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History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania online

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mind of the existence of a great lake at one time, which had its outlet by the way of
the Tioga river; but when the barrier was broken the flow of its waters was to the
south and the Pine creek canon was cut.

In confirmation of this theory Mr. Sherwood says in his geological report that it
"is a curious topographical fact that a dam, fifty rods in length, from mountain to
mountain, across Pine creek at the mouth of Marsh creek — such as it might be possi-
ble to build, and such as may possibly have been erected for a time by other than
human agency, during the glacial epoch — would effect this division."' If such were
really the original conditions, and they certainly look reasonable, the change may be
attributed to that period of our mundane history.

The Cowanesque River has its source in Potter county and fiows eastwardly just
south of the State line to its confluence with the Tioga at Lawrenceville. The valley
through which it passes is one of surpassing beauty and by far the richest and most
productive district in the county. There are a number of villa^^'o-; in the valley and
there is considerable manufacturing. In its pristine cundition this valley must have
been an elysian home of the Senecas, where they came to hunt and fish. Reference
is made to the; valley in tbf earliest writings, and it is believed that Mary .TeiiiisDn,
the "While Woman," frequently came hither with her Indian family to enjuy the
hunt. There arc also evidences that .lesuit missionaries were here long before the
appearance of the English; ami it is believed by some that Moravian missidiiaries
passed through here on their western tours, but there is no authentic evidence to
sustain that opinion.

The river drains an extensive water shed and at liTiies carries a largo volume of
water. White settlers came early, James Strawbridge probably being the first.
Long after whites had setiled in the valley Indians were in the habit of coming to
hunt and fish, and they seemed loth to leave it. The peculiar name of the river and
its meaning has long been a subject for discussion among scholars and writers.

To Hon. Charles Tiibbs, of Osceola, belongs the credit of having made the most
thorough investigation of the meaning of the Indian name of the river. He con-
tinued his investigation for several years. From cunipetent authority he learned
that Red Jacket was once asked to define the word. He replied that it was a Seneca
word, and meant "at the long island." On the draught of survey of the State road
from Newberry to the 109th mile stone, constructed in 1709, the name is spelled
Ga-wa-ni-a-que. This draught is still preserved in the land office at Harrislmrg.
Compare with this several names defined by iforgan in his "League of the Iroquois,"
thus: ( Ja-wa-ni-a-que, at the long island; Ga-wa-no-wa-uch, great island river: (ia-
weh-no-geh, on the island; Ga-weh-nase-geh, a long island. Ga-wa, or ( ra-weh, enters
into all these words as a component part and probably signifies island. So much for

This not being entirely satisfactory, Mr. Tubbs learned in 1891 that the Smith-
sonian Institute was making a systematic study of the IroquoisJangiinire, and he sub-
mitted the word for definition. In course of time he received from J. W. T'owell,
director, the following: "The word ('owanes(|iie seeris to be no other than Ka-hwe-
nes-ka, the ctyinologA- and signification of which is as follows: Co. for Ka. marking
grainmntic gender and meaning i7; wan for hwe-n the stem of the word o-whe-n.i, an


island; es an adjective meaning long; que, for ke, the locative proposition, meaning
at or on; the whole signifying at or on the long island."

This analysis was made hy Professor Hewitt, Iroquoian expert. The reader
may ask: How does that name apply to this river? That is easily explained. All
Indian names were significant and chronicled some characteristic of the thing named.
In this case there was, originally, in Deerfield and Osceola, an island in the-
Cowanesque river containing 1,600 acres. It was over four miles long and of varying
width. The remarkable thing about the river to the Indian was this long island.
The early settlers dammed the part of the river which ran on the north side of the-
island, diverting the water into the channel on the south side. At this day what
remains of the channel on the north side of the island is known as the Island Stream.
It is fed by springs and creeks from the north hill and empties into the river at
Osceola. The island is given on all early surveys and it also appears on the Connec-
ticut map.

This definition and explanation of the name, Cowanesque, is probably the best
and most complete that can be rendered at this late day; and indeed it seems to be-
sufficiently lucid to satisfy the most critical.

