Chapter VII - Scott Township
History of Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania


The last change in the political map of this county north of the river was made in 1853, when Bloom township was divided, and its eastern portion given the name which appears at the head of this chapter. The latter was conferred in honor of George SCOTT, then entering upon his second term as a member of the legislature from the district embracing Columbia and Montour counties. This township is the smallest in the county. It is inclosed between Fishing creek and the Susquehanna, on the north and south, and between Centre and the town of Bloomsburg on the east and west. The points of historic interest of which this sketch treats, are the circumstances of its settlement, the growth of its villages, the industrial and social character of its people.

The early settlers were principally of English origin, and emigrated from West Jersey, and from the eastern counties of this state. Among this number the names of MELICK, BRIGHT, HENRIE, LEIDLE, WEBB, BRITTAIN, CREVELING and BOONE are still familiar. Peter MELICK, the first of that name in this neighborhood, emigrated from Jersey before the revolution. He lived on a farm below Espy, which was purchased in 1774, from the proprietaries of the province. He enlisted twice in the continental army and passed the winter of 1776-77 at Valley Forge. When the Indian troubles of 1778 threatened to extend to his house, he returned to its defense. In the spring of that year Lieutenant Moses Van CAMPEN was placed in command of twenty men and directed to build a fort on Fishing creek, for the protection of the frontier. He selected as its site, a rising ground on the south side of that stream, about three miles from its mouth, near the location of the paper mills. The SALMONS, WHEELERS, AIKMANS and Van CAMPENS lived in the vicinity. The fort was located on the farm of Mr. WHEELER, and has been generally known by his name. It was also popularly known as the "Mud Fort" from the appearance of its walls, which consisted merely of a frame work of logs covered over with earth. Its erection was timely; even before its completion a threatened attack compelled the inhabitants to seek protection within its walls. Peter MELICK was then living in a dwelling on the John SHERMAN farm below Espy. The cellar excavation of this house is still pointed out near a pear tree, sixty yards northward from the canal bridge. On the 17th of September, 1778 it was burned by the Indians, the occupants having previously escaped to Fort Wheeler with such valuables as they could collect. It is related that the enemy selected a feather tick from among his personal effects and fastened it upon the back of a pony. The latter became frightened, broke away from his captors, and reached the fort with the tick, valued so highly by friend and foe.

During the night of siege that followed, the ammunition of the garrison was exhausted. Two privates, Henry McHENRY and another whose name has not been preserved, volunteered to go to Fort Jenkins and secure a supply. Although the intervening country was infested with savages, they performed the journey in safety and the fort was saved. Its protection was deemed insufficient however, and some of the families retired to Sunbury where they remained until the close of the war.* [Footnote: When the fort was evacuated its one piece of ordnance, a small brass swivel, was sunk in a deep hole in Fishing creek. The course of the stream has changed since then and all efforts to discover the missing cannon have proved fruitless. Its traditional location is known as "Cannon hole."] Other families had meanwhile made their appearance in the vicinity. About the year 1779 Henry with his wife and children descended the Susquehanna from New York state in a canoe and stopped at Wilkesbarre until the Indian troubles had cleared away. They then continued the journey in the same manner as before to the mouth of Fishing creek. A deserted log cabin with the present limits of Light Street was occupied as a dwelling. An acre of ground adjoining was planted in potatoes; but before the first crop had matured they were compelled to dig out for food the seed thus planted. When this supply was exhausted, wild potatoes in the swamps were eagerly sought after, roasted on the coals, and eaten with avidity. A parallel instance occurred in the experience of the WEBBS, who lived above the town of Espy. Levi AIKMAN had settled in Briar creek valley the previous year and gathered his first harvest. The grain was put in a sack, and a son sent to take it to mill at Sunbury. He made the journey in a canoe, and on the return trip recruited his strength by eating a crust of bread, the only provision he had taken from home. He reached the landing nearest his home at nightfall and carried the sack of meal to WEBB's. Mrs. WEBB would gladly have given him super, but there was no food in their home. He shared the contents of his sack with that family, and with several others before he reached home the next day. The ravages of disease were added to the hardship of insufficient food supply. Zebreth BRITTAIN and ____ ROBBINS made a visit to the region about 1782 for the purpose of buying lands. The former was attacked with small-pox; he died and was buried in the old Derry graveyard. His family was on the way to join him when they were apprised of his death. They did not turn back however, but continued to their destination and settled east of Light Street. John BRIGHT removed from Mount Bethel, Northampton County, about the same time, and became a neighbor of the BRITTAINs. Mr. BRIGHT had sent a son in advance to secure land but he was attacked with the fatal small-pox and died without the care of friends and kindred. Alem MARR located on a farm adjoining. And thus, through hardships and inconveniences from which none were exempt, the first representatives of some of the oldest families in the county became residents of Scott township.

