History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania
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By John L. Sexton Jr.
Wellsboro is about midway on the eastern line of the township of Delmar, and the borough contains several thousand acres-sufficient area for a city of 100,000 inhabitants. Its name was given in honor of Mrs. Mary Wells Morris, wife of Benjamin W. Morris and sister of William and Gideon Wells.
THE FOUNDERS OF THE BOROUGH.
Benjamin W. Morris was the eldest son of Samuel Morris, an eminent citizen of Philadelphia a hundred years ago, one of the leading merchants in that city, then the metropolis of the country, the seat of the provincial Legislature, the home of Washington, and of the republican court, so-called. Dwellings and warehouses which he built are still pointed out in older parts of the city, then the center of business and population. He was a member of the Pine Creek Company, composed of men of capital, who proposed to improve the interior of the State and open it up to population. He had invested in wild lands, and the subsequent development of the mineral and lumber wealth of these lands has proved that he and his associates were not mistaken in their estimate of their value. He had become security for a friend in Philadelphia, which involved him. In those days of hightoned mercantile honor and integrity a man who failed in business felt himself irretrievably disgraced, and the seemingly rash resolution was taken by him to turn over all his business and his property to meet the obligations incurred by his endorsements, excepting only the tract of land of about 800 acres where Wellsboro is now situated, and to bury himself and his sorrows in those wild regions. Accordingly, although then already past middle age, he brought his delicately nurtured wife and one unmarried daughter (Rebecca, who afterward became the wife of William Cox Ellis, of Muncy, Lycoming county) to undergo the hardships and privations of pioneer life in that unbroken wilderness. Most unwise in a financial point of view was this course, as it was the judgment of well informed contemporaries that his warehouse and vaults contained ample stock, if properly managed, to have discharged all his liabilities without trenching upon his real estate; but a real panic seems to have fallen upon him. He made the great sacrifice, and, although the family were withdrawn from a life of wealth and luxury, they carried with them to the wild woods their character of integrity and enterprise, and the education and culture which made them a power for good from the very founding of the new settlement.
One of the first acts of Mr. Morris was the erection of a small log "meeting-house" upon a lot in the newly-laid-out town. This was for many years the only church-as well as school-house-in all that region. Mr. Morris was by birth and education a member of the Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers, and always adhered to their customs, including silent worship and lay preaching when moved by the Divine Spirit. Some of the older citizens of Wellsboro can remember the homely little log meeting-house, though none can recall the venerable presence of the "old squire," as he was familiarly called by his neighbors, with his broad-brimmed hat and suit of somber brown-the regulation Quaker style. He was a tall and portly man, as were all the six sons of his father. That father, Quaker as he was, commanded the First City Troop of Cavalry at the battle of Princeton, and acted as a body guard to Washington during the campaign in New Jersey.
Benjamin Wistar Morris died in Wellsboro, November 6th 1819, aged 58 years. He was the first commissioned justice of the peace in Tioga county.
Samuel W. Morris was born in Philadelphia, in 1786, and accompanied his father, Benjamin Wistar Morris, to Wellsboro in 1799. He was educated at Princeton College, and subsequently became one of the most distinguished citizens of Tioga county. He was one of the first associate judges of the county, and with J. Bannister Gibson and Ira Kilbourn presided at the first court held at Wellsboro. He was a gentleman of untiring energy and enterprise. On the property where Stokesdale is now situated, then known as "the Marsh," Judge Morris at a very early date erected a large grist-mill and saw-mill, and what is now miscalled a beaver-dam was in reality built by him for supplying these mills with water. Morderica Moore was for many years in charge of the flouring-mill, and George March was the lumberman. Unfortunately much malaria was caused by the mill-pond, and, after many years' endurance of chills and fevers, upon one memorable day a party of "Crooked Creekers," disguised and styling themselves Creek Indians, with heads decorated with green boughs, made a raid and tore the dam away. He was an ardent advocate of the project of making the Tioga River navigable; he succeeded in organizing the Tioga Navigation Company, and was its first president.
The last enterprise of a public nature in which he was engaged was the construction of the Tioga Railroad, to which he devoted ten of the best years of his life, laboring incessantly, from the incorporation of the Tioga Navigation Company in 1826 until he resigned the presidency of the company, when he was elected to Congress. For the accomplishment of this undertaking, and the development of the coal lands at Blossburg, he obtained the services of Richard C. Taylor, an eminent English engineer and geologist, who not only made a survey of the river for the navigation company and afterward the railroad company, but also made a geological survey and examination of the minerals of the Blossburg coal region. Taylor's geological report was published chiefly at the expense of Judge Morris; it was a work much sought after, and it is out of print and copies can rarely be found.
Judge Morris represented Tioga county in the popular branch of the State Legislature from 1831 to 1835, and was then elected to Congress. There was scarcely a project which had for its object the advancement of the public welfare that did not have his earnest and substantial support. Besides those already mentioned the academy enterprise, the erection of suitable county buildings, and the establishment of a press, received his encouragement and aid.
Samuel W. Morris was married in 1807 to Anna Ellis, daughter of William Ellis, of Muncy. Their children were: William E. Morris, a civil engineer, who died in Philadelphia in September 1875;
Louisa, who died in Philadelphia in 1864; Mary, widow of the late James Lowrey; Sarah Ellis, wife of Doctor Joseph P. Morris, of Mansfield, Pa.; Susan Marriott, wife of Hon. John W. Guernsey, of Tioga; Benjamin Wistar Morris, missionary (Episcopal) bishop of Oregon; Ellen, wife of Hon. Henry Boothe, of Chicago, Ill.; Charles Ellis Morris, a farmer near Norristown, Pa.; and Samuel Wells Morris, a farmer of Newark, N. J.
Judge Morris died May 25th 1847, aged 62 years, and was buried in the cemetery on Academy Hill, Wellsboro; his remains have since been removed to the new cemetery which was located by James Bryden in 1856. Near the northeast corner of that cemetery is the plot belonging to the Morris family, which was selected when the new cemetery was laid out. There lie the remains of Mary Wells Morris, wife of Benjamin W. Morris, who was born in Philadelphia, September 16th 1761, and died in Wellsboro November 6th 1819. The grave of her husband is beside hers. There also are buried Anna, wife of Judge Samuel W. Morris, who was born in Muncy, Pa., May 7th 1791, and who died at Germantown, January 26th 1858; and Louisa A., daughter of Samuel W. and Anna Morris, who was born in Wellsboro, November 18th 1829, and died August 4th 1864.
Henry Sly was one of the early settlers, and his son Harry was the first child born in the borough. He was born in a house which stood on the site of the old Wellsboro Hotel.
Daniel Kelsey, a pioneer in the settlement of Delmar and Wellsboro, was born in 1777; came to Tioga county in 1807, and purchased 100 acres of land in what is now Wellsboro. He was twice married-to a Miss Mather of Wellsboro, and to Rebecca Merrick, of Delaware; by the last named he had six children, three of whom are still living. Mr. Kelsey was prominent in the affairs of the township, and was for more than thirty years a magistrate. He died at his residence in Wellsboro, in 1863, aged 86.
Through the influence of Hon. Samuel W. Morris, B. Smith, John F. Donaldson, William Bache sen., James Lowrey and others Wellsboro was incorporated as a borough in 1830. John Norris was the first burgess. The territory embraced in the borough was large. Five years later, or in 1835, the heads of families residing within its limits were, according to a list prepared and kindly furnished by William Bache jr., as follows:
E. Fellows, William Taylor, R. Cole, R. Christianot, B. B. Smith, Samuel Mack, M. Burnside, J. Borst, A. Corey, J. Beecher, S. Bliss, John F. Donaldson, F. Wetherbee, C. Seeley, James Lock, L. I. Nichols, D. Lindsey, L. Meek, J. Brewster, J. Hance, E. Jones, J. Gere, ------ Horsley, Israel Greenleaf, Elias Spencer (colored), Eben Murray (colored), Ebenezer Jackson, J. L. Robinson, Chester Robinson, John Norris, Samuel Dickinson, ------ Bowen, William Bache sen., J. Kimball, ------ Barnes, Doctor Barnes, ------ Weeden, D. Sturrock, E. M. Bodine, F. Doxtetter, D. Caldwell, J. E. Martin, Josiah Emery, ------ Barney, Samuel W. Morris, J. Lowrey, Israel Merrick, O. L. Gibson, U. Cushman, Gates Wilcox, L. Cleveland, G. Cook, ------ Maase, Dr. Wells, ------ Whitman, Archibald Nichols, William Norris, ------ Harris, P. Murray (colored)-in all 59.
At an estimate of five to a family, including transient persons, the borough then must have contained about three hundred persons. There are a few omissions in the Christian names; but Mr. Bache is certain that the above list is complete in all other respects.
E. Fellows, the gentleman first named on the list, was then a farmer, and subsequently kept for many years the Farmers' Hotel, situated in the northeastern portion of the borough. When the Wellsboro and Lawrenceville Railroad was constructed, in 1872, he sold quite a quantity of land to the railroad company, on which the company have since erected a freight and passenger depot, round-house, weigh office, civil engineer's office, blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, and a number of dwellings for employes. He also sold to other parties, who erected dwellings and other buildings. He has now retired from active business life.
Benjamin B. Smith was a painter, and had published the Phoenix for seven years previous to 1835, with the motto at the head-"The liberty of the press is the palladium of our rights." Mr. Smith was a gentleman of culture and a clear and concise writer. Samuel Mack was a blacksmith, and J. Borst a butcher. C. Seeley was a hotel keeper.
