Cameron County

Chapter II



The pages devoted to the Indians of McKean county tell who the first occupants of this section were within the historic period. Evidences of Indian occupation are numerous; but little is known of tribal names in connection with such occupation. At Sinnemahoning there are evidences that extensive Indian towns stood on the flats between the mouth of First Fork and a point two miles westward. Numerous wigwam chimneys, in rows, some fifteen feet high, were exposed by the washing away of the surface soil during the floods of 1848 and 1861, and the cultivation of the soil by the early settlers. When the pioneers arrived here the place was known as "The Lodge," a name given to it by the Indians. Near Millers', on Bennett's branch, there is an Indian cemetery, and various relics have been exhumed elsewhere within the county. Stone axes and arrow heads have been found in many places, made from, brown quartz, which is not found native in this region. Some specimens of moss- agate, or mocha- stone, are said to have been found. There is a semi-pellucid uncrystallized variety of quartz, having internally a moss-like appearance, and must have been carried by the Indians from beyond the Rocky mountains. Some persons engaged in digging a ditch in the rear of Charles Barclay's residence in Sinnemahoning in April 1877, unearthed the remains of an Indian. The body had evidently been buried over a century, and had returned to dust - but small portions of the skull and a few bones remaining to show that it had been a human body. On the same spot were also found blue beads, an iron tomahawk (a fine piece of workmanship), a steel needle, evidently used for sewing skins, an ornament of some kind, of metallic substance, and a clay pipe. The pipe is in a good state of preservation, and a rare curiosity, having a unique figure- head and arms. The Indians in this section of the country did not know the art of pottery work, and it is presumed that the pipe was made by the pre- historic people.

In 1873 excavations were made for a cellar under the post-office building at Sterling Run, in this county. The building had been removed from its former site about forty feet, and hence the demand for the excavation for a cellar under the building at its new site. Mr. Earl, the proprietor of the groun4s, in making these excavations, found human bones, and proceeded the more carefully to continue his work, which, when completed, disclosed seventeen skeletons, evidently of Indian origin. All except two were of ordinary grown stature, while one measured seven and a half feet from the cranium to the heel bones. The bones had all remained undisturbed. They lay with their feet toward each other in a three- quarter circle, that is some with their heads to the east, and then northeasterly to the north, and then northwesterly to the west. There had been a fire, the center, between their feet, as ashes and coals were found there. The skeletons, excepting one smaller than the rest, were all as regularly, arranged as they would be naturally in a sleeping camp of similar dimensions. The bones were many of them in a good state of preservation, particularly the jawbones and teeth, and some of the leg bones and skulls. The stalwart skeleton had a stoneware or clay pipe between his teeth, as if in the act of smoking. By his side was found a vase, or urn, of earthenware or stoneware, which would hold about a half gallon. This vessel was about one- third filled with a granulated substance resembling chopped tobacco sterns, or some kind of seeds. The vase was gourd- shaped on the bottom and without a base to stand upon, the exterior had corrugated lines crossing each other diagonally from the rim; the rim was serrated, and the whole gave evidence that it had been constructed with some skill and care, yet there was a lack of symmetry and beauty of form, which the race at that period were evidently ignorant of. The skeletons were covered about thirty inches deep, twenty- four inches of which was red shale, or brick clay, the six inches on the surface being soil and clay. The soil had been formed from the decayed leaves of the forest, which had mingled with the clay for centuries. The ground had been heavily, timbered with white pine and white oak. No large trees, however, grew immediately over this spot, and no roots disturbed the relics. This spot had been cultivated since 1818, and for the last ten years preceding 1873 had been used as a garden. John Brooks visited the ground, and examined the location and position of the skeletons while being exhumed. One, the smallest, had been in an erect or crouched position, in the northwest corner of the domicile. The most reasonable theory (in the view of the writer) is that this was the habitation of the people, and that their hut had been constructed of adobe. The surrounding grounds are gravelly, and is also the floor upon which the skeletons lay. It would seem that the gravel had been scooped away to the depth of two feet, and that the hut had been built over the excavation, and that while reclining in their domicile some electric storm had in a moment extinguished their lives, precipitating, at the same time, their hut upon them, thus securing them from the ravages of the beasts of the forest.

The celebrated battle of Peter Grove with the Indians took place at the mouth of a creek called Grove's run, which empties into the Sinnemahoning, about three- quarters of a mile above the mouth of the First Fork of the Sinnemahoning. This battle occurred long before this region was settled by the whites.

