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In April 1870 Charles Butts brought out the first issue of the Canton Sentinel, subscription price $2 per year. Mr. Butts, an Englishman, printed the paper until 1879. The first issues were printed on an old hand lever press. The paper was sold to Attorney Charles E. Bullock and A. B. Bowman and in 1883, Charles D. Derrah, who had worked as an apprentice soon after the paper was founded and who had also worked on the Detroit Free Press for five years, returned to Canton where he purchased the Sentinel. The Derrahs owned the paper for twenty-five years and during that time the offices were located in the Bullock Block. The newspaper offices were also located upstairs (site of present day Baldwin’s Hardware). Following this, the paper was printed in a building which stood on the corner of Main and Center Streets. Still later, the offices were moved into what is now the building owned by the Canton Moose Lodge on Sullivan Street. In 1909 the paper was once again sold, this time to Fred Newell, Sr. of Dushore. He had been born in Canton and had left after learning the printing trade, to work on the Towanda Review and the Williamsport Sun, and was for a time owner and publisher of the Sullivan Review in Dushore. Fred Newell, Jr. became associated with his father in 1910. After discharge from the army following World War I he returned to continue work. Mr. Newell died in 1945. Hattie Newell was associated with her father and brother during this period.
In 1941 Mr. Earle Wootton of Montrose founded the Canton Publishing Company and the first issue of the Canton Independent came out on Aug. 21, 1941. Less than one month later he purchased from the Newells the Canton Independent and merged the two newspapers into the Canton – Independent Sentinel. In 1945 Mr. And Mrs. Donald Thomas became associated with Mr. Wootton and have continued to the present.
Since 1950 the Independent – Sentinel has been housed on the east side of Troy Street just off the square.
In 1896 there was a paper called the Canton Blizzard, published every fortnight by Sam Simson.
From this paper we have the following – "There will be no Blizzard published next week owing to Jerusha Ann Bugbee offering to scrub out this office on the day that we generally get the paper out."
On January 23, 1891 a small, two column newspaper edited and published by Harry M. Whitman and D. Dean Holcomb, made its first appearance. This was published when the boys were only thirteen years old. It came out every Saturday and was sold on the street at one cent per copy. Surprisingly, the paper appeared every Saturday for five years and when Mr. Holcomb left to start a paper in LeRoy, the World was edited and published by Mr. Whitman. The paper grew in popularity, reaching six column size. The boys had their office over the Whitman Drug Store (Main St.) and later moved to the basement of the building where it was printed until it was discontinued in 1915. Owners of the Canton World throughout its existence were Harry M. Whitman, H. M. and Fred M. Whitman, Whitman and Foster, William Foster and Ralph Benedict.
The Canton Herald, published as a weekly by C. S. Holcomb, was devoted to local news and continued publication for only two years, 1889 and 90.
Because the old newspapers give us such a vivid picture of the happenings of a bygone era, we are reprinting some of the news items which appeared throughout their early publication.
As if to prove the statement that some things never change, we have this item from nearly 100 years ago.
December 10, 1880 The Canton Sentinel
"Three sisters who left Canton about a year ago to take up a disreputable life in Elmira were arrested in that city on Friday evening last and at the police court were fined $40 or eighty days. Paying their fine they departed and, says the Telegram, which gives their history at some length, "We trust to profit by their past experience and lead better lives in the future."
December 10, 1880 The Canton Sentinel
"There was an informal meeting in the rooms of the bank on Wednesday for the purpose of discussing the project of organizing a National bank in Canton. Many of the capitalists of Canton and vicinity were in attendance."
Also in the December 10 issue was an account of a wedding which seems worth including, if only as an example of the flowery language typical of the early writings. We have deleted a portion of the article.
"……that said eventful even is to transpire at the home of the bride’s parents on Tuesday, December 7 and 9 o’clock, A.M. and that the "dramatis personae" are Miss Emma Smiley of Canton and Mr. John H. Musser of Fort Sill, Indian Territory. Two solemn and interesting individuals (that’s me and my wife) hunting through the stock of beautiful things in drugstores, and jewelry shops, comparing present with purse, and wondering why shop keepers should so forget the commandment "Lead us not into temptation", at length purchasing something as costly as their means will permit and safely storing it from human gaze until the auspicious moment."
……"With very little delay the interesting and interested parties appear, the bride looking as lovely as ever, and that is saying a good deal, and the groom appearing as happy as a clam at high tide, and who shouldn’t he? The happy couple were supported by Mr. W. V. Bacon and Miss Josie Seymour and if, in looking at them any of the company had thought what a nice couple they ought to be – they might have read in the conscious smile around Will’s mouth, whole pages of what is to the world, unwritten history"……"From what I can remember of what my wife told me, I should say that the bride was dressed in a gross grain colored suit, made out of silk empress cloth, cut on a bias, and en-pomadour (half and half) the waist cut with a fan train and trimmed with hyacinths"………..
An interesting sidelight to this wedding is that Mr. And Mrs. Musser returned in a few years from Fort Sill and took up residence in the house now occupied by the Daniel Hallett’s on Main Street. Mr. Musser contracted with Hollis Taylor, grandfather of James Taylor of Canton, to build several houses on E. Union Street, which for many years was farmland and also contained an orchard. These houses have, from that day to this, been known as the "Musser Houses". They were completed about 1893 at a cost of $800 each, including horse barn. Residing in them today are the Kenneth Bassett’s, Willis Gray’s, William Landon’s, Ronald Gerould’s (the first house built) and the last home built is owned by Edward Scott and has been converted to apartments.
This December 10 issue also contains a note that the ice harvest was at its height and many teams were at the lake. The ice gathered was nearly ten inches thick.
February 25, 1881 The Canton Sentinel
"D. G. Lindley has on exhibition in the post office some fine large leaves of tobacco raised on his farm last year. The tobacco was grown on two acres of the Towanda Creek flats, lying just in front of Mr. Lindley’s residence and was spoken of by visitors familiar with the growing of tobacco as being an unusually thrifty piece. Mr. Lindley has sold the whole crop to James R. Decker of Elmira at ten cents per pound, it being estimated that it will weigh upwards of 50,000 pounds."
January 16, 1880 The Canton Sentinel
"There are now four street lamps on Troy Street. The ladies of the Disciple Church having recently placed one near the street, in front of the church. The hotel lamps are lighted every evening but the other two burn only on occasions."
There was also an article in this issue concerning the opening of the Odd Fellows hall. Five hundred dollars were spent in furnishing the hall. The carpet was "beautiful, though modest color ornamented with a pattern of ferns." Handsome chandeliers were given by Mrs. J. W. Griffin. "At intervals around the room are stationed pedestals of solid black walnut with marble tops".
"The raising of Strait’s new mill took place yesterday morning and quite a crowd of men participated. The new mill will be of nearly the same dimensions and height as the one that was burned."
From the Troy Gazette comes this item – "the fine flagging stone in front of Newbery, Peck & Co.’s store, were obtained near Canton, on the headwaters of Mill Creek. They are very fine pieces of stone.
January 21, 1881 The Canton Sentinel
"All the stock in the new National Bank has been taken, and the papers for its organization are now being executed."
"There are a number of cases of scarlet fever in town and some little alarm has been occasioned among parents. In one or two cases the disease has assumed a malignant type."
This issue of the newspaper gave full and complete instructions for dealing with scarlet fever, including burying expectorations and other discharges, burning the handkerchiefs, and the sweepings and dustings from the room, curtailing the "mingling" of the sick from the healthy, repapering or painting all rooms in which the sick had been confined, and closing the coffin of the deceased to all persons.
The old newspapers contain many items regarding scarlet fever, typhoid, diphtheria and other diseases which modern science and medicine have nearly destroyed.
The Canton World, founded by two young boys, may have lacked the finesse one might expect in a newspaper, but it did not lack humor or hard news and we are indebted to Harry Mott of Canton and Medfield, Ma. For the loan of his copies from which we have assembled our collection.
The Canton World February 3, 1894
"It looks as tho boro elections would be rather lively this year."
"Is your ice house filled?"
"The Canton Cigar Factory began manufacturing cigars this week. They expect to make some fine cigars."
The following news items from the Canton World were all written in 1894.
"That part of town across Towanda Creek called "Brooklyn" is growing rapidly and bids fair to be a very attractive drive. There are a few changes which would make a great improvement if they could be brought about, for instance, the new building not yet completed on the corner of the lake road ought to be moved over to where the road now runs so as to make Minnequa Avenue run straight to the lake. The building lot would be more valuable for the change and the town greatly improved. Why don’t some of our people buzz the ears of our city fathers? It is these little things in a town that tell the story." (Apparently the city fathers didn’t pay any attention to this advice, for the road today still contains a jog as it begins to wind up Lake Hill.)
