Organization--Area and Boundaries--Streams--Physical Features--Early Settlers--Manufacturing and Business Enterprises--Borough Organization and Officials--Physicians--Schools--Churches and Cemeteries--Societies
The borough of Nelson was created May 8, 1886, and is simply the township of Nelson incorporated into a borough. It has the same boundaries and the same area as the old township, and embraces within its limits 6,201 acres, or nearly ten square miles. It has an average length, from east to west, of three and a half miles, and an average width, from north to south, of town and three-fourths miles. It is bounded on the north by New York state, on the east by Lawrence township, on the south by Farmington township and on the west by the boroughs of Osceola and Elkland. The Cowanesque river enters it from the west, about a half mile south of the State line, pursues a winding course, slightly southeast, and passes into Lawrence township, south of the center of the eastern boundary line. A number of small branches flow into it from the north and south. Those on the north beginning at the west are Rathbun or Wright brook, and a stream flowing through the John Mascho farm, known as Drew creek south, and Baldwin brook north, of the State line. The little stream that flows through Nelson village is known as Cook creek, while the one that flows into the river on the C. F. Merritt farm is known as Crowl creek. On the south side of the river are two creeks, Thorn Bottom creek, which rises in Farmington township, and empties into the river above the village of Nelson, and Cummings’ creek, which unites with the river near the Lawrence township line. The river valley in the western portion of the borough is level and averages over half a mile in width, above Nelson village. The eastern portion is more restricted and broken. The hills on either side are lower and less bold than those further up the valley, and are tillable, the soil being fertile and productive. The Fall Brook railway passes through the borough, following the north side of the river valley. The Addison and Pennsylvania passes through the northeastern portion and has a flag station, called Nelson, within the borough limits.
The unusual area of the borough, and the large amount of finely farming land embraced within its boundaries make it necessary to distinguish, in writing, between the country proper and the village of Nelson, or Beecher’s Island, as it was formerly called. The village of Nelson, though a component of the borough, occupies but a small portion of the area, and lies on both sides of the Cowanesque river, about a mile west of the Lawrence township line. It contains the borough building, two churches, a graded school building, the railroad station, the postoffice, a hotel, and had about 300 of the 540 inhabitants within the borough limits in 1890. For convenience, therefore, and to avoid confusion, it will be referred to by its old name of Beecher’s Island, a name familiar to every resident of the county.
The first white person to settle within the present borough boundaries was Reuben Cook, Sr. This pioneer, mention of whom is also made in the Osceola, Deerfield and Westfield chapters, was the first white settler in the Cowanesque valley, west of Lawrenceville. He was a Revolutionary soldier and drew a pension from the State of Pennsylvania, under the following act, approved June 16, 1823, by Joseph Heister, governor:
Sec. 3. Be it enacted, etc., That the state treasurer be and he is hereby authorized and required to pay to Reuben Cook, of Tioga county, a Revolutionary soldier, on order, Forty Dollars immediately, and an annuity of Forty Dollars during life; to be paid half yearly; to commence on the first day of January, 1823.
"In May, 1792 or 1793," says Charles Tubbs, of Osceola, "he moved into Nelson township, locating on a little flat north of the present residence of Harris T. Ryon. He lived in a bark cabin all summer, and planted an Indian girdling to corn and turnips. In the fall of that year he built a log house and lived in it three years. An Indian erected his wigwam near by, and they hunted and fished in company in the greatest friendship. The river was full of trout and it was no trouble to kill a deer. He never lived long in a place. At different times he owned valuable farms in Deerfield, Westfield, Osceola and Elkland boroughs. In 1814 he went to Marietta, Ohio, but returned to this valley in 1820, living at Osceola until he died. He possessed the true pioneer spirit—was always willing to sell out and move west." He was born at "Old Harford, West Division," August 25, 1847, and died at Osceola, Pennsylvania, June 25, 1829. His wife, whose maiden name was Sarah Cole, was born at Flat Brook, New Jersey, June 1757, and died at Osceola, march 25, 1833. He lies buried in the cemetery at Osceola. His son, Reuben Cook, was born at Hooper’s Patent, on the Susquehanna, below Owego, July 10, 1782, and died in Brookfield, Tioga county, Pennsylvania, October 5, 1881, in his one hundredth year.
