Erie County: Where Geography Has Shaped History

County Feature is a series of articles on each county in Pennsylvania and its history.

Erie County forms the northwest corner of the state, bounded by Lake Erie on the northwest, the states of Ohio and New York on the west and east respectively and parts of Warren and Crawford counties on the east and south. Historically the county was divided into two sections. The sou them region of 259 ,000 acres fell within the original land grant to William Penn. The northern portion of 202,000 acres, known as the Erie Triangle, was added to the state’s original charter-determined bound­aries in 1792.

Geographic Background

Most of Erie County occupies a transition zone between two major physiographic zones-the Appalachian Plateau and the Lake Erie Plain. The presence of these two major regions creates diversity in the county’s physical geography, a geography which has influenced the area’s history.

The Appalachian Plateau terminates in Erie County and runs along a general northeast to southwest line paralleling the Jake shore. The line takes the form of an escarpment which in some places is subtle and barely discernible and elsewhere, more obvious. The escarpment,most pronounced toward the northeast where its base is two miles from the lake, borders the lake plain and rises from an elevation of 800 to about 1,000 feet. It curves southward from the lake as it extends to the west and the Ohio border.

Toward the north, the Lake Erie Plain stretches two to five miles back from the lake where it meets the Appala­chian Plateau. Its elevation varies from 572 feet at lake level to 800 feet at the base of the escarpment. Along the shore, a cliff averaging about eighty feet in height drops to the sand and shale stone beaches. The plain’s surface is appropriately flat except for abrupt rises onto former beach levels. These terraces mark pre-historic high water levels of lakes that preceded today’s Lake Erie and at an earlier time, when covered by forest, must have been imperceptible.

The most distinctive feature of the Lake Erie Plain, how­ever, is Presque Isle, a compound recurved sandspit enclos­ing the Erie harbor. The peninsula which surrounds the bay reaches seven and three.quarters miles in length and mea­sures one and one-half miles at its widest point. Its long sandy neck is approximately 800 feet wide, and with an average elevation of only seven feet is susceptible to erosion by wave action, especially during strong west-northwest gales. The natural channel into the harbor enters from the east, but periodically the narrow neck in the west is eroded thus creating a second entrance making the peninsula an island.

The peninsula is a more recent formation than the county’s other physical features because Lake Erie did not stabilize at its present level until approximately 1,000 years ago. Presque Isle was formed by a combination of forces within the past 500 years. The area’s unique shoreline coupled with lake currents and transportable sands on the lake bottom all contributed to its creation. The prevailing western current which helped build the peninsula actually tends to move Presque Isle eastward a few inches per year. The wave forces also cause an irregular buildup of lake bottom sands which form bars near the peninsula’s east end, often blocking or partially blocking the channel lead­ing into the bay. Before dredging became possible, this process created an undependable entrance to the harbor.

Presque Isle is one of the geographic features that in­fluenced the first settlement and later development of Erie County. It surrounds and creates the natural harbor that originally commanded the interest of Pennsylvania’s govern­ment officials and led them to purchase the Erie Triangle. The other major strategic geographic feature which was crucial to development was the county’s hydrographic divide separating the Lake Erie watershed from that of the upper Ohio Valley. A portage of only thirteen miles con­nected Presque Isle harbor with Le Boeuf Creek near Water­ford. From its headwaters, there was unbroken navigation by canoe and barge to the Forks of the Ohio. This short link in the all-water route from the lower Great Lakes to the upper Ohio Valley with the extraordinary natural harbor at the head of the portage gave the area some natural advantages.

These factors contributed to the establishment of fron­tier communities and assured their growth. To further guarantee success, the region was blessed with a moderate climate which favored agricultural prosperity.

Pre-Settlement

Permanent settlement by Europeans did not begin in the area until 1795. Before that time there had been periodic visits by French and English fur traders and brief periods of military occupation by French and English soldiers. Al­though settlement by white inhabitants did not begin until the end of the eighteenth century, the first recorded ex­pedition to the Erie region came almost 200 years earlier when French missionaries visited it in 1615. At that time the territory was somewhat isolated, tucked far away from the areas on the continent settled by whites.

The land was inhabited, however, by the Eriez Indians, the tribe after which the county would eventually be named. Although the Eriez spoke an Iroquois language, they were not initially part of the Iroquois Confederation. But, in the 1650s the tribe was overcome by the more powerful confederation and the Iroquois came to dominate the area until the time of white settlement.