So completely has the island been destroyed that the traveler passing over it
would be unaware of its existence, unless informed of the fact. To the Indians it
was undoubtedly an important landmark, and on it they pitched their wigwams, in-
dulged in their rude sports and dances, and enjoyed themselves in the highest degree.

Minor Streams, which are fully described in the chapters relating to the several
boroughs and townships of the county, form the tributaries of the Tioga and Cowan-
esque rivers and of Crooked, Pine and Lycoming creeks. The sources of these are
either in springs emerging from the sides of the mountains, or in small marshy up-
land areas. They flow rapidly, and in times of heavy rains, rise quickly. The public
roads leading from the valleys of the larger streams to the uplands usually follow
their course, their valleys being dotted with farm houses and the well-tilled fields of
thrifty husbandmen.


Prom the foregoing it is easy to see that while the mountains of Tioga county
rise to a pretty uniform general level of 2,000 feet above tide water, and the broad
valleys between roll their surfaces about 1,200 feet or 1,300 feet, the main water
channels are cut sharply down to depths of 1,000 feet or even lower. The streams
are fed by abundant rains, for the county lies in the rain belt of forty inches. The
mean annual rainfall is forty inches. While the mean summer temperature is sixty-
three, the mean winter temperature is only twenty-three. The cold, therefore, is
pretty severe.

Consequently, the erosion of the surface, through the agencies of frost and rain,
has been actively carried on through all ages since the coal era. Dry northwest
winds favor radiation and evaporation, carrying down the temperature far below
zero. They favor equally the full effect of the sun's rays upon the rock surfaces.
The rocks, alternately expanded and contracted, are prepared for absorbing moisture;
the frost breaks them up, and innumerable rivulets, periodically swollen, carry off the
fragments and grind them into sand and mud. The forest, while it is a protection


against this wear and tear in one sense, facilitates it also by prying the outcrop layers
apart with their roots, and every surface, hill slope and mountain steep alike, is slowly
but always creeping down towards the water ways.

It is this universal erosion, taking effect upon a large area of exceedingly regular
stratification, which explains the beautiful regularity of the parallel ranges of mount-
ains traversing the county, and the striking similarity of the broad valleys which run
up from the open country of Bradford, westward, into and between the mountains
of Tioga. It explains also why these valleys end or head up, each in the form of a
wide amphitheater, against the unbroken or undivided plateau of Potter and Lycom-
ing counties. It is evident, then, that the mountains of Tioga county have in past
ages been much higher than they are now. llr. Sherwood thinks there is no good
reason for doubting that the whole of the coal measiires once covered this county.
As the coal measures of Pennsylvania, both in the southwestern corner of the State,
where more than 3,000 feet of them remain to be measured, and in the anthracite
basins, which, in the deepest parts, hold 3,000 feet of them still undestroyed, may have
been originally 4,000 feet thick, it seems probable that the Tioga mountains were
once as high as Mount Washington.



First Occupants— Rugged and Romantic Scenery— Game. Fish and Wild
Animals- An Ideal Hunting Ground— Indian Paths— Indian Villages-
French Explorers and Missionaries— Boundary Line of the Purchase op
1768— The Old Treaties— The Walker Tragedy— Indian Characteristics
AND Peculiarities.

Tlil-; territory lying within the present boundaries of Tioga county, Pennsylvania,
was originally occupied by the Seneca Indians, and was one of their favorite hunt-
ing and fishing districts. Its entire surface was heavily timbered. Pine and hemlock
grew in the valleys, on the mountain sides and summits, and largely predominated
the hard wood varieties, such as oak, birch, maple, etc., which occupied limited areas,
principally upland. The ravines, through which streams of crystal water dashed,
were filled with a dense growth of vines, briars and underbrush almost impenetrable,
save only to Indians and wild animals. The luxuriant and evergreen foliage of the
pine and hemlock cast a sombre gloom over the narrow valleys, and so closely were
their branches inlertwirifld and locked in many places, that the rays of the flaming
god of day could scarcely ]>enetrate them. Sueli were the wilderness condition of this


mountain region. How long it had so existed no white man knew and the aborigines
could not tell.

