Art ~ Writing ~ Life

From Handprints To Footprints

Sending Out a Finished Manuscript, by Beverley Bittner

November 17, 2017
Steve Campbell

From the Help Desk of Beverley Bittner.

PJ has been working a long time on a mystery novel. She is finishing it and wants to know if she should send the whole thing to a publisher.

First, congratulations on actually finishing your story, PJ. That’s the first big step of writing. Marketing is the second (and some say the hardest) part. Here are some ideas that may help you:

Study the markets. You probably read a lot of the kind of story you have written. Make a list of the publishers of some of your favorites. Most are in the annual book, Writer’s Market, available at your public library.

Follow the publisher’s instructions. Many publishers will ask for a cover letter and two or three chapters. If you don’t understand what they want, ask. Always send return postage with any mailing.

Don’t think it will be easy. Expect rejections. John Grisham, in an interview in The Christian Communicator, Sept. 1999, said, “When (my) first novel was finished, the response was one rejection slip after another.” Finally he found an editor willing to take a chance on him. 5,000 copies of “A Time to Kill” were printed. Grisham bought 1,000 of them himself and sold them out of the trunk of his old blue Volvo. His second novel “The Firm” captured the attention of Doubleday and the rest is history. By the way, those first edition copies of “A Time to Kill” are now worth about $4,000 each.

We welcome everyone of like interests to be part of our world of reading, writing, and lifelong learning. E-mail us your questions, comments, or ideas.

—Beverley Bittner
Copyright © 2000


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 10, by Beverley Bittner

October 24, 2017
Steve Campbell

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

October 23, 2017
Steve Campbell

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

October 22, 2017
Steve Campbell

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

October 21, 2017
Steve Campbell

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

October 20, 2017
Steve Campbell

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

October 19, 2017
Steve Campbell

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

October 18, 2017
Steve Campbell

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

October 17, 2017
Steve Campbell

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

October 16, 2017
Steve Campbell

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.

Area History, Chapter 1, by Beverley Bittner

October 15, 2017
Steve Campbell

Waterford: No Castles or Brick Houses in 1795.

By Beverley Bittner, From the autumn, 1980 issue of Reminiscence.

By the mid-1700’s, the French had built several forts along Lake Erie. They did not seize the land from the Indians, but only traded there and by gifts and promises made friends of the Indians. The forts were to insure their trading rights. It appeared that they intended to contest Great Britain’s claim to the territory.

In 1753, 21-year-old George Washington, wearing the plain blue uniform of the Virginia militia, led an expedition to scout the area west of the Allegheny Mountains. With his men he paddled up French Creek to Fort LeBoeuf to deliver a letter of protest from Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia to the commander of the French fort.

The letter expressed surprise that “on property so notoriously known to belong to Great Britain … a body of French forces are erecting fortresses and making settlements.”

Washington’s account of his trip was published by the governor. That account, including many details of the French operations, influenced the colonists and Great Britain to take immediate action against the French on the frontier.

The French and Indian War ended in 1760, leaving all the western Pennsylvania area under the control of the English. The French soldiers burned Fort LeBoeuf and their other forts as they retreated north.

The Indians in the area tolerated the English, but made no secret of the fact that they had liked the French better. However, the English rebuilt Fort LeBoeuf as well as other forts along Lake Erie and in the wilderness.

An influential Indian chief, Pontiac, head of the Ottawa tribe, pretended to be friendly with the English, but secretly plotted with other tribes to attack them. The Indians took the English by surprise. Nine of the thirteen forts in the Western Lands fell to Indian attack. Among those to fall was Fort LeBoeuf.

The fort was attacked on June 17, 1763 by more than 200 Senecas and Ottawas. The thirteen soldiers manning the fort had no chance to defend it. They escaped through a drainage tile at night, hiding in the woods and swamps until they could make their way to Pittsburgh. The Indians burned the fort the next day, then marched on to Presque Isle, where that fort fell five days later.

After the forts were captured and burned by Indians, the sparsely settled area was indeed “a dark and bloody ground.” Hundreds of traders and settlers were shot, tomahawked, or scalped. A 1763 treaty with the ‘Indians was soon broken. Another the next year was also broken almost before it was signed.

The English made no attempt to rebuild the forts. The land was in complete control of the Indian tribes as far south as Pittsburgh and east into New York State.

But civilization was not to be denied. In 1788, a large tract in western Pennsylvania was made the County of Allegheny with Pittsburgh as the seat of justice. The tract known as the Triangle, which included Presque Isle harbor, was purchased by Pennsylvania from the United States government in 1792.

The state then had to purchase the land from the Indians, paying $1,200. Another tribe then wanted to be paid also and were given $800. At last, it seemed safe to survey the land and encourage settlers to come.

Andrew Ellicott, the leading surveyor in the country, (he had surveyed the western Pennsylvania border and had assisted in laying out the nation’s new capital, Washington) was hired. Part of his job was to layout the towns of Erie, Franklin and Waterford in 1795.

