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From A Pioneer Outline History of Northwestern Pennsylvania, by W. J. McKnight, M. D., of Brookville, PA.  Published Philadelphia:  J. B. Lippincott Co., 1905 (pp. 474-485).

Special thanks to Linda Stitt for making this available.



"Clarion County was established by an act passed March 11, 1839, which defines the boundaries as follows:  'That all those parts of Armstrong and Venango counties, lying and being within the following boundaries, -- to wit, beginning at the junction of the Red Bank Creek with the Allegheny River, thence up said creek to the line dividing Toby and Saratoga Townships in Venango County, thence along said line to the corner of Farmington Township, in Venango County, thence a straight line to the mouth of Shull's Run, on the Allegheny River, thence down said river to the place of beginning, be and the same is hereby declared to be erected into a county, henceforth to be called Clarion.'

"By the same act James Thompson, John Gilmore, and Samuel L. Carpenter were appointed commissioners, to fix upon a proper and convenient site for a seat of justice.  Mr. Thompson resigned, and by the act of June 25, John P. Davis, of Crawford County, was appointed to supply the vacancy.

"Clarion is bounded on the north by Venanago County, on the east by Jefferson, on the south by Armstrong, and by the Allegheny River on the west, separating it from Armstrong, Butler, and Venango. by the return of the census of 1840, its population and general statistics are included in that of Armstrong and Venango Counties.  The number of inhabitants within the new county exceed fifteen thousand.  Average length, twenty-five miles; breadth, twenty-four miles; area, five hundred and ninety-five square miles.

"Education receives considerable attention.  Nearly all the districts had, a few years ago, adopted the general system of common schools.  Besides ninety common schools, there is an academy of advanced standing in the county town.

"The prevailing religious denominations are Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and Catholics, all of whom have houses for public worship.  The inhabitants are generally characterized for industry, sobriety, and morality.  Few idlers are to be found in this county.  They are literally 'worked out.'  The people do not stand lounging.

"Clarion, the county seat, situated on the east side of the Clarion River, on the Bellefonte and Meadville turnpike road, was laid out by the commissioners in 1840.  The land had been owned by General Levi G. Clover, James P. Hoover, Peter Clover, Jr., heirs of Philip Clover, of Strattonville and the Hon. Christian Myers.  'These persons made a donation of the town site to the county, on condition of receiving half the proceeds from the sale of lots.  Space for the county buildings and a public square, were reserved from sale.'

"The public buildings are a neat court-house of brick, surmounted with a cupola, a county prison, built of sandstone, and a spacious academy, built of brick.  The borough is well laid out, neatness and much taste are displayed in both public and private buildings, and a brisk air of enterprise is presented everywhere in this town.  There are several churches here.

"Besides the county town, there are several thriving towns and villages in this county.  The principal ones are Strattonville, Shippensville, Curlesville, Greenville, Callensburg, Edinburg, Reimersburg, etc.

"Strattonville was laid out by Mr. John Stratton, from New Jersey, in 1830.  It is on the turnpike road, about three miles east of the county town.  It had seen, until lately, better days.  It was the principal place of business for an extensive circle of thrifty and industrious farmers.  Business has been principally diverted from this village to Clarion.  There are several churches in, and near this village.

"Shippensville, called after its proprietor, the Hon. Judge Shippen, of Meadville, who laid out this town in 1826, is on the turnpike road, seven miles west of Clarion.  It is a place of considerable business, and will undoubtedly increase rapidly.  A few years ago the Lutherans erected a church in this town.

"Curlesville is a small village on the right bank of Licking Creek, near the township line, between Red Bank and Toby Townships.  Greenville is situated near the head of Piney Creek, on the right bank, about one mile northwest of the Olean road. Callensburg is on the right bank of Licking Creek, at its mouth." -- History of Western Pennsylvania

The court-house was built by Edward Derby and Levi G. Clover, cost ten thousand six hundred and thirty-six dollars, and was completed in 1842.

