Area History, Chapter 10, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

The Corry Building That Wouldn’t Stay Put.

By Beverley Bittner.

It was built by William Brightman in Wayne Township before the Civil War. Brightman’s father was a Methodist preacher and the 32 by 45 foot building was to be a Methodist church. It was located about one mile northwest of Corry beyond Macadam Hill at a fork in the road, one road leading to Carter Hill and the other to Wheelock – on the south side of the fork. It was built of hand-hewn red beech. An old account says, “The whole surrounding neighborhood, regardless of their spiritual condition, whether saved or not, turned out to help” with the building project.

Before it was finished, the church was used as a recruitment post for the Union Army. An eyewitness reported later that so many young men enlisted that the front cross sill gave way and dropped about five feet to the ground below “carrying with it a company of astonished men and screaming women.” (Corry Evening Journal, August 29, 1917)

The great 10 by 14 foot timber was spliced. Many years later, Rev. John Hatch, who was born and raised in Corry, and pastored here from 1914 to 1919, removed the splice and erected an iron pillar under the “long, splintering break,” as he described it. He remarked that the building was so strongly constructed that ‘‘the builders said it could be rolled end over end without damage except to the plaster.”

The First Move

About 1875 the Methodists decided to move the church to North Corry. Special preparations had to be made for the descent down Macadam Hill. With horses and oxen placed behind the building to create a slow descent, the church made it safely to its new location on East Columbus Avenue, across from Pine Grove Cemetery. For the next forty years it was part of the Methodist circuit at that location.

In 1914 the Corry Christian & Missionary Alliance church, which had been meeting in homes and rented store fronts, purchased the lot at the corner of East Washington and Maple Avenue. The Methodists were willing to sell the building. The optimistic CMA group bought it for $1,000 and prepared to move it for the second time.

The Second Move

Rev. Hatch said, “We hired mover Del McEntarfer of Union City to undertake the job.” The move took three weeks, being completed on November 2, 1914 at the cost of$335. “We had fine cooperation from the men of the church,” Rev. Hatch said. “Fred Shrader, Will Rhodes, Bro Harrison, among others.

“We called upon the contractor to see to it that under no circumstances was cursing and swearing to be permitted,” he added. “The building was so much heavier than the mover anticipated that when it was loaded and the horse started the building didn’t move; instead it just straightened out the pulley hook of the great iron block he was using. However, he got a much heavier pulley and hook and with this performed the job.”

“The Fair Association gave us permission to cut forty feet off their shed stables and move them out of the way so we could come across lots and on to their racing track (now Snyder Circle) and up the track to the south end of their premises and down on to Elk Street. Then we came east on Elk to Wayne, down Wayne to Washington and up to the present site.”

Thirty-six electric, telephone and telegraph poles had to be underdug and tilted at an angle to allow the building to pass. Because of the width of the building the workers had to travel in the ditches along the road all the way to Washington Street. On East Washington six huge poles of the Postal Telegraph Company had to be underdug, jackscrewed between the pavement and curb. The poles were 90-feet tall and embedded five feet into the ground. They were tipped at an angle to permit passage of the building.

Because of fire regulations, Rev. Hatch recalled, it was necessary to cover the wooden structure with brick veneer. “It was so cold the bricks had to be heated and salt put in the mortar to prevent freezing.”

A Corry Evening Journal article on August 29, 1917 said, “It is still in splendid condition and not one stick of the original structure had to be replaced when the building was placed upon its present foundation.”

If you happen to drive past the corner of East Washington Street and Maple Avenue, take note of the brick building and give her a salute. From Army recruiting station to church to business offices, the venerable old building has earned our respect.


About Beverley:

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.

Area History, Chapter 9, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

Vene Potter’s Trip to Dixie.

By Beverley Bttner.

Vene Potter left Bloomfield Township with two horses, a dog, and a loaded wagon weighing 2,735 pounds. He was bound for a farm in Virginia and a new start in life. His letters home indicate the hardships of the journey and the indomitable pioneer spirit that makes America the greatest country in the world.

Well to begin:

I left Bloomfield for Dixie the 23day of October, 1877. The first day I went 18 miles to the Johnson House. I followed the plank road down nigh Pithole to a large stream, there I turned to my left leaving Pithole to my right hand and went to President where I crossed the river.

The ferryman did not want to take me for fear I had glycerin in the large box, but finally took me over. After we got started Frank started to bark and sure enough I had left him behind. Well I called him and he swam across.

