History of Warren County, Chapter 54




THE township of Triumph was formed from Deerfield on the 7th of March, 1878, and is bounded as follows: North by Deerfield, east by Deerfield and the Allegheny River, separating it from Limstone, south by Venango county, and west by Southwest and Eldred. It is of irregular contour, and since the lumber has been taken from its surface is adapted principally to the production of farm vegetation and oil. So much of its early history was necessarily included in the history of Deerfield that but little is left for this chapter. Among the first settlers, who came in about the order named, between the years 1828 and 1835, were the Gormans, James Culbertson, Charles McNair, Michael McGraw, Samuel Parshall, and Benjamin Clark. When Michael McGraw came here on the 17th of April, 1830, he found not more than half a dozen families in the present township. Michael McGraw was born in East Freedom, Blair county, Pa., in 1809, and was son of Peter and Catherine (McAffee) McGraw. When he came here he settled on a tract of 400 acres, now occupied by his sons, J.A. and W.A. McGraw. (See sketch of Michael McGraw in later pages.) About the first saw-mill in town was built by A.B. Funk about 1840. Mr. Funk was an extensive lumberman and operator in oil, and died but recently. There are three small settlements, hardly villages, in Triumph township; Triumph, McGraw’s, and Fagundus. Fagundus derives its name from Charles Fagundus, the first settler on its site, who died soon after 1860. The other villages were the simple products of the oil excitement of more than twenty years ago. A.M. Gillam, the present merchant at Triumph village, came there in 1867 from West Hickory. A short time previous to his settlement he had a well here, which promised abundance and resulted in his removal from West Hickory. When he came here A.J. Sink, Mr. Moore and others had opened small stores, and everything was in a state of incertitude and everybody was excited. The United States Hotel had just been completed. In 1868 a destructive fire swept away these stores and the hotel. There were during this period many saloons and hotels and mixtures at Triumph, but they were ephemeral, and it would be difficult and uninteresting to attempt an enumeration. The floating population (and what little there was of a permanent population) amounted to some three thousand souls in Triumph village, where now are not more than one hundred and fifty. Among the first wells drilled were those of Captain Goodrich, Mr. Hart, A.M. Gillam. The village suffered almost total destruction from the fire of 1868, and again in about two years later. About 1870 there was a temporary abandonment of the place, lasting nearly two years. Samuel Wiggins had a drug-store in the village, however, for some time subsequent to about 1871. The second oil excitement, which owed its existence to Mr. Gillam, was greater in intensity than the first. The first fever had exhausted, apparently, the first twenty feet of rock, and the second was fed from the second twenty feet. Mr. Gillam is now drilling other wells and is quite confident of creating another and a healthy boom. About the time of the first excitement the National Hotel was built and kept by Messrs. Thompson, Fairchild, and others. It was torn down in 1885, though it had long been out of use. The Pine Grove Hotel was also started, during the first excitement, by David Wiggins, who still lives in it, though it is no longer open to the public. The store now kept by Mr. Gillam was first opened by Mr. Moore, shortly after the fire of 1868, and after awhile was put into the hands of Andrew Husband, who had previously kept a grocery in the barn of Mr. Gillam. After him came as proprietors of this store Hawks, William Wiggins, Wiggins & Curtiss, A.R. Curtiss, and about 1880, A.M. Gillam.

The store at McGraw’s, now owned by A. Dunn, of Tidioute, was founded by Peter Stinwandle and Frank Foster a few years after the Triumph store was opened. The first post-office in the township was established about this time by the appointment of Peter Stinwandle, at McGraw’s. He was succeeded by P. Masterson, William Hurry, and the present incumbent, E.C. Tullock, who was appointed by President Arthur. There was never a post-office at Triumph. There has been an office at Fagundus but a short time, the present postmaster there being W.P. Wagner, a merchant there, successor in the office of Joseph W. Jones.

There are at present nine school-houses in Triumph township, but they are not all in use, as the present population will not fill them. At Funk’s Mills is a Methodist Church, which was built about 1860; at Fagundus is another, built about 1872; the Union Church at McGraw was erected in 1878. At Triumph village, during the early period of the oil fever, a union church was built, though previous to that time the school-house was used for religious purposes, as it had been built with a view to its employment as a church.

We cannot do better than close this chapter with a well-written poem from the facile pen of Mr. A.M. Gillam, who thus contributes to the literary enlightenment of his community no less than to its material development.

