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Erie County (PA) Genealogy

Family Histories

Rees' Pieces - Part 3

Contributed by Beth Simmons

The information below has been written by Beth Simmons. “REES’ PIECES” was run as a series of articles in the Harborcreek Area Tri-Community News during the years 2000-2002. The Harbor Creek Historical Society will also publish this as a commemorative booklet for the Bicentennial of the Township in 2016.

For presentation on this web site, the article has been split into five parts. These parts will not necessarily align with the published articles. This is Part Three, containing information about the geography, early churches, cemeteries and occupations.

Anyone wishing to add to, correct or otherwise question or comment on the information below should contact Beth Simmons directly.

Return to Part One

Return to Part Two

Part Three

The Rees Reserve


          Examinations of deeds and biographical sketches of the neighbors help delineate Rees’ collection of farms. Consisting of the majority of tract #234, most of section #242 east of Four-Mile Creek, all of section #233, and most of tract #213 east to Six-Mile Creek, Rees’ east county plantation covered more than 1,000 acres (Map 2)[1].

          The main hill of the farm is the Girard Moraine, left behind by the last glacier to enter Erie County. At Frazier Hill, where Rees built his home, gravel coats the bottom slopes of the clay-rich moraine. Springs erupt where the gravel meets the clay and where the clay meets the Devonian shale bedrock[2]. Marie Stoltz and Ed Knipper showed me the numerous artesian (ever-flowing) springs on the property.[3] Beautiful views of Lake Erie and the sunsets over the lake plain compliment the good soils and water supply on the land Rees chose. Unfortunately winter winds blowing across the lake start their uphill climb at the bottom of the hill. The property is about two miles too far inland to benefit from the lake effect clime.

          South of the steep Girard moraine, a broad gravel-filled glacial river valley provides excellent soil for the back nine holes of the Gospel Hill Golf Course. More artesian springs feed the present pond on the golf course, which is used to irrigate the greens. South of the valley, an older glacier deposited the Ashtabula Moraine all the way to the bedrock cliff, the Appalachian Escarpment, which bounds the Lake Erie basin on the south.[4]

          The northern border of the Rees farm extended at least as far as to what is now Ridge Parkway. The western boundary abutted Saltsman’s pieces. To the southwest the line paralleled the top of Cooper Road Hill, through the Behrend campus, and along Station Road to east of Hannon Road.


The Springs

Clean, clear water

          At least four artesian springs erupt between the present house and Six-Mile Creek area. To protect his personal house spring, Rees built a brick springhouse with vats filled by pipes flowing out of the spring. That little brick building still serves its original purpose 200 years later. (Photo 2) “The spring which feeds the springhouse has never gone dry.” Marie Stoltz told us that she can run “three sprinklers, plus have enough water for both her house and Bill’s house up the hill without the water level in the collecting trough ever changing.”[5] “The mineral count in the water is always good”, as evidenced by the minerals, which had accumulated in the old pipe Marie saved when Frazier’s replaced it. Vern Spencer laid the pipe into the trough in the springhouse. The pressure was so good after the new pipe was installed, “it would blow a glass cup right out of your hand.”[6]. The spring house also served as a refrigerator. The Raeder’s used to set cans of meat and milk on the step in the springhouse trough and keep them cold for days.

          Other springs provide water for the lily pond in front of the house, the barns on the east side of the road, and a stone smoke house south of the main spring house. In addition, Marie’s father piped water for the barn and ‘cottage,’ which he built on the west side of Hannon Road.[7] On either side of the vineyard, each of the buildings, two springs require drains and culverts through the roads and rows of the vineyards to keep the clay and gravel from turning into quagmires. Once, while riding my horse along one of the vineyard roads, “Quicksilver” sunk to his hocks in the “quicksand.” Tractors would constantly be stuck in the mud, even in the months of dry summers.

          Other springs on what would have been the Rees farm occur west of Hannon Road. One on Freeman Road constantly flows through a pipe into a road ditch.[8] When Ed Knipper developed and built new homes on Louise Street, named for his wife, an artesian spring sent the water four feet above the well head.[9] Knipper, Marie Stoltz’s brother-in-law, had lived on the farm since the early 1900’s. He told us that “there’s so much water, at one time Wesleyville figured on piping the water from Raeder’s farm to town”.[10] What foresight Thomas Rees showed in his site selection!

