Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
1897 Tioga County History
Chapter 21 - Wellsboro - Churches, Cemeteries, Organizations
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1897 Tioga County History Table of Contents
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Chapter XXI

Wellsboro ( continued)

Incorporated As A Borough--First Election-- Early Ordinances--Burgesses, Clerks, Treasurers and Justices--Boundaries--Fire Department--Water Works System--The Wellsborough Electric Company.

As early as 1829 the project of incorporating Wellsboro was discussed. At that time the village lay in Delmar Township, which was set off from Tioga township in 1805. This step was warranted by the growth of the village, its increase in population , and an encouraging outlook for even more rapid development.

Judge Samuel Wells Morris, always active, alert and enterprising, had proven himself a sagacious and progressive man, and he commanded the respect which had been so freely accorded his worthy father. Finally through his influence, with the assistance of Benjamin B. Smith, editor of The Phoenix, John F. Donaldson, William Bache, Sr., James Lowrey and others, the legislature was induced to pass an act incorporating the town as a borough March 16,1830. It is true it was a very small town at that time, containing less than 400 inhabitants, but the legislature did not object to numbers then. Williamsport, with a less number of inhabitants, had been incorporated in 1806. The residents of Wellsboro, or certain ones rather, desired corporate laws because they would be enabled to improve the streets and adopt a uniform system of grades, pass ordinances for local government and thereby benefit the whole community. Steps were at once taken to comply with the act, and an election for officers was held May 3,1830, with the following result:

Burgess, John Norris; council, John Beecher, Justus Goodwin, Israel Merrick, Jr., and Benjamin B. Smith; constable, Ebenezer Jackson; superior, Amos Coolidge; overseer of the poor, Israel Greenleaf.

These were the first borough officers. No time was lost in effecting an organization and in making such appointments as were required. Josiah Emery was appointed clerk to the council; William Bache collector, and James Lowrey treasurer. The first requisite was the adoption of a seal to be affixed to all official papers, and the first ordinance passed disposed of this matter as follows: “That until an appropriate seal can be procured, the eagle side of an American half dollar shall be the corporate seal of the said borough.” This ordinance was passed June 28,1830.

The second ordinance forbid horses, cattle ,sheep, swine and geese from running at large within the borough. The adoption and publication of this new law caused a howl of indignation from many of the citizens. For nearly thirty years the inhabitants of the village did as they pleased with reference to their stock, consequently restrictive laws were regarded as a great hardship and there was much complaint, and the first borough fathers were subjected to sharp criticism.

Benjamin B. Smith, the editor of the Phoenix, who was a member of the council, and had a hand in making the new laws, referred to them in his issue of July 3,1830, and defended them in these words;

At last our bye-laws are published, and we hope soon to see our streets cleared of sheep, hogs, and cattle which have hitherto been really a nuisance, especially in the night. Depredations have already been commenced on some of our gardens-- and unless cattle are shut up at night, we can expect nothing but that our vegetables will, as last year, be entirely destroyed. We borough folks expect now to be quite happy. The squalling of geese at daylight, the bellowing of cattle, the kicking of horses, the audacity of swine, and the “inomi nutus” odor of sheep, accompanied with their disagreeable bleating shall entirely cease from annoying us, and we shall go forth at morning and evening, at sun-setting and sun-rising, and fear no evil except from dogs, which by the by, our burgess and council have entirely forgotten-- and mad dogs, too, are they not subjects of legislation as well as geese? We expect, however, to have a “revised code” and then all things will be perfect.

To be serious, the by-laws we have no doubt will be rigidly enforced, and for the good of our citizens we think it absolutely necessary they should be.

Housewives thought it a great hardship that their flocks of geese could not run upon the streets without being taken and subjected to a fine of twelve and a half cents per head. And to make matters worse, the constable was empowered to sell them to the “ highest and best bidder,” after giving twelve hours notice, and appropriate one-half of the proceeds to his own use-- the other half go into the borough treasury.

The third ordinance related to streets, roads and taxes. It was required that twelve feet on each side of the 100 feet streets and eight feeet on each side of the fifty-feet streets or alleys shall be appropriated for a sidewalk; and the owners and occupiers of lots were allowed full liberty, at their own expense, to erect post and railings and make gravel or other walks. For enforcing the collection of fines imposed for a violation of the ordinance, the burgess was entitled to receive the same fees as were allowed by law to justices of the peace.

