Crawford County, Pennsylvania

History & Biography
 "Township Histories." 

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VERNON TOWNSHIP was organized in 1829, and the first election place was fixed by act of Assembly of April 29, 1829, at the house of Jesse Collum.  The territory was derived from Mead and Sadsbury.  In population it is the third township in the county, Hayfield and Mead exceeding it.  The population in 1880 was 1,919; in 1870, 1,615; in 1860, 1,553; and in 1850, 1,299.  It comprises a fine agricultural region and contains little or no marsh land.  French Creek forms its eastern boundary, and Conneaut Outlet a portion of its southern.  Of the latter Watson's Run is a tributary, coursing in a southeasterly direction through the western part of the township.  Van Horn Run flows in the same direction from the central portion of Vernon and empties into French Creek.  Cussewago Creek, with the same general trend, joins its waters with those of French Creek just below Vallonia.  The alluvial soil of the valleys is rich, and over the rolling lands throughout the township a productive clay <page 681> is found.  Springs of excellent quality dot almost every farm.  Good farm improvements prevail; during the last few years many spacious and handsome residences have been erected and betoken the prosperity of their dwellers.  Of industries may be mentioned Andrews' grist-mill on Watsons Run in the southern part of the township, built by Peter Brown and operated by water power; Johnson's saw-mill on the same stream in the northwest part of the township; Isaac Onspaugh's, also on Watson's Run; the steam-mill of Birch Brothers; the cheese factory of Seth Harper in the western part, Brook's saw-mill near the mouth of Cussewago, and Gill & Shryock's grist-mill.
    Vernon Township shares with Mead the honor of the first settlement in Crawford.  In 1788, when the primitive pioneer band of nine resolute men penetrated the Western wilderness, after a weary march, they reached their journey's end on the 12th day of May, on the banks of French Creek, opposite the Cussewago.  Their first evening was passed beneath the canopy of a spreading wild cherry tree on the east side of the stream near the present lower bridge.  The next few days were spent in exploring the lands on either side of the creek.  "This lovely valley," said Cornelius Van Horne, "now redolent with life and industry, was then reposing in the stillness of primeval solitude, with naught to designate it as the former residence of man save occasionally a deserted wigwam of the aboriginal owners of the soil.  They had already deserted its shady groves and murmuring streams, and retired still further into the wilderness."  The solitudes, remote from other settlements, were however uninviting, and the majority of the explorers sooner or later returned to the East.  Two located in what is now Vernon Township:  John Mead and Cornelius Van Horne.  John Mead settled on the tract immediately above Vallonia.  His first cabin was built close to the west bank of French Creek, between it and the ravine, and just east of the present fair grounds.  By occupation he was a farmer.  He died here in 1819, leaving five sons:  William, Joseph, John, Asahel and Chambers, and one daughter, all of whom are now dead.  David Mead first selected land immediately below him, but built his cabin on the site of Meadville, and became identified with its growth and prosperity.  Cornelius Van Horne settled about a mile and a half farther down the stream, on a tract of 412 acres, upon part of which his son, Judge Thomas Van Horne, still resides.  Cornelius Van Horne, like the Meads, had lands at Wyoming under the Pennsylania [sic] title; he proved his title in the Supreme Court and obtained a decision in his favor, but the anarchical state of the settlements on the disputed lands rendered the dispossession of the rival claimants difficult, and securing from the Commonwealth a remuneration, he abandoned his lands and sought a home in the West.  He was a miller by occupation in Sussex County, N. J., and served as Lieutenant in the Revolution.  He tarried at the island for a time, but during the summer took possession of an Indian cabin, which stood on the tract he afterward patented.  In October of the same year he returned on a temporary visit to his mother in New Jersey.  Indian depredations rendered the occupation of his tract for a few years impracticable.  His capture by the savages near Meadville and his subsequent escape are narrated in the early history of the county.  When quiet was restored he again settled on his tract, remaining till his death.  The patent for it is dated February 27, 1800, and states that a settlement was there made April 15, 1793.  Mr. Van Horne was married in 1798 to Miss Sarah Dunn, of Meadville, and by this marriage had six children.  He died at the old homestead farm in l846, aged ninety-six years.