"There will be a New England Supper served at the Park Hotel on next Friday evening for the benefit of the ladies department at the Fair grounds. Chicken pies, mince pies and pumpkin pies will be served. A good time and plenty of music, all for 25 cents.
"Hugh Crawford has purchased a piece of land on Minnequa Avenue of William Wright and a piece of Sam Owens and will open a street into Washington Street and sell building lots. There are already a number spoken for. He has also purchased a nice spring on the hill of Mr. Andrews which he expects to bring to these new lots. These people will have water that will not need boiling.
"The cellar is being dug for Mr. Hull’s new residence on the corner of Tioga St. and Minnequa Ave."
"Surveyors have been at work all this week plotting the Syndicate’s grounds at the lake. The drives and parks are beautifully laid and every lot has a fine lake view."
"Rake up your leaves."
April 14, 1894 – "Snow began falling on Tuesday afternoon and continued during the night; on Wednesday morning the roads were almost impassable, but the snow continued to fall all day until it was 24 inches deep in town."
"Also in 1894 the following article appeared – "Canton people have reason to rejoice over the improvements going on in town. While surrounding places, as well as this are complaining of hard times, yet building is booming. Since the four nice homes erected on Union St. extension last summer, there are two more just started. One on the cross street owned by Miss Lucy Beardsley and her brother, the next on the corner of Main belonging to Newton Fassett of Elmira. Across the creek will be the new homes of Daniel Innes and Charles Bullock. In addition to these there have been the usual number of additions and repairs that helps to improve the town."
April 14, 1894 -- "The Liberty stage could not get through on Wednesday on account of the snow.
July 14, 1894 – "It is astonishing how the young doctors, lawyers, merchants and so on arrive in town. Mr. And Mrs. Lee Brooks are receiving congratulations over the arrival of an 8 lb. Boy on Tuesday, July 10."
April 28, 1894 – "Dr. Davison’s bicycle ran away with him yesterday.
December 8, 1894 – "A team belonging to Addison Beals created quite an excitement yesterday morning by running away down Sullivan Street."
September 1, 1894 – "The office of J. H. Brown at Cedar Ledge was broken into last night, the safe blown open and contents taken. The post office which occupies part of the same building was relieved of all the postage stamps they could find, but the thieves failed to find a new supply of stamps."
January 12, 1911 – The Canton Sentinel
"Most of the population gain in the past ten years has been east of the Main Street Cemetery and out to the borough line." The correspondent went on to say that the boro population was probably stationary and a mistake had been made years ago in allowing certain parts of the township school privileges in the boro. These people enjoyed all of the boro dividends but were excluded from "the mythical one of police protection." The writer recommended that the boro lines be extended east to the old fairgrounds and as far north as the Davenport home. "We would also say as far south and west as Cedar Ledge, except that we know that we would encounter the opposition of the mayor of Cedar Ledge which we wish to avoid."
In February of 1911, the diminishing log supply and passing of the original strength of the soil was causing local prophets to predict the decline of Canton. "What is there here to make a town, they have argued, beyond the business with farmers within easy driving distance of town?" The article went on to say that "eastern farms cannot prosper in competition with the fertile soil and the immense crops of the west. We will see here, the experience of the New England states repeated, abandoned farms and decadent towns."
It was also in February of 1911 that the newspaper printed the news that fire alarms could now be called in by telephone.
"A party of about a dozen ladies were in Canton Friday afternoon, having come for sleigh ride. There is no better place to come to than Canton.
June 29, 1911
"Girl babies were born during the week to Mr. And Mrs. John Shaffer, Mr. And Mrs. Edward Wynne, Mr. And Mrs. D. Trippe and Mr. And Mrs. George Trippe. There ought to be a few boys next month to even things out."
"They are not all girls. A son was born to Mr. And Mrs. J. H. Brann on Saturday last."
"A great deal of cement work is being done in Canton this summer, in the form of walks, curbs and culverts. Our cement workers are very skillfull."
December 28, 1911
"Preston Brothers have erected one of the most complete flour and feed mills in this part of the state." According to the article the mill made a high grade of buckwheat flour and stock food of all kinds. The miller was Solon L. Andrews. "The plant is run by a modern and entirely up to date 50 horse power engine that furnishes an abundance of power, the surplus energy of which will soon be utilized in running a dynamo to furnish light for the establishment."
October 7, 1909
"With butter 34c a pound and beef 16c-22c a pound, according to the cut, one can easily believe that the cow has jumped over the moon."
March 23, 1916
"A new bank building for the Farmers National Bank is being built at the corner of Main and Center Streets"
June 15, 1916
"Helen Hughes, daughter of Charles Evans Hughes, Republican candidate for president, is at Lake Nephawin."
This issue of the paper contained an account of the fire which occurred at the newly built Presbyterian Church.
July 25, 1968
Construction was continuing on new sewer plant for Canton, on lower Montague Street.
July 22, 1971
The Messengers, a group of local young people were touring in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and in Indiana, spreading the Gospel in song.
October 28, 1971
The old Spalding cemetery was restored by the D. A. R.
June 29, 1972
"Agnes" flood had struck eastern Pennsylvania the previous week.
July 27, 1972
McCallum Manor, the elderly housing project, was opened and twenty-seven units were occupied.
The Directories which were in common usage during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s have been invaluable to the historian. Krise and Jewell, Printers, 6 Main Street in Canton were publishers of a 45 page version for Canton, in 1895. Containing ads for businessmen then active, the small volume also lists, in alphabetical order, the names of those residing in the community, along with their occupations and addresses.
Rogers and Collins, funeral directors and professional embalmers were located opposite the Baptist Church on Main Street. They also sold furniture. J. H. Trippe’s Sons featured an ad for bicycles, the first bicycle having been manufactored in this country in 1878.
Lindley, Ronan and Company advertised a complete line of Art Garland Parlor Stoves and Steel Ranges. (Thomas Ronan and E. S. Lindley – Mr. Ronan resided at 305 Union Street; Mr. Lindley’s addr3ess is given as 9 Minnequa Avenue)
(When checking present day sites, please remember that the numbering system in Canton was changed some years ago.)
C. E. Black’s Livery Stable, rear at 12 Main Street, featured a hard sell ad – "When a Man Hires a Horse, he wants one that can GO!…" "You can find that kind of a horse, and also safe horses for ladies to drive." It may well be that Mr. Black had also seen the handwriting on the wall as far as the horse was concerned for he had also branched out into bicycles.
The Canton Cigar Company, 112 Main Street, said that "Old Friends like Old Wines, are best. You will find the Canton Cigar Co.’s products like both."
The 1895 directory, although it contains listings for occupations such as clerks, mechanics, carpenters, painters, teachers, laborers, photographers and others familiar to us today, also gives us another picture of this era when we discover that there were blacksmiths, liverymen, tanners, wagon makers, draymen, carders, section hands, a stage driver and even a stage line owner.
The population of Canton at this time was given as 2,335, "estimated." There were listed in this directory a borough building at 24 Troy St., three hotels; the Canton House at 16 Troy St, Packard House at 13 Main St. and the Park Hotel, 57 Troy Street. There was an opera house at 9 Lycoming Street and five churches. There were four doctors, not including dentists, and even more lawyers. These really were the "good old days."
In 1902 the directory was published by W. C. Crippen and printed by Whitman Brothers. This small volume contained photographs of the Canton area and it was suggested that the buyers could send it as a souvenir to absent friends since it was being sold for such a low price. In the directory was a small fold-out map of Canton with dots denoting houses. When we examine this carefully we can see that Minnequa Avenue was becoming well populated, at least as far as Second Street. The farms were moving out of the boro and there were several houses located beyond the Main Street Cemetery where none had been visible in 1869. Montague Street, then called Walnut Street, contained no homes. Fassett Street was in existence, but no houses are visible. (This section of town was all owned by Mr. Fassett who resided in the home now owned by Dr. and Mrs. John Rushin and he is responsible for the sale of lots in this east section of town.)
The population at the most recent census was given as 1,525, making one wonder what had happened to all those estimated to be here in 1895. Perhaps the 1895 directory had been engaging in a bit of "Puffery" not wishing to admit to being a small town.
The boro line, at this time, still ran only to the Main Street Cemetery, although much of the growth was taking place outside this area.
Advertised in this issue was the Lake Breeze Hotel, Minnequa Springs, two opera houses, a bank, three hotels, six churches, flour lumber and planing mills, three manufacturers of wood and wire novelties, electric light plant, cigar factory, tannery, water works, an "energetic" fire company, boro council (characterized as "wise and conservative"), "A progressive School Board and one of the best public schools in the state."