The fourth ordinance specifically stated that if any person was found guilty of horse racing within the limits of the borough, or aiding or promoting the same, he should, upon conviction, be fined $5.00, one-half to go to the informant and the other half to the corporation.

The fifth ordinance forbid any person from shooting any gun or other fire arms within or across any of the streets, highways, lanes, alleys or commons of the borough, except on days of militia or other trainings, or times of public rejoicing, by the order or under the direction of the officer or person in command. The penalty for this offense was one dollar for each shot.

To old hunters this ordinance was very offensive, and like the housewives, who were restricted from allowing their geese to run upon the streets, they felt particularly aggrieved. The borough and surrounding country had been excellent hunting ground from the first appearance of white men-- the borough, too, covered such a large territory that game even at this day often came within its limits, and to be deprived from shooting at a deer as it bounced through the confines of the corporation was simply an outrage upon the inherent rights of a hunter. Such new-fangled ideas of civilization did not strike them favorably, and Burgess Norris and Clerk Emery were the objects of their severest criticism, but these officials were inexorable. It is safe to say, however, that many a shot was fired at a deer, squirrel, or rabbit, for which a dollar was not paid-- because there was no informant, and the constable, however vigilant he might have been, found it impossible to locate the offender.

Such opposition, however, was developed to these ordinances, and doubts having arisen in the minds of the law makers whether the surplus money arising from the sale of impounded cattle, sheep, swine and geese, after deducting the fines and cost of keeping, should be paid into the treasury, a supplemental ordinance was passed in October authorizing the surplus to be paid to the legal owners.

At a meeting of the council, held March 7, 1836, a motion was made by Mr. Emery that cattle be permitted to run at large in the borough. The minutes do not say whether the motion was carried or lost, but the presumption is that it was adopted.

Burgesses, Clerks, Treasurers and Justices.

The following named persons have filled the office of burgess since the incorporation of the borough: John Norris, elected May 3, 1830; Dr. J.B. Murphey, 1831; James Kimball, 1832; Robert G. White, 1833-34; Francis Wetherbee, 1835-36; E.A.Nichols,1837; John F. Donaldson, 1838-39; Alexander S. Brewster, 1840; James Lock, 1841; Samuel W. Morris, 1842; William Harrison, 1843; James Kimball, 1844; Henry W. Graves, 1845; James Lowrey, 1846; John F. Donaldson, 1847; John N. Bache, 1848; David Sturrock, 1849; George McLeod, 1850-52; Henry Sherwood, 1853;G. D. smith, 1854; Charles G. Osgood, 1855-59; Rudolph Christenot, 1860; Henry Sherwood,1861-62; Henry W. Williams, 1863-65; M.H. Cobb, 1866-67; R.C. Simpson, 1868; Lucius Truman, 1869; Benjamin Seeley, 1870-71; Lucius Truman, 1872-73; E.A. Fish, 1874; Lucius Truman, 1875; D.L. Deane, 1876; C.L. Willcox, 1877; Andrew Crowl, 1878; J.C.Wheeler, 1879-80; Walter Sherwood, 1881-84; I.M. Bodine, 1885; Leonard Harrison, 1886; C.C. Mathers, 1887; John W. Bailey, 1888; William H. Roberts, 1889; R.J. Borden, 1890; Charles G. Osgood, 1891; George H. Derby, 1892-93; George W. Williams, 1894-96, S.F. Channell, elected in February, 1897, the present incumbent.

Clerks.-- Josiah Emery was the first clerk of the borough, serving in 1830-31.His successors have been as follows: Robert G. White,1831-34;Alexander S. Brewster,1834-35;John F. Donaldson, 1835-36; Alexander S. Brewster,1836-37; H. F. Young, 1837-39; from 1839 to 1842 the burgess seems to have fulfilled the duties of clerk; Benjamin B. Smith, 1842-43; Alexander S. Brewster, 1843-46; L.P. Williston, 1846-47; Benjamin B. Smith, 1847-48; A.J. Sofield, 1848-52; Benjamin B. Smith, 1852-62; Asa P. Roberts, 1862; Jefferson Harrison, 1862-65; Charles L. siemens, 1865-69; Hugh Young, 1869-70; William A. Stone, 1870-71; J.O.W. Bailey, 1871; George W. Langan, 1871-72; J.W. Van Valkenburg, 1872; Leonard Harrison, 1872-73;J. W. Van Valkenburg, 1873-74;Ed C. Deans, 1874-75; Hugh Young, 1875-77; E.B. Young, 1877-85; Robert K. Young, 1885-87;H.H. Blackburn, 1887-89; Alfred J. Shattuck, 1889-97, the present clerk.

