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History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania online

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Previous to its removal to Wellsboro the Banner was issued once in every two
weeks. After the removal its name was changed to The Tioga Banner and it appeared
weekly. "Brick" Pomeroy learned the rudiments of typesetting in this office. It
continued to be published regularly for several years. The issue of June 20, 1848,
contained an announcement that the paper would be enlarged with the next number.
This is the last number in the file examined, but it is presumed the enlargement took
place and the publication continued for some time afterward.


This paper was started October 3, 1871, as the organ of the Hermaic Society,
Arthur M. Eoy publisher. This society was founded May 11, 1869, by the young
men of Wellsboro as a debating and literary society. Duiing the winter of 1871 such
eminent lecturers as Frederick Douglass, Anna Dickinson, "Petroleum V. Nasby,"
Mary A. Livermore, and, others, lectured before the society. The Journal was a neat
and spicy little paper, but its career ended with the eleventh number, which contained
a statement of the receipts and expenditures of the society during the lecture season.


from which it appears that the receipts were $1,366.50 and the expenses were
$1,308.60, leaving a balance in the treasury of $57.90.


This paper was started in 1878 by 0. S. "Webster, the material used in printing
The Idea at Westfield having been brought to Wellsboro for that purpose in a two-
horse wagon. It being dark when the party arrived, the team was driven into the
barn of the old Coles House for safety during the night. But the load being heavy
broke through the floor and sunk a foot or two without damage to the horses or
wagon. Mr. Webster went into the hotel and said to Mr. Coles: "Well, the team,
wagon and whole Idea, have broken through your barn floor, and what shall I do?"
The wreck, however, was recovered and the Leader started in due time. It was pub- *
lished until 1881 as the organ of the Greenback party, when it suspended and the
material was sold.


This, the youngest of Wellsboro's papers, was founded July 16, 1884, by Charles
Gr. Fairman and J. Lewis Whittet, his son-in-law. The material was moved from
Batavia, New York. Mr. Pairman had been for several years the editor of the
Elmira Advertiser, the leading daily newspaper in the southern tier, and was a bril-
liant and able political writer. While preparing to issue the Republican Advocate,
Mr. Fairman was taken ill, and died at the Coles House, Wellsboro, where he was
temporarily staying, a few days before the first issue of the paper. His death was
a severe loss to his friends and to the enterprise, but it was not abandoned. His son-
in-law issued the paper, published it under the firm name of Fairman & Whittet
until September 34, 1884. The interest of the Fairman heirs was then purchased
by James H. Matson, who, in connection with Mr. Whittet, continued the pubUcation
of the paper until January 20, 1886, when Mr. Whittet retired. November 3, 1886,
W. L. Shearer purchased an interest, and the firm became Matson & Shearer. On
March 10, 1891, Mr. Matson sold his interest to Mr. Shearer, who has edited and
published the paper to the present time. The office is well equipped, the machinery
being driven by a water motor. The paper is neatly printed, ably edited, enjoys a
large and increasing circulation, and, as its name indicates, is Republican in polities.


The noted newspaper correspondent, Henry J. Eamsdell, was foreman in the
Agitator office when the war broke out. He was born in Chautauqua county, New
York, August 11, 1839, and was therefore about twenty-two years of age when the
call for troops was made. He was among the first to volunteer from Wellsboro and
became a sergeant of Company H, Sixth Pennsylvania Reserve. Mr. Eamsdell saw
much service and was wounded at Antietam. When discharged he entered joumaUsm
and soon made his mark as a correspondent. In 1865 he became attached to the
staff of the Tribune in Washington, and afterwards was correspondent for the
Cincinnati Commercial, and the Philadelphia Times and Press. He accompanied
the congressional commission to San Domingo and Alaska. President Garfield
appointed him register of wills for the District of Columbia, and the last paper signed
by the president (July 2, 1881,) before he was shot by Guiteau, was Eamsdell's com-


mission. President Cleveland remoYed him from office. He was a warm friend and
admirer of Blaine and did much to promote the political interests of that eminent
statesman. Mr. Eamsdell died at Washington, May 25, 1887. His wife was a
daughter of "WilHam Garretson, of Tioga.



incoeporated as a borough— flest election— early ordinances— burgesses,
Clerks, Treasurers and Justices— Borough Boundaries— Fire Depart-
ment — Water Works System — The Wellsborough Electric Company.

