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Erie County (PA) Genealogy

Family Histories

Rees' Pieces - Part 4 - Neighbors

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 Four, Thomas Rees' Neighbors.

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

Return to Part Three

Part Four - Rees’ Neighbors


          Thomas Rees surrounded himself with good neighbors, including his in-laws.. Trying to set the stage for Rees’ life story, these short paragraphs summarize the history and locations of the early families around “Gospel Hill.” Shirley Anderson told the Clark family in her Vignette of Harbor Creek History.[1] As research continues, the information gathered by Harbor Creek historians will transform these ancestors into a vital history book. 


James Titus

          Four free colored were counted with Rees’ household in 1801. James Titus was one of Rees’ black laborers.[2] Rees gave fifty acres to each black man when they were liberated at age twenty-eight. The Titus family was one of the core families of the early black community in Erie County. The Titus name was located on east of Hannon Road on the crest of the Girard Moraine according to the diagram that accompanies a change to Hannon Road in 1840.[3] Any evidence of any buildings on top of that hill on the east side of the road are long gone

          Judah Colt had purchased a slave girl on one of his trips to Philadelphia. There was a pair of shoes made for a “Betsey Sloane” at Greenfield in 1798; Betsey Sloane may have been Colt’s slave. The Moorhead’s also brought in a slave, known as Caesar, who was emancipated at age 28, but continued to live with his former master until his death[4].


Chambers, Davenports, and Fosters

          East of Titus’s, along Hannon Road, were the David Chambers and the Davenports. Today, a modern new home occupies the space where older township residents remember an old house similar in construction to the Gallagher’s old house[5]. The Chamber’s or Davenport’s apparently planted the lilac bushes in the woods around that house before 1840! Bert Hofius grew up in the Davenport’s old house on the east side of the road at the bend. It burned when he was a child. The old “Johnson “ house in the valley on the east side of the road was owned by C. Foster according to the road book in 1840. Its original architecture is similar to the old house at Davenport’s.


Nehemiah Beers

          The Beers family lived on the farms now occupied by the Willats family on the east side of Hannon Road. On June 25, 1831, at a summer camp meeting at the Sterrett’s place in Wesleyville, Nehemiah Beers, one of the original trustees of the Wesleyville Methodist Church, was an exhorter.[6] Mrs. Beers was named Mehetable; her death on August 12, 1851, marked the passing of one of its most active member. She was fifty-five and had been an active member of the church since its earliest days, instrumental in the organization of the parish in 1828.[7] 


Bernard (Barnard) and Christian Bort

                Barnard Bort was born in Mohawk, Herkimer County, New York. “About 1815, he came to Erie County in search of a favorable location, the country round about being then in its primitive wildness, giving but scant promise of its present flourishing condition. Buying land at Harbor Creek, then called Gospel Hill, he cleared and improved a homestead, on which he was engaged in tilling the soil for many years”[8].

          His first wife was Polly Dewey,[9] daughter of Betsey Stone (nee Elizabeth Woodworth Dewey, widow of Andrew Dewey)[10]. Betsey and her second husband, Luther Stone, lived across Hannon Road from the Bort’s. Barney and Polly Bort were active members of the Methodist church in Wesleyville. “Barney” Bort was a Methodist local preacher (an exhorter).[11] He renewed his preaching license in 1832[12] and preached at Wesleyville on June 25, 1836.[13] Mary [Polly], died July 18, 1845, at the age of 55 years, and may be buried at Gospel Hill.

          After the death of his first wife Barney Borts married Ann Rhodes. Ann and Barney had one child named George Bort. By the1850’s, his piece of land was in the hands of the Tuttle’s. Barnard subsequently “removed to Wesleyville, where he spent the closing years of his long and useful life, passing away in 1890”[14].

          One of the children of Barnard and Polly Bort, Laurin D. Bort, was born July 22, 1826, at Gospel Hill, Harbor Creek, Erie County. Probably influenced by his neighbor on the south side of Station Road, Captain Thomas Wilkins, Laurin followed a career in boating on the lakes. After 16 years on the lakes, he purchased a farm in Conneaut Township. On March 5, 1855, he married Eliza Jane Doty, whose father had located in North East then moved to West Springfield. During the Civil War Laurin Bort enlisted and served in Company D, 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, under Captain Lynch, under General Meade. Bort was taken captive at Chancellorsville and was incarcerated for nine months at Andersonville Prison.[15]

