The Reverend Mr. David Craft
The geographical situation of the township of Tuscarora is between the townships of Pike on the north, and Wyalusing and the Susquehanna River on the west and Susquehanna County on the east, and Wyoming County on the south. It has an area of about thirty-five square miles. The surface of the township is hilly generally, but the soil is, notwithstanding, fertile, and produces the cereals and grass of a most excellent quality. The town is well adapted to grazing and dairying. The Susquehanna washes the southwestern border of the township for the distance of about two miles; the Tuscarora creek rises in the northwestern part of the town, and runs nearly due south through the eastern portion of the same, passing into Wyoming county. Its principal tributaries are the Little Tuscarora, coming in from the west, but passing from the town before its junction with the main stream, Pond, and Stephens creeks, also coming in from the west. There are also several small ponds or lakelets in the township. The township was erected from Wyalusing in 1830 and received the name of Spring Hill. In 1856, the name was changed to Tuscarora.
The farm now owned by Mr. B. W. Edwards, and lying immediately back of Laceyville, in Lycoming county, is undoubtedly the first possession occupied by a white settler in the present town of Tuscarora. It is a part of a large tract, surveyed in the warrant name of Jacob Erisman, Aug. 4, 1773, in pursuance of a warrant dated April 3, 1769. Erisman conveyed it by deed poll to Joseph Warton, April 1775. Wharton, who owned and occupied the land for the space of thirty-three years, secured the title by patent from the commonwealth in 1777. Wharton built his first log cabin on the highest ground, about sixty rods southeast of the present location of the Spring Hill road. He made a good road direct from his house to the river, the terminus being near the present residence of P. O. Lacey. There was no road along the river until as late as 1790, travelers taking the Indian paths or river-beach. This pioneer improvised his samp-mill by felling a huge white pine, and hollowing out the stump for his mortar, and used a heavy Indian pestle for grinding the corn. The identical pestle is now in the possession of B. W. Edwards, the present owner of the land. The owner of this mill frequently loaned its use to his neighbors, after he had some, for there was no water –mill nearer than the Wyoming valley.
Wharton cleared and fenced about sixty acres of land, and set out an orchard. He also built a second log house in the central part of his clearing. This house stood some thirty rods from the present location of the road, and directly back of Edwards’ farmhouse. In 1808, Joseph Wharton conveyed this farm to Elihu Hall and Elihu Hall, Jr. The Halls were carpenters, and made but little improvement on the land. Finding the Wharton house too small for both families, they demolished it, and built a long log house, with a chimney at each end, which they laid up with rough stones as high as the mantel, which was of wood; and above the mental oak staves took the place of stones, which were laid up "cob-house fashion", the interstices being filled with clay mortar. Both outside and inside were covered with a thick coating of the mortar, which was put on with the hands of the builders, in lieu of trowels, the latter article being absent in that neighborhood. The roofing was shingles about three and a half feet long (called, in western parlance, "shakes"), shaved thinner on one side than on the other, for overlapping the edges, and laid about fourteen inches to the weather. They were fastened on with wrought nails, of the nearest blacksmith’s make.
While the Halls were in possession the Spring Hill road was opened in part. They built a plank house on this road, and sold out to Jacob Gray in the spring of 1815. Rev. D. D. Gray was then a boy of seven years old, and he asserts that he traveled every sled-path, and visited every habitable part of the township, the first year of his residence. He thus names the families resident in the township in that year, 1815: Thomas Morley, Stephen Beeman, Edward Cogswell, and Elisha Cogswell, on Tuscarora Creek; James Black, Harry Ackley, Jacob Huff, Reuben Shumway, and Stephen Bowen, on Spring Hill; William Clink and Daniel Johnson, on South Spring Hill. These settlers had at that time from two to twelve acres of cleared land each, the whole of the improved land in the township, aside from the Wharton farm, probably not exceeding eighty acres.
About this time Jeremiah Lewis, Chester Wells, and several others made a beginning, and in the course of a few years all the land suitable for farming purposes was taken up.
*Contributed by Rev. D. D. Gray.
