MJ Mead Bliley-1870

By Mary Jane Mead Bliley

As told by her on March 15, 1908, to Inez Charlotte Wagner, her granddaughter.

Edited and footnoted by Frank A. Bliley, her son, in 1942
Headings for the table of contents added and graphics updated by Charles A. Bliley in 1999


My Childhood in Brokenstraw, Warren County, Pennsylvania

I was born July 25, 1827, at Brokenstraw, Warren County, Pennsylvania. Brokenstraw is the district lying between Pittsfield and Youngsville and received its name from Brokenstraw Creek which was a small stream running eastwardly to Youngsville whence its course turned southeastwardly to Irvine, which is six miles from Warren, and flowed into the Allegheny River. On this stream were many sawmills, one having been about a mile from the (Darius) Mead farm and was combined saw and grist-mill. My grandfather, Darius Mead, and Joseph Mead, sons of Darius Mead, built the first grist-mill in Warren County where they settled in 1795. In February and March of each year men were busy making pine shingles and getting rafts of logs ready and then when the spring freshets came the rafts were floated down the creek to Youngsville and on until they came to the Allegheny River where the rafts were tied together and floated down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh and some even to Cincinnati on the Ohio River. After disposing of their shingles and rafts, the men walked back to their homes for, in those days, there were no other means of travel along those routes, excepting, perhaps, an occasional stage-coach, but, if so, the men walked anyway as the majority did not feel able to pay the fares. My stepfather, William Edson, made these trips but I was too young to remember whether my own Father, David Mead, did or not.

I was born in a log cabin which was built by my Father where he went to live when he was married (September 14, 1826, to my Mother, Elizabeth Bonnell). This cabin contained but one room and a small lean-to adjoining built of boards, which was used as a bedroom The cabin had a large fire-place built of stone. Here is a plan of the cabin which was small and practically square. It had two twelve paned windows--six panes in each sash.

Cabin Floor Plan

Cabin Floor Plan

It was about one eighth of a mile looking southwardly down the cross road to the main road (1) which was plainly visible from the cabin.

Cabin Location Map

Location of Cabin in Brokenstraw, Warren County, Pennsylvania

The cabin was built of pine logs with a roof of hand-made pine shingles. The woods thereabouts were mostly white pine with but few trees of other kinds. The cabin had a pine floor which was kept as white as could be. The chairs were splint bottom, hand-made and woven from elm bark, I think. There were six chairs and one small one for children. We did not have a clock or a watch but told time by the sun. We had a mark on the floor which at noon, the door being opened, was touched by the sun's rays. My mother had a mirror in a dark frame, the mirror being a small one in the lower part, the upper part being ornamented with a picture of flowers. This cabin was built for temporary use as my Father expected to build a better house, the logs for which were all ready and had been taken to the mill to be sawed, before his death at the age of twenty-nine years on March 19, 1833, when I was five years old. I, as I have said, and my two brothers, Willis (born December 31, 1826) and Jehu Dillon Mead (born October 14, 1832) were born here and I remember well when Willis and I slept together in the little trundle bed which was pulled out at night.

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My Father David Mead's Death

I recall very little of my own Father, but I remember once seeing him working with a drawshave in the little shingle-shanty and then of one day going down there alone thinking I would make a few shingles myself. I sat astride the shingle horse and proceeded to use the drawshave. In a few minutes I suffered a severe cut across my left forefinger, resulting in a slight scar which I have carried all my life. I also remember my Father in his last sickness. Early one morning my Mother arose and went to see Aunt Polly (wife of Philip Mead) to have them send for the doctor. While my Mother was done, my Father was seized with severe vomiting and told me to get a small vial of medicine which was hanging up on the other side of the room. I gave him the medicine and I recall seeing him in bed, but no more--not even his death. He was sick five days with pleurisy. Dr. Benjamin F. Parminter of Youngsville gave him medicine. He was very sick and the doctor said the medicine would either kill or cure him. My Uncle Darius and Aunt Betsy (Elizabeth Littlefield), brother and sister of my father, always said the doctor killed him.

