CHAPTER XLIX

HISTORY OF CORYDON TOWNSHIP

CORYDON township was erected by order of the court on the 20th of March, 1846, from territory then recently set off from McKean county. It consists of a long narrow strip of land occupying the extreme northeastern corner of the county, and is bounded north by Cattaraugus county, N.Y., east by McKean county, south by McKean county, and west by Kinzua and the Allegheny River, separating it from Elk township. The drainage is furnished entirely by Allegheny River and its numerous tributary streams, such as Cornplanter Run, Whisky Run, Tracy Run, Willow Creek, and Sugar Creek.

There was no settlement in the present limits of the township until as late as 1827. In 1817 James Richards passed through the land on his way to Cincinnati, and his daughter, Mrs. Lucinda Morrison, is now a resident of Corydon, and will be mentioned in this chapter in connection with the early settlers. The first settler in town was undoubtedly Philip Tome. He was born on the 22d of March, 1782, in Dauphin county, Pa., near the site of Harrisburg. His parents were of German extraction. They moved up the Susquehanna River about ninety miles, in 1786, in a keel boat, landing at Farris Creek, in what was then Northumberland county. The country was then troubled by the enmity of the Six Nations of Indians, and this family soon thought it prudent to move back to Cumberland county. In two or three years they went to Warry Run, about two miles above the junction of the east branch of the Susquehanna. In 1791 they again moved, this time some seventy miles up the west branch of that river. As early as 1816 Philip Tome was living near the present site of Kinzua, but he soon went away and did not return to this part of the State until 1827, when he came to the territory now in Corydon from Lycoming county, and built a rude shanty for a temporary dwelling place, on ground now in the center of the road which terminates between the store on the village corner and Hale’s Hotel. He came down the river in a canoe, striking across from Canoe Place to the river. He died on the 30th of April, 1855. A year previous to his death he wrote and published an interesting book entitled "Pioneer Life; or Thirty years a Hunter," which is filled with his own adventures, some of them of the most thrilling description. He was a great hunter, and was for fifteen years interpreter for Cornplanter and Governor Blacksnake, Indian chiefs on the Allegheny River, and familiar characters to the students of the early history of Pennsylvania. Philip Tome’s eldest son and second child, John C., was the first male white child born in town. The first female child born in town was Martha Forbes, daughter of Abel Morrison. The descendants of Philip Tome in Corydon and other parts of the county and State are very numerous.

From Mrs. Lucinda Morrison, wife of Abel Morrison, now living in Corydon, the writer obtained the following description of the country in 1827, when she was brought hither. Her maiden name was Lucinda Richards. She was born in Lisle, Broome county, N.Y., and passed through Corydon in 1817, on the way to Cincinnati with her father, James Richards. In 1818 she was married to Abel Morrison, who was a native of Lycoming county. In 1827 they settled on the very place now occupied by Mrs. Morrison. At first they lived in a plank house. There were then in the whole town but three other houses, two of logs, and one shanty. Russell Freeman lived a short distance south of the Morrison settlement in a log house. In another log house, farther north, had recently settled Dr. Benjamin Blodgett, the first physician, the first postmaster, the first merchant, and the second settler in town. Still farther north, in the shanty already mentioned, lived Philip Tome. Very soon after the arrival of Abel Morrison came William Case. At that time the face of the township as it is now constituted was a trackless wilderness, unrelieved by a clearing, and inhabited by the brutal denizens - bears, deer, wolves, and occasionally a panther. Immediately after the settlement of these few families here, however, improvements began to make their inroads on the forests. Mills were at once erected, partly for the profit expected from their operation, but more immediately because of the necessity of boards for building. Abel Morrison’s mill stood where it still stands (although of course it has been many times repaired), and is now owned by Flavius Josephus Morrison. A short time before this was erected Enoch Gilman built a mill, the first one in town, on the site of the large mill now in Corydon village. It was put up in the summer of 1827, while Abel Morrison’s was delayed until the following year. Previous to 1830 one Wheeler built a mill between the other two, the same frame standing there now and at present used by Sunderland & Payne for a handle factory. In the winter of 1827 - 28 there was a school house built of planks, a little way northeast from the dwelling house of Abel Morrison. It was first taught by Sabra Blodgett, a relative of Dr. Blodgett, for six months, and under her administration it was a very efficient school. There was an attendance of about fifteen or twenty pupils. Religious meetings were held almost from the beginning in this school house, and a little later; also in the one farther down the river, and on the site of the present school-house. The first tavern was kept by Jacob McCall, on the site of the present hotel, a number of years previous to 1853. He also had the post-office in his tavern for a time. The first store was kept by John Converse, a little way south of the tavern, from the time of his arrival in 1830 until his death a number of years thereafter. George and Augustus Wetmore and L.D. Wetmore, brothers, at a more recent time had a saw-mill on the site of the present large mill, previous to the erection of the pulp-mill. There has never been a grist mill in town, though for a brief period Alanson G., son of Abel Morrison, ground feed and made staves and shingles on the east side of the mill now operated by his brother.

