First Traveled Ways--The State Line Survey--A Rude Road Brushed Out--The Williamson Road--Why and How it Was Built--A Princely Entertainment in the Wilderness--The Patterson Brothers--Morris State Road--More Roads Laid Out--East and West State Road--Era of Plank Roads--Early Navigation Schemes--The Corning and Blossburg Railroad-- Morris Run and Arnot Branches--The Fall Brook Railroad--The Cowanesque Branch--The Pine Creek Branch--Elmira and State Line Railroad--The Addison and Pennsylvania Railroad--Other Railroads.
The first roads in Tioga county were narrow Indian paths, and it has been shown how they ran. The early explorers and settlers followed them, or traveled by canoes on the river. In course of time the most important of these paths were widened, or "brushed out," by the settlers, and in subsequent years became public highways for the passage of wheeled vehicles.
Mention has been made of the road cut through the wilderness by the State line surveyors. This was the first road constructed by white men. It was a rude affair, but it enabled the party to get their pack horses and provisions through, as well as to carry forward their work. Being on the line separating the States of Pennsylvania and New York, however, it did not penetrate the interior of the territory of Tioga, but it enabled a few of the earliest settlers to enter the country from the east and then move south. This line was authorized to be run by the legislatures of the respective States, and in 1786 Andrew Ellicott and Andrew Porter, on the part of Pennsylvania, and James Clinton and Simeon DeWitt, on the part of New York, were appointed to perform the work. In their first report, which is dated October 12, 1786, they say they commenced "at the river Delaware in 42 degrees, north latitude," and continued on the same parallel to the western extremity of the two States. The first ninety miles from the point of beginning ended on the "western side of the south branch of the Tioga river," at Lawrenceville. Here a substantial mile-stone was set up, and for many years it was regarded as a conspicuous landmark. The last boundary survey, made in 1893—107 years after the first—reported that the "ninetieth mile-stone is a small monument standing about 100 feet north of State street, in the village of Lawrenceville, at the northeast corner of Hallenback’s barn, and about 1,260 feet east of monument 219. It is on line between property of Kuehl and Harraway."
The survey was not completed through to lake Erie until the subsequent year. Ellicott and Porter continued to be the commissioners from Pennsylvania, but New York was now represented by Abraham Hardenberg and William Morris. Their final report was made October 29, 1787, accompanied by maps showing the topography of the country from the Delaware river to Lake Erie.
In continuing the line westward from the ninetieth mile-stone, the commissioners say that they "marked the same in a lasting and permanent manner by mile-stones, or posts surrounded by mounds of earth where stones could not be procured." The stones, at the several points where the latitude was determined, were large and well marked and contained on the south side, "Pennsylvania, latitude 42 degrees N., 1787, and also the variations of the magnetic needle; on the north New York and their several distances from the River Delaware."
In making the original survey the commissioners had to surmount great difficulties on account of incompetent knowledge of the geography of the country, the death of their horses, time taken up in making canoes, and treating with the Indians. Their axemen and laborers had to cut a road through the wilderness to enable them to run the line, as well as to convey provisions and stores for their sustenance and comfort. The Indians at several points on the line—particularly in the country of the Senecas—looked upon them with suspicion, notwithstanding peace prevailed, and they had to cultivate friendly relations with them by making presents, and explain to them the object of their work. This was the first road therefore that penetrated what afterward became the northern part of Tioga county, and over it traveled many of the early explorers and adventurers from the east in search of homes in the wilderness.
The last boundary survey was made in accordance with an act passed by the Pennsylvania legislature in 1889, to co-operate with the authorities of New York in accordance with the provisions of the law of 1887, to make an examination and inspection of the boundary line monuments between the two States. The commissioners made an elaborate report under date of December 12, 1893, which may be found in the report of the secretary of internal affairs for that year. They say that the line was "monumented by a joint commission of the two States during the years 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884 and 1885. The monuments, with exception of the large initial monuments, are of Connecticut granite, of a reddish gray, coarse texture, quite hard and durable."
They say monument No. 268, and mile-stone 115, "Is a small monument with diagonal grooves standing on a steep northwesterly slope on north edge of thick woods, about 100 feet west of the summit of the ridge. It marks the corners of Potter and Tioga counties, Pennsylvania. It is on line between properties of C. P. Gill and Ralph McCullough. This monument was found to be in good condition in every respect."
THE WILLIAMSON ROAD.
