• Mon. Apr 15th, 2024


…bringing our past into the future

Chapter 01 – Topographical and Geological Features


Feb 27, 2016



Surface Transformation- Mountain Ranges- Anticlinals and Synclinals- The Blossburg Mountain Basin- Dip of the Rocks- Wellsboro Anticlinal -Crooked Creek Basin- Valley of the Cowanesque- Streams of the County- The Tioga River- Crooked Creek – Lycoming Creek – Pine Creek -Marsh Creek- The Cowanesque River- Minor Streams- Concluding Observations.

BEFORE proceeding to write a general history of Tioga county, from its earliest settlement to the present, it is deemed best to first deal with its topographical and geological features, and to give, from the scientific sources available, some idea of how, through the ages that have elapsed since the beginning of time, the surface of the county came to take on its present varied and picturesque appearance. In doing this, a free use has been made of the excellent report of Andrew Sherwood, of Mansfield, Tioga county, which appears in Volume G, of the Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania.

It may he well to preface the liberal extracts from this report with a general ¦statement to the effect, that there was a time, in the remote past, when, if the story of the rocks has been rightly read and interpreted, the surface of Tioga county presented a radically different appearance from what it does at present. To those mighty convulsions of nature, known as earthquakes; to floods and frosts and the erosion of ages, must he attributed the wonderful work of transformation. Mountains that were once thousands of feet high, inclosing basins in which were deposited successive seams of coal, have disappeared, and, in the form of sand and mud, have been borne on the currents of the Tioga river. Pine creek and other streams to the Susquehanna and the sea. The story is full of interest, and the student who seeks to read it, will find himself constantly confronted with eloquent evidence of the fact that,
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform,

and that while much is hidden, or lies beyond the grasp of the finite mind of man, enough has been revealed to show that “order is Heaven’s first law,” and that whatever changes have been wrought in the surface appearance of Tioga county, are the result of an orderly operation of laws fixed and eternal as the universe itself.

In his report, after a brief descriptive introduction, Mr. Sherwood says:

“The Allegheny mountain plateau of Lycoming and Potter counties begins in Tioga county to break up into parallel fiat-topped mountains, supporting, in shallow basins, several isolated coal fields and numerous smaller coal patches. These synclinal mountains are separated from each other by broad anticlinal valleys of Devonian rocks. Culture is confined to these valleys, and the villages and towns are situated in them; while the steep mountain slopes and broad tops are covered with forest, and often with continuous sheets of angular blocks of the conglomerate, the edge of which forms continuous lines of vertical cliffs from 50 to 100 feet high, gashed with dark chasms. Three such mountain ranges penetrate into, and two of them pass through, the county about north sixty degrees east, and a fourth just touches its southeast corner.

“The southwest corner of the county is part of the general Potter-Lycoming Allegheny mountain plateau, cut through to its base by the deep, dark gorge, or canon, of Pine creek, and over this spread the townships of Elk, Morris and Gaines. The first and principal mountain range is merely a projection of this plateau, north sixty degrees east, through Morris, Liberty, Bloss and Ward, ending roundly in Armenia township, Bradford county. The range is drained southwestwardly along its center line – representing the axis of the synclinal, or deepest part of the trough – by the Second Fork (Babb’s creek) of Pine creek; and the extraordinary spectacle is here exhibited of several large streams from the Wellsboro valley flowing towards the north fall of the mountain, entering it and uniting with the main stream along its middle line.

“This topographical phenomenon is repeated in the next mountain range to the north, and is an example on a small scale of a law much more grandly illustrated by the rivers of the State of Ohio, which flow into the Ohio river above and below Wheeling, West Virginia.

“The eastern end of this first mountain range” **** basin drained by the Tioga river, which breaks out from a gap in the north wall near Blossburg, and flows due north into the State of New York. The run of the Blossburg coal basin – in Bloss, Ward, Armenia and Union townships – is the edge of the cup of the conglomerate, forming an unbroken ellipse of cliffs, from which the spectator looks down a thousand feet upon the broad valleys of Mansfield and Wellsboro to the northwest; over the open rolling county of Bradford county to the north and east; and into the narrower valley of the Lycoming, separating the Blossburg from the Towanda mountain.