          In 1999, this spring erupted during building east of Freeman Road and north of Reese Road. When laying the sanitary sewer line, the developer hit an artesian spring. To dry the trenches, the developer pumped three weeks straight, draining some of the wells of homes along Freeman Road. The builder pumped until the trench was dry enough to lay the next section of sewer line, then moved down a length and pumped some more.[11]

          Other springs occur along Six-Mile Creek. The “Clark” spring is located in the middle of the north bank of Six-Mile Creek[12]. Water flowed through an iron pipe to the bottom of the hill where it was put into large glass bottles, daily loaded on a wagon and hauled to Erie where Pierce sold it to the city and hospitals.[13] Jonathan Pierce[14] and his second wife, Lucinda Wright,[15] bottled the spring water and shipped barrels of it to Buffalo under the label “Glen Crystal Mineral Water.”[16] Marie Stoltz recalled that beer was trucked out from Erie to Pierce’s “Sunday Biergarten” at the bottom of “Devil’s Back Bone” in Six-Mile Gorge[17]. The foundation of the iron bridge, which crossed Six-Mile Creek to the “Biergarten,” is still standing. The bridge was wiped out in the 1915 flood. The “Biergarten’s” old cook stove was still in the creek bed in 1994. The Clark Spring, still flows, full of bone-building minerals. Mrs. Carl Anderson of Clark Road has a pipe from the spring full of calcified deposits.[18] In the 1960’s Bill Deul, who lived on the bank above the spring, gave me a  clump of leaves which had been fossilized by the minerals.

          Another commercialized spring occurs on the Bell farm, along Depot Road south of Firman Road. The Bells also sold mineral water and Mary S. Langer has a stamp that was used in their business. The family that lives in the remodeled springhouse still uses the water from the original spring.[19]


Other possible Rees buildings

          Sometimes the out buildings of old residences survive after the main homestead has burned or been replaced. There are many old barns in Harbor Creek – the Clark barn at Andersen’s, Garth May’s barn, the barn at Towell’s on Firman Road, and the Gallagher barn on Station Road near Gospel Hill are but a few. These exhibit unique architecture with beam and support systems not used in the barns built during the 1850’s.

          There are two old single-storied barns on the Frazier farm today. Marie Stoltz remembers that they were standing when she was a child. Ed Knipper said that the barn just north of the house on the east side of the road was the last one Phillip Raeder built on the farm, built after the barn on the west side of the road. Ed also said that the big barn on the west side of Hannon Road just to the north of Frazier Street once stood just northwest of the Frazier barn on the west side of Hannon Road. William F. Raeder moved it to his lot after the farm was split between the children.[20]

          Mr. Raeder took the timber off the farm to build the barns. Every wood had a purpose The barn construction was carefully planned. Both the siding and the beams were hemlock; the main beam of the big barn is thirty feet long. The beams are pegged with hickory pegs so the barn could be taken apart and moved.[21] Mr. Raeder built the house on the property in 1906. Its timber includes cucumber for the siding, chestnut, and black walnut. Mr. Raeder had to rent a portable sawmill and its laborers over a year in advance of the construction. There was no rot in any of the cucumber siding except for one board in almost 90 years.[22]

According to Marie Stoltz the stone smoke house and the brick springhouse were on the property with the log cabin when her grandfather bought it. The log cabin was added into the old home, according to Marie.[23] Whether they were built when Thomas Rees lived on the farm or later when apparently William Brown and Helen Ewing lived there cannot be determined.

          However, the barn at Gallagher’s at 4397 Station Road has hardware similar to Clark’s barn at Andersen’s at 6916 Clark Road. Both display the antiquated beam system. The piece of property on which Gallagher’s barn sits belonged to Clinton George, one of Rees’ colored laborers. A.B. Hume purchased it in 1865,[24] and then by Mrs. Gallagher’s parents in 1891 or 1892. Probably the Gallagher barn dates from the early 1800’s and was used by Rees and his workers for hay, grain, and equipment storage. Mrs. Gallagher said that the barn was raised to its present elevation to allow more ceiling space in the lower level.[25]

          Oxen and cattle were driven to Greenfield (Colt’s Station) as early as 1798, because eight dogies went astray and Colt sent three men south to Meadville to collect them.[26] The east county colonists at Colt’s Station were butchering pigs and selling salted pork and tallow, plus tanning the hides in 1798. Probably Rees’ farm hands followed suit, raising wheat, oats, corn and livestock, which they butchered and then tanned on Gospel Hill as early as four years later in 1802.


Indians in Harbor Creek

          Throughout the years, Indian artifacts have been found in all parts of Harbor Creek Township. Ed Knipper and former township supervisor, Frank Szklenski had two of the finest collections.[27] Indians had corn fields planted in Erie when Rees arrived in 1795[28] and parties of Indians often camped in the area.