The population of the neighborhood did not increase very rapidly for a number of years after 1827. Several families moved in and, after a short experience of the hardships necessarily incident to pioneer life in this wild country, moved away. Lumbering used to be the principal business of the town, though of late years it has greatly declined from scarcity of timber. There is now not a tithe sawn annually as there was thirty and forty years ago.

William Case, father of Squire Case, immigrated to this town very soon after the settlement of Philip Tome, and built his house about ten rods north of the hotel. He married a daughter of Philip Tome, and is now living, having survived his wife. Contemporary with Abel Morrison were his brother, Rice Morrison, who settled about sixty rods be1ow where the ferry now crosses the river, where he died only a few years ago, and Russell M. Freeman, already mentioned, who built his house on the east side of the street, near the present ferry, and about on the site of Flavius Morrison’s house. After a number of years he moved away. Several years after this early settlement, Ira Butler and George Smith lived on Butler’s Run in the wood on the eastern part of the present farm of George W. Tome, and there they undertook to make brick, without very flattering success, however, and after the lapse of a few unpropitious years they emigrated.

One of the most prominent families ever in Corydon, that of Rev. Asher Bliss, deserves special mention, though they may not be denominated early settlers. Rev. Asher Bliss was born on the 20th day of February, 1801, and on the 2d of September, 1832, married Miss Cassandra Hooper, of Boylston, Mass. In November of the same year he began his labors as a missionary of the A.B.C.F.M. to the Seneca Indians on the Cattaraugus Reservation. At that time there was, it is said, but two or three framed buildings on the entire reservation. The Indians lived in log or bark huts with no floor, and only a hole in the roof for the exit of the smoke. Their cattle and horses had to look out for themselves through the long winters, digging through the snow to get a little frozen grass, and a good many of them died every winter. Mr. Bliss early perceived the importance of raising their temporal condition as well as their spiritual, and urged them to build comfortable houses and barn, fence and cultivate their land, set out fruit trees, etc., and in the nineteen years during which he prolonged his stay among them, he effected a wonderful improvement among them in these respects. In 1851 he came to Corydon, remaining here until 1864, when he removed to an adjoining town, South Valley, N.Y. While in this township he organized a small church, and during his residence here frequently preached here and in this vicinity. He also labored among the Indians on the Allegheny Reservation, and at Cornplanter’s one or two years while in Corydon. Four sons lived to manhood, Asher, jr., Samuel Munson, Porter Cornelius, and David G., of whom three served in the War of the Rebellion, and are now living in Cattaraugus county, N.Y., and the other resides in Corydon. Rev. Asher Bliss died on the 23d of March, 1881.

Mrs. Cassandra Hooper Bliss was born at New Braintree, Mass., on the 14th of February, 1802, and died April 21st, 1878. She was descended from the Hooper and Washburn families, of Bridgewater, Mass., from Isaac Allerton, of Mayflower celebrity, from Robert Cushman, who preached at Plymouth the first sermon in New England that was printed, and from Secretary Nathaniel Morton, the first historian of New England. She received her education at Ipswich and Amherst Academies, partly under the direction of Mary Lyon. She was engaged for several years by Samuel Slater, the founder of the manufacture of cotton in this country, to teach the school connected with his establishment. Mrs. Bliss was a lady of fine personal traits of character, deeply beloved by her associates, and by the Indians to whom she was so long a benefactress.

