SALEM township was erected in 1856, from parts of Richland and Beaver townships. It is bounded on the north by Venango county and Ashland township; on the east by Beaver township; on the south by Beaver and Richland townships, and on the west by Venango county. The length from east to west is about five miles; the breadth is nearly four miles; area, about sixteen square miles.
The drainage is effected by five small streams. The northern part is drained by Mill Creek and its tributaries, into the Allegheny River. The southwestern arm is drained by a stream, in the act erecting the county called Shull's Run, now called Richey Run. The central and eastern parts are drained by the head waters of Turkey and Beaver Creeks, into the Clarion River. The drainage of the township is good, considering the lay of the land.
The land is rolling, but there are only three high hills in the township. Two of these -- the Beets and Dittman hills -- are on the northwestern boundary. The other is a high knob in the northeastern part, called the Kline Hill. The Beets Hill is the highest point in the township, as leveled from the steeple of the Salem Lutheran Church.
The pursuits of the people have been very stable. The most of them have always been engaged in farming and stock raising. The finest and most productive farms of Clarion county lie in the western and central parts of Salem township. These farms are mostly small in extent, which perhaps explains the fact that they are under the most thorough state of cultivation. The yield of oats is from forty to eighty bushels per acre. The corn yield is generally about one hundred bushels in the car per acre. One season W. P. Finley raised one hundred and fifty bushels of corn per acre. The wheat yield ranges from fifteen to twenty-five bushels per acre. In 1884 P. M. Neely's thirteen-acre field averaged thirty-four bushels per acre. This land also yields heavy crops of grass.
The soil is of many different kinds. In the western part it is mostly limestone clay. There are a few chestnut ridges and a few farms of slate-land. Generally, the soil of the township is naturally productive, as proven by the much fine timber that has grown upon it, especially oak; still much attention is given to fertilizing. A great deal of lime is burned. All manures are carefully used. Some fertilizers are imported. The farmers have all taken advantage of all the improvment and invention of agricultural implements. All sowing and most reaping is done by machinery. There are six self-binders, beside many other reapers in the township. [p. 607]
In minerals Salem township is not over-productive, yet she has the good fortune of being able to supply herself for ages, perhaps forever. All the hills are underlaid with thin viens [sic] of coal, and the banks as yet are only fairly opened. The veins range in thickness from twenty inches to three feet. The heaviest vein is that called the Wenner vein in the Kline Hill. The next heaviest is the Dittman vein. The Cromer Bank deserves mention, especially for the fine specimens of ferns and leaves found in the slate above the coal.
The township is abundantly supplied with limestone of a superior quality. The veins range from five to sixteen feet in thickness. The tract of land of the McKee farm, underlaid with limestone, was leased by James Bennett, and a branch of the Narrow Gauge railroad run into it. This bank was extensively worked while this road was in operation, but now only supplies the farmers of the surrounding locality. The Rugh bank has been extensively worked for many years.
In 1872 Hulings and Company drilled a well on the Delo farm, in the eastern part of the township, for oil. A forty-barrel well was struck, which raised an extensive excitement. Soon a number of wells was under headway on the Exley, Hummel, and Knappenbarger farms. Some good wells were struck, especially on Hummel farm. Many of the wells are yet producing. About the time of the Petersburg excitement, two wells were drilled on the Troutner farm. There was a good show for oil in both wells, but they were mismanaged and then abandoned. Other parts of the township have been tested, but the Delo tract has proved the only prolific one.
A heavy gas well was struck on the Kurtz farm, but it was not used. The Nicholson well, on the Scheffer farm, had some oil, but was mismanaged in the torpedoing and had to be abandoned.
In 1885 a well was drilled on the Cromer farm which produced only gas. It was bought by the Emlenton Gas Company. The same year (1885) Calvert drilled a well upon the P. M. Neely farm, which proved to be the most powerful gas well then of the county. It was purchased by the Emlenton Gas Company and carried to Emlenton in a three-inch line. The pressure now (1887) is forty pounds per square inch on the open line.
