Descriptive-The Original Town Plot-Additional Lots Surveyed-Prominent Pioneers-Josiah Emery’s Reminiscences-Post office and Post Masters- John Scheffer, the Young Mail Carrier-His Route Through The Wilderness-Post Office Statistics- Old-Time Taverns and Landlords-Modern Hotels.
Wellsboro, the county seat of Tioga county, is situated about two miles south and west of the geographical center of the county. Within its limits Charleston creek, Morris run and Kelsey run-all flowing toward the north-unite to form Marsh creek. The converging of these hill-enclosed creek valleys affords an excellent site of great natural beauty for a good-sized city. The rapid fall of the streams and the undulating character of the ground, insuring free drainage, combined with the altitude, which is 1,319 feet above tide water, make it a healthful as well as beautiful place of residence. Its location near the geographical center of the county-- at the crossing of the east and west and the north and south state roads--and its proximity to the main line of the Fall Brook railroad, a branch of which passes through it, render it accessible to the people of the various townships, and give those who live within its limits every reason to believe it will more than keep pace with the county about it, in all that goes to make up a permanent and enduring prosperity. It is the business and trading center of a number of the most prosperous agricultural townships of the county., and its mercantile and manufacturing enterprises are in the hands of energetic, wide-awake and intelligent business men, who, aside from the conduct of their own personal affairs, are neglecting no opportunity to keep it well up in the procession of progress, and make it worthy of good repute as a well-governed, orderly and forward-marching borough.
The Original Town Plot.
The land originally set apart as a site for a “county town” by Benjamin Wistar Morris embraced 150 acres, a full description of which may be found on pages1,2,3 and 4 of Deed Book No. 1, in the office of the register and recorder. By a deed dated July 14,1806, and recorded September 6, 1806, Benjamin Wistar Morris and his wife, Mary Wells Morris, conveyed to John Fleming, William Hill Wells and William Ellis, the trustees appointed by law to locate the county seat of Tioga county,” one full and equal moiety,” or seventy-five acres of this tract. This conveyance included all of the tract lying northwest of Walnut street and southwest of a line drawn through the center of Central avenue, and took in the squares occupied by the county buildings and the park. The remainder of the tract lying northwest of Walnut street and southeast of a line drawn through the center of Central avenue, was retained by Mr. Morris.
Before this conveyance was made a town plot had been surveyed, embracing forty-five and three-fourths acres with usual allowances, etc. This plot, which was six blocks long by three wide, extended from northeast to southwest, the line being north, forty-five degrees east and was bounded on its northeastern side by Queen street; on its southeastern side by Walnut street; on its southwestern side by King street, and on its northwestern side by Water street. Main street, the principal street running northeast by southwest, is 100 feet wide, as is also Central avenue, the principal cross street. All the other streets are fifty feet wide. The plot shows eighty lots, the full-sized ones being 60x250 feet. A map of this survey was filed for record May 5,1808.
Morris, it will be remembered, said in the advertisement, quoted in a preceding chapter , that the town was “laid out upon the same plan as the City of Philadelphia.” The two acres which he set aside for the public buildings and like amounts for the square, or “green,” are in the center of the plot, and around the latter he expected the business houses and churches would cluster. But his dream was never fully realized. The county buildings face the western side of the “green,” law offices are on the north, and churches and dwellings on the east and south. His idea was based on the English plan for founding rural towns.
Additional Lots Surveyed.
It will be observed that of the seventy-five acres conveyed by Benjamin Wistar Morris and Wife to the trustees named in the deed, but a little more than twenty acres were included in the original town plot. The remaining portion, embracing some fifty odd acres, lay for the most part, southwest of King street, and it is presumed was soon afterwards sub-divided into out lots and offered for sale.
Upon the election of the first board of county commissioners and their entrance upon their official duties in October, 1808, the trustees selected to locate the county seat turned over to them the charge of the sale of these lots. After the opening of the first court in Wellsboro, in 1813, and the completion of the organization of the county in all its departments, there appears to have been an advance in price of lots, since we find in the proceedings of the commissioners, under date of July 9,1814, the following:
Resolved, That town lots ninety-five feet in front by 250 feet deep, be sold at eighteen dollars per lot. The acre lots, which contained one and two acres, to be sold at ten dollars per acre. Said lots to be cleared in one year from date of deed. Purchase money to be paid on delivery of deed.
Benjamin Wistar Morris, the founder of Wellsboro, and the first settler upon its site, came into Tioga county from Philadelphia, about 1799, as the representative and trustee of the Pine Creek Land Company, and also as the contractor for opening the north and south State road, from Newberry, Lycoming county, by way of Little Pine creek, through Tioga county to the New York State line. He soon afterwards removed his family hither and took up his residence in a log cabin erected on the site of the present home of W.D. Van Horn in 1800. Soon after this William Hill Wells and Gideon Wells, brothers of Mrs. Morris, located two and one half miles southwest of the village site, and, so far as known , were the first settlers within the boundaries of what is now Delmar township.
Before Mr. Morris laid out the town of Wellsboro, in 1806, and offered its lot for sale, a saw-mill and a grist-mill had been erected on Marsh creek, just below the present borough limits, by Samuel W. Fisher, a resident of Philadelphia. It is presumed that these enterprises were, at the outset, owned by the land company, and that they were in charge of Mr. Morris, the company’s representative here, who alluded to them in his advertisement in the Lycoming Gazette, November 13, 1806, setting forth the advantages of the new “ county town.”
