History of Warren County, Chapter 40

CHAPTER XL

HISTORY OF COLUMBUS TOWNSHIP

THE territory now comprising for the most part the township of Columbus was formed as early as the 8th of March, 1821, by the name of Northwest, and attached to Spring Creek. It was organized as a separate township on the 25th day of May, 1825, and from that time was called Columbus. The first township election was held in the spring of 1826, at the house of Captain David Curtis. It is bounded north by Chautauqua county, N.Y., east by Freehold township in this county, south by Spring Creek, and west by Erie county, Pa. The township is said to have received its name in the following manner: David Curtis, from Sherburne, N.Y., and Kimball Webber, from Columbus, N.Y., both wanted to name the town from their former places of residence, and after much hot debate it was agreed that the person who should furnish the most whisky at election day should have the privilege of naming the new township. Webber offered five gallons and named the township. It cannot be learned at this date what the whole result of the first election was, but it is known that Joseph Munroe had already been commissioned justice of the peace by the governor, and officiated in the organization of the election board; that Edmund Rowe was the first constable; and that not all the whisky contributed for the first election was then consumed.

Early Settlers.—The earliest settlement of Columbus is not well ascertained, and at this period in the history of the township the facts are for the most part irretrievably lost. The first instrument procuring the settlement of this portion of the State was the Holland Land Company. Their agent for this territory was William Miles, and it seems probable that soon after the year 1795, though not before, a few settlers succeeded in building their rude huts and clearing each a small space for cultivation. But their stay was not prolonged. Those settling within the present limits of Columbus, so far as known, were Irvine, Call, Miller, two Vails, Daniel Prosser, Maxwell, and Davis. All their supplies had to be brought from Pittsburgh. They suffered privations which can not be adequately described. They struggled on until the cold season in the years 1805 and 1806, when they became discouraged, abandoned their settlement, and sought a warmer climate and an older community. As an example of the effect of those cold seasons, and the consequent failures in crops, the settlers had to pay three dollars per bushel for potatoes and transport them from Union, a distance of fifteen miles. On one of these improvements, as late as, 1814, were the remains of a school-house, with its benches of split logs and desks of slabs, formed with the ax in the most primitive style, and fastened to the log walls with large wooden pins. In 1800 and 1801 Nathaniel Frampton, Daniel Horn, Joseph Phillis, and perhaps one or two others, made settlements here and remained a number of years, some of them until their death. In the spring of 1804 Daniel Corbett came from Lancaster county, Pa., and settled on the farm next east of Sample Flats. He weathered through the cold season, and in 1807 built a saw-mill on his farm, which enabled him to construct warmer houses for himself and others, and to make a little money by rafting lumber down the river to market. His wife was a daughter of Nathaniel Frampton. Corbett remained on his farm until about 1830, or a little later, when he died. John Sample, another early settler, was a son-in-law of Nathaniel Frampton, and settled as early, probably, as 1800, on the tract in the southwestern part of the town, known at the present day as Sample Flats. Mr. Sample was a good farmer, increased his landed property here, and performed his duties as a citizen and a Democrat until his death, not far from twenty years ago. His grandson, John, lives now in the same neighborhood, and other grandchi1dren are residents of this township. John Sample, jr., was a bachelor son of John, sr., and owned property adjoining his father’s farm. He survived his father a few years. The Prosser clearing, named after Daniel Prosser, was about in the center of the township.

Daniel Call settled previous to 1800 on a farm about two miles northwest from what is now the borough of Columbus, the place being still recognized as Call Hill. He went away during the cold season of 1805—6.

Daniel Horn lived as late as 1806 about one mile east of the site of Columbus borough, on the farm now occupied by Elmer Crosby. In 1866 he removed to Spring Creek, where his children still reside. Nathaniel Frampton was living in this township with his son-in-law, John Sample, until as late as 1825.

Michael and James Hare were settlers, previous to 1806, about a mile south of the site of Columbus borough. Others of the same surname lived near the site of Corry, but they had all gone away before 1806.

Luther Chase settled between 1806 and 1816 in this township, near the line of Spring Creek. Not far from 1830, it is stated, he removed to Titusville. He was not able to accumulate much property, for he had a large family, and when he settled here he was well along in years. He was not a public man in any sense of the word.

