location within the limits of Harbor Creek Township was made by Thomas
Rees, who took up a large tract of land, long known as the Rees Reserve in
1796. He was the first surveyor in the county, having been appointed by
the Population Company in 1792, but was prevented from entering regularly
upon his duties until the spring of 1795, by the threats of the Indians.
He did not become a resident of the township, however, until some years
after. The first actual settlers were William Saltsman, Amasa Prindle and
Andrew Elliott, who went in in 1797. These were followed by Hugh McCann
and Alex. Brewster in 1800; by Thomas Moorhead, John Riblet and sons,
John, Christian and Jacob Ebersole and the Backus family about 1801, and
by Ezekiel and Benjamin Chambers in 1802. Mr. Moorhead's father, and
brothers John, Robert and George, came in at intervals running from 1802
to 1806. Robert Scott, Thomas Greenwood, Robert Jack, John Shattuck, Aaron
Hoag, Henry Clark, Andrew Culbertson, Thomas Bunnell and the Caldwell
brothers were among the first settlers. Several of these persons were from
the eastern portion of the State; the others were mainly from New England
and New York. Mr. Saltsman was from Northumberland County; the Riblets and
Ebersoles from Lancaster County; Mr. Clark from New England and Mr.
Elliott from Ireland. The Riblets and Ebersoles were the first of the
"Pennsylvania Dutch" stock that settled in the county. A man by
the name of Jack was on the Jesse Ebersole place in 1802. Dr. Ira Sherwin
made his location in the township in 1825. William Henry and brother
settled in Mill Creek in 1803, and changed from there to Harbor Creek. The
descendants of these pioneers generally occupy the land to-day. Mr.
Brewster cleared thirty acres, which he abandoned and moved to Erie. Sarah
Prindle was the first female child born in the township in 1799, and
William Clark the first male child, in 1801. Thomas Rees was the first
justice, and Thomas Greenwood and Myron Backus held the same office at an
The township was one of the original sixteen established, and has
retained the same limits to this day. It has an area of 20,481 acres, and
is noted as having more colored population than any other in the county.
The negroes are mostly descendants of three slaves who were taken in by
Thomas Rees. To two of these, Robert McConnell and James Titus, upon
reaching the twenty-eighth year of their age, when they became free by the
emancipation act, Mr. Rees gave fifty acres of land near Gospel Hill. The
Moorhead family also brought in a slave, known as Caesar, who was
emancipated as above, but continued to live with his former master until
his death. Harbor Creek is bounded on the north by the lake, on the east
by North East and Greenfield, on the south by Greene and on the west by
Mill Creek. It has a frontage on the lake of about seven miles, its east
line is a trifle longer, its south line is about four and a half miles,
and its west line very nearly five miles. The township is one of the
wealthiest and most populous in the county, and its citizens are not
surpassed as a moral, intelligent and church-going people. It maintains
unusually good schools, has many neat houses and barns, and its farms, as
a rule, are under a fine state of improvement. Of late years, the farmers
of this section have given much attention to the culture of fruits,
berries, grapes and melons, meeting with a degree of success that far
exceeds their original anticipations. The First and Second Ridges extend
across the entire southern portion of the township from east to west. On
the First Ridge and back of it, on the second plain, the land continues
quite good. From the Second Ridge south, it is broken, cold and clayey,
being better suited for grazing than grain. The township contains three
villages -- Wesleyville, Harbor Creek and Moorheadville -- each of which
is a station on the Lake Shore and Nickel Plate Railroads. These are also
the post offices of the township; through them most of the inhabitants
receive their mail matter. Another post office, known as Southville, was
kept up for some years, near the Cass Woolen Factory, but was abandoned
about 1840. Since that period, the southern portion of the township has
been without mail facilities, though a post office somewhere on the
Station road would seem to be a necessity.
The population of
the township has been as follows: 555, in 1820; 1,1or, in 1830; 1,843, in
1840; 2,084, in 1850; 2,033, in 1860; 1,974, in 1870, and 1,781 in 1880.
The assessment in 1883 gave the following results: value of real estate,
$1,114,000. Number of cows, 584; of oxen, 12; of horses and mules, 605;
value of the same $58,058. Value of trades and occupations, $12,280. Money
at interest, $35,744.
