Chapter XVI - Catawissa and Franklin Townships
History of Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania
CATAWISSA was formed from Augusta in 1785, and originally covered the triangular area now embraced in the townships of Beaver, Conyngham, Franklin, Locust, Maine, Muffin, Mayberry, in Montour county, and part of Union, in Schuylkill. Practically, it has been reduced to its present limits by-the formation of Roaringcreek in 1832, Franklin in 1843, and Maine in 1844. It is the oldest political subdivision of the county, having completed the first century of its history.
Authorities differ as to the nationality of the aboriginal tribe which conferred upon the mountain, creek and town their beautiful and euphonious designation. Redmond Conyngham, who has extended his researches intoo everything relating to the primitive history of the region, states that "ThePiscatawese, or Gangawese, or Conoys had a wigwam on the Catawese, at Catawese, now Catawissa." Stewart Pearce asserts that the Shawanese, after successive immigrations from New York to Florida, from there to the Wabash,. and from that region to the Susquehanna valley, established a village at Catawissa in 1697, or about that time. The orthography of the word affords no, additional light on the subject. Catawese occurs in the different dialects of the Shawanese and Delawares, and always with the same meaning, "pure water."The first Europeans who visited Catawissa were not interested in attempting to dissipate the obscurity which involved its primitive history. James La-Tort, an adventurous Indian trader, found the valley of the Susquehanna a profitable field for his operations. The provincial authorities frequently employed him on diplomatic missions to chiefs of the various tribes. In 1728 he bore the governor's compliments to the celebrated Madame Montour and several Delaware chieftains, presenting to each a " strowd match coat " as an expression of continued friendship. The communication in which Le Tort acquainted the executive council with the views of the chiefs, though throwing no light upon local affairs, still possesses special interest, inasmuch as it contains the first mention of any part of Columbia county. It is herewith inserted:
CATAWASSE, May ye 12, 1728.
We always thought the Governor knew nothing of the fight betwene the Shawaynosand the White People. We desire the Governor to warn the back Inhahts Not to be se Ready to attack the Indians, as we are Doubtful they were in that unhappy accedent, and we will use all Endeavaurs to bender any Such Like Proceeding on the part of the Indians. We Remember very well the League between William Pen and the Indians, which was, that the Indians and white people were one, and hopes that his Brother, the present Governor, is of the same mind, and that the friendship was to continue for three-Generations; and if the Indians hurt the English, or theEnglish hurt the Indians, itts the same as if they hurt themselves; as to the Governors Desire of meeting him, we Intend as soon as the Chiefs of the Five Nations Come to meet the Governor, we will Come with them; but if they come not before hereafter, we will to Philadelphia to wait on the Governor. We have beard that William Pen Son was come to Philada., which We was very Glad of. Jsi as Ls TORT.
After the visit of the French trader, the place is not again referred to until 1754, when Conrad Weiser, in a letter from Shamokin, mentions Oskohary, supposed to be identical with the Catwasse of Le Tort, and the Catawissa of the present. Lapackpitton, a Delaware chief who figured prominently in the settlement of disputes at the close of the French war, made his residence at the village, which was known for some time by his name. Local tradition assigns to this dusky warrior the character of " Hunkee Pu kee," in J. W. Alder's " Indian Legend." It appears that Minnetunkee, his daughter, was disposed to encourage the advances of a lover whose prospective position as a member of the family was not received with complacency by her father. On a summer evening he followed them to the summit of an eminence known as " Lovers Leap," and announced his presence in a manner characteristic of Indian nature. The younger brave, mortally wounded by an arrow, fell over the precipice. The plash of the river as the body parted its waters had scarcely subsided when the maiden, with a cry expressive of defiance, triumph and despair, threw herself from the dizzy height, and followed her lover to a watery grave. The sequel harmonizes with generally recognized ideas of the succession of events. The whole tribe removed from a locality rendered to them intolerably sad by this tragic occurrence.
The region of " pure water" did not long remain unoccupied. A number of English Quakers from Maiden creek and Exeter, in Berks county, planted their homes in the Catawissa valley. Following the route generally traveled from Reading to Sunbury, and the valley of the "North Branch" from that point, they finally reached their destination after days of exhausting labor, and nights of weariness and insecurity. The natural advantages of the locality had been early recognized by land-jobbers and others who preferred to be proprietors without being residents. Among those who succeeded to their titles, or established claims as warrantees, were William Collins, William Hughes, James Watson, John Lore, John Mears, Isaiah Willits and John Lloyd. It was between 1774 and 1778 when these persons arrived. Moses Roberts in 1774 built the first house in the vicinity of Catawissa.
Subsequent additions to their number represented a different nationality. Some were Germans, but a few were English. They journeyed on horseback, and followed an Indian trail over the Broad, Blue, Locust and Little mountains. Among those who reached Catawissa in 1782 were Michael Geiger, Joseph McIntyre, John Furry, Thomas Wilkinson, George Huntzinger and Conrad Wamphole. About this time a party of Indians re-established a wigwam at the old site of Lapackpitton's town, greatly to the annoyance of the settlers. Thomas Wilkinson incurred their displeasure by interfering with their fishing operations, and on one occasion was compelled to seek shelter in the river. He Was unable to swim, but waded out into the channel where the depth was sufficient to cover him. He was obliged to raise his head above the water in order to breathe, and whenever he did so, became a target for several practiced Indians who had taken a commanding position on the bluff. Although thus subject to the greatest danger he reached the opposite shore in safety, much to the chagrin of his foes, who thenceforth believed that he bore a charmed life. His explanation to the effect that he was only "gauging the water," created some merriment over the incident, and secured for him the name of " Tom Gauger."
