Bradford County

 

Athens Township, Bradford County, Pennsylvania

The township of Athens, as the lines are now run, forms but a small part of the original township by this name, set off by the courts of Luzerne County, in 1797. From time to time its area has been reduced by the formation of other townships out of its territory, the last of which was Ridgeberry on the east, and Litchfield on the west. The township is now about six miles square, and contains twenty-three thousand acres.

About half-way between the fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh milestone, the Susquehanna River enters the county from the State of New York, and running in a southwesterly direction, forms, for about one mile, the eastern boundary of the township; the remainder of the eastern boundary is the west line of Litchfield. On the south of Athens lie Sheshequin, Ulster, and Smithfield, while Ridgeberry bounds it on the west; the line dividing the two townships begins on the sixty-fifth milestone, and the line of the State forms the northern boundary.

The Tioga (New York Chemung) enters the township a little west of the sixty-fourth milestone, and, after tracing an irregular curve about two miles, leaves the township a little east of the sixty-third milestone: enters again at the sixty-first milestone, and, after running about five miles in a southerly direction, flows into the Susquehanna. It receives Orcutt's creek on the south at the first bend after entering the township; and, on the west, Tutelow (sometimes spelled Toodle) creek, soon after entering the township the second time; Murray's and Reddington creeks near its junction with the Susquehanna. The latter river, after entering the township, runs about two miles in a southwesterly direction, thence southerly to its junction with the Tioga, and out of the township. It receives from the northwest the Cayuta (sometimes called Shepard's creek), and, from the east, Satterlee's, Franklin's, and Moore's creeks.

The large rivers divide the township into three unequal parts. That east of the Susquehanna consists of a broad flat on the south and next the river, on which were the farms of Col. Franklin, Elisha Satterlee, Elisha Mathewson, and others, while to the north and east the land rises into the high hills which form the western part of Litchfield. Between the rivers is a broad and nearly level plain, extending northward to the State line. On this was the Tioga, the Diahoga of former times, and later the Tioga Point of the early settlers, a place of the most historic importance of any in the county. Here, from the days long before the historic period of this county began, was the Indian town, first of the Susquehannocks, and then of the Iroquois, until the power of that confederacy was broken by the conflict of the Revolutionary struggle. Here was witnessed the grandest gathering of military forces which has ever been assembled in northern Pennsylvania, when the two armies of Sullivan and Clinton joined their forces to devastate the Indian country, as it was the theatre of the most important military operations of that campaign, the base of supplies, and the advance post of occupation. Here, on the resettlement of the county, the pioneers hastened, as the most attractive and desirable place within the county for their farms and future homes. On the beautiful plain included between the two rivers the Susquehanna Company surveyed the "Town Plat of Athens," in anticipation of a future growth induced by the natural advantages of its location and surroundings.

On the west of the river is a belt of level, alluvial land, varying from half a mile to a mile and a half in width, cut nearly in two by the point of hill which comes down nearly to the river, about midway between its junction with the Susquehanna and the State line. To the west and south, the surface rises into hills and broken lands.

The broad and fertile valley lying between the two rivers, bordering on the State of New York, next to Wyoming was the most attractive part of the Susquehanna Company's purchase. As early as 1775 the company granted to Asahel Buck, as agent for a number of proprietors, a township called Ulster, which was entirely west of the river, and the north line of which was about three miles above the junction of the two rivers. This grant covered a large part of the present Athens. The unsettled state of the country, from the date of the grant until the close of the Revolutionary war, prevented any settlement being made upon it; but immediately after the war was over settlements began to be made in several portions of it. Owing to the fact of some disagreement between certain of the proprietors and the committee of the company, and that the north line of the State was ascertained to be some distance farther north than was at first supposed, the location of Ulster was changed, by being moved farther south, and made to include land on both sides of the river, and a new township was granted on the north, of which the following is the record:

"Pursuant to the votes of the Susquehanna proprietors, etc., we have surveyed a township of land beginning at u, stake marked, standing on the north line of the purchase at one mile west of the Tioga Branch; thence east on said line, crossing both branches of the Susquehanna, five miles to u, pine-tree marked; thence south five miles; thence west five miles, crossing the Susquehanna river to a, white oak marked; thence north five miles to the place of beginning. Containing twenty-five square miles. Located and laid out at the request of Prince Bryant, Elisha Satterlee, and others their associates, to the number of fifty proprietors.

"Jons Franklin,
"John Jenkins,"
Agents for said proprietors."

"Agreeably to the request of John Franklin, Esq., and Mr. John Jenkins, the above-mentioned proprietors, for a grant of the above described township, confirming the same to them as a part of their general rights in the purchase, the same is hereby granted to them, agreeable to the rules and regulations of the Susquehanna Company, by the name of Athens; provided said township does not interfere with any regular grant heretofore made by the commissioners of the Susquehanna Company.

"Witness our hands and seals this ninth day of May, 1786.
Zebulon Butler
Obadiah Gore
Nathan Denison
"Committee for granting of township."

"The above is a true record of a survey I received to record May 22, 1786.
"Teste, Samuel Gray, Clerk."

The present township of Athens covers this grant, together with a belt of territory still north of this, about three-fourths of a mile wide to the State line as it was finally determined, and also includes another belt on the west about one mile wide, which was taken from the township of Durkee. This northern belt was afterwards called the Gore, and a part of it attached to Athens Township by order of the committee of the company.

The proprietors of the township of Athens, according to custom, for the more equal distribution of the land among them, allotted it under three divisions. The first was the little town-lots in the village of Athens. The second division consisted of ten-acre lots on the point and on the flats. The third division was of ono-hundred-acre lots on both sides of the river. As this covered less than half of the township, there was a meeting of the proprietors, April 18, 1792, at which they agreed to distribute the balance of the undivided land among themselves. But in the subsequent settlement of the Connecticut claim, title to land under this last survey was declared void.

