Crawford County, Pennsylvania
History & Biography
LAKE—INDIANS—RATTLESNAKES—DEER—WILD ANIMALS—TITLES—EARLY SETTLERS—MILLS—SCHOOLS—DECARDVILLE—RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
WAYNE TOWNSHIP was formed in 1809. Its original limits included, besides all of present Wayne and East Fairfield, a strip about three miles wide off the southern parts of Mead, Randolph and Troy. Of this large scope, three times the present size of Wayne, the population in 1820 was 650. The township was reduced to its present limits in 1829. It now includes 19,821 acres of land, 1,166 of which are unseated. The population in 1850 was 882; in 1860, 1,320; in 1870, 1,464; in 1880, 1597. The township is located in the southern part of the county. It is bounded on the west by Fairfield and East Fairfield Townships, on the north by Randolph and a corner of Mead, on the south by Venango County, and on the east by Venango County and a corner of Troy Township. In outline it roughly approximates a right angled triangle, the hypothenuse of which facing southeast consists of a series of lines at right angles to each other.
French Creek crosses the southwest corner. Little Sugar Creek enters in the northwest from East Fairfield and returns to the same in the southwest part. It is met in Wayne by Deckard's Run, which flows northwesterly. Sugar Lake Creek passes by a southeasterly course through the eastern part. Each of these streams has numerous tributaries, which thread the township in every direction, and everywhere may be found springs of excellent quality and copious flow. The surface is rough and hilly. Sandstone outcrops in many places and often renders tillage difficult. The best land lies along the streams. The valley of Sugar Lake Inlet broadens almost to a mile, and much of it is low and marshy. Pine and hemlock here grew profusely, but most of it has been culled for the saw-mills. These trees are also found in great quantities along Little Sugar Creek and other streams in the township. Other varieties of prevalent timber were white and red oak, beech, chestnut, sugar, poplar, bass and cucumber.
Sugar Lake, a beautiful sheet of water having a surface exceeding 100 acres, lies in the northeast part. It is fed by Sugar Lake Creek or Sugar Lake Inlet as the stream is also known. The lake is surrounded by low hills, and when first known had a depth of more than thirty feet, twelve or thirteen feet <page 686> in excess of its present depth. Its height above Lake Erie is 704 feet. The lake was in early times a renowned hunting and fishing place. Pickerel, weighing sometimes from eighteen to twenty pounds, black bass, yellow perch, rock bass, sun fish and suckers thronged its waters in much greater numbers than now. Ducks and geese were plenty and all kinds of forest game abounded in the vicinity. Long after the first white men came the Indians encamped at the foot of the hill at the outlet and pursued their favorite pastimes. They were friendly and well behaved, and were not known to have molested the corn fields or potato patches of the pioneers. If grain or vegetable was wanted the owner was first asked for it, and rarely did a settler refuse to embellish the cuisine of his dusky neighbors with a pumpkin or mess of turnips. The natives usually repaid such kindnesses with a luscious offering of bear meat or other wild game. Rattlesnakes were quite numerous in the vicinity of the lake as well as elsewhere in early times, and were quite a dangerous pest. On the west side of the lake in a clump of young hemlocks near a spring was a large den of the reptiles, and it was a long time before the snakes were vanquished. Horses were not unfrequently bitten, usually on the nose. Pea vine grew thick upon the ground and was a favorite pasturage, but the rattlesnake often lurked in coils beneath its foliage and repaid intrusion with its poisonous fangs.
Deer hunting was pursued with great success on the lake and creek, the hunter approaching the unsuspecting animal by means of a canoe. A bark lantern was made with two apertures for candles and fastened to a board. The board was attached to the prow of the canoe and the lighted candles cast a gleam over all objects in front, but the boat and its contents were concealed from view. The game could always be approached in this manner to within easy range, and the hunter was unfortunate or unskillful who failed to shoot a half dozen deer in one
evening. At first the deer proved troublesome by destroying the crops of grain which had to be inclosed as a
preventive, within high fences. Wolves were ravenous at first and could scarcely be restrained from attacking the
calves tied at the settler's cabin door. Panthers too were occasionally seen, and with stealthy steps sometimes
followed a belated child or woman home. Many were the incidents that happened to the pioneers in quest of
game. Many a bear and deer story could be narrated did not space forbid.
