Erie County, Pennsylvania

History of Erie County, Pennsylvania 1884

by Samuel P. Bates, 

Submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister


Elk Creek Township


The first settler in Elk Creek Township was Eli Colton, father of George W. Colton, the well-known politician. He was a native of Granby, Conn., and went into the township early in 1797. In the spring of 1798 or 1899 the settlers were George Haybarger, and his brother-in-law, John Deitz, from Maryland, who were followed by their families in the succeeding fall, in charge of Arnestes Deitz, father of John. Mr.Colton married a daughter of the elder Deitz in 1800 or 1801. Mr. Haybarger changed to Mill Creek in 1810, where his descendants remain. In 1800, Elihu Crane took up the tract on which Craneville stands, where he remained until his death. He was from Connecticut, and settled in Conneaut township in the spring of 1798, from which place he changed to Elk Creek. During 1800, or a little before, numerous parties located in the township, among whom were David Randall, Daniel Akers, Mr. Odell and Mr. Harrington. In 1802, David Sherrod arrived from Susquehanna County. James McCammon, with his sons, James and Robert, came from Ireland early in the century, locating first at Philadelphia, then at Meadville, and finally in Elk Creek. A man by the name of Wallace became a resident of the township nearly at the same time. Other early settlers were Jabez Clark, Charles Scott, Maxon Randall and the Shieldses and Spragues. Among the later settlers were the following: In 1815, Daniel Winchester, from Stafford County, Conn., and Samuel Wells, with his Sons, Otis, Obed, Franklin, Samuel and Julius, from St. Albans, Vt.; in 1818, Josiah Steward; in 1824, the Stewarts, Rodgerses and Brookses from New York; in 1831, Thomas Bowman; in 1832, Levi and William Joslin, from Oneida County, N. Y.; Edmund Goodenow, from the same county; Sylvester Hubbard, from Tompkins County, N. Y.; Samuel Sherman and family, from Herkimer county, N. Y.; John Warner, from Massachusetts; and Wilson Cole, from Chautauqua county, N. Y.; in 1833, John Stafford, from Augusta, Oneida County, N. Y., and William Vorce, from Chautauqua County, in the same State; in 1834, Orange and Perley miller; in 1835, Jeremiah Crowley, a native of Ireland, and Noah Almey,; in 1836, David Smith, from Vermont; in 1838, Hiram Irish, from Vermont, and Burr L. Pulling, from Saratoga County, N. Y. The growth of the township was slow until 1830, but it filled up rapidly from that date to 1840. Samuel Sherman took up a large body of land, which he divided among his boys. In 1840, Harley Sherman, son of Samuel Sherman, opened a grocery store at Wellsburg, where he lived until his death. The forefathers of the Shermans came to America from England, in 1634, settling in New England, from which section their descendants have spread into every State of the Union.

General Description
The township is one of the original sixteen, and received its title from the stream of Elk Creek, several branches of which rise in its northern portion. It originally extended north to a point parallel with the south line of Fairview, and was then nearly square. In 1832, the north part was sliced off in the formation of Girard, leaving a short handle which now constitutes a part of Franklin. When the latter township was created in 1844, another piece was taken from Elk Creek, reversing the shape of the township, and causing it to stand in its present form which is exactly that of a gothic L. The original area was 35,840 acres, which has been reduced to 20,696 acres. By the assessment of 1880, the valuation was as follows: Real estate, $464,915; horses, $371; cows, $623; oxen, $40; value of personal property, $34,044; value of trades and occupations, $10,175; money at interest, $25,582.

Elk Creek is bounded on the north by Girard and Franklin, on the east by Franklin and Washington, on the south by Cussewago Township, Crawford County, and on the west by Conneaut. The population was 288 in 1820, 562 in 1830; 1,645 in 1840, 1,535 in 1850, 1,462 in 1870, and 1,564 in 1880, inclusive of Wellsburg. The villages are Wellsburg, Cranesville and Pageville, and the post offices are Lundy's Lane (Wellsburg) and Elk Creek (Cranesville), Elk Creek Township has had but four county officials, viz.: Stephen J. Godfrey, County Commissioner from 1866 to 1869, and Mercantile Appraiser in 1871; C. C. Taylor, County Superintendent of Public Schools from 1869 to 1878; Richard Powell, County Commissioner from 1881 to 1884; and George Manton, County Auditor from 1881 to 1884. George W. Colton, Clerk to the Commissioners from 1852 to November, 1863, and Prothonotary from his resignation of the latter office in 1867, is a native of the township, but removed to Erie before he was chosen to the first position. C. H. Irish, Superintendent of Government Printing at Washington, was also a native of Elk Creek. The latter died in January, 1883, after having been prominent as a public man for many years.

