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Interesting Excerpts from History of Beech Flats
By John Wright, 1915

The history of Beech Flats written about 1915 by John R. Wright of Grover and made available to us through the courtesy of R. D. Gray tells that one of the old farms was bought of James Crawford in 1853 by Loel Wright.  Mr. Wright came from Columbia, Tolland Co., Connecticut.

He moved his family which consisted of six boys and three girls besides himself and wife, in a one horse lumber wagon, the older boys walking the greater part of the entire distance.

The farm consisted of about one hundred acres and now owned by Levi Fitzwater and Bela Williams.

The log house stood on the bank of the creek below the road not far from the Bela Williams house.  Mr. Wright lived there a few years then went up the hill and built a frame house where Levi Fitzwater now lives.  Mr. Wright was a carpenter by trade and his handiwork can now be seen in a goodly number of the older houses in Canton and adjoining townships.  In his day it was quite a common occurrence for some farmer to want to move his barn from its present site to some other place some rods distance.  This was done by making a bee and asking the neighbors for some distance around to come with their oxen, and having the building previously prepared by putting a runner which consisted of a long straight tree left rounding on the under side in order to draw as easily as possible.

These trees were put under each side of the structure and securely fastened.  Then hitching the oxen to each one of the runners and then one yoke of oxen ahead of the other until sometimes there would be fifteen or twenty teams in each string.  At the word “go” each driver would do his best to have his team start up against the yoke and pull.  All the teams must take hold together for no one or even a few teams could move the building.

This proves the old adage “In union there is strength.”  Many times there would be no movement, only the crack of the whip and the yell of the driver to be heard, and then a grating sound and the whole procession moves slowly forward often going quite a long distance before a stop is made for a rest.  Perhaps it is hardly worth while to relate this but the fact remains that the patient Ox, the farmers best friend and the cheapest and the most convenient animal for service on these rough farms has gone, and is a relic of the past, and no one under forty years of age has or ever will see a transition of this kind.

The First Schoolhouse

The first school house in the neighborhood was built on the farm on the opposite side of the road in front of the house where Frank Fitzwater now lives.  This seat of learning was fully up to date with rural conditions of the time and place.  It was constructed of round logs one foot or more in diameter flattened or notched at the ends so that they would like in place and then they were chinked with bolts split from basswood timber and held in place by wooden wedges driven in logs close to chinks.  These chinks were both inside and outside of the building and then this was plastered over with mortar of blue clay.  During the summer weather the heat would dry this clay mortar so that it cracked and more or less of it fell out, therefore it had to be replastered each fall before the cold weather started.  After this had been finished the rooms could be kept very comfortable.  The heating arrangement was a huge chimney in the north side of the building made of rough stone and blue clay mortar and was large enough to take sticks of wood four or five feet long and when filled with good dry wood in extreme cold weather it made a very hot fire.  This required a large amount of wood and in due time a large chunk stove was purchased and used in the interest of economy.

The furnishings were all in accord with the building, holes were bored in the logs at proper height for desks and pegs about two feet long driven in them on which boards to form the writing desks.  The seats were made of slabs from saw lags and with wooden pegs driven in them on the round side.  When stood on legs the flat or (soft) side formed the seat.

In order to use the desk pupils had to turn so as to face the wall.  When they faced the schoolroom they could lean against the desk for a back support.  All the rest which included the small children were obliged to sit all the time during school hours without any support for their aching backs.

One more article is worthy of mention and that was the cross legged table made of pine boards which was used by the teacher in place of a desk.

This with the teachers ferule and a few books furnished by the parents completed the school equipment.

One of the social qualities connected with this table which should be preserved to show the scholars of the present day the bliss of corporal punishment that then existed.  There was fastened to each side of these cross legs connecting the mat the point of intersection a narrow board, making them a few inches apart and about equi-distant between table and floor.  There was one teacher of the old school (I think that must have been Alma Mater) whose mode of punishment for the boys, I don’t remember about the girls being included, was to make the boys crawl under the table resting their stomachs on these two narrow boards while the teacher proceeded to persuade them on the seat of the pants to be good.  This rule was quite heavy and the (smokes) as he called them, were not light.

Photo Caption – page 284p:
Beech Flats School – The last one-room school in the Tri County District

The First Sawmill

In 1851 J. L. Wright and J. S. Beardslee built a saw mill on the stream below Frank Fitzwater’s house which was then in the J. L. Wright farm.  The mill was a ponderous affair with its monstrous heavy frame timbers.  The saw was hung in a huge wooden frame running on four heavy pistonrods.  It had a very clumsy feeding arrangement which was soon changed to something more convenient.  The mill having only water power and located on a small stream it could run only a portion of the time when the water was running quite freely in the stream or that held back by the dam.

