Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
1897 Tioga County History
Chapter 40 - Morris Township
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Morris Township  Page
1897 Tioga County History Table of Contents
Submitted by Joyce M. Tice
Retyped for Tri-Counties by Sheri Graves 

Babb's Creek Sawmill pre 1890
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Chapter XL.

Morris Township.

Organization--Reduction of Area--Physical Characteristics--Timber and Coal--Streams--Railroads--Population--Pioneer Settlement--Mills and Other Enterprises--Schools--Physicians and Justices--Churches--Societies--Villages and Postoffices.

Morris township was organized in September, 1824, and was taken from Delmar. As originally constituted it extended to the Potter county line, and embraced the greater portion of the present township of Elk, which was organized in 1856. In December, 1873, a strip nearly a mile in width from north to south by three miles in length from east to west, was taken from it on the north to make a portion of the area of the new township of Duncan. It is nearly thirteen miles from east to west; has an average width from north to south of about five miles, and contains about sixty-five square miles. The general surface of the township is mountainous, the hills being steep and high and the valleys narrow and restricted. This is especially true of all that portion lying west of a line drawn north and south through Hoytville. The cultivable area is confined to the uplands in the southeastern part and to the valleys of Pine creek, and to those of Babb’s creek and its tributaries. The farming area in the southeastern part of the township is, however, noticeable for its well improved farms and prosperous farmers, the soil being rich and productive. The mountainous area is wild and picturesque, and is still the scene of active lumbering operations, though the timber supply is about exhausted. The general upland level of the township is from 1,000 to 1,200 feet higher than the mouth of Babb’s creek, which unites with Pine creek at Blackwells, at which point the elevation is 833 feet above tidewater.

The streams of the township are Pine creek, Babb’s creek, Stony Fork creek, Wilson creek, Dixe’s run and Zimmerman’s run. Pine creek pursues a southeasterly course through the western part of the township to Blackwells, where it turns southwest and crosses the Lycoming county line about a mile below. Its valley is deep and narrow, the mountains on either side rising almost precipitously to a height of a thousand feet. The portion of the township lying west of the valley of this stream is uninhabited, as is also the greater portion of the township lying between it and Stony Fork creek, north of the Babb’s creek valley. Babb’s creek, a tributary of Pine creek, rises in the southeastern part of Charleston township, flows southeast to the Duncan township line, where it turns south and a few miles further on southwest, which latter course it pursues through Morris township to its junction with Pine creek at Blackwells. It receives as tributaries Wilson creek and Stony Fork creek from the north; Dixe’s run and several smaller streams from the south. It and its tributaries are, in times of high water, turbulent streams. The northeastern portion of the township lies within the Blossburg coal basin, most of the coal land being the property of the Fall Brook Coal Company, now operating the mines at Antrim.

The valley of Pine creek is traversed by the Pine Creek railroad, completed in 1884, and operated by the Fall Brook Railroad Company. The Arnot and Pine Creek railroad, completed from Arnot to Hoytville in 1883, is now operated by the Erie. It connects with the Tioga railroad at Blossburg.

During the earlier years of the township’s history its principal industry was lumbering, and its population was largely transient and shifting. The census of 1840 showed only 120 inhabitants. In 1870 there were 423; in 188, 622, and in 1890, 1,849, 560 of which were credited to the village of Hoytville.


Samson Babb, a native of Wilmington, Delaware, was the first settler of the township. He came in 1800 and located on Babb’s creek—named for him—on the site of the present village of Morris, near the mouth of Wilson creek. He had previously purchased from the Pine Creek Land Company a tract of 450 acres of heavily-timbered land, known as "Icassa." Here, as early as 1806, he erected a water-power saw-mill. He was largely instrumental in getting a State road built from Williamsport up the Pine creek and Babb’s creek valleys to Wellsboro. He was appointed a justice of the peace in 1813, and held the office until his death, in October, 1815.

The next permanent settlement was made at the mouth of Babb’s creek, on the site of the present village of Blackwells, by Enoch Blackwell, Sr., in 1811. When he came on to the land he found it occupied by A. P. Harris and George Bonnell, but as they had secured no title he found no difficulty in obtaining possession. Mr. Blackwell came from Haven Parish, Gloucestershire, England, in 1805, and was one of a colony from that parish who established the "English Settlement" in Pine township, Lycoming county. Like most of the colonists, he became dissatisfied with the location, and afterwards exchanged his lands for a tract of 1,200 acres of fine timber land on Pine creek, above and below the mouth of Babb’s creek. After securing possession he devoted himself to getting out and rafting square pine timber down Pine creek, and seems to have prospered in that line of effort. He died at Jersey Shore in the spring of 1816, aged about sixty-five years, and was buried in the old Pine Creek burying ground. In 1817 his son, William, removed to the mouth of Babb’s creek, and became the founder of the village of Blackwells. He died December 6, 1859, aged seventy years, and lies buried in the cemetery about a mile up Babb’s creek.

