BROKENSTRAW township, which was organized as "Number Four," on
the 8th of March, 1821, lies near the geographical center of Warren
county, and is bounded north by Sugar Grove, east by Conewango and Allegheny
River, separating it from the township of Pleasant, south by Deerfield,
and west by Pittsfield. Although the soil of the town is for the most part well
adapted for farming purposes, and is well drained by the Big Brokenstraw
Creek, which takes its rise in the township of Columbus, and flows southerly
and easterly through the townships of Spring Creek, Pittsfield, and Brokenstraw
into the Allegheny, and by Mathew's Run and Irvine's Run, which flow
into the Brokenstraw, yet the original motive which induced settlement was
the unusual facilities afforded by these same streams, and the splendid forests
which at first covered the town, for lumbering. The names of these hardy and
adventurous pioneers will be given soon.
The name Brokenstraw, it seems, is taken from the Indian word of that
meaning — Cushanadauga — bestowed upon this region from the fact that the
Irvine Flats once bore an annual crop of tall prairie grass, which in the fall
would break and fall over. About on the site of the present borough of
Youngsville, during the Revolutionary War, the Indians had quite a village,
called Buckaloon, from which they descended the river in canoes and committed
depredations on the country below. In 1781 Colonel Brodhead, with a
detachment from Pittsburgh, attacked, and, after a siege of some days, drove
them from their village, and destroyed a large crop of corn then growing on
the flats. He then fortified his position by erecting breastworks at the highest
point on the bank of the river, a short distance above the mouth of the creek,
traces of which may still be seen. It is stated that Robert Andrews, who is
mentioned more at length in the "History of Pittsfield," was the pioneer settler
on the Brokenstraw; but he was not long in advance of the first settlers in
this township. The first resident settler here was probably John McKinney,
who came on in the summer of 1795, with commissioners appointed by the governor
to survey this part of the country. "McKinney," as the Hon. Samuel
P. Johnson has well said, " was then a fresh import from the Emerald Isle,
young, vigorous, and adventurous; had first halted at Lancaster, where his services
were engaged by the commissioners. His visit here had given him a view
of this valley, and a knowledge of the fact that there was land here to be had
for the taking." Accordingly he returned the next year, and took up what is
still known as the McKinney farm, about one and a half miles east of Youngsville,
on the road to Irvineton. There he lived two or three years alone, clearing
the forests and subduing the obstinate wilderness. He then returned to
Lancaster and married Miss Arthur, who afterward lived here with him and
reared a family which have since become prominent beyond the town limits for
energy and integrity. McKinney's house afterward became the hotel of the
settlement. He was shrewd, hospitable, genial, and thoroughly democratic. He
was one of the most extensive farmers of the neighborhood, and was a heavy
dealer in lumber, horses, cattle, etc., etc. He had a large family of boys, and
one daughter. The children of his son, Arthur, now occupy the old homestead.
John McKinney, jr., became a very wealthy citizen of Youngsville. He
was the fifth sheriff of Warren county, elected in 1831, and it was during his
term of office that his father died. In 1829 he married Loranda, daughter of
William Simmons, of Jamestown, N. Y., after which event they always lived
on the place now occupied by his widow, in Youngsville. He died in December,
1878. He was prominent as a lumberman, who in all his dealing avoided
In 1797 Callender Irvine, then a young man, undertook in person, aided
only by his servant, "Black Tom," to make the actual settlement then required
to perfect the title which his father, the famous Revolutionary general, had procured.
The first house stood on the ground now occupied by the railroad
station at Irvineton, but this was abandoned for higher ground after the memorable
"Pumpkin Flood" of 1805. When he came here his nearest neighbors
were John McKinney, two miles above him, Mathew Young, on the site of
Youngsville, and Robert Andrews, at Pittsfield. The Irvine family are of Scotch
descent, some of their ancestors having received a grant of land in Ulster
county, Ireland, from James VI. For some time before the year 1804 (when
his father died) Callender Irvine was in command of the fort at Erie, Pa.; but
he then resigned his command to look after the extensive property left to him.
He shortly afterward became commissary-general of the United States army,
a position which he filled for some thirty-four years and until his death. (For
a sketch of this family, especially of Dr. William Irvine, see later pages of
this work.) The title to this extended property in the eastern part of Brokenstraw
has thus never been vested in any hands but of the Irvine family.
In the spring of 1796 Mathew Young, a Scotchman and a bachelor,
" pitched his tent" on the site of the borough of Youngsville, and began a
career which justly entitled him to the distinction of bequeathing his name to
the beautiful and prosperous village that sprang up around him. Mr. Johnson
relates an incident of him which so tersely illustrates one of his peculiarities
that we cannot forbear inserting it in this place: "Late in the spring of that
year (1796) Callender Irvine, anxious to cultivate acquaintance with his neighbors,
and to see how they prospered, walked up to see Mr. Young, and found
him engaged in opening out what is now the main street of the borough, and
extending it down the creek. He inquired of Young, with real curiosity, what
he was about, and why he was not putting in some crops. With the utmost
simplicity he replied : 'Why, man, I'm more fond of a beautiful prospect.' To
which Mr. Irvine retorted : 'The prospect is, you will either starve or have to
leave the country before spring.' Sure enough, when fall came he had no corn
and was kept from starvation only by the surplus of provisions Irvine had and
generously furnished him, when he went abroad to winter."
Young lived for many years the life of a recluse, making his home most of
the time with John McKinney, sr., at whose house he often taught children in
the evenings. He taught school frequently in town, a calling for which he was
well adapted, being well educated, and a friend and general favorite of children.
He was county treasurer from 1821 to 1823, the second to hold that
office (Archibald Tanner being the first). In 1807 he built the first saw-mill,
on what is called the Siggins water power. He died on the 4th of August,
1825, while on a visit to Charles Smith, in Deerfield township, and was brought
back in a canoe and buried in the village cemetery at Youngsville. His
remains now lie in the cemetery of the Odd Fellows. He is described, by one
who well remembers his appearance, as being tall, slender, and erect, with very
light complexion and (in later years) with white hair. " He was simple in his
character, earnest in his purposes, and eccentric in his habits, with a kind heart
for all, and an integrity that was never tarnished."