James Phillis lived near the Corbett farm for a time, and after that moved around considerably. He married a daughter of James Irvin, near Wrightsville. He was something of a lumberman, but much more of a hunter. A number of years after 1825 he went West. He has a number of descendants in the county now.

Thomas Tubbs was reared by Daniel Corbett. He was born in Lancaster county, Pa., on the 11th of August, 1793, and while a small lad was bound out to Daniel Corbett for a term of twelve years. He has written and published a pamphlet memoir of his life, and describes Corbett as cruel, tyrannical, accustomed to steal and lie. Tubbs died but a few years ago near Titusville.

These first settlers obtained their property rights by settlement and residence. About the year 1822 Captain David Curtis, as agent for H.J. Huydekopper, the successor of the Holland Land Company, proposed to exchange wild lands in the "Brokenstraw country" for improved lands in Central New York, and being a practical surveyor, he came here with some others from Chenango county, N.Y. Soon after this time he sent Jabez Johnson to this township from Chenango county, who settled at what is now the Center. There he built a house and for some time boarded others who had come, while they were erecting houses of their own. Johnson was born on the 18th of November, 1798; was the first Yankee settler in Columbus, and became well known here before he died, on the 12th of February, 1841. He was a shoemaker by trade and engaged in that occupation after his settlement until his death. About 1823 Captain Curtis, who was probably the wealthiest of the settlers, came here with his family and took the Johnson farm, upon which he passed the rest of his life. He was born on the 18th of August, 1786, and died July 27, 1832. His wife, Delilah, was born September 5, 1791, and died February 10, 1872.

In 1823 others came also, most of them under the influence of Captain Curtis. Among them were Aaron Walton, Porter K. Webber, Edmund Rowe, Julius Merriam, and Levi Boardman, all of them single young men engaged in chopping and clearing. The next year Kimball Webber, Matthias Spencer, Aaron Walton, sr., John Dewey, Luther Mather, and probably William Z. Bush, moved their families from New York State and became permanent settlers. From that time on the settlements became rapidly thicker and more modern. When Aaron Walton, sr., came here he found no store in the township except a small affair kept by Porter Webber at his house about a mile east of the present borough limits. By the summer of 1825 the lumber trade had not become a very prominent industry, though it was in full tide farther down the river. The little saw-mill which Daniel Corbett had built on his farm had nearly gone to decay, and there was no other in town except the one then in process of construction by Luther Mather, at the falls, in what is now the borough. Mather was also building a grist-mill - the first in the township - on the site of the mill now owned by Aaron Francis. Mather lived then in a little sixteen by sixteen plank house on the west side of the Brokenstraw, on land now forming a part of the mill property—then the only house within the area of the present borough. The site of Columbus village was covered with an almost unbroken growth of forest; there was no bridge across the creek, only a rough log thrown over. There was no post-office, the little mail that was obtained being brought from Warren. There was no physician here, though Mrs. Aaron Walton had quite a practice in attending families at the birth of children.

Luther Mather, who took so active a part in the improvement of the township, especially of the village, was a son of Stephen Mather, and was born in Bennington, Vt., on the 24th of June, 1785. He came to Columbus in March, 1825, from Jefferson county, N.Y., where he had been living for a number of years. Immediately upon arriving here he became the first settler in, and the founder of the village of Columbus. He built a part of a saw-mill with a little lumber that he had brought with him, and from that sawed out the rest of his building material. Soon after his brother Daniel and Dr. M. F. C. Fitch bought near him, and in a settlement with J.H. Huydekopper for his services as surveyor, Captain Curtis became possessed of lands opposite and also included in the site of the borough. Daniel Mather and M.F.C. Fitch each donated lands for a public square on the west side of the creek, and Dr. Fitch surveyed and plotted that portion of the borough. David Curtis donated a public square and cemetery on the east side of the creek, and surveyed and plotted that part of the borough.

