The territory now included within the boundaries of Covington township was prior to the year 1817, a part of Lawrence township. Covington was erected upon the petition of residents of Clearfield county, which was presented to the Quarter Sessions Court at a term held during the month of August, 1816, at Bellefonte, Centre county (Clearfield not having yet acquired a full separate judicial organization), praying for a division of Lawrence township, and for the appointment of viewers to determine upon the advisability of such division. The court appointed William Petrikin, John G. Lowrey and John Mitchell for this purpose, who, after due deliberation, decided to cause the division to be made erecting two townships from out of Lawrence, to be called Covington and Gibson respectively. At the April Sessions, 1817, the report was confirmed and the boundaries of Covington township fixed as follows: "Beginning at the river at the Lycoming county line, thence north to the fifty-mile tree, a corner of surveys Nos. 5417 and 5418, a hemlock; thence west to a maple, a corner of lots Nos. 5348 and 5349; thence south along the line of surveys till it strikes Bald Hill Run, and down the run to the mouth thereof; thence down the river to the place of beginning, and called Covington township."
Inasmuch as Gibson township was formed at the same time, and was apart of the same proceeding, and the further fact of its not now being a recognized township of Clearfield county, a description of its boundary lines and dimensions will be appropriate in this place. Its description according to the report of the viewers was as follows: "Beginning at the fifty-mile tree, a corner of Nos. 5417 and 5418, and a corner of Covington township on the Lycoming county line, thence north to the line of McKean county; thence west along the said line to the east corner of Pike township; thence south to the fifty-mile tree a corner of Lawrence township; thence east to the place of beginning," and to be called Gibson township, and so named in honor of John Bannister Gibson, and eminent lawyer and jurist, who in the year 1816 became one of the justices of the Supreme Court, and in the year 1827, was appointed chief justice of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The territory of Covington as embraced by the boundaries given above were subsequently reduced by the formation of other townships adjoining it on the east and west sides, and although large in respect to area, it was quite small in point of population having, in 1817, not to exceed eighty inhabitants. the enumeration of its taxable inhabitants mad in the year shows a total of but seventeen, and of these two were single freemen. They were as follows Jonathan Deckion, Frederick Geisenhainer, John Hanson, Jacob Michael, John Peters, Andrew Peters, Hugh Rider, William Russell, John Rider, Frederick Rider, Michael Rider, George Rider, J. F. W. Schnars, John Troutman, Harmon Young. The single freemen were John Neff and Michael Rider. By reference to the township history of Karthaus, it will be seen that some of these were named therein as residents of that part of Covington, which in 1841, was set off to the formation of Karthaus township.
Covington, as it is at the present time, is one of the northern tier townships of the county, and like those adjoining it, is decidedly irregular in form, non of its boundaries except the north, being a right line. The township is bounded on the north by Cameron county; east by Karthaus township; south by the Susquehanna river, and west by Girard township. The surface of the land is hilly, broken and irregular, the hills in some localities partaking of the nature of mountains. Over a great portion of the township the rocks dip gradually to the south and east away from the first anticlinal axis, but in the region of Mulsenburg and Central Point, the dip is strongly to the east toward the Karthaus canoe-shaped basin. On Bigleman Run sandstone rock is found at an elevation of over thirteen hundred feet above tide. As a north course from Flood's Hotel is pursued, the rocks are found steadily rising towards the first anticlinal axis, and at a distance of about three miles to a point beyond William Kune's place the conglomerate comes up and forms the country rock. Beyond this point and for a distance of over six miles northward, there is an uninhabited wilderness having no improvements whatever but containing an abundance of excellent timber. Along Mosquito Run and the other streams of sufficient magnitude to furnish water power, there has been carried on extensive lumber operations during the last thirty years, both by residents of the township and speculators from other places. From north to south Covington has an average length of from eleven to twelve miles, while east and west the mean breadth is only about three and one-half miles, aggregating in superficial area bout forty square miles of land. The township is well watered and drained; on the south by the West Branch and its tributaries, Sandy Creek, Mowry's Run and Rock Run. Sandy is a stream of considerable size and has Bigleman Run as its main tributary, besides others of less magnitude. Mosquito Run, the name being changed from "Little Moshannon" to distinguish it from the larger Moshannon on the south side of the West Branch River, forms the drainage system for the whole northern part of the township, and is furthermore, an important factor in the lumbering trade of the upper region. Sandy runs through the settled part of the township, and along its banks are many fine farms. It, too, is utilized for water privileges as the many sawmills along its course (both past and present), will fully attest.
