My parents removed to Wellsboro from Elkland, Pennsylvania, Christmas day, 1846, at which time I was just past three years old, having been born November 21, 1843.
I have been solicited by my friends, in view of the fact that I am the oldest continuous resident of the place now living, to jot down my recollection of Wellsboro and the people residing here at that time.
My recollection of important events dates back to about 1850. At that time the settled part of Wellsboro was included in the territory now bounded on the northerly side by Charleston street; on the easterly side by lower Main street and Walnut street; on the southerly side by Lincoln street, and on the westerly side by Water street. The town had a population then of about four hundred people. The built up part of the town and the settled part was within the limits before described. The courthouse was then built, as it stands now. The public county offices were located on the corners of the courthouse square, fronting on Main street, and were built of brick, one story high. These were the only brick and stone buildings in the town, at that time. The other buildings were known as frame buildings and many of them were good comfortable residences, well built, and some of them are in use at the present time. I will mention a few of these buildings still standing and being used at the present time. The residence of Colonel C.L. Miller was occupied at the time by Israel Merrick, father of Major Merrick; the Filling Station constructed by O.B. Roberts was the residence of Hon. R.G. White; the house occupied by Mrs. Carrie Sullivan was the residence of John L. Robinson; the residence of Mrs. Harriet Hastings, and occupied by the late Charles Roberts at the time of his death, formerly stood on the site of the Judge Williams residence. On the southeast side of Main street and the Mansfield road, now Charleston street, the Farmers’ Hotel building, now owned and occupied by Dr. Daniel Bacon; the residence of Horace B. Packer and a house lately occupied by James Hazlett were the only houses on Main and Charleston streets that were standing at my earliest recollection. The Farm of Erastus Fellows on the northerly side of the town was used as farming land; on which were no buildings down to Charleston Street. The farm of the late Samuel W. Morris covered all the land from the southeast side of Main Street and the southeast side of Walnut Street lying between the Fellows farm and Rectory Lane. This farm was used entirely for agricultural purposes down to the southeast side of Walnut Street. The land to the Northwest side of Water street from the Fellows farm on the north to the present site of Nichols street was used as a farm by the late Levi Nichols, whose residence was the only building on Nichols street and west of Mater street. My residence was the last house on Main Street and the Tioga road, in the then borough limits. There were no buildings in the borough limits on either side of East avenue from Main street to the present building occupied by Mr. Nickerson and then occupied by Philemon Culver, known as the Bryden property. There was but one house on the southwest side of Central avenue, which was located where the Jefferson Harrison house now stands and was then occupied by the late Colonel Josiah Emery. On the northeast side of Central avenue there was located the dwelling house of Hon. James Lowry, now occupied by George Durif and family. The dwelling house located where the late A.A. Truman residence stands was occupied by a man by the name of Goodwin, who removed from the town about that time. A house located on the corner of Walnut Street and Central Avenue was occupied by Colonel Magill, who was the editor and publisher of the only newspaper then published in the place. There were only two or three building on the Pine creek road, now West Avenue. One called Greenleaf House, owned or occupied by Israel Greenleaf, a Revolutionary soldier; and part of the frame of that building is in the present building occupied by the late Charles Wilcox. The building now owned by William Fowler next to the creek was then standing and also a log building standing on the front of the residence lot of the late Leonard Harrison was owned by a man by the name of Hoover, a brother in law of the late William Eberenz. These three structures were the only buildings on the Pine Creek road up to the Xavier Miller residence, afterwards known as the Samuel Dickinson home. I remember very distinctly when the J.F. Calkins residence was built, largely by himself doing the mechanical work. This residence is now owned and operated by Dr. F.H. Shaw.
When I can first remember the early road over which good and mail were brought to Wellsboro was by way of Covington on the Tioga Railroad, which route was used up until the fall of 1852, when the Wellsboro and Tioga Plank road was completed. The Mansfield and Covington roads were our only outlets to the Tioga Valley. The road from Wellsboro to Morris was then used, also the Pine Creek road, which was one of the earliest county roads, built in this part of the state.
The post office was situated in the building known as the John Norris house and stood where the John N. Bache residence was built on the west side of the public square. This building was an eight-room log house built of squared timbers, four rooms on each floor, with halls and was occupied by John Norris. This building was whitewashed on the outside. I remember of one or two other smaller log houses on upper Main street, one situate on the site of the H.F. Marsh residence, occupied by Eben Murry and Aunt Hettie Murry, his wife, the mother of Miss Bettie Murry. There was a legend amongst the colored folk that Aunt Bettie Murry was kidnappe3d from Africa and brought to this country as a slave. This may be true of her ancestors, but the rest of the story is a little doubtful.
