Chapter IV
Early Settlers 

Joseph Barnett, the Pioneer of Jefferson County - The Arrival of the First White Men—Building of the First Saw-Mill - Death of Andrew Barnett - The Lone Grave on Mill Creek - The Barnett Family - More Settlers Come into the Wilds - Recollections of Mrs. Sarah Graham.

JOSEPH BARNETT was the pioneer, or as he had been styled, the "patriarch of Jefferson county." He had served in the Revolutionary War under General Potter, on the West Branch, and also under the State against the Wyoming boys. At the close of the war he settled at the mouth of Pine Creek in Lycoming county, and it is said was one of the "Fair-play boys;" at any rate he lost his property there by the jurisdiction of the common law, which superseded that of fair-play.

"There existed a great number of locations of the 3d of April, 1769, for the choicest lands on the West Branch of the Susquehanna, between the mouths of Lycoming and Pine Creeks; but the proprietaries, from extreme caution, the result of that experience, which had also produced the very penal laws of 1768 and 1769, had prohibited any surveys being made beyond the Lycoming. In the mean time, in violation of all law, a set of hardy adventurers had from time to time seated themselves on this doubtful territory. They made improvements and formed a considerable population. . . . To prevent any contentions or disputes, they annually elected a tribunal; in rotation, of three of their settlers, whom they called ‘Fair-play men,’ who were to decide all controversies and settle all disputed boundaries. From their decision there was no appeal. There could be no resistance. The decree was enforced by the whole body, who started up en masse at the mandate of the court, and execution and eviction were as sudden and irresistible as the judgment. Every new-comer was obliged to apply to this powerful tribunal, and upon his solemn engagement to submit in all respects to the law of the land, he was permitted to take possession of some vacant spot. Their decrees were, however, just, and when their settlements were recognized by law and fair-play’ had ceased, their decisions were received in evidence, and confirmed by judgments of courts."*

Many cases came before the courts, under this law, and it was frequently necessary to prove the usages of the fair-play men, and at one time when Chief Justice McKean was holding court in that district, he inquired of Barton Caldwell, an old Irish pioneer, whether he could tell him exactly what the provisions of the "Fair-play" code were. Barton’s memory would not allow him to go into details, so he answered the question by comparison. "All I -can say is," said he "that since your honor’s courts have come among us fair play has ceased, and law has taken its place."

Having lost one home Mr. Barnett began to look up a location for another, and to this end, in 1794; he sent his brother Andrew, and Samuel Scott, to locate a site for a saw-mill. He intended then to go to French Creek, in Crawford county, of which he had some knowledge; but on their way out they stopped at the mouth of Mill Creek, and Andrew was so much pleased with the adaptability of the place for a mill, surrounded as it was with such vast, unbroken forests of magnificent timber, that he concluded at once that this spot, now Port Barnett, was the very place to build their proposed mill. The projectors did not, therefore, go any farther, but returned and represented the matter to Joseph Barnett. In the spring of 1795 he, in company with Andrew Barnett and Samuel Scott, came to "view the lay of the land," and was as well pleased as his brothers had been. Having selected several hundred acres of good timber land, they began at once to put up their mill, on or near the spot where the mill of James Humphrey now stands. In coming to their new home in the wilderness, the travelers came through the forests of the upper Susquehanna until they reached Anderson’s Creek in Clearfield county, when they struck "Meade’s path," a pack-horse path leading westward. They followed this path to the present site of Brookville, crossing Sandy Lick four times, first below where Garrison’s mill now stands, again at the bottom at Port Barnett, then near where the Brookville depot now is, and again where the covered bridge now stands. Samuel Scott, Mr. Barnett’s brother-in-law was a millwright, and they at once commenced to erect their saw-mill. When the three men had the structure all ready to "raise" they called upon their Indian neighbors to assist them, and nine Senecas of Cornplanter’s tribe, who were then in the neighborhood, assisted at this the first "raising" in Jefferson county. It is said that these Indians would not lend any assistance in this work until they had eaten and slept for two or three days to prepare for the task replying to all expostulation on the subject: "Me eat, then me stout; me sleep, then me stout, ugh."

In the fall of the same year Mr. Barnett, leaving the other two, returned to his home on Pine Creek, in Lycoming county, to bring out his family. But a short time after his departure his brother Andrew died, after a few days’ illness, and was buried some place near the mouth of Mill Creek, two friendly Indians assisting Mr. Scott in the sad rites. What a scene was this! there in the rude cabin in the deep forest, with no physician to give him aid, no loving hand to wipe the death-damps from his brow, and whisper words of hope and consolation in his ear - Andrew Barnett died! Then came the rude funeral on the banks of Mill Creek, when the first white settler was laid in his grave, no man of God was there to officiate at his burial, no funeral rites were observed; but one white man stood there alone with the body of his dead brother and assisted by the dusky sons of the forest, he laid him in his lone grave where the winds of Heaven, as they whispered through the pine woods, were his only requiem.

When this sad scene was over, Samuel Scott returned to Lycoming county to carry the sad news of his brother’s death to Mr. Barnett. This for a time discouraged him, and he did not return to his new possessions until the spring of 1797, when he brought his family with him and set up his home in the spot which he made famous, and which yet bears the name of Port Barnett, which he gave it; Mr. Barnett brought his family on horseback over the same route he had before traveled. His eldest child was then seven years old, and it was from her recollections, and papers left with her family, that much of this information has been obtained. The youngest child was only two years old, and the mother would carry him in her arms until she became too weary to hold him any longer, then the father would strap him on the horse behind her, and, as he did not fancy this way of traveling, he would enliven the trip with his cries until he again gained the shelter of his mother’s arms. Samuel Scott, John Scott, Moses Knapp, and perhaps one or two others came with the Barnett family.

On their arrival they at once went to work to get their mill in running order, and soon had some boards sawed and ready for rafting, and the first were run to Pittsburgh that year. About 4,000 comprised a raft, and for this they at first got from five to ten dollars per thousand. Those first rafting trips were full of danger and toil that our modern lumbermen know nothing of. The trip accomplished and the lumber sold, or exchanged for flour, groceries, clothing, etc., then came the long toilsome walk back through an unbroken wilderness. But little is known of those first few years, but that they were years of hardship, privations, and ofttimes of suffering, none can doubt. In the midst of the lonely wilderness they toiled on, with no visitors but the Indians, who still came into those waters to hunt and fish, while the bear, wolf, and panther lurked in the dark recesses of the woods, and venomous snakes basked in the sun almost at their door-ways. But Joseph Barnett was not a man to quail at any of these things. He was made of the very stuff that was needed in those days - the patriotic son of a patriotic sire. He was born in Dauphin county in 1754. His father, John Barnett, who had emigrated from the north of Ireland early in the beginning of the eighteenth century, was a farmer, and settled in Dauphin county. He and his wife dying while Joseph was yet a small boy, he was "brought up" by his relatives, and was engaged on a farm when the Revolutionary War commenced, and at once enlisted in defense of the colonies. The exact duration of his service could not be ascertained, but it is said of him that "he was a brave and efficient soldier, who never faltered in the path of duty." After the war he settled in Lycoming county, where he owned a large tract of land, of which mention has already been made. Here, in 1788, he married Elizabeth Scott, sister of Samuel Scott, who shared all his toils in Jefferson county, and she is deserving of much praise; for her part in the settlement of this new county was no sinecure, as it was the matron of the household who in those days had to practice denials, who had to plan and contrive to get the clothing for her children out of the scant stores that were to be obtained. There were no settlements nearer than forty or fifty miles. Mr. Barnett knew nothing of the wilderness south of him, and gave an Indian four dollars to pilot him to Westmoreland county. The nearest grist-mill was on Blacklick, in Indiana county, and the nearest house, eastward, that of Paul Clover, grandfather of General Clover, which was thirty-three miles distant on the Susquehanna, where Curwensville now stands. Fort Venango was forty-five miles westward. To reach any of these points the traveler had to travel on foot, or on horseback, over an Indian trail, with only the "blaze on the trees" to guide him, and the stars by night. Mr. Barnett at one time carried sixty pounds of flour on his back from Pittsburgh. The usual way of getting supplies was to run a raft of sawed lumber to Pittsburgh in the spring, and take a canoe along, which was loaded with what was needed, and then poled, or pushed up the river, and then up Red Bank to Port Barnett. To obviate this difficulty of getting breadstuff Mr. Barnett, about the year 1801, put up a small grist-mill, using the native stones for "buhrs." This mill was used for several years, and was patronized by all the settlers for miles distant; the Indians, also, who cultivated small patches of corn on the creek bottoms, whenever they could find a clear spot to plant it, also patronized Mr. Barnett’s mill. The old "toll chest" used in this mill, and which "tolled" the first grist ground in the county, is still in the possession of Mr. Barnett’s grandsons, Thomas and Milton Graham, of Eldred township. Mill Creek, on which stream these mills were built, took its name from their being built upon it. Mr. Barnett’s house was the first "tavern" in the county, and for years all travelers, white as well as Indian, stopped with him. His Indian guests did not eat in the house, but would in winter make a pot of mush over his fire and set it out in the snow to cool, "then one fellow would take a dipper and eat his fill of the pudding, sometimes with milk, butter, or molasses, then another would take it and go through the same process, until all were satisfied. The dogs would help themselves from the same pot, and when they put their heads in the pot in the Indian’s way he would give them a slap over the head with the dipper." The early settlers had little or no trouble with these Indians, who came and went as they pleased for a number of years, until the too rapid spread of civilization drove them all away.

Joseph Barnett worked on untiringly at his mills, and by his hard labor had gained what in those days was considered a fair competency. He in time built a larger house, and besides being the first hotel-keeper, was the first merchant in the county. He is said to have been a fair-looking man, five feet eight inches in height, and would weigh over two hundred pounds. He was always of an affable, frank disposition, and was honest and strict in his dealings. He was an earnest Presbyterian, and carried his religion into his business and daily life. Having been brought up to observe strictly the ordinances of his church, it is related of him that he took his children to Indiana, a distance of forty miles, to have them baptized. Mr. Barnett lived to see new settlements spring up all over the county, churches and schools organized, roads laid out, and Brookville, the county seat, already taking on the airs of a new city. He also held several offices of trust and responsibility, being the first postmaster in the county; a post-office being established at Port Barnett, and so called, January 4, 1826, and Mr. Barnett appointed postmaster, which office he held until September 10, 1830, when the office was removed to Brookville. Mr. Barnett died at his home at Port Barnett on the 15th of April, 1838, having resided there for forty-one years. His wife did not long survive him, dying about four months after he passed away. Mr. Barnett was in the eighty-fourth year of his age, and his wife sixty-five years when they died. They were both buried in the old graveyard at Brookville. They had ten children, all of whom, except Thomas and Sarah (twins), John and Andrew, were born in this county. Sarah married Elisha M. Graham; Rebecca, the first white female child born in the county, married Nathaniel Butler; Margaret married John Lattimer; Juliet, the youngest child, married Ebenezer Carr; J. Potter was the first male child born in the county. Of these children John, J. Potter, Andrew, and Juliet removed to the Western States, and all died there. The rest lived and died in this county. Thomas died in 1827, and his twin sister, Mrs. Sarah A. Graham, lived until her ninety-fifth year. Mrs. Graham was a remarkable woman, as vigorous in intellect as she was in bodily strength, and was well fitted for the stirring life that she had been destined to live, and the part she was to take in the early settlement and building up of this county, with the history of which, for almost ninety years, she was closely identified. She was in all respects a very helpmeet, indeed, for an olden time pioneer. A woman of strong principles - inherited from her worthy sire - an earnest Christian, and of a bright, sunny disposition, she enjoyed life until her sun went down in this world to usher her into the brighter radiance of the better land. She took a deep interest in all public matters, and read the newspapers of the day, so that she kept herself posted in all that occurred. Born amid the stirring scenes of the frontier dangers, the daughter of a soldier of the Revolution, she lived to see her own son go out to fight for the same flag in the War of the Rebellion, to see that rebellion crushed, slavery abolished, the grand centennial celebrated, before she was called hence. The venerable lady loved to recall the early days of Jefferson county, and we reproduce here a paper contributed by her to the Jefferson County Graphic in August, 1877.

"As a number of people have been bothering me in regard to the early settlement of this county, I will try and answer them through your columns. I was born in Pine Creek, in Lycoming county, in the year 1790. All I remember of that place is that my father, Joseph Barnett, had a saw-mill there about the year 1794. My uncle, Andrew Barnett, took a trip to French Creek. His route led him through the wilderness of this county, which was then the home of the Indian; the panther, bear, and deer and wolves, were as plenty as dogs now are in Brookville. He chose for his home the place where Port Barnett now stands. Andrew Barnett, Samuel Scott, John Scott, and a man named Arthurs, came out there and erected a saw-mill on Mill Creek, near where Humphrey’s mill now stands. My father returned home in the fall, leaving Scott and my uncle to finish some work. My uncle took sick and died here, and was buried on the north bank of the creek at the junction of Sandy Lick and Mill Creek. There was only one white man and two Indians at his funeral. In the year 1796 Samuel Scott, Moses Knapp, and James Boatman came out, finished the mill, and sawed some lumber. In the spring of 1797 my father moved into the wilderness. I was then seven years old. The first white child born in the county was J.P. Barnett. The next family that came here was Peter Jones. He settled on the farm now owned by John McCullough, and the next was Mr. Roll, who settled on the farm now owned by John S. Barr. Then came Fudge Vancamp (negro) and built his cabin on the farm now owned by John Clark, and then Adam Vasbinder, who settled on the farm at the present time owned by Thomas Harris; William Vasbinder pitched his tent on the Kirkmon homestead; Ludwig Long put up his wigwam on the place now owned by Mr. McConnell; John Dixon came next. He was our first school teacher. The school-house was first built on the McConnell farm; built of round logs, with oiled paper for glass; as everything we used had to be carried from the settlements on horseback, glass was too easily broken to try to bring it so far. The second school-house was built on the south side of the pike, at the forks of the Ridgway road. Here the first graveyard was laid out, and the first person buried in it was a child of Samuel Scott. There were a number buried in this graveyard. I do not remember the name of the next family that came, as the county began to settle, pretty fast, and mills were erected on the different streams. About the year 1807 my father built a sawmill on Sandy Lick, between where Garrison’s and Bellport now are. This, a number of people think, was the first mill built in the county, but, if I have not lost a leaf from memory’s book, there were three or four other mills built before that one.

"Now, reader, as I have stated, I was seven years old when I came to this county, you will find that I have lived eighty years in the county. I have seen the Indian give way to the white man, the pack-horse to the wagon, and the wagon to the railroad. I remember the screams of the panther, and the howl of the wolf as things of the past, and in a few years more, I will, as they, be gone forever."

Samuel Scott, so often mentioned as one of those who came with the Barnetts, and whose skill constructed the first saw-mill in Jefferson county, resided in the county until 1810, when, having, it is said, "scraped together by hunting and lumbering about $2,000," he went to Ohio and settled in the Miami valley, where he bought a section of fine land, which eventually made him quite wealthy.

The present citizens of Jefferson county have reason to be proud of the record of the early settlers, those who laid the foundation of all that is good and great in our county. They were true to the cause of liberty in the dark days that tried men’s souls. We have already told of Joseph Barnett’s service in the War of the Revolution, and in this connection would mention another family whose destinies were entwined with his - the Grahams. John Graham, the patriotic ancestor of the Graham family, was born and raised in Scotland, where he fell in love with an heiress named Janet Caldwell. Her father objecting to his suit, the young couple fled into Ireland, where they were married. The fruit of this union was a son, also called John, who, hearing such glowing accounts of the New World, emigrated to the "Land of Penn," and settled on a farm in what was then Dauphin county, where he married Miss Martha Miller. At the commencement of the Revolutionary War he enlisted in the American army, and after being in a number of battles was captured by the British at the battle near Flushing, on Long Island, and held a prisoner for two years in New York city, where he was approached by British agents, who promised him pardon and reward if he would renounce his American sentiments and take up arms for the king; but his patriotism could not be bought, "even for a crown." He was at last paroled and returned to his home. While Mr. Graham was in the service, in the autumn of 1777, the "big runaway"** took place on the Susquehanna River. But his wife and children escaped with the other settlers. In their fearful trip down the Susquehanna the canoe, in which Mrs. Graham had placed her children and such of her household goods as she could bring with her in her flight, was upset, and all the contents submerged in the river. One of the relics preserved from that perilous time is an ancient Concordance of the Bible, which is still safely preserved by the descendants of the intrepid dame, and which yet shows the effects of the baptism it then received. It is a very ancient work, probably the first of the kind ever published.

About the year 1812 Mr. Graham removed from Crawford county to Jefferson, locating on the farm in Eldred township now owned by Colonel S.J. Marlin, where he died in 1813, and was buried on the hill east of Brookville, as it then was, on a lot now owned by W.C. Evans. Mr. Graham was a member of the Covenanter Church, and a strict disciplinarian. His son, Elisha M. Graham, was born in Dauphin county in the year 1772. When he came to manhood he engaged in taking out, and running to market, masts for ship building - running them down the Susquehanna River to Havre de Grace. When, about the year 1797, a colony was formed in Dauphin and Lycoming counties, called the "Big Emigration," for the purpose of locating on French Creek, Crawford county, young Graham joined the expedition. They loaded their effects in canoes and transported them to a point on the Sinnemahoning, where they were taken overland by pack-horses to the Allegheny River, and again loaded on canoes and carried down the river to French Creek, and up that creek to a point near Meadville. He remained here until 1804, when he came to Port Barnett, and went to work for Joseph Barnett, working on the mill, running lumber, etc., until 1807, when he was married to Sarah Ann, eldest daughter of Mr. Barnett. In 1821 he moved on to a farm in Union township now owned by Sheridan McCullough, where he remained until 1830, when he removed to Eldred township, where he resided until his death in 1854. Mr. Graham came very near having to be a soldier, as his father had been before him, as he was "pressed into service" by Colonel Bird in 1812, but after being detained at Waterford some two weeks, was allowed to return home. He was clerk for the first board of county commissioners, and served for court crier for several years. His venerable widow survived him until October, 1885, having, lived to the great age of ninety-five years.

One of the pioneer lumbermen of Jefferson county was Moses Knapp, who came with the Barnetts from Lycoming county, in 1796 or 1797. He was a young man of about nineteen, and an adopted son or protégé of Samuel Scott, who was a millwright, and from whom young Knapp, having a good deal of mechanical skill, soon mastered the rudiments of that trade. A year or two after, he left his friends at Port Barnett, and built a mill for himself on the North Fork at the head of the present mill-dam of T.K. Litch & Sons. In the fall of that year he went to Indiana, where he attended one term of school, and there became acquainted with Miss Susan Matson, a daughter of Uriah Matson, of that place, and before he returned they were married, and he brought her with him to his mill, where he put up a cabin and went to housekeeping. Here in 1801 Polly, the eldest of eleven children, was born, followed by Isabel and Samuel. He, after a few years, sold his mill and "betterments" to Samuel and William Lucas, and built another cabin for himself at the mouth of the North Fork, and then built another saw-mill on what was then known as Knapp’s Run, now called the Five Mile Run, near where the "Blaine mill" now stands. This mill he also sold to Thomas Lucas, and then built a log grist-mill near his residence, where the North Fork empties into Red Bank. This mill had one run of rock stones. The water was gathered by a wing dam of brush and stones; this dam extended up to where the road now crosses Litch’s mill-dam, and the water was brought into a chute that passed it under a large "undershot" water-wheel, with a "face-geer" wheel upon the water-wheel shaft, "mashed" into a "trundle-head" upon the spindle which carried the revolving stones, and comprised the primitive propelling machinery. Mr. Knapp’s mill was often taxed to its utmost, and though the flour produced did not equal that produced to-day by the "roller-process," the early settlers were glad to get it, and brought their grists on horse-back to be ground, for twenty and thirty miles around. Some of our oldest citizens still remember this old log grist-mill. He resided here from 1807 until 1818. His future operations will be noted under the head of Clover township.

Soon after these pioneer settlers had struck the first blow with the ax in our forests, other settlers commenced to come into this region. Peter Jones first followed the Barnetts. John, William, and Jacob Vasbinder came from New Jersey and settled on Mill Creek, about three miles from Joseph Barnett, in the year 1802 or 1803. John Matson came in 1805 and settled on the farm where his son, R.L. Matson, now resides.

The first improvement made where Corsica now stands was by John Scott, who moved from Lycoming county in 1802. He afterward married a daughter of Paul Clover, one of the pioneers of Clearfield county. John and Archibald Bell settled in the southern part of the county in 1809; soon afterward came Archibald Hadden and Hugh McKee; Jacob Hoover in 1815 settled on the present site of Clayville; Carpenter Winslow settled on what is now known as the "Winslow homestead" in Gaskill township in 1818. About the same time Abram Weaver, Rev. Charles Barclay, Dr. John W. Jenks and Nathaniel Tindell, with their families, and Elijah Heath, came to Punxsutawney; Jesse Armstrong and Adam Long were also among the first settlers in this locality. About 1818 or 1819 David, John, and Henry Milliron settled on Little Sandy, near where Langvillle now is, and about the same time Henry Nolf built a saw-mill there. In 1820 or 1821 Lawrence Nolf settled on Pine Run near the present village of Ringgold. About 1818 John and David Postlethwait settled in what is now Perry township; James McHendry, James Bell and several others moved into the Round Bottom in 1822.

The first settlement in what is now called Clover township was made at Troy in 1814, by Summers Baldwin, who purchased the land upon which that village is located from the Holland Land Company. Soon after Solomon Fuller and John Welch purchased land of Baldwin, and until 1816 were the only settlers in that section. Between this and 1820, Frederick Hettrick, Henry Lott, Alonzo Baldwin, and the Carriers settled in Troy. In 1818 Thomas and John Lucas located at what was called "Puckerty," about three miles from Troy. Then in 1820 James Shields, William Morrison, Hugh Williamson, Samuel Magill, John Kennedy, John Magiffin and John Kelso came from Huntingdon county, and located near Troy.

About the year 1812 some hardy pioneers pushed their way up the Susquehanna River, and Sinnemahoning to the mouth of Trout Run, on Bennett’s Branch, where one of the number, Leonard Morey, located and built a mill. His companions were Dwight Caldwell, John Mix, and Eben Stevens. About the same time a large tract of land containing some one hundred and forty thousand acres, which had been surveyed on warrants in the name of James Wilson, was sold by State authority to Fox, Norris & Co., Quakers of Philadelphia, who sent an agent to construct a road into their lands, and build a grist-mill. The road started from a point on the Susquehanna River, passed over Boone’s Mountain, crossed Little Toby Creek, without a bridge, where the Hellen Mills now stand, followed the creek about seven miles to the point of "Hogback Hill," up that steep and difficult ascent, and on over the highlands to a spot which had been selected for a mill site, on what is now called Elk Creek, about two miles from the present town of Centerville. Jacob Wilson was the first miller, and for many years attended to the wants of the people in this direction. Ofttimes he would have to go from his house, a distance of over a mile, to grind a grist of two bushels of corn, brought on horseback; but the good old man always did this uncomplainingly, though the poor toll he could take but little compensated him for his trouble.

About this time, also, came James Green with his sons - James, Isaac, John, and William; William, David, and Elijah, Meredith, Josiah Taylor J.R. Hancock, David Reesman, James Reesman, John Keller, and John Shaffer came with their families and constituted the "Kersey Settlement."

In 1818 Captain Potter Goff Rev. I. Nicholls, Abija B. Weed, Josiah Mead, John Macomber, Steven Dennison, Benjamin Leggett, Ebenezer Hewett, Peter Pearsall, and Elder John Bliss came with their families and settled on Bennett’s Branch and vicinity. Elder Bliss, who was a Seventh-Day Baptist, was the grandfather of P.P. Bliss, the noted evangelist and musician, whose untimely death in the railroad disaster at Ashtabula, O., a few years ago, was so universally lamented.

Shortly after these Consider, Chauncey, and Alonzo Brockway, and some others, came from the State of New York and settled in the same neighborhood. In 1817 Joel Clarke, with his wife and sons Elisha and Joel, jr., came from Russell, St. Lawrence county, N.Y., and settled on Little Toby. Milton Johnson and wife came at the same time and settled on a small stream which now bears his name, at the mouth of Brandy Camp. Later in the year Philetus Clarke, another son of Joel’s, came, also, from Russell, N.Y., and settled on Little Toby. The late Dr. A.M. Clarke, of Brockwayville, a son of Philetus Clarke, and from whose "Recollections" of the early settlement of the northern part of the county we have gleaned the greater part of the early history of that region, gives the following description of their coming to The Little Toby wilderness:

"I was about eleven years old when my father, Philetus Clarke, came from St. Lawrence county, N.Y., into, the Little, Toby wilderness. The journey was long and tedious; we moved with oxen in wagons, which were covered with canvas, and gave us shelter from sunshine and storm. I was the oldest child, and there were three of us. Sometimes I had to drive the team while my father would support the wagon to keep it from upsetting. The Susquehannah and Waterford turnpike was being made, and we came along an old road near it to ‘Neeper tavern,’ about four miles from where Luthersburg now is. I remember the motto that was over the sign-board at ‘Neeper’:

"‘It is Gods will,
This wood must yield,
And the wildwood turn
To a fruitful field.’

"From that place the road was very rough - over the hills and mountains. We could not get through in one day, and had to stop one night at a place where the road-makers had built a shanty, but it had burnt down, and the place was called ‘Burnt Shanty.’ Our wagon gave us shelter, and a good spring was pleasant indeed. The next day we passed over Boone’s Mountain, came to the crossing of Little Toby, near where the Oyster House was built many years after. We pursued our journey onward to Kersey Settlement. My father thought best to examine the lands for which he had exchanged his New York property before going any farther, and was utterly disappointed and disgusted with them. He made explorations in various directions in search of a mill site, and finally concluded to settle at what is now Brockport, where he built a saw-mill, the first ever built on Little Toby. He put a small grist-mill, with "bolts," in the saw-mill, which answered the requirements of the few settlers for a while and afterward built a good grist-mill, which did good service for the people, until the great flood of 1847 carried it off." In 1821 Isaac Horton, Alanson Viall, Hezekiah Warner, and Chauncy Brockway settled on Brandy Camp. In 1821 John S. Brockway purchased at treasurer’s sale, at Indiana, the "Henry Peffer tract" on Little Toby, and the next year Alonzo and James M. Brockway moved over from Bennett’s Branch and commenced improvements on the land. They had to cut their way five miles down the creek from Philetus Clarke’s. They planted fruit trees of various kinds as soon as the land was cleared, and peach and plum trees were soon in bearing. They also made large quantities of maple sugar, raised all their own supplies, and with game in abundance, lived luxuriously for those days. This was the first settlement in what is now Snyder township.

In 1823 Jacob Shaffer located about a mile above Brockway’s, on the Henry Sinet tract. This land had been given to Mr. Shaffer by his father-in-law, who had received the grant for services in the United States army. He came all the way from Centre county with his little family in a two-horse wagon. He is represented as a "fine old German gentleman of the olden time," and a "good Democrat - voting for Jackson for many years." He died in 1851. His brother-in-law, Henry Walborn, who came with him, located near by on what was afterwards called Walborn’s Run. He soon sold out to Joel Clarke, jr., and went away. In 1824 or 1825 Richard Gelatt and W.F. Luce built a saw-mill on Bennett’s Branch, two or three miles above Trout Run. They expected to soon get rich by lumbering. To keep his courage up Mr. Gelatt would sing what he called the "Song of the Mill," "Go penny, come pound." But as the years went on, the cost and difficulty in getting their lumber to market, and the small prices realized for it, brought loss and discouragement - when financial ruin seemed to stare him in the face, the cheerful tenor of the song changed, and the mill sang instead, "Go pound, come penny."

In 1826 the Fourth of July was celebrated at Mr. Gelatt’s, the first record we have of such a celebration in the county. "Spread-eagle speeches were made; toasts given, and the day passed in mirth and hilarity." It was some time afterwards - for there were no mail facilities, nor telegraphs in this whole region of country in those days - before it became known that both Adams and Jefferson had died on that day.

Joshua Vandevort settled in 1825 where "Bootjack" (Mayville) now is. He was the pioneer of Warsaw township. In 1824 John McIntosh and Alexander Osborn and Henry Keys settled in the Beechwoods, and in 1826 Andrew Smith, William Cooper, and John Wilson also settled there. Several other families came the same year. It was late in the fall of this year that Mr. Cooper found the Wilson family, one morning, in the woods. They had lost their way the night before, and had to lie out in the cold all night. Mrs. Cooper made them a pot of hasty pudding, and after they had their breakfast, put them to bed, for they were all nearly frozen. One of the daughters, afterward Mrs. Henry Keys, was so badly frozen that Mr. Cooper had to carry her to his house on his back.

The old settlers and pioneers of the county will be treated more at length in the history of the townships, in which they severally located. The grave has closed over much that would have been of great interest and value in the preparation of this work. Nearly all of the older citizens have passed off the stage forever, and in many cases their descendants have preserved but little record of them or their doings.

That these first days of our county’s history were days of hardship, privation, and ofttimes of suffering, none can doubt. Here and there in the vast wilderness the smoke curled up from some lone cabin, while in the recesses of those woods lurked the bear, the wolf, and the panther, and the deadly rattlesnake crept sometimes to the very threshold. Rude and rough these cabins were, built of logs, and at best containing but two rooms, with, maybe, a "loft"; with clapboard roof, puncheon doors and floor, and with greased paper to serve for windows until such time as glass could be brought from the "settlements." Only such articles as could be brought on horseback over the rough trails or paths were at first brought into this wilderness - a little bedding, clothing, and the necessary cooking utensils, with a few articles of table wear. Rude furniture was manufactured, in most cases. Tables and bedsteads were made of boards, and chairs were "splint-bottom." In the next decade, when the travelers came in wagons drawn by sturdy oxen or horses, more comforts could be transported. Huge chimneys made of mortar and sticks were placed at one end of the cabin, and the cooking was done by suspending a "crane" over the fire upon which the kettle and pots were "hung to boil." Wood was plenty and close at hand, and though natural gas, kerosene, and even matches were unknown, and candles luxuries often unobtainable, the dead and decaying "pitch pine trees" had left the ground strewn, with hard, resinous pine knots, which, when split into pieces, produced a far better and cheaper light than a dozen candles. But the inhabitants of these lowly dwellings were not those who after once "putting their hand to the plow would look back"; they were of a race to persevere and win, and win they did. Mostly young couples, just beginning life, they had left the old home in the older settlements to make a home for themselves, and had selected this wilderness where land was cheap. Their hearts were happy, and their purposes honest and upright, and their very surroundings were all ennobling. They could not help but take into their very souls the grandeur and beauty of their forest home. The tall pines that raised their heads heavenward, the high hills that loomed upward and shut them in, seemed to bring them closer to the Infinite Ruler, who protected them amid all their perils. The winds sang anthems of praise, the pretty songsters that flitted from branch to branch warbled joyously all the day, while the beautiful wild flowers in summer bloomed at their very doors; and who will say that they were not made better men and women from this close communing with nature in all its grandeur and beauty?

Soon other settlers commenced to come in, and here and there could be seen the smoke arising from a new home in the wilderness, and how the first settlers rejoiced when they began to have neighbors! It is true, the distance from one neighbor to another was from five to ten and twelve miles, but then in those days, a few miles of travel was not thought any hardship. We can only imagine how Joseph Barnett and his family, after they had dwelt for almost five years alone in the wilderness, welcomed the Joneses, the Vasbinders, the Matsons, and others who first followed them into the county.

New settlers as they came in were received with the warmest of welcomes by their predecessors. Good will and kindly feelings prevailed, every one was ready to assist his neighbor, and if a new-comer, at a distance of ten or twelve miles, wanted to put up a log cabin, or barn, all he had to do was to inform those sturdy pioneers and he was sure to have their help at the appointed time. Chopping-bees and log-rollings, called in those days "frolics," were frequent. It might have been that some were influenced to attend these gatherings on account of the whisky that was freely used on such occasions, for one of the first evidences of the settlement of the county was the building of small "still houses," as they were then called; but it was the pure juice of the rye, and though undoubtedly injurious in its effects, was free from drugs and poison that is its principal ingredients in these days, and delirium tremens did not lurk in the cup as it does now. As those sturdy pioneers felled the trees, plowed the fields, or rafted the lumber down to Pittsburgh, they were laying the foundation of a county whose people, to-day, have no peers for intelligence, patriotism, and true nobility of character. Rude and illiterate some of them may have been, but they were strong of heart and limb, brave and enduring, possessing all the elements of true manhood and womanhood; earnest Christians most of them were, and they have left their impress upon the present generation. Those days of privation, toil and danger, had their green spots, and are yet held dear in the hearts of the few old people who still linger with us. Those very toils and sufferings made them sacred, and though the present generation have escaped all the hardships of their pioneer ancestors, it is to those days that this county owes all its prosperity, and all the blessings we now enjoy. Those early pioneers laid the foundation that we might enjoy the grandeur of the edifice; they planted the tree, we are eating the fruit; they sowed in tears and poverty that we might reap in joy and gladness. Let us honor and revere them for those sterling qualities that gave our county its first start towards its present greatness.

* Smith’s Laws, Volume 2.

** "In the autumn of 1777 Job Gilloway, a friendly Indian, had given an intimation that a powerful descent of marauding Indians might be expected on the headwaters of the Susquehanna. Near the close of the season the Indians killed a settler on the Sinnemahoning. . . . . In the spring of 1778 Colonel Hunter, of Fort Augusta, sent word to Colonel Hepburn, commander of Fort Muncy, at the mouth of Wolf’s Run, that all the settlers in that vicinity should take refuge in Sunbury. Colonel Hepburn was ordered to pass the notice on to Antis and Horn forts. . . . . Such a sight was never seen before as this convoy from all the forts above. Boats, canoes, hog troughs, rafts made of dry sticks, every sort of floating article had been put in requisition, and were crowded with women, children, and ‘plunder’ - there were several hundred people in all. Whenever any obstacle, at a shoal or riffle, the women would leap out, put their shoulders to the boat or raft, and launch it, again into deep water. The men of the settlement came down on each side of the river to guard the women and children. The whole convoy arrived safely at Sunbury, leaving the entire line of farms along the West Branch to the ravages of the Indians." - Historical Collections, Pennsylvania.

Source:  Page(s) 30-44, History of Jefferson County by Kate M. Scott. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Co., 1888.

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