Submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister
Township and Borough of Albion
|Conneaut Township is
one of the original subdivisions of Erie County. It is the extreme
southwestern township of the county, and contains 25,540 acres. The
population was 631 in 1810; 1,324, in 1830; 1,746, in 1840; 1,942, in1850;
2,118, in 1860; 1,538, in 1870, and 1,545, in 1880. The decrease between
1860 and 1870 was due to the incorporation of Albion as a borough in 1861.
The township is bounded on the north by Springfield and Girard, on the
east by Elk Creek, on the west by Ashtabula County, Ohio, and on the south
by Beaver and Spring Townships, Crawford County. Its greatest length is
about eight and three-fourths miles from east to west, and its greatest
width six and one-fourth from north to south. Conneaut contains the
villages of Cherry Hill, Keepville, Tracy and Albion Depot, all of which
have post offices except the last. The township received its title from
Conneaut Creek, its principal stream. The word Conneaut is of Indian
origin, signifying "snow place," from the fact that the snow
used to lie longer upon the ice of Conneaut Lake, Crawford county, than
anywhere else the country round.
The appraisement for 1883, gave the following results: Value of real estate, $686,536; number of cows, 574; value, $14,250; number of oxen, 16; value, $995; horses and mules, 423, value, $23,240; total value of personal property assessed, $38,485; value of trades and occupations, $8,820; amount of money at interest, $6,378. The census returns for 1880 show that there were 433 houses occupied by 453 families.
The First Settlers
The first settler within the bounds of the township was Jonathan Spaulding, who reached there from New York in the year 1795. Two years after the Population Company sent Col. Dunning McNair on as agent, who established his headquarters at what became known as Lexington, and with a corps of assistants surveyed the country, laid out roads, made preparations for disposing of the property. In 1798, Abiather Crane and his brother Elihu, from Connecticut, located near Col. McNair, but neither remained long, the former moving to Mill Creek in 1800, and the latter to Elk Creek in the spring of 1800. Abiather first went into Conneaut as a surveyor in 1797, but did not locate there until the ensuing year. The arrival of other pioneers was as follows: In 1800, Matthew Harrington, from Vermont; George Griffey and Andrew Cole, from Onondaga County, N. U., and Stephen Randall and his son Sheffield, from Rensselaer County, N. U.; in 1801, Robert McKee, from Cumberland County, Penn.; in 1802, Henry Ball, From Fredericksburg, Va., Patrick Kennedy, his son Royal, and William Payne from Connecticut; in 1808, Marsena Keep and son Marsena, from Montgomery County, N. Y.; in 1804, Joel Bradish and brothers, from New York; in 1806, Lyman Jackson, from Otsego County, N. Y.; in 1810, Michael Jackson, son of Lyman, who remained but a few months, returned to New York and came back five years later. The following persons settled in the township at a later date: In 1815, George Stuntz, from Barclay County, Va., and his son E. W. Stuntz; in 1816, Medad Pomeroy, from Massachusetts, with his sons, Nathaniel, Uriah, John, Lyman, James, George and Horace, and three daughters, together with James W. and G. Spicer, from New York; in 1817, Benjamin Sawdy and Isaac Pomeroy, from Massachusetts; in 1818, David Sawdy, from Massachusetts, Abijah Barnes, from Cayuga County, N. Y., and Samuel Bradish; in1910, Noah Kidder and son Francis, Edward De Wolf and Daniel Rossiter, from New York, and Samuel Sawdy (father of David and Benjamin), with his sons John, Job and Daniel, from New Bedford, Mass.; in 1820, Rodolphus Loomis, from Chautauqua County, N. Y.; about 1824 or 1825, Harrison Parks; in 1829, Jones Lewis; in 1831, Thomas Bowman, wife and family (including Ralph), from Oneida County, N. Y.; in 1832, William Cornell and John Curtis; in 1833, Chester Morley and Andrew and Silas Morrison; in 1834, Christopher Cross, Edward Dorrence and Hiram Griffis; in 1837, Andrew Swap, Daniel Waters and Joseph Tubbs; in 1838, Isaiah and Johnson Pelton; in 1839, Marcus A. Bumpus. Among those who went in about the commencement of the century, are Bartholomew Forbes, Howard, John, Nathan, David and Charles Salsbury. Thomas Sprague, James Paul, James Whittington, Thomas Alexander, John Stuntz, Giles Badger, Ichabod Baker and Jacob Walker. A large portion of the settlers whose formers homes are not given were from New York, principally from the central counties. Henry Ball was a Captain in the war of 1812, and several of the others served against the British as privates. Jonathan Spaulding's sons, David, John and George, were born in the township, the first in 1802, the second in 1806, and the last in 1816. William Harrington, the oldest son of Matthew, was born in 1805. William Paul went into Elk Creek with Mr. Colton in 1797; returned to Connecticut, and came back about 1816. George Stuntz was a local preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Noah Kidder and son went to Springfield in 1817, but moved to Conneaut two years after. Medad Pomeroy settled on Conneaut Creek, about a mile north of Albion, where he owned several hundred acres, extending into Elk Creek township.
