Crawford County, Pennsylvania

History & Biography
 "Township Histories." 

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THIS township was one of those formed in 1829, its territory having previously been parts of Bloomfield and Oil Creek.  By act of the Assembly approved April 23, 1829, the house of Rosanna McGee was made the first place of holding elections.  Rome lies in the eastern part of the county, and is bounded on the north by Sparta Township, on the west by Athens and Steuben, on the south by Steuben and Oil Creek, and on the east by Warren County.  It is one of the largest in the county, having an area of 24,565 acres.  Its population in 1850 was 940; in 1860, 1,051; in 1870, 1,274, and in 1880, 1,324.
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    The surface is generally rolling, with little low and marshy land.  It is drained by Oil Creek and its tributaries, the most prominent of which are McLaughlin Creek and Thompsons Run.  The main stream is in the western part . The two mentioned tributaries are in the central and eastern parts, and all have a general southerly direction.  The soil is sandy along the streams, and clay on the uplands.  Sandstone outcrops in places.  A large quantity of pine was found in the northern and western parts, while occasional groves were interspersed among the forest growths throughout the township.  Oak and chestnut prevailed in the central and eastern portions, and cherry, beech and maple in the valleys, hemlock, grew in every part.  Considerable bodies of timber yet remain in the eastern portion of Rome where settlements are sparse.  The three northern tiers of tracts are part of the Eighth Donation District.
    The Holland Land Company owned most of the land in the southern part. The first settlement was made under its auspices by the following settlers, in accordance with contracts made at the following dates, and in consideration of the annexed gratuity of land: Tracts 1 and 2, Daniel McBride, October 21, 1799, 100 acres gratuity in each; Tracts 3 and 4, unsold till 1815; Tract 27, James Lafferty, October 21, 1799, 100 acres gratuity, assigned to James McLaughlin; Tract 28, unsold till 1815; Tract 29, James Lafferty, October 21, 1799, 100 acres gratuity, deed executed; Tract 30, Patrick McGee, October 21, 1799, 100 acres gratuity, deed executed; Tract 31, unsold till 1815; Tract 32, Patrick Brannon, October 21, 1799, 100 acres gratuity, deed executed; Tract 33, Patrick McGee, October 21, 1799, 100 acres gratuity; Tracts 34 and 35, unsold till 1815; Tract 36, James McLaughlin, November 3, 1804, 100 acres gratuity; Tracts 40 to 51, unsold till 1815; Tract 91, Andrew Kerr, 100 acres gratuity July 10, 1805.  Tracts 92 to 95, unsold.  From the above it is seen that upon only eight of the thirty tracts were settlements made prior to 1815, at which date many of the unsold tracts were disposed of to land speculators and non-residents of the township.
    Patrick Brannon, Patrick McGee, James Lafferty, Daniel McBride and James McLaughlin, a colony of Irish immigrants, were the primitive pioneers.  In 1795 they emigrated from County Donegal, Ireland, and for three years dwelt on the banks of the Susquehanna in Northumberland County.  Thence in 1798 they proceeded to Pittsburgh.  In the autumn of the following year they visited the Oil Creek Region, selected Holland land tracts for their future homes, made contracts for their settlement with the agent of the company, built little cabins for temporary shelter, cleared off small patches of ground, and then returned to their families at Pittsburgh, where they spent the winter, and in April, 1800, set out with their families and scanty household goods for their future wilderness home.  Patrick Brannon settled in the western part of Tract 32, about two miles east of Centreville, where he remained until death, and where his numerous descendants yet abide.  He was a man of considerable education and intelligence, having been educated for the priesthood, a vocation which he did not embrace.  Patrick McGee made a home in the southern part of Tract 30, about two miles southeast from Centreville.  He remained a life-long citizen here, and has left a numerous posterity.  James Lafferty built his cabin in the northern part of Tract 29, south of and near that of Patrick McGee.  He faithfully cleared away the forest and tilled the soil until his decease, and his grandchildren now possess the fruits of his industry.  James McLaughlin settled in the northwest part of Tract 36, about three miles southeast from Centreville.  He resided here to extreme old age, and the old home farm is still cultivated in the McLaughlin name.  Daniel McBride settled on the site of Centreville.  This entire colony consisted of <page 614> Catholics, and their descendants still worship in the faith of their forefathers.