Anthony Grove is registered as a private in Capt. Joseph Shippen's company, May 8, 1756 (Penna. Archives, Vol. 2, page 600) of the regiment of Col. William Chapman, garrisoned at Fort Augusta, Shamokin. The "Bald Eagle's nest," was the residence of an Indian chief of that name, who built his wigwam between two white oaks, situated in an old Indian town, on the right bank of the creek, about a mile below where Spring Creek enters the Bald Eagle, near the town of Milesburg. Bald Eagle, the chief of the Muncy tribe, made an attack on a party of soldiers who were protecting some reapers on the Loyal- Sock, on August 8, 1778, in which attack, James Brady, a relative of the Grove family by marriage, was mortally wounded. Bald Eagle was killed the following year, in June, by Samuel Brady, at Brady's, bend, on the Allegheny. This was the year known as the "great runaway." Shortly after this time the Indians attacked Freeland's fort, situate about four miles up Warrior's run, Freeland and Isaac Vincent being killed and Benjamin Vincent taken prisoner, Peter Vincent and Sam Brady escaping.

Francis J. Chadwick, writing in 1878, speaks of the days when the Indians and settlers of the North Atlantic coast were at war, and brings his reminiscences down to the Revolution, when the Indians perpetrated the atrocities recorded in history. He begins with the massacre of Buffalo Valley, and introduces Peter and Michael Grove, from the former of whom William Floyd received the story of Indian warfare. John Brooks, in 1876, also noticed this point. Floyd went down the river in the fall of 1839. Big river was then low, so that he tied up at Shamokin, returned through Buffalo Valley and called on Peter Grove, just two years before the pioneer's death. In 1842 Floyd related the story to Chadwick, who published it in the columns of the Press in 1878. It appears that after the massacre the two Groves with a friend resolved upon revenge, and, taking the trail of the savages, followed them to the river, at the mouth of the Scootack, and thence up the valley to the mouth of the Sinnemahoning, and up that valley to a small run above the Fork. Below that run the Indians stuck their hatchets in a large oak and made a very small gnat smoke, when all but one lay down to sleep. That one sat under the hatchets with his back against the tree. There was a young moon, the light of which showed twelve warriors sleeping, and this one keeping watch. The sentry would nod, wake up, look round as if conscious of danger, while Peter Grove stood near waiting the moment for revenge. It came! The moon went down, and the two Groves and friend descended on the camp, killing the sentry and seven of the others, leaving one to flee with a hatchet in his back, and four to escape. Breaking the locks of the Indian guns and hiding them in a creek, the avengers waded the creek to the river, which they crossed, and ascended the mountain, from which eminence they could see at sunrise, a body of twenty- five warriors on their trail. About three in the afternoon, Michael Grove and the unnamed companion resolved on sleeping, but Peter objected. The men, however, slept, leaving Peter on guard. A greenish- yellow plumaged bird, found only in dense forests, now came to warn him, and seemed to say, "up and away." He roused his friends and fled toward the settlers' Fort (near the confluence of the Bald Eagle and Susquehanna), and when within seven miles of this refuge, they saw the twenty- five Indians still on their trail, but at the river the savages lost the track, and to the delight of the fugitives went up the stream. The white oak at Grove's run, into which the Indians stuck their tomahawks, was about thirty inches in diameter; a smooth, handsome body, but short, being about twenty feet to the lowest limb. It stood there, with the marks of the thirteen hatchets until after the great flood of October 8, 1847, the waters of which washed the clay from its roots, leaving it to decay and to the mercy of the great flood of 1861, which carried it away. About the year 1820, the pond at the mouth of Grove creek, where the battle occurred, was drained, and a gun- barrel and lock found, which had not been recovered by the Indians. The marks of a dozen tomahawks were visible in the limb of the old oak tree, until it fell into the river, by the constant washings of the bank where it, stood. The tree fell about 1835.

Peter Vincent was murdered at the mouth of the Sinnemahoning in 1824, the deed being so adroitly done that it seemed he fell from a young horse and, crushed his head; Benjamin Walker, of Northumberland, was also killed; but two years later, peace being established, seven Indians told Walker's son of the horrible punishment to which they subjected his father. He treated them to whisky liberally, and left them to return to, their camp. Later that night Benjamin Walker, his brother and Samuel Doyle descended on the camp, killed all the savages, and cast the bodies into the river. Judge McKean issued a warrant for the arrest of the Walkers, who fled, leaving Samuel Doyle to be tried by the old judge. The jury, in opposition to the judge's instruction, declared Doyle not guilty, and the people carried him in triumph to his home.

Dr. Lanning, in his Centennial History, founded on recollections of John Brooks and others, states that the first survey made in this county was performed by John Rohrer in 1786. He ran out the ground upon which the Emporium Tannery stands, and for some distance above that. John Hanna ran out some lots up the Portage, and also the diamond lots, upon which Rich Valley was afterward located, in 1792 or 1794. The first improvement made within the limits of the county was the building of the Ellicott road in 1806. This extended through the county, and also through what is now called McKean county, and into Cattaraugus county, N.Y., terminating at Ellicottville. The object of the road was to render accessible the lands belonging to the Holland Land Company, which lay along the latter portion of its route, and at its termination. F.J. Chadwick, speaking on this subject, says: "In 1806 Joseph Ellicott, with Joseph Mason for his foreman and book- keeper, constructed a wagon road from Dunnstown up the Susquehanna river to Cook's run. There they left the river and went over Baird's mountain to the valley of the Sinnemahoning, near Round island; thence up the, Sinnemahoning to the Big Elk lick, on the Driftwood branch, thence northwestwardly over the high lands. They crossed Marvin creek about seven miles west of Smethport, and took the high lands again, and went down the Tunuangwant creek on the branch upon which the Mount Alton Railroad is now constructed. It was continued down said creek to its mouth; then it crossed the Allegheny river and ended at Ellicottsville, in Cattaraugus county, N.Y. It was the only wagon road on the Sinnemahoning for many years."

