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In order to show Canton’s industrial progress during the past 120 years, it will be necessary to describe conditions as they existed at various periods in our town’s history.
As late as 1888, Canton had no factory nor any creamery, so our early industries were mainly stores, grist and saw mills, blacksmith shops, etc.
In 1832-33 Manning and Rose had the only store, a small one located in a building in front of the Red Tavern, which stood where Burk’s now is; Charles Stockwell and Enoch Sellard, tailors, Charles Saxton, wagon-maker and Alpheus Peters, blacksmith completed the list recorded at that time with the exception of the grist mill located about where the old Rockwell mill now stands. In 1837 the mill was described as “a well built red structure.” Across Mill creek from this stood a large two story frame building used for a shop. On the west end of this building which is still standing, was an overshot water wheel, 16 ft. in diameter, which furnished power to run the machinery. Later this shop was converted into a dwelling, long known as the “Beehive,” and is one of the three oldest buildings in Canton, the other two being Burdett Loyd’s home on Center street which was formerly a church and later used as a school; and the house on Lycoming street next to Joseph Grimm’s shoe repair shop, known for many years as the Newman house. In 1838 there were three stores in Canton Corners, kept by Manning & Rose, Bernard Wood and John Cummins.
We next glimpse Canton in the early 1850’s. Spaulding & Dart’s hardware store had recently been built, and occupied about the location of the present telephone building. The Central Hotel stood about on the Packard House site, while Mix & Hooper’s tailor shop had a fine location in a building where Fairbanks & Anderson’s Market is now located. Various blacksmith and livery stables had less prominent locations, while Ezekiel and Walter Newman operated a general store in the Newman block which was part of what is now the Jayson building.
Stage coaches ran from Elmira to Williamsport and from Canton Corners to Towanda. The former boasted well upholstered coaches drawn by four sleek horses, and used Canton Corners for a relay station. After the new railroad made the Elmira-Williamsport stage line no longer profitable, these coaches were used on the Towanda route.
The completion of the railroad in 1856 marked a great day for Canton and the first important step in the town’s industrial development. Following the departure of the first train, all citizens went to the beautifully decorated Disciple church to listen to speeches by leading men of the day and to participate in the singing and prayers of thanksgiving. The first train consisted of flat cars without covering of any kind, which were drawn by a wood burning engine. The company had offered anyone desiring it a free ride from any point between Elmira and Williamsport and return to that point. People came from all over the county by ox-cart, horse and wagon, on saddleback or a-foot to see the wonderful train and many took advantage of the offer. It was a fine fall day, and the journey started off in style, but it soon became apparent that all men must help load the wood from the pile strategically placed along the right of way, for the engine used a lot of wood. Williamsport was safely reached and the return journey begun, when the sky clouded [page 289] over and rain began to fall. At the next stop for wood, the men passengers all made for the woods and cut leafy branches to protect them from the downpour, but those leaving from Canton were a very bedraggled lot when they arrived home. The new railroad became a very important means of traffic and during the Civil War was the main artery between the North and the South to convey soldiers, food and ammunition and all other supplies. The first passenger train on this road was christened the Lady Washington.
Through the years Canton has had many small and some larger industries which have flourished for a time and later been abandoned, but these have all contributed to our industrial progress.
There were cooper shops, making firkins and tubs; Hazleton’s woolen mill, making woolen cloth known as linsey-woolsey; and the first foundry, which stood where Mrs. Smith’s Red & White store is now located. This was noted for its candlesticks, plow shares and other needed items made there. After this foundry burned, the next one was located on Troy Street, between Miss Nettie Stear’s home and Mill Creek. This was run by Taber & Mitchell, and later by J. M. Mitchell, and in 1882 they made car wheels and saw mills. Canton had a number of wagon shops at various times, one of the best know being that of O. B. Westgate and James Henry, which partnership was formed in 1888, after Mr. Henry left the Reynolds Carriage Works in Alba. The firm of Westgate & Henry employed six men. A cigar factory was started in 1887 by George Davenport, and later cigar factories were operated by J. B. Mason and the Wirth Cigar Co. for many years. There were a number of saw-mills, one of which was operated by Hackett Bros., and did a thriving business in bee-hives. Hackett Bros. also operated the carding mill, and in season carded 100 pounds of wool a day. The Gleason Tannery located where the Weldon plant now stands gave employment to a number of men and used much of the bark peeled in the nearby woods.
