The Reverend Mr. David Craft
Towanda Borough and Township
THE geographical situation of the township of Towanda is between the townships of North Towanda, on the north, the Susquehanna River (which divides it from Wysox) and Asylum on the east, Monroe on the south, and Burlington on the west. The area of the township is about fifteen square miles. Its surface is hilly, running up into high, pine-covered summits, except along the Towanda creek, where alluvial flats lie on either side of the same. The soil is fertile, even to the very summits of the hills, and produces the cereals and the grasses with certainty almost universally. Dairying is the principal business of the farming community.
The Towanda creek passes northeasterly through the southeastern portion of the township, with two or more small affluents coming in from the north.
The township is divided into four school districts each having a schoolhouse, in which schools are taught an average of six or more months in each year.
Towanda was one of the original towns of Bradford County, being organized before the county was. In 1857 North Towanda was taken from Towanda, and formed into a separate township.
The history of Rudolph Fox, and his family, the first settlers in what is now Towanda township, to which they came before the war for American Independence, and from which they fled before the savage Iroquois, has been given in the general history of the county. He returned to his devastated possession in 1783, accompanied by Elisha Forsyth and his father and his family. Mr. Fox rebuilt his ruined home, on the flats on Towanda creek, between the present road and the Susquehanna. His original purchase of the Indians was patented to others in connection with himself, he receiving but four hundred acres, the same being patented to him as the "Fox Chase." His daughter Elizabeth, whose portrait we here present, subsequently married William Means, Esq. whose history is given in connection with the borough. An incident of the heroism of Elizabeth, while but a girl of thirteen years, is given in Chapter III., to which our readers are especially referred. Mr. Fox was subsequently drowned in the Susquehanna.
MRS. ELIZABETH MEANS
Elisha Forsyth was born in Connecticut, in 1776. The family was a Scottish one from Edinburgh, the ancestor coming to America with his three sons, John, Jonathan, and James. Jonathan, the father of Elisha, came to Wyoming with his family, and was in the battle of July 3, 1778. His family lived at Nanticoke falls, and fled to Carlisle, whither he followed them, escaping from the massacre. In 1783, he came with his family to Towanda with Mr. Fox, but remained a short time only, removing to Choconut. Elisha afterwards built the first ark that ever ran down the north branch of the Susquehanna. It was sixty feet long, built of white-oak timber, caulked and tarred, and its owner, Judge Ashbel, carried wheat in it. Capt. Thomas Parks assisted in its construction.
Jacob Bowman was also a pre-Revolutionary settler in Towanda, and returned to his land after the close of that struggle. He received a warrant for a tract on the east side of Towanda creek, at its mouth, Feb. 1, 1793; the survey was made December, 1803, and the patent issued June 27, 1805. The field-notes of the survey show a mill on the point just above the island. An agreement was made between the Asylum company and Jacob Bowman, inn-keeper, Dec. 31, 1803, for the sale of a tract of land bounded by Jacob Bowman and Reuben Hale, it being a part of a tract surveyed to John Singer on a warrant dated July 1, 1784. John Singer was a millwright, and built the mill before mentioned previous to 1800. Rudolph Fox sold to Caspar Singer, May 21, 1792, a portion of the "Fox Chase." John Singer was a son of Caspar.
Jacob Grantier, a German, was an early settler in the township. He sold to George Welles and Reuben Hale, in July, 1799, a lot on Towanda creek, in Asylum. He located first where Judge Scott lived. He removed to Canton Township, where some of his descendants yet reside.
Silas Scoville, and his brother Orr, sons of Elisha Scoville, of Connecticut, from whence he and his family removed to Exeter, Luzerne Co., Pa., came from the latter place to Towanda in 1788. Silas bought a possession one mile south of Towanda village, and Orr bought the original Grantier place, now owned by H. L. Scott, son of Judge George Scott. The farms were purchased of a man named Smith, who "farmed a little and preached a little," as necessity required or occasion offered. Orr Scoville married Polly, a sister of Ezra Rutty, removed to Canton, and from thence to Indiana, where he died. He reared a large family, who remain in the west. Silas married, June 4, 1796, Abigail Harris, of Exeter, and remained on the farm he first bought till his death, his children and grandchildren now possessing, it. The present dwelling on the farm is the fourth one in succession, two having been burned. His in house was ever the home of the Connecticut emigrants, sometimes for weeks together, while they were looking about for a place to make a home. The first plow used upon the farm was made by Mr. Holcomb, now of Le Roy. It was brought to the farm by a son of Mr. Scoville, mounted on a horse attached to the plow, which had a wooden shoe placed on it, on which it was dragged through the woods a distance of fourteen miles. It was made entirely of wood with the exception of the share. Silas Scoville died June 18, 1824, aged sixty-one years, and his wife died February 28, 1855, aged eighty-one years.
His family consisted of the following-named children: Phebe married Nathan Stevens, of Wyalusing; Harris married Olive Ackla; Harry married Sarah Courtright, of Luzerne county; Calista died in her youth; Caroline married Hugh Frazier; Silas married Maria Dill; Joseph Jenkins married Harriet Taylor, of Pike township; Abigail married Reuben Delano.
