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History of Lycoming County, Lloyd, Chapter 13

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Apr 13, 2011

CHAPTER XIII

BOROUGHS

JERSEY SHORE – SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT – MUNCY – MONTOURSVILLE

Jersey Shore – Although the settlement of that part of Lycoming County in the neighborhood of the present borough of Jersey Shore was not made until sometime after that in the vicinity of Muncy, the two municipalities were incorporated at the same time, March 15, 1826.

The first settlement was made near the village of Antes Fort on the opposite side of the river from Jersey Shore. One of the earliest pioneers was John Henry Antes, who afterwards became famous in the early history of the county in both civil and military life. He rendered most valuable service in the Revolutionary War, having risen through merit alone to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He also held several county offices and was for two terms sheriff of Northumberland County. He was born in Montgomery County and came to this section in 1772, settling at what is now Antes Fort, named in his honor. He immediately entered into the business activities of the infant settlement. He erected a grist mill soon after his arrival in the valley where grain of all kinds was ground for many years. The first grinding machinery installed was simply a large coffee mill through which the grists were run. This was very primitive milling, but those were primitive times. It was a great convenience to the people who had settled in the immediate neighborhood. The mill was destroyed by the Indians at the time of the “Big Runaway.” Colonel Antes also erected near the mill an important fortification, known as Fort Antes.

Another of the early settlers of this vicinity, who afterwards became prominent, was Samuel Stewart, the first sheriff of Lycoming County. He owned a large tract of very fertile land, containing about 800 acres a short distance below Jersey Shore. Stewart was a man of immense proportions and was considered the strongest man in the county. He had the distinction of fighting the only duel ever known to have been fought in the West Branch Valley and the last one in Pennsylvania. This was with the celebrated John Binus, of Sunbury, and occurred near the site of the present town of Lewisburg. After one shot, and neither hit, a reconciliation was effected.

The land on which the present borough of Jersey Shore is located was surveyed on six separate warrants to several parties, among whom were Richard Manning and Richard Forster. They made location in 1785 and, because they both were from Essex County, New Jersey, and from. that part of the state lying along the ocean shore, the name of Jersey Shore was given to it. It was at first named Waynesburg, but the present appellation, which was originally given to it in derision, stuck to it and finally became the only name by which the town was known. Richard Manning had two Sons, Reuben and Thomas, and Samuel Manning, son of Thomas, was the first child born in the village. One of the Mannings laid out the place in town lots in 1800.

One of the most prominent citizens of the early days was Thomas Martin. He was a man of marked personality and of the strictest integrity, but he was peculiar about some things. He had a large farm for those days and believed that every farm product had its price and was worth no more, no less. He fixed the price of potatoes at 35 cents a bushel and nothing could make him deviate from this. If others were selling for 50 cents, his price remained at 35 and if prices elsewhere were 25 cents his still continued as he had fixed them. One of his sons was Lewis Martin, who afterwards served as prothonotary of the county and as deputy United States marshal. He was a famous boniface and for many years kept the American Hotel which stood on the site of the present Lycoming Hotel.

He was a well known character in Williamsport for many years.

Another remarkable man of the early period was the Rev. John Hays Grier. He was born near Doylestown in 1788 and was ninety-two when he died. After being engaged in various enterprises, he studied theology and became a minister of the Presbyterian Church. He came to Lycoming County in 1814 and was proceeding up Pine Creek on his way west. His first stop was at the Pine Creek Church in Jersey Shore. He was induced to stay there for a few Sabbaths. He liked the people and they liked him. He was called to this and the Great Island Presbyterian Church at Lock Haven, serving each on alternate Sundays, and remained with the latter for 14 years and with the former for 87 years. He was sheriff of the county in 1822 and altogether was one of the most important men in the community for a great many years.

Abraham Lawshe established a tannery in Jersey Shore in 1803 and for a period of years was a most successful business man. His two sons, Robert and John, also became successful business men in the community and both of them served in the legislature of the state. In April, 1806, Jersey Shore was made a United States post office and was incorporated as a borough by the act of the legislature March 15, 1826. Since then it has been several times enlarged by various acts of the general assembly.