But it was not long before trappers were traveling through the region in search of prized furs. The fur trade, in fact, made the place of particular interest to officials in the early 1720s. Their attention was directed initially to the south shore of Lake Erie as a result of the lucrative activi­ties of the Pennsylvania-licensed traders. By the 1740s, attention had focused primarily on the harbor at Presque Isle and the short thirteen-mile portage connecting it and the Great Lakes fur trade with Le Boeuf Creek and the headwaters of the Allegheny River to the south.

This demonstrates the principle mentioned earlier­ – most of the significant events in the early history of the area we re shaped by its strategic geographic features. The territory’s strategic importance and the rivalry between Britain and France is what finally brought the area into the forefront. In the early 1750s, nearly fifty years before settlement, the last of the Anglo-French struggles, the “Great War for Empire,” began. The conflict partially revolved around French attempts to utilize the strategic geographic features of the region to connect their establish­ments in the St. Lawrence and Mississippi valleys. To achieve this end and secure the area before British penetration, the French built two forts, Presque Isle and Le Boeuf, and an outpost at Venango in 1753 (See: “The French in North­west Pennsylvania, 1753-1759“). These posts were eventually captured by General John Forbes in 1759 and the war in the area was virtually over. Nevertheless, the end of hostilities between the French and British did not bring settlement. A variety of forces deterred this until near the end of the century.

After the Treaty of Paris ending the war in 1763, Indians in the west feared encroachment by the British on their hunting grounds. Led by Pontiac, a chief of the Ottawas, Indians from many nations joined in attacks along the frontier and captured the forts at Presque Isle, Le Boeuf and Venango. Hostilities came to an end in 1764 but King George III had already issued the Proclamation of 1763 forbidding settlement west of the Alleghenies. This procla­mation was largely ignored but officially did limit settle­ment and ownership of land in the area. Shortly there­after, the outbreak of the American Revolution further slowed development.

The French and Indian War, Pontiac’s uprising and the American Revolution all disrupted the fur trade and di­verted the attention of government officials to matters of higher priority than the disposition of western lands. Des­pite these disruptions, knowledge about the Lake Erie territory continued to grow. When the Revolution ended, however, the focal point of the fur trade had already passed beyond Pennsylvania’s borders. Now the land west of the Allegheny mountains attracted the attention of many and received a growing wave of immigrants.

At the same time, state officials were anxious to settle debts resulting from the Revolution and in the new west­ward migration saw an opportunity to utilize its western lands. Surveyors began laying out tracts in districts north and west of the Allegheny and Ohio rivers. Veterans of the Pennsylvania Line gained title to this land in exchange for depreciated Continental certificates issued as pay for their services during the Revolutionary War. In addition to the titles granted to settle back payments, veterans received certain other lands as bounties.

The information gathered by the surveyors of the Depreciation and Donation Districts added substantially to the state’s knowledge of lands bordering on Lake Erie. As their activities progressed, it became necessary to send boundary commissioners to locate precisely the northern and western state lines. These commissioners completed surveys between 1785 and 1787; their reports showed that Pennsylvania did not possess a harbor on Lake Erie.

Also in the mid-l 780s, Pennsylvania officials embarked on a program to improve the state’s network of transporta­tion and communication along its roadways and rivers. Brisk competition with the neighboring states of Maryland and New York prompted them to look for routes that would channel the produce of western Pennsylvania and the Great Lakes through the state to Philadelphia. The routes and improvements planned were extremely ambitious and progressive.

By 1787 the development of internal improvement plans, combined with increased knowledge of the Lake Erie Territory, inspired Pennsylvania officials to approach the Confederation Congress with a bid to purchase a corridor extending northward to Lake Erie, including the harbor at Presque Isle. In 1790 a boundary commission completed the survey of New York’s western line and the land to the west of this meridian, north of Pennsylvania’s northern boundary, became the federally-owned Erie Triangle. Negotiations between Pennsylvania and Congress for the purchase of this tract occurred between 1788 and 1792 and culminated in the purchase of the Erie Triangle by Pennsylvania on April 3, 1792. The cost of the Triangle was almost double the amount of the debt cancelled by Charles II’s land grant to William Penn over one hundred years before.