The first settlement made in the county was at the site now called Driftwood. It was then, and for a long time afterward, known as Second Fork, Sinnemahoning being known as First Fork. The first man who settled there was John Jordan. This occurred in the year 1804. Jordan was a man about forty years of age. He was a great hunter, and probably was led to seek a home in this remote and solitary wilderness as much on account of his fondness for the chase, and the abundant opportunities the country at that time afforded for its gratification, as for any other reason. He is said to have killed ninety- six elk. He had five sons: Hugh, John, William, James and Andrew, whose descendants are in the county at the present time. The next year, 1806, Jordan was followed by Levi Hicks, Andrew Overturf and Samuel Smith, the two former having families, and the latter being a single man. Levi Hicks settled between the First Fork and Second Fork, on ground afterward known as the Shaffer farm, now occupied by Maiden Wykoff. He here cleared about thirty acres of land, which, in 1812, he sold to Jacob Burge, who had settled near him a year or two previous. Hicks then removed up the Bennett's branch to the mouth of Hicks' run, and took up land which is now occupied by his descendants. His son, John, is still living, a man seventy- eight years of age, whose memory is still clear touching the history of those early days. John was eight years old when the family first moved here, and has been a resident of this county over seventy years. Levi, the father, was thirty- five years of age when he moved to the country, and had the honor of making and run-fling the first raft ever taken down the Sinnemahoning. Andrew Overturf settled on the point of land at the confluence of the two streams, the Driftwood and the Bennett's branches. It was at his house the incident occurred which has been the occasion of so much merriment abroad at the expense of the early settlers of this country. The settlement which we have already noticed, between the First Fork and Second Fork, extended itself shortly in four different directions up the Bennett's and Driftwood branches, down the main creek, and up the First Fork. In 1808, William Nanny settled a short distance up the Bennett's branch, at the mouth of a small run which bears his name at the present day. He was called Billy Nanny, the first instance on record where a single person represented both sexes of the goat. About the year 1810, or some time shortly afterward, Stephen Berfield settled on this side of the stream, near the site of the hotel. He shortly after sold his improvement to Edward Richey, and moved to Dent's run, in Elk county, making the first improvement there. About the same time Andrew and James Jordan, brothers of John, the first settlers in the county, settled up the Driftwood branch, the former near William Nelson's place, and the latter near Harrison Logue's place. In 1810, John Spangler advanced still farther up the stream, and settled between what is now known as Cameron and Sterling, on ground now occupied and owned by James and Thomas Strawbridge.

Under date of December 16, 1811, William Coxe, William McMurtrie, Edward Shippen and W.S. Coxe issued circulars from Burlington, N.J., showing the value of their lands in McKean and Clearfield counties. They refer to the Portage road, commencing two miles below Rich Valley, where a dozen of families then resided, to a road then opening from Instanter to Kersey's mills, four miles from their tract, to the Ellicott road, laid out some years before by the Holland Land Company, through the town of Rich Valley, within ten miles of the salt works then erected, and close to the grist- mill in operation there and the saw- mill then being constructed by Col. Chadwick, who with Dr. Daniel Rogers were the agents of the company, the latter residing on Bennett's branch. The route from the North Atlantic States was via Chenango Point to Dr. Willard's, at Tipga; thence to Ellis on State road via Crooked creek; thence through Coudersport to Canoe place, whence a road by the Portage branch of the Sinnemahoning, twenty- three miles, leads to the tract. In 1811 or 1812, Joseph Mason settled about a mile below Sterling on ground now occupied by his son, Henry Mason. His male descendants were Joseph, James, Henry, John, William and Alexander, three of whom are living still near the spot first occupied and improved by their father. About the year 1812 or 1814 John Shaffer, William Sterling, John Strawbridge and Joseph Richey, father of Robert and Joseph, living near Cameron came to Sterling run and settled in the immediate vicinity. About the same time also Isaac McKisson settled at Hunt's run, so called from the family to whom the lands belonged. This is the present village of Cameron. Meanwhile the settlement had pushed in other directions. Jacob Burge had settled in 1809 or 1810 near to the Hick's improvement, and in 1812 bought it from Levi Hicks, who removed to the mouth of Hick's run, where his descendants remain to this day. Shortly after this Jacob Miller and Amos Mix settled up Bennett's branch, near the mouth of Mix run, also Thomas Dent nearer to the village of Driftwood. Other settlers kept filling up the colony. Jerry Gaines, a colored man and a fugitive from slavery in the State of Virginia, settled and improved land near the present Grove station. He was afterward bought out by William Floyd. John Ramage settled near the Fork in 1813, and shortly afterward Joseph Brooks and Benjamin Brooks, his father, who was also the father of John Brooks, Esq., settled in the same vicinity. The former remained in the county, the latter removing to the Irwin farm, near the present city of Lock Haven, where his son, John, was born in 1814. Again he returned to the county, and in 1819 settled near the Fork, and the next year moved to the Huntley farm and made improvements. His son, John Brooks, is a distinguished citizen of the county, and can at the present time count 458 descendants of his father within a radius of twenty- five miles from his residence near Sinnemahoning. In 1812 William A. Wykoff, from Monmouth, N.J., came to the country, and after prospecting a while concluded to settle up Rich Valley, near the present residence of William Lewis. He chiseled his name and the date upon a stone and returned for his family. In coming with his family, the water became so low that it was impossible to push up the stream the canoe containing his family and goods, which at that time was the only mode of traveling in the country; he was therefore compelled to settle at what is now known as Wykoff run. His sons were Cyrenus, John, William, Alexander and Charles, some of whom with their descendants are well- known citizens of the county at the present time.

