Ashland Township (Chap. 43)


edited by A. J. Davis, 1887



by C. E. Rugh

transcribed by
Gene Shirey

ASHLAND township was formed from parts of Elk and Richland townships in 1856. Ashland township is bounded on the north by Venango county; on the east by Elk township; on the south by Beaver and Salem townships; and on the west by Salem township and Venango county.

The greatest length of the township is from north to south, five and one-half miles; average length five miles. The greatest breadth is four and seven-eighth miles; average, four and one-half miles.

The surface of the township is greatly diversified, as the flow of the streams will show. No mountains rear their lofty heads within her limits, but the water course of every stream is lined with hills. The southern part is comparatively level, but the main part of the township is very hilly, abounding in small, beautiful valleys. The one peculiar characteristic of its hills is, none are precipitous, but all gently sloping, well rounded knobs. The most elevated and beautiful are the Howe and Rhodes hills, which seem like twins.

In this small scope of land the drainage is effected by two definitely marked systems of streams, which seem to be divided by the public road running from Mount Pleasant, north and east to the John Martin farm. The northern or greater system, draining the north and west, is carried by four streams west into the Allegheny River. The principal and most northern is East Sandy Creek, which rises in Washington township, and in its southwestern course cuts both corners of that arm on the northeast corner of the township, known as Shippen land. It then flows across the corner of Venango county, and just a short distance up the stream from where it again enters the township, it receives the drainage of the northwest through McCogley's Run - since the oil excitement know as Cogley Run; this rises in Elk township, but is formed in Ashland, and is carried west into the Allegheny. Little Sandy is the second stream in size, but first in importance, because it drains over half of the township. In its western course it receives the water of at least a score of smaller streams. Pine and Kolp's Run take their rise in this township. Date Run drains the western arm.

The most productive portion of the township is drained into the Clarion River by the headwaters of Beaver and Canoe Creeks. As a whole the township is well watered and well drained.

The pursuits of the people of the township have varied with changing times and new industries, but in every case they have returned to the " old reliable" occupation of farming and stock raising. The iron industry once stirred her citizens. Twice have the citizens neglected their farms in search of wealth through petroleum, but the natural features of the central, southern, and western parts make farming profitable. There are some very fine farms in this part of the township. No pains are spared in limeing and fertilizing. A few of the farms that deserve mention are the Armstrong, Howe, Phipps, Rhodes, Hockman, Mongs, Millers, and Kribbs farms.

Bituminous coal underlies most of the hills. The Shively bank was extensively worked during both oil excitements. This bank is situated near the Stone House. In the few last years a considerable amount of coal has been found north of the pike in "Germany."

The Phipps and Howe limestone banks are worked, but these do not supply the demands of the township.

At one time the iron industry was extensively carried on in Ashland. A bank on the Phipps farm was extensively worked. The ore was hauled to the Black and Hasson furnaces near Shippenville.

The most extensive bank was opened on the Kutcher farm in 1840. The winter of 1841 was one of the most stirring in the history, of the township. Over sixty teams were employed at one time in hauling the ore to Dempsie's furnace.

The ore on Mr. Kutcher's farm made him one of the wealthiest citizens in the township, or in the county, for some time. Four culprits determined on relieving him of part of his money. They entered his house, and after beating him and his wife till they were almost dead, ransacked the house from cellar to loft, emptying every thing. They secured only thirty-five dollars and a gun. The gun was afterward found.

The finding of petroleum in the northern part of the township has, within the last three years, given rise to an industry that has made Ashland one of the richest townships in the county. The history of the oil development of the township is quite broken. M. E. Hess drilled the first well on the Moon farm in 1872, and found oil in a paying quantity. Soon after, a few wells were drilled on the Kribbs farm, finding a little oil. This was about the time of the Edenburg excitement, but there was no general excitement until the finding and development of


The Cogley oil field was named after the McCogley Run in the northern part of the township. Acknowledgment is due Mr. George Koch, of East Sandy, who furnished the facts concerning the Cogley field. He was also one of the prominent men in bringing about the proper development of this field, as the facts will show. We give below the facts and wells that developed the field:

