History of Warren County, Chapter 34

CHAPTER XXXIV

HISTORY OF BROKENSTRAW TOWNSHIP

 

BROKENSTRAW township, which was organized as "Number Four," on the 8th of March, 1821, lies near the geographical center of Warren county, and is bounded north by Sugar Grove, east by Conewango and Allegheny River, separating it from the township of Pleasant, south by Deerfield, and west by Pittsfield. Although the soil of the town is for the most part well adapted for farming purposes, and is well drained by the Big Brokenstraw Creek, which takes its rise in the township of Columbus, and flows southerly and easterly through the townships of Spring Creek, Pittsfield, and Brokenstraw into the Allegheny, and by Mathew’s Run and Irvine’s Run, which flow into the Brokenstraw, yet the original motive which induced settlement was the unusual facilities afforded by these same streams, and the splendid forests which at first covered the town, for lumbering. The names of these hardy and adventurous pioneers will be given soon.

The name Brokenstraw, it seems, is taken from the Indian word of that meaning - Cushanadauga - bestowed upon this region from the fact that the Irvine Flats once bore an annual crop of tall prairie grass, which in the fall would break and fall over. About on the site of the present borough of Youngsville, during the Revolutionary War, the Indians had quite a village, called Buckaloon, from which they descended the river in canoes and committed depredations on the country below. In 1781 Colonel Brodhead, with a detachment from Pittsburgh, attacked, and, after a siege of some days, drove them from their village, and destroyed a large crop of corn then growing on the flats. He then fortified his position by erecting breastworks at the highest point on the bank of the river, a short distance above the mouth of the creek, traces of which may still be seen. It is stated that Robert Andrews, who is mentioned more at length in the "History of Pittsfield," was the pioneer settler on the Brokenstraw; but he was not long in advance of the first settlers in this township. The first resident settler here was probably John McKinney, who came on in the summer of 1795, with commissioners appointed by the governor to survey this part of the country. "McKinney," as the Hon. Samuel P. Johnson has well said, "was then a fresh import from the Emerald Isle, young, vigorous, and adventurous; had first halted at Lancaster, where his services were engaged by the commissioners. His visit here had given him a view of this valley, and a knowledge of the fact that there was land here to be had for the taking." Accordingly he returned the next year, and took up what is still known as the McKinney farm, about one and a half miles east of Youngsville, on the road to Irvineton. There he lived two or three years alone, clearing the forests and subduing the obstinate wilderness. He then returned to Lancaster and married Miss Arthur, who afterward lived here with him and reared a family which have since become prominent beyond the town limits for energy and integrity. McKinney’s house afterward became the hotel of the settlement. He was shrewd, hospitable, genial, and thoroughly democratic. He was one of the most extensive farmers of the neighborhood, and was a heavy dealer in lumber, horses, cattle, etc., etc. He had a large family of boys, and one daughter. The children of his son, Arthur, now occupy the old homestead. John McKinney, jr., became a very wealthy citizen of Youngsville. He was the fifth sheriff of Warren county, elected in 1831, and it was during his term of office that his father died. In 1829 he married Loranda, daughter of William Simmons, of Jamestown, N.Y., after which event they always lived on the place now occupied by his widow, in Youngsville. He died in December, 1878. He was prominent as a lumberman, who in all his dealing avoided loss.

In 1797 Callender Irvine, then a young man, undertook in person, aided only by his servant, "Black Tom," to make the actual settlement then required to perfect the title which his father, the famous Revolutionary general, had procured. The first house stood on the ground now occupied by the railroad station at Irvineton, but this was abandoned for higher ground after the memorable "Pumpkin Flood" of 1805. When he came here his nearest neighbors were John McKinney, two miles above him, Mathew Young, on the site of Youngsville, and Robert Andrews, at Pittsfield. The Irvine family are of Scotch descent, some of their ancestors having received a grant of land in Ulster county, Ireland, from James VI. For some time before the year 1804 (when his father died) Callender Irvine was in command of the fort at Erie, Pa.; but he then resigned his command to look after the extensive property left to him. He shortly afterward became commissary-general of the United States army, a position which he filled for some thirty-four years and until his death. (For a sketch of this family, especially of Dr. William Irvine, see later pages of this work.) The title to this extended property in the eastern part of Brokenstraw has thus never been vested in any hands but of the Irvine family.

In the spring of 1796 Mathew Young, a Scotchman and a bachelor, "pitched his tent" on the site of the borough of Youngsville, and began a career which justly entitled him to the distinction of bequeathing his name to the beautiful and prosperous village that sprang up around him. Mr. Johnson relates an incident of him which so tersely illustrates one of his peculiarities that we cannot forbear inserting it in this place: "Late in the spring of that year (1796) Callender Irvine, anxious to cultivate acquaintance with his neighbors, and to see how they prospered, walked up to see Mr. Young, and found him engaged in opening out what is now the main street of the borough, and extending it down the creek. He inquired of Young, with real curiosity, what he was about, and why he was not putting in some crops. With the utmost simplicity he replied: ‘Why, man, I’m more fond of a beautiful prospect.’ To which Mr. Irvine retorted: ‘The prospect is, you will either starve or have to leave the country before spring.’ Sure enough, when fall came he had no corn and was kept from starvation only by the surplus of provisions Irvine had and generously furnished him, when he went abroad to winter."

Young lived for many years the life of a recluse, making his home most of the time with John McKinney, sr., at whose house he often taught children in the evenings. He taught school frequently in town, a calling for which he was well adapted, being well educated, and a friend and general favorite of children. He was county treasurer from 1821 to 1823, the second to hold that office (Archibald Tanner being the first). In 1807 he built the first saw-mill, on what is called the Siggins water power. He died on the 4th of August, 1825, while on a visit to Charles Smith, in Deerfield township, and was brought back in a canoe and buried in the village cemetery at Youngsville. His remains now lie in the cemetery of the Odd Fellows. He is described, by one who well remembers his appearance, as being tall, slender, and erect, with very light complexion and (in later years) with white hair. "He was simple in his character, earnest in his purposes, and eccentric in his habits, with a kind heart for all, and an integrity that was never tarnished."