Pennsylvania’s acquisition of jurisdictional and terri­torial rights to the Erie Triangle, however, failed to con­sider the claims various Indian tribes had to the same region. In order to halt the movement westward by the whites, the Indians again joined in a loose confederation lasting for three years. During that period no white settle­ment took place in the Triangle. But in 1794, near present­-day Toledo, Ohio, the Indians suffered a decisive defeat at the hands of General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Within one year, the Treaty of Greenville was signed making a firm peace between the Indians and the United States. The final transfer of title for the Triangle from the Six Nations to the government of Pennsylvania was completed and violent conflict no longer blocked settlement.

First Settlement

It was in the summer of 1795, after Indian claims had been quieted, chat settlement began. The pattern of settle­ment, however, was disorganized due to a bitter and linger­ing struggle for title to lands within the area. On April 3, 1792, the same day the Triangle purchase was finalized by Pennsylvania officials, Governor Thomas Mifflin signed into law the Vacant Lands Sales Act. This legislation was to furnish the guidelines for property ownership in the newly opened lands in western Pennsylvania. Unfortunate­ly, the provisions for ownership outlined in the act were ambiguous. As a result, rather than clarifying the situation the law became a root cause for the title struggles which frustrated the area’s orderly early development.

In May 1792, one month after the passage of the annex­ation and the confusing general land statute, John Nichol­son organized a land sales corporation, the Pennsylvania Population Company, and assumed its presidency. He promptly transferred the warrants he had secured to the Erie Triangle (and other parts of western Pennsylvania) to this organization. The warrants enabled their owners to receive title to the tracts after certain settlement and im­provement requirements stipulated in the Vacant Lands Sales Act were met.

Thomas Rees, the original agent of the Pennsylvania Population Company, was the first to permanently settle in the area in the spring of 1795. Shortly thereafter, squat­ters began settling on and improving lands warranted to Rees’ company, arguing that the time period to meet those improvement requirements specified by the Vacant Lands Sales Act had elapsed, thus invalidating the company’s titles. In self defense, the company resorted to an escape clause included in the law, entitling it to a postponement because of Indian resistance. Its managers sent out regional agents to supervise land sales and to contend with “in­truders” on company lands. The clash between the com­pany and individual settlers who chose to disregard the validity of the company’s prior warrants persisted through­out the early settlement period and retarded the area’s growth.

The Pennsylvania Population Company and its rival, the Holland Land Company which had original warrants to Large tracts south of the Triangle, advertised the virtues of northwestern Pennsylvania lands extensively in Pitts­burgh, Philadelphia and Europe. The competition between these companies was intense and often erupted in war­fare either directly or in the courts. These disputes further slowed settlement.

One man directly involved in this conflict was Judah Colt, appointed in 1797 as the Pennsylvania Population Company agent. He served in this capacity for many years and was involved in various court actions defending his company’s claims. Although Colt was involved in the battle between companies competing for control of land he was, nevertheless, instrumental in helping to establish and build the early community.

As Colt and others helped to open the region, immi­grants began arriving after 1795. Undoubtedly, many who initially intended to go farther west stopped to settle there casting their lots with either the Pennsylvania Popu­lation Company or the “intruders,” depending on whose persuasion was stronger at the time. In any case, they be­came members of frontier farming communities and made the most of the Triangle’s resources to achieve subsistence levels quickly.

First settlement of the Erie site began at the mouth of Mill Creek where the French had built Fort Presque Isle. Mill Creek flowed from the south end of the present city of Erie into the harbor just west of the shifting channel entrance and became the power source for a number of early saw- and gristmills, as did Walnut Creek to the west. This was also the point of convergence of two overland trails, one following the entire south shore of Lake Erie and the other running south to the Forks of the Ohio. The first part of the north-south trail was the thirteen­-mile Presque Isle portage leading to the headwaters of Le Boeuf Creek.

Erie County was one of the last areas to be settled in western Pennsylvania. Once settlers began moving in, however, farms sprang up at random, new roads rapidly appeared, and the county quickly slipped behind the westward moving frontier. The fact that the area was a frontier pocket, beyond which the frontier had earlier passed, explains the quick transition to a more settled agricultural economy.

