Mr. Miner supposes Mr. Hollenback to be a native of Virginia.
But Mr. Peck, of later day, on the authority of Mr. H.’s family, records
his birth at Jonestown, Lancaster County, PA.
Mr. H. came to Wyoming at an early period of its settlement by Connecticut people, identified himself with its interests, and was valiant for the defense of the settlers, whose cause he considered just. But after the decision of the Court of Trenton, he yielded to it, and was always a faithful subject of the laws of Pennsylvania. He was well known among the brave and generous, in those days that tried men’s souls; a man of common height, but stout, remarkably active, enterprising and successful in business, and possessing strong powers of mind.
At the close of the Revolutionary War in 1783, Mr. Hollenback was employed by the government to supply the Indians, according to treaty, with articles they might need, such as brooches, beads, blankets, and whiskey, and made his first establishment quite into the Indian country, at Newtown, a little below Elmira. John Shepard, my father, was his clerk in 1784. It was there an Indian who became offended with Mr. Hollenback, made an attempt upon his life. He came into the store quite intoxicated, with his long knife concealed under his blanket, while Hollenback was writing at his desk. He drew near to him, and when preparing to make a plunge, young Shepard, who had been watching him, saw his knife, and suspecting his design, and having an ax helve in his hand, came up behind him, and struck the Indian a heavy blow on his arm, when the knife dropped and the assassin made his escape.
Before the country was much settled by white people, Mr. Hollenback established stores in many places along the Susquehanna River. He came to Tioga Point in 1783. He first occupied a small temporary building, connected with the house of Mr. Alexander, on a cross street from the Chemung to the Susquehanna River, on the east side of the main street, just above the Chemung bridge, opposite the ferry, and near where Mr. Samuel Hepburne’s store was, on the Susquehanna River. The pine trees were growing quite down into the village, but where these stores stood was cleared ground and meadow. Being near the site of Fort Sullivan, it is supposed that the ground having been more occupied, the low brush had not sprung up. The fort is said to have been built of earth and pine brush.
Mr. Hollenback built his store on the corner of the lot adjoining the public square,* about the time the town was laid out, in 1786. Very many remember this large, two-story building of hewn logs, in later days clapboarded, to give it a more modern appearance. It was a house and store together. The store was a long room, on the south side.
* Now the property of Mr. C. Hunsicker
On the north were a parlor, sitting room and kitchen. The upper
rooms were pleasant and airy, and all the rooms had corner fireplaces,
built of stone. This building might furnish material for a history
by itself. No pen has recorded the number of births, deaths, and
marriages that have taken place in that one tenement. Some of the
elite of our country have dwelt there. Congressmen, judges, lawyers,
teachers, merchants, farmers, and mechanics have helped successively to
make up the inmates of this antiquated dwelling.
It was here Mr. Hollenback opened his “new store,” with its variety and attractions; dry goods and groceries for the whites, and beads, brooches, and blankets for the Indians, and rum for both. Mr. Daniel McDowell was clerk.
The country was greatly accommodated by these early merchants. Many choice and useful articles were brought up the river from Philadelphia, in boats, for “Hollenback’s store,” and so great was the importance of this establishment that letters to individuals were addressed to “Hollenback’s store,” and the town itself was known more by that than name than any other.
The Indians did not all flee before Sullivan’s army. Many that were feeble or peaceable were allowed to remain. It is related that at Catharine, the army found an aged Indian woman, alone and destitute. They built her a cabin, provided wood and provisions for her, and found her there when they returned.
After the treaty of peace with Great Britain, many of the natives came back to their hunting and fishing ground. It was hard to leave the lands they had inherited from their fathers. In a little time they became insolent and troublesome; and when stimulated by strong drink they were dangerous neighbors. At one time when Mr. H. was in his store, an Indian threw a brand of fire through a broken window on a barrel of gunpowder. With instant thought, young Shepard, who was now clerk at this place, seized the brand, picked off the coals, and brushed off the flashing powder, scattered on the head of the barrel, and thus saved them all from sudden destruction.
Judge Hollenback has often been heard to say: “That brave John Shepard has twice saved my life.” They were friends in later life, and always seemed happy to meet and recount early times and adventures.