“The second mountain range” * * * projection from the Potter county plateau, north seventy degrees east, through Shippen, Middlebury and Tioga townships, in which last it ends as boldly as the Blossburg range ends in Armenia township. Through its western mass Pine creek and its waters cut canons nearly 1,000 feet deep. In the middle of its course the mountain receives from the Wellsboro valley on the south, and Chatham-Farmington valley on the north, several large streams which approach, enter and unite within and flow along the center line of the mountain in a long canon, splitting the mountain lengthwise into two. Further east the Tioga river cuts square through the mountain, isolating its eastern end. Steep slopes of sand rock form the rim of the flat top of the mountain, and the summit line of the canon on both sides. Small patches of the lowest coal bed have been left along the summit, but all other traces of the coal formation have been swept away, except in Gaines township.

“The third mountain range passes through the northwest corner of the county – Brookfield and Deerfield townships – and from it descend the branches of Cowanesque river, which flows in a pretty straight line about north seventy-five degrees east for fifteen miles, at its foot. No coal measures are left upon this mountain range, and the conglomerate becoming comparatively fine-grained and thin-bedded, does not furnish its top with the same remarkable cliffs. To this enfeebled condition of the conglomerate is no doubt due the erosion of the overlying coal measures.”

“Descending from any part of the rim of cliffs at the top of either of the three ranges of mountains in Tioga county, the geologist climbs down a steep slope over the nearly horizontal edges of always one and the same system of rock formations. The surface geology of Tioga county is, therefore’, monotonously simple to an extraordinary degree.

“In the Blossburg basin there remain several hundred feet of the lower coal measures holding several valuable beds. And this exception to the universal destruction is due to the fact that, around Blossburg, the trough which extends for a hundred miles through Bradford, Tioga and Lycoming counties, and is traceable still further to the northeast and to the southwest, is exceptionally deep in this part of its course, the coal in the bottom of it having been somewhat protected by steeper dips than usual on the sides, and by a somewhat greater breadth of bottom. Wherever this and the other parallel troughs are fiat and shallow the coal beds, wanting this protection, have been gradually washed away. But if in past ages the mountains have been several thousand feet higher than they are now, so also have been the valleys. In fact, the valleys have suffered more from erosion than the mountains.” * * * “Originally they were higher than the mountains In spite of the singularity of this assertion it is strictly true, and any inhabitant of Tioga county can verify the fact by his own observation.”


“It is only necessary to notice that, throughout Tioga county, all the rocks of every kind, and in every place, dip away from the middle lines of the valleys towards, into and under the mountains. The strata lie flat along the center lines of the valleys, and also lie flat in the middle of each mountain range. But on the north face of a mountain they dip south, and on the south face they dip north, in all cases. There is even a very slight, almost imperceptible, dip at the end of each mountain into the mountain. The rule is absolutely universal.” ****** In the valley of the Cowanesque, the rocks seen along the river dip south towards Tioga and go under the mountain at Crooked creek; and they dip north towards Lawrenceville and go under the mountain at Osceola and Elkland. So again around Canton, the rocks may be seen dipping gently northwest into and under the Blossburg mountain, and also southeast into and under the Towanda mountain.

The rule is, then, that the valleys are arches or anticlinals, and the mountains are all troughs, basins or synclinals.”


“The Blosshurg mountain basin lies between the Towanda anticlinal valley on the south, and the Mansfield and Wellshoro anticlinal valley on the north. The mountain mass is called by people in Bradford county the Armenia mountains. In Liberty township, Tioga county, it has received the more unpretentious name of Brier Hill.

“The north flank of this range enters Tioga county at its southwest corner; crosses Cedar creek one or two miles below the old lumber camps of S. X. Billings, in Elk township; Pine creek, towards the northwest corner of Morris township; Stony Fork, about two miles south of Stony Fork postoffiee; Wilson creek, about half a mile below its forks, in Delmar township; the Corning, Cowanesque and Antrim railroad, near the north tine of Duncan township, and enters Covington township about a mile south of Cherry Flats. It crosses the Tioga river about two miles above Covington borough, entering Sullivan township at its southwest corner. It enters Bradford county at the southwest corner of Columbia township, keeping very nearly on the line between Armenia and Columbia. It then turns south, and keeps along the line between Armenia and Troy, and so follows round the Armenia township line back into Tioga county, as the south flank of the mountain, through Union, Liberty and Morris, west of the village of Nauvoo and north of Zimmerman’s creek. This line passes about a mile north of Ogden’s Corners, in Union township.

