History of Butler County Pennsylvania, 1895

Venango Township, Chapter 67

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Transcribed by Pat Collins. For an explanation and caution about this transcription, please read this page.
Link to a sketch of Venango Township from the Atlas of Butler County, G.M. Hopkins & Co., 1874.

Surnames in this chapter are:

ADAMS, ALLEN, ANDERSON, ATWELL, BARRON, BLACK, BLAIR, BOVARD, BOYD, CALVERT, CAMPBELL, CHAMBERS, CHAPIN, COCHRAN, CONN, CONWAY, COROTHERS, COULTER, COXSWAIN, CRAWFORD, CULBERTSON, CUNNINGHAM, CURRY, DICKIE, DICKSON, DONALDSON, EVERSON, FERGUSON, FIELDS, FORSYTH, FOWLER, GARDNER, GIBSON, GORMLEY, GROVES, HALDERMAN, HAMILTON, HIGGINS, HULL, HUMPHREY, IRISH, IRWIN, JAMISON, JOLLY, KELLERMAN, KELLY, KERR, KOHLMEYER, LACOCK, LAVERES, LAYTON, LEASON, LESLIE, LOGUE, MAITLAND, MALCOLM, MARTIN, McALLISTER, McANNALLY, McBRIDE, McCAULEY, McCLINTOCK, McCULLOUGH, McELREE, McGINNIS, McKEAN, McKEANY, McKEE, McKINLEY, McLURE, McMAHON, McMICHAEL, McNEAL, MEALS, MECHLING, MILFORD, MILLER, MURRIN, O'DONNELL, O'HARA, PARK, PARKER, PERRY, POLLOCK, PORTER, RAMSEY, READ, REYNOLDS, RIDDLE, RHODES, ROBERTSON, ROBISON, ROSENBERRY, SCOTT, SHIELDS, SIMPSON, SLOAN, SMITH, SNODGRASS, SNYDER, STALKER, STEWART, STRAIN, SULLINGER, TEBAY, THOMPSON, TORREY, TRAXLER, TURK, TURNER, VANDERLIN, VANDYKE, WATT, WEAVER, WELSH, WILLIAMS, WILSON.


CHAPTER LXVII

VENANGO TOWNSHIP

[p. 659]
ORGANIZATION -- PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS - COAL DEPOSITS -- STREAMS -- POPULATION -- PIONEERS -- FIRST ELECTION -- A REMONSTRANCE -- CHURCHES AND CEMETERIES -- SCHOOLS AND JUSTICES -- VILLAGES

Venango township, one of the thirteen divisions of the county in 1804, retained its name, when the re-subdivision of 1854 was effected. Smaller in area than its neighbor Marion, it is far higher than Marion physically, and was more popular at the close of the last century when the pioneers flocked into its fertile valleys.

The elevation above the ocean level, at Farmington, is 1,550 feet, being twenty feet higher than the next highest point, three miles westward, and twenty-five feet above the knob at Six Points. A very thin outcrop of the lower Freeport coal may be seen in the summits and in road cuttings; but near old schoolhouse Number 1, southwest of Farmington, it shows an outcrop of from thirty to thirty-six inches. Near Murrinsville the Upper Kittanning is found in the form of cannel coal. The old cannel banks of Joseph and Hugh MURRIN, as well the GORMLEY and O'DONNELL banks, afford positive evidence of its quality and quantity. On Little Scrubgrass, 8,000 feet north of Farmington, and on the old HIGGIN's farm, near the southern township line, the useful Brookville coal has been found, occupying the place of the Lower Kittanning. Limestone ore has been taken out at a point about forty feet above this coal, a phenomenon, which [p. 660] even the record of the PRENTICE oil well, drilled there to a depth of 1,600 feet, can not explain.

The headwaters of Slippery Rock are found everywhere in the western half of the township, almost monopolizing the places where the streams flowing north seek their sources. The Little Scrubgrass and the head streams of Bear creek are found near the Farmington divide; while innumerable, unnamed rivulets wander at will everywhere.

The population in 1810, was 377; in 1820, 353, in 1830, 499; in 1840, 822; in 1850, 1,473; in 1860, 836 (within the present limits); in 1870, 902; in 1880, 1,322 and in 1890, 1,147. In 1893 there were 135 male and 133 female children of school age registered. The assessed value, January 1, 1894, was $235,306; the county tax, $941.22; the State tax, $35.50, and the moneys raised for common schools, $2,075, including $1,178.15 appropriated by the State.

