The Reverend Mr. David Craft
At the commencement of the present century the section of country now called Windham was a wilderness, where roamed only wild animals. Although the early settlers labored industriously to clear and improve their farms, for a long time their crops were inadequate to supply their wants, and many of the poorer families suffered for the necessaries of life. It was not uncommon to see half grown children of both sexes in a state of nudity, with the exception, perhaps, of the fig leaf. The houses were mostly hovels, and few and far between. Schools, if they could so be called, were kept in the old log shanty, and religious worship was held in private houses or barns.
In no part of the country has property changed hands more often than here,--many a farm having been owned by more than a dozen different persons. During the successive years in which the writer prepared tax duplicates, there were more changes of the resident taxables than the whole number at any one time on the list. At some places of public worship, congregations have changed entirely within a few years, none of the former ones remaining.
One of the very first settlers in Windham was Philo Brainerd. He came in 1801, bringing his family, consisting of wife, four sons, and one daughter; he was induced to locate here from reports of the cheapness of the lands, fertility of the soil, and advantages of water-power for thc construction of mills. He first purchased a tract of land of Col. Hale, a Connecticut claimant, but the title proving worthless he lost the whole, after having built upon it the mills which were afterwards known as the Shoemaker's mills, now owned by some of the Judson family. He next purchased a section of State's land, 640 acres, which he divided among his sons, retaining the central portion for himself. He then made an opening on the right bank of the Wappusening, and built a log house near the hickory tree which is yet standing. He built a framed house in 1809 on the Four Corners, but the first framed house in the township was erected by Darius Brainerd, in 1808, on a little eminence some rods south of the creek. This house was burned in January, 1829.
Jephtha Brainerd was born at Chatham, Ct., in 1754. Although a farmer by occupation, in his younger days he served as sailor for a few years, and seven years ill the struggle of the American Revolution, ending with being captured by the British and confined in a prison ship. In 1779 he married Abigail Mack, who was born in East Haddam, Ct., in 1758. Their children were Darius, born Oct., 1780; Levi, born Nov. 29, 1781; Drusilla, born Aug., 1783; Jephtha, Jr., born July 23, 1787; and Henry, born Oct. 11, 1799.
Jephtha Brainerd was not only a kindly and social neighbor, a capital story-teller over his mug of cider, but a prominent man in the pioneer settlement, being often chosen to adjudicate disputes, and having served as a member of the legislature.
Darius Brainerd was drafted near the close of the last war with England, and went as far as Wilkes-Barre, when peace was proclaimed, and he returned. On one occasion, while hunting, he was mistaken in a thicket for a deer, and received a charge of ball and buck-shot from his brother Henry's gun, which made him lame for the remainder of his days. He married Tamar Williamson, of Owego; his location was east of the forks at Windham Centre. He had quite a family, many of whom are still living in the county. Philo, his son, resides at Towanda. He died April 12, 1824, leaving a widow, one daughter, and five sons.
Jephtha Brainerd, Jr., married Betsey Smith, in 1810. He was an inveterate joker, and yet was appointed a justice of the peace, and licensed as a Methodist preacher. He removed to Illinois in 1837.
Drusilla Brainerd was married to John Dunham, in 1808. They had two daughters and one son, John L., who inherited a portion of the Brainerd estate, the son receiving the old homestead, which he occupied until 1848, when he sold to P. Kuykendall, and moved to Sullivan Co., Pa. The daughters are living still, in prosperous circumstances. Drusilla died a widow, Aug. 12, 1825.
Levi Brainerd died Sept. 25, 1827, and Henry Brainerd in April, 1824. Neither were married. Abigail (Mack) Brainerd died in 1837; her husband, Jephtha, lived to a good old age, and died July 3, 1825. (Narrative of Philo Brainerd.)
