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History & Geography of Bradford County by Heverly
Bradford County PA
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Chapter 44 - Springfield

History & Geography of Bradford County

By Clement F. Heverly

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Springfield Township (pp. 471-482)

By Clement F. Heverly 
(Transcribed by William Klauk)

Springfield was so named in remembrance of Springfield Massachusetts, the former home of a large number of its pioneers. The township was first called "Murraysfield," the name of the grant made by the Susquehanna Company, 1795, to Rev. Noah Murray, a celebrated Universalist preacher, who died in the town, 1811, in his seventy-fifth year.

Geographical. --Springfield, comprising 1-28 of the area of Bradford county, is bounded north by South Creek and Ridgebury, east by Smithfield, south by West Burlington and Troy and west by Columbia. Its surface is much diversified, there being many narrow, yet beautiful valleys, surrounded by hills, ranging from a slight elevation to a height of 2260 feet -- the summit of Mt. Pisgah, in the southern part of the township. Leonard creek and Mill creek flowing south and Buck's, Miller's and Bentley creek coursing north, all have their headwaters within Springfield. A heavy primeval forest of hemlock, maple, white and yellow pine, ash, beech, birch, white oak, basswood and other species, covered the hills and valleys. Here deer wandered in herds, bears and wolves in packs, while panthers from their coverts awaited their prey. Brook-trout abounded in the streams. The region was a favorite hunting-ground of the Indian. When the white man came there was only one break in the vast wilderness, being the Beaver Meadows of several acres on Mill creek, where the trees had been gnawed down by the beavers in building a dam. The township has an area of 42 square miles and was formed from Smithfield in 1813; population 876 in 1920.

History: The Pioneers.-- John Harkness, who served his country in the struggle for Independence, was born at Pelham, Mass. Some time after the war Mr. Harkness concluded he would move his family to "the rich country of the West." Accordingly he left New England with his family, stopping for a time at Salem, N. Y., while he went on trips of exploration. He found Springfield and was so well pleased with the country that he concluded to make it his home.

In the fall of 1803 in company with Ebenezer Harkness, Ichabod Smith and Alexander Harkness, single young men, he came to the township, selected a homestead east of Springfield Center, built a cabin and began clearing. Late in the fall he returned for his family, his three companions remaining during the winter. On the first of March, 1804, he reached his home in the wilderness with his family, the snow being two feet deep and he required to cut his own road in from Smithfield. He moved on sleighs drawn by two ox-teams and a span of horses. In addition to improving his land, Mr. Harkness built a shop and manufactured churns and rakes with which he supplied the surrounding country. His home furnished hospitality to the new comers until they could prepare accommodations for themselves. Captain Harkness as he was familiarly known died, 1843, aged eighty-three years. By his wife, Rachel, he had children: Alexander, Nancy (Mrs. Austin Pennook), Nathaniel, Jacob, Silas, James, Rachel (Mrs. Josiah Parkhurst), John, Margaret (Mrs. Joseph Stacy), Oliver, Ezra, Hiram and Chester.

Ezekiel Leonard, who served in the American army and was with Gen. Ethan Allen in his attack upon Fort Ticonderoga, was a native of Springfield, Mass. The advent of the Leonards into Springfield is thus described by a member of the family:

"In June, 1803, Ezekiel Leonard and Austin Leonard of Springfield, Massachusetts, having been interviewed by Michael Thorp, land agent, came to this locality to establish a new home. At Troy, they met Joseph Barber, a hunter and surveyor. Barber took them into the valley at the western slope of Mt. Pisgah and assisted them in selecting a tract of 1000 acres which they purchased. They arranged .with Nathaniel Allen, living at East Troy, to build them two log houses and have ready for occupancy by the 1st of November. The Leonards arrived with their families at that time, the houses had not been constructed and they moved into a vacant house of Mr. Allen. The two Leonards built a hut by the side of a large hemlock log, where they lived during the working days of the week until the summer of 1804. During the winter they felled the timber on about forty acres. They burned their fallow in May, and planted corn among the logs, using handspikes for corn planters. They then built two log houses, cut a road up Leonard creek to their habitations and moved their families, arriving June 3, 1804, and being compelled to cross the creek thirteen times. They had a wonderful crop of corn, estimated at forty bushels per acre. The news of their great harvest of corn brought additional settlers from Massachusetts."