In 1798 Hugh Wilson emigrated from Northumberland county and settled
on the place now occupied by the Rouse Hospital. He owned this entire
farm of four hundred acres, and became a prominent and influential farmer and
lumberman, though he had no mills. He reared a large family, and had one
of the best farms in the county at the time. About 1835, by some misadventure
in business, he became involved in debt, and was obliged to leave the
home to which he had become endeared. He went to Clearfield county, where
he died in 1846. He was a man of generous and manly impulses, and an
honest purpose. His hospitality was boundless.
Contemporary with him, Joseph Gray settled on what was afterward called
the McGuire and still later the Horn place, on the Brokenstraw.
In 1793 Darius Mead, with his sons David, John, Darius, and Joseph, and
two daughters, emigrated from the Susquehanna River in what is now known
as Lycoming county, to the tract of land now embracing Meadville, from
whom it took its name. By reason of the hostile demonstrations of the Indians
they removed to Franklin, where was a fort and United States garrison. The
following spring, while the father was plowing in a field in the vicinity, a party
of three Indians came stealthily and suddenly upon him, seized and bound him
hand and foot. They took him about twenty miles into the woods westerly
from Franklin, where they stopped to encamp for the night. While the Indians
were cutting wood for their camp fire, Mead succeeded in extricating one of
his hands. As one of the Indians came up with an armful of wood, and was
bending over in the act of kindling the fire, Mead stepped up, and drawing a
large hunting knife from the Indian's belt, plunged it into his heart. The
other two came up at that moment, and a desperate encounter at once commenced.
It is supposed that Mead succeeded in mortally wounding one of his
antagonists, but he was finally overpowered and brutally murdered, and cut to
pieces with a tomahawk.
After the subsidence of the Indian troubles, David and John Mead returned
to Meadville. In the spring of 1799 Joseph and Darius removed to Warren
county with their families, the former settling on the Big Brokenstraw, where
Mead's mill now stands, about a mile west of Youngsville. Darius located on
the farm more recently owned and occupied by Captain James Bonner. In a
year or two, however, he joined his brother, and with him built a grist-mill
and two saw-mills. This was the first grist-mill in Warren county, there being
at that time no mill within a radius of thirty miles. To the mill at Union, and
that belonging to the Holland Land Company at Titusville, many grists were
borne from this county on the backs of their owners or of the patient oxen,
guided through the trackless forests only by Indian trails. Mead's mill, it has
been said, was the Mecca to which the population of a large district made
regular pilgrimages for supplies. It is said that in dry times some grists came
forty miles. The inhabitants of Columbus brought their grists to this mill in
canoes. Darius Mead was an acting justice for several years, and was hospitable
and social in his habits. It is told of him that once, pending the delivery
of a sermon at his house the Rev. Bishop Roberts, Darius Mead and his friend
Isaiah Jones went to the cupboard and indulged in a drink of whisky. When
requested to postpone the drinking until after the services were over, he replied:
"Bishop, stick to your text; never mind us and we'll not disturb you."
Darius Mead died in 1813, and was buried in the cemetery on the original
John Andrews farm. In 1813 Joseph removed to a farm on the Allegheny
River, three miles below Warren, including the island which still bears his
name, and passed the remainder of his life there, dying in March, 1846. His
wife, Hannah, died on the 25th of February, 1856, at the age of seventy-seven
years and four months. They were the parents of fourteen children, eleven of
whom were living at the time of their mother's death. Many of the descendants
of these hardy brothers are now living in Brokenstraw township, and are
worthy of their ancestry.
After the death of Darius Mead the mill came into the hands of his
nephew, John Mead, who had labored in them since 1807, as a hired man.
John Mead, jr., was born near Sunbury, Pa., on the 28th of August, 1786.
While he was yet a mere child his father, John, sr., removed to the valley of
French Creek at Meadville, as before stated. In the spring of 1807 John, jr.,
came to the valley of the Brokenstraw, in company with his brother William,
to labor in the mills of his uncles, Joseph and Darius. He married Sallie Hoffman
on the 12th of October, 1809, and built his house on a piece of land
which his father-in-law gave him. In 1814 he and John Garner bought the
Mathew Young tract of 400 acres, for $2,500 — the tract containing nearly all
the land now within the limits of the borough of Youngsville. He rebuilt the
Mead mills several times. He died on the 4th of November, 1870. Before
his death his son Darius operated the mills for some time, and finally sold the
saw-mill to Mad. Alger and the grist-mill to H. T. Marshall. In connection
with these mills it is well to mention honest and ingenious John Gregg, who
came in the early part of this century and settled about two miles north of
Youngsville. He ground the corn for the Mead mill, and also preached the
gospel according to the Methodist persuasion, made hickory splint cables for
the lumbermen at three dollars apiece, and educated two sons for the ministry.
His brother, Samuel Gregg, a bachelor, hired out to Judge Siggins and cleared
for him the place now occupied by his son, William F. Siggins.
Another early settler, whose arrival in Brokenstraw antedates the year
1806, was William Arthur, who lived two miles west of Youngsville on the
Brokenstraw, and as late as 1820 owned the mills at Wrightsville. His farm
is now occupied by his son, William Callender Arthur. William Carpenter,
also here previous to 1806, lived on the Brokenstraw, and is remembered as a
lumberman of considerable activity. On one occasion he accompanied John
Siggins and Daniel Horn to New Orleans on a raft. On their way back Siggins
died at Natchez. Carpenter died some time previous to 1830, and has
now no descendants in town. Still others who are mentioned in the list of
taxables for 1806 were William Cochran, a single man, who sawed in the mill
of Judge Siggins, and who afterward went to Pithole during the oil excitement,
and became wealthy; David Carr, who owned two hundred acres of
land at the mouth of the Brokenstraw; Abraham Davis, brother of Elijah,
who (Abraham) lived on the Brokenstraw in the eastern part of the borough
of Youngsville, on the place now occupied by his son, William A. Davis, and
who farmed and lumbered until his death, something over twenty years ago;
John Davis, brother of Abraham, who lived on what is now East Main street
in Youngsville, on the place now occupied by his descendants, who was the
father of ex-Sheriffs Sylvester and Sylvanus Davis, now of Warren, and who,
though poor, left his children an inheritance of brain and brawn which has
secured them a competence and a good position in life; William Davis, brother
of John Davis, and father-in-law of W. H. Shortt, who, until his death about
seven years ago, lived in the eastern part of Youngsville borough; Philip Huffman,
who lived in the western part of the present township of Brokenstraw,
and carried on quite a farm there, where he died more than thirty years ago,
an old man; and Barnabas McKinney, who at first lived on a farm near the
present Irvinton, until the early death of his wife, after which he came to live
with his nephew at Youngsville.
