Extreme HistoERIE: The Earliest Years of Erie, PA 1795 to 1884: Xtine’s 20 questions

by Christine Lorraine Morgan ~ May 21, 2022

Photo shown above is the Old Custom House in the 400 block of State Street, Erie.

It’s time to sharpen those pencils of history once again and test your trivia knowledge with this 20-question quiz about Erie, PA’s earliest days. Answers are shown beneath the questions, so you are invited to keep track of your responses and see how you did with the scoring guide below the answers. Have fun!


1. In the fall of 1828, Joshua Beers opened a store on the northeast corner of State Street and North Park Row, a location which was referred to as a _____________ ____________ and __________ .

a. desirable corner and intersection

b. deep ravine and quagmire

c. peaceful park and surroundings

d. highwayman haven and hideout

2. What was organized on Washington’s birthday in Erie on Feb. 22, 1826?

a. The Active Fire Company of Erie

b. A birthday party for Lou Tullio’s great-grandfather

c. Erie’s first all-you-can-eat smorgasbord

d. Berkheimer Tax Co. Erie branch

3. The first steamboat built in Erie was named:

a. Cruisitania

b. Lake Erie Ferry of Commodore Perry

c. Gitchiegoomie

d. William Penn

4. What gave Erie’s inhabitants a feeling of safety in the early 1800s?

a. The annual Bonfire by the Bay

b. A flock of peaceful doves that visited every spring

c. the Cone of Silence

d. Perry’s victory

5. Where was Erie’s first real estate office located in 1795, according to the 1884 book “History of Erie County?”

a. Erie Central Market

b. A stone’s throw to the south of Waldameer park

c. In a tent on the bank of Presque Isle Bay

d. 40 rods east of the grain elevator

6. TRUE or FALSE: There was a popular sand beach along the west bayfront from State Street to Cascade as of 1813.



7. Until 1846 Perry Square was known as:

a. the Diamond

b. South Park

c. the Head

d. Tullio Towne

Early 20th century postcard depiction of the fountain at Perry Square surrounded by trees

8. In Erie’s earliest days, people passed from the west side to the east side of town by:

a. using feathered wing devices to soar above the trees

b. entering a ravine and crossing a foot bridge

c. paying a guide service to show them the way

d. a bumpy ride in a Roman-style chariot

9. In around 1825 Rufus S. Reed, son of Erie’s first official settler Col. Seth Reed, operated distilleries on Parade, near 5th Street and another by the corner of Parade Street and the Buffalo road. Back then, in some instances, the law forbade selling ardent spirits by the gill, quart or barrel. How did Mr. Reed get around this law?

a. He hired a “dream team” of attorneys from Pittsburgh to fight for his right to sell spirits

b. He called his product “Erie Teetotaler Tonic” so it was granted an exception

c. His “spirits” store sat in the water 10 miles off shore so it was beyond regional jurisdiction.

d. He sold it by the yard in a hollow stick

10. During the war of 1812 a settlement named ___________ developed in Erie near Peach Street:

a. Stumptown

b. Little Pittsburgh

c. ExpERIEnce Village

d. Miserybayville

11. In Erie’s infancy, Federal Hill, near the area of 26th and Peach streets, was a popular stop for travelers as it was the terminus of Ridge road and the Waterford pike. That area was also known as:

a. Waterford Ridge Rumbletown


c. Eagle Village

d. Little Buffalo

12. In Erie during the early 1800s, the 1st of October was a great event known as _____________ Day.

a. Shakespeare Appreciation

b. Pre Hallows Eve

c. Boxing

d. Cranberry

13. What was considered the primary life-sustaining food for Erie’s first pioneers?

a. Possum pasta

b. Fish

c. Ice Cream

d. Toast

14. When and where was the first schoolhouse in Erie built?

a. 1492 at the foot of Wayne Street

b. 1695 at 3rd and French near the Dickson Tavern

c. 1806 at 7th and Holland Streets

d. 1903 underground at 10th & Raspberry

15. Which of these was considered to be a fine building worth mentioning when discussing Erie’s features in 1884:

a. Custom House

b. Unfinished St. Peter’s Cathedral

c. Home for the Friendless

d. all of the above

16. In 1884, what sight was visible about a half mile to the south of the Lake Road on the west side of Erie, as one neared the city coming from the west?

a. grand stand of the fairgrounds

b. 22-story skyscraper

c. General Electric westside outlet

d. Sheetz’ first store ever

17. Who built the first saw mill on Walnut Creek in 1816?

a. General Anthony Wayne

b. Cecil B. deMille Creek

c. Joe “Sawzall” Jones

d. James Love

18. How did Brown Avenue get its name in 1868?

a. Due to the coloration of the rich soil in that area

b. City government was contemplating naming streets after colors

c. From Conrad Brown, who laid it out

d. Many Cleveland Browns fans lived there

19. In the late 1700s and early 1800s during the first days of the settlement known as Erie or Erietown, there were numerous __________ ___________ convenient to the city, especially on the east side.

a. trolley stops

b. swimming pools

c. deer licks

d. under takers

20. TRUE OR FALSE: When the war of 1812 broke out, Erie was so defenseless that it could have easily been captured by the British.