|The next road through what afterwards constituted the territory of Tioga county, was built by Charles Williamson, agent for the Pultney estate in the "Genesee Country." The causes for the building of this great thoroughfare through what was then almost an unknown wilderness, may be briefly stated: In November, 1790, Phelps & Gorham by deed conveyed to Robert Morris, of Philadelphia, 1,250,000 acres of wild land lying in western New York and adjoining the State of Pennsylvania, in what was more particularly known as the "Genesee Country," in the home of the Seneca Indians. April 11, 1792, Mr. Morris conveyed by deed to Charles Williamson the above tract, which has since been known as "The Pultney Estate." While these enormous operations in land were being made, it was contemplated to found a colony, composed of Europeans, in this wild region for the purpose of improving the country and therefore appreciating the value of the land. Consequently in the spring of 1792, Charles Williamson, who had been appointed secret agent for Sir William Pultney, of Bath, England, arrived in this country and established his headquarters at Northumberland, while making arrangements to proceed to the magnificent domain that had been entrusted to his care and management. And as a preliminary to beginning business in this country in due form, Williamson took the oath of allegiance before the court in Philadelphia and became a naturalized citizen.|
While at Northumberland awaiting advices from his employer in England, Williamson was informed that about 200 emigrants would reach him in due season, and to make preparations to conduct them to their new home in the wilderness. An important question now presented itself. Which was the better route to pursue to reach the point of destination? Up the Susquehanna by boat to Tioga Point, thence by the Tioga river to a point as near the proposed place of settlement as possible; or to cut a road by a direct route overland? At that time the river route was the only one known, but it was long, circuitous and dangerous. With the large number of immigrants under his charge, Williamson argued that a part of this force at least might be advantageously used in the construction of the proposed road, and he therefore set about making preparations to carry out the project.
As this road would be a benefit to the country as well, Williamson made application to the Assembly for an appropriation to assist in its construction. After some discussion the small sum of £100 was grudgingly appropriated. This was not encouraging for such a great undertaking through 100 miles of wilderness, but it was accepted. Williamson secured the services as guides of Robert and Benjamin Patterson, two brothers residing at Northumberland. They had done distinguished service as scouts and soldiers in the Revolutionary army, and especially in watching and aiding in the repulse of the invading Indians on the West Branch of the Susquehanna, and as scouts in the country through which this road was to pass. They were familiar with the ground and therefore well equipped for the work. Their father, William Patterson, had distinguished himself in the French and Indian wars; their mother was a Boone, a near relative of Daniel Boone, the celebrated frontiersman.
The work of cutting the road through the wilderness was commenced in May or June, 1792. According to the draft now on file in the land office, it commenced at Loyalsock, passed through where Williamsport was afterwards built to Lycoming creek, up which it ascended by the Indian path to Trout run. Here the builders fairly entered the wilderness when they commenced the ascent of Trout run. The forest was dense and gloomy, but by dint of hard work a road was made over Laurel hill to the site of Liberty. From this point the site of Blossburg, on the Tioga river, was reached. At Canoe Camp, eight miles down the river, the road was abandoned, and the party set to work making canoes out of the heavy timber which grew there. Having a sufficient number completed they embarked and floated down the river to Painted Post and then ascended the Cohocton to their point of destination, where they founded the town of Bath.
It was the custom of Williamson and his party to establish depots for the storage of provisions on the line of the road, and to erect a commodious log house to shelter the women and children, and then advance with the axemen, roadmakers, etc., and prepare the way. The "Block House" he established at what is now known as Liberty borough was constructed of logs and was about 20x40 feet in size. In front of it was erected a large bake oven, in which bread was baked for the party. This block house stood in the midst of a heavy forest of timber and it remained there for years as a famous historic landmark.
Blossburg, or "Peter’s Camp," was the next station where a depot was established. It took its name from a man named Peter. At Canoe Camp, eight miles down the Tioga river, the work of road building was temporarily abandoned, on account of the lateness of the season, and the party floated down stream in canoes which they had hurriedly constructed.
The next station was Apple Island, near Painted Post, and the last was about midway between Painted Post and Bath, the point of destination, which they reached in December. While Williamson and his party were tarrying at Peter’s Camp (now Blossburg), Robert and Benjamin Patterson discovered coal, which was then pronounced by the English immigrants, "stone coal," to distinguish it from charcoal or wood coal. This was in September or October, 1792.
This thoroughfare was not finally completed until the summer of 1796, and it was regarded as one of the greatest successes of the times. It opened a country hitherto almost unknown, and shortened the distance from Northumberland and Painted Post almost 100 miles.
The undertaking was of such magnitude as to have almost deterred any other man but Williamson from beginning it. But being endowed with indomitable perseverance, tenacity of purpose and a well-balanced head, he accomplished what would have appalled and discouraged scores of others. But one of the great factors in the enterprise—one of the essential attributes to ultimate success—was in being backed by plenty of money by his English employers. Of course he had many difficulties to surmount and many discouragements to meet. The motley crowd of immigrants he was conducting through the wilderness was hard to govern—at times rebellious—and he was forced to be vigilant as well as rigorous. Unaccustomed to life in the wilderness, and having little knowledge of such work as was required in felling trees and road building, they were often a detriment instead of an advantage to the real laborers. At times provisions ran low—as every pound of stores had to be transported on pack horses from Northumberland—when discouragements would set in. At Canoe Camp they became short of sugar, coffee and flour, when one of the Pattersons went through the wilderness forty miles to Tioga Point (now Athens) and purchased provisions, which were poled up the Tioga river in boats to Apple Island, where the famishing immigrants met them and a grand feast and jollification followed. Those who, only a few hours before, were mutinous at Canoe Camp, now, that they were provided with provisions, fell upon the necks of their deliverers, kissed them, and wept for joy.
It is hard to estimate the value of this great improvement and its advantages in after years to the country and the people. The larger part of it ran almost due north and south through the entire eastern part of what afterwards became the county of Tioga. It was the first great improvement in the way of road building in this part of Pennsylvania. The path cut by the boundary line surveyors in 1787, ran along the northern limit of what became Tioga county; the Williamson road penetrated it from north to south and furnished an outlet to the country lying south. At the time of the construction of this road there were at least 15,000,000 acres of land in Pennsylvania west and north of Williamsport, and 12,000,000 acres west and north of Painted Post, making an aggregate of 27,000,000 acres upon which no white man dwelt!
