The old red brick building in "Court House Square" stands firm, a monument to 85 years of changing lifestyles and events in the Troy area. If it could talk, it would tell you of legal disputes settled by even-handed Justice, Red Cross ladies working for the soldiers of two wars, school entertainments and commencements, basketball games and other sports events, dances, traveling road shows, local Little Theatre performances, civic organization meetings, library readers in search of knowledge and pleasure, turn-of-the-century banking and insurance activities, and residents meeting in the post office, all within its walls.
It has "opened" three times. Born in controversy and legal need, it opened as a Court House in 1894. It opened again in 1917 as the Van Dyne Civic Building. Now, in 1980, it is opening again as the Troy office of Citizens & Northern Bank after a complete exterior restoration and landscaping and interior remodeling.
In 1974 it became a National Historic Landmark and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the first building in Bradford County to be so honored.
The story of the reasons for holding Court in Troy goes back to the 1860’s and even earlier.
As far back as 1847 there was wide-spread dissatisfaction with the manner in which the business of the county was administered. There were periodic attempts to create a new county out of portions of Bradford and others. There were some legitimate reasons. Bradford County is enormous, third largest in the state. Transportation in the early days was poor and time-consuming. There were few roads, none paved, which were badly drifted in winter and mud sloughs or dust bowls at other times.
But most of the new county advocates were self-seeking, seeking to line their own pockets for a variety of reasons. Peter Herdic, the "King" of Williamsport and later Mayor, sometimes called "King Peter," was the worst offender. Herdic was a 19th century entrepreneur with vast lumber and other interests besides his thriving resort hotel at Minnequa Springs just outside Canton. The Herdic Coach, which he invented and manufactured in Alba, south of Troy, became a popular horse-drawn bus that was sent out by hotels in Troy and elsewhere to meet each train.
Herdic’s pet plan, presented and defeated several times, was to create a new county using the southwestern section of Bradford and parts of Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga. The county seat would, of course, be at Minnequa.
According to state law a new county must contain at least 400 square miles, but could not take away more than one-tenth of the population of any existing county without the consent of the people of that county. At least one new county proposal had been defeated by only one vote. At least one suggested Troy as the county seat. Herdic left Troy out of his proposed county.
By the late 1860’s it began to look as if Herdic’s clout in Harrisburg might ensure passage of his current bill. Outraged screams were louder than the birth of a new decade. "We may expect all kinds of trickery and fraud," screamed the Wellsboro Democrat. "Politics, money, and railroad influence will all be brought into the field to influence and corrupt members of the Legislature."
Meanwhile, some of Herdic’s opponents had a better plan, and presented a double bill which would make Troy a half-shire town in which courts for a number of towns would be held; it would also create a new judgeship. It was due for voting in February, 1870, and either it would win or the Herdic forces would. Hardly anyone missed an issue of any newspaper he could obtain. Victory for either plan would change the course of county history, and of Troy.
In the January 20 issue of the Northern Tier-Gazette, Editor A. S. Hooker pointed out that "the business of the Bradford County court has so increased that there are about 300 suits on the docket, and in the ordinary course of events a suit commenced at this time would be reached in about three or four years, and it becomes evident that a new judge and court must be established."
Finally the news everyone had been waiting for appeared in the February 17, 1870 issue of the Northern Tier Gazette. "The bill for holding courts at Troy for the townships of Springfield, Wells, South Creek, Columbia, Troy, Armenia, West Burlington, Granville, Canton and LeRoy, and the boroughs of Troy, Canton, Sylvania and Alba, passed the House at Harrisburg some two weeks ago and has just passed the Senate."
The March 3 issue carried the news that Court would convene in Troy
on Monday, March 28, 1870 and would continue one week only. It also told
readers that the bill creating a new Judgeship passed both Houses of the
Legislature and was duly signed. P. D. Morrow, Esq. of Towanda was appointed
The week before, the Bradford County Commissioners had been in Troy to make a contract with H. F. Long for the use of Long’s Hall on Main St. for court purposes. Why they changed their minds was not reported, but a few days later the Commissioners engaged the Methodist Church for the purpose of holding the first term of court. At that time the Methodist Church was on Canton St. A very active church, it had just completed a series of revival meetings at which dozens of people were saved. A few years later the Methodists built a new church on Redington Ave., its present one, and the old one was turned into the Troy Opera House simply by removing the steeple. This also served as Court twice a year until the red brick Court House was built.
The entire Half-Shire Bill was reprinted in Hooker’s March 17 issue and later included in the volume for 1870 of Pennsylvania Statutes. A copy may be seen in the Old Court House Museum section of Citizens & Northern’s new office in Troy.
The great day finally came and those who did not attend could read about it in the March 31 Gazette. "Court for the first time assembled in this place on Monday, March 28th, in the Methodist Church. The attendance was a pretty full one, many being drawn from curiosity, others attending as witnesses, etc."
The docket was full. The first case called was the Township of Armenia vs. J. P. Burman to recover monies alleged to be in the hands of the defendant as Treasurer of the township. Counsel for the plaintiff, Delos Rockwell and H. N. Williams; counsel for defendant, E. B. Parsons and W. H. Carnochan. The Jury found for the defendant.
