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1883 Tioga County PA History
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History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania

History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania, (W. W. Munsell & Co., New York : 1883), 
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CHAPTER II.

INCENTIVES TO SETTLEMENT—CHARACTERISTICS AND EXPERIENCES OF THE PIONEERS

The first events which led to the settlement of the unbroken forests of Toga county were the treaty at Fort Stanwix, N. Y., in 1784, by which Pennsylvania became the owner of the territory comprising the northern and northwestern counties of the State; the subsequent establishment of a boundary line between Pennsylvania and New York in the years 1786 and 1787; the cutting out of a road for the surveyors from the Delaware River to the Tioga River at a point where the borough of Lawrenceville is now situated; the survey into small tracts of all the lands acquired in the treaty of 1784; and the cutting out by Robert and Benjamin Patterson in 1792-3 of the Williamson road from the Lycoming and West Branch at Williamsport across the Laurel Ridge Mountains to the Tioga River, via what is known as the "Block House," in the township of Liberty, thence down the valley of the Tioga to the State line, and thence to Bath, N. Y. Explorers and land viewers from the east struck the road made by the surveyors in 1786, before alluded to, and followed it westward until they reached the Tioga at the mouth of the Cowanesque; and at this point they might either turn south and follow up the Williamson road in the valley of the Tioga, or continue westward up the beautiful valley of the Cowanesque.

The first white settler within the present limits of Tioga county was Judge Samuel Baker. He followed the road cut by the boundary commissioners in 1787, and located at the ninetieth mile stone from the Delaware River, being where the borough of Lawrenceville is situated. We are indebted to Hon. Guy H. McMaster, of Bath, Steuben County, New York, the author of the History of Steuben County published in the year 1852, for a brief biography of Judge Baker.

"Samuel Baker, a native of Bradford county, Connecticut, when fifteen years of age was taken prisoner by a party of Burgoyne’s Indians, and remained with the British army in captivity till relieved by the surrender at Saratoga. After this event he enlisted in Colonel Willett’s corps, and was engaged in the pursuit and skirmish at Canada Creek, Herkimer county, N. Y., in which Captain Walter Butler (a brother of the noted Colonel John Butler), a troublesome leader of the tories in the border wars, was shot and tomahawked by the Oneidas. In the spring of 1787, he went alone into the west, passed up the Tioga and built a cabin on the open flat between the Tioga and Cowanesque Rivers at their junction. He was the first settle in the valley of the Tioga. Harris, the trader, was at the Painted Post, and his next neighbor was Colonel Handy, on the Chemung below Big Flats. Of beasts he had but a cow; of ‘plunder,’ the few trifling articles that would suffice for an Arab or an Arapaho; but like a true son of Connecticut he readily managed to live through the summer, planted with a hoe a patch of corn on the flats, and raised a good crop. Before autumn he was joined by Captain Amos Stone, a kind of Hungarian exile. Captain Stone had been out in ‘Shay’s War,’ and dreading the vengeance of the government he sought an asylum under the southern wing of Steuben county, where the wilderness was two hundred miles deep and where the marshals would not care to venture, even when backed by the great seal of the republic.

"On Christmas day 1787, Mr. Baker, leaving Stone in his cabin, went down the Tioga on the ice to Newtown (now Elmira), accompanied by an Indian. They were

[30] HISTORY OF TIOGA COUNTY

clad according to the rude fashion of the frontiers and the forests, in garments partly obtained by barter from outpost traders and partly stripped by robbery from the beasts of the forest. Tomahawks and knives were stuck in their belts, snow shoes were bound to their feet, and knapsacks of provisions were lashed to their backs. Such was the equipment deemed necessary for travelers not a century ago. The snow lay upon the ground four full feet in depth. It was brought in one of those storms which in former days swept down from Canadian regions and poured the treasures of the snowy zone on our colonial forests, storms which seldom visit us in modern days. The pioneer and his savage comrade pursued their journey on the ice. The Tioga was then a wild and free river. From its source, far up in the ‘Magnolia Hills’ of the old provincial maps, down to its union with the equally wild and free Conhocton, no device of civilized man fretted its noble torrent. A single habitation of human beings stand upon its banks, but it bore now upon its frozen surface the forerunner of an unresting race of lumbermen and farmers, who in a few years invaded it peaceful solitudes, dammed it wild flood, and hewed down the lordly forest through which it flowed. The travelers kept on their course beyond the mouth of the Canisteo to the Painted Post, where they expected to find the cabin of one Harris, a trader. On their arrival, however, at the head of the Chemung the found that the cabin had been destroyed by fire. The trader had either been murdered by the Indians or devoured by wild beasts or else he had left the country, and Steuben county was in consequence depopulated. Disappointed, the travelers continued their journey on the ice to Big Flats. Here night overtook them. They kindled a fire on the bank of the river and laid themselves down to sleep. It was one of those clear, still, bitter nights when the moon seemed an iceberg and the stars bright and sharp like hatchets. The savage rolled himself up in his blanket, lay with this back to the fire, and did not so much as stir till the morning; but his companion, though framed of that stout stuff out of which backwoodsmen are built, could not sleep for the intensity of the cold. At midnight a pack of wolves chased a deer from the woods to the river, seized the wretched animal on the ice, tore it to pieces, and devoured it within ten rods of the encampment. Early in the morning the travelers arose and went their way to the settlements below, the first of which was Newtown, on the site of the present city of Elmira. From Newtown Mr. Baker proceeded to Hudson, where his family was living.