The fertility of its soil is attested by the fact that every acre of ground that was ever farmed is still under cultivation. The land that seemed least adapted to farming has in some instances proven most valuable. The wealth in these cases was beneath the surface and not upon it. This is particularly true of the hills bordering Fishing creek where valuable deposits of iron ore have been found. RODMAN, MORGAN & FISHER, constituting the Duncannon Iron Company, purchased land from Samuel MELICK and began the mining industry in this section. The ore was hauled to Espy and forwarded by canal. The Bloomsburg furnaces have received ore from these hills since 1844. Matthew McDOWELL operated a furnace at Light Street for some years on a small scale. The Light Street Iron Company engaged in a similar business but was not financially successful. A paper-mill on Fishing creek, some distance below the town, has had a career of greater permanency. Thomas FRENCH purchased a grist-mill from John BARTON about 1830 and converted it into an establishment for the manufacture of paper. It has passed through different hands and suffered many changes, but still retains its character as a manufacturing point. The lime ridge should be mentioned in connection with the mineral resources of the township. The ridge has furnished employment for a number of people and a small hamlet has been formed in consequence. It bears the poetic name of Afton, but its appearance is not likely to inspire the beholder. The cottages are substantial and comfortable, however, while two churches seem amply sufficient to minister to the spiritual wants of the population.

Like the iron industry, the fisheries no longer possess the importance once attached to them. They were known, in order, from the mouth of Fishing creek to Mifflin rapids, as the BOONE, McCLURE, KINNEY, HENDERSHOTT, KUDERS, WHITNER, CREVELING, WEBB and MILLER fisheries. Fishing seems to have begun about 1780 and reached its point of greatest importance fifty years later. Certain varieties once numerously represented are now practically extinct. The shad, gar-fish, salmon, and rock-fish may be mentioned among this number. Lines used were from two-hundred to four-hundred yards in length and four or five yards in depth, with meshes two inches square. the season began the latter part of March and continued until June. A statute law prohibited fishing on Thursdays in order "to give fish a chance for head-waters." Two hauls per day was the rule--one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The flats used were about twenty-five feet long, eight feet wide, and eighteen inches high, provided with two stout oars near the bow. Two men were required at each oar, one attended to "paying out" the seine, while two others remained on shore to adjust the land end. Seven men thus constituted a fishing crew. Two flats were used to one seine at WEBB's fishery. It is said that at this place nine thousand fish were once caught at a single haul. The price of shad in 1800 was six dollars per hundred; in 1830 it had risen to more than twice as much. People came to the river from all points to buy fish, bringing in exchange produce of every description--corn, meat, peach cider, whisky, metheglin, etc. Both the fisheries and the ore industries have ceased to be important in comparison with their former influence upon the general business character of the people.

