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1897 Tioga County History
Chapter 55 - Ward Township
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1897 Tioga County History Table of Contents
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Chapter 56 - Fall Brook Borough

Location and Surroundings- The Fall Brook Coal Company-Its Organization and History- Borough Organization and Officials -Schools - Churches - Societies.

The borough of Fall Brook is situated about six miles east of Blossburg, on Fall brook, formally called Fall creek, one of the headwater tributaries of the Tioga river. The altitude, railroad level, is 1,842 feet above tidewater. The land embraced within the borough limits, as well as several thousand acres in Ward and Union townships, is owned by the Fall Brook Coal Company, whose principal business is the mining and shipping of coal. A limited number of men are employed in the saw-mill, manufacturing lumber, and in the woods, in getting out logs and tan bark. The Fall Brook railway, owned and operated by the company, connects at Blossburg with the Tioga branch of the “Erie.” By a traffic arrangement with the latter company, the Fall Brook Coal Company is enabled to ship its coal to Corning, New York, and other distributing points. From the opening of the mines in December, 1859, to 1873, the population of Fall Brook increased rapidly, and in 1872 was estimated at 2,300.Striles. Financial depression, and the transfer of a large number of miners and their families to Antrim and Clermont, have reduced the number of working miners to 125, and the population to about 700.Though of different nationalities originally, the miners are with few exceptions, American citizens, and they and their families form a homogeneous, sociable, order-loving and law-abiding community. The population for each decade since the borough was organized, as shown by the census returns, is as follows: 1870, 1,390; 1880, 860; 1890, 825.

The Fall Brook Coal Company

In 1851 Hon. John Magee, of Bath, New York, became owner of that portion of the Corning and Blossburg railroad lying between Corning, New York and Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania. In that year, also, Mallory & Bostwick, of Corning surrendered to him their lease of the coal mines at Blossburg. Mr. Magee at once set about making these properties productive and profitable. He replaced the old strap rail on his portion of the road with T rails, and persuaded the stockholders of the line between Lawrenceville and Blossburg to do the same. He next devoted his energies to the mines at Blossburg, the superintendence of which he entrusted to his son, Duncan S. Magee. The latter soon became dissatisfied with working the mines under a lease. He desired ownership, and with that end in view, obtained permission in the spring of 1856, from Hon. C. L. Ward, of Towanda, Pennsylvania to explore for coal on his land, at that time embracing nearly the entire area of Ward township, which was named after him. A written agreement was also entered into that, if coal was found in paying qualities, Mr. Magee would have the right to purchase so much of the land as he might desire, at a stipulated price per acre. Duncan S. Magee then organized a band of explorers, with himself as superintendent; Humphries Brewer and G. A. Backus, civil engineers and geologists; Thomas Farrar and John Smith, woodsmen and assistants to engineers; John James, William Griffith, Thomas Morgan, George Cook, John Evans, Stephen Bowen and others, miners and explorers. An area embracing over 6,000 acres of land was explored in a thorough and scientific manner, and a number of pits and shafts sunk to the underlying coal. During the year 1856 considerable coal was found, but not in qualities sufficient to warrant a purchase of the land. In the spring of 1857 work was resumed. Drifts were opened along the mountain on the west side of the Tioga river, in the northwest corner of Union township, and a superior quality of coal found in paying qualities. Two discouraging obstacles were, however met with. A survey showed that the coal field was nearly 600 feet higher than the railroad track at Blossburg, distant less than six miles northwest. It was also ascertained that the coal vein declined toward the southwest and could not, therefore , be mined from that side of the mountain, for the reason that the water would follow the course of the excavation and drown out the miners. Up to the time Hon. John Magee had furnished money to push forward the explorations. The panic of 1857, however made it hard to get money for the needs of business, and Mr. Magee was loath, after Mr. Brewer’s acknowledgement that the coal could not be mined, on account of the water, to push the explorations any further. Mr. Brewer, however convinced him off the feasibility of his plan for working the coal, and the explorations were resumed. Within three months the correctness of Mr. Brewer’s theories was verified, by the finding, on the Fall Brook side of the mountain, of an immense body of coal that could be easily and profitably worked, thus bringing to a successful issue the tedious and preserving work of the explorers.