He was buried at Youngsville but no stone marked his grave. In recent years, due to neglect, the location of the burying ground has been lost; however it is within the western limits of the town.

Homer Littlefield, of Painsville, Ohio, (who died June 20, 1919) said no bodies were ever removed from this grave yard. This burial plot was a portion of a farm which was later sold. Then the owner caring nothing for the grave yard farmed right over it.

My father, David Mead, was a rather short and slim man. He had medium light hair and blue eyes. He had a good disposition. There is no picture of him.

Pittsfield at that time was scarcely a village, but Youngsville was quite a town. My Father's farm contained eight-eight acres, mostly timber land, only some twenty acres having been cleared. Very little, if any, of the farm produce was sold, but timber was sold as a source of income.

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The Move to Erie County to Live with Relatives

Immediately after the death of my Father, my Mother, taking her three small children, came to Erie County, Pennsylvania, to live with her parents, Thomas and Eve (Coover) Bonnell. The brick house in which they lived on the Colt's Station Road in Harborcreek Township (2) about two miles southeastwardly from Wesleyville had just been completed about two years. (3) The old log cabin, near the cherry tree just south of the new brick house, out of which cabin, they had moved still stood, so after a short time my Mother moved into the old log house and remained there about two years. Becoming homesick my Mother decided to go back to Brokenstraw and live upon the farm which my Father had owned. Here Stephen Littlefield (he was the husband of David Mead's sister, Elizabeth, called Aunt Betsy) erected the house for her which my Father had intended to build, using lumber from the logs which had been taken to the mill as I have mentioned. The house as constructed was not as large nor as well built as Father had planned. It was not plastered but only ceiled inside with boards and, therefore, was not a very warm house. In it there were a living room which contained a stone fire-place very nicely built, a tiny kitchen, a small bedroom downstairs in which I slept, and one upstairs chamber in which (brother) Willie slept. Mother and my little brother, Jehu, slept in the big living room. I recall the house as being a pleasant one. The first stove we ever owned was in the kitchen. It was small with a tiny bake oven in the center and fire at one end. We could cook at both ends of the stove. The oven was only large enough to hold one loaf of bread.

Stove Elevations

Cabin's Wood Stove Elevations


When we were living in the old log house while the new house was being built, a flood came. In the middle of the night my Mother awoke and saw the water come up to the door. She watched and saw the water begin to fall so we did not have to get out. In the morning Harrison Coover (Mother's cousin) came in a canoe to see if we were safe. The house was on a side hill and we could have gone up this gently sloping hill.

Before my Mother's second marriage I recall the way she started a fire. Sometimes the fire would go out in the fire-place, then in the cold winter morning she would sit up in bed and strike a piece of iron on flint thus producing a spark to ignite punk which was very dry decayed wood. To this she touched a brimstone match and with the blaze lighted a candle and then with the lighted candle started her fire. Aunt Betsy (Elizabeth) Littlefield taught her how to make this match. It was a splinter of wood dipped in sulphur or brimstone as it was commonly called.

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Mother Remarries to William Edson

In February, 1835, my Mother married William Edson. He, also, had previously been married and had one son (Findley Edson, of Falconer, N.Y.) whom his mother, the child's grandmother, raised. My stepfather and Mother moved to his first wife's home farm at Jamestown, N.Y. In February he built rafts to float the lumber down the creek and river and while thus engaged, contracted rheumatism. From this affliction he suffered so greatly, he gave up the work and in three months' time we all moved back to my Mother's home farm, a part of the Mead farm. A year from the spring after the marriage of my stepfather and Mother hard times came and in the spring just before the timber could be floated and sold I remember when there was nothing in the house to eat, except potatoes and salt. My stepfather went out and got corn-meal and meat whereupon Mother made drop dumplings from the meal cooked with the meat. I never forgot how good it tasted. My stepfather worked this, my Mother's home farm for two years, but wanting a farm of his own, he bought one a mile and a half north of the Mead farm. There he built a house similar to the one on the Mead farm and a log barn and also set out an orchard. We lived there two years then, being more naturally a carpenter and mill-hand and people at the mill wanting him, he gave up the farm and moved in the "Little Creek" (little Brokenstraw) valley which extends up to Wrightsville and Lottsville. Here we lived in a small settlement for two years, then we moved back to Mother's home (part of the Mead farm) for about three years. Then in the spring three hard frosts came about June 12th and ruined all the crops. My stepfather became discouraged so we packed up and came to Harborcreek Township, Erie County. We came and lived with Thomas Bonnell, Mother's father, from June until November. In the meantime my stepfather built a house on a tract of land of sixty acres (4) which was owned by my grandfather, Thomas Bonnell. He let my stepfather have the produce and use of the farm which was situated across Jordan's gulf, that is, on the road running past the George Bonnell farm just over the hill and across the valley. (5) We lived there about five years and it is where I lived when I was married. Later my stepfather bought (or arranged to buy) a farm in the "beech woods" east of the Dutch (Kuhl) Road in Greene Township. (6) Here he lived a little more than a year when he died on May 8th, 1850, and was buried in the Gospel Hill graveyard, Harborcreek Township. He died of blood poisoning caused by getting a sliver in his finger while working in the sugar bush.