          The Bernard Bort family, Barney and Mary (Polly), their in-laws and another Bort family, occupied both sides of Hannon Road. The first mention of them is in the earliest township road book,[16] as being on the west side of Hannon Road across from Ebenezer Sewell’s. On the 1865[17] map of Harbor Creek, a Mrs. Bort is shown on the east side of the road at the present Evan-Acres farm at 5019 Hannon Road.     This was Lorana Bort, the widow of Christian Bort. Christian Bort, like Barney was a native of Mohawk Valley, N.Y.  A soldier in the War of 1812, Christian came to Harbor Creek in 1824.and bought “the place later owned by Washington Bonnell”[18]. He brought his family from Chautauqua County, New York, in 1825. Of the eight children, only two stayed in Erie County, L.D. who bought land in North East township, and Mary Jane, who married Marshall Bonnell and lived in the house at the intersection of the present Reese Road and Steimer Road. Christian Bort died in 1853.[19]

          In 1876, George Washington Bunnell, son of George Bunnell, bought the farm and built the present gabled L style home. George Washington Bonnell married his first cousin, Isabella Edson, daughter of Mary Bonnell Edson, George’s aunt . Before they applied the initial layer of wallpaper to the walls in the “south bedroom”, the neighbors, owners, and carpenters all penciled their names or graffiti houses and sketches onto the fresh plaster. The inscription on the west wall tells that “cleaned and papered this room, April 21, 1881.”

          The foundation of the front of the present house predates the younger foundation to the rear of the house with its granite boulders, indicating that perhaps Bunnell tore down or burned the original house. An ancient brick wall stands in the basement of the present house at the juncture of the new and old foundations. There is a wide dug well between the maple trees behind the house, laid up with stone. That was probably the original well for the house.


Luther Stone

          Luther Stone, father-in-law of Barney Bort, occupied the northeast corner lot at the intersection of Hannon Road and Station Road. He is mentioned in the Township Road Book in the description of Station Road, Road #16. The road went by the southwest corner of his property[20]. In 1825, the Township Road Book describes the Rees [Hannon] Road as  “between Ebenezer Sewell and Barnard Bort to Station Road”.[21] On November 4, 1830, Stone was located on the northeast corner of Station Road and Kuhl Road with the Bort’s across Hannon Road to the west[22].

          Luther Stone’s son, Russell, deed the acreage at the corner later to be named Tuttle’s Corners, to Barnard Bort and to Luther Stone, a widower. Elizabeth (Betsey) Woodworth Dewey, the widowed mother of Polly Bort, apparently came to Erie County from Madison Co., New York, with her daughters and son-in-laws. The other daughter in the neighborhood was Elizabeth (Betsy) Dewey and her husband, Joseph Lee. Another son of Betsey Woodworth Dewey was Ira Dewey. His signature appears in the township road book on the rerouting of Hannon Road in 1840.

          For some reason, in 1833 the Wesleyville Methodist exhorters silenced and expelled Luther Stone from the church after he had served as an exhorter for the preceding three years[23]. Luther Stone died in July of 1843. After that Betsey Woodworth Dewey Stone lived with another son, Alvah Dewey in Wesleyville and died in 1854 at the age of 89.[24]

          This corner later was the site of the Tuttle one-room brick schoolhouse[25]. Some residents, Marvin Akerly, Larry Magee and their siblings, attended elementary school there. Larry Magee’s family lived in the school long after Brookside Elementary was built.


Thomas Wilkins

          Thomas Wilkins, captain of the Reed fleet[26] and described as a Methodist exhorter in 1832, owned part of the section on the northwest corner of Station and Hannon Roads (the western portion of #212)[27]. Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary says this Thomas Wilkins came to Erie from Canada in 1816 on the “schooner Niagara”.[28] Thomas Wilkins was a common name in early Erie County. There was a “Thomas Wilkins” appointed as clerk to the County Commissioners in newly formed Erie County in 1803. He served during the War of 1812 and was the father of the Thomas W. Wilkins who was the keeper of the lighthouse during the early 1800’s[29].

          Harbor Creek’s Captain Thomas Wilkins married Anna Henton, daughter of Griffith Henton of “Wales” in Greene Township, in 1821. Their son, Benjamin, was born “at Gospel Hill” seven months later, on Oct. 1821[30] (1896, p. 421). The Wilkins family belonged to the Wesleyville Methodist Church; he served as an exhorter in 1832.[31]

          Unfortunately Anna died in 1833 at 30 years of age after bearing two children, Benjamin (born Oct. 7, 1821) and Jane. Captain Wilkins then married another Harbor Creek girl, Mary Backus, daughter of Joseph and Martha Milliken Backus, early Harbor Creek settlers, and they had two children, George and Anna. Her sister, Anna Backus, married Thomas Wilkins’ son, Benjamin. The only evidence of their occupation at the northwest corner of Station and Hannon Roads was an old well in the side yard at Ed Holden’s, very near the present Country Fair store. Ed Hayward remembered that someone almost life their life in the well[32], so Ruth Holden had the well filled so her children would not fall into it[33]. The boundary between the Wilkins’ and Rees’ properties is marked by a prominent hedge of forest trees which strike east/west across from Evan-Acres on Hannon Road.


