As Compiled by T. Edwin Smith
The Story of Roaring Branch a Beautiful Village in the Valley of Lycoming
In studying the early history of this valley we learn that this area
was included in Lycoming Township, a vast territory that comprised an area
one-third larger than the state of Rhode Island. This territory included
all of what is now the County of Tioga, except that portion lying west
and south of Pine Creek, the part of Bradford County lying west of the
old Luzerne county line and that portion of Potter County lying east of
the 120th mile-stone, five miles west of the present boundary line and
north of Pine Creek, beside the following territory in Lycoming County:
Old Lycoming, Lycoming, McIntyre, Jackson, Cogan House, Anthony, Woodward,
Piatt, Mifflin, and Pine Townships, and parts of Lewis, Watson, Cummings,
McHenry, and Brown Townships.
When Lycoming County was organized, April 13, 1795, this territory was included and it was not curtailed until September, 1797, when Tioga Township, as it was then called, was taken from it.
In the meantime, settlements had been made in the northern parts of the township, in the Cowanesque Valley and along the Tioga River, but these were far removed from the haunts of civilization. As these settlements grew, it became apparent that the Township of Lycoming must be divided for the convenience of the inhabitants as well as the officers of the Township.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the State Legislature deemed it proper that an enumeration should be made of the taxables of Lycoming county and on March 8, 1800, passed a law to that effect. That part of the census which concerned Tioga County taxables showed the names, occupations, and ages of 122 men. It showed only one colored person, Liberty Johnson – a free man, age 25. From an old minute book of the County commissioners, we learn that John Carrothers was paid $16 for taking this census. From the same source, we learn that he was paid $9.20 for holding an inquest on the death of one Peter Grove. Mr. Carrothers must have been a politician of the first water, having had the appointment as census taker in 1800 and then serving as Lycoming County coroner from Oct. 27, 1801, until Oct. 26, 1804. For these services over a period of only four years he was able to filch the county out of the sum of $25.20.
“Oh! For The Good Old Days”
Incidentally, it should be mentioned that the records of the division of Lycoming and Tioga Townships were lost for nearly one hundred years, until discovered comparatively recently in the Prothonotary’s Office in Williamsport.
Roaring Branch, with a population of about 475 is the largest village in McNett and Union Townships. It is 966 feet above sea level. Founded in 1862, it derives its name from the stream that cuts down through a rock gorge and makes a roaring sound.
The earliest settlers at Roaring Branch were Uriah Loper, from Salem County, New Jersey, who located on the “John Vaughn” tract soon after 1800. This land is now mostly divided into town lots. Also among the early settlers were James Sulleid and John Crandall. Loper built a saw mill and grist mill as early as 1818. In 1844, A. N. Derby had a saw mill and grist mill located just north of the present site of Mill Creek bridge. He also attempted to tan some hides but was unsuccessful and the hides were spoiled. Mr. Derby’s residence was on the farm now owned by the Wheel Inn, below the junction of Roaring Branch and Lycoming Creeks. This farm was formerly owned by Charles Green. Derby lived in an old log house on this farm, situated a few rods from Ertels house which was occupied by James Blackwell prior to 1830. In addition to his numerous enterprises he kept a hotel. There was no sign, but a pumpkin hung over the door; at one time it became commonly known as “The Green Pumpkin House.”
John Green, the father of Charles, built a larger double gate saw mill on Roaring Branch Creek near its mouth which held the record for those days, having accomplished the sawing of 10,000 feet of pine lumber during the light of one day. Not-with-standing the fact that his mill was able to turn out more lumber than any other mill in the area, still his venture was not successful and he lost all he had.
Civil War Days
When the war between the States broke out in 1861, Roaring Branch was not wanting in its response to the call to the colors. We do not have a complete list of those who answered the call but we do have names of several that we know were veterans of this conflict. These are as follows: Selic June, Dr. O. C. Cole, C. M. Washburn, James Washburn, Cornelius King, Chauncey Wheeler, John Snyder, and Chauncey Bacon.