When the great road—it was great for the time in which it was built—was completed, Williamson was so elated over the success of his enterprise that he resolved on having some kind of a jubilee at his wilderness home in honor of the event. He conceived the idea of having a rude theater built in which there could be plays nightly while the festivities lasted. A race track was also projected, on which some of the finest horses of the time could be exercised.
What a bold conception for a pioneer in the wilderness, hundreds of miles from the center of civilization! But a man of such daring enterprise as Williamson did not regard failure as possible. He at once set about making preparations for the grand event, and although it was not to occur within the territory of what afterwards became the county of Tioga, yet it felt the quickening influences of such a vast undertaking and profited thereby.
His plans having been completed, Williamson issued circulars and handbills, setting forth in glowing terms what he proposed doing, and inviting the citizens of Albany, Utica, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Northumberland, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Richmond, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, Alexandria, Baltimore, Easton, Trenton, Wilkes-Barre, and numerous other places to come and enjoy the sport. Owners of fleet horses were invited to be present and enter them for the races. A liberal hospitality was to be extended to all, and they were assured that by visiting his sylvan home in the land of the Six Nations they would not only be surprised, but delighted. In his glowing description, and portrayal of the pleasures to be enjoyed, Williamson did not omit speaking of his manor, the fertility of the soil, the abundance of timber, the innumerable springs, rivers, lakes, inhabited by fish of the most delicious flavor, the cheapness of corner lots in the city of Bath and the golden opportunity afforded the investor to secure a home in the garden of the Six Nations.
His circulars and handbills were read at the State and National Capitols to grave members and senators and by the sporting fraternity generally. He also informed the public that he had stationed at Utica, Albany and New York, on the east, and at Northumberland, Harrisburg, Carlisle, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Easton, Reading, Alexandria and Richmond, on the south, trusted and tried guides who would meet and conduct gentlemen and their suites to his far-famed city upon the waters of the upper Susquehanna.
The reader of to-day can scarcely comprehend the daring proposition of this bold Scotchman of 100 years ago, when the country was wild and the sullenly retiring savages yet lingered on the very outskirts of this settlement—not as foes, for their confederacy had been broken by gallant Anthony Wayne, but as curious spectators of what the pale face proposed doing in the land where they had dwelt for many moons.
His project proved a grand success. For weeks the Williamson road to Bath presented one continuous procession from the south—from Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Virginia. The travelers left the shores of the James, the Potomac, the Patapsco, the Delaware, the Susquehanna, the Schuylkill, the Lehigh and the Passaic, and journeyed over this road through the county of Lycoming, which had just been organized, and extended to the New York State line. It was a curious as well as imposing spectacle, and the straggling savages who yet lingered in the shades of the wilderness, peered at it from the bushes with awe, for they could not divine its object. It was to them one of the incomprehensible freaks of the race that seemed destined to drive them they knew not whither.
As the entire distance from Williamsport to Bath—more than 100 miles—lay through a dense forest, the journey was long and fatiguing. In some instances the block houses built by Williamson were used as temporary stopping places over night, but the parties generally camped by the wayside. Many of these bands of travelers from the south were accompanied by Negro slaves, whose duty it was to cook for their masters and care for the horses.
The races came off in September, 1796, and lasted for several weeks. Among the entries were Virginia Nell, by Charles Williamson, and Silk Stocking, by William Dunn, both of Bath. Virginia Nell was the pride of the Marylanders and Virginians, while Silk Stocking, the winner, was backed by New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada. There were races during the daytime and theatrical performances at night, which made one complete round of pleasure and excitement. These scenes of gaiety were among the most remarkable ever witnessed in any country; remarkable because of their occurrence in the heart of a wilderness, far from the habitations of men, and for years they were a theme of conversation among those who had participated in them and enjoyed the princely hospitality of the host. The effect was as anticipated, it advertised Bath far and wide, and gave Williamson the prominence which he sought.
For thirty years the Williamson road was the great thoroughfare between southern and western New York, and northern and central Pennsylvania, and contributed more towards the settlement of the country through which it ran, than any other agency. In early times the road was also a thoroughfare for drovers, raftsmen and emigrants, and for many years stage lines ran over it between Painted Post and Williamsport. Many distinguished men of early days passed over it, not the least of whom was Aaron Burr, who visited Williamson about the time he was forming his conspiracy for his southwestern confederacy. During the War of 1812 many soldiers enroute for Buffalo and Canada passed over it, and returned the same way.
Charles Williamson, the projector of this great enterprise, was a Scotchman by birth, and an officer in the English army during the Revolutionary War. He was captured by the French, the allies of the Americans, and held a prisoner in Boston until the close of the war. When he founded Bath he built houses and mills, cleared the land, opened farms, built other roads and did a vast amount of work to reclaim the country. He was the first judge of Steuben county, in 1796, and its first member of Assembly, and caused an act to be passed enabling him to convey the vast property to Sir William Pultney, of Bath, England. After completing his legal business and surrendering his trust he sailed for England and died of fever while at sea.
