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Erie County (PA) Genealogy

Fairview Township – History of Fairview Township

Contributed by Rich Biondi

The article below has been transcribed by Rich Biondi from an article published in the March 16, 1871 issue of the Erie Gazette newspaper.  It was one of series of articles written for the Erie Gazette by Captain N. W. Russell covering the history of Erie County.  If anyone has any questions or comments concerning this article, please contact Rich Biondi directly.


This is one of the original townships in name, but its boundary lines have been greatly reduced since the first laying out – Girard and Franklin having taken large portions of the original territory.  It now contains 15,824 acres and 375 taxables.  As it now is there is probably less waste land and more fertile soil than any other township in the county.  The south end of this township is the most fertile and best adapted for grain growing then the southern end of any other of the lake townships.  For this purpose it is unquestionably the best land in the county.  A part of Fairview lies south of the old state or triangle line.

Walnut creek crosses the north-eastern part.  This creek empties into the lake.  Elk creek crosses the southern portion and runs into Girard township.  Both these streams have high, bluff banks, with but little waste land on either of them. 

The first settlers were nearly all of Protestant Irish stock.  Many were born in Ireland and some in this country.  Francis Scott located here as early as 1796, and at quite an advanced age died in the township in 1851.  For a year previous to 1796 he had been in the employ of Thomas Rees while surveying the land in the triangle.

The Harrisburg and Presque Isle land Company was organized in Dauphin county in 1796 and elected Colonel Thomas Forster as agent.  He came on here forthwith and after looking over the county, picking out lots in various parts, he selected a large quantity of land at the mouth of Walnut creek, on the lake shore twelve miles west of Erie, and gave it the name of Fairview, because of the beautiful prospect of the lake from the mouth of the creek and its banks.  The name was subsequently applied to the whole township. 

John and George Nicholson were born in Ireland, and while they were yet young boys emigrated with their parents to America.  The family landed at New Castle, Delaware, and proceeded to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania.  In 1797, these two brothers married and came to this county, choosing a location in this township.  John died in Millcreek in 1827 and George in Fairview in 1834.  Their descendants are still the owners and residents of the first locations, and are well known to the readers of the Gazette.  Of George’s sons, but two (William and Alexander) are still living.  Their lands extend into Millcreek and Fairview townships, owning on both sides of the line.  William has been a resident in South Erie for the past twenty years.

John Kelso located near the mouth of Walnut creek in 1797, but removed to Millcreek in 1800, and afterwards to Erie, where he died in 1819.  Richard Swan located in 1797, and eleven years later his demise is recorded.  His descendants still occupy the old grounds.  Patrick Vance, the McKees – Alexander, Patrick and John – Jeremiah and William Sturgeon, and William Haggarty, were also among the settlers of 1797.  Mr. Vance died at his first location in 1814.  The McKees subsequently changed their location to Millcreek, where Patrick died in 1813.  John in 1814, and Alexander in 1834.  The Sturgeon brothers located on Trout Run – Jeremiah dying there in 1819, and William surviving till 1838.  Mr. Haggarty preferred a farm in the south-eastern part of the township, and located there in 1797.

Colonel Forster brought his family to Erie in the year 1800, and resided there until his death in 1836.  He built the first saw-mill at Fairview in 1797, and had a grist mill put up which was finished in 1800.

The first of the class of people commonly called Pennsylvania Dutch that came to Erie county from Lancaster were John Riblet and his sons, who located in Harborcreek, and Christian and Jacob Ebersole.  These persons arrived here in 1801.  Christian Ebersole first located in Harborcreek.  Two years subsequently he removed to Millcreek.  His brother Jacob located in Fairview, where he remained until 1810, when he sold his place to Moses Barnett, of Dauphin county, and thence removed to Knox county, Ohio, where he died in 1832.  The first German families of the lake shore valley were remarkable for their honesty, industry, economy, and perseverance.  They were people who would prosper in any county.  Their descendants are large in number, well known, and among our very best citizens.

James Moorhead was the only one of that large family who located outside of Harborcreek.  He chose a farm in Fairview.  He was also a useful citizen.

William Arbuckle came to this township in 1802, and after residing here thirty years, removed to Millcreek, where he died in 1863.  James Arbuckle also decided to become a citizen of the same place in 1802.  After residing there many years, he removed to Painsville, Ohio, to close this mortal life.