The most distinguished son of Rev. and Mrs. Bliss, and probably the most distinguished person who ever resided in Corydon, was Porter Cornelius Bliss, who is mentioned at some length in "Appleton’s Annual Encyclopedia" for 1885. He was born in Erie county, N.Y., on. the 28th day of December, 1838, and died in New York city on the 2d of February, 1885. He studied at Hamilton and Yale Colleges, and in 1860 traveled through Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia to investigate the condition of the remnants of Indian tribes. In 1861 he went to Washington to apply for a place in the Interior Department that would give him an opportunity to make similar investigations beyond the Mississippi; but as he was disappointed in this, he accepted the post of private secretary to Hon. James Watson Webb, who had just been appointed minister to Brazil. In 1862, when Mr. Webb returned home, Mr. Bliss went to Buenos Ayres, and was commissioned by the Argentine government to explore the Gran Chaco, where he spent eight months in learning the Indian dialects and investigating the antiquities. The result was published by the government. He edited for a short time, at Buenos Ayres, the River Platte Magazine, and then went to Paraguay, where he became private secretary of the United States minister, Hon. C.A. Washburne, in 1866. President Lopez commissioned him to write a history of Paraguay; but while he was engaged in this work the war between that country and Brazil broke out, and he fell under suspicion from the fact that he had formerly been in Brazil. The government archives were closed to him, detectives watched him, and finally, as he was trying to leave the country, he was thrown into prison, where he was subjected to the most inhuman tortures to compel him to confess that he had been a Brazilian spy. At the end of three months (December, 1868) he was released on the demand of the United States government, backed by the presence of a squadron of the United States navy. He went to Washington, was a translater in the War Department for about a year, and edited the Washington Chronicle for about a year and a half; and was then (July, 1870) appointed secretary of legation in Mexico, which office he held for four years. During that time he was an active member of the Mexican Geographical Society, made archaeological explorations, and wrote much on the condition of Mexico and its opportunities for American enterprise. By his sole personal exertions he saved from execution three American officers in the army of Diaz, who had been captured by the forces of Juarez, and condemned by court-martial. In the summer of 1874 Mr. Bliss went to New York, and for the next three years he was at work on "Johnson’s Cyclopedia." After that he edited a short-lived weekly called The Literary Table, wrote a history of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, and in 1879 went to South America as a correspondent of the New York Herald, From the time of his return, a year or two later, until his death he was in feeble health and did but little work, though he edited the New Haven News for a part of the year 1883. He was for two years president of the Philological Society, and was an enthusiastic student of Oriental antiquities.

E.S. and E. Sunderlin, brothers, moved from Poultney, Vt., to McKean county, Pa., in 1853, where they built large mills. In 1866 they came to Corydon, kept a large store until 1873, and after that was burned began operating the saw-mill and handle factory, the most extensive in Corydon.

The Village and its Business. - The grading of the B., N.Y. & P. Railroad was begun in 1881, and the road was opened in the following year. Strange as it may seem to the casual sojourner in the village of Corydon, it is a fact that the material growth of the village has much more than doubled since that event, and, indeed, it is said by good authorities that there was practically no village in the township to speak of. The oil excitement and the railroad have made it what it is in quick time. Before that for a number of years the only merchant in town was Jay White, excepting William McCollister, who had the same grocery business two years previous to the opening of the road that he has now. Mr. White had kept a store, as will be seen by reference to his biographical sketch in other pages, since 1870, in a building since torn down, which stood on the corner opposite the hotel. E. S. and E. Sunderlin were trading here in 1870, as stated a few lines before. While the railroad was in process of construction, Nelson Mead purchased the site of the present office of Mr. White, and opened the store he still occupies. Next was opened, in 1882, the hardware store of W. Rolland, who soon sold out to C.H. Whitaker, and Whitaker to E. Price & Co., and they to J.M. Turney, the present occupant. Then was opened the grocery of Clendenning & Hale, who sold out to A.F. Kilburn. The building is now used by P.B. Canfield & Son, druggists, who purchased the building of J. and S.C. Williams. C.H. Clawson came soon after and opened a store in the building now occupied by J.E. Reynolds. Mr. Clawson removed to his present quarters in October, 1885. On the first of October, 1884, Joseph Green bought the stock and rented the store building of Jay White. In 1885 he built a store of his own, which he still occupies. In the fall of 1885 S.C. McClintock opened a furniture store in a building belonging to Mr. White, and still occupies it. In the spring of 1886 E. Price and K.T. Jaquay opened a grocery under the firm name of Price & Jaquay, and are still conducting the business.