At a meeting of the commissioners held October 1, 1811, instructions were given to Aaron Bloss and Samuel Higley to amend that part of the Williamson road lying between the Block House and Peter’s Camp.
On the 19th of the same month the commissioners, according to a minute on their journal, gave to Andrew D. Hepburn an order to the state treasurer for the sum of $500, being the appropriation allowed for the Williamson road between Aaron Bloss’ and the south line of Tioga county. Mr. Hepburn was a prominent business man of Williamsport, and it is probable that he had advanced this sum for the improvement of the road.
In 1817 Aaron Bloss and others petitioned the legislature to appropriate $10,000 to improve this road, so as to make it a better outlet toward the south over which to haul coal, the mining of which was then in its infancy. Tioga county, at that time, being a comparative wilderness, the legislature could not see the wisdom of expending so large a sum to give its few inhabitants the benefits of a first-class highway, and the appropriation asked for was refused.
THE PATTERSON BROTHERS.
The faithful guides—Robert and Benjamin Patterson—settled in the old town of Painted Post, in 1797, after their contract with Williamson expired. They conveyed their household effects in boats from Northumberland up the river via Tioga Point, while their cattle were driven over the Williamson road. Robert Patterson, about the year 1804, removed to Lindley—still within the limits of the old town of Painted Post—where he purchased 1,000 acres of land and resided until his death, October 2, 1840. A few days before his death he had the satisfaction of seeing a locomotive with a train of cars pass through his farm on the Corning and Blossburg railroad, running parallel to the Williamson road, which he had located through the wilderness nearly fifty years before.
Some time during the year 1858 or 1859, the dwelling house of Benjamin Patterson, son of Robert Patterson, was consumed by fire, and a large amount of valuable data pertaining to the history of Northumberland (now Lycoming) county during the Revolutionary War, and the building of the Williamson road, were consumed. Grace Adalaide, second daughter of Benjamin Patterson, and grand-daughter of Robert Patterson, who married John L. Sexton, of Blossburg, remembers well having both seen and read many of the incidents set forth in the foregoing notes relating to the building of this road and the part her ancestor bore in the work. Her husband, Mr. Sexton, also testifies to the same, and regrets exceedingly the loss of the historical treasure.
MORRIS STATE ROAD.
Several years passed after the construction of the Williamson road before it became necessary to lay out any more roads. Settlers were slow to penetrate the heavily timbered regions in the northern part of Lycoming county, because they generally found more inviting localities in the valleys and along the river. When explorers did have occasion to penetrate what was then regarded as the "unknown wilderness," they traveled by the Williamson road.
In the meantime, however, the Pine Creek Land Company had been formed. Morris and several of his friends had founded a settlement near the site of Texas, Lycoming county, and it soon became apparent that there must be an outlet to the settlements on the river. A road, known as the "State Road," was projected from Newberry to a point near Painted Post. Application was made to the legislature, and an act authorizing its construction was passed and approved April 8, 1799, which may be found in Smith’s Laws, volume III, p. 375, as follows:
Whereas, Many respectable inhabitants of the county of Lycoming * * * have presented their petitions to the legislature stating that the present road (Williamson road) from the town of Newberry, near the mouth of Lycoming creek to the Genesee country is extremely bad, so as to be passable with great difficulty, and judging that a road might be opened by a new course—and it is reasonable that the prayer of the petitioners should be granted upon the terms hereinafter mentioned, therefore
Be it, etc., That the Governor * * * be authorized to receive proposals for laying out and opening a road, not less than twenty feet wide, from the town of Newberry * * * to Morris’ Mills; from thence by the best and most direct route to the northeast corner of Strawbridge’s marsh, or as near thereto as may be; and from thence by the nearest and best route to the 109th mile-stone on the line dividing this State from the State of New York, or as near as may be, which road, when surveyed, laid out and opened, as aforesaid, is hereby declared to be a public highway.
That the expense of laying out and surveying the said road, and all charges incident thereto, shall in the first instance be paid by such of the citizens of the county of Lycoming, or other persons, as may think proper to subscribe for the purpose of defraying the expense thereof.
That after the said road shall have been laid out and opened * * * the Governor shall appoint a suitable person to view the said road and make report to him; and if it shall appear by said report that a road or cartway is actually laid out and opened between the town of Newberry, and the 109th mile-stone on the State line * * * then in that case the Governor is hereby authorized to draw his warrant on the State Treasurer for the sum of $3,000 to reimburse the person or persons who were the subscribers for opening and laying out said road.
According to the brief records that have been preserved, the road was put under contract July 26, 1799, and finished late that year, or early in 1800. The contractor was Benjamin Wistar Morris, with Gideon H. Wells and Thomas Greeves as securities. They were members of the Pine Creek Land Company, and of course deeply interested in the construction of the new road. Samson Babb, who had purchased land from the company, was also interested and assisted in building the road, in order to have an outlet. It is probable that the Land Company furnished the greater part of the money required, independent of the state appropriation, and the work was pushed by Contractor Morris.
The completion of the road was officially reported to the governor by Hon. William Wilson, of Williamsport, who had been selected for that purpose in accordance with the act, whereupon his excellency authorized the payment of the $3,000. The additional amount subscribed by citizens is unknown, as the papers have been lost. It is probable that Morris and other parties were liberal subscribers, as they were among the original projectors of the enterprise and were largely benefited by it.
