• Mon. Apr 15th, 2024


…bringing our past into the future

Chapter 03 – Beginning of Tioga County


Feb 27, 2016



Purchase of 1784 – Pair Play System – Lycoming Township Formed- Its Boundaries AND Area- Old Tioga Township Erected- A Valuable Document Discovered- Boundaries Defined- Other Record Evidence- Tioga Township Taxables of 1800 – Additional Extracts From Early Records- Panther and Wolf Scalp Bounties.

WHEN the purchase of 1784 was made from the Indians, at the treaty of Fort Stanwix, the newly-acquired territory was attached to Northumberland county. It was a vast domain. The settlers – of whom there were many along the north side of the West Branch of the Susquehanna – were squatters on the Indian lands before the purchase. Settlements in this territory had been made as early as 1770, and being outside the limits of the Province, its laws could afford the settlers no protection. Owing to this fact, when they became numerous, they were obliged to organize some kind of a government for their own protection. What is known in history as the “Fair Play System” was the result of their deliberations. Three commissioners or judges were elected annually, who sat in judgment upon offenders against the peace and dignity of the settlement, when they were brought before them, and from their decisions there was no appeal. Tradition says that they dispensed justice with wisdom, fairness and dignity. In a word, “Fair Play” was accorded to all. Those who made themselves obnoxious to the settlers liy the commission of crime, or attempted to interfere with the pre-emption rights of squatters, were banished from the settlement. The sentence, in extreme cases, was carried out by placing the offenders in a canoe at the mouth of Lycoming creek and sending them adrift down the river into the Province. The leading “Fair Play” man was the celebrated Brattan Caldwell. A grandson afterwards settled at Covington, Tioga county, and his descendants still live in the county. Nearly all these early settlers were Scotch Irish. They were a sturdy race of men, noted for their daring during times of danger and for their patriotism in the Revolution. On this account they were nearly all granted pre-emption lands when the purchase was made from the Indians, and received patents from the State.


The settlements along the river had increased to such an extent that immediately after the purchase of 1784 the inhabitants began to discuss the propriety of having a new township formed. Accordingly, at the August session, 1785, of the Northumberland county court, a petition was presented setting forth the absolute necessity for this territory to be organized “for the purposes of order and a civil state of society,” and praying the court “to erect that part between Lycoming and Pine creeks, being near fifteen miles, into one township; and from Pine creek upwards into another township,” which was accordingly done, the former receiving the name of Lycoming, and the latter that of Pine Creek.

Lycoming township, therefore, was bounded on the south by the Susquehanna river; on the east by Lycoming creek; on the west by Pine creek, and on the north by the State of New York. The territory was very extensive, and included all of what is now Tioga county, except that portion lying west and south of Pine creek; that part of Bradford county lying west of the old Luzerne county line, and the portion of Potter county lying east of the 120th mile-stone – five miles west of the present boundary line – and north of Pine creek, besides the following territory in Lycoming county: Old Lycoming, Lycoming, McIntyre, Jackson, Cogan House,

Anthony, Woodward, Piatt, Mifflin, and Pine townships, and parts of Lewis, Watson, Cummings, McHenry and Brown townships, embracing an area about one-third larger than Rhode Island.

When Lycoming county was organized, April 13, 1795, this territory was included within its boundaries, and the township of Lycoming was not curtailed until September, 1797, when the township of Tioga was taken from it. In the meantime, settlements had been made in the northern part of the township, in the Cowanesque valley and along the Tioga river, but they were far removed from the haunts of civilization.


As the number of settlers along the Tioga and Cowanesque rivers increased, it soon became apparent that the township of Lycoming must be divided, for the convenience of the inhabitants, and more especially the township officers. Until recently all efforts to trace the origin of the movement, which finally resulted in the erection of Tioga township, proved fruitless, owing to the destruction in the flood of 1889 of many of the records of Lycoming county. A few months ago, however, the missing document was found, by the publishers of this history, among a bundle of dust-covered papers in the prothonotary’s office at Williamsport, where it had lain unnoticed for nearly one hundred years. It is well preserved, though bearing evidences of age, and is of great historical value, as the following verbatim copy of it will show:

To the Honorable, the Judges of the Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for Lycoming county:

The petition of the subscribers most humbly showeth; That the settlements upon the Tioga and Cowanesque are separated by a very considerable wilderness from the settlements upon the West Branch of the Susquehanna, and are so remote that it is not certain to what township, if any, they at present belong. That it is necessary for the administration of justice, so far as it is committed to the distribution of township officers, to have the country that they inhabit erected into a new township.

Therefore, the petitioners pray your honor to erect the country contained within the following limits into a new township, viz : Beginning at the State line of Pennsylvania and New York where the line of Luzerne strikes it on the west; thence along the State line to the one hundred and twentieth mile-stone ; thence a south line until it strikes Pine creek ; thence down the same to where Brier Hill crosses it ; thence along the summit of Brier Hill to the line of Luzerne county; thence with the same to the beginning.

And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc.

Samuel Paterson, Gad Lamb,
Reuben Cook, Nathan Niles,
Barit My. Engasole, Peter Roberts,
John Ives, Bennajah Ives,
Uriah Spencer, Gideon Salisbury, Jr.,
Titus Ives, John Holiday,
Richard Mitchell, John Roberts,
Benjamin Cole, Thomas Wilson,
Timothy Ives, Benjamin Corey.

On the back of the foregoing petition appears two indorsements^ one of which is as follows:

Granted. Name of the township. Submission.
The court appoints for submission township: Overseers of the Poor – Isaac Adams, Jesse Losey. Supervisors of roads – Timothy Ives, Titus Ives. Constable – Stephen Losey.

The following is the other indorsement:
September session, 1797. Petition for a new township on Tioga. Granted. Name, Tioga.
Such is the record that lies at the foundation of the history of Tioga as a county. From the indorsements quoted it would appear that the name first given to the new township was “Submission,” but that it was afterward changed by the court to “Tioga.” This is a reasonable surmise, although there is nothing in the document itself to indicate which of the indorsements was first written. The names of the petitioners for the most part are those of men prominent in the early affairs of the county.

Until the discovery of this valuable document, the only record in existence to show when the name of the township of Tioga first appeared, was a little book, not much larger than an ordinary pass book of the present day. It was found a few years ago, half buried in the mud, in a vault in the basement of the court house at Williamsport. There a large quantity of papers, relating to the first courts of Lycoming county, had been stored, but the great flood of 1889 came and engulfed them. When taken out they were not only water-soaked, but covered with a thin, slimy mud, and to save them they had to be dried in the sun. In this mass of water-soaked papers was the little book spoken of. On examination it was found to be the quarter sessions, docket for 1798, and although much faded and stained by the action of the water, nearly all the writing was plain and easily read. Turning to the record of September term, 1798, it opens with a list of the townships and constables, just as they are recorded in the proceedings of such courts to-day. At the bottom Tioga appears as the eleventh township in Lycoming county, with this note: “Job Stiles appointed constable of Tioga township and sworn.”

Tioga township, as thus created, in response to the petition heretofore quoted, embraced all that part of the present area of Tioga county lying north of the summit of Brier Hill and east and north of Pine creek. It also included all of Bradford county lying west of the old line of Luzerne county, and that portion of Potter county lying north of Pine creek and east of the 120th mile-stone on the New York State line.


With the beginning of the Nineteenth century the legislature deemed it proper to have an enumeration made of the taxable inhabitants of Lycoming county, and an act to that effect was passed March 8, 1800. The requirements of the law^ were promptly complied with by Commissioners Thomas Forster, Charles Stewart, and James McClure. The original report for each township, as forwarded to the secretary of the commonwealth, was recently found among the archives at Harrisburg. It is time-stained and faded, but legible. Among the townships appears an enumeration of the taxables of Tioga township. The names, occupation and ages are as follows:

Elisha Alderman, farmer, 50; Ephraim Alderman, farmer, 44; John Allington, farmer, 24; Isaac Adams, farmer, 65; Kufus Adams, farmer, 24; Merwen Amniisey,, farmer, 22; Moses Ammisey, farmer, 60; Ralph Brevear, farmer, 25; Dorman Bloss, millwright, 29; Lewis Bigelow, farmer, 38; Peres Bardwell, cooper, 33; Samuel Parties, farmer, 38; Jonathan Bonney, farmer, 25; Joseph Bidings, farmer, 25; William Bulkley, farmer, 40; Abner Blanchard, cooper, 63; Charles Blanchard, farmer, 32; Ezekiel Blanchard, farmer, 23; Abner Blanchard, farmer, 21; William Burlingame, farmer, 56; John Bobster, farmer, 50; Peggy Boher, widow, 31; Thomas Berry, innkeeper; Hopestill Beecher, farmer, 24; Peter Cady, farmer, 23; Elijah Cady, farmer, 52; Philip Cady, farmer, 26; Zebulon Cady, farmer, 46; John Cady, farmer, 25; Manasseh Cady, farmer, 69; Abel Cady, farmer, 25; Amasa Culver,, farmer, 25; Calvin Chambers, farmer, 27; William Campbell, farmer, 23; Benjamin Chambers, 40; David Chambers, farmer, 24; Reuben Cook, farmer, 51; Charles Cloger, farmer, 44; Lemuel Gaylord, farmer, 35; Aaron Gillet, innkeeper, 34; John Goodling, 21; Jonathan Guisel, farmer, 30; John Griggs, farmer, 50; Stephen Gardner, farmer, 30; John Gardner, farmer, 35; George Goodhue, tailor, 57; Josiah Hovey, innkeeper, 52; Simeon Hovey, carpenter, 24; Gordon Hovey, carpenter, 22;. William Holden, farmer, 28; Stephen Harrison, farmer, 43; Gideon Haines, joiner, 28; John Hillings, shoemaker, 27; Daniel Holiday, farmer, 21; Titus Ives, innkeeper, 33; John Ives, Jr., farmer, 26; John Ives, Sr., farmer, 55; Benajah Ives, farmer, 29; Benjamin Ives, farmer, 45; Timothy Ives, farmer, 33; Ambrose Ives, farmer, 63; Obadiah Inscho, farmer, 36; Daniel Ingersole, farmer, 60; Barret M. Ingersole, farmer, 22; James Jennings, farmer, 27; Philip Job, farmer, 24; Subil Johnston, joiner, 30; Daniel Jordan, farmer, 35; John Jervis, farmer, 21; Joseph Kelley, farmer, 28; David Kennedy, farmer, 50; William Kennedy, farmer, 25; William Knox, farmer, 30; Mr. Kingsley, carpenter, 40; James Kinyon, farmer, 72; Benjamin Kinyon, farmer, 26; John Kinyon, farmer, 28; Jacob Kiphart, farmer, 52; Gad Lamb, farmer, 55; Jesse Losey, farmer, 35; Stephen Losey, farmer, 30; Stephen Lane, farmer, 54; Joseph Lane, farmer, 23; Garret Miller, farmer, 42; Samuel Miller, farmer, 22; Elisha Marvin, farmer, 28; Richard Mitchell, farmer, 30; Thomas Mitchell, blacksmith, 29; Robert Mitchell, farmer, 24; Samuel Needham, farmer, 28; Nathan Niles, farmer, 44; John Newell, farmer, 35; William Penrose, farmer, 35; Job Phillips, farmer, 59; Daniel Phillips, farmer, 31; Samuel Palmer, 53; Lyman Pritchard, farmer, 26; Reuben Pribble, farmer, 27; George Pike, farmer, 37; Stephen Randle, farmer, 30; Jacob Reed, farmer, 38; Jacob Radley, farmer, 40; William Eathbun, farmer, 24; Eoyal Southworth, joiner, 24; Uriah Spencer, farmer, 30; Ebenezer Seelye, farmer, 45; Jacob Stiles, farmer, 40; Titus Sesse, farmer, 40; Stephen Smith, farmer, 23; Daniel Strait, farmer, 39; Christopher Schoonover, farmer, 43; Jacob Server, farmer, 48; Stephen Socket, farmer, 28; Daniel Thompson, farmer, 49; Christopher Thompson, farmer, 26; James VanCamp, farmer, 60; John VanCamp, farmer, 24; Samuel Wilcox, farmer, 23; Ezekiel Webster, farmer, 24; John Wilson, farmer, 25; Thomas Wilson, farmer, 26; Elisha White, farmer, 52. Total, 122.

Accompanying the report is a table showing the number of colored people in the county, slave and free, at that time. Liberty Jordan, a freeman, aged 25, is the only one credited to Tioga township.

From an old minute book of the commissioners, under date of September 3, 1800, it appears that John Carothers was paid $16 for “taking Tioga enumeration.” He was a resident of Lycoming township, and had a tract of land lying on the river, a short distance above Newberry. From October 27, 1801, to October 26, 1804, he served as coroner of Lycoming county. In the same minute book he is charged with being paid $9.20, under date of September 7, 1803, for holding an inquest on the dead body of Peter Grove. The latter was a famous Indian killer, and reference has been made to him as being concerned with his brother Michael in the slaughter of a number of savages on the Sinnemahoning. He settled near Dunnstown, and was drowned in the river late in the fall of 1802, by the upsetting of his canoe, as he was crossing from the south side, whither he had gone to attend a shooting match.

As Tioga had been taken from Lycoming, that was the reason, probably, why one of the residents of the parent township was selected to make the enumeration. When the wilderness condition of the new township is considered; the job was certainly not a pleasant one. The only way to reach the district was by the Indian path up Pine and Babb’s creeks, over the State road from Newberry, which had just been opened, or by the Williamson road from Trout Run and the Block House. The settlers were widely scattered along the valleys of the Tioga and Cowanesque rivers, and in “out-of-the-way” nooks where it was hard to find them. That the enumerator, if he traveled through the new township in search of settlers, richly earned his sixteen dollars will be the verdict of all familiar with the extent of the forest region.


Further evidence of the early efforts that were made to improve this new township are furnished by the fragmentary minute books of the commissioners of Lycoming county, which are still in existence. An entry under date of October 21, 1803, shows that Joseph Ross and Josiah White were supervisors of roads in Tioga township, and that they were paid $420.78 for making an assessment of unseated lands. December 6, 1803, Henry Donnel was paid $51.04 “in full for running the Tioga township line;” but the most diligent search has failed to develop his report. In March, 1804, Uriah Spencer received $10.56 “in full for assessing the township;” and on the 12th of May, same year, Mordecai Sweeny was paid $3.60 “for carrying duplicate to the collector of Tioga township.”

Under date of June 6, 1804, William Rathbun and Moses Wilson, “supervisors of roads,” are paid “on account for unseated land tax for Tioga township for 1803, $219.45.” And order No. 163, December 5, 1804, shows us that Titus Ives was paid $7.62 for attendance as a witness at Williamsport in the case of “Repub. vs. Gillet, at September and December terms” of court.

An act passed by the legislature April 3, 1804 (Smith’s Laws, vol. IV., p. 197), made Tioga township a separate election district, and directed that elections should be held at the house of Thomas Berry. On October 16, following, the commissioners paid Alexander Stone fifty cents “for making an election box for the Tioga district.” As there were few votes to poll a small box evidently sufficed to contain the ballots. William Rathbun appears to have served as inspector and he was paid $3. Moses Wilson presided as judge and he received the same pay. Nathan Niles performed the duties of clerk and received $3, also. Uriah Spencer served as judge at one election and his pay was the same.


In those days’ wild animals were plenty in the wilderness of Tioga, and considerable money was paid out of the treasury as bounties for scalps. In the commissioners’ minute book for 1808 many entries of this kind are found, a few of which are culled at random, to show who received bounties. On the 15th of March, 1808, Wilson Freeman received $16 “for two full grown panthers’ heads;” and on the 5th of May, same year, Timothy Coats, Isaac Gaylord and James Whitney were paid $32 “for three wolf and one panther heads,” certified by Nathan Niles, Esq., On June 3d, Aaron Freeman was paid $8 “for a full grown wolf head” upon the certificate of Justice Niles; Joshua Reynolds also received $8, and Nathan Brown a similar sum for wolf scalps. In the latter case Nathaniel Allen, Esq., made the certificate. On the 1st of July, Joshua Reynolds pocketed $8 “for a full grown wolf head” upon certificate of ‘Squire Niles, and on the 12th of August, Timothy Culver had his exchequer replenished by a like amount on the same ‘squire’s certificate. Rufus Adams was paid $8 on the 29th of August, and Titus Ives was enriched $16 on the 30th of the same month for the scalps of two wolves which he had trapped and slain.

During the first decade of the Nineteenth century hundreds of dollars were paid in bounties for the destruction of wolves and panthers in Tioga township; and the work of killing was continued well along in the second and third decades. These animals abounded in those early days, and while they did not often attack persons, the wolves particularly were a source of constant trouble to the farmers on account of killing their sheep if they were not securely housed at night. Frequently whole flocks were decimated in a night by these rapacious and prowling pests of the wilderness settlements. For this reason, the legislature authorized the payment of a bounty for their destruction.

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