Erie County

Erie County, Pennsylvania

History of Erie County, Pennsylvania 1884

by Samuel P. Bates, 

Submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister


McKean Township and Borough of Middleboro

McKean was organized as one of the original townships. Its limits were much larger when the township was established, but were reduced by the taking off of a slice for Franklin in 1844, and another for Summit in 1854. These curtailments of its territory account for the odd and irregular shape of the township. McKean is bounded on the north by Fairview, Mill Creek and Summit, on the east by Summit and Waterford, on the south by Waterford, Washington and Franklin, and on the west by the latter township and Fairview. It has a breadth in the widest part of about eight miles from east to west, and about seven from north to south. The old State line, before the purchase of the Triangle, ran a little north of the center, and cuts the borough limits of Middleboro into two almost exact halves. It also forms the north and south lines of many of the farms, and its location is as familiar to many of the residents as their own homes or the course of the public roads. The township was named in honor of Gen. Thomas McKean, one of Pennsylvania's most distinguished soldiers in the Revolution, and second Governor of the State, after Independence, serving three terms, from 1796 to 1808. The township has given Erie a number of its best known citizens, among whom may be mentioned Hon. Joseph M. Sterrett, the four Crouch brothers, the four Minnig brothers, and the Stancliff brothers. By the United States census, McKean had a population of 440 in 1820, of 984 in 1830, of 1,714 in 1840, of 1,921 in 1850, of 1,600 in 1860, of 1,426 in 1870 and of 1,394 in 1880. The assessment of 1883 gave the following results: Number of acres, 21,517; value of real estate, $632,065; number of cows, 932; of oxen, 10; of horses and mules, 526; value of the same $52,788; value of trades and occupations, $9,480; money at interest, $78,696.

Streams and Lands
McKean is wholly watered by Elk Creek and its branches, with the exception of a small district in the south containing the head-waters of Big and Little Conneauttee Creek, which empty into French Creek below Edinboro. Elk Creek rises in Tamarack Swamp, in the western portion of Waterford Township, and flowing nearly through the center of McKean, across the southern portion of Fairview and the northeastern portion of Girard, falls into the lake a short distance north of Miles Grove, having a length of between thirty and thirty-five miles. Its general course is westerly till it reaches the Girard Township line, where it turns to the northwest. A branch of Le Boeuf Creek has its origin in Waterford Township, near the head of Elk Creek, the two streams running in opposite directions, the one to the Gulf of Mexico, the other to the Atlantic Ocean. The South Branch of Elk Creek rises in Washington Township, near the line of McKean, and flowing directly north, unites with the main stream at Middleboro. At one time there were within the township eight saw mills and two grist mills on the chief stream, and two saw mills and one grist mill on the South Branch; now, all that are left are four saw mills and one grist mill on the former and a single grist mill on the latter. Its valley is generally narrow, but it begins to spread out just above Middleboro, near the crossing of the Edinboro road, reaching a breadth of about two miles. Below that it is from a quarter of a mile to half a mile in width.

McKean is one of the elevated townships of the county, and its surface is hilly, with numerous deep gulfs along the streams. The valley lands are first-class, and grain is easily raised. Off the streams the country is naturally cold and clayey, but cultivation makes it fairly productive. In the southeast portion is a ridge known as South Hill, which is said to attain an altitude of 800 feet above the lake. The township contains two quarries of good stone, one on the place of David Dunn, in the north east section, the other on that of Albert Lampson, in the south part. Land ranges in value from $25 to $75 per acre.

Mills and Schools
The grist mills of McKean Township are Sterrett & Barron's, on Elk Creek, at Sterrettania, and Wiswell & Hilliker's, at Branchville, on the South Branch. The first named, which is one of the largest in the county, was built by David S. Sterrett, in 1839, and has always done a flourishing business. A mill was built on the site of Hilliker's some thirty-five years ago. It burned down, was twice re-built and each time was destroyed by fire. The last fire occurred early in the morning of October 18, 1882, causing a loss of about $5,000, on which there was no insurance. The miller's home burned down at the same time. The first saw mill in the township was built in the summer of 1812 on Elk Creek, by Oliver Dunn, near where his son, James Dunn, now resides. The mill was operated about twenty years before it was abandoned. The second mill was built by Eber and Lemuel Stancliff on the South Branch of Elk Creek, about a mile south of Middleboro, about 1827; it was operated about twenty-five years, during which time it changed name and ownership repeatedly. The saw mills propelled by water are owned by Edmund Wood, charles Osborn, August Decker and Sterrett & Barron. There is a steam saw and cider mill near the Plank road, a mile or so north of Middleboro, owned by A. T. Leland's heirs. W. W. Reed, of Erie, owns a cheese factory in the western portion, established about nine years ago, and another owned by William A. bean, just outside of Middleboro, was started in 1872. There are three tanneries in the township -- the Sterrettania, erected by William Potter about 1843; Chisholm's, a mile east of Sterrettania, established in 1864 in a building formerly used as a woolen factory, and Charles Rappold's at Sterrettania, built in 1858. The township contains five cider mills, owned respectively by A. T. Leland's heirs, Henry Hauck, Henry Smith, William Wiswell and John P. Wagner. Several of these make apple jelly in large quantities.