Nearly or quite all of the settlers before 1806 have now been mentioned,
among them being some of the most prominent men in the history of the
town. This chapter would be very incomplete, however, without some mention
of such men as Judge Siggins and Abraham Davis, and others who
arrived between the years 1806 and 1820. Judge William Siggins was born
in Center county, Pa., in 1789. His father died in 1801, and two years later
he came with his brother George to Pithole, in Venango county, then a wilderness
almost uninhabited. It is related that the few settlers who were there
were holding at that time an old-fashioned revival, that William Siggins was
converted from the primrose paths of religious indifference, that he had the
power, and that he received a pious impulse which did not forsake him in all
the after years of struggle and activity. In 1807 he settled on the Brokenstraw,
on the site of Youngsville and of the place now occupied by his son,
William F. Siggins. There was no house of worship in this neighborhood
then, and four years elapsed with little opportunity for Christian converse. In
1811, however, he had the privilege of going to Meadville to attend the first
camp-meeting ever held in this part of the country. He married in 1812, and
at that time built a grist-mill at Pithole. In 1815 he returned to Youngsville,
where he remained until his death, on the 15th of July, 1875. His wife preceded
him in 1855. Judge Siggins was a life-long and fervent Christian, though for
reasons best known to himself he severed his connection with the church as
early as 1837. He had not only a "sound mind in a sound body," but a
powerful mind in a powerful body, and it was a pity that he had not the advantage
of a more thorough academic training, which would have made him
more skillful in the use of the weapons that nature had put into his hands. He
bore an active part in the War of 1812, and was with Commodore Perry at
Erie. His mind was admirably adapted for judicial labors, a fact sufficiently
attested by his long service as justice of the peace, and his long train of decisions,
not one of which, it is said, was reversed on appeal. He was also associate
judge for the five years following 1842. He was decidedly impulsive in
disposition, though his strong sense of justice usually checked him from making
a perverse use of his natural force.
The parents of Judge Siggins were both from the north of Ireland, and
were of Scotch descent. His wife was Polly Wilson, of Center county, Pa.
They had twelve children — eight sons and four daughters — of whom three
sons and two daughters are now living. Two of the sons, Nathaniel and William
F., now reside in Youngsville. His youngest son, Porter, served during
the late war in the One Hundred and Eleventh Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers,
and rendered distinguished assistance to the Northern cause — taking
part in nineteen engagements. He was killed at Antietam by a bullet, which
passed through a pocket Testament to his heart. (For a sketch of William F.
Siggins, see biographical notes at the close of the volume.)
James Davis, who is now the most aged of the surviving settlers in Brokenstraw,
came to this township from Columbus with his father, Elijah Davis,
in 1809. Elijah came to Columbus from Northumberland county six years
previously. In 1809 they settled on the site of Irvinton. In 1815 they removed
to what is now Youngsville, where Elijah Davis died in 1823. James Davis
was born in Columbus on the 2d day of October, 1804. On the 7th day of
November, 1827, he married Jane Martin, a native of what is now Fulton
county, N. Y., who at the present writing (December, 1886) is still living with
her husband. On the 7th of November, 1886, they were given a party by their
numerous friends in Youngsville, and presented with several elegant gifts. Mr.
and Mrs. Davis have seven children now living — two sons and five daughters.
Mr. Davis says that when he came here in 1809 the "forest primeval " had
hardly been broken into. The largest clearing was a five or six-acre plot at
Irvinton. On the east side of the Brokenstraw, in what is now Youngsville,
Mathew Young had cleared a tract of nearly the same extent, and had built
and started a single saw-mill. Young then kept bachelor's hall in a small log
house on the ground between the present Wade house and the hardware store.
John Arthur then lived on the site of the present residence of William F.
Siggins, and operated the saw-mill for Young. The two saw-mills and the
grist-mill of Joseph and Darius Mead were then in active operation in the
western part of the town. One John Crawford lived near the turn of the road
leading to Tidioute, at Irvinton, the place being afterward occupied by John
Long. Joseph Gray lived near the site of the Irvinton station, where the
spring and the oak trees may now be seen. John Andrews had built a saw
mill below Irvinton, and lived where Dr. William Irvine recently died. There
were no hotels or taverns in town, and no mills but those mentioned. The
principal business even at that early date was the rafting of lumber to Pittsburgh
and New Orleans. The principal farmers in this neighborhood were
Hugh Wilson, on the Rouse farm, and John McKinney, on the next farm
Settlers Arriving between 1806 and 1820. — Following are brief items
concerning the inhabitants of Brokenstraw township, whose arrival dates between
the years 1806 and 1820. Joel Barton was a farmer who lived about
one and a half miles north of Youngsville, and a number of years after
his arrival here removed to Pittsfield. Stephen Crippen lived about one
and a half miles south of Youngsville. He was a carpenter by trade. He
went west as many as thirty years ago. John Camp, a millwright, and an
officer of the Methodist Church, lived on what is now called the Charles Whitney
place. He was more than an ordinary man. About 1828 or 1830 he
went to Missouri. John Crippen took up a farm on York Hill, also about one
and a half miles south from Youngsville, but afterward sold his farm and moved
to Youngsville, where he died, probably about twenty-five years ago. It
seems that he has descendants now in Deerfield township. Judge Isaac Connelly
settled on the farm which lies on the eastern line of Youngsville borough.
He was the first associate judge appointed in Warren county, in 1819, and
held that office for twenty-one consecutive years. His son, W. W. Connelly,
who now lives near Tidioute, was also associate for the five years following
1876. Isaac Connelly lived for a number of years in Deerfield township,
where he owned and operated a saw-mill, but came back to Brokenstraw,
where he died about 1864. None of his descendants are now in town, though
he has two sons and several daughters elsewhere.
