“Centennial Discourse: A Sketch of the History of Venango County, Pennsylvania”
Delivered at Franklin, Pa., July 4th, 1876
Franklin Pa: Venango Spectator Job Office, 1876
Author: Eaton, S. J. M. (Samuel John Mills), 1820-1889
Pg. 3 MAP of VENANGO FORT.
Undoubted the first white man who located in Venango County was JOHN FRAZIER, a Scotchman. He was a gunsmith and trader. In the year 1753, Edward Shippen, of Lancaster, in writing to Governor James Hamilton, says of him and this place: “Weningo is the name of an Indian town on Ohio, where MR. FRAZIER has had a gunsmith shop for many years. It is situate about eighty miles up the said river beyond Logstown.
When JONCAIRE came to commence the erection of the Fort here, he drove FRAZIER out of his house and took possession. It was at this house that George Washington had the famous interview with Joncaire in December, 1753. There is no evidence that the Fort here was occupied at the time of Washington’s visit, for he speaks of finding the French colors raised over FRAZIER’S house. We would like much to know now just where that was located, but its site is forgotten forever. The Fort here seems to have been completed in April, 1754, under the superintendence of CAPTAIN JONCAIRE.
The County of Venango was erected by act of Assembly, March 12, 1800, though not organized for Judicial purposes until April 1, 1805. That portion of its territory east of the river was taken from Lycoming County; that on the west from Allegheny County. In (pg. 11) 1839 its proportions were curtailed by the formation of Clarion County, and in 1866 by setting off a portion of its territory to Forest.
The ancient name of the river now called Allegheny, was Ohio, or, as the French called it, “La Belle Riviere,” Beautiful River. – French Creek, in Coffen’s statement, is called “Boeuffs.” On the leaden plate buried by Celeron, it is called Toradakoin. The French invariably called it the River Aux Boeufs. In one of the French dispatches it is said that it was called by the English Venango River. At the time of Washington’s visit here, he re-christened it French Creek, by which name it has been known ever since.
As to the name of the Indian town anciently located here, Coffen called it Ganagarahhare. In Mr. Shippen’s letter to Governor Hamilton, it is called Weningo. It was then said to be an old town. In later years it was spelled Wenango, then Vinango, and still later Venango. The latter has become the permanent way of spelling it.
The first settlement was made at Franklin. GEORGE POWERS came in 1790, and began as an Indian trader. A few others followed him, but with great caution. About this time the women and children were sent down from Meadville for safety.
In 1794, ALEXANDER McDOWELL came out as a Deputy Surveyor, but found the Indians quite hostile. During the summer, Cornplanter notified all surveyors to leave the woods, as after the 13th of September they might expect to be attacked. (pg. 12) We have a deposition of DANIEL RANSOM, dated June 11, 1794…After the coming of General Irvine and Mr. Ellicott with a military escort of fifty men, tranquility was restored.
SRUBGRASS TOWNSHIP was one of the first points in the county settled outside of Franklin. THOMAS McKEE came in 1796. About the same time were THOMAS BAIRD and MAJOR GHOST, ROBERT CALVERT and ROBERT RIDDLE. The next year JAMES CRAIG and MRS. ABIGAIL COULTER came. The latter was the mother of REV. JOHN COULTER, and grandmother of REV. J. R. COULTER, now of the same township. JOHN WITHERUP, the first Sheriff, came in 1799. The first mill was built that year. In 1800, COLONEL CAMPBELL’S mills were built. The same year the first sermon was delivered in the county. It was by REV. WILLIAM MOORHEAD, at the house of MRS. COULTER, and within forty rods of the present Scrubgrass church. In 1802, the first church built in the county was erected. It was of round logs, with earthen floor and split logs for seats. This was in Scrubgrass. It was a Presbyterian church. In 1805 the first Methodist Church was built; this was in the same township.
Among the other early settlers were MICHAEL MULLEN and JAMES SCOTT, in 1796; JAMES LESLIE, SAMUEL WEST, WILLIAM SLOAN, JOSEPH REDICK, JAMES McDOWELL, WILLIAM SHANNON, JOHN CULBERTSON, JOHN FRITZ and DANIEL SAY, came in 1798.
In 1812, DAVID PHIPPS built mills at Kennerdell. In 1825, the first furnace was built in the county by JOHN ANDERSON, in this township. The PHIPPS’S were among the early settlers.
Richland and Rockland, then a part of French creek, were settled early in this century. In Richland, the first settlers were the McCASLINS, RITCHIES, PORTERS, STEUARTS, McCLATCHIES, RUSSELLS, CARNES, PLATTS, DONALDSONS, BELLS, and NICKLES. In Richland were the SHANNONS, JOLLEYS, WATTS, CAMPBELLS, McDOWELLS, SMITHS, DAVIDSONS, and MAITLANDS.