In 1902 the authors of the directory said, "Canton has always been the trading center for a large section of the country; and it is for this reason, and because of the thrifty farmers, whose well kept houses and barns attest their prosperity, that so large a number of business places are found in a town of this size." The article continues, "The business of the freight office at the North Central station shows a substantial increase from year to year, as also do the deposits in the bank. Last but not least, the desirability of Canton as a place of residence is not to be doubted. While the absence of large manufacturing plants is to be deplored on some accounts, we have been spared the experience of either strikes or lockouts. If we do not boom, neither do we stagnate and most of us believe that when the new railroad is built, the town has a great future before it." (The writer is undoubtedly referring to the P.B. and E. which never began operations.)
Of interest will be the mention made of the local post office. "Canton has a post office to be proud of. It was moved into the Lewis Building where it is now located, on March 26, 1899." (this building burned in the disastrous fire of 1942) "The office is very elaborately furnished at a cost of $2500 and is well located and convenient for all. A comparison of the business of the office for the last two years shows a marked increase. Following are the receipts of the office for the last two years….
Year ending December 31, 1901 - $3,741.03
Year ending December 31, 1902 - $5,346.97
"This does not include the receipts of the money order department which were larger last year than ever before in the history of the office. The present force in the office are Charles E. Riggs, Postmaster; Miss Elizabeth Keavin, Deputy P.M.; Andrew L. Wynne, Clerk."
The Park Hotel (Mountain View) looking much as it does today, was receiving $1.00 per day for its rooms and advertised steam heat, electric lights, electric bells, hot and cold baths – all of this with a good barn attached. Edward Greenhalgh was the proprietor.
The Canton Telephone Company, H. M. Whitman, Mgr., vowed that they could furnish "telephones that work." They were installed free and the residence rate was $12.00 per year. Long distance connections were available "anywhere."
The Packard House, T. H. Kennedy, Prop., was a square, three story wooden building with balconies stretching full length, across the upper stories. With shuttered windows and lacelike railings, it reminds one of the old West.
A photo of the Dr. W. T. Davison residence on Center Street is easily recognizable as the present day Kleese Funeral Home, since it is one of the few homes which have not been destroyed architecturally, while being modernized.
The streets shown in the photos are lined with tall, spreading maples which enhance the beauty of the fine old homes.
Charles Cease is advertised as "The Horseshoer", corner of Sullivan and Second Streets. "Horses stopped from Interfering, Overreaching and Striking Their Knees. Special attention to Trotters and Roadsters." (Mr. Cease was the father of Edward Cease, Canton)
Mrs. Laura Tarbox provided us with a brochure describing the Hotel Lake Breeze at Lake Nephawin. J. H. Baldwin was owner and manager.
First sleeping floor - $2.50 per day - $12.00 per week two in room - $15.00 per week one in room
Second Sleeping Floor – 2.00 per day – 9.00 per week two in room – 10.50 per week one in room
Cottage rooms same price as in Hotel
Sporting a photo of the local "Bear’s Den" which many recall as being on lower Lycoming Street near the railroad tracks, and a well known playground (although dangerous), the hotel is described in glowing terms. "The hotel is new and up to date in every respect. Fine hardwood floors for dancing, large open fire places which make it cheerful in damp days, electric bells, fine porcelain baths, abundant supply of pure mountain spring water, rooms large and airy and the menu first class." There was a special dining room provided for nurses and children at half prices, and all was advertised as "the coolest spot in the state." Interior photos show sparkling white table cloths, comfortable old wooden rockers and large fireplaces – all done in a typical Victorian fashion with large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Also, described in the brochure were facilities for fishing, bowling, billiards and pool, lawn tennis, croquet, large lawns and swings for children. Whether or not it was true the guests were advised that there were no mosquitoes.
The hotel was later used as a boys camp, a girls camp and following that was purchased for use as a church camp by the Conservative Baptist organization. It burned to the ground in 1959, another landmark destroyed by fire.
From Miss Clara Smiley:
"Temperance fountain, pure as can be,
Better far than wine or brandy,
If this truth excites your fury,
Let your horse be judge and jury."
Mr. John "Jackie" Van Dyke was long an outstanding citizen and churchman of the area. He and his wife Achsah Wright Van Dyke, lived in the house next to the East Canton store. He was a great temperance man and one day on his way to Canton he stopped at a log watering trough and nailed this little "ditty" on it. I’m sure I’m the only one on earth who knows it.
A cookbook, compiled by the Queen Esther Circle of the First Methodist Episcopal Church in 1906 contains advertisements for businesses not in existence in 1869. The Canton Illuminating Company, located on the site of the present off street parking lot was under the proprietorship of Mr. Lee Clark and Ed Williams (father of local residents Byron Williams and Mrs. Harold Morgan).
The Canton House, a hotel was located on the site of the present Canton Independent Sentinel on Troy Street. This burned in 1923.
B. J. Davison and Company operated a drug store on the corner of Lycoming Street and Sullivan (now Huzey’s Café). Old photos show an entrance where the sidewalk now lays, on Sullivan St. (Mr. Davison was the grandfather of Mrs. Dorothy Hertel)
No sidewalk appears on the west side of Sullivan Street.
The Gem Laundry was near the site of the present day home of Harold Landon on Main Street and the Canton Couch Company had its place of business at the old Independent Factory on Clinton Street.
A marble works was in operation at that time on Troy Street, near the present day Fred Richter residence.
The information which can be gleaned from such a simple item as a telephone book is quite amazing. In the June 1913 Canton and LeRoy Farmers Telephone book we find that the Park Hotel has changed hands. Mr. D. A. Smith was now the proprietor, but the rates had remained unchanged since the 1902 notices – still $1.00 per day. (Mr. Smith was the grandfather of Mrs. Emily Sweeney of Canton)
The Farmers National Bank (located on the corner of Center and Main Streets) was advertising deposits of $150,000 with 3 ½ percent being paid in the savings department. John A. Innes was President and H. C. Gates was Cashier. The First National Bank in the Lewis Block listed resources of $1,005,011 and L. T. McFadden was Cashier.
Central heating was certainly coming into vogue with John E. Roenitz, plumber, offering estimates for steam and hot water heating and Robert Krise offering coal – "The best that can be bought." Both firms were located on Troy Street. Lindley and Ronan, in business on Main Street in the Lewis Building also had hot air furnaces and steam and hot water heating supplies.
E. J. Adams on Sullivan Street was "The Man Who Saves Soles."
Preston Brothers advertised itself as the BUSY STORE, and T. Burke and Company, while vowing that they were firm believers in advertising, also said that "we know that women judge us most by what we do and not by what we say."
This telephone book consisted of approximately fifteen pages of listings and it would appear that the telephone, which had received its patent only thirty-seven years before, in 1876, was becoming a necessity in our little community.
Today, driving between Canton and Towanda, few may realize they are witness to a lost dream which, like so many other dreams, promised to make an industrial center of a small farming community. Perhaps, from our vantage point in 1976 and considering the changes which would most assuredly have been wrought, we now have mixed emotions about the success, or failure, of this ambitious project.
In the early years of the century this route was proposed as the site of the Pittsburgh, Binghamton and Eastern Railroad which was to run from Western Pennsylvania to New England. Aril connections were planned for untouched coal fields in the region. In the end, competitors from other rail lines forced the backers of the P. B. and E. into bankruptcy in what must have been an old fashioned power play by the giants of the rail industry, and a fascinating story in itself. (Others believe that the entire scheme was perpetrated in an attempt to bilk stockholders.)
One may still see the reminders of the work which was done on the line almost 79 years ago. The "Greenwood Cut" through which the main highway passes, near Franklindale, was estimated to have cost the railroad company half a million dollars. Route 414 follows the abandoned road bed in many places. Orders to cease work came in 1907 and the track which had been laid between Towanda and Cedar Ledge was eventually torn up.
January 21, 1881 The Canton Sentinel
"The prospects of a Towanda Creek railroad are brighter. There is an increased activity among the railroad magnates who are casting out for new coal fields and shorter connections. In this lies the hope of a railroad through this section as the proposed road gives a short through line from Boston to Pittsburgh and opens to the use of the Delaware and Hudson Canal and Railroad Company, new coal fields in Pa. On Thursday of last week, the stockholders who control the charter of the Bradford Railroad as laid out under the Madden survey, met at Towanda and besides other business of less importance to the public, appointed a committee to confer with the officers of the D and H Canal and Railroad Company to ascertain what arrangements could be perfected to bring about the building of the proposed railroad. The charter of the old company as obtained under the old constitution (June 1873) gives many privileges which could not now be obtained since the adoption of the new constitution. And as the charter expires in 1883, now is evidently the best time for the construction of the road."