The beautiful location and the fertile plains of the old Tioga had attractions not only for Connecticut settlers, but for others who were interested in the Pennsylvania title. We find here some early claims and locations under both the proprietary government and the commonwealth. A brief account of these early surveys will be given.

That part of the township of Athens lying east of the Susquehanna River was embraced in the purchase by the proprietaries of Pennsylvania from the Indians at the Fort Stanwix treaty of 1768. In the year 1773, Charles Stewart, a deputy surveyor of the State, made surveys and laid warrants for the lands in that purchase. There were three warrants laid in Athens, to wit, Jacob Whetmore, of 305½ acres, numbered 25; John Stover, of 322½, numbered 1790; and David Trisler, of 280¾, numbered 16. These were all surveyed on the 23rd day of September, 1773, and embrace all the level lands lying directly east of the village. The title to these three warrants subsequently passed into Jos. Wharton, of Philadelphia, from whom the settlers derived their title, when they became obliged to purchase the Pennsylvania title, in order to retain their lands. The remainder of the lands in the township east of the river was embraced almost wholly in what were known as the Le Roy and the Asylum company lands.

That part of Athens lying west of the Susquehanna was not purchased from the Indians until the second treaty of Fort Stanwix, 1784, and was known as the new purchase. The land-office was opened for the entry of lands in this purchase May 1, 1785, and the choice of lands was disposed of by a lottery. Among other applicants was Josiah Lockhart, of the borough of Lancaster, whose name being first drawn from the wheel, he was entitled to the first choice of all lands in all this purchase, and he selected the tract lying between the Susquehanna and Tioga rivers, known as Tioga Point. As the title to most of the lands in the present borough of Athens is derived from this warrant, it may be proper to insert the patent here:

"The Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

To all to whom these presents shall come, greeting:
"Know ye that in consideration of the monies paid by -Josiah Lockhart into the Receiver General's office of this Commonwealth at the granting of the warrant hereinafter mentioned, and of the sum of twelve pounds three shillings lawful money now paid by him into the said office, there is granted by the said Commonwealth unto the said Josiah Lockhart, a certain tract of land called "Indian Arrow,'' situate in the point between Susquehanna and Tioga in the late purchase of Northumberland county, beginning at three walnut-trees on the bank of Tioga creek; thence by lands of Nicholas Kisler and Arthur Irwin south eighty-six degrees east four hundred and ninety-six perches to a post on the bank of Susquehanna River, thence down the same by the several courses thereof to the mouth of said Tioga creek; thence up the same by the several courses thereof to the place of beginning; containing one thousand and thirty-eight acres and an half, and allowance of six per cent, for roads, etc., with the appurtenances [which said tract was surveyed in pursuance of a lottery warrant number one, granted unto the said Josiah Lockhart, dated the seventeenth day of May, 1783]. To have and to hold the said tract or parcel of land with the appurtenances unto the said Josiah Lockhart and his heirs, to the use of him the said Josiah Lockhart, his heirs and assigns, forever, free and clear of all restrictions and reservations as to mines, royalties, quit-rents, or otherwise, excepting and reserving only the fifth part of all gold and silver ore for the use of this Commonwealth, to be delivered at the pit's mouth clear of all charges.

"In witness whereof, the honorable Charles Biddie, Esq., vice-president of the Supreme Executive Council, hath hereto set his hand and caused the State seal to be hereunto affixed in Council the third day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-six, and of the Commonwealth the tenth.
"Charles Biddle, V. P.
[seal.]
"Attest, John Armstrong, Jr., Secretary."

Early Settlers

The first settler after the war of whom there is any documentary evidence was Benjamin Patterson. The deposition of Joseph Kinney, Esq., states that he came to Sheshequin in 1783, and that Patterson came up with him and settled opposite Athens. The narrative of Elisha Forsythe states that at the time he removed from Wyoming to Choconut, in the year 1783, he "passed by Tioga Point, where but one white man, by the name of Patterson, then lived, and that he met no others between that place and Choconut.'' Patterson "took up" land on the east side of the Susquehanna, on the lands embraced in the surveys of 1773. He was born at Stratford, Connecticut, January 15, 1752, removed about 1770 with his father's family to Piermont, New Hampshire, was in the war, probably in Sullivan's expedition, and settled here, as above stated, in 1783. November 7, 1788, he sold his possession here to Robert McIlhoe, removed first to Chenango Forks, New York, thence to Beepre, near Cincinnati, Ohio, thence to Now Madrid, Missouri, and died somewhere in Kentucky, about the year 1840.

In the year 1784, Matthias Hollenback, of Wilkes-Barre, opened a store on the Point, and settlers began to gather around him; but it was not until 1786 that he erected his large store-house, so long known as the Hollenback house, and the warehouse, dock, etc., on the lot which he afterwards drew at the corner of the public square. Jacob Snell came that year from Stroudsburg, on the Delaware River, and on the 5th of July his son Abraham was born, believed to have been the first white child born within the limits of the present township. It was in the fall of this year that the conference was held with the Indians by William Maclay, and the consideration for the purchase of land, made the previous year at Fort Stanwix, was paid.

About this time, or early in 1785, William Miller, Daniel Moore, Christopher Hurlburt, Mason Carey, and Eldad Kellogg settled near Patterson, on the east side, and commenced to cultivate the soil. They had no title whatever, but hoped to acquire one by possession. Hurlburt went back after a few years to Wyoming, and these other settlers on the east side of the river soon disappeared, with the exception of Daniel Moore, some of whose descendants are now living in the township of Litchfield. William Miller had two sons, John, who, in 1796, was described as a millwright, and Johnston, who at the same time was a cabinet-maker, and a daughter, who married Samuel Hepburn. The sons went west many years since.