The first settler * on the Tuscarora creek, within the present bounds of the township, was Oliver Sisson, who came thereto in 1805, and located four miles from the river, on the farm known on the Bradford County map as the "Cogswell Homestead," and the hill known as Sisson hill received its name from him. He died in 1809, leaving all of his property to his wife, his will being recorded in Wilkes-Barre, as this was then part of Luzerne county. The possession, or quitclaim right, was conveyed by the widow to Julius and Elisha Cogswell about 1809. Julius soon after conveyed his interest to Elisha, and the farm has ever since remained in the family, and is now owned by the Rev. Bela Cogswell. Edward, Joel, and Daniel Cogswell, three brothers, came from Connecticut and settled in Bradford County. Daniel soon moved away and was lost sight of. Joel settled near LeRaysville, where he lived and died. He reared a large family of children, and was the father of the elder Dr. Cogswell. Edward was a miller by trade, and worked in the mills all along the Susquehanna, down as far as the mouth of the Lackawanna. While he was at work in the mill now known as Lewis’ Mill, one day his boys, Elisha and Julius, were down the creek fishing, when a bear came on the scene, and began to demonstrate on the young fishermen, who, deeming discretion at that particular juncture the better part of valor, sought refuge in the mill, the bear following them closely, almost to the door.
Edward settled on the farm now owned and occupied by his grandson, Dr. Cogswell, a son of Elisha Cogswell. Elisha Cogswell was a soldier in the War of 1812. His wife was a daughter of Bela Ford, who came from Schoharie Co., NY. to Pike township, as early as 1807. The Cogswell genealogy is as follows: Edward Cogswell married a sister of Stephen Beeman. Their children were: Elisha, married Hannah Ford, died at East Spring Hill, 1873 at the age of eighty-seven years; Julius, still living at Auburn Corners, Susquehanna county; Amos, died in youth; Sally, died unmarried; Orilla, married John Morley; Eunice, married Levi Merrill, and lives in New Era (Terry), Bradford county. Rev. Bela Cogswell, the oldest of Elisha Cogswell’s children, was born Jan. 10, 1817. In early life he was connected with the Methodist Episcopal church, and when but sixteen years of age received a license as a local preacher in that connection, which he held for several years. Owing to the change of views on certain doctrinal questions he severed his connection with the Methodist Episcopal church and united with the Free-Will Baptists, and was chiefly instrumental in organizing the church of that denomination at East Spring Hill, and in the erection of the house of worship at that place. He has been its only pastor. During that time he has also had the oversight of the Liberty Free Will Baptist church in Susquehanna County.
Reuben Shumway came into Tuscarora in 1805. He came from Steuben County, NY, in 1801, to the Wyalusing, near the present residence of Widow Buck, and lived there four years. He also lived a short time on Lime Hill. He settled in Tuscarora, on the farm now owned by Stephen Lyon. At this time there was nothing but a footpath over the hill. His wife was Miriam Town, a sister of Joseph C. Town. She died in 1819, and was the first person buried in the burying-ground near Mr. Lyon’s. She is spoken of as a very excellent woman. His family consisted of Esther, Silvenus, Darius, Cyrus, Alva, Luther, Reuben, and Sally. Esther was married before the family came to Tuscarora, and never followed them here. Silvenus married Esther, daughter of Benjamin Hurlbut, and moved to Ohio. Darius married Catherine, also a daughter of Mr. Hurlbut, and lived where Hiram Shumway now lives. He was killed by the running away of his team down Break-neck hill, about 1845. Luther died when a child, of smallpox. Cyrus married Bridget Clink. Alva married Rhoda Quick, and moved to Illinois. Reuben married Mary Ann Foster. Sally died young.
The two brothers, John and William Clink, came from Steventown, NY, to the present location of Laceyville in 1810, moved to Skinners Eddy 1811, and from thence in 1814 to Spring Hill. They removed from thence to Auburn, Susquehanna County. Benjamin Hurlbut moved from Elizabeth City, NJ, to the Wyalusing creek in 1803. He was a miller, and was employed in Gordon’s, and afterwards in Town’s Mill. He came to the hill in 1805 or 1806. His brother Amos came with him. Benjamin bought the Connecticut title of Gordon. He married a lady whose family name was Smith, in New Jersey. Their children were: Esther, who married Silvenus Shumway; Catherine, who married Cyrus Shumway; Eliza, who married a Brace; Charles; John; Rebecca, who married William Clink; and Joanna, who married a Cook. Mr. Hurlbut died about 1817, on the farm he first purchased. John Maxwell came into the township about the time that Mr. Hurlbut died, put up a house, but removed after a year or two.