Clarion was made a borough April 6, 1841.  The pioneer burgess was James Sloan.  The pioneer storekeeper was John Potter.  The pioneer postmaster was David Wilson, in 1840.  In 1841 Clarion contained seven hundred and fourteen people.  The Presbyterian church was organized May 15, 1841, in the jail, and pioneer church-building was completed in 1844.

Clarion County is bounded on the north by Forest County, on the west by Venango County, on the south by Red Bank Creek and the Allegheny River, and on the east by Jefferson County.

It is stipulated in the act of March 11, 1839, that the county organization for judicial purposes should go into effect on September 1, 1840, and the county was attached to the Sixth Judicial District, composed of the counties of Erie, Crawford, and Venango. Hon. Alexander McCalmont, of Franklin, was the pioneer judge; Christian Myers and Charles Evans were the pioneer associate judges.  The pioneer court was held the first Monday in November, 1840, in a private house.  At this court twenty-three lawyers were present.

John Sloan plotted the town of Clarion in 1839, and but one house then stood on the present site.  The pioneer sale of lots was in October, 1839.  The court-house and jail were put under contract in the fall of 1839.  The courthouse was not finished until 1843, and the upper story in the jail was used for court and church purposes until that time.  The pioneer election for officers was held October 13, 1840.  The following were chosen; James Hasson, for sheriff; James Goe, for prothonotary, etc.; John Reed, for coroner; George L. Benn, Jacob Miller, and Gideon Richardson, for commissioners; John Elliot, Joseph C. King, and George Means, for auditors.  Joseph K. Boyd was the first resident lawyer.

The Clarion River divides the county in about the centre.

In 1844 the waters of what is now called the Clarion were as clear as crystal, pure as life, and gurgled into the river from mountain springs.  No tannery or other refuse was to be found in it.  In 1749 the French named the stream Gall River.  It was declared a public highway, as Toby's Creek, by an act of the Legislature, March 21, 1798, up to the second great fork.

In early times this river was known as Stump Creek, and sometimes as Toby's Creek.  It was called Toby's Creek as early as 1758.  In 1819 we have the first official notice by an act of the Legislature designating the river Clarion.

In an act to authorize the erection of the dam, passed in 1822, this stream is designated as "Toby's Creek, otherwise called Clarion River."

Of the pioneer settlers who came over Mead's trail and settled in what is now Jefferson and Clarion counties, Judge Peter Clover, of Clarion County, in 1877, wrote as follows:

"As stated in the outset, I will give a brief account of the pioneer settlement of Jefferson County.  In 1800, Joseph Barnett and Samuel Scott settled forty miles west of Curwensville, Clearfield County.  They were men of great energy and industry, and soon made valuable improvements.  They built a saw-mill, which was a great help to the people, providing them with boards, etc.  They settled among the Indians of the Seneca tribe, who were, however, civil.  Joseph Barnett was a very eccentric, high-minded man, and took a leading part in all the business transactions of the day; a man long to be remembered by those who knew him.  Shortly after their mill was made, perhaps as early as 1802, Henry Fir, a German, and a number of other families settled on the west Mill Creek, Jacob Mason, L. Long, John Dickson, Freedom Stiles, and a very large negro by the name of Fudge Vancamp, whose wool was as white as the wool of a sheep and whose face was a black as charcoal, and yet he was married to a white woman(?).

"In about 1802 John Scott came to Jefferson County and settled on the farm where Corsica now stands, and about 1805 Peter Jones, John Roll, Sr., and the Vastbinder families, and Elijah Graham, and, in 1806, John Matson and some others settled near where Brookville now stands.  In the southern part of Jefferson county, near Mahoning, John Bell settled at an early day.  He was a man of iron will and great perseverance, afraid of neither man nor beast, and was a mighty hunter.  Moses Knapp was also an early settler. 'Port Barnett,' as the settlement of Barnett and Scott was called, was the only stopping place from Curwensville for all those who came in 1801-02 through or for the wilderness over the 'trail.'  We imagine that these buildings would have a very welcome look to those footsore and weary travelers -- an oasis in the desert, as it were.