In 1798 Hugh Wilson emigrated from Northumberland county and settled on the place now occupied by the Rouse Hospital. He owned this entire farm of four hundred acres, and became a prominent and influential farmer and lumberman, though he had no mills. He reared a large family, and had one of the best farms in the county at the time. About 1835, by some misadventure in business, he became involved in debt, and was obliged to leave the home to which he had become endeared. He went to Clearfield county, where he died in 1846. He was a man of generous and manly impulses, and an honest purpose. His hospitality was boundless.

Contemporary with him, Joseph Gray settled on what was afterward called the McGuire and still later the Horn place, on the Brokenstraw.

In 1793 Darius Mead, with his sons David, John, Darius, and Joseph, and two daughters, emigrated from the Susquehanna River in what is now known as Lycoming county, to the tract of land now embracing Meadville, from whom it took its name. By reason of the hostile demonstrations of the Indians they removed to Franklin, where was a fort and United States garrison. The following spring, while the father was plowing in a field in the vicinity, a party of three Indians came stealthily and suddenly upon him, seized and bound him hand and foot. They took him about twenty miles into the woods westerly from Franklin, where they stopped to encamp for the night. While the Indians were cutting wood for their camp fire, Mead succeeded in extricating one of his hands. As one of the Indians came up with an armful of wood, and was bending over in the act of kindling the fire, Mead stepped up, and drawing a large hunting knife from the Indian’s belt, plunged it into his heart. The other two came up at that moment, and a desperate encounter at once commenced. It is supposed that Mead succeeded in mortally wounding one of his antagonists, but he was finally overpowered and brutally murdered, and cut to pieces with a tomahawk.

After the subsidence of the Indian troubles, David and John Mead returned to Meadville. In the spring of 1799 Joseph and Darius removed to Warren county with their families, the former settling on the Big Brokenstraw, where Mead’s mill now stands, about a mile west of Youngsville. Darius located on the farm more recently owned and occupied by Captain James Bonner. In a year or two, however, he joined his brother, and with him built a grist-mill and two saw-mills. This was the first grist-mill in Warren county, there being at that time no mill within a radius of thirty miles. To the mill at Union, and that belonging to the Holland Land Company at Titusville, many grists were borne from this county on the backs of their owners or of the patient oxen, guided through the trackless forests only by Indian trails. Mead’s mill, it has been said, was the Mecca to which the population of a large district made regular pilgrimages for supplies. It is said that in dry times some grists came forty miles. The inhabitants of Columbus brought their grists to this mill in canoes. Darius Mead was an acting justice for several years, and was hospitable and social in his habits. It is told of him that once, pending the delivery of a sermon at his house the Rev. Bishop Roberts, Darius Mead and his friend Isaiah Jones went to the cupboard and indulged in a drink of whisky. When requested to postpone the drinking until after the services were over, he replied: "Bishop, stick to your text; never mind us and we’ll not disturb you."

Darius Mead died in 1813, and was buried in the cemetery on the original John Andrews farm. In 1813 Joseph removed to a farm on the Allegheny River, three miles below Warren, including the island which still bears his name, and passed the remainder of his life there, dying in March, 1846. His wife, Hannah, died on the 25th of February, 1856, at the age of seventy-seven years and four months. They were the parents of fourteen children, eleven of whom were living at the time of their mother’s death. Many of the descendants of these hardy brothers are now living in Brokenstraw township, and are worthy of their ancestry.

After the death of Darius Mead the mill came into the hands of his nephew, John Mead, who had labored in them since 1807, as a hired man. John Mead, jr., was born near Sunbury, Pa., on the 28th of August, 1786. While he was yet a mere child his father, John, sr., removed to the valley of French Creek at Meadville, as before stated. In the spring of 1807 John, jr., came to the valley of the Brokenstraw, in company with his brother William, to labor in the mills of his uncles, Joseph and Darius. He married Sallie Hoffman on the 12th of October, 1809, and built his house on a piece of land which his father-in-law gave him. In 1814 he and John Garner bought the Mathew Young tract of 400 acres, for $2,500 - the tract containing nearly all the land now within the limits of the borough of Youngsville. He rebuilt the Mead mills several times. He died on the 4th of November, 1870. Before his death his son Darius operated the mills for some time, and finally sold the saw-mill to Mad. Alger and the grist-mill to H.T. Marshall. In connection with these mills it is well to mention honest and ingenious John Gregg, who came in the early part of this century and settled about two miles north of Youngsville. He ground the corn for the Mead mill, and also preached the gospel according to the Methodist persuasion, made hickory splint cables for the lumbermen at three dollars apiece, and educated two sons for the ministry. His brother, Samuel Gregg, a bachelor, hired out to Judge Siggins and cleared for him the place now occupied by his son, William F. Siggins.

Another early settler, whose arrival in Brokenstraw antedates the year 1806, was William Arthur, who lived two miles west of Youngsville on the Brokenstraw, and as late as 1820 owned the mills at Wrightsville. His farm is now occupied by his son, William Callender Arthur, William Carpenter, also here previous to 1806, lived on the Brokenstraw, and is remembered as a lumberman of considerable activity. On one occasion he accompanied John Siggins and Daniel Horn to New Orleans on a raft. On their way back Siggins died at Natchez. Carpenter died some time previous to 1830, and has now no descendants in town. Still others who are mentioned in the list of taxables for 1806 were William Cochran, a single man, who sawed in the mill of Judge Siggins, and who afterward went to Pithole during the oil excitement, and became wealthy; David Carr, who owned two hundred acres of land at the mouth of the Brokenstraw; Abraham Davis, brother of Elijah, who (Abraham) lived on the Brokenstraw in the eastern part of the borough of Youngsville, on the place now occupied by his son, William A. Davis, and who farmed and lumbered until his death, something over twenty years ago; John Davis, brother of Abraham, who lived on what is now East Main street in Youngsville, on the place now occupied by his descendants, who was the father of ex-Sheriffs Sylvester and Sylvanus Davis, now of Warren, and who, though poor, left his children an inheritance of brain and brawn which has secured them a competence and a good position in life; William Davis, brother of John Davis, and father-in-law of W.H. Shortt, who, until his death about seven years ago, lived in the eastern part of Youngsville borough; Philip Huffman, who lived in the western part of the present township of Brokenstraw, and carried on quite a farm there, where he died more than thirty years ago, an old man; and Barnabas McKinney, who at first lived on a farm near the present Irvineton, until the early death of his wife, after which he came to live with his nephew at Youngsville.