Isaac Davis lived on Hull's Hill for a number of years, but died in Youngsville.
He had a large family. John Dougherty was one of the earliest of the
school teachers in Youngsville. Between 1825 and 1830 he removed to Buffalo,
where he became a merchant and speculator in lands, and acquired great
wealth. Jeremiah Dunn, it is said, gave Dunn's Eddy its name by the proximity
to that place of his residence. This is two miles below Irvinton, in the
Allegheny River. He had an early tavern at that point, but went away years
ago, and none of the family remain in the vicinity. Richard Duprey occupied
a farm in the northern part of the town, toward Sugar Grove. Although he
had a large farm, he also had a large family, and the wants of the one encroached
to such a degree upon the productiveness of the other that poor
Duprey was nearly always "hard up." He died at least as early as 1850,
leaving descendants which still survive. Andrew or "Andy" Farrely lived
below Irvinton, and had a whisky distillery near "Still House Run." He
also engaged more or less extensively in the lumber trade. He is described
as a hearty, driving fellow, tall and stout, and withal a good judge of whisky.
He moved away at a pretty early day, leaving no descendants hereabouts.
Roger Filer was a carpenter and joiner, and lived in Youngsville, where two
of his sons, Samuel and Wallace, still reside and carry on the trade of their
father. Roger died here of old age only a few years ago. Christopher Green
came here in 1817, and settled about half a mile east of the business part of
Youngsville borough. In 1820 he removed to Yankee Bush, in Conewango
township. James Green (grandfather of Dorwin Green, now a respected resident
of Youngsville) also came here in 1817, and for some time kept a shoe
shop in the western part of the borough. James Sturdevant, also grandfather
of Dorwin Green, came in 1817, and brought Dorwin with him, then an infant.
Sturdevant settled on a farm in what is now the western part of the
borough. He died very early, and was one of the first tenants of the old
burying-ground. John Garner, who only a few years ago moved to Ohio, was
an early settler on a farm about three miles west of the borough. He also
owned and operated a saw-mill. Nathan Howard was the first occupant of
what is now called Crull's Island, in the Allegheny River, and gave to that island
his name for a number of years. He went away, however, at an early
day, and little is known about him. Powell Hoffman lived many years on
the line between Pittsfield and Brokenstraw. His brother Jacob lived on the
adjoining farm. They at last sold out and went to Union City. Descendants
of theirs are now residing at Corry. Hull's Hill derived its name from Chester
Hull, who was the first settler on its bosom. There he reared a large family
and carried on a large farm. Three of his sons became Methodist ministers.
Chester Hull died on Hull's Hill as early, probably, as 1825. Miner Noble, a
cabinet-maker, lived and moved and had his being and plied his trade in the
eastern part of the borough until about fifty years ago, when he and all his
house went West. Amasa Ransom, a lumberman and farmer, lived about one
mile west of the borough. He went to Beaver, Pa., forty years ago, though
his son Adoniram has repurchased the old place and now occupies it.
John Siggins was a single man and a brother of William, with whom he
abode. He died previous to 1830. Another brother, Alexander, was a blacksmith
in Youngsville, and the pillar of the Methodist Church. His death occurred
about twenty-five years ago.
Adam Shutt lived and died on the Barney McKinney place, adjoining the
Rouse farm. He reared a family of a number of sons and two daughters.
One son, Jacob, is now an influential citizen of Covington, Ky., and another,
William G., lives in Pittsford.
Stephen Littlefield, a carpenter by trade, resided about two miles west of
Youngsville until the oil excitement " in the sixties," when he sold out and
removed to Kingsville, O. He was a strong Democrat and an influential politician.
He was elected the second sheriff of Warren county in 1822. His
descendants are not living in this neighborhood at the present time. Thomas
McGuire had a farm and dwelling house a short distance west of the site of the
railroad station at Irvineton, where he died not far from forty years ago.
Philip Mead lived in the western part of Brokenstraw township. He had a
large family of children, a number of whom are now residents of this vicinity.
He died about twenty years ago. He was but distantly related to his
namesake, who was so long a merchant and justice of the peace in Youngsville.
Samuel Trask, a farmer, lived in the western part of Youngsville village,
where he died ten or twelve years ago. He had quite a family. A granddaughter,
Sigourney by name, is at the head of a mission at Hong Kong, and
is also a physician. Alfred Van Armon will be mentioned again in connection
with the early taverns of the town. He was accustomed, when his guests
were treating each other, to invite himself to join them with the remark,
"What have I done that I shouldn't have a drink ?" and thus receive pay for
drinking his own liquor. Charles Whitney, who died about twenty years ago
at his home in the western part of Youngsville borough, was one of the
wealthiest and most extensive lumbermen of early times. None of his children
are now living. Nehemiah York, who has the distinction of giving his
name to York Hill, acquired his possessions in part by taking up 400 acres of
State land. He died at his home but a few years ago, leaving "him surviving,"
according to legal phrase, a number of sons and daughters.
Henry Kinnear, son of Robert, was born in Ireland on Easter Sunday in
1764. He came to this country about the year 1790. After passing a short
time in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, he settled in Center county, where
he remained a number of years. He married in 1797. Thence he went to
Venango county, near Titusville, and came to Youngsville in 1815. During
this season he purchased a part of the Mathew Young tract, built and occupied
a small log house, and in the following summer erected a small framed
storehouse. These buildings stood about on the site of the present Odd Fellows'
Hall. Henry Kinnear was the first merchant in Youngsville. On the
6th day of August, 1816, he was appointed and commissioned a justice of the
peace by Simon Snyder, then governor of the State. His commission was
recorded in Franklin, Venango county, on the 27th of August, 1816, and again
in Warren county on the 19th of December, 1820. In 1819 he was appointed
one of the first commissioners of Warren county, continuing in that office two
terms. Besides clearing his land and cultivating in some measure his farm, he
kept a store sufficiently stocked to supply the needs of the community, and
continued an acting justice of the peace during his lifetime.
