Emanuel Swedenborg.

History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania online

. (page 6 of 163)
Online LibraryEmanuel SwedenborgHistory of Tioga County, Pennsylvania → online text (page 6 of 163)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

It was not required that two of the commissiom-rs should he on the <rround in
making this survey. The law says any tim, but they were f,Mvon no iliscrctinii, and
<!0uld have nothing to consult about. The district surveyors' return drafts of
land as surveyed by them were the guides; am! yet it is often found that two such
drafts, sworn to as made on the same day, are at least loo miles apart and could not
have I)eeii made persoiially by the same deputy, besides this, it i.s a well known fact
to all surveyors, that eaeli deputy liad a number of practical surveyors working for
him, who reported ])eriodically and wore paid for work apjiroved and used and re-
turned as aforesaid. Therefore, by aiialo^'v, Mr. V.\\'\» could, and did, smd liis sur-
veyor or surveyors to run certain of the county lines for him, and did not go on the
ground himself.

The commissioners appointed to run and mark the boundary lines of Jefferson
county, having first jjorformed their duty, as already stated, Ellis and Ross, or any
surveyor authorized by them, had a plain task to perform. "Beginnin^r at the south-
east corner of Warren county; thence east along the line of Jefferson county to the
northeast corner thereof; thence south along the line of .Icfferson county, fifteen
miles; thence east twenty-two miles; thence north to thi' State line," etc., which
comprised the territory of ]\IcKean. This done, the same or any other surveyor,
could run and mark the lines of Potter, which are directed by the law to bcpn "five
miles north of the southeast corner of McKcan county; thence east thirty miles to
Brodhead's (now I'.ilis") district line; thence north along said district line to the
State line," rtc.

Tioga county remains to be established. Section five of the aforesaid law di-
rects: That so much (but no more) of the county of Lycoming, included in tlie
following boundaries, to wit: "Beginning fire miles north of the southeast corner of
number four [the fourth county named] on Brodhead's district line, on the ea.stem
boundary of said number four; thence due east until it strikes the main branch of
T>vcoming creek; thence up the said creek to the head thereof, near the Towanda


Beaver dams; thence to the head of said Beaver dams or until it intersects the
boundary line between Luzerne and Lycoming counties; thence a straight line to the
eightieth mile stone on the State line," etc.

The foregoing provisions of the law seem explicit enough, and yet, through
accident or design, were never complied with. The beginning, course and termina-
tion of each line being fixed, any surveyor competent to run a compass, could have
legally followed and marked the lines, and it is probable that certain portions of these
were undertaken, respectively, by Ellis and Boss. It will be seen that the distance
eastward from the Jefferson line, which had to be run, was twenty-two miles; thence
north to the State line, since ascertained to be forty miles; thence along the south
line of Potter, thirty miles, to the district line; thence north along the latter five
miles, aggregating ninety-seven miles. This part of the work would naturally fall
to the lot of George Boss to perform. Then following the district line north to the
State line, thirty miles; from same eastward to the Lycoming creek, thirty-five miles;
thence up the same and to the State line thirty-three, aggregating also ninety-eight
miles, for Mr. Ellis, or his surveyor, at the eastern division.


Now, if such an allotment of duties was made between William Ellis and George
Boss, which fact is inferential from others, then George Boss honestly performed
his part of the contract, as a continuous line of the right date has been and can still
be traced as far as thirty miles eastward at the south side of Potter county, and to a
north and south tract line (John Barron, No. 5534) — perhaps mistaken for the dis-
trict line of about the same date — a birch corner is found at its termination, cor-
responding in age with the line and with the "call" on the ofi&cial map returned to
Harrisburg by George Boss and filed as required by law. From this birch corner a
surveyed line runs north, but whether made for the county or for a tract line, has
not yet been determined, nor has it yet been traced north beyond 520 perches.

