Crawford County, Pennsylvania

History & Biography

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    VERNON was formed in 1830.  It is an interior township, lying upon the west bank of French Creek, a little south-west of the center of the county, and contains 16,194 square acres.  Its streams, in addition to French Creek, are Cussewago Creek in the north-east part, Conneaut Outlet on the south border, both of which are tributary to the former creek; and VanHorns and Watson runs in the central and western parts, the former flowing into French Creek and the latter into Conneaut Outlet.  The old Beaver Canal crosses the south-west corner, and the Atlantic & Great Western R. R. just enters the township upon the south border.
    The population in 1870 was 1,615, all of whom were white, 1,353, native and 262, foreign.

    During the year ending June 3, 1872, the township contained twelve schools and employed sixteen teachers.  The number of scholars was 554; the average number attending school, 452; and the amount expended for school purposes, $2,353.87.

    VALLONIA, (p. v.) situated on French Creek, opposite Meadville, was organized as a borough in 1869.  It contains a store, two lager beer breweries, a malt house, tannery, stave factory, two blacksmith shops, a carriage shop, paint shop, three brick yards, and about 250 inhabitants.

    The first settlement of this township was contemporary with that of the county, as the first nine settlers, including the three Meads, after one or two days’ explorations on the east side of <page 112> French Creek, in the vicinity of Meadville, crossed that stream above the mouth of the Cussewago, and erected a temporary place of residence, about the middle of May, 1788.  “They then commenced plowing one of the old Indian fields, with four horses to the plow, and after breaking up some eight or ten acres, they planted them with corn.  A freshet in the stream soon after destroyed their crop, and it was replanted in the month of June.”  Those who settled on the west side of the creek, in Vernon, were John and David Mead, the former about one mile north of the site of Meadville, and the latter upon a tract immediately south of him, but which he soon abandoned to occupy the location first selected by Thomas Grant—the site of Meadville—where he erected a cabin in the north part of the village which bears his name, and Cornelius VanHorne, who moved into an old Indian cabin which stood upon the track he selected.  In October VanHorne was visited by Archibald Davidson, Sr. and Jr. and Jacob VanHorne, who remained about a week, when the four returned to New Jersey, whence VanHorne came.  In the fall of 1789 VanHorn again visited this locality and remained until Christmas, when he again returned to New Jersey.  In October, 1790, he, in company with Thomas Lacey and Peter and Matthew Colsher, left New Jersey for his new home with a wagon drawn by two horses.  They came via Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  At the latter place they sold their horses and conveyance and proceeded thence to the Cussewago in a canoe.

    The first few years of settlement were fraught with danger as well as privation, for the frequent threatened and actual attacks of bands of hostile Indian’s rendered life upon these frontiers perilous, and several times impelled the settlers to abandon their lands and seek safety at Franklin, the nearest fortified place of any pretensions.  The house of David Mead was fortified and in it the settlers were accustomed to congregate when suddenly and unexpectedly attacked.  We extract from Incidents in the Early History of Crawford County, Pa., by Alfred Huidekoper, the following episode which forms an interesting chapter in the early history of this county, and is an event which occurred in 1791 and in which one of the first settlers in this township took a prominent part:—

    “About the first of May, Cornelius Van Horn, Christopher Lantz, William Gregg, and Thomas Ray, voluntered to leave the fort at Franklin, and return to Meadville, with their guns in their hands, and endeavour to put in a crop of corn.  To do this it was necessary that Van Horn should first get his horses from Pittsburgh ; and accordingly he went after them.  In returning he was obliged to follow a wild path through the woods, from Pittsburgh to Venango, and he describes his ride as lonely, desolate and disagreeable.  Crossing the Slippery Rock Creek the first day, he en-<p. 113>camped for the night in a deep ravine.  He had obtained some bread and two pounds of butter at Pittsburgh, out of which he made his supper, and then threw himself on his blanket to sleep with his gun by his side.  Shortly afterwards he was awakened by the crackling of the fire, and found that, spreading among the dry leaves, it had communicated itself to his butter.  In his endeavors to extinguish the flame, his hands were so severely burned as to prevent him from sleeping any more for the night.  At day break he found that his harness was much injured by the fire, and that the horses he had turned out to browse had wandered away, so that it was ten o’clock before he was able to find them, and pursue his journey.

    “The second day he progressed as far as Sandy Creek, and slept again in the woods.  On his route he encountered one Indian, who was on his way to Slippery Rock, and whose good will he endeavored to gain by sharing with him from his bottle and his remaining stock of bread.  On the third day he reached Franklin in safety, where he found the officer, with about twenty-five of his men, preparing to set out in a few days for Erie.