Judge Hollenback was not long stationary at one place. It was enough to employ his time, to go from one trading post to another, and leave his business with efficient clerks. But he continued to make improvements at Tioga Point. He dug a well near his large “house and store” which still supplies water, “sparkling and bright.” He planted apple trees, some of which now stand, and bear fruit, and are ornaments on that beautiful lot. May the trees and the well long remain! He built a tenant house of logs on the same lot near the south line, which has accommodated many a family. Some have lived in good style in these buildings, with neatly papered rooms, carpeted floors, and handsome drapery. He also built a storehouse on the bank of the Chemung River, which accommodated the merchants generally. From there was heard the boat horn, sounding long and loud, more than a half a century ago, announcing the arrival of new goods, which produced greater sensation among the inhabitants than the arrival of cars at the depot at a later date. The old storehouse at length became useless, was undermined by water, and finally was set on fire, and vanished from our sight. The tenant house began to decay, and was torn down, and in 1849 the “Hollenback house and store” was deliberately torn down, and the cellar filled up, being about 63 years since it was built.
John Jacob Astor once proposed a partnership in the fur trade with Mr. Hollenback, but having sufficient business to engage him on the Susquehanna, Mr. H. declined.
After many years they met, and Mr. Astor intimated to Mr. Hollenback that he would take care of his son, if he would send him to him, to which he replied, “I thank you, sir; he can take care of himself.” Which proved true in the prosperous life of George M. Hollenback.
In 1793, at the time of the revolution in France, Colonel Hollenback was employed by the Governor of Pennsylvania, the agent of Louis XVI, to provide a place of retreat for the royal family of France, at some secluded spot on the Susquehanna. He purchased a tract of land in Luzerne, now Bradford County, which they called Asylum, to which place a large number of French families fled for protection, and where several of their descendants still remain.
At the time of Sullivan’s march up the valley of Wyoming, as the army
passed through Sheshequin valley, Captain Simon Spalding, who commanded
a company, was much pleased with the appearance and location of the place,
and resolved to make that his future residence. Captain Spalding
was a native of Plainfield, Conn. He was born in 1741, married Ruth
Shepard, and removed to Wyoming at an early period of its settlement, and
died at Sheshequin, in 1814. He was a large man, of fine personal
appearance. He was a captain in the Revolutionary War, and was constituted
General in the militia after he removed to Sheshequin. He with his
family, and several of his neighbors, removed from Wyoming to Sheshequin,
in May, 1783. This beautiful valley was at that time covered with
Indian grass, five or six feet high, to which these pioneers set fire,
which ran through the valley about four miles. General Spalding,
with his numerous sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law,
occupied the upper part of the valley. The sons were John and Chester.
John married Wealthy Gore, daughter of Obadiah Gore, Esq. Chester
married Sarah Tyler, sister of Francis Tyler of Athens.
The daughters were: Mrs. Joseph Kinney, Mrs. Moses park, Mrs. William Spalding, mother of the late Robert Spalding, and Mrs. Briggs, well known among us, and Mrs. Kingsbury, wife of Colonel Joseph Kingsbury, known as a prominent surveyor and agent.
These all had large and uncommonly fine looking families.
Other families were added to the number: Mr. Fuller, Mr. Hoyt, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Snyder, and Mr. Shaw, father of the surviving son, now over ninety-four years of age.
These families all had pleasant farms allotted them, extending from the river back to the mountain. They first bought of the Susquehanna Company, under Connecticut title, in which state they enjoyed peace, quietness, and prosperity, and were able also to meet the Pennsylvania claim, hard as they might have felt it to be, when it was presented.
They found in this beautiful valley a variety of nuts and wild fruit, plums and cranberries. In a few short years, their presses began to burst forth with new cider, and their barns with plenty. Their butter and cheese, their pork and beans, Indian bread and honey, were not surpasses in their own native Connecticut.
John Spalding, oldest son of General Spalding, was appointed Colonel of Militia, and was well situated on a fine farm of his own, and one presented to his wife by her father, joining his. Colonel Spalding had an erect and stately figure, was lively in his manner, and proud of his wife and of his children, fourteen in number. Visitors were sometimes amused, when inquiry was made how many children they had. One of them would say, “Harry, Billy, Noah, Dyer, Simon, Sally, Ulysses, Wealthy, George, John, Charley, Zebulon, Avery and Mary.” They all grew up to be fine, stately sons and daughters; but the mother outlived all but two, Mrs. General Welles and MR. Zebulon B. Spalding, who reside with us.
Joseph Kinney, Esq., from Killingly, Conn., one of the sons-in-law, was a man of intelligence and reading. Some of his descendants have partaken of his spirit, and have been noted for their literary turn. There have been among them professional men, editors, and statesmen.