In addition to those already mentioned, Jersey Shore has had some very distinguished citizens, among them the Hon. Anson V. Parsons, at one time secretary of the commonwealth and state senator, and afterwards president judge of the counties of Dauphin, Lebanon and Schuylkill and of the court of common pleas of Philadelphia. He was the author of a number of law treatises, notably the well known work, “Parsons’ Equity Cases.” His son, the late Henry C. Parsons, a well known lawyer of Williamsport, who was a member of the convention which adopted the present constitution of the state, afterwards mayor of Williamsport and president of the West Branch National Bank, was also a native of Jersey Shore. It was also the residence for many years of the late James Gamble, at one time a member of congress, member of the legislature and president judge of Lycoming County. The late L. L. Stearns, of Williamsport, began his business career in Jersey Shore.

When the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad was built through this section it passed the somnolent little town on the other side of the river, two miles away. But what did the people care? They had a canal and a stage coach and what more did they want? Merchants enjoyed a good trade and they had no use for fast freights or passenger trains.

But the railroad did come eventually in spite of them. It came from an unexpected direction and revolutionized the town, The Beech Creek and Fall Brook roads, now a part of the New York Central system, were built and the junction made at Jersey Shore. And then like magic the whole character of the village changed almost overnight. The population increased by leaps and bounds. The town grew and prospered as all railroad towns do. And then came the building of the mammoth car shops at Avis just across Pine Creek.

Jersey Shore became the center of an industry that employed, and still does, upwards of 1,000 skilled mechanics at wages which run into hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

These shops, which are properly a part of Jersey Shore, are among the largest in the country and are constantly being added to. The company has recently added the building of steel cars to its other activities. There has also been added to the equipment of the shops a large power and boiler plant by which waste is entirely eliminated. It cost $500,000.

The car shops are the dominant industry of Jersey Shore and contribute largely to the prosperity of the town and that of the neighboring borough of Avis, but there are some others worthy of mention, notably the C. C. Young Manufacturing Company, successors to the American Balance Valve and Machine Works, which manufactures railroad valves. Another live industry is the Susquehanna Silk Mill, one of the largest and best equipped in the country, employing about 400 people. Then there is the Jersey Shore Creamery Company, and a number of smaller concerns, all of which are prospering.

The community spirit in Jersey Shore runs high and no better evidence of this is needed than the statement of the fact that the Y. M. C. A. has a membership of 1,000, about one-sixth of the whole population. It is doubtful whether any better showing than this can be made by any organization of a like character in the United States. Jersey Shore has a model high school building erected at a cost of $235,000. There are also the modern bank buildings of the Jersey Shore Trust Company, the Union National and the First National banks. The Jersey Shore Herald, the town’s one newspaper, also occupies a fine modern building, as does the Order of Odd Fellows. The fraternal organizations and the service organizations all have a large membership and are in a flourishing condition.

The social atmosphere of Jersey Shore has been in no way lost by the wave of commercialism that has gripped the town, but still exists as it always has in the past. The town is a delightful place in which to live.

The future of Jersey Shore is assured and should the New York Central Railroad ever decide to build its line up the river to make a shorter western route from New York to Chicago, Jersey Shore will probably become one of the most important points on the New York Central system. Its population in 1920 was 6,100.

South Williamsport – On the south side of the river opposite Williamsport there lies a large and important borough which was originally a part of Armstrong Township and which extends from a point at the crossing of the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge across the river nearly up to the limits of DuBoistown borough. It has had several names during its history but is now known as South Williamsport.

The original settlements within the present borough limits were made by a colony of Germans, some of whom located on what is now known as Hagerman’s Run and others further up the river. One of the leading early settlers was Charles Allen, who came to Lycoming County and located on the “Long Reach,” above Linden. He subsequently removed to the “Galloway Tract” which laid a little to the west of the present Pennsylvania Railroad bridge at the lower end of the borough. This was one of the most desirable pieces of land on the south side of the river and afterwards became one of the most productive farms in this section. Charles Allen served in the War of 1812 and was a very prominent man in his day. He was the father of the late Robert P. Allen, for many years a prominent member of the Lycoming County bar and a state senator from this district.

That part of South Williamsport just across the Market Street bridge was pearly known as Rocktown by reason of the character of the soil in the neighborhood and the village above was known as “Bootstown,” from which the old Shaffer Indian path led across the mountain into the valleys along the Bald Eagle range on the other side. Among the early settlers in the Hagerman’s Run gap was Jacob Weise, who built an oil mill near the present site of the old Koch’s brewery. At this time considerable flax was raised in Lycoming County and there were several mills built for expressing linseed oil after the flax had served its purpose for carding and spinning.