Luther Mather married November 7, 1811, Gabrielle B. Balmat, then of Jefferson county, N.Y., but a native of Paris, France. She died at Columbus in January, 1881, at the age of nearly ninety years. Her husband had gone before her on the 9th of June, 1842. They had six children, of whom five live—Harriet M., widow of Erastus Pearce, in Crawford county; Jedediah P., now of Council Grove, Kan.; Joseph V., now of Bear Lake, in this county; Eliza M., widow of Loren Pearce, now in Columbus, and Arvilla A., now wife of H.A. Baker, and residing in Corry, Pa.

Among the settlers who came to Columbus during that flood-tide of immigration preceding 1830 was Solomon Dutton. He was born in New Hampshire in 1804, of Richard and Sarah (Grant) Dutton, grew to manhood in Columbus, Chenango county, N.Y., and in 1829 married Rebecca Rice and removed to this township, where he died in 1857, and was followed by his widow in 1876. They had a family of four children—Sarah E., Adelia A., Hiram R., who died in infancy, and Richard D. After he came to this place he taught two terms of school in a log building in the district now called the center school district. He was an acting justice of the peace for more than twenty-one years, school director several years, and has held the office of assessor. It is said that he officiated at the marriage of more than fifty couples. By occupation he was a farmer.

L.C. Baker, who lives here now, came to Columbus in 1837, from Cattaraugus county, N.Y., though originally from Chenango county, with his father, Ira, who settled in the southern portion of the township and there died in 1885. D.C. Blair came with his step-father, John Judson, in 1841, and settled in the village, first on the east and soon after on the west side of the creek. Judson died in 1878. He was for years a prominent merchant of the town, associate judge of the county, and in other respects a well-known public man and a lifelong Democrat. Although he came here from Bradford county, Pa., he was originally from Madison county, N.Y. Ira Baker was a farmer of large property and was also a very active man. Messrs. Baker and Blair have furnished the following information concerning the growth of business interests in the village and townships since their recollection, and from tradition: "As before stated, the first store in town was kept by Porter Webber. Perhaps the first in the village was kept by William Jackman, on the site now occupied by the store of Baker & Co. He moved to Illinois in 1846 and died there. For a year or two, about 1843—44 and 1845, a peculiar industry was carried on here, viz., the manufacture of fanning-mills by John Smith, Charles Anderson, and one or two others; but it never became very flourishing. Anderson was a great inventor, and only a few years previous to this had invented a new steam engine for propelling boats. He built a steamer here and took it down the river to Beaver for the machinery, but his invention there failed. By 1840 the village had become at least as large as it now is. At this time Judson & King were the principal merchants in the village and township, their store standing just west of the grist-mill. Besides dealing in general merchandise they bought and sold lumber and shingles, which were then practically a legal tender. About 1848 they sold out to Enfield Leach and Alfred Willoughby. Leach kept the store five or six years and was succeeded by Willoughby. Morillo Woodworth became then a partner of Willoughby, and this firm kept up the business until about 1861.

About 1850 Davis Jones and Charles Hewitt opened a store on the site of Yates & Smith’s present store, and after some three years were succeeded by Dyer Elderkin and William Walker. They wound up the business in two or three years. The present building was erected by D.A. Dewey in 1871. About 1876 he was followed by Cyrus Blakeslee, who in turn sold out to George F. Yates.

D.C. & G. Blair, brothers, opened a store in a building still standing just west of the hotel about 1851, and traded in it for nineteen years. Upon the retirement at that time of George Blair, D.C. Blair took his son-in-law, E.S. Royce, into partnership with him, which continued some three years. Royce then purchased the business and property and engaged in it for four years, when he sold out also to Mr. Yates. For about the fifteen years following 1850, the other part of the building occupied, as last stated, was occupied successively by D.A. Dewey, Richard Dewey, A.J. Atherly, G.V.N. Yates, Muzzy, Horn & Cady, and Muzzy, Howard & Mallett, the last-named firm finally closing out. In 1867 D.A. Dewey and D.H. Cady started a store "on the bridge" on the west side of the creek, and kept it about two years, after which Dewey continued it alone until 1871.