A case that had been hanging fire for years was that of William S. Dobbins, former Sheriff, vs Troy township to recover damages for a horse killed in July, 1867. The horse was injured in crossing a sluice near Long’s Mills. Counsel for plaintiff, William Watkins, H. B. McKean and W. H. Peck; for defendant, Rockwell, Carnochan and Parsons. The trial occupied the closing days of the first term of Court. It was reported that the Jury failed to agree, standing seven against and five for the claim which was about $10.00.
So ended the first term of Court in Troy; the Half-Shire town and residents of Western Bradford believed that all was safe in the legal department. Trotting races were run in the popular East Troy Park. Peter Herdic was adding to his resort hotel at Minnequa Springs, even though Canton was proclaimed "the banner temperance town" in the county and also had an anti-tobacco society. Eli B. Parsons, prominent Troy lawyer, who had purchased the Watkins Glen property the previous year, was building a resort hotel, destined to become both popular and profitable. Parsons, incidently, had owned Minnequa Springs, then sold to Peter Herdic.
Bowen & Vandine (sic) were enlarging their tannery on Canton St. about doubling its capacity, and V. M. Long & Son put up a fine "hood" over the entrance to the Troy House where a Free Lunch was served every day. At the junction of Main and Elmira Sts, the Adams House was being enlarged, remodeled and refurnished by Nelson Adams. This was at the location where the Court House would later be built.
Into this pleasant existence in the fall of 1870 came a bombshell. A move was afoot to declare the new Half-Shire Bill unconstitutional. Hooker wrote an editorial in his July 28 issue.
"Hardly was the bill passed before we were informed from several quarters that the act was unconstitutional and so strongly was this urged that we understand that important suits were postponed that this might be settled."
Hooker went on to suggest that, should the bill be declared unconstitutional, there would be good reason for a new county to be formed of the 13 townships included in the Half-Shire bill. This would form a "symetrical" county with the requisite population and number of square miles, "drawn together, for the most part, by the bonds of trade. It is almost certain that if this is not done, Peter Herdic, who has several times shown how large a share of the Pennsylvania Legislature he owns, will make a further display of his marketable wares, and carry his new county project of slicing off portions of two or three counties to form a new division, in order to carry out a private speculation." Hooker’s idea would not take away from any other county, would be "merely the division of a large and wealthy one, whose legal business is so heavy as to necessitate some action to relieve its courts."
Once again area papers were filled with mostly anti-Herdic comments and considerable name-calling. An informal meeting of influential citizens was held in the Pomeroy Brothers Bank (lately the home of Citizens & Northern) to discuss the new county question, but it all died down after a few months.
There was no longer the heavy backlog of cases by the early 1880’s that there had been a decade earlier, and occasionally, one of the semi-annual Court terms was cancelled.
Wrote Editor Frank Loomis of The Troy Register: “When Judge Morrow came upon the bench 13 years ago, there were 200 cases at issue, now the number is less than 30, and suitors can ‘go to law’ with a reasonable certainty of getting through, so far as the Court here is concerned, inside of a year. the Judge’s industrious habits and the good times have contributed to this very satisfactory result.”
The times were good. The Lancaster (Pa.) Examiner had written a tribute to Troy in September, 1882, “Troy, Bradford County, has some substantial claims to consideration as a contributor to the comfort of the country. An aggregate of $300,000 worth of butter is annually shipped by railroad, mainly to New York and Philadelphia. Besides, it sends away in the course of a year 170 carloads of cattle and hogs, 300,000 pounds of wool, 300 carloads of buckwheat flour, 50,000 bushels of oats, 50 carloads of potatoes, and furnishes a market for $500,000 worth of general merchandise, disposed of by its active dealers. The town may be, and doubtless is, ‘truly rural’ but what other farming town of its size can make a better business showing?”
|See Also Oliver Block and Troy House pages in the 1925 Mitchell Real Estate Booklet|
Town fathers were working hard to make it even better. By 1882 the Troy Creamery was taking care of the output of 750 cows, but its operations shut down during the cold months. Winter dairying was not practiced. S. H. Heywood, who was later to give the town clock that still keeps time in the old Court House, was proprietor of the creamery; S. W. Lester was manager. Lester was known as “one of the foremost creamery men in the state” and even in New York State.
Popular Court cases were fence line disputes, evictment, slander, debts overdue, and suits against the Northern Central R. R. for injuries and death. It was stated in mid-1882 that the railroads of Pennsylvania “killed 661 persons and injured 1641last year including employees, passengers and others who got in the way.”
As the 1890’s took over the calendar, there began to be talk of the need in Troy for a real Court House. The law business in Western Bradford County was brisk, and so was that of the Troy Opera House. The Graded School had all its entertainments and graduations there; various meetings and suppers proliferated; lecturers, slide shows and traveling theatrical performances appeared frequently, including “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” which was preceded by a parade complete with 16-piece band and Cuban bloodhounds. There was much wear and tear on the old building and some felt that Court should be kept in a more dignified place.
