Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
1897 Tioga County History
Chapter 05 - The Pioneers 
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Joyce's Search Tip - December 2007 -
Do You Know that you can search just this 1897 book by using the 1897 button in the Partitioned search engine at the bottom of the Current What's New Page




Previous to the treaty of Fort Stanwix, in 1784, the only white men to find their way within the present limits of Tioga county, were French explorers, Jesuit and Moravian missionaries, Indian scouts and hunters, and prisoners conducted by the Indians over their paths or trails from the settlements in Pennsylvania to below Fort Niagara, in New York. Then followed the commissioners to survey the boundary between Pennsylvania and New York, who, in 1786, brushed out or cut a roadway, over which settlers afterwards found their way into Tioga county, along the northern line of which it ran.

To Samuel Baker, however, belongs the honor of being the first white man to settle within the limits of the county, and to rear himself and family a house in the midst of the unbroken wilderness. In the spring of 1787 he built a cabin and commenced a clearing on the west bank of the Tioga river, almost directly east of the present residence of Charles Beebe, in Lawrenceville. His cabin stood near a large oak on the lands of Mrs Damon. At that time Samuel Harris, his nearest neighbor, was located at Painted Post, in the capacity of an Indian trader. Baker raised some corn during the summer and managed to put in the time. On Christmas day, 1787, he started down the river to Tioga Point, on the ice, leaving his cabin in charge of Capt. Amos Stone, who had been a prominent actor in Shay's rebellion, in Massachusetts, in the spring of 1787, and who had joined him in the summer of that year. After enduring many hardships, Mr. Baker succeeded in bringing his family up the river in the spring of 1788, his father-in-law, Richard Daniels, a native of Albany, New York, and his wife, accompanying them and locating on an adjoining farm. William Barney, who came from the "North River," soon afterward joined the little settlement. Another settler here was William Holden, who came from near Albany, when a mere boy, so it has been stated, and accompanied the party that surveyed the State line. As his age is given at twenty-eight years in the taxables of 1800, he was only fourteen years old when this survey was made, and it is not likely that he would settle by himself in the wilderness. It is more than probable that he came about the same time as Richard Daniel. In the spring of 1793, when the Williamson road reached the State line, Captain Williamson, finding Baker and the other settlers much disturbed over the uncertainty of their titles to the land upon which they had settled, offered them land with perfect titles in Pleasant Valley, near Lake Keuka, Steuben county, New York. The offer was accepted by all of the settlers, except William Holden, and they removed to their new location in the spring of 1794. Here, in time, Baker became a prominant man, was elected an associate judge, and died in 1842, at the age of eighty years. William Holden remained at Lawrenceville until about 1795, when he sold his possessions to Uriah Spencer, removed up the Cowanesque valley, and became the first settler at the mouth of Holden brook, on the site of Osceola.

The first white settler in the Cowanesque valley west of Lawrenceville was Reuben Cook, who in May, 1792 or 1793, erected a cabin on the little flat north of the present residence of Harris T. Ryon, in Nelson borough. James Strawbridge, who made a clearing and temporary settlement at the mouth of Yarnell brook, at Academy Corners, Deerfield township, is thought by some to have preceded Reuben Cook, and to have settled as early as 1785. Other early settlers in the valley before1800 were Dorman Bloss, a millwright, who located at Nelson; John Allington, Abner, Charles and Ezeckiel Blanchard and Amasa Culver, who settled in what afterwards became Nelson township; Daniel Holiday, who settled below Elkland; Cooper Cady, Caleb Griggs, Daniel Phillips, Titus Sesse, and Israel Bulkley, who settled in the neighborhood of Osceola; Ebenezer Seelye, who settled at Academy Corners; William Knox, who settled on the site of Knoxville, and Jonathon Bonney, an early physician, who afterwards settled permanently in Brookfield township.

