Welcome to Smethport, Pennsylvania
View From "Town Hill" looking SouthWest 1891
photo credit:  McKean County Historical Society Collection

A McKean County Diary
October 1, 1891 - July 21, 1892  signed only J.H.M.

            October 9, 1891   No buzzards in this part of this state.  Catholic fair & dance closed, commenced Monday night.  Proceeds 12 to $1500.00.

Sunday, October 11, 1891 Went to see the new iron bridge(see photo above) across Marvin Creek on the "Poor Farm Road".  Manufactured by the Massillon Bridge Co. Ohio.     Built by Smethport Borough.  Cost about $800.00.  Catholic Priests not allowed to wear whiskers.  Ramer commenced peddling milk once a day.  Nat Ramer made frame for his cellar door.  Sam Fry took dog & gun & went hunting.
            October 20, 1891   Went through the Extract Works.  Were shutting down for repairs. Teachers Institute commenced on the 19th to last all week.  Teachers mostly female (224).  Land
              so poor that it takes 9 ft of it over a dead mule to hold the carcass down.  Uncle laid gas pipe into his house.  Forty years ago the money of McKean Co. was Road or County orders.
              Cashed at a discount of 25% & often 50%.  Got two cannon balls from the pump station at Colegrove.

            October 27, 1891   Oil wells cost $2,500.00 a piece to bore them.

            November 6, 1891  Boring 2 oil wells at Port Allegany.  Lost the tools in both wells.  Bought one set tools & Drawed them up 300 ft & they dropped.  This is called a fishing job.  Gas
              Co. Protects the pipes at the wells with manure to keep out frost.  The roof is being put on Hamlin's new Episcopal Church at Smethport.

              Sunday , November 8, 1891      McKean Bros. (editor's note:  Charles McKean & brother James McKean) &  offered $70,000 for 700 acres wild land & 1/4 royalty on the oil found.
              New gas well to be bored at East Smethport.

            December 17, 1891     Nat Ramer moved in his new house.

            December 19, 1891     McClure's house burned down.

            January 20, 1892     Saturday 16th Hoffman Bros. 1 team brought 11,250 pounds bark on a sled 4 miles to Extract Works at Smethport

                                                                                (East Smethport Extract Works was called Smethport Extract Works- ed.).

              Sunday  March  6, 1892     New gas well bored in Reilly Hollow.  Mother Ramer's birthday.  Age 64 years.

            March  8, 1892     Catholic Fair at Bradford.  Proceeds amounted to $8,000.  Board of Trade organized at Emporium.

            March  14, 1892     Average number of inmates at Poor Farm for the year 1891 was about 26.  Average cost to the taxpayers for each inmate per week $2.68 2/3 cents.  360 public
              schools in Tioga Co.  89 post offices in Tioga Co.

            May  7, 1892     Went to help raise a bank barn for Orran Havens about 1 1/2 miles up Potato Creek.  The size of the barn was about 30 X 40 X 16 ft high in the frame & was framed
              together except the braces.  Hickory wagon spokes sawed in two were used for pinning.  The crowd numbered about 40, mostly Irish.

            May  16, 1892     Some year ago L. Rogers & Andros Williams, resident of Smethport, took a walk up Marvin Creek & also  something to drink.  On the way home when they got to the
              bridge ( that spans the creek above the town) they both concluded that the bridge was not safe & waded the creek near to their necks.

            May  21, 1892     The officers  of the Smethport Board of Trade came to Ramer's to get samples of clay to send away to be tested, the object being to induce some party or company of
              men to engage in the manufacture of brink at this place.  Swede dance at Peterson's.

May  28, 1892     Great bustle in the cemetery putting up monuments & fixing & trimming up the burying lots.  Each lot is one rod square.  Millard Stickles putting up a monument that
cost between 4 & 500 (495.00)

           May  30, 1892     Decoration Day.  Large turnout in the parade.  Memorial Address delivered by a speaker from Kane. Circus day also.  Show band took part in the parade.

