By Mazie Sears Bodine
There is a certain charm about an old house. While some are much more lovely than others, it may be that the less attractive ones have the most interesting history. If only the houses could talk, what stories they could tell! Stories of jolly gatherings, of laughter and tears, of happiness and sorrow. Of merry parties ‘round the fire-place in the evenings when candles were lighted and a dish of apples and popcorn near. Or perhaps a pitcher of cider and a plate of doughnuts. Of the preparation for a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast. The good things baked and stored on pantry shelves or in the cellar. Pies and cakes: jars of cookies, pickles and preserves; turkey, chicken, and sparerib ready to roast. Bread and rolls and Johnny-cake. That’s life as it was lived within those sheltering walls. But the old houses are silent and although we have tried to dig out the history of some of the old places in Wellsboro, and something about the people living there many years ago, we could find very little.
The Charles G. Webb House
this property has a very interesting history. The first owner of the land was James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution and a land speculator. On October 2, 1793, he bought thousands of acres of wild land in what is now Tioga county. After going through the hands of many different speculators, being divided and sub-divided, the part we are interested in came into the hands of John Norris. He had two land warrants containing 105 acres. This plot was on both sides of what is now West avenue, which on an old map of Wellsboro is called Second avenue. In 1817 John Norris sold a part of his holdings to Samuel Huber. The name Huber afterward became Hoover, just how or why we do not know. On the lot now owned by Charles Webb, Mr. Hoover erected a log cabin. Josiah Emery, who came to Wellsboro to teach in the Academy mentions this log cabin in his reminiscences written in 1879. He says, when he came to Wellsboro in 1828 Samuel Hoover was living in this log cabin. but before this, in 1824, Mr.. Hoover had sold the property to his son-in-law, William Eberenz, who in 1848 sold part of the lot to his son-in-law, Elisha Brown.
The lovely house now standing there was built in 1853 by Elisha Brown. While building the house the family lived one summer in the barn whichwas built first. There is a deed recorded which tells us that William Eberenz again sold this part of his property and more to his own daughter, Cornelia Eberenz Brown. How he could sell this part twice is an unsolved mystery.
Elisha and Cornelia Brown had one daughter, Mary Brown Hastings, wife of Hiram Hastings, who sold it to Charles Webb, in 1931.
The stream flowing at the back of this lot is called Hoover Brook, in honor of Samuel Hoover who owned this place so many years ago. Hoover Brook flows into Kelsey Creek just above the bridge on King street.
So from a wild and lonely wildness with no pioneer cabins within many miles we have come to present time and a lovely old house surrounded by beautiful grounds in the town of Wellsboro.
Captain Israel Greenleaf, His Home and Wagon Shop
Israel Greenleaf, a native Connecticut, where he was born in 1755, came to Tioga county in an early day. He purchased a large tract of land in Charleston township under a Connecticut title. But when these titles were declared invalid, he woke up one morning to find himself a poor man instead of a large land holder. He was one of the earliest tavern keepers in Wellsboro. At the August term of court, in 1813, he was granted a license for which he paid $1.15. Just where this tavern was located we do not know, but in 1828 Captain Greenleaf was living in a frame house not far above the West End bridge. He was a wagon maker and had a large shop near his home. We understand this building was afterward moved nearer the creek and transformed into a double dwelling house. Although it has since been remodeled, it is still standing, the first house above the bridge on the right side of the street.
Don’t you wish we had a picture of the old Captain? Did he have white hair and beard, twinkling blue eyes and a jolly laugh? Or was he tall and stern, with beetling brows and snapping black eyes? In imagination we see him working in his shop, making sturdy wagons the farmers used with ox teams, or a box sleigh and bobs for winter use. In fancy we still hear a faint echo of jingling bells and laughing voices as one of these rigs passed by, the runners crunching on the frozen snow.
Captain Israel Greenleaf was a Revolutionary soldier. He died June 1, 1847, aged 82 years. His wife, Sarah, preceded him to the grave, dying March 8, 1840, aged 72 years. Both are buried in the old cemetery on the hill near the Catholic church, where their gravestones may still be seen.
Houses On Water Street
As Water street was one of the first streets laid out in Wellsboro, some of the lots were sold and houses built in the early days. We do not know which house was the first one on this street, but will tell a little of the history of those we know best..
In 1851 my grandmother, Hannah Sears, bought a lot on Water street of James Kimble, for which she paid $108. Soon after this the house was built and here my grandmother spent the rest of her life. Here my father lived and here my mother came as a bride. In this house I was born, and always lived until 1936, when we moved to our present home.
