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Elk County Select Biographies

Early Pioneers of the 1800s and Select Notables


Elk County Courthouse, Ridgway
Elk County Courthouse, Ridgway




The following our biographies of our early ancestors/pioneers and selected Elk citizens that have been contributed by us. Hopefully we haven't included copyrighted stories without permission. Enjoy and please share as appropriate.

If you have any biographies and stores that you would like to contribute please email to me and I will include in this section. Thanks




Jay Township


Robert E Burk(e)(1844-1924)of Caledonia was the first of many Burke's in Jay Township coming here in approximately 1869. He was born in Northumberland County, Penn. March 24, 1844,the fifth son of six children born to James Burk of Ireland and Jane Neff(1808-c1852)of Pennsylvania. Robert was about 8 years old when his mother died (presumably his father died earlier)and supposedly lived within the canal building community. He enlisted at age 17 years old in the Civil War with 3rd Heavy Artillery Co D, 152nd Pennsylvania Volunteers competing his service (1865) as a sargeant at Fort Monore VA. Back home in Northumberland County he worked as a fireman and engineer of the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad. Before moving to Spring Run, Jay Township and working in Oliver Dodges's saw mill, he married( July 1867 probably in Reading PA) Elizabeth LeVan of Reading PA- daughter of William LeVan and Catherine Brumbach. Elizabeth Burk died in August 1887 of pneumonia the mother of nine children most born in Jay Township. Robert married Cora B., daughter of David and Charlotte (Kinner) Dixon, of Jay township in 1888 and had 5 children all born in Jay Township. Robert's last residence was Caledonia, and here he worked for the Putnam lumber company. Robert died in 1924, and is buried next to first wife, Elizabeth, in the Mt. Zion cemetery. Also resting eternally in this family plot are sons George and Ambross "Rip" and his wife Ester, and infant son Alvin. Next to Rip's grave is Bob's second wife Cora(1865-1925). His daughter Dora, together with at least one un-marked grave.

Michael Ovell (1793-1865) was the first of the Ovell family of Weedville, Jay Township moving here about 1840(Elk was Clearfield County at that time). Michael was born about 1793 in Nicholson Township, Lucerne County PA and married Catherine Felton (1797-1826) in 1817 and had 6 children including Jacob Ovell of Jay. His wife Catherine died in 1826. After Catherine's death, Michael moved to Indiana County, PA with 3 of his children ( Eliza, Jacob, and Amy). Then ca 1840 he moved to Clearfield Co(now Elk Co). Here he married Mary English Thurston(1807-1900) and had 4 daughters. Around 1839-1840 is when Michael took ownership of what would be the Ovell farm in Weedville. At that time it was Caledonia, Clearfield Co.,PA. Michael Ovell died in 1865 and is buried next to wife Mary in Mt Zion Cemetery just up the road from his farm on now Mt Zion Road.

Charles Brookins (1794-1844)was a greatgrandson of Philip Brookins of the Vermont Mass. Brookins. Charles was raised in the Caroga Lake, NY area(southern Adirondack Mts.)and moved his family to Caledonia, Pennsylvania in 1838-1839. He was born in 1794 in either Vermont. In 1820 he married Betsy Lindsley (1798-1857) and had 10 children. In the fall of 1839, Betsy and Charles, a farmer, moved the family here and lived in the Old Pine School House for about a year before buying their land in Spring Run. Charles died on July 29, 1844, at the age of 50. Betsy lived on for another seventeen years (1798-1857), living at the homestead with her children: George, James,Mary, Sally Ann, Silas, Elijah, Harriet and Lucy. Charles and Betsy are buried in the Mt. Zion Cemetery.


Benezette Township


Carpenter Winslow(1793-1875)and Beulah Keene (1976-1864) had 10 boys and 4 girls. They were early pioneers to Elk County along with his brothers Reuben and Ebenezer. His father Carpenter Winslow Sr and family natives of Maine moved to Penna around 1815. Came up the Susquehanna River to Clearfield by building a bridge across the river. Then they went down the Wilderness Road to Punxsutawney and became crop farmers. Sons Reuben, then Carpenter and Ebenezer returned to Benezette area to work in the lumbering business/ farm. They apparently endured many hardships incident to pioneer life, bringing all their provisions in a canoe from Lock Haven ( a distance of 75 miles), taking two and a half days to push the canoe up the stream. Carpenter raised his family on a 600 acre farm in Benezette. The cemetery on Winslow Hill is a part of this farm. Winslow Hill is one of the most scenic spots in the Benezette area because of the view from the top of the hill. He was elected supervisor in the first Benezette Township elections of 1846. In 1844 was listed a resident taxpayer of Jay township along with Reuben , E.C. and Charles Winslow. Carpenter and Beulah lived with son George during the latter years of their life. Beulah Elizabeth is buried in the Winslow Hill Cemetery. We are not sure of where Carpenter is buried but assume next to Beulah with a tombstone missing. Beulah Keene's ancestors provide a direct Mayflower connection (via her Wadsworth line) to William Bradford, Thomas Rogers, John Alden, Priscella Mullins, William Mullins, Richard Warren, and William Brewster. This Winslow line descends from Kenelm Winslow brother of Edward Winslow of the Mayflower Pilrims.

Reuben Winslow (1796-1871)Born in Maine and married an Irish women named Elizabeth Collins(1800-AFT 1880) in Curwensville in 1818. The Winslow family originally came to Pennsylvania at an early date from the State of Maine. Reuben Colburn Winslow came to Benezette with three of his brothers- Carpenter, Ebenezer, and Reuben- ( brother James stayed in the Punxsutawney area) before 1830 and is considered the official founder of the Town and Township of Benezette. Reuben became an extensive landowner by purchasing several hundred acres of land in and near Benezette- located from Spring and Trout Runs to Austern's and Dent's Runs. The coal veins - called the Winslow Colliery- in this area were among the first and the best. He was also a prominent merchant and one of Elk County's first commissioners in 1843. On April 26, 1871 Reuben C Winslow was killed in a train wreck near Cook's Run between Philadelphia and Benezette. Being on business for his railroad- the Winslow Colliery Railroad- at the time, he was the first one to be rescued. However realizing himself he was too badly wounded he told the rescuers to try and instead save the lives of the other passengers. Carpenter chose a small farm about a quarter mile east of Benezette. Carpenter had a son George who gave his name to Winslow Hill before he died in 1905. Ebenezer lived in Benezette until about 1858 when he and his family sent west.



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