More recent enterprises which have added much to Canton’s progress were the Sheldon factory, a large woodworking plant which burned in the fall of 1914, and still later a phonograph factory, silk mill, the Valv-air Co., and lastly a shirt and pajama factory operated by Weldons.
Though the Canton business men mourned the lack of factories in our town as late as 1892, they seemed to overlook the value of business brought to Canton by Rockwell’s mill and other existing enterprises, some of which had been in their midst almost since the founding of the village. Zephaniah Rogers built Canton’s first grist mill, a small one about which little is know.
The first Rockwell mill was erected, and operated for a number of years by Elias Rockwell. Water power was used exclusively in this, and also in the present white mill which was erected on the site of the first mill in 1852. Soon after the coming of the railroad in 1856 a steam engine was installed and this was used as well as the water wheel for a great many years. When the conversion to steam took place the mill was operated by John Bailey, Nicholas Van Namee and John E. Rockwell, and the name was changed to the Canton Steam Mills.
In 1876 Martin L. Rockwell, grandfather of the present M. L. Rockwell became interested in the enterprise and on May 17, 1888, the Canton Sentinel records that the firm of Rockwell, Riley and Co. of the Canton Steam Mills had dissolved partnership, the business to be continued by M. L. and Homer Rockwell under the name of Rockwell & Son, and under this name and family management the business has grown and prospered until today the first mill is dwarfed by the giant addition built across [page 290] the street, and the character of the business has changed almost as greatly. For many years the object of the grist mill was to grind wheat into flour, buckwheat into pancake material, corn into cornmeal and to provide feed for the many horses used by the farmers and lumbermen in the vicinity. Between 1914 and 1919 much progress was made in the study of cattle nutrition and in 1920 the Rockwell mill began local mixing of grain for dairy feed, and soon after the first mixer was installed. In 1929 a large mixer for handling cold molasses direct from a 10,000 gallon vat was added to the other equipment. A large addition was built to the grain elevator in 1936, nearly doubling the floor space, and again in 1946 the capacity of the plant was increased about 30 per cent. In addition to flour and all kinds of feed, the mill now handles many other supplies needed on the farm. From a beginning force of three or four men, the staff of employees has increased until it now numbers nearly thirty.
In order of seniority the next business to consider is the W. W. Gleckner Co. which has grown from the harness shop which the late W. W. Gleckner established when he moved from Liberty to Canton in the 1880’s. In 1889 this shop was located on Sullivan street where Col. Wood’s Second-hand store is situated. In November of that year the shop was enlarged and Mr. Gleckner was enjoying a nice business, but on the 13th of August 1892 it was completely destroyed by fire. The building was rebuilt by George Bullock, and Mr. Gleckner continued in business at that location for some time. Later the first wing of the present factory was built, and still later the collar factory added. This business like Rockwell’s, has remained in the family.
One of the most important aids to progress in any community is its lumber mills and building supply companies. Canton was fortunate in having three of these necessary adjuncts to progress, two of which have survived until the present. These were Crawford’s Mill, G. M. Coons Co. and H. H. Taylor.
In February, 1888, Coons Mill, then a going concern, put in planing machinery and started a sash and blind department. In March of that year excavating was begun for a new mill, during which a splendid vein of sand was uncovered which proved most useful. Work was rushed on the Sash and Blind factory, and plans were carried on to make brick. By the latter part of May that year. This business, after several changes of ownership, is now being operated by S. E. Williams.
Hugh Crawford’s mill was operating well in 1887 and he had a feed mill capable of grinding one bushel of feed per minute. During the winter of 1887-1888, Crawfords stocked over 1,000,000 feet of logs in their yard. The mill continued to grow until 1895 when a disastrous fire destroyed everything. Mr. Crawford rebuilt as speedily as possible, and later with his sons carried on the business which today under the management of the latter remains one of the important institutions of our town.
Mr. H. H. Taylor’s mill specialized in building supplied and finished lumber as well as building contracting, and many of Canton’s homes were built by this firm. The mill, which stood on the site of the borough storehouse at Carson Street and Minnequa Avenue, burned in the spring of 1897, and soon after being rebuilt passed into other hands.
In winter the lumber tracts rang to the sounds of busy lumbermen getting the logs ready to be hauled to the mills while good sledding lasted and Canton’s streets were filled with teams hauling large “bobs” loaded with logs. The streets were not was congested with traffic as they are at present, and one of the great delights of winter for the children of the community was “hooking” rides on those “bobs.”