Another occurrance was more tragic and less jocose in its details and re-sults. July 26, 1782, a party of Indians made a descent upon the German settlement, the exposed condition of which invited attack. John Furry had settled on the west side of the river. His family consisted of two daughters and four sons. The three older sons, John, Jonas and Lawrence, were absent, having gone for flour to the mill at Sunbury. On their return they found their parents and sisters killed and scalped. Their mangled remains were interred under an apple tree near the house. The brothers buried their household goods and farming implements in the ground and returned to Reading. The' panic seemed contagious, for several other families became alarmed and fol-lowed them. The sequel of this story would seem to verify the old adage that "Truth is stranger than fiction." Years afterward Jonas and Lawrence Furry were in Montreal, and there formed the acquaintance of Henry Furry, a pros-perous trader. The similarity of names was at once noticed. Mutual ex-planations followed; his indentity as their brother was readily established. He described to them the tragic death of their parents and sisters and the brutal treatment he had received on the journey with his captors to Tioga. At that place he was ransomed by a Frenchman, and treated by him with kindness and consideration.
Notwithstanding the general alarm the Quakers remained, and in 1787 William Hughes laid out the town of " Hughesburg, alias Catawissey, in the-county of Northumberland, state of Pennsylvania, North America," on the "bank of the north-east tract of the river Susquehanna near the mouth of Catawessey creek, about twenty miles above Sunbury and about one-hundred and six miles from Philadelphia." William Gray and John Sene were the sur-veyors. Water, Front, Second, Third and Fourth streets extend east and west, parallel with the course of the river; Lumber, South, Main and Pine cross these, and are named in order from the creek., The proprietor provided that lots were to be disposed of by lottery, and this seems to have been customary, in order to prevent partiality. It does not appear that this was done, for in 1789 John Mears secured titles to sixty-five lots, and became virtual proprietor. It. is well authenticated that William Henry, by virtue of his warrant for its survey in 1769, was the original owner of the tract in which the town plot was embraced; but Edward and Joseph Shippen were the patentees, and from them the title was transferred to Hughes. In 1796 James Watson laid out "Roberts addition," extending Second, Third and Fourth streets, and opening Walnut and North, parallel with Pine.
The size of the town plot was then considerably in advance of its population or business interests, although the latter were of considerable local im-portance. In 1780 Isaiah Willits established a tannery at' the corner of Third. and South streets. Knappenberger and Willits were proprietors of a ferry, and landed their flat where the bridge approaches have since been constructed. George Hughes and William Mears were justices of the peace. The Watson, Jacksons, Lounts, Lloyds and Hayhursts were familiar to the whole community. as substantial, hospitable farmers. In 1774 the first mill in the county was built on the site of the Paxton mill on Catawissa creek. It was a primitive structure and was frequently out of repair; at such time Sunbury was the nearest milling point. In 1789 Jonathan Shoemaker built a grist mill on the north side of this stream. This was then the only mill in a radius of many miles, and at once received an extensive patronage. In 1799 Christian Brobst erected a second ana larger mill a short distance above Shoemaker's. It was completed in 1801, and when a boat began to ply regularly between points on both branches of the Susquehanna, Catawissa became an important and well-known point.
Another circumstance to which this may be attributed was the existence there of a store, one of the first between Sunbury and Wyoming. Isaiah Hughes was proprietor. The building occupied by him is still standing on the riverbank at the foot of South street. The second merchant was Joseph Hoister, whose store was located on Water street several doors below Main. John Clark was its second proprietor. He was a man of courage and determination as may be inferred from the following incident: He was making a journey to Philadelphia on horseback to make his usual purchase of goods when a robber seized the bridle of his horse and summarily demanded his money. The mer-chant was unarmed, but his ready wit was equal to the occasion. He drew a spectacle ease frora his pocket and opened it. In the darkness the sharp click of the lid produced the desired effect. The horse plunged forward while that highwayman was both deceived and nonplused.
At this period the shad fishery was of considerable local importance. Salt was brought from Reading and exchanged for fish which sold for six cents apiece. The circulating medium was extremely scarce, a result of which was that nearly all business was transacted by barter. New stores were opened at irregular intervals, as the growth of population or enterprise of the proprietors justified it. Among those who will be remembered as merchants during the early history of the town are Thomas Ellis, Stephen and Christopher Baldy, David Cleaver, Jacob Dyer and Samuel Brobst. In all of their stores there was an assortment of every variety of merchandise-dry goods, groceries, hardware, drugs, etc.
The importance of a bridge across the Susquehanna was realized by public' spirited citizens at an early period. The original projectors were Christian. Brobst, Joseph Paxton, Leonard Rupert, Philip Marling, William Baird, Isaiah N. Willits and Richard Dennett, of Columbia county; Cadwallader Evans; and Samuel W1'etherill, of Philadelphia; J. K. Boyer, Lewis Reece and Gabriel. Heister, of Berks county; James Linton and Daniel Seager, of Lehigh; Daniel. Graff and James McFarlin, of Schuylkill, and Samuel Baird, of Montgomery_ The site at first proposed was the present crossing of the Catawissa railroad. March 15, 1816, the legislature passed an act authorizing the opening of books to receive subscriptions. It does not appear that flattering progress was made in organizing the company for eight years later. Thirteen additional commis-siopers were appointed for that purpose, among whom Columbia county was represented by David Cleaver, William McKelvy, John Barton, William Miers, Jacob Rupert, James C. Sproul and John Derr.
