When were the Townships of Potter County formed and why is this important to genealogists?
Genealogists need to realize that this part of Pennsylvania has settlements (or villages), boroughs and townships. For example, Harrison Valley is a settlement - a cluster of houses - which is in Harrison Township - an area of land which may have many settlements. For example, the settlement of Mills is in Harrison Township as well. A borough is a large settlement that incorporated. For example, the borough of Coudersport incorporated from Eulalia Township in 1848.
The genealogist must realize that in the 1800s, people in this area of Pennsylvania would say they were born in such-and-such township. For example, I spent years looking for an ancestor born in Deerfield, Pennsylvania in 1819. I could not find any town or settlement of that name. Finally, I discovered that she was born in Deerfield Township, Tioga County, PA.
This distinction between settlement and township of where events occurred continued at least to the end of the 1800s. The 1874 newspaper entry for my great-grandmother's marriage says `` ... and Miss Addie L. Hill of Sweden'' The uninformed genealogist might think she was from the country of Sweden! But in reality her place of residence was somewhere in the township of Sweden, Potter County, not the settlement entitled Sweden Valley. Therefore, an individual could be born in Sweden (the township) and later move to Sweden Valley (the settlement).
It is even more confusing since some settlements changed their names over time. For example, the settlement of Lewisville was in Ulysses Township and in 1870 incorporated as the Lewisville Borough. The post office, which was located at Ulysses Center, was moved into the village, but the government would not allow a name change, so the mail was sent to Ulysses Post Office located in Lewisville Borough. After almost one hundred years, the confusion of two names was removed when in 1968, Lewisville Borough became Ulysses Borough [Reference: Potter County Historical Society's Quarterly Bulletin, No. 123, January, 1997]. My relatives always said they were from Ulysses but they graduated from Lewisville High School. When I was a kid, we would drive to Ulysses to see Grandpa Hyde. But when we entered the settlement, the sign said "Lewisville Borough". When I asked my Mom, why the two names, she would just laugh and say "Confusing isn't it!!"
See my map of Townships of Potter County.
The formation of the townships of Potter County was in three phases. The first phase from 1810-1828 was the formation of the first township Eulalia and carving from it the three large townships of Roulette, Harrison and Wharton.
The second phase occurred in 1828 with the division of the northern half of the county into townships six miles square. The townships starting at northwest corner near New York State line were named: first tier - Sharon, Chester (later Oswayo), Loudon (later Genesee), Bingham, Harrison; second tier - Milton (later Clara), Hebron, Denmark (later Allegheny), Ulysses, Hector; third tier - Roulette, Eulalia, Sweden, Jackson (later merged with Ulysses) and Pike.
- 1810 Eulalia At the time of the creation of Potter County, the entire area was in Dunstable Township, Lycoming County, and Eulalia Township became the original township of the new county on December 5, 1810. At creation in 1804, Potter County was rectangular including the triangular part that later would become part of Cameron County in 1860. Eulalia was named for Eulalia Deschapelles, wife of John Keating, the land agent who brought the first settlers into the area.
- 1816 Roulette Was organized from Eulalia Township, January 29, 1816. This township embraced what is now the townships of present day Roulette, Pleasant Valley, Clara and Sharon. Township originally named Roulet to honor John Sigmund Roulet, an associate of John Keating. It is believed that the change in spelling was a mistake made by the Post Office Department.
- 1823 Harrison Formed from Eulalia Township, February 6, 1823, named for George Harrison, a large landowner. The township at the time included most of the present townships of Harrison, Bingham, Ulysses and Hector townships.
- 1826 Wharton Formed from Eulalia Township, May 3, 1826. Named for Isacc Wharton, an early landowner. The original area of Wharton embraced most of present day Wharton, Sylvania and Portage; and parts of Keating, Summit and Homer; and that part of the county cast off when Cameron County was erected.