Daniel Doane moved into Windham in the fall of 1800. He lived on the corner where the Windham Centre post-office is now located. His son, Seth, narrates that Thomas and John Fox were the only men there when his father came, they having come the preceding spring. The children of Daniel were Seth, Daniel, Jr., Joseph, Nathan, Reuben, Charles, Sally, and Phoebe. Seth Doan was born on Cape Cod, Mass., in 1788; he married Lydia Bardwell, daughter of Silas Bardwell, whose wife was Lorena Abbott. They died of smallpox, at Wysox, about 1812. Seth, now "four score and ten," lives near the old homestead.
Daniel Doan, Jr., married Sylvia, daughter of James Bostwick, of New York; he moved to Litchfield in 1844, thence to Potter Co, where he died in his eightieth year.
Joseph Doan lived about three-fourths of a mile from the centre, on the place now occupied by his youngest son, Joseph. He lived and died there.
Among the earliest settlers of this township we may name Stephen Smith, who came from New Berlin, Chenango Co., N. Y., about 1805, and settled where the widow Doan now lives; he remained until 1817, when he sold to Joseph Webster and moved to Susquehanna Co., N.Y. He was an old man, had been a captain in the Revolutionary war, and was the first settler on the place.
Gerard Smith, brother of Rensselaer and grandson of Capt. Stephen Smith, came in 1805 and settled on the Webster place, purchasing of Rensselacr Moon. He built two saw-mills on the Wappusenii~g, at Madden's, thc first in the township. There was also a grist-mill at the same location, contemporaneous with the mills above mentioned. Gerard Smith sold to Joseph Webster, and removed to Illinois.
Rensselaer Smith, born in 1801, came from Chenango Co., N. Y., to Windham, in 1812. The Foxes, from Connecticut, had preceded him, and were among the first settlers. Jonah Fox lived at the Johnsons' present location, and his son, Thomas, lived where Jacob Reed formerly kept tavern. Russell, another son, lived nearly opposite his father's place. The sons of Thomas Fox were Harry, Silas, and George. They lived near the State line.
David Short, a preacher, with his father and brothers, Reuben and Abel, came from Rhode Island to Cooperstown, N. Y., thence to the Wappusening, in Windham, about 1807, and located where the widow Doan now resides. They did not remain, removing to Tioga county before 1810.
Other early settlers were Lyman Winchester, who lived a little above Brainerd's, and was a great hunter; Nathan Spalding, from Rhode Island, who sold his possession to Daniel Doan, Sr., and moved into Warren; Augustus Hulon, who lived where the creek crosses the road below Windham Centre, and who was connected with and always followed Captain Smith in his migrations; and Jonathan Pease, who took out a patent for a large tract of land, in behalf of the settlers, and then deeded off their respective lots to them. He died Aug. 2. 1836, aged sixty-nine years. His wife died March 16, 1845, in her eightieth year.
Joseph Webster, in 1813, came from Tolland Co., Conn., and settled on the place now occupied by George Smith, purchasing of Capt. Smith, Gerard Smith, and Augustus Hulop. He died in 1830. At the time of his coming Edmund Russell was justice of thc peace; Mr. Webster succeeded him, and continued in office until his death.
Edmund Russell and Parley Johnson (brothers-in-law of Mr. Webster) settled in Windham a year or two before him, and gave such a flattering description of the country as to induce Mr. W. to locate there. His business was largely lumbering. Nathan Doan married his widow, who still survives.
John Russell, with his family, came from Litchfield Co., Conn., to Orwell, in 1800; after various changes, he settled in Windburn, in 1817, where he bought a tract of land, upon which he lived until his death, in 1820, aged sixty-four years.
Edmund Russell, soil of the above, lived in Windham. He died Feb. 21, 1840, aged sixty-one. Of the other sons, Henry died in 1871, aged eighty-three years; John, Jr., moved to Wisconsin in 1819, and died there; William lived next below Esquire William Russell, and died in 1858, aged sixty-four years; Samuel, born in 1784, died in 1832; Julius, born 1796, died in 1868; George W. lived in Windham until 1842, and subsequently went to Wisconsin. Of the daughters, Brazilla lived at or near Hartford, Pa.; Sarah was married to Col. Theron Darling, and lived in Orwell; Polly (Mary) was the wife successively of Mr. Anthony and James Bush, and resided in Windham. James Bush died Feb. 17, 1861, aged eighty-two.
