Old Dog, New Tricks In May

I’m back in the saddle with my KDP book projects, getting ready to publish my books again at Amazon. I spent the past month learning new publishing techniques that will help ease the burden of being an indie author who self-publishes their books.

First among the list was learning the latest Microsoft Word program after I replaced 2010 with 365. The learning curve was small on that, which carried me onto Amazon’s latest version of Kindle Create. Again, the curve wasn’t too difficult since I last used the program five years ago.

Next on my list was learning to use Inkscape so I can create my book covers for paperback books. I usually use MS Word and an old PhotoDeluxe program for that, but I wanted to learn something new. The curve on that is big, so I’ve been watching YouTube tutorials to ease the process. I have a college BA degree in graphic design that I received in 1990, so I’m a relic when it comes to all the gadgets and their bells and whistles in the digital age. Don’t let me get started on all my failures while using Photoshop twenty years ago. The program was Grand Canyon huge and clunkier than my grandfather’s Model A Ford back then, so I got rid of it and settled on its streamlined and swifter little brother, PhotoDeluxe. Inkscape doesn’t seem as difficult as Photoshop but has plenty of bells and whistles.

During all this excitement, I replaced my Win7 laptop with a Win10 one. I spent a weekend moving files and learning 10’s shortcuts. It was funny when the computer connected to my old 2007 Hotmail account and wanted to use it as my primary email. I’ve been using Gmail for a decade and I forgot all about my Hotmail account after I transferred all my contacts to Gmail ten years ago. It was funny and a little bewildering to see my face from 2007 on my computer’s sign-in screen. Ah, the old gray hair isn’t what it used to be.

In between writing, prepping my books for publication, and getting comfortable with Win10, MS Word 365, and Inkscape, I decided to dive into the deep end of the author pool by downloading Scrivener version 3. More tutorials at YouTube helped me with its steep learning curve and I enjoyed how easy it was to create ebooks and paperbacks ready to send to Amazon’s KDP.

As if I wasn’t busy enough, I created a new author logo.

I plan to use this on my book covers to give them a unique look. I’m tired of seeing plain fonts on covers, so the artist in me took over during one of my book cover design sessions. Although the one pictured is red, I can use any color.

As an experiment, I threw this cover together for the first ebook at my KDP website.

I made it with MS Word and PhotoDeluxe—my old standby method—but I’ll probably use a cover built on Inkscape when I actually publish the book.

So, there you have it, my busy month of May in less than 1000 words.

Have a great June and stay safe.

Peace and love!

Book News, April 2019

Plans continue to rewrite and retool my ebooks at Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. I published my first book there in January 2013. Although my main character was a boy named Lenny Stevens, it introduced Vree Erickson and started the ball rolling for her to take center stage in many of the stories that followed.

I based the first book on a short story I wrote in high school in the 1970s called “Ghost Dogs.” I had such a fun time in 2012 going through my old stories, stripping them down to their bare bones, clothing them in newer outfits, and giving them new titles. The book became “Night of the Hell Hounds.” After publication, I knew the story should have been Vree’s, so I rewrote it in 2014 and turned it into a novel. I drove the librarians crazy at Amazon’s partner site Goodreads with all my changes. You can read more about the story and others by searching through my blog’s archives.

I published the following editions of Book 1 at KDP before I took all my books off market:

  • “Night of the Hell Hounds”: A Ridgewood Short Story, first edition, January 7, 2013, 19 pages
  • Night of the Hellhounds: A Vree Erickson Novel, second edition—title and story change, November 15, 2014, 200 pages
  • Margga’s Curse: A Vree Erickson Novel, third edition—title change, January 1, 2015, 200 pages

Please note that I retitled the third edition, Margga’s Curse, to Mergelda’s Curse at Smashwords where it is still available free for download. I will pull it from the market when I finish rewriting it.

At KDP, I published as Steven L. Campbell. The new books will list me as Steve Campbell. And it will have a new title. Its working title is Curse of Myers Ridge, but I don’t know its final title yet.