The saw-mill which Luther Mather built in 1825 stood on the east side of the creek until about 1840, when it was rebuilt on the west side, above the grist-mill. The grist-mill has been many times rebuilt. About 1830, or a little later, Mather moved about a mile down the creek, and there erected a saw-mill on the site of the present mill of Russell Clark, and remained there until his death. Meantime William Jackman had succeeded him in the ownership and possession of the grist and saw-mill, and kept them in operation until about 1842 or 1843, when he failed, and the property went into the hands of Judson & Hutchins, of Waterford, Pa. Daniel Walton then bought them and operated them until 1864, at the same time doing a general mercantile and lumbering business. Stephen Stewart then had the property, and sold the mills to D.C. & G. Blair, who, after running them a few months, sold them to Henry Stevens, also in 1864. In one year they sold to James Smith and John Eason, who operated them five years; Smith, Eason & Walton, Walton & Eason, A.W. Francis and M.E. Skinner, and finally A.W. Francis alone had charge of the property. Mr. Francis is the present proprietor.

The second mill that Mather erected, he and his son, J.D. Mather, operated until 1842, when the latter continued it until 1857. It was then sold by the sheriff to George Cady, Ethan Skinner, and Asa Walton. After several years they sold to George Vermilya, who transferred the property to the present owner, Russell Clark, about fifteen years ago.

Captain David Curtis built a saw-mill before 1830 in the village, a little down stream from Mather’s first mill, and near the mouth of Coffee Creek, which passed through many hands, and was burned in 1863. Soon after D.A. Dewey built a steam mill on the site, which was abandoned in a few years. As early as 1830 Elijah Smith built a saw-mill about half a mile east of the village, and connected with it a small grist-mill. Smith & Hull operated the two mills for several years. It was afterward successively operated by Mr. Pinney, of Pittsburgh, and M.P. Osborne, until the decline of the lumber trade, when it was abandoned.

At one time, about 1840, Pine Valley, in the northeastern part of the township, was quite a settlement. There were three mills, owned and operated respectively by Justin Danforth, Ezra Beals, and Thomas Barker and his father. About 1860 the decline of the lumber business brought this smiling village to dust. The steam mill of D.H. Parker is the only industry there now. About one and a half miles north from Pine Valley, on what is called the "Sulphur Spring" property, is the steam saw-mill of Clemens, Huffman & Jamieson,. which was built in 1885, and is now doing a large business. Chauncey Marble also has a saw-mill in the north part of the township, about four miles from Columbus borough, which he built in 1885, and which is doing a good business. The height of prosperity of this borough, Columbus, was during the greatest period of activity of the lumber traffic and manufacture between 1850 and 1861. The oil business and the junction of railroads then conspired to enlarge Corry at the expense of Columbus, and with the growth of that place has been a corresponding decline of prosperity in Columbus. The borough was chartered in 1853, and on the 29th of March of that year an election was held in the school-house on the west side. Nathaniel Stacy was chosen judge, Charles Hewitt and G.W. Bracken, inspectors, and E.C. Stacy and Jones Smith, clerks. The officers elected at this time were Ozro A. Smith, burgess; W.L. Weed, William Byington, William Walker, Alexander Barris, and D.W. Elderkin, common council; O.A. Smith and D.W. Elderkin, justices; G. W. Bracken, constable; A. Barris, F.R. Burroughs, and D.W. Mason, school directors; John Judson and M.S. White, path-masters; M.S. White, judge; W.C. Howard and Asa Walton, inspectors of elections; Lucius Spencer, assessor; D.C. Blair, D.A. Dewey, and Hollis King, auditors. There being some irregularity in this election, another was afterward held with the same result, except that G.V.N. Yates was chosen justice.

Present Business Interests.—Of the four stores now open in Columbus borough, the one of longest standing is that of George F. Yates and Albert J. Smith, who deal in general merchandise under the firm name of Yates & Smith. The firm was formed on the 12th of February, 1883, succeeding George F. Yates. The previous history of this store has already been related. Their present stock is valued at about $5,000.

