CHAPTER XXXVIII. ROME TOWNSHIP
By Clement F. Heverly
Rome was so called and adopted by its citizens, from the fact that the township is in the same latitude as Rome, Italy, supplanting the old name "Watertown." The township as laid out by the Susquehanna Company. Geographical. - Rome, comprising 1-39 of the area of Bradford county, is bounded north by Litchfield and Windham, east by Orwell, south by Wysox and west by Sheshequin. Its surface is diversified. Along the Wysox, a broad vale extends on either side, ascending into high, rolling tablelands and hills. The general slope is to the south and is drained by Wysox creek and tributaries, being Parks creek, Bear creek and Bullard creek (receiving Hicks creek and Towner run) from the north, Taylor run from the south and Johnson creek from the southeast. The area was covered with a primeval forest of heavy timber hemlock, pine, maple, oak, ash, beech, birch, chestnut and other species. It was a favorite habitat of deer, bears, wolves, panthers and other wild animals. Brook-trout abounded in the streams. The township has an area of thirty square, miles and was formed from Orwell, Sheshequin and Wysox in 1831; population 593 in 1920.
History: Indian Domain.- The region of Rome was a favorite hunting-ground of the Indian, and he had his encampments beside the Wysox and perhaps other streams. The Wysaukin trail, a short cut northward, traversed Rome on the east side of the creek; the Minisink path from Tioga to the Delaware crossed the township along its northern border. Thus, evidently, for centuries Rome was trodden by the red man.
The Pioneers: Nathaniel Peasley Moody was born, 1760, at Haverhill, Mass. At the commencement of the Revolutionary War he was a member of the senior class at Yale College, but he promptly laid aside his books and enlisted on an American privateer. His vessel had scarcely passed outside the port of Boston, when it was picked up by a British man-of-war. He was pressed into the Dutch service and held nearly two years before he was exchanged. He immediately rejoined the American army, served until the close of the war and rose to the rank of major. His battle record was White Plains, Trenton, Germantown, Monmouth, Yorktown and Stony Point, he being one of the picked men under General Wayne in his memorable and successful night attack. In 1790 Mr. Moody married Susan Griffin of Great Barrington, Mass., where he resided until March, 1795, when with his oxen and sled, wife and three children, he started for the "far west." After a most fatiguing journey of several days he reached Sheshequin and resolved to go no farther. Levi Thayer, at this time, claimed under Connecticut title, not only all the lands now included in Rome but a large section of the surrounding country. His surveyor' ran out the lands into tracts and also a township which Thayer called "Watertown." Moody helped Thayer cut a road from the Sheshequin valley to Wysox creek, and purchased a piece of land of him near the confluence of Bullard creek with the Wysox. In the autumn of 1796 he erected a log cabin and in May, 1797, went with his family to their sylvan home. "Night coming on before they reached their cabin, though only half a mile away, they were compelled to encamp. Mr. Moody with flint and steel kindled a fire in a dry pine tree, in the light of which, they reposed upon the ground, their lullaby being the howling of wolves in the distance." Mr. Moody's privations and hardships were many. He is remembered as a "model pioneer farmer, about six feet tall, strong and tough, naturally a good-natured Scotchman but rough. when molested." His wife died in 1814 and he spent his last days at Osceola, Pa., where he died, 1832. Their children were Enos, Moses, Mozentius, Simon S., Benjamin, Nathaniel, Polly, Abigail (Mrs. Oliver D. Chamberlain) and Ulysses.
Hendrick (Henry) Lent, a revolutionary soldier, came. with his family from Catskill, N.Y., 1798, settling on the northern border of the present village of Rome. At this time there were only foot-paths through the wilderness from one settlement to another. On the 15th of February, 1801, Mr. Lent made a trip to Athens and on his return through a blinding snow-storm, following a foot-path from Sheshequin, when reaching what is now Towner Hill, he became bewildered and exhausted by the darkness and intensity of the cold and was frozen to death. He was fifty-six years old. His wife was Catherine Croft and their children: Polly (Mrs. John Bull), James, Joseph, Eleanor (Mrs. Joshua Lamoreaux), Abraham, Barbara (Mrs. Joseph Elliot), Richard, Katie (Mrs. Simeon Rockwell) and Margaret (Mrs. Silas Allis).