The place next above my grandmother blonged to Mrs. Sophia Lewis, a great-grandmother of Mrs. Cary Cameron. My grandmother and Mrs. Lewis were great friends. Picket fences enclosed the yards, but a gate in the one between the two lots provided a place for the friends to go back and forth to visit each other. Mrs. Lewis died in 1879 and my grandmother in 1880. After the death of Mrs. Lewis, her daughter, Helen M. Bullard, lived in the old home of 16 years, until she too, passed on.
Now the picket fences have been removed, the houses remodeled and many of the trees cut down. There was a pine at the side of our place which, I have been told, was just a tiny tree when it was planted by my father. It grew very tall and in its shade we children played by the hour. There were many apple trees in our yard too, and a very large one just over the line on Mrs. Bullard‘s side. The best sweet apples I ever tasted grew on this tree, and as it leaned out way, many fell on our side of the fence. All the children in the neighborhood came in our yard for these apples..
Mrs. Sophia Lewis was an aunt of the late William Bliss and he told me that when he was 16 years old he stayed with her and attended the old academy, (now the Catholic Church).
The first two houses below ours were also very old. Alexander Brewer lived in the first and Dr. W.W. Webb the second. Both look about the same as they did as long as I can remember. A. S. Brewster was a member of the bar and an able lawyer. He served as Justice of the Peace for many years. Well do I remember seeing couples coming to his house at odd hours to be married. His office was in the court house, so he passed back and forth by our place each day. He wore a shawl, as many of the older men in those days. He and his wife were always “grandpa and grandma Brewster” to me. How I loved to go over to their house, sometimes I was asked to stay for a meal, and to eat at Grandma Brewster’s was an event in my childhood days.
After the death of Dr. W. W. Webb, Dr. Clarence Webb, lived in the old home and now Dr. ? H. Shaw has his office there. I remember hearing my mother tell about things that happened long before I was born and mentioning Mrs. W. Webb. So this office has belonged to a doctor for a long time and must be about 100 years old.
Henry Kimble lived in the house on the corner above Mrs. Lewis. It has been remodeled until it looks not at all as it did when I was a little girl. It was a story-and-a-half house with a bay window on front toward Nichols street and a porch from this window across the front. Here was a hammock where we loved to swing. There was a very, very large willow tree just outside the walk in front of the house. Mr. Kimble was a blacksmith, his shop was located across Nichols street near the rocks. A dwelling house now stands on this very spot. The shop was not “Under the spreading chestnut tree,” but there was a butternut tree near, the nuts falling all around. Mr. Kimble had a daughter, Grace, (now Mrs. Grace L. Davis, R. D. 1, Wellsboro). She is about my age, and when children, how we loved to watch her father shoe horses. Sometimes he would let us use the long horse-hair brush to keep off the flies. I wonder if the horses thought it was their own tails flirting there.. Generations of children have found the blacksmith shop a fascinating place.
“They love to see the flaming forge,
And bear the bellows roar,
And watch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing floor.”
Once there was a blacksmith shop on Water street where oxen were shed. I don’t remember much about the rig that was used, but I think there was a frame of heavy timers and a wide leather belt which fastened under the ox and he was pulled up to the smith could work under him putting on the shoes. I used to stand in the doorway and watch this being done. Yes, surely an enchanting place – a blacksmith shop! Now the automobile has put Old Dobbin’s nose “out of joint” and the smith out of business.
Of all the old families once living on Water street, the only descendant still residing there is Robert Conevery. His grandfather, M. Bullard, built the house, and although some changes have been made during the passing years, it still looks about the same as it did when I was a small child. In the old days there was a vegetable garden where now are lawn and a flower border. Between the garden and lawn in front of the house was a tall locust hedge. I do not remember that it ever blossomed, but the new leaves each year were a lovely light green, tinted red, and very fragrant.. There were long spines on the branches, but whenever I passed by, I always picked a spray, for I loved the color and odor.
When I was about 5 years old, my father erected a building back of our house where my mother’s sister, Susie Parker, taught many terms of select school. Perhaps some who read this may have attended this school. The large yard made a place for the children to play. This building was washed away in the flood of 1919.
These childhood days are far behind us now, but we have many happy memories
of our early days in the old home on Water street.
(To Be Continued)
Wellsboro Gazette, August 5, 1948
The Fellows House, the old Presbyterian parsonage, the Harry Bodine house, all are rich in the history of a Wellsboro of an earlier day. In this installment, the author takes us through these old residences, commenting on those who built and lived in them..