    Roger Coil, or Coyle, as the name was originally spelled, was a native of Ireland.  In 1800 he came from Pittsburgh to the newly commenced Irish settlement in Rome, made a clearing, and built a cabin in the southwest part of Tract 28, destined to be his future and permanent home, boarding while making his first improvement at the cabin of James McLaughlin, which was near by.  In 1801 Mr. Coil brought his family to the prepared little home, and devoted his life-long energies to clearing and cultivating an extensive farm.  He became involved in a law suit with the Holland Land Company, but succeeded in maintaining his title to the farm.  He was a Catholic, and left a large family.  His son, John Coil, became a Methodist divine.  Hugh accepted the tenets of the Baptist faith, while Patrick adhered to the faith of his ancestors.  The other children were equally diverse in religious belief.
    Daniel Carlin, an Irishman and a Catholic, came about 1801 and settled in what is now the northwest corner of Oil Creek Township.  Several years later he removed to the gore, immediately south of Centreville Borough.  While making sugar in the woods one cold spring day, in his old age, he lost his way in the wilderness and perished in the snow.  He had four daughters and two sons, John and Daniel.  Years came and went, but the little settlement in Rome received few, if any, accessions.  Several settlers arrived, remained a short time and departed.  Previous to 1810 Robert Conn was here.  He was a cripple, and did not remain many years.
    Not before 1820 did the little cabin clearings begin to dot the length and breadth of the forestry of Rome, but in 1830, when the first tax duplicate was made for the township, it included about seventy-five names, including the early settlers already named and many of their descendants.  The remaining resident tax-payers of Rome in 1830 were the following: Moses Blodgett; Roswell Buell, who had settled on Tract 29, two miles southeast from Centreville and died in Steuben Township; Charles Barber, who until death occupied a farm on Tract 30, a mile east of Centreville; Russel and Cyrus Bidwell; Daniel Bement, a Yankee and the first tanner in the township, working at his trade on Tract 3, south of Centreville, through life; Asa Babcock; John Blakeslee, on Tract 1666; B. Bassett, owning Tracts 1661 and 1648; Charles Bachus, in Centreville; Rev. Amos Chase, the well. known pioneer Presbyterian divine who dwelt just south of the borough; Charles Chase, his son; Cornelius Cummings, a carpenter of Centreville; Nathan Cook, on Tract 1731; John Colton, a Yankee and life-long resident, on Tract 36; William Davenport, also from New England, on Tracts 1653, 1654; Peter Fink and his sons John and Martin, three miles southeast from Centreville; Benjamin Gilson, on Tract 29; David, Aaron and Henry Gardner in the southern part; Jabez Galpin; Nancy Hall; the heirs of Andrew Hagany; Horace Humphrey, of Centreville; Samuel Kerr; Peter McKeiffer, an Irish Catholic, who settled and remained through life in the southwest part; James R. Maginnis; Alfred McCarley; Joseph Norris; John Odell, still living in the township; William T. McCray, on Tract 1666; Joseph Patten; Gad and Charles Peck and Samuel Rice, of Centreville; Daniel Rogers, an Irish Catholic and one of the earliest settlers; Stephen Sloan; Patrick Shirley; David Tryon, who operated a fulling and carding-mill south of Centerville, on Oil Creek; Thomas Tubb, a life-long resident of Tract 1648; David Winton, who operated a saw-mill just south of the borough; Samuel and Bradley Winton, of Centreville; Myron Whipple, a shoe-maker of the village; Alexander Wood; Converse White, who settled south of Centreville and soon after moved away; Barnabas Ward, of Centreville, and Adam and Martin Zely
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    In the central part of the township is an English settlement, commenced in 1833 by the arrival of Benjamin Harrison, Sr., who was born in Northumberland County, England, in 1797, emigrated to Patterson, N. J., in 1827, and thence removed to this township with his mother.  The eastern part of the township was then a vast wilderness and many years elapsed before it was settled.
