Crawford County, Pennsylvania

History & Biography
 "Township Histories." 

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VENANGO TOWNSHIP dates its origin back to July 9, 1800, at which time it was created with the following boundaries: "Beginning at the corner of a tract of land surveyed in the name of John Fries, on the line of a tract surveyed in the name of David Cunningham about sixty perches or thereabouts west of the northeast corner of the same; thence north to the southwest corner of a tract in the name of James West; thence eastwardly to French Creek; thence up the different windings of the same to the northern boundary of Crawford County; thence by the same westwardly to the northeast corner of Cussewago Township; thence southwardly to the northwest corner of a tract of land surveyed in the name of John James; thence east to the place of beginning."  As thus constituted Venango embraced besides it present limits the northeast part of Hayfield and the eastern part of Cussewago.  Its bound- <page 676> aries were changed in 1829, so that it then included present Cambridge and Venango.  The formation of the former reduced Venango to its present limits.  It contains 9,829 acres of land, and is one of the northernmost townships of the county.  Cussewago Township is west; Cambridge, east; Hayfield, south, and Erie County, north.  The south, west, and north boundaries are straight lines, but the meanderings of French and Conneautee Creeks constitute the eastern boundary.  The township is watered by these streams and their several small tributaries, which flow southeasterly through sloping gullies fifty or a hundred feet deep.  Above these the land is comparatively level.  It is roughest in the northwestern part, and in the northeastern, along the banks of Conneaut Creek, it is somewhat marshy.  The soil is a gravelly and in a few places sandy loam, except in the northwest where a clay predominates.  The timber is hemlock, white oak, black oak, butternut, and on higher ground hickory, chestnut, sugar, and beech.  The name Venango was formerly applied to French Creek, and is a corruption of the Indian term Innun-guah, given the stream by the Senecas and expressive of an indecent figure carved on the bark of a tree near its banks.
    The earliest settlers of Venango were: William Bole, Henry Bole, Thomas Coulter, Thomas Logue, Philip Straw, Daniel and Christopher Siverling and Jehiel Terrell, all of whom had settled here in 1797.  William Bole was a bachelor, and after a residence of some years removed to Sandusky, Ohio, and later further west.  His brother, Henry Bole, came to the township in 1797.  He was a native of Ireland, but immigrated to America, when a boy.  In 1793 he came to this county and remained about Meadville for four years.  He then settled in the western part of what is now Venango, on a tract immediately north of Holland Land Tract 94.  Erecting a cabin and making a little clearing, he procured a tenant, Michael Hare, for the place, and removed to the east part of the township on the tract adjoining French Creek, just south of the mouth of Conneaut Creek.  This tract a few years later he traded to Christian Blystone for a distillery and land about one mile farther down French Creek, where he removed and remained till his death in April, 1848, at the age of seventy years.  Charles Stewart had made the first improvement on this tract at the mouth of the run, which still hears his name.  He remained here only a few years.
    Thomas Coulter, who was born in Philadelphia in 1765, settled about a mile northwest from Venango Borough in 1796, and remained there till his death many years later.  His son Robert was born there in March, 1797, probably the first birth of a white child in the township.  Thomas and Robert Logue, who were of Irish nativity, came about the same time, and settled in the southwest part of the township.  Philip Straw occupied the site of Venango Borough.  Christopher Siverling, a German, moved his family from Westmoreland County, and settled in 1796 on the tract immediately south of Venango Village.  His sons were Christopher, John and Daniel, all well-known pioneers.  Two bushels of corn, a small quantity of beef and a few turnips constituted the entire stock of provisions the first winter except such as the forest and streams afforded.  Pittsburgh was then the nearest trading point, roads were not yet cut, and the dense forests abounded with wild animals.  Bears preyed upon the few pigs brought to the pioneer settlements, and for years the howling wolves were the deadly enemies of sheep.  The bounty on wolf scalps diminished the number of this latter pest, and organized wolf hunts afforded sport to the pioneers and rid the settlements of a dangerous enemy.