The first settler in the Tioga valley, above Lawrenceville, was Jesse Losey. The other settlers in the valley, whose names appear in the census of 1800---given in a preceeding chapter--were Isaac and Rufus Adams, who located at Lawrenceville; Thomas Berry, who settled at the southern end of what is now Tioga borough; Hopestill Beecher, who located temporarily at Tioga, and afterwards settled at Beecher's Island; Aaron Gillet, who located at the mouth of Mill creek, in Tioga township, and afterwards removed to Cherry Flats; Josiah Hovey, who settled and kept an inn near the Richmond township line, above Canoe Camp, (his two sons, Simeon and Gurdon, also setled with him); Obadiah Inscho, who settled above Lawrenceville; John Ives, Sr., John Ives, Jr., and Benajah, Timothy, Titus, Benjamin and Ambrose Ives, who settled in and about Tioga borough; James Jennings, Jacob Kiphart, and Stephen Losey, who settled near the site of Mansfield; Richard, Thomas and Robert Mitchell who located at Mitchell's Creek; Nathan Niles, Sr., who settled below the mouth of Mill creek, in Tioga township; and Uriah Spencer, who bought out William Holden, at Lawrenceville, and who afterwards removed to Tioga, where he became a prominent and leading citizen. The Cady and Wilson families, of Lawrence, are also given in that assessment.

Although the name of Dr. William Willard does not appear on the assessment list of 1800, he is credited, by those familiar with the early history of the county, with locating at Tioga, in 1798, soon after which the place became known as Willardsburg. Benjamin Corey, who settled on the site of Mansfield in 1797, is not mentioned either.

Another early settlement was made as early as 1793, at Millerton, in Jackson township, by Garret Miller and his family. John Newell, a pioneer settler at Newelltown, in Union township, was here before 1800, and also Elisha White, who settled at Holidaytown, Middlebury township. Other names appear on the assessment list of that year, but as they were, for the most part, those of persons who made but a temporary stay, it is not possible at this late day to determine just where they made locations.

During the year 1800, and within the next succeeding five years, there was a marked increase in the number of settlers, the more prominent new comers being Benjamin Wistar Morris and family, who settled on the site of Wellsboro in 1800; Aaron Bloss, who first located near Covington in 1801, and in 1802 became the founder of Blossburg; William Hill Wells, who settled southwest of Wellsboro in 1802; Samson Babb, who settled on Babb's creek, in Morris township; Robert Steele, who settled on the site of Ansonia, in Shippen township; and Aaron and William Furman, who settled at Furmantown, in Gaines township.

Fuller details concerning the foregoing named pioneers, as well as of the settlement and developement of the various sections of the county, will be found in the chapters devoted to the different townships and boroughs. Nearly all of those early pioneers endured great suffering and privation. Ebenezer Seele, whose father was one of the first settlers in the Cowanesque valley, contributed, in 1867, to the Wellsboro Agitator the following account of how they lived after their arrival:

" My father erected a cabin of bark set against a large pine log, and lived in it for a year and a half. He then built a log house. In this he lived the first winter without a floor, there being no saw mill nearer than Painted Post, for a grist mill we used a stump hollowed out by fire for a mortar, and a spring pestle. In this we pounded our samp for bread and pudding timber for two years. After a while several of the settlers clubbed together and purchased a pair of millstones about two feet in diameter, which we turned by hand. At first we could only raise corn. Wheat blasted, rusted, and would not mature. This state of things lasted seven or eight years, when wheat, rye, and oats began to be raised. The family dressed chiefly in deer skins, and I was ten years old before I had a pair of shoes".


From a "Declaration of Trust," recorded in Lycoming county (Deed Book E, p. 545), we are enabled to get at the primary causes which led to the founding and settlement of Wellsboro. From this instrument it appears that on September 21, 1796, Josiah Hewes, Meires Fisher, and James Wilson, in consideration of five shillings, per acre, or F14, 715, did by "indenture tripartite" convey unto "George Eddy and Moore Wharton, as tenents in common and not as joint tenents," seventy-five tracts of land situated in Lycoming county, which had been warrented to Hewes and Fisher, August 10, 1792, making in the aggregate 73,575 1/2 acres. These warrants, which were supposed to cover about 1,000 acres each, are all numbered in the declaration. In this great sale it appears that Mr. Wilson was the owner of 6,594 acres, or six tracts, warrants for which had been issued to him, February 3, 1794. These tracts, added to those of Hewes and Fisher, made an aggregate of 80,569 1/2 acres.