The Troy Register carried this item in its March 25, 1893 issue. “All Trojans are anxiously awaiting the decision of Judge Olmstead in the Court House case. We hope and believe that the decision will be favorable to Troy.” Once again matters of Court in Troy, the Half-Shire town, had become a controversial issue. Some wanted a proper Court House built in Troy. Others, principally the County Commissioners, didn’t want to build and thought it would be unconstitutional to do so.
The previous year on April 4, John W. Codding, District Attorney, applied for and had issued against the Commissioners of Bradford County a writ of alternative mandamus (a command from a superior court), commanding them to provide and furnish a suitable and convenient place for holding Court in Troy borough, or show cause why they should not be compelled to do so.
On May 9, 1892, the Commissioners filed an answer, setting forth in substance: 1) That the Act of Assembly which authorized the holding of terms of Court at Troy was unconstitutional; 2) That they had already furnished as suitable and convenient a place for the holding of Court in Troy borough as they could do by renting, or by any other means excepting by the erection of a Court House or building especially for the purpose; 3) That under the provisions of that Act of Assembly they had no power or authority to erect such a building.
Many depositions were taken from the town fathers and others on the part of the Commonwealth tending to show that the place currently provided (the Opera House) was not suitable or convenient. All facts and depositions were submitted and argued before Judge A. G. Olmstead of the 48th Judicial District, February 22, 1893.
The long-awaited decision came at the end of March. It was Judge Olmstead’s opinion that the Act was constitutional, that “it is the duty of the Commissioners, under the Act, at the expense of the county, to provide and furnish a convenient and suitable place in Troy borough for the holding of two terms of Court therein per year.” The writ of mandamus was issued and the County Commissioners were in Troy by April 20 to meet with Troy citizens in the Pomeroy Bros. Bank parlor. John A. Parsons was made chairman of the meeting with Commissioners S. H. Lindley, H. W. McCraney and P. S. Squires.
According to The Register, “the situation was thoroughly discussed, and it was finally decided that a new Court House should be built. The old Adams House lot was selected as the most desirable situation and the same was purchased of M. Gernert for $2,360. This settles the Court House question and in a way that will please all of Western Bradford.”
The Commissioners were back in town by June with various plans for the Court House. After looking them over, the choice of the citizens’ committee was almost unanimous for the design furnished by Culver & Hudson of Williamsport. Bids were advertised in August and in September the construction contract was let to Lawrence Brothers of Dushore for $10,600 complete.
Excavating was begun early in October, 1893 with the foundation laid by December. The job of grading was given to Dorr S. Kenyon, who had a stone quarry in Troy township. He put in 660 loads of gravel and earth about the foundations. People started referring to the location as “Court House Square.”
The Sullivan Review had something to say about the Lawrence brothers. “Their reputation as builders is first class. It speaks well for Dushore and little Sullivan that big Bradford was obliged to come to us to find men to build their new Court House.” W. J. Lawrence and C. T. Lawrence were leading and public-spirited citizens and had built many fine residences, churches, etc. in their area. They also built the lovely Court House that still stands in LaPorte.
The big news in 1893 was the World’s Fair in Chicago and there was an exodus of Troy and area people during its year. J. Joralemon sold his store to open a boarding house in Chicago to cater to visitors from Bradford County as did C. K. Spencer who leased “an elegant house” in Chicago convenient to the steam cars which ran every half hour to the fairgrounds. The papers were full of social notes about those attending the World’s Fair.
But the World’s Fair was not just a social adventure for Trojans. The area was represented in the exhibits. The Troy Engine & Machine Co., successor to Enterprise Manufacturing Co., had shipped six engines to Chicago to be used for various purposes around the Fairgrounds.
At the same time Judson K. Innes, Granville Center, was bringing honor to Bradford County. He had shipped two head of Shorthorn cattle to Chicago to enter the great dairy contest. Jerseys and Shorthorns were competing in a 30-day test for milk and butter, considered the most complete contest of dairy breeds.
The Troy Register reported that “to old Bradford belongs the credit for showing the best Shorthorn cow in the entire United States and Canada, and too much credit can hardly be given to our enterprising young citizen, J. K. Innes of Granville Center for his rare judgment, courage and energy.” Both of his cows were purebreds and both gave more milk than any other two cows of any breed in any of the trials. Shorthorns were just coming into popularity and the honor brought home by Innes did much to improve the county’s dairy industry. A few months later Cecil Palmer, the noted cattle painter, was in the area to paint these World’s Fair prize winners and other local cattle. A print of the Palmer painting recently came to light and may be seen in the museum display in Citizens & Northern’s new quarters.
As winter began to lift its white mantle, the workmen for Lawrence Bros. Resumed work on the Troy Court House early in the 1894 season. The job of supplying bricks and brickwork was given to H. O. Dorman & Co., Corning, N. Y. and, wrote the Reporter-Journal later, “The work was done in a superior manner.”
