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Erie County (PA) Genealogy

Elk Creek Township History

Early Days in Wellsburg

Contributed by Mary Silfies Mills

Below is presented a transcription of a little booklet entitled "Early Days in Wellsburg" that was written in 1927 by Harriet Ward. It has been transcribed by Mary Mills, leaving the page format. For presentation purposes here, the margins have been widened but the page breaks have been retained. The cover of the booklet had personal information written on it, so only a portion of the cover is shown. There is only one illustration contained in the booklet, and that is also shown.



--A Story of our Pioneers—



Published by the author

December 15, 1927


Price Fifty Cents



In 1813, Samuel Wells with his family built the first log cabin in Wellsburg on the farm that is now owned by Stephen Rhoads. The windows were holes cut through the logs and covered with greased paper. The door was an open space with a blanket hung to keep out the cold. Neither Mr. Wells nor any other settler of that time had stoves, but they had fireplaces build of mud, stones, bits of straw, and sticks about an inch square. The chimney was made from the same materials.

Some years after Mr. Wells’ settlement he discovered salt at a deer-lick, a place where deer came and licked the soil at the side of a sulphur stream. For a number of years Mr. Wells boiled the salty substance in kettles, condensing it into


granules. A factory was built and a barrel of salt worth from three to five dollars was made every twenty-four hours and sent by ox carts to Pittsburgh.

The township and creek took their names from the elk which came to drink at the sulphur stream on Glenn Ward’s farm.

Two other log cabins were built in Wellsburg: Major Fleming, who later operated a foundry at the south end of town, erected one on the lot owned by Charles Martin, and the other was built by Franklin Wells where Mrs. Emma Stevens now lives.

The first wood framed house was built by Otis Wells on the lot at present known as the Kelsey place, where N. W. Johnson now lives. The imposing residence of Harley Sherman, pictured in the Erie County Atlas of 1876, stood on this lot for many years.

About 1852, the people felt that a post office was needed, and they sent a petition to the government. The only difficulty was that the name "Wellsburg" must be changed, because there were post offices in Wellsville and Wellsboro. Major James


Fleming, who had been in the battle of Lundy’s Lane in the War of 1812, suggested the name Lundy’s Lane. This suited everyone, and became the name of the post office. The post office building was a small one-story structure situated between the Sherman Block and the hotel, called the Arcade House.

The only way mail was then carried was on horseback, later by stagecoach. A letter sent from Meadville to Black Rock, Buffalo, was two weeks or more on the way. The rider, having no set time, would blow a tin horn before he reached the town to let the people know that the mail was coming. He had to watch the trail carefully, because the only way he knew he was on the right trail was to follow the blazes or markings on the trees along the way.

In 1839 the Free-Will Baptist Church with a membership of six was organized, and held meetings in a two-story building that is now Duliba’s barn. Twenty-nine years later a church costing five thousand dollars was built and the membership in-


creased to twenty-nine. The Sunday School, with about forty pupils, was organized in 1869.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1835 in a little frame meeting house on the hill between Wellsburg and Cranesville, on land now owned by Frank Selden. The lot was donated by Lyman Jackson for a place of worship. Both Cranesville and Wellsburg Methodists were members. The Methodist Church on the corner near Gale Wheeler’s home was moved from Thompson’s Corners.

The Universalist Church was organized in 1838 with a membership of twenty-five. The first meetings were held in the Academy near the Universalist Church which was erected in 1855 at a cost of one thousand five hundred dollars.

In a building on the property now owned by Frank Wimersberger, a little northwest of the present house, the Wellsburg school was started. The second school building was north of the Universalist Church. The third was on the main floor of what is now Duliba’s barn, and was known as the Wells-


burg Academy. This old Academy building has had quite a history. Originally it was erected in what is now the Park, a little to the west of the present Universalist Church, the lower floor serving as quarters for the public school, and the upper floor for public meetings and a place of worship. About 1875 it was moved to the site of the present public school building and an addition build to furnish room for hall and stairway. A few years later it was sold to Reuben McClellan for the hotel barn and moved to its present location. The fourth school building, which replaced the Academy, was erected in 1881 on the site of the present building but was burned in 1908.

A broom factory was originally started by Frank Ziegler in a building on the corner north of the Universalist Church, but grew until it demanded larger quarters, when a building was erected at the fork of the road at the south end of town. This building now serves as a townhouse.

Near the creek back of Fred Forbes’ home was a chair factory owned by Joel Wright. Very good rush seat chairs were made.


On the creek and at the end of the short street leading west from the Baptist Church was at one time a large flax mill. This industry was expected to be a permanent and important factor in the town. Experienced flax and linen workers were brought to Wellsburg to aid in operating the mill. The farmers took an interest in the enterprise and raised flax, but this climate provided unsuitable for the linen industry and the mill was soon abandoned.

Some years after the flax industry was abandoned the mill was used by the Purcell brothers for the manufacture of spring beds. This enterprise was for a number of years an important business asset to the community.

On the little stream at the foot of the hill on the north edge of town was the Keeler cabinet factory. For many years furniture and coffins for the community were made in this building.

A few rods south of this cabinet factory, near where Henry Matthews lives, was a building used by the Prescotts for the manufacture of sash and


doors. Later it was used as a wagon factory with a busy blacksmith shop in connection.

