Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
1897 Tioga County History
Chapter 06 - County Organization Completed
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Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
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1897 Tioga County History Table of Contents
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It has been shown that Tioga county was erected March 26, 1804. After this enactment the political affairs of the county seem to have remained in abeyance for about two years. This was doubtless caused by the sparseness of the population and the fact that the territory had belonged to Lycoming. By the act of February 3, 1806, the powers of the commissioners of Lycoming were extended to the districts of Potter and Tioga counties. In other words, a protectorate, so to speak, was to be exercised over them until they were sufficiently strong to set up business for themselves. It was made the duty of the commissioners of the mother county to keep distinct accounts of the moneys collected from each of the aforesaid districts, and the recorder of deeds of Lycoming county was required to provide a separate book for recording the deeds for lands lying within the respective counties of Tioga and Potter. The deed book for Tioga is written in the beautiful round hand of John Kidd, who was the first officer appointed by Governor Mifflin for Lycoming county, and during the first few years of the

existence of that county he held all the offices in the court house, except sheriff and coroner. This deed book is known as No. 1 in the register and recorder's office at Wellsboro. He wrote with a quill pen and his writing is noted for it's plainness, uniformity and simplicity.

The act of March 26, 1804, states that the county seat "shall be fixed by the legislature at any place at a distance not greater than seven miles from the center of the county, which may be most beneficial and convenient for the people." This clause may be attributed to the foresight or sagacity of Benjamin Wistar Morris, agent for the Pine Creek Land Company.

Three trustees were authorized by the legislature to be appointed to supervise the affairs of Tioga and select a site for the county seat. John Fleming and William Ellis of Lycoming, and William Hill Wells, of Tioga, were appointed. The later was a brother-in-law of Morris, and a son of Ellis married a daughter of Morris. Under these conditions it requires no stretch of the imagination to arrive at the conclusion that a majority of the trustees would favor Morris in the selection of the county seat.

The following advertisement appeared January 25, 1806, in Poulson's American Daily Advertiser, published in Philadelphia:


The subscribers having received official information of their having been appointed by the governor trustees for the county of Tioga, hereby give public notice that they are ready to receive proposals for a scite or scites for the county town, and to perform such other duties as the law governing their appointment requires; the increasing population near the center of said county rendering it probable the subject may be brought before the ensuing legislature for the final arrangements.

John Fleming,

Williamsport, Lycoming county. William Hill Wells,

December 11, 1805. William Ellis.

All the preliminaries having been completed, Morris at once proposed to convey a certain number of acres to the trustees on which to locate the county buildings. The offer being satisfactory to these officials, an act was approved March 21, 1806, fixing the seat of justice at Wellsboro, and the trustees were authorized to survey a certain tract of land to include the said town, and to lay out a lot for the public buildings, and to take a deed in fee simple for one half of said tract and lots for the use of the county, and to have it recorded in Lycoming county; to sell the town lots and execute deeds therefore to the purchasers, and reserve the proceeds thereof for the use of the county. It was furthermore stipulated that within six months after the organization of the county the trustees were to surrender their trust to the commissioners of the county, who were to complete the duties to be performed. The trustees were also required to file a draft of their survey in the recorder's office of Lycoming or Tioga counties. This was complied with and the deed and draft may be seen in Deed Book 1, p.1, Tioga county.

July 14, 1806, Benjamin Wistar Morris and his wife, Mary Wells Morris, conveyed to John Fleming, William Hill Wells and William Ellis, "one full and equal moiety," with the usual allowances, etc., of 150 acres of land, agreeably to the proposals made by Mr. Morris to the legislature. This land was originally taken up in the name of James Stewart, and is fully described in the deed, recorded September 6, 1806. The conveyance was made to the above named persons as trustees "for the use of Tioga county forever."