“The mountainous region thus enclosed embraces the south side of Elk, nearly all of Morris and Duncan, the north side of Liberty and Union, and the south side of Covington and Sullivan, all of Bloss, Hamilton and Ward townships, Tioga county; and in Bradford county all of Armenia, making a precipitous wall at the eastern line of this township.

“The center line, or synclinal axis, comes up from the southwest out of Potter and Clinton counties, south of Kettle creek, and enters Tioga county near the southeast corner of Elk, from whence it passes through the heart of Morris, crossing Pine creek near the mouth of Babb’s creek, and running across the southeast corner of Duncan and through the central part of Bloss and Hamilton to the Tioga river at Blossburg, from whence it passes through the center of Ward to the county line.”

“The great curve, to the south of its true course, thus described by the Blossburg synclinal axis, as it approaches the Susquehanna, is very remarkable, but corresponds with a similar curve made by the Towanda synclinal axis as it approaches the river. Both of these lines resume their normal east northeast direction after crossing the river. There must be some deep-seated and far-acting cause for this deflection. It is made more striking by the comparative straightness of the intermediate Towanda creek anticlinal axis. Yet this latter also shows that it sympathizes with the movement by a slight but decided similar curve south of Towanda. In Tioga county the axis of the Blossburg synclinal runs through the mountain much nearer to its north than to its south side.”


“Catskill red rocks occupy the lower half of the mountain side in Tioga county, and Vespertine gray rocks, with occasional red beds, reach nearly to the top of the mountain.

“The dip is always southward in towards the heart of the mountain, or center of the basin, and is strongest in inclination just at the foot of the mountain. The south dip in the north wall of the basin being steeper than the north dip in the south wall. But the south dip along the north side of the Blossburg basin is much less steep than the corresponding south dip along the north side of the Towanda basin. The north dip was observed at many places in the vicinity of Ogden’s Corners and Union Center; northwest of Canton; near Alba; near East Troy; and in the banks of the Susquehanna, opposite and a little above Towanda.

“The south dip was seen on Cedar creek, below Billings’ lumber camp; on Pine creek, in Morris township; at the forks of Stony Pork; on Wilson creek, at the flagston quarries; along the Tioga railroad, midway between Blossburg and Covington, and at many other points in Tioga county.”

“The Catskill outcrops are frequent, especially along Cedar creek. Pine creek and Babb’s creek, with their tributaries, where Formation IX. is often seen at the surface. But perhaps the best exposures of these beds is along the Tioga railroad, between Blossburg and Covington, in Tioga county. Other locations are along Sugar creek and a few points below Troy.”

“The Vespertine may be seen along Babb’s creek; in the narrows below Blossburg, where the lower beds are exposed, at their junction with IX.; in the side of Big mountain, between Blossburg and Covington; in the narrows two or three miles above Blossburg, in Tioga county; and at “Prospect Rock,” on Mount Pisgah, in Bradford county.

“The Umbral red shale, from its soft nature, is not often seen at the surface, except in small ledges on the mountain tops. The Seral Conglomerate is exposed along the mountain tops west of Cedar creek, in Elk township; along the railroad a little north of Antrim; and at many points” in the vicinity of Blossburg.”

“The Catskill rocks are thinner in the Blossburg basin than in the Towanda basin by 200 or 300 feet.” * * * southern side the Catskill red rocks spread out over the hills for one or two miles from the south foot of the mountain.” * * * “The Catskill red rocks sweep round the east end of the Armenia mountain,” * * * “supporting three elevated patches of the Vespertine, one of which is Mount Pisgah.” Here “it seems the true non-fossiliferous red Catskill beds of the Blossburg mountain region cease.” * * * “Catskill rocks may be seen on Cedar creek. Pine creek and other streams. At the forks of Stony Fork red shale is exposed, dipping rapidly to the south. Under the red shale lie fifty feet or more of gray shale and sandstone.”