About the year 1810, while Henry Kinnear was acting in the capacity of
constable in Venango county, he had a warrant for the arrest of a notorious
ruffian and desperado named Polen Hunter. Against the threats of the criminal,
Kinnear attempted his forcible apprehension, when he received from
Hunter a wound in the hip from which he never recovered. It is said that he
succeeded in obtaining pecuniary redress for the injury. He died on the 6th
of March, 1826. He had a family of nine children, five sons and four daughters,
all now dead, but many of whose children are now residents of Brokenstraw
township or Youngsville borough. Henry P. Kinnear and C. V. Kinnear
have been perhaps the most prominent of his sons in Youngsville. The latter
was born in Venango county on the 8th of January, 1808, and came to Warren
county with his father in 1815. Upon the death of his father he took up
the trade, and continued to be one of the prominent and active merchants of
Youngsville for a period of fifty years, besides engaging to some extent in the
lumber trade. On the 19th of May, 1836, he was appointed and commissioned
a justice of the peace by Governor Joseph Ritner. When the office was made
elective in 1842, he was the choice of the voters of Brokenstraw township,
and by successive re-elections held the position for twenty-four years. He
was county auditor for ten years, represented the county in the State Legislature
in the session of 1852 and 1853, and in 1871 was elected and commissioned
an associate judge of the county, and served in that position for five
years. He was a warm friend of the common schools, serving as director for
near a quarter of a century. He died September 6, 1884. Henry P. Kinnear
was born in Youngsville on the 26th of July, 1816. As soon as he reached
years of discretion he began to manifest an interest in public affairs, and, as
has been said by another, he became a politician because he could not help it.
He served two terms as sheriff of Warren county; the first from 1843 to 1846,
and the second from 1861 to 1864. He was a member of the Legislature in
the session of 1847 a n d 1848. It was he who obtained for Youngsville its
charter and for the Odd Fellows Cemetery Association theirs. He died June
Early Business in Brokenstraw.—Mention having already been made of
the first mills in the township, it is unnecessary in this place to recur to them.
We have also stated something concerning the rude condition of the country
in the first decade of years in its settlement. As late as 1809 there were in
all this part of the country only such roads as were demanded by the most
imperative necessities of the inhabitants. When the route was determined
upon, the underbrush was cleared away; such trees as could not be avoided
by a gentle curve were cut down, and the stump frequently left to be straddled
by the wheels or runners of the vehicles; and such mud holes as interposed
very seriously in the path of the traveler were converted into corduroy. There
was thus early no bridge at Irvineton, and the stream had to be crossed by
fording, or by patronizing the ferry of Elijah Davis and his sons. Indians were
plenty. About 1825 or 1830, however, the population had increased very
perceptibly, and internal improvements had been considerably developed. The
principal business was manufacturing lumber, or rafting timber down the river
to the various markets between this place and New Orleans. Saw-mills were
therefore numerous. John Garner and Charles Whitney owned and operated
the mill which stood farthest up the Brokenstraw within the present limits of
the township, on a site which now gives forth no sign of former industry of
this kind. Next on the way down stream were the saw-mills and the gristmill
of Joseph and Darius Mead. Then appeared the grist and saw-mill of
Judge William Siggins, in the central part of the present borough of Youngsville,
which their owner kept in operation until 1872. They then ceased running.
About forty rods farther down stood another saw-mill, owned also by
Judge Siggins, which has not been in operation for many years. Still farther
down Judge Siggins owned a grist and saw-mill (about three-fourths of a mile
east of Youngsville). He afterwards sold them to Charles Whitney, who
allowed the grist-mill to go down, but rebuilt the saw-mill. The last owner
of this mill was William Freese, who long ago left it to the mercy of the decomposing
elements. At Irvineton were the grist and saw-mill of Dr. William
A. Irvine, which had been erected very early by his predecessor, under the
direction, it is said, of his father. The mills are still in operation under the
management of Dr. Irvine's estate. Dr. Irvine also erected and, started a
woolen-factory about thirty years ago, and a short time later set in operation
a foundry which had been erected under his management. Both have been
quiet for a number of years.
The first tannery in town was built and operated by John McKee, on the
site of the present stave-mill in Youngsville borough, as many as fifty years
ago. After successfully operating it for a number of years McKee allowed it
to fall into inocuous desuetude[sic]. Since that event Bowman & Culbertson built
and operated a tannery in the northern part of Youngsville borough, which
continued in operation until ten or twelve years ago.
The only distillery in town within the recollection of living men was started
by Mark Dalrymple on Still House Run, below the mouth of the Brokenstraw.
Andrew Farrely afterward kept it running for a time, but left it early to
The Rouse Hospital.—Full details of the manner in which the munificent
intentions of Henry R. Rouse were effectuated in part by the erection of this
building in war times are given in an earlier chapter of this work.
Youngsville.—This borough, named from its first permanent settler, who laid
out many of its streets, and seemed to have a prophetic vision of the relative
importance in the county which the offspring of his somewhat fanciful energy
would attain, had grown to be quite a village when it was incorporated, on the
4th day of September, 1849, and organized on the 15 th of February following,
by the election of Archibald Alexander, burgess; William Siggins and John
Hull, councilmen; Philip Mead, treasurer; Henry P. Kinnear, clerk; John Siggins,
collector, etc. James Davis is authority for the statement that as early as
1800 Mathew Young carved the quaint word " Yungval" on a large flat stone
which stood for many years on ground now covered by the brick hardware store,
and was used as a doorstep. The name Youngsville was naturally given to the
place as soon as it became a settlement, in the first decade of the present century.
We have seen that the first store in the village or township was that of
Henry Kinnear, opened in 1816, which was practically continued until the
death of his son, Carter V. Kinnear, in 1884. It is worthy of remark that W.
D. Kinnear, a grandson of Henry and a son of Carter V. Kinnear, is now a
merchant here. The next merchant was probably Henry McCullough, who
started a store across from Kinnear previous to 1830, on land which he had
purchased from William Siggins. He removed to Pittsburgh as early as 1832
or 1833, where he engaged in the wholesale iron trade and became very
wealthy. John Gillespie started a store in Youngsville soon after the business
of Henry Kinnear was established ; but he soon failed, and his name has not
become prominent in the annals of the town.
The first tavern in town was probably that unpretentious hostelry of John
McKinney, below the Rouse farm. Mathew Young next built a hotel on the
site of the present Wade House and sold it to John Mead and John Garner.