    Thomas Van Home settled on the tract adjoining on the south that of Cornelius, his brother.  Years after he removed to near Zanesville, Ohio, where his descendants still reside.
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    Alexander McEntire, who hailed from Sussex County, N. J., and was a brother-in-law to Cornelius Van Horne, settled on French Creek immediately north of him.  Here he remained many years, then removed to Chautauqua, N. Y.  The Rogers brothers (James, John, Alexander and Matthew) were here before the close of the last century.  They lived on the site of Vallonia and were boatmen, plying keel-boats between Pittsburgh and Waterford.
    Among other early settlers along French Creek were: Phineas Dunham of New Jersey, who purchased land from John Mead near Vallonia and resided there till his death; James Freeman, who was afterward toll collector at the west end of the Kennedy bridge, built in 1810; William Henry, an Irish tenant of Cornelius Van Home; William McCall, who owned 100 acres south of the Van Horne place, and later in life removed to Hayfield Township where he died; William Work, an Irishman, who, though possessing no realty, dwelt in the same neighborhood; Jacob and John Work were his sons; Michael Seely, who had formerly piloted a keel-boat from Pittsburgh, lived and died on the Van Horne farm. All the above were here prior to 1810.
    Robert Andrews settled in the southern part in 1797, or earlier; he came from Ireland and was for years a Justice of the Peace.  John Johnson, a native of Ireland, immigrated to America in 1797, and about 1800 settled within the present limits of Vernon, where he died at the age of seventy-two years in 1830, leaving a large family.  John Leach was an early resident, but subsequently settled in Wayne township, where he recently died at an advanced age.  Daniel Dorrell owned and occupied 200 acres in Tract 403, in the southeast part of Vernon, where he lived many years and died.  His brother, Jeremiah, owned and tilled a small place just north of him.  Thomas Fleming was a pioneer, but not a proprietor of land.
    Near the head of Van Horne Run Edward F. Randolph settled early.  He was a son of Robert F. Randolph of Mead Township, and in after life immigrated to the West.  On the same stream Finlaw Beatty, son of John Beatty, was an early settler.  He afterward removed to the east bank of French Creek, about five miles below Meadville, and there passed the balance of his days.  Michael Myers was an early and life-long settler.
    About one-half the township, the northern and western parts, was included in the possessions of the Holland Land Company, which made contracts for the settlement of most of the tracts prior to 1800.  In most instances the settlements were commenced by the parties contracting, but often they became discontented and abandoned, or sold their claims to incoming settlers.  The contracts of the company for the settlement of lands within what is now Vernon, were made with the following persons and at the following dates.  One hundred acres were usually given in compensation for the settlement, and generally the pioneer purchased fifty or more acres additional; the total acreage contracted for is given: Tract 52, Daniel Williams, 100 acres, June 1, 1797; A. and C. Williams, 100 acres, July 17, 1798; Tract 54, Richard Patch, August 31, 1799, 100 acres, deed given 1803; Tract 56, Daniel and John Williams, 401 acres, June 21, 1797, deeds executed to John Williams and to Jacob Trace, Joseph Beatty and D. Brackenridge, assignees; Tract 57, Martha Mason, 75 acres, August 18, 1801; Tract 58, Joseph Schouster, 100 acres, November 23, 1796, deed executed in 1807; Tract 60, William Dick, December 9, 1797, 401 acres, deed executed in 1801; Tract 61, John Harper, 100 acres, August 30, 1799, deed executed; Tract 62, David Harper, 100 acres, June 2, 1797, assigned to John Cotton; Tracts 64 and 65 were sold to S. B. and A. W. Foster of Meadville, in 1800; Tract 66, Andrew Williams, <page 683> 150 acres, June 1, 1797, settlement completed but assigned and surrendered for land in Tract 56; Tract 68, James Birch, 401 acres, February 21, 1800, deed executed June 21, 1806; Tract 69, William Butler, 401 acres, July 9, 1798, deed executed to John Irwin, assignee, November 28, 1804; Tract 70, William McFadden, 150 acres, November 29, 1799; Tract 77, Philip Sarber, 100 acres, August 10, 1799, deed executed February 25, 1808; Tract 78, Thomas Van Horne, 150 acres, August 29, 1796, deed executed December 16, 1801; Tract 79, John Davis, 210 acres, December 9, 1797, assigned John Beatty, to whose heirs deed was executed; Tract 80, 448 acres, sold to S. B. and A. W. Foster, 1800; Tract 81, Robert Brotherton, 150 acres, October 17, 1798, deed executed May 8, 1809; Tract 82, George McGonnegle, 150 acres, November 4, 1796, repurchased.