Our town had a daily mail from Covington as early as 1850 and stages ran from Wellsboro to Covington and return daily, connecting at Covington for Troy and return. At about this time the Williamsport and Elmira Railroad had been put into operation. The stages were quite elaborate affairs, built about on the plan of the Wild West coaches seen in the present day circuses, drawn by two or four horses according to the load. I remember the names of several of the drivers of these coaches: one Samuel Jones, another Michael Macomber, another Hiram Whitcomb, who were great horsemen and were the envy of all the small boys in the neighborhood. The evening mail from Covington generally reached this place about six o’clock in the afternoon and as they came down the hill on East avenue the driver would signal his arrival by blowing a bugle, which was notice to the public that the mail had arrived. In a short time a considerable crowd would be gathered at the post office. There was also a daily stage from Wellsboro to Gaines connecting with a stage from Gaines to Coudersport. The Pine Creek country was a very busy place even at this time. Several water mills were located in the neighborhood of Ansonia and at various places along the river.
At that time the industries of the town consisted of the tannery at the lower end of Main Street operated by Joseph Riberolle, and another tannery operated by E.M. & Frederick Bodine located opposite the present auto garage of the Dartt Automobile Company. This was quite an extensive establishment and burned up in 1849 or 1850. It was also one of the first events I can remember and was never rebuilt. There was a fulling mill located at the corner of Charleston and Jackson streets, operated by James I. Jackson, which manufactured the clothing and yarn used in this neighborhood. This mill was run by waterpower taken from Charleston creek through a dam located above and in the neighborhood of the present condensery. This building was burned up in 1866. There was also located a mill called the Alford Flax Mill on the land owned by the late R.W. Field on Austin street. This mill was not operated, but the waterpower and machinery was still in the mill when I can first recollect and the power was used for various purposes. This was run by waterpower brought to the mill through a race on the south side of Charleston creek near the condensery. One of the millstones used in said flax mill I noticed lately was used as a horse block by one of the residents of Austin Street. The grist mill of the late Mordacai Jackson, operated by John Dickinson, situated in the valley of Marsh creek, opposite the farm house of the Dickinson farm, served the wants of all the people in this neighborhood and was in use up until a very few years ago.
At about this time a foundry was established here by Chubbuck & Wood, who moved here from Oxford, NY, and were largely interested in making plows, drags and mill machinery, and was operated by steam power. This building is still standing on Brewery Lane and afterwards was used as a tannery and latterly as a stable.
There were several manufacturers of wagons and sleighs. One conducted by Andrew Crowle, located on Water Street in the building still standing next to the residence of the late Dr. C.W. Webb. Another conducted by Henry Petrie located on Crafton Street on the present site of the Louis King block, now owned by R.W. Bailey. Sylvester Kelly conducted a shop, manufacturing and repairing wagons and sleighs, located in the building standing on Main street just above the present store of Fred Williams; which building was removed across the creek and I think is still standing. Hiram Dartt about this time began business in the same building and purchased the present dwelling house of Frank Benjamin, where he lived until his death. These establishments then supplied all the wagons, carriages and sleighs for this town and vicinity.
The furniture manufactured in this neighborhood was under the charge of the late B.T. VanHorn and John Bliss. The business was done by hand in a shop which stood on the site of the Joe Merz Restaurant. The work was done largely by hand. About this time there arrived in the place several expert mechanics, some of Swiss ancestry, as follows: John Suhr, who lived here until the death of himself and wife and several of his children; Thomas Stickley, who was an expert turner, with his sons, John Stickley and Jacob Stickley; and several German people, Samuel Hartzog and Matthew Blattner, who continued in the service of Mr. VanHorn and his successors practically all their lives. John Bliss, shortly after this, sold out to Mr. VanHorn and removed to Charleston, where he engaged in farming. Mr. VanHorn, shortly afterwards, added steam power to his establishment which was destroyed by fire in 1866 and rebuilt on the corner of Pearl and Waln streets, in a building now the automobile storehouse of the Evans Auto Co., and continued by R.L. VanHorn and N.T. Chandler for many years. They also added undertaking to their business. They were largely engaged in general manufacture of household furniture. David Sturrock and his son, Andrew Sturrock, were cabinetmakers, doing business on Lincoln Street. They continued in business until the death of David Sturrock.
