Biographical and Historical Books
INDIAN AND PIONEER HISTORY
INDIAN SETTLEMENTS, GRAIN STOREHOUSE, RELICS, ETC.- FIRST WHITE SETTLERS, MARRIAGE, ETC.- EARLY LAND TRANSFERS- RELIGIOUS EXERCISES- PRICE OF COMMODITIES- TWO INTERESTING LETTERS- CUSTOMS AND DOINGS OF THE EARLY TIMES- SOME PIONEER NAMES- INDIAN AND WHITE HUNTERS.
Of the Lenni Lenape, the third tribe or division, were the Wolves (Minsi), who occupied the region which embraced the land along the Allegwi Lipu (Allegheny river) to its head waters. So the aborigines, who held the land now embraced by Potter county, were the Minsi, or Monseys, as called by the whites. A portion of the Monseys joined their tribe on the head waters of the Allegheny after the sale of their lands, from which they were driven, on the Susquehanna, as late as 1768. As before noticed, the village of Muncy takes its name from this tribe of the Lenape, who once owned the lands upon which it stands. The largest settlement of the Minsi was at the mouth of the Tionesta, and above upon the Allegheny river to the swamp from which its waters rise, the Minsi held the land. : There is evidence of various encampments along the stream where it passes through Potter. That there was a large granary of corn at Roulette is proven, and some of the carbonized grains are still in existence. It stood upon the ground now used as the burying- ground above the village of Roulette. This granary was burned, and according to the traditions of the early settlers it was both roofed and floored with hemlock bark, as the charred bark was found both above and below the burnt corn. This corn, it is evident, was not raised in this country, as the forest was dense and unbroken, but had been brought up from the corn fields of the Tionesta and the Brokenstraw, probably in canoes, and this depot of supplies established, either for the convenience of hunting expeditions or to be kept for an emergency, in case the Indians were driven from the lower river by their enemies, the "pale faces." Upon the Mills farm at Colesburg, and the adjoining farm of Edwin Haskell, many arrow- heads and other implements have been found. Mr. Haskell informs me that in one place a large quantity of flint chips and imperfectly formed arrow- heads were found, showing that there was at one time a manufactory of instruments of the chase, and that when taking out a stump of an elm, the stem of which was at least three and one- half feet in diameter, he found exactly beneath it, under a foot of black mold, a stone tool, used by the Indians in skinning their game. A year or so ago there was discovered in a piece of woods, about one and one- half miles from Andrews Settlement, in a northwesterly direction just over the line in Genesee township, a mound about fourteen feet in diameter, walled up by a stone cairn, about three or four feet high. Upon the top of the mound grew a beech about two feet in diameter. Some curious persons dug into the side of this mound and brought to light the skeleton of a man of gigantic size, also the bones of a dog, nearly all of the bones crumbling upon exposure to the air. The jaw- bone is in the possession of Mr. Alva Andrews, of Andrews Settlement. With the bones were found numerous flint arrow- heads, and some stone ornaments, and about a pint of small shells, which also soon disintegrated upon exposure. There has been no thorough exploration of the mound; the specimens above referred to are scattered about among the settlers of the neighborhood. In other parts of the county relics of the departed race are found, along the Pine creek (Indian name Tiadaghton) and the Sinnemahoning, which retains its Lenape name.
It is claimed that Thomas Butler, a deserter from the British army, was the first to settle in the wilds of Potter, but at what date he came or departed is unknown to the writer. The first settlement of which we have any date, and which probably was the first bona fide settlement, was that of a Frenchman by the name of Jaundrie, who, "in 1806, settled on the Oswayo at a point now called Shinglehouse. He built a house on the south bank of Oswayo creek, at the mouth of the run which still bears his name. The house was sided with shingles, put on like roofing, and the butts of the same were rounded to a half circle. From that house the place (Shinglehouse) took and retained its name." (L.H. Kinney, Sharon Township.) All histories of the county have claimed that William Ayers was the first settler in 1808, but Mr. Kinney has shown that the first settlement of the county took place two years earlier. We find on Book A of the register and recorder's office the entry of a deed dated October 25, 1806, by which instrument Robert Waln and others conveyed to Isaac Wharton 400,000 acres of land in Potter county for the sum of $50,150. Maj. Isaac Lyman let a job of clearing ten acres of land on the Keating farm, in Sweden, to a man by the name of Carson. The Keating farm is situated about three miles above Lymansville on the road from Coudersport to Brookland, and is now owned by Nathan Adams, who lives upon the place. This is the first clearing we know of being made in the county, unless Jaundrie had made one on the Oswayo at Shinglehouse. In 1808 William Ayers moved his family into the county, and settled upon the Keating farm, where the body of a log house had been erected in 1807. His family consisted of his wife and three children: George, Nancy and James, and a negro boy whose name was Asylum Peters, who is referred to in the history of McKean county. In 1809 Maj. Isaac Lyman moved into the country and settled on the Keating farm also. He came as the land agent of Keating. In 1810 Maj. Lyman built a saw- mill where Lymansville now stands. The lumber for this mill was cut on the Keating farm with a whip- saw. This was the first saw- mill in the county. In 1811 Maj. Lyman constructed the first grist- mill; this was also located' at Lymansville.
