Erie County

Erie County, Pennsylvania

History of Erie County, Pennsylvania 1884

by Samuel P. Bates, 

Submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister

Mill Creek Township

Mill Creek is one of the original townships of the county. It received its name from the stream, which became known as Mill Creek before the county was organized. The length of the east line is four and three-quarter miles; of the south line, ten and a half, and of the west line four and a quarter. The greater length of the north or lake line is due to a 400-acre tract at the mouth of Four Mile Creek, which it was thought desirable to make a portion of Mill Creek rather than Harbor Creek, to which it naturally belongs. The township numbered 29,630 acres. From the bay southward, the city extends nearly to the center of the township. In 1820, Mill Creek contained a population of 1,017; in 1830, of 1,783; in 1840, of 2,682; in 1850, of 3,064; in 1870, of 2,774; and in 1880, of 3,274.

Mill Creek is bounded on the north by Lake Erie, the Bay of Presque Isle and Erie City; on the east by Harbor Creek and a small part of Greene; on the south by McKean, Summit and Greene; and on the west by Fairview. The township was divided in 1864 into two districts for election purposes, which are known as East and West Mill Creek.

In its general features, Mill Creek does not differ materially from the other lake shore townships. Commencing at the bay, there is the lake shore plain, about two miles wide; the First Ridge; a valley, about a mile in width; the Second Ridge, and finally the Walnut Creek Valley, also about a mile wide, which is succeeded by the Third Ridge. From the bay to the Second Ridge, the land is comparatively level, with a gentle ascent to the south, but on the opposite side of the Ridge it is much broken, especially those portions which lie beyond Mill Creek and Walnut Creek. The second ridge has obtained special names at different points, such as Nicholson's Hill, where it is crossed by the Waterford pike, and Russell's hill on the Wattsburg road, between Erie and Belle Valley.

A valley begins in Harbor Creek Township and extends across Mill Creek and Fairview into Girard, a distance of fully fifteen miles. It is bounded on the north by the Second, and on the south by the Third Ridge, and is watered in different sections by Mill Creek, Walnut Creek and Trout Run. The two streams first named, after traversing the valley in a western direction, turn abruptly to the north, break through the First and Second Ridges by narrow channels and find their way to the lake, Mill Creek within the city limits and Walnut Creek at Manchester, in Fairview Township. Mill Creek enters the valley at or near Belle Valley and Walnut Creek just east of Kearsarge. The former leaves it at the Erie County Mills, and the latter near Mr. Schluraff's, in West Mill Creek. Among its residents are P. E. Norcross, Benjamin Russel, John Burton, R. H. Arbuckle, Henry Shattuck, the Parkers, Wolfs and Dumarses, in the Mill Creek Section, and Frank Spath, Capt. Spires, the Schwingles, Zimmerleys, W. W. Love, Thomas H. Mohr, William Carpenter, Henry Halderman, the Weisses, Uras Schluraff, the Thomases and the Heidlers, in that of Walnut Creek.

The farms along the Lake road, west of Erie, from the fact of that being the main drive to the Head, are probably the most familiar to the public in the county.

The lands from the city limits to the Herman place are a portion of the tract of 2,000 acres, less 100 for the support of the poor, ceded by the State to the borough of Erie, for the construction of a basin at the harbor, in contemplation of the opening of the canal. They were sold at public sale on the 1st of August, 1833, and brought from $9 to $22 per acre.

The beautiful tract along the Waterford pike known as the Academy lands consists of 500 acres set apart by the State for the maintenance of Erie Academy. They commenced at the west line of the Cochran and Evans farms and lie on both sides of the road, which runs through them at an angle. These lands were originally let out to tenants for ninety-nine years, but the lessees becoming dissatisfied, in 1851 or 1852, legislation was secured which authorized their sale.

The original surveys in the township were made in 1795 by George Moore, under the direction of Thomas Rees, who was the first State Surveyor in the county. In laying out the country, as directed by law, a Reservation was made of certain lands bordering the town of Erie, which were withheld from sale and settlement. This tract was known as the Erie State Reservation. It commenced at the head of the bay, ran southward three miles, then parallel with the lake and bay eight miles, and from there to the shore of the lake, excluding the portion embraced within the town site of Erie. Outside the Reservation, all the territory in the township, and, in fact, in the Triangle, was laid out in 400-acre tracts, with an allowance of six percent for roads. As late as 1831, ten acres near the Eichenlaub shoe factory, now within the city limits, sold at $20 per acre.

