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History of Sheshequin 1777 - 1902
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History of Sheshequin 1777---1902

C. F. Heverly

pub.1902, Towanda, Pa. 
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Although costing a vast amount of research and labor, it is a matter of great satisfaction and pleasure for us to be able to present this volume to the large number of people who will be interested in its contents. It has not been our aim to make fancy word pictures, but to write history such as will endure for all time. Public and family records have generally been consulted for information, and in verifying all material facts. We wish to express our appreciation for favors extended by the War Department, Washington, DC; State Library, Harrisburg, Pa., the custodians of public records in Luzerne and Bradford county for courtesies in our examinations, as also to the Wyoming and Tioga Point Historical Societies. We are under many obligations to Major W.H.H. Gore for his deep interest in this work, information furnished, and valuable records placed in our hands. Miner’s History of Wyoming and Craft’s History of Bradford County have been used with profit. The old people, with whom our interviews were “feasts of pleasure,” are large contributors to this work. We sincerely thank them: Wm. J. Lent, Daniel M. Bidlack, Stephen Bidlack, Giles M. Hoyt, Abraham Gore, Henry Segar, Forbes Low, David Horton, Comfort C. Gore, Rosseter Gillett, Edward G. Gooding, Wm. Snyder, Mr. And Mrs. L.S. Kingsbury, Mrs. Orace Powell, Hon. L.J. Culver, Mrs. Margaret Tomkins, Ira Murphy, John R. Post, Lloyd Fish, David Newell, Mrs. Sally Horton, Mrs. Lydia Vought, Samuel Minier, Wm. P. Horton, Mrs. Wm. A. Chamberlain, G.W. Blackman, Isaac J. Horton, Hon. And Mrs. C.S. Russell and H.S. Clark. The following have also given valuable assistance: John H. Chaffee, O.F. Ayer, H.H. Johnson, Walter H. French, Mrs. Wm. Spangenberg, Miss N.M. Davies, Henry Forbes, Wm. R. Vancise, Rev. S.F. Wright, Rev. L.P. Howard, H.B. Lent, Abazina French, B.K. Gustin, I.L. Young, Frank Tompkins, S. Griffin, Charles Vann, S.G. Marshall, Moses Vancise, Mrs. Sarah Blair, W.S. Elsbree and Milo Merrill. To these and any others, whose names may have been overlooked, we wish to express our gratitude.

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COLONEL JOHN FRANKLIN, who fought for the Independence of America, celebrated in the Yankee and Pennamite struggles, had for his associates the brave men who settled Sheshequin. Until the close of his eventful life he was their friend and neighbor. Without a notice of him our task would be incomplete. This remarkable man was of English descent and a son of John and Keziah ( Pierce ) Franklin. He was the third in a family of eight children, and was born at Canaan, Conn., September 23, 1749. John Franklin, the elder, was a man of considerable wealth and influence in the town where he lived, a man of integrity, piety and virtue; a strict disciplinarian, yet commanding the love and veneration of his family. The mother is said to have been a woman of uncommon intelligence, quick of wit and of unusual vivacity and power of conversation. Of Colonel Franklin’s early life but little is known. He enjoyed only the educational advantages afforded by the public schools of his day. The following anecdote is preserved of his boyhood days , as related by Mr. Miner: “Having, as was the custom, accompanied the family on Sabbath to their place of worship, the meeting house being only enclosed but neither ceiled nor plastered, the beams and rafters were all exposed to view. John saw that his austere father sat through the sermon with great uneasiness, but could not divine the cause. On returning home, the father said ‘ John, it is my duty to give you a severe thrashing, so now prepare yourself for you shall have it presently.’ ‘ But you won’t whip me, father, without telling me what for? ‘ ‘No, certainly; your conduct at meeting is the cause. Instead of attending to the sermon you were all the time gaping about, as if you were counting all the boards and beams in the meeting house.’ ‘ Well, father, can you repeat the sermon? ‘ ‘Sermon, no; I had as much as I could do to watch you.’ ‘ If I tell you all the minister said you will not whip me?” ‘No, John, no; but you can’t do that.’ Young Franklin immediately began with the text, and taking up the discourse went through every head of it with surprising accuracy. ‘Upon my word,’ said the delighted father, ‘I should not have thought of it.’ ‘And now, said John, ‘I can tell you exactly how many beams and rafters there are in the meeting house.’ This is the more wonderful, when we remember that the sermons of that day were from one hour to an hour and a half long. His ever-springing affection for his parent is beautifully evinced in his journal. Almost every other page has the entry, ‘ “wrote a letter to father.’ “

