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Erie County, Pennsylvania

Summit Township

submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister

 

Summit is the smallest township in the county, and was the last one organized. It was formed in 1854, out of the western part of Greene, the eastern part of McKean, and a small portion of Waterford. The name of Summit was given to it because it contains the dividing ridge between the waters of Le Boeuf and Walnut Creeks, the former flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, by way of the Allegheny, Ohio and Mississippi, and the latter into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, by way of the lower lakes and the St. Lawrence River. It has an area of 13,143 acres, and had a population in 1860 of 1,038; in 1870, of 1,047, and in 1880, of 1,047. The township is bounded on the north by Mill Creek, on the east by Greene, on the south by Waterford and on the west by McKean. The north line dividing it from Mill Creek is the only straight one, and has a length of five and a half miles; the east line, including its numerous angles, is over six miles long; the south line three and a half, and the west line about five miles. By the assessment of 1883, the valuation of the township was as follows: Real estate, $397,011; number of cows, 564; of oxen, 26; of horses and mules, 331; value of the same, $37,684; value of trades and occupations, $3,700; money at interest, $1,825.

 

The Pioneers
The first settler in the township was George W. Reed, a son of Col. Seth Reed, who located about 1796, but in a few years changed to Waterford, where he died in 1847. A tract of land was taken up in the Walnut Creek Valley by Thomas Rees in 1797, but he never resided in the township. Oliver Dunn located in the western portion of the township the same year, but afterward removed to the valley of Elk Creek, within the present bounds of McKean Township. In 1800, James and Ebenezer Graham, with their families, came from Centre County and settled what has since been known as the Graham neighborhood. They were soon followed in the same vicinity by Eli Webster and Abijah Hull. Eli Rockwell went in in 1801, and Daniel Lee in 1802. Among other early residents were Thomas Rees, Jr., and John Way. P. S. Woolley made his location about 1823, and James Jackson in 1825. The latter, who was originally from Herkimer County, N. Y., settled in Erie in 1818, and went from there to Summit. The original settlers were mostly Americans, of the Protestant faith. Within the last twenty years, a large influx of Irish and German Catholics has taken place, and that denomination now numbers fully a fourth of the population. William Dunn, the first child born in the township, in 1798, died on the 14th of April, 1880.

 

Railroads and Common Roads
The Philadelphia & Erie Railroad, opened to business between Erie and Warren in 1859, and through to Sunbury in the summer of 1864, runs through the west side of the township almost its entire length from north to south, entering from Mill Creek Township and leaving through Waterford. To reach the township it crosses the summit between Mill Creek and Walnut Creek, by a very heavy grade, passing into the valley of the latter stream at Langdon's Station. From there it follows the Walnut Creek Valley to the main summit at Jackson's, where it enters the valley of Le Boeuf Creek, which it follows to Waterford. The summit of the road at Jackson's is a little over 650 feet above the level of the lake. The distance by railroad to Langdon's is nine, and to Jackson's thirteen miles from the old freight depot at Erie Harbor. These were the only stations in the township in 1882. The main public roads of Summit are the Waterford Turnpike, running over the hills almost through the center of the township; the Waterford Plank Road, on the west side, following the valleys of Walnut and Le Boeuf Creeks, and the Edinboro Plank Road, which passes through its northwestern corner. The old road, by which the French transported goods from Presque Isle to Waterford, and over which the army passed that defeated Braddock near Pittsburgh, in 1755, crossed the township from north to south, and most of it is still used as a public thoroughfare. Summit Township has no villages, and but one post office. A post office was kept at Jackson's Station some years after the opening of the railroad, which was moved to Whiteford's Corners. After a lingering existence, it was abandoned about eight years ago, and again revived under the name of Godard in 1882. Another was maintained for a time at the White Church, on the Edinboro Plank Road, in the northwestern section of the township, but it, too, proved a failure.

 

Streams and Valleys
The only streams of the township are Walnut Creek and the West Branch of Le Boeuf Creek, with their numerous small tributaries. Walnut Creek rises on the western edge of Greene, a little northeast of Whiteford's Corners, runs diagonally across Summit in a general northwestern direction, and crossing the southwestern portion of Mill Creek, flows through Fairview into the lake at Manchester, after a course of about twenty miles. The West Branch of Le Boeuf Creek has its source on the farm of W. A. Bean, but a few feet from a tributary of Walnut Creek, and, flowing through the township in a general southeastern course, unites with the East Branch in Waterford Township, a little north of Waterford Station. Le Boeuf Creek, measuring from its usually reputed head, on the edge of Greene and Venango, to its mouth at French Creek, has a length of eighteen or twenty miles. The Walnut Creek lands are the cream of the township. The valley has an average width of about three fourths of a mile, and produces everything that can be raised on the lake shore. The Le Boeuf Valley is about a mile and a half wide, and the cultivable land is perhaps equally good with that of the Walnut Creek Valley, but there are numerous swamps. On the hills, the land of the township is best for grazing, and large quantities of butter are produced. The whole township is a good fruit country. The price of land runs from $25 to $60 an acre.

 

Religious Societies
The church buildings of Summit are one Methodist Episcopal, one Catholic, one United Presbyterian, and one United of the Evangelical Association. The Hamlin Methodist Episcopal church, on the road from Whiteford's Corners to W. A. Bean's, was organized in 1837, and the building was erected in 1852. This charge has always been on McKean Circuit.