Owing to its rugged character, the township settled slowly, so that when it was organized in 1824 there were but eighteen taxables within its boundaries. Their names are as follows: William Babb, Jacob Babb, William Blackwell, Nathan Broughton, who came about 1820; Samuel, Robert and John Campbell, who came about 1821; William Diggins, who came in 1822; Charles and Terence Duffy, Mary Landis, and Jacob and William Emmick, who came about 1823; Samuel M. Harrison, the first school teacher in the township, who came in 1819; Robert and C. Willlammee and Jacob Warren, who came in 1824. Thomas Lloyd, Jacob Valentine and Sylvester Webster, "single freemen," were residing in the township in 1824.


The first saw-mill in the township was erected by Samson Babb, in 1806, on Babb’s creek, near the site of the present mill of the Blossburg Coal Company, in Morris. Like all early mills it was a water-mill and was run by a flutter-wheel. The lumber sawed during the first year of the mill’s existence was floated down Babb’s creek to its mouth, the intention being to raft it down Pine creek, to the Susquehanna. A sudden flood, however, swept it away. After Mr. Babb’s death in October, 1815, the mill became the property of his son, William Babb, who operated it continuously until 1822, when it appears to have been discontinued. In 1831 he resumed operations again, continuing uninterruptedly until 1858.

In 1825 a saw-mill and a grist-mill were built on Babb’s creek just above the village of Blackwells. The owner was Mary Landis, who was assisted in operating the mills by her cousins, Charles and Terence Duffy. In 1835 the saw-mill became the property of James Duffy, who acquired the grist-mill in 1839. He continued as sole owner until 1854, when the firm of James Duffy & Brothers was organized. In 1865 they were succeeded by John H. Humes, and he in 1870 by W. C. Gillespie. In 1874 he was succeeded by Gillespie & Company. The next owners were W. Walters & Son, who sold the property in the spring of 1896 to R. J. Franklin. The saw-mill was washed away in the June flood of 1889, and has not been rebuilt. The grist-mill, which has two-run of buhrs, has been recently repaired.

Another early saw-mill was erected on Babb’s creek in 1836 by Jacob Emmick. In 1839 he sold it to Robert Archer, who, in 1840, associated with himself H. S. and Stephen Archer, and they carried on the enterprise for twenty years, enlarging it about 1842 to a double mill. Among other early mill owners and operators were Alexander and James Forsythe, Samuel Forsythe, Horace Williston, Merrils & Company and Job Doane. Mr. Doane erected a mill about 1848, on Babb’s creek, at the mouth of Stony Fork. This mill he operated for nearly forty years. After his death his son, F. E. Doane, operated it until it was washed away by the June flood of 1889. In 1890 it was replaced by a steam-mill built on higher ground.

In 1859 Nelson Root erected a saw-mill in the eastern part of the township near Nauvoo. It was a water-power mill. He was succeeded as owner by James W. Childs, and he by Robert Custard. The present owner is James Dinnison, who purchased the property in 1869. In 1889 the mill was washed away, but was rebuilt. In 1893 Mr. Dinnison fitted up the old woolen factory as a grist-mill, for the grinding of buckwheat and feed. The roller process is used. A woolen factory was started in the building by Robert Custard in 1869, and operated by him and James Custard for about fifteen years.

At the present time the saw-mills in active operation are the steam-mill of F. E. Doane, on Babb’s creek, near the mouth of Stony Fork creek; the steam-mill of Lafayette English, on Dixe’s run; the steam-mill of the Blossburg Coal Mining Company, at Morris, and the water-mill of James Dinnison near Nauvoo. In addition to the manufacture of lumber, large quantities of hemlock bark are gotten out each year. this is used by the Brunswick tannery, which is fully described in the portion of this chapter devoted to the village of Hoytville.


