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Erie County (PA) Genealogy

Family Histories & Biographies

The Baldwin Family of Amity Township

Contributed by Dana Baldwin Lorenz

Site visitor Dana Baldwin Lorenz provided the family history below. Ebenezer Baldwin and his family settled in Erie County around 1835. Many of this family remained. Any questions or comments concerning this family history should be sent directly to Dana Baldwin Lorenz .

The Baldwin Family of Amity Township, Erie Co. Pennsylvania

Contributed by Dana Baldwin Lorenz

In 1916 my great-uncle James Baldwin published his book “The Genealogy and Reminiscences of Our Baldwin Family.“  He wrote in his introduction, “that at the present time there was a growing interest in genealogy, and that information on the subject is extensive, but for the most part, only to be found in public libraries, while the general public in not aware of its existence.  The preservation of pedigree, however, is not a mere pastime of the idle and curious but it is the proper employment of the historian.”  

 James Baldwin humbly confessed his indebtedness he received from various sources, among which were certain papers handed down from generation to generation, and prominent individuals.  James Baldwin hoped that his "hastily gotten up little book will be kindly received as furnishing a family reference and also as giving history to the manners and customs of the people by which our forefathers were surrounded in the early days, and with best wishes for all the Baldwin’s, I am justly proud of my ancestors and the Baldwin name."

Thank you James Baldwin for you dedication and perseverance in writing your 322-page book on our Baldwin family.  This book given to me by my father Willard Baldwin is one of my most treasured possessions.  I will relay his information to you in a more condensed version.

James Baldwin writes about his grandfather Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr., his father George Washington Baldwin and all his Baldwin uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers, cousins, and his own children.

Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr.

The patriarch of the family, who so rejoiced in moving to Amity Township, was born on May 31, 1783 in Leicester, Worcester County, Massachusetts. His great-great-great grandfather, Joseph Baldwin was one of the early settlers of Milford Connecticut, settling there in 1639.  Joseph Baldwin’s name is listed on the Founders Bridge that is still located in the center of the town today. 

Ebenezer Jr.’s, father was Ebenezer Baldwin who was a private in the American Revolutionary War.  He was in Captain David Prouty’s Company, and in Colonel Samuel Denny’s (Worcester Co.) regiment.  Ebenezer Baldwin. Sr., marched September 27, 1777, and was discharged on October 18, 1777.  His service was for one month and he marched to reinforce the Northern Army.  Roll dated at Spencer, Massachusetts.  This information is listed on page 131 of the DAR Patriot Index.  Also can be found in “The Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors” book, published by Wright Potter Printing Co. 1886, prepared by the Secretary of the Common Wealth of Massachusetts.

In 1805 he married Elizabeth Towers.  Being strictly a farmer or agriculturist, he bought several farms at different times, the deeds of which are still kept preserved as relics of the real estate business, which he transacted, in those early times. 

He bought with his brother James an heir ship property located in Leicester, Massachusetts.  His whole family seemed to be interested in this, and this deal involved 50 acres with each one of the heirs to receive $50.00 from James and Ebenezer as their share.  Ebenezer was 27 years old when he bought this land with James and had been married for 5 years.  In 1813, he was deeded by Joshua Hatch 125 acres of land in Whitehall, Washington County, New York.

It is said that Ebenezer was an upright, honorable and praiseworthy man.  Ebenezer had the full confidence and respect of his community.  He was a devoted Christian man, being a deacon in the Presbyterian Church to which he belonged. 

His neighbors all agreed the Ebenezer Baldwin's corn crop was always better than anyone else could raise in the locality.  He always seemed to have at least two ears of corn on each stalk.  One story told was Ebenezer once accidentally left his cane sticking in the ground among the corn hills, and he was astonished when harvesting time came to find the cane tasseled out with a crop of four good ears of corn hanging by its side.

On April 6, 1821, the long wished and hoped for first and only daughter was born to Ebenezer and Elizabeth, she being the sister to seven brothers.  There was occasion for much joy and happiness, but also sorrow and sadness came to soon.  Elizabeth the much-adored mother and cherished wife died a few short days after little Betsy was born.

Ebenezer had to hire a housekeeper for his very large brood after Elizabeth's death and he found her in Miss Thirza Murray.  She became favorably acquainted with the family and a tender friendship with Ebenezer grew to him marrying her on October 3, 1821.  Thirza Murray Baldwin gave Ebenezer three sons with one dying at an early age.  Ebenezer now has ten sons and one daughter.

Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr. Migrates To Erie County

Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr. originally planned to move his family from Whitehall, Washington County, New York to Michigan, but things changed along the way.  The fall of 1835 was finally chosen for the great trip to be made.  One fine morning in September of that year Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr. and his son George Washington Baldwin, known as Washington Baldwin started out on their eventful and hazardous journey.  The journey started with a long stagecoach ride from Whitehall to Albany, NY a distance of 60 miles. They rested in Albany overnight where they looked forward for the next day to take passage on one of the canal boats on the Erie Canal.  These little boats were called packets, which were fitted out for passengers. It would take a little over 2 days of 24 hours each to travel through this canal.  It was a tedious time on the canal the average speed of the boat was about 14 miles in 15 hours; many times our Baldwin fellows jumped off the boat to the solid ground and would walk or run along the smooth bank for miles. When they reached Buffalo, NY they took passage on one of the then most wonderful steamers that piled the Great Lakes.

While on their lake journey on this steamer with its great moving paddle wheels an unfortunate experience of a dangerous and unpleasant character was about to happen.  Our Baldwin men started to notice that there was more excitement than common among the sailors who seemed to be hurrying from place to place over the boat, as though agitated with confusion of some kind, while at the same time the hissing of steam was more noticeable as its pressure was becoming more greater in the boiler room below.  “Suppose we go down below,” says the Ebenezer and Washington, and soon they were seen climbing down the rickety ladder to the hot, hold of the boat, where they found the excited firemen, with sweat pouring down their faces, as they tended the fire for that fueled the boat.  The noise of the hissing steam was so great that all talking was out of the question, and matters looked so dangerous and threatening that Ebenezer and Washington hurried up the ladder to the main deck, expecting any moment that the overstrained boiler would explode!  They finally reached the deck all panting and perspiring, they observed the folks on deck cheering with the crew of a competing boat which was racing alongside them in a reckless manner, with their steam also hissing and groaning, with every revolution of their paddle wheel.  Ebenezer took a look down the scuttle hole to where the men were madly working, and by this means he came very close to losing his life, for it was but a few minutes later, and our men found a safer area, than with a loud explosion the boiler blew up, scattering the hot pent up steam in every direction!  Ebenezer with his face badly scorched, took hold of the situation and went to check on those men, he found them as expected, all dead with faces so disguised it was impossible to tell who was who. 