Mrs. Julia Scott, deceased, daughter of the late George Kinney, Esq., of Sheshequin, wrote much, and published a volume of poems, which showed a refined taste and cultivated mind, and her name has found a place in a volume of American poets. She died at Towanda, in 1842.
Obadiah Gore was born in Norwich, Conn., 1744, and came to Wyoming with the early settlers. He was the eldest son of Obadiah Gore, Esq., who had seven sons engaged in the Revolutionary War, a fact of which Colonel Stone speaks in his history of Wyoming as “The most remarkable in the history of man. That a father and six* sons, including two sons-in-law, should be engaged in the same battle field, is rarely, if ever known. Five corpses of a single family sleeping upon the cold bed of death together the self-same night! What a price did that family pay for liberty!”
* Colonel Stone says six, the number was seven.
Obadiah Gore came to Sheshequin in 1783, about the time Captain Spalding
removed there, and settled in the lower part of the valley. Obadiah
was an officer in Washington’s army, and served through the war.*
While Westmoreland sent representatives to Hartford, Mr. Gore was sent
as assemblyman, and was prominent in public proceedings. He was a
man of fine appearance, and dignity of character, and pleasing in his address.
He submitted to the decree of Trenton, but was on the committee remonstrating
against the repeal of the Confirming Act, and after removing to Sheshequin,
was appointed Associate Judge for the Court of Luzerne County, and served
for many years. He was a man of much taste, and cultivated a great
variety of fruit. He also planted the mulberry tree and raised silkworms
to some extent. He was at one time a merchant, and opened a store
of goods in his house on the hill, where he always lived, at the same time
carrying on farming quite extensively. There was much in his beautiful
situation to comfort his family and attract his friends.
Obadiah Gore had five children and fifty-two grandchildren. He died March 22, 1821, aged 77 years.
Avery Gore, his son, married Lucy, daughter of Silas Gore, who fell in the massacre of Wyoming. Mrs. Gore was a rare woman. Her domestic management of a very large family, part of the time consisting of four generations and numerous dependents, was a marvel to all who knew her position, more than fifty years ago.
* Obadiah Gore was engaged as an officer in General Sullivan’s army.
He kept a
connected journal of the entire campaign, which has been read by some of his grand-
children, and which, it is to be regretted, has been lost.
“Rising while it was yet dark and giving meat to her household,” she
would apportion to her domestics the labors of the day, the spinning, weaving,
and the dairy, attending to the butter and the cheese, for which she was
noted, and the many supernumeraries, attending upon all. These duties
done systematically, day after day and year after year, with a quick step
and a cheerful face; the impression was “Many daughters have done virtuously,
but thou excellest them all.”
She lived in the same house where she was married until the time of her death. She presided at her own table more than sixty years. When we last called upon her, her sun was declining, and she soon after died, in March, 1867, over 92 years of age. The eldest sister, Mrs. Wilkinson, who died some years ago, was also over 90 years old.
Lucy, quite a little girl, was in Forty Fort at the time of the battle of Wyoming, with her mother and two other children. Her father, Silas Gore, and two of his brothers, were killed. Their names may now be seen on the monument, near the fatal spot. The children of the family remembered when the Indians took possession of the Fort, and many of their antics impressed their childish minds. They placed the ladies’ caps and bonnets upon their own heads, put their side-saddles upon their own ponies and mounted them, riding in ladies’ style, much to the merriment of all but the poor sufferers. They remembered how the fugitives waded through the Indian meal and corn and feathers knee deep when they were exiled from the Fort. Mrs. Gore, with a stricken heart, made her way with her three children to a boat, which took her to a place of safety.
Samuel Gore came to Sheshequin with his brother, Obadiah, and owned a farm adjoining his, which was, at one time, considered very valuable; but some parts of it, as well as other farms in Sheshequin, have suffered greatly from the floods and backwater from Towanda dam.
Mr. Gore was Justice of the Peace, and had the business of the neighborhood at that time. Among the numerous marriages he was called to perform, was that of old Mrs. Northrop, about 90, and old Mr. Howder, a few years younger, in about the year 1830. They lived above the Narrows in Athens, and both took their staves in hand and walked down to Squire Gore’s, five or six miles, for the performance of the ceremony. Mr. Gore was fond of pleasantry, and told them it was necessary to have some witnesses for the occasion. He therefore sent to some of the neighbors, whom he invited to attend the wedding.