    Other settlers soon arrived, and previous to 1810 all the following were <page 677> domiciled within the limits of the township, most of them arriving about the opening of the century: Isaac, Henry and Christian Blystone, Jacob Gross, John Hamilton, Jacob Hogelberger, Samuel Quay, Andrew Sherred, John Stokes, James Skelton and James Torry.
    Isaac, Henry and Christian Blystone were brothers.  They came about 1800 from Lebanon County, and settled on French Creek, about two miles north of Venango Borough.  Henry returned to the east, but his brothers remained life-long residents of the township.  Jacob Gross, about 1802, settled with his family in the northern part of the township.  He came from the Susquehanna River, and his sons were John, Henry and William.  James Torry, an Irishman, came about the same time, and likewise settled in the northern part.  John Hamilton came from Erie County, and built his cabin about one and a halt miles north of the borough.  He afterward removed some distance below Meadville.  Jacob Hogelberger, a native of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, in 1799 located in the western part.  Like most of his able-bodied neighbors, he served at Erie during the war of 1812.  Samuel Quay came from the Susquehanna prior to 1800, and settled in the southwest part of Tract 97, near the center of the township.  Andrew Sherred settled on the farm immediately north of Venango Borough, remaining through life.  John Stokes came from the central portion of the State to this county in 1804, and settled in what is now Cussewago Township.  Soon after he removed to a farm about two miles northeast of the borough, where he remained till death.  James Skelton came from Philadelphia in 1801, and made his habitation about two and a half miles north of Venango Village.  He first constructed a shelter of brush, and as soon as possible built a cabin of such poles as two men could raise.  It afforded little protection against rain or cold, but was occupied for many years.  During the first summer Mr. Skelton labored about fourteen miles down French Creek.  He once bought from Mr. Van Horn a bushel of wheat, had it ground at Meadville on his way home, and when within five miles of his cabin darkness overtook him, and, weary and foot-sore, he tarried all night, proceeding to his family the next morning.
    Jehiel Terrell came to the township in 1797, or earlier.  He hailed from New Jersey, and settled in the southwest portion of Tract 98, about three and a half miles north of Venango.  Mr. Terrell was one of the first teachers in Venango Township, beginning as early as 1810.  His schoolroom was of the primitive type, a round log-cabin, with fire-place extending along one end and with chimney constructed of clay and sticks, the furniture being of the rudest workmanship.  Mr. Terrell, after a residence of some years, returned to New Jersey.  William Gross and others succeeded him in swaying the ferule over the youth of Venango.  William Reynolds, who dwelt on Cussewago Creek, taught two summer terms about the years 1818 and 1819 in a cabin on the southeast part of Tract 97.
    Henry Bole in early times operated a distillery, which he obtained through an exchange of real estate from Christian Blystone.  A still was then regarded as a valuable property, and Mr. Bole paid a good round price for it.  Reuben and Simeon Bishop built a saw, lath and shingle- mill opposite Drakes Mills in early times, and it was afterward run by Mr. Rhodes.  A little grist-mill was also constructed in the same vicinity, but has long since been abandoned.  There are now no mills in the township.
    Venango Presbyterian Church is located just north of the limits of Venango Borough.  It was erected in 1853 as an auxiliary of Gravel Run, Woodcock Borough congregation, and was dedicated by Rev. John Beyno1ds, of Meadville.  The Bole and Coulter families were chiefly instrumental in its <page 678> erection.  Rev. J. W. Dickey, pastor of Gravel Run congregation, held services here until 1866.  On the 24th of October of that year in answer to a request preferred by the members the presbytery made this branch a separate congregation, and John H. Culbertson and J. W. Scott, Elders of Gravel Run, were set apart to act as Elders of Venango congregation.  Rev. Ira Condit, Dr. J. J. Marks and Rev. D. C. Cooper supplied the congregation until 1870, when Rev. David Waggoner was installed pastor, serving until the autumn of 1881.  The church has since been supplied by Rev. John Zahniser.  The membership is seventy-five.  Elder Culbertson died in 1876, and the same year David M. Bole and Adam Sherred were elected Elders.  The session is now composed of Jonas Ash, A. J. Sherred, J. C. Harris and J. W. Scott.