As regards William Ellis' work, which would embrace the south, east and west
lines of Tioga county, it is almost certain that whatever was done, must have been
done by surveyors under his direction. Old vouchers are on file in the prothonotarjr's
office at Williamsport, showing payment by the county of Lycoming, to William
Benjamin,* one of Mr. Ellis' surveyors, for money received for running and marking
the lines of Tioga township and county. And a copy of an old draft is in existence
in the handwriting, it is believed, of John Norris, at the time a prominent citizen of
Wellsboro, Tioga county, made some time during the third decade of the present
century (or about 1837), which shows the termination of the county line on the
Lycoming creek, as returned by George Boss, and thence up it to the Beaver dams
near its source, delineating the same by a red line "as run by Joseph Williams, by
direction of the governor, in 1805." And also showing where Joseph Williams
"ended in 1805 running the county line." Joseph Williams, a pioneer of Williams-

* In the minute book of the co^nmissioners of I,yconiing county for 1805, under date of June 7th, (order No.
56) this entry appears : " William Benjamin in acct. for running the division line of Tioga township and county
$30." Also in the same book, under date of July 25, 1805, (order No. 87) is the following charge : " William Benja-
min in full for running the line of Tioga township and county, $77.39." This is conclusive evidence that he ran
the line, and the total cost was $107.39.


port, waa also one of Mr. Ellis' employed siirveyors, and is referred to in his will as
his agent for selling lands. He would, therefore, be a most likely person to be
deputed to run, at least, a part of the Tioga county line. But which of these lines
were run by Benjamin, and which by Williams? Tioga township was erected by the
court of Lycoming county in 1797, by dividing Lycoming to\vnship. The latter was
erected by decree of the court of Xorthumberland county in 178.5, and extended from
the river to the New York State line, and its southern end was bounded on the east
and the west by Lycoming and Pine creeks, respectively. Its territory was of great
extent originally. When settlements were made in the valley of the Tinpi river, it soon
became apparent that the township (Lycomini;) was too large for convenience, and
a division was made by setting off Tioga township, which then comprised the terri-
tority which became the county of Tioga in ilareh, lso4.

Considering the business operations of the times, the extensive purchase of lands
by what was called the Pine Creek Land Company, the operations of Jlorris and
Norris in what is now Morris township, the relationship existing between several of
the piiilics cdiicenicd, together with the fact that William Ellis was made one of the
trustees of Tiopi county by legislative enactment, it may l)e reasonably inferred that
William Benjamin ran and mai ked the western line, and also that at the east, extend-
ing from the eightieth mile-slone on the State line southward to the head of the
Beaver dams, on Towanda cret'k.

Joseph Williams, on the other hand, had surveyed, or suh-divided, Mr. Kllis'
lands between the iiycoming and Pine creeks, and would lie presMnii'd to know all
about this section of the county, and was, therefore, no doubt, us-i^qied to run and
mark the south lino of Tioga county, and thence up the I-ycoming creek, as shown
by said old draft. If Benjamin and Williams did this work in lSfi.">, during the life-
time of Mr. P^llis, nothing remained to he done at his (h'ath, but the niakinj,' of a map
in conjuction with (leorge Eoss, to complete the task assi^'iied them.

But by a supplemental law, jmssed April i:i, IsiiT. it ai)pears that "a small part
of the duty rcniained to be performed," and that (ieorge Ross was authorized "to com-
plete the running of the boundary lines of the counties of McKcan, Potter and Tioga,
and to return the map or draft of the lines of the said counties to the secretary of the
commonwealth." Said Koss was also allowed an extra sum of seventy-five cents for
every mile run, to he accounted for to the Icjral representatives of William Kllis, in
proportion to servicis rendered hy him in his lifetime. At what jioint, then, alin^:
these 200 miles of lines to be run and marked, did this "small part" remain to be
done in 1807?

Joseph Williams was engaged in surveyin.i:, dividing up, and selling ilr. Ellis'
lands between Lycoming and Pine creeks, and the old draft says he ran the county
line along or through those lands, but no continuous line of that date has yet I" i-n
found between BrodheadV district and Lycoming creek. There rests the wliole diffi-
culty. If sncli a line ever was run, it must be so far out of jiosition as to make it
void if found; and if it never was run, then a fraud was practiced upon the commis-
sion whieli returned it as comidying with the law.