The competing boat now ran alongside and took off the terrified passengers as fast as possible.  They tottered over the planks that were laid from boat to boat, being constantly rocked by the waves in dangerous positions.  The passengers quaked in fear as they pushed and scrambled from the disabled boat.  One poor fellow fell from the plank into the river and was never heard from again and our disabled steamer was charging down the river, seemingly now being bent on its own destruction.

Our Baldwin representatives are now moving on again, being somewhat terrified, but they did not have far to go before they landed in Michigan.   We don’t know what area they explored, but they found they did not like the soil, which was too barren and sandy, and the timber was scarce and scrubby.  They also said that there were worlds of venomous snakes that hid in the sandy soil.

On the trip home our Baldwin men took a canal excursion from Erie on the Erie & Pittsburgh as far as Meadville, where their friendly relatives the Pratts and Delmarters, who had long been expecting them, met them.  After a short stay in Crawford County, the Baldwin’s made their way through the woods in a northerly direction until they finally struck the neighborhood of Hatch Hollow in Amity Township, Erie County, Pennsylvania where they had more acquaintances they longed to see before returning to their home in Washington County, NY.

The friendly Hatch family learned they were looking for land and a place of settlement they wished to have them, if possible, for near neighbors, and proposed that they should inspect some unoccupied land that could be bought for a reasonable price about 2 miles distant on the flats of French Creek.  The Hatch family said the greatest objection would probably be that at times the creek rose up high and flooded the land by turning it into a small lake, which was inconvenient and almost dangerous to contemplate. But this bugaboo story about the overflow instead of intimidating our much interested Baldwin men, only made them the more anxious to not only to see put to possess some of this flat land on the creek.  But just now, alas on account of recent heavy rains the creek was according to its custom covering the land with its usual fertilizing effect, so the Baldwin’s had to resort to the construction of rude rafts, made quickly from some of the Hatch’s waste lumber, they donned their rafts and got a satisfactory view of the locality afterwards known as “Baldwin Flats.” 

So well satisfied were they with this fertile land, covered with heavy timber, they at once determined to have some of it for their future home, and soon made a bargain with Mr. Nichols, the owner.  The piece of land contained some 209 acres with a frontage on French Creek wide enough to suit their fancy, and ran back on higher ground far enough for dry pastures and suitable building places.  In after years I have heard them say that they never regretted for a single day the wise selection of this beautiful cut of land.

Copy of the deed of this land from Mr. Josiah M. Nichols to Ebenezer Baldwin was recorded on October 10, 1835 in the county deed book.  The 209 acres of land cost $1,327.00.

The land had a very smart supply of plums, wild grapes, fish in the big creek, generous supply of water in flooding time, heavy timber, and last but not least, the numerous wild animals that swarmed through the woods for nightly entertainment as well as profit for the table when meat was scarce.

Feeling highly pleased with the final outcome of their great undertaking and long, pleasant journey they turned their footsteps back towards their home and kindred which they had left in Whitehall, NY, who, they felt certain would be as well pleased as themselves with their future home they had just purchased on the flats of the big stream in Erie County, Pennsylvania.

The Baldwin Family Arrives In Amity Township

In the summer of 1836, Washington Baldwin made his appearance by bringing his little family with him, arriving in a big covered wagon and a very fine team which they had driven all the way from Whitehall, NY, stopping overnight as the necessity required, and traveling constantly from day to day until the long journey of about 400 miles was finally accomplished.  The valuable team and wagon they told me, was at once exchanged for a small piece of land situated near the Alder Run bridge where the road running from Wattsburg to Waterford now crosses this little stream.  There were precious few acres of land already cleared surrounding the small frame house which they quickly accepted as their abiding place in this great wilderness, while the lucky man who had been the former owner of the property cheerfully vacated the place and took possession of the spirited team to emigrate back to Whitehall in the same location where the Baldwin family had just come from. 

Washington Baldwin  Commences To Work

Washington Baldwin soon commenced to work by cutting and clearing a piece of woods away for a crop of wheat, to make sure the wolf of hunger would never come to his door.  He soon found that is was quite easy for him to get his supply of meat from the woods, he captured deer, turkeys and other game which provided to be a very toothsome meat for his scanty table.

Besides his other necessary work, he took up the plastering masons’ trade and the laying of stone walls for the houses, for the wall laying corresponded exactly with the stone wall trade which he with his little brother Reuben had been working at for several years in Whitehall, and so upon the whole he was able to support his little family and live in comfort until he was joined by his father, Ebenezer, and two younger brothers, David and Hibbard.  The family lived in a log house for several years before their commodious frame dwelling was erected on the beautiful site where Mr. Judson Stowe now resides. 

Ebenezer Baldwin was now 54 years of age; his son Washington 27, son David 14, and son Hibbard 11.  His sons Reuben, Hiram, Calvin, and Hezekiah had not so far yet made their appearance, but they came along later, all the brothers finally coming to the county except Ambrose Baldwin who stayed in Whitehall, NY. 

It was a sad fact that Grandfather Ebenezer Baldwin failed to live long enough after coming to his new home in Erie County, his life was cut short with some kind of heart trouble, he was buried in the neighborhood cemetery at Milltown on October 1, 1839. 

George Washington Baldwin

Son of Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr.

George Washington Baldwin was born September 22, 1810 in Cambridge, Washington Co., NY.  He was united in marriage to Luzetta M. Brooks of Whitehall, NY on December 5, 1833.  They would have 10 children, 7 girls and 3 boys.  Of these children, 5 would die as children.

George Washington Baldwin was the first road commissioner of Amity Township and was also elected to various other town offices.  Besides being a farmer he was in the business of stone and plastering mason.  He offered his services in the Civil War in 1861, but was rejected because of his age.

It is told the George Washington Baldwin was a man of pronounced opinions and correct principles, was industrious and successful.  He was widely known in his area and much respected.  He and Luzetta were devoted church members and was class leader for many years.  George Washington Baldwin passed away on September 11, 1891 at the age of 81 and was buried in the Milltown Cemetery.

The children of George Washington Baldwin and Luzetta Brooks Baldwin;

Mary Lusetta born 1834 in Amity; died April 20, 1836 in Wattsburg, PA.