Other changes include

  • Vree as a middle child instead of a triplet
  • Her father is alive
  • Her grandparents live at Alice Lake
  • The west end of Alice Lakes butts against the cliffs of Myers Ridge

Currently, Vree’s age is in flux. I want her to be 15, going on 16. 16 is when you can get your driver’s license in Pennsylvania and I don’t want her driving yet.

So, it’s off to work at my mundane retail job today before I can continue the joy of rewriting Book 1 tonight.

Godspeed.

A Pencil Illustration of Vree Erickson

Vree

 

 

 

 

 

Future Writing Plans Update

I am planning to write a new book. It will feature a LOST AND FOUND story involving time travel.

Time Travel to the Past:

British physicist Stephen Hawking held a party for time travelers in 2009. No guests showed up — he sent out the invites a year later. Some time travel theorists argue that the guests—perhaps all of them—came to the party, but ‘our Hawkins’ didn’t notice because a parallel universe opened up creating another ‘story-line’ when each guest traveled back in time to attend the party.

Going to the past and creating a parallel universe are two major topics in my book. But unlike the universe ‘our Hawkins’ didn’t notice, my time traveling character gets to interact with her future self, and vice versa. In my book, a pregnant woman goes back in time via a time portal created by nature. Hawking and others have argued that you could never travel back before the moment your time portal was built. If true, she can only go back a few minutes in time to the point when nature created the time portal. But she doesn’t. She goes back seven years.

Hawking and other physicists say traveling to the past is probably impossible. But I write fiction, and I plan to have fun suspending belief—or disbelief—in my book. However, I don’t want to stray too far from the scientific reality, so I plan to use science theories to propel the plot. An early idea had been to use a wormhole as my time travel portal. Many physicists believe in wormholes and not only in a pure mathematical sense. But they are at the quantum scale, which happens to be far smaller than atoms. Either someone or some force of nature in my book would need to inflate a wormhole, or something or someone would need to shrink my pregnant character in order for her to pass through the hole. That’s quite a feat and would need a massive amount of energy—and shrinking someone and then bringing them back to regular size seems too Hollywood cliché and doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to write.

Another idea, put forward by the American physicist Ron Mallet, is to use a rotating cylinder of light to twist spacetime. Anything dropped inside the swirling cylinder could theoretically move around in space and in time. According to Mallet, the right geometry could lead to time travel into the past and the future.

Three things come to mind when I think of a cylinder.

  1. A tunnel;
  2. Point A, the entry; and
  3. Point B, the exit.

A time tunnel has an entry and an exit and needs a lot of energy to make it work. I was 16 when I conceived my first time tunnel/time travel story, The Vanishing. Two of my main characters discussed a theory behind traveling in time:

     Vree turned and faced me. The look on her face was close to accusing. “Humor me. You like reading and watching science fiction, so you must know all about time travel theories. Tell me. Do you truly believe in time travel?”
     I shrugged. “If you mean like being able to pass through holes in space and time, some scientists believe it’s possible. But it’s all conjecture. I’m reading a sci-fi novel about a time tunnel that’s stationary at one end and accelerated at the other end by nuclear matter. The main character just entered the stationary end and went into the future.”
     “What about going backward in time?”
     “I suppose if you entered the accelerated end first. You would be in the future of the tunnel’s stationary end, so you’d go back in time to its moment of creation.”
     “Could lightning be powerful enough to cause a time tunnel?”
     “I don’t know if lightning would cause a time tunnel. But its energy is certainly powerful enough to accelerate one, if one existed.”

The story’s time tunnel was a large sinkhole with crystals in it powered by lightning. The lightning and crystals accelerated time along the top of the sinkhole. Anyone who fell into it went back in time, as long as he or she survived the fall.

Getting back to their proper time was a major problem for my characters. As one character asked, “How does one fall up from the bottom of a sinkhole?”