James Bailey, who died May 28, 1876, came to Sinnemahoning in 1815. He was one of four of the first who came to Sinnemahoning that were born from .August 20 to October 25, 1800, and died within two months, or from March 29 to May 28, 1876; John M. Lloyd died March 29; Mrs. Elizabeth Miller, on April 7; John Wykoff, April 9, and James Bailey, May 28, 1876; Frederick Sizer died also in the Centennial year. In the years 1816- 17 George, Archie and Thomas Logue settled at the mouth of the First Fork on the lower side of the creek. In 1820 William Barr, who was born near the present city of Lock Haven, and raised about four miles below Keating, removed to his present location on Bennett's branch at the mouth of Barr run. He was twenty- two years of age. Some time, about 1820 or 1822, James Wylie and John Murrey settled about twelve miles up the First Fork. Isaac Brownson and the Logues had previously settled a short distance up. They were followed shortly by others, mostly descendants of those who had settled near the mouth of the Fork. In 1826 Jacob Smith, father of Samuel Smith, and others of that name, came to Sterling run accompanied by Samuel Chapman, father of those of that name living there now, and the Widow Summerson, with her son John and a daughter; John was then a lad of five years of age.

Having followed the history of the first settlement for twenty- one years, we go back to 1810 and trace that of the second settlement, which was located on the site of the present borough of Emporium. In the spring of 1810 John Earl, Sr., father of the present John Earl of that borough, a native of North Carolina, thirty- five years of age, accompanied by his sons, John and William, came to the vicinity of Lock Haven, or rather Big Island, as it then was termed. They here fell in with the agent for Griffith & Company's lands, situated in the upper part of this county. They were induced by him to come up the stream to this place. All above Hunt's run was then an unbroken wilderness. They settled first about two miles up the main stream, at what is known as Georgia Mill or Gearysburg, they cleared a piece of land here, but were shortly followed by two of their former neighbors, Philemon Preny and Earl Mastin, who purchased their improvements, when they again located near the Portage on the site now occupied by Hon. Seneca Freeman. After remaining there three or four years, having some dispute about the price of the land, which belonged to a nonresident by the name of Wilson, they again removed. The land was then purchased of Wilson by Col; E. Chadwick (*), in 1813, who sold it to D. Crow (**), who, with Lemuel Lucore, Sr., and others, had come into the country in 1816. The Earls then located on land that had not been taken up, at the confluence of West creek and the main branch near Isha Craven's. Here they built a saw- mill and a grist- mill.

In 1814 Seneca Freeman, then a young man of twenty- one years, visited through this country, stopping a short time at the Earl's (***). In 1817 Brewster, father of Seneca, accompanied by his family, comprising four sons, Seneca, Brewster, Samuel and Benjamin, moved to the country and settled on the ground now occupied by the Wylie and Sage farms. In the fall of 1810, the first year of the settlement, Mr. John Earl, Sr., started on a visit to see his nearest neighbor, John Spangler, who, as we have seen, had settled between Cameron and Sterling. His son, John, proposed he should carry his gun along, as he might possibly meet with game on the way. The father was not inclined to do so, but finally yielded to the persuasion of his son. As he came near the spot where the Canoe run bridge is now located, he heard a singular noise, which attracted his attention. He stopped a moment to reconnoiter, and observed a motion in the bushes. On closer inspection he perceived, at a very short distance in advance of him, a very large panther. The beast had seen him first, and was standing near a rock congratulating himself on the prospect of a dainty meal, by flapping his tail against the rock. Mr. Earl lost no time in obtaining accurate information as to his position, and taking sight at him with the gun which, happily for him, was now at hand, he fired, hitting the beast through the head; he then speedily reloaded and with a second shot completely dispatched him. He measured the animal and found him to be eleven feet in length. This is but one of a multitude of exciting instances when himself and family, in common with others of the early settlers, experienced fearful encounters with the wild beasts of the forest, and realized hair- breadth escapes from impending death.