The blacksmiths were Richard Lounsberry, John Gray, P.C. Hoag, Samuel A. Mack & Son and others I do not recollect.
The clothing of the men of the community was supplied through tailor shops conducted: one by M.M. Converse in a building lo0cated where the Borough Building now stands. Another was conducted by Leonard Meek, grandfather of the late Leonard Harrison, whose shop was in his residence on the northwest side of Main Street just below the store of Fred Williams. Another by Richard English in the building now standing on Pearl street, above the present residence of Frank C. Moore; another by H.P. Irwin, who occupied various places in town. These establishments supplied the men and boys of this neighborhood with their clothing. The boots and shoes, for men’s wear at least, were supplied by Benjamin Seely, Morgan Sherwood, C.W. Sears and his brothers, George W. Sears, Edwin Sears and L.A. Sears.
The hotel business was conducted by James Kimball in the building located at the south corner of Main street and Central Avenue. This building, I think was built by James Kimball about 1830 and was called the Pennsylvania House, and conducted by him until his death in 1856. It was afterwards rented by his estate to various parties and finally purchased by D.D. Holiday and was burned February 22, 1872. On the opposite corner of Main Street was a hotel, known as the Wellsboro Hotel, then owned by V. Sayre and conducted by various tenants until 1859, when it was bought by D.D. Holiday. This building was also burned. A hotel located on the present site of the Penn-Wells was owned or conducted by Hobart Graves. It was called the Graves Hotel up until the time of his death in the early 1850s and the tenant succeeding him was Phineas P. Cleaver, who was a very competent and popular landlord. This building was destroyed by fire in about 1866. Another hotel known as the Farmers’ Hotel was conducted by Erastus Fellows in the building now owned by Walter Wilkinson. This was a temperance hotel. These hotel fires were not caused by spontaneous combustion of by over insurance, or by the procreation of their owners.
The merchandise store of C. & J. L. Robinson on Main Street above the county buildings, handled dry goods, groceries and general merchandise. Also manufactured leather goods in the shop on the same ground conducted by the late William T. Derbyshire.
The hardware business was largely conducted by John & Joseph Sofield in the store located directly opposite the Presbyterian Church, who manufactured tinware on a large scale. The building and stock of goods was burned about 1851 or 1852.
The only newspaper published in this place was The Eagle, published by James P. Magill, in a building on Main Street opposite the present Henry W. Williams residence.
The larger part of the goods consumed in this locality were sold in general above the public square by the firm of C. & J.L. Robinson, who began business about 1830. About 1850 a store was built on the site of the present store of R.J. Dunham, I think by the late Jesse Locke, the father of Mrs. Sally Billings. He died before ever using it and about that time it was leased to the firm of John R. Jones & William A. Roe, who came here with Jones and conducted a dry goods store. Levi I. Nichols conducted a general store for many years on the site of the present post office. The firm of Bache & Ross carried on a general mercantile business in the building standing on the sire of the present Finkelstein clothing store. This firm consisted of Laugher Bache and Edward Ross, who was an uncle of the Ross brothers, of Mansfield. They were also largely interested in lumbering on Pine creek above Ansonia. They went out of business about 1852 or 1853 and the firm of Niles & Elliott carried on business at the same place. This firm consisted of Col. A.E. Niles and Aaron Elliott.
The first drug store was established by the late Robert Roy on the lot between the Arcadia Theatre and the Penn-Wells. He afterwards built a three story building on the corner of Main and Waln streets, which was destroyed by fire April 1, 1874.
There was in Wellsboro, when I can first recall, two church buildings: One of the Episcopal denomination on Charles street, now used as a tenant house. Rev. Charles Breck was the first rector and he remained here ten years, then removed to Delaware and after filling parishes there and elsewhere, he was recalled to the pastorate of the Wellsboro church in 1872. Another of the Methodist denomination located on the land now occupied by the Arthur Dartt residence. The Rev. Mr. Nash and afterwards the Rev. Mr. Depui and also a Mr. McMahon were the first pastors of the Methodist church that I can recall. This building was destroyed by fire in the fall of 1867. The Presbyterian Society was organized about this time and conducted services in the courthouse, afterwards building a church where the present Presbyterian Church now stands. Rev. J.F. Calkins was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church for thirty-five or forty years. There was a building called the Quaker Meeting House located on the southeast side of the present store of Lush Brother, but when I can first recall was used as a tenant house.