Colonel Franklin married February 2, 1774, Lydia Doolittle of Canaan, Conn., and in the following spring moved to Wyoming and settled in Plymouth. Here the family remained until the summer of 1776, during which time two sons, Billa and Amos, were born. Colonel Franklin’s father had become a proprietor in the Susquehanna purchase, and located his right in the township of Huntington. Thither, John, leaving his family in Plymouth, went solitary and alone in the spring of 1775, and made his “pitch” on the banks of Huntingdon Creek in Luzerne county. Having circumscribed the limits of his claim by notching and blazing the bark of the trees and overturning some of the soil with the poll of his axe, made thus his warrant of entry according to the custom of the times and entered upon the formal possession of his rights. “No white man had preceded him in this vicinity; he was the first, and the unmolested choice of the virgin soil was before him and here he made his selection and dedicated his future home. His faithful dog, the only witness to this act of possession, and his rifle leaning against a tree hard by---the only battery of his defence.” During this year he erected his log house, cleared and sowed some three or four acres to grain, and in the summer of 1776 moved his family into the wilderness. His nearest neighbor was at the Susquehanna river, a distance of some seven or eight miles. For the next two years he was busily engaged on his farm, attending the town meetings where he was quick to debate and able to defend his opinions, and was soon looked upon as one of the foremost men of the valley. When the 24th regiment of Connecticut Militia was organized, he was made captain of the Salem and Huntington company. At the battle of Wyoming, Franklin and his company were directed to report at Forty Fort immediately, but his company was so scattered that he was unable to bring them on in time to participate in the battle. Of himself, he says, as soon as he had taken care of his family (he had now three children, the third a daughter, Kezia), he set out with what few of his company could be gathered for Wyoming, and reached the fort too late to participate in the engagement. He was present, however, to lend his advice in regard to the surrender and his aid to the fugitives. Having done all in his power to help the sufferers, he returned to his family, and, taking his wife and three little children, started for a place of safety. Going down the river, he stopped for a short time at Paxtang, then went to Windsor in Berks county. Here the family were attacked with the smallpox, and Mrs. Franklin died November 17, 1778. As soon as the children recovered, about the 1st of December, he set out for Canaan in order to leave his helpless children in the care of his relatives. Hitching a yoke of oxen to a cart, he put into it his three little children (the oldest four years, the youngest eight months old), tied a cow by the horns to follow and drove on, having a cup into which he milked from time to time as occasion required and fed the babe. Thus he traveled the rough way 200 miles, through forests, fording streams and frequently sleeping under the canopy of the heavens, though in the month of December, arriving at his destination in safety, having exhibited all the patience and tenderness of a mother as well as the care and providence of a father.

After devastating the country, burning houses, destroying crops and driving off what live stock they could find, the Tories and Indians abandoned the valley. Soon after a few of the old settlers began to venture back to secure some portion of their crops if any had been left by the enemy. They built some log houses for shelter and defence, in which they spent the winter. Franklin returned to Wyoming early the next spring. Here his ability as a leader was readily acknowledged, and from this time he began to be the foremost man at Wyoming. He was now in the 30th year of his age, over six feet in height, broad of shoulder, lithe, strong, quick, resourceful, fearless, a very athlete physically, commanding the respect of all for the uprightness of his life, his commanding abilities and his unquestioned patriotism. Those who had returned to Wyoming for better protection had formed themselves into a military company, of which Franklin was made the captain; he was also appointed a justice of the peace, so that he combined in himself both the highest military and civil functions in Wyoming, and to his decisions all bowed with respect and confidence. In the expedition of Colonel Hartley, in the autumn of 1778 were two companies from Wyoming; 58 men of the Independent company under Captain Simon Spalding, and 12 volunteers of the Militia company commanded by Franklin. In this expedition, Franklin and his men were in the fore-front and won the greatest praise of their commander. In Sullivan’s campaign he was captain of the Wyoming Volunteers, and in the attack of General Hand on Chemung, known as “Hogback Hill,” was severely wounded in the shoulder, which, of course, prevented further participation in the campaign. From the return of this expedition in October, 1779, until the close of the war, scouting parties of the Wyoming Militia were out daily watching exposed points, pursuing marauding bands of Tories and Indians, protecting workmen on their farms and the many ways where there was danger from the lurking foe, a service that taxed to the utmost the skill and judgment of the commandant, whose eyes must be everywhere. Franklin was not content in planning these military expeditions, but not infrequently took part in them himself. Early in September, 1780, Captain Franklin and three men set out on a scout up the river. At Tioga Point they came to where large parties had encamped and saw two Indians. At Tioga they found a canoe, and in two days’ easy sail arrived safely at Wyoming fort. On another occasion, he accompanied a scout as far as Wysox, where they had a brush with the enemy and captured a sword and a silver watch--this Franklin wore to the day of his death, a memento of his fortitude and of his bravery. Yet we find him holding his justice’s court, at work upon his farm, taking a hand in the hunt, writing letters about Wyoming affairs---in short, in all the multifarious work that came to his hand.