Erastus Fellows, who was born in Canaan, Conn., in 1800, came to Wellsboro about 1818. In 1828 he married a young widow, Betsy Cole Johnson, who, with her two children resided in what was later known as the Farmer’s Hotel,
by Mazie Sears Bodine
The Fellows House
now the residence of Walter Wilkinson on Charleston street. At that time only the eastern half of the building had been erected. It was enlarged to its present size about 1832. Who built the older part we do not know. However, this is one of the oldest places in Wellsboro. Soon after his marriage Mr. Fellows opened a tavern here. We are told that Mrs. Fellows was a capable and well-liked landlady, and the Fellows House was a popular place in its day. It was always a temperance house as long as Mr. Fellows was the proprietor.
There was a well of good water and a watering trough where men and beasts could quench their thirst. Many times the tavern was filled to overflowing with guests, especially during court week, when people came from all parts of the county and remained throughout the week. This building was also a farm house, and across the street were large barns with an enclosed barnyard and sheds to protect livestock from the wild animals.. Here was shelter and food for the guests’ horses and oxen.
Mr. Fellows’ farm, at one time contained about 400 acres. As the town was enlarged it came to include all of this farm. When the Wellsboro and Lawrenceville Railroad was constructed in 1872, Mr. Fellows sold a lot of land to the railroad company.. Here the depot, freight house, coal yard and dwellings for employees were built..
Erastus Fellows was one of the first citizens of Wellsboro when it was incorporated in 1830. If the old tavern could talk I am sure it would tell us many interesting tales of long ago. Not the least of these would be of a meeting held here on May 23, 1842, by the inhabitants of Wellsboro, favorable to the formation of an Anti-Slavery Society. A constitution was adopted at that meeting and officers elected with Hartford Butler as president. There were 27 members at this time, 13 being women. The anti-slavery sentiment grew and waxed strong until the stirring times of ’61..
It is thought the Farmer’s Hotel and the home of Hartford Butler were stations on the underground railroad for escaping slaves. The Butler home is still standing, far back from the main road. Route 84, just outside the town limits on the way to Morris..
Mr. Fellows died November 21, 1883. Mrs. Fellows followed him to the world beyond on June 7, 1889, in the 95th year of her age.
The Old Presbyterian Parsonage
Now the home of Dr. and Mrs. F. H. Shaw. This lovely old house was built about the year 1847, over 100 years ago. The lot on which it stands was once a part of the tract owned by James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution. After going through the hands of many land speculations 105 acres, including the section in which we are interested, came into the possession of John Norris. (The same James Wilson and John Norris referred to in the history of the C. C. Webb place).
In 1814 Mr.. Norris sold 58 acres to William Bache, Sr., who in 1844 transferred this parcel of land to his son, William Bache, Jr. In 1846 Mr. Bache deeded a portion of this land to “R. G. White in trust for the Presbyterian Church and congregation of Wellsboro, of which Rev. J. F. Calkins is now the pastor and to be converted to said church and congregation as soon as the same shall have been incorporated..” Two years later the trustees of the church conveyed to Mr. Calkins a half interest in the place and in 1851 they sold to him the remaining half.
It was in 1843 that a little band of Presbyterians began holding services in the Court House.. A Mr. Foster was their first preacher. He stayed but a year. Then after he left a young man, Mr. J. A. Calkins, just graduated from Auburn Theological Seminary came to Wellsboro to fill the pulpit and he stayed for 36 years.
It is thought Mr. Calkins planned the house himself without the benefit of architectural advice and built it largely with volunteer labor. It is finely and solidly built, made of upright two inch planks with a sheeting of inch board and finally the clapboards.. Mr. Calkins said that if it were possible to tip the house over it could be rolled down the hill without coming apart.
Mr. Calkins had a parish that extended for many miles and he spent hours in the saddle. The iron loop still on the first column of the porch shows where his horse was often tied waiting for him. On Sunday he preached in Wellsboro and in the Ansonia church, and often in some little schoolhouse in the country. The parsonage was the scene of many weddings and from it the minister went out on errands of comfort and help.. Beside his pastoral work Mr. Calkins also took on the duties of superintendent of schools. He was the first to hold this office.
Wellsboro was affected with an epidemic of diphtheria in 1863 and Mr. Calkins writes that he attended in a short time more than 30 funerals. He finally succumbed to the disease himself, and on his partial recovery, still weak and far from well, he went as chaplain of the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and stayed until the end of the war. In 1877 Mrs. Calkins died and two years later Mr. Calkins left the Wellsboro church and the house ceased to be a parsonage.