The next settler appears to have been Dorman Bloss. His name is found on the census roll for 1800, as a "millwright." In 1805 he sold a hand grist-mill to Elihu Marvin, of Mansfield, who hauled it from Nelson overland on an ox sled. He did not, however, make purchase of land until January 2, 1807, when he bought a portion of the tract called "Retreat," now within the boundaries of the village of Nelson. He left the valley in 1818.
No further permanent settlement appears to have been made within the borough limits until about 1805 or 1806, when John, Thomas and Hopestill Beecher settled on and around a piece of land—now within the village of Nelson—to which the name of Beecher’s Island was soon after given. At that time it seems the Cowanesque river was known as Log creek, and so is described in the deeds to the Beechers, to Dorman Bloss and to other very early settlers in the Cowanesque valley. The lands settled upon by the Beechers are described as "late of Daniel Verden," and were part of a tract called "Retreat." The deeds are dated October 15, 1806, and that to John Beecher was delivered in the presence of Dorman Bloss and Thomas Overton. The name Beecher’s Island has its origin in the fact that the land settled on lay between two channels of the Cowanesque river, the one a main and the other a branch channel, the inclosed land being an oblong strip, now forming a portion of the village site.
About 1806 or 1808 Daniel Strait came from Lindley, New York, and located upon what is now known as the Hazlett farm. In 1810 he sold out to John and Samuel Hazlett and removed to Steuben county, New York. The Hazletts came from the north of Ireland. The greater part of the land then purchased is still owned by their descendants. In 1810 Joseph Campbell, Sr., a native of Scotland, also came from the north of Ireland, and settled at Beecher’s Island. The Hazletts and his family appear to have been members of the same party and to have crossed the ocean together. His eldest daughter, Sally, was the wife of Samuel Hazlett, and the next oldest daughter, Jane, was married to John Hazlett, at Beecher’s Island, April 11, 1811. Amasa Culver, a native of Connecticut, also came in 1810, and cleared and improved the farm now owned by Mrs. Betsey Tubbs. His daughter, Content Culver, who became the wife of Walter C. Bottum, was born within the present borough limits in 1810.
James Daily settled soon afterward. His son, Perry Daily, who died July 18, 1896, was born here in 1814, and at the time of his death was the oldest person born in the township. Cyprian Wright came about 1812 and settled on the land adjoining Amasa Culver, on the east. He kept an early way-side inn, the first in the present borough limits. William Allington settled about 1812 and John and George Allington before 1816. Calvin Chamberlain came about 1815. Amariah Hammond, a native of Connecticut, came in 1817 and settled between Nelson village and Elkland, near the Byron Shaw place. He taught school in 1821, in a building which then stood near the William Merritt residence, below Nelson village. Samuel Rathbun, a native of New York state, came into Tioga county about 1814 and appears to have resided until about 1817 or 1818 at Lawrenceville, and then to have moved within the present borough of Nelson, and to have settled on and improved the farm now owned and occupied by the widow of his eldest son, Henry Rathbun.
In 1818 Mrs. Sarah Blackwell, of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, a widow, married John Campbell and came to live at Beecher’s Island. Richard Ellison and James McGinley, Scotch-Irish and Calvinists, were also among the early settlers at Beecher’s Island. Among other early settlers, the year of whose coming cannot be ascertained, were George W. Phelps and John Vroman. Walter C. Bottum, a native of Connecticut, came in 1827. His father, Clark Bottum, came later. Walter C. engaged in lumbering and during an active career erected three saw-mills in the Cowanesque valley. In 1830 Artemus Losey, a native of Orange county, new York, settled at Beecher’s Island and bought the John Campbell saw-mill, still owned and operated by his son, J. T. Losey. From this time forward settlers came in rapidly, so that in 1835, when the Congregational church was organized, it numbered fifteen members, all residents of Beecher’s Island and vicinity. Most of the families already named were represented, as well as those of Samuel Snow, Nahum Kelley, Sabra Daily, Hubbard Clark, William Clark and M. Cummings. Among the more prominent of the later settlers were Henry Smith, who came in 1832; Sylvester Stewart, a soldier of the War of 1812, who came in 1838; John Weeks, also a soldier of the War of 1812, who came the same year; Harris T. Ryon, who came in 1839; Dr. Albert M. Loop, who first came in 1838, went to Illinois, from which he returned in 1840, and permanently settled at Beecher’s Island; Daniel Angell, a shoemaker, who came in 1842; Luther Rice, a carpenter, who came in 1843; Samuel Edgcomb, who came in 1845, and Louis Bevier, a tanner, who came in 1849.
