My father, Thomas Park, was the first permanent white inhabitant. He was born the year 1749, in Connecticut, but came to Wyoming [Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania, Luzerne County] previous to the Revolution.
In that struggle for freedom he was one of the first volunteers, and was with Gen. Sullivan in his raid against the Indians up the Susquehanna River.
In the early spring of 1781, my father was wounded by the Indians, in one of their raids upon the settlers of Wyoming. Four men had gone some distance from the fort (Forty Fort) to a sugar camp for the purpose of making sugar,
News came to the fort that many Indians were prowling the woods in war paint. Fears were entertained that the sugar makers were in peril and unless warned of their danger they might become an easy prey to the blood thirsty savages.
My father with three companions volunteered to go to their rescue. It was late when my father and comrades arrived at camp, a small clearing with a cabin enclosed by a brush fence at present occupied only by the sugar makers.
On their way hither they saw nothing to alarm their fears, and the boys in camp had not seen the least sign of danger; so they really felt safe during the night. The next morning was bright with sunshine; calm and clear, except for the early song birds, who seemed to be rejoicing at the display of so much radiance.
My father, while standing in the doorway of the cabin, listening to their merry notes, was so deeply impressed with the brightness and tranquility of the morning, that he remarked to his comrades, "That he would as soon think of meeting an Indian in the Kingdom of heaven, as to think of meeting one such a delightful morning, and amid such pleasant surroundings." He had not more than uttered the words before he fell pierced by a couple of bullets one taking effect in his shoulder and one in his thigh. The latter was never extracted and was a source of annoyance during the rest of his life.
One of the men, Samuel Ransom, was out gathering sap. Hearing the report of fire arms, he dropped his bucket and ran for the cabin, and just as he stepped upon the sill, he too was wounded, in one arm. He deliberately raised his gun with the unwounded arm, resting it against the door casing and fired at his assailant who was in the act of concealing himself behind the brush fence. My father was pulled into the house by his companions, and the door secured. One of the men, Jonah Rogers, took command of affairs. He assumed to have command of a much greater number of men than were present, calling loudly not only upon his comrades that were present, but upon the names of absent friends. He commanded that they all look to the condition of their muskets; that each one must be ready to make a savage bite the dust at the command fire.
These commands were loudly cheered and the response of "Aye, aye, sir" given with vigor. They had no means of ascertaining if their savage foes had left their concealment, being impressed with their seeming numbers or were still lying in ambush for an opportune moment to commence an attack.
They knew it was necessary to repair to the fort at the earliest possible moment, as their wounded needed medical aid. So, they resolved if they were not molested throughout the day that under cover of the night they would carry out their ruse of the morning. This program was successfully carried out by placing their wounded upon a couple of horses they fortunately had with them.
They then commenced their march through the woods in military order, at least as far as the vocabulary and much tramping were concerned. They thought as they could not get through the woods without making some noise perhaps their safety depended upon their making a great deal. They arrived at the fort in safety, with their wounded, where for weeks, my father’s life was despaired of. They learned afterward that a large band of Indians had struck my father's and Comrades’ trail and a part of fifteen braves were detached from the band to follow their trail for the purpose to either kill or capture them.
In the early summer of this year,1781, during his convalescence, my father married my mother Abigail Nesbit one of the early settlers of Wyoming.
In the contest for land titles, my father was most unfortunate, being a settler under the Connecticut title. He even suffered imprisonment for no other crime.
While thus confined his family suffered most inhuman treatment at the hands of the Pennamites. Neighbors who had formerly been on most friendly terms came and with taunts and jeers, told my mother she must leave or they would burn the house over her head. But she was no coward. She told them, "That if they wished her to leave, they must send someone clothed with authority to enforce their threats; she would not stand in awe of neighbors with whom she had always been friendly." But her words were unheeded. She was stripped of everything they could appropriate to their own use. Even a yoke of cattle my father had paid for with money received for services during the war, were butchered and distributed among the Pennamites, for which he never received a farthing recompense.
My mother has often asserted "That she suffered more, was more distressed during the Pennamite excitement than in all those previous years of the Revolution."