The third settlement made within the limits of the county, was that of Rich Valley, in 1811. This settlement was made upon lands owned by Griffith and Coxe, and was a part of a large tract purchased by them from the Holland Land Company, to which we have already referred. The purchase is said to have contained 112,000 acres. Col. Elihu Chadwick, of Monmouth county, N.J., was the agent of these lands. To induce settlers to remove here, they agreed to give each actual settler eight acres in the town of Rich Valley and fifty acres outside of the town. Col. Chadwick came himself to the mouth of North creek and erected a saw- mill in 1811, but returned to his home in New Jersey, and did not permanently remove until 1816. The same year Joseph Housler came from Monmouth county, N.J., and settled at the mouth of North creek temporarily. He then took up a tract of land for himself - did settler's duty, as it was termed, which was simply a compliance with the conditions imposed by the owners of the land, and had his land deeded to him. He was the first permanent settler in the town of Rich Valley. His sons were Abraham, Joseph; Aden, John and William, not the parties of the name now hiving there, except John and William, the others being dead. The present Joseph, Aden and Nathan are the sons of Abraham, and grandsons of the original settler. John and William, who are alive, and are here today, are sons of the first settler, and accompanied him when he came from New Jersey. In the year 1818 Robert and William Lewis came from New Jersey and settled also in the town of Rich Valley, Robert, on land now owned and occupied by A.K. Morton, and William, where Humphrey Lewis now lives. Robert was the father of Robert and Benjamin and John F., both now deceased, also of James, Philip and Morris, who still survive. William Lewis was father of the present William Lewis, living at the mouth of Clear creek. In 1816 Col. Elihu Chadwick, whom we have seen was the agent of the Coxe and Griffith lands, and who had already erected a mill at the mouth of North creek, having some time previously removed to this State, came to this settlement and located with his family. His sons were Richard, John, Elihu, Francis J. and Jeremiah. Three of these are living at the present time, and one, Francis J., is at the present time a well-known citizen of the county. From the above- mentioned three families, Rich Valley has been mostly settled.

The next settlement was made up the Portage creek, in 1820, by Hiram Sizer, who came from the State of Massachusetts. His widow still lives on the spot where they first settled fifty- six years ago. She was then a mature matron thirty- four years of age. She is now ninety, and perhaps the oldest person in Cameron county. Her recollection of those early times is quite good and she tells with a great deal of earnestness the story of the privations and hardships inseparably associated with a pioneer life. The next year, Brewster Freeman, Jr., settled at what is now called Prestonville. Six or seven years subsequently, Zenos C. Cowley came to the same place, from whom the name of Cowley's run was derived. Samuel Bliss settled on the place now occupied by Lucien B. Jones. A Mr. Rice also soon settled up in the neighborhood of the salt works. Isaac Burlingame came to the settlement about sixteen years after the Sizers moved there, and William Ensign, Sr., still later; others kept coming and going, till finally that branch has become pretty well settled up to the salt- works, a distance of nine miles from the mouth.

West creek was not settled for a long time after the other places we have noted had been occupied. The brothers, John and Benjamin Morrison, moved up the stream in 1844, and cleared farms; Adam Armstrong also cleared a farm in the vicinity. In 1841 William Gwin and Windell Bartholomew made clearings up near the Beechwood station. Squire Nelson and his good wife settled on the first fork of the Sinnemahoning about 1822, when Coudersport, the county seat of Potter county, consisted of three houses, and the nearest point on the Sinnemahoning was forty miles away. They occupied a house midway between Coudersport and Sinnemahoning, it being a wilderness in all directions, except a path on the banks of the creek to its mouth. The Squire states that more than once in his time he was compelled to go to the mouth of the first fork for flour, which he carried home on his back. In making the trip to and from his home, he crossed the creek seventeen times going down and eleven times coming back. He had a small piece of ground in the wilderness, on which he and his good wife had a cabin and barn. Any morning he could take his old flintlock, go to the edge of the clearing and secure one of the largest bucks or an elegant doe in twenty minutes time, and if his taste ran not in that direction and was inclined for trout, in an hour's time he could catch enough to last a week. William Nelson also moved up the stream and occupied the house now owned and occupied by the Sanford brothers, where his son David was born in 1842. The Sanfords moved up there about 1842.