In 1810 also occurred another notable event. It was the first marriage in the county. It was celebrated at Lymansville in the autumn of that year. Silas McCarty, of Muncy, Penn., wedded Miss Laura Lyman, daughter of Maj. Isaac Lyman. In 1811 the first white child born in the county first saw the light at Lymansville- Eulalia Lyman, named from the township of Eulalia, which at this date comprised the entire county. It is claimed that John Ives, Sr., a Revolutionary veteran, settled in Pike township somewhere from 1808 to 1810. In 1811 Solomon Walker settled at the mouth of Fishing creek. Benjamin Burt also settled in what is now known as Roulette township, where Burtville now stands, May 4, 1811, he being the third settler in the county. John Peet moved into Potter county on the 23d day of May, 1812, taking up a piece of land one mile below where Coudersport now stands. At this time court was still held at Williamsport, and was continued there until February, 1823, making a long journey through the forests, generally on foot, necessary to the settlers of the new land. The first person who died in the county was a Mr. Beckwith, who, was passing through to his home in McKean county. He was buried upon the farm now occupied by Mortimer Benson. No one living can tell the exact spot of the grave. The birth or the first child was attended by a German midwife, Mrs. Platman, who resided in Bradford county. The first regular physician was Dr. Eastman, who divided his time between Lymansville and Smethport. When in Lymansville he boarded with Maj. Lyman, and to add to his earnings he taught school. The first nurse and midwife resident in the county was Eunice Nelson, wife of Cephas Nelson, who attended families upon the Pine creek and Allegheny river. John K. Burt was the first male white child born in the county. The first mortgage put on record was given by Isaac Lyman to Keating and Roulette October 16, 1812. In this same year the Pine creek road was laid out by William W. Walters, Isaac Lyman, A. Parmateer, John Lyman, John Peet and Amos Mix, viewers. A Fourth of July celebration took place in 1812 at Maj. Isaac Lyman's, and was a grand affair, nearly every resident of the county attending. A flag was raised upon one tree, and a pair of deer's antlers upon another. Dinner and drinks followed, of course. About this time, 1812- 13, Samuel M. Losey moved into what is now known as Pike township. He was a prominent character in the early days of the county, particularly on Pine creek, Hon. J.M. Kilbourne writes me (1887): "I came here (Pike) fifty- six years ago, and Losey was an old settler then, and postmaster." He settled on the right- hand side of Phenix creek, the east line of his farm being also the dividing line between Potter and Tioga counties. Just over the line his father- in- law, John Phenix, settled. Losey was noted as a jovial man, and was always present at all the merry- makings for miles around.
In these early days it was the custom of the members of the bar and the judges of the various courts of the judicial district to ride the circuit on horseback. On one occasion, when the legal cavalcade was moving from Wellsboro to Smethport, Losey, in lieu of a horse, took a black bull from his team, and rode with the procession as far as Lymansville, where he stopped to take part at a dance. Samuel M. Losey lived to the age of one hundred and six years. He was blind for many years before his death. He attended the first courts of Potter and McKean counties as juror. Obediah Sartwell was the first settler where Coudersport now stands. He built a house on the west side of the Allegheny river, on the lot now occupied by C.A. Stebbins. The house stood about where the wood- shed of Mr. Stebbins' residence stands now. Mr. Sartwell built and worked in the first blacksmith's shop in the county. This stood near where the Coudersport Hotel now stands. He became disgusted with his location, and removed to the mouth of Sartwell creek, in Roulette township, the stream bearing his name. October 16, 1813, Keating and Roulette deeded to Benj. Burt 50 acres of land for $1, and on January 12, 1813, Keating transferred to Jacob Vannatter 50 acres of land for $1. May 15, 1813, Keating and Roulette deeded to John Peet 52 acres and 116 perches, and usual allowance of 6 per cent for roads, for the sum of $5.45. January 28, 1813, Keating & Roulette deeded to Wm. Ayers 200 acres of land for $100. November 19, 1813, William Wattles deeded to Burrel Lyman 50 acres of land for $130. These were the first deeds for farms recorded in the county. In 1813 the first tavern kept in the county was opened by Isaac Lyman, at Lymansville. The first medical student in the county was Harry Lyman, who went to study medicine with Dr. P. Powers, of Lawrenceville, Penn., in 1816. Dr. Lyman practiced long in the county, dying in Oswayo in 1856 or 1857. John Taggart came into the county in 1816, from Vermont, and took up a farm upon the river about one mile below Coudersport, moving his family here the following year. About this year (1816) the first mail route was established, from Olean to Jersey shore. The first postmaster was Isaac Lyman, at Lymansville. The next post- office was at Ceres, where John King was the postmaster. The mail was carried on horseback by a man named Wallace, from Lycoming county; afterward by James Otis, of Jersey Shore. During this year the first religious meetings were held in the county, at Lymansville, by Elder Davenport from Massachusetts, a Baptist missionary, John King, was the first county treasurer, appointed in 1816. The Eulalia township taxes for 1815 were $15; for 1816, $8; for 1817, $14. 50. Taxes were first collected in Roulette in 1817. Wolves in those early days were plentiful, and did much damage to the flocks of the pioneers. A bounty of $8 was paid for wolf- scalps, and we find that Jacob Vannatter secured this sum for a scalp in 1815. From February to May 31, 1816, he captured seventeen wolves, and on the last date named he brought in seven wolf puppies. George Ayers was also noted as a slayer of these creatures. Daniel Clark moved his family to Potter, from Windham county, Conn., in 1816, coming all of the distance by wagon, and the journey requiring seventeen days. The children who came with him were Nelson, Daniel, Jr., Speedy and Lucy. They at first moved into the log house, which Obediah Sartwell had built, where Coudersport now stands. On the 10th of June of the same year he moved into a log house two miles north of Coudersport on the farm still occupied by Nelson Clark. Daniel Clark was a surveyor, and made the first map of Potter county, for which he received $150 from the State. Mrs. N.B. Palmer colored the map. This first chart of Potter can still be seen at Harrisburg. While surveying the Cowanesque road, with Jacob Vannatter and John Lyman, ,with help of the dogs, he killed a bear with his jacob's- staff. John Dingman and wife, Nathan Turner and family and Abram Dingman came from Chenango county, N.Y., and settled below Coudersport in 1816, on the farm lately occupied by Justus Mehring. The mother of John Dingman died at the house of her son, aged one hundred and one years. Nathan Turner was accidentally shot by George Taggart, who mistook Turner for a deer, in the summer of 1834, on the old salt- works road.