This tract of 150 acres commenced at the intersection of the Delmar and State roads and included the settlement of Mr. Morris. This State road, built in 1799, from Newberry to the 109th mile-stone, had become an important thoroughfare at the time the county seat was located. The selection of this site was the culmination of the plans of Mr. Morris, backed by the influence of the Pine Creek Land Company, for the purpose of founding a town and therefore enhancing the value of the lands.


When Morris succeeded in carrying out his plans, by having the county seat of Tioga located at the place he had selected, and the trustees had formally accepted the same, he named it "Wellsborough" (now by common consent spelled "Wellsboro") in honor of his wife, Mary Hill Wells, who was a sister of Gideon and William Hill Wells. Mrs. Morris had shared his trials and tribulations in the wilderness and he felt that to her was due the compliment of having her name perpetuated in this way. The compliment was worthily bestowed, for she was a good woman. She was born in Philadelphia September 16, 1761, and died in Wellsboro, November 6, 1819. She was reared in the Quaker faith and always wore the garb of those people. The Wells family came from Deleware, and brought with them four slaves---"Uncle Eben Murry and his wife, Aunt Hetty"---who became very worthy citizens of the new town and were greatly respected by the people---and Elias Spencer and his wife, Maria. After a few years' residence here Mr. Wells moved back to Philadelphia, and the tradition is that he gave his farm to Uncle Eben. Mention is made by General Burrows, when he was floundering in the snow and searching for Mr. Wells' house, of meeting one of these slaves on horseback, who undertook to pilot him to the house. Other interests probably called the Wells family away and the fact of their being among the early settlers was almost forgotten.

Morris and his party, however, did not secure the county seat without encountering opposition. Parties living at what was then known as Willardsburg, but now the borough of Tioga, made an effort to induce the trustees to select their place for the county seat, but failed on account of the influence against them being too great. The contention, of course, engendered some bitterness, which lasted for years, but the softening influence of time has removed all feeling.


The Tioga county trustees were authorized by the act to enlarge the ground plot of Wellsboro and to lay off and fix convenient lots, not exceeding two acres, for the public buildings. The balance of the ground was to be laid out in lots and offered for sale, and the trustees were authorized to appropriate part of the moneys arising from these sales to open the streets and lanes of the town and to clean the land of timber and lease the same.

These duties having been performed, the act empowered the people to elect a board of county commissioners at the October election, 1808, when the powers of the commissioners of Lycoming county over Tioga should cease; but the court of Lycoming county was required to appoint auditors from time to time to audit the accounts until the new county was entitled to exercise full judicial privileges. The costs of laying out and opening roads, and of criminal prosecutions and other orders drawn by the commissioners of Lycoming county and countersigned by the commissioners of Tioga.


While negotiations were pending for the location of the new town, Morris and his friends were not idle. As soon as the act of March 21, 1806, fixing the seat of justice, had become a law, Morris proceeded to announce the sale of lots. The following advertisement appeared in the Lycoming Gazette, under date of November 13, 1806, offering superior inducements to purchasers:

Lots and Lands in and near Wellsborough, the County Town of Tioga, State of

Pennsylvania, for sale.

The County Town of Tioga, called Wellsborough, having been established by an act of the legislature, on that part of the lands of the subscriber on which he resides, and he being desirous that the county should be as early as possible entitled by its population to a separate representation in the Legislature, offers to the first ten families who shall purchase and reside in the said County Town, the following advantageous terms, etc.

Their choice of one lot each, at twenty dollars, situate in such part of the town as they shall select; every lot is sixty feet front and 250 feet in depth; and also the priviliage of purchasing an out lot of fifty acres adjoining to the town, at two dollars and fifty cents per acre, payable in four, five or six years, the first three without interest. The proprietors of the lands {Pine Creek Land Company} in the vicinity of the town also offer to the first ten families, so purchasing and residing, the priviliage of accommodating themselves with Farms of from 100 to 200 acres at the same price of two dollars and fifty cents per acre, and on the same terms of payment.

