HISTORY OF ELDRED TOWNSHIP
History of Jefferson County
Edited by Kate M. Scott
Eldred was the eighth township organized, and was taken in 1836 from Rose and Barnett, and was named for Hon. Nathaniel B. Eldred, then president judge of the judicial district of which Jefferson county formed a part. This township is bounded on the north by Barnett and Heath townships; on the east by Warsaw; on the south by Union, Rose and Pine Creek, and on the west by Clarion county.
Its eastern and western sides consist of rugged forest land. The cleared and cultivated portion of the township lies mainly along the Brookville and Sigel road, which follows a high and narrow divide, running almost due north. This divide is crossed at Sigel, in the northern part of the township, by another belt of high land extending nearly east and west, so that the skeleton of the drainage system has the shape of the letter T. North of the cross-piece (along which runs the Spring Creek road), the waters go direct into the Clarion River; south of it, and on the left hand side of the upright arm of the leter, they go into Big Mill Creek, while on the right hand side of that arm they flow into the North Fork.
Geology.�There is considerable coal found in Eldred, but the seams are small, and are principally the Mercer coals, not over 3� 6." The principal banks are those of JACOB MINEWEASER, JOHN BEACH, and the bank on the farm of E. ROBINSON. The latter is bright, firm coal, well protected from moisture by a compact roof of tough, black slate. Iron ore is also found in the township, and specimens from the farm of PERRY KABLE have been analyzed by Mr. S. W. SMITH, of Brookville, the bed showing twenty-nine inches of ore in a depth of three and a half feet. The ore is of good quality.
The Early Settlers�The first settlers who came into Eldred were ISAAC MATSON, in 1828, JAMES LINN, WALTER TEMPLETON and ROBERT MCCREIGHT, in 1829, and were followed the next year by E. M. GRAHAM and JOHN MCLAUGHLIN; JACOB CRAFT, DAVID ENGLISH, in 1831; PAUL STEWART, JAMES TEMPLETON and JAMES TRIMBLE, in 1832; STEWART ROSS and JOHN WILSON, in 1833, and THOMAS HALL in 1834, WILLIAM and GEORGE CATZ, and JAMES SUMMERVILLE.
The first settler of whom we find any mention, in the northern part of Eldred township, was FREDERICK KAHLE, who settled there in 1836. Mr. Kahle first came to Clarion county, where he hired a hunter named TOMMY GUTHRIE to go with him into the wilds of northern Jefferson, where he designed locating. After reaching their destination and looking about for a suitable place for Mr. Kahle to make his future home, night overtook them and they were obliged to camp out in the woods. During the night they were attacked by wolves, numbering hundreds, as it appeared to Mr. Kahle; but the old woodsman was not at all disconcerted, pouring some powder on a piece of bark, he set fire to it, and then fired his gun, and the wolves scampered off to be heard no more. Mr. Kahle moved his family, consisting of a number of small children, into these woods that same year, and their first years were scenes of danger and hardship. During the first summer he killed seventeen large rattlesnakes near his own door.
Mr. Kahle was an excellent man, and worked early and late to rear his large family, and before he died had one of the best and largest farms in that region under good cultivation, with good orchards, etc. His family was raised carefully and conscientiously, his only regret being that the exigencies of the times did not admit of his giving them a good education. He died November, 1878, aged about eighty years, and his son, David, now resides on the old homestead.
One of the next to penetrate into the wilds was S. W. SMITH, who came to Eldred in 1842. Mr. Smith, who was a native of Livingston county, New York, started in the fall of that year to hunt up a place to make a home for himself. He was accompanied by a young man named NATHAN SMITH (not a relative of his, however). On reaching the little town of Ceres, on the Allegheny River, the two young adventurers embarked in a skiff, and started on their trip down the Allegheny. They proceeded on after night fall, and were soon surprised to hear the loud roar of falling waters. Thinking that they were approaching an island, they rowed on, but soon found to their horror that they were approaching the State line dam. It was impossible to turn back or reach the shore, and soon the frail boat was engulfed in the seething, rushing flood. Down, down it dashed, twice dipping bucketsful of water, but at length reached the safe waters below the dam, and looking back the voyagers beheld the peril they had passed. Mr. Smith says that to this day he cannot recall that night of danger without a shudder. As soon as a landing could be effected, they pulled to shore. After this they proceeded on their voyage without further trouble. After stopping for a while at the Indian Reservation, in Warren county, they at last landed in Butler county, but not liking the "lay of the land" in either Butler or Clarion, they made their way into Jefferson county.
