History of Warren County, Chapter 46

CHAPTER XLVI

HISTORY OF SOUTHWEST TOWNSHIP

 

THIS township, which was formed from Deerfield in March, 1838, is situated in the extreme southwestern corner of the county, whence its name, and is bounded north by the township of Eldred, east by Triumph, south by Venango county, and west by Crawford county. It is nearly square in outline. Its population at present does not exceed, perhaps, a thousand souls, of whom not more than two hundred constitute the village of Enterprise. The town is intersected by Pine Creek, which flows in a southwesterly direction and, with its tributaries, forms the principal natural drainage of the town. This stream was from the beginning known as the east branch Of Oil Creek, and is still called occasionally by that name.

Early Settlers. - That portion of Warren county west and north of Allegheny River was settled a number of years earlier than the part lying to the-south and east - a fact which seems to affirm that even a stream no larger than the Allegheny River may form a boundary line or barrier which will mark the limit of human settlement for many years. Southwest township, or that portion of the county now confined within the limits of Southwest, was settled almost as early as any part of the county. We have no means of ascertaining the exact date of the first settlements, but they were probably about contemporary with the birth of the present century. One of the first settlers in the town, if he was not the first, was Richard Henderson, who had made quite a clearing here at the time the first list of taxables of the county was made out in 1806, lived about two miles east of the site of the village of Enterprise. His grandson, Clark Henderson, now owns and occupies the old homestead. He was what the other early settlers denominated a "Pennamite," i. e., a settler from the eastern part of Pennsylvania, as opposed to those who came from New York and England. There was considerable ill feeling between the Pennamites and the other settlers; and Richard Henderson, though a quiet, peaceable man, was not exempt from this dislike, and would not mingle much with his Yankee neighbors. He was a man of sterling character, however, one of the kind fitted by nature to fell the forests of a new country and aid in establishing schools and comfortable homes in the wilderness. He was in no sense of the word a public man, but attended strictly to his home affairs and family. We have not the date of Henderson’s death, but it must have been as late as 1850, for settlers who did not come here until 1847 or 1848 remember him. He and Selden Spencer were for a number of years the only Whig voters in this township.

Robert Hunter was another "Pennamite" settler, who came to this part of the county probably as early as 1800, and settled near to Richard Henderson. His son, Gates Hunter, now lives on the old homestead. Another son, Jared, lives not far from Grand Valley. Robert Hunter was one of the best citizens in the township, quiet and peace loving, industrious, temperate, and economical. He reared a large family. He died previous to 1847, and probably as early as 1840.

Thomas Gilson was another "Pennamite," whose settlement in town is probably dated as early as Henderson’s and Hunter’s. He was the first settler on the place some three miles and a half north of Enterprise, now owned and occupied by John Wales. He was a very active and prominent man among the early settlers, and was universally respected. He was passionately fond of hunting and trapping. He died not far from 1850. Mrs. Stowell Cheney is his daughter.

Between the year 1806 and the year 1838, the date of the formation of the township, many settlements were planted in this forest territory, and cultivated fields took the place of tangled underbrush and thick woods. The period intervening between about 1825 and 1836, however, was the period of most rapid immigration. The following paragraphs disclose the names of the most prominent settlers of this period, together with the places of their settlement, and such information concerning them as is deemed of interest, not to their descendants, but to the present inhabitants of the township.

The first name on the list is that of Jare Benedict. Particulars of his settlement and career are given in the sketch of his grandson, W.B. Benedict, appearing in later pages of this volume. His arrival to this township from New England was in the year 1833. He lived in the house afterward occupied by his widow, and in which he died. Selden Benedict, his son, came with him, and at the time of the formation of the township lived in the village of Enterprise, near the Spencer and Benedict mill. In 1840 he built the house now occupied by his son, W.B. Benedict. Elbridge Benedict settled in the village of Enterprise, where he remained until about 1871, in which year he removed to Corry, Pa., where his widow now lives. He died in Dakota in April, 1882, and was buried in Corry. His house in Enterprise was the second building west of Dunham’s store.

