Aldrich History Project

Chapter VIII

Organization of the County

Erection of the County--Boundaries--An Error--Jurisdiction of Centre County Officers Extended Over this County--The Governor's Order--Proceedings of the Commissioners--County Seat Fixed at Clearfield--Election Districts--Return of Taxables--The First Townships--Population--Act of 1812--The Civil Organization Completed--Subsequent Townships--Erection of Elk County--Townships taken from Clearfield County.

Clearfield county was created by an act of the Legislature, passed on the 26th day of March, 1804. At the same time, and by the same act, five other counties were created, viz.: Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga, and Cambria. That portion of the act relating to the erection and boundaries of Clearfield county is as follows:

"Sect. III. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That so much of the county of Lycoming, included in the following boundaries, to wit: Beginning where the line dividing Cannon's and Brodhead's district strikes the west branch of the Susquehanna River; thence north along the said district line until a due west course from thence will strike the southeast corner of McKean county; thence west along the southern boundary of McKean county to the line of Jefferson county; thence southwesterly along the line of Jefferson county to where Hunters district line crosses Sandy Lick Creek; thence south along the district line to the Canoe Place on Susquehanna River; thence an easterly course to the southwesterly corner of Centre county, on the heads of Mushanon Creek; thence down the Mushanon Creek, the several courses thereof to its mouth; thence down the west branch of Susquehanna River to the place of beginning, be, and the same is hereby erected into a separate county, to be henceforth called Clearfield county, and the place of holding the courts of justice in and for the said county, shall be fixed by the Legislature at any place which may be most beneficial and convenient for the said county."

There is an undoubted error in the section above quoted, wherein it states that only "so much of the county of Lycoming, etc.," shall be erected into a separate county. Lycoming county embraced the territory that lay north and west of the West Branch, while the lands between the Mushanon and the West Branch were, at the time of the enactment, in Huntingdon county. To have been correct, the section should have read, "That so much of the Counties of Lycoming and Huntingdon included without the following boundaries, to wit, etc."

Under section seven of the same act provision was made for the appointment of three commissioners by the governor, to run the line and mark the boundaries of the county.

By section eight, "That as soon as it shall appear by an enumeration of the taxable inhabitants within the counties thus created, that any of them according to the rates which shall then be established for apportioning the representation among the several counties of the Commonwealth, shall be entitled to a separate representation, provision shall be made by law for apportioning the said representation, and enabling such county to be represented separately, and to hold the courts of justice at such place in said county as is, or hereafter may be, fixed for holding the same by the Legislature, and to choose their county officers in like manner as the other counties of this Commonwealth." The next section provided that the governor be required to appoint three suitable persons for trustees, who shall receive proposals in writing for the grant or conveyance of any lands within the county, or the transfer of any other property, or the payment of any money for the use of said county, for fixing the place of holding courts of justice in the county.

Section eleven provides, "That for the present convenience of the inhabitants of said counties of Clearfield and McKean, and until an enumeration of the taxable inhabitants of the said counties shall be made, and it shall be otherwise directed by law, the said counties of Clearfield and McKean shall be, and the same are hereby annexed to the county of Centre, and the jurisdiction of the several courts of the county of Centre, and the authority of the judges thereof shall extend over, and shall operate and be effectual within said counties of Clearfield and McKean."

The above quotations from the acts of the Legislature are made for the purpose of correcting an erroneous impression that has existed in the minds of many persons that this county was formerly a part of Centre county; and for the further purpose of making known just how far and in what manner the interests of this county were identical with those of Centre. A question arose, however, as to whether the jurisdiction of justices of the peace of Centre county were, by the act, intended to extend over Clearfield county. This question was settled by a further act passed March 25, 1805, which declared that the jurisdiction of justices of the peace did not extend over this county in cases of debts or demands.

An act supplemental to the act of March 26, 1804, was passed on the 14th day of March, 1805, whereby it was provided that the power and authority of the commissioners and other county officers of Centre county, should extend over and be as full and effectual in this county, as if it were a component part of Centre county; and that the inhabitants of this county were entitled to exercise and enjoy the same rights and privileges, and to be subject to the same regulations as if this were in fact a part of Centre county. And further, that the commissioners, treasurer, and recorder of deeds of Centre county, should keep separate books of the affairs of this county.