These persecutions were in fact some of the moving causes of my parents leaving Wyoming and coming into this, then wilderness. Even if they suffered privation they would have freedom, which would compensate for all the privations and hardships they would be called upon to endure.
When importuned to apply for a pension as other soldiers of the Revolution were doing, he would invariably reply, "We are in the enjoyment of all I ever fought for - the priceless boon of liberty - our country is free."
In his old age he was persuaded to apply for a pension as other soldiers which was granted him. After his death through the influence and insistence of brother James, my mother obtained a pension. The officials at Washington for several years had seemingly disregarded all written applications and communications in regard to a pension for my mother, as the widow of a war veteran.
So brother James determined to go to Washington and in person urge his mother's claim to recognition at the war department. For want of necessary funds, brother was obliged to walk the greater part of the distance to and from Washington, but this did not discourage htm. He arrived at Washington in due time, and with repeated disappointments and rebuffs, but with unremitting perseverance, he succeeded in getting an interview with the secretary of war to whom he presented his mother's claim for a pension, with so much earnestness and eloquence.
The secretary himself appointed an hour when he, the secretary, would accompany my brother to the department where the war records were kept, and he would institute immediate search; if the records substantiated my brother's statement, his mother should have a pension at the earliest possible moment.
To the relief and gratification of brother and all concerned, these promises were fulfilled to the letter.
In the year 1788, 82 years ago, my parents with their young children and my aged Grandfather Park, [Josiah Park] moved up the north branch of the Susquehanna River and settled upon its eastern banks in which is now the township of Litchfield.
At first he had to procure his supplies at or near Wilkes Barre, first earning the means wherewith to purchase them, either by the manufacture and sale of canoes from timbers that grew in abundance on the lands where he was located; or, perhaps a few weeks of labor in the settlements of Wyoming and Wilkes Barre, would give him sufficient means to make his purchases, which had to be carried in a canoe up the river a distance of over 100 miles.
When he had provided a sufficient amount in advance
of our wants, would then make improvements upon the homestead in clearing
and tilling the soil.
The first few years he made but slow progress toward a very thorough cultivation of his lands, as he had nothing but his two hands, his ax., spade,. and hoe to labor with. But he was not wanting in energy. Having cleared a piece of ground, he would prepare the same with spade and hoe, and plant it with corn and potatoes, and as the season advanced, would plant and sow in like manner any seed adapted to the season. He finally secured the use of a team (in exchange for his own labor) of a widow lady who lived only a few miles distance in the State of New York, until his prosperity admitted of his having a team of his own.
The first few years were a bitter struggle - we were often obliged to go without bread, dependent at times almost wholly upon fish and wild game and what could be gathered from the forest for sustenance - my mother frequently going five and six miles to gather cowslips and similar growths of vegetation for greens to help supply and sustain the family.
I think it was in the year 1790 or 1791, (what was called the "Starving Summer") that in consequence of a scarcity of provisions everywhere and my father being obliged to secure his crops before going to Wilkesbarre for provisions. we were obliged to live on green buckwheat, boiled with wild game, for a number of days. A little later, when rye had got far enough advanced to dry around the fireplace until it would shell, and we had pounded the same into a mortar to convert it into flour, and mother had moulded out a nice brown loaf and baked the same in a tin oven before the fireplace, we were indeed a most happy and grateful family. My parents' gratitude to the giver of every good and perfect gift was most sincere and heartfelt. They felt that the controller of the universe had signally smiled upon their efforts in thus sending so timely and bountiful a harvest.
To pound grain a mortar was a common method of converting grain into flour, as the nearest gristmill was at Wilkesbarre. I have often went to a Mr. Schoonover's with my brothers to get a half bushel of grain converted into flour or meal. For greater facility in its manufacture, a large oak stump had been hollowed out and scraped smooth and arranged with a large wood maul attached to a sweep, as people used to arrange their well for drawing up water.
My father, Thomas Park, died in the year 1819, aged 70 years, and was buried in the cemetery that his aged father had cleared, one of its boundaries being the state line.
My parents had ten children, but lost one in its infancy; the rest grew to man and womanhood. Their names were respectively: Daniel, Mary, Elizabeth, Susannah, Samuel, James, Thomas, Joseph, and Amos.