John F. Donaldson was a native of Danville, Montour county, Pennsylvania, and was born in 1805. He learned the printer's trade at Danville with George Sweeney, editor of the Watchman; came to Tioga county in August 1827, and worked in the office of the Phoenix, also serving in the prothonotary's office as clerk, until 1833. He then purchased the printing office of B. B. Smith, and published the Phoenix until near the close of the year 1835. In January 1836 he was appointed prothonotary of Tioga county by Governor Joseph Ritner, and continued in that capacity until 1838, when A. S. Brewster was appointed by Governor David R. Porter. In 1839 the office became elective, and Mr. Donaldson was elected, and subsequently re-elected at the close of each term up to the year 1872, when General Robert C. Cox became his successor. Such confidence had the people of the county in Mr. Donaldson that, whichever political party had the majority, he was sure of an election. No public officer has retired from so responsible a trust, after so many years of service, with greater honor than he. A few years after his retirement from the prothonotary's office he was elected associate judge, and this office he retained to his death, which occurred very unexpectedly February 12th 1880, when he had reached the advanced age of 75 years. His funeral was largely attended by members of the legal fraternity, and other old friends and acquaintances. There was scarcely a business man in all northern Pennsylvania but had made his acquaintance. He was distinguished for his urbanity and generosity, and his death was mourned by thousands scattered widely over the country.
James Lock was born in Keene, N. H., on the 18th of May 1790, and came to Wellsboro in 1815. At that time there were but five framed buildings in the place. He was a silversmith, but did not long pursue his trade arriving in Wellsboro, for there was not sufficient demand for his skill in that line. He was a natural mechanic, possessing the true Yankee aptness for mechanical pursuits. During the building of the court-house in 1834-5 he made the doors, and kept the tools of the stone cutters in order. He subsequently established a gun shop and manufactured a superior rifle. He was a most successful hunter and angler. On his 83rd birthday, and the sixtieth anniversary of his marriage, the citizens of Wellsboro made him a formal call, and presented him and his amiable wife a beautiful quarto Bible as a token of respect. He died on the 14th of March 1874, in the 84th year of his age.
L. I. Nichols was a farmer and lumberman, and subsequently a merchant. L. Meek was a merchant. J. Brewster was a farmer, and associate judge,-one of the most high respected citizens of the county. Chester and J. L. Robinson were lumbermen and merchants, and are now engaged in banking, and among the wealthiest men in the county. Samuel Dickinson was a lumberman and farmer, J. Kimball a hotel keeper, and D. Sturrock a carpenter and joiner.
John Norris, a distinguished pioneer settler, came from English Town (where he had located in 1799, on the line between Tioga and Lycoming counties, and built mills) to the Big Marsh, and subsequently settled in Wellsboro. He was appointed prothonotary and recorder in 1813, and afterward became one of the leading men of Wellsboro.
William Bache sen. was born in England, came to America in 1790, and located in Wellsboro in 1812.
Ellis M. Bodine was born in Jersey Shore, Lycoming county, in 1799. He learned the trade of a tanner and currier with Abram Lawshe. He was married in 1827 to Miss Margaret Shearer, of Jersey Shore. Their children were: Sarah, wife of Dr. H. S. Greeno, of Kansas City, Mo.; Isaac M., of Wellsboro; Abram Lawshe, of Morris, Pa.; Ellis B.; Ellen A., wife of Rev. M. F. DeWitt, of Elmira, N. Y.; Lewis T., of Kansas City; Catharine, wife of John W. Wright, of Rochester, N. Y., and Margaret, wife of Charles M. Moore, of Liberty, Pa. Mr. Bodine came to Wellsboro in 1828; purchased of Joseph Fish, who was the first tanner of the place, a small tannery and bark-mill, and for a number of years continued the business at that place. In 1846 he built a large tannery, 40 by 87, two full stories high, and did custom work in sole and upper leather. In 1848 the tannery was burned, and Mr. Bodine suffered a great loss. He was a public spirited gentleman. In 1835 he was chairman of the board of school directors for Wellsboro; he was instrumental in the erection of a school-house in the borough, and did much toward the acceptance of the common school law of 1834. He now resides in the northwestern portion of the borough, at the advanced age of 83.
Josiah Emery, teacher, editor and lawyer, is now residing at Williamsport at an advanced age, and is a practitioner at the Lycoming county bar; a careful and methodical business man, a gentleman of rare literary acquirements, and a historical writer of note, who has done much toward creating an interest in historical matters in that county during his residence there.
James Lowrey, a son-in-law of Samuel W. Morris, was the first teacher in the academy; he subsequently studied law and became a distinguished practitioner. In 1854 he assisted in organizing a company at Mansfield for the manufacture of iron, and was the first president of the association; he represented the county in the Legislature in the year 1852-3.
Israel Merrick came from Delaware in 1809. His son, Israel Merrick jr., was for a number of years clerk for the county commissioners, and was county commissioner in 1847. He was a farmer. He died in Delmar in 1854, aged 64 years. His son, Major George W. Merrick, is now a prominent member of the Tioga county bar, and postmaster at Wellsboro.
O. L. Gibson, M. D., for many years was the leading physician and one of the most esteemed citizens of Wellsboro. Gates Wilcox was a farmer and lumberman, L. Cleveland a saddler, Gibson Cook constable, Archibald Nichols a merchant, and William Morris a tailor.
The first post-office in Wellsboro was kept in a log store, with a framed wing, which stood a few feet south of the Morris mansion, now the property of Dr. M. L. Bacon. Judge Samuel W. Morris was the first post-master, and William Bache sen. was the second. There was a weekly mail carried on horseback between Williamsport and Wellsboro, by the way of Pine Creek, which was then the chief route of travel, though greatly obstructed by many unbridged streams. It was called the Newberry turnpike, and the authority for its construction was given by an act of the Legislature in 1799. This road came over the hill south of the Morris orchard, and a corduroy bridge spanned the stream at the foot of the hill. Later a saw-mill was erected on this stream by Judge Morris, from which it would appear that the stream was much larger than now.
From time to time as the county developed other mail routes were established, one leading east to Covington, and through Sullivan to Troy, and another northward to Tioga. Stage coaches were not run on either of the routes until about the year 1837. There are now mail routes running southward to Stony Fork, westward into Gaines township and Potter county, and eastward to Mansfield, connecting with one from Troy, Bradford county. The railroad furnishes good mail facilities northward, while mail intended for Harrisburg, Philadelphia, or even Williamsport goes northeast to Elmira and thence is sent south over the Northern Central Railroad.
The post-office is in a substantial brick building on Main street; Major George W. Merrick is postmaster. A few hours' visit to the post-office now would give the old settler a good idea of the advancement in mail facilities, and show the development of the country. Hundreds of pounds of mail matter are daily received and sent, where in the recollection of many of the older inhabitants of the borough only now and then a mail bag, half filled, was handled by the early postmasters.
The first merchandise was sold in Wellsboro by William Bache sen. and Benjamin W. Morris, at their dwellings. This was about 1812 or 1813. John Beecher soon afterward opened a store on the east corner of Norris and Main streets. John Hill and B. B. Smith had each a small store, and prior to 1830 there were several groceries. Samuel Dickinson about that time built and opened a store. He was succeeded by Chester and J. L. Robinson.
Ezekiel Jones, the first blacksmith in Wellsboro, came from the east by invitation of Benjamin W. Morris. Henry Sly was an early blacksmith; also a Mr. Daniels. Joseph Fish was the first tanner. The first saw-mill in the township was built for the Fisher Land Company, by John Norris, about the year 1806. The company also erected a grist-mill.
The early physicians were Jeremiah Brown, Dr. Hoover and Dr. Oliver Bundy (who married a sister of B. B. Smith). Dr. J. B. Murphy was a hotel keeper and merchant, and carried on a blacksmith shop. He was the father of Mrs. Judge L. P. Williston, and his widow now resides in Elmira. The first lawyer resident in Wellsboro was William Patton, from Philadelphia. He owned the place where Judge Williams now resides. There are now 24, besides Judges Williams and Wilson.
The elegant and substantial court-house was erected in 1835, on a site donated by B. W. Morris, and this added much to the appearance of the village; a public square or park was also laid out. Wellsboro increased slowly, while the surrounding country was rapidly settled by an intelligent, hardy and industrious class of people. We have already alluded to the building of the plank road in the general history of the county, and the advantages which Wellsboro acquired by that enterprise. Besides this plank road the highways in the surrounding towns were much improved, especially those leading into the pineries on the south and west. Wellsboro soon became the base of supplies for the lumbermen on Pine Creek and its tributaries, and finally developed a large and profitable trade with them. From 1835 to 1850 many new buildings were erected in the borough, and some of the most stirring business men of to-day made Wellsboro their home during that period.
The general land office of the Bingham estate was located here by William Bingham Clymer in 1845. This estate embraced several hundred thousand acres in southern Pennsylvania, and much of it was located in Tioga county; and the judicious management of Mr. Clymer and the easy terms which he made with the settlers added many new and valuable residents. For more than a quarter of a century he lived in Wellsboro, and won the universal confidence and respect of the people. He was a gentleman of scholastic attainments, having graduated with honor at Princeton College and pursued a course of studies with a view of entering the legal profession. He had been agent for the estate for many years, and in 1867 was appointed trustee. Having in 1869 determined to visit Europe with his family he resigned his agency, but continued to be trustee until the time of his death, which occurred in Florence, Italy, in 1873. He was a grandson of George Clymer, on of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Robert C. Simpson, for many years connected with the Bingham estate, has been the agent since the resignation of Mr. Clymer, and manages this great interest in Tioga, Potter and McKean counties with care, prudence and fidelity. He is a gentleman of rare business qualifications, methodical and accurate, and a man of high social characteristics.
Wellsboro contained in 1850 598 white persons and 22 colored, a total of 620 inhabitants. In 1860 there were 788 whites and 21 negroes, a total of 809. In 1870 the population was 1,465 (29 colored), and in 1880 2,228.
