Elk Township (Chap. 52)


edited by A. J. Davis, 1887



By C. F. McNutt.

transcribed by
Gene Shirey

[p. 506]

ELK township, taking its name from Elk Creek (now Deer Creek), a stream flowing through its midst, was originally organized, in March, 1806, by Samuel Dale, John Andrews, and Thomas Beard, commissioners, who about that time surveyed and organized all the townships in Venango county. Elk then embraced a much larger area than it does now, including a large part of Washington, and all but the northwestern corner of Ashland, townships formed afterwards, the former in 1843 and the latter in 1856. Its southern boundary line, however, was farther north than at present, being the southern line of warrants 2738 and 2739 to western boundary of 2324, thence north to the northern boundary of that warrant, and west along it and its successive warrants to the eastern limits of Richland township.

Settlements. -- Mr. Growe, with his family, settled in what is now Elk township, where Jacob W. Kahle lives now, in 1808. Mr. Hartman and family came at the same time and settled on an adjoining farm. These were the first settlers in the township. They cleared some land, but never obtained possession of it. Mr. Growe remained here several years, sometimes preaching for his neighbors on Sunday, and then went to Pittsburgh, where he afterwards committed suicide. None of the descendants of either family are living in the township at present.

Gideon Richardson came from the State of New York to Elk township in 1812, settling near Elk City (now) with his family, including then and afterwards Richard, Charlotte (Hesley), Elizabeth (Jerrard), Caroline (Allen), Thomas and Henry. When he first came here he acted as land agent for Huidekoper and Judge Shippen, but subsequently bought land and improved it. He was a member of the first board of commissioners of Clarion county. Several families of his descendants are still living in the township.

Frederick Black with his family, including William, Jacob, John, Lena [p. 507] (Shippen), and Adam came from Maryland and settled at Canoe Riffle in the edge of Beaver township in 1815. While here he was killed almost instantly when cutting down a tree. In 1820 Mrs. Black and part of the family came to the place where Jacob Black lives now, and here built a dwelling, grist-mill, and saw-mill all of logs. Some of the boys, then married, were left at Canoe Riffle to attend to the carding-machine and saw-mill, which they had built there in the mean time. Mrs. Black in a few years moved to where Paint Creek crosses the pike, and in company with her son, Jacob, built Mary Ann Furnace, so named in honor of the lady who built it. William Chambers had built a saw-mill here in 1820. Jacob Black has been especially active in the development of Elk township, having had a controlling interest in two of the furnaces, a grist-mill, the turnpike, and two or three saw-mills. He has also been a heavy dealer in real estate, and was interested in the oil business during the excitement. Adam Black served one term as commissioner of Clarion county. Several of the descendants of Frederick Black are living in the township at present, and have been closely connected with most of her improvements.

William Rupert, who had come to Canoe Riffle with Blacks, bought the farms now owned by John R. Black and Charles Fisher, from Huidekoper, in April, 1815. The property was afterwards transferred to William Black, who cleared part of it and made some improvements.

In 1817 Peter Kiser came from Westmoreland county and settled in present locality of Elk City. His sons, Daniel and Joseph, own fine farms, and are living near there yet. John Kiser, his brother, who had come with him but remained only a short time, settled permanently on a farm, in 1820, in the valley south of Shippenville. His cbildren, Henry, John F., George B., Peggy, and Amos, were all born here. Henry, George B., and their father -- hearty and strong at the age of ninety-two -- are living here and near by at present. Both Peter and John Kiser followed farming. Some of their descendants are farmers, and some have been engaged in the oil business and also in the mercantile business.
William Meade, came from. Crawford county and settled near Shippenville in 1821, but soon became tired of pioneer life, sold his place, and left.

John Shippen, who had come from Lancaster county, built the first store in Shippenville, in 1822, near the present site of the Union Hotel. Richard Shippen, brother of John, became a partner in the store, and in company with Jacob Black afterwards built Shippenville Furnace. The post-office was established in Shippenville in 1825, and John Shippen was appointed postmaster. In 1827 Henry Shippen, then president judge of Crawford and Venango distriet, built a frame hotel where the Union house now stands.