Continuing his interesting description, Mr. Sherwood says:

“The Mansfield and Wellsboro anticlinal axis and valley lies between the Blossburg mountain basin on the south, and the Crooked creek (Mill creek) mountain basin on the north. The axial line of the anticlinal crosses the west line of Tioga county about two miles and a half north from the southwest county corner – runs through Elk township, crossing Cedar creek at its fork;” * * * “crosses Pine creek somewhere above Pound Island; passes two miles south of Wellsboro; leaves Charleston township near East Charleston; crosses Tioga river a mile and a half above Mansfield, near Canoe Camp,” and finally enters Bradford county.

“When traced in an opposite direction, or towards the southwest, this anticlinal sends off a branch across Pine creek, through the northern portion of Elk township, into Potter county.” * * * “The same conditions as belonging to the Blossburg basin are repeated here.” * * * “The two diverging anticlinals are much diminished in force as they radiate from the point of separation.

“The anticlinal valley divides (with the axis) west of Pine creek, one arm extending to the southwest, between the Blossburg and the Kettle creek mountain basins; the other extending to the west, along the south line of Gaines township, between the Kettle creek and the Mill creek mountain basins.”

“Through that portion of Tioga county lying east of Pine creek, the anticlinal valley spreads southward to the Blossburg mountain basin, or to the outcrop of the Vespertine rocks, which may be traced from the northwest corner of Morris township, through the southwest corner of Sullivan township to the Bradford county line, at the southwest corner of Columbia township.

“It spreads northward to the Mill creek mountain basin, or to the outcrop of the Vespertine rocks.” * * * It will be observed that the belt of country through which it passes is much more densely populated than the mountain basins on either side, which shows that the arable lands are mostly confined to the anticlinal.

“The Mansfield and Wellsboro valley may be said to terminate at the Bradford county line, not by closing up, but by opening out into the rolling county lying to the northeast, over which anticlinal and synclinal areas have alike been so leveled down that the existing elevations vary but little in height – say 200 or 300 feet above the Tioga river bed.

“The surface of the Wellsboro valley proper is rolling, consisting of a succession of hills and valleys, varying but little in general appearance. The soil is moderately good; as good, perhaps, as can be found in the northern tier of counties; and the region may be considered rich in agricultural resources. It is drained by the waters of Pine creek and the Tioga river.”


“The Crooked, or Mill creek, mountain basin lies between the Mansfield and Wellsboro anticlinal valley on the south, and the Sabinsville – or Cowanesque river – anticlinal valley on the north. Its south wall enters Tioga from Potter county, on the south side of Pine creek, which it crosses about three-fourths of a mile below the mouth of Marsh creek; runs thence to the northeast corner of Delmar; thence through the northern part of Charleston and Richmond; crossing the Tioga river at Lamb’s creek; and Mill creek at the mouth of Elk run; then sweeping around to meet the north flank at a point on the Rutland-Jackson line, a mile short of the county line.

“Its northern wall enters Tioga from Potter county in the southwest part of Clymer township; crosses Long run at its forks; passes along the southern edge of Chatham to the northeast corner of Middlebury township; crosses Crooked creek at Keeneyville, and again near Hammond; the Tioga river about a mile south of Tioga borough; keeping through the center of Tioga and the south edge of Jackson township to meet the south wall of the mountain, as before described.

“It is a much broken mountainous belt of country, covering the northern half of Gaines, the northern two-thirds of Shippen, the south edge of Clymer and Chatham, the north part of Delmar, the northern edge of Charleston and Richmond, the northwest part of Rutland, the southern half of Middlebury, the southeastern half of Tioga and the southern edge of Jackson townships.

“Its central synclinal axis leaves Potter county and enters Tioga in the north part of Gaines township. Crossing Long run between Blue run and Benn Gully run, it makes a nearly east course through the north part of Shippen, across the head of Asaph and Canada runs, to Middlebury Centre and Holidaytown. Bending a little to the north it crosses the Tioga river at the mouth of Mill creek and enters Bradford county in the southeast corner of Jackson township.”

“The general level of the mountain top – or tops, for they are numerous- is pretty uniformly at the same height above tide. In the western part of Tioga county its surface drainage is into Pine and Marsh creeks, with their numerous arms – Phoenix creek. Long run, with its branches – Blue run. Gal run, Benn Gully run, etc. – Shim Hollow nm, Aspah run, Canada run, etc., and also into the upper branches of the Cowanesque, Mill creek and the Jemison.

