Potter County, Chapter 20, Stewardson, Sweden and West Branch Townships

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







STEWARDSON TOWNSHIP, bounded south by Clinton county, east by Lycoming county, north by Abbot township, and west by the unorganized tract called East Fork (Oleona), claims the high lands of Kettle creek synclinal in the northwest, while the anticlinal extends from the northeast corner to the northeast corner of Leidy township in Clinton county, thus leaving a valley of, about two miles wide through the center of the township. The synclinal is about five miles in width, but cut into gulches by Cross Forks and Kettle creek with their tributaries. The headwaters of Kettle creek rise in West Branch, and unite with Little Kettle at Germania, thence flowing southwest (receiving at Oleona a branch through a gate of Pocono sandstone) past Walhalla, to the junction with Cross Forks. It may be said that Kettle creek receives a tributary in every half mile of its course through this township, and the same may be said of Cross Forks and even of Windfall run, both flowing south through the western section. The several head- feeders of Young Woman's creek rise in the southeast divide between them and Kettle creek, flowing south through deep trenches into the Blossburg basin.

In 1853 there were fourteen resident tax- payers; in 1889 there were seventy, assessed at $146,989. The population in 1880 was 223, while in 1888 36 Republicans, 19 Democrats and 1 Prohibitionist represented 168 inhabitants. The assessment of Stewardson was made in 1845 by John Wolfe. The residents were John Arnold, Dan Allspack, Clark & Wolfe, W.Y. Campbell, James English, F.D. French, William Herod, D.T. Hall, George G. Hazen, Samuel and O. Jenkins (three last being millwrights), Andrew Jordan, S. Pfoutz, Jr., John Robert, Thomas Hahn, A. Roundsville (carpenter), Jake Shuman, Hubbard Starkweather, G. Stewartson, Francis Sankey, Sim Shuman, Shiley Shaler, Thompson & Crittenden (saw- mill owners); Peter Yochum, William Yochum and Adam Yoh.

In 1815 petitions for bridges over Kettle and Pine creeks were granted, and Nathan B. Palmer, Samuel Beach, James Permeter, William W. Wattles, Burrel S. Lyman and John Peel were appointed viewers.

In 1842the west branch of Pine creek was made a highway by act of assembly. May 12, 1843, Francis French and wife moved on the place, now occupied .by Henry Andresen. Mr. French commenced keeping travelers as soon as he got his log- house up in this year, thus opening the first hotel in the township. This house was carried on until about 1862, when the Oleona House took up the business. Mr. French died in 1857. Of his wife, who is still living, Burt Olson, proprietor of the Oleona House, writes: "She married Mr. Henry Andresen in 1853. Mrs. Andresen is a rugged and healthy woman of seventy- four years, and does not look over fifty- five years old. She has caught many a wolf in traps, and it is interesting to hear her tell of her early experience in Stewardson township."

Ole Bull, the great Norwegian violinist, conceived the plan of a scheme to colonize a number of his countrymen in the United States, and so connect himself with them that he could enjoy the position of a "Lord of the Manor." After looking about the country he became convinced that the climate and physical conformation of southeastern Potter county would best suit the habits and tastes of those descendants of the Vikings whom he proposed to transplant to the land of the free. He purchased of John F. Cowan 11,144 acres of land situated in Abbot and Stewardson townships. The land bought was mountains clothed with a heavy growth of forest trees, among which the hemlock predominated. Into this wilderness he brought three hundred Norwegians and Danes in 1852. He supplied each family with a piece of land at a fair price, and laid out the plats of four villages- Oleona, New Norway, New Bergen and Walhalla. At Walhalla, which was situated about one mile below Oleona, Ole Bull erected what was called his "castle," a large mansion built upon the summit of a hill. Of the villages laid out only Oleona and New Bergen remain. The poor Norwegians had a hard time of it, for although they were accustomed to a mountainous country and a cold climate they knew nothing of clearing land. They took down the trees not by chopping, but by a process known as "grubbing;" that is digging them up by the roots. Ole Bull soon discovered that he had made a mistake; although he could cheer his colony with the sweet notes of his violin, he could not place them in a state of prosperity. So it came to pass that he became disheartened, and left his castle unfinished in 1853, and went again before the public with his beloved violin, while his colony was scattered to the four points of the compass. Ole Bull died in Norway in August, 1880. But a few of the colonists remained upon the purchase, principal among them being Henry Andresen who came with Ole Bull as his private secretary, and who is now living the life of a merchant at Oleona, and Burt Olson, the proprietor of the Oleona House. The Ole Bull lands were bought by Wm. Radde, of New York.

In 1845 Miles Thompson built the first saw- mill in Stewardson township on Cross Fork. The saw- mill in Stewardson at the turnpike bridge was built, in 1850, by the Stewardsons. The first grist- mill in Stewardson was built by Henry Andresen in 1856. It has not been in use for a number of years. Martin Olson opened a blacksmith's shop at Oleona in 1853, being the first in the township. In 1854 the first store was built in Stewardson, by Henry Andresen, at Oleona. Mr. Andresen continues the business at the same point where he began thirty- three years ago. He came into the county with Ole Bull's colony of Norwegians in 1852, and settled at Oleona, where he married. He made a successful mercantile venture, but through unfortunate circumstances met with great losses.

The first church organization in Stewardson were the Methodists, and the society was taken in charge by the Conference, Rev. A.S. Chandler being the first preacher. The first school- house in Stewardson Ole Bull had built at New Norway in 1853, where the present school- house stands. The first teacher was Miss Beza Rock, of Jamestown, N.Y.

The township officers elected in February, 1890, are as follows: Constable, James Impson; assessor, James Impson; supervisor, G.W. Slarrow; treasurer, Martin Joerg; collector, Burt Olson; town clerk, Henry Andresen; auditor, Edward Joerg; overseer of the poor, Burt Olson; school directors, Henry Andresen, Martin Joerg, Chas. Clukey; judge of election, Willard Andresen; inspectors of election, Ole Olson and Edward Joerg.


This township consists of two plateaus- one small one in the northeast corner, and one three times as extensive in the southeast corner. The center from northeast to southwest is occupied by a broad valley, through which the head streams of Mill creek flow, and in which is the Kingdom of Sweden with its towns of Stockholm, Sweden and Sweden Valley. Pine creek finds its direct feeder near the first- named town and, by some mystery, this tributary finds a course east through the southwest plateau, thus feeding the Susquehanna as well as the Allegheny. This valley of Ulysses and Homer anticlinal is about three miles wide and its red Catskil soil is productive. In 1880 the population was 416, while, in 1888, 48 Republicans, 58 Democrats, and 2 Union Labors represented 540 inhabitants. In 1859 there were 151 tax- payers, assessed $69,555. In 1807 the body of a log- house was raised on the Keating farm in Sweden township by orders of John Keating, and in the fall roofed and chinced by William Ayers and Asylum Peters, who moved down from the agency at Ceres. In March, 1808, Mr. Ayers, his wife, three children, and the negro moved into this building, and resided there until the spring of 1809, when the Lymans came. The township was established in 1828 but not organized until 1830. It was, assessed in 1837-38 by Samuel Taggart, with Sam Olney and James Corsaw assisting. The tax- payers were Chester and James Corsaw, Wm. Ellsworth, Versal Dickinson, Milton DeWolf, Richard Birch, W.H. Gibson, Wm. Howland, Conrad and John Hollenbeck, Steadman Luce, Robert McCurdy, Eph. and Garniel Olney, Sam. Taggart and Lucas Cushin.

C.L. Corsaw was an early settler of Sweden township, and kept the first hotel. The hotel is still standing, and open to the public. Upon Mr. Corsaw's farm was built the first school- house, and the first school, we think, was taught by Mr. Corsaw's father. An incident related of this old school teacher by one of his sons, years ago, exhibits his originality. At that time the alphabet was printed on a piece of paper, and this was pasted upon a thin piece of wood, which was finished with a handle. The child took this instrument in its hand, and conned its lesson. It was in the day when finely prepared and illustrated primers for children were unknown. This son, who related the story, was the pupil, and found that the letter M was unmanageable to him. He could remember the names of all the letters but this one. One day his father called him to his side and taking his knife from his pocket, opened it, and pointing with the blade to the letter M, said: "James, what is the name of that letter?" James candidly replied that he did not know. His father carefully cut around the letter upon the board, and lifting it upon the point of his knife, said, "James, the name of this letter is em. I want you to open your mouth and eat it." James did as ordered, his father placing the letter upon his tongue, saying: "The name of that letter is em; you will never forget it again." And James Corsaw told me that he never did forget it.

T.B. Abbott found in the forest in the southeast corner of Sweden, about six rods from the west branch of Pine creek, the body of a man, which, it was evident, had lain there for some time. The skull was denuded of flesh, and the body was in an advanced stage of decomposition. Two dollars were found in the pocket- book, some thread, needles and a thimble. The clothing was decayed. Esquire R.L. White empanelled a coroner's jury, but there was no evidence to establish the identity of the remains. The body was buried in the Lymansville cemetery.

The first saw- mill was built in the town of Sweden on A.G. Lyman's place, by B.T. Hoxie. James Bassett built the first grist- mill in Sweden on the turnpike, in 1854. This mill is still standing, and is owned at present by Henry Duel. The first store in Sweden township was opened by Jacob Snyder. In 1844- 45 Christian Hundredmark opened the first blacksmith shop in Sweden.

The Sweden Valley Methodist Church was incorporated September 3, 1883, with C.C. Chase, W. White, M.E. White, Louis Angenne, Orlando Kaple, A.G. Lyman, John R. Dodd, B.F. Kaple and Abram Chase, subscribers. A church building was completed June 20, 1884, at a cost of $2,000, of which A.G. Lyman contributed half.

Sweden Hill Cemetery Association was organized in 1884, with M.T. Chase, C.C. Chase, H.J. Neefe, Wm. Snyder and J.W. Neefe, directors.

General stores are carried on at Sweden Valley by E. Hackett, and at Sweden by J.W. Neefe. In the fall of 1881 and winter of 1881- 82 an oil well was drilled at Sweden Valley. No third sand was found, and the casing was taken up.

The officers of this township, elected in February, 1890, are as follows: Justice of the peace, S.O. Dodd; supervisors, David Mitchel, Henry Duel; collector, F.W. Frank; constable, F.W. Frank; town clerk, William L. Lyman; auditor, H.E. Tarbox; treasurer, Henry Taucher; school directors, William Snyder, Jno. Bird; overseer of the poor, Chet Corsaw; judge of election, Geo. Butter; inspectors of election, Geo. Mitchell, Thomas Owens.


West Branch, so called on account of its being the home of this straggling head of Pine creek, presents a few natural curiosities. Near Wharton's is a 3 x 18 block of Pottsville conglom, which, sliding down from the mountain, halted near the road to point itself out to the wondering wanderer; a half mile above is the celebrated Plant Bed, an exposure of gray and bluish shale and sandstone; then the Hog Back Ridge, two and one- quarter miles east of the old Devin's House, on what was known as the Coudersport & Jersey Shore Pike [a carriage ride on this narrow elevation is a feat fit for an Alpine guide or Roman charioteer]; then the boulders, the gray sandstone, the red shale, the red rock, the heavy Pottsville, the Chemung, the Pocono, and such things ad infinitum. The agriculturist would be well content with one- millionth part of this wealth of rock and mountain.

There were nineteen tax- payers in 1853, and 154 in 1889, with property valued at $127,816. The population in 1880 was 374. In 1888 there were forty- one Republican, fifty-seven Democratic and one Union Labor votes cast, representing 495 inhabitants. The resident tax- payers of West Branch in 1849 were Harvey Allen, Cal. Burrows, Alonzo Bradley, C.C. Burdett, Erastus Crippen, Henry Crippen, Sill. Conable, Wm. Davis, O.B. Goodman, Wm. Gross, L. Hammond, John Ives, Joseph Johnson, Oliver Knickerbocker, Amasa Knickerbocker, Thomas Padgett, Waters & Doolittle and S. Wetmore. Erastus Crippen, of West Branch, writes that West Branch township was settled "in or about the year 1835. The first settlement was begun on the West branch, near a mile above the forks, where Pine creek and the branch come together, and is the site where my farm and dwelling now is, by Levi Ives. He was killed by a falling tree shortly after he began clearing." Z.S. Bunnel was the first blacksmith. The first settlement of the southern portion of the township was begun by a portion of Ole Bull's colony. They were Danes and Norwegians.

The first saw- mill was built in West Branch township in 1850, by Daniel Dewey and Theodore Larrison. The first school was taught in West Branch township by Irene Skinner, in 1849. The first school- house was built in West Branch in 1857. The first church organization in West Branch township took place in 1862, by the Free Will Baptists. Rev. Stillwell was the first preacher. At West Branch village is the general store of Willis Conable. Cherry Spring post- office is located in the extreme west part of the township on the proposed Sinnemahoning Valley Railroad.

The township officers, elected in February, 1890, are named as follows: Justice of the peace, Willis Conable; auditor, L. Zundel; supervisor, Charles French; constable, John Diseroth; collector, John Diseroth; school directors, Charles Prouty, Ben Maines; treasurer, C. Shumaker; town clerk, L.F. Rice; overseer of the poor, Charles Prouty; judge of election, A.P. Longee; inspectors of election, Joseph Keller, Will Osgood.

Source: Page(s) 1121-1127 History of Counties of McKean, Elk and Forest, Pennsylvania. Chicago, J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.
Transcribed May 2006 by Nathan Zipfel, Published 2006 by PA-Roots