History of Knox, Pennsylvania
History of Knox, Pennsylvania
(Formerly Edenburg Borough)
Story/Info submitted by Knox Mayor Frank Agnello
The history of Edenburg dates back to about 1840, at which time J.G. Mendenhall purchased from a man named Neff the premises now known as the Mendenhall farm. Later he purchased a part’ of the Attleberger farm, one mile west of the present site of Edenburg. He also owned another farm one mile east of his homestead. Possessing these three tracts of about 160 acres each, with his dwelling and barns located on the middle farm, he named the place Eden. The beauty of the place can be best understood by studying the peculiarity of its location. It lies immediately east of one of the high ridges that abound in this section, and nestles close under the hill which slopes toward Canoe Creek. The ridge curves around here, and thus protects the place from the strong winds that blow from the north and west. Here Mr. Mendenhall opened a place of entertainment and called it “Eden Inn.” Later Drake & Richardson opened a country store. After the store opened, a post-office was established. The name given it was Knox, by which it is still designated. At a still later date Coulter & Patrick kept a store, and they were followed by John M. Kurtz, who was followed by P.F. Kribbs. Mr. Kribbs opened an extensive general store in 1861. On the discovery of oil in the county in 1871, the excitement soon reached Edenburg, by which name the place had been known for a number of years. Soon after oil had been struck in the lower part of the county, a number of leases were secured by pioneer oil men, and operations here began. Among the pioneers we note the names of Prentis, Baliett, Hahn, Kribbs, Fertig, Plummer, Gray brothers, Brundred, Turner, Wetter, and others. The first well reached the sand in February, 1873. It was owned by Mr. Brundred, and was dry. It was located on the Oelschlager farm. In the following March Jacob Hahn and George Kribbs got a small producing well on the Kiser farm. In April Mr. Baliett finished a dry hole on the J.I. Best farm. In anticipation of oil being found, some buildings had been erected, but developments indicating dry territory, a sort of panic took possession of the newcomers, and many of them left. Some pulled down their buildings before going. Turner, Kelly, and others stuck to the field, and in June, 1873, were rewarded by striking oil in the St. Lawrence well, which proved a great producer. This strike was followed by others, and the fact soon became known that Edenburg was a paying territory, and the town at once began to grow. Building was begun in earnest. The structures, however, were of a temporary nature, and very little time was necessary in which to put up a house.
E.W. Northrop was the first physician, William Whitling the first to start a drug store, J.D. Wolf the first hardware store, and Harrington & Irving the first grocery. In 1874 T.J. Crawford secured the appointment of postmaster.
Formerly Mr. Mendenhall kept a park of deer, and on the advent of the oil excitement he still kept wild geese, but on the arrival of the wild catters the wild geese disappeared.
Hotels. – An abundance of oil being assured in this vicinity in 1874, hotels and saloons were established. The first hotel was erected by Page Maplestone. Robert Orr, of St. Petersburg, secured the Maplestone site by purchase, and refitted it for the accommodation of the public, naming it the “Edenburg House.” This hotel was twice swept away by fire, and the present house is the third erected on the spot.
The Bennett House, subsequently built on North Main street, afforded good accommodations, and was well patronized in its day. Among others we recall the Clarion House, Grand Central, Rialto, Moran, St. Cloud, United States, Ross, City, Apollo, and Petroleum Hotels.
Machine and Boiler Shop’s. – J. & F.H. Boles’s was the most important. Sheridan’s machine shop was among the first. P.V. Kinnear’s, on State street, and West Point, back in the field, together with the Novelty Iron Works of Smith Brothers, constitute the principal works in this line. Of these, only the Novelty Iron Works remain, and continue to manufacture and repair drilling tools and other oil well supplies on a large scale. Of boiler repair shops remaining at the present time, are Donovan’s, Lincoln’s, and Townley’s, or Boiler Jack’s.