 

Nearly or quite all of the settlers before 1806 have now been mentioned, among them being some of the most prominent men in the history of the town. This chapter would be very incomplete, however, without some mention of such men as Judge Siggins and Abraham Davis, and others who arrived between the years 1806 and 1820. Judge William Siggins was born in Center county, Pa., in 1789. His father died in 1801, and two years later he came with his brother George to Pithole, in Venango county, then a wilderness almost uninhabited. It is related that the few settlers who were there were holding at that time an old-fashioned revival, that William Siggins was converted from the primrose paths of religious indifference, that he had the power, and that he received a pious impulse which did not forsake him in all the after years of struggle and activity. In 1807 he settled on the Brokenstraw, on the site of Youngsville and of the place now occupied by his son, William F. Siggins. There was no house of worship in this neighborhood then, and four years elapsed with little opportunity for Christian converse. In 1811, however, he had the privilege of going to Meadville to attend the first camp-meeting ever held in this part of the country. He married in 1812, and at that time built a grist-mill at Pithole. In 1815 he returned to Youngsville, where he remained until his death, on the 15th of July, 1875. His wife preceded him in 1855. Judge Siggins was a life-long and fervent Christian, though for reasons best known to himself he severed his connection with the church as early as 1837. He had not only a "sound mind in a sound body," but a powerful mind in a powerful body, and it was a pity that he had not the advantage of a more thorough academic training, which would have made him more skillful in the use of the weapons that nature had put into his hands. He bore an active part in the War of 1812, and was with Commodore Perry at Erie. His mind was admirably adapted for judicial labors, a fact sufficiently attested by his long service as justice of the peace, and his long train of decisions, not one of which, it is said, was reversed on appeal. He was also associate judge for the five years following 1842. He was decidedly impulsive in disposition, though his strong sense of justice usually checked him from making a perverse use of his natural force.

The parents of Judge Siggins were both from the north of Ireland, and were of Scotch descent. His wife was Polly Wilson, of Center county, Pa. They had twelve children - eight sons and four daughters - of whom three sons and two daughters are now living. Two of the sons, Nathaniel and William F., now reside in Youngsville. His youngest son, Porter, served during the late war in the One Hundred and Eleventh Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, and rendered distinguished assistance to the Northern cause - taking part in nineteen engagements. He was killed at Antietam by a bullet, which passed through a pocket Testament to his heart. (For a sketch of William F. Siggins, see biographical notes at the close of the volume.)

James Davis, who is now the most aged of the surviving settlers in Brokenstraw, came to this township from Columbus with his father, Elijah Davis, in 1809. Elijah came to Columbus from Northumberland county six years previously. In 1809 they settled on the site of Irvineton. In 1815 they removed to what is now Youngsville, where Elijah Davis died in 1823. James Davis was born in Columbus on the 2d day of October, 1804. On the 7th day of November, 1827, he married Jane Martin, a native of what is now Fulton county, N.Y., who at the present writing (December, 1886) is still living with her husband. On the 7th of November, 1886, they were given a party by their numerous friends in Youngsville, and presented with several elegant gifts. Mr. and Mrs. Davis have seven children now living - two sons and five daughters. Mr. Davis says that when he came here in 1809 the "forest primeval" had hardly been broken into. The largest clearing was a five or six-acre plot at Irvineton. On the east side of the Brokenstraw, in what is now Youngsville, Mathew Young had cleared a tract of nearly the same extent, and had built and started a single saw-mill. Young then kept bachelor’s hall in a small log house on the ground between the present Wade house and the hardware store. John Arthur then lived on the site of the present residence of William F. Siggins, and operated the saw-mill for Young. The two saw-mills and the grist-mill of Joseph and Darius Mead were then in active operation in the western part of the town. One John Crawford lived near the turn of the road leading to Tidioute, at Irvineton, the place being afterward occupied by John Long. Joseph Gray lived near the site of the Irvineton station, where the spring and the oak trees may now be seen. John Andrews had built a saw-mill below Irvineton, and lived where Dr. William Irvine recently died. There were no hotels or taverns in town, and no mills but those mentioned. The principal business even at that early date was the rafting of lumber to Pittsburgh and New Orleans. The principal farmers in this neighborhood were Hugh Wilson, on the Rouse farm, and John McKinney, on the next farm below.

Settlers Arriving between 1806 and 1820. - Following are brief items concerning the inhabitants of Brokenstraw township, whose arrival dates between the years 1806 and 1820. Joel Barton was a farmer who lived about one and a half miles north of Youngsville, and a number of years after his arrival here removed to Pittsfield. Stephen Crippen lived about one and a half miles south of Youngsville. He was a carpenter by trade. He went west as many as thirty years ago. John Camp, a millwright, and an officer of the Methodist Church, lived on what is now called the Charles Whitney place. He was more than an ordinary man. About 1828 or 1830 he went to Missouri. John Crippen took up a farm on York Hill, also about one and a half miles south from Youngsville, but afterward sold his farm and moved to Youngsville, where he died, probably about twenty-five years ago. It seems that he has descendants now in Deerfield township. Judge Isaac Connelly settled on the farm which lies on the eastern line of Youngsville borough. He was the first associate judge appointed in Warren county, in 1819, and held that office for twenty-one consecutive years. His son, W.W. Connelly, who now lives near Tidioute, was also associate for the five years following 1876. Isaac Connelly lived for a number of years in Deerfield township, where he owned and operated a saw-mill, but came back to Brokenstraw, where he died about 1864. None of his descendants are now in town, though he has two sons and several daughters elsewhere.