One result of their existence was the growth of two villages--Light Street and Espytown, from their respective locations in the iron region and on the river bank. The former originally consisted of two villages at each extremity of the present one. In 1821 John HAZLETT, Uzal HOPKINS, William McCARTEY, James McCARTEY,--Lake and George ZEIGLER were living on the town plot of "Williamsburg." It was laid out by Philip SEIDLE, December 12, 1817, and consisted of Front and Second streets, and Magdalene's alley parallel with the public road, and Catharine street, South street, Walnut, Strawberry and Cherry alleys crossing these at right angles. The hamlet about a half-mile distant in the direction of Bloomsburg was represented at this time by the blacksmith shop of Robert GARDNER and the farm house of John DEAKER. General Matthew McDOWELL came into possession of the Jew's mill about the year 1823, and established a post-office under the name of McDOWELL's Mills. Benjamin SEIDLE was the proprietor of the mills at an earlier period and popular usage was divided between the names of Seidletown and Williamsburg. As is usually the case, the post-office designation superseded both. Mr. McDOWELL found his mill a profitable enterprise and built another at the lower end of the town, previously mentioned as the location of a smithy. When he engaged in the iron business, this was sold to Reverend Marmaduke PEARCE, a Methodist clergyman. He found the distance of half a mile to post office too long, and took measures to have it established at his mill. The location was changed and also the name, which became Light Street and so remains. Mr. PEARCE was once stationed in Baltimore, Md., and lived on Light street in that city. This explains the origin of the name. The two villages gradually approached each other until they have become practically one. The town contains a number of stores and hotels, two flouring mills, three churches, a school building and a population of about three hundred. It was a place of considerable business activity during the prosperous period of the iron industry and still retains more of this character than the average country town.

Espytown has not experienced the frequent changes of name which characterized its neighbor; but the mutations in its fortunes have been equally unfavorable in their influence. It appears that in 1775 Josiah ESPY purchased from the Penns a tract of about three hundred acres of land, including the site of the town that bears his name. He sold this to George ESPY, his son, in the same year. The George ESPY property is supposed to have been a two-story log house about twenty-four feet square, with two rooms below and one above, covered with shingles three feet long, fastened with wrought iron nails. It was situated on the Abbot log, about one hundred yards from the house of William CARSON and twenty yards from the towing path of the canal. It was built by Mr. ESPY about 1785, and occupied by him until 1810, when he removed to Crawford county, Pa. In locating the town he seems to have observed a notch in the river hill and corresponding depression in the ridge in the rear of his land. It is probable that he thus meant to secure the advantage of a roadway from Fishing creek to Catawissa which would eventually pass through those points. Directly on the line of this route he laid off twenty-five acres into sixty building lots, the length of the plot being eighty perches and its width fifty perches. It is supposed that this was done about the year 1800, for in 1802 several lots in "the town of Liberty" were sold by Mr. ESPY to various persons. The modesty of the proprietors was overruled by the general practice of the villagers, which was confirmed in 1828 when a postoffice was established under the name of ESPY. Among the residents of the place at an early period were John EDGAR, Alexander THOMPSON, John KENNEDY, Samuel McKAMEY, ____ HINKLE, John HAVERMAN, ____ MILLER and Frederick WOEMAN. There were fourteen log-houses and twelve frame dwellings in the town in 1826; the population at that time may therefore be estimated at one hundred and thirty. The first hotel was built about 1805 by John KENNEDY, rebuilt in 1856 by Henry TREMBLY, and constitutes the present Espy hotel. The first frame house was owned by John SHUMAN, and was built of lumber sawed at the Elias BARTON saw-mill in Hemlock township. The first brick house was built in 1845 by John HUGHES. In 1826 the people were supplied with water from three wells, located respectively at the WOEMAN hotel and the houses of John WEBB and Philip MILLER. The latter was at the center of Main street at its intersection with market. At this time the bog in the rear of the town was scarcely passable. The "Indian path" consisted of two rows of yellow pine logs and lead in the direction of Light Street. The swamp extended from the brook above Espy to the canal culvert, a mile from Bloomsburg. A corduroy road was laid by John HAUCH in 1815 to haul iron ore to his furnace at Mainville. Among the attractions of Espy from 1810 to 1835 was WEBB's lane, a famous racing ground. Jockeys resorted thither from Sunbury, Towanda, Wilkesbarre, and other places, to try the speed of their nags. The following anecdote of Reverend John P. HUDSON is related in a historical discourse by the Reverend David J. WALLER: "On a visit to his home in Virginia his father gave him a blooded horse, the speed of which, in carrying him from place to place in his wide circuit, gave the clergyman an inconvenient reputation for horsemanship. On one occasion, riding along the river road, he passed over the old race course at WEBB's lane, when a shower of rain obliged a farmer to loose his horses from the plow. One horse, coming out of the field, took the tract at his best speed. Meeting the clergyman, under his umbrella, the Virginia courser promptly accepted the challenge, wheeled, and took his master a "John Gilpin ride,' with umbrella stripped backward in the wind, and distancing the pretentious plow horse. A wag, who saw the unique performance, related to a listening company the story of having seen the preacher run his blooded horse against a famous courser of the neighborhood and win the race. A man of high pre From an industrial point of view, the town has been equally well known on account of its boat yards. About the year 1834 George and Thomas WEBB built a Union canal boat on their land at the lower bank of the canal. It was launched about three miles above Espy and christened "The Fourth of July." It was about seventy feet long and eight feet broad. The industry thus begun has been continued with fluctuating energy until the present time. The boatyards of BARTON & EDGAR, KRESSLER & VANSICKLE, FOWLER, TROUSOE & MCKAMEY, have at one time or another been locally important. The works of the Pennsylvania Canal Company were established in 1873 and have gradually absorbed similar enterprises. Manufacturing interests have also been represented by a annery, distillery, pottery, flouring mills, and brick-yards. The first merchant was William MANN, a storekeeper from 1816 to 1818; C. G. RICKETTS, Samuel WOEMAN, WOEMAN & SERABY, Cyrus BARTON, Miles BANCROFT, and PATRICKEN, cover the period from 1820 to 1850 in their financial operations. About sixty individuals and firms have been engaged in business at various times.

