Chapter VIII - Briarcreek Township and Borough of Berwick
History of Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania
BERWICK-ON-TWEED, a borough of Northumberland County, England, has existed from an early period of British history. It presents to-day, in its Gothic cathedral, fortified walls and massive battlements the characteristic features that might have impressed the visitors of two centuries ago. The general appearance of the town has suffered no material change. Its circumference of fortifications has proven an effective barrier to the extension of its limits. Consequently the population not employed at home has been compelled to emigrate, and thus sever with reluctance endearing associations with the quaint old town. In different states and widely separate localities, those who thus went forth conferred its name on the settlements they established.
Evan Owen was among those who sought to ameliorate their condition by removing beyond the seas. He was an ardent advocate of the doctrines of Fox, and was warmly welcomed by his co-religionists upon his arrival at Philadelphia. When the land office was opened by the Penns in 1769 for the disposal of their recent acquired purchase, he was among the first to take advantage of the opportunity offered to secure lands at a merely nominal cost. In relying upon the fidelity and sagacity of the woodsman or explorer employed to seek out the best land he was not disappointed, as the selection of Nescopeck falls was certainly judicious. In 1772 he performed the journey from Harris' ferry to Fishing Creek in a river boat, accompanied by Benjamin Doan and others, with the intention of establishing a Quaker village. The troubles that ensued compelled them to relinquish the idea. In 1780 Owen returned and continued his journey above the mouth of Briarcreek, some distance from the locality where he had previously settled. He finally decided upon a point opposite the Nescopeck creek as the location of the prospective town. Six years, however, elapsed before it was laid off, and during this period several families arrived and formed a small hamlet, conferring upon it the name of Owensville. In 1786 the streets were surveyed, and corners established by blazing on the trees. The propriety of their names-Oak, Vine, Mulberry, Pine, Chestnut and Walnut-is thus explained. When the complicated and conflicting titles of Connecticut and other claimants were adjusted, part of the area originally embraced in the town plot was diverted from Owen's possession; it was included in Salem township, which in 1786 became part if Luzerne county upon its erection. The same year the town was formally named Berwick by the proprietor, who thus expressed the attachment he still retained for his former home; like Berwick-on-Tweed, it was also in Northumberland county, and on the bank of a river already famous in history.
The visitor to Berwick cannot fail to be impressed with the beauty and variety of natural scenery, which characterize the surrounding region in every direction. Northward the outline of Lee mountain is visible from the knob to its terminal point at Shickshinny; the Summer hills, geological formations of an anomalous character, appear in the foreground. South of the Susquehanna the Nescopeck range can be distinguished throughout a wide extent both east and west, while the river hills in the distance apparently approach
the line of its base. The deep gorges of the Catawissa, Nescopeck and Wapwalopen creeks relieve the monotony of an otherwise unbroken trend. Above the mouth of the latter "Council Cup" rears its crest and maintains a majestic silence concerning the mighty questions once deliberated there by a race that has long since disappeared before the advancing tide of civilization. The location of the town itself reflects credit on the excellent judgment of the proprietor. An elevated situation and perfect drainage preclude the idea of the mephitic miasms from the stream below seriously affecting the general healthfulness of the place.
The first inhabitants of Berwick appeared upon its soil during the period that intervened between Owen's first visit and the laying off of the town.* Two brothers, John and Robert Brown, had but recently arrived from England when Owen, who was then in Philadelphia, induced them to remove to his land on the Susquehanna. They reached Catawissa with no adventures other than those usually incident to the overland journey, but were compelled to transport themselves and their goods from the point to their destination in canoes, and this occasioned no little inconvenience and delay. A landing was effected at the Nescopeck rapids. The bluff was ascended with difficulty by an Indian path which marked the course of a road since opened. The household goods and meager supply of provisions were supplied at the summit, and then they sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree and rested. But the satisfaction of having at long last arrived at their destination could not idly be enjoyed. To add to the multiplied labors of the day, rain began to fall before provision had been made for such an emergency. In recounting these particulars John Brown was wont to relate that their wives, overcome at the dismal prospect of passing the night without shelter, relieved their feelings in tears. There is a tradition current to the effect that the Browns passed the winter with only the temporary protection of pulling the tops of trees together and covering them with bark; but this altogether improbable, as the men were carpenters and well prepared to erect comfortable cabins. They did so at once; John Brown located on the north side of Front street, near Market, and Robert, nearly opposite, on the west side of Market. These were the first houses erected in Berwick. In 1786 Evan Owen built the next on the site of the St. Charles hotel. Samuel Jackson, his relative by marriage, located on the opposite corner. Josiah Jackson was a hatter by trade, and conducted his business on front street below Market. James Evans, a millwright by occupation, became the next resident. John Smith and Henry Trough complete the number of those who arrived at Berwick about 1786. It appears that Owen had just returned from
*Thomas Cooper, one of the Pennsylvania Commissioners under the Act of 1799, known as the "Compromising Law," in the performance of his duties wrote as follows:
Northumberland, January 18, 1803-A part of the town of Berwick stands on a tract of land taken up under Pennsylvania under Evan Owen, who laid out that town, and who, I understand, is now at Lancaster making his complaints on the subject, and who, to my knowledge, most eggregiously exaggerates the importance of the case as will soon be perceived. A part of this tract and of the town of Berwick is included in the "town of Salem." General Steele, Mr. Wilson and myself directed Mr. Sambourne, the surveyor, to run out of lines of interference. They can give evidence respecting it. Mr. Sambourne's return to me makes the business quite insignificant, but whether more or less, I had to decide on principles that have no relation the quantum of the dispute. I held this case under advisement under the following ground: It appeared in evidence before me by the voluntary deposition of Evan Owen himself, that he made his commencement of settlement on the tract of land whereon the town of Berwick now stands, on the 10th day of May, 1787, the confirming law having passed on the 27th day of March preceding. it appeared to me that this confirming law was public and legal notice to him as an opposite and older title then recognized by the legislature and that he settled at his peril. He took up the land and settled it, knowing of the precedent title.