          Indians probably used the springs as a source of clear water when they camped at the Raeder farm site, leaving the many artifacts that the Raeder children found after grandfather Raeder plowed the fields[29]. Rees had befriended the local Indians early in his work. In 1792, Rees presented a bill for $193.43, “For services in viewing the county” and another “To Indians for hunting, $50.”[30] According to the literature, Rees provided an Indian guide to accompany Louis Phillipe and his brother and a servant on their jaunt into the Great Lakes country when the future king of France was the Duke of Orleans. They had visited Rees at his marquis tent on the bay in July of 1795[31].

          One Indian named “Quashi” was listed in Erie Township on the 1801 census[32]. There were Indian encampments at burial grounds within the city limits until June of 1841[33]. Probably Rees hosted some of these Indians on his back hill, too. Ken Kreider, who tended the vineyard for the Knipper’s, recently found a scraper, which he had authenticated[34].


Early energy and raw materials



          The streams and waterfalls of Four-, Six-, Seven-, and Twelve-Mile Creeks provided waterpower for the early settlers. In 1798, Rees built the first sawmill in Harbor Creek at the lower Falls along Four-Mile Creek. The main mission of the mill was to cut the wood needed for the “Sloop Washington,” the early settlement transporter[35]. Early settlers were not content to live in tents or log cabins. Undoubtedly the mill also prepared framing lumber and clapboards for the early settlers’ homes in east Erie and Harbor Creek. According to the Judah Colt Day Book from 1799, supplies like shingles, window glass, and nails were imported[36].

          Other early mills on Four-Mile Creek included the Shattuck mill in Wesleyville (1797),[37] the John Riblet, Sr. Mill, 1802,[38] half a mile south of Wesleyville[39], and the Goodwin mill where Station Road now crosses Four-Mile Creek (1815)[40]. Nothing remains of the mill, but the old home, later occupied by the Sterrett family, is still standing on the stream terrace behind the houses on the northeast corner of Station and Shannon Roads. The Saltsman’s owned a gristmill at the bottom of Cooper Road hill in Wintergreen Gorge (1815);[41] it was purchased by the Cooper’s in 1839 and known as the Cooper mill[42]. The Cooper’s lived on the south side of Station Road east of Kuhl Road; William Cooper was a leader in the Harbor Creek Railroad Wars[43].

          Mills in operation by 1800 on Six-Mile Creek included the James Foulk gristmill on Six-Mile Creek at the “Falls” near the mouth [44]. On upper Six-Mile Creek at “Factory Gulch,” Myron Backus had a sawmill as early as 1810[45]. Theodore Childs built the first carding mill in Erie County in “Factory Gulch.”[46]  Later Andrew Culbertson owned it.[47] In 1820, William Hayes bought a “pioneer woolen mill”[48] in the Gulch. The Cass family bought the property and abandoned buildings in 1844 and operated the mill until 1874.[49] There was a tannery[50] along the creek where Peck Road crossed the creek to Clark Road.

          Along Twelve-Mile Creek, Foulk and Daniel Dobbins built a grist and sawmill in 1803[51]. Unlike Foulk’s mill on Six-Mile Creek, which was flooded out twice and never rebuilt[52], the mill on Twelve-Mile Creek at Leets Road survived for over 70 years.[53]


Stone Quarries

          Rees also opened a stone quarry in Four-Mile Creek (sometimes called Crowley’s Run), which provided stone for foundations in Erie and through Harbor Creek for almost 100 years. Another quarry in “Neely’s Run” closer to Erie, also provided foundation stones.[54]

          The boulders brought to Harbor Creek by the glaciers often served as foundations for buildings. Marie Stoltz said, “The stones were sold off of the farms like cords of wood to homes in town for their foundations. The stones would be heated, then split”.[55]



          If brick houses and buildings in Harbor Creek date from the very early 1800’s, someone nearby was making bricks. The earliest mention of bricks in the Erie history regarded a “chimney” of a building that was standing on the peninsula when the American settlers arrived. It was thought that the early French built it as early as 1753.

          The earliest brickyard in Erie dates from 1803 owned by Isaac Austin and Brziela Rice,[56] located east of Parade Street, north of Third Street.[57] The first mason and bricklayer in Erie was Peter Growotz[58], listed in the Judah Colt book on Dec. 9, 1999, as Peter Grawoss.[59]  Thus, bricks and masons to lay them were available for building materials and labor when Rees was building his palatial home with its brick springhouse in Harbor Creek.

