The area of the township is about thirty square miles. The surface in some parts is quite hilly, while in others it is pleasantly undulating. In the northern, western, and southern portions, the surface is principally covered with dense forests of pine, hemlock, oak, chestnut, etc., while the cleared portions of the township embrace the central and eastern parts. As has already been noticed, the township is bounded on the north, west and south by Clarion River and Big Mill Creek. These streams are fed by numerous tributaries having their sources in the township. Among the tributaries are Woodís Run, Stroupís Run and Trap Run, which flow south into Mill Creek; and Blyson and Davis Run, Maxwell Run and Pine Run, which flow west into Clarion River.
The soil is generally very fertile, owing to the fact that portions have been but recently settled and cultivated. The climate, like all of Clarion County, is usually severe in the winter, and warm in the summer. The chief vegetable productions are corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, etc. The principal grasses grown are timothy and clover.
The different species of fruits, such as the apple -- summer, autumn, and winter varieties -- the peach, the pear -- autumn and winter varieties -- plums, quinces, cherries -- black and red, and grapes, grow in abundance, the peach perhaps, being the least extensively grown, on account of the severity of the winters.
Garden vegetables such as cabbage, tomatoes, beets, turnips, celery, radishes, and onions, are grown by every family.
The principal domestic animals are the horse, cow, sheep, and swine. Wild animals have almost entirely disappeared before the march of civilization; however, a few deer and certain species of the fox still roam at will over the hills and through the dense forests. Mill Creek has some fine teams of draught horses. Sheep are extensively raised.
The hills of Mill creek are all underlaid with veins of bituminous coal, but this valuable mineral has as yet remained undeveloped, wood fuel having been cheifly used by the inhabitants from the earliest settlements down to the present time. Iron ore is also found, but not to any great extent. Limestone exists in abundance, and is extensively quarried, being used as a fertilizer.
There are within the present limits of the township, two religious societies, a Methodist Episcopal, and a Presbyterian; each society has its own church edifice. These churches are located near each other, in about the center of the township, at a place know as Fisher Post-office, and are the only churches erected within the present limit. They are both white frame structures, and have a seating capacity of each about three hundred.
Ever since the first settlements, education has received fair attention, being fostered by the inhabitants as something altogether indispensable. The first schoolhouses, of course, were rude log buildings. At present there are in the township six public schools, conducted by as many teachers, and attended by about two hundred and fifty pupils. The structures are generally new, and reflect great credit upon the township.
The first dry goods and grocery store in the township still exists, and is located at Fisher Post-office. It is owned and kept by Thomas Daugherty, who has control of the post-office also. The post-office is the only one in the township, and is supplied with mail tri-weekly. During the summer of 1884 Dr. J. H. Barber, of Strattanville, PA, erected near the above named store, a fine edifice designed as a storeroom and dwelling combined. The storeroom has since been stocked with a fine selection of dry goods and groceries.
About fifty years ago the first settlements were made in Mill Creek
Township. Among the earliest settlers were Solomon Terwilliger, Neil
Daugherty, Henry Potter, Robert McCaskey, Thomas Johnson, John Fisher,
Martin McCanna, Samuel Thompson, and Peter McLaughlin. These men,
or their parents, generally came from the eastern part of Pennsylvania,
and were chiefly agriculturists. Few, if any, of these first settlers
are now living; their bodies lie buried in the burial grounds of the above-named
churches. The early settlers of Mill Creek did not have to undergo
as many hardships as did the settlers of many of their sister townships,
from the fact that they were no so much isolated from neighbors.
Their nearest neighbors -- the settlers of Clarion township -- were but
from three to five miles distant. At that time Mill Creek was nearly
all a vast forest, being covered by trees of prodigious six. The
settlers, in order to prepare the soil for farming, were compelled from
the beginning to hew down the monarchs of the forest, thus "clearing" the
land of all trees. The process of "clearing", as it is termed,
was attended by much hard labor, and was done about as follows: The
trees and brush were all felled, being chopped off about two feet from
the ground. After lying till they became dry, they were set on fire
and all the brush and small wood would be consumed, while the surface of
the large trunks would only be charred and turned black. These were
then split into rails for the purpose of "fencing in" the clearing.
