Late in the last century a street was laid out in the north part of
Athens, on the ridge, extending up to the State line, and a settlement
made which was called Milltown. The lots were very large, and houses
were built for a physician, a clothier, a tanner and shoemaker, blacksmith,
carpenter, and deerskin leather dresser, which with the mills, store and
public house, made it quite a business place.
The burying ground was laid out as it now is, and a large log schoolhouse erected upon it, which from its first opening was an institution of importance. Dr. Prentice, an educated and useful man, was the first teacher employed there. He removed his family from New London, Conn., to Pennsylvania in 1797. A house was built for him on the hill, near the creek, and a drug store connected with it; a part of the original building still remains.
He was one of the sufferers in New London at the time that city was burned by Arnold the traitor, in 1781, and continued there some years in the practice of his profession. He was an uncle of John Shepard, and much beloved by him. There was no place of resort that afforded so much pleasure as the house of Dr. Prentice, across the way, where visitors were entertained with books, interesting stories and ancient curiosities. Among the latter were the bed curtains, painted by Mrs. Prentice herself, on pure Irish linen. On the head curtain sat the King and Queen, crowned with regal dignity, with fruits and flowers surrounding them. On the side curtains were lesser dignitaries, with vines and grapes and flowers. On the valance was a vine extending the entire length, with clusters of grapes, ripe plums and pears. The work was neat and elegant, and the design ingenious. But what was more than all, their crowning value was that they were much scorched and damaged at the time New London was burned by Arnold the traitor during the Revolution.
These were brought out only on extraordinary occasions to entertain visitors and particular friends. An elegant toilet cover, also stitched with the needle by this ingenious woman, and the antique silver cup and elegant china punch bowls, were among the curiosities exhibited, saved from the wreck of Arnold’s depredations. Some of them are yet to be seen in the possession of children’s children.
Mrs. Prentice was the daughter of the Rev. Mr. Owen, of Groton, a friend and contemporary of President Edwards.
Dr. Prentice practiced medicine in this country several years. He died suddenly, in August, 1805, much beloved and much lamented.
His son, William, who was well educated, came into this country in 1798. He had been admitted to the bar in New London, and practiced law in Lycoming County, at Williamsport. A little more than a year after his father’s death, on his return from court, he was taken sick with fever at his boarding house (Squire Saltmarsh’s), went to his home at Milltown, and died in a few days, in the fall of 1806. He was a young man of good talents and fine personal appearance. He wore his hair braided, hanging on his shoulders, according to the custom of the times. In his death the high hopes of his family and friends were suddenly blasted.
Dr. Prentice’s eldest son was a physician, and settled at Sag Harbor, on Long Island.
Another son was a tanner, and had an establishment a little above his father’s, opposite the residence of Mr. O. B. Spring. He went west with his family many years ago.
One of the daughters married Dan. Elwell, of Westchester County, N.Y., a carpenter, who lived many years at Milltown. They outlived most of their children. Some still living hold high positions. The surviving daughter, who had the care of her father many years, is living at Vanettenville, where he died, April 19th, 1868, at the age of 94 years. Mrs. Elwell died many years ago.
Dr. Prentice’s second daughter married John Spalding. He was first Sheriff of Bradford County, and lived at Athens, opposite the village, until his death.
The third daughter married J.F. Satterlee, who was a merchant at Milltown, and afterward at Tioga Point, where Mrs. Satterlee died.
Mrs. Prentice was a lady of intelligence and of a cheerful temperament. When living alone, after her husband’s death and children’s marriages, she would often, notwithstanding her advanced age and bereavements, entertain her company by dressing herself in her rich damask, with long bodice waist and sleeves tight to the elbow, with wide lace ruffles and a long trail to her skirt, thrown over her arm, as was the style of her early days
Dr. Spring succeeded Dr. Prentice as physician of Milltown. He also taught school a long time in connection with his practice.
The first schoolhouse was on the north side of the road, on the burying ground lot, near the present entrance. There the youth of that day were taught the rudiments of education, and many were graduated there. The school was sometimes visited by New England missionaries, who gave the pupils excellent instruction, and presented them with good books.
The school had been taught by Dr. Prentice, Amos Franklin, brother of Colonel Franklin, Dr. Satterlee, and several New England men of education and refinement.
