|Mansfield PA and Richmond Township in Tioga County PA|
Gitchell House on S. Main built 1841
by Chester P. Bailey
Mansfield is in Tioga County, which was formed from Lycoming Township. Tioga County was a part of the last frontier in Pennsylvania. The area was not ceded by the Indians until the Treaty of Stanwix in 1774. The first white man came to Lawrenceville area in 1790.
It was not until Captain Williams built a road from Lycoming Creek north of Williamsport to New York State, that settlers began to come to Tioga County. The road today, which originally followed the Indian trail to the Genesee Valley, is called the Williamson Road. By the year 2002, RT. 15 will be a four-lane Interstate highway.
The first settler to the Mansfield area was Benjamin Corey, who settled on Corey Creek and built a bark cabin in 1790. The stream bears his name today.
Asa Mann came in 1804 and settled about three miles north of the present borough limits. He purchased 200 acres of land, which included most of the present boro and cleared 25 acres, which include the green at Main and Wellsboro Streets. This became a gathering place by the early settlers called "Mann’s field". Asa Mann was the first land developer, he laid out lots, built a hotel, had a store, a sawmill and owned a distillery. He served one year as County Commissioner; he also served as the first PostMaster.
The first brick house in Mansfield was built by Ben Gitchell in 1841 on south Main street and is still in use. Also the oldest home in Mansfield built by Daniel Holden in 1824, who opened a store nearby, is still in use.
The Borough was incorporated in 1857, the same year that the Mansfield Classical Seminary was built. It is today the Mansfield University. The oldest remaining building on Campus, North Hall built as a Woman’s dormitory was renovated into a first class, state of the arts, library in 1998.
Industries through the years have served the local needs, as the first saw mill in 1804. At one time Mansfield had two gristmills. The last survivor was taken down to make room for the shopping plaza in north Main Street. Other industries included a tannery, brick were made from local clay soil, Iron works, woolen mill, and a Novelty manufacture made tops that were shipped to Japan.
The Blossburg to Corning railroad was built through Mansfield in 1840. The line was closed in 1972 following a disastrous flood, and the fact that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was building a flood control dam on the Tioga River.
Today Agriculture and dairy farming is the largest industry with Tourism a close second.
Early Struggles of the Founders of Mansfield - Discouraging Efforts to Establish a Seminary
The cutting of the Williamson road through the pathless wilderness was a great undertaking, begun in May, 1792, and finally completed in the summer of 1796. It was also a great success, and a great factor in the development of Tioga county, opening a country before almost unknown. In a brief time many emigrants were on the way. Gad Lamb reached the creek which now bears his name July 4, 1797, and located permanently on a place recent abandoned by one Carter. When Mansfield’s pioneer, Benjamin Corey , who with his wife and children spent the summer of 1797 in a bark hut, was ready to build a log cabin in the fall, the Lambs assisted him in its erection. It stood near the present railroad bridge at the mouth of the creek which perpetuates the Corey name. There were then but ten log cabins in Tioga county. Discourage by the loss of his wife Corey soon abandoned his home in the wilderness, and the house was only temporarily used by a surveyor or two till the Kelts family, from the Mohawk Valley, N.Y., put in an appearance in 1804, and occupied the Corey place.
In 1803 Elihu Marvin built a saw-mill one mile south of the “Hotel French” of our day, on or near the site of the Bixby saw and Plaster Mills of later date. In 1805 he hauled a hand grist-mill, capable of grinding five or six bushels per day on an ox sled from Beecher’s Island, [Nelson] where the county’s first grist mill had been built. Mr. Marvin placed this primitive mill under his saw mill and commenced getting out a frame for a better mill, but death stepped in and ended his labors. Such were the humble beginnings of our first industrial enterprises.
Ebenezer Burley in 1808 built a log house east of the Williamson Road, on Corey creek. This noted road it may be well to state forms Mansfield’s Main street.