After the marriage, this unique bride and groom took their staves in hand again and started homeward. It is said that Mrs. Howder lived to be over a hundred years old.
About 1790, Mr. Gore was once coming home from Owego, where he had been to make some purchases, with his knapsack upon his back. He found the Indians quite numerous and hostile at Tioga Point, and the river very high, and could not cross it that night. For safety, he climbed a tree opposite the island, and secured himself by a strap, where he stayed through the night. Early the next morning he went to the ferry with all possible stillness, where the ferryman took him across the river and he went on his way in safety. A part of Samuel Gore’s history has been previously noticed, in order to give his petition to Congress, containing a particular account of the Wyoming massacre, and attending circumstances. We have thought it unnecessary to give any other history of that memorable event.
It was inserted in that part of our record, in order to give those statements in their proper chronological order.
Moses Park, of Stonington, Connecticut, who married a daughter of General Spalding, was a Baptist minister, and preached to a small Baptist church in Sheshequin, of which Joseph Kinney was Deacon. They, with many others, afterward embraced Universalism.
His son, Chester Park, is a licensed local Methodist preacher. His ministrations over these hills and among these valleys have been acceptable and very useful.
Mr. Jabez Fish and family came from Wilkesbarre at a later period and settled at Sheshequin. Mr. And Mrs. Fish had been members of the Rev. Ard. Hoyt’s church of Wilkesbarre, who afterward went on a mission to the Cherokee nation, at Mission Ridge, Georgia. They united with the Congregational Church at Athens in 1812. Mr. Fish died in a few years after, and Mrs. Fish lived long to honor her profession. She was much interested in the missionary cause. Her granddaughter, Mrs. Tracy, has recently gone on a mission to Turkey.
Breakneck, the lower part of Sheshequin, was known by that name at the time Sullivan’s army passed through the narrows. Col. Hubley states in his journal: “So high and so narrow was the path at Breakneck Hill, a single false step must inevitably carry one to the bottom, the distance of 180 feet perpendicular;” and yet, an army of more than 3,000 men with their long train of packhorses, marched through this dangerous pass in safety. They then “entered the charming valley of Sheshequin, made a halt at a most beautiful run, and took a bit of dinner.”
It has been said that a squaw fell from the precipice years ago and broke her neck, and it is generally supposed this circumstance gave name to the place, and a face was painted on the rocks, by a rough artist, commemorating the event, which perhaps, is still visible.
Obadiah Gore, son of Avery Gore, has a short and ancient record of a title, of much interest, a duplicate of which is as follows:
“Nicholas Tatemy, an Indian Chief, bought of the State or Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a tract of land, in 1783, 180 ½ acres, in the center of Sheshequin, and sold it to John Brotsman, a gentleman of Philadelphia. This farm was bought of Mr. B. by Obadiah Gore, grandfather of the present occupant, who gave it to his grandson for his name. The draft of land was called Indelelamookong, situated on the East Branch of the Susquehanna River, opposite an Indian settlement called Sheshequinung, lying in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Returned to Surveyor’s office for John Lukens.”
It is pleasant to visit the valley of Sheshequin, where
so many of our fathers and grandfathers have lived and died; where cluster
so many pleasant associations, and where we have spent so many of our youthful
days. We remember while there seeing the total eclipse of 1806, when
the chickens went to roost, the cows went lowing home, and the teacher
and scholars ran home in dismay.
We remember the old barn, which has just fallen under the weight of more than four score years, and the additional pressure of a heavy snow, the first frame building in Bradford, then a part of Luzerne Co., built in 1786; and also the house of our grandfather, built a little later, and now undergoing extensive repairs. We felt like saying “Woodman, spare that tree,” when we heard it was to pass through a revolution; but have been gratified to find some parts of it remaining unchanged, and we can there see the old tall clock, and the spy-glass which Lieutenant Gore carried in the army of the Revolution, and which children and children’s children have been permitted to look through, as a special favor. There have been many living in Sheshequin remarkable for their longevity. We could name numbers who have lived more than four score years, and several over ninety.
The west side of the river, known as Ulster, was called by the Indians
Sheshequinung, and was a place of great importance among them. It
was earlier known and settled by them than the opposite side of the river,
now called Sheshequin. It was the termination of the great Sheshequin
warpath from the West Branch, by Lycoming Creek, thence to Beaver Dam,
thence down Sugar Creek to Sheshequin flats.