In addition to the mills previously recorded here in the earlier history of our town, there were several other important mills and industries here. Some of these included other saw mills – lumbering being the principal business of the area – Ertel’s wagon shop and a grist mill whose owner we were unable to learn. There was also a feed and grain business operated by H. Rockwell & Son of Canton and later a milk station was established by the Sheffield Farms Company of New York. This was a very modern station and operated for several years, receiving raw milk, pasteurizing it and shipping fluid milk to New York City. Another industry that was carried out in Roaring Branch for a few years was a clothespin factory operated by Charles Richter. Due to the fact that these industries all closed down the town’s people must now commute to other places for employment.
Another very important industry in the development of the village of Roaring Branch was the tannery. Quite early in the history of the village there was a tannery here run by one of the Innes family of Canton. This tannery burned but later there was another built, so that the tanning of leather played a very important part in the economy of the area.
The Post Office in Roaring Branch was established on Feb. 10, 1862 with L. L. Washburn as the first Postmaster. Charles S. Green became Postmaster on January 19, 1863 and served until April, 1883. He was succeeded by William Nelson. The first letter received at the Roaring Branch Post Office was by Joseph Gruver, Jr. On July 1, 1868 a mail route between Roaring Branch and Blossburg was established with Henry Fick as the first mail carrier.
We do not have the locations of all these early Post Offices, but we do know that Mr. Green had his in his store. Some time later the Post Office was in the store operated by Bubb and Lieb, then later moved to a building across from the R. R. Station owned by W. N. Seascholtz. From there to a room adjoining Holmes store and from there to its present location. The present building owned by Postmaster Robert Webster.
At about 1844 there was a school house erected near the mouth of Mill Creek. Hamilton was the first teacher. Another of the early teachers was Miss Samantha Wilson. There were others, of course, whose names we were unable to learn. In 1853 there was a private school taught by a Miss Lafferty. At one time the pupils from Roaring Branch went to Newelltown to school. This was known as the Loper school and was about four miles from Roaring Branch, were the M. E. Church stands.
About the year 1858 a schoolhouse was built for the joint use of scholars from Union and McIntyre Townships, about one mile below the mouth of Roaring Branch Creek. The building was in Lycoming County. There was a schoolhouse located on the present site, of which we were unable to learn the date of erection, but which burned about 1896, and the present building was erected in its stead. We do not have a list of the teachers through the years so we only mention the present teachers: Mrs. Frederika McIlwain and Mrs. Leona Mansuy.
A Parent-Teacher Association was organized through the efforts of Mrs. Myrtle Wynne and Mrs. Odessa Proctor in Dec. 1932 and is still active. These two were teachers in the school at the time. Mrs. Proctor enjoys the distinction of having taught in the Roaring Branch schools longer than any other teacher in its history, having taught twenty-five years in the upper grades there.
Mention has been made before of the skating rink that was once a great attraction in our town, and to quote some of the old timers, this is rather an understatement. They say that it was not a young peoples pastime by any means, but that young and old congregated there and really cut some fancy figures. Some came in fantastic costumes and there were skaters who would not take a back seat for anyone.
In more recent years, there were two beautiful operas put on by the
Roaring Branch School under the direction of Mrs. Fredericka McIlwain and
Mrs. Odessa Proctor.
The first opera was “The Dutch Garden.” The children were in Dutch costumes and sang Dutch songs and did some beautiful Dutch dances. This was greatly enjoyed by all. The second was an operetta “Hansel and Gretel.” This was given in the auditorium and it was said, was the most beautiful operetta presented there. There was Hansel and Gretel lost in the woods. They came to the witches’ castle. Mr. Burt McIlwain cut trees to make the woods on the stage. He also made the house that was covered with candy and the log on which Hansel and Gretel sat. Mr. Bud Proctor made the cage where the witch kept Hansel to fatten him up.
NOTE: The Mrs. Proctor referred to here is the former Miss Odessa Evans, a daughter of Philip Evans, who saved a trainload of people that March night so many years ago.