It is difficult, at this late day, to give the names of the early settlers upon the site of Wellsboro in the order of their coming. The assessment list of 1812, the best authority at hand, shows that the following-named persons were taxed either as residents or owners of lots in that year: Abisha Baker, Alpheus Cheney, then sheriff of the county; Joseph Fish, who soon after established a tan-yard , which developed into a paying and important enterprise, and who was also an early tavern keeper; William Hill, who planned the first office building for the commissioners and prothonotary; Titus Ives, a county commissioner; David Lindsey, at whose home the meeting of the commissioners were held as early as June 23,1809; Aaron Niles, who settled near the Charleston township line, in 1810, east of the old, but within the present borough limits; Benjamin Wistar Morris, Samuel W. Morris, the first post master, and a county commissioner; John Norris, prothonotary and register and recorder, and Henry Sligh, or Sly, the first “village blacksmith.”
Mordecai M Jackson came with his parents to this part of the county in 1804,being then about twenty years of age. His parents becoming discouraged returned to Philadelphia. He, however , remained, and some years later became the owner of the old Samuel W. Fisher mills, in which he had been employed. William Bache, Sr., who had visited the village in 1811, removed here from Philadelphia in 1812, with his young wife. His son, William, was born here October 26, 1812, and is now one of the oldest living persons born in the county, and the oldest born within the borough limits. It is said that Harvey, a son of Henry Sly, the blacksmith, was the first child born in the village. He first opened his eyes in a rude log house which stood on the site of the Wellsboro Hotel. Daniel Kelsey, who settled in 1807, was then living within the present borough limits. The resident” single freemen” were David Henry and David Greenleaf.
At this time, so far as either record or transition informs us, the only things indicating a purpose to build a town were a few scattered cabins, the old Quaker Meeting House, the post office, kept at Mr. Morris’ home and Henry Sly’s blacksmith shop, if he then had one.
The opening of the courts in January,1813, infused new life into the struggling village. Alpheus Cheney and Israel Greenleaf were granted tavern licenses and work begun on the court house and jail and a office building for the commissioners and the prothonotary. A store, the first one in the place, was started soon afterwards by William Bache, Sr., in a log building on the site of the present Presbyterian church. About the same time Mr. Morris, so it is said, kept a small stock of goods in his home. These were the pioneer mercantile enterprises.
Among those who settled in the village between 1812 and 1816, whose names appear on the assessment list of the latter year, were Charles Daniels and Ezekiel L. Jones, blacksmiths. Daniel died a few years later and his widow removed to Tioga. Jones remained and worked at his trade until about 1843, after which he appears to have lived retired. Peter Faulkner, a physician, was here in 1816. In that year Alanson Thompson was granted a tavern license, which was renewed annually up to 1822. A license was also granted to Joseph Fish and renewed in 1818. About 1816, also Dr. Jeremiah Brown settled in the village and became the first physician to locate permanently. He remained until 1830, when he removed to Shippen township. Ebenezer and Lorentes Jackson were also here in 1816. The latter was afterwards a surveyor and land agent. William Patton, the first lawyer to locate in the village, came soon after the opening of the first courts.
Upon the assessment list of 1818 appears the name of Solomon Daniels,” laborer and fiddler.” In this year Samuel W. Morris appears as “shop-keeper.” He was also operating a saw-mill and grist-mill near the site of Stokesdale Junction, then known as “The Marsh.” John Beecher, who was licensed September 15,1817, was keeping the old “Cheney Tavern,” his license being renewed annually until 1821.He was also an early merchant, and transacted business in a store building on the east corner of Morris and Main Streets. In 1818, also, Roswell B. Alford was operating a saw-mill on Charleston creek, near the present railroad station.
Among the newcomers appearing on the list for 1819 were Royal Cole, a veteran of the Revolution and War of 1812, afterwards a well-known and prominent citizen, who died July 4, 1849, in his ninetieth year; Daniel Parker; Joseph Reynolds, shoe maker; Elijah Stiles, shoemaker, and two years later sheriff; James Kimball, carpenter, and or nearly forty years an “innkeeper;” Chauncey Alford, an early distiller and grist-mill owner; Uriah Spencer, who was elected prothonotary in 1818, and Benjamin Tome. William Covenhoven, “tanner,” Ebenezer Hill, John Isenhouer, “taylor,” Frederick Leete, Physician, and Benjamin B. Smith, who founded the Phoenix in 1827, were all here in 1820, as was Amos Coolidge, who afterwards settled in “ Coolidge Hollow,” Delmar township. John B. Murphy, physician, located in the village about this time. He practiced his profession and kept tavern for a number of years. In 1822 William Bache, Sr., and Chauncey Alford were both operating distilleries. Mr. Bache’s distillery was located on Kelsey run, back of the court house. He carried it on about ten years. Alford continued about five years. Luther R. Hildreth, shoemaker, was also here in 1822, as was Capt. Lyman Adams, who kept tavern until 1827, and Ellis Lewis and Lloyd Wells, attorneys. The name of Richard Hughes, “shopkeeper,” appears in 1823. William Bache says he was a peddler. The names of John Lawson, “ wheelwright;” James Lock, “watch-maker, and Cooley Newcomb also appears. The name of Richard Gates , blacksmith, appears in 1825. In December of this year Ellis Lewis and his nephew, Rankin Lewis, a printer, started the Tioga Pioneer, the first newspaper published in the county. It was removed to Tioga in 1827. In 1825 the name of Francis Wetherbee, “ house joiner,” also appears; as does that of Jonathan Webster, who established a fulling mill on Charleston creek, near the railroad station. In 1838 he added a carding machine, and carried on the enterprise until his death about 1844. Wetherbee succeeded Seth Daggett as sheriff in 1831, and finally removed to Minnesota when that state began to attract settlers.
