Crawford County, Pennsylvania

History & Biography
 "Township Histories." 

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SPARTA TOWNSHIP occupies the northeast corner of Crawford County, and is bounded on the north by Erie and on the east by Warren County; Rome Township bounds it on the south, and Bloomfield on the west.  The territory of Sparta in 1800 was a part of Mead Township, but in the same year it was made a portion of the newly organized Oil Creek.  In 1811 Bloomfield was erected, and included the whole of Sparta, which in 1829 became a separate township.  By Act of Assembly approved April 23, 1829, Sparta Township was made a new election district, and the house of George White appointed <page 631> as the voting place.  It has an area of 24,883 acres.  The population in 1850 was 884; in 1860, 1,254; in 1870, 1,131; in 1880, 1,181.  The apparent decrease for the last two decades is produced by the separate enumeration of Spartansburg, previously included in the census of the township.  The surface is rolling and hilly, and is drained by the East Branch of Oil Creek, together with Britton.  It contains the highest land in the county, many of the summits rising to an altitude of 1,225 feet above Lake Erie.  The principal woods were hemlock, beech and maple, interspersed with groves of pine and with ash, cherry, bass and elm.  A considerable part of the land is yet uncleared, and lumbering is an important industry.  William B. Sterling, in 1829, erected the first saw-mill.  It stood on Oil Creek, Tract 1614, and was operated by the builder fifteen years, then abandoned.  The Akins, at Spartansburg, constructed the second saw-mill, and George Tucker the third, near Glyndon Station, operating it for many years.  The saw-mills now include Lambs water-mill and handle factory, on Tract 1650, two and a half miles south from Spartansburg; Akins steam saw and planing-mill, a mile northeast of the village; Ogdens and Himebaugh Bros. steam mills, in the southeast part; Taylors water-mill, on Tract 1610, Britton Run; Chases steam mill, in the southern part; and several shingle-mills.  Only the soft woods were sawed by the early mills, cucumber, hemlock, pine and poplar.
    The first grist-mill was erected near the west line of the township, on Britton Run, by Andrew Britton.  It was what was denominated a corn-cracker, not rising to the dignity of a flour-mill; but it was a welcome addition to the neighboring settlers, who could fare sumptuously on corn-bread, wild meats and potatoes.  The mill had an overshot water-wheel, and was situated at the very headwaters of the run.  The flow of water, however, was much stronger than now.  The next corn-cracker was owned and operated in early times by Moses Higgins.  It stood on Cold Brook, in Tract 286, in the northeast part of the township.  William B. Sterling erected, on the site of his abandoned saw-mill, a carding and fulling-mill which he operated for about fifteen years.
    The northern part of Sparta was a portion of the vast domains of the Holland and North American Land Companies.  The southern part is included within the Eighth Donation District.  The first settlements were made in the northern part, though they were few.  A tragic interest attaches to this locality from the brutal murder of Hugh Fitz Patrick by a ruffian stranger, George Speth Van Holland.  Mr. Fitz Patrick was one of the foremost pioneers, having settled here prior to 1810.  His cabin stood on the line between Tracts 286 and 398, near Akins saw-mill, a mile northeast of Spartansburg.  Here he dwelt in the wilderness in February, 1817, with his wife, the daughter of Daniel Carlin, of Rome Township, and their infant daughter, only a few weeks old when the terrible deed was committed.*
    Among the earliest pioneers were Patrick Fitz Patrick and a brother to Hugh, Andrew Britton, and the Prices, all of whom had settled here prior to 1810.  Patrick Fitz Patrick located in the northeast part of Tract 398.  He died and was buried on the farm.  His son Andrew afterward managed the farm for awhile, then moved away.  Andrew Britton came with his father from near Philadelphia and settled in the extreme western part, on the farm now owned by Horace Alsdurf.  He raised a large family, cleared a large farm and removed to Ohio.  The Prices settled on Tract 406 in the northwest corner of the township.