The Moravians state that the Chief Echgohund resided here. It was a Monsey town; inhabited by that ferocious tribe whose emblem was a wolf. Queen Esther’s village was composed of a part of this tribe, and they partook of the same spirit.
After the Indians were driven off, the early white settlers called it Old Sheshequin, and those on the opposite side called their settlement New Sheshequin. They were settled about the same time, principally by Wyoming people, whose sympathies were strong and lasting.
When the township was surveyed by the Susquehanna Company, they included the two settlements and called the township Ulster, which remained so many years; but in 1820 the township was divided, the west side was called Ulster, and the east side Sheshequin. So that on the west side of the river, the original Sheshequinung, has altogether lost its ancient Indian name.
Among the early white settlers were Captain Simons, Mr. Holcomb, Mr. Tracy, Captain Clark, Captain Cash, Captain Rice, and afterwards Mr. Overton, an Englishman; who purchased of Tracy, and was the father of the Overton family now among us. Mrs. Overton, who came to this country some years after her husband, was a lady of polished manners, and very beautiful.
This was quite a social community, and they lived in much peace and quietness. A Baptist Church was formed here, at an early period, and the sacraments were administered alternately on the east and west sides of the river.
Captain Cash and his wife, Mrs. Overton and Mrs. Rice died nearly at the same time, of a fever that prevailed throughout the country in 1812. Anna Cash, the eldest daughter of Captain Cash, was left with the entire care of her father’s large family, and did herself much honor by her faithful attention to them, until they were otherwise provided for. She afterwards married Colonel Lockwood, who was known here many years. She brought up a large family of her own, and died at her old home in 1865.
In his journal, written at Tioga Point, and dated 1784, Mr. Shepard
says: “I was born in Plainfield, Connecticut, April 17th, 1765.
Went to school in the Academy there, taught by Nathan Daboll” – the arithmetician
His uncle, Captain Simon Spalding, came from Wyoming to Connecticut, after the close of the Revolutionary War, to purchase cattle. He says: “I went home with him, and was then eighteen years old. We had a long and tedious journey --- were fifteen days before we arrived at Wyoming with the cattle. I continued there two weeks, then went up the river with my uncle, and remained with him at Sheshequin until December 18th, 1784. From thence I engaged as clerk for Weiss & Hollenback, in the Indian country, at Newtown, now Elmira. It was more than twenty miles from any white inhabitants.
“ I continued there until April, then bought 158 pounds (about $500 worth) of goods from Weiss & Hollenback, to carry farther into the Indian country. Went first to a place called Tioga Point to obtain packhorses. The streams were high, so that many times I waded up to my waist, and my man Brown was thrown from his horse, and carried down stream several rods by the swift water. We went back to the store, packed up my goods, and started with them the 23d of April, 1785. I came to a place called Catharine Town. There I continued two days among the Indians, and sold part of my load. I arrived at Canoga on Cayuga Lake, the 29th of April.” (Canoga is nearly opposite Aurora, and noted as the birthplace of Red Jacket.)
“ The 6th of May I sent my man back to Weiss & Hollenback’s store with skins and furs to exchange for more goods. During his absence I lived nine days without seeing any person except savages. I amused myself by walking about, but dared not go out of sight of my cabin, for fear of having my goods stolen.
“May 15th, Messrs. Leonard and Dean came by way of Seneca River and lake, with a boat load of goods from Albany, and in two days more six boat loads came. I sold to them sundry articles, bought of them gum, flour, brooches, blankets, etc. I went to Newtown the first day of June. The night I arrived there the Indians had a drunken frolic, and fell upon us, and we were obliged to make our escape.
“ I went to Canoga again, June 18th, and sent William to Tioga Point. After his return, I was taken sick with fever and ague, which continued until October. I started for Tioga Point, and at Newtown met two men from Niagara, who told me that the Indians had killed and taken a number of white people, and there was much alarm.
“ That night I came back to Tioga Point. William stayed with me until the 4th of January, 1786.
“ The state line was run this year by Rittenhouse and others. I engaged with Hollenback again as clerk at Tioga Point, and continued with him through 1787.”
It would seem that the Indians had become quite numerous and troublesome about this time. Many of them had returned with strong attachments to their native soil. Some felt that they had not been fairly dealt with, and many were influenced by the love of strong drink, with which they could here be supplied, and here was their incomparable hunting and fishing ground.
With these attractions, many of the natives were returning, which created serious apprehensions among the white people.