William Garrettson, attorney; James Lowrey and M.T. Levenworth, students-at-law; O.T. Bundy, physician; Benjamin Shipman and Charles Nash, early teachers in the Academy, and Israel Merrick, Jr., whose father settled in Delmar township in 1805, were all here in 1826. Steven Bliss, black-smith, was here in 1828, and also John F. Donaldson, “printer,” and afterwards prothonotary for upwards of thirty years. In this year Josiah Emery became a teacher in the Academy. The names of Edward Price and James Ellsworth , carpenters, and Justus Goodwin, attorney at law, appear on the assessment list for 1828, and that of Henry H. Wells, attorney, in 1829,in which year Archibald Nichols, came from Chenango county, New York, and with his son, Levi I. Nichols, who had preceded him the year before, opened a general store on the east corner of Main and Crafton streets.
The foregoing is a comparatively complete list of the names of the settlers within the limits of Wellsboro previous to its incorporation as a borough. A fuller mention is made of many of them, as well as of other not heretofore referred to, in “Josiah Emery’s Reminiscences,” which follow. Of those early settlers a number afterwards became distinguished in their several callings and were active in directing the affair of the State and Nation.
Josiah Emery’s Reminiscences.
In 1879 a series of articles, entitled “Early Impressions of Wellsboro,” appeared in the Agitator. They were written by the late Josiah Emery, and give a vivid picture of Wellsboro as it appeared to him in 1828, when he came here, fresh from college, to teach in the Academy. These reminiscent articles , from the pen of one for many years a resident of Wellsboro, possess a high historical value and are worthy of permanent preservation in these pages. Mr. Emery says:
“It was a dreary, cloudy day, with a heavy fog hanging aver the marsh, in April-I think the 23rd- when, just at dark, I called at the tavern standing where the Coles House now stands, and kept by Dr. John B. Murphy, the father of Mrs. L.P. Williston, and put up for the night. Sad, weary and financially not very flush, the impression on my mind of the small village, as it then was, was not the most favorable; and the approach to it up Crooked creek had prepared my mind to dislike it. A small gathering of “Charleston friends,” as they were then called, paying their daily visit to the tavern, tended somewhat to disturb the gloom of silence that might otherwise have hung over the place; and before I went to bed that night I was prepared to believe that Wellsboro was at least a very stirring little town.” An early walk next morning revealed a very pleasant little village, a snug little nook surrounded on all sides by romantic hills covered then mostly by forests, but, as they appeared to me, full of beauty, and from their summits presenting as fine landscape views as I have ever seen. A few years ago Dr. Saynisch, of Blossburg, who was a native of, and familiar with, Switzerland and her romantic landscapes, remarked to me that the landscape views around Wellsboro were exceeded by none in his native country. He particularly admired the view from Wetmore hill, where just before sunset the scenery is most beautiful and the reflection from the stream that runs along the valley into Wellsboro makes it appear like a silver thread winding deviously through the green of field and pasture.
“At that time we had on the site of the present court house, a court house and jail built of square logs; and log houses then were quite an institution. Judge Morris lived in a log house on the side hill above the High School building, and a two-story block or hewed log house occupied the spot where John N. Bache now lives, and it was occupied by the father of the Wellsboro Baches. There for a long time were held the courts after the judicial organization of the county, and there was kept the post office till after the election of Polk, in 1845, when , not being a good Democrat, Mr. Bache[ he was post master for more than twenty-three years] was superseded by a carpet bagger.
“Where the Presbyterian church now stands was a log house occupied by Mrs. Lindsey and family, and a log church, sixteen by twelve, stood back of where Mr. Sherwood’s office now stands, built by Mr. Benjamin W. Morris, the father of Judge Morris, for Quaker meetings. A part of Mr. Converse’s house was in existence before my time, and was built of logs, which are now covered with siding.. There was another near the building now occupied by M.M. Sears as a restaurant. This was occupied by John Beecher, then or near then, the treasurer of the county. There was also a log house near the site of E.J. Brown’s called the Hoover house, built and then lived in by Mr. Hoover, the father-in-law of William Eberenz, and the grandfather of Mrs. E.J. Brown. I think those were all the log houses built within the bounds of the village.
“Beginning at the upper end of Main street, there was the house of Captain Greenleaf, near the site of Mr. Osgood’s and his shop near where Mrs. Nichols’ house stands. This has been moved , rafted over, and is the house between Mrs. Nichols’ and the creek. The house now occupied by H.W. Dartt was built by Lorentes Jackson on the Chester Robinson lot, and afterwards moved to where it now stands. On the corner Dr. Shearer now lives Ezekiel Jones had a house and blacksmith shop, and on the corner across the street from his place was a small house in which lived Colonel Field, the father of Prescott Field. On the opposite side of Main street lived Ebenezer Jackson on the corner; further up `Uncle Eben,’ and near where William Harrison lives was the house of “Lias.” The two last were colored families, and ‘Uncle Eben’ and his wife, ‘ Aunt Hetty,’ were especially respected by everybody. [They were slaves of William Hill Wells and were given their freedom when he left the county.] Everybody in Wellsboro knows their daughter, Betty Murray, who is no older now than when I came to Wellsboro, more than fifty- one years ago. Near Dr. Packer’s office was another house. I don’t remember its occupants then. On the opposite side of the street, where Judge Williams lives, was a small story-and -a-half- house occupied by Colonel Hill, the father of Garwood Hill.
“Near the site of the old bank was a high- roofed house in which Alpheus Cheney, the first sheriff of Tioga county, for some time kept a tavern. What became of him I do not remember. The next frame house on the northwest side of Main street was the Kimball tavern, a house of very respectable dimensions for the place and times. Below that was a two-story house near Harden’s, now standing back on Water street. Opposite this house, on the southeast side of the street, was the ‘Yellow Tavern,’ kept I believe, at that time, by Roswell Alford. This was the property bid off at sheriff’s sale by Judge Lewis for a nominal price, and the decision in an ejectment for which first settled the law that a sale on a judgment which was a lien on the property discharged all mortgages whatever on the same property. It was a surprise to all the lawyers of the State, and was the cause of the present mortgage law being enacted.