In 1820 the first convert to Christianity was baptized, Burrel Lyman being the candidate. During the year following, John Lyman and wife were also baptized. John Taggart was appointed county treasurer, and during this year the first tax sale of lands took place. Joshua Jackson moved in below Coudersport, at the Mehring place, from Broome county, N.Y. Daniel Rooks, a. man by the name of Doty and Levi Andrews came into that section, now embraced in Bingham township. Cephas Nelson came also this year from Lake George, Washington Co., N.Y.,town of Putnam. Alva Clark, a blacksmith, came to Lymansville in 1821, and built a shop. He remained in Lymansville until his death in 1830. Thomas Bellew settled near Lymansville in 1821; he came from Washington county, N.Y. In 1821 the first election was held in the county. In 1821 John King was again appointed county treasurer, and in 1822 Joseph Otto of McKean county, succeeded him. February 6, 1823, Harrison was erected into a township, embracing parts of Hector, Ulysses and Bingham. Benjamin Burt, Reuben Card and Jacob Streeter were appointed by the court to divide Eulalia township. During the year 1821 Jesse Treat and family moved into what is now the town of Clara. Nelson Clark helped to move his household stuff. Nelson Woodcock and Silas Nelson came from Washington county, N.Y., and settled near Lymansville. In 1823 Reuben Clark and wife came from Washington county, N.Y., and located above Coudersport. Levi Kibbe came into Bingham with Truman Stevens and others. In 11823 or 1824 John Dingman built what was known as the "little red mill," on the right- hand bank of Dingman run, about one mile below Coudersport. Taxes were first collected in Harrison in 1824. Commissioners first met in Coudersport. Evert Rose moved from Tompkins county, N.Y., to Hector. David Kilbourne built a saw- mill in Pike township, about eighty rods west of the county line. In this year Sylvester Wright came from the lower Sinnemahoning, and settled above Coudersport. Chester Corsaw settled in Sweden, on the farm now known as the Corsaw place. In April, 1823, Theodore Carpenter came from Groton, N.Y., and cleared a piece of ground and built a log house in Bingham. In 1825 he moved his family, a man named Lancaster bringing in his things with an ox team. There was no lumber nearer than Westfield, Tioga county. Lancaster let Carpenter have his sled box to make a door for his cabin. Having been directed by E.O. Austin, of Austin, to his "Reminiscences of Potter," published in the Potter County Journal, several years ago for early matters, we take the liberty of making some use of the following interesting items from those exceedingly fascinating and instructive papers: John Keating, who, in connection with John Roulette was an extensive land owner in Potter, treated the first settlers with great liberality. To the number of forty he gave each fifty acres of land. In a few instances he gave 100 acres, besides giving employment. The owner of the first saw- mill or grist- mill in a town was entitled to fifty acres of land also. The nearest mill was at King's Settlement (Ceres), but frequently this was not running, and the settlers were compelled to go to Jersey Shore or elsewhere. It is stated that the groves of wild plum trees, which are found along the old roads down the Cowanesque and Pine creek, originated from teamsters while on their shopping and milling trips. In camping out on the way, they dropped the pits of the plums, which they brought from the west branch of the Susquehanna and the Chemung. From 1808 to 1812 tea was worth from 10 to 12 shillings per pound; chocolate, 25 cents per pound; whisky, 50 cents a gallon at Jersey Shore. It was used on all occasions, being kept in every family. At dances, logging- bees, raisings, weddings, births, funerals, and in justice courts it cut a prominent figure. It cost $1 a gallon in the settlement. Three-quarter shirting of medium quality cost 50 cents per yard; wider, 60 and 75 cents per yard. Calico was 50 to 55 cents per yard. The peddler was a welcome individual, a sort of connecting link with the outside world. Lead was scarce and worth 50 cents per pound. One man made a bullet from a lead button, with which he shot and killed five deer, extracting the bullet from the carcass of the slain game. The lack of mechanics was such that every man must be a jack- at- all trades. Mr. Austin tells us that the men often wore deer- skin roundabouts and breeches, with skin caps, cloth caps also were made conical in form, and with a tassel or button at the point. People often went to court with rifle and knapsack, and camped out upon the road.
The two following letters, written by John Peet and Benjamin Burt, respectively, will very appropriately come in place in this chapter at this point. The writers came into the county as early as 1811- 12. These letters come down to us like a revelation, odorous with the perfume of the forests, and bring to our ears the sighing of the winds of spring time amid the branches of the pines. We force our way with the hardy pioneer through the tangled underbrush of the wilderness, and sink to sleep by the flickering light of the campfire, lulled into the first drowse by the babbling of the brook. But we have another vision: The north wind comes crashing through the branches; the trees clash and moan; the frost bites and stings; the snow falls and whirls, and through the dreary scene steals the moaning cry of a child begging for bread. The mother's heart beats in sympathy- she too, is hungry. She has given her last morsel to her child, and the longing eyes strive to pierce the snow wraith to forestall the coming of the father, who she knows is struggling home from the mill. And what a glad shout breaks from her lips, and what brightness dances in her eyes as the frosty heads of the oxen come in sight beneath the hemlock branch bending with its weight of snow. The steam rises from the nostrils of the tired cattle as they wallow along the unbroken way. The tired driver wades wearily behind, his clothing heavy with snow and ice. The sled looks like a moving snow- drift, but it holds in its depths the gold of life to the family of the pioneer- the yellow meal of the Indian corn. The wolf of famine is again driven from the cabin door, and a new lease of life is taken.