The citizens of Espy have displayed a degree of interest in improving the appearance of its streets. The Lombardy poplar was the first ornamental shade tree; it was superseded in 1836 by the weeping willow. A single shoot was brought from a tree in front of the Forks hotel at Bloomsburg, and planted in a similar position before WOEMAN's tavern. The planting of trees was pushed vigorously about 1868 by Mr. McCOLLUM and others. Efforts have been made for some time to secure legal action for the erection of Espy into a borough. Should this be accomplished, the administration of its affairs by judicious hands would certainly be a benefit to the citizens in various ways.

The first school in Scott township was established in 1805 with Messrs. WEBB, KENNEDY, and WATERS, trustees. The course of study included the alphabet, spelling, writing, reading and arithmetic. Between 1830 and 1840 grammar and geography were added. Algebra and history became part of the course sometime in the next decade. The first school-house stood on lot No. 56, in Espy, the north-eastern corner of Market and Main streets. It was the only one for the town and vicinity within a radius of three miles. The ceiling of its one room was eight feet high, and unplastered, while the other dimensions were twenty and twenty-four feet. The three windows on each side were filled with eight-by-ten glass. Benches were made of slabs; three-writing tables extended around three sides of the room; a "John Heacock" wood stove occupied the center; a tin cup and wooden water-bucket completed the furniture of this temple of learning. The educational interests of the township are well sustained, if the general appearance of school buildings and grounds may be regarded as evidence in this respect.