“There was a small shoemaker shop on the next corner, owned by a man whose remains lie buried in Ross Park, Williamsport. [Now occupied by the City Hall]. Going on down to near where Will Herrington’s store is, was a small two story house with stairs to go ‘up chamber’ on the outside slanting down on the sidewalk. This was occupied by Francis Hill, whose wife was a sister of Mary and Sally Lindsey, and a very clever fellow he was, too. The next building on that side was on the corner where C.C. Mathers’ store stands, and was a long, rough-looking building, in which a man named James Borst had a kind of store. Opposite, on the northwest side of the street was the Bliss house, painted red. Opposite that, where the Cone House [now Coles] stands, was the Murphey tavern. And opposite that was a two-story house built by Dr. Brown, a most excellent physician. This was also sold out at sheriff’s sale, and bid off by Judge Lewis. Dr. Brown was the father of Mrs. Colonel Huling, of Williamsport. The next on the street was B.B. Smith’s, on the northwest side, which I see is torn down, and around the old cellar are piles of stone which would indicate that somebody is going to build. Then came the Taylor house and tannery in the forks of the road, but now demolished, and next the Fellows house.
“ Up what is now called Central avenue was the house now owned by Mr. Reynolds. A house, burned down , where Jerome B. Niles’ house now stands, and there was a house above it long occupied by Mr. Donaldson, but now, I see demolished. This house was occupied by Dr. Bundy, and in the cellar was a dissecting room where two or three persons learned a good deal of anthropological science. As the house is torn now, the secret may be told, for no one will be sleeping there to see ideal ghosts, as they certainly would have seen them if they had known that cellar had been used for such a purpose. There was also a house further up the avenue, which was moved across the road and turned into a barn, and its place occupied by a house since built by William Roberts.
“Over the creek, near Mass Bullard’s was a stone distillery in which William Bache made pure whiskey, which did not kill on sight like the present article. In my travels over the village I have left out mention of a small two-story house on the corner of M.M. Converse’s lot, in which then lived Ellis Lewis. The house now stands up in the German settlement. There was also passed over the public office near the old bank, supplanted by the brick office. This building was sold at public auction forty-three years ago --bid off for $100, moved across the Green, lived in by the writer[ Josiah Emery] till October,1871, and is now owned by the Bingham estate. I have also omitted Fish’s tannery, near where the foundry now stands.
“ The academy at the same time was unfinished in the upper story, the two lower rooms only being used for the school. I may have passed over some of the houses then standing, but have mentioned all I can call to mind. The reader will conclude that we were a small settlement; and families that ranked as high in culture and refinement as any in the present day did not disdain to live in log houses. They suited themselves to their circumstances without murmuring.
“When I came there Mr. William Bache was post master, and the office was kept in his dwelling, the tall log house situated where John N. Bache’s house now stands. Mr. Bache was an Englishman, brother-in-law of Lant Carpenter, whose wife was Mr. Bache’s sister. Carpenter was a celebrated Unitarian preacher, a friend and companion of Dr. Pristley, and father of the celebrated Carpenter family in England, Miss Mary Carpenter , the philanthropist, and William B. Carpenter, one of England’s most distinguished scientists, as well as his brothers, Philip and Russell Carpenter, both scientific men.
“ Mr. Bache was a man of strong common sense, well read, and a man of more than ordinary ability. He always preserved the character of a Christian, and though manufacturing whiskey for others, he drank little himself, and was never but once known [at least to the writer] to be in the least intoxicated. On the 4th of July,1828, we , the patriotic citizens of Wellsboro and the surrounding country, celebrated. In the cool shade of the wide spreading elms on the flat, above Dickinson’s pond, seats were improvised , a stage erected , a president, several vice-presidents and secretaries were chosen, and a great multitude gathered to listen to the orator and pass judgment on the speaking qualities of the new teacher of the Academy. Then, when the speaking was done and duly applauded, a procession was formed, and we all marched up to Colonel Kimball’s to a gay dinner and to whiskey, rum, gin and brandy for the men and the Colonel’s best wine for the women. And thus we dined and drank and listened to music till the sun began to sink low in the west and some heads lower. Mr. Bache was one of the most jolly of the crowd.
“ A sober company sat at Mr. Bache’s breakfast table next morning, of whom I was one, being a boarder. After the preliminary grace had been said Mr. Bache very solemnly remarked that he believed he was slightly `out of the way’ at the celebration, and he hoped the family and especially the young boarder, who also needed forgiveness, would forgive the little mishap; and he was sure the Lord would, as He knew very well it was the Fourth of July!
“Mr. Bache had a scientific and inquiring turn of mind, and was a great lover of nature, and had a quick and appreciative sense of the ludicrous. The lapse of more than half a century has not blotted out the memory of the pleasant six months I spent in that family, and especially the remembrance of the many good qualities of its female head. As one who knew Mr. Bache well, I can bear testimony to his integrity and purity of mind.
“ Samuel W. Morris and family were considered at that time, or considered themselves, or were, at the head of the aristocracy--through it would seem that in a village of two hundred and fifty inhabitants, many of whom lived in log houses and all comparatively in the woods, such an article as aristocracy of so small a village, or tell upon what it was founded, unless upon culture and avoidance of amusements such as are found in such places. Judge Morris, Mr. Norris and Mr. Bache were educated men. The first was educated at Princeton, the last two in England. I do not know that any of these families made any assumption of aristocracy. The people assumed it for them. There was, however, a kind of quiet distinction between the Yankee element which largely predominated, and the down country element with a large English ingredient in it.