Although this was very primitive in comparison to the up to and seemingly perfectly constructed arrangements for manufacturing lumber in use at the present time.  It was capable of doing good work and turning out lumber as nice as can be found at the modern mills of today.  There was a small profit derived from a saw mill in those days as hemlock lumber would only bring five dollars per thousand and very little cash sale at that price.  There was no sale for hardwood.

Mr. Wright had a lot of the more valuable kinds of timber on his own land and was in shape to get more cash out of his earnings than his partner.  In 1862 Mr. Beardslee sold his interest to Mr. Wright and a few years later during a heavy freshet the dam gave way letting out the water and carrying heavy rock and lumber down the stream and scattering flood trash and refuse along its banks.

This was the end of the saw mill as the dam was never rebuilt.

--Canton Independent-Sentinel Anniversary Edition in 1950

Page 285
Leroy Township Boasts Many Thriving Enterprises

The village of Leroy, the main settlement in prosperous Leroy township, is situated on the improved highway connecting Towanda and Canton.  It is 18 miles from the county seat and eight miles from Canton.

Most of the residents there are descendents of the township’s first settlers and their beautiful, finely furnished homes and well kept property show that they have inherited the same energy their forefathers had when they cleared the land now so productive and useful.

Leroy had been the home of the Indians for ages before the coming of the white men, proof of this being found in a large Indian cemetery there.  Col. Hartley in his expedition against the Indians in 1788 passed through Leroy but even before that a white man had been there.  In 1737 Conrad Weiser, while on a mission to the Six Nations, gained the distinction of being the first of his race to set foot upon the township’s soil.

Hugh and Sterling Holcomb, brothers who came from the “Land of Steady Habits” in 1795, were the first permanent settlers in Leroy.  They built a log cabin, kept “bachelor’s hall,” and began improvement near the center of the township on the north side of the Towanda Creek.

Hugh married Miss Elizabeth Oakley, who had the distinction of being the first white girl to come to Leroy township, the first to marry there, and the first mother to give birth to the first male child born in Leroy township.  To honor her memory R. K. Morse of Leroy recently erected a monument in the Leroy cemetery and many took part in the dedication.

Among the other early settlers were Seeley Crofut, John Knapp, Isaac Chaapel, Joel Bodewell, Dennison Kingsbury, George Brown, Elihu Knight, Peter Gordon, Nathan Gordon, Nicholas Gordon, David Wooster, Tim Culver, David Andrus, Luther Hinman, Aaron Cook, George Head, Miles Oakley, Isaac Wooster, Truman Holcomb, Henry Segar, and Jesse Morse.

As early as 1797 a road was built from Towanda to Franklin and it was extended to Canton in 1798.

Leroy township was formed 37 years later, being taken from Canton and Franklin townships.  The name was suggested by Ira Crofut from the French words meaning “the King,” and was adopted by vote of the citizens.

Deacon Seeley Crofut held the first Sunday School in the township in 1799 and also kept the first store in the township.  Hugh Holcomb built the first saw mill in 1808 and the first grist mill in 1820.

The first postmaster at Leroy was William Holcomb, who was commissioned in 1833.  There has been a post office there ever since.

Perrey Morse opened the first tavern in 1826 and his old Day Book is still in possession of the family being owned by R. K. Morse who is generally recognized as one of the best informed historians in the county.  This Day Book shows many entries of whiskey at three cents and six cents a glass.

When Morse built this tavern he took quantities of linen cloth made by his wife and went over South Mountain to Forksville – a very treacherous journey in those days – where he exchanged the cloth at a glass factory for panels of glass for the hostelry.  The glass he carried home through the wilderness on his back.

Page 286
In the days when the mail was brought on horseback from the western state the carrier passed through Leroy and stopped at this old tavern for lodging.  Much news was brought in this way and many were the yarns spun, especially as they sat about the fire on cold winter nights.

The first flagpole for miles around was raised in front of the Morse tavern at the time Henry Harrison was elected President of the Unites States.  The old settlers previous to the erection of the flag pole and afterwards for a number of years came once each year for many miles around to this old training ground for all sorts of sports and military training.

Religion from the earliest times has played a big part in the life of the people of Leroy.  The members of the Disciple Church held their first meeting in Marian Holcomb’s house, which was later built and Calvin W. Churchill became the first regular minister.  He officiated for years without salary.