          The earliest bricklayer and stonemason in Erie was Thomas Hughes, who came to Erie in 1795 with the troops to assist in erecting the garrison and fort. Apparently Hughes built the chimney at the fort and it smoked so badly that on his death bed General Anthony Wayne threatened to have Hughes shot. Mr. Hughes lived through Gen. Wayne's threat, and helped dig Wayne’s grave.[60]

          Isaac Austin was in Erie as early as 1798; when he owed Judah Colt $84.50 in August [61] Colt owed him $5.30 ½[62]. There is evidence that through Judah Colt, Thomas Rees Esq. paid Austin $52.26 – perhaps for laying bricks. On July 23, 1799, Colt paid Austin $3 for “Hawling 3 barrels from the lake”[63]; on Oct. 24, 1799, Austin bought a quart of whiskey[64]. The liquor was apparently used to keep him warm the next day when Colt paid him $4 for “hawling 4 barrels from the lake”. Colt paid Austin for road clearing,  $12 for clearing 40 rods of a four rod road, $1.25 for 2 ½ days ox work and $1.50 for 3 days “cutting on the Presque Isle Road last winter”[65]. Austin paid off his $84.50 debt on Oct. 26, 1799.from which Colt made a profit of $5.20 interest. He then paid Isaac Austin $137.00.[66] These records show that Austin was a regular man in the Erie/Greenfield settlement[67] and went on to become a much needed businessman.

          Another brick maker who came to Erie County from Crawford County in 1806 was Simeon Dunn. Dunn served in the Erie Light Infantry during the War of 1812. His son, George Dunn, followed his father’s trade in the brick business.[68]  A J. Dunn of this family purchased the south part of Rees’ farm before the civil war and built the “Hermann” barn that stood at 4378 Hannon Road where it bends to the left just south of “Rees’ Hill”[69]. Miller cites another brickyard in the valley of Millcreek, started by Thomas Hughes, Sr.,[70] in the first decade of the 1800’s.

          The brick makers made use of the sands and gravels of the old beach ridges. In Harbor Creek about 1810, the Moorhead’s had their own brick works, quarrying sand and gravel from the beach ridge south of their house on Buffalo Road. The hole is still visible today.[71] There is nothing to say that Rees didn’t have his own brickyard somewhere on his vast property. Cheney tells of brick being made locally by Joseph Wiley for the Methodist church in Wesleyville in 1828[72].

          The first brick building in North East was built by James Silliman in 1809. The bricks came from Dyer Loomis’ brickyard, which was still run by descendants in 1884. Dyer Loomis was another of Judah Colt’s handymen who had come with his large family before 1798.[73]  Loomis Street in North East, which follows the Whittlesey strand line,[74] carries this family’s name. So bricks were plentiful in Erie County at the turn of the century and throughout the 1800’s.



          The earliest carpenters in Erie County were Jonas Duncan and John Teel.[75]These names do not appear in the Judah Colt Daybook of 1798-1799. Colt had his own carpenters; Joshua and Sampson Hamilton, James Henton, and Joel Andrews[76]. Teel was listed in the 1801 census, so he may have been in Erie in 1798, but did not do business with Colt. Rees had carpenters working at the sawmill along Four-Mile Creek building the Sloop Washington in 1798, so there were plenty of able hands to operate hammers and saws.


Harbor Creek’s Earliest Roads

          History books tell us that Rees retired to his farm in Harbor Creek in 1802. The best source for information about roads in Harbor Creek is the Township Road Book, the official record of the opening and closing of highways in the County and the Township. Unfortunately, the original book burned with the county courthouse and the entire book was recopied, with copied signatures, from secretary’s notes in 1825. However, there are sketch maps and descriptions of the original roads, which show settlers and their property, along with descriptions of the terrain.

          The lists of names following each road change are the who’s who of Erie County’s founding fathers. Rees’ name commonly appears along with Mark Baldwin, John Brawley, Robert Brown, Rob’t. Caldwell, James Chamber, Philson Cooper, John Cooper, Nathan W. J. Curtis, Francis Davison, Daniel Dobbins, James Flowers, Jacob Flury, Thomas Forster, Royal Freeman, Daniel Goodwin, Thomas Greenwood, Luke Hardy, William Henry, John B. Jones, Thomas Laird, Henry Loomis, Jehu Lyon, Wm. May, R. McClelland, Alex McClelland, John McClinock, Wm. H. McCord, David McNair, Thos. Mellin, Jonathan C. Metcalf, Thomas Miles, William Miles, John Moorhead, Thos. Moorhead, Joseph Neeley, John Norcross, Jonas Parker, James M. Phillips, James Pollock, Clark Putnam, John Riblet, Michael Riblet, Benj. Russell, H. Russell, A. Saltsman, Jesse Saltsman, Wm. Saltsman, Wm. Scott, John Shadduck, Ira Sherwin, John Smith, Martin Strong, John Sweeny, Wareham Taggart, G.W. Walker, Benj. Wallace, P. Willes (Phillip Wells), and Wm. Wilson. The presence of Daniel Dobbins’ name in the County Road records proves that Dobbins was doing his civic duty in Erie despite having trouble with the Navy[77].

