History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania
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By John L. Sexton Jr.
Morris township was formed in September 1824, and taken from the township of Delmar. It is bounded on the north by Delmar, Duncan and Charleston townships, on the east by Liberty township, on the south by Lycoming county, and on the west by Elk township. Its surface is uneven and broken with high mountains, on either side of the numerous creeks which flow through its territory. All the streams in the township flow south and ultimately empty into Pine Creek, which discharges its waters into the west branch of the Susquehanna near Jersey Shore, in Lycoming county. This region was originally very heavily timbered with white pine, hemlock, chestnut, maple and birch. There is considerable coal yet undeveloped in the township, besides veins of iron ore. Along the principal streams the soil is alluvial and produces corn, wheat, oats, buckwheat, grass, tobacco, and orchard fruits, while in the eastern portion of the township, adjoining Liberty, there are fine farms and prosperous farmers, with good dwellings, barns, agricultural implements, and fine orchards.
Among the settlers in this portion of the township are John Linck, Fred Heiler, Henry Miller, Fred Heiler jr., John Desmond, William and Daniel Caspeare, W. H. Leisering, John Neufer, Nicholas Emick, Frank Woodhouse, James Custard, John Little, Benjamin Russell, John, Frances, William and Abram Plank, H. Guy, George, Henry, William, Adelbert and J. Edgar Thomas, Calvin, Alfred and Chester Hart, Ezra and Edwin Banfield, Reuben Brion, Burdett Root, Charles Comstock, David Butters, John Haggarty and Frederick and Gotlieb Brown.
The township officers for the official year 1881-2 were: Supervisors, John Linck, James Blackwell; justices, John Haggarty, Job Doane; school directors, William Blackwell, J. E. Webster, Alfred Emick, William Emick; judge of election, John Wilson; inspectors, J. E. Webster, Francis Plank; town clerk, John Haggerty; auditors, James Blackwell, William Linck.
The following was the vote for the present officers, as given in the Wellsboro Agitator:
Blackwell, 57; John Linck, 155; B. F. Campbell, 55; Robert Wilson, 23.
Justice of the peace--Enoch Blackwell, 123; John Haggerty, 156.
Constable--Isaac Smith, 86; E. J. Thomas, 66; A. A. Emick, 4.
School directors--G. S. Peters, 130; John Williamie, 55; Henry Thomas, 68.
Assessor--John Wilson, 117; A. G. Seeman, 36.
Assistant assessors--Enoch Blackwell, 135; J. E. Webster, 53; Robert Wilson, 56.
Treasurer--D. F. Linck, 93.
Town clerk--Jerry Desmond, 91.
Judge of election--J. E. Webster, 49; Francis Plank, 41.
Auditor--Henry Lewis, 44; F. E. Doane, 41.
In the general history of the county we have given the course of the several Indian trails which pass through Tioga county, and we learn from Enoch Blackwell that there were evidences of an Indian village on the site of his present dwelling and garden. There were places there where it was certain that wigwams ere erected prior to the Revolutionary war. He has found arrowheads, pots and French hatchets, also a hatchet or small axe which has the appearance of being bronze or brass. Little collections of sandstones which had served the Indians were found upon the premises. As a further evidence of the presence of Indians at a very early period he discovered "blazes" or hacks upon pine trees, which were made 150 years ago with a hatchet of steel about two and a half inches in the blade. The presence of the bronze or brass axe, which is undoubtedly of French manufacture, shows how at that early day the French people were mingling with the Indians of the Six Nations, and seeking to gain territory in northern and western Pennsylvania. Shikellimy at this time (1732) was chief of the Monseys, and had his seat near Sunbury, on the west branch of the Susquehanna; and a complete chain of Indian settlements extended from the mouth of the Juniata to the head waters of the west branch, and north to Canada. The abundance of fish in the waters of Babb's Creek, Cedar Run and other tributaries of Pine Creek, and of deer, elk, bear and other game, was inviting to the Indians. At an elevation of only about 860 feet above tide, with high mountains around, a suitable and desirable place was Blackwell's for an Indian town. The old Indian trail north went up Stony Fork Creek from Babb's Creek, through to Wellsboro and thence to Tioga; and another path led up Babb's Creek to Arnot, and so to the Tioga at Blossburg, intersecting the great Indian trail from the mouth of the Lycoming to Blossburg, Painted Post and the Genesee country. It was along these trails that the Indians traveled, either on hunting excursions or when they were harassing the settlers on the west branch of the Susquehanna. In case of defeat, or when for other reasons they left the valley of the west branch, they would retire to their numberless camps along the routes we have named, and be secure from invasion or attack. The camp on the farm of Mr. Blackwell was one of those retreats, and when the settlers on the west branch though that their wily foes had retreated to the country on the Genesee River they had only retired a few miles into the present limits of Tioga county, and were stealthily watching the operations of the west branch settlers. It will be recollected that the treaty with the Indians in 1768, which gave the white settler the privilege of settling as far up the Susquehanna as the mouth of Tiadaghton Creek, was not interpreted to mean Pine Creek until the subsequent treaty of 1784, at Fort Stanwix, N.Y. Tioga county was just north of that line, and settlements and camps of the Indians like that on Mr. Blackwell's place were the Indian outposts, where they kept their hunters and warriors posted as sentinels.