Creeks and Bridges
The streams of the township are Two, Three and Four Mile Creeks, east of Erie; Mill Creek and Cascade Run, emptying into the bay within the city; the Head Run and Danford Run, on the west side, and Walnut Creek on the south. Mill Creek is created by two branches, which unite on the farm now owned by James Sill near the southeaster line of the township. The Creek received its name because the first mill in the county was built at its mouth. As late as 1835 there were not less than four grist mills and thirteen saw mills along this stream, all propelled by water power. The saw mills have been abandoned, and the only grist mill now run wholly by water power is the one on the Waterford Plank Road known as the Erie County Mills. Walnut Creek, the largest in the township, rises in Summit and enters Mill Creek Township near Kearsarge, where its valley widens out to the extent of a mile. From there it flows through the south part of the township in a general westerly course to Fairview, where it suddenly turns to the north, joining the lake at Manchester. Some of the earliest settlements in the county were made in the valley of this stream at Kearsarge and westward. Two, Three and Four Mile Creeks were named because of their supposed distance from the park in Erie. The first two are small streams, rising near the central eastern portion of the township and flowing directly to the lake. Four Mile Creek rises in Greene Township, runs along the western edge of Harbor Creek Township, enters Mill Creek at Wesleyville, and reaches the lake about a mile and a half north of that village. Cascade Creek is formed by two branches, which unite on the Scott farm, just north of the Mt. Hickory Rolling Mill. The creek empties into the bay at the Pittsburgh Docks. It was at the mouth of Cascade Creek that Perry built the brigs Lawrence and Niagara in 1813. The little stream at the Head rises in a swamp south of the Catholic Cemetery. A mill once stood at its mouth, the ruins of which remained until a few years ago. Danford Run, which empties into the lade in the northwest corner of the township, was a fair-sized stream in the days of the canal. It at one time gave power to a saw mill, which was converted in a paper mill after the timber in that section was cut off. The paper mill proved a failure and was abandoned.

The township has within it limits a large number of bridges, of which the P. & E. R. R. bridge, over Mill Creek, near Belle Valley, and those over Walnut Creek are the most important. The one at the town line across the latter stream was built jointly by the Commissioners of Fairview and Mill Creek. The P. & E. bridge is one of the loftiest in the county, and will undoubtedly be replaced in time by a culvert and embankment.

Public Highways
Bordering Erie, as it does on three sides, all of the great highways in the county which center at the city cross Mill Creek Township. The most important of these are the Lake road from east to west, the Buffalo road from the east, the Wattsburg plank and Lake Pleasant roads from the southeast, the Edinboro plank and the Waterford pike and plank road from the south, the McKean road from the southwest and the Ridge road from the west. The Lake road extends across the township from Harbor Creek to Fairview, entering Erie by Sixth street and leaving by Eighth, a variation due to the gullies in the western part of the city. The railroads are the Lake Shore, the "Nickel Plate," the Philadelphia & Erie and the Erie & Pittsburgh. The last two terminate at Erie and the first two are through routes between the east and west. The only railroad stations in the township are Belle Valley on the Philadelphia & Erie, and the Junction near the almshouse.

The canal between the Ohio River and Erie traversed the township from the Fairview line to the bay at the latter city. It was opened in 1844 and discontinued in 1871.