David Alexander came at an early day as clerk for Matthias Hollenback; and subsequently became a merchant, distiller, and farmer, and was at one time the owner of several lots in the village; in August, 1795, he was licensed a taverner; he left here early in the present century. About the same time Samuel Hepburn came from Milton with a small stock of goods, and kept a trading establishment; in March, 1790, he was licensed a "taverner" at Tioga "for the store and house in which he now lives.'' He went in a few years, about 1796, to Elmira, and thence returned to Milton.

Capt. John Snell once said that the first house built between the rivers was of logs, and built by a Dutchman named Andreas Budd. It is probable that Budd was brought here for that purpose by Mr. Hollenback, and built for him buildings necessary for his trading establishment. In 1789 he purchased a ten-acre lot on the point, and in 1793, Col. Franklin conveyed to him village lot No. 40. In 1795, Budd conveyed both these tracts to Elisha Mathewson, and left the country. In the year 1784, John Shepard was also here as a clerk for Mr. Hollenback, but did not remain permanently until the year 1786.

In 1785, William Maclay, a commissioner appointed by the general assembly, made a survey of the Susquehanna River, and established a temporary line between this State and New York. In 1786 the town was granted and surveyed by the Connecticut Susquehanna company, as previously related, and the town plat laid out. The original proprietors of the town who drew lots in 1786 were as follows, the figures after the names being the number of the lot drawn:

John Hurlburt, 1
Elisha Mathewson, 2
Ethan Allen, 3
Joel Thomas, 4
Oliver Bigalow, 5
Justus Gaylord, 6
Reuben Cook, 7
John O'Neil, 9
Prince Alden, 10
Thomas Maclure, 11, 48
Phineas Stevens, 12
Uriah Stevens, 13
Matthias Hollenback, 14
Solomon Bennett, 15
Zera Beach, 16
William Slocum, 17
William Jakeways, 18
Waterman Baldwin, 19
Christopher Hurlbut, 20
William Hyde, 21
Asahel Buck's heirs, 22
William Jones, 24
Nathan Denison, 25, 49
Thomas Baldwin, 26
Eldad Kellogg, 27
Benjamin Gardner, 28
William Jenkins, 29
Ebenezer Slocum, 30
Nathan Cary, 31
Richard Halstead, 32
William Ross, 33
John Franklin, 34, 40
Ishmael Bennett, 35
Elisha Harding, 36
Elisha Satterlee, 37
Benjamin Smith, 38
Abraham Miller, 39
John Jenkins, 41
Ira Stephens, 42
John Hagerman, 43
Abraham Nesbitt, 44
Mason Fitch Alden, 45
Jonathan Burwell, 46
Nathaniel Cook, 47
Gideon Church, 50
John Swift, 52
Thomas Handy, 53

Lots numbered 8, 23, and 51 were not drawn, but were held as the common property of the proprietors. The north line of the village plat was the north line of what is now called the old grave-yard. Lot No. 1 was the north lot on the west side of the street, and the numbers ran down on that side to No. 26; then crossing to the east side ran up the street to No. 53. Lots 1, 2, and 3, on the west side of the street, and lots 51, 52, and 53, on the east side, were each four rods wide, and all the others were six rods wide. In the centre of the plat, between lots 13 and 14 on the west side, and between lots 40 and 41 on the east side, were the two public squares, ten rods in width. The lots and squares extended through to the Susquehanna on the east, and to the Chemung on the west. Directly north of lot 53 (now the grave-yard) was a ten-acre lot, laid out for the first minister, and north of that a lot of twenty acres, called the school-lot. No church being organized or minister being settled for many years, the title to the minister's lot became vested in the owners of the land under Pennsylvania title, who, about 1814, sold it to Michael R. Tharp, and about 1820 it passed to Judge Herrick, who resided upon it until his death, in 1873. The title to the school-lot was confirmed to the town, and the land has been used, as originally intended, for school purposes.

Many of these original proprietors and lot-owners were never residents of Athens, many others resided here for a short time only, and others made this their home during life, and their descendants are yet among us. Gen. Ethan Allen was hero at the time of the drawing of lots, and remained in the valley a few weeks only, then returning to his home in Vermont. John O'Neil had a house in 1786, near where is the residence of the late Francis Tyler, but soon after left the country. Phineas Stephens and Uriah Stephens were hero for a few years; it is probable that they were brothers of Capt. Ira Stephens, and that they removed to Angelica, New York. John Swift resided here for a time, and was afterwards a pioneer in the settlement of Palmyra, New York; was a soldier in the war of 1812, and at the time of his death in battle was a brigadier-general. Thomas Handy, who was also here a short time, was afterwards a pioneer at Elmira. Thomas Maclure was at Wyoming as early as 1774; was first sergeant of Capt. Spalding's company during the war, and came to Athens in 1786; he was the first person licensed to keep a tavern here which was in December, 1788, and the license was renewed in March, 1789; in 1794 he removed to Catherinestown New York.

Col. John Franklin erected a house here in 1786, on lot number 40, south of the public Square, and near the bank of the Susquehanna River; it was his intention to remove to this place in 1787, but he was taken to Philadelphia, and did not make Athens his home until the latter part of the year 1789. In the year 1788 came Elisha Satterlee, Elisha Mathewson, and Ira Stephens. Benedict Satterlee was one of the forty original settlers in the township of Kingston, early in the history of the Wyoming valley; ho was killed, not, it is believed, in the massacre, but in some of the troubles incident to the early settlement prior to 1778, leaving a widow and six children, the eldest of whom, but thirteen years of age at the time of the massacre, was Elizabeth, afterwards the wife of Major Elisha Mathewson; the others were Elisha, Elias, Benedict, Nathaniel, and Samuel; the mother, fleeing with her children after the massacre, perished in the wilderness of fatigue; these all came up under the lead of their elder brother, Elisha, to Athens in 1788. Elisha married Cynthia, a sister of Capt. Ira Stephens, who died May 9, 1848, aged seventy-nine years; they had several children.