The First Settlers.
Samson Babb, a native of Wilmington, Delaware, came from West Chester, Chester county, Pa., to the wilds of what is now Morris township, and was the first settler. He came in the year 1800; settled at a point where the hotel of A. L. Bodine is now located, and gave the name to Babb's Creek , which flows past the place. He purchased 450 acres from the Pine Creek Land Company. He built the first saw-mill in the township, which was in operation as early as 1806. The first year he manufactured lumber he floated it down to near the mouth of the creek, intending there to raft it over and run it down Pine Creek to the west branch of the Susquehanna River. A sudden freshet came and carried his lumber away, and he lost it all. His wife remained a few years in the wilderness and returned to West Chester, where she died. Mr. Babb's son William remained with him, assisting the old gentleman in clearing up the farm and in his lumbering operations. Samson Babb was largely instrumental in getting a State road built from Newberry (now within the corporate limits of Williamsport) up to Pine Creek and so through to Wellsboro. He was commissioned a justice of the peace in 1813. His grandson William Babb, a surveyor, who now resides in Morris near where his grandfather settled, informs us that his pioneer ancestor spent from eight to ten thousand dollars in erecting a dwelling, barns and mills, and improving the farm. There are no records in relation to the time of his birth. He died in October 1815, and was buried near his dwelling in Morris, and the highway passes over or near his grave.
William Babb remained in Morris after the death of his father, and married Mary Campbell, by whom he had three children--George, William and Samson. Samson enlisted in the army and died during the Rebellion, at Nashville, Tennessee.
William Babb jr. Was born on the homestead of his grandfather, in 1820, and was educated partly in Morris and partly in Chester county, Pa. He learned the arts of type-setting and surveying, which latter occupation he has pursued for many years. He was married in 1849 to Miss Mary Ann Snyder, of Union county, Pa., by whom he had three children--Mary, wife of ----- Sherman; Beulah, wife of John Webster; and George. He has been during his whole life a resident of Morris.
Enoch Blackwell sen. Was born in Haven parish, Gloucestershire, England, and came to Philadelphia in 1805. He was one of a company known as the English Company, which purchased 12,000 acres on both sides of the line between Lycoming and Tioga counties, extended into the present township of Morris. The others of the company were Rev. John Hay, of Philadelphia, William Wells, and Mr. Shearburne. Mr. Blackwell had seven children--John, William, Enoch, Sarah (wife of John Camble), Nancy (wife of Henry Tomb), Phebe (wife of ----- Shearer of Illinois) and Mary (wife of James Campbell). He first settled in Pine township, Lycoming county, in 1805, and in 1810 came to Morris township.
Enoch Blackwell, son of William Blackwell, and grandson of Enoch Blackwell just mentioned, was born in Morris township, January 29th 1824, on the tract purchased by his grandfather. He was educated at home and in the common schools of the township, and became a farmer and lumberman. He was married in 1848 to Miss Mary Webster, by whom he has eight children--Horace W., Clara (wife of William Walters), Thomas, Mary Adelaide (wife of Henry Tidd), Eugene, Harriet (wife of William Plan), Sylvester and Miles. Mr. Blackwell is an active, enterprising business man, engaged in lumbering, farming and mercantile pursuits; owning large tracts of timbered lands, and a farm of about ninety acres under a good state of cultivation, with a good dwelling and two barns. He has lived 58 years on the farm where he now resides--about six miles from Samson Babb's old place, on Babb's Creek near its confluence with Pine Creek. He is the postmaster at Lloyds.
Among the old settlers were Abram Harris, George Bonell, John Darling, Samuel M. Harrison, William Diggin, Jacob Valentine, Charles Duffy, William Blackwell, and Robert Campbell, a Revolutionary soldier, who entered the continental army under Washington when only 16 years of age, and who is buried at Campbelltown, on Pine Creek.
School and Church Advantages.
The first school-house was about a mile above the mouth of Babb's Creek. It was a small log house with a slab roof. Another early school-house, 16 feet square, farmed, stood near the present residence of William Babb. It had slabs for desks and seats. There are now six good framed school-houses in the township.
