Put on your Walnut Creek waders and work your way through this river of historical fun facts about Erie, PA. After you are done answering the 20 questions, you’ll find the answers presented below, followed by a scoring guide so you can see how your ERIEsistible knowledge stacks up in the Perry Square scheme of things. So be sure to sharpen your local wits, write down your answers, then tally up your score. Above all, please enjoy this engaging historical expERIEnce.
Q U E S T I O N S
1. What was the name of the newspaper once published in Erie during the early 1800s?
a. The Eriesistible Gazette
b. Erie’s Galloping Grapevine
c. Genius of the Lakes
d. Balderdash and Brew
2. In Erie’s pioneer days, the circus was one of the rare forms of exciting entertainment available. Where were the first animal shows in Erie typically presented during the early 1820s?
a. In the barns of the best known hotels
b. In Colonel Strong Vincent’s oversized fruit cellar
c. Inside the grain elevator near the Public Dock
d. Weigelville Town Square
3. True or False: In 1820 an ancient graveyard was discovered in Erie which indicated a race of beings of immense size.
4. What were the men living in Erie required to do each Saturday afternoon in the early 19th century?
a. Shoot as many deer as possible
b. Mow their lawns
c. Treat their mothers to ice cream
d. Grub out stumps from the streets
5. The first brave settlers in Erie lived in unhewn log structures near the bayfront and mouth of Mill Creek, back when there were no matches with which to start a fire. Facing life-threatening cold during the winter, what did people do if their hearth fire went out?
a. Put in a request with the town’s Fire Officer for help
b. Trudge a mile or so through the snow to borrow a lit torch from a neighbor
c. Call the Coast Guard firelight brigade
d. Move to a warmer climate
6. Which historic event took place in Erie on Dec. 7, 1853?
a. Erie citizens tore down the bridges over State and French streets
b. The first McDonald’s opened in Erie
c. The Flagship Niagara was launched
d. Lou Tullio was elected mayor
7. What did folks in Girard do on New Year’s Day in 1876 due to the weather?
a. Dug through 59 feet of snow to get out of their homes
b. Gathered for a town-wide “stop the snow” dance
c. Had a picnic in the woods
d. Marched in military formation to a bonfire in Lake City to keep warm
8. When and how did Mill Creek get its name, according to the “History of Erie County,” compiled in 1884?
a. In 1723 by a group of ladies from Boston who moved there and coined the name
b. In 1795, when Captain Russell Bissell erected a saw mill near the mouth of the creek
c. In 1899, when John Wayne Mill purchased 100 lots along the creek
d. In 1942, in honor of actor Ray Milland’s renowned visit to Erie
9. Shortly after the War of 1812, John Dickson built a tavern in Erie at 2nd and French streets, commonly called the Dickson Tavern in modern times. What was its original name?
a. The Steamboat House
b. Sherlock’s/Park Place
c. Perry’s Pub
d. The Queen Vic
The Dickson Tavern exterior 2003 The Dickson Tavern interior 2003
10. While Francis Carnahan was plowing along the Harbor Creek Township lake shore in 1825, he turned up a:
a. Skeleton of a unicorn
b. Stash of subterranean corn liquor
c. Passageway to China
d. Strange bead presumed to be a “Chorean Bead” from ancient Egypt
11. The last known __________ in Erie County was shot in 1857?
a. Wooly mammoth
12. Which frightening contagious disease struck fear into the hearts of Erie’s citizenry in 1832, after two people aboard a steamboat from Buffalo became ill and died on the peninsula?
a. Swine flu
13. In the earliest days of Erie, until around 1829, the use of ________ was almost universal.
d. Horseless carriages
14. As of the late 1880s, the Erie County townships of Wayne, Harbor Creek, Conneaut, Girard, Springfield, LeBoeuf, Venango and Fairview all had what in common?
a. Shared police force
b. Pre-historic mounds and circles
c. Waldameer satellite parks
d. A shortage of spots to park your horse
15. How many paupers lived in the Erie County Almshouse, located in the vicinity of W. 21st and Pittsburgh Ave., as of 1880?
Erie Almshouse near what is now W. 21st and Pittsburgh Avenue in the late 19th century
16. What was the name of the hotel built at 26th and Peach streets in the early 19th century?
a. South Erie Hotel
b. Ye Olde Route 20 Inn
c. Eerie House
d. Grasshopper Motel
17. Prior to 1805, where were Erie’s dead buried?
a. Under the courthouse
b. Near “death farm” in the west county
c. At sea
d. On the bank of the lake, immediately east of the town
18. What operated in the north part of Summit Township, near the Mill Creek line, for many years in the 19th century?
a. Haunted house
b. Summit Towne College
d. Women’s shopping center
19. Why was Greenfield Township considered to be “remote” by local residents as of 1884?
a. Only 12 people lived there
b. It lacked good antenna reception
c. Because its name sounded so rural
d. Due to its distance from the railroad
20. In 1809, General “Mad” Anthony’s remains were disinterred so he could be buried near family in West Chester, PA. What was the name of the Erie physician who assisted in removing Wayne’s still intact body from its bones?
a. Dr. John Wallace
b. Dr. Rufus Leeking
c. Dr. Joe Kuhl
d. Dr. Angus Reed Jr.
A N S W E R S
1. c. Genius of the Lakes, which was published in 1816.
2. a. In the barns of the best known hotels. “The early shows were altogether of the animal order, and the exhibitions generally took place in the barns of the best known hotels…In July 1827 the first circus appeared, and in the same month in 1831 a violent storm blew down the tent of another, which was considered by the pious people as a manifestation of the disapproval of Providence,” as explained in the History of Erie County Pennsylvania, 1884.