When Allegheny County was created in 1788, north­western Pennsylvania near Lake Erie was included within it. This arrangement continued until 1800, when on March 12, Erie County with a population estimated at 1,468, was established. It was not until 1803, however, when the first court was held and officers elected, that Erie County be­came administratively independent. So, only five years after actual settlement began, Erie became a county, and within eight years had an organized government.

Early Development

Although the economic mainstay of the county was agriculture well into the late nineteenth century, two significant commercial enterprises began shortly after settle­ment. Shipbuilding soon developed as an early industry and led to a flourishing lake commerce. Also, overland shipment of salt from Erie to Waterford began about 1800 with the export of this valuable commodity from upstate New York to Pittsburgh and other Ohio River destinations providing work for teamsters and others. In 1811, some 18,000 barrels of salt were registered at the Customs House in Erie. As these figures demonstrate, the salt trade was important during this early period and salt, in fact, often served as a local medium of exchange. Shipbuilding and the salt trade supported one another as many Erie-built ships carried the important product from Buffalo to Erie. Al· though discovery of salt wells near Pittsburgh brought an end to the trade in 1819, this early industry helped estab­lish Erie’s importance as a city.

Even though the Erie city site was the chief attraction for the region’s first settlement, villages grew near the mouths of several of the major streams flowing into the lake (Elk, Walnut, Sixteen-mile creeks) at Colt Station and at Wattsburg. Erie, however, was not always the most popu­lated town in the area, as Millcreek, North East and Fair­view townships all had larger populations in these years. In fact, Erie city had only a population of 400 by 1812.

The county grew as early industries developed, usually near streams since water was the main source of power. Saw- and gristmilling, out of necessity, were two of the primary industries, the first sawmill being built in 1796 at the mouth of Mill Creek primarily to provide lumber for an army fort nearby. Only two years later, the area had its first gristmill which was soon followed by others scat­tered throughout the region. Tanneries were established to complement U1e fur trade and brickmaking developed to provide that basic building material. By 1824, the region’s first foundry was established near present-day North East along the Sixteen Mile Creek.

The strategic importance of Erie again became apparent during the War of 1812 with the decision to build Captain Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet there. This decision was made after Captain Daniel Dobbins, one of the county’s early settlers, personally travelled to Washington to convince the Secretary of the Navy and President Madison of the importance of recapturing control of the Great Lakes from the British. Dobbins had been taken prisoner at Detroit soon after the war broke out and escaped, eventual­ly journeying to Washington to press for the building of a fleet. Dobbins’ trip was successful and he was instructed to return to Erie to produce four gunboats. Later, two brigs, the Lawrence and Niagara, were authorized and built one mile west of the Erie harbor. Erie’s natural harbor, com­bined with the superior overland routes connecting it with Pittsburgh and sources of building materials, made Erie the natural spot to construct Perry’s squadron.

In February 1813, Oliver Perry was ordered to take charge of the fleet. He personally oversaw the construction of the two brigs and added more smaller craft to the flotilla. On September 10, 1813, the fleet was tested as it met the British in the Battle of Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie. Perry’s flagship, the Lawrence, was disabled during the action and the commander was forced to move his colors to the Niagara. Shortly thereafter, the tide of battle turned in favor of the Americans and Perry defeated the British thus ending their control of the lake’s region. The con­struction of the fleet at Erie and the victory that followed further stimulated the shipbuilding industry and refocused the attention of the federal government on the harbor and on its potential advantages for the nation.

The area was growing rapidly. The dense forest which once presented an obstacle to growth, now provided raw materials for homes and ships and sheltered an abundance of animals for trapping. Good farm land provided yet more food and helped draw early settlers from eastern sections of the Commonwealth, New Jersey, New York and New England. The influence of New Englanders was particularly strong in this early period and traces of their impact can still be seen in some of the architectural styles of the buildings which remain. These groups were joined by Pennsylvania Germans around 1825 and ten years later by Irishmen and Germans. By 1830 the population was stead­ily growing and the ethnic diversity which is characteristic of today’s Erie County was already well established.

These pioneers brought with them their religious institu­tions. Catholicism came first, as priests and missionaries accompanied the French into the area. They also departed with them after the French defeat in 1759 and did not return again until the mid-nineteenth century. It was not until 1797 that Protestant services, encouraged by Judah Colt, were held there. Within two years, Presbyterian missionaries regularly preached in the area and an Erie Presbytery was established in 1801. The Methodists were next to organize and built their first church in 1804. By 1860 most larger denominations had developed fellow­ships. Today, Erie’s religious diversity is equal to its ethnic variety.