Among the early teachers were Nancy Clark, who taught about the year 1832; an Englishman named Samuel M. Harrison, and Dr. Rogers.
The only church edifice in the township is a union church at Nauvoo. Worshipers who cannot be accommodated in that church use the several school-houses of the township. Among the ministers who early preached in Morris was Rev. George Higgins, a Baptist minister from Philadelphia, who had service about the year 1835. The present officiating minister is Rev. James Patton, a Methodist.
The Brunswick Tannery--Saw-Mills.
Morris township can boast of having within its limits the largest tannery in the world.
Late in the fall of 1880 Hoyt Bros., of No. 72 Gold street, New York, purchased several thousand acres of hemlock-timbered land east and west of Babb's Creek, and determined to erect a mammoth tannery. They commenced operations in February 1881, locating the tannery about three-fourths of a mile below where Wilson Creek empties into Babb's Creek. They gathered a force of carpenters, stone masons, brick-layers, blacksmiths and lumbermen, and by the first day of January 1882 had their works in operation, and even three months before that date they commenced grinding bark and tanning leather. All the heavy machinery, engines, boilers and much of their other materials were received at Antrim, and hauled down the steep mountain road or "dugway" to the desired spot. The capacity of the gannery is 1,000 sides per day, and it consumes 100 cords of bark per day or over 30,000 cords annually. The combined motive power to drive the machinery aggregates over 400 horse power. The bark sheds hold 20,000 cords, and the dry-house and loft is 900 feet long and made in the most substantial manner. There are 512 double vats, equal to 1,024 single ones; a hide-house, made of brick, capable of holding over 100,000 hides; 12 rolling machines in the rolling lofts; 6 bark mills; 40 square leaches, capable of holding 400 cords of bark; sweat pits made of stone, capable of holding 5,000 sides, and all the other appliances and fixtures in proportion. In addition to the construction of the tannery and its necessary buildings there have been erected 80 dwellings, a store, a boarding house, two blacksmith shops, a steam saw-mill, a planing-mill, a feed-mill and three carpenter shops. One hundred and twenty-five men are employed in the tannery alone, besides clerks, mechanics, the large force of workmen connected with the handling of bark and hides, etc. Probably not less than $1,000,000 was required to purchase the land and set this huge manufactory in motion. The engines and machinery are of the very best kind, and all the mason work is of the most substantial and durable material, and put together to stay. The establishment is called the Brunswick Tannery. Hoyt Bros. Are the proprietors, with George E. Brown as general manager, Edmond Kennedy tanner, Stewart Miller outside foreman, Isaiah Bunn assistant outside foreman, O. F. Taylor store keeper, A. R. Spicer account, George S. Peters assistant accountant, Thomas Blackwell and Gustar Sharping clerks, Eugene Clark weighmaster, and Dr. S. W. Sine resident physician.
The erection of this mammoth industrial establishment and the completion of the Arnot and Pine Creek Railroad will stimulate the farmers of Morris and Liberty to increased efforts to produce the beef, pork, grain and vegetables needed at the tannery; and the sturdy lumberman will find employment on the annual forty thousand cords of bark and the sixty million feet of hemlock lumber that the trees will make from which the bark is taken; saw-mills will be erected, and every branch of industry in the township will be quickened by the presence of this tannery. Farmers, who have hitherto when they wished to clear any land been compelled to burn their bark for want of a market, will now find a ready sale for this commodity, and the forests of the township, which have been regarded in the light of an impediment to its development, will now prove as valuable and remunerative as the cleared land.
The first saw-mill in the township was erected by Samson Babb prior to 1806, the next by Charles Duffy, the next by Jacob Emick, the next by Alexander Forsythe, in the year 1839, and he was followed by Robert H. Archer, Enoch Blackwell, Job Doane, and Hoyt Brothers. There are now four saw-mills and a grist-mill in the township. Previous to 1820 the first settlers in Morris had to go to mill to Jersey Shore, a distance of about thirty miles.
Roads and Mails.
The first road in the township ran from Newberry and was finished up to Blackwell's in 1810. Before that there were private roads, cut by the settlers.
Post routes were established at an early day, carriers on horseback making weekly trips. There is now a daily route through Morris from Antrim to Nauvoo, Barfelden, Liberty, East Point, Ogdensburg, Gleason, and Canton, on the Northern Central Railroad. There is also a tri-weekly mail route to Jersey Shore.
There are two post-offices in the township, both located on Babb's Creek, the eastern portion of the township being accommodated at the Nauvoo post-office, which is on the line between Liberty and Morris townships. These officers are Lloyds, Enoch Blackwell postmaster, and Morris, A. L. Bodine postmaster.