Ezekiel Leonard died, 1843, aged eighty-three years. By his wife Rhoda he had children: Abi (Mrs. Abel Leonard), Laura (Mrs. Joel Calkins), Ezekiel, Nathaniel, Lyman, Eber, Frederick, Albert and Alfred. Austin Leonard, a relative of Ezekiel, was also a soldier of the Revolution. He died, 1826, aged seventy-three years. His children were Austin, Abel, Asaph U., Deborah (Mrs. Joseph Grace, Jr.) and Theodore. The valley where the Leonards settled was long known as "Leonard Hollow" and in recent years as Leona. The Leonards and Harknesses had no .knowledge of each other until the spring of 1805. Mr. Harkness's cattle having strayed away, he followed them by their tracks through the woods, coming to the opening made by the Leonards. The cabins of these families were about four miles apart.

William Harkness, a patriot of the Revolution and native of Pelham, Mass., brought his family from Granville, N. Y., in the fall of 1804, locating near Springfield Center. Here he carved out a home in the wilderness and died, 1825, aged sixty-three years. By his wife Esther he had children: Ebenezer, James, Amos, Polly, William, Isabella (Mrs. James Mattocks), John, Millicent (Mrs. Nicholas Parkhurst), Stephen and Eliza.

Abel Eaton and William Eaton, single young men, in the spring of 1804, left their homes in Springfield, Mass., on foot, with their knapsacks strapped upon their backs, hoping to find their former neighbors, the Leonards. They reached the Susquehanna at Oneonta where they purchased a canoe and paddled down the river to Ulster. Here they sold their canoe and resumed their journey on foot, coming by the way of Sugar creek. They worked with the Leonards until June, then selected lands of their own. Abel after some years removed to Canton township. William married Asenath, daughter of Wright Loomis of Athens and had children: L. Emily, Louisa C. and Theodorus.

Ichabod Smith also from Springfield, Mass., with his Wife, Anna, came to. the township in 1804. He removed to other parts before 1812.

Josephus Wing and wife, Sarah, natives of Darmouth, Mass., and both advanced in years, in 1805, came to the wilderness of Springfield township to reside.

Joseph Grover, a native of Norwich, Conn., and patriot of the Revolution, settled at Springfield Center, 1806. His family consisted of his wife, Elizabeth and children: Ebenezer, Gordon, Betsy (Mrs. Fuller), Almira, Gamaliel, Harry and Joseph, Jr. Mr. Grover died, 1828, aged eighty years and his wife, 1826, aged seventy-five years.

Joshua Spear, soldier of the Revolution and a native of Suffield, Conn., emigrated to Springfield with his family, 1806. He took up and improved lands, bravely sharing the hardships with his few remote neighbors in the wilderness. The children of Joshua and Miriam Spear were Miriam (Mrs. Dexter Parkhurst), Harriet, Juliet, Hiram and Sophia (Mrs. Adin Calkins). He died, 1838, aged seventy-four years.

James Mattocks, a native of Litchfield, Conn., exchanged his property in Washington county, N. Y., where he resided, for 1000 acres of Connecticut land in Springfield and moved thereto, 1806, settling at the "Corners." Losing his title he repurchased 150 acres of the Bingham estate. He was a stirring and influential man in the community, being farmer, mechanic, captain of militia and a Justice-of-the-peace for thirty years. His death occurred, 1858, at the age of eighty-eight years. By his wife, Abigail, he had children: Sally R., James, Samuel P., Charles, Walter, John W. and Abigail (Mrs. Asahel Parmeter).

Oliver Gates, a native of Preston, Conn., who had served his country on both land and sea in the struggle for Independence, settled in Springfield, 1806. He suffered many privations and hardships in his effort to provide for the wants of his family and establish a home in the wilderness. On one occasion while he was at Tioga Point earning bread for his family, the provisions gave out and all that Mrs. Gates and the children had to live upon for a period of two weeks were blackberries and milk, and to procure the berries Mrs. Gates had to go a mile, making the trip every morning before the little ones had awakened. The children of Oliver and Jemina Gates were William, Denison, Oliver, Samuel, Almira, Marcy and Betsy.

Luke Pitts, a native of Westfield, Mass., came to Springfield from Queensburg, N. Y., 1806. In 1813 he built a grist-mill, the first in the town, at Springfield Center. His family consisted of his wife, Sally, and children: Almira, Valaria, Sally (Mrs. Benedict Bostwick), Wright and Luke.

Stephen Bliss joined the Springfield settlement in 1806, where he continued to reside until his death, 1850. He left a son, Noah, and daughter, Marcy.