After the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania over the Susquehanna Company’s purchase had been affirmed by the Trenton decree ( December 30, 1782), contrary to all expectation, the government, instead of confirming the settlers in their possessions, declared that nothing could be done to interfere with the claims of those holding Pennsylvania title, and instead of quiet the New England people were given to understand that they must purchase their land at the land-holder’s own prices or vacate their homes. An association composed of the Gores, Roswell Franklin, John Franklin and others of the prominent New England men in Wyoming, was formed for the purpose of purchasing a large tract of land about Owego, in the State of New York, upon which they would remove. Franklin was absent on a tour of exploration from May till June 1783, but for some reason the purchase was never consummated. He returned, determined to resist every act by which an attempt should be made to wrest from the settler his claim to the lands which were brought by the blood of his kindred. The struggle which ensued was long and bitter. In the various conferences which were held with commissioners and other officials, in writing letters, in visiting various other parts of the Wyoming settlements, in circulating petitions pleading the cause of the Connecticut people before the supreme executive council, congress and the legislature of Pennsylvania. Franklin was constantly busy and “always true to the people whom he represented and for whom he spoke, challenging not only the unqualified confidence of the settlers, but calling forth the bitterest epithets from the partisans of the Pennsylvania land-holders. Whenever the rights of the Connecticut people were assailed he stood ready for their defence.” In nothing was Colonel Franklin more distinguished than in his wonderful versatility in devising means for the accomplishment of his purpose. When it became evident that the legislature of Pennsylvania were controlled by the land-holders, the first scheme was to secure a court in which the private right to the soil could be tried. Failing in this, the next movement was to interest the Connecticut government in behalf of the suffering settlers; but in this the government declined to use anything but the moral influence of its opinions on its executive council of the Commonwealth. Next was the new state plan in which it was intended, through the aid of the Susquehanna company and the sympathy felt for the New England people at Wyoming to bring on a sufficient force to wrest the territory from the grasp of the Commonwealth. At this date the articles of Confederation were in effect, which compelled Congress to refrain from interfering in the domestic affairs of any state. Men prominent in politics, possessed of great wealth and personal influence, pledged Franklin their support. A conference was had with General Ethan Allen, of Fort Ticonderoga fame, who had just succeeded in securing statehood for Vermont under much opposition, and who, in cocked hat and feathers, came on to Wyoming, declaring that he had made one state and “by the Eternal God and the Continental Congress he would make another.” The plan seemed feasible and success certain. In the meanwhile, the Pennsylvania government became thoroughly alarmed and began to make overtures for peace. The disputed territory was erected into the county of Luzerne by an Act of the Legislature passed September 25, 1786. This was the next act of conciliation and compromise.