Banks. – In the spring of 1876 developments for oil had proved so far successful that it was evident a bank could be profitably conducted in Edenburg. Messrs. F. Merrick and G.W. Conley were the first in the field, opening a bank and naming it “Edenburg Bank.” They had little capital. Indeed it did not require much at this time. As soon as opened, capital in abundance, came into the bank, and it became a flourishing institution. The deposits ran up to hundreds of thousands. Seeking employment for this money, it was loaned in large sums to operators and others. With depression in the price of oil and value of oil property, came the day of reckoning. The bank had invested largely in oil property, some by purchase, and some as security for money loaned. After a struggle the managers were compelled to succumb, and made an assignment to S.M. Crosby, who unfortunately delayed settlement, hoping for a profitable turn in the fluctuation of values; but these continued to decline, until financially, on closing the business of the bank, only thirteen and a half on the dollar was realized by depositors, leaving about $90,000 unpaid. This loss fell heavily on many who were unable to bear it.
“The Clarion County Bank” was opened about November, 1876, with Hon. J.M. Dickey, Hon. C.W. Mackey, E.W. Echols, B.W. Braden, Isaac Rummeor, P.R. Gray, O.C. McCormick, J.D. Wolf, and E.G. Crawford as stockholders. This bank has “lived” through fire and flame, and has acquired a reputation for stability.
“Huff’s Bank” was first opened in Elk City, and on the decline of that place, came to Edenburg, to remove still later to Bradford.
Churches. – Efforts had been made, years before the discovery of oil at Edenburg, to organize a Methodist Church at this point, -but without success. There were a few Winebrennerians in and about the place, and occasionally they had services in the school-house. They were the first to erect a church edifice, under the leadership of Rev. Vaneman, on land of J.I. Best, on South
Main street, which was completed in the summer of 1876. Failing to pay the indebtedness contracted in building, they sold to the Presbyterians.
During the summer of 1876 Rev. J.C. Hench preached in Edenburg, and at the meeting of the Clarion Presbytery, held early in 1877, Revs. J.S. Elder and D.W. Casset were appointed a committee to organize a Presbyterian Church in the town. A membership of twenty-eight was secured, and an organization effected by electing A. Culberson, John Craighill, Robert Atwell, and D.B. Wilhelm, ruling elders, and J.B. Painter, Leroy Mitchell, and Harry Craig, trustees. Rev. Mr. Allen was installed pastor September ii, 1877, and the church prospered for a season. But the fires that swept the town scattered the flock; Rev. Allen resigned his charge for another field, and the pulpit of this church has been irregularly filled by supplies until February 1, 1887, when Rev. H.F. Earseman was installed as pastor.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was in existence in the vicinity of Edenburg since 1832. Services were held as early as 1852 in the school-house, and the Edenburg charge was attached to the Shippenville circuit, consisting of eleven appointments, embracing a wide stretch of territory. With the advent of oil, Rev. E.M. Kernick supplied Turkey City, Salem, Edenburg, Mount Joy, and Perry Chapel. On taking charge of the circuit in 1875, Rev. Kernick found that a liberal subscription had been raised for the erection of a church and parsonage at Edenburg. The church was dedicated June 16, 1876. Seven months later, January 5, 1877, it was burned. Part of the pews and furniture and the parsonage were saved. The building had been partly insured, and the members proceeded promptly to erect a new church, with basement for Sunday-school rooms, class rooms, and heater. The edifice was completed the following summer, and was the finest church in the county at that time. Dr. Newman presided at the dedicatory services, October 17, 1877, and G.G. Howe, J.J. Bradley, W.W. Wingard, P.F. Kribbs, E.F. Hecter, W.B. Weaver, and M.E. Hess were appointed trustees. The membership numbered 225, and the charge was one of the strongest of the Erie Conference.
The great conflagration of October 13, 1878, swept away this fine church and parsonage. They had cost the society almost $10,000, and were insured for $5,000. A site for a new church was secured, as was thought, remote from danger of fires, and a third church within the space of about three years was built. This church had been occupied less than a year, when, during evening service January, 1879, it was discovered to be on fire, but this time the flames were extinguished after damages to the amount of about one hundred dollars had been sustained.
