Crawford County, Pennsylvania
History & Biography
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BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP—ORGANIZATION—BOUNDARIES—PHYSICAL FEATURES—LANDS—EARLY SETTLERS—THOMAS BLOOMFIELD—RICHARD SHREVE—OTHER SETTLERS—MONEY—SCHOOLS—LINCOLNVILLE—CHURCHES—CHAPINVILLE—BLOOMFIELD—CHEESE FACTORIES—MILLS.
BOROUGH OF RICEVILLE—INCORPORATION—OFFICERS—EARLY SETTLERS—SCHOOLS—INDUSTRIES—CHURCHES—SOCIETIES.
BLOOMFIELD was organized from the territory of Oil Creek Township early in 1811, first appearing on record in May of that year. Its bounds as then formed included Sparta as it now is, the northern part of Rome, the northeastern part of Athens, and the eastern part of Bloomfield. Rockdale included the western part of present Bloomfield until 1829, when the boundaries of the latter were constituted as they now exist. The township lies on the northern confines of the county, and is bounded on the west by Rockdale, on the south by Athens, and on the east by Sparta. Its area is 21,383 acres. Within its original bounds the population in 1820 was only 214, while every other township in the county contained 400 or more, indicating that the northeast portion of the county was tardiest in settlement. The township in 1850 contained 834 inhabitants; in 1860, 1,662; in 1870, 1,262, and in 1880, 1,491. The marked decrease in the last two decades was caused by the separate enumeration of Riceville.
The surface is broken by the valley of Oil Creek passing southeasterly through the township, and by the valleys of its numerous tributaries. Beech, maple, hemlock, elm and basswood are found on the low lands and in the eastern part, while oak and chestnut cover the ridges of the western, the soil of which is of excellent quality. Oil Creek Lake, which may properly be called the source of Oil Creek, though it has several inlets, lies near the center of the township. It is a beautiful sheet of water, several hundred acres in extent, with a depth of perhaps thirty feet, and well stocked with fish. On the early maps it is marked Washington Lake. It is the highest of the Crawford County lakes, having an altitude of 816 feet above Lake Erie. One little steamer plies on its bosom, and a hotel recently built on the lakeside provides for the wants of the visiting public.
The southern part of the township belongs to the Eight Donation District. The northern part was State land; a portion of which was claimed by John Fields, a wealthy Philadelphian. James Hamilton, his agent, made his advent in the wilderness in 1798, and with a view to stimulate settlement erected a grist and saw-mill at the foot of Oil Creek Lake. The mill was the first in the northeast part of the county, and was rebuilt in 1821. Mr. Hamilton in <page 506> 1808 removed to Meadville. He had been followed to Bloomfield by quite a number of hardy pioneers, but most of them left again within a few years, on account of land difficulties and a dull soil. In the northwest corner the Holland Land Company had a few tracts. Its efforts to effect their settlement are shown by the following contracts for occupancy, with the appended unsuccessful results: Tract 108, Michael Schaeffer, 150 acres, August 30, 1799; Tract 109, Michael Schaeffer, 150 acres, August 30, 1799; Tract 110, Adam Hettritch, 150 acres, August 30, 1799, forfeited; Tract 111, Jacob Hettritch, 150 acres, August 30, l799, forfeited; Tract 112, George Heim, 150 acres, August 30, 1799, forfeited; Tract 113, George Heim, 150 acres, August 30, 1799, forfeited; Tract 114, George Fetterman, 150 acres, December 20, 1798, claim relinquished. These individuals, if they were here at all, for they are not remembered, soon betook themselves to other climes, and the forests remained for many years in their pristine state of solitude.