Stephen Beeman came soon after 1809, and began a clearing a mile below the Sisson place, where Oliver Warner now lives. He made his residence on this farm during the remainder of his life, but died suddenly while on a visit to his daughters in Susquehanna County. Mr. Beeman had no children by his first marriage, but married a second time, and reared a large family. He was a brother to Edward Cogswell’s wife. His mother came to the township with him, but died fifty years ago. Dr. Ebenezer Beeman, a brother of Stephen, was a skillful physician, and noted for eradicating or rendering innocuous the venom of poisonous reptiles. Dr. Nathan Scoville was associated with him in the practice of their profession. Aaron Beeman, of LeRaysville, was also a brother of Stephen. They were Connecticut men. Alpheus and Daniel Lewis Crawford, brothers, came from Connecticut and settled at East Spring Hill about 1829. David Lacey came about the same time. The father of the Crawfords came to Wyoming at an early day. After getting a house begun, he sent for his family. His wife started along on horseback, with two little children in a bed-tick slung across the horse’s back. She drove in a cow, which, with the stock of bread taken from home, furnished the party food for the journey. Alpheus Crawford went west to Lee Co., Ill. D. L. Crawford lives near Stevensville.
Emanuel Silvara came from Portugal. When a lad he secreted himself on a vessel bound for the United States, and was discovered when a short distance from port. On landing in America the captain sold him for three years to pay for his passage. He served his time, after which he married and came to East Spring Hill about 1839 or 1840. He bought the Crawford’s farm, and though to a great extent ignorant of our language, and destitute of all advantages of education, he accumulated a fine property. The little village which sprung up about the place where the old mansion was built is called Silvaraville in his honor. He reared a large and respectable family. Burrows Dowdney was from New Jersey, and lived at the mills. Some time after Abial Keeney bought Dowdney’s farm, and the latter removed from the town. David Dare was a relative of Dowdney’s, and Dare’s sister was the wife of George Smith.
Jacob Huff was a native of Germany, and emigrated therefrom to this country about the time hostilities commenced between the mother-country and the colonies. He enlisted in the service of the latter, and was engaged in the battles of Long Island, White Plains, Brandywine and others not remembered. He lived where Milton Lewis now lives. He died at the age of eighty-one years. Other early settlers, not heretofore named, were Daniel Merritt, on the place now occupied by Martin Lyon; Moses Rowley, where the Gartlands now live; Richards, and Starks.
*Contributed by Rev. Bela Cogswell.
The first framed barn was raised in the township June 24, 1822, by Elisha Cogswell, on the Cogswell homestead. The first saw-mill was built about 1820, by Ludd Gaylord, near the mouth of the creek where the present foundry is located. A grist-mill was afterwards built there. Previously the nearest mill was Wilkes-Barre. The first white child born in the township was Marinda, a daughter to Julius Cogswell, in 1811. The first death in the town among the settlers was that of Oliver Sisson, in 1809. The first marriage in the township was that of John Morley and Orilla Cogswell, in 1816. The ceremony was performed by Rev. John Hazzard, the first Methodist circuit preacher on the creek.
The first regular religious services were held by this minister in 1813, in the house built by Oliver Sisson. The first carriages were carts. The wheels were blocks sawed off of large logs, the blocks beings from six to eight inches in thickness. These were facetiously called "Toad-smashers." The grain was cut with a sickle, threshed with flails, and winnowed by the wind. The hand-fan was similar in shape to the ordinary dust-pan of domestic use, but much larger, and made of wood. Corn was pounded in mortars, and made into samp or hominy; the forest and stream furnished the meat in due season, and brides were wooed and won in homespun.
The settlers were generally poor in worldly wealth, but they were temperate, industrious, hardy, patient, and jolly. They spoke sportively of their inconvenience and hardships, feeling that better things were in store for them. Strong arms dealt sturdy blows upon the forest, and year by year openings grew broader and the sunlight more cheerful. As the years passed the stumps were removed, and Tuscarora began to assume the air and appearance of an old settlement. To-day the farms are well fenced, smooth, well stocked and well-tilled. New buildings are taking the place of the old ones, the children are occupying and enlarging the bounds of the forefathers, and the ancient landmarks, the forests, and the tangled bridle-path are removed forever. Competency, thrift, and contentment reign apparently throughout the township.
