Elk Township

               Elk Township was created in 1830. It is one of the county’s largest townships; it is bordered on the north by New York state and by the Allegheny Reservoir to the east. It is mountainous, having the highest elevation of the county at 2231 feet, and it is relatively lightly populated.

               Historically, the Seneca Indians were the first permanent settlers in Elk Township. For hundreds of years, the Seneca Indians controlled much of western New York state and all of the upper Allegheny River in New York and Pennsylvania. But they lost much of their land, including the area which is now Warren County, to the United States government shortly after the Revolutionary War.

               In 1790, the state of Pennsylvania gave Cornplanter, an important Seneca warrior-chief, a piece of land in what was to become Elk Township. Cornplanter’s land was three miles south of the New York line on the west side of the Allegheny River, and it included two islands in the river. Cornplanter, his relatives, and his followers settled on his land in Cornplanter’s Town. In 1798, his village was described as being made up of 40 houses along the river. Not only was this village the first historic settlement in the township, but the first school was established there in 1798. The Cornplanter Indian School operated until 1954.

               Settlers who arrived in the county in the early nineteenth century cut the forests in the township and sold the timber. A number of mills were built in order to saw the wood. In the mid-nineteenth century, railroad ties were made out of oak. At one time, Elk Township had four railroad-tie mills. As land was cleared of trees, tanning became the principle activity. Wheat, potatoes, onions,and hay became important crops.

               Early settlers came from a number of different areas including, New England, Pennsylvania, New York, England, Ireland, the German States, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Finland. Scandia acquired its name in about 1886. It was named in honor of Scandinavia, the birthplace of many of its inhabitants.

               Many roads crossed Elk Township, including an east-west stagecoach line which came from Bradford and crossed the Allegheny River at Webbs Ferry. A ferry is a boat or raft that crosses a river. It acts like a bridge, by transporting people and their vehicles from one side of the river to the other. There were a number of ferries in Elk Township along the Allegheny River.

               Elk Township has the county’s only coal mine. Coal was first discovered on Quaker Hill in 1834, on what is now called Coal Bed Road. From then, until the late 1940s, a mine was operated and coal was sold to local homes and businesses for heating.

               In 1886, Elk Township received its first post office at Scandia. However, in the early twentieth century, Rural Free Delivery began. This meant that people living in the country had their mail delivered to them instead of having to go to the nearest post office to pick it up.

               Guy McCloskey, who was a mail carrier in Elk Township from 1914 to 1917, talks about the difficulty of traveling in winter.

In the winter, I drove a cutter. It was the kind that had one runner that followed the horse’s tracks. I wore bearskin mittens while driving and I sat on a pair of thin gloves I used when I had to finger the mail. I had a lantern between my legs and I was covered with a robe. I tipped the sleigh over many times and had to run and catch my horse, straighten up the cutter, pick up the mail, re-light my lantern, etc...

               In the mid-1960s, the building of the Kinzua Dam, which created the Kinzua Reservoir, greatly affected everyone who lived along both sides of the river valley. Towns such as Corydon and Kinzua were submerged and people had to leave their homes and move somewhere else. In Elk Township, the U.S. government seized most of the land belonging to the descendants of Cornplanter, and now the site of Cornplanter’s Town is under water. Today, hunting, boating, fishing, golf, and other outdoor recreational activities contribute to the township’s economy.


Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society