The town of Wellsborough is laid out on the same plan as the City of Philadelphia, and near the center of the new county, and is surrounded by a large body of lands of the first quality. A grist mill, a saw mill, and a store, are situated within one mile of the town, and the State road to the Genesee country passes through it. For more particular information apply to:

Benjamin W. Morris,

On the premises, or to

Samuel W. Fisher,

In Philadelphia.

November 13, 1806.

Compared with the price of land here to-day, the above offer is calculated to excite surprise at its cheapness ninety years ago. And it shows, also, the great appreciation in values during that period--an advance mounts up into a high percentage.

The act of February 1, 1808, authorized the appointment of James Dixon, of Delaware, and Samuel Wells Morris, of Wellsboro, trustees, in place of William Ellis, deceased, and William Hill Wells, who had resigned and settled at Trenton. The act conferred upon Dixon, Morris and Fleming, the same powers that had been exercised by the original board.


It has been shown in Chapter III, when Tioga township was set off from Lycoming. In all previously published histories of Tioga county it is stated that Delmar was formed by dividing Tioga in 1808. This is incorrect. In the records of May sessions, 1805, is this entry: "Petition to divide Tioga township granted by the court as per petition filed. The court appointed William Benjamin to run the township line." The decree for the division of Tioga township was made by Judge William Hepburn, sitting at Williamsport, where all the judicial business of Tioga county was transacted until the close of 1812. In Benjamin's report he says: "Began at the 93rd mile-stone, on the New York State line; thence south twenty-five miles to Brier Hills, and thence to the line of Mifflin and Lycoming townships," in Lycoming county.

This is positive and official evidence that Delmar was created in 1805. At that time Tioga township embraced the whole of Tioga county, and as Delmar was the name of the divided portion of the original township, there is no doubt that its organization was authorized at this time. Delmar was not interfered with until 1814, nine years after its creation, when Deerfield and Elkland townships were set off. When this division was made, in 1814, the surveyor drew a draft of Delmar, as it appeared when dismembered, which is now on file at Wellsboro. The eastern line which commenced at the 93rd mile-stone, on the New York boundary line, and extended south to the line of Lycoming county. The western boundary was the Potter county line, which commences at the 115th mile-stone. The township, by this measurement, was twenty-two by thirty-one miles, almost square, and contained 682 square miles, or 436,480 acres. As the entire county is shown to have but 719,360 acres, it will be seen that Delmar was then much larger than Tioga, the parent township.

We have further evidence that Delmar was a township before the time (1808) assigned for its beginning in previous histories of the county. In a little book containing a record of orders issued by the commissioners of Lycoming county in 1807, we have the following:

July 6, 1807, John Norris and Timothy Coats, supervisors of roads for Delmar Township. Road tax on unseated lands for the year 1807, on account Tioga county:

Order No. 96 $50.00

Order No. 97 50.00

Order No. 98 50.00

Order No. 99 50.00

Order No. 100 137.69

Order No. 101 200.00

Order No. 102 100.00

Order No. 103 21.69

TOTAL $659.38

It does not appear why those eight different orders should be issued on the same day--July 6, 1807. But they show very clearly that a township organization existed in the first half of 1807. It is probable, therefore, that the township machinery was started in 1806 and was fairly in running order in 1807.

Immediately following the foregoing road tax orders is No. 104, which reads as follows:

July 6, 1807, Timothy Coats in full for one full grown, wolf head, certified by John Norris, Esq., Tioga county, $8.00.

The securing of wolf and panther scalps, and the collection of the bounties thereon, was one of the industries of the pioneers in those days; and, as has been shown elsewhere, it amounted to a handsome sum in the aggregate. Norris and Coats, as road supervisors, had an excellent opportunity to acquire a few dollars in this line, as the country was wild and these animals were among its principal productions.


At the October election of 1808 the first commissioners for Tioga county were chosen. The board does not seem to have done much the first year, probably on account of unsettled condition of affairs with reference to Lycoming county.