It is unnecessary in this connection to note all the sales and transfers which took place between the different parties referred to in the declaration, but suffice it to say that in view of the interest of one Joseph Thomas, Edward Tilghman, grantee of said Thomas, and trustees for Edward Shippen and William Graham, thirteen tracts were excepted in the general plot, together with the fraction of another, the whole making 14, 001 1/2 acres.

Other transfers then occured, when it appears that Gideon Hill Wells and Richard Hill Morris were made "tenants in common and not joint tenants," in certain lands which are all referred to in the Declaration. Richard was also interested in certain tracts.

Then, under date of July 22, 1799, it appears that Moore Wharton, Thomas Greeves, Gideon Hill Wells, Richard Hill Morris, and William Parker, of Philadelphia, conveyed each of their interests to Benjamin Wistar Morris, by which transfer, in the language of the Declaration, "he became seized in his desmense as of fee in the said great tract of land so as aforesaid to them severally conveyed in and by the said 80,569 1/2 acres and allowance so as aforesaid conveyed to the said Edward Tilghman."


The following preliminaries having been settled, the "Declaration" then continues in these words.

Now, therefore, this indenture witnesseth and all the said parties hereto, do hereby confess, acknowledge and declare that the said Benjamin W. Morris do and shall, stands seized and possessed of the premises aforesaid to and for the use and benefit of all the parties to this indenture according to their several proportions of and in the same in trust to and for the uses, interests and purposes, and under the conditions, etc., that is to say, upon this trust and confidence that he, the said Benjamin W. Morris, do and shall grant, bargain, sell, convey and assure to any person, or persons, actual settlers or others, all or any part of the said land for the best prices that can be procurred for the same, and receive the consideration, monies or security for the same and pay the monies arising therefrom to all the parties to this indenture of the first part, according to their respective interests therein, and do and shall reconvey and assure to the said parties so much of the said land as shall be undisposed of at the expiration of five years from the date hereof.

And that he, the said Benjamin W. Morris, do and shall pay all necessary sums of money for the improvement and settlement of the said lands; and if any of the parties to this indenture of the first part shall refuse or neglect to pay any sum of money agreed to be raised by a majority of votes, allowing 500 acres to a vote, then a proportion of the land of such defaulter may be taken by any other of the parties at $1.00 per acre, provided they think proper to make the advances due from such defaulter, allowing such defaulter twelve months' notice previous to any of their lands being alienated as aforesaid; and in case any advances made by the said Benjamin W. Morris shall be refunded after notice as aforesaid, and within twelve months, interest shall be allowed and paid upon the same.

And the said Benjamin W. Morris for himself and his heirs doth hereby covenant, promise and agree to and with the said Moore Wharton, Thomas Greeves, Gideon Hill Wells, Richard Hill Morris, and William Parker, their heirs, etc., that the said Benjamin W. Morris shall and will in all things relating to the trust in him confided, abide the written directions of a majority of the parties to this indenture, their votes to be ascertained as aforesaid, and shall and will in all things well and truly execute and perform, fulfill and abide by all and singular the trusts and confidences aforesaid according to the true intent and meaning thereof, and that he shall not wilfully or knowingly do or suffer to be done any act whereby the premises or any part thereof may or can be evicted, incumbered or charged on the title thereof, impeached, or the true intent and meaning of these presents be defeated.

This instrument was duly acknowledged, July 26, 1799, before John D. Cox, president of the court of common pleas of the First district of Philadelphia, and was duly recorded at Williamsport. This great business transaction, or trust, constituted what is vaguely known in history as the "The Pine Creek Land Company," and out of its operations were developed many important land transactions and improvements, which finally culminated in the organization of Tioga county and the founding of Wellsboro. This immense body of land laid in what is now the northwestern part of Lycoming, and the southwestern part of Tioga county. It covered what are now Morris and Delmar townships, and the name of the man in whom the great trust was confided, nearly 100 years ago, is perpetuated by a township and a village.


