Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
A Short History of Asylum by Ingham
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
A Short History of Asylum

by J. W. Ingham, 1916

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M. CHARLES FELIX BEU BOULOGNE, who had been a lawyer in Paris, and could speak the English language fluently, and Adam Hoops, who had been a Major in General Sullivan's army, and had passed up the river in 1779, and was acquainted with the Susquehanna Valley from Wilkes-Barre to the State line of New York, sent on a tour of observation up the river to select a suitable place for the proposed settlement. They carried the following letter, dated August 8th, 1793, from Robert Morris, who had managed the financial affairs of the United States with great wisdom and success during the Revolutionary war, and was supposed to be very wealthy. His letter was addressed to Matthias Hollenback, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and to others to whom Mr. Boulogne and Mr. Hoops may apply:

"Should Mr. Boulogne find it necessary to purchase provisions or other articles in your neighborhood for the use of himself and his company, I beg you will assist him therein, or should you supply him yourself and take his draft on this place, you may rely that they will be paid, and I will hold myself accountable. Any service it may be in your power to render this gentleman, or his companions, I shall be thankful for, and remain

Sir Your Ob't Servant,


To Mr. Dunn at Newtown,

Messrs. James Tower & Co., at Northumberland.

Or to any other person to whom Mr. Boulogne, Mr. Adam Hoops and the gentlemen in their company may apply, also to Matthias Hollenback, Esq., Wilkes-Barre.

(This letter of credit was endorsed on the back as follows): "I do hereby certify that the within letter is a true copy of the original which is in my hands, as witness my hand this 27th day of August, A. D. 1793."


I have not copied their spelling lest some reader might think they were not well educated. Their spelling was correct for the time in which they wrote.

Boulogne and Hoops struck across the country from Philadelphia to Northumberland, and thence followed up the North Branch of the Susquehanna to Wilkes-Barre, where they arrived August 27, 1793, and delivered the Morris letter of credit to Matthias Hollenback, who had several stores and trading posts along the river up to Tioga Point. The letter is still in the possession of the Hollenback family.

After a careful examination of different localities, Mr. Boulogne and his party selected the Schufeldt flats, now called Frenchtown, in the township of Asylum, nearly opposite the Rummerfield station on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, for the settlement. The flats were named after Peter Schufeldt, a Palatine emigrant, who had come from the Mohawk region and settled there for a short time, and then went to Tulpehocken in Berks county, where Conrad Weiser and other Germans from the Mohawk valley had settled.

The location of Schufeldt flats was satisfactory to the French, only on the condition that all the settlers on it could be bought out, and that both the Pennsylvania, and Connecticut titles could be secured at a reasonable price. Judge Hollenback obtained the Connecticut title, and Mr. Morris the Pennsylvania claim.

The names of settlers holding Pennsylvania patents were discovered by Mr. J. A. Biles, a surveyor, who has been an indefatigable investigator of land titles, and of facts concerning the French settlement at Asylum. The names are as follows: Archibald Stewart, William Nicholson, David Lindsay, Robert Stevens and John Bowne (or Bohem). The prices paid for the 300 acre lots varied from $133 to $800. The difference in prices depended upon the value of the improvements.

In the early part of October, 1793, Mr. Boulogne purchased the possession of Simon Spalding at the lower end of Standing Stone, who then removed to Sheshequin. Boulogne took the deed in his own name and lived on the place. There was not much chance for the settlers on the lands to charge exorbitant prices for their possessions. In case they had only the Connecticut title, Mr. Morris would alarm them with a writ of ejectment. If they had the Pennsylvania title, Mr. Hollenback would show them that their lands were within the boundaries of one of the seventeen townships in which only the Connecticut title was good, and would hold the land. Under date of October 9th, 1793, Mr. Morris wrote to Mr. Hollenback as follows:

"Sir: I rec'd your letter of Sept. 14th, and also one from Mr. Talon and forwarded them both to him for his information and consideration. The one addressed to him he has returned with his observations, but that which was directed to me he has neglected to send back, so that if I omit to answer any points contained in it you must excuse me, as I cannot do it from mere memory. Messrs. de Noailles and Talon desire to make the purchase of the eight lots, or tracts, that compose the tracts of land called "the Standing Stone," and also the island, or islands, which they mentioned to you, but they will have all or none. This they insist on as an absolute condition, as you will see by a copy of their observations on nine articles extracted from the contents of your letter to Mr. Talon.