In 1886 Myers Brothers drilled a well on the Myers farm, 2,300 feet deep, but found no oil and very little gas.
The history of the early settlers is wrapped up in-the past, perhaps never to be unfolded. Unfortunate for history the posterity of the most of the earliest settlers can not be found. We have no knowledge of any Indian settlements within the township, but we are sure that they frequented these parts, and reserved it for a hunting-ground. They camped along Sugar Run, especially near the spring called the Kelley spring on the Rugh farm. There were many little knolls between the springs along the brow of the hill and the Run; on these are little piles of stones called curly-backs, which have been [p. 608] burned. There are also many arrow-heads found in this ravine, especially small ones, which lead us to think that the Indians sometimes camped there. The early settlers remember when the Cornplanter Indians frequented this place.
Mr. James B. McGinnis built the first house in 1803. Perhaps he was the first settler. Mr. Alexander McDonald soon after settled on the Shaner land. He was succeeded by a Mr. Burns.
Mr. Daniel Cook improved the land now owned by E. B. Sclieffer.
Mr. David Beels settled on the farm now called the Herman Snyder place, in 1806. Mr. Beels was a German who smuggled his way on to a ship coming to America, and was not discovered for several days. When the ship arrived at Baltimore the captain sold him for his passage; after serving out his time, he took up a home in Penn's Valley, where he was married. In 1806 he and his family, for they now had two children, emigrated to these parts on a wagon. The family stopped at Sligo, while Mr. Beels sought a location. Finding a fine lay of land, and finding no deed or article to cover it, he soon landed his family upon it, and began improving it. He afterwards was forced to abandon it. He then commenced improving the northwestern corner of the tract now comprising Salem township.
Among other early settlers who deserve mention are Mr. James Pratt, though his first location in these parts was not within the limits of the township. He arrived on the Corwin land on Hallow-eve night, 1806. His son William was born the same night. He soon afterward settled in Salem township; also Mr. Porter, Mr. Peter Downing, Mr. John Scheffer, Mr. William and Peter Hugh, and Mr. Snyder, et al.
The history of the trials and hardships is the same as of all the pioneer fathers. Salt was a luxury. Their nearest store for some time was at Kittanning. One spring Mr. Beels had to dig up and eat his potatoes that he had planted. One summer the settlers had to live on greens, wild fruit and game, until the grain grew.
The early settlers, like the Pilgrim Fathers, were conscious of the importance of early training, and up to the time when the law established free schools, they established schools where they could unite and support them. The houses were of "long bricks," with paper windows, and a fire-place.
The first school-house stood a little west from where Mr. William Scheffer's barn now stands. At present there are five districts -- Salem, Sugar Valley, Delo, Pilgreheim, and Cross Roads, all furnished with fine new buildings, supplied with patent furniture. Each school is supplied with a fine set of reading charts and an encyclopedia. In 1880, through the efforts of Dr. G. A. Knight and Mr. M. McGinnis, a building for a graded school was erected at Salem. It was a fine two-story building, well arranged and furnished. In the fall of 1880 Professor N. Scheffer, a graduate of Theil College, opened the first term. [p. 609] His untiring efforts for two years placed his school on a good foundation. He left his school as principal to enter the ministry. Professor C. F. McNutt, a graduate of Edinboro, took charge of the school, and did splendid work. He resigned in the spring of 1884, to accept the office of county superintendent. During his last term he was assisted by Professor L. L. Himes, then of East Brady. Professor G. B. Johnston, of Lebanon, then took charge of the school. Under his management the school attained its maximum in numbers and interest. Rev. J. F. Hershiser assisted by teaching Latin and Greek. Professor Johnston was appointed by the government to take charge of a school in Alaska, which caused his resignation, taking effect January 1, 1886. The term was finished by Professor S. W. McGarrah, of Grove City College. Professor W. Lincoln McClure taught the term of 1886-87.
