Crawford County, Pennsylvania
History & Biography
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FORMATION AND BOUNDARIES—NAME—STREAMS—SOIL—POPULATION—FIRST OWNERS—PIONEER LIFE—EARLY SETTLERS—MILLS—CHEESE FACTORIES—SCHOOLS—MOSIERTOWN—CROSSINGVILLE—CHURCHES.
CUSSEWAGO TOWNSHIP was created with seven others by the Court of Quarter Sessions July 9,1800. Its original boundaries were thus described: Beginning at the northeast corner of Sadsbury Township; thence north to the northern line of Crawford County; thence west until it strikes the northeast corner of Beaver Township; thence south along the same to the northwest corner of Sadsbury Township; thence east to the place of beginning. As thus formed it included the western part of the present Cussewago, the eastern part of Spring, the northeastern part of Summerhill and the northwestern part of Hayfield. In 1829 its boundaries were established as they now exist, the eastern part of the township coming from Venango Township.
The name Cussewago was derived from the creek. An aboriginal tradition says, that when the wandering Indians first came to the stream they discovered a large black snake, with a white ring around its neck, on an
elevated limb of a tree. The reptile had a large protuberance, as if it had swallowed an animal as large as a rabbit, hence the term "Kos-se-waus-ga," which being literally interpreted, signifies "big-belly," was applied to the
Cussewago Creek flows southward through the western part of the township, and with its tributaries drain this and
the central portions. In the east are several small streams flowing eastward into Venango. The surface is rolling and the low land along the streams in early times was somewhat marshy.
The soil in the valley is a productive gravelly loam, interspersed with clay and sand, while the uplands has usually a clay loam or sandy soil.
It is one of the largest townships in the county, containing 23,776 acres. The population in 1820, as the township then existed, was 642. In 1850 it was 1,540; in 1860, 1,805; in 1870, 1,674; and in 1880, 1,697.
This was one of the earliest settled portions of the county. The tracts in the northern part were located by individuals; the southwestern part was owned by the Holland Land Company, and the southeastern was a portion of the large body known as Field's Claim.
The pioneers came afoot or in wagons. They built small cabins in the wilderness, and for years endured all the hardships incident to a frontier life. <page 527> [portrait of John S Kean] <page 528> [blank] <page 529> Milling was done at Meadville at first, and then at Alden's, in Woodcock Township. For a few years very little grain and few vegetables were raised, the settlers subsisting largely on venison, bear meat and other game. Food was at times very scarce, and there were instances where settlers were driven to the necessity of digging up planted potatoes for food to alleviate keen pangs of hunger. Wild animals were numerous. Wolves prowled through the wilderness and made inroads on the scanty flocks unless the latter were well protected. Panthers were not uncommon, and with cat-like step sometimes followed a belated settler or frightened children home. Mrs. Lewis Thickstun, while threading her way through the forest to the Collum's, her neighbors, when near her destination, heard a shrill cry like that of a child in distress. Clasping her babe closer, she hurried on while the dog skulked along at her heels. Thinking Mr. Collum's child might be in danger, she told him of the scream she had heard. The child, however, was asleep in the house, but Mr. Collum, with rifle in hand, hastened to the woods. The report of a gun followed, and he soon returned with a large panther, from which had issued the doleful sound.
Among the earliest settlers were John Collum, John Clawson, John Chamberlin, and Stephen and Reuben Carman, all of whom, as the records show, came in 1797 or earlier. John Collum claimed to be the first settler in
the township. He was here as early as 1792, according to his account, but left soon after, owing to Indian
hostilities. About 1797 he returned and dwelt for years on Tract 29, a short distance west from Mosiertown. He afterward removed to the southern part of the county. John Chamberlin came in 1797 from Sussex County, N. J., and settled on the Jacob Graff tract, about a mile southwest from Crossingville. He first erected a rude hut, and a few years later built a hewed-log-cabin. At this raising men attended from Meadville. Mr. Chamberlin was a Baptist Deacon, and a life-long citizen of Cussewago. John Clawson was a Quaker, and hailed likewise from
New Jersey, settling on Tract 11, near the center of the township. He was a farmer, and remained through life on
the farm he first settled. Stephen and Reuben Carman were brothers, and settled in the southern part of the
Robert Erwin is said to have come to the township in 1795. He settled on the John Mead tract, about two miles south of Crossingville. He came to this country a single man, and was married in 1802. The furniture of the young couple was very meager. For a time they bad no bed, but slept on deer skins. Mr. Erwin was an Irishman, a Baptist and a hunter of considerable skill. He remained a resident of the township till death.