The manufacturing interests of Delmar and Wellsboro are not what they should be, with the facilities at hand. Being situated among forests of the best timber, and in close proximity to the coal mines, with glass sandrock in abundance, and a great amount of idle capital, it is surprising that the citizens have not made greater progress in manufacturing.
In Wellsboro there are two tanneries, several blacksmith shops, a foundry and machine shop, two planing-mills, a saw-mill, a feed-mill, several wagon shops, etc., but none carried on as extensively as the business of the town and surrounding country would seem to demand. Recently a large cigar manufactory has been established, which employs more persons than any other manufacturing establishment in the borough. It made from July 16th 1881 to January 1st 1882 666,925 cigars, and paid a tax of $1,729.35. The people of Wellsboro and vicinity are becoming awakened to the necessity of fostering industrial establishments, and in the course of a few months a number of manufacturing enterprises will, it is confidently expected, be inaugurated. The village has arrived at a point where it is financially enabled to undertake manufacturing upon a solid and substantial basis, and the completion of the Jersey Shore, Pine Creek and Buffalo Railway, to connect with the Corning, Cowanesque and Antrim Railroad at Stokesdale, will encourage the citizens to engage more extensively in manufacturing, with this increased facility for marketing their products in the central, eastern and southern portions of the State. The farmers and business men generally begin to realize that they are paying out annually hundreds of thousands of dollars for agricultural implements, wagons, sleighs, boots and shoes, etc., from abroad, which should be manufactured here, the people of the locality receiving the benefits accruing from the existence of such manufactories in their midst.
SCHOOLS OF WELLSBORO.
The early citizens and residents of Wellsboro took a lively interest in the cause of education. While there were but few children to be instructed they were given lessons at home or by a volunteer teacher; but as soon as the pioneers had provided for their immediate physical wants they made a grand effort and secured the incorporation of an academy in their midst, receiving an appropriation from the State. This was as early as 1817. It was the design of the originators of this project that the academy should have a primary as well as a higher department; the idea of grading schools therefore is not altogether a modern one. This we are told by those who know what were the objects of Judge Morris, Justus Dartt and others concerned in the incorporation. They wished to establish in the wilderness of northern Pennsylvania an institution of learning where their children could be instructed in the primary as well as the higher branches; and as Wellsboro was the county seat it was deemed best to locate it there, even if those living in the surrounding country were deprived, by reason of their remoteness, of the benefits of its primary department. The academy proved of great service to the people of Wellsboro, and some of its teachers became prominent and distinguished citizens, as well as many of the pupils. James Lowrey was the first teacher, a gentleman of scholastic attainments, who became a distinguished member of the Tioga county bar. Among the other principals or teachers we recall the names of Josiah Emery, Rev. B. Shipman, Charles Nash, Erastus P. Deane, Marenus M. Allen and William A. Stone. About ten years ago the academy was consolidated with the union free graded school of Wellsboro, and the building has been sold to the Catholic church.
For several years (about 1813-16) before the academy was ready for occupation the Quaker log meeting-house was used for district or common school, and sometimes scholars were instructed at the homes of the teachers. Among the early teachers were Chauncey Alford, Lydia Cole and Benjamin B. Smith. Thus school affairs were conducted until 1834, when the common school law was passed. It was generally approved.
A school convention was held in the court-house November 5th 1834, which chose Chauncey Alford president and Josiah Emery secretary. The county commissioners-Amariah Hammond, Chauncey Alford and George Knox-were present. The delegates were as follows: From Brookfield, Jonathan Booney; Chatham, Henry Eaton; Charleston, Cyrus Dartt; Covington township, Avery Gillett; Covington borough, John Gray; Deerfield, James Knox; Farmington, Jonathan Sorber; Jackson, Norman Wells; Lawrence, Buel Baldwin; Liberty, John Lovegood; Mansfield, William B. Mann; Middlebury, Israel P. Kinney; Morris, Charles Duffy; Ruland, Peter Backer; Shippen, George Huyler; Sullivan, David Hazzard; Tioga, Joseph W. Guernsey; Union, Charles O. Spencer; Westfield, Samuel Baker; Wellsboro, Josiah Emery. Delmar and Elkland were not represented. The question of levying a tax for the support of common schools was decided in the affirmative-yeas 23, nays 0. Sixteen voted for raising $3,000, and seven for various other sums. The sum of $3,000 was authorized to be levied and collected. Proceedings in relation to holding elections for school officers of the various townships were had, and the convention adjourned.
The citizens of Wellsboro, governed by the action of the convention, took measures to elect a school board. The first board consisted of John F. Donaldson, Levi I. Nichols, Josiah Emery, J. Brewster, David Caldwell and Ellis M. Bodine. At a meeting of the Board March 2nd 1835 Mr. Bodine was elected president, and Mr. Nichols secretary. March 11th 1835 David Caldwell, Josiah Emery and James Kimball were chosen a building committee, it having been agreed that the directors raise a sum of money by subscription for building a school-house. The subscription paper reads thus:
"We the undersigned promise to pay to Jonah Brewster, David Caldwell, E. M. Bodine, J. F. Donaldson, L. I. Nichols and Josiah Emery the several sums affixed to our names, for the purpose of erecting a school-house in the borough of Wellsboro; said house to belong to the subscribers, in the proportion of the sums subscribed, but to be under the control of the school directors for the year to come, to be let for the purpose of a school, at a reasonable rate. And we hereby agree to sell to the said borough the house after its completion, at the first cost, should the directors pass a vote at a legal school meeting to purchase the same. The house is to be placed as near the center of the town as circumstances will admit, to be finished as soon as convenient, and the said sums of money payable on demand."
Erastus P. Deane was employed to take charge of the school for five months from November 20th 1835, at $16 per month. The next year he was again employed. He agreed to commence the school November 7th 1836 and continue five months, for the sum of $28 per month; was to board himself and "be to the expense of firewood and chopping the same." The same year Miss Mary P. Nichols was employed to each twelve or sixteen weeks for $3 per week, finding her own room, firewood and board. Such was the commencement of the free school system in Wellsboro.
One of the early taxes levied for school purposes was fixed at one third of one per cent. The highest tax levied was against Samuel W. Morris, $6.54. William Bache's tax was then $1.98. J. N. Bache, Laugher Bache and A. P. Cone were each taxed 17 cents. William Bache's school tax for 1875, forty years afterward, was $225.
March 7th 1860 the school district purchased of Laugher Bache the lot on the east corner of Pearl and Norris streets, and soon after erected thereon the school building known as the primary building. During the years 1869 and 1870 proceedings were had by which the academy property was turned over to the school district, and in the fall of 1870 Professor A. C. Winters was employed to teach, at a salary of $1,600 per year, and three assistants were also employed. In 1871 eight teachers were employed and 477 pupils attended the school. In 1872 there were eight teachers and 491 pupils, and in 1873 eight teachers and 530 pupils.
By this time it became apparent to the people of Wellsboro that an additional building should be erected. Public meetings were held in the court-house, and speakers urged upon the school board the necessity of some action. Public sentiment was completely aroused, and in accordance with popular expression the school board purchased a lot, and finally erected a building thereon which cost, with the furnishing, $33,500. It is on what is generally known as the St. Louis plan, and consists of a central high school building with primary schools about it, each to accommodate 200 pupils.
At the dedication of the central high school building, August 20th 1875, addresses were made by Rev. N. L. Reynolds, James H. Bosard, Judge H. W. Williams, Rev. J. F. Calkins, Judge Stephen F. Wilson, Hon. J. B. Niles, Rev. Dr. Charles Breck and others. A letter was read from Professor F. A. Allen, regretting his inability to be present and congratulating the citizens of Wellsboro on the auspicious event. The school board under whose administration this building was erected and completed consisted of John W. Bailey (president), William Bache (treasurer), James H. Bosard (secretary), Jerome B. Potter, Hugh Young, Chester Robinson and J. B. Niles.
Over 500 scholars are now receiving instruction in the graded schools of the borough, with advantages surpassed in no other town of the same size in the State, with ample school room, and all the necessary appliances and apparatus, under an efficient corps of skilled and experienced teachers. The present facility consists of Professor H. E. Raesley, principal; Miss Susan R. Hart, preceptress; Miss Sarah I. Lewis, first grammar; Frank A. Rowland, second grammar; Miss Myra M. Davis, first intermediate, Miss M. Louise Jones, primary, assisted by Miss Stella Cook.
The school board consists of George W. Merrick (president), L. Harrison (secretary), J. M. Robinson (treasurer), Morgan L. Bacon, Charles W. Sears, Frank R. Fischler and Isaac M. Bodine.
CHURCHES OF WELLSBORO.
The Society of Friends.--Benjamin Wistar Morris, the founder and original proprietor of Wellsboro, was a member of the Society of Friends, and the first religious services held within the limits of Wellsboro were under their management. The first building for religious meetings was erected by Mr. Morris, and stood opposite the public square on the north side of the street, near where the old office of Henry Sherwood & Son now stands. It was of logs, which were hewed on one side and dove-tailed at the corners. Mr. Morris, assisted by his wife Mary Wells Morris (the first female resident of Wellsboro), held services there many years. But after a time, as most of the new settlers were not of the Quaker faith, the services died out, the society being specially weakened by the death of Mrs. Morris, November 6th 1819. The old log church, however, remained for several years after her death and was used for various purposes.
Methodist Episcopal Church.--In 1801 or 1802 Rev. Caleb Boyer and family, from Delaware, together with several other families, settled in the present township of Delmar, near Wellsboro. Mr. Boyer was one of the fifteen ordained ministers of the Methodist Episcopal church then in North America. He did the first preaching in Wellsboro and vicinity, and probably in Tioga county, that of Mr. Morris, the Quaker, excepted.
