Erie County

Erie County, Pennsylvania

History of Erie County, Pennsylvania 1884

by Samuel P. Bates, 

Submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister


Wayne Township

Up to the year 1821, that section of the county now embraced in Wayne and Concord was known as Brokenstraw Township, a name given to it in the act of organization. In the year stated, the title was changed to Concord, through the influence of William Miles. Wayne was set off from Concord in 1826, and was named after Anthony Wayne. Wayne embraces a portion of the Donation lands. The township of Brokenstraw (of which Wayne formed a part) constituted with Union one election district until 1821, ranking as No. 10 of Erie county.

Wayne is bounded on the north by Chautauqua County, N. Y., on the east by Columbus Township, Warren County, on the south by Corry City and Concord Township, and on the west by Amity and Union. It has been twice reduced in size, first in 1863 by the erection of Corry as a borough, and second in 1866 by the act elevating that place to the dignity of a city. The charters of Corry took off a strip about one mile wide by two and a quarter long, from the southeastern corner, but what the township lost in territory has been more than made up in the increased value given to the balance by the growth of the city. The South line of the township is nearly uniform with the straight portion of Smith street in Corry. Wayne has an average width of about six miles, and a length of about eight, with a perfectly regular line on the north side, two slight jogs on the east and west, and more considerable ones on the Concord and Corry sides. The boundary between Pennsylvania and New York, which forms the north line of the township, was established by Commissioners on the part of the two States in 1785, who completed their work in 1787. They surveyed the entire boundary between the Delaware River and Lake Erie, marking each mile with stones on which figures were cut, showing the distance from the first-named stream. Their report was confirmed by the Legislature in 1789. The eastern boundary of the township was marked out in the act of 1800, incorporating Erie and Warren Counties. Wayne Township contained a population of 197 in 1830, 738 in 1840, 1,122 in 1850, 1,224 in 1860, 1,295 in 1870, and 1,306 in 1880. There is but one post office within its limits, Wayne (at Beaver Dam). Before Corry grew to importance, Beaver Dam and Columbus, Warren County, were the trading places of the township. The assessment of 1883 gave the following results: Number of acres, 22,480; value of real estate $522,048; number of cows, 778; of oxen 26, of horses and mules, 320; value of the same, $35,462; value of trades and occupations, $3,935; money at interest, $21,577.

Lands and Their Value
In general, Wayne is a hilly township, but it contains some handsome and fertile valleys along the South Branch of French Creek and Hare Creek, and Scioto, beaver Dam and Spencer Runs. The hills attain an elevation of 200 to 400 feet above the French Creek Valley, and are cut by deep ravines especially in the southern portion, which, however, have generally sloping sides, admitting of easy cultivation. The summits of the ridges are irregular, but there is little waste land in the township. The character of the soil adapts it best for grazing, and butter-making and cattle-raising are the staple industries of the township. It used to be thought that wheat could not be raised to advantage, but of late a considerable amount of that grain has been harvested, and its cultivation is steadily on the increase. The principal timber is beech, maple and hemlock, though considerable tracts of pine, oak and chestnut once existed in the south part of the township. Much of the timber has been cut off, and what remains will soon disappear at the present rate of consumption. Apples bear profitably, pears give a fair yield, a few peaches are raised and fruits of other kind correspond with the average southern townships of the county. The price of land ranges from as low as $20 to as high as $50 per acre, being most valuable for farming purposes in the vicinity of Beaver Dam.