Other early settlers who secured homes in this locality shortly before or about the opening of the present century, were the Swaneys, Jacob Hites, the McBrides, Miles Tinny, John Donohue and Francis Ross. John and Alexander Swaney were brothers. They were of the Catholic faith and Irish nationality. After a three years' residence in Northumberland County, they came in the spring of 1797 to the north part of Cussewago and there remained through life. Jacob Hites, a German, came in 1798 from Philadelphia County. He settled on Tract No. 17, in the southeast part of the township, and there engaged in agricultural pursuits through life. The McBrides in early times were quite numerous. Edward, Patrick and Bartholomew were of one family, and settled in the north part of the township in 1797 or 1798. John, Jacob and Neal McBride, brothers of another family, were early settlers on Tracts Nos. 27 and 28 in the south-central part. All the McBrides were of Irish extraction, and
Catholic in religion. John went to Canada, and Jacob and Neal died in this township. Damon McBride is also remembered as a pioneer. Miles Tinney was born in Ireland, settled in Northumberland County and there married <page 530> Miss Martha, daughter of Bartholomew McBride. He like many other early settlers has descendants still in the township. John Donohue was a Baptist and hailed from Delaware. He settled about a mile south of Crossingville, and there remained till death. Francis Ross was an Irishman of peculiar manners. He was in his early life an inveterate swearer, and seemed unable to enunciate a sentence without appending to it several strong oaths. In due course of time he experienced religion and united with the Baptist Church. It was with extreme difficulty that he overcame his besetting sin. He was often seen and heard, when plowing, to utter the most shocking profanity, and at the next moment fall upon his knees in the furrow and in fervent prayer implore forgiveness.
Lewis Thickstun came with his family from New Brunswick, N. J., in 1802. He brought with him a cow and two wagons, the one drawn by horses, the other by oxen. He purchased a farm from the Carmans, in the west part of Tract No. 8, just north of Mosiertown, and remained its occupant until his death in 1819. He was a Baptist, and left a large family which is yet well represented in the township.
The following settlers also came to Cussewago during the first decade of this century: Enos Cole, who settled in the eastern part; Michael Greenlee, who took possession of Tract No. 7, and settled about a mile southeast from Mosiertown, where he remained till death; Allen Greenlee, who served in the war of 1812; George Hurd, who came from New Jersey, and pitched his tent near the center of the township; Davis Harned, a tanner by trade, who
settled in the eastern part; Alexander Anderson, an Irishman, who soon after his settlement in the western part
removed to Rockdale Township, and died about 1813; John and William Burney, likewise Irishmen and now not
represented here by descendants; John Hageny, a Catholic fresh from the Emerald Isle, and a resident at the site of
Crossingville; Henry J. Long, a settler in the southern part, and Samuel Lefevre, who first came in 1810 and, moved his family here the following year. Grove, George and Eber Lewis were among the earliest pioneers.
Grove Lewis, a native of Bucks County, came in 1798 to Meadville, and in 1799 to Cussewago. The settlers in
the northern part of the township were largely Irish, while in the southern portion were many Germans from Lehigh County, with an admixture from New Jersey and from various other parts.
