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History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania online

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spring freshet and watched for hours the rafts and arks sweeping out of the Conhoc-
ton and Tioga rivers, their rollicking stalwart crews, stripped to the shirt, neck and
bosoms bare, with stout arms, when the pilot shouted, "Right! Left! Jump to the work,"
raising the large oars to the utmost, force them through the resisting flood with a will,
then lower them and with a run carry them back ready for another stroke. So they
fly from side to side, with brief breathing spells, like cannoners in an engagement.

The ice had gone in March, 1838, and the judge was at Painted Post when the
opportunity presented itself for him to take advantage of the ambition of his life.
He was employed to assist in running a raft to the bay as a 'light hand," at five shil-
lings per day and "found." The first place they passed was Xewtown, now Elmira,
and they landed si.x miles below at Hogback, where Sullivan had a battle with the
Indians and Tories in 1779. He made the journey to the point of destination and
returned, and gave a very interesting account of what he saw and learned, not
omitting "a peep" at the legislature which was then in sesion at Harrisburg.

ALONG THE COWANESQUE HIA'ER.

In 1804 Eddy Howland built a saw-miU on the Cowanesque above Knoxville,
and soon afterward Emmer Bowen and Ebenezer Seelye built one near Academy
Corners. In 1811 Bethlehem Thompson erected a grist-mill a mile above Knoxville,
tht- water being taken from Inscho run, and conducted to the mill in long continu-
ous troughs hewed out of pine logs. This mill was operated about ten years. The
first grist-mill at Wcstfield was built by AjTes Tuttle previous to 1812. It appears
on the assessment list of that year. A grist-mill was erected at Beecher's Island or
Nelson about 1810 by John, Thomas and Hopestill Beecher, pioneer settlers there.

In 1815 a distillery was built by Joshua Colvin at a large spring near Academy
Comers. He brought the still and other apparatus from Herkimer county, Xew
York. Rye and com were used exclusively. The rate of exchange was six quarts of
whiskey for one bushel of rye or com. Sometime in 1818 John Knox bought Col-
vin's apparatus and started a distillery at the Strawbridge spring, a short distance



^-^2 HISTOET OF TIOGA COUNTY.



east of Academy Corners, and carried it on about five years. At this manufactory
whiskey was made from corn, rye and potatoes. The product of both distilleries
was sold at home.

PIONEBE MILLS ON PINE CEEEK.

The first mills on Pine creek north of the Lycoming county line were built
between 1812 and 1815. One of these was erected about a mile and a half above
Ansonia, in Shippen township, by Eichard Ellis. Other early mill owners in this
township were Asaph Ellis, who built a grist-mill; Eeuben Herrington and Eichard
Phillips, who built and operated saw-mills. The pioneer saw-mill in Gaines town-
.ship was erected at Gaines about 1815, by John Smith, on Long run. Capt.
John Phoenix built a mill in 1817 near the mouth of Phoenix run. The first grist-
mill in the township was erected at Furmantown before 1830, by Aaron Furman.
It was a hand mill and was later replaced by one run by water power. Mr. Furman
also built a saw-mill which he afterwards sold to Col. Dudley Hewitt. All or nearly
:all of these early mills were washed away in the flood of 1833, which either greatly
crippled or utterly ruined financially those who were engaged in lumbering opera-
tions in the Pine Creek valley.

It is needless to go into a detailed history of all the mills erected in those earUer
jears in the different parts of the county. They have received adequate mention
in the township chapters. They were all water mills and were equipped with the
machinery then in use. Many of them could cut no more than 1,000 feet of lumber
in twelve hours, and their output was consequently insignificant compared with that
of even a small mill of the present. Much of the timber was simply squared and was
floated down the stream in that form, many deeming it a less risky and more profit-
able way of handling it.

AN EEA OE EAPID DEVELOPMENT.

The early settlers in the Pine Creek valley about and above Ansonia were lum-
bermen rather than farmers. Pine creek was their highway to and from Jersey
Shore,* the trips being made in canoes, constructed out of heavy pine trees, or in
rude flat boats. When there began to be a demand for lumber the settlers scattered
•along the creek saw their opportunity and commenced manufacturing. The pine
in this section of the county was of a superior quality, and made better' lumber than
■can be obtained to-day. Mills sprung up rapidly and a new impetus was given to the
business when the construction of the canal was commenced up the "West Branch of
the Susquehanna. By the year 1832 large investments had been made in timber
lands along Pine creek and in the erection of saw-mills. Lumbermen came from the
State of New York, as well as from Lycoming county, Pennsylvania, and engaged
in the business. The flood of 1833, already referred to, proved disastrous to the
growing enterprises, and its effects were felt for a long time. The field was, however,
-too iaviting and it was not long before business rallied, and the woods swarmed
with lumbermen, while the valley resounded to the chorus of many mills.

