Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
History of Bradford County by Craft
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History of Bradford County 1770 - 1878

The Reverend Mr. David Craft

Columbia Township

Retyped by Bruce Preston



The geographical position of the township of Columbia is between the townships of Wells and South Creek on the north, Springfield on the east, Troy and Armenia on the south, and Tioga County on the west.
The township is watered by the various branches and confluents of the Sugar Creek, as well as by the main creek, for a short distance; the principal streams besides the latter being Mill, Wolf, South, and Spring creeks. The surface along the Northern Central railroad, which passes north through the extreme eastern portion of the township, is mountainous, and is somewhat so in the southwestern corner of the township.  Its general surface corresponds to that of the towns in its immediate vicinity, being high and broken, but the town possesses a fruitful soil, and is well adapted for grazing and dairying.


  Judge Darius Bullock, in the Athens Gleaner of June 29, 1871, gives the following facts
concerning the early settlement of Columbia.
  John and Nathaniel Ballard, twin brothers and sons of Joseph Ballard, from Framingham, Massachusetts, made the first clearing in the township in 1795, by chopping four acres on the farm in Sylvania borough now owned by James Nash, but soon after sold their interest in the improvement so made for "five dollars and a hog". In 1798, * Nathaniel Morgan emigrated from Connecticut, and located at what is known now as Austinville, and began a clearing on the farm now owned by his grandson, John Morgan.  He had previously bought the Connecticut title to 17,000 acres of land extending eastward through "Cabot Hollow," to and into the present township of Springfield, the title to which, like other Connecticut titles, proved worthless.  He raised a few potatoes, which he buried, sowed a piece of wheat, and went back for his family, with whom he returned in the following spring, and also accompanied by David Watkins, Oliver Canfield, Joseph Batterson, Jeremiah Chapman, Aaron Bennett, and Samuel Lamphere, whom he induced to come with him by giving them each a deed of fifty acres.  It is believed that these were the first permanent settlers.  Phineas C. Morgan, the only surviving child of Nathaniel Morgan, is the last survivor of the immigrants who came with his father.  The latter died in 1804 or 1805.
  About the year 1800, Solomon Soper came in from Vermont permanently to reside, and also William Rose.  Dr. Tracy is authority for the statement that a man named Doty, the same year that the Ballards made their clearing (1795), built a cabin on the Scouton farm.
  James Morgan was a boy of ten years of age when be came in 1800, with his father, Nathaniel Morgan, from Reading, Conn., where he (James) was born. He died Aug. 20, 1867, aged seventy-eight years, in Austinville.  In 1809 be married Margaret McClelland, with whom he lived fifty-four years, she dying Sept. 8, 1863.  They reared eleven children, seven of whom survived the father.  Mrs. Morgan's father, John McClelland,* was a native of Ireland.  He wished to marry a lady who his father deemed beneath his son's social position, and to accomplish their union both came to America.  She landed in Philadelphia, and he in New York, and never met again, or saw each other after leaving their native land.
 Phineas Chapman Morgan and a daughter, Nancy, who afterwards married Amos Satterlee, were, with James Morgan, the only children of Nathaniel Morgan.  The daughter went to Ohio after her marriage, and died there.
 The Bingham heirs received the Pennsylvania title over Mr. Morgan's Connecticut claim, and after some years' litigation the Pennsylvania title was confirmed, and a compromise effected whereby 500 acres were surveyed to Morgan, for which be paid one bushel of wheat per acre, which amount of land was eventually divided between Mr. Morgan's two sons, James and Phineas C. On this farm the Austinville iron ore was taken.
 David Watkins located the farm owned afterwards by his son Mial.  His daughter Laura is the widow of Miles P. Slade. Mr. Watkins died in 1862, aged eighty-four years, in Austinville.  Aaron Bennett lived a short distance below Mr.  Morgan's claim, afterwards occupied by James Morgan, and Oliver Canfield just below Mr. Bennett.  Mr. Lamphere settled on the place afterwards sold by him to John Besley, and on which the latter resided.
  In 1801, Elnathan Goodrich came with his family into the township, from Delaware county, N. Y. His youngest child, then a babe, born in August of the same year, was Elisha S. Goodrich, who afterwards became prominently known throughout the State, both as an editor and public official of the county and State.  His son, E. O'Meara Goodrich, also prominently known in the same line as his father, was born in Columbia, about 1824, and is now surveyor of the port of Philadelphia.
 Charles Keyes was an early settler, and is said by Judge Bullock to have first come to the town soon after the Ballards' first clearing.
About 1802-3 the Buckley family came into the town.