The Streams
The streams of Wayne Township are Brokenstraw Creek, with its tributary, Hare Creek; Bear Creek, Francis Run and Scioto Run, branches of the latter; and Spencer Run, Baskin Run, Slaughter Run, Beaver Dam Run and Spring Brook, tributaries of the South Branch of French Creek. The latter stream does not enter Wayne at all, but courses along in Concord, a few rods from the south line of the former township, which does not take in more than a third of its valley. It will be seen from the number of these streams that Wayne is a finely watered township. The Brokenstraw heads in Clymer Township, Chautauqua County, N. Y., runs through the northeast corner of Wayne Township into Warren County, and joins the Allegheny River at Irvineton, after a course of fifty to sixty miles, only a small part of which is in Erie County. Hare Creek rises in French Creek Township, Chautauqua county, N. Y., flows across the entire width of Wayne Township, and empties into the Brokenstraw in Columbus Township, Warren County, about three miles east of Corry. It runs through the latter city for a short distance, and has a length of about fifteen miles. Bear Creek and Scioto Run, tributaries of Hare Creek, rise, the first on land of Uriah Benjamin, and the second on the Greeley farm. Bear Creek falls into Hare Creek within the limits of Corry, and Scioto Run on land of D. C. Kennedy, north of that city. Each stream has a length of perhaps five miles. Francis Run rises about three miles northwest of Corry, and empties into Bear Creek within the city limits, after a course of about three miles. Spencer Run heads near Carter Hill, Baskin Run near the New York line, Slaughter Run in the northwest corner of the township, and Beaver Dam Run in the southeast part of Amity, all uniting with the South Branch in Concord, the first named a little west of Corry, the second at Lovell's Station, the third about a mile above Elgin, and the fourth within that borough. The length of these streams is from seven to nine miles. Spring Brook is a sparkling stream formed by a number of fine springs that burst out of the hillsides at the State Fish Hatching Establishment, a short distance west of Corry, near the line of Concord and Wayne. It unites with the South Branch after a course of probably half a mile. Two or three large beaver dams existed in early days a mile or so north of Elgin, which gave name to Beaver Dam run.

Village of Beaver Dam
The only village in the township is that of Beaver Dam (Wayne Post Office), situated near the extreme southeastern corner, on the run of the same name, at the junction of the Erie and Warren with the Wattsburg and Spartansburg road, one and a half miles north of Elgin, six west of Corry, twenty-six by common road southeast of Erie, and thirty-four by the railroad. The valley of Beaver Dam Run at this point is broad and beautiful, making one of the finest stretches of country in Erie County. The village is supposed to owe its origin to John Bunker, who started a store and ashery at the cross-roads at an early day. This was followed by another store by Mr. Foot, and the place, about 1840, boasted, in addition, two taverns, one kept by Mr. Crook and the other by Mr. Ellis. The stages between Erie and Warren and Jamestown ran through the village daily. The building of the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad, and the growth of Corry and Union, had the effect of drawing all the travel and most of the trade from Beaver Dam; the taverns were abandoned, and only one store is left. The village consists at present, besides the store, of one blacksmith shop, two wagon shops, one undertaker shop, one cheese factory (opened in the spring of 1866, and now owned by Kincaide & Howard), one schoolhouse, three churches (Methodist Episcopal, United Presbyterian and Presbyterian), a public hall, one vacant business stand, and some twenty frame residences, with a population of about 100. All of the buildings are frame. The village cemetery is neatly laid out and contains some fine monuments.

At Beaver Dam is a frame Presbyterian Church, erected in 1867 at a cost of $3,000. An Associate Reform congregation was organized here about 1820, with fifteen members, by Rev. Robert Reid, but in a few years the organization affiliated with the Presbyterian denomination. The earliest meetings were held in dwelling houses; in 1830 a church building was erected on the site of the village cemetery. In was superseded by the present structure. William Gray and William Carson were the Elders when the Presbyterian organization was effected. Rev. Absalom McCready was the first settled pastor, Revs. Stright and Rice followed, and of late years the ministers have been supplies. The society is now small, and no regular services have been held for several years.

The United Presbyterian congregation at Beaver Dam was organized with twelve members by Rev. David Love in 1859. Rev. J. L. Aten was the first regular pastor, and was succeeded successively by Revs. John Jamison, Allen (supply), A. S. Abbey and H. H. McMaster. No regular services have been held during the past year. The membership is twenty-three. The church edifice, a substantial frame edifice, was erected in 1872 at a cost of $3,000.