The schools of Mill Creek Township are as follows: Fagan School, on Lake road, near John Fagan's; Laird, on Lake road, at intersection of road to the Head; Carter, on Lake road, near John H. Carter's; Miller, on Andrew Nicholson's farm; Willis, on Ridge road, east of Westminster Church; one on the Geist farm, Ridge road; Burton, on Buffalo road, just east of old fair ground; Davidson, on road from Marvintown to Cooper's Mill; Zuck, on road from County farm to south line of township; Love, on W. W. Love's farm; Schluraff, on land on C. Thomas; Lake View, on Edinboro road, near Nicholson's hill; Parker, on road from Lake Pleasant road to Waterford road; Walnut Creek, in Kearsarge. Of these all are brick, except the Fagan, Carter and Miller, which are of stone; the Love, concrete; and the Schluraff, frame. One of the first schools was opened about 1805-1806, in the southeast part of the township. William and Richard Arbuckle, Frederick and David Zimmerman and others attended here. John Hay, John Foot, Mrs. Burress, Miss Almira Drown, Harvey Nettleton, Miss Louisa Booth also taught here. The two last named, both from Ashtabula County, Ohio, afterward became one by matrimony. This school was maintained until 1821. In the Love neighborhood, about six miles west from Erie, a school was established about 1806, by the McCrearys, James Love, George Reed and other pioneers. It was maintained until the school law went into effect. Mr. Crocker, in 1809, taught a term of school at the Reed residence. In 1812, Charles J. Reed united with others in building a schoolhouse, about two miles south of Erie. Dr. Nathaniel Eastman taught the first term here. He was succeeded in 1814, by Mr. Hawley; Mr. Burrows next held a term, and in the spring of 1815 John Foot, from Austinsburg, Ohio, assumed control, and remained three years. Many pupils from Erie attended. Mr. Foot excelled as a teacher, possessing the art of imparting knowledge. Alexander W. Brewster taught in 1818, and a school has ever since been kept up in this place. It was formerly known as the Grubb Schoolhouse, but has since been entitled Lake View.

Villages and Post Offices
Mill Creek has no incorporated town, and no settlement of much importance, Belle Valley and Kearsarge being the largest. Belle Valley is a scattered collection of houses along Mill Creek, at the foot of the Second Ridge, about four miles from Erie. The place, though settled at an early date, never attained too much importance, having a present not over 100 residents. The Presbyterian Church, the only one in the village, is a neat building, pleasantly embowered among trees. The graveyard connected with it contains the graves of some of the most worthy of the original settlers. The Bell Valley Post Office was established in 1855, being then supplied by the Wattsburg stage. The hamlet now called Kearsarge was formerly known as Walnut Creek, and was once a point of more importance comparatively than at present. At Kearsarge are a store, hotel, schoolhouse and some pleasant residences. The settlement is on the Edinboro road, four miles from Erie. This is one of the oldest settled sections of Erie County, Col. Seth Reed having located here in 1796. The post office at Kearsarge supplies portions of Mill Creek, McKean and Summit Townships.

The first frame barn in the county was erected by Charles J. Reed, on the Zimmerly place, in 1799, and the first frame house on the same farm by the same gentleman, in 1800. In was here also that the first white couple married in the county took up their residence. Charles J. Reed, son of Col. Seth Reed, was united in matrimony to Miss Rachel Miller, on the 27th of December, 1797. At the Erie County Mills, in the Mill Creek Valley, three miles from Erie, are a saw and flouring mill, a fulling mill, a beer brewery and about half a dozen houses. When the water power of Mill Creek was larger, this was a point of no little importance. Weigleville, which is near enough to the city to be a portion of the corporation, was named after George Weigel, Sr., who bought fifty acres at the sale in 1833, and laid out the Ridge Road front into building lots. The village was then a mile and a half out of Erie, and was a convenient stopping place for farmers and travelers. About a mile westward, on the same thoroughfare, is Warrentown, a small collection of houses lining the south side of the road. It was named after John M. Warren, whose father took up a large tract of land there and left it to his sons. At the point where the McKean road and the road from the Head intersect the Ridge road, are the Half-Way House, three shops and a number of dwellings. The hotel was opened by Thomas Willis in 1822 or 1823. It then stood about half a mile west, on the original line of the road. The building was moved a good many years ago.

In 1847, a man named Frederick Reidel was convicted at Pittsburgh of the murder of his wife, but the night before the date fixed for the execution he cut a vein in his arm and bled to death. His body was delivered to his brother, who brought it to Erie County, and buried it secretly in a graveyard on the south line of Mill Creek Township. The matter soon leaked out, and the indignation of the people compelled him to remove the remains, which were again buried on the east side of the cross road between the Half-Way House and the Catholic cemetery, some fifteen or twenty rods north of the Ridge road, where they still lie. In November, 1858, George Reidel had an altercation with Bartanalli, then owner of the property where the Half-Way House stands, and shot the latter dead within a very short distance of his brother's grave. He was sentenced to the penitentiary for nine years, served out his term, and, returning, took up his residence in Fairview.