The United Presbyterian church at Five Points was organized in January, 1842, with some twenty-five members. The Ruling Elders were Oliver Dunn, Robert Dunn, Thomas Dunn, John Reid and Alexander Russell. At this time the congregation was designated the Elk Creek Church, and later as McKean. The Rev. John J. Findley began stated labors with this church and the congregation at Waterford the 1st of January, 1842, preaching at the latter place three-quarters of the time. He was ordained and installed pastor of these congregations May 12, 1842. He remained pastor of the two congregations until November 22, 1853. His successor was Rev. Thomas Love, who was ordained and installed November 15, 1854, his time being divided, as was that of his predecessor. He remained in this connection with the two congregations until May 3, 1864. Subsequent to this period the two appointments were no longer together. This charge grew quite weak and was for a period without a pastor. The congregation was re-established in 1873, and Rev. G. C. Brown installed as pastor. Mr. Brown's death occurred in April, 1874, and the Rev. S. M. Black became his successor. Rev. A. S. Abby the present stated supply commenced his labors with the congregation in 1878. The church building was erected in 1848. United Presbyterian services are also held in the schoolhouse at Whiteford's Corners, every two weeks. The congregation was organized in 1876.

Emanuel's Church of the Evangelical Association had its origin in a manner similar to Salem Church of Fairview Township, but at a little later period (1838). It was originally on Erie Circuit, but is now an appointment on Fairview Circuit. The church building was erected in 1863.

St. Matthew's Catholic church building, near the Hamlin Methodist Episcopal Church, was erected in 1867, on land deeded to the society by George Reynolds. The congregation was formed at this time, since which it has been connected with the congregation at Beach Woods.

 

School History
In the early period of this country's history, vacated cabin houses and barns or stables frequently constituted the temples of learning. We have illustrations of this in Summit Township. Some two miles east of the present dwelling of Squire Webster stood one of these houses, which had been occupied by Abijah Hall and by him vacated, in which was taught a school in 1819 by a Mr. Huff. William Graham probably taught in the same building in 1818. Eli Webster was a resident of the same neighborhood, and his house was located on a cross road which intersected the French road. This swelling was vacated and school held in it in the winter of 1820-21 by Moses D. Morey. The following summer, school was taught in the same building by Almira Drown. As yet there had been no regular schoolhouse built in what is now Summit Township. The next winter, Eli Webster kept a school in a house formerly occupied by John Highland, which stood on the present site of Hull's Corners. The summer following, Miss Almira Drown taught on Graham Hill in the same neighborhood. In 1822, the neighborhood built a substantial schoolhouse, probably within 100 rods of the former places, which was planked and weather-boarded, and in this house Squire Webster taught in 1833. In the winter of 1841-42, and the following winter school was taught about one mile east of the Webster farm by the venerable Squire before alluded to. The old planked and weather-boarded schoolhouse was attended by scholars probably from a radius of three miles, and for years constituted the schoolhouse for the territory now embraced within the boundaries of Summit Township. The township schoolhouses are at present the Hill, near A. O. Hill's; the Whiteford, at Whiteford's Corners; the Way, in the Way neighborhood; the Stone, near the Catholic and Methodist churches; the Hamilton, on Walnut Creek; the Robinson, on the turnpike, at the intersection of the cross road from the Lake Pleasant road; the Murphy, on the turnpike, near the Waterford line; the Five Points, in the southwest; and the Hershey, near N. Hershey's -- nine in all.

 

Mills, Quarry, etc.
Summit Township had at one period as many as four saw mills on Walnut Creek, all of which have been abandoned. There are now two saw mills in the township, one near W. A. Bean's, owned by Joseph Topper & Son, and one near Jackson's Station, owned by Mr. Haibach. At Whiteford's Corners there is a grocery, schoolhouse and a neat collection of buildings. Close by is a favorite picnic grove, on the line of the railroad. The township contains two cheese factories, the Excelsior, near the railroad, on the public road from the Lake Pleasant road to the Waterford Plank Road, and Bean's, near the residence of William A. Bean. Both have been in operation about nine years, and do a fine business. The nearest stone quarry to the city of Erie of much account is the one known as Reynold's quarry, near the Catholic Church, now owned by Thompson Lininger. It has been in operation many years, has furnished large quantities of good stone, and an abundance is still left. Many years ago, Col. Norris gathered considerable oil as it exuded from the rocks at the quarry and sold it for medicine. This circumstance led to the drilling of a well on the premises, but, although plenty of gas poured out, oil was never found in paying quantity. In addition to the Reynolds Quarry, William Liddell has a small one near the turnpike. A small brewery has long been run in the north part of the township, near the Mill Creek line.

 

Miscellaneous
Summit has furnished but two county officers -- both County Auditors -- viz.: Eli Webster from 1829 to 1832, and John L. Way from 1849 to 1852, and from 1859 to 1862.

In 1821, James McKee was convicted of murdering a mariner near the brewery, and was sentenced to seven years' solitary confinement in the Philadelphia Penitentiary, but died after a few months' imprisonment. John A. Hans, also at one time a resident of the township, but who removed to Erie, was convicted of causing the death of his wife, at the corner of State and Second streets, in that city. He was sentenced to the Allegheny Penitentiary, served out his term, returned to Erie and died soon after.

 
 
Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Chapter XXII, pp. 855-860.