The State road at first was little better than a "cartway through the wilderness," but it became the great highway of the time and much travel passed over it for many years. Portions of it are still in use and its route is pointed out by the older inhabitants. Newberry at that time was the center of commercial business on the river, and the supplies for the pioneers in Tioga township had to be obtained there and transported over the State road.
The draft of this road, which is still preserved in the land office at Harrisburg, shows the courses and distances throughout the entire route. It was made from the notes of Samuel Scott, by William Gray, the celebrated surveyor of that time, for submission to the governor, as part of the report to be made by Commissioner Wilson. The distances from Newberry, the starting point, are given as follows: To Brook’s house, four and one-half miles; to Hoagland’s run, eight and one-half miles; to Larry’s creek, or Cogan’s, sixteen miles; to crossing of Third Fork of Pine creek, at the marsh, twenty-four miles; to Morris’ mill, twenty-eight miles; to the 109th mile-post, seventy-three and one-half miles.
The 109th mile-stone, as described in the last report on the State line survey, "is a small monument standing in cleared land at the west edge of the summit of a gravel bluff, north of Troup’s creek, 978 feet west of monument No. 258. It is on the line between the property of H. Murdock and Edward Murdock."
MORE ROADS LAID OUT.
After the completion of the State road from Newberry the people seem to have been satisfied with their thoroughfares for a few years, for we find no record of any further attempt at road making for three years. On the quarter sessions docket for December, 1803, we find "the return of a road from the First Fork of Pine creek to Morris’ (State) road near the fifty-fist mile tree." It appears that James Kooken, John English, Moses Wilson, James Yarnall and John Norris, the viewers appointed to lay out the road, reported that they had performed the duty assigned them, in these words: "Beginning at the First Fork of Pine creek, thence north five degrees east 220 perches, etc., to the fifty-first mile tree on the State road, which they adjudged necessary to public use." The report was confirmed by the court.
Another year passed before we find any reference to roads. At December sessions, 1804, William Willard, William Withington, Josiah White, John Kileny and Jesse Losey, who had been appointed to "view and lay out a road from Morris’ (State) road down Crooked creek to Williamson’s" road, made a favorable report. It commenced "at a white pine on the forks of Crooked creek" and continued until it intersected the Williamson road leading north. The court confirmed the report.
After a lapse of another two years we find that at May sessions, 1806, "William Ellis, Moses Wilson, Israel Merrick, Shack Stradley and Caleb Boyer, the persons appointed to view and lay out a road from William Ellis’ mill, beginning on the margin of Pine creek and running to a "boundary lot in the Delmar purchase, in the tenure of Israel Merrick," made report that they had performed the work assigned them. The record shows that the report was confirmed at September sessions, 1806.
At the December sessions of the same year as the foregoing, the record informs us that a "road was laid out from the State road down the Cowanesque to the State line," and that Ebenezer Taylor, Timothy Coates, Hopestill Beecher and Abel Cady were the viewers. Their report states that they commenced "at a buttonwood tree marked on the State road near the Cowanesque creek—thence through by Cady’s field to intersect Williamson’s road near the Cowanesque." Their report was confirmed at the same session of court. This road evidently intersected the Williamson road near what is now Lawrenceville, and was a connecting link between the two thoroughfares.
A road was laid out in the latter part of 1806 from the State line to the mouth of Crooked creek, and the report of the viewers was confirmed at February sessions, 1807. From the proceedings of May sessions, 1807, it appears that Nathaniel Allen, Ezra Spaulding, Nathan Fellows, William Benjamin, John Cummins and Ebenezer Thewald, laid out a road from Ezra Spaulding’s to the New York State line. Their report was confirmed at the same court.
From a report made at November sessions, 1807, it appears that William Benjamin, David Reynolds, John Norris, John Sloan, Joseph Williamson and William Watson, viewed and laid out a road from the Block House to the State road, and it was confirmed by the same court. This was another connecting link between these two great thoroughfares.
EAST AND WEST STATE ROAD.
The next important road, after the Williamson and State roads, was the one projected form the Moosic mountains in a westerly direction. In pursuance of an act of legislature, passed April 4, 1807, providing for the appointment of a commission to explore and lay out this road to the western bounds of the State, Henry Donnel and George Haines were appointed the commissioners. They made a survey and reported that they had laid out the road according to instructions. It crossed the river at Towanda, proceeded up Sugar creek, thence through East Troy, entered Tioga county in what is now Sullivan township, and ran west through Covington, Charleston and Delmar to Wellsboro. From this point it proceeded westwardly through Tioga and Potter counties.
This road, although a "rough and ragged one," became an important thoroughfare for early times, and hundreds of weary emigrants from the east in search of homes in Tioga county and the "Genesee Country," passed over it. Those going to Bath and other points in Steuben county, followed it until it intersected the Williamson road, when they took the latter and bore down the Tioga river. Many of the New England settlers in Tioga, who came from the eastern part of Bradford and the western part of Luzerne counties, came over it. The trouble about land titles in the latter counties caused many persons to seek new homes in what was then the wilds of Tioga; and from this cause Tioga gained largely of that hardy, enterprising and progressive element known as New Englanders, which has left its impress and individuality on the country to this day.
