The Reverend Mr. David Craft
HISTORY OF THE TOWNSHIPS
The geographical situation of the township of Overton, so called
in honor of Hon. Edward Overton, of Towanda, is between Barclay township
on the north and northwest, from which it is separated by the Schraeder
branch of the Towanda creek ; Monroe and Albany on the east - Leroy on
the west; and the township of Elkland Forks, in Sullivan county, on the
The township is watered by the Shraeder branch, and several smaller streams which flow southward out of the county.
In the northern portion the surface of the township is mountainous. The people, who are mostly of German and Irish descent, are noted for their industry and honesty and their firms, once covered with stumps and stones, are now so free therefrom that all kinds of farm machinery can be used on the older ones. The people are mostly engaged in agriculture, raising stock, and butter making, except in the northeastern portion of the township, where lumbering is carried on extensively. John Means and M. C. Mercur each have large saw-mills, and do an extensive business. The bark business for tanning purposes is also extensively maintained.
In point of territory, Overton is one of the largest towns of Bradford County but it is among the least in population. In 1860 it had 407 inhabitants, and in 1870, 550. In 1876, 98 votes were polled in the township.
It is at the present date one of the most thriving towns in the county. It was formed in 1853 from Monroe, Albany, and Franklin.
The first settler in what is now included in the township of Overton
was Daniel Heverly, a native of Lehigh (then ,Northampton) Co., Pa.
He came to Bradford County from his native county in 1806, and died in
Overton. He was born in 1764, and his wife, Cathirine Ott, was born
in the same year. They were Pennsylvania-Germans.
One Minch, a neighbor of Heverly's, had removed to Bradford County some years previous, and was then living on the hills above Towanda, and he persuaded Heverly to come to Bradford. He represented to Heverly that an unoccupied valley more than ten miles wide, which none of the settlers had as yet seen the end of, was very fertile, and could be had for the occupancy and improvement of it. Heverly sold his farm in his native county for £900 (Pennsylvania currency), and taking that and his household furniture, farming implements, two cows, some young stock, and two horses and a wagon, be started in 1806 for Towanda, coming by the way of Williamsport, on the old Genesee or State road, which passes through the central part of the present township of Overton, and was then the main route from Williamsport to Towanda. His team got fast in the mud several miles above what is now known as Greenwood (Monroe), where a Mr. Schraeder then lived. Schraeder helped Heverly out of the mud, and leaving his family at Schraeder's, Heverly went to Towanda to find Minch, and see the fertile valley he had come to find. He found his old neighbor living in a little log hut perched up on the hills among the rocks, and the valley, so graphically described as an Eden almost, lay before him covered with a dense growth of timber, and in many places very swampy.
Sadly disappointed, Heverly concluded that was no place for him, and he returned to Schraeder's and contracted with him to work his farm, and so continued to do for several years.
About this time the Berwick and Elmira turnpike was located, and passed through this section of country; and, thinking that the country along this road would soon be settled, Heverly took up a tract of six hundred and forty acres, in 1810. He had been told the same was vacant land, and it was only necessary for him to survey and occupy it to hold it. He came in, and soon cleared up enough land for raising grain for his own use. He cleared altogether some sixty-five or seventy acres. This farm was given by him to his son Daniel, who afterwards gave it to his son Eli, whose widow now occupies the premises.
Heverly occupied these lands unmolested until 1827, when they were sold for taxes, and bought by Dr. Weston, of Towanda; and Weston's tax-title was subsequently bought by Daniel Heverly (the second), thus securing an undisputed title to the whole.
Heverly contracted to build several sections of the turnpike which was laid out through his locality. He had five sons and three daughters four of the sons located on adjacent lands. The oldest was John, born in Lehigh county, Marcb 14, 1788, married Alma Kellogg, April 4, 1806 the second one was Christian ; the third, Daniel; and the youngest, Henry.
One Kissell came with Mr. Heverly from Schraeder's, in 1810, who was a stone cutter by trade. He "squatted" on a piece of land now occupied by the widow McCann. He cleared up about five acres, and then enlisted in the War of 1812, and served during the entire period of the same, when he returned and married a lady named Clarke. They had one child, and he died soon after, which was the first death which occurred in the township. He was buried on a little ridge, a short distance from his house, where he used to walk during his sickness. This place was, used for many years subsequently for burial purposes, but it is sadly neglected now. The fence is down, and cattle tread over the mounds and tear up the sod unrestrainedly.
The next family that came to the township was Leonard Streevy, who married one of Mr. Heverly's daughters. He also located land adjoining his father-in-law's tract, and which is now occupied and owned by his son Isaac. Mr. Streevy came in about 1820. He had a large family, but only three of his sons came to live with him. Streevy went back to Lehigh county in 1828, where he died the year following. His son Isaac bought his improvement of about fourteen acres.
Henry Sherman, a native of Mifflin, Pa., born in 1801, of Pennsylvania-German parentage, came into the township from Columbia County, in 1824. He started from that county on foot, by the way of Kizer's and Ellis's with his wife and one child, and a sister. He carried the gun, and his wife the baby, and vice versa. In 1825 he took up the land be now occupies, which was then a dense forest of huge pines, hemlocks, and other timber. He built him a log house, like those of the pioneers generally, with a puncheon floor and bark roof, furnished with domestic articles of his own manufacture. He brought with him a cow and eight sheep, and the first night after moving into his new home saved the latter from destruction by wolves by a timely watch and protection. He took possession of two hundred acres, which he began clearing, but being alone, could not make very rapid progress, but managed to clear up about five acres per year. Mr. Sherman was married in 1823 to a Miss Hunsinger, who died in 1834, leaving a family of seven children. He married again the following year, and is now the father of twenty-three children, seventeen of whom are living at the present time.