Mary Sabrina born 1837 in Baldwin Flats, Amity; married James W. Mulvin in 1862

Frances Louise born 1839 in Amity; died 1845 in Amity

Josephine Latetia born 1841 in Amity; married Alfred Shepardson  in 1869.

Phoebe Jane born 1843, died 1844

Abigail F. born 1845 in Amity; married Henry H. Mulvin, died 1914

James Baldwin the author of this book; born August 17, 1848 in Baldwin Flats; married Frances Phoebe Titus on August 17, 1873 in Phillipsville, PA.

Ida Eliza born 1851; died 1853

William Pierce my great-grandfather; born on April 23, 1853 in Amity; married Julia E. Cox in 1875 in Erie; died on April 23, 1918 in Erie County.

Anson B. born 1854; died 1858

Here’s a family story;

Washington Baldwin’s Encounter With The Wolves

Uncle Wash related one more story about when he first came to this area.  A story that made Alexander Donaldson quake with fear as he considered how dangerous it was. Uncle Wash went far down the creek one cold winter's day taking a dog with him. He had his ice skates buckled on his feet and took snowshoes along so that he might be prepared for either the creek ice or heavy snows of the forest.  He said he must have gone about 20 miles down the stream catching several foxes along the way.   He decided to stop and build a little fire and enjoy his luncheon, he then notices that it is late and darkness is coming fast.

He concluded that it was high time to start home, so without the least misgivings he buckled his skates and started off.  He glided along happily until he noticed the dog seemed to be very uneasy and occasionally would give a low whine and sometimes a growl, causing Washington to stop and look around and listen, but he was unable to see or hear anything.  He tried to quiet the dog but couldn't so "Uncle Wash" used the old Indian method of lying down with his ear close to the ice, when to his astonishment he could hear the howl of many wolves far in the distance.  Washington quickly got up and hurried his pace for his journey home.  He went about a mile further when he stopped again and could distinctly hear their howling without the extra trouble of putting his ear to the ice.  Washington began to feel scared.  For if the wolves got scent of his game pelts and he had so little ammunition left he knew he would be an easy victim to the wolves.  He thought of his dear wife and children as he passed over the ice thinking of how he was now being hunted by the wolves.  "What can I do, how can I escape; is there a way for me to escape or must I face death in this wretched manner without a possible way of defense."

He was getting closer to home, but despite his hurry the wolves were fast approaching him and the dog. His mind was working fast even though it was filled with dread and fear; he finally came upon a scheme that was his last hope.  Washington remembered that as he came down the creek in the morning that he passed an air hole in the ice.  He had been careful to avoid it, but now would it be possible for him to reach this hole in the ice?  If he could reach the hole in the ice he would be able play a smart trick on the wolves.  He could leave them to the mercy of the ice cold water and rushing current of the stream.  He sped along with all his might while the wolves got closer and closer.  The wolves are almost on his heels and he is going so fast that the dog can hardly keep up.  Rather than peril his own life by dragging the dog along he lets the cord go that holds the dog. He hears a loud yelp and the dog is attacked by the wolves!  This partly satisfies the wolves giving Washington a little time to make some distance, but still they come after him even more savage now that they have finally tasted real blood.  He is hoping that the hole in the ice will soon appear and sure enough it did.  When the wolves were almost upon him and he was scared out of his senses he saw the big air hole.  Whew, just in time he went for the final jump. He knew if he succeeded in reaching the other side in safety he would be saved, while the wolves would fall miserably short and would be at the mercy of the rushing current. 

George Washington Baldwin always believed that luck was on his side, and that his guardian angel helped him.  For with all his might he gave the jump that landed him on the safe side of the air hole.  The excited wolves struck fair and square in the current and were dragged under the ice to be seen no more, while Wash reached his home in safety.


James Baldwin

Son of George Washington Baldwin

Author of  “Genealogy and Reminiscences of Our Baldwin Family”

James Baldwin was the first son after five daughters being born on August 17, 1848 on Baldwin Flats to George Washington Baldwin and Luzetta Brooks Baldwin, who were pioneer settlers of Erie County.  James was reared and educated in Amity Township and attended the Waterford Academy. He later taught at the Academy.

On August 17, 1873 on his twenty-fifth birthday he married Miss Frances Titus who was a native of Venango Township.  In 1874, James and Frances purchased a farm in Venango Township.  Five years later in 1879 they sold the farm and moved to Amity Township to take charge of his father’s farm on Baldwin Flats, which he purchased after the death of his parents, and continued to live there until 1905.

James would haul his daily flatbed loads of rough-sawed lumber from eighteen miles into town.  After doing this for a number of years James began to formulate his dream.  One spring morning in 1899, on the crest of a hill, he decided that if he and his boys could grow, saw and haul the lumber for houses in Erie, they could build them too.  This time the long haul ended on a plot of land he purchased in Erie, the family's initial step on the road to helping house a city.

Within one week, the surprised citizens of Erie were witnessing the town's first experiment in mass production of homes, as work began on ten houses, which were to revolutionize local housing methods.

For one thing the Baldwin’s recognized the need for homes for working families; they satisfied this demand with a six-room house that sold for $3,200.  Perhaps the real genius of their plan lay in the $200 down payment, which brought home-ownership within grasp of the average family.

Enthused by their success, James' two sons George Daniel Baldwin and Isaac Baldwin struck out on their own three years later with Baldwin Brothers realty firm with plans for not tens of homes, but hundred-home developments.  From 1902 on, the two men produced a great part of Erie's housing.

James Baldwin and Frances Titus Baldwin’s children;

Lottie M. born 1874 in Venango Township; died 1891

George Daniel born 1876 in Venango Township; married Mabel Losel in 1908; died Nov. 10, 1946

Don C. born 1878 in Venango Township; died same year

Mary Eliza born March 31, 1879 Venango Township; married Orel N. Chaffee May 12, 1907 in Erie, PA; died February 12, 1956 in Erie, PA

William Isaac born 1882 in Baldwin Flats; married Florence King

Ida Lou born June 8, 1886 in Amity Township; married Harry Riblet on October 1, 1912 in Erie, PA; died October 26, 1973 in Erie, PA


Mary Sabrina Baldwin

Daughter of George Washington Baldwin

Mary Sabrina Baldwin was born in 1837 in Baldwin Flats, Amity Township. Mary Sabrina finished her education at Waterford Academy, and was one of the principal schoolteachers in Amity Township from several years.   She married James Mulvin in 1862 and he was a soldier in the Union Army.