Troy had a creamery as early as 1887, but Canton did not acquire one until much later – sometime in the 1890’s. A number of years after this the Slawson-Decker Company built a large milk receiving station and ice-house on upper Center Street and Canton became one of the large milk shipping centers for New York City. This was built in 1912. This was later known as the Sheffield Farms plant, and is now part of the National Dairy, with modern cooling methods replacing the outmoded ice-house.
Another almost forgotten industry which made Canton famous for some years was Lees Great London Shows, a circus which wintered here fro many years, and through the influence of which Canton has given the sawdust arena some famous stars, notably Charles Lee 2nd, better known as Charles Siegrist, and our own “Butch” (Francis) Brann.
Chronologically the Belmar Mfg. Co. should have the next spot in this story, but being unable to obtain any accurate information at this time, that will have to be reviewed later.
The Swayze Folding Box Co., now celebrating its 50th anniversary, is one of Canton’s younger but faster growing industries. Started by Mr. Alden Swayze late in 1898 with capital of $75.00 and an initial order for 4500 waterproof signs at $2.00 per hundred, the business has grown to its present prominence as one of the largest folding box companies in the state.
Early in 1900 orders totaling $20,000.00 prompted Mr. Swayze to move to Canton to obtain space to enlarge his business. Most of the time from then until the first wing of the present factory was built, the Swayze Advertising co. was housed in a large two story red wooden building standing near mill creek where Lee Purvis’ house is located. This building contained the presses and equipment necessary to make waterproof signs which were soon tacked to barns and fences all over the country. The two I remember best were a large green parrot on a golden yellow circular background, with the legend – “Drink Hires Root Beer,” and another oblong sign advertising “Gleckner’s harness – made of oak tanned leather.” I loved the smell of the ink used in printing the signs, and would hang around the side of the building whenever possible, even at the expense of a good spanking for getting said ink on my clothes from a carelessly discarded pail of the beautiful blue and yellow mixture. The business soon expanded beyond the first building and after the advertising fan and calendar line was added the old Taylor mill across the road (now used as a Boro storehouse) was rented as an annex.
The Swayze Advertising Co. was formed as a stock Co. in 1901, and incorporated under the laws of Pennsylvania on April 23, 1903. The sign business continued to increase rapidly until 1909 when laws in some nearby states made further development of the sign business impracticable and Mr. Swayze conceived the idea of making folding cardboard boxes. This necessitated the installation of much new machinery.
The first order was for 100,000 boxes, but this was later increased to individual orders for 30,000,000 and for many years containers for 20 Mule Team, Super Suds, Dromedary Dates, Octagon Soap Powder and many other nationally used products have continued to pass through Swayze’s gigantic presses.
In 1919 the corporation’s name was changed to the Swayze Folding Box Company, Inc. and since 1909 the yearly business has increased from $50,000 to $500,000 and a number of new units have been added to the original two story cement block building on Troy street, the later additions being a beautiful unit housing the offices and a large shipping room and garage.
The third generation of the Swayze family is now carrying on the business so ably started by their grandfather with $75.00 capital, a sound idea and good salesmanship. The number of employees has increased thru the years from two or three to more than one hundred.
Many interesting contrasts were noted in gathering material for this article, and I will mention a few of them.
On and after Sunday, April 22, 1883, all barbershops agreed to close on Sunday, promising to do no work either at their place of business, at Hotels or private homes.
Milk shakes were the newest thing in the summer of 1888, and W. W. Whitman had the original milk-shaker, with sole rights to serve same. “Crushed Violets” was the fashionable soda flavor in May 1889 – served by Newman & Davison’s drug store. Newman & Davison had the Milk-shake privilege at the 1889 Canton Fair, for which they paid the Fair Ass’n $10.00.
Brigham Young was baptized into the Mormon faith near the residence of John Hunt, in Troy Township.
Good dairy cows were selling for $22.00 and $24.00 each in 1889.
Canton was made a money order post-office in 1892.
In 1883, the Canton police received an annual salary of $25.00, and evidently worked only days as there was talk of the necessity for a night police. In 1887 Mr. McCraney, our policeman at that time was paid $12.00 per month. Various increases have been granted since until our Chief now is being paid $225.00 per month and his assistant $175.00.