John F. Satterlee

Ira Stephens was born in Connecticut, July 24, 17'60. He removed at an early day to Wyoming with his father, Jedediah Stephens, and there married Sibyl Ransom, a daughter of Capt. Samuel Ransom, who was born February 1, 1764, at Canterbury, Conn. He was a soldier in Capt. Spalding's company through the war, and his discharge, signed by Washington's own hand, is still preserved. In the spring of 1788 he removed to Athens, being one of the original proprietors of the town, and having had several lots assigned him in 1786. He was one of the proprietors of the old academy, an original member and first Junior Warden of Rural Amity lodge, supervisor in 1793, constable in 1796, overseer of the poor in 1798. He was killed by the hand of an assassin, at Angelica, New York, where he was looking after his investments in real estate, September 20, 1803; his widow died April 30, 1826. They had children, Chester, born March 12, 1785; Polly, born November 3, 1786, married Reuben Swift, and is yet living at Palmyra, New York; Esther, September 23, 1789; Lydia, October 1, 1791; Samuel Ransom, June 27, 1793; Laura, July 29, 1795; George P., August 8, 1797; Harriet, September 10, 1799, married Capt. Elias S. Mathewson, and is yet living, and Cynthia, January 15, 1804.

In September, 1788, Guy Maxwell came; first as clerk to Col. Hollenback, and afterwards was in partnership with him in selling goods, and about 1791 he and Samuel Hepburn formed a partnership for the same purpose. He was appointed justice of the peace September 1, 1791. He was born July 15, 1770, in Ireland, and was probably the youngest person that ever officiated as justice at this place. In March, 1791, he was licensed to keep a tavern, and in April, 1792, he and Samuel Hepburn were licensed together. During his residence here he married Nellie Wynkoop, and his son Thomas, afterwards a member of congress from the State of New York, was born. In August, 1796, he removed to Elmira.

Jonathan Harris came here about 1788 or 1789; he was a native of Colchester, Connecticut. He settled first in the village, and in June, 1789, he was licensed to keep a tavern. He had a small farm on the Point, which, in 1798, he sold to George Welles, and in 1792 he was in possession of a large tract on the bank of the Susquehanna, about the mouth of Cayuta creek. He established there his home, and endeavored to purchase the Pennsylvania title, but it seems that he failed through some chicanery outside the usual course of law. He subsequently purchased a farm near Spanish hill, where he died August 14, 1829, aged seventy-nine years. He married, at Colchester, Connecticut, Lodemia Tozer, daughter of Samuel Tozer, of that place, and sister of Col. Julius Tozer, afterwards of Athens. They had children, John, Alpheus, Russell, Squire, James, Minard, Samuel, Dorothea, Lodemia, and Susan.

Alpliens Harris, born at Colchester, July 17, 1765, was employed on the survey of the State line in 1786, and shortly afterwards made this his home. He married first Jerusha Miller, and second Elizabeth Clapp, daughter of Nathaniel Clapp, who was also an early settler. The descendants of Alpheus Harris are well known in the valley. Julius Tozer, a brother-in-law of Jonathan Harris, was born at Colchester, June 16, 1764, and before the war went with his father and family to Wyoming. After the battle they returned to Connecticut, where Julius, although but a lad, enlisted in the service. After the war he married, at Colchester, Hannah Conklin, daughter of Ananias Conklin, who was born October 7, 1784. In 1791 they came to Exeter, in Luzerne County, and in 1794 to Athens. Mr. Tozer was elected colonel of a regiment in the militia of this State, and during the War of 1812 he raised a company, of which he was captain, and served through that war, two of his sons, Samuel and Guy, accompanying him. His children were Hannah, born October 4, 1788; Alice, March 5, 1789; Elizabeth R., August 28, 1791; Samuel, August 1, 1792; Julius, March 7, 1794; Lucy, January 1796; Dorothy, January 28, 1798; Guy, March 7, 1799; Albert, May 30, 1801; Susan, March 1, 1803; Joel Murray, August 11, 1805; Mary Ann, June 21, 1807; and Cynthia, May 1, 1809. Col. Tozer died December 7, 1852, and his wife died March 5, 1832.

Many of the descendants of Col. Tozer yet reside here. Two of his sons, Albert and Murray, are living. Guy, who but recently died, was in 1837 elected sheriff of the county; he married, October 4, 1827, Welthia Kinney, daughter of Joseph Kinney, Esq., of Sheshequin. Sheriff Tozer died September 20, 1877, his wife August 18, 1868.

Daniel McDuffie, a native of the county Antrim, Ireland, came here in the year 1788 as a tenant and agent of Col. Arthur Erwin, of Bucks County, an extensive owner of lands in this town, and subsequently lie and his sons made large purchases of the Erwin lands. Col. Erwin was shot by an assassin, while sitting in Mr. McDuffie's house, in the year 1791. Mr. McDuffie died July 6, 1831, aged seventy-nine; his wife, Dorothy, died Jan. 28, 1845, aged eighty-eight. They left a large family. Charles, one of their sons, is yet living; one of their daughters married Francis Tyler, another, Horatio McGeorge, and another, Jeremy Decker, all recently well-known citizens of Athens.

Noah Murray came to Athens about the year 1791. He was a native of Litchfield County, Connecticut, and served in the patriot army during the war, after which he settled in the Wyoming valley. While there, Nov. 23, 1788, he was appointed one of the justices of the court of quarter sessions, and August 5, 1789, a justice of the peace for Luzerne County. He was a clergyman, first of the Baptist church, and afterwards of the Universalist; for some years he was pastor of the Universalist church in the city of Philadelphia. He was one of the proprietors of the old academy, and chairman of the trustees. He died May 11, 1811, in his seventy-fifth year, leaving two sons, who were well-known citizens, and several daughters. His son Abner Murray, born in September, 1773, came to Athens with his father and lived here until his death, June 3, 1839. He married, first, Dorothea, daughter of Jonathan Harris, who died May 22, 1816, and second, Nancy Ely, of Oswego, New York, who died May 19, 1862, in her eightieth year. Noah Murray, Jr., born January 24, 1783, was appointed a justice of the peace at Athens in 1816, and remained in commission until his removal to the we.st in 1831. He died in Kosciusko County, Indiana, September 4, 1859.