The territory of Wayne lies wholly in the Eighth Donation District, and like all lands in the county awarded by the State for military services, received very slowly the western tide of immigration. The lands were not open to settlers generally, except the lots which remained undrawn by the soldiers, and no concerted effort could be made to people them. The undrawn or State tracts were Nos. 112, 126, 1227, 1232, 1234, 1260 and 1284. Long after Fairfield, East Fairfield, Mead and southwestern Randolph had developed into fruitful farms Wayne remained a wilderness. Not until after 1820 was there anything like a general settlement of the land, and even then it
progressed slowly. It is not known to a certainty who first occupied the township, but the first settlement was
doubtless in the western part near French Creek.
Thomas Cochran, one of the earliest, located on Tract 1294, about a mile east of Cochranton. He came from Adams County and remained through life leaving several daughters and five sons: James, William, Samuel, Joseph and Robert, all of whom settled in this vicinity. David Blair came from Milton, Northumberland County, prior to l810, probably as early as 1805, and settled near French Creek, on Tract 113 in the extreme southwest
corner of the township. He died in Cochranton in 1846 at the age of seventy-two years. Other <page 687> pioneers who arrived prior to 1810 were: Isaac and Samuel Bonnell, Nicholas Bailey, who lived on French Creek one and a half miles below Cochranton, Edward Perry, John Greer, Sr., who lived below Cochranton on French Creek; John Greer, Jr., who dwelt on Tract 1286 two miles southeast of the village; Michael Kightlinger, who lived on the north side of Sugar Lake and afterward moved to Troy Township and died there; Hugh McDill, William Wheeling, Joseph and Lewis Woodworth, the former a millwright and both residents near French Creek and Jacob Waggoner.
The first improvement near the lake was made about 1804 by Michael Dill, who had previously resided near French Creek Mr. Dill had a cabin-raising in the wilderness, miles distant from any human habitation, and on that important occasion feasted his helping friends on an abundance of the various game found here. Dill, however, did not settle in this cabin. Edward Ferry, who had with his family crossed the mountains from Lancaster County, and had intended settling on the hill above the lake, was induced by Mr. Dill, in consideration of a cow or two and other emoluments, to occupy the cabin and continue there the labor of improvement. Mr. Ferry took up his abode in the cabin and years afterward bought the land, remaining its occupant until death. He left ten children, several of whom yet survive. Hugh McGill, an Irishman and a Covenanter settled in the extreme eastern part, where he died many years later. Jacob Waggoner was one of the first settlers on Deckard's Run. Other pioneers who arrived somewhat later, after 1810, and settled in the eastern part were: Samuel Beers, David McKnight, Daniel McDaniels, and John Allen, the last named hailing from Ireland. William Record came from Allegheny County in 1824. Jacob Rees, in 1829, emigrated from Philadelphia and settled on the site of Deckardville. It was then covered by a dense forest through which Mr. Rees was obliged to cut a road to his place of settlement.
Holmes & Herriot erected the first grist-mill in the township soon after 1800, on Little Sugar Creek, about a mile east of Cochranton. Several years later they sold it to Isaac Bonnell, who also operated a distillery. It has been an important industry, notably so in pioneer times, and has frequently changed possession and several times rebuilt. It is now owned by Hugh Smith. A powder-mill was built in the southern part and operated in an early day by Henry Heath. Many saw-mills have sprung up in various parts of the township, and the lumbering interests are still important.