Between Warrentown and the Half-Way House, a short distance north of the Ridge road, is the Erie County Almshouse, an imposing structure. Less than a mile west of the Half-Way House is the Grange Hall, a neat brick structure, and near by is the Westminster Church. Beyond this, on the Ridge road, and extending some distance along the same, is quite a village, which includes two small mills, two blacksmith shops, etc. A steam saw mill formerly stood in the vicinity, where several boats were built, but it was allowed to run down on the sale of the canal. The West Mill Creek Post Office is in close proximity to the settlement.

Other Prominent Points
Further westward, and to the south of the road, is the observatory built some years ago for the use of the government party who were surveying the lakes. It is constructed of timber, is 125 feet high, and stands on the Perry Nicholson place, about seven miles and a half from Erie, and a quarter of a mile south from the road. Passing over to the Lake road, the first point of interest as the city is approached is Trinity Cemetery, the burial place of the Catholics of Erie and vicinity. It embraces thirty acres purchased by Rev. J. L. Coady, Vicar General of the diocese, of Wilson and Richard Laird in June, 1867. A little east of the cemetery is the road to the head of the bay, which has been for many years the pleasure resort of Erie. The hotel and other buildings erected at this point were burnt down in December, 1882. A little further eastward were the Mt. Hickory Iron Works, the buildings of which were raised in the summer of 1872. The mill burned down in the winter of 1883-84. Across the Lake Shore Railroad from the rolling mill was the old Reed Garden, once a favorite resort for both city and country people. It was opened as a public garden in 1840 or 1841, and was one of the late Gen. Reed's pet enterprises. Nearing the city, the grand stand of the fair grounds is seen, about half a mile to the south of the Lake road. These grounds were first opened for a fair by the State Agricultural Society in 1872. The location is one of the most convenient for fair and racing purposes in the country, being just the right distance out of the city, and lying alongside two railroads. East of the city, on the north side of the Buffalo road, are the old fair grounds, now owned by H. C. Shannon. These grounds are a portion of the Jesse Ebersole place, which was purchased by the Erie County Agricultural Association in the year 1860. On the Edinboro road, a mile or so south of the city limits, quite a village has sprung up on the Evans farm, incident to the establishment of the coffin factory. This enterprise was originated by Robert Evans, who finally sold out at a heavy loss. Its present owners seem to be making a success of the concern.

Religious Societies
The churches of Mill Creek Township are the Presbyterian at Belle Valley, the Westminster (Presbyterian), the Asbury (Methodist) and St. Paul's (Lutheran). The Westminster and Asbury churches are on the Ridge road, west of the almshouse; St. Paul's Church is at the McKean line, in the southwest part of the township. The congregation at Belle Valley was the first swarm from the original Presbyterian body in Erie. Most of the settlers in the vicinity were members of that denomination, and, growing strong enough to maintain a church of their own, they were set off from the Erie congregation on the second Monday of December, 1841, erected a building in 1842, and dedicated it to God on the 6th of January, 1843. The first minister was Rev. William J. Smith, who remained in charge from 1842 to 1847. He was succeeded by several others until Rev. Joseph Vance was called in 1854, whose ministerial duties continued till 1871, about which period he moved to Erie, where is now Superintendent of the cemetery. Since his time the congregation have been ministered to by Rev. Mr. Wilson, Rev. Mr. McMasters and Rev. H. Webster, the last named being in charge at present.

The congregation of Westminster Church was organized by Rev. Johnson Eaton in 1806, at the mouth of Walnut Creek, in Fairview Township. Worship continued at that place till 1833, when a building (the same now occupied) was erected at Swanville. In 1845, a portion of the congregation was set apart as the church of Sturgeonville, and erected a building in Fairview Borough. This left the church building at Swanville to one side of the territory in which the bulk of the communicants resided. Accordingly in 1851, the building was moved to its present site. The name of Fairview Church was retained till 1861, when that of Westminster was adopted. Mr. Eaton continued as pastor for the congregation until his death June 17, 1847. From that time until 1851, the congregation was without a pastor, depending on supplies. In 1851, Rev. Mr. Willson became pastor of the churches of Fairview, Sturgeonville and Girard. He was released May 2, 1855. From the fall of that year until the spring or summer of 1857, Rev. William McCullough officiated for the several churches above named. Rev. John R. Hamilton was installed as pastor of the congregations at Westminster and Fairview June 15, 1859, and released June 15, 1864. Rev. L. M. Belden filled the same position from December 14, 1864, to April 25, 1866. From that date the congregation was supplied by Rev. J. M. Gillete, Rev. Ambrose Dunn and others, until November 24, 1871, when the present pastor, Rev. W. S. Wright, was installed. In 1881, the congregation numbered ninety-six members. Three of its pastors, Messrs. Eaton, McCullough and Hamilton, are dead.

