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Life of Ezra Spalding as written by S. D. Kendall [facts told to Kendall by Horace Spalding]

Published in the Canton Sentinel in 1876, and in the Canton Independent Sentinel in 1950.

A History of this region dating from the year 1796.  The life of Ezra Spalding.  His difficulties in obtaining a title to land owing to the claims of rival companies to the grant.

The following sketch of the early history of Canton was written some 25 years ago, by S. D. Kendall.  The facts were related to him by Horace Spalding at the age of 93, a son of one of the first settlers.  The article has been carefully revised to date.

The first settler in Canton, or what is now Canton, was a man named Jonas Gears.  He came from Rhode Island in 1796 and settled a farm that is now occupied by Daniel Innes, at Grover.  His family consisted of a wife and three children.  He cleared a few acres, built a log house and commenced to build either a saw or grist mill, and in 1800 he sold to Orr Scovill.  Ezra Spalding came to Canton in 1796.  He was born in Connecticut in 1755, and lived there until he was 42 years old.  He received a good common school education.  He also studied surveying and navigation and became master of these professions, but never practiced but little of either.  He was brought up as a farmer and when not otherwise engaged followed that business and finally became one of the best farmers in the country where he resided.  He enlisted in the army during the Revolutionary War in 1776, served three months, and was discharged and came home.  In a short time his country called him again into service.  In his second enlistment he served nine months in the militia:  an on receiving his discharge in the fall of 1777, he again returned to his father's farm and worked at farming until February 1792, when he went to the state of New York, to the town of Springfield, Otsego County, bought a farm and worked it almost three years.  His family being sick most of the time, he of necessity sold his farm and came to Sheshequin, this county.  Leaving his family there that winter 1796, he with his son Horace came to what is now Canton, Bradford County, but then called Towanda, Luzerne county, and located a farm under the Connecticut land title.  He built a cabin between where the road now runs and the Towanda creek opposite the house that Horace, his son occupied at the time of his death.

They chopped and cleared about four acres of land.  Their time was occupied a part of the time at their home in Sheshequin.

During the month of February following, he moved his family to his new home.  In moving from Sheshequin they loaded their goods on an ox sled, and Col. John Spalding brought the family with horses and sleigh.  They crossed the river at or near Esquire Kinney's on the ice over old Sheshequin.  They there left the river and worked their way up the mountain and came down by way of Towanda, over a poor road, following marked trees and most of the way to Towanda, and then up the Towanda creek, following the Indian trail and marked trees, there being no road; only such as they could pick out through the trees.  The woods being open at times, they got along very well, without cutting any logs.  They made the trip in about four days from the time of starting until they arrived at their new home, then a howling wilderness.  The family consisted of two boys, Horace and William, three girls, Lucy, Betsy and Delight; and two negroes, Bulah and her son Caesar, formerly slaves in Connecticut.

Bulah lived with her master about one year; but having her freedom, she went back to Sheshequin and stayed about one year and then roamed from place to place.  She was a good cook as well as a good housekeeper, and always found ready employment.  She finally came back to Canton (having married during the time she was away) and lived and died here, being about 84 or 85 years of age at the time of her death.

Caesar lived with his master until he was 21 years of age, and then ran away and went to Wilkes Barre (his mother was living at the time) and was married there.  He soon came back to his old master.  Mr. Spalding, kindly disposed, wanted him to do well, and furnished him a house to live in, and gave him work by the day and paid him full wages.  He also gave him two acres of land with the privilege of buying 10 acres more and paying for it in work.  Having some family, he drew his wages as fast as he earned them, and consequently he only got the two acres.  He got discontented and left his master and soon became worthless.

Mr. Spalding labored on his farm to great advantage.  His son Horace, being only 12 years of age, and William only 9, they were too young to be of much help chopping and clearing land at that time.  His finances at this time were also limited, he not raising any more than his own family consumed for the first year or two; consequently, to buy groceries with, they made sugar and carried it either to Athens or Williamsport to exchange in part for such things as the family needed, and paying fabulous prices for such things as tea, coffee, salt and in fact, all groceries they had to buy.  Of course, they had to have some wearing apparel that they could not manufacture, such as cotton goods, calicos, shirting and sheeting, which were sold at a high figure at that time.  Calico sold at 50 to 75 cents per yard; and coarse shirting, 40 to 50 cents.  It was not an uncommon thing for men and boys to wear buckskin breeches, and frequently took the place of broadcloth and other fine things.  Mr. Spalding tanned and dressed the skins, and they were cut and made by the family.  Nails and glass at the time were enormously high; the former cost 20 to 25 cents per pound, and the latter $8.00 per 50 feet.  Lumber was reasonably cheap.  They had only one grade of pine and that sold at the mill for $5.00 per thousand feet.  Salt cost from $10.00 to 12 per barrel and had to be brought either from Tioga Point or Williamsport, those being the nearest places to do their trading.