The streams of Harbor Creek are Four, Six and Twelve Mile Creeks,
Elliott's Run and Scott's Run, all emptying into the lake, and McConnell
Run, a branch of Four Mile Creek. Four and Six Mile Creeks head in Greene,
and Twelve Mile Creek on the edge of North East and Greenfield. All the
rest are wholly within the township. Elliott's Run and Scott's Run are
both small, short streams; the first flows through or near Harbor Creek
Village, and the second is the next stream east. They were named after two
of the earliest settlers. McConnell's Run crosses the Station road a
little south of Gospel Hill, and joins Four Mile Creek near the foot of
the great gully. It received its name from a mulatto, who built a cabin at
an early day on the bank of the stream. The great gully or gorge of Four
Mile Creek, which has attracted the attention of nearly every person who
has ever traveled over the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad, commences in
Greene Township, and extends to very near the bridge of the Station road,
about half a mile south of Wesleyville, gradually becoming shallower as it
reaches its northern terminus. Its length is about six miles, and it
varies in depth from fifty to a hundred and fifty feet. There are a number
of mills along Four Mile Creek, in both Harbor Creek and Greene Townships.
The Old Cooper Mill, near the foot of the great gulf, was once a famous
landmark of the lake shore region. William Saltsman first built a saw mill
at this point in 1815, and added a grist mill in 1826. These afterward
became the property of William Cooper, Sr., under whose management they
obtained wide reputation. Mr. Cooper bought the mill property in 1839, and
rebuilt the mills in 1850. The third saw mill in the county was erected by
Thomas Rees, near the mouth of the creek, on the Crowley place, in 1798,
for the Population Company. In the same year, Eliphalet Beebe constructed
the sloop Washington, of thirty-five tons, on the shore of the lake, near
the mill, for the use of the same company, being the first sailing vessel
built on the south shore of Lake Erie. The gorge of Six Mile Creek extends
to within a mile or a mile and a half of the Buffalo road, and its
windings must be nearly five miles long. The deepest part of the gorge is
at the Clark settlement, where it is but little short of 150 feet deep,
with an average width of not more than 100 feet.
There are a number of
mills in the township, but the most important are the Cooper Grist, Saw
and Cider Mill at Wesleyville, the Neeley Grist and Saw Mill at the mouth
of Twelve Mile Creek, Dodge's handle, shingle and saw mill, Troop's basket
factory and cider mill at Harbor Creek Station, and Cass' woolen mill on
the head waters of Six Mile Creek, in the southeastern section. A small
grist mill was erected in 1800 by James Foulk, at the fall of Six Mile
Creek, near its mouth, but was only kept up a year or two. Neeley's mill
was established in 1802 by Capt. Daniel Dobbins and James Foulk. Capt.
Dobbins lived there with his family seven years, until their removal to
Erie. The mill fell into the hands of Joseph Neeley in 1816, who did a
very prosperous business until 1841. From that time the mill was run by
his son-in-law, the eminent Gen. John W. McLane, until the outbreak of the
war, when it was sold by Mr. Neeley. Since then it has changed proprietors
several times. The mill of the Messrs. Dodge was built in the spring of
1870, and has always done a good trade. It is run by steam, which is
partially created by the gas from a well on the premises. A carding and
woolen mill was erected on the site of the Cass factory as long ago as
1810, and was kept up till 1841 or 1842, when Thorton, Cass & Co.
purchased the property, which had run down, and built the present
extensive works. The factory was carried on very successfully for some
years, and is still running on a small scale. In this connection, it may
be noted that there were fully twenty-five woolen factories in the county
forty or fifty years ago, of which five were in Erie city or its vicinity.
Joseph Backus had a grist mill, saw mill and distillery near the Cass Mill
in the early years of the county. The grist mill and distillery were
abandoned fifty years ago; the saw mill continued to be run till a
comparatively recent period, when it, too, was left to decay. Cooper's
mill at Wesleyville will be referred to in connection with that village.