 In 1804, David Palmer came from Burlington, and settled on the Scouton farm, purchasing the same of Ebenezer Baldwin, who had bought it of Doty.  When Palmer moved into the house it had been for some time unoccupied, and the brambles had grown up through the cracks in the basswood floor as high as the beams overhead, and were obliged to be cut out before the goods could be stored.  About this time or within a year or two afterwards, Abraham Weast made a possession on Willard Mosher's farm, but before 1807 he sold out to a Mr. Sprague.
 In 1807, Calvin Tinkham came from Hampshire Co., Mass, and Charles Keyes from Burlington.  Mr. Keyes was a hatter, and followed the business here some years.  He died in the winter of 1856.
 In 1808 the Havens family settled on a hill half a mile north of Austinville.  They were a numerous family, and Carter Havens was the father of twenty-two children.
 John Bixby, also, came in 1808.  He cleared up the farm on which he ever afterwards resided.  After he had built a house and moved into it, he commenced chopping a fallow; one tree, standing near the house, fell contrary to his intentions, and, striking the roof, broke in the gable and a portion of the rafters.  He died in October, 1866, lacking but about four months of ninety years of age.
 Nathaniel Merritt came from Vermont in September, 1807, and settled on James McKean's farm.  He had five sons, one of whom, Curtis Merritt, resides in Sylvania.  At this date (1807) there was not a house between Springfield Centre and Bentley's Creek, and nothing but a bridle path to travel in.  When Mr. Merritt came in, Samuel Baldwin lived on the Smead farm, and Ephraim Cleveland on John Calkins' farm.
 In 1808, Deacon Asa Howe took up a farm near Helen Budd's, and gave the locality the name of Howe Hollow thereby.  Comfort Peters settled on the Pettibone farm the same year, and Sheldon Gibbs came in 1809 to the same neighborhood.  Both of these men were basket-makers, and peddled their wares through the country round a bout, even as far away as Oswego.  For this reason the road on which they lived was called Basket street, and still rettains its early cognomen, and is the road leading from C. H. Ballard's to Austinville.
 Phineas Jones came in about the year 1808. He was a brother of Mrs. Comfort Peters, and came from the same locality.  He removed in 1818 into central New York.
 Rev.  Joseph Beeman, a Baptist clergyman, and Deacon David R. Haswell came together from Vermont in 1807-8, and settled near each other on the northern border of the town, and died on their farms.
 John Peter Gernert, William Furman, Reuben Nash and Jacob Miller, the latter a Revolutionary soldier, were among the earlier settlers of the township; but the dates given by different authorities of the time they settled are so conflicting it is impossible to venture an exact statement.
 The dates range from 1808 to 1817.  Mr. Furman was from Delaware Co., N. Y., and was the first of his family to settle in Columbia.  He lived at the crossroads, and was a justice of the peace.  Peter and John were his children, and John, the elder, lived near Austinville.  Mr. Furman's brother, Paul Furman, lived on the creek.  John Peter Gernert was a German, and died in the early days of the settlement.  He lived near Mr. Besley's place.
 John Lilly was of English parentage, but born in Hillsborough, Ireland, in 1781.  He was impressed into the military service and sent to Canada, where he deserted and came to Ogdensburg, N. Y., thence to Vermont, where he married Nancy Smith.  From Vermont he came to Troy, Bradford County, and stopped for a time at Long's Mills, and then moved up towards Sylvania, to which place he came in or about 1808-9.  He bought the Sheldon Gibbs farm.
 Michael Wolf camo from Delaware Co., N. Y., via Athens, in 1811.  He married Betsey Furman.
 Oliver Bosley, a French Huguenot, in 1812, with ,labors abundant and trials oft," brought a lumber-wagon tbrough from South Creek to Columbia Cross-Roads.
 George Moore was born at Columbia Cross-Roads in 1810, and married Sallie Gernert.  About this time, or earlier a year or two, a blacksmith named Sherman lived where Jacob Fries now lives, and a man named Robbins lived where Mrs. Bosley resides.
 John McClelland, commonly called Esquire McClelland, must have come to the county at least before 1809, as his daughter Margaret was married that year to James Moran. He probably came in 1807-8.  He was an Irishman.
 Asa Bullock came to the town in 1817, and died Jan. 1, 1831, on his farm.  He was a native of Bristol Co., Mass.  He was a brother of Judge Darius Bullock.
 Joseph Gladding came the same year, from Barrington, R. I., in December, being thirty days on the road.  He came with his wife's brother, Vial Allen Bullock, a son of Asa Bullock, before named, in the spring before.  Dr. Darius Bullock came before this time to the county, locating, in Smitlifield.
 Thomas Monroe, Harry Harris, and Levi Cornell came soon after 1817.
 Peleg Peckham came from Rehoboth, Mass., and settled in Columbia in 1818.  His first location was on a part of that part of the farm now owned by Mr. Gladding. He was a carpenter, and built some of the best houses of his time.  He was brother to Kingsley Peckham, and married a sister of Mrs. Joseph Gladding.
 Kingsley Peckham bought the Merritt location.
 John Calkins came to Columbia in 1817, from Burlington, exchanging his possession there with Samuel Lamphere for his in Columbia.  Mr. Calkins was born in 1790, and came with his father, Moses Calkins, from Duanesburg, Schoharie Co., N. Y., to Sugar Creek in 1794, his father having preceded the family the year before, and prepared a home for them.