About 1799 a man by the name of French started a store in Towanda and they could then do a part of their trading at that place, that being 26 miles distant over a poor road and often traveled on foot when light articles were to be bought.  When Mr. Spalding came from Sheshequin he brought an old jack with him, and that did all the heavy lugging work from mill and market.  In 1797 a grist mill was built in Franklin, known as the Allen Mill, but previous to this, or in the winter of 1796 and 1797, Mr. Spalding had to get his grinding done at Chenango Point.  He hired a man by the name of Shaw to carry away 20 bushels to the mill in consideration of which he gave him 20 bushels of corn.  He brought the grist as far back as Crofut's in Leroy, when it was left for him to get it as best he could.  The reader can imagine the trouble and expense of getting to mill in those days.  To relieve himself and neighbors, in 1798 Mr. Spalding built a mill on a small stream that ran through his farm.  It was a small affair, but considered preferable to pounding stumps.  The mill, when kept running night and day, would grind one and one half bushels in 24 hours, the chipmunks and squirrels taking their tolls.

As it was stated before, Mr. Spalding underwent a great deal of hardship and privation in the first few years of his living in the wilderness; but having a determined and persevering will to build a home, he in a few years had made large improvements.  But previous to this, and before he had made any improvements, he found an enemy in the camp.  He never thought he had an enemy in the country, but it appears that there was.  A man by the name of Emerson, came to his house to board in the spring of 1797.  He lived there through the summer and appeared to be very friendly with him and the family, but he proved to be a wolf in sheep's clothing.  Emerson left Mr. Spalding's house late in the fall, the family not knowing yet but what he was on friendly terms and little dreaming what trouble there was in store for them.  In order to get this part of Mr. Spalding's history, now complete, we will have to go back to the time of his first coming to Canton.  The lands at this time (1796) belonged to Col. John Spalding and Col. Elisha Satterlee.  They claimed the land under the Yankee title.  Ezra Spalding settled his farm under this title.  He having his choice of lots at that time, and not expecting any trouble about the title of his land, he commenced clearing, working his farm in good faith.  At that time it was supposed he lived in Lycoming county (the lines not having been run) and in order to get him to Williamsport, Emerson got Gersham Gillett to sue him for a trifling debt before Esquire Martin at Newberry.  Martin at that time was bitterly opposed to all those that had settled under the Yankee title.  Gillett's debt was a trumped up account, but he got judgment, of course, under the circumstance.  Emerson had him then where he wanted him.  He prepared his charge and got out a warrant and had him arrested and tried before Esquire Martin for settling under the Yankee title.  He was bound over to appear at the next term of court. (This happened in 1798 or 1799).  He, however, got bail for his appearance at court.  His trial was put off from time to time, but finally came off the September following.  He was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of 200., cost of court and imprisonment in the county jail.  He paid his fine and served his time in jail and came back to his family, but during the time he was in jail a man by the name of Ecroid came to Mr. Spalding's house and put for the night.  While he was there, Mrs. Spalding told him the particulars of his arrest and what he was imprisoned for.  Mrs. Spalding having a clear recollection and a good understanding of her husband's settling his land, she could give him a full account of the whole transaction from the time he settled his land up to the time of his arrest and imprisonment.  Ecroid, hearing the story, got the idea that Mr. Spalding had been imposed upon and took upon himself to put him on the right track to procure a true title to his land.  He accordingly went to the Asylum company, of Philadelphia, to procure title to his land.