            June  23, 1892     Thundergust early in the morning. 3 oil tanks struck by lightning up at Colegrove... went to see the burning oil tanks in the afternoon.  The oil got into the creek &
              burned away the R.R. Bridge & also 2 wagon bridges about 1/2 miles below.  Height of a tank in center 25 ft.  Average cost of oil tanks 10,000 dollars.  Loss to each stockholder in the
              Standard Oil Co. by the burning of a tank in estimated at about 27 cents each.  The oil is not the Co.'s loss, in case a tank burns - they pay for no oil until it is sold & pumped out of their

            June  25, 1892     Merry-go-round over town run by steam power.

July  4, 1892      Flying clouds in the morning.  Pleasant.  Fine day.  Great Celebration and festivities at Smethport.  Capt. Paul Boyton's Aquatic performance on Marvin Creek at the poor Farm Road.  Ball game between the Duke Centre Nine and Smethport resulted in favor of Duke Centre.  Largest load of people came from Bloomster Hollow.  63 on the load (4 horses).  Next largest 53 (2 horses). Premium $5.00 paid for the loads.  Foot race, premium $5.00.  Harness Race, Premium $3.00.  Military Parade was first in order.  The G.A.R.'s in front & 27 small (Young Sons of America) boys (in uniform) in the rear, each armed with wooden musket with tin bayonet.  Dance in the evening.  Masser, Greenley & Purtle were the committee of arrangements.
July  8, 1892    Catholic Church is being shingled.  Stone work is completed on the new St. Luke's Episcopal Church.
July  12, 1892    The frame work of the steeple put on the new stone church.  Matthew M. Quay, State Senator in Smethport, attending the convention of delegates for the state senator.  A.F. Bannon of Bradford nominated on first ballot against S. Smith of Port Alleghany & James McKean of Smethport.

July  18, 1892      25 dollars bid for taking down the bell from the old St. Luke's Episcopal church and putting it up on the new stone church.  Weight of bell about 200 pounds.  Bid considered reasonable.

(editor's note:  2001:  According to church member Jeff Keppel the original bell was never moved as St. Luke's inscription is still on bell at today's Lutheran Church -the original Episcopal Church)

July  20 , 1892     The upper crust of the town went to Kane to witness a ball game between the Kane Nine & Smethport boys.  The result of the game was 1 to 9 in favor of Kane boys, but from a good authority (A.  Sturdevant) I learned that the umpire was partial.

Diary 2
July 22, 1892 - October 9, 1892
July  23 , 1892    Henry C. Frick, Superintendent of the Carnegie Iron Works shot in the arm and stabbed.

Sunday  July  24, 1892    Philander Hopkins store building caught fire in the warehouse attached.  Did considerable damage to the building but not much to the stock.

Sunday  July  31, 1892    Excursion to Niagara Falls.  Baseball game on Fords flat South of East Smethport along Potato Creek.  Giffords Mill hands run logs on Marvin Creek to fill up the log supply for the next week's sawing.
August  6, 1892    A base ball Nine of N.Y. composed of feamles plated the Ridgway nine last week & resulted in favor of the N.Y. team.  The Simpson Nine played against the Smethport boys today with a score of 7 to none in favor of Smethport.  The Kane Nine have challenged the Smethports to play for $100 or $1000 on outside grounds.  The game to be unpired by a man unacquainted with either
August 11, 1892    A shutter & blind factory has been started in Smethport.  It is located on Water Street in a building owned by Mr. Colegrove that was formerly built and used for planing mill.  It is the first outgrowth of Smethport's board of trade, organized this spring, 1892.  Was over to see the New Stone Church - were hanging doors & doing decorative mason & woodwork, gas fitting etc. & the underground apartments were being paved with a mixture of brickbats, stone spalls, cement, etc.

Sunday August  12, 1892    There seems to be more hunting, fishing and berrying done at Smethport on Sunday than on any week-day, The reports of guns & the baying of hounds are so common to hear as the tolling of the churchbells.

