McKean County, Chapter 3, Pioneers and Pioneer Days

Created: Wednesday, 06 January 2010 Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 February 2014 Written by Nathan Zipfel Print Email
McKean County



THE pioneers were the self - commissioned explorers and settlers of the New Purchase. Some of them followed the retiring Indians so closely that they cooked their frugal meals by the deserted camp-fires of the evacuating tribes; others joined the adventurous band in the wilderness, while yet the Allegheny Divide was considered the limit line of settlement, and all may be considered satellites of that star which has carried empire westward since the days of the Revolution. Their objects and hopes belonged to that peculiar form of American civilization which desires, to this day, to settle on the horizon, a feat of irresistible fascination to them, which they performed practically, although the thing was theoretically impossible.

The Treaty Indians, whose old country they entered, were comparatively modern settlers. There were men here before them, who lived in the age of giant nature. On the Fisher farm, near Bradford, in the Tuna Valley flats, there were relics of a large race exhumed years ago. It appears an aged tree was felled and uprooted to make way for improvements, and beneath were found large skulls, any one of which could encase the head of any modern man; while thigh bones and shin bones were several inches longer than those of the present people. Near Kane are other souvenirs of prehistoric times, and on other sections evidences of possession by an unknown race are not wanting.

On a map made by the French in 1763 the territory along the lake extending southward is marked: "The seat of war, the mart of trade and chief hunting grounds of the Six Nations on the lakes and the Ohio." Sixty years prior to the date of this map Le Houton published an account of a decade passed by him among the savages on the south of Lake Erie - "the Iroquois, Illinois, Oumanies and others who are so savage that it is a risk to stay with them." The Iroquois had exterminated the Eriez and the Massasaugas about the year 1650. The Eriez were named in 1626, when the French missionaries first came among them, as the Neutre Nation, and were governed by a queen - Yagowania - whose prime minister was a warrior named Ragnotha. In 1634 some Senecas murdered a son of the chief of the Massasaugas, and a deputation from that tribe waited on the queen to ask for justice. Two Seneca warriors also came, who, on learning of the queen's intention to set out with her warriors to give justice, fled to their people to give warning. On the approach of the Eriez the Senecas offered battle and forced the imperial troops to fly, after leaving 600 warriors on the field. In 1650 the 'Iroquois invaded the district and, though driven back seven times, ultimately conquered, particularly during the year of pestilence, when disease swept away great numbers of the nation. In 1712 the Tuscaroras were admitted to the Iroquois confederacy and the name "Six Nations " took the place of that of "Five Nations." Their territory stretched from Vermont to the upper end of Lake Erie and embraced the country at the heads of the Allegheny and Susquehanna, with the seat of council in the Onondaga Valley. The Senecas, a tribe of the original Five Nations, occupied the territory along the Allegheny and near the Pennsylvania - New York line, and in the treaty of 1784 they were particularly concerned. In 1789 a supplementary treaty was made and $800 granted to Cornplanter, Half - Town and Big Tree in trust for the tribe. This treaty was signed in 1791 by the chiefs, and in March, 1792, the triangle was purchased from the United States by the commonwealth. In April, 1792, the assembly passed an act to encourage settlement here, and in 1794 troops were stationed at Le Boeuf to keep peace, as many of the Senecas refused to respect the treaty and charged Cornplanter and the other chiefs with being traitors. The British emissaries of course urged on the disaffected braves, Brandt, chief of the Mohawks, being one of the diplomats; but their logic could not influence Cornplanter, although British interest in justice to the Indians was manifested by two armed vessels lying off Presque Isle to enforce the claims of the discontented Senecas. In 1795 other treaties were negotiated, and the threatened Anglo - Indian raid on the young republic was postponed. At this time there were eighty Senecas at Cornplanter's town, west of the present city of Bradford, where a large tract of land was reserved to them. In 1866 the legislature authorized the building of a monument to Cornplanter which was completed and dedicated at Jennesedaga October 18, 1867. The chiefs of the Senecas who signed the treaty in 1789 were Gyantwachia (Cornplanter), Guyasota (Big Cross), Kanassee (New Arrow), Achiont (Half Town), Anachkont (Wasp), Chishekoa (Wood Bug), Sessewa (Big Bale of a Kettle), Sciawhowa (Council Keeper), Tewanias (Broken Twig), Souachshowa (Full Moon), Cachunevasse (Twenty Canoes), Onesechter, Kiandock - Gowa and Owenewah.

The purchase from the Indians (Six Nations, Wyandots and Delawares) in October, 1784, embraced all the territory lying north and west of a line from the mouth of Beaver creek on the Ohio; thence by said river up the Allegheny to Kittanning; thence by line to Upper Canoe Place on the West Branch of the Susquehanna; thence by that river to the mouth of Pine creek, and north by this creek to the New York State line. In 1758 and at other periods the Indians ceded their possessions in this district in small parcels, but the "New Purchase" treaties and the power of the whites soon did away with requests of favors from the red men, and ended in the expulsion of the aborigines. The Susquehanna Company's purchase of 1754 is bounded by a line drawn north and south through Benizette, Shippen, Norwich, Liberty and other townships to, the New York State line. In 1785 the act of Pennsylvania declared that the land purchased from the Indians in 1784 and defined in the treaty of Fort Stanwix and Fort McIntosh, should be attached to Westmoreland and Northumberland counties, and that the Allegheny river from Kittanning to the mouth of Conewango creek should be the county line. The land office was opened in 1785, but the homestead of 400 acres and actual settlement thereon, together with the Indian wars down to 1796, made the plan of sale useless. In 1793 an act was passed allowing the sale of lands in 1,000 acre warrants on condition of settlement, except during Indian troubles. Under this permit the Holland Land Company purchased 1,140 warrants, and in 1801 the condition of settlement being removed, this company, with the Keatings, Binghams and others, located their warrants at will, and within a few years essayed to develop the wilderness - John Keating being in the advance.

Byron D. Hamlin, speaking on this subject, states that the legislature of 1785 provided for the sale of the "Waste Lands," as the whole territory was named. A lottery wheel was the system of auction selected. An application ticket, with the number of acres applied for written thereon, was placed in one urn and a similar ticket with the warrant number, etc., placed in another. Of course each applicant drew in or about the number of acres he wished to purchase, and as early as May 17, 1785, some of the purchasers found their lands in what are now known as Liberty and Eldred townships. The survey was made in 1787 - 88. In the latter year it was seen that the desire to purchase this wild land was limited, owing to the price ($80 per 100 acres) being too high. It was reduced, and again reduced, in 1792, to $13 1/3 per 100 acres, and in that and the following year the greater part of McKean and adjoining counties became private property. William Bingham and the Holland Land Company were the principal purchasers. In 1796 John Keating purchased a large area from the Binghams, and in 1816 Benjamin B. Cooper purchased the Holland Company's lands and. sold to the Jones Brothers, the Ridgways, the Wernwags, Halseys and smaller owners. The first attempt at settlement was made at Ceres by John Keating's agent, Francis King, in 1798. On July 1, 1801, surveys of the Keating property were commenced. In 1804 the cemetery at Cerestown was platted; Coudersport was surveyed in July, 1807, and Smethport in August, 1807. At this time there was not a wagon road in McKean county. Every family had its own grist - mill; the meat market was the forest; the dry - goods factory was the family spinning - wheel or loom in the lean - to; nails and hardware for building were manufactured from wood; tea and coffee were improvised from the most convenient sources, and whisky was deferred for a more refined generation. Jersey Shore, one hundred miles distant, was the nearest post - office. Two weeks travel through the wilderness (the carrier bearing his own provisions) were required to make the round trip, his pockets being the mailbag and his ardor for news his reward. The census taker had not then been seen. His first visit was made in 1810, when he found a population of 141 whites and one colored resident in McKean county, and in Potter county twenty - eight whites and one colored citizen.

The original deed of Robert Morris, one of the Revolutionary fathers, and his wife Mary, to lands in McKean and other counties dated January 6, 1797, is in possession of Mr. Hamlin, and also one from William Bingham to Omer Talon (afterward conveyed to John Keating & Company), dated December 211, 1796, covers about 300,000 acres in McKean and Potter counties, for $80,000. In 1801 Francis King surveyed the boundaries of the Keating lands, adjoining the New York and Holland purchase in New York State, and the lands of the Binghams, Ridgways and Joneses in Pennsylvania. When the New York & Pennsylvania boundary commission was in session this old field book was produced. The present owner of this parchment, speaking of the early, land purchases, calculates that up to 1874 each acre cost the proprietor $26. To arrive at this total he takes the original cost, 13 1/3 cents per acre, with interest compounded at six per cent, and finds $15.12. Prior to 1840 wild lands were assessed 50 cents per acre on which a five - mill county tax and a five - mill road tax were levied, or a one - half cent per acre. From 1840 to 1860 the taxation was three cents per acre, and from 1860 to 1874 five cents per acre was levied. Mr. Hamlin thinks that the total cost of each acre of wild land to the original owners was $35 including costs of transfers, agencies and other expenditures.

The survey of the town of Smethport was a most important event of pioneer days. The King survey notes read as follows:

The first of the seventh month, 1801. Began at a hemlock corner sixty - three perches west of the Holland Company's thirteen - mile stake on the State line, when we found a south line, which proved to be a district line, dividing Districts 2 and 3, and traveled it south through a thick windfall. Second day. State line marked on a beech with the initials "T.W., October 10, 1792;" soil, chocolate colored; timber, white pine, hemlock, beech, sugar tree, etc. Our provisions being exhausted we returned home. On the twelfth of the tenth month. Found a line blazed for a road from the head of Pine creek to the head of Oswayo in the fall of 1797. We then sent to meet the pack - horses on the south branch of the Allegheny. Nineteenth of the twelfth month. Found a sugar tree corner with initials, one marked "O.S.S." and under it the letters "S.T.E." Seventeenth of the tenth month, 1805. Proceeded with the road and lodged at the Allegheny. Running of the town lots of Smethport, etc. Twenty - fourth of the eighth month, 1807, left home to go to Smethport and loaded at the mouth of our creek; 25th, continued up the river and lodged at the mouth of Potato creek; 26th, camped near the forks of the creek; 27th, still raining, went up the small branch, and built a camp; 28th, finished camp and moved into it; 19th of the ninth month finished survey of the town.

In 1832 Orlo J. Hamlin contributed to the pages of Hazzard's Gazetteer, the history of this county published, therein, parts of which are used in this work. After the publication of the Gazetteer, the pioneer historian of McKean county continued the good work, and from among the documents in possession of his son, Henry Hamlin, one from which the following summary of early history is extracted was found:

Seventeen hundred and ninety-nine to 1800, Ceres township settled by Francis King and others, agent and employes of John Keating,1808 (about), Corydon township settled by Philip Tome and others from the west branch of the Susquehanna,1810 - 12 (about), Hamilton township settled by George Morrison and others of the west branch of the same river,1812 - 15 (about), Liberty township settled by ex - Judge Foster from New Jersey, ex - Judge Samuel Staunton. Sr., from Wayne county, Penn., L. Lillibridge, Dr. H. Coleman and others, 1810, Keating township (Farmers Valley) settled by Joseph and George Otto, the Stulls and others from Northampton county, Penn., six families 1808, Eldred township settled by the Wrights, Jacob Knapp, Joseph Stull, Nathan Dennis, E. Larrabee and others,1815, Norwich township settled by Jonathan Colegrove and fourteen families from North Atlantic States.1809 - 14*, Sergeant township first settled at Instanter, next by Joel Bishop in 1811; _____ Sweeten, David Combs, Sr., B. Beckwith and others settled in 1814 near Bishops summit, and at Clermont farm Paul E. Scull, John Garlick, Philip Lee and others about 1819 - 20,1824 (about), Lafayette township settled by George W. Griswold and others,1823 - 24 (about), Bradford first settled by Dr. William M. Bennett, the Farrs, Scotts, Fosters and others,1846 - 47, Otto township settled by Arthur Prentiss and others. 1822 - 23 (about), Hamlin township first settled by Seth Marvin. 1840 - 41, Annin township first settled by Evans, Kenney and others. 1858 (about) Wetmore township first settled by Grover and others.1820 - 21, Clermont farm, named by Jacob Ridgway after his return from Belgium, where he was United States consul for a term.

The oldest tax roll in possession of the commissioner's clerk covers the years 1806 - 12. The tax payers (of course non - resident) were William Bingham, John Barron, Ezekiel King, William Barker, Robert Blackwell, Henry Clymer, Henry Drinker, Robert Gillmor, Samuel Hughes, George Harrison, William Lloyd, George Meade, Nicklen Griffith, John Olden, Jonathan B. Smith, Thomas Stewarton. Thomas Willing, Charles Willing, Wilhelm Wellick and Henry Wykoff. The valuation was 50 cents per acre, and the tax averaged $2.47 on 990 - acre tracts and $2.75 on 1,099 - acre tracts. Four years later (in 1810) Commissioners Pennington, Glen and Herring of Centre county confirmed the assessment roll, and assessed the unseated lands of McKean. county at 50 cents per acre, on which a tax of two and one - fourth mills per dollar was ordered to be levied, the assessment to continue in force until 1813.

Joseph Stull and his brother, Jacob, settled below Smethport, four miles above Eldred, on the Allegheny, in 1810. A few years later Indians camped at the mouth of Potato creek, and while making for this camp a warrior, being overtaken by night, wrapped his blanket around him and lay face downward to sleep. He was followed by a panther, who, sprung on him as soon as he laid down, striking the claws into thee sides of the redman and the teeth into his neck. The Indian caught a small tree near by, and, raising himself, stabbed the panther in the heart, and then lay down to die with the beast. Next morning his brother Indians set out in search and found the hero of the fight almost dead. They took him to Jacob Stull's house, where he recovered after some weeks.

Asylum Peters died at the house of Walter Edgecomb, in Homer township, Potter county, November 24, 1880. He was born in Bradford, Penn., in 1793, and named after his native township. In 1806 he came to Ceres as cook for Gen. Brevost, a surveyor, and when that work was completed he was sold to William Ayers for $100 and the further consideration that he should receive a fair common education until he was of age, when he was to be set free. In 1808 Ayers moved to the Keating farm, six miles east of Coudersport, on the old Boone road, then the only road in the county, bringing Peters with him.

During the years when the abolition movement first gathered sympathizers, the King settlement above Ceres became an important underground railroad depot. As long ago as 1827 or 1828, Smethport was a way - station on the underground railroad leading from the South to the North, whereon runaway slaves used to travel in making their escape into Canada, then a land of freedom to the black man. In other words, runaway slaves striking the Allegheny river at Warren, would take a short cut, the one used by lumbermen in this region returning from Pittsburgh, and reaching what was then known as the "Four Corners" pass through Smethport, Eldred and Olean, and so on by way of Buffalo to Canada. It was at the above mentioned, that four forlorn looking slaves, foot - sore and weary, and terribly hungry withal, arrived in the little village of Smethport, and stopped at a hotel kept by David Young. They acknowledged that they were runaway slaves, fleeing from hard - hearted masters, and were also out of money. Through the kindness of several of the people of Smethport, the negroes were provided with a good meal at a hotel, a small amount of money furnished them, and were sent on their way. The next stopping place was in Olean, at the hotel kept by Backus. Fearing pursuit from their masters, the slaves were directed to a lumber camp about one mile from the village, which shelter they used for a hiding place and also intended to make it their resting place for the night. Hardly had these four negroes left Smethport when two men on horseback arrived in pursuit, they being the owners of the runaways. Getting no information from the Smethport people, the horsemen hastened to Olean, at which place they arrived just as the slaves had entered their hiding place, though unseen by their masters - and here comes the gist of our tale. The citizens of Olean, who were aware of the pursuit, and fearing that the negroes might be captured, employed a little strategy for the occasion. Sending messengers to the camp with information about the state of matters, the slaves speedily sought their safety. In the meantime the slave owners were informed that the objects of their pursuit might be found in a certain camp near Olean, and kind hands directed their course to the desired point. But upon their arrival, a sad fate awaited them. A bucket of tar and a quantity of feathers were in readiness, and masked men spread the unsightly covering without stint upon the persons of the slave owners, and then left them to their own musings. The next seen of the pursuers, who by this time had become sadder, but wiser men, was in a hotel kept by John Lee near by where the bridge crosses the Allegheny at Eldred. Through grease, soap, water and other appliances and a sojourn of a week, the unfortunate slave owners presented a somewhat better appearance and departed for their Southern homes, and their poor slaves reached the Mecca of their hopes in Canada.

In the history of Potter county reference is made to the successful hunters prior to 1826. In January of this year McKean county takes her place as a distinct government, and the first order issued is that for 81 cents to Wheeler Gallup and Dan Cornelius for fox scalps; Rufus Cory received 27 cents and Ralph Hill, for wolf scalps, $12, while James Taylor, Eben Burbanks, Tim Kenney, Isaac King, Jonathan Colegrove, David Crow, Nathan White, Leonard Foster, Benjamin Chatsey, Hub. Starkweather, James Brooks, George Pinkerton, Henry Willard, Erastus John (an Indian), an unnamed Indian, James John (an Indian), and Hunter (an Indian) were rewarded for killing wild animals. In this year Squire Cole received $12 and Benjamin Freeman $17 for one old and one young panther, and an Indian named Jimmerson $12 for panther certificates. In 1827 the panther hunters were Joseph Silverkeel, (an Indian), Dan Killbuck (an Indian), Simon Beckwith, William Lewis, Dan Lewis and Ralph Hill. In 1828 there is no record of panther hunters, but in 1829 Philander Reed brought in some trophies.

Leroy Lyman, one of the great hunters of the past, was a natural philosopher of a determined character. At one time he resolved to acquaint himself thoroughly with the habits of the panther, and in all his expeditions looked anxiously to the time when this cruel habitant of the woods of this section would cross his track. The time came at last. Returning to his home one evening he felt that he was followed, and, after a time, beheld his pursuer. The latter kept an equal distance from the hunter until Leroy would stop, when the panther would halt for a moment, then purring, creep slowly along to leaping distance. This was repeated several times until the open country was reached, when the hunter made his last study, and prepared for battle. He was well armed, with a seven-shooter rifle, and halting suddenly waited his enemy. The panther halted as suddenly, then purred, crept forward, gave a blood - curdling scream, and. at the moment he sprang forward, the daring hunter filled him with seven bullets. Not a moment too soon; for the next instant the panther was dead at his feet. About fifty - three years ago Reuben Dennis and his brother, then boys, started into the bush near the homestead to find the cows, taking with them a small farm dog of a fidgety character. They were not far into the forest when they heard a terrible scream; but, not knowing the cry of the panther, paid no attention to the strange call, until they looked at the dog, whose hair stood out like porcupine quills. They shared the terror of the dog and fled toward home. On describing their experience to Nathan Dennis, the pioneer, he told them they had just escaped an encounter with a panther, which, in pursuing other game, left the boys safe. Mr. Dennis tells also of the old - time method of trapping bear. Many are acquainted with the bird trap (known as the dead - fall) used by boys of today. The pioneer bear trap was constructed on the same principle, except that instead of a box or cage a log sufficiently heavy to crush and kill a bear was used, the supporting timber being so fixed that bruin, in rushing forward to seize the bait, would displace it, leaving the heavy log to fall on him.

Samuel Beckwith, Sr., one of the pioneers, came upon a bear suddenly, and firing at the animal, wounded it; but failed to kill. Believing that bruin would escape, he advanced knife in hand and a terrible encounter ensued. The bear hugged and tore and bit the desperate hunter, and nearly carried the victory, when Beckwith thrust the knife into the animal's heart. The marks of the battle remained on Beckwith to his death. In 1828 - 29, while this Beckwith and O.J. Hamlin were surveying the turnpike route, the latter came upon a wolf asleep. The animal was so scared, that instead of jumping over the log, he crept under, where his head and fore - shoulders were caught as in a trap. The pack - driver seized him by the hind leg, and opening the jackknife with his teeth, cut off the hamstrings, dispatched the wolf, and brought in the skin and scalp as trophies of the affair.

In 1825 - 26 a road was opened from N.C. Gallup's mill to the Potter county line, and a bridge was built by Lemuel Lucore over the Sinnemahoning, so that as the wild animals decreased such evidences of civilization increased. The existence of this road scared away the large game. The modern hunters, such as Henry Lascar, of Lafayette, and Jones, of Sergeant, tell some extraordinary stories of the doings of bear and panther here since 1880.

From 1842 to the present time storm and flood have accompanied progress in this section, but there are few, if any, cases of destruction of life through such agencies. Lightning, however, has not been so merciful, for, during the last sixty years, it is estimated that over one hundred persons have been killed by electricity, and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property destroyed by it. Since 1878 electric storms as well as wind storms have been common. That of April 16, 1880, carried away eleven rigs in the Tuna Valley, four on East Branch, two on West Branch, thirty - six on Kendall creek, five at Foster Brook and two at Summit, together with farm and village buildings, forests, fences and orchards; subsequent storms have destroyed oil tanks by the dozen, as related in the chapter devoted to local history. The hail storm of May 19, 1888, swept through Marvin Valley and struck Smethport and other towns. The hail average the size of hens' eggs, and of course destroyed much of the glass in its path. The heavy rains of the latter days of May, 1889, which led to the Johnstown catastrophe, also swelled the rivers and creeks of McKean county, entailing heavy losses on owners of valley farms, impeding travel, sweeping away bridges and flooding several villages. The rain storm of June 21, 1889, swept across the county, creating havoc in the forests and injuring buildings and orchards. Lightning played round the hilltops, and at Big Shanty and other points left records of its, destructiveness.

The rain storm, which began on July 2, 1889, reached its climax on the 3d, and continued until past midnight, carrying away a few small bridges and overflowing the lowland roads. The great anniversary morning, however, appeared wreathed in sunshine, and one of the most beautiful of summer days ensued. The first six months of this year were marked by a rain - fall never hitherto experienced.

The second story of the first court-house was used on Sundays by Elder Folsom, the Unionist preacher, Elder Oviatt, the Baptist., and one or other of the various Methodist and Adventist preachers who visited this section from 1826 to 1833. The jail, debtor's room and sheriff's residence were on the lower floor; the water supply was taken from a spring on the farm now owned by John W. Brennan. In this building Hall and Dikeman, counterfeiter and robber, respectively, found a home until they escaped from the "dungeon."

In 1828 the first ball was held in. the county. The tickets were printed at Buffalo in the following form:

1828 - INDEPENDENCE BALL - 1828.

At the hotel of Davis Young, in the village of Smethport, July 4, 1828. Yourself and lady are respectfully invited. Good music and first - class accommodations. The company to assemble at 2 o'clock, P.M.



Almon Sartwell, S.A. Winsor, Horace King, Benjamin

Corwin, Daniel Rifle and David Dunbar.

At this time Mrs. Willard's hotel occupied the site of George Moore's present house. She was indignant at the fact of her house being ignored, and threatened the sheriff with punishment should he allow the proposed orchestra (a prisoner then in jail) to be present. The sheriff's wife, knowing that Mrs. Willard would carry out her threats, dressed a dummy to represent the prisoner, and the lady, looking through the keyhole, saw this figure, and was satisfied. The committee refused to issue a ticket to her, and thus the first ball led to dissension which was not healed for years. The open - air celebration was held beneath the shadows of the stars and stripes floating from the great hickory pole on the square. A long table of freshly planed pine boards was constructed, and above it was a roof of hemlock, pine and hardwood boughs. The procession formed at the lower tavern, owned formerly by William Williams, and marched in couples - male and female - to the court house, under the lead of Jonathan Colegrove, a soldier of 1812. O.J. Hamlin was the orator, Isaac Burlingame, lifer, and Asa Sartwell, clarionet player. O.R. Bennett or John E. Niles read the Declaration, but the drummer's name is forgotten. At the banquet Hiram Payne was toastmaster, and as each toast was given Marshal Colegrove would wave his sword as a signal to his squad of thirteen soldiers to fire a salute. The thirteen men were armed with flintlocks, and were converted for the occasion into an artillery corps, or, if the noise is considered, a fire - cracker corps. Cheers generally followed the salute, but when the musketeers were too slow the people cheered before the salute was given, while the marshal waved his sword wildly. Edward Corwin and Col. Elihu Chadwick, Revolutionary soldiers, were present.

In the fall of 1832 or 1833 Hyde Rice, son of Justice Rice, of Ceres, married Angeline Rice, daughter of Allan Rice, of the salt works neighborhood, now in Cameron county. The wedding guests, some seventeen in number, met at Smethport, the following morning proceeded to Daniel Rifle's house (Colegrove) for breakfast, and thence twelve miles through the forest to the salt works on horseback, where a feast was prepared at the' bride's home. Allan Rice removed to Cincinnati shortly after his daughter's marriage. It is related that on arriving at, the salt works, twenty - seven deer, ranged in line, looked down on the bridal party from the hill.

Joel Sartwell came with his father in 1816. He was a celebrated driver of oxen, and on one occasion hitched his team to a large pine, which he cut down in rear of his house (the Ransom - Beckwith House). Standing on the hill he piloted the oxen down by shouting "Gee Buck" - "Haw Buck." The snow was twenty - four inches deep, and the flight of the cleared tree down the hillside sent this snow flying to the top of the forest, but the tree and oxen got down all safe, with the exception of the tail of one of the animals, which was cut clean, off. Among the pioneer women who resided at or near Smethport in 1880 were Mrs. Ira Curtis, then in her eighty - seventh year. She knew Commodore McDonough, and also Commodore Perry, who defeated the British fleet near Sackett's Harbor in 1812, and saw the historical rooster. Mrs. John Holmes came about 1830, and was eighty - two years old in 1880; Mrs. James Taylor, ninety - four years; Mrs. Cory, the tailoress, who made clothes for the Confederate officers of Houston, Tex., in 1861 - 65, ninety - two years; Mrs. Ghordis Corwin, daughter of Solomon Sartwell, settled in Farmers valley in 1816, was ninety - two years old (when twelve years old she could spin yarn and weave cloth, and was asked to visit Port Allegany (Canoe Place) to help Mrs. Judge Stanton fix the loom and web). Throughout the county a few more women of the pioneer period resided in 1880, but the last nine years have thinned the ranks of the heroines of settlement. In January, 1847, the following poetical tribute to the pioneer women appeared in the Yeoman:

The mothers of our forest land
  Stout - hearted dames were they,
With nerve to wield the battle brand,
  And join the border fray.

No braver dames had Sparta,
  No nobler matrons Rome;
The great and good shall honor them
  Throughout their own green home.

The western line of McKean county is often called the Cornplanter line, for here lived the old chief for years. He was born at Conewaugus, on the Genesee river, to an Indian woman, who was the hunting wife of John O'Bail, a white trader from the Mohawk valley. In July, 1755, he is alleged to have been in the French service, opposing Braddock, but later was present with the British, at the time of the Wyoming massacre, and on their death - dealing scout through the Schoharie Kill and the Mohawk valleys. When the success of the Revolution was assured, he hurried to the burial of the hatchet, and assisted in the post - Revolution treaties. For his services he was given a beautiful reservation, near Kinzua village (the river and valley being named from Kinzuquade, a contemporary chief), where he settled in 1791, and died in 1836. The Indians who visited the settlements during the first two decades of this century are in their graves, but at long intervals a small band of their children visit the old hunting grounds. Jim Jacobs, the aged Seneca Indian, who, prior to the war, hunted in McKean, Elk, Potter, Forest and Cameron counties, visited throughout the county in November, 1880, to renew his old - time sport and observe the changes. Near the northwest corner of McKean county were 640 acres, the last piece of Indian land in Pennsylvania. Forty years ago the place was called "Burnt Houses."

The County Centennial Celebration Convention, held in February, 1876, was presided over by B.D. Hamlin, with H.F. Barbour, secretary. Township committees were appointed, and other steps taken to insure proper observance.

*See history of townships, and of Sergeant township for sketch of Instanter.

Source: Page(s) 95-105, History of Counties of McKean, Elk and Forest, Pennsylvania. Chicago, J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.