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. As research continues, the information gathered by
Harbor Creek historians will
transform these ancestors into a vital history book.
Four free colored were
counted with Rees’ household in 1801. James Titus was one of Rees’ black
laborers. 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. 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
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. 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.
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. 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.
(Barnard) and Christian Bort
Bort was born in Mohawk, Herkimer
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
first wife was Polly Dewey,
daughter of Betsey Stone (nee Elizabeth
Woodworth Dewey, widow of Andrew Dewey).
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). He renewed his preaching license in 1832 and preached at Wesleyville on June 25, 1836. Mary [Polly], died July 18, 1845, at the age of 55 years, and may be buried at Gospel
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”.
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
Thomas Wilkins, Laurin followed a career in boating on the lakes. After 16
years on the lakes, he purchased a farm in Conneaut
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.
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, as being on the west side of Hannon Road across from Ebenezer Sewell’s. On the 1865 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”.
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.
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, 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. In 1825, the Township Road Book describes the
Rees [Hannon] Road
as “between Ebenezer Sewell and Barnard
Bort to Station Road”. 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.
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. 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.
This corner later was the
site of the Tuttle one-room brick schoolhouse. 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, captain of
the Reed fleet 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). Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary says this Thomas
Wilkins came to Erie from Canada in 1816 on the “schooner Niagara”. 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
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 (1896, p. 421). The Wilkins family belonged to the Wesleyville Methodist Church; he served as an exhorter in 1832.
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, so Ruth Holden had the well filled so her children
would not fall into it. 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.
The Ebenezer Sewell family
shared section #212, living in the middle portion. They also had arrived in
1816. 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 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. The Williams Daniels family
had relocated to Crawford County by that time. The Baird’s may have purchased their land from the
Daniels after they lost their land battle with Judah Colt.
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. 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
(=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, but the name John Bonel appears on McNair’s census in 1801, with the appropriate number of family members
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. In the early days it belonged to Nathan Curtis and
shows on the road book description of Cooper Road. It wasn’t until 1865, that the Atlas shows it listed
under J. Bonnell, John Bunnell’s grandson, John.. 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.
In 1802, John’s oldest
son, Thomas Bunnell, a shoemaker, married Eva Coover from Greene Township (Waterford). The old Georgian style brick house at 5471 Station Road east of Behrend College was built by
Thomas Bunnell. 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.”
John, the sixth child,
named for his grandfather, was born in “April of 1811 at Gospel Hill.” All of the Bonnell children settled around Gospel Hill.
According to the 1870 census, Thomas Bonnell was “living with his son, John.” 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. 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.” 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 lived in the house, which is shown on the 1876 map as
belonging to John Bunnell.
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.” 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
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; the McLane family occupies the Brookside Garden house.
George Bunnell (Geo.
Bonell), the second child of Thomas and Eva Bonnell, built his
home at the corner of Jordan and Station Roads. 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.
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)
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. 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.
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”.
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. 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,” 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.
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. 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.
The David Riblet family
lived north of Saltsman’s. 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.
After a brief sojourn in
Millcreek Township, the
Henry’s settled on “Rolling Ridge” between the Rees’ and Four-Mile Creek in 1825.. 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 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 . 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.
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 and fell from an apple tree in 1873, breaking both
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” 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. 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. 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) Irvine was the original Prothonatory of Erie County in 1803 and 1804, commander of the Garrison stationed in Erie, and the Commissary General during the War of 1812, 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.
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”, 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. 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 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. 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. 
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.
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,
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,” obviously
relieving Justice of the Peace James Chambers of a great load.
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. The Backus Road (now called Depot Road) went to the south side of Backer’s head race, then
crossed Six-Mile Creek”.
Myron Backus served as
township Justice of the Peace for many years having been sworn in on December 14,
1819 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
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 and may have predated the Cass family who arrived in
Harbor Creek in 1840.
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. Later, after he couldn’t sell his wheat in
Erie Amasa decided to
move south into what is now Greenfield Township.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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. The Orton’s lived along Clark Road on property
settled by her husband’s parents. The building of Interstate 90 took the house. 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 lived on the
northwest corner of what is now Depot Road and Station Roads. 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. 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
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. 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.
