Crawford County, Pennsylvania

History & Biography

    WOODCOCK was formed in 1830.  It is an interior township, lying upon the east bank of French Creek, a little north of the center of the county, and contains 18,702 square acres.  The surface is pleasantly diversified by upland and valley, and is well watered by streams flowing into French Creek, the principal of which is Woodcock Creek, which enters the township in the south-east corner and extends in a north- westerly direction to the southern limits of Saegertown.  The north branch of that creek rises in the north-east part of the township and flows south along the east border to its recipient.  Bussard Run is a smaller tributary to Woodcock Creek in the central part of the township.  The northern and north-western parts of the township are drained by Gravel Run and the south branch of that stream, which unites with its recipient near the confluence of the latter with French Creek, in the north- west corner of the township.  Many small streams discharge their waters in Woodcock Creek on the south, the surface in the south part of the township having a slight declination toward that stream.  The surface has a gentle ascent as it recedes from French Creek.  Along this stream a steep bluff seventy-five to one hundred feet high extends from one and one- half miles below to two miles above Saegertown.  A beautiful valley of great fertility commences between the sources of the north branch of Woodcock Creek and Gravel Run, (both of which rise in the north-east part of the township,) and extends in a southerly and westerly direction, through the central part, to French Creek.  The soil in this valley consists of a rich, alluvial loam, the most elevated portions containing the most loam.  It is marked by many fine farms, especially in the vicinity of Saegertown and along Woodcock Creek.  The soil of the township is generally of a fine quality and produces *120 good crops of corn, wheat, oats and grass.  Dairying is the chief branch of agriculture, the milk being converted into cheese.

    The industries of the township are represented by three cheese factories, which receive the milk from 1400 to 1500 cows; four water-power grist mills, one at Saegertown, one a mile west of Woodcock borough, on Gravel Run, and two on Woodcock Creek; five saw mills, four of which are propelled by water and one by steam, and which are located, one on Gravel Eun, one on French Creek, two on Woodcock Creek and one on the north brunch of Woodcock Creek; and two wooden bowl manufactories, both situated on Woodcock Creek.
    The Atlantic & Great Western R. R. crosses the township along French Creek, and passes through deep cuts in the steep declivities of the bank above and below Saegertown.

    The population of the township in 1870 was 1,943, all of whom were white and all, except ninety-six, native.
    During the year ending June 3, 1872, it contained seventeen schools and employed twenty-seven teachers.  The number of scholars was 702; the average number attending school, 519; and the amount expended for school purposes, $4,928.17.

    SAEGERTOWN (p. v.) is pleasantly situated upon a beautiful plain on the east bank of French Creek and on the A. & G. W. R. R., and is distant six miles north of Meadville.  It is surrounded by some of the best farming lands in the county.  It was organized as a borough in 1851.  It contains three churches, (Reformed, Lutheran and M. E.) a fine school building, two hotels, two stores, two groceries, a tin shop, two cooper shops, four blacksmith shops, two shoe shops, one millinery and three dress making establishments, a large flouring mill, a saw mill, lath mill, gun shop and about five hundred inhabitants.  The population in 1870 was 441.
    Three bridges cross French Creek within the limits of the township connecting it with Hayfield township.  One of them located in this borough is substantially constructed of iron.

    WOODCOCK BOROUGH (p. v.) is situated on the north line, about two miles from Venango Station on the A. & G. W. R. R.  It was organized as a borough in 1845, and contains three churches, (one M. E. and two Presbyterian, but, owing to the unification of the two Presbyterian Societies, only one of the latter is occupied by that denomination,) one hotel, three dry goods, one drug and one jewelry stores, a tailor shop, harness shop, a cheese factory, using the past season the milk of 500 cows, though having a capacity for twice that number, and about forty dwellings.  The population in 1870 was 220.
    The estimated value of the school property in the borough is *121 $2,500.  The amount raised for school purposes in 1872 was $476.77; the amount expended for school purposes the same year, $408.10.  The number of resident pupils attending school was 65, and the number of non-resident pupils was eighteen.

    BLOOMING VALLEY (p. v.) is situated in the south-east part of the township, on the State Road, and was organized as a borough May 17, 1867.  It contains one hotel, five stores, a wagon shop, two blacksmith shops, a bowl factory, cooper shop, marble shop, planing mill and about forty-five dwellings.  The population in 1870 was 209.  It has a graded school, the build- ing for which cost $3,700.