Colonel Timothy Pickering, who had been quartermaster in the Revolutionary army and held in high esteem throughout the country, a man of consummate skill and tact and of great ability, courage and enterprise, was appointed to organize the new country. Promises were freely made that the settlers should be quieted in their possessions if the laws of Pennsylvania were permitted to go into effect. At the suggestion of Pickering, a petition was circulated and numerously signed by the old settlers, stating that seventeen townships, each five miles square, had been allotted to settlers prior to the Trenton decree, and praying that these lots be confirmed to settlers thereon; the legislature, March 28, 1787, passed what was called the Confirming Law, confirming said lots to the settlers thereon, providing for compensation to Pennsylvania claimants out of the unoccupied lands in the Commonwealth, and for the appoitment of commissioners to carry into effect the provisions of the law. The Act establishing the county of Luzerne and the Confirming Law created heated discussion in Wyoming. On the one side it was declared that Pennsylvania had come to a better understanding of the case and was disposed to treat the settlers with justice, recognize their rights, secure their titles to their lands, give them courts and officers of law and representation in the legislature. On the other side it was contended that no confidence could be placed in Pennsylvania, that she had frequently allured them to trust her promises only to deceive and destroy them, and was now under a different guise, pursuing the same policy of deception and fraud---that there were many who had expanded large sums of money in the purchase of land lying outside of the seventeen townships, others whose husbands, fathers or brothers had been killed in the war, and whose lands had not been assigned until after the Trenton decree, but the title of these was in justice as good every way as that of the old settlers in the townships; and then the half-share men, who had come to them in their distress, relying upon their promise, who had aided them in their conflict with the Pennsylvania authorities, and by their loyalty and courage had driven them to make this offer of compromise, whom now to forsake would be the most wicked treachery, that these were abandoned without recognition and compensation. A public meeting was held for the purpose of discussing the provisions of the law and determining what course should be pursued. Quoting from Mr. Miner: “So great a gathering had not been in the valley for years. Matters of the highest moment were to be discussed and decided. Indeed, the future of Wyoming seemed to rest on their deliberations and the decision of that day. Little less than war or peace appeared to be involved in the issue. All felt the magnitude of the questions to be resolved. But Wyoming was no longer united. Discord had reared its snaky crest; malign passions were awakened. Brother met brother, friend greeted friend not with the all hail of hearty good will, but with the beating heart, knit brow and the frown of anger and defiance. Colonel Pickering, sustained by the Butlers, the Hollenbacks, the Nesbits and the Denisons, appeared as the advocate of the law and compromise. Colonel Franklin, supported by the Jenkinses, the Spaldings and the Saterlees, came forth the champion of the Connecticut title.” The meeting ended in riot and confusion, although a vote was taken to support the law and accept the compromise. These measures completely thwarted Franklin’s new state scheme. The whole country was in confusion. Pickering had succeeded beyond his expectations in the first part of his program, of dividing the Connecticut people and setting the old settlers against the half-share men. Franklin, however, continued busy, devoting all his tireless energy and consummate ability to uniting opposition to the Confirmation Law. In order to frustrate the efforts of Franklin, Pickering determined to get rid of him, for a time, at least. A writ was obtained secretly and intrusted to competent hands, and Franklin, unsuspecting the plot, was suddenly arrested and conveyed to Philadelphia jail on the charge of high treason. “The news of the arrest and abduction of Franklin spread over the country as fast as couriers could carry it. The northern part of Luzerne was swept with a whirlwind of excitement. Here the half-share men principally lived. The blow which struck down Franklin was aimed at them. He had fallen in defence of their rights. He was their leader, counsellor and friend. They felt their interests were at stake and determined that Pickering, for whom they could find no language strong enough to express their contempt, should suffer for this assault upon their beloved leader.” Pickering fled to Philadelphia. In November, 1788, a court was ordered to be held at Wilkes-Barre for the trial of Franklin. Chief Justice McKean presided. Franklin’s strong frame was bowed and weakened by sickness and 13 months’ confinement, and his spirit was broken. “The lion was tamed.” He was indicted for high treason, but the trial was never called and Franklin was admitted to bail, it was claimed, under promise that he would not further oppose the laws of Pennsylvania. Soon after ( 1789 ) he removed to his farm in Athens township, Bradford county, where he lived until his death, but never took out for it a title under Pennsylvania, nor was ever molested because he did not.

