Despite the fact that Bradford County was the favored hunting ground of many Indian tribes long before the coming of the white man, only two battles were ever fought within its borders. One of these skirmishes, (they could hardly be called battles) occurred on Route 6, below Towanda, and is marked by a monument along the highway. The other took place near Cedar Ledge, September 26, 1778, when an advance guard of 19 men of Col.Thomas Hartley’s expedition met a party of Indians.
Bradford county was a part of the territory controlled by the Iroquois or Five Nations, who later became Six Nations when joined by the Tuscaroras. Their domain, which they called their Long House, reached from southern Vermont to Lake Erie and from Lake Ontario to the headwaters of the Allegheny, Susquehanna and Delaware rivers. The eastern door of this mythical House was kept by the Mohawks, the western by the Senecas and the southern (at Tioga Point, now Athens) by the Cayugus. The great council-fire was the special responsibility of the Onondagas, and was always kept burning. A Sachem of the Cayugas was stationed at the junction of the two rivers at Tioga Point and no one was permitted to enter the domain from the south without his permission.
Another Cayuga Chief, Shikelemy by name, was stationed at Sunbury at the point where the West and North branches of the Susquehanna met, and he ruled the tribes dependencies to the south. There is a stone still standing near Leolyn at the corner of Bradford, Tioga, and Lycoming Counties beyond which no vassal of the Five Nations under Chief Shikelemy dared to roam or hunt.
During this time, for a period of about one hundred years, Bradford County seems to have been uninhabited except by wandering hunting parties of Indians who followed the game and seasons. Later the valley was opened by the Five Nations as an asylum for the conquered Indian peoples who had been deprived of their homes in other areas.
Many War Paths crossed Bradford County, usually connecting the headwaters of the streams. The Sheshequin Path went through Burlington and left the county about where Sylvania is now located. There was an Indian settlement at Luther’s Mills and maize was grown on the flats there. The Indians did much hunting and fishing in that locality and an Indian burial ground occupied the exact site of our present County Home.
The Towanda Path came from Towanda, through Burlington to East Canton and reached Lycoming creek at Leolyn. This path crossed the Joel Manley farm, now occupied by Franklin Bohlayer, and at one time was traced from the corner of the East Canton Methodist Church to Beech Flats and over the hills to Grover. As these paths were made by the Indians going single file, they were seldom more that ten feet wide, but were deeply cut even where they went over stones, and many arrow heads were found along their course. Other paths followed along Towanda Creek to Franklin and Canton.
There is nothing to indicate the Indians ever made a settlement in Canton, though there was an Indian burying-ground at Leroy, and they evidently had some idea of the value of the coal in the mountains nearby for they told the first settlers – "If you knew what is in those mountains, you would shoe your horses with silver," which remark was handed down from generation to generation in that locality.
This gives a brief idea of the Indians in this area prior to the American
Revolution. In 1777 an attempt was made by Gen. Burgoyne, who was to have
been supported by Col. St. Ledger, to divide the American forces by a movement
down the Hudson river calculated to cut the American forces in half, and
curtail shipments of supplies from the interior. This stratagem was a failure,
owing to the bloody battle of Oriskany, following which St. Ledger fled
back to Canada instead of joining Burgoyne as planned, causing General
Burgoyne to surrender at Saratoga on October 17, 1777.
|Early in 1778 another plan was made by the British with the same idea
in mind. Col. John Butler with a force of Tories and Indians concentrated
at Tioga Point (Athens) and on July 2, 1778 sailed down the Susquehanna
in their war canoes, and on the 4th of July perpetrated one
of the worst massacres of history, the Wyoming massacre in which more that
200 patriots were killed and many others made captive and later put to
When this news reached Gen. Washington, a council of war was called at Morristown and it was decided to strike a blow which would end all danger of a British-Indian attack from the rear.
Three plans were presented but we will consider only the one which concerns Col. Hartley’s expedition and the skirmish at or near Cedar Ledge. According to this stratagem the Pennsylvania Militia was to gather at Fort Augusta, now Sunbury, and march up the Susquehanna to Muncy, then strike over the Susquehanna Trail and invade the country of the Six Nations from the center. Very little was known of the country north of what is now Williamsport, so Col. Thomas Hartley, commanding the Militia of the Susquehanna Valley was ordered to make reconnaissance to determine the best available route for the army’s march. Captain Spaulding with a small company of Continental soldiers was to accompany the expedition as a trained military observer, for Col. Hartley, though a splendid Indian fighter, was not trained in military maneuvers. Early in August Col. Hartley with a force of 400 Pennsylvania Militia marched northward from Fort Augusta to Fort Muncy. There Robert Covenhaven, a famous guide joined the party and on September 21st they started over the hills with 200 men. Their line of march was up Muncy Creek to what is now Mawr Glen in Lycoming County, thence over the mountains to the headwaters of Pleasant Stream, down that stream to Lycoming Creek and then up the Lycoming. Fall rains must have been heavy that year for Col. Hartley tells in his records of "wading and swimming the Lycoming River upwards to twenty times." His account continues, "On the morning of the 26th, and just beyond the headwaters of the Lycoming River, our advance guard of nineteen men came upon a party of Indians. Our people had the first fire and a very important Chief was killed. The rest fled."
Proceeding from here to Athens the company went down the river to Wyoming and back to fort Augusta. Col. Hartley’s report to Gen. Washington, confirmed by Captain Spaulding stated that the "Vale of Lycoming" was impossible for the passage of an army of any size for the transportation of necessary supplies. This left only the route up the North Branch of the Susquehanna open, and the following year Gen. Sullivan made his famous march over that trail and completely destroyed the power of the Six Nations.
This is the story behind the native stone monument with its bronze tablet erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution, in September 1921, just one hundred forty-three years after the skirmish it commemorated. This monument was placed as near the site of the combat as could be determined, and stands on a little triangle of ground formed by the railroad and Route 14, on the way to Williamsport.
Eleanor P. Keagle (1896-1971)