This communication would seem to establish a later date of settlement for the town of Berwick than that given above. In the Act of January 29, 1818, for the incorporation of Berwick, it is expressly stated that in 1786, Evan Owen laid out the town. It is also a well authenticated fact that certain of the first buildings were in these streets as then located, which would hardly have been the case if settlement had followed the survey. Moreover, the land under dispute was merely that small triangular portion of the original town plot included in the "Town of Salem," and it is not improbable that settlement may have been made before May, 1787, which does not conflict with the author's statement regarding settlement in the present limits of the town.
An extended journey through the lower counties selling lots and endeavoring to induce families to move to his town. He was fairly successful. Among others who became residents in consequence of these efforts was Joseph Stackhouse, a wealthy farmer from Bucks county. In the rear of his residence on Second street he planted the first fruit trees brought thither, with great care and trouble. The square between Second and Third, Mulberry and Vine, ultimately became a luxuriant orchard. Thomas Cole from New Jersey; James Herrin from Northampton county; Benjamin Doan and Jacob Cooper, from Montgomery county, were also among those who removed to the town on the personal representations of the proprietor.
The first indications of settlement and improvement in Briarcreek township became apparent about this time. A number of families removed from mount Bethel, Northampton county, near the Delaware river. Among the number appear the familiar names of Freas, Bowman, Hutton, Rittenhouse, Cauley and Mack. They emigrated in a body and entered the region in 1793, journeying by way of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Beaver Meadows. Mutual assistance was rendered in the work of clearing the land and providing temporary shelter. The tract upon which John Freas located comprised farms now owned by Levi Garret and Henry Bower. On the land of the former a rude log cabin was built, the main room of which was used as a dwelling and am addition as a stable. Daniel Bowman and Wesley B. Freas own a tract originally occupied by Thomas Bowman. A substantial brick and stone structure, which superseded a log cabin first erected, was built in 1802 and was the first house of such material in this section of the country. Jesse Bowman settled on the river road at its intersection with Briar Creek. William Rittenhouse secured the title to an extensive tract on both banks of the creek to a considerable distance above the junction of its north and west branches. It embraced the farms of Samuel Conner, William Hughes, Joseph Eck and William Freas. The Bower, Millard, Evans, Engle, Adams and Wartz families were also among those who arrived at an early period and located at various parts of the township. Jacob Mack, who possessed considerable knowledge of building, superintended the erection of many of the first houses.
Certain features of the domestic and social life of this period strikingly illustrate the simplicity of the general style of living. The spinning-wheel and loom were of primary importance in every household. Linsey-woolsey and cassinette, homespun fabrics of coarse texture but excellent durability, were the usual materials for clothing. Wooden spoons and bowls, pewter knives and forks, constituted the table furniture. The gun and rod were indispensably necessary in providing the wants of a family. A general partnership seems to have existed among the citizens. The two fisheries, "Tuckey Hoe" and "Jacob's Plains" were the exclusive property of no one. Every bear killed was taken before Justice Owen and divided equally among the different families. When strangers appeared in their midst the elastic dimensions of the rude log cabin were so expanded as to comfortably shelter them. In 1805 a market house was built in the center of Market street, between Second and Third. The structure rested on massive wooden pillars, and was elevated sufficiently to allow the passage of horses and wagons beneath. It was used town meetings, elections, church and school purposes. The inhabitants of Berwick utilized the water of the river in performing the operations of the laundry. When the women repaired thither on wash days, the smoke and steam rising in artistic confusion from the kettles, and the appearance of so many garments of various colors may have suggested the idea of the decorations incident to a patriotic demonstration. Before the
tanneries had been established in the vicinity leather was scarce and shoes correspondingly high in price. As a measure of economy, church-going maidens did not put on their shoes until within sight of the church, and remove them after service, going home bare-footed. One of the early preachers did not fully approve of this, and administered a caustic rebuke. He justified the severity of his censure by alluding to the direct command with regard to duly reverencing "holy ground." The first marriage solemnized in Berwick was that of Anne Brown and Jesse Bowman. That the social custom thus inaugurated has become quite popular may be inferred from the frequent recurrence of these pleasant and interesting occasions.
At the period of Berwick's first settlement, Northern Pennsylvania was a region of magnificent distances. The means of communication with distant points were slow, tedious, and inadequate. As the population, productions and wealth increased, there was an urgent necessity for better roads and more direct routes to important points. The citizens of Briarcreek manifested a deep interest in promoting internal improvements of this character. In 1787 Evan Owen was appointed to superintend the construction of a road laid out from Nescopeck falls to the Lehigh by authority of the State. Two years later the work was completed, and the Indian trail which marked the proposed route improved so as to be passable for vehicles. March 19, 1804, the Susquehanna and Lehigh Turnpike and Road Company was incorporated. The old Nescopeck road was transformed into a graded pike in 1805 at an enormous expense. Andrew Shiner of Berwick was one of the contractors, and Christian Bowman first traversed the road to Easton. The Susquehanna and Tioga Turnpike Road Company was chartered in 1806 "for making an artificial road by the best and nearest route from Berwick, on the north-east branch of the Susquehanna, or from the mouth of the Little Wopehawley, to that point on the north line of the state which is nearest Newtown, on the river Tioga in the state of New York." It was finally completed to Towanda in 1818, at an immense expenditure by the state and individual investors. Among these prominently identified with both these enterprises were Nicholas Seybert, Andrew Shiner, Jesse Bowman, Jacob Mack, McKinney Buckalew and John Bostian.