AS early as 1839 the project of incorporating Wellsboro was discussed. At that
time the village lay in Delmar township, which was set off from Tioga township
in 1805. This step was warranted by the growth of the village, its increase in popu-
lation, and an encouraging outlook for even more rapid development.

Judge Samuel Wells Morris, always active, alert and enterprising, had proven
himself a sagacious and progressive man, and he commanded the respect which had
been so freely accorded his worthy father. Finally through his influence, with the
assistance of Benjamin B. Smith, editor of The Phoenix, John P. Donaldson, William
Bache, Sr., James Lowrey and others, the legislature was induced to pass an act
incorporating the town as a borough March 16, 1830. It is true it was a very small
town at that time, containing less than 400 inhabitants, but the legislature did not
object to numbers then. Williamsport, with a less number of inhabitants, had been
incorporated in 1806. The residents of Wellsboro, or certain ones rather, desired
corporate laws because they would be enabled to improve the streets and adopt a
uniform system of grades, pass ordinances for local government and thereby benefit
the whole community. Steps were at once taken to comply with the act, and an
election for officers was held May 3, 1830, with the following result:

Burgess, John Norris; council, John Beecher, Justus Goodwin, Israel Mer-
rick, Jr., and Benjamin B. Smith; constable, Ebenezer Jackson; supervisor, Amos
Coolidge; overseer of the poor, Israel Greenleaf.

These were the first borough officers. No time was lost in effecting an organi-
zation and in making such appointments as were required. Josiah Emery was ap-
pointed clerk to the council; William Bache collector, and James Lowrey treasurer.



The first requisite was the adoption of a seal to be affixed to all official papers,
and the first ordinance passed disposed of this matter as follows: "That until an
appropriate seal can be procured, the eagle side of an American half dollar shall
be the corporate seal of the said borough." This ordinance was passed June 38,

The second ordinance forbid horses, cattle, sheep, swine and geese from run-
ning at large within the borough. The adoption and publication of this new law
caused a howl of indignation from many of the citizens. For nearly thirty years
the inhabitants of the village did as they pleased with reference to their stock, con-
sequently restrictive laws were regarded as a great hardship and there was much
complaint, and the first borough fathers were subjected to sharp criticism.

Benjamin B. Smith, the editor of the Phoenix, who was a member of the
council, and had a hand in making the new laws, referred to them in his issue of
July 3, 1830, and defended them in these words:

At last our bye-laws are published, and we hope soon to see our streets cleared oi
sheep, hogs, and cattle which have hitherto been really a nuisance, especially in the
night. Depredations have already been commenced on some of our gardens — and unless
cattle are shut up at night, we can expect nothing but that our vegetables will, as last
year, be entirely destroyed. We borough folks expect now to be quite happy. The
squalling of geese at daylight, the bellowing of cattle, the kicking of horses, the audacity
of swine, and the "innomi nutus" odor of sheep, acompanied with their disagreeable
bleating shall entirely cease from annoying us, and we shall go forth at morning and
evening, at sun-setting and sun-rising, and fear no evil except from dogs, which, by the
by, our burgess and council have entirely forgotten — and mad dogs, too, are they not
subjects of legislation as well as geese? We expect, however, to have a "revised code"
and then all things will be perfect.

To be serious, the by-laws we have no doubt will be rigidly enforced, and for the good
of our citizens we think it absolutely necessary they should be.

Housewives thought it a great hardship that their flocks of geese could not run
upon the streets without being taken up and subjected to a fine of twelve and a
half cents per head. And to make matters worse, the constable was empowered
to sell them to the "highest and best bidder," after giving twelve hours notice, and
appropriate one-half of the proceeds to his own use — ^the other half to go into the
borough treasury.

The third ordinance related to streets, roads and taxes. It was required that
twelve feet on each side of the 100 feet streets and eight feet on each side of the
fifty-feet streets or alleys shall be appropriated for a sidewalk; and the owners and
occupiers of lots were allowed full liberty, at their own expense, to erect posts and
railings and make gravel or other walks. For enforcing the collection of fines
imposed for a violation of the ordinances, the burgess was entitled to receive the
same fees as were allowed by law to justices of the peace.

The fourth ordinance specifically stated that if any person was found guilty
of horse racing within the limits of the borough, or aiding or promoting the same,
he should, upon conviction, be fined $5.00, one-half to go to the informant and the
other half to the corporation.