Elijah Bevier settled on a farm east of Enterprise and near the hamlet called Pineville. The Beviers were from Ulster county, N.Y., and went back previous to 1850, excepting Elijah Bevier himself who remained in town and died here but three or four years ago. He was a man of domestic tastes, quiet and respectable.

Benjamin Dunham settled two miles east of Enterprise on the Tidioute road, where he died many years ago. He reared a large family, some of whom, with their descendants, are now living in Venango county. Myron Dunham, now a respected citizen of the township, is his nephew. James Dunham was a brother of Benjamin and lived on the adjoining farm on the west. He was a bachelor. He died many years ago. William Dunham, another brother of Benjamin, lived about one mile east of Enterprise, where he operated a sawmill of his own for a number of years. About 1870 he sold his property to W.B. Benedict, and removed to Venango county, where one son lives at the present writing. William Dunham died at a ripe old age about two years ago.

Eli Dibble came to this town some time previous to 1838, and set up a carding-machine in the village of Enterprise nearly opposite the present residence of Alonzo Wilson, on the Pleasantville road. His son, Marcus T. Dibble, is a justice of the peace in this township now.

William Dunkin lived about a mile and a half north of Enterprise on the farm adjoining that of S. Cheney. He removed to Erie county, Pa., about 1866. He was a farmer of eccentric disposition. One son, John, now lives in Crawford county, near Titusville. His first wife was a daughter of George McCrea, of Crawford county, where he was an early settler. His second wife was a daughter of Thomas Gilson of this township.

Simeon Frear settled on a tract of land about four and one-half miles east of Enterprise on the Tidioute road, where he remained until his death, many years ago. He was a farmer and lumberman. He had several sons, none of whom are here now. They removed to Vineland, N.J., about the year 1866.

Hugh and William Gilson are mentioned in this list. They were sons of Thomas Gilson. The former settled on a farm five miles east of Enterprise on the Tidioute road, near Funk’s mill, where he died a number of years ago. The latter occupied a part of his father’s homestead north of the village, and after many years removed to some part of the Great West.

Dr. Alonzo Heffron, who was the eldest brother of Mrs. Selden Benedict, and son of the celebrated Dr. Heffron, of Madison county, N.Y. (see sketch of W.B. Benedict), came to Southwest from Madison county in 1837, and practiced medicine here until about 1844, when he removed to Fabius, N.Y. He died at that place a few years ago.

Warner Perry was born in Windham county, Conn., on the 7th of November, 1800, and came to Warren county in May, 1826. He settled at once on the hill about half a mile northeast of Enterprise. About 1840 he built the first hotel in town, which stood on the Pleasantville road a few rods south of the present hotel in Enterprise. Here he passed the remainder of his days, dying on the 17th of September, 1863. He was the first postmaster in town, receiving the appointment between 1845 and 1850, and holding it until his death. He was a justice of the peace in this town for the thirty-three years immediately preceding his death. He was county commissioner two terms, commencing with 1840, and in 1860 took the census in his district, which then comprised portions of Warren, Venango, and Crawford counties. He was a Democrat, and, as has undoubtedly been inferred from the public positions which he filled, he was a public-spirited man. He married Sarah Stowell, at Ashford, Conn., on the 24th of September, 1824, and by her reared a family of five children. Two of these only are living - Jason A., who now resides in Southwest, and Hiram S., who moved to Titusville in 1865, and thence to Warren, where he now resides, in 1879.

Dorus Wales came to Southwest from Ashford, Windham county, Conn., in 1826, with Warren Perry, and settled on the hill adjoining Mr. Perry’s place on the east. One Williams built the first mill in town, on the site of the Benedict mill, which was afterward operated by Mr. Lee, and then passed into the hands of the Messrs. Benedict. But to Dorus Wales belongs the honor of building the second mill - on Pine Creek, about half a mile above Enterprise, on the site now occupied by the Benson mill. This mill Mr. Wales operated until his death in 1854. He was a stepfather of Mrs. Warner Perry. Dorus Wales was not a public man, but a good business man, and one who loved quiet better than contention. His only living child, John Wales, is now a resident of this township.