The first landlord was Amasa Ransom, who leased it of Mead. In a short
time after it was opened Mead and Garner sold the property, with ten acres of
land adjoining the site, to John McKinney, who rented it to Cephas Hurlburt
about a year. William Siggins followed, and was there in 1822, when William
F. Siggins was born. The proprietors or lessees since the retirement of Judge
Siggins, about 1823, have been, as well as may be remembered, as follows:
John Layler, William Arthur, Morrell Lowrey, Robert McKinney, son of John,
sr., Mathew McKinney, brother of Robert. At this period the house was torn
down, and John McKinney immediately rebuilt, on the same ground, the present
Wade House. Since then some of the landlords have been Peter S. Wade,
son-in-law of John McKinney, who remained a number of years, besides
others who remained but a short time, among them John Siggins, about 1846
or 1847, William Gray and his successor, A. P. Garfield, the present proprietor,
who came here about three years ago. The house is well kept, and looks
carefully to the comfort of its guests.
About 1822 Alfred Van Armon started a tavern on the site of the new
brick store on East Main street, and was succeeded by Elijah Davis the
younger, Robert Kinnear, and several others. It did not last long. The site
of the American House was first used for hotel purposes about 1827 by
Charles Whitney. Among his successors were Abraham Wilson, Thomas
Turner, Dorwin Green and others. A short time previous to 1850 it burned
and the present structure was erected by William Mead.
The Fairmont House first saw the light about 1851, when John Siggins
built it. Siggins had erected one there about three years before, but it had
burned in the fall of 1849, and he rebuilt it in 1851, about as it is at present.
After keeping the house for a number of years he rented it to J. S. Trask, of
Irvineton. Dorwin Green bought the property afterwards of the estate of John
Siggins, and entertained the traveling public hospitably for a period, when he was
succeeded, in November, 1879, by the present proprietor, C. H. Gregory, who
besides keeping a first-class house deals extensively in horses and other live
stock, carriages, wagons, etc. The house will comfortably accommodate
Mills.—The early mills having been already mentioned at length, it will be
necessary only to say a word concerning the mills now in operation in and
about Youngsville. Some ten or twelve years ago R. A. Kinnear built a planing
mill near the railroad station, of which he still retains the ownership and
active management. J. W. Agrelius, another of Youngsville's most prominent
business men, in company with Carter V. Kinnear, who had a one-third
interest in the concern, built a stave-mill, of which he is now the sole owner.
It stands near the site of one of the old mills before mentioned. At the present
writing we have not learned the new owner of the new saw-mill, built about
six years ago by Jed. Bartlett, and afterward owned by Henry Woodin. The
planing-mill now owned and operated by George Pierson was built about five
years ago by himself and W. Filer. Mr. Pierson has been sole proprietor
since the spring of 1886.
Mercantile Business.—The merchant of longest standing now in Youngsville,
we believe, is J. G. McKee, who established himself in business here
about twenty years ago. Excepting about three years he has occupied the
building which is now his store, all this period. He carries a stock of groceries
valued at about $2,000.
Mad. Alger came to Youngsville and opened a store on West Main street
in the fall of 1867. In June, 1885, he removed to the building which he now
occupies. He carries stock worth about $3,000.
W. J. Mead and B. J. Jackson, who keep on hand a good line of hardware
stock, and trade under the firm style of Mead & Jackson, formed their partnership
about eighteen years ago. Their goods are estimated to be worth
J. W. Agrelius, who deals in a stock of drugs and medicines valued at
some $8,000, began his career as merchant in Youngsville about ten years ago.
After dealing in partnership with Carter V. Kinnear one year and with W. A.
Mains two years he continued the trade alone, and is now sole proprietor of the
The dry goods and general mercantile business now conducted by H. L.
Mead & Co. was established by J. D. Mead in November, 1877. In December,
1883, he took into partnership with him his son H. L. Mead, the relation
continuing until July, 1886, when the present firm, consisting of H. L. and C.
S. Mead, was formed. Their stock varies in value from about $7,000 to
The firm of McDowell & Kinnear, composed of L. McDowell and W.
D. Kinnear, was formed about four years ago. The business was established
about six months previously by William Spinner. The present firm are extensive
dealers in hardware of all kinds, carrying stock worth some $5,000.
The junior member of this firm is, as has before been stated, a grandson of the
first merchant in the town, and a son of the merchant who was longest in business
The general store of A. F. Swanson was started by the present proprietor
three years ago. George K. Murray has dealt in jewels in Youngsville about
three years. W. B. Phillips has had a harness shop here about two years.
W. D. Belnap began dealing in general merchandise here in November,
1886. Excepting three years which he passed in the army during the last war,
and nine years in California, he has passed his mature life in Warren county,
his father, Guernsey Belnap, having emigrated to Pittsfield from his native
(Erie) county in 1826, when W. D. was six years of age.
The Youngsville Savings Bank was established in 1875. The first presiident
was John McKinney; vice-president, Henry P. Kinnear, and cashier,
John A. Jackson. Mr. Kinnear succeeded Mr. McKinney as president and
remained in that office until his death. B. J. Jackson is at the present writing
vice-president, and John A. Jackson is cashier.
Physicians, Past and Present.— The first resident physician in the township
of Brokenstraw was Dr. John W. Irvine, who settled in the vicinity of Irvineton
in about 1822, and after abiding there some eight or ten years returned to
Philadelphia. He was, it is stated, an uncle of Dr. William A. Irvine. About
1826 Dr. James A. Alexander settled in Youngsville and remained here in
active practice until not far from 1853, when he removed to Kentucky, the
place of his death. Dr. Benjamin F. Parmiter came to Youngsville about the
same time as Dr. Alexander, but remained only two or three years. In 1847
Dr. A. C. Blodgett, the veteran physician of Youngsville, made this place his
home. A more extended sketch of his life appears in the biographical department
of this work.
Dr. A. C. Axtell was born at Sheakleyville, Mercer county, Pa., on the
14th of July, 1828; attended lectures and dissections in 1853-54 in Starling
Medical College, at Columbus, O, and began to practice in 1854 at New Lebanon,
Mercer county. In April, 1865, he removed thence to Youngsville and
has since then been continuously and busily engaged in practice here — a period
at this writing of nearly twenty-two years.