The fifth ordinance forbid any person from shooting any gun or other fire arms


Aiithin or across any of the streets, highways, lanes, alleys or commons of the bor-
ough, except on days of militia or other trainings, or times of public rejoicings, by
the order or under the direction of the officer or person in command. The penalty
for this offense was one dollar for each shot.

To old hunters this ordinance was very offensive, and, like the housewives, M^ho
were restricted from allowing their geese to run upon the streets, they felt particu-
larly aggrieved. The borough and surrounding country had been excellent hunting
ground from the first appearance of white men — the borough, too, covered such a
large territory that game even at this day often came within its limits, and to be
deprived from shooting at a deer as it bounced through, the confines of the corpora-
tion was simply an outrage upon the inherent rights of a hunter. Such new-fangled
ideas of civilization did not strike them favorably, and Burgess Iforris and Clerk
Emery were the objects of their severest criticism, but these officials were inexorable.
It is safe to say, however, that many a shot was fired at a deer, squirrel, or rabbit,
for which a dollar was not paid — because there was no informant, and the con-
stable, however vigilant he might have been, found it impossible to locate the

Such opposition, however, was developed to these ordinances, and doubts
having arisen in the minds of the local law makers whether the surplus money
arising from the sale of impounded cattle, sheep, swine and geese, after deducting
the fines and cost of keeping, should be paid into the treasury, a supplemental
ordinance was passed in October authorizing the surplus to be paid to the legal

At a meeting of the council, held March 7, 1836, a motion was made by Mr.
Emery that cattle be permitted to run at large in the borough. The minutes do not
say whether the motion was carried or lost, but the presumption is that . it was


The following named persons have filled the office of burgess since the incor-
poration of the borough: John Norris, elected May 3, 1830; Dr. J. B. Murphey,
1831; James Kimball, 1832; Eobert G. White, 1833-34; Francis Wetherbee,
1835-36; E. A. Nichols, 1837; John F. Donaldson, 1838-39; Alexander S. Brew-
ster, 1840; James Lock, 1841; Samuel W. Morris, 1843; William Harrison, 1843;
James Kimball, 1844; Henry W. Graves, 1845; James Lowrey, 1846; John P.
Donaldson, 1847; John K Bache, 1848; David Sturrock, 1849; George McLeod,
1850-52; Henry Sherwood, 1853; G. D. Smith, 1854; Charles G. Osgood, 1855-59;
Eudolph Christenot, 1860; Henry Sherwood, 1861-62; Henry W. Williams,
1863-65; M. H. Cobb, 1866-67; R. C. Simpson, 1868; Lucius Truman, 1869;
Benjamin Seeley, 1870-71; Lucius Truman, 1872-73; E. A. Fish, 1874; Lucius
Truman, 1875; D. L. Deane, 1876; C. L. Willcox, 1877; Andrew Crowl, 1878;
J. C. Wheeler, 1879-80; AValter Sherwood, 1881-84; I. M. Bodine, 1885; Leonard
Harrison, 1886; C. C. Mathers, 1887; John W. Bailey, 1888; William H. Roberts,
1889; R. J. Borden, 1890; Charles G. Osgood, 1891; George H. Derby, 1892-93;
George W. Williams, 1894-96, and S. P. Channell, elected in February, 1897, the
present incumbent.


Clerics. — Josiah Emery was the first clerk of the borough, serving in 1830-31.
His successors have been as follows: Eobert G. White, 1831-34; Alexander S.
Brewster, 1834-35; John P. Donaldson, 1835-36; Alexander S. Brewster, 1836-37;
H. F. Young, 1837-39; from 1839 to 1842 the burgess seems to have fulfilled the
duties of clerk; Benjamin B. Smith, 1842-43; Alexander S. Brewster, 1843-46
L. P. Williston, 1846-47; Benjamin B. Smith, 1847-48; A. J. Sofield, 1848-52
Benjamin B. Smith, 1852-62; Asa P. Eoberts, 1862; Jefferson Harrison, 1862-65
Charles L. Siemens, 1865-69; Hugh Young, 1869-70; William A. Stone, 1870-71
J. 0. W. Bailey, 1871; George W. Langan, 1871-72; J. W. Van Valkenburg, 1873
Leonard Harrison, 1872-73; J. W. Van Valkenburg, 1873-74; Ed. C. Deans,
1874-75; Hugh Young, 1875-77; E. B. Young, 1877-85; Eobert K. Young,
1885-87; H. H. Blackburn, 1887-89; Alfred J. Shattuek, 1889-97, the present

Treasurers.— James Lowrey filled this office in 1830-31; Beniamin B. Smith,
1831-32: Israel Merrick, Jr., 1832-35; Eobert G .White, 1835-38; Levi I. TSTichols,
1838-48: William Bache, 1848-64; William Eoberts, 1864-70; Eansford B. Webb,
1870-74: Lucius.Tnnnan, 1874-76; Leonard Harrison, 1876-85; Jesse M. Eobinson,
1885-96: Leonard Harrison, appointed in 1896 to fill the vacancy caused by the
death of Mr. Eobinson, and is still serving.