Mr. Smith relates a singular incident of their journey. While on their way down the Allegheny River, they saw thousands of black squirrels, all journeying eastward. They would climb the trees on the west bank of the river, and drop from the outspreading branches into the stream, and then swim to the other shore. Mr. Smith and his companion would old out their paddles to the little creatures, and they would scramble into the skiff, and sometimes stay with them for hours, when they would spring into the water again and make for the eastern shore. When Mr. Smith and his companion reached Strattanville, on their way into Jefferson county, they found the citizens shooting the squirrels off their fences, the migration still going on. They did not seem to avoid towns or people, their only aim being to travel towards the rising sun. The older citizens will remember what a bitter cold winter that of 1842-3 was, when the snow was three feet deep, with a frozen crust that would bear man and beast. Surely it is wonderful that instinct alone should have caused these timid animals to thus migrate from the sure death that awaited them.
Mr. Smith settled in Eldred township, on the farm now owned by JOSEPH RAUGHT, and went to work resolutely to reclaim it from the wilderness. He worked there in company with his brother, CLAUDE for three or four years, and then returned to New York, where he married a daughter of CAPTAIN VAN NOSTRAND and brought her to share his home in the wilderness. They resided in Eldred until about 1855, when he removed to Brookville, at the solicitation of the trustees of the Brookville Academy, to engage as principal of that institution. After several years of service in this capacity, he served two terms as superintendent of common schools, and has resided in Brookville ever since.
NATHAN SMITH, the other voyager, located near his companion, and cleared and improved a large farm. He was a very earnest Methodist, and a man of strong self-will. When the war commenced he was opposed to it, as he claimed that the slaves should be at once liberated, and would have nothing to do with it until Mr. Lincoln issued his emancipation proclamation, when he at once shouldered his gun and set out for the front, declaring that the war was now a holy one, and that it could succeed, as God would now prosper the cause of the North. No persuasions of friends or family could deter him from entering the service, in which he served until the end of the rebellion, and then returned to Eldred township, where he soon sold his farm, and removed to Frankfort, Kan., where he is living in comfort, and where he was elected justice of the peace.
The forests being covered with such a dense growth of pine and underbrush, and homes of the settlers being so far apart, traveling was very unsafe, from the prevalence of wild beasts, and the danger of being lost in the woods. In February, 1836, JAMES BEALS, who had been assisting to raise a log cabin for a neighbor, who lived five miles distant, started home late in the night, and while going through the woods was overcome by the cold, and perished near his own door.
About the year 1857 JAMES COWAN, who with his brother, WILLIAM, had previously purchased some land in Eldred, came from Schuylkill county, with his family. On their arrival at Brookville, they could get no team to take them to their destination, and, shouldering their bundles, started on foot. Before they reached their destination, the house of Mr. WINLACK, near where their own land was situated, night overtook them, and they were unable to proceed in the darkness. Mr. Cowan, leaving the family with strict injunctions for them not to stir from the spot until his return, started to hunt a house which he knew to be in the vicinity, and finally reached it. The owner of the cabin, MR. FISCUS, was absent, but his wife got up at Mr Cowan�s call; but on his request for a candle to show them the way through the woods, said she had not a single one in the house. She, however, proceeded to rake out the coals on the hearth, and then put some butter in a saucer, melting it, put a rag in the liquid, and lighted it. After trying to induce Mr. Cowan to remain with his family for the night at her house, with this feeble light Mr. Cowan returned to his frightened wife and children, and by its aid they finally reached their destination about midnight. There was no house ready for the family, and they moved into a school house, and Mr. Cowan started off to hunt work at his occupation of coal digger. While he was absent in Clarion county, and while his family was domiciled in the school-house, Mrs. Cowan was ill for some time. At length a cabin was put up, but Mr. Cowan had to work at his trade to keep the wolf (hunger) from the door, and his wife, in his absence, chinked and daubed the cabin with