Captain Joseph Spalding came also about 1791. Ho was born in Plainfield, Connecticut, June 7, 1745, and was a descendant, in the fifth generation, from Edward Spalding, who settled in Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1633. He was one of the original proprietors of old Ulster Township, August 28, 1775. He was living in Sheshequin in 1786. He married first, at Plainfield, Eunice Shepard, who died at Sheshequin, December 6, 1790, and second, Mrs. Anna Margaret Snell. His children were, Welthia, born October 20, 1771, married Benedict Satterlee; John, born October 22, 1773; Howard, born October 24, 1776; Jared, born October 20, 1778; Rachel, 1779; Sarah; Simon; and Celestia, born August 10, 1795, married Isaac Morley. Captain Spalding died August 31, 1832.

His eldest son, John Spalding, settled at the homestead west of the Tioga River, and after holding many local positions was elected the second sheriff of Bradford County. He married, in 1790, Elizabeth, daughter of Dr. Amos Prentice, then of Groton, Conn., but afterwards of Athens. She was born October 16, 1781, and died October 31, 1820.

Sheriff Spalding died August 11, 1852. His children were George, who died in his sixteenth year, Owen, Amos Prentice, William, Julia Ann, who married the Rev. Curtis Thurston, Joseph, John, Edward, Harriet, and Jesse.

About the year 1794, James Irwin built the hotel so long known as the "Athens hotel," which was burned in October, 1875. He was first licensed to keep a hotel in November, 1795, and it was annually renewed until he sold it to George Welles, who was licensed to keep it in August, 1798. Mr. Welles kept it until January 1, 1809, when David Paine took possession, and kept it until January 1, 1814. Mr. Irwin, during his residence here, was also a merchant, and quite an extensive dealer in village lots. He removed to Elmira. His wife Lucy died here, December 10, 1800, aged twenty-nine years.

In the year 1790, Dr. Stephen Hopkins came from Morris County, New Jersey. In 1794 came David, Clement, and Enoch Paine, natives of Eastham, Massachusetts. David was born March 21, 1768; was appointed a justice of the peace, at Athens, in 1799, postmaster in 1808, and was the first burgess of Athens borough, in 1831. He married, first, Phebe, daughter of Col. Eleazer Lindsley, who was born August 16, 1780, and died January 21, 1814; and second, Anne Wheaten Harding, of Portland, Maine, who is yet living.

Esquire Paine died Sept. 7, 1851, leaving no children. Clement Paine was born August 11, 1769. He was a merchant, at Athens, during all his active life, and in 1813 he was an elector for president of the United States, and cast his vote for James Madison. He married, in 1806, Anna, daughter of Theodore Woodbridge, born in Glastonbury, Connecticut, September 13, 1784, and died October 6, 1834. Mr. Paine died March 1, 1849. His sons, Seth W. and Charles C, are prominent business men at Troy, in this county.

Dan Elwell was born in Dutchess County, New York, April 17, 1774, and came to Athens in 1798. He was a carpenter and builder by occupation, and erected many of the old houses in Athens. He married a daughter of Dr. Amos Prentice, and died at Van Ettenville, New York, in 1868, leaving several children, one of whom is the Hon. William Elwell, of Columbia County, who was born at Athens.

John Saltmarsh came here from Fairfield County, Connecticut, in 1801. His venerable parents, William and Elizabeth Saltmareh, accompanied him. William Saltmarsh, a native of Stockbridge, Mass., died Jan. 13, 1811, aged seventy-seven years; his wife, Elizabeth (Patterson), died April 1, 1816. John Saltmarsh was a graduate of Yale College, and soon after settling at Athens he was appointed a justice of the peace, and continued in commission until his death, November 9, 1815, at the age of fifty-three years. He married Rhoda Beach, of Trumbull, Connecticut, who died July 4, 1840, aged eighty years. They had three children, D'Alanson, born September 17, 1796; Orlando, born July 8, 1798; and Eliza, born May 20. 1802, married William H. Overton.

Moses Park, son of Silas Park, was born at Preston, Connecticut, August 1, 1766. In 1790 he settled at Sheshequin, and commenced preaching as a Baptist there and at Tioga Point; in 1793 he commenced to preach Universalism; in 1797 he removed into the State of Ohio, and was there commissioned by Governor St. Clair a justice of the peace; in 1801 he returned to Pennsylvania, and purchased a farm east of the Susquehanna, the well-known homestead of the family. He married Mary, daughter of Gen. Simon Spalding, who was born July 211, 1776. He died May 30, 1817. His children, most of whom are yet living, were Cynthia, born Dec. 25, 1792, married Constant Mathewson, Esq.; Clarissa, born April 29, 1795, married Capt. Nathaniel Flower; Harriet, born September 6, 1797, died young; Amanda, born November 24, 1799, married Capt. Jabez Fish, of Sheshequin; Chester (Rev.), born January 20, 1802; Moses, born January 13, 1804, died young; George, born July 25, 1806; Silas Warren, born March 18, 1809; Simon, born May 30, 1811, died young; Mary, born November 28, 1813, married Rev. G. S. Ames; and Consider Sterry, born October 31, 1816.