When I can first recollect the lumber used in this neighborhood was all manufactured on the ground by water mills. The first water mill built in this neighborhood was built by the late Samuel W. Morris and was located on the Shumway road, on lands now owned by George W. VanCise, opposite the present residence of John W. Thomas. The power was furnished by an overshot wheel taking its water from a race up Morris creek, which race ran on the south side of the public road just back of the late residence of Henry W. Wolf. I think remains of this race are on the ground now. There was a mill located on Jackson Street, at the corner of Charleston Street, just across from the fulling mill of James I. Jackson, taking the power from a milldam, the marks of which are on the ground now. Another was located on the ground of the late Daniel Kelsey, Esq., power furnished by a dam on Kelsey creek. This dam and mill were washed away by a violent thunderstorm, which broke the dam and flooded the whole town as it came down here, doing considerable damage. Another saw mill was located on Marsh creek at the second iron bridge on the railroad and was in operation for many years.
The court was presided over by the Hon. Horace Williston, who was a citizen of Bradford County, appointed by the governor. Mr. Williston was the father of the late Hon. L.P. Wiliston. The prothonotary of the court was John F. Donaldson, who continued in said office for many years. The register and recorder was John N. Bache. John Mathers was sheriff of the county.
The attorneys-at-law that I first remember residing at Wellsboro were: Robert G. White, Josiah Emery, James Lowrey, A.S. Brewster, John C. Knox, John N. Bache, S.F. Wilson and Julius Sherwood.
The schools of the town consisted of a common or district school, located on the southeast side of Walnut Street on land now occupied by Meade Street, consisting of two departments. The first lady teacher I can recollect was a Miss Merrick, one of the sisters of the late George W. Merrick. Another one of his sisters also taught in one of the departments of said school. The first man teacher that I have any recollection about was the late Dr. W.W. Webb, who was the finest instructor and tutor and a perfect disciplinarian, which the school heretofore had been deficient in, and he conquered a peace. Any infraction of his rules occurring at the close of the term of school where the culprit absented himself was settled for the beginning of the succeeding term on the principal of lags and slams in the game of euchre. His brother, Lott W. Webb, succeeded him and was an equally successful teacher. The Wellsboro Academy was then presided over by a professor by the name of Hosford, who succeeded Prof. Hamilton, who was principal of the Academy school for several years, leaving here about 1850 and removing to Syracuse, where he afterwards became superintendent of the city schools. The Rev. N.L. Reynolds, afterwards a prominent Baptist minister of this place and vicinity, was employed to conduct the Academy school in February, 1854, and with his wife as preceptress, also his wife’s sister, Mrs. Jackson, continued for two years. I attended their school and he was succeeded by Prof. E.E. Burlingame, whose health failed and he died within the year. About 1857 the Academy school building became so dilapidated that school could not be conducted during the winter months. The trustees then rented the third story in the new building of the late Robert Roy, on the corner of Main and Waln streets, and employed John B. Cassidy, a young law student at Wellsboro, as principal. Mr. Cassidy was born in Middlebury Township. After finishing his school employment he removed to Wisconsin, where he became a very prominent lawyer and afterwards a judge, having been elected several times by the unanimous vote of both parties and finally became Chief Justice. He was the author of The Standard Elementary Work of Cassidy on Wills. During the next two years quite an amount of money was subscribed and used in repairing the Academy school building and a new teacher was employed, Prof. L.R. Burlingame, who conducted the school for two years. He was succeeded by Prof. M.N. Allen, a very learned man and a good instructor. He was elected a lieutenant in one of the first military companies organized at the beginning of the civil war. During the civil war the school had a very precarious existence, was poorly patronized and the property was shortly afterwards sold to the Wellsboro School District, when the present High School was organized.
There were at that time many first-class carpenters and joiners. Philemon Culver was a great mechanic and his specialty was framework. Joseph Rouse was frequently associated with Mr. Culver, who was a fine joiner, and some of the finest residences in town were constructed by them. Among them the William Bache residence on Pearl street; the Chester Robinson Main street residence, now the Green Free Library. Also James Bacon, Clark W. Dimmick, James Forsythe, Simon Landis, a man by the name of Nelson, are some of the old time carpenters, as I can recollect. The mason work was largely done by the Wetmore brother, Thomas Wingate and his brothers, Moses W. and William Wingate. The wood finishers and painters were John Kirkpatrick, Fred Perwart, a Swiss who moved here at my earliest recollection and lived in the house on Lincoln Street, at the upper end of Main Street; William Bond and Alfred Wivel. These are some of the older ones I can remember.
