Crawford County, Pennsylvania
History & Biography
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BOUNDARIES—FORMATION—POPULATION—PHYSICAL FEATURES—FIRST SETTLEMENTS—LAND TITLES—PIONEERS—C0NNEAUT LAKE—CEMETERIES—EARLY METHODIST ORGANIZATION—CANAL—PEAT AND MARL—MILLS—RELIGIOUS
SUMMIT is an interior township in the western part of the county, and is bounded on the north by Summerhill, on the east by Hayfield and Vernon, on the south by Sadsbury and on the west by Pine and Conneaut. It is six miles in length and four in width, and contains 14,717 taxable acres. The township was formed in 1841 by act of Assembly, during the term of M. B. Lowry in the Legislature. Mr. Lowry was a resident of Harmonsburg, which was then on the northern confines of Sadsbury, and the citizens of the village were obliged to attend elections at Evansburg. For the convenience of his neighbors, Mr. Lowry secured the passage of the act for the erection of Summit, the northern half being taken from Summerhill and the southern half from Sadsbury. The title Summit was adopted in consequence of the elevated land within its limits. From 1800 to 1829 the two western tiers of tracts were part of Conneaut, and the balance of the land was included within the bounds of Sadsbury. The population in 1850 was 1,074; in 1860, 1,147; in 1870, 1,034; in 1880, 1,058.
The surface is almost level, and for grain there is no better land in the county. In early times it was somewhat wet in the southern part. A great variety of timber covered the surface. In the southern part was hemlock, on ground a little higher, pine, and still farther north oak, beech, sugar maple, sycamore, cherry and other kinds. Conneaut Inlet with its branches drain the eastern part, entering Conneaut Lake in the southeast part of the township. Conneaut Creek rises in the western part and flows northeasterly.
The first portion of the township occupied was the tract at the mouth of Conneaut Inlet. This tract was located by Alexander Power, in 1795, while <page 663> engaged with a surveying party in the western part of this county. He soon after settled here, and in 1798 erected a saw-mill on the inlet, which is said to have been the first mill built in Crawford County west of French Creek. Mr. Power soon after removed to the site of Conneautville.
Most of the thirty-six tracts of the township were located by individuals. Five along the eastern line became the property of the Holland Land Company, and seven in the southwest corner, of the Pennsylvania Population Company. The former company made contracts for the settlement of its land as follows: Tract 41, William Hope, 150 acres, May 31, 1797; Tract 45, Joseph Fleming, 100 acres, May 31, 1797, deed executed to David Gehr, assignee; Tract 49, William Burns, 150 acres, November 20, 1799, assigned to Robert Burns; Tract 55, William McClenachan, 401 acres, August 27, 1798, deeds executed to Alexander W. Foster and William Cook, assignees. None of these are remembered as residents of the township except the Burnses, who were rugged frontiersmen and soon left the county.
The early settlement of Population tracts were more permanent. The records of the company in 1812 made the following exhibit: 200 acres of Tract 744, purchased by Jacob Gehr, under contract of September 23, 1797, settled and deed granted; 100 acres of Tract 745, purchased by Jacob Gehr, Jr., September 23, 1797, deed granted Jacob Gehr; 100 acres of Tract 746, John Gehr, Jr., September 23, 1797, deed granted Jacob Gehr; 100 acres same tract, purchased by Charles Flickinger, April 25, 1804, settled and improved under contract; 200 acres of 747, Joseph Gehr, October 23, 1797, deed delivered to Gehr; 100 acres, same tract, Samuel Gehr, October 6, 1804; and 100 acres John Gehr, Jr., settled and improved under contract; 200 acres, Tract 748, John Gehr, October 23, 1797, deed delivered October 13, 1802; 100 acres, same tract, Adam Slump, October 14, 1804, deed delivered; 101.88 acres, same tract, Chris Kauffman, February 10, 1803, settled and improved under contract; 200 acres, Tract 753, Samuel Gehr, under contract of September 1, 1797, deed granted; 100 acres, same tract, Samuel Yorty, May 17, 1803, deed delivered to David Yorty, February 1, 1812; 101.88 acres, same tract, Balser Gehr, August 13, 1804, settled and improved under contract; 200 acres, Tract 754, Adam Gehr, October 23, 1797, deed delivered September 20, 1802; 100 acres, same tract, Jacob Gehr, Jr., improved under contract.
