Crawford County, Pennsylvania
History & Biography
BOUNDARIESORGANIZATIONELECTIONPOPULATIONPHYSICAL FEATURESLAND TRACTSTROUBLES OF EARLY SETTLERSPIONEERSEARLY DEATHS AND BURIALSMILLSSCHOOLSTROY CENTERNEWTONTOWNRELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS.
TROY TOWNSHIP is situated in the southeast part of Crawford County. It is irregular in outline and bounded on the north by Steuben Township, on the east by Oil Creek, on the west by Randolph and a corner of Wayne, and on the south by Venango County. It was one of the many townships organized in 1829, the State Assembly, by act of April 29 of that year directing that the house of Isaac Sheldon be the place for holding election. As formed the township included the southern part of what has since been made Steuben. Until 1829 the three eastern tiers of tracts were part of Oil Creek Township. The balance of the Seventh Donation District belonged to Randolph, while the southern part had been attached to Wayne. Troy now contains 18,407 acres, valued on the tax duplicate of 1882 at $205,458. Of these 3,118 acres were then unseated. The population in 1850 was 740; in 1860, 950; in 1870, 983; in 1880, 1,327. The main portion of the surface is drained by Sugar Creek and its branches, with a generally southern direction. Oil Creek crosses the northeast corner. From the numerous streamlets the land rises gradually on either side only to fall again toward other streams. Beech, maple and hemlock constituted the prevailing timber when the land was densely forested, with a smart sprinkling of chestnut, ash, red oak, white oak, bass, cucumber and other woods. The soil is generally a clay loam.
Troy Township lies mostly within the Seventh Donation District. Most of the irregularly shaped southern part belongs to the Eight Donation District. The eastern tier of tracts is within the domain of the Holland Company, as are also several tracts in the southern part. Some of the lines of the Seventh Donation District were run with the greatest carelessness and irregularity. The Holland tracts to the south of them were surveyed on the supposition that the Donation tracts wore uniformly surveyed. In after years the southeast corner of the Donation Tract 1341 was found in the Holland land more than half a mile from its supposed location, and litigation was commenced which involved the title to many hundred acres of land in southern Troy. The difficulty was settled amicably, however, in most cases. Of the tier of Holland tracts in the east part of the township, 200 acres of Tract 8 were sold to R. Alden, of Meadville, in 1806; Tracts 9, 10 and 11 remained unsold till 1815; of Tract 12, John Strawbridge contracted, September 25, 1798, to settle and erect a house on or before the first day of October following; to clear, fence and cultivate eight acres, by November 1, 1799, and to reside for five years from October 1, 1798, for which he was to receive one hundred acres gratuity, at the same time agreeing to purchase fifty acres at $1.50 per acre. The records fail to show that his contract was completed.
Trouble between settlers on account of conflicting claims sometimes arose. Not unfrequently two individuals settled on the same tract, each at first in <page 669> ignorance of the presence of the other. Then a contest for possession often would ensue. Many settled on Holland tracts, expecting that through settlement they could hold them directly from the State. On Holland Tract 8, in the northeast corner of Troy, Charles Ridgway, in 1800, determined to locate. He had come from Fayette County, in 1799, and during the ensuing winter he repaired the Holland saw-mill, in Oil Creek Township. In the spring of 1800 he erected a double saw-mill on Oil Creek at the place called Newtontown, and returning to Fayette County for necessary irons for the mill, he left William Kerr in charge, with directions to build a cabin. John Reynolds, of Scotch-Irish blood, commenced the erection of a cabin on the same tract. William Kerr soon learned of it, and jealous in his employers cause, with intent to dispose of the conflicting freehold at a blow, one evening felled a tree across the partially-constructed cabin and crushed it. Mr. Reynolds accepted the course of events very quietly, and when Kerr had finished the Ridgway cabin, took possession of it. Kerr awaited his opportunity and when Ridgway was absent, carried out the furniture, placed a lock on the door and fastened it. Matters were finally amicably settled between them. Mr. Ridgway operated this mill and remained on the tract for three years. He afterward became a resident of Hydetown. John Reynolds remained on Tract 8 for awhile, then settled on Tract 10, farther south. He was killed by the falling of a tree limb, while lumbering near Clarion River. William Maginnis had settled in the eastern part of Troy, on Tract 9, in 1798, and remained a number of years. He had come from the Susquehanna and was of Irish extraction.
