History of Warren County, Chapter 39

CHAPTER XXXIX

HISTORY OF KINZUA TOWNSHIP

KINZUA township lies on the eastern border of Warren county, and is bounded north by Allegheny River, separating it from the townships of Glade and Elk, east by Corydon and McKean county, south by Sheffield, and west by Mead. It is a good farming town, the soil being composed of a sandy loam along the streams and on Kinzua Flat. The fruits and cereals are raised here in goodly quantities, while a prosperous dairying interest has sprung up in the last few years, which adds much to the agricultural growth of the township. Kinzua was one of the seven towns in Warren county, the organization of which was effected on the 8th of March, 1821, and was first called "Number Eight." Its name, it is said, is of Indian origin, the word meaning fish. This section of the country was in early times one of the favorite resorts of the Indians during the fishing seasons, who bestowed upon it the peculiar title which has been adopted by their civilized successors.

Early Settlements.—The original industry here was identical with that of all the towns in Western Pennsylvania, which could find water channels to the, great lumber markets of early days—viz., lumbering. About the year 1800 a number of energetic and enterprising men procured the right to strip these lands of their timber for the purpose of rafting it south to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and the other markets on the great rivers that pour their waters into the Gulf of Mexico. Among these men (who came then or later) were John Dickson, who lived on the west side of Kinzua Creek, a little south of the present residence of William English, our informant. Dickson, though mentioned first, could not have attained prominence until some years after 1800, as he lived in town until within five or six years. He was also a great hunter and fisherman, and cultivated a farm.

The first permanent settler in Kinzua, however, was James Morrison, who settled on Morrison’s Island in 1801. He was soon followed by Benjamin Marsh, Seaman, Fisher, and others.

Jeremiah Morrison, who is mentioned in the list of taxables of Warren county for 1806, lived for a time in Kinzua, removed to Cincinnati, and came again to this town. His was a locomotive disposition. He died a number of years ago in a canoe, on the way to Tidioute from Kinzua.

Abijah Maddock came here from Cincinnati at a very early day, and began lumbering on the Indian reservation with John English. Although he was thus identified, in a manner, with the town, he can hardly be deemed a resident. He was always going and coming after and with rafts of lumber for the south. One of his sisters was married to James Morrison. Galen Maddock was a brother of Abijah, and was connected with this town in the same business. He died in McKean about thirty years ago.

Between the date of the opening of the country during the first ten years of the present century, and the setting off and formation of this township in 1821, a considerable immigration had poured into this part of the country, and affairs looked favorable for the establishment of a prosperous community. Among those whose names appear in the list of 1822 are the following:

George Blacksnake owned property here in some manner, though he was an Indian chief of the Seneca tribe, and resided on the reservation at Cold Spring.

In 1821 John Campbell lived on the west side of the Allegheny River, but soon after removed to Kinzua and settled on the west side of Kinzua creek, in the southest part of the town. He was a farmer, lumberman, etc., and was fond of hunting.

William English, from whom the writer has obtained much of the information concerning the early settlers of this township, was born in Lycoming county, Pa., on the 3d day of March, 1818. He was the son of John and Mary English, who were reared in the county of his birth. John English brought his family to Kinzua in the year 1821, and two years later settled on the place still occupied by his son William. John English was an honorable and successful farmer, and was also engaged to some extent in the lumber business. He died in 1868, and in five weeks was followed by his widow. In 1846 William English married Laura E. Parmenter, of Chautauqua county, N.Y., who has passed an harmonious period of forty years with her husband. They have seven children living—viz: Mary Ella, wife of Thomas Fullerton; Orren, Solon, George W., Charles Fletcher, Alice L, wife of Hector Strong, and John, who is the only one remaining at the home of his parents. Rice English, now a resident of Kinzua, is a brother of William.

In 1831 Claudius English, an uncle of William, came to Kinzua and settled on the site of the village, and passed the remainder of his days within a mile of his first settlement.