With only slight recollections of my own Father, my step-father (William Edson) was really the only father I ever knew. He was always as kind to me as an own father could be.

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Life After My Stepfather's Death

After my stepfather's death, my brother, Jehu, worked that farm (east of the Kuhl road in Greene Township) and then they (Mother, brother, Willis and Jehu) moved to the Basha (7) place which was a tract of fourteen acres purchased by Charles (Bliley) (8) and which had a log cabin on it. It was right back of, and in the rear of, Charles (Bliley) house. Here Mother lived until Brother Willis in 1856, using money received from the sale of his share of our Father's farm in Brokenstraw Township, Warren County, bought this place (9) where my stepfather lived at the time of his death. Then Brother Willis and I signed over moneys from the sale of the farm in Warren County inherited by us to brother, Jehu, to have him buy and live on the place in Green Township and take care of his and our Mother. (10)

In 1866(?) Jehu with his family left this farm and moved to the J. or A. Saltsman farm (11): After several years, they moved from this farm to the Rovert H. Henry farm (12). While living there my Mother died. She had had a sick spell, but recovered sufficiently to come to my daughter, Barbara's wedding which was on Thursday evening, February 26th, 1880. Here she remained until Saturday when she was taken back to Brother Jehu's home. On Sunday morning following she had a stroke and never spoke again, or seemed to recognize any one. She lived nine days, died March 8, 1880, and was buried in the Gospel Hill graveyard. Later brother, Jehu, moved on to a farm on the Kuhl road (13) which he had previously purchased. Brother Willis married Lodema Smith February 24th, 1857, and immediately went to Iowa where he purchased a farm. He went there because he knew the Dave Baemers (Bahamer-Bahmer) who had lived here and had located there. He (Willis) wanted to go west so he chose the same place.

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Courtship of Charles Bliley

My first recollection of Charles Bliley (whom I was later to marry) was at a "paring bee" at Sidney Sewell's who lived on a farm (14) on the Colt Station road. Here he was introduced to me, but I didn't give him a second thought. Later he told me that he had noticed me and that if he had not brought his sister, Ellen Deer, with him, he would have taken me home that night. I did not see him again until the next summer when pears were ripe. He and Dave Baemer stopped to see my stepfather, presumably, and I talked with him only a little when he gave me two pears. This was on Sunday. Then I saw him again in about March when he called to see my stepfather on business concerning some sheep. I sat spinning flax as he talked with my stepfather. He was there only a few minutes and I only spoke to him. He was more like a stranger so I did not pay much attention to him. During the same month I went over to Norton Sewell's (15) to see Mary Hinton. We two girls decided to go up to the school house to hear a German Lutheran preacher. Here Charles appeared. He knew May Hinton well as they were neighbors, so after the church services, he walked down the road with us two girls. His home was immediately south of Norton Sewell's. This was the first time I knew where he lived. When we got to his home, he invited us in but, of course, I declined. Whereupon he said "I'll go where you go if you'll let me." I replied "all right" and later in the evening he dressed and came down and spent the evening with me at Norton Sewell's. The next week he came to call at my home and then came regularly every two weeks and later every week.

