Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: The Last Visit to the Kinzua Cemetery

Gravestone of James Morrison, Willow Dale Cemetery
Kinzua Cemetery had long been the burial ground for my Morrison family, one of the oldest families in Warren County, Pennsylvania.  James Morrison was a Revolutionary War veteran and a millwright from Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.  According to the oft recounted story, James was contracted in 1798 by Seneca Indian Chief Cornplanter to build a mill at State Line in the wilderness along the border of Pennsylvania and New York.  Along the way to the destination, the traveling party camped on an island in the middle of the Allegheny River at the mouth of Kinzua Creek. And the story continues that James Morrison was so impressed with the island that he petitioned the Commonwealth for the island and the surrounding property.  James and his family settled on the island by 1800 and there he died in 1839 and was buried in the Kinzua Cemetery near the small village of the same name that sprung along the southeast bank of the Allegheny River.

Fast forward almost 100 years and with the passage of the Flood Control Acts of 1936 and 1938 it was determined that a dam should be built on the Allegheny River south of Morrison's Island and the village of Kinzua in order to control flooding further south.  Two decades later construction of the dam began and it was completed in 1965.  The resulting reservoir would completely submerge not only Morrison's Island, but the entire Kinzua Creek Valley to include the village and the old cemetery.  The memory of those buried in that cemetery would be preserved by moving the gravestones to the Willow Dale Cemetery, outside Bradford in McKean County, Pennsylvania.

The news of the impending deluge prompted my Great-grandfather Jesse Melat and his nephew Boyd Melat to pay one last visit to the ancient burial ground before the gravestones were moved.  My cousin Karen Campbell Britton remembers that the pilgramage to the cemetery probably took place sometime in 1959 and included my great-grandparents Jess and Lizzie Melat, her grandparents Boyd and Rose Melat, her parents Bruce and Betty (Melat) Campell, herself and her sister Beth.  These photographs, probably taken by my Great-grandmother Melat, document the visit.  Cousin Karen is pictured along with her grandfather Boyd Melat at the grave of our ancestor Zephaniah Morrison (right).  My Great-grandfather Melat is pictured at the grave of his aunt Cynthia Morrison Strong (below).  Karen remembers visiting the cemetery once again when it was "totally surrounded with high barricades [in the midst of] the process of moving the graves." She remembers "thinking how creepy that was."  Those gravestones can be seen today in the Willow Creek Cemetery.  A picture of Zephaniah Morrison's gravestone in its current location can be found at www.findagrave.com.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mappy Monday: My Ancestors Living in Northwestern Pennsylvania in 1850

Venango, Crawford, Warren, and Clarion Counties in northwestern Pennsylvania have been home to my family for over two centuries. By 1800, when Venango, Crawford, and Warren Counties were established, at least five of my ancestors were already carving out their existence in this wilderness.  Robert Beatty settled near what is now Cooperstown, Venango County as earlier as 1796.  Scots-Irish immigrants Thomas Fulton and his future son-in-law Archibald Hill settled along French Creek by 1796 in what is now Fairfield Township, Crawford County. George Tarr was said to have been living by 1800 in an area that is now Oakland Township, Venango County (George soon after would settled in Cherrytree Township, Venango County). And James Morrison, a Revolutionary War veteran, settled his family on a island in the Allegheny River at the mouth of Kinzua Creek around 1800, an area now part of Warren County.  Five decades later, three-fourth of my ancestors identified as a head of households in the 1850 census were living in Venango, Crawford, Warren, and Clarion Counties.  Below are a few maps showing the approximate locations of where my ancestors were living in 1850.

Peter Reese owned a 150 acres farm at the crossroads at Ten-Mile Bottom--now known as Tippery--in Cranberry Township, Venango County.  David Smith, who arrived in Rockland Township, Venango County in 1815, was a land speculator and in 1850 was living on property he owned in Sandy Creek Township--where the village of Belmar is currently located. David's son John Lane Smith lived across the river in Rockland Township on a farm along the East Sandy Road. John's father-in-law John Carner owned a farm south of the Coal City Road just past the Pine Hill Church. Robert Melat and his son William P. Melat lived north of the Pine Hill Church.  Welsh immigrant Edward Roberts lived on a farm along the Kennerdell Road near Potter's Falls.  In Richland Township, Samuel Dreibelbis, his son Moses A. Dreibelbis, and Moses' father-in-law Elias G. Engle owned farms near Mariasville.
Agnes Beatty, widow of Robert Beatty was living south of Cooperstown in Jackson Township, Venango County while Jacob Sanner was living in Canal Township, just west of Cooperstown.
Frederick Benninghoff owned property along Benninghoff Run in Cherrytree Township, Venango County.  Also in Cherrytree Township where Thomas Noel, his son-in-law Jacob Tarr, Jacob's son-in-law Jacob Baney, and Jacob's father John Baney. In Oakland Township, Samuel Thomas owned 150 acres along the Plum Township line. Jacob and Samuel Baum owned about 150 acres at the village of Dempseytown where the current junk yard and bus lot are located. Samuel's father-in-law, Samuel Long, who owned 150 acres just north of the Dempseytown, would moved to Ohio shortly after 1850 and live near his father-in-law John Hirschberger in Summit County.

Irish immigrant John Walker lived in Wayne Township, Crawford County.  John's son Hugh D. Walker was living near Hugh's father-in-law Philip Record, also in Wayne Township.

In Clarion County, Joseph Eisenman Sr. and his son Joseph Jr. were living in what is called the Eisenman Settlement located on the road between Fryburg and Shippenville in Elk Township.  Samuel Garvin, a shoemaker, lived just west of  the Clarion Borough line.  Samuel's son-in-law Michael Dunmire lived on 5 acres just north of the village of Fisher in Millcreek Township.
In Warren County, James Morrison lived in Conewango Township while his son Zephaniah Morrison lived along Kinzua Creek just over the McKean County line.  Zephaniah's father-in-law Joseph Northrop lived in Pine Grove Township.

Of those ancestors who were not living in any of the four counties discussed in this post in 1850, one branch of my family, the ancestors of my great-grandfather Al Redmond, were gathering around New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1850; John Hirschberger mentioned above was living in Stark County, Ohio; William Randall was living in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania in 1850; And the Hoffman and Spies families had immigrated from Germany and living in the 6th Ward of Buffalo, New York in 1850.