The building was 46 x 75 feet and was called the Renaissance-Gothic style of architecture with a slate roof and stone window sills. The Victor furnace was made by Corning MFG. Co.; water closets and washrooms were the work of C. Hunnington, Elmira. Mill work was also done in Elmira, and “the whole is finely plastered in adamant by J. J. Mc Nulty (master mason of Troy) who did an excellent job.
The first story was divided by a hall and at the front on each side were rooms which did not open into the main portion of the building. These were designed to be rented for business, probably to help defray costs to the county. The two jury rooms, each 15 feet high, were at the rear of the building with exits by two side doors and were separated from the other rooms by a cross hall.
A contemporary account tells us that “nearly the whole of the second story, which is of average height of 19 feet is occupied by the courtroom, an elegant apartment.” There were 406 substantial seats arranged in a semi-circle on the sloping floor. Called opera chairs, they were made by the Bloomsburg School Furniture Co. of maple and had wire hat holders underneath.
“The tables, judge’s desk, and prothonotary’s desk are of solid oak, the fine railing and all the woodwork above and below generally of fine Georgia pine with a hard oil finish.” The building was lighted by electricity, “the courtroom has two chandeliers, bearing each 16 incandescent lights.”
There was a grand house-warming on October 22, 1894, to which came dignitaries from several counties, plus several thousand residents of the area. The Towanda Reporter-Journal sent a special correspondent and gave the story two columns on the front page plus a three-column line drawing of the new Court House from a cut loaned by A. S. Hooker of The Troy Gazette. The drawing is believed to be the architect’s drawing and is signed by the initials “G.B.S.” It was unusual in those days to have any illustration on the front page and to have local news. The front page usually carried national or international news.
The interior of the elegant structure was “gaily decorated with autumn leaves and potted plants.” The ladies of Troy were kept busy preparing and later serving a baked ham lunch and hot coffee “to the multitudes who came from miles around.”
A. C. Fanning, a leading Troy lawyer, was chairman and toastmaster for the festivities. “By ascending Mt. Pisgah,” he said, “Bradford County is spread out around us. We are proud of the diversified interests of our county, our butter, and this Temple of Justice.”
After welcoming the crowd, he introduced His Honor Benjamin M. Peck, who spoke a few minutes on “Our Courts” and paid tribute to Judges Mercur, Streeter, and Morrow, who presided until his death in 1890. It is interesting to note that both Judges, P. D. Morrow and B. M. Peck, had been on the original Board of Directors of The Citizens National Bank when it was chartered on June 29, 1876 in Towanda.
Hon. Delos Rockwell of Troy responded to the toast, “To the Ladies,” and made a big hit. “Take woman out of man’s life,” he said, “and you leave him a moral wreck. Wherever there is law and order, there is woman. They understand courting better than all the old judges in Christendom.”
When E. B. Parsons, Troy lawyer and developer of resort properties, announced that 75 Berkshire hams waited for them in the jury rooms below, “the vast crowd rose as one man and started for them.”
The first session of court in the new building started Monday, October 29 with Judge Benjamin Peck presiding and Prothonotary Mial E. Lilley and Recorder A. C. Blackwell in attendance. Court was adjourned for several hours on the Wednesday as “Judge Peck was feeling so ill from sick headache and vertigo.”
The next event in the life of the building was the opening of the brand new First National Bank of Troy which was chartered February 2, 1895. It occupied the front room on the north side, the same one used by the Troy Free Public Library from 1912.
Sometime after 1900 the National Mutual Relief Association had its office in the Court House, either where First National had been or on the other side which later housed the Troy Post Office. Something happened in 1911 to cause the public to lose faith in the association and it wound up its business early in 1912.
Meanwhile, the Court House was becoming more and more a center of town life. A good many organizations had regular meetings there, probably in the jury rooms when court was not in session. Some of those listed in the Bradford County Directory for 1900 were: Fair Play Club, a boys’ social, literary and athletic club under the direction of Rev. C. H. McKnight; the Troy Agricultural Society, then responsible for the Troy Fair; the Altar Guild of St Paul’s Episcopal Church; Troy Board of Trade; the Troy Grange Mutual Fire Insurance Co., and the Troy Civic League.
The Troy Free Public Library started moving into the Court House late in 1911, occupying the quarters where the First National Bank had been. Its earlier history is sketchy, but it is known that attempts were made to start a library at least as early as 1870 and at one time, perhaps all the time from 1870, it was housed in the school.
However, it opened its doors to the public on January 20, 1912 with no financial provision for buying books, but with 923 books brought down from the Troy Graded School and several gifts from personal libraries, it was on its way.
The library did get off to a good start with a Miss MacDonald from the State Library Commission in Harrisburg assisting with the opening. Miss Kate Paine was the first librarian; Daniel Compton was the first to “draw” a book with Harold Gustin a close second. Troy helped to raise money with sales, cake baking contests, bridge parties and ice cream festivals. By late March there were over 500 borrowers.