          Placing Rees on “Raeder Hill” establishes a different traffic pattern of Harbor Creek in the early 1800’s than the roads used by today’s residents. The road Rees built to this property in 1797 was the present Hannon Road, where I grew up, instead of the Station Road I had presumed it to be.

          Rees cut a wagon road along the old Indian trail following the beach ridge crest east of Erie (shown on a map of the Reserve Tract in 1799).[78] The road crossed Four-Mile Creek at its easiest ford, east of Wesleyville, and continued along the Indian trail two more miles east.

          Buffalo Road is Road #10 in the Harbor Creek Township Road Book, officially surveyed by James McMahon[79] and opened to Erie from “Moorheads” in 1805[80]. It was originally called the “Ridge Road[81]. The first stages between Erie and Buffalo ran in December of 1820. They left Buffalo on Saturday at noon and were scheduled to arrive in Erie Monday at six pm. Then on Tuesday, they would leave Erie at six am and be in Buffalo by Thursday at noon.[82]

          To get to his property, Rees turned south along “the west side of Six-Mile Creek on the Buffalo Road.”[83] He intersected the present Hannon Road near the cemeteries, crossed over the Whittlesey beach ridge, crossed “Little Spring Creek”, a tributary of Six-Mile Creek, and skirted the lowlands behind the ancient beach ridge. From there it was straight south up the hill to home (Map 2).

          The original description in the Township Road Book, describes the road south from Buffalo Road, intersecting Buffalo Road,


Bet. Benjamin Chambers and Six-Mile Creek Bridge, 22 perches east of Irvine’s west line, then south 20° 472 perches to a poplar the end of T. Rees’s lane thence through the lane south 25 ° East 104 perches through Thos. Rees’ improvement to the top of the hill, thence S 35 ° E 190 perches to a post in the west line of Nehemiah Beer’s; thence by same S 118 p to the Station Road[84] between Ebenezer Sewell and Barnard Bort. 2 miles, 244 perches, 50 feet wide.


Signed: Thomas Rees, surveyor

Benj. Wallace

Wm. Saltsman

John Riblet

Wareham Taggart

Joseph Arbuckle”[85]


          The northern end of the road was abandoned in 1851 when the bend near the cemeteries was put in to skirt the newly sold Irvine property[86]. On one map in the Township Road Book the southern end of Rees’ original road is shown by a dotted line[87]. This road would have been more level, straighter (a surveyor’s road), less rugged, and much drier than coming up Station Road.

          In the Road Book, this road is called REES Road [sic][88]. In the 1851 Road Book, the name carries the final E, spelled REESE [sic][89], as it does on p. 81. About fifteen years after Rees’ death, the name of the road was officially changed to Hannon Road.[90] The Hannon’s lived in the old house on the north side of Buffalo Road just east of the intersection of Hannon Road. In some places in the Road Book Hannon Road was called the Waterford Road because it eventually tied in with Kuhl Road, which wound its way to Waterford.[91]

          Originally, the portion of the road south of Rees’ house to Station Road had two subtle bends. On April 7, 1831, the township straightened the road to avoid the swamp that lies south of the glacial moraine (which was named Rees’ Hill at that point in time).[92] Rees’ signature appears on the road book page along with famous Erie pioneers, Thomas Forster, Benjamin Wallace, Daniel Dobbins, and William Saltsman, regarding a change and road abandonment procedure.[93] Harbor Creek Township fathers, James Chambers, Philson Cooper, Almond Fuller, Ira Dewey, G.W. Walker, and Alex McClelland officially approved the modern sharp turns in Hannon Road between Reese Road and Station Road on Aug. 4, 1840.

          The forerunner of the present Reese Road was probably a high, dry plantation road that the black help used to go between their houses and Rees’ mansion two miles to the east. Thomas Forster, Samuel Hays, David McNair, Giles Russell, and George Davison officially recognized its existence on May 9, 1833[94]. The diagram accompanying the description shows the Gospel Hill School and a large chestnut tree across Station Road from the school. One section of the road went from a sugar sapling to a birch tree! After Rees died, the road was officially resurveyed and recorded on August 17, 1852.[95]  It divided William A. Brown’s property (north of the road) from ‘Reynold’s’ property, south of the road. This is probably when the old house on the southeast corner of Steimer and Reese Roads was built. It was present on the 1865 map of Harbor Creek, occupied by one of the Bonnell’s, M. Bonnell, probably Marshall Bonnell, who was a son of George Bonnell and a civil war veteran.