While it is evident that the earliest settlements in the township were made by those persons whose names are recorded on the roll of taxables, yet no active steps were taken toward improvement, and no material growth in population was accomplished until some twelve or fifteen years later, at which time the French settlements were begun. One John Keating owned an extensive tract of land both in Clearfield and Clinton counties. and as an inducement to attract settlers, he offered to the first twelve persons who should purchase of him fifty acres of land, an addition of twelve acres. This is, however, disputed by some well-informed persons, who state that the twelve acres were added only as an allowance for road purposes, and that the fifty-acre tracts had no allowances. The first persons to locate on the tract, as near as can be ascertained, were Nicholas Roussey and Irene Plubel, who took up lands in the year 1830 on tract number 1939. Both of these pioneers have descendants now living in the township. Plubel died in a few years after coming to the settlement. Roussey died about twenty years ago.
The third of the French settlers in the township was Francis Coudriet, who came during the year 1831, and was followed in the same year by Claude F. Renaud. Coudriet became a prominent personage in the township, and by industry and thrift acquired a large estate. He was the first postmaster at the Frenchville, and held the office about eighteen years. His son, Leon Mitchell Coudriet, is now the postmaster of the town, having held the office since about 1880.
In the year 1832 a number of families came to the settlement, among them Peter Mulson, Hyacinthe Mignot, father of Charles Mignot, of Clearfield; Francis Hugueney, Stephen Hugueney, Peter Brenoel, Augustus Gaulin, father of Captain Peter A. Gaulin, of Clearfield; John B. Fournier, P. Bergey, and possibly others whose names are now forgotten.
During the succeeding year, 1833, there came another party of French immigrants, among them the families of John B. Barmoy, Francis La Motte, Francis Liegey, Francis Garmont, Christopher Bigleman, John Rougeux, T. R. Verbeck, M. Tourail, Francis Rolley, Francis Hugard and others. Alphonso Leconte settled here about the year 1835, and three years later, was followed by his brother, Augustus. They were thorough and enterprising business men, and did much toward improving the township. They moved to the locality afterwards known as Leconte's Mills, in Firard township, where a saw and grist-mill was built and a mercantile business established. The extensive estate left by Augustus Leconte is still owned by his heirs, and by them the business is now managed.
These Keating lands, of which mention has already been made, were very extensive and were not in Covington alone; they extended from Karthaus village west and southwest to a point opposite Millstone Creek. A very elaborate plan of these lands was made in France, showing not only the tract in detail, but containing a full explanation of the route of travel to be pursued in reaching them from New York city to Philadelphia, both by land and water, and thence overland the best and most convenient route into this county as far as Clearfield borough (then town). That part of the lands which were mapped for disposal contained twenty-two thousand acres, and besides this there was a large tract held in reserve.
The first French settlers are said to have reached this country off the coast of Maine, near Portland, where the captain of the ship desired them to land, but their tickets called for a passage to New York city, and the officer was compelled to carry them to that place, which on the map was called the "point of disembarquement."
J. F. W. Schnars acted as agent for the sale of these lands, which sale was commenced in the year 1827, or thereabouts. These French immigrants were, of course, unable to speak English, but were accompanied by an agent, Jacob Weiskopf. The first surveys were made by Charles Treziyulney, a Polish engineer, who became well and favorably known in the county. He was appointed as one of the commissioners to lay out Pike and Lawrence townships in the year 1813, and occupied at various other times positions of trust and importance in the county.
The central point of settlement was in the neighborhood of Frenchville, by which name the locality has always been known and distinguished. It can scarce be called a village as it has no municipal organization whatever, but generally throughout the vicinity are scattered dwellings and improvements, the church, the store, and the saw and grist-mill, giving it whatever of the characteristics of a village the people may claim for it.