"At the opening of the rivers in the spring he took his family down the Susquehanna to Tioga Point (now Athens) in a canoe. A great freshet prevented him from moving up the Chemung for many days, and leaving his family he struck across the hills to see how his friend Captain Stone fared. On reaching the bank of the river opposite his cabin not a human being was to be seen, except an Indian pounding corn in a samp mortar. Mr. Baker supposed that his friend had been murdered by the savages, and he lay in the bushes an hour or two to watch the movements of the red miller, who proved after all to be only a very good natured sort of a ‘man Friday,’ for at length the captain came along driving the cow by the bank of the river. Mr. Baker hailed him, and he sprang into the air with delight. Captain Stone had passed the winter without seeing a white man. His man Friday stopped thumping at the samp mortar and the party had a very agreeable reunion.

"Mr. Baker brought his family up from Tioga Point, and lived there six years * * * * He did not hold a satisfactory title to his Pennsylvania farm, and was inclined to emigrate. Captain Williamson visited him in 1792 and promised him a farm of any shape or size (land in New York previous to this could only be bought by the township), whenever he should locate to it. Mr. Baker accordingly selected a farm of some three hundred acres in Pleasant Valley, in Steuben county, N. Y.; built a house upon it in the autumn of 1793, and in the following spring removed his family from the Tioga. He resided there until his death, in 1842, at the age of 80. He was several years associate and first judge of the county court, and was a man of strong practical mind and of correct and sagacious observation. This was the first white man who settled within the limits of Tioga county, and in a measure he is the type of the sturdy and intelligent pioneers who afterward made this county their home, cutting down the forest and bringing it up to its present high state of prosperity."

The beautiful streams of pure spring water, abounding with fish, the abundance of wild game in the forests, the rich alluvial soil of the valleys, and the excellent grazing lands on the plateaus and ridges, soon attracted a strong, intelligent and courageous population to Tioga county. They came from New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and the central and eastern portion of the old Keystone State—from Lycoming, Northumberland, Dauphin, Cumberland, Lancaster, Chester and Philadelphia counties the tide of immigration flowed in. Those from Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Philadelphia settled in the central portion of the county and gave names to the township of Delmar and the county seat, Wellsboro. The original name of the township of Delmar, given to it by the early settlers, was Virdelmar, formed from the abbreviations of the names Virginia, Delaware and Maryland. The abbreviation Vir was subsequently dropped.

The early settlers of Liberty township came from Lycoming, Northumberland, Dauphin and Lancaster counties and spoke the Pennsylvania dialect of the German language, which many of their descendants continue to speak.

The settlers in the valley of the Tioga were principally from the New England States, and will be referred to in the several township and borough histories in the proper order.

The settlers of the Cowanesque Valley and the western portion of the county were from the counties bordering the Hudson River.

PIONEER EXPERIENCE [31]

Volumes could be written descriptive of the character and experiences of the pioneers of Tioga county. It seems to us that W. D. Gallagher when he wrote the following poem had in mind the pioneer of this county, it is so applicable to this locality and describes so well the feelings, actions and indomitable perseverance and energy of the people who first erected their rude dwellings in the valley of the Tioga, or upon the ridges and uplands. When Tioga county was first settled it was "away out west’ to the New Englander, and "away up north" to those who emigrated here from the waters of the lower Susquehanna and Delaware and the States of Maryland and Virginia. With a change of the line "Fifty years ago" to "Ninety years ago," nothing can be more appropriate:

A song for the early times out west,

And our green old forest home,

Whose pleasant memories freshly yet

Across the bosom come;

A song for the free and gladsome life

In those early days we led,

With a teeming soil beneath our feet

And a smiling heaven o’erhead.

O, the waves of life danced merrily

And had a joyous flow

In the day when we pioneers,

Fifty years ago.

The hunt, the shot, the glorious chase,

The captured elk or deer,

The camp, the big bright fire and then

The rich and wholesome cheer;

By our camp-fire blazing high,

Unbroken by the wolf’s long howl

And the panther springing by,

O, merrily passed the time, despite

Our wily Indian foe,

In the days when we were pioneers,

Fifty years ago.

We shunned not labor! When ‘twas due

We wrought with right good will,

And for the home we won for them

Our children bless us still.

We lived not hermit lives, but oft

In social converse met;

And fires of love were kindled then

That burn on warmly yet.

O, pleasantly the stream of life

Pursued it constant flow

In the days when we were pioneers,

Fifty years ago.