Godfrey Vought, a native of Peekskill, N.Y., enlisted in the Revolutionary War and served until the establishment of peace. He was personally acquainted with General Washington, "Mad Anthony" Wayne and many other distinguished patriots. In 1798 he emigrated to Rome, cutting his own road part of the way from Sheshequin. He took up lands and erected a log house in the north part, of the present Rome village. Here surrounded by savage beasts he began to battle with the wild woods. His little wife bravely shared the dangers and hardships with him. One night they heard their pig squeal. Mr. Vought ran out with his gun and found a large bear trying to carry the porker from its log pen. Mrs. Vought followed with a torch, when a well aimed bullet saved the pig and supplied the larder with an abundance of bear's meat. In 1804 Mr. Vought built the first framed house in Rome and soon after the first framed barn. He also in company with Andrus Eiklor and a Mr. Wells put up the first saw-mill in Rome. In 1814 he opened his doors to the public, keeping Rome's first hostelry. He died, 1849, in his eighty-ninth year. His wife was Polly Croft, who died, 1860, aged ninety-three years. Their children were David, Catherine (Mrs. Andrus Eiklor), Polly C. (Mrs. Stephen Cranmer), Joshua and John.
Frederick Eiklor, a German and soldier of the Revolution, who had been wealthy and lost his property, followed his brother-in-law, Jesse Allen, to Wysox about 1786. He lived in Towanda for a time, then in 1798, joined his former neighbors, Lent and Vought, in their settlement. In 1803 he taught the first school in Rome. He had married Sarah Baker, who died, 1800, hers being the first death in Rome. Their children were Andrus, David, John, George, Susan and Jennie. Mr. Eiklor and most of the family returned to Catskill.
Peter Johnson, a native of Great Barrington, Mass., came to Wysox, 1796. He married Sarah Moger and about 1799, settled in the southern part of Rome on Johnson creek. He erected a saw-mill and for a number of years carried on both farming and lumbering. Withal he was an ardent huntsman and could recite some remarkable feats in woodcraft. He died 1851, aged seventy-eight years. His children were Hiram, Miner, John, Polly (Mrs. Joseph Allen), Eliza (Mrs. Joseph Elliot), Amanda (Mrs. Amos Eddy) and Herbert.
John Parks, a soldier. of the Revolution, in 1795 removed with his family from Connecticut to Standing Stone, thence to Rome in 1801. He had married Sarah Wallen who was in Forty Fort at the time of the Wyoming battle. Their children were Sarah (Mrs. Nehemiah Northrup), Lois (Mrs. Eliphalet Clark ), Chloe (Mrs. James Lent ), Joseph, John, Hannah (Mrs. Wm. Snyder), Calvin, Chauncey and Harry L. Mr. Parks died, 1820, in his sixty-eighth year, and his wife, 1843, in her eighty-second year.
George Murphy was a son of John Murphy who was slain at the battle of Wyoming. At the age of seven years he came to Sheshequin to live with his uncle, Judge Gore. Upon the establishment of a mail route through the wilderness from the Wyoming Valley to the Lake country, he had the honor of being the first post-boy and made the trips on horseback once a week. In 1803 he married Lydia Wallace, settled on Towner Hill and cleared up a farm. He kept up his active habits and labored in the fields and garden until he was very aged. On the 100th anniversary of his birth, September 30, 1878, several hundred people assembled at his home to do him honor. In his long life he never called a doctor. He died in Sheshequin, January 27, 1879. His children were Selim W., Lucy Ann, John, Chester, Percilla, Polly and Ira. Achatias Vought followed his brother, Godfrey, to Rome in 1805. He settled in the wilderness on Parks creek about two miles north of Rome village. His wife was Jane Oakley and their children: Joseph, Peter, Thomas, Isaac, Nehemiah, Anna (Mrs. James Holly), Phoebe (Mrs. Asa Stevens) and Esther (Mrs. Abraham Towner). Mr. Vought died, 1845, aged seventy-three years, and his wife, 1865, aged ninety-three years.
William Elliot, who had served in the Revolutionary War under Col. Henry Livingston, emigrated with his family, 1804, from Livingston Manor, N. Y., to Bradford county, stopping the first year in Wysox and in 1805 settled permanently on Bullard Creek, Rome. Here he lived the life of a pioneer and died, 1847, in his ninety-fifth year. He was thrice married and had children: Joseph, Thomas, Samuel, John, Hiram, Daniel, Larmon H., James, Betsey (Mrs. Fred Morley) Gity (Mrs. Abraham Lent) and Catharine (Mrs. Silas Gore).