At the time of the formation of the township there were within its limits but one or two patches of clearing, besides the already large clearing on Morrison’s Island, which is said by some to have been the work of Indians long before the arrival of the white man. William Morrison had a small piece cleared on Kinzua Flat, these two being the only clearings worthy of the name. There was not a road in town, the only means of travel or transportation being furnished by the streams and canoes. Wild beasts abounded—bears, deer, wolves; while rattlesnakes added the terrors of their presence to diminish the comfort of the human intruders. Wolves were so numerous that it was practically impossible to keep sheep. There was even danger in the necessary custom of letting the cows run in the woods, with no other safeguard against loss than the tintinnabulating cow-bells which depended from their throats. There was not a sign or suspicion of a village. The inhabitants, few and far between, were not accommodated with the convenience of a store and delivery wagons, the nearest place in which to purchase goods and the necessary provisions of life being at what was, then called a store, kept by Benjamin Marsh, just over the line, in Corydon. Most of the trade of the town, however, was given to Warren, whither the people made frequent trips in canoes. During the rafting seasons, also, it was the custom to bring large quantities of provisions from Pittsburgh by canoe. There was no grist-mill here, the grain being taken to Warren for grinding. It was not long after this that John English, Smith Labree, Comfort Hamlin, and John Hamlin built a grist and saw-mill near the site of the present railroad station, and on the ground now covered by the mill of H.A. Jamieson. These mills were the first erected within the present limits of the town, excepting the five mills of Jacob Hook, which stood on the strip afterward set off to Mead township. As early as 1828 John Campbell, James Stewart, and Robert Arthur, all of whom had married daughters of Martin Reese, built a saw-mill in the southwestern part of the town, and operated it until it wore out. Samuel Campbell, son of John, rebuilt it, and operated it until it went down, some ten or twelve years ago. The next mill was built several years later by Andrew Merritt and Robert Campbell about a mile above the mill last mentioned, and near the McKean county line. Then a number of years later still John L. English and Sylvester Strong erected another mill a considerable distance below the John Campbell mill, on Kinzua Creek. About this time Stephen and Jesse Morrison, sons of Samuel, built a saw-mill on the Allegheny River, near the head of Morrison’s Island; but this and all the other mills have long since gone to decay, and with the exception of the one first mentioned, which occupied the present site of H.A. Jamieson’s mill, their places know them no more. The grist-mill was operated first by John English, then by Anthony Courson and others, until a few years ago Denton & Chattle assumed management and continued their joint labors for some time. Their successor, the present occupant, W.H. Hoxie, is worthy of his precession.

The Village.—Until as late as 1850 the town was without the convenience of a business center of any sort. The first settlers directly on the site of the village of Kinzua were Jacob and Comfort Hamlin, Comfort Knapp, and Smith Labree. Until that time there was no tavern in town, unless the name be applied to the house of Smith Labree, which, during the rafting seasons, was thrown open for their entertainment, and afforded all the comforts, but none of the extraordinary privileges of a licensed tavern.

The principal credit of building up the village belongs undoubtedly to Sterling Green. He was the eldest of ten children of Seth and Sarah Jane (Portman) Green, and was born in Pine Grove, Pa., in the year 1816. His father came from Massachusetts and settled in Pine Grove about 1813, and married Miss Portman in 1815. The family removed to the head of Kinzua Flat, in Corydon, where occurred the death of Seth Green in August, 1848. Sterling went to Warren, and was for a time actively engaged in the lumber business. In 1848—49 he kept the Mansion House. In 1849, when he came to Kinzua, he found the site of the village nothing but a farm in the hands of Smith Labree. This land he purchased, and immediately laid it out into village lots, kept the first store, and built the first hotel, the Kinzua House, in 1851, and in this way became the author of the village.

The year 1851, the author has been told, is memorable from the laughable occurrence of a dispute within the town limits in the fall of that year. The menagerie of G.C. Quick & Co., en route from Warren to Smethport, was admitted to the privilege (?) of performing and exhibiting to the people of Kinzua and vicinity. The proprietor, however, discouraged at the small number that gathered to see his "greatest show on earth," concluded to move on without giving the exhibition. The boys of the neighborhood insisted upon his fulfilling his contract, but nevertheless he began packing his impedimenta preparatory for departure. He had not proceeded far into the wild road that led from the town before he discovered "the boys" who had opposed his going felling trees across his path. They declared that unless the procession faced about and satisfied the demands of the spectators, they would fill the road with trees from Kinzua to Smethport. The proprietor, considering discretion the better part of valor, yielded to their somewhat peremptory importunities, pitched his tent, performed his agreement, and was permitted to go on his way unmolested. There are undoubtedly many of those "boys" now living in Kinzua, who recall the affair with a smile of satisfaction.

Present Business Interests.—Probably no town in the county has received more unmitigated benefit from the opening of a railroad through its borders than has Kinzua. It has created a market for all the products of the town, and has been greatly instrumental in increasing the population of the village.

The oldest mill and also the oldest mill site, as we have seen, in town is now owned by H.A. Jamieson, of Warren. Mr. Jamieson became the owner of this property in 1863, and has kept the mill in uninterrupted operation ever since. The grist-mill of W.H. Hoxie has been mentioned. The present proprietor has owned the mill, at the present writing, something over a year. The handle-factory of Mason Sheldon was started about tour years ago, as was the oar-factory of J.W. Neily.

The oldest hotel in town is the Kinzua House, which was erected in 1851 by Sterling Green. Mr. Green kept the house himself for twenty years, and has been followed successively by McIntyre & Langworthy, Eugene Marsh, William Fogles, Joseph Clendenning, Joseph Hale, and the present landlord, T.W. Dempsey, who came into the house more than two years ago. The next hotel was the Maple Shade, which A.T. Banks has kept since June, 1886, but which was first opened a number of years ago by J.H. Williams. Following Williams and preceding the present proprietor was L.W. Siggins.