In 1829 Leonard Pfoutz erected a saw-mill and a grist-mill at Manchester,
below Ansonia. In 1831 John Daily and John Beecher bought out Eeuben Her-
- rington, who was known as a very stirring man. About this time John Mathers

* Pine creek was declared a public highway by the legislature, March 16, 1798.




/ y



IXDUSTBIAL DEVELOPMENT. 113



erected a saw-mill near the Gaines township hne. This mill was aftenvard operated
by Mathers & Scoville and then by John ilathers & Company, and after 1845 by
Jesse Locke. Leonard Pfoutz sold his mills to Stowell & Dickinson, who, in 1833,
were operating two saw-mills. In 1834 they were running four saw-mills and a
grist-mill, and were cutting about 5,000,000 feet of liunber annually, which was
floated down the stream to the river.

Hezekiah Stowell, the head of the firm, was a native of Chenango county, Ntw
York, where he was bom in 1796. He came to Wellsboro, Tioga county, in 1833,
young, vigorous and ambitious, and, associating himself with Peter Dickinson, they
commenced lumbering on an extensive scale. In 1835 Mr. Stowell took up his
residence at Pine Creek, now Ansonia, and continued to live tlurt- until 18.51. The
firm was active and progressive. They ran as high as 100 board rafts down Pine
creek in a season, or when the water was favorable, and gave employment to 5i»0 men.
No greater firm carried on lumbering in the coimty in those days. Tliiv i)urclia8ed
35,000 acres of timber land and laid tlie baais for an cimrmous business. But owing
to losses they became commercially crippled and their land and property suh-
sequently passed into the hands of I'lulps, Dodge & ('(Jinpany, :uid that firm pre-
pared to operate the mills on a more txtensive scale than the former owners. Tlie
Manchester mills, as they were named, came to Ijt' re;;arde(l as the eenter of a large
business. The little village of Ansonia, named for .Vnsoii (I. Phel]>s. head of the
firm, grew up at the point where Marsh creek unites with Pine creek, and it ^till
retains the name.

After the new firm beenme the owners of the propiTty, Mr. Stowell mana^'ed the
business for them until 1M.51. He then retired to I»elmar township, wlnri' he Imd
purchased 1,200 acres of land, settled upon it and in course of time eleared a farm
of COO acres. There he resided until his death, wliieli occurred Deeemlurr ■•i<l, 1ST4.

Jlr. Stowell was sueeeeded as manager by E. H. Campbell, who continued to
.serve the great firm in that eaiiiuity until his death at Williamsport, July 1". , istto.

Owing to the danger and uncertainty of running the manufactured lumber
down I'ine erei'k, the firm decided that it would be better to float the logs down the
stream, secure them in a boom or harbor, and manufacture them at a point near tlie
river. Tlie Mancliester mills thenfore \\ere abandoned, and what was known as
Phelps mills were built on Pine creek, in Clinton county, near the junction of the
Fall Brook and Beech (^reek railroads. These mills were operated on an extensive
scale until is;i, when they wire dismantled and removed to Williamsport, wh' re
still better advantages wt've seciired for the manufacture of lumber. Sian cly a
vestige now remains to mark the sites of the Slanchester and Phelps mills, on Pine
creek. All the jiarties who were active in conducting these great mills are now de-
censed, including the old memliers of the firm, and new men have taken their places.
During the thirty-six years that these mills were operated on Pine creek, they manu-
factured and sent to market hundreds of millions of feet of lumber, the f.Teater part
of which was a superior quality and commanded the highest price. But the stock
oT timber is now exhausted and the buzz of the busy saws is no longer heard where
these ^M'eat Pine creek mills onct' stood.

In 18iU the firm was incorporated under the name of the Pennsyhania Joint

A



114 HISTOHY OF TIOGA COUNTY.



Land and Lumber Company, and Gen. Jerome B. ISTiles, of Wellsboro, became its
resident representative, a position he still holds. The company yet owns large
bodies of land in Delmar and Shippen townships.