    Skelton M. E. Church, located in the central part of the township, was built in 1843 at a cost of $600.  The same year a class of twenty-five members was organized by Revs. Scofield and Bear.  William Scott, Jacob Wood aud Jacob and Christian Blystone were early leading members.  Services were held for about fifteen years, and in consequence of the removal of many members and the transfer of the membership of others to surrounding classes, the building was sold to a cemetery association with the reservation that any religious denomination may hold services in it.  Recently during the pastorate of Rev. J. H. Vance, of Cambridge Circuit, the class was reorganized, and it has since been maintained.  The membership is small.

    The first settlement on the site of Venango Borough was made by Philip Straw as early as 1797.  John Lasher and Solomon Walters purchased his [sic] improvement in 1817, and anticipating the location of a turnpike through the place, laid out a village plot.  Their expectations, however, were not realized.
    In 1819 Mr. Walters sold his interest to Michael Peiffer, who in company with Jacob Sherritz 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 had removed from Lycoming County the year previous, purchased the mill property and a farm near by.  He built a new sawmill in 1832, and repaired the old one.  In 1844 he erected a grist-mill, and operated the mills for many years.  In 1838 he had the village plot surveyed, and named it Klecknerville; it was changed to Venango when the borough was incorporated.  The earliest residents of the village were John Bender, a blacksmith; John Lasher, farmer; George Thomas, a shoemaker; Isaac F. Clark and Josephus Herriott, cabinet-makers, all of whom had settled here prior to 1840.  Reynolds and May, of Erie, were the first merchants, and Philip Kleckner in 1840 opened the first tavern, where now stands the Venango House.  From 1840 to about 1860 the village grew steadily.  Its development has since been slower.
    Venango was incorporated in the spring of 1852.  Its first officers were: Isaac Peiffer, Burgess; Jacob Kepler, John Kleckner, Anthony W. Mumford and Charles P. Penoyer, Council; John Peiffer, Treasurer; John W. Coulter, Collector; George Lasher, High Constable.  Isaac Peiffer was re-elected Burgess in 1853, and his successors have been: Joseph Blystone, 1854; George Kleckner, 1855-56; S. W. Kepler 1857; John Bender, 1858; H. J. Logan, 1859; William L. Apple, 1860; William P. Floyd, 1861; A. W. Mumford, 1862; Isaac F. Clark, 1863; William P. Floyd, 1864; W. H. Dibble, 1865-66; J. C. Giddings, 1867; Adam L. Braden, 1868; J. C. Giddings, 1869; A. L. Braden, 1870; Joseph Blystone, 1871; George C. Straw, 1872; C. Bender, 1873; Samuel Clark, 1874; J. J. Whipple, 1875; J. C. Harris, 1876; George <page 679> C. Straw, 1877; H. J, Brookhouser, 1878; Joseph Blystone, 1879; Robert Clark, 1880; W. I. Blystone, 1881-82; Jonathan Sherred, 1883.
    The borough contained in 1870 a population of 313, in 1880, 347.  It now has two general stores, a grocery, a hardware store, a drug store and a furniture store, two physicians, three hotels, a fine school building, three churches and four societies, Benhart & Straws cigar box factory, Blystone & Georges grist-mill, Brookhouser & Shellhamers saw-mill, and Sherred & Giddings cheese box factory, a wagon shop, two blacksmith shops, three shoe shops, a harness shop and a cooper shop.
    A log schoolhouse was built about 1820 near the southeast corner of Church and South Streets, where the parsonage of Zion Lutheran Church now stands.  Charles Fletcher and John and Evan George were its early teachers.  The next schoolhouse was a one-story frame erected about a mile west of the village and the present brick structure was built in 1857 at a cost of $1,350.  It is two stories in height and contains four apartments, only two of which are now in use.