Having given a sketch of the settlement of the various parts of the county, we shall further notice a few more names of persons who came in at an early date and joined interest with those already there. Hugh Coleman came to the Second Fork about 1820. He had three sons: John, Jacob and Washington. The first is still living at that place and for years was the proprietor of the land first occupied by Overturf, one of the very first settlers. David Bailey, father of James Bailey, recently deceased, settled in the year on the ground now occupied and owned by Reuben Collins. He was a millwright, and built a mill on the spot which was largely patronized in that early day. In 1820 he removed to the First Fork and assisted in the settlement of that section. Benjamin Brooks, brother to John Brooks, also about the same time settled up the Fork. George and Henry Lorshburgh, in 1822, moved upon the First Fork. Edmund Huff came to the country about the year 1822, married a daughter of John Spangler, in 1823, who still lives and is present today. He settled finally in the year 1827 on land about three miles below Emporium on the Driftwood branch. The parties who settled the country first were, as we must have seen from the brief account given, mostly men of uncommon energy. This and a love for adventure, as well as the desire to procure for themselves and families a home, led them to these mountain wilds. They were in some respects rude and uncultivated, many of them, but they were hospitable to strangers and neighborly toward each other.

The immigrants made their entrances by the Indian paths on foot or on horseback, or by canoes or Indian boats propelled against the current by setting poles. These boats or canoes were manned by a bowman and a steersman, who, by placing their poles with steel- pointed sockets upon the bottom of the stream threw their weight upon the poles thus placed, and by frequent and repeated processes and propulsions (guiding the boat at the same time) often made fifteen to twenty- five miles a day against the current with a cargo of three- quarters to one ton weight in their boats. On some occasions, in case of low water in the streams, the boat's crew would be compelled to remove the gravel and fragments of rock from the line of their course, and wade for miles at a time, carrying and dragging their boats forward by their almost superhuman strength; such frequent exercises developed an unusual vigorous muscle, and. it would seem fabulous to relate .the extraordinary feats frequently performed by these athletics of pioneer life.

The early settlers were a hardy, active, energetic, go-ahead class of people, hailing mostly from eastern and middle Pennsylvania, from the State of New Jersey, and from New England States. As a class they were rude, yet honest in their dealings; though boorish, they were hospitable and generous. The first settlers in America brought with them the traditions of Europe, and the fearful condemnations for witchcraft began at Salem, in 1692. Three children of Rev. Dr. Parris complained of being tortured by witches. The excitement soon spread, and others, both adults and children, complained of being bewitched, and accused those against whom they held some pique. Rev. Cotton Mather, Rev. Mr. Noyes, of Salem, and the president of Harvard College, and many others, encouraged arrests, the result of which twenty persons were executed in one year, being suspected of witchcraft, while many others were banished. Some of the pioneers of this county, in order to protect themselves from witchery, would burn hens' feathers, and assafoetida, for incense, and shoot silver slugs at rude drawn portraits of those who were suspected of witchcraft. A kind of lunacy also prevailed to some extent; potatoes and other vegetables were planted in the moon, or rather when the horns of the moon indicated the proper time. Houses were roofed when the horns of the moon were down, so that the shingles would not cap and draw the nails; fences were laid, when the horns of the moon were up, that the rails might not sink into the ground, and the medicinal wants of these primitive people were not administered to in any degree in accordance with the practice of more modern times.

The early settlers were for a long time compelled to bring all their supplies from Big Island in canoes. Lock Haven did not then exist. Three men named Moran, Hugh Penny and McKnight kept store at "Big Island," who used to furnish the settlers with their supplies and take their timber rafts as pay. The nearest store in 1820 was six miles above Clearfield town, and kept by John Irvin. Notwithstanding the store at Big Island, though more remote, was for most purposes most convenient to trade with. Being along the river it could be reached with the canoes, and besides for the same reason it was easier to convey the timber in exchange.

A considerable amount of whisky was consumed, and a canoe was not considered properly laden unless at least one barrel of the stimulant was among the stores. The trip up was generally made lively by its cheering influence. The article was then, as now, potent in its influence over the hearts of men. He who had a bottle of whisky in his hands and a barrel in his canoe possessed the open sesame to every heart and every house. They were also compelled to convey their grain in the same manner down the river to Linden, near Williamsport, to be ground, and then pole it back again to their residences, nearly 100 miles. Some used hand- mills for their corn, and in time small grist- mills were established at various places in the county. The first grist- mill erected within the limits of the county was located near the mouth of Clear creek, about 1811. It had no bolt attached to it. The same year Col. Chadwick built his saw- and grist- mill at the mouth of North creek. This had a good bolt attached, and is said to have made good flour.