A Poem to Roaring Branch
Written by Mrs. Odessa Proctor
Where the winding creek shimmers in the sun,
Where the mountains cast their shadows when the day is done,
Where the hemlock, pine, and maple murmur in the night,
Beneath the star-lit sky ‘til dawning, when God sends the morning light.
Hail to dear old Roaring Branch, cherished now as in days long past;
May we be worthy sons and daughters, long as life shall last.
Where enduring friendships flourish, sturdy through the years;
Where sorrow sometimes strikes us, but faith in God wipes our tears.
The site for the Charles S. Green home, at Roaring Branch, is one of
the finest in the State. It will be located on a bench of land lying
west of Lycoming Creek and north of Roaring Branch, near the home of Mr.
Green, on a tract of land that comprises about 200 acres.
The exact spot on which the home will be placed has not been decided, this being left entirely with the executors. This much is certain, however, the Green homestead will not be dismantled, and for years to come people passing through the valley will be able to see the place where lived a man who first made his wealth off Roaring Branch, and dying, left it in a way that would do the people of that section the most possible good. A forest of virgin pine still stands near the place where Mr. Green lived and died, and was one of the spots most sought by him, even after he had passed his allotted three score years and ten. Streams in the neighborhood furnish fine sport for the people of the valley. In fact, everything about the site indicates it could not be better adapted for the purpose if it had been designed and laid out with that end in view. On Friday afternoon, J. D. Allison, successor to Mr. Green as secretary and general manager of the Red Run Coal Company, and his former private secretary were in this city.
Mr. Allison is one of the executors of the Green estate, together with W. C. Sechrist of Canton and Charles S. Washburn of Harrisburg, Pa. He states the executors have not gotten together as yet but that within a few weeks definite steps will be taken toward carrying the provisions into effect, when the wisdom of Mr. Greene’s will may become more apparent even than it is at present.
Mr. Green was one of the pioneers in the lumber business and coal business in the valley of Lycoming Creek. He began his business career in Roaring Branch in 1854, when pine timber alone was considered valuable. He managed to get control of large holdings of pine forest, including the site on which the Green Home will be erected and the hill just back of Roaring Branch, which to this day is still known as Pine Hill. Mr. Green had the foresight to know that the day would come when the pine forests would be exhausted, and despised hemlock would be far more valuable than pine in the earlier days. He therefore bought all the hemlock lands he was able to hold, and turned the timber into cash at a great profit, at a later date. Mr. Green built and managed the first barrel stave and head mill in this section of the state, making no small amount off a business that took for its raw material logs that were considered worthless by most lumbermen. When the Northern Central Railroad was built through the valley, Mr. Green hoped to get a siding at Roaring Branch, but was told the line would handle nothing but through freight. He tried in every way he knew to get a siding, but was disappointed. He had hoped the railroad would carry his lumber to market and thus give him a chance to turn it into cash at a greater profit. After the line had been operating for some time, the railroad company changed tactics and decided it would handle freight from stations along the line. Mr. Green was told he might have a siding, provided he would grade the track bed, and furnish the ties, the railroad company agreeing to furnish the iron. Mr. Green finally made an agreement, whereby he should pay for the grading, provided the company would do the work. He was called upon to make one payment, but no more.
Before the time of the railroad, Mr. Green’s men had to go to Canton to do their trading. This required an entire day. In order to keep them at home, where there was work for a full crew six days a week, Mr. Green conceived the idea of opening a store in Roaring Branch. This store building disappeared years ago, having been washed away by a flood. The second store still stands, across the Northern Central tracks from the Red Run Coal Co. office. This venture proved very successful. In those days there was less competition and the margin of profit was much greater than it is today. At about this time Mr. Green was also station master at Roaring Branch. He tried for years to get the company to erect a station at that place but it declined. Finally he erected a shelter shed on the spot which later became the site of a modern station. While in the store business, Mr. Green was a frequent visitor to Williamsport. On one occasion, when he was preparing to make a visit to this city, he was asked to purchase two pairs of rubber boots. For some reason, he forgot to bring sufficient cash and was unable to get credit anywhere in Williamsport, although at that time he could have bought the shoe store and had plenty of money to spare.
