Crawford County, Pennsylvania

History & Biography

    VENANGO was formed in 1811.  It lies near the center of the north border of the county, and contains 9,871 square acres.  The surface is generally rolling, being somewhat uneven in the central and north-western parts.  The north-east part is more level and contains some very fine farms.  Along ConneautteCreek is some marshy land, which is generally well timbered.  It is abundantly watered by French and Conneautte creeks, which form the east boundary, and the streams flowing into them, the principal of which is Stokes Run.  The soil, which is easily cultivated and very productive, is a sandy and gravelly loam, except in the north-west, which is more elevated, where a clay loam predominates.  The township is mostly improved, there being but little more timbered land left than is required to supply the farmers’ wants, though it contains two steam saw mills.  The farmers are chiefly engaged in stock raising and dairying, cheese being the principal product of the dairy.  Wheat and corn are some of the crops raised.
    The population in 1870 was 623, all of whom were white, 571, native and 52, foreign.
    During the year ending June 3, 1872, it contained seven schools and employed twelve teachers.  The number of scholars was 264; the average number attending school, 234; and the amount expended for school purposes, $1,198.92.

    VENANGO, (p. v.) is beautifully situated on the west bank of French Creek, in the south-east corner of the township, eleven miles above Meadville, and contains three churches, one large brick school, one hotel, three dry goods, one hardware and one drug stores, a woolen factory, saw mill, flouring mill, tannery, three blacksmith shops, a wagon and carriage shop, two harness shops, one shoe shop, two cooper shops, a livery stable, and had, in 1870, a population of 318.  It was incorporated as a borough in 1853.
    Settlement was commenced in 1794, by Thomas Campbell and Christopher Siverling, from Westmoreland county.  They moved their families here in 1796, on horseback, that of the latter including, Christopher, John and Daniel Siverling.  At that time there was no wagon road in this country.  Campbell located on French Creek, on the farm upon which Jacob Kepler now lives; and Siverling, one mile higher up the creek, upon what is known as the Tarr farm.  Christopher Siverling, son of John, says that two bushels of corn, a small quantity of beef and a few turnips, which had been sown by members of the family who visited the place in the summer, constituted the entire stock of provisions on which his grand-father’s family had to subsist during the first winter, except such as was afforded by the streams and forest.  Pittsburgh was the nearest place <page 109> where necessaries could be obtained.  Siverling built the first framed barn.  Thomas Colter, who was born in Philadelphia, in 1865, settled here in 1796, and his uncle, Robert Logue, came the same year.  They located the farm on which Frank Colter now lives, and each built a log cabin.  Robert Colter, who was born in March, 1797, says he was the first white child born in the township.  He relates that one evening, three or four years after his fathers settlement, a bear raised the logs of their pig pen and took therefrom the pig, with which he beat a retreat.  Mr. Colter followed in hot pursuit with an ax, and as it was dark, Mrs. Colter followed with a torch light.  Bruin was overtaken near a brush fence, which retarded his progress, and Mrs. Colter immediately applied the torch to his shaggy hair, which was soon ablaze and caused him to beat a hasty retreat without his porcine burden, the fire in the meantime spreading over his entire body.  The pig however was handled so roughly that it died.  Wolves were also very troublesome and necessitated the yarding of the sheep every night.  The last wolf hunt took place about 1821.  Twenty men and twenty dogs engaged in it and drove the enemy of their flocks across the Cussewago, whence they never returned to molest them.  Samuel Quay came from Susquehanna county in 1797 and settled upon the farm upon which his son John now resides.  Henry Bole came from Ireland to this county in 1793, and to this township in 1798.  He located on the farm on which improvements had been commenced by Charles Stewart.  Before coming here he was in the employ of Gen. Meade, at Meadville.  Wm. Bole, his brother, came at the same time.  John Bole, son of Henry, says his father built the first barn and the second framed house, the first one having been built by Christopher Blyston.  Jacob Hogelberger, a native of Greensburgh, Westmoreland county, settled here in 1799.  He was a soldier in the war of 1812 and was called to the defence of Erie.  Isaac and Christian Blystone came from Lebanon county in 1800.  In this year settlement was commenced on the site of Venango borough, by Philip Straw, from Westmoreland county.  James Skelton came here from Philadelphia in 1801, and constructed a shelter of brush.  He next built a house of such poles as one or two men could lay up, and in this he lived a number of years.  Owen Skelton, his son, says this shanty afforded no shelter in a rain storm, and he recollects very distinctly of standing up when it rained while the water trickled down his body to his feet.  His mother’s supboard consisted of the base of a hollow birch.  He says that during the first summer of their residence his father went to work fourteen miles down French Creek.  He bought of one Van Horn a bushel of corn, which he got ground at Meadville on his way <page 110> back.  When within five mile of his home darkness overtook him and as he was very tired he staid there all night.  In the morning he made his way to his famishing family.  At times when they were much reduced for food his mother was accustomed to gather esculent vegetables which grew wild in the woods and mix the liquor in which they were boiled with milk.  Families named Gross and Torry settled in this township in 1802.  Gross located on the farm now owned by Henry Gross; and Torry on that upon which his son William now lives.  Wm. Gross, son of the former, who is now eighty-three years old, had the misfortune to lose all his property on Lake Erie.  Jacob Peters, a Revolutionary hero, settled here in 1804.  His son, Henry, who was a soldier in the war of 1812, was then fourteen years old.  He (Henry) married Miss Catharine McIntosh and died Oct. 25, 1872, aged eighty-three years.  His wife survives him, though she is quite infirm.  John Stokes, who was born near Reading, Pa., came to this county in 1804, and to this township Feb. 5, 1805.  He settled on the farm where his son Samuel now lives, on which some slight improvements had been made.  He served in the army in the war of 1812.  His widow, who is still living at the age of ninety-four years, is the last of the first settlers left in the township.  Joseph L. Perkins, who was born in Frederick county, Maryland, in 1807, came with his parents to Venango, in 1817.  After a useful and active life, during which he was the first postmaster of Venango borough, and held for upwards of a quarter of a century the office of justice of the peace, he died at his residence Sept. 6, 1873, aged sixty-six years.  In the latter year (1817) John Lasher and Solmon Walters purchased the improvements of Philip Straw, on the site of the borough.  Anticipating the location of the turnpike through this place they laid out a village plot; but failing to realize their expectations in this particular, the thriving town they pictured still remained in embryo.  In 1820, Walters sold his interest comprising the principal part of the present borough, to Michael Peiffer, who, in company with Jacob Sherrets, soon after built a saw mill.  This, together with the mill privilege and eighteen acres of land was bought, in 1829, by Asa Freeman; and in 1832, John Kleckner, who moved in from Lycoming county the previous year, purchased the Pieffer tract, together with the mill property and the farm owned by Christopher Siverling, now known as the Tarr farm.  That year he built a new saw mill near the old one, which he repaired.  In 1838 he had the town lot surveyed and gave it the name of Klecknerville, which was changed to Venango when the borough was incorporated, and in 1841, he built a grist mill, the second one in the township.  From this date the changes indi-<page 111>cating the growth of the borough, become too numerous and intricate for the scope of this work.