Section four of the act provides, "That the county of Clearfield shall be an election district and the electors thereof shall hold their general elections at the house of Benjamin Jordon, in the said district, and shall be entitled to vote for members of the Federal and State Legislatures, sheriffs, commissioners, and other county officers for Centre county." This election district, comprising the whole county, was known as "Chincleclamousche." In pursuance of the authority vested in him by the act of April 4, 1805, the governor issued to the commissioners the following order:

"Pennsylvania, ss.

{ Place of the }

{ Great Seal. }

"Thomas McKean. In the name and by the authority of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Thomas McKean, Governor of the said Commonwealth

"To Roland Curtin, of the County of Centre, John Fleming, of the County of Lycoming, and James Smith, of the County of ......


"Sends Greeting.

"Whereas, In and by an Act of the General Assembly of this Commonwealth, dated the 4th day of April, instant, it is amongst other things provided, that the Governor shall be authorized and empowered to appoint three disinterested Commissioners, who do not reside or own any land in the County of Clearfield, which Commissioners, or a majority of them, shall meet at the house of Benjamin Patton in the town of Bellefonte, on the twentieth day of May next, and from thence proceed to view and determine on the most eligible and proper situation for the seat of Justice and public buildings for the County of Clearfield.

"Now Know Ye, That having full confidence in your integrity, judgment and abilities, I have appointed, and by these Presents I do appoint you the said Roland Curtin, John Fleming and James Smith, Commissioners for the purpose aforesaid; Hereby requiring you and each of you, with all convenient dispatch to proceed in the execution of the trust in you reposed as aforesaid, and to make a full and accurate report in writing, into the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, on or before the first Monday of December next.

"Given under my Hand and the Great Seal of the State at Lancaster, this Sixth day of April Anno Domini, 1805, and of the Commonwealth the twenty-ninth.

"By the Governor. T. M. THOMPSON,

"Secretary of the Commonwealth."

By virtue of the authority vested in them, the commissioners met at the house of Benjamin Patton, in Bellefonte, on the 2oth day of May, 1805, and received several proposals for the purpose intended. They then visited the county and proceeded to view the several localities before finally determining the place of locating the county buildings. They visited the lands of Paul Clover, near the present borough of Curwensville, and those at the junction of Clearfield Creek and the West Branch. The latter were in dispute, being claimed by one Samuel Boyd, a colored man. They also viewed the lands of Martin Hoover, between Chincleclamousche and Curwensville, about where Wright's nursery is now located; but Hoover thought the lands were more valuable for farming purposes, and would not part with them. The site was finally fixed upon lands of Abraham Witmer, a resident of Lancaster, on the place where the borough of Clearfield now stands, and on which the Indian town of Chincleclamousche formerly stood. For the proposed erection Abraham Witmer donated one town lot for the court-house, one for the jail, one for a market lot, and three for an academy. He also contributed three thousand dollars, one-half of which was to be used in the erection of the public buildings, and the other half for the academy or public school in said town. For the performance of the above covenant or donation, Witmer made and executed a bond as follows: "Know all men by these presents, That I, Abraham Witmer, of Lancaster township, in the county of Lancaster, and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, am held and firmly bound unto Roland Curtin, John Fleming and James Smith in the sum of Ten Thousand dollars lawful money of the United States, to be paid to the said Roland Curtin, John Fleming and James Smith, or either of them, their or either of their attorneys, heirs, executors, administrators or assigns. To which payment well and truly to be made, I bind myself, my heirs, executors and administrators firmly by these presents. Sealed with my seal, dated the Fifth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five. Whereas Thomas W. McKean, Esquire, Governor of Pennsylvania, by Letters under the Great Seal of this Commonwealth, dated at Lancaster the sixth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five, appointed Roland Curtin, John Fleming and James Smith, or a majority of them, Commissioners for the purpose of viewing and determining on the most eligible and proper situation for the seat of justice and public buildings in and for the county of Clearfield.

"And Whereas, by an act of the General Assembly of this Commonwealth, dated the fourth day of April in the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and five, it is made the duty of the Commissioners so to be appointed, to take assurances by deed, bond or otherwise, of any lands, lots, monies or other property which hath been or may be offered for the use and benefit of the said county, either for the purpose of erecting public buildings, the support of an academy or other public use. And Whereas, the aforesaid Commissioners in pursuance of the power given them for that purpose, have determined and fixed on for the purpose aforesaid, a certain tract or parcel of land, the property of the said Abraham Witmer. And whereas the said Abraham Witmer both agreed to sell and convey in such a manner and to such person or persons as may be hereafter legally appointed for that purpose, one lot in said town for the purpose of having a court-house erected thereon, one for a jail, one for a market house, three for an academy and two pieces of ground for the public.