In 1820 Wellsboro was in the old Tioga circuit, which embraced all the territory within the limits of the Troy district and something more. Rev. Hiram G. Warner in that year formed the first class, and was assisted the first year by the Rev. Mr. Moore, and the second year by Rev. Caleb Kendall. The meetings were held in the log court-house, which stood nearly on the same ground as the present court-house, and subsequently in a school-house or the academy. Among the members of the first class were William Bache sen., Mrs. Pamelia Coolidge, Captain Israel Greenleaf (a Revolutionary soldier), Israel Kelsey, Mr. and Mrs. Kilbourn, and Hannah Cole.
In 1839-40 Rev. Robert T. Hancock raised $2,000 by subscription toward building a church. His successor, Rev. I. K. Tuttle, left the church enterprise in an advanced state, and was followed by Rev. Philo Tower, who carried forward the building to completion, and the new edifice was dedicated by Rev. William R. Babcock, presiding elder of the district, May 21st 1842; it cost $3,000. The church increased in strength, and a parsonage was soon afterward erected, Rev. D. B. Lawson, the minister in charge, doing work on it to the amount of nearly $100-a very common occurrence then, and not without a parallel now.
In 1850 many conversions and additions to the membership of the church occurred, under the pastorate of Rev. C. Nash. Rev. W. C. Mattison succeeded Mr. Nash, and the interest in church affairs were kept up during the year.
In 1867 Rev. O. L. Gibson was appointed to the charge. As debts had accumulated against the church during the war, a subscription paper was circulated by Isaac Sears, and so liberally signed that the debt of $1,000 was provided for and $200 left to repair the church. The first Sunday the church was used after these improvements was November 17th 1867. While the services were being held it was discovered to be on fire, and in spite of the utmost exertions of the people it burnt to the ground. This was a sad blow, but fortunately Mr. Gibson, who had been assisting in holding revival meetings for two or three weeks and was presented with $25, generously refused its acceptance unless enough should be added to secure a policy of insurance to the amount of $2,500. This was done, and that amount, secured to the church, served as a nucleus around which to gather funds for a new edifice. Through the persistent labors of the pastor and members, aided by a generous outside support, a beautiful brick building, costing $25,000, the best in this section of the conference, was completed, and November 17th 1869 (two years to a day from the time of the burning) was dedicated by Rev. K. P. Jervis. Mr. Gibson was no less successful in the spiritual work of his charge than in church building.
The ministers in charge since the last named have been Revs. W. M. Henry, Thomas Stacey, D. D. Buck, K. P. Jervis, and the present pastor, Rev. E. H. Latimer, who is in the third year of this pastorate at Wellsboro.
The church has recently been supplied with new furnaces, carpets and cushions, and frescoed. It will seat comfortably about 600. The present membership is 277. The trustees are R. C. Cox, Charles Toles (treasurer), Ira Johnston (president), C. W. Sears and C. F. Veile (secretary).
Connected with the church is a very interesting Sunday-school of 175 scholars, with 19 teachers and officers. The library contains 547 volumes. Henry C. Cox is the librarian.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church.--The parish register informs that the Rev. Charles Breck, then in deacon's orders arrived at Wellsboro on Tuesday the 21st of August 1838, and the following Sunday officiated in the first Episcopal service held in Tioga county. This service was held in the court-house, for no place of worship had then been erected in Wellsboro. Mr. Breck's advent was brought about thus: The lack of religious services led the citizens to the calling of a public meeting, and the question was raised to whom they should apply for a minister. The choice was between the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians, and the meeting decided in favor of the latter. Steps were at once taken to obtain a clergyman. James Lowrey and Joshua Sweet were appointed a committee to carry out the wishes of the meeting. Being ignorant of diocese boundaries, the committee addressed their first application to Rev. Richard Smith, then officiating at Elmira, who informed them that as they belonged to the diocese of Pennsylvania they should apply to Bishop Onderdonk, of Philadelphia. Mr. Sweet accordingly wrote to the bishop, who transmitted the letter to Mr. Breck, then a student in the General Theological Seminary, New York.
The second Sunday after Mr. Breck's arrival he was met at the door of the court-house by a deputy sheriff, who informed him that religious services could not be held there. He therefore withdrew to the school-house in the rear of the present church, and officiated there for a short time, until the upper part of the academy was prepared with a vestry room, desks, seats and a small organ, kindly lent for the use of the congregation by Levi I. Nichols. On visiting the inhabitants of the village and immediate neighborhood Mr. Breck failed to find a single communicant. In the village there were but four or five professed Christians. The church of course labored under great disadvantages from the fact that the people were nearly all ignorant of the Episcopal liturgy and offices.
October 30th 1838, about two months after Mr. Breck's arrival, a meeting was held at the office of James Lowrey and a parish was organized, by the adoption of the form of charter recommended by the convention of the diocese. At the same time and place wardens and vestrymen were elected, viz: Benjamin B. Smith, Levi I. Nichols, Otis L. Gibson, Joshua Sweet (afterward a clergyman of the church), James Lowrey and John L. Robinson. On application to the Legislature the parish was duly incorporated under the name of the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. Paul's Church, Wellsboro.
On the 15th of April 1839 the corner stone of a church was laid, and on the first of the following December the church was occupied for the first time as a place of worship. It was consecrated on the 12th of September 1841, Bishop Onderdonk officiating. The entire cost was about $3,000. The organ, blinds and chairs cost about $400. Galleries were afterward erected, at an expense of $667. Including the cost of the bell the sum total for completing the church edifice, furnishing, etc., was about $4,065.
Mr. Breck remained the rector for ten years, and speaks warmly of the efficiency of the Ladies' Circle of Industry. At the termination of his connection with the parish the names of the vestrymen were James Lowrey, Samuel Dickinson, William Bache, and James P. Magill, and of the wardens Otis L. Gibson and John L. Robinson. During the rectorship of Mr. Breck the late Judge Samuel W. Morris generously donated to the parish the site of the present rectory. The number of communicants at the time of Mr. Breck's resignation was 90. Of these 12 were originally Episcopalians, 8 came from the Methodists, 15 from the Quakers, 31 from the Presbyterians, 10 from the Congregationalists, 8 from the Baptists, and 6 from the Unitarians. The Sunday-schools Mr. Breck himself took charge of. There were three, numbering 150 scholars.
In 1848, Mr. Breck having resigned, the Rev. A. A. Marple was called by the vestry and took charge of the parish October 1st. The rectory was built in 1850 and occupied in July of that year; it cost $1,300. After a ministry of more than fourteen years Mr. Marple resigned and removed from Wellsboro in 1863.
Between the years 1863 and 1872 the parish was in charge of Revs. George H. Jenks, Henry J. Van Allen, J. B. Calhoun, John A. Bowman and S. K. Karcher. At the earnest solicitation of the parish the Rev. Charles Breck, D. D., returned and took charge in December 1872. During the year 1873 the old rectory was sold and removed and a new one erected, at a cost of $7,000. Sheds at the church were put up and a new bell purchased. This church was the pioneer of its denomination in Tioga county, and its influence has extended over a wide extent of territory in northern Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the commonwealth. Dr. Breck is the present rector, fatherly, kindly, churchly, full of good acts and deeds as when, 44 years ago, a young man in deacon's orders, he came to Wellsboro and founded the church in a mere hamlet in the wilderness. A. F. Barnes is senior warden, and D. H. Belcher junior warden. Connected with the church is a very interesting Sunday-school of about one hundred scholars, over which the rector presides, assisted by a corps of 10 teachers. William Schearer is the organist. The library contains about 400 volumes.
Presbyterian Church.--The Presbyterian church of Wellsboro was organized February 11th 1843. Rev. Thomas Forster, of Harrisburg, supplied the pulpit a year, gathering a membership at Wellsboro and Pine Creek of thirty members. He was the son of the late General John Forster of Harrisburg, one of the prominent citizens of that city and a member of Market Square Presbyterian Church. Thomas Forster was received into that church on profession of faith September 4th 1834. He was a graduate of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., and at the solicitation of his father he studied law under a Mr. Chauncey of Philadelphia. He, however, determined to enter the ministry, and went with Rev. Dr. Ezra S. Ely to the colony and college he projected in Missouri; but, not finding it what he wanted, came back to the Western Theological Seminary, Allegheny, and finished his studies under Dr. Elliott in the class of 1836. Rev. J. F. Calkins came directly from Auburn (N.Y.) Theological Seminary in May 1844, became the pastor of this church in the following September, and continued such for over thirty years.
The congregation worshiped nine years in the court-house, and in 1853 built and in 1854 dedicated the church in which it has since met. In 1872 the church was enlarged and otherwise improved, at an expense of $4,000.
The first elders were S. P. Scoville, Chauncey Austin and W. W. McDougall. "All these died in faith." Prof. E. J. Hamilton was ordained elder in 1848, and with his predecessors is remembered gratefully by those that remain.
The Rev. Dr. A. C. Shaw assumed the pastorate in March 1880, and is a minister of rare ability.
Since the organization of the church there have been received over 400 members. The present membership is about 225. The session consists of Samuel E. Ensworth, H. W. Williams, James Forsythe, Alexander Pollock sen., Thomas Allen and C. G. Osgood.
The church has always maintained a well ordered Sunday-school, under an efficient board of officers and faithful teachers. The Sunday-school library contains 1,450 volumes, and supplies reading not only for the children but also for adult members of the church. Andrew G. Sturrock is librarian, C. G. Osgood is the superintendent, and Mrs. Osgood the organist. The school is supplied with maps, charts and other appliances for the study and illustration of the Scriptures. Hon. H. W. Williams takes a lively interest in the school and church, and great pleasure in giving advice and instruction. There are now 245 scholars, 15 teachers and 6 officers. A fund of $100 is annually set apart to purchase books for the library, $60 for papers, charts, etc., and $43 for missions.