In 1810 Peter Kelts built the first frame building; a large, plain, but substantial house, near Asa Cleveland’s place west of the railroad. In the meantime John Kelts had married Abigail Button, and built a house on a knoll southwest of our Hope cemetery.
In 1815 Alpheus Button erected a large and somewhat pretentious dwelling between the present Capell residence and the entrance to Smythe Park. It was long called the Parkhurst house, from having been the home of Dr. Dexter Parkhurst, after that the Smythe house, as it was the home of Dr. H.G. Smythe the famous and talented Canadian physician, for whom our park is named.
In 1819 Daniel Holden came from Albany, N.Y., and located at Canoe Camp. The next year he wisely moved two mile farther north, and began selling goods in a humble way, thus earning the title of Mansfield’s pioneer merchant. In 1824 he erected the commodious house now occupied by P.V. VanNess and son, the oldest house remaining in Mansfield borough. Two years later Mr. Holden built a store opposite his house, the first store building in Mansfield. Almon Allen and Solon Richards erected a woolen mill, and a house or two, near the site of our graded school building the same year the Holden house was built. Chandler Mann, father of our townsmen, Benjamin and Asa, built a tannery on the west side of Main street, near Corey creek, the same year. Hezekiah Gaylord who had located at Kelleytown also removed here that year and built his house near where Chas. S. Strait now lives. In 1827 Barret Clark built a large house on the corner now occupied by the Pitts block, and Asa Mann, the land owner, lived there, coming from the large house on what is now the R.W. Rose farm. Where he had settles in 1804, where he kept a hotel and sold goods in a log house, till the present house was constructed.
In 1828 Captain Samuel Hunt, of Madison county, N.Y., bought the Barret house, and opened a hotel which became widely known. Asa Mann, who had purchased a large tract and cleared the land, which is now the business center of our village in 1824, thereby handed down his name and fame, because the name of his clearing, “Mann’s field” clung to the beautiful village which grew thereon. And so he “builded better than he knew” as he felled the forest giants, and opened up a way for homes, schools and churches, in the loveliest niche in all the Valley of the Tioga.
Oliver Whittaker came in 1831 and lived in the pretty house where the Allen block now stands, afterward for six years the home of Joseph P. Morris, and long owned by him and occupied by many of our best families at various times.
Miss Barrissa [Byrissa] Butts still lives on the place where she came with her parents in 1833. Rodney C. Shaw’s children occupy the house their father built in 1835.
The Carmer house, built about the same time, was but recently removed to make room for Mrs. Ellen B. Williams’s residence.
Apollos Pitts, who came from Sullivan in 1837, kept store in the building now occupied by Allen Hose Co. S.F. Utter and Philip Williams, blacksmiths, and Abram Stuart and R.P. Buttles, wagon makers, came about that time.
Capt. Ezra Davis came from Vermont in 1838, and built the tannery so long operated by himself and sons, now by C.S. Kingsley, and ever a money making industry. He also built the Jno. C. Howe house, where his neighbor on the North was the Hon. D.L. Sherwood, who came from N.Y. State a year or two later. B.M. Bailey, prominent as a merchant, came here in 1840. Dr. F.G. Elliott’s barn was once his store, the Ross Cigar Factory his second one. His home lot is now occupied by the Blackwell houses. Aaron Baldwin, the Blacksmith located on Main street.
The next decade brought many men who became prominent and useful citizens, doing much for Mansfield.