One of the earliest permanent settlers was Thomas Bloomfield, whose name has been transmitted to the township. He was born in New Jersey November 23, 1746; at the age of twenty-three he married Elizabeth Morris, the niece of Robert Morris, the financier of the Revolution. Being a man of considerable means, engaged extensively in the coast trade, and in 1797 came from Fayette County to French Creek. The following year, with his family of nine children, one of whom was married, he removed to Bloomfield, settling one tract for himself, and one for his son Lewis, then under age, while his son Isaac and his son-in-law, James Bryan, each settled a tract. Thomas Bloomfield died January 15, 1814; his widow survived until 1829, when she passed away at the age of seventy-six years. Of their children, Catherine, the eldest, born in 1772, had married James Bryan, and they came to Bloomfield slightly in advance of her parents. She was the first white woman in the township, and after a residence here of about thirty-five years removed with her husband to the West. Isaac, born in 1776, married Lettus Titus, and after his settlement in Bloomfield, moved to Waterford, Erie County, whence in 1833 he emigrated to near Toledo, Ohio. Lewis married Susannah Kirk, daughter of a pioneer, and in 1829 removed to Stark County, Ohio, where be died in 1864. Anna married Calvin Frisbee, and settled in Le Boeuf Township, Erie County, Stephen died at Riceville in 1863. Sarah died at the age of eighteen years. Andrew died in this township in 1850. Thomas was a Justice of the Peace, and died in this county in 1866. Elizabeth, the youngest, married Israel Shreve, and died in Bloomfield in 1879.
Richard Shreve, son of Gen. William Shreve, of Revolutionary fame, was born in Burlington County, N. J., in 1760. In 1798 he emigrated with his family from Fayette County to Bloomfield, where be cleared a farm, served as Justice of the Peace and as Captain of the militia, and died September 12, 1822. He had a family of thirteen children, five of whom were born in the Western home. William, the eldest, born in 1784, settled on land adjoining his father's, raised a family of eleven children, and died in 1859; Barzilla cleared a farm in Bloomfield, built an early saw-mill, raised a family of ten children, and died in 1852; Thomas removed to Ohio; Nancy married Joshua Negus and settled in this township; Israel remained in Bloomfield till his death in 1866; Charlotte married Aaron Taylor, of this township; Richard found a home in Erie County, just across the line; Caleb died in early manhood; Benjamin remained on the old farm till his death in 1856; Charles was also a life-long resident of Bloomfield; Isaac settled in Sparta; Margaret, wife of Albert Sabin, and Sarah, moved to Ohio. Eight farms were cleared by the Shreves, and many of the descendants of the family still reside in the town- <page 507> [portrait of Robert L. Waid] <page 508> [blank] <page 509> ship. William and Barzilla brought with them a carding-machine, which they operated two seasons.
Between 1798 and 1800 Joshua Negus, Joseph Kirk, John Peiffer, John Taylor and James Winders moved in. A few years later came Dennis Carrol, Nathan Price, a Quaker, John Strickle, William Smith and probably others, but many of them remained for only a brief period. James Blakeslee came from Genesee County, N. Y., in May, 1819, and settled upon a farm where it is said a Mr. Cunningham dwelt before the arrival of the foremost pioneers. Hosea and Elkanah Blakeslee were sons of James, and well-known early settlers. James Blakeslee died at the age of eighty-seven. William Hubbell was a resident of Bloomfield prior to 1820. When John Chapin came to the western part of the township from Smyrna, N. Y., in 1839, the country was yet thinly settled. The roads were few and in bad condition. Linas Cummings, son of Nathan Cummings, of Cambridge Township, settled near the central part in 1829. John Willy was one of the first settlers in the western part. He afterward moved to Erie County, where he died.
Money was a highly prized but rare article in early times, and many of the necessities of life were obtained by barter or exchange. Cash in hand was necessary, however to pay taxes, and a common method of obtaining it was to manufacture and sell black salts. Trees were felled and burned for the ashes, the lye from which was evaporated in large iron kettles until it became a thick syrupy mass. This was then conveyed to Meadville or Wattsburg and sold for 2½ cents per pound.
The first school is said to have been taught by Isaac Bloomfield in 1820 in a log-cabin which stood near Tillotson's Corners. The "block" schoolhouse near Bloomfield's Corners was the first erected for educational purposes. There were but three schools in the township prior to 1834. In that year the first School Board was elected under the new school law, with Stephen Bloomfield as President and Joshua Negus, Secretary. By this Board ten schools were organized and five immediately established.
