Erie County, Pennsylvania

History of Erie County, Pennsylvania 1884

by Samuel P. Bates, 

Submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister


XV Mills and Factories

The first mill in Erie County of which there is any record was built at the mouth of Mill Creek in 1795 - 96, under the direction of Capt. Russell Bissell, of the United States Army, to supply timber for barracks, dwellings, etc., for the use of the troops who had been sent forward as a protection to the settlers. It gave name to the stream, and stood until 1820, when it burned down. Another saw mill was built upon its site in 1831, by George W. Reed and William Himrod, the frame of which stood till some time after 1861. The second saw mill within the city limits was erected on the same stream, at or near where the Hopedale Mill stands, by Robert Brotherton, in 1806, and the third at the Eighth street crossing in 1807 or 1808, by William Wallace and Thomas Forster. About 1810, the Wallace & Forster mill privilege was bought by R. S. Reed, who added a grist mill. The property fell into the hands of George Moore in 1822, and a carding machine and fulling mill were added. They were purchased by P. & O. E. Crouch in 1859, who improved the grist mill from time to time and continued to operate it. In 1815, two more grist mills rose upon Mill Creek, the one built by R. S. Reed at the Parade street crossing, and the other by Mr. Large near the corner of French and Eleventh streets. Mr. Reed put up a distillery near his mill, and both concerns were run by him until his death. The mill building, an unusually large one, stood until about ten years ago. The mill erected by Mr. Large was allowed to go down, and its site was adopted by Vincent, Himrod & Co., for the establishment since known as the Erie City Iron Works. The fourth grist mill in the city was put up by the McNairs in 1827, on State street, south of the Lake Shore Railroad track, using the water of Ichabod Run for power. It went down, and in 1849 the Erie City Mill was built by McSparren & Dumars, to use the water of the same stream. The building was sold, moved further south, and is still standing. The Hopedale Mill was built by Henry Gingrich, on the site of the Brotherton Saw Mill, about 1850, and was operated for a time by Oliver & Bacon. These gentlemen in 1865 secured the Canal Mill, built by William Kelly, under the supervision of Jehiel Towner, on Myrtle street, near Sixth, to use the surplus water of the canal, and have managed it ever since.

At one period there were no less than half a dozen distilleries within the city limits, and perhaps as many saw mills, the latter all driven by the water of Mill Creek, which was quite a strong, steady stream. Mr. Russell, in one of his valuable contributions to the Gazette, says: "When there was not one-fifth of the population, a distillery was to be found in almost every neighborhood. Most families were as particular in laying in their barrel of whisky as their barrel of port, and would rather be without the latter than the former."

Of mills in the vicinity of the city, the earliest were erected by John Cochran, who put up a saw mill in 1800, and a grist mill in 1801 on the site of the present Densmore Mill. Three miles south of the city, on what is now the Waterford Plank Road, Robert McCullough, in 1802 or 1804, put up a saw and grist mill, which are still in operation under the title of the Erie County Mills. All of these used the water of Mill Creek. In 1814, a small grist mill was built by Thomas Miller, on the little stream which empties into the bay at the Head, to which he soon after added a mill for making linseed oil. The ruins remained until quite recently.

Outside of Erie City
The second and third saw mills in the county were put up in 1797 -- one by Thomas Forster at the mouth of Walnut Creek, and the other by Robert Brotherton, on Le Boeuf Creek, near the Waterford Station of the P. & E. road. The latter added a grist mill in 1802. In 1798, a fourth saw mill was built near the mouth of Four Mile Creek by Thomas Rees, for the Population Company. The fifth was built by Leverett Bissell, on French Creek, in Greenfield Township, in 1799.

During the year 1798 the first grist mill in the county was built at the mouth of Walnut Creek under the superintendence of Thomas Forster. The other mills established outside of Erie City before the last war with Great Britain were as follows:

One on Spring Run, Girard Township, by Mr. Silverthorn, in 1799.

A grist and saw mill by William Miles, at Union, in 1800, now known as Church's mill. In the same year, a small grist mill, by James Foulk, at the mouth of Six Mile Creek.

A saw mill by William Culbertson, in 1801, and a grist mill in 1802, at Edinboro, now known as Taylor & Reeder's mills.

A saw mill by Capt. Holliday, in 1801, and a grist mill in 1803, at the mouth of Crooked Creek, in Springfield Township, both of which have gone down.