First Baptist Church.--On Thursday evening March 19th 1868 N. L. Reynolds preached in Bunnell's Hall, Wellsboro. After the sermon 27 persons united in establishing the First Baptist Church of Wellsboro. The usual articles of faith and church covenant were adopted. The church was recognized by a council of sister churches July 20th 1868, Rev. J. J. Keys, of Elmira, preaching the sermon. Rev. W. A. Smith, of New Jersey, was chosen pastor. In the course of a year he was followed by Rev. S. M. Brockman as a supply, and his successor was Rev. C. A. Storr. In May 1871 Rev. N. L. Reynolds became pastor. He remained for seven or eight years, an earnest and efficient minister. Since Mr. Reynolds Rev. Isaac C. Houd, and Rev. Messrs. Millis, Vandorn and Morrell (the present pastor) have labored here. The church now has about 150 members. The deacons are James Playfoot and E. H. Hastings; clerk, N. T. Chandler. Connected with the church is a Sunday-school of 150 pupils, with N. T. Chandler superintendent, assisted by twelve teachers.
St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church.--St. John's Catholic Society was organized by Bishop O'Hara, of Scranton, in August 1873. It was a mission and was supplied by Rev. Fathers Wynne and McDermott, of Blossburg. In 1873 it had 75 members. It held its services monthly, at first in Converse Hall. The congregation and membership increasing, in 1879 Rev. John C. McDermott was located in Wellsboro, and the title of St. Peter's was given to the church. During the year 1881 the old academy and lot were purchased and the academy building remodeled so as to accommodate the wants of the church, at a cost of about $1,200. A parsonage was bought for $1,000, which has been repaired at considerable expense. Several church festivals have been held, and through the untiring energy and good management of Father McDermott the whole property is paid for and church is out of debt. There are now about 200 communicants. The church and parsonage occupy a pleasant and commanding site on Academy Hill, one of the most desirable locations in the borough. In addition to the ministerial work at Wellsboro, Father McDermott attends the churches at Antrim and Tioga, and at the latter place he has within the past eighteen months erected a church at a cost of about $3,000.
A well conducted Sunday-school is connected with the church at Wellsboro, consisting of about 25 scholars, with Miss Lizzie Connelly as chief teacher.
Father McDermott is a gentleman of culture and refinement, and an indefatigable worker in the affairs of the church.
THE PRESS OF WELLSBORO.
In 1824 Ellis Lewis and Rankin Lewis commenced the publication of the Pioneer. This we believe was the first newspaper published in the county. The citizens of Wellsboro were highly elated at first, but failed to make it a successful enterprise, and the press and material were sold to Elisha Booth and by him moved to Tioga, the citizens of that rival town subscribing for the purchase money.
This aroused the people of Wellsboro to a sense of their loss, and in 1827 Benjamin B. Smith commenced the publication of the Phoenix, which was more successful, the citizens having learned the necessity of maintaining a newspaper at the county seat. It was conducted with ability four or five years; its publication then ceased, but was resumed by B. B. Smith and Charles Coolidge in 1833. In 1834 it passed into the hands of John F. Donaldson, who had been employed in the office since 1827. Mr. Donaldson published it two years, and then sold to Josiah Emery and one Corey. The paper was issued by them until the summer of 1838, when it was sold to Mr. Hartman, who changed the name to the Herald. Mr. Hartman died about two years later, and the establishment passed into the hands of Howe & Rumsy. In 1847 George Hildreth published the Herald, the property of the office having passed into the hands of a stock company. The Herald was Whig in politics.
In 1838 James P. Magill established a Democratic paper called the Eagle. It was ably conducted and well supported for several years, when its publication was discontinued. The motto at its head was, "That country is the most prosperous where labor commands the greatest reward."-James Buchanan. "The Union rests upon the Constitution and its Compromises." The material of the office was used by R. Jenkins to start its political successor, the Democrat, in 1858. In December 1861 the office was burned, and for several months no Democratic paper was issued in Wellsboro.
In April 1862 R. Jenkins procured new material and commenced the publication of the Banner. In short time it was sold to a company at Tioga and removed to that village. But it did not long remain there, for in 1864 Theodore Wright, of Lock Haven, Clinton county, a candidate for Congress, purchased it, brought it back to Wellsboro, and gave it over into the hands of the Democratic county committee, who engaged Prof. Marinus N. Allen to edit and publish a Democratic paper. The paper was continued only about a year. In 1866 C. C. Keeler took hold of the concern and published The Herald of the Union. After a year he was succeeded by Charles G. Williams, an accomplished writer, who changed the name back to the Democrat. Mr. Williams published the paper until the fall of 1869, when Mr. Jenkins again became the publisher, and he continued so until July 1873, when the property passed into the hands of Ferguson & Schlick, who issued the paper about a year.
In November 1874 the Wellsboro Gazette, made up from materials of the old office of the Democrat and of the job office of Dr. Robert Roy, commenced its career, published by F. G. Churchill, who during the exciting times of the trial of Cosgrove and others, the Wellsboro Bank robbers, issued a spicy daily; commencing Wednesday morning December 2nd 1874 and ending December 12th 1874. Mr. Churchill continued the publication of the Wellsboro weekly Gazette until 1876, when he associated with him S. N. Havens, and it was thus continued until 1878, when Mr. Churchill sold out his interest to Mr. Havens and accepted the tender by General William P. Schell of a position in the auditor general's department in Harrisburg. Mr. Havens subsequently associated with him Frank Conevery, and put in a steam power press and a large amount of jobbing type etc. The Gazette was published by Havens & Conevery until November 1881, when Mr. Havens sold his interest to Mr. Huntington, and the business is now carried on by Huntington & Conevery.
In 1846 William C. Webb published a "Free Soil" paper entitled the Banner. He afterward went west.
In 1850 William D. Bailey established the Advertiser, a Whig journal of decided ability and great typographical merit. This paper was continued until 1854, when M. H. Cobb bought out the concern and changed the name of the paper, rechristening it the Agitator, the title by which it has been since known. Mr. Cobb was a very pungent and able writer, and one of the best editors Tioga county every had. L. Bache and W. W. McDougall were partners in the business. In 1857 Mr. Cobb became sole proprietor, as well as editor. In 1859 he turned the establishment over to Hugh Young at a slight advance upon the original cost ($850), and left Wellsboro to accept a position on the staff of the New York World, a journal then just starting as a daily religious paper, but which has since been published as a political one. Mr. Young procured new type for the paper and devoted increased attention to the local columns, thus greatly enhancing the value of the journal. During the war the Agitator spread before the public the experience of eye witnesses on the field and in camp, and constituted a graphic history of the stirring events of the day. Mr. Cobb returned in January 1863 and repurchased the establishment, and in 1864 put in a cylinder press. In December 1865 P. C. Van Gelder purchased a half interest, and the proprietors enlarged the paper to seven columns. In January 1867 it was again enlarged. On the 1st of January 1870 Mr. Cobb retired and John I. Mitchell took his place as half owner. The firm of Van Gelder & Mitchell last a year, Mr. Mitchell retiring and Mr. Van Gelder becoming sole owner, with George W. Sears as editor. On the 1st of January 1872 A. F. Barnes, of Bath, N. Y., purchased a half interest in the establishment, and an entire suit of smaller type was procured. On the 1st of September 1872 Mr. Van Gelder retired from the concern, and A. M. Roy, of Wellsboro, took the place; and since that date the Agitator has been published by the firm of Barnes & Roy. Improvements have been made from time to time, and this is now one of the finest printing establishments in northern Pennsylvania. The Agitator is Republican in politics.
On the 1st of January 1874 R. Jenkins, the former editor and publisher of the Democrat, commenced the publication of a folio sheet of five columns, mainly devoted to local news and Odd Fellowship. It was neutral in politics. He soon after abandoned the enterprise. In 1878 O. S. Webster removed from Westfield the office of the Idea, and commenced the publication of a paper at Wellsboro, christened the Tioga County Leader. It was the organ of the Greenback party. Its publication was suspended in 1881.
LODGES AND SOCIETIES.
Tioga Lodge, No. 230, I. O. O. F. was organized at Wellsboro February 15th 1847, with the following officers: Robert C. Simpson, N. G.; William Garretson, V. G., James P. Magill, secretary; James S. Bryden, assistant secretary; James D. Booth, treasurer. After a flourishing existence of ten years it broke up.
In the spring of 1871 a sufficient number of the old members petitioned the Grand Lodge for a return of the charter. It was returned on the 12th of April 1871, and the lodge was reorganized by D. D. G. M. Otis G. Gerould, of Covington. The officers elected were: Andrew Foley, N. G., H. W. Dartt, V. G., N. I. Chandler, secretary; Joseph Riberolle, treasurer.
There are at present 125 members. The past grands in good standing are Henry W. Williams, Robert C. Simpson, Elisha J. Brown, Hiram W. Dartt, George O. Derby, N. I. Chandler, Jerome B. Potter, Moses Yale, William S. Hoagland, W. W. Webb, John Brown, Frank A. Deans, L. L. Bailey, Joseph Williams, John W. Mather, George W. Merrick and Horace B. Packer. The present officers are: H. E. Raesly, N. G., James Matson, V. G., Frank A. Deans, secretary; N. I. Chandler, assistant secretary; Joseph Riberolle, treasurer.
Wellsboro Encampment, No. 78, I. O. O. F. was instituted at Wellsboro April 10th 1848, with the following officers: John S. Williston, C. P.; James S. Bryden, H. P.; John F. Donaldson, S. W.; Edward W. Ross, J. W.; Simon H. Landis, secretary; Joseph Weaver, treasurer; L. B. Reynolds, guide. The encampment surrendered its charter about 1856 or 1857, and was reinstituted under the same charter March 27th 1873, the grand encampment officers of the State being present. The officers installed were: A. Foley, C. P.; Robert C. Simpson, H. P.; E. J. Brown, S. W.; N. T. Chandler, J. W.; Hiram W. Dartt, secretary; Joseph Riberolle, treasurer; George O. Derby, guide.
