History of Mill Creek Township [by S. C. Helper]
Mill Creek Township is situated in the eastern part of Clarion County, as shall be seen
by the boundary, one of the border townships. Its shape along the northern, western, and
southern sides is very irregular, its natural boundaries being Clarion River, and Big Mill
Creek. The Political boundaries are Jefferson County on the east, Clarion Township on the
south, Highland Township on the west and Farmington Township on the north.
The area of the township is about thirty square miles. The surface in some parts I
quite hilly, while in others it is pleasantly undulating. In the northern, western, and
southern portions, the surface is principally covered with dense forests of pine, hemlock,
oak, chestnut, etc., while the cleared portions of the township embrace the central and
eastern parts. As has already been noticed, the township is bounded on the north, west and
south by Clarion River and Big Mill Creek. These streams are fed by numerous tributaries
having their sources in the township. Among the tributaries are Woods Run,
Stroups Run and Trap Run, which flow south into Mill Creek; and Blyson and Davis
Run, Maxwell Run and Pine Run, which flow west into Clarion River.
The soil is generally very fertile, owing to the fact that portions have been but
recently settled and cultivated. The climate, like all of Clarion County, is usually
severe in the winter, and warm in the summer. The chief vegetable productions are corn,
wheat, oats, potatoes, etc. The principal grasses grown are timothy and clover.
The different species of fruits, such as the apple summer, autumn, and winter
varieties the peach, the pear autumn and winter varieties plums,
quinces, cherries black and red, and grapes, grow in abundance, the peach perhaps,
being the least extensively grown, on account of the severity of the winters.
Garden vegetables such as cabbage, tomatoes, beets, turnips, celery, radishes, and
onions, are grown by every family.
The principal domestic animals are the horse, cow, sheep, and swine. Wild animals have
almost entirely disappeared before the march of civilization; however, a few deer and
certain species of the fox still roam at will over the hills and through the dense
forests. Mill Creek has some fine teams of draught horses. Sheep are extensively raised.
The hills of Mill creek are all underlaid with veins of bituminous coal, but this
valuable mineral has as yet remained undeveloped, wood fuel having been cheifly used by
the inhabitants from the earliest settlements down to the present time. Iron ore is also
found, but not to any great extent. Limestone exists in abundance, and is extensively
quarried, being used as a fertilizer.
There are within the present limits of the township, two religious societies, a
Methodist Episcopal, and a Presbyterian; each society has its own church edifice. These
churches are located near each other, in about the center of the township, at a place know
as Fisher Post-office, and are the only churches erected within the present limit. They
are both white frame structures, and have a seating capacity of each about three hundred.
Ever since the first settlements, education has received fair attention, being fostered
by the inhabitants as something altogether indispensable. The first schoolhouses, of
course, were rude log buildings. At present there are in the township six public schools,
conducted by as many teachers, and attended by about two hundred and fifty pupils. The
structures are generally new, and reflect great credit upon the township.
The first dry goods and grocery store in the township still exists, and is located at
Fisher Post-office. It is owned and kept by Thomas Daugherty, who has control of the
post-office also. The post-office is the only one in the township, and is supplied with
mail tri-weekly. During the summer of 1884 Dr. J. H. Barber, of Strattanville, PA, erected
near the above named store, a fine edifice designed as a storeroom and dwelling combined.
The storeroom has since been stocked with a fine selection of dry goods and groceries.