A saw mill in 1802 or 1803, by John Riblet, Sr., on Four Mile Creek, half a mile south of Wesleyville. No vestige of this remains.

Lattimore's and Boyd's saw mills, in Waterford Township, about 1802. Grist mills were added to each at a later date, and allowed to go down some forty years ago.

A grist and saw mill, in 1803, by Capt. Daniel Dobbins and James Foulk, near the mouth of Twelve Mile Creek, since known as Neely's mill.

A grist mill on Sixteen Mile Creek, in North East Township, by Col. Tuttle, in 1807, now known as Scouller's.

The following shows when the mills mentioned were erected, and will be found convenient for comparison:

1814 -- The West Girard Grist and Saw Mill, on Elk Creek, by Peter Woolverton. A saw mill where Lines' mills stand, on Crooked Creek, in Springfield, by Amos Remington and Oliver Cross.

1815 -- A saw mill by William Saltsman, at the foot of the gully of Four Mile Creek, in Harbor Creek Township.

1816 -- A saw mill by James Love, on Walnut Creek, in Mill Creek Township. A saw mill on Mill Creek, by Foote & Parker.

About 1820 -- The Strong Grist Mill, on Crooked Creek, in Springfield, by Andrew Cochran.

1822 -- The Lowville Mills, by Samuel Low. The Wattsburg Mills, by William Miles.

1823 -- The Nason Mill, on Bear Run, in Fairview, by Daniel Bear. The Porter Mill, on Conneaut Creek, in Springfield, by Comfort Hay. Two mills in Amity Township, near Milltown, one by Capt. James Donaldson. The grist mill at Wesleyville, by John Shattuck.

1824 -- A saw mill in the south part of Greenfield, by John Whiteside.

1825 -- Shattuck's saw mill at Wesleyville. The mills at Wellsburg, by Samuel Wells.

1826 -- The old Cooper Mill, on Four Mile creek, by William Saltsman.

The Burger Grist Mill, on French Creek, in Le Boeuf Township, was built by George Burger about 1830; the Line Grist Mill, in Springfield, by Mr. Case, about 1832; the Sterrettania Mills, on Elk Creek, by David S. Sterrett, in 1839; the Moore Saw Mill, in Le Boeuf, about 1840; and the Branchville Mill, about 1850.

Other Early Mills and Factories
Among the earliest mills were Weigle's, at the crossing of Walnut Creek by the Ridge road, in Fairview Township, built by S. F. Gudtner; the Elgin Mills, on Beaver Dam Run, by Joseph Hall; the Grist mill on Le Boeuf Creek, in Greene, by Jacob Brown; and the Backus Mill, on Six Mile Creek, in Harbor Creek. All of these were established in the beginning of the century, but the writer has been unable to obtain the exact dates. A saw mill was built at an early period by Michael Jackson, and a grist mill by Amos King, at Albion. In 1810, there was a carding and woolen mill on the site of the Cass factory in Harbor Creek.

Soon after the war of 1812-14, a perfect mania arose for building saw mills, and every stream that could be turned to use was employed to drive from one to a dozen wheels. The county was still largely covered with forest trees, and all of the streams contained more water than now. The cutting of the timber was followed by the drying up of the streams. Most of the mills have gone down, and those that remain generally use steam. With few exceptions, the grist mills remain on the sites originally adopted. Hubard B. Burrows was a noted millwright and constructed a good share of the early mills.

The first concern in the county for the manufacture of iron goods was a foundry at Freeport, North East Township, built in 1824, by Philetus Glass. The next of any consequence was the establishment of Vincent, Himrod & Co., in Erie, who engaged in the manufacture of stoves, using the site of Large's grist mill, and the water-power of Mill Creek. The concern began operations in the winter of 1840 - 41, and has continued ever since under several changes of name and management. The Erie City Iron Works cove a portion of the site of the old mill, and the Chicago & Erie Stove Company and Erie City Boiler Works are offshoots from the original establishment.

List of Manufacturing Establishments
Below is as nearly as could be ascertained in 1880 a list of the mills and factories in the county outside of Erie and Corry. Any omissions or changes that are discovered before this book is published will be noted in the township and borough sketches:

Creameries -- Amity Creamery, near Wattsburg.