One partial solution was to create a crystal cave with its roof missing. The cave has two horizontal entry points at opposite ends, and the middle has our swirling mass of energy powered by crystals energized by lightning from the opening above, which is the previous sinkhole. Theoretically, in my fictional world, entry at Point A into the swirling mass, and exit at Point B will send a character to the past. And vice versa, entry at Point B and exit at Point A will send a character to the future.

But how can this giant mass of energy occupy the past timeline so my characters can get back to Point A? Why can’t they simply step through a doorway to the past, and return to their future from the other side of the same doorway?

Perhaps there is no way back.

Aha. Picture this:

The top of an underground crystal cave falls and creates a chimney to the surface. The crystals contain opposite energy that attracts lightning to strike them through the chimney. This creates a new energy strong enough to suspend time. Seven years later, someone—a geologist or spelunker—is underground, enters the energy, and exits seven years in their past. Let’s call this person Karrie Erickson. She is pregnant. She has an accident—a fall, perhaps—and gets amnesia. Someone—a geologist or spelunker—from a neighboring town or city finds Karrie (who has no ID on her) and takes her in their care. Let’s call him Pierce Rickman. Pierce calls Karrie Jane because she is a Jane Doe. She has the baby—Pierce names the baby Sara—and keeps her amnesia. She and Pierce marry.

From this perspective, the moment Karrie goes back in time, she, as the amnesic Jane Rickman, occupies the same timeline of Karrie Erickson for seven years until Karrie goes back in time. At this point, Jane no longer shares the timeline with Karrie.

Meanwhile, the moment Karrie goes back in time, this becomes a point of loss for Karrie’s husband Charles who is without a wife. She is attainable, though, because she is in his timeline, albeit seven years older, with a different name, and in another town or city.

So, Charles visits the town/city—let’s call it New Cambridge—and sees Jane Rickman. He recognizes her as Karrie and follows her home. Pierce refuses him entry and to let him speak to her. He goes to the police and Pierce hides Karrie from him. After a game of cat and mouse, he gets back his wife and a six-and-a-half-year-old daughter.

This is The Vanishing and Kismet, a novel in the works for too many years. Until now.

I plan to rewrite those stories put them together in a new book for 2019. I will defy laws of nature and science with this book. This is fiction, after all. Science fiction. My crystal cave will be a place where time has stopped—or moves extremely slowly. To stop time, the experts say, the energy in the cave has to travel faster than light. And nothing can travel faster than light without gaining infinite mass and energy, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity. That’s a lot of mass and energy, which would kill a person passing through it. But in science fiction, why couldn’t electricity create a place where new laws of physics allow for someone to survive and go back in time?

It certainly deserves pondering by us time-bound beings.

I hope you’ll join me.

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.

Area History, Chapter 6, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

Union and the War of 1812.

By Beverley Bittner, From Brown-Thompson Newspapers, January 1974.

It was a time of western expansion. Many who settled in our area soon pushed further westward. By 1811, more than half of the original settlers had left the county, believing that all who did not leave must starve.

While their fields were being cleared, the settlers were dependent on boats to bring supplies. Those who did not have money to pay for goods became indebted to the land agent. Many became so deeply in debt that they had to leave.

The clearings were all very small yet, for the first settlers did not understand how to clear land, according to “The History of Union Township” by David Wilson.

The wide extended forest induced a great deal of rainfall, Wilson wrote in 1881, and the wind could not get into the little clearings. Consequently, the frost settled down in them a month earlier in the Fall than it does now.

The roads were only paths through the woods, and there were not yet enough people to make good roads. It required a great deal of courage, hope and perseverance to enable any to stay, but fortunately for the future of the country there were those who were equal to the task, says Wilson.

Soon another trouble was to meet the struggling pioneers. A cloud was rising on the political horizon which threatened a war with Great Britain. This was the War of 1812, which, when it did come, affected every family in even our remote area.