Then followed Earl's mill at the confluence of West creek with the main branch. Then McKisson's, at Hunt's run, Bailey's, at the grind- stone bridge, Sterling's, at Sterling run, and Wyckoff's, below Sinnemahoning, also Sizer's, up the Portage. These small mills did good service by way of grinding corn, but scarcely attempted to grind wheat, although in time Sizer did this successfully. But, with even this accommodation, for a long while the difficulty of reaching these mills was an inconvenience that to us would be simply intolerable. Seneca Freeman has, while living on the First Fork at the mouth of the East Fork, carried sixty pounds of corn meal upon his back, repeatedly, from Earl a mill to his home, a distance of twenty- two miles. Long after those early beginnings, the Sanfords have done the same, carrying upon their backs, to and fro, a grist to the Sizer mill from their present residence. Sometimes the supply has been so low with some families that they were compelled to subsist upon sap- porridge, as it was termed, which was simply the sap boiled down and thickened with corn meal. One old lady has stated that on one occasion she had company and nothing to supply the table with but beet tops boiled as greens. But, she added, "we were happy as could be," showing that the "contented mind is a continual feast." The same necessity existed for economy with regard to clothing as with food. Another individual asserts that on one occasion he attended a wedding party at Driftwood, when fourteen of the guests wore buckskin pants, and they were all "happy too." One pair of shoes a year, of coarse material, was about all the wealthiest parent could afford his sons or daughters.

The woods, however, abounded with game, and the waters with fish, and it was seldom that any family need go without a plentiful supply of fresh meat or fish for the table. Deer, elk and bear were very plentiful. Numerous parties have related their seeing as many as twenty elk in a lick at once, and some as many as fifty or a hundred. A good hunter could kill several in one herd, and thus in a short time furnish sufficient meat for several families. Robert Richey on one occasion told of a hunt he with some others had at night on the Driftwood branch, not far below Emporium, when the deer were so thick in the stream that one of them actually jumped into the canoe in which several of the hunters were, and was taken alive.

Before David Crow moved to Smethport from Emporium, he was the only one in that section who owned a horse or colt. On one occasion Jim Lewis, it is alleged, was watching a salt- lick, and in the darkness Squire Crow's colt came along, when Lewis killed the animal, thinking it was a deer. A year or two later Jim experienced religion, and, wishing to be on the right side of the squire, confessed to the fact of killing the colt. The squire, who had a harelip, and consequently an uneasy manner of speaking, said, "Can you prove it?" Lewis replied, "I did it squire;" but the squire would not accept the statement, saying that Jim was such a liar, proof should be given.

F.W. Conable, referred to in the history of the Methodist Church of Emporium, left behind him a graphic description of life on the Sinnemahoning in 1839, when Amos Worcester and wife came with him. He found here blockhouses, some being two- story dwellings. At Pine Street (Sterling) was a Presbyterian log building, and another at Youngwoman's Town, both deserted by the Presbyterian evangelist and people. The new corners used them unceremoniously, and in 1840 claimed fifteen or twenty appointments in their wide mission. On an island in the river, near the present town of Emporium, lived Mr. Hollen, whose son, Samuel, was a local preacher. John Shaffer, another member, lived near Pine Street meeting house, in his two- story Methodist tavern; John Ellis lived near Hollen's house, and William Lane, an English blacksmith, at East Fork, who ?had his little daughter to blow and strike for him until her brother grew strong enough for the work. John Chadwick lived, at Shippen, and Richard Chadwick at Smethport, while the Shaffers of First Fork, the Logues, Berfields and Bairds also resided within the mission.

Early in the "thirties" William Lewis (****), of Shippen, tracked a wolf to his rocky den, and then called on Ben. Freeman to assist in the capture. The latter was left at the mouth of the cave to shoot the animal, while Lewis entered to hunt him out. After a long creep through the darkness, Lewis saw the glaring eyes of the animal, but on went the hunter, until the scared wolf jumped past him, only to be shot by Freeman Lewis, proceeding farther, caught two whelps, and carried them home.

In 1832, when the salt works were running on Portage creek, a strong lumberman named Magee, went to the deer lick, a mile from the works, to watch for deer. Looking from his blind in the early evening, he saw two gleaming eyes among the lower branches of a tree not far away. Thinking it was a wildcat he took steady aim, fired, and in an instant he saw the body of a huge panther fall to earth. Without halting he fled to the works. Returning with help next morning, the men found the panther dead, the largest ever known in this section of Pennsylvania. George Parker, who resides three miles above Sizer's springs, killed 3,000 deer, 300 elk, 10 panthers, 150 black bears and other game, with a gun which he purchased in 1839. This was exclusive of his heavy hunting here in earlier years.