As stated above, Mr. Spalding served his time in jail.  He came back to his family and worked his farm as usual during the spring and summer of 1800, but his old enemy, Emerson, and the Pennites were not satisfied with his land under the old title.  Mr. Spalding not having obtained his title from the Asylum Company he was left wholly unarmed, not having the ready money to pay his fine at Williamsport, the sheriff of Lycoming County levied on and sold all of his personal property and then set fire to the house and burned it to the ground.  This was late in the fall of 1800.  He was left without a home, but he had warm friend that were friends indeed.  The property that was sold was bid on by a friend and left at his disposal.  As it was late in the fall he could not build himself another house and he was necessitated, under the circumstances, to accept the offer a small log house that stood on a flat now owned by G. W. Griffen, and at that time owned by Eleazer Allis.  The house stood back of G. W. Griffen's hay barn and near what is known as Spring Brook.  He built on and lived there about one year, building himself another house.  After he had occupied his new house he opened for entertainment in the fall of 1801, which he kept open to the public as long as he lived.  He enlarged his house and barn as his business increased and in a few years he was doing a thriving business for a county hotel.  His house was know for hundreds of miles to the traveling public as the Spalding House and they would start early and travel late to get there.

It is now necessary to go back to 1799.  We left Mr. Ecroid trying to get title for Ezra Spalding's land and he succeeded after about two years in getting a lease of the land of Mr. Spalding.  He kept on clearing until 1804, when the lands were again surveyed by the Asylum Company and then he obtained an article for a deed of his farm.  At this time he was in tolerably good circumstances.  By referring to his old daybook (the book is now in a good state of preservation dating back as far as 1774 and from which most of the dates in this history are taken) in 1804 we find him doing a good business in his hotel, besides working his farm successfully and finally prospering in all his undertakings.

As stated in the first part of this sketch, the facts herein contained were related to S. D. Kendall by Horace Spalding, his memory of dates being refreshed from items in the day book of Ezra Spalding.  This book is now in the possession of Mr. Kendall, and is considerably more than a century old.  It was commenced in Connecticut, where the accounts were kept in pounds, shillings and pence.  In 1796,he came to Pennsylvania, the style was changed to dollars and cents.  Ezra Spalding died in December, 1828, at the age of 73.

Horace Spalding, son of Ezra, was 13 years of age when his father moved to Canton.  He passed the rest of his life in this township, and reached the good old age of 96 years when he died, some twelve years ago.  Three years before his death dictated his recollections to Mr. Kendall, who wrote them in full.  This manuscript was mislaid and for years was supposed to be lost.  Recently, however, it was found among some old relics.  It should be remembered, however, that many changes in the ownership of lands have occurred since this history was dictated.  The manuscript has, therefore, been carefully revised, in order to bring it down to date.  As Leroy is about the center of the territory covered, this has been a difficult task, and inaccuracies may be discovered.  The editor will be pleased to receive my corrections.  They will prove valuable data, from which an accurate history of this region may at some future time be written.

Horace Spalding's Narrative

When Ezra Spalding first moved here it was supposed his lands were a part of Lycoming County, and the settlers went to Williamsport to vote until 1804.  In 1805 the lines were run between the two counties and it was discovered that they lived in Towanda township, Luzerne County.  Horace Spalding cast his first vote in 1804 and voted at every general election with the exception of one, up to his 93rd year.  In 1809 he was return judge and carried the returns to Wiles Barre on horseback, it taking about four days to make the trip there and back.  A man running for office in those days, before he received the returns from the county, would almost forget he was a candidate.  Mr. Spalding never took any active part in politics.  He always voted the Whig ticket until the Republican party was organized and voted with that party after its organization.  He cast his first vote for Col. John Franklin for Representative of Lycoming County.  Franklin was a staunch Whig and had represented Lycoming County for two terms, but he was so much opposed by the Pennites, as settlers under the grant to John Penn were called, that Lycoming, in order to defeat his re-election, got a bill passed to set off part of Luzern to Lycoming County.

Franklin then lived at Tioga Point.  His opponents, thinking they had gotten him in Lycoming County presented him the bill.  He knowing their designs, told them he lived on the east side of the river.  The next morning the bill took in a strip two miles wide on the east side of the river and up to the river.  They then supposed they had him in their power; but Franklin was where he wanted to be.  It appears that the portion of Luzerne that was set off to Lycoming and Tioga counties was mostly settled by the then called Yankees, who had titles from the Connecticut grant or Susquehanna Company, and they almost to a man gave him their support and he was elected Representative of Lycoming county in 1804.

While speaking of Franklin we will give the reader Mr. Spalding's recollection of his raid up through what is now Bradford county.  Mr. Spalding does not state whether he was a Captain or held any commission from the government.  He says Franklin told him, while in conversation with him at his father's in Canton, that he pursued a band of Indians up the creek to where Allen Taylor lived until his death, or on what was formerly known as the John Newell farm, where he, with 19 men, engaged the Indians, killing the chief and wounding some others.  Spalding never said the name of the chief was Minnequa, from the fact that Franklin never told him the name and very likely did not know himself.  This should settle all disputes about the name of the chief.