          The Clark’s blazed Clark Road (Road Book #11; sometimes called the Backus Road)[96] early in the 1800’s to “Launceton,” the Clark estate, and to the Backus sawmill and the Hays woolen mill built at “Factory Gulch” in 1810.

          In 1813, Judah Colt cut the Station Road between Wesleyville and Colt’s Station[97]. Originally, the Bonnell’s and Saltsman’s would have probably come up prehistoric Saltsman Road[98] or Nagle Road to their homes. Interestingly, on October 23, 1830, the Road Book describes and illustrates an “old house” along Nagle Road, about two thirds of a mile north of Station Road [99] This house could not have been over thirty years old!

          Anyone living south of Rees would have traveled south on the original Rees road and ventured further south over the Ashtabula Moraine to their farms. After 1815, the residents would have changed their driving habits and come up the new Station Road. Rugged as it was, along the west side of Four-Mile Creek[100], Station Road made life easier for the merchants and traders at Colt Station and “Southville” (at Six-Mile Creek or Boscobel)[101] to get their products to Erie. Judah Colt had a quicker route to check on things at his settlement out in the county. The opening of Station Road allowed first a mail route operated by Goodwin’s from Wesleyville, followed by a stage route between Erie and Mayville, New York. The bridge over Four-Mile Creek was dedicated in 1825; Colt finished the road to Mayville by 1830[102].

          In addition to the Lake Road (#5)[103](1806)[104], other early Harbor Creek roads include Davison Road (Road Book #8), Moorheadville Road (Road #7 in Township Road Book). Belle Road was not officially accepted until 11/8/1827[105], along with Elliott Road (the present Depot Road), and Troupe Road.


The Gospel Hill Cemetery and School

          In 1823, the cemetery was set aside for the burial of two young girls who had drowned in the creek. Interestingly, there are no tombstones for these two young girls in the cemetery[106]; perhaps they are two of the many unmarked graves in that burial plot. Prior to 1823, burials were in private family cemeteries, the burial ground at Colt’s Station, or the Hoag Cemetery along Depot Road. Two infant daughters of Joseph and Martha Backus[107] were the first burials at Hoag in 1811; stones mark their grave.

          The Rees’ donated the land for the cemetery to the Gospel Hill neighborhood, along with the land for the Gospel Hill School, which, as most schools did in the early days, served as a church. Mrs. Rees officially deeded the property to trustees, Thomas Bunnell, Newman Wadsworth, and William May, on January 22, 1831.[108] Thomas Rees, his family, and his neighbors are buried at Gospel Hill Cemetery, at the top of Gospel Hill on the right side of Station Road.

          The earliest school in the immediate area was in Wesleyville about 1810 near Eastern Avenue on the north side of Buffalo Road. In 1932, the Gospel Hill School was built for the neighborhood children on land donated by Ann Rees, between the time the deed for the burial ground was written (1831)[109] and the time the present Reese Road was officially designated in 1833[110]

          Gospel Hill School was a latecomer in the township but built about the time the government decreed that there must be a schoolhouse about every mile. Most records say that the first school in the township was on the Wilson place, east of the present village of Harbor Creek, in 1803. Another reference mentioned a school in Moorheadville in 1802. To a historian looking back, Moorheadville might have been close to the Wilson’s, so the reference might be talking about the same school Certainly the Harbor Creek children were neighbors – the Wilson’s, Barr’s, and Moorhead’s.

          The Gospel Hill School was one of the longest used buildings in the township. There were still religious services frequently held in the school house at Gospel Hill in 1896[111]. Some local senior citizens attended elementary school there. The school was closed in 1927, just short of a century of service to the community and ripped down a few years later.[112]


Churches which served Rees’ community

          Church records support the postulation that the Raeder farm was indeed Rees’ permanent residence. On July 7, 1834, the Wesleyville Methodist Church appointed a committee comprised of Thomas Rees, William Chambers, and George W. Walker to oversee the building of the parsonage[113]. This indicates that Rees was an active member of the Wesleyville Methodist church.

          In September of the same year (1933), the Erie Circuit of the Methodist Church billed the Sunday School Classes in Harbor Creek to pay the circuit preacher. Among the classes billed were “Gospel Hill - $18 and Rees Hill - $18, H. Clark’s $6, and T. Clark’s $8[114]. The Gospel Hill class had begun in 1816[115], made up of the black early Methodists who were “devoted to their religion”[116].Two references said that “Rees belonged to the class at Gospel Hill”[117]. If that were true, then why would there be a separate billing for the class at Rees’ Hill? Rees’ class apparently met at his house at the east end of the present Reese [sic] Road. The black Methodists met with “unorganized zeal” [118] at the Gospel Hill School on the west end of Reese [sic] Road.

