RailsandTrails.com - Texts - 1854 Ohio Railroad Guide

  PENNSYLVANIA, HAIL! The Pennsylvania line is 70 miles from Cleveland, and here we enter the Keystone State. Pennsylvania is one of the oldest and most interesting of the States. You know that it was settled first by William Penn and his Friends, (as the Quakers always call themselves), at Philadelphia; but then that was long before the settlement of this northwest corner--and it was also a very different kind of immigration. In this part of the State, there was no such quiet and peaceful progress as was made at Philadelphia. On the contrary, it was a scene of trouble and conflict--as Indians, French, English, and Irish, alternately held sway. I say Irish, because after the English prevailed over the French, the principal immigrants to Pittsburgh, and all the surrounding counties, were the Scotch-Irish, or those from the north of Ireland, which, after Cromwell's Conquest, was settled by the Scotch.

The northwestern part of Pennsylvania was first stationed--not settled-by the French, who built Fort Du Quesne, at Pittsburgh, a fort at Presque Isle, (now Erie) and others on French creek. At that time, however, the Indians were still the proprietors of all the lands west of the Alleghanies, and the French only held a line of posts on the Ohio, the Lakes and their tributaries. From these posts they were ultimately driven by the English; but it is difficult to tell exactly when the first permanent settlers came to this district.

We are now entering Erie county, through which runs French creek, and on which was the scene of the earliest adventures of George Washington. In 1753, Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia, having discovered that the French were establishing posts on the Ohio, and being unable to obtain accurate information by his messengers, selected a young surveyor, who at the age of nineteen had received the rank of Major, and who was inured to hardships and woodland ways--while his courage, judgment, and firm will, all fitted him for such a mission. This young man was George Washington, then but twenty-one years and eight months old. He left Williamsburg with a Mr. Gist for his guide, and arrived at Wills creek, where Cumberland now is, on the 15th of November, and on the 22d, reached the Monongala. Thence he went to Logtown, and held long conferences with the chiefs of the Six Nations, living in the neighborhood. Finding the French and Indians above would not come down to meet him, he proceeded to their forts. Traveling in cold and rain, he reached Venango, at the mouth of French creek, on the 4th of November. This was an old Indian town, and here he found the French-who with rum and flattery had very nearly seduced the friendly Indians who went with him from Logtown. Patience and good faith, however, conquered, and after another rough time, through snow, rain, and cold, he reached the fort on French creek. This was only fifteen miles from the present Erie. Here he was politely told by the French commander, that the demand of Governor Dinwiddie to evacuate the forts, could not be complied with. The shrewdness and capacity of Washington, as a military man, was even then quite conspicuous. He took accurate note of the fort, armament, men, provisions, &c., and communicated them to his government. In the salve expedition, he also observed the admirable situation of the junction of the Allegheny and the Monongahela--and at his recommendation a fort was built there.

On his return, young Washington suffered severely, and very nearly lost his life. He left his friendly Indians, and with Gist set out on foot for Wills creek. Accepting the guidance of an Indian, he was betrayed and shot at. In the midst of winter, they came to the Allegheny, expecting to cross on the ice, but were disappointed, and compelled to make a raft with a single hatchet. Nearly frozen, they were thrown upon a desert island. The ice fortunately made that night, hard enough to bear them, and they escaped to the main land. Thus, through hardships and dangers, Washington returned safe to Williamsburg. It was in such a school of bodily, as well as moral and intellectual training, that Providence was gradually fitting Washington to become the Man of the Revolution.

ERIE COUNTY, in which we are, comprehends the whole of that portion of Pennsylvania, bordering on the Lake. The Lake shore of Pennsylvania is about 50 miles-thus giving her, like New York, a terri tory extending from the Ocean to the Lakes. This is peculiar to these two States, and a great advantage. Erie county contains nearly 40,000 inhabitants--raises a large quantity of grain and potatoes; but deals chiefly in cattle and sheep-pasturage being everywhere the principal element of Lakeshore farming.

SPRINGFIELD STATION is 76 miles from Cleveland. The town is to the south of the railroad. It is a small village, with several stores and mills.

Bridge, Crooked Creek near Springfield, PA.

The scenery of the Lake shore varies but little. We pass no high hills, and the varieties of surface are produced almost altogether by the rivers, creeks, and ravines, which terminate in the Lake. The shores of Lake Erie, have, as a residence, however, some great advantages. The land is generally level; the air cool and bracing; the temperature not severe; the scenery, like that of the Ocean, grand and various--at one time like a transparent mirror, reflecting the light sails of the water craft, and shining in the dazzling rays of the sun; at another clothed in the gloomy grandeur of the storm; at another mixed with all the elements of sun and shade, of clouds and sky, of curling waves and of moving vessels.

It was a remark of Volney, the traveler, "that the southern shore of Lake Erie would one clay become the pleasantest part of the United States, and lined with the homes of a numerous people." The prediction is, in some degree, accomplished-for we have already such cities and towns, as Buffalo, Cleveland, Erie, Sandusky, Toledo, and other flourishing places; and the intermediate shore is rapidly filling up with intelligent and prosperous citizens.

GIRARD STATION, 80 miles from Cleveland. This is a small post town of Erie county, containing about 400 inhabitants.

Elk Creek

FAIRVIEW is a village at the mouth of Walnut creek.

What is History? We are here in the very midst of the civilization of the Earth. We are near the city of Erie. In twenty hours we shall be in the great city of New York, which, with its surroundings, has a million of people. We are moving on the newest and greatest element of civilization -- the Railway. We are in sight of the most splendid steamers. We are surrounded by ladies and gentlemen. With all this, we cannot trace the history of this spot beyond the life of a single man? We are a nation grown up in a day--and beyond a century or two, all on this continent lies in clouds and shadows. I thought of this in endeavoring to get some idea of the first settlement of this district. But I cannot. Robert Proud, who wrote what he called the history of Pennsylvania, about the year 1776, says, "there were then eleven counties in Pennsylvania, (there are now sixty-three) of which, Bedford and Westmoreland were the only ones west of the Alleghenies. Of these, he says they are "frontier counties, in the back parts of the province, next the Indians: they were laid out but very lately, and are as yet, but thinly inhabited and little improved --being the most remote from the capital of the province."Just think-the great States in the valley of the Ohio, were then, as the sheriff would say, non est inventus--and Western Pennsylvania, now flourishing with half a million of inhabitants, was a mere frontier, where the daring emigrant was just building his cabin among the Indians! But what Indians were here? If we know little of the white settlements, we know less of the Indians.

The Indian settlers here were very much in the same pursuit and character as the whites. It does not seem very clear, that there were any permanent residents in this region. The Indians who dwelt here, were the outguards or hunters of the great Iroquois confederacy. On the Susquehannah, Beaver creek, and possibly along the whole Lake shore, the Indian inhabitants were the Delawares--a leading tribe of the Iroquois. These did not belong strictly to the Six Nations; but were united with other tribes in another confederacy. The Delawares were among the most renowned, as well as noble families of aboriginals. They seldom exhibited the traits of meanness and ferocity, so common with most Indian tribes; but were generally fair and honorable. The Delawares, like most of the Eastern tribes, have nearly died out. The remnants of the tribe were removed beyond the Mississippi, where they still remain.