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Athens in 1787, Athens, Bradford County PA

Early Photo of Packer Hospital from Joyce's Collection
Article - Athens a Hundred Years Ago
Township: Athens, Bradford County PA
Year:  1889 about 1787
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Article  submitted by Don Stanton
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From the Northern Tier Gazette
Troy, Thursday, March 14, 1889

The Philadelphia Daily Independent Gazetteer, of Sept. 3d, 1787, says: “We learn from Wyoming, that a dangerous combination of villains, composed of runaway debtors, criminals, adherents of Shays, [who a short time before this, raised a rebellion in Massachusetts, which was suppressed by the Government with bloodshed,] etc., is now actually forming on the Susquehanna.  Tioga Point seems to be their general rendezvous.  They extend some distance down, as well as up the river, including also Tioga Branch.  They have  had a gathering of council of their principal partisans, who oppose the introduction of law in that settlement.  They carry everything with a high hand, in open defiance of all government, except their own:  Last week they were to try a man for his life, who refused to comply with their injunctions, but the issue is not yet known.  Their avowed design is to institute a new state, and if they are not timely checked and restrained, will soon become very troublesome and dangerous.  They encrease (sic) very fast, and their present numbers are by no means inconsiderable.  Immediate and decisive measures ought to be taken against them; but it is to be lamented, that our governments admit of no decision.  It is for the want of energy in this respect, that we see banditties rising up against the law and good order, in all quarters of our country.”

This state of affairs was further augmented, by events which occurred in Wyoming.  Under date of September 12th, the paper reports: “We hear from Wilkesbury, in the county of Luzerne, that a court was held there last week, in the most peacable (sic) manner.  Two bills it is said were found against John Franklin, for a riot and trespass, and for assault and battery.  This incendiary, we are told, has retreated to Tioga, where he is stimulating a body of vagrants to commit fresh acts of rebellion and treason against the government of Pennsylvania.  From the happy effects that have followed the establishment of a new county, at Wyoming, in composing the minds of the people, and driving off insurgents and vagrants, there is no doubt that the establishment of a new county, that shall include Tioga Point, and fixing the officers of the county near the spots infested by this banditti, would immediately drive them from the confines of this State.  Unless this be done, we must expect that all our citizens will move westward, and leave us a wilderness with 150 miles of our capital.”

It will be seen by the above, that friend Hinton’s scheme, to make a county with Athens as its county seat, is not wholly original, and not quite recent, - in fact it is a chestnut 100 years old.  Let him go to, and give his mind to celery.

A letter bearing the date of Wyoming, Sept. 6, says: “We have learnt nothing from the Convention at Tioga, except that the meeting was not so great as was expected.  I have just heard, but how true I cannot tell, that they have dispatched two surveyors to lay out two towns on the waters of Tioga, in this State.  The appointment of a Lieutenant, I flatter myself, will have a good effect.”

Again, under date of Sept. 20th, 1787, the paper relates: “By a gentleman just arrived from Tioga, we learn that the insurgents in that place, were surprised and taken by a party of the new federal militia, and that their leaders are on their way to Wyoming, to be tried for their lives.”

It will thus be seen, that Athens was a lively place one hundred years ago, and that rebellion against constituted authority, was a much more serious matter than in these days, when rebel brigadiers are making laws for us, by virtue of the votes which they steal.

Wirt Arland

From the Northern Tier Gazette, Troy, Pa March 14, 1889

The great-unorganized territory in Northern Pennsylvania, claimed by both Connecticut and this State, was at the era of the Constitution, a menace to the Commonwealth.  It was like the present, a day of new States.  In the South, John Sevier, whose life has been so interestingly told by Edmund Kirke, was carving a new State, to be called Franklin, out of portions of North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.  Hundreds of “Connecticut” settlers, including under that term, men from all the New England States, came into the wilderness along the North Branch of the Susquehanna, to make homes.

After a meeting of the Commissioners at Trenton, to settle the conflicting claims of Pennsylvania and Connecticut, to the disputed territory, and the noted Trenton decree,  that all actual settlers in possession, would have their claims confirmed, _______ widespread dissatisfaction. __________  ___ims had been sold in ________ Susquehanna Company, under the Connecticut title, and these men, not in actual possession, were to be driven off like Oklahoma boomers.  Suddenly a large number of what were known as “Wild Yankees,” materialized.  In fact “the woods were full of them,” and their keen, long-headed, versatile leader, Lieut. John Franklin was a born organizer.  Gen. Ethan Allen, skeptic, patriot and hero of “Continental Congress” fame, came down to Tioga Point, with many Green Mountain boys in 1786, and soon after many of the deeply wronged followers of Daniel Shays, came from Massachusetts.  Allen said he had made one State, and could make another.  Franklin was the leader, and soon a project for forming a new State, with Tioga Point for its capital, was in full blast.  It was to comprise large unorganized portions of both States of Pennsylvania and New York.