But this seat of learning passed away suddenly. One morning early we were terrified by seeing it in flames, and the cumbrous logs one after another fell to the ground. Some businessmen from Philadelphia were at once at Mr. Shepard’s, when his young son, Isaac, was called upon to do the writing. “Where was your son educated?” inquired one of the gentlemen, when he saw his penmanship. Mr. Shepard pointed to the log school house and said, “It was there my son was educated.”
Captain Thomas Wilcox came from Tyringham, Mass., near the beginning of this century, and settled at Milltown. He was a blacksmith by trade, and commenced life with small means. He purchased a valuable tract of land of Mrs. Shepard, for which he succeeded in paying by close application to his trade, and by transporting goods across the country from Catskill, bringing supplies, dyestuffs, machinery, and various articles for the mills. Mrs. Wilcox was a humble and devoted Christian.
Francis Snechenberger was a German, who came from Philadelphia in 1799. He bought a lot of land in Milltown, containing about three acres. Mr. Snechenberger was a deerskin leather dresser. Loads of deer skins were taken to him, and there dressed and manufactured into mittens, moccasins and breeches, until a load was made out, which he peddled about the country, bringing home money and necessaries for his family. The day he was 70 years old he drowned by falling into his spring.
His wife was an Irish woman, who sometimes entertained us with her adventures. In early life she left her home in Ireland, which did not suit her ambitious mind, and worked for her passage across the ocean. When she arrived at Philadelphia she went first to the house where Major Andre was imprisoned a little previous to his execution. She understood the circumstances of his case, and her sympathies for him were greatly moved. She was afterwards directed to the house of Dr. Willson, and Katie became the nurse of the infant James P. Willson, subsequently the Rev. J. P. Willson, D.D., pastor of the First Presbyterian Church on Independence Square, Philadelphia, and the predecessor of Rev. Albert Barnes.
According to her own story, she received much kindness and many favors from the good mother, “Madame Willson,” yet sore offense did she give this honored lady, when on arriving at womanhood she yielded her consent to become the wife of Francis Snechenberger, a German, who fell in her way. When Katie timidly revealed the case to her mistress, the Madame, with much feeling, exclaimed, “Hang the men.” She was loath to give up her faithful nurse and kind handmaid. Katie had been a great reader, and brought with her to this country a mind stored with royal lore. Kings and Queens, Princes and Dukes, with their retinues and historical peculiarities, were as familiar to her as her books and family intimates.
She had access to some medical works at Dr. Willson’s, by which she acquired much knowledge of medicine. After her marriage she came to this place, and conceived the idea of becoming a female physician and nurse. She soon acquired celebrity and had an extensive practice. Some of her garden herbs still yield abundantly by the wayside. She had one daughter, who married William, son of Philip Cranse.
Another remarkable character was Mrs. Mead, said to have been a hundred years old when she died. She was a native of Dutchess County, and married a man much inferior to herself.
During the Revolutionary war the British came suddenly upon them and were about to take away her husband as prisoner. She affirmed that her husband was an idiot, and would be of no possible use to them, and must remain under her care. The argument prevailed, and she was ever after the sole director of their domestic affairs, which under the management of this energetic woman afforded them a comfortable living. Her family made one of the first openings on the surrounding mountains, on a sightly spot back of Waverly, which is still called “Mead’s Hill.”*
Josiah Crocker removed from Lee, Mass., to Milltown in 1808, and engaged with Mr. Shepard in building a fulling mill and saw mill across the State line, on the Thomas tract. Carding machines were added afterwards.
Mr. Crocker had a large family of sons and two daughters, well trained after New England customs. The first object with him was to have the schoolhouse rebuilt.
* Site of Waverly Water Works.
It is said that this good man when he went into the woods with his line
and plummet knelt down by the first timber that was felled, and prayed
that the house they were about to build might be one for the honor and
glory of God and the good of the people. A snug schoolhouse was soon
erected on the opposite side of the road from the old one, where the higher
branches as well as rudiments were taught, and foundations laid for future
development. Some distinguished men, both in Church and State, have
received their education there. It also served as a church, and the
then young and talented, now the aged and venerable, Dr. Wisner, of Ithaca,
first preached there and at the academy at “The Point” alternately, on
the Sabbath, in 1812-15, but after serving two generations the house was
demolished. The district having become reduced by the removal of
families toward the Susquehanna River, another schoolhouse was built, near
Wheelock’s factory, which has superseded the old one of cherished memory.
Mr. Crocker built a small house for himself on the ridge, near Factoryville,
opposite the mill where he and his numerous boys were engaged in carding
wool, dressing cloth and sawing lumber. The morning and evening sacrifices
were daily offered there, and it was pleasant to see on the Sabbath this
long train of neatly clad and well-instructed children following their
parents to the place of worship. They removed west in 1818.