The first school was taught about 1831 by Samuel M. Harrison in a log building on Pine creek, below Blackwells, near the county line. It is said it was built for a meeting house, and there is a difference of opinion among the persons living at Blackwells as to whether it stood on the Tioga or Lycoming side of the county line. About 1832 a school house was erected on Babb’s creek about a mile above Blackwells. It was a log structure with a slab roof. Among the early teachers here were Nancy Clark, Samuel M. Harrison, Lyman Wallbridge and a Dr. Rogers. Another early school was erected near the present store of Thomas J. Birmingham, in Morris. James W. Lewis, Samuel M. Harrison and Jacob Babb were early teachers here. A public school building was erected about 1840 just below the Hoytville tannery. The Doane school house near the mouth of Stony Fork creek is one of the earlier school houses of the township, which now has thirteen schools, including a graded school in the village of Morris. There is an average in the several districts of six months’ school each year.


About 1850 R. H. Archer, a mill owner and lumberman, began the practice of medicine in the township, continuing for several years. In 1865 Dr. William Blackwell, who had previously practiced in the United States hospital attached to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, opened an office at Blackwells, and is still in active practice. In 1883 Dr. J. B. McCloskey located at Morris, where he continued in practice until 1890. In 1890 Henry Mathews, the "Indian Doctor," who practed under the name of James McCoshaway, located at Blackwells. He died in 1895. Dr. S. W. Sine came in 1889 and remained until 1896. Dr. R. F. Robinson, who purchased the drug store of W. B. Kerr, and located in Morris in 1891, and Dr. C. C. Gentry, who came in 1894, are the resident physicians.

The following named persons have served as justices of the peace of the township: Samson Babb—appointed January 7, 1808, while the township was yet a part of Delmar; Jacob Babb, 1826; Lucius Barto, 1827; David Ellis, 1830; Joseph Aiken, 1832; Jesse R. Ray, 1833; John F. Donaldson, 1834; Daniel Holiday, 1835; Simeon Houghton, 1835; Levi I. Nichols, 1836; Samuel Harrison, 1841; James H. Lewis, 1842; Daniel Doane, 1850; Henry S. Archer, 1854; Richard Childs, 1858; Job Doane, 1859; re-elected 1864, 1869, 1874 and 1879; Edwin Gregory, 1864; Robert Custard, 1869; Robert Custard, Jr., 1874; John Haggerty, 1877; re-elected 1882; C. W. Beardsley, 1884; W. W. Seaman, 1886; D. W. Reynard, 1888; re-elected, 1893; Jeremiah Desmond, 1891; E. G. Comstock, 1896.


The Methodist Episcopal Church of Blackwells dates the beginning of its history to a class organized about 1859, the original members of which were Samuel M. Harrison, Betsey Lloyd, Samuel Campbell, Sarah Blackwell, Robert Wilson, Mary E. Blackwell, Maria Earnest and Warren Lewis. Meetings were held in the school house until 1892, when a new house of worship was erected. The church was originally in the Liberty charge and later in the Hoytville charge. In 1895 it was constituted a separate charge, including also the Dixe’s Run church, the Mt. Pleasant church and the church at Oregon Hill. The first pastor was W. E. Buckingham, whose successors have been as follows: Revs. N. Shaffer, 1859-60; James Hunter, 1861-63; P. B. Bush, 1864; R. E. Kelley, 1865; M. L. Dunn, 1866-67; Elisha Shoemaker, 1868; R. H. Colburn, 1869; Levi G. Heck, 1870; E. M. Chilcoat, 1871-72; J. F. Craig, 1873; A. C. Crossthwaite, 1874; Isaiah Edwards, 1875; H. S. Lundy, 1876-78; J. P. Long, 1879; I. A. Patton, 1880-81; J. F. Glass, 1882; W. H. Bowden, 1883-84; G. E. King, 1885-87; O. G. Heck, 1888-90; Richard Brooks, 1891; J. E. Weeks, 1891-94; J. W. Leach, 1895; D. M. Grover, 1896. This church now numbers forty-two members. There are forty pupils in the Sunday-school, of which E. J. Mattoon is superintendent.

Hoytville Methodist Episcopal Church is the outgrowth of a class organized in 1861. Early meetings were held in school houses. In 1883 a house of worship was erected costing $2,000. A parsonage costing $1,000 was erected in 1888. This church was in the Liberty charge when organized. In 1888 it became a station having a resident minister. The pastors of the church have been Revs. W. H. Bowden, 1883-84; George E. King, 1885-87; O. G. Heck, 1888-90; Richard Brooks, 1891-92; J. E. Weeks, 1892-95; T. A. Elliott, 1896. This church now numbers 112 members, and the Sunday-school, of which S. T. Darby is the superintendent, has over 120 pupils.

The Mt. Pleasant Methodist Episcopal Church was organized with the following members: Chauncey Brud, Frank Briggs and wife, H. Briggs and wife, James Briggs and wife, Hiram Mattoon, and Lyman Graham and wife. A church building was erected in 1893 costing $1,800. The church now numbers twenty-five members. There are thirty-five pupils in the Sunday-school, of which Wesley Emmick is the superintendent. Mt. Pleasant is in the Blackwell charge.

Dixe’s Run Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1892, with the following members: James, Maria E., Alfred D., Lottie, Charles B., and Maria P. Blackwell; Michael, Catharine D., Robert and Henry Campbell; Charles, Ida, Leslie and Violette Merrick; Hiram, Anon and George Johnson; James Ashmay, Lafayette and Lucinda Broughton and Henry and Lydia Hatfield. This society has no house of worship. It meets in the Dixe’s Run school house and is in the Blackwell charge.

The Plank School House Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1888, in the eastern part of the township, with twenty members. In 1896 a frame church building costing $1,000 was erected. A good Sunday-school with forty-five pupils is maintained. Warren Lewis is the superintendent. This church is in the Liberty charge.

The First Baptist Church of Morris was organized August 23, 1870. The following named persons constituted the original membership: Warren Lewis, William Ayers, J. E. Webster, Ambrose Duffey, Eli Love, Nancy Lewis, Elizabeth Duffey, Alsina Webster, Sarah E. Love, C. Herd, Orpha Ayers and Elizabeth Emmick. Rev. Mr. Thomas was pastor of this church during the first year of its existence, since which time it has been served by Rev. William Young, also pastor of the church at Austin. The earlier meetings were held in the Mt. Pleasant school house. A neat, frame building costing $1,000 was dedicated May 3, 1896. It is two miles and a half southwest of Morris. The present membership numbers thirty. There are about forty pupils in the Sunday-school, of which Lafayette English is superintendent.

The Church of the Sacred Heart—Catholic—was organized in 1883, and in 1884 a house of worship costing $6,000 was erected near the dividing line between Morris and Hoytville, and within the boundaries of the latter village. The building and grounds were damaged by the June flood of 1889, rendering a further expenditure of $600 necessary for repairs. The membership of this church consists of about seventy-five Irish and Polish families. It is a mission church of the Wellsboro parish, and has been served by the priests of St. Peter’s Church, Wellsboro, services being held on the second Sunday of each month. The Polish members of the church are ministered by Rev. Father Lopanski, of Antrim, who holds services on the third Sunday of each month. There is connected with this church a branch of the Catholic Total Abstinence and Benevolent Association, with twenty members.


The secret and benevolent orders are represented as follows: Hoytville Lodge, No. 663, I. O. O. F., was organized September 28, 1887, with thirty-two members. It owns a hall building erected in the fall of 1893, costing with the furniture, $4,400. The lower story is used as a public hall and is fitted up with a stage. Stella Araminta Lodge, Daughters of Rebekah, was organized October 28, 1893, with fifty-five charter members. It meets in the Odd Fellows’ hall and has now a membership of sixty-one. Morris Tent, No. 215, K. O. T. M., was organized January 20, 1894, and has forty-two members. It meets in the Odd Fellows’ hall. Lorenton Grange, No. 1,095, P. of H., with about fifty members, meets at Lorenton, where it erected a two-story frame hall building in 1896. A post of the G. A. R. and a camp of the P. O. S. of A. meet in Morris.


Morris is situated in the northeastern part of the township, on Babb’s creek, near the mouth of Wilson creek. The first settler here was Samson Babb, who located in 1800, and built a flutter-wheel saw-mill in 1806. This mill was continued in operation after Samson Babb’s death, in 1815, for many years by his son William Babb. A postoffice was established in 1840, William Babb being the first postmaster. His successors have been Samuel Doane, William W. Babb, A. L. Bodine, Mr. Sweeney, W. W. Tate, R. R. Kelts, A. Leonard, R. R. Kelts and Thomas J. Birmingham, who was appointed December 20, 1895. William Babb was also the first inn keeper, opening a house for the entertainment of the traveling public over sixty years ago. William W. Babb was an "inn-keeper" in 1850 and for a number of years thereafter. His house stood near the Black Hotel, now managed by E. A. Kennedy. During the intervening years he has had a number of successors. There are now in Morris four hotels, as follows: The Black Hotel, kept by E. A. Kennedy; the Park Hotel, by C. Porter; the Walker House, by B. F. Walker, and the Tunney House, by Luke Tunney. The first store in the neighborhood was kept by Job Doane during the time of the Civil War, about a mile and a half below the village, near the mouth of Stony Fork creek. The early merchants in the village itself were Ichabod Brown and William W. Babb, who were in business in 1866. Since the completion of the Arnot and Pine Creek railroad in 1883, of which Hoytville is the terminus, Morris has grown rapidly, and has been and still is an important business and trading center. Daily stages carry the mail and passengers to and from Blackwells, connecting with the trains on the Pine Creek railway, and to and from Antrim, connecting with the trains on the Wellsboro and Antrim railway. A daily stage also runs between Morris and Liberty.

Blackwells, the name of the railroad station and village, Lloyd being the name of the postoffice, is situated on Pine creek, at the mouth of Babb’s creek, within a mile of the Lycoming county line. The first settler here was Enoch Blackwell, who came from Oregon Hill, Lycoming county, in 1811, having previously purchased a body of 1,200 acres of timbered land lying along Pine creek, both above and below the present village site. When he came on to the land he found it occupied by A. P. Harris and George Bonnell, who had but a squatter’s right, and who appear to have quietly yielded possession. Mr. Blackwell engaged in lumbering, rafting the pine timber down Pine creek to the Susquehanna river. He died at Jersey Shore in the spring of 1816, and in the following year his son, William, became a resident at Blackwells and the founder of the village, which is still the home of his sons, George, Enoch and William, and a number of their children. He, like his father, followed lumbering, clearing enough of land in the Pine Creek valley to raise such farm products as were needed by his family. As early as 1825 a man named Jacob Warren had a small store below the present village. He also erected a small flutter-wheel mill. About 1844 Horace Williston, a lumberman, opened a store in the village. Other early merchants were John Chadwick and A. C. Bush. About 1864 Enoch and William Blackwell opened a store which has been continued down to the present time and is now kept by Eugene B. Blackwell. A general store is also kept by Jacob Brodhead, and a drug-store by Dr. William Blackwell. A postoffice called Lloyd was established in 1862. Enoch Blackwell, the first postmaster, was succeeded by Jacob Brodhead, and he in 1889 by Eugene B. Blackwell. Mr. Brodhead, who now holds the office, was re-appointed in 1893. The hotel known as the Gillespie House, was erected by William P. Blackwell in 1882, and was kept by him for four years. His successor was Edwin Gregory. The present landlord, J. M. Gillespie, purchased the property in 1887. The Railroad Hotel was built in 1884 and was kept for a time by Matthew Love. The present landlord is J. H. Barton. Blackwells is a station on the Pine Creek railroad, now a part of the Fall Brook system. A daily stage carries mail and passengers to and from Hoytville and Morris.

Hoytville is the name of a village which adjoins Morris on the southwest, and like it lies in the valley of Babb’s creek. The beginning of its history dates to the fall of 1880, when Hoyt Brothers, of New York, purchased a large body of land, heavily timbered with hemlock, lying on both sides of Babb’s creek, with a view to the establishment of a steam tannery. A site was selected and operations begun in February, 1880. The grinding of bark and the tanning of leather was begun in September, 1881, but the mammoth plant, which was named the Brunswick Tannery, was not completed and in full operation before January 1, 1882. At the time of its completion it was the largest steam tannery in the world. It is devoted to the production of non-acid hemlock-tanned sole leather, and has a capacity of 1,000 sides per day. When running with a full force—inside and out—it affords employment for over 300 hands. To provide homes for its employes the company erected nearly 100 dwellings and a boarding house. It also erected a store, a steam saw-mill, planing-mill, a feed-mill and blacksmith and carpenters’ shops. The tannery was run by Hoyt Brothers until May 1, 1893, since which time it has been operated by the Union Tanning Company. The tannery is in charge of A. R. Spicer, superintendent. The foremen are George W. Darby, E. L. Kingsbury and W. L. English. In 1882 Hoyt Brothers joined with the Blossburg Coal and Mining Company in building a line of railroad, known as the Arnot and Pine Creek railroad—from Arnot to Hoytville—its present terminus, thus enabling not only the owners of the tannery to ship its product to market, but giving the village of Morris the advantage of railroad facilities. The company store was managed by an agent until 1893, since which time the business has been carried on by Darby & Frutiger, the firm consisting of S. D. Darby and John Frutiger. A postoffice was established in January, 1893, and named Hoytville. The office of postmaster has been held by Q. F. Taylor, S. S. Van Etten, A. R. Spicer and John Frutiger, the present incumbent.

Lorenton is the name of a postoffice on the Lycoming county line, almost due south from Morris. It was established in July, 1891. The postmaster is Hiram G. Mattoon, who also keeps a general store. A grange hall is located here.

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