Transportation, Business and Industry

The second quarter of the nineteenth century was dominated by the canal. Erie County was no exception. In 1844 the Erie Extension Canal, connecting the port of Erie with the Ohio River, was completed. Although this was the only canal to be constructed within Erie County, the earlier Erie Canal, opened in 1825, the Welland Canal, opened in 1829, and the Pennsylvania Mainland Canal. completed in 1834, indirectly affected the county by bring­ing it, in effect, closer to east coast markets.

Throughout most its length, the 105-mile long Erie Extension Canal Jay along a north-south course. It de­scended from the Appalachian Plateau southwest of Girard and from that town followed the lake plain for seventeen miles, dropping another 207 feet to its northern terminus in a basin at the foot of Sassafras Street in Erie city. Coal from downstate mines was the principal item hauled by the barges on the canal. This traffic, combined with the trans­portation of other commodities and passengers, greatly stimulated the growth of Erie. Storage yards were built, connecting shipping facilities were developed, and Erie became a city. By the mid-1850s Erie contained nearly one-half of the county’s industry and emerged as the most important city in the county.

The decline of the Erie Extension Canal, as was the case with most contemporary canals, was due to the rapid development of railroad technology. By 1870 it succumbed to the greater efficiency of the Erie-Pittsburgh Railroad which reached Erie in 1864, the same year the Pennsyl­vania Railroad made connections with the city. Later, two east-west lines, the New York Central and Nickle Plate railroads provided the region with additional pas­senger and freight facilities. However, with the coming of the railroad, one of the geographic features that had contributed to Erie’s importance and to the growth and development of the county, became a disadvantage and contributed to its decline relative to other regional settings.

Erie County had enjoyed the best overland portage con­necting Lake Erie with the headwaters of the Ohio River. While natural water routes offered the best avenues of transportation, the county benefited from that natural geographic advantage. Once railroad transportation ob­viated the need to follow stream courses, the best routes became the most nearly level ones. The terrain between the hydrographic divide south of Erie and the Pittsburgh iron industry and down-state coalfields is far more rugged than that to the west. Consequently, the railroad age intro­duced a relative slowdown in Erie County’s growth. By the turn of the twentieth century, Ashtabula, Conneaut and Cleveland had captured the lion’s share of the regional lake port tonnage. This disparity has continued to this day in spite of the fact that the harbor at Erie is still one of the best on the Great Lakes. Again, geography made its mark.

But in the mid-nineteenth century a boom spirit still existed. It was a time when old businesses were thriving and new industries developing. After the discovery of oil near Titusville in 1859, for example, the refining industry blossomed. At one point there were as many as twenty refineries in the area but most disappeared within a decade due to transportation difficulties caused by rugged terrain between the oilfields and Erie. During that brief period, however, the oil industry did create demands for equip­ment and encouraged local businesses to produce the necessary tools and technology. Since that time Erie has been known for its wide variety of little shops and small industries.

Also, in the middle of the nineteenth century, the fishing industry began to develop on a large scale. Erie, in fact, became the main fishing port on the Great Lakes until the twentieth century. The Shaw Fish Company established in 1821 was the first to organize the fishing industry into a large business concern. Soon, other companies followed and before long Erie was known as the largest fresh water fishing port in the world.

When the Erie Extension Canal was completed in 1844, it introduced marked changes in Erie County’s develop­ment. Although the processing of agricultural products re­mained the major industry, new enterprises were located along the canal route. Ferrous foundries, metal works, machine shops, paper mills, and breweries were established, introducing heavy industry, greater diversification and a move away from dependence on agricultural raw materials. Hinkley, Jarvis and Co., established in 1833, for example, was the most important early industry located in Erie to achieve national prominence. It was a forerunner of the manufacturers of heavy engines and boilers which are located in Erie today. Early industries used locally mined bog iron ore which was smelted in area furnaces fueled by coal mined from sources nearby.