    The only thickly settled region of Vernon Township ís that which skirts the eastern boundary and lies contiguous to Meadville; Kerrtown, a village of several hundred people, adjoining and below the lower iron bridge which crosses French Creek into Meadville, was so called in honor of its proprietor.  William Kerr emigrated from Philadelphia to this county in 1817, and settled near the Kennedy bridge, purchasing 100 acres of land, upon a portion of which Kerrtown has been built.  He was a school teacher, and was an early instructor in the Meadville Academy, many of the Meadville business men of to day having attended him.  He afterward opened a store opposite the present Kerrtown tannery, and followed merchandising for many years.  He died in 1873.  The growth of the village has been steady; many of its residents are employes of the railroad.  The school building is a two-story frame, in which two schools are held.  Its merchantile business consists of two general stores.  In 1868, some years after Mr. Kerr's store had been discontinued, George W. Houser launched in the mercantile trade, opposite the bridge and west of the Meadville and Mercer turnpike.  He sold out in 1883 to Patterson and Houser.  A second store was started by John W. Burchfield and is now owned by De Forest Davis.
    An extensive tannery, employing about fifteen men, is owned and operated by Frank Schauweker.  A tannery was first started here by Thomas Kerr.  He sold the property to Henry Berg, who enlarged the buildings and increased the business.  Under his successors, Schauweker & Goeppinger, the tannery was burned, but was rebuilt by the present owner.  The Rice Brothers have a wagon and carriage factory of considerable note, and Andrew Stolz is the proprietor of extensive brick yards, started by Joseph Anderson.  A brewery is in operation, and a shoe shop proves a valuable appendage.  Kerrtown is the place of voting for Vernon Township.  A postoffice was established in the village in February, 1884.
    Extending northward from Kerrtown, along the hill-side facing French and Cussewago Creeks for the distance of a mile, is Fredericksburg, or Stringtown, as it has been dubbed by its neighbors.  The lots were laid out in 1863, or soon thereafter, by Frederick W. Huidekoper, executor of Edgar Huidekoper, deceased.  The building lots found a ready sale among the railroad employes and others, and the settlement now embraces several hundred souls.  The schoolhouse is a two-story frame, containing two rooms, both of which are occupied.
    A short distance above the Dock Street bridge over French Creek is the flouring-mil1 of GiIl & Shryock.  A grist and saw-mill was first built on this site by H. J. Huidekoper, in 1817-18.  It was operated by water-power supplied through a race from Cussewago Creek.  It passed from the first owner into the hands of his son, Edgar Huidekoper, by whom it was afterward sold to the <page 684> present owners.  By them it was repaired and enlarged, and steam-power introduced.
    Watson's Run Postoffice is located in the northeast corner of the township.