William Brace, a native of Cambridge, N. Y., located in Springfield, 1806. He was industrious and enterprising and accumulated a fine property. He died, 1872, aged eighty-seven years. His wife was Polly Furman and their children: Stephen A., Alfred, William F., Angeline (Mrs. Blakesly), Dilton, Samuel, John H., Nancy (Mrs. James McKean), Martha (Mrs. James Bullock) and Eliza (Mrs. Taylor).

Henry Stever and Amaziah Thayer, the former from Worcester, N. Y., and the latter from Curlmont, Mass., came to Springfield with their families, 1806. In 1810, Stever sold and moved away, Thayer remaining a few years longer.

James Harkness, a native of Pelham, Mass., moved from Salem, N. Y., to Springfield, settling in the east part of the township, 1806. His family consisted of his wife, Betsy, and children: Rosanna, Abner, James R., David, Betsy, Edson, Daniel, Isaac and Chloe.

Abel Fuller, a native of Rehobeth, Mass., came to Springfield, 1807. He had a wife, Elizabeth, and children: Jacob, Althea, Gurdon, John, Alanson and Parmelia.

Nehemiah Wilson, a native of Newtown, Mass., and a patriot of the Revolution, removed with his family from Cobleskill, N. Y., to Springfield, 1807. He was a weaver by occupation. His wife was Polly Grover and their children: Burdet, Elizabeth, Polly (Mrs. McDougal), Charlotte (Mrs. James Voorhis), Sally (Mrs. Eber Leonard), Ann (Mrs. Joseph Watrous, 2nd wife), Lucinda (Mrs. Joseph Watrous, 1st wife), Hiram and Charles.

Joseph Grace, son of Joseph and Mara (Sargent) Grace, was born at West Springfield, Mass. He married Deborah, daughter of Austin Leonard. In 1807, he removed to Springfield, settling near Leona. He came with an ox-team, also bringing a cow, whose milk provided food for the children on the way. A few years later he was joined by his brothers, George and William, aged mother and sisters, Polly (Mrs. Samuel Sargent) and Betsy (Mrs. Elisha Fanning). He died, 1825, aged forty-three years. His children were Ambrose, James Upham, Maria (Mrs. David M. Brooks), Betsey (Mrs. Chauncey Brooks), Jane (Mrs. Lewis Beach) and Joseph L.

Gaius Adams emigrated from Springfield, Mass., with his brother-in-law, Isaac Cooley, in 1808. For two or three years these families lived together and shared the hardships of a new country that were "almost famine to them." Maple sugar was the only source by which the wants of the families could be supplied in the spring. This Messrs. Adams and Cooley would take to Tioga Point and exchange for provisions and articles of comfort. Mr. Adams married Cynthia Kent and had children: Henry Lewis, Joel, James, Bela K., Margaret, Harriet (Mrs. Sidney Struble), Lucretia (Mrs. Ambrose Brown) and Jere.

Isaac Cooley, like Gaius Adams, was a native of Springfield, Mass. He was a worthful citizen and long prominent in public and civil affairs. From his rank in the old militia he was generally known as "Major Cooley." His first wife was Betsey Norman and their children: John N., Caleb W.; Mary P. (Mrs. Bela K. Adams), Jane E. (Mrs. Caleb S. Burt) and Isaac A.; married 2nd Margaret Kent and had children: Rodney H. and Maria M. (Mrs. James Allen).

Thomas Pemberton, a native of London, England, emigrated from Connecticut, 1808, locating near the Center but was not a permanent resident. He had a family of ten children: Thomas, Norton, Henrietta, Polly, Richard, Gabriel R., Henry, Elizabeth, Ardon K. and Isabel.

Elihu Spear from Massachusetts and Samuel Campbell and Samuel Kingsbury were comers also in 1808.

Jacob Newel1 emigrated from Vermont, 1810, settling the farm afterwards occupied by his son, Barnard. Rev. Calvin Newell was the youngest son of Jacob Newell, who was a brother-in-law of Amaziah Thayer.

James Otterson from Vermont, Conklin Baker and George Gates came to the township in 1811.

1812.-- The new comers were Aden Brown, Elisha Fanning, William Faulkner, Chas. Phillips and Thomas Wheeler. Fanning, a native of Connecticut, came from West Springfield, Mass. He was three times married and had children: Amanda (Mrs. Stephen A. Mills), Eliza (Mrs. Ephraim Sargent), Hiram, William Jayne, Charlotte (Mrs. John Ward), David Grace, Amos B. and Luther J. Phillips was from West Springfield, Mass. His children were James L., Charles, Elijah, Martin, Mary Sarah Ann and Caroline (Maynard).