The origin of the name Bootstown is said to have been as follows: That portion of what is now the upper end of South Williamsport was originally settled by a colony of Germans from Neuberg on the Rhine and they wished to give the name of Neuberg to the settlement. But upon one occasion a boy of the colony stole a pair of boots and, in those days, nicknames were far more common than now. The place, therefore, received the appellation of “Bootstown,” and by that name it continued to be known until the incorporation of the borough.

Like Williamsport itself, all of the south side continued to sleep quietly, never dreaming of its great possibilities until that master genius of progress, Peter Herdic, came to Williamsport. He rapidly turned the little village of Williamsport into a city and by the simple touch of his magic wand converted the south side into a prosperous and self-sustaining community. He built the Williamsport nail mill for making charcoal “blooms,” he originated the South Williamsport Land Company, he threw a bridge across the river at Maynard Street at a cost of $40,000 and made it toll free, he had a post office established and gave it the name of Burlingame, he sold lots on easy terms and then the south side began to prosper as it had never prospered before. Saw mills, planing mills, furniture factories sprang up almost in a night and from that time until the present the south side has enjoyed a large measure of prosperity.

One of the earlier improvements before the advent of Herdic was the building of a large saw mill at the mouth of Hagerman’s Run which was operated for a number of years by the late Henry Lutcher and G. Bedell Moore under the firm name of Lutcher and Moore, with great financial success. After the timber was exhausted in this section Lutcher and Moore transferred their lumber operations to the state of Texas, where they were again wonderfully successful. The Lutcher and Moore Park in South Williamsport, which occupies the site of the old mill, was donated by them to the borough.

The incorporation of the town as a borough had been constantly agitated after the building of the Maynard Street bridge and finally on November 29, 1886, it was duly incorporated by an order of court and at the ensuing election the late Daniel Steck was chosen as its first burgess. It has grown rapidly in size since then until now it is second to Jersey Shore in population and ranks next to Montoursville in extent of territory. It is a very important adjunct to the city of Williamsport and possesses many advantages not only as a business, but as a residential, section. At the time of the great flood of 1889, when all the bridges on the river were washed away, South Williamsport became the gateway to Williamsport into which to bring supplies. The Montgomery bridge was the key to the whole Pennsylvania Railroad system at that time and when it was rebuilt trains could be run over the Linden branch through South Williamsport and indeed all the way into Pittsburgh without again crossing the river. A station was established in South Williamsport, a rope ferry erected on the site of the washed-out Market Street bridge and for several months freight and all kinds of supplies were brought into Williamsport by way of the Linden branch and the rope ferry. Passengers were also landed in the same way.

There are several important industries in. South Williamsport, among them the Stuempfle Brick Works; the Delvan Block Company, E. C. Williams and S. V. Brown, makers of building blocks; Keystone Friction Hinge Company, V. C. Luppert, president; and Keystone Furniture Company, V. C. Luppert president and secretary, Elizabeth T. Luppert vice president and treasurer; Imperial Band Instrument Company, V. C. Luppert president, C. H. Mink treasurer; Williamsport Milk Products Company, makers of Hurr’s ice cream, John H. Hurr president, L. M. Hanswork vice president and J. L. Miller secretary and treasurer; Keystone Silk Mills, weavers of broad silk, C. H. Drinkwater president. Mr. Drinkwater was formerly connected with the Holmes silk mill and upon leaving that established the plant in South Williamsport which has proved so successful. South Williamsport has one bank, The Bank of South Williamsport.

All of these industries are in a flourishing condition and employ a large number of men and women at good wages.

In the year 1920 South Williamsport had a population of 4,341.

Muncy – That portion of what is now Lycoming County in the vicinity of Muncy was one of the earliest settlements made by the white man in the West Branch of the Susquehanna Valley. It was ordered surveyed by John Penn in 1769 and was held in reserve in accordance with the policy of the proprietaries.

Muncy took its name from the tribe of Monsey Indians who occupied the valley and were subsequently driven out and removed to Indiana and settled near the present town of Muncie in that state.

The town was laid out by Benjamin McCarty in 1797, ten years after he had settled in the valley with his brothers, Silas, William and Isaac. He laid it out in lots and was followed by his brother, William, and Isaac Walton.

It had a struggling existence for many years and was known as “Hardscrabble.” March 15, 1826, it was incorporated as a borough with the name of Pennsborough. The next year, January 19. 1827, the name was changed to Muncy because of its historic associations with the tribe of Indians who had occupied that section of the state. By act of April 1, 1867, the borough was considerably enlarged.