The Elk Creek lands are generally rolling, with a clay soil, except a narrow belt of gravel along the East Branch of Conneaut Creek and its tributaries. The hill lands, which include about two-thirds of the township, are quite flat when the summit is reached, and are well watered, being the sources of numerous small streams. Land ranges in value from $20 to $40, according to the proximity to the villages. The township contains two cheese factories -- one at Wellsburg, and Kingsley's, in the southeast. Much timber remains, but it is fast disappearing. There is no railroad in the township, and the nearest station is that of the Erie & Pittsburgh road at Albion. A mile east of Wellsburg was a deposit of bog iron ore, from which a large share of the stock used in Vincent, Himrod & Co.'s old furnace in Erie was drawn. The ore has been used of late years in making mineral paint, being first applied to that purpose by Winton & Williams. In Glen Frazier is a mineral spring which has become famous over the western part of the county for its medical virtues.

Roads and Streams
The main thoroughfares are the road from Albion, through Wellsburg, to Edinboro; the old road from Girard, through Cranesville and Wellsburg, to Meadville; and the Crane road, from Albion, through Cranesville and Franklin Township, to the Edinboro Plank Road. A hack runs several times a day, each direction, between Wellsburg, Cranesville and Albion Station, carrying passengers and the mails. Elk Creek has no large streams, the most important one being the East Branch of Conneaut Creek, which falls into the latter about half a mile west of Albion. The East Branch rises in Crawford County, just across the line. It is joined by Frazier's Run at Wellsburg, by Crane Run near Cranesville, by Mormon Run at Thornton's dam, near Albion, and by Jackson Run within the latter borough. Mormon Run received its name because used as a place of baptism by that sect, who were once quite numerous in the vicinity. The West Branch of Elk Creek has its source near the center, and runs north into Girard, where it connects with the main stream a little below "The Devil's Backbone." In the southeast are the head-waters of the Cussewago, which pursues a southerly course, and, joining French Creek near Meadville, helps to make the Ohio and Mississippi. Forty years or so ago, there were twelve or fifteen saw mills on the East Branch, as well as several on other streams. The water-power was very fine in the early days, on account of the steady flow of water and the heavy fall in the streams.

The churches of Elk Creek are a Free-Will Baptist, Methodist Episcopal and Universalist at Wellsburg, Methodist Episcopal at Cranesville, Free-Will Baptist and Methodist at Pageville, United Brethren on the Meadville road between Cranesville and Lockport, and Union United Brethren.

The Little Brick, or Randall United Brethren Church, holds services about a mile north of Cranesville, in a neat brick structure which was formerly a schoolhouse. The society was organized about 1853 by Rev. Michael Oswald. Rev. C. Z. Dilley is at present pastor in charge. The society contains about thirty members. It is embraced in the Erie Circuit, which besides the Randall appointment includes Branchville in McKean Township; Bethel, Fairview Township; Foy Schoolhouse, Franklin Township; Miller, Girard Township; and Union, in the south part of Elk Creek Township. The last named appointment is quite an old class, has about twenty members, and meets in a schoolhouse.

There is a considerable Catholic population in the south part of the township, who worship mainly at the church in Cussewago, Crawford County. They are mainly of Irish nativity or descent.