          The class at Backus (organized before 1830 in easternmost Harbor Creek township) was billed $12. Called the South Harbor Creek Methodist, it met at the Backus Schoolhouse on Mar. 12, 1836. On Sept. 30, 1837, another group met at the Hoag Schoolhouse. The South Harbor Creek Methodist church was built in 1841 at McGill and Davison Roads. The class at T. Clark’s, along Side Hill Road at Moorheadville Road, was billed $8[119], the amount apparently based on membership. The classes at Rees Hill and Gospel Hill must have been about equal in number and larger than the classes held across Six-Mile Creek to the east.

          The first Baptist service was held in 1822 at Lowry’s Corners[120]. That building may still be in use as a house. The first Sunday School in Harbor Creek township was held in 1817 in Moorheadville in a house on the east side of Moorheadville Road along Twelve-Mile Creek.[121] That house, extensively remodeled, is still standing.


Blacksmith Shop

          One of the most important persons in early settlements was the blacksmith. He fixed the wagons, welded chains, shod horses and oxen, and melted every used nail down in Harbor Creek’s first recycling program. The earliest evidence of a blacksmith shop is from a map in the Township Road Book dated 1816, which shows a smithy shop at the future site of Gospel Hill School.[122] The next mention of a smithy shop in Wesleyville was in 1831 when Philson Cooper was shoeing horses fixing cartwheels on the south side of Buffalo Road, west of Center Street[123].



          Dr. John Culbertson Wallace who attended General Anthony Wayne came to Erie in 1796 after the General’s death at the blockhouse. He elected to stay and was the first physician in the county. He died in 1825[124]. The first doctor in the Harbor Creek was Dr. Ira Sherwin who set up a practice in 1825. In 1837, Dr. Warren T. Bradley became the first resident physician in Wesleyville.


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[1] Evans deed

[2] Schooler, Elizabeth, Pleistocene Beach Ridges of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Geological Survey, General Geology Report 64, (1974),.

[3] Ed Knipper, Pers. Comm., March 9, 1994

[4] Schooler, Plate II

[5] Marie Frazier Stoltz, Personal Communication, April 11, 1994. Bill Frazier was Marie Stoltz’s nephew and the long time art teacher at Harbor Creek High School during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.

[6] Marie Frazier Stoltz, Personal Communication, April 11, 1994

[7] Ibid

[8] Donna Mindek, Pers. Comm. April 14, 1994

[9] Ed Knipper, Pers. Comm. April 11, 1994

[10] Ibid

[11] Mindek, Donna, Pers. Comm., Dec. 14, 1999

[12] Anderson, A Popular History of Harborcreek A Vignette: Clark Road, (1994)

[13] Ibid.

[14] Jonathan Pierce was Sarah Orton’s son-in-law by his first marriage to her daughter, Miranda.

[15] 1884, On Feb. 13, 1877, he married Lucinda Wright. There were two children – Theron A., and Emeline (Emma), who was living and interviewed by Shirley Anderson in 1994.

[16] Anderson, A Popular History of Harborcreek A Vignette: Clark Road, (1994)

[17] Marie Stoltz, Pers. Comm., March 9, 1994

[18] Shirley Anderson, Pers. Comm., April; 1994

[19] Anderson, A Popular History of Harborcreek A Vignette: Clark Road, (1994)

[20] Knipper, Ed, Pers. Comm., May 9, 1994

[21] Ibid

[22] Stoltz, Marie, Pers. Comm., May 9, 1994

[23] Ibid

[24] 1884,

[25] Mrs. Hugh Gallagher, Pers. Comm., May 12, 1994

[26] Simmons, Beth, 1997, A Window Opens to Erie’s Past- Judah Colt Daybook, 1798-1799”: Journal of Erie Studies, p. 14.