David Robinsen came from  Huntingdon county and settled where Captain Phipps now lives, in 1822. He was a potter by trade. Nathaniel Langand Jerry Johnston were  early carpenters in the township, and Harry Jenkins was a millwright and carpenter. Their families have all left the township. [p. 508]

Jacob Kahle came from Huntingdon county with his family and settled, in 1826, on the Fryburg road, about two miles north of Shippenville. His sons, Jacob W., and Thomas, are farmers, living in the township at present. A sketch of the life of John W., another son, is given in connection with his portrait in another place in this history. In 1857, Jacob Kahle, sr., was elected associate judge for one term in Clarion county.

Jos. Berlin, with his family, came to the western side of Elk township, on the pike, in 1825. He has been a thrifty farmer, and is living at the same place at present. He is over ninety years of age. Valley post-office was established at his place in 1870. G. N. Berlin is the present postmaster. James McDowell, a farmer, settled near by about the same time. Henry and Francis Swartsfager settled in same locality in 1832. They were farmers. Francis and several families of the descendants are living here at present.

Jesse Berlin came from Ashland (now) to Elk township in 1836, and settled on the farm now owned by Paul Black. He lived there and farmed until 1877, when he moved to Clarion.

Balthasar Hack, a tailor, came from Franklin county to Shippenville in 1838. Henry Sloan worked at the tailor trade in Shippenville before Hack came.

William Johnston came from Centre county to Edenburg in 1844, and the same summer moved to Elk City, where he lived for seven years. He then moved to a farm one mile north of Elk City. His sons operated here for oil during the excitement. John Zellers settled in the vicinity of Pitch Pine at an early date.

Among other early settlers that should be mentioned are the Whitehills, David and Jacob Mong, Dales, living near Elk City, Hyskell, Thompsons and Spades, settling in 1832, Lewis Near, who built the first carding-machine in the township, Jos. Eiseman, Snyders, and others.

Oil Developments. -- In 1875 Bradly & Company drilled a well on the Johnston farm northwest of Elk City, and about the same time another well was drilled on the Jos. Kiser farm. The former produced about fifty barrels per day; the latter was also a good well. At the price of oil at that time, this was sufficient to encourage extensive preparations for operating. Work was commenced much in the same manner here as at Edenburg, Turkey City, St. Petersburg, and other points along the belt between Elk City and Foxburg, and fully described in the local history of those places.

The best producing wells in Elk territory yielded three hundred barrels per day for a short time. Jerusalem No. 1, and Johnson No. 2, drilled by Bradly & Company, and taking their names from the farms on which they were located, and a well drilled by Patterson & Leedom, on the Jos. Kiser farm, were the best producing wells in this field. Farms owned by Paul Black, A. R. Black, Hughlings, Dale, Whitehill, Daniel and Jos. Kiser, Philip Gloss and [p. 509] others, were good oil farms. Miller & Aikens, Bradly & Company, and Patterson & Leedom were extensive operators in this territory. Most of the drilling was done in 1875-76-77.

In 1885 it was discovered that a little belt running across the pike through Shippenville had not been fully developed. Soon afterwards about thirty wells were drilled here, some of which yielded five barrels, others forty and fifty barrels and one or two gave one hundred barrels per day. In all there have been over one thousand wells drilled in Elk township.

Elk City, named from the township, has been strictly an oil town. It literally grew and dwindled away with the excitement. It was built on farms owned by Daniel Kiser and Paul Black, nearly all on leased lots. The village was commenced in 1875 and reached the zenith of its glory in the winter of 1876-77, when it had a population of over 3,000. The buildings were of a very temporary kind, set on posts, no wall foundations under any of them. The Elk City post-office was established here in 1875, and soon rose to the rank of presidential appointment, with a salary of $2,000. The postmasters in order from the first are J. U. Heiniger, T. B. Galbraith, W. H. Kiser and William Hull, the present incumbent, with a salary of less than $140 a year. In 1877 there were ten or more hotels, numerous boardinghouses, saloons, and stores of all kinds. There was a police force established in Elk City in 1876, but this measure seemed to be quite insufficient for the demands, and consequently much lawlessness prevailed on the streets, in saloons and other places. At present there are here about two dozen houses and a population of less than one hundred. The oil excitement left very little wealth in this town.

Shippenville was named in honor of Judge Henry Shippen, who owned the land on which it was built. Most of the early settlers of this village have already been mentioned in connection with the early settlers of the township, and need not be repeated in this topic. This town has been a business center in the township from the time the first settlements were made until the present. The two main roads in the township, the pike, and the road from Fryburg to Edenburg cross at this place, thus making Shippenville the favorable location for a central town, though it is near the eastern side of the township.