Cheese Factories -- West Springfield, Springfield Township; Phillipsville, Venango Township; Wellsburg, Elk Creek Township; Steadman's, Franklin township; West Union, Union Township; Waterford; Concord, Concord Township; Beaver Dam, Wayne Township; Carter Hill, Wayne Township; Kennedy, Wayne Township; Culbertson's, Union City; Jones', Union City; Bean's, Summit Township; Excelsior, Summit Township; Grahamville, North East Township; Reed's, McKean Township; Bean's, near Middleboro; Little Hope, Greenfield Township; Lockport, Lockport Borough; Wellman's Washington Township; McLallen's Corners, Washington Township; Phelp's, Edinboro; West Greene, Greene Township; Newman's Bridge, Waterford Township; Brown's Conneaut Township; Keepville, Conneaut Township; Wheeler's, Le Boeuf Township; Mill Village; Excelsior, Cherry Hill.

Grist Mills -- Richard's, Amity Township; Nason's, Fairview Township; Weigle's, Fairview Township; Oriental, Fairview Township; Lohrer's, Fairview Township; Porter, Springfield Township; Lines', Springfield Township; Strong's, Springfield Township; Lowville, Venango Township; Wattsburg; Long, Wells & Co.'s, Wellsburg; The Old Spires, Wellsburg; Steenrod's, Union Township; Anchor, Union City; Church's, Union City; Judson & Hipple's, Waterford Township; Williams & Dewey's, Waterford Borough; Elgin; Densmore's, Mill Creek Township; Erie County, Mill Creek Township; Kocker's, Mill Creek Township; William H. Cooper's, Wesleyville; the Old Cooper, Harbor Creek; Neely, Harbor Creek; Sterrett & Barron's, Sterrettania; Hilliker's, Branchville; Guy & Beatty's, North East Township; Jones', North East Township; Scouller's, North East Township; Little Hope, Greenfield Township; Strickland & Nason's, Girard Township; West Girard, Girard Township; Reeder & Taylor's, Edinboro; Thornton's, Albion; Burger Mill, Le Boeuf Township; ; Irving's, Union City.

Tanneries -- Vetner's, Fairview Township; Wells & Sons', Wellsburg; Smith & Shoppart's, Waterford Borough; Bolard & Hayes', Waterford Borough; Sterrettania; Chisholm's, McKean Township; Rappold's, near Sterrettania; Roher's, McKean Township; Scouller & Tyler's, North East Township; Nason's, North East; St. John's, Washington Township; Rossiter's, Girard Township; Aldrich's, Lockport; McWilliam's, Edinboro; Terrill's, Union City.