During the year 1858 Drift No.1 was put in near the fall on Fall Brook under the direction of Duncan S. Magee, by William Griffith, Robert Pryde, John Dunsmore, Alexander Pollock, Sr., and Thomas Morgan. A survey was also begun for a railroad from Blossburg up the Tioga river to the mouth of Fall brook, and up to latter stream to the drift. In the meantime, however, Hon. John Magee had purchased from Mr. Ward about 6,000 acres of land in Ward and Union townships in accordance with the agreement heretofore mentioned. The railroad survey showed that Drift No.1 was 550 feet above the railroad track at Blossburg, distant about 6 miles. Nevertheless, it was resolved to build the road, and on June 13, 1859, Mr. Brewer issued the following: Notice

The Fall Brook Coal Company will be prepared to contract for the grading and masonry of their road in short sections July 5. Plans and specifications can be seen at their office in Blossburg. H. Brewer ---Engineer Fall Brook Coal Company

An application for a charter was made to the state legislature by Hon. John Magee, James H. Gulick and Duncan S. Magee, and a bill granting it passed March 9,1859. It had been opposed principally by another mining company, and after its passage sufficient pressure was brought to bear upon Gov. William F. Packer to cause him to veto it. April 7,1859, however , it was passed over his veto and became a law, and the company was duly incorporated under the name of Fall Brook Coal Company. The first officers were Hon. John Magee, president; John Lang, secretary and treasurer; Duncan S. Magee, superintendent, and H. Brewer, civil engineer. The following working force was also organized; Duncan S. Magee, superintendent ; H. Brewer and G. A. Backus, civil engineers; James Heron, cashier and mercantile agent; Capt. Robert Merritt, overseer in lumber department; Martin Stratton, master mechanic and supervisor of tenements; Thomas Reese, weigh master of mining wagons; John Morse, overseer railroad track, and afterwards first weigh master and skipper of coal-succeeded by Peter Cameron and John L. Sexton; William Griffith, Alexander Pollock, Sr., and Thomas Morgan, drift masters. The Fall Brook railroad was completed to the new village of Fall Brook in the autumn of 1859. During the year work had been vigorously prosecuted. A saw-mill was built for the company at the falls by George Richter; coal chutes were erected at the mouth of Drift No.1, by Mr. Brockway; thirty or forty dwellings were hastily constructed, and a supply store erected on the site of the present hotel building. This was placed in charge of James Heron, assisted by O. W. and C. L. Pattison and Thomas J. Hall. Boarding houses, blacksmith shops, and carpenter shops were also built, and a great enterprise successfully established in what, but a few months before, was an unbroken mountain wilderness. Samples of this coal were shipped by Mr. Magee to a number of leading manufacturing concerns throughout the country, including the repairing departments of several railroads, from all of whom reports and testimonials, certifying to its superior quality, and assuring for it an immediate and profitable demand. The mining of coal at Blossburg, under lease, was abandoned and the fixtures removed to Fall Brook. Shipping depots were established at Corning, with Andrew Beers as agent, and at Watkins, with John Lang as agent. Valuable franchises were obtained at both places, and trestles and chutes erected to facilitate the handling of coal. A circular was issued April1, 1860, by Duncan S. Magee, superintendent, announcing the formal opening of the mines, and that “the Fall Brook Coal Company had ample facilities for shipping this coal at Corning by canal and railroad, and have also arrangements for delivery directly from the mines by rail at Watkins, at the head of Seneca Lake, and there transferring it to the enlarged Erie Canal boats.” The store building proving too small to accommodate an increasing custom, a larger and more commodious building was erected, which was soon afterwards enlarged. So rapid was the growth of the village that at the close of 1862 it contained 180 dwellings, and 1,400 inhabitants. In 1861, because of increased business , James Heron was relieved as mercantile agent, in order to devote himself to his duties as cashier. Frank Lewis, of Allegany county New York, was made mercantile agent, continuing until February, 1864, when he was succeeded by