  The first house built in the township was the log cabin of Doty, erected in 1795.  The next ones were the cabins of the six families who came in the year 1799, or 1800, as it is variously given, viz., Nathaniel Morgan, Aaron Bennett, David Watkins, Joseph Batterson, Oliver Canfield, and Samuel Lamphere.  These men were rich in energy and perseverance, though poor in worldly goods.  David Watkins said when be arrived he had of worldly possessions nothing save his wife, and ox-team, and seven dollars and a half in cash.  The pioneers soon, however, had each a cabin with a bark roof, the more luxurious ones had a floor of basswood Puncheons (rifted logs hewed smooth) for others, mother earth furnished their floor, uncarpeted.  The windows were for a time unglazed, and when they could afford such a luxury, they paid twenty-five cents per pane, seven by nine inches, for it at Tioga Point.  The doors were made of split basswood, set on end, and held in place by a cross-bar, secured by wooden hooks driven into the logs.  Nails there were none, save such as the blacksmith forged for them out of wrought iron, and wooden pins served the purpose.  Huge wooden fireplaces were built into one end of the cabins, outside of the wall usually, and whatever else was lacking, fuel was plenty.  The back-log, from three to six feet long and from one to two feet in diameter, formed a substantial foundation to receive another log of about half its size.  Two other logs of smaller dimensions, properly placed, served as fire-dogs, upon which the forestick rested; then the split wood was artistically worked in and about the foundation thus laid, and a crackling, roaring flame was soon ascending the broad-throated chimney, built, sometimes, of round sticks plastered with mud, and the bright glare of the burning wood diffused light and warmth throughout the small apartment, provided the same was well chinked up with mud between joints.  A cord of good wood would not last long in cold weather in such a fire.
  At Tioga Point, twenty-one miles distant, were the nearest neighbors, with one exception, to these pioneers.  There, too, they did their trading, paying Seventy-five cents, or a bushel of wheat, for a yard of factory cloth or calico.
 The nearest neighbor, the exception noted above, was Reuben Mitchell, who had moved up a little east of Smithfield Centre.  He had a grindstone, and the new-comers had none; therefore they went to neighbor Mitchell's, twelve miles away, to grind their axes, which saved a journey " clean down to the P'int."
 Their milling was done at Wilkes-Barre, involving a journey of two men a week or more.  The grist was carried to the river by horseback, a load being made up by the neighbors for a canoe, which would float down, but must be poled back.  Pounded corn samp was the diet till the grist got home, the women doing the pounding with a pioneer mill, mortar and pestle.
 For hay, the cattle browsed the twigs and buds of the trees, which were felled for the purpose.  The snow was frequently so deep that tracks would need to be shoveled out for them to reach the tops.
 The first framed house built in the town was erected in 1808 by Charles Keyes, near Harry Smith's.
 The first white child born in the town was Laura, a daughter of David Watkins, who was ushered into this busy world, according to her own statement, in August, 1800.  She was cradled in a sap trough on the farm owned subsequently by her brother Mial.  She subsequently married Miles P. Slade, and is still living.
 The first male child born in the town was Herman Soper, a son of Solomon Soper, who was but a little way behind his pioneer sister, Mrs. Slade, he putting in an appearance in September following.
 The first death that occurred in the township is agreed to have been that of a young child, who was, as one authority says, "scalded to death," July 4, 1810.  Dr. Tracy says it was before 1810, and Mrs.  Slade says it, was the first death, but gives no date.  However, she places the death of Nathaniel Morgan in 1804 or 1805.  There is a discrepancy also as to the name of the child, one authority assigning it to Capt.  Calkins and another to Esquire ______. A Mr. Wright is also said to have been the first adult who died in the town.  With the Morgan family came also the grandmother of the children, "a very old woman," who died in 1810-12.
 The first distillery in the town was built by Sheldon Gibbs, where Dummer Lilley now resides.
 The first road cut into the town was that one " blazed" through to Sheshequin by the first pioneer settlers, after they had built their cabins, as they returned to their families at the place named, where they had been left.
 The first post-office was called Sylvania, and subsequently gave its name to the borough.  It was established in 1818, previous to which time Athens was the nearest point of postal communication with the outside world.  Reuben Nash was the first postmaster.  There are now five post offices in the township.
 The first store was kept by David Watson.  It was a mere grocery, its principal stock in trade being tobacco and whisky.
 The first school-house built in the settlement was erected by Moses Taylor, on the farm now occupied by Alanson Taylor, in the town of Smithfield, to which Columbia belonged until 1814.
 The first religious society in the settlement was one formed about 1800, by Rev.  Daniel Thatcher, in Wells township (now), as a branch of the Presbyterian church at Elmira, organized by him in 1795.  Later, Mrs. Haswell, Mrs. Wright, and Mrs. Hyde, the former a Congregationalist and the other Presbyterians, formed a praying band; others soon joined, and prayer-meetings were instituted.  The Baptist clergymen Bacon and Beebe visited the settlements, and in 1819 the Rev. Benjamin Oviatt came, and preached three years in the neighborhood, holding meetings in the schoolhouse near Mr. Corey's, which was soon called Baptist Hill," and in Samuel Edsall's barn.
 Samuel Ingalls was the first Methodist in this part of the country, and fitted up a shed for meeting, where David Fries now resides.  Mr. Bird was one of the first preachers of that denomination here.
 Dr. Tracy says Elder Rich was the first preacher in the township, and was succeeded by Elder Simeon Powers.  Subsequently, Elder Rich, a son of the first Elder Rich, was an itinerant in several of the towns west of the Susquehanna, and, being minus one limb, always sat down when he delivered his sermons. The detailed history of the various church organizations of the township will be found elsewhere, in the general history of the county.
 The first sawmill built in the town was put up, in 1806, by Samuel Hurlburt and Murray Ballard, where Waldo's mill now stands.
 The first grist-mill built in the settlement was a little log affair, put up by a Mr. Rowley, near the site of Long's mills, which was formerly included within the township lines.