Ebenezer Sewell

          The Ebenezer Sewell family shared section #212, living in the middle portion. They also had arrived in 1816[34]. Many older township residents well remember the old brick shingled “Sewell” house and barn owned by Sexauer’s, another very early Harbor Creek family. The gas station occupies its space on the north side of Station Road across from the intersection with Kuhl. Later generations of Sewell children moved down the hill to a house on the north side of Station Road across from Jordan Road. Eventually a R. Sewell purchased a piece along the south side of the present Reese Road and built the huge mansion and barns called the “Gospel Hill Farms.”       Another old house, just east of Larry Magee’s across Mitchell Run, is still standing and occupied. It is mentioned in the Harbor Creek Township Road Book as a turning point for Station Road, so it must have been there before 1815. George Baker or William Baird may have originally built it.


William Daniels

          William Daniels was another early pioneer who lived east of Rees and south of Six-Mile Creek and the Clark’s. He had come from New Jersey. He was a shoemaker and tanner. His son, David A. Daniels, was born at Gospel Hill in 1822. A D.D. Daniels attended Sunday School in the Brick Meeting House in Harbor Creek on July 4, 1836 and was an exhorter in the Methodist church.[35] The Williams Daniels family had relocated to Crawford County by that time.[36] The Baird’s may have purchased their land from the Daniels after they lost their land battle with Judah Colt.


William Baird

          Rees’ earliest neighbors to the southeast across Six-Mile Creek Gorge, was the William Baird family with their many girls. The 1801 census reported four girls under the age of ten, one older boy under the age of sixteen and William and his wife. They apparently lived on the eastern most third of tract #212. The William Bairds had originally settled at the mouth of Twelve-Mile Creek, on the east bank, during the latter part of the 1700’s. Baird was one of the squatters who challenged Judah Colt in court over property ownership. On the sketch map for Townline Road in the road book in 1852, a Baird is still located between Lake Road and the Lake, at the northern end of Townline Road[37]. Apparently, William Baird’s moved south to section #212. The house they probably occupied sits on the north side of Station Road, just west of Lunger Road and east of a small, unnamed creek which flows into Six-Mile Creek. The barn on that property may date from the early 1800’s.


John Bunnell[i]

          The Bunnell’s (=Bonnell, =Bonel, pronounced “bun-ul”) lived where the Behrend/Mack property is today, south of the Rees plantation. The patriarch, John, appears on the 1801 census in Greenfield Township as John Bonel [sic] with a family of three males-one over 45, Grandfather John, one under twenty six, son Thomas, and one under ten (son, William). Two females are listed - one under forty five, mother Bunnell, and an unidentified daughter between the ages of ten and sixteen. John Bonnell [sic] was born in 1757 and served as a revolutionary soldier, as a private in Capt. Richard Manning’s Company, commanded by Col. James Burd, 4th Battalion, Lancaster County, Militia. One source says John [Bonnell] came to Erie County in 1802[38], but the name John Bonel appears on McNair’s census in 1801, with the appropriate number of family members described.[39]

          An old frame clapboard sided maroon colored house located just up the hill from Cooper Road on the south side of Station Road was not the original John Bunnell homestead[40]. In the early days it belonged to Nathan Curtis and shows on the road book description of Cooper Road[41]. It wasn’t until 1865, that the Atlas shows it listed under J. Bonnell, John Bunnell’s grandson, John.[42]. On the 1876 map it was listed under R. Bonnell, who would have been Richard, John Bonnell’s grandson. Most longtime local residents remember the long chicken coop which sat behind the house and was demolished years after the house fell down[43].

          In 1802, John’s oldest son, Thomas Bunnell, a shoemaker, married Eva Coover from Greene Township (Waterford)[44]. The old Georgian style brick house at 5471 Station Road east of Behrend College was built by Thomas Bunnell.[45] Thomas and Eva Bonnell had nine children. The first, Elizabeth, was born in October of 1802 in Harbor Creek, perhaps in the log cabin, which sat on the lot. In her Reminiscences of my Life, Elizabeth’s daughter, Mary Jane Mead Bliley, talked about moving from Brokenstraw in Warren County back to Erie County after her father, David Mead, died.