It apperas that some twelve or fourteen years before the death of Benjamin Wilstar Morris, trouble arose among the members of the land company and several failures occured. By referring to Deed Book F, p. 343, Lycoming county, an article of agreement will be found, which was made April 11, 1811, between Samuel Wells Morris, William Waln, Alexander Henry, Robert Frazier, and Samuel Pancoast, assignees of Thomas Greeves, and John Dorsey and Archibald McCall, assignees of Gideon Hill Wells, of Trenton, which sets forth "that whereas Samuel Wells Morris is lawfully seized and entitled to 36,784 acres of land, William Waln 13,284, and Alexander Henry, Robert Frazier, and Samuel Pancoast, assignees of Thomas Greeves, of 15,000 acres, and John Dorsey and Archibald McCall, assignees of Gideon Hill Wells, of 2,500 acres;" the assignees "appoint John P.DeGruchy and William Cox Ellis, to view, examine and survey 66,568 acres and divide the same in proportion" among the parties; and to "lay off 36,784 acres to the use of Samuel Wells Morris."

The viewers made the division as per request of the assignees, and their work appears in the form of an elaborate table, which is recorded in connection with the "article of agreement" spoken of. As a tabular statement, it is interesting in that it gives a clear insight into the relative ownership of this great body of land eighty-six years ago. It is as follows:

  Samuel W. Morris    
No Acres No Acres
½ of 1584 495 1604 905
1585 990 1605 990
1586 990 1606 990
Part 1587 940 1661 910
1588 990 1607 990
Part 1589 660 1608 990
1590 990 1616 990
1591 990 1617 990
1592 990 1629 990
1593 990 1630 990
1594 990 1631 990
Part 1595 490 1638 990
1597 990 1649 990
1598 990 1650 990
1600 990 1657 990
1601 990 1658 990
1602 990 Part 1628 890
1603 933 Part 1639 590
Part 1627 40 …….. ……
  16,428   17,155
William Wain  
No Acres
Part 1646 760
1647 990
1640 990
1659 990
1648 990
Part 1627 520
½ of 1620 495
1619 990
1612 990
1611 990
1610 990
1609 990
1618 990
Part 1639 400
Alex, Henry, Robt. Frazier and Samuel Pancoast, assignees of Thomas Greeves
1624 953
1615 953
1614 960
1613 976
1623 990
1622 990
Part 1626 700
Part 1642 785
Part 1645 785
1644 906
1666 906
1669 990
1664 990
Part 1627 290
1621 990
1620 495
John Dorsey and Archibald McCall Assignees of Gideon H. Wells
No Acres
1625 990
1643 990
1626 290
Samuel W. Morris 33,583
William Waln 12,075
Alexander Henry et al 13,659
John Dorsey et al 2,270

Quantity laid off to the respective proprietors:

No. 1596, mill tract, reserved by order of William Waln, the division of which is to be determined by the respective proprietors,.....................990

Grants by the company as follows to B. W. Morris,............................................990

Grants by the company as follows:

To B. W. Morris,.................................... .990

To D. Carcher, tract of 100 acres, and tavern tract 130 acres,...............................................230

Grants by B. W. Morris as agent of the company allowed:

To Richard B. Jackson, free gift for services,......................................................................200

To Samson Babb, free gift for services,............................200

To ditto, which he purchased at $4 per acre; but is not yet paid; when it is, it is to be divided among the proprietors in proportion to the respective interests, 130

To James Yarnell, Mordecai M. Jackson, Christian Zimmerman, Samuel W. Morris, and James Diggins, each fifty acres,............................250

Total acres..........................................2,800

Quantity claimed by the respective proprietors:

S. W. Morris,.............................................36,784

William Waln,..............................................13,284

Alexander Henry and others,....................................15,000

John Dorsey and others,.............................................. 2,500

Total quantity by patents,.............................67,568

In 66 1/2 tracts,...................................................................... 65,243



Following the above tabular statement is a long report from the referees (Deed Book M, p. 256, Williamsport), in which they minutely describe the work of division of the land among the respective claiments, and then conclude as follows:

*We hereby further declare, that after mature consideration, we have not thought it for the general interest of the concerned to allot the tract commonly called the "mill tract, No. 1596," as on this tract--containing 990 acres--a grist and saw mill, a dwelling house and other buildings, were erected by the company { Pine Creek Land Company} at a considerable expense, and which, had the settlement progressed, would no doubt have been of great utility to the use of the settlement; those advantages and the value of the buildings are much depreciated. Now, therefore, agreeably to instructions given to us to affix a value on the said buildings and tract, after taking into consideration the present unfavorable situation of the settlement, and the consequent depreciation of property, such as this--which became perishable--when there is no longer any person residing on it; and as we are informed that the premises are likely to be soon deserted, we cannot under all these considerations, place a value on them of more than $2,500, which we are well aware is not half the sum they would have sold for had the affairs of the company been as successful as was expected when the buildings were undertaken.