 In the year 1795, when the Ballard boys, then eighteen years old, came into Columbia to make their clearing, they carried nothing with them but their knapsacks, filled with pork and johnie-cake, and their axes.  They followed the creek to avoid losing their way, as no white man had ever gone that way before, and no track was visible, or blazed tree to mark the way.  When they arrived at the present site of Long's mills, two panthers sprang from their coverts across their way, and seemed disposed to dispute the farther progress of the young pioneers.  The beasts were not easily scared, and the "grass policy" only made them show their fangs the more fiercely.  At last, armed each with a heavy club, the boys made a dash upon the long tailed cats, and a few blows well delivered soon put them to flight. Before arriving at their point of destination, a pack of bears attempted to oppose the advance, and being treated to like onslaughts retreated and left the field to the victors.  After a week's labor, the provisions gave out, and they returned to Burlington for fresh supplies; and on their return to their clearing, the next week, they brought their rifles along.
 These boys, after selling out their improvement, located in Burlington, and found one day they were trespassing on a former possession, whose occupants stoutly resisted the encroachment on their claim.  A den of rattlesnakes occupied a portion of their claim, and it is said the boys killed seventy two of the reptiles in one day, while " logging" an acre of land,-and it probably was not much of a day for snakes, either.
When the first permanent settlers came into the township in 1799-1800, they found the door of  Morgan's cabin, built the year before, standing ajar, and the skeleton of a deer hanging from one of the beams.  Some hunter had killed the animal and hung it up there, and the wild beasts seeing it, had pushed open the door, and picked the flesh clean from the bones.
 David Watkins frequently carried a bag of wheat on his back to the mill in the Sheshequin, bringing the flour home in the same way, in default of having a horse to do the portage.  Mrs. Slade says her mother's only fare on the day of her (Mrs.  Slade's) birth, was boiled wheat, the father going to mill with a bushel of wheat, as above described, soon after his little daughter made her debut on the stale of action.  Boiled wheat nowadays is somewhat prized as a delicacy.
 Abraham Weast, one of the pioneers before 1807, was a celebrated hunter and woodchopper, but, notwithstanding his skill in woodcraft, he once lost his way in attempting to go to Mill creek, and wandered in the woods for three days. Being, without his gun he could kill no game, and became nearly famished.  Towards daylight of the third day be came to a turnip-patch, and began an attack on those esculents to appease his hunger, when be was discovered by the owner of the vegetables, who took him to his cabin, and by a judicious feeding on venison soup, etc., restored his strength.