We will now go back to the time of Mr. Spalding's first coming to Canton, in 1796, and in doing so give the names of the first settlers on Towanda creek and Lycoming creek, as closely as his early recollections of those days extend.  When Mr. Spalding first came to Canton, Jonas Geers lived on the farm now occupied by Daniel Innes, formerly known as the Grover farm.  Geers left in 1800.  the same spring a man by the name of Cook settled the farm that is now owned by John A. Innes.  Those three were all there in Canton when he first came; but the same year Gersham Gillettade a possession on the farm now occupied by Eldah Landon.  His son, Wilks, settle the farm that A. D. Williams now owns.  Zephaniah Robers settled in what is known as the Hubbel Manley farm, now the property of Dr. G. S. Seymour.  His son, Zephaniah, junior, settle the farm now occupied by the Lindleys.  In 1796 or 1797, it appears that there were a good many settlers.

The farm that L. N. Rutty owned was settled by John Newell; he was uncle to the late Harry S. Newell; who lived in Canton on the farm that his father Oliver Newell, left him, until his death in 1893.  This farm was settled in 1799 or 1800 or Orr Scovill.  His house was probably the first frame building put up in Canton township.  The old hosue is now used as a barn and is in good state of preservation, and until recently owned by Esquire Bassett.  In 1797, Dr. Moses Emerson settled the farm know as the Ichabod Sellard farm and in the spring following, Daniel Bailey settled and built a house on the farm that Enoch Sellard owned for years, now the property of J. C. Turner.  It was a gift lot of 50 acres.  The farm that is now owned by R. G. Brooks, C. P. Spalding and G. B. Granteer was first settled by Laban Landon.

In 1797 a man by the name of Straton built a house on the flat now owned by the John Griffen estate, but he never occupied it.  He went back to his home on Sugar Creek; and Ebenezer Bixby, coming into the house unoccupied, moved his family into it and used it for three years.

About 1800, Joel Babcock built a house on the Taber farm on the ground that Mrs. Cyrus Taber's house now stands.  He sold to Abram Taber, father of Nathan B. Taber, in 1800.  Jacob Granteer, now deceased, bought of Jonathan Prosser and built the first house, of hewed logs, on or near the ground that Mrs. Ezeliel Newman's house stands.  In 1797 Isiah Grover settled what is known as the Griffen farm and is now owned by George J. Goff, near the fair grounds.  Grover sold to Samuel Griffen, in 1800.  Benjamin Babcock settled the farm that is now owned by Reuben Loomis.  The same spring Nathaniel Babcock settled the farm known as the John VanDyke farm, sold by him to Jacob Beardslee at East Canton, and at that date there were no settlers this side of the Walter's farm in what is now Leroy township.

This brings us again back to Acrum 1796, the spring that Ezra Spalding came to Canton.  This farm, the Beardslee place, was settled by Elihu Knights.  He sold the Segar family and then articled for the farm formerly known as the Strickland farm, owned by Thomas S. Manley, at East Canton.  Mr. Spalding did not recollect the names of the first settlers on the Wilcox farm.  He says this man sold to a man by the name of Hinman in 1798, hence the name Hinman hill, now called VanFleet hill.

In the spring or summer of 1796 Dennis Kingsbury located the Stone farm lately owned by Ebal Lilley at West Leroy.  This farm it appears at that time was considered to be a central part of what was then Canton, from the fact that all the town meetings were held there.  For a number of years, Kingsbury, thinking it would eventually become a village, commenced to ornament the plave by setting out fruit and ornamental trees.  He planted the elms on the east side of the road.  He lived on the farm up to 1806 and then sold to Captain Rice.  Rice sold to Joseph Wallace.  We will have to pass over a few old farms.  The next we will notice the old Sterling Holcomb farm and his brother Hugh's.  Mr. Spalding thinks that they located on that claim in 1795 but did not live there until 1796.  They were working, industrious men, and accumulated considerable property.  Hugh Holcomb built the first saw mill in that locality.  The mill stood up the little creek that runs through the town of Leroy.  He also built a grist mill which is doing business at the present time, though greatly improved of course.  At this time whiskey answered in the place of milk for family use; in fact, it was indispensible as potatoes and pork.  After a few years the farmers got to raising more grain than they could consume and Mr. Holcomb built a distillery.  They then had a ready market for their over-plus grain.