Jacob Hottenstein arrived in the town in 1829. He was born in 1799, in Berks Co., Pa., and was led to come to the town by the Heverlys. He had a family of five children, the oldest being nine years old when he came to Overton. Four others were born here. Two of his sons died in southern prisons during the Rebellion. Mr. Hottonstein's great-grandparents came from Germany in 1720, his great-grandfather being sold for his passage, and served seven years to discharge the debt. After he served his term out, he sawed wood for money enough to buy seven pounds of tobacco, which latter article he traded to the Indians for four hundred acres of land. This tract is yet occupied by the Hottensteins, and is situated in Maxadamy township, Berks Co., Pa.
Mrs. Hottenstein was born in Lehigh Co., March 27, 1797. When they came to Overton they had but $5 in cash, but the husband took up one hundred acres of land, and by dint of hard work and much privation they are now quite comfortably situated.
John Heverly was the oldest son of Daniel Heverly, the first settler (1810) in Overton. His wife, Alma Kellogg, came with her parents from Columbia Co., N. Y., who located in Albany in 1813. She says they were ten days on the road, finding no roads in some places, and not a single bridge over the creeks from Towanda. She lived with her parents till 1816, when she was married to John Heverly, and went to the wilds of Overton to share the hardships of pioneer life with the man of her choice. She was born in Connecticut, Aug. 21, 1799. When they were married, Mr. Heverly had about four acres cleared, and be built his house the next year, moving into it before it had either doors or glazed windows, and handling up sheets to keep out the rain and snow.
Their first child, Amasa, born April 11, 1817, was the first white child born in the township. Mr. Heverly had to go as far as Mr. Woodruff's, below Monroe, to get sufficient help to raise his house. His dogs treed four panthers one day in the woods, an old female and her three whelps. He succeeded in killing them all, though he had to dispatch the fourth one with a club, his ammunition giving out. He was drafted in the War of 1812, but was never called out.
Christian Heverly married, in 1819, Hannah Warren, and began life for himself on a tract of land now occupied by John Mathews. His wife died in a short time after her marriage, and he married soon after Martha Killmore, and reared a family Of nine children, five of whom still survive.
Daniel Heverly married Hattie Talady, in 1818, and located on a tract of land adjoining his father's. His domestic relations did not prove harmonious, and he and his wife separated, and in 1821 he married Magdalene Wilt. They had a large family, four of whom are now living, and the two sons occupy the homestead. Mrs. Heverly died in 1871, and her husband in 1873.
Henry Heverly married in 1821, but his farm, about a mile from his father's, was in Sullivan county, as was a portion of Christian's, which adjoined Henry's. The settlement of Mr. Heverly and his sons was a noted one, and was called for many years Heverly's settlement.
The first attempt made for a grist-mill was that of Danl.
Heverly, Sr., on the premises now owned by Henry Sherman, but the depression
of money matters, caused by the war of 1812, caused him to abandon his
work before its completion.
The first saw-mill was built in 1820, on Black creek, by Daniel Heverly, Jr. It was afterwards destroyed by fire, and never rebuilt. The site of this mill is now owned by the widow McCann.
The first framed barn was built in the town, in 1832, by Christian Heverly, who three years subsequently built also the first framed house. The barn is not used at present, but the house is occupied.
The first newspaper taken in the town was one which Jacob Hottenstein went nine miles to the post-office for, in 1829. The name of it was Der Unabhangig Republikaner (The Independent Republican), published in Lehigh County, at Allentown. This was the only paper received in the township in that year now over 200 weeklies and a large number of periodicals are received at Overton postoffice.
The first post-office was established in 1851, and called Heverlyville, but in 1856 it was changed to Overton. The first postmaster was Edward McGovern, and the office was kept at James Heverly's.
The first store was opened in 1856, by Wm. Waltman, which was burned in 1858.
The first schoolhouse was built in the town in 1827. It
was a small log hut, 15 by 16 feet, covered with clapboards. The
seats were made of slabs with outside uppermost. This house stood
until about the time of the introduction of the free-school system, when
a new framed house was built, and is yet standing on the opposite side
of the road from the original site. It has not been used for several
The first teacher in the old log schoolhouse was Anna Kellogg, of Monroe. She received fifty cents per week for teaching reading, writing, spelling, and "some cyphering."
The first free school was taught by Mrs. Charles Diffenbach, in her own house.
At the present time there are five organized districts in the township, and one unorganized. Five schools were taught in the town during the year ending June 1, 1877, averaging five months each. Two male and four female teachers were employed, at an average salary of $20 per month, for both sexes; 83 male and 74 female pupils attended the schools, the average attendance being 97; $897 were raised by tax on the property in the town, and $87.15 were received from the State, the total income for the year being $1600.44; $587 were paid for teachers' wages, the total expenditures being $742.99.
The first church edifice built in the town was the Roman Catholic, by
Edward McGovern, in 1844. Previously, the schoolhouse had been used
for religious worship.
There are at the present time in the township four churches, one Methodist; one Reformed church of the United States and Lutheran, near the village; one Catholic, about three miles west: and the one above mentioned, built by Edward McGovern, on his farm, about one mile north. The Reformed and Lutheran church was built in 1855, but not wholly completed until 1862-63. The first Lutheran preacher was Carl Erie, who began preaching in the schoolhouse in 1843. He lived in Colley, Sullivan county, about sixteen miles distant, and made the journey, back and forth, on foot for many years. The Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1873.
A town-plat was laid out on the present site of Overton, in 1856,
by Henry Sherman, and the first lot was sold to Joseph Mosbacker, a blacksmith.
It is situated in the southeastern corner of the township, and contains
three general stores, three blacksmith-shops, one cooper- and two shoe-shops,
one grocery and confectionery store, one church, and a schoolhouse.