Potter County, Chapter 3, Transactions of the Commissioners

Created: Tuesday, 21 October 2008 Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 February 2014 Written by Nathan Zipfel Print Email





THE act of March 26, 1804, established Potter county out of a part of Dunstable township, Lycoming county, to which county it remained attached for judicial purposes for many years after. The name was given in honor of the Revolutionary hero, Gen. Potter, and the name of one of the first townships, Eulalia, in honor of a daughter of John Keating, who was the principal owner of lands in all this section. In the notes of the survey of Coudersport, begun September 6, 1807, and continued in 1808, by Surveyor John King, a record of the lots then laid out is made. In April, 1810, Silas McCarty surveyed eight lots- the mill lot, T. Lyman's and Daniel Brown's lots being named.

In 1815 the first county commissioners for Potter and McKean were ordered, by act of assembly, to be elected by said counties in conjunction- two commissioners from McKean and one from Potter at the first election; thereafter, one from Potter and McKean each year, alternately.

In 1824 Potter was detached from McKean for election purposes, although united to her for judicial purposes. This was accomplished by an act of the assembly to take effect after the second Tuesday of September of this year (1824). In that year the Jersey Shore Turnpike Company was incorporated. The April (1816) court, appointed Isaac Lyman, N.B. Palmer, Peter Knickerbocker, Jacob Whitney, John Taggart and Calvin Ellis to lay off a road "from a point on the State line through which the Genesee river passes, and in a southern direction to the Jersey Shore road near the ‘ten- mile tree.'" This is now the road from Genesee Forks to Coudersport, with slight variations. This year the Allegheny river was made a highway, Pine creek having been constituted a highway in 1805; Sinnemahoning, in 1804; Oswayo, in 1807. In 1808 the east and west road was laid through the county. John Bureau laid out the Boone road from Ceres, McKean county, to Young Woman's creek, in Clinton county. Joseph Williams, from Williamsport, laid out and built the State road, from the Tioga county line on Pine creek to the McKean line at Burtville. In 1810 a road was granted by the court at Williamsport from Coudersport to Cerestown. The viewers appointed were John King, Sampson Crawford, Isaac Lyman, William Ayers, Josiah Freeman and John Lyman.

The first deed book of Potter county was opened February 2, 1808, and closed June 27, 1831 (582 pages), containing all the record work of the twenty- three first years of the county. Strange contrast with the present! The large page volume (Y Record of Deeds) now in use, begun October 6, 1888, was covered by the precise script of A.L. Rennells, the present recorder, to page 442, by May 16, 1889.

In June, 1818, 11,000 acres of the John Barron, Jr., warrant (of which the North American Land Company were original owners) were offered for sale by John Cram. John Taggart, for the use of J. Greenlief bid for each trace of 1,100 acres the sum of $69.87 1/2. In 1822 B. Wright and S. Cochran purchased at tax sale lands on the J.B. Smith, H. Wykoff and H. Dunbar warrants, and in November, Paul E. Scull purchased three, 990- acre tracts on the Jonathan Rhay warrant for the tax and costs on each tract, $15.17. In 1828- 32 Samuel Maxwell, Abner Stoner, Daniel Rooks, Webber & Oviatt, B. Reed, Asa Sartwell, John King, John H. Rose, Robinson Nelson and R.E. Griffith purchased large tracts at tax sales, 1,100 acres selling for the tax $11, and costs, $3.62 1/2. The first order book of Potter county is dated January 8, 1822. David Crow received $90 for building a bridge over the Portage; John King, $3.75 for stationery; Isaac Lyman, 63 cents for postage; Thomas Hayse, "late prothonotary," $1.62; John Taggart and Isaac Lyman received several small orders for services as commissioner; Tunison Carroll for printing; John Lyman and Jacob Streeter, supervisors of roads in Roulette township; Thomas Bellows and John Taggart, supervisors of Eulalia, who replaced Leonard Taggart and Israel Merrick, the supervisors for 1821; Cephas Nelson and Aim on Woodcock,, for chopping a road from Cold brook to the Cowanesque; P. Murphy and Isaac Merrick, for transporting books; David Smith, for making road; Reuben Scott, for office rent; Hiram Sizer, Brewster Freeman and Nathan Turner, for making roads, in Eulalia township; Lucretia Edgecomb, Sally Bellows, Otis Lyman and Laura Lyman, witnesses in the case of the State vs. Patience Lyman; Nancy Hinkle and James Ayers, witnesses in the case of the State vs. Nancy Ayers. A bridge over Fishing creek was erected in 1823; Peter Knickerbocker viewed a road to the south branch of the Sinnemahoning, a former road in that direction being opened by Nathan Turner. In December, 1824, R. Taggart and P. Palmer were paid $10 for building a bridge over the Allegheny. In January, 1826, John Feet was allowed 6 cents for supplying the county officers with goose-quills, while Lorenzo D. Strafford, who was sent for said quills, received 12 1/2 cents.

The oldest record of transactions in possession of Commissioners' Clerk Rennells is dated at Coudersport, November 15, 1824. Harry Lyman was appointed temporary clerk, and Ephraim Fuller, elected a commissioner, under the acts of March 28, 1824, organizing Potter and McKean counties, qualified before John Lyman, a justice of the peace, who also signs the record as commissioner. Leonard Taggart, who was appointed commissioner November 29, 1824, by the judges of quarter sessions of Lycoming county, qualified here December 7, 1824, and took his seat. On the 14th a tax of one- half cent per dollar was authorized, and from this period to April 21, 1828, the records are filled with memoranda of elections and qualifications of county officers. On the date given John King agreed with the commissioners to pay taxes for the following- named owners of lands in Potter county: John Keating & Co., Francis R. Wharton, David Lewis & Son, Samuel Slaymaker, Jesse Waln, L.H. Doubigney, Fred Ravisier, Robert Waln, Jane Humphrey, Stephen I. Guerea, Richard Gernon, John P. Garrische, A. B. Deschappelle, Theo. Gouzaud, Pierre Provenchere.

In 1835 the county was organized for political and judicial purposes. W.H. Warner, Samuel Cushing and Elisha Mix were commissioners. The contract for building the first court- house was sold to Judge Ives and Almon Woodcock, who had their work completed by September, and the first court was held therein that month. Three years later the northern townships were surveyed, although they were established in 1828.

As early as 1810 the establishment of townships was commenced. Eulalia was set off from Dunstable township, Lycoming county, by order of the court of Lycoming, December 5, 1810, embracing all of Potter county. Roulette was set off by the same court from Eulalia January 29, 1816, embracing the territory now composed of Roulette, Clara, Pleasant Valley and Sharon townships. Harrison was set off February 6, 1823. Benjamin Burt, Reuben Card and Jacob Streeter were appointed, by same court, commissioners to divide Eulalia township, the new township to be called Harrison, running from northeast corner of the county south nine miles and ninety- nine perches; west eight miles and twenty- eight perches, embracing Harrison and parts of Hector, Ulysses and Bingham. The southwest part of the county, under the name of Wharton, was erected May 3, 1826, containing within its limits the present townships of Wharton, Sylvania and Portage, and parts of Summit, Homer and Keating.

In 1828 the north half of the county was divided by a decree of the court into townships six miles square, which were surveyed ten years later by L.B. Cole. The survey commenced at the north- west corner of the county, on the State line. The townships were named in the following order: First tier- Sharon, Chester, Loudon, Bingham, Harrison; second- Milton, Hebron, Denmark, Ulysses, Hector; third- Roulette, Eulalia, Sweden, Jackson, Pike.

Sweden was organized in February, 1828, with Jackson, Pike and Ulysses attached thereto Sharon was organized in December, 1828, with Chester and Milton attached. The name of Chester was subsequently changed to Oswayo, the Indian name of a branch of the Allegheny river, which runs through it. The name of Milton was changed to Clara. Bingham was organized in 1830.

Loudon was organized in 1830, and the name changed to Genesee, a river by that name running through it. At the same time Denmark was changed to Allegheny. Hector was erected in 1830, and the election appointed to be held at Benjamin Wilber's. Pike was organized in January, 1832, with Jackson attached. Hebron was erected in 1832; election to be held at the house of Asa Coon. Ulysses was erected in December, 1832; election to be held at the house of Stephen Brace. Jackson now forms part of this township. Allegheny was erected in September, 1835. Clara township, as it became considerably settled, was found in its physical geography to be very inconvenient. Sartwell creek ran nearly through the west half, and Fishing creek through the east half, each joining the Oswayo waters at the summit. The mountain was very high between the two sections, roads being impracticable, elections and public municipal business could not be, so the township was divided, in 1847, the western half on Sartwell creek, to be called Pleasant Valley, and a pleasant valley it is indeed. Abbot was erected in 1851. Homer, Stewardson, West Branch and Summit were erected in 1853. Oleona (or East Fork) is still a part of Eulalia township for judicial and other purposes. Keating. and Sylvania were erected in 1856.

In the erection of Cameron county, in 1860, the inhabited portion of Portage township was set off to that county; it was re- organized in 1871, a part of Sylvania being attached to it.

In 1835 the first court-house was erected and opened in September of that year. The present court- house was finished in 1853. William Bell was the contractor, and his estimate, made in 1852, was $11,000. This house may be said to have been rebuilt., in 1889, at a cost of about $25,000, after plans by H. Hall. G.A. Wilber, Charles H. Cole and Bryan McGinnis were commissioners. The interior is all modern, but the exterior retains much of the simplicity of forty years ago. The first services held in it were the funeral ceremonies of Mrs. N.L. Dyke, in October of same year, the Methodist Episcopal Church not being built as yet, but in process of construction. The bell of the court- house had just been placed in the tower, and was rung for the first time on this occasion. The first court held in the new court- house was in December of that year.

In 1869 the legislature authorized Potter county to levy a tax and issue bonds for the purpose of raising funds to build a new jail. It was at first proposed to build a jail that should cost in the neighborhood of $30,000; but when the building was finished the price had reached to about $50,000. L.B. Decker was the contractor and builder. Hon. Isaac Benson advanced the funds and took the bonds, thus becoming the principal creditor of the county. The building is square, built of sandstone, most of which was obtained from the farm of Dr. O.T. Ellison, within the borough limits. It is two stories high, and contains twelve cells, together with rooms for the family of the sheriff. The building is nearly enclosed on three sides by a high stone wall. It is provided with water by the Coudersport Water Company. In 1886 three of the cells were lined with boiler iron, to be used for dangerous prisoners. Several prisoners have escaped from this jail by various means, still it may be regarded as a first- class county prison. During the time the new jail was being built the prisoners of Potter county were confined in the Cameron county jail; and in 1875 the prisoners of McKean county were placed for safe keeping in the jail at Coudersport, while the McKean county jail was being rebuilt. In 1871 Potter county was attached to the Western Penitentiary District with prison at Pittsburgh, prior to which the prisoners convicted were required to spend their time in the Philadelphia prison.

The sale of liquor was prohibited in Potter county by special act of assembly, in 1860. Hon. S.B. Elliot represented this assembly district in the legislature. But this special law was brought about, it is said, by the influence of Hon. John S. Mann. It is occasionally spoken of as the " Mann Law." This law has remained in force to the present time. Potter county is noted as the only county in the State that has a special law prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors, except for medicinal or mechanical purposes, and this only on the prescription of a regularly practicing physician. Prior to the passage of this law, the sale of liquors was for years attempted to be controlled by the election of anti- license associate judges. The anti- license party carried the day for some years before the passage of the above- mentioned bill; but as liquor was sold in spite of the measures attempted to suppress it, the special law was brought into effect. The W.C.T.U. are working with praiseworthy perseverance, and have been instrumental in keeping the law in active force, in a large measure, for the past few years. A number of attempts have been made to kill this special prohibition law, but, by means of remonstrances and other methods used to defend it, it is still in full force. Potter county gave a majority of twenty- nine votes for the prohibition amendment out of 3,121 votes cast, June 18, 1889. Germania's one voting place gave one for and 156 against the amendment.

Following is a list of the State representatives from Potter county; also lists of several of the county officers to the present date. A record of the other county officers will be found in the succeeding chapter.


1839, L.B. Cole.*

1844, Lewis Mann.

1845- 47, Timothy Ives.

1851- 52, J.M. Kilbourne

1856- 57, Isaac Benson.

1858- 59, Lewis Mann.

1862- 64, A.G. Olmsted.

1865-- 70, John S. Mann.

1872- 73, C.S. Jones.

1874, Conrad Hollenbeck.

1876, D.C. Larrabee.

1878, W. Shear.

1880, R.L. White.

1882, T.W. Burt.

1884, Elymus Hackett.

1886, John H. Chase.

1888, G.W. Dodge.


1838, Isaac Strait and Briggs.

1839, Hosea Cushing.

1840, Thaddeus Stone.

1841, Philander Reed.

1842, D.F. Ellsworth.

1843, Delos Dwight.

1844, Lewis W. Lyman.

1845, Isaac Thompson.

1846, David Kilbourne.

1847, Gardner H. Olmsted.

1848, Chester Andrews.

1849, Almeron Nelson.

1850, Charles Monroe.

1851, G.G. Colvin.

1852, Willis Young.

1853, William McDougall.

1854, Harrison Rosa.

1855, Duick Whipple.

1856, Stephen Roscoe.

1857, L.H. Kinney.

1858, Nelson Clark.

1859, Edwin Thatcher.

1860, M.D. Briggs.

1861, S.S. Robertson.

1862, C.P. Kilbourne.

1863, R.L. Nichols.

1864, E.O. Austin.

1865, C.P. Kilbourne.

1866, Samuel Monroe.

1867, E.O. Austin.

1868, Capt. W. Starkweather.

1869, G.W. Colvin.

1870, R.L. White.

1871, L.D. Estes.

1872, M.A. Nichols.

1873, G.W. Colvin.

1874, R.L. White.

1875, Chas. Grover, C.P. Kilbourne and James Cole.

1878, Wm. Greenman, Dana Drake and A.B. Crowell.

1881, S.H. Spencer, Burt Olsen and Fordyce Nelson.

1884, Bryan McGinnis, W. Matteson and G.C. Lyon.

1887, Bryan McGinnis, W.G.Wilber and C.H. Cole.


Until 1857 the office recorder was united with that of register and recorder.

1839, Isaac Strait, 3 years.

1842, Samuel Haven, 9 years.

1851, H.J. Olmsted, 3 years.

1854, Thos. B. Tyler, 3 years.

1857, **Appleton Butterworth.

1860, Dan Baker, 6 terms.

1878, O.J. Rees.

1880, Erastus E. Lewis.

1887, Albert L. Rennells.



1824, Dr. Harry Lyman.

1846, Stephen Outman.

1868, A.B. Horton.

1826, Timothy Ives.

1848, John Lyman.

1870, A.L. Harvey.

1828, B.G. Avery.

1850, Nelson Clark.

1872, J.M. Spafford.

1830, James Rose.

1852, Joel Raymond.

1874, Martin Dodge.

1832, Burrel Lyman.

1854, Henry Ellis.

1877, M.V. Larrabee.

1834, O.A. Lewis.

1856, W.H. Hydorn.

1880, Edwin Haskell.

1836, L.B. Cole.

1858, ***Eli Rees.

1883, David Raymond.

1839, B.F. Hamlin.

1860, Woolsey Burtis.

1886, A.A. Swetland.

1840, Isaac Thompson.

1862, Lewis Lyman.

1889, Newton J. Peck.

1841, G.W.G. Judd.

1864, Arch. F. Jones.


1843, Burrel Lyman.

1866, J.W. Stevens.





1839, Elisha English.

1855, W.B. Graves.

1870, J.H. Cole.

1840, H.A. Nelson.

1856, H.F. Sizer.

1871, J.M. Hamilton.

1841, Geo. Taggart.

1857, John C. Bishop.

1872, D.W. Havens.

1842, Benj. D. Dolbe.

1858, W.B. Graves.

1873, Samuel Beebe.

1843, Wm. Crosby.

1859, Spencer A. Slade.

1874, Geo. Rees.

1844, Versal Dickenson.

1860, James B. Jones.

1875, Geo. Rexford, J.G. Stroele, H.S. Lent.

1845, Lewis B. Cole.

1861, E.O. Austin.

1878, Dewitt Chase, Robert McDowell, T. Coulston.

1846, Benj. L. Grover.

1862, Andrew Rose.

1881, L.D. Ripple, Dan Baker, Thos. Coulston.

1847, Horace Leet.

1863, S.H. Martin.

1884, H.A. Gridley, Philip Lawrence, Jasper Card.

1848, Noah H. Hallock.

1864, Lucien Bird, W.B. Graves.

1887, John Bodler, L.B. Lewis, J.H. Dexter.

1849, B.D. Dolbe.


1850, Joseph Mann.

1865, J.C. Thompson.


1851, Edgar F. Austin.

1866, A. Sidney Lyman, S.H. Martin.


1852, Harrison Rosa.


1853, Aaron Rice.

1867, S.S. Greenman.


1854, Samuel Palmer, H.L. Simons.

1868, M.R. Swetland.


1869, Earnest Wright.




1838- 50, L.B. Cole, Sr.

1853, W.M. McDougall.

1856, Z.F. Robinson.

1861- 65, Lucien Bird.

1868, C.L. Hoyt.

1875, W.A. Crosby.

1880, Fayette Lewis.

1883- 86, O.J. Rees, appointed by the court.

1889, O.J. Rees.


1839, Amos French.

1841, H.H. Cheseboro.

1844- 47, Amos French.

1850, H.S. Heath.

1853, Amos French.

1856, Andrew Stout.

1859, H.H. Munson.

1862, J.M. Spafford.

1865, W.C. Blakeslee.

1868, W.B. Graves.

1871- 77, Charles Meine.

1882, Frank Buck.

1885, J.B. Colcord.

1889, Dr. George C. Rees.

The fall elections of 1889 show 2,366 Republican, 1,791, Democratic and 188 Prohibitionist votes for State treasurer. Daniels (R.) received 2,346 votes, Hellwig (D.), 1,885, and Smith (P.), 96, for sheriff; Peck (R.), 2,334, Clark (D.), 1,898, and Burt (P.), 116, for treasurer; Brightman (R.), 2,238, and Scoville (D.), 2,057, for district attorney.

* Born in Dutchess county, N.Y., settled in Potter county in 1832; was admitted to the bar in September, 1835, served in the legislature as first representative of the county; was the first county surveyor and justice of the peace from 1850 to the time of his death in 1880. His poetry won some attention from the press. It was he who surveyed the northern townships in 1838, ten years after their establishment.

** Died in office; Timothy Ives appointed to fill unexpired term.

*** Killed while in office; Archibald F. Jones filled term.

Source: Page(s) 1004-1011 History of Counties of McKean, Elk and Forest, Pennsylvania. Chicago, J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.
Transcribed March 2006 by Mary Bryant, Published 2006 by PA-Roots