August  16, 1892    You can tell now who is raising buckwheat in the country round the patches are all in bloom now.  Quite a number of buckwheat patches in Reilly Hollow by the Smethport Gas Co. preparatory to boring another gas well.  Five rigs now in Reilly Hollow; Extract Company 2 for to get the gas for their Extract works & Port Alleghany, 12 miles away.
August  26, 1892    Sam & Nat Ramer bought a colt, 15 months old.  Paid $80 for him.   David C. Comes built a bank barn this summer.  The new stone church is about completed.  The Extract Company are digging a ditch from the lower sawmill pond across to their Extract works to lay a larger line of water pipes.  A patent Tackhammer Manufacture started in the building formerly occupied by Mr. Chase as a planing mill & workshop.  Went down on the flat & run a lot of logs out of the booms to let more driftwood down to where we can get at it.  The Switchmen's Strike at Buffalo declared off on the 25th  the old hands reinstated.
September  1, 1892    Game of baseball today at Hamlin's Park between the professional men & merchants.  The best batter was said to be a lawyer, Mayo, and old man, probably 58 years old; struck left handed with the bat & hired a substitute runner.  There was the largest attendance of any game of the season.  Admission fees were 25 cents & 10 cents extra for the ladies stand.  The proceeds were for the benefit of the ball club of this place.  Lawyer Keenan when asked why he didn't stop "that ball" said he could let it go by a good deal easier.

September  3, 1892    There is no cider press in operating order at this place & never was but one in operation & that one was only in use for a short term of years & was run in connection with a chopping (or grist mill as they call it here).

The country between this place & where the towns of Kane & Wilcox are now located, 30 years ago was one continuous stretch of forest.  Between this place & Wilcox there was no one single habitation of any kind & between this place & Kane there were a few houses where Mt. Jewett now stands.  The only timber that was then cut for market was the best of the white pine, the hemlock & hardwoods being of any value whatsoever.  The principle hardwoods here are beech, birch, ash, maple, cherry, elm & basswood.  The cherry sells now as high as $60 a thousand ft.  The bass-wood bark peeled or shaved off & split up like cord wood. The price on the cars is now $4.50, 5 ft wide, 4 ft high & 8 lt. long required for a cord.  The beech is cut the same as the basswood except that the bark is left on.  It is used in the manufacture of a certain kind of acid.  Chemical works being built in different places in this & adjoining counties for that purpose.  These establishments keep closed doors to prevent their process being stolen by experts.  The elm is used extensively in the manufacture of barrels (packing barrels), buckets and the like.  The elm is used in place of the hickory & oak for barrel hoops, being sawed & the ends of the hoop nailed together.  The hardwood logs here are sold to dealers in hard wood lumber.  They are all brought to one mill * the dealer superintends the sawing of the logs himself. The lumber is hauled & piled along the R.R. track to be shipped when desired What I have seen shipped was shipped in box cars.

Twenty years ago only the best of the hemlock was taken for lumber.  The price was $1.50 to $2.00 per thousand with the bark on the logs & was not considered a paying job unless the timber stood handy to good sized stream so that the logs could be dragged to the bank & rolled in & floated to the mills.  Now the bark is a valuable market product.  The logs are brought to the mills by railroad, ramrod, wagon road, sled road & in many casesdown log or timber slides (some so steep that the slides have to be spiked to prevent the logs from going too fast & jumping out of the slide) to the foothills to some convenient spot where skidways are built of logs or rought timbers piled on them to be rolled from there on to the sleds when sleighing time comes, for no logs are hauled with wagons if it can possibly be avoided.

The bark here is bought by the Extract Co. at from $6 to $6.50 a cord or ton, 2240 pounds (gross weight) being taken for a cord or ton.  The market price of the liquid extracted from 1 ton I am told is $18.

Sunday  September  4, 1892    Squire Smith a neighbor of Ramer's was visiting here this evening.  He told stories of his younger days of how they used to tend parties & dances on horseback & take the girl on behind & how an acquaintance of his got served one time when he went across toward Sinnemahoning to bring a girl to a dance house waiting for his girl to get ready, some rogue took a long piece of clothes-line & fastened the one end around on of the horse's hind legs & the other end to a stump.  He said they both got on the horse & started & all went right until they got to the end of the rope & then everything was upset.  He told, too, of another pair that were courting in front of one of the old-fashioned fire places with a big, wide chimney & a log fire on the hearth.  Another member of the family caught a goose & climbed on the roof & dropped the goose down the chimney on the fire that was on the hearth.  The goose threw first all over the room & the young folks were badly scared up.
September  6, 1892    Mrs. Henry Hamlin, the Banker's wife, is said to have told a poor man of this place that she would furnish the money (the man being addicted to drinking) if he wished to attend the Keely Institution to be cured of that habit.
September  10, 1892    The gas line bursted last Sunday in Irish Hollow.
September  12, 1892    This is court week.  Criminal Court, also the week that Hamlin's new stone church is to be dedicated, and fair week.  The fairs are held at Port Allegheny. and the C.W.T.U. -Women's Christian Temperance Union Society- is to have an important meeting of some kind.

