In 1821 Aaron Benedict founded the community we know today as Pleasantville; the Borough of Pleasantville was incorporated in 1850. Benedict came from Western New York where he had been a prosperous mill owner and businessman. Fortune turned against him, however, and at the age of forty-two he found himself in the Northern Pennsylvania wilderness starting over again. In an 1819 agreement with the Holland Land Company, Benedict bought a parcel of four hundred acres, subject to settlement and development. Originally, he called the place, Benedictown. From the beginning, Benedict was interested in the clay deposits readily available at this site. He persuaded his son-in-law, William Porter, to relocate to Benedictown. Porter worked in the pottery business and was known as a ‘chemist”; he had working knowledge of how to apply the salts for glazing. The pottery prospered by manufacturing wares similar in appearance and quality to Rockingham pottery and Liverpool Queensware.
In 1831 E.R. Beebe, Aaron Benedict’s nephew, arrived in Benedictown. He had knowledge of the tanning business and knew how to make shoes. This business prospered. The Beebe family constructed a stylish Greek Revival home on North Main Street in the 1840′s. It is possible this family was related to Lucius Beebe & Sons, the prominent Boston Shoe manufacturer who built the Queen City Tannery in Titusville in 1890.
A tangible manifestation of Aaron Benedict’s continuing influence on the community he founded can still be seen today where North Main Street divides at Route 27. At this location you can still see the Greek Revival church completed in 1848 on land donated to the Allegheny Baptist Church by Aaron Benedict. The church building was later sold to the Free Methodists. Benedict died in 1860. Never believing the area was particularly well suited for farming, he was convinced God intended the region for some other purpose. Drake’s successful oil well in Titusville was seen by Benedict as confirmation of this belief.
The pottery industry in the area died out some time before the Civil War. Ironically, the Pleasantville oil boom started on the old William Porter farm just south of town where an eccentric character, “Crazy Abram James”, successfully drilled for oil in February of 1868. James went into a fit at the site the year before and upon regaining consciousness claimed the spirits of the other world showed him rivers of oil beneath the surface of the ground. Oil has been a been a part of Pleasantville’s life ever since.
John Brown came to Pleasantville from New York State in 1833. He was a merchant by trade and set up shop at the southwest corner of State and Main. Brown shipped his goods by way of the Erie Canal to Erie and then over land to Pleasantville. He had four sons who succeeded him in this very successful business. One of the son’s, Samuel Queen Brown, built a fine Italianate structure on State Street just west of Main. The Brown Brothers became very successful oil producers. Samuel Q. Brown became president of the famous Tidewater Pipe Company, an independent oilmen’s venture started by Bryon Benson and David McKelvey of Titusville. Pleasantville has had a particularly close relationship with Titusville since the early days of oil.
Some of Pleasantville’s most elegant early homes were built along Chestnut Street. Judge James Conneley built a fine Second Empire with lavish interior decoration at 317 Chestnut Street about 1870. A District Court judge, Conneley was very soon transferred to Philadelphia. The locally prominent Holeman family bought this fine house when Judge Conneley left the area.
A physician, Dr. John Wilson, built a particularly nice brick Italianate residence at 248 North Main Street in 1873. The home features prominently overhanging eaves with pairs of deeply drawn brackets and appropriate masonry window hoods. The home remained in the Wilson family for a number of years. Today, the excellent condition of the structure and the beauty of the grounds are noteworthy.
Coal Oil Johnny’s eatery, 117 E. State Street, 814-589-5500
RECOMMENDED READING: “Pleasantville Diamond Centennial”,1996.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: East from Titusville on Route 27 or northwest from Tionesta on Route 36 or north from Oil City on Route 8 and Route 227.
For Information on the Titusville Area
Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism 217 Elm Street, Oil City, Pa. 16301-1412 (814) 677-3152
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