Saw, Shingle, Lath and Heading Mills -- Shove's, Amity Township; Wheeler's, Amity Township; Doolittle & Chaffee's, Amity Township; Donaldson's (saw and shingle), Amity Township; Richard's, Amity Township; Cox's, Amity Township; Ester & Kelsey's (shingle), Amity Township; Ruhl's, Fairview Township; Kreider's, Fairview Borough; Comer's, McKean Township; Propeck's, McKean Township; Porter's, Springfield Township; Lines', Springfield Township; Strong's, Springfield Township; Reed's, Springfield Township; Lowville (saw, shingle and heading); Phillipsville (saw and shingle mill); Wattsburg (saw mill); Bowman's, Wellsburg; Pageville, Elk Creek Township; Mohawk, Franklin Township; Sweet & Alden's, Franklin Township; Mishler's, Franklin Township; Gimber's, Franklin Township; Fenno's, Union Township; Bentley's (saw and shingle), Union Township; Kamerer's, Union Township; Vermilyea's, Union Township; Miller's, Union Township; Harrison's, Union Township; one on the South Branch, Union Township; Brunsteter's, Union City; Carroll's (saw and shingle), Union City; Clough's (shingle), Union city; Kimball & Harrison's (shingle) Union City; Church's, Union City; Clark & Son's, Union City, Pratt & Son's, Union City; Davis', Waterford Township; Benson's, Waterford Township; Lattimore's Waterford Township; Brotherton's, Waterford Township; Judson & Hipple's, Waterford Township; Himrod's, Waterford Township; Boyd's, Waterford Township; Hull's, Waterford Township; Marsh's, Waterford Township; Dewey's (saw and lath), Waterford Borough; Young's, Concord Township; Crowell's, Concord Township; Ormsby's, Concord Township; Lovell's Station, Concord Township; Elgin (saw-mill); saw-mill on the Brokenstraw, Wayne Township; two shingle-mills on the Brokenstraw, Wayne Township; two sawmills on Hare Creek, Wayne Township; shingle-mill on Slaughter Run, Wayne Township; saw-mill near the New York line, Wayne Township; Erie County Mill, Mill Creek Township; Russell's, Mill Creek Township; Nece's, Mill Creek Township; Geist's, Mill Creek Township; Stroher's, Mill Creek Township; Thomas's (saw, shingle and feed), Mill Creek Township; Balkey's (shingle and feed), Mill Creek Township; William H. Cooper's, Wesleyville; the old Cooper, Harbor Creek Township; Dodge's (saw and shingle), Harbor Creek Township; Neely, Harbor Creek Township; another mill, Harbor Creek Township; Jackson's, Summit Township; Sterrett & Barron's, Sterrettania; Wood's, McKean Township; Osborn's, McKean Township; Decker's, McKean Township; Leland's, McKean Township; Lampson's (saw and shingle), Middleboro; Guy & Beatty's (saw and shingle), North East Township; Freeport, North East Township; Applebee & Butts's, North East Township; mill near New York line (saw and heading), North East Township; three portable mills, Greenfield Township; Raymond's, Greenfield Township; Little Hope, Greenfield Township; West Girard, Girard Township; Gudgeonville, Girard Township; Pettis', Girard Township; Herrick's, Girard Township; Shipman's, Girard Township; Godfrey's, Girard Township; one saw-mill at Lockport; Wait & Ensing's (saw and lath), Washington Township; ; Wellman's (saw, shingle and lath), Washington Township; Reeder's, Washington Township; Davis & Rider's, Washington Township; Black's, Washington Township; Gardner's, Washington Township; Wade's (saw, shingle and lath), Washington Township; Sherwood's, Edinboro; Reeder's, Edinboro, Brown's (saw and lath), Greene Township; Kane's, Greene Township; Ripley's, Greene Township; two mills on Six Mile Creek, Greene Township; Spalding's, Conneaut Township; one portable mill, Conneaut Township; Albion Saw Mill; Moore's, Le Boeuf Township; Manross', Le Boeuf Township; Wheeler's, Le Boeuf Township; Fogle's, Le Boeuf Township; Dunlap's, Le Boeuf Township; Waterhouse's, Le Boeuf Township; Robinson's Corners, Venango Township; Henderson's (shingle), Venango Township; Bennett's, Venango Township; the Gillett Mill, Mill Village; George Burger's (saw and shingle), Mill Village.

Cider, Jell and Vinegar Factories -- Glazier's, Fairview Borough; Galyard's, Fairview Borough; Lowville Cider Mill; Bennett's, Venango Township; Water's, Union Township; Carroll's, Union City; Rices, Waterford Township; Hare's, Waterford Township; Belle Valley; Tompkins', Mill Creek Township; Balkey's, Mill Creek Township; Thomas', Mill Creek Township; Cooper's, Wesleyville; Troop's, Harbor Creek Township; Hauck's, Sterretania; Leland's, McKean Township; Smith's, McKean Township; Wiswell's, McKean Township; Wagner's, McKean Township; Rhode's, cider and vinegar, North East Township; Green & Chase's, cider and vinegar, North East Township; Brown's, Girard Township; Mosemann's, Greenfield; West Girard, cider and plaster, Girard Township; Lockport; Waterhouse's, Le Boeuf Township; McLallan's Corners, Washington Township; Anderson's, Washington Township; Mitchell's, Mill Village.

Planing Mills, Sash, Door and Blind Factories -- Kreider's, Fairview Borough; one at Lowville; two planing mills at Wattsburg; one sash factory at Wattsburg; Mills', Franklin Township; Cooper's, Union City; Clark & Son's, Union City; Jenkin's, Union City; Hunter's, Union City; Dewey's, Waterford Borough; one at Middleboro; Green's, North East Township; West Girard, Girard Township; one at Lockport, one at Girard Borough; Wade's, Washington Township; Taylor & Reeder's, Edinboro; Mickel's Planing and Spoke Mill, Mill Village; Beardsley's Stave Mill, Mill Village.