Troop's basket factory was started about 1878. In addition to the above,
there is a large cider mill at Moorheadville. The building used as a barn,
on the north side of the road, on the Joseph McCarter farm, was once a
grist mill, the power of which was furnished by Elliott's Run. Joseph
Backus built mills at an early date in the Backus neighborhood in the
southeast. The first cargo of flour and pork shipped to New York from Erie
County was taken through the Erie Canal by Joseph Neeley in 1826. The
flour was made at the mill near the mouth of Twelve Mile Creek.
The main public roads
are the Buffalo and the Lake, in the north portion, crossing the township
from Mill Creek to North East, and the Station road, commencing at
Wesleyville and running in a general southeastern course into Greenfield.
The Lake road extends through the township at a distance of from a quarter
to a half mile from the water, having one tier of farms between. The
Buffalo road runs at an average distance of a mile and a half south of the
lake. The Station road was laid out through Colt's Station to Mayville, N.
Y., about 1813. The Lake Shore and Nickel Plate railroads pass through the
whole width of Harbor Creek Township from east to west, and the
Philadelphia & Erie road runs through about a mile of its western
portion in a semi-circular direction at the gully of Four Mile Creek. The
first two have stations at Wesleyville, Harbor Creek and Moorheadville.
The last has no station in the township.
Near the close of
the last century, the State of Pennsylvania made a donation of 2,000 acres
of land in the newly purchased Triangle to Gen. William Irvine for his
services in the Revolutionary war, giving him the privilege of making his
own selection. In 1795, while in the county to lay out the towns of Erie
and Waterford, he took up a mile along the lake from Brawley's old tavern
to the Greenwood Schoolhouse, embracing the mouth of Six Mile Creek, and
running back a proportionate distance. In 1830, Gen. Callender Irvine, son
of William, had 800 acres surveyed on both sides of the Buffalo road, and
sold it off, reserving the water power, which was still regarded as of
great value. About 1848, the balance of the reserve was disposed of by Dr.
William A. Irvine, son of Callender.
Four and a half miles
from the Parks in Erie is the village of Wesleyville, containing three
stores, three blacksmith shops, one shoe shop, one large grist mill (using
both steam and water), two cider mills, a saw mill, a wind mill factory, a
brick church and schoolhouse, some thirty or forty buildings, and between
150 and 200 people. Four Mile Creek runs through the village, and the
Buffalo road is its main street. The schoolhouse is built upon the
diamond, near the center of the village, which was donated by Gen.
Kilpatrick to the public for the purpose. Wesleyville enjoys a good trade
with the farmers of western Harbor Creek, Greenfield and eastern Mill
Creek. The Lake Shore and Nickel Plate Railroads run just north of the
place, and it is the point of intersection of the Station road with the
Buffalo road. The alley on the west side of W. R. Kelley's store is the
line between Harbor Creek and Mill Creek Townships. Wesleyville was laid
out in 1828 by John Shadduck, who owned the farm and mill now widely known
as Cooper's mill. He built a grist mill in 1823, and a saw mill two years
later, both on the west bank of Four Mile Creek. It was named Wesleyville
after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The Methodist Episcopal
church, the only one in the village, was built by Mr. Shadduck in 1828,
and rebuilt by the congregation in 1866. Mr. Shadduck's death in 1834 was
a heavy blow to the place.
Episcopal Church at Wesleyville above referred to was a moderate sized
one, and at a quarterly meeting held in it late in the fall thirteen were
converted. Two young men, while at work in the brickyard making the brick
for the above church, were awakened and converted, one of whom
subsequently became an able preacher of the Gospel. From 1830 to 1834,
this appointment was on the Erie Circuit. The latter year Wesleyville
Circuit was formed. The apportionment of the church at Wesleyville for the
support of the preacher in 1833 was $40. P. D. Horton and T. Benn were
pastors in 1834; J. C. Ridout in 1881-82-83.