Almost every able-bodied man was subject to the draft. Early settlers, James Gray, his brother William, and John Frampton were obliged to join Harrison’s army and participate in his memorable campaign in the Northwest.

There they met James Smiley, who four years later came to Union and took charge of the mills which had been built in 1800 by William Miles.

The troops rendezvoused at the head of Lake Erie on January 12, 1813. The hardships of that bitter winter march and fighting left William Gray in impaired health, and John Frampton dead. While in Harrison’s army, James Gray gained renown for his great strength. He was said to have lifted a cannon that no other soldier could lift.

The Militia

All able-bodied men who escaped the draft were called out to guard (Captain Oliver Hazard) Perry’s fleet while it was being built in the Erie harbor. They stayed until the fleet was completed and then were allowed to return home.

The militia was called out again that winter, ostensibly to protect the town of Erie, lest the British should cross the lake on the ice and burn it. This drafting of the men for militia duty made it very difficult for the women, who were often isolated in their cabins, for the families were far apart, and the paths not broken through the snow, and the snow often as much as two feet deep.

One family’s experience was this: Hugh Wilson was drafted with less than 24 hours notice of the time he must report. No substitute could possibly be obtained, and if he did not go at the time appointed he would be caught and shot as a deserter. He did not even have time to cut firewood for his family.

The Wilsons had at that time seven children, the oldest three being girls, and the oldest girl about fifteen.

Hannah Wilson had several cows, some young cattle and a few sheep to take care of, besides her family. Their hay was scarce and the animals had to browse for some of their food. She fed the animals what she could spare, chopped what wood she needed, and felled some basswood trees for browse, and let the animals out.

The men were away six weeks. During that time Mrs. Wilson and her children lived without seeing another human being except for a neighbor boy from three miles away who came once to see if they were all right.

An enterprising grocer

There was a great deal of controversy as to the necessity of this draft. Some felt that R. J. Reed, an Erie merchant, misrepresented the danger to Brigadier General Mead, of Meadville, in order to have the militia called out. Mr. Reed’s motive, some believed, was a large store of flour he had on hand and could not sell, except to the Army.

In support of this theory, David Wilson writes, it was argued that although the British had burned Buffalo and the village of Black Rock, yet no general would require his men to march fifty miles over a field of ice exposed to the keen winds of winter without an object.

There was no garrison and no munitions of war at Erie, nothing but Reed’s flour, and the British did not know anything about that, and there could be no object in burning the few scattering houses of a village like Erie.

Besides, the lake does not freeze over in the winter, but perhaps General Mead and the enterprising grocer did not know that, Wilson concludes.


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 5, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

Union Township: How the Pioneers Lived.

By Beverley Bittner, From the spring, 1978 issue of Reminisence.

By the 1790s the great western migration that followed the Revolutionary War had begun in earnest. The Indians had been pacified. The deep forests, game, clear rushing streams and rivers and the opportunity to live free, away from the crowded eastern seaboard attracted restless men and women to northwestern Pennsylvania.

Most arrived in the summer months, but by the time they had cleared land, built cabins, and cut trees, it was too late to plant crops. The settlers were dependent on provisions brought up rivers by barges, then carried overland. Many were in debt. Some left to seek better fortune further west, or to go back east where families and friends still lived. Only the most hardy remained in the Union (Township) area.

Those who stayed settled in and made comfortable homes for themselves by much hard work. The names are legend: Matthew Grey, John Wilson, James Grey, William Miles.

By the Fall of 1799, the first comers found themselves with corn, potatoes and vegetables grown in their little clearings. Now a new difficulty presented itself. There was not a mill within one hundred miles to grind the first crop of corn.

Some of the women knew how to make the corn into hominy, which was nutritious and palatable. They also contrived to pound their corn into meal in mortars. The mortars were generally made by cutting off the top of a solid stump, and burning the center of the stump down lower than the rim, making it the shape of a bell turned upside down. The coals were carefully dug out and the mortar was ready for use.