The first stores in Wellsburg were those of Sherman and Beals. The building that is now Mrs. McNutt’s barn stood on the land between Mrs. McNutt’s house and the hotel and was owned by Harley Sherman. In 1836 a store was built on the corner of the lot now owned by George Knickerbocker. The proprietors of this store were Mr. and Mrs. Beals. Mrs. Beals made and decorated hats in one part of the building. Her husband was Justice of the Peace. Later an addition was built and the property sold to Thomas Osborn, who was one of the early teachers in our school; he was also postmaster for years, and served for a time in the General Assembly at Harrisburg.

A short distance north of where the Osborn store stood is the Otis Irish store. For years Mr. Irish kept a harness shop in this place. Several other persons followed him in this location, among them being George Sherman, who conducted a store there for quite a length of time.


There was another store in the lower part of the K. of P. Hall; another in the remodeled building opposite the K. of P. Hall, and now owned by John Snyder.

The building which is now Mrs. Joslin’s store has had a large part of the history of the community. For a number of years A. J. Wells used this place as a general store and auction room in furnishing supplies to this and neighboring communities.

Some people in Wellsburg traded with Mr. W. Sampson who kept a general store at Cranesville. Many customers exchanged rags at four cents a pound and wood ashes at ten cents a bushel, for goods. The following prices taken from Mr. Sampson’s ledger for the year 1841 show us that staple articles of commerce have gained in monetary value:




Eggs, per doz.


$.25 to $.75

Pork, per lb.



Beef, per lb.



Butter, per lb.


.45 to .65

Cheese, per lb.



Brooms, each


.98 to 2.00

Shelled Corn, per bu.





Almost everyone knows John Snyder but few know that he was at one time engaged in making coffins and furniture in a factory that stood a few feet east of Clinton Grahams house.

The first sawmill was at the "Sycamore" where a supply of water was available. A large steam sawmill was built by E. Stevens east of this old water mill. The old water mill was then abandoned and the new mill operated until 1880. The first gristmill was known as the Spires’ gristmill. It was erected in what is now John Stevens’ pasture, a few rods south of the paved road, where there was a plentiful supply of water for running the machinery. A dam for this mill was constructed farther south in the creek and the water brought to the mill through a long mill race. The tail race of this mill is still plainly visible on either side of the paved road just east of the creek. This mill was at one time owned by my great grandfather, Andrew Ward, who was enlisted in the 83rd regiment in 1861. He owned twenty-three acres of land, a gristmill and a sawmill, and was also a minister.


The main road from Erie to Meadville through Wellsburg by way of Pont, was formerly a blazed path made by a man who traced a bear through the dense forest.

There was a house built near a mineral spring in a glen where Mr. and Mrs. Frazier and the two sons lived. The location has commonly been called "The Frazier Glen Mineral Spring." The water contains minerals which have cured several people of gallstones and other ailments. There are still in existence a few leaflets written years ago advertising the water. Mr. Frazier at first drove oxen until he decided that it would be cheaper to keep cattle and that he could use them not only for work, but also for milking. When he took his family to church he hitched the cattle to a flatboat. If something happened so that he could not drive the cattle he loaded the family into a wheelbarrow and transported them by manpower.

Hermit Frazier’s best Sunday suit had white trousers made from flower sacks. On a certain Sunday he had a new pair which his wife had made the


day before, but by mistake he turned the side with the large bright red and black printing, "Best Family Flour, Albion Mill," on the outside. As Mr. Frazier entered the churchyard, a passerby jokingly asked him where the clothing store was. Mr. Frazier in reply said that he did not know of any, but he could tell him where he got his trousers.

In 1834 Julius E. Wells started a tannery, which was west of Carl Swaney’s home. At first the tannery was supplied with water and power by a dam a short distance east of the Wimersberger bridge. Later this water was insufficient for power and a large steam plant was installed. To conduct water for the steam plant and the tanning processes, an iron pipe was laid from the dam to the tannery.

Later the old flax mill was moved onto the land between the tannery and the road and make into a gristmill—the only building now left of this once extensive property.

Samuel Wells was a man who had a large family. He bought five hundred acres of land at


a cost of a few dollars per acre (now valued at one hundred dollars per acre) which he divided among his seven children. His son Otis fenced off a square, now called the Park, for the benefit of ALL the Wellsburg children, and a section of twenty-five acres for village lots.

There were two cheese factories in this town. The first one was owned by Otis Wells and stood in the driveway of Norman W. Joslin’s lot. The other was the building now used by A. G. Sanford as part of his barn, and is still standing on its original location.

In 1854 prophets prophesied that the world was coming to an end on a certain day. Several nights before, men, women, and children met in the hall of Harley Sherman’s store and held meetings of song service and sermons, preparing for the coming of the end of the world. When the time came all the people dressed in white and went to the cemetery and held a meeting there. All were ready to enter the other and better world. On that day an eclipse of the sun was visible here.


The cemetery was laid out in a two-acre lot north of this village, and was known as Elk Creek Cemetery. In later years more was added, including all of the land to the east-and-west driveway which now separated the Elk Creek Cemetery from Hope Cemetery-—commonly called the "new part." There are a few monuments on Mrs. McNutt’s property, which are the remains of a two-acre burying ground known as the Sherman burying ground.

Wellsburg was the chief trading point at one time, but by the aid of the canal and railroad, the business has been taken up by neighboring towns.

Our own home town has come to be called by two names: Lundys Lane, and Wellsburg, Pa.

Acknowledgments are due to:

Mrs. Emma Stevens

Miss E. Belle Raymond

Mrs. Frank Wimersberger

Printed at Hillcrest

Cranesville, Pa.




This page was last updated on  Tuesday, March 13, 2001 .

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