The first school in McKean Township was taught during the winter of 1811-12 by Seth Spencer, who hailed from Fredonia, N. Y., and returned thither soon after completing this primal school. Among his pupils were Seth Stancliff, still living at Erie at the age of ninety years, Joseph Weldon, who lives at West Springfield, this county, and who was the first male white child born in McKean Township; Anna Stanclift, living in California, at the age of eighty-eight years; Levi Grant, Eunice Joiner and others. Betsy and Sally Aldrich, sisters, from near Boston, Mass., were two of the earliest teachers. For several years, from about 1820 to 1825, they taught schools in the vicinity of Middleboro. They afterward married and settled in Springfield Township. Hiram Bumphrey taught for five terms at Sterrettania, commencing about 1828. He afterward became editor and proprietor of the Rochester (N. Y.) Democrat and was a prominent man. Ansel and Ludim Crouch, who hailed from Peru, N. Y., were early noted pedagogues in the region about Middleboro. Polly Chambers taught at Sterrettania about 1830. Other comparatively early instructors of the township's youth were Frank Lampson, Orrin Reed and David Stancliff. The township schools are thirteen in number, as follows: The Union, in the Marsh neighborhood (used jointly by McKean and Waterford); the Aubrey, in the Grant settlement; the Dunn, in the Dunn neighborhood; the Glazier, on the plank road; the South Hill, on South Hill; the Marsh, in the Stancliff settlement; the Branchville, at the hamlet of the same name; the Harrison, in the Harrison district; the Barron, in the Barron neighborhood; the Sterrettania, in the village of that name; the Roher, in the north part of the township, and the Wagner, on the farm of Alex Wagner.

Churches, Cemeteries and Roads
There are three church buildings in the township, viz.: United Brethren at Branchville, and Methodist Episcopal at Sterrettania and on South Hill. The South Hill Church was dedicated on December 9, 1880, and cost $1,400. The land on which it stands was donated by O. Reed. Previous to the erection of the church building, the congregation held services in the schoolhouse. It forms a part of the McKean Circuit.

The Sterrettania Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1842. The society was organized years before, and worshiped in the schoolhouse. Among its earliest ministers were Revs. Aurora and Nathaniel Callender, and Rev. J. Chandler. This charge was attached to the McKean Circuit, until 1880, when it was made a part of Fairview Circuit, which embraces besides this appointment Fairview and Fair Plain. The church building was erected in part by a Presbyterian congregation, which had met previously in the schoolhouse. Soon after the church was built, it became a Congregational society, and a few years later passed out of existence.

The United Brethren Church at Branchville is a neat and modest frame structure, which was built about 1865. The society existed for a number of years previous and met for worship in the schoolhouse. It is now greatly reduced in membership, scarcely a half dozen remaining, but regular services are still maintained. Rev. Lewis is the present pastor, 1882-83.

A cemetery, used by the township in common, has long been established on the Waterford & Girard road, a short distance east of Middleboro; another on the plank road, about a mile south of the same village; one at Sterrettania; one attached to the old Catholic Church north of Middleboro, and a small one on South Hill. The Wiswells, Dunns and others have private burying grounds.

The main roads of McKean are the Erie & Edinboro plank, running through nearly the whole width of the township from north to south, and the Waterford & Girard road, which crosses the township from east to west,following the valley of Elk Creek. The township has a post office at Sterrettania and formerly had one at Branchville. A mail route was established between Erie and Edinboro in the winter of 1835-36, Ansel Crouch being the contractor.