(Letter from John Peet)
It will be twenty- three years the 23d day of May, 1834, since I moved into Potter county. Old Mr. Ayers was in the county at that time, and had been in the county about five years alone. In the fall before I came three families (Benjamin Burt, Major Lyman and a Mr. Sherman) moved to the county. The east and west State road was cut out the year before I moved in. It was very lonesome for several years. People would move in and stay a short time and move away again. It has been but a few years since settlers began to stick. I made some little clearing and planted some garden seeds, etc., the first spring. We brought a small stock of provisions with us. On the 3d day of July I started with my yoke of oxen to go to Jersey Shore to mill to procure flour. I crossed Pine creek eighty times going to and eighty times coming from mill; was gone eighteen days; broke two axletrees to my wagon, upset twice, and one wheel came off in crossing the creek.
Jersey Shore was the nearest place to procure provisions, and the road was dreadful. The few seeds that I was able to plant the first year yielded but little produce. We, however, raised some half- grown potatoes, some turnips and soft corn, with which we made out to live, without suffering, till the next spring at planting time, when I planted all the seed that I had left, and when I finished planting we had nothing to eat but leeks, cow- cabbage and milk. We lived on leeks and cow- cabbage as long as they kept green, about six weeks. My family consisted, of my wife and two children, and I was obliged to work, though faint for want of food. The first winter the snow fell very deep. The first winter month it snowed twenty- five days out of thirty, and during the three winter months it snowed seventy days. I sold one yoke of my oxen in the fall, the other yoke, I wintered on browse, but in the spring one ox died, and the other I sold to procure food for my family, and was now, destitute of a team, and had nothing but my hands, to depend upon to clear my lands and raise provisions. We wore out all our shoes the first year. We bad nothing to get more, no money, nothing to sell and but little to eat, and were in dreadful distress for the want of the necessaries of life. I was obliged to work and travel, in the woods barefooted. After awhile our clothes were worn out. Our family increased and the children were nearly naked. I had a broken slate that I brought from Jersey Shore. I sold that to Harry Lyman, and bought two fawn skins; of which my wife made a petticoat for Mary; and Mary wore the petticoat until she outgrew it, then Rhoda took it till she outgrew it, then Susan had it until she outgrew it, then it fell to Abigail, and she wore it out.
(Letter from Benjamin Burt)
In the year 1808 an east and west road was opened through Potter county. John Keating & Co., of Philadelphia, who owned large tracts of land in the northwest part of the county, agreed with Isaac Lyman to undertake the opening of the road. In the fall of 1809 Mr. Lyman came in with several hands and erected a rude cabin, into which he moved in March, 1810. He then had but one neighbor in the county, who was four miles distant. I moved in on the 4th of May, 1811, and had to follow the fashion of the country for building and other domestic concerns, which was rather tough, there being not a bushel of grain or potatoes, nor a pound of meat, except wild, to be had in .the country. But there were leeks and nettles in abundance, which, with venison and bear's meat, seasoned with hard work and a keen appetite, made a most delicious dish. The friendly Indians of different tribes frequently visited us on their hunting excursions. Among other vexations were the gnats, a very minute but poisonous insect, that annoyed us far more than mosquitoes, or even hunger and cold, and in summer we could not work without raising a smoke around us.
Our roads were so bad that we had to fetch our provisions fifty to seventy miles on pack horses. In this way we lived until we could raise our own grain and meat. By the time we had grain to grind Mr. Lyman had built a small grist- mill, but the roads still being bad, and the mill at some distance from me, I fixed an Indian samp mortar to pound my corn; and afterwards I contrived a small hand- mill, by which I have ground many a bushel, but it was hard work. When we went out after provisions with a team we were compelled to camp out in the woods, and, if in the winter, to chop maple, trees for our cattle to browse on all night, and on this kind of long fodder we had to keep our cattle a good part of the winter.
When I came here I had a horse that I called "Main Dependence," on account of his being a good, steady old fellow. He used to carry my whole family on his back whenever we went to a wedding, a raising, a logging- bee, or to visit our neighbors, for several years, until the increasing load comprised myself, my wife and three children- five in all.
We had often to pack our provisions eighty miles, from Jersey Shore, sixty miles of the road being without a house. In the winter, when deep snows came on and caught us on the road without a fire, we should have perished if several of us had not been in company to assist each other.
The want of leather, after our first shoes were worn out, was severely felt. Neither tanner nor shoemaker lived in the county. But "necessity is the mother of invention." I made me a trough out of a big pine tree, into which I put the hides of any cattle that died among us. I used ashes for tanning them; instead of lime, and bear's grease for oil. The thicker served for sole leather, and the thinner, dressed with a drawing knife, for upper leather. And thus I made shoes for myself and neighbors.
I had fourteen miles to go in winter to mill with an ox- team. The weather was cold and the snow deep, no roads were broken, and no bridges across the streams. I had to wade the streams, and carry the bags on my back. The ice frozen to my coat was heavy as a bushel of corn. I worked hard all day, and only got seven miles by the first night, when I chained my team to a tree, and walked three miles to house myself. The second night I reached the mill. My courage often failed, and I almost resolved to return, but when I thought of my children crying for bread I took new courage.
In 1825, according to the remembrance of Mrs. Mary A. Ross, whose memory I have found to be unusually clear, there were between the Tioga county line and Canoe Place (Port Allegany), upon the direct road, twenty- seven families living. Beginning at the Tioga county line, and giving them in order, they were: Samuel Lasey, John Ives, Keating House, William Earl, Samuel Taggart, Silas Nelson (Benson place, near Lymansville), Cephas Nelson, Dr. Harry Lyman, Maj. Isaac Lyman, Mr. _____ Clark (Gordnier place, near Lymansville), John Reed (at Coudersport), John Peet, John Earl, Henry Dingman, Leonard Taggart, Squire Taggart, Mr. Turner, Mr. Reed, John Lyman, Burrel Lyman, Isaac Lyman three families of Streeters, owners of saw- mill, John Burt, the Colemans, and Mr. Lillibridge. In this year Mrs. Ross'stepfather, J.L. Cartee, came to Coudersport, and opened the Cartee House, the first hotel built or kept at Coudersport. The building was begun in 1824, but not finished until the year following. It stood upon the ground now occupied by the county jail. Mrs. Ross was at that time fifteen years old, and in the summer she taught school at Lymansville. In this year the settlement of Ayers Hill consisted of the families of Jacob Vannatter, William Ayers, Mr. Hinckle, George Ayers,, Joshua Jackson and one vacant house.