A connecting link between these two thoroughfares of travel, the bridge across the Susquehanna, was early deemed important and necessary. The initiatory movement was made in 1807, when the legislature authorized the formation of the "Susquehanna Bridge Company at Falls of Nescopeck." An organization was effected five years later with Abraham Miller, Sr., president; John Brown, treasurer, and a board of managers consisting of Silas Engle, Thomas Bowman and Elisha Barton. The contract for the construction of the bridge was awarded to Theodore Burr. When completed in 1814 it cost $52,000. The length was 1,260 feet, and the structure rested on piers of heavy planked timber. It was entirely destroyed by an ice flood in the winter of 1835-36. The managers forewith delegated Jesse Bowman, one of their number, to represent the interest of the company before the legislature. An appropriation of $10,000 was secured, and in 1837 the present bridge was erected. The efforts of Joshua T. Black, Samual F. Headley, A.B. Wilson and Robert McCurdy, contributed largely to the celerity with which it was accomplished.
A connected line of travel was thus established between Towanda and Easton. These roads, like many similar enterprises, although advantageous to the section of country traversed, have not been productive investments to stockholders. The benefits conferred have not been commensurate with the capital
consumed in their construction. It was a period, however, of high speculative excitement, not confined to the limits of any geographical section, or to any class of the people.
The position of Berwick, at the terminal points of two turnpikes, and at their intersection with the route traversed between points on the river rendered it a place of considerable importance. The effort on its growth in size and population was at once apparent. The log cabins first erected were gradually superseded by structures of an improved and more substantial appearance. The first farm house was built by Robert Brown, and is still standing opposite Odd fellows Hall. The first brick dwelling was erected in 1816 by H. Seybert, and is at present known as St. Charles hotel. Brick buildings at the corner of Mulberry and front, and on Front between Market and Mulberry were built by Thomas Richardson and Samual F. Headley about the same time.
John Brown opened the first hotel on the corner of Second and Market Streets; the scupulous care with which neatness and cleanliness were maintained rendered it the favorite stopping place of travelers on the river road. John Jones was the next hotel proprietor; he was succeeded by Abraham Klotz and Frederick Nicely and during the letter's ownership it was first known as "Cross Keys." At a period anterior to the construction of the bridge, William Brien conducted a conduct house above its approach on the Berwick side. He also established a ferry, which was patronized by those who crossed the river. John Jones, at the sign of the "Golden Lamb," and Samuel F. Headley, at the corner of front and Mulberry, complete the list of hotel keepers at this period.
The uniform prosperity enjoyed by the class of persons was largely derived form the stage travel. The time at which this began cannot be definitely determined. It did not assume a permanent character until 1810, when a mail service was connected to the stage. Previous to that time the postmaster at Wilkes-Barre designated certain private houses at Nescopeck and Berwick, and a post-rider distributed mail agreeably to his directions. Berwick first appears as a post-village in 1797; Jonathon Hancock carried the mail in 1800; and William Brien was the first regularly appointed post-master, receiving his commission several years later. In 1811 Conrad Teter was awarded a government contract for establishing mail coaches between Sunbury and Painted Post. He transferred that portion of the route between Sunbury and Wilkes-Barre to Milton Horton, by whom the first coaches between those points were controlled. In 1824, Miller, Jesse and Lewis Horton opened a new era in stage coach travel. They assumed control of a mail rout e between Baltimore and Owego, by way of Harrisburg and Sunbury. Four-horse coaches, substantial, comfortable and attractive, rolled into Berwick everyday. The crack of the driver's whip and the blast from his horn relieved the monotony of life in the otherwise quiet village. John Jones, tavern keeper, farmer and lime-burner, became stage proprietor as well, by operating a line of coaches to Easton. The journey to that point required two days. Joshua Dodson drove the first stage coach from Berwick to Elmira. A week was required to reach that point and return. Joshua Kindy was toll-collector beyond Berwick on the Towanda road. Philip Abbot and George Root deserve honorable mention in connection with stage coach travel. The latter, a trusted and skillful driver, served in that capacity for more than forty years.
The turnpikes, the bridge and the stage enterprises did not so fully engross the public mind as to divert its attention from the equally necessary considerations of organized government. In 1797 the township of "Green Brier Creek" was formed, comprising the area included between the Susquehanna
and the line of Briarcreek's Northern boundary extended to Little Fishing creek. This was formerly included in Fishingcreek township and prior to 1789 in Wyoming. The erection of Centre in 1844 reduced Briarcreek to its present limits. The borough of Berwick was separated from it in 1850, previous to which time elections for school officers were not held separately. When the borough was incorporated, January 29, 1818, burgesses, councilmen and high constables were the only elective officers for whom provision was made. The borough limits, as originally described, included the whole of the town plot as laid off by Evan Owen; subsequently, the eastern boundary was so charged as not to exclude that portion embraced in Luzerne county. Although the borough organization was a measure of unquestioned wisdom and prudence, it was decidedly in advance of the general sentiment of the citizens, and lacked character and efficiency during the period of its history.