Mary Sabrina Baldwin’s children;

Ida L. Mulvin born 1863 in Amity; married Charles Bartholme in 1892

William L. Mulvin born 1866 in Amity; married Marbra Loop in 1899


Josephine Latetia Baldwin

Daughter of George Washington Baldwin

Josephine Latetia Baldwin was born in 1841 in Amity.  Josephine finished her education at the Waterford Academy, and taught several terms of district schools.  She was married on her father's farm in 1869, and soon after, with her husband Alfred Shepardson they moved to Scranton, Green County, Iowa.  They had a farm of 200 acres.  Josephine's husband was a local minister and they were active members of the U. B. Church.  When her husband died, Josephine sold her farm for $110.00 per acre and went to live with her youngest daughter Emma in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Children of Josephine Baldwin;

Roxannia Shepardson born in 1871

Alletta Shepardson born in 1874

Alford E. Shepardson born 1876, died 1880

Emma L. Shepardson born 1880

Abigail F. Baldwin

Daughter of George Washington Baldwin

Abigail F. Baldwin was born in 1845 in Amity Township.  She married Henry H. Mulvin who was a soldier in the Union Army and saw service in many severe battles.  Abigail and her husband first owned a farm near Juva, then sold it and purchased a 50-acre farm on Amity Hill.  They resided there until 1913, and then moved to Beaverdam, Pennsylvania.  Abigail died in 1914 in Beaverdam, Pennsylvania.

Children of Abigail F. Baldwin;

Eva Mulvin born in 1870 in Amity; married Morris Breed in 1891

Edith Mulvin born in 1872 in Amity; died in 1894; married Lavern Huntly

Mary J. Mulvin born in 1876 in Amity; married Fred Doolittle in 1895.  She died in 1965.

Charles Mulvin born in 1880 in Amity; married Eva Kent

Robert Mulvin born in 1882

George Baldwin Mulvin was born in 1885; married Anna Belle Doriety in 1915 in Beaverdam, PA. Died September 19, 1960

William Pierce Baldwin

Son of George Washington Baldwin

William Pierce Baldwin was the second son of George Washington and Luzetta Baldwin.  He was born on April 23, 1853 on Baldwin Flats in Amity Township, Erie, Pennsylvania.  He was raised on his father's farm and attended the common schools and finished his education at the Waterford Academy.

In 1875, he married Julia E. Cox, who was the daughter of Charles S. Cox, also of Amity Township. Soon after their marriage William became a traveling salesman.  After a few years he decided to go into the building business, which he successfully carried on at different times in Erie, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo.  He and Julia made their home in Erie in a lovely Victorian house.  They were worthy members of the Presbyterian Church.  Julia Baldwin was a teacher in the public schools.  On January 27, 1916, Julia Cox Baldwin departed this life and she was buried at the Erie Cemetery in Section R, Lot 144.

On April 23, 1918, on William P. Baldwin's 65th birthday he passed away and he is buried next to his wife at the Erie Cemetery.

Child of William P. and Julia Cox Baldwin;

Gurth Baldwin born on December 2, 1889 in Erie, PA; married Mabel Calhoon on Sept.  28, 1919 in Cleveland, Ohio; died on Feb.15, 1969 in Cleveland, OH, buried at Lakeside Cemetery, Cleveland, OH.

Gurth Baldwin

Son of William Pierce Baldwin

Gurth Baldwin the only child of William P. and Julia Cox Baldwin was born on December 2, 1889.  He graduated in the High School in Allegheny, Pennsylvania and then attended Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.  In 1909, he received two years honor in mathematics and in 1912, he graduated with a Cum Laude degree.  The well-known physician of Erie, PA Dr. John Chaffee (who is also included in our Baldwin family) told me that Gurth Baldwin was the first Baldwin in Erie to attend college. 

Gurth belonged to Sigma Nua National College fraternity and was also a member of the honorary fraternity of Phi Beta Kappa.  After college from September 1912 to June 1913 he was a teacher in Ashtabula, Ohio.  He then returned to Erie and became the educational director of the Y.M.C.A.  In 1917, Gurth entered into the electrical contracting business.  In Erie he also belonged to the Erie Scientific Society and the Humane Society.   

On September 28, 1919 he married Mabel Calhoon from East Cleveland, Ohio.  They were married in a private ceremony at Western Reserve University.  Gurth and Mabel Baldwin returned to Erie and resided at 249 East 24th Street.  In July of 1932, Gurth Baldwin left Erie and returned to East Cleveland with his wife and three children to reopen his father-in-laws bankrupt floral business. His wife Mabel Calhoon Baldwin was the designer and was known as a “Pioneer Woman” in the floral business, Gurth did the maintenance until he learned floral design and could take over the business.  The shop was started in 1895 by his wife’s father and continued on in business until the 1950’s when Gurth Baldwin decided to retire.

Gurth’s wife Mabel dies suddenly in August of 1943.  Gurth Baldwin was an active member in his church, he was a member of the Woodard Masonic Lodge, the Lions Club and he helped organize the TDS Floral Association in Cleveland, Ohio. 

On February 15, 1969, Gurth Baldwin suffered a heart attack and passed away.  He is buried with Mabel Calhoon Baldwin in her family’s plot at Lakeview Cemetery, East Cleveland, Ohio.

Children of Gurth and Mabel Calhoon Baldwin;

Willard Gene Baldwin born in 1920; married in 1944; died in 2001>>>>My father

Gurth Vernon Baldwin born in 1924, married in 1946; died in 1984

Gervais Calhoon Baldwin; Living

Reuben Baldwin

Son of Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr.


Reuben Baldwin the second son of Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr. was born on October 20, 1806 in Cambridge, Washington Co., NY.  Reuben Baldwin left Washington County, New York and came to Amity Township, Pennsylvania with his wife Hannah W. Sloan and their children.

 In 1849 the California gold rush was calling his name, so he packed his bags and entrusted his wife and children to his brothers in search of his fortune.  He returned to the family homestead in 1852 with many tales of his gold rush experience.  Reuben said when he first arrived in California there were many great outlaws and no specific rules to govern them.  He told of riders who would pass along the highways on their horses looking for unprotected miners.  The riders always carried a lasso on their saddles,  the riders would use this lasso to slip around the necks of unsuspecting miners, to be hurled along the dusty road until the life was completely choked and pounded out of him.  At this stage the cunning robber dismounts,  quietly robs the victim of his gold dust and other valuables, then takes flight on his horse.

Reuben Baldwin and family then moved to Henry County, Illinois where he purchased 375 acres of land.  He lived there until 1869 when he then moved his family to Page County, Iowa.  In Page County he purchased 360 acres of land and lived there until his death.