E.M. Kernick was succeeded by Rev. P.P. Pinney, who served the charge three years, and shared with his flock the vicissitudes of the principal fires, in one of which he lost, among other property, a valuable library. Mr. Pinney left Edenburg to serve as presiding elder of the Clarion District, and was succeeded by Rev. William Martin, he by Rev. W.L. Riley. The next was Rev. B.F. Delo, and Rev. J.H. Keely, the present pastor, followed Mr. Delo.
A Catholic Church was erected on the hill east of the town in 1876. James Sheridan, Michael Boyce, Patrick Moran, and Patrick Canning were prominent in its establishment. The next year the present edifice was erected. Father Smith and Father Mullen were the pastors of this congregation.
Fires. – In their frequency and extent the several conflagrations that laid waste this town, stand without parallel; and in nearly every case the fire has undoubtedly been caused by incendiaries.
The first fire of considerable magnitude occurred January 13, 1877, on the two principal streets, Main and State, which were compactly built with business blocks at that time. The flames were first discovered at eight o’clock in the evening, bursting from a gambling den on State street, and were soon beyond control. The fire swept the north side of State street from the railroad track to Main, and north on this street several blocks, and was arrested by razing buildings, among which was the Wilber livery stable, which became noted in subsequent fires. In all, twenty-two buildings were consumed, entailing a loss of $50,000. At this time Edenburg was experiencing the rapid growth of a new oil town, and in a few months the great gap that was made by the ravages of the flames was filled with better buildings than before.
On Saturday afternoon, June 9, 1878, the dreaded cry of fire again startled the people of Edenburg. This time Pennsylvania avenue was the scene of the conflagration. Here many of the successful operators had built comfortable homes. A determined effort was made to fight the flames, but to no purpose. The wind drove the fire across the street, and pulling down houses was again resorted to. By this means the east end of the avenue was saved from destruction. Fifteen residences were consumed this time, valued at about $20,000. Following this fire, the only arrest was made in connection with all the fires. The daughter of the proprietress of the boarding-house where the fire originated was the person suspected, but nothing could be proven against her, and she was released.
Early in October of the same year it became evident that some miscreants purposed again to burn the town. Two or three attempts had been made to set fire to buildings, but the flames were discovered in time to be extinguished. The citizens became alarmed, however, and for protection organized a volunteer watch of one hundred and forty young men, who took turns in guarding the town, about six going on duty at a time. Notwithstanding this precaution, on the night of October 13, 1878, at 3 o’clock A.M., scarcely four months having elapsed since the last fire, the third and most destructive fire occurred. The flames started in the rear of Wilber’s livery stable on Main street. Petroleum had probably been used to start the fire; the flames spread rapidly, swept
down State street and northward on Main, enveloping both sides, together with Railroad and Ohio streets, and sweeping both sides of the railroad. Little could be done towards removing household and other goods. The hillside west of the town was strewn with property of all descriptions rescued from the flames. Many people barely escaped with their lives. Thirty acres of the heart of the town was laid in ashes. Every hotel except one, banks, stores, post-office, M.E. Church and parsonage, depot, thirteen oil wells, went up together in flames. One hundred and seventy buildings, approximating a loss of $400,000, were consumed. So speedily was the first building enveloped that it was impossible to get out the horses, and ten were roasted to death. The agonizing screams of the poor brutes added to the terrors of the horror. The beautiful Sabbath morning disclosed a scene which can never be effaced from the minds of any who experienced that hour of distress. Soon the blackened streets and smoldering ruins were thronged with visitors. Men, women, and children, victims of the fire, that cold, gray, October morning stood shivering, and tearfully contemplating the devastation of their homes. Despair was depicted on every countenance, but ere the electric flash had reached the outside world, the sister towns of Elk City, Shippenville and St. Petersburg opened their stores and with lavish hand, sent in needed supplies. When the intelligence reached Oil City, Franklin, and Parker, the hand of charity was widely opened in behalf of the stricken town. The first flash of substantial sympathy came from E. Hopkins, General Manager of the United Pipe Lines, and was addressed to Mayor J.B. Maitland, as follows: “From United Lines $500 for immediate relief.” W.P. Finley, a member of the Oil City Oil Exchange and a resident of Clarion county, added $500, the contribution of the Oil Exchange. Parker Oil Exchange sent $175, and many individual contributions coming in swelled the cash donations to $1,700. A large amount of groceries and provisions was brought in with teams. This stream of sympathy and aid gave encouragement to the sinking hearts. All were amply provided for, and soon the town began to assume an air of life and activity.