Two intoxicated Indians were at one time in a quarrel. One ran into Hollenback’s store, they other pursued him with his rifle and shot him dead, then made his escape---the blood streaming in every direction about the store. Mr. Shepard witnessed this terrible scene. They seldom offered him any violence. He was quite a favorite with them. They admired his bravery, sometimes calling him “Yankoo Bravoo,” and he often went by the name of “Conidehecut” among them. He in turn admired some of their characteristics, and often expressed much regard for them.
While the natives remained, there was much trade with them in the article of furs. They found “ plenty bear, plenty deer” on the mountains and plains. The dense pines within the hills and rivers formed a cool retreat for them, from the sultry sun in summer, and protection from the cold blasts of winter. Deerskins were abundant, and from several bills among Mr. Shepard’s old papers, it appears that other animals abounded. One bill of sale mentions 24 bear skins, 31 martin and mink skins, 5 fishers, 2 otters, 1 wild cat, 44 raccoons.
The journal continues: “ January, 1788, bought Prince Bryant’s mills, and an adjoining lot of Nathaniel Shaw called the mill lot, on which were a saw mill, grist mill, and two dwelling houses.” These lots were the first land purchase made by Mr. Shepard. They were bought under Connecticut title. Subsequently the Pennsylvania title was demanded and met. This purchase embraced the land on both sides of Cayuta or Shepard’s Creek, from the state line down to Morley’s mill, including Milltown. It was in the deed called a gore of land, containing 600 acres, for which he paid 600 pounds in New York currency, $2.50 per acre.
In this purchase, the gristmill was an important acquisition, being the only one with 50 miles. It was run both night and day. Loads of grain were brought to it from distances of twenty, thirty and fifty miles, in boats, canoes, carts, and sleighs.
Mr. Shepard was once returning from New York in a buggy, and was overtaken by a heavy snowstorm, 150 miles from home, which made it necessary for him to exchange his vehicle for a sleigh. More difference was required than Mr. S. was prepared to advance, but said he, “ I will give you my note.” The landlord hesitated, as he was an entire stranger. When Mr. S. said, “Have you ever heard of ‘Shepard’s Mill’?” “ O, yes.” “I am the man,” said Mr. S. “Well,” said the landlord, “Take the sleigh and give me your note.”
Among Mr. Shepard’s papers is a statement of the “Boundaries of a lease dated March, 1787, from the Chiefs of the Senecas and Cayugas, to Benjamin Birdsall, Simon Spalding, John Shepard, Matthias Hollenback, Obadiah Gore, Elijah Bush, and many others, beginning at the Narrows, five miles above Newtown, on the Tioga; thence east to Awaga Creek; thence down the Awaga to the Susquehanna River; thence down said river until it strikes the Pennsylvania line; then on said line until it strikes the 79 mile stone; from thence, a northerly course to the place of beginning.” But little is known respecting this lease, except the above description. The Indians lost their lands, and it is supposed that the “ Lease Company” did not receive much emolument from them.
June 3rd, 1790, Mr. Shepard married Anna, daughter of Judge Gore, of Sheshequin, and settled on a farm at Milltown, which he bought of John Jenkins under Connecticut title, for the sum of one hundred pounds, Pennsylvania money; containing about three hundred and forty acres on the opposite side of the creek from the mills. He lived on this farm more than twenty years. Six of his children were born there. His wife and eldest son died there. Near the close of the last century he made large purchases of land, and at one time owned on the state line, from the Tioga to the Susquehanna River.
In 1796, he says, “ Purchased of T. Thomas, of Westchester County, 1,000 acres of land in the State of New York, beginning 52 rods east of 59 mile stone.” The consideration for the same was two thousand pounds lawful money of the United States. This purchase embraced the whole of Waverly, Factoryville, and several farms back on the hill.
Some years after this purchase, Mr. Shepard interceded with General Thomas to set off a portion of his large patent, extending to Buckville, for church purposes, which he consented to do. But the object was deferred, and the General becoming weary of his vast possessions, having no children, left all to his wife.
Mr. Shepard built a house for his brother-in-law, Josiah Pierce, near Chemung River, on the hill. This was a house of entertainment for travelers, and accommodated the long train of judges, lawyers, and witnesses on horseback that passed back and forth during the sessions of Court held alternately at Owego and Newtown, shire towns for old Tioga County.