The total boro taxes collected for the year 1888 were $7121.05, with a 15 ½ mill levy. In 1948, sixty years later, the total boro tax, including school tax, will amount to $46,759.45 with a 20 mil levy.
Some facts about our town show little or no progress. In 1888 Canton had 4 lawyers, 4 doctors, 3 dentists and one tailor. In 1948 we had 1 lawyer, 6 doctors, 2 dentists and no tailor. In February 1887, Mrs. Gus Krise was elected organist of the Presbyterian church, and in February 1949, 62 years later, her son is filling the same position.
In addition to Canton’s progress in business and industry, she has made strides in comfort and convenience. In the very early days, a well located in front of the Red Tavern was about the only water supply and most of the town’s six or eight families carried their drinking water from this well, depending on the various streams near which their homes were built to furnish water for other purposes. Later other wells were dug near various homes.
Water was still a scarce item in 1861, for mention is made of Elder Loomis, the Baptist minister, carrying two 16 quart pails of wash water each Monday from Carson street to the Baptist Church to refresh some newly planted shrubbery.
Peter Herdic laid 8 inch water mains up Center street from Canton to Minnequa in 1877, and formed the Canton Water Co., not to provide water for Canton so much as to have a plentiful supply for his hotel and Minnequa. The residence of Mr. B. Benedict, upper Center street was the first house in town to have water supplied by this Company.
In 1883 some of the streets had water mains supplying the homes of Canton citizens, and we find the first mention of frozen mains during that winter. The frost went to a depth of five or six feet that year, so it is not surprising the pipes froze.
By the winter of 1888 a number of the streets in town had water mains, and the “annual freeze up” of mains was complained of bitterly in the Sentinel. Quite sharp remarks were made about people having to carry water for several weeks when their water rent had been paid in advance to April 1st and no effort was being made by the Water Co. to thaw [page 293] the pipes. This caused great unhappiness among our citizenry, and agitation was started either to buy the Water Co. or tap the lake and form a new Company to pipe water to Canton. That year the boro paid the Water Co. $200.00 for water for fire protection.
In October 1887, Herdic again raised the water rates and it was declared, “Canton must control its water works,” and various remarks were scattered through the news columns of the Sentinel like – “There hasn’t been a freshet, but water is high” – “Why not club together and sink a few artesian wells” and “A number of wells are to be sunk in the boro at once.” A later edition of the paper proclaimed – “People are beginning to understand Herdic’s rates but they are as unhappy as ever,” and again – “Nearly every water consumer is signing the petition to have the council put in a system of water works at a cost not to exceed $20,000.00. The increase in the tax will be more than offset by the reduction in water rates.” In that winter possession of water meant wealth, and it was a by-word of the time – “There goes Mr. So and So, he’s a solid citizen, he owns a WELL.”
Various sources of water were suggested including Spring Brook and the lake, while others favored boring a well and pumping the water into a large reservoir, using a large windmill for power. Then came confliction with the proposed street lights – Canton must have lower water rates before street lights could be afforded!
Early in 1888 Judge MacCallum decided in favor of the consumers, in as much as the rates had been increased without previous notice, and in late March of that year the Water Co. agreed to compromise rates, but the public said something must be done about the water as it left a dark brown taste in the mouth.
On April 22, 1888 the Boro Council voted unanimously to put in an independent water system, using the lake as a source of supply, as the Water Co., represented by Guy Maynard refused to reduce the rates sufficiently. Voters had voted power for the council to bond the town for $18,000 to do this, some months previously.
This brought up the question of the damages the Water Co. could claim, as they had already purchased the right to use water from the lake. Lawyers were appointed to confer with Mr. Maynard on this subject. The latter would not consider the proposition at all, but sent the council a count-proposition.
The council pondered this and told Mr. Maynard that if the Water Co. would bind itself for a term of years to furnish a sufficient supply of pure water, taken from the lake and filtered, they would drop further proceedings. Rates were to be $5.00 per year for each hydrant, and the boro would pay $1,000 annually for the term and pay repaid expense except for freezing of the mains – or – the boro would purchase the system then in use, paying a sum equal to the cost to duplicate, and $1,000 for the Water Company’s share in the lake.
In June 1888 the Water Co. agreed to tap the lake and adopt the old rates and a compromise was effected and a new agreement signed in August 1888. The water mains were laid from the lake that fall by William Robinson and William Burns and a large force of men.