The firm of Rhodes & Rowe Brothers, consisting of W.R. Rhodes, C.E. Rowe, and F.M. Rowe, was formed more than two years ago, and deal in stock containing, among other things, drugs and medicines. They estimate their stock to be worth about $7,000. The firm of A. Baker & Co. was formed about two years ago. F.M. Rowe had a store in this building before it was occupied by this firm. H.L. Zimmerman, dealer in stoves, general hardware, lime, cement, phosphate, coal, etc., began in Columbus township and borough in September, 1885, succeeding F.C. Smith, who had been here for several years.

Hotels.—The first tavern or hotel built and kept in the township was that erected in 1826 by Porter K. Webber, which is in part the same building now owned and occupied by H. L. Gordon, on the east side of the creek. In 1844 George Cady succeeded Webber, and remained until 1860, since when it has passed through many hands. The property came into the hands of Mr. Gordon in the spring of 1885.

As early as 1830 Dr. M.F.C. Fitch built the other hotel on the west side of the creek, and after a short time was succeeded by Daniel Walton, who kept it until 1849, and was followed by William L. Weed. From that time for years it kept changing hands, until H.P. Stevens bought it. He was the last one who kept the house open for guests, and he left in 1884. The house is not now used for hotel purposes.

There have not been many hotels outside of the village of Columbus in the township. At Pine Valley Lyman Calkins kept, tavern about the year 1840, which was afterward in the hands of Anson Quimby, George Shannon, and others, and was closed before 1860. It was noticeable for its sign, which read, "Call and See," and the House was designated as the "Call-and-see House." A mile east of the village S.W. Webber had a hotel between 1850 and 1860, but discontinued it previous to the latter date. The building was destroyed by fire about 1872 or 1873. About three miles east of the village the Kansas House was opened in 1856 by Seth and Delos Wilber. After the lapse of three or four years it was converted into a private house, which it still remains.

The Tannery.—As early as 1840 Porter Damon built the first tannery in town, on the site of the present one. It was then but a small "pocket" affair. He was followed by Horace English as early is 1847, who kept it in operation about ten years in connection with the manufacture of boots and shoes, and sold out to Hollis King and Asa Walton. They ran it until about 1864 under the name of King & Walton, and were succeeded by Rose & Hewitt. The senior member of the new firm soon went out, and William Hewitt continued the business for a year or two, and was followed by Nathaniel Pearson. The next proprietor was Byron Pearson, from about 1868 to 1870, when John Williams acquired the property. His son, Frank Williams, is the present owner and proprietor.

The Equitable Aid Union of America, which has carried the name of Columbus to all parts of the United States, describes the purpose of its institution in its title. It was chartered on the 22d of March, 1879, under the laws of Pennsylvania, the headquarters of the company being at Columbus. The incorporators were D.A. Dewey, R. Nell Seaver, H.S. Ayer, W. H. Muzzy, and W.B. Howard, all of Columbus. D.A. Dewey was president of the association until March, 1886, when he was succeeded by R.N. Seaver, who had been vice-president all the time previous. Mr. Seaver has also been supreme medical examiner during the history of the union. Since its organization, also, H.S. Ayer has held the office of accountant, and W.H. Muzzy of secretary. In addition to the five incorporators, two representatives from New York and two more from Pennsylvania came in in September, 1884, and since that time there have been added one from each State. The organization was introduced for the benefit of persons everywhere who were not able to enter other more expensive or less liberal associations in other respects similar to this one. It is not introduced as a competitor to any similar order heretofore existing, but solely with a view to extend social and financial benefits to a very large and worthy class of our fellow citizens entirely cut off and, as the incorporators justly think, unrighteously ignored by other organizations of a similar nature. They started with only the one society at Columbus, but at this writing they have 560 different societies in sixteen States and Territories from Dakota to Massachusetts. They have about 18,000 insurable members in all, besides about 2,000 non-beneficiary members. In November, 1886, they had paid 687 death policies, involving $1,269,705.45 in money.

The Post-office.—The first postmaster in this township was Captain David Curtis, who was appointed as early as 1829, and probably earlier. His successors in the office have been about as follows: Robert Campbell, William Jackman, Mark White, who was appointed about 1845 and served several years, E.C. Stacy, Davis Jones, F.R. Burroughs, Lewis Crosby, W.H. Muzzy, Lewis Crosby, James Hopkins, Lewis Crosby, S.L. Skiff, O.A. Smith, and the present incumbent, Frank O. Howard, who was appointed on the 12th of April, 1886. The office was named Coffee Creek post-office until about 1840, when the present name was adopted.