Isaac Davis lived on Hull’s Hill for a number of years, but died in Youngsville. He had a large family. John Dougherty was one of the earliest of the school teachers in Youngsville. Between 1825 and 1830 he removed to Buffalo, where he became a merchant and speculator in lands, and acquired great wealth. Jeremiah Dunn, it is said, gave Dunn’s Eddy its name by the proximity to that place of his residence. This is two miles below Irvineton, in the Allegheny River. He had an early tavern at that point, but went away years ago, and none of the family remain in the vicinity. Richard Duprey occupied a farm in the northern part of the town, toward Sugar Grove. Although he had a large farm, he also had a large family, and the wants of the one encroached to such a degree upon the productiveness of the other that poor Duprey was nearly always "hard up." He died at least as early as 1850, leaving descendants which still survive. Andrew or "Andy" Farrely lived below Irvineton, and had a whisky distillery near "Still House Run." He also engaged more or less extensively in the lumber trade. He is described as a hearty, driving fellow, tall and stout, and withal a good judge of whisky. He moved away at a pretty early day, leaving no descendants hereabouts. Roger Filer was a carpenter and joiner, and lived in Youngsville, where two of his sons, Samuel and Wallace, still reside and carry on the trade of their father. Roger died here of old age only a few years ago. Christopher Green came here in 1817, and settled about half a mile east of the business part of Youngsville borough. In 1820 he removed to Yankee Bush, in Conewango township. James Green (grandfather of Dorwin Green, now a respected resident of Youngsville) also came here in 1817, and for some time kept a shoe shop in the western part of the borough. James Sturdevant, also grandfather of Dorwin Green, came in 1817, and brought Dorwin with him, then an infant. Sturdevant settled on a farm in what is now the western part of the borough. He died very early, and was one of the first tenants of the old burying-ground. John Garner, who only a few years ago moved to Ohio, was an early settler on a farm about three miles west of the borough. He also owned and operated a saw-mill. Nathan Howard was the first occupant of what is now called Crull’s Island, in the Allegheny River, and gave to that island his name for a number of years. He went away, however, at an early day, and little is known about him. Powell Hoffman lived many years on the line between Pittsfield and Brokenstraw. His brother Jacob lived on the adjoining farm. They at last sold out and went to Union City. Descendants of theirs are now residing at Corry. Hull’s Hill derived its name from Chester Hull, who was the first settler on its bosom. There he reared a large family and carried on a large farm. Three of his sons became Methodist ministers. Chester Hull died on Hull’s Hill as early, probably, as 1825. Miner Noble, a cabinet-maker, lived and moved and had his being and plied his trade in the eastern part of the borough until about fifty years ago, when he and all his house went West. Amasa Ransom, a lumberman and farmer, lived about one mile west of the borough. He went to Beaver, Pa., forty years ago, though his son Adoniram has repurchased the old place and now occupies it.

John Siggins was a single man and a brother of William, with whom he abode. He died previous to 1830. Another brother, Alexander, was a blacksmith in Youngsville, and the pillar of the Methodist Church. His death occurred about twenty-five years ago.

Adam Shutt lived and died on the Barney McKinney place, adjoining the Rouse farm. He reared a family of a number of sons and two daughters. One son, Jacob, is now an influential citizen of Covington, Ky., and another, William G., lives in Pittsford.

Stephen Littlefield, a carpenter by trade, resided about two miles west of Youngsville until the oil excitement "in the sixties," when he sold out and removed to Kingsville, O. He was a strong Democrat and an influential politician. He was elected the second sheriff of Warren county in 1822. His descendants are not living in this neighborhood at the present time. Thomas McGuire had a farm and dwelling house a short distance west of the site of the railroad station at Irvineton, where he died not far from forty years ago. Philip Mead lived in the western part of Brokenstraw township. He had a large family of children, a number of whom are now residents of this vicinity. He died about twenty years ago. He was but distantly related to his namesake, who was so long a merchant and justice of the peace in Youngsville. Samuel Trask, a farmer, lived in the western part of Youngsville village, where he died ten or twelve years ago. He had quite a family. A granddaughter, Sigourney by name, is at the head of a mission at Hong Kong, and is also a physician. Alfred Van Armon will be mentioned again in connection with the early taverns of the town. He was accustomed, when his guests were treating each other, to invite himself to join them with the remark, "What have I done that I shouldn’t have a drink?" and thus receive pay for drinking his own liquor. Charles Whitney, who died about twenty years ago at his home in the western part of Youngsville borough, was one of the wealthiest and most extensive lumbermen of early times. None of his children are now living. Nehemiah York, who has the distinction of giving his name to York Hill, acquired his possessions in part by taking up 400 acres of State land. He died at his home but a few years ago, leaving "him surviving," according to legal phrase, a number of sons and daughters.

Henry Kinnear, son of Robert, was born in Ireland on Easter Sunday in 1764. He came to this country about the year 1790. After passing a short time in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, he settled in Center county, where he remained a number of years. He married in 1797. Thence he went to Venango county, near Titusville, and came to Youngsville in 1815. During this season he purchased a part of the Mathew Young tract, built and occupied a small log house, and in the following summer erected a small framed storehouse. These buildings stood about on the site of the present Odd Fellows’ Hall. Henry Kinnear was the first merchant in Youngsville. On the 6th day of August, 1816, he was appointed and commissioned a justice of the peace by Simon Snyder, then governor of the State. His commission was recorded in Franklin, Venango county, on the 27th of August, 1816, and again in Warren county on the 19th of December, 1820. In 1819 he was appointed one of the first commissioners of Warren county, continuing in that office two terms. Besides clearing his land and cultivating in some measure his farm, he kept a store sufficiently stocked to supply the needs of the community, and continued an acting justice of the peace during his lifetime.