While the internal improvements already noted were absorbing the interest of the masses, the attention of others was directed to a question of equally serious import - the navigation of the Susquehanna. This stream was declared a public highway by the provincial assembly in 1771, and a sum of money appropriated to render it navigable. The Durham boats, in which the first families ascended the river to Berwick, derived their names form Durham, a town on the Delaware below Easton, where they were made. They were sixty feet in length, eight feet wide, and two feet deep and drew twenty inches of water under fifteen tons burthen. When manned by four men with setting poles, a boat progressed at a rate of two miles an hours against the current. Various improvements were attempted in the construction of boats. Isaac A. Chapman built a "team" boat at Nescopeck, and named it "Experiment." It was launched in July, 1824, but was unwieldy in size and shape, and was abandoned. The farmers of Briarcreek, with those of the whole section, resorted to rafts, arks and other varieties of river craft in transporting their wheat and flour to Baltimore. In April, 1826, the "Cordorus," a steamboat built at York Haven and commanded by Captain Elger, passed Berwick on its way to Wilkes-Barre and Binghampton. A crowd of people collected on the shore and cheered with much enthusiasm the craft that moved against the current with such apparent ease. The following month Captain Collins in the "Susquehanna," a boat of larger dimensions than the "Corodus," made the second attempt to navigate the "North Branch" by steam. On the afternoon of May 3, 1826, the falls of Nescopeck were reached. These rapids were regarded as the most dangerous and difficult yet encountered. The memorable disaster that occurred at this point is best described by Colonel Joseph Paxton of Catawissa: "With our rich pine we succeeded in raising a full head of steam, and set off in fine style to ascend the rapids. The strength of the current soon checked our headway, and the boat, flanking towards the right bank of the river, struck a rock. I stood on the forward deck with a long ash pole in my hand, and was in the act of placing it in the water hoping to steady her, when the explosion took place. Two young men standing near were blown high into the air, and I was hurled several yards into the water. I thought a cannon had been fired and blew my head off." All that remained of the unfortunate "Susquehanna" floated with the current. The mangled bodies of her passengers and crew, some dead, others disfigured beyond recognition but still clinging to life, were taken into Berwick, where every kindness was bestowed upon the unhappy survivors. This disaster conclusively demonstrated the impracticability of navigating the river by steam.
The construction of a canal was at once discussed as the only feasible
means of transporting the increasing productions to the seaboard. July 4, 1828, the patriotic demonstrations at Berwick were characterized by an unusually interesting feature. The excavation for the "North branch" canal was begun in the presence of a large concourse of people from various places along the river. Several furrows were plowed by Nathan Beach and Alexander Jameson. The former held the plow; the latter dove the oxen. The "Berwick Guards" appeared upon the scene in full military uniform. The loose earth was removed with shovels, a blast was fired and a mass of rock shattered; the discharge of a cannon and several exhibitions of pugilistic skill added to the interest of the occasion. Berwick was not benefited morally by the construction of the canal, if an inference may be drawn from the fact that there were fourteen drinking places in the place at that period. The first canal boat, the "Wyoming," passed Berwick on the river in 1830, before the canal was open for navigation. It is problematic whether the "Wyoming" may be called a canal boat with propriety under such circumstances. The following year the "Luzerne" passed the town in the canal. In 1835 the "George Denison" and "Gertrude," packet-boats, were launched by Miller Horton and A.O. Cahoon, respectively, for the transportation of passengers between Wilkes-Barre and Northumberland. The Lackawanna and Bloomsburg railroad was opened through the town in 1858; and in 1882 the North and West Branch railway became a valuable addition to its commercial facilities.
The manufacturing industries of Briarcreek at an early period present no special features. William Rittenhouse built the first mill in this region. It is still in existence, but has not been operated for many years. It stands within the angle formed by the confluence of the north and west branches of the creek, and receives its water power by means of dams erected in both streams. Millard's fulling mill was locally important at one time. Evan Owen attempted to utilize the water power of the river, and built a grist mill on its bank, but the attempt was a failure. James Evans engaged a similar undertaking with better success, locating his establishment on Briarcreek. Some half dozen clustered around this mill constitute the village of Evansville. George Mack established a foundry in 1825, and operated it on small scale for some years. The homes of the operatives here employed from the scattered village of Foundryville. The first representatives of their respective vocations in Berwick were Benjamin Doan, tailor; Abel Dally, chair-maker; Hiram Inman, tinner; Henry Traugh, tanner; the Browns, carpenters; Burlingame, cooper; Aquilla Starr, blacksmith; Bush, cloth-dryer; Joseph Stackhouse, butcher; Polly Mullen, weaver; Samuel Herron, cabinet-maker; John Snyder, saddler; James Evans, wheel-wright; Roxana Cortright, milliner; Sleppy and Company, gunsmiths, and Marshall, silversmith.
The initiatory step in conferring upon Berwick its present prominence in manufacturing circles was made in 1840m when M.W. Jackson and George Mack established a foundry at the corner of Third and Market streets. Their works comprised one building forty feet long and twenty five feet wide, with a shed in the rear in which agricultural implements were manufactured. Fifteen men were usually employed. The machinery consisted of a blower and lathe, operated by horse power. Robert McCurdy succeeded to Mack's interest in 1843, but retired three years later. Louis Euke was associated with Mr. Jackson from 1846 to 1849, and during this time the manufacture of heavy wagons received some attention. The firm of Jackson and Woodin was formed in 1849, W.H. Woodin being the new partner. The iron pipes, laid by the Berwick Water Company in 1850, were the first product of any magnitude manufactured at their works. Bridge castings were made for the Philadelphia and
Erie railroad in 1858, and the number of operatives increased to fifty. Twenty four wheel cars were built in 1861, thus inaugurating the most important branch of subsequent business. Two men were able to build one car in one week. Improved machinery was secured, and the capacity increased to five cars a week, and ultimately to one day. Additional shops were there erected, and in 1865 one hundred and fifty men were employed. A destructive fire reduced the works to ashes on the morning of March 17, 1866. The following day it was decided to rebuild. The hours that intervened marked a critical period in the history of Berwick. The result was awaited by anxiety from every citizen in town. It was everywhere discussed with approving comment. A period of building activity ensued. In 1869 two hundred and fifty men were employed at the shops. In 1872 the "long switch" was built, connecting the works with Lackawanna and Bloomsburg railroad. March 1, 1872, the Jackson and Woodin Manufacturing Company organized, with C.R. Woodin, president; C.G. Jackson, vice president; Garrick Mallery, treasurer; M.W. Jackson and W.H. Woodin, executive committee. The Berwick Rolling Mill Company was organized the same year; M.W. Jackson, C.G. Jackson G.B. Thompson and B.F. Crispin were its first officers. The payrolls of these two establishments aggregated several hundred thousand dollars in the course of a year. Thus have the insignificant proportions of the industry established in 1840 expanded to their present comprehensive magnitude.