The earliest record we have of the burying of the dead in this place is that of the soldiers of General Sullivan who fell in the battles with the tories and Indians at Chemung in 1779.
It is said that thirty of them were killed, but it is not known that more than six were brought to Tioga for interment. The presumption is there were more.
Mr. C. Stephens, whose family came here as early as 1788, says that the dead, both whites and Indians, were buried along the ridge, where the burying ground was laid out by the Connecticut settlers, and afterwards given to the town by Mr. Caton, the Pennsylvania claimant and proprietor. It is not known that Mr. Caton ever gave a formal deed. The lot was fenced and many were buried there before the close of the eighteenth century. It was at first enclosed by a splint rail fence.
A brisk northwester once caused such vibration of the splinters as to produce a doleful moaning which some thought resembled the voice of an old Indian woman, who had recently been buried there, and her superstitious enemies verily thought she was coming again to take vengeance upon them. Some persons of courage ventured to investigate the mystery, and reported to the troubled one---much to their relief. This was one of the legends of early days. As we enter this hallowed place, solemn and thrilling remembrances steal over us. Here are gathered the friends of early days, with whom we have “taken sweet counsel and walked to the house of God in company.” Families in their narrow house here rest peacefully with only the cold marble and the dull earth to mark their possession. Men of business have here laid them down to rest, wearied of the turmoil of life, the fruitless greed of gain, and the ambition which rules, but never satisfies. Pastor and people, in a “Congregation which ne’er breaks up,” are here assembled---faithful fathers and tender mothers, blooming daughters and noble sons, until the earth is moistened by tears and hallowed by sacred affection. Little children, too, are here, the music of their voices hushed; little feet tire, little hearts grieve no more, for “He who gathers the lambs with His arm and carries them in His bosom, has safely garnered them into His upper fold.”
“There are treasures, deep hid in this mouldering earth.
Precious gems laid tenderly down.”
“Who is that coffin for?” said a young man as he entered a cabinet shop
in this place. He was in the flush of youth and health, and gave
promise of many years of life and labor. “It is for you,” was the
careless and jocose reply. “I am not ready for it yet,” rejoined
the youth. He was much nearer death, the coffin and the grave, than
he then thought. In a few days he was seized with a violent fever,
which in a short time terminated his career, and he was buried in the same
coffin over which those thoughtless remarks were made so recently.
“Walk solemn on the silent shore
Of that vast ocean we must sail so soon.”
A new cemetery has been recently opened on the Plains,
which will be made both ornamental and attractive, but the old burying
ground should be carefully guarded and sacredly venerated, as the resting
place of those who have served their generation faithfully and left to
us so goodly a heritage.
The Milltown burying ground, in the north part of the town, was given to the public by John Shepard, Esq., in the last century.
He has been buried there many years, with numerous descendants and friends around him. The ground has been neatly enclosed by Mr. O. B. Spring, and ornamented with trees, giving additional beauty to the surrounding neighborhood.
From the first settlement of Athens, by the Connecticut people, their attention was given to the education of their children. As early as the survey of the township, in 1786, we find on a map of that date public lands appropriated for that object. This lot of several acres was situated north of the Susquehanna Bridge road, the river on the east, and the road leading to Milltown on the west. It was thickly covered with pines on the north. Soon after the settlement of the town the first schoolhouse in the township was built on this land, near the location of the present district schoolhouse.
It was a small building of logs, suited to the wants and circumstances of the inhabitants at that time. The first school was taught by Benedict Satterlee. He was a Connecticut man, of good education and standing. As the country became settled, and a larger house was in demand, another schoolhouse was built on an improved plan, of hewn logs, on the street leading to Milltown. This school was taught by Daniel and Elias Satterlee, brothers of Benedict. Elias Satterlee afterward studied medicine and removed to Elmira. Mr. Samuel Satterlee was also a man of education, and taught at Athens, and was at one time a member of the Legislature.
This was the only literary institution for many years. It is said to have been a very good school. This schoolhouse was burned early in the century. A school was afterward opened in the large log building formerly occupied by Mr. Alexander, on the cross street, north of Chemung bridge, and extending through the Paine lot, to the Susquehanna River.*
*No remains of this once important street are left. On it there have been two stores, a dwelling house, school room, and place for religious meetings, and near by a distillery, altogether making it quite a prominent street.