It is true that a certain tract or land lino extending from Pine creek eastward
several miles, contains notdied trees at intervals which indicate milo-trec<. and after
n jog of '^onio rods another line continues toward the Lycoming creek, but neither


of these lines have a beginning at the district line or an ending at the Lycoming,
creek, and one found nearly a mile out of place, would answer to no survey of Mr.
Ellis' land. Moreover the notched trees could hardly be intended for mile-trees, as
no intelligent surveyor would denote the distance in that way, for in running thirty-
five or thirty-six miles he would have to cut the same number of notches, and if made
only six inches apart the scarred surface of the tree would gradually extend from one
to eighteen feet high! The marks alluded to were, therefore, probably made for sub-
divisions of Mr. Ellis' land only. Besides, an intermediate line, if intended for the
boundary, beginning ten miles east of the monument fixed by the law, and one mile
south of a direct east line from such, and stopping five miles short of the Lycoming
creek, could hardly be called a compliance with the "true intent and meaning of the
law," and therefore a nullity.

The want of evidence that the boundary between Lycoming and Tioga was
originally run, marked and fixed as required by the law, has been a perplexing
problem for surveyors ever since the year 1805. Numerous old drafts can be found
differing from one another as to the location of the county line, but none defining its
position from any given point. This want of knowledge induced land owners in its
supposed vicinity to apply to the legislature for relief; and by an act passed the 39th
of March, 1849, A. II. McHenry and John Pratt, of Lycoming, and William Bache,
of Tioga, were appointed commissioners "to run and distinctly mark the boundary
line or lines between the said counties of Lycoming and Tioga agreeably to the pro-
visions of the acts of Assembly defining the boundaries of the said counties."

In pursuance of this act, two of the commissioners named, did run and mark a
line from the thirty-first mile tree on the Brodhead district line through, due east, to
the Lycoming creek, which line is the only continuous one ever run and marked that
can be found, although it must be admitted that its beginning at the thirty-first mile-
tree is in accordance with George Ross' draft only, and not with the law; but then,
as the Potter line was not at this time extended to the district line, as already shown,
how could Major McHenry and his colleague find any other starting point, or do
otherwise than they did?

The transparent injustice of allowing two commissioners from Lycoming to
adjust and determine a question in which Tioga was equally interested, very properly
induced the legislature at its next session to annul their work, but continue the com-
mission, with a representative from each county interested, and an umpire from a
third. The new board never met and the old dispute remained in statu quo.

After the ratification of the New Constitution of 1873, by an act of the legislature
of April 17, 1876, the authority of apportioning commissioners to "carefully ascer-
tain the old line and designate the same by suitable marks of a permanent character,"
on petition, was conferred upon the several cou.rts of quarter sessions of the com-
monwealth, and under this law, on application, "William Bache, of Tioga; Henry H.
McNett, of Lycoming, and one surveyor from Bradford, were appointed to re-run and
mark the boundary line between Lycoming and Tioga.

It will be seen that these commissioners were to carefully ascertain the old line,
but as no line was originally run, as designated by the act of Assembly, it was impossi-
ble for these men to ascertain what was not in existence. They began on a tract line,
about midway between the district line and the Lycoming creek, significantly saying


in their report, that the line westward was too well known and manifest to require
remarking! Xow as to this, somebody was deceived. The line they traced does not
extend but a short distance farther westward, while there is none at all between Pine
creek and the district line. This commission therefore did not perform a miracle,
to find and re-mark a line never made!

The commission of 1892, composed of Hiram E. Bull, of Bradford county;
Darius L. Deane, of Tioga, and C. D. Eldred, of Lycoming, had all the foregoing com-
plex problems to examine and wrestle with. Their first effort was made to find the
"Birch comer" on the district line, returned as made by George Ross. But no "Birch
comer" of 1805, or later, except the one made by McHenry and Spafford in 1870,
could be found. These last named gentlemen were authorized by the act of April 3,
1869, "to re-run and revive and establish the original county line on the northern
boundary of Clinton county, the same being the division line between Clinton and
Potter counties."