    The oldest religious society of Venango Borough is Zion Evangelical Lutheran, General Council, Church.  It was organized by Rev. Colson with fourteen members in 1816.  Revs. Frederick Hoyer, Muckenhoupt, Moyerhoffer, Shultz and Straw were early pastors.  Among the earliest members were: Peter Saeger, Frederick Zerns, Andrew and Michael Sherred, John Stokes and John and Michael Peiffer.  A round-log-church was built in 1816 on the site of the present schoolhouse, but was not completed.  Services were held in it during the summers and in the schoolhouse during winters until the winter of 1838-39, when a large frame structure was reared.  It was occupied until 1879 when the present frame church, 36x50, was erected on the same lot, on the east side of Church Street, south of South Street, at a cost of $2,500.  Rev. Elihu Rathbun was serving this charge as early as 1831; he was subsequently elected pastor in 1837.  Rev. Henry Zigler became pastor in 1847; J. D. Nunemacher in 1851; Henry Weichsel in 1855; I. J. Delo in 1858, and subsequently Revs. J. H. Smith, P. Doehr, George Gaumer and E. Creesman.  The latter was installed in October, 1881, and is now serving.  The membership is about thirty.
    The First Evangelical Lutheran Church, General Synod, was formed in 1875 with sixty-two members, who had previously been connected with Zion Church.  Its handsome frame edifice was erected in 1877 at a cost, including lot on the east side of Meadville Street, of $3,500.  The first officers were: Dr. M. L. Faulkner and John Muckenhoupt, Elders, and David Good and H. J. Brookhouser, Deacons.  The present officers are: D. S. Lasher and C. Bender, Elders, and R. F. Brookhouser and Christian Hornaman, Deacons.  Rev. I. J. Delo was called in 1876 and remained in charge until March, 1880.  His successor, Rev. Eli Miller, the present Pastor, assumed the duties of the pastorate July 1, 1880.  The present membership is 100.
    Venango Methodist Episcopal Church was organized about 1842, by Rev. Ahab Keller, of Cambridge Circuit.  The original class scarcely numbered a dozen, and included Joseph L. Perkins and wife, Jacob Wood and wife, Mrs. John Peiffer, Miss Delilah Mumford, John Terrell, Nicholas Peiffer and Benjamin Hays and wife.  The first meetings were held in the old schoolhouse, situated about a mile west of the village, afterward in the Lutheran Church until the winter of 1846-47, when the present frame church, located on the west side of Church Street, opposite South, was erected at a cost of $12,200.  The society now numbers forty-eight members.  It is connected with Cambridge Circuit.
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    Venango Lodge, No. 298, K. of P., was chartered June 7, 1871.  The following names appear on the charter: G. D. Ackerly, J. C. Harris, Arthur McClosky, John Quay, H. M. Bole, A. Logan, H. D. Persons, W. H. Dibble and Solomon Coup.  The membership is ninety-six, and meetings are held every Wednesday evening.
    Venango Valley Lodge, No. 45, A. O. U. W., was instituted February 7, 1873.  Its charter officers were: M. L. Faulkner, P. M. W.; N. F. Peiffer, M. W.; G. C. Straw, G. F.; A. L. Lasher, O.; J. Blystone, Recorder; William H. Dibble, Financier; G. W. Kleckner, Receiver; A. Torry, G.; M. P. Barrett, I. W.; Frank N. Kleckner, O. W.  The membership is now thirty, and the regular meetings are held every Friday evening.
    French Creek Lodge, No. 476, I. O. O. F., was chartered February 28, 1876, with the following officers: W. S. Skelton, N. G.; G. D. Humes, V. G.; I. J. Delo, Secretary; Joseph Blystone, Assistant Secretary; Isaac Peiffer, Treasurer.  Meetings are held every Tuesday evening, and the membership is forty-four. Sylvia - Lodge, No. 122, Daughters of Rebekah, was chartered March 31, 1879, but regular meetings are no longer held.
    Myrtle Union, No. 311, E. A. U., was instituted May 9, 1881, with thirty-eight members.  Its charter officers were: J. H. Marcy, Chancellor; D. S. Lasher, Advocate; Isaac Peiffer, President; Mrs. Sarah S. Lutz, Vice-President; Mrs. Maria S. Skelton, Auxiliary; David Gibson, Treasurer; M. M. Tuttle, Secretary; A. D. Foskit, Accountant; Mrs. Mary E. Faulkner, Chaplain; A. T. Zimmer, Warden; Mrs. Sophia Peiffer, Sentinel; J. L Skelton, Watchman.  The membership has slightly increased, and meetings are held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.