“Immediately after the death of my Father, my Mother, taking her three small children, came to Erie County, Pennsylvania, to live with her parents, Thomas and Eve (Coover) Bonnell. The brick house in which they lived on the Colt’s Station Road in Harborcreek Township about two miles southeastwardly from Wesleyville had just been completed about two years. The old log cabin, near the cherry tree just south of the new brick house, out of which cabin, they had moved still stood, so after a short time my Mother moved into the old log house and remained there about two years.”[46]


          John, the sixth child, named for his grandfather, was born in “April of 1811 at Gospel Hill.”[47] All of the Bonnell children settled around Gospel Hill. According to the 1870 census, Thomas Bonnell was “living with his son, John.”[48] He died on October 6, 1871 at the age of 95. If Thomas Bonnell were living “with his son,” it would appear that he was not living in his own home. The farm on the north side of Gospel Hill labeled “J. Bonnell” in 1865 probably belonged to his son John Bonnell and was where Thomas died.. John Bonnell’s obituary on February 8, 1881, stated that “upon his marriage [to Cynthia Wadsworth] [he] bought a farm about half a mile from his father’s and there he lived and died”. That fact and the statement from Mary Mead Bliley, places Thomas Bonnell at the brick house during his early life and at John’s on the front of Gospel Hill later. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bonnell were both buried in the Gospel Hill Cemetery where he was one of the original trustees[49]. They left 130 descendants!

          Grandson John married Cynthia Wadsworth. Their son, Richard Miller Bonnell, was born in 1839, “married [Sarah Jane Henry] and lived near his father’s farm.” (Probably on the Henry farm). John and Cynthia’s older daughter, Lovisa Bonnell, “inherited the family farm from her father.”[50] On the 1876 map, the farm on the north side of Gospel Hill is listed in Richard’s name. She died in 1886 and was buried at Gospel Hill.

          According to family records, until recently the brick house was always in the Bonnell family. Richard Miller Bonnell, John’s son and Lovisa’s nephew, a grandson of Thomas Bunnell[51] lived in the house, which is shown on the 1876 map as belonging to John Bunnell.[52]

          The 1865 map shows a Miss Weeks owning two houses along Station Road., The Township road book mentions a change in Station Road that went to a “post in line between Bonnell’s and Weeks, crossing the creek to the lands of Robert Sewell and Robert McConnell.”[53] John Tuttle spoke of an old house that stood in the “gravel pit” on the south side of Station Road, before the Glenn Bennett opened the gravel pit in the 1940’s. That could have been the westernmost Weeks house. The name T. Bonnell appears east of Miss Weeks westernmost house, another sure sign that the brick house indeed belonged to Thomas Bonnell and dates from 1831.

          The first Bonnell child, Elizabeth Bonnell (born 1802) married David Mead. Their daughter, Mary J, married Charles Bliley. In 1865, Charles Bliley purchased that farm which had been owned by William May. It was also called the Grace farm. In March of 1865, the Bliley’s moved to the farm in “Brookside” and 10 years later, in 1875, built the Italianate style[54] brick home at 3767 Station Road. The Bliley home was pictured in the 1876 Atlas of Erie County. It was later called “Brookside Gardens”. Members of the Bliley family still live in Brookside;[55] the McLane family occupies the Brookside Garden house.[56]

          George Bunnell (Geo. Bonell)[57], the second child of Thomas and Eva Bonnell, built his home at the corner of Jordan and Station Roads[58]. The house was also pictured in the 1876 Atlas of Erie County. In the 1970’s, that house was moved two miles up Jordan Road to make room for changes at Behrend. It is at “Stormy Hill” now[59].

          George Washington Bunnell, a son of George Bonnell, built the house on the present Evans farm on Hannon Road in 1876. The walls of one bedroom in that house are decorated with signatures of all of the carpenters, the owners, and the neighborhood children. Later the G. Washington Bunnell’s moved to the village of Harbor Creek and ran a cider mill on Iroquois Avenue. Somehow, much of the apple preparing equipment including a cider press and a huge copper kettle for making apple butter was left at the farm and passed down through the Seelinger’s to the Evans’.


Robert McDonnell (McConnell; McConel[60])

          A Spanish American War soldier named McDonnell buried in Gospel Hill cemetery  lived on the original McDonnell triangular piece of land on the north side of Station Road across from the entrance to Behrend Center. He served as a cook in Co. G15, Pennsylvania Infantry.[61] The present day McDonnell descendants live on the corner of Reese and Station Road near where the township road book shows Robert McDonnell in August 20, 1849[62].