About fifty years ago the first settlements were made in Mill Creek Township. Among the
earliest settlers were Solomon Terwilliger, Neil Daugherty, Henry Potter, Robert McCaskey,
Thomas Johnson, John Fisher, Martin McCanna, Samuel Thompson, and Peter McLaughlin. These
men, or their parents, generally came from the eastern part of Pennsylvania, and were
cheifly agriculturists. Few, if any, of these first settlers are now living; their bodies
lie buried in the burial grounds of the above-named churches. The early settlers of Mill
Creek did not have to undergo as many hardships as did the settlers of many of their
sister townships, from the fact that they were no so much isolated from neighbors. Their
nearest neighbors the settlers of Clarion township were but from three to
five miles distant. At that time Mill Creek was nearly all a vast forest, being covered by
trees of prodigious six. The settlers, in order to prepare the soil for farming, were
compelled from the beginning to hew down the monarchs of the forest, thus
"clearing" the land of all trees. The process of "clearing", as it is
termed, was attended by much hard labor, and was done about as follows: The trees and
brush were all felled, being chopped off about two feet from the ground. After lying till
they became dry, they were set on fire and all the brush and small wood would be consumed,
while the surface of the large trunks would only be charred and turned black. These were
then split into rails for the purpose of "fencing in" the clearing. The fences
built were called "worm fences," and are still used to the exclusion of wire or
board fences. The process of clearing farms is still carried on in many parts of the
township. The first houses and barns erected were built of logs, some hewed, and others
left round, the bark only being taken off, but these ancient buildings have nearly all
given way to more modern frame structures, many of which are very comfortable and well
built. Here and there may still be seen a log house or log barn, but they are disappearing
fast, and ere long not one will remain standing to remind the people of earlier days. From
the period of the first settlement to the present time, the township has been gradually
changing from a vast forest to a territory abounding in beautiful farms and pleasant
houses. The population has gradually increased till it now numbers about seven hundred.
The people are industrious. The survivors of the late war, residing with the township,
have, with their comrades of Clarion Township and Strattanville borough, organized a G. A.
R. Post, located at Strattanville. Lumbering has been extensively carried on for a score
or more years, and it is the leading industry today. There have been erected four saw
mills, three boat scaffolds, and one stave mill, all of which are yet in active operation
During the earlier stages of the lumbering business the majority of the lumber then
exported was felled, and floated down the Clarion and Allegheny Rivers to Pittsburgh, Pa.,
in log rafts. This is still carried on to a certain extent, but the majority of lumber now
sent to market is first sawed into boards, shingles, etc., and then floated in rafts. At
the boat scaffolds are built boats, such as are used to float coal on the Ohio and
Monongahela Rivers. The principal amount of lumbering within the township is carried on
along the stream known as Mill Creek. This stream is some twenty-five miles in length. It
rises in the northwestern part of Jefferson County, Pa., and flows westerly, emptying its
waters into the Clarion River, about forty miles from its mouth. In 1840 Algernon S. Howe
was the owner of nearly all the timberland of the township. About this time James W.
Guthrie, and others, secured by warrant and purchased a large tract, but the main body
fell into the hands of Madison, Burnell & Co., of Jamestown, N. Y., in the year 1853.
The above mentioned gentlemen have all passed away, and the present owners Messrs.
Marvin & Rulofson carry on an extensive business, their mill, at the mouth of
Mill Creek, being pronounced by competent judges, one of the best in the United States.
The mill is in size forty by sixty-five feet, and was first designed as a gang-mill, but
in 1883 it was changed to a circular, with all modern improvements complete. Logs designed
to be sawed are driven down the stream, and halted in the pond by means of press booms;
they are then floated into the mill in a flume, six by thirty feet, the water being about
two feet beneath the floor of the mill. A chain passing under the logs is drawn up by
friction wheels, and the logs are rolled on to the skid way and in reach of the
log-turner, which receives its power from two steam cylinders. These cylinders work the
turner very much like a human arm, the different motions being given it by gently handling
a lever. The power of this turner is simply wonderful. The logs are now on the carriage of
one of Stearns & Cos. best mills. This carriage is propelled by a steam engine,
and is also controlled by gentle pressure on a lever. The saw is sixty inches in diameter,
and has a speed of six hundred revolutions a minute. Two of Stearns & Cos.
flue-boilers five by fourteen feet, furnish the power to the saw and its
accompanying machinery. As each board is cut it drops on to a transfer, from which the
edger receives it, and by easily adjusted saws, each piece is neatly squared up, and is
then placed on a trimmer, which trims the ends and passes it to the cars, which have the
use of forty rods of iron railing for distributing the boards to the piling and rafting
grounds. The trimmer also cuts up all the refuse, and after the lath stuff is selected,
the debris quietly carried by a chain-carrier to its final rest constantly
burning fire. So complete are the arrangements of the mill that when cutting at the rate
of forty thousand feet per day, the labor of the employees is simply a matter of careful
attention, and not a back-aching, muscular service, as in days of old. The piling grounds
are neatly wharfed, and rafting made easy by slack water and sluices arranged for the
reception of rafts, and the easy handling of the same.