    The first saw and grist-mill was built about 1815 on Oil Creek immediately south of Centreville Borough by David Winton, the son of Nathan Winton, of Centreville.  James and David Tryon, from Litchfield, Conn., about the same time and in the same locality, erected a carding and fulling-mill, which they operated for about fifteen years, and then removed a little farther down the stream to what is now Steuben Township.  Patrick Coyle, about 1825, started a carding-mill on the East Branch of Oil Creek, a short distance northeast from Centreville, and operated it for twenty years or more.  Saw-mills sprang up in all parts of the township, and their busy hum may still be heard in portions where the native forest yet remains.
    Patrick Brannon was the earliest pedagogue, and taught in a cabin which stood on the Magee farm.  Reading, writing and a little ciphering were all the acquirements a teacher was then expected to impart to his pupils, and Mr. Brannon was amply qualified for his position, having received in Ireland a liberal education.  He was a pious Catholic and concerned himself in the strict decorum of his pupils.  With backwoods license the larger pupils would occasionally indulge in profanity in his presence, and in the vehemence of his reproof of such offensive language the excited master would often chastise severely.  Dennis Carrol, an Irishman, and a veteran of the Revolution, was also an early teacher, following this vocation in his old age.
    The Church of the Immaculate Conception at Mageetown, two miles east of Centreville, was organized with twenty-five members in 1822.  The first members were the families of the earliest pioneers whose names have been mentioned.  The church was supplied by priests from Pittsburgh and elsewhere for many years.  Under the pastorate of Father Peter Sheridan, the first resident priest, the present place of worship was erected in 1848 at a cost of $1,200 on a lot donated by Francis Magee.  Revs. J. P. Maurel, Donohue and William Pugh were successively resident pastors, then Father Callaghan, became the pastor.  He was succeeded by Father P. J. McGovern, the present pastor, and assistant priest at Titusville.  The membership now embraces about twenty-five families.
    In the southern part of the township is Hemlock Baptist Church, a structure erected largely through the contribution of Isaiah Rowe. The society which worshiped here has disbanded.
    On Tract 1666, in the northwest part of Rome, is a frame United Brethren Church, where a small but prosperous society of that denomination now conduct services.  Frederick Lyons, Lyman Phillips and Manning Childs were leading early members.
    Near the south line of Tract 44, in the central portion of the township, is a modest frame structure, 22x44 feet, the church of a congregation of Covenanters.  The society was founded by the members of the English settlement in this region, and organized February 22, 1860.  The leading early members were: Jacob Boggs, Henry Wright, John Edmund, the Harrisons, Stewarts and others, and the first meetings were held in barns and dwelling-houses.  The pastors have been: Revs. Blackwood, Hutchinson, Mulligan, Reed and Dodds.
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    A petition praying for the incorporation of Centreville was filed in the Court of Quarter Sessions February 16, 1865, and the same day presented for consideration to the grand jury, which in its report deemed it expedient to grant the petition.  Accordingly the court confirmed its decision April 14, 1865, and appointed the following May 5th the date of the first election.  G. W. Rockwell was selected to give proper notice of the forthcoming election, of which George Bennett was appointed Judge, and James M. Lewis and Lorin Wood Inspectors.  The election resulted in the selection of George W. Rockwell, Burgess, and A. P. Waid, James Clark, L. B. Main, O. F. Himes and T. L. Noble, Council. The Burgesses since elected have been: G. W. Rockwell, 1866; Wash Winton, 1867; C. J. Saunders, 1868; Bruce Southworth, 1869-71; Samuel Post, 1872; J. H. Wooster, 1873; Henry Fields, 1874; John Linsey, 1875; John A. Dowler, 1876; George M. Eberman, 1877; J. M. Lewis, 1878; J. G. Bly, 1879; C. B. Post, 1880;B. Southworth, 1881; C. B. Post, 1882; B. Southworth, 1883; Wash Winton, 1884.