The opening of the Red Run Coal Mines at Ralston was a source of great wealth for Green. He owned the land on which the coal was found. At that time he was unable to swing the deal to open the mine himself, so he interested New York capitalists. This deal proved very profitable to Mr. Green as mine stock is one of the more valuable items of his estate. He was interested in other ventures in the valley, and his advice and cash always were at the service of those who would heed the advice and use the cash in a judicious way. It was one of the principles of Mr. Green’s life never to make a cash donation. He was ready and willing to loan money at interest, but he never imposed hardship on his debtors. He advised parents not to give children money with a liberal hand. His idea was that they would be less wasteful with their cash in later years. The will of Mr. Green, offered for probate at Wellsboro Thursday afternoon, provides an income of $60,000 for his remaining relatives. At this point the article is so badly mutilated that it is impossible to read with accuracy either the names of the remaining relatives or the amounts each was to receive, but we know that provision was made for the establishment of a public library at Wellsboro and at Canton. A bequest of $5,000 each was made to the Boy’s Industrial Home and the Home for the Friendless in Williamsport and small bequests to his housekeeper and gardner (sic). The greater part of his estate, however, was left to establish the Old Ladies Home in Roaring Branch. That portion of the will which deals with the establishment of the Home on lands of the Green Homestead is of greatest public interest. Just why Mr. Green wished to establish this Home is not known, even to his most intimate friends. With his death, the last male member of the Green family, which has had a long line of generations, passed away and it is thought that he wished to perpetrate the name in suitable memorables. Another view is that he desired to be of lasting benefit to the community in which he made his money. He never was married and had no direct heirs. For Home purposes, the will sets aside $75,000 as an endowment, which shall be increased by whatever funds revert to the Home as residuary legatee. It is estimated that this sum will be about half a million dollars.
How dear to our hearts the scenes of our childhood,
When fond recollections presents them to view;
The farm house, the barn and the orchard close by,
And all the old places our boyhood knew.
The hills in winter we so often coasted
The fields in the Fall where often corn roasted
And close by in the creek the old swimming hole.
The apples we ate them, the chestnuts we snapped them.
Oh! The thoughts of those days enliven the soul.
Then give us again a day in our old home,
With the comrades of youth, our lives to renew,
And here at Rock Terrace with warm hearts to cheer us,
Clasp hands with old friends loyal and true.
The fields in the Fall where often corn roasted
And the days and the nights were spent without measure,
In seeking and finding no vainly thought pleasure,
And later the Sunday we were out larking,
We dignified then by thinking it sparking.
The lasses, God bless them, we love them so true.
Fate gave us another, our old love now a grandmother,
Yet again let us fond recollections renew;
Then give us again a day in the old home
With the loved ones of your our love to renew.
And here on Rock Terrace with warm hearts to cheer us,
Meet, mingle and greet the loyal and true.
And those dear girls, God bless them,
How well we remember the big hoop skirts and the rings in their ears,
And the long Fall nights till late in December,
With apple-cuts, dances, and the hopes and the fears,
Could we see her safe home
‘Neath Heaven’s high dome:
Where never there seemed such great earthly bliss,
As that sweet walk home, and the good night kiss.
Then give us again a day in our old home
Let’s meet the ones we loved long ago,
And here on Rock Terrace with warm hearts to cheer us,
See the bright side of life forgetting its woe.
And close by in the cold ground on the hillside
Rests the clay of many we loved, yes loved well
They have gone before us their spirits abide,
In mansions of life, forever to dwell.
We’ll shed not a tear, but with greatest good cheer
Strive to be ready the summons to meet
When on heavenly wire comes the message “come higher
Your loved one and your lost in spirit to greet.”
Then give us again a day in the old home
And make it a happy, true gladsome day
And here on Rock Terrace with warm hearts to cheer us
Remember we, too, are passing away.
- Dorothy Deane
Published On Tri-Counties Site On 15 FEB 2007
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice
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