Schools and Churches.—The first school held in the township was at the house of Kimball Webber, in 1824, and was taught by his daughter Sophronia, for thirteen weeks at one dollar per week. There are now in the borough two school buildings, with three departments, and an attendance of more than one hundred pupils. Outside of the borough are twelve schools.

A history of the religious movements in this township would be incomplete without somewhat extended mention of the most prominent clergyman and theologian in the town. Rev. Nathaniel Stacy was born on the 2d of December, 1778, in New Salem, Mass. His father, Rufus Stacy, was a fisherman during the seasons, on the banks of Newfoundland, and, like his mother, was a native of Gloucester, Mass. They were probably of Scotch or Irish descent. The subject of this notice studied theology under the tuition of Rev. Hosea Ballou, of Massachusetts, and did his first preaching near New Salem. He was always of diminutive stature, being five feet and one inch in height, and weighing for years but ninety-nine pounds. His heaviest weight was 105 pounds. He was active in movement and rapid and nervous in speech, but at the same time was of a very calm and even-tempered disposition. He lived his religion. In the fall of 1798 he went to Bridgewater, Vt., where, for his health, he tried blacksmithing and several other manual occupations. He soon returned to Massachusetts. Then he went to Hamilton, Madison county, N.Y., in April, 1808, after itinerating through Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York, and remained there during a period of twenty-two years. On the 30th of January, 1806, he married Susan, daughter of Perez Clark. In 1830 he came to Columbus, Pa. In his Memoirs (page 359) he says of this country then: "Although the country was mostly in a state of nature, and the roads intolerable, still I was pleased with it. It evidently possessed great strength of soil, with the heaviest growth and the greatest variety of timber I had ever seen, or have since seen, thrown together in any one place." At that time there were here the houses of Luther Mather and Captain Curtis, a building erected for a public house, another for a store, shops for blacksmithing, shoemaking, wagon-making, and other mechanical employments. After five years he removed to Ann Arbor, Mich., where he remained about five years, and then came back to Columbus, where he spent the remainder of his life, preaching, as he says, until spiritualism "broke out," about 1851 or 1852, and his meetings were interrupted. From that time he engaged in only occasional preaching. He died April 7, 1868, and was followed by his widow exactly one year and six months afterward. They had eight children, of whom only three, Judge Edwin C. Stacy, now of Albert Lee, Minn., Clara, wife of John D. Anderson, of Washington, Iowa, and Charlotte, wife of O.A. Smith, of this township, survive. The house now occupied by O.A. Smith in Columbus borough was built by Rev. Stacy in 1832. He was the first Universalist preacher, and the organizer of the Universalist Church, in Columbus. He came at the solicitation of Peter C. Howard, Ezra Dutton, Solomon Dutton, Captain Curtis, Isaac Crosby, and others of that denomination. The house of worship was erected under Mr. Stacy’s direction in 1847, and is now a union church. While Mr. Stacy was in Ann Arbor, the spiritual needs of the church were placed in the care of Rev. L Payne. Since the death of Mr. Stacy the Universalist society has not flourished. Indeed, it is said that all the churches have felt the inroads of spiritualism severely.

In 1830 the majority of the settlers were inclined to Methodism in religion, among the early members of that persuasion being James Sears and wife, Samuel H. Ayer, Joseph Sheffield and wife, A. Soggs, David York and wife, Mrs. Eli Crosby, Mr. and Mrs. Henderson, Mr. and Mrs. Marsh, Lloyd Smith, Mr. Brightman, William Jackman and wife, and Watson Miller and wife. Joseph O. Rich, the first preacher, was here about 1830 or 1832. The most prosperous period in the history of the church was about 1840. The house of worship was erected in 1839. The present pastor is Rev. George Hummason. The membership now is about twenty.

The only church in the township outside the borough is that of the United Brethren, who have had a church organization in Pine Valley about twenty-five years, and built their church edifice as many as twenty years ago.

SOURCE: Page(s) 483-492, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887