 The first township organized, which included the present township of Columbia, was called Cabot, by Nathaniel Morgan, who bought the territory included in its limits of the Connecticut company.  He surveyed the township to include the 16,000 acres he bought, beginning at the southeast corner of the township, on the top of the hill south of Mial Watkins' house.  From this point two parties of surveyors ran the lines, one going north and the other west.  The two parties met on Pickle hill, the northwest corner of the township.  From the name then given comes "Cabot Hollow," since called Morgan's Hollow, and still later as now known, Austinville.  Subsequently the town was included in one called Ulster, from which Smithfield was taken before the organization of Bradford County; Columbia being given a separate organization from Smithfield in 1814.  The name of Cabot was changed to Columbia before it was separated from Smithfield.


 is situated in the southern part of the township, and is the old village of "Columbia Flats." It was incorporated as a borough May 4, 1853, and has an area of about 500 acres. The confluent bead-waters from the north and south and west unite in the borough and form Sugar creek, which thence passes out of the borough eastward.  The village contains two churches, one Union and one Presbyterian, one schoolhouse, one hotel, a post-office, steam saw mill, a store, grocery, and about forty dwellings.  It is at the head of a beautiful valley hemmed in on three sides by high hills.


 is a village of about the same extent as Sylvania, and is situated in the western-central part of the township, in a narrow valley, on the north branch of the Sugar creek.  It was named in honer of a young man named Augustus Austin, who, about 1857, moved into the place, at that time called Morgan Hollow, and who displayed great energy and enterprise in building up the place.  Iron mines formerly worked here are not at present in operation.  The village contains a Baptist church, a schoolhouse, hotel, post-office, two general stores, a hardware and a drug-store, and a steam sawmill.