    The first settlement of which we have information was made in 1791, by James Humes, who located one mile west of Woodcock borough.  Settlements were made in 1794 by Henry Rust, from Westmoreland county, James Long, a native of Lancaster county, who died in 1830, in the 93d year of his age, and John H. Bossard, who came from the vicinity of Greensburg, Westmoreland county.  Patrick and Arthur McGill, brothers, came to the township in 1795.  Arthur took up 800 acres and located on the farm now occupied by David and Josiah McGill.  The south half of this tract was subsequently taken up by Patrick.  John McGill, son of the latter, was about one year old when his father settled here and is now 78 years old.  He retains his mental faculties well, though he is afflicted with a cancer in his face.  Samuel Blair, grand-father of Mr. J. J. Long, and George Long, father of that gentleman, came to this township in 1797 and located on the farm owned by him.  Blair was a native of Ireland and both came here from the Susquehanna country.  Wm. Wykoff, a native of New Jersey, came with his son, John Wykoff, in 1797, and settled on Gravel Run, about two miles east of Woodcock borough, on the farm now occupied by Wm. C. Wykoff.  John Greenlee came from the Susquehanna country in 1797 and in 1798 he located on the farm occupied by his son, Wm. Greenlee.  The animals which infested the forests, though they furnished the settlers an ample supply of meat, were very troublesome to their flocks.  Wolves and bears were especially destructive.  For a long time it was necessary to yard the sheep at night, and they were frequently attacked in the day time.  The bears tore down their pig pens and carried off the pigs, and not unfrequently the cows were set upon by wolves.

    The settlement at Saegertown was commenced about 1796.  About 1800 Maj. Alden built a saw mill on the site of the present mills, and the place was known for several years as Aldens Mills.  In 1824 Daniel Saeger purchased the mill and *122 the lands adjacent to it, and laid out the town under its present name.  Mr. Saeger came from Lehigh county and possessed more than ordinary energy and business capacity.  Being a native Pennsylvanian, of German descent, he soon attracted to this locality a large number of the hardy, honest German yeomanry of Lehigh and other eastern counties, thus giving to it all the characteristics of a Pennsylvania Dutch settlement.  The first store in this village was kept by the Saegers and has been kept in the Saeger name ever since, now more than forty years.  Among the early settlers here were Adam Brookhouser and his two sons, Adam and Jacob, Adam Newhouser and Peter Shaffer.
    The Indians had a village or encampment at an early day near where the Reformed church now stands.
    The first tavern in Saegertown was kept by Peter Shaffer, where Saeger’s brick store now stands.  The first school was kept by Jonathan G. David in a small log cabin, situated a short distance above the mill.  In 1834 a frame school house was built near the Reformed church.  It was a low building with a partition through the center, designed to have English taught in one apartment and German in the other.  The post office was established in 1833, the mail being carried from Meadville to Girard once a week, and when the postman, David Yarrick, rode into the village on his little black horse, blowing his horn, no little sensation was produced.
    Nathaniel Clark, from Armstrong county, settled in the township about 1801.  Wm. H. Clark, his son, was born about half a mile from where he now lives, about sixty-two years ago.  George Peiffer, a Revolutionary hero, came to this county from Northumberland county, in 1802, and removed to this township in 1809.  Thomas Rice came from Allegheny county, in April, 1810, and settled on the farm now owned by S. T. Rice.
    The first store in Woodcock borough was kept by James Moore; and the first hotel, by Jacob Keptler, who was also the first postmaster.  Henry Zimmerman was one of the first merchants.
    The first saw mill erected in the township was built by Archibald Humes, at the mouth of Gravel Run, where he located.  He soon after built at the same place the grist mill which is now owned by Mr. Apple.  James Dickson, who came from Cumberland county and settled on Woodcock Creek at a very early day, is said to have built the first grist mill erected in the north part of the county.  The stones, which were common rock, were obtained near Pittsburgh, at a place called Laurel Hill.  Wm. Wise, who came to this township from Center county, in 1830, is 96 years old (1873) and is said to be the oldest man now living in the county.
    The first religious meetings were held by Robert C. Hooker, a missionary from Kentucky, in a log house occupied by one “Sheaver.”

    Gravel Run Church, (Presbyterian,) at Woodcock borough, was organized in 1809, and their first house of worship was erected soon afterward.  The present edifice was erected in 1854, at a cost of $2,500, which is one- half the present value of Church property.  It will seat 350 persons.  The first pastor was Rev. John Matthews; the present one is Rev. W. A. McCarroll.  The Society numbers 117.—[Information furnished by Mr. Wm. Clark.

    Rockville Church
, (M. E.) at Woodcock borough, was organized in 1810, by Rev. Joshua Monroe, the first pastor.  The first church edifice was erected in 1817 and was constructed of logs; the present one, which will seat about 300 persons, was erected in 1838, at a cost of $1,800.  The Society numbers eighty and is ministered to by Rev. R. C. Smith.  The Church property is valued at $3,000.—[Information furnished by Mr. Isaac Peiffer.

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