Thomas Potter in 1818 erected a saw-mill and three years later a gristmill in the southwest part on Cussewago Creek. Robert Erwin operated an early water saw-mill near Crossingville. He also owned a distillery and a little corn-cracker at the same place. Martin Clawson was proprietor of another early saw-mill. The industrial works of the township are now not extensive. About a mile west from Mosiertown is Potter's bending works. Peter L. Potter owns a steam saw-mill on Tract No. 17, in the southwest part, and Bennett Bros., have another on Tract No. 11 in the western part. S. R. Whipple owns and operates a steam saw and shingle-mill. A planing-mill and corn-crusher, and a water grist and saw-mill is operated north of Crossingville. The township contains three cheese factories, one at Crossingville, one near Mosiertown, and Cole's in the eastern part of the township.
The first school was taught in 1804, by Owen David, in a log-house of Michael Greenlee's, a mile southeast from Mosiertown. Fifteen pupils attended. Mr. David taught several terms in the township. In 1805 a school was taught in the Tinny settlement. Joshua Pennel, in 1810, hold a term. He tried to inculcate the habit among his pupils of thinking twice before speaking, and particularly with Zeph Clawson, who often spoke rashly and unthinkingly. The master was standing one day with his back to the fire, when Zeph accosted <page 531> him with "Well, master, I think—" "That's right, Zeph, now think again before you speak," interrupted Mr. Pennel. The lad kept silence till the teacher said, "Well Zeph, now speak." "Your coat is on fire," was the meek response. Zeph was. allowed his natural way of speaking thereafter. Schools were taught in the Potter, Chamberlin, Freeman, Hotchkiss, Daniels and Thickstun neighborhoods every winter from 1820 to 1835, when the public school system was adopted. Among the early prominent teachers were: Mary Gill, Aurelia Pitts, Rachel Freeman, William, Jane and Nancy Thickstun, Minot Boyd, Charles Dawley, Lewis Hurd, Jacob Hites and Joseph Potter. Daboll's Arithmetic, the Western Calculator, Cobb's Spelling Book, English Reader and New Testament were the text books used. In 1836 Kirkham's Grammar was cautiously introduced.
Cussewago contains two small villages—Mosiertown and Crossingville. The former is located in the southern part of the township, and contains two churches—Baptist and Lutheran—a school, two stores, one hotel, a
blacksmith, shoe, and a carriage-shop, three physicians and twenty dwellings. A tannery was in operation for
many years, but is now suspended. A steam grist and saw-mill was also built and operated by Lemuel Stebbins. It was destroyed by fire, and was not rebuilt. A Mr. Phelps erected the first tavern about 1830, but a few years later removed from this locality. Ephraim Smith, a blacksmith, moved in soon after the arrival of Phelps, and for many years his anvil rang industriously. The first store was started by John McFarland, of Meadville, who placed Archibald Stewart in charge. The title Cussewago was formerly given the little village, but it is now generally called Mosiertown, which is the name of the postoffice located here.
Crossingville, situated in the northwestern portion of the township, was formerly known as Cussewago Crossing, so called from an Indian trail, which crossed Cussewago Creek at this point. John Hagany was the first settler. The place contains scarcely more than a dozen dwellings, but is quite an early settled hamlet. Two churches—Catholic and United Brethren—a schoolhouse, two stores, one hotel, two blacksmith shops, a shoe shop and a cheese factory may also be found here.
The Carmel Baptist Church of Mosiertown was the first religious organization of the Baptist persuasion effected in Crawford County. It was formed with twenty members in 1805, by Rev. Thomas G. Jones, who was the first pastor. A hewed log meeting-house was built in 1810, two miles northwest from Mosiertown. It was superseded by a frame structure on the same site in 1839, and in 1856 the present edifice in Mosiertown was erected at a cost of $1,500. Among the earliest leading members were: John Chamberlin, Robert Erwin, John Donohue, Samuel Patterson and Lewis Thickstun. The membership is now about one hundred. The first pastor was Elder Miller; the present pastor, Elder Charles Harvey, who took charge in 1882.