The merchant who has been longest in continuous trade in town, is John H. King, who first opened a store here in 1870. The building which he now occupies was built by him about four years ago. Mr. King carries stock worth about $7,000.

Sterling Green has dealt in general merchandise in Kinzua village in all about ten years, though he has occupied the present building only since the opening of the railroad and the oil excitement, at which time he caused its construction.

E.A. Van Scoy and G.W. Morehouse, under the style of E.A. Van Scoy & Co., erected the store building they now occupy as dealers in hardware in 1880, just previous to the opening of the railroad. They have a good trade, carrying stock valued at about $6,500.

J. Tate has dealt in general merchandise about five years.

D.G. Blackman built the store which he now occupies for mercantile purposes in 1882, and after renting it for one year to William Wright, came into the building himself. His stock is estimated to be worth about $3,000.

In August, 1883, J.W. Green opened a jewelry and drug store here, and a year later the business was enlarged by the addition of S. Green. The firm name is now S. Green & Co.

The harness shop of S. Norton & Co. (S. Norton and Norton Cardot) was established in the fall of 1885. These gentlemen also have shop in Sinclairville, N.Y.

The first resident physician in town was Dr. Nichols, who practiced here a number of years following about 1850. Before his settlement in town the inhabitants were accustomed to call their physicians from Warren, whither they went on floats. One of the oldest inhabitants has informed the writer that he once went to Warren for a doctor in the night, when the darkness was so intense that he could not see the hills on either side of the stream, nor even distinguish the sides of his float. After Dr. Nichols came Dr. Hector Galloway, a single man, who, in connection with business as an Esculapian minister, taught school. He was here four or five years. Dr. Thomas Eddy then came, not far from 1870, and has been here ever since. Dr. J.J. Knapp, who was born in Farmington, this county, on the 15th of June, 1854, and was graduated in the spring of 1881 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Baltimore, came to Kinzua on the last day of March, 1881.

Postmasters.—The first postmaster in town was probably Benjamin Marsh, who had his office at his house on Kinzua Flat. Jonathan Marsh then held the office for a time, and was succeeded by Hiram Gillman. Sterling Green received the first appointment after the removal of the office to the village, or rather, he removed the office to the village. He was postmaster for eighteen years. The present incumbent is Mrs. Rose Murray, who owes her position to the present national administration.

Following is a list of the present officers of the township: Commissioners, John Smith, L. S. Strong, J.C. Fuller; judge of election, E.A. Weagraff; inspectors of election, Lovel Gibson, G.K. Brown; school directors, Mason Sheldon, J.W. Springer, Stephen Harris, R. P. Vanarsdale, H.W. Neily, G.W. Moorehouse; treasurer, James Tate; justices of the peace, R.H. English, D.G. Blackman; constable, A.J. Williams; collector, A.J. Williams; assessor, Frank L. English; town clerk, Frank L. English; auditors, S.O. Campbell, E.A. Weagraff, J.H. King; pathmasters, district No. 1, Calvin Stoddard; district No.2, Marcellus English; district No. 3, George W. English.

Educational—The first settlers in this township, from 1822 to 1825, patronized a school kept within the present limits of Corydon. In 1825 a rude structure of logs was the first house used for educational purposes in this town, and was the place where all the schools were kept until 1829. They were supported by subscription. The teachers in this house were Nelson Seaver, Presene Corbin, Sophronia Inglesby, and Hiram Gillmore. In 1829 this house was burned, and for five years schools were kept in several houses, according to the immediate convenience of the citizens. Rice Hamlin, Edward Evans, and Amanda Inglesby were teachers during this period. Since 1834 the town has not been without its regular district schools, which, on the whole, have been very creditable. The village of Kinzua is now graced with a fine school-house which was built in the year 1882, and first opened in the fall of that year. The cost of its construction was something more than $5,000. The first principal was O.J. Gunning, who has been succeeded by Firth, Daniel Reeves, and the present principal, Arthur M. Marsh. The school is conveniently divided into four departments. The average attendance is stated to be about 150 pupils.

Ecclesiastical.-The only church ever within the present limits of Kinzua township is the Methodist Episcopal Church, which, previous to about 1830, like all the Methodist churches, was accounted as a part of a circuit. Services were formerly held in private houses, barns, and wherever convenience, rather than comfort, dictated. Among the first members of the class formed here were John, Jacob, and Comfort Hamlin, Samuel, James, Elijah, and Levi Morrison, John Campbell, and John English, with their wives. About 1848 John English gave the ground on which at that time the present house of worship and parsonage were erected, at a total cost of about $2,500.00 The present pastor is Rev. Sampson Dimick. The trustees are Loren Labree, Dr. J.J. Knapp, William English, and others.

SOURCE: Page(s) 475-483, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887