Adam Slump and Christopher Kauffman are not remembered. The Gehrs were not only among the first settlers, their contracts bearing date of 1797, but their descendants still possess the soil; indeed, one of the early family, Balser Gehr, at this writing yet remains at the advanced age of one hundred and two years. Jacob, Joseph, Samuel, Adam, John and Balser were brothers, and all settled on farms in one locality. They came from the eastern part of the State, and were of German extraction; with their families they soon formed a large settlement. John Gehr was Captain in the war of 1812. Jacob Flickinger was a German and a Dunkard. He raised a large family, who subsequently removed from the township. One of his sons, John, was a noted racer. He distinguished himself by his fleetness of foot, once, by pursuing a wild turkey and catching it just as the fowl had given up the contest and taken flight on its pinions. The Yortys were also early settlers on
But it was on the individual tracts in the central portion of the township that the settlement advanced most rapidly. James McClure, a young unmarried man, came from Mifflin County in 1798, and soon after obtained from John Field 400 acres on the west bank of Conneaut Lake. Returning to Mifflin County, by describing the excellent pine timber found here, he induced his cousin, John McClure, who was a carpenter by trade, to cast his fortune with <page 664> him and together they came West again and erected adjoining cabins. James was married here about 1803 to Elizabeth Chidester, and settled on the farm. From 1814 to 1827 he resided in Mifflin County, then returned again and remained in Summit till his death in 1852, at the age of seventy-four years. John McClure remained a life-long citizen of Summit. His death occurred in 1845, resulting from malaria engendered by the overflow of the lake for canal purposes.
Adam Foust settled on the east side of the lake in 1797. He was a German of some means and hailed from Berks County; he had a family of eight sons and three daughters; he obtained by purchase and settlement 1,300 acres of land in Summit and Sadsbury Townships, and to each of his children he gave one hundred acres and an ax; he died in Sadsbury Township. William Butler, an Irishman, settled in the eastern part as early as 1797.
Other pioneers were Silas Chidester, Jacob Looper, John Inglehoop, James McCray, William McFadden, William Ringland and John Smith. Silas Chidester, originally from New Jersey, had removed to Pittsburgh and came thence to this township about 1800. He settled about a mile south from Harmonsburg and remained there till death, leaving a large family. Jacob Looper was a German and a blacksmith. He continued a resident of the township till death, and his descendants are yet here. William McFadden was a lifelong settler about one and a half miles west from Harmonsburg. John Inglehoop was a Revolutionary soldier. He settled in the northern part of Summit and remained there till death. John Smith settled as early
as 1797 in the northern part, where his descendants still reside.
Archibald Sloan, from Carlisle, settled about a mile north from Harmonsburg, and died on his farm prior to 1810, leaving a widow and ten children, who remained on the place a number of years afterward. He was a member of the Seceder Church. Samuel Shotwell was also a pioneer.
Joseph Garwood moved from Fayette County to the northwestern part of the township as early as 1797. He purchased from a Mr. McDonald 400 acres of land there for a barrel of flour and a watch. Mr. Garwood subsequently removed to Illinois, but a son, Joseph, still dwells in Summit at the age of seventy-nine years. Matthew, John and Thomas McClure, three Irish brothers, settled early in the northern part. Hugh Gilliland and his sons Hugh and Robert were well-known pioneers of the northwest part. All the above settlers had secured homes in this western land of promise prior to 1810. When the war of 1812 approached rumors of Indian descents pervaded this as well as other settlements throughout the county. Once the scattering settlers in the northwestern part of the township gathered at the cabin of Joseph Garwood under the report of an imminent attack, and remained till two of their number who had been dispatched to Erie for information returned and dispelled their fears.
A portion of Conneaut Lake lies in Summit Township, and within its bounds on the shore are two boat landings and one hotel, affording accommodations for many guests.
Near the east bank of the lake is a cemetery, embracing six acres, donated as a public burying ground by Adam Foust. A log church-German Reformed-formerly stood here. Mr. Foust was a leading and an active member. The Browns and Traces were also members, and a strong congregation existed. Many of the members united with other churches, the congregation was disbanded and the house of worship soon went to decay. Within the township are several private burial grounds. A Catholic cemetery is near the church, and in the southwestern part is the Gehr Grave-yard. At Harmonsburg is a <page 665> burial ground in the lot whereon the Old Union Church stood. In the southern part of the village Henry Broadt surveyed a half acre for a family burying ground. A cemetery association has recently been organized, land adjoining the Broadt burial place purchased and a neat village cemetery laid out.
A Methodist Meeting-house was built in pioneer times diagonally across the corners from the present Catholic Church. Religious services were held in it for only a short time, the settlers attending for many miles around. A fire in the woods was communicated to the building. It, was soon reduced to ashes and was never rebuilt.
