Erie County

Erie County, Pennsylvania

History of Erie County, Pennsylvania 1884

by Samuel P. Bates, 

Submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister

Le Boeuf Township and Borough of Mill Village

This township received its name from Le Boeuf Creek, which joins French Creek within its limits. It is one of the original townships of the county, and belongs to what is known as "the Southern Tier." It is bounded on the north by Waterford, on the east by Union, on the south by Crawford County, and on the west by Washington. The township lines are all straight except two slight variations in the northern boundary, and a jog or handle about half a mile square at the northeast corner, extending into Waterford. Le Boeuf is six and one-half miles long from east to west, by four and one-half wide from north to south. The population was 505 in 1820, 554 in 1830, 876 in 1840, 990 in 1850, 1,483 in 1860, 1,748 in 1870, and 1,420 in 1880. The only post office is Le Boeuf, on the P. & E. R. R.

The assessment for 1883 gave the following results: Number of acres, 20,481; value of real estate, $524,185; average per acre, $26.06; cows, 907; value, $21,740; average, $24; oxen, 32; value, $2,315; value, $2,315; average, $72.31; horses and mules, 352; value, $24,358; average, $69.20; personal property, $48,413; total assessment for county purposes, $572,598; money at interest, $26,027.

Early Settlers
The first lands were selected in Le Boeuf Township in 1794, by Capt. Robert King, who took up 400 acres at the present Ford bridge. Returning to his home in Lycoming County, he brought his family along in the spring of 1795. When he reached Le Boeuf, he found William and Thomas Black located on the next tract east, embracing what is now the Hunter Place. John R. Black, son of William, was the first white child born in Erie County. This event took place on the 29th of August, 1795. In 1796, the little colony was increased by the arrival of Francis Isherwood, with a son and daughter, and of James, Robert and Adam Pollock. William Mallory came in 1801, and John Clemens, James Biggers and Philip Gregory in 1802. Mr. Biggers came from Fayette and Mr. Gregory from Berks County, Penn. Among other early arrivals were James Weston, who became prominent as a politician, David Boyd and Mathias Himebaugh. Of the emigrants who entered the township about the beginning of the century many left, and a new set came in between 1815 and 1820, the descendants of whom generally remain. The bulk of these were from New England and New York. Between 1825 and 1830, a number of Pennsylvania Germans from Lehigh County settled on the banks of French Creek, including the Burgers and others. Capt. King, the pioneer of the township, had been an officer in the Revolutionary war, and rendered the State important service in securing treaties with the Indians. Mr. Isherwood, like Capt. King, came first to locate a tract, accompanied by a son and daughter, and went back the next winter to his old home in Lycoming County for the purpose of bringing his wife, leaving his children to keep the claim good. William Miles, the founder of Union City, built a log storehouse at an early day at the mouth of the South Branch, where he landed provisions and other supplies brought up from Pittsburgh by flat-boats and canoes.

Streams and Mills
The chief streams of the township are French Creek proper, the South Branch and LeBoeuf Creek. The South Branch comes in from Union at the south line of the Wilson Moore farm, having a course of but little more than a mile within the township. French Creek proper enters from Waterford on the Moravian grant, in the northeast corner of the township. The two unite on the farm of James Stranahan, a few rods below the Philadelphia & Erie railroad bridge. From there the united stream meanders to the west, across the northern portion of the township, until the junction with LeBoeuf Creek, when it makes an abrupt turn and flows in a general southerly course to Crawford County. Le Boeuf Creek comes in from Waterford on the Monroe Moore farm, and joins French Creek at the David Boyd place. The Indian name of French Creek was Toranadakon or Innungah, the latter of which was corrupted by the French into Venango or Weenango. The tributaries of the main stream are Trout Brook, Colt Run and Mill Run, on the south side, and Moravian Run, Gill Brook and Mallory's Run on the north. Mill Run is the one that passes through the borough of Mill Village.

The water mills are the Wilson Moore Saw Mill, on the South Branch, the old Burger Grist Mill on the main stream, and Waterhouse's Saw and Cider Mill on a small run putting into French Creek. The Moore Mill has been operated over forty years. The Burger Mill, now owned by John May, was built by a Mr. McLenehan, fully seventy years ago, and rebuilt in 1879. It was long owned and operated by that honest old Pennsylvania German, George Burger, who made it one of the most successful in the county. A number of mills once propelled by water have gone down. The steam saw mills are the one at Willey's Corners, operated by D. Troup; C. M. Wheeler's near the junction of Moravian Run with French Creek; Fogle's, on the turnpike, at the foot of McLean hill, and Dunlap's, near the stone quarry, about a mile from Le Boeuf Station. Large quantities of timber land are connected with these mills, but Mr. Wheeler has all the pine in the township that is worthy of mention. Great tracts of this timber once covered the hills. The bridges over French Creek are the Stranahan, on the Waterford & Union road; the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad bridge, near the latter; the Quarry bridge at the stone quarry; the Ford bridge, on the Waterford and Mill Village road, and Pollock's, leading from the turnpike to Mill Village. The Town Line bridge crosses Little French Creek at the Union boundary, and the Moore bridge, Le Boeuf Creek, near the residence of the late C. J. Moore. All of these are substantial wooden structures.