    “On the fifth day of May (Christopher Lantz being too unwell to accompany them), Cornelius Van Horn, William Gregg, and Thomas Ray, having returned to Meadville, went to their field to plant it with corn.  They worked during the morning, Van Horn ploughing, and the others planting until noon, when Ray and Gregg returned to their cabin for dinner, leaving Van Horn ploughing alone, they engaging to bring his dinner to him.  Shortly after they left, Van Horn, who had laid his gun on the bag of corn, at the end of the furrow, observed his horses to appear frightened, and on turning round, discovered two Indians running towards him.  The foremost one threw down his bow and arrows, knocked off Van Horn’s hat, and drew his tomahawk to strike.  Van Horn, who, though short, was a stout built man, seized the tomahawk and held it with such force that the Indian could not wrest it from him.  The second Indian, having laid down his gun, now came up and endeavored to get a stroke with his tomahawk, but Van Horn managed to keep up so much action, and to throw the other Indian between himself and the danger, that he could not accomplish it.  Van Horn pleading for his life, the Indians conferred a moment together, when one of them, who spoke English, after cautioning him, with an oath, to make less noise, told him they would spare him, and that he might go with them.  The Indians commenced unharnessing the horses, but Van Horn requested them to take the gears along, promising to plough for them.  They took each a horse, and Van Horn ran between them.  Crossing the Cussewago near its mouth, and going west, up a ravine, for about a quarter of a mile, they came to where two other Indians were waiting for them on the hill.  Here the Indians inquired of Van Horn the situation of the settlement, and on learning how things stood, three of them took up their arms and went back, leaving the remaining one, an elderly Indian, in charge of the prisoner.  After remaining about three-quarters of an hour, the Indian put Van Horn on one of the horses, while he rode the other, and they pursued a dim Indian path until they came to Coneaut Lake.  After crossing the outlet they dismounted.  The horses were fettered so that they could not escape, and the Indian then tied the rope which confined the arms of his prisoner, to a tree and left him, going back upon the trail, it is supposed, either to fish in the lake or to watch if they were pursued.  When left alone, Van Horn, who had given up his knife and powder-horn to the Indian who had captured him, began to search in his pockets to see if he could find any instrument to escape with.  He fortunately discovered a small toy knife, which he had picked up the day before.  It was deplorably dull, but, after whetting it on the key of his chest, and sawing awhile, he succeeded <p. 114> in cutting off that part of the rope which confined him to the tree.  He immediately ran down the outlet, crossed it, and after struggling through the swamp, succeeded in making his way eastward, until he came to a path leading up French Creek, which he followed until he reached a small nursery of apple trees he had planted near Kennedy’s Bridge.  Finding the nursery full of weeds, and apprehensive if the fire got among them that his trees would be injured, he commenced weeding, as well as he could with his arms fettered.  He had been at work but a few minutes, when he heard some one call to him from across the creek.  Fearful of danger, he dared not to answer; but when the call was repeated, he recognized the voice of John Fredebaugh, an old acquaintance.  He immediately left his work, and, though the water was deep and cold, he waded through it to Fredebaugh, who conducted him to Ensign Jeffers, who, with thirty soldiers and three Indians, was at Mead’s house.  Jeffers cut the cord which bound Van Horn, and immediately ordered sentinels to be posted, and sent part of his men to the island for his horses, intending at once to leave for Franklin.  The horses were all found but the Ensign’s, and he with his men left, leaving behind two Indians and Van Horn, the latter refusing to go until he had collected some articles he wanted.  He passed the night with the two Indians under some oak trees east of the present village, [Meadville] and in the morning, finding he had nothing to eat, he returned to the field where he had the day before been made a prisoner, and where he discovered, in a basket, the dinner which had been brought out for him the day before, by Gregg and Ray.  After breakfast, having succeeded in catching the missing horse of Ensign Jeffers, he put his own saddle upon it, and gave it to one of the Indians to ride, while the other Indian and himself took a canoe, and descended to Franklin by water.  The Indian on horseback was not heard of afterwards, and probably took his booty and rode off with it to the west.
    “William Gregg and Thomas Ray, whom we left going to their cabin, after dinner went out to where they had left Van Horn, and found that he was gone, and immediately after discovered the three Indians approaching them.  They retreated, but as Gregg was crossing the Cussewago Creek, near its junction with French Creek, he was shot through the thigh, and disabled for further flight.  He called to Ray to assist him.  Ray stopped, and the Indians came up.  Both Ray and Gregg appear to have been panic stricken, or they might have defended themselves.  The Indians took Gregg’s gun (their own being unloaded) and shot him with it, as he was seated on the bank of the creek.  They scalped and left him, taking Ray with them as a prisoner.

    “They followed the trail of the Indian who had preceded them, and on arriving at Conneaut Lake found their comrade, and learned from him that Van Horn had made his escape ; a circumstance which, the Indians told Ray, was entirely in his favor, as they had determined to risk taking with them but one prisoner, and that either he or Van Horn must have perished, if the latter had not eluded them. * * * After undergoing the usual vicissitudes of Indian captivity on his way to the west, his captors brought him at last in the neighborhood of a British garrison, near Detroit; here Ray, who was a Scot by birth, recognized one of the British officers (a Captain White) as a fellow-countryman, whom he had seen in Scotland.  On making known his situation to Captain White, the latter, with generous benevolence purchased his liberty from the Indians, gave him a suit of clothes, and paid his passage in a schooner to Buffalo.  On reaching the latter place, Ray met with a Mohawk chief, of the name of Stripe Neck, who resided at Meadville, and who conducted him to Franklin, and from thence he proceeded to join his family at Pittsburgh, <p. 115> to the agreeable surprise of his relatives and friends, who had relinquished all expectation of having him return.”

    In the early part of 1794, the settlers organized a military company, and Cornelius Van Horn was chosen captain.

    Watsons Run Church (German Reformed) was organized in 1825, by Rev. Philip Sizer, the first pastor; and tlie church edifice, which will seat 250 persons, was erected in 1847, at a cost of $1,200.  There are about 100 members, who are under the pastoral care of Rev. — Apple.  The Church property is valued at $2,000.—[Information furnished by Mr. John Andrews.

    Watsons Run United Presbyterian Church was organized with forty members in 1870, in which year was erected, at a cost of $1,800, the church edifice, which will seat 200 persons.  The first pastor was Rev. Samuel Black, who is also the present one.  The Society numbers forty, and its property is valued at $2,050.—[Information furnished by Mrs. Shartel.

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