After this the house was rented for a few years. Then in 1884 K. B. Young, father of Adelaide Young Shaw, bought the place.
Mrs. Shaw says though she was a very small girl she did not quite like the idea of living in “Dutchtown,” and always insisted that Dutchtown began on the other side of Calkins Lane.
Mr. Young made very few changes in the house. He painted it red and it is still that color.. I’m sure it wouldn’t look like the same place if the color were changed. (It seems just right, perhaps because we have always seen it that way.) Mr. Young also built the big chimney and fire-place. Mr. Calkins visited in town after this and came to call on the Youngs. Gazing up at the new chimney he said: “I thought I’d tried every place in the house for a chimney, but it never occurred to me that there was room for one out doors.”
Mrs. Shaw spent a very happy girlhood in the old house, and in 1905 was married there. After her father’s death Dr. Shaw bought the place and in 1920 she moved back to the old home.
The general plan of the house has changed very little through the years. The mantles at either end of the living room are the originals and never topped a fire-place.
Mr. Calkins said that he brought the pine trees that border the front walk in from the woods on his shoulder. The summer house, at least the frame and its plan, is the original.. In the earlier days there was a pole on each side bearing a bird house at the top. Over these houses the wrens and blue birds had an annual spring quarrel.
When Mr. Young bought the place there was a well on the porch. It was a really old one with a bucket on a rope and a crank to wind it up and down. The weight, a piece of an old cannon, left marks on one of the columns which may still be seen.
Many of the plants in the flower garden are very old. There are wild flowers in the meadow. Only this spring I met Mrs. Shaw with a “trout Lily” on her coat.. She told me she picked it in the meadow as she started out that afternoon.
At one tie the old house was damaged by fire and the interior badly burned. But it was restored without many essential changes, and still stands as strong as in the days of yesteryear, when it was the new Presbyterian parsonage.
A few years ago Mrs. Shaw wrote a paper on this old house for the Friday Club, which she kindly loaned me. It was all so very interesting I found difficulty in selected few enough facts for this short sketch, which I hope the readers of the Gazette will enjoy..
The H. E. Bodine House
In Walter Sherwood’s reminiscences written in 1903 he said he could remember when there were only three houses on West avenue. The log cabin where Mr. Hoover lived.. Captain Greenleaf’s home and the house now owned and occupied by H. E.. Bodine, Mr. Sherwood said he remembered very distinctly when the J. P. Calkins residence was built, largely by himself doing the mechanical work. The stories of the Hoover log cabin and the Greenleaf house were told in a former article.
We do not know who built the Bodine house, but the first owner of whom Mr. Bodine has any record, was D. Morseman who sold the place in 1847. We wonder if this Morseman was the cobbler, who made shoes in these early days. After this the house changed hands many times until in 1887 it was bought by A.L. Bodine, father of H.E. Bodine..
The Bodines were early residents of Wellsboro. Ellis M. Bodine, grandfather of H. E. Bodine, came here in 1828. He purchased of Joseph Fish, the first tanner in Wellsboro, a small tannery and bark mill, and for a number of years continued the business at that place. In 1846 he built a large tannery, two full stories high, and did custom work in sole and upper leather. In 1848 the tannery burned. He then built a small one on his farm which was northwest of the village in what is still known as the Bodine road. Olive Pier now lives on the farm and just recently the last remains of this old tannery were washed away or covered over with stones and sand.. This tannery was never much of a success and Mr. Bodine soon gave all his attention to farming.
In the H.E. Bodine house on West avenue there are four of the original straight pine doors still in use in the rear rooms. The built-in pine will cabinet for dishes is original and has been used by many occupants for more than 100 years. There are old pine floor boards ranging 16 to 17 inches wide and over one inch thick still in use, worn smooth by the tread of many feet. The low ceilings in the rear rooms remain as when built. The front portion was remodeled when A.L. Bodine bought the place.. It was raised to two stories and its form changed considerably. This part of the house has the regular high ceilings. The front door is a beautiful one, with Gothic panels H. E. Bodine believes his father had the door made when he remodeled the house.
A. L. Bodine was a man of many business interests. He owned several properties in Wellsboro and two farms, both on what is now Route 660, the road to Harrison Park where the family spent the summer. He died in 1901 and Mrs. Bodine in 1922. After this the house was rented for a time and later sold to William Fowler.
In 1932 H.. E. Bodine returned to Wellsboro and bought back the old home.
(I am indebted to H. E. Bodine for much of this information).