"In the year 1801, with a courage nothing could daunt, ten men left their homes and all the comforts of the more thickly settled and older portions of the eastern part of the State for  the unsettled wilderness of the more western part, leaving behind them the many associations which render the old home so dear, and going forth, strong in might and firm in the faith of the God of their fathers, to plant homes and erect new altars, around which to rear their young families.  Brave hearts beat in the bosoms of those men and women who made so many and great sacrifices in order to develop the resources of a portion of country almost unknown at that time.  When we look abroad today and see what rapid strides have been made in the march of civilization, we say all honor to our forefathers who did so great a part of the work.  It would be difficult for those of the present day to imagine how families could move upon horseback through an almost unbroken wilderness, with no road save an 'Indian trail,' the women and children mounted upon horses, the cooking utensils, farming implements, such as hoes, axes, ploughs, and shovels, together with bedding and provision, placed on what were called pack-saddles, while following upon foot were the men with guns upon their shoulders, ready to take down any small game that might cross their path, which would go toward making up their next meal.  After a long and toilsome journey these pioneers halted on their course in what was then called Armstrong County (now Clarion County), and they immediately began the clearing of their lands, which they had purchased from General James Potter, of the far-famed, 'Potter Fort,' in Penn's Valley, in Centre County, familiar to every one who has ever read of the terrible depredations committed by the Indians in that part of the country at an early period of its history.

"The names of the men were as follows:  William Young, Sr., Philip Clover, Sr., John Love, James Potter, John Roll, Sr., James McFadden, John C. Corbet, Samuel Wilson, Sr., William Smith, and Philip Cover, Jr.  Samuel Wilson returned to Centre County to spend the winter, but death removed him.  In the following spring of 1802 his widow and her five sons returned, namely, Robert, John, William, Samuel, and David. Those who did not take their families along in 1801 built their cabins, cleared some land, put in some wheat, raised potatoes and turnips, put them in their cabins and covered them with earth for safe-keeping for the next summer's use, and when they got all their work done, in the fall they returned to their families in Centre and Mifflin Counties.  In the spring of 1802 those, with some others, who also came at an early date, James Laughlin and Frederick Miles, built a saw-mill in 1804, at or near the mouth of Pine Creek, and they were the first to run timber to Pittsburgh from what is now Clarion County.

"The food and raiment of the first settlers made a near approach to that of John the Baptist in the wilderness.  Instead of locusts they had wild turkey, deer, and bear meat, and their raiment consisted of home spun woolen, linen, or tow cloth, the wool and flax being all prepared for weaving by hand, there being no carding-machines in the county for many years after its first settlement; then women carded by hand.  When woolen cloth was wanted for men's wear, the process of fulling was as follows:  the required quantity of flannel was laid upon the bare floor, and a quantity of soap and water thrown over it; then a number of men seated upon stools would take hold of a rope tied in a circle and begin to kick the flannel with their bare feet.  When it was supposed to be fulled sufficiently, the men were released from their task, which was a tiresome one, yet a mirth provoking one, too, for, if it were possible, one or so must come from his seat, to be landed in the midst of the heap of flannel and soapsuds, much to the merriment of the more fortunate ones.  Flax was prepared by drying over a fire, then breaking, scutching, and hackling before being ready to spin.  The linen and tow cloth supplied the place of muslin and calico of the present day.  That which was for dress goods was made striped, either by color or blue through the white, which was considered a nice summer suit, when made into what was called a short gown and petticoat, which matched very well with the calfskin slippers of that day.  The nearest store was at Kittanning, thirty-five miles distant, and calico was  fifty cents per yard, and the road but a pathway through the woods.

"In those days men appeared at church in linen shirts with collars four inches wide turned down over the shoulders, linen vest; no coat in summer.  Some wore cowhide shoes, other moccasins of buckskin, others a long loose robe called a hunting-shirt, bound round the body with a leather girdle, and some a flannel warmus, which was a short kind of coat, the women wearing flannel almost exclusively in the winter.

