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THE INDIANS IN POSSESSION--- LAND PURCHASES FROM THEM---THE STATE LINE LOCATED
In order that the reader may have a clear idea in relation to the territory now comprised within the limits of Tioga county it is necessary that we refer to the aborigines who roamed over its domain for centuries before William Penn founded Pennsylvania, or settlements were made by the Anglo-Saxon race within its borders. At the time of William Penn’s arrival upon the shores of the Delaware River, October 4th 1682, the Five (afterward Six) Nations of Indians, dwelling on an east and west line through the central part of New York State, exercised eminent domain, as it were, and control over all the wild lands from the Potomac at the south to Canada and the lakes at the north. Their council fires were to be lighted and the smoke from the wigwams was seen to ascend in all the valleys of that vast region. They were to be found in great numbers on the banks of the Genesee, Mohawk, Hudson, Delaware, Chenango and the Black Rivers and the tributaries of the Susquehanna---the Canisteo, Conhocton, Chemung and Tioga--in New York, as well as on the shores of the numerous lakes in that State; while upon the Susquehanna, Lehigh, Delaware, Juniata, Schuylkill, Lackawanna and Allegheny and other stream in Pennsylvania their sway was absolute.
Their hunting trails or war paths from central and western New York were to be traced along the valleys of the Lehigh, Susquehanna, Tioga and Allegheny. From their settlement at Big Tree, on the Genesee, their paths led southward down the Conhocton and Canisteo, at or neat where Painted Post is now situated , and from thence down the main stream of the Susquehanna to Northumberland; or up the Tioga passing neat where the present villages or boroughs of Lawrenceville, Tioga, Mansfield, Canoe Camp, Covington and Blossburg are situated , and thence southward up Johnson’s Creek to where the mining town of Arnot now stands, thence to Babb’s Creek, down that stream to Pine Creek, and down Pine Creek to the west branch of the Susquehanna at Jersey Shore; or from Blossburg on the route of the present Williamson road to Liberty or Block House, and across the Laurel Ridge Mountain, striking the Lycoming a few miles north of its intersection with the west branch of the Susquehanna ,within the limits of the site of the city of Williamsport. Another trail left the Tioga River near where the present borough of Tioga is located, ascended the valley of Crooked Creek, thence led to Wellsboro and on south, by the way of Stony Fork, to Pine Creek; and still another left the Canisteo at Addison, N.Y., crossed the Tuscarora and led over the hills to near where Elkland is now situated, on the Cowanesque; thence running in a southwesterly direction, crossing Pine Creek and descending Kettle Creek to Westport, on the west branch of the Susquehanna. In fact there were numberless trails leading southward from the lakes in New York, many of them passing through the territory now embraced within the limits of Tioga county. These facts were ascertain from the late Benjamin Patterson, of Lindley, New York, whose father, Robert Patterson, was an Indian scout during the Revolutionary war, and assisted in cutting the Williamson road from Northumberland over the Laurel Ridge Mountain to the Tioga River, and thence to Painted Post and Bath, in the year 1792. Mr. Patterson’s statement was corroborated by the late Loren Lamb, whose father settled at Lamb’s Creek, in this county, in the year 1796.
Although William Penn received a royal charter from King Charles the Second for the territory comprising Pennsylvania, yet Penn found it in the possession of a great and warlike confederacy of Indian nations, who held sacred and dear all that pertained to the mountains, streams and forest. He therefore proceeded to treat with these Indians for their lands and hunting grounds. By himself and through his deputies and agents, up to and including the year 1749,the Indian title was extinguished by treaty and sale, and not by conquest, to those lands now comprising the counties of Chester, Delaware, Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Northampton, Lehigh, Monroe, Adams, York, Cumberland, Franklin, Lancaster, Dauphin, Lebanon, Berks, Schuylkill, Carbon and Pike; In 1754 the Indian title was relinquished in Bedford , Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon, Blair, Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Snyder and Centre; In 1768 in Allegheny, Washington, Greene, Fayette, Somerset, Westmoreland, Indiana, Union, Northumberland, Montour, Columbia, Luzerne, Wyoming, Lackawanna, Wayne, Susquehanna, Sullivan and a portion of Lycoming; leaving the northern and the western area of the State-- composed of the counties of Bradford, Tioga, Potter, McKean, Warren, Crawford, Mercer, Venango, Forest, Elk, Cameron, Clarion, Clinton, Clearfield, Jefferson, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver and Lawrence-- to be extinguished by the State of Pennsylvania in the year of 1784, and by the later purchase of a triangle composing the county of Erie by the commonwealth from the United States government in the year 1792, to perfect the title against all claimants to the entire present domain of Pennsylvania. The derivation of Tioga county: first, from Lancaster county, which was formed May 10th 1729 from a part of Chester, one of the three original counties; second, from Northumberland, which was formed March 21st 1772 from parts of Lancaster, Cumberland, Berks, Bedford and Northampton; third, from Lycoming, which was formed from parts of Northumberland April 13th 1795. Tioga county was created March 26th 1804.