Justices of fhe Peace. — Although Wellsboro was incorporated as a borough in
1830, it does not appear to have been set apart as a separate justice-of-the-peace dis-
trict until 1840, when the Constitution of 1838 made the office of justice of the
peace elective instead of appointive, as it had been up to that time. The office has
been filled as follows: Benjamin B. Smith, 1840; re-elected, 1845 and 1850;
Luman Wilson, 1840; re-elected, 1845; Alfred J. Sofield, 1851; re-elected, 1856 and
1861; John N. Bache, 1855; Josiah Emery, 1857; Andrew Crowl, 1862; A. S.
Brewster, 1863; re-elected, 1868, 1873, 1878, 1883, 1888 and 1893; Hugh Young,
1867; John Gibson, 1869; J. W. Donaldson, 1874; Isaac M. Bodine, 1879; re-
elected, 1884; James H. Shaw, 1888; Eobert K. Young, 1890; re-elected, 1891;
Burton M. Potter, 1896. 'Squire Brewster, one of the present justices of Wellsboro,
has held the office continuously for the past thirty-four years.


The boundaries of the original village of Wellsboro have been described in a
preceding chapter. As the village grew the adjoining land was sub-divided into
out-lots, until an area of several hundred acres had been thus cut up before the
village was incorporated as a borough. The limits adopted at the time of the in-
corporation made a liberal allowance for future growth. The north Hne began
about 1,000 feet west of the southwest corner of the cemetery and continued due
east to the junction of Kelsey and Charleston, creeks. The southern line of the
cemetery formed a part of this boundary line. The line on the northeast paralleled
the present railroad to a point a little beyond Purple street. The railroad was built
just outside of this line. The line then ran a little west of south about 900 feet to
a point due east of the graded school building. It then continued south about sixty
degrees west, passing almost through the A. G. Sturrock residence, to Lincohi
street, where it turned due west to Kelsey creek, passing north of the residence of


Hon. John I. Mitchell. From this point the line ran due north to the place of be-

The boundaries remained unchanged until the passage and approval of the
act of April 6, 1870, enlarging the borough limits and establishing them within
the present boundaries, as follows:

The boundaries of the borough of Wellsboro, in the countj' of Tioga, be and they
are hereby altered and extended in such a manner that the boundary lines shall be as
follows, viz: Beginning at a post and stones in the western boundary line of William
Downer, at the distance of fifty-two perches south frpm the northeast of said Downer; thence
north two and three-fourths degrees east 804 perches to a post and stone heap; thence
south 87^ degrees east to the corner of Kichel's farm; along the line of said farm, and
continuing in same course, to the line of Charleston township, in all 733 perches to a
post or stone heap in said township line; thence by said township south 647 perches
to a post and stone, at a point south eighty-seven degrees east from the northeast corner
of A. L. Bodine; thence south eighty-seven degrees east across lands of George
Thompson; along line of said A. L. Bodine, across lands of Esther Kress, deceased,
to the State road, a distance of 504 perches; thence southerly by the several courses
of said road to a point south eighty-seven and a fourth degrees east from the starting
point first named above; thence south eighty-seven and a fourth degrees east 256
perches to the place of beginning.

The reader will have a better idea of the extent of the above figure when in-
formed that it equals four and one-fourth square miles, or 2,730 acres ! Almost large
enough for a township.