Mr. Seely Crofut also came and located his claim in 1796.  In 1798, Isaac Chapel came from Massachusetts and bought a possession on the farm at and near where Chauncey Chapel's house stood, now owned by Squire Kelly estate, where he lived and died.  It appears that Mr. Chapel was quite a prominent man in his time, holding the office of Justice of the Peace for a number of years, being appointed by the Governor during good behavior.  He held the office until he died.  In 1797, a man by the name of Gordon settled the farm Aaron Knapp lived and died on.  We will have to skip some prominent and early settlers, Mr. Spalding having forgotten their names as he had no business transaction with them.  In 1796, a man by the name of Boardwell lived on the farm that was owned by Ledyard Chapel and sold by him to Mr. Kelley.

Once settlers have arrived in an area, they see the need to organize themselves into various components for their common welfare.  Among the organizations needed are political governments to issue the rules of conduct for its citizens.  This includes organizing bodies of citizens to regulate roads, schools and fire protection, and in general to make rules for civil conduct in community affairs.  Also needed are businesses and industries to supply the needs of its citizens and to provide opportunities for employment.  Once these basic needs are taken care of, other important needs can be arranged for, such as churches to take care of the spiritual needs and social organizations to take of social needs.  What follows is the accounts of how Canton has succeeded in meeting these needs.

Leroy Township was formed in 1835, taken from Canton.  It is situated in the southwest portion of the county, near the coal mining region of Barcley.  It is bounded on the north by Granville; on the east by Franklin, Barcley & Overton; on the south by Sullivan county; on the west by Canton.  The streams of the township are Towanda creek, and the headwaters of the Schrader.  Leroy is quite a thriving village situated on Towanda creek.  The northern portion of the township is quite productive, while the southern is hilly and mountainous, reaching into the coal measures.

The early settlers were Hugh Holcomb, Sterling Holcomb, Eli Holcomb, Seeley Crofut, Dennison Kingsbury, Elihu Knight, George Brown, Joel Bodwell, Capt. Elijah Rice, Joseph Wallace, Welcome Rice, Peter Gordon, Isaac Chaapel, David Andres, Truman Holcomb, Luther Hinman, Miles Oakley, George Head, Aaron Cook, Timothy Culver, Alpheus Holcomb, David Wooster, Nicholas Gordon, Henry Segar, David Jayne, Loren Kingsbury, Jesse Morse, Grison Royce, Henry Mercur, John Knapp, Jesse Robart, Henry Knowles, Jeremy Bailey, Samuel McCraney, and Ira Crofut.

Orison Royce built a distillery in 1802, a hurricane occurred in 1794.  Leroy was christened by Ira Crofut in 1835.  The Babtist erected a church in Leroy in 1835.  The Disciples erected a church in Leroy in 1850.  Hugh Holcomb erected the first grist mill in 1820.  The Methodists erected a church in Leroy in 1857.  Deacon Seeley opened the first store in Leroy.  Martin Holcomb was the first white child born in Leroy.  Rev. David Jayne taught the first school in the township.  The first saw mill was erected by Hugh Holcomb in 1808.  Aaron Knapp was the first Justice of the Peace in the township.  Deacon Seeley Crofut organized the first Sunday School in 1799.  The McCraney settlement was made by Samuel McCraney and Jeremy Bailey in 1846.

Hugh Holcomb and Elizabeth Oakley were the first couple married in the township, and Mrs. Holcomb was the first person who died.  Under Granville Notes I found this:  The first wedding in Granville township was Hugh Holcomb and Miss Prudence Bailey.  Was this his second wife?  Also under Granville:

The first school was taught by Miss Delight Spalding in 1807 (daughter of Ezra Spalding).

Adam Innes, the celebrated tanner located in Granville in 1865.

Sylvester Taylor was the first white child, born in 1804.  the first Baptist meeting was held in 1805, Rev. Thos. Smiley.  The first grist mill was erected by Jeremiah Taylor Jr. in 1820.  A mail route was established through Granville from East Burlington to Alba in 1827.

Simon Chesley, and early settler was a Revolutionary soldier.  Dr. Silas E. Shepard of Troy organized the Disciple Church in 1832.  The "Summit" is so called because it is the highest point on the PRR railroad between Baltimore and Canandaigua.

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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 26 JAN 2008
By Joyce M. Tice
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