There was an important piece of news in the October 23, 1914 issue of the Troy Gazette-Register, Stephen H. Heywood was about to give a town clock to the people of Troy which would be installed in the Court House. “It is a Seth Thomas,” wrote the editor, “which stands for all that is good in time pieces. More than this, it is the very best clock of the kind put out by the famous firm of clock makers. The dial is to be six feet in diameter and it is to be illuminated at night.
“With the clock is to come a Meneely bell, weighing five hundred pounds upon which the clock will strike the hours. Skilled men from the Seth Thomas factory will install the clock.”
The work of installing the clock was held up by the delay in the arrival of the bell which had to be hoisted into place first. The donor, Stephen Heywood, was quite ill in his room at the Troy House where he had boarded for many years. With failing health, he was no longer active as the proprietor of the Troy Creamery. He had done an admirable job of expanding and modernizing the creamery and had a major share in putting the Troy area on the map as one of the leading butter producers in the nation.
Finally the great day came and at noon on Wednesday, November 25, 1914 a large crowd of school children and citizens turned out for the dedication of the clock. Heywood was well enough to attend. A few days before the dedication, Heywood had arranged for a contract with the Borough of Troy to provide maintenance of the clock and to wind it regularly.
His gift was written up in the Athol, Massachusetts, Chronicle, and reprinted in the Troy paper. Heywood was a native of Royalston, Mass., and had lived in Athol. Before coming to Troy, he had been engaged in the manufacture of wooden ware at Howe Village, New Hampshire. He had retired from the Troy Creamery several years earlier, after “having accumulated considerable wealth,” and had travelled extensively in the U. S. and abroad, always coming back to his room at the Troy House.
The clock and its bell filled a real need and was much appreciated by the townspeople. Although the bell was disconnected many years ago, the clock has kept time for Trojans ever since and has been cleaned and renovated by Citizens & Northern. During the restoration of the building, it was found that the clock hands were made of wood which must have been treated by some special process to enable them to withstand the weather.
The year 1916 was a memorable one in the life of the Court House in Tory. When local newspaper readers picked up the April 6 issue, a large headline alerted them to “E. Everitt VanDyne’s Splendid Gift to this Community.” The story followed:
“The need, long felt in Troy of an auditorium, or place of assembly with stage, scenery and adequate seating capacity, a gymnasium with lockers, shower baths and apparatus, a permanent home for the free public library, and a public rest room, is to be supplied. Not by public subscription, but through the generosity of one man, E. Everitt VanDyne.
“Mr. VanDyne proposes to buy the court House from the county, transform it to embrace all of the fine things enumerated above and give it to Troy as a community building. Title will go to the School District. No strings are attached to the gift.
“The tentative drawings which Mr. VanDyne has had made locate the gymnasium on the east side, with 20-foot ceilings, and places the library in the front room on the Elmira Street side; the rest room (a lounge in addition to facilities) where the library is now located. There will be a kitchen under the library for the serving of refreshments at receptions. Provision is made in the gymnasium for seating about 200 spectators. The court-room will be made over into the auditorium so sorely needed.”
The paper added Mr. VanDyne’s official proposition to the Troy School Board and its acceptance, and a resolution by the Board, unanimously adopted, of its gratitude on behalf of the community, for the public-spirited gift. It would be named the Van Dyne Civic Building and no one anticipated any problems.
However, in June residents learned that the State Department of Labor and Industry had been unwilling to issue a permit for the use of the second floor as an auditorium, and no agreement had been reached on price. A contingent of county officials went to Harrisburg with Mr. VanDyne for a hearing with Commissioner John Price Jackson and 18 heads of departments working under him. Jackson’s position was immediately reversed and became enthusiastic. He said that he “would be very much interested in seeing this project carried through to completion as it was the only one which had come before him, and that Troy would be quoted and held up as an example to other towns.”
But first Commissioner Jackson of Harrisburg had to send men to Troy to look over the Court House to see if it was all that VanDyne had said. The Commissioner gave the Department of Labor and Industry’s official consent in mid-July, and it remained only for the Bradford County Court’s confirmation of the sale to start the ball rolling. The sale was advertised in August and a hearing held at the Towanda Court House. However, it took a long time to unwind all the red tape and it wasn’t until the December 7 issue of the Troy paper that residents learned that “Work Begins Next Week on the Van Dyne Civic Building.” The contract for the transformation of the Court House was awarded to F. P. Case & son. Moving picture equipment was to be added to the new auditorium. It was reputed that Mr. VanDyne paid the county $5,500 for the Court House. The building was officially presented to the Troy Borough School District on December 7, 1916 and commemorated by a bronze plaque affixed to the building, which also records the date of S. H. Heywood’s gift of the town clock.
Harry M. Haskell was the Elmira architect on the remodeling project under the firm name of Considine & Haskell. His son, Howard Haskell, who was a very small boy at the time, remembers his father talking about E. E. VanDyne, for whom he did several jobs. Howard recently retired from the present firm of Haskell, Conner & Frost after a distinguished career. In May, 1979, Howard Haskell presented this writer with a great sheaf of the original plans for 30 buildings in Bradford County, most of them in Troy, which had been executed by his firm. Among them were the Van Dyne Civic Building, remodeling of the present location of First Bank of Troy, alterations to the Troy Hotel, the Davison Apartments, remodeling of the Long house into a home for the school principal through the gift of H. P. Davison (now the Troy Borough Hall), the annex to the Troy Graded School, alterations to Troy Dairy Farms, the Van Dyne office building on Center Street, and the Bandstand on Davison Green.