Leather was always in demand. Matthew Grey set up a small tannery sufficient for the needs of the area. Hides were brought to him from miles around.

Daniel Herrington set up a blacksmith shop at the foot of Ox Bow Hill and did all the work of smith for the area until Able Thompson set up the trade at Union (now Union City) in 1801. Thompson bought forty acres from William Miles and his mill was set up within a half mile of the site Miles intended to build a grist mill.

Thompson brought with him a family of five sons and two daughters. The men were all mechanics and very ingenious. Besides blacksmithing, they were also stone cutters, and out of the flinty boulders which they found in the woods, made grinders for the new mill. All the tombstones in the area which are of native stone, showed son Joel’s handiwork.

The Thompsons also for many years made all the farming and household utensils for the county, which were made of iron or steel, such as hoes, hay and manure forks, harrow pins, and plow irons, which they had to sharpen frequently. They also made the shovels and tongs which were used at every fireplace.

They had a set of moulds for running spoons, and if any of the citizens could afford pewter, Abel Thompson would make them spoons of it. Jeb, another son, preferred to work in wood and set up a shop at the mouth ofCarroU’s run, and put in a turning lathe to go by water. He made wooden bowls and many other articles, including wheels for spinning flax and wool.

Abel’s son, Caleb, became a farmer, but was also a carpenter and jointer. Charles, Abel’s fifth son, was a shoemaker.

The building of the grist mill was an important event and took many months of work. A dam was built. The race above and below the mills had to be dug, and all the logs cut and hewn by hand. The nails and spikes in the mills and all the houses built for many years were drawn out on the blacksmith’s anvil, for cut nails were not yet invented.

Besides the grist mill, William Miles constructed a saw mill at about the same time. The benefits of the mills had been enjoyed only about a year when they caught fire and burned down. This was a great calamity, not only to the people of southeastern Erie County, but also those in eastern Crawford County. All the settlers patronized the mills except those who lived nearer to Culbertson’s mill on Conneaut Lake, which was built about the same time as the Miles’ mills. Everybody believed the mills had been set on fire deliberately, but no one was ever convicted of the crime.

The mills were rebuilt and life went on.

As we go to the stores now we expect to find whatever we need or want. We seldom think of our ancestors who had to make what they needed or go without!


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 4, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

Lowville.

By Beverley Bittner, From the Erie Times-News, August 28, 1988.

Lowville is a small settlement just north of Wattsburg at the intersection of Routes 8 and 89.

“It used to be quite an active stagecoach stop,” a former resident said. ‘‘My mother told how they used to drive cattle up Route 8 – it was a plank road then – from Union City all the way to a slaughter house on Parade Street in Erie. All they needed were two good cow dogs and two or three men. It was not until the early 1920s that Route 8 was paved,” she continued. “There was a large general store that included until the late 1890s, a post office. A dam on French Creek powered feed and cider mills and the crossroads was a station where farmers dropped off milk for the Wattsburg cheese factory.”


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 3, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

William Crawford.

By Beverley Bittner.

Michael Hare claimed to have witnessed the horrible death of famed frontier soldier Col. William Crawford.

The colonel was a personal friend of George Washington. From Fort Pitt, he led many raids against hostile Indians.

In 1782, the fifty-year-old colonel led a major expedition into Ohio to put down an Indian uprising. He first encountered a group of Moravian Christian Indians and massacred them all. Then he came across a band of warlike Delawares. At first the battle went Crawford’s way. The fighting was fierce, then more Indians arrived, and finally Butler’s Rangers, a mixture of Tories, Indians, and regular British troops.

Crawford ordered his defeated troops to retreat.

As he attempted to reach the Ohio River at night, he was captured by Delawares. They marched their prized captive to a campsite near Sandusky and tethered him to a pole by a long leash. Fires were lit around the pole and the colonel was forced to dance through them as he was chased by frenzied Indians who poked at him with firesticks or flintlock rifles.