Joshua Wythe was a Bostonian, and was burned out in the great fire in that city about 1791, and soon after removed to the lake region of central New York to find a home and retrieve his fortunes. Here the family were sorely afflicted with the ills incident to that region, and on his recovery sufficiently to enable him to travel, he came to Towanda, in 1794, in his pursuit of a more favorable locality for a home, and purchased a farm about two miles above the mouth of Towanda creek, on what is known as the George Bowman place. He bought of Heath two hundred and fifty acres, who made the original possession. Mrs. Wythe died in 1805, in her forty-fourth year, and was buried on Cole's flats, and Mr. Wythe returned to Boston, and married a second wife, and moved to the west, selected a home, and sent for his children, all of whom went to him except his daughter Mary (now Mrs. Mary Dodge), who, as she said to us, "had made other arrangements, and stayed behind." She consummated those arrangements shortly afterwards, being married in 1808. Mr. Wythe died in Cincinnati. His first wife was Elizabeth, a daughter of Col. Brewer, of Cambridge, who died in the Continental service during, the Revolution.
The children of Mr. and Mrs. Elizabeth Wythe were as follows: Susanna, married a Leonard, and moved west; Elisha, married Nancy Salisbury, removed to Delaware Co., Ohio, where both died; Joshua, married Hannah Pond, and went west with Elisha; George, lived in Harrisburg with his uncle, John Wythe, and learned the printer's trade, he married and lived in Pittsburgh, and from thence went to Kentucky, where lie died; Harriet., married John Bates, and lived in Covington, Ky.; Mary, married (first) Daniel Gilbert, and (Second) Maj. Oliver Williams Dodge; Prentice, went west, and died unmarried in his early manhood; Francis, married, and removed to the west, he was born in Towanda; Nancy was married, and lived in Kentucky; Elizabeth; Henry; and Fanny, went west while young, and settled there.
Daniel Gilbert was a native of Connecticut. He bought the farm of Joshua Wythe, whose daughter Mary he married in 1808, and built his house thereon situate the same year. He subsequently exchanged this farm for the Greenwood place, and that again for the Mintz place, known as the dry saw-mill, being the next farm above the Wythe farm. Upon his death his widow married Maj. O. W. Dodge, who died Feb. 1, 1845. In May, 1844, Mrs. Dodge moved to her present farm in the township. Reuben Hale came from Glastonbury, Conn., to Towanda Township about the year 1799. His first purchase, dated June 20, 1799, was of two hundred acres of land, and a mill bought of George Welles, of Tioga Point. He married Wealthy Tracy, of New London, Conn., in 1803. He was the first postmaster of Towanda, being appointed in 1810, and was for many years a justice of the peace. He was prominent among the citizens of the county for many years. His children were five; Eliza, who married Gen. William Patton; Nancy, married Benjamin Spies; James Tracy; Reuben White and Elias W. Mr. Hale died about 1825.
Hon, James Tracy Hale, the oldest son of Reuben Hale, was born in Towanda township, Oct. 14, 1810. When he was about fifteen years of age the death of his father devolved the chief support of the family upon him, a relation he discharged most faithfully. Some time after his father's death he entered the office of the prothonotary of Bradford County as principal clerk. On retiring from that position he entered upon the study of the law, in the office and under the direction of his uncle, Elias W. Hale, of Lewiston, Mifflin Co., Pa., and was admitted to the bar of that county, Feb. 28, 1832. In 1835, he moved to Bellefonte, where, on May 6 of the same year, he married Miss Jane W. Huston, daughter of Hon. Chas. Huston, associate justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. He rapidly rose in the profession, occupying a leading and prominent position at the bar. He was engaged in the trial of all the principal causes tried in the several courts of Mifflin, Clearfield, and Clinton, until April 10, 1851, when he was appointed president judge of what is now the twenty-fifth judicial district, to fill a vacancy. He held the position but a short time, until Dec. 1, 1851, but discharged the duties with such dispatch, promptness, ability, and impartiality, that he achieved a most excellent reputation as a jurist. He resumed his practice on retiring from the bench, and continued it until about 1856, when other enterprises in coal and timber lands and railroads engrossed his attention, to the exclusion to a great extent of his professional business. He embarked his means, industry, energy, and financial skill in the construction of the Tyrone and Clearfield railroad, of which he was president from 1856 to 1860. He carried the road through the financial crisis of 1857, notwithstanding, great difficulties and embarrassments, completing it and putting it into running order about 1859. It remains a monument to the enterprise, energy, perseverance, and skill of Judge Hale, more durable than granite.
Judge Hale was an ardent Whig in politics, and was a successful advocate of the principles of his party and a popular stump speaker. When that party gave way to the Republican organization he united with the latter, and in 1858 was elected to congress from the 18th district, composed of the counties of Mifflin, Centre, Clinton, Lycoming Potter, and Tioga. He was re-elected in 1860 and 1862, in the latter year being elected as an independent candidate over the regular Republican nominee, the district being largely Republican.