          McConnell’s Run drains from the swampland behind the Girard Moraine down through Behrend Center to Four-Mile Creek. This stream is “named for a mulatto, Robert McConnell, who built a cabin at an early day on the bank of the stream. Robert McConnell was one of two slaves Thomas Rees gave 50 acres of land near Gospel Hill when they turned 28.” Nelson’s biography goes on to say that there were actually “three slaves who were ‘taken in’ by Thomas Rees”.[63]


Clinton George

          Clinton George homestead laid between the Bonnell farms along the south side of Station Road between Gospel Hill School and Jordan Road. It bounded the Gospel Hill Cemetery on the east side[64]. The Hermann/Gallagher deed traces back to the George name. George may have been one of Rees’ colored farm hands. The Gallagher house and barn predate 1840 and may have been built before 1810. Mrs. Gallagher said that the “higher part of the house had been moved up from Gospel Hill,”[65] proving that it had been part of an even earlier farm. As discussed earlier, barn construction is characteristic of the earlier barns in the township.


William Saltsman

          The William Saltsman family settled northwest of Rees’ plantation on Tract #238 on August 1, 1798. William Saltsman was one of Rees’ assistant surveyors during the 1796 survey. The Saltsman sawmill built at Wintergreen Gorge in 1815 at the base of what is now Cooper Road Hill probably provided the lumber for many of the houses in Wesleyville. By 1826, William Saltsman had added a gristmill to his plant[66]. Rees’ laborers would not have had to haul their grain far to be ground. The Saltsman house is very classic, Federal-style architecture with a central hallway and wings on both sides. At least two other houses in the township match it; the Heasley’s house just above Jordan Road on the south side of Station Road and a house in Moorheadville on the north side of Buffalo Road east of the creek.


David Riblet

          The David Riblet family lived north of Saltsman’s.[67] Their large colonial homestead is still standing on the corner of Saltsman and Markwood Drive, its gorgeous Georgian lines and window trim disguised under modern siding and a porch.


William Henry

          After a brief sojourn in Millcreek Township, the Henry’s settled on “Rolling Ridge” between the Rees’ and Four-Mile Creek in 1825.[68]. Like the Saltsman’s at the crest of the gravel Whittlesey beach ridge on Saltsman Road, the Henry’s selected a high dry gravel ridge for their homestead, now on the corner of Ridge Parkway and Nagle (Henry) Roads. George Frank lives in the farmhouse on “Rolling Ridge” that his father purchased from the Henry’s in 1947. His deed goes back to a James Tatham, then to George North Tatham, a Philadelphia attorney who sold the property to William Henry on June 1, 1835. This date is ten years after historical records cite for the Henry’s arrival in Harbor Creek.


Ezekiel Chambers

          Ezekiel and Rebecca Stewart Chambers arrived in Erie County in the fall of 1804. They lived in Millcreek Township until they moved to the 400 acres in Harbor Creek, which they purchased, from the Holland Land Company [69]. By 1810, the Chamber family spread out along Buffalo Road like hens and chickens. Some of the earliest settlers, many of the Chambers’ original buildings have survived the ravages of expansion in Harbor Creek. Gindlesperger’s old house behind the bowling alley on Buffalo Road is one of the original homes, which probably dates from 1802.

          Benjamin Chambers lived in the old house that is between Carter Lumber and the Skate Lodge on the north side of Buffalo Road. The house, with its original black walnut timbers, was moved back when the state widened Buffalo Road.  The Chamber’s barn originally stood on the north side of Buffalo Road, but was moved to the south side in 1890. According to Anna Marie Chambers Finnegan, there is an excellent well at the barn site. The barn was demolished to make room for Grossman’s lumber store in the 1970’s.[70]

          One of the Chambers’ sons, James, served as the Justice of the Peace for Harbor Creek for forty years after receiving his commission from the state in 1837.  He operated out of his house on the north side of Buffalo Road at the intersection of Saltsman Road. He also served as County treasurer, commissioner and auditor. Harrison Chambers lived on Buffalo Road where Stan’s Greenhouse/Nursery are today[71] and fell from an apple tree in 1873, breaking both arms.


Irvine’s (Erwin’s) Reserve

          The Irvine Reserve stretched north of Rees’ piece all the way to the shore of Lake Erie. This 2,000-acre tract “at the mouth of Harbor Creek” between “Brawley’s old tavern to the Greenwood schoolhouse, embracing the mouth of Six-Mile Creek[72] had been granted to General William Irvine. Originally he was given Monitor’s Island (Neville Island) in the Ohio River below Pittsburgh, but another person held that land under a prior Virginia rights[73]. Therefore, Irvine chose the tract in Harbor Creek when he and his son, Callendar [sic] accompanied the original surveyors of the triangle, Andrew Ellicott to Presque Isle during the first summer of surveying[74]. However, he never lived on the land and did not begin to sell off the tract until 1803, and then very sparingly. His daughter Agnes, married Rufus S. Reed, one of the Reed sons from Millcreek. There were large pieces of the Reserve left when his grandson, William, settled his father’s (Gen. Callender Irvine) estate in 1848. Callender (Collender)[75] Irvine was the original Prothonatory of Erie County in 1803 and 1804,[76] commander of the Garrison stationed in Erie[77], and the Commissary General during the War of 1812[78], so the Irvine’s were not absentee owners. The Reserve was eventually subdivided and the first lots were purchased by the Gifford’s, Brindle’s, and other settlers in the 1840’s.[79]