The first male child was Henry Wood, born about 1798. The first female children were Ruth, daughter of Elihu Crane and wife, and Eliza, daughter of Abiather Crane and wife, who were born in the same house near Lexington, on the same day, April 20, 1799. Ruth Crane married Isaac Pomeroy, and became the mother of two sons -- Alden and Jerome -- and seven daughters. Her cousin, Eliza, became the wife of James Love, Jr., and moved to Mill Creek. The first recorded death was that of Mrs. Thomas Alexander, who expired in 1801, and was buried "at a point between two runs, about half a mile north of Albion." The oldest lady who has ever lived in the township was Mrs. Thomas Bowman, who died in the fall of 1862 aged nearly ninety-two years.
Creeks and Bridges
The chief stream of the township is Conneaut Creek, which rises below Conneautville, in Crawford County, flows in a general northerly course to the Springfield line, then turns abruptly westward, and continues into Ohio. After changing its course, it forms the boundary line between Conneaut and Springfield, the former lying on the south and the latter on the north. In Ohio, it continues westward nine miles to Kingsville, then makes another sudden bend to the east, and comes back eight miles to Conneaut, where it turns again to the north, and after a further course of about a mile empties into the lake a mile and a half from the boundary of Pennsylvania, forming Conneaut Harbor. It is the most crooked of the lake shore streams, the length from head to mouth by its windings being from seventy to seventy-five miles, which the distance by an air line is not more than twenty-five miles. The valley of the creek forms the route of the Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad through conneaut Township, and was utilized for the same purpose in laying out the old canal from Albion southward. Its length across the township is fully twelve miles. The West Branch of Conneaut Creek rises in Crawford County, near the Ohio line, runs in a general northeasterly direction through the south part of the township, and unites near Keepville, after a source of between nine and ten miles. The East Branch heads in Crawford County, below the Elk Creek line, runs past Wellsburg and Cranesville, and enters Conneaut Township a mile or so northeast of Albion. It has a length of not far from ten miles. At Wellsburg, it is joined by Frazier's Run, and at Albion by Jackson's Run. The latter takes its rise on the Conneaut and Elk Creek line, near Crawford County, flows north, then northeast, and is from four to six miles long. After receiving Jackson's Run, the East Branch continues about half a mile further, before merging with the main stream. Marsh Run heads in the west, flows eastward, and empties into the Conneaut about a mile from Albion Depot, having a length of four or five miles. The dividing ridge between the waters of the lake and the Allegheny turns to the south in Fairview Township, and follows nearly the line of Conneaut Creek into Crawford County. The frequent streams and their unusual crookedness are a source of heavy expense to the tax-payers, the number of bridges and the cost of keeping them up being undoubtedly greater than in any other township of the county. Not to name those on the branches, there are, on Conneaut Creek alone, the Law, Griffith, Porter, Perry and Salsbury bridges, along the Springfield line, and the Pomeroy, Kennedy, Silverthorn, Keepville and Spaulding within the township proper. These include the public bridges only, besides which the Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad Company have two more, known as the Sawdy and Kennedy second. All of the township bridges are built of timber with stone abutments.