- 1828 Sharon and Clara February 26, 1828, Roulette Township was reduced when Sharon and Milton townships were formed. Milton later changed name to Clara and was divided into Clara and Pleasant Valley in 1847.
- 1828 Oswayo Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26, 1828, and was first called Chester. Name changed February, 1830, when the township was organized. Named for the Indian name of a branch of the Allegheny River that flows through the township.
- 1828 Genesee Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26, 1828, and was first called Loudon. Name changed February, 1830, when the township was organized. Named for the river flowing through township.
- 1828 Bingham Erected from Harrison, February 26, 1828. Named for William Bingham, an extensive landowner.
- 1828 Harrison Reduced to present size, February 26, 1828.
- 1828 Clara Erected from Roulette Township, February 26, 1828. First called Milton. In 1830, name changed because another town existed of that name. Clara was split in half in 1847 to form Pleasant Valley Township.
- 1828 Hebron Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26, 1828. Originally named Nelson for the pioneer Nelson family. Name changed when the Seventh Day Adventists [probably really Seventh Day Baptists. The Adventists had not arrived yet.] established a thriving community on Crandall Hill who gave the township the Biblical name.
- 1828 Allegheny Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26, 1828. First called Denmark. Changed it's name to that of the great river in 1830.
- 1828 Ulysses Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26, 1828. Named by Charles Parris for his native place, Ulysses, New York. Part of Jackson Township was annexed to the township in 1896.
- 1828 Hector Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26, 1828.
- 1828 Roulette Was reduced by Act of February, 26, 1828.
- 1828 Eulalia Was reduced by Act of February, 26, 1828.
- 1828 Sweden Formed from Eulalia Township, February 26, 1828, was named for the native country of its early pioneer settlers.
- 1828 Jackson Was created by Act of February, 26, 1828. Later became part of Ulysses Township.
- 1828 Pike Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26, 1828. Named for a public road which traversed the township's area.
The third and last phase from 1842-1856 was the occasional carving up of the southern part of the county.
- 1842 Portage Erected from Wharton Township, in 1842. Included the present Sylvania Township. Part of the area was set off for the erection of Cameron County in 1860. In 1871, part of Sylvania Township up to Sinnemahoning River was moved to Portage Township.
- 1844 Stewardson Erected from Eulalia Township, in 1844. Named for Thomas Stewardson, an early landowner. Land of the great Norwegian violinist, Ole Bull.
- 1844 West Branch Erected from Eulalia Township, in 1844. Named for West Branch of Pine Creek.
- 1847 Pleasant Valley Was formed from Clara Township in 1847. The western half becoming Pleasant Valley. Named for its situation and the fertility of its soil.
- 1851 Abbott Erected from Eulalia Township in 1851. Named for Thomas B. Abbott, first postmaster at Carter Camp.
- 1853 Homer Erected from Eulalia and Wharton Townships in 1853. Named for the former residence of its pioneer settlers.
- 1854 Summit Erected from parts of Sweden and Homer Townships in 1854. Named for its exalted situation.
- 1856 Keating Erected from parts of Homer and Portage Townships in 1856. Named in honor of John Keating, principal landowner and land agent of the county.
- 1856 Sylvania Erected from parts of Wharton and Homer Townships in 1856. The name is that part of Pennsylvania which refers to the marvelous woodland of which William Penn was so fond.
- ?? East Fork Was called Oleona by some map makers. After the original township Eulalia was carved up, two disjoint pieces were left: the part around Coudersport and a narrow strip in the south between Wharton Township and Abbott and Stewartson. In 1890, it was "wilderness," no people lived there and still officially part of Eulalia Township.
Reference: Chronicles of Central Pennsylvania, by Frederic A. Godcharles, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1944, Vol. VII, page 311-317. [Since this reference has lots of typographical errors, be careful using it. Dan]
Reference: History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, Pennsylvania with Biographical Selections, J. H. Beers and Co., 1890, pages 1008-1009.
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