 

About the year 1810, while Henry Kinnear was acting in the capacity of constable in Venango county, he had a warrant for the arrest of a notorious ruffian and desperado named Polen Hunter. Against the threats of the criminal, Kinnear attempted his forcible apprehension, when he received from Hunter a wound in the hip from which he never recovered. It is said that he succeeded in obtaining pecuniary redress for the injury. He died on the 6th of March, 1826. He had a family of nine children, five sons and four daughters, all now dead, but many of whose children are now residents of Brokenstraw township or Youngsville borough. Henry P. Kinnear and C.V. Kinnear have been perhaps the most prominent of his sons in Youngsville. The latter was born in Venango county on the 8th of January, 1808, and came to Warren county with his father in 1815. Upon the death of his father he took up the trade, and continued to be one of the prominent and active merchants of Youngsville for a period of fifty years, besides engaging to some extent in the lumber trade. On the 19th of May, 1836, he was appointed and commissioned a justice of the peace by Governor Joseph Ritner. When the office was made elective in 1842, he was the choice of the voters of Brokenstraw township, and by successive re-elections held the position for twenty-four years. He was county auditor for ten years, represented the county in the State Legislature in the session of 1852 and 1853, and in 1871 was elected and commissioned an associate judge of the county, and served in that position for five years. He was a warm friend of the common schools, serving as director for near a quarter of a century. He died September 6, 1884. Henry P. Kinnear was born in Youngsville on the 26th of July, 1816. As soon as he reached years of discretion he began to manifest an interest in public affairs, and, as has been said by another, he became a politician because he could not help it. He served two terms as sheriff of Warren county; the first from 1843 to 1846, and the second from 1861 to 1864. He was a member of the Legislature in the session of 1847 and 1848. It was he who obtained for Youngsville its charter and for the Odd Fellows Cemetery Association theirs. He died June 28, 1886.

Early Business in Brokenstraw. - Mention having already been made of the first mills in the township, it is unnecessary in this place to recur to them. We have also stated something concerning the rude condition of the country in the first decade of years in its settlement. As late as 1809 there were in all this part of the country only such roads as were demanded by the most imperative necessities of the inhabitants. When the route was determined upon, the underbrush was cleared away; such trees as could not be avoided by a gentle curve were cut down, and the stump frequently left to be straddled by the wheels or runners of the vehicles; and such mud holes as interposed very seriously in the path of the traveler were converted into corduroy. There was thus early no bridge at Irvineton, and the stream had to be crossed by fording, or by patronizing the ferry of Elijah Davis and his sons. Indians were plenty. About 1825 or 1830, however, the population had increased very perceptibly, and internal improvements had been considerably developed. The principal business was manufacturing lumber, or rafting timber down the river to the various markets between this place and New Orleans. Saw-mills were therefore numerous. John Garner and Charles Whitney owned and operated the mill which stood farthest up the Brokenstraw within the present limits of the township, on a site which now gives forth no sign of former industry of this kind. Next on the way down stream were the saw-mills and the grist-mill of Joseph and Darius Mead. Then appeared the grist and saw-mill of Judge William Siggins, in the central part of the present borough of Youngsville, which their owner kept in operation until 1872. They then ceased running. About forty rods farther down stood another saw-mill, owned also by Judge Siggins, which has not been in operation for many years. Still farther down Judge Siggins owned a grist and saw-mill (about three-fourths of a mile east of Youngsville). He afterwards sold them to Charles Whitney, who allowed the grist-mill to go down, but rebuilt the saw-mill. The last owner of this mill was William Freese, who long ago left it to the mercy of the decomposing elements. At Irvineton were the grist and saw-mill of Dr. William A. Irvine, which had been erected very early by his predecessor, under the direction, it is said, of his father. The mills are still in operation under the management of Dr. Irvine’s estate. Dr. Irvine also erected and started a woolen-factory about thirty years ago, and a short time later set in operation a foundry which had been erected under his management. Both have been quiet for a number of years.

The first tannery in town was built and operated by John McKee, on the site of the present stave-mill in Youngsville borough, as many as fifty years ago. After successfully operating it for a number of years McKee allowed it to fall into innocuous desuetude. Since that event Bowman & Culbertson built and operated a tannery in the northern part of Youngsville borough, which continued in operation until ten or twelve years ago.

The only distillery in town within the recollection of living men was started by Mark Dalrymple on Still House Run, below the mouth of the Brokenstraw. Andrew Farrely afterward kept it running for a time, but left it early to decay.

The Rouse Hospital. - Full details of the manner in which the munificent intentions of Henry R. Rouse were effectuated in part by the erection of this building in war times are given in an earlier chapter of this work.

 

MUNICIPAL HISTORY.

Youngsville. - This borough, named from its first permanent settler, who laid out many of its streets, and seemed to have a prophetic vision of the relative importance in the county which the offspring of his somewhat fanciful energy would attain, had grown to be quite a village when it was incorporated, on the 4th day of September, 1849, and organized on the 15th of February following, by the election of Archibald Alexander, burgess; William Siggins and John Hull, councilmen; Philip Mead, treasurer; Henry P. Kinnear, clerk; John Siggins, collector, etc. James Davis is authority for the statement that as early as 1800 Mathew Young carved the quaint word "Yungval" on a large flat stone which stood for many years on ground now covered by the brick hardware store, and was used as a doorstep. The name Youngsville was naturally given to the place as soon as it became a settlement, in the first decade of the present century. We have seen that the first store in the village or township was that of Henry Kinnear, opened in 1816, which was practically continued until the death of his son, Carter V. Kinnear, in 1884. It is worthy of remark that W.D. Kinnear, a grandson of Henry and a son of Carter V. Kinnear, is now a merchant here. The next merchant was probably Henry McCullough, who started a store across from Kinnear previous to 1830, on land which he had purchased from William Siggins. He removed to Pittsburgh as early as 1832 or 1833, where he engaged in the wholesale iron trade and became very wealthy. John Gillespie started a store in Youngsville soon after the business of Henry Kinnear was established; but he soon failed, and his name has not become prominent in the annals of the town.