North Hollow was inhabited by a family by the name of Bellows and the Woodcocks. About this time "Father Conant," as he was called, a Methodist missionary, use to come through the country, from the Pine creek way, holding religious services, in the houses of the settlers. He lived, it is said, upon the Cowanesque, where Westfield is now, at that time known as Priestville. John Peet, who was a member, as he was wont to say, of the "Church of England," used to read sermons at first to the people at Lymansville, and afterward to preach extemporaneously, giving opinions in an eccentric way that is still remembered by his old-time hearers. But, although somewhat eccentric, he is recalled by those who knew him as a good man. In this year Jacob Bump and Thomas Towser moved into Hector.
There are some things connected with Potter county which are closely allied to the lives of our hunter settlers which, although they might be passed over, are still interesting and, therefore, as being a portion of the early events, deserve a place here. That the lives of our old settlers had much romance and adventure, mingled with the terrible hardships they underwent, cannot be gainsaid. The untimely meeting of an enraged bear, or a panther, meant at times a life- and- death struggle- a narrow escape at all events.
The Jamison fork, a small stream running into the East Fork of the Sinnemahoning takes its name from a tragical incident which took place at or near its mouth. An Indian, known as James Jamison, while hunting in the East Fork country, was attacked by a panther that sprang upon him from a tree, as local tradition has it. The Indian having but a knife to defend himself with, the fight was a terrible affair, which had its termination in the killing of both the Indian and the panther. W.W. Thompson, who gave us this item, slew a bear upon the same ground. This is still a fine hunting territory.
A little, clear, dancing brook that runs for perhaps a mile before joining the Allegheny river, flowing from north to south, and situated about three miles above Coudersport, bears the name of Steer Brook, from the fact that a panther killed a steer by the side of or in the shallow water of the stream, a few rods above the house lately occupied by the late Dr. R.V. Post. The pine log from which the panther sprang upon the steer was afterward cut up and drawn to the mill, and the boards sawn from it were used to floor the kitchen of Dr. Post's house. This house is now occupied by Willis Clark. In the early days of the county when there were wild beasts, that caused havoc among the flocks of the pioneers, which roamed at their own sweet will through the dark pine and hemlock forests, it became an imperative duty to wage a war of extermination against the blood- thirsty depredators. The other portions of the State having been settled to the exclusion of the northern, together with the settlements upon the New York side, the combination acted as a mighty "round- hunt "that had concentrated the beasts of the wilderness in the region of forest now brought under the gentler rule of civilization. When the panther, which was looked upon as royal game, made known his presence in the neighborhood of a settlement, by his blood- curdling cry, which resembles the shrill shriek of a woman in deadly peril, or the carcasses, partially devoured, of sheep or young cattle, at times numbers being killed, apparently for the love of killing or for the blood of the prey, as no portion was eaten, or by the footprints in the swampy places, the rifles came from far and near, and were shouldered by determined men; the dogs were called away from their woodchuck hunting, and every one was on the qui vive to close in upon the tawny cat and rush it into some tree top, from which a leaden messenger would dislodge it and bring it down. Many were the dogs that bit the dust beneath the cruel claws of the wounded beast when in its death agony, and we remember hearing the old men of Hector township tell of a hunt after a great panther that made a track "as large as a saucer," and how by organizing a "round- hunt," and with the help of the dogs, they finally treed it; how one of the hunters shot it in the "sticking place," and tumbled it from its lofty covert. One of the claws of this panther was used by John Havens, Sr., of Sunderlinville, years afterward as a charger for his rifle. As we remember the dimensions, the carcass measured ten feet from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail.
Charles Carlin, of Hector, went to a "lick" upon the Pine creek waters to watch for deer; he was two or three miles from a clearing; the "blind" was in the top of a fallen hemlock; the forest about was thick and dark, and the mountain side rose abruptly a short distance away. Sunset passed and the twilight deepened into night- a starless darkness. Carlin had no lantern and had forgotten his matches. No deer had come to the lick, so there was nothing for him to do but to remain in the blind until daylight, and accept the situation as philosophically as possible. Charley was an old woodsman, and the idea of staying alone in the forest during the night gave him no uneasy thoughts. The great owl hooted from the pines on the mountain side; mice and small nocturnal animals sprang about and rustled the dead leaves, and now and then the soft leaping of the rabbit could be heard. But there was no danger in these sounds, and finally our hunter settled himself as best he could, with his head resting against the stem of the tree in whose top he was sitting. He had just got into a drowse when he became aware that there was something alive upon the trunk against which he leaned. His ear was upon the log and he felt rather than heard the pat, pat, of something that must be at the farther end of the tree. The sound was muffled and indistinct. He raised his head, but could hear nothing; yet laying his ear against the tree again, he heard the sounds once more. He tried to penetrate the darkness, but his vision failed. He might as well have striven to pierce the blackness of a thunder cloud. At last he became nervous about it, and determined at all hazards to discover the true inwardness of the mysterious sounds. He turned himself stealthily about and cocked his trusty rifle. Of course, taking aim was out of the question, as neither the sights upon the barrel of the gun nor the object could be seen, but getting the lay of the tree as best he could, he held his gun in as direct a line as possible above and along it, and drew the trigger. The next instant his heart was in his throat; there was a snarl and a spring in his direction; a second and third in rapid succession, and a swiftly- followed fourth, that carried a body just over the head of the now frightened hunter and into the treetop; a scramble and a spring to the mountain side, and then rang out upon the blackness of the night the hair- raising scream of a panther. The animal did not pause, however, in its flight, but again and again its weird scream came back and echoed from the opposite mountain side, until it passed over the ridge far above. Carlin did not even doze again that night, and his imagination peopled the forest with crouching panthers in all directions. When daylight gladdened his vision he crept along the log, and near the farther end where it had broken from its roots, he found a line of reddish grey hair that his bullet had evidently cut from the side of the animal.