February 25, 1881 The Canton Sentinel
"Another large railroad meeting was held in this place on Friday evening last. Several speeches were made and maps exhibited showing the feasibility of the route from Binghamton, N.Y. by the way of Towanda, thence up the Towanda Creek past Greenwood, the outlet of the Barclay coal mines, thence to Canton, a distance of 18 miles through a beautiful farming district thus far. From Binghamton to Canton the road has already been surveyed and a charter granted under the name of the Bradford R.R. Company. The grade to this point being very low, only 16 feet to the mile, and very easy to build. Here the road crosses the Northern Central Railway near where is situated the celebrated Minnequa Springs, whose world-wide celebrity Peter Herdic has already established. From this point westward, Herdic surveyed the route 28 miles, tapping the Fall Brook, Morris Run and Arnot coal mines to the immense coal fields on Babb’s Creek, then owned by himself, and reports the grade to be much more favorable than even his sanguine imagination had dared to hope. From Babbs Creek to Driftwood remains a problem yet to be solved, but should its solution prove as favorable as the remainder of the route, it will form the most important link that has ever yet coupled the seaboard with the Pacific coast. From Albany to Driftwood it is almost an air line through one of the richest mineral districts of Pennsylvania and, strange to say, is yet almost wholly unoccupied. Two of the directors of the Bradford R.R. Company were present and reported that at a recent meeting of said company in Towanda, it was resolved to tender their charter, together with maps of survey, right of way, etc., to any R.R. company that would go on and complete the road. After the necessary committees were appointed for the furtherance of the project, the meeting was adjourned to meet again in two weeks.
February 25, 1881 The Canton Sentinel
"A number of the citizens of Canton and vicinity met at the office of Stone and Lilley on Friday evening to consider Canton’s chances of being benefited by the recent movements in railroad building. D. P. Elliott was chosen chairman, after which the meeting was addressed by A.E. Case, Esq. Of Marion Centre, Kansas. The speaker was listened to attentively and gradually the conviction came over his hearers that a new railroad up the Towanda Creek to Canton, and on west through the extensive coal fields recently surveyed by Peter Herdic, was no visionary scheme, but was a project that only required unity of action and organized efforts on the part of those interested, to be fully realized."
Old accounts indicate that it was in June of 1897 that Cantonians became aware that actual construction might be getting underway. In our small town all available office space was rented and construction equipment began to arrive. Holbrook, Cabot and Rowlands, a firm then engaged in building the subway in New York City, took offices in the First National Bank Building. Work began and went on, night and day, with more than 3,000 men eventually employed by the railroad builders.
Engineers had determined that due to the low grade, one engine could haul 85 loaded cars from Pittsburgh to Binghamton. In the meantime, the rival railroads were keeping an eye on developments and when they heard that a Clearfield coal company had signed a contract to deliver 600 cars of coal a day to the new railroad, they made their move. They held a meeting in Williamsport and further development of the new road was blocked. Receivers were named by the P.B. and E., one of whom was L. T. McFadden of Canton, later a congressman from the district.
Huge quantities of railroad ties, steel, lumber, equipment, etc., had to be disposed of, along with houses and all buildings which had been acquired on the right of way, and reports tell us that they went "for a song".
Harold F. Grantier, Williamsport (Formerly of Canton)
"Railroad men themselves had a lot to do with the downfall of railroads. It’s a shame that the P.B. and E. road was never finished. They spent money enough on it to put it in operation. I remember it well."
The Northern Central Railroad (later the Pennsylvania and Penn-Central) ran the first train through Canton in 1854.
The Canton World 1894
"There is a great deal of fault found about the taking off of some of the passenger trains. A person cannot go from Alba to Canton or from Canton to Bodines by railroad and get back the same day."
From "Speed" Wilcox and Harold Grantier, two men long associated with the railroad in Canton, we have the following information:
Mr. Grantier – "While the P.R.R. ran that road they never wanted it to be a paying division. I know all they wanted it for was a coal hauling road. At one time they were talking of double tracking it, as it’s a shorter route into Buffalo than the way they now go. My grandfather told me that the rails at first were wood, with iron strips on top, fastened down and every once in a while a piece would come loose and break into the end of the passenger coach and he also said that "a man with a nose as large as his fist" rode the pilot (cowcatcher) on the first train to go through. The waybilling was all done by hand, as there were no typewriters or billing machines at that time. All billing was in handwriting and by using wet clothes and books made up with onionskins they would be put in a press and copied onto the tissues. At one time nearly all passenger trains stopped at Minnequa. I remember a time when farmers up in New York State was hollering for refrigerator cars to ship cabbage; the P.R.R. wouldn’t furnish them and the New York Central did and the P.R.R. lost all that business. The railroad was first known as the Northern Central. It was leased to the P.R.R. around 1900 for 99 years.
"Speed," Wilcox – (local agent for the Railway Express Agency from 1919 to 1964)
"I believe that before I started work the agent’s names were Brown, and a George Packard. The passenger and express trains passed through Canton at 8, 9 and 11 in the morning, at 4, 5, and 9 P.M. and at 12 and 4 A.M. I met all trains, strictly passenger and express trains, except for the ones at 9 P.M. and 12 and 4 A.M. If there was going to be a special shipment on one of these, then I was notified and had to make a trip to pick up express at those hours. The even numbered trains went South and the odd numbered trains went North."
It is difficult, now that the trains have passed us by, to imagine that in addition to the listed passenger and express trains, there were also several freight trains. Mr. Wilcox recalled that at one time there were thirteen persons employed by the freight office alone. Residents would always know what time it was – the whistles of the old steam engines could be heard a great distance away and "there’s the four o’clock" would be heard in the village. Many a youngster met the trains regularly, always getting their ear down near the rails where the vibrations of the train could be felt long before it came into view.
Mr. Wilcox’s first vehicle for making deliveries was, of course, the horse and wagon and he is still in possession of the old horse blanket which was used by "Jerry" in the winter. Deliveries were made within the boro limits. He purchased his first motorized vehicle, a Chevrolet truck, "about 1927." Continues Mr. Wilcox, "The kids in those days rode to school on the train, the farmers shipped chickens, eggs, milk and produce to the cities, the merchants got their goods and supplies by rail and the businessmen, like Gleckner'’, Swayze'’, Belmar, Independent Furniture, Canton Phonograph, all shipped by rail. There weren't any truck lines then. A drayman met the trains and hauled passengers to wherever they wanted to go in town, the mail was brought in and sent out on the mail cars, and I remember that the Packard House for a long time had a rig they sent to meet all the trains."
Mr. Wilcox recalls handling just about everything from A to Z – animals of all kinds, including dogs, cats, rabbits, monkeys, chickens, even a burro which did not want to disembark in Canton, bees, baby "peeps" and even, on one occasion, a box of snakes for a visiting carnival. Awaiting pickup by carnival personnel, they escaped in the office causing no end of consternation. The express office, with its convenient location was a gathering place for the locals, the newspaper delivery boys folded their nightly papers here and it was the site of many a tall tale.
The passenger station, with its old pot bellied stove, oiled floors, wooden benches and clacking telegraphers key, will not be forgotten by those fortunate enough to have been a part of the glory days of the railroad.
The railroad meant a measure of prosperity for Canton for many people worked for the "road" and others benefited indirectly. The last passenger train passed through town in 1956.
Written on stationary of Holbrook, Cabot & Rollins Corporation, Contractors
Dated – Canton, Pa, Mar. 2nd 1907
Mr. J. D. Wilcox,
R. F. D. 72, Canton, Pa.,
We enclose to you herewith a check for $12.50 the amount of the damage done to your corn, fence, and potatoes by the Italians at Van Fleet. Please make out a bill showing the amount of damage to each and receipt and mail to,
Holbrook, Cabot & Rollins Corpn.
The Cantonian 1891
"A few notable facts bout Canton"
Churches – 5
Schools – 7
Hotels – 3
Hardware Store – 3
Drug Store – 3
Variety Store – 2
Opera House – 1
Tea Store – 1
Bakery – 1
Water System – about 10 miles of main
Fire Companies – 1
Papers printed – 3
Mills – 6
Cornet bands – 2
Bank – 1
Dry Goods Store – 3
Groceries – 10
Millinery Shops – 5
"Our greatest needs are electric lights, manufacturies, and a park."
Canton World 1891
"What is the matter with the’ Canton Sentinel’. It has been screaming street lamps for the last three years, now as we are about to have them it has collapsed: Take a good long breath, Mr. Derrah, make another effort and shout "electric lights or nothing!" For our part we don’t like that kerosene lamp down on the corner, it would do for Shunk or some other out of the way place, but we are up to the times in other things, why not in lights? Count the cost of kerosene and a man’s time to take care of the lamps, how much cheaper would it be in the end than electric lights? If kerosene is put in, it won’t be but two or three years before we will be trying to dispose of them to Wheelerville or some other depopulated town. Remember then that the World cried electricity or carry lanterns awhile longer."