A post office was established in April, 1801 and Henry Shoemaker was the first postmaster. The first hotel was opened about the year 1812 and was conducted by Jacob Merrill.

Since then Muncy has progressed slowly but substantially and is today one of the most delightful towns in which to live to be found anywhere. It possesses a delightful social atmosphere and its people are noted far and wide for their culture and refinement. It is located on the Susquehanna Trail about fourteen miles east of Williamsport, and thousands of tourists pass through it in a single day. It is also on the Reading railroad line and the Pennsylvania is on the other side of the river, two miles away, but a bus connects with all trains. There is also a bus line to Williamsport, one to Milton, one to Hughesville and Picture Rocks and, during the summer season, one to Eagles Mere.

It has a number of important industries, among them Sprout, Waldron Company, employing about 300 men and women, and the Robinson Manufacturing Company, employing about two hundred, both of them engaged in the manufacture of milling machinery.

The Muncy Woolen Mills, employing about fifty persons, has a reputation which is only bounded by the two coasts. Until very recently it had been in the hands of two members of the same families for more than seventy years. The company devotes itself entirely to the manufacture of all-wool blankets and its reputation for good workmanship and the high quality of its output extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific and even to Europe. it is in almost continuous operation.

The Muncy Furniture Company is another live concern which employs about fifty men and the Maxwell Throwing Company employs about forty. Both of them are prosperous and have a large output.

Muncy has two banks, the Citizen’s National and the Muncy Banking Company and both are in a prosperous condition. Both of them have recently erected new buildings. There is one good weekly newspaper, the Muncy Luminary, which has been in the Painter family for nearly a century and is still owned by one of them, T. D. Painter. It is one of the oldest papers in the country.

The town has an excellent borough government and a modern, motorized fire apparatus of the latest design. It also has a fully equipped hospital ambulance which is used in connection with the Muncy Valley Hospital, which is located just outside the borough limits. The Muncy Valley Hospital is a modern and well equipped institution in every way and is doing a good work throughout the entire valley. It is sell-sustaining and receives no help from the state or county. Its only revenue is derived from its patients and from individual contributions. Taxes in Muncy are reasonable and most of its citizens are home owners. It is no disparagement to other towns to say that there is perhaps no other place in the county where there are more beautiful homes and the owners take a pardonable pride in keeping them in excellent condition. There are no unsightly edges in Muncy.

The town is the home of the Muncy Normal School, the only one of its kind that is not under state supervision, and it has always possessed an enviable reputation for the high character of its teacher-training.

Muncy has an excellent water system, getting its supply from the White Deer Mountain, and a modern lighting system. Its streets are well paved and well kept. The Susquehanna Trail passes along the entire length of its main street. The health of the town is of the best and epidemics of sickness are of rare occurrence. There are practically no dependents as there is work for all who are willing to work.

The State Industrial Home for Women is located at the base of the mountain on the other side of the river from Muncy and, under its capable management and supervision, is doing a good work in the reformation of women who have gone wrong.

There is an attractive community house and Y. W. C. A. building which was bought and remodeled with money raised by popular subscription.

Muncy has produced some remarkable men and women, some of whom have become known beyond the limits of the town and others have shone only at home. Hon. Henry Johnson was 1argelesponsib1e for the second election of Abraham Lincoln because of his authorship of the amendment to the state constitution which permitted Civil war soldiers to vote in the field. George A. Boal was an able lawyer, Robert Hawley was a poet of no mean ability, William Cox Ellis, General William A. Petrikin, Henry W. Petrikin, and rare Dr. Ben Langdon were all men of high intellectual attainments.

From the time of its first settlement Muncy has been noted for its delightful social atmosphere. Today there are few better towns in the state in which to make a home. By the census of 1920 it had a population of 2,054.

Montoursville – That section of Lycoming County now occupied by the borough of Montoursville has occupied a conspicuous position in history from the earliest times. Before the coming of the white man it was the home of the half breed Indian woman, Madame Montour, for whose son, Andrew Montour, it takes its name.

Following out their usual custom of reserving certain manor lands as a reward for services, the Penns granted to Andrew Montour, in consideration of his loyalty and aid to the white settlers of the West Branch Valley, a tract of land containing 800 acres known as Montour’s reserve. It covered most of the land on which the borough of Montoursville is now located.