Dr. C. H. Jacobs was born in Mercer county, Pa., in 1856 ; was graduated
from the medical department of Western Reserve University at Cleveland, 0.,
in February, 1883 ; and after a brief period of practice at Evansburg, Crawford
county, came to Youngsville.
Dr. S. C. Diefendorf, born in Jefferson county, N. Y., on the 21st day of
May, 1847, w a s graduated from the Geneva Medical College in the class of
1868-69. He practiced for a time with a preceptor at Syracuse, N. Y., and
removed to Youngsville two years ago.
Hugh Addison Davenny, M. D., is also a native of Mercer county, Pa.,
where he was born in 1849. He has been engaged in practice about twenty one
years. In 1869-70 he took a course in the Buffalo Medical and Surgical
College. He first practiced seven years in Youngsville, then four years in Oil
City, seven years in Fredonia, Mercer county, Pa., three years in Mercer, the
county seat of that county, and on the 28th of July, 1886, came back to his
old home in Youngsville.
Lawyers.— The only regular legal practitioner acknowledged by all the
courts of the State who practiced in Youngsville was J. B. Delamater, who
made Youngsville his home for a short time about thirty-five years ago. He
afterward became prominent as an oil dealer and politician, and is now wealthy.
The Post-office. — Until about the year 1819 the inhabitants of all this
vicinity used to obtain their mail matter from the earlier office at Pittsfield.
At that time Henry Kinnear was appointed postmaster, and opened an office
in Youngsville, which was named Brokenstraw. Alfred Van Orman succeeded
Kinnear in two or three years, and during his brief term the present name of
the office was adopted, an office having been given to Dr. William Irvine at
Irvineton, with the name of Brokenstraw. Other postmasters at Youngsville,
nearly in their order, have been F. W. Brigham, W. F. Siggins, Andrew Alexander,
Henry P. Kinnear, Frank Kinnear, Erasmus Foreman, A. M. Belknap,
about twenty-one years, J. W. Agrelius, and the present incumbent, W. J.
Davis (2d), who received his appointment from President Cleveland on the
9th of November, 1885. (1)
Irvineton.— Twenty-five years ago the site of Irvineton village presented
to the traveler no signs of life beyond the quiet industries of the farmer, or the
occasional shouts of lumbermen rafting their timbers down the river. Soon
after that period, however, the intense oil excitement that agitated the entire
region embraced within the limits of the several northwestern counties of Pennsylvania
served to develop the resources which were given to this place by its
natural position, and a lively village grew up. The name of Irvineton had
been given to the vicinity previous to this time, and it now centered at this
village. The post-office had been kept during all the previous years across
the river, by Dr. Irvine and Edward Biddle. The first settler, strictly speak-
ing, on the site of the present village, was John Cooney, who is now a merchant
of thrift, and the postmaster at this place. Mr. Cooney came here in
in 1866 and "pitched his tent in a field;" the nearest neighbors being the
Irvine family across the creek, Mr. Cooney built a house a few rods west of
his present residence, opened a store in the front, and slept in the rear. At
this time the oil excitement was very high, and there was also considerable lumbering.
Besides his business as a merchant, Mr. Cooney boarded a number
of men for several years, and thus deserves the credit of opening the first tavern
in Irvineton. During his second year here he built another house, and
during the third year still another. Three years ago he removed one of these
old buildings to the site of his present store, and removed to it. He lumbered
extensively when he first came, and acted also as a contractor for the building
of railroads. There were then no mills in this part of the township except the
mills of Dr. Irvine, at the mouth of the creek. The first regular hotel at Irvineton
was built by Michael Swing in the latter part of the year 1866, and opened in
the spring of 1867. It stood just north of the present railroad station. It
burned about eleven years ago, while kept by R. Donovan. Donovan rebuilt
it and kept it until another fire consumed it, in the spring of 1886. The only
hotel now in the village was built by R. A. Kinnear in the fall of 1886, and is
kept by T. C. Nuttall.
The first mill built in the village was erected by Perry Patch and Henry
Walters about eight years ago. It is now operated by Patch & Arnold. H.
and F. Walters are also now engaged in the manufacture of staves, etc., at
After Mr. Cooney, the next merchant in Irvineton was William Singleton,
who opened trade m 1867. There are now three stores in the village besides
that of Mr. Cooney, viz., the drug and general store of George W. Shannon,
which has been open for fifteen or sixteen years; the general store of William
H. Metzgar, who has traded here also about fifteen years; and the general and
feed store of George W. Kolfrat, which has been open a shorter time.
The Post-office. — In 1867 the post-office was removed from "across the
creek " for the convenience of the greatest number. Frank Metzgar was appointed
postmaster, and since then he and his two brothers, William H. and G.
W., have held the office for eighteen years. John Cooney was appointed to
the position in November, 1885, and is the present incumbent.
Schools of Brokenstraw Township. — The first school taught in this township
was under the management and instruction of Mathew Young. The next
teacher was probably Edward Jones. One of the earliest school-houses stood
on the brink of the hill in Irvineton, near the site of the present union school
at that place. Another early teacher was John Lee Williams. After the organization
of Youngsville borough in 1850, two school-houses were built in the
borough, and for eight or ten years these seemed to answer every purpose
though one of them was enlarged in 1854, at an expense of $281. The next
year a new building was erected on the east side of the creek, at a cost of $476.
The schools were first graded in 1858, and W. F. Siggins took charge of the
higher department, at one dollar a day and his dinner. Elizabeth Siggins took
charge of the primary department, at four dollars a week, and boarded herself.
The union school building was erected in 1871 at a cost of something more
than $8,000. Its rooms are all spacious and well lighted and ventilated, besides
being well furnished with modern furniture and all the equipments necessary
to a school of the present day. It has four departments. The first principal
was J. M. Hantz. The present one is W. W. Fell. At Irvineton the stone
school-house built by the Irvine family was used until about fourteen years
ago, when the present union school was built. It has three departments and
is well prepared for the purposes of its erection. The principal is H. H. Weber.
Besides these schools there are four others in the township.