    Zion Church (Lutheran) was organized with fourteen members, in 1816, by Rev. Robert Colston.  The first church edifice, a log structure, was built the same year; the present one, which will seat 400 persons, was erected in 1838 and ’9, at a cost of $1,000.  The first pastor was Rev. Elihu Rathbun; the present one is Rev. J. H. Smith, who has accepted a call extended him.  The Society numbers sixty-five.  Its property is valued at $5,000.—[Information furnished by Mr. George Kleckner, who says this was the first Church organized and the first church building erected in Venango borough.

    The M. E. Church of Venango Borough was organized with ten members, in 1843, by Rev. Ahab Keller, the first pastor, and their house of worship, which will seat 300 persons, was erected in 1846, at a cost of $1,200.  The Society numbers thirty-two.  It is under the pastoral care of Rev. R. E. Smith, and its property is valued at $1,800.—[Information furnished by Mr. Isaac Peiffer.

    “ Stuarts Run Cemetery Methodist Church” was organized with twenty-five members, in 1843, by Revs. Messrs. Scofield and Bear, who were the first pastors, and the church edifice, which will seat 200 persons, was erected the same year, at a cost of $600.  The Church property is valued at $500.—[Information furnished by Mr. I. H. Skelton.

1 Hamilton Child, comp., Gazetteer and Business Directory of Crawford County, Pa., for 1874 (Syracuse, N.Y.: By the comp., 1874), pp. 118-19.