MANUFACTURING AND BUSINESS ENTERPRISES.
John, Thomas and Hopestill Beecher, who settled on Beecher’s Island in 1805 or 1806, erected a saw-mill about 1810 on the site of the present J. T. Losey mill, familiarly known as the old Campbell mill. About 1818 this property passed into the hands of John Campbell, who operated a saw-mill on the same site till 1830, when he sold it to Artemus Losey. Mr. Losey, who was a skilled mechanic, added to his lumber business the manufacture of household furniture. He also built several carding machines and a number of melodeons, and was known as a man of energy and enterprise. Since his death, in 1869, the mill property has been owned and operated by his son, J. T. Losey. This mill, one of the oldest in the county, has been rebuilt and improved.
The Nelson Flouring Mill, water power, was originally built by John Campbell about 1818, and owned and operated by him until his death, in 1855, when it became the property of his stepson, Enoch Blackwell. He operated it until his death, in 1884. About 1830 Mr. Campbell established an upper leather tannery in connection with his mill property. For several years during his lifetime, and that of Mr. Blackwell, this tannery was carried on by lessees. After Mr. Blackwell’s death, the mill property passed into the possession of his son, E. C. Blackwell, who is the present owner. A store established by Mr. Blackwell’s father was carried on in connection with the mill for many years. It burned in 1885. Mr. Blackwell also operates a power cider mill with a capacity of 100 barrels a day.
Among the early saw-mill owners and lumbermen within the present borough limits was Hon. James Ford, of Lawrenceville, the first congressman from Tioga county. He operated a saw-mill on the Cowanesque on the Samuel Rathbun place, in which he had a two-third interest, Samuel Rathbun having the remaining one-third. They conducted it until 1828, when Mr. Ford’s interest was bought by Samuel and Alfred Rathbun. Samuel Rathbun in time became the sole owner of the mill, which he operated until his death, in 1847. Walter C. Bottum and Gilbert Phelps & Company erected a mill on Thorn Bottom creek, near its mouth. Mr. Bottum became an extensive operator and erected no less than three saw-mills during the next thirty years. Among those who operated mills, usually as part owners, between 1830 and 1850 were Richard Ellison, John Vroman, John Young, Charles Bottum, Hubbard Clark, Thomas Rathbun, Leander Culver, John Flint, John Brownell and others. At the present time the mill owned and operated by J. T. Losey is the only one within the borough limits.
Luke B. Maynard, whose name appears on the assessment list of 1832, was the pioneer merchant of Nelson. He remained but a few years. Hunt Pomeroy, father of the late "Brick" Pomeroy, the noted editor of the La Crosse (Wisconsin) Democrat, opened a store in Nelson in 1840, and had for a partner Hiram Beebe, the first merchant of Lawrenceville. Anson Buck and John Brownell were also early merchants. The old store building, first occupied by Luke B. Maynard, was on the site of the present Newcomb Hotel. It is now owned by John M. Hammond, and stands near his residence. In 1849 G. H. Baxter and G. W. Phelps engaged in mercantile business. The partnership lasted a year, when Mr. Baxter continued as a dealer in groceries and provisions. In March, 1866, A. J. Howell opened a store in Nelson. In the same month of the same year M. B. Seely came to Nelson. Mr. Howell now keeps a grocery store and Mr. Seely a general store. They are the two oldest merchants in the place.
A wayside inn kept by Cyprian Wright was the first within the present borough limits. The "Old Log Hotel," as it is familiarly called by those of the present generation, was the first hotel at Beecher’s Island. It was built on the corner north of the present Newcomb House about 1830, by Samuel Snow. In 1835 Amariah Hammond purchased the property, and his son, John M. Hammond, kept the house until 1841. In 1865 it was torn down and a store building erected on its site.
The Newcomb House was erected in 1836 for a store building by Artemus Losey, and was occupied for a number of years by Pomeroy & Beebe. It was afterwards changed into a hotel. Among the early landlords were Hunt Pomeroy and Samuel Edgcomb. Since 1878 this house has been kept by W. A. Newcomb.
The Nelson Separator and Butter Company was organized in 1893, with Byron Shaw, president; C. S. Baxter, secretary; M. B. Seely, treasurer; E. V. Turpening, butter maker, and J. E. Leteer, assistant. The creamery, which was equipped with modern appliances, was changed to a cheese factory in 1895. It has a capacity of about 100,000 pounds per annum.