    The Blakeslees were the most numerous early family.  Reuben Blakeslee
    * See County History for full account.
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in 1817 came from Granville, Washington Co., N. Y., to Meadville, and in the following spring to Sparta, settling on Tract 158, a mile south of Spartansburg, where he died July 20, 1848, aged sixty-two years.  He was soon followed to Sparta Township by his brothers, David, Jason, Hiram, Jesse, Gersham and John, and their father David.  The father had been a Captain in the war of 1812; he settled on Tract 150, a mile and a half southwest from Spartansburg and remained till death.  David Blakeslee, Jr., also settled on this tract.  Jason found a home on Tract 1663, in the southwest part, and Jesse on Tract 150.  Gersham located in the southern part on Tract 1059.  Hiram settled in Richmond Township, and John in Rome, the latter afterward moving to Michigan.  Gersham died in Concord Township, Erie County.  The others remained in Sparta till death, and most of the brothers still have descendants in the township.
    Hugh Coil, an Irishman, son of Roger Coil, of Rome Township, settled about 1815 on Tract 1644 in the southern part of the township, and remained there till death.  He was a Baptist minister, and a successful hunter and farmer.  Walter Crouch some time prior to 1820 located a home on Tract 1612 in the southern part of the township.  He first erected a little shanty, hanging a blanket over the door-way.  This protection did not prove adequate against the wild denizens of the forest, for the wolves came in one day during his absence and devoured a young porker domiciled within.  Mr. Crouch soon after departed for other regions.  Henry Graves settled on the same tract, also, anterior to 1820.  He was a farmer and a cooper, and died in Rome Township.  Alonson Spaulding was here equally early.  He sett1ed in the southwest part but soon after moved away.  Stephen Curtis settled early on Tract 1664 in the southwest part of the township.  He died in consequence of a kick from a horse, and his family soon afterward sought a home elsewhere.
    From 1820 to 1830 a considerable number of settlers arrived.  Among them were: Benjamin Rorobeck, who had served in the war of 1812, Joshua Whitney, George White, hailing from Whitehall, N. Y.; Samuel Holmes and Nathan Southwick.  Many of those who settled in the Donation District in the southern part of the township came from Washington County, N. Y.  William Kinney, from that county, settled on Tract 150, a mile and a half southwest from Spartansburg, in 1824, and remained there until his death.  His brother Freeman Kinney arrived a few years later.  William B. Spaulding, from near Albion, N. Y, came in 1828, and settled on Tract 1614.  In 1864 he removed to Corry.  Few of the earliest pioneers remained in Sparta through life.  The township is not yet thoroughly settled, a considerable body of uncleared land remaining in the eastern part.
    Early houses of entertainment were kept by Mr. Blakeslee and George White.  At the cabin of the latter East Bloomfield Postoffice was established. the first in the township.  During the years 1826—27, before the erection of schoolhouse or church, religious meetings were conducted by Rev. Amos Chase at the cabin of Marcus Turner.  Dr. Horace Eaton was the first physician.  The Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia Railroad crosses the township centrally from northeast to southwest.  Glyndon is a station near the south line.
    William B. Sterling was the first Justice of the Peace.  One of his first official duties was to prescribe justice to an unloving couple, who could not long occupy the same house without an undue exhibition of connubial infelicity by way of numerous hair pullings and other marks of deficient affection.  The Justice decreed that the better half should remain in sole and exclusive possession of the cabin, and that her consort under the penalties of the law should not approach within a radius of two miles.  The children, however, <page 633> were allowed by the terms of the legal instrument prepared to pass beyond this limit and visit their father.
    The first school was taught by Patty Blakeslee in a deserted cabin which stood about a mile south from Spartansburg.  The next was taught by Miss Ph—be Patton in the first schoolhouse built in the township.  It stood in the southern part, near the northwest corner of Tract 1644.  Miss Ph—be Dickey soon after succeeded and instructed the youth for several years.  Stephen Post was also a pioneer pedagogue here.  Miss Ruth Gleason held a term about 1833 in a schoolhouse built a half mile west of the village.