Return to Part Three
Go to Part Five
 Anderson, A Popular History of Harborcreek A Vignette:
 Sanford, 1894, p. 715:
Nelson’s, 1896, p. 315
 Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 65
 Sanford, 1894, p. 716
 Bert Hofius,
Pers. Comm. May, 1994
 Miller, Vol. 2, p. 686
 Forsyth, Milton, Pers. Comm. Dec.
 Miller, 1908, Vol. 2, p. 687
 Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 29
 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
 Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary,
1896, p. 845
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.
 Township Road
 Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 29
 Forsyth, Milton, Pers. Comm., Dec.
 Harbor Creek Historical Society
 Evans deed;
1884, p. 252
 Nelson’s, 1896,
 Nelson’s, 1896,
 Ed Hayward, Pers.
Comm., April 16, 1994
 Linda Holden
DeAngelo, Pers. Comm., April, 1994)
 Harbor Creek Township Road Book, 1852, Townline Road or Leet Road
 Wesleyville Cemetery Records, Graves number 12 and 13, The
 1865 Atlas,
Harbor Creek, Ed Hayward,
Pers. Comm., April 16, 1994
 Harbor Creek township Road Book, Cooper Road, p. 31
 1865 Atlas,
Richard, 1976, Wesleyville, 1795-1976: Bureau of Wesleyville Bicentennial publication p.41;
Jack Gallagher, Pers. Comm., March 1, 1994
 Erie County Historical Society, Historical Inventory, 2/8/87; Cheney, p. 47
 Ruth Bonnell
Stewart, Pers. Comm. March 3, 1994; Cheney, 47; Erie County Historical Society, Historic Resource survey
 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: http://members.aol.com/cBliley/MJ_Mead/MJ_Mead_Memoris.html,
 Wesleyville Cemetery Records, p. 44,
 Wesleyville Cemetery Records, p. 41
 Gospel Hill Cemetery Deed
 Bliley, Charles A., Pers. Comm. Dec.
 Harbor Creek Township Road Book, R #26
McDermott, Pers. Comm., March, 1994
 Roy Bliley,
Pers. Comm., April, 1994
 1865 Atlas
Harbor Creek Map
 Nelson’s 1896,
 HC Township Road Book, Aug. 20, 1849, p. 28. Porter Road
 Gospel Hill Cemetery Deed
 Mrs. Hugh
Gallagher, Pers. Comm., May 12, 1994
Richard, p. 241
 Munger, Donna
Bingham, Pennsylvania Land Records, A history and Guide for
Research, Scholarly Resources Inc., Wilmington, Delaware, p. 167
 1884 History of
 Miller, Vol.
II., p. 590,
 Anna Marie Chambers Finnegan, pers. Comm. May 13, 1994
 Reed, John, The History of Erie County, Vol. II (1924), p. 500
 Sanford, 1894, p. 276
 Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 10
 Wesleyville Cemetery Records, The
Elliott Family, Grave #61
Thomas, April 18, 1981, Hoag Cemetery records
 Harbor Creek Township Road Book; Anderson, A Popular History of Harborcreek A Vignette:
 Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 5
 1876, p. 21;
Nelson’s, p. 160
 Cass, Harold,
1942, Chronicles of the Descendants of
John Cass, #122.
 HC Township Road Book, 1827, p. 33
 1884 History of
 Dennis Cass, pers. Comm. email, Feb.
 Dennis Cass,
Pers. Comm., Jan. 20, 1999, re: Tombstone, Hoag Cemetery, 1884,
 Harbor Creek Township Road Book, p. 25
 Mrs. Shirley
Anderson, Pers. Comm.
 Judah Colt Day Book, 1798-99, pp. 190, 194
 Reed, 1924, p. 503; Harbor Creek Township Road Book
This page was last updated on Saturday, October 4, 2003 .
Article "Rees' Pieces" © Beth Evans Schooler Simmons, 1420
S. Reed St., Lakewood, CO 80232