The past chief patriarchs in good standing are Robert C. Simpson, N. T. Chandler, George O. Derby, Jerome B. Potter, Hiram W. Dartt, Andrew J. Tipple, Moses Yale, Frank A. Deans, Charles Eberenz, M. C. Potter, Ezra Benedict Young, and L. L. Bailey.
The present officers are: John W. Mather, C. P.; L. L. Bailey, H. P.; William S. Hoagland, S. W.; Richard Lownsberry, J. W.; Frank A. Deans, scribe; Joseph Riberolle, treasurer.
Ossea Lodge, No. 317, Free and Accepted Masons was constituted January 11th 1858. The first officers were: Ebenezer Pratt, W. M.; William A. Roe, S. W.; William Roberts, J. W.; James Kimball, treasurer; Thomas B. Bryden, secretary; Robert Roy, S. D.; Angus Griffin, J. D.; Hubbard Carpenter, tiler.
The past members now members are Robert C. Simpson, William Roberts, Hugh Young, Massena Bullard, Henry W. Williams, John I. Mitchell, Ezra B. Young, James H. Bosard, Max Bernkopf, John Cuyle and Charles T. Kimball.
Tioga Chapter, No. 194, Royal Arch Masons was constituted August 15th 1859. The first officers were: Robert C. Simpson, H. P.; William Butler, K.; A. W. Howland, S.; William Roberts, treasurer; Thomas B. Bryden, secretary; Hubbard Carpenter, tiler.
The past high priests now members are Robert C. Simpson, William Roberts, Massena Bullard, Hugh Young, Henry W. Williams and Jerome B. Niles.
Tyadaghton Commandery, No. 28, Knights Templar was constituted June 12th 1867. The first officers were: Robert C. Simpson, E. C.; William Roberts, G.; Andrew Foley, C. G.; Mark H. Cobb, Prel.; Robert Roy, treasurer; Thomas B. Bryden, secretary.
The Hermaic Society was organized May 11th 1869 by the young men of Wellsboro, as a debating or literary society. In the winter of that year it furnished the public a free course of home lectures, the society paying from its own fund all the necessary expenses. In 1870 it continued as a debating and literary society, holding meetings weekly and organizing what was then considered a hazardous undertaking, namely, a first-class lecture course. The citizens of Wellsboro generously came forward and backed the society by subscribing $1,000 as a fund to be assessed upon to cover any deficiency which might arise. But the success of the experiment far exceeded the most sanguine expectation of the society, as thirteen lectures were furnished by the best talent which money could procure, and the deficit amounted to less than $50, thereby releasing its endorsers almost entirely. In 1871 the course embraced lectures or entertainments by Frederick Douglass, the Mendelssohn Club, Mary A. Livermore, George Vanderhoff, William Parsons, D. R. Locke, George William Curtis, Anna E. Dickinson and Rev. Edwin H. Chapin, D. D. The course of 1873-4 was given by home talent, and proved interesting beyond expectation. The society had a fine reference library and reading room in Bowen's block. The lecture course of 1874-5 was a brilliant one. In January 1875 ex-Governor Andrew G. Curtin, late minister to Russia, delivered an admirable lecture on that country. Other distinguished speakers graced their lecture platform during the season.
Temperance Societies.--In 1865 a division of the Sons of Temperance was organized, which was remarkably successful, reforming many who had contracted habits of intemperance. For a number of years no licensed hotel existed in Wellsboro. In 1868 the Good Templars organized a society, and in a short time absorbed the organization of the Sons of Temperance. A great temperance wave rolled over the county in 1877, termed the Murphy movement. A great mass meeting was held in Bush's Park in Tioga, where people assembled from all parts of the county to welcome Francis Murphy, the great modern apostle of temperance.
In the evening after the meeting at Tioga, Wednesday June 27th 1877, Mr. Murphy and Luther Caldwell addressed a multitude estimated at 3,500 on the public square at Wellsboro. The village had never seen a meeting where so much good feeling and enthusiasm prevailed. From beginning to end it was a continued ovation to the speakers and the cause they advocated. They held a similar meeting the next evening, and as a result of the two meetings 257 names were added to the already long Murphy roll of honor. The local temperance organizations kept up the meetings, which were from time to time addressed by local speakers. A great many of those who signed the "Murphy pledge" have relapsed into their old habits, while a great number have kept it inviolate. The ladies of Wellsboro now have an organization, which has for its object the suppression of the traffic in alcoholic drinks as a beverage.
The Tioga County Medical Association was organized June 20th 1860, at the office of N. Packer, M. D., in Wellsboro, and at first consisted of Drs. N. Packer, R. H. Archer, C. V. Elliott, W. W. Webb, Daniel Bacon and Otis W. Gibson, son of Otis L. Gibson, who for thirty years previous had been a practitioner in Wellsboro. The organization increased its membership slowly and held its meetings occasionally. The last one was held at Mansfield, on the 19th of December 1860. After this the society was in a state of suspended animation until the 9th of September 1868, when it was reorganized at a meeting held at Tioga. It then consisted of Drs. W. W. Webb, Daniel Bacon, Robert M. Christy, R. B. Smith, T. R. Warren, H. A. Phillips and Lewis Darling jr.
At this organization new life was infused into the society, and it started off on a career of usefulness. It has continued to increase its membership and awaken a lively interest among the physicians of the county, until it now stands second to none in the State of Pennsylvania. There are now 36 active members, comprising the best skill and talent in the county. The society holds four sessions annually, in the months of April, June, September and December. At these meetings topics are discussed pertaining to the treatment of diseases, and views are interchanged upon the methods best calculated to promote the science and practice of medicine. The association is one of the best institutions in the county.
The following named physicians acted as president of the association since its organization: R. H. Archer, 1860; Daniel Bacon, 1868,1869; N. Packer, 1870; James Masten, 1871; W. W. Webb, 1872; C. K. Thompson, 1873, 1881; W. T. Humphrey, 1874; R. B. Smith, 1875; Lewis Darling jr., 1876; M. L. Bacon, 1877; E. G. Drake, 1878; Geo. D. Main, 1879; A. M. Loop, 1880.
THE COURTS-NOTED CRIMES AND TRIALS.
In 1806 Wellsboro was made the county seat of Tioga county. Courts were not held there however until 1813, the legal business of the county from 1804 till 1813 being transacted at Williamsport. The first prosecutions were for malicious mischief and Sabbath-breaking. The first suit in the common pleas was for ejectment; verdict for defendant, and the sheriff returned that he had taken the body of the plaintiff, on a writ to collect the cost. The country was so sparsely settled that the constable, Lorain Lamb, stated that it was difficult to find suitable persons for jurors.
On the night of the 16th of September 1874 a most daring and successful bank robbery was committed in Wellsboro. A band of masked men obtained an entrance into the dwelling of John L. Robinson, president of the First National Bank of Wellsboro, whose son Eugene H. Robinson was cashier and resided with his father. The burglars secured the persons of the inmates of the house. After binding and gagging them, under the threat of death they compelled Eugene H. Robinson to produce the keys of the bank and to go there with them and unlock its vaults, where they helped themselves to its contents, securing a very large sum of current funds, besides U. S. bonds and other valuables. After securing their booty the robbers left the premises leisurely and took their flight. Before daylight of the morning following the inmates managed to release themselves and give the alarm. Instant pursuit was commenced, and the fugitives were followed along the road leading toward Elmira.
The president and cashier of the bank at once issued a notice that their loss would not absorb over one third of their surplus fund or affect the security of depositors. This was corroborated by Chester Robinson, John R. Bowen, William Bache and H. W. Williams. No event had ever so stirred the people of Wellsboro. Every one who could render any assistance in the capture of the robbers volunteered his services or engaged in the pursuit. A heavy reward was offered. On the following Sunday C. Cosgrove, a man with many aliases, was arrested at or near Waverly, N. Y., and a man at Elmira by the name of Orson Cook; also Mike Welsh, of Waverly. A large sum of money was found in the possession of Cosgrove, together with bonds and other property, and the gold watch and chain of E. H. Robinson, the cashier. The prisoners were incarcerated in the jail at Wellsboro, and at the December term of court next following were tried. Hon. Stephen F. Wilson was the presiding judge, and his associates were D. McNaughton and L. B. Smith. J. C. Strang was then district attorney. During the trial, which lasted several days, the court-house was crowded to its utmost capacity, while crowds along the corridors and walks waited and listened attentively for the least word in relation to the progress of the cases. The district attorney was assisted in the prosecution by Henry Sherwood, J. B. Niles, and M. F. Elliott. The prisoners were defended by John I. Mitchell, L. P. Williston, John W. Mather, and J. H. Shaw. It was 5:40 P. M. of the last day of the trial when the jury retired to prepare their verdict, and the judge gave notice that if they were ready to come in before 10 o'clock P. M. the court-house bell would be rung as a signal for the prisoners to be brought in and receive the verdict. AT 6:45 a bell was heard, and a stampede was made for the court-house, through the mud and darkness; when it was ascertained that the bell heard was that of the Presbyterian church near by, calling the people to worship. A few minutes only elapsed, however, before the court-house bell was rung, and soon the court room was crowded to overflowing. The expected verdict of "guilty" was rendered. Cosgrove and Cook were each convicted on three separate indictments and received sentence upon them, the former to fines of $2,000 and imprisonment for sixteen years and nine months, and the latter to $2,000 fines and thirteen years and eight months imprisonment. Another of the robbers was subsequently brought to justice, confined in the penitentiary, and was pardoned out. Through him a large amount of the bonds stolen, belonging to Silas X. Billings, was recovered. It is safe to say that no other trial in the courts of Tioga county ever created such an intense interest as that of the Wellsboro Bank robbers.
No case of capital punishment has ever occurred in the county.