The editors of the Canton World felt rather strongly about the need for electric lights. This is evident when we read, in the same issue which contained the previous comments, another item reprinted from the LeRoy Tribune.
"What is the matter with Canton that we can’t have electric lights? Here is what our neighbors think of us! Troy will soon be a lap ahead of Canton. While the former are about to put in an electric light plant, the latter is putting up fifteen dingy, smoky and greasy kerosene street lamps."
Recollections of Miss Elizabeth Bunyan (written in 1953)
"In considering the various improvements in our living conditions, it seems evident that many of them have been brought about by individuals or corporations for personal gain. No doubt public opinion exerted an influence indirectly.
In the decade before and following 1900, our so called streets were dirt roads with dust several inches deep in summer and mud equally deep in the spring. Added to this, there were occasional sink holes where the frost melted away, which let a wagon wheel suddenly sink to the hub and the occupants of the wagon were sure they were on the way to China. Snow and mud were allowed to accumulate on the crossings and it was at the insistence of the Village Improvement Association that this was removed. After the organization of the V.I.A. the dust was laid by means of a sprinkling wagon which made the rounds twice a day. Calcium chloride was used for a year or two and finally the dust was laid by several applications of oil during the summer season. The members of the V.I.A. went up and down the streets ringing doorbells to raise the necessary funds. In spite of the advantage of being partially free of road dirt, the dimes and nickels were paid grudgingly. The V.A.A. also contributed $500 to help build a hard road from Cedar Ledge to the railroad station. Gradually the boro began to hard surface the streets and the state built a highway through town. In the horse and buggy days a fountain stood in the public square, where the stop signs are now located.
Early in this period, also, the sidewalks were made of boards. I can remember clattering along on board walks and occasionally a loose board would fly up and hit our shins. This was not much worse than stumbling over uneven walks as we do in some sections today.
The first effort at lighting was made by placing oil lamps in a glass enclosure at the top of a pole. Mr. Matt Manley was a familiar figure, driving one horse hitched to a rattly spring wagon, with his step ladder and oil can on the back as he made his rounds to clean the lamps, light them at night, and put out the lights in the morning.
In 1896, a man by the name of Cy Perkins built a small electric light plant on the Galen Williams flat (foot of Lake Hill). The plant boasted of a water turbine run by water from the lake, supplied by a pipe which in 1953, was still visible. The water was not well filtered and the turbine often became clogged with sediment. It operated at night only and not on moonlight nights. The water turbine was replaced by a steam turbine but it only operated two or three years, supplying a glimmer of light here and there through the town.
In 1901, the Clarks, backed by wealthy townsmen, built a plant in the space at the rear of the Burk and Thomas Store. This plant had two small direct current dynamos and 120 lead storage batteries. The dynamos were started at about five o’clock in the afternoon, supplying electricity to the town and charging the storage batteries. Around midnight the dynamos were shut off and the batteries were switched on. The direct current resulting from these batteries supplied the town with lights. At first there were four arc lights placed where most needed, with small 16 C.P. lights on other corners. Occasionally residents took a collection to pay for light on a dark corner. The arc lights hung over the street and adjusted automatically, making a rattling noise after the current was turned on. More arc lights were added and more and more residents began to use electricity in their homes. Later, the Clarks built the power plant at the rear of their home on Union Street with two alternating current generators, and the arc lights could no longer be used.
The Whitmans were responsible for bringing the first telephones to Canton. This was a private enterprise which gave the citizen the privilege of long distance service over the Bell system. At first there were few subscribers and business men wishing to put in a long distance call (to Granville Center, for instance) had to use the public phone in W. W. Whitman’s drug store. (site of Beam’s Drug Store, later McKenzie’s. Burned in fire of 1970.) An exchange was set up here also. In 1903 the Canton and LeRoy Farmers Telephone Company was organized. This company celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1953 (Now Canton Telephone Co.). The first exchange for this company was located in the rear of the H. O. Whitman Drug Store. The two systems continued to serve Canton until 1925, when the Canton and LeRoy Company purchased the Harry Whitman interest in the Bell system, thus widening their opportunity for service.
Civic interest has led to a progressive development in fire fighting facilities. It would be hard to imagine the time when water was supplied from wells and a bucket brigade came to the rescue in the event of a fire. The first step upward was the purchase of collapsible leather buckets carried on a pole. The money for the purchase of these buckets was provided by a play given in the old Vroman Opera House and directed by Frank Mayo. The first company organized in 1882 and was the independent Hook and Ladder Company. The water mains had been extended to the principal streets about this time so that hose could be used. In 1886, the company was forced to discontinue its activities for financial reasons.
In January 1888, one of Canton’s worst fires occurred in the wooden buildings on the South side of Main Street. The temperature was several degrees below zero and stories told by residents of that time who worked to put out the fires, were almost unbelievable. Their clothing was frozen, icicles hung from their whiskers and their keeping on under such difficulties was truly courageous. This experience showed Cantonians the need for organized fire fighting and the fire company was reorganized under the name of Innes Hose Company.
The Belmar Manufacturing Company organized a fire company which was very active for a number of years, but which finally merged with the Innes Hose Company.
Certainly public opinion has been a factor in bringing about the planning for better water. These people who believe in modern miracles should see the work which was done by the water board in the way of research. It was necessary to search deeds, old files and map the town, and this information is all compiled in a pamphlet almost an inch thick. The average water consumer does not realize the debt he owes to those who have done this work. The inhabitants of Canton Corners used wells. There are remains of several of these wells throughout the town. One can be seen on Minnequa Avenue at the Clement Crumm House. The pump has been removed but many residents formerly used this well as a source of drinking water. The beginning of the water story does not include Canton’s needs. Instead, the Minnequa Springs Improvement Company was incorporated in April 1873. This corporation erected a dam on Mill Creek four years later, from which it laid a 10 inch pipe to Center Street and from that point on Center Street, an 8 inch pipe to the hotel at Minnequa. The dam was washed out the next year, but was rebuilt so that water could be furnished to the hotel. The Canton Water Company was granted a charter in 1877 "for the purpose of supplying the water to the citizens of Canton Boro and vicinity." The early minute books of the company have been lost, but through some arrangement with Minnequa Springs Improvement Company, the Canton company was granted the right to make connections to the 10" main at Troy and Center Streets. This company operated until 1883 when its charger was forfeited because annual reports had not been made. The owners applied for a charter under the name of Citizen’s Water Company and in 1888 a six inch pipe was laid from the lake as an additional source of supply. Wood stave settling and sand filter tanks were installed in 1900. These were discontinued after five years as they did not remove algae, and copper sulphate was applied directly to the lake.
The upper reservoir on Mill Creek was built in 1892. The first chemical treatment with hypochlorite was used in 1913 (still in use in 1953). In 1924 the water company began installing lines at its own expense, using galvanized pipe. In 1945, copper pipe was used for smaller service lines. (At the time this was written, in 1953, the town was planning to operate its own water system. This is now in effect under the Canton Borough Authority, with board members appointed by the Borough Council) Improvements have been made to the system and each home is now well supplied with good drinking water.
The piping of gas to our town came in 1931.
In comparing the Canton I knew in 1900 with the Canton of today (1953) it seems to me that the town has lost some of its beauty. Now, with the need for more business, perhaps, there are so many unlovely spots. Our lovely country is made up of cities, towns, villages and rural areas such as ours. Canton is a very small, but very important part of this country. There is a saying that a chain is no stronger than its weakest link. It would be bad if our town should be one of the weak links."
1907 (from a paper written on behalf of the local citizens)
"From the answers I have received to my recent communication, I am satisfied that over 90 percent of the people of Canton are in favor of municipal ownership of our water system. Certainly the condition of the water warrants some action being taken. Just so long as we let the present condition of affairs run, so long will we have just the kind of water that we are receiving……we should all of us insist upon having pure, wholesome water."
L. T. McFadden, Chairman; Citizens Committee
Miss Bunyan’s comments regarding the V.I.A. sprinkling wagon led to the discovery of a former driver of this wagon. Ray Guinter of Minnequa Avenue served as the driver for some time. Recalling that he made $10.50 a week, and that his "boss" was a Mrs. Hull of upper Center Street, he said that she complained heartily if she did not think enough water was used to lay the dust sufficiently. Upon learning from Mr. Guinter that the late Seymour Bellows had purchased the wagon when its use was discontinued, the Friends of the Library attempted to locate it, in the hope that it could be refurbished for use in this Bicentennial Year but, alas, at this time no one seems to know what has happened to it. Mr. George Lyle also drove this sprinkler for many years and became the recipient of the Carnegie Hero’s Medal and an award of twenty-six dollars monthly, after stopping a runaway horse carrying an eight year old boy in the wagon. Mr. Lyle suffered severe injuries while doing so, and was never able to resume full time work.