With the citizens of the e.cunty the success of the project was a matter of primary importance; the only bridge within its limits crossed the river at Ber-wick, a point where it failed to confer material benefit on the large proportion of the population south of the river. Although disappointed for twelve years" those most interested at Catawissa continued to present this consideration with unabated persistence, and finally, in 1828, secured an appropriation of five-thousand dollars from the treasury of the state. Half of this was to be paid when the abutments and piers had been constructed, and the remainder when, the entire work had been completed; but no part could be secured until ten-thousand dollars had been paid by individuals, and an amount additional subscribed sufficient to finish the bridge. George Taylor and Jacob Alter, of Philadelphia; Philip and John Rebsome, of Muncy; George Keim, George-Getz and Henry Foster, of Barks county; John C. Appelman and Samuel Brooke, of Schuylkill; Benjamin Beaver, Peter Schmick, George H. Willits, Stacy Margerum, John Barton and William McKelvy, of Columbia, were appointed to reorganize the company and establish its finances on a firm basis. The North Branch canal was at this time in course of construction; it was plainly apparent that the bridge was a necessity if Catawissa was to derive any benefit from that line of traffic, and this consideration induced many to subscribe to the stock of the company. The bridge was finally completed at a cost of twenty-six-thousand dollars, and opened for travel January 15, 1833. In view of the inconvenience of reaching the county-seat (then at Danville), it was not built, as originally proposed, to the month of Fishing creek. Srub
equently the stock in the bridge held by the state was sold, and the proceeds applied to the construction of a public road on the berme side of the canal between Rupert and the bridge approach on the north side of the river.
The bridge has repeatedly suffered from the freshets and ice-floods which periodically threaten life and property in the Susquehanna valley. In 1846 five spans were destroyed; they were rebuilt the following year. March 17, 1875, the entire structure was swept away. A Howe truss, thirty feet above low water mark, was constructed the same summer on the piers of its predecessor. It was opened for travel November 22, 1875.
The slowness and vacillation which characterized the bridge scheme did not prevent Christian Brobst from planning an enterprise, the future development of which he scarcely comprehended. He conceived the idea of a railroad from Catawissa to Tamaqua, and in 1825 traversed the distance between the two points on foot, studied the topography of the Quakake valley, and concluded that the plan was feasible. With Joseph Paxton he interviewed prominent capitalists of Reading and Philadelphia and interested them in the scheme. He induced several who seemed favorably impressed with his representations to accompany him on horseback over the proposed route. Mon-cure Robinson, a civil engineer, was one of the party. March 21, 1831, an act was passed by the legislature authorizing Christian Brobst and Joseph Paxton, of Catawissa; William McKelvey and Ebenezer Daniel, of Bloomsburg, and others at Philadelphia and Reading, to receive subscriptions for the stock of the Little Schuykill and Susquehanna Railroad Company. The terminal points of the road were to be Catawissa and the Broad mountain where the Wilkesbarre state road intersected the Little Schuylkill. Tte mountains were to be avoided by traversing the valleys of Messer's run and 'Catawissa creek.
Energetic measures were at once taken to execute these plans. Edward Miller, an experienced engineer, surveyed the line. Contracts were issued for ,grading and building bridges. Capital was furnished by the United States bank of Philadelphia. With the collapse of that institution, in 1838, and of other corporations dependent upon it for financial support, the projectors of the railroad were compelled to abandon their enterprise. For fifty years the unfinished embankments and bridges reminded unfortunate investors of the alluring prospect which prompted their erection.
March 20, 1849, the original corporation was reorganized under the name of the Catawissa, Williamsport and Erie railroad Company. During the succeeding five years, the road was finally completed. The first locomotive that ever appeared in Catawissa was the " Massachusetts," which was brought from Philadelphia by canal and transported across the river on a flat. Sunday July 16, 1854, the first passenger train entered the town. William Cable was conductor and John Johnson, engineer.
Unfortunately the new company was not financially prosperous, and in pursuance of an order from the supreme court of the state, its property was sold; March 21, 1860, its purchasers were constituted the Catawissa Rail-Road Company. In November, 1872, the Philadelphia and Reading Rail-Road Company became lessees. In 1858 the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg Rail-Road became an available line of transportation from Catawissa. In 1870 a third road, the Danville, Hazelton and Wilkesbarre, was opened through the town. The latest acquisition to its commercial facilities was the North and West Branch Railway, completed in 1882.
It is a matter of surprise that extensive manufacturing industries have not been established at a place commanding such advantages. The Penn furnace, operated by Fincher and Thomas, and a nail factory conducted by Thomas, Hartman on a small scale at the time when a laborious and tedious hand process was employed, were formerly of some local importance. The only establishment of any magnitude that now exists, the Catawissa wood-pulp mill, has-had an existence of three-quarters of a century. It was established in 1811 by Benjamin Sharpless. It appears that he lived near Sunbury, but resolved to, remove to Ohio and settle there. He visited a brother on his journey and found him amassing wealth manufacturing paper. Returning to Catawissa, he embarked in a similar business in company with John Clark. The Shoemaker mill was purchased, and, with small expenses and trifling alterations, adapted to the prospective industry. Raw material became finished fabric after undergoing a slow and laborious process. The first stage was the reduction of straw or rags to pulp; this was removed from the vat with a wire sieve and poured over a felt cloth; when a certain number of alternate strata of pulp and felt had accumulated, the water was extracted by powerful pressure; the sheets were then dried, folded and pressed, when they were ready for the trade. After passing through different hands, the mill has come into possession of McCready Brothers, of Philadelphia. It was completely destroyed by fire in 1882. In the structure as rebuilt, the manufacture of wood pulp receives exclusive' attention. The general management is entrusted to E. B. Gruie, a gentlemen of extensive business experience and thorough acquaintance with all the details of the manufacture.