Ecclesiastical. — The first church organized in Brokenstraw township was
the Methodist Episcopal, though there were services held here for years before
the permanent organization was effected. Rev. William McConnelly, the first
preacher on the Brokenstraw, preached near the site of Youngsville in the year
1809. At this time (from 1800 to 1816) the salary of an itinerant preacher
was eighty dollars a year and traveling expenses; an additional eighty dollars
being allowed for the care of the wife, unless she was otherwise provided for,
and sixteen dollars for each child. In 1812 Jacob Young and Bishop McKendree
passed through the valley of the Brokenstraw, stayed over night at the
house of Darius Mead, and on the following day the bishop preached, after
which Jacob Young formed a class consisting of the following members: John
Gregg and wife, Jacob Goodwin and wife, William Arthur and wife, Anna
Mead and her son Philip, Betsey Ford, Polly Arthur and Polly Campbell —
eleven in all. That was previous to the formation of a circuit. In 1813 the
Chautauqua Circuit was formed, and was in the bounds of the Ohio Conference
and the Ohio District. Youngsville was then one of the appointments. The
circuit then had a membership of 150, and the entire conference, 1,690. John
McMahon was preacher of the circuit, and Jacob Young was presiding elder
of the district. From that time to the present there has been regular preaching
at Youngsville. The list of preachers is as follows, it being borne in mind
that they were not resident preachers before about 1851: 1814, Burrows Westlake;
1815, Lemuel Lane; 1816, Daniel Davidson; 1817, Curtis Goddard;
1818, John Summerville; 1819, John Summerville; 1820 (this year the Chautauqua
Circuit was taken into the Genesee Conference and Genesee District,
Gideon R. Draper presiding elder), Philetus Parker and David Smith; 1821,
Parker Buell and Sylvester Cary; 1822, Parker Buell and Benjamin Hill;
1823, Asa Abell and John W. Hill; 1824, Nathaniel Reader and John Scott;
1825 (Chautauqua Circuit and Erie District taken into Pittsburgh Conference),
Peter D. Horton and Joseph S. Barris; 1826, Joseph S. Barris and Dow Prosser;
1827, John Chandler and John Johnson; 1828 (Youngsville Circuit taken
from Chautauqua Circuit), Hiram Kinsley and John Johnson; 1829, John P.
Kent and L. L. Hamlin; 1830, James Gilmore and John J. Swazy; 1831, John
C. Ayers, Samuel E. Babcock, and G. D. Kinnear; 1832, A. Young and
Thomas Jennings; 1833, Hiram Luce and D. Pritchard; 1834 (Jamestown
District), David Preston and H. N. Sterns; 1835, William Todd and James
E. Chapin; 1836, J. H. Tocket and Theodore Stone; 1837, Josiah Flower and
John Deming; 1838, C. C. Best and John Scott; 1839, B. S. Hill and Luther
Kendall; 1840 (for this year only, this was named Youngsville, Warren, and
Smethport District), B. S. Hill, A. Barris, and S. Henderson; 1841, Alexander
Barris; 1842, John F. Hill; 1843, Martin Hineback; 1844, Horace Hitchcock;
1845-46, O. P. Brown; 1847, D. Vorce and D. King; 1848, D. Vorce
and R. L. Blackner; 1849, S. Henderson and O. D. Parker; 1850, Samuel
Sullivan (this year the circuit was divided by cutting off Wrightsville and Lottsville);
1851, Albert Norton; 1852, J. N. Henry and M. Hineback; 1853, James
B. Hammond; 1854, Samuel S. Warren; 1855-56, A. R. Hammond; 1857,
Samuel Holland; 1858, Samuel Holland; 1859, H. M. Bettis; 1860, George
F. Reese; 1861-62, David Mizenn; 1863, A. H. Dome; 1864-65, C. M.
Heard; 1866-67-68, James C. Sullivan; 1869-70, B. F. Delo; 1871, A. H.
Bowen; 1872-73, Joseph F. Hill; 1874, S. S. Burton (Garland added to the
charge and the parsonage built); 1875-77, L. W. Riley; 1878, W. B. Holt;
1879-81, A. S. Goodrich; 1882, I. N. Clover; 1883-86, H. G. Hall; 1886 and
at present, T. W. Douglas.
From the beginning until 1818 the meetings were held for the most part
in private houses or barns, and occasionally the school-house. In 1817 a
house of worship was begun on the site now occupied by the Swedish church,
and was completed and first used in 1818. It was a small, cheap, structure,
and in 1827 was replaced by a second edifice, which is now occupied for purposes
of worship by the members of the Swedish Lutheran Church. This
house the Methodists were satisfied with until about 1882. In that year their
present convenient and commodious church edifice was built. A Sabbathschool
was started about sixty years ago, and has been kept up ever since;
the average attendance upon the Sabbath-school is now said to be about fifty.
The present trustees of the church and parsonage are Willard J. Davis, John
Agrelius, Erastus A. Davis, G. A. Jackson, John Jackson, J. I. Sanford, M.
D. Whitney, John Black, Henry Mead. The Sabbath-school superintendent
is J. I. Sanford. The other church officers are, stewards, John Agrelius, Sarah
Agrelius, Erastus A. Davis, Adelia Davis, W. H. Shortt, Willard J. Davis, Miss
Florence Chipman, and Mrs. Jane Thatcher. J. I. Sandford is class leader.
There is now a membership in the church of about 125.
In the first half of this century, at the same time that she displayed her
unselfish interest in the town by building the stone school-house at Irvineton,
Mrs. William Irvine showed her devotion to her spiritual faith by also constructing,
or causing to be constructed, a church in the same community, in
which the Presbyterians for some time worshiped, but which is now occupied
in common by the Presbyterians and Methodists. The services of the former
denomination are conducted by the Presbyterian clergyman from Sugar Grove,
and of the latter by the pastors of the Methodist Church of Youngsville.
There is also at Irvineton a Roman Catholic Church, which was erected in
1871. It is attended by Father Lavery, of Tidioute, and has a membership
of about forty families. At Youngsville also the Swedes have established a
Lutheran Church, and have since their organization, some three years ago,
occupied the old Methodist Church, though at the present writing they are
engaged in building a neat and commodious edifice of their own.
(1) W. J. Davis is a grandson of Abraham and a son of Elijah L. Davis, the latter of
whom is now a resident of Cincinnati, whither he removed in 1838.