Emigrants from other parts of Pennsylvania and from the States of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia found their way into the county by way of the Williamson and State roads from Newberry.
At a meeting of the commissioners on October 1, 1811, instructions were given to Israel Merrick, Bethlehem Thompson and William Matthews to open the East and West road leading from Wellsboro to the Big Meadows.
ERA OF PLANK ROADS.
When the era of plank road building set in the citizens of certain parts of Tioga caught the infection. These roads were generally projected for places where railroads were not available. In 1848 the Tioga and Elmira Plank Road Company was incorporated. The object of the road was to connect with another leading out of Elmira up Seeley creek to the State line, the distance to Elmira from Tioga being about twenty-three miles. As work was not commenced by this company in 1848, a supplement to the act was passed April 5, 1849, extending the time for building the road seven years. This act was supplemented by another May 14, 1850, creating the Tioga and Lawrenceville Company, with power to extend the road to Wellsboro, and repealing the acts of 1848 and 1849. This act created a new body of incorporators and empowered them to take possession of the highway.
That portion of the road between Tioga and Wellsboro was soon put under contract and finished, and for many years it was extensively traveled. When the plank wore out the company obtained a supplement to the charter permitting them to convert the road into a turnpike, which was done.
EARLY NAVIGATION SCHEMES.
The construction of numerous public roads during the first quarter of the present century, opened up avenues of communication between the different sections of the county and made the county seat accessible to the citizens of the various townships. They also enabled the settlers to reach Williamsport, Painted Post, Elmira, Athens, Towanda and other trading points, with such products as they desired to market or exchange for articles needed in their homes or on their farms. With the increase of lumbering operations, as well as a constantly increasing surplus of farm products, the inadequacy of these facilities began to be felt. The journeys over rough and poorly-worked roads was tedious and toilsome, and the time consumed in going and returning rendered it next to impossible to realize a profit on the products marketed. Some better way of accomplishing their marketing and trading was needed. The railroad being in its infancy, the canal gave the only promise of meeting the admitted needs of the people, and accordingly plans for either rendering the principal streams of the county navigable by a system of improvements, or making them feeders for canals, were numerous, and were made the topics of town talk and public discussion.
In 1817 the legislature declared the Tioga and Cowanesque rivers and Crooked creek navigable streams. (Pine creek had been declared navigable in 1798). It was thought that the Tioga river, running north into the State of New York, could be so improved as to render it safe for arks loaded with coal, then beginning to be slowly developed at Blossburg, and which it was early foreseen was destined to become a great article of commerce, if a demand could be created for it; or, in other words, if means for its transportation could be provided. The first step, therefore, was to make the river navigable.
In order to secure a better outlet overland toward the south, Aaron Bloss and others, in 1817, petitioned the Pennsylvania legislature to appropriate $10,000 toward improving the Williamsport road over the mountains from Blossburg to Lycoming creek, and Williamsport. But the legislature could not see the wisdom of appropriating that amount of money to build a good road into what was regarded as a wild and inhospitable region, and refused the petition.
Undaunted, however, by this failure to secure a better outlet to the south, agitation was continued in behalf of water navigation. Committees were appointed in Tioga county to confer with the citizens in the adjoining counties on the north, and strong efforts made to enlist their co-operation and support. In 1826 Uriah Spencer was appointed one of a committee to draft an address to the governor of New York in furtherance of a canal from the head of Seneca lake to the Pennsylvania line at Lawrenceville, to be continued thence by Pennsylvania authority to the coal mines at Blossburg. He and Samuel W. Morris were chosen a committee to present a petition to the legislature of New York, and Mr. Spencer visited Albany for that purpose in February, 1827.
The continued agitation throughout the country of the water navigation project, finally resulted in the passage of an act in March, 1823, for the improvement of the Susquehanna from Northumberland to Columbia, and it was expected by the citizens of Tioga county that as soon as this work was completed the upper waters of the Susquehanna would receive the favorable consideration of the legislature, and they would be benefited to some extent.
This was the first step in the great plan for internal improvement by utilizing the rivers. The next was the act of February 20, 1826, known as the General Improvement Law, which, among other things, authorized the organization of the Tioga Navigation Company. This law gave the people great encouragement. No time was lost in making preparations to start the improvement. A company was formed and Miller Fox, of Towanda, an eminent civil engineer, employed to make a survey and an estimate of the cost of putting the stream into a navigable condition. A fine drawing of the proposed canal has been preserved and may be seen at the office of Jerome B. Niles, Wellsboro. Considerable work was done. In 1836 a number of arks were built by different parties and loaded with coal. It was intended to run them down the river and connect with the Chemung canal, which had been completed to Corning. But the arks were sunk before any great distance had been made, and this mode of navigation was abandoned.
There was increased interest in the mining of coal, but the lack of
transportation to market kept the business back. In 1838 the Arbon Coal
Company was formed at Blossburg and James R. Wilson was chosen its first
president. Another company, known as the Arbon Land Company, was also organized
by the same stockholders, its purpose being to promote the building and
early completion of the railroad from Corning to Blossburg.