The report and draft of their work cannot now be found in either of the afore-
said counties, and one of the commissioners (Mr. Spafford) — the other, Mr. McHenry,
being dead — in a letter on file with Messrs. Bull and Deane's report, alleges that his
notes of the survey were burned up with his l)uil(]iiif,', but that his recollection is that
in marking the survey, the old line was found and followed to the waters of Young-
woman's creek, after which it apparently disappeared. This letter corroborates the
allegation that the surveyor, whoever he w as, believed he had arrived at the division
line in running the south line of Potter, and made a birch corner on a tract line,
by mistake, three miles and 223.7 perches, by official survey, short of the proper
monument. The members of the last commission, therefore, had no trouble, as
already stated, to find McHenry and Spafford's "Birch corner" on the district line,
but oould discover no older marks on or near their line.

There is, it is true, a birch mile-tree, the thirty-fifth, on the said district line,
which possibly might have been taken by Joseph Williams for the one made by mis-
take over three miles westward: but if so, his line running east at a point five miles
north of it would make the line run by him as much too far north, as the partial line
commonly reputed as the county line, is found too far south. It is, therefore, plain
that Joseph Williams, or any other surveyor sent by William Ellis or tieorge Ross,
to run and mark the south line of Tioga county, could not begin at the southeast
comer of Potter county on Brodhead's district line and run along it north five miles,
as the law required, before running due east to the Lycoming creek, as no such corner
was yet established; but he could and should have gone to some point on the south
line of Potter county and traced that line to the "Birch corner." Tlie mistake being
found, a line north from the birch five miles and then due east, would reach the dis-
trict line at precisely the same point that a line north would have done, had the south
line been extended and the birch made on the district line, as called for in George
Ross' draft. Therefore the error was not material, as the law, and not the draft, fixed
the southeast corner of number four.

Another problem remains to be solved on the east boundary of Tioga. The law
creating the county directs a due east course to be run from the point fixed on the
district line "imtil it strikes the main branch of Lycoininp creek — thence up the said
creek to the head thereof, near the Towanda beaver dam>^." etc. Does the word


"strike/' mean to a point at the middle of the stream, and "up," the center of the
channel? Messrs. Eoss and Ellis did not so construe the law, as they followed the
tracts of land lines (crossing and re-crossing the creek many times) as shown by their
report and draft filed; but the inhabitants along the valley seem always to have un-
derstood the middle of the creek to be the line and boimdary.

The line as returned is certainly the most permanent, as it can always be traced
with some degree of accuracy; whereas the channel of a creek undergoes constant
and inevitable changes naturally, and may be diverted artificially without limit. It
is well known that the construction of the JN'orthern Central railroad did change it
materially in one location, and that floods have done the same thing in other sections,
to say nothing of private operations generally. Hence, if the middle of the channel
is the true line, then does this shuffle-board carry to and fro the county line, or was it
the line only where the creek ran in 1805? If the latter, how can it be established
now, after such a lapse of time and so many changes in the channel? Moreover,
the present established corner of Lycoming, Tioga and Bradford counties, is not
at the head nor on the bank of the Lycoming creek, but is on, or nearly on, the
line surveyed by Joseph Williams in 1805, and returned by George Eoss to the
land ofiice in 1809.

In conclusion, it is but fair to say that Joseph Williams about this year (1805)
succeeded in selling some of Mr. Ellis' lands on or near the reputed county line,
at Texas and the Block House, and that the new settlers, in the absence of any
other, adopted this intermediate and broken line as the actual county line and
the people have so regarded it up to the present.


Therefore, taking into consideration all the foregoing facts and circum-
stances, as they were found to exist by the last commission, or can be now es-
tablished, there seems to be a plain case for a judicial construction of the several
questions involved:

First. No corner being established on Brodhead's district line, and hence
no point at five miles north of it fixed and marked, from which a line due east
is found or was run to the Lycoming creek as required by the law, are the direc-
tions of the act still in force, and is the original line to be run and marked as
the prescribed one established by the legislature?

Second. What effect, if any, has the draft required to be made by George
Eoss and filed at Harrisburg in 1809, which agrees exactly with the law, but has
no water courses, or other monuments, marked thereon to designate or show hia
work; or does it signify that a line was run, but not properly marked according to
the true intent and meaning of the act of Assembly?