The Salem Institute is supplied with the finest library of any common school of the county. It has a fine cabinet, gathered by the pupils and friends, also finely mounted specimens of all native woods.
For a religious history, the reader is referred to the church history of the county, but the religious interest was apace with education. The first religious services were under the management of the Presbyterians. Their first public service was held in the grove where the Brick or Richland Church now stands. Soon after the Methodists held services in Mr. Baker's barn and other places.
In 1838 the Lutherans and German Reforms built a large church in Salem. They were in union for over a quarter of a century, when the German Reforms built a fine church in the south end of Salem.
The Evangelical Lutherans built the finest building in the township
1875, at a cost of near $6,000.
During the years 1874-5 the Evangelists built a small church at the crossroads, in the northwestern part of the township.
In 1873 the M. E. congregation built a large church.
St. Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church was built at Pickwick.
Churches and present pastors: Richland, Presbyterian, Rev. Elliot; Mt. Zion, Evangelist, Rev. Baumgardner; Salem M. E., Rev. Laverty; Salem, German Reform, Rev. Mackley; Salem and St. Luke's, Evangelical Lutheran, Rev. Hershiser.
The Laughner grist-mill is the first and only mill in the township. At present it is owned by Stephen Porter.
W. B. M. Bashline and Samuel Sheakley operated a stave-rnill, which was set up by the Messrs. Gates for a couple of years, until it burned. It was put in running order on the Conver place by Emanuel Lynn and Samuel Sheakley.
Long & Weter erected a saw-mill near the first site of the stave-mill. Peter Sheakley and Harry King bought it and sawed a few seasons and then abandoned it. [p. 610]
In 1886 S. H. & C. H. Rossman built a saw-mill on Kurtz's land, near the Sugar Valley school-house, to saw up the hard wood timber in that section. They are doing a good thriving business.
Among inventions deserving mention, are first, a cultivator by Mr. Philip Kribbs; patented.
Second, a plan for improved stabling, invented and patented in 1883 by Dr. G. A. Knight, of Salem. It is so arranged as to save money, time and labor, and shows thought and experience with cattle, and deserves the attention of wide awake farmers.
Rev. McMichael, a Presbyterian minister, has written a few novels, one entitled "The Minister's Daughter," and another entitled " Conneaute Lake."
Salem township has furnished a county surveyor in the person of Dr. G. A. Knight in 1864.
Mr. W. F. Collner was elected county sheriff, and afterward prothonotary from Salem township.
The doctors that have practiced in Salem township are in order, five: Dr. Meaker, Dr. Bower, Dr. Knight, Dr. Clover, and Dr. Fitzgerald. Dr. Clover deserves special mention as a surgeon.
Lamartine is the only post-office now within the limits of the township.
It was established in 1851 or 1852. The first postmaster was Mr. Samuel
Eshleman. It has changed hands seven times, and is now kept by Mr. J. M.
Pickwick and Triangle were flourishing oil towns in the northeast part of the township. Now only a trace is left to show their location. Pilgreheim consists of a number of dwellings on the Shippenville road.
Salem is the only town deserving of special mention. It has a population of 213, who live in forty-five dwellings; beside these buildings there are one hotel, one drug store, one doctor's office, one millinery shop, two blacksmith shops, one meat shop, three carpenter shops, three dry goods and notion stores, two halls, the public school building, three large churches, and the post-office. The first cleared land about Salem was four acres near Mr. Michael Loughner's barn, owned by John Heasley. Mr. James Platt soon built the first building on this land. Thomas Herrington started the town by building a blacksmith shop about where Mr. J. M. Kurtz's dwelling stands.
Mr. George Kribbs built the first store; Mr. Adam Scheffer, clerking.
To say the least, Salem is a pleasant country town. The three churches
furnish religious privileges unequaled in any town of the population of
Salem. Much attention is paid to education of all kinds.