The first class of the Methodist Episcopal denomination in Wayne Township was formed in Warren Palmer's log cabin in the Donation District in 1832. In consisted of eight members, and had Rev. Hiram Kinsley for pastor. In 1838, a congregation with twenty members was organized at Beaver Dam by Rev. William Patterson, who acted as first pastor. The congregation was without a church building till 1839, when one was erected by voluntary contributions. A new and more imposing edifice was erected in 1872, at a cost of $3,200. The old building still stands. Until 1877, excepting three years when it was connected with Asbury, Union Township, Church, this society was a part of Wattsburg Circuit. It was then annexed to Spartansburg Circuit, the ministers of which have been: John W. Wilson, 1877; C. M. Coburn, 1878-80; J. B. Darling, 1881-82; S. W. Douglass, 1883. The present membership is thirty-nine.

North of Beaver Dam a short distance is the "Wayne Valley Church of United Brethren," built in 1870 at a cost of $1,500. The congregation was organized the same year, with twenty-one members, having Rev. Daniel Dean for the first pastor. It numbers about forty members, and now has Rev. A. Meeker as minister. It is attached to Wayne Circuit.

The earliest white inhabitants at Beaver Dam were Samuel Smith and William Gray. The latter subsequently removed to Waterford. In the old Abolition times, the village was an important station of the "underground railroad." Mrs. Elizabeth Smith died at the residence of her son-in-law, James D. Smith, in Beaver Dam, on the 6th of August, 1875, in the ninety-ninth year of her age, being one of the oldest women known to have lived within the county. She emigrated to this country from Ireland with her father, John Wilson, and sister, in 1798, the party settling in what is now Union Township,. In 1799, she was married to William Smith, of Wayne, their wedding being the first in the county south of the Triangle. About 1816, they removed to Waterford, where Mr. Smith died in 1855, after which she made her home as above. Mrs. Smith was the mother of three sons and eight daughters.

A temperance society was formed at Beaver Dam as early as 1832. No drinking place has ever been maintained in Wayne Township, except in 1840, when one of the hotels of the village received a license. Marl was found near Beaver Dam many years ago, and burned for lime.

Carter Hill and Hare Creek
Carter Hill consists of a schoolhouse, cheese factory building, Methodist Episcopal Church, and several farmhouses at a cross roads in the northern central part of the township. It derives its name from Elijah Carter, who moved there from Greenfield when the country was still a wilderness. The cheese factory was put up during the flush times of that business, and is not now in operation. The Carter Hill Post Office was abandoned in 1883. About a mile south is the town house of the township. The Carter Methodist society has held meetings in private houses and the schoolhouse for nearly fifty years. During the autumn of 1883, it erected a neat frame house of worship at a cost of $1,000. The membership is about thirty. This appointment has been at different times attached to various circuits, including Beaver Dam, Wattsburg and Columbus. It is now connected with Columbus Circuit, of which Rev. Mr. Wilson is pastor.

Quite a bustling little settlement has sprung up within a few years on Hare Creek, four miles north of Corry. It consists of a Christian Church, Mutual Protective Hall, schoolhouse, saw mill and about a dozen residences. The Christian Church was dedicated in August, 1880. The society was organized several years before, and held its first meeting in the adjoining schoolhouse. Rev. B. Mason was the first minister. His pastoral relation terminated in 1883. The Dutton Graveyard is near the church.

Schools, Mills, etc.
The first educational instruction in Wayne was given by Mrs. Elizabeth Smith, wife of the pioneer William Smith. At her cabin, she taught her own and a few of her neighbors' children for several years, commencing about 1808. A Mr. Kelley, of near Titusville, held a term or two in a cabin at Beaver Dam, then called Brokenstraw, about 1822, and the first schoolhouse was built there several years later. The schools of Wayne are thirteen in number, and the township is interested besides in one union school on the New York line. The buildings are frame, and are located as follows: Beaver Dam, in that village; Donation, near John Whitney's; Hill, near Gordon Betts'; Carter Hill; Spencer, near G. W. Spencer's; Clark, near the New York line, on the Wattsburg & Corry road; Fitch, near O. D. Fitch's; McIntire, opposite the Christian Church; Greeley, on land of Erastus Cleveland; Plank Road, on Columbus & Clymer road; Scioto, on land of J. Brewer; Kincaid, near the P. Miller farm.

