Tri-Counties Genealogy &
History by Joyce M. Tice
Historic Businesses of the
1893 Scandal at Sylvania
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Preface by Joyce M. Tice - I am including this crime article in
the business section because it has some interesting and long lasting connections.
The building that Mr. Cole alias Porter and Ms. Coan alias Porter built
as a store in Sylvania, became the Waldo Store, the Waldo and Soper Store
and the Waldo and Mosher, Waldo and Soper , Soper and Mosher undertaking
businesses. It also became the Post Office and the letters indicating that
are still on it. The present post office is across the street. In more
recent times the building has been used as an antique shop. It still stands.
Its origins will be a surprise to those who are familiar with it and who
think they know the history of one of Sylvania's best known landmarks.
Joyce's Search Tip - November 2008
||Do You Know that you can search just the
articles on the site by using the Articles button in the Partitioned search engine at
the bottom of the Current What's New
ELMIRA TELEGRAM, SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 1893.
MR. AND MRS. PORTER.
A MYSTERIOUS COUPLE A DETECTIVE WOULD LIKE TO INTERVIEW.
THEY LIVED AT SYLVANIA, PA.
And Were Looked Upon as Good, Pious People Until Mysterious Actions
Cast Suspicion Upon the Husband - Revelations Then Came Which Caused A
great Sensation in That Portion of Bradford County – The Story in Detail.
[Staff Correspondence of the Telegram.]
Sylvania, Pa., Feb. 4. – This little borough lies a few miles from Troy,
and its inhabitants are, as a rule, hospitable, fairly well-to-do people,
who have had little of sensation to stir up their common, every-day life
until the recent developments in the life of a man who made his home here
for several years and lately left under a cloud, which grew larger and
larger as the inhabitants became aware of their once respected citizen’s
doings here and elsewhere. Last Sunday the TELEGRAM made mention that there
was somewhat of a sensation here, but failed to disclose names. The facts
in the case, as gleaned by one "one the spot," will make decidedly interesting
reading, not only here, but in all portions of the country where the TELEGRAM
circulates. The story contains matter enough to write a book from, or would
furnish the material for a drama. It was a stormy, blustering day in 1883,
when a man calling himself Jasper B. Porter blew into Sylvania, accompanied
by a pretty young wife. He claimed to be a relative of Judge Porter, who
was connected with the celebrated Beecher trial.
WAS A MAN OF EXCELLENT APPEARANCE, and the way he flashed $500 and $1000
bills around was a caution to the natives. He and his pretty wife boarded
with Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Waldo for a time, and conducted themselves in such
a way that they were rather looked up to as a little better than the common
people. Porter gave out the he was from Washington, D. C., where he had
accumulated a fortune, and that he had come to Sylvania with a view of
retiring from active business pursuits on account of ill health. He finally
concluded that retirement was not in his line, and later engaged in the
drug business with Dr. Case, now a resident of Elmira, and a highly respected
This partnership continued about a year, when Porter built a fine store
and established himself in the general merchandise business. C. E. Waldo
now owns that store, being obliged to take it in order to save $500, which
he had kindly loaned Porter when he was in trouble, as will be related
later. Porter then erected a very fine residence, as country residences
go, and he and his attractive wife flew high and gained the confidence
of the people. Porter was elected burgess, the highest office in the gift
of the voters of the borough, and served in that capacity for four terms.
When the new house was built, into it was moved a good outfit of furniture
and a wagon load of trunks containing silverware, fine wearing apparel,
etc. The house and contents were insured for $4,500, which is considered
a pretty figure by those who know something about what the house cost and
what was supposed to have been in it when it burned.
A FEW YEARS AFTER the house was built Porter went away one night and
was met by a man from Sylvania, near Canton, with a load of trunks, which
he said he was taking to Canton for a drummer. During his absence the pretty
house burned, and none of the silverware was ever found in the ruins. The
incident of the trunks set people to thinking, as did the fact that Porter
frequently received boxes of goods sent in the name of other people in
Sylvania and opened them in the presence of the men in whose name they
were shipped. In those boxes would come bottles of the finest liquors,
shoes, gloves and horseblankets. In every box thus received would be money;
sometimes wrapped in a horseblanket; again it would be found tucked in
the toe of shoe or in the finger of a glove and other outlandish hiding
places. Porter, however, evidently understood his business, for he never
failed to unearth the hidden treasure. The mysterious actions of the part
of Porter caused many people to lose confidence in him; but his professed
piousness left him many friends who were loth to believe any wrong of him.
However, these same persons have now come to the conclusion that he was
a "fence" or receiver of stolen goods and be glad that the community is
well rid of him. One evening a man, whom it has since been learned was
a detective from Scranton, Pa., came to Sylvania and remained all night
with Mr. Porter, and the following day, after borrowing $500 from C. E.
Waldo, which he stated he wanted for the purpose of paying a note.
HE HAD SIGNED WITH A MAN, Porter left with his "guest" from Scranton.
He took, in addition to the $500, about as much more of his own money,
and came home strapped. He repeated the plausible story of the note affair,
and the matter was finally partially forgotten. A short time after Mr.
Waldo purchased Porter’s store, he began to miss money from his cash drawer,
and decided to watch for the thief. He did so and caught Porter tapping
the till. The latter was taken before a justice of the peace and made a
written confession of the robbery and repaid a portion of the money. Mr.
Waldo has the confession in lieu of the balance. Soon after this Porter
and his wife left the place, taking a circuitous route to get out to avoid
being seen by people they knew. And now came further developments. A detective
named Williams, of Scranton, came to Sylvania, the other day, looking for
Mr. Porter and his wife. In his inside pocket the detective carried a package
of sweet scented letters which had been written by Mrs. Porter to a merchant
in Nanticoke, Pa. By means of these letters and with the connivance of
her alleged husband, "General Stella," as she called herself, had succeeded
in pulling the old merchant’s leg for a goodly supply of long green. The
merchant was interested in Spiritualism and she had him on the string by
leading him to believe she had the spirits locating a gold mine in California
in which the merchant was to have a controlling interest. The detective
divulged, also, the fact that Porter has a wife living in the coal regions,
whom he deserted a long time ago, and that when he went to pay "that note"
he went under arrest for nonsupport, and that is what caused him to drop
his bundle on that trip. The detective said that after his return to Sylvania,
Porter often sent his first
AND LEGAL WIFE boxes of provisions and dry goods, which Mr. Waldo now
believes were stolen from his store, as Porter only gave up one key to
the front door of the store when Waldo purchased it from him, claiming
to have lost the other. The letters Mrs. Porter, who by the way, was Miss
Stella Coan, of Bloomville, Delaware County, N. Y., wrote to the Nanticoke
merchant, besides containing lots of information regarding the conduct
of the "spirits" were couched in the most endearing terms of the "dear
George" order. Porter, while in South America, had a letter written by
a hotel clerk to his first wife notifying her that he was dead but the
game evidently did not work. A Sylvania man met Porter and "General Stella"
in Jersey City soon after they left Pennsylvania, but they were not at
that time in a mood for recognizing friends from this section of the country.
The revelations in the double life led by this couple have caused no end
of talk, and much surprise, especially as to the part taken by Mrs. Porter
in her spiritualist séances. She was looked up to as a model of
propriety, but the idol is now fallen and shattered, and there are many
here who can now see where many mysterious actions in the past might have
been used as a pointer toward turning on the search-light earlier in the
game. In the latest history of Bradford county the information I given
that Jasper B. Porter was born in Rising Sun, Cecil county, Md., June 20,
1849, and that on account of ill health he had traveled extensively. The
history doesn’t go into the details of his past as is usually the case
in biographical sketches in these histories. His real name is said to be
Joshua Cole. Where he and his pretty, accomplished and scheming companion
now are is what is bothering the detectives, who could use them both to
good advantage so far as law and order are concerned. Detective Williams
left Sylvania to go to New Jersey to see if he can find them.
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Published On Tri-Counties Site On 14 FEB 2004
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice
You are the
visitor since the counter was installed on 14 FEB 2004