“The Yankee claimed to be the practical element, and preserved among themselves a kind of brotherhood, a ‘hail-fellow-well-met’ spirit, shook hands heartily, and each one considered himself equal to and no worse than his neighbor. Those who has got into their heads that those down country people were aristocratic accused them of being a little too exclusive, of reaching out two fingers for a Yankee to shake, and of thinking each thinking himself as good and a little better than his neighbor, especially if the neighbor happened to be a Yankee. There was no general outward expression of such a feeling, but an observant person could see it occasionally.
‘The Morris family were of English decent, were originally Quakers, and the father of Judge Morris, Benjamin Wistar Morris, held the position of leader among the Quakers, and sometimes preached when the spirit moved him.
“ I have spoken thus far of these two families in a general way. They were totally different in most things. In one point, however, they resembled each other; that wad in the education and bringing up of their families of children. They both acted on the precept of which Solomon has the credit: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” In each family the general rule was ’spend your evenings at home.’ The children were not taught as many children are nowadays, that amusement and fun are the chief objects of life. They learned, too, by precept and example, that profanity was vulgar, and that vulgarity was the mark of a low character. Most of the children of these two families were my pupils while I was in charge of the Wellsboro Academy. William E. Morris became an able civil engineer, and B.W. Morris the present Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Oregon and Washington. The children of the other family have done no dishonor to the system adopted by their parents.
“Another family I remember most distinctly was that of Benjamin B. Smith. He was one of the notables when I came into the country; was, I think, the only justice within the bounds of the village, was editor and publisher of the Phoenix, a man of infinite mirth and fun , and full of reminiscences of funny happenings when he and Amos Coolidge, enterprising Yankees, as they were, peddled dry goods and notions in their younger days. Mr. Smith was like a great many other men I could name. He had in his character a popular and an unpopular element. No one claimed that he was unjust in his dealings or unfair in his decisions; and yet his ways were not such as to endear him to the masses. He was a man of rather more than ordinary talents, active and persevering; was a Wellsboro man in contradistinction from a Willardsburg, and consequently had enemies in such men as Uriah Spencer and William Willard, who were active advocates of the removal of the county seat to Willardsburg, now Tioga borough, and in those days, as now, it was not always safe to rely implicitly on what one enemy said of another.
“Mr. Smith came into the village near or before 1820. He was the first teacher in the Wellsboro Academy. His school was not classical. Mr. Lowrey, a graduate of Yale, was the first classical teacher regularly employed by the trustees. There must have been a good deal of fun in school keeping at that early time, for Mr. Smith had an inexhaustible fund of very amusing school-keeping anecdotes. His system of managing his children was the very reverse of the system of the other two families mentioned above. His motto was, let em run; they will come out all right in the end.’ Well, most of his did ‘run,’ and most of them came out right in the end; but the one that didn’t run came out ahead. The exception of Mr. Smith’s family does not lessen the value of the precept, ‘guard well the ways of your children.’
“ In calling up to memory the old personages that lived in Wellsboro, in 1828, one could hardly fail to remember ‘Old Mr. Royal Cole’ and his worthy companion, ‘Old Mrs. Cole,’ and that would bring to mind the old frame building, the Cole house, situated just below Walter Sherwood’s. It was, however, torn down many years ago to make room for a better building. Mr. and Mrs. Cole were the parents of Mrs. Erastus Fellows, who seemed to have inherited her mother’s longevity as well as her quit and amiable propensities. Lewis Cole, a lawyer of Potter county, was also their son, and the Wetmore boys their grandchildren.
“Ebenezer Jackson was an old man when I came to Wellsboro, and lived in a small frame house diagonally across from Dr. Shearer’s. He had a peculiar and emphatic way of saying ‘Which?’ when he did not understand what was said to him, while he was crier of the court, which office he held for many years. He was a great ore hunter, and was always talking of the wonderful resources hidden in the hills of Tioga county, and was firm in the belief that it would sometime be one of the richest counties in the State. He believed largely in coal; and though not given the credit of the original discovery of coal at Blossburg, he claimed to be the first suggester of its presence in the county. He always contended that there were large bodies of that mineral in that part of Delmar now called Duncan and Antrim. Ebenezer Jackson was the grandfather of Mary Emily Jackson, who was a pupil of mine in 1828-29, and who early displayed a good deal of practical genius. Many of her poems were published in a Philadelphia literary paper, and one published by George P. Morris in his magazine he pronounced equal to any written by Mrs. Hemans, who was then the female poet of the day.
“Israel Greenleaf was also another well known citizen of Wellsboro. He lived in a frame house on the same side of the street below what was known as the
Hoover log house. He was a wagonmaker, and had a large manufactory near where Mrs. Nichols lived. This was afterwards removed from its former site and transformed into a double dwelling house. He was a native of Connecticut, where he was born in 1765. He came to Tioga county at an early day and purchased a large tract of land in Charleston township, under a Connecticut title. It extended from the east line of Delmar and embraced the whole or part of the Alden Thompson neighborhood. But when the Connecticut titles were declared invalid the captain woke up one morning to find himself a poor man instead of a large land holder. He served in the Revolutionary War. Captain Greenleaf died June 1, 1847, aged eighty-two years, and was buried in the old graveyard on the hill, where his tombstone may yet be seen surrounded by trees and brambles. His wife preceded him to the grave, dying March 8,1840, aged seventy-two years.