But in the spring of 1889 the people again became discontented and complained that the Minnequa Avenue water pipes were filled with pieces of bark, leaves and dirt, and that it was necessary to strain water before using.
In the Sentinel for April 4, 1889, we find this notation, “The water had a “Barny” flavor Saturday and Sunday.” The water from the lake had been turned into the mains for several days and the consumers’ verdict [page 294] of its quality was one of utter disgust. They pronounced it both off-color and unpalatable, saying, “It hadn’t consistency enough to take the place of food nor was it thin enough for drink.” And so the controversy raged.
In June 1892 the Water Co. built a new storage reservoir and for a while the dissatisfaction among water consumers died down. However, it has flared again periodically until the present time, when we really seem to be doing something about it.
The Belmar Factory, for many years Canton’s largest industry, was started in 1897, in a barn owned by Mrs. Tabor. Mr. L. M. Marble, founder of the Belmar, and Mr. Mott Tabor, a skilled mechanic, began the construction of special machines for the manufacturing of a combined coat and trouser holder which Mr. Marble had patented.
After working on the machines for some months, construction was started on the building on Washington Street which was the nucleus of the Belmar factory. This was soon completed, and in 1898 Mr. Marble incorporated the Belmar Manufacturing Co., which was one of the earliest companies to be incorporated for the manufacture of coat hangers.
Following the installation of the special machines in the newly completed building, the Belmar started the manufacture of hangers with a small force of men. George Doll was one of these, and is still with the company, having just completed fifty years of faithful service to the firm with which he started as a young man. Other employees whose terms of service almost equal Mr. Doll’s, are Elmer Rockwell, nearly 45 years, George Goff, nearly 43 years, Charles Renstrom more than 38 years from Leon Smith about 36 years.
At first the Belmar made only the combination coat and trouser hanger, but in 1901-1902 they made both ladies and men’s garment hangers. Business continued to increase rapidly and the factory was enlarged by several additions and many more employees were added to the payroll.
In June 12, 1904, disaster struck the growing business in the form of a fire which destroyed a large part of the factory. This was immediately rebuilt on a much larger scale, and since then has grown to its present size. Soon after the rebuilding of the plant, the Belmar Hose Co. was formed, and later a drill team, of which latter organization Edward Carnegie acted as drill master for many years.
During World War I, the Belmar Co. maintained a dehydration plant where they mad potato and other vegetable flours for the U.S. Government as the Company’s contribution to the war effort.
During the same period the Belmar Co. ran a soup kitchen which was under the direction of Mrs. Harry Davenport. This was a donation to the Red Cross work. Local farmers and gardeners donated the vegetables used in the soup, and most of the labor was also donated. A carload of soup was shipped at one time to France.
In 1926 Mr. Marble added the Liberty Greeting Card Co. to his other
activities, and this was operated in connection with the Belmar Mfg. Co.
until 1934. A large substantial building was built to house this
business and many fine color presses installed. Most of the cards
printed were handled by the same chain stores to whom the Belmar hangers
had been shipped for many years.
Mr. Marble continued active in the business until his death November 27, 1944. About six months later, in June, 1945, the business was sold to C. K. Ruland of Conneant, Ohio, C. B. Oas of Girard, Pa. and E. C. Johnson of Linesville, Pa., and has continued under their capable management ever since.
While Tray had a creamery as early as 1887, Canton did not acquire one until sometime in the 90’s. Long before this, however, Canton had attained wide fame for its dairy products and largely thru one farm in this locality the fame of Bradford County butter spread over quite a section of the country.
In 1872 Sheldon Lindley, then residing on the farm his family had cleared in 1800, and which his grandson Robert still operates, bought the first herd of registered jersey cows in this part of the country. These were purchased from Col. Capp of Middletown, Pa., whom Mr. Lindley had met as a guest at the famous Minnequa Springs hotel, where Col. Capp vacationed. Col. Capp enjoyed the beauties of Minnequa so much that he had registered one of these cows under the name of Minnequa.