It must not be understood that the French occupation and settlement of this township ceased with the arrival of those of whom mention has been made; in fact this was but the commencement, and even to this day there is an occasional arrival fresh from the mother country, and not only by French immigrants, but by Germans and Americans as well. A large majority, however were of French birth or descent, who came from that part of France known as Haute Marne and Haute Saone. As an evidence of the increase of population in the township, it may be stated that the first enumeration of taxables, made in the year 1818, showed a total of only seventeen inclusive of two single freemen, or an equivalent in number of about eighty persons, while the taxable inhabitants as shown by the enrollment for the year 1887, numbers two hundred and twenty-seven, which represents a population of about one thousand persons.
The village or hamlet of Frenchville is situate in the western part of the township, about three and one-half miles north from the river. Sandy Creek passes through the central portion of the settlement.
On the extreme east of the township is another small settlement and postoffice called Keewaydin. It is about like Frenchville in point of improvement, having a church, store, school, tow or three local industries and a hotel, the latter being some distance out and to the west of the village proper. The people are mainly Americans and Germans with an occasional French resident. They, too, have a resident physician in the person of Dr. J. W. Potter who has been a prominent figure in social, professional and political life in the county for many years. The local merchant and postmaster at Keewaydin is M. Kratzer, who enjoys the respect and confidence of the people of the township.
At the present time the chief industry and occupation of the inhabitants of Covington township, is agriculture, although lumbering has been and is now carried on to a considerable extent. The chief operators at an early day were Bigler and Powell, of Clearfield , and Leon M. Coudriet, Augustus and Alphonso Leconte, residents of the township. Francis La Motte purchased a part of the Keating lands on Sandy Creek, on which he built a saw-mill about the year 1837. He afterward erected a grist-mill a short distance further down. These mills are well remembered by the older residents of the locality, Help was scarce and expensive at that time, and, as the proprietor had several strong and worthy daughters, they were put at work in the mills, and it was a frequently observed fact that the lumber manufactured by these fair hands was of the best quality, and so far as even and uniform thickness was concerned their manufacture was not excelled. The property was afterward sole to Francis Coudriet, and the mill twice substantially rebuilt by him. At the time of his death, in 1877, it passed into the hands of Leon M. Coudriet. Francis Coudriet built a grist-mill on Sandy about the year 1864. It was supplied with two run of French burr-stones of fine quality. Leon Coudriet purchased this property at the time of his father's death.
Claude Barmont erected a saw-mill on Sandy about 1845, and operated it for a time. It is now owned and run by F. F. Coudriet, brother of Leon M Coudriet. The Picard mill, so-called, was another of the pioneer industries of the township, built on Sandy Creek by John J. Picard. It was subsequently sold to Leon M. Coudriet, who associated his son and son-in-law with him is its management. The firm of L. M. Coudriet & Co. also had another saw-mill built on Sandy some years ago, on tract no 1891. Above this and on the same tract stood the saw-mill of Liegley & Beausingeaur. Still another know as Leconte's saw-mill was built by Alphonso Leconte in the year 1839, on tract no 1892. He operated it about three years, after which it was sold to Augustus Leconte, and is still a part of his estate.
The Flood mill, at the mouth of Sandy Creek, also takes a place among the pioneer industries of the township, having been built when lumbering was in its infancy. One Lutz had an early interest in it, but it is now owned by Lawrence Flood. Flood is also interested in the hotel business near Keewaydin, having succeeded Mr. Heugeney. this hotel was formerly kept by Solomon Bauder, who sold to Mr. Schnars, the predecessor of Heugeney.
One of the first merchants of Covington was Mr. Alexander, who established a trade near Frenchville about the year 1837. He purchased land from Peter Mulson, oh which his storehouse was built. He was succeeded by the Maurers, who in turn were succeeded by Levi Lutz. The latter was followed by Hagerty & Gaulin, and they by Leon M. Coudriet.
There can be obtained but little data regarding the early educational institutions of the township. A school-house was, however, established near Frenchville about the year 1838. Notwithstanding the fact that but very few of the early French settlers were familiar with the English language, and to this day French is mainly spoken in the vicinity. There has been no French school taught in the township, both parents and pupils preferring to educate themselves in the language of the country rather than the mother tongue. An exception may be made to this statement so far as relates to the parochial school occasionally taught by the priest, and known as the priest's school, wherein the scholars received instruction in the French language.