Mr. Pierce had a son Chester, 18 years old, who was riding a spirited horse through the pines, towards Milltown. When about half way, a boy frightened the horse, and young Pierce was thrown form the saddle. One of his feet caught in the stirrup, and he was dragged on the ground, and so injured that he very soon died.
He was the first one interred in the Milltown burying ground. The Pierce place was afterwards owned by Isaac Shepard, son of John Shepard, who extensive grounds are now in the possession of his sons C.H. and W.W. Shepard. The house was burned in 1853.
The journal adds, “ December, 1798, my grist mill was burned, and with hard labor saved the saw mill. Rebuilt the grist mill, and with assistance of friends had the mill in operation in about six weeks.” Such was the spirit of the people at this period.
During this suspension of the mill, the long canoe was dispatched with grain for Hollenback’s mills at Wilkesbarre, 80 miles distant, and the horse mill of Mr. Alexander was in operation day and night, to supply the inhabitants with bread.
1799. The Compromising law was passed by the Legislature of Pennsylvania. This was
followed by lawsuits about the improvements on lands that had been occupied by Connecticut claimants.
Colonel Pickering suggested the Compromising law, and was the principal agent in securing its enactment, although he was decidedly in favor of Pennsylvania. In his “Concise Narrative” he admits, “ That it is not surprising that Connecticut should claim that part of Pennsylvania which was comprehended in a charter, twenty years older than Mr. Penn’s, and that all things considered, the Pennsylvania Legislature should be disposed to view the subject in dispute in the most favorable light for the unfortunate settlers.”
By the terms of this law, “ Commissioners appointed by the state were to re-survey lots claimed by the Connecticut settlers, a certificate was to be issued to the state, on presenting which to the land office, and paying the small compensation fixed, he should receive a patent.”*
* Miner’s History
It was a time of prosperity with Mr. Shepard about the
beginning of this century. His gristmill, saw mill, fulling mill,
oil mill, and distillery afforded him quite a revenue, although attended
with great expense. His zeal in land purchases was almost unbounded.
Whenever he heard of land to be disposed of, he would secure it if possible.
But taxes, and Pennsylvania claims, began to be so onerous that it checked
his ardor, and as he grew older, he felt that in being so desirous for
the world he was only pursuing a phantom that had no substance. The
providences of God, too, were preparing him to look at life in its true
In 1804 his diary says, “Began to build my large house in Milltown this season, and made preparations to build my new mill near the river.”
1805. “ At this time I began to see there was a God that governs the world. This year
He brought heavy afflictions upon me, to which I was not resigned, but hope I may realize in His own time it is for good.”
February 7th, “ My first born son Prentice was taken from me by death, with a very short illness. A fall while skating produced dropsy on the brain, and he died in about six weeks. He was a fine looking youth, 15 years old, large of his age, and the pride of his father.”
August. “My uncle, Doct. Amos Prentice, next door, was taken from us by death, with a very short illness.” Dr. P. was a much-esteemed friend, whose society he prized, and on whom he depended as family physician, and instructor for his children.
September 7th. “The wife of my youth was taken from me by death, by a fall from a carriage. She remained unconscious until the next day.” A short time before her death, which occurred 30 hours after receiving her injury, she revived and looking around upon her husband and six children, was only able to say, “ I am going to the world of spirits.”
“ Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by, behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.”
1806. In the fall of this year Wm. Prentice, son of Dr. Prentice, a lawyer on whom Mr. Shepard depended to assist him in business, died of fever. With all these afflictions upon him at once, he made arrangements for his family, and still pursued his business, sorely bereaved as he had been. He finished his mill toward the river, and his large house at Milltown.
He purchased his first Pennsylvania title of the Howell Company, with Philip Cranse, 500 acres on the west side of the river, on the state line. This tract included the farms of Cranse, Dr. Woodworth, Robb, Fordham, and Wheelock.
1809. “Sold my old mill to Samuel Naglee of Philadelphia.”
June. “Sent to Stonington, Connecticut, for my sister Grant, a widow, to keep house for me.” (She brought two daughters with her, afterwards Mrs. Stephens and Mrs. Howard.)
1807. Thomas Shields presented his claim as Pennsylvania landholder against the farm Mr. Shepard had bought of Jenkins, under Connecticut title, and where he had lived with his family many years, adjoining the Howell and Pickering tract, containing 384 acres, for which he paid Mr. Shields the sum of $1590 in different installments. In those days we heard much about paying for land twice.
1808. “Josiah Crocker came from Lee, Massachusetts, with a large family of Puritanic stamp. He was the first person who held regular religious meetings on the Sabbath, in Athens, and taught the Assembly’s catechism.”