He was honored with the office of Justice of the Peace, was a postmaster under President Lincoln, and was a local minister.  He was a man of much energy, courage and marked ability.

Children of Reuben and Hannah Sloan Baldwin;

Lucinda S.  born in 1833

Emily Sylphinn born 1834 in Whitehall, NY

Ebenezer born 1836

Lyman Emerson born in 1837 in Hope, Hamilton Co., NY; died in 1900 Boulder, CO.

Thomas H. born 1839

Elizabeth Emily born 1841

Alonzo F. born 1844 in Amity Township

George W. born in 1845 in Amity Township

Hiram William  born 1847 in Venango Township

Mary Hannah  born 1854 in Berlin, Richland Grove, Mercer Co., IL

William L. born in 1856 in Lynn, IL; died 1905

Hiram Wilson Baldwin

 Son of Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr.

Hiram Wilson Baldwin, was the fifth son of Ebenezer and Elizabeth Baldwin.  He was born on December 30, 1812 near Whitehall, Washington County, New York.  He married Susan Faulkenberry in Washington County and moved to Amity Township to be near his brothers in 1837.

Upon moving to Amity Township at the age of 25 with his wife and baby he was all ready to commence active operations.  His new frame house was already built and was ready to be occupied as soon as the family arrived.  At the time he had fifty acres of land and he added more over the years, until he was the owner of 115 acres of first class available land.

He was honored with the Town offices of School Director and Road Commissioner, and with his wife was a lifelong devoted member of the M. E. Church.  He was a dignified and pleasing in manners, sociable, plain spoken, having the confidence of the community.  He died in 1893, and was the father of eleven children

Children of Hiram and Susan Baldwin;

John V.  born 1836

Selina  born 1839

Alvina  born 1841

Ellen born 1844

David  born 1846

Frances J. born 1849

Elizabeth  born 1850; died 1852

Reuben  born 1852

Mary  born 1854

Seth  born 1856

Byron  born 1858

John Calvin Baldwin

Son of Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr.


John Calvin was born on May 13, 1816 in Whitehall, Washington Co., NY and was the sixth son of Ebenezer and Elizabeth Baldwin. He was about 19 years of age and was single when he arrived in Amity Township, but not long after he took a wife.  He married Marcia Field on February 22, 1840 in Amity Township.  His first purchase of land was in 1842, and included 25 acres of land.  Young Calvin was not long contented with his little 25 acres and seven years later he added 16 more acres.

The house that Calvin Baldwin and his family lived in was built by friends and family long before Calvin and his family arrived in Baldwin Flats.  There was a house-raising bee and everyone arrived at about 8:00 am one morning.  They all had their breakfast at home and were ready to go right to work.  They took the trouble to find out just where the house was to be built.  The axes were very sharp and all the men were ready for the contest of building the house that day; in fact, they were just as sure of a complete house to sleep in that night as though it had already been constructed!

Two ox teams were on the ground.  The first tree was felled a few rods away, and it was at once hauled to its position and lined up where one side of the cabin was to be constructed.  There was a good man, who could be depended upon, placed with a razor-edged ax at each corner while the work went on.  The men on the corners were Gilbert Gross, who had the northeast corner, Henry Hayes, the northwest corner, Robert Mulvin, the southwest, and John Bennett the southeast corner.

The straight logs were rolled up on skids as the work advanced, while the men at the corners always standing ready, made the notches to fit the other notched logs that had been rolled up before, and every time a log was fitted to its place a cheer and yell went up from the crowd, while every half hour the man that had charge of the liquor passed the jug around, while they all stopped and waited.

There was no end to talk and good cheer among the jolly company all the while.  While the building of the sides of the house was going on, older men were busy making the shingles for the roof.  Other "old cusses" were busy hauling flat stones from the nearby brook, for the chimney, while still another lot of old men were steadily running up the fireplace with great skill, so it wouldn't smoke, with the long chimney top above it all, all in good taste and proper position.  At the same time the inside floor and some partitions were being looked after with lumber from Donaldson's mill.

The building of the sides had now advanced as high as the chamber floor when the busy ladies of the community announced dinner.  The best cheer of all came when the fine ladies and old woodsmen gathered around this festival board in the ample shade of the deep woods.  Talk about jokes and pleasantry; talk about a good time, about heaven, and heavenly things, for it was all there that day when dinner and later the supper was served, in the sociable, laughing rollicking crowd of happy pioneers and backwoodsmen.

After dinner a good smoke and another drink of the firewater, and work on the half-finished cabin again commenced.  The house was completed by the middle of the afternoon.  Supper was served at seven with another rollicking time.  Then the crowd tarried to the fireplace to see if it smoked, while the fiddler of the community came forward to play the most approved dance music for the dance.  At a late hour they all went home, it was with happy hearts to remember the day so well spent in the woods by the brook at the joyous house-building bee.

After the tale of the building of Calvin's log cabin, Calvin Baldwin told about his experience in the new country.  He said now that he just began to like it after a somewhat checkered experience of several years.  When he first came to Baldwin Flats he felt somewhat scared of so much woods with such small improvements in the line of highways and buildings, but when he saw how easy it was to get a good living and also how sociable and friendly the inhabitants really were he could not help being satisfied and delighted with the general conditions which existed throughout the country.

When he first arrived in Erie County he thought what strange names the towns and cities bore, such as Beaverdam, Onion and Lowsyville.  Calvin had been industrious, saving and happy; had been successful in getting a fine piece of land of good fertility with a house already on it!  He had 100 acres for the small sum of sixteen dollars; a good, working, intelligent and beautiful wife, three fine children.  Sometimes the porcupines came in the night and gnawed at the door, or gnawed on his ax if it was left outside.  But if that happened he would get his brother Wash to fix it for him.  The wolves howled and the owls hooted, but his slumbers were rarely disturbed by these trifles.  He felt safe at night and during the day in his little cabin with his faithful wife and loving children.

The story of the house building was enjoyed one evening at Calvin's cabin where he brought up from the small cellar a large pitcher of cider, which was tested at once with a small toast for each drink and then their pipes were filled with some of his well cured natural leaf tobacco and the men settled down more contented than ever for a general good time. Mrs. Baldwin was preparing over the fireplace their frugal but sumptuous meal of venison, fried beechnut smoked ham with mashed potatoes, warm biscuits, johnnycake, wild honey and maple syrup.  After dinner we had another smoke, more conversation and then it was time to leave.  As Washington Baldwin and I left we could not help shooting some more squirrels and pheasants.  Wash Baldwin insisted on showing what a good shot he was and saw two hawks soaring one above the other, and when they cross and are in the right position he said he would fetch them down with one shot, and sure enough he did! 