The valley of Conneaut Creek from Crawford County to Springfield varies in width from a quarter of a mile to a mile, and consists of a sandy loam, which is very fertile, producing everything that can be raised along the lake shore. West of Lexington, along the Conneaut and Springfield line, there are occasional small spots of bottom land, but generally speaking the hills run almost to the water's edge. A large tract of country, in the southwest, near the Ohio and Crawford County line, still remains in forest, being owned by the Pennsylvania Lumber company. Fruits of nearly all kinds are grown readily. The price of land varies greatly, being as low as $15 an acre in some localities and as high as $65 in others.
Land, Litigation and Pre-Historic Remains
John B. Wallace, of Philadelphia, made his home in Meadville at an early day, to act as attorney for the Holland Land company. In that capacity he located tracts in various places, among them being one of 10,000 acres in the western part of conneaut Township. This property was sold by Sheriff Wolverton, on an execution against Mr. Wallace, in 1825, and purchased by or in behalf of Stephen Girard, of Philadelphia. It was Mr. Girard's design to make extensive improvements by erecting mills, opening roads, etc., but while his agent was arranging to carry out his plans, news came in January, 1832, of the great millionaire's death. By Mr. Girard's will, the Conneaut lands, with a large quantity of others, were left in trust to the city of Philadelphia on a perpetual fund for the maintenance of a college for orphans. After the death of Mr. Wallace, in 1833, his heirs claimed that the Conneaut lands had been wrongfully sold, because the title was in Mrs. Wallace, instead of her husband. Suit was brought by Judge Thompson and Benjamin Grant in the name of the Wallace heirs to recover the property, when a verdict was rendered for the plaintiffs. The Moravian grant embraced between 400 and 500 acres in the northwestern corner of Conneaut, extending over from Springfield, where the most of the "Hospitality tract" lay.
On the John Pomeroy place, upon the second flat of Conneaut Creek, are the traces of an ancient mound, such as exist in Girard, Springfield, Harbor Creek, Fairview, Wayne, and other townships of the county. It is circular in form, inclosing about three-fourths of an acre. The embankment, when the country was cleared up, was about three feet high by six feet thick at the base, with large trees growing upon it. One of these trees, a mammoth oak, when cut down, indicated by its rings an age of five hundred years. Beneath the tree the skeleton of a human being was taken up which showed to a verity that giants lived in those remote ages. The bones measured eleven feet from head to foot, the jawbone easily covered that of a man who weighed over 200 pounds, and the lower bone of the leg, being compared with that of a person who was six fee four inches in height, was found to be nearly a foot longer. Another circle of a similar character existed on the Taylor farm -- now owned by J. L. Strong. On the John Pomeroy place is also a peculiar mound, about 100 feet long, 50 wide and 24 high. It stands on the south side of a small stream, upon flat land, and is wholly detached from the adjacent bluff.
Railroad, Canal and Common Roads
The Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad, the only one in the township, runs through its whole width from Girard Township on the north to Crawford County on the south. The ridge between Crooked and Conneaut Creeks is overcome by a deep excavation that is usually known as Sawdy's Cut. After that the road follows the valley of the latter stream through the township to its head in Crawford County. The road crosses the creak twice within Conneaut Township, first by the Sawdy bridge, and second by the Kennedy bridge near Algion. The Sawdy bridge has a span of about 100 feet and a fill of about fifty or sixty rods; the one near Albion, a span of equal length and a trestle work of some twenty rods. Albion depot is the main station of the township. The Pennsylvania Erie Canal -- now one of the things of the past -- entered Conneaut from Elk Creek at a point between Cranesville and Albion, and continued south by nearly the same route as the railroad, but at a higher elevation. The once noted Eleven Mile Level, the longest on its line, reached from near Lockport, through Albion, to Spring Corners, Crawford County. North of Albion, the canal crossed the East Branch by a culvert forty-one feet high, with a span of between thirty and forty feet, which still stands and is used as a roadway.The main avenues of the township are the Lexington road, from the latter place to Girard, opened about 1797; the State road across the north part of the township, from Elk Creek to Ohio; the Meadville road, from Lexington into Crawford County; the Albion and Cranesville road; the Albion and Wellsburg road; the road from Albion due west to Conneaut Center; the Albion & Keepville; "Porky street," from Cherry Hill south; and the Creek road from Pomeroy's bridge to Crawford County.
