Submitted by Chester P. Bailey
Typed for Tri-Counties Website by Pat SMITH Raymond
The Williamson Road built in 1792-96, by Charles Williamson, to open the Genesee land in N. Y.; from Trout Run, it cut through the wilderness to Lawrenceville by the same general route of U. S. 15.
Charles Williamson was a well educated and energetic young Scotsman who had come to the colonies the first time as a British soldier during the Revolution. He apparently spent some of his tour of duty in Massachusetts where he married Abigail Newell. After the war he returned to England. He arrived in Norfolk, Virginia with his American wife and children in November 1791. Williamson had been appointed by the owners of the Pultney estate as their agent to manage its million acres in western New York. He was thirty-four years old.
New York had a law prohibiting alien ownership of state land. Williamson’s first act was to secure American citizenship which was not difficult with his American wife.
Robert Morris of Philadelphia owned large acreage in west New York and northern Pennsylvania. If Williamson had any question as to the best way to get to the Genesee country in New York, by land or by water using the Susquehanna and the Chemung rivers. Morris probably helped him decide, their lands joined.
The land route was an Indian trail that lead through the wilderness joining the Sheshequin trail along Lycoming Creek. It ran up Trout Run to Liberty and down Balman Run to the Tioga river and down the river to Painted Post. The present location of Blossburg, Covington, Mansfield, Tioga, Lawrenceville and Painted Post on US 15 today are on that trail. In New York the Indian trail went up the Cohocton river through Bath and on to an important Indian settlement on the Genesee river.
Williamson and Morris set out to convince the Pennsylvania Assembly and Governor Mifflin that it was to the advantage of the Commonwealth to build a road through the wilderness and open northern Pennsylvania to settlement.
Williamson made an application to the Assembly for a grant to assist in the construction.
Agent Charles Williamson was not one to wait for things to happen. He was anxious that the work get started and also inspect the land he was commissioned to settle and sell. He could not be convinced that it was dangerous to travel through the wilderness in the dead of winter. Therefore he put his family in suitable quarters and proceeded by horse, sled and on foot in February 1792 to the western border of the Pultney estate, the Genesee river. It is believed that John Johnstone, a faithful Scott, who had come over seas with the Williamson’s accompanied him. The trail having been blazed he returned to Philadelphia.
On April 10, 1792 the Assembly finally passed an Act for the purpose of viewing and laying out a road from Loyalsock Branch on the Susquehanna to the Towanisco Branch of the Tioga river and to the 109 mile stone, (State line at Lawrenceville)… The Assembly gave Williamson 100 pounds in silver.
In the meantime Patrick Calquhonne, a part owner of the Genesee tract, had agreed to send settlers and laborers to Williamson. He arranged with William Berezy, a German picture salesman, to select a colony to send over. The German got his company from Hamburg. They were willing to leave Germany for fear of being picked up for vagrancy, for they were loafers off the streets. There were about four hundred men, women and children. Calquhonne never saw the Germans.
By June 1792 Williamson had hired Robert and Benjamin Patterson as guides. The Patterson’s were known guides and Indian scouts from Northumberland County. They were put in charge of a small corps of woodsmen and a group of Englishmen to build the road.
Two hundred of the Germans arrived in Philadelphia in late summer under the guidance of Berezy. Robert Morris loaded them onto wagons and sent them on to join the road builders.
The road came through the wilderness to Trout Run, over Laurel Hill to the Block House (Liberty) where the women and children were left while the road builders forged ahead. The Block house was also used to store supplies. It was later to be used as hotel. It was a log structure approximately 20 X 40 feet.
The road builders continued north over Briar Hill (Bloss Mountain) and down to the Tioga river. Here they set up another camp, named after a baker and called Peter’s Camp. He built ovens and supplied the camp with bread. The Petersons discovered coal in the area. Peter’s camp site is within the Blossburg limits today.
As the road builders came down the Tioga river valley to the present site of Canoe Camp their supplies were running out, with winter coming on two acres were cleared and camp set up. After supplying the camp with a good supply of game, Patterson and several of the Pennsylvania woodsmen went to Painted Post over the Indian trail. They returned with supplies and canoes. The women and children and sick were floated down to Painted Post. The men went overland. They arrived at Painted Post in December 1792.
The road builders returned in the spring and the road was finished to Painted Post, up the Cohocton river to Bath. The Williamson Road was finally finished in 1796.
The Williamson Road south of Mansfield from Canoe Camp ran in nearly the same road bed as now. In town it approached the borough down East Main street and at the park followed the route north later used by the railroad. It crossed Corey Creek near the milk plant (Boro garage) and went up the hill and along the west side of the cemetery. It crossed the river and recrossed at about where the by-pass crosses. The road stayed along the river through Lams Creek (old site) up the hill, down to Mill Creek and on to Tioga, basically the old 15 route, moved by the U. S. Corps of Engineers dam.
Williamson left the road builders in the wilderness of Northumberland (Lycoming County) and returned again to the Pultney estate. He had boundless energy and began developing his ideas as to what he wanted the settlers to find when they arrived with the road builders to the area.
In 1793 he made his first clearing in Steuben County, it established the site of Pultney Square in Bath, N.Y. He believed that a settlement of several buildings would encourage others, and established his wife and family in a large log house. He built roads and started his plan of a city on the Genesee River. This he named Williamsburg after Sir William Pultney. He could not wait for the settlers for he felt a city would attract the wealthy and socially prominent country gentlemen from Maryland and Virginia.
He built inns, mills and schoolhouses. He started a newspaper, erected a theatre and layed out a race track. He advertised in the Albany newspaper that a fair and races would be held. The fair was a success and the people came, but to add to the difficulties of the time was that the settlers he had planned on were not there. The settlement got off to a poor start because of the "Hamburg Scum" as the Germans were called. They had an emigration agreement with Berezy. They wanted land, houses, cattle and tools. The women wanted spinning wheels, flax and wool. There was some trouble and a few Germans were arrested and taken to Canandaigua. Some returned to Philadelphia with Berezy. Most of them, knowing they had escaped from German law just began to fade away into the woods and many migrated to Canada.
The Pattersons remained in the Painted Post area and operated one of the inns Williamson built in 1796. It was known as the Benjamin Patterson Inn and is maintained today by the Corning-Painted Post Historical Society on west Pultney street, Corning, N.Y.
Slowly the travelers began to come as the news of Williamson Road spread. Charles Williamson was a charmer and smart in advancing the information. He put post riders on the road between Bath and Williamsport ev ery week. It is said that he liked to dress in the latest styles from New York City and to entertain guests. He loved well bred horses and would ride at speeds enough to make his fine blue cape fly out. Some outstanding visitors came along them the Duke de la Rarfoueauld Lianott. He came from the French Colony at Asylum in Pennsylvania. Three Virginia gentlemen came to visit. They traveled over the Williamson Road in a fine coach with a slave on horse back and leading a pack horse. These men returned three years later in 1797 to buy a large track. This is of historic note because it became the site of Rochester. Charles Williamson did not see this happen for he was relieved of his position in 1801. The owners of the Pultney estate dismissed him. They claimed losses of $1,000,000. Williamson returned to England and turned up later as a messenger for the British government. He died at sea returning from the West Indies.
Aaron Bloss, founder of Blossburg and others in their quest to ship coal to Williamsport petitioned the state legislature in 1812 for $10,000 to improve the Williamson Road from Blossburg to Williamsport. They were refused.
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