The first tavern in town was probably that unpretentious hostelry of John McKinney, below the Rouse farm. Mathew Young next built a hotel on the site of the present Wade House and sold it to John Mead and John Garner. The first landlord was Amasa Ransom, who leased it of Mead. In a short time after it was opened Mead and Garner sold the property, with ten acres of land adjoining the site, to John McKinney, who rented it to Cephas Hurlburt about a year. William Siggins followed, and was there in 1822, when William F. Siggins was born. The proprietors or lessees since the retirement of Judge Siggins, about 1823, have been, as well as may be remembered, as follows: John Layler, William Arthur, Morrell Lowrey, Robert McKinney, son of John, sr., Mathew McKinney, brother of Robert. At this period the house was torn down, and John McKinney immediately rebuilt, on the same ground, the present Wade House. Since then some of the landlords have been Peter S. Wade, son-in-law of John McKinney, who remained a number of years, besides others who remained but a short time, among them John Siggins, about 1846 or 1847, William Gray and his successor, A.P. Garfield, the present proprietor, who came here about three years ago. The house is well kept, and looks carefully to the comfort of its guests.

About 1822 Alfred Van Armon started a tavern on the site of the new brick store on East Main street, and was succeeded by Elijah Davis the younger, Robert Kinnear, and several others. It did not last long. The site of the American House was first used for hotel purposes about 1827 by Charles Whitney. Among his successors were Abraham Wilson, Thomas Turner, Dorwin Green and others. A short time previous to 1850 it burned and the present structure was erected by William Mead.

The Fairmont House first saw the light about 1851, when John Siggins built it. Siggins had erected one there about three years before, but it had burned in the fall of 1849, and he rebuilt it in 1851, about as it is at present. After keeping the house for a number of years he rented it to J.S. Trask, of Irvineton. Dorwin Green bought the property afterwards of the estate of John Siggins, and entertained the traveling public hospitably for a period, when he was succeeded, in November, 1879, by the present proprietor, C.H. Gregory, who besides keeping a first-class house deals extensively in horses and other live stock, carriages, wagons, etc. The house will comfortably accommodate thirty guests.

Mills. - The early mills having been already mentioned at length, it will be necessary only to say a word concerning the mills now in operation in and about Youngsville. Some ten or twelve years ago R.A. Kinnear built a planing mill near the railroad station, of which he still retains the ownership and active management. J.W. Agrelius, another of Youngsville’s most prominent business men, in company with Carter V. Kinnear, who had a one-third interest in the concern, built a stave-mill, of which he is now the sole owner. It stands near the site of one of the old mills before mentioned. At the present writing we have not learned the new owner of the new saw-mill, built about six years ago by Jed. Bartlett, and afterward owned by Henry Woodin. The planing-mill now owned and operated by George Pierson was built about five years ago by himself and W. Filer. Mr. Pierson has been sole proprietor since the spring of 1886.

Mercantile Business. - The merchant of longest standing now in Youngsville, we believe, is J.G. McKee, who established himself in business here about twenty years ago. Excepting about three years he has occupied the building which is now his store, all this period. He carries a stock of groceries valued at about $2,000.

Mad. Alger came to Youngsville and opened a store on West Main street in the fall of 1867. In June, 1885, he removed to the building which he now occupies. He carries stock worth about $3,000.

W.J. Mead and B.J. Jackson, who keep on hand a good line of hardware stock, and trade under the firm style of Mead & Jackson, formed their partnership about eighteen years ago. Their goods are estimated to be worth about $7,000.

J.W. Agrelius, who deals in a stock of drugs and medicines valued at some $8,000, began his career as merchant in Youngsville about ten years ago. After dealing in partnership with Carter V. Kinnear one year and with W.A. Mains two years he continued the trade alone, and is now sole proprietor of the business.

The dry goods and general mercantile business now conducted by H.L. Mead & Co. was established by J.D. Mead in November, 1877. In December, 1883, he took into partnership with him his son H.L. Mead, the relation continuing until July, 1886, when the present firm, consisting of H.L. and C.S. Mead, was formed. Their stock varies in value from about $7,000 to $8,000.

The firm of McDowell & Kinnear, composed of L. McDowell and W.D. Kinnear, was formed about four years ago. The business was established about six months previously by William Spinner. The present firm are extensive dealers in hardware of all kinds, carrying stock worth some $5,000. The junior member of this firm is, as has before been stated, a grandson of the first merchant in the town, and a son of the merchant who was longest in business in Youngsville.

The general store of A.F. Swanson was started by the present proprietor three years ago. George K. Murray has dealt in jewels in Youngsville about three years. W.B. Phillips has had a harness shop here about two years.

W.D. Belnap began dealing in general merchandise here in November, 1886. Excepting three years which he passed in the army during the last war, and nine years in California, he has passed his mature life in Warren county, his father, Guernsey Belnap, having emigrated to Pittsfield from his native (Erie) county in 1826, when W.D. was six years of age.

The Youngsville Savings Bank was established in 1875. The first president was John McKinney; vice-president, Henry P. Kinnear, and cashier, John A. Jackson. Mr. Kinnear succeeded Mr. McKinney as president and remained in that office until his death. B.J. Jackson is at the present writing vice-president, and John A. Jackson is cashier.

Physicians, Past and Present. - The first resident physician in the township of Brokenstraw was Dr. John W. Irvine, who settled in the vicinity of Irvineton in about 1822, and after abiding there some eight or ten years returned to Philadelphia. He was, it is stated, an uncle of Dr. William A. Irvine. About 1826 Dr. James A. Alexander settled in Youngsville and remained here in active practice until not far from 1853, when he removed to Kentucky, the place of his death. Dr. Benjamin F. Parmiter came to Youngsville about the same time as Dr. Alexander, but remained only two or three years. In 1847 Dr. A.C. Blodgett, the veteran physician of Youngsville, made this place his home. A more extended sketch of his life appears in the biographical department of this work.

Dr. A.C. Axtell was born at Sheakleyville, Mercer county, Pa., on the 14th of July, 1828; attended lectures and dissections in 1853-54 in Starling Medical College, at Columbus, O., and began to practice in 1854 at New Lebanon, Mercer county. In April, 1865, he removed thence to Youngsville and has since then been continuously and busily engaged in practice here - a period at this writing of nearly twenty-two years.