John Calvin Baldwin died on January 15, 1862 at 46 years of age and had been known to be a man of giant physical strength; he was always kind to the poor, friendly, prosperous, and agreeable.  His wife was only 42 years old at the time with still a number of small children at home, but she kept her young family together rearing them successfully.  Marcia Baldwin was a lady of more than ordinary energy and ability.  She died in 1901. Both are buried in the Union Cemetery, Phillipsville, Erie County PA.

Children of John Calvin and Marcia Field Baldwin;

Mary Lucinda born 1841; died 1863

George Washington born 1842; died 1845

Axcie A. born May 31,1845; married Burton Gross in 1869

William Lawrence born April 4, 1847; married Marion Allen in 1886

Marcia Amelia born December 9, 1848; married Frank Wood in 1872

Sylvia A. born August 22, 1850; married Henry Madison in 1880; died in 1907

John Benning born November 12, 1853; married Alice Martin in 1879

George Frank born May 28, 1856;

Ettie S. born on October 25, 1859; married Henry O. Beebe in 1896

Addie L. (twin) born May 1, 1861; died in 1932

Eva E. (twin) born May 1, 1861; died in 1932

Hezekiah Baldwin

Son of Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr.


Hezekiah Baldwin, the seventh son of Ebenezer and Elizabeth Baldwin, was born on September 8, 1818 in Washington Co., NY.  He came to Amity Township when he was a young man of 18 years old, and took employment for several years at John Bennett’s sawmill near Wattsburg.  While working so steady and diligently young Hezekiah became acquainted with the attractive and much accomplished daughter, Laura Bennett.  In 1845 they married and soon after purchased 100 acres of land from Dr. Charles Duncombe, situated in Hatch Hollow.  When they first settled there they lived in a log house, but later they build a frame dwelling located near the public road, while the abandoned log house was far in the backfield in the rear. Hezekiah and Laura Baldwin lived there until her death in 1849.


Children of Hezekiah and Laura Bennett Baldwin;

John C. born 1846; died in 1909

Laura born 1849; married Willard Blackfan

Copy of the deed from Charles Duncombe to Hezekiah King Baldwin:

This indenture, made the third day of May in the year of our Lord 1847, between Charles H. Duncombe of Wattsburg, Erie County, Pennsylvania, and Nancy his wife, of the first part, and Hezekiah King Baldwin, of Venango, Erie County, Pennsylvania, party of the second part.  Witnesseth that the party of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of seven hundred and fifty (750) dollars money of the United States to them in hand paid by the said party of the second part at and before the ensealing and delivering of these presents, doth grant, bargain, sell, release, and confirm unto said party of the second part and to his heirs and assigns all that piece or parcel of land situate, lying and being in the Township of Amity (late Union Township) County of Erie, and State of Pennsylvania.  To say north half of Doantion tract No. 1977 from the original west line of his said lot to the road leading from Union to Wattsburg, bounded on the north by lot No. 1976, on the west by lot No. 1954, on the east by road leading from Union to Wattsburg, and on the south by the remainder of said lot 1977.  Containing one hundred (100) acres of land be the same more or less.

Signed Charles H. Duncombe, Eli Duncombe, Nancy Duncombe, Selina Duncombe

In 1850, Hezekiah married Emily Gillespie and continued to live on his farm in Hatch Hollow until 1862, when he sold out and bought another farm, which at the time was known as the Atchinson farm.  The farm was situated on the road leading from Baldwin Flats to Union City.  He lived there until his death in 1874.

Hezekiah King Baldwin was a man of upright character, very sociable, and of a kindly disposition.  He was respected and esteemed by all who knew him. 

Children of Hezekiah and Emily Gillespie;

Celia E. born 1851; married John W. Terrill in 1882

Theron A. born 1854 in Hatch Hollow; married Ella Culton in 1885

Carrie E. born 1861; married James Gale

Elizabeth Baldwin

Daughter of Ebenezer Baldwin, Jr.

Elizabeth was born on April 6, 1821 at Whitehall, Washington County, New York.  She was the long wished and hoped for first and only daughter of Ebenezer and Elizabeth Baldwin.  But sorrow and sadness also came on the scene so quickly for a few short days after Betsy’s birth the beloved mother of the family died. 

In 1846 she married William Lawrence, soon after she married they moved to their farm, which was situated in Green Township, Erie County, Pennsylvania.  It was on the Lake Pleasant road leading to Erie.  They lived there for many years, until moving to Summit Township to another farm. 

Mr. Lawrence died in 1884 and Betsy in 1895.  William and Betsy were people of marked intelligence, splendid character, were widely known and highly respected.

Children of Besty Baldwin;

Thirza J. born 1848; married Isaac Turner in 1895; died in 1898

Elizabeth E. born in 1848; died in 1848

Caroline born 1850; died in 1851

William Jerome born in 1854; married Sarah C. Rogers

Sarepta Selina born in 1859; married Frank Main of Elk Creek in 1877


David M. Baldwin

Son of Ebenezer and Thirza Murray Baldwin

David M. Baldwin was born in Washington Co., NY on October 28, 1823, coming to Erie Co., when he was a lad of 12 years, with his father and brothers.  He lived on the farm where they had located in Amity Township until his father’s death in 1839.  At this time he became the owner of this property in partnership with his younger brother Hibbard Baldwin.  In 1851 he married Ruby A. Pringle and they continued to reside here until 1865, when disposing of his interests in the old homestead on Baldwin Flats, he moved his family to a farm of 100 acres which he purchased in the northeastern part of the township, he lived here until his death.  David Baldwin and his wife were worthy members of the Freewell Baptist Church; he was strictly honest, painstaking man of ability and with sterling qualities.

Children of David M. and Ruby Pringle Baldwin;

Frank C. born 1852; married Laura Morse; died in 1899

Ella M. born 1854; married J.H. Martin in 1882

Eli D. born 1856; married Bell Morse in 1881

Alma E. born 1858; died 1858 in Amity

Edward L. born 1861; married Flora Hodge in 1881

Burdette born in 1864; married Susan Brooks in 1886; died in Amity in 1887


E. Hibbard Baldwin

Son of Ebenezer and Thirza Murray Baldwin

Hibbard Baldwin was born January 24,1826 in Washington Co., NY, and he was the youngest of the children to move to Amity Township.  The old homestead was sold in 1865 and Hibbard moved with his family onto a farm of 100 acres in the northwestern part of the township, where he continued to live until his death.  He joined the Freewell Baptist Church in 1861, and married Clarissa A. Pratt in 1862 and was ordained into the ministry in 1873.  Rev. Hibbard Baldwin was a conscientious and through worker, doing much good in the church, a model man of much influence and many friends.  Hibbard Baldwin passed away in 1899.