The development of the railroad scheme of Christain Brobst and Joseph. Paxton has been briefly outlined. If the existence of the road is to any extent due to the sagacity and persistence of Catawissa's citizens, it is also true that the town has been amply compensated for their efforts. This is rather a coincidence than the expression of any feelings of gratitude or obligation the railroad or its management might be supposed to have entertained. It had not been operated six months until the superintendent found it impossible to move the trains south from Catawissa that could be brought to that point from the northern terminus of the line. This is due to the altitude at which the mountain is crossed, the slope of which begins at the Susquehanna. Arrangements were therefore made for the general forming of trains at Catawissa, which thus became the home of nearly all the operatives employed in the freight service of the company. Extensive repair shops were also establisbed there in 1864.. They have become an important factor in furthering the growth of the town.
The rapid increase of population in consequence created a ton doncy among property holders to advance rents, and a demand for homes. Two institutions, the Catawissa Land and Building Company, and the Catawissa Mutual Building Fund Association, were organized in 1865 and 1870, respectively, to assist their stock-holders to obtain homes. Although their operations have been severely criticised, they were, in the main, conducted in the interest of the class of persons it was proposed to benefit. A result of their existence was a period of considerable building activity, extending from 18119 to 1873. The number of dwellings was still inadequate, and in 1882 F, L. Shuman purchased the Zarr farm, and laid off " Shumantown." Poplar, Shuman, Zarr and Mill streets extend northwest from the creek, Cemetery street crosses these at right angles, and is deflected from its course at the cemetery, where it intersects the public road. There was an immediate extension of the town over this addition to its building area. The efforts of citizens in thus establishing homes is an earnest of an improved condition of society in every respect.
In 1870 the population of the township was one-thousand, six hundred and fourteen; in 1880 it had increased to two-thousand and four, and at that time four-fifths of this number were residents of the town. It is estimated that a census at the present time would show a population of two-thousand$ve-hundred. Strenuous efforts have been made for years to secure legal enactments for the erection of Catawissa into a borough. Township government is notoriously inadequate. It makes no provision for police regulations, the lighting and grading of streets, or the promotion of internal improvements of any kind. When this is recognized and judiciously considered, incorporration will logically and promptly follow.
Private enterprise, however, has to some extent supplied this deficiency. Sidewalks have been constructed along the principal streets, and lamp-posts, .erected and supplied at private expense, are found here and there in the town. Soon after the laying out of the village a market house was erected, but this appears to have been too far in advance of the ideas of the people. It early fell into disuse, and became the resort of the village cows and bogs. Thence-.forward it was chiefly noticeable for its fleas, and was generally declared a nuisance, though there was sufficient influence to save it from destruction. Sometime after 1520 its demolition was determined upon, and one night a loud explosion called out the startled inhabitants to find that the market house had been blown up. Some fruitless attempts were made to discover and punish the perpetrators, but no immediate effort was made to replace the building.
In 1831 it was proposed to erect a town-hall and market house in Main street at the intersection of Third, on the site of the old structure. Discussion on this proposition became acrimonious and personal; the project was defeated, and no attempt to revive it has since been made. A more unfortunate result of this difference of opinion was the dissolution of the only fire company which has existed in the village. The " Catawissa Fire Company" -was organized May 17, 1827, at Stacy Margerum's hotel, with Joseph Paxton, president, and Ezra S. Hayhurst, secretary. The latter, with Christian Brobst, George Hughes, Stephen Baldy, George H. Willits and Jacob Rupert, was .appointed a committee to "draft an essay of a constitution." Four days later the "essay" was adopted and signed by fifty-four persons. Meetings were held quarterly at Margerum' s; an assortment of buckets, ladders, hooks and chains was secured and distributed so as to be conveniently accessible in an emergency. The utmost harmony prevailed until the building of a hall was suggested. In February. 1832, after rel sated adjournments the organization was unceremoniously disbanded.
The volume of business transacted at Catawissa has been constantly augi ented since 18(14. Large general stores have not yet been superseded by special and exclusive, lines of merchandising. The Catawissa Deposit bank (originally incorporated May 241, 1871, as The Catawissa Deposit and Savings bank) has been known by its present name since April 12, 1872. It was organized in that year with John K. Robbins, president and B. R. Davis, cashier. The capital stock is fifty-thousand dollars. The Catawissa Water Company, ehartered June 29, 1882, is another prominent business feature of the village. F. L. Shuman, P. H. Shuman, William H. Ithawn, Gideon E. Myers and Reuben Shuman were the first board of directors. The water is obtained from Catawissa creek and distributed to every part of the town.
Various fraternal and benevolent societies are numerously represented.
Lieutenant H, H. Hoagland, Post No. 170, Grand Army of the Republic, was organized in October, 1868, with the following members: M. M. Brobst, Samuel Waters, Daniel Walters, John G. Forborg, Thomas Harder, I. W. Willits, CIark Harder, Henry Thomas, Arthur Harder, T. P. Hawse, B. B. Schmick, George W. Waters, John R. Brobst and John Reicheldeefer. In 1876 it was disbanded for want of a quorum. June 16, 1880, a reorganization was effected. 31. M. Brobst, D. W. Spalding, G. W. Roifsnyder, I. W. Willits, John R. Brobst, I. H, Seesholtz, D. W. Walter, John McCoy, J. G. Waters, B. B. Schmick, Joseph P. Hause, T. E. Harder, Theodore Fox, John Wotstine, Joseph Walter, John Getkin, M. V. B. Kline, Thomas F. Harder, 0. F. Harder, Daniel Giffin and J. C. Fletcher constituted the membership at this time. The Post is in a flourishing condition with encouraging prospects of future usefulness.