1813.-- William Evans, Seth Gates, John Parkhurst and Lemuel White. Evans was a native of New Hampshire; he came with his father-in-law, Maj. John Parkhurst, a patriot of the Revolution, who was the father of John, Daniel, Josiah, Sarah Maria (Mrs. Evans), Curtis, Dexter, Joel, Martha (Mrs. Micajah Seely) and Ebenezer F. Gates was a cousin of Gen. Horatio Gates of Revolutionary fame.

1815.-- Elam Bennett, Bela Kent and Samuel Severance. Bennett died, 1863, at which time he and his wife, Mary, were the oldest couple in Springfield. Kent, a native of Connecticut, was a patriot of the Revolution. His children were Bela, Henry, Cynthia (Mrs. Gaius Adams), Harriet (Mrs. Bedortha) and Margaret (Mrs. Isaac Cooley). Severance was from Massachusetts and a soldier of the Revolution. His wife was Azuba Smith and their children: Sarah (Mrs. David Phinney), Mary, (Mrs. Oliver Gates), Patience (Mrs. John Harkness), Clarissa (Mrs. Almon Berry) and Samuel.

1816.-- Charles Burgess and William Grace. Burgess first settled near Leona and afterwards north by the Center. He was father of twelve children. Grace, noted as an old-time singer, was a brother of Joseph (1807). His wife was Hannah Salisbury and their children: Harriet L. (Mrs. Chas. Guthrey), Hannah (Mrs. John Salisbury), Minerva (Mrs. Freeman Mills), Olive (Mrs. Eli Brooks), William S., Maria (Mrs. Jackson Ross), Arutine S. (Mrs. Ulysses Moody), Addison and Ruby.

1817.-- Joseph Brooks from Massachusetts, Daniel Cleveland and Joseph Stacy. 1818 -- Quartus Ely. 1819 -- Amos Sargent and John Sargent from Massachusetts, and Stephen Smith, Vermont. 1822 -- David Brown from Connecticut, Joseph Guild, Massachusetts, Alexander Kennedy, Vermont, Hiram Potter, Vermont. 1824 -- Clark Hooker, Massachusetts, William Salisbury, Massachusetts. 1825 -- Woodard Berry, New York state, Carlton Campbell, Vermont.

First Events.-- The first child born in Springfield was Hiram, son of John Harkness, April 20, 1805. The first marriage was that of Abel Leonard and Abigail, daughter of Ezekiel Leonard, 1812. The first person called by death was Mrs. Morey, mother of Mrs. Samuel Kingsbury, 1809. The first school was taught by William Nevins, winter of 1808-09, in a weaver's shop, built by Oliver Gates. The first school house was built, 1813 of hewed logs, in Leonard Hollow. The first preaching in the town was by a Baptist missionary in 1810 or '11. The Methodists commenced, 1812, and organized a class of twelve in 1813. The first saw-mill was built by Austin Leonard, 1808. The first grist-mill was erected by Luke Pitts, 1813. Samuel Campbell had the first distillery about 1810 or '11. James Mattocks was the first

Justice-of-the-peace, commissioned, 1810. The first constable, Conklin Baker, 1813. The first resident physician, Daniel Parkhurst, 1813. The first celebration of our national Independence was July 4, 1811, at the house of Luke Pitts; Theodore Leonard was speaker and Isaac Cooley marshal of the day.

Most of the pioneers had settled on Connecticut claims and owing to defective titles were compelled to repurchase, some paying for their land three times. The early settlers were required to go to Tioga Point for their mail, and paid twenty five cents postage before they were given a letter written by a friend in the East. A mail route from Towanda through Western Bradford, crossing Springfield, was opened in 1818. The Springfield post-office was established, 1819, with William Evans, postmaster. The first store in the township was kept by Samuel P. Mattocks at Springfield Center.

Reminiscences. -- When Bradford county was a greater wilderness with ferocious wild beasts on every side, it is indeed most remarkable that neither man, woman nor child was killed by them. With the pioneer's faithful friend, the dog, that kept watch and generally fought the battles, fate was frequently against him. Many times he went down before a more powerful foe or lost his life by being overwhelmed in numbers. The following, as related by the late Ira Ballard of Pisgah, will illustrate: "Wolves in great numbers used to gather around our log cabin at night and make us almost frantic with their terrible howls. One evening we let the dog out on them and all we saw of him afterwards was a couple of ears and a few picked bones."