The first permanent pioneer of the western part of the township was James Luse, who, toward the close of the last century set out with his brothers, David and Nathaniel, from their home in Essex County, N. J., for French Creek. Mr. Luse had in his native State been in the employ of William Shotwell, who afterward became the agent for Fields claim, and at whose suggestion it was that Mr. Luse came West. David and Nathaniel settled in the western part of the county, but the country was too wild and desolate and marshy, and they soon removed to Redstone. James settled with his family at Meadville, and commenced making improvements on a tract of land six miles distant, near the Cussewago, every Monday morning going with his men from Meadville with
provisions, prepared by Mrs. Luse, sufficient to last all the week. The products of their labor proved to be "sick
wheat." The grain possessed the quality, not uncommon in a wild country, of producing illness in whomsoever
consumed it. It was consequently worthless, and Mr. Luse sought out a new locality for his future home. About 1801 he settled on a tract of Fields claim, located in the south part of present Troy, just east of the Sixth
Donation District, on the site of Liberty Schoolhouse, near the east branch of Sugar Creek The old road from Fort
Franklin to Fort Le Buf, made and used by the French, passed through this farm, and it was largely with the intention of keeping a tavern on this road that Mr. Luse removed to the wilderness. The road was not improved as was expected, and there was little travel by the place. Instead, the pike was built a few years later through
Meadville. For years Mr. Luse dwelt with his family in the deep recesses of the forest, remote from neighbors,
surrounded only by the wild denizens of the wilderness. He was a stone-mason by trade and remained on his farm till death in September, 1836, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, leaving four children: Rachel, wife of Andrew
Proper; Shubal; Lydia, wife of James Williams; and Eliza, married at the age of fourteen to William Williams, and now the wife of Jonathan Benn.
The years passed by more rapidly than the settlers arrived. In 1810 there were few in the township. Daniel Ogden, a millwright, had come and gone. He made a settlement on the gore where Jonathan Benn, Jr., now lives, but secured no title to the land. Amos Messer was another transient dweller in this region. Joseph Armstrong arrived from the central part of the State about 1805, and settled on Tract 1198 in the southern portion of the township. For five years his family lived on wild meats; then pork was introduced. Mr. Armstrong remained through life in the township. He had a family of fifteen children, ten of whom survived him: Joseph, William, Samuel, Daniel, John, George, Sarah, Nelly, Annie and Polly. The family is still represented in the township. Anson McKinsey, a native of Scotland, came prior to 1810, and settled on Tract 1165, at "Fauncetown." A few years later he removed with his family to Sugar Creek, in Venango County, and there died.
During the second decade of the century, few additional settlers arrived. In 1811 Jonathan Benn cast his lot in this locality. He had emigrated from Westmoreland County in 1805 or 1806, and settled in what is now the southeast part of Mead, on land belonging to his brother-in-law--Job Colbert. Desiring a home of his own he came to Troy, purchasing a farm in the southern part off the west side of Holland Tract 221. He remained here until his death, in 1855, at the age of seventy-six years, leaving ten children, who grew to maturity. Mr. Benn was a local minister of the Methodist Episcopal faith. Andrew Proper, of Holland descent, came with his father, Samuel, from Scoharie County, N. Y., to Plum Township, Venango County, and about 1818 settled on Tract 1185, in the southern part of Troy, where he died in his eighty-ninth year. He was a member of the Baptist Church. Nathaniel Smith came from Connecticut about 1817, and built his cabin on Tract 1186. He died in Venango County. William Sheffield, a sea captain, came from New Haven, Conn., about 1813, and settled at Newtontown, in the northeast corner of the township. He built a saw-mill here, now known as Newtons Mill, and carried on saw-milling extensively for a number of years. He was associated in the first store of Titusville soon after, and not many years later, it is said, he returned to a sea-faring life. Edward Francis, a colored individual, known as "Black Francis," settled in 1819 on Tract 1306, near Troy Center. He removed to Mercer County. Isaac Sheldon, about 1820, settled on Tract 1335, where Stephen Cook now resides. Mr. Sheldon afterward removed to Athens Township, where he died.