Some of the groups which met at the Court House that year were the second annual Farmers’ Institute, the County Commissioners’ hearing on assessment appeals, a health exhibit sponsored by the Civic League, and a meeting of the county medical society. Dr. Guthrie was among those present for a discussion of obstetrics.
The big event of the following year was, of course, the grand opening of the new Van Dyne Civic Building on Thursday, May 24, 1917. A parade of school children and civic officials wound through the streets and past the home of E. E. VanDyne’s mother who was not well enough to attend the ceremonies which began at 1:30 p.m. on the lawn in front of the building. There were a number of speakers, including Prof. W. R. Croman, who presented a flag purchased with money contributed by the children.
The spacious public rest room had been designed to serve as a meeting room for the Red Cross, the Civic League, which had planted trees by the building and assisted in the landscaping, and other organizations, and to serve as a jury room when needed. The gymnasium would serve as court room, with new court furniture provided for the purpose. The stage had 23 changes of scenery available for all types of entertainments and official school functions.
A second ceremony was held that evening with speeches, reception and refreshments and was attended by state and local dignitaries, local and county people and visitors from afar, including Harry Haskell, the architect. Hon. William D. B. Ainey, who delivered the principal address, said that there was nothing like it in the Commonwealth in a town the size of Troy.
That summer the very first issue of “The Trojan,” first yearbook of Troy High School, was dedicated to Mr. VanDyne “to whose generosity and public spirit the students of Troy High School will owe a larger and more efficient life.” Henry Case, “Bud” Pomeroy, and “Pat” Ballard were among the 17 graduating from the new auditorium in the Civic Building which had also seen its first play presented by the Senior Class.
War had been declared by the United States against Germany and her allies on April 2, 1917 and an increasing stream of Troy boys were joining up. More and more school and community activities were war-related, and the Red Cross grew rapidly to a comprehensive and highly-efficient organization.
In the Record of War Activities of the Bradford County Chapter, American Red Cross, written by Hon. A. C. Fanning, it stated that the county branch had been organized at a meeting at the Court House in Towanda with representatives from all over the county and Hon. William Maxwell, President Judge, as Chairman. E. Everitt VanDyne of Troy was elected permanent chairman. At that time he was also president of the Grange National Bank, which had been built in 1907 on the site of the old Opera House, and president of the family tanning business.
The Troy Chapter, with VanDyne at the head and later H. C. Carpenter, did its full share along with its 19 auxiliaries. Money was raised by many entertainments in the Civic Building with music often supplied free by the Boiler-Makers Jazz Band, managed by Henry VanDyne, E. E.’s son. The Red Cross room in the building was supplied with chairs, eight work tables, five sewing machines and other useful equipment.
Troy workers, already enthusiastic, were further stimulated when President Woodrow Wilson chose Henry P. Davison, Troy’s boy who made good from the local Pomeroy Bros. Bank to the J. P. Morgan firm in New York, as National Chairman of the Red Cross War Council. In 1919 Davison proposed the formation of the League of Red Cross Societies, an informal association designed to develop peacetime activities. Its first members were France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States, with Davison as Chairman of the Board of Governors. It became one of the three basic elements when the International Red Cross was formed in 1928.
On January 14, 1918, Henry Davison came home to a tumultuous welcome in Troy and made notable speeches on the work of the Red Cross. Meetings were held in the Civic Building and the Presbyterian Church. He was given a dinner at the church by the businessmen of Troy who had prepared a souvenir booklet of the occasion with pictures of Davison’s life and background. Both meetings were filled to capacity in spite of one of the worst blizzards in years.
Decorations for both buildings were in charge of Mrs. George O. Holcombe, Davison’s cousin and hostess. In addition to service flags, bunting and red roses, a four-foot Red cross, made entirely of carnations, was the principal decoration at the church – the gift of another cousin, Daniel E. Pomeroy.
At the Civic Building a life-sized portrait of Mr. Davison was in the foreground, placed above the Red Cross emblem. This portrait, dirty and separated from its broken gift frame, was found in the loft of the building 61 years later when Citizens & Northern was preparing to restore the old Court House. It has been restored and now hangs in the new C & N offices.
Davison made a number of trips to the war zone on Red Cross business and had a long audience with King George, the British Sovereign. He was able to tell him that the American Red Cross had 23,000,000 members and had raised over $100,000,000. He came again to visit on July 26, 1919 when a mammoth parade was held in Towanda to honor the home-coming soldiers of the county. Major General Henry P. Davison addressed the boys and was introduced by E. E. VanDyne.
Soon after six o’clock Friday morning, January 6, 1922, the fire alarm rang out over Troy. The school was on fire. The fire boys were prompt and the hose connected when, after the first few feet were filled with water, the connection blew out and there wasn’t enough hose to reach the next nearest hydrant. The school was a total loss.