To say that the growth of Berwick has been directly resultant from that of its manufacturing interests would be expression of a platitude. In illustration of this it may be stated that the population was four hundred and fifty two in 1840; four and eighty six in 1850; six hundred and twenty five in 1860; nine hundred twenty three in 1870; two thousand ninety four in 1880; and at this time (1886) probably more than three thousand.
The extent and importance of the business interest in Berwick followed in the wake of its increasing population. John Jones opened the first store about 1800. William Brien followed with the second, at his hotel. George Payne and Thomas Richardson removed from Boston in 1807, and both became merchants. The former located on the corner of Market and Second streets; the latter on the west side of Second between market and Mulberry. Other business houses of local prominence at different periods were those of Matthew McDowell, J. & A. Miller, Wright & Slocum, Robert McCurdy, J. & E. Leidy, Stowers & Ellis, J. & J. Bowman, Clark, Deilly, Scoville, Rittenhouse & Shuman, Headley, McNair
Co. and George Lane. January 27, 1818, the legislature authorized John brown, John Vennet, Samuel F. Headley and Sherman Clark to organize the Berwick Water Company. Water was brought from Briar creek, two miles distant, in wooden pipes. The supply from this source was inadequate, and in 1841 George Mack, Samuel F. Headley and A.B. Wilson projected hydraulic works and perfected arrangements for pumping water from a spring below the hill. In 1848 the Water & Hydraulic Companies were consolidated. The decade wooden piped were replaced with cement and iron mains. Upon the reorganization of the company in 1883 the general condition of its distributing service was greatly improved. An institution of more recent origin and scarcely less importance is the First National Bank of Berwick. June 3, 1864, articles of association were properly drawn and signed by M.W. Jackson, P.M. Traugh, Jesse Bowman, S.B. Bowman, M.M. Cooper, Francis Evans, F. Nicely, Abram Miller, W.H. Woodin, M.E. Jackson, William Lamon and Henry Lamon. A charter was granted by the comptroller of the treasury November 10, 1864. December 1, 1865, an organization was effected, with M.W. Jackson president, and M.E. Jackson,
cashier. The capital stock, originally fifty thousand dollars, was increased, January 3, 1865, to seventy thousand dollars.
The din of peaceful industry has not always, as now, been unbroken by the mingled discord of military parade. The old "battalion days" are remembered by the older citizens as topics of absorbing interest at the time of their occurrence. In the later part of May in each year, infantry and cavalry, a motley crew of men and boys in citizens' attire, paraded and maneuvered to the roll of the drum and the shrill notes of the fife. An ancient piece of ordnance, primed, polished and mounted, represented the artillery. The population was in attendance en masse; training day was the gala occasion of all the year. James Pratt drilled the infantry; Matthew McDowell organized the first company. John M. Snyder and John Bittenbender are remembered as colonels, George Kelekner and Christopher Bowman as majors.
Berwick furnished a full quota of soldiers to the late war. A company of thirteen enlisted in late May, 1861, and twenty three for three years service a short time afterward, while others joined the ranks at intervals during the war. A regiment passed through the town in April, 1861, and was greeted with enthusiasm. The remains of twenty six soldiers repose in the Berwick cemetery. Two of this number, Moses Davis and James Pratt, were veterans of the revolutionary, three of the war of 1812, two of the Mexican war, eighteen served in the war for the union and one was a member of the National Guards. The military prestige of the town is still maintain to a certain extent. The Jackson Guards were organized in 1871, but disbanded in 1880. April 1, 1886, Julius Hoft, formerly a student at the Prussian military academy, organized the Berwick Guards, a juvenile company, C.C. Jackson, captain. Jackson Post, No. 159, Grand Army of the Republic, was charted January 26, 1886, with the following members; George A. Buckingham, J.T. Chamberlain, Samuel Simpson, D.W. Holly, Abner Welsh, Rueben Moyer, George Keenor, W.H. Morton, John Withers, R.H. Little, W.C. Barnard, Minor Hartman, Martin McAlister, Leroy T. Thompson, Tighlman Mahorter, S.C. Jayne, A.D. Seeley, W.J. Scott, Michael Thorton, John Wooly and E.D. Lepkicher. John H. Styler, Camp, No. 25, was instituted may 29, 1882, with D.C. Smith, captain; E.P. Wolfe, first lieutenant; Harry Low, second lieutenant; David Thomas, chaplain; Augustus Low, surgeon; George Hoppes, orderly sergeant; Harry Barnard, sergeant of the guard; David Thomas, quarter-master; Jerome Pifer, color-sergeant; Albert Low, corporal.
The various secret societies are also represented. Berwick Lodge, No. 246, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was instituted July 23, 1847, with Isaiah Bahl, N.G.; O.H.P. Kitchen, V.G.,; Aaron Deitterich, secretary; James S. Campbell, treasurer. Besides these persons the names of Stewart Pearce, G.W. Nicely, William Brewer and B.S. Gilmour appeared among the list of first members. A hall was built in 1868-69 at a cost of twelve thousand dollars under the supervision of Hudson Owen, H.R. Bower and David Baughey.
Knapp Lodge, No. 462, Free and Accepted Masons, was organized march 2, 1872, with John H. Taylor, W.M.; F.E. Brockway, S.W.; G.B. Thompson, J.W. The original members were John H. Taylor, Frank E. Brockway, George B. Thompson, C.G. Jackson, A.B. McCrea, H.C. Freas, C.R. Woodin, Samuel Hetler, Hudson Owen, Daniel Reedy, W. H. Woodin, Adrian Van Houten, R.H. Little, J.W. Driesbach, George F. Fisher, J.F. Opdyke, J.F. Hicks, S.B. Bowman, N.W. Stecker, Benjamin Evans, William Ross and Nicholas Seybert. The following persons have been Past Masters since the organization: John H. Taylor, F.E. Brockway, Joseph F. Hicks, Henry C. Augstadt, Jacob F. Bittenbender, W.A. Baugher, B.F.