BOROUGH ORGANIZATIONS AND OFFICIALS.
The township of Nelson was formally organized as a borough May 8, 1886, in anticipation of which the court had on April 20, the date of incorporation, appointed the following as burgess and councilmen to serve until the next regular election: Henry Baxter, burgess; Philip Tubbs, C. F. Culver, C. F. Margraff, J. D. Campbell, G. H. Baxter and Samuel S. Heysham. The names of the burgesses since elected are as follows: W. A. Newcomb, 1887; C. F. Margraff, 1888-1889; M. F. Cass, 1890; C. F. Margraff, 1891-92; J. D. Campbell, 1893-96; and M. B. Seeley, elected in 1897.
The following named persons have been elected justices of the peace for the township, and, since its incorporation, for the borough of Nelson: Anthony W. Lugg, 1858; re-elected, 1864, 1880; Marcus H. Brooks, 1859; re-elected, 1864; C. P. Wright, 1865; re-elected, 1870, 1875; J. D. Campbell, 1868; re-elected, 1873; D. H. Hughy, 1878; C. B. Goodrich, 1882, and William H. Baxter, 1883. Nelson borough: C. R. Copp, 1886; re-elected, 1891; C. B. Goodrich, 1887; re-elected, 1891; A. C. Campbell, 1887; W. H. Baxter, 1889; J. T. Losey, 1894; Byron Shaw, 1896.
A postoffice was established at Beecher’s Island about 1832, to which the name of Nelson was given. For what or for whom it was thus named no one now living, of whom inquiry has been made, can tell. The first postmaster was Joseph M. White, who held the office for about twenty years. His successors have been: G. H. Baxter, 1853-56; Dr. A. M. Loop, 1856-61; G. H. Baxter, 1861-79; H. Baxter, 1879-80; M. B. Seely, 1880-85; Dr. A. M. Loop, 1885-89; G. H. Baxter, 1889—died May 5, 1892; Miss Nora Baxter, may 1892, to May, 1896, and W. H. Baxter, appointed in may, 1896.
Dr. A. M. Loop, one of the oldest physicians in years and practice in the county, began practice at Beecher’s Island in 1840. He is the oldest practicing physician in the county. Among those who have since resided there and practiced medicine are: Dr. Aaron Niles, who located in 1875, and remained until 1878; Dr. S. W. Linwer, who came in 1879, and remained eight years, and Dr. W. Rumsey, who came in 1887, and remained two years. The present resident physicians are Dr. A. M. Loop, Dr. Calvin S. Baxter, who came in 1887, and Dr. William B. Stevens, who came in 1891.
In 1821 Amariah Hammond taught a school, below Beecher’s Island, near the William Merritt place. Among his pupils was his son, John M. Hammond, born in 1816, who came to Beecher’s Island in 1817 with his parents and is one of the oldest living residents of the borough. Samuel Snow was an early teacher here. The earliest school within the village of Nelson or Beecher’s Island, is still standing just east of the Presbyterian church. It was built in the later thirties, and is now occupied as a dwelling. Before the erection of the Presbyterian church, meetings were held in this school house. The Rathbun school house, north of the river in the western part of the present borough, was also one of the earliest school houses, and like the school houses of those days was used as a house of worship. It was built about 1834. Owing to the extensive area covered by the borough, there are four school districts within its limits. The principal school is the graded school of Nelson village. A handsome two-story frame school building erected here in 1876, at a cost of about $3,000, provides ample accommodations for the pupils of District No. 1.
CHURCHES AND CEMETERIES.
The Second Congregational Church of Elkland was organized in August, 1834, its membership being gathered at or about Beecher’s Island. They were fifteen in number, consisting of Hubbard and Eunice Clark, James and Mary Campbell, Samuel Snow, Nahum Kelley, Sabra Daily, Dolly and Sarah Bottom, Hannah Culver, Jane Ellison, William and Caroline Clark, Milla Cummings and Eliza Phelps. Samuel Snow was chosen deacon of this church. The first meeting was at the Rathbun farm. September 26, 1830, this church and the First Congregational church, organized in 1832, at Elkland, met in the Ryon school house at Elkland, and united in one church, under the name of the First Congregational Church of Elkland. There were thirty-two members. On Friday, July 23, 1835, this society was changed to a Presbyterian church, under the name of the First Presbyterian Church of Elkland. It became the parent of the Presbyterian churches at Beecher’s Island and East Farmington.