Probably the first school in the township was taught by Maxon Randall, in his log cabin about a mile north of Cranesville, about 1815. About one and a half miles south of Wellsburg, stood a log schoolhouse, wherein Miss Becky Reese, who was afterward Mrs. William Monroe, taught about 1817. Samuel Clark, the son of an early settler of this township, held a school in the same cabin about 1818, and following him, David Mathews conducted a term. Immediately south of Wellsburg a Mr. Higgins, an old bachelor, taught about 1820. The Sawdy Schoolhouse, in the northwest corner of the Township, was built about 1823, and for many years subserved its educational purposes. Henry Miller, one of the first settlers, taught here. Betsy Colton, who became Mrs. Hiram Bradley, and Zachariah Tolbit were other early instructors at Sawdy. At Cranesville, on the corner now occupied by the post office, was a diminutive log structure in early days, where Matilda Eldridge and John Braddish were among the first teachers. The following is a list of the present schools: Sawdy, two miles north of Cranesville, on the Lockport road; Wellsburg (graded), Cranesville, Bowens, one mile from Cranesville, on the Crane road; Kingsley, a mile and a half south of Wellsburg, on the Meadville road; Union at Cold Spring, three miles south of Wellsburg, on the Meadville road; Pleasant Valley, two miles east of Wellsburg; Pageville, Miller, six miles east of Wellsburg, and an independent school of Elk Creek and Franklin Townships.

The village of Wellsburg, in the narrow valley of the East Branch of Conneaut Creek, is situated at the crossing of the Girard & Meadville by the Albion & Edinboro road. Samuel Wells after whom it was named, settled at this point with his five sons in 1815, and at an early day his son Franklin built a grist mill and several saw mills. Samuel drilled a salt well about a mile south of Wellsburg, on the Clark farm, and for a considerable period the neighborhood was supplied by him with a home made article. This continued until the opening of the canal, which caused the abandonment of the well. The village, which was laid out by Otis Wells, did not make much progress until some six or ten years ago, when a brisk competition among the merchants led to low prices, a heavy trade fro the adjacent country, new manufactories, and a general and most marked spirit of enterprise. Wellsburg is twenty-five miles from Erie, nine miles south of Girard, one each from Cranesville and Albion, and two miles from Albion Station. The mercantile establishments consist of three dry goods stores, one grocery and hardware store and one millinery store. A new schoolhouse was erected about two years ago, at a cost of over $5,000. The McLellan House is a large new hotel. The manufacturing interests of the village are unusually extensive, as will be seen by the following list: Long, Wells & Co's., new steam and flouring mill, the old Spires Grist Mill, Wells & Sons' tannery, Ralph Bowman's steam saw mill, J. R. Snyder's steam furniture and coffin factory, Frank Ziegler's broom factory, the Elk Creek Co-operative Cheese factory (in operation about eleven years), Emanuel Ziegler's carriage, wagon and blacksmith shop, Purcell Bros'. spring bed factory, one cooper shop and two other blacksmith shops. Its population by the census of 1880 was 256, about half of whom have been added within a few years. Wellsburg has become the principal trading point for most of Elk Creek, a portion of Conneaut, the western portion of Franklin, the southern portion of Girard and even a section of Crawford County. Its post office name is Lundy's Lane. The office was established in 1852, when Gen. Scott was running for President, and named in honor of one of his battles during the last war with Great Britain. A telephone line connecting Wellsburg with Albion Station was put up in 1879. In addition to the salt well of Samuel Wells, another was drilled further up on the East Branch, on the farm now owned by S. A. Deriar. It was known as the White Well, but was never put in operation. On the same tract there had long been a strong show of petroleum. Boring was done to secure the oil, but only a small quantity was obtained. In 1861, during the height of the oil excitement, two wells were drilled on the farm of Harley Sherman, east of Wellsburg. A large yield of gas was secured but not enough oil to pay.

The free-Will Baptist congregation, the largest in the town, was organized on the 5th of May, 1839, Rev. Willard Stickney, of Washington Township, being the first pastor, and Asa Litchfield, clerk. Its later pastors have been Revs. Frank Wells, David Winton, Chauncey Joslin, E. R. Anderson, Rufus Clark, J. B. Page and Rev. Boynton, the present incumbent. Julius Wells and John W. Prescott were the first and only Deacons. The congregation has a commodious building, surmounted by a steeple and bell tower with a fine bell. A Sabbath school was established over thirty years ago, and has been in continuous operation. The membership of the church in about forty.