THE CORNING AND BLOSSBURG RAILROAD.
|It having become apparent that transportation by water was not feasible, attention was directed to the railroad, which then seemed to be the coming method. The Tioga Navigation Company caught the spirit of the hour and obtained form the legislature a supplement to its charter, authorizing it to construct a railroad from Blossburg to the State line at Lawrenceville. The distance was about twenty-five miles and the road was to run parallel with the river. This was an important movement and marked the beginning of a new era in the history of Tioga county. At the same time a company was formed to construct a railroad from the head of canal navigation at Painted Post to intersect the Blossburg railroad at Lawrenceville. This would afford an outlet for the coal. The entire line was completed from Corning to Blossburg in 1840, reaching the latter place in September of that year, between which time and January 1, 1841, 4,235 tons of coal were sent over it to market. Compared with the magnificently equipped lines of to-day, it was but a crude affair. Strap rails, laid on stringers were used, and the rolling stock was exceedingly primitive. In 1852 the strap rails were replaced by the more modern T rail, and the roadbed and equipment greatly improved, the Hon. John Magee having, in the meantime, became the owner of that portion of the line north of Lawrenceville.|
The Blossburg Coal Company was incorporated by an act of the legislature approved April 11, 1866, for the purpose of opening mines on Johnson’s creek, at what is now the village of Arnot, four miles southwest of Blossburg, from which place a railroad was constructed to the mines in the year named. In 1882 and 1883 the Arnot and Pine Creek Railroad Company extended this road to Hoytville, in Morris township, a distance of twelve miles.
Though constructed by different companies and operated as separate roads for years, the last two named were dependent upon the Corning and Blossburg road for an outlet down the valley of the Tioga river. This was secured by traffic arrangements maintained until December, 1884, when the control of the three lines passed into the hands of the "Erie," and they have since remained a part of that system.
THE FALL BROOK RAILROAD.
In March, 1859, the Fall Brook Coal Company was chartered by the legislature. The bill granting the charter was, however, vetoed by Governor Packer, but was passed over his veto and became a law. In this year the company opened mines at Fall Brook, seven miles east of Blossburg, to which a line of railroad was surveyed and constructed. This line, seven miles in length, was the beginning of the Fall Brook system in Tioga county. The principal owner of the railroad and the mines was Hon. John Magee, of Bath, New York, who some years before had come into possession of that part of the Corning and Blossburg railroad lying between Corning and Lawrenceville, to reach which with the product of his Fall Brook mines he made a traffic arrangement with the owners of that portion of the line between Lawrenceville and Blossburg.
In 1866 the Fall Brook Coal Company commenced exploring for coal on the mountains near Wilson creek, a tributary of Babb’s creek, about twelve miles south of Wellsboro, and rich mines were discovered. The lands were purchased by the Fall Brook Coal Company and a new outlet became necessary. This resulted in the incorporation, April 4, 1867, of the Lawrenceville and Wellsboro Railroad Company. A preliminary survey of the road was commenced in September of that year. Hon. Henry Sherwood took a deep interest in the construction of this road, and served as president for some time.
The road was opened in May, 1872, with a great celebration, which was attended by many distinguished persons from other parts of the country, among them being William E. Dodge and Governor Seymour, of New York. At Corning the road connects with the Syracuse, Geneva and Corning, which gives direct communication with central New York, as well as east and west by the New York, Lake Erie and Western railroad.
The Cowanesque Branch—Before the completion of the new road from Lawrenceville to Antrim, a movement was started to build a road up the Cowanesque. This valley was the richest agricultural portion of the county, and as it contained a number of villages, it was important that they should have a railroad outlet. The work of construction was commenced at once and the road was completed from Lawrenceville to Elkland, a distance of twelve miles, by September 15, 1873. In 1883 it was extended to Westfield, and later through Potter Brook to Ulysses, in Potter county.
In 1840 when the New York and Erie railroad was located, it was thought by many that it should have passed through the Cowanesque to Olean. Years afterward a line was surveyed by Horatio Seymour, and on it the present road was built. The Cowanesque branch was leased to the main line, and the whole is known as the Corning, Cowanesque and Antrim line. From Corning to Antrim the distance is fifty-three miles. At Stokesdale Junction it leaves the Pine Creek road and runs through Wellsboro to Antrim, a distance of seventeen miles.
The Pine Creek Branch—For many years efforts had been made to build a railroad down Pine creek to connect with the Philadelphia and Erie at Jersey Shore, or the Reading at Williamsport. This was regarded as an important link, as it would afford an outlet for Tioga county to the south. In furtherance of this object the Jersey Shore, Pine Creek and Buffalo Railroad company was chartered, February 17, 1870, the proposed line to run from Jersey Shore, Lycoming county, up Pine creek to Ansonia; thence along the same stream to Gaines, and thence to Coudersport and Port Allegheny. The survey was made and the right of way obtained, but nothing further was accomplished in this county until a new company was organized and the route changed to run from Ansonia to Stokesdale Junction. This re-organization was effected in January, 1882, by the election of Hon. Henry Sherwood, of Wellsboro, president; George J. Magee, of Watkins, vice-president; William Howell, of Antrim, secretary; Anton Hardt, of Wellsboro, chief engineer, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, of New York, treasurer. The executive committee was composed of the following gentlemen: Henry Sherwood, Jefferson Harrison, Anton Hardt, W. H. Vanderbilt, W. K. Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt and George J. Magee. The directors were W. H. Vanderbilt, W. K. Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Augustus Schell, George J. Magee, William Howell, E. G. Schieffelin, Henry Sherwood, Walter Sherwood, Jefferson Harrison, Jerome B. Niles, Anton Hardt and John W. Bailey.