3. a. True. The site was known as the Drs. Carter and Dickenson place, and when Dr. Albert Thayer unearthed these immense bones, it caused quite a sensation at the time.
4. d. Grub out stumps from the streets. Regarding excessive drinking, another ordinance which was in place until 1846 “…requiring every man who got on a spree to dig three stumps from the highway, as a penalty for each similar offense against the morals of the town,” as stated in the History of Erie County Pennsylvania, 1884.
5. b. Trudge a mile or so through the snow to borrow a lit torch from a neighbor. Bear in mind that the distance from Dobbins Landing to the Plymouth Tavern is equivalent to about one mile. In the snow. In the darkness. And it’s zero degrees.
6. a. Erie citizens tore down the bridges over State and French streets. This angry demonstration of indignant protesters continued until they ripped up the track across every street east of Sassafras. It was prompted by a proposed change in rail gauge size, an update that would squash hopes of having Erie become the lake terminus for railroad traffic.
7. c. Had a picnic in the woods because the temperature was so pleasant.
8. b. In 1795, when Captain Russell Bissell erected a saw mill near the mouth of the creek. This was also considered to be the first attempt at manufacturing in Erie.
9. a. The Steamboat House. The structure, which was kept as a museum of sorts until the early 2000s, has been renovated into a business/office building. The great news is that it still stands over 200 years later.
10. d. Strange bead presumed to be a “Chorean Bead” from ancient Egypt. As stated in History of Erie County, 1884, regarding unusual local historical discoveries, “To say the least, it adds additional testimony…that a race of people inhabited this section anterior to the red men, who were far in advance of them in progress and intelligence. Who they were, where they came from, and what became of them remains an unsolved problem.”
11. b . Panther. The animal was shot at Lake Pleasant in 1857 by Abram Knapp.
12. b. Cholera. A woman and her daughter became ill aboard the steamboat, which prompted it to stop at Presque Isle. They both passed away within 24 hours of landing.
13. c. Whisky. The first temperance league was formed at Wattsburg in 1829 and by 1830, a great wave of temperance was felt in Erie County. By the 1880s no distilleries remained.
14. b. Pre-historic mounds and circles. “…those in Girard and Springfield, four in number, extended in a direct line from the western part of the former township to the southwestern part of the latter,” as explained in History of Erie County, 1884.
15. b. 221. The almshouse was a self-contained community for the poor which provided three meals a day, comfortable living quarters, in-house medical care, and a small cemetery.
16. a. South Erie Hotel, which was built by Nathan McCammons.
17. d. On the bank of the lake, immediately east of the town.
18. c. Brewery.
19. d. Due to its distance from the railroad, even though Greenfield was one of the first townships to be settled in Erie County.
20. a. Dr. John Wallace. In a macabre twist, Wayne’s corpse was boiled in a huge metal pot to remove his flesh from his bones so the bones could be interred at home. His clothing, military artifacts and flesh remains were then re-buried in Erie, and his some of his bones, which were transported through wilderness across the state, supposedly fell out of the small sulky carrying them. Folklore claims that Wayne rises at his burial site in Erie at midnight on the eve of his New Year’s Day birthday, calls for his horse Nancy, and rides from Erie to West Chester looking for his bones.
S C O R I N G G U I D E
16-20 correct: Professor of the Erie Knowledge Flame – This is a very impressive score, considering most everything in this quiz took place more than 120 years back. You possess an Erie-sistible burning drive to learn about the past, which makes you a hot historical commodity. You might recall kids fishing behind the old landbound Flagship Niagara, or how the Koehler Brewery’s beerious aromas teased the nostrils of passersby at 21st and State. Your brightly shining ability to help others see the historical light, through your illuminating enthusiasm, is a gift you enjoy sharing.
Fishing near the Niagara was a popular activity until the ship was rebuilt and launched several years after this photo was taken.
10-15 correct: Possessor of Erie Historical Knowledge – Congratulations on being well-versed about the history of this fine lake port city. You might chuckle at old photographs of Erie’s Public Dock when it was missing the “L,” and try to read interesting old-time articles whenever they appear on your historical horizon. You probably feel quite proud when you observe the graceful view of the tower as you sit at the red light in front of Hamot on State facing north. Surrender to your historical urges to continue learning and sharing what you know.
If you look closely, you’ll see that the L is missing in the word “public,” and has been painted on with white paint.
4-9 correct: Keeper of Erie HistoERIE Trivia – A reasonable score, revealing some historical bits of odds and ends are floating around in there somewhere. Sure, you might have strolled through Perry Square as a youth, admiring the ornate fountain and serene gazebo. Chances are you could have grabbed a pole and dipped a hook in local waterways, or perhaps you may have even dipped your whole self into the inviting beach water at Presque Isle. The good news is that you know enough to get by, which is a good foundation to upon which to build a historic house of knowledge.
0-3 correct: Seeker of Erie HistoERIE Facts – The longest mile of history starts with a first step toward knowledge acquisition. No matter what, if you took this quiz seriously, you learned at least a little bit of new information about how Erie evolved into the cozy city it is today. Back in the 1800s when men were forced to dig up tree stumps, and so-called paupers were herded into the almshouse, they didn’t have things like the internet and public libraries to open and expand their minds with relevant bits of historical knowledge. The good news? You do!
1. “History of Erie County, Pennsylvania,” Warner, Beers & Co., 1884 served as the primary source for this quiz
2. “Death of a General,” cover story about Anthony Wayne, by Christine Lorraine 1986 – “Erie Times News Sunday Magazine”
3. Google maps/distance app