The Bear Tree.-- Asaph Leonard was a noted hunted and trapper. In the course of his hunting excursions, he discovered a large, hollow basswood tree, the nesting place of bears. At the opening in the tree he set his trap with care and soon had a bear secure. He repeated the operation until he had entrapped a whole pack, fourteen bears, at the mouth of that hollow tree.

Gurdon Grover built a barn in 1808 and it required two days to raise it with all the men that could be obtained in Springfield and others from Smithfield and Troy. During the framing and raising more than one barrel of whiskey was used, and while raising, a young man who had imbibed rather freely walked off the end of the purline-plate, falling a distance of twenty feet and lodged in a hollow stump without receiving serious injury. Some years later the same barn was moved about forty rods up a considerable rise of ground. Fifty-two ox-teams were required to accomplish the feat.

Patriotism.-- Record of patriotic glory in the wars: Revolutionary War.-- David Brown, Oliver Gates, Joseph Grover, John Harkness, William Harkness, Bela Kent, Simeon King, Austin Leonard, Ezekiel Leonard, Benjamin McAfee, Noah Murray, John Parkhurst, William Salisbury, Samuel Severance, Joshua Spear and Mara Sargent. Gates served on both land and sea and participated in the battle of White Plains. Grover served three enlistments. Kent served six years, crossed the Delaware with Washington, was in the battle of Brandywine and spent the memorable winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. King served four years and was in the battles of Stillwater and Monmouth. Ezekiel Leonard was with Gen. Ethan Allen when he surprised the British at Fort Ticonderoga. Murray bore battle-scars; he was a noted Universalist preacher; a monument to his memory stands in the Springfield cemetery. Parkhurst served four enlistments. Salisbury was one of the party who assisted in destroying the tea on British vessels in Boston harbor, 1773. He was in Montgomery's expedition into Canada, participated in the assault on Quebec, where Montgomery was killed. He was many years a Baptist preacher.

Springfield had its "Molly Pitcher"; yes, and of an earlier period than the heroine of Monmouth. Our heroine was Mara Sargent (Mrs. Joseph Grace, Sr.), a native of Boston. She witnessed the battle of Bunker Hill, helped care for the wounded and when other bandages were exhausted took off her own petticoat and tore it into strips to save the lives of unfortunate soldiers. During the same battle with buckets she carried water from a spring to allay the thirst of the wounded and fighting patriots, and in after years stated that "bullets fell around her like hailstones." She died, 1844, aged eighty-two years.

War of 1812.-- James Mattocks and George Upham. Upham entered the U. S. Navy in 1811, serving on the Argus, President and lastly on the Chesapeake, commanded by Capt. James Lawrence. In the action with the Shannon he was wounded in the leg, arm and shoulder and had his left eye destroyed. The battle was a memorable one. The conflict was obstinate, brief and dreadful. In a short time every officer on board was either killed or wounded. Captain Lawrence himself was struck with a ball and fell dying on the deck. As they bore him down the hatchway he gave his last famous order which became the motto of the American sailor-- "Don 't give up the ship."

Civil War.-- Springfield furnished one hundred fifty-two soldiers, of whom three were killed in battle, three died in rebel prisons and eight of disease. World War.-- Contributed twenty-eight of her sons; three were killed in battle and two died of disease.

Distinguished Sons.-- These, earning fame in public and civil affairs, were born in Springfield: Charles C. Martin, a celebrated engineer, directed the entire construction of the Brooklyn bridge. Augustus S. Hooker, teacher, long the editor of the Northern Tier Gazette and the author of many poems, stories and several volumes on science and art. Frank P. Harkness, lawyer, twice State Senator and Judge in Kansas. Adelbert C. Fanning, orator, lawyer, District Attorney and Judge of Bradford county. Joseph C. Doane, noted teacher and principal of the Mansfield State Normal School. William M. Lynch, physician, coroner of Lackawanna county and State Senator from that district. Joel Parkhurst, who died in Tioga county, Pa., one of the richest men in the state, spent his early life in Springfield.

Public Officials.-- Representatives -- Isaac Cooley, Thomas Smead, Stephen D. Harkness; Associate Judge -- Stephen D. Harkness; Sheriff -- John L. Webb; County Treasurers -- Stephen D. Harkness, Finley N. Hubbard; County Commissioners -- Isaac Cooley, Hiram Spear, Edson D. Harkness; District Attorney -- Thomas Smead; County Auditor -- Isaac Cooley.

Villages. -- There are three small villages in the township -- Leona, south; Springfield, near the center; Big Pond, originally called Mill City, northeast. Springfield, at the crossroads, was long known as Springfield Center and the "Corners" and the place of most importance.