To head off this project, a new county called Luzerne, was formed Sept. 25th, 1786, to include this unorganized territory.  But the project of a New State had gone so far, that it was not easy to arrest.  John Franklin and 19 other members of the General Assembly bolted, much to the disgust of the Pennsylvania land speculators, and the too subservient officials of the State.

The Independent Gazetteer, in its daily issue of Oct. 6th, 1787, the same number in which it says, “ We learn from the eastward, that the noted Daniel Shays has returned to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” speaks thus of the noted Pennsylvania leader:

“A few days since, Capt. Craig, Brady, Stephenson, Begs, Mr. Pim and Mr. Erb, went to the county of Luzerne, and there, by order of the Supreme Executive council, apprehended John Franklin, and yesterday brought him to this city.  This man has been very active in fomenting disturbances in the county.  Great address and resolution was shown, by the gentlemen employed in conducting this business; they were all officers in the late Continental army, who distinguished themselves by their bravery, during the late war – it is hoped that they will receive sufficient compensation for their services.”

These services consisted in risking their precious skins in the midst of the wronged settlers on the Susquehanna and the seizure and carrying (the) Col. Franklin to Philadelphia, (on the) silly charge of high treason.  They seized the wily leader unawares, or they would never had made the capture.  In the same number of the Gazetteer, we read:

“A correspondent, with pleasure, informs the public, that John Franklin, of Luzerne County, a refractory member of our late Assembly, was taken a few days ago by a few of the old Continental officers, and is now safely lodged with Captain Reynolds, where he is to remain without bail or main prize, until he is impeached, with the infamous nineteen members who had the audacity to attempt the breaking up of the late House of Assembly, after wasting £1067, 10s of the publics money, (without finding) any part of the business the House has been sitting upon.”

No filibustering was allowed in those days, and to waste the public credit or __h by such methods, was rightly characterized as a crime.  The brutality attending to the imprisonment of Co. Franklin, in the hot upper story of the old jail in Philadelphia, is not pleasant reading, to those who would retain their faith in the probity, justice and mercy of our Pennsylvania forefathers.  The outrageous attempt to make his offense appear to be high treason and his being manacled with chains, refused bail even though an exorbitant amount was offered, the indignities put upon him, and the fact that he was thus punished before he was tried, and the deliberate and insolent way in which his trial was postponed, forms an unpleasant chapter in the history of Pennsylvania.

There is, however, one incident that like a lightening flash, illuminates the obscurity of those early days.  Timothy Pickering the real leader of the Pennsylvania party, active, brilliant, energetic and untiring, had more to do with the abduction of Col, Franklin, than any one else.  When the arrest was made, he had hard work to get away but leaving his family at Wyoming, he fled precipitately from the hands of the enraged Yankees, and plunging into the wilderness, made his way to the Quaker city.  He did not venture back to Luzerne, until everything had quieted down, as he supposed.  Then January, 1788, he stole back to the disaffected territory.  In the meantime, and for nearly a year, Col. Franklin suffered the indignities of insufficient food, the absence of fire, chains, and treatment that only a criminal would have merited.  Reports of this treatment spread through the woods of Luzerne, and the followers of Franklin determined on retaliation.

On the 28th of June, 1788, Pickering was seized by a party of disguised men, and hurried off into the woods near Mehoopany, where he was kept bound with a chain, and moved about from place to place, as secrecy required.  The object of the “Wild Yankees”, concerned in this deed, was to hold him hostage for the release of Franklin, or to compel him to intercede for the deliverance of their leader.  In this, however, they were unsuccessful, and after keeping him a captive for 20 days, they feared it might prove a dangerous proceeding, and so released him.

Ausburn Towner’s novel of “Chedayne of Kotono,” now we believe published under another, name gives very interesting pictures of those times of civil disturbance.  The real hero of those days was he who sleeps at Tioga point. – Wirt Arland

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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 12 MAY 2005
By Joyce M. Tice
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