Daniel, the eldest, was born at Wyoming, in the year 1782; consequently, while yet in his infancy, he passed through many and varied dangers.
When but four days old, his parents, with other families, were obliged to go in canoes to the Fort, because of the near presence of marauding Indians, who were committing every conceivable depredation. While passing down the river, they saw the homes of neighbors in flames and Indiana hideous in war paint, loaded with plunder. Their ears were assailed with fearful yells - warwhoops, fiendish shouts of triumph - enough to chill the very blood in their veins! Fortunately, they were not discovered; the Indians seemingly were too interested in their plunder and vandalism to be very vigilant,. while the fleeing party were making every possible effort to conceal their movements from their savage foes. When my parents returned home they were both surprised and pleased to find that not a thing had been molested. The depredations committed by the Indians were confined to the opposite side of the river.
Daniel married Miss Patty Saunders of Ellistown, in the year 1806. He built a residence in Litchfield on a farm adjoining my father’s. They together built a sawmill, the first in the township; they had it arranged to grind grain on a small scale.
July 1, 1827, death entered my brother's household, and took from the family circle the beloved wife and loving mother, to her last earthly tenement, a grave in the Park cemetery.
In the summer of 1742, in the latter part of August, Daniel went down the Susquehanna river with lumber for the markets. He returned by the hold of brother James, who was then residing in Fairmount, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania. He told brother James that he had a presentiment that he had not long to live. He said he could not account for his feelings; he felt that he must not delay making preparations for his departure from this world.
Brother James told him that he was worn out with his trip, that he had become low spirited from sheer exhaustion; that when he reached home, he would then be able to take his natural rest; when he retained his physical strength, his presentiments would take flight. He bade this brother a most affecting and impressive farewell, reiterating his convictions that they would never meet again in this world. As soon as possible, after reaching home, he settled up all business matters making all possible arrangements for the future prosperity and happiness of his family. It did indeed seem as if his feelings were prophetic, for after a brief illness, he died, September 21, 1842, aged 60 years, and was laid to rest in the family sepulcher, the Park cemetery.
Mary Park, daughter of Thomas Park, was born 1784, and was married to John Moore in 1805. They settled in South Litchfield, now called South Hill. At this period there were no laid out roads, nothing but footpaths from one neighborhood to another, with here and there a piece of bark hewn from the trees along the path to mark the way so the observant traveler would not be in danger of becoming lost. While traversing these footpaths, the traveler would often be startled to see wild beasts crossing the path but a few rods in advance.
Mary died of dropsy in February1843, and our mother died in May of the same year. Both were buried in the Park cemetery.
Susannah and Elizabeth were born in Wyoming in the years 1786 and 1788, Susannah being but five weeks old when my father came to this locality. They married brothers - Elijah and John Wolcott. Elizabeth was married to Elijah Wolcott in the year 1802 at the residence of and by Esquire Wyncoop, up the Chemung river and in the State of New York.
At that early period, toil, hardship and privation were prevalent among all classes; nor did they cease to be. For many a year Elijah Wolcott, like many other men of that period, was compelled to labor away from home a great deal to provide his family with the necessities of life. He has done many a hard day's work in helping to clear the lands in the vicinity of Athens. It frequently happened that he stayed at his employer's of a night; thus leaving Elizabeth alone with the little children.
Susannah married John Wolcott in the year 1807. They moved to Ithaca, New York, where in the year 1808 Susannah died, leaving a young babe to her husbands care. She was buried near Ithaca. Her husband is still living and is upwards of 80 years old.
Samuel and James were born in the years 1791 and 1793, and as it happened, the last one mentioned was the first white child born in Litchfield. My father's house was build on the line between the states of New York and Pennsylvania, the States' line running directly through the middle of the house, so one room of the house was in one state and one room was in the other state. Brother Samuel was born In the New York state room., and brother James in the Pennsylvania state room; thus James was the first white child born in the township of Litchfield.
Samuel married Miss Margaret Wolcott, a sister of Elijah and John Wolcott and settled on a part of the old home place. In the year 1823, he died of lockjaw, leaving his widow with several children, and was buried in the family resting place.
