Crawford County, Pennsylvania
History & Biography
ERECTION—BOUNDARIES—PHISICAL FEATURES—INDUSTRIES—LAND TITLES—SETTLEMENTS—SALT INDUSTRY—MILLS—SCHOOLS—BEAVER CENTER—CHURCHES.
BEAVER was one of the eight townships erected directly after the organization of Crawford County. Its original boundaries, under date of July 9, 1800, are thus preserved in the docket of Quarter Sessions Court: Beginning at the northeast corner of Conneaut Township; thence north until it intersects the northern boundary of Crawford County; thence west to the western boundary of the State; thence south to the northwest corner of Conneaut Township; thence east to the place of beginning. Beaver was then, as it is now, the northwest township of the county, but its limits were considerably larger, embracing besides what is now Beaver three tiers of tracts of the west side of Spring, eight or ten tracts in northwestern Summerhill, and four or five tiers of tracts off the north side of Conneaut Township. These boundaries remained until 1829, when the county was divided into townships app[r]oximating six miles square each, and Beaver was reduced to its present limits.
The surface is low and level. In early times it was wet and a large portion, it was supposed, could never be used for farming purposes, but since the timber has been removed the land is found to be dry, arable and productive. Five or six sluggish streams, tributaries of Conneaut Creek, rise near the south line of the township, and creep northward into Erie County, in channels almost parallel to each other. Beech, maple, ash and poplar were the prevailing types of timber. The soil is clayey, and well adapted to grazing. Dairying and stock-growing are the chief pursuits. Lumbering is also carried on, though not so extensively as in former years.
The northern and central portions of the township consist of tracts which were patented by individuals, most of whom, however, were not settlers. The land act of 1792, besides the payment of 20 cents per acre, required a five years' residence and the clearing of eight acres to perfect a title to a tract of 400 acres. In many instances a non-resident entered the land and compiled with the terms of settlement by means of a temporary tenant, to whom a stipend or a portion of the tract was given, while other enterprising pioneers with large families entered several tracts, built rude cabins and placed a son in each one. The western part of Beaver Township consists of thirteen tracts, owned by the American Land Company, while in the eastern and southern portions the Pennsylvania Population Company acquired the title of sixteen tracts.
Settlements were commenced in Beaver as early as 1797. Some of the pioneers came and placed their cabins on tracts which they expected to patent and occupy permanently. Others came by contract with the Pennsylvania Population Company, agreeing to settle and make the necessary improvements for a gratuity of 100 acres, usually in addition purchasing from the company <page 503> 50 or 100 acres. When the opinion gained currency that the actual residents were entitled to the entire tract by virtue of their settlement, most of these early settlers either abandoned their clearings and sought a choicer tract, or maintained their residence, and attempted to hold the entire tract against the company. Several test cases tried in the courts resulted adversely to the residents, and they were obliged to relinquish their claims.
The records of the Population Company make the following exhibit of their lands in what is now Beaver Township, giving the name of the settler, date of contract, which preceded the date of settlement only a few days, and the amount of land to be granted: Tract 661, Peter Hill, November 20, 1797, 200 acres, deed delivered to Thomas Collins, March 9, 1807; 662, Mary Hill, November 20, 1797, 200 acres, same as 661; 663, William Hill, November 20, 1797, 200 acres, deed delivered to Thomas Collins, March 9, 1807; 664, unsold; 667, Henry Sharp, November 20, 1797, 200 acres, deed delivered to Thomas Collins, March 9, 1807; 668, William Hill, Jr., November 20, 1797, 200 acres, deed delivered to Thomas Collins; 669, James Silverthorn, November 20, 1797, 200 acres, settled about three years by Silverthorn and abandoned; 670, small improvement under contract, then abandoned, afterward intruded on and again abandoned; 673, William Silverthorn, November 4, 1798, 200 acres, settled two or three years, then abandoned; 674, Jane Silverthorn, November 4, 1798, 200 acres, settled two or three years, then abandoned; 675, Isaac Silverthorn, November 4, 1797, 100 acres, a small improvement, and then abandoned; 676, Abraham Silverthorn, November 20, 1797, small improvement, and abandoned; 679, Thomas Reed, November 9, 1797, 200 acres, abandoned after small improvement; 680, Jeremiah Roberts, December 20, 1797, 100 acres, deed granted to Ralph Martin; 681 and 682, unsold. The last named six were intruded upon in 1801-02, and 1803, but after a settlement of several years were abandoned.