The white man first came to the region around Montoursville as early as 1769-1770. How long it had been a place of note among the aborigines is not known, but probably for a very considerable period, as the Moravian missionaries at the time of their visit found evidences that an important Indian village had existed there for a very long time.

Andrew Montour did not long hold title to “Montour’s Reserve.” Indeed, it is not possible that he could have realized the great value of the rich lands that had been granted to him for he soon sold them for the ridiculously inadequate price of 22 cents an acre, the purchasers being Mary Norris and Zachary Lloyd.

The first settler in what is now the town was John Else, who came there with his father from Bucks County in 1807. His father purchased 200 acres on Mill Creek about two miles above the mouth of Loyalsock Creek. The boy did not long remain there, however. He apprenticed himself to a carpenter and soon learned that trade. He built the first house in Montoursville for Thomas Wallis in 1815. Else settled in the village and built many of the houses still standing within the limits of the borough, as well as practically all of the oldest houses in Williamsport.

In 1813 there came to Montoursville a man who was destined to leave a lasting impression, not only on that section, but on the whole of Lycoming County. This was General John Burrows, who bought a large tract of land in 1812. Before coming here General Burrows had distinguished himself in many ways. As a boy of thirteen he had carried mail for his father between Philadelphia and New York. When the Revolutionary War broke out he joined the army and rendered very distinguished service in the struggle that followed. He was with General Washington when he crossed the Delaware amidst the floating ice. He then joined the army at Morristown and was employed as an express rider at $40 per month. He was at the battle of Monmouth, where his horse fell with him and he was given another by General Washington himself. He spent part of the winter with the army at Valley Forge and for fourteen months was a member of General Washington’s immediate household. He first settled in Muncy but came to Montoursville soon afterwards, where he had purchased 500 acres of valuable land.

The town of Montoursville was laid out by General Burrows and Thomas Lloyd in 1820. The little village was at first a straggling affair, extending along one street only, and grew very slowly. Indeed it did not boast the distinction of having a real name. It was usually called “Coffee Town,” or “Tea Town,” the eastern end being generally known by the former name and the western end by the latter. These names were given to it because of the fact that so often when the stage coaches passed through the drivers were continually importuned by the busy housewives of the village to bring them from Williamsport a pound of coffee or a pound of tea. These names stuck to the little village long after it had received a more euphonious and imposing name, and even to this day the appellations “Coffee Town” and “Tea Town” are often used by the older inhabitants.

February 14, 1850, Montoursville was incorporated as a borough by act of legislature and its limits were subsequently extended by another act so that now, in point of area, it is one of the largest in the state. From that time the town began to flourish rapidly. A large paper and grist mill were built and with the coming of the lumber industry and the floating of enormous quantities of logs down Loyalsock Creek, several large saw mills were erected and for many years Montoursville was a booming lumber town. All these are now a thing of the past, but the borough still has a number of factories.

It is located on the line of the Reading Railroad and the canal branch of the Pennsylvania and thus enjoys excellent shipping facilities. It is also on the Susquehanna Trail, its principal street, Broad, being part of it for its entire length.

Most of its industries are in the line of furniture. They are the Montour Furniture Company, makers of bedroom furniture; the A. IL Heilman Company, manufacturers of all kinds of furniture; the Crandall, Bennett, Porter Company, makers of tables; the Woolever Brothers, tables, and the Berry Brothers, tables. There is also the H. Warshow and Sons silk mill, weavers of broad silk, and the C. K. and N. H. Aronsohn Company engaged in the same business.

The borough has two banks, the First National and the Peoples, both of which are in excellent financial shape and enjoy a prosperous business which comes from all the surrounding territory.

Montoursville has a large, well equipped modern school building, which is ample for all school purposes. The school conducts academic and common courses and the county farm agent holds weekly classes.

The community spirit runs high, as witnessed by the purchase of 15 acres of ground for a school playground and its possible use as a ground for more school buildings. It was bought at a cost of $8,000, which was raised by popular subscription.

Montoursville has well paved streets and a good lighting system. Taxes are reasonable and real estate values well maintained. The town has good transportation facilities between it and Williamsport, a bus line making half hourly trips between the two places. The Reading Railroad also connects the two. The majority of the citizens are home owners and there is practically no foreign population. The social atmosphere is delightful and there are few small towns in the state which present more desirable conditions. By the census of 1920 it had 1,949 people.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 159-173, History of Lycoming County Pennsylvania, Col. Thomas W. Lloyd, Volume 1, Topeka – Indianapolis; Historical Publishing Company; 1929

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