"And the said Abraham Witmer further agrees and engages to give his bond or other security as may be required to such person as may be authorized to receive the same for the payment of Three Thousand dollars on the first day of May, which will be in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twelve, one-half thereof to be applied for the use of an academy or public school in said town and one-half for the purpose of erecting public buildings in said town.

"Now the condition of the foregoing obligation is such, that if the before bounden Abraham Witmer, his heirs, executors, administrators or assigns shall from time to time, and at all times do keep and perform the aforesaid undertakings and agreements on his part, then and in such case the above obligation to be void and of none effect, otherwise to be and remain in full force and virtue.


"Signed, sealed and delivered

in the presence of us,



The report of the commissioners was duly made to the governor as soon as the location was fixed. The original report that should be among the old records at Harrisburg has been reported as lost, but fortunately, a certified copy was found at Clearfield among the papers of one of the attorneys of the place. It is as follows: " Sir,--By virtue of an act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, entitled, 'An act authorizing the appointment of Commissioners to fix upon a proper site for the seat of justice in Clearfield county.'

"We, the subscribers, appointed by his excellency the Governor, agreeable to the provisions of the above mentioned act, passed on the tenth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five,--Report, That agreeable to the provisions of the above mentioned act, we met at the house of Benjamin Patton in the town of Bellefonte, on the twentieth day of May, one thousand eight hundred and five, and after receiving the different proposals made by several persons, proceeded to view and determine on the most eIigible and proper situation for the seat of justice and public buildings for the said county of Clearfield, and do find that the old town of Chincleclamouse in the said county (the property of Abraham Witmer of the township of Lancaster in the county of Lancaster and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) situated on the south side of the west branch of the Susquehanna river in the county aforesaid, is the most eligible and proper situation for the seat of justice and public buildings in the said county; and that we have laid out the said town; (a plan of which is attached to the report); and we also further report that we have received from the said Abraham Witmer, his bond, which is hereto annexed for the conveyance of certain lots and the payment of certain sums of money at the time and for the purpose therein mentioned.

"We are with respect your humble servants,






The proceedings of the General Assembly, following and relating to the report of the above commissioners, confirmed their report, as follows: The commissioners appointed by this act fixed the place of holding the courts, etc., on lands of Abraham Witmer, at Chingleglamouch, old town, on the west branch of Susquehanna, and the new county town is now laid out and called Clearfield.

The entire territory embraced by the boundaries of the county was, by an order of the Quarter Sessions of Centre county, in August, 1804, formed into an election district known as Chincleclamousche, and the elections were appointed by the Legislature to be held at the house of Benjamin Jordan, familiarly known as "Grand-dad Jordon."

The first enumeration of taxable inhabitants in the county, made after its organization, showed a total of one hundred and four, of which number sixteen were single freemen. There were returned for taxation twenty-one thousand seven hundred and sixteen acres of land, seventy horses, one hundred and twenty cows, thirty-seven oxen, two grist-mills and two saw-mills. The counties of Lycoming, Centre, Clearfield, McKean, Tioga, and Potter, were found to have an aggregate of four thousand five hundred taxables, and were thereby entitled to one member of the State Senate. Centre, Clearfield, and McKean counties were, on the number of taxables returned, entitled to one member of the House of Representatives.

In December, 1806, the commissioners of Centre county, having jurisdiction by law over the county of Clearfield, by their warrant under their hands commanded Alexander Read, assessor of the township of Chincleclamousche, to take an account of all the freemen and the personal property made taxable by law, together with a just valuation of the same, and also a valuation of all trades and occupations subject to taxation, and to return the same to the said commissioners at Bellefonte on or before the 28th day of January, 1807.