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Marriage to Charles Bliley

On June 8th, 1847, we were married. He was the only young man my Mother would allow to come to see me. Both my stepfather and my Mother liked Charles. My stepfather knew the Bliley family and knew they were honest and upright so they were willing. Willis, my brother, gave me the money for my wedding clothes which I, myself, made. I wore a light pink and white dress with a little lace fichu at my neck and a leghorn bonnet which came down on the sides with clusters of pink and white flowers over my ears, the bonnet being tied with a bow under my chin. We were married in St. Mary's Church on East 9th Street, Erie, Pa. Brother Willis took Charles' sister, Mary in an open buggy and Charles took me with another horse and open buggy. We drove right to Anthony Mehl's house on the south side of Ninth Street near the church and then were married. Our wedding breakfast was at the home of Barbara Mehl, who was a sister of Charles Bliley, and wife of Anthony Mehl. The family of Barbara Mehl, her husband, Anthony, daughter, Josephine, and sons, Charles and John, were present (Frances Mehl, wife of Victor Knapp of Rochester, N.Y., was not yet born). There was a nice breakfast and a wedding cake. Later we drove home, that is to my stepfather, Edson's home (16). Cynthia Bonnell (wife of John Bonnell) came to prepare our dinner. Charles' mother, Mary, sister of Charles, Willis and Jehu, my brothers and Isabel, my half sister (later wife of Washington Bonnell) were all present and remained until evening. We (Charles and I) stayed here until the next afternoon when we went to Charles' home on the Kuhl road where his mother gave an infare to about twenty young people. We went to house-keeping immediately in the log house, while men came at once to build the new home which was ready for us to move into by autumn. This house still stands on the Kuhl road about a mile south of the Colt Station Road (17). Charles' mother, Catherine, and Charles' nephew, Charlie Wilson (son of Ellen Bliley-Wilson-Deer) lived with us. Charles' mother took Charlie Wilson when he was two years old. He was eight years old at the time of my marriage. He was a very good boy and kind to me. We raised him. When he was twenty years old he went to Renick, Missouri, and spent six months with his mother, Ellen Deer. Then he went to Iowa to the Dave Baemers and worked about three years when he enlisted in the Civil War. He was in the war something less than one year when he was stricken with fever and died. He was buried in New Orleans. We were grieved to learn of his death.

All of my children excepting Frank and Ross were born on this farm on the Kuhl road.

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Spinning Wool for Clothes and Household Goods

Every year for several years after I was married I spun wool to make flannel for the children's dresses, and doubled, twisted and colored yarn for all of their stockings.. We raised our own sheep, took the wool to the mills to be carded then brought it home to make yarn and spin it for flannel. The flannel was made by weavers. Charles' mother knit all the stockings. She always helped to care for the children and wash the dishes, but did not do any sewing. Each year we raised and spun flax to make towels and table cloths which were woven at the weavers. Before I was married my stepfather raised flax. I pulled it, but he laid it on the grass and bleached it, then broke and swingled it. I hetcheled and spun it. My grandmother, Eve Coover Bonnell, wove it, making a table cloth. This was my first table cloth after my marriage. I still have some pieces of it.

When I was first married I made a yarn carpet, that was about 1855. I spun the wool, doubled and twisted it and then weavers wove it into a carpet which we put in the parlor. The woolen warp was two threaded while the filling was rags.

I cannot remember when I did not spin, but the first time when I spun any great amount I was staying at Anna Chaffee's (Brokenstraw Township, Warren County) who had a girl there named Sally Wright (spinster) who was spinning all day for her, so I helped. Forty knots or two runs was considered a good day's work. Forty threads, that is, forty revolution of the reel make a knot: ten knots made a skein. This was spinning wool. The process was about like this: In June when the sheep had been sheared, after being washed, the fleeces were picked (to pieces) and sent to the woolen mill and there carded and made into rolls, which were about three quarters of a yard long and as large around as one's finger. These rolls were spun into yarn. The wool was long and the rolls could be pulled out more or less in order to have the yarn fine or heavy. Out of this yarn stocking, mittens, etc. were knitted. Part of the yarn was used to make cloth. It was spun the same as the other yarn. Then, if it was to be made into plaids or colors, it was colored at home after the yarn was spun and then taken to the factory and woven into cloth. My daughters, Barbara and Josephine, wore home-made woolen dresses until they were about fourteen years old.

