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Erie (City), Pennsylvania

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Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in the city of Erie, Pennsylvania.

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History

Indigenous peoples occupied the shoreline and bluffs in this area for thousands of years, taking advantage of the rich resources. The Sommerheim Park Archaeological District in Millcreek Township, Pennsylvania west of the city, includes artifacts from the Archaic period in the Americas, as well as from the Early and Middle Woodland Period, roughly a span from 8,000 BC to 500 AD.

The historic Iroquoian-speaking Erie Nation occupied this area before being defeated by the five nations of the Iroquois Confederacy in the 17th century during the Beaver Wars. The Iroquois tribes had developed and five nations formed a political league in the 1500s, adding their sixth nation in the early 18th century. The Erie area became controlled by the Seneca, "keeper of the western door" of the Iroquois, who were largely based in present-day New York.

Europeans first arrived as settlers in the region when the French constructed Fort Presque Isle near present-day Erie in 1753, as part of their effort to defend New France against the encroaching British colonists. The name of the fort refers to the peninsula that juts into Lake Erie, now protected as Presque Isle State Park. The French term "presque-isle" means peninsula (literally, "almost an island"). When the French abandoned the fort in 1760 during the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War), it was the last post they held west of Niagara. The British established a garrison at the fort at Presque Isle that same year, three years before the end of the French and Indian War.

Erie is in what was the disputed Erie Triangle, a tract of land comprising 202,187 acres in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania fronting Lake Erie that was claimed after the American Revolutionary War by the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut (as part of its Western Reserve), and Massachusetts. The Iroquois claimed ownership first so a conference was arranged for on January 9, 1789 wherein representatives from the Iroquois signed a deed relinquishing their ownership of the land. The price for it was $2,000 from Pennsylvania and $1,200 from the federal government. The Seneca Nation separately settled land claims against Pennsylvania in February 1791 for the sum of $800. It became a part of Pennsylvania on March 3, 1792, after Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York relinquished their rights to the land and sold the land to Pennsylvania for 75 cents per acre or a total of $151,640.25 in continental certificates.

The General Assembly of Pennsylvania commissioned the surveying of land near Presque Isle through an act passed on April 18, 1795. Andrew Ellicott, who completed Pierre Charles L'Enfant's survey of Washington, D.C. and helped resolve the boundary between Pennsylvania and New York, arrived to begin the survey and lay out the plan for the city in June 1795. Initial settlement of the area began that year. Lt. Colonel Seth Reed and his family moved to the Erie area from Geneva, New York; they were Yankees from Uxbridge, Massachusetts. They became the first European-American settlers of Erie, settling at what became known as "Presque Isle".

President James Madison began the construction of a naval fleet during the War of 1812 to gain control of the Great Lakes from the British. Daniel Dobbins of Erie and Noah Brown of Boston were notable shipbuilders who led construction of four schooner−rigged gunboats and two brigs. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry arrived from Rhode Island and led the squadron to success in the historic Battle of Lake Erie.

Erie was an important shipbuilding, fishing, and railroad hub during the mid-19th century. The city was the site where three sets of track gauges met. While the delays engendered cargo troubles for commerce and travel, they provided much-needed local jobs in Erie. When a national standardized gauge was proposed, those jobs, and the importance of the rail hub itself, were put in jeopardy. In an event known as the Erie Gauge War, the citizens of Erie, led by the mayor, set fire to bridges, ripped up track and rioted to try to stop the standardization.

On August 3, 1915, the Mill Creek (Lake Erie) flooded downtown Erie. A culvert, or a tunnel, was blocked by debris, and collapsed. A four-block reservoir, caused by torrential downpours, had formed behind it. The resulting deluge destroyed 225 houses and killed 36 people. After the flood, Mayor Miles Brown Kitts had the Mill Creek directed into another larger culvert, constructed under more than 2 miles of city, before emptying into Presque Isle Bay on the city's lower east side.

Downtown Erie continued to grow for most of the 20th century, based on its manufacturing base. It attracted numerous waves of European immigrants for industrial jobs. Erie's economy began to suffer in the latter part of the 20th century as industrial restructuring took place and jobs moved out of the area; it was considered part of the Rust Belt. The importance of American manufacturing, US steel and coal production, and commercial fishing began to gradually decline.

With the advent of the automobile age after World War II and government subsidies for highway construction, thousands of residents left Erie for suburbs such as Millcreek Township, which now has 55,000 residents. This caused a decline in retail businesses, some of which followed to the suburbs. Reflecting this perceived decline, Erie is occasionally referred to by residents as "The Mistake on the Lake" or "Dreary Erie".

Erie won the All-America City Award in 1972, and was a finalist in 1961, 1994, 1995 and 2009.

Erie is the county seat of Erie County and the largest city in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Erie is known as the "Flagship City" because of its status as the home port of Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship Niagara.

Links

Wikipedia

USS Niagara (1813)

Battle of Lake Erie

Fort Presque Isle

Erie Gauge War