Benezette Township

Benezette Township, east of the Appalachian chain, is the home of Bennett’s branch of the Susquehanna. The highest measured point is at the head of Mix run, near the southern line of the county, 2,130 feet, and the lowest point, near the village of Dent’s run, 1,100 feet, while the depot at the village is only 925.8 feet above tide level. The strata underlying Benezette are represented in the section of the Benezette dry hole. This hole was originally a salt well, and was drilled to a depth of 600 feet about twenty-six years ago. The hole was three inches in diameter, and salt water was thrown up over the derrick, by gas, for half an hour at a time. The water came from a depth of 300 feet. It was afterward drilled to a depth of 721 feet in search of oil, and was abandoned in February, 1878. Well-mouth above ocean level, 1,005 feet.

The record is as follows:

Depth (feet)



Red and gray rock


Gray shale


Red rock


Gray slate


Red rock


Blue slate


Blue sandy rock


Blue slate


Depth (feet)

Hard blue limestone


Light slate


Dark slate


Sandy slate




Red rock


Gray hard rock


First sand


White clay


Depth (feet)

Red rock mixed


Gray sandstone


Red rock


Hard gray and blue rock


Red rock


Gray rock


Second sand (not through)


The Winslow coal veins were among the very first worked in this township. The location was near the confluence of Trout and Spring runs, and at the heads of Autens’ and Dent’s runs. The place was known as the “Winslow Colliery” – titles never conferred on coal mines or banks by Americans. In 1863 an examination of the beds showed several veins of good coal. Simon P. Romig, Judge Jones, E. Fletcher & Brother, Harbison & Walker and Barr & Radcliff were the principal operators from 1872 to 1878 in coal and fire-clay deposits. In June, 1881, Emery & Reading leased large tracts in Bonezette township for oil-well and mining purposes, and in 1882 some wells were drilled. At the beginning of 1890 the oil stampede, referred to in the first chapter, took place.

The ferriferous limestone of Benezette has been burned for many years with success. Ten years ago Winslow’s quarry furnished enough to the adjoining kiln to yield from thirty to forty-five bushels per day. The lime from the kiln sold at 10 cents per bushel for farm and mortar purposes; but for plasterer’s use it had to be picked at a cost of 4 cents per bushel extra. In. the kiln of that period it required one bushel of coal to burn six bushels of lime. In 1874 Romig burned 300 bushels of lime from this stone. Iron ore was found near the junction of warrants 5015 – 14 and 5020 – 21. It was simply ferriferous limestone heavily charged with iron, but unprofitable to work.

Fire-clay deposits between the villages of Benezette and Rock-hill were opened in 1879. So early as 1854 a deposit on the Jones farm, 8,000 feet south-west of Benezette, was opened at an elevation of 1,330 feet, or almost 300 above Jones’ dwelling. Reed and Harbison worked this bed in the “seventies,” and in 1880 Harbison & Walker were owners. Near warrant 5482 a clay bed was worked in 1874 by the Fletchers, and in later years by Harbison & Walker. who found a market at Pittsburgh, the price being $3.50 per ton delivered in that city. The deposit known as Barr’s clay mine was opened in 1875, and produced an excellent clay for fire-brick.

The population in 1880 was 835, including 297 in Benezette village. In 1888 there were 101 Democratic, 97 Republican and 5 Prohibition votes cast =203 x 5 representing 1,015 inhabitants.

So many references have been hitherto made to the old settlements in this township, the writer confines this sketch to the recorded history of the last fifty years. The first township election for Benezette, was held in February. 1846. E. E. Winslow was chosen justice; Henry Derring, constable; Carpenter Winslow and John English, supervisors; William Boyer, John Murray. B. C. Winslow, Simpson Johnson, Samuel Overturf and Theodore Johnson, school directors; John Collins, Ralph Johnson and William Johnson, auditors; R. C. Winslow, clerk; John C. Hicks and Benjamin Johnson, overseers of poor; George English, assessor; Thomas Overturf, judge, with Ellis Lewis and Theodore Johnson, inspectors of election; Charles Winslow and Coleman Johnson, fence viewers. Henry Derring was chosen justice in 1849, E. C. Winslow in 1850. In February, 1890, D. W. DeHass was elected justice of Benezette township; L. Lucore and G. W. Mahon, supervisors; W. A. Shaffer, treasurer; J. E. Daugherty, school director; L. D. Rearich, auditor; D. E. Hewett, collector, and F. S. Blesh, clerk.