Edmund Russell was the first of the family to move into Windham. He built the stone tavern commonly called the"Stone Jug.
Parley Johnson came from Tolland, Ct., in 1811 (likely in 1809), and settled near Shoemaker's mill, on the Wappusening. He was a blacksmith by trade.
Amos Yerbeck, an old pioneer, who lived on the State line, came, in 1804, from the Hudson river. He sold to Stephen Morey, and went to Wisconsin, with his children, in 1844.
Benjamin Shoemaker, son of Daniel, and half-brother of Elijah, of Wyoming valley, came from Northampton County and settled in Bradford as early as 1800. He removed from the Mockatawangum fiats, where he bought eleven hundred acres of land, to the Wappusening, in 1813, where he purchased the grist-mill since known as Shoemaker's, built by Jephtha Brainerd in 1790. It was a small log building, containing one run of stone, and was burnt in 1815. Another one was erected on its site, which is still standing.
Caleb Wright built the first sawmill and gristmill on the Wappusening. For a number of years logs were hauled to the mills near the river, where they were sawed, and the lumber run down the river in rafts. Wright's mill was built as early as 1812. The Dunhams now own the site. Seth Doan built a sawmill on the headwaters of the Wysox as early as 1848, on a lot bought of Col. Kingsbury.
Benjamin Shoemaker kept a public house from the time of his settlement until his death, and his wife kept it after his demise. It was a general stopping-place for the people down the river when going to Ithaca for plaster, and many are the storms remembered of the jokes and tricks with which these now old men (as many of them are still living) were entertained in their boyhood days at Shoemaker's. Mr. Shoemaker married Eunice Shaw, of Cherry Creek, Northampton county. She died in 1858, aged seventy seven.
John S. Madden, a native of Ireland, on the Wappusening, is an enterprising citizen. At his place in Windham, about two miles below the centre, are saw, grist, plaster, and carding mills, and tannery. Madden has been largely interested in the Eureka mowing machine works in Towanda, and in some projected railroads.
James Mapes sold his place to Benjamin Shoemaker, and soon after removed.
Hesselgesser was an old hunter and squatter. He lived on the hill, on the farm of Samuel Shoemaker, purchased in 1815 by Mrs. Benjamin Shoemaker.
Many interesting reminiscences are handed down to us by the descendants of the old pioneers. It is said that when Mr. Johnson was moving to this country he lost a horse, and harnessed himself to the side of the remaining horse and drew the load until he could procure another. Tyle Sherman carried two bushels of wheat a distance of seven miles to Shoemaker's mills, and laid his load down but once. In 1802 the late Henry Russell, then seventeen years of age, was sent to mill, with Josiah Grant, to get two bushels of wheat ground. They traveled two hundred and sixty-two miles, over paths only indicated by blazed trees, to obtain the flour needed. At another time he took a small grist in a canoe from Nichols to Lackawanna (now Pittston), poling the canoe down and back, over two hundred miles. Such were the discouragements experienced by the early settlers.
In 1815 there were but 2 horses in the town. Now there are 298. Lumbering was largely engaged in the early days. At one time there were 12 saw mills; now only 4.
Windham contains four church edifices, well attended,--2 Baptist, 2 union (see Chapter XII.),--and 11 schools, in large and commodious structures. Where once stood the dark and gloomy forest now spreads the fertile field, and the log hut has given place to the comfortable, in some instances costly and beautiful, dwelling.
It may be said to the credit of Windham that very few crimes have been committed by any of its citizens. Most of her people are honest, intelligent, and enterprising. Several of her citizens have filled various State and county offices. At present political parties are about equally divided. The religious denominations are Methodists and Baptists.
West Windham and Windham Centre are the principal places of business in the township.
There are twelve school districts. The census reports a population of 957 in 1850; 1128 in 1860; 1188 in 1870, of whom 1158 were native and 30 foreign born.
Bradford Argus, Oct. 12, 1871.
End of Chapter