Peter Dickinson, the partner of Hezekiah Stowell, was a native of Bainbridge,
New York. He was born May 1, 1797, and died January 11, 1879, and is buried in
Wellsboro Cemetery. A younger brother, Samuel Dickinson, born July 33, 1805,
died March 10, 1886, and is buried in the same lot. Both of these brothers were
pioneer lumbermen, and are well remembered by the older lumbermen yet living.
John Dickinson was a brother of Peter and Samuel.

Soon after Phelps, Dodge & Company became the owners of the Stowell &
Dickinson property, Mr. Dickinson was sent to Baltimore to manage the interest of
the new firm in that city, as that was the market to which they shipped their lum-
ber. He did not remain very long there, for in a few years we find him back on
the Susquehanna conducting a mill near Lock Haven. He was a man of "large
expectations," but never realized what he so fondly cherished.

His younger brother, Samuel, was wiser. He came to Wellsboro in 1833,
built a storehouse, stocked it with goods and did a large business. The storehouse
was the building in which Chester and John L. Robinson — ^who purchased it —
afterwards carried on business and later opened the bank, where the great robbery
occurred in 1874. The old building is now used for a carpenter shop.

Silas Billings, an early settler and mill-owner and lumberman at Knoxville,
made an investment in mills and lands in Gaines township about the time that
Stowell & Dickinson began operations at Manchester, and soon became a leader
among the lumbermen of the Pine Creek valley. In 1831 he purchased the John
Benn mill property at Gaines, and within a few years was operating on an extensive
scale, having added to his Gaines township lands large bodies of pine and hemlock
lands in Elk township. During the later years of his life and after his death his ex-
tensive business enterprises were managed by his son, Silas X. Billings, who soon
became the leading lumberman of the county. He operated on a large scale, and
through the exercise of good Judgment and an intelligent oversight of his afEairs
was notably successful. Among the other prominent operators in this township were
John L. Phoenix, Col. Dudley Hewitt, Stephen and Simeon Babcock and David
Eexford.

HISKS AND CHARMS OP THE BUSINESS.

Pew, if any, of the early lumbermen made any money at the business. The
owners of small mills scarcely realized as much from them as a good farmer would
now make on a twenty-acre farm. But lumber was about the only thing that
brought any ready money into the county, and the timber had to be cleared away
before the land could be cultivated. Farming, at least, in the western part of the
coimty, was at a low ebb, none making more than enough to eke out a scanty living
for a family. Men, women and children had to live, and to live decently had to have
clothing, and to live at all had to have something to eat, and the men especially had
to have something to drink. They could raise a little rye, which was changed into
whisky at the distillery in Wellsboro; but tea and coffee and spices and cotton they
could not raise, and the only business that furnished the money to buy these neces-
saries was lumbering.



IXDUSTKIAL DEVELOPMENT. 115

It is hard to tell whether it was sawed lumber or squared timber that brought
most money back to the creek settlement; and what did come generally went to
Wellsboro to pay store bills contracted during the lumbering season, never for a
moment forgetting the little stone distillery across the creek in that town. Pay
day was always "after rafting," and it was generally futile and very unpopular to
attempt to collect a debt till after the spring floods had floated the lumber to market
and its diminishing price had been brought back.

With all the hard work and drawbacks of those days, lumbering on Pine creek
had its charms. With the hardy, rugged lumbermen it made little difference
whether he slept on a board, hemlock boughs, or a feather bed. Most of them pre-
ferred the former.

THE TANXI.Nd INDUSTRY.