Some time later several high officials of the Pennsylvania Railroad Co. were guests at the Minnequa Hotel, and while riding thru the country with the Superintendent, W. D. Tyler, noticed Mr. Lindley’s fine farm with its thorough-bred cattle. Mr. Tyler introduced these men to the owner, and thru his efforts a contract was made between the railroad Co. and Mr. Lindley for butter to be shipped to Altoona for the Logan House, and also to be used on all Pennsylvania Railroad dining cards leaving that city. For the next fifty years from four to nine 50 lb. boxes of butter were shipped from the Lindley farm each week, the contract being carried on by D. Thomas Lindley for twenty years after his father’s death in 1902. No wonder the fame of Bradford Co. butter was widespread when it was served to every diner on the P.R.R. trains for half a century.
By the turn of the century many farmers were easing their burden of work by selling the milk produced from their dairies to the Canton Creamery, which was later known as the Rosedale Creamery, famous for its cottage cheese, and is now known as the Rosedale-Canton Milk Corporation. Recent additions to this plant have greatly increased its capacity.
In 1912 the Slawson-Decker Sheffield Farms Co. built a large milk receiving station and ice-house on upper Center street and Canton became one of the large milk shipping centers for New York.
This article was printed in the Canton Independent Sentinel about 1949. It was printed in three parts, but was copied here from her original draft in one continuous article.
Canton Blends Old and New
Eleanor P. Keagle
Canton, Pa. – Since the closing years of the 18th century when permanent settlers first built homes in the Canton area, our town has shown slow steady growth in population, industry, business and education.
Incorporated as a borough on February 19, 1868, the town began more rapid expansion. This was accelerated by development of Minnequa Spring, two miles north of town, as a health spa in 1869. Peter Herdic, a millionaire lumberman of Williamsport was the prime mover, after having benefitted by drinking the Spring’s healing waters.
Figures well known in theatrical circles were attracted by the reputed health and youth giving properties of the spring and shortly Minnequa’s popularity began to rival Saratoga’s. These newcomers added greatly to Canton’s cultural and musical life.
In May, 1967, T. Burk, E. H. Thomas and A. D. Williams formed a partnership and opened a general store on the west side of “Main Street Square.” Now known simply as “Burks,” the business is continued by the Burk family at the same remodeled location.
By 1869 Canton had attracted six carpenters, two each, wagon makers, lumber dealers, blacksmiths, jewelers; three hotels had been opened and five grocery stores were in operation. There was one justice of the peace, a cooper, a hardware store, real estate office, a brick yard, machine shop, undertaker, tannery, saw-mill, barber and livery stable.
W. W. Gleckner started a harness shop in 1879, which grew into a large harness factory as W. W. Gleckner & Sons Co., and is still in operation under management of Donald Gleckner, grandson of the founder.
In the 1870’s Canton’s principal hotel and a favored summer resort patronized by guests from Philadelphia was “Mountain View House” on Troy Street. This was very popular for banquets and similar functions and the first Canton High School Alumni dinner was held there July 4, 1889. The name of this hostelry was changed to Park Hotel by 1902. It is still being operated, after renovation, by Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Fromile.
In 1889, Lee’s Great London Shows settled in Canton for their winter quarters, adding hints of sawdust and spangles to the aura of powder and grease paint of the theatrical group.
Meanwhile, Rockwell’s Grist Mill, established in the 1850’s, was busily grinding grain with millstones operated by a water wheel. Later a steam engine was installed and used until 1943 when the machinery was electrified. In 1958 a huge new grinding, mixing and storage building was built across the street from the old mill, increasing the plant’s output to 16,000 tons annually, with bulk delivery to costumers within a 25 mile radius.
Another early Canton business, Preston’s, started in 1881, is still operating under family management with a department store and feed mill in Mansfield.
The Belmar factory was established in Canton by L. M. Marble in 1897 for the manufacture of coat and trouser hangers under special patents which he held. In 1898, Mr. Marble incorporated the Belmar Mfg. Co. and continued to operated it as a rapidly growing and successful industry until his death in 1944.
Some six months later E. C. Johnson of Linesville, Pa. with several partners purchased the Belmar and continued the business until a fire destroyed the main building. After an interval, a much larger structure [page 297] was erected and the plant continues to be one of the town’s important industries.
The Swayze Folding Box Co. was founded in Canton in March 1900 when Alden Swayze mover here from Columbia Cross Roads and started the manufacture of waterproof signs. The business grew to include advertising novelties and fans, and other partners were taken into the company which was incorporated as the Swayze Folding Box Co. A small factory was built on Troy Street, which has been expanded a number of times until it now employs about 130. Several years ago the Swayze interests were sold to a Long Island firm who have since operated the plant.