Game of all kinds abounded in this region. The stately elk infested a portion of
it, and deer were found in great numbers. Other game, too, was plentiful. The
nimble squirrel chattered among the branches of the oaks, the wolf, the fox and the
bear roamed among the hills and through the valleys, while the porcupine and the
raccoon were found everywhere. The streams were filled with trout and other fish.
What more could the tawny children of the forest desire? Nature had bountifully
provided for them. They built their rude wigwams on the banks of the rivers and
creeks, and at particularly eligible locations they had villages, while in the mountains
their hunting lodges were pitched.

In this wild region the aborigines roamed at will, communed with nature, chanted
songs of the spirit land and were happy. No white man had yet penetrated their
domain; they were uneontaminated by the vices which go hand in hand with civiliza-
tion; they knew no guile; those destroying evils — whiskey and smallpox — ^had not
yet been introduced among them. To them ignorance of the world was bliss, and
they knew nothing of the folly which accompanies wisdom.


Several Indian paths crossed and recrossed what is now the territory of Tioga
county. And these trails became important landmarks for the early white settlers,
who followed them in their journeyings through the wilderness, and afterward en-
larged them for public highways when the county commenced filling up with settlers.
Several of these paths came from central New York and were traced along the valleys
and streams. From the important Seneca settlement, known to the whites as Big
Tree, on the Genesee, main paths led down the Conhocton and Canisteo, coming out
at Painted Post, another important point among the Indians. From Painted Post the
path ran up the Tioga river, passing near Lawrenceville, Tioga, Mansfield, Canoe
Camp, Covington and Blossburg. From this latter point it continued on via
Liberty and Laurel Hill, until it intersected the great Sheshequin path running up
Lycoming creek, and thence to Tioga Point, on the North Branch. The famous
Williamson road afterward followed this path from Trout Run and became a great
thoroughfare for early travel. Another ran by Arnot and down Babb's creek to Pine,
which it descended to the valley of the West Branch.

Starting from what is now the borough of Tioga, on the river of the same name,
a trail ascended the valley of Crooked creek, thence to Wellsboro, and on by the way
of Stony Fork to its intersection with the Babb's creek path, down which it passed
to the Indian village of Tiadaghton, on Pine creek. It was by this route that Van
Campen and his party were taken, to the Seneca settlements, after they were captured
on the Bald Eagle, in April, 1782. Although comparatively unknown to the early
settlers along the river, because it traversed such a wild and inhospitable region for
more than 100 miles, it was really one of the most important Indian trails, and over
it many war parties passed on their way to attack the lower settlements during the
troublous times of 1778-79. It was by this route, too, that the Senecas would have
descended when they threatened to be avenged on the settlers at the mouth of Pine
creek for the murder of two of their number by the Walker brothers and Sam Doyle,


while they were on a hunting expedition in time of peace. Tradition says that a
strong party of warriors really did descend Pine creek some distance below Tia-
daghton, fully bent on mischief, but were recalled by runners after the State com-
missioners had appeased the ■wTath of the Indians at a conference held at Canan-
daigua, by promising to do all they could to arrest the Walkers and punish them.

Another important path left the Canisteo at xVdfli?r>n, Xew York, known as the
TuBcarora, and led over the hills to near where Elkland is now situated, on the
Cowanesque; thence it bore off in a southwesterly direction, crossing the upper waters
of Pine creek, and descended Kettle creek to Westport, on the West llranch of the
Susquehanna. Over this path war parties frequently traveled to attack the advanced
settlements on the river, and as it led through a dense, wild and gloomy region, it was
comparatively unknown to the whites at the beginning of Indian hostilities. It is
probable that the war party, which attacked, defeated and eaptureil Van i 'aiiipen on
the Bald Eagle, had entered the valley of the Susquehanna by this route. \'an
Campen tells its in his narrative that the party consisted of about eighty warriors, and
they were descending the river in light canoes. It was their custom to approach the
settlements in a body, when, on the appearance of white people, tliey separated into
small bands and spread over the country for the purpose of murder and rapine. This
war party discovered Van Campen's boats where they had been tied up, near the
Great Island, and taking his trail surprised and captured him the next morning.

As this invasion w as made about the close of the Kr\ ulutionary War, it is proha-
ble that it was a portion of this war party that was pursued by Peter and Michael
drove, and party, and siir])vised in th( ir camp on the Sinneniahoning and several
killed. They had been down in what is now Union county and killed a number of
settlers, and were fleeing in the direction of the Genesee country when overtaken.