    Centreville is the site of one of the oldest settlements in the eastern part of the county.  Daniel McBride first disturbed the wilds of nature here by clearing a small patch in 1801 near the northeast corner of First and Erie Streets.  The same season he constructed a little tent, by placing poles against the trunk of a fallen tree and covering them with brush. In 1802 he constructed a round-log cabin, and for many years thereafter toiled zealously in clearing up a large farm.  Building an addition to his cabin, he commenced entertaining strangers prior to the war of 1812.  Years afterward he sold the farm to Charles Peck, who for a time continued the duties of a public host.
    Nathan Winton, the second permanent settler, moved with his family from Connecticut, and settled on land constituting a gore, and situated in the western part of the borough.  He purchased the right of settlement from Mr. Buell, who had located here, made a slight clearing, and commenced the construction of a dam.  Mr. Winton and his son Samuel completed the dam, and prior to 1810 erected a saw-mill close to the junction of the East and West Branches of Oil Creek.  They operated the mill for many years, then sold it to Lorin Wood, who subsequently erected a grist-mill at the same place.  Mr. Merrick opened the first store as early as 1820.  It stood on the east side of Erie Street, north of First, and near the present Centreville Hotel.  David Winton, the son of Nathan, about 1813 built the first grist-mill in this locality.  It was situated on the banks of Oil Creek, immediately south of the borough, and was operated by Mr. Winton and subsequently by his heirs until about 1855, when it was destroyed by fire.  It was an important feature of pioneer life and patronized for many miles around.  Joseph Patton, an early Justice of the Peace, emigrated from Connecticut and settled here prior to 1820. Charles Saunders was an early shoe-maker, and Daniel Bement the first tanner.  Lorin Wood, a merchant, originally from Massachusetts, came in 1831; his brother, Phineas Wood, also arrived the same year.  The village has since grown steadily.  It contained a population of 322 in 1870 and of 307 in 1880.  Its mercantile business consists of three stores of general merchandise, one drug, one hardware, one furniture and one millinery store, and a meat market.  It has a grist-mill, two saw-mills, a stave and handle factory, two blacksmith-shops, a harness-shop, a, a tin-shop, a wagon-shop, two hotels, three physicians and three churches.  Its railroad facilities are excellent, the Union & Titusville Road and the Buffalo, New York &. Philadelphia passing through the village.
    Centreville is a shipping point of considerable note, and annually exports <page 619> large quantities of hay, wood, lumber and produce.  The school building is a substantial frame structure, erected in 1872 at a cost of $3,500.  The cemetery occupies a knoll of about three acres on the banks of Oil Creek, is beautifully laid out and embellished, and is owned by the borough.
    The first religious society was the Presbyterian Congregation, organized about 1815 by Rev. Amos Chase, who served it as supply until 1827, then as pastor until 1830. Mr. Chase was the pioneer Presbyterian minister of eastem Crawford, and was held in universal esteem.  He continued a resident of Centreville until his death, December 23, 1849, in his ninetieth year.  Rev. George W. Hampson was the second pastor, and remained in charge many years.  Revs. Chapin and Johns, of Spartansburg, followed, and soon after the church became too weak numerically to maintain existence.  This congregation erected the first church edifice in the village.  It was a substantial frame, about 30x40, with an old-fashioned elevated pulpit at one end, and did excellent service for many years.  It stood near the present Congregational Church.  Elder Davenport, Lorin Wood and Charles Peck were among the prominent members of the congregation.