Asbury Methodist Episcopal Congregation owns a snug building for worship and a fine parsonage. It was organized in 1846, and the church building was erected the same year. Its pastors have been as follows: J. Prosser, W. S. Worrella, M. Colegrove, N. W. Jones, G. J. Bliss, J. O Osborne, G. W. Staples, John Akers.

St. Paul's German Lutheran, situated in the southwest part of the township, on land donated by Solomon Weigel, was erected about 1837, at a cost of $600. It was repaired in 1873. The society was organized by Rev. Michael Kuchler, and for a short period services were held in a schoolhouse. Succeeding pastors have been Revs. Bainer, Stuckenberg, Akers, Sagers, Henry Schemberling and J. A. J. Zahn. The last mentioned closed a six-years' pastorate in 1882. At present there is not minister and congregation is small.

The first saw mill in Mill Creek Township was built by John Cochran, in 1800, and the first grist mill in 1801, on the site of the present Eliot or Denmore Mill. The second grist and saw mill in the township was established on the site of the present Erie County Mill in 1802, one mile up the creek from Cochran's mill, by Robert McCullough. The original log buildings were replaced with frame in 1819. A saw mill was built in 1816, by Foot & Parker on the R. H. Arbuckle place, which is discontinued. On leaving Erie by the Buffalo road, the Keystone shoe factory is seen to the left, and beyond it is Jacob Schall's brickyard and glue and fertilizer factory. There are two brick yards near Kearsarge, one of which is discontinued. The first saw mill of which there is a record, on Walnut Creek, in Mill Creek Township, was built by James Love in 1816. The mills on that stream now, within the limits of the township, are Nece's and Geist's saw mills, Kocher's grist mill and Stohr's saw and cider mill. C. Thomas has a grist mill, saw mill and shingle, feed and cider mill combined on a small stream which empties into Walnut Creek on the J. Nece farm.

Early Settlers
The first settlers within the township were Col. Seth Reed, David McNair, George Moore, James Baird, Capt. Russell Bissell, David Dewey, J. W. Russell and Thomas P. Miller, who contracted for lands in 1795, but did not locate till 1796. Their number was increased the same year by John Grubb, Benjamin Russell, Anthony Saltsman and John McFarland; and in 1797, William Saltsman, John Nicholson, the McKees, Jacob Weiss and Boe Bladen, a free colored man, were added to the colony. All of the above were New Englanders, except the Saltsmans, who were from Northumberland County, and Weiss, who was from Cumberland County in this State. In 1800, William Bell came in from Lycoming County, the McCrearys, from Lancaster County, and James Wilson, John M. Warren and John Cosper. Samuel and Joseph Conrad, from Maryland, and the Ebersoles and the Riblets, from Eastern Pennsylvania, settled in the township in 1801; Hamlin Russell, from New England, Andrew Caughey and sons, Joseph B. McCreary and George Reed, all from Lancaster County; James Love and the Arbuckles from Cecil County, Md. John McCoy, John Robinson, Robert McClelland, John Pherrin, James Dumars and William Henry, in 1802. The Arbuckle family located first in Fairview, but Joseph, Adam and John changed to Mill Creek. The date of the arrival of other pioneers is as follows: In 1803, John Kelley, from Mifflin County; in 1804, Christian Ebersole, from Lancaster County; George Bissell, Warren Foot and Andrew Martin, from New England; Abraham Wagner, from Eastern Pennsylvania, and David Robinson; in 1806, James B. Wilson, from Dauphin County; in 1807, John Fagan; in 1809, John Ryan; in 1810, George Haybarger, Spencer Shattuck, William Whitley, Alexander Robinson and sons, and Andrew and John Norcross; in 1811, John Evans, John Burton, Sr., and James Stewart; in 1812, Calvin Foot, from Connecticut; in 1813, Conrad Brown, Sr., moving from Erie, which he reached in 1804; in 1815, Jonas Parker and George and Arthur Davison; in 1816, Asa G. Olds; in 1817, William Miner; in 1818, Robert Davison; in 1828, Rudolph Shenk, from Lancaster County; in 1822, Thomas Willis, from Lancaster County; in 1825, Giles Russell; in 1826, Francis Davison; in 1832, James Scouller, from Scotland. During the year 1828, a colony of "Pennsylvania Dutch" reached the township from Lancaster County, consisting of George Weigel, Martin Warfel, Samuel Brenneman, Thomas Mohr, Jacob Metzler, and others, followed by Jacob Charles in 1829. The Davisons and Norcrosses were from Northumberland County, and settled first in Venango Township, in 1801 and 1802, from which they moved to Mill Creek; George Haybarger, settled in Elk Creek in 1802, and John Evans in McKean, in 1802, moving to Mill Creek as above. Thomas Willis was born in England, came to this country when a boy, and lived with a Quaker family in Lancaster County; William Bell sold his farm and moved into Erie, where he built the old frame house on the site of the Becker Block, and went into trade. The Zimmerman, Stough and three Kreider families came in from Lebanon or Berks County at the same time in 1805.