All hail, old Triumph! Thrice all hail!
Thou art like a ship without a sail;
Thy masts are broken, rudder gone;
Thy crews have vanished, one by one,
Till scarce an anchor-watch is left
Of those of whom thou art bereft.
In olden times thine honored name
Both far and near was known to fame;
For man, along thy rocky breast
Deep holes had bored from base to crest,
And with a suction pump did draw
Vast riches from thine oily maw.
But now, alas! Thou’rt wrecked, old tug,
And in each vacant hole a plug
Is left. Thy golden stream is clogg’d,
And people say thou’rt water-logg’d.
And even I, thine old-time friend,
Believed that thou had’st reached the end
Of thy wonderful oil career;
Not thinking (as it doth appear
In the sequel), that while weeping
O’er thy death, thou wert but sleeping.
Surface water could not fill thee,
Consequently could not kill thee;
Thou art alive; thy rocky vault
No water holds excepting salt.
The sandrock in its virginity,
(So to speak), had an affinity
For salt water. Ages ago,
When earth was young, the ocean’s flow
Deposited on bar and beach
The pebble sand, a porous leach,
Through which the briny waters crept,
And oil for ages past has slept
Secure in nature’s stony bed.
But man’s persistency, ‘tis said,
Stove in the rocky door, and woke
The sleep of ages at a stroke.
Thy stately hills were forest-grown
In that decade; thy name unknown,
Till vandal man, with axe and spade,
Thy shady woodlands did invade,
With avaricious thought intent
Thy old sandrock to circumvent.
Thy veins were pierced; the gushing oil
Flowed out upon thy virgin soil;
As the struck whale, whose gory spout
And bloody form stains the liquid route
Through which he glides, with crimson gore,
From wounds the cruel iron tore,
So thou, man’s comfort to promote,
Doth, from thy hydra-headed throat
Spew out upon the thirsty sands
The contents of thine oily glands.
A noted town, which seemed to suit
All hands, including Tidioute,
Was built, but hearts and pockets broke
When that fair town went up in smoke.
And then salt water was the bane
Of the gay oil man. On the brain
He had it. Also in the rock,
(In imagination). The shock
Was immense! "He vamosed the ranch;"
Pulled up stake and left, root and branch.
But yet thou wert not left alone,
A few old fogies with backbone
And some money, another raid
Commenced upon the rock, which paid.
The sand in feet was full five score
And ten in depth. Never before
Nor since, in all the regions round,
Was another such sandrock found
Like to the first. Another rush
Was made, and every tree and bush
Was leased, and oil in torrents poured
From these old holes, that others bored.
Judging the present by the past,
This new excitement cannot last.
Five hundred leeches soon must drain
The life-blood from thy stony vein.
The first excitement drained the head;
The next thy lower end was bled;
They thought their pumps were sucking higher,
And so thy trunk was left entire.
A man addicted to the weed
A spear-head bought. With hungry greed
He bit from either end a chew,
And then deliberately threw
The plug away. Such silly waste
Is like the oil men’s foolish haste.
Again, grim want thy hills menace;
The wiry grass that grew apace,
‘Twixt rock and stump, is closely nipp’d;
Thy noble flocks and herds have skipp’d
To pastures new. A lonely buck
Remains to browse upon the truck
That’s left and watch the creeping vine,
The plantain and the dandelion
Put forth their tender crimson shoots;
A mess of greens, for men or brutes.
And now another leaf we’ll turn,
Man never gets too old to learn.
Of Triumph’s future we will sing,
Her possibilities we’ll bring
To view; and let the people judge,
This kindling flame, or smoky smudge,
For weal or woe!! ‘Tis Triumph’s good
We seek, and her near neighborhood.
Come gentle muse, inspire my song,
That we may reach the skeptic throng
Who take no stock in this debate
Of Triumph’s old conglomerate.
‘Tis not with water, that’s distill’d
By solar heat, this rock is fill’d.
By gravitation’s law it drops
From top of well to base, nor stops
The intervening rocks to spoil,
Where nature brews and tanks her oil.
The water scarce is from below;
It is a sort of undertow;
Deep in the rock its level finds,
And through the stony chasm winds
Its course along through slaty shells,
A nemesis to pumping wells.
Oh! had I but a Chinese gong,
A butler’s voice, a smutz’s tongue,
With eloquent and oily phrase
I’d portray Triumph’s means and ways;
Her seventy feet of virgin rock
That ne’er has felt torpedo’s shock;
I’d wake the echoes round about
Repeating, ‘tis not "drowned out,"
But only needs a plug below
To guard against the undertow.

SOURCE: Page(s) 593-597, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887