The doctors and surgeons that I first recollect were: O.L. Gibson and Nelson Packer, both well educated and competent men, who did great service to their neighbors and friends as long as their health and life lasted. Afterwards Dr. J.H. Shearer, a homeopathic physician, settles here in the early 1850s for a time; then removed to Springfield, Illinois, where he married, and returned to this place with his wife, where they both lived and died.
At my first recollection of the town there were no plank or flag stone sidewalks anywhere, except perhaps in front o the three hotels and two or three of the stores; none in front of the private residences of people. The first sidewalk that I remember of was built by Samuel A. Mack in front of the present residence of Dr. Kennedy, on property lately occupied by Mrs. Harry Landrus.
There were but few shade trees in the streets. The line of elm trees on Charles street, from the old Episcopal church to Main Street, had just been set out and were small saplings. I remember very well the day Samuel A. Mack, above referred to, set out the elm trees now standing in front of the residence above referred to, which was in May 1852, thus making these trees about eighty years old.
There was one Revolutionary soldier of the war of 1812 living in Wellsboro when our family remove3d here. I refer to the late Royal Cole, who lived from 1819 until old age overtook him, in a house located on the half of my residence lot. He was the father of Mrs. Betsy Fellows, then wife of Erastus Fellows, who died July 4, 1849. My father called upon him a few weeks before his death and I accompanied him. Mrs. Flora Swan and Mrs. A.J. Shattuck are great-granddaughters of this soldier.
When I can first remember there were several families of colored people residing in the present borough and vicinity. These were the remnants of slaves brought here by the founders of the town; among them were Eben Murry and Aunt Betty Murry, his wife, who were slaves of the late founders of the town; a Mr. Wells, who removed away, giving a farm and freedom to Uncle Eben and Aunt Hetty and their family. There was another colored man here then, a single man, named Markus Lovett. A family by the name of John Jones, living on the Shumway road leading to Morris, near the residence of Kilborn Coolidge, and whose family was largely6 emp0loyed in domestic work in town. Among them was the celebrated violin player, Noble Jones; two of his brothers died in the Union Army. A family by the name of Spencer, Theodore, William and John. They were known both as John Elias and John Spencer. In 1832 James Black left forced servitude in Delaware and also left a wife and family and immigrated to these parts; a few years afterwards his wife and children reached here and lived and died in this place. They were Elijah Black, Edward Black, Adaranna Styles and Arabella Randall. Phillip Cross left Maryland, where he owed servitude to parties in that state, which right Mr. Phillip Cross disputed. He moved up near David Heise’s, where he and his family lived and died. George Campbell, who was a free man, conducted a barbershop here for many years. One of the first colored families that I can remember was Thomas Cummings and his wife and family. He was a tanner and currier and was reputed to be a good workman, and was employed until his death by Joseph Riberolle, who conducted the tannery at the foot of Main Street. He had a family of three boys and three girls; don’t think their parents were ever in slavery. Two of their boys enlisted in the Union Army and died there. The girls of this family were all of them well educated and after the civil war were employed in the south as teachers. These are all the colored people I can recall, who were here at my earliest recollection.
The first important event I can remember of outside of fires and freshets was the building of the Wellsboro and Tioga Plank Road, which was completed to this point in the fall of 1852. The events that made the greatest impression on the public were the breaking out of the civil war and the Wellsboro bank robbery. I cannot talk of these events as history has fully recorded them.
The town in early days was stirred frequently by political questions. One of the first was the great fight as to whether a certain fund of money should be used in purchasing a fire engine and necessary tools, or in buying a town clock. After considerable delay the town clockers carried the day and the fires still continued for the next ten years. Another issue was raised over the establishment of the present Wellsboro cemetery in 1855 and 1856. About that time some legislation in regard to the burial of the dead was passed, which prevented the burying of the dead within the corporate limits of a borough. It resulted, however, in the building of the present beautiful cemetery, which was then located just out of the borough limits. The cemetery won and we all can see the fruits of the intelligent and disinterested services the officers of said corporation have given; which has been enlarge to meet the wants of several generations.
August 20, 1927. Walter Sherwood, Sr.