C. E. Halsey, of Hammondsport, New York, who remained until 1875, when he resigned on account of ill health. His successor was A. J. Owen, who discharged the duties of mercantile agent and cashier until 1886, when he was succeeded by Samuel Heron, the present incumbent. In 1862 the office of manager was created and Humphries Brewer appointed to fill it. He held it until his death, December 25, 1867. His successors were James Heron, from December 27,1867, until his death, September 21,1872;and D. W. Knight, who served from September 22,1872 to 1875, when the office was abolished. The company, in the meantime, having acquired important properties in other parts of the county, the mines, mill and store at Fall Brook were placed in three separate departments and have so continued. The mines are in charge of Robert Russell, mining superintendent, with David Nicol, assistant; the saw-mill and lumber department in charge of E. A. McEntee, outside foreman, and the office and store in charge of Samuel Heron, who fill the office of cashier. The post office, established soon after the opening of the mines, has always been in the company’s store, the post master usually being the mercantile agent or cashier of the company. Anton Hardt, general manager for the company, whose office is in Wellsboro, has the general superintendence of these various departments, as well as of the mines, stores, etc. at Antrim.

A telegraph line from Corning, New York to Fall Brook, was completed in the fall of 1864. Since 1878 the office has been in charge of John G. Jones, who is also the weigh master and shipper of the Fall Brook Coal Company.

The Fall Brook hotel erected by the Fall Brook Coal Company, was opened in the spring of 1865, Warren Goff, of Steuben county, New York being the first landlord.

Borough Organizations and Officials

In August 1864, a petition was presented to the court of common pleas, at Wellsboro, asking for the incorporation of Fall Brook as a borough. There was some opposition to granting the petition, because the property within the proposed borough limits was all owned by the Fall Brook Coal Company, and there was danger of the company using its power to restrict freedom of speech, and interfere with the exercise of the right of elective franchise. The loyalty of the inhabitants, notwithstanding, in proportion to population, they had sent a larger number into the Union Army than any other place in the county, was also called into question. These objections were however, fully met, and the petition granted. The first election took place September 16,1864, when the following officers were chosen: L.C. Shepard, burgess; James Heron, H. Brewer, James Tracy, William D. Linahan and Charles N. Cranmer, councilmen. At the first meeting of the council, October 3, 1864, C. L. Pattison was chosen treasurer and Burr Noble, Clerk.

The office of burgess has been filled as follows: L. C. Shepard, 1864 to 1874 inclusive; John L. Sexton, 1875; L. C. Shepard, 1876 to 1879, inclusive; R. F. Cummings, 1880 and 1881; J. W. Taylor,1882;; A. N. Williams, 1883; Robert Russell, 1884; L. C. Shepard, 1885; William Saxe, 1886 to 1888; William McEntee, 1889 to 1892; E. A. McEntee, 1893 to 1896, and Robert Russell, 1897.

The following named persons have been elected and commissioned justices of the peace since the incorporation of the borough: John Hinman, elected in 1868; L. C. Shepard, 1869; John L. Sexton, 1869; J. W. Personeus, 1873;Alexander Pollock, 1874; Michael Lyon, 1876; William Young, 1878; C. K. Thompson, 1880; Robert Russell, 1883; F. G. Elliott, 1883; L. C. Shepard, 1887; reelected, 1892 and 1897.


For a number of years there were two school buildings in Fall Brook. The first was erected in 1861 in the “Fallow,” and the second on Catawissa Street, in the winter of 1864-65. In 1888 a graded school system was adopted and the present building , centrally located , was erected. There are three teachers employed, the average attendance of pupils being about one hundred fifty. Among the early teachers who taught in the ‘Fallow” school house were David Cameron, Oscar Beardsley, Belle Dyer, Lue Pitts, Miss Simpson and John L. Sexton. Mr. Sexton taught an even seven years in succession. Among those who have taught in the building on Catawissa Street, were Bessie Brewer, Lucy Cranmer and S. A. Gaskill.