The religious denominations represented are the Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Evangelical. The oldest congregation of the society first mentioned is at Light Street. A camp-meeting at Huntingdon in the autumn of 1819, was attended by Jacob FREAS, John BRITTAIN and others who lived in the vicinity of the village. They were converted and formed into a class by Reverend John RHOADS, who was then stationed at Berwick. Meetings were held at Mr. BRITTAIN's house for eight years before the society had become strong enough to build a place of worship. General Daniel MONTGOMERY, of Danville, gave the church one-hundred perches of ground in 1827, at which time Paul FREAS, John BRITTAIN, John MILLARD, Samuel MELICK and Peter MELICK were trustees. The church building was erected the same year. In 1851 the church was incorporated, thus rendering a new deed necessary in order to give the corporate body the title to its property. Two years later, "in consideration of the love and veneration in which they hold the memory of Daniel MONTGOMERY, and Christiana, his wife, and their desire that their pious and charitable acts should be confirmed," the heirs at law of William MONTGOMERY executed a new deed. The old log structure was removed some years ago and replaced by a structure better adapted to the needs of a strong and increasing congregation.

The Reverend Isaac JOHN preached in Espy as late as 1828. Lorenzo DOW visited the place in 1833, and preached to a large congregation in the school-house. The barking of dogs in an adjoining yard exasperated the reverend gentleman. He announced with some indignation that he had come to preach to people and not to dogs. A gentleman from Light Street offered to take him to Mainville in a carriage. He declined in favor of Mr. MURRAY's truck-wagon. The first place for worship was built in 1838, and the present structure upon its site in 1883. It was dedicated by Bishop Thomas BOWMAN. On the death of Reverend H. C. CHESTER, the pastor at that time, Reverend R. H. WHARTON, succeeded him. Reverend J. BEYER was Mr. WHARTON's successor. Reverend Richard MALLALIEU has been in charge since August 20, 1886.

Reverend William WEAVER, a Lutheran minister at Bloomsburg from 1851 to 1853, preached occasionally at Espy during that period. A number of members of the Bloomsburg church were formed into a separate organization. Among those who were prominently identified with the movement were David WHITMAN, John SHUMAN, Samuel KRESSLER, J. D. WERKHEISER, Cyrus BARTON and Conrad BITTENBENDER. The last two named were constituted a building committee, and in the summer of 1853 a church building was dedicated. Reverends Philip WILLARD, William WEAVER and the pastor were present at the ceremonies. Reverend E. A. SHARRETS became pastor in 1853, and remained in charge until 1860. Reverend J. R. DIMM was his immediate successor, but resigned in 1863. Reverend D. S. TRUCKENMILLER was pastor from 1863 to 1867, J. M. RICE from 1867 to 1878, and E. A. SHARRETS from that time until October 1, 1886, since when the pastorate has been vacant.

The Presbyterian church at Light Street is not a regularly organized body. Its membership was originally connected with the Briarcreek church, but the distance from their homes to the place of worship prevented many from attending. The Light Street church was built in 1853, but services have not been held with any degree of regularity in recent years.

The Evangelical societies at Espy, Afton and Light Street are included in Bloomsburg mission, but were established while this territory was embraced in Columbia circuit. During the ministry of Reverend A. J. IRVINE, he held occasional services in the Presbyterian church at Light Street, and in the winter of 1866-67 conducted a protracted meeting, which resulted in sixty conversions. Among the members of the first class were James PULLEN, Thomas BEAR and James MERADIS. Measures were at once taken to build a church, and this was highly necessary as well as feasible in view of the membership that had been formed upon the first revival effort. August 4, 1869, the corner-stone was laid in May, 1872, and the consecration of the church occurred in the following September. In the winter of 1875-76 Reverend J. A. IRVINE was invited to preach in Espy. February 1, 1876, he began a protracted effort, in which one hundred persons were converted. Two classes were formed under the leadership of William SCHECHTERLEY and William HEIDLEY, with John McKAMEY and Clark PRICE as exhorters. Reverend H. W. BUCK is the present pastor of Bloomsburg Mission, which embraces these appointments.

Source:  Page(s) 184-190.   History of Columbia and Montour Counties. Battle, J.H., Chicago: A. Warner, 1887.


Return to the Columbia County Genealogy Project

(c) Columbia County Genealogy Project