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3. JOHN CASS, Feb. 4, 1800 - July 24, 1874
b. Calverley Hill, Yorkshire. England. d. S. Harbor Creek, Pa.


HANNAH PRATT,
Feb. 17, 180 5- Mar. 29, 1885
b. Calverley, England d. S. Harbor Creek, Pa.
Married Dec. 12, 1824 in Tong, Yorkshire, England
 
 

CHILDREN

6. Edward, Nov. 20, 1825 - Feb, 25. 1904
m. Elizabeth Smith ( 1827-1882) Sept. 6, 1849
7. Ellen, Sept. 5, 1827 -
m. Samuel Barham ( - ) Jan. 3, 1859
8. Jane, Nov. 2, 1829 - July 1, 1898
9. Ann, Feb. 27, 1832 - Apr. 28, 1907
m. William Mitchell ( 1818-1883) Apr. 13, 1858
10.William Roe, Jan. 8, 1835 - Nov. 9, 1914
m. Esther Davies (1843-1907) 1859
11. Elizabeth, Jan. 16, 1838 - Dec. 26, 1859
I2. Samuel, June 1, 1842 - May 7, 1853

John Cass, the ancestor of all those of this name in Harbor Creek Township, became a cabinet maker after seven years of apprenticeship, as required in the old countries at that time. His wife was a daughter of John, and grand-daughter of John Pratt, both of Calverley. She was a first cousin of Benjamin Coates who came to America with a large party from Eccleshill, England in 1832 and who settled at Erie, Pennsylvania. Two of Benjamin Coates' sisters married two brothers, John and Thomas Thornton, who later became partners of John Cass in the organization of the Harbor Creek Woolen Factory.

John and Hannah Cass settled at Rodley, a neighboring village to Calverley, where he started a cabinet shop and "made all kinds of furniture, from a cradle to a coffin." The shop was in the upper story of the house in which he lived. He hired a number of men and also had a number of apprentice boys. He carried on this business until he came to America in 1842 with his family of seven children. Although the Cass family were Baptists they frequently attended the Calverley Church, a parish of the Church of England which had its origin prior to the year 1066, the date of the Norman conquest. Joshua Pratt, a brother of Hannah, was a school teacher, a composer of violin music and an organist of the Calverley Church. Mrs. Alfred King cherishes one of his old violins. According to tradition, members of the Cass family are buried at Calverley Church Cemetery.

In the year of 1840 a rascal stole or swindled from John Cass a sum of money supposed to be worth about $250.00 in U. S. money, and fled the country. Mr. Cass immediately set out in pursuit following the trail while it was hot and came within sight of the thief at Rochester, New York, but the thief eluded capture and escaped, never to be seen again.

However, this curious incident enabled John Cass to see for himself the advantages of life in the new nation. He stayed in this country three months and probably renewed old acquaintances in Western Pennsylvania before returning to England. Two years later, in order to better his condition, he decided to bring his family to America. The following description of their journey is from Miss Barham's account of the Cass family.

"So on the sixth of July, 1842, they left home and friends for that long journey which took two months to complete. They journeyed all the way from their home to Erie, Pennsylvania, by water, going on the canal which passed their house to Liverpool. They sailed on the good ship `Sheridan' under the command of Captain Cornish. It was a sailing vessel, as there were but few steamers in those days. They were five weeks on the ocean. On arriving at New York they were delayed a week getting their goods through the Custom House. From New York they sailed up the Hudson River to Albany. There they again took the canal boat to Buffalo. At Buffalo they embarked on a sailing vessel and landed in Erie early in the morning of September fifth, just two months from the time they left home. The first house they occupied after coming to Erie was a large double house which stood on the west side of French Street, below where Second Street now exists. Here they lived for the first several months, through the long, severe winter, which they were unused to. In the Spring they moved into a log house on the corner of 2lst and Sassafras Street, where Henry Shenk's house now stands. Here they lived for two years until they moved to Harbor Creek, where they started the Harbor Creek Woolen Mill."