Russell Gibbs, a native of Vermont, emigrated to Sheshequin, 1799. In 1806 he and his brother-in-law, Reuben Bumpus, settled at Bumpville. Here Mr. Gibbs died in 1839, aged seventy-two years. He had married Phebe Pierce, their children being Phebe, Elizabeth, Huldah, Permilla, Hiram, Lucy, Russell, Daniel P., Matilda and Alexander.
Reuben Bumpus, who served five enlistments in the Revolutionary War and had participated in the battles of Bennington and Saratoga, came to Sheshequin from Vermont, 1800, and in 1806 settled in northwest Rome. He was a great hunter and proverbially drew a long bow in reciting his exploits. His gun, "old Saxon," carried an ounce ball and six buckshot. "One day while he was hunting he saw a panther and raising his gun to shoot, he heard a noise behind him; looking back he saw six, an old one and her young. Knowing it would be death to kill one, he made a child's bargain .-. if they would let him alone, he would do the same by them. He walked along slowly till out of sight then let no grass grow under his feet till safe at home." Mr. Bumpus was a great conversationalist, a favorite with children and enjoyed reciting to them the adventures of his life. His wife was Phebe Gibbs. They had no children. He died, 1849, in his ninetieth year.
Elijah Towner, a native of Connecticut, who served in the American army under Arnold, in 1794, emigrated with his family to Sheshequin from Columbia county, N.Y. In 1806 he located on Towner Hill, where he died, 1840, in his eighty-second year. His. wife was Mary Knapp and their children: Ezra, Enoch, Abraham, John, Gersham, Elijah, Anna, ,Joseph, Olive, Elizabeth and Benjamin.
James Moore, a native of. Ireland, after coming to this country lived for a time on the Hudson, where he married Eunice Van Buren. He early emigrated to Bradford county, finally settling on Towner Hill about 1808. Here he died, 1841, aged seventy-six years, and his wife, 1857, aged eighty-eight years. Their children were Martin Van Buren, Elizabeth, James, Margaret and Maria.
John Hicks came to the Sheshequin neighborhood, 1799. About 1808 he located at North Rome. He had sons, John M. and George. David Ridgway, a Quaker followed his brother, Burr, from Philadelphia to Wysox, with whom in 1808, he purchased a property on Wysox Creek, South Rome, and built a saw and grist-mill. He also owned land on Bullard creek where he had a shop and manufactured furniture. He was Rome's pioneer dentist and pulled troublesome teeth for the afflicted. His wife, Rachel, was always clad in Quaker garb and adhered to the habits of her sect. They had children: Elizabeth, Jane M. and Edwin A.
Jacob Wickizer from Luzerne county, in or before 1810, in company with Willard Green, purchased a tract of land on Johnson creek, where he settled. Silas Gore, son of Samuel Gore of Sheshequin, came to Rome, 1811. He was a blacksmith and inventive genius. John Horton came, 1811, with his family from Wyoming, .settling on Wysox creek.
Eliphalet Clark, son of Barnabas Clark, a pioneer of Standing Stone, in 1811, made Rome his permanent home; also the same year, came Matthew Cannan, who .engaged in school teaching and farming. Ernest Forbes came in from Sheshequin, 1812, settling on Towner Hill, and Stephen Cranmer, a native of Monroe, locating in Rome village.
Isaac Strope, son of John Strope of Wysox, settled in Vought Hollow about 1813. Simeon Rockwell came from Connecticut, 1816, and engaged in cabinet making and farming. John Kneeland, a native of Massachusetts, who had served his country on both land and sea during the Revolutionary War, emigrated to Rome, 1816.
Benjamin Taylor came with his family from Connecticut, 1817, locating on Taylor Hill. Edward Griffin came to North Rome, 1818, and built a gristmill on Bullard creek. He also manufactured "bull" plows.
Sylvester Barns, a native of Connecticut, who came to the county, 1813, in 1819 purchased the mill property of the Ridgways on Wysox creek and made Rome his permanent home.
David Weed, who always wore a deer-skin dress, came to North Rome, 1819. He tended mill for Griffin, also had a lathe and manufactured butter ladles and wooden bowls.
Samuel Parker and Ephraim H. Parker located at Bumpville about 1820. Later, Isaac Parker, a cousin of Samuel, and other members of the family came. Richard Struble, Jr., settled at Bumpville about the same time as the Parkers.
Eli Morris came from Greene County, N. Y. in 1825. Other comers were Lewis Goff and Nathan Maynard, 1830; Arunah Wattles, Charles Forbes, 1831; Walter S. Minthorn and Silas Cole, 1830.