During the summer of 1873, Mr. Peter Schreiber, of Oil City, drilled a well upon the Strutman farm, finding twenty feet of oil sand and a showing of oil. It produced several barrels per day for some time, but was at last abandoned. A second well was drilled on the Widican farm, southwest of the Schreiber well, finding the oil sand. The third well was drilled on the same line about a mile southwest, near the Dunkard Church, finding the oil sand and some oil. Two miles west, on the Abby farm, there was a well drilled in which was found the oil sand and a better showing for oil. The formation was good, and this induced Mr. J. M. Deitrich, a supervisor on the Western Union Telegraph line, to make an effort, in the fall of 1884, to further test that territory, as he owned considerable land in that section. He talked with his neighbors concerning the possibilities of finding oil on their farms, and the result was that "The Cogley Oil Company," consisting of Messrs. Deitrich, Young, Maxwell, Berlin, Etzle, and Starr, was formed. This company obtained a number of leases, ranging from ten to forty acres at one-eigth royalty, from the farmers. In December a well was located on the Berlin farm and the drill started. The oil sand was struck January 3, 1885, at a depth of 985 feet, and after drilling four feet the hole commenced to fill up with oil. They immediately shut down, but resumed work on the 6th, and on the 7th the well made a flow in the presence of a number of oil men and farmers. They found eighteen feet of peculiar looking sand. It was dark, soft, filled with fine pebbles, and resembled the stray sand of Venango. It differed from any pebble sand heretofore found. This well was tubed and started to pump on the 8th of January, and produced about eight barrels per day for a month. It was then torpedoed, after which it produced twenty barrels.

The territory was not rated high, nor held first-class, on account of the thin, dark-colored sand, but the Kahle Brothers, Young Farm Oil Company, and the McKeever Company started their drills on the Young farm.

Barber soon started on the Deitrich farm, and Patterson & Ledom commenced on the Berlin farm.

The Kahle Brothers and Young Farm Oil Company both struck the oil sand on March 12. The Kahle well produced sixty barrels per day, and the Young Farm Oil Company's well produced fifty-five barrels.

The McKeever well was finished on March 24, and produced fifty barrels per day. All these wells were close together, and did little in defining the field.

Patterson & Ledom finished a thirty-barrel well April 1, which widened the field to the west a quarter of a mile. Barber's location being close to Cogley No. 1, was considered a prime location, but, to the surprise of all, came in on the 8th of April, after torpedoing, at twelve barrels per day.

May 16, Wood & Company's well, on the Young farm, came in doing thirty barrels. May 30, Booth & White's well was finished, and produced thirty barrels per day. This widened the field to the south. June 1, Howe & Company struck a ten-barrel well on the Kennemuth farm. May 2, Yonkers & Deitrich struck an eight-barrel well on the Deitrich farm. These wells were on the southwest end of the belt as then developed, which led many to believe that the field was light in that direction, but Matison & Colaron, Stayley & McDonald, Wood & McEntire, and Urquhart & Levens on the Young farm, and J. B. Smithman on the Fisher farm, all struck good wells, and June 6, Koch & Co. struck a fifty-barrel well on the Young farm; June 7, Fertig & Henne finished up a one hundred and twenty-barrel well on the Rickenbrode farm; Urquhart & Levens drilled three wells on the Young farm, doing one hundred barrels; Roess Brothers, on the same farm, struck two wells doing sixty barrels; Crawford & Brother's well, on the Strutman farm, came in doing sixty barrels; Fertig & Henne struck a sixty-barrel well on the Gibbs farm; and these caused the town of Cogley City to be built on the Young and Strutman farms.