 is a station on the Pennsylvania Northern Central railroad, and is situated in the southeastern part of the town.  It contains a church, schoolhouse, store, and post-office, and a few dwellings.  It is beautifully located in a valley of the north branch of the Sugar creek.


 is also a station on the Pennsylvania Northern Central railroad, and is situated in the extreme northeastern part of the town.  It was named in honor of Mr. W. H. Snedeker, and has a saw-mill, post-office, schoolhouse, and a few dwellings and a general store.

 The town of Columbia possessed in 1850 a population of 1383 souls. In 1860 the number increased to 1468, Sylvania having 215.  In 1870 the town had 1521, including Sylvania, which had 212. 42 were foreign born and 16 were colored.


 The township is divided into 14 school districts, wholly lying within the town, and two joint districts with Wells and Troy.  During the school year ending June 1, 1877, schools were taught in all of the districts an average of six months each, Sylvania having seven months' school. 4 male and 11 female teachers were employed, and received salaries therefor averaging $24 per month for the gentlemen, and $20.60 for the ladies. 179 boys and 157 girls attended the school, the average attendance for the whole period of the schools being 216.  Seven mills on the dollar of valuation were raised for school purposes on the property in the town, producing $1621.50. $385.35 was received from the State; the total receipts from all sources bein$2517.18. Teachers' wages were $1448 - the total expenditures being $2071.56.


(See biography, wine the portrait and biography of Peleg Peck, Jr.)
 The subject of this sketch was born in Warren, R. I., December, 1798.  He is a son of Hezekiah and Abigail Peck.  His ancestry belonged to the old English gentry.  Joseph Peck, the founder of the Peck family in America, emigrated from Ipswich, England, in the ship "Diligent" in the year 1638, and settled in Hingham, Norfolk Co., R. I. The papers in the town clerk's office at Hingham record his arrival in the following manner; "Joseph Peck, with three sons, one daughter, two men-servants, and two maid-servants, came from Old Hingham and settled in New Hingham."
 Mr. Peck's early educational advantages were quite limited, owing to the newness of the country and the absence of those institutions which are the outgrowth of a more settled and civilized condition of life.  He, however, made excellent improvement of the limited advantages which a common district school afforded.  Under the fostering hand of puritanical influences, he developed into an industrious young man.  At the age of twenty one he turned his gaze to the far west, which in those days meant Pennsylvania, just as much as Colorado does to-day.  After much hardship he reached Smithfield, Bradford Co., Pa., where he at once, with youthful ardor and industry, engaged in the farming and lumbering interests.
(See portrait of Peleg Peck on preceding page.)
 He was united in marriage, Nov. 3, 1821, to Miss Lydia C., a daughter of Daniel and Lydia Hunter, of Bristol, R. 1. The fruits of this happy union were the birth of eleven children, most of whom are now living.  Peleg Jr., and Hezekiah Peck were born in Smithfield, respectively, July 2, 1831, and Nov. 26, 1826.  In 1856 they purchased their father's interest in the lumberman business. The are at present extensive dealers and manufacturers of lumber.
Their mills have a capacity of one and a half million feet per year.  They are both enterprising business men, and have largely identified themselves with the political and educational interests of their town and county.  Mr. Peck in the year 1840 removed to Sylvania borough.  He held the office of justice of the peace ten years, discharging the duties of his office with great fidelity, and giving excellent satisfaction to his fellow townsmen.  He was an earnest and zealous member of the Disciple church.  He was always favorable to the advancement of school and church interests, believing them to be vital factors in the progress of civilization.
 Mr. Peck died in the month of February, 1875, at the advanced age of seventy-seven years, having closely identified himself with the growth and development of Bradford County for upwards of fifty-four years.  His death was regretted by all with whom he had come in contact during his long and busy life.