A stave-mi1l was operated here three or four years by people from Frewsburg, N.Y., who quit the business about the time that the railroad was opened. The Jamestown Wood Pulp Company started here in 1881, and closed up their business after about three years of operation. In 1881, also, was started here a spoke factory, by, Stedman & Aldrich, of Randolph, N.Y. They did not have much business at first, but in 1882 Messrs. White & Jaquay purchased the interest of Mr. Aldrich. After two years they dissolved partnership, Mr. White taking the building and lot, which he still holds. The machinery and power were purchased by the Corydon Spoke Company, and under this arrangement the business is still prosecuted, the partners being Benjamin Crooks, F.M. Williams, and N.J. Whitcomb. In the spring of 1885 they added planing and matching machinery. The works are in the south part of the village.

In 1881 a handle factory was opened by Sunderlin & Payne, who still keep it in operation. The products of this factory at first were broom, fork, and rake handles, and dolls, but latterly ax helves, pick handles, etc., are produced in more abundance.

F.J. Morrison, son of Abel Morrison, is now operating a well-to-do saw-mill in the southern part of the village. Whitcomb & Knapp have been operating a shingle-mill for some three years or more, which was built forty years ago and more. Mead & Son are operating two mills for the manufacture of railroad ties. T..J. & E.J. Reynolds also have two mills for the same purpose, and have been for a number of years engaged in this occupation.

As stated in a previous paragraph, Dr. Benjamin Blodgett was the first physician in the township. The one of longest practice now in town, although living across the river, is Dr. Peter Hollister, who has practiced extensively in this part of the country for a quarter of a century or more. Dr. A.A. Baker, eclectic, has practiced here a little more than three years.

Hale’s Hotel was built by Jacob McCall not long after the formation of the township. Samuel Boyer kept it for some time, and was succeeded by Joseph McCollister, who entertained the traveling public for many years with good satisfaction. The present proprietor, Joseph H. Hale, came into this house on the first day of October, 1885, and has entirely renovated, refitted, and rebuilt it. He has enlarged its capacity so that there are now forty-five beds in the house for guests.

Dr. Benjamin Blodgett was probably, from all that may be learned, the first postmaster in Corydon township. He was succeeded by many incumbents, among them being Amos Patterson, Ellis Gamble, William Case (Boliver Case attended it for a time), Ellis Gamble, C.P. Bailey, Erwin Sunderlin, Jay White, and the present postmaster, Frank Wells.

Educational and Ecclesiastical. - We have before stated that the first school-house was built and the first school taught by Sabra Blodgett, in the winter of 1827 - 28, the building being constructed 16 by 20 feet, of two-inch plank placed horizontally, and for want of nails dovetailed at the corners. In 1831 a more substantial structure was erected and paid for by subscription. Some years later another school was established in the lower, part of the town. There are now two districts in the township, separated by a strip of timber. The present school-house in Corydon village - a good one - was built in 1883 at an expense of about $2,500. There are two departments. The principal is Thomas Firth, and the assistant is Miss Emma Price. It is stated that the attendance is about ninety.

Although the Methodist Episcopal denomination have had a church organization here for many years - almost from the beginning of the history of the township - they worshiped in school houses, and were under the care of ministers from other parts of the county until recent years. The present edifice, the only one in town, was begun in the spring of 1883, and dedicated on the 26thof August, 1886. It cost about $3,000. The present pastor is Rev. S. Dimick, though the construction of the church was commenced under the pastorate of the Rev. D.M. Carpenter, who was followed by Rev. William Branson. Mr. Dimick resides at Kinzua. The church now has a membership of about thirty. The trustees are: President, Joseph Green; secretary, F.R. Case; treasurer, Jay White; and the Rev. William Branson and T.P. Jaquay. Mr. Dimick is the Sabbath school superintendent, and M.H. Wilcox his assistant.

SOURCE: Page(s) 559-566, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887