When it got dark I turned the horses in a field and took our coats and made a bed under the wagon and covered up with the sheep skins and went to sleep but it got too cold so I got up and started a good fire close to the wagon and was all right then. Well it commenced to rain at 2 o’clock and rained slowly until 8 in the morning. …

…I found that when they said the roads were good they were bad, if bad they were very bad. I met a man that said they were bad till I crossed the Big Savage. That scared me a little for they had told me they were good and they were bad and now they were savage. …

…Well we got to Johnstown all right, the largest railroad iron manufacturing city in the United States, hemmed in by mountains. There is a large iron furnace at the foot of the mountain with a railroad to fetch iron and coal which is brought direct from the mines to the furnace. It is so steep that a dog could not go up or down. Each mine has a railroad to fetch iron and coal, also a road running on around the mountain where they carry their cinders to get rid of them. I tell you it is a sight worth seeing. …

…I crossed the Potomac at Cumberland, into West Virginia and on to Springfield on the best roads I ever travelled on but I had some very long hills on the mountains so I only got 18 miles or to Springfield that day. Springfield is about as large as Riceville. Two stores, a post office, and one hotel and one barbershop, all of logs. Here it snowed a little.

In the morning Fred would not eat any grain. I asked a man how far it was and he said about 200 miles further. Didn’t that make me open my eyes and ears. A horse that wouldn’t eat and both of them so foot sore that they acted like frozen-footed chickens.

(Potter left the wagon to be shipped by railroad later and continued on to Goochland Court House in Virginia where he met up with the rest of his family who had come another way. It was now November 15, 1877. They continued together to his new farm near Richmond.)

December 31, 1877

I wish you all a Happy New Year and I hope it will be happier for me than one year ago was. One year ago tonight Doc Paine stayed with us all night. Em was sick, the snow was two feet deep and the roads were almost impassable, but here we have not seen snow enough to fill a teaspoon yet although rather cold. It has not froze (sic) enough but what we could plow any day yet this fall.

We finally got the wagon, got it to the store, roads were bad, left part of the load and came on, got here Saturday night and Monday morning we moved one load and the women on to the farm. I had come on ahead and started a fire. Mother got here in time to see the chimney fire which caught in the leaves as the house stands in a grove, there was lots of leaves which burnt pretty lively, but we put it out but had hard work. Well when it got cooled down I kept smelling something and sure enough I had singed my whiskers so that there was one inch of a curl and crisp ring around them; smelt bad.

Well if you are coming box your things and ship them by all means for they will cost you more to buy here than it does there. …

…The team stood the journey well except they got foot sore and leg weary for I had pike roads and very rough at that. The roads after I got to Cumberland was (sic) good but hard as stone for they are small stone and smooth as can be, crossing creeks there are not many bridges but when they can’t cross them they ferry. …

…Now mind me and what I have said and don’t come here and get homesick.

Vene


About Beverley:

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.

Area History, Chapter 8, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

Spartansburg: An Historic Village.

By Beverley Bittner, From Steppin’ Out, August 1971.

About thirty miles west of Warren and ten miles south of Corry, in Crawford County, lies the historic village of Spartansburg. About 1837 Andrew Aiken and his brother Aron built a dam across the creek for power, then built a grist mill on one side and a sawmill on the other. In 1846 or 1855 (depending which records you read) the name was changed from Aikenville to Spartansburg. But its history dates back much further.

Abraham Blakeslee was the first white settler to build a log cabin in the township, on the east side of Oil Creek. His wife, Harriet, recalled one of many frightening incidents of that lonely, isolated life. Most cabins at that time were constructed of logs on three sides. The remaining side was hung with animal skins. Harriet was alone in the cabin with her first baby, Seldon, when a Seneca Indian, in full war paint, pulled aside the skins and sat down at her fireside. She offered him a slice of Injun meal bread with maple sugar. He accepted it, ate, then left as silently as he had entered.

Settlers came family by family. Eventually a school was started and churches organized. Spartansburg’s most important industry, the woolen mill, at one time was the largest wool batton mill in Pennsylvania. Later, the Tauber luxury comfort became known all over the United States. In early days almost every farmer kept a flock of sheep and sold the wool to the mill.

Operating at various times in Spartansburg were: an oar factory, a wooden bowl factory, a cigar factory, a tannery, and a mill which turned out beautiful tweed cloth by workmen brought over from Scotland. On a side street still stands the stone house built by the mill owner for his wife who was homesick for Scotland.

In the early 1900’s, the town was at its peak with ten trains daily, its own orchestra, the Clear Lake Band and a newspaper, The Sentinel.