Major Zephon Flower was born at Hartford, Connecticut, Nov. 30, 1765. He entered the Revolutionary army when only thirteen years of age, and served until the close of the war. March 28, 1785, he married Mary Patrick, then of Hartford, who was born at Volentine, Connecticut, December 20, 1765. In 1786 he was living at Stillwater, New York; in 1788, at Kingston, Pennsylvania; and in 1791, at Sheshequin, in this county. Soon after his arrival in Sheshequin, we find him surveying, but where he studied this profession is unknown. While living in Sheshequin he was elected major of militia; and in 1803 he removed to Athens, and settled on the east side of the Susquehanna, near where he resided nearly all the remainder of his long life. From this time he was constantly and actively employed in surveying, besides frequently holding the offices of assessor, supervisor, and other positions. He was the first person made a Mason by old Rural Amity lodge, the date being June 12, 1798. His children were Heloisa, born at Stillwater January 16, 1786, and died at Athens July 13, 1861, unmarried, her deeds of kindness and charity will be long remembered; Mary, born at Kingston July 12, 1788, married Zebulon Mix, of Towanda; Nathaniel (captain), born at Sheshequin July 16, 1791, married Clarissa, daughter of Rev. Moses Park, and died September 8, 1851, without children, having lived an active and useful life; Ithuriel, born in Sheshequin December 10, 1797, and removed west; Zuliema, born in Sheshequin, April 6, 1800, married George Walker, Jr., of Nichols, and had nine children, among them Zephon Flower Walker, who resides at the Franklin and Flower homestead in Athens township; Huldah, born October 23,1793, married Timothy Bartlett, of Sheshequin; Philomela, Zephon, George, Alfred, Albert, Almore. Major Flower died April 16, 1855; his wife died March 5, 1848.

Joseph Tyler was one of the early settlers in this section previous to 1790, he is said to have been a native of New Jersey, and married Jane Armstrong. He had children, Caleb, born in 1781; Ephraim, born in 1783; Sally, born 1785; Francis, in October, 1787; and Archibald. Before the year 1800, he was struck on the head by a ruffian, on account of some difficulty growing out of the unsettled state of land titles, and was afterwards insane the greater part of his life. His son Francis, the only one of the children that remained here, married a daughter of Daniel McDuffie, and by economy and prudence acquired a large estate, which is now being enjoyed by his children.

The second wife of Col. John Franklin was Abigail (Fuller), widow of Capt. James Bidlack, Jr., whose tragic death at the battle or massacre of Wyoming, is one of the striking events of that scene. Capt. Bidlack left four children, all of whom Col. Franklin, when he married the widow, took under his own roof, and thenceforward was a father to them. These children were, Stephen, born at Canaan, Connecticut, January 5, 1773; Sally, born at Wyoming, 1775; Hettie, born 1776; and James, born 1778. Stephen married Lois Ransom, daughter of Capt. Samuel Ransom, and had Abigail, who married Samuel L. McQuigg; Sarah, who married Samuel Ovenshire, a native of Sheshequin, who came to Athens in the early years of this century, and was the father of the Ovenshire family, now prominent citizens of Athens Township; Sibyl; Celestia, who married Samuel McKinney; Miranda, Harriet, Ransom, and Emily. Stephen early removed to Spencer, New York. Sally Bidlack, eldest daughter of Capt. James, married Franklin Chitsey. Hettie, the second daughter, married William Patrick, and went to Michigan. James, the youngest child of the captain, married Esther Moore, daughter of Daniel Moore, and settled in Sheshequin: they had Anson; Polly, married Joseph McKinney, of Litchfield, and is yet living; Sally, married Philip Verbeck, living in Sheshequin; Lydia, married Samuel Wolcott, of Litchfield, and is yet living, one of her sons is now (March, 1878) the burgess-elect of Athens borough; Zipporah, married John Horton; Abigail, married Martin Towner; James, now living in Sheshequin, and has a family; Daniel and Stephen, both living in Sheshequin.

Arnold Colt, Esq., was a resident of Athens from 1795 to about 1798. While here he kept tavern, and was a justice of the peace, and was the first Master of old Rural Amity lodge. He returned to Wilkes-Barre, whence he came, and was afterwards elected sheriff of Luzerne County. The families of Decker, Loomis, Minier, Northrop, and Reddington were here during the last century. On the farm of Wright Loomis, on Queen Esther's flats, was born Joshua R. Giddings, afterwards of Ohio, and distinguished as a leader of the abolition party.

The families of Griffin, Greene, Morley, and others, living on the western side of Tioga, came early in this century, and have since been among our most active and useful citizens; but time and space forbid our bringing these sketches down to the present generation.

Milltown Settlement

Prince Bryant, whom we have found among the earliest settlers in old Springfield, about the year 1786, settled on the Cayuta creek, on the strip of land between old Athens and the State line. Here he made considerable improvements, as by deeds dated January 2, 1788, he sold to Nathaniel Shaw and John Shepard the property which he describes as consisting of a saw-mill, a grist-mill, two dwelling-houses, and six hundred acres of land, on a gore of land between the township of Athens and the State line. Mr. Bryant moved away about the date of this deed, probably into the State of New York. Mr. Shaw sold his interest to Mr. Shepard, March 30, 1789, and left the State. Mrs. Perkins remarks that the purchase was made for £600, New York currency. "In this purchase, the grist-mill was an important acquisition, being the only one within fifty 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.'" As the biography of Mr. Shepard will appear in another place, nothing further need be said here.

Dr. Prentice lived in the same neighborhood. Francis Snechenberger, a German, who came from Philadelphia, who was by trade a deer-skin leather dresser, settled in Milltown in 1799. Capt. Thomas Wilcox, from Tyringham, Massachusetts, near the beginning of the century, settled at Milltown. He was by trade a blacksmith, and accumulated considerable property. Josiah Crocker removed from Lee, Massachusetts, to Milltown, in 1808, and engaged with Mr. Shepard in building a fulling-mill and saw-mill across the State line. Carding-machines were afterwards added. Mr. Crocker interested himself in educational and religious matters. Among the first things he did was to secure a good schoolhouse at Milltown, which afterwards became one of the preaching-places for Rev. Mr. Wisner, of Athens.

This part of the township has always been called Milltown, from the fact that, from prior to 1788 to the present, there have been mills on this part of Cayuta creek. The large plaster and grist-mills which occupy almost the precise spot of the log mills of Prince Bryant, are at present owned by Phillips and Curtis, and maintain their reputation for good work earned fourscore and ten years since.

