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About Clarion County

Written by Helen Urban, a noted Clarion County historian, and published in the Western PA Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4 (May 1975), pg. 115.  No copyright infringement intended.

Clarion County was erected out of Armstrong and Venango Counties by an act of legislature, 11 March 1839, and was organized for judicial purposes on 10 September 1840.  Its area was included in the "New Purchase", or land bought from the Indians by the Treaties of Fort Stanwix and Fort McIntosh (Beaver) in 1784-85.  All land west of the Allegheny River and north was to be included in Westmoreland County.  All land east of the Allegheny River not previously assigned to a county was to belong to Northumberland County.  On 13 April 1795, the western part of Northumberland County, including the present Clarion County, was erected into Lycoming County.  There was no township organization, but the western frontier was mentioned as "that part of Lycoming county lying in the New Purchase."

On 12 March 1800, all of Clarion County lying north of the Clarion River was taken from Lycoming to form part of the new county of Venango, and all south of the river was likewise cut off from Lycoming and annexed to the new county of Armstrong.  There was no township organization of these sections until 1801 for Armstrong County, and 1806 for Venango.  When the first townships were laid out on 18 September 1806, there were only two between Redbank Creek and the Clarion River.  The eastern township was named Redbank which included what is now Redbank, Porter, Monroe, Limestone, Clarion and Mill Creek townships in Clarion County and Redbank, Mahoning and part of Madison in Armstrong County.  The western township was named Toby, which included what is now Perry, Licking, Piney, Toby, Brady, and Madison.

Today there are twenty-two townships in Clarion County. Farmington, Elk, and Richland were formed in 1806 when they were part of Venango County.  Ashland was formed in 1856 from Elk and Richland Beaver in 1839 from part of Richland; Brady in 1866; Clarion in 1832; Highland in 1848 from Paint and Farmington; Knox in 1853 from part of Highland, Paint, and Washington; Limestone in 1842 from Clarion; Licking in 1839 from Richland; Mill Creek some time after 1850; Monroe, part of Clarion Township in 1832, soon after became a separate township; Madison in 1839 from part of Toby; Porter in 1839 from Redbank; Perry in 1839 from Toby; Paint in 1839 from Farmington; Piney in 1839 from Toby; Redbank in 1806 from part of the original Armstrong County township of the same name; Salem in 1856 from part of Richland and Beaver; Toby in 1806 when it was part of Armstrong County; and Washington in 1843 from Elk.

When it came time to select a site for a county seat for the new county, a contest arose between the leading villages:  Callensburg, Shippenville, and Strattanville.  Christian Myers of Penn Mills, Philip Clover of Strattanville, and the latter's sons and son-in-law, Levi G. Clover, Peter Clover, and James P. Hoover, owned the land now occupied by the county seat.  They offered this land to the commissioners on condition of receiving half the proceeds of the sale of lots.  This land had the advantage of being a neutral site; the surface of the land was elevated and level; and it was near the Clarion River, centrally situated, and on the Bellefonte and Meadville turnpike.  All these considerations, taken with the offer of donation, determined the site of the future town of Clarion.  Its origin was purely political, on a spot where there was only one dwelling in the midst of a forest.  The county and the county seat were named for the Clarion River, known in the early days as Stump Creek and Toby Creek.

Absolom Travis and his three sons, Robert, James, and Stephen, were the first permanent settlers here in the southeast corner of present Monroe Township, Clarion County, in 1792.  In 1800 Alexander Guthrie, John Guthrie, Thomas Guthrie, brothers, and William Maffet came from New Derry, Westmoreland County.  They penetrated the wilderness a mile east of Strattanville; made a clearing; built a cabin and returned to Westmoreland County.  The next spring they returned, bringing along James Maguire, Herman Skiles, Mrs. Fulton, a widow, and her sons James and Cochran, James McFadden, and a few others.  The first immigrants from Centre County were William Young, Philip Clover, John Love, James Potter, John Roll, John C. Corbett, Samuel Wilson, William Smith, and Philip Clover Jr.  They also settled near the Strattanville area in 1801.

Another group settled farther south in what is now Limestone Township in 1800 and 1801.  This group included Thomas Meredith, Revolutionary soldier, and his son-in-law, Mark Williams, from Chester County, Samuel C. Orr, Tate Allison, William Cochran, Robert Warden, Peter Pence, and John Sloan from Westmoreland County.  Other people came from Mifflin County, and many more came from Westmoreland and various eastern counties.  Settlement proceeded slowly because of the hard work and hardships of frontier life as well as confusion over land ownership.

The Land Office opened on 1 May 1795; by 1800 most of the land had been warranted to the Holland Land Company, William Bingham, Richard Peters, Pickering & Company through James Potter, and various smaller warrantees.  In the beginning the surveys were vague, and there were many disputes in court to settle the real ownership of the land.

Gradually people began to come from the surrounding counties.  Lumbermen made fortunes from the rich supply of virgin timber and mills were built along the streams which provided natural transportation down the Clarion and Allegheny Rivers to Pittsburgh.  By 1845 the discovery had been made of the rich deposits of iron ore and the large amount of overlay of limestone that sparked the pig iron industry.  At one time there were 31 iron furnaces in Clarion County which, in consequence, became known as the Iron County.  Oil became a booming business in the western part of the county in 1864; this continued until the late 1880's.  Cities grew up over night and disappeared as quickly.  At the same time, the mining of coal became a growing industry, as rich deposits were found all over the county.

Davis, A. J.:  History of Clarion County, 1887.
Caldwell:  Clarion County Atlas, 1877.
Brown, Runk & Co.:  History of Venango County, Pennsylvania, Its Past and Present, 1890.
Kauffman, Daniel W.:  History of Western Pennsylvania, 1846.
Mulkearn, Lois & Edwin V. Pugh:  A Traveler's Guide to Historic Western Pennsylvania.
Family notes from Helen Williams Urban, great-granddaughter of Mark Williams.

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