    Watson's Run German Reformed Church was organized by Rev. Philip Sicer in 1840. Ten years later during the ministry of Rev. D. B. Ernst, who served sixteen years, a church edifice, 31x45, was erected in the southern part of the township, at a cost of $800.  Leading members at that time were:  Frederick Brown, Benjamin Brown, Joseph Onspaugh, Ferdinand Foust, Samnel Flaugh, Daniel and Reuben Brown.  Rev. P. E. Klopp succeeded Rev. Ernst, remaining two years.  Rev. F. Wall then preached about three years when Rev. Ernst returned for a short time.  Rev. J. H. Apple, the present pastor has been in charge since 1872.  The present membership aggregates seventy-five.
    Watson's Run United Presbyterian Church was organized by Rev. J. B. Waddle, January 30, 1869, with a membership of thirty-two, nineteen females and thirteen males, the latter as follows:  Arthur Johnston, M. A. Calvin, David Nelson, Thomas Nelson, Samuel Beatty, John Beatty, James Irvin, Jacob Work, Alexander Davis, Robert Montgwnery, John McKay, William McKay and James Morrow.  Arthur Johnston and M. A. Calvin were elected Ruling Elders.  Seventy members have since been added, but seventeen have died and twenty-five removed, leaving a membership of sixty.  The church building, 35x55, was erected in the northwest part of the township on Tract 52, in 1870 at a cost of $2,200.  The congregation had various supplies until June, 1873, when Rev. S. M. Black was ordained and installed pastor, remaining one year.  Supplies again filled the pulpit until October 12, 1875, when Rev. Joseph McNabb, the present pastor, was installed.
    Tracy Methodist Episcopal Church is an old frame structure located in the south part of the township.  Its erection was commenced in  1843  and it was dedicated in June, 1846.  A class had been organized some years previous and services conducted at the residence of John Tracy and elsewhere.  Joseph Kycenceder, David and John Tracy were leading, early members.  The membership is now quite small, and regular meetings are no longer held.
    Vallonia is located in the valley of French Creek immediately above the mouth of Cussewago Creek.  It was laid out about 1866 by Frederick W. Huidekoper, executor of Edward Huidekoper, deceased, and received its name from the tract of land upon which the village is located.  A petition to incorporate Vallonia as a borough was filed in the Court  of  Quarter Sessions April 17, 1868.  It was approved by the grand jury, and confirmed by the court June 11, 1868.  The first election was held June 3, 1868, at which T. J. Colwood received 23 votes for Burgess and George McBride, 15; T. Rowin 24 votes for Justice of the Peace and T. Watson 15.  The population in 1870 was 462 and in 1880, 528.  Vallonia owes its institution and growth to the railroad shops of Meadville.  About two-thirds of the citizens of the village are employes of the New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio Railroad Company.  Among the first residents were William Hotchkiss, Theodore Koehler, H. J. West and Adam Steel.  William Hotchkiss opened the first and only store, on Wadsworth Street, north of Race, about 1868.  About six years later he sold to E. H. Langford, and in 1875 the building was destroyed by fire.  It was rebuilt by William Hotchkiss and mercantile business was resumed by J. S. Hotchkiss & Brother, the present proprietors.  The only industry is a distillery at present operated by H. E. Wilson, started in 1870 by Peiffer & Richards, and owned successively by quite a number of firms. A postoffice was established <page 686> in 1876.  J. S. Hotchkiss was the first and present Postmaster.  A frame, one-story schoolhouse was built about 1868 on Columbia Avenue, occupying Lots 19 and 20 of Block H.  An addition has since been made and the school now consists of two apartments.  The only church edifice is Mission Chapel, a branch of Christ Protestant Episcopal Church of Meadville.  It is located east of Wadsworth Street near the bank of French Creek and was erected in 1881 at a cost of $1,400 during the rectorship of Rev. G. A. Carstensen.  Twelve or fourteen familes [sic] of this denomination reside in Vallonia.  They worship regularly in Christ Church and only occasional services are held in Mission Chapel.