Chapter I
Early History 

Beginning of the History - Formation of the County - Situation and Boundaries - Extent in Square Miles and Acres.

The history of Jefferson county really begins in the year 1796, when Joseph Barnett, Andrew Barnett, and Samuel Scott first penetrated to the banks of the Sandy Lick Creek, and located the first white man’s home in the wilderness.

Previous to that, but little is known of the territory now comprising the county. Lycoming county, from which Jefferson county was taken, was formed from Northumberland in 1795. It was part of the purchase of lands by the Proprietary Government at the treaty at Fort Stanwix,* November 5, 1768, then known as the "New Purchase." The terms and boundaries of this purchase were as follows:

"We Tyanhasare, alias Abraham, sachem or chief of the Indian nation called the Mohocks; Senughsis, of the Oneydas; Chenughiata, of the Onondagas; Guastarax, of the Senecas; Sequarisera, of the Tuscaroras; Tagaaia, of the Cayugas, in general council of the Six Nations’ at Fort Stanwix, assembled for the purpose of settling a general boundary line between the said Six Nations and their dependent and confederate tribes, and his Majesty’s middle colonies send greeting, etc. In consideration of ten thousand pounds, they grant to Thomas Penn and Richard Penn all that part of the province of Pennsylvania not heretofore purchased of the Indians within the said boundary line, and beginning in the said boundary line on the east side of the east branch of the river Susquehanna, at a place called Owegy, and running with the said boundary line down the said branch on the east side thereof till it comes opposite the mouth of a creek, called by the Indians, Awandac (Tawandee) and across the river and up the said creek on the south side thereof, and along the range of hills called Burnett’s Hills by the English and by the Indians, on the north side of them to the head of a creek which runs into the west branch of the Susquehanna, which creek is, by the Indians, called Tiadaghton (Pine Creek), and down the said creek on the south side thereof, to the west branch of the Susquehanna; then crossing the said river and running up the same on the south side thereof, the several courses thereof, to the fork of the same river, which lies nearest to a place on the river Ohio,** called the Kittanning, and from the said fork by a straight line to Kittanning aforesaid, and then down the said river Ohio, by the several courses thereof, to where the western bounds of the said province of Pennsylvania cross the same river, and then with the said western bounds to the south boundary thereof, and with the south boundary aforesaid to the east side of the Allegheny hills, and with the said hills on the east side of them, to the west line of a tract of land purchased by the said proprietors from the Six Nation Indians, and confirmed October 23, 1758, and then with the northern bounds of that tract to the river Susquehanna, and crossing the river Susquehanna to the northern boundary line of another tract of land purchased of the Indians by deed, August 22, 1749, and then with that northern boundary line to the river Delaware, at the north side of the mouth of a creek called Lechawachsein, then up the said river Delaware on the west side thereof to the intersection of it by an east line to be drawn from Owegy aforesaid to the said river Delaware, and then with that east line to the beginning of Owegy aforesaid."

But the county of Jefferson was not formed for thirty-five years after this purchase was made, until by an act of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, to erect parts of Lycoming, Huntingdon, and Somerset counties into separate county districts, this new county was formed and named after the second president of the United States. The different acts by which the county was formed and its boundaries fixed are as follows:

"SEC. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in general assembly met, etc.: That part of the county of Lycoming included within the following lines, to-wit: Beginning at the northeast, corner of Venango*** county, and thence east thirty miles (part along the line of Warren county), and thence by a due south line fifteen miles, thence a southwesterly course to Sandy Lick Creek, where Hunter’s district line crosses said creek, thence south along Hunter’s district line, to a point twelve miles north of the Canoe-place, on the west branch of the Susquehanna, thence by a due west line until it intersects the eastern boundary of Armstrong county; thence north along the line of Armstrong and Venango counties, to the place of beginning, be, and the same is hereby erected into a separate county, to be henceforth called Jefferson county. And the place of holding the courts of justice shall be fixed by the Legislature at anyplace, at a distance not greater than seven miles from the center of said county which may be the most beneficial and convenient for the said county." Passed 26th of March, 1804.

By the 13th section of the same act, Jefferson county was annexed to the county of Westmoreland, and the jurisdiction of the several courts of the county of Westmoreland, and the authority of the judges thereof, shall extend over, and shall operate and be effectual within the county of Jefferson.

By an act passed the 3d of February, 1806, the commissioners of Westmoreland county were authorized to act also for Jefferson county.

By an act passed 10th of March, 1806, Jefferson county was attached to Indiana county for judicial purposes, etc.

By an act passed 31st of March, 1806: "Sec. 9. The county of Jefferson shall be a separate election district, and the electors thereof shall hold their general election at the house now occupied by Joseph Barnett, on Sandy Lick Creek,, in said county."

By an act passed the 21st of January, 1824, the qualified voters of Jefferson county were authorized to elect their own commissioners and auditors, and the commissioners to appoint a treasurer; and, in pursuance of said act, the voters of Jefferson county, at the October election, 1824, elected John W. Jenks county commissioner for one year, John Lucas for two years, and Andrew Barnett for three years. These were the first officers elected for Jefferson county. In another chapter we will give those elected to the different offices since that time.

By an act of the 8th of April, 1829, the Legislature appointed John Mitchell, of Centre; Robert Orr, of Armstrong; and Alexander McCalmont, of Venango county, commissioners to locate and fix the site for the seat of justice for the county of Jefferson. They met at the house of Joseph Barnett, in Pine Creek township, and proceeded to locate the said site on the Susquehanna and Waterford turnpike, at the confluence of the Sandy Lick and North Fork creeks, where they form the Red Bank Creek, and gave it the name of "Brookville."

The first section of an act of Assembly, passed the 8th day of April, 1830, provides: "That from and after, the first day of October then next, the inhabitants of the county of Jefferson shall enjoy all and singular the jurisdictions, powers, rights, liberties, and privileges whatsoever within the same, which the inhabitants of other counties of this State do, may, or ought to enjoy laws and constitution of this Commonwealth."

By an act passed the 18th of April, 1843, erecting parts of Jefferson, McKean, and Clearfield counties into a separate county, to be called Elk, Ridgway and a part of Snyder township was taken from Jefferson. And by an act passed 11th of April, 1848, all that part of Jefferson county lying north of the Clarion River was made into a provisional county, to be called Forest, which took Tionesta and Jenks, and a portion of Barnett and Heath townships to form the same.

The original boundary lines of Jefferson county enclosed an area of more than one thousand square miles, but it now contains, according to the census of 1880, an area of six hundred and forty-six square miles, or 413,440 acres.

The present length of the county is thirty-three miles, and its width twenty-five miles. It is divided into thirty-one boroughs and townships, and thirty-three election precincts.

Jefferson county is now in the fourth tier of counties east of the Ohio line, and in the third tier south of the New York line, and is bounded by Forest and Elk on the north, Clearfield on the east, Indiana on the south, and Armstrong and Clarion on the west. Its south line now runs due west 231/3 miles from the Clearfield-Indiana corner; its west line thence due north 281/4 miles, to the Clarion River; its north line, first up the Clarion River to Elk county, then due south one-half mile, then southeast 133/4 miles, to Clearfield county; its east line runs, first southwest 10 miles, then due south 151/3 miles, to the starting place at the Clearfield-Indiana corner.

* Fort Stanwix occupied the present site of Rome, N.Y.

** The Ohio River and its tributaries was known as the Ohio River, or, as the French called it, La Belle Riviere."

*** Venango county then included that part of Clarion lying next to Jefferson county.

Source:  Page(s) 13-16, History of Jefferson County by Kate M. Scott. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Co., 1888.

Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Jefferson County Genealogy Project (

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