May 16,1812.

J. P. DeGruchy,

William Cox Ellis,

The mills referred to in the foregoing were those erected by John Norris as early as 1799, on the land waters of Little Pine creek, near the present villiage of Texas, in Lycoming county. Norris came from Philadelphia as the representative of Benjamin Wistar Morris, and the mills were known as "Morris' Mills," and are so referred to in the law authorizing the opening of the State road in 1799. In addition to the mills, store buildings were erected, the object being to found a town on the site. The settlement did not prosper, and the value of the mills and other property greatly depreciated, resulting in the failure of several members of the company, and a re-allotment of the land among those remaining.


One of the first settlers in the vicinity of what is now known as Texas, just over the line in Lycoming county, was John Norris. He came from Philadelphia in 1799, as a representative of Benjamin Wistar Morris, and located on lands covered by warrent No. 1596, and surveyed to Hewes & Fisher, members of the Pine Creek Land Company. it laid about nineteen miles above the mouth of Little Pine creek. Here a saw-mill and a grist-mill, known as "Morris Mills",

were built with the evident purpose of founding a town. Here, also, Norris opened a school, in which himself and his wife taught, until about 1805, when he removed to the "Big Marsh" near Wellsboro, and became interested with BenjaminWistar Morris in promoting the settlement and upbuilding of the latter place. It was near "Morris' Mills" that the famous "English Colony" made a settlement in 1805. This latter place is now known as Oregon Hill, and lies in Pine township, Lycoming county, near the Tioga county line.

Samson Babb settled in Morris township on a stream which bears his name, in 1800. He purchased 450 acres from the Pine Creek Land Company, and built a saw mill and became a pioneer lumberman. Babb was a native of Wilmington, Deleware. As his will bears date May 13, 1814, and as a bond in $4,000 was given by his excecutors, December 14, 1814, he must have died between those dates. He accumulated considerable property and made ample provision for his widow and children. He also possessed some pecular notions, for in his will he said that he wished "to be buried in the northeast corner of my garden and walled in!" The wall never was built, and his grave has been obliterated by a public road passing over it. He left several sons and daughters, and their descendants still live in the county.

Babb's creek, which takes its name from Samson Babb, was an important stream among the Indians. Along its banks ran one of their great trails, which ascended Stoney Fork and passed through Wellsboro. When white men first ascended Babb's creek the trail, they found it well beaten into the ground, showing that it had been traveled for a long time--perhaps for hundreds of years.

The region through which it passed was wild and uninviting. Thick briars and matted vines lined the banks of the stream, and tall pines and hemlocks almost shut out the rays of the sun with their thick foliage. The stream was filled with trout. So abundant were they that with an ordinary hook and bait enough could be caught in one hour to fill a large basket. Wild animals, too, abounded in this mountain fastness, and the rattle of the serpent made music for the ear.


Some idea of the horrors of this wilderness region, when Morris and his family settled on the site of Wellsboro, can be learned from the experiences of Gen. John Burrows, of Montoursville, who made a journey here in the winter of 1802. In his little pamphlet giving some account of his life, which he prepared for his descendants, he tells this thrilling story:

In 1802 I was elected a {Lycoming} county commissioner* * * About this time I received a letter from Dr. Tate introducing William Hill Wells to me, who had settled in the woods {near} where Wellsboro now stands, the county seat of Tioga

Mr. Wells applied to me to furnish him with provisions in his new settlement. He had brought a number of negroes with him from the State of Deleware, where he moved from. I put eighty-eight hundred weight of pork on two sleds and started to go to him with it. It was fine sledding, but dreadful cold weather. In crossing the Allegheny mountain the man I had driving one of the teams froze his feet up to his ankles. I was obliged to leave him, and the next morning put the four horses to one sled, and the pork on it, and started for Wells'. I had six times to cross Pine creek. A man coming into the settlement from that part of the county had frozen to death the day before. I passed him lying in the road!