A panther was known to be ranging the forest of the eastern part of the county, as lately as 1873, the writer hereof having visual evidence of the fact. He was treating a case at a lumber camp upon the mountain, near the head of Johnson brook, between the Phenix and Pine creek waters, and started one morning at 3 o'clock, in company with Perry Fillmore, of Hector, to make the ascent of the mountain. We reached the camp on foot, just before sunrise, it being in the month of June. After making the professional visit, we started upon our return trip, alone, Mr. Fillmore being engaged at the camp. About fifty rods from the camp the road passed through a laurel swamp, through which a corduroy road was laid. Passing over this corduroy bridge, just at its end where the wheel of a wagon would drop off of the logs upon the ground, was a deep hole made by the wheels of the supply wagon that brought provision to camp. In a piece of mud drawn from this rut by a wheel, and fallen upon the dry road, just beyond, was the track of an animal of the cat species, fully five inches in diameter. The mud was of just the proper consistence to preserve every line and marking of the bottom of the foot. The track was a fresh one, and must have been made during the past night, as the supply wagon that drew out that piece of mud passed into camp just before me, when I made my daily visit the day before, late in the afternoon. This was undoubtedly the track of the beast that was seen from time to time in that section; and about the same time ravages among the sheep upon the Genesee fork of Pine creek were frequent, as many as fifteen sheep being killed in one night. Upon the side hill where some of these sheep were killed many tracks were found where the animal had jumped, and apparently missing his victim, his claws had torn along in the down hill slide for several inches. The distance between the tracks, from where the spring began to where it terminated, were from sixteen to twenty feet. About this time an animal which was called the "lone wolf" was ravaging the flocks of the county. This animal was at that time and still remains a mystery, old and experienced hunters differing in opinion regarding this ravenous beast's identity, judging from its method of capturing its prey and its habits of wandering. One night sheep would be killed perhaps in Pike township, and the next night the victims would belong to Allegheny or Oswayo. The ravages of the succeeding night would frequently be twenty- five miles apart. Still the tracks when found, and the mode of attack, indicated the same animals. Some claimed that it was a panther, others that it was a stray wolf; thus the name of the "lone wolf" was given it. In 1875 there hung in the post- office at Coudersport a subscription list, offering in all $100 for the capture of the "lone wolf," and we understand the late Leroy Lyman, the most noted nimrod of the county, offered a considerable sum in addition to any one who would bring him into the reach of this much desired animal. Soon after this (1875), the mystery disappeared and has not been heard of since. As late as 1874 a large wolf was shot between the waters of the Phenix and the Pine creek. It was what is known as a black wolf, the ends of the hair being of that color. The bounty on this wolf was $24. It has been held by many that, a deer could not be held by a man, and we really think it a very dangerous, undertaking to attempt it, but that it has been tried the following anecdotes will reveal.
A resident of Hector township started one day for some tools that he had left at a shanty upon the mountain side, where he had been making shingles. There had been a light snow crusted over by a light rain which had frozen, so that the woods were what the hunter terms "noisy," the snow crunching beneath the footstep. This man was followed by his dog, which was a famous deer hunter, and had killed several while hunting on his own account; also being followed by the dog of a neighbor, noted as a good deer dog. The man (we may as well call him Charlie, for the reason that it will make the relation of the tale easier and because, also, that that was his real given name) had proceeded perhaps a half mile up his mountain way when he came upon the fresh track of a deer. The dogs took the scent, and in a moment had disappeared along the track in the direction the deer had taken through an extensive laurel thicket. With the instinct of a deer hunter, Charlie calculated that if the deer was still in the thicket it would try to escape by a well-known "runway" which passed by a large elm tree a little farther down the hill. Although our hunter had no gun, the thought came to him that if he could reach the tree in time it might be possible to hide behind it, and spring upon the deer as it passed, throw it and cut its throat before it had time to struggle. Running back he reached the tree just as he heard the crunching of the snow that announced to him that his conjecture so far had been correct. Hastily getting out his knife he saw the brush moving as the deer approached, and an instant later the deer was beside him. With a quick spring, Charlie threw himself upon the back of the deer, and at the same time caught the fore leg of the animal upon the opposite side and dragged it upon its back, throwing himself upon it, but as the deer struck upon its back, its hind legs were drawn up, and in another instant our friend was flying into the laurels, with nearly all of his clothes torn from his body, and the agile creature was away. By this time, however, the dogs were near at hand, and followed upon the trail. Patching himself up as well as he could, Charlie looked for his knife, but could not find it, and heard the deer bawling a few rods up the mountain. He knew that the dogs had it, and burning for revenge he went as fast as possible to the help of his four- legged companions. He found that his dog had caught the deer by one of his hind legs just as it was in the act of clearing a high log, and so held it at such disadvantage that it could only hang over the log. Charlie helped to drag the deer back, but he had no weapon to finish the hunt. He thought with the help of the dog he could hold the deer until he had strangled it; he got the deer's head among some roots and began to choke it. At that moment the neighbor's dog pitched into Charlie's dog for a fight, the dog broke his hold upon the deer to resent the insult, and the deer, nearly stripping Charlie of his remaining rags, was away like the wind. A convenient club soon terminated the dog fight, and a moment later the dogs were in full chase again, but our friend had had enough of it. He went on to the shanty and secured his tools, and in returning home he stopped in a saw- mill and related his adventure. While talking, he looked a little way and saw his dog rolling in the snow, he knew by this that the hunt had ended and the dog had been victorious. Accompanied by the saw- mill owner he went to where his dog was, and taking the back track he soon came upon the carcass of the dead deer with the neighbor's dog busily at work making a meal from the entrails. This dog was killed a short time after by a spike buck which, while at bay, ran one of his horns through his heart. Another time this same hunter shot a buck that ran a little distance and lay down upon the opposite side of a log, in every appearance being very sick. Not thinking it necessary to give the game another shot, Charlie set down his gun, and reaching over the log took the deer by his antlers, and with the other hand reached over with his knife to cut the animal's throat. At the same instant the deer sprang up and charged him, and he deemed it the most prudent thing to spring behind a small tree, against which the deer struck his head and sank upon its knees. Another foolhardy thought went flashing through the brain of our friend, and he laid hold of the antlers upon either side of the tree, and, bracing himself, supposed that he could hold the animal until so weakened by the loss of blood that it would be in his power. But again and again the deer would arise to its feet and strain every muscle in our friend's body to hold it, and, what was most astonishing, appeared to grow stronger, until Charlie became alarmed for his safety, and began calling for help, the road being but a few rods away. Two men heard the alarm, and went to his assistance. These men claimed that if they had not happened along as they did the deer would have killed our friend.
