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The history of Erie County, Pennsylvania : from its first settlement

History of Corry, Pa.
From: History of Erie County, Pennsylvania
By: John Elmer Reed
Published ByHistorical Publishing Co., Topeka - Indianapolis 1925



Corry is the second city, that is, one of the two cities, in Erie County. It is in the extreme southeastern part of the county, and was taken from the territory originally within the limits of Brokenstraw Township, one of the original townships of the county, and which was later separated into the two townships of Wayne and Concord.

In 1861 the two railroads then known as the Sunbury and Erie, and the Atlantic and Great Western, crossed each other's rights of way in a swamp in this corner of the county, and had established a little frame ticket office at the junction point, of a triangular form, and was known as the "Atlantic and Erie Junction." Little by little other shanties were constructed in the vicinity, until a small huddle of them was formed at the crossing. In October, 1861, the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad Company purchased a small piece of land from Hiram Corry, the owner of the tract about the junction, and General Manager Hill was pleased to name the station for Mr. Corry. The little buildings increased in number, spreading out along Main Street, and better ones came to be built, until Samuel Downer, a wealthy Boston oil operator and refiner, desired a location for a refinery near the oil fields and which had the advantages of good transportation, believing he would thus have a big advantage in the business. His agent, Mr. W. H. L. Smith looked over the field, and selected this junction for the site, purchasing fifty acres of Mr. Corry's lands for a mere trifle, and secured Mr. Eugene Wright, of Boston, to lay out the tract in lots. This occurred in the summer and fall of 1861. The Downer Oil Company built a frame office building, a postoffice with Mr., C. S. Harris in charge came to town, and a small refinery was put in operation, known as the "Frenchman's." The following year came the erection of the Downer and Kent Oil Works, the Boston Hotel, the Gilson House, and several factories. Residences of a better class, together with the ever-needful stores, were built.

The oil business brought money and enterprise to the junction, real estate sold freely and at enhancing prices, bringing great profit to the people who had laid out the original lots. Here the Brokenstraw flows west and joins the waters of Hare Creek which empty into the south branch of French Creek, each with its wide valley of fertile soil, which was then covered with a dense growth of forest trees. The great trees were cut away, and for some years their mighty stumps were the monumerits of the former forest greatness. In fact the growth of the little settlement at the junction became so rapid, that the stumps could not be cleared away as fast as the settlement spread out, and the village came to be termed the "City of Stumps" in derision for its ambitious pretensions.

Another railroad was built to Titusville and into the oil country in '1862, forming the gateway from the oil fields to the outside world, and the village grew apace.

Its earlier settlers, were Mr. Hiram Corry, Amos Heath, Anson Johnson, H. D. Francis, Hollis King, Lorenzo Dow, a Mr. Crandall, and Mr. Durham.

In 1863 a borough charter was obtained, and the first borough election was held in August. Three years later, in 1866, a charter as a city was secured for it, and in the spring of that year an election elevated W. H. L. Smith to the chair of first mayor of the city. Some of the other earlier mayors of Corry have been, S. A. Bennett, 1867-1868; R. A. Palmer, 1868-1869; F. S. Barney, 1869-1870; M. Crosby, 1870-1872; F. A. Phillips, 1872-1873; A. F. Kent, 1873-1874; B. Ellsworth, 1874-1875; T. A. Allen, 1875-1879; F. Stanford, 1879-1881; J. D. Bentley, 1881-1882; T. A. Allen, 1882-1883; Isaac Colegrove, 1884-1885; J. L. Hatch, 1886; W. C. Shields, 1887; W. E. Marsh, 1888; A. F. Bole, 1889; Eli Barlow, 1890; J. M. Lambing, 1891-1892; A. B. Osborne, 1893-1894; R. N. Seavor, 1895; Byron H. Phelps, 1896.

A new city charter was obtained in 1896, and Nathaniel Stone was elected Mayor in 1897 for three years; Richard P. Dawson, in 1900; Frank L. Bliss, in 1903; Guy D. Heath, in 1906; Cassius L. Alexander, in 1909.

Its growth and enterprise were somewhat checked, when the Jay Cooke panic of 1873 swept over the land; but the indomitable enterprise and energy of its people found means to keep on going, and although an effort was made in 1883 to repudiate the bonded indebtedness of the city, at the behest of the Supreme Court methods were discovered for refinancing the old indebtedness, and the honor of the city was saved.

Its population in 1870 was 6,809; in 1880, 5,277; in 1890, 5,677; in 1920 it was 7228.

The accident of its location having been a railroad crossing and junction point where the great shipments of oil and its products might be sent east, north and west into all parts of the country, has made it a shipping point of superior advantages for the location there of manufacturing and other industrial enterprises.