The Universalist Church at Wellsburg was organized in June, 1838, with twenty-five members by Rev. Edson Beals, who was the first pastor. The first meetings were held in the academy, which stood in the park on the site of the Universalist Church. The latter was erected in 1855 at a cost of $1,500, and was thoroughly repaired in 1871. Rev. A. J. Patterson, now of Boston, Mass., was pastor at the time of the church erection. After the pastorate of Rev. Beals, the following served as ministers: Revs. Joseph Sargent, Ami Bond, Fowler, A. J. Patterson, Luce and Charles L. Shipman, of Girard. No regular services have been held for two years past. The numerical strength of the church is about sixty.

A Methodist Episcopal society was organized at Wellsburg in very early times. About 1835, it erected frame meeting house on the summit of the hill between Wellsburg and Cranesville, the lot being the donation of Lyman Jackson. Formerly services had been held in an old blacksmith shop, converted into a schoolhouse and church. The church building became old and unfit for services. In 1875, or shortly before the society divided, a portion going to Cranesville and a portion to Wellsburg, the latter held services for a short time in the schoolhouse; then the Pleasant Valley Church building, several miles south of Wellsburg, was removed to the latter village, and is now used as the house of worship. Pleasant Valley was an old society organized in 1833, by Rev. William Todd. Its church edifice was erected in 1854, at an expense of $1,300. Wellsburg Church is small, containing about twenty members. It formerly was a part of Springfield Circuit, but when Albion Circuit was formed, became and has since remained a part of it.

The Wellsburg Cemetery, an inclosure of about ten acres, on a knoll in the north part of the village, is the principal burying ground of the township. The Shermans have a family burial place of about two acres.

Cranesville was founded by Fowler Crane, son of Elihu Crane, the first settler on the site, who laid out the village, and put up a hotel, store and ashery. In lies in the valley of the East Branch of Conneaut Creek, a mile north of Wellsburg, and a mile northeast of Albion, at the crossing of the Crane road by the Girard & Meadville road, and almost on the Conneaut line. The valley at Cranesville widens out more than at Wellsburg, and the village stands chiefly on the upland overlooking the stream, in rather a pleasant location. The old Erie Canal passed through the village, and is watered by Crane Run. It entered Elk Creek Township a little south of Lockport, and about half a mile east of the Conneaut Township line, and continued to Cranesville, where it diverged into Conneaut, having had a course of about two and one-half miles in the township. The culvert between Albion and Cranesville, by which the canal crossed the East Branch -- an excellent of pile of masonry -- is now used for a township roadway. After Wellsburg got its start and the canal had been abandoned, Cranesville rather declined, but of late it has commenced to improve. The village embraces a Methodist Episcopal Church, one general store, one grocery, Robert Wait's planing mill, two blacksmith shops, paint shop, schoolhouse, about thirty-five dwellings and perhaps 150 people. The church building was erected at a cost of $2,000, in 1874, Rev. Mr. Williams being the first pastor. About the same time the old church that stood on the hill between Cranesville and Wellsburg was removed to Springfield. Cranesville society was detached from Wellsburg about 1874, and belongs to Albion Circuit. The old hotel was torn down in the summer of 1878, more attractive houses at Wellsburg and Albion having robbed it of its custom. A sandstone quarry was formerly worked between Cranesville and Lockport, near the Population road, from which material was taken for the locks of the canal. The post office name of Cranesville is Elk Creek. Its nearest railroad station is Albion.

Four miles southeast of Wellsburg, at the forks of the Crossingville road, is the village of Pageville, consisting of a Free-Will Baptist Church, a schoolhouse, a saw mill, and a few scattered dwellings. This remote place was one the scene of extensive manufacturing operations. Being on the edge of a vast forest of ash and oak, E. Page selected it as the site of his oar factory, one of the most extensive in the country. The factory gave employment to some twenty-five men and its wares were sent to all parts of America and Europe. On its suspension the workmen found other homes, and the place declined to an ordinary cross roads collection of houses. The Baptist congregation was organized by Rev. Willard Stickney, the first pastor, in 1839, the same year as the one at Wellsburg. Rev. Carey Rogers preached here for many years, and Rev. Boynton is the present pastor. services were held in the schoolhouse until 1875, when a church was erected at a cost of about $1,200. Rogers' steam saw mill occupies the site of the old oar factory. A Methodist Episcopal society worships in the Baptist Church. It is small, but quite old, and is attached to Albion Circuit.

Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Township Histories, Chapter XI, pp. 770-775.


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