1807. “Built saw mill and fulling mill with Joseph Crocker.” This was the mill at Factoryville, which Mr. A. Brooks afterwards bought and enlarged for a woolen manufactory, and was burned in 1853.
1809. Mr. Shepard received his first commission as Justice of the Peace from Governor Simon Snyder, to officiate in the township of Athens and Ulster, County of Lycoming. In 1812 the County of Bradford was created out of Lycoming County, embracing the northern townships, including Athens, and he received another Commission constituting him a Justice of the Peace in Athens, Bradford County.
May 18th, 1811, Mr. Shepard married his second wife on Long Island, a Miss Hawkins, of Stony Brook, a lady of remarkable culture and refinement, and very companionable with the children she had adopted.
She had five children, two sons and three daughters. She died January 18th, 1844.
1813. The journal continues, “Sold my house in Milltown to Benjamin Jacobs, with 90 acres of land.”
1814. “ Made a contract for Pickering tract of 614 acres. In June removed my family on this tract.” (Harris place.)
Mr. Shepard made great improvement on this farm. He hired for “Green Mountain Boys,” who had come to seek a place in the new country, for the purpose of clearing off the dense yellow pine timber. The trees readily fell before these active woodmen. It was quite a source of amusement to the youngsters to stand in the door, or look out of the windows, and see the falling and hear the crashing of the trees as they tumbled to the ground, and then the rolling of the logs together, preparatory to burning. It was interesting at the time of the burning of the fallows, to see the curling smoke and ascending flames, and we can now easily credit the theory since advanced that “artificial rains can be produced by combustion.” Without understanding the theory, we noticed the fact, when we were children, and always looked for a shower in hot weather, soon after the burning of the fallow.
1814. This year was heavy snow and a hard winter. The wolves were driven down from the mountains in search of food, and many sheep were devoured by them. They could be heard howling at all times of night. The inhabitants were much in fear of them, and were afraid to pass from Milltown to Athens, even in the day time. There was no traveling after dark, so great was the fear and danger. The sheep were often called into the door-yard, and light were kept burning for their protection. Bears and panthers were sometimes seen between the rivers. Bounties were offered for killing these animals, and those that were not killed retired to the mountains.
1817. “Removed my family from Pickering tract to Campbell farm on Howell tract. Built a house, barn, shed, etc.” This was the last of my father’s earthly homes. Here he lived 20 years. This we now call “the old place.” He still possessed much activity of spirit, and was engaged in disposing of the lands he had accumulated, upon which the taxes and state claims had become quite burdensome. He managed to retain a comfortable portion for his family, and gave much for benevolent objects, often paying a large share of the minister’s salary, and always extended an open hand to the poor, not infrequently presenting a deed of five acres of land to families that were needy. Even at this late period of life, his alert mind would often suggest improvements and advantages for others. About the year 1820 an article written by a traveler, in the distant regions of California, came to his notice and greatly interested him. The writer described the climate as delightful, and the soil as incomparably rich, and abounding in ores. “ Gold was frequently seen glittering in the earth of which the rough wigwams of the Indians were built, they, at that time, not comprehending its value.” After this, Mr. Shepard was often heard to say, “If I were a young man I would go to California.” He did not go to California, but in 1849 two grandsons, and a little later, two sons and three other grandsons, went to that attractive country. Isaac Shepard, one of the grandsons, in consequence of failing health, attempted to return home, but died on the “ Pacific side,” and was buried in the sea.
December 31, 1832. “Gave my sons Isaac and Job a deed for the mill at Factoryville, each half the mill and utensils.”
This is about the close of Mr. Shepard’s memoranda. He began to grow feeble and the infirmities of age were pressing upon him. He arranged his worldly affairs as far as was possible; after which he devoted much of his time to religious exercises, private and public. He was often heard to pray for a blessing upon his children, and children’s children, to the latest generation. He was a constant attendant upon the house of prayer. The Bible, with Scott’s Comments, became almost his entire reading for the last few years of his life. On the day of his death he rode to the village on horseback, returned home at evening, attended family worship, sang a hymn as was his custom, and retired to rest. About an hour after Mrs. S. entered the room. She spoke to him, but he answered not. His spirit had taken its flight.
“ Oh, death, where is thy sting. Oh, grave where is thy victory,” was a fitting inscription for his tomb. He died May 15th, 1837, aged 73 years.