The following list will show the names of the taxable inhabitants of Chincleclamousche township, made in compliance with the above warrant: Robert Anderson, Robert Askey, David Allen, Arthur Bell, Greenwood Bell, John Bell, William Bloom, sr., William Bloom, jr., Isaac Bloom, Thomas Bramen, Samuel Beaty, Samuel Beer, Caleb Bailey, John Cook, Robert Cresswell, Paul Clover, Peter Clover, Nicholas Cline, John Cline, John Crea, Hugh Carson, Samuel Cochran, John Carothers, George Cowhart, Benjamin Carson, Jude Cunningham, John Crowell, John Coulter, Robert Collins, Anne Deal, John Dennis, William Dunlap, Caleb Davis, Alexander Dunlap, Peter Erhard, Nun England, Samuel Ewing, Benjamin Fenton, John Ferguson, Valentine Flegal, David Flegal, Henry Fye, Hugh Frazier, John Finall, William W. Feltwell, John Gearhart, Abraham Goss, Robert Graham, James Gallagher, Samuel Green, Martin Hoover, Frederick Haney,John Hall, Abraham Hess, George Hunter, Hugh Hall, Benjamin Hartshorn, William Hanna, William Hepburn, Dewalt Hess, Henry Irwin, Hugh Jordon, John Jordon, Benjamin Jordon, John Hiler, Andrew Kephart, Henry Kephart, Conrad Kyler, Leonard Kyler, Thomas Kirk, David Ligat, David Lewis, Thomas Lewis, Joseph Leonard, David Litz, Jane Lathers (Lewis), Abraham Leonard, William Leonard, James McCracken, Thomas McClure, Thomas McCracken, Joseph McCracken, Robert McCormick, John Moore, Thomas Mapes, James McCracken, jr., Robert Maxwell, Robert McCracken, Thomas McGee, Daniel Ogden, Matthew Ogden, John Owen, Joab Ogden, Joseph Patterson, Absalom Pierce, Abraham Passmore, William Robinson, Isaac Ricketts, Edward Ricketts, Alexander Read, sr., Alexander Read, jr., George Reynolds, Nicholas Straw, Benjamin Smeal, Nicholas Smeal, George Shimmel, John Shirley, Elisha Schofield, Christian Straw, Francis Severns, William Tate, Samuel Turner, William Underwood, George Wilson, John Weld, John Welch, George Welch, Jacob Weiser, John Weiser, Thomas Winters, George Williams, Peter Young.

The following were the single freemen of the county: Joseph McCracken, Robert McCracken, James McCracken, Andrew Beer, jr., Robert Maxwell, Peter Clover, John Kyler; Conrad Kyler, jr., Samuel Jordon, Thomas Kirk, James Kirk, James Carson, Lewis Lewis, James Dunlap, John Welch, James Gallowny, Job England, Robert Howey, Andrew Bean, Daniel McCracken, David Flegal, George Haney, David Dunlap, James Dunlap, Solomon Cline, SamuelJordon, Samuel Boyd, Thomas Kirk, Thomas Read, John Conneway.

In 1807 the township of Chinclelcamousche was divided, and that part east and south of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River was formed into two new townships--Bradford and Beccaria. The former was so named in honor of Hon. William Bradford, who was attorney-general of the State from 1780 to 1791, and who was afterward made Supreme Court judge. The township embraced the territory in the county east of Muddy Run to its mouth, and from thence was bounded by Clearfield Creek to its mouth. The West Branch formed the northern boundary and the Moshannon the eastern boundary. Beccaria was named in honor of an eminent jurist and philanthropist who was instrumental in reforming the criminal law. This township was bounded north by Little Clearfield Creek from its mouth to its source, and a line drawn from thence to the West Branch at the mouth of Chest Creek. The West Branch formed the west boundary; the Cambria county line the south, and Clearfield Creek from the mouth of Little Clearfield to the mouth of Muddy Run, and the latter from its mouth to the Cambria county line formed the east boundary. The remaining territory south and east of that river, north of Little Clearfield and west of Clearfield Creek, together with all the lands in the county north and west of the West Branch, still remained and was known as Chincleclamousche township.

An act of Assembly passed March 28, 1808, provided that the townships of Beccaria and Bradford in the county of Clearfield, and all that part of Half Moon township of Centre county which lay west of the Allegheny Mountains, be erected into a separate election district, and the electors shall hold their general elections at the house occupied by John Gearhart.

The next enumeration of taxables gave Chincleclamousche one hundred and eleven, Bradford thirty-six, and Beccaria twenty-eight; in all a total of one hundred and seventy-five for the county.

The population of the county in the year 1810 was, white males, four hundred and thirty-seven; white females, four hundred and three; negroes, thirty-seven; a total of eight hundred and seventy seven.

The next step toward the complete civil organization of the county, after the act creating it, in the year 1804, was accomplished in the year 1812, when the General Assembly passed a law, January 28th, providing that the electors of the county be authorized to choose commissioners at the ensuing election in October, and that the powers and authority of the commissioners of Centre county over Clearfield county cease and determine, except, however, the provision relating to the selection of jurors, in which case the commissioners of Centre county still retained jurisdiction in this county.

