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Passenger Pigeon in Pennsylvania, J.C. French, 1919
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From The Passenger Pigeon in Pennsylvania
By John C. French


The Bingham Estate

Story of the Original Owners of Large Tracts of Land in Potter and Adjoining Counties.

Written by Mahlon J. Colcord (From the Potter County Journal)

 Whoever has had to deal with land titles in Potter County has surely become familiar with the name of Bingham, as the title to most of the land is traced back to the “Bingham Estate” in northern and western Potter.  No doubt many who own such land today have little knowledge of the original owners of what was mostly a dense forest but little over a hundred years ago.

 Mr. A.B. Mann, whose knowledge of early titles is probably as good as any man in the County, has an exemplification of some deeds made in 1796 for 249,000 acres in what was then Lycoming County, from William Bingham to parties who finally conveyed to John Keating and others, trustees, of which grantees, one was John S. Roulet (notice the spelling) after whom Roulet Township was named.  So it seems that most of Potter County landtitles trace back to William Bingham.  He derived the title from state patents and deeds from William Willing.

 The Bradford Star of recent date throws some light on this topic, in connection with the income petroleum is still yielding to the Bingham heirs.  Quoting the Public Ledger for the text, The Star say:

 Girard, who conducts an interesting column of gossip and comment in the Public Ledger Daily, has something to say of the Bingham Estate, which lies upon the big level between here and the county seat and which has enriched individuals and companies in the past forty years with its great stores of petroleum.

 Girard says:  “William Bingham was one of Pennsylvania’s early United States senators, and he married a daughter of Thomas Willing.  Here was a combination of great wealth, civic and political leadership and social prestige.”

 Bingham’s daughter became the wife of Mr. Baring of England – the Lord Ashburton of treaty fame – and in that way the celebrated family of London bankers became large owners of land in northern and northwestern Pennsylvania.

 Effingham B. Morris, who, with John G. Johnson, is trustee of the William Bingham Estate, tells me that his descendants still own some land in Pennsylvania.  The Barings were lucky enough to have thousands of acres in the oil region, and Keystone state petroleum was a tidy thing to own around 1890, when the Baring Brothers’ failure shook the whole financial world.

 “Bingham also owned three million acres along the coast of Maine.  This included Mount Desert, and this was apparently so valueless that for years the heirs could not sell it at any price.”

 Oil operators on the Bingham Estate, it is said, have found it impossible to buy any of the Bingham lands, and the Bingham Estate never operated on any of the Bingham lands, contenting themselves with the royalties thereon which have been sufficient to pay the estate million of dollars, all of which, it is said, has found its way to England.  The agent of the estate, with whom local operators do business is Frank A. Deans, attorney-in-fact, located in Wellsboro.  Just who the Binghams were has always been a mystery to most people here, although the Bingham Estate is as well known as any oil property in the whole Bradford field.

 Mr. Girard’s story of William Bingham and his heirs will be news to most readers who never took the trouble to look up the history of the family that has profited so largely by their good fortune in being the possessor of rich oil land which most of the heirs have never seen.  The land cost William Bingham 13 cents an acre.

 (The tract of 249,000 acres, about a third of Potter County, was the Ceres Company’s principal tract.  John Keating was managing trustee.  Francis King was his agent.)

Indian Supervision of a Game Preserve
The Garden of Manitto
(by John C. French)

 The forests along the springs, brooks and rivulets that constitute the Allegheny River sources, were a sort of wild game preserve of the Seneca Indian nation, from about 1600, when they began to occupy the region and had a principal town – Tununguam – ten miles below Olean, New York, on the north bank of the Allegheny, opposite the mouth of the Tuna Gwant Creek, which flows from the highlands near Mount Alton, McKean County, Pennsylvania, past the city of Bradford.  The Kinzua Creek rises near Mt. Alton and flows westward about thirty miles to the river, forty miles below the mouth of the Tuna Gwant.  These valleys were then a hunter’s paradise, and the upper Allegheny was Manitto’s garden.

 The Rev. Dr. George P. Donehoo, the historian, spoke at Coudersport, in October, 1916, at the dedication of a boulder to commemorate the trip of David Zeisberger, Moravian Missionary, through Potter County in 1767, at which time he camped near the river at Coudersport, on October 8, 1767, and continued his journey, down the Allegheny, being the first white man permitted to penetrate and pass through that region, telling at length how strictly Indian sentinels guarded every trail that led into the sacred breeding ground they protected from trespassers and desecration.  That C.F. Post and his Indian guide, in 1760, had sought permission to pass from the Cowanesque River to the Allegheny; but they had been turned back at Passigachkung, near Knoxville, in Tioga County, and returned to Bethlehem, to go from there over the southern trail to the west.

 The history of Indian supervision of the region was told to the writer, many years ago, by the Senecas themselves, Capt. John Titus, King Jimmerson, Junior, Thomas Scrogg and Andrew John, Junior, when engaged in hemlock lumber operations, on lands adjoining the Alleheny Reservation, on its South border, which made it necessary to negotiate with the Senecas for roads, skidways, banking grounds for logs; and for millsites and lumber yards upon their lands.

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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 7/23/2001
By Joyce M. Tice