There are at the present time five established schools in Covington township, known and located as follows : Frenchville, at Frenchville; Mulsonburg, at Mulsonburg; Fairmount, in the southwest part of the township; Mignot, in the west part, and so named in honor of the Mignot family; Union or Central Point, in the northern part of the township.
Irene Plubel came to the vicinity of Frenchville about the year 1831. After having been a resident here for something like a year and a half he was taken ill, and soon after died. During this illness Rev. Father Leavey was called to attend him. This was the first visit by a priest to the township, and on the occasion he said mass at the house of Mr. Plubel. After this, and for several years, the place was occasionally visited by different priests, and mass was said at the houses of Francis Renaud, Peter Mulson, Nicholas Roussey, and also at the house of a German named Schnell. About 1841-2 a priest named Rev. Oriack came to the mission and remained some time, and as the settlement increased, the erection of a church was begun. While the edifice was building Father Oriack said mass at the house of Francis LaMotte, and in the school-house. The church, a log structure, was situate about thirty rods east of the present church site, the spot of its erection being now occupied as a cemetery.
After a short time Father Oriack left, and his place was taken by Rev. Father Berti. He soon went away, after which Rev. Father Prendergast, of Bellefonte, occasionally visited the parish. After him, and early in the 1846, came Father Rauder, but was succeeded after a few months by Rev. John Berbigier, who remained in charge as pastor until the year 1880, but being occasionally called away, his place was supplied at various times by Revs. Joseph Billou, M. A. De La Rouque, C. Berard, and Eugene Cogneville.
In the course of time the old log church became too small for the growing congregation, and was therefore abandoned and a new church commenced. The corner stone was laid by Right Rev. T. Mullen, bishop of the diocese. The edifice, a substantial stone building, stands on an elevated piece of land about ten rods north of the Clearfield and Karthaus road, and is distant from Clearfield twenty miles, and from Karthaus seven miles. The church was dedicated October 8, 1873, by Bishop Mullen.
In the year 1880 Father Berbigier was succeeded by Rev. H. Mullen, who is now the pastor in charge. The congregation is in a decidedly healthful condition, and numbers about two hundred families, residents mainly of Covington township.
The cemetery lot on which the old log church was built comprised two acres of land, and was donated to the society by Francis La Motte; but Mr. Keating, of Philadelphia, the proprietor of an extensive tract of land in this and adjoining townships. reimbursed Mr. La Motte for his gift, and presented to the society a thirty acre tract, on which the present church stands.
The society of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church is practically an offshoot or branch from the Lutheran Church Society, whose house of worship was erected on Karthaus Hill, and was the result of a division of the society, not through dissension, but for the convenience of the members. The corner stone of this church edifice, at Keewaydin, was laid, with appropriate ceremonies, on the 14th day of August, 1869, and during the pastorate of Rev. Samuel Croft. Upon this occasion Rev. Nixdorf assisted. The building committee were: C. Schnars, C. Brown and George Emerick. The church was formally dedicated on the 18th day of December, 1870. The entire cost of the building and furniture for the church was eighteen hundred dollars, all of which was paid or provided for, before the day of dedication.
A substantial parsonage was built on the same lot on which the church stands, the funds therefor being raised by a sale of the old parsonage and property in Karthaus township.
After the resignation of Rev. Croft, the charge remained vacant for about two years, after which Rev. P. B. Sherk became pastor, and served two years. Then followed another vacancy of two years, when Rev. G. W. Stroup was called, and is still pastor, having served the charge since April 1, 1878. The present membership of St. John's church numbers about ninety persons.
Although as yet in a comparatively undeveloped condition, owing almost wholly to the lack of railroad communication with the outside world, there is known to exist in Covington township a rich vein, five feet in thickness, of clean, bright, shining, columnar coal. This bed is opened for home consumption, a short distance east from Lawrence Flood's hotel, at an elevation of fourteen hundred and ten feet above tide. This is distant from Karthaus and its good producing beds only a few miles. A short extension of the Karthaus railroad will reach this point, when Covington, in common with a majority of the other townships of the county, will develop her latent resources and take her place among the rich producing townships of the county.
Source: Pages 501-508, History of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1887.
Transcribed August 1999 by Terry L. Fillow for the Clearfield County Aldrich Project
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