One of their first acts--the first of any importance--which is found entered on the minute book, still preserved in the office, is dated June 23, 1809, and reads as follows:

At a meeting of the commissioners at the home of David Lindsey it was resolved that every person who purchases a lot in the town of Wellsborough shall be obligated to build a house fit for a family to dwell in; and at the time of the purchaser's receiving his deed he shall sign an article with the commissioners which shall compel him to build his house within the term of one year from the time he engages his lot.

Nathan Niles,

Caleb Boyer,

Ira Kilburn,


This was an imperative order, and was probably made for the purpose of preventing speculators from buying the lots and then holding them for an advance in prices. It was particularly desirable to have bona-fide settlers in order to build up the town as rapidly as possible.

In 1809 the board consisted of George Hart, Nathan Niles, and Uriah Spencer, Kilburn having retired at the end of one year. At a meeting held January 1, 1810, it was resolved by the board "that the sum of $1,772 appears to us to be necessary to meet the current expenses of the ensuing year, and that it is necessary to lay the rates, both on real and personal property made taxable, at three-fourths of a cent on each dollar of the present valuation." This estimate is officially signed by the board, and compared with the annual estimates of to-day it will surprise the commissioners as well as the taxpayers.


The general expenses of Tioga county in account with the funds of said county, commencing November 30, 1808, and ending October 5, 1809, shows her financial condition the first year her commissioners had charge of the county affairs. The statement as printed in the Lycoming Gazette of that year as follows

To sundry incidental expenses 13.00

To East and West road, 3.75

To Ira Kilburn, commissioner, 77.19

To John Norris, for clerk hire, 133.22

To Nathan Niles, commissioner, 81.33

To supervisors of Tioga township, 358.39

To Caleb Boyer, commissioner, 5.33

To Samuel W. Morris, Treasurer, 106.54

To total expenses of East and West road, 2,416.49

To wolf and panther heads 144.00

To expenses of assessment 22.00

To supervisors of Delmar township 472.20

TOTAL $3,833.44

Contra ----Cr.

By the tax on unseated lands for Delmar township 651.11 1/2

for the year 1809,

By road tax for the year 1809, 651.11 1/2

By the tax upon unseated land for Tioga township

for the year 1809, 540.57

By road taxes, 540.57

By the amount of taxes on the seated lands, and other taxable

property of Delmar township for the year 1809, 131.63 1/2

By the amount of taxes on the seated lands, and other taxable

property of Tioga township for the year 1809, 152.28

Balance 1,166.15 1/2

Total $3,833.44

The amount of orders issued by the commissioners from November 30, 1808, to October 5, 1809, which follows the above expense account, shows a total of $3, 097.21.

It is interesting to look over this itemized account. There are many orders for work on the roads-- in fact the bulk of the disbursements was for work of this kind. The fact that fierce wild animals abounded at that time is evidenced by the payment of $64 for eight panthers heads, and $72 for the heads of nine wolves. Eight dollars per head was the bounty paid for the destruction of these animals. John Norris, whom it seems was called upon in these early days to fill many offices, was paid $60 for clerks wages, and he received $270 for performing the duties of supervisor. Aaron Bloss, the founder of Blossburg, was paid $50 for serving as supervisor also. Roads were in their primitive condition at that time, and many were little better than Indian paths.

The account of Samuel Wells Morris, the first treasurer of the county, commencing October 20, 1808, and ending October 5, 1809, contrasts strangely with similar statements of to-day. It was published in the Lycoming Gazette of December 13, 1809, and is as follows:


To the amount of taxes received on unseated lands, $ 97.63

Ditto, of collectors, 124.35

Sales of town lots and land, 188.71


Balance due treasurer, 93.12


Contra – Cr.

By amount of orders paid $379.67

By amount of orders paid 49.14

Salary, 75.00


Two of the commissioners, Nathan Niles and Ira Kilburn, certify that they have examined the account of the treasurer and find it correct, whereupon they set their hands and seals. The statement is also attested by John Norris, the first clerk of the board. Compared with the pay of the county treasurer of to-day, the salary of $75 paid Treasurer Morris eighty-eight years ago sounds strange. To-day the office is probably worth $2,500 to the incumbent, and the increase shows the advance in material development and prosperity.