* * * * *

NOTE: All 20 quiz answers were obtained from the same book, thus all direct quotes within quotation marks are attributed to this source:



1. b. deep ravine and quagmire ~ “In the fall of 1828, Joshua Beers opened a store in the brick block previously erected by him on the northeast corner of State street and North Park Row, then a deep ravine and quagmire.” (page 515 paragraph 2)

2. a. The Active Fire Company of Erie ~ “It was the pioneer fire company of Erie, and included in its roll of membership nearly all the male residents of the borough who were old enough to be of any assistance.” (page 514 paragraph 4)

3. d. William Penn ~ “The first steamboat built at Erie, the ‘William Penn,’ was launched at the Cascade May 18, 1826, and commenced its regular lake business in August of that year, John F. Wright, master.” (page 514 paragraph 5)

4. d. Perry’s victory ~ “Perry’s victory brought a feeling of safety to Erie, that it had not known since the beginning of this struggle against tyranny, and his victorious return to the town was hailed with the wildest enthusiasm. All classes vied with each other in paying the youthful hero due honor, and the streets of the little borough resounded with the boom of cannon and the glad shouts of rejoicing.” (page 512 paragraph 3)

5. c. In a tent on the bank of Presque Isle Bay ~ “In 1795, Mr. (Thomas) Rees…was the agent of the Population Land Company, all its first sales being made by him at his tent upon the bank of Presque Isle Bay, the first real estate office opened at Erie.” (page 506 paragraph 1)

6. a. TRUE ~ “In 1813, there was a fine drive on the sand beach of the bay, from State street to the mouth of Big Cascade. This drive had been used for several years, and was a favorite one among those who were so fortunate as to possess a saddle horse or turnout.” (page 512 paragraph 2nd from bottom)

7. a. the Diamond ~ “…June 2, 1846, a meeting of congratulation was held in front of the Reed House, because the square had been adorned and beautified by the planting of shade trees, which to-day are one of the principal ornaments of Erie. The square had been previously known as the ‘Diamond,’ but at this meeting it was resolved to call it ‘Perry Square’ in honor of the victor of Lake Erie.” (page 516 paragraph 4)

8. b. entering a ravine and crossing a foot bridge ~ “People passed from one side of the town to the other by going into the ravine and crossing a foot bridge that spanned a stream of water which ran down to the bay. This ravine was gradually tilled up with the growth of the town, and the court house was built over it where it crossed the West Park.” (519 last paragraph and page 520 paragraph 1)

9. d. He sold it by the yard in a hollow stick ~ “Mr. Reed evaded the statute, and preserved the peace of his conscience by having a hollow stick made, and selling the liquid by the yard.” (page 942 paragraph 1)

10. a. Stumptown ~ “Stumptown grew up during the war of 1812, when troops were called to Erie in the extreme cold weather of January, 1814. A large number of cabins were built by them for quarters, extending from Peach street to the gully of Lee’s Run, and that part of Erie was known, as late as 1825, by the name of Stumptown.” (page 520 paragraph 4)

11. c. Eagle Village ~ “Federal Hill … was quite a settlement as early as the war of 1812, and there were several public houses and stores located at that point. One of the hotels was the ‘American Eagle,’ from which it also came to be known as Eagle Village. The village was a great stopping place for travelers, being the terminus of the Waterford pike and Ridge road.” (page 520 paragraph 7)

12. d. Cranberry ~ “The 1st of October was ‘cranberry day,’ a great event in olden times. Large parties would cross the bay the night before and remain until morning. The marshes were full of cranberries, to a much larger extent than at present, and for that reason were well patronized by the people of Erie.” (page 526 paragraph 2)

13. b. Fish ~ “When the pioneers located at Presque Isle in 1795 they had to resort to fishing in the log canoe for the purpose of obtaining food supply…Log canoes for fishing purposes were as much of a necessity to the early settlers along the lake, as log cabins to shelter their families…” (page 533 paragraph 5)

14. c. 1806 at 7th and Holland Streets ~ “In the year 1806, the first schoolhouse was built in Erie, on the southwest corner of Seventh and Holland streets, where the present school building (No. 2) stands. It was a hewed log house, about 18×20 feet, built by John Greenwood, for the sum of $130, which was paid by contributions of the citizens.” (page 586 paragraph 4)

15. d. all of the above ~ “Among the many fine buildings in the city, public and private, may be mentioned the Court House and Jail, the Union Depot, the Marine Hospital, the Custom House… Home for the Friendless*…and St. Peter’s Catholic Cathedral, which has been in process of erection for several years, and when completed will be an edifice second to none in this portion of Pennsylvania.” (page 522 paragraph 5)

*Home for the Friendless at 22nd and Sassafras has since evolved into Sarah Reed Home, which is still located at 22nd and Sassafras, although the original building appears to be gone. It was opened in the 1870s to help children who were orphaned, and “indigent” women in need of housing and assistance.