"They do not object to the prices or terms of payment stated in your letter, but you will perceive by their decision to have all or none, that it will be necessary to make conditional contracts with each of the parties, fixing the terms, and binding them to grant conveyances of their right upon the performance of the conditions by you, on your part, but reserving to yourself for a reasonable time to make the bargain valid, or to annul it. If you can get the whole of them under such convenants, under hand and seal, you can then make the whole valid and proceed to perform the conditions and take the conveyances in the name of Mr. Talon, but should any of these parties refuse to sell or raise in their demands so that you cannot comply with them, you can in such case hold the rest in suspense until Mr. Hoops or you send me an express to inform me of all particulars, which will give my friends an opportunity to consider and determine finally.

"Mr. Adam Hoops will deliver this letter. He possesses my confidence and will be glad to render the best assistance, or service in his power upon occasion. He must, however, act under you for in any other character, the Connecticut men would consider him a new purchaser, and rise in their demands. He will go with you if you choose, or do any thing you may desire to accomplish the object in view. You and he will, therefore, consult together as to the best mode of proceeding, and I must observe that although Mr. Talon has agreed to the prices and terms demanded by the Connecticut claimants, yet I can not help thinking them very dear, and more so as we have been obliged to purchases the Pennsylvania title, which Mr. Hoops will inform you of. I hold it then as incumbent on you to obtain the Connecticut rights on the cheapest terms that is possible, and you may, with the great propriety let them know, if you think best to do so, that unless they will be content with reasonable terms that we will bring ejectments against them, or rather that you will do it and try the strength of title, in which case they will get nothing.

"Whatever you do must be done soon. Winter is approaching, and these gentlemen are extremely anxious to commence the operations necessary to the settlement they intend to make, but they will not strike a stroke until the whole of the lots are secured for them, and unless the whole are obtained they give up the settlement and will go to some other part of America.

"I engage to make good the agreements and contracts you may enter into consistently with your letter of the 14th of September last to Mr. Talon, and with his observations thereon, a copy of which Mr. Hoops will give to you if desired, and to enable you to make the payments according to these stipulations which you may enter into in that respect. I shall also pay the order for a thousand dollars already given you on their account.

"The settlement which these gentlemen mediate at the Standing Stone is of great importance to you, and not only to you, but to all that part of the country. Therefore, you ought, for your own interest, and the interest of your country, to exert every nerve to promote it. They will be of great service to you, and you should render them disinterestedly every service possible. Should they fail of establishing themselves at the Standing Stone there is another part of Pennsylvania which I should prefer for them, and if they go there, I will do everything for them that I possibly can.

"I am, Sir, your obedient humble servant,


Matthias Hollenback, Esq.,

Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Mr. Morris frequently uses capital letters where they are not needed, and often makes the character "&" serve for "and;" mistakes which I have not copied. College graduates and members of

Congress make mistakes when their minds are intently fixed on their subject. What the reader will wonder at is his copious, diffusive style of writing, requiring twice the space necessary to make the subject equally clear.

All the lots were purchased in accordance with Mr. Morris' directions, and the conveyances legally executed early in 1794. On the 19th of October, 1793, Mr. Boulogne wrote from Standing Stone to Mr. Hollenback as follows:

"I received from Mr. Towne the favor of yours, dated the 11th instant, and your boat also arrived here a few days after. All that was enumerated in your bill of lading has been delivered, and you are therefore credited on my account of 48£, 10s, 2p, this currency. When you send me the price of the ox cart, cows, and bell, I shall do the same. The cows are exceedingly poor and hardly give any milk, but I hope they will come to, and therefore we will see one another on that account; but I cannot help observing to you that your blacksmith hath not treated us well. The chains and tools are hardly worth anything. The iron is so bad or tender, that it breaks like butter. I wish you to mention it to him for the future. The difficulty of having the buildings (finished) and a great many articles of provisions in proper time hath determined us, and the gentlemen in Philadelphia, to lessen them, (the expense), and as Mr. Keating hath told you, the expenses will of course be lessened, there fore I have not sent you the draft for $3000.00 which we spoke of when I was in Wilkes-Barre, and one of the gentlemen who will deliver you this letter is going to Philadelphia; if you are not gone will be very glad of your company. Will you see Messrs. Talon and de Noailles in that city and send, or bring their answer on things relating to the expenses?

"I will be obliged to you to deliver to the other gentleman who is coming back here directly as much money as you possibly can, or the $1250.00 which remain in your hands for my draft on Robert Morris, Esq.; and you will take his receipt and charge it to my account. You may also make me debtor for the sum of 13£ 17s 6d, which Mr. John Whitney hath given me for your account and of which you will dispose according to the note herein enclosed, having credited you here of the same.

"Esq. Hancock had not yet concluded his bargain with Gaylord; and Skinner, you know is now of the greatest importance to have it concluded, as well as the one of Ross; otherwise it will stop me here, all at once the gentlemen in Philadelphia being determined to have the whole, or none at all, or to reject the whole purchase from Mr. Morris.

"In your letter you speak to me of having bought from Ross the house and part of the land; but you don't tell me the quantity of land. I hope you have concluded the whole; and beg of you to say something to me of that account in your letter and explain it well, because of your answer I shall either go on with the buildings or stop them immediately.

I remain with esteem, Yours,



"Sir: In buying from Mr. Ross you must absolutely buy the crop which is in the ground. Everybody here is sorry you have not done it so, for the other purchase, because it keeps one year entirely without enjoying our property.

"I have received the cloth that was over Mr. Talon's boat; but you have forgot to send me by your boat the frying pan, salt, axes, &c., that Mr. Ross hath returned to you. Be kind enough to send by the first opportunity the sack of things belonging to Mr. Michael, which by mistake I sent, or left, at your house."

Toward the last of November he wrote to Mr. Hollenback to send up some Franklin stoves and pipe, since the weather had become so cold the masons could not build chimneys. Other letters indicate that during the whole autumn Mr. Boulogne was engaged busily in making the needful arrangements for the reception of the colonists. Workmen were employed in building houses, repairing fences, on the cleared fields, and making other improvements. A large number of men were employed, as he speaks of wanting a thousand dollars to pay his workmen.

About the middle of November, Mr. de Noailles, who continued to reside in Philadelphia, visited the place where the work was going on, which now took the name of Asylum, or "Azylum" (as the French pronounced it), and as the American residents also pronounced it for many years afterwards. The plan of the settlement was determined on, and the whole plan accurately surveyed into town, and outlying lots. A map of this French survey is still in existence, but badly worn and yellow with age. Mr. John A. Biles, an experienced surveyor, has made an excellent copy, an impression of which is printed in this history.

The lots purchased at Asylum contained 2400 acres, and in addition the Asylum Company had secured a title to a large number of tracts of unimproved, or "wild land" (as it was termed) in the counties of Bradford, Sullivan, Lycoming, and Luzerne, which were sold on liberal terms to actual settlers. The plan for the village was nearly a parallelogram. Five streets were laid out running due north, and south; these were crossed at right angles by nine other streets, each street being 50 feet in width. Near the center of the plot was an open square containing about two acres. The middle street of the five streets was 100 feet wide, twice the width of the others.

Four hundred and thirteen house lots were surveyed containing about an acre each. There were also on the west side adjoining the town, seventeen lots of five acres each, and fifteen lots of ten acres each, which were called town lots. One hundred thousand acres of wild land were purchased by subscription on the Loyal Sock creek, now Sullivan county, 2500 acres of which were divided into town shares of 400 acres each. When any part of this land was cleared by a subscriber, he received nine dollars per acre out of the common fund. "Fabulous sums were anticipated," says Mr. Craft, in his history of Bradford county, from this land speculation.