This was taught by a Mr. Thompson. The room was sometimes
used for religious meetings, until the academy was in progress.
The old academy records, commencing with the date, Tioga, February 11th, 1797, have furnished the following account of its first commencement, written by Mr. Daniel Alexander, one of the earliest residents:
“Whereas, it is the earnest wish of many of the inhabitants of this town that a public building should be erected for the accommodation of an Academy, or seminary of learning for the accommodation of youth, and also be occasionally occupied as a place of public worship, or other public purposes; and whereas the erection of such a building on Tioga Point, and making other public improvements, would not only be of great use and convenience to the inhabitants, but would also have a tendency to enhance the value of land and other property, the subscribers to this agreement do therefore mutually covenant and agree to form themselves into an association for the purpose aforesaid, to be subject to the following regulations.”
Then follows a series of resolutions, common upon the organization of such associations, fourteen in number.
The 12th resolution is, “the building contemplated shall be erected on one of the public lots in the township of Athens, on Tioga Point, and the construction thereof shall be as follows: It shall be forty-two feet in length, twenty-four in width, and two stories high. The second story shall be formed into one entire hall, to be arched and finished in a handsome manner.”
Committee reported that they had decided upon a building lot. It was built by subscription, and divided into shares of thirty dollars each. The names of the subscribers were Noah Murray, Sen., Chester-Bingham, Joseph Spalding, Levi Thayer, David Alexander, Nathan Thayer, John Shepard, David Paine, Joseph Hitchcock, Elisha Mathewson, Ira Stephens, Elisha Satterlee, Samuel Campbell, John Spalding, Nathan Buel, Clement Paine, Julius Tozer, Jonathan Harris, Joseph Farlane, Daniel Satterlee, Simon Spalding, Thomas Overton, John Jenkins, George Welles, John Franklin, Warton Reid, Stephen Hopkins.
March 2d, 1797. At a meeting of the stockholders of Athens Academy, held agreeable to notification at the house of Captain Elisha Mathewson, on Thursday, March 2d, 1797, voted that Noah Murray, Esq., be chairman, that Clement Paine be secretary of this society. Voted, that Major Elisha Satterlee, Messrs. John Spalding and John Shepard, be trustees of this society. The name decided upon was that of the Athens Academical Society.
March 3d, 1798. Resolved, that this society will petition the Legislature for an act of incorporation, and also the grant of a lottery. Resolved, that the society will petition the Susquehanna Company, at their next meeting, for a grant of land, to be appropriated as a fund, for the said seminary of learning.
The frame was raised and enclosed, but the work dragged heavily. After raising the frame and making some progress, their funds were exhausted, and the building remained unfinished for a length of time, and was used, so tradition says, by merchants and others for storing surplus property or goods, and that it actually became a depository for hay, flax, skins, and the like articles. This kind of testimony, though not reliable, would seem in the present case to be corroborated by a petition on record in the archives of said institution, from the “proprietors” to the trustees, requesting them “to prevent any person whatever from putting hay, flax, or any other thing whatever in said building.”
The fact that it remained for some length of time in a neglected condition gave occasion to apply to it the language of a traveling poet:
“Their only school house quite in ruin lies.
While pompous taverns all around them rise.”
It must be confessed there was too much justice in the criticism in regard to the schoolhouse, but it may be averred the writer took quite a poetic liberty with the taverns.
May, 1808, they passed a resolution, and “authorized the trustees to advertise the academy for sale, to be sold on credit of twelve months, the purchaser giving judgment bonds with approved security.”
July 20th, 1808, they “agreed that the vote of May last, for selling said building, be rescinded and of no effect.”
In 1809 “Clement Paine was requested to repair the building, and put the same in a good state of preservation, with a balance of one hundred and forty dollars due him, which he held as a lien on said building until paid.”
The upper room of the academy was occupied by the Masonic society, and was under their control.
1813. In consequence of a petition of several members of the Athens Academical Society, presented to the Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, by Henry Welles, Esq., a member thereof from Athens, an act was passed giving the trustees of the academy full control of everything appertaining to it as an institution of learning, and a grant of $2,000 to the trustees of said academy, which should by them be invested in some safe and productive stock, the interest of which they should apply to the purposes of the institution. The academy to school four poor children, not exceeding two years each, gratis; provided there is application made for them. The act passed 27th February, 1813.
June 20th, 1813, Henry Welles was chosen trustee, to supply the vacancy caused by the death of George Welles, his father.
AN ORDER FROM THE TRUSTEES ON STATE TREASURER
“July 10th, 1813. We have deputed Henry Welles, Esq.,
or order to receive the money from the State and his receipt shall be an
adequate voucher. John Franklin, Julius Tozer, Abner Murray, Stephen
Hopkins, David Paine, John Saltmarsh, John Shepard, Clement Paine.”
1814. Mr. Henry Welles recommended and engaged a young gentleman at Harrisburg for teacher, with a salary of five hundred dollars—Mr. Sylvanus Guernsey. Notice of school was advertised in the Wilkesbarre Gleaner and Towanda papers.
On Monday, the 25th of April, 1814, Mr. Guernsey commenced the first school taught in the academy. Left March 6th, 1815.
In 1820 the trustees “voted that the funds appropriated by the State, amounting to $2,000, should be applied to aid the company for the erection of a bridge over the Tioga River.”
March 5th, 1842, the academy was consumed by fire, together with quite a valuable library, philosophical apparatus and cabinet of curiosities.
In 1843 the academy was rebuilt, under the superintendence of H.W. Patrick, Esq., at a cost of $2,000.
In 1829 the bridge stock was sold to Judge Herrick.
NAMES OF PRECEPTORS AT DIFFERENT PERIODS.
Mr. Guernesey ………………..1814 Mr. Baldwin…………..1839-40
Mr. Welles…………………….1815 J. Marvin………………1840-41
Nathaniel P. Talmadge………..1815 Mr. Merchant………….… 1842
Mr. Bush………………………1815 L.M. Pert……………….…1845
Mr. Wellington…………… 1816-17 F. Hendrick……………… 1847
Mr. Kee…………………... 1818-19 Rev. C. Thurston………… 1849
L. Butler…………………...1822-23 E.I. Ford…………………..1851
Rev. J. Williamson……………1824 J.G. French………………..1852
L.S. Ellsworth…………………1825 A. Dunning………………..1852
G.A. Mix……………………... 1825 J.G. and Wm. French……...1855
E. Marsh………………………1828 J.S. Hopkins……………….1856
Ezra Stiles………………1829-30-31 F. Bixby…………….1859-60-61
Dr. Wm. McDougal……………1833 J. M. Ely………...1862-63-64-65
D.M. Bennet…………………...1835 A.M. Loutrell…………..1866-67
Bennet and Patrick…………….1836 C. Mullock……………..1868-69
POSTOFFICE AND STAGES
Previous to the opening of the new century, letters were
conveyed by private individuals, and packages of letters were sent by the
boats. It was sometimes attended with considerable labor to open
and distribute these packages, which was always done at Hollenback’s store.
The mail was looked for as often as a boat arrived, and distributed with
as much order as circumstances would permit.
No post office had been established at Athens until the summer of 1800, when Mr. William Prentice, son of Dr. Prentice, late of New London, received the appointment of postmaster. His office was in Hollenback’s store. He was a young man of much promise, and his services in public life were held in high estimation. He acquitted himself honorably for a little more than five years, when he died suddenly of fever. From this time there seems to have been no appointment made for two years. Col. Samuel Satterlee officiated pro tem, when Mr. David Paine was appointed postmaster in 1808, and served until 1818, when he was re-appointed, and continued postmaster until April, 1824, when he resigned in favor of D.A. Saltmarsh. Ebenezer Backus, appointed April 3d, 1827; Lemuel Ellsworth, 1831; John Judson, 1840; O. D. Satterlee, 1841; C.S. Park, 1844; C.H. Herrick, 1845; N.C. Harris, 1848; W. Olmsted, 1853; C. H. Herrick, 1856; Wm. Fritcher, 1861; S. B. Hoyt, incumbent, 1864.
Ebenezer Backus, Esq., was engaged for the government as traveling agent in the post office department, and resided at Athens with his family many years. He married Miss Lindsley, a sister of Mrs. Dr. Hopkins. Soon after he came to Athens he bought what is now called the Backus house,* of Jeremiah Decker, built in 1816. The north wing, as it now is, was part of the first frame house in this place, built by Dr. Hopkins, near the close of the last century. It was in this wing of the house that the Congregational church was formed in 1812. Mr. Backus had a large family of sons, and three daughters, two of whom married merchants of this place, Mr. Tompkins, who afterwards removed to Binghamton, and Mr. Ellsworth, who removed to Chicago. Mr. Backus was very genial in his temperament, and this characteristic was hereditary in the family.