Thomas Kennedy located near Trout Run in 1800.  Joseph M. Kratz (a Frenchman), opened a small store near the mouth of Walnut creek in 1802, and was early appointed a Justice of the Peace.  He subsequently removed to Erie, and served some years as County Treasurer, and finally died in January 1849, a pauper.

Thomas McCreary early settled in this township, and was among the earliest appointed Justices of the Peace.  For a time he taught school in Fairview, and thence removed to Millcreek, where he died in 1833.

Rev. Johnston Eaton first visited Erie county in the year 1805, and remained only a brief period.  After spending a year in southern Ohio, he returned hither in 1806.  He was the first permanent resident Presbyterian minister in the county.  His first sermon was preached in a small log tavern at the mouth of Walnut creek, kept by Captain Swan.  The county at this time was literally a wilderness.  The mighty grand old forest, was hardly broken by the woodman’s axe.  There were not more than two or three churches in the county, and the period of his coming, not a minister of any denomination.  He was ordained by the Presbytery of Erie on the 30th day of June 1808.  The services were held in William Sturgeon’s barn, near the present site of the village of Fairview.  He was installed at the same time pastor of the congregations of Fairview and Springfield, a relation he sustained to the former during the remainder of his life, a period of forty years.  He was released from the charge of Springfield on the 8th of November, 1814.  He then divided his time between Fairview, Erie, and North East.  This arrangement continued until 1818, when North East was dropped, and his time divided between Erie and Fairview, until 1823.

The fragment of an old journal recites something of his early experience: “Preached three months in the congregations of Fairview, Springfield, and Millcreek (probably near Erie), beginning July, 1800, at ninety dollars per quarter.”

In the year 1813, during the war with Great Britain, he was employed as a government chaplain, and ministered to the troops stationed at Erie.  He also preached for a portion of his time at Harborcreek, Waterford, Washington, and McKean, in Erie County, PA.  He continued to labor in the congregation of Fairview until the close of his earthly tolls.  He met with the people for the last time in December 1846, when feeling that it was the last time, he committed them to God and the word of his grace, when his people separated, not to meet again until they met to mingle their tears over his grave.  His death took place what had been his earthly home for nearly forty years, on the 17th day of June, 1847, in the seventy-second year of his age, and the forty-third of his ministry.

The widow of Rev. J. Eaton now in her ninety-first year still survives, a resident of Fairview.  She had a large family (nine children), most of whom are still living, and are well known, useful and highly respected citizens.

These early families and their descendants have formed the solid stock of Fairview township, although many recent comers are worthy of notice, as they have added materially to the wealth and prosperity of that region.  Charles Lord purchased the property at the mouth of Walnut creek, and commenced the work of erecting mills thereon in 1829.  He named the place Manchester.  His early death undoubtedly checked its growth.  The property has since changed hands frequently, but no one seems to have been able to carry out Mr. Lord’s plans, hence today Manchester has no importance.  The mills on Walnut creek, owned for many years by the Nicholsons, have always had a good reputation; likewise, the mills erected by Daniel Bear.  In the death of this gentleman, an active and useful citizen was lost to the community.

John Caughey and Samuel McCreary early located in this township.  Some of their sons have become quite prominent business men.  Miles W. Caughey, son of John, was elected Sheriff in 1846, and served a full term with usefulness to the county and credit to himself.  David Russell located in the extreme south part of the township in 1822, where he resided until his death a few years ago.  He was a useful citizen, and won the esteem of all who knew him.

The first school house in Fairview was built in 1804, on the east bank of School-house Run, on tract No. 284 a little east of Manchester.  John Linn a revolutionary soldier, was the first teacher in the winter of 1804-05: the second teacher was William Gordon.  His son John was the first person that had arrived at the age of maturity who died in Fairview.  His demise occurred in 1805, and his remains were buried on the bank of Lake Erie, and have never been removed.

Fairview township has been considerably reduced since the original boundary lines were set, yet within its present territorial limits it has a population that have accumulated considerable wealth, and in agricultural resources ranks among the first in the county.  The character and intelligence of the people can easily be inferred when we state that they have established churches and schools in every direction.

Fairview Borough, Fairview Station, Manchester and Swantown are the villages that have grown up with in the borders of this township.  Flouring mills, paper mills, clothing and fulling mills are the most important manufacturing establishments in the township.  A large portion of the land has been owned for many years by Pennsylvania German farmers, who are as good as citizens as they are good farmers. 


This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 9, 2003

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