Sugar Grove Township

On the 11th of March, 1858, petitions were handed in at court from citizens of Salem and Greene Townships, praying that a new township be erected out of parts of the two mentioned, the reason for the desired change being to secure more convenient places of voting, and to facilitate the collection of taxes. Agreeable to the prayer, John Cairns, James F. Brown and David Findley were appointed commissioners to fix the boundaries. They reported a series of bounds, and accompanied these with a statement to the effect that the plan was a feasible one. Therefore, on the 22d of November, 1856, the court confirmed their report, and directed elections to be held in the new sub division for township officers. The name “Sugar Grove” was derived from the presence of a small clump of maple trees standing near Kennard. Sugar Grove Township forms one of the extreme northern tier of townships, which jut out to the Crawford County line. It is bounded on the east by Salem and a portion of Otter Creek, on the south by Hempfield, and on the west by Greene and a portion of West Salem. Its area is nearly twelve square miles. Its surface, like all its neighbor townships, is somewhat diversified. There are portions of it where the soil is quite low and even marsh-like. Then again the land becomes elevated and even hilly. The soil itself is quite fertile. Agriculture is the chief occupation of its inhabitants. The drainage is good. The system comprises, as the two principal streams, the Little Shenango, which crosses the township from east to west, and a tributary called Crooked Creek. In addition to these are numerous small branches, each of which traverses and drains a considerable portion of territory.

Pioneers.  —The early settlement of Sugar Grove is necessarily interwoven with that of the townships from which it was formed. The reader is therefore directed for more minute particulars to the pages relating to them. William Lindsey, however, was the first settler in what is now Sugar Grove Township. In 1796 he took up a tract of 200 acres on the Little Shenango, and erected a 10x12 log cabin thereon. All the territory now embraced in Sugar Grove, Salem, Otter Creek and Hempfield was originally Salem Township, and the descend ants of pioneers, in telling of the early settlers of this portion of Mercer County, usually speak of them as first settling in Salem. Lindsey sold his improvement to James Walker in the fall of 1797, who immediately took pos session, and spent the remaining years of his life on that tract, dying February 20, 1834. Marvin Loomis, of Greenville, is the son-in-law of Walker. A daughter, Martha, was born to Mr. Walker April 27, 1798. She is believed to have been the first white child born in that part of the county.

To return to Lindsey; he married Agnes, a sister of Bishop Roberts, and after selling out to Walker he settled another tract farther up the Little Shenango. He was a brother-in-law of John McGranahan, the famous hunter of that region, who was accustomed to take a sled load of skins to Pittsburgh to sell them. One of Lindsey’s sons, Lewis, born May 1, 1808, is still living near Leech’s Corners. Lewis bought the old Bishop Roberts farm of 400 acres. It is now owned by his son-in-law, Henry D. Johnson.

John Riley was one of the pioneers of Sugar Grove Township, coming in 1798 from Westmoreland County. He was a local Methodist preacher. His children were Cornelius, Catherine, Margaret, James T., John W., Abigail, Jane, Elizabeth and Hannah. Of these John W., Abigail, Jane and Hannah are still living [1888]. 

One of the pioneers of Mercer County was John McGranahan, of Sugar Grove Township. He was born in Cumberland County, Penn., November 12, 1778, the son of John and Nellie (Smith) McGranahan. While a mere lad he removed from Cumberland to Westmoreland County, where he remained until 1798, when he came to the settlement in Sugar Grove. On the 12th of May, 1801, he was married to Nancy, sister of Bishop B. B. Roberts. These children were born to them: Eleanor, Sarah, Elizabeth B., David, George G., Jane L., Lewis N., Nancy A., Jesse M., Mary M., Sophia and Margaret. He was a successful farmer and a famous hunter. He was a captain in the War of 1812, and served in the defense of Erie. He held many township offices during his time; was always a Democrat and a faithful member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He died September 2, 1868, full of years, and leaving a large number of descendants to carry on his work. His father, John McGranahan, settled further north, in Crawford County. He was a packer for the American army during the Revolution. He died in 1830. David McGranahan, the oldest living child (born November 24, 1808), resides [1888] near the old Roberts place. He married Abigail Riley, daughter of John Riley, who came also from Westmoreland County in 1798 and settled in the same region.

Jacob Hannell, also a Westmoreland County man, began clearing a tract of land in the eastern part of the township about 1798. Thomas Arnold entered in the same year, located in the southwestern part of the township, and after clearing a tract of land, erected a cabin and took up his residence. Along near the Salem line, where the Roberts  family settled, Lewis Roberts came over into what is now a portion of Sugar Grove Township. His cabin was erected near what is now Kennard Station, and about it be cleared what afterward became an excellent farm. A bear story is related concerning this man, which is here given. He had been in the township for several years when, one day, upon coming from Hannell’s mill toward his home, a little dog, which followed him, spied a young bear endeavoring to creep away unnoticed among the bushes, and, running after it, chased it up a tree. Roberts, thinking that he might capture the animal, which was quite small, climbed the tree, when his horror can be easily imagined at seeing the parent brute appear and prepare to go up after him. But in this dilemma, when he was meditating upon the expediency of jumping to the ground, at the risk of breaking his neck, the little dog proved his friend, for as the bear approached the tree be attacked her upon the flanks, and obliged her to turn her attention in that direction. Several times she reared upon her hind feet and commenced climbing, and as often the cur bit her furiously, and compelled her to turn back. Meanwhile, his master had followed the cub to the end of one of the limbs, and, shaking it with all his strength, threw him to the ground, when both of the beasts left, and he was able to come down in safety.