The fences built were called "worm fences," and are still used to the exclusion
of wire or board fences. The process of clearing farms is still carried
on in many parts of the township. The first houses and barns erected
were built of logs, some hewed, and others left round, the bark only being
taken off, but these ancient buildings have nearly all given way to more
modern frame structures, many of which are very comfortable and well built.
Here and there may still be seen a log house or log barn, but they are
disappearing fast, and ere long not one will remain standing to remind
the people of earlier days. From the period of the first settlement
to the present time, the township has been gradually changing from a vast
forest to a territory abounding in beautiful farms and pleasant houses.
The population has gradually increased till it now numbers about seven
hundred. The people are industrious. The survivors of the late
war, residing with the township, have, with their comrades of Clarion Township
and Strattanville borough, organized a G. A. R. Post, located at Strattanville.
Lumbering has been extensively carried on for a score or more years, and
it is the leading industry today. There have been erected four saw
mills, three boat scaffolds, and one stave mill, all of which are yet in
active operation. During the earlier stages of the lumbering business
the majority of the lumber then exported was felled, and floated down the
Clarion and Allegheny Rivers to Pittsburgh, Pa., in log rafts. This
is still carried on to a certain extent, but the majority of lumber now
sent to market is first sawed into boards, shingles, etc., and then floated
in rafts. At the boat scaffolds are built boats, such as are used
to float coal on the Ohio and Monongahela Rivers. The principal amount
of lumbering within the township is carried on along the stream known as
Mill Creek. This stream is some twenty-five miles in length.
It rises in the northwestern part of Jefferson County, Pa., and flows westerly,
emptying its waters into the Clarion River, about forty miles from its
mouth. In 1840 Algernon S. Howe was the owner of nearly all the timberland
of the township. About this time James W. Guthrie, and others, secured
by warrant and purchased a large tract, but the main body fell into the
hands of Madison, Burnell & Co., of Jamestown, N. Y., in the year 1853.
The above mentioned gentlemen have all passed away, and the present owners
-- Messrs. Marvin & Rulofson -- carry on an extensive business, their
mill, at the mouth of Mill Creek, being pronounced by competent judges,
one of the best in the United States. The mill is in size forty by
sixty-five feet, and was first designed as a gang-mill, but in 1883 it
was changed to a circular, with all modern improvements complete.
Logs designed to be sawed are driven down the stream, and halted in the
pond by means of press booms; they are then floated into the mill in a
flume, six by thirty feet, the water being about two feet beneath the floor
of the mill. A chain passing under the logs is drawn up by friction
wheels, and the logs are rolled on to the skid way and in reach of the
log-turner, which receives its power from two steam cylinders. These
cylinders work the turner very much like a human arm, the different motions
being given it by gently handling a lever. The power of this turner
is simply wonderful. The logs are now on the carriage of one of Stearns
& Coís. best mills. This carriage is propelled by a steam-engine,
and is also controlled by gentle pressure on a lever. The saw is
sixty inches in diameter, and has a speed of six hundred revolutions a
minute. Two of Stearns & Co.ís flue-boilers -- five by fourteen
feet, furnish the power to the saw and its accompanying machinery.
As each board is cut it drops on to a transfer, from which the edger receives
it, and by easily adjusted saws, each piece is neatly squared up, and is
then placed on a trimmer, which trims the ends and passes it to the cars,
which have the use of forty rods of iron railing for distributing the boards
to the piling and rafting grounds. The trimmer also cuts up all the
refuse, and after the lath stuff is selected, the débris
quietly carried by a chain-carrier to its final rest -- constantly burning
fire. So complete are the arrangements of the mill that when cutting
at the rate of forty thousand feet per day, the labor of the employees
is simply a matter of careful attention, and not a back-aching, muscular
service, as in days of old. The piling grounds are neatly wharfed,
and rafting made easy by slack water and sluices arranged for the reception
of rafts, and the easy handling of the same.