Schools, Mills and Burial Places
No record remains of the earliest schools in the township. A winter school was held in a cabin on the farm of Nathaniel Pomeroy, about one and a half miles southwest from Albion about 1822, by Rodolphus Loomis. Anna Randall taught a summer term at the same place. About 1823, a log schoolhouse was built in that neighborhood, at which Mary Randall and John Spaulding were early teachers. A school near the site of Thornton's grist mill in Albion Borough was taught by Sophia Kennedy. Other taught here, and the schoolhouse burned down about 1824. Among other early teachers at Albion, was David Powell, whose parents were residents of Crawford County.
Following is a list of the schools of Conneaut Township: Bowman, on the old State road, in the L; Valley, on the Creek road, near Albion; Bumpus, on the Conneautville road, to the southeast; Keepville; Kidder's Corners; Harrington, on the West Branch; Cherry Hill, a little east of the village; Center, a little south of the Town House; Brown, on the State road, west of Cherry Hill; Brock, on the southwest; and Kimbell, on the Ohio line.
The manufacturing establishments of the township are Spalding's saw mill, on the West Branch; Brown's cheese factory, on the State road, east of Cherry Hill (opened May 11, 1874); Kennedy's brick yard and tile factory, near Kennedy's bridge; Robinson's blacksmith shop, and Brewster's and Case's wagon shops, near Kidder's Corners; a blacksmith shop near Albion; and a number of portable saw mills which have no permanent location. The Penn Lumber Company, about two years ago, erected a large saw mill in the extreme southwest corner of the township. The company owns 2,800 acres of land, has build a four-mile railroad track to the E. & P. Railroad, and is extensively engaged in sawing lumber, handles, etc., and shipping them to the market. Tracy is the post office name of the settlement.
There is an old graveyard at Saulsbury's bridge, where a number of early settlers are buried, and others at Keepville and on the Creek road, near Kennedy's bridge. The oldest man known to have lived in the township was the father of ex-County Commissioner Garner Palmer, who died several years ago, lacking but little of a hundred.
The village of Albion Depot is on the Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad, twenty-six miles from Erie City, and a mile west from Albion Borough. It embraces, besides the depot building, a grocery and twelve or fifteen houses, most of which are occupied by employees of the railroad. Keepville consists of a post office, store, Methodist Episcopal Church, schoolhouse, cheese factory, shingle mill, and several residences, at the intersection of two roads, near Conneaut Creek, two and a half miles southwest of Albion Borough. It was named after Marsena Keep, Sr., who settled there in 1808. Keepville Wesleyan congregation was organized, with about fourteen members, in 1854, Rev. John L. Moore being the first pastor. The church building was erected the same year, at a cost of $1,500. In 1866 or 1867, a Methodist Episcopal society was organized from the Wesleyan society, and now has for its pastor Rev. Fiddler. The charge belongs to Spring Circuit, most of the appointments of which are in Crawford County. The Wesleyan society still survives, but is quite small. The cheese factory was built in 1878 by Amos K. Keep, H. Stoddard and Josiah J. Pelton, consisting $1,500. A Methodist Episcopal Church, schoolhouse, two general stores, a blacksmith shop and twenty to thirty houses constitute the village of Cherry Hill, on the State road, about half a mile south of the Springfield line, and five miles west of Albion. Porter's grist and saw mill on Conneaut Creek, in Springfield Township, are a little north of the village. Cherry Hill stands on high ground, and the country about the village is cold, hard to work, and not very productive. The church was organized with about fifteen members, by Rev. J. W. Wilson, in 1858, and the building was erected the same year at a cost of $1,250. The society was attached to Albion Circuit till Lockport Circuit was formed, to which it now belongs. When Col. McNair established his agency for the Population Company, in 1797, he laid out a town plat of 1,600 acres, at the big bend of Conneaut Creek, near the present Springfield line, which he expected to become a place of a good deal of importance. At the suggestion of one of his surveyors, who was a Kentuckian, he gave it the title of Lexington. Roads were laid out, and, being the center of the company's operations in the west, Lexington in time became a village of no little pretension. At one period it has a store, schoolhouse, hotel, distillery, and several residences. A post office was established in 1828 with David Sawdy as Postmaster. Not a vestige of Lexington is now left. Its site is covered by the David Sawdy and L. R. Strong farms.