Presbyterian Church- In 1860 a petition was presented to the Presbytery of Susquehanna, asking that a Presbyterian Church be organized at Fall Brook. The petitioners were Alexander Pollock, Sr., James Heron, Alexander Pollock, Jr., James Pollock, Peter Cameron, Jr., Robert Logan, John Dunsmore, George Snedden, William Watchman, E. J. Evans, David Pryde, and H. Brewer. The petition was granted and the church duly organized. September 1, 1861, Rev. George Blair became the pastor, having also under his charge the church at Morris Run. In the fall of 1863 he was succeeded by Rev. William McCormick, who remained one year; Rev. J. Caldwell, one year; Rev. E. Kennedy, 1866 to 1870; Rev. G. R. H. Shumway, of Lawrenceville, supply until October, 1871; Rev. Philander Camp, who remained till 1875. A Sunday- School was organized, of which Alexander Pollock, Sr., was superintendent for a number of years. His successor was James R. Mills. During Mr. Kennedy’s pastorate a church building, costing $2,000, was erected, the Fall Brook Coal Company contributing $1,000. Owing to the decrease in the working force in the mines and the removal of a large number of families elsewhere, the church became to weak to maintain a pastor, and in 1886 its membership was merged with that of St. Thomas’ Protestant Episcopal Church.

St Thomas’ Protestant Episcopal Church traces the beginning of its history to a visit made in the summer of 1864, to Fall Brook, by the Rev. E. D. Loveridge, of Hammondsport, New York. While stopping with his friend, C. E. Halsey, he held the first service of his church on July 31, 1864. In August, 1866, Bishop Lee, of Delaware, visited Fall Brook, and on the 24th of that month confirmed Miss Mary Frazee and Miss Mary Brewer. About the same time C. E. Halsey and John Hinman organized a Sunday-School and soon had over one hundred pupils. The school was held in the “Fallow” school; house. A deficiency in books and catechisms was made up by the energy and liberality of Mr. Halsey and Mr. Hinman. A generous donation of books was also made by the St. John’s Church, Catherine, Schuyler County, New York. A formal application for a charter was made to the court of common pleas of Tioga county July 30, 1867, C. E. Halsey, John Hinman, John L. Sexton, Lewis Clark, J. B. Christie, J. W. Personeus, John Alderson, and Thomas Gaffney. The application was granted December 5, 1867, and the church duly organized, with C. E. Halsey, senior warden; Lewis Clark, John B. Christie, J. W. Personeus, John Sexton and John Alderson , vestry men. Services were held every alternate Sunday in the “Fallow” school house, Rev. M. L. Kerr officiating, until November 28, 1869, from which time until 1874 the church was without a rector. In that year Marcellus Karcher, a deacon in orders, located in Fall Brook, and officiated until 1876, after which time for a number of years, occasional services were held by the rectors in charge of the churches at Tioga, Mansfield, Blossburg, and Antrim. Although without a rector at present, services are held regularly by Rev. Rev. Marcellus Karcher, rector of St. Luke’s Church, Blossburg. The number of communicants is thirty-two. In the Sunday-School which has been regularly maintained, there are 130 pupils and fifteen teachers. Samuel Heron is the superintendent. The old Presbyterian house of worship is now used by this congregation.

St. John’s Catholic Church owes its existence to the efforts of Rev. John A. Wynne, who, in July,1873, while stationed at Blossburg, succeeded in securing a pledge of $1,000 from the Catholic people and other friends in Fall Brook, to which the Fall Brook Coal Company generously added $1,000 more. A contract for a building was entered into with Joseph Hyland, of Blossburg, the corner stone of which was laid August 31, 1873 by Bishop O’Hara, of Scranton, assisted by Revs. Gerald McMurray, John Wynne and John C. McDermott. The building was opened for service Sunday, April 26, 1874, the opening sermon being preached by Rev. E. A. Garvey of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This church, which numbers about twenty-five families, is served by the pastor of the church at Blossburg. It maintains a Sunday-school with an average attendance of thirty pupils. A branch of the catholic Total Abstinence and Benevolent Association, numbering twenty members, is connected with this church.


The Fall Brook Friendly Society, a beneficial organization; The Fall Brook Library Association, the purpose of which was to maintain a library and reading room, and the Catholic Temperance Society, for the promotion of temperance among members of the Catholic faith, all flourished during the earlier years of the borough’s history. With the removal of many of the miners and their families to other places, their membership decreased and they disbanded. Fall Brook Lodge No. 765, I. O. O. F., was chartered May8, 1871, and now has seventy members. Fall Brook Lodge No. 2506, K. of H., was organized July 20, 1881. After flourishing for several years, it began to go backwards, and finally surrendered its charter and was merged with the lodge at Blossburg.

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