The Beaver & Erie Canal passed north and south through the western part. Great difficulty was encountered in its construction through this township by reason of the great beds of quicksand which underlaid its course for almost two miles. The Meadville Branch or feeder of the canal entered the main canal in Summit Township, and its junction was the highest point along the entire route.
The Meadville and Linesville Railroad passes through the southwest corner of the township.
About a half mile northwest from Harmonsburg is an extensive peat and marl bed. The marl is from eight to ten feet in thickness, and is covered by peat. It is largely used as a fertilizer, and is also burned into lime, of which several grades are produced. The peat is from two to three feet in thickness, and is still in process of formation. It is impure, however, in consequence of a muddy sediment deposited during high waters by a small stream which oozes through it.
As mentioned above, the first saw-mill was built by Alexander Power. It stood about a half mile above the mouth of the inlet. George Dickson built an early log grist and saw-mill about a half mile south of Harmonsburg, but soon after sold to Henry Broadt. He in turn sold them to Thomas McCray, by whom the present grist-mill, owned by George Dean, was built. Other early mills were owned by John Whiting, Cloud Robinson and Mr. Smith. On Conneaut Creek Conrad Keen and Joseph Garwood had early saw-mills. James Procter there operated a saw-mill and bedstead factory. John Kulp had an early steam saw-mill on the canal, and Smith & Hall operated another near the north line. A steam saw and shingle-mill about a half mile south from Harmonsburg is owned by Harry McClure, and William Looper operates another a mile north of that village. A short distance east of Harmonsburg is a cheese factory. Silas Chidester, John McClure and many others
operated early stills.
The Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, situated in the northwest part of the township, was erected in 1852. The congregation here was first attended from Crossingville, and afterward from Conneautville. It now has a membership of about twenty-five families, and has services once in two weeks. Services were commenced in this locality about 1840, and conducted for many years at the house and barn of Philip McGuire. The construction of the Erie & Beaver Canal had brought quite a number of Catholic families to this neighborhood. Among the first residents of this faith were: Philip McGuire, Robert Robinson, Timothy Clark, Michael McCarthy, Felix Duffy and John and Daniel Boyle.
In. the southwest part of Tract 747, in the southwest part of the township, stands an Albright or Evangelical Association Church, which was built about thirty years ago. The early records of the church are lost, and the date of the organization is unknown, but was probably as early as 1825. The Gehrs were the leading members. Meetings were held in dwellings and the school- <page 666> house until the present frame church was built. Among the first Pastors were: Revs. John Sibert, Joseph Long and John Bernhart. More recently the following have officiated: James Crossman, Abraham Niebel, A. R. Teat, Jacob Weikel, John Arkless, Charles W. Davis, G. W. Brown, J. A. Myers, E. Beatty, B. F. Feitt, John Garner, John Woodhull, A. W. Teat, T. B. Zeller and Rev. Vogt, who is the present Pastor. The membership is quite small, not exceeding twenty. The class is a part of Crawford Circuit.
Harmonsburg, the only village of the township, is located about a half mile east of the township center. It was laid out in 1816 by Henry Broadt, or Bright, as recent orthography has made it. Mr. Broadt was a Dunkard, of German ancestry, and about 1802 purchased and settled on the farm whereon he laid out the village. He was a blacksmith by trade and pursued that avocation in connection with farming during his earlier years. He continued a resident on his farm until his death in 1838. His descendants are still residents of this locality. For many years the village was known as Brightstown. The first house was built by Joseph McMurtry and occupied by him as a tavern. Whately Barrett, George Cook and Mr. Morgan were early merchants. Nathaniel Jones and John Rice were early village smiths. The village has attained no great size, and now comprises 160 inhabitants. It contains one dry goods, one grocery, one drug, one tin and one variety store; one harness, one shoe, one wagon and two blacksmith shops; one hotel, two physicians, a dentist, a schoolhouse and two churches. Two tanneries were formerly operated here, but both are now gone.
Mrs. Knox attempted the first school in her cabin. Carson Sloan was the first male teacher. The present school is graded and consists of two departments. The building now in use was erected for an academy about 1854, and occupied as such for several years.
