History of McKean County
J.H. Beers, Chicago, 1890
Sergeant Township

History of Sergeant Township

Sergeant Township occupies the south center of the county. The west fork of the west branch of Portage creek, Lick run, Brewer's run, Red Mill brook, Robin's brook and Smith's brook rise inside the east line in the gulches between the hills, which here have an altitude of 2,100 feet above ocean level. In the south center are Four Mile, Buck and Smith runs, flowing into the east branch of the Clarion; also Five Mile, Seven Mile and Rocky runs, forming near Williamsville, while Sicily, Large, Beckwith and Little Buck runs flow into the west branch. The Katrine swamp is west of Ginalsburg, in a basin 2,200 feet above the ocean, while west of this pond one of the feeders of Marvin creek steals north from Seven Mile summit. Howard's farm, 2,100 feet above ocean level, is on the divide between Smith brook and Five Mile run. The highest measured point in the township is at Chappel Hill, in the extreme northeast section, 2,310 feet above ocean level, but it is said the hill, 7,000 feet north, has a greater elevation. The lowest point is where the West Clarion enters Elk county, the elevation being 1,600 feet. The conglomerate bottom follows the summits, being 2,300 feet at Chappel Hill and 1,950 at Williamsville, while a little northeast, on Instanter creek, it is 2,050. From Chappel Hill to Bunker hill, a distance of two and seven-eighth miles, the dip is about 300 feet, or 104 feet per mile, and from Wilcox well No. 1 to Williamsville there is no dip. The thickness of the greatest exposure is 710 feet, which shows 285 feet of coal measures, 325 feet of Mauch Chunk and Pocono, and 100 feet of red Catskill; but from well records geologists have ascertained that the carboniferous and devonian structures exist for at least 2,500 feet in this township.

The Dagus coal bed exists on the hill between Red Mill brook, Beaver run and Instanter creek, at a depth of about sixty feet, and twelve feet above the limestone formation. This slaty limestone outcrops on the old Wilcox farm, between Clermont and Warner's brook. The rock is about six feet thick, and quarrying and burning it were for years the industries of the neighborhood. As has been stated the coal bed rests over this immense deposit of lime rock, while under the coal is the white fire-clay bed, from two to three feet in depth. The Johnson run sandstone (a hard white and yellow rock) reaches a thickness of fifty feet, and is prized by builders much more than the Kinzua creek sandstone, which falls to pieces under the influence of the weather.

Wilcox well No. 1, on Warrant 2,676, a mile north of Elk county, was drilled in 1864 to a depth of 1,600 feet by Adams & Babcock, and subsequently drilled to 1,785 feet, when the tools were lost and work abandoned. The well, however, showed signs of life and sent up great columns of gas and water as high as 115 feet, which feat it repeated every seven minutes, until new efforts to develop it were made, when the procedure changed, the intervals of explosion being longer and the discharge of water greater in volume. With difficulty the well was tubed and oil obtained, but again was abandoned and the gas allowed to escape, a match applied, the derrick burned, and in 1871 was controlled by a wooden plug. In August, 1876, when well No. 2 was drilled, gas was carried 855 feet to be used as fuel in boring No. 2, while the surplus gas was conducted through a two-inch pipe, and discharged over a water tank, splashing the pipe and, the pressure being thus released, formed a circle of ice around the opening. In January, 1877, an effort to remove the wooden plug resulted in taking up 175 feet of casing, when an eight-minute geyser was brought into existence. In May gas ceased to flow, but on July 14 the old seven-minute explosion was renewed in wells Nos. 1 and 2, and the gas from No. 2 was used as fuel in drilling No. 3 from October, 1876, to June, 1877. In March, 1879, Hamar & Ernhout's well, at the mouth of Head brook, was down 2,230 feet, and Hamar's well on Wild-Cat run 2,000 feet.

Sergeant township, in 1880, claimed 922 inhabitants. In 1888 there were sixty-four Republican and fifty Democratic votes cast, or a total of 114, representing about 570 inhabitants.

The first reference to the Cooper lands in McKean county is contained in an old day-book, dated August 22, 1809. This book is in possession of W.J. Colegrove. Cooper's farm in mentioned (Clermont) and the names of Van Wickle, Freeman and Outgalt appear. There was a saw-mill at Cooper's Grove, but Mr. Colegrove states that there was only a grist-mill on Red Mill creek, near Clermont, in 1815. In 1809 some iron was purchased from Joseph Olds for use in the old saw-mill.