The limited or abridged organization of the county was made full and complete by the law passed and approved January 29th, 1822, by which Clearfield county became entitled to all the rights and privileges of the other counties of the State, and authorizing courts to be held therein, the Courts of Common Pleas, Quarter Sessions, and such other courts as by law were authorized. The first term of court was appointed to be held on the third Monday of October, following. All suits theretofore commenced by persons in the county, and then pending, were transferred from Centre to Clearfield county, but until a proper jail was erected, all prisoners were, by the act, to be kept in the jail at Bellefonte.

Power to select jurors was now taken from the Centre county commissioners and vested in those of Clearfield. The act further provided that the county should be attached to the fourth judicial district.

In the year 1813 two other townships were carved out of old Chincleclamousche. Pike and Lawrence were then erected, taking all that remained of the parent township on the south side of the West Branch, and reaching far up into the uninhabited regions on the north side. Pike township was so named in honor of General Zebulon Pike. The first enumeration of taxables made by Samuel Fulton showed an aggregate of seventy-four, of which twelve were single freemen. Lawrence township was named in honor of Commodore Lawrence, a hero of the naval service. Samuel Fulton made the assessment list in this township also, and reported one hundred and six taxables, of which twenty were single freemen.

Covington township was erected in the year 1817, out of Chincleclamoose, and with Gibson, which was created the same year, formed the first townships lying wholly north of the West Branch of the Susquehanna. Gibson lay north of Covington, and was so named in honor of John Bannister Gibson, one of the justices of the Supreme Court, and afterward chief justice of Pennsylvania. This township was partly taken in the formation of Elk county, and the part not taken was added to the townships adjoining.

Sinnamahoning township was erected by a decree of the court dated January 25, 1821. In the month of April following, the name was changed to Fox. This was the last of the townships formed prior to the full organization of the county. It was named in honor of Mr. Fox, a resident of Philadelphia, who owned extensive tracts of land in the county. In 1868, by an act of the Legislature, a part of this township was added to Snyder township, Jefferson county; another part to Horton township, Elk county, and the remaining part to Huston township, of this county. No further reference in the township department of this work will be made, either to Gibson or Fox townships.

Jay township was formed in 1832, by Commissioners A. B. Reed, Martin Nichols and George Wilson, from parts of Fox and Gibson townships. A part of it was taken in the erection of Elk county, and the remaining parts were subsequently annexed to Huston and Lawrence townships; so this township, named by the court in honor of Chief Justice Jay, is entirely lost to the future of the county.

In the year 1823 a Small addition was made to the county by an act of the Legislature which provided for it, authorizing the deputy surveyor-general of Clearfield county to run a line from the mouth of the second run emptying into the West Branch of the Susquehanna from the north side, below "Buttermilch Falls," at true bearing north thirty-five degrees west, to the (then) present county line.

The act erecting Elk county was passed April 18, 1843. The description, as recorded by the act in taking lands from Clearfield county, is as follows: Beginning at the northeast corner of Jefferson county, thence due east about nine miles to the northeast corner of lot number 2328; thence due south to Clearfield county; thence east along said line to the east line of Gibson township; thence south so far that a westwardly line to the mouth of Mead's Run shall pass within not less than fifteen miles of the town of Clearfield; thence west to Little Toby's Creek, etc.

This, with the part taken by the act of 1868, heretofore mentioned, comprise the full extent of lands set off from this county for the formation of other counties. The other townships organized and erected from older ones of the county are as follows: Brady, 1825; Chest, 1826; Decatur, 1828; Burnside, Bell, and Penn were laid out in 1834, and confirmed in 1835; Girard, 1832; Jordon, 1835; Morris in 1836; Boggs in 1838; Ferguson in 1837 or '8, but no record is found of it; Huston, 1839; Karthaus, 1841; Goshen, 1845; Woodward, 1847; Union, 1848; Knox, 1854; Geulich and Graham, 1859; Bloom, 1860; Greenwood, 1875; Sandy, 1878; Bigler, 1883; Cooper, 1884.

Owing to the careless manner in which the early records of the erection of the several townships were kept, it is possible that an error may be found in the foregoing statement, but generally they will be found reliable. A further and more detailed record of the several townships of the county, will be found in the later chapters of this work.


Source: Pages 64-73, History of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1887.
Transcribed May 1999 by Richard L. McKee for the Clearfield County Aldrich Project
Contributed for use by the Clearfield County Genealogy Project (

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