He retired from congress March 4, 1865 and immediately resumed his professional calling, arguing, on March 31, a cause with great force and ability, though quite unwell. The day following he was quite sick, and grew worse, until April 6, when he died. He was buried in Bellefonte. His biographer, Adam Hoy, Esq., his law partner, in closing thus quotes:
"His life was gentle, and the elements
So moved in him that nature might stand up
And say to all the world, This was a Man"
Judge Hale left five children surviving; Reuben White Hale, the second son of Reuben Hale, died in 1835, at the age of twenty-one years. He was a young man of great promise.
Maj. Elias W. Hale, the youngest son, is the only survivor of the family. He was born in 1816, and now owns and is living on the old homestead. He was born on and has always lived on the farm, and is a successful farmer and business man. In 1850 he received the appointment of Deputy United States marshal, and as such enumerated the census of Towanda. In 1864 was elected presidential elector for this congressional district. He married Miss Mary I. Taylor, of Glastonbury, Conn., in 1854, and has now five children.
Henry Head came from Dutchess Co., N. Y., with a large family of boys. He lived on what is now the Cole farm. Samuel Strickland first lived on the farm. He had been in the army and came to Towanda from Wilkes-Barre, and moved from here to Wysox. The widow of Head and her children removed to Honeoye, N. Y., the Coles buying her farm. They came in from Macedonia.
William Goff lived near Mr. Wythe. He came to Towanda from Unadilla, subsequently to Mr. Wythe. A Mr. Heacock came to the township before 1799, and settled for a time on a lot adjoining Fox's land.
Usual Carter was also an early settler, next above Salisbury's. He came from the Drowned Lands in Orange Co., N. Y. It is said of him "he had a great deal of wit and a number of children,": Aaron, Moses, David, Enoch, and one daughter, Susan. She married a man named Cox. The old people and the sons went west. Moses returned, however, and remained in Bradford. The daughter moved to the State road, where she died.
Capt. George Alger settled on a place joining Mr. Wythe, the next above him. They came, from Chatham Four Corners, Columbia Co., N. Y. He had one son, Ezra, who removed from the county. Capt. Alger died in 1803, and was buried in his garden. His wife survived him many years, being entirely blind for the last twenty years of her life. She was buried beside her husband.
Job Irish came from Columbia Co., N. Y., about 1800, or before. He first settled on the Alger place, and sold it to the captain. On Aug. 16, 1800, Jehiel Franklin sold to Job Irish lots Nos. 22, 23, and 24 of Claverack, lying on Mill creek, the farm said Jehiel then lived on, except two pieces which he conveyed to Stephen Strickland. Irish was a pettifogger, and at times a preacher. He was buried in the Cole burying ground. His wife lived with her daughter Elizabeth, in Smithfield, with whom she died. Their children were Henry, Jedediah, Job, George, Frederick, Catherine, Susie, and Polly.
Henry Salisbury came from Columbia Co., N. Y., about 1797-98. He lived and died on the Cole place. Elisha Cole married one of Mr. Salisbury's daughters, and the old people lived with them in their latter days. He had several daughters and one son; they were Henry, Elizabeth (married Job Irish), Amy (married Elisha Cole), Catherine (married Luther Hinman), and Nancy (married Elisba Wythe).
In 1800 the following were residents of the township also; A Mr. Brown lived near the site of the present railroad crossing. Horatio and Ephraim Ladd, who removed afterwards to Albany, and Mr. Myers, the father of William Myers, and his wife, lived opposite Daniel Bowman. Beardsley lived on Beardsley Island.
There was a distillery in 1800 also in existence, and actively in operation in the township. East of the railroad, above the iron-works, was also another one of the same manufactories, where Harry Scoville now lives.
The first schoolhouse that accommodated the people was built about 1813, on the forks of the road near Foster's, in what is now North Towanda. The second one was built opposite to the present residence of H. L. Scott.
Rev. Mr. Thatcher preached, and organized a Presbyterian church prior to 1800, but it had but a feeble and short existence. It was organized in Rudolph Fox's house. Miner York was the first Presbyterian minister who was settled in the township. He was a learned man. He died, from a hemorrhage, in the pulpit.
During the Revolutionary war, a former settler of Bradford County, whose instincts of loyalty led him to espouse the cause of the crown in its contest with the colonies, to find a more congenial neighborhood wherein to express his honest sentiments, had removed to Canada. While there, the Indians brought in six scalps, which were valued by them at $48, the British Government offering eight dollars each for fair, curling, black, or blonde, indiscriminately. The Tory appropriated these reminiscences of Indian warfare, and sold them for six dollars per piece. The Indians soon found out who had despoiled them of their property, and taking the man out, they gave him a most severe castration, not for stealing the scalps, they said, but because the white man sold them below contract price.
The population of the township in 1850 was 1107 ; in 1860, 626 - in 1870, 916.
END OF CHAPTER