Alexander Van Peter Mills was the surveyor for Busti & Cooper in 1809-10, and in August, 1810, he received $154.25 for his services from Mr. Lawrence. In August, 1810, A. Van Peter Mills surveyed the town on Instanter, and Gooding Packard received $23.32 for carrying the chain; Isaac Vantayle and George Vantayle were also chain carriers. David Combs is introduced in August as the purchaser of three quarts of whisky. As he was the first man married in the county it is thought that the occasion suggested this extravagance. In October the following entry is made: "Busti & Cooper, by a man Mr. Cooper left almost dead;" and in November a road was opened from the mill to Instanter, and William Neilson was allowed a dollar a day for work in the saw-mill, and was allowed $16 for going down Tobey creek with Wallace. John Harrison was blacksmith as well as Seth Marvin. The names of John Hunter, Thomas Cole and William Gygar (the first blacksmith), appear on the books at this time. Arnold Hunter, the first settler of Smethport, was at Instanter in 1811, and at this time Joel Bishop's name appears. The land office building was completed in 1811. James D. Bemis was added to the settlement, and John Stevens' printing office was established. In 1812 the office was abandoned, and the settlement practically broken up. The legends of the settlement tell of the old Catholic church of 1809, and the sudden disappearance of the priest in 1812. He was seen to enter the sugar bush at the end of the main street, but not a vestige of his garments or himself could be found by the searchers. Seth Marvin, John Mullander, Squire Renwick, Surveyor E. Ayers, William Armstrong, Thomas Lazenby, William Higgins, Sylvanus Russell, George Graham, Stephen Waterman, John Burrows are the names mentioned in the records of the period. In February, 1810, E. Van Wickle completed a six months' term of service for Busti & Cooper. In April, 1810, a cow-bell was purchased from Ellis Pierce for the use of Instanter, and in May, Dan. Cornell purchased eleven gallons of metheglin at four shillings per gallon. The only persons remaining at Instanter in 1813 were Joel Bishop, __________ Sweeten, David Combs, Sr., Job Gifford, Sr. and Seth Marvin, while Arnold Hunter moved to Smethport, and perhaps John Hunter. Those pioneers, with others in the county from Ceres to Instanter, heard the boom of Perry's victorious cannon on Lake Erie, September 10, 1813, and the weakening reply of the British guns. Their patriotism told them the story of victory long before positive news arrived.

John Wallace was a surveyor in the Instanter neighborhood in 1810. He it was who surveyed the lots for I. Rookens, south of the town; for John Hunter, on Marvin creek; for Seth Marvin, on the Nunundah; also for William Neilson, Nathaniel B. Bowens, James Travis, George Vantayle, Lorin Phillips, Thomas Lazenby, Daniel Cornell, David Combs, Paul Busti, Henry Dukintash, Reuben Priest, Joseph Phillips, John Robson, Joshua Loree, Solomon Tracy, Robert Armstrong and Louis Bronkart. He surveyed Peter Hankinson's mill lot in October, 1810, on the east side of the creek. In May, 1817, Benjamin B. Cooper acknowledged a plat of the lands claimed by him in the fourth east Allegheny district as surveyed that year by Brewster Freeman, over the surveys of 1792. The lands were conveyed in 1812 by Paul Busti, attorney for the Holland Land Company, to B.B. Cooper and O.W. Ogden. In 1814 other tracts were conveyed to Joseph McElvaine. On this tract, within Sergeant township, Cooper had the town of Instanter surveyed in 1817, and acknowledged this plat May 30, that year. There are four public squares shown, together with church lots and cemetery, all donated to the people who would settle there. W.J. Colegrove is positive that this is a resurvey and new entry.