The villages of McKean are Sterrettania and Branchville. Sterrettania is on Elk Creek, near the Fairview line, in the extreme western portion of the township, twelve miles from Erie. It received its name from the numerous Sterrett family living in the village and vicinity. Robert Sterrett, the pioneer of the flock, came from Cumberland County and located there in 1804, remaining three years, when he sold out to his brother James. Of the seven sons and two daughter of James, all are dead except Hon. Joseph M. Sterrett, of Erie. The village contains a Methodist Episcopal Church, a schoolhouse, a large grist mill, a saw mill, two tanneries, one cider and jelly factory, one wagon shop, one store, one blacksmith shop, one shoe shop and one tailor shop. The private residences number fifteen or twenty, and the population is about eighty. Thomas Sterrett, a resident of Sterrettania, is one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the county. The Sterrettania School was taught at various times by Hon. George H. Cutler and William Benson, afterward two of the leading members of the Erie County bar.

Branchville is a small collection of houses along the plank road, in the south part of the township. It embraces a United Brethren Church, a schoolhouse, a grist mill, a blacksmith shop and about a dozen residences. The South Branch of Elk Creek runs through the hamlet, giving it its name and furnishing water-power to the mill.

Early Settlers
The first settler within the present limits of McKean was James Talmadge, who came from Genesee County, N. Y., in 1795, and located in the Dunn neighborhood, near the east line, in the valley of Elk Creek. During the season of 1795, Mr. Talmadge ran a sail boat between Buffalo and Erie, which carried passengers and freight; among others, he brought in Col. Seth Reed and family, and Amos Judson, of Waterford. On settling in McKean, his wife and father accompanied him. Mr. Talmadge brought in the first bushel of wheat sown in Erie County. Thomas and Oliver dunn, who had gone first to Springfield, moved into McKean in the fall of 1797, having been preceded by Stephen Oliver; Lemuel Stancliff, a New Englander, settled a mile south of Middleboro in 1799; Benjamin Grant, from Connecticut, in what is still known as the Grant neighborhood, in March of the same year; Robert Sterrett, at Sterrettania, in 1804, and James Aubrey about 1806. Eliachim Cook, who accompanied Mr. Grant, located in what is now Summit Township, but removed to Waterford in 1809. In 1807, after Mr. Sterrett sold his McKean property to his brother James, he removed to the bank of the lake, five miles west of Erie. John Evans, father of Robert and Thomas, came from Maryland in 1802, and first took up land on the present Mill Creek and Summit line, but removed to Mill Creek in 1811, to the farm now owned by his son Robert. Among other early settlers were Russell Stancliff, Rufus Trask, benjamin Collum, David Weldon, Joseph S. Bush and the Dunlaps. The Staffords, a New England family, settled around Middleboro about 1815, and with the Stancliffs laid the foundations of the Methodist society in that village. Ansel Crouch went in from New York, in 1817. He was a soldier in the war of 1812. Hannah, daughter of James Talmadge, was the first white child born in the township. The event occurred in 1798. David Sterrett, son of Robert, settled on the homestead farm. He was the father of Robert W., Thomas, James and Andrew J., and of Mrs. Wright, Norton, Brockway and Hall. James Aubrey's father was a Surgeon in Wolfe's army at the storming of Quebec. Stephen Oliver enlisted in the American Army at the outbreak of the Revolution and served until its close. He died January 14, 1857, aged ninety-seven years.

Lemuel Stancliff, one of the first settlers referred to, was a soldier in Washington's army at the time of Arnold's treason. Among the other early settlers were the following: In 1809, Ira Glazier, from Oneida County, N. Y., and Ezra White; in 1825, the Washburns, from Massachusetts; about 1826, Benjamin F. Morey, of Berkshire, Vt.;in 1831, John Drown, of Lyons, N. Y.; about 1835, the Marshes, from Nova Scotia, and Peter J. Barron, from France; in 1837, Oren Reed, from Otsego County, N. Y.p; in 1840, Lorenz Antony and Daniel Hauck, all from Germany.