Valleys and Ridges
The flats along French Creek are from half a mile to more than a mile in width, and the soil is not exceeded for fertility in any part of the county. That it is mostly made land is apparent from the fact that stumps of large trees are frequently met with at a depth of two or three feet below the surface. The balance of the township is hilly, but there is very little if any portion but what is tillable. Two ridges are encountered at the Arter place, and west of the Le Boeuf flats, which attain a height of almost two hundred feet above the valley, the loftiest elevation in the township. Wheat can be raised in every part of the township, and its cultivation is increasing. The valley land produces big crops of oats, which grow so rank that they are harvested with difficulty. The great business of the township, however, is dairying, and large amounts of butter are made and thousands of cattle raised. Land ranges in value from $45 to $70 on the flats, and from $20 to $50 on the hills.

Holland Land Company
On the 17th of April, 1791, the State of Pennsylvania granted to "The Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen," commonly known as the Moravians, two tracts of land of 2,500 acres each, with allowance, to be located respectively on "the River Connought, near the northwestern corner of the State," and "on the head of French Creek," This association had long maintained missionaries at its own expense among the Indians, and the above generous gift was intended by the State as a remuneration in part for the service it had rendered in behalf of peace and good will. In locating its lands, the society chose 2,875 acres within the limits of LeBoeuf Township, and 2,797 in Springfield and Conneaut, paying for the excess in money. The French Creek tract was given the name of "Good Luck," and that on Conneaut Creek the title of "Hospitality." The agent of the society for many years was William Miles, who was succeeded on the failure of his health by his son, James Miles, as Manager of the "Hospitality," and by John Wood, of the "Good Luck" tract. The land was occupied on lease till about 1850, when it was bought by James Miles and N. Blickensderfer, cut up into farms, and sold in the main to the present owners or their predecessors. The Moravian grant extended from the Wilson Moore farm to within about a mile of LeBoeuf Creek, and lay principally upon the north side of French Creek. P. G. and John D. Stranahan made the first purchase of Moravian lands in 1849, the latter moving from Concord the same year, and his brother in 1854, both locating at what is now LeBoeuf Station. The Academy grant, at the mouth of LeBoeuf Creek, embraced 500 acres of the richest soil in the county, donated by the State for the support of Waterford Academy. The lands were sold off about 1840, having been previously occupied on lease. North of this grant was a large body of land known as the Reserve tract, from the fact that the State reserved or withheld it from settlement under the general law to encourage emigration. Of the Reserve tract, 400 acres extended into LeBoeuf, the bulk being in Waterford. An act was passed in 1799, throwing the land into market, and most of it was bid off at low prices about the commencement of the century. The Holland Land Company held some 400 acres west of Mill Village, which were sold off between 1802 and 1810. It was their purpose to have taken up an extensive tract within the township, and they sent surveyors out to that end in 1796. George Fisher, of Dauphin County, took up twenty-seven 400-acre tracts at an early period, lying within the limits of LeBoeuf, Waterford and Washington Townships. This property be divided with Col. McNair in 1824, and the same year the portion belonging to the latter was disposed of at Sheriff's sale. The remainder fell to Mr. Fisher's children in 1845, who sold it off at intervals ending in 1873.

The beautiful grove on the Flats road between Waterford and Mill Village, opposite the residence of William Hunter, deceased, was a favorite place for religious meetings for many years. Tradition says this was a choice camping place for the Indians, and it is certain that numerous Indian graves and relics have been found. On the Hunter place was once a circular mound, sixteen to twenty feet in diameter, with banks four to six feet high, on which trees were growing of a size indicating an age of 150 or 200 years. The remains of one of these pre-historic circles are also to be seen near the home of C. M. Wheeler.