Andrew Elliott

          One of Rees’ assistant surveyors, Andrew Elliott selected his tract in 1797, on section #216 in one reference. The Township Road book places the east line of Irvine’s Reserve on the west corner of section #217, “on which Andrew Elliott lives”[80], along the Indian trail at the eastern edge of Irvine’s reserve, where the village of Harbor Creek and the old Fiddle Inn building sit today. Undoubtedly the Fiddle Inn building belonged to Elliott and may date as far back as 1797. Andrew Elliott’s wife was Betsy (nee, Elizabeth Taylor), born in Ireland in 1787[81]. They had nine children. Andrew Elliott died in 1852 at the age of 78. His wife died four years later. Both are buried in the Erie Cemetery. Gilbert T. Elliott was born about 1815. He bought the first piece of property sold from the Irvine’s Reserve and built the ”Elliott” house, where the Boyd’s live today, east of the Township Hall on Buffalo Road. When the railroad came through Harbor Creek, the house sat in between the two tracks. Therefore, the house was moved in two parts to their present site.


Joseph Backus

          Joseph Backus chose the tract east of the Elliott’s, in 1801, where according to the history books, he “built the first cabin”. This detail is probably local legend, because there were settlers and cabins in Harbor Creek before 1801. Joseph Backus had a mill and distillery along the west side of Elliott’s Run in the village of Harbor Creek from 1810 to 1834[82]. Joseph Backus,  and his “consort”, Olive, are buried in the Hoag cemetery. He died in 1830 at 81, Olive died in 1827 at 80 years of age. [83]

          Timothy Backus was born July 2, 1805 and fathered the girls who married the Wilkins father/son team from “Gospel Hill”: Their brother, Timothy, served as the postmaster at “Backus Corners from 1844 to 1848.” “Backus Corners” was at the intersection of Backus Road, Clark Road, and the present Depot Road.[84]


Aaron Hoag (Hoig)

          The Hoag family lived on the corner of Clark and what is now Depot Road. Their family cemetery is just north of the intersection on the west side of Depot Road. There was also a Hoag School at the corner. Hoag’s only great accomplishment was served when he died in 1857. According to the history books,[85] Aaron Hoag was “always in litigation and it is stated as a fact, that after his demise in 1857, “the law business of the court suddenly dropped off twenty-five per cent,”[86] obviously relieving Justice of the Peace James Chambers of a great load.


Myron Backus

          Myron Backus, (sometimes spelled Miron Backers) apparently unrelated to Joseph Backus, settled in Harbor Creek in 1800. He and his wife, Hannah Backus homesteaded 200 acres along Six-Mile Creek where Backus Road is today. Their homestead home stands south of Prindle Road and Seven-Mile Creek on the west side of Backus Road.

          Myron Backus built a sawmill in Six-Mile Creek at “Factory Gulch” before 1810 and Clark Road was opened to the Gulch by 1806, to serve the Backus Mill[87]. The Backus Road (now called Depot Road) went to the south side of Backer’s head race, then crossed Six-Mile Creek”.[88]

          Myron Backus served as township Justice of the Peace for many years having been sworn in on December 14, 1819[89] and was a founding elder of the Harbor Creek Presbyterian Church. In 1842, their son, John, married Lydia Chambers, daughter of Ezekiel and Rebecca Chambers of Buffalo Road. He served the township as school director and tax collector.

          An old house sat on the south side of Station Road at the base of “Scott Hollow Hill.” Art Hackenberg’s barn is probably one of the old barns of the township, because the house belonged to the Cass family[90] and may have predated the Cass family who arrived in Harbor Creek in 1840.


Amasa Prindle

          Amasa and Tryphena Prindle first selected section #196 between the Backus’ and the Moorhead’s on the south side of the present Belle Road. The Harbor Creek Township Road Book lists Amasa in the description of what is now Davison Road, along with his daughter, Rhoda,  who had married David S. Brown, in 1827.[91]  Later, after he couldn’t sell his wheat in Erie Amasa decided to move south into what is now Greenfield Township.[92] By trade, Amasa Prindle was a shoemaker and a currier, but mostly “followed farming.” According to the history books their daughter, Sarah, was listed as the first female child born in Harbor Creek Township, on July 31,1799[93].