Two factories formerly of importance in Canton’s economy were the Sheldon Co., a woodworking factory making flag poles, tent stakes, etc. which burned in October, 1914, and was not rebuilt. The other, variously known as the Couch Factory, the Table Works, the Independent Cabinet Co., etc. was discontinued and the building has been unoccupied for years except for storage.
Canton’s first high school, completed in the fall of 1870, was substantially built of red brick. The first eight grades were housed in four rooms on the ground floor, and the high school classes occupied the second.
The building cost $9000, considered an exorbitant figure by the taxpayers, many of whom threatened to move out of the borough if taxes were raised. Within six years, the structure first thought to be large enough for many years to come, had to be enlarged. After the new high school was built, the grade school pupils were moved into the old high school and this first building was demolished.
This summer the filled and graded site was black topped and a substantial fence erected so it would be safely used as a playground.
Our present high school, built in 1952-53 at a cost of $1,385,000 and enlarged once by addition of an 800 seat auditorium and four class rooms, is again bursting at the seams, with further building expansion imminent in the near future.
Canton’s first postmaster was Asa Pratt, appointed December 31, 1825.
Canton’s two newest industries, Bellows – Valvair and Canford Mfg. Corp., have both doubled the size of their buildings and the capacity of production since locating here. These modern plants with their executives are additions to our town for which all residents are grateful.
Bellows – Valvair manufactures valves for almost any control purpose. Canford, is a subsidiary of Stanley Products, has many huge plastic molding machines which are kept busy turning out thousands of large and small plastic articles.
Elmira Telegram December 5, 1965
Canton About to Lose Last Independent Grocery Store
The oldest and last of Canton’s independent grocery stores will be extinct when Philip B. Thomas sells out the remainder of his stock and moves to Kansas City, Mo., to live.
This store was opened on Troy Street by his father in 1916 and operated by him until 1942 when Phil took over. During that time the location was moved twice; first to the Donovan building on Main Street, and in 1922 to its present location at the corner on Main and Lycoming Streets.
But this family owned store dates back much further than 1916; it started
in 1867 when E. H. Thomas, grandfather of Philip, with T. Burk and A. D.
Williams opened a general store known as Burk, Thomas & Co. in the
building where the Thomas grocery operates. Here also T. Burk and
Co. have continued the dry goods department of the original store.
Barter in Early Days
In the early days much of the trade was by barter. Farmers had little cash with which to buy calico, shoes, sugar and staples not raised on the farm, but had surplus eggs, butter, potatoes and apples which they brought to town and traded for articles they must have. The butter was packed in wooden firkins (tubs) in pails or rolls weighing several pounds.
How many readers would recognize a butter taster? A long hollow metal tube with an open slot in the side, it was thrust through the center of a butter firkin, then withdrawn and the resulting cross section of butter examined through the slot so the buyer could be sure the quality was uniform throughout.
Through the years vacuum packed and instant coffee and electric coffee grinders have replaced the ponderous hand-operated grinders with their big wheels, the barrels of oysters crackers, barrels of sugar, bulk molasses have given place to packaged goods, and kerosene cans no longer have to be filled so light could shine from the countless lamps throughout the country.
Have you tried to buy a lamp globe lately? It’s quite a trick to find a store that sells them, in these modern days of supermarkets where everything is prepackaged and much of it precooked.
We are more sanitary now, but there was a warmth and friendliness in
the stores of a half century ago that no shining nickel and enamel can
Horse Sheds Are Gone
There was a long horse-shed back of Burk, Thomas & Co. store where horses were tied and fed while their owners shopped. Here a few horses and many tall tales were swapped by the men while their women-fold gossiped and tested the quality of calico and muslin by several infallible methods. The sheds are demolished now in the name of progress to make way for parking lots for the faster vehicles of a speed minded generation.
The Thomas grocery survived two World Wars, the crash of 1929 and the depression which followed. During World War I, Lynn Thomas received a barrel of “rainbow sugar,” vile tasting stuff, but in those sugarless days eagerly sought by a large crowd of purchasers, each of whom was able to buy half a pound.
All the groceries then had delivery wagons, which ran on sleds in [page
299] the winter, and most orders, large or small were delivered.
Most delivery service passed with the horse, but Mr. Thomas bought his
first delivery truck, a model T Ford, in 1918, from Dunbar’s Wagon Shop.