September  14, 1892    Dedication services commenced in the new stone church on Tuesday evening 13th, to continue 4 days.  Forty ministers expected to be present.  Court adjourned on Wednesday noon.  The jury list is not published in the county papers in this -McKean- County.

September  20, 1892    Thoms Connally was at work in a well in Irish Hollow for Thos Quirk (both Irish) & the well caved in on him crushing his hip.
October  3, 1892    A storekeeper (an Italian) & his ranch was blown to atoms with dynamite by Italians on last Sat eve Oct. 1st out along the new R.R. somewhere between Ormsby's Mt Jewett. Criminal Court this week at Smethport.  Half the jurors reported to be drunk.
October  3, 1892    A neighbor woman (a Swede) has -since last March- woven over 900 yards of carpet - price per yard, 12 1/2 cts - besides doing her housework & helping in the field during haying.  Their name is Peterson; neighbors of Ramer's.
The trip to the oil tanks
There were two oil tanks stuck by lightning on Thursday morning at 3:15 A.M. June 22nd at Colegrove, 7 miles south of Smethport.  They were both struck at about the same time.  I was told not 3 minutes apart.  Same Ramer and I went to see them burn.  Were went after dinner, with a horse and gig.  The tanks were burning full blast by the time we got there.

A tank burns about 12 hours before it boils over and about that long afterwards, or, as long as the oil lasts.  As soon as it is discovered that any of the tanks are struck, they telegraph for help to all the principle towns around.  That, it seems, would be unnecessary, unless, as in this case, the tanks were struck during the night hours; for about half or more of the people in the country round turn out as soon as they see the smoke, and that can be seen for many miles in every direction.  It rolls up as large and blacker than any thunderstorm I ever saw.  The farmers in the neighborhood load up their plows and take them along for they know they will be needed & it will be possibly 12 or more hours work and good pay.  The hardware stores around are speedily relieved of all their shovels & of almost any kind of shovel.  The idea is in the tank, to have trenches dug and embankments throwed up around with other tanks or property that may be near.

If all things are in readiness before the oil boils over the shoot holes into the lower part of the tank with cannon balls about as large as a first and let the oil out from below into these trenches and save some of it by the use of a steam pump for the purpose.  The oil, is pumped out of the trenches and into an unfilled tank.  But is it seldom that any great amount of oil can be saved as it is generally ready to boil over by the time the trenches are dug and embankments throwed up.  On this occasion the pump was some miles distant and the team mired with it on the return trip, and it failed to arrive in time to be of any service.  The one tank stood on a high, steep bank along the mountain side & about 200 yards above the bank of Potato Creek.  The trenches that they dug around this tank did not hold near all the oil when it boiled over & the overplus went in a wide stream down the bank & into the creek.

The manager had forethought enough to go down the creek about 1/2 mile & had a boom made of logs stretched across the stream just above a large sawmill to stop the oil when it would reach there & we were told that the boom was swung in place none too soon.  It did great damage as it went along (I mean the oil).  It burned a R.R. bridge & two wagon bridges, the one quite a large one & all the bushes and younger on either bank all the way down to the boom & just as the oil was about all consumed on the water, the boom was burned in two about the center of the stream.  Had there been much more oil afloat it would then no doubt have burned this sawmill & possibly another little further down stream.

When tanks are struck by lightning the oil is loss to the different individuals or small companies whose wells the oil comes from.  The Co. that owns the Pump Station (& tanks) at this place is the Standard Oil Co. & its stock holders are scattered all over the United States.

Each party's oil is gauged or measured as it comes to the station & is pumped at the same time into the tanks, but the Co. pays for none of it until it is pumped out again into car tanks or pipe lines of their own & sold.  The loss to each stockholder in this Co. tank is said to be $10,000.