Children who had expected an extended holiday were disappointed as classes were held Monday as usual in a fine spirit of community cooperation. Every church was put at the disposal of the authorities, as was the Troy Creamery, the Grange Hall, the Masonic club room and others. The Civic Building held most of the classes with a large dinner bell used to call students to assembly in the auditorium.
The Van Dyne Civic Building was to be the main “school-house” in the Troy District for almost two and a half years. The authorities had a long road to travel before the new school was completed. Funding was the major problem with many sources explored. W. W. Beaman and W. R. Croman, at the request of the School Board, even approached a committee from the J. P. Morgan Co. to ask if they would like to build a school in honor of H. P. Davison who had died in May, 1922. The Morgan people declined.
There was some insurance and some state money, but not nearly enough. A special election was called in early July to vote on a bond issue and the students had a parade the night before to emphasize the need. The vote was 289 for and only 32 against. After various delays, it was decided to form a holding company to supply the extra funds. However, it wasn’t until the following April, 1923, that the Troy School Association was chartered and bonds were available at 5% interest to raise the $80,000 needed.
The entire community mourned when it received news of the death of Henry P. Davison in May, 1922 and a contingent of Trojans, including E. E. VanDyne went to the funeral. A few weeks later VanDyne died of pleuro-pneumonia and the village was enveloped in deep sorrow and a sense of personal loss. The two men had been close personal friends. Both were outstanding humanitarians and successful businessmen. Henry Davison had also given Troy a home for the school principal, with W. R. Croman as the first occupant, Davison Green and the Davison apartments, income from which would maintain the home and the green. He gave a captured German cannon which sat on the V. D. C. R. lawn between wars and was sold for scrap during World War II. One of his last acts was to order fully-grown trees to be transplanted from nearby woods to the grounds around the Civic Building.
The following year in June, 1923, Mrs. Davison wrote to Mrs. G. O. Holcombe that she wanted to give a bust of her late husband to Troy and it should be placed in the new school. There had been four casts made from a bronze head sculpted by the American artist, Joe Davidson. One is at the national headquarters of the Red Cross in Washington, one at the League of Red Cross Societies headquarters in Paris, one at the Bankers Trust Company in New York, which had been founded by H. P. D., and the fourth was placed in a special niche in the front hall of the new school.
Today it is displayed in a special glass case constructed by Lewis Van Vliet, local cabinet maker, in the Instructional Media Center which was dedicated to Henry P. Davison. The event came after the school was remodeled and the Commons built in the early 1970’s. Grandson Daniel P. Davison came for the ceremony.
E. E. VanDyne was honored soon after his death when a portrait of him, in a bronze frame made by the Tiffany Studios in New York, was unveiled and hung in his Civic Building. His granddaughter, Mary Van Dyne Skinner, remembers being held up by her father, Henry Van Dyne, to unveil the picture. Restored, it now hangs in the new C & N Troy offices.
The “schooldays” of the Van Dyne Civic Building came to an end on March 18, 1924 when an excited and singing crowd of students marched from their temporary home through the town and up to their grand new school.
Soon after the new school opened the Senior Class presented “The Fortune Hunter” in the Civic Building auditorium, with Robert McKean and Eleanor Pomeroy (Mrs. John Byrem) as the romantic leads. Trojans turned out in force for “their” play which was written in 1909 about Troy and Troy people, thinly veiled. Its author, Winchell Smith, had married Grace Spencer, a Troy girl, and had won great success on Broadway.
There was still plenty of activity at the Civic Building although Court was no longer held. It had been abolished in April, 1923, by an Act of the State Legislature. The legal notice in the Troy paper passed almost unnoticed as Court had not been held for a year or more. The building continued to be the scene of club meetings, graduations, plays, lectures and movies. The gymnasium was remodeled for the Troy Post Office in the late 1920’s as students now had their own gym.
Generations of young people had taken advantage of the opportunity to watch the due process of law. It was a popular pastime to drop in on Court days after classes were over.
Janice Mitchell, daughter of Attorney H. K. Mitchell, remembers the Court Tipstaff who, with a big long staff, would bang on the floor to keep order if anyone laughed.
Miss Mitchell and Bob McKean both remember a balloon ascension in front of the Court House between 1910-1915. A fire was built in Court House Square to create hot air to fill the balloon, with local men holding the ropes until it was ready. Bob remembers the excitement of the crowd as the balloonist came out of the Court House, dressed in a cape heavy with gold braid, climbed onto a trapeze and signaled to let go. The balloon had no gondola. Up and up it went high in the sky with man doing tricks on the trapeze, then let go to parachute down. Something went wrong and he hit the roof of the Court House, breaking a finial on one of the towers. As the crowd screamed, he slid to the edge and fell to the ground. He lived to ascend again.
When the school built its own auditorium in the mid-1950’s, activity in the Civic Building began to lessen, and television began to take the place of imported entertainment.
There was a ceremony on November 18, 1955 when the new housing for the old fire bell was dedicated on the lawn. Henry Van Dyne had raised the money for the structure, built by Marshall Case, for the bell which had come to Troy in 1874.