Jonathan S. Cheney came to Southwest also from Windham county, Conn., in 1827, and settled on a farm about a mile east of Enterprise, on the Henderson road, so called. In 1840 he married Alice, daughter of John Gilson, who resides in town today. He died on the old homestead in the summer of 1886. He was a hard-working, home-staying man. Three of his sons and three of his daughters still reside in Southwest.

Enos Whitney, soon after 1833, settled about a mile east of Enterprise, on the Henderson road, and died a few years ago in Youngsville, where he had been for a number of years living with a daughter. None of his descendants now reside here. He was a laboring man.

George Kellogg settled on the site of what is now called Pineville, in the southeastern part of the town, where he built and operated a saw-mill, and a pottery for the manufacture of stone ware, etc. His wife was a daughter of Simeon Frear. In the oil excitement of 1865 he sold his land and removed to Vineland, N.J.

Truman Knight was a sawyer and worked for many years in the mills of Jare Benedict and of Spencer & Benedict. He came to Southwest from Central New York. He was especially noted for his gigantic structure and herculean strength. He was the father of one son and a number of daughters. The son, Samuel, was killed by a bear when he was about fourteen years of age. Some thirty-five years ago Mr. Knight went to Wisconsin.

John G. Smith, a native of Vermont, came here from Chautauqua county, N.Y., about 1835, and settled in Enterprise, where he worked in the clothdressing mill of Alonzo Wilson. At a later day he engaged successfully in the lumber business, and finally removed to Muddy Creek, in Crawford county; thence he went on to a farm near Union City, in Erie county, where he is still living at the age of about eighty years. One son, Samuel R. Smith, now lives in Southwest. He was a prisoner in Andersonville prison fourteen months during the War of the Rebellion.

Selden Spencer (who was born February 2, 1793, and died December 12, 1872) came to this township from West Stockbridge, Mass., about 1833, soon after the emigration of his partner, Jare Benedict. He and Mr. Benedict engaged for years together in the lumber business and were very successful. Mr. Spencer’s house was right in the village of Enterprise. Selden Spencer was one of the most prominent men of this part of the county. His children, all but one, are living. Mary became the wife of Isaac B. Rowe, of this town; Harriet married George C. Pettit, and still resides here; Egbert built the Spencer Hotel here about 1850 and kept it for many years, after which he engaged for some time in mercantile business, and finally went to Jamestown, N.Y., where he now lives; Delia was married to Asbury Dawson, of Pleasantville, Venango county, and now lives at Coldwater, Mich.

Alonzo Wilson settled just south of where the hotel now is in Enterprise, in the house which is still standing there. He owned a carding-machine - the same one which was kept in operation by Eli Dibble. He was a brother-in-law of Selden Spencer, and came from Massachusetts about 1833. His death occurred here not far from thirty years ago. He had two daughters, both of whom married well. Delia became the wife of David H. Mitchell, who came here about 1845, and was afterward well-known throughout the county. He engaged in lumbering and in general mercantile business in Enterprise, his store being in the building now occupied by Myron Dunham. He also built an oil refinery directly below Enterprise, about 1862, and at the same time, and during his residence here, carried on a sort of private banking business. About 1870 he removed to Titusville and established the Producers’ and Manufacturers’ Bank, of which he was made president He and his wife both died in Titusville. Delia’s sister, Laura, married Foster W. Mitchell, brother of David, who engaged also in lumbering and general mercantile business in Enterprise, and finally removed to Venango county. He now resides at Franklin. He is at the head of the banking house of F.W. Mitchell & Co., of Oil City, which is largely identified with the oil business.

Peter Yost, whose wife was a sister of Samuel Grandin, of Tidioute, lived very early in the southwestern part of the township, near the present site of Benedict’s mill. After living a few years at that place he removed some distance southwest of Enterprise to the Grandin Farm, so called, in Venango county.