On the 27th of January 1882 Floyd Whitney, of Chatham township, was arrested in Michigan and placed in the Tioga county jail at Wellsboro, to be tried in May following for the murder of William S. Stafford of Chatham township about eighteen months before. Whitney admitted killing Stafford with a club, but claimed that the blow was not struck with the intention of committing murder.
We have already alluded to the Wellsboro and Lawrenceville Railroad, now run under the name of the Corning, Cowanesque and Antrim Railroad, and spoken of its completion in May 1872. Although the railroad continues on to Antrim, yet Wellsboro is in fact the end of the route for first-class passenger trains. Passengers are carried to Antrim, but they change cars in Wellsboro. The employes in charge at Wellsboro are: H. J. Easton, station agent; L. P. Williston jr., telegraph operator; Harry Wheeler and William Sullivan, assistants; Z. W. Baker, foreman of construction. It is at Wellsboro that all trains passing northward, toward Corning, are made up. There are four trains, exclusive of the coal trains, passing over the road daily. The conductors of the passenger trains are John H. Way, who has served the company in that capacity over twenty years; Thomas Brown, who has also been employed by the Fall Brook Coal Company more than twenty years; Net Wheeler, employed seventeen or eighteen years; James Baty, who has served the company continuously eighteen years, and Harry Kreger, another old railroad man, though not so long in the Fall Brook Coal Company's service. These conductors also run between Corning and Lyons, over the Syracuse, Geneva and Corning Railway. Corning is the junction of these two lines, and the train men run alternate weeks to Wellsboro and Lyons.
The Jersey Shore, Pine Creek and Buffalo enterprise has been spoken of in the general history of the county.
FIRES AND FIRE DEPARTMENT.
Wellsboro was very fortunate for many years so far as the destruction of property by fire was concerned, fires occurring rarely, and no great loss being sustained. But on the morning of the 23rd of October 1873 a severe and disastrous fire destroyed property in the business portion of the town to the amount of over $100,000. It was probably the work of an incendiary. It originated in the store of E. H. Hastings, and spread rapidly, consuming in its course the business places of M. Watkins, E. H. Hastings, C. L. Wilcox, Charles Yahn, Van Valkenburg & Co., Mrs. Wilcox, Guttenburg, Rosenbaum & Co. and Thomas Harden, and the large hotel of B. B. Holliday, which had just been painted, refitted and refurnished; besides doing injury to others, on the opposite side of the street. The panic of 1873 had just swept over the country with its paralyzing effects, and this blow was the more discouraging to the business men, coupled with the stringency of the money market.
The citizens had only partially recovered from the shock, when on the morning of April 1st 1874, another fire occurred, which was still more destructive than the first, sweeping away the entire square of buildings between Crafton and Walnut streets back to Pearl street. The fire was first discovered in the store of William Wilson, and it was not ascertained positively how it originated. It was said at the time that many heard the alarm; but, it being on the 1st of April it was thought to be a device to "fool" them, and the fire became unmanageable before the true state of affairs was understood. The principal losers were Cobb & Bache, H. W. Williams, A. Foley, Dr. L. M. Johnson, L. A. Gardner, W. T. Mathews, Charles Toles, M. Watkins, Nichols & Seeley, William Wilson, L. B. Reynolds, the Nichols estate, C. J. Wheeler, C. C. Mathers, Mrs. A. J. Sofield, Guttenberg & Co., N. P. Close, J. R. Anderson, Mathers & Bodine C. G. Osgood, Robinson & Co., W. B. Van Horn, Harkness & Burnett, E. H. Wood, A. L. Bodine, J. Johnson, Mrs. Hatkins, Mrs. Carey J. Etner, William Hill, Bowen & Fisher, S. B. Warriner, E. H. Hastings, William Riley, Mrs. Mary Lamb, M. M. Converse, Wheeler & Wilcox, David Carr, ------ Bunnell, G. W. Navle, John Grey, Seth Watkins, C. L. Wilcox, William Roberts and W. E. Pierson.
This terrible conflagration, coupled with that of only six months previous, was enough to dishearten the most courageous; but after a short time a reaction took place, and the work of rebuilding in a more substantial manner commenced, until now Main street is now one of the finest business streets in any inland village in the country; it is wide and straight, and for two and a half squares the structures are almost exclusively of brick and stone.
The improvements have not been confined to Main street; but in all sections of the borough is the hand of improvement seen. Elegant dwellings have been erected, old ones have been remodeled, streets have been improved, fair grounds have been placed in convenient and proper shape, and loving hands have beautified the last resting place of the dead. Many pleasant groves are found in various sections of the town, where nestled beneath the shade of evergreens, cosy cottages are erected, protected from the blasts of winter or the burning heat of summer by the waving pine or balsam.
The losses by the great fire of 1874 at the time seemed irreparable, but scarcely a trace of its destructive course is now perceived.
The Wellsboro fire department consists of three companies, viz.: Lafayette Engine Company, No. 1, with 65 members; Alert Hose Company, No. 2, with 35 men; and Eureka Hook and Ladder Company, No. 3, also of 35 men, making a total of 135 men. The department was organized February 13th 1874, and incorporated. Its first officers were: Thomas B. Bryden, chief engineer; Walter Sherwood, first assistant; Joseph Williams, second assistant; J. M. Robinson, secretary; Arthur M. Roy, treasurer. Mr. Bryden served as chief engineer until his death, March 31st 1878. M G. Spalding, then first assistant engineer, acted as chief the rest of the year 1878. Joseph Williams was chief engineer for 1879; Joseph W. Brewster for 1880 and John Brown for 1881.
The officers for 1882 were: Frank A. Deans, chief engineer; Joseph W. Brewster, first assistant; David Karr, second assistant; George W. Williams, secretary; George O. Derby, treasurer. The business of the department is conducted by a board of trustees, consisting of its officers and one trustee for every ten men on the respective company rolls. Meetings of the trustees are held on the second Monday night of each month, and each company has a monthly meeting.
The vote cast for officers of the borough on the 21st of February 1882 was reported in the Agitator as follows:
Burgess-Walter Sherwood, 305; T. A. Robinson, 116. Councilmen-F. A. Johnson, 360; L. L. Bailey, 269; J. L. White, 254; D. L. Deane, 139; G. O. Derby, 136; T. A. Robinson, 31. School directors-Charles Sears, 310; M. L. Bacon, 268; P. Long, 167. Constable-E. J. Purple, 206; J. B. Wilcox, 205. Assessor-F. K. Wright, 280; J. W. Mather, 134. Assistant assessors-B. F. Kelsey, 265; J. W. Mather, 234; F. A. Deans, 159; J. E. English, 147. Judge of election-J. H. Matson, 397. Inspectors of election-John Fischler, jr., 228; Williams Hoagland, 158; H. B. Packer, 6. Auditor-F. W. Graves, 396.
Some of the subjects of these articles were not associated with the history of Wellsboro during the period of its early development, and for that reason are not sketched among the "founders of the borough"; while some have been thus mentioned are judged worthy of more extended notice before we leave this section of our work.
SILAS X. BILLINGS.
Silas X. Billings, son of Silas and Abbey Freeborn Billings, was born at Knoxville, Tioga county, Pa., February 2nd 1826. His father was an extensive lumberman on the Cowanesque River and Pine Creek, and young Billings early became acquainted with the details of the business. His father removed to Elmira in 1840 and placed Silas in the Elmira Academy, where he acquired a fair English education. In 1847 the young man was sent to take charge of lands owned by his father in the townships of Gaines and Elk, in the southwestern portion of the county, on Pine Creek, and Cedar and Slate Runs. A steam saw-mill was erected and taken charge of by Silas X. Billings and P. S. McNeil. The father of our subject died in Elmira, August 28th 1853 and his property was amicably divided, Silas X. being one of the administrators to settle the estate. After two years this was accomplished, and Silas X. took his share of the estate in wild lands in Tioga county, and in 1855 permanently located at Gaines, where he continued to reside until his death.
He was a man of great energy and methodical business habits, as is evidenced by his diary kept for a period of over 36 years, which is of itself a voluminous and interesting history. He erected mills, stores, tanneries and hotels, and added largely to his patrimony. He purchased large tracts of coal and timbered lands, and was eminently successful in all his undertakings. He was married January 5th 1865 to Miss Sarah M. Locke, daughter of Jesse and Lura Locke, of Wellsboro; he had no children.
He was an active and successful business life. He was prominently connected with the early struggles to obtain a charter for the Jersey Shore, Pine Creek and Buffalo Railroad, and in the face of great opposition succeeded, but did not live to see the road constructed. He was a genial companion, a true and steadfast friend, an affectionate husband and a generous and large hearted man, kind to the poor and a firm defender of the weak against the oppressions of the strong.
A few months before his death, his health failing him, he was prevailed upon by his friends to seek medical relief and repose. He went to New York city and consulted eminent physicians; on his way home, while visiting his sister, Mrs. McNeil, at Elmira, he was stricken with apoplexy, and remained unconscious several hours. He recovered, however, and returned to this quiet and beautiful home in Gaines, on the banks of Pine Creek. In about three weeks he was again stricken, and remained insensible forty-eight hours; and on the morning of October 13th 1879 he died, aged 53 years, 8 months and 11 days. His funeral was largely attended. The services were conducted by Rev. J. F. Calkins, pastor of the Presbyterian church of Wellsboro. His remains were taken to Wellsboro for interment, where a plain but costly monument of Quincy granite, erected by his loving wife in the beautiful hillside cemetery, marks the spot where his remains repose. The gentlemen who bore him to his last resting place were Hon. H. W. Williams, Hon. J. B. Niles, John R. Bowen, Thomas Veazie, John W. Bailey and H. S. Hastings.
He was no aspirant for office, although competent to fill a high station. In politics he was a life-long Democrat. His death was a great public loss.