John King, the first blacksmith in the township, came from Huntingdon county, and built a shop near the present site of Woodburn's store in Shippenville in 1823. Frederick Kahle built the first hotel in the village in 1824, having come here two years before with his father-in-law, George Hyskell. Judge Henry Shippen built a frame hotel on present site of the Union House in 1827. It was at first kept by Dr. Patton. John and Adam Black bought the property in 1835 and conducted the hotel in partnership. John became sole owner afterwards. At his death it fell to his widow, who still owns it. Mr. Dahle is the present landlord. John and Adam Black also kept store in [p. 510] town for several years. The second store here was built by Robert and John Patton in 1828. Richard Richardson also had a store here at an early date. Other stores of a later date that should be mentioned are J. Shull's furniture store, W. N. Wilson's hardware store and harness shop, Kiser's, Woodburn's, and William R. Shippen's general store, Jones's and Ehler's grocery, and Dr. Isaac Meas's drug store.

David Hosterrnan built a tannery in the east end of the town in 1829, and Robert Ray built one near by a year or two afterwards. James Hassen, the first sheriff of Clarion county, built a grist-mill just west of Shippenville. It afterwards became the property of Mr. Baker, who owns it at present, and has kept it in running order.

James Wilkins built a hotel, known at that time as the American House, in 1881, and afterwards sold it to Hugh Carson. In 1863 Jacob Shaffer bought it, and changed the name to Shaffer House. In 1884 Shaffer sold it to Captain V. Phipps, the present owner and landlord. Shippenville, at present, has a population of over 300.

Organized Societies. -- I. O. O. F. of Elk City Lodge, No. 948, was organized in Elk City April 11, 1877, where meetings were held every Saturday evening until October 2, 1883. Since then lodge meets every Saturday evening in A. O. U. W. Hall, on Main street, Shippenville. The following are the names of the first officers: F. George Smith, noble grand; S. M. Smith, V. G.; W. M. Rogers, secretary; Michael Mayer, assistant secretary; and I. D. McDowell, treasurer.

Mountain Lodge, No. 114, A. O. U. W., was organized July 24, 1877, in Elk City, where meetings were held every Tuesday evening until October 2, 1883, when place of meeting was changed to A. O. U. W. Hall, on Main street, Shippenville. Officers are elected every six months. The first set elected were H. S. Lynch, P. M. W.; J. F. Duncan, M. W.; George W. Marshall, foreman; John H. Eminger, overseer; L. D. Thurston, recorder; J. B. Maitland, financier; John U. Heiniger, receiver, and George B. Quigley, guide.

Equitable Aid Union was organized in Shippenville, April 14, 1882. It meets in E. A. U. Hall, over W. N. Wilson's hardware store, every Friday evening. Officers elected every six months. G. W. Marshall is president and Miss Ada Shaw, vice-president.

Amos Kiser Post, No. 475, G. A. R., was organized in Shippenville, March 19, 1885, and meets on the second and fourth Saturdays in each month in E. A. U. Hall, over Wilson's hardware store, in Shippenville. The first officers were as follows: Com., V. Phipps; sen. vice-com., James Richardson; jr. vice-com., George F. Kapp; Q. M., G. B. Kiser; serg., A. M. Brenneman; chaplain, Rev. J. M. Wonders; officer of the day, A. M. Thomas; adj., H. J. Fisher; officer of the guard, Samuel McCoy; Q. M. S., Jno. M. Kepler; serj. maj.; H. S. Lockart. Officers elected annually. V. Phipps, Samuel McCoy, [p. 511] Rev. Wonders, and George B. Kiser have been retained in the offices to which they were first elected.

Amos Kiser, W. R. C., No. 55, was organized in Shippenville October 18, 1886, and meets in E. A. U. Hall the first and third Mondays of each month. Officers at present are Mrs. H. S. Lockart, pres.; Mrs. W. N. Wilson, sen. vice-pres.; Mrs. Jacob Shull, jr. vice-pres.; and Maggie Black, sec.

W. C. T. U. of Shippenville was organized May 6, 1886, by Mrs. J. S. Elder, of Clarion, and Mrs. Mayer, of Allegheny. It meets every two weeks around in the neighbors' houses.

Sons of Veterans, No. 188, was organized in Shippenville April 27, 1887, with ten charter members; organization meets in E. A. U. Hall the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Frank F. Fisher was elected captain at the first meeting.