Common Roads

The principal thoroughfares of LeBoeuf Township are the old Waterford & Susquehanna Turnpike, once the great highway between Lake Erie and Eastern Pennsylvania, which follows the valley of LeBoeuf and French Creeks, to Pollock's bridge, where it cuts across the hills to Cambridge; the Erie & Warren road, which passes through the township by two routes that unite near the Stranahan bridge; the Flats road, from Mill Village to Waterford; the road from Mill Village to Union; and the road from Mill Village to Pollock's bridge, connecting with the turnpike. Most of these are in a fair condition. The township has the benefit of two railroads -- the Philadelphia & Erie, extending across the northeastern part, for about three miles, and the Atlantic & Great Western, following French Creek nearly to the center, where it deviates to hit Mill Village, and then returning to the valley further south. LeBoeuf Station, on the Philadelphia & Erie, consists of some tenement houses for the railroad men, a number of farm houses, and a long platform for handling lumber and stone, of which great quantities are shipped from the quarries near by. LeBoeuf possesses the largest and best quarries of building stone Erie County. The bluff from which the stone is taken extends along French Creek from near Dunlap's mill to opposite the residence of A. L. Tilden, a distance of about a mile, and averaging about thirty feet in height. The material is a blue sandstone of fine quality, more durable than the far-famed Berea stone, but saturated with oil, which spoils it for the highest class of work. Three quarries have been opened, known respectively as Senger's, Henderson Canty's, and the Atlantic & Great Western.

The churches of the township are the Union or Manross, on French Creek, near Pollock's bridge, a Methodist Episcopal at Edenville, and a United Brethren near New Ireland.

The Methodist Episcopal society at Edenville was organized about 1839, and was placed on the Cambridge Circuit. In 1844, it was changed to Rockville, in 1849 to Waterford, in 1855 to Cambridge, in 1857 to Rockville, in 1861 to Union, in 1863 to Waterford, and in 1865 to Mill Village, to which circuit it has ever since belonged. The congregation began by worshiping in the schoolhouse, and continued to do so until 1855, when the Edenville Church was built at a cost of $800.

The Manross Church edifice was built at a cost of $3,000 in 1869 by John W. Manross, who intended it to be used by religious bodies generally. The first minister officiating there was Rev. Mr. Barnhart, a Methodist. It has since been used principally as a Methodist preaching place, the appointment having been on the Mill Village Circuit since the erection of the edifice.

The United Brethren Church, located near New Ireland, is the outgrowth of a revival held in that neighborhood in 1876. Preaching of this denomination had years before been held in the neighborhood, but the society had ceased to exist until revived and re-established as above stated. The church building was erected in 1877, and was dedicated on the 6th of January, 1878, by Rev. John Hill. In 1876, it was styled Mill Village Mission. It has since, for periods, been a missionary church, and at other times connected with Union Circuit. It now forms a part of Union Mission. Revs. R. McIntire, Root, W. H. Childs and Starkey have preached for this church. The present pastor is Rev. W. H. Childs.

In the Ford neighborhood, some two and a half miles north of Mill Village, a schoolhouse was standing in 1820, in which at that time a summer school was taught by Miss Elizabeth Strickland; a later summer teacher was Hannah Hall. The winter school was taught by James Skinner. Other teachers in the building at about this time, and perhaps a little subsequent, were Stephen Skinner, Paddy McGill, Cyrus Nutt and Thomas Graham. This schoolhouse was known as the Smith Schoolhouse, and it served that portion of Le Boeuf Township for many years. A log schoolhouse was built in the northeastern corner of the township west of French Creek about the year 1822, which was burned after several terms of school had been taught in it, and another schoolhouse was erected on a branch west of French Creek on land now owned by James Stranahan. Among the teachers in this portion of the township, at about the period spoken of above, were Sophia Sackett, a Mrs. Ward and a Mr. Crownstar. In 1825, a log schoolhouse was built by the people living in the vicinity of the United Brethren Church near New Ireland. Early instructors in this house were Nathan Mallory, Mr. Reynolds and Miss Emeline Sloan. Le Boeuf has at this writing twelve school buildings, all of which are frame.

Public Men
The citizens of LeBoeuf and Mill Village, who have had State and county positions, are as follows: Delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1837-38, James Pollock. Assembly, James Weston, 1813, 1814, 1815 and 1822; John D. Stranahan, 1868-69. Sheriff, James Weston, 1810-13. County Commissioners, James Weston, 1803-04; James Pollock, 1830-33; A. L. Tilden, 1878-84. Director of the Poor, William Bracken, 1846-49 and 1859-62, Auditors, Thomas Pierce, 1844; John Wood, 1847; E. K. Range, 1875-78. Mercantile Appraiser, H. L. Minium, 1883. Perry G. Stranahan, Jury Commissioner from 1867-70, was long a resident of LeBoeuf, moving from there to Union about 1859. Alfred King, ex-Mayor of Erie, and Prothonotary from 1854-57, and his brother, Wilson King, County Surveyor from 1827-33, are grandchildren of Capt. Robert King, the first man who took up lands in the township. John Clemens, a prominent business man of Erie, is a son of one of the first settlers in the township.