About a mile southeast from Mosiertown, is a frame church, built in 1855 by Lutheran and German Reformed congregations. It succeeded a former frame edifice, which was erected in 1832. Both congregations were organized a few years previous to this date, from the German element that had settled in this vicinity, and they worshiped alternately in the same structure until several years ago, when the German Reformed Congregation became sole owners of the old building, and the Lutherans erected a now, neat frame meeting-house in
Mosiertown, which they now occupy. Dr. J. Apple, of Saegertown, fills the German Reformed pulpit, and Rev.
Cressman, of Venango, preaches for the Lutherans.
St. Philips' Catholic Church at Crossingville dates its origin back to the first settlement of this country. The earliest families of this faith were: <page 532> Neal McBride, Patrick McBride, Bartholomew McBride, Hugh Carlin, Miles Tinny, John Swaney, Alexander Swaney, John Hagany and Philip McGuire, all of whom except McGuire moved here from Northumberland County about 1798, having immigrated from Donegal County, Ireland, in 1792 or 1793. Services began to be held at private houses a few years after the first settlement, the people being attended by Father Charles B. McGuire, of Pittsburgh, Rev. Terence McGirr and Rev. Charles Ferry, and later by Revs. Patrick O'Neill, R. Brown and Pendergast, of Butler County, and Rev. McCabe and others from Erie. The first church was erected in 1833 a mile north of Crossingville at the present burial-ground. It was a hewed-log-house, coiled within and overhead with planed pine boards and had rough benches for seats. The probable cost of the building was $500. The first services in it were conducted in 1833 by Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick, of Philadelphia, to which diocese this mission then belonged. The church was formally dedicated three years later by Bishop Kenrick, on the occasion of his second visit—the burying ground being consecrated at the same time. The present structure was reared in 1843 and finished in 1848, at a cost of $3,500. The pastoral residence was erected by Rev. John Quincy Adams in 1868 at a cost of $1,400. Improvements were made to the church in 1882 to the extent of $1,830, including the erection of a tower and the purchase of a bell. Rev. T. A. Smith took charge of this mission in 1850, and with Rev. Joseph F. Deane and Rev. Arthur McConnel held it until 1854, when Rev. K. O'Branigan took charge and remained until 1865. Fathers William Pugh and William D. Byrne served till the following year, when Rev. John Quincy Adams took charge, Rev. M. E. Tracy, the present pastor, succeeding him in 1871. The present membership includes 125 families, averaging six persons each, residing in Cussewago and Spring Townships, this county, and Elk Creek and Washington Townships, Erie County. The church is in a flourishing condition, while its growth has been sure and steady.
The United Brethren Church at Crossingville was organized with seven members in 1870, by Rev. Cyrus Castiline its first pastor. The edifice was reared the same year at a cost of $1,700. The class is small. From 1879 to 1880, with union appointment it constituted Crossingville Mission, with Rev. G. W. Franklin as pastor, but before and since it has formed a part of Cussewago Circuit.
Cussewago United Brethren Church, located in the southeastern part, in the western portion of Tract 23, was erected in 1857, at a cost of $660. It was organized five years previous with about twenty members, by Rev. William Cadman, the first pastor, and early meetings were hold in dwelling-houses. J. Kinsley and Henry
Fleisher were prominent early members. It is a part of Cussewago Circuit, which includes five appointments and
has a total membership of 217. In 1877 this circuit was changed from Western Reserve Conference to Erie
Conference. Since then the pastors have been A. Peckham, 1877-78; J. W. Gage, 1879-80-81; A. K. Root, 1882-83.
In the eastern part of the township and in the northeast corner of Tract 13 stands the Seventh Day Baptist Church, a frame structure reared in 1858. The congregation was organized the year previous by Elder A. A. F. Randolph, the first pastor. The organization has become weak through deaths and removals, and regular meetings are not now held.
In the southeast part, in Tract 17, is a brick German Evangelical Church built about 1856. The congregation that worshiped here was organized about 1850, and later attained a membership of seventy. Stephen Snyder and Mr. Helmbrecht were leading members. The society has held no meetings for about eight years and is now defunct.