*The Backus house was bought in 1901 by Hon. E.H. Perkins, who removed the house and included the land in his fine lawn.
An early settler states that his first recollection of
a mail carrier is of one Bart. Seely. For several years he made his
appearance once a week on horseback, with a small mailbag. Then came
Conrad Teter, who commenced carrying the mail in 1811 with a one-horse
wagon. He soon became the owner of two horses and a covered vehicle,
and transported the mail several years from Wilkesbarre to Painted Post
and back, once a week. After that he became the owner of a covered
Jersey carriage, drawn by four horses, which ran between Wilkesbarre and
In 1814 Samuel Ovenshire commenced a line from Athens to Chenango Point, with a one-horse wagon, which he ran for about three years.
In 1816 Conrad Teter went with his improved carriage and four horses to Owego, and started a line once a week from Owego to Newburg. It required two weeks to perform the trip. At the same time his brother-in-law, Horton, carried the mail for him, from Wilkesbarre to Athens. From thence to Painted Post it was carried by the Saltmarsh brothers.
In 1817 Justin Forbes commenced carrying the mail from Wilkesbarre to Athens, and continued four years. About this time Stephen B. Leonard ran a stage with the mail from Owego to Painted Post, by the way of Athens.
In 1820 the route from Wilkesbarre was extended to Ithaca. Mr. Forbes retained his interest in the route to Wilkesbarre, and the Saltmarsh brothers ran a light two-horse wagon from Athens to Ithaca.
In 1824 Forbes and Saltmarsh resumed the contract to Ithaca, until they went South to engage more extensively in carrying the mails.
In 1825 John Magee, of Bath, started a line with coaches twice a week from Owego to Bath. He was succeeded by his brother, and he by Cooley and Maxwell.
In 1849 the mails were first carried west by the Erie railroad, and stages no longer run north and south since the opening of the Southern railroad in 1867.
Within the purchase of the Howel tract by Mr. Shepard and Mr. Cranse,
in 1806, there was a beautiful island in the Susquehanna River, well calculated
for a fishery, and one was established by them forthwith.
Mr. Cranse had the superintendence of it, and in the spring of the year his family were much occupied with making preparations for fishing. Shad came up the river immediately after it was clear of ice. They were of the finest quality, and in great abundance. They were caught on the point of the island, nearly opposite Mr. Cranse’s door, and afforded entertainment to the many spectators that gathered there to see the process of fishing, as well as profit to the fishermen. First, a net of two or three hundred yards long and thirty three meshes wide, made of strong linen twine, with weight on one side and buoys on the other, was taken into a large canoe. The canoe was then pushed up the river half a mile, leaving another canoe on the shore holding one end of the seine, while the first pushed across the Susquehanna, the men letting off the seine as they crossed to the opposite shore; when both moved silently down the river, pressing the unwary fish backward until they came to the island on either side, where was a general onset, the men jumping into the water, drawing up the seine, the fish floundering as they were thrown upon the point of the island by hundreds, and sometimes more than a thousand at a haul, while many by bounding over the net or breaking through it would make a joyful escape.
Then came the process of dressing and dividing them among such as were entitled to their share, and often have the poor felt rich and the rich glad, as they carried home their several portions with the prospect of having fresh shad for supper, and a supply for days to come. At one time the shad were so abundant that the fishermen agreed not to sell for less than three dollars a hundred, but a purchaser coming on the ground, a man who had a quantity for sale told him he could not sell them for less than three dollars, but he would give him a gross hundred—one hundred and twenty-five.
These shad came up the river in shoals, and the fishermen understood when they were approaching. Many barrels were packed in salt and sent to market.
This luxury had been the blessing of the red man from time immemorial, and of the white man for many years, until the dams in lower Pennsylvania were built, for the accommodation of the canals. The Susquehanna River shad were said to be equal to those of the Hudson and Connecticut. There were other fisheries of some importance near this place—one on the Chemung River, which sometimes yielded a bountiful supply. Boys of former years, as well as of later days, will always remember their fishing parties, and the enthusiasm with which they have engaged in them both day and night.
TROY AND ADJACENT TOWNS
Sugar Creek, a stream emptying into the Susquehanna at
Towanda, formerly gave name to the region of country lying along its banks.
The Indian name, according to Mr. Maxwell (who was interested in Indian history), was “Oscoluwa.” Conrad Weiser, a noted Indian interpreter, when on an embassy from the government to the Six Nations at Onondaga, in 1739, found the Indians living at the headwaters of this stream destitute of food, and subsisting chiefly on the products of the maple tree, which they freely shared with him.