Edenville consists of the church mentioned above and perhaps a dozen dwellings. Formerly this site boasted a store, post office, saw mill, oil refinery and blacksmith shop. The village went down after the construction of the A. & G. W. Railroad, which diverted the trade and travel to Mill Village. The settlement is on the road from the latter place to Union, in the south part of the township. The locality known as New Ireland is on the road from Ford's bridge to Lincolnville, about a mile and three-quarters east of Mill Village. A church, a school and a few dwellings make up the village, if such it can be called. Quite a settlement has grown up around C. M. Wheeler's mill, in the northeast part of the township, which gives the site very much the appearance of a small village. Mr. Wheeler alone has five dwellings and eight barns, besides which there are a cheese factory and some farm buildings.

The late William Hunter was one of the wealthiest farmers in the south part of the county, leaving an estate supposed to be worth about $50,000. He came to LeBoeuf from Forest County about the close of the last war, and having plenty of ready money, realized from the sale of oil territory, was enabled to buy some of the finest land in the township. Mr. Hunter died in the spring of 1869, leaving thirteen children.

Borough of Mill Village

The borough of Mill Village occupies a pleasant site nearly in the center of LeBoeuf Township, from which it was taken, about a mile from French Creek. The town owes its origin to Mill Run, which flows through its limits, and unites with the chief creek of the township a short distance beyond. Three saw mills with their attendant buildings, sprung up along Mill Run, which gave the settlement the name of Milltown. When the A. & G. W. road was built, the station was called Mill Village, and in 1860 was incorporated as a borough by that title. Before the opening of the railroad, there was nothing on the site, in addition to the mills, but a cooper shop, blacksmith shop and a few houses. Now it has become a brisk town, with a population, according to the census of 1880, of 388. The idea of laying out a town was conceived by William Kingen, and the survey was made by Judge Benson, of Waterford. The plat includes portions of the farms of Mr. Kingen, P. H. Colt, John Gregory, H. M. Range, E. K. Range, David McKinley, James Hunter, F. N. Reynolds, W. C. Ford, M. S. Edmunds and G. W. Gillett.

The manufacturing establishments of Mill Village are one cheese factory, built in 1870 by H. B. Ames; one planing mill, one stave mill, one cider and jelly mill, one steam saw mill, three blacksmith shops, one wagon shop and a shoe shop. The business houses in 1883 were one drug store, two groceries, three general stores, one hardware store, one millinery store, one furniture store, one meat market, one jewelry store, one paint shop, and a portable photograph car. A good hotel is kept on the temperance plan. Among the most creditable buildings is the Union Schoolhouse, which furnishes accommodations for two schools on the first floor, and the second story of which is used as the town hall of the borough and LeBoeuf Township. The Knights of Honor have their hall in Kingen's building, the Grangers in the hotel, and there is a public hall in Beardsley's building.

The churches of Mill Village are a Methodist Episcopal and a Presbyterian.

The Methodist Episcopal Church dates its beginning prior to 1810, when Erie Circuit was a four weeks circuit of about 200 miles, and composed of twenty-three appointments. In 1810, Rev. Joshua Monroe was in charge. The most prominent of the appointments were Brush's meeting house in West Springfield, Erie County; Leech's, on Little Shenango; Mumford's near Meadville; Pit Hole; Mrs. Mitchell's, in Venango, and Ford's on French Creek Flats, in Erie County. This latter class formed the nucleus from which sprang the church in question. The preaching was held in the dwelling of Capt. Robert King, and subsequently in that of one of the Fords. The first church building was erected in 1850, about one-half mile south of the village. In five or six years this building was destroyed by fire, when the church edifice in the village was erected, which was enlarged in 1878. The appointment for a long time was on the Waterford Circuit, and from that circuit it was placed on the Mill Village Circuit at its formation in 1865. H. M. Chamberlain is present pastor.

The Presbyterian congregation was organized by Rev. J. M. Gillett, then pastor of the church at Union Mills, in 1870, with fifteen members. The building was erected in 1872, costing $2,800. The present incumbent is Rev. M. Wishart, who has the charge at Waterford also.

The assessed valuation of the borough in 1883 was as follows: Real estate, $75,469; cows, 44; value, $1,039; oxen, 3; value $150; horses and mules, 44; value, $3,256; personal property, $4,445; value of trades and occupations, $5,020; total assessment for county purposes, $84,934; money at interest, $13,716.

The Mill Village Herald, the only newspaper of the borough, was started by C. C. Wright in January, 1876. It was purchased in October, 1882, by J. S. Ross, who is still its proprietor and editor.

Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Township Histories, Chapter IV, pp. 696-703.


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