The capture of Connelly and Lewis was made about four miles up the Driftwood branch, on the Brooks and Smith farms, now owned by William Nelson and William G. Huntley, near the Huntley station, in the latter part of June, 1820. The sheriff of Centre county, with a posse of twelve armed men, were dispatched in pursuit of the robbers (who were declared outlaws) with authority to capture them, dead or alive. Passing into Clearfield county, where the mother of Lewis lived with her second husband, and through the mountains to Bennett's branch, where a brother of David Lewis resided, and about eighteen miles up the same, and not finding any track of the fugitives the pursuers descended the branch, and the Sinnemahoning to Grove creek, where they met with one David Brooks who had come that morning from his father a on the Driftwood, who informed the posse that two strangers bearing the description of the robbers were seen going up the Driftwood branch. They turned in pursuit, taking Brooks' with them as a guide. After having reached Tanglefoot run, about a half mile below the residence of Samuel Smith, they met William Shephard, who lived at the mouth of Bennett's branch, and who was on his way home from Smith's, where he had been all forenoon with a party, including Connelly and Lewis, firing at a target and indulging in potations of old rye, alternately with draughts of protoxide of hydrogen, a very delicious beverage, and one indispensable to maintain the equilibrium of seventy- five per cent of those who imbibe. Obtaining advices of the whereabouts of the robbers, they detailed Shephard to return to Smith's, and to privately inform him, so that he might keep his family in the house and avoid danger, while Brooks was detailed to conduct the posse, by a path through the woods, to a point on the summit of a hill commanding Smith's residence, and about one hundred feet therefrom. Shephard arriving at the house about the time some one called "treat," and delayed his message to gulp a bumper or two, when he perceived a motion in the bushes at the top of the hill, he wildly and with gesticulations exclaimed: "Take care of yourselves, the sheriff and his men are here," upon which the whole posse charged down the hill firing as they ran. Connelly seized his gun when the alarm was given, Lewis surrendered, and was shot in the arm afterward. Connelly was shot in the abdomen; he bounded across the field and the river, loping the fences until, having reached the potato field of Benjamin Brooks, on the opposite side of the river, he wheeled about, presenting his gun through the fence toward his pursuers, saying: "Gentlemen, I will have shot about with you." His gun was, however, unloaded, and he had dropped his ammunition. He soon retreated a few rods into the bushes, and was lost from sight. His pursuers, who had maintained a respectful distance, at length appeared with gun in hand, approaching the residence of Benjamin Brooks (an old Revolutionary soldier), who met them in the front yard, demanding of them an explanation of the cause of such demonstrations, upon which the party briefly related the history of the adventure. After the party had very circumspectly reconnoitered the situation without advancing into the copse, they concluded that the wounded robber had made his escape up the mountain, and as they were about abandoning further search, one of the party, when about retiring, observed a glimpse of the clothing of the wounded man through the bushes, where they found him asleep, being faint and exhausted from loss of blood, he having crawled into the top of a large red oak tree, which had been recently blown down by the storm.

Procuring a bed- sheet and pillow from Mrs. Brooks, they carried the wounded man into a canoe, which they had procured of one of the neighbors for the purpose, and having placed both robbers therein, they descended the Sinnemahoning and the west branch, stopping at some point on the river over night, where they left the wounded men lying in the water in the canoe, keeping guard over them, and on the next day arrived at some of the farm houses, where the city of Lock Haven is now situate, and from thence they assayed to convey the prisoners by wagon to Bellefonte. Connelly, however, died at Carskadden, near the scene of his last robbery, on July 3, 1820, and David Lewis died in the Bellefonte jail, from gangrene, during the month. John Brooks, who relates the above incident, is the only living witness of the fight.

(*) Elihu Chadwick was appointed lieutenant- colonel of the Third Regiment vice James Green promoted from Monmouth county, N.J. Richard Chadwick states that this commission was signed by Washington. His memorandum of Revolutionary affairs, in 1779, refers to the landing of the British and refugees near Sandy Hook, June 10, and the manner in which Capt. Jeremiah Chadwick and Lieut. Elihu Chadwick struck their trail while reconnoitering on the 11th, sent for help to the camp of the Continentals, drove the British to their boats, then poured in such a fire as to force them to take refuge under the banks, and after a terrible battle conquered.

(**) Lydia Crow Freeman, born in Hampden county, Mass., in 1801, came with her father, David Crow, in 1816, married Seneca Freeman in 1818, died December 2, 1886.

(***) Marianne Freeman, who died at Richard Chadwick's house, in Rich Valley, August 11, 1888, was born in Connecticut, January 17, 1807. She came with her father, Brewster Freeman, to Emporium in 1817, settling where Judge Wiley resides, and was the last survivor of this family. Her grandmother, Margaret (Brewster) Freeman, was a great- granddaughter of Brewster, who came to Plymouth Rock in 1623.

(****) William Lewis, who died May 6, 1889, took with him a man named Brighton, to hunt down a panther which he had previously discovered in a rock crevice two miles south of Emporium. Entering the den, he left Brighton outside to give battle to the panther, and so well did the guard do his duty that the mother panther fell dead, leaving the daring hunters to take home five cubs. The time of this occurrence is placed at about 1813.

Source: Page(s) 819-835, History of Counties of McKean, Elk and Forest, Pennsylvania. Chicago, J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.
Transcribed January 2006 by Nathan Zipfel for the Cameron County Genealogy Project
Published 2006 by the Cameron County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project


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