Harbor Creek and
The village of Harbor
Creek is one of the pleasantest in the county. A station was established
here by the railroad company because it was half-way between Erie and
North East. The village contains two stores, one hotel, a blacksmith shop,
wagon shop, Dodge's shingle, handle and saw mill, Jonathan Troop's basket
factory and cider mill, and 75 or 100 people. The post office at Harbor
Creek was established about 1832, and was originally located some distance
east of the village. It is fifteen miles from Erie to North East, and
Harbor Creek is exactly midway by the Buffalo road.
the Buffalo road, half a mile north of the railroad station of the same
name, is not properly a village, but a cluster of neighborly farm
residences. The locality received its name from the large number of
Moorheads living there. It was first settled by Thomas Moorhead, in 1800,
who was soon followed by others of the family from the eastern part of the
State. The first Sabbath school held in Erie County was established in
1817, at this place, by Col. James M. Moorhead and Rev. Mr. Morton, in a
log schoolhouse which was removed in 1857. Moorheadville is ten and
one-half miles from Erie, and four and one half from North East, by
The township contains
six churches, viz.: Methodist Episcopal, at Wesleyville; Presbyterian and
Methodist Episcopal, at Harbor Creek Station; United Brethren, on the road
up Six Mile Creek, in the Clark settlement; Baptist, at Lowry's Corners,
and another Methodist Episcopal, on the Ridge road, south of the Walker
settlement. The Presbyterian congregation at Harbor Creek was organized
May 26, 1832, with fifty-eight members set off from the church at North
East. The first building was erected half a mile east of the present site,
on a piece of ground donated by Judah Colt, who owned a large farm there.
It was of brick, costing $2,089, and was dedicated November 7, 1834. The
present beautiful edifice was built and dedicated in 1871, at a cost of
$10,000. The first Elders of the congregation were Myron Backus, Samuel
Kingsbury and J. J. Moorhead. Rev. Giles Doolittle, of the North East
church, supplied the congregation during the first year of its
organization. Rev. George W. cleveland was installed as pastor of the new
school branch August 26, 1849; continued after the re-union, and is still
in charge of the congregation. There was quite a struggle between Harbor
Creek and Moorheadville over the site of the new building, and when the
former place was decided upon some of the congregation withdrew and
attached themselves to the church at North East.
Episcopal Church in the same village was erected in 1873, on ground
donated by Rev. Noah Sullivan, at a cost of about $4,000; it was dedicated
December 11 of that year by Rev. B. J. Ives, of Auburn, N. Y. For many
years, Methodist preaching has been enjoyed in the village of Harbor Creek
and vicinity. This appointment has been on the Wesleyville Circuit.
The South Harbor
Creek Methodist Episcopal Church in the Walker and McGill neighborhood is
the outgrowth of a class organized in that vicinity at an early day. An
early preaching point was at Lowry's Corners, in a schoolhouse, which was
the main place of worship until the building of the church in 1841 or
1842, which was dedicated by Rev. John Robinson. Erie Circuit was formed
in 1830, and the first quarterly conference for the new circuit was held
at Harbor Creek September 13, 1830. There were present Wilden B. Mack,
Presiding Elder, Joseph A. Barrass and A. Young, circuit preachers. In
1834, Wesleyville Circuit was formed, and since that time the appointment
at South Harbor Creek has been on Wesleyville Circuit; however, the word
south does not appear in the minutes until 1836, yet the name Harbor Creek
undoubtedly referred to the class at Lowry's Corners, as the class at
Harbor Creek Station was not organized until a later day, and then for
convenience' sake, many previously having been converted with that class.
Among the members in 1833 may be mentioned Silas Walker and wife, Audley
McGill and wife, William Allen, James Clark, David Nellis and wife, and
Jesse R. Prindle and wife.
The Harbor Creek
Baptist Church located at Lowry's Corners, dates back as far as 1822. It
was organized in a schoolhouse near Hoag's Corners. The congregation
subsequently moved o a schoolhouse at Lowry's Corners, and later erected
the church there. The charge is weak, and the congregation is now without
The United Brethren
congregation in the Clark neighborhood, was organized in 1856, with a
membership of about ten, by Rev. J. W. Clark; the building was erected the
same year. This field of labor was then Erie mission, but one year later
it became a part of Harbor Creek Circuit. J. W. Clark was pastor in 1857,
in 1874-75, and in 1882-83.