“Amos Coolidge, reference to whom has been made, built the house that formerly stood on the site of the Bennett house, and owned and cleared up what has since been called the Nichols hill and farm. He was elected one of the trustees of the Academy in 1828, and was the active member of the building committee who finished up the upper story of the building. He was the father of a large family, viz: Charles, Amos, Jr., Kilburn, William, Wesley, George, Mrs. E.M. Bodine and Mrs. Metzgar, of Potter county. Mr. Coolidge was in his younger days and in his middle age, an active, enterprising, hard-working man, and did much to advance the material interest of the town. In the bring up of his family he was ably seconded by his wife, who was a most invaluable woman, and to whom the family owe a debt of gratitude, the magnitude of which they will never fully understand, and can never fully repay except by training their children as she trained hers. One must have lived the times now passed away to comprehend the full worth of a discreetly pious and truly good woman. Mr. Coolidge died May 16,1851,aged sixty-nine years, seven months, twelve days, and was buried in the old graveyard on Academy Hill, where, in a thicket of brambles, his marble headstone still stands. It is regretted that the record of his amiable and Christian wife is not at hand.
“I have mentioned a number of the matrons of Wellsboro who aided materially in moulding the sentiment of the young and in making society better; there are others of equal piety and domestic virtue entitled to mention in this connection. The first woman on my list was my first female acquaintance in Pennsylvania. She was my landlady. The first six months of my residence in Wellsboro I was a boarder at Mr. Bache’s, and I had an opportunity to know intimately the internal machinery and management of the family. In the method of training up a family of children the father and mother were a unit. She was a quiet, motherly and good woman, never to my knowledge fretting or scolding and anything moved on like clock work. Her religion was of the quiet kind, never strongly emotional or demonstrative, but manifest in good works and in a well ordered walk and conversation. She has long since passed away to the better land. Her children are fathers and mothers , grandfathers and grandmothers, of whom those who know them must judge.
“Mrs. Bliss, who was a sister of Roswell Bailey, was not , when I first knew her, a religious woman-- at least not a member of any church--though she afterwards became a Methodist. In bringing up her family she labored under many untoward circumstances. Her husband was an easy, unenergetic man, but well meaning and honest, and was anxious that his children should come up right. On Mrs. Bliss, however , devolved the main burden of their home education. They were brought up under very pleasant home influences and were a united family. The eldest daughter became the wife of Rankin Lewis and she possessed the same kindness of heart that characterized her excellent mother.
“ Mrs. Samuel Wells Morris was the daughter of William Ellis, a Quaker, who lived and died near Muncy. She was the mother of a large family of boys and girls, and was originally, with the rest of the family, of the Quaker faith, but when the Episcopal church was established in Wellsboro the family became active supporters of that church. Mrs. Morris was more than an ordinary woman; was well educated, and was in all her ways and by her natural or inherited instincts a lady. She was called somewhat aristocratic in her general carriage and associations; but that arose more from the consciousness that her duties were at home, and that she ought not to permit her social instincts to interfere with the higher duties she owed to her family. And yet she was a woman who could command respect in any society she might grace by her presence, and was, when in the society for which she was fitted, a very social and pleasant woman. In one position she eminently excelled, and that position was that of a domestic educator of children.
“While Judge Morris was a valuable member of society, and did much for Wellsboro, to his wife he owed much of his leisure for outside operations, in the relief she afforded him from the drudgery of looking after domestic affairs. She was said to be a very benevolent woman; ready at all times to relieve stress. I do not place her above most others I have named; but she had the means, and with the disposition to act, she probably did more in the line of charitable work than many whose disposition to relieve distress was equal to hers.
“Of Mrs. Erastus Fellows I must confess I knew comparatively little; and yet I cannot give any reason for this lack of knowledge. We lived upwards of forty-three years in the same village, and I met her in her home often, and yet I never fully comprehended her. She was the widow of Moses Johnson when she married Mr. Fellows, and was then the mother of a son and a daughter. She was married to Mr. Fellows, previous to 1828, and had always lived in Wellsboro, most of the time as landlady of the Fellows tavern, which was always a temperance house. I knew her principally as the mother of two families of children. In her method of bringing them up she compared favorably with any in my list. She was a woman of good sound sense, with a mind predisposed to inquiry, and a good member of society. Her children were no disparagement to her character as a mother and as a domestic educator.
“Mrs. Mordecai M. Jackson was a Quaker and had all the characteristics of a Quaker lady. She was the only person in Wellsboro that I recollect was clothed in the Quaker garb. With her it was not a boastful display of her Quakerism, but a mere conformation to Quaker custom. To hear it she was as much a habit to wear drab as it was to be good--to be clothed in Quaker dress as to be clothed in righteousness. She was a very exemplary woman. She was not, however, of that impracticable class who, when she saw that circumstances made a change in church relations an advantage to her children, would refuse to yield to the pressure for change. I cannot say that she became a member of the Episcopal church, but I think she did. Her family and herself at all events were attendants and active supporters of that church. I have no doubt, however, that had the Quaker element not died out in Wellsboro, she would have been a Quaker until the day of her death. She was very much devoted to her children, and believed that the office of mother was the highest one a mother could hold, and that it was her duty to educate her children in addition to their secular education, in the principles of strict Christian morality. In this she was seconded by her very excellent husband. They has two sons and two daughters.
“ Mrs. John Beecher, who lived to be nearly ninty-five years old, was in many respects a remarkable woman. She was a resident of Wellsboro when I came there in 1828, but removed to Williamsport in 1838. She was not a religious woman while she lived in Tioga county, but some years after settling in Williamsport she joined the Methodist church. She was a representative woman, as a woman accounted in a new county. On Beecher’s island[ in the Cowanesque], when a farmer’s wife, in Wellsboro, when the wife of a tavern keeper , when the wife of a merchant or an office holder, a railroad contractor or a member of the legislature for Mr. Beecher was very versatile in his pursuits--she was eminently ‘ a helpmeet’ for her husband. Always active, managing, energetic and economical, she was ever ready to second him without question, in whatever line of business he engaged. Matters went on all right whether he was at home or abroad. As a landlady she was a bountiful caterer for her guests, and as a manager of the internal affairs of the house few excelled her. In her younger days she was fond of amusement in the middle age her taste that way had not decreased and in her very old age her eyes brightened up whenever she talked of ‘the good old times.’ She was the mother of three sons and two daughters.”