The resident tax-payers of Gibson township (later part of Benezette township, 1846), in 1814, were John Brooks (surveyor), Washington Brooks, Aaron Bailey, Nathaniel Bailey (tannery), Benjamin Blossom, Saul Ellis, James and William Barr, Wintel Bartholomew (farmers), James Bateman (hunter). Jacob Coleman, (postmaster and grist-mill owner) , John Coleman and Washington Coleman (saw-mill owners), Philip Chambers (saw-mill), Samuel Conway (blacksmith), William Boyer, Thomas Dent (saw-mill owner), Andrew Dent, Thomas Dent, Jr., William Dent and Michael Frisbey (sawyers), James. David and John English (farmers), John C. and John S. Hicks, George Hillingsworth, Jesse Hall, Joshua Jewells (carpenter), William E. and Giles Jordan, Ralph Johnson (saw-mill owner), Theodore, M. D., William and Benjamin Johnson, Amos Kingsley, William Lane (blacksmith). Harrison and Archie Logue, Henry Lashbaugh (or Lorshbaugh), James, Henry, John and William Mason, Joseph Mason (saw-mill owner), Joe Mason (shoemaker), John Murray, William Montgomery, James Mix, (saw- and grist-mill owner), Hezekiah and Solomon Mix, Daniel Miller, George Mahan, Thomas, James and Andrew Overturf (farmers), Joseph, Robert and Joseph, Jr., Ritchie, John Stormfelder (tinner), Edward C. Schultz, Michael Spangler, Henry Shafer, Henry Stuttle, William Shepperd, Henry Strump, John Swartz, John Shafe; George, Daniel, John, Samuel, Sylvester, Isaac, Benjamin and Jacob Smith, Mears Sarver, James Wiley, Cyrenius E. and William Wykoff.

James Yards’ lands, represented by George Mead, covered a large area of this township small owners claiming the balance. The resident tax-payers of Huston township or rather of that part of it belonging to Elk county in 1844, were Isaac Bliss, Isaac Coleman, Henry Gross, James Tyler, John and William Macomber, Leonard Morey, Jr. (saw-mill); Morris and Charles Webb (saw- and grist-mill owners) and Hiram Decker.

B. M. and D. Winslow were merchants in Benezette township in 1850. There were thirty-six dwellings, thirty-six families, 243 inhabitants, twenty-seven farms and ten industries. The new depot at Rathbun was completed in January, 1890, and an extensive net-work of tramways erected round the Hall & Kaul mills.

The village of Benezette is located on the Low Grade Division of the Allegheny Valley Railroad, on Bennett’s branch of the Sinnemahoning. Reuben Winslow, a man of energy, founded it. In the year 1813, while the battle upon Lake Erie was being fought, which resulted in Perry’s victory, the cannonading was heard all along the settlements within the limits of the township. The inhabitants, totally ignorant of the cause, and supposing it was an attack of the Indians on some other settlement, assembled and started in search of the Indians, continuing the pursuit for several days.

In July, 1852, J. C., Jr., propounded the following question in the Advocate: “If it takes twenty-eight days and nights to carry papers from Philadelphia to Bennett’s Branch, Sinnemahoning, how long would it require to get news from Paris?” Times have changed. The railroad now carries the tidings in a few hours. The village is liberally supplied with good hotels – the Benezette by Henry Blesh, the Winslow and the Daley. At Dent’s Run is the well-kept house of W. A. Hatton.

The fire of June, 1884, was caused by the explosion of a lamp in a storeroom. All the business part of the town was destroyed, eleven houses being burned.

The Catholic Church of Benezette was dedicated November 23, 1879, by Bishop Mullen. It is administered by Rev. Dr. Brennan at Driftwood. The corner-stone of the I. 0. 0. F. hall at Benezette was placed August 14. 1884, by George Aumann, T. J. Shaffer, G. L. Winslow and D. W. Bennett. Medix Run post-office was presided over from April, 1880, to September, 1882, by John Barr, when Luther Lucore was appointed. Mrs. Maggie McDonald was acting postmistress from April, 1880, to April, 1886.

Cornelius Wainright, who died at Dry Saw Mill in July, 1876, settled at Driftwood in. 1857, leasing the John Coleman farm, hotel, blacksmith shop and wagon shop. In. 1862 he moved up Bennett’s branch, and in 1868 erected Dry saw-mill, near Grant depot The history of Dent’s Run is so closely identified with that of Driftwood, that references to it are made in the history of Cameron county. W. A. Hatton’s hotel at Dent’s Run was destroyed by fire February 13, 1889, while Miller’s store was saved. The fire of May, 1875, near Mount Pleasant depot, not only destroyed the woods in that vicinity, but also the barns of Johnson & Blesh and shop of William Johnson. St. Mary’s was threatened at this time by bush fires.

Source: Page(s) 631-633, History of Counties of McKean, Elk and Forest, Pennsylvania. Chicago, J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.

Transcribed December 2006 by Nathan Zipfel for the Elk County Genealogy Project