The assessment list of 1812 shows that two tanyards, one assessed to William
Baker and the other to Ebenezer Jackson, were then in operation in Tioga township.
As the different townships settled up local tanyards were established and the tanning
of leather, for home use, became one of the recognized industries of the county. In
time some of these local enterprises began to tan for shipment, and in this way ex-
tended the industry. The presence of vast forests of hemlock, promising an almost
inexhaustible supply of hemlock bark, essential in the tanning of leather, invited
a larger investment of capital, and led to (lie erection of a number of great tan-
neries at different points within the county. These are given iinijicr notice in
the township chapters. All of these e-xtensive tanning plants have been erected
within the past thirty years, and, with the e.xception of the Kingsley tannery at
Mansfield, the tannery of John (iisin, at Wellsboro, and the p]berk' tannery at West-
field, are devoted to the production of sole leather. In May, 1893, these sole leather
tanneries, except the one at Elkland, passed into the eontrol of the L''nion Tanning
Company, whicli is a member of the L'nited States Leather Company. This great
eorporation now operates the tanneries at Blossburg, Tioga, Osceola, Westfield,
Stokesdale, Niles A'alley, Iloytville, Leetonia and Manliattan. At the time of its
erection in 18S3, the tannery at Iloytville was the largest steam tannery in the
world, having a capacity of 1,000 hides of leather a day. The aj:j:regate output of
the tanneries of the county, when v\orking to their full capacity, is over 1,000,000
hides of leather per annum. During later years, owing to a nimiber of causes, the
output has been greatly reduced. These various enterprises give employment to
hundreds of men, not only in and around the tanneries themselves, but in the woods,
getting out hemlock bark, not far from 100,000 cords of which is used annually. A
large proportion of the hides tanned come from South America. Their transpor-
tation to the tanneries and from them, as leather, forms an important item in the
freight traffic of the railroad eompanies doing business in the county.

inON' FOINDRIES AND SMELTING WORKS.

Perhaps the ver)' first attempt at establishing an iron foundry in the count v
was made by Benjamin W. ^lorris at Wellsboro. The year in which it was built is
not clearly known, but it must linve been quite early. It stood about where
the glass works were ereded in more modern times. William Bache says that he
reniemliers being in the foundry. A few castinirs, consisting of sugar kettles,



116 HISTOEY OF TIOGA COXTNTT.



cooking utensils, andirons, etc., were made. He obtained his iron from bog ora.
As Mr. Baehe was born in 1813, it must have been some years after that when
the foundry was established — unless it was the ruins he saw. In that case, it might
have been built about the time of his birth, or earlier.

About 1813 a small iron foundry was started at Lawrenceville, but the name
of the founder has not been preserved. In later years the plant was carried on by
James Kinsey.

About 1835 Judge John H. Knapp, of Elmira, New York, became interested in
coal and iron lands at Blossburg, and a few years later began the erection of an iron
furnace. After being owned and operated by a number of parties, usually at a loss,
the plant was purchased by T. J. Mooers, in 1864, and has since been used as an
iron foundry. In 1855 an iron furnace was erected at Mansfield by Charles F,
Swan for the Mansfield Iron Company. It was operated until 1870, the ore being
obtained from a deposit in Eichmond to-«Tiship three miles west of Mansfield, and
also from a deposit at Eoseville.

Although iron foundries are still carried on successfully in many of the villages
and boroughs of the county, the production of pig iron from iron ore ceased a quarter
of a century ago. The iron ore, containing but about forty per cent, of iron, was
not of a character to warrant a further investment of capital, in competition with
other portions of the country, where the character of the ore and extent of the
deposits insured a cheaper production of pig iron.

THE MANUFACTUEE OE GLASS.

The presence in the same localities of glass sand-rock and of coal offered an
opportunity for the investment of capital in the manufacture of glass. The first
factory was established at Blossburg in 1847 and was operated for nearly forty years,
first by William Dezang, of Geneva, New York, and after him by James H. Gulick,
and then by Hirsch, Ely & Company. After being successfully carried on for nearly
forty years it passed into the control of the United Glass Company, and was shut
down. Another factory was erected about 1850 at Covington. It has also had vari-
ous owners, the present ones being a local stock company. It is now being operated
on the co-operative plan. In later years a factory was established in Wellsboro, but
after being twice destroyed by fire, the enterprise was abandoned. All these factories
were devoted to the manufacture of window glass, a fine quality of which was pro-
duced. A revival and extension of this industry is looked for in the near future.

Another natural resource is moulding sand for foundries. The deposits are ex-
tensive, and considerable quantities are shipped to Elmira and other places. Large
quantities of glass sand are also shipped from Brownlee, in Duncan township, where
a rock-crushing plant is in operation.

PEOGEESS OF AGEICULTUEE.

But it is to the patient and persistent labor of sturdy and stout-hearted hus-
bandmen that the greater share of the present prosperity of Tioga county is to be at-
tributed. This labor, begun with the felling of the first tree and the clearing of the
first garden spot, has transformed the face of the county from a dense and unbroken
iorest wilderness, into cultivated fields, orchards and gardens, dotted with farm



IKDU8TB1AL DEVELOPMEXT. 117

homes, the abiding places of comfort, thrift, intelligence and happiness, and has,
notwithstanding a rough and rugged surface, placed the county well up in the list
of the prosperous and productive agricultural counties of the State.