It is provided in the act, however, that the borough council shall so discriminate
in laying the taxes as not to impose upon the rural portions any expenses which
belong exclusively to the btdlt up portions of the borough; and for this purpose the
assessor shall distinguish in his returns what properties are within agricultural or
rural sections not having the benefit of expenditures for purposes belonging to the
built up portions of the town; and all lands within said agricultural or rural dis-
tricts, and for the purposes of cultivation or farming, shall be assessed as farm


Early in 1860 the question of forming a fire company was agitated. The
movement took definite shape in August, when the company, which appears to have
been organized, reported to council that a majority of the taxpayers were in favor
of laying a tax to raise funds to buy an engine. The number voting in favor of the
proposition was 141, which was more than two-thirds of the taxpayers of the bor-
ough. Council therefore authorized the purchase of an engine and laid a tax of $1.00
in every $100 of assessed value of real and personal property, to meet the expense.
The tax was to commence in 1863 and to continue until the indebtedness was wiped
out. An engine and hose cart were contracted for and an engine house, not to cost
over $400, but the actual cost of which was $750, was authorized to be built. Sub-
scriptions were solicited to defray the expense of erecting the engine house.

The first companies formed were the Lafayette Engine Company, No. 1, John
N". Bache, foreman, and C. A. Wells Hose Company, liTo. 1, C. A. "Wells, foreman.
In the meantime the Civil War had broken out and the ranks of the respective
companies were so depleted by the enlistment of the members as to render them


inoperative. The citizens then banded together and kept up an organization in
ease of fire.

Doubts having, in the meantime, arisen as to the power of the burgess and
council to contract for fire apparatus and the erection of an engine house, and to
pay for the same by imposing a tax, the legislature was appealed to, and that body
passed an act, approved April 18, 1864, which declared the action of the council
"valid and effectual" and empowered the burgess and council "to collect annually
one-half of one per cent, on valuation until the debt is paid."

Matters ran along quietly until the 33d of October, 1873, when the borough was
visited by a severe fire which destroyed much property in the business portion of
the town, the loss aggregating fully $100,000. As the panic of this year had swept
over the country with its paralyzing effects, the fire added much to the discour-
agement of business men. But they rallied from the blow and were about getting on
their feet again when another fire broke out on April 1, 1874, which proved more
destructive than the first. It started in the store of William Wilson, and swept
away the entire square of buildings between Grafton and Walnut streets, back to
Pearl. Coming so soon after the first, this fire had a very depressing effect on the
merchants and shop keepers, and many were disheartened on account of their heavy
losses. After a short time, however, a reaction took place and the work of rebuilding
in a more substantial form was commenced. The result was that a better class of
buildings, nearly all of brick, were erected, which imparted to the streets a greatly
improved appearance.

The first fire aroused the citizens to the necessity of preparing for future vis-
itations, and a reorganization of the fire department was effected, the reorganized
department consisting of the following companies: Lafayette Engine Company, No.
1; Alert Hose Company, 'No. 2, and Eureka Hook and Ladder Company, No. 3.
The first officers were: Thomas B. Bryden, chief engineer; Walter Sherwood, first
assistant; Joseph Williams, second assistant; J. M. Eobinson, secretary; Arthur
M. Eoy, treasurer. The companies did good work during the second big fire and
prevented greater damage.

When the water works system was completed in 1886, the pressure was such as
to render an engine unnecessary. Lafayette Engine Company was, therefore, reor-
ganized as Bache Hose Company, so named in honor of William Bache. The three
companies consist of about forty men each and are uniformed. The borough allows
$3.00 per annum to each active fireman, and furnishes rooms and a janitor.

The equipment consists of four hose carriages, with 2,000 feet of hose; a hook
and ladder outfit and eight fire extinguishers. Thomas B. Bryden was continued as
chief engineer from 1874 until his death in April, 1878. The present chief en-
gineer is Eobert Siemens.


Wellsboro is well supplied with an excellent quality of water by the gravity
system. The history of the improvement was very minutely described by the
Gazette in June, 1887, from which account the material facts are drawn. On August
4, 1885, a charter was granted by the State to the Wellsboro Water Company— capital
$75,000— composed of William Bache, Chester Eobinson, John L. Eobinson, Fred-


eriek K. Wright and "W. C. Kress, of Wellsboro; EL. C. Heermans, of Corning, New
York, and C. L. Pattison, of Elkland, Pennsylvania. The officers elected at the
annual meeting held in January, 1887, were William Bache, president; John L.
Kobinson, Chester Eobinson, Frederick K. Wright, Alfred J. Nichols, William
Bache, directors; Jefferson Harrison, secretary and treasurer; W. C. Kress, superin-
tendent. Preliminary surveys had been made, plans were drawn and submitted in
the fall of 1885, and the contract for constructing the reservoir, laying the water
mains and the supply pipes to the gate house, on Charleston creek, was let to Heer-

Online LibraryEmanuel SwedenborgHistory of Tioga County, Pennsylvania → online text (page 43 of 163)