Crispin, Jr., R.G. Crispin, John Everard, W.S. Heller and D.H. Thorton.
Washington Camp, No. 105, Patriotic order Sons of America, was established in 1869, but disbanded in 1878. February 17, 1880, it was reorganized with the following members: N.W. Dickson, W.A. Ross, C.A. Croop, S.C. Marteeny, R.F. Kitchen, C.E. Ross, H.C. Learn, F.S. Hartman, Anselm Leob, Will H. Owen, W.M. Hampshire, Conway Dickson, J.W. Kurtz, J.S. Hicks, Charles W. Freas, F.P. Hill, George B. Kester, J.C. Deitterick, John W. Morhead, J.C. Reedy, J.M. Witman, William F. Rough, M.E> Rittenhouse, A.J. Learn, F.G. Hull, J.E. Frey and H. Z. Hempfield. In April, 1886, the lodge first occupied its present comfortable quarters on West front street. The members hip is more than one-hundred and is steadily increasing.
The schools of Berwick date from an earlier period than its military and business institutions. The first school in Briar creek township was opened in the old stone church building. In 1810 this school was removed to a building erected for school purposes at Foundryville. Cordelia A. Preston, Daniel Goodwin, Morris Hower and John Arney were teachers at these places. The first school at Berwick was opened in 1800 by Isaac Holoway in the Quaker meeting house. Prior to 1837 this building and the market house were the only houses used for school purposes. David E. Owen, Doctors Dutlon and Roe, David Jones and James Dilvan are remembered as teachers prior to 1818; between that date and 1837, Messrs, Comstock, Hoyt, Richards, Crosby and Haik were their successors. Berwick Academy, "for the education of youth in the English and other languages, and in the useful arts and sciences, and literature," was incorporated June 25, 1839, with Marmaduke Pearce, John Bowman, Thomas McNair, A.B. Wilson, George Mack and A.B. Shuman, trustees. Among the instructors connected with this institution were J.H. Rittenhouse, George Waller and Joel E. Bradley. A building was erected in 1872, the latter in 1886. D.C. McHenry has served as school director continuously since 1859, with exception of one year. Timothy Mahoney became principal of the high school in the autumn of 1858; Michael Witmire in 1859; Joseph Yocum in 1860; Henry Keim in 1861; J.G. Cleveland in 1862; Samuel E. Furst in 1863; Reece E. Dodson in 1864; William Patterson in 1865; J.H. Hurst in 1866; S.C. Jayne in 1867; H.M. Spaulding in 1868; H.D. Albright in the four years following and in 1874; J.G. Williams in 1873; C.F. Diffenderfer in 1875; A.H. Stees in 1876; W.E. Smith in 1877 and four succeeding terms; J.T. Bevan in 1882, L.T. Conrad in 1883; Amelia Armstrong in 1884 and 1885, and Henry G. Clark, the present principal.
The various religious bodied were early represented in Briarcreek township. The Friends were the first to erect a house of worship. October 21, 1799, the ground was purchased upon which a brick structure that succeeded it is situated. The following entry appears in the minutes of Catawissa monthly meeting, November 11, 1800: "Friends of Berwick laid before this meeting in a serious manner, in writing signed by Aquilla Starr, a request for the privilege of holding a meeting for divine service on the first day of the week at the eleventh hour." April 25, 1801, the request was favorable considered but the meeting thus established has long since been discontinued. Evan Owen, Joseph Stackhouse, Andrew Shiner, William Rittenhouse, Joseph Pilkington and Joseph Eck were prominently identified with the affairs of this meeting.
A union house of worship was built in 1805 by the Lutheran and Reformed congregations of Briarcreek valley. This was the first effort in the direction made by either denomination in the country. A constitution for the joint ownership of this building was framed in 1807. Reverends Plitt and Adams were pastors at the time. The English element of the Lutheran congregation subsequently separated from it and became a distinct organization. The Reformed congregation has usually been connected in pastoral care with the Orangeville church.
In the minutes of the Central Pennsylvania Conference for 1876 the following appears from the pen of B.H. Creever, D.D., regarding the origin of Methodism in this section:
In Briarcreek valley, Columbia county, Penn., a mile or more from the north branch of the Susquehanna, and within four miles of Berwick, may be seen a stone building forty feet front, as measured by the eye, and nearly or quite square. It is severely plain, and might easily escape the eye of the traveler; but modest as it is, it is monumental, and historically considered, is invested with abiding interest. This plain house was the first completed church edifice belonging to the Methodists, with what are defined as the present limits of the Danville district. It was erected in 1808.
As a shrine of religious worship it has long been deserted; but, as a lingering fragrance hangs about the broken vase, so, around the deserted temple, linger still its sacred memories - memories if holy joy that once thrilled the hearts of its worshippers, and of gospel triumphs once celebrated within its walls.
Events and incidents, thus commemorated, possess more than a local or passing interest; with others of similar import in adjacent territory, they constitute no unimportant part of the early history of a great denomination. The country extending for miles from this venerable shrine is in the highest degree beautiful, consisting of highly cultivated farms, held by prosperous people. When this church was built, the primitive forest of the river country had been but barely grazed by the axe of the adventurous frontiersman. Hemlock, pine, beech and maple towered aloft everywhere, in solemn grandeur, from Northumberland to the farthest reaches of Wyoming.
In the rear of the church is a rural burial ground, where lie - like warriors asleep on the field of their triumphs - many of the moral heroes who did valiant service in the heroic era of Methodism. At a short distance from the church is a farm house, which likewise possesses historic interests. Like the sanctuary, it is of stone, and so survives, while more perishable structures have disappeared. It is of unusual elevation, having in some sort a third story. This was the home of Thomas Bowman, who, with his brother Christian, emigrated to Northampton county and settled here in the wilderness in 1792. This third story was a recognized place of worship, and became famous among the scattered saints years before the erection of the church.