Treasurers--. James Lowery filled this office in 1830-31; Benjamin B. Smith, 1831-32; Israel Merrick, Jr., 1832-35;Robert G. White, 1835-38; Levi I. Nichols, 1838-48; William Bache, 1848-64; William Roberts, 1864-70; Ransford B. Webb, 1870-74;Lucius Truman, 1874-76; Leonard Harrison, 1876-85; Jesse M. Robinson, 1885-96; Leonard Harrison, appointed in 1896 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Robinson, and is still serving.

Justices of the Peace.--- Although Wellsboro was incorporated as a borough in 1830, it does not appear to have been set apart as a separate justice-of-the-peace district until 1840, when the Constitution of 1838 made the office of justice of the peace elective instead of appointive, as it had been up to that time. The office has been filled as follows: Benjamin B. Smith, 1840; re-elected, 1845 and 1850;Luman Wilson, 1840; re-elected, 1845; Alfred J. Sofield, 1851; re-elected, 1856 and 1861; John N. Bache, 1855; Josiah Emery, 1857; \Andrew Crowl, 1862; A. S. Brewster, 1863; re-elected, 1868, 1873, 1878, 1883, 1888 and 1893; Hugh Young, 1867;John Gibson, 1869; J.W. Donaldson, 1874; Isaac Bodine, 1879; re-elected, 1884; James H. Shaw, 1888; Robert K. Young, 1890; re-elected, 1891; Burton M. Potter, 1896. ‘Squire Brewster, one of the present justices of Wellsboro, has held the office continuously for the past thirty-four years.

Borough Boundaries.

The boundaries of the original village of Wellsboro have been described in a preceding chapter. As the village grew the adjoining land was sub-divided into out-lots. Until an area of several hundred acres had been thus cut up before the village was incorporated as a borough. The limits adopted at the time of the incorporation made a liberal allowance for future growth. The north line began about 1,000 feet west of the southwest corner of the cemetery and continued due east to the junction of Kelsey and Charleston creeks. The southern line of the cemetery formed a part of this boundary line. The line on the northeast paralleled the present railroad to a point a little beyond Purple street. The railroad was built just outside this line. The line then ran a little west of south about 900 feet to a point due east of the graded school building. It then continued south about sixty degrees west, passing almost through the A.G. Sturrock residence, to Lincoln street, where it turned due west to Kelsey creek, passing north of the residence of Hon. John I. Mitchell. From this point the line ran due north to the place of beginning.

The boundaries remained unchanged until the passage and approval of the act of April 6.1870, enlarging the borough limits and establishing them within the present boundaries, as follows:

The boundaries of the borough of Wellsboro, in the county of Tioga, be and they are hereby altered and extended in such a manner that the boundary line shall be as follows, viz: Beginning at a post and stones in the western boundary line of William Downer, at the distance of fifty-two perches south from the northeast of said Downer; thence north two and three-fourths degrees east 804 perches to a post and stone heap; thence south 871/4 degrees east to the corner of Richel’s farm; along the line of said farm, and continuing in same course, to the line of Charleston township, in all 723 perches to a post or stone heap in said township line; thence by said township south 647 perches to a post and stone, at a point south eighty-seven degrees east from the northeast corner of A.L. Bodine; thence south eighty-seven degrees east across lands of George Thompson; along line of said A.L. Bodine, across lands of Esther Kress, deceased, to the State road, a distance of 504 perches; thence southerly by the several courses of said road to a point south eighty -seven and a fourth degrees east from the starting point first named above; thence south eighty-seven and fourth degrees east 256 perches to the place of beginning.

The reader will have a better idea of the extent of the above figure when informed that it equals four and one-fourth square miles, or 2,720 acres! Almost large enough for a township. It is provided in the act, however, that the borough council shall so discriminate in laying the taxes as not to impose upon the rural portions any expenses which belong exclusively to the built up portions of the borough; and for this purpose the assessor shall distinguish in his returns what properties are within agricultural or rural sections not having the benefit of expenditures for purposes belonging to the built up portions of the town; and all lands within said agricultural or rural districts, and for the purpose of cultivation or farming shall be assessed as farm lands.

Fire Department.