Other settlers in Beaver prior to 1800 were: George Foster, William Foster, Thomas Foster, Richard Durham, Alexander Durham, Philip McGuire, William Crozier, Martin Cunningham, John Whitington, Daniel Patton, Mr. Neal, James Thompson and William Douglas. These early settlers came mostly from Cumberland, Northumberland, Susquehanna and Huntingdon Counties. Crozier and Douglas removed to Spring Township, others scattered and in a few years, owing chiefly to the land troubles, Beaver Township was almost deserted. Perhaps the wet quality of the soil also induced some to seek homes elsewhere. In 1806 only George Foster, his son William, the Durhams and McGuire are known to have been within the limits of Beaver. Of the forty-seven chattel property tax-payers in the original Beaver Township, in 1810, only these three dwelt in what is now Beaver. About 1812 Philip MeGuire removed with his family to Summit Township. Richard Durham and his son, Alexander, removing about the same time to French Creek, leaving the Fosters for several years the only residents of the township. His home was at Beaver Center, and his nearest neighbors six miles distant. Of his sons, George G., removed to Conneautville, Robert to Kansas, and William to Conneaut, Ohio. In 1816 immigration commenced from New York and the Eastern States, and an enterprising, industrious people soon filled the land. Among them were the Gates, Hollenbeaks, Browns, Larkins, Griswolds, Plymates and many others. The forests were rapidly cleared, roads constructed, schoolhouses built, saw and grist-mills established, and improvements of all kinds rapidly pushed forward.
The Allegheny Magazine for May, 1817, contains this mention of an early industry: " In the township of Beaver, twenty-one miles from this place <page 504> (Meadville), an attempt has been made for the establishment of salt works at one of these (Deer) licks, which promises advantages to this part of the country and to the patriotic undertakers. The late Samuel B. Magaw, Esq., and the Hon. William Clark, of Meadville, in 1815, employed men to bore into the bowels of the earth. In course of the following year, they had proceeded to such a depth, that the water, which rushed violently up the perforation, on artificial evaporation, yielded daily ten bushels of excellent salt. Finding the deeper they have gone, the water to become stronger, they have re-commenced boring and are now at the depth of 270 feet. Judge Clark, the heirs of Mr. Magaw and Mr. Daniel Shryock, the principal operator, are the owners of the works." The increased depth, instead of yielding a stronger brine, produced oil, rendering the salt water valueless for commercial purposes, and about 1821 the works were abandoned. They were located about one and a fourth miles southwest from Beaver Center.
From 1820 to about 1840 black salts, made from the lye of leached ashes, had a more ready sale than any other product. The ashes of burning log heaps possessed a commercial value, and were either conveyed to asheries and sold, or the settler would himself manufacture the salts and send them to market. In this way tax money was often secured, which saved the home of many a needy pioneer from sale by the County Sheriff.
The first saw-mill was erected by William Plymate; the second by Elihu Griswold. Other mills, both water and steam were built, as the settlements and demand for lumber increased. Robert Foster built a small grist-mill with one run of stone and bolt, near the Center in 1831.
The earliest pioneers did not possess the advantages of schools, and after most of them had left for other parts, the few remaining sent their children to be educated at Conneautville. A school was held at Beaver Center in 1826. It was a subscription school, and was managed by three Trustees. Salaries were low, ranging from $5 to $9 per month, the latter being considered high. Fuel was furnished by assessment, and only the common branches were taught. In 1834 there were four schools in Beaver. The one at Beaver Center is now independent and graded, consisting of two rooms.
Beaver Center, the only hamlet and post office within the township, is located at the crossing of two roads, a short distance south of the township center, and contains two churches, a schoolhouse, one physician, one dry goods store, one grocery, one drug store, two saw-mills, a manufactory of hand rakes, bent felloes, spokes and wagon poles, a cheese factory near by, a blacksmith-shop, a shoe-shop and about twenty dwellings. The first store was kept here by Lester Griswold. Mr. Barber and Francis Oliver were also early merchants.
A. 0. Barber, brother of the merchant, was a pioneer tailor. A Methodist Episcopal Class was organized at Beaver Center in 1839, and meetings were held in the schoolhouse until 1870, when a neat, well-finished, frame church with steeple and belfry was completed, at a cost of about $1,500. The Gates, Hacketts and DeWolfs were early members. The class formerly belonged to Conneautville Circuit, but has since been attached to Spring, of which it is now a part.
The Christian Church at Beaver Center was organized with twenty members, by Rev. I. R. Spencer in 1870. Meetings were held in the schoolhouse until the erection of the present handsome church edifice in 1871, at a cost of $2,400. Rev. J. J. Summerbell, J. G. Bishop and E. M. Harris have been pastors. The last named, a resident of Springboro, now officiates. The congregation is prosperous.
A Christian Congregation was organized here about 1840, and continued for about ten years, with Elder J. E. Church as pastor. <page 505> At Reed's Corners, in the southwest part of Beaver, is a United Brethren Meeting-house, which was erected in 1861 at a cost of $800. The society was organized in 1850, with ten members, by Rev. Willis Lamson, who was a resident in this locality. The Reeds and Halsteads were early members. The membership is small and at present not supplied with a pastor.