History of Lycoming County, Lloyd, Chapter 01

Created: Wednesday, 24 March 2010 Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2017 Written by Nathan Zipfel Print Email

History, of Lycoming County




The history of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, naturally falls into two divisions or periods, that from the organization of the county as a separate municipality down to and through the ascendancy of the lumber industry and that from the cessation of lumber activities down to the present day.

Before the advent of the sawmill and the lumberman, the forests of Lycoming and adjacent counties were covered with the most magnificent growth of pine and hemlock timber to be found anywhere in the world. This timber was cut, floated down the river to Williamsport and there sawed into lumber, Williamsport, the county seat, being at one time the lumber center of the United States, if not the entire world.

Lycoming County is located in the northern central part of Pennsylvania, 112 miles west of the Delaware River, 200 miles east of the Ohio River, 180 miles north of the Maryland line and 75 miles south of the New York state line. In point of area it is the largest county in the state, containing 1,220 square miles. its population in 1920 was 83,100.

The topography of the county is diversified with low lands lying along the river and smaller streams, rolling country farther back, rising into mountain ranges and peaks, terminating in the outlying spurs of the Appalachian chain.

Farming and grazing is the principal industry, the county having no mineral resources with the exception of a few soft coal mines and small deposits of brick and fire clay. The rock formation in the hills and mountains is of conglomerate which supplies an excellent quality of building stone.

It is now well established that the original inhabitants of what is now Lycoming County were a tribe of Indians which came from Peru and were called the Andastes, afterwards the Susquehannocks and subsequently the Conestogas, names given to them by the white man. The reasons for assuming that these Indians were natives of South America are found in the fact that they alone, of all the other Indian tribes in the eastern part of the United States, were growers of the four vegetables, Indian corn, tobacco, pumpkins and potatoes, all of these being also raised in, and indigenous to, Peru. Furthermore, all the ornamentation on articles found in the burial mounds of the Andastes are in the form of straight lines and never in circles, while those of other tribes in this section are just the reverse. All of the ornamentation found in Peru is also in straight lines; hence the conclusion that the Andastes must have come from Peru.

The Andastes were known to have occupied the valley of the West Branch of the Susquehanna as early as the year 1620 and they continued to occupy it, although by a very uncertain tenure, down to the middle of the seventeenth century.

Along the border line of what is now the states of Pennsylvania and New York there existed from time immemorial a very powerful confederation of Indians, composed of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas and known as the Five Nations, or Iroquois, the appellation given them by the French Canadians. These tribes were of a very warlike character and made frequent attacks on their more peaceful and less powerful neighbors to the south, the Andastes, and finally succeeded in driving them out.

The Five Nations became the overlords of this territory and parceled it out to the Delaware or Shawnees, a sub-tribe of which, the Monseys, or Wolf Indians, occupied that portion of the territory now embraced within the limits of Lycoming County. The Delawares or Shawnees were also known by the generic name of the Leni Lenape.

The Andastes Indians were possessed of a high order of intelligence. They lived in communities and villages and had a representative form of government. Their houses were well built and were of a substantial character. They usually consisted of one large room which served as kitchen, bedroom and living quarters for the family.

Each sub-tribe was represented in a general council which met at set intervals to formulate laws and regulations for the entire body. When the white man came into the region, bringing with him all his vices, the Indians soon learned of the evil effects of liquor and very early provided for the absolute prohibition of its use as a beverage among their people. To bring it into one of their villages, or for an Indian to be found under its influence, was regarded as a serious offense for which severe penalties were imposed. These Indians may, therefore be said to be the first real prohibitionists in America.

The Andastes were victims of the ancient formula of the "survival of the fittest" and eventually were compelled to give way to the more powerful tribes of the north, even as these were subsequently compelled to succumb to the advancing aggressiveness of the white man. They were gradually forced farther and farther south into Maryland and Virginia. Many of them became afflicted with an epidemic of illness and at last they disappeared entirely, leaving only a melancholy reminder of the glory that was once theirs.

They lived in amity and friendship with their neighbors and were the victims of an inexorable fate such as all the original inhabitants of the North American continent were compelled to suffer.

The Andastes of the West Branch Valley left behind them many monuments of their character in the shape of burial mounds, remnants of villages and fortifications, some of these located in what is now Lycoming County. Notable among them was a large mound near the present Halls Station in which were found many implements and tools which showed the progress and development made by these tribes of Indians. There were also the remnants of a very powerful fortification at the mouth of Muncy Creek which gave evidence of a high character of constructive skill.

It may be noted here that the American Indian was just what the white man made him. He was, by nature, kind, peaceful and friendly. He was willing to live in amity with his white brethren and to meet them more than half way. But he was deprived of his rightful inheritance by the greed of the usurper, his lands were taken from him without adequate consideration and he was forced to leave his natural place of abode. He was driven farther and farther westward by the advancing tide of a so-called superior civilization until he was met by another tide, flowing eastward from the Pacific slope, and was finally crushed between the upper and nether millstones. Eventually he was compelled to accept the protection of the government and consent to be herded in western military reservations. The story of the fate of the fast-vanishing American Indian is one of the saddest ever recorded. Only a few more years, and he will have passed out of the picture forever.

The Iroquois confederacy, having driven the Andastes out of the territory lying along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, became legally possessed of it by right of conquest. But Thomas Dongan, governor of the province of New York, also claimed it by right of purchase from the crown of England. It was not included in the original grant to William Penn from Charles II. It was rich land and Penn wanted it. He, therefore, contracted with Governor Dongan for the purchase of a large tract which included the present Lycoming County and this was subsequently deeded to him for the consideration of 100 pounds sterling. The instrument was dated January 13, 196.

The Five Nations immediately set up an objection. to this conveyance, claiming that Governor Dongan had no title to this land and had nothing to sell. In order to prevent further dispute and possible bloodshed, the Indians were then prevailed upon to relinquish all claim to the land for a valuable consideration and they signed a deed to that effect. This made Penn's title absolutely indefeasible although a dispute subsequently arose as to just what the boundaries were.

Nothing further occurred to mark the amicable understanding concerning this purchase until 1737 when, by reason of the dissatisfaction felt, and frequently expressed, by the Indians, a great council was called to meet at Philadelphia to which representatives were sent from each of the five tribes composing the confederacy of the Iroquois. After considerable discussion, the Indians finally confirmed forever the previous purchase and signed a release of all claim to it. This instrument, executed on the seventh day of June, 1737, was signed by chieftains representing all of the units of the Five Nations.

It was not long after this until the white settlers began to arrive. It was an attractive looking country, especially along the river and creek bottoms and its fame soon spread throughout the eastern part of the province.

It is not definitely known when the first white man visited the valley nor who he was. Parkman relates that Etienne Brule was sent by the Canadian government to endeavor to secure the aid of the Andastes in an expedition against the Iroquois and that he descended the West Branch of the .Susquehanna River as far as the Indian fortification at the mouth of Muncy Creek. If this account can be relied upon, Brule was undoubtedly the first white man to visit what is now Lycoming County.

He was followed later by Conrad Weiser, the Indian guide and interpreter, who passed through the valley on his way to visit the Five Nations at Onondaga. Weiser and companions found an Indian village at the mouth of Loyalsock Creek, called Otstuagy, where they were hospitably received. This was in 1737, nearly 120 years after the visit of Brule. The next visit of importance was that of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, a Moravian missionary. He also stopped at the village of Otstuagy, where he found the celebrated Madame Montour presiding over the habitation. She was a Canadian half-breed and the mother of Andrew Montour, who became a guide and friend of the white man and rendered distinguished service to the proprietaries of the province. Madame Montour entertained Zinzendorf and party for several days with lavish hospitality.

In June, 1745, another party of Moravians visited the section headed by Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg and David Zeisberger. They visited the Indian village of Otstonwakin probably the same as Otstuagy-and penetrated the country as far up as the headwaters of Lycoming Creek, and from there proceeded on to Onondaga, where the general councils of the tribes of the Five Nations were held.

David Brainerd, a Presbyterian missionary, came to the valley in 1746 and preached to the Indians in their own language at a point just above the present borough of Montoursville. He also journeyed up the river as far as the present village of Linden and was everywhere cordially received.

Martin Mack was the last of the Moravian missionaries to visit the country in 1753. He followed the course pursued by the others as far as Otstuagy and then branched off up the river, reaching what is now Newberry, a suburb of Williamsport. Here he found an Indian village called "French Margaret's Town," presided over by a half breed of that name. Mack was cordially received and records the fact that he was feasted on watermelon and milk, a doubtful combination, but probably very palatable. French Margaret was a niece of Madame Montour and a woman of high character. She adopted very stringent regulations about the use of liquor and imposed absolute prohibition within the confines of her town.

With the breaking out of the French and Indian wars a feeling of unrest spread through the tribes in Pennsylvania. Both sides were constantly intriguing with the Indians and endeavoring to enlist their services with all kinds of specious promises, many of which were never kept and, indeed, it is doubtful whether they were ever intended to be kept. As a result, the Indians became suspicious and were unwilling to trust any man whose countenance was white.

Frequent forays were made by the Indians on the white settlers south of what is now Lycoming County and settlements were discouraged north and west of Muncy Hills.

In September, 1763, a party from Lancaster and Cumberland counties numbering about one hundred men started to explore the country up as far as Great Island at Lock Haven. On arriving at the Muncy Hills, the men were met by a party of Indians and a battle ensued in which the whites were victorious. They then moved on westward as far as the Warrior Run Spring, located at the present village of Port Penn, adjoining Muncy, where they encamped for the night. The next morning, thinking the Indians were likely to gather in larger force, they returned to their homes. This engagement became known as "The Battle of Muncy Hills."

No more serious attempts were made to establish settlements in Lycoming County until the opening of the land office in 1769, when the real influx began.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 65-71, History of Lycoming County Pennsylvania, Col. Thomas W. Lloyd, Volume 1, Topeka-Indianapolis; Historical Publishing Company; 1929