The Cantonian 1892
"Chester Mix of this place, rode a bicycle from Elmira to Canton, 37 miles by the wagon road, in three and one half hours, Wednesday. The wheel used was a "Ben Hur" pneumatic which he recently purchased of G. E. Newman."
Canton World 1893
"Just now, while people are looking about them for a place to spend the summer, is just the time to boom the town. Talk about beautiful drives, good hotels, and mountain views. If our people were a little more enterprising and made the most of our surroundings, there would a nice drive around Lake Nephawin and a hotel that would not be second to that at Mountain Lake. Somebody had to venture there, and now it is a grand place to spend a few days. Our lake is much better in many ways. The view is better, without a long drive from the station. Why cannot our town people form a stock company and fix it up? It would be an advantage to Minnequa and Minnequa would help to make that a success, and Canton just between the two, ought to take hold and push it along for its own good. It only takes a little push and a little advertising and the thing is sure. Those who own land around the lake ought to be anxious to give a site for a hotel. It would not be more than one summer before their land would double its value."
Canton World 1891
"The Boro Daddies"
"The new council organized Tuesday evening. W. G. Newman was elected to fill the unexpired term of C. A. Innes. The councilmen were assigned as follows: Burgess: C. A. Innes, Vice-Burgess: H. H Taylor, Treasurer; M. F. Wynne, Secretary: C. E. Riggs. The Committee on Streets: Griffin, O’Donnell and Wynne. The Committee on sidewalks: Rockwell, Taylor and Newman.
"We rather enjoy the recreation of getting up early these cold mornings and crawling under the sink with a hot flat iron and ironing out the water pipes before we can get water enough to get breakfast with."
Canton World 1891
"Chas. Derrah of the Sentinel has been appointed by Gov. Patterson delegate from this congressional district to the United States Farmers Congress which meets at Sedalia, Mo. Nov. 10th. We knew that Derrah was the best farmer in Bradford County but did not know before that he was the best in this congressional district. It is a conceded fact that since farmer Derrah has taken such a lively interest in agriculture the Potato Bug has nearly disappeared from this locality."
"Quite a funny happenstance at Cedar Ledge last week and surely an unusual one. A gentleman drove up from Williamsport and tied his horse at Mr. Brown’s. It was not long before the horse began to show some uneasiness and it was discovered that the wagon was on fire. An attempt was made to turn the hose on, but the water failed. They saw it made lively work to get the horse away before his tail caught fire. The wagon and contents was all burned but the wheels."
The Village improvement Association (contributed by Clara Smiley)
"The Canton Village improvement Association was organized in 1904 and joined the Federation in 1912. The immediate purpose of the organization was to improve Canton’s streets and the first action taken was to request the borough council to clean the crosswalks of snow and of the need to repair the sidewalks. Proper attention was not paid by the council to these requests, so they hired men to do the work – each man wearing a square of muslin pinned on his back on which the letters VIA were emblazoned. This act brought better cooperation.
One of the early efforts of the organization was a headache at the time, but can be recalled with humor, and this was the attempt to keep the dust down in the streets. A sprinkling wagon was purchased. It was a huge barrel-shaped affair mounted on wheels, painted light green in color and, again, the letters "V.I.A." were painted in black on each side. The laying of the dust was to be paid for by popular subscription and every Saturday morning these dedicated women went up and down the streets, knocking at every door and asking for a quarter. The excuses were many. If the wagon happened to miss their side of the street, they did not pay. However, the sprinkling wagon was operated for several years."
The V.I.A. purchased three acres of land (on Second Street) to be used as a playground. A portion was set aside after World War I as a Memorial Park honoring the boys who lost their lives in this war. In 1954 a portion was deeded to the Canton Development Committee as a site for a swimming pool.
In 1959, eight acres of land around Minnequa Springs was purchased, and formally dedicated in September 1959. Members of the Minnequa Grange and volunteers from Canton worked evenings to clear away underbrush, fill holes and prepare drainage, build toilets and fireplaces. Picnic tables were donated and a parking area prepared across the road. Much work remains to be done before Minnequa Springs becomes the lovely park envisioned by the late Mrs. Ammon and her helpers.
It is impossible to relate all of the activities of this organization. There were many money raising projects in order that contributions could be made to the swimming pool, Little League, etc. This civic minded group has constantly been alert to the needs of Canton, cooperating financially, and otherwise, in every endeavor to improve the community."
In addition to the contributions mentioned by Miss Bunyan and Miss Smiley, the Village Improvement Association at one time had a bandstand built on the Library Lot at the corner of Main and Center Streets, where public concerts and meetings were held. They also placed street signs, took over the care of Morse Park, performed landscaping tasks at various sites in the boro, and the ladies of this organization have, in many cases over the years, been the driving force which propelled the town fathers into much needed action.
Almost since its inception the village of Canton has received some form of police protection, first from the constable and later from the one officer who was known as "the chief". Some of the early police officers were "Dud" McCraney, Bill Jones, Collin Innes, Harry Stevenson, Eltyn Allen, Will Crawford, Charles Williams and Charlie Watts.
Some of these early policemen patrolled the streets only at night, but the sight of these gentlemen at any time was usually enough to put everyone on their best behavior, for respect for the law and the property of others was deeply ingrained in the citizens. Parental discipline was strict and punishment was swift. Until very recently most children knew that trouble in school or away from the home would result in even worse trouble at home, and the system worked unusually well, leaving the police force with little to do. The reputation of the old fashioned woodshed is well deserved.
We do have records of early lawbreakers and these people were dealt with severely and quickly. No one was advised of their rights, it being assumed that if you broke the law you had none.
There were the usual pranks, of course. We came across a senior citizen (who shall be nameless in the even that his grandchildren ever read this book) who was a participant in one of these harmless enterprises when "he was old enough to know better." Fred Clark was the mayor of Canton when several young gentlemen decided to lead a fox on a tour of the borough. He was paraded throughout the community in the dark of night, the young men probably making sure that their journey took them to the homes where their joke would be most appreciated. When the streets had been well covered the fox was returned to his cage and Canton’s finest hounds were turned loose. There is no record of the reaction of the local citizenry to this tomfoolery but even today it brings a big smile to the face of the perpetrator who gave us this story.
A similar episode involving another animal took place many, many years later when, for weeks on end, a goat which an area resident kept on his property was kidnapped on a regular basis and deposited on the doorsteps of some lucky Cantonians. The kidnappers always arranged to remove the goat later on and he would be returned to his own territory to await the next episode. It was rumored that the goat actually enjoyed these little outings.
Canton World 1893
"Those who are making it a business to steal the spiles from the trees around town nights had better be a little cautious or it won’t be quite so funny as they think."
There was a jail located in the borough building at one time and every school child had a yearly tour to see the small cell and examine the fire engines and, also, meet the friendly policeman. (The boro building was built about 1892 and in June of that year the bricklayers of George O’Donnel, who had the contract for the building, went on strike. They were working a nine hour day and asked for a "full days pay, $3.50." O’Donnell refused their demands and the men went to work the next day."
In 1892 a newspaper describes a "blowout" held by the Western Bradford Co. Democrats in Canton. There was a parade, a special train arrived from Troy, including the Trojan City Band and the East Troy Band, The Canton Drum Corps also participated. Speeches were made at the local opera house and the homes were beautifully decorated and lighted in honor of the occasion. Apparently the police were called in for the paper says, "Among the better classes, perfect harmony prevailed, but there is an ever present discordant element which cannot brook a difference of opinion, and this element was at the bottom of six or seven scrapping matches which took place in the neighborhood of the Canton House, and which, while they resulted in neither loss of life nor serious bodily injury were very uncomplimentary both to those who were concerned in them and the guardians of the peace who allowed them to go on without interruption."
The police force now consists of two full-time men, with Larry Wilcox as Chief, and several who assist on a part-time basis. Unlike the old days, these men have been trained in police procedures and the law and "walking the beat" is very nearly a thing of the past. Perhaps it is a reflection on the character of the local citizens that we are still able to maintain order in the community with what is essentially a two man force.
The weary traveler never lacked a hospitable place to stop in the early days. As far back as the late 1700’s and the days of Ezra Spalding there were taverns which supplied beds, later there were homeowners who "let rooms" and later on came the hotels. The Mountain View (Park Hotel) has changed hands often through the years but, in outward appearance, has remained much the same. This was a beautiful example of old Victorian architecture and was the site of the early Alumni Banquets held by the school and also hosted fund raising dinners sponsored by the early fire companies and civic organizations,.
The Canton House stood on the site of the present day Independent – Sentinel offices on Troy Street. There was also an American Hotel on Main Street and in the late 1800’s the Keystone House on upper Troy St.