James married first a Miss Margaret McKiney [McKinney]. A year after marriage Margaret died leaving to her husband's care, a son ten days old. In 1823, James married a second time, Miss Sybil Franklin, a niece of Col. John Franklin of Pennamite fame.
James bought lands in Fairmount township, Luzerne county and built them a home near a spur of the Allegheny mountains, at this time an almost unbroken wilderness. The reason of James settling thus far from his early home., was because his wife's parents were then living; they resided in Huntington, an adjoining township to Fairmount. They were aged people and their daughter wished to be as near them as possible during their declining years.
Brother James was, as a child, remarkable for his live of learning - books were the things most desired. Poor boy! His yearnings were crushed by poverty, grim and gaunt. The first book he ever possessed was a spelling book presented to him by my husband - presented to him late in the autumn, and before the ensuing spring there was not a word in it he could not spell, and all the reading it contained he had committed to memory. He never saw a grammar until his school days were over. Notwithstanding his very poor advantages, he acquired a good common education, sufficient to become a teacher; in fact, followed teaching as a vocation during the winter months for many years. He possessed quite a talent for rhyme-making. As songsters were scarce in those days., the young people depended upon brother for their songs - when one had become old and worn he would have another ready.
James died of dropsy, in Litchfield, in 1857 aged 64 years, and was buried in the Park cemetery.
Thomas and Joseph were born in Litchfield, in the years 1795 and 1797. Thomas married Miss Margaret Park, his brother Samuel’s widow. He settled on the old homestead. Thomas died in the spring of 1861, aged 66 years.
Joseph married Miss Mary Steward, and settled in South Litchfield, or South Hill. Joseph died in the winter of 1862, aged 65 years, and was buried in a family burying ground on his own farm.
Amos was born in Litchfield in the year 1805. While Amos was yet an infant, it was decided by his parents that if he lived to manhood, they would educate him for a physician. He was named for and by Dr. Amos Prentis, the Doctor telling his parents that if they would give their boy a fair education he would learn him his own profession when he became of suitable age. But the Doctor died before that time arrived, so Amos studied with Dr. Kiff, of Athens and Dr. Jackson of Almira. He married a Miss Griffin, of Sheshequin. He located in Sheshequin, where he practiced his profession long enough to establish his reputation as a first-class physician. He died in the year 1835 or 1836, and was buried in the Sheshequin cemetery.
The first church organization in the township of Litchfield must have been at a very early period. I am unable to give the date. There used to be meetings quite frequently at my father’s house - the Methodists, Baptists,.and Universalists, preaching; and Noah Murry and Moses Park., of the Universalist persuasion.
The first schoolhouse was built in the year 1814.
The first school was taught by Thomas Park in his own dwelling,
First marriage, Cornelius Nephus and Sally Park.
First death, child of above couple.
First public house, a hotel, by Reuben Park, son of Daniel Park.
Thomas Park came to his locality with his family very soon after the Revolutionary War. His father, of more than four score years, came with him, to Wyoming, and lived with him until his death.
The above was written by Mrs. Elizabeth Wolcott., daughter of Thomas Park. She was a widow, aged 84 years, the13th of November, 1870, at the time of writing. This article was published in the Athens Gleaner, Athens, Penn, 1870. It was later included in the book "Facts and Fancies" a Collection of Articles compiled from the writings of Mrs. C. E Munn and others by Mrs. C.E. Munn, niece of Elizabeth Wolcott.
The following information is added by Lee Kinnan Fazzari (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Here are further details about the Park family in this article as compiled from several sources by my grandfather, Joseph Park, great-grandson of James Nesbit Park and Margaret McKinney. Those marked ## are buried in the Park or State Line Cemetery in Litchfield Township.
Josiah Park (1713 - 1795) ## (his gravestone, in the center of the cemetery is marked "Founder of the Park Cemetery")
m. Sarah Benjamin 1707 - ?)
Thomas Park (8 Dec 1745 - 1 Feb 1819) ##
m (2) - 1782 - Abigail Nesbit (6 Jun 1760 - 12 May 1843) ##
m (2) - Nancy Ellis
m (2) Sybil Franklin
m (3) Julia Bronson (? - 2 Jan 188?) ##
(she is buried between the brothers she married)