The mills and factories not otherwise mentioned, are a woolen factory, saw mill and two shingle mills on the Brokenstraw; two saw mills on Hare Creek, and one shingle mill and one saw mill on Slaughter Run. Other saw mills were in operation years ago, but have either burned down or been abandoned. The only railroad is the Buffalo, Corry & Pittsburgh, better known as the "Cross-cut," which runs wholly across the township in its eastern part from Corry to Brocton, N. Y. The Philadelphia & Erie and New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio (formerly the Atlantic & Great Western) roads extend through Concord almost on the south line of Wayne, but nowhere enter the latter township. The main common roads are the Erie, Waterford & Sugar Grove Turnpike, which passes through Corry, Beaver Dam and Union; the Erie & Warren road, which runs through Carter Hill and Wattsburg; the Corry & French Creek, N. Y., up Hare Creek, and the Corry & Clymer, up Scioto Creek. The township owns two good bridges, one across the Brokenstraw, in the northeast, and one across Hare Creek, just outside the city limits of Corry. All of the rest are ordinary structures. The graveyards not previously named are the old Smith, near G. W. Spencer's, and the Jewish Cemetery of Corry, on the Corry road, near the north line of the city. Most of the burials take place in the cemeteries at Corry and Beaver Dam.

The State Fish Hatchery
About a mile west of Corry, on the road leading to Elgin, is the State Fish Hatching Establishment, now, and from the date of its opening, in charge of Seth Weeks. A number of strong springs burst out of the hillside, furnishing a regular supply of cold, pure and healthy water. Several thousand fish of various kinds and sizes may be seen here at all times, swimming about in the little ponds and lakes. The eggs are hatched under the care of Mr. Weeks, and when the young fish attain a proper size they are sent to different parts of the State and put in the streams to which they are adapted. The commonwealth owns nine acres of land at this point, embracing all of the springs that are used for the hatchery.

A little east of north of the fish establishment, on a slight hill upon John Hatch's land, the early settlers found the traces of one of those pre-historic mounds, reference to which has been made in other township sketches. It has been plowed down, and no sign of it is any longer apparent. About half a mile west, on the right hand side of the road from Corry, upon the O'Neill place, is another, the outlines of which are still readily followed. It consists of a circular embankment, with a trench on the outside, from which the dirt was evidently dug, and embraces about three acres, being something like a third larger than the easterly one.

The Pioneers
It has been generally represented that William Smith, who emigrated from Ireland, was the first settler in the township, but this statement is contradicted by an old resident, who says the earliest white inhabitants were Messrs. Hare, Rihue and Call. The first mentioned of these pioneers was Michael Hare, who died in Waterford at the age of one hundred and fifteen years eight months and twenty-two days, and was buried in the cemetery at that place. He and his wife Betty lived in a cabin on the east side of Hare Creek, about a mile north of Corry. It was from him that Hare Creek was named. Hare, Rihue and Call left before the country was cleared up, the former making his home finally at Waterford. Call's location was on the farm owned by Amos Heath, and Rihue's where Mayor Stanford has his brickyard in Corry. During 1797, a man by the name of Prosser went in. Joseph Hall settled at Beaver Dam, in the same year, but afterward changed to Elgin. The settlers in 1798, were William and Samuel Smith and Daniel Findley; in 1800, William Carson and John Kincaide, with his five sons, several of whom were grown; in 1806, William Gray, who changed to Waterford; in 1817, Joseph Grant (a native of New London, Conn.), who moved to Wesleyville late in life; from 1820 to 1824, Daniel Yeager and Messrs. Perkins, Childs and Doud. The Messrs. Smith were followed at an early date by their brothers, James and Robert. Samuel located originally opposite the E. Perkins' place, James in the valley of the South Branch, near the fish establishment, and Robert on the hill near where O. Abbey lives. John Heath, father of Amos, purchased what is now the G. W. Spencer place, in 1827 or 1828, when Amos was a boy of four or five. A Mr. Miller had previously lived on the farm and built a saw mill on the run farther up, which was the first in the township. Matthias Spencer moved to what is known as the Spencer place in March, 1831. He was born in East Haddam, Conn.; changed from there to Columbus, Warren County and then to Wayne Township. In 1865, he went to Erie to live with his son, Dr. H. A. Spencer, where he remained until his death. Isaac Kennedy, father of D. C., settled on the farm where his son resides in 1834. Chauncey G. Rickerson, a native of Windham, Conn., moved into the township in 1835. Robert Osborne, from Beaver County, located on the farm where L. and E. M. Miller lived in 1839, his son R. J. being fourteen years of age at the time. D. W. Howard made his location in 1840, and Philander Miller about the same time. The township did not fill up rapidly till after 1830. John W. Smith, son of William, was the first white child born in the township, the year of his birth being 1800. Joseph Grant commenced in the valley of beaver Dam Run, near the United Brethren Church, where his son Benjamin, the famous Erie lawyer, was born in a log house, which has been destroyed. E. Perkins went in on foot with a pack and an ax.

