Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
The Romance of Old Barclay by Clarke
Chapter Three - Life in Old Barclay
The Romance of Old Barclay

By Staley N. Clarke

Originally Published 1928, Towanda PA

Photos by Joyce M. Tice October 4, 1998
Retyped for Tri-Counties by Richard Harris and Connie Unganst and Formatted by Joyce M. Tice

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No happier, more contented community ever existed than that at old Barclay. It has been truly said that the settlers on the mountain were as members of one family—and the remarkable part of it is, that they and their children remain that way even to this day. Wherever they are, wherever they go, mention of Barclay to one who has lived there, brings instant interest and attention. Many of the older residents there have died and the children have long since grown up and scattered throughout the world but always down deep in their hearts they carry a love for old Barclay.

A few years ago two ladies from Chicago visited Towanda stopping with Mrs. Anna Sheehan. Imbued with typical Barclay spirit, they wanted to see the old place again. But try as they would, they could not get a rig to make the trip over the road which at that time was very bad. At length, in desperation, one of the ladies declared: "If I could only get back to Barclay, and once again see the spot where I was born and which I love so well, I’d get down on my knees and kiss the very ground."

One reason for the good spirit on the mountain was the fact that most of the settlers were of fine old stock from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Among the family names standing out in the history of Barclay are those of Higgins, O’Rouricke, Carroll, Purdue, Dobbins, Dalton, O’Herron, Cantwell, Cameron, Walsh, Murphy, Lamey, Burns, Gaffey, Williams, St. Johns, Sheehan, McTigue, Drysdale, Daugherty, Roach, Pelton, Holleran, Spellan, Sullivan, McNally, Hunter, Sculley, Mansell and Falsey.

It is interesting to note in passing that members of the Pelton family still live in a house situated between the "street" known as Sand Run and the main street of Barclay. The house is the only inhabited building left in the place and is occupied by Mr. And Mrs. Joseph Pelton who work a small mine at Sand Run and raise much of their living on their land. A picture of this last vestige of civilization at Barclay and a picture of miners at one time working on the mountain accompany this article.

A great many of the settlers in Barclay township came there soon after landing in New York from their homes in the old country. The mines, being the farthest north and east in the United States, gained wide prominence and the big wages paid there proved attractive. Besides that, the Fall Creek Coal Company placed an advertisement in a New York paper for 400 men to work in the mines, and that also brought quick results.

Among the first to make Barclay their home were Mr. And Mrs. Joseph Fassett and they ran the first boarding house ever there. Mr. And Mrs. Michael Larkin conducted the boarding house at Fall Creek. Many of the immigrants were there first, later moving on to Barclay.

As the population at Barclay increased, the little settlements that made it up began to take on names just as streets are designated in modern towns today. There was Sand Run, Railroad street, Stump street, Dublin, Smoky Row and Seldom Seen. The last mentioned obtained its name through the fact that a number of houses there stood back among the trees so that they were "seldom seen." One street was more than a mile long, running from Sand Run up through Barclay proper but that had no particular name, simply being called "Barclay." It rounded a slight curve by the company store and went out through the old picnic grounds in the direction of Carbon Run. Along it were the majority of the homes, the Presbyterian church, Odd Fellows hall, dance hall owned by the Odd Fellows, the roller skating rink, the company store, little shops and several blocks housing from four to six families.

Almost everything was owned by the Erie Railroad Co., which was developing the project when it was at its peak. When Rev. David Craft’s history of Bradford county was published in 1878 it was said that Barclay was believed to have not a solitary resident freeholder within its limits.

All the houses were owned by the company but were not built identical as is usually the case today. The buildings varied in size and structure, bringing rents varying with their worth. There were no stone, brick or concrete buildings such as those of today but most of the homes were well built and comfortable. The housewives in them were so scrupulously clean and neat that they made of them veritable little "palaces" for homes.

With the miners getting from $4 to $8 a day, is it any wonder that they and their families were happy and contented? No sadder picture can [Page 6] be imagined than that of these miners with their wives and children being forced by shut down of the work to leave these homes they had learned to love so well.


Here is a picture of a typical group of miners on Barclay Mountain gathered near the mouth of the mine at what was known as "Half Way Bridge." Among those who may be recognized in the the picture are James Crawford, Frank Smith, Ben Strope, Clyde Green, John Talada, George Anderson, John Anderson, Edward Lombard, a Mr. Randolph, Loren Myers, and John Polinsky and his father.

The closing of the mines at Carbon Run stands out particularly vivid. At the end, they tied down the whistles and let them blow as long as there was any steam left in the boilers. The noise was loud at first. As the screeching wail grew less and less and finally died out completely, women and children and even strong men were brought to tears. That was in 1884. The mines at Barclay were kept in operation until 1890. That winter a snowfall to the depth of five feet brought work to a sudden halt and the mines were not started up again. Many of the families moved away the next summer but some stayed for nearly two years because of their reluctance to leave the place.