A number of years ago Ephraim Bishop, of Hebron, was hunting upon the mountain back of the old Mills place at Colesburg. About 9 A.M. he shot at and wounded a buck, as in the case of the above, narrated incident. The deer lay down behind a log and was, apparently, "sick unto death." So Eph set up his gun by a tree, took out his knife and prepared to give his victim the coup de grace, laying hold of the antlers with one hand. As the point of the knife pricked the deer's neck, it suddenly arose to its feet, with bristling hair and a dangerous light in its eyes. The knife was knocked from Eph's hand in the struggle, and our hunter saw that he could not easily escape being pinned by the buck's horns if he broke his hold to run, so he instantly determined to fight it out. He now caught the deer's antler's with his other hand, and a struggle began that lasted more or less determinedly until 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Eph had no help whatever, as his dog had followed another deer away'. Part of the time Eph was on top, and part the time the buck.
Whenever the buck would rise to his feet, Eph would wring him down by twisting his neck. Together they rolled down the mountain side through a briar patch and over roots and stones. At times the deer would lie quietly a few moments to rest, and then the fight would begin again. But Eph says that he had the deer so he kept pretty still toward the last. About 5 P.M. the dog came back, and with its assistance the game was slain. Eph was too tired to go back up the mountain after his gun, and sent Jerry Burrel for it.
Speaking of this adventure of Ephraim Bishop, brings up a tale which, for the time, made our hunter famous over all of the county. It happened in the year 1843, and Eph was at that time in his full vigor. In a deal which he made with William Jones, of Coudersport, he had given a note, which stipulated that he should liquidate with venison at three cents a pound. As Bishop had been busy at work, some time had elapsed during which he had failed to make a payment on his note. One day he met Jones, who asked him in rather a bluff way, if he ever expected to pay his note. Eph replied, banteringly, that if Jones wanted his pay in venison he must take it "on foot." This reply brought about some word sparring, which resulted in a verbal contract, by which Jones offered to pay Bishop $25 for a live, unwounded deer, which must be run down and caught by the hunter himself. Eph knew where five deer were herding upon Steer brook, in Hebron township. At that time the only clearing upon Steer brook was a small opening made by Dr. R.V. Post, in which his house was situated. Bishop stayed at Dr. Post's during the night preceding the day of his supreme effort in catching the deer. The morning of the day which was to give him glory came, and there was a light but deep snow upon the ground. He left his dog at the house, to be let out at a given signal, and passed around a spicewood thicket, in which he discovered the deer were staying. When he had selected his position, he gave the signal for his dog to be let loose, and the sport began. Before the deer got out of the thicket, the dog caught and killed one of them. The other four deer evaded Eph, and were not seen again by him for three hours. During this time, however, he was upon the trail, which enclosed in a circle a section of country at least five miles in circumference, over which path he went three times. When coming toward Steer brook for the third time, he came upon the deer in the old King road, at a place known as Burrel's point. The deer were not more than four rods from him when he saw them; with a yell he and his dog were upon them. In their fright one of the deer jumped into a brush heap and the other three upon it, one of them rolling off upon the opposite of the heap, which was caught and killed by the dog. Two of the deer escaped, whilst Eph sprang upon the one which had sank deepest in the brush. He had hard work to prevent his dog from killing this one also; as it was the deer received some slight wounds in the neck. With some rope, which he had in his pocket, Eph tied the deer's feet, and the deer to a tree. Finding that he could not induce his dog to follow him, he stripped the bark from a moose wood bush with which he made a thong to lead his dog. He procured a hand- sled of a settler and brought his game to Harry Lent's barn, from which, in due time, he took it to Coudersport, and William Jones paid him his $25 according to contract. There were now but two survivors of the herd on. Steer brook. Having had a taste of the victor's meed, Eph became ambitious to achieve more, so he says he determined to make another haul, going this time along the trail of one of the deer which had taken to the water. Following the tracks in the snow, he came at last to Nelson Clark's mill pond, where he came up with his game, a fine doe. The deer, as soon as discovered, sank herself in the water of the pond until nothing of her body but her nose was visible. Eph calmly waited until she could stand the immersion no longer. The deer, upon coming out, started directly up the stream (the river) toward what are now known as Stern's flats, Eph keeping in the old road which ran nearly parallel with the river at this place. The deer at last sprang into the road, and here Eph had a clear course and "fair sailing," which he improved. After arriving upon the flat, the doe turned up the mountain side on the east side of the valley, Eph by this time close at its heels. Says he: "A hundred times I had that deer by the hind leg and it pulled away, while going up the mountain. I had the mitten of one hand in my teeth, and was going on my feet and one hand- three legged." The mountain side is very steep, and, when within a couple of rods of the summit, the doe suddenly turned and jumped squarely over Bishop's head. Eph turned, and a terrific race took place down that mountain side. Running, falling, rolling and sliding until the flats were again reached. Coming upon the level ground Eph succeeded at last in tiring out the deer, until making feints to spring upon it, the victim did not flinch; then flinging himself upon his victim, Eph bore it, to the ground. After a moment's struggle, Bishop says that the doe became as tame as a dog. He tied a string about its neck, and it followed him submissively. Acutter belonging to Rev. Cool, the only vehicle of that description in the country, was brought by two of the Lent boys. Into this Eph mounted and the doe followed him, lying down at his feet. The cutter was drawn to Harry Lent's barn, and the deer was placed in the stable.