Dr. Joseph P. Morris who had purchased the Asa Mann property - 1100 acres, laid out the town plat. It is pleasant to record that to the end of a long life he always had a lot to give to a worthy cause and a competency to leave his children. Oliver H. Phelps built a hotel near the Corey creek bridge, and conducted it many years, besides being Postmaster under Buchanan. Amos Bixby, Edward Faulkner, John M. Cassells, Joseph S. Hoard, and Lyman Beach, Jr., all stirring business men, in the prime of life, came from Madison county, N.Y., in 1844-5, and all were at some time engaged in mercantile business. Geo. W. King, a crippled soldier of the war of 1812, and his son, Mart, came in 1845. L.H. Elliott and his sons, the promising young physician, “Dr. C.V.,” and Simon B., now the [unreadable], came in 47-48, and Henry [unreadable] harness maker, Dr. Wm. M. Barden, the first homeopathic physician, L. Cummings, the builder, Edward and A.J. Ross, and others whose names are recorded in history. In 1849 and 1850 the M.E. and Baptist churches, organized several years previous, erected buildings. The school house, now occupied by Amos Wilson as a dwelling, and fronting the north building of the S.N.S., had long been known as second to none in the county. Lumbering had held first place as a business; thousands of tons of iron ore had been shipped away, the railroad having been built in 1840 from Corning to Blossburg; and canal boats and fanning mills had been built here to extend Mansfield’s fame. Now a blast furnace was contemplated and a school of higher grade than the two academies, located respectively at Wellsboro and near Knoxville, was suggested.
Both of these were ambitious projects for a small village, with little capital. The first proved a dismal failure financially, nearly ruining every man engaged in it. It was built by Charles F. Swan for a stock company, and manufactured pig iron more or less for fifteen years, generally at a loss to the operators.
The second project, fathered by J.S. Hoard and the Rev. H.N. Seaver, and pushed on by all the public spirited citizens, and by the bright boys and girls whose school days promised to end all too soon, came to its decisive hour July 26th, 1854, when a public meeting was held in the M.E. Church and a committee appointed to receive subscriptions. August 8th, the subscriptions having reached $5.000, a committee was appointed to present the scheme to the M.E. Conference and ask its assistance in making this school similar to the famous seminary at Lime, N.Y. November 28th a committee was named to procure a charter, and another a building plan. It was then decided to expend $12,000 in a building, Dr. Morris having generously donated six acres on the hillside as a site. The first meeting of the Board of Trustees, Feb. 15, 1856, adopted a plan providing for a brick structure four stories high, one hundred feet front, with two wings each running back seventy-eight feet. J.S. Hoard, D.L. Sherwood and Amos Bixby were made Building Committee, with compensation $1.25 a day for time actually employed. In April the trustees chose the faculty, hoping to see the school open in September.
January 7, 1857, was the real date, 105 the number of students, building lacking in many little details, but very grand in the eyes of the Mansfield people. It had cost, with furnishings, $20,000, and debts hung over it to the amount of $6,000.
School moved on pleasantly, successfully, satisfactorily. After a week’s vacation the spring term opened April 16, 1857, with 150 students and everything complete. Happy were the faces, bright the sunshine. Youth and Hope made light of debt and obligation.
Six days later, in broad daylight, with a foot of snow on the ground, the building burned. No loss of life, much furniture and many doors saved - some of the latter still in use in the south building of the Normal group. There was an insurance of $12,000. To quote, condensing, from Hon. S.B. Elliott: “The grandest panegyric on the action of the friends, and promoters of the enterprise, is the statement that they met that night, resolved to rebuild, and subscribed $4,000. The work of rebuilding was at once begun. Plans were adopted, contracts made, and by Sept. 1st a great portion of the first story of the present south building erected, when in consequence of the great financial panic and the loss of one-half of the insurance, the trustees were unable to make payments and the work ceased. Here begun the long, gloomy night in the history of the institution.” Every Normal officer and student should read Mr. Elliott’s address, delivered at the school in February, 1890. It gives in brief, the life and history of the school and shows the struggles of the founders.
Since it became a state institution its trials have not been so many, and its history is pleasant reading. W.D. Taylor, the first principal under the new regime, held the position at a very trying time, when the Nation was in the throes of civil car -- and when Prof. F.A. Allen took the helm in 1864, the end was not yet. He toiled with HANDS as well as hear and heart, to advance the interests of the institution, and the writer well remembers his physical weariness the evenings of those summer days, when striving to grade the grounds.
It is pleasant to know that the high character of the present instructors promises well for the future.
The last decade has witnessed many changes and improvements in school and town. Water supplies in all the school buildings; electric lighting; elegant art and music rooms; and dormitories and dining hall unrivaled by other Normal schools, have been added and extensive alterations and improvements begun. Mansfield welcomes the advent of Commencement and the return of the alumni, men and women filling honorable positions in life, whose names are household words.
As year by year adds to the beauty and advantages of Mansfield it appeals more and more to the best class of citizens such as are constantly locating here.
Several prosperous industries have been added in the last decade, and
still there is room. So Mansfield extends its welcome to the hospitalities
of its school, its homes, its lovely Park, and its various churches and
societies, both to visitors and home seekers, anxious to promote the good
of all, and honor the memories of those who labored and “we who entered
into their labors.”
|“THE FUTURE OF MANSFIELD” IS DR. BELKNAP’S TOPIC
News clippiong in 1930s scrapbook given to me by Chester P. Bailey
Nearly thirty were present at the Business Men’s Luncheon at the Home Tea Shop Tuesday noon of this week. The usual delightful dinner appeased the pangs of physical hunger, after which Dr. Arthur T. Belknap, of the college faculty, chased away the tortures of mental hunger with a very fine address on “The Future of Mansfield.”
Postcard 1930s from Joyce's Collection
“In speaking to the business men on this topic I feel that I can do so from a detached point of view. I had never even heard of such a town ad Mansfield, Pa., until fifteen years ago. Then, too, I am not in business, never have bee in business, and never really want to be in business.
What is a community? There are several definitions we might give. In a community we have social, religious, educational and business groups. There are some communities where one or more of these have been done away with to a great extent. Yet in all communities the people are dominated in their aims by one group or another. Different notions are bound to prevail.
“Business conditions have changed tremendously within the last few years. Now we have the telephone, parcel post and free mail delivery, the chain store, the mail order house, the automobile, just to name a few things that have each contributed greatly to changing business conditions.
“The terms of community life in Mansfield is our view point. Take the religious life. There are four self-supporting churches here when one would be enough. If we do not need so many churches then why do we need so many business places here?
“This has been a school town for a long time. We are hearing lots about county school systems at present, one school board for the entire county. I do not believe that conditions will measurably improve by such consolidations. Local school systems have a greater capacity as a whole than the county unit.
“We used to have a private normal school here. Years ago state aid was decided upon. It was a great decision when we stop to think of the dollars the State has spent here since. I do not believe that a capable man with a million dollar endowment could almost have done the job as fine as it is today. In too many cases the head of such an institution had to be a man that could get along well with a lot of messing trustees. At Mansfield that has not been so. It seems to have been the rule that always a competent head was chosen and then hands off by the trustees.
“The foundation of our prosperity here has been agriculture. I have often said that the way to put the farmer on his feet is by finding a way to make a Ford eat hay. Hay and milk are the two great local agricultural commodities.
“ A promotional industry does not get far in Mansfield. But I believe an industry would go far that grows from natural local conditions. I once lived near a lady in a small community. One day she knitted an article and gave it to a friend and neighbor. Other ladies saw the knitted article and asked the lady to make them some. Soon she found it necessary to hire someone to help her knit. After a bit she hired all of her knitting done and simply did the overseeing. It grew into a mighty industry from natural conditions.
“Not far from there lived a man on a fine farm; that is, what you could see it was fine. Most of it was under water. He seemed to know that fish live and grow in water. He started raising gold and silver fish and the like. In time he shipped them by the carload.
“The thing we need is more fundamental industries that will use our raw materials and local labor. We have depended upon uncertain things long enough. Such things as state roads, public relief, tourist trade, etc.,”
Dr. P.H. Riegel was the guest of the Rev. D.W. Baylis, who acted as chaplain for the day.
Mr. Peterson reported that the railroad bridge is to be repaired soon. It will be twenty-four feet wide and about the same height as at present, but much easier to negotiate.
Mr. W. Albert Bates gave the report and recommendations of the Steering Committee. The following slate of officers were unanimously elected for the new year:
President-Herbert G. Peterson
Vice-President- Harry A. Taylor
Secretary-W. Albert Bates
Treasurer- Percy A. Coles
Trustees-Peter L. Abrams, Geo. L. Palmer, Charles W. Ross, Fred Jupenlaz
Pianist- James W. Preston
Song Leader- George Palmer, Jr.
Following the election Mr. Peterson was installed during a very impressive ceremony. Mr. Bates was the installing officer.
The meeting next week will be held at The Home Tea Shop.
Wellsboro Gazette, 22 August 2001, p18
Asa Mann and his ties to Mansfield
By Chester Bailey
Andrew Sherwood in writing the history of Richmond Township and Mansfield
published in 1883 said, “Asa Mann, the subject of this sketch, will rank
among the most important personages we will be call up to treat.
As an historical figure, Asa Mann stands out conspicuously. We find no other name so intimately blended with all the early traditions of the town.”
Charles Redfield, in an article in the Mansfield Advertiser, Dec. 28, 1927, said, “He was a greater man in his time than many7 today who have monuments erected in their honor.”
Asa Mann was born in Rhode Island in the year 1782, and came to Richmond Township in 1804, locating about a mile north of the present borough line.
He built a large log cabin and kept a hotel and a small stock of merchandise, being the first regular hotel and store in the territory. His building was on the east side of Williamson Road.
Asa was not the first of his family to come to this area. In 1803 Samuel Reynolds came to Sullivan Township with his wife Anna.
Anna was the sister of Asa Mann and had married Reynolds in Rhode Island. They were among the first settlers to come to the section on Old State Road. The Reynolds raised 10 children.
The first assessment of Tioga County made under the authority of Lycoming County, to which Tioga County was attached, for 1811:
Asa Mann – 225 acres – 2 cows – 2 horses, valuation $306, tax $0.80.
He owned 100 acres, valued at $102, tax $0.51 in Delmar Township.
At a later date he owned property in Sullivan Township.
An academy was established in Wellsboro in 1817. Among the gentlemen named from different parts of the county as trustees was Asa Mann, who was named on March 15, 1817, representing Richmond Township.
In 1817, Asa Mann owned property in Sullivan Township. He was among the landowners to petition the court to make Sullivan a township, taking it from the area which included Ward, Union and Rutland. However, action was not taken until 1819.
In 1818 Asa Mann built a fine house, which until 1973 was still standing.
In its time, as late as 1830, his house was considered the finest in Tioga Valley.
It was last owned by Norris Cruttenden and was removed to make room for the U.S. 15 by-pass of Mansfield.
The first graveyard was located in front of the house, across the road but nearer the river.
Mrs. Jones, Mr. Mann’s mother-in-law, who was nearly 100 years old at the time of her death, was buried there.
Also a Mr. Burley, Philena Clark, and Mrs. Clarissa Lamb, wife of Daniel Lamb, and doubtless others. Every trace of this cemetery disappeared years ago.
The same year, 1818, he was elected county commissioner. He was sufficiently well known in the county and had made use of the court on several occasions.
A libel matter was filed by Asa and Phebe, his wife, versus Ebenezer Burley and Eunice, his wife, for slander against Mrs. Mann.
The trial judge was John Bannister, who afterwards for nearly 25 years was Chief Justice of Pennsylvania.
The Jury decided it was slander. The case was tried in 1814. In 1821 there was a case filed between Asa Mann vs. Peter Kelts. Judgment of $117.11 was received by Mann.
In 1824, Asa Mann purchased 200 acres from John and Peter Kelts. This acreage included all the territory now occupied by the business section of Mansfield. Within the year he cleared thirty acres.
This field, which had no house, was soon known at Mann’s Field and became a gathering place for the settlers from far and wide.
The second son of Anna Reynolds, Thomas, came to Mansfield to help his uncle, Asa Mann, to clear the lot of great pine trees. He was then 18 years old.
There were great pine trees where the first bank building was built at the southeast corner of Main and Wellsboro streets. Mr. Mann laid out the land into town lots.
Daniel Holden came to the area in 1819 and purchased land from Asa Mann. In 1824 he built the fine house on south Main Street that is now the oldest house still in use in Mansfield. [Presently owned by Martha Donahue].
Being a landowner in Sullivan became an embarrassing situation for Asa Mann when on Jan. 12, 1830, a special election was held to elect a state senator.
A former commissioner, Uriah Spencer, was one of the candidates and Asa Mann was one of his conferees.
Asa convinced the clerk in Sullivan Township that as property owner he had the right to vote. He then, later in the day, voted in Richmond. His candidate lost.
A constable bond was signed by Asa Mann, Feb. 25, 1836, for $1,000 to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
In 1831 Asa Mann built a saw mill a little north of his house, on the other side of the river. Much valuable lumber was manufactured at this mill. He owned much timberland, and was extensively engaged in the manufacturing and transportation of timber, lumber and shingles.
[to be continued]
Editor’s Note: Chester Bailey is a Mansfield area historian who is currently working on a biography of Asa Mann and his brother Chandler Mann, believed to be among the first settlers of Mansfield, and for whom Mansfield is named.
Wellsboro Gazette, 29 August 2001
More about Asa Mann and his ties to Mansfield borough
By Chester Bailey
The first canal boat was built in 1833-34 by Asa Mann upon his farm. The boat was launched, floated down the Tioga River to Corning, and sold. The person who constructed the boat for Mr. Mann was a carpenter named Stone, who seemed to be an expert in this kind of architecture.
The building of canal boats for use on New York canals and arks and rafts for the transportation of lumber and shingles, etc., down the Tioga and so on to tidewater by way of the Chemung and Susquehanna rivers, became an important industry in Mansfield.
A boat yard was established on the bank of the river north of the river bridge. Boat building was carried on by others for several years.
Asa Mann had a distillery on Elmira Street between Academy and Extension streets in 1822-1825. Asa built a saw mill near the lower corner of “the Island” [Symthe Park] west of the present High School, in company with a Mr. Holland in 1835.
The Baptists were using the house, which was the school building at that time for church services.
It was near the entrance to the Island on Wellsboro Street. Some one remarked that Asa Mann was not sawing on Sunday but some body was sharpening saws.
Asa Mann was Mansfield’s first postmaster when the post office was moved from Canoe Camp to Mann'’ Field. He served for over ten years, from March 6, 1828 to Jan. 27, 1839.
Mr. Mann built a large building on the southwest corner of Main and Wellsboro streets. It was used as a hotel. He sold it to Col. Sam Hung. It burned in 1849 when Aaron Ingalls was landlord. [It is the present site of Coles Drug Store.]
In 1832 Asa Mann and his son William B. Mann, built a store on the corner of N. Main and Center streets. This building burned in 1882 when fire took out the wooden buildings from Center Street south for some distance on the West Side of Main Street. The Mann’s operated the store until 1839.
In 1835 Asa left his farm and moved into the village in a house erected by Oliver Whittaker, which stood where the Allen Block now stands. On the north east corner of N. Main and Wellsboro streets.
Asa deeded a strip of right-of-way 100 feet wide to the new railroad enterprise. This became the location for the station, freight house, stock yard and switch tracks. Prior to this a serious attempt was made to use the Tioga River as a canal. At least four barges were built in Mansfield, loaded with coal delivered from Blossburg and floated to Corning.
Asa Mann sold his house north of the village and land to James R. Wilson, who later became the president of the Corning-Blossburg railroad.
Miss Phebe Jones of Rutland, Vermont, and Asa Mann were married in 1800. They raised eleven children: William B., Juliette, Jasper, Laura Maria, Roxanna, Mary Ann, Phebe, Christiana, Phebe-Adaline, and two who died in infancy.
A year after his wife and two sons dies, Asa Mann moved with the rest
of his family to Peru [Illinois], where he died on July 8, 1843, aged 61