PIONEERS

The first party who settled on the FIELD tract in 1797, included Thomas JOLLY, Samuel BARRON, the weaver, Robert CUNNINGHAM, Charles POLLOCK, James POLLOCK, Abigail COULTER, Peter John COULTER, James and John COULTER, John WEAVER, a weaver, and James SCOTT. The SLOANS, Robert LEASON, a soldier of the Revolution, James SIMPSON, Thomas, John, William and Peggy ADAMS, Peter TRAXLER, a young man, the MURRINS, CAMPBELLS, KELLYS, COCHRANS, IRWINS, KERRS, McCAULEYS, McCULLOUGHS, BOYDS, RIDDLES, LAVERES, McANNALLYS, McBRIDES, READS, CRAWFORDS, SHIELDS (soldiers of the Revolution), SULLINGERS, VANDERLINS, VANDYKES, ROSENBERRYS, WILSONS and others mentioned in connection with churches, and industries, came in between 1797 and 1803.

Many of the first comers were Irish settlers from Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, who sought a newer and wider field for their industry. Thomas JOLLY, the elder, was evidently in the Indian spy service, as early as 1792, and visited this section. In 1796 he and a number of acquaintances came hither to occupy the FIELD property, the owner agreeing to give each settler a deed for 150 acres at the close of the seventh year from date of entry, provided certain improvements would be made by that time. FIELD lost the property, however, but the settlers were granted title for their tracts by the new owners. The JOLLY party erected log huts in 1796, and early the following year brought their families into the forest. Thomas JOLLY set out an orchard on his 300 acre tract in 1799, bringing the trees from Armstrong county. Samuel BARRON located north of the county line, but built his weaving shop and barn in this county, where he had 200 acres of land. In 1812 the family moved to Ohio. Samuel THOMPSON made a clearing on a tract of 170 acres on the old Joseph SLOAN farm, and placed John SULLINGER in possession to hold it for him.

Hugh MURRIN established a mill early in the present century, east of Murrinsville, on his 400 acre tract, while his son, James MURRIN, a single man, in 1803 had 300 acres. On the present GORMLEY farm, Hugh MURRIN built a distillery, and was in every sense the most progressive resident of northern Butler. His son, John MURRIN, was widely known in this part of the State. Other members of the family made their homes here, each being a model citizen. [p. 661] Michael KELLY, who purchased 400 acres including James SIMPSON's improvement, was also the founder of a large family. He came at a very early date with his wife and one child. Nicholas VANDERLIN, a native of Holland, and son John, came here in 1799 and took up 540 acres of land. They were soldiers of the Revolution. The father died in 1817, and John in 1856. Samuel CAMPBELL and Robert COCHRAN, Sr., settled south of what is now Farmington; William ADAMS erected a log grist mill on the MURRIN lands in 1801, and a year later added a saw mill. John LOGUE cleared a large tract of land, Thomas COULTER established a saw mill and James COULTER a tannery shortly after; while Samuel SLOAN gave his attention to agriculture and leisure hours to military affairs, taking much pleasure in witnessing the evolutions of the militia under Captain JOLLY. Robert LEASON and Joseph KERR were estimable old residents, and James SHIELDS was a soldier of the Revolution and a pensioner of the United States. He owned 400 acres of land, while John SHIELDS owned 300 acres.

John WATT, Samuel CULBERTSON, Alexander STRAIN, Ephraim TURK, Andrew MAITLAND, Levi WILLIAMS and John DONALDSON moved into Venango county prior to the War of 1812. John STEWART, who settled here in 1810, moved to Ohio in 1820. His son, William B., remained here and is said to have erected the first frame dwelling house in this county. John JAMISON located here in 1818. The STALKERS, WILLIAMS, James PORTER, William PARKER, Robert CUNNINGHAM and others came before the close of the War of 1812, thus completing the pioneer circle.

The vote of the original Venango township cast at the first election, October 8, 1805, was divided as follows: Thomas McKEAN, twenty-one, and Simon SNYDER, six votes for governor: James O'HARA, nine, Samuel SMITH, of Erie, fifteen, and Nathaniel IRISH five votes for congress; James MARTIN twenty-nine votes for senate; Jacob MECHLING twenty-nine, George ROBISON twelve, Abner LACOCK twenty-three, Francis McLURE eighteen and James COROTHERS five votes for the legislature, and Jacob SMITH twelve, and Hugh CONWAY seventeen for commissioner.