The Riblets, Ebersoles, Loops, Zucks and Browns were all from Lancaster and Berks Counties. Spencer Shattuck was from Litchfield County, Conn. James Love resided in McKean a short time before going to Mill Creek. James Barr settled in North East about 1800, went to Harbor Creek in 1813, and from there to Mill Creek in 1830. He was a Captain of militia in the war of 1812. The father of John Fagan located in Amity Township, near Hatch Hollow, in 1795, and cleared up a small piece of land. He and his wife moved to Mill Creek about 1807, settling on tract 47, opposite the late residence of his son John. In 1818, he sold this tract to Judah Colt, and immediately took up a part of the Gore, being the same land long occupied by his son. Benjamin Russell landed at Erie on July 4, 1796, and settled at Belle Valley, on almost the identical spot now occupied by his nephew, N. W. Russell, Esq., where he built a cabin and located a thousand acres of land. He was followed in 1802 by his brother Hamlin, who purchased 150 acres from Benjamin, and established his home a little further west on the cross road. N. W. Russell is one of the largest landed proprietors in the county, owning 220 acres in the valley, and 112 on the lake shore, besides a number of houses and lots in the city.

The first male child born in the township was David M. Dewey, December 15, 1797, and the first female child was Matilda Reed, born November 14, 1798. Mr. Martin Stough died in West Mill Creek on the 2d of October, 1881, at the advanced age of ninety-three years three weeks and two days.

Public Men
In the early career of the county, Mill Creek furnished a large proportion of its public officials, but of late she has not been so freely favored; in fact, considering her wealth and population, she has hardly been given the number she is fairly entitled to. The following is a list of her citizens who have held National, State and county positions: Secretary of the Land Office, John Cochran, 1809-18. Congress, Samuel Smith, 1805-12. Assembly, Stephen Wolverton, 1825-26-27. Postmaster of Erie, Robert Cochran, from February 26, 1833, to June 20, 1840, and from July 23, 1845, to April 17, 1849. Associate Judges, William Bell, 1800-03; 1805-14; John Cochran, 1803-05; Samuel Smith, 1803-95; John Grubb, 1820-41. Sheriffs, David Wallace, 1813-16; Stephen Wolverton, 1816-22; Albert Thayer, 1825-28; William E. McNair, 1843-46. Coroners, Benjamin Russell, 1822-25; David Wallace, 1830-33; David McNair, 1833-37; John K. Caldwell, 1839-42. County Commissioners, Abiather Crane, 1803-04, elected from Conneaut Township; John McCreary, 1806-09; John Grubb, 1813-15; Robert McClelland, 1815-18; Albert Thayer, 1828-31; James Love, 1833-36; William E. McNair, 1838-41; Joseph Henderson, 1842-45, and 1859-62; George W. Brecht, 1848-51; Richard H. Arbuckle, 1875-78. Clerk to the County Commissioners, Robert Cochran, November 2, 1829, to February 1, 1830; O. P. Gunnison, March 1, 1881, to January, 1883. Jury Commissioner, William W. Love, 1870-73; George A. Evans, 1877-80. Directors of the Poor, Conrad Brown, 1841-44; John Evans, 1842-45; William E. McNair, 1851-54; George W. Brecht, 1854-57; Thomas Willis, 1860-69; John C. Zuck, 1880-83. Stewards of the Almshouse, Freeman Patterson, 1840-47; Samuel Fickinger, 1847-52; S. P. B. Zuck, 1852-57; Thomas Love, 1857-58; William Brown, 1880 to date. County Surveyor, John Cochran, 1801-09; Auditors, William Wallace, 1809; John Grubb, 1810; Robert McClelland, 1813; William E. McNair, 1826; Robert Cochran, 1828; Thomas Nicholson, 1837-40; George W. Brecht, 1854-57; N. W. Russell, 1855-59; Henry Gingrich, 1862-65; W. W. Love, 1871-74, and 1878-81. Mercantile Appraisers, N. W. Russell, 1855; James C. Russell, 1867; O. P. Gunnison, 1879; R. H. Arbuckle, 1881.