From the earliest recorded data in relation to the Indians within the limits of Northumberland county, the grandmother of Tioga, we find that Shikellimy, a distinguished Oneida chief, had his home near Milton. He had been sent by his tribe down the Susquehanna as the governing chief of the Delaware and Shawanese. From that time until after the close of the Revolutionary war there are many facts connected with the settlement of the west branch of the Susquehanna, and with the numerous battles fought between the Indians and the early settlers of the counties of Northumberland, Union, Lycoming and Clinton, to show that Tioga county was directly in the pathway of the Six Nations, and also of the French. In the year 1866 the writer, in assisting in the survey of lands belonging to the Fall Brook Coal Company, found a tree between Blossburg and Arnot that had received a blow from an axe in the year 1744 or 1745. This mark was evidently made by an Indian or Frenchman, and tended to confirm the belief of many that the apple trees and cornfields (especially the trees ) found by General Sullivan in 1779 upon the upper waters of the Susquehanna, near Painted Post, and in the Genesee country, were planted by the French, in connection with the general plan to take possession of western Pennsylvania, as evidenced by their surveys in the year 1749 under Captain Louis Celoron, who was dispatched by the governor -general of New France ( Canada) to take possession of northern and western Pennsylvania and country bordering on the Ohio. In compliance with instructions from the governor-general Captain Celoron did actually take possession and cause surveys to be made and fortifications to be erected within the territory comprising of the western counties of this State, along the Allegheny, Clarion, and Oil Creek; and it is reasonable to suppose -- and in truth the records of both New York and Pennsylvania show-- that from Schenectady westward in New York, and from the head waters of the Allegheny in McKean and Potter counties in Pennsylvania, to Pittsburg and down the Ohio, the French did for a long period exercise control and that they instructed the Indians in rude agriculture and many things much to the detriment of the English settlers.
Passing over the events if the French and Indian war, and those of the Revolution, in which the citizens if our mother county were engaged, we come to the period when at Fort Stanwix (Rome), New York, a treaty was made, on the 23rd day of October 1784, with the Indians, by which the territory now embraced in the counties of Bradford, Tioga, Potter, Clinton, Cameron, McKean Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Clearfield, Clarion, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Crawford and Warren was ceded to Pennsylvania.
At this time not a white man inhabited the domain of Tioga county. It had been the hunting ground of the savages for ages, and their paths were traceable in all directions; and when settlers began to invade their land on the waters of the Susquehanna these paths were used by the warriors of the Six Nations, and by the French in their strife for territory. The American scout in pursuit of the red man had penetrated the forests of Tioga , but not with the idea of settlement, for it was Indian territory and guarded with jealousy and vigilance by the wily savage: and it was not until the treaty of 1784 at Fort Stanwix that the life of a white man was for a moment safe within its limits.
We append a letter of Samuel J. Atlee, William Maclay and Fra. Johnston, commissioners on the part of Pennsylvania, and the answer of the Six Nations. Effecting a question of boundary in Pennsylvania:
Sunbury, Nov.15th 1784
“Fra. Johnston. Samuel J. Atlee Wm. Maclay.”
Answer of the Six Nations in relation to the lands:
“Brothers from Pennsylvania--- We have heard what you have said and are well pleased with the same. The consideration we have fully agreed to on which we are to receive for the lands, and agreeable to your request have appointed Captain Aaron Hill, Onegueandahonjo and Koneghariko, of the Mohawk tribe; Kayenthoghke, Thaghneghtanhare and Teyagonendageghi, of the Seneca tribe; Ohendarighton and Thoneiyode, of the Cayuga; Sagoyakalonga, Otoghselonegh, Ojistalale, Oneyanha, Gaghsaweda and Odaghseghte, of the Oneida; and Onasaghweughte and Thalondawagon, of the Tuscarora, as suitable persons to receive the goods from you. With regard to the creek called Teadaghton in your deed of 1768, we have already answered you, and again repeat it, it is the same you call Pine Creek, being the largest emptying into the west branch of the Susquehanna. Agreeable to your wish we have appointed Thaghneghtanhare to attend your surveyor in running the line between you and us.
“ We do certify that the aforegoing speech was this day made by Captain Aaron Hill on behalf of the Six Nations to the Pennsylvania commissioners. Witness our hand this twenty-third day of October anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four.