He died at the stake June 11, 1782.

Although Col. Crawford never lived in the county, in 1800 he was honored for his service to the state, by having Crawford County named for him.


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 2, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

Michael Hare.

By Beverley Bittner, From Steppin’ Out, 1973.

The full title is “Olden Times, or a History of the Settlement of Union Township and Vicinity.” The writer is David Wilson. His parents, Hugh and Hannah Wilson, settled in the Union area in 1797. David’s book was published in 1881 by the Times Steam Printing House in Union City.

The following is a chapter from David Wilson’s book:

“I will now write something about a man who did not live in Union except for a short time, yet he lived near by and was well known by all in the settlement. Michael Hare has had some very absurb (sic) things written about him since his death.

“About a mile north of the city of Corry and a few rods east of Hare’s Creek may be seen a clump of old apple trees which mark the spot where Michael Hare and Betty, his wife, built their cabin in the wilderness about eighty-four years ago (about 1797).

“They came with the first settlers. The creek was named for him, because he lived on its banks. After some years, Michael moved near French Creek, and made several moves in that vicinity before his death. He was a weaver by trade, and if any of the neighbors had a piece of fancy work that ordinary weavers could not do, such as double coverlets or bagging of double thickness, twilled on one side and plain on the other, if they would send for Mr. Hare, he would go, be it far or near, and rig up their loom and show them how to weave it, and charge the sum of two dollars.

“The writer has a bag that will hold three bushels, woven by Mr. Hare. It may rot in time, but we are satisfied it will never wear out. At such times (when he was weaving) he was free to talk of his own history, and what he had passed through, and boys who were present would be deeply impressed with the more thrilling incidents of his life, remembering them long.

“He had been a soldier in the American Revolution, and under Col. Rogers he had been down to New Orleans to bring up boats loaded with provisions, to supply stations along the Ohio River, and on their return, at the mouth of Licking River in Kentucky, the place where the city of Covington now stands, they were attacked by a large body of Indians, and after a desperate fight in which Col. Rogers and about sixty of his men were killed, some of their boats were captured.

“Michael Hare was taken prisoner and marched to northern Ohio, where he became acquainted with Simon Girty, the renegade white man, who was such a terror to all the settlers on the frontier in those days. He said also that he was present when Col. Crawford was burned at Sandusky. We find the date of the battle in which Michael was taken prisoner in 1779, and Col. Crawford was burned in 1782, so Michael must have been a captive at least three years, and probably he did not get out of the Indians’ clutches until the close of the war, which was a year later.

“When asked about his age, Hare said that he had lost the record long ago, and could not tell his age, and this is not strange when we consider the events of his life. But from the date of certain events he knew he was quite old, and before his death said he was more than a hundred years old.

“After his death, however, an Erie newspaper fixed his age at 115, and it stood at that until a year later, when a Buffalo newspaper wanting to make it a little more marvelous, said he was 116 when he died, and that he was proved alive every year until 1843 when he died, and that he was a British soldier all through the Revolutionary War.

“This article was copied in the New York Times and perhaps many other papers, and when we read it, we thought that if Michael could be permitted to come back, perhaps he would like to try his old flint lock on the man who first wrote that he had carried arms under the British flag against the colonies!”

Mr. Wilson concludes his chapter on Michael Hare by stating, “Michael had two sons. James lived in Union and John in Waterford Township, but they are both long since dead. He has grandchildren and great- grandchildren still among us.”

Other facts (and some legends) about Michael Hare:

* He was born June 10, 1727 in Armaugh County, Ireland.
* He had studied for the priesthood.
* He was scalped by Indians but survived.
* At age 100 he taught school, first in his cabin then later in a school built in his vicinity.
* He was given a grant of land as payment for his service in the Revolutionary War.
* At age 80 he was granted a pension of $96 a month and $1, 000 in back pay.
* At age 85 he walked to Erie and offered his services to Captain Forster in the War of 1812.


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.