It is recalled the deliver body cost more that than the chassis.
The Carriage Trade
The store always catered to the “carriage trade” by handling quality products and specializing in service. Harry Davenport, the famous actor, was probably the store’s most noted customer. Mr. Davenport and Mr. Thomas were good friends and when the former was out of work for a long time, Mr. Thomas trusted him to nearly $800 worth of food. The trust was well placed, for when Harry left Canton for his final big success in Hollywood, he paid the debt in several installments.
Lynn Thomas and later Phil were know throughout the entire area of their seeds, and were the largest distributors in the Northern Tier. When ice was no longer available in ice houses in Canton, Thomas distributed it from Towanda until mechanical refrigeration supplanted the use of ice.
Wholesalers Gone, Too
Many of the old wholesalers have gone with the independent stores. Some of the best remembered are C. M. & R. Tompkins; Barton and Wheadon; Post, Volker & Co.; C. W. Ferguson; and Williams Produce of Elmira; George Bubb & Sons; Keystone Food Products, and A. Nardi & Sons of Williamsport.
Former clerks in the store have been Henry Breese, Fidelle Biddle (new Canton mail carrier) T. F. Hurley, George and James Trappe and W. D. Brown.
All goods were shipped in by Pennsylvania Railroad freight until improved roads transferred delivery to local truck lines. The bread arrived each morning on the nine o’clock passenger train.
No one, however nostalgic their memories, should wish for the return
of this earlier, slow moving era, but as a remnant of it passes, let’s
all pay the moment of respect it deserves. It will never return.
Canton – A letter written by Mrs. Abraham Lincoln on October 20, 1860, was discovered recently in this area.
Mrs. Lincoln wrote from Springfield, Illinois, to a friend, Mrs. Shearer, address not specified, in dainty old-fashioned script, giving sidelights on phases of Mr. Lincoln’s political campaign for the presidency. A 100 years and another presidential campaign give added interest to this old document.
The letter was once the property of the late Miss Gertrude Cole of Williamsport and she presented it to the DAR museum once maintained by the Bradford Chapter, DAR, in the basement of the Green Free Library in Canton.
When a demand was made many years ago for the use of the basement, the exhibits were returned to the donors or members of their families. Recently members of Miss Cole’s family discovered the letter while going through some old papers in a house here.
It is believed the recipient of the letter, Mrs. Shearer, may have lived in Williamsport and gave the letter to Miss Cole.
The letter follows:
My Dear Mrs. Shearer;
Your last kind letter was received a week or two since & if every moment of my time was not occupied, should have answered it sooner. You used to be worried that I took policies so coolly, you would not do so, were you to see me now. Whenever I have time to think my mind is sufficiently exercised for my comfort.
Fortunately, the time is rapidly drawing to a close, a little more than two weeks, will decide the contest. I scarcely know how I will bear up under defeat. I trust we will not have the trial. Penn. and Indiana have made us fair promises for Nov. & I trust other doubtless states will follow their footsteps. You must think of us on election day, our friends will feel quite as anxious for us, as we do for ourselves.
I called around to see Mrs. Minor a few days since. She was looking very well & enjoyed her trip east exceedingly. You must allow me to thank you for the beautiful collar you sent me, although I did not require any assurance of the kind to convince me of your kind recollections. I suppose Mrs. M. gave you a history of passing events in S since you left. I believe I have always known less than any one else of what is transpiring in our midst.
This summer, we have had immense crowds of strangers visiting us and have had no time to be occupied with home affairs. How much I wish I could see you & have some of our long talks together. If Mr. L is elected, I hope that time will come. I trust we may all meet at Phillipi. There was a Douglas meeting here a few days since, over which their chief presided. Mrs. McClemand, gave them a reception at which they expected hundreds, but they only numbered 30. This looks as if his greatness has passed away.
Our boys often wish they could see Ed and Minor. I have never
ceased to miss you all. This is a world of sad changes. I know
that I should not send you such a scrawl, but were you to see my pen, you
would wonder that I could write as well. Write soon. With kind
remembrances to all, I remain your affectionate friend,
There is no paragraphing in the entire original document and many words are underlined. The ink is brownish and faded in places.
A typed card attached to the letter reads, “Letter written by Mrs. Abraham Lincoln to her friend, Mrs. Shearer, Oct. 20, 1860.”
September 7, 1960
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