When the question of subdividing the county was discussed in 1853, it caused some excitement here. On March 19, of that year, a remonstrance from Venango township was filed. This set forth that the petitioners were aware of an effort being made to re-subdivide the county into townships of five square miles each; that such a measure would disarrange the school districts and render useless some valuable school-houses, and that it would be attended with heavy expense "and increased taxes, already heavier than we are able to bear." The signers were Thomas JOLLY, Thomas STEWART, Franklin JAMISON, John JAMISON, Henry KOHLMEYER, John McKEE, A.W. CRAWFORD, Robert ALLEN, Andrew SLOAN, Samuel SLOAN, Cyrus ROSENBERRY, Lewis CHAMBERS, H. JAMISON, W.T. CRAWFORD, William GIBSON, John D. CUNNINGHAM, Thomas P. LAYTON, S.M. ANDERSON, Samuel LEASON, John ALLEN, John McKEANY, Peter MURRIN, James MILFORD, R.M. CRAWFORD, George P. McMAHON, James McMAHON, Joseph SLOAN, A.P. HALDERMAN, William LAYTON, William FOWLER, John P. POLLOCK, John POLLOCK, George S. JAMISON, William JAMISON and S. HALDERMAN. The [p. 662] division was made, however, but the old settlers who opposed it never "took kindly" to the new order of affairs.

CHURCHES AND CEMETERIES

The Associate Presbyterian Church of Unity, is the name of the old Seceder church, organized as early as 1800. Among the original members were James SCOTT, Reuben IRWIN, William, David and James SLOAN, John LESLIE, William PERRY, Robert DICKSON, James ANDERSON and their wives. This was practically a part of the present East Unity United Presbyterian church, and served by the same pastors down to the division of 1858, when many refused to ally themselves with the United Presbyterians. Rev. John M. SNODGRASS, the first pastor, in 1858, after the division, remained four years. Rev. Sample RAMSEY was here for ten years, and then Rev. S.H. McNEAL served for about a decade. In 1868 a frame church building was erected, but it has been repeatedly repaired in the last quarter of a century. The members of the session include J.P. RIDDLE, R.T. ATWELL, clerk, A.C. WILSON, John BLAIR and William McGINNIS. The membership in January, 1894, was 140. The church was incorporated May 7, 1888. The subscribers were A.O. MILLER, A.C. WILSON, S.H. McNEAL, J.B. ATWELL, D. PERRY, R.C. WILSON, A.T. FERGUSON, John BLAIR, P.S. ATWELL, Samuel PARK, W. McGINNIS and J. McGINNIS. The pulpit was supplied up to 1894, as it was for some time before, but in January, 1894, a call was extended to Rev. A.M. MALCOLM.

The Methodist Episcopal Church of Farmington was originally in the Clintonville circuit, meetings being held in groves, tents, private houses or at the Blair school-house down to 1851, when a house of worship was erected at Farmington. The first class, organized by Rev. COXSWAIN, was kept alive by zealous leaders until Rev. Edwin HULL came in 1850, and in 1851 a new building was erected. For twenty-one years the Methodists of the district worshiped in the little frame house. In 1872, however, Rev. James GROVES urged the erection of a new house and the society agreed with him, so that the present church building was completed that year at an outlay approximating $4,000. Rev. Malcolm TORREY is the present pastor.

East Unity United Presbyterian Church was organized in 1802, by Rev. Thomas McCLINTOCK, with the follwoing elders: Samuel SLOAN, Reuben IRWIN, Robert RIDDLE and Robert CRAWFORD. The members included the men names and their wives, with Robert LEASON, Robert CONN, Adam CURRY, James McKINLEY, James CALVERT, James SCOTT, James POLLOCK and their wives. On May 8, 1803, Rev. Thomas McCLINTOCK was installed pastor and held that office until March 10, 1832. In May, 1835, Rev. William C. POLLOCK became pastor and remained as such until 1852. In 1854 came Rev. William A. BLACK, who preached here until the summer of 1858. Rev. David FORSYTH came next, was installed in November, 1860, and remained seven years. Then came Rev. J.C. McELREE, in May, 1869, to pass seventeen years, and next came Rev. A.B. DICKIE, who after three years' service was succeeded by Rev. J.S. THOMPSON, the present pastor. The log church of 1802 was used until 1820, when a larger log house was erected, but in summer time a tent was used as a [p. 663] house of worship. In 1837 a small brick structure was built, which was used until 1868, when a larger brick building was erected. That was burned in May, 1875, and the same year the present church was completed and dedicated. The membership in 1894 was 155.