The second crossing of the creek was about fifty yards wide; when the foremost horses got to the middle of the creek the ice broke with them; the ice was about mid-side deep; and in their attempting to get on the ice again, drew the other horses and sled into the creek and pulled the roller out of the sled. I got the horses ashore and tied them and then went back to the sled and found the water running over the pork. I had to go partly under the water to get an axe that was tied on the sled, to cut a road through the ice to get the sled ashore. Sometimes I was in the water up to my middle, and sometimes I was standing on the ice, the water following the stroke of the axe would fly up, and soon as it touched me was ice.

When I got the road cut to the shore I went to the sled, and getting a log chain, reached under water and hooked it first to one runner and then to the other; then backed the horses in through the road, hitched to the sled and pulled it out.

It was now dark; I had six miles to go and four times to cross the creek, without a roller in my sled to guide it. On descending ground it would run out of the road, when I had difficulty to get it in the road again. There was not a dry thread on me, and the outside of my clothes was frozen stiff. It was twelve {midnight} o'clock before I got to the mill,* the first house before me; and there were neither hay nor stable when I got there. I thought my poor horses would freeze to death.

*supposed to have been the Morris Mills already referred to.

Next morning as soon as the daylight appeared, I cut a stick and put a roller on the sled--the very wood seemed filled with ice. I started from there at ten o'clock, and had fifteen miles to go to Wells'. The snow was two feet deep and there was scarcely a track in the road. I met Mr. Wells' negro five miles this side of his house, coming to meet me, on horseback, about sunset. He said there was a byroad that was a mile nearer than the one I was on, and he undertook to pilot me, but soon lost the path and we wandered about among the trees till at length my sled pitched into a hole and upset. I then unhooked my horses from the sled and asked the negro if he thought he could pilot me to the house, but he acknowledged himself lost.

I looked about and took a view of the stars and started with my four horses, leaving the pork in the wood, and fortunately reached Wells'. When I got there he had neither hay nor stable, or any kind of feed, nor any place to confine my horses, and I had to tie them to a trees. He had a place dug in a log that I could

feed two of my horses at a time!

All the buildings that he had erected were two small cabins, adjoining each other--one for himself and family, about sixteen feet square, that I could not stand straight in--built of logs, with bark for an upper floor, and split logs for the lower floor. The negro cabin was a little larger, but built of the same material. I sat by the fire until morning. It took me all that day to get my pork to the house and settle. I started the next

morning for home without any feed to give my horses, after they had stood there two nights, and the snow was up to their bellies. I have been particular in detailing the circumstances of this trip, leaving you to judge of the hardships that I had to endure; but it is only a specimen of the kind that I had to encounter through life.

The route traveled by General Burrows was by what is known as the "State Road," built in 1799. It is described in the chapter on "Internal Improvements." His description of the primative residence of one of the pioneers of Delmar township will give the reader a vivid idea of the privations endured by the early settlers in the wilderness. The cabin erected by Wells was located about two miles and a half southwest of the site of Wellsboro. He was a brother-in-law of Benjamin Wistar Morris.


The following list of names of the taxables of the county for 1812, taken from the "corrected assessment of seated and personal property" for that year, furnishes the best obtainable information as to who were here as early as the close of 1811, with the amount of real and personal property possessed by each person assessed. This is the earliest assessment to be found on file in the commissioners' office, and appears to have been the first made after the official machinery of the county was in operation. The previous assessments were made under the direction of the authorities of Lycoming county, to which Tioga county was attached, for judicial and other purposes, for several years after its creation in 1804. At the time the assessment was made the county was divided into two townships---Tioga and Delmar--the former created originally in 1797, and the latter in 1805.

Delmar Taxables 1812 Tioga Taxables 1812
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 02 APR 2004
By Joyce M. Tice
Email Joyce M. Tice


Joyce Tip Box -- December 2007 -
If you are not navigating this Tri-Counties Site via the left and right sidebars of the Current What's New page you are doing yourself a disservice. You can get to any place on the site easily by making yourself familiar with these subject and place topics. Try them all to be as familiar with the site's 16,000 plus pages as you can. Stop groping in the dark and take the lighted path. That's also the only way you'll find the search engines for the site or have access to the necessary messages I may leave for you. Make it easy on yourself.