The assessment of Sergeant township for 1836-1837, made by William McAllister, gives the following names of resident tax-payers: D.A. Easterbrooks, G. and William Easterbrooks, Joseph Rhodes, William Palmer, Ransom, Simeon and Samuel Beckwith, Jacob Slyoff, Joel Bishop, Joseph Lucas (now living), William P. Wilcox (saw-mill owner), Asa Messinger (the Baptist preacher), J. Barnett, E.G. Wilson, George W. Dix, D.J.M. Howard, William A. Clough, R.S.B. Johnston, Simon J. Robins, Perry Preston, C.P. Johnson, A.J., William M. and Ann Swift, J.B. Wagor, J.M. Clark, Thomas Stafford, Lewis H. Beadle, Eliphalet Covill, Joseph P. King, John Montgomery (Jacob Ridgway's Clermont farm of 376 acres was assessed $1,180.50), J. Garlick, Lot Coats, Richard Wildey, Thomas Hockey, J.W. How, __________ Marsh, J.F. Gallup and William McAllister. Teutonia dates back to March, 1843, when the Society of Industry (Henry Ginal, agent) established the town four miles west of Ginalsburg. The principles of this society varied a little from the older Fourier system. The capital was $40,000, the acreage 40,000, including the coal hills. In the year named there were 450 inhabitants, a school-building and seventy or eighty log dwellings. This community divided their purchase into several districts, in each of which a town was projected. Clothing and food were distributed from the commercial store, married women were not compelled to work for the community, and all religious forms were tolerated. At Ginalsburg there were then 100 inhabitants. A stone school-house, a steam saw-mill, a pottery and a furnace were projected. The dwellings were frame buildings. In 1875, when Mr. John Forest went to Clermont as paymaster for the Buffalo Coal Company, there were remains of the houses. It was a commercial affair, which, like most of that class, fell to pieces.

Ginalsburg is also a town of the past. The old Wernwag farm house was at Clermont. This township may be considered as still in a primitive condition. A few prosperous settlements exist; but its greater area is still clothed in its native trees. The construction of the Clermont and Johnsonburg branch of the Pennsylvania railroad system now passes through the township and already the effects of its presence are visible. Clermont. P.E. Scull, who died at Smethport, in 1867, came here early in the "twenties," as an agent of Jacob Ridgway, and in 1821 cleared the old Bunker Hill farm. In 1827 the Red Mill was built near Clermont by I. Burlingame, who did the mason work. On the mill dam J. Green, J. Garlick and J. King worked. Ben Colegrove split rails for fencing the nursery and Orlo J. Hamlin and Kenny were attorneys in the Crooker litigation. The mill was built immediately after Paul E. Scull took the agency. Scull told Ridgway that it had a capacity of eight bushels, and the proprietor was amazed at such an extensive concern being erected in the wilderness.

In the year 1827 the Clermont farm and store of Scull & Lee were in existence. Jonathan Colegrove was succeeded in July, 1852, as agent by W.J. Colegrove, the present agent, the former being general agent from 1817 to 1852…In May, 1847, the taverns of I.D. Dunbar and M. Goodwin were opened in Sergeant…G.R. Moore & Son's mill at Clermont was burned July 17, 1887, with 100,000 feet of hemlock lumber, one car of bark and four empty cars. Their new mill, three miles below, was being built at this time. the Clermont saw-mill of C.H. Moore was burned in September, 1889.

Supt. W.C. Henry, of the fuel department of the National Transit Company, furnished some data, in 1885, concerning the gas wells about six miles east of Kane, from which the gas supply is drawn for the city of Bradford, and most of the National Transit Company's pump-stations in the northern field. They have secured through purchase and by drilling ten wells north of the McKean and Elk county line on warrants 2,675, 2,729, 2,676, 2,723, 2,684, 2,695 and 2,685. Seven of the ten wells produce gas, and the other three are either salt water wells or failures for gas or oil. At some of these wells a showing of oil is found in a brown sand having a thickness of from twenty to twenty-four feet, which Mr. Henry has termed the oil sand to distinguish it from the gas sand which is found about ninety feel below. Where this gas sand has been drilled through it has been demonstrated to have a thickness of from five to seven feet. The No. 5 well, on the southeastern corner of Warrant 2,684, reached 1,943 feet where the gas sand was a depth of five feet. Well No. 6 is in the eastern part of 2,676, where a six-feet vein of sand beings at 1,776 feet. At the suggestion of Mr. Schultz, of Wilcox, this well was torpedoed, showing 250 feet of oil and 250 feet of water after standing thirty days.

The National Transit Company No. 7, known as the Frank Andrews well, is located in the northeastern corner of Warrant 2,675, and is a large gas well. The oil sand was struck at a depth of 1,762 feet and the gas sand at 1,862.

Clermont Cemetery Association was incorporated July 19, 1879, on petition of L. Steinham, L. Boyer, Jacob Hafner, Casper Hafner and John Martin.