St. Alphonsus Catholic Church of Murrinsville, the history of which finds a place in the sketch of marion township, has, and always had a large membership in this township. Many years ago, even before St. Patrick's church, of Sugarcreek, was founded, priests visited the pioneers of this section and celebrated mass in the valley east of Murrinsville. A statement was made years ago that a log building was erected on what is now the Michael GORMLEY farm, for church purposes, and that Peter TRAXLER, one of the workmen, had his leg broken during the progress of building. Squire MURRIN, Mrs. McBRIDE and Mrs. GORMLEY, grandchildren of the pioneers, do not remember anything of the old house, and even deny its existence.

The old cemetery on the hill above the GORMLEY residence, speaks of early days, and the headstones offer the following names and dates: Nancy McCULLOUGH, died in 1820; Margaret and Thomas KELLERMAN, children, in 1824; Hannah READ, in 1828; Mary MURRIN, in 1835; James READ, in 1836; Hugh MURRIN, Sr., in 1841; L.J. KELLY, in 1842; Hugh MURRIN, JR., in 1844; Catherine MURRIN, in 1851; Maria McCAULEY, in 1853, and Peter MURRIN, in 1854. Others were buried in this old cemetery; but there are no monuments to mark their last resting place.

SCHOOLS AND JUSTICES

The honor of having the first school is shared by the MURRIN settlement near the west and the LEASON-POLLOCK settlement near the east line of the township. Prior to 1800 Hugh MURRIN and James MURRIN instructed the children of the family; while in 1802 Robert CUNNINGHAM opened a school in a log hut which stood near the Associate Reformed church of that period, two and one-quarter miles north of Eau Claire. Robert DONALDSON, an Irishman, succeeded CUNNINGHAM, and following them were John COCHRAN, William STEWART and William WELSH, all natives of Ireland.

The justices of the peace of Venango township, elected from 1840 to 1894, are as follows: John ALLEN, 1840, 1845 and 1850; John D. CUNNINGHAM, 1845 and 1850; John MURRIN, 1854, 1859 and 1864; Robert BOVARD, 1855, 1860, 1865, 1870 and 1875; James STALKER, 1866, 1871 and 1876; A.C. WILSON, 1880, 1885 and 1890; W.H.H. CAMPBELL, 1881, 1886 and 1892.

VILLAGES

Farmington was surveyed in 1848, on John ROSENBERRY's farm, by John BLACK, and a public vendue of lots was held shortly after - thirteen lots being disposed of. In May or June, 1849, William H. TEBAY erected the first house for Thomas CHAMBERS, but the builder was the first resident, renting from CHAMBERS until his own house was completed in 1850. As stated in the history of the churches, a building was erected in 1851 by the Methodists, and the same year the MILLER & COCHRAN grocery store was built. Samuel MEALS established a [p. 664] blacksmith shop and Nelson McALLISTER a hotel a little later, while Joseph HAMILTON carried on a general store. The coming of Dr. RHODES made up the pioneer circle of the village. BOVARD & Son were in business there from 1877, as were also A.M. REYNOLDS and David SLOAN, and later CHAMBERS & KERR, and D.W. HUMPHREY and George H. GARDNER, the two last being partners. A.M. REYNOLDS built the only brick store about 1870. The general merchants now are W.C. JAMISON and H.H. KERR; the druggist is A.O. MILLER. At De Sale is KOHLMERYER's drug store.

In March, 1856, a postoffice was established at Bovard's store, with Robert BOVARD postmaster, but the growing importance of Farmington was recognized a few years after by the removal of the office to the new town, which was officially named Eau Claire. Joseph HAMILTON held the office of postmaster after the war; Thomas M. BOVARD was appointed in April, 1876, with David SLOAN, deputy, who was appointed to the office himself in August, 1877, and was succeeded in 1881 by James CHAMBERS, of the firm of CHAMBERS & KERR. Nelson McALLISTER succeeded to the office in 1882; Levi KERR was appointed in 1885, but did not accept until 1888. George GIBSON secured the office in 1889, and was succeeded by H.H. KERR in 1893.

The establishment of the Eau Claire Academy in the fall of 1893, under Professor ROBERTSON, with Miss CHAPIN teacher of music, and the erection in 1894 of an academy building; the improvements inaugurated by Dr. McMICHAEL and the TEBAY ventures in the oil field, have built up hopes for the conversion of the quiet hamlet into a busy village.

Ferris is the name of a postoffice established on January 15, 1894, with John A. TURNER as postmaster. In 1884 an office named Roy was established here with C. EVERSON, postmaster, but was discontinued, and the settlement was without mail facilities until Ferris was established. The TURNER Coal, Coke and Mining Company has transformed this locality into a busy mining village, and produces about 800 tons of coal a day.

[End of Chapter 67 - Venango Township: History of Butler County Pennsylvania, R. C. Brown Co., Publishers, 1895]

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