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Flowers to Brighten the House

My recollection of my first flower bed was on my own Father's farm (in Brokenstraw Township, Warren County) when I was a girl of nine or ten. My stepfather gave me a little spot in the garden where I made the flower bed. The soil was not so very good-- a thin yellow soil-- but I then knew nothing about rich or poor soil. My Aunty Betsy Littlefield, who had a fondness for flowers, gave me the seed. My first flowers were bavhelor buttons and marigolds. After that I always had a flower bed wherever I lived.

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Finances and a New Home on Colt's Station Road

All of Charles' money from the time he was fourteen years of age until he was twenty-one was given to his mother. After that he saved enough to build his first house at the time of our marriage (1847) when he also owned oxen, a horse and buggy and some farm implements.

When we were married Charles bought his father's farm (of forty acres on the Kuhl road) and later paid off the heirs (18). A few years after our marriage I received Fifty Dollars, part of my share from the sale of my Father's farm (in Warren County). This I gave to Charles to help pay for the place. Charles paid his sisters, Ellen, Mary, Barbara and his brother, Andrew, Fifty Dollars each for their interest in the 40 acres and at the same time agreed to, and did, support and maintain his mother during her natural life. She died at the age of ninety-six years. I remember our taking Fifty Dollars in silver dollars to Westfield, New York, to pay to Ellen Deer. Our son, Alexander, then about two years old, was with us and played with the money on the floor all day at Ellen's house.

Charles also bought the "Basha" (Sabastian Mang) place of fourteen acres in 1849, for $238.00 (19). Later the Francis Purtia place of thirty-nine acres in 1858 for $200.00 (20), and then a piece of timber land of sixty acres in 1860 for $330.00 (21). All of this land was sold excepting the sixty acres when he bought, and we moved to the May farm on the Colt's Station road in 1865.

Charles made money quite fast for a few years during the Civil War. Barley sold for $3.00 per bushel, hay $25.00 per ton, grass seed, $13.00 per bushel. Everything was high at the close of the war.

One day in the summer of 1864, I went out in the wheat field on the farm on the Kuhl road to see Charles when he told me that after he had gotten through shocking his wheat and had gotten his fall's work done he would go west to buy a farm. I felt badly but said nothing. Accordingly in September he went west and was gone a month or six weeks looking at farms in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. He selected a farm in Michigan. He also visited the Baemers in Iowa. When he came home he advertised his farm for sale and sold it in February, 1865 to J.A. Sawtell on a Monday. The next day, Tuesday, Charles heard the May farm on the Colt Station road (22) was for sale and so suddenly he changed his mind about going west and the following day bought the May farm for $7731.00 Early in March, 1865, we moved from the farm on the Kuhl road to the May farm (sometimes called the Grace farm) on the Colt Station road, one mile southwardly from Wesleyville. Charles built the brick house on this farm in 1875. And the same year he visited the Centennial at Philadelphia and also went to New York City. ( Photo of existing house)

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Travels for Pleasure

In 1883 we (Charles and I) took a trip purely for pleasure. We went to Buffalo and there took a steamer up the great Lakes to Chicago. Here we took a train to Renick, Randolph County, Missouri to visit his sister, Ellen Deer. Then we went to Hannibal, Missouri, on the Mississippi River. Leaving Hannibal by boat at 9 A.M. we arrived at Dubuque, Iowa, at 9 A.M. the next morning. There we took a train to West Union, Fayette Co, Iowa, and stayed two weeks visiting the Dave Baemer's. They drove us to Elma, Howard Co., fifty-two miles in one day. We staid there two weeks visiting my brother Willis Mead, and then he drove us back to West Union. Remaining here a day or two, we then went to Chicago and visited Edward Rastatter for four days during which time we attended a large fair. Next we went to visit Henry Wilson at Battle Creek, Michigan, staying about four days. From Battle Creek we came directly home, excepting a stop in Cleveland. We were gone two months and had a most delightful trip.

