52, at a cost of $1,000. It is a neat frame structure located in the extreme western corner of the borough. The pastors have been: Elders William Lamb, 1851—52; W. B. Bradford, 1853—54; William Lamb, 1855—56; Hubbard, 1857; C. W. Drake, 1858; William Lamb, 1859—61; Cyrus Shreve, 1862; Charles W. Snyder, 1863—67; Elder Morris, 1868; John Owens, 1869—70; C. W. Drake, 1871—75; D. J. Williams, 1876; C. T. Jack, 1877—79; L. L. Shearer, 1880—81; D. H. Dennison, 1882—84. The name was changed in 1881 to the Townville First Baptist Church. The membership is about 130.
Calvary Church, Protestant Episcopal, was organized by Rev. Henry Fitch April 8, 1867, with nine members: Peter and Eliza A. Rose, Miss Mary A. Rose, W. S. Rose, S. D. and Mary L. Guion, Miss Mary Myers, Miss Emily and Miss Ann B. Rose. The first vestry consisted of: Peter Rose, Warden; G. R. Hoyt; Edwin Kingsley, S. F. Radle; J. F. Stevens, George Brice, and C. Phillips. Of these, only Mr. Rose was a communicant member. The church building was commenced in 1867 and was completed and consecrated in 1873. It cost, including lot and bell, $5,000. Rev. S. T. Lord, of Meadville, held the first Episcopal service in the village January 29, 1862. Rev. Henry Fitch was rector in 1867, and the same year was succeeded by Rev. William S. Hayward. Rev. S. B. Moore then officiated at irregular intervals until 1870, when Rev. G. C. Rofter, of Meadville, held services once a month. Rev. W. <page 658> G. W.
Lewis, of Meadville, ministered from 1871 to 1873, then Rev. Byllsby, of the same city, and Dr. Purdon, of Titusville,
occasionally, followed by W. G. W. Lewis until 1877. Rev. D. I. Edwards, of Meadville, preached from 1877 to 1880, followed by Rev. Thomas A. Stevenson, of Corry, until 1881. Occasional services were then conducted until September, 1883, when Rev. John P. Taylor, of Corry, the present clergyman, took charge. The membership is twenty-one.
A Congregational Church was a former prominent religious institution of the village. Noah Town and his family, Ebenezer Harris, Harvey Coburn, Esack Coburn, Hezekiah Wadsworth and L. L. Lamb were early members. A church edifice was reared about 1845, but the congregation has since been greatly reduced in membership, and regular meetings were long ago discontinued.
Townville Lodge, No. 929, I. O. O. F., was chartered February 12, 1876, and instituted March 23, following, with ten members. It charter officers were: A. B. Edson, N. G.; Bemus Buckley, V. G.; R. H. Smith, Secretary; A. R. Fross, Assistant Secretary; Thomas Shouts, Treasurer. The membership is now ninety-six, and meetings are held every Friday evening.
Sadie Rebekah Lodge, No. 129, I. O. O. F., was chartered December 22, 1881. Its first officers were: Mrs. Sade Stevens, N. G.; Mrs. F. T. Radle, V. G.; Mrs. W. P. Higby, Secretary; Mrs. N. E. Stevens, Assistant Secretary; Mrs. C. Stewart, Treasurer. The membership is now forty-six, and meetings are held each alternate Tuesday evening.
William J. Gleason Post, No. 96, G. A. R., was instituted April 18, 1878, with twenty-three members. Its first officers were: A. B. Edson, C.; James F. Stevens, Sr. V. C.; William H. Blair, Jr. V. C.; H. A. Drake, O. of D.; A. E. Rose, Chaplain; Byron Smith, Surg.; A. R. Fross, Q. M.; L. J. Childs, O. G. The membership is now forty-seven, and meetings are held on the second Monday of each month.
Steuben Council, No. 24, R. T. of T., was instituted with fifteen members December 11, 1878. Its first officers were: L. D. Barton, S. C.; John Fetterman, V. C.; James Doughty, P. C.; A. L. Baker, Chaplain; V. M. Hunter, Rec. Sec.; Miss Hallie Steadman, Fin. Sec.; Charles Stewart, Treas.; H. A. Lamb, Her.; Mrs. M. A. Barton, Dep. Her.; Mrs. V. D. Fetterman, Guard; Lewis Wood, Sent.; Byron Smith, Med. Ex. The membership is twenty-three, and meetings are held each alternate Tuesday.