Lincolnville, a village which, by the census of 1880, had a population of 107, is situated in the southern part of the township. Seth C. Lincoln, originally from Massachusetts, settled here in 1837. The place was then a trackless forest. Soon after his arrival Mr. Lincoln constructed a water, saw and grist-mill on Oil Creek, and operated it until his death, in 1847. His son., Edwin F., and others, succeeded to its proprietorship until its abandonment, about ten years ago. Solomon S. Sturdevant, from New York State, arrived in 1837. He assisted Mr. Lincoln in the mill, and soon after built a blacksmith-shop. Erastus Carter, a carpenter, came later, and built a tannery. The village plat was laid out by E. F. Lincoln in 1861, when the village contained about eight families. The Union & Titusville Railroad affords communication with the outside world, and Oil Creek furnishes excellent water-power. The village now contains two general stores, a hardware and drug store, one hotel, W. 0. Carter's steam feed-mill, Brustretter's steam saw-mill, Batcheldor's steam saw-mill, Wood's shingle-mill, two blacksmith-shops, wagon-shop, shoeshop, a commodious two-story frame schoolhouse, erected in 1883, at a cost of $1,300, and a Baptist Church. A little monthly newspaper, dubbed the Breeze, was started in November, 1881, by P. B. Edson, and continued about two years. In 1883 J. L. Rohr. of Townville, first issued the Star. It was printed at Townville, and published at Lincolnville. Its name was developed into the Shooting Star, which succumbed to adverse circumstances in February, 1884. Its circulation varied from 150 to 300.
The Lincolnville Baptist Church was organized March 12, 1870, with nine <page 510> constituent members: Edwin F. Lincoln, Mrs. Charlotte Wellmon, Mrs. Cornelia Nurse, Mrs. Olive Lilly, Mrs. Elizabeth Orcutt, William Lewis, Charles H. Sturdevant, Mrs. Amanda Sturdevant and Mrs. Catherine C. Thomas. Elder Cyrus Shreve was the first pastor. His successors have been: Elders J. F. Bradford, J. T. Elwell, D. H. Dennison, Carey Stewart; then J. T. Elwell again, who is the present pastor. The membership is thirty. Meetings were held in the schoolhouse, located a short distance east of the village, until 1876, when the building in which the congregation now worships was erected. It is a frame structure, 3Ox5O feet in size, and cost about $3,000.
Bloomfield Baptist Church was organized December 24, 1850, with eighteen members, by Rev. R. D. Hays, who was the first pastor. His successors have been: Revs. C. Shreve, W. D. Bradford, George A. Hubbard, M. Marley, J. F. Bradford, J. H. Miller, C. Shreve, J. T. Elwell, L. L. Shearer, Monroe Shearer and Carey Stewart. At present there is a temporary vacancy in the pastorate. The congregation was a part of French Creek Association, until the formation of Oil Creek Association in September, 1865. The membership is now eighty-six. The house of worship is a frame edifice, erected in 1854. It stands on Shreve's Ridge, on Tract 112, in the northwest part of the township.
Chapinville Baptist Church was an organization, now defunct, which was an outgrowth of Concord (Erie County) Church, and which was organized in 1845, in the western part of this township. Elder V. Thomas, ordained by this congregation, was the first pastor. Elders R. D. Hays, C. Shreve, C. W. Drake and W. D. Bradford succeeded. The society has been extinct for about ten years.
A Free-Will Baptist Church was organized many. years ago on Tract 37, in the eastern part of the township. Truman Potter and wife, Elijah Kilburn and Rev. Jedidiah Smith, were among the earliest members. Meetings were held in the old block schoolhouse. Rev. William Parker, the last pastor, closed his labors about 1880.
A Christian Society formerly flourished in the eastern part of the township. An old schoolhouse, standing in the northeast part, on Lot 29, was converted into a meeting-house, wherein the Christians, the Baptists and the United Brethren worshiped for many years.
A Methodist Society was organized as early as 1840, near the western line. John Chapin, Hiram Drake, Lewis Larkin, Abraham Bennett and Asahel Hamilton were among the earliest members. The first meetings were held in a log schoolhouse, in Rockdale Township, close to the line; then in John Chapin's house, this township, until 1858, when meetings were commenced and continued in a schoolhouse until 1868. In that year a frame church, 28x43, was built at a cost of $1,500, on Tract 113, in the northwest part of the township. The lot, the donation of Mark Wilkins, was deeded, in 1868, to John Chapin, Lewis Larkin and W. B. Taylor, Trustees. The society was known as Chapin's, was attached to Mill Village Circuit, and ceased holding services in 1876.
Another defunct society is a Wesleyan Methodist Society, organized in February, 1856, at Mickle Hollow Schoolhouse, in the southwest corner of the township. Its original membership was considerable, including Joseph Smith and wife, Alonzo Smith and wife, Marvin Tuttle and wife, Jesse Sabin and wife, Abram Amy and wife, Elisha Smith and wife, and Mrs. Laura Amy. The organization continued only about four years. Many of the members withdrew to unite with Brown's Hill, Rockdale Township, United Brethren Church.