In 1792 Colonel Franklin was elected high sheriff of Luzerne county. From the expiration of his term as sheriff, he was busy for a number of years as one of the commissioners and as the clerk of the Susquehanna Company, which continued to hold frequent meetings at Athens, selling rights and granting townships. The Intrusion Law ( 1795 ) made these acts criminal. Under this act, Colonel Franklin, John Jenkins, Elisha Satterlee and Joseph Biles were indicted at the August sessions, 1801, of Luzerne county, and a special verdict found against them. The case was removed by certiorari to the Superior court. The act was held to be constitutional, but the defendants were discharged on other grounds. In 1781, while Connecticut claimed jurisdiction over the county of Westmoreland, representatives were sent to her assembly at Hartford. Colonel Franklin went one year. In 1795 and 1796 he represented Luzerne county in the Pennsylvania Assembly. From 1799 to 1803 he was in the assembly every term. Mr. Miner says of him: “A few months before an election with great tact Franklin would commence his essays, awaken old and new prejudices and hopes, kindling the spirit of the people to that degree of warmth that Colonel Franklin must go to the Assembly, and he went.” As an evidence of his popularity in this county, in 1801 he received every vote in the Tioga district, and in the Wyalusing district all but six; in 1802, every vote but three in the three election districts of which the county was composed, and in 1803 all but ten. In the legislature, on all those questions relating to land titles he was ever ready to defend with his might the half-share men, and bitter in denunciation of the inhumanity and greed of the landlords. An attempt was made in the sessions of 1802-3 to expel him from the House on account of his being under indictment for violations of the Intrusion Law; but it failed. Determined, however, to get rid of him, in 1804 an act was passed setting off that part of Luzerne county which contained the residence of Franklin to Lycoming. The first draft of the bill included that part of Luzerne, north of Towanda creek and west of the Susquehanna river. Colonel Franklin, when the bill was read, arose in his seat and informed the gentlemen that he lived on the east side of the river. The bill was accordingly changed so as to include him in the dismembered portion. In 1805, however, he was elected by the people of Lycoming, and to the chagrin and mortification of his enemies he appeared again at Lancaster and took his seat. As it was his crowning, so it was his closing victory. In politics, Colonel Franklin was a Federalist, and wielded so large an influence in Luzerne county--in the nearly equally balanced parties of the state, that he was courted and countenanced by eminent politicians in the Commonwealth. Even between him and Colonel Pickering civilities passed and they dined together at the table of a mutual acquaintance.

His life had been one of constant toil, exposure and anxiety, burdened with many cares and wearied with many conflicts. The great questions to which he had devoted his great energies were practically settled, and he desired the peace and rest of his own home. Here he was not idle, but as long as strength remained he was busy in the cultivation of his farm and in the management of private enterprises in which he was engaged. Surrounded by friends who loved and revered him, it was his delight to recount the story of his early days and the sufferings and toils of his associates and companions. Although usually grave and dignified in his demeanor, there was a vein of sly humor often mingled in his conversation. At one time, in giving his evidence before court, referring to some transaction which took place about the time of his abduction, he observed that about that time he was called “on important business to Philadelphia; he had just gone in company with several gentlemen to that city.” At another time he referred to his moving to Athens as immediately after his return from a protracted visit to Philadelphia. He was a ready writer and his pen was constantly employed. He possessed a most remarkable memory which he retained to the last. In his last years it was his custom to attend the funerals of the older people of his acquaintance and make some remarks, relative to the life and character of the deceased, which for many years were held in grateful remembrance. In earlier years Franklin was a communicant member of the Congregational church. During the period of strife and war and political contention, he gave little thought or attention to religious matters. In his retirement during the last years of his life he was a pronounced Universalist. He read his Bible much, and for many years the older people spoke reverently of his long, fervent prayers and devout conversation. Colonel Franklin married for his second wife Abagail, daughter of Capt. Stephen Fuller, and widow of Capt. James Bidlack, who was massacred by the Indians, July 3, 1778. By this marriage he had no children, but was ever a father to the two sons and two daughters left by Captain Bidlack. Colonel Franklin died at his home in Athens, March 1, 1831, at the age of 81 years, 3 months and 8 days. He is burried on a gravelly bluff, a few rods north of his mansion, overlooking the highway and in full view of Tioga Point, with which he was for many years so closely associated. His wife, Abigail, died in Athens, Jan. 30, 1834, in the 83d year of her age. She is buried beside the colonel, and their resting place is marked by a plain marble slab which gives only their names, ages and dates of death. Of the children of John and Lydia Franklin, Billa settled first at Palmyra, NY, afterwards at St. Albans, NY, where he died leaving a family of nine children; Amos, a physician by profession, settled at Cayuga village and died there Oct. 11, 1804, leaving one son, Henry, who died without children; Keziah married Dr. Solomon Beebe, settled at Geneva, NY, and died without children---Compiled from Miner’s History and address of Rev. David Craft, before Tioga Point Historical Society.