Concordia Lodge, No. 60, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was chartered September 24, 1838. The first officers were Owen D. Leib, N. U.; John F. Mann, V. G.; Michael Farnsworth, secretary, Joel E. Bradley, assistant, and Christian A. Brobst, treasurer. Meetings were held at the house of the latter on Main street until April, 1882, when the Pine street school building was oc-cupied. It was purchased the previous year.
Catawissa Chapter, Holy Royal Arch Masons, No. 178, was instituted Feb-ruary 19, 1.855 with James D. Strawbridge, H. P.; John K. Robbins, K. and J. Boyd McKelvy, S.
Catawissa Lodge, No. 349, Free and Accepted Masons, was granted its charter by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania December 5, 1864. Its first -officers were John Sharpless, W. it; W. M. Monroe, S. W., and Walter Scott, J. W.
December 8, 1869, the Catawissa Masonic Association was organized by the following persons, members of the chapter and lodge: I. W. Seisholtz, George S. Gilbert, M. V. B. Kline, Walter Scott, W. B. Koons, J. B. Knittle, W. H. Abbott, C. Ellis, I. Monroe, John K. Robbins, C. B. Brockway and John Thomas. A hall was erected in 1870 at a cost of $15,000. The association ,subsequently, became involved, financially, and was obliged to sell its property.
Catawissa Council, No. 96, Order of United American Mechanics, received its charter from the state council October 1, 1866. The following persons were original members: Simon Raup, Charles Garner, J. Q. A. Brobst, Henry S. Geiger, Valentine Metz, Jacob Millard, Nathan Northstein, John Getchey, C. P. Reese, Gideon Haldeman, John M. Gordon, Adry Bowers and Charles H. Kateer.
The Catawissa Silver Cornet Band Association became a corporate body April 7, 1869. The names of Monroe Seitzinger, Jeremiah S. Cornelius, Allen J. Brandt, Emery Getchey, Charles Schmick, Perry Walters, A. Z. Lewis, J. M, Walsham, Luther Eyer and F. D. Berninger appear in the list of its first members.
Washington Camp, No. 132, Patriotic Order Sons of America, was organized April 3, 1870, with the following members: W. H. Inhoff, Jacob Cool, J.
K. Rhawn, Harry Yeager, Charles H. Bibby, Samuel H. Young, C. P. Pfahler, C. D. Hart, George L. Kostenbauder, W. K. Russel, P. A. Brown, Thomas E. Harder, Dennis Waters, William F. Bibby, Jacob Morrison, Thomas B. Culljhan, A. W. Stadler, Charles D. Cool, W. H. Abbott, 0. D. Kostenbauder and J. Kostenbauder,
Catawissa Grange, No. 216, Patrons of Husbandry, was chartered April 30, 1874. Among its first members were Matthias Hartman, Josiah Roberts, E. M. Tewksbury, Solomon Helwig, Martin T. Hartman, Samuel Fisher and John S. Mensch. May 25, 1883, the Caiawissa Grange and Hall Association was incorporated. A commodious brick structure was erected the following year at a cost of six-thousand dollars. June 13, 1884, the hall was dedicated by James Calder, D. D. May 28, 1884, a stock company was formed for its management with William T. Creasy, president, E. M. Tewksbury, secretary, and William J. Martin, treasurer. It may be proper to mention in this connection several agricultural discoveries for which Catawissa is noted. The Catawissa monthly raspberry has been propagated from a single plant discovered in the Friends burial ground some years ago. Blossoms and berries appear at the same time from July to October. In 1872 J. K. Sharpless originated the Sharpless seedling strawberry, and in 1878 William J. Martin discovered anew variety of an extensively cultivated cereal widely known as Martin's amber wheat.
Sylvania Division, No. 23, Order of Railway Conductors, was organized May 18, 1881, with the following members: John W. Dent, P. S. Robison, Samuel L. Bowers, William H. Berger, James F. Miller, Lewis C. Reifsnyder, Peter Bunker. Benjamin F. Ryan, Theodore Schmick, George W. Forrer and John W. Fenstermacher.
Mountain Grove Lodge, No. 324, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, was organized July 14, 1886. The members at that time were Daniel Geiger, James Ke]ley, Jeremiah Haley, Charles Brown, George D. Bowman, James Fisher, Charles E. McAfee, George E. Mensch, Ham. Yeager, William R. Smith, Ira B. Ervin, Boyd Longenberger, Frank Perry, John L. Getkin, John I. Chambers, George W. Ervin and G. W. Linn.
The Quakers who first settled Catawissa shared in that devotion to their faith which characterized its adherents at this period. Their meeting-house may be seen on a knoll a short distance from the confluence of the creek and Susquehanna. It is a log building, nearly or quite square, and no entrance is visible from the front. It presents a weather-beaten but substantial appearance. The furniture of the interior is severely plain and not suggestive of comfort or elegance. In the rear of this structure is a burial ground surrounded by a stone wall. Within the inclosure are a number of trees, the massive trunks and spreading branches of which would seem to indicate great age. The majestic oaks, the low, wooden building and the quiet burial ground are invested with associations of the most sacred character. This plain structure was the first completed house of worship in the valley of the "North Branch" between Sunbury and Wyoming.