“Home for the Friendless” postcard at 22nd and Sassafras from around 1912

Sarah Reed Home at 22nd and Sassafras as shown in this googlmaps Oct. 2021 image

16. a. Grand stand of the fairgrounds ~ “Nearing the city, the grand stand of the fair grounds is seen, about half a mile to the south of the Lake road…The location is one of the most convenient for fair and racing purposes in the country, being just the right distance out of the city, and lying alongside two railroads.” (page 661 paragraph 5)

17. d. James Love ~ “ The first saw mill of which there is a record, on Walnut Creek, in Mill Creek Township, was built by James Love in 1816.” (page 663 paragraph 2)

18. c. From Conrad Brown, who laid it out in 1868 ~ “From Weigleville, there are two routes into the city, the one by way of Federal Hill, and the other by Brown’s avenue. The latter is due to the foresight of the late Conrad Brown, who rightly judged that a more direct route from the western part of the city to the Ridge road would be a popular project. He laid out the avenue eighty feet wide in 1868, and was rewarded by selling off a large portion of his farm for city lots at good prices.” (page 665 paragraph 3)

19. c. deer licks ~ “In the early days, deer, bears, wild geese and ducks, rabbits and partridges were plenty in the woods and wilds of the lake shore region. There were numerous deer licks convenient to the city, especially on the east side.” (page 665 para 4)

20. a. TRUE ~ “The only semblance to a fortification was an old, almost ruined block-house on the eastern part of the peninsula, built in 1795, which was without a soldier, a gun, or a pound of ammunition. The most formidable instrument of war in the town was a small iron boat howitzer, owned by Gen. Kelso, which was used in firing salutes on the Fourth of July, and other patriotic and momentous occasions.” (page 293 para 2)


15-20: HistoERIEcal Head of the Class

Holy Erieopolis, you are amazing! You have kept your eyes and brain open over the years you have lived here, history-wise. Chances are you enjoy the old-timey Facebook posts about this incredible port city, and may have already visited the Wayne Blockhouse, toured the Niagara, or checked out Erie’s three lighthouses. While at local places that ooze with history, you pass your enthusiasm to others by sharing your wealth of knowledge and pointing out places of extreme historical interest.

10-14: HistoERIEcal Honors

This is a great score that indicates a deeply-rooted respect for things that unfolded over time to make Erie the great hometown that it truly is today. There’s a chance you may have toured the museum at 6th and Chestnut at some point, absorbing the detailed pieces of the past that come to life in your well-informed imagination. Or maybe you have contemplated what Dobbins Landing looked like when people climbed over each other for ferry rides to Presque Isle back in 1888.

8-13: HistoERIEcal Enthusiast

Considering many of the facts presented in this quiz were not previously known to the masses, this is a solid score. You genuinely care about local history and don’t miss a chance to learn more. Next time you’re near downtown, be sure to take a look at the Erie County Courthouse, and see if you can visualize a day when entering a ravine there and crossing a foot bridge over a stream of water was the only way to get from the west side to the east side.

3-7: HistoERIEcally Informed

You enjoy thinking about Erie’s past and partaking in quizzes like this, which help broaden your local historical horizon. Next time you drive up Sassafras near 22nd Street, think about how proud Erie was of its home for the friendless and the way local folks took care of each other, sort of the way we do today, and you’ll reveal an indelible charitable correlation to the past.

less than 3: HistoERIEcal Climber

Don’t worry, this was a tricky quiz filled with some pretty interesting but obscure historical facts about Erietown. There’s only one way to go, and that’s up! Start your upward climb by taking a ride along the bayfront highway from State Street to the Sloppy Duck, and imagine a time when that particular historical drive was along a pristine smooth strip of sand on horseback.

CHECK OUT ALL OF XTINE’S 20-QUESTION QUIZZES ON THIS WEBSITE! Type into the search box at the top of the page: “xtine’s 20 questions erie” for local trivia quizzes, or “xtine’s 20 questions” for a more complete list.

About xtinethewriter

* Freelance Writer Xtraordinaire * Producer of 300+ youtube videos * Cellist and bassist * Over 4,000 photos on Google maps viewed 300,000,000 times * Army veteran stationed in Bangkok, Thailand * Creative director for trainumentary.com and pugrealitytv.com * Former Advertising Executive, REALTOR, TV Producer, and Majority Inspector of Elections for Millcreek's 5th Ward, Erie County, PA. Also check out trainumentary.com and pugrealitytv.com * See her complete video collection at: https://www.youtube.com/user/fishiesswimming
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