The banks of Lycoming and Sugar Creeks, approaching each other, were a thoroughfare for the Indians from the West to the north branches of the Susquehanna River, and after the natives were removed, the white people, following their track, found a promising and inviting country on these streams, and located farms, and established mills at a very early period.
Great quantities of maple sugar were made in this region, and also in Springfield and Smithfield, which, with the immense yield of native blackberries and other wild fruit, afforded luxuries which the early inhabitants of the more cultivated parts of the country did not enjoy.
But large and thriving villages are now springing up on the banks of these streams, and churches, schools and valuable machinery are indications of substantial improvement.
Troy, pleasantly situated on Sugar Creek, about twenty miles from its mouth, is a very flourishing village, containing many handsome buildings, and is a place of considerable thrift and importance. Among the first settlers were Smead, Rundel and Case.
Joseph Powel opened the first store in Troy, and an Englishman by the name of Philips kept the first tavern. The names of Ballard, Pomeroy and Long, are of later date.
A Baptist Church was erected here more than fifty years ago. This church was been well sustained, and is now the largest religious society in the place. Their Pastor, now 78 years of age, Elder Sheardown, is said to be a man of talent, and his labors have been much blessed during the long period of his ministry.
An institution of learning lately erected in Troy is an ornament to the place, and will do much toward promoting intelligence and refinement.
Numerous villages are springing up on the line of the Northern Central Railroad, between Elmira and Williamsport, which opens up the beauties of the country, and illustrates the truth of the stanza:
“Where nothing dwelt but beasts of prey,
Or men as fierce and wild as they,
He bids the opprest and poor repair
And builds them towns and cities there.”
Smithfield was an unbroken wilderness until about 1795,
when the first permanent settlement is said to have been made by Reuben
In 1801 Samuel Kellogg, Nathan Fellows and Solomon Morse, of Poultney, Vermont came to this uncultivated region and bought lands of the State for one dollar an acre, and settled with their families.
They were organized into a Congregational Church before leaving Vermont. They had a little money, with which they purchased some supplies, which they brought with them, and when their resources failed, they were obliged to leave their families and go to a neighboring town, where provisions could be obtained.
Squire Kellogg, when 80 years old, related some incidents of his new country life. At one time he went away to work for bread, leaving as he thought a sufficient supply until he should return. He toiled hard about three weeks, earned twenty or thirty bushels of grain, and took it to Shepard’s mills to be ground, then hired a team to carry it a part of the way home, where it was left on the river road in safe keeping until he could return for it. It was becoming dark, and he started for home on foot, through the dense forest, five or six miles. He arrived home about twelve o’clock at night, and found that his family had eaten their last morsel. Expecting her husband with a supply that night, the mother had borrowed a half a pint of Indian meal to make porridge. The children went supper less to bed; the mother awaiting anxiously the sound of her husband’s footsteps, and remembering her promise to the children, that when their father returned they should be fed. What was her dismay when he arrived to find he had brought no supplies, and the weary father retraced his footsteps over this dreary way at midnight to provide food for his perishing family. Through the woods and snow, amid the howling of wild beasts, he went and came alone. He arrived home about daylight. The mother was watching and waiting, ready to prepare nourishment for the family, of which they partook with cheerful gratitude and a hearty relish.
The little church planted in Smithfield was like an “ apple tree among the trees of the woods,” which continued to grow and bear fruit. Rev. Seth Williston was one of the first missionaries among them.
About 1805 Nehemiah Tracy and family moved into the place, and gave much strength to the little church and community. There was soon a change in the appearance of the country. Stately trees bowed before these active woodmen, and in the openings here and there might be seen cheerful faces, domestic comforts, and abundance of wild fruit, together with any quantity of maple sugar, made by their own hands; and more than all, the family altar was erected in every humble dwelling. In 1812 they began to build a house of worship, which cost about three hundred dollars, and was accomplished by much effort. The lumber was drawn from the mills on the river, over a very rough road, and it was said that Nehemiah Tracy sold his last cow to buy nails and glass for the building. The house near the site of the present church. Rev. John Bascom was their first pastor; he married the sister of Mrs. Clement Paine. Mr. Bascom died in Lansing, N.Y., where he was preaching, many years ago. His son, John Bascom, is a professor in Williams College. Mrs. Bascom is now living at Ludlowville, N.Y., and is more than 80 years of age. Rev. William Franklin preached in Smithfield five or six years, and died there. Rev. C. C. Corss has been their pastor many years.