Here occurred, in 1805, the first great revival of religion in the "North branch" country, so far as it is embraced in the sketch. A spirit-baptism anywhere at that day was the signal for the gathering of God's people from great distances, and so by an irresistible impulse they met here, coming - some on horse-back, more on foot - from a distance of thirty or forty miles.
A direct and immediate result of this was the formation of a class at Berwick. The following persons were members: William Stahl, Jane Herrin, Rachel Traugh, Hugh Thompson, Nancy Thompson, Robert Brown, Samuel Steele, Sallie Steele, James Herrin, William Sisty, Mary Sisty, Andrew Petit and Benjamin Doan. Previous to this time Reverends William Culbert, James Paynter, Morris Howe and Robert Burch had preached occasional sermons. In 1806 Berwick appointment was attached to Northumberland circuit. In 1831 Berwick circuit was established, embracing twenty eight preaching places in Columbia and Luzerne counties. In 1867 Berwick became a station. The class leaders at this time were Jesse Bowman, Isaac Smith, Amos F. Creasy, W.H. Woodin, M.W. Jackson and C. R. Woodin. Jesse Bowman, M.W. Jackson, H.C. Freas, W.H. Woodin, M.E. Jackson, Paul Fortner, W.J. Knorr, E.B. Hull and Isaac Smith constituted the board of stewards. Jesse Bowman, M.W. Jackson, Paul Fortner, M.E. Jackson, H.C. Freas, W.H. Woodin, J.W. Bowman, James Jacoby and Isaac Smith were trustees. J.A. Gere was pastor in 1867-68; F.B. Riddle, 1869-70; W.W. Evans, 1872-73; S. Creighton, 1874-75; J.H. McGarrah, 1876-78; M.L. Smyser, 1879-81; W.W. Evans, 1882-85; E.H. Yocum, 1885.
Services were held in the second story of the market-house during the first years if the history of the church. Subsequently a store-room was fitted up in a rude manner and used for this purpose. In 1811 Hugh Thompson tendered a room in his house on second street for the use of the society. In 1817 a lot on the corner of Mulberry and Market street was secured and the brick structure now used as a dwelling erected thereon. In 1845, the second Methodist church building was erected on a lot donated by Robert McCurdy. Gilbert Fowler, Samuel F. Headley and W. McCurdy were the building committee. Reverend John Bowen was pastor at the time. February 19, 1871, the present church edifice was erected on the same site as its predecessor of a quarter century previous. Reverend Thomas Bowman, at present (1886) the senior bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church in this country and a native of Berwick, performed the ceremony of dedication. Houses of worship have also been built at Summer Hill and Foundryville.
The Evangelical Association has been represented in Briarcreek since 1826, when reverends Seybert and Noecker conducted religious services at the house of George Zahner. The Summer Hill church building was erected in 1849. Prior to this Daniel Kahr, Simon McLane, James Dunlap and others continued to preach at private houses. The Evansville church was built in 1854. The organizations at both points are connected with Columbia circuit. Jacob Hartzel, John Young, George Hunter, A.H. Irwin, S.D. Benington, P.H. Rishel, H.W. Buck, S.P. Remer, A.W. Shenburger, W.W. Rhoads, I.W. Pines and D.P. Kline have successfully served as pastors.
The first service of this church in Berwick was held in March, 1870, at the town-hall by reverend P.H. Rishel. A class had been organized somewhat earlier. It was composed of Isaah Bower, Hannah Bower, George P. Clewell, Susan Clewell, Elizabeth Clewell, and Fannie Kirkendal. The meetings of the class were held in the hall until January 18, 1874. During this period, protracted meetings were conducted with frequency and success. In February, 1873, it was formally decided to build a church edifice. Isaah Bower was constituted the building committee. January 1, 1874, the brick structure on Second street between Pine and Chestnut was dedicated. M.J. Carothers, presiding elder, H.B. Hartzel and others participated in the ceremonies. In March, 1875, Berwick and Beach Haven were separated from Columbia circuit and constituted Berwick mission. W.M. Croman was appointed missionary. Under the pastoral care of Reverends J.A. Irvine, J.M. Ettinger, C.W. Buck and J.J. Lohr, the mission has become practically self-sustaining.
The doctrines of the Baptist society were first promulgated at Berwick in 1842 by reverend Joseph Morris, who preached in the Methodist church building. The only adherents to this faith in Berwick at that time were Levi L. Tate and Mrs. Silas E. Craig. In September, 1842, W.S. Hall, of White Deer, Union county, succeeded Mr. Morris. Services were held in a store-house at the corner of Mulberry and Second streets owned by Saml. A. Headley, and fitted up for that purpose by him. Religious meetings were held continuously between September 10th and 15th, resulting in forty two conversions. The following week the converts were baptized in the anal at the head of the lock in the presence of a large concourse of people. At the conclusion of this ceremony the bridge was crossed, and the church formally organized in Williams grove on the opposite side. Levi L. Tate, John T. Davis and Abram Miller were elected deacons. Mr. Hall resigned the pastorate at the expiration of three years. During this period, a frame church edifice was erected; it has
subsequently been replaced by a brick structure of enlarged size and improved appearance. Reverends Rohrer, Worrel, Miller, Prentess, Brinsinger, Cattell, Caterall and Galloway have successfully served this church.
On Saturday afternoon, November 24, 1827, the Reverend Joseph M. Ogden, a Presbyterian clergyman, held a service preparatory to communion in the brick church building which appears to have been regarded as a union meeting-house at that time. A congregational meeting was held at the close of the regular exercises and it was unanimously decided to form a district Presbyterian church. William Willson and Sarah Willson became members of this organization, having previously been connected with the church at Abington, PA., Daniel Bowen was received from the Old South Church, Boston; Isaac and Abigail Hart, from Wilkes-Barre, PA., Mary and Eliza Polluck from the Derry church; the remaining members, Thomas and Eleanor Lockart, Emanuel Kirkendall and reached Beach had been received into the church by Reverend John Patterson on a previous visit. It was resolved that the articles of faith and covenant for admission of members at Wilkes-Barre and Abington be adopted and enforced in a similar manner. The organization was completed on the following Sabbath when Daniel Bowen, Isaac Hart and Thomas Lockhart were installed as elders; and at a meeting of the session, February 19, 1828, a request was formulated for admission into Northumberland Presbytery.