The Methodist Episcopal Church at Harmonsburg was built about 1840. It is a frame building, with basement, and occupies Lots 77 and 78 in the northeast part of the village. The class was organized many years previous, though none of its original members remain to give the date. A Union Church, the first in the village, was erected on the lot immediately north of the present schoolhouse in 1821 or 1822, the deed for the lot being granted by Henry Broadt to eight trustees September 14, 1821. The church was free to all Christian denominations, and the Methodists worshiped in it until the erection of their building. Among the earliest members of the church were John Smith, Watson Smith and Thomas McCray. Harmonsburg Circuit was formed in 1834, and the following have been its pastors: G. Hills and P. S. Ruter, 1834; G. Hills and C. D. Rockwell, 1835; B. Preston and W. Griffith, 1836; D. Richey and C. R. Chapman, 1837; L. D. Prosser and J. Deming, 1838; J. Deming and I. Scofield, 1839; J. Leslie and S. Heard, 1840; L. Rodgers, T. D. Blinn and A. Norton, 1841. The circuit was in 1842 divided into Conneautville and Evansburg Circuits, and by a division of the Conneautville in 1861, Harmonsburg was again created and has since had the following ministers: J. Bain, 1861—62; N. C. Brown, 1863—64; S. Hollen, 1865; J. Akers, 1866; T. P. Warner, 1867—68; W. Rice and E. Chace, 1869—70; A. R. Rich, 1871—72; J. Flower, 1873; G. H. Brown, 1874; W. H. Hoover, 1875—76; M. V. Stone, 1877—78—79; Sylvester Fidler, 1880—81; T. W. Douglas, 1882; Samson Dimmick, 1883. Harmonsburg Circuit now includes four appointments—Harmonsburg, Dicksonburg, Smiths and Littles Corners. The membership of Harmonsburg congregation is eighty-three.
Harmonsburg Presbyterian Church was organized by Rev. David McKinney June 13, 1829. Previous to January 1, 1829, there had been occasional <page 667> preaching by different ministers, and for a short time Rev. Timothy Alden had been stated supply, by whom John McClure and John Neal were ordained Elders. Rev. David McKinney was engaged January 1, 1829, for a year to preach one-half his time. David Breckenridge was ordained an Elder May 24, 1829, and June 13 of that year Thomas Chidester was ordained and installed an Elder, and Robert Stockton, who had formerly been Elder of another church was installed, and the church of Harmonsburg was regularly organized with forty-one members, the five aforenamed Elders, Joseph Neal, James Beatty, John Breckenridge, John McClure, Jr., William H. Kyle, Robert Neal and thirty females. Most of these had formerly been connected with Meadville Presbyterian Church. The congregation was dependent on supplies for many years. Rev. Peter Hassinger supplied it in 1832. Rev. J. W. Dickey was ordained and installed pastor October 4, 1843. From 1848 to 1850 Rev. Lemuel P. Bates
supplied Harmonsburg and Conneautville. Rev. James Coulter was installed pastor September 14, 1852, and was released live or six years later. His successor, Rev. George Scott, was installed June 27, 1860, released June 10, 1862. Rev. N. S. Lowrie assumed the pastora1 relation October 22, 1862, and delivered his farewell sermon June 21, 1868. Rev. R. L. Stewart served as pastor from July 7, 1869, to December 29, 1872. Rev. J. W. McVitty then filled the pulpit for five years, two as pastor and afterward three as regular supply. Rev. W. E. McCrea was supply from December, 1879, to June, 1880. Rev. T. C. Anderson was called in November, 1880, began his labors in February, 1881, and served as pastor-elect, having never been installed, until May, 1883. Rev. John F. Boyd, the present pastor, took charge in June, 1883. He also preaches at Evansburg. The early meetings were held in the Union Church, and during the summer of 1844 the present frame edifice, 35x45, situated just northeast of the village, was erected at an expense of $800. The membership is now about seventy. Silas Chidester, James C. Stockton and J. B. Close constitute the present session.
Enterprise Lodge, No. 72, A. O. U. W., was chartered March 25, 1874, with fifteen members. Its first officers were: J. C. Weston, P. M. W.; Dr. J. J. McMillen, M. W.; W. A. Keen, G. F.; G. L. Kelly, O.; J. A. McMurtry, Recorder; D. G. Harper, Fin.; B. A. Gehr, Receiver; A. W. Smith, G.; B. C. Coolidge, I. W.; Aaron Lynce, O. W. The membership is now twenty-six, and meetings are held every Saturday night.
Excelsior Council, No. 10, R. T. of T., was instituted July 10, 1878. Its charter officers were Dr. J. J. McMillen, S. C.; J. Arbuckle, V. C.; W. A. Keen, P. C.; D. V. Smith, Chap.; Julia M. Gehr, Rec. Sec.; Mrs. W. A. Keen, Treas.; A. R. Smith, Her.; Mrs. F. M. Whiting, Guard; L. D. Brown, Sent. The membership is about forty, and regular meetings are held each alternate Wednesday.