History of Warren County, Chapter 47

CHAPTER XLVII
HISTORY OF ELDRED TOWNSHIP

 

 

THIS township was formed from Southwest on the 8th day of September, 1843, and was named from Judge Eldred, a sketch of whose life is written in this work. The credit of procuring the formation and organization of the township belongs justly to Samuel W.B. Sanford, who drew up, circulated, and pushed through the petition upon which the order of the court was based. The township is situated in the western tier of townships of the county, and is bounded as follows: North by Spring Creek, east by Pittsfield, Deerfield, and Triumph, south by Southwest, and west by Crawford county. Eldred is quite regular in outline, being nearly a square in form. The soil is generally a sandy loam, and is well adapted for agriculture, particularly for grazing. No township in Warren county is gifted so abundantly with perennial springs of water, and it has been said on good authority that within a few years, when lumbering has completely given place to farming, Eldred will be the principal dairying township in this part of the State. Already many farms produce two tons of hay per acre; spring wheat from ten to twenty-five bushels, and oats from forty to eighty bushels to the acre.

Early Settlements. - Eldred, like all the townships in Northwestern Pennsylvania which do not border on some important water way, was left uninhabited by man many years after the river lands had become quite thickly populated. Lumbering being the chief industry, kept the inland tracts untouched until the forests along the rivers had been cleared away, and the enterprising white man had to penetrate farther into the wilderness to continue his chosen occupation. The first settler in the township of Eldred, as now limited, was probably Lovell Greeley, an uncle of the illustrious Horace Greeley, who came hither soon after the year 1830, and took up lands in the northwestern corner of what is now the township. He remained here about ten years, and made a considerable clearing. About 1840, after Mr. Greeley had removed from this territory, his place was occupied by Elijah Leroy Williams, who remained on the farm not less than twenty years and died there.

Between 1830 and 1838 only four new settlers arrived to cheer the lonely heart of L. Greeley. About 1835 John R. Smith emigrated from New York State hither, and engaged some seven or eight years in farming on a lot now in the southwestern part of the township. At the end of this time he returned to New, York. Robert Robinson lived on the farm next north of that of Smith. He had been a drinking man in New York city, and his son sent him out in the wilderness to take him away from the allurements of the town and city. He went back about 1842 or 1843, leaving no descendants in town. John Cullom afterward purchased this farm of Robinson’s grantee, and has now been a resident upon it for more than thirty years. Ezra Trim came to the same farm he now occupies, in 1837, from Olean, N. Y. He was taxed at first with only twenty-five acres, but has by degrees increased his possessions. His brother Simeon came at the same time, and until within ten years last past lived near him. He now resides not far from Corry. Ezra Trim has gained his competence by economy and industry. He is a good citizen and a conscientious Democrat.

Samuel W.B. Sanford, one of the most prominent of Eldred’s citizens, and now about the oldest, came here from New York State in 1838. He has always taken a most active interest in the affairs of the township, and is worthy of the esteem with which he is universally regarded. We recommend our readers to peruse the sketch of his life which appears in that of his son, J.G. Sanford, in later pages of this book.

From the time of the arrival of the first four or five settlers, as already named, to the time of the formation of the township, immigration poured a full flood of good men into the tract embraced within the township limits, and the forests began to fall visibly away beneath the strokes of the ax. The names of the more prominent settlers mentioned in the first list of taxables in 1844, appear in the paragraphs immediately following, in the order in which they are written in the list itself: John M. Carr lived on the farm originally settled by John R. Smith. A short time previous to 1850, however, he removed to a place about a mile north of it, where he remained until his death, some ten years later. He was a blacksmith by trade, and was not inclined to take a very active part in public affairs. He usually voted the Democratic ticket. His son, James Carr, is now a resident of this township.

David Cutler settled the farm now occupied by James Carr, and continued thereon until his death, about 1855. He has descendants in Eldred now. His father, Sheldon Cutler, also lived for a time near his farm, but soon moved away.