mud, and made it ready for winter. As soon as a piece of ground was cleared, Mr. Cowan proceeded to plow it with a yoke of oxen. He was not skilled in the work of a farmer, and in going over some roots the plow was jerked with such force that he was thrown to the ground, breaking several ribs. This placed him hors de combat for the time being, and his son, Peter, took the helm, or the plow, rather, and though but a boy, he contrived to scrape over the ground sufficiently to get in some potatoes. Mr. Cowan, who had his farm to pay for as well as his family to support, took out coal whenever he could get such work to do, and for some time worked at the old BROWN furnace in Clarion county. He would walk home on Saturday night and back to his work on Monday, and labored in this way for nine years. On one occasion, wishing to bring a wheelbarrow with him, he put a bag of flour on it, and started to wheel it home. At Corsica he stopped and added some groceries and a bag of beans, and then proceeded homewards, and this extra toil was accomplished after a hard day�s work on the coal bank. Mr. and Mrs. Cowan came from the city of Glasgow, in Scotland, and of course did not know anything about the hardships of settlers in the wilderness, and were totally unacquainted with farm life. When they landed in this country their only acquaintance with that useful animal, the cow, was the diluted article called milk, sold by the city milkman. Soon after his arrival in Schuylkill county, Mr. Cowan bought a cow, but the next morning the family found they could not use the milk on account of the thick, yellow substance that had formed upon it. He took the cow back to the farmer from whom he had purchased, and informed him of the fact, and got another in exchange; but the farmer did not enlighten him as to the difficulty. However, it was not long before they learned what good, rich cream was like. Mr. Cowan, after clearing the farm in Eldred, now owned by MILTON STAHLMAN, sold it, and removed to Union township, where he purchased the farm of RICHARD HUGHES, where his wife and several of his children reside. He died in 1878. He was an excellent, upright man, and was able to enjoy the fruits of his hard labor in his later days. His eldest son, WILLIAM B., follows his father�s occupation, and has one of the best coal banks in Union township. Peter, from the day he first took the plow in his hands, when but a boy, was delegated to follow that occupation, and until a year or so back, when he engaged in other business, has had charge of the home farm. While living on the farm in Eldred, Mr. Cowan one day while carrying home some fruit trees to set out, stopped at the house of PAUL FISCUS, and while resting employed the time in pruning the trees. Mrs. Fiscus gathered up the twigs and planted them, and thus started a good orchard on her own farm.
One of the best known citizens of Eldred township was MICHAEL WOODS, who was born in County Letrim, Ireland, in 1822, and who emigrated to America when he was about eighteen years of age. He worked for about two years in Philadelphia, where he met LEVI G. CLOVER, who took a great liking to the young Irishman, and brought him to his home in Brookville. He remained in the employ of Mr. Clover for two years, when he married MARGARET KERR, and moved on to the farm of JOHN DOUGHERTY, (now the MARLIN farm), about two miles north of Brookville, in Rose township, where he lived about five years, and then bought a farm from BENJAMIN MCCREIGHT, in Eldred township, where he resided until his death, which occurred October 11, 1877. He was buried at the Red Bank roman Catholic cemetery, in Clarion county.
During the time that Mr. Woods worked for Clover and Dougherty he carried the mail, for about seven years, from Brookville to Indiana, making one trip a week, the round trip occupying two days and a half. He held many local offices in Eldred township, being tax collector and constable for a period of almost twenty years, and served as court crier for about eighteen years. He was a man of the strictest integrity, whose word was as good as his bond. His wife and sons reside in Eldred, where they are among its best citizens.
None of those who first settled Eldred township are now living. The oldest citizens are JOSEPH WHITE, eighty-five years of age, settled in township in 1850; GEORGE WEIRICK, eighty-three years, in 1871; WILLIAM MCADOO, seventy-five years, in 1846, and JAMES FROST, sixty-five years, in 1849.
First Improvements.�The first church was built in 1856 near Sigel, and the first school-house, called Hall�s, in 1839. JOHN BURNS built the first sawmill about 1849, and FULLERTON & TRUMAN started the first store. The first hotel was kept near Sigel in 1847, by A. SHALL The first lumber was taken out in 1847, and the first coal discovered by JAMES SUMMERVILLE.