No time was lost in pushing the work of construction. The stockholders decided that the road should be built to Williamsport, where connection could be made with the Philadelphia and Reading road. The charter formerly belonged to the Reading, but by a business arrangement it passed into the hands of the Vanderbilts, George J. Magee and their associates. The line was built from Williamsport, up Pine creek, to the mouth of Marsh creek, at Ansonia; thence up Marsh creek through the Big Meadows to Stokesdale Junction, connecting with the Corning, Cowanesque and Antrim railway. It was completed and opened June 4, 1883, and at once became an important thoroughfare and outlet to the south. The road runs through an exceedingly wild and romantic region, the Pine Creek canon not being excelled in natural grandeur by any other point touched by rail in the Allegheny mountains.
The road is operated as part of the Fall Brook system, and in efficiency of management is surpassed by no other single-track road in the State. The distance from Wellsboro to Williamsport is eighty-two miles, and three passenger trains are run daily each way. The company operates 375 miles of main track and 118 miles of side tracks. There are 3,700 cars in its equipment. The Corning railway shops furnish employment to 617 workmen, including the engineers, firemen, inspectors at junction points, etc. The total pay-roll includes the names of from 1,800 to 2,200 men, according to business. The main line runs from Lyons, New York, to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a distance of 187 miles. There are four branches, as follows: The Fall Brook, the Penn Yan, the Cowanesque, and the Antrim. And remarkable as it may seem, the company has never killed a passenger. The Fall Brook railway stands at the head of single-track railways in this country. Its freight traffic for the year ending June 30, 1896, aggregated 6,559,590 tons—more than a half million tons greater than during any former year in its history. The methods of the Fall Brook company are far ahead of all others in systematic management and effective results. The company operates over eighty-seven miles of railway within the limits of Tioga county.
The principal officers are: George J. Magee, president; John Lang, first vice-president; W. H. Northrup, passenger agent; G. R. Brown, general superintendent.
THE ELMIRA AND STATE LINE RAILROAD.
The coal business of Tioga had grown to such proportions that another outlet by rail was demanded; and in April, 1872, the Elmira and State Line railroad, running from Elmira to a point near Lawrenceville, was chartered and soon after put under contract. The road was finished in October, 1876. A great celebration followed the opening, at which toasts were drunk and speeches made. After leaving the Tioga valley the road bears off through the township of Jackson and then descends to the valley of the Chemung, intersecting the Northern Central bout two miles south of Elmira. Soon after the opening it was consolidated with the Tioga road, as the Tioga and Elmira State Line railroad. The distance from Elmira to Blossburg is forty-six miles; and from the latter place to Hoytville, whither it extends, the distance if fifteen miles, making the entire length of the line sixty-one miles. Of this distance thirty-five miles belong in Tioga county. The line is operated by the Erie Railroad Company as the Tioga division.
THE ADDISON AND PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD.
The late Charles L. Pattison, of Elkland, was the prime mover in the organization of the Addison and Pennsylvania Railroad Company, in 1882, and was president of the Pennsylvania division of the road up to his death, April 10, 1896. The section from Addison to Westfield, which enters Tioga county at Nelson station, was completed, and the first train of passenger cars run between those towns, November 27, 1882, within ninety days from the time the work commenced. The line was extended to Gaines by January 1, 1883, and later up the valley of Pine creek to Galeton, in Potter county. It was originally a narrow gauge road, but was changed to standard width in the spring of 1895. A short spur of this road, which leaves the main line a few miles above Gaines, connects with the coal mines at Gurnee, in Gaines township.
It is thus seen that commendable progress has been made in railroad construction in Tioga county since the opening of the first road in 1840. The next road likely to be built is the surveyed line from Blackwells up Babb’s creek to connect with the Arnot and Pine Creek road at Hoytville. It will be a quick outlet down Pine creek for the settlers in that region. Blackwells, at the mouth of Babb’s creek, is in the southwestern part of the county, and is becoming a place of some importance on account of its lumber and flagstone traffic.
The Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad, usually spoken of as the "Goodyear Line," was opened from Keating, in Potter county, to Ansonia, in the summer of 1895. It has since been extended to Wellsville, New York. It connects with the Fall Brook at Ansonia and is an outlet for travel and traffic to Buffalo.
The Northern Central Railway, which traverses the valley of Lycoming creek, touches the southern boundary of Union township at Roaring Branch and runs along the border for several miles, the station of Penbryn being in Tioga county.
The Tiadaghton and Fahnastalk Railway Company was chartered March 11, 1892, for the purpose of constructing a railway into Elk township, for the removal of logs and bark. It begins at Tiadaghton, on the Fall Brook railroad, extends six miles into the forest, and was built the same year it was chartered. The following officers were elected for 1896: President, Creon B. Farr; secretary, J. Harrison; treasurer, C. B. Farr; directors, G. A. Veil, J. W. Hammond, D. M. Lounsbury, John L. Landrus, E. G. Schieffelin and George D. Aiken.