At first the land in the valleys of the principal streams and their branches were
settled and cleared, it being thought that those valley lands, in addition to being the
most accessible, were the most fertile. But, as the county became more settled, the
uplands began to be cleared and their fertility tested, and the fact established that
some of the richest and most enduring soil is to be found in the more elevated sec-
tions. The upland farms are now, therefore, regarded as equal, one year with an
other, in productiveness, with those in the creek and river valleys.

Diiring the earlier years of the county's history, when lumbering was largely
depended on to supply ready money, agriculture did not receive the attention it has
since the practical disappearance of the pine and hemlock forests. The diversified
farming of the present was unknown, as well as the methods pursued by the first-
class farmer of to-day. The man who owned a stumpy clearing was glad to produce
enough wheat, com, rye or oats to feed his family and the animals used in the labor
of the field and the woods, the surplus that found itn way to market being a very
small per centage of the whole.

The fields of the present bear but a slight resemblanco to those of early days.
On many of them the labor of four generations — continued year after year with in-
finite patience— has seareely sufficed to free them, first of stumps and, later, of
stones, so as to make possible the use of modern farm machiner>-. Their pr.sont
condition bears eloquent witness to what can be aeenmplished in the face of the most
discouraging and disheartening primary conditions, and tells the story, better than
words can tell it, of the sturdy and stalwart cliaracter of the men and wonien. wliu,
from the earliest settlement of the county to the present, have Keen the main factor
in its industrial growth and develojimcnt.

While all the cereal grains are produced in the county, more attention is paid to
oats, corn and buckwheat than to wheat, barley and rye. Considerable tobacco has
also been produced, especially in the Tioga and Cowanesquc river valleys, within the
last twenty years, eaeli year, until the recent decline in prices, shewing an increased

acreage.

The census of 1890 shows the following acreage and production of each of the

leading cereal crops:

FwducU. Acres, Bus. Products. ATizf^"^

Wheat 2,371 34,766 Corn 4,540 137,904

nT -.54 5,953 Buckwheat, 17.369 300,206

OatB 31,605 870,747 Barley l'^' •^'*'"-*

This gives a total of 58.1'.'(i acres cultivated, with an aggregate product of 1,-
381 G.V) bushels As there has been a notable increase in the acreage of cleared
land since these statistics were gathered, it would be safe to assume that the total pro-
duction of those cereals for ISIH; would reach over 1,500,000 hushels, pronded there
was a proportionate increase in the acreage devoted to them. Within the past few
years however, many farmers have turned aside from the (.TOwing of the different
grain's to the growing of grasses for pasturage and hay. and the county is fast forging
forward as a count v of dairy and meadow farms. The cultivation -f buckwheat,



118 HISTOET OF TIOGA COUNTY.



however, still holds a prominent place, a large acreage being each year devoted to it.
In 1890, as shown in the figures given, 17,369 acres produced 300,306 bushels,
making Tioga and Bradford counties, which produced 506,413 bushels in the same
year, two of the greatest buckwheat-producing counties in the State. The cultiva-
tion of tobacco increased from 234 acres and 393,198 pounds in 1879, as shown, by
the census of 1880, to 457 acres and 498,753 pounds in 1889, as shown by the census
of 1890. This crop, when prices are good, is a very profitable one, but during the
past two years prices have fallen so low that the production has greatly decreased.

An examination of a summary of the assessment for 1896, prepared by the
county commissioners for transmission to the secretary of internal affairs, as required
by law, shows that there are 17,086 taxables in the county. The total number of
acres of land reported is 669,576, of which 410,488 acres are cleared and 359,088
acres are timber lands. The total value of real estate is given at $16,158,685, of
which $13,773,835 is taxable, and $3,384,850 is exempt from taxation. There are
9,531 horses and 14,759 neat cattle in the county. The aggregate county tax is
$104,636.10, the levy being seven mills on the dollar. The aggregate state tax is $9,-
765.87, the levy being four mills on a dollar. The amount of money at in-
terest is $3,437,973, and the total county debt $175,000. The total taxation for all '
purposes, for 1895, including bridges, roads, etc., as well as that derived from money
at interest, was $306,610.70.

It is a well-known fact that there is a wide margin between the assessment value
of real estate and its actual value, the former usually representing about one-third



Online LibraryEmanuel SwedenborgHistory of Tioga County, Pennsylvania → online text (page 14 of 163)