First Events.- The first child born in Rome was Benjamin, son of Nathaniel P. Moody, March 19, 1798. The first person called by death was Mrs. Frederick Elliot in 1800. The first wedding was that of James Lent and Chloe Parks, June 4, 1801, at the home of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Parks, Rev. Elisha Cole officiating. The first school in Rome was taught by Frederick Eiklor, 1803, in a log school house, which stood near the residence of the late O. F. Young. Other early teachers were Matthew Cannan, Sophia Pierce and Sally Pierce. The first religious sermon in Rome was preached by Rev. Elisha Cole, Methodist, at the house of John Parks, in 1801. The first assessment of the township was made in the year of 1831 by Alvin T. Myer, assessor and Joseph Elliott and Justus Eastman, assistant assessors. Joshua Vought was the first constable and Alvin T. Myer the first Justice-of-the-peace. The first test of palty strength was at the November election, 1832; for President, General Jackson received 43 votes and Henry Clay 43 votes.
Many of the pioneers attained great age, the eldest of whom was James Lent, who died, 1881, aged 99 years, 1 month and 11 days. The largest and, most notable gathering ever assembled in Rome was July 10, 1877, at the dedication of the monument erected in memory of Philip P. Bliss and wife who perished in the Ashtabula disaster. Ten thousand people attended the exercises, which were in charge of D. L. Moody, the celebrated evangelist. Other notables taking part were Ira D. Sankey, Major Whittle, Prof. Granahan, Rev. Geo. A. Peltz, Dr. J. H. Vincent and Dr. Pierson.
Fencelor's Fort.- One of the most interesting natural curiosities to be found in the territory of Rome is the rock known as Fencelor's Fort. The tradition for the name is as follows: Matthias Fencelot, the hermit, who came early to Wysox and of whom many interesting tales are related, having been to the upper settlements along the river found himself drifting though the darkness before he could reach home. A pack of wolves came upon his track and pressed him closely until he reached the high rock jutting into the creek. The only point of attack left open for the wild denizens was the narrow neck at the crest of the hill. Here Fencelor built a fire. through which the wolves would not venture to pass, making his situation secure. Upon the dawn of morning, the pack departed and Fencelor resumed his journey without further interception.
Patriotism.- Rome occupies a high place on the scroll of fame in historic achievement. Record: Revolutionary War.- Reuben Bumpus, Frederick Eiklor, John Kneeland, .Henry Lent, Nathaniel P. Moody, Elijah Towner, Godfrey Vought; War of 1812.- Stephen Cranmer, John L. Elliot, Orman Goodsell, Abraham Lent, James Lent, Walter S. Minthorn, Simeon Rockwell, John Rowe, Benjamin Taylor, Gersham Towner, Achatias Vought.; Mexican War.-John N. Cranmer, Hiram W. Russell; Civil War.- The Romes furnished 176 soldiers, of whom thirteen were killed in battle, two died in rebel prisons and ten of disease, while twenty more were maimed for life; Spanish-American War.- Two soldiers; World War.- Twenty-nine soldiers. Distinguished Sons.- Lorenzo Sawyer, who spent his boyhood in Rome, became a county judge, judge of the supreme court. and judge of the U. S. district court in California.
Philip P. Bliss, the world-renowned composer and singer of gospel songs, was many years a resident of and called Rome, where he married Miss Lucy Jane Young, his home. Prof. John G. Towner and his son, Daniel B. Towner, both distinguished in the musical world as singers, instructors and. composers, were natives of Rome, as was Simeon B. Elliot, author, lecturer and member of the Legislation from Tioga county. Clarence J. Marshall, long State Veterinarian, was a Rome boy. Public Officials.- Representatives, Arunah Wattles, John Passmore, Judson Holcomb, Winfield S. Kinney; Associate Judge John Passmore; County Treasurer, Perceptor Forbes; County Commissioners, Joseph Towner, John A. Moody, Levi W. Towner; Register and Recorder, Wm. J. M. McCabe; County Auditors, Arunah Wattles, William W. Moody; County Surveyor, Edgar G. Nichols; Jury Commissioner, Byron G. Wilmot. Rome Village is situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by hills in the southeastern part of the township. It has long been the center of interests and an attractive place for quietude and pleasant homes. It has incorporated as Rome borough in 1858. Its population was 230 in 1860 and 200 in 1920. Rome post-office was established, 1831, with Peter Allen, post-master, and North Rome post-office, 1846, Charles Forbes, post-master.