July 20, 1839, Reverend David J. Waller entered a minute upon the record of this congregation, in which he stated that the church had been for a long time without pastoral care and, as far as the manifestations of life were concerned, was virtually extinct. The only knowledge of the facts above stated had been learned from the Reverend D. Gaston, of Conyngham, who sent Mr. Waller the record in which they were embodied. It contained the approval of the moderator of presbytery, and he accepted this as sufficient evidence of the existence of an organization, although but two or three of its original members were any longer residents of the town. At Mr. Waller's request, Reverend A. H. Hand took part of his extensive charge, entering upon his duties at Berwick July 7, 1842. He at once agitated the erection of a church building, and with such success that on the 7th of October, 1843, the completed structure was dedicated by Reverend George W. Yoemans, president of Lafayette College. Its appearance was greatly improved in 1881, when the building was completely remodeled and a tower of symmetrical proportions erected. The rededication occurred July 10, 1881, when Reverends D.J. Waller, S. Mitchell, D.D., C.K. Canfield and L.M. Kumler participated in the ceremonies. Many pastoral changes occurred in the years that intervened between these two events in the history of this church. Mr. hand resigned on account of ill health, and on the 14th of July, 1845, a call was extended to Reverend Alexander Heberton. He entered upon his pastoral duties the 1st of August of that year, and was installed November 25th following. Reverend James Dickson, Reverends James F. Kennedy, ---- Morgan, Joseph Marr, Edward Kennedy, James M. Salmon and P.M. Melick have also sustained pastoral relations with this church.
The Young Men's Christian Association of Berwick is an institution which affords rare opportunities for cooperative effort on the part of all evangelical denominations in surrounding young men with healthful moral influences. The genius which had transformed the country village into manufacturing
town turned with equal energy and success to the solution of a perplexing problem of social life - how to restrain and direct the various classes of society which had populated its expanding limits and develop from them a body of useful citizens. The practicability of organizing Christian effort for the attainment of this object was quietly discussed. The movement assumed tangible form in 1878, when, on 9th of June, a meeting of the clergy and citizens was held in the basement of the Methodist church edifice, C.H. Zehnder, secretary of Pennsylvania district, Y.M.C.A., presiding. An organization was effected by the election of C.G. Jackson, president, and Isaiah Bower, vice-president. The Jackson & Woodin manufacturing Co. manifested their interest in promoting the success of the Association in its incipiency by placing at its disposal on the third floor of their building, free of all charges for rent, light or heat. A reading room was here opened between the hours of 7 and 9 P.M. In June, 1879, C.H. Zehnder was appointed executive secretary, and a janitor was employed to keep the rooms in order. J.F. Opdyke became president in 1880. The Jackson & Woodin Co. opened a reading room on the second floor of this building, and purchased onethousand volumes as a nucleus of a library. Mr. A.G. Kimberley was elected librarian, and devoted his whole time to the task of systematizing the workings of the library and rendering its results more effective. The various departments of the work were sustained with such effect as to fully compensate the projectors for their efforts. John W. Evans became president in 1882, and C.H. Zehnder the following year. In June, 1883, the "Young Men's Christian Association of Berwick" was incorporated, with M.W. Jackson, W.H. Woodin, C.R. Woodin, B.F. Crispin, F.R. Jackson, S.P. Hanly, L.F. Bower, S.C. Jackson and C.H. Zehnder, trustees. Prior to this time the association had been an experiment; its projectors observed with complacency their confidence in the success of its methods gradually infusing itself into the minds of those who had at first been doubtful. Its work had increased to such an extent as to require enlarged facilities for its unrestricted usefulness.
The executive officers of the association realized their requirements and took immediate measures for the erection of a hall. The following year (1884) C.R. Woodin deeded to the trustees a ;lot on the corner of Market and Second streets, and by an additional donation of eleven thousand dollars placed the institution upon a firm financial basis. Mrs. Lizzie Jackson followed with a three-story dwelling house on Market street and two-thousand dollars. W. Taggart, state secretary made personal solicitations with the board of trustees, for funds to supplement these generous donations. The plan for a hall, suggested by Mr. S. Fraser and approved by the board of trustees, embodied the latest ideas in association architecture. The new building was formerly dedicated April 7, 1885. The general secretary at the time was Mr. S.T. Dimmick, who entered upon his duties May 21, 1884. In August, 1886, he was succeeded in his capacity by Mr. W.N. Multer. The financial exhibit for the eight year of the association (ending June 8, 1886) shows total assets of twenty seven thousand nine hundred and thirty one dollars and sixty nine cents, larger in proportion to the population of the town than the assets of any other institution of similar character in the world. A Judiciously selected library of three thousand five hundred volumes comprises works of a religious, scientific, philosophical and miscellaneous character. The leading journals and magazines are constantly on file and are generally read by those who are interested in contemporary issues. The management has this season added to its advantageous a curriculum of study embracing courses in vocal and instrumental music, the modern and classic languages, bookkeeping and penmanship, social and parliamentary etiquette, and physical culture. But the work of training mind and body is merely accessory to that higher culture of conscience which reaches its full fruition in the true nobility of Christian character. If the question of adequate returns be asked there can be but one answer. The ablest mathematicians the world has ever produced could not compute the influence exerted by such institutions in molding individual character by surrounding pliant minds with a healthful, moral atmosphere.
Source: Page(s) 191-207. History of Columbia and
Montour Counties. Battle, J.H., Chicago: A. Warner, 1887. Transcribed by Tina Fiorani.