It is probable that there was also an Indian trail up the Pine creek gor;,'e, above
Blackwells, inasmuch as there is abundant evidence of the existence at one time of an
Indian village at "Big Meadows," now Ansimia, at the mouth of Marsh creik. This
gloomy canon is now traversed by the Pine Creek railroad.


The early scouts, hunters and settlers found, in various parts of the county,
evidences of the existence at one time of Indian villages. Hue of these was at the
mouth of Balib's creek, where a cleared s])ot of some extent was found, showing previ-
ous cultivation. This was designated as a meadow, and there is a well-defined tradi-
tion that 11 chief, or man of some prominence in the tribe, named Tiadajrhton, dwelt
here. According to old records. Pine creek, at that time, was called Tiada;;hton, but
there is nothing in any of the glossaries of Indian words compiled by the Mnravians
to show that such a name was ever applied to any stream or mountain. Heckewelder,
who is aecrpted as standard autliority, nou here alludes to such a name in any of his

We arc forced to the conclusion, therefore, that an Indian bearing this eujiho-
nioiis litli' dwell at the mouth of I'.al.l.'s creek, and his name was associated with Pine
cnik hy the whites in order to desii^nate his place of nsidence. and in course of time
the St nam cnme to he known liy tliat title. Among the Indians this great stream
seems to have betn known a.< the "KiNrr of the Pines," because it flowed from a land



■where this timber abounded in the greatest luxuriance. On the open space, or
meadow, at the mouth of Babb's creek, corn was very likely cultivated by the
Indians, as the soil was composed of a rich alluvial deposit and was well adapted to
the production of that cereal. The fishing being good at this point, offered another
inducement for Tiadaghton to establish his wigwam and build up a village around
him. Shad ascended Pine creek as far as the mouth of Marsh creek, there being
no obstructions in the river in those days to, keep them back. The mountain sur-
roundings in this deep and gloomy gorge were sufficiently wild to suit the tastes
of the most thorough Indian, and if old Tiadaghton had any romantic inclinations
in his untutored mind, he could here enjoy them in the gloomy grandeur of a
mountain solitude which is still without a rival in, northern Pennsylvania.

As further evidence of a village having once stood here, may be mentioned the
finding by the early white settlers of numerous Indian relics, such as flint arrow
points and bits of broken pottery. The point, too, was an important one for war
parties to tarry for rest when making a descent upon the river settlements; and white
prisoners were sometimes taken through this way.

It is mentioned by Van Campen, after his defeat and capture, in April, 1783, by
a body of Indians near where Mill Hall, Clinton county, now stands, that he and
other prisoners were taken to Pine creek,* which they ascended. At a certain point
they stopped, when the Indian hunters went out in pursuit of game, and quickly re-
turned, "bringing along a noble elk," which "was soon dressed and prepared for
roasting." "The prisoners," he continues, "were allowed the same liberty that was
taken by the warriors themselves; they cut from the animal as much fresh meat as
they wished, and roasted it on the coals, or held it on the end of a sharpened stick
to the fire." Here a prisoner, named Burwell, who was shot through the shoulder,
had his wound dressed in the following primitive but effective manner: "Having
collected a parcel of suitable herbs, they [the Indians] boiled them in water, thus
making a strong decoction, in which they dipped the feathers of a quill, and ran it
through his wound." The operation was a severe one, but the infiammation was
reduced and the wound soon healed.

Another wounded prisoner, named Henderson, did Hot fare so well. He had four
of his fingers shot off, as he was raising his gun to fire, by a bullet from an Indian
rifle. Van Campen says that on the second day of their march he passed him sitting
on a log with "a countenance sad and pale," and two Indians standing by his side.
He did not go far "before he heard a noise like the sound of a tomahawk entering
the head, and in a few moments the two Indians ran by bearing a scalp and carrying
a hatchet dripping with blood!"

On resuming their march, Van Campen informs us, "the remains of the elk were
divided among the warriors and prisoners, each carrying his portion as a supply
against further need." "Pushing up the valley," he continues, ."they soon came to
the head of Pme creek; thence striking across the country, they reached in half a
da/s travel, the head waters of the Genesee river." Down this stream they passed
until they arrived at the Seneca settlements.