Prominent Men
The citizens of Wayne Township who have been honored by election to State and county offices are few in number, as will be seen by the following list: Director of the Poor, John G. Kincaide, 1876 to 1879; County Commissioner, L. M. Childs, 1865 to 1871; Assembly, Samuel E. Kincaide, in 1876 and 1878, for two years each time. Amos Heath, Dr. Osborne and D. W. Howard have been frequently nominated by the Democrats for county positions, and D. C. Kennedy has served as a delegate to the Democratic State Convention. Four of the sons of Matthias Spencer became professional men, viz.: Two physicians, Dr. H. A. Spencer, of Erie, and Dr. E. V. Spencer, of Mt. Vernon, Ind.; and two attorneys, John W. Spencer, of Rising Sun, Ind., and Elijah M. Spencer, of Mt. Vernon, Ind. Both of the latter have been members of the Indiana Legislature, and John W. was a Judge at the time of his death.

The Greeleys

The most prominent name associated with the history of Wayne Township is that of Horace Greeley, the great editor and politician. Zaccheus Greeley, the father of Horace, commenced life as a farmer on a small scale in Vermont. Becoming embarrassed, his farm was sold by the Sheriff, and he worked for a time as a laborer in New Hampshire. In the year 1825, having saved a small sum of money, he started to search out a home in the wilds of Pennsylvania, making his way to Wayne Township, near the New York line, where his brothers, Benjamin and Leonard, had gone some two years before. He there purchased 200 acres of land, to which he afterward added 150 acres more. Returning to New Hampshire, he brought his family on in 1826, the party consisting, besides Mr. and Mrs. Greeley, of Barnes, their oldest son, and their three daughters, Esther, Arminda and Marguerite. Horace, who had apprenticed himself in a printing office at Poultney, Vt., did not accompany the family, although pressed hard to do so. During the ensuing four years, he visited them twice in their wilderness home, walking most of the way, and remaining about a month each time. In 1830, he came on again, and after remaining home awhile, found employment for a short period at Jamestown, and in the Gazette office at Erie. Some time during the summer of 1831 he left Erie, called to see his parents in Wayne for a few days, and then started on foot for New York, where he arrived on the 17th of August, with exactly $10 in his pocket. Years after, when he had made a reputation through the New Yorker, he again paid a visit to the township, remaining for a brief period only. It was during this stay that he wrote one of his best poems, "The Faded Stars," beneath the trees near the home of his parents. Zaccheus Greeley and Mary, his wife, both lived the balance of their years on the farm in Wayne and were buried near by. Mrs. Greeley's death occurred about 1854. The father died in 1867, at the age of eighty-seven. Horace Greeley was born on the 3d of February, 1811, in Amherst, Vt., and died in Pleasantville, N. Y., November 29, 1872. Esther, his sister, married Orester Cleveland, long a partner in the New York Tribune. Barnes remained on the homestead farm. Arminda was wedded to her cousin Lovell, and Marguerite united herself to a writing master named Bush, from whom she parted.

Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Township Histories, Chapter XVIII, pp. 824-832.


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