"During the first two years after the first settlement the people had to pack their flour upon horseback from Centre, Westmoreland, and Indiana Counties; also their iron and salt, which was at ten dollars per barrel; iron fifteen cents per pound.  Coffee and tea were but little used, tea being four dollars per pound, coffee seventy-five cents.  Those articles were considered great luxuries, both from the high price at which they came, and the difficulties attending their transportation through the woods, following the Indian trail.  As to vegetable and animal food, there was no scaricty, as every one had gardens and the forest abounded with wild game, and then there were some expert huntsmen that kept the settlement supplied with meat.  Those who were not a sure shot themselves would go and work for the hunter while he would go out and supply his less fortunate neighbor.  Many, however, got along badly, some having nothing but potatoes and salt for substantials.  I knew one hunter who killed one hundred and fifty deer and twenty bears in the first two years of the settlement, besides any amount of small game.  When people began to need barns and larger houses, one would start out and invite the whole country for miles around, often going ten or twelve miles, and then it often took two or three days to raise a log barn, using horses to get up the logs."

Judge Peter Clover says, --- "The First white man who settled within the limits of Clarion county was Samuel Brady, who settled on the land upon which East Brady now stands, about the close of the Revolutionary War, and remained long enough to obtain a settlement right.

"Captain Brady was born on the Susquehanna, near Northumberland, and his father and mother were both killed by the Indians.   He swore eternal vengeance against the whole savage tribe, and became during the Revolutionary War a noted Indian hunter and scout, and conducted many small expeditions through Western Pennsylvania and Ohio against the Indians for General Broadhead, who was the commander of Fort Pitt.  A description of these will not be of interest in this sketch, except what relates to Clarion County.

"The Indians had become very troublesome along the Allegheny River and had committed many depredations on the lower settlements.  General Broadhead started with a considerable force up the river after them.  Captain Brady, who was in advance with a small body of scouts, discovered the Indians on the flat where East Brady and Mr. Cunningham's far now are, and, with the eye of a commander of no small merit, he took in the situation in a moment.  He, being familiar with the locality, concluded the Indians would make for the narrow pass where the steep hill puts in between East Brady and Catfish.  So, without giving them any notice of his presence, he stationed himself and his men along the rocky cliff.  The Indians, as soon as the main army approached, retreated up the river with intent to gain the narrow pass, which a small force could easily defend against a large one.  But when they arrived there they found Captain Brady and his men in this impregnable position, who opened fire upon them and with the main army in their rear escape seemed impossible; and few did escape.  Some attempted to cross the river where the water is always dead, and nearly the whole party were killed or taken prisoners.

"Captain Brady had only a cabin on this land, and followed hunting game and Indians after war closed.  He was indicted in Pittsburg for killing an Indian, and gave the Brady's Bend Tract of land to Judge Ross, who was an attorney in Pittsburg at that time, for defending him, and who succeeded in having him acquitted.  Judge Ross did obtain the title to this land, but the recital in the deeds on record do not show how or from whom he received his title.

"During the war of 1812 Captain Neely raised a company of volunteer minute men for the protection of the harbor of Erie.  He was the captain, James Thompson first lieutenant, and Nathaniel Lang second lieutenant. they held themselves in readiness to march at any moment, and were under command of General Meade.  In 1814 they were ordered out just in harvest time.  In a few hours they were on their march to Lake Erie, leaving the harvest, then just ripe, to the care of the women and children, taking with them their provisions and bedding not furnished by the government, but by themselves.  This company was composed of the old settlers I have named and many others.  There were, during that war, many who went with General Robert Orr (then major) in his memorable campaign to Fort Meigs.  Among these may be mentioned Colonel John Sloan, the noted Indian fighter.  The second settler was Absalom Travis, about 1792.