Thomas Van Scoter Morian, who is at present the oldest merchant in this part of the county, was born in Steuben county, N.Y., in 1818, and in 1842 married Clarinda Woods, of Pomfret, Chautauqua county, N.Y. They had a family of six children, four of whom, Carlos C., Elbridge R., Herbert T., and Eva C., are living now. In 1845 he came to Enterprise as a clerk for C. Smith, of Sinclairville, N.Y. Two years later he built his present store, and at that time became largely interested in general mercantile and lumber trade. In 1860, when success seemed attainable only in the oil business, he left the store and began producing oil, and running it in barges from the mouth of Oil Creek (now Oil City), down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh. Being an expert pilot on the river, he also carried on a large shipping business. By degrees, and as the oil excitement abated, he returned to his former occupation in Enterprise.

His father, Jacob Morian, was born in Germany in 1782. Not liking the prospects which promised Napoleon the subjugation of all Europe, he decided to remove to America, and upon arriving, here settled in Philadelphia. He afterward went to Steuben county, N.Y., and married Lydia Van Scoter. By her he had nine children, six of whom, Anthony, John, Margaret, Alexander, Thomas, and Lydia, are still living. Jacob Morian served in the War of 1812, and was under Colonels Brown and Scott, at Lundy’s Lane. In 1830 he removed his family to Chautauqua county, N.Y. He died in 1862, and was followed by his widow in 1869. Both are buried in Forest Hill cemetery, of Fredonia, N.Y.

 

Southwest in 1847. - When Mr. Morian began his mercantile career in this township in 1847, there was no village of Enterprise in existence. The territory had become more thickly populated than it was at the time of the formation of the township in 1837,but it was still in a great part uncultivated, and with considerable tracts covered with the virgin forests. In what is now the village of Enterprise there were about nine houses. Selden Spencer lived a few rods north of the present store of T.V.S. Morian, and had cleared the greater part of the present village site. As has been stated, Mr. Spencer was a very active and prominent man, a determined Whig and a devoted Methodist. A little way west of his house, at this time, lived Annis, widow of Jare Benedict. There was quite a clearing in the pine forest back of this house. Spencer and Benedict had a mill near to Benedict’s house. For a history of the Benedict family and the prominent part that they have always borne in business and public affairs in this township and county, the reader is requested to scan the sketch of Mr. W.B. Benedict in later pages.

In 1847, where the hotel now stands, was a story and a half house owned by Selden Spencer, and occupied by T.V.S. Morian as a dwelling house. In the latter part of this year Mr. Morian built his present store, left the employment of the Sinclairville Quaker, C. Smith, and started for himself. South of this house, on the road toward Pleasantville, where J.A. Perry now lives, was then the house of C.O. Child, a shoemaker. He had a small 10 by 12 shop just south of his house. This part of the town was extensively cleared at that time. About 1864 Mr. Child became quite wealthy by selling lands for oil purposes, and removed to Philadelphia, where he lost all his acquisitions, it is said. About six rods south of Child’s house stood that of Enos Whitney, who has been mentioned in an earlier page.

About thirty rods still farther to the south on this street lived Alonzo Wilson, and on the opposite side of the street stood his carding-machine. Mr. Wilson was shrewd enough to invest his money in New York State at seven per cent rather than in this State at six per cent.

Some ten rods west of the store of Mr. Morian, on the road to Titusville, lived, in a little 16 by 20 house, one Edward Landas, a stone-mason and laborer. He lived here until about 1850, when he was killed by being thrown from a raft. The next house on that street, occupied by Stephen Brown, stood about thirty rods west of the site of the hotel. On the opposite side of the street he had a small foundry in which he manufactured plow-points, sled-shoes, etc. He went west about 1852 or 1853. In the next house west, and on the north side of the street, about half a mile from that of Mr. Brown, lived a Mr. Freeman, a laborer. He died soon after this time. A son, Morris, lives in Enterprise now.