James Douglas taught an early school in the western part on Tract 1288 in a log-cabin. A frame schoolhouse was afterward built at the same place, and later removed to Cochranton, where it was occupied a number of years for its original purpose. The youth of the extreme eastern part of Wayne received their first instruction in Randolph Township several miles away. John Kane taught perhaps the first school in this part of Wayne in a little shanty on the east bank of Sugar Creek Lake. John Moreland, a well-remembered, efficient instructor, afterward taught in the same building.
Wayne is almost exclusively rural in population. Deckardville, the only hamlet or village, lies in the eastern part and contains a store, a blacksmith shop, two churches and six or eight dwellings. Near by is a jelly factory. A third church building is standing, but its owners, the Free-Will Baptists, have disbanded as an organization. The congregation was organized by Elder Chase in September, 1865, and the edifice had been reared the previous year at a cost of $1,500.
Wilson's Mills Postoffice is located near the east bank of Sugar Lake.
The United Brethren Church at Deckardville was organized about 1848. Quarterly meetings were held at first in barns. Services were conducted in a log schoolhouse which stood near the present church, until the latter was erected in 1855 at a cost of $1,100. The leading early members were: Jefferson Cousins, James Tingley, William Houtz, Joseph Shaffer and Jacob Wheeland. This society has a present membership of about forty, and is a part of Deckard Run Circuit, which was formed from a part of Sugar Lake Circuit in 1880, and has since had the following pastors: 1880, J. W. Lewis; 1881--82, W. Robinson; 1883, E. E. Belden.
St. John's Reformed, formerly German Reformed Church, at Deckardville, was organized in 1846 and held services for a number of years in the schoolhouse. The corner-stone of the present church was laid in June, 1858, and it was dedicated in 1860. The structure was reared at a cost of $1,000, as the joint property of the Lutherans and members of the German Reformed Church. The former declined in strength and in 1877 withdrew from further support of the church property. Their last pastor was Rev. Swingle. In 1883 the Reformed congregation extended and repaired the building at a cost of $800. John Lubold, Eli Moll, Jonathan Borger, Henry Hoffman, Adam Peters, Levi Peters and George Hollabaugh were early influential members. Rev. Leberman was pastor many years and was followed for a brief period by Rev. D. B. Ernst, Rev. John Kretzing then ministered nine
years and after a short vacancy Rev. Josiah May for three years. Rev. John W. Pontius, the present pastor then
followed in 1877. The membership is seventy-five.
Zion Church, of the Reformed, formerly German Reformed denomination, was organized in the summer of 1870 by Rev. John Kretzing. Among the first and leading members were: Francis McDaniel and wife, James Record and wife, William McDaniel and wife and William McElroy. The meetings were held for a short time in a schoolhouse and about 1872 a neat frame church, 36x41, was erected at a cost of $1,800. The lot upon which itstands was the gift of Francis McDaniel, and is located in the north part of Lot 112, in the north part of the
township. Rev. John Kretzing, the first pastor, was succeeded by Rev. Josiah May, and he was followed in the
spring of 1877 by Rev. John W. Pontius, the present pastor. The membership is thirty-six.
Lake United Brethren Church is a modest frame structure standing on the east side of Sugar Lake. It was dedicated in the autumn of 1882, and cost about $1,500. A society of the Wesleyan faith flourished in this region many years ago, and in 1843 reared a log sanctuary on the site of the present United Brethren edifice. Among the leading Wesleyans were: Benjamin Beers, James Dye, Henry Sparling and David Holton. The society decreased in membership as time rolled on, and about 1860 passed from existence, leaving the old log-church as a monument of the past. About 1869 Revs. Muncie and Bedow, of the United Brethren Church, visited this deserted field and gathered together a little flock, including Simeon Brink, Andrew Wygant, David Sweet and others, who met for worship in the old log-house until replaced by the present edifice. The society is attached to Diamond Circuit and now has fifty members. Its present pastor is Rev. J. P. Atkins.