"The first settlements on Red Bank Creek were made in 1801 - 2 - 3 - 5, by Archibald McKelip, Henry Nulf, Jacob Hetrick, John Shafer, John Mohney, Jacob Miller, the Doverspike family, Moses Kirkpatrick, William Latimer, John Ardery, John Wilkins, John Washy, and Calvin McNutt.  Some of the above-named came from Westmoreland County, some from Lehigh County.

"The first child that was born in the county was Mary Guthrie, and the second was Thomas Young.

"The first church that was organized was the Presbyterian.  Its first regular pastor was the Rev. Robert McGarrah.  When he first began to preach I do not know, but it must have been as early as 1804.  He was ordained in the year 1806, at Thomas Brown's, near Reidsburg.  The pioneer Presbyterian Churches were Licking and New Rehoboth, both organized by Rev. John McPherrin.

"The first store was kept where Rimersburg now stands, by a good old man by the name of James Pinks, in 1812.  People from a great distance went there to make their purchases.

"At the breaking out of the war of 1812 there was a draft made in Clarion County, and a number of our neighbors were drafted into the army.  It was a sad day for all.  I well remember, as a boy, the morning they started.  They were all to meet at my father's, and when they were all ready to go they discharged their guns in a tree-top that stood near by, and amid many tears they marched away.  The army was gathered along the lakes and at the different forts, this being after Hull's surrender.  The names of those that were drafted were Captain John Guthrie, Alexander and Thomas Guthrie, William Maffett, Robert Allison, John, James, and Joshua Rea, John Wilson, Jacob Fiscus, Hugh Reid, Henry Goheen. James Guthrie went as a substitute for William Maffett and Hugh Reid; Captain Guthrie was discharged at Pittsburgh, Captain Wallace taking command.  Out of all who went, none were lost; they all returned.

"In 1840 the townships comprising Clarion County, and the population of each, although reported in the census returns of the county to which they had formerly belonged, were as follows:

  • "Townships from Armstrong County:  Clarion, 2239; Madison, 1305; Monroe, 1151; Perry, 1122; Redbank, 3070; Toby, 1829.
  • "Townships from Venango County:  Beaver, 1611; Elk, 585; Farmington, 799, Paint, 491; Richland, 1388.
  • "Total Population, 15,590.

"In the forties the lumber and boat-building business was very flourishing in this county.

"The iron business was commenced here about 1830.  Shippen, Black, Hamilton, Humes, and Judge Myers were the pioneers.

"At one time twenty-seven or twenty-eight furnaces were in full operation, making nearly if not entirely forty thousand tons of iron each year.  It was then called the iron county. These furnaces were all run with charcoal, and made a superior quality of metal;  but all have ceased operations and many have disappeared, so that no vestige of them remains except large piles of cinders that centuries will hardly obliterate.

"We find traces of the example of the Indian in the first white men.  The first settlers above Titusville, on Oil Creek, in 1809, took their bags of grain on their backs, walked to Erie, fifty-three miles, to the mill, and brought home their flour in the same way.  The lumbermen at Warren and on the Brokenstraw, as related in the address of Judge Johnson to the old settlers of Warren County, rafted their lumber to New Orleans, and walked home."

The pioneer post-office was in 1818, at the house of James McGonagle, two miles east of Strattonville.  This was a horseback route; Josiah Copley, carrier.  The route was from Indiana once a week via Greensburg, Freeport, Roseburg, Lawrenceburg (Parker), to Butler; thence back via Kittanning to Indiana.  There were mail routes through, but no post office in the county before this one.  In 1830 venison hams sold for one and a half cents a pound.

The pioneer grist-mill was built in 1803, on Catfish Run, by Jonathan Mortimer.  The pioneer road was the old State Road.  (See chapter on that subject, page 181.)  It crossed the Clarion in Mill Creek Township.  Robert Henry, John Allison, and Thomas Guthrie were the contractors for the Clarion portion of the road.

On February 28, 1829, the pioneer steamboat ascended the Allegheny to the mouth of the Clarion.  In 1830, steamers began to make regular trips.

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