GENERAL ROBERT C. COX.
Robert C. Cox was born in Fairfield township, Lycoming county, Penn., November 18th 1823. He was reared on a farm and educated in the common schools of his native township. In the year 1841, when about 18 years of age, he removed to Liberty, Tioga county, and engaged in farming and lumbering. April 1846 he was married to Miss Lydia Ann Wheeland. Their children are Henry C., Mary E. (wife of Jacob K. Richards), and Carrie M., now at home.
In 1843 he joined a cavalry company under Captain John Sebring, and was adjutant as long as the company remained organized, which was until the year 1857. He was then appointed brigade inspector for Tioga county. He possessed a true military spirit, and, although he was actively engaged in building saw-mills, and lumbering, still his fondness for a soldier's life would frequently display itself. On the first call of his country to arms he immediately responded. Sunday morning April 20th 1861 he received the news of the perilous condition of affairs; aroused his townsmen, who soon paraded the streets with fife and drum, and immediately commenced organizing companies for the field. That afternoon he repaired to Wellsboro and organized two companies there; then one at Tioga, one at Lawrenceville, one at Covington and one at Mainsburg; and by Thursday of that week he had six hundred men officered and organized at Troy, Pa., on the line of the Northern Central Railroad, ready for Harrisburg. At this time he held the rank of major and brigade inspector. In November 1862 he joined the 171st regiment, and on the 19th of that month was commissioned major. While in that regiment he was engaged in the battles of Blunt's Creek and Jacksonville, N. C., in February 1863, and at New Hope Church in March of the same year. The term of the regiment was nine months, but his country needing his services he remained eleven months. He returned to Tioga county and immediately commenced recruiting volunteers. September 6th 1864 he enlisted as a private, and on the 9th was commissioned colonel of the 207th regiment, and he remained in that regiment until after the close of the war. For a time Colonel Cox's regiment was stationed on the investing line before Petersburg, occupied by the army of the James; afterward he was assigned to the ninth corps Hartranft's division.
Bates, in his history of the Pennsylvania volunteers, speaks thus:
"When the enemy at dawn at the 25th of March 1865 captured Fort Steadman, Colonel Cox led his regiment promptly under arms and joined in the assault for its recovery, with four companies which he led in person. Colonel Cox dashed on, disregarding the enemy's fire, and was himself among the foremost to reach the hostile lines and recover them from the invaders' grasp. But even more courageous and daring was his conduct in storming and capturing the rebel works on the 2nd of April 1865, when Petersburg, after a siege of nine months, finally yielded to Union valor. At 2 o'clock in the morning of that day his camp was alive, a little after 3 he led his regiment out and formed it for the assault, just in front of Fort Sedgwick, popularly known as "Fort Hell," the left resting on the Jerusalem plank road. Opposite was the rebel Fort Mahone, with the equally suggestive title of "Fort Damnation." The works were of exceeding strength. A double line of chevaux de frise, a well strengthened picket line, a ditch, and a strong main work had to be encountered in front, while to the right and left were posts and angles, whence a devastating cross fire of artillery could sweep the ground which an attacking force must pass. In breathless silence the moment was awaited by this devoted regiment when the trial of fortitude should come. Scarcely was so desperate a work attempted in the whole progress of the siege or during the war, and it was only equaled by the charge of Pickett's division at Gettysburg. Finally the rocket which was to be the signal shot up into the heavens, and General Hartranft gave the order to go. Colonel Cox did not assign to his subordinates the duty of conducting the movement; but, dismounted, with drawn sword, took his place in the front rank and cried, "Boys, let us do or die!" The enemy's artillery had for some time been in full play, and the booming of the cannon, the screaming and bursting of shell, and the almost hopeless work before them were enough to fill the heart with dismay; but when the order came, and the call of the leader was heard, not a soldier faltered. As they went forward men fell at every step, and all the ground over which they advanced was strewed with the dead and the drying. The axemen severed the links of the chevaux de frise and it was rapidly opened; but time was consumed, every second of which was costing precious lives. From the neck of Colonel Cox bullets cut his hair, and his coat was riddled; but he remained unscathed, almost miraculously preserved, and pressing on led the survivors over the enemy's works, clearing the way at the point of the bayonet and planting his flag upon the walls of the hostile lines. Such an exhibition of bravery and so complete a triumph it has rarely been the lot of a soldier to know."
The loss of men was terrible. His color sergeant, George J. Horning, was killed, pierced with seven bullets; three of his color guard fell by his side; 37 of his men were killed and 140 wounded. President Lincoln upon hearing the news immediately conferred upon him the rank of brigadier-general by brevet. One week later the rebel army laid down their arms at Appomattox Court-House, and the war was over.
General Cox, having won an enviable reputation in the field and added laurels to the wreaths of our Tioga county soldiers, returned to his mountain home in Liberty, Tioga county, and resumed his business vocations, engaging in lumbering and mercantile pursuits. He was commissioned a major-general of the National Guard of Pennsylvania by Governor Geary, June 6th 1871, and on the 16th of April 1873 he resigned that office.
In 1869 he was elected treasurer of Tioga county by the Independent Republicans and Democrats, which office he held for three years. In 1872 he was elected prothonotary by the Republicans, and he has held the office ever since, being re-elected last fall for a full term of three years.
The general is a pleasant, agreeable and unassuming gentleman, ever attentive to duty, and from his appearance one might not suspect that he possessed that martial intrepidity and enthusiasm for which he is so justly distinguished. He is held in high estimation by the citizens of Tioga county, and has a warm place in their affections.
Aaron Niles was born in Hebron, Conn., June 27th 1784. His father, Nathan Niles, had been quite largely engaged in mercantile pursuits and owned several vessels which were engaged in the coasting trade before the Revolutionary war, and during that war they were mostly captured by British cruisers. The losses of the Revolutionary war having deprived him of the bulk of his fortune, he gathered together the fragments, invested in lands in Tioga county under the Connecticut titles and with his family came to this county in 1796. Aaron Niles was then 12 years of age. The Connecticut titles proving worthless, Nathan Niles lost his investment, and was left in a new country, with nothing but a strong and courageous will, to commence the battle of life again. At that time there were only ten log dwellings in Tioga county. He first located at the mouth of Mill Creek, in the township of Tioga, about three miles south of the present village of Tioga. There were not for many years any mills where grain was ground on the river nearer than Tioga Point, or Athens, and the inhabitants of Tioga were obliged to pound their corn and other grain in a hollow stump, with a "spring pole" for a pestle. The wilderness was then inhabited by the painted savage and wild beasts of prey. Such were the lives of the early pioneers, and such were the scenes through which young Aaron Niles passed.
In June 1807 Aaron Niles was married to Miss Deborah Ives, daughter of Cornelius Ives of Tioga. Their children were: Clarinda, born June 12th 1808, Philander, born March 13th 1811; Erastus, born April 17th 1814; Lucinda, born August 28th 1816; Sylpha, born August 29th 1818, Irena, born August 28th 1820; Betsey, born March 13th 1822, and Russell, born August 20th 1826. All are now living, except Lucinda and Sylpha, who died in their infancy. Mrs. Deborah Niles died in 1830, and March 4th 1833 Mr. Niles married Mrs. Betsey Kilbourne, widow of John Kilbourne and a daughter of Rufus Butler, who came from Vermont about the beginning of the present century. By this marriage one son was born to him, Jerome B. Niles, September 25th 1834. The last wife of Aaron Niles died at Niles Valley, Tioga county, June 3rd 1863, a little over 65 years of age, having been born May 5th 1798.
About the year 1810 Aaron Niles purchase wild land in Wellsboro, and cleared up the farm where Laugher Bache now resides. In 1820 he sold out and removed to a point now known as Niles Valley, five miles north of Wellsboro, and there he reared and educated his family, clearing up a valuable farm. He resided there until 1865, when he went to live with his youngest son, Hon. J. B. Niles, at whose house in Wellsboro he died February 22nd 1872, in the 88th year of his age.
He was a man of inflexible integrity and undaunted courage; an energetic, industrious and public spirited gentleman, and a worthy pioneer, whose life and character were an honor to his descendants, and whose name deserves a bright page in the history of Tioga county.
JOHN L. ROBINSON.
John L. Robinson, son of Jesse and Abiah Robinson, was born in Hartwick, Otsego county, N. Y., January 6th 1813. He was educated in the district school, and at the age of 14 he was employed as a clerk in the store of Daniel Lawrence, at Otego, Otsego county, where he remained nearly six years. He was then in business for himself as a merchant at Nineveh, Broome county, N. Y., about a year, and in February 1834 came to Wellsboro and engaged in mercantile and lumber business. He continued in that line, in the firm of Chester and J. L. Robinson, until the spring of 1864, when he engaged in banking. He was prominent in the establishment of the First National Bank of Wellsboro, and has been one of its officers since its organization; and he is now president of that institution, which is one of the most reliable in the State.
In September 1832 Mr. Robinson married Miss Azubah Bowen, daughter of Hezekiah Bowen, of Hartwick, N. Y. They had seven children, three of whom are living, viz.: Jesse M. and J. F. Robinson, and Mrs. Azubah Smith, widow of the late G. D. Smith, who was killed in the civil war at the battle of South Mountain.
Mr. Robinson was a very successful merchant and lumberman, and accumulated a fine fortune. He was one of the original vestrymen of the Episcopal church which was founded in Wellsboro 44 years ago, and continued in that relation until about two years since. He has done his share to promote and further every public enterprise calculated to benefit Wellsboro and the county at large. He has never aspired to political distinction, but has been emphatically a business man, giving his energy, talent and time to business pursuits. His social and domestic relations are of the most pleasing character, and his home, presided over by the good wife whom he chose fifty years ago, is the center of comfort and refinement. Although in his 70th year he is well preserved and active in his vocation.