          Dennis Cass, Cass and Prindle family historian, found that Sarah had an older sister, Alymra, who was born on May 22, 1797, two years before Sarah, after Amasa Prindle’s settled in Harbor Creek.[94] Perhaps Almyra was born in Buffalo during the three years between 1795 to 1798 when Amassa was developing the property he had bought for 20 cents and acre before he brought his family over the frozen lake.[95]


Sarah Prindle Orton

          Sarah Prindle Orton was the second daughter of Amasa Prindle and the first white child born in the Harbor Creek in 1799[96]. She attended school kept by Miss Clarissa Cain. In 1818, she married Darius (Derias) Orton who had served as a private in the War of 1812. He was killed February 15, 1841, “log-rolling” and is buried in Hoag Cemetery on Depot Road[97]. The Orton’s lived along Clark Road on property settled by her husband’s parents.[98] The building of Interstate 90 took the house[99]. Another Orton, Truman, lived on the south side of Clark Road. Truman Orton died August 21, 1845 at the age of 51 years; his wife Sarah, born, July 31, 1799, died Nov. 5, 1890.


Asa Hemingway

          Asa Hemingway lived on the northwest corner of what is now Depot Road and Station Roads.[100] Hemingway was mentioned as early as Dec. 31, 1798 in the Judah Colt Daybook. Judah Colt caught him sleeping on the job of helping with the chimney in October of 1799 and docked Asa half a day’s wages!


Thomas and James Henton (Hinton)

          One of the families that has lived in Harbor Creek Township since early settlement day was the Henton (Hinton) family. James Henton was the main handyman of Colt’s Station. In 1799, he laid the solid cherry floor in Colt’s house and the office, made a dining table for the kitchen at Colt’s Station, built a wheelbarrow and an axletree for a cart. He spent seven days building two cart bodies and two and a half days rimming the wheels for the carts and getting the timber for six pairs of cartwheels[101]. Before 1802, the Henton’s had settled on a plot between Station Road and Six Mile Creek, where the old Peck Road used to go north to the creek. The Henton’s had many children who lived around the original homestead. The old “Hall” house on Station Road and the house on the south side of Station Road on the top of the moraine were probably both occupied by Henton’s.


Henry Clark

          Henry and Sally Clark settled the acreage due east of Rees’s piece on the east bank of Six-Mile Creek. Clark called his farm “Launceton” and his son, William, was the first male child born in Harbor Creek on March 26, 1801[102]. The geographic setting of “Launceton” was similar to Rees’ piece, including precious artesian springs. Clark’s main spring was in the bank of Six-Mile Gorge. There was a small springhouse and guesthouse south of Williams Road which belonged to the Clarks.

          At the turn of the twentieth century, water from the spring was bottled and sold in Erie. Their second son, David, was born in 1804. He said in his biography that he “often heard the wolves howl and that his grandmother drove an ox team.” He owned of a farm of fifty acres on Clark Road, which bordered the Orton farm. The house owned by the David Clark’s still sands north of Clark Road, just east of the interstate highway bridge. On that farm was a spring “remarkable for its petrifying qualities.” During the 1960’s Mr. Bill Duel gave me a specimen of recent-aged beech leaves which had been petrified by the waters flowing out of the spring.  



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[i] Because the spelling of Bunnell and Bonnell is used interchangeably throughout the literature, this paper will follow that tradition.

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

[2] Sanford, 1894, p. 715: Nelson’s, 1896, p. 315

[3] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 65

[4] Sanford, 1894, p. 716

[5] Bert Hofius, Pers. Comm. May, 1994

[6] 1884, p. 250

[7] Cheney, p. 18

[8] Miller, Vol. 2, p. 686

[9] Ibid

[10] Forsyth, Milton, Pers. Comm. Dec. 28, 1999

[11] 1884, p. 253

[12] 1884, p. 250

[13] 1884, p. 253

[14] Miller, 1908, Vol. 2, p. 687

[15] Ibid

[16] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 29

[17] Harbor Creek Township Road Book; F.W.Beers, Atlas of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (N.Y.: F.W.Beers, A.D. Ellis and G.G. Soule, 1865, map of Harbor Creek township

[18] Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary, 1896, p. 845

[19] There were many children in the Christian Bort family, two of whom, William and Barney, died in infancy. The remaining were Polly B., who married Ephreiam Burdick, Madison, Ohio, S. B. Bort, who moved to Iowa, Malinda Bort, L.D. Bort, who married Lucinda Metzker originally of Tompkins County, NY., whose family had settled in Fairview township near Walnut Creek in 1833. The other daughter, Mary Jane Bort, married Marshall Bonnell, son of George Bunnell, Bort’s neighbors in the valley at the intersection of Station and Jordan Roads.