[27] Frank Szklenski, Pers. Comm. 1969

[28] 1884, p. 183

[29] Ed Knipper, Pers. Comm. April 11, 1994

[30] Sanford, Laura, 1894, History of Erie County, p. 274

[31] Miller, Vol. I, 74

[32] 1801, McNair Census

[33] Nelson’s, 1896, 96

[34] Ken Kreider, Pers. Comm., April 23, 1994

[35] Miller, Vol. I,

[36] Simmons, Beth, A Window Opens to Erie’s Past- Judah Colt Daybook, Journal of Erie Studies, Spring 1997 Vol. 26, No. 1, 12

[37] Cheney, Richard, 1976, Wesleyville, 1795-1976: Bureau of Wesleyville Bicentennial publication; Date 1823 given in Reed, V. I, p. 325, 435

[38] Miller, 1901, Vol. I., p. 487: Reed, p. 324

[39] Miller, 1901, Vol. I, p. 487

[40] Township Road Book, 1825

[41] Reed, Vol. I., p. 324

[42] Reed, V. I, p. 426

[43] Ibid, p. 286

[44] Reed, V. I., p. 323; Richard Cowell, Pers. Comm., April 1994

[45] Anderson, A Popular History of Harborcreek A Vignette: Clark Road

[46] 1884, p. 142

[47] Ibid, p. 63, Aug. 1837

[48] 1884,

[49] Ibid, p. 5

[50] Miller, 1909, Vol. I, p. 488

[51] Reed, V. I, p. 324

[52] Richard Cowell, Pers. Comm., April 1994

[53] Miller?

[54] White, I.C., The Geology of Erie and Crawford Counties: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Q4 Report (1881), 291.)

[55] Stoltz, Marie, Pers. Comm., May 9, 1994

[56] Miller, Vol. I, 704, Nelson’s, p. 113; 1801 Census

[57] 1876, p. 20

[58] Erie Times-News, July 4, 1976

[59] Simmons, p. 20

[60] Miller, 1909, Vol. 2, p. 220

[61]Judah Colt Daybook, 1798-99, p. 4

[62] Ibid, p. 7

[63] Ibid, p. 105

[64] Ibid, p. 160

[65] Ibid, p. 161

[66] Ibid, p. 162

[67] 1876 Atlas of Erie County

[68] Nelson’s, p. 749

[69] 1865 Harbor Creek Map

[70] Miller, 1909, Vol I., p. 595

[71] Erie County Historical Society, Driving Tour of East Erie County, PA, 1990

[72] Cheney, Wesleyville, 1795-1976, Wesleyville Bicentennial Committee, p. 5

[73] 1876, p. 21

[74] Schooler, Plate II

[75] Reed, V. I, p. 276

[76] Simmons, p. 13

[77] Ilisevich, Robert, D., Daniel Dobbins, Frontier Mariner, 1993, Erie County His.Soc., p. 61

[78] Erie City Library map.

[79] 1884, p. 245; Reed, V. I, p. 328

[80] Harbor Creek Township Road Book;

[81] Ibid, p. 1

[82] Nelson’s, p. 113

[83] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, Feb. 9, 1826

[84] The roads in Harbor Creek (and throughout Erie County) were resurveyed and entered into a recopied road book after the first courthouse in Erie burned in 1823. Station Road was obviously present at the time of the new survey, but would not have been cut when Rees made his original road.

[85] Ibid, p. 29

[86] Ibid, 1851

[87] Ibid; Schooler, 1974, Plate 2

[88] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, Oct. 1857; p. 57, Apr. 1859; p. 81, 1860; p. 84, 1862

[89] Ibid, 1851

[90] Ibid, 1852

[91] Ibid, p. 29

[92] Ibid, p. 40

[93] Ibid, p. 25

[94] Ibid, p. 48

[95] Ibid, , p. 52

[96] Ibid, p. 25

[97] Reed, p. 331:1818 map, Harbor Creek Township Road Book

[98] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 35, p. 51. Saltsman Road was officially surveyed and recorded on May 9, 1833.

[99] Ibid, p. 35

[100] Ibid, 1843

[101]  1884

[102] Miller?

[103] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 38

[104] Reed, V. I., p. 329

[105] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 3

[106] Harbor Creek Historical Society, List of Gospel Hill tombstones, Jan. 2000

[107] Hoag Cemetery Records

[108] Gospel Hill Cemetery Deed

[109] Ibid

[110] 1884, p. 259

[111] Nelson’s, 1896, p. 318

[112] Mrs. Hugh Gallagher, Pers. Comm., May 12, 1994

[113] 1884, p. 253

[114] Ibid p. 252

[115] Ibid, p. 722; Nelson’s, p. 142

[116] Cheney, Richard, 1976, Wesleyville, 1795-1976: Borough of Wesleyville Bicentennial,  p. 7

[117] Miller, 1909, 439; 1885, p. 173

[118] 1884, p. 259

[119] Miller, 1909

[120] Nelson’s, p. 142

[121] Gospel Hill Cemetery tombstone

[122] 1816, Harbor Creek Township Road Book

[123] Cheney, R. Wesleyville, 1795-1976, p. 9

[124] Reed, V. I: Miller, V. I; Cheney, History of Wesleyville

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[Change History: Article posted 3/27/03; contact email updated 10/4/03]

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