When the Erie railroad company took over the mines it established a station at the top of the mountain and sold tickets for railroad trips. Then the passengers either walked or rode in wagons to the foot of the plane to meet the trains on the old Barclay railroad which later became the Susquehanna & New York and which is still in operation at the present day. The trains hauled coal, wood and everything else haulable and had a passenger car on the rear. The engineer kept on the lookout and when it was desired to stop the train to let passengers off, the conductor flagged him. Walter Lyons, at present a resident of Towanda, was conductor there for many years. Louis Harris was the conductor before Mr. Lyons.

Barclay was made up of big families, in some there being as many as sixteen children. A family of seven children was considered small. The residents had all the land they wanted so they could have three or four gardens if they cared to work them and there was free pasture for the cows which most of the families kept along with chickens and probably a hog or two.

Quite a number of the families on the mountain raised geese. Mrs. Dobbins, mother of Mrs. Anna Sheehan of Towanda, started by placing five goose eggs under a hen. She hatched them out and mothered them and the flock finally grew so large that Mrs. Dobbins made six feather beds and twelve pillows from the feathers she obtained.

Most of the families also had a goat because goat’s milk is such a valuable food for babies. In that way they produced nearly everything they needed. Huckleberries, red berries, and blackberries all grew wild in profusion over the mountainside and all that was necessary was to pick them. The residents had all they wanted to eat in the summer and canned berries by the hundred quarts for use during the winter. Then there were hucksters who came to the mountain with apples, peaches, etc., and rag peddlers who made regular trips through the settlement.

Most of the trading necessarily was done at the company’s store and the bills run up between pay envelopes also were deducted before the wages were handed out. The accounts were handled by men called "dividers."

In those old days Barclay furnished much business and amusement for Towanda. On Saturdays hundreds of the miners, woodsmen and their families would come to the county seat by train and wagon and sometimes Main street seemed literally full of them. They were good spenders, too, and local business men catered to their trade.

In turn, Towanda people often attended events at Barclay. The roller skating rink situated a little off the main street near the Presbyterian minister’s home, was about the best in the county. It had a fine hardwood floor and the wooden wheeled skates would hum over it in great style. It used to be open afternoon and evening and was well patronized.

Another big attraction was the dance hall. Couples from Towanda very frequently attended there. Drunken dances were as yet unheard of. Girls never drank and if the young men wanted a drink they either took a little before they went or waited until they got home. The young ladies would stand for no drinking at the dance. In fact, the young people did not feel that they had to be "pickled" in those days in order to have a good time.

Picnicking furnished much enjoyment, it seems, because as far back as can be remembered, they always had a picnic ground there and kept it up well. It was just a short distance out of the town on the road leading to Carbon Run. There many great games of baseball were played, even some league teams having been brought there to match skill with the local diamond stars at times. At least one of the Barclay players—Pat Sullivan—later got in the "big time." He worked in the mines and later played baseball to earn money for college where he studied for the dentistry.

Quoit pitching always furnished much amusement at the picnics and another feature was provided by digging a hole in the ground and putting slats over it with just room for a duck to get its head out. Then there would be a contest of throwing sticks at the duck’s head and the one hitting the duck won it. The picnics were always held August 15 and that is why the reunion this year was put on that date. It was thought many more could attend on Sunday, however, so next year the date has been set for the first Sunday after the 15th.

[Page 7]


Everyone at Barclay was interested in the mines, even the girls. When a new opening was made or something out of the ordinary took place in the inner workings, the girls were anxious to see. The boys would fill some of the mine cars with hay for the young ladies to sit on so as not to get their clothes dirty and would give them a ride in. There by the light of the miners’ lamps they could see what was going on. They had many an interesting expedition in that way.


Here is another group of miners on Barclay Mountain. In the picture will be seen from left to right the following: William Frazer, Mr. Rockwell, James Crawford, Brick (the mule), William Strope, Murray Packard, Leon Furman, and John Doane.

One of the big amusements for the young folk during the winter months was sleigh riding. Hills were plentiful for the sport and there was always plenty of snow. When there were mere flurries at Towanda the snowfall there often would amount to several inches.

The main ride started near the superintendent’s house on Railroad street and followed the route about three miles to the Foot of the Plane where the sleds ordinarily would draw up in front of the store. Precautions were taken for safety by having watchers at all danger points and on the bad curves. Only one ride could be taken a night because it took so long to walk back. The young folk would wait until the mail was in and it was thought there would be no more rigs up the hill that night. Then they would start. Sometimes an unexpected horse and wagon would be met and there were some quick maneuvers to get out of the track but so far as old residents can remember there never were any serious accidents there, although the sleds made the steep descent with great speed around the sharp curves.