How long it has been a place of worship cannot be definitely determined. It is the oldest building in Catawissa, and this statement implies an existence of more than a century. In 1787 William Collins, William Hughes, James Watson, John Love and other Friends resident in the vicinity were granted permission to hold religious services here by the Exeter (Berks county) meeting, the ecclesiastical body in the jurisdiction of which they were embraced. At the Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting, November 2, 1795, Exeter Friends reported having for some time been considering the advisability of forming a new meeting within their limits. After due deliberation the proposed change was made and Catawissa monthly meeting established. April 23, 1796, the body thus instituted held its first session. It was attended by Ellis Yarnall, Arthur Howell, Henry Drinker, John Morton, James Cresson, David Potts, Thomas Lightfoot and Benjamin Scarlet, from Philadelphia; and by Amos Lee, Jacob Thomas, Owen Hughes and Thomas Pearson, from Exeter. An organization was affected by the election of Isaac Wiggins as clerk. Among other business transacted was the appointment of Ellis Hughes and William Ellis to prepare suit able marriage certificates; and of James Watson, John Lloyd, Joseph Carpenter, Benjamin Warner, Thomas Eves, Reuben Lundy, Nathan Lee and John Hughes to care for the Friends burial ground. The meeting thus begun continued for twelve years. Toward the close of that period the Friends had become so reduced in numbers that this body dissolved December 24, 1808. Since- that time meetings have been held by the few Friends who still reside in the vicinity, but such occasions are neither frequent nor regular.
The German element of the population also took measures at an early dateo to secure for themselves those religions privileges they had previously enjoyed_ When Christian Brobst entered Catawissa in 1795 he was accompanied by Reverend Seely, a Lutheran pastor from Berks county. May 1, 1796, a communion was held at Brobst's recently built cabin. The following persons participated: Michael Raup, Michael Hower, Daniel Geiger, Christian Brobst, John Wirts, Jacob Yocum, Conrad Geiger, Catharine Wirts, Barbara Brobst, Regina. Hartel, Maria Gillihans and Catharine Hower. This is the first service of this kind held at Catawissa. January 1, 1796, the first baptisms recorded occurred. The subjects were Joseph, Edna and Maria, children, respectively, of Christian Brobst and Frederick Knittle and Daniel Yocum.
Denominational distinctions were but slightly observed in those days. Reverend G. V. Stock became Lutheran pastor in 1802, and Reverend John Dietrich_ Adams six years later is mentioned as occupying a similar position over the Reformed congregation. March 10, 1804, articles of agreement in the joint ownership and use of a house of worship for both denominations were signed by Michael Hower, Jacob Yocum and Harmon Yost, elders, Samuel Falter and Daniel Geiger, deacons. Christian Brobst presented a building site. In the same year the church building was completed and dedicated. It was a stone structure.
The furniture and arrangement of the interior conformed to the usual style, of the period in that respect. The galleries extending round three sides, and the nine-glass pulpit would present a novel appearance if viewed at the present day. In 1853 this building was replaced by the brick edifice of which Saint John's German Lutheran congregation is now exclusive owner. Reverend Frederick Plitt succeeded Mr. Steely in 1808; Peter Hall became pastor in 1817; Peter Rester in 1820; Jeremiah Schindle in 1831; William J. Eyer in 1838; William Laitzel in 1874; L. Lindenstreuth in 1878; and J. H. Neiman in 1881. Air. Eyer's pastorate covered a period as long as those of his. predecessors combined.
At his suggestion June 25, 1845, a meeting was held to devise means for the organization and government of that portion of the congregation which preferred English services. Christian Brobst was called to the chair and Charles Witmer appointed secretary. It was decided to make the proposed division, and confer upon the new organization the name of Saint Matthew's English Lutheran church. William J. Eyer, Stephen Baldy, Joseph Brobst, Jacob Kreigh, John Hartman and Peter Bodine were directed to prepare a constitution. July 13, 1845, the draft submitted by them was adopted; and November 19, 1850, the church became a corporate body. William J. Eyer remained in charge as pastor until 1851; J. F. Wampole and J. R. Dimm served in that capacity until 1867, when Daniel Beckner became regular pastor; Sylvanus Curtis followed in 1870; C. F. Coates in 1871; R. F. Kingsbury in 1872; E. H. Leisenring in 1875; F. P. Manhart in 1878; J. F. Deiner in 1879; D. M. Henckel in 1882; and LT. Myers in 1883. In 1851 a church edifice was erected; in 1884 this was remodeled at a cost of ten-thousand dollars. The rededication occurred October 14, 1884. Reverends. Sharrets, Manhart, Schindel, Leisenring, Bodine, and resident ministers of other denominations, assisted the pastor.
Reverends Diefenbach, Knable, Tobias, Fursch, Steeley, Daniels, Moore, Dechant and Derr successively followed Mr. Adams as pastor of the Reformedcongregation. During Mr. Dechant's pastorate the joint ownership of Saint John's union church was dissolved. May 18, 1882, the corner-stone of a new Saint John's was laid. The building operations were directed by Mr. Dechant, who was entrusted with entire supervision over the work, financial and otherwise. May 6, 1888, the completed edifice was dedicated. The pastor was assisted by Reverends 0. H. Strunch of Bloomsburg, and William C. Scheaffer of Danville.
