THE ROMANCE OF OLD BARCLAY
Here is a map of Old Barclay that will provide a basis for many hours of discussion and pleasant reminiscences for all who ever lived there. It also will give those of the present generation a good idea of this once famous old town of which only memories remain. It is believed to be the only map of the kind in existence and was drawn especially to accompany this article. It was planned out by William Strope of Towanda, who, it will be seen, did remarkably well despite the fact that he had only his memory on which to depend.
INTRODUCTION AND EARLY HISTORY
Hidden far from view on one of Bradford county’s least accessible mountain tops, lie today the ruins of a town that used to be – a town where once the laughter of hundreds of boys and girls at play joined with the hum of the saw mill and the clanking of the coal cars on the plane to signify to the world a busy, hustling and happy community—Old Barclay, whose name is still loved by all who ever lived there.
Nearly all the buildings long since have either been torn down or fallen into decay. Only a few portions of cellar walls and here and there a tumbled-down shack bravely holding out against the ravaging elements, remain to let the wanderer through the region know that once civilization existed where now the bears, deer and other wild animals of the forest once more can reign almost supreme.
Yet to this desolate mountain top once each summer a little group of former residents manage to make their way and, gathered together on the old picnic ground where so many happy occasions were celebrated years ago, they talk over what used to be. "Old Home Day" for them has a deep, almost sacred significance. Tender, yet happy, memories come flocking back and here and there oftentimes can be seen a teardrop on an unashamed cheek as incidents of the now gone forever village are recalled.
Barclay—the deserted village. Many of the present generation have heard it referred to as that, have wondered for a fleeting moment just what the town used to be, and never have given it another thought. Yet those who know old Barclay, know it is deserted from the standpoint of buildings and population alone. Its residents return there often in spirit, ride up and down the mountain in John Carroll’s well remembered hack, take rides in fancy once again over the snowy road along Railroad street and on down the steep, curving route to the Foot of Plane, and then go back in memory a few years further and beg a few pennies from father or mother to spend for candy or gum at "Granny" Hunter’s or "Granny" McNally’s.
These people have a bond of friendship that has lasted through the years. They are a somewhat clannish group; it is in their very blood. Their fathers were that way when Barclay was in its prime. No one knew want on Barclay mountain then. Where sickness or accident took hold with a cruel hand there was always aid forthcoming without fail. A collection netting from $100 to $400 would be taken and the distress relieved. If it happened in the right season, it would not be long before a benefit dance had taken place and the proceeds of that, too, added to the fund for the afflicted. As one old resident of Barclay says: "It seemed just like one big family."
It is to preserve as nearly as possible the history of this famous old settlement, which already is in decay, that this record has been prepared. The story is as complete as possible to obtain through interviews with people once living there and a study of the extremely few written records concerning the village.
Many have assisted in the compilation of the facts but I am particularly indebted to the following: Mrs. Anna Sheehan, Towanda; William Strope, Towanda; Charles E. Drake, Towanda; W. H. Crayton, Powell; John Anderson, Towanda; Walter Lyons, Towanda; Daniel Webster, Towanda; Mrs. George J. Krebs, Somerset, Pa.; Malcolm Macfarlane, New York City; Fred Cameron, Arnold, Pa.; Ernest Holcom, LeRoy, Pa., and Fred McIntyre, Towanda, Pa.
The township of Barclay was formed from Franklin in 1867. It is situated between the townships of Franklin on the north, Monroe and Overton on the east, LeRoy on the west, and Overton on the south, being separated from the last named by Schrader creek. The township was named in honor of Robert Barclay of London, England, who, in 1794, purchased 21,000 acres of land lying on what is now Barclay mountain. That is as far back as the history of the region can be traced.
In the western part of the township the summit reaches an altitude of 2041 feet. The general slope is [Page 4] toward the southeast, drained by Coal Run and other small streams flowing into the Schrader. This region, a section of the Towanda range, known as the Barclay mountains, generally, was heavily timbered, even on the slopes, with pine, hemlock and hard wood. Here among these great rocks, lofty trees and underbrush for many years was the favorite habitat of bears, wolves and wildcats, while on the heights elk, deer, and wild turkeys abounded. The Schrader swarmed with the largest brook-trout and eels in abundance.
Then accidentally coal was discovered by Absalom Carr while hunting on the mountain in 1812 and the whole complexion of the rugged country changed. The metamorphosis was slow at first. The first known user of the coal was Jared Leavenworth, a blacksmith living near the mouth of Towanda creek. In the beginning coal was brought down the mountain on sleds but the demand quickly grew, different openings were made, and then the coal was hauled away in wagons to supply blacksmiths in Northern Pennsylvania and Southern New York.
No settlement was made in the township, however, until 1856, when upon completion of the Barclay railroad, the Barclay Coal Company took men and equipment to the mountain and began working the original mine. Growth from then on was comparatively rapid until in 1875, when Barclay was at its best, it had more than 2,000 residents with stores, shops, churches, schools, and mills, and a spirit that made it a leader among the townships of the county. In 1876 there were 284 votes polled there.
There were five sections to the settlement, the largest of which was Barclay. The others, all close together, were Fall Creek, Graydon, Dublin, and Foot of Plane. Carbon Run, a little further away across the mountain, on the line between Barclay and LeRoy, also had several hundred inhabitants. There is still a settlement there and a mine turning out 55 tons daily is now in operation. It will be described more fully later when the mining industry is traced in detail through its various stages to the present time.
A post office was established at Barclay January 10, 1866, with George E. Fox as the first postmaster. July 9, 1874, a post office was established at Carbon Run with Robert A. Abbott as the first postmaster.
After Barclay and Carbon Run began to decline in the latter part of the century, a considerable settlement was established at Long Valley where mining operations were continued until 1909. That, too, is now an abandoned town with only wrecks of cellar walls to remind one of the past.
The township had become almost depopulated in 1902 when it suddenly was given a new lease on life by the establishment and operations of the Laquin Lumber Company. Around the big mills a village of several hundred inhabitants grew and flourished until a few years ago when the lumber was exhausted and the mills shut down. Only a chemical plant keeps the town yet alive and the time seems rapidly approaching when it, too, will go the way of its sister towns along the valley of the Schrader. Many of the homes already have been torn down and moved away, while others are going into decay where they stand. The large hotel is gone, the once famous baseball park is grown high with weeds and grass; its few remaining residents can only live in hope. The rise and decline of this section of the township also will be treated exhaustively in a separate section which will be devoted exclusively to it.
(Scanned from an original 1869 Beers Atlas by JMT rather than from the Romance ... photocopy in my possession)
Here is a pen picture of Barclay at about the time it was starting to
boom. It was taken from an old atlas printed about 1868 by Beers, Ellis
& Soule. The picture was furnished for this article by W. H. Crayton
of Powell who is a great lover of the now deserted village.
Published On Tri-Counties Site On 9/13/99
By Joyce M. Tice