The Packard House (Wood’s Apts.) and its predecessor the Central Hotel were on Main Street. The Packard House began as a wooden structure. This was razed in 1903 and the present building erected in its place. Yellow bricks from the second Minnequa Hotel were used on the inner, or backup walls. A cocktail lounge, the Pioneer Room, was added to the hotel in the late 1940’s. The murals, which were painted by a local artist, Scott Griswold, depicted scenes of early Canton and are priceless reminders of these early days. The Pioneer Room now houses the Sears Catalog Store and the murals are at least partially visible and, hopefully, will be preserved in some way for future generations.
The Packard House closed its doors in 1962 and was recently remodeled by Colonel Wood. The old hotel now serves as an apartment house, an example of the feasibility of "recycling" and preserving old buildings.
A community survey conducted in 1975 indicated that the area of major interest for Cantonians was the completion of the sewage system throughout the town. We believe that the first sewer system throughout the town. We believe that the first sewer system was begun in 1903, near Second Street and Main Creek. This went west to Sullivan Street, north to the square and east to Center Street, then north from the square to the Troy and Union Street intersections. All of the ditching was done by hand, and it is recorded that quicksand in the Sullivan Street area created quite a problem for the laborers. A Mr. Walker was the contractor for this portion of the work and the next section of the sewer was built by the town under the direction of Nick Snyder, street commissioner.
For many years raw sewage ran directly into Towanda Creek, Canton being no different from other communities in finding this the easiest way to dispose of wastes. Although a new sewage treatment plant was completed in 1968 there were insufficient funds to enable the entire town to be tied into the system and many homes still use septic systems or cess pools. At this time an engineering study is being conducted and plans for construction are being prepared. When these plans are finalized application will be made for federal funds to be used in completing the system.
This work was delayed for several decades as local officials felt the cost would be too great.
Over the years there have been a multitude of businesses which have operated in Canton, flourished for a time, and then faded from the scene. In the very early days there were the grist mills, without which the early settlers could barely exist. Because the surrounding areas were covered with virgin forests tanneries, planing mills, wood working shops and related businesses sprang up.
There was a furniture factory located in what is still known as The Independent Building on Clinton Street. This has housed a variety of industries including a phonograph manufacturing plant. A. H. Wilcox recalled for us the days when these machines were shipped by Canton by rail, sometimes entailing the use of an entire railroad car. A few months ago Miss Harriet Doll of Canton received a letter from a resident of a southern state who had recently purchased one of these phonographs from an antique dealer.
The H. Sheldon Manufacturing Company was located near the end of Elm Street and was reached by a driveway which now runs between the properties of John Osipovitch and Philip Preston on E. Union Street. The factory was quite large for its day and manufactured flag poles, tent stakes and other items made from wood. It burned to the ground, was rebuilt and again burned on October 12, 1914.
The Cantonian 1892
"Will Canton have the factory proposed by the Sentinel? The prospects are very bright, judging from what our enterprising businessmen say about the scheme. Canton will never have a better chance to become a manufacturing town. From a personal inspection of the roller bearing axle, we may say that there is no doubt of its success, as a wheel fitted with this axle will run for 16 minutes when simply set in motion. We congratulate J. W. Taylor, proprietor of the Packard House and predict that in less than a year there will be no other kind used in our town. We hope that our citizens will not let this chance slip through their fingers, but will at once call a meeting and "speak their piece."
"What does a wagon factory mean to us? Simply this: This is one of the best carriage towns in the county and over $25,000 in cash goes out of it every year for wagons made in towns like Elkland, Cortland and others. Would it not be better to keep this money at home and have several times this amount come in every year from sleepy towns around us? Give us a factory! By all means give us a factory and boom the town.
Whether or not this particular carriage shop ever saw the light of day, we do not know, but there were several small carriage and wagon shops in the community.
There were also creameries in abundance. Canton was the center of a large dairying industry and farmers availed themselves of the opportunity of disposing of their products at these busy centers of commerce. The Canton Creamery, operating on Minnequa Avenue today, was formerly the Rosedale Creamery and prior to that time was operated by Jesse Burlingame, father of Mrs. Irene Gleckner.
In August of 1891 the Cantonian printed an "Extra," giving details of a fire which had destroyed the harness shop of W. W. Gleckner on Sullivan Street. According to the reporter the "fire laddies made their appearance with great promptitude" but the fire was so far advanced that nothing could be done to save the shop so their attention was directed to saving the grocery store of M. C. Preston.
Mr. Donald Gleckner of Canton, present owner of the firm which began in 1879, has told us that following this fire temporary quarters were made available in O. B. Westgate’s carriage shop and a new building was erected on the same site by Mr. George Bullock who was the owner of the burned out property.
William W. Gleckner first started a small harness shop on Troy Street. He had come to Canton from East Point at the age of fifteen and being a skilled mechanic of an inventive turn of mind, his business prospered and grew. It was moved to the building owned by Mr. Bullock and about this time Mr. Gleckner’s two older sons, Charles and William entered the business and it became known as W. W. Gleckner and Sons.
After moving into the new building which had replaced the burned out structure the business began to expand. Will V. Gleckner was the first salesman, covering Bradford, Sullivan and Tioga Counties. A branch opened in Towanda with Charles Gleckner in charge. All manufacturing continued to be done at Canton and shipments were moved down the valley be stage.
Later on Robert Gleckner became a partner, followed by his brother Byron and by Charles E. Bullock.
In 1906 the firm broke ground for a new building at the corner of Second and Sullivan Streets. Products included Single and Double Buggy Harness. Coach and Surrey Harness and a great variety of items were purchased for resale.
In 1914 a large addition was erected and workmen were brought in from other communities. With the advent of World War I the firm engaged in military production. At this time they also made horse collars, and were awarded the highest possible rating from the Quartermaster General.
Following a lack of demand for harness and collars in the late twenties the company began manufacturing belts and work gloves. Although World War II was not a "horse" war, production of farm harness and collars from 1942 through 1946 eclipsed all previous records.
New lines have since been added and the company remains in business today.
T. Burk and company was established in Canton in 1867 as Burke, Thomas and Co. It was in May of that year that three young men from Troy came here and opened a store. T. Burk’s home was in Canton but he was a clerk in a store in Troy, as was E. H. Thomas. A. D. Williams the third man, was the son of a Troy farmer. Canton had a need at that time and these gentlemen filled that need, giving the farmers in this section a place where they could sell produce and farm products. Prior to this they had to go to Troy. This does not seem a great distance to us now, but in 1867, using a horse and wagon or traveling by sleigh in winter over bad roads and through all kinds of weather, it could take an interminable amount of time. Business was good and the firm was able to expand and soon had the business which formerly went to Troy. Canton area farmers were noted for the quality of the butter they produced and this was shipped by Burk, Thomas and Company to city markets in large quantities.
In 1897 Mr. Williams retired and following the 1903 retirement of E. H. Thomas the name was changed to T. Burk and Company. The store has been in continuous operation since the founding and is Canton’s oldest store. Under the direction of Robert and Thomas Burk for many years, it is now owned and operated by Mrs. Robert (Mildred) Burk.
Another early business in Canton was that of the Rexall Store. This started operations about 1875 under the name of Newman and Davison in the old Newman Building at the corner of Lycoming and Sullivan Sts. Later on, B. J. Davison went into business for himself and G. E. Newman, along with Fred Hull and William Mitchell, formed the firm of Newman, Hull and Mitchell. Mr. Newman operated the drug business while the other two partners conducted a grocery business. Mr. Newman made his own ice cream and had the first soda fountain in Canton. Later on the partnership was dissolved and Newman moved his drug store to the site of the present day Ben Franklin store. He was very proud of the fact that he was one of the first druggists in the country to become affiliated with Rexall Company. About 1922, Mr. Newman purchased the J. O. Whitman building and the Rexall Drug Store has continued in business here to this day. It is now owned and operated by William R. Most.
One of the largest lumber mills in this area was conducted by Hugh Crawford. Mr. Crawford’s sons, Byron and Charles continued operating this mill for many years, on the corner of Second and South Center Sts. In the Canton Sentinel in 1950 Mr. Byron Crawford related that "when father built the present mill in 1885 people thought it very foolish as the hemlock lumber was about gone. Nevertheless the mill was completed and has been running winter and summer ever since without missing a single season". "By" and "Charlie" operated the mill for forty-five years. At the death of Byron in 1952, the company was renamed Holmes Lumber Company under the direction of Norvin, Rodman and Franklin Holmes, grandsons of Byron Crawford. A fire destroyed the mill in 1962 and since that time Franklin Holmes has conducted a building supply business on a portion of the mill site, the mill never having been rebuilt.