Mr. Boulogne bent all his energies to get the houses ready for the colonists in the early Spring, and was favored with mild weather which continued until nearly Christmas. The houses which were being built were mostly two stories in height, built of hewn logs, squared on four sides and planed to make them fit closely together and for good appearance. They were roofed with pine shingles and all the houses had a good cellar under the dining room. In the interior they had good floors and generally were papered. To the native Americans their houses looked like palaces. Their good doors, large glass windows and shutters, and piazzas, or porches, were regarded as extravagant. A few of the residents had some furniture that came from France, and all had their houses better furnished than most of the "Yankees." The settlers in Bradford County, by having come mainly from Connecticut, were so called by the French.

The house built by Talon was the most pretentious of any in the village and was said to be the largest log house ever built in America. It was generally known as "La Grande Maison" or the great house. It was guilt of hewn logs like the others, with shingle roof. It was about 84 feet long and 60 feet wide, two stories high, with a spacious attic. There were four stacks of chimneys and eight fire places on each floor. The windows were all square, with small panes of square glass. There was no hooded, or fancy work about the windows. On each floor there was a hall from 8 to 12 feet wide, running the entire length of the building, with outside doors at each end. There were three rooms on the side next [to] the river, and four on the other. The four rooms were of equal size. On the river side the middle room was twice the size in length of the others, and extending into the hall, with double doors set crosswise on each corner, opposite of each was a broad flight of stairs leading to the upper story. In each end of this room were fire places, one much larger than the other. "So large indeed," Mrs. Louise Murray says in her history, "that when it was used by the Laportes, after the colony had been broken up and the house vacated, oxen were used to drag back-logs right into the room." These big fire places were common in those days. In the center of the side was a double door with the upper half set with small panes of glass. On each side of this door were very large French windows, reaching from the floor nearly to the ceiling. Boards, planed and matched, were used for ceilings and walls instead of lath and plaster. Most of the wood work was planed, but unpainted. The stairs had rails and posts of black walnut. This house was built for Talon and occupied by him. It stood on lot No. 418 just north of the house now standing built by Judge Laporte in 1839, now owned by the Hagerman family.

The big house in which Talon resided was torn down in 1846. Traces of the foundation are still to be seen. Mrs. Murray says, "As long as it stood the large room was called the 'French ladies' drawing room,' where doubtless were gathered all the famous visitors to the colony, and here Talon's generous hospitality was dispensed."

Some houses were built on the bank of the river for slaves. A few of the exiles had been residents of San Domingo at the breaking out of the slave insurrection and had fled from the "Horrors of San Domingo" to the United States, and joined the colony of Asylum. They soon learned that they could not hold their slaves in Pennsylvania, and the slaves were not long in finding out that here they were free, and took "French leave" by leaving their masters. One forsaken master was greatly aggrieved at the loss of a slave, and endeavored to recover him. He addressed the following letter to Mr. Hollenback:

"Asylum, April 1st, 1796.

Sir: I hope you will not take it ill if I address myself to you, and claim your assistance. A negro [sic] man about 20 years of age, stoutly built ran away from my house night before last. He can hardly speak a word of English. He took away a new axe, a couple of new shirts, several pairs of linen, and cloth trousers, two blankets, and a hat with a blue ribbon. He says he is free, though he is bound for no less than fourteen years. I would take it as a great favor if you would be so kind as to have him advertised. I will give five dollars reward, and pay all reasonable charges. If in return I could be of any service to you, please to dispose of your

Very obedient, humble servant,


The binding for 14 years must have been in accordance with some law of San Domingo.

A large number of men were employed in clearing land and building houses. Some of the mechanics came up from Wilkes-Barre, but ordinary labor was plentifully supplied from the surrounding country. Much of their supplies of building materials and provisions for workmen were sent up in boats by Judge Matthias Hollenback. The distance by the crooked river from Wilkes-Barre to Asylum was about 75 miles, and it required four or five days to make the trip. By the nearest road on the west side of the river the distance was not more than 59 miles.
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