Ellicott’s men left Philadephia in May, 1795, first visiting Pittsburgh, where George Burges, one of the surveyors, wrote in his diary, “We put our horses to pasture and spent the day in viewing the town and forts, which is a very pleasant place, but many of the inhabitants a very corrupt people.”

On June 23rd, Burges wrote at Fort LeBoeuf, “We have now fixed a place for the market with many of the main streets, but yet there are no castles nor brick houses, but on the contrary, but five or six little dirty log huts surrounded by a great wilderness of seventy or eighty miles with Indians hooping and halloing and begging for whisky.”

Burges continued in a philosophical bent, “Should providence grant (it to become a city of commerce) may pride and avarice keep far distant and not make it appear more savage than its present state.”

Burges’s wish seems to have been granted as Waterford never became a city of commerce. It remains today a quiet, serene small town, known to Corryites mostly as a pleasant spot to pass through on the way to Erie.


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, Introduction, by Beverley Bittner

October 14, 2017
Steve Campbell

From Beverley Bittner:

Readers:

From 1977 to 1979, I co-edited and wrote for the Reminiscence magazine, a popular 12-page publication of local history. I also wrote on history for Steppin’ Out magazine and newspapers.

I found a box of clippings from these writings recently in an unused closet. What fun I had reading those old narratives! I went to bed with visions of brave pioneer women like Harriet Blakeslee and Hannah Wilson. I think I dreamed of Michael Hare, his nimble fingers weaving an intricate bag for grain, telling tales of his war adventures to awestruck boys. I could almost see Colonel William Crawford tied to a stake while fires were ignited around him. I saw in my mind the almost impenetrable forests surveyor George Burges described at Fort LeBouf as “a great wilderness … with Indians hooping and halloing and begging for whisky.”

History is about the people who lived it. These wonderful old stories must be told to every generation. Most of the articles in this book appeared under my by-line in the 1970s. In some instances, I have added information not available to me then.

Dear reader, history isn’t only about the people who live it, after all. It’s about buildings, newspapers, books, well-traveled roads, hard work, dreams – and memories. Enjoy these glimpses back in time. Then put the book aside for your children and grandchildren. History is – timeless.

Beverley Bittner
Corry, PA, 1999


Editor’s Note:

The history from Beverley’s book pertains to the northwest section of Pennsylvania, commonly called “the chimney” by local schoolchildren.


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.

Getting Started, by Beverley Bittner

October 11, 2017
Steve Campbell

From the Help Desk of Beverley Bittner.

Most of us have read a poem, a story or an article that caused us to exclaim, “I could write like that, maybe even better, if only I knew how to get started.

Kathy has a book of fiction in the works. She has a plot, she knows her characters, but (in my opinion) is trying to tell too much of the story in her first chapter. Here are a few suggestions that might help Kathy and you and I get started right.

The first chapter has only two basic purposes.

  1. To introduce the main character (or two of the main characters). That means a physical description, hint at the problem he/she faces that will be the basis of conflict in the book. When and where the story is taking place can be shown by a few words. “Action”, “show”, “don’t tell” are words to keep you on track. (Introducing characters, one by one, each in a separate chapter is a good way to get your novel moving along.)
  2. You must HOOK the reader in your first paragraphs and certainly in the first chapter. Don’t overload the reader with background and facts that can be brought out later. By promising lots of action, dialogue, backstory in small doses, you can make the reader WANT to read your book. If you don’t hook him in the first pages, you have lost your reader.

The first scene of the first chapter must tell:

WHO is the story about?
WHERE and WHEN is the story taking place?
WHY is the main character there?
WHAT problems is the character facing?

This may seem like a lot of information to get in the first scene, but remember you don’t want to give away your story or tell too much. Be a tease, hint at events to come.

Now that all-important first sentence

It should tell something about the main character. It should tell something about or hint at the character’s problem, and the theme of the book. Is it a mystery? Love story? Inspirational? Is a historical event itself the focus of the story?

If you have a work in progress, look at it and see if your opening sentence, scene and first chapter measure up to these guidelines. If it is a first, second, or third draft, probably not. Only by rereading, rewriting, and finally working as your own editor, will your first chapter pass the eagle eye of an admissions editor.


Here at Writer’s Block we have two goals: (1) to help people of all ages learn to share their ideas and experiences through the written word, and (2) to promote reading for pleasure and learning.

For our Corry, Pennsylvania area friends, we have several appearances scheduled during the year where we can meet you in person. We look forward to seeing you, so please stop and say hello.

We are aware that some of our readers are far away from our small, rural community in Northwestern Pennsylvania. It is thrilling to read our weekly stats and find that we have had “hits” from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Our fine and knowledgeable Webmaster told us, “You have got to start thinking globally.” As always, he was right!

It is indeed a small world, thanks to the worldwide web. We welcome everyone of like interests to be part of our world of reading, writing, and lifelong learning. E-mail us your questions, comments, or ideas.

That’s all from the Editor’s Desk for this month…

—Beverley Bittner
Copyright © 1999


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.

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