A number of persons who have held official positions are not included in this list, because, although at one time residents of the township, they were not such when elected. Among the number in Gen. D. B. McCreary, a native of Mill Creek, who has been Colonel of the One Hundred and Forty-fifth Regiment, Assemblyman for three terms, and Adjutant General of the State from 1867 to 1870; Hon. G. J. Ball, elected State Treasurer in 1849, and Assemblyman in 1847 and 1848, and 1853, 1854, 1855, 1856 and 1860, was a citizen of the township for many years; A. B. Gunnison, elected County Commissioner in 1875 and re-elected in 1878, resided in Mill Creek from 1854 to 1878, when he moved to the city.

From Weigleville, there are two routes into the city, the one by way of Federal Hill, and the other by Brown's avenue. The latter is due to the foresight of the late Conrad Brown, who rightly judged that a more direct route from the western part of the city to the Ridge road would be a popular project. He laid out the avenue eight feet wide in 1868, and was rewarded by selling off a large portion of his farm for city lots at good prices. The car works starting about the same time helped greatly in effecting the sales. The road which turns to the south by the rolling mill affords a short cut from the Lake road to the Ridge road, which is about a mile distant. It was laid out in 1833. The road and the one by the Catholic Cemetery are each about a mile in length.

A formidable swamp once extended across Mill Creek Township from east to west, at the foot of the First Ridge. Within Erie City, it lay between Twelfth and Eighteenth streets, and was so gloomy and impenetrable that the land was regarded by the first settlers as almost valueless. As early as 1810, however, William Wallace, who owned a strip from the east branch of Cascade Creek westward, dug a ditch which had the effect of reclaiming a portion of the swamp. About 1840, the inhabitants of the vicinity, alarmed by the sickness occasioned by the swamp, formed a bee and dug another ditch across the Lake road through the farms of E. J. Kelso and James C. Marshall, which still further reclaimed the waste land. These and other measures have nearly dried up the swamp, and in a few years no trace of it will remain. In the early days, deer, bears, wild geese and ducks, rabbits and partridges were plenty in the woods and wilds of the lake shore region. There were numerous deer licks convenient to the city, especially on the east side

The town hall is a good brick building on Federal Hill, within the city limits. The township business is transacted there, and it is the voting place for East Mill Creek, that of West Mill Creek being at Weigleville. Erie and Mill Creek voted together at the court house as late as the Presidential election of 1832. The Schwingel farm, near Kearsarge, was the scene of a dreadful tragedy on the night of Friday, the 15th of October, 1880. Charles Schwingel, with some neighbors, had spent the evening drinking hard cider and playing cards. Philip, his brother, came home from Erie late at night very drunk. After the neighbors had left, at the request of Charles' wife -- the hour being late -- Charles and Philip fell into a dispute, which resulted in the death of the former by a pistol shot fired by the latter. Philip was tried, convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to the Allegheny Penitentiary.

The assessment of Mill Creek Township for 1883 gave the following results: Value of real estate, $2,548,445; cows, 1393; value, $34,157; oxen, 40, value $2,025; horses and mules, 901; value, $49,820; value of trades and occupations, $26,535; money at interest, $49,400.

Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Township Histories, Chapter I, pp. 655-666.


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2016 Erie County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project