Dr. C.H. Jacobs was born in Mercer county, Pa., in 1856; was graduated from the medical department of Western Reserve University at Cleveland, O., in February, 1883; and after a brief period of practice at Evansburg, Crawford county, came to Youngsville.

Dr. S.C. Diefendorf, born in Jefferson county, N.Y., on the 21st day of May, 1847, was graduated from the Geneva Medical College in the class of 1868-69. He practiced for a time with a preceptor at Syracuse, N.Y., and removed to Youngsville two years ago.

Hugh Addison Davenny, M.D., is also a native of Mercer county, Pa., where he was born in 1849. He has been engaged in practice about twenty-one years. In 1869-70 he took a course in the Buffalo Medical and Surgical College. He first practiced seven years in Youngsville, then four years in Oil City, seven years in Fredonia, Mercer county, Pa., three years in Mercer, the county seat of that county, and on the 28th of July, 1886, came back to his old home in Youngsville.

Lawyers. - The only regular legal practitioner acknowledged by all the courts of the State who practiced in Youngsville was J.B. Delamater, who made Youngsville his home for a short time about thirty-five years ago. He afterward became prominent as an oil dealer and politician, and is now wealthy.

The Post-office. - Until about the year 1819 the inhabitants of all this vicinity used to obtain their mail matter from the earlier office at Pittsfield. At that time Henry Kinnear was appointed postmaster, and opened an office in Youngsville, which was named Brokenstraw. Alfred Van Orman succeeded Kinnear in two or three years, and during his brief term the present name of the office was adopted, an office having been given to Dr. William Irvine at Irvineton, with the name of Brokenstraw. Other postmasters at Youngsville, nearly in their order, have been F.W. Brigham, W.F. Siggins, Andrew Alexander, Henry P. Kinnear, Frank Kinnear, Erasmus Foreman, A.M. Belknap, about twenty-one years, J.W. Agrelius, and the present incumbent, W.J. Davis (2d), who received his appointment from President Cleveland on the 9th of November, 1885.*

 

Irvineton. - Twenty-five years ago the site of Irvineton village presented to the traveler no signs of life beyond the quiet industries of the farmer, or the occasional shouts of lumbermen rafting their timbers down the river. Soon after that period, however, the intense oil excitement that agitated the entire region embraced within the limits of the several northwestern counties of Pennsylvania served to develop the resources which were given to this place by its natural position, and a lively village grew up. The name of Irvineton had been given to the vicinity previous to this time, and it now centered at this village. The post-office had been kept during all the previous years across the river, by Dr. Irvine and Edward Biddle. The first settler, strictly speaking, on the site of the present village, was John Cooney, who is now a merchant of thrift, and the postmaster at this place. Mr. Cooney came here in 1866 and "pitched his tent in a field;" the nearest neighbors being the Irvine family across the creek. Mr. Cooney built a house a few rods west of his present residence, opened a store in the front, and slept in the rear. At this time the oil excitement was very high, and there was also considerable lumbering. Besides his business as a merchant, Mr. Cooney boarded a number of men for several years, and thus deserves the credit of opening the first tavern in Irvineton. During his second year here he built another house, and during the third year still another. Three years ago he removed one of these old buildings to the site of his present store, and removed to it. He lumbered extensively when he first came, and acted also as a contractor for the building of railroads. There were then no mills in this part of the township except the mills of Dr. Irvine, at the mouth of the creek. The first regular hotel at Irvineton was built by Michael Swing in the latter part of the year 1866, and opened in the spring of 1867. It stood just north of the present railroad station. It burned about eleven years ago, while kept by R. Donovan. Donovan rebuilt it and kept it until another fire consumed it, in the spring of 1886. The only hotel now in the village was built by R.A. Kinnear in the fall of 1886, and is kept by T.C. Nuttall.

The first mill built in the village was erected by Perry Patch and Henry Walters about eight years ago. It is now operated by Patch & Arnold. H. and F. Walters are also now engaged in the manufacture of staves, etc., at Irvineton.

After Mr. Cooney, the next merchant in Irvineton was William Singleton, who opened trade in 1867. There are now three stores in the village besides that of Mr. Cooney, viz., the drug and general store of George W. Shannon, which has been open for fifteen or sixteen years; the general store of William H. Metzgar, who has traded here also about fifteen years; and the general and feed store of George W. Kolfrat, which has been open a shorter time.

The Post-office. - In 1867 the post-office was removed from "across the creek" for the convenience of the greatest number. Frank Metzgar was appointed postmaster, and since then he and his two brothers, William H. and G.W., have held the office for eighteen years. John Cooney was appointed to the position in November, 1885, and is the present incumbent.

Schools of Brokenstraw Township. - The first school taught in this township was under the management and instruction of Mathew Young. The next teacher was probably Edward Jones. One of the earliest school-houses stood on the brink of the hill in Irvineton, near the site of the present union school at that place. Another early teacher was John Lee Williams. After the organization of Youngsville borough in 1850, two school-houses were built in the borough, and for eight or ten years these seemed to answer every purpose, though one of them was enlarged in 1854, at an expense of $281. The next year a new building was erected on the east side of the creek, at a cost of $476. The schools were first graded in 1858, and W.F. Siggins took charge of the higher department, at one dollar a day and his dinner. Elizabeth Siggins took charge of the primary department, at four dollars a week, and boarded herself. The union school building was erected in 1871 at a cost of something more than $8,000. Its rooms are all spacious and well lighted and ventilated, besides being well furnished with modern furniture and all the equipments necessary to a school of the present day. It has four departments. The first principal was J.M. Hantz. The present one is W.W. Fell. At Irvineton the stone school-house built by the Irvine family was used until about fourteen years ago, when the present union school was built. It has three departments and is well prepared for the purposes of its erection. The principal is H.H. Weber. Besides these schools there are four others in the township.