The original line of Conneaut extended westward parallel with the southern line of Girard Township to Ohio, taking in Conneaut Creek and more than a mile of country north of that stream. This threw the whole burden of building and maintaining bridges upon Conneaut, and about 1835 she ceded the territory north of the creek to Springfield, in consideration of the latter township paying one-half of that item of expense. Springfield made a considerable gain of land, and Conneaut relieved herself from burdensome taxation.
Following is a complete list of citizens of Albion and Conneaut who have been elected to Legislative and county offices: Assembly -- David Sawdy, 1838; Humphrey A. Hills, 1858-54 (now residing at East Springfield); Orlando Logan, 1875-75. Commissioner -- Abiather Crane, 1803 to 1805; John Salsbury, 1825 to 1828; David Sawdy, 1841 to 1844; Humphrey A Hills, 1847 to 1850; Garner Palmer, 1862 to 1865, and 1869 to 1872. County Auditor -- W. J. Brockway, 1875 to 1878. Mercantile Appraiser, Liberty Salsbury, 1872. Hon. George H. Cutler lived in Conneaut Township for a time, and taught school in Albion. He moved from there to Girard, and served the county as State Senator from 1873 to 1876.
The borough of
Albion occupies an elevated site at the junction of Jackson's Run with the
East Branch, near the Elk Creek line, a mile east of Albion depot, and
twenty-seven miles southwest of Erie by the E. & P. Railroad. The
first settlers at Albion were Thomas Alexander, Patrick Kennedy, William
Pain, Ichabod Baker and Lyman Jackson. Michael Jackson, son of Lyman, who
built the first saw mill, did not become a permanent resident until 1815,
although he spend a few months there five years earlier. William Sherman
settled at Albion in 1827, coming from Herkimer County, N. Y. He died on
the 1st of February, 1883, aged seventy-eight years. Thomas Thornton came
from England at an early age, and settled in Albion about 1857. Amos King
built the first grist mill and Lyman Jackson taught the first school. The
town was long known as Jackson's Cross Roads, and the post office name has
been successively Jacksonville, Juliet and Albion. It is one mile from
Albion to Cranesville and Wellsburg (the three places forming the points
of an equilateral triangle), six to East Springfield, eight to Girard, six
to Spring and nine to Conneautville. The canal passed through the place,
and to the business that grew out of it Albion owed most of its growth.
The Denio Fork and Handle Factory was located at Albion until its
destruction by fire in 1878, which resulted in the removal of the business
to Miles Grove. Of the prominent residents of the place, E. W. Stuntz
settled there in 1815, coming from Kingsville, Ohio; Dr. J. S. Skeels, in
1848, from Spring, Crawford County; Dr. P. D. Flower, in 1855, from Harbor
Creek; Dr. L. D. Davenport, in 1850, from Ellington Center, N. Y., and
Jeduthan Wells, in 1857, from Wellsburg.
Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Township Histories, Chapter X, pp. 760-769.