Woolen, Carding and Fulling Mills -- Thornton's, Albion; Lewis', Washington Township; Thornton's, Girard Township; Grimshaw's, North East Township; Irving's, Union Township; Cass', Harbor Creek; one in Wayne Township.

Paper Mills -- Franklin, North East Township; Watson & Morgan's, Fairview Township.

Brick and Tile Works -- Seigel's, Fairview Township; Thomas', West Springfield; Kilpatrick's, North East Township; Kane's, North East Township; Dyer Loomis', North East Township; West Girard, Girard Township; Barton & Kelly's, Waterford Borough; Kennedy's, Conneaut Township;.

Wooden Articles -- Pease's Tub and Firkin Factory, North East Borough; Jones' Barrel Factory, North East Township; New Era Organ Factory, North East Township; Grape Basket, Fruit and Cigar Box Factory, North East Township; Stetson's Handle Factory, North East Township; Freeport Table Factory, North East Township; Freeport Turning Works, North East Township; Coffman's Pump Factory, North East Township; Brown's Hand Rake Factory, Girard Township; Lockport Oar Factory; Girard Furniture Factory; White's Factory, Washington Township; Taylor & Reeder's Pump Factory, Edinboro; Wells & Andrews' Oar Factory, Albion; VanRider's Horse Rake, Wheelbarrow and Shovel Factory, Albion; Dodge's Handle Factory, Harbor Creek; Troop's Basket Factory, Harbor Creek; Elgin Barrel Factory; Coffin Factory, Mill Creek Township; Gunnison's Pump Factory, Mill Creek Township; Blanchard & Hanson's Furniture Factory, Union City; Wescott's Dowel Pin Factory, Union City; Clark & Son's Stave and Handle Mill, Union City; Hunter's Pump Factory, Union City; Hatch's Broom Factory, Union City; Jones' Cheese Box Factory, Union City; Manross' Stave Works, Union City; Thompson's Water Wheel Works, Union City; Woods & Johnson's barrel factories, Union City; Chair and Furniture Factory, Union City; Westcott's Broom Handle Factory, Union City; Wheeler's Chair Factory, Union City; Woods' Stave Factory, Union City; Sulky Hay Rake Factory, Waterford Township; Hasting's Tub and Firkin Factory, Waterford Township; Wattsburg Handle Factory; Wattsburg Furniture Factory; Wellsburg Furniture and Coffin Factory; Zeigler's Broom Factory, Wellsburg; Keeler's Furniture Factory, Wellsburg.

Beer Breweries -- Water's, Union City; Mill Creek Brewery; Bannister's, North East Township.

Carriage and Wagon Works -- Griffith's, North East Borough; Fromeyer's, North East Borough; Mattison's, Le Boeuf Township; Sterrettania Wagon Shop; two wagon shops at Middleboro; Lamphier & Brower's, Union City; Morton's, Union City; two wagon shops at Beaver Dam; Howe & Son's, Waterford Borough; Taylor's, Waterford Borough; Emanuel Ziegler's, Wellsburg; Fargo's, Fairview Borough; Wurntz's, Fairview Borough; Williams', Amity Township.

Miscellaneous -- Glass's Foundry, North East Borough; North East Canning Factory; Girard Wrench Factory; Miles Grove Iron Foundry; Denio's Agricultural Tool Works, Miles Grove; Pettibone's Limekiln, Girard Township; Mount Hickory Iron Works, Mill Creek Township; Dunmyer's Iron Works, Union City; Union City Iron Works; Johnson's Boot and Shoe Factory, Waterford Borough; Wattsburg Feed Mill; Purcell's Spring Bed Factory, Wellsburg.

Recapitulation -- Creamery, 1; cheese factories, 28; grist mills, 36; tanneries, 14; saw, shingle, lath and heading mills, 117; cider, jell and vinegar factories, 27; planing mills and sash, door and blind factories, 17; woolen, carding and fulling mills, 6; paper mills, 2; brick and tile works, 8; manufactories of wooden articles, 38; beer breweries, 3; carriage and wagon shops, 11; miscellaneous, 12; total, 316.

As the list stand above, with Erie and Corry added, there are fully 450 concerns in the county that can properly be classed as mills and factories. Their number, extend and variety will be as much of a surprise to the reader as they were to the writer in making up this chapter.

Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884),  Chapter XV, 262-270.


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