Irwin Township was settled a few years later. The first citizens were the ROSS’S BAKERS, DAVIDSONS, BEACHES, HENDERSONS, AYRES’S, MARTINS, and WANDERS.
The Valley of Oil Creek was settled from 1797 to 1802. Old Cornplanter, the Indian Chief, owned the first tract above the mouth of the Creek. Above him NATHANIEL CARY settled in 1800. Next above him was HAMILTON McCLINTOCK, who came in 1797. A part of this farm afterward belonged to SAMUEL HAYS, who erected a saw mill on it. Next above was JOHN McCLINTOCK, where Rouseville now stands. AMBROSE RYND was the next above. He came in 1800. Next above was FRANCIS BUCHANAN, then JAMES STORY and his son ROBERT. They all came in 1800. Next was FRANCIS McCLINTOCK, who came in 1797. On this farm Petroleum Centre (pg. 14) was afterward located. All these farms will be recognized as connected with the oil business in modern times. Above McCLINTOCKS’ was SAMUEL GREGG, who came in 1800. His farm is the present site of Pioneer. Above this ANDREW MILLER and his son JAMES settled. Above him were ANDREW FLEMING and his brothers, DANIEL and EDWARD. They came in 1802. The same year ARCHIE HAMILTON and BARNEY GRIFFIN came to make their homes and seek their fortunes.
The first settlement in Cherrytree Township was begun in 1797. It was by WILLIAM REYNOLDS and his son JOHN, afterward of Meadville. It was on the present site of the village of Cherrytree. The following year JAMES TUTHLIL and JOHN STRAWBRIDGE settled in the same neighborhood. In 1800 JOHN IRWIN, who afterward became one of the first Associate Judges, and SAMUEL DALE, one of the early Surveyors and Representatives, came from Northumberland County, In 1801, SAMUEL, JAMES, and NINIAN IRWIN, brothers, settled on farms near the common settlement. SAMUEL IRWIN was the father of the present Judge Irwin. HENRY PRATHER, a blacksmith, had come in 1800. In 1802, the HAMILTONS, McFADDENS, GRIFFINS, ARCHERS, STEWARTS, TARRS, and others came.
Along the Valley of Sugar Creek, the settlement commenced at an early day. The land was inviting and the water good. THOMAS CARTER, ROBERT BEATTY, JOHN RODGERS, and WILLIAM COZZENS, all came in 1796. In the Valley of French Creek, EBENEZER ROBERTS settled what is now the Poor House Farm, in the year 1796. Farther up the Creek the DUFFIELDS had their early home about the same time. In 1793 or 4, BRICE GILMORE came; JOHN GORDON in 1796, near Utica; JOHN GILMORE in 1798; in 1794 SAMUEL and ADAM COOPER; in 1798 JOHN MARTIN; in 1799 THOMAS RUSSELL; following these were JOHNSTON and CUTCHALL; JAMES ADAMS was also one of the early settlers.
On the Franklin and Meadville Road, at the Seven Mile Spring, CLEMONS settled in 1797. In the region of Waterloo, GIBSON was the first settler. He sold to JEWELL, and he to AARON McKISSICK, who laid out the village of Waterloo, in 1839. In the same region the TEMPLES were early settlers.
At the mouth of Sandy Creek, SAMUEL POLICY had settled as early as 1798. Further up, VAN SICKLE had settled at Raymilton. PATTERSONS came in 1795.
In what is now Oakland Township, LAWRENCE DEMPSEY settled in 1798; ISAAC WALLS came in 1804.
The McCALMONTS came to the county in 1803. The eldest son ROBERT, popularly known as “UNCLE ROBERT,” had preceded the family, coming in the fall of 1802. The family settled in Sugar (pg. 15) Creek Township, about five miles from Franklin, on the Dempseytown Road. JACOB WHITMAN and JOHN LUPHER had settled there before them. ROBERT McCALMONT died November 15, 1875, in the ninety-third year of his age.
WILLIAM CONNELY, who afterward represented the county in the Legislature and was an Associate Judge, came to the county in 1804. He died May 23, 1871, in the ninety-fourth year of his age.
In Cranberry Township SAMUEL POWELL was an esteemed citizen. Farther west were the HENDERSONS, SIMCOXES, McCLARANS, WHANNS, ADAMS’S, and others. In 1803, GEORGE McCLELLAND came to Sandy Creek. He afterward moved to Franklin. SAMUEL PLUMER was here in 1808. PHILIP HOUSER was also one of the pioneers. After the War of 1812 quite an influx of population came from Eastern Pennsylvania.
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