Post Office and Postmasters.
The Wellsboro post office was established January !,1808, and Samuel Wells Morris was the first post master. The mail at that time was carried weekly , on horseback, over the State road from Williamsport. A pair of saddlebags were sufficient to contain all the matter, with room to spare. Newspapers were few in those days, the Lycoming Gazette being the only paper printed within a radius of a hundred miles; and as postage was high, few letters were written. No envelopes were in use then; letters were written on foolscap and made as long as possible, covering all the available space, leaving only room enough for the address, when the sheet was folded and sealed with red was or a wafer. A stamp or signet of some kind was used to press the paper into the wax or wafer, which left an impression and gave the enclosure an official appearance. The amount of postage was written, usually, on the upper right hand corner of the letter, and the price was governed by the distance carried. And it was collected at the end of the route from the party to whom it was addressed. The name of the first mail carrier has not come down to us, but in those days the duty was generally performed by a bright, active, venturesome boy. The route from Williamsport laid through a gloomy wilderness nearly all the way. The log cabins of the settlers were few. Panthers and wolves roamed the forest and their howls frequently caused the mail boy to spur up his horse and dash swiftly through the gloom.
One of the early mail carriers was John Sheffer, Jr., born in Williamsport, February 8,1803. When thirteen years of age he carried the mail from Williamsport to Painted Post on horseback, a distance of seventy-nine miles, by the way of the State and Williamson roads. The former started at Newberry and passed through Wellsboro. It required nerve in those days to make this journey, and when the youth of the rider is considered it is still more remarkable.
The parents of this plucky mail boy were early settlers at Liberty, or the Block House, as it was then known, locating there in February, 1814. It is probable that he either went by this route on going out, or on returning ,as he could make a complete circuit by doing so. The Williamson road passed through Block House, Blossburg, Covington and Tioga. The first post office in the county was established at the last mentioned place January 1,1805. At Wellsboro he could leave the State road and proceed to Covington by the East and West pike, as it was called, or vice versa. It is highly probable therefore, that he made the round trip in this way. It is fortunate that something of the history of this early mail boy has been preserved. A sketch of his life will be found in another chapter.
Postmaster Morris did not require much of an outfit to transact the business of his office. A small desk was sufficient, and often he could carry all the matter he received by a single mail in his hat. During the year 1808 the statistical reports show that the gross receipts were$27.06, and his compensation was $8.23. But he served the government faithfully for four years , retiring December 31,1812. Since that time the succession has been as follows: Benjamin Wistar Morris, appointed January 1,1813; William Bache, April 10,1822; James P. Magill, July 24,1845; Josiah Emery, September 6, 1845; George Dwight Smith, May 18,1849; Alexander S. Brewster, April 26, 1853; Ira D. Richards, December 18, 1855; Alexander S. Brewster, July 20, 1860; Hugh Young, March 8,1861; Morgan Hart, August 29,1866; Joseph L. Williams, January 18,1869; George W. Merrick, January 27,1869; Susan R. Hart, June 14,1882; Louis Doumaux, August 10,1886; James L. White, February 1, 1891; Frederick K. Wright, February, 1,1895,present incumbent.
Squire Brewster is the only postmaster thus far to hold the office twice; and Mr. Bache held it for the longest period-- twenty-three years, three months and fourteen days. The term of Joseph L. Williams was the shortest --nine days. That was during the exciting period when President Johnson was in conflict with Congress, and postmasters were appointed by his excellency and quickly refused confirmation by the Senate.
Eighty-eight years have passed since the first office was opened. And during that time the most wonderful advances have been made both in the postal facilities and the amount of mail matter received and forwarded. In the beginning a weekly mail sufficed; now it comes several times a day. The following tabular statement, showing the gross receipts, and the compensation of the postmaster, by decades since1810, will afford food for reflection:
At the close of the tenth decade the receipts will probably exceed $7,000, and the salary of the postmaster will be nearly $1,900. In 1805 there was but one post office in the county, and in 1808 there were two. Now there are eighty-eight. What an increase in ninety years.
Old Time Taverns and Landlords.
It is probable that X. Miller, and old soldier who served under Napoleon at Moscow, was the first tavern keeper in and about Wellsboro. At first his house stood outside of the original limits of the town, but the extension a few ago took it in. When he commenced, or how long he was engaged in the business, is not now remembered. The second tavern keeper is suppose to have been Israel Greenleaf, the old Revolutionary soldier. But the location of his tavern cannot with certainty, be pointed out at this day. It very likely stood in the vicinity of the public buildings.
Alpheus Cheney, the first sheriff and third county treasurer, doubtless came next with a better house. It stood on the site of the old Robinson store and bank. At the August term of court, 1813 ,Greenleaf and Cheney were both granted licenses, for which they paid a fee of $1.15 each. Cheney sold out after the expiration of his term as sheriff, in 1815, and soon removed from the county. Israel Greenleaf died June 1,1847, aged eighty-two years, consequently he must have been about fifty years of age when he opened his tavern.
Records in the prothonotary’s office show that Alanson Thompson was granted a license for Wellsboro at May term , 1816, and that he was granted a license annually up to 1822. Joseph Fish was granted license at September term, 1816 and again in 1818, when his name disappears.