Nothing further of importance is found on the minute book until we come to 1812, when the following itemized estimate of expenses for 1813 appears:

Commissioner's Office, Nov. 5, 1812.

Memorandum of the probable expenses of the county of Tioga for the year 1813, done by the board of commissioners at this meeting, viz:

Boards and work for court $100.00

Four grans juries, 24 men, three days each 200.00

Four common juries, 36 men, four days each 576.00

Wood, candles, crier, etc., for court 100.00

Prothonotary and commissioners office, to be built 300.00

Commissioners and clerks wages, 400.00

Treasurers salary 400.00

Wolf and panther scalps 300.00

Jail fees, 50.00 Viewing roads 100.00

Building a jail, 400.00

Assessors wages, 30.00

Seals for different offices, 60.00

Total $3,016.00

One cent on the dollar was laid. The estimate is signed by Eddy Howland alone, as commissioner, and attested by John Norris, clerk.

The minute books of the commissioners, from 1815 to 1820, are missing, so that a detailed statement of the financial transactions of those years cannot be given. From the journals, however, the following figures, representing expenditures for the years named, have been gathered:

1814, $3,514. 1827, $6,130.

1815, 4,725. 1828 6,350.

1825, 4,937. 1829, 7,480.

1826, 8,080. 1830, 7,505.

A published statement of the quota of taxes for the several townships in the county for the year 1819----found in a copy of the Lycoming Gazette of March 10, 1819, supplies, to a certain extent, the missing information for one of the years in the above table. It is as follows:

Townships. Improved. Unseated. Total Amt.

Delmar $254.30 $1,095.35 $1,349.65

Deerfield 184.73 325.12 459.85

Elkland 102.06 252.40 354.46

Lawrence 149.66 134.17 283.83

Tioga 95.83 141.04 236.87

Covington 120.38 506.28 626.65

Sullivan 86.19 347.31 427.50

Jackson 49.19 203.76 252.95


Assessments on the unseated lands, as returned by the supervisors of roads

for the year 1819, 1,841.43

Total, $5,833.20

The statement of orders issued by the commissioners, from September 18,1817, to September 19, 1818, shows a total of $5,913.00. Among the items is one of $566 for grand and traverse jurors, this being the largest sum paid by the county for any single purpose, except for payments made to supervisors, which was $1,841.43. For panther and wolves heads $136 was paid. Candles for the offices cost $4, and $142.87 was paid for wood for the offices and jail. Stationery cost $10, and John M. Kilburn received $27 for serving as court crier. Public printing cost $45, and William Patton, the first resident lawyer, was paid $12.54 counsel fees. The total pay of the three commissioners for the year was $373, and the highest amount paid was $151 to John Knox; the other two received, respectively, $120 and $102.

The earlier growth of the county was slow. In 1800 the census returns showed 122 taxable, scattered along the valleys of the Tioga and the Cowanesque rivers. In 1804, when the county was created, it had a population of about 800 souls. In 1820, the census returns show 4,132 inhabitants. Ten years later the number was 9,071, an increase of 4,939. In 1840 the population was 15,498; in 1850, 23,987; 1860, 31,121; 1870, 35,097; 1880, 45,814, and 1890, 53,313.

With the increase in population came a proportionate increase in wealth. Year by year the area of cleared land was enlarged, and a better class of farm houses replaced the log cabins of the first settlers. Villages and towns sprung up, and new industrial enterprises were established. Then came the railroad, the development of the coal deposits, and a greater activity in all departments of industry. The result is the county of to-day, rich, prosperous and progressive, with a past to be proud of and a future promising still greater achievements.

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 27 APR 2004
By Joyce M. Tice
Email Joyce M. Tice


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