The history of Methodism in Catawissa is different from that of the denominations mentioned. The latter owe their existence to emigration from localities where they were already, established; the former dates its origin from a visit of Bishop Asbury, the founder of that religious body in America. Tradition asserts that be stopped at Joseph McIntyre's on a journey from Sunbury to Wyoming; that he held services there which resulted in the conversion of that family and others; and formed a class, which in course of time became a regular appointment. Asbury was followed by other intinerant missionaries-Nathaniel Mills, James Paynter and Benjamin Abbott. Services were held in McIntyre's house and barn, where E. M. Tewksbury lives. In 1828 a church building was erected; July 4, 1869, a second structure was dedicated. At that time it formed part of Elysburg circuit, but has since been transferred to Catawissa. Y
In the town of Catawissa Methodism has been represented since 1834 by a church building; the second structure was built in 1854, and a third in 1884. At an adjourned Quarterly Conference held November 4, 1883, the following action was taken-" Resolved, that it is the judgment of this Quarterly Conference that we enter at once upon the work of building a new church; and that a 'committee be appointed to take subscriptions for that purpose." Pursuant to which, Reverend R. E. Wilson, J. M. Smith, L. B. Kline, H. F. Clark and 'C. C. Sharpless were authorized to solicit subscriptions. February 16, 1884, a building committee was appointed composed of R. E. Wilson, H. F. Clark, W. W. Perry, J. M. Smith, C. C. Sharpless, Jesse Mensch and L. B. Kline. -Saturday, July 12, 1884, the corner-stone was laid. Sunday, February 15, 1885, Doctors Vincent and Upham dedicated the structure in the presence of -a large concourse of people.
The services of the Protestant Episcopal church were first held in Catawissa in 1860 by the Reverend E. N. Lightner, rector of Christ church, Danville. Some years later the Reverend T. H. Cullen, rector of Saint Paul's church, Bloomsburg, held services monthly, and administered baptism to a few sdults and infants at various times. In 1870 his successor, the Reverend John Hewitt, conducted bi-monthly services in Masonic hall, alternating with the Reverend J. M. Peck of Danville. During this time the Right Reverend William B. Stevens, bishop of the diocese, officiated at two confirmations. In May, 1871, Saint John's parish was formed. George S. Gilbert, Walter Scott, Isaac H. Seesholtz, William H. Abbott, W. B. Parkins and-Jones were elected wardens and vestrymen. They immediately applied to the convention of the diocese of Pennsylvania for a charter, but for some reason failed to secure it. Catawissa being geographically within the limits of the Central Pennsylvania diocese, that body at its first annual convention received the parish into union with itself June 12, 1872. A short time previous, the Reverend Joseph L. Colton was called to the rectorship. April 2, 1872, he entered upon his duties, and opened a parochial school. In January of this year, the church purchased the property of the Catawissa Seminary Company, but worshiped in Masonic hall until the necessary alterations had been made in its interior furnishing. The communion was first celebrated in the town agreeably to the ritual of the Protestant Episcopal church the first Sunday in June, 1872. Two weeks later the congregation worshiped in its own building. July 21, 1878, Mr. Colton's connection with the parish ceased with his resig-nation. December 81, 1881, Reverend Charles E. Fessenden resigned after a rectorship of six months. The Reverend L. Zahner, of Bloomsburg, has ,conducted occasional services since then.
The educational history of Catawissa, as well as its religious record, was begun by the society of Friends June 24, 1797. John Mears informed the monthly meeting that a sum of money raised by general subscriptions among Philadelphia Friends had been placed in his hands, for the purpose of establishing a school at Catawissa "for the education of children in useful learning," and that he had expended part of it in the purchase of a lot of ground, the title to which was held in trust by John Lloyd, Robert Field, Charles Chapman and Ellis Hughes. The following year the gratifying announcement was made that John Pemberton, a prominent citizen of Philadelphia, had bequeathed the sum of twenty-pounds toward the encouragement and support of the school, "to be applied to the instruction of children of members of our society in useful and necessary school learning." The school thus begun in 1797 was continued with satisfactory results until the dissolution of the monthly meeting.
The Germans also manifested a degree of interest inestablishing and main-taining schools. In 1800 Martin Stuck, of Hamburg, Berks county, opened a school in Michael Geiger's dwelling near McIntyre's. The following year he removed to a building erected for school purposes nearer Catawissa creek. He was employed by Peter Fornwald, Archibald Hower, Frederick Knittle, 'Thomas Fester and others. In 180-4 Mrs. Mary Paxton opened a school in her house at Catawissa. In addition to the usual branches, she taught the girls to sew and knit. Elijah Barger and Ellis Hughes were teachers about this time in the Friends' school. Messrs. Kent and Ely, of New York, succeeded to the patronage of Mrs. Paxton's school when she closed it. In 1818 Thomas Barger established the most extensive educational institution that had yet existed. His scholars came from Mainsville and other points as well as the immediate vicinity. The "institution" was conducted on the second floor of a spring-house.
The year 1838 marks the beginning of a new era in the school history of Catawissa. The advent of the new regime is thus explained:
CATAWISSA, March 16, 1838. To the ,School Board of Catawissa Townahip:
GENTLEMEN: At a meeting of the qualified electors of said district, held this day at the house of Stacy Margerum, in pursuance of an act of assembly entitled; "An act to consolidate and amend the several acts relative to a general system of education by common schools," passed the 13th day of Jifne, 1836, they, the said electors, determined by a majority of those then and there present and voting on the question, to accept of the system of common schools as established by said act, of which you will take notice, and govern yourselves accordingly. Witness our hands the date above mentioned.
EZRRA S. HAVncinnT, Charles Connan, Secretaries of said meeting.
Accordingly March 19, 1,838, a meeting of the first school-board was held. William Clayton. Isaiah John, Ezra S. Hayhurst, Caspar Hartman, Christian A. Brobst and Milton Boone constituted this first board of directors. They were called to order by Casper Hartman, who nominated Christian A. Brobst for president, and Ezra S. Hayhurst for secretary. Both were elected unanimously. A code of resolutions, fourteen in number, was presented by the secretary and adopted as rules of order. Messrs. Clayton, Boone, Hartman and John, agreeably to instructions from the board, divided the township into ten sub-districts. Provision was made for the erection of ten houses, the amounts paid ranging from one-hundred and eighty-five to two-hundred and ten dollars. More than four-thousand dollars were expended the first year. The taxation necessary to provide for this was regarded by many as onerous and unnecessary. At an election held March 19, 1841, the continuance of the system was sustained by a small majofity. It was again submitted May 5, 1846, and this time there were but four dissenting votes.
Although the system gave general satisfaction, there were those who desired better educational advantages than it could confer. After mature deliberation on the part of those most interested, it was decided to establish a school "for the promotion of education, both in the ordinary and higher branches of English literature and science, and in the ancient and modern languages." To accomplish this, they secured a charter for "Catawissa Seminary." February 9, 1866, George H. Willits, Charles W. McKelvy, Samuel B. Diemer, George Scott, Isaiah John, Henry Hollingshead, David Clark and John K. Robbins were its first trustees. Professors Lance, Forsyth and Case were among the teachers. The general results of the school were satisfactory and beneficial; but on account of the limited patronage re-ceived, it Was closed before completing the first decade of its history.
Although not apparently a fortunate occurrence, this circumstance has indirectly advanced the educational interests of the community in general. When the seminary closed, intelligent and public spirited citizens began to direct their attention to the improvement of the common schools, which had retrograded from the high standard established by Joel E. Bradley in 1.838. The question of replacing the dilapidated school-house with a structure of adequate size, and of lengthening the term, was agitated with energy and persistence. A director of pronounced views in favor of both changes was elected in 1877. The movement gained strength, and in 1879 its supporters had a controlling influence in the board. The ideas which actuated their policy of improvement are tangibly expressed in the imposing structure which Catawissa has dedicated to the cause of education.
It is pleasantly located at the head of Main street and commands a view of the most picturesque section of the Susquehanna valley. The surroundings are eminently adapted to exert that unconscious influence on pliant minds which creates in them aspirations for what is beautiful, true and good in char acter. The location is healthful, salubrious and agreeable. The building presents an attractive, symmetrical and substantial appearance. A marble block in the brick wall is inscribed with the names of E. B. Guie, B. R. Davis, G. W. Reifsnyder, J. B. Yetter, L. Eyer and Dr. W. Walter, directors; WW. Perry, architect, and Charles King; contractor. The interior is conveniently and judiciously arranged. It was first occupied for school purposes in April, 1882. Charles H. Albert was principal and E. B. Guie first assistant. A library of well selected books, to which pupils have constant access, and a cabinet of philosophical and chemical apparatus add interest to every study embraced in the curriculum. The establishment of this. institution, and its successful operation under the management of competent teachers and enterprising directors, reflect credit on the intelligence of the entire body of citizens.
At the January session of the court in 1843, certain citizens of Catawissa petitioned for a division of that township " on account of the great inconvenience of attending elections and other township business." The prayer of the petitioners was granted, and a favorable report having been received from the commissioners appointed to inquire into the matter, the new township was erected with the name of Franklin. Its limits included the area now embraced in the townships of Mayberry and Franklin. When Montour county was formed in 1850 it became one of its sub-divisions; but when, in 1853, the division line was re-adjusted, Franklin was divided, the portion remaining in Montour being erected into Mayberry township.
Settlement in this region began at a later period than in the Catawissa valley. In 1783 John Cleaver, a Quaker from Chester county, visited friends who had located there and decided to purchase a tract on the opposite side of the river. He returned with his family in the spring of the following year, but was deterred from completing his purchase by accounts of a flood the previous winter. The river rose to an unprecedented height, overflowing its banks and compelling families living on the "bottoms" to leave their homes. The Cleavers thereupon settled on the hills above Roaring creek. The Claytons, another family of the same religious preferences, followed them from Chester county to their new homes. At a later period German settlers also made their appearance. Frederick Knittle, from Richmond township, Berks county, located on the Esther furnace road. In 1795 Daniel Knittle became owner of an adjoining tract. John and Peter Mensch located north of Roaring creek, near the river. Michael Hoover settled on the hill road to Danville, and Christian Hartley on the site of Pensyl's mill.
Catawissa has always been the town for this section. Its business interests are represented by two stores, located respectively at Parr's mill and at Pensyl. A post-office is connected with the latter. It was formerly known as Willow-vale, but has been re-established under the name of Pensyl.
The churches and schools attended by Franklin people were also located in Catawissa township. The following with regard to the latter appears in the report of William H. Snyder, county superintendent in 1876: After the school closed at McIntyre's, a house was built just above the foundry to accommodate the settlers at the mouth of Catawissa creek. Mr. Stuck, who had taught at McIntyre's, was succeeded in this school by Daniel grist and Daniel Bigles. Several married men availed themselves of the opportunity to receive instruction at this school. Near where Joseph T. Reeder lives, Joseph Horlecker opened a school which was called " Clayton's school," by which name it is now known. The one established below Esther furnace was taught by Samuel Bitler and James Stokes.
The religious organizations, Bethel and Mount Zion churches, have been formed with a membership originally connected with the McIntyre appointment. The Bethel church edifice was erected in 1859, at which time David Zarr, Jonas Berninger, Joseph Hartman, John Teitsworth, Nicholas Campbell, William Reeder, Peter Yocum and William Kiesle were trustees. In 1874 Mount Zion church was built. At this time the trustees were William Fisher, Joseph Reeder, Peter G. Campbell, Wellington Cleaver, Jackson Cleaver, John file, Joseph Fisher, Sylvester Cleaver and Eli Keilner. Both appointments are connected with the Catawissa circuit, and embraced in the Danville district of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church.
SOURCE: Page(s)270-285. History of Columbia and
Montour Counties. Battle, J.H., Chicago: A. Warner, 1887. Transcribed by Nathan