The history of Rockwell’s Mill goes back to 1852, when Elias Rockwell constructed a wooden building on the site of a former mill. In 1876, Martin L. Rockwell took over the property, operating the mill until his son, Homer, assumed management in 1884. They supplied flour and horse feed to a large area, and also provided the housewife with flour for baking. Buckwheat flour was a speciality & was shipped throughout the country.
Martin L. Rockwell joined his father in 1911, and a new elevator and warehouse were built in 1914, near the railroad siding. Another addition in 1923 provided facilities for grinding of grains and cracking of corn. As the feeding of farm animals became more scientific, a mixer and equipment for handling molasses directly from a storage tank were put into use. Another expansion was required by 1936, and again in 1947. Bulk feed handling was developed and it became apparent that the existing mill would not be adequate to provide this service so in 1957-58 an entire new mill was constructed adjacent to the original mill. Between 1958 and 1972 more updating took place as H. Rockwell and Son kept pace with area farmers.
When rail service was severed as a result of the "Agnes" flood of 1972, arrangements had to be made to truck incoming material to Canton but, again, Rockwell’s Mill met the challenge. The mill has been serving the needs of area farmers for over on hundred years, always operating under the direction of the Rockwell family. James Rockwell is now in charge of all operations and is frequently assisted by his brother, Charles. The mill was founded by descendents of Samuel Rockwell.
The history of Preston’s Inc. begins in 1881 when a twenty year old teacher, Michael Preston, changed occupations and opened a general store in a small wooden building on Sullivan Street. At that time the barter system was still in use, with farmers bringing eggs, wool, butter and lard to exchange for salt, cloth and other necessities.
In 1888 he built a warehouse for storing wool and wheat bran. (This is located across the railroad tracks from Rockwell’s Mill and was recently purchased by them for storage purposes.) After a fire destroyed the store on Sullivan Street, Mr. Preston rebuilt on the same site and this is the building now occupied by Abraham DeKnecht.
John Preston became a partner in the enterprise in 1900 and the name was changed to Preston Brothers. Eleven years later they erected and operated a buckwheat flour mill on West Union Street. This was later converted to a feed mill.
Continuing their expansion, Preston Brothers purchased the Canton Shoe Store from Edward Innes in 1914 and in 1916 built the first automotive garage in Bradford County. This was located on Sullivan Street and was the home of Carroll VanNoy’s John Deere Agency for many years.
In 1919, Michael Preston sold his share of the Preston Brothers partnership to his youngest son Lee M. Preston, and it was in 1921 that the store moved to a newly purchased building on Main Street. In 1925 the store was incorporated as Preston’s Inc.
Lee’s youngest son began working as manager of the feed mill in 1951 and continued in this capacity until the mill operations were suspended as a result of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Philip Preston then took over management of the Main Street sore and continues operating the business in this, its ninety-fifth year.
The Swayze Folding Box Company was begun in Canton in 1900, having operated prior to that time in Columbia Cross Roads. A large barn at the junction of Carson Street and Minnequa Avenue was rented and converted into a factory by installing a gasoline engine and a new press.
The business had begun, not by making the cartons for which they are noted today, but by making outdoor advertising signs. They were made of cardboard, dipped in paraffin and run through an ordinary clothes wringer. It was not long before many large corporations were calling for these signs as the day of advertising arrived. With the move to new quarters in Canton, advertising fans, calendars and printed novelties were added to the firm’s line. The business had grown from one room in the home of Alden Swayze II to the point where, in 1901, a stock company was formed with Mr. Swayze as president and general manager. It was then that the name was changed from A. Swayze, Jr. to the Swayze Advertising Company.
In 1909 the company made the change from advertising signs to folding boxes and machines were installed for this purpose. The business of packaging products was still very new and Mr. Swayze had made his move at exactly the right time. Soon his customers included the International Salt Company, Colgate Company, Twenty Mule Team Borax.
The company had, by this time, moved to quarters on Troy Street and the name had been changed to the Swayze Folding Box Company.
In 1925 Leon Swayze took over management of the company.
It was in 1959 that the company was sold to Blum Paper Folding Box of Valley Stream, L. I. And the plant has continued its progress in the packaging field. In the late 1960’s a new building was erected on Route 414 just east of Canton and the plant on Troy Street is now used for warehousing. The new owners retained the Swayze name, making this one of the oldest manufacturing plants in the area.
The First National Bank of Canton was organized on February 16, 1881. Originally, the bank had capital of $50,000 with capacity to increase the stock to $500,000. The first president was Adam Innes and the first cashier, George Guernsey. The original board of directors consisted of Benjamin Dartt, Andrew Foss, LeRoy Gleason, George Bullock, Daniel Innes, Adam Innes and Kileon Packard. There were only fourteen shareholders and the bank operated every day except Sundays and state holidays. The hours were 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
The bank showed a net profit for the first year of operations of $2,000.
This first bank was believed to have been located on the west end of Main, and when the Lewis Building was erected in the late 1800’s the bank moved to this site where it remained until the fire of 1942. Following the fire a new building was erected on this same site and recently underwent a modernization and upgrading of facilities.
The bank has remained in the forefront in community service. At the present time the bank, under the direction of its president, L. Manley Preston, is planning to establish a small park on the Main Street property most recently containing the Acme Market and several other stores (destroyed by fire—1970) and this will enhance the downtown area and improve the appearance of the property.
No memoir of Canton would be complete without reviewing the history of The Belmar Manufacturing Company. It was in 1897 that Lewis M. Marble began development of a combination suit and trouser hanger, in a small barn on N. Minnequa Avenue. Later on a building was erected on South Washington Street where manufacturing began. (The Belmar name was derived, using the letters in Marble.) The business prospered and grew, machines and employees were added and then, in 1904, the building was destroyed by fire. Only one day of work was lost before operations were resumed in the original building, and in a section of Hugh Crawford’s mill, which he loaned for the purpose.
In 1907 the Belmar had its first and only strike. The men asked for a wage of $1.50 per day and Mr. Marble visited each one, giving them the privilege of withdrawing their names from the petition or being fired. Under the circumstances it is not surprising that the men changed their minds as to their need for better wages and returned to work.
Until 1918 the Belmar worked a 60 hour week.
In November of 1944 Mr. Marble died and his wife, Flora Lewis Marble, carried on the business until the following year. E. W. Johnson was then installed as general manager, and the business is now under the direction of Noel Johnson. A fire destroyed one section of the Belmar in 1961, and this was replaced with a metal building. At the present time the company continues the manufacture of wooden hangers.
It was many years before Canton had any new industries, other than "fly by night" operations which arrived, stayed in business for a short time and departed, having made scarcely a ripple on the surface of the community.
It was a Cantonian who wrought a major change in this pattern. Mr. John Collins was born and grew up here, leaving the area upon graduation from high school. In the late 1930’s he and his friend Mr. Sinclair began making steam valves in a garage in Akron, Ohio. The business grew and prospered and was moved to larger quarters. Mr. Collins became the sole owner of the Sinclair-Collins Valve Company in the late ‘40’s and when, in 1950 he decided to add to his company’s facilities, not in Akron, but in his home town of Canton, ground was broken for a "Valvair" plant on route 414, east of the borough. The plant was built and operating by November 1954 under the name of Collins Valve Company.
In 1959, Mr. Collins sold his manufacturing facilities in Canton and Akron, Ohio to International Basic Economy Corporation. The name was changed at that time to Bellows Valvair Company, and in 1974 to Bellows International.
Products are distributed world-wide and the company employs sales engineers throughout the world. The company has shown a healthy growth, expanding manufacturing space in 1963 and office facilities in 1968.
All of the employees are local residents, and the arrival of the firm has aided the entire community, making jobs available and increasing the spending potential of the residents.
In 1959, Stanley Home Products, Inc. of Westfield, Ma., in conjunction with the Canton Industrial Development Committee, reached a decision to establish a manufacturing center in the community. For several months, while awaiting completion of their new building on Second Street, the firm operated from the old Sheffield Farms building on Center Street. In early 1960 the move was made to the new quarters, a 25,000 square foot building, and soon the company was in the process of injection molding many of the plastic items required by the parent company. Several years later another addition was made to the plant and in 1973 yet another, bringing the total footage to 68,000. The company also entered into the custom molding business and has as its customers many of the multi-national corporations. As with Bellows International, the company has helped local residents and businessmen and increased the potential for a stable economy.
The First National Bank of Troy purchased a lot on the corner of Main and Sullivan Streets following the fire which destroyed a portion of this block in 1970. Opening of a branch bank in Canton several years ago has given Cantonians a choice of two banking facilities for the first time in decades. Housed in a beautiful colonial style building the bank has added greatly to the downtown area, and the bank has participated fully in community affairs, supporting local organizations with monetary contributions and with assistance in civic projects. James Matson is vice-president and manager of the bank.