The township is divided into seven districts, wholly within the town, and one joint district (No. 2) with Wyalusing, each of which has a school house, in which good schools are taught for at least six months each year. There are also four houses of worship in the township, two post offices, Spring Hill in the west, and East Spring Hill in the east part of the town, mills, stores, and mechanics’ shops, a physician and surgeon, and a resident clergyman. The population in 1850 was 855; in 1860, 941; 1870, 1224.
Once occupied this territory, and for a long time resisted the encroachment
of the fathers of the present dwellers. They were the wild beasts and the
Indians. The latter surrendered their places more quickly than the former,
and more bloodily, too, so far as the invaders were concerned. At the mouth
of the Tuscarora creek an encampment or village of the Tuscarora tribe
of the Six Nations used to exist, which gave the name to the creek; hence
the name of the township. The forests were the home of numerous bears,
wolves, panthers, and lynxes, whose depredations upon the folds and flocks
of the early settlers were frequent and destructive. Bears climbed into
pens and took out hogs, fattening for the table of the good wife, without
so much as a "by your leave." Wolves made havoc in the sheep-pens unless
protected by high board fences. A rail pen was an assistance rather than
a hindrance to their work. They were trapped and hunted with a will, but
it was twenty years before they were exterminated. Bruin surrendered more
easily and quickly. He was not as sharp as his gaunt brother, the wolf,
and fell into pitfalls and snares with little provocation, and was soon
driven from the township. He never could resist the seductive influence
of a piece of fresh pork. Herds of deer frequently cropped the green wheat
in the fall, or gorged themselves with the ripened buckwheat, destroying
as much as they ate, and they soon passed away. Wild turkeys in large flocks
found delicious feeding too on the buckwheat, beginning to take their full
share of the crop as soon as the grain began to ripen, and continuing to
harvest the same until the crop was gathered in. Small boys were frequently
sent to frighten the persistent thieves away. Brook trout were plentiful
in the creeks and shad in the river, and wild fowl skimmed the surfaces
of the streams or winged their flight by the windings and turnings thereof.
Rev. Bela Cogswell was born on the place on which he now lives, January 10, 1817. Elisha Cogswell, the grandfather of Bela, came from Connecticut in company with two brothers, and settled in what was then the "Far West," about 1785 or 1790. He was by trade a miller, and had the charge of the most important mills on the river, among which was the Ingham mill at Sugar Run. He afterwards purchased a farm on the Tuscarora creek, where he lived until his death. Edward, the son of Elisha Cogswell, married a daughter of Bela Ford, who lived on "Ford Street", in Pike township, and settled on a part of his father’s farm, in what has been known as East Spring Hill, where he died June, 1877, at the age of eighty-one years. He was a man of unquestionable integrity and sincere piety, and held an official position in the church for more than sixty years.
Bela, the son of Edward, or "Uncle Ned", as he was familiarly called by the people of his neighborhood, was a self-made man. In his boyhood the facilities for education were very inferior to what they are now. He improved those which he had to the best advantage, studying and reading as far as he could, until the people thought he was qualified to teach, when he taught several terms. Previous to 1837, before he was twenty years old, he was licensed to preach the gospel, and for more than forty years he has been engaged in the work of the ministry, and preached to the same people. He was one of the original members of the Free-Will Baptist church on the Tuscarora, and was mainly instrumental in its organization, and in erecting the pleasant church edifice which is used by the congregation. This church as a marble pulpit of unique construction, and on the marble tablets surrounding it are the names of the members, pastors, contributors, etc., a constant reminder of the worshipers of those who are affiliated with them in the ties of the spiritual brotherhood. Mr. Cogswell has been their first and last pastor. In addition to his duties as pastor, he has frequently had to perform the official duties of a citizen, having, besides other township offices, been justice of the peace fifteen years. He married, Oct. 19, 1837, Eunice Prentice. She died in 1870. There were born to them seven children: Abel B., who died March 7, 1839, Sophronia M., Emma R., Mary A., Stella A., Osmer E., a young man of great promise and flattering prospects for success and usefulness, who was accidentally killed Nov. 16, 1876, leaving a young widow, and Ward B., the youngest, who is at home with his parents.
Mr. Cogswell was married a second time, May 22, 1870, to Lydia Fuller, widow of the late Stillman Fuller, who died in South Carolina, where he and his wife were employed in teaching the emancipated blacks by the United States Freedman’s Bureau. Mr. Cogswell retains his vigor unimpaired, and bids fair to live many years and to do much useful work in his profession to the community.
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