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PA-Roots

…bringing our past into the future

History of Forest County

ByNathan Zipfel

Jun 10, 2023

Formation of Forest County

Forest County is the only county in the state of Pennsylvania created by a joint resolution of the Legislature. Approved on 11 April 1848, this resolution detached Forest County from Jefferson and Elk Counties. In April 1850 the Legislature fixed the southern boundary of the county at the north bank of the Clarion River, from a point where the east line of Clarion County crosses that river to the west line of Elk County. Forest County remained attached to Jefferson County for judicial purposes until it was fully organized. The Act of 15 April 1851 placed the new county in the 18th judicial district, with Marienville established as the county seat. In 1866 five additional townships were detached from Venango County and the county seat was transferred to Tionesta.

Early Settlers in Forest County

Cyrus Blood was one of the earliest settlers in Forest County. He brought his family into the wilderness in 1833, to an area later called “The Blood Settlement.” When he settled here, the region was full of panthers, bears, wolves, wild cats and deer. Mr. Blood was a powerful man, possessing great energy and courage. He was well educated and a surveyor by trade. Cyrus was born in New Lebanon, NH on 3 March 1795. He was educated in Boston, and at twenty-two he migrated to Chambersburg, Pa. where he served as principal at the academy there. He later became the school principal at the Hagerstown Academy, and later a professor at Dickinson College, in Carlile, Pa.

Ambitious to found a county, Cyrus Blood made several visits into the Pennsylvania wilderness. Finding the northern part of Jefferson County an almost unbroken wilderness, he purchased a tract of land where Marienville is now located, and decided to settle there.It was understood that when Cyrus purchased his property from the Holland Land Company that a road would be opened into it for him. But when he arrived in 1833 where the village of Corsica now is, he found, to his annoyance, that no road had been constructed. Leaving his family behind, he started from what was then Armstrong’s Mill, now Clariongton, and with an ox-team sled and men to cut their way step by step through twelve miles of wilderness to his future home. Every night the men camped on and around the ox-sled. When the crew reached Blood’s purchase, a patch of ground was cleared and a log cabin was raised. In October Cyrus Blood , along with his wife and five children, took possession of this forest home. Panthers were so plentiful at this time that the children could watch them playing outside in the garden.

Municipal History

The first county election was held in Forest county on 13 October 1857, and the following officials were chosen: Associate Judges, Cyrus Blood and Milton Gibb; Prothonotary, G.W. Rose; Sheriff, John Gaul; Coroner, Archibald Black; Commissioner, Samuel Kincaid ; and Auditor, Timothy Caldwell. Prisoners were kept in the Jefferson County jail in Brookville.

The first court session was held 21 December 1857, in what was then called Marien (now Marienville). President Judge, John S. McCalmont; Associate Judges, Cyrus Blood and Milton Gibbs. W.W. Corbet, as prothonotary of Jefferson County was present and swore in the associate judges. Thomas B. Mayes was appointed court crier and William Walton, of Jenks Township, to act as tipstaff. At the suggestions of the judge, W.P. Jenks and L.D. Rogers of Brookville, were the first lawyers admitted to the “bar” of Forest County. The rules governing Jefferson County bar were adopted to govern the Forest County court. James D. Flick was appointed constable of Barnett Township, with Cyrus Blood chosen as county surveyor. John Conrad moved to Forest County in the summer of 1857, and served as the first district attorney, from 1858-1860. Although elections were held in Forest County as early as 1852, the state vote was still counted with Jefferson County for a number of years afterward. The pionerr courthouse of Forest County was built in Marionville by Bennett Dobbs, of hewed logs and afterward weatherboarded and painted white. On 8 March 1815 the sun was darkened for a week with pigeons. On 1 April 1854 the same event again occurred.

Educational and Religious

The first school was established in what is now Tionesta Borough in 1820. The first schoolmaster was John D. Hunt. He taught school in the winter of 1833-34 in Cyrus Blood’s home. The first school building was in Marienville in 1840, with Cyrus Blood, school master. The first missionary to locate and preach here was Rev. David Zeisberger, in October 1767. The first preacher was Dr. Otis Smith and the first sermon preached to white people was at Mr. Blood’s home. The appropriation for schools in 1850 was as follows: Jenks Twp: $10.56, Barnett Twp: $63.96, Tionesta: $4.10. Heath had a population of 187 and Barnett, 479.

Early Business Ventures

Among the first settlers to arrive in Forest County were two hunters, John Aylesworth who resided in Jenks Township, and Ebenezeer Kingsley, who settled in Tionesta in 1825. Beavers made there home here along the great flag swamp and the beaver meadows along Salmon Creek. The pelts were then sold by the trappers in Brookville. The first saw mill was built in 1823 by Isaac Ball, Luther Barnes and William Manross, at the place now called Balltown. The usual food at the mill was said to be one barrel of flour and two barrels of whiskey. Retailers of foreign merchandise in 1854 were: Howe & Co, C.C. Johnson, shipper, and Morrison & P. Woodward. Licensed hotels: Clarington, 1855, Peter G. Reed & Oramel Thing. the first store was opened in Cooksburg by the Honorable Andrew Cook in 1852. The first coal in Forest County was mined in Balltown. The first tavern was located in the house of Cyrus Blood. He also built the first grist mill at Salmon Creek in 1840. Colonel John D. Hunt was appointed postmaster on 25 September 1851. Early mail service was begun from Brookville by Claringtion to Marienville, twenty-six miles and return, once a week. Dr. D. Bachman who moved to Clarington 29 May 1857, and served as the first physician in Forest County; however, his stay here was short.

Boat Building Along the Clarion

As early as 1830, boats were being built at Port Barnett and North Fork for the transportation of Centre County pig metal, salt and coal to markets. Anthony and Jacob Esbaugh constructed these boats of the finest Forest County lumber. Each gunwale was hewed out of the straightest pine trees that could be found, vis 28 inches high at the “rake” fourteen inches at the stern, ten inches thick, and forty feet long, two gunwales to a boat. The ties were hewed six inches thick, with a six inch face, mortised dovetailed, and keyed into the gunwale six feet apart. The six “streamers” for a boat were sawed three by twelve inches, sixteen feet long, and pinned to the ties with one pin in the middle of each streamer. These pins were made of white oak 1 1/2 inches square and ten inches long. The plank for the “bottoms” were constructed of first class, white pine 1 1/2 inches thick and pinned to the streamers and gunwales with white oak pins, caulked with flax or tow. All these early boats were built on the ground and turned by about ten men- and a gallon of whiskey- over on a bed made of brush to keep the planks in the bottom from springing. All boats were “sided up” with white oak studding two and a half by five inches and six feet long. Each studding was mortised into a gunwale two feet apart. Inside the boat a siding eighteen inches high was pinned on the boats. These boats were sold at Broken Rock and sold again in Pittsburgh as coal barges, for transporting coal down the Mississippi. The boats were manned by two or three men, with the pilot always at the stern. The boats were tied with halyards made of twisted hickory saplings. In later years the boats were built on the Big Toby at Maple Creek, Clarington, Millstone, Wynkoop, Spring Creek, Irvine and Ridgeway.

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