Children of Hibbard and Clarissa Pratt Baldwin;

Cheney L. born 1863; married Elsie Applebee; died in 1898

Thirza M. born 1865; married Charles Freely; died in 1883

Attie May born 1868; married Ernest Peck; died 1895

Ivy M. born 1876; married John Gibbons; died 1896

Archie R. born 1878; married Carrie M. Smith
Tombstone Recovered

By Dr. John Chaffee (Grandson of James Baldwin)


One day I received a communication from the Army Corps of Engineers.  It seemed they were considering the construction of a damn of French Creek around Union City.  To do this they needed to move some gravesites because the area in question was to be inundated with water.  They requested permission to move some graves from a cemetery in Arbuckle to the Wattsburg Cemetery.

I was embarrassed since I knew of no such graves.  If my mother had pointed them out to me as a boy, I was unimpressed.  However, when the occasion arose I visited the area.  Sure enough there was a neglected group of tombstones about a hundred yards from a little used country road, obscured by bushes, vines and high grasses.  One row of small similar sized stones attracted me.  These proved to be the siblings of my grandfather all of whom were buried before 1845 and all of whom died before they were five years of age.

This discovery stimulated me to investigate my roots more than anything that had happened before.  Fortunately for our family, my grandfather James Baldwin had written a book in 1916 entitled, "History and Reminiscences of Our Baldwin Family" I could account for the burial sites of most of my relatives.  I knew that my grandfather and great grandfather and Aunt Lottie were in Wattsburg and all other aunts and uncles in Erie.  But it was the burial site of great, great grandfather Ebenezer Baldwin that eluded me.  The book said that he was buried in Milltown.  Was that a misprint?  Did he mean Mill Village?  So I checked out the cemetery in Mill Village with negative findings.  Several months passed.  Where was Milltown?

One spring an elderly aunt was in the hospital and I broached the subject of her girlhood in Baldwin Flats.  We were talking about her grandfather Baldwin building houses in Erie and how he cut his own trees and had the lumber milled and hauled by teams of horses to Erie.  I asked her, "Aunt Ida, where did grandfather have the lumber milled?"  She answered, "Why Milltown of course."  That was the place where Ebenezer was buried.  But where was it?  I made a pointed inquiry of a patient of mine named Mr. Donaldson of Arbuckle.  Yes, the trail was getting hotter.  He explained that about a hundred years ago Arbuckle was Milltown.  Because there were two Milltowns in Pennsylvania, the state had mandated that the one in Erie County have a name change.  Anyone who wanted the village named by their choice should put that name in a hat.  It was agreed that the name drawn from the hat would be the name of the village hereafter.  Arbuckle was drawn and Milltown became Arbuckle.

The natural conclusion from this was that Ebenezer was buried in that neglected cemetery and I just had not located the marker.  When the first agreeable Saturday arrived, I repaired to the cemetery this time clothed with leggings, leather jacket, protective glasses, and a machete knife to cut away the overgrowth.  I inspected over 80 stones lying helter skelter and unattended.  After about two hours of fruitless search I became hungry and weary.  Then something unusual and unexplainable happened to me.  Instead of leaving I seemed to be drawn to the site as if something was saying, "Hey, look around, don't leave so fast; this is not such a bad place."  So I hesitated and instead of leaving, I found myself standing on firm ground.  Very firm.  I was brought to my knees over the firmness, an area of moss, peat and soil.  My gloved hand pushed aside the earth's crust to reveal hidden underneath a large sandstone slab.  At that moment, and before I saw it, I knew the name "EBENEZER" would be there, and it was.  I was alone and excited for this was a miracle.  I had located my great, great grandfather's tombstone.

The excitement of this discovery spread by telephone that evening to all my Erie cousins.  At the appointed time the next Saturday, an entourage of seven cars filled with three generations of relatives assembled at the little cemetery in Arbuckle.  After a preliminary briefing on the history of the Amity Township Baldwin’s, we went to the little plot.  They saw the little markers of grandfather's brothers and sisters, all dead before five years of age.  Out of seven born, five died, diphtheria, pneumonia, whooping cough, smallpox and meningitis just like children perished at Plymouth when the pilgrims landed.  No progress had been made in two hundred years.  Then the real prize was shown.  Great, great grandfather Ebenezer Baldwin who came to Baldwin Flats in 1835 had died at 54.  His large sandstone marker had split at the base and after laying flat for many decades had been covered over by nature.  Because of the protection of the soil it was in a remarkable state of preservation.  While we were looking around, a cousin, J. Robert Baldwin discovered Ebenezer's wife Theresa's stone; also buried in the same manner.  We cousins, some thirty of us decided there and then that we would load the two stones into a station wagon and haul them to Wattsburg and set them down in George Washington Baldwin's lot.  We had no permission to do this illegal thing, but we thought who better than us should have that responsibility.  The Ebenezer stone took four men to lift and was carefully transported along with Theresa's marker to the Wattsburg Cemetery.

A week later, Mr. Frank Chaffee, the curator of the Wattsburg Cemetery and Dr. Chaffee erected the stones on the Baldwin lot.  The Army Corps of Engineers never protested and in fact a week later, transferred the five little markers to the same lot and erected them in cement in a nice little line.  So now there are four generations on one lot.

Century Of Change

Father and son doctored Erie area’s ills for eight decades

By David Bruce, Staff writer

Dr. John Chaffee reaches into his father’s old medical cabinet and pulls out a pocket-sized hardcover book.  The cover states simply it is Dr. Orel Chaffee’s “physician’s memorandum” for the year 1913.  Chaffee slowly, carefully thumbs through the journal’s pages, filled will his dad’s hurried script.  Time has blurred some of the writing but Chaffee can still read certain passages.  “It lists his daily income and the services he performed,” Chaffee said.  “Here’s $1.50 for an office call, 50 cents for medicine, $3 for a house call and $25 for a tonsillectomy.”

Orel and John Chaffee operated on northwestern Pennsylvanians for more than eight decades.  When Orel Chaffee opened his Conneaut Lake practice in 1907, he traveled by horse and buggy to visit patients, operated on kitchen tables, and kept his own books.