Besides the above
places, religious services are frequently held in the schoolhouse at
Gospel Hill, on the Station road. This place received its name because
most of the early citizens were Methodists who were very devoted to their
religion. The graveyard on Gospel Hill has been in use for fifty-six
years. The first bodies interred were those of two girls who were drowned
in Six Mile Creek in 1823.
The county officers
from Harbor Creek Township have been as follows: Sheriff -- John
Kilpatrick, October 28, 1855, to October 21, 1858; John W. McLane, October
21, 1858, to November 16, 1861. Register and Recorder and Clerk of the
Courts -- William P. Trimble, November 10, 1857, to November 19, 1860.
County Treasurer -- James Chambers, January 4, 1853, to January 6, 1855.
Clerks of the Courts -- Robert S. Moorhead, January 1, 1883, to January 1,
1886 (resident of Erie when elected). County Commissioners -- James M.
Moorhead, 1827 to 1830; Samuel Low, 1836 to 1840; James Chambers, 1864 to
1867. Director of the Poor -- George W. Walker, 1840 to 1843. County
Surveyor -- G. W. F. Sherwin, November 12, 1866, to February 22, 1869.
County Auditors -- Thomas Rees, 1821 and 1824; James Chambers, 1846; Jesse
Ebersole, 1870; William P. Edwards, 1880 to 1883.
Early in this century,
a school was taught in the barn of Robert Hurst, which for some reason had
been vacated; this was in the vicinity of the present site of
Moorheadville, on the Buffalo road, and was attended by Walter Greenwood,
from whom we get this information, when a small lad, as his first school.
He was born in the spring of 1798. The master was Walter Patterson. School
was kept here but a short time. On the Col. Moorhead farm, probably a half
mile east of the Hurst barn, a log schoolhouse was built, where the next
school in that settlement was taught. This house was too far for the
Harbor Creek settlement, which led to the building of another house on the
farm of William Wilson, on the Buffalo road, just north of the Lake Shore
Railroad. In this house, among the early teachers were a Mr. Fisk and Miss
Clara Cain. In 1825, at Harbor Creek settlement, Miss Elenor Burgett
taught a school. Where Wesleyville now is, at a point opposite Kelley's
store, there stood a schoolhouse as early at least as 1811 or 1812, the
first schoolhouse erected in that neighborhood, in which school was taught
by a Mrs. Burrass. Here the venerable James Chambers, who was born in
1805, learned his letters. Later teachers in this building were Nathaniel
Lowry, Freeman Wing, W. Taggart and George Hampson. The schoolhouses of
the township are now thirteen in number, of which all but two are brick,
the material of the Shaw School being stone, and of the Owen, frame. They
are as follows: On the Lake road -- Shaw, near A. Shaw's, and Crowley
neighborhood. On the Buffalo road -- Wesleyville, in the village;
Chambers, near Henry Chamber's; Elliott, near Harbor Creek Village;
Ebersole, near Joseph Ebersole's, and Moorhead, near William Moorhead's.
In other parts of the township -- Gospel Hill, near John Bunnell's;
Tuttle, near John Tuttle's; Owen, near William Cass'; Williams, near Hugh
Campbell's; Lowry, near the N. D. Lowry place; Backus, near Edwin Cass;.
The Elliott House was built for a graded school, and is two stories in
The venerable James
Chambers, whose home is a little east of Wesleyville, is the oldest
continuous Justice of the Peace in the county, and probably in the State.
He was first commissioned by Gov. Ritner in 1837, and has held the office
from then to the present time, with the exception of an interval of six
years, during which he served a term each as County Treasurer and County
Commissioner. Aaron Hoag, one of the pioneers, who died in 1857, was
always in litigation, and it is stated as a fact, that after his demise,
the law business of the court suddenly dropped off twenty-five per cent.
Elias Campbell died at the house of his son-in-law, Thomas E. Kendrick,
October 8, 1882, aged ninety years; he emigrated to Washington Township
with his mother in 1797.
The value of land in
Harbor Creek ranges from $200 an acre on the lake shore plain to $30 on
the high ground south. Several valuable gas wells have been drilled in the
township, but most of them are now yielding little or nothing.
Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner,
Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Township Histories, Chapter VI, pp.