* * * * *

Our forest life was rough and rude

And dangers closed us round,

But here, amid the green old trees

Freedom we sought and found.

Oft through our dwelling wintry blasts

Would rush with shriek and moan;

We care not—though they were but frail

We felt they were our own.

O, free and manly lives we led,

Mid verdure or mid snow,

In the days when we were pioneers,

Fifty years ago.

At the commencement of the present century Pennsylvania contained only 602,365 inhabitants and New York 589,051, Pennsylvania leading New York by 13, 314. The settlements in Pennsylvania at that time were chiefly confined to the lands upon the lower Lehigh, Delaware, Schuykill, Susquehanna and Allegheny, and in New York with but few exception all the regions west of Utica, on the Mohawk, and of Newburgh, on the Hudson, were sparsely settled. In parts of Pennsylvania and New York where there are now nearly four millions of human beings then there were but a few thousands. An area in New York and Pennsylvania comprising 30,000,000 acres was then substantially a great forest, broken only here and there by a few isolated settlements and clearings. The great Six Nations of Indians had held in check settlement by the Anglo-Saxon race. The march of General Sullivan during the Revolutionary war into the heart of the territory of the Six Nations, with soldiers from various States of the Union, showed these hardy veterans a land which they desired to occupy, and which after the close of the Revolutionary struggle the did occupy. After peace was declared, treaties with the Indians made, lands surveyed and the titles perfected, there was a general rush to these lands, from the rugged coasts and hills of New England in the east to the low lands of the Potomac in the south. Many of the settlers, as we have before stated, came with ready money; but ready money was not the only thing needful—energy, courage and physical endurance were required. Here was a vast wilderness, extending from the lower waters of the Delaware, Schuykill and Susquehanna to Lakes Erie and Ontario, and beyond the Rivers Mohawk and Genesee. The pioneer came, stood upon some mountain in Tioga, cast his eye over this great forest and selected his land; secured his title either by contract or deed, and prepared himself for the great battle.

A log house is erected, with room for nothing but the really necessary furniture; for the first few months the only tools he uses are his axe and gun. A clearing is commenced, and as he stands at the foot of some huge forest tree, with uprolled sleeves, axe in hand, and knows that it is in his power to hurl it to the ground, there is a feeling of self-reliance and independence more valuable than gold and silver. His trusty rifle is near at hand in case deer, bear, wolf or panther should come that way (in the evening it hangs upon rude hooks cut from the forest, with bullet pouch, charger and powder-horn). Blow succeeds blow; tree after tree has gone down before his well-directed efforts, and soon the sunlight dances in upon his work and smiles with approbation.

The first season passes away and the foundation for a prosperous home is laid. Our pioneer has a wife who possesses equally with him courage and ability to perform each day’s duties with cheerfulness and without a murmur. Perhaps in her solitude she may at times think of her former home in the sunny south, or of the cheerful, happy fireside of New England; but it is only for a moment. Her whole ambition is to make a home pleasant in the land of the Tioga. While her husband is clearing the forest and bringing the lands under cultivation she is busy in her domestic duties, plying the needle, the loom or the spinning-wheel.

Although the life of a pioneer was one of toil and anxiety, still it was not without its bright and enjoyable moments. There was a strong tie of friendship and mutual sympathy between these early pioneers. They

[32] HISTORY OF TIOGA COUNTY

were all engaged in the same great undertaking to reclaim the wilderness and compel it to bloom and bear fruit. Five, ten, or twenty miles then were comparatively a short distance, and such a journey was thought no more of a hardship by the early settlers than a walk of a few squares by the present residents of towns and cities. Did a settler wish to raise a house, barn or mill, or roll the logs together in the fallow, to ask was to receive help from all the settlers for miles around, who cheerfully responded and by their united strength of muscle accomplished the desired object. This was also true of the harvest. If a settler, through unforeseen circumstances, was unable to gather in his crops, the same helpful spirit was manifested. In sickness and in death the hand made rough by honest toil would lend assistance, and the cheek bronzed in the sun would be moistened by the tear of sympathy. There was a sort of forest or pioneer chivalry prevalent in those days. If a difficulty or dispute arose it was settled at once, either by arbitration or personal prowess, and when this disposed of there was no appeal. Should there be one who suffered himself to entertain vindictive or malicious feelings toward his brother pioneer after the olive branch of peace had been extended and received, he was deemed an unworthy brother and shunned and avoided by his neighbors far and near. Such a state of things was of rare occurrence. Men met then on the level; no aristocracy was tolerated; theirs was a common cause, and shoulder to shoulder they marched to victory. The wilderness was reclaimed, hamlets, villages and towns came into being and comfortable farm houses had taken the place of the log huts. Broad fields of grain and pasture land granaries rich in stores of golden corn were the result of a few years’ toil and perseverance.

Such, dear reader, were the characteristics of the pioneers of Tioga county. They laid the foundation of our present prosperity; they made homes for their children and left a rich legacy for the present generation; and placed in its grasp untold wealth in mineral, agricultural and industrial resources.
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