A necessary ingredient to support industrial growth such as that which occurred in Erie during the nineteenth century is a large labor force. The immigrant waves of the 1860s and 70s supplied the area with Germans, Italians and Poles eager to find work. As the labor force grew, so did the number of industries locating in the county. The Hammermill Paper Company moved its corporate head­quarters to Erie in 1898 and Erie had its first real nation­wide industry in the modern age. The Erie site was con­sidered ideal for the manufacture of paper products be­cause of its rail service, its location midway between New York and Chicago, its proximity to the supply of Canadian pulp, and the availability of an abundant water supply. The General Electric Company also found Erie a desirable site and in 1911 chose to build one of the largest locomotive assembling plants in America there.

The Twentieth Century

Erie County entered the twentieth century as the state’s most industrially diversified county and Erie city as one of the most diversified cities of its size in the country. As the century has progressed, Erie has continued the trend of di­versification and today produces electrical machinery and supplies, iron and steel forgings, hardware, meters, ma­chinery and parts, steam shovels, furniture and toys to name but a few of its principal products. Erie’s industries produce goods used in all parts of the country and provide work for thousands of people. By far the largest business in the area is the General Electric plant which employs 11,000 workers. Zurn Industries which manufactures pollution control devices and mechanical power trans­mission products is the second largest industry employing 3,000 workers, 1,000 more than the Hammermill Paper Company.

Although the region has become increasingly industrial­ized over the years,agriculture, the mainstay of the county’s original settlers, is still important. The geographical diver­sity of the area has greatly contributed to the county’s agricultural success. The lake shore region has a growing season exceeded in length only by that in the southeastern corner of the state. As a result, Erie County has an abun­dance of productive vineyards, orchards and vegetable farms and leads the state in the production of grapes, wines and cherries. South of the Appalachian Plateau the environment is perfect for dairy fanning. In total, the value of the agricultural produce of Erie County is one of the highest in the state.

The county is growing in population, wealth, jobs, quality of municipal services and other indexes of measure­ment. Yet there are those who do not feel Erie city and as a result Erie County has ever reached the potential it seemed destined to achieve in its early history.

This “slowdown” can be explained in many ways. The impact of the railroad age was a fundamental cause. Lorain, Fairport, Ashtabula, Conneaut, Cleveland and Buffalo all developed rail connections with major marketing areas which allowed them to more efficiently distribute materials unloaded at their docks. Geography, which benefited Erie in its early history when water transportation played a dominant role, favored other areas after the railroads proved to be more effective.

With the discovery of iron ore in the Mesabi Range, facilities for the handling of iron ore became even more im­portant for lake ports. Erie never developed the extensive unloading facilities necessary to handle this important raw material. Other ports on the Great Lakes did. Also, with the shorter shipping distance from the Mesabi Range to the Pittsburgh steel mills being through ports further to the west, most of that ore never reached Erie.

But, the harbor at Erie suffered from more than just the loss of the ore trade. Hammermill, for instance, used to import large quantities of pulpwood. That is no longer necessary because new processes for the production of paper goods now allow for the use of regional hardwoods. In addition, shipments of grain, another important com­modity, have become minimal. In 1947, Canadian law mandated that all Canadian wheat had to be exported via Canadian ports. Also, with improvements in the water connections between the Great Lakes, U. S. wheat is now sent directly to foreign destinations from Chicago, Duluth and Fort Williams. Imports of oil, limestone, gas, sand/gravel and other materials have not offset the loss of these major items.

Conclusion

The course of Erie County’s history has been influenced manifestly by its geographic features. Initially they led to steady growth and development. But over time the shift in the technology of transportation negated some of the area’s geographic advantages, leading to a slowdown in the eco­nomic growth rate.

In spite of the interruption of the county’s rate of economic growth and the decline in Erie’s impact as a port, it remains an outstanding place to live and visit. Assorted businesses and diversified agriculture help support the 270,000 people who live in the county and provide goods and services to others beyond the county’s borders; Presque Isle, forty-five miles of Lake Erie coastline, forests, streams and open spaces offer recreational enjoyment to inhabitants and visitors alike; and the movement away from Erie city into smaller communities such as Girard and Fairview townships, Harborcreek and Edinboro has eliminated many of the problems associated with un­controlled urban growth.

There is good reason to question the assumption that the leveling off of urbanization and industrialization in Erie County is a disadvantage at all. In fact, to many who live and vacation there, it is rather a blessing.

 

Dr. Lechner completed his dissertation, “The Erie Triangle, 1782-1802,” in 1975 and received his doctorate from Case Western Reserve University. Today he serves as Director of the Physician’s Assistant Program at Gannon College, Erie.