Next was the house - the frame of which is still in use - then owned and occupied by Selden Benedict, whose son, W.B. Benedict, lives in it at the present time. Still farther west some thirty rods, on the north side of the street, was a log house occupied by M.F. Benedict, brother of Selden Benedict. That was the utmost house in the neighborhood.

Outside the site of the village the clearings were few and small, and far between. The principal business of the people was lumbering. There must have been at that time eighteen or twenty saw-mills in active operation in the township of which we are writing. Among these may be mentioned the mill of George Kellogg near Pineville, that of Warner Perry and Dorus Wales about seventy rods east of Enterprise, that of William Dunham a little farther to the southeast, the Spencer and Benedict mill just north of the village, E.G. Benedict’s mill a few rods south of Enterprise, that of S.S. and M.F. Benedict some distance to the west, while a long distance farther west, on the Titusville road, stood the mill owned and operated jointly by Forbes, Johnson, and Bela Tracy. Twelve years later, or in 1859, there were ten large mills in town, all on Pine Creek, which sawed about 5,000,000 feet in all a year, besides large quantities of shingles.

Present Business. - The saw and shingle-mills in town at this writing are as follows: J., F. and V. Shepard, under the firm name of Shepard & Brothers, own and operate a large steam mill about half a mile east of the village of Enterprise. George Zover & Sons hays a mill in the village; C.E. Potter, of Pineville, owns and operates a mill in the eastern part of the township; Mr. Isinger has one in the northeast part of the town; C.H. Ames has two mills on the D., A. V. & P. Railroad, which cut vast amounts of lumber; Jesse Wheelock has one on the same railroad a short distance east of the mills of Mr. Ames; near this is the steam shingle-mill of Frank Adams; T.L. Cheney has a shingle-mill about two miles northeast of the village; and J.F. Stearns has a shingle and cider-mill nearly a mile north of Pineville. The streams having in the past few years diminished in volume in consequence of the clearing away of forests, now fail to furnish the water power of former days, and all the mills now in town are operated by steam.

There are two general stores in town. That of T.V.S. Morian, already mentioned, which was opened in 1847, closed from 1860 to 1867, and from that time to the present open again. Mr. Morian has not altogether abandoned his interest in the oil business, although he subordinates it to his mercantile occupation.

Myron Dunham also deals in general merchandise in Enterprise. About twenty-two years ago he went in with David H. Mitchell, and two years later was a partner with V.S. Benedict four or five years.

We have already observed that Warner Perry built the first hotel in town, and that the present hotel was built by Selden Spencer about 1850. The present proprietor, J.S. Forbush, came to Enterprise in March, 1886.

The post-office was established at Enterprise a short time previous to 1850, by the appointment of Warner Perry to the dignity of first postmaster. Previous to that time the mail was obtained from Holland post-office (now Pleasantville), once a week. After Mr. Perry’s death in September, 1863, D.H. Mitchell was made postmaster, and was in turn succeeded by the present postmaster, Myron Dunham, about 1875 or 1876. The office of Scofield, which is located at Pineville, is of much more recent origin. The postmaster there at present is Philip Robinson.

The first religious services in the township were held in private houses. This style of edifice gave place in time to school-houses, and about 1870 the present church edifice was erected by a union of all denominations. The prevailing denominations in early days, and indeed at present, were and are Baptist and Methodist Episcopal. Among the former were the Benedict family, while Selden Spencer and Enos Whitney, were most prominent among the Methodists. There was not in early times much religious fervor observable in this part of the county, owing, no doubt, to the sparseness of population.

The first school in town was taught in the winter of 1836 - 37, by Mrs. Benedict, in a little tailor shop, twelve by fourteen feet. Twelve pupils were in attendance. The term was three months in length. The teacher received twelve dollars per month, and had the rare privilege of boarding herself. Kirkham’s Grammar, Daboll’s Arithmetic, Webster’s Speller, and the old English Reader were the text-books. The present school-house in Enterprise was built in 1850, and was occupied by Marshall Coach, of New York, as teacher.

SOURCE: Page(s) 537-544, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887