By the time his son retired in 1990, house calls had gone the way of the horse and buggy, and surgeons were beginning to operate with laser beams instead of scalpels.  “Dad would have thought today’s medical technology is awesome, “Chaffee said.  “He would have been baffled by it all, but he would have thought it awesome.”

The quality of education also has changed, John Chaffee said.  “Medical schools are much better now,” he said.  “When Dad went to school, they accepted anyone who had the money.  Dad had just an eighth-grade education but he was accepted.”  Still, Orel Chaffee received a much better education than the physicians who preceded him, his son said.  Shortly after establishing a practice in Conneaut Lake, Chaffee was stricken with diphtheria and admitted to Meadville’s Spencer Hospital.

Convinced doctors weren’t giving him enough diphtheria antitoxin to battle the disease, Chaffee talked the head nurse into taking a long lunch, his son said.  Alone in his hospital room, the young doctor bounded out of bed, scurried to the icebox, and injected several ampuls of antitoxin into his abdomen.

“Dad was too exhausted by the ordeal to clean up, so when the nurse returned she knew what he had done,” John Chaffee said.  “She told the doctor, and they thought he was delirious.  The doctor said if he died, it was his own fault.  Dad recovered, and he always said he saved his own life.  Because medical schools were relatively inexpensive and plentiful at the time there was a glut of doctors working in northwestern Pennsylvania when Orel Chaffee earned his medical degree.

As a result, he worked all the time, whether he was practicing in Conneaut Lake, Wattsburg or Erie.  He saw patients morning, noon, evening and sometimes in the middle of the night.  “Dad would lay out his clothes by the side of the bed at night so it wouldn’t take him long to get dressed if he got a call,” Chaffee said.  “He’d get calls to deliver babies probably three times a week.”

Orel Chaffee took just one week of vacation each year, a fishing trip with his buddy, Dr. Charles Kemble.  He wouldn’t take any more time off because he was afraid he would lose his referral business.

For all of Orel Chaffee’s career and part of his son’s, most physicians kept their offices and home in the same building.  After the Chaffee family moved to Erie in 1913, they lived at 820 Sassafras St. in an area known as “Pill Avenue” because so many doctors lived there.  “Doctors moved there because it was so close to downtown,” Chaffee said.  “Parking was plentiful, and the houses were big enough to include an office.  Nowadays, you never see a physician with an office at his or her home.  It’s just not done.”

A general practitioner who eventually specialized in obstetrics, Orel Chaffee was the first Erie physician to treat cancer of the uterus with radium, a procedure that ultimately cost Chaffee his thumb and middle fingertip.  Chaffee continued to perform surgery even after the amputations, teaming up with his son, who would always suture the patient because the elder Chaffee never learned to tie a knot one handed.

John Chaffee always knew he was going to be a doctor.  He studied pre-medicine at Colgate University, graduated from Temple Medical School in 1940, and served his three-year residency at Episcopal Hospital in Philadelphia. “I went to work at the Cleveland Clinic before entering the US Army Air Force in 1943, I then neurosurgeon at a base in Coral Gables, Florida.  I put metal plates in soldier’s skulls to cover shrapnel wounds.”

 In 1948, he opened a practice out of his father’s Pill Avenue office back home in Erie.  The two Chaffees worked well together, even though they didn’t see eye-to-eye on all matters, John Chaffee said.  “Dad wasn’t a big believer in exercise.  He didn’t see its benefits,” said Chaffee, a past president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Heart Association who was one of the area’s first joggers.  He still plays tennis a couple of times a week.

John Chaffee worked nearly the same hours his father worked: morning, noon and night up to six days a week.  “Only after much debate did the Erie Medical Society agree to forbid Wednesday evening appointments,” Chaffee said.  “Later, they did the same with Wednesday afternoons.”

When Orel Chaffee decided to retire in 1963, he told his son as the two were scrubbing their hands just before surgery at Hamot Medical Center. “He turned and said this would be his last surgery,” Chaffee said.  “He was 87 years old and probably should have retired years earlier, but I was always there to assist him with surgery.”  After Orel Chaffee retired, he spent his days sitting in his son’s waiting room and talking with patients, many of who were his former patients.  He died in 1965.

“Physicians don’t retire; their patients retire them,” Chaffee added with a chuckle.

Dr. John Chaffee retired in 1990 when he was 76. Dr. John Chaffee died on August 11, 2000. 

If you were born in Erie, during Dr. Orel Chaffee’s time, he probably delivered you.  My father and his brothers were, and he delivered a lady I met years ago in Minnesota, who was from Erie too!

About District Schools

 By James Baldwin

In February the farmers came together and voted to have a schoolmaster this year.  A month later a notice was put on the meetinghouse door for a meeting to know the town’s mind, whether they were for a having a schoolmaster or a schoolmistress.  They came together at the appointed hour and voted a schoolmaster for six months.

It was later decided by an agreement to have a school four months in each of the four sections of the township, and the school master would be rated at eight shillings a week, which at the time was worth forty cents in silver money.  In the opinion of the rural population of Erie County schools were an unnecessary expense and oftentimes the formalities of the town meetings by which it was ordered to set up a school this year had no other purpose than to show an outward compliance with the unpopular school laws of the State, and whenever the people could contrive a way by which the expense of a school could be saved there was no school that year.

The frugal mind of the Pennsylvania farmer reckoned the schoolmaster as a day laborer, and the desire was to hire him at as low a price and spread his labors over as large a territory as possible.  Each section of the town had his services during two to three months of the year, when the scholars were taught to read, to write and cipher and nothing else.  He was paid sometimes in some kind of money and often in some kind of merchandise.  There was no standard by which to test his skill as a teacher, but the one generally esteemed the most skillful was he whose price was the lowest, even if he was the greatest of blockheads.

His official seat was a great chair behind a table or desk on which he made a display of birch rods, and there he announced his laws and penalties were floggings, and there he frowned upon the youngsters whose roguish pranks kept him so actively occupied that the flag bottom of the chair needed frequent repairing. 

The schoolhouse was usually a small, unpainted building standing by the roadside like a ragged beggar sunning.  It contained a large fireplace for whose fires the children’s parents provided the wood.  Its square room was furnished with rough benches made smoother and glossier every year by the friction of frocks and leather breeches of uneasy pupils to whom schooling was a bore.

The Holy Scriptures were many times used for a reading book, not so much on account of its moral teachings or adaptability in easy grading of reading matter but principally on account of cheapness and convenience, every family possessing one or more copies for religious purposes, and they could make a large saving by double teaming them for two uses as well as only the one.


This page was last updated on  Wednesday, April 21, 2004
but not posted until Thursday, June 17, 2004.

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