In those days John Carroll drove the big hack up and down the mountainside from Foot of Plane to Barclay and return. Besides carrying the mail he had seats for 12 or 15 passengers and the seats generally were filled. When there were not enough seats to go around, the men walked up or down the mountain as the case might be. The hack was pulled by two large horses, which took advantage of every "thank-you-mom" to stop and rest. The fare was 25 cents one way.

At one time a Welch choir was organized at Barclay under the leadership of Mine Foreman Jones. It became quite famous and was in great demand around the country for a number of years.

Even prize fighting was indulged in for amusement. One of the best remembered fighters was Jack Slavin. It is declared that at one time he fought more than 150 rounds with an opponent, the bout being staged in a field to accommodate the spectators. The scrap started early in the morning and lasted through the night. Who won cannot be learned. Slavin later was shot to death.

Liquor flowed freely in Barclay. The saloon did a big business and besides that, wholesale liquor dealers from Towanda made regular trips to the town, taking orders and delivering their wares. At picnic time, some of the leaders would come to Towanda and get beer in barrels to help make the occasion merry.

It must not be judged, however, that Barclay was an intemperate community. According to Rev. David Craft’s history of Bradford county, Barclay was among the first places in the county to give a boost to the Temperance movement. The county convention of the Good Templars Lodge was held there on two occasions, and that was strictly a "dry" organization.

Another indication of the sentiment in the community is seen in the Foot of Plane items in the Reporter-Journal of January 30, 1890. There is found the following:

"Foot of Plane has done amazingly well in regard to Temperance reform. Rev. D. D. Phillips organized a lodge which now has upwards of 30 charter members and steadily increasing."


Despite the great elevation of Barclay above the surrounding countryside they only once had trouble in getting plenty of water there. That was at the time of the great drought in the early 80’s. It is believed to have been in 1882 or 1883. Then springs and even the "Blue Pump" went almost dry. The "Blue Pump" was first a big well and later the "blue pump," which gave it its name, was attached. It served many families around Sand Run.

Over night the well would accumulate ten or fifteen gallons of water and of course that went to the first on the job to get it. Consequently some of the old residents can remember well how some used to get up as early as 4 o’clock in the morning to start pumping. When the supply became exhausted, those not yet served had to go down the mountain to Tubby’s farm at Franklindale for their supply.

One of the best springs, it is said, was near Pat Carroll’s place. There there was plenty of water for home use and an abundance for a watering trough where cows and horses were allowed to drink.


This picture shows the home of Mr. And Mrs. Joseph Pelton at Sand Run at the present time. This is the last inhabited house of the many once in the community. The picture was taken August 15, 1928, and shows the house from the side and rear. The Pelton home is marked on the map printed on page three.


The climate on Barclay was invigorating. Because of the high altitude, even on the hottest days there usually was a cool breeze. In the winter it became exceedingly cold at times, with the snow piling up high. Old residents tell of occasional 20-foot snowbanks. Snow fell early and [Page 8] snow fell late. The records show that even as late as May 30, 1884, there was a two-inch snowfall and in 1885 snow began falling at Barclay the last week in August.


A clipping which gives an idea of the politics at Barclay has been found by Mrs. George Krebbs of Somerset, Pa. It reads:

"Delegate F. F. Lyon arrived here on No. 6, at 7:20 a.m., when he was met by the Barclay brass band and about three hundred men and boys. As the train neared the depot the band struck up the tune, "Welcome," accompanied by loud cheering. As Mr. Lyon stepped on the platform, he was surprised at finding so many glad to welcome him back again, and that his man, Blaine, had been nominated. After music they formed in line and marched up with the conveyance which awaited him at the station. All along the road they were joined by others, making a grand procession, all cheering and welcoming the delegate back. Mr. Blaine will be disposed of this fall. He can’t get there. We must have a Democratic President."


Barclay at one time had one of the largest lodges of Odd Fellows in the county. Barclay Lodge No. 807 was instituted July 17, 1872, and by October 1, 1877, it had a membership of 107. The only I. O. O. F. lodges in the county that had more members were Bradford Lodge at Towanda with 157, Canton with 133, Valley of Sheshequin with 120, and Wyalusing with 113. All the other lodges were far behind. The first officers at Barclay were: Noble Grand, Charles Hutchinson; First Vice-Grand, John Ditchburn; Secretary, L. S. Kelder; and Treasurer, Ed Wheatley.

R. W. Cameron of Arnold, Pa., father of Fred Cameron of that place, is the oldest living member of Barclay Lodge.
Barclay Cemetery Listings
Barclay Cemetery Photos
Table of Contents
Coal Mining Photos

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 9/13/99
By Joyce M. Tice