The Baptists held their first meeting at the home of Deacon Seeley Crofut, this being their regular gathering place for many years.  In 1855 they erected a meeting house and Elder Lake was the first minister.

At present there are three churches in Leroy.  Church of Christ, the Rev. Earl Confer minister; Baptist, the Rev. Joseph Harrison, minister; and the Methodist, the Rev. Harold Sharp, minister.

There were fourteen schools in Leroy township previous to the establishing of the present consolidated school with its fine building and playground.  These schools were:  East Leroy, Kelly and Crofut, Leroy Center, South Side, West Leroy, Griswold, Van Fleet, Hoagland, Cross Roads to Windfall, Lecanville, Carbon Run, Warburton, Cold Spring, and Irish Settlement.  Elwin Baldwin is principal of the Leroy school now, the others being Elizabeth Jones and Pauline Baldwin.

The school directors are E. E. Holcomb, R. M. Wilcox, Truman Kelly, L. J. Bellows and J. D. Wilcox.

That the township has always been a busy place is shown by the fact that in years gone by it has been able to boast of the following:  Three creameries at Leroy, West Leroy and Crofut; eight blacksmith shops, two grist mills, one planning mill and cider mill, one broom factory, two hotels, one saloon and drugstore, six sawmills, a tannery of which Matthew Mott was proprietor; and five stores.  Two doctors resided in the township.

At one time Leroy had its own newspaper.  It was the Monogram, which was published 1891-93 by Charles S. Holcomb.

At present there are three general merchandise stores those being operated by E. A. Holcomb & Son, Melvin Colton and Charley Gray.  Perely Wooster has a grocery-barber shop and luncheonette.  There are also a large tile garage of which Harley Chaapel is proprietor; a post office, a blacksmith shop run by J. J. Holzworth; funeral establishment of which Stanley B. Morse is director; the coal yard of Mott Coal Company; offices of the Leroy Coal Co. of which E. H. Holcomb is superintendent, and the offices of the Mott Coal Co. of which Wesley Mott is superintendent.

The Leroy Coal Company up to a few years ago operated a mine in the township but since then has been mining Barclay township but the main office is still maintained in the village of Leroy.  The Leroy coal fields are the farthest north and east of any semi-bituminus coal in the United States.

Page 287
Much of the excellent State Game Preserve on South Mountain around Sunfish Pond is in Leroy township.  The refuge keeper is Walter Zellers, formerly of Laquin.

Leroy has an Odd Fellows lodge of which E. E. Hatten is Noble Grand; Rebekah Lodge of which Hattie Wilcox is Noble Grand; and Grange of which A. A. Holcomb is Master.  At one time there was a P.O.S. of A. lodge and a lodge of Good Templars there.

The supervisors of Leroy township are M. O. Smith, Harry Rockwell and Robert Rockwell.  The assessor is R. A. Palmer, tax collector, E. M. Mason; postmistress Josephine Wooster; and Justice of the Peace, R. K. Morse.

The oldest man in the township is Dan. A. Griswold who is past 90, and the oldest woman is Samantha Lilley who is 91 years old.

The assessed valuation of Leroy township is $260,000.  The population is 700 of which 340 are registered voters.

The township has 45 miles of road but ten miles have been abandoned.  Of the remainder the state has 20 miles and the township 15.

There are roads leading out of the village in all directions.  One on the south side of Towanda creek runs parallel with the hard surfaced road on the north side.  One of the most travelled roads is that leading south from the village and up the mountain where the village of Barclay once flourished.  Nearly all the coal from the Leroy Coal Co., and the Mott mines is brought down the mountain by this route on trucks and hauled to places where it is sold.  During the summer months nearly every day, especially on Sundays, many cars can be seen heading for the top of the mountain where their occupants spend hours picnicking and strolling through the forest where plenty of deer can be seen at almost any time.  Now there are efforts being made to get this road hard-surfaced and if they are successful it is probably the mountain will become one of the most popular outing places in this section.

Leroy has never shirked her patriotic duty.  In the Revolutionary War it furnished three soldiers – Isaac Chaapel, John Knapp and Charles Stuart.  George Brown represented Leroy in the War of 1812.  In the Civil War the township furnished 116 soldiers of whom 15 died in service.  The World War saw 19 of Leroy’s sons respond.

Public officials from Leroy have been:  Representative, Chester T. Bliss; Sheriff, J. Perry Van Fleet; County treasurer, Eben Lilley; County Commissioner, Henry W. McCraney; County Auditor, Alpheus Holcomb; Coroner, Aaron Knapp.

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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 19 MAR 2009
By Joyce M. Tice
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