Wilkin's United Brethren Society has hold services in Chapin's Methodist Episcopal Church since its erection, and for a few years previous had meet- <page 511> ings in the adjoining schoolhouse. C. C. Marsh, Dr. J. S. Wilson, Rev. 0. A. Chapin and Henry Wilkins were prominent early members. The class now numbers about twenty, and forms a part of French Creek Circuit.
Maple Grove United Brethren Society, also a portion of French Creek Circuit, which includes Maple Grove, Wilkin's, Brown's Hill, Kellogg's (Rockdale Township), and Little Cooley, was organized as early as 1858. Early services were conducted in a schoolhouse in the southern part of the township, and in 1872 a substantial and well furnished edifice was constructed on Tract 1,570, at a cost of $1,460. The membership is about twenty-five. Seth Pound, George Loomis, Henry King and William Mays were early members.
Near the west line of the township is Chapinville Postoffice, established many years ago. William Porter, a farmer, is Postmaster, and has been the sole incumbent.
Bloomfield Postoffice is located on the railroad a short distance above the lake. It was formerly kept at Tillotson's Corners, one and a half miles farther east.
Tillotson's Corners is a little hamlet containing a store, blacksmith shop, wagon-shop and a half dozen dwellings. A steam saw-mill and a hotel were formerly a part of the business interests of this locality.
At Shreve's Ridge, on Tract 112, in the western part of the township, is a store, a blacksmith shop, a Baptist Church, and near by a cheese factory, which, however, is now abandoned.
A cheese factory, known as the West Bloomfield, is located on Tract 113. It was built about 1874 by Brown, Obert, Kane & Marsh, and at one time consumed about 15,000 pounds of milk per day, being one of the heaviest factories in the county. It is now owned by Hubbard and the heirs of Farrington, and is the only factory now in operation. Several others were erected, but have since suspended business.
Much of the land of Bloomfield is yet uncleared, and several steam sawmills find ample business. Batchelder's and Wise's are in the eastern part. Woodward's, formerly a water and now a steam-mill, is on Mosevieh Run, Tract 112. It was built by Woodward & Blade about 1851. Glover's water saw-mill is on Tract 1557, in the western part of the township.
BOROUGH OF RICEVILLE.
Riceville was incorporated at the August term of Sessions, 1859, and a special election for first officers was held December 13, 1859, when the following were chosen: Joseph Knight, Burgess; A. H. Eby, Eli Farrington, Daniel Conner, R. B. Westgate and F. G. King, Council; Stephen Bloomfield and R. B. Westgate, Justices of the Peace; John Himebaugh, Constable; Myron Staring, Auditor; George Metler, Judge of Election; Clark Rice and F. G. King, Inspectors; H. E. Hendryx, Thomas Ferry, Hiram Oles, T. W. Winsor, D. D. Walker and A. J. Rice, School Directors. Subsequent Burgesses have been: Daniel Conner, 1860; Charles Irons, 1861; Nelson Waters, 1862; T. W. White, 1863; Moses Adams, 1864; Eli Griffith; 1865; G. W. Bloomfield, 1866; B. F. Ruggles, 1867; W. R. Lindsey, 1868; Eli Griffith, 1869-70; Henry Thurston, 1871; W. R. Lindsey, 1872; C. N. Smith, 1873-74; M. D. Rice, 1875; George Markham, 1876; E. M. Farrington, 1877; Eli Griffith, 1878; C. N. Smith, 1879; L. D. Davenport, 1880; A. M. Scranton, 1881; J. W. Rhodes, 1882; A. H. Langworthy, 1883; A. M. Scranton, 1884.
Samuel Rice, the first settler, about 1831 came to the unbroken forest here and erected a cabin where the Cummings Hotel now stands. He at once erected a saw-mill on Oil Creek, at the site of Davenport's present mill, and <page 512> for many years was its proprietor. Mr. Rice, about 1834, started the first store in a building now part of the hotel. He soon after sold it to Adonijah Fuller. Simon Smith was an early settler. He was a carpenter and joiner, and years afterward removed to Indiana. Russell Bidwell came about 1832, and for twenty years engaged in farming in the northern part of the borough, then moved to Athens Township, where he died. Newton Graves started the first blacksmith-shop. In 1847 about ten families resided here, including Benjamin Westgate, who operated a sash factory, Moses Adams, a shoemaker, and Barnett B. Cummings, the hotel proprietor.