June 10, 1885, Koch Brothers & Goettel struck a well on the M. P. Hess farm that produced one hundred and fifty-five barrels per day. This well was located one mile southwest of the Young farm, in the territory that before was considered dry or very light. It was a wild-cat well, and the best that has yet been found in the Cogley field. It was visited by hundreds of people. Gillespie & Peters struck a fifty-barrel well on the same farm July 15; August 11, J. B. Smithman struck a seventy-five-barrel well on the Ben Hess farm; Urquhart & Levens struck a fifty-barrel well on the M. P. Hess farm, and a seventy-five barrel well on the Henel lot August 12. On the 14th of August Koch and Goettel, No. 2, on the M. P. Hess farm, came in doing thirty barrels per day, and in one week after it was struck, fourteen wells were under way on the adjoining farms. North of the M. P. Hess farm, on the Deitrich place, Holt & Morrison found a fifty-barrel well July 17; July 17, Stayley & McDonald struck a seventy-five-barrel well, and Koch, Swatzfager & Co. a sixty-barrel well on the same farm; August 21, Koch Oil Co. struck a sixty-barrel well on the Will Hess farm; August 14, Hunter & Co. struck a thirty-five-barrel well on the Beals farm, one mile southwest of the M. P. Hess farm; Shaffer & Co. struck a twenty-barrel well on the Miller farm, two miles southwest. The full length, or nearly so, was now developed, and it was sure territory within the belt limits. January, 1886, operations began to decline on account of the full development of the territory. No dry wells were found inside of the limits of the field. The oil is of a superior quality and has received a good premium, ranging from seven to fourteen cents.

During November, 1886, the field produced 5,416 barrels per day, and the wells do not decline as fast as those in other pebble territory. This field is 1,400 rods long and 300 rods wide, containing about 2,625 acres. The northern end is the wider, but the southern end proved the most prolific, and attracted the most attention.

The oil sand is soft, well filled with fine pebbles; the drilling is hard, and cost fifty cents a foot at the opening of the field, but soon advanced to sixty cents a foot. Most of the drilling was done at this price.

An idea of the position and thickness of the strata may be had from the complete record of the well of Koch & Brothers, on the John Young farm, finished July 16, i885, producing fifty barrels per day:

Name of Strata. Depth feet.  Thickness feet.
1 Conductor -- 12
2 Coal 12 2
3 Black slate 14 2
4 Homewood sand 16 214
5 Slate 230 40
6 Sand 270 15
7 Red sand 285 5
8 Slate and shell 290 64
9 Salt-water sand 354 80
Cased at 427 feet
10 First sand 760 40
Red sand 800 10
Gas sand 810 20
Slate 948 12
Boulder 960 20
Soft slate 980 28
Third sand 1,008 19
Slate 1,027 6
Depth 1,033 --
The first settlers purchased their farms from Huidekooper, Bingham Land Company, Bear, or Wright, these having bought land from the Holland Land Company.

The facts concerning the history of the early settlers are quite as uncertain as most legendary history, but will be given as related by their favored descendants.

Thomas Washington Mays was one of the earliest settlers. He purchased some land from Huidekooper, upon which he settled in 1804. His son, William Mays, in company with his brother, carrying their provisions, and seed corn and beans upon their backs, drove their cattle from Westmoreland county, through the wilderness, to the land now known as the Hockman farm. The family did not arrive as soon as anticipated, and they were compelled to use their seed corn and beans for food. This scanty supply was soon consumed, and they were compelled to leave their cattle to go in search of food. They had the good fortune to find the home of an old Westmoreland acquaintance in the person of Henry Best, on Beaver Creek. Their hunger was soon relieved, and with heavy loads but light hearts they started back to their new home. On their way home they were pursued by a pack of wolves that seemed as hungry as they had been. These wolves gave them no little uneasiness. The family at last arrived, and a rude house was hastily erected for their shelter. This was the first building within the limits of the township. Mr. Mays also planted the first fruit tree in the township, which still stands by the corner of Mr. Hockman's house. The tree is about six feet in circumference, and has borne fruit for over eighty successive summers, and is still fruitful. The title to Mr. Mays's farm was not clear, and "the land was bought out from in under him," as it was then expressed. He then moved on to the land now known as the Starr farm, where he died.

In the early part of the year after Mays settled, a man by the name of Samuel Fry settled on the farm now known as the Knight farm. In the same year Mr. Harold purchased the land now owned by Robert Armstrong. In 1806, Nathan Phipps, from Westmoreland county, settled on the farm now owned by Nathan Phipps, the third. Soon after Mr. Phipps's arrival in these parts Nathan Phipps, jr. was born, he being the first child born in the township. Mr. Barnhart Martin settled upon the Martin farm in 1807. Mr. Martin was born October 12, 1786, in Germany, near the Rhine, but was educated in France. He was a man of letters, and esteemed very highly by all the old settlers. He was their counselor in all affairs, and was the first justice of the peace, holding that office till his death, which occurred February, 1866.