Third. No continuous line having been found as run in accordance with the
law and draft referred to, but an immediate line between Pine creek and the
Eoaring Branch of Lycoming creek, out of position and more than half of it well-
known land lines, and broken in character, but heretofore" recognized, and by
tradition, as the reputed county line; can the mistake of the settlers on or
near it, or the ofiicial acts of the township or county officer, nullify the provisions
of the law and thus change by prescription the boundaries of counties?


Fourth. If tradition and prescription can supercede a law, will it avail to
extend the line, where none is now found, from Fine creek west to the district
line, a distance of some ten miles; and eastward from the Eoaring Branch to
Lycoming creek, say four miles, or only as far as the line eastward?

Fifth. Would such a decision attach that portion of Potter county east of the
old hirch made by mistake on the west line of John Barron, Xo. 5. 524, to Clinton
county, and affirm the survey up Lycoming creek along the land Lines as aforesaid
(and not in the middle of the channel) as made by Joseph Williams in 1805 and
returned as the county line by George Ross in ISOli?

These seem to be complex, but important questions, and must be settled by
judicial or legislative authority, unless future developments should serve to cut
the gordian knot.

Messrs. Bull and Deane, however, disagree with Mr. Eldred. They filed a
separate and elaborate report, containing maps and drafts, showin;: the lines that
have been run, and took the jxtsitioii that the rutc)).'iii/.eil line sliould be accepted.
If the proposed new line were a(cci)t('d it would take quite a slice of territory
from Tioga. This, it is claimed, would not only be a hardshiji, but would disar-
range titles and cause more or less trouble. If the traditional line were accepted
by a decree of the courts the dispute would be forever ended.


Since the foregoing was written, a new commission has been appointed by
the courts and boards of county commissioners of T\o<xi\ and Lyeoming counties,
under authority of an act of assembly, approved May 'i'-i, ls;).->. This eommission
consists of 1). L. Deane, of Weljsboro, Tiopi county, and Tliram K. Bull, of To-
wanda, Bradford county, appointed by the court and board of commissioners of
Tioga county; and E. J. Eldred, of Willianisport, Lyeoming county, and J. M.
Boyer, of Selinsgrove, Snyder county, appointed by the court and board of com-
missioners of Lycoming county. These four met in Williamsport. September 18,
189(i, and selected John Jlorgan, of Ridgeway, Elk county, for the fifth member.
J. M. Boyer was elected president and Hiram i:. Bull secretary. It is to be hoped
this eommission will settle the dispute, and that their labors will result in a satisfac-
tory and final settlement of this century-old and perplexing boundary line trouble.



First White Men— Samuel Bakee Locates at La wrenceville— Other Early
Settlers There— First Settlers Along the Cowanesque River— Pioneers
OF the Tioga Valley— Early Settlers in other Parts op the County-
Hardships AND Privations ■ Endured- The Pine Creek Land Company-
Morris' Great Trust— Trouble in the Land Company— Norris and B abb-

PREVIOUS to the treaty of Port Stanwix, in 1784, the only white men to find
their way within the present limits of Tioga county, were French explorers,
Jesuit and Moravian missionaries, Indian scouts and hunters, and prisoners con-
ducted by the Indians over their paths or trails from the settlements in Penn-
sylvania to below Fort Niagara, in New York. Then followed the commissioners
to survey the boundary between Pennsylvania and New York, who, in 1786, brushed
out or cut a roadway, over which settlers afterwards found their way into Tioga
county, along the northern line of which it ran.

To Samuel Baker, however, belongs the honor of being the first white man to
settle within the limits of the county, and to rear for himself and family a house
in the midst of the unbroken wilderness. In the spring of 1787 he built a cabin
and commenced a clearing on the west bank of the Tioga river, almost directly east
of the present residence of Charles Beebe, in Lawrenceville. His cabin stood near
a large oak on the lands of Mrs. Damon. At that time Samuel Harris, his nearest
neighbor, was located at Painted Post, in the capacity of an Indian trader. Baker
raised some corn during the summer and managed to put in the time. On Christmas
day, 1787, he started down the river to Tioga Point, on the ice, leaving his cabin
in charge of Capt. Amos Stone, who had been a prominent actor in Shay's rebellion,

Online LibraryEmanuel SwedenborgHistory of Tioga County, Pennsylvania → online text (page 6 of 163)