An unidentified historian gives the following account of Spartansburg in its hey-day: “There is the Tauber Woolen Mill which makes the ‘luxury comforts’ and three-quarters of the woolen batting in the United States. It employs thirty men and women. The Spartansburg Creamery supplies butter for the U.S. Navy. The Brooklyn Milling Company furnishes flour, feed, grain for seed, coal, cement and dressed lumber. The Davis and Hyde Mill can also furnish coal, feed, and do your grinding.

“The Shreve Chair Factory employs forty men. Messrs. Dorn and Jackson make cornices, fronts, and tanks. L.L. Hartwell manufactures harnesses. The New Central Hotel is owned by J.A. Haworth; Lake View Hotel is owned by D.W. Higgins.

“William Huff is an extensive shipper of livestock. J.M. McDannell conducts a first class bakery. Dr. Green and Dr. Small are the dentists. Squire Kinney and Squire Hoffman are the legal men. J.E. Winans and James Gates are artists in the line of barber work. The physicians are Dr. F.P. Fisher and G.T. Waggoner.

“Music for all occasions will be furnished by the Clear Lake Band. Leon Morris furnishes groceries and hardware. John Webb also has groceries and hardware. The Messengers and Goldstein will sell you anything in dry goods. A.E. Morton has furniture and is also the undertaker. Rexford and Miller have the drug store and also a jewelery (sic) store and Rexford will repair your watch. Gus Smeltzer will sell you shoes. There are four blacksmith shops.”

(Historical material adapted from A Brief Outline of the History of Sparta and Spartansburg by Ralph Elliott Blakeslee.)


About Beverley:

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.

Area History, Chapter 7, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

Corry’s First Mayor.

By Beverley Bittner, From the autumn, 1979 issue of Reminiscence.

Many men and women walked across the pages of our history in the early days, leaving footprints for historians to ponder over for all time. Familiar names include: Michael Hare, Call and Rihue.

Nothing is known of Call and Rihue, while Hare was famed for his longevity and military exploits. Others include: Amos Heath, who came to our area in 1795; Alexander McDowell, who surveyed the area in 1799; and Amos Harrington, who purchased ninety-three acres from the Holland Land Company in 1858. One month later he sold sixty-six acres to Hiram Cory for $463.

Others who bought land from the Holland Land Company about that time were: Jedediah Mather, George Keppel, Darius Mead, Isaac Colegrove, and Alfred Gates.

And then there was the first mayor of Corry, W.H.L. Smith. He was described as “a large man, a lawyer by education, very positive and somewhat blunt in manners.” He came to Corry in 1861 as a representative of Samuel Downer.

Downer was a successful Boston businessman, intelligent, with a good grasp of politics and a sort of intuition into human nature. Historians say he spoke little but listened much. He showed little ego but was determined to get ahead in the world even as a young man.

In the 1830s Downer was a salesman of high quality whale oil for spindles used in New England textile mills. Industry was expanding. Downer hired two salesmen to help him, paying them fifty percent of their sales. He was soon wealthy and continued to expand his business interests. He began to use kerosene for spindle oil.

When Downer heard about the first successful oil well in Titusville in 1859, he got at idea. If he could build a refinery near the oil fields, he would possess an advantage over his rivals in the oil business.

Downer sent W.H.L. Smith to scout out the land. Corry was a junction of two railroads. Except for a few scattered farmhouses, the only building was a small, wedge-shaped ticket office and eating house near the tracks. All around was swamp covered with huge pine and hemlock trees.

In Downer’s name, Smith purchased fifty acres of land from Hiram Cory. The fifty acres was laid out in town lots, and by Fall 1861, a frame building had been erected as an office for the Downer Oil Refinery. The first refinery was known as ‘‘the Frenchman’s.” It would grow to become the largest in the world in its time.

By Summer 1862, the Downer and Kent Oil Works and several other factories were in business. The Boston House, Gilson Hotel and many private homes were under construction to accommodate the thousands of persons flocking to the city to work or speculate in get-rich-quick schemes. Money was plentiful and real estate sold readily. Fortunes were made and lost overnight.

An old history book describes the Corry scene in 1862:

Corry is one of the wonders of the age in which we live – the creation of the combined effort of oil and steel. Some half dozen locomotives puffing and screaming, long trains of cars laden with oil, barrels standing along the tracks, one of the largest brick refineries, a large hotel, many houses give unmistakable evidence of a prosperous village where but a few months since stood the primeval forest.”

Smith lived in Corry until 1878. As a sign of the respect he enjoyed, he was elected the city’s first mayor in 1866. He served a one-year term.

“A fitting tribute,” said a historian, “after all, the city owes its existence to W.H.L. Smith.” That may be an overstatement, but Smith certainly played his part in the unfolding of Corry history.


About Beverley:

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.