Early in 1860 the question of forming a fire company was agitated. The movement took definite shape in August, when the company, which appears to have been organized, reported to council that a majority of the taxpayers were in favor of laying a tax to raise funds to buy an engine. The number voting in favor of the proposition was 141, which was more than two-thirds of the taxpayers of the borough. Council therefore authorized the purchase of an engine and laid a tax of $1.00 to every $100 of assessed value of real and personal property, to meet the expense. The tax was to commence in 1863 and to continue until the indebtedness was wiped out. An engine and hose cart were contracted for and an engine house, not to cost over $400, but the actual cost of which was $750, was authorized to be built. Subscriptions were solicited to defray the expense of erecting the engine house.

The first companies formed were the Lafayette Engine Company, No. 1, John N. Bache, foreman, and C.A. Wells Hose Company, No. 1, C.A. Wells, foreman. In the meantime the Civil War had broken out and the ranks of the respective companies were so depleted by the enlistment of the members as to render them inoperative. The citizens then banded together and kept up an organization in case of fire.

Doubts having, in the meantime, arisen as to the power of the burgess and council to contract for the fire apparatus and the erection of an engine house, and to pay for the same by imposing a tax, the legislature was appealed to, and that body passed an act, approved April 18, 1864, which declared the action of the council “valid and effectual” and empowered the burgess and council “ to collect annually one-half of one per cent, on valuation until the debt is paid.”

Matters ran along quietly until the 23d of October, 1873, when the borough was visited by a severe fire which destroyed much property in the business portion of the town, the lose aggregating fully $100,000. As the panic of this year had swept over the country with its paralyzing effects, the fire added much to the discouragement of business men. But they rallied from the blow and were about getting on their feet again when another fire broke out on April 1, 1874, which proved more destructive than the first. It started in the store of William Wilson, and swept away the entire square of buildings between Crafton and Walnut streets, back to Pearl. Coming so soon after the first, this fire had a very depressing effect on the merchants and shop keepers, and many were disheartened on account of their heavy losses. After a short time, however, a reaction took place and the work of rebuilding in a more substantial form was commenced. The result was a better class of buildings, nearly all of brick, were erected, which imparted to the streets a greatly improved appearance.

The first fire aroused the citizens to the necessity of preparing for future visitations, and a reorganization of the fire department was effected, the reorganized department consisting of the following companies: Lafayette Engine Company, No. 1; Alert Hose Company, No. 2, and Eureka Hook and Ladder Company, No. 3. The first officers were: Thomas B. Bryden, chief engineer; Walter Sherwood, first assistant; Joseph Williams, second assistant; J.M. Robinson, secretary; Arthur M. Roy, treasurer. The companies did good work during the second big fire and prevented greater damage.

When the water works system was completed in 1886, the pressure was such as to render an engine unnecessary. Lafayette Engine Company was, therefore, reorganized as Bache Hose Company, so named in honor of William Bache. The three companies consist of about forty men each and are uniformed. The borough allows $3.00 per annum to each active fireman, and furnishes rooms and a janitor.

The equipment consists of four hose carriages, with 2,000 feet of hose; a hook and ladder outfit and eight fire extinguishers. Thomas B. Bryden was continued as chief engineer from 1874 until his death in April, 1878. The present chief engineer is Robert Siemens.

Water Works System.

Wellsboro is well supplied with an excellent quality of water by the gravity system. The history of the improvement was very minutely described by the Gazette in June, 1887, from which account the material facts are drawn. On August 4,1885, a charter was granted by the State to the Wellsboro Water Company-- capital $75,000-- composed of William Bache, Chester Robinson, John L. Robinson, Frederick K. Wright and W. C. Kress, of Wellsboro; H. C. Heermans, of Corning, New York, and C.L. Pattison, of Elkland, Pennsylvania. The officers elected at the annual meeting held in January, 1887, were William Bache, president; John L. Robinson, Chester Robinson, Frederick K. Wright, Alfred J. Nichols, William Bache, directors; Jefferson Harrison, secretary and treasurer; W. C. Kress, superintendent. Preliminary surveys had been made, plans were drawn and submitted in the fall of 1885, and the contract for constructing the reservoir, laying the water mains and the supply pipes to the gate house, on Charleston creek, was let to Heermans and Lawrence of Corning, New York.

All things being in readiness, work was commenced in the spring of 1886 and it was prosecuted with vigor during the summer and fall of that year, and although the contractors met many discouraging obstacles in the form of rock-cuts and quicksand, they completed their work, with the exception of laying about 1,200 feet of iron pipe on West avenue, which was done the following spring.