    Spartansburg is a thriving borough, situated near the center of Sparta Township, for the people of which the village is the chief trading and business point.  The census of 1870 accredited it with 457 inhabitants, and of 1880 with 486.  The population now exceeds five hundred.  The Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia Railroad passes through its midst and the east branch of Oil Creek meanders southward, affording excellent water-power.  The surrounding country is not yet wholly divested of its primeval forests, as the numerous saw-mills throughout this region fully attest.  At Spartansburg is a saw-mill, shingle-mill, planing-mill, grist-mill and woolen-mill.  Its mercantile business includes two dry goods stores, five groceries, two drug stores, two hardware stores and a furniture store.  It has also two millinery establishments, two meat markets, a bank, two hotels, two churches, three physicians, a dentist, two harness-shops, two blacksmith-shops, one shoe-shop, and a wagon-shop.  The schoolhouse is a commodious two-story frame structure, containing three apartments, all of which are required to accommodate the youth of the village.  Spartansburg Bank was organized in January, 1882.  I. H. Burt is President, and F. D. Catlin, Cashier.
    The first clearing was made by Abraham Blakeslee, on land east of the creek.  Soon after 1830 Andrew and Aaron Akin, two brothers from Erie County, erected a grist and saw-mill on the creek in the woods, and thus gave origin to the village.  The mill property has passed through many hands and is now owned by Eldred & Thompson.  The saw-mill has been abandoned, and to the water-power of the grist-mill steam has been superadded.  The mill has five run of stone and is widely patronized.  Andrew and Aaron Akin, having disposed of the mill which they founded in the wilderness in 1831, started the first store.  Eli D. Catlin was the next proprietor of the store.  He also operated an ashery for a few years.  He became the proprietor of most of the land in the borough west of the creek, and surveyed and laid out the village plat.  Jotham Blakeslee was an early blacksmith.  Smallman & McWilliams in 1849 built on the creek a carding and fulling-mill.  It was purchased by Harvey Lamb, who in 1862 enlarged the building and converted it into a well-fitted woolen-mill, which he still operates.  Chauncey Akin in early times had a small bowl factory, William Bassett a chair factory, and John McWilliams a tannery, all of which have long ceased to exist.  The village has grown slowly and steadily up to the present time.  In March, 1878, it was visited by a destructive fire which swept both sides of Main Street from the depot westward to the distance of a square, reducing to ashes about thirty buildings, including the business part of the village.  From this disaster the town speedily recovered and the site of the ruins has been covered by new and more commodious structures.
    In early times the village was called Akinsville.  On the establishment of a <page 634> postoffice some time after, its name was changed to Spartansburg, and as such it was incorporated in 1856.  The early records are not at hand.  Recent Burgesses have been the following: C. H. Buck, 1868; J. W. Williams, 1869, A. M. Ketchum acting as Burgess the greater part of that year; G. F. Kooster, 1870; E. D. White, 1871 ; Charles W. Hewell, 1872 ; C. M. Newell, 1873; John G. Burlingham, 1874; W. W. White, 1875; H. L. White, 1876; S. H. Blakeslee, 1877; Harvey Lamb, 1878—79; Frank Fralick, 1880—81; J. L. Conner, 1882; D. W. Tryon, 1883; William Elston, 1884.