While in Erie John Cass worked at cabinet making and carpentry for Constable Brothers, who came to Erie from Yorkshire, and with whom he had had previous contacts. Part of his work during this time was that of ship-carpenter building boats at the Erie shipyards. One of the boats on which he worked was the Michigan, later called the Wolverine. This was the first iron ship of war ever built, (see Miller's History of Erie County) and in 1909 was the oldest ship in active service as a part of the United States Navy.

In 1844 John Cass moved with his family to South Harbor Creek where he formed a partnership with his countrymen from England; Joshua Jewett, John, and Thomas Thornton, John, and Joseph Rhodes. This stock company purchased an old carding mill and some land in the Six Mile Creek Factory Gulch from Lester Hays, where they shortly afterwards commenced construction of the Harbor Creek Woolen Factory. This was the first and only woolen factory of any size ever operated in Harbor Creek Township. In this construction they were assisted by the farmers who lived near by and were prospective patrons of the new enterprise. The project was soon finished and the new factory building was duly initiated with an old fashioned square dance held at the urgent request of the ones who had helped in its construction. This was a gala occasion. The country folk, young and old, flocked in from the country sides around to see the new building, and to step their light fantastic toes to the accompaniment of the violin music of the Pierce Brothers, Steve and Smith, who were the district's most accomplished fiddlers.

As regards the partnership; Mr. Jewett sold out within a year or two, finally the other members did also, until in 1854 Mr. Cass ran the business with the help of his son, Edward, and continued to do so until the time of his death in 1874.

The ruins of the old factory, mill race, and dam may be seen at a point about 1000 feet up stream from the present Factory Gulch bridge. Near by is a log cabin, built by the sons of William E. Cass, who now owns the land which he uses as a pasture for his cattle. The factory, as originally built, was a four story frame structure, about thirty feet wide and seventy feet long, with a large overshot water wheel in the rear part of the first floor near the bank. The water wheel was about fourteen to sixteen feet in diameter, and about ten feet wide, with two sections of buckets in its width. It rotated on an axle which was parallel to the long sides of the building, and to the shaft in the first floor, to which it was geared. A wall served as a partition between the main part of the first floor and the part occupied by the water wheel.

The lower story of the factory was built of brick, and the upper stories were frame. In 1860 or 1861 alterations were made. The frame portion of the wall of the first floor was replaced and an office added on the west side near the front, which was the side facing the creek, and a dye house was partitioned off on the east side near the front, all new construction being of brick and stone. A twelve horse power engine and boiler was installed in the first floor in 1864, to provide power during dry weather. The boiler projected outside through the west wall. The office contained, among other things, a counter, a combined desk and book shelf where the factory books were kept, a set of scales and several chairs. There being no outside door to the office its only entrance was through the first floor of the factory.

The dye house contained two large copper kettles supported by an arch, and a large tank, and was used for dyeing wool and cloth or for washing cloth, and it also served as an ideal place to wash sheep owned by Edward and William, the sons of John Cass.

The first floor contained in the rear part the fulling stocks, and in the rest of the floor was located the scouring mill where the woven cloth was cleaned through a system of rollers, washing compounds, and the gig, which was a device for raising the nap, and preparing cloth to be shorn. The gig consisted of a series of rollers six feet long and frames fitted with teasels through which the cloth was passed. This floor also contained the press which was hand operated and used for pressing cloth, and nearby was a hand reel.

On the second floor were located the carding machines, spinning jack, wooley, and a turning lathe. The carding machines were arranged in a series of three, the first breaker, the second breaker, and the finisher or condenser. Besides these three there was a roll carding machine. On these machines the raw wool was combed out. The spinning was done on this floor on a spinning jack of 160 spindles. The wooley, also known as the picker, was a device for opening, cleaning, and mixing wool. The lathe, which was power driven, was generally used by John Cass himself, when he wished to fashion something special out of wood.

The weaving was done on the third floor, the machines being a reel, spooler, the looms, and an old spinning wheel, the reel and spooler being used for making~ a web before the yarn was attached to the cylinders of the looms where the actual weaving was done. There were at least three power looms and one hand loom. One of the power looms was a Jacquard loom, used for weaving fancy colored cloth, mostly checks, this being a very complicated piece of machinery, and one was a Satinet loom for cotton warp with wool filling, a cloth of ultra durability. The old spinning wheel was used chiefly by Mrs. John Cass to twist yarn into skeins which were used for knitting purposes.

On the fourth floor were the tenter bars which could be stretched to run the entire length of the garret. The cloth was dried by hanging it on these bars. A foot bridge served to connect the fourth floor with the high bank at the north end of the building, for the convenience of those who were entering or leaving the building in that direction.

At one time the factory was such a busy place that it was a common sight to see the large yard at the front full of teams, and other teams lined up back to the main road as customers waited their turn to be served.

The large dam which served the factory was used by the neighborhood boys for a swimming pool in the summer and for ice skating in the winter. It was washed out twice and rebuilt once. The first time, a smaller dam was built in 1865 as a temporary structure with a longer spillway. It was located at the first bend in the creek above the large dam and when it was washed out a short time later the large dam was rebuilt. It was finally washed out, never to be rebuilt, a few years before the factory went out of business, about 1887-90.

In its meanderings the creek encroached on the factory and washed out a lower corner of the front part of the wall and a cribbing of timber and stone was built to prevent further damage. In 1900, after the building had been abandoned, a flood washed out a great portion of the foundations and caused it to fall down.

John Cass used to own the lower fifty acres of the farm now owned by the Dionisio family, and his house was then near where the Dionisio barn now stands. He sold that land and moved to Owen's Corners and then before 1860 to the house in the Gulch, about 200 feet downstream from the factory, where he spent the rest of his days.

John Cass was a man of industry and thrift, firm in his religious and political views, and fearlessly outspoken. He was smooth shaven, weighed about 160 pounds and was physically active except for spells of illness during his later years. He was a member of the First Baptist Church of Erie and will be remembered in local history as an Abolitionist and active agent of the "Underground Railroad." He and other members of his family frequently concealed fugitive slaves in the wool stored in the upper floors of the factory, until they were able to transport them to the next station near the lake, over which they passed to Canada. A very interesting true story, typical of underground railroad activities, apparently made the rounds of the magazines and was published in the "Lake Shore Magazine," Erie, Pennsylvania, August, 1886, Vol. VI., No. 8. (A copy of this magazine is held by Mrs. Alfred King.) It was headed, "Romances and Realities of the Underground Railroad," and was copyrighted by H. U. Johnson, 1886. The story, entitled "Plucky Charley," devotes considerable space to a description of the part the Cass family played in aiding the escape of a young negro whom they sheltered for some time, teaching him to read and write while waiting until it was safe to move him, as a $500.00 reward was offered for his return to his master.

That John Cass was honest and expected others to be the same is illustrated by this story. Mr. Cass was walking on Parade Street in Erie, which was then near the eastern limits of the city when a former patron of his business met him and greeted him very cordially saying. "Why how do you do Mr. Cass, how are you?" as he extended his hand in the most friendly manner.

Mr. Cass replied bluntly, "I won't shake hands with you. You're the man who used to put salt in your wool."
"Oh Mr. Cass," the man replied, "I didn't intend to cheat you, I only thought the salt would make the wool keep better."
"You tried to beat me on the weight," said Mr. Cass, "And what's more, your wife is the lady who put stones in a firkin of butter."

Mr. Cass's outspoken manner at one time in his later years nearly got him into trouble at the polls one election day with a big, strapping young man who had an ungainly and prominent nose. Mr. Cass stepped up to the young man, looked critically at his nose and told him with a loud voice in his English dialect that his nose looked like that of a turkey gobbler. The younger man immediately started swinging his fists in the direction of Mr. Cass, who would have been no match for him. Fortunately Edward, the eldest son, was there and with great presence of mind eased the situation by taking the young man aside and explaining that he should not take his father too seriously as he meant no harm.

John Cass was an ardent member of the Republican Party in the days when political activities, with their attendant oratory and torchlight parades, held an important place in the emotional life of the country. Once during the heat of a presidential campaign Mr. Cass purchased a banner of each party, flying the Republican banner from the front of his carriage and tying the Democrat's colors behind to drag in the dust of the road while driving to Erie. Along the road great rounds of applause from his fellow Republicans greeted this stunt. On reaching the city he stopped for refreshment and on returning to his carriage was greatly provoked to find some other prankster had removed the bedraggled and dusty Democratic emblem from the back of his carriage.

John Cass was rescued twice from possible death while working about the factory. He used to wear a silk neckerchief as was customary among the Englishmen with whom he associated in those days. One day as he was bending low at his work while operating the first breaker this neckerchief caught in the rotating cylinder of the carding machine and started drawing him to what seemed a sure and dreadful death. His frantic calls for help were heard by Heaman Manley, the spinner, but were ignored at first as Mt. Cass was accustomed to do much shouting in a loud voice about the factory. As the shouting grew louder and more persistent, however, Mr. Manley rushed over and slipped the belt over on the idler pulley just in the nick of time.

On another occasion Mr. Cass was standing inside the water wheel one winter morning and cutting it loose from the ice as he was getting ready to start the business of the day. The wheel broke loose sooner than he expected and he was caught inside as it commenced to turn. Fortunately his son Edward, who always seemed to be "Johnny on the spot," was near and turned the water away from the wheel.

Mr. Cass was a religious man and a stickler for observing the teachings of his church. He always cherished an interest in England and was a regular subscriber to the "Leeds Mercury," a paper published at Leeds, England. He used to say he wished to be buried in England and that if buried in this country he would, "Kick the lid off the coffin." He also frequently said he would, "Eat what he wanted if it killed him." He was fond of playing practical jokes and one time dyed his neighbor's geese in his dye kettle. His family Bible, which is in the possession of Mrs. George Cass, records the exact minute of birth of all his children. It is said he was devoted to his family and they in turn were greatly devoted to him.

There is some reason to believe that the maiden name of Mrs. John Cass's mother may have been Mary Rastrick and that her mother came from elsewhere than the town of Calverley, perhaps from Eccleshill which was the former home of the Coates family to which she was related. The birth record of Mrs. John Cass as well as the records of her father and grandfather appear in the records of the Calverley Church and according to tradition that was the church which the Pratt family attended.

Mrs. Cass was an unusually hard working and industrious woman, and a great knitter. She could knit a pair of socks in one day. She was a great walker and would frequently walk to Erie and back in one day, a distance of ten miles each way, while the horses were idle in the stables, and would darn stockings or socks while walking. She would often stop overnight with her daughter, Mrs. Samuel Barham, in the city. It seems that she used to spend most of her time at work, as she often remarked, "I never went to a picnic in my life."

Some of Mrs. John Cass's relatives came to America in addition to the Coates and Thornton families already mentioned. Her brother John had a son Matthew who came to Harbor Creek to live. Matthew was the father of Thomas Pratt who spent his boyhood days at Harbor Creek, later lived at Beaver Falls, and died recently at New Kensington, Pennsylvania, where his son was a banker. "Tom" Pratt, as he was familiarly called, was well known to the older members of the Cass family at Harbor Creek.

Mrs. John Cass's brother Joseph, the musician and organist of Calverley (whom we incorrectly referred to previously as Joshua) had a daughter, Mary, who became the wife of Joshua Ross and the mother of Grace Ann, who married and is now living at Jamestown, New York, where she is a high ranking leader of the Spiritualist Church. Other members of this branch of the Ross family lived near South Wales for many years.

Mrs. John Cass met with an accident in her late years as she was returning from a visit to the Mitchell family when the. horse she was driving became frightened and she was injured at the Factory Gulch Bridge. This injury doubtless hastened her death. Mr. and Mrs. John Cass and all their children, except Ellen, are buried in the South Wales Cemetery. Most of their grandchildren are also buried there.

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