    The Congregational Church was organized at Centreville September 5, 1841, at the Presbyterian Church, by Rev. Lucius Parker, the first pastor.  Its eighteen original members were Joel Phillips and wife, and daughter Maria, Jeremiah Tryon and wife, Silas Taylor and wife, Alexander Wood and wife, Pierson Sexton and wife, Oliver Scott and wife, Charles M. Wood, Phineas Wood, Caroline Cummings, Elizabeth Sexton, Julia Bement, Joseph Patten and Benjamin Clark and wife.  Meetings were held in the Presbyterian Church.  Revs. L. L. Radcliff and Barnes succeeded Rev. Parker and in time the congregation ceased services.  It was reorganized April 24, 1859, with thirty-eight members, including Jeremiah Tryon, James Clark, C. M. Wood, O. B. Scott, Leonard Post, Charles D. Hill, George P. Bement, Charles Saunders, E. C. Bloomfield, Julius A. Rodier, Henry Noble, Norman Scott, W. H. H. Boyle, Fred Clark, L. J. Griffith, Joel Bennett and twenty-two female members.  Rev. U. T. Chamberlain, through whose exertions it was reorganized, remained pastor until January, 1865.  His successors have been Revs. T. H. Delamater, W. D. Henry, Jones, J. B. Davidson, W. S. McKellar, J. D. Sammons and R. Morgan.  Meetings were held in the old Presbyterian sanctuary until 1869, when the present frame house of worship, 35x60, was constructed at a cost of $4,000.  The membership is eighty-three.
    An early Methodist society flourished at Centreville prior to 1831, meeting at the schoolhouse, at the cabin of Samuel Winton and elsewhere.  Among its members were Samuel Winton and wife, James Coyle, William Haskins and Roswell Buell.  The class possessed only a few members and did not continue for many years[.]  Centreville Circuit was organized in 1831 and has had the following ministers: T. Thompson and J. Summerville, 1831; J. Scott and J. Robinson, 1832; D. Richey and S. W. Ingraham, 1833; W. Carroll, 1834; J. W. Davis and A. Keller, 1835; R. Peck and W. B. Lloyd, 1836; C. C. Best and H. S. Hitchcock, 1837; J. A. Hallock and I. Scofield, 1838.  The class probably did not long survive this latter date.  The present class was organized in 1863.  Johnson Merrill and wife, Samuel Post, John Buell and Samuel Winton and wife were early members of it.  Meetings were held in the Presbyterian and afterward in the Congregational Church until the present commodious frame edifice, about 36x60, was reared in 1875 at a cost of $2,500.  The class was a part of Riceville Circuit until 1873, when Centreville Circuit was formed.  It embraces but two appointments, Riceville and Centreville, and has had the following pastors: J. W. Wilson, 1873-74; M. <page 620> V. Stone, 1875-76; J. L. Mechlin, 1877; D. R. Palmer, 1878-79; G. W. Clark, 1881; L. Beers, 1882; Frederick Fair, 1883.  The membership of the society is about seventy-five.
    The First Baptist Church of Centreville was constituted in April, 1862, by Elder Cyrus Shreve, with the following seven members: Franklin Weatherbee and wife Melissa, D. B. Weatherbee and Penila his wife, Freemen Bradford and Elizabeth, his wife, and Penila Chapman.  Elder Freeman Bradford was the first pastor, remaining in charge five years.  His successors have been C. J. Jack, Cyrus Shreve, F. Bradford, D. C. Dennison, and Cyrus Shreve again, who is now pastor.  Meetings were held at Franklin Weatherbees house and occasionally at the Congregational Church until 1875, when a Baptist Church was erected at a cost of $1,575.  It is 28x35 in size and is neatly furnished.  The present membership is forty.
    Arethusian Lodge, No. 323, Good Templars, was chartered May 11, 1867, with sixteen members: T. L. Noble, C. F. Chamberlain, I. A. Wright, Gaylord Matteson, L. Matteson, W. P. Klingensmith, J. M. Lewis, Bruce Southworth, Gates Sexton, Mrs. E. S. Southworth, Mrs. Viola Tubbs, Mrs. Sarah Fields, Mrs. E. Klingensmith, Mrs. N. Birch, Miss S. S. Chamberlain and one other.  The organization has ever since been prosperously maintained and now has thirty-five active members.  Meetings are held every Saturday evening.
    Centreville Union, No. 164, E. A. U., was organized October 6, 1880.  Its first officers were J. M. Boyd, President; James Bramhill, Chancellor;  Mrs. E. S. Southworth, Advocate; and F. L. Markham, Secretary.  The membership is twenty-five and meetings are held the first and third Wednesdays of each month.