[20] Township Road Book, #16

[21] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 29

[22] Ibid, p. 39

[23] Ibid, p. 252

[24] Forsyth, Milton, Pers. Comm., Dec. 28, 1999

[25] Harbor Creek Historical Society

[26] Nelson’s, 1896

[27] Evans deed; 1884, p. 252

[28] Nelson’s, 1896

[29] Nelson’s, 1896, p. 273

[30] Nelson’s, 1896, p. 421

[31] 1884, p. 250

[32] Ed Hayward, Pers. Comm., April 16, 1994

[33] Linda Holden DeAngelo, Pers. Comm., April, 1994)

[34] Nelson’s, 1896, 803

[35] 1884, p. 250

[36] 1884, p. 69, 70

[37] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, 1852, Townline Road or Leet Road

[38] Wesleyville Cemetery Records, Graves number 12 and 13, The Bonnell Family

[39] 1801 Census

[40] 1865 Atlas, Harbor Creek, Ed Hayward, Pers. Comm., April 16, 1994

[41] Harbor Creek township Road Book, Cooper Road, p. 31

[42] 1865 Atlas, Harbor Creek

[43] Cheney, Richard, 1976, Wesleyville, 1795-1976: Bureau of Wesleyville Bicentennial publication p.41; Jack Gallagher, Pers. Comm., March 1, 1994

[44] Erie County Historical Society, Historical Inventory, 2/8/87; Cheney, p. 47

[45] Ruth Bonnell Stewart, Pers. Comm. March 3, 1994; Cheney, 47; Erie County Historical Society, Historic Resource survey code #049-HK-0225

[46] Mead, Mary Jane, Reminiscences of my Life, as told to Inez Charlotte Wagner, her granddaughter, on March 15, 1908, edited and footnoted by Frank A. Bliley, her son, in 1942, graphics and update by Charles A. Bliley in 1999:, accessed 12/31/99

[47] Wesleyville Cemetery Records, p. 44, Bonnell Family

[48] Wesleyville Cemetery Records, p. 41

[49] Gospel Hill Cemetery Deed

[50] Ibid, p. 44

[51] 1876 Atlas

[52] Ibid. 1876 Atlas

[53] Township Road Book

[54] Gordon, p. 85

[55] Miller, 1909

[56] Bliley, Charles A., Pers. Comm. Dec. 31, 1999

[57] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, R #26

[58] Virginia McDermott, Pers. Comm., March, 1994

[59] Roy Bliley, Pers. Comm., April, 1994

[60] 1865 Atlas Harbor Creek Map

[61] Nelson’s 1896, p. 315

[62] HC Township Road Book, Aug. 20, 1849, p. 28. Porter Road

[63] Ibid, p. 316

[64] Gospel Hill Cemetery Deed

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

[66] Cheney, Richard, p. 241

[67] Munger, Donna Bingham, Pennsylvania Land Records, A history and Guide for Research, Scholarly Resources Inc., Wilmington, Delaware, p. 167

[68] 1884 History of Erie County

[69] Miller, Vol. II., p. 590,

[70] Anna Marie Chambers Finnegan, pers. Comm. May 13, 1994

[71] Ibid

[72] Nelson’s, p. 317

[73] Reed, John, The History of Erie County, Vol. II (1924), p. 500

[74] Olson, p. 15

[75] Ibid, p. 276

[76] 1876, p. 19

[77] Sanford, 1894, p. 276

[78] 1884, p. 315

[79] 1896, p. 161

[80] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 10

[81] Wesleyville Cemetery Records, The Elliott Family, Grave #61

[82] 1884, 185

[83] Hutzelman, Thomas, April 18, 1981, Hoag Cemetery records

[84] Ibid, 1902

[85] 1885, p. 723

[86] Ibid.

[87] Harbor Creek Township Road Book; Anderson, A Popular History of Harborcreek A Vignette: Clark Road

[88] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 5

[89] 1876, p. 21; Nelson’s, p. 160

[90] Cass, Harold, 1942, Chronicles of the Descendants of John Cass, #122.

[91] HC Township Road Book, 1827, p. 33

[92] 1885, p. 78

[93] 1884 History of Erie County

[94] Dennis Cass, pers. Comm. email, Feb. 9, 2000

[95] 1885, p. 78

[96] 1884, p. 245

[97] Dennis Cass, Pers. Comm., Jan. 20, 1999, re: Tombstone, Hoag Cemetery, 1884,

[98] Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 25

[99] Mrs. Shirley Anderson, Pers. Comm.

[100] Ibid, p. 5

[101] Judah Colt Day Book, 1798-99, pp. 190, 194

[102] Reed, 1924, p. 503; Harbor Creek Township Road Book

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

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