From about 1840, or a little later, until May, 1876, when he died, Noah Hand occupied a farm a few rods south of Ezra Trim’s. He was an industrious farmer and a very prominent man. He became wealthy, and in later years engaged considerably in trading. For many years, also, he converted his house into a tavern when the comfort or convenience of wayfarers demanded it. His health became poor at last. He was an active man in township affairs, and was devoted to the destiny and principles of the Republican party. He was twice married and had but one child. His farm was first settled by a man named Willis, who died early and was buried there, and was, indeed, the first person buried in the township.

Leicester Kelley lived in the south part of the township, and engaged industriously in farming until about 1864 or 1865, when he became inoculated with the oil fever and sold out, removing with all his family.

Jeremiah Main lived rather to the east of the township center, and engaged in farming. Although not a prominent man in political affairs, he was strongly Democratic in sentiment. During the oil excitement of more than twenty years ago he sold out and removed to the State of New York. A daughter, Mrs. Levi Pierce, is still residing in Eldred.

Cyrus S. Oviatt, still residing here, lived in 1844 about one and one-half miles north of his present farm. He has been twice married, and a number of his twenty-four children are still in Eldred.

David H. Sanford, a brother of Samuel W.B. Sanford, came here at the same time and settled southwest from his farm, on the same tract. After living there about fifteen years, he removed to Erie, Pa., where he remained until about 1874. He then returned to Eldred, and here died in the spring of 1876. Although he has no descendants in town, they are scattered through the State.

About 1842 David White immigrated hither from the vicinity of Albany, N.Y., and settled in the south part of the township, on the place now occupied by Mr. Hatmaker. It is said that previous to the War of 1812 that farm was occupied for a time by a man of the name of White, who went away during the war because of fear of the Indians. The Jeremiah Main place was also settled as early as 1806, for a very brief period, by Richard Cunningham, who went away during the War of 1812. On this (Hatmaker) farm David White died a number of years ago. He was quite prominent and took considerable interest in township matters. He was a member of the old Whig party. Two of his sons and two of his daughters now reside in this township, named respectively Alonzo and John, and Mrs. George Chapple and Mrs. Mary Brown.

Charles M. Williams came here with the Sanford family in 1838, and settled on the same tract. He died in about ten years.

Jacob Young came from New York State in 1838 and settled in the northeast corner of the township, where he remained to the day of his death, ten or eleven years ago. He was a good, quiet, industrious man, by occupation a farmer and blacksmith. Three sons, Mansel, Joseph, and Wesley, now live in Eldred township.

Early Industries, etc. - The first mill in the township was built by David White on his farm. Mr. White operated this mill for many years, until, in spite of frequent repairs, it was worn out and went down. The first store was kept by Stephen Mead on the David White farm, and was opened during the oil excitement, about 1862. The first regular tavern was opened by Leicester Kelley a few years before the war, and continued until about 1865.

The first postmaster was David Cutler, who was appointed some time previous to 1850. The office, as now, was called Eagle. Cutler’s successors have been Benjamin F. Wallace, Alvin Way, Benjamin F. Wallace, and the present incumbent, who was appointed under President Cleveland’s administration About fifteen years ago the post-office called "Star" was established by the appointment of John Main. In about five years Charles Carr followed him, and the office was removed to Grand Valley. E.W. Thompson was then appointed, and has been succeeded by F.A. Wood, and the present postmaster, William Pierce, appointed by the present administration.

Grand Valley. - Not until after the construction of the Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley and Pittsburgh Railroad some sixteen years ago, was there a suspicion that the site of Grand Valley was so soon to be covered by a thriving and promising village. During the earlier years of the township the ground was owned and occupied by Stephen Mead, who succeeded David White, and who kept the first store in the township. Enos W. Thompson - still a respected resident of this town - at a later date, but still quite early in the history of the township, owned the most of the village site, and engaged extensively and successfully in farming. About 1864 or 1865 he purchased the store of Stephen Mead and moved it to his place, where he kept it until about three years ago. He then sold it to his sons, A.R. & A.L. Thompson, who still engage largely in mercantile operations.

