The Reverend Mr. David Craft
The name of this township was selected by a vote of some of the citizens at the time of its organization in 1835. Several names were proposed. Ira Crofut, a son of Seeley Crofut, who was one of the first settlers, suggested Le Roy, a French name, meaning "the king." This name was such a favorite of his that he had given it to one of Eli Holcomb's boys. This name received the sanction of a majority present. The surface of this township presents a great variety of elevation, geological formation, and timber. The settled portion is principally along the Towanda creek and the ridge in the northern part. The average height of the mountain lying between Towanda creek and Schraeder branch is about 1100 feet above the bed of the Towanda creek. Burnett's ridge lies south of the Schraeder branch. Its height is about 900 feet above the bed of the Schraeder.
Early in March, 1794, a hurricane swept through this section, uprooting the timber on all the ridges in its course from about one mile east of Alba borough, in a direct course, to Le Roy Centre; then to Burnett's ridge. Scarcely any timber was left standing in its track, which was a mile in width. A part of Granville township is still called the Windfall, in memory of the occurrence.
The first settlers were Hugh and Sterling Holcomb, sons of Eli Holcomb, who was born in Granby, Conn., in 1740, married Harriet Crofut, of Danbury, Conn., in 1763, and settled at Ulster, in this county, in 1793. Their father, Eli, came with them to assist in selecting locations in 1795. They built a log cabin near the present residence of Oakley Lewis, where they kept bachelors' hall several years.
In 1796, Seeley Crofut, settled on the farm just east of Le Roy cemetery; his wife, Hannah, was a sister to Hugh and Sterling, and did their cooking and washing for them until they married. Hugh married Miss Oakley; their son Marlin was the first child born in the place, and she was the first person that died. Hugh's second wife was Miss Prudence Bailey. Orator, Ezra, Harvey and Judson were their sons. Sterling married Betsy, a daughter of Benjamin Stone, who came from Connecticut and settled at West Franklin in 1799. During the year 1796, Dennison Kingsbury settled on the farm now owned by E. Lilley; Elihu Knight, on the Walters farm; George Brown on the George P. Manley farm; and Joel Bodwell, on the A. G. Kelley farm. Dennison Kingsbury though his location favorable to the formation of a business centre, and made improvement with such an idea in view. He set the elm-trees, which now stand by the roadside. In 1805 or '6 he sold to Capt. Rice and left the place; Rice sold to Joseph Wallace, the fiddler. Peter Gordon settled on the Aaron Knapp farm in 1797, and Isaac Chaapel, father of Ledyard and Chauncey, on the Chaapel farm in 1799. Isaac Chaapel was a prominent man, being the first justice of the peace for what was then Burlington township. About this time David Andrews settled on what is known as the Andrews farm, near Andrew Savacoats. In 1800, Truman Holcomb, a brother to Hugh and Sterling, came from Ulster and moved into a house on the A. G. Kelley farm, occupied by William Cole and Joel Bodwell, and Isaac Wooster located on the same farm farther north. Truman Holcomb took up a farm close by and remained on it twelve years, then returned to Ulster. He was the father of sixteen children, eight by his first wife and eight by his second. His son Eli, who is now eight-four years of age, still lives in the township a little to the south of the village, where he settled in 1819. He has a family of thirteen children, nearly all of whom are the heads of families. He has succeeded well as a cooper, hunter, miller, and farmer.
Isaac Wooster, like the most of the first settlers of this region, came from Connecticut, and took up a possession under the Connecticut title. He was a man of considerable means, and was considered one of the principal settlers. Some of his descendants still live here. In 1798, Luther Hinman took up a possession in the west of Van Fleet hill; hence the former name, Hinman Hill. Hinman was a Free-mason, and wished to join the Baptist church, but Seeley Crofut considered Masonry a bar to fellowship. After several church meetings to consider the matter, Deacon Crofut withdrew his objections, and Hinman was taken in. Miles Oakley settled on the Minard farm in 1799, and George Head on the Dudley McCraney farm. The same year Aaron Cook, a chair manufacturer, located near the residence of Robert McKee, and Tim Culver, a noted hunter, on the south side of the creek, opposite McKee's.
Alpheus Holcomb, a brother of Hugh and Sterling, settled on the flats at the north of the mill-pond at the Centre, where he built a house and set an orchard of apple-trees. Having a roving nature, he soon sold his farm, and went westward. After a few years he returned, and settled on the Robert McKee farm. He was deacon in the Baptist church, and was for many years considered one of the leading lights. In 1801, we find David Wooster, Nicholas Gordon, Henry Segar, and a few others added to the settlers. Twenty-eight families were within in the present limits of the township in 1804. According to the assessment for that year there were 231 acres of improved land, 27 families, 11 horses, 16 oxen, 31 cows, and 25 houses. The houses were valued at $383.
Elder David Jayne, of the Baptist church, taught the first school; after him Sylva Clark, Joel Wooster, Lydia Ladd, Jacob Kingsley, Lorin Kingsbury, etc. Elder Jayne was expelled from the Baptist church because he taught that "the wicked have no immortal part, and are to be annihilated at the day of judgement."
Deacon Seeley Crofut started the first Sunday-school in an old log school house, opposite the present residence of S. B. Morse. He was elected justice of the peace in 1812. He served in many positions of trust, by the choice of his neighbors. He kept the first grocery or store in the township. The Baptist meetings were for many years held at his house.
Jesse Morse settled near the Centre in 1805, and, like the most of the first settlers, went to clearing land. His descendants are numerous. The first sawmill was built by Hugh Holcomb, in 1808, and was located at the top of the falls in the Gulf brook, at the north of the Centre.
At first the settlers went to "Chenang Point" to get their grain ground, or else pounded it in mortal made in the top of the stump. They next went to Tioga Point, but before 1800 mills were built at Allen's, in Franklin Township, and at Fox Centre, in Sullivan county.
The first grist-mill was built by Hugh Holcomb, in 1820. The next year Eli Holcomb built one on the south of the creek, running it by water from a forty-acre pond he formed on the mountain by damming the outlet of a swamp there. In 1850, after a heavy fall of rain, the dam gave way, and damaged the mill, besides making sad havoc along the stream. The mill-stones for the mills were procured of Northrup, who made them at the mouth of the Schraeder.
Orison Royse built the first distillery near the present dwelling of O. Lewis. This was built at an early day, but before this time the settlers went to Ezra Spalding's, at the west of Canton, to get whisky, which appears to have been considered a very important article in every family. The first retailers of whisky in the neighborhood were Dennison Kingsbury, Seeley Crofut, Joseph Wallace, and Henry Mercur, the hatter. The first framed building erected in the vicinity without the use of whisky was the barn built by Orator Holcomb on the farm now owned by E. T. Buffum. This was built about 1840.
John Knapp settled near West Franklin in 1796, and made wooden mould-board plows having but one handle. Aaron, his son, bought the farm now owned by T. A. McCraney, in 1818. His sister Eunice kept house for him two years, and then married Jesse Robart, the father of William and Jesse (2d). Mr. Robart soon settled and made a clearing on the farm now owned by Robert Mason, Aaron Knapp was elected as the first justice of the peace, after the organization of the township.
By act of the legislature, the Towanda creek is a public highway. A considerable amount of lumber and shingles were formerly floated down the stream to market during high water.
The congregation of Disciples built a house of public worship in 1850, the Baptists in 1855, and the Methodist shortly after. The first settlement of the mountain was made by Henry Knowles in 1841, at the place known as the Knowles settlement. He came from Philadelphia with five horses to draw the household goods of his own and those of another family. Since then several families have settled in the same vicinity, and the place is now known as the Cold Spring settlement.
About two miles to the west is another settlement, which is known as the Irish settlement, and was commenced about twenty years ago. Each of these settlements constitutes a sub-school district.
The McCraney settlement was made by Jeremy Bailey and Samuel McCraney in the autumn of 1846 and spring of 1847. At one time there were several families located, but now there are only two.
Carbon run is the name of the small stream rising in this township a little to the west of the Barclay line, and flows into the Schraeder. On the head-waters of this stream the Schraeder coal company have leased 2600 acres of coal land, the chief part of which is in this township. The mining is now being carried on quite extensively. To meet the wants and convenience of this place, a school-house has been erected for the children of about twenty families that reside on the Le Roy side of the line. About four years since a public highway was made from Le Roy Centre to Carbon run, a distance of about three and a half miles, at a cost of a little more than $4000. This amount was at least $1200 more than it would have cost under proper management. The road is a good means of communication between the valley of the Towanda creek and the mines at Carbon Run and Barclay, and opens up a good market for farm produce. The principal village is Le Roy, in the centre of the township, which contains a hotel, two churches, stores, post office, and about a dozen dwellings. There are eight school districts, six of which are along the creek.
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