McKean County, Chapter 4, Transactions of the County Commissioners

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


THE county of McKean was established March 26, 1804, being set off from Lycoming. On December 13, 1805, Gov. McKean appointed John Brevost, John Bell and Thomas Smith, trustees for the new county, under the act of March 26. In May, 1806, the trustees posted a notice at Ceres that they were ready to receive proposals for the county town. In November they assembled to consider the offers made by John Keating and Paul Busti, the latter being agent for the Holland Land Company. In Busti’s letter of June 13., he expresses his pleasure at the prospect of a new county, and agrees to lay off 200 acres of the Holland Land Company’s lands, in either of tracts

numbered 2313, 2312, 2603, 2602, 2669, 2375, 2470 or 2573, on the company’s road, from the mouth of Bald Eagle creek, on the Susquehanna, to the State line. Of the 200 acres, two- thirds were to be conveyed to the county; 100 acres adjoining were to be donated for the support of a minister of the Gospel, and 100 acres for the support of a school. This or 500 acres of wild land was their offer.

John Keating was more liberal. He offered 228 acres at the forks of the Cononoclan (Nun- un- dah), one- half the lots surveyed, 150 acres for the support of a school teacher, and $500 cash to aid in erecting a school building. He pointed out so very clearly the beauty and utility of the location that on September 17, 18 and 19, 1807, he, with the trustees, visited the locality (Smethport;), and selected the spot September 21 that year. On April 19 following they made plans for building the State road.

In October, 1815, J. Borrows, prothonotary of Lycoming county, residing at Williamsport, informs Samuel Stanton, Isaac Lyman and Joel Bishop of their election as commissioners of taxes for McKean county. On October 19, they met at Benjamin Burt’s house in Eulalia, where they qualified before Justice Nathan B. Palmer. A day later they appointed Palmer clerk, John King, of Ceres, treasurer, and made an appointment with Messrs. Bell and Smith, the trustees of McKean and Potter, and appointed James Parmeter assessor of Eulalia. In 1816 Jonathan Colegrove was appointed assessor of Sergeant; Rensselaer Wright, of Ceres, and John Lyman, of Roulette; in April Joseph Otto was appointed, vice Stanton, and in October he was elected with Nathan B. Palmer. John King was chosen county clerk. At this time Israel Merrick, of Eulalia, Ransom Beckwith, of Roulette, Abram Baker, of Cores, and Joel Bishop, of Sergeant, were appointed assessors. In 1817 C. Ellis, J. Colegrove and B. Wright were appointed auditors of Potter and McKean, and Israel Merrick, Jr., commissioner’s clerk. W.W. Wattles was chosen clerk, in March, 1817; in October John King qualified as commissioner before Joel Bishop at Coudersport. In November Ezekiel B. Foster was appointed clerk, and Isaac Lyman, treasurer. The latter was requested to remove records, etc., to the house of the clerk. The tax levy was one- half cent per dollar, and the pay of treasurer five per cent. In January, 1818, the office was at Kingsville; John Taggart was elected auditor; Isaac Lyman, commissioner, vice Otto; I. Merrick, clerk, vice Foster, and in November John Taggart was appointed commissioner, vice Palmer, by the court of Lycoming county. In 1819 Rensselaer Wright was elected commissioner; Joseph Otto was appointed clerk, but did not qualify, leaving the office to Merrick. Thomas Hays was commissioner’s clerk of Lycoming in 1818, and in 1820 Philip Krebs was prothonotary. In November, 1821, R. Wright and J. Colegrove were appointed to make a return of all tax- payers and slaves in Potter and McKean counties. In 1822 John Lyman was elected commissioner; Nathaniel Eastman was clerk, and Leonard Taggart, treasurer, and all qualified at Coudersport. Jonathan Colegrove, David Crow and John Lyman were chosen commissioners in 1823, and Harry Lyman, clerk. R. Wright took John Lyman’s place in 1824, and N.C. Gallup was appointed clerk, but he was succeeded by Nathan White in December of that year; Benjamin Colegrove was appointed treasurer, with Timothy Newell, John King and William Smith, auditors. N. White was elected commissioner in 1825, vice R. Wright, and Henry Scott chosen clerk (Keating township was established in 1824). In January, 1826, Paul E. Scull was appointed treasurer, the first for this separate organization; Timothy Newell was elected prothonotary in October, having previously served by appointment, and in November Richard Chadwick was chosen clerk.

On May 31, 1827, the mason work on county buildings was accepted, and August 4 an order for $3,000 was given to the contractor, Solomon Sartwell, Jr. During this year deeds to a number of lots round the public square were sanctioned by the commissioners, White and Otto, they being the active members of the board. In November, that year, William Bell qualified, and in November, 1828, Messrs. Otto, Bell and Gallup formed the board. Bradford township was established, also Liberty township. In June, 1829, Squire Manning contracted to build a bridge over Potato creek for $300. Corydon township was formed, and practical improvements authorized. In 1830 Messrs. Crow, Bell and Colegrove were commissioners, and O.J. Hamlin county attorney. On November 12, 1830, B. Freeman contracted to construct the primitive water works on the square, and the first privilege of using this water, after the supply at the public buildings, was granted to David Crow. A contract was entered into January 5, 1831, with B.B. Smith to do the county printing, and Paul E. Scull’s treasurer’s bail bond was signed by Nathaniel White, George Darling and Thomas Curtz, Jr. In September, 1831, moneys were paid to Burlingame & Co. for raising public buildings, and to Oviatt for leveling public square. In 1831 - 32 Colegrove, Bennett and Fobes were commissioners. In May, 1833, Ghordis Corwin was appointed commissioner, and in November Commissioner Patterson qualified. B. Freeman with Bennett and Patterson formed the board in 1834; Hamilton township was set off, and in December Commissioner Smith took his seat. In November, 1835, Greene qualified. At this time the contract to line the dungeon with hewed stone was sold to Wheeler Gallup. Norwich township was established, and other measures taken to show progress. The contract for turnpiking the main street of Smethport, from John E. Niles house on the northeast corner of the square, was sold to Gideon Irons, in June, 1836. In November, Col. Wilcox qualified, Smith and Greene being the old, commissioners, but in May, 1837, Commissioner A. Lull was appointed, while Oviatt and Coats were elected that fall. Oviatt was re-elected in 1838, and Chapin elected. In 1840 Fobes was one of the commissioners, and later Squire Hunt and Robbins became members of the board. In October, 1831, Mr. Chadwick signed the records as prothonotary and clerk, and continued to sign until F.B. Hamlin qualified in 1842, and again from 1845 to January 21, 1851. In November P. Ford signed as his deputy, and January 7, 1852, Paul E. Scull qualified as prothonotary. In 1843 the contract for building a bridge at Canoe Place was sold to Solomon Sartwell, Sr., Commissioner Corwin being on the board. In June, 1843, new streets were ordered to be opened at Smethport, and old ones repaired, and Lafayette and Eldred townships were established. Corwin, Robbins and Marsh were the commissioners in 1844, and in this year Hamlin township was organized.

In 1845 Commissioner Eastey and Dr. Darling, with Marsh, formed the board. B.C. Corwin qualified as treasurer in January, 1846, and W.A. Williams as clerk at a salary of $100 per year. In the fall A.P. Barnaby was elected commissioner. In 1847 W.A. Williams was appointed county counsel at a stated salary of $25 per annum for actual business, and to be paid usual fees for extra time. Commissioner A. Martin qualified in 1848. In this year contracts for building the jail were sold. In October B. Wright was chosen commissioner, and Ira H. Curtis clerk. J. Marsh took Barnaby’s place in 1849. In July, 1850, Contractor William Bell agreed to enlarge the court- house for $1,000, and on August 30 Wright and Martin were present superintending the hanging of Uzza Bobbins for the murder of his wife. J.F. Gallup was chosen commissioner in October, 1850, and at this time David Grindley proposed to enlarge the court-house for, $300. A. Martin, with Gallup and Marsh, formed the board in 1851. S. Holmes qualified in June, 1852, vice Marsh, while in 1853 W.Y. McCoy, A.M. Benton and Holmes formed the board. Smethport was incorporated in 1853, and Otto township was formed in 1854. In 1855 Nelson Peabody, of Ceres, took Dr. McCoy’s place. W.J. Colegrove was elected in 1858, and in 1860 Messrs. Colegrove, Keyes and Davis were commissioners, Howard being chosen in 1861. Annin township was organized during this year.

The commissioners, Colegrove, Keyes and Davis, assembled November 30, 1861, to consider the question of relieving families of volunteers, but what was accomplished at this meeting is not on record. The records of the period do not contain any valuable information, as the clerk appears to have been always in a hurry to go home or to the war. In July, 1862, Associate Judge Darling, with Commissioners Howard, Davis and Keyes, resolved to pay $50 for the relief of each family of volunteers, and a tax of two and one- half mills was ordered for that purpose. In October, 1862, J.W. Starks was appointed commissioner, vice D.J. Keyes, while A.P. Brewer took the place of Davis, and B.C. Corwin that of Howard. W.S. Oviatt was appointed clerk January 5, 1863. James M. Baldwin was elected commissioner in October, 1863, and, with Corwin and Brewer, formed the board, and were prominent in managing the affairs of the county during these dark days of the Civil war. In August, 1864, the board appointed W.W. Brown, county agent, to recruit in the rebel States, empowering him to offer $100 to recruits for one year; $200 for two years and $300 for three years. Mr. Brown refused to accept this office on account of ill health, and the commissioners, failing to obtain the services of an agent for this purpose, withdrew bounty offers and placed the matter of filling the quota in the hands of the township authorities. August 20, same year, this resolution was rescinded and a $300 bounty offered. G.M. Smith, Baldwin and Brewer were commissioners at the close of the war.

In 1866 - 67 Messrs. Brewer, Smith and P.M. Fuller were commissioners. In June, 1867, J.C. Hamlin contracted to remove the old- time roof from the court- house and place a heavy tin one thereon for $150. In 1868 Reuben Dennis, G.M. Smith and P.M. Fuller formed the board. In July, 1869, the proposition to abolish the old spring water supply and establish a deep well was carried, and the contract sold to Daly. Charles S. Rice replaced Fuller in December, 1869, and Oviatt took Smith’s place in November, 1870. In January, 1871, F. King was appointed clerk; in January, 1872, C.C. Melvin was appointed treasurer to fill vacancy, and Coleman took the place of Commissioner Dennis. In 1873 J.R. Chadwick was appointed clerk, and Commissioner Smith resumed his place on the, board, vice Rice. Bradford borough was incorporated. In 1874 Broder replaced Oviatt. In March, 1875, the commissioners authorized the issue of bonds for $25,000, the proceeds to be used in building a jail. On April 6, the southeast corner of square No. 38, bought of Keating & Co., was selected as the site and A.S. Bishop was employed as building, foreman. In January, 1876, the commissioners- elect, Benjamin Bunker, W.A. Young and Orlando Gallup, qualified, and John B. Chadwick was appointed clerk. In December, 1877, William D. Gallup qualified as treasurer. In 1879 Messrs. Colegrove, Abbey and Boyer were commissioners.

H.F. Barbour was appointed clerk at a salary of $500, S.W. Smith, attorney, and S.D. Freeman, physician. In June, 1879, the, board considered the recommendation of the grand jury in the matter of building a new court- house, and ordered such building to be erected on the site of the old house. In September, 1879, the Methodist church-house was rented for the purposes of a courtroom, and October 7, 1879, the building contract was sold to John J. Hogan, of Erie, for $75, 000. On November 24, the issue of $50,000 bonds was authorized, and December 16, 1880, a further issue of $60,000. J.W. Beeman was treasurer in 1880 - 81.

The new court- house was completed, and opened September 12, 1881, B.D. Hamlin, presiding, with the following representatives of county sub- divisions: Joseph Hodges, of Annin; B.C. Havens, James Broder and Loyal Ward, of Bradford; W.R. King, of Ceres; Thomas Conover, of Corydon; John Duke, of Duke Centre; Eben Barden and William L. Chrisman, of Eldred; A.W. Buchanan, of Foster; Jabez F. Gallup, of Hamlin; James A. Anderson, of Hamilton; A.H. Cory, of Keating; Philo Ackley, of Kendall borough; A.M. .Benton, of Liberty; James Hoop, of Lafayette; A.P. Brewer, of Norwich; Arthur Prentiss, of Otto; Adam Martin, of Sergeant; W.Y. McCoy, of Smethport, and O.D. Coleman, of Wetmore. Lucius Rogers and John B. Chadwick were secretaries. That evening Judge H.W. Williams opened the September term of court, and P.M. Fuller qualified as associate judge vice F.N. Burnham, deceased. In January, 1883, commissioners F.S. Johnson, A.T. Palmer and Andrew Reilly replaced the commissioners of the court- house building days, and appointed John R. Sherwood clerk. In April the erection of fountains on the square was authorized. In January, 1883, T.A. Morrison was appointed county attorney, and E.G. Brown, physician. In July of this year more contracts for building iron bridges were entered into. In December, 1883, C.C. Melvin qualified as treasurer.

In September, 1883, a petition signed by a majority of the poor- masters was presented to the court asking for an election on the question of establishing a poor farm. This was granted, and in February, 1884, 1,611 votes were cast in favor of and 885 against, such establishment. In March, 1884, an issue of bonds for $50,000 was authorized; in April the Wilcox farm was purchased, and E.F. Richmond employed as superintendent of the farm. In April the A.I. Wilcox farm, 345 acres, was purchased for $15,515. In May the style of the Allegheny county poor buildings was adopted, and S.A. Bishop appointed architect. In July the contract for buildings was sold to Davitt, O’Brien & Hart for $24,813.18; in December a further issue of bonds for $15,000 was authorized. In April, 1885, bonds for $9, 000 were ordered to be issued. In May, 1885, P.H. Burnham was appointed general superintendent. In July, 1885, the building was ready to receive poor persons. In January, 1886, E.G. Brown and H.L. McCoy were appointed physicians, and D.H. Burnham, superintendent; but in 1887 Dr.. McCoy alone was appointed physician, Dr. Brown succeeding him in 1889, John B. Chadwick succeeding Burnham as general superintendent. C.S. King was appointed superintendent of poor farm in January, 1890.

In January, 1885, Commissioners Andrew Reilly, R.A. Rice and W.P. Gallup qualified. In January, 1887, M.B. Greer was appointed county clerk; T.A. Morrison was reappointed attorney, and Dr. S.I. Wells, physician. In January, 1888, Commissioners James Anglun, P.M. Fuller and James A. McKean took their seats to serve until January 1, 1891. Robert H. Rose was appointed attorney and E.G. Brown, physician, in January, 1889.

The first mortgage was recorded June 1, 1827. It secured to Norry Hooker by Justice Rice 200,000 feet of good, merchantable pine boards, payable in 1828 for 100,000 feet of similar boards purchased from Hooker that year. All the mortgage transactions from 1826 to 1858 are contained in Record A or in 473 pages. The mortgage record was contained in Book A and part of Book B up to 1874, since which time, thirty-three large records have been filled, and since 1864 sixty- three, records of deeds and twelve miscellaneous records.

During Asa Sartwell’s administration of the prothonotary’s office the county commissioners declared 100,000 acres in McKean county and 50,000 acres in Potter county forfeited for non- payment of taxes. He commenced to purchase such lands at from 3 to 10 cents per acre, and continued until he claimed about 250,000 acres or even more. In time he sold to New York lumbermen the pine, hemlock and maple forests, and with the proceeds purchased from the Binghams a tract of 55,000 acres in this county (the greater part of which floats on an ocean of oil), Joe R. Ingersoll and William, Miller being the agents of the estate at the time. In 1836 Mr. Sartwell sold all his lands, as purchased from the Holland Company in Jefferson county, as well as the Kersey tract in Jefferson and Clearfield counties to the United States Land Company of Boston.

The townships of McKean county established when the county was organized are Sergeant and Ceres. Keating township was established in 1824; Bradford township, in 1828; Liberty, in 1828; Corydon, in 1829; Hamilton, in. 1834; Norwich, in 1835; Lafayette and Eldred, in 1843; Hamlin, in 1844; Otto, in 1854, and Annin, in 1860. Smethport was organized in 1853; Bradford borough, in 1873; Foster township, in 1880, and Eldred, Duke Centre (since discontinued) and Kane boroughs since 1878; Port Allegany was organized in 1882, Kendall borough in 1881.

Source: Page(s) 105-112, History of Counties of McKean, Elk and Forest, Pennsylvania. Chicago, J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.