Pitch Pine is a little village built on an eminence formerly covered over with pitch pine trees, from which it took its name, in the northwestern part of the township. It contains one blacksmith shop, two stores, and eight or ten dwellings, all built within the last fifteen years. The post-office here, named Haynie, was established in April, 1887, and J. R. Sandrock appointed postmaster. First house here was built by John Swab.

Furnaces. -- There were four furnaces in the township, named as follows: Shippenville, Mary Ann, Deer Creek, and Elk.

Schools. -- The first school-house in what is now Elk township, was built of logs in 1825. It was located in Shippenville, just below the present site of the Shaffer Hotel. In a few years this one was abandoned and another log building erected on the hill near the grave-yard. There was also a log house built about two miles north of Shippenville, on Fryburg road, near Jacob Kahle's. These, like other early school-houses, in the county, were used for holding public worship, debating clubs, etc.

At present there are ten public schools in the township. The buildings are all in good repair and seated with patent furniture. At Shippenville there are two buildings -- one for the primary and one for the advanced grade. During the winter of 1866-7, the highest average wages paid for teaching in the townships of the county was paid in Elk township. James Richardson, W. N. Wilson, Jno. R. Black and others, have for several years been actively interested in the schools.

Churches. -- Lutheran Congregation. -- On August 27, 1823, the site of the present cemetery was purchased from Henry Shippen. For thirteen years services were held in the grove by missionaries, or in the school-house built on the west side of the lot. In 1836 a rude church was erected here but was never completed or dedicated. It was supplanted by the present commodious building, completed and dedicated in 1844. Though there were a few families of Lutherans who arrived at an early date, yet no organization was effected [p. 512] until 1836. The first regular located pastor here was Rev. G. F. Ehrenfelt, who remained four years. It was during this period that dissension took place in the congregation, and most of the German element withdrew and organized under Rev. Brasch. This dissension, in connection with the financial depression in the iron interest at that time, left them with a church debt which remained until 1852, when the church was sold by the sheriff to J. Black, sr., for $5oo. It was re-purchased and deeded to the trustees of the congregation in 1854.

On June 5, 1845, the Pittsburgh Synod held its first convention here. Rev. Jacob Steck was president, and preached on the following Sabbath.

Rev. Ehrenfelt's successor was Rev. S. D. Witt, who remained as pastor nearly six years, and was removed by death while on a visit to Ohio. The following were the remaining successors: Rev. J. G. Ellinger, one year; Rev. J. B. Lawson, four years; Rev. Bechtell, three years; Rev. J. B. Fox, four years, Rev. J. F. Deittrich, four years; Rev. P. Geen, one year; Rev. C. S. Coats, three years; Rev. A. C. Felker, one year. On March 16, 1878, the division of the Salem pastorate was effected, and the Shippenville charge formed by uniting St. Mark's of Ashland and Zion's of Shippenville, and Rev. J. M. Wonders became their pastor. He is still serving them faithfully, being the tenth year of his pastorate. The Zion congregation at present numbers one hundred and thirty members, with a prosperous Sunday-school of one hundred and seventy scholars.

M. E. Church. -- There are four M. E. congregations in the township. The one at Shippenville was organized first in 1844. The next one organized built a church near Pitch Pine. When this building became dilapidated and a new one was to be built in 1882, the members could not agree on the location, and as a result two new congregations were organized, and each built a house of its own in 1882. Pitch Pine congregation was organized by W. J. Barton, and church was built in their village. Rev. Mr. Gearhart is their present pastor. Haven congregation was organized by Rev. J. Bell Neff, and their church was built in the same year, a mile or so south of Pitch Pine. The M. E. church at Elk City was built in 1876. Of the circuit including Shippenville, Elk City, and Haven, Rev. H. A. Teats is at present, and has been for the past two years, their pastor, and Rev. J. Bell Neff served the three years immediately preceding Rev. Teat's pastorate.

U. P. Church, in Elk City, was built in l876, and afterwards sold at sheriff's sale. Rev. Mr. Robinson, of Brookville, has control of it at present, and is its pastor, preaching here only occasionally.

The writer wishes to acknowledge the courtesy of Mr. John Kiser, Rev. J. M. Wonders, Captain Phipps, John R. Black, Jesse Berlin, and others, for the history of this township.

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