Ecclesiastical. - The first church organized in Brokenstraw township was the Methodist Episcopal, though there were services held here for years before the permanent organization was effected. Rev. William McConnelly, the first preacher on the Brokenstraw, preached near the site of Youngsville in the year 1809. At this time (from 1800 to 1816) the salary of an itinerant preacher was eighty dollars a year and traveling expenses; an additional eighty dollars being allowed for the care of the wife, unless she was otherwise provided for, and sixteen dollars for each child. In 1812 Jacob Young and Bishop McKendree passed through the valley of the Brokenstraw, stayed over night at the house of Darius Mead, and on the following day the bishop preached, after which Jacob Young formed a class consisting of the following members: John Gregg and wife, Jacob Goodwin and wife, William Arthur and wife, Anna Mead and her son Philip, Betsey Ford, Polly Arthur and Polly Campbell - eleven in all. That was previous to the formation of a circuit. In 1813 the Chautauqua Circuit was formed, and was in the bounds of the Ohio Conference and the Ohio District. Youngsville was then one of the appointments. The circuit then had a membership of 150, and the entire conference, 1,690. John McMahon was preacher of the circuit, and Jacob Young was presiding elder of the district. From that time to the present there has been regular preaching at Youngsville. The list of preachers is as follows, it being borne in mind that they were not resident preachers before about 1851: 1814, Burrows Westlake; 1815, Lemuel Lane; 1816, Daniel Davidson; 1817, Curtis Goddard; 1818, John Summerville; 1819, John Summerville; 1820 (this year the Chautauqua Circuit was taken into the Genesee Conference and Genesee District, Gideon R. Draper presiding elder), Philetus Parker and David Smith; 1821, Parker Buell and Sylvester Cary; 1822, Parker Buell and Benjamin Hill; 1823, Asa Abell and John W. Hill; 1824, Nathaniel Reader and John Scott; 1825 (Chautauqua Circuit and Erie District taken into Pittsburgh Conference), Peter D. Horton and Joseph S. Barris; 1826, Joseph S. Barris and Dow Prosser; 1827, John Chandler and John Johnson; 1828 (Youngsville Circuit taken from Chautauqua Circuit), Hiram Kinsley and John Johnson; 1829, John P. Kent and L.L. Hamlin; 1830, James Gilmore and John J. Swazy; 1831, John C. Ayers, Samuel E. Babcock, and G.D. Kinnear; 1832, A. Young and Thomas Jennings; 1833, Hiram Luce and D. Pritchard; 1834 (Jamestown District), David Preston and H.N. Sterns; 1835, William Todd and James E. Chapin; 1836, J.H. Tocket and Theodore Stone; 1837, Josiah Flower and John Deming; 1838, C.C. Best and John Scott; 1839, B.S. Hill and Luther Kendall; 1840 (for this year only, this was named Youngsville, Warren, and Smethport District), B.S. Hill, A. Barris, and S. Henderson; 1841, Alexander Barris; 1842, John F. Hill; 1843, Martin Hineback; 1844, Horace Hitchcock; 1845-46, O.P. Brown; 1847, D. Vorce and D. King; 1848, D. Vorce and R.L. Blackner; 1849, S. Henderson and O.D. Parker; 1850, Samuel Sullivan (this year the circuit was divided by cutting off Wrightsville and Lottsville); 1851, Albert Norton; 1852, J.N. Henry and M. Hineback; 1853, James B. Hammond; 1854, Samuel S. Warren; 1855-56, A.R. Hammond; 1857, Samuel Holland; 1858, Samuel Holland; 1859, H.M. Bettis; 1860, George F. Reese; 1861-62, David Mizenn; 1863, A.H. Dome; 1864-65, C.M. Heard; 1866-67-68, James C. Sullivan; 1869-70, B.F. Delo; 1871, A.H. Bowen; 1872-73, Joseph F. Hill; 1874, S.S. Burton (Garland added to the charge and the parsonage built); 1875-77, L.W. Riley; 1878, W.B. Holt; 1879-81, A.S. Goodrich; 1882, I.N. Clover; 1883-86, H.G. Hall; 1886 and at present, T.W. Douglas.

From the beginning until 1818 the meetings were held for the most part in private houses or barns, and occasionally the school-house. In 1817 a house of worship was begun on the site now occupied by the Swedish church, and was completed and first used in 1818. It was a small, cheap, structure, and in 1827 was replaced by a second edifice, which is now occupied for purposes of worship by the members of the Swedish Lutheran Church. This house the Methodists were satisfied with until about 1882. In that year their present convenient and commodious church edifice was built. A Sabbath-school was started about sixty years ago, and has been kept up ever since; the average attendance upon the Sabbath-school is now said to be about fifty. The present trustees of the church and parsonage are Willard J. Davis, John Agrelius, Erastus A. Davis, G.A. Jackson, John Jackson, J.I. Sanford, M.D. Whitney, John Black, Henry Mead. The Sabbath-school superintendent is J.I. Sanford. The other church officers are, stewards, John Agrelius, Sarah Agrelius, Erastus A. Davis, Adelia Davis, W.H. Shortt, Willard J. Davis, Miss Florence Chipman, and Mrs. Jane Thatcher. J.I. Sandford is class leader. There is now a membership in the church of about 125.

In the first half of this century, at the same time that she displayed her unselfish interest in the town by building the stone school-house at Irvineton, Mrs. William Irvine showed her devotion to her spiritual faith by also constructing, or causing to be constructed, a church in the same community, in which the Presbyterians for some time worshiped, but which is now occupied in common by the Presbyterians and Methodists. The services of the former denomination are conducted by the Presbyterian clergyman from Sugar Grove, and of the latter by the pastors of the Methodist Church of Youngsville. There is also at Irvineton a Roman Catholic Church, which was erected in 1871. It is attended by Father Lavery, of Tidioute, and has a membership of about forty families. At Youngsville also the Swedes have established a Lutheran Church, and have since their organization, some three years ago, occupied the old Methodist Church, though at the present writing they are engaged in building a neat and commodious edifice of their own.

 

* W.J. Davis is a grandson of Abraham and a son of Elijah L. Davis, the latter of whom is now a resident of Cincinnati, whither he removed in 1838.

SOURCE: Page(s) 401-420, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887