From 1820 to 1830 a few more settlers were received. Stephen Atwater came from Connecticut about 1823 and settled on 500 acres, Tract 130, in the Seventh Donation District. He was a carpenter, and well advanced in life when he arrived. His death occurred on Sugar Creek, this township, a few years later. Oliver Cowles, his son-in-law, came about the same time and. afterward removed to the West. William Williams when a year old came with his father Ellis from Huntington County to Erie County, five miles from Waterford. In 1822 he came to Troy Township and settled on Sugar Creek. The next year he married Eliza Luse, and remained in the township until his death in 1859. He was a member of the Free-Will Baptist Church. Charles Day about 1825 emigrated from Whitehall, N. Y., and settled on Tract 1186. He afterward removed to Sparta Township. George Kees came from near Pittsburgh about 1825 and took up an abode on Tract 1305 near Troy Center. In after life he removed to Cherry Tree Township, Venango County, where he died. Joseph Crecroft in 1826 or 1828 settled in the northern part of the township. He was killed by the fall of a tree, and his family is now scattered. Tract 1342 was undrawn and possessed success- <page 671> ively a number of early occupants, first of whom was James Adams, afterward George Evans and others. John S. Sutton came about 1830 to Tract 1199. The above, with a few of their descendants, were in 1830 all the taxpaying residents of what is now Troy. About 1840 settlements were
made more rapidly, though there are yet a few tracts unsettled.
The first burial in the township was that of the infant child of Mr. Murphy, a pioneer of Venango County. Its death was due to a severe scalding, received while in charge of an elder brother. It was dressed in a shroud made from a pillow-case obtained from a neighbor, was placed in a coffin split from a pine log and fastened together with wooden pins, and was buried on the farm of James Luse, the only two neighbors in attendance alternately acting as sole pallbearer in conveying the remains to its resting-place. The first death in the township was that of Mr. Ellis, one of the first settlers. His family soon after departed from this locality.
The earliest saw-mills, those of Charles Ridgway and William Sheffield, have already been mentioned. Barnhart Proper about 1840 erected on Tract 1164 a saw-mill which has been in operation most of the time since. Near it is a steam-mill erected in 1883 by Joseph Morse. Isaac Arter about 1850 built a mill on the old Jonathan Benn farm, soon after disposing of it to William Sterling. Other saw mills have since been built and operated, and lumbering is still carried on.
The first school was held in 1819 in a little cabin erected for that purpose on Tract 1185. The neighborhood desired a school and the men collected, chose a central site, and by their combined labor in a day or two
completed the primitive school edifice. The chimney was on the outside at one end of the building and was made
of mud and sticks. The customary oiled paper window was arranged at one side and directly under it was the
writing-desk, a long pine slab supported by large wooden pins fastened obliquely in the side of the building. The
Benns, Amstrongs, Luses, Propers, McKays (of Wayne Township) and Smalls (of Venango County) attended. Miss Peggy Johnson of Randolph Township was the first and only teacher in this building. She taught two terms. Wages for lady teachers were then from $1 to $1.25 per week and board.
Troy Center consists of six or eight houses, a store, blacksmith shop, harness shop, schoolhouse and church, and is situated near the center of the township, within which it has the only postoffice. John Stratton was the first Postmaster, receiving his commission about 1850. The first store was started about 1858, by Almon Heath.
Newtontown is a hamlet of similar size, situated on Oil Creek, in the northeast part. Edmond C. Newton, from whom it received its name, located here in 1847, remaining till his death in 1872. He purchased from Samuel Sinclair a farm and the saw-mill on the site of the one erected by William Sheffield, and operated it for many years.
The Methodist Episcopal Church of Troy Center was erected in 1876, at a cost of $1,500. It is a neat frame structure, 34x44 feet in size. The class which worships here had been organized some years previous, and among its early prominent members were: Hamilton Bunce, Austin Mills, William Hays, Joseph Free, Abram Banta, Edgar Melvin, Henry Melvin and George Wright. Until the erection of the church, meetings had been conducted in the schoolhouse. The society now has a membership of about fifty, and is connected with Townville Circuit.
The Methodist Episcopal church edifice at East Troy was built in 1874, during the pastorate of Rev. J. K. Adams, of the Sunville Circuit. The exact <page 672> time of the class organization is unknown, but it was about 1850, by Rev. T. Benn, in the Bromley Schoolhouse. Meetings were subsequently held in the East Troy Schoolhouse, adjacent to the present church building. Mr. Guild was leader until the erection of the church. He was followed by B. F. Brown and Samuel Aiken, the present leaders. Since 1877, this class has been a part of Hydetown Circuit. As a result of a revival held in the winter of 1883-84, by Rev. J. E. Roberts, about twenty-five members were added to the society, which now numbers about sixty-five.
The above are the only two religious societies of the township. Nor are any others known to have existed here formerly, except a Methodist class, which had been organized about 1812, at the cabin of Henry Kinneer, in Venango County, and the place of worship for which was removed about 1816 to the cabin of Jonathan Benn,
where they were continued until about 1836, then held for a few years in the Armstrong Schoolhouse, in the southern part of Troy, and afterward removed to Chapmanville, Venango County, where the society still flourishes.