John Beecher received license September 15,1817, and it was renewed each year up to 1821. His house was known as the “Cheney Tavern.” Beecher was born in Massachusetts in 1784, and came to Tioga county with his parents and settled at Beecher’s Island, now Nelson borough, where he lived until he came to Wellsboro. He became a prominent man in the community; was county treasurer in 1820, sheriff in 1824,and a member of the legislature in 1829-30. His vote in that body was the only one cast against the resolution expressing confidence in the United States Bank. Mr. Beecher afterwards kept a tavern in what was known as the McClintock property , which stood on the site of the Cone House.
James Kimball, who became famous as a landlord of the olden time, was first granted a license in May term, 1819, and was continuously in the business until 1856, or perhaps later. He commenced business in a house which stood on the site of the Wilcox House. He sold out to Charles Seeley. This tavern was owned in the early fifties by B.S. Sayre. Then C.L. Wilcox became the owner. In 1859 the property was purchased by William Robinson , D.H. Smith and B.B. Holliday, and was kept as a hotel for ten years. In 1859 it was leased to Sol. Bunnell, who kept it till the spring of 1873. Then Mr. Holliday took possession and refurnished the house throughout, but in the fall of 1873 it was destroyed by fire.
When James Kimball sold his House to Charles Seeley, he moved across the street to what is now known as the Sherwood corner and built a new tavern, which he named the Pennsylvania House. There he had, as a writer puts it, “ the best well of water in town and the best liquor!” It was a popular place with the public for many years. After the retirement of Kimball it was kept by different parties, among whom may be mentioned . L.D. Taylor. Early in 1872 B.B. Holliday purchased the property, and on the 22nd of February, of that year, it was destroyed by fire. It was never rebuilt. The site was cut up into lots and sold at assignee’s sale., and the present row of law offices was built on it.
Capt. Lyman Adams, who had served as the first coroner of the county, came in Wellsboro in 1822 and kept a tavern until 1827, when he returned to Tioga and there died.
Dr. John B. Murphey was granted tavern license May 19,1828, and kept a public house, which stood on the site of the present Coles House. How long he kept the house is unknown, but it could not have been very long , as he died a few years afterwards.
Erastus Fellows, born in Canaan, Connecticut, in 1800, came to Wellsboro in 1827 and purchased 160 acres of land in the northern part of the town. About 1831 he opened the Fellows House, which was principally kept by him until his retirement in 1870. It was a popular place in his day. The house is still kept and is known as the Farmers’ Hotel. Mr. Fellows died November 21, 1883. His widow, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Cole, born in Otesego county, New York, August 25,1795, died June 7,1889, in the ninety-fifth year of her age.
The old-time tavern was a place of good cheer and social enjoyment. Whiskey in those days cost three cents a drink, or five for a shilling; twelve for twenty-five cents, and a long credit for three cents net, when marked down. The method of charging was a straight mark for a drink, and a tally mark for five, with the creditor’s name at the top of a page. This method was adopted as a necessity, as it would sometimes have required two or three clerks to make the charges in the regular way.
About thirty-five years ago David Hart erected a two-story frame hotel building on the north corner of Main and Queen streets. He kept it as a temperance house, his sign of a crystal fountain being a familiar land-mark for many years. This house burned in 1866, having had several landlords. The Dr. Otis L. Gibson swelling house was then moved on the site and transformed into a hotel, with Minor Watkins as the landlord. His successor was William B VanHorn, who in turn was succeeded by Sol. Bunnell. The latter remodeled the building and raised it three stories. In 1876 James S. Coles became proprietor. A year later his brother, W.R. Coles, joined him as a partner, continuing until 1882. In February, 1885, the house was destroyed by fire and was not rebuilt.
Prior to his death in 1853, Hobart Graves kept the United States House, which occupied the site of the present Coles House. After Mr. Graves’ death A.P. Cone purchased the property. During his ownership the landlords were P.P. Cleaver, Reuben Farr, Nelson Austin and D.G. Ritter. The house was burned in 1866 or 1867, and the lot remained vacant until 1869, when Mr. Cone began the erection of the largest and most substantial hotel building in Tioga county. It was opened in 1870 as the Cone House, the first landlord being A.B. Graves. About 1873 B.B. Holliday purchased the property, which within a year or two passed into the possession of Joel Parkhurst, and the name of the hotel changed to Parkhurst House. From 1875 to 1883 Thomas Vesey was the landlord. He was followed by Charles Hussey and by C.C. McClellan, each remaining about a year. In February, 1885, the Bunnell was destroyed by fire, J.S. Coles being the landlord at the time. He immediately leased the Parkhurst House, changed its name to the Coles House, and ran it until November, 1893, when his brother, W.R. Coles, succeeded him as landlord and lessee of the property, which he purchased in July, 1896. The house has since been greatly improved and thoroughly renovated. It is well equipped and has a large patronage.
Charles Sandbach is proprietor of the house bearing his name. He was born in Prussia, emigrated to this country in 1850, and after living in various places finally settled at Germania, Potter county, and opened a public house , which he conducted for a short time. He removed to Wellsboro in May, 1881, and purchased the Baldwin House, formerly the O’Connor. After thoroughly refitting and refurnishing it he gave it his own name and has conducted it up to the present time.
The Wellsboro House, near the railroad station, is owned by Hon. Stephen F. Wilson. It was built in 1872 by Joseph Riberolle, and was first known as the Riberolle House.
The Wilcox House was erected
about 1875 by J.C. Wheeler and C.L. Wilcox as a business block, and was
occupied by a store for a few years. It was then remodeled and changed
to a hotel, and has since had a number of landlords. The property is now
owned by C.L. Wilcox. The present landlord, Frank S. Dunkle, has conducted
the hotel since November 1,1892, and has enjoyed a prosperous business.