Retirement in Wesleyville, Erie, County, Pennsylvania

In 1892 we gave up farm life and retired to Wesleyville, Pa., where Charles bought a house and lot for $1300.00. After one year on April 7, 1892, this house burned to the ground (there was no insurance). He immediately rebuilt on the old foundation a new house which cost $1500.00. Here we lived in peace and contentment. (23)

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Personal Possessions in Family Hands

The old brown rocking chair (now 1942) in the possession of Frank A. Bliley) was bought by Charles Bliley in 1849 from Jake (Jacob) Hoyer, a neighbor on the Kuhl Road, who afterwards moved to Iowa. He made the chair. At the same time Charles also bought six straight back chairs and a high chair.

Charles' chest or trunk, with a rope handle on each end and used by him when he was a sailor on the lakes (now, 1942, in the possession of Frank A. Bliley) was made by Mr. Wilson, first husband of his sister Ellen. It was made about 1840.

Charles Bliley's arm chair (now, 1942, in the possession of Ross A. Bliley's family, at Cleveland, Ohio) was purchased by him at a venue at the Tuttle school, four corners intersection of the Colt's Station Road and the Kuhl Road about 1858.

Charles' big arm rocking chair, the light oak one, was purchased as a surprise for him by me in 1875, the year we moved into the new brick house on the farm on the Colt's Station road.

My rocking chair, with the small arms, was purchased about 1877.

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(1) That "main road" is near and runs along present Route 6

(2) Part of Tract No. 232

(3) Therefore, the brick house was built 1831. It is still in good condition and has always been and is now, 1942, occupied as a dwelling.

(4) A part of Tract No. 231 in Harborcreek Township.

(5) "Gulf" so called, this is the road running north and south through the western part of Tract No. 231, as appears on the map of Harborcreek Township in the Atlas of Erie County published in 1876.

(6) A part of Tract Nos. 209 and 210 on the Map of Greene Twp.

(7) The name "Basha" is evidently a nick-name given to Sabastian Mang. The Tax Duplicates in the files of the Erie County Court House show that the Fourteen acres mentioned were assessed in 1841 to Basha Mang; in 1842 to Bosha Mang, in 1843 to Basha Mang, in 1844 to Sabastian Mang and in 1848 to Sebastian Mang.

(8) Purchased from Sabastian Mang on March 10, 1849, see Erie County Deed Book 20, page 497.

(9) In Greene Twp. in Tracts 209 and 210. See Erie Co. Deed Book 6, at page 225 and 226.

(10) The farm was deeded to Jehu Mead March 25, 1857, see Erie Co. Deed Book 19, page 812. The Warren County farm sold for $775.00. See records in the Orphans' Court of Erie County to No. 22, August Term, 1849 - No. 27269.

(11) Now, 1942, a part of the Ernest R. Behrend Estate in Harborcreek Twp. Tract No. 241.

(12) In Harborcreek Twp. Tract No. 243.

(13) Being in Tract No. 211, Harborcreek Twp.

(14) A part of tract No. 212, Harborcreek Twp.

(15) Who lived on a farm in Tract No. 231, Harborcreek Twp. on the west side of Kuhl Rd.

(16) On Tract No. 231 Harborcreek Twp.

(17) On Tract No. 231 adjacent to the south line of Harborcreek Twp.

(18) See records to No. 49, May Term, 1867, in the Orphans' Court of Erie County, and Erie County Deed Book 29, pages 504 and 507. Andrew Bliley, father of Charles Bliley, died February, 1835.

(19) See Erie County Deed Book 20, page 497. This was an undivided part of the farm deed to Charles' father and Sabastian Mang, November 27, 1834. See Erie Co. Deed Book 1, page 216.

(20) See Erie Co. Deed Book 4, page 748.

(21) See Erie Co. Deed Book 15, page 616.

(22) In Tract No. 242, Harborcreek Twp.

(23) Charles Bliley died November 15, 1906. Mary Jane Mead Bliley died May 24, 1913.

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Coover and Mead Family Information

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