An unusual streak of luck came to "Uncle" Wat Trowbridge, of Hector, in the panther line. Mr. Trowbridge was one of the early pioneers of the county, and noted as a hunter. Few animals that came into the sights of his rifle escaped the bullet. "Uncle Wat," as he was called far and near, had an iron make- up and a nerve that carried him successfully through adventures where many hearts would have quailed. Rheumatism, however, attacked the brave old man in the later years of his life and rendered him a cripple. The incident we have alluded to took place during one of Uncle Wat's hunts. He found a nest of kitten panthers, three in number. These he killed with his tomahawk, but had just finished the job when ho found himself face to face with the mother of the litter; but a cool head and a well- planted ball saved him from a furious onslaught. He had just got his gun loaded when the male panther came bounding toward him. The panther ran up a leaning tree in his path and was in the act of springing upon the intruder in his family affairs when a well- directed shot cut short his existence. As the animal fell, his neck caught in the forks of a tree and held the carcass suspended. The tree had to be cut down with the hatchet with which the kittens were killed before Uncle Wat could skin his game.
The most famous hunter of Potter county died a little more than a year ago, aged about sixty- six years- Leroy Lyman, of Roulette, a son of Burrel Lyman, and a grandson of Maj. Isaac Lyman. Leroy Lyman was more than a mere hunter; he was a man of sound judgment and of some education, well read and full of push and perseverance. Being of a speculative turn he had ventured in the mica mining business in New Hampshire, and into gold mining into Georgia, and bid fair to accumulate much wealth, when he was gored by a bull belonging to him. After partially recovering from this, he had still another collision with the bull, and from this last attack he never recovered. The chase was his delight, and he made a business of it in the season, of late years going to Michigan and Wisconsin after deer, and hiring one or two men to accompany him in these hunting expeditions. Mr. Lyman did a good business in sending to the city markets the product of his rifle and traps, besides much venison, bought of the Indians. As soon as he was old enough to carry a rifle he became a ranger of the forests. Later on, when his hunts became a business with him, he kept a field book in which he entered a memorandum of all the game killed by him. He also became an expert taxidermist. At the time of his death he was building an addition to his house to be used as a museum, in which he intended to store his specimens, and he intended compiling an autobiography from his diary. The number of deer slain by this mighty nimrod ran up into the thousands; hundreds of bear fell before his rifle, as well as wolves, elk and a cloud of smaller game.
NOTE.- Among the hunters named in the records of 1822 were James Ayers, who received $12 for panther certificates; the Indian, Shineboy, who received $24.25; Jonathan Pitcher, $12; Jacob B. Vannatter, $12; the Indian, Shanks, $25, and the Indian, William Shanks, $2.44, all for panthers killed. The wolf slayers of that year were Nelson Clark, J.B. and Jacob Vannatter; an Indian named John Shanks, who brought in large numbers of wolf puppies; an Indian named Logan, equally celebrated Cephas Nelson and Thomas H. Summers. Joshua Jackson and Charles Lyman were the fox killers of the period; Sangwa, an Indian, came on the scene in 1823, also one named Thomas Trimsoff. In the fall of 1823 John Lorschbaugh brought in panther puppies; Horatio Nelson, fox scalps; Jedediah Smith, wolf scalps; also the Indians, Isaac Hutchins and John. Joshua Moses was a panther hunter; also Thomas Hudson and Samuel Freeman. Burrel Lyman, Dave R. Smith, William Furman, John Earl and William Freeman were the principal wolf killers. John Mohawk and Philip (Indians), Leonard Foster, John Lovell, Seth Taggart, John Jordan, Sylvester Wright, Thomas Bellows, James Ayers, Blue Coat (an Indian), James Carpenter, Sam. Hoover, P. Parks, Henry Nelson, Mahon, John Nelson, Little David and John Spruce (two Indians), the Indian William Johnston, James Read, Jow (an Indian), Moses (an Indian), Richard Lewis, Jonathan Edgecomb, David (an Indian), Thaddeus Stone and Fred Jeanerett were great hunters here prior to 1828, each of them receiving financial reward for their prowess in the chase. Jacob Vannatter an old Potter county hunter, had a serious battle with a bear in the "twenties." It is related by O.J. Hamlin that bruin tore the clothes off his antagonist, left several life marks, and then drove the hunter to fight.- [EDITOR].
Source: Page(s) 989-1004 History of Counties of McKean, Elk and Forest, Pennsylvania. Chicago, J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.
Transcribed March 2006 by Mary Bryant, Published 2006 by PA-Roots
- Written by Nathan Zipfel
- Created: 21 October 2008
- Last Updated: 25 February 2014