Similar evidences of the existence at one time of an Indian village were found

* I,ife of Van Campen, revised edition by Minard, 1893, pp. 219-222.


by the early hunters and settlers at "liig ileadows,"' now Ansonia, at the mouth
of JIarsh creek. Even at this late day flints, arrow heads, etc., are brought to the
surface in the digging of graves in the cemetery at Ansonia, which, so tradition
has it, was an old Indian burying ground. When the whites came to this spot they
found a large cleared space bearing evidence of having once been under cultivation.

The finding of numerous Indian relics in and around Tioga borough evidence
the existence there at one tim.e of an Indian village of considerable importance.
George V. Smith, a son of Dr. Robert B. Smith, of that place, who is an enthusiastic
student of archaeolofry, has quite a large colk-ciioo of these relics of a departed
peo])le, to which he is constantly making additions. It embraces arrow-heads and
spear-heads of flint; large and small implements of blue stone for skinning and
dressing hides; implements for fishing; pipes, a huge stone mortar, in which the
Indian ground his com, together with the pestle for grinding, as well as hatchets,
tomahawks and knives. Not the least interesting of these rare and valuable relics
are the fragments of several Indian skeletons unearthed by Mr. i^inith on the site
of an ancient burying ground near Tioga borough.

This collection also contains a number of valuable utensils, and n large amount
of pottery. In June, 1889, Mr. Smith unearthed, almost within the limits of Tioga
borough, the fragments of three Indian jars, wliieh, with great dilliculty, have bi'en
•completely restored. These jars were made of clay, strengthened by very coarse sand
or fine gravel, after which the whole was Itiirneil or baked in a bulnish basket, the bul-
rushes being burned away, leaving their imprints on the exteriors of the jars. These
huge clay jars present an interesting study in the (levelo])ment of decorative art, for
all three are decorated with lines and dots, no attempt, however, being made at
■effigy. The interiors are smooth. The largest of these jars is seventeen inches in
height, and, when whole, had a eajiaeity of nearly half a bushel.

Not far from where these interesting relics were unearthed, were found the
remains of several fire-])laees, from whith he tmik a number of animal bones, em-
traoing those of the deer. He also took from one of these fire-places nearly a pint
of charred corn and beans.

Tile relies in this collection evidence not only the existence at one time of
an Indian village at Tioga, but of an Indian burying ground in which a large number

of interments were made.


The first while men who probably visited the Senecas were French. We have
no evidence that the early explorers penetrated to any extent what is now the territory
of Tioga county, but as tliey were an adventuresome peojde, it is not unreasonable
to assume that they visited uliai are now the northern borders of the county, and
piohably ascended tlie Tioga river for some distance. So intent were the French on
thoaci|nisitioii of territory that tliey penetrated unknown wilds in search of informa-
tion regarding the laml and the natives; and they never failed to establish friendly
relations witli them, because they cultivated feelings of amity and never violated
their pledjies.

The French Catholic Ini^si<lnaries. zealoiis in the work of cimverting the chil-


dren of the forest to Christianity, also found their way into Tioga county years
before its settlement began. Interesting relics evidencing their presence in the
Cowanesque valley are now in the possession of Hon. Chas. Tubbs, of Osceola. The
story of their finding is as follows: In September, 1872, Ira M. Edgcomb built a
saw-mill on the north bank of the Cowanesque river, near the mouth of the North
Fork, two miles above Westfield. He employed workmen to excavate a pit in which
to lay the masonry foundation for the engine. When about four feet below the
surface they found two candle sticks, rudely wrought in red pipe stone, and a silver
plate. One of the candle sticks and the plate is in Mr. Tubbs' possession. The silver
plate is four and one-half inches in diameter. The rim is seven-eighths of an inch
wide. The upper surface is gold washed. The under surface is inscribed with the
Koman capital letters I. H. S., the initials of the Latin words, Jesu Hominum
Salvator (Jesus the Savior of men). Each letter is five-eighths of an inch high, and

Online LibraryEmanuel SwedenborgHistory of Tioga County, Pennsylvania → online text (page 3 of 163)