“Pine and Marsh creeks have excavated their channels just ¦within the edge of the basin; and it will be noticed that the point where the two streams unite and leave the basin is opposite its deepest part. The principal drainage is, therefore, out from the south side of the middle portion of an oblong oval basin. Of course it is here that a considerable area of coal measures has been preserved.

“The mountain mass, which in Gaines township, is cut completely through crosswise, and to its base, by Long run flowing south into Pine creek, is cut up into three separate isolated knobs, further to the east, by Crooked creek and its branches. These streams cut the mountain through to its base.

“Crooked creek has a curious course, entering the mountain basin at Keeneyville, and leaving it again at Hammond, six or seven miles below, on the same side of the basin; but its course is through a somewhat shallower part of the basin. Crooked creek is here joined by some of its principal tributaries, as Norris brook, Catlin Hollow run. Hill’s creek, ‘Steven House run, etc. Mill creek joins the Tioga river exactly where the center line of the synclinal axis crosses the river. Its principal feeders having their sources in the mountain are Cabin run. Painter run and Bailey creek.

“It will be observed that the Tioga river cuts straight through the mountain, entering it at Lamb’s creek and leaving it near Tioga. And the line of the river represents the transverse axis of another oblong oval basin similar to, but smaller than, the one mentioned before, in connection with Pine and Marsh creeks. This basin is only deep enough to retain the coal conglomerate on the mountain top above Painter run, a short distance east of the river. The course of the Tioga river was evidently determined by, first, the oval basin of Tioga; and its direction from one to the other, north twenty-five degrees west, or at right angles to the course of the synclinal.


“The valley of the Cowanesque river lies between the Mill creek mountain basin on the south, and the Cowanesque mountain basin on the north, and extends for about twenty-five miles from the Potter county line to the Tioga river. Its breadth varies from six miles at its western to ten miles at its eastern end. The anticlinal axis which runs through it lengthwise crosses the west county line of Clymer township two or three miles south of the southwest corner; passes under Sabinsville, and a little to the north of Little Marsh postoffice, to the northwest corner of Tioga township; the Tioga river at or near Somer’s Lane; thence to the northeast corner of the county. It continues its course in the same direction through Chemung county, New York. The south edge of the actual valley is very nearly the line which separates the Catskill red from the Vespertine or Catskill gray rocks, and may be said to run from the forks of Long run in Clymer, past Keeneyville and Tioga, to the southeast corner of Jackson township.

“The northern edge of the valley is the south foot of the Cowanesque mountain, rising directly from the north bank of the Cowanesque river as far as Elkland. The valley includes more than the half of Clymer, a small part of Westfield, nearly all of Chatham, the whole of Farmington and a part of Middlebury townships. The surface is made up of low rounded hills; the soil is good, and adapted to grain and stock raising. The drainage of the valley is complicated. The south branches of Cowanesque river – Potter brook along the county line. Mill creek through Sabinsville, the Jemison, etc., drain its west end, northward; while the heads of Long run and Waddle’s branch drain the south dipping country, southward into Pine creek. In the middle region, while other small streams flow northward into the Cowanesque, the head branches of Crooked creek drain from the axis at Little Marsh and Shortsville, southward, into the mountain. The eastern end of the valley is drained by the Elkhorn east southeastward into the Tioga at Tioga borough, by Mutton Lane and Somer’s Lane creeks also into the Tioga; while Cowanesque river crosses diagonally the valley from Elkland to Lawrenceville to empty its abundant waters into the Tioga.”


The principal streams of Tioga county are the Tioga river, the Cowanesque river. Crooked creek and Pine creek. These with their branches, aided by other smaller streams, which flow into Bradford, Lycoming and Potter counties, have been leading agencies in transforming the surface of the county, a work they are still, though less effectively, engaged in.

The Tioga River, the most important of these, rises in a tamarack swamp on the eastern crest of the Armenia mountains, and is first known as Tamarack creek, until joined by Morgan creek and other small streams at the county line, after which it is known as the Tioga river. Its general course for the first twelve or fifteen miles is to the southwest, keeping along the synclinal axis at the bottom of the basin. At the mouth of Carpenter’s run, about two miles above Blossburg, it turns north, and after running about five miles escapes from the mountains into the Mansfield and Wellsboro anticlinal valley, about a mile and a half above Covington. The point where it turns to the north is the deepest part of the oblong oval basin of the Blossburg coal field.

Inside the basin the Tioga river is joined by the South creek. Fall brook. Carpenter’s run, Taylor’s run, Harris run. Coal run, Johnson creek and East creek, all rapid streams, descending with the dip from the oval rim of the mountain, cutting deep furrow-like vales, and removing thousands of acres of coal lands which once existed, and a pile of coal measures of perhaps 2,000 feet in thickness.

Tioga river leaves the county and enters Hew York State at an elevation of nearly 1,000 feet, for the railroad grade at Lawrenceville on the State line is 1,006 feet; at Mitchell’s creek mouth, 1,022 feet; at Tioga borough, 1,042 feet; at Mill creek mouth, 1,077 feet; at Lamb’s creek, 1,111 feet; at Mansfield, 1,140 feet; at Canoe Camp, 1,163 feet; at Covington, 1,208 feet; and at Blossburg, 1,348 feet. Tioga river descends, therefore, about 350 feet from Blossburg to Lawrenceville, a distance of twenty-two miles, in a nearly straight line – or twenty-five miles by its bends – at the rate of about twenty-two feet per mile for the first nine miles, and eleven feet per mile for the last fourteen miles. It falls 500 feet in six miles above Blossburg, from the Fall Brook coal mines, which are 1,842 feet above tide; and the mountain summit, back of the mines, rises several hundred feet higher.

Crooked Creek, the principal tributary of the Tioga river, has its head waters in Chatham township, and pursues a southeast course until it reaches Middlebury Centre, when it turns northeast and flows through Middlebury and Tioga townships, uniting with the river at Tioga borough. The Crooked creek canon, which splits the second mountain range, and issues at Tioga borough, is traversed as far as Middlebury Centre by the Fall Brook railroad, running from Lawrenceville to the Antrim mines, of the first or Blossburg range by way of Wellsboro. At Holidaytown its grade is 1,151 feet above tide water; at Middlebury Centre, 1,179 feet; at Wellsboro, the county seat, in the center of the valley, and on the crown of the anticlinal and divide between the waters which flow four ways, 1,317 feet. At the railroad summit, in a low gap in the first range, it is 1,862 feet, and at the Antrim coal mines, 1,672 feet. Antrim terminus and Arnot terminus are therefore nearly on a level with each other and with the Morris run terminus, 1,678 feet.

Lycoming Creek, another important stream, which skirts the southern corner of the county, flows at the same level as the Tioga river at Covington; the grade of the Williamsport and Elmira railroad at Carpenter being 1,200 and the Tioga railroad grade at Covington 1,208 feet.

Pine Creek – “River of the Pines” – is a stream of considerable volume, and drains an extensive water shed. It has its source in Potter county. From the mouth of Marsh creek, at Ansonia, all the way southward to Lycoming county, it flows in a deep and narrow valley or gorge, with high hills and walls of rock on either side. The portion called “The Harrows” only affords room enough for the tracks of the Fall Brook railroad for a distance of about sixteen miles by the side of the stream, which at times becomes a wild, dashing mountain torrent. There are no flats of much consequence at the widest points, but the hills usually rise from near the water’s edge. After entering Tioga county, within the edge of the Mill creek mountain basin, until it is joined by Marsh creek, ‘when it takes a sharp turn to the south, it cuts across the Mansfield and Wellsboro anticlinal at the point where the axis divides. Its course is one of zigzags, across anticlinals and synclinals, from its course to its confluence with the West Branch of the Susquehanna, two miles west of Jersey Shore. Whilst it is a rapid flowing stream throughout, its principal tributary, is the sluggish Marsh creek.

The lowest point in the county is in the Pine creek canon, where it passes south into Lycoming county a short distance below Blackwells, at the mouth of Babb’s creek, which is 833 feet above tide. Marsh creek mouth is 1,106 feet; Mill creek mouth at Gaines is 1,219 feet; and where Pine creek enters from Potter county its bed is nearly 1,300 feet above tide; the summits of the coal-covered mountain tops to the north being over 2,000 feet. Pine creek, from the great water shed it drains, should be called a river. It has a fall of twenty feet per mile for fourteen miles, and is, therefore, a swift current.

Marsh Creek, which unites with Pine creek at Ansonia, is a remarkable stream, with a motion so slow as to be hardly perceptible. It flows through a broad valley known as “The Marsh,” the ground being swampy for many miles. Its direction is exactly the reverse of that pursued by Upper Pine creek – as if the waters of Pine creek once flowed up Marsh creek, straight on toward the Tioga river. In fact “The Marsh” extends the whole distance from Pine creek to Nile’s Valley, near the northeast corner of Delmar township, where the water from Norris creek flows both ways, part down Crooked creek and part down Marsh creek. It is a remarkable summit, if summit it can be called, which divides the waters flowing down Marsh creek to Pine creek, and those flowing down Crooked creek to the Tioga river. The idea is therefore quite popular, says Mr. Sherwood, among the inhabitants that Pine creek, instead of flowing south through the gorge first described, flowed formerly through the valleys of Marsh creek and Crooked creek, into the Tioga river. And anyone who will view the ground will be forced to conclude that such was probably the case, but when or how this great change was brought about is one of the questions that never can be explained or answered. If Pine creek once flowed northward from Ansonia, what a mighty convulsion of nature must it have been that rent the mountain asunder and diverted its waters southward through one of the most weird chasms to be found in the chain of the Alleghenies?

Another theory is that a small stream once had its source south of the supposed wall, and, on account of a “fault” in the rocks, as the geologists say, worked a small passage down the mountain. When the breast of the dam was broken, by the tremendous pressure behind it, there was such a mighty rush of water down the rivulet that in time the great chasm was cut and the course of Pine creek changed to the south.

There are evidences on the mountain sides, in the form of marine shells, of the existence of water at one time. Enoch Blackwell, a gentleman of keen observation, and who is familiar with this mountain region from, boyhood, has no doubt in his mind of the existence of a great lake at one time, which had its outlet by the way of the Tioga river; but when the barrier was broken the flow of its waters was to the south and the Pine creek canon was cut.

In confirmation of this theory Mr. Sherwood says in his geological report that it “is a curious topographical fact that a dam, fifty rods in length, from mountain to mountain, across Pine creek at the mouth of Marsh creek – such as it might be possible to build, and such as may possibly have been erected for a time by other than human agency, during the glacial epoch – would effect this division.” If such were really the original conditions, and they certainly look reasonable, the change may be attributed to that period of our mundane history.

The Cowanesque River has its source in Potter county and flows eastwardly just south of the State line to its confluence with the Tioga at Lawrenceville. The valley through which it passes is one of surpassing beauty and by far the richest and most productive district in the county. There are a number of villages in the valley and there is considerable manufacturing. In its pristine condition this valley must have been an elysian home of the Senecas, where they came to hunt and fish. Reference is made to the valley in the earliest writings, and it is believed that Mary Jemison, the “White Woman,” frequently came hither with her Indian family to enjoy the hunt. There are also evidences that Jesuit missionaries were here long before the appearance of the English; and it is believed by some that Moravian missionaries passed through here on their western tours, but there is no authentic evidence to sustain that opinion.

The river drains an extensive water shed and at times carries a large volume of water. White settlers came early, James Strawbridge probably being the first. Long after whites had settled in the valley Indians were in the habit of coming to hunt and fish, and they seemed loth to leave it. The peculiar name of the river and its meaning has long been a subject for discussion among scholars and writers.

To Hon. Charles Tubbs, of Osceola, belongs the credit of having made the most thorough investigation of the meaning of the Indian name of the river. He continued his investigation for several years. From competent authority he learned that Eed Jacket was once asked to define the word. He replied that it was a Seneca word, and meant “at the long island.” On the draught of survey of the State road from Newberry to the 109th mile stone, constructed in 1799, the name is spelled Ga-wa-ni-a-que. This draught is still preserved in the land office at Harrisburg. Compare with this several names defined by Morgan in his “League of the Iroquois,” thus: Ga-wa-ni-a-que, at the long island; Ga-wa-no-wa-uch, great island river; Gaweh-no-geh, on the island; Ga-weh-nase-geh, a long island. Ga-wa, or Ga-weh, enters into all these words as a component part and probably signifies island. So much for analogy.

This not being entirely satisfactory, Mr. Tubbs learned in 1891 that the Smithsonian Institute was making a systematic study of the Iroquois language, and he submitted the word for definition. In course of time he received from J. W. Powell, director, the following: “The word Cowanesque seems to be no other than Ka-hwenes-ka, the etymology and signification of which is as follows: Co, for Ka, marking grammatic gender and meaning it; wan for hwe-n the stem of the word o-whe-na, an island’, es an adjective meaning long-, que, for ke, the locative proposition, meaning at or on; the whole signifying at or on the long island.”

This analysis was made by Professor Hewitt, Iroquoian expert. The reader may ask: How does that name apply to this river? That is easily explained. All Indian names were significant and chronicled some characteristic of the thing named. In this case there was, originally, in Deerfield and Osceola, an island in the Cowanesque river containing 1,600 acres. It was over four miles long and of varying width. The remarkable thing about the river to the Indian was this long island. The early settlers dammed the part of the river which ran on the north side of the island, diverting the -water into the channel on the south side. At this day what remains of the channel on the north side of the island is known as the Island Stream. It is fed by springs and creeks from the north hill and empties into the river at Osceola. The island is given on all early surveys and it also appears on the Connecticut map.

This definition and explanation of the name, Cowanesque, is probably the best and most complete that can be rendered at this late day; and indeed it seems to be sufficiently lucid to satisfy the most critical.

So completely has the island been destroyed that the traveler passing over it would be unaware of its existence, unless informed of the fact. To the Indians it was undoubtedly an important landmark, and on it they pitched their wigwams, indulged in their rude sports and dances, and enjoyed themselves in the highest degree.

Minor Streams, which are fully described in the chapters relating to the several boroughs and townships of the county, form the tributaries of the Tioga and Cowanesque rivers and of Crooked, Pine and Lycoming creeks. The sources of these are either in springs emerging from the sides of the mountains, or in small marshy upland areas. They flow rapidly, and in times of heavy rains, rise quickly. The public roads leading from the valleys of the larger streams to the uplands usually follow their course, their valleys being dotted with farm houses and the well-tilled fields of thrifty husbandmen.


From the foregoing it is easy to see that while the mountains of Tioga county rise to a pretty uniform general level of 2,000 feet above tide water, and the broad valleys between roll their surfaces about 1,200 feet or 1,300 feet, the main water channels are cut sharply down to depths of 1,000 feet or even lower. The streams are fed by abundant rains, for the county lies in the rain belt of forty inches. The mean annual rainfall is forty inches. While the mean summer temperature is sixtythree, the mean winter temperature is only twenty-three. The cold, therefore, is pretty severe.

Consequently, the erosion of the surface, through the agencies of frost and rain, has been actively carried on through all ages since the coal era. Dry northwest winds favor radiation and evaporation, carrying down the temperature far below zero. They favor equally the full effect of the sun’s rays upon the rock surfaces. The rocks, alternately expanded and contracted, are prepared for absorbing moisture; the frost breaks them up, and innumerable rivulets, periodically swollen, carry off the fragments and grind them into sand and mud. The forest, while it is a protection against this wear and tear in one sense, facilitates it also by prying the outcrop layers apart with their roots, and every surface, hill slope and mountain steep alike, is slowly but always creeping down towards the water ways.

It is this universal erosion, taking effect upon a large area of exceedingly regular stratification, which explains the beautiful regularity of the parallel ranges of mountains traversing the county, and the striking similarity of the broad valleys which run up from the open country of Bradford, westward, into and between the mountains of Tioga. It explains also why these valleys end or head up, each in the form of a wide amphitheater, against the unbroken or undivided plateau of Potter and Lycoming counties. It is evident, then, that the mountains of Tioga county have in past ages been much higher than they are now. Mr. Sherwood thinks there is no good reason for doubting that the whole of the coal measures once covered this county. As the coal measures of Pennsylvania, both in the southwestern corner of the State, where more than 2,000 feet of them remain to be measured, and in the anthracite basins, which, in the deepest parts, hold 3,000 feet of them still undestroyed, may have been originally 4,000 feet thick, it seems probable that the Tioga mountains were once as high as Mount Washington.

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