It will be recollected that the Indian purchase of 1768 included a part of Bradford County, but until after the Revolutionary war the northwestern part of this county, and of the State, was still claimed by the Iroquois confederacy. In order to extinguish the Indian title to this part of the commonwealth, under date of February 12, 1784, " The council proceeded to the appointment of commissioners to hold a treaty with the Indians claiming the unpurchased territory within the acknowledged limits of this State, pursuant to resolution of the general assembly,, of the twenty-fifth of September, 1783, and the ballots being taken, it appeared that the Hon. Samuel John Atlee, esquire, William Maclay, and Francis Johnson, esquires, were duly chosen." In the minutes of the council of August 24, 1784, is an inventory of the articles furnished the commissioners as presents and compensation for the land it was proposed to purchase, for the payment for which three thousand three hundred and seventy-five pounds, specie, were appropriated. In reply to the letter of the president of the council, notifying them of their appointment, the commissioners, among other suggestions, mentioned that Tioga or Wyalusing, on the east branch of the Susquehanna, would be the most proper place to meet the Six Nations for the treaty. In October the conference was held and the treaty concluded at Fort Stanwix. It was agreed, on the part of the Pennsylvania authorities, that one thousand dollars' worth of goods should be delivered to the Indians at Tioga Point. The goods were purchased under the direction of Francis Johnson, Esq., and William Maclay was commissioned to deliver them, December 28, 1785, Mr. Maclay reports to the council that he had met a large number of the Six Nations of Indians at Tioga, and had distributed the goods which he had received in trust for them from the public, agreeably to the instructions which had been given him. This closed the Indian conferences between Pennsylvania and the Indian tribes.

It was a century before this that William Penn met his red brothers of the forest for the first time, at Shackamaxon, within the present limits of Philadelphia, with words of kindness and brotherly love; and now, after a hundred years have passed by, filled as they have been with the wonderful events which have revolutionized a continent, the people of Pennsylvania meet, for the last time, the descendants of these sons of the wood, on her own soil, and, with assurances of good-will and gifts of kindness, bid each other a final farewell. It is true that citizens of Pennsylvania, after this, have met Indians in council, but not as the representatives of Pennsylvania, but of the general government. Nearly five years later, at Tioga, Timothy Pickering, in a treaty with the Iroquois, informed them the thirteen fires had become one fire, and that he spake, not in the name of the State of Pennsylvania, but of the United States government. The account of this treaty has been given in another chapter, and need not here be repeated.

Sherman Day relates: "The Indians, having buried the hatchet with the peace of 1783, were disposed to be friendly; but the villainy of straggling white traders, aided by the demon of rum, often exasperated them to such a degree that great fears were entertained for the safety of the resident families. About this time a good-natured Indian, who boasted chiefly of his stature as "Big Shickshinny," was murdered, while intoxicated, near Hollenback's store, by a little roving fur-trader from the Delaware River. It was with some difficulty the villagers appeased the exasperated feelings of the relatives and friends of the Indian by purchasing his corpse at the price of a pair of old horses."

In the summer of 1787 the little settlement of Athens was thrown into confusion over the murder of a prominent Indian chieftain by one of his own tribe. This Indian, of her house and lot. The deed was delivered to Mr. Welles, and the United States marshal put him in possession of the land, July, 1808.

Thus the matter stood until 1810. In 1809, Mr. Welles was elected to the legislature. While here he secured the passage of what was known as the Bedford and Ulster act, by which those townships were allowed the benefits of the provisions of the compromise of 1799. Before the commissioners appointed to carry into effect this law, Mrs. Mathewson preferred her claim; but Mr. Welles showing that he held the Pennsylvania title and was in possession of the land under the law, Mrs. Mathewson's claim was rejected.

Failing in the courts to retain possession of the land on the Point, except of her house and lot, for which Mr. Welles had given her a deed, she commenced suit against Mr. Satterlee to recover the land which had been assigned to Mr. Mathewson in the original distribution of the lots. But Mr. Satterlee had purchased the Pennsylvania title, and successfully resisted in the courts her efforts to dispossess him.

These were deemed very important cases. Twice they were carried to the Supreme Court on questions of law; one of them was tried before Judge Huston, who had the reputation of being one of the best-informed judges on land law in the State.

But the case did not end even here. The son Constant, becoming of age, and finding that no relief could be had at the courts, repaired to Harrisburg, and in 1823 and 1824 laid his case before the House of Representatives, asking for a special enactment which would give the title to the lands on the Point to the family. Here he found friends, but the thing asked for was so palpably illegal that the legislature refused to grant his request. In 1827 and 1828 he was chosen representative, and after unremitting perseverance on his part the legislature appointed commissioners to appraise the land in controversy, and paid Mrs. Mathewson from the public treasury the sum of $10,000.

Thus ended a controversy which for more than twenty years agitated the public mind, both in the township and in the county. From being a mere personal and legal question it came to be one of general interest and political significance. Messrs. Welles and Mathewson being opposed to each other politically, each was put in nomination for the legislature. The issue was made on the merits of the controversy about the land. The politics of the county degenerated into a personal quarrel between these two men about 127 acres of land. With the termination of this case no other questions arose in this part of the county in which the Connecticut title was involved.

Athens Borough

The surveyors of the Susquehanna company made a survey and plan of the town of Athens, which is the one after which the village was built. In 1802, George Welles employed Mr. James Pumpelly to make a new survey of the village, which he called Lockhartsburg, in which a broad street was laid up the left bank of the Tioga, called the "Tioga way," and one up the right bank of the Susquehanna, called the " Susquehanna way.'' The main street was called "Union," and the town was crossed at convenient distances by other streets. The people, however, had become so accustomed to the old names that to substitute new ones in the face of a decided public sentiment was found to be impossible.