    Bloomfield Baptist Church was formed in June, 1820, by Rev. James Williams, a licensed Baptist minister, assisted by Elder O. Alford.  A portion of the membership was from Erie County, and in 1823 meetings were transferred to Concord Township, that county.  The society flourished, conducting services just across the line, two and a half miles north of Spartansburg, until about 1849, when Spartansburg Baptist Congregation was formed by the removal of Concord Society to this borough.  At this time A. J. Millard and wife, A. Matteson, Joseph Cook and wife, John Carpenter and wife, Isaac Shreve and wife, and Benjamin Darrow and wife were the leading members.  The church was built in 1851.  It is a substantial, commodious frame structure.  This congregation has been attended by Elders Pierce, Devan, Mills, Kelsee, Hayes, DuBois, George Shearer, Dennison and Hovey.  The last named is the present pastor, entering upon his duties in January, 1884.
    Spartansburg Methodist Episcopal Church was organized about 1827, by Rev. I. H. Tackett.  Zebulon Miller, Abner Miller, James Miller, Orrin Miller, Corey Goldin, Green Alsdurf and wife, and Robert Goldin were early members.  Meetings were first held in the schoolhouse, a fourth mile west of the village, then in the schoo1house in the eastern part of the borough and afterward in the Presbyterian Church until the present edifice was reared in 1877.  It is located east of the creek, is about 34x60 feet in size, and cost $2,600.  Until the church was erected the membership at no time exceeded thirty-five.  It has since increased to about 120.  Spartansburg Circuit was formed in 1870 and has had the following pastors: L. D. Brooks, 1870; J. Garnett, 1871—72; T. Burrows, 1873—74; J. W. Wilson, 1875—76—77; C. M. Coburn, 1878—79—80; I. D. Darling, 1881—82; T. W. Douglass, 1883.  The circuit includes four appointments, three of which, Beaver Dam, Elgin and Concord, are in Erie County.  Prior to the creation of this circuit Spartansburg society had been attached to various circuits, Cambridge, Riceville, Spring Creek and others.
    The Presbyterian Church of Sparta was organized May 21, 1844, by Revs. George W. Hampson and Amos Chase.  Its first members were Eli D. Catlin and Mabel his wife, Wolcutt Bennett and Sally his wife, Mrs. Lua Smith, Joseph Culver, Mrs. Mary Culver, Eli D. Catlin, Jr., Mrs. Sarah Catlin, Isaac Farndon and Nancy his wife, William McLay, Nathan Southwick, Josiah Brown, Charles Day and wife, and John Day and Sarah his wife.  The first Elders were Josiah Brown, Eli D. Catlin and Horace Day.  Eli D. Catlin, Jr., Henry J. Smith, Charles Huntley and Isaac Farndon since served in that capacity.  Meetings were held in the old schoolhouse until a large frame church was erected on the south side of Main Street.  It was dedicated in October, 1849, by Rev. George W. Hampson.  The church never had an installed pastor.  Rev. William Johns commenced his labors as supply in 1844.  Rev. O. M. Chapin followed him in 1851, remaining until 1866.  Rev. Daniel M. Rankin succeeded and remained eighteen months and since then there have been no regular services and the congregation is no longer active.
    A Congregational Church was organized October 15, 1875, by a council <page 635> composed of representatives from seven surrounding congregations.  The original membership included J. T. Waid, W. W. Youngson and William Major, who were the first Elders; Homer J. Hall, Porter S. Ketchum, Jones, Major, Peter P. Beisel, Isaac Catern, Eli Deland and sixteen female members.  Services have been held in the Presbyterian Church.  Rev. L. L. Radcliff supplied the church for a few months, followed by Rev. W. S. McKellar, who remained four years.  The pulpit was then filled by several supplies of brief duration, after which no regular services have been held.  The membership is about thirty.
    A Lodge of Odd Fellows was organized at Spartansburg about 1850, maintained probably ten years, then disbanded.  Spartan Lodge, No. 372, F. & A. M., was organized January 2, 1867, with eleven members.  It now numbers thirty and meets on the first Monday evening of each month.
    Success Council, No. 194, Royal Arcanum, was instituted December 10, 1878.  It has now about thirty members and meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month.  Rev. W. S. McKellar was the first Regen