The first death in the township, was a child of D. CODER, and the first grave-yard was made at Mount Tabor, a child of J. BEER being the first interred therein.
Lumber and Saw-Mills.�This township was well covered with fine timber, principally pine; but the first settlers, who had no idea of its value, seemed to have but one wish in regard to it, and that was to get rid of it as fast as possible, and a vast amount was wantonly destroyed, the value of which cannot be computed. The greater part of the timber has been cut off. The sawmills are now those of STEPHEN OAKS, H. R. MOORE and GARRISON & HERTZELL, each with a daily capacity of about 10,000.
This is the only village in the township, and is a pretty little hamlet located on the road from Brookville to Clarington. In 1880 the population was 115. There are two stores in the place owned by HENRY TRUMAN and WHITE & HEPLER, and the two hotels, kept by J. J. HENDERSON and T. JONES but no licensed house in the township; and the blacksmith shops of JERRY TAPPER, HENRY MATHEWS and J. G. GUMBERT. Sigel post office is located here. The other post office in the township is called Howe. It is kept in the store of B. H. Whitehill, about four miles north of Brookville.
There are four churches in the township, a history of which has been given elsewhere. There are three cemeteries.
Since the timber, that once engrossed the attention of all classes, has disappeared, the citizens have turned to farming, and Eldred is now taking a first place in that respect. Among the best improved farms are those of TIMOTHY CALDWELL, A. M. LARRIMER, JOHN WHITE, R. R. MCKINLEY and JAMES FROST. Apples, pears, cherries and grapes are the fruits grown, and are of excellent varieties.
Considerable attention is being paid to the introducing of thoroughbred stock in the township, and there are some fine herds of short-horn Durham, Jersey and Holstein cattle, and Cottswold sheep.
Elections.�The first election was held in Eldred township in the year 1836, and the following persons were elected: Constable, ELIJAH M. GRAHAM; supervisor, THOMAS ARTHURS, THOMAS BARR; school directors, GEORGE CATZ, HENRY BOIL, THOMAS HUGHES, THOMAS HALL, JACOB CRAFT, JOHN MAZE; overseers of the poor, MICHAEL TROY, THOMAS CALLEN; town clerk, JACOB CRAFT.
The election held February 15, 1887, resulted in the election of the following persons: Justice of the peace, WILLIAM PARK; constable, JOSEPH WILSON; tax collector, H. G. KATZ; supervisors, H. G. KATZ and W. M. MCMANIGLE; school directors, DAVID WHITE and GEORGE GAILEY; poor overseer, JACOB MINEWEASER; auditor, THOMAS MCNEAL; assessor, JEREMIAH GREELEY; clerk, F. CALDWELL; judge of election, WILLIAM SNIPP; inspectors, WH. H. ALFORD and PETER MINEWEASER. The justices of the peace in Eldred are WILLIAM PARK and J. J. HENDERSON. The members of the school board previously elected are FILLMORE CALDWELL, R. R. MCKINLEY, MILTON STAHLMAN and J. W. KNOPSNYDER.
The number of taxables in Eldred township in 1835, was 27; in 1842, 123; in 1849, 97; in 1856, 157; in 1863, 188; in 1870, 211; in 1880, 338; in 1886, 412. The population in 1840 was 395; 1850, 492; 1860, 826; 1870, 832; 1880, 1,271. The census of 1850 gives the number of houses as 88; families, 93.
According to the triennial assessment of 1886, the number of acres seated in Eldred was 18,266; valuation $66, 678; average value per acre, $3.65. Forty-two houses and lots; valuation $2,790. Seven grist and saw-mills, $275. Number of acres unseated 8,776; valuation $29,445; average value per acre $3.35. Number of horses, 263; valuation $7,338; average value $24.00. Cows, 343; valuation $2,831; average value $8.22. Fourteen oxen; valuation $260. Occupations 115; valuation $2,865; average $24. Total valuation subject to county tax, $112,482. Money at interest $11,830.
There were eight schools reported in Eldred for the year ending June 30, 1866; average number of months taught five; number of male teachers three; number of female teachers five. Average salary $28.00. Number of male scholars 279; females 186. Number attending school 258; average per cent. Of attendance 82; cost per month 53 cents. Number of mills levied for school purposes 10. Total amount of tax levied for school and building purposes $1,230.
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