In 1809 Mr. Robert Armstrong settled on the farm now owned by his son, the youngest of his twelve children, to whom acknowledgment is due for the interest he has taken in the history of the township. Robert Armstrong, sr., was a native of Ireland. He was born near Innishillen, August 2, 1782. Emigrating to America in 1795, he married Miss Sarah Harold May 8, 1808. He died August 4, 1854. Sarah Harold was born in Blacklick township, Indiana county, Pa., September 2, 1784, died April 22, 1865.

One year after their marriage they moved to Ashland township, where they remained during their lives. Soon after arriving he turned his horses out to pasture and they went back to Westmoreland county, where they had come from. Among the many incidents of interest that are found in Mr. Armstrong's history, the following deserve mention: One quiet evening as he was preparing his fuel for the night, for in those times "we had to work at night to make both ends meet," they said, a squad of Indians, twelve adults with two or three papooses, were seen advancing up the hill towards the house. With the courage of a pioneer father he held a firm grasp upon his ax, and taking the sober second thought he chopped away in an unconcerned manner, looking up to show the red men that he knew they were coming. When the Indians came up to him he laid down his ax, and offered each one his hand of friendship, which they kindly accepted. By signs he led them into the house, and ordered Mrs. Armstrong to get them the best supper within her means, which she hastily did. The Indians were very bold, and searched every corner, and on finding a bottle, some of them asked for 'um;' others asked for 'white man's yum,' wanting 'firewater,' or rum. Mr. Armstrong, to show that he trusted them, and wanted to be on friendly terms with them, put his first born babe, which is always the dearest baby in the world, in the lap of the one he thought the leader. This gave Mrs. Armstrong such uneasiness that she could hardly proceed with the supper. The chief played a few minutes with the baby, but soon laid it on the floor. Each of these victories gave the Armstrongs pleasure, but their very souls were filled with an aching uncertainty, and such an anxiety, that they never forgot that night. After finishing their supper the Indians passed on, leaving the Armstrongs to rejoice over this first visit from the natives. The Indians frequently passed along the little brook below their house, but they were never molested by them.

Mr. George Berlin settled on the farm now owned by his son, William, in 1810. Mr. Berlin was born September 12, 1782, in Little York, York county, Pa. He was a blacksmith by trade. All the people within a radius of ten miles came to his shop for their work to be done, yet he had time to farm. He broke the land with a shear plow, himself acting, as horse, while his wife held the plow.

The first carding-machine in this section of the country was owned by Mr. Berlin. It was run by horse-power. Wool was brought from sixteen miles around to be carded, which fact leads us to judge that it was the first carding-machine in the county. Mr. Berlin kept tavern also, and the Susquehanna and Waterford Turnpike was graded past his tavern in 1818. Mrs. Berlin baked every day to supply the men working on this road. This is well remembered by his oldest son, Jesse, who said he had to chop bake-wood.

Messrs. Joseph Kutcher, Henry Neely, Henry Swab, Henry Mong, John Miller, and others, also settled soon after those mentioned above. The history of the trials and hardships borne by these early settlers is the same story told of all pioneer fathers, with the names changed.

The need of a grist-mill was the source of most of their inconvenience, but sometimes they had nothing to grind if they had had a mill. Some of these early settlers lived six weeks on milk and potatoes. Salt was a precious thing to them. It cost four dollars per bushel, and had to be packed from "east of the mountains." They manufactured their sugar and most of their cloth. Calico cost fifty cents per yard. They had no wagons, but hauled everything on "pin sleds." They tramped or flailed their grain out and cleaned it in a sheet.

In all wars in which the United States have been engaged, Ashland township has furnished her full share of brave and gallant troops, and was especially well represented in the War of 1812. On a quiet afternoon in July the citizens of the township that were fit were summoned to be ready the next morning for the march to Lake Erie. This draft came right in harvest, and was a trying time for them to leave everything to their wives. But like true patriots they started for the lake and arrived there before Perry's famous battle. They returned some time in the winter, and were drafted again in the spring and marched toward the northern boundary of the United States. They took part in the battle of Lundy's Lane. All returned safe and sound, and found their families in good condition.

The first mail received in Ashland township was carried and distributed by Dr. Powell. He carried it from Franklin, and after leaving the house of Thomas Mays, he saw or passed no other building till he reached Franklin. There was no road and he followed a path through the wilderness.

