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Memories of One of Canton’s Early Pioneers, Mrs. Leavitt
Emeline SELLARD Leavitt One of Early Citizens

The following paper was read by Mrs. Emeline Leavitt, before the D.A.R. in April 1910:

I am not a D.A.R. but I am proud to tell you that I am a Cantonian through and through.  As we have come together to talk of old times and of the progress of our beautiful town for the past hundred years, I trust a few disconnected reminiscences may not come amiss.

My earliest recollection when I was four years old was in a small wood colored house of one room and a bedroom.  In this house I was born in the year 1834 (Oct. 22).  The house stood where the Packard House stands.  When I was four years old, my parents felt the need of a larger house and our old home was moved back and a new home was built in front of the old one.  It was built for a farm house and was considered a fine structure for the place and time.  There were six fireplaces and hickory logs and pitch pine for kindlings was plenty in those days.  We lived there until the railroad was built.  When my father sold out and bought what is now the John Innes farm.  The old home was used for a hotel for many years but was finally taken down and the more commodious Packard House occupies the site.  When the house my father built was nearly completed a house warming as it was then called was in order.  It was to be a ball beginning in the afternoon and lasting until daylight the next morning.  They came from Lacey and Towanda – some on horseback, some in wagons and the immediate neighborhood on foot.  They brought a keg of whiskey as no doings in those days was complete without it.  The keg was put in a small room at the end of the dining room and I remember of us children the next morning paddling in out bare feet in the whiskey and water that had been spilled.  Through the night my father has since told me that no one was drunk in the way they are now as the liquor in those days was purer from poisoning that it is now.

Where the Burk & Co. store stands was the old Red Tavern built by Johnathan Pratt in what year I do not know.  It was kept by a man by the name of Cummings.

An old frame building used as a store stood on the corner of the Manley block.  Afterward it was moved over on the corner (corner of Main and Sullivan) where Hendeleman now is, and a barn built to accommodate the Red Hotel.  At that time there were two or three houses on Troy St., a wagon shop on Lycoming St. and my father had a blacksmith shop where the new bank now stands. (1st National).

Where Center St. comes into Main was the “Red School” house.  It was a very good building.  Miss Anna Griffin was the first teacher that I remember but the first school in Canton prior to this was held in the loft of a log house on Troy St. this side of Mill Creek.  The pupils went up a ladder into the school room.  Slab benches were used to sit on, the smaller children sitting next to the wall as the larger ones occupied the center of the room being higher in the middle.

There were no buildings on Main St. from the red schoolhouse until you came to the corner of Main and Washington where Charles Black now lives, then to the church in front of Main St. cemetery, which in later years was moved up town and used for a school building until the present one was built.

There were select schools taught by different teachers.  I would not forget a passing notice of Miss Harriet Cecil Hunt who taught many years of young ladies’ select school in Canton.  She was the daughter of Major Hunt.  She was born in a fort at Detroit, Mich.

Photo Caption – page 120Ap:
Canton’s Historic Elm & Mrs. Leavitt, oldest D.A.R. in PA.
On the Corner of Main Street and Minnequa Avenue

My father walked one winter from near Grover to Hickock Hill to school nearly eight miles daily.  He frequently walked to Towanda and back in a single day.

These were training days.  My father was captain of a company of Militia.  He received his training in 1830.  The cavalry troop went to Troy for their training.

There was a public library here 80 years ago.  I have two or three books that belonged to it.

Before the railroad was built, stage coaches ran from Williamsport to Elmira and from Canton Corners to Towanda – fine upholstered coaches, sleek horses, four on the Williamsport and Elmira route with relay stations at Canton Corners.

In the campaign of Wm. H. Harrison, he passed through Canton from Williamsport to Towanda, stopped at the old Red Tavern for refreshment.  It was the campaign of Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.  Lake Nephawin was discovered by my great grandfather.  His name was Gillett.  He lived in a double log house on the site where Daniel Innes’ house is now.  He was out hunting cattle and came to this sheet of water and for many years it was known as Gillett Pond in honor of him.

The first physician was Dr. Hazelton, the first tailor Enoch Sellard.  The first house was built by Henry Prosser in 1796, who came to trap, on Sullivan St. just below Mr. C. Williams shop.  The first tent show was 65 years ago, Vanamberg’s Menagerie and Circus.  Tents pitched where Crawford Mills are – a fine show.

It was a great day when the first train of cars went through Canton.  Citizens turned out en masse and after they had passed through the crowd went to the Disciple Church, which was beautifully decorated with flags and flowers, and had speeches and singing and giving thanks.

I have lived to see many changes from half a dozen houses to what Canton is at present.  Do you wonder why I love the place?  Here I was born; here I married; here I have lived for 75 years and in my present home I went to housekeeping.

Over fifty years, I have watched the old elm.  Its growth all these years from a tiny tree to its majestic proportions and when the time comes I expect to be laid away in the old cemetery where seven generations of my family are resting.  I say again do you wonder that I love my native home.

“I love its rocks and rills
Its woods and templed hills
And my heart with rapture thrills
Whenever I hear good things said of Canton Borough.

The John Innes farm mentioned in the foregoing article is now owned by Duane Shoemaker; the Charles Black house is owned by Mrs. Lena Morse; the Canton & Leroy Telephone Co. is now where the Manley Block once stood; Mrs. Ethel Fitch owns the Daniel Innes house; the Charles Williams’ shop is owned by Mr. & Mrs. David Jackson.  The old elm tree mentioned by Mrs. Leavitt was removed under severe protest by many interested citizens, when Main St. was widened and paved in 1928.

This article was reprinted in the Canton Independent-Sentinel 150th Anniversary Edition in 1950.

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 12 MAR 2008
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice

The History Center on Main Street, 83 N. Main Street, Mansfield PA 16933