The great Howard Tannery erected here in 1867 has been one of the best equipped works in the country. The Weisser Tannery erected in 1862 by Mr. Auer, has also been a notable one. The Corry Chair Factory incorporated in 1891 for the manufacture of rockers and dining room chairs; the Corry Couch Company incorporated in 1899 for the making of patent spring leather and plush upholstered couches; the Corry Upholstery Company incorporated in 1906 for the making of the Leader cotton felt mattresses; the Kurtz Brass Bedstead Company incorporated in 1905 turns out high grade brass bedsteads; the Tuft Manufacturing Company was incorporated in 1904 for making mattress tufts; the Ajax Iron Works was established in 1877 and incorporated in 1892, manufactures drilling and pumping machinery; the Climax Machinery Company started in 1868, was bought in 1882 by R. S. Battles, of Girard, who operated it, building geared locomotives for the lumber camps; the Raymond Manufacturing Company, incorporated in 1898, for the production of high grade wire springs; the United States Radiator Company established one of its branches in Corry in 1895 to succeed the Corry Radiator Company which was incorporated in 1893, manufacturing radiators and boilers; the Mclnnes Steel Company originated in Emporium, Pa., in 1895, but was attracted to Corry because of the superior shipping facilities in 1901, and produces tool steel; the Rex Manufacturing Company incorporated in 1902, produces a patent telephone and desk writing tablet, wire springs and metal novelties; the Corry Condensed Milk Company incorporated in 1900, has an output of some thirty brands of this product; and such others as the Oregon Indian Medicine Company, the United States Chair Company, the K. P. L. Furniture Company, the Corry Boiler Works, the Trill Indicator Company, the Corry Chemical Company, the Love Manufacturing Company producing natural gas burners and castings, Corry Pail Company, Losee Wrench Company, H. E. Whittelsey & Sons, Acme Milling Company, Bonnell & Lambing, Rhodes & Carey, and the Corry Brick & Tile Company, are amongst the long list of Corry's industries; some of which are almost world renowned.

Corry's newspapers have been plentiful, and amongst them have been the Petroleum Telegraph in 1863, published by Baldwin & Day; the Corry City News shortly afterwards, published by Stebbins & Larkins; both of these papers became the property of Joseph A. Pain, who re-fitted the plant in a most modern manner, and were the first of Corry's papers. The Itemizer was launched, purchased by Mr. Pain and continued until the panic of 1873 when it ceased to exist, having changed its name to the Corry Blade in the meantime. The Corry Telegraph was printed by Mr. Pain some years, and in 1885 he started the Corry Leader. Wm. C. Plumb launched the Corry Flyer in 1885, which lasted but a short time. The Saturday Democrat began in 1890, and the Corry Journal published by D. M. Colegrove, has been a most influential and successful paper.

Several business organizations have been launched in Corry, amongst them the Corry Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce, organized in 1895; the Business Men's Exchange in 1908, and the Manufacturers' Association of Corry organized in 1908, and have been active and successful in advertising the city in the world's places of commerce, and have induced several staunch enterprises to become established at Corry.

Corry has always been prominent in the political activities of this county, and her representative men have been amongst the political leaders of the district. Amongst these personages have been Hollis King, one of our Associate Judges; C. O. Bowman, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1873; C. O. Bowman, W. W. Brown, Isaac B. Brown, J. D. Bentley, Members of Assembly; C. L. Baker, District Attorney; T. H. Coggswell, Sheriff; W. T. Brown and W. C. Shields, County Commissioners; G. Sid Beavis and S. A. Beavis, Directors of the Poor; D. L. Bracken, H. L. Spiesman and Henry McCray, Jury Commissioners; M. N. Baker, Factory Inspector. .

Mr. Albert Truesdell was perhaps the longest holder of the office of Justice of the Peace the county has ever had, and became a practicing attorney not only in this county, but in the counties of Susquehanna, and some 'other counties in western Pennsylvania.

The first typewriter that was invented, was in Corry, and became known as the Caligraph. A few of the older operators in the county will remember having used this machine in the good old days. It is affirmed that Mr. Samuel Clemens, the "Mark Twain" of sainted memory, was one of its stockholders, as well as Mr. Yost.

Corry instituted public school accommodations as soon as the place was founded, and in 1863 when made a borough, it had the new buildings on Concord Street which had been put up by the township of Concord. John L. Hatch was the first principal. The next one was on an acre of land bought for the purpose at the corner of Washington and Essex streets, and its first principal was Vincent Moses, a young theological student from Clymer, N. Y. Other schools followed in rapid succession as the growing city required them, and today the school system of Corry compares favorably with any other municipality in the country. In 1902, under the provisions of the new state law, the school district established the Carry Public Library, which was built and outfitted with school funds.

The religious history 'of Carry really begins with Wayne Township, when in 1845, or so, the first Methodist class was formed there, and a church built in 1860. In 1870, a reorganization took place, becoming known as the North Carry Methodist Episcopal Church, located on Pike Street.

In 1862 an organization occurred which became known as the Carry M. E. Church, its first house dedicated October 27, 1865, and a new building begun in 1891 of light colored brick, and dedicated September 6, 1903.

The Baptists formed an organization in 1862, its first building put up and dedicated in April, 1865, giving place in 1894 to a new and better one.

On January 18, 1864, the Presbyterians organized a congregation, erected a frame house of worship in the winter of 1865-6, replacing it in 1884 with a handsome structure, and selling the old building to the Hebrew Congregation.

The Emanuel Episcopal congregation was formed in July, 1864, worshipping for awhile in a hail; but in September, 1865, they laid the cornerstone of their building, completing it the next summer, rebuilding it in 1894.

The United Brethren organized in 1864, building in 1865, removing their location in 1866, losing their building by fire in 1872, and rebuilding at once.

The First Congregational organization was effected in 1864, purchased the Christian Church building in 1878, enlarging and remodeling it in 1882.

The German Lutheran Church was dedicated June 3, 1877, and the Danish Lutheran Church, established by A. L. Benze from Erie, in 1890, which worshipped in the building of the German society.

A Universalist Church was organized March 7, 1877.

The Hebrews formed an organization in 1875, and bought the building of the First Presbyterian congregation in 1883.

The Catholics organized St. Thomas in 1860, dedicating their frame building in September, 1862, laying the cornerstone of a stone building in 1872, and occupying the new building in 1884. They also organized St. Elizabeth's (a German congregation) in 1875, beginning their church building forthwith, completing it in 1876, and consecrating it that September.

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