The first school within the borough was taught about 1835 by Dorcas Taylor, daughter of Dr. Silas Taylor, of Athens Township. It was held in a deserted cabin, which stood about a fourth of a mile northwest from the depot and which had been built and occupied by Mr. Gunsley, who had contracted to clear forty acres of land for Mr. Rice. The usual price for clearing land was $5 per acre, including sawing into sixteen-foot logs. Miss Harriet Humphrey and Austin Mosier were early teachers in a plank house which had been erected for the accommodation of the mill laborers. Sidney Tracy taught in an abandoned log-cabin east of the creek, and in 1847 the first schoolhouse, a frame, was built on the hill east of the creek. It was known as the red schoolhouse, and used until the present two-story frame structure was reared about 1872.
Barnett B. Cummings became the first Postmaster in 1847, receiving the mail once a week from Meadville. The village grew gradually, and reached a population of 301 in 1870 and 314 in l880. It now contains three general stores, one hardware and drug store, two millinery stores, one meat market, a gristmill, one water and one steam saw-mill, a planing-mill, a handle factory, a shingle-mill, one hotel, two physicians, two churches, three blacksmith-shops, one cabinet shop and furniture store, one harness shop, one cooper shop and one wagon and carriage shop. The Union & Titusville Railroad passes through the village.
The earliest religious services in the village were conducted by the Christians, Elder Fish of that denomination preaching as early as 1838. The Presbyterians also conducted early services, but congregations of neither were organized here.
The Riceville Methodist Episcopal Church was organized by Rev. Forest, in 1849, with four members: J. W. Gray and wife, Myrom S. Staring and Mrs. Lorena Austin. Meetings were held for about five years in the old red schoolhouse, then in a hall and afterward in the Congregational Church, until the present church edifice was erected in 1874. It is a handsome frame structure and cost about $4,500. The membership of the church is about forty-five. Riceville Circuit was formed in 1851 and appointments were made up to 1872, as follows: W. R. Johnson, 1851; J. Abbott, 1852; J. N. Henry, 1853; C. Irons, 1854; G. M. Eberman, 1855; A. Barris and F. W. Smith, 1856; W. Hayes and W. Bush, 1860; J. K. Mendenhall, 1861; E. Hull, 1862; A. L. Miller,.1863; J. Allen and G. W. Patterson, 1864; J. Crum, 1865; A. H. Bowers and E. Chace, 1866; A. H. Bowers, 1867-68; E. Chace, 1869; G. M. Eberman, 1870-71; L. F. Merritt, 1872. Since the last named date Riceville has been attached to Centreville Circuit.
The First Congregational Church of Riceville was organized March 27, 1858, with the following members: R. B. Westgate, Lorin Marsh, H. C. Conner, Thomas Ferry, V. F. Hale, William Mallery, D. D. Walker, C. N. Smith and G. M. Anderson. Rev. U. T. Chamberlain was the first pastor. He has been followed by Revs. J. B. Davidson, J. D. Sammons and R. Mor- <page 513> gan. The last is now in charge. The church building was erected at a cost of $1,800 in 1859 and dedicated free of debt in 1863. It is 42x42 in size, and was remodeled and repaired in 1875 at an expense of $2,000. The membership of the congregation is about forty.
Charity Lodge, No. 489, K.of H., was instituted February 28, 1875, with thirty-three members. It has met with prosperity and now numbers fifty-three members. Meetings are held on the first and third Saturday evenings of each month.
John Fisher Post, No. 337, G. A. R., was organized May 29, 1883, with nineteen members. The first officers were: Matthew Merchant, Commander; C. W. Todd, V. C.; T. Zahniser, J. V. C.; T. L. Dobbins, Adj.; S. M. Lindsey, Q. M.; Franklin Davis, Chaplain; D. B. Winton, Sergeant-Major; D. Shreve, Q. M. Serg't. The membership is now twenty-eight, and meetings are held on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month.
Riceville Union, No. 304, E. A. U., was instituted April 23, 1883, with twenty-two members. Of the first officers, E. S. Beardsley was President; Joshua Bruner, Vice-President; A. E. Jaques, Secretary; C. N. Smith, Treasurer; M. S. Staring, Accountant. Meetings are held the first Friday of each month, and the membership is now eighteen.