The men and boys that go to the fire to work at helping to dig trenches & c. are paid from 40 to 50 cents an hour & sometimes more according to the scarcity of help, but as a rule the help is not scarce. A man & a play team are generally paid extremely high prices.

Each laborer is furnished or given a ticket & is give a check (for his pay) on return of the ticket when the fire is over.  When the work commences there is a couple bbls crackers, cheese & bologna got there as soon as possibly & after the worst excitement is over there is an excellent mean prepared for the workmen.

It seems to be a small harvest for everybody.  The liverymen make their share, too, $3.00 & sometimes more being charged at this place (Smethport) for a rig for a limited time (say 3 hours).  The hucksters - cake, candy & peanut vendors) hurry to the scene to catch the loose change of the visitors.

The tanks are made of sheet iron being probably 4 ft long & are about 3/18 of an inch thick for the lower half of the tank & taper to an eighth of an inch for the top courses.  The tanks are circular in shape & usually about 25 feet high in the center and about 40 ft in diameter.  Every tank is numbered & recorded.  They are painted red & have steps or a ladder to the top.  On the roof there is 3 or 4 gas escapes, holes about 6 inches in diameter made in the roof to allow the gas to rise off the oil.  In case of fire in close proximity to the other tanks as it was in this case, these ascapes or holes are kept closed by a large piece of sod thrown over them.

Each of these two tanks that were struck by the lightning were said to hold 35,000 bbls.  Oil, at the time these tanks were burned about 55 cents per bbls.

It used to be customary to have a lightning rod put on each tank when it was built, but it has been found out that there were was more danger of lightning with the rods on than without & they were ordered taken off.

After a tank has been burned, there is only about 4 ft of the sides & the bottom that is of any use, the upper part being all melted out of shape.

There has been one & as many as three tanks burned each year, except the first year, that the tanks were built at this place, 13 years ago.

I saw where the first one had been burned, 12 years ago & the ground where the oil had burned is still bare o vegetation.

It is a grander sight to watch a tank burn at night but I wanted to go in the daytime so as to see how they managed things.

Colegrove reminded me of Pine Grove, Cumb.  Co., Pa.  It is situated in a glen or cove among the mountains running east & west.  Potato Creek is a good sized stream, flows through, with tanks and tenement houses strung along on either side in nooks & corners & some in places bank in gaps or spaces between the hills.  The Pump Station is situated about the center on the south side of the stream where the W.N.Y&P. railroad runs along.

At Heineman's sawmill - the second mill below Colegrove, I saw a pile of logs, or should say piles of logs, piled on a meadow belonging to Geo Boyer just across the creek from the sawmill, that were said to contain 15,000,000 ft of lumber (hemlock).  Boyer was paid $200 for rent for the use of the meadow each year & the job lasted 5 years.  (I was wrong, it was Newman's logs & Doyle's sawmill.

I enjoyed the trip & same & I were back home again by milking time, 4 P.M.


New Iron Bridge over Marvin Creek

Sunday, October 11, 1891 Went to see the new iron bridge across Marvin Creek on the "Poor Farm Road".  Manufactured by the Massillon Bridge Co. Ohio.  Built by Smethport Borough.  Cost about $800.00. 

A Dog Attack On Marvin Creek Bridge 
McKean County Miner    Dec. 7 1894

Last Sunday morning, about three o'clock, as a couple of our bright young men were returning home, after being out most of the night studying their Sunday school lessons, when crossing Marvin creek bridge, near the meat market, a large mastiff, belonging to the butcher, made a rush at the Sunday school scholars. One of them made a vigorous resistance with an umbrella, but the dog soon made carpet rags of that, when the two worthies took a position on the top railing of the bridge, out of reach of the brute, where they both shook so they came near falling into the creek.  Finally one of them pulled a revolver and took a shot at the dog, but he trembled so that he missed, but it awakened the owner of the dog. Who came out and released our young friends from their dangerous positions. It is really too bad that teachers in the Sabbath schools should insist on their pupils learning such lengthy lessons that it becomes necessary for them to stay up until three o'clock Sunday morning in order to be able to recite them properly. It would be in order to ask the butcher to chain the dog.
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