Another man, to whom is due much credit for his enterprise and public spirit in building up this village, is L.B. Wood. Shortly after the railroad was opened Mr. Wood started a store, which he still owns and conducts as a hardware store. He also bought the mill of McIntyre, Merritt & Co., which was built some sixteen years ago, and still operates it. Grand Valley now contains not far from 200 population, more than half of the village being the direct fruit of the oil excitement.

Among the saw-mills and other factories in the township may be mentioned that of C.H. Whaley. He has a saw and shingle-mill about one mile west of Grand Valley. Although he has made shingles for not less than twenty years, he has owned the saw-mill but four years. George Whaley also owns a shingle-mill about half a mile north of Grand Valley, which he built some three years ago. A.M. Parker, in partnership with the Reno Oil Company, owns and operates a saw-mill about one and a quarter miles north of Grand Valley, which they built in the summer of 1886. The saw-mill of Rome & Brother, in the northern part of the township, was built about four years ago.

There are five stores in Grand Valley. The oldest, which has already been mentioned, is that of A.R. Thompson & Brother. The store of J.P. Miracle was first opened by L.B. Wood, who with his brother, F.A. Wood, kept it for a number of years, and in April, 1886, sold to the present owner. L.B. Wood & Brother are now in the oil-well supply and hardware trade, and have invested in oil, gas, and lumber. They have a saw-mill at Newton, in Deerfield township, besides the one in Eldred.

Since his appointment to the postmastership, in the spring of 1886, William Pierce has kept a grocery connected with his office. The drug store of G.W. Peck was established by him in Grand Valley, in the spring of 1886. Previous to that time he had been one of the firm of G.W. Peck, Wood & Co., which for about two years kept a store at Star Station. They were there succeeded, when Mr. Peck came to Grand Valley, by Samuel Graham.

The first hotel at Grand Valley was built early in 1879, and opened in April of that year by J.N. Gerow. It was burned on the 19th of September, 1883, and on the 20th of the following September, Mr. Gerow moved into his present house. He now has room for many guests, and is well qualified both by nature and training, to provide for the comfort of travelers. Previous to his beginnings here in the hotel, he had for about twelve years been in the employment of L.B. Wood & Co., in the lumber business.

Schools and Churches. - At the time of the formation of this township, there were but thirteen votes in Eldred. Previous to 1843, and as early as 1836, however, a school was supported by subscription in a joint district of Crawford and Warren counties. About 1840 a log school-house, the first in Eldred, was built about a mile northeast of the present Sanford school-house, and was very soon, within a year, followed by a school-house near the John R. Smith farm. Upon the formation of the township in 1843, the schools were no longer maintained by individual subscription, as theretofore, but were kept up by the unseated land tax and State appropriation, and as other settlers came in other schools were built. There are now eight good schools in Eldred. The most active friend of the schools, for many years from the beginning, was S.W.B. Sanford, to whom is due the organization of the township, any many other acts of praiseworthy character. The present school-house at Grand Valley was built in the fall of 1885, and has two well conducted departments. The present, and first principal, is Mr. McClellan. The attendance here is nearly two hundred.

The first church edifice in Eldred was erected by the United Brethren about 1860, previous to which time services were held at irregular intervals in school-houses and private houses. The first religious organization in Eldred was of the Methodist denomination. Services were held by them as early as 1840. Samuel W.B. Sanford was one of the foremost Methodists in town. These are the only denominations now in the township. It is stated on good authority that soon the Methodist Church will erect an edifice at Grand Valley, and that the preparations are already complete. The first Methodist preacher in town, remembered by the inhabitants, was Rev. Rev. M. Hinebaugh, who supplied this appointment from Youngsville in 1844.

SOURCE: Page(s) 545-549, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887