The first post-office in the township was established at Kossuth, and opened up by Mr. Ed. Heeter. It is now kept by James Lamberton, and is a fourth-class office; but Mr. Smith, postmaster during the oil excitement, says that during the greatest excitement he canceled stamps to the amount of $300 per day. This same oil excitement caused a second office of the township to be established at Fern City, under the name of Fern Post-office, September 12, 1885. The office was first kept by William Hockman. He resigned in April, i886, and was succeeded by Mr. J. C. Berlin, the present master.

The first town in the township was Mt. Pleasant, more commonly called Ninevah.

Cogley City was located on the Young and Strutman farms, and like most oil towns, had a mushroom growth. The building was begun in May, 1885, and it soon contained a machine shop, a blacksmith shop, two livery stables, eight stores, three hotels, six boardinghouses, and a billiard saloon and skating rink. All these did a thriving business, but as soon as Fern City began to build, Cogley declined, and by January, i886, little was left to show its location.

Kossuth was located on the Pike. It was named after the post-office at this place. It was built with the hope that it was on the oil belt, and by January, 1886, it had a population of 400. It contained three hotels, two hardware stores, one machine shop, one drug store, nine stores, one blacksmith shop, two oil offices, five saloons, one billiard saloon, and the post-office. Several wells were drilled near the town. They were all dry and this caused the town to decline. At present, January, 1887, there is little more of a town than before the oil excitement.

Fern City is built on the M. P. Hess and Fern farms, and was named after the latter.

June 10, 1885, Koch & Goettell struck the greatest well in this field. It produced one hundred and fifty-five barrels per day. This caused a town to commence to build. Mong & Hockman's hardware store was the first building. One month after they built, the town had a population of three hundred, and at the end of the second month the population was six hundred. It then contained one hardware store, nine stores, three meat-markets, four hotels, seven boarding-houses, one drug-store, one post-office, one harness-shop, one livery-stable, two blacksmith shops, five barber-shops, three oil offices, one gas office, two news-rooms, one newspaper, and thirteen saloons. It was said by those who followed the oil excitement that this was one of the wickedest towns ever built. The Sabbath day was made hideous by drunken fights. After the drilling was done the town became quite respectable. At present, January, 1887, the population is 350. This town will likely last as long as the wells in this section produce.

The first school-house was built on the Armstrong farm some years before 1820. This house served as church and for all public meetings. The first teacher was Thomas Thomson. In 1833 a man by the name of Thomas Barr was "keeping school" in this house. He got drunk one day and slept in the school-house the after part of the day and in the evening. Some time in the night Mr. Armstrong saw the house on fire. He hurried down, expecting to find the master burned, but he had crept out and was lying in a fence corner near by. Another house was built on the same location, which is still standing. On the wall within is written, "Evacuated in 1839." The next school was held in the public school-house called the "Shivelie school-house." This was the first school under the public school system. Soon after a school was started on the Miller farm. These houses were built by the citizens of the district, but the teachers were paid out of tax. The first teachers under the public system were Mr. Ab. Teats and Mr. Neri Boyer.

The township at present supports seven schools.

The first religious meeting was a Methodist meeting held in Mr. Robert Armstrong's house in 1810. One of the first preachers was a Rev. Bear, from the Baltimore Conference.

The first German Reformed preacher was a Rev, Henry Koch, who was the first pastor to preach in the first church in the county for miles around.

Many congregations were formed in the township, sometimes preaching in the open air. The school-houses were used for many years. Prayer-meetings were frequently held in private houses.

Though the people were active in their religious matters, yet there were no churches built within the township until about the time of the organization of the township. This was an Evangelical Lutheran Church, known as the St. Mark's Church. Their first minister was Rev. Witt, who organized a congregation many years before this church was built. The first pastor to preach in the new church was Rev. Bachtle.

This church was replaced by a magnificent building in 1882. This is one of the finest country churches in the county. It has a Sunday-school room, that by folding doors can be thrown into the auditorium. It was built through the efforts of Rev. J. M. Wouders.

There are besides this church a German Reform Church, an Evangelist Church, and a Dunkard Church.

1) This was by no means the most important or productive oil field in the county, but the account here given is a fair type of the developments of all oil territories.

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