The articles for the Congregational Church of Smithfield were drawn up by the Rev. Lemuel Haines, a distinguished colored preacher, at the time of its formation in Poultney, before the members emigrated to this country. This certificate reads thus:
“Samuel Kellogg, Esq., Solomon Morse, and Nathan Fellows, having manifested a desire to be dismissed from the particular watch and care of this church, and to unite in a distinct church, being about to remove to Smithfield, Pennsylvania, County of Luzerne (Bradford). The church accordingly voting their dismission; they took upon them the solemn covenant of the Church, chose Mr. Kellogg their moderator and clerk, and were commended to God by prayer.
“The subscribers being present and assisting them in the solemn transaction.
“ Lemuel Haines,
“ Ministers of the Gospel.
“ Poultney, Vt., February 11, 1801.”
Mr. Haines was pastor of the principal Congregational
church in Poultney, and afterward in Rutland, Vt., over which he presided
many years, much respected and beloved for his good sense and Godliness.
Rev. Dr. Sprague, of Albany, in his “Lives of Eminent New England Divines,” speaks thus of Mr. Haines:
“Rev. Lemuel Haines was a minister of color, and the most eminent Negro preacher ever known in this country. He was the pastor of intelligent churches. In spite of all he had to contend with, he became a man of mark, respected for his piety, talents and usefulness, and was admired for his keen and ready wit.”
A physician of loose principles in a contiguous town was about to remove to a distant part of the country. As he passed through Rutland, where Mr. Haines lived, they met. Mr. Haines said to him, “Doctor, I am owing you a small debt and want to pay you.” The doctor said to him, “Mr. Haines, you have been a faithful preacher, and received but little support, I give you the debt,” but continued, “you must pray for me and make a good man of me.” Mr. Haines quickly replied, “Why, Doctor, I think it would be easier to pay the debt.”
Springfield, south of Smithfield, was named by settlers from Springfield, Mass. It was formerly called Murraysfield, for Noah Murray, whose descendants live in this region. He purchased a large tract of land adjoining Smithfield, and gave name to the town, and died there about 1812.
Ridgeway lies on the northern boundary of the State, directly west of Athens, and is about the same size. Much of the land was originally covered with pine timer, which has been converted into lumber, and sold at very small prices. There is now in the township a very respectable Irish settlement. Thirty or forty years ago some of the Irish laborers on the Erie Canal were inducted to buy lands in that place. Many of them went there and commenced clearing the woods. They were very prudent and industrious, and by dint of hard labor and severe economy, some of them have become quite extensive landowners.
Litchfield Township was surveyed about 1795. John Pierce, father of Jack Pierce, who was deaf and dumb, and well known hereabouts, gave the name to Litchfield, after the town of the same name in Connecticut. Thomas Park was the first settler, in 1795. Samuel Park was the first child born in the town.
J.D. Leray de Chaumont, a Frenchman, was a Pennsylvania landholder, and owned a great part of Litchfield, and a considerable part of Athens, east of the Susquehanna. Colonel Kingsbury, who was his agent, was extensively known among the early settlers, and sold to the people in Athens their back lands at State prices—about three dollars per acre.
Eleazer and Solomon Merrill came to Litchfield from a county of the same name in Connecticut, in 1803. They came for the purpose of locating bounty land due their father, Eleazer Merrill, who was a soldier in the War of the Revolution. They settled on an elevated spot in Litchfield, near the Susquehanna River, made an opening in the forest, built a log cabin near a spring of choice water, and after a season of hard labor preparatory to bringing their families, they returned to Connecticut. It was a long and wearisome journey in those days, but they braved it through, and returned to their place of destination in Pennsylvania. They all ascended the mountain, the aged father and mother, sons and wives, and numerous children and entered the humble dwelling that had been provided for them. Soon they branched out into other homes.
Being provident, they brought with them sundry comforts, a variety of seeds for planting, even flower seeds, which literally made the wilderness to blossom as the rose; and a little money for necessaries, to serve them until their corn began to grow. They found the wild deer in abundance, and a variety of game and berries, affording them food and luxuries. The location has proved to be favorable to the families. Some of them are now said to be wealthy.
Fifty years have made a great change in Litchfield. It is now settled by many prosperous farmers and valuable inhabitants, with good schools and churches. Lands which were then sold for three dollars are now worth twenty-five dollars per acre, perhaps more.