“ Samuel Kirkland, Miss’ry
“James Dean, Interpreter
After this acquisition of territory by the authorities of Pennsylvania immediate attention was directed to it by them. Lands were properly surveyed and placed upon the market. The running of the boundary line between New York and Pennsylvania and the cutting out of the Williamson road, which ran north and south through the lands within the present limits of the county, in the year 1792, broke the stillness of the primeval forests, which no citizen of Pennsylvania before dared disturb. The spell was broken. Lycoming county was organized in 1796, being formed from Northumberland; eight years later Tioga county, by an act of the Legislature, was created, and nearly three-fourths of a million of acres of virgin soil was ready for occupation by the pioneer--consisting of valleys of alluvial soil and undulating plateaus, covered with an immense growth of pine, hemlock, oak, chestnut, and ash, abounding in springs of water as pure and sparkling as ever emanated from mother earth. The great hunting grounds of the Six Nations were invaded, not by a band of warriors bent on death and destruction, but by an army of pioneers intent on cutting down the forest and hewing out homes for themselves in the wild mountains regions of the Tioga. Nor were they of that class who sometimes invade a country penniless and become mere squatters; but the wealthy and intelligent of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and the New England States eagerly sought out homes in northern Pennsylvania. As early as 1792 William Bingham of Philadelphia, a United Senator, purchased over a million of acres upon surveys made by the officers of the commonwealth and by them regularly returned to the surveyor general, many thousand acres of which were in Tioga county. He died in Philadelphia, February 6th 1804, in the fifty-first year of his age. His will, bearing date January 31st 1804, was duly proved and filed in the register’s office of Philadelphia, and a copy is filed in the county of Tioga. He devised his estate to five trustees for the benefit of his son and two daughters. His trustees were his son-in-law Alexander Baring( afterwards Lord Ashburton) and Henry Baring and the testator’s friends Robert Gilmore, of Baltimore, and Thomas Mayne Willing and Charles Willing Hare, of Philadelphia. These trustees continue the sale of these lands, which had been commenced by Senator Bingham, and in the year 1845 the general land office of the estate was located at Wellsboro by William Bingham Clymer, a grandson of George Clymer, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
In 1786 Andrew Ellicott on the part of Pennsylvania and James Clinton and Simeon De Witt on the part of New York commenced the survey of the boundary line between New York and Pennsylvania. We append the report made by them October 12th 1786:
“ We the subscribers, being appointed commissioners agreeably to laws severally enacted by the Legislatures of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New York, for the purpose of running and marking a boundary line between the said States, to begin at the River Delaware in forty-two degrees north latitude, and to continue in the same parallel of forty-two degrees to the western extremity of the s’d States, have in conformity to our appointment finished ninety miles of the said boundary , extending from the River Delaware to the western side of the south branch of the Tioga River, and marked the same with substantial mile stones. Witness our hands and seals this twelfth day of October in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty-six--1786.
“Andrew Elliot, [l.S..] for Pennsylvania
“James Clinton [ l.S..]
“ Simeon De Witt [l.S.] for New York”
On the 12th of October 1787 Andrew Elliot and Andrew Porter make the following report:
“Lake Erie, October 12th 1787.
Dear Sir--- We arrived here on the 8th and the same day began our course of observation, which will probably be completed in 5 or 6 days. The random line passed between Le Beauf and Presque Isle, about 5 miles north of the former and we conjecture about 6 miles south of the latter. Considering the unexpected difficulties we had to encounter for want of competent knowledge of the geography of the country, the death of our horses, time taken up in making our canoes, and treating with the Indians, our business has gone on beyond our most sanguine expectations, and without the intervention of some uncommon circumstance or accident will be completed in 14 or 15 days. We divide the line in such a manner as to make 6 stations, at each of which we determined a point in the parallel of latitude, by about 36 observations. Neither attentions or exertions have ever been wanting on our parts toward scientific and permanent completion of the business entrusted to us, and the general behaviour and industry of our men has been such as to entitle them to our thanks.
“ We are, sir, your humble servants,
“ Andrew Porter
“David Rittenhouse, Esq.”
On the 29th day of October 1787 the commissioners made their final report, accompanied by maps showing the topography of the country from the Delaware River to Lake Erie. We subjoin the report:
“We the subscribers, being commissioned agreeably to laws severally enacted by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of Pennsylvania and the State of New York, for the purpose of running and marking a boundary line between the said States in the parallel of forty-two degrees of north latitude, beginning at the River Delaware and extending to a meridian line drawn from the southwest corner of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania , have in conformity to our appointment extended the said line from the ninetieth mile stone to Lake Erie, and marked the same in a lasting and permanent manner by mile stones, or posts surrounded by mounds of earth where stones could not be procured. The stones at the several points where latitude was determined are large and well marked, and contain on the south side, ’Pennsylvania, latitude 42º N. 1787,’ also the variations of the magnetic needle; on the north side ’New York,’ and their several distances frem the River Delaware.
“Witness our hands and seals this twenty-ninth day of October one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven.
“ Andrew Ellicott, [L.S.] Commissioners from
“ Andrew Porter, [ L.S.] Pennsylvania.
“Abr’am Hardenberg,[ L.S.] Commissioners from
“William Morris, [L.S.] New York.”
It may be proper to mention here that, owing to the lapse of time and the destruction and removal of many of the landmarks established by the commissioners in the years 1786 and 1787, and the consequent disputes and litigations in relation to the true boundary between New York and Pennsylvania, the Legislature of Pennsylvania passed an act which was approved by Governor John F. Hartranft May 8th 1876, creating a commission from the State of New York to re-survey said boundary line and determine its true location. The commissioners entered upon their work, and have from time to time made reports of progress ; but no final action in relation to their work and the ratification of the line agreed upon by the commission has as yet been taken by the Legislatures of Pennsylvania and New York. It is, however, anticipated that it will be done in the near future and the perplexing questions settled permanently..
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