In 1795 the Duke de la Rochefoucauld speaks of Athens as an inconsiderable village of eight or ten houses, with its single tavern crowded with travelers going to settle near the lakes. The year before there had been three taverns. He adds that the merchants carried on an inconsiderable trade in hemp, which they obtained from the valleys above. Evidently the duke was not pleased with Athens, nor with the entertainment he found. His bed was soiled, and he slept with his boots on. His food did not suit him, and altogether his picture is a forbidding one. In 1798 it is described in the "American Gazetteer" as a place containing as yet but few houses, but as promising to be a place of importance.

It will be remembered that Judge Hollenback had established a store in Athens, for the purpose of engaging in the Indian trade, as early as 1784. This he abandoned after a few years for other enterprises. David Alexander and Mr. Hepburn also had small quantities of goods. When Mr. Welles came to Athens he bought up a large quantity of goods, valued at more than $11,000. The building in which Caton & Welles had their store was nearly opposite the Irwin tavern. After the store was abandoned, the building was changed to a dwelling-house, and occupied by Judge Herrick in 1813, and has remained in his possession ever since.

By an act of assembly approved March 29, 1831, the village of Athens was erected into a borough. Its territory included all between the rivers from Satterlee's landing to the north line of the Welles farm. The limits have been extended so that now the borough of Athens is bounded on the north by the north line of old Ulster, and includes all south of that line between the two rivers to the extremity of the Point. The municipal officers are one burgess, a town council of six members, and one high constable. The first burgess was David Paine.

In 1842, Mr. Sherman Day visited the place, and describes it in the following language: "Athens, now one of the pleasantest villages in Pennsylvania, extends across an isthmus between the Tioga and Susquehanna rivers, about two miles above their confluence. Above and below the town the land widens out into meadows of surprising fertility. The long main street of the village runs lengthwise of the isthmus, and is adorned by delightful residences and verdant shades and shrubbery. There is an academy here, and Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Methodist churches. There is a substantial bridge over each of the rivers. That over the Susquehanna has been recently erected; that over the Tioga was built in 1820. Population, 435.

Since the completion of the Pennsylvania and New York railroad, Athens has been rapidly improving. Well-kept stores and numerous places of business attest the thrift of the people. There is a national bank, chartered in 1865, with a capital of $100,000, of which Mr. Nathaniel C. Harris, a grandson of Jonathan, one of the early settlers in Athens Township, is president, and Charles T. Hull cashier. There are six churches, viz.: Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Universalist, and Roman Catholic. There are three hotels and one brewery. The graded school is kept in the old academy on the public square, and has 200 pupils. Besides the ordinary manufacturing establishments common to villages, Messrs. Kellogg & Maurice have the most extensive wrought-iron working establishment in northern Pennsylvania. They began with the manufacture of iron bridges, after an improved pattern. As their business has increased they have enlarged their works, which are located near the railroad depot, introduced new machinery, much of which was designed in the establishment, until their facilities for turning out all kinds of wrought and cast-iron work are unexcelled by any shops in the country. They are now receiving orders for bridges, and other work pertaining to their line of manufacture, from nearly every State in the Union. They employ about 200 men, and their work gives universal satisfaction. At present they have a contract for building the elevated railway in New York, and the iron bridges on the Pacific railway. The Novelty furniture works manufacture bedroom suites, in which they employ about forty hands, and find a market for their goods in southern New York and northern Pennsylvania.

Athens contains a number of elegant private residences. There is not a village in Bradford County, and but few in the commonwealth, which can boast a finer street than Main street of Athens. It extends the entire length of the village proper, running nearly north and south. On the east side are residences exclusively; on the west, stores, shops, and residences. The street is finely shaded, and as straight as the surveyor's compass can lay it.

The enumeration of the census of 1870 gives the white population at 944, and 21 colored. Since then there has been a large increase, and the number of inhabitants is estimated at nearly 1500. In 1870 the number of dwellings was 185, and the number of families 193; the value of real property was put at $497,700, and of personal at $210,800.

It was the design of Col. C. F. Welles, Jr., through whose indomitable energy and far-sightedness the people are largely indebted for their present railroad facilities, to make Athens the common junction of the Pennsylvania and New York, the Southern Central, and the Geneva, Ithaca and Sayre** railroads. It was afterwards found to be more advantageous to make the junction at Sayre. To this place the offices of the company have been removed. A town has been laid out, and a number of elegant private residences have been erected, among the most noticeable of which is that of Robert Packer, Esq., the superintendent of the Pennsylvania and New York railroad. The place owes much of its prosperity to the prudent but generous management of Mr. Howard Elmer, who has fostered the enterprise by a liberal dealing towards purchasers, and wise counsels to those who have undertaken business there. On the west side of the Tioga and opposite to Athens, Messrs. Underhill and Nobles have established a large tannery, in which about thirty hands are employed, and where thirty thousand sides of sole leather are turned out annually.

Spanish Hill, on the northern border of the county, is an oval-shaped hill, whose regular slopes and level top have given rise to the opinion of its artificial origin. On the top were the remains of very ancient fortifications, but by whom erected is no wise certain. The origin of the name has given rise to a great deal of speculation, but nothing definite is known of it.

The township contains eighteen school districts, and by the census of 1870 had a population of 2256 souls, 443 families, 432 dwellings, 200 farms, which were valued at $1,742,856; 462 horses, 1647 cows, and other personal property to the value of 8317,400. The value of farm productions was placed at 1227,779, and of live-stock at $163,625. There were out 4731 tons of hay, and made 146,580 pounds of butter.

Athens Biographies

John F. Satterlee
John Shepard
Hon. Edward Herrick
E. P. Allen M.D.
David & Clement Paine
Hyman Van Duzer
Charles McDuffee
Joseph McKinney
Chester Stephens
Michael Coleman
Zephon F. Walker
Rebecca M. Walker

Footnotes:
* Contributed by Edward Herrick, