Gorge (Four Mile Creek)
17, 2003 08:07 PDT
The following is a copy of the article written by my Great Uncle
family historian Don Albertson concerning Wintergreen Gorge,
identified as Four Mile Creek. He had a feature in the Erie
that ran for many years known as 'Albertson's Attic'. This
article ran in 1988 and was part of 'The Erie Story'. He is now
early 80's. This article will help those who are not familiar
Lake Erie gorges to get a feel for this largely undocumented big
and some of its general history. I believe a lot of the history
told here concerning Erie, could probably be repeated all up and
the Lake Erie Coastline from Ohio through Pennsylvania to New
"'Four Mile Creek' by Don Albertson:
In my youthful dating days we used to wander Wintergreen Gorge
on the edge of the bridge at the bottom of Cooper Road. Years
teenage sons and daughter did the same thing. Perhaps they
we did, where Four Mile Creek began, where it ended and what
along its banks through the years.
Original Erie started at the mouths of creeks that drained into
Erie. The peninsula-protected Mill Creek in the village of Erie
the hub of commercial activity but Twelve Mile Creek in North
1806 called "Burgetts-town"), Eight Mile Creek in
Harbor Creek and Four
Mile Creek (now Lawrence Park) were also early commercial
Erie County's fourty-four mile shoreline is marked with these
Streams flow north or south from a drainage divide which trends
diagonally across the county. North-flowing streams drain into
Erie and, unlike the south-flowing waters, their rapid currents
cascading waterfalls cut deep channels in their passage from
to lake level. East county creeks run directly north to the lake
west county streams flow westward and abruptly turn northward to
The Lake Plain borders the lake and extends southward for a
about two miles in the east county and five miles in the western
of the county. The Plain terminates along the lake edge as a
which rises 80 feet or more above the lake level, highest levels
near North East and northwest of Girard. In the area east of
cliff face exposes glacial drift and bedrock, especially at its
The creeks have dried up and narrowed through natural causes,
culverts-and only occasionally winter thaws and heavy rains
tremendous power and energy of the original streams rushing down
gorges to the lake.
The first sailing vessel built on the south shore of Lake Erie
Buffalo, according to historians, was the sloop Washington, a
thirty-five ton vessel built at the mouth of Four Mile Creek by
Eliphpalet Beebe for the Pennsylvania Population Company.
Launched in September, 1798, she was used by the company for
years and removed on rollers across the "Niagara
Peninsula" to Lake
Ontario in 1810, where she was lost. Boat building was not
along the shore line except in Erie's sheltered bay.
In 1794 two British armed ships lay outside Erie harbor for some
a warning to the Americans not to occupy the lake shore region.
during the war year of 1813 when Perry'[s fleet was built in
harbor, ships from the British squadron several times surveyed
building activity. With the commanding view of the lake, both
west, it's not unlikely that first sitings were made from the
"Four Mile Creek rises in Green Township, runs through the
of Harbor Creek and enters the lake in the northeastern corner
Millcreek Township, after a course of eight miles," wrote
Beers in The
History of Erie County (1884). Now we know these places as
and Lawrence Park.
mcconnells Run crossed Station Road a little south of Gospel
joined Four Mile near the foot of the "great gully."
(behind Penn State
Behrend Campus - emphasis mine). The small creek was named after
emancipated slave named McConnell who built a cabin along its
The Wintergreen Gorge of Four Mile Creek extends about a half
of Wesleyville, gradually becoming shallower as it proceeds
length is six miles and varies in depth from 50 to 150 feet.
quantities of wintergreen (a small evergreen plant with a
oval leaves, flowers and red berries) grew all along the great
thus it was named. The Gorge is a delightful place to visit but
care must be taken getting into and out of it. Quite often
years careless hikers fall and suffer serious injury.
From the Gorge, Four Mile flows northward along Station Road,
Lawrence Park, past the east gate of the General Electric
through the Lawrence Park Golf Club property to the lake.
In 1798 the third (or fourth) saw mill in the country was built
Thomas Rees near the mouth of Four Mile on the Crowley farm. It
established to provide lumber for settlers on the lands of the
Pennsylvania Population Company. John Riblet, Sr., erected his
in 1802-03 a half mile south of Wesleyville.
The founder of Wesleyville, John Shattuck (or Shadduck), came to
County in 1795 with his parents and bought lakefront land in
Township in 1805. He held most of the land east of the present
Avenue and Station Road to Four Mile Creek. On the west branch
creek at Wesleyville he built his grist mill in 1823 and added a
mill two years later.
Demand for Lumber
After the end of the War of 1812 there was a desperate need for
lumber throughout the country and saw mills sprang up
stream that could provide power was used to drive one to a dozen
Erie County was still largely covered with forest and the
contained high water then. Cutting the timber eventually lowered
level in the streams and once available forests were stripped,
mills moved elsewhere, were used for other purposes or simply
The old Cooper Mill along Four Mile was once a famous landmark
north end of Wintergreen Gorge south of Wesleyville. William
built a saw mill here in 1815 and a grist mill in 1826. These
became the property of William Cooper, Sr., who rebuilt the
1850 only to have them burn to the ground on August 3, 1883.
The great flood of February, 1883, washed away nearly every mill
Erie County. This, along with shrinking forest, the replacement
water power with electricity, and easier land transportation
accounted for the demise of the mills along Four Mile Creek. But
names of the early mill owners are perpetuated in road names and
Wesleyville and Harborcreek.
"Waldameer East" (a local amusement park-emphasis
That probably best describes the Four Mile Creek area of the
The rapid waters of the Creek, essential for the mills, were not
conducive to pleasure boating and the spars lakeside beach did
invite swimming. As a fishing spot it was heavily used. The
view of the countryside and the unimpeded view of Erie Harbor
Peninsula made Four Mile a popular picnic area. When the
slowed and the stream mouth was channeled, it became even more
as a recreational.
In 1805 the road from Erie to Buffalo (Buffalo Road) was
Through the 1800's as the picnic areas expanded and the number
pleasure seekers grew, other amusement and recreation facilities
added and along with them were the game booths, hawkers,
entertainment rides (one who remembers tells about the Figure
there in later years), a dance hall, exhibition hall, hotel, and
and drinking halls. Down the road apiece, on Walbridge and
was the Fairgrounds and a large racetrack.
Let's say a word here about drinking. In the early days whiskey
common commodity and its use almost universal. Distilleries were
common as the grist mills became afterward, and a large share of
grain was converted into liquor. But a great temperance wave
country in the 1870's and distilleries rapidly disappeared.
Many farmers had their home stills and through the years it was
uncommon nor inappropriate to offer friends a swig of the
when they visited. or sneak one or two in the barn out of sight
temperate farmwife. Many of the cold medicines and other
the early century were heavily laced with alcohol.
It is said that around the turn of the century church picnics
usually held in the groves and parks of the west county since
"dry" while those in the east county were
"wet." Be that as it may, in
the Prohibition 1920's there was no objection to bringing in our
drinks to the Four Mile Dance Hall. according to one who did.
An electrical power station was built a Six Mile and the 1906
of the suburban and interurban trolley car system drew even
crowds to old Four Mile. Old postcards who the Four Mile
bluffs, dance hall, picnic areas and Exposition Hall.
Grove House Park & Recreational Expansion
(deals with recreation facilities at the mouth of Four Mile
Now, of course, Four Mile is known as the Lawrence Park Country
Lawrence Park Golf Course, General Electric Picnic Grove, and
Lawrence Park Fishing Club. The Creek was dammed to make a water
and provide for the water needs of the golf course.
When you leave No. 11 fairway and cross the footbridge to tee
off on 12,
you're walking the tracks of trolleys that brought Erie
Countians of a
few years ago to old Four Mile Creek which leaves one question:
Is "creek" pronounced "crick" or is it
Uncle Don, it depends on the flow for me. It's a
"crick" if it's a
small intermittent stream. A "creek" is a stream that
has a substantial
flow to it. Therefore, Four Mile Creek, is definitely a creek.