Public Officers

The State and county officers from McKean Township have been as follows: State Senate, Joseph M. Sterrett, 1837 to 1841. Associate Judge, Joseph M. Sterrett, 1850 to 1856. Assembly, Stephen Skinner, 1840 and 1842. County Commissioners, Joseph M. Sterrett, 1829 to 1831; Stephen Skinner, 1834 to 1837; Thomas Sterrett, 1837 to 1839 (died in office); Thomas Dunn, 1850 to 1853. Clerk to Commissioners, A. J. Sterrett, 1863 to 1881. Directors of the Poor, David Sterrett, 1847 to 1850; John Parmeter, 1852 to 1855; James Dunn, 1874 to 1877; Seymour Washburn, 1877 to 1880. Steward of the almshouse, Thomas Dunn, 1858 to 1863. Jury Commissioner, William Grant, 1873 to 1876. County Surveyors, Hiram Bumphrey, 1833; Stephen Skinner, 1836 to 1839. County Auditors, Thomas Dunn, 1810 to 1821, 1822 to 1825; Eli Webster, 1829 to 1832; Oren Reed, 1852 to 1855, 1863 to 1865; Elias Brecht, 1857 to 1860. Joseph M. Sterrett left his father's house in McKean when a boy, to learn the printing trade. He founded the Erie Gazette, and ever after resided in Erie. A. J. Sterrett was born in McKean, but left home at an early age.

Borough of Middleboro

Middleboro was incorporated as a borough in 1861, embodying about two-thirds of a mile square. It had a population of 126 in 1870, and 210 in 1880, being the smallest election district in the county in point of numbers. The village is situated on the plank road, nearly in the center of the township (which gave it its name), at the junction of the South Branch with the main stream of Elk Creek, ten miles south of Erie and eight north of Edinboro. Benjamin Cullom built the first house in Middleboro in 1810, on the site of Hartley Lampson's. He died in McKean Township in May, 1883, at the age of ninety-six years. Middleboro contains a Catholic and a Methodist Episcopal Church, a schoolhouse, one hotel, two dry goods stores, one grocery, one drug store, four blacksmith shops, one harness shop, one wagon, carriage and sleigh factory, two wagon shops, one saw mill, one saw, planing and shingle mill, two millinery stores and one shoe-maker shop. The public hall of the village is in the upper story of Peck's Block. W. A. Bean's cheese factory is situated just outside the borough. The post office name of the borough is McKean Corners. A shovel-handle factory was erected at Middleboro by Francis Lampson in 1861, burned in 1868, rebuilt the same year by A. H. Lampson, and moved to Leipsic, Ohio, about 1878.

The McKean Methodist Episcopal Church was organized by Rev. Russell Stancliff in 1819, at the hewed-log house of Lemuel Stancliff, about a half mile south of Middleboro, with the following members: Job Stafford and wife, Lucy Stafford, Polly, May and Deborah Irish. The next fall a revival was held, which added a number of others to the class. The meetings were held in various schoolhouses until 1837, when a substantial frame meetinghouse was erected. It was extensively repaired and enlarged in 1869, and still serves the congregation. Among the earliest ministers were Revs. eddy, Alfred Bronson and Mack. Latterly, Rev. G. W. Staples, 1881-82. The circuit is composed of Middleboro, Lawrence Schoolhouse (Summit Township), South Hill and McLane. Preaching takes place at each point once in two weeks.

St. Francis Catholic Church at Middleboro was built in 1876, at a cost, including bell and furniture, of $3,400. It superseded an old frame building, which stood two miles north of Middleboro, and was dedicated in 1833. The congregation was organized a few years prior to the building of this first church. The earliest Fathers of this congregation were Revs. Steinbaugh, Hartman and Joseph Oberhofer. Edward Hasse is the present priest. The society includes about fifty-four families. Services are conducted in both the English and the German languages.

Bates Post. No. 83, G. A. R., was organized at Middleboro, August 21, 1880, with thirty-three members. Its first officers were: N. N. Newell, Com.; J. G. Grimler, S. V. C.; E. W. Davis, J. V. C.; L. W. Eastman, O. D.; William A. Herrick, Chaplain; John Weigle, Q. M.; J. W. Jarvis, Sergt; P. A. Myers, Adjt. The post now numbers about seventy members and meets each alternate Saturday evening.

Diligent Lodge, No. 183, A. O. U. W., was instituted November 5, 1880, with eleven charger members, as follows: D. R. Waggoner, P. M. W.; G. W. Neyland, M. W.; David Rohrer, F.; F. G. Weigel, O.; John Weigel, guide; C. F. Schuetz, Fin.; C. M. Morey, Receiver; F. M. Gould, Recorder; Henry Soety, I. W.; George Schuetz, O. W., and George Stancliff. The present membership is forty-two, and the lodge meets every Thursday evening at Weigel's Hall.

Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Township Histories, Chapter XII, pp. 775-782.


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