The waste places were again filled with business blocks, when on Friday, April 19, 1879, only six months after the great conflagration, the incendiaries for the fourth time applied the torch. This time a portion of the town that escaped before was chosen for the sacrifice. Crude oil was poured over the floor of a vacant building on the east side of South Main street. This blaze burned ten buildings.
On May 22, 1880, a little more than a year after the last fire, at 9 o’clock, P.M., in the United States Hotel near the depot, a light was observed in an upper room. The hotel had been vacant for some time, and all the furniture had been removed. Soon the whole. building was in flames. Many of the townspeople were attending the circus then exhibiting on the hillside. The flames were soon discovered through the canvas, which was soon torn or ripped to shreds by the excited crowd in their haste to get out This fire swept away seventy buildings, including banks, offices, stores, post-office and stores.
Owing to the depressed state of business at this time, many gave up in despair and removed from the town, but gradually buildings were erected over the burnt district, until it was nearly covered, some of which were barely occupied when, on the 23d day of August of the same year, the livery stable which had figured in other fires, now owned by Wheelock and Moore, was again discovered to be on fire. Two boys sleeping in the front end of the stable barely escaped with their lives, and seven horses perished in the flames. One by some means effected his escape. A number of the newly erected buildings were burned. This had a discouraging effect upon the people in this part of the town, and the space made by the fire was slow in being rebuilt. The citizens now raised a subscription amounting to $1,200, to which the town council added $300, and with this fund water works have been erected that not only reflect credit upon the town, but establish renewed confidence in its future prosperity.
The Press. – J.M. Gifford started the first paper in Edenburg in 1876, under the title of The Edenburg Daily Herald. This was the first daily published in Clarion county. On the occasion of the fire of January 5, 1877, his press-room was hurriedly torn down to prevent the spread of the flames. The act proved successful as to stopping the fire, but was disastrous to the printing establishment. His office was burned out twice after this event, and in 1880 Mr. Gifford died of consumption.
In 1877 Campbell Brothers started a daily called the Oil Times, but closed their establishment after running two or three years.
After the suspension of the Edenburg Herald, Leslie started the Evening News, which he subsequently changed to a morning publication under the title of Edenburg Spirit, which was a diminutive sheet and had a short career. Thomas Whittaker and Samuel Tipton issued one edition of 3,000 copies of a paper under the suggestive title Gatling Gun, when they were summoned to
appear before the United States Court in Pittsburgh, on the charge of publishing an unlawful sheet. These proceedings spiked the Gatling Gun for all time.
Henry Price for years kept a job office, and published a paper under various names. At first a daily and later a weekly. Now under the name of The Clarion County Observer.
West and Son published the Clarion County National, a weekly paper devoted to the principles of the National Greenback Labor party.
Casualties. – The bursting of a bull-wheel on the J.D; Wolf oil well, on Main street, resulted in the death of young Heckerthorn, the driller.
In 1875 a boiler burst on the J.I. Best farm, killing Augustus Wilson and Alonzo Goss, two citizens of Edenburg.
O.P. Hopper, a young attorney, while cleaning his revolver on June 18, 1877, in a room by himself, accidentally shot himself, dying almost instantly. Peter Spargo, postmaster of Edinburg, met with a similar fatal catastrophe in the post-office, on March 16, 1885.
William Groves was burned in a fire which occurred February 21, 1886, on Main Street.