After the completion of the main part of the contract, the Wellsboro Water Company enlarged its plans and determined to extend the line several miles so as to take in Rock run, Williams’ springs, Mickel run and Morgan springs. This measure was not necessary to a sufficient supply of water, but the extension was made to secure an inexhaustible and never failing supply of the purest, coldest spring water to be found in all this section of the country. This part of the work was conducted by W.C. Kress, the company’s superintendent, and was not completed before late in the fall. The work of running the trenches for the pipe was very arduous. Grades had to be maintained around ravines, over hills and around mountains, and for long distances it necessitated blasting out of the solid rock. It was a great undertaking and involved an expenditure of many thousands of dollars, but absolutely pure spring water was the goal, to attain which the enormous outlay of time, labor and money was thought not to be to much.

The reservoir, which covers three and a half acres and has the capacity of 17,000,000 gallons, is located in a natural basin on the top of Bacon Hill, south of the borough. It is 172½ feet above the level of Main street in front of the court house, and gives a pressure at that point of 82½ pounds to the square inch. The excavation is made in a bed of solid clay, impervious to water, it being impossible for it to percolate through the bottom or sides. The embankments are ninety-two feet broad at the base and twelve feet broad at the top, and are fourteen feet high. Through the center, from bottom to top, is a tight plank partition with puddled clay on either side, which raises an effective barrier to the operation of amphibious animals and to the cutting away of the banks by water. In the center of the reservoir is a well seven feet deep, and the water for the borough is drawn from a point six feet below the bottom of the reservoir. And in case of necessity caused by accident, or for the purpose of cleaning or repairs , there is an arrangement by which all the water can be let out of the reservoir at will. To reach the source of supply, 64,680 feet of vitrified pipe had to be laid in trenches having a mean depth of five feet. This is exactly twelve and one-fourth miles. From the reservoir to the gate house, on Charleston creek, 37,500 feet ( over seven miles) of twelve- inch pipe was laid. A twelve- inch grade was maintained all the way, and it required a high order of engineering skill to preserve the grade in the wild, rough country through which the line runs, without entailing an expense that would have been a practical inhibition of the enterprise.

The natural springs from which the supply is drawn rise from the conglomerate formation and are inexhaustible and unfailing. During ordinary dry spells the waters are not appreciably lower in them. Mickel run and Rock run never get lower in the driest season. The water runs over solid rock beds and cold and pure.

Provision was made against the contingency of roily water, by placing a gate above the reservoir by which the water can be let off into a ravine, if necessary.

In the borough five miles of iron water mains have been laid, running through all the principal streets, and to these are attached forty-two was hydrants, so located as to give protection to every section of the borough in case of fire.

The water runs by grade for twelve and one fourth miles from Morgan springs to the reservoir, and will run for a century without any attention or additional expense worth speaking of. The pipes are practically indestructible and are laid deep and will do service for ages.

These things considered the Wellsboro Water Works are not surpassed anywhere. That they are invaluable to the borough has already been proved by the saving of property from destruction by fire, and their convenience and sanitary advantages are becoming more generally recognized every day.

The Wellsborough Electric Company

In order to meet the demand for a better system of lighting private residences and business houses than by oil lamps, as well as to bring the borough into a closer touch with the progressive spirit of the day, the Wellsborough Electric Company was incorporates April 11, 1894, with a capital stock of $7,000, since increased to $20,000. The incorporators were Hugh Young, Leonard Harrison, Jesse M. Robinson, Robert K. Young, and H.C. Young. The organization was completed by the election of the following officers: Leonard Harrison, president; Robert K. Young, secretary; J.M. Robinson, treasurer, and H.C. Young, superintendent. Soon after the organization a power house was established, wire strung and electric lights introduced into swellings, offices and business places. In October, 1895, the borough authorities entered into a contract with the company to light the streets of the town. The company put additional machinery in its power house, erected poles, etc., and January 15, 1896 the light was turned on. The streets are now lighted by thirty arc lights, so distributed as to diffuse the light to the best advantage. The cost of each light is $80 per annum. The borough also pays for two incandescent lamps at the rate of $20 each per annum, making a total of $2,440 a year. About 2,000 incandescent lights are in use for lighting residences, offices and business places. A number of business houses also use arc lights. The equipment of the company is first- class and the service rendered highly satisfactory.

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 26 MAR 2004
By Joyce M. Tice


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