The tract lying directly east of Arnold’s was settled first at an early date, probably 1799, by one Jonathan Lodge, who had just built a cabin and was preparing to begin a clearing when winter set in, and he was forced to turn back to the settlements. In the following spring, when he returned to resume the labors he had left off the autumn before, he found a man named William Mortimer firmly intrenched in the cabin, and with a clearing well under way. When he requested Mortimer to relinquish his claim and yield possession, the latter refused to comply, alleging that, according to border law, the land had been vacated, and was, consequently, open to settlement at the time he (Mortimer) had arrived. No efforts Lodge could make had any effect upon the intruder, and at last the former had to give up in despair and seek a home in some other locality. This species of squatter sovereignty was very common in those days, when that truth of the old adage, “possession is nine points in law,” was illustrated on every hand. The year 1800 witnessed the arrival of Thomas Jolly, who located just east of James Walker.

In 1802 Jolly was bought out, claim, cabin and improvements, by John Leech, of Somerset County, who removed to his new home with his family and took possession on the 4th of May, 1802. Leech was a prominent man in his time, being a justice of the peace, a State representative and a State senator, and a full biography of him will be found elsewhere. Of the others who settled about this time, a few only can be mentioned. Leech’s eastern neighbor was a man named Gibbons, who came in shortly afterward. John Gildon and William Mahan arrived about 1805. North of Gildon settled Abram Smith, and east of him John Atchison. William McCurdy immigrated from Ireland about 1812, and located in Sugar Grove Township. He married Mary Listen, by whom he reared six children. He died in 1874, aged eighty-two, leaving many descendants to perpetuate his memory.

Industries —The industrial history of the township is brief. The first enterprise of an industrial nature was a saw-mill, built in 1808 by Jacob Hannell, to which millstones were afterward attached and a grist-mill started. The location of this establishment was alongside of a little run near Kennard. Hannell was succeeded in the ownership by Philip Berrier. The business was a profitable one, as no competitor was within easy access. A fire, in which two of Hannell’ s sons perished, destroyed a portion of the structure. The second mill was established by Jacob Leech, near the hamlet of Leech’s Corners. It was a saw-mill. In later years the movable steam mill superseded the old stationary water-power ones, and many of the latter are now in operation in the northern part of the county. In this connection might be mentioned the cheese factory, which was opened at Leech’s Corners in 1873, by Breckenridge & Harper,  in a small frame building, 40x50 feet in size. It served a good purpose, turning out at one time as many as eight cheeses per day. (Source: History of Mercer County, 1888, pgs. 599 - 603)

Originally the boundary line between Greene and Salem townships was the canal. In November, 1856, when Sugar Grove township was created, territory on both sides of this water way was taken to make the new township. The name was suggested by a grove of maple trees that stood near Kennard.

The first settlers came about 1798. The Roberts colony located on various tracts of land which by the later township boundaries lie in both Salem and Sugar Grove. In the country east of the Shenango and on both sides of the Little Shenango many of the families who have been most prominently identified John Leech, the founder of Leech’s Corners or Salem village, a soldier in the war of 1812, a member of the state legislature, and for over thirty years a justice of the peace and otherwise prominent in the early affairs of Mercer county, settled at the site of Leech’s Corners May, 1802. A postoffice called Salem was established at this cross-roads in March, 1832, William Leech being the first postmaster. The office was continued under this name until 1864, was discontinued awhile and in April, 1868, was re-established under the name of Leech’s Corners. The office was abolished a few years ago. John Leech was the first merchant at this place, and a church, school, sawmill and grist mill and a few shops represented the substantial part of the town’s growth.

This township has three railroad lines. Where the Lake Shore crosses the Bessemer is the little village of Osgood, and on the other side of the river, at the junction of the Lake Shore and Erie, is Amasa station. 

The principal center in the township is Kennard, where a postoffice was established in March, 1864, with William C. Keene as postmaster. He continued in office over twenty years. A store was at this place about eight years before the railroad came. United Brethren and Methodist churches were established here in the sixties [1860s].  
(Source: Twentieth Century History of Mercer County, 1909, page 172 - 173)

Sugar Grove Twp. Cemeteries Sugar Grove Twp. Census Records Sugar Grove Twp. Towns & Villages
Old Salem Methodist Church Cemetery

1840 (was still a part of Salem & West Salem townships)
1850 (was still a part of Salem & Greene townships)
Amasa Station
Leech's Corners

Transformation of Sugar Grove Twp.
Formed in 1856
From Salem & Greene Townships.

Sugar Grove Geological Survey
Township Map
1873 Atlas
Sugar Grove Township Landowners Map

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