The First Presbyterian Church of Beecher’s Island was organized March 2, 1844. It consisted of the following members to whom letters were granted,--in order that they might form this church—from the First Presbyterian Church of Elkland: Joel and Mary Jewel, Joseph and Anna Campbell, John and Mahala Hazlett, Charles and Mary Ann Lugg, Charles and Lovina Blanchard, Harris T. Ryon, Samuel Hazlett, Edward Mapes, Sarah Campbell, Mary Ann Campbell, Oliver Blanchard, Robert and Susan Casbeer and Enoch Blackwell. James and Joseph Campbell and Joel Jewell were the first ruling elders. Soon after the church was organized Joel Jewell was licensed to preach and became the first pastor. During his pastorate, which continued until May, 1846, the house of worship, still standing, was erected by his brother, Edward Jewell. He assisted in the work of building. This building which stands on land acquired from John Hazlett, represents with the improvements and repairs an expenditure of about $2,000. The names of the pastors who have served this church are as follows: Revs. Joel Jewell, 1845-46; E. D. Wells, 1846-48; S. J. McCullough, 1848; Rev. John Sailer, 1851; pulpit supplied by various pastors till 1855 when A. C. Woodcock came; J. Gordon Carnahan , still living, December 14, 1856, to September 2, 1858; supplied, 1858-60; Francis Rand, 1860-64; Frederick Graves, 1865-67; S. A. Rawson, 1867-72; Benjamin Russell, 1874-80; C. B. Gillette, 1881-85; R. G. Williams, 1885-88; S. P. Gates, 1889-90, and Hallock Armstrong, who came in July, 1891. Mr. Armstrong was ordained in 1851 and during the fifty-five years of his ministry has missed but two Sundays on account of sickness, and has moved but twice in the last thirty-four years. The church now numbers thirty-six members. The average attendance of the Sunday-school is fifty. Charles Merritt is the superintendent. There is a Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor connected with this church.
The Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church of Nelson, incorporated December 5, 1867, was organized about forty-five years ago. There are no records of its early history accessible. It has been in the Knoxville, Farmington and Lawrenceville charges and was set off from the latter in 1881. Among its early pastors was Rev. William Potter, who entered the ministry in 1847. The pastors of the various charges named served this church up to 1881, since which time the following named ministers have officiated: Revs. F. C. Thompson, 1881-83; James Scovil, 1883-85; C. J. Bradbury, January to October, 1885; M. D. Jackson, 1885-86; William S. Crandall, 1886-88; D. L. Pitts, 1888-90; J. Melvin Smith, 1890-91; John Miller, 1891-94; A. G. Cole, 1894-96, and W. J. Wilson, the present pastor, who came in October, 1896. The present church building was erected in 1868, and dedicated in September, 1869. It cost $1,600. In 1890 the residence of James Paul was purchased for a parsonage. It cost with repairs $1,000. The church now numbers about sixty-five members. There are forty pupils in the Sunday-school, of which Rev. Charles Weeks, a retired minister, is the superintendent.
The Cemetery adjoining the Presbyterian church is on ground acquired from John Hazlett at the same time as the lot on which the church now stands. The first funeral service held in the church and one of the first bodies to be buried here was that of Mrs. Charlotte (Baxter) Hoyt, wife of David Hoyt. She died March 1, 1845. Below the village, near the Merritt place, is the old Hazlett family burying ground. With the exception of an occasional family graveyard these comprise the burial places within the borough.
The secret, social and benevolent orders are well represented in Nelson.
Nelson Lodge, No. 434, I. O. O. F., which was instituted February 14, 1874,
with fourteen charter members, is growing and prosperous. Wallace Bogart
Post, No. 362, G. A. R., was organized September 1, 1883, with seventeen
members. Notwithstanding deaths and removals it maintains its organization
and meets regularly. Nelson Lodge, No. 67, I. O. G. T., was organized March
27, 1893, and embraces in its membership a large number of the young people
of the borough. Alert Grange, No. 905, P. of H., was organized January
18, 1890. It now numbers over sixty members and contemplates erecting a
hall building in the near future. Nelson Tent, No. 180, K. O. T. M., was
organized June 5, 1893. It has now about fifty members and is growing rapidly.