Clermont Lodge, 949, I.O.O.F., was organized June 7, 1877, with the following named members:

  • W.E. Butts
  • Robert Dick
  • Walter Dick
  • Robert Jaap
  • L.J. Lewis
  • John Lee
  • James Morgan
  • George Morgan
  • J.H. Tate
  • Andrew Reynolds

The names of past grands are:

  • John C. Martin
  • Robert Dick
  • J.H. Tate
  • W.E. Butts
  • John Lee
  • James Morgan
  • Andrew Reynolds
  • A.M. Schmelz
  • George G. Windman
  • Edward Tracy
  • John Wilson
  • Alexander Muir
  • George T. Brown
  • W.A. Russell
  • James Davidson
  • A.W. Taylor
  • John O. Sonbergh
  • James Hamilton
  • James Robertson
  • John T. Cunningham
  • John W. Steinhauer
  • I.J. McCandless
  • Samuel Bedford
  • Addison Fluent
  • Jacob Amend
  • Adam Hafner
  • George W. Weaver

The names of secretaries are James Morgan (one year), W.E. Butts (one year), and J.H. Tate (nine years). The present number of members is eighty-seven and value of property $2,500. Dr. A.K. Corben, N.G.; Frank Hafner, V.G.; Jacob Amend, Asst. Sec.; Addison Fluent, trustee, and J.O. Sonbergh, representative, were elected in October, 1889.

The Clermont Union Church Society elected the following named officers in October, 1889: John O. Sonbergh, president; J.H. Tait, secretary, and Samuel Bedford, treasurer. A Sunday-school was organized at Clermont in December, 1889, with S. Bedford, superintendent; Mrs. Harrington, assistant; Sophia Hafner, organist; Maggie Bedford, assistant; Albert Anderson, treasurer, and Jennie McKendrick, secretary.

Sergeant Township Biographical Sketches

W. E. BUTTS, postmaster, Clermont, was born in Arkansas, September 18, 1841. When twelve years of age he came to Pennsylvania, and lived for some time at Lawrenceville. When he started in life for himself he was employed by the Fall Brook Coal Company, and after his marriage he moved to Clermont, where he has since been employed as agent for the Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad and Coal Company, and has also held the position of postmaster several years. Mr. Butts was married September 18, 1875, to Miss Elizabeth McCann, of Fall Brook, and they have four children: Lula E., Kittie A., W.E., Jr., and Fred H. Mr. Butts is a member of Clermont Lodge, No. 749, I.O.O.F.

PETER MARTIN, farmer, P.O. Clermont, was born in Philadelphia, Penn., in December, 1835, a son of Adam and Eva (Parents) Martin, natives of Germany, who came to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 1833, where they remained for one year, then removed to Philadelphia, Penn. Here the father engaged as a foreman in Mr. Erie's soap factory, where he worked for eight years. In 1843 he came to McKean county, settling in Sergeant township, and in 1849 purchased the farm where his son, whose name heads this sketch, now resides. Peter Martin is the second son in a family of ten children. He received his education in McKean county, and resided with his parents until their death. He married in June, 1870, Miss Lenora, daughter of Philip and Julia A. (Wagoner) Roades, who came to Clermont in 1842. Of ten children born to Mr. and Mrs. Martin, Burtan L. and Bertha L. are the only ones surviving. Mr. Martin has held various township offices; he is a member of Clermont Lodge, No. 949, I.O.O.F., and Smethport Encampment, No. 273, and is a member of the Baptist Church.

ORIN PERRY, farmer, P.O. Kasson, is a son of Michael and Hannah (Cass) Perry, natives of New Hampshire, where Orin was born in February, 1816. His parents afterward removed to Steuben county, N.Y., where he received his education. He remained at home until he was eighteen years of age, when he engaged as a common laborer. By thrift and economy he finally found success crowning his honest efforts. He married, in 1835, Miss Lurinda Abby, of Steuben county, a daughter of John and Mary (Head) Abby. This wife died in 1845, leaving two children, Mary (now deceased) and Malvina, wife of Calvin Pettis, of Port Allegany, Penn. Mr. Perry married in May, 1846, Miss Miranda, daughter of George and Amy (Page) Head, of Steuben county, N.Y., and they are the parents of the following named seven children: Ann (wife of Freeman Leyzotte, of Ketner, Penn.), George, Amanda M. (wife of F.A. Briggs), Andy, John, Mary and Ellsworth. Mr. Perry was engaged in farming in Steuben county, N.Y., until 1859, when he came to Sergeant township and purchased the farm of 240 acres, where he now resides. He has always evinced an interest in the township, and has held various local offices.

Contributed by Maureen M. (Buckley) Lee