The day came when the only activity at the old building was carried out in the library and the post office. Nothing stirred upstairs except dust motes and the silent voices of hundreds of backstage graffiti speaking of past glories.
By now the Borough of Troy owned the building which had been turned over to it when the school district re-organized in 1966. There was talk about the future of the post office as early as 1969 when the Post Office Department considered building a new building on the site. The Troy Council considered ways to raise money to demolish the old Court House and to save the Town Clock, but it didn’t happen. However, throughout most of the 1970’s there was much agitation about the future of the post office. Many meetings were held, many words spoken and written. Troy agreed to remodel the building to post office specifications, the department appeared to agree. Then it announced it planned to move out. For the first time in many years the auditorium was thrown open for a public meeting designed to keep the post office. Several P. O. Department officials showed interest, but soon announced that a new post office would be built at the corner of Canton and Willow Streets.
The Borough Council was faced with the upkeep of an expensive building with no paying tenant. The library had always been rent free. As the building seemed doomed, the Troy Free Public Library held a $40,000 fund-raising campaign for a new building to be attached to the Troy Borough Hall. It moved out in the fall of 1978 with Boy Scouts carrying the 10,000 books across the street while Troy Police held up traffic. The post office had moved out a few months earlier.
The old Court House-Civic Building was empty. It was a prestigious building. In 1974 it became a National Historic Landmark. It is largely due to the almost single-handed efforts of Florence Mitchell, editor of the Troy Gazette-Register, that the old Court House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Rumors were rampant for months about the fate of the Troy landmark. Various vague buyers were going to turn it into a teen center, a restaurant, and various other projects. Finally a real buyer came to the rescue when it was announced on the front page of the Towanda Daily Review, May 26, 1978, that the Board of Directors of Citizens & Northern Bank had voted unanimously to purchase the building, restore the exterior and remodel the interior as its Troy office. Trojans rejoiced. It had been Troy Director Roy Cummings’ original idea to look into the possibilities.
One by one the preliminaries were cleared away. The title was search; the Borough put the building up for bids; the C & N bid was accepted; and the sale was closed October 11, 1978. The architectural firm of Joseph Kesnow & Associates, Towanda, would draw up the plans; F. P. Case & Sons, Troy, would carry them out. Kesnow had drawn the plans for the proposed remodeling to post office specifications; Marshall Case, his father and grandfather, had all worked on this distinguished building at various times since 1916.
Citizens & Northern Bank also has a distinguished history. It came into being on October 1, 1971 with the consolidation of the Northern National Bank of Wellsboro and Citizens National Bank of Towanda.
Northern National Bank, organized in 1864 as the First National Bank of Wellsborough, was the 328th national bank chartered under the laws of the United States. Until March, 1961, it operated just one office in Wellsboro, Pa., but in that month it opened its first branch office in Tioga, Pa. In December, 1964, the bank purchased the assets of three banks, including Farmers National Bank, Liberty, Pa., the Pattison National Bank of Elkland, Pa., and the First National Bank of Knoxville. The name was changed to the Northern National Bank and Trust Company.
The Citizens National Bank received its charter in 1876 and operated out of rented quarters in Towanda until its present brick building at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets was constructed in 1887. A branch office was opened in Wysox in 1959 and the Troy office in June, 1971.
Citizens & Northern opened a branch in Monroeton in November, 1971, and in May, 1972, merged with the First National Bank of Ralston in Lycoming County. On October 1, 1977, Citizens & Northern merged with the Sullivan County National Bank with offices in Laporte and Dushore, bringing the total to 12 offices in four counties.
Citizens & Northern is a full service commercial bank with trust powers. Its Trust Division has offices in Towanda and Wellsboro with a full range of services, also performing fiduciary services for municipalities. Through its Data Processing Department, it offers a variety of services to its customers. It was the first bank to offer Master charge to its customers in Tioga and Bradford Counties, and the first in northern Pennsylvania to initiate one-statement banking.
Now in March, 1980, the massive red brick building at “Court House Square” in Troy starts a new life as C & N’s Troy office. The bank has lovingly restored the exterior, cleaning and pointing the bricks for the first time in 86 years. The character of Western Bradford County’s only National Historic Landmark is unchanged, only heightened with fresh landscaping and walks, with town clock, fire bell, plaques, and other Troy memorabilia preserved outside and in a small museum in the lobby.
The people of Troy are very proud of their landmark and the varied history. Citizens & Northern Bank is happy to maintain it as a continuing focal point of the community.
Note: Some events in the long history of Court and the Court House in Troy have necessarily been left out because of space limitations, but we have tried to give readers the flavor of life in the Troy area from 1870 to the present. We are grateful to the many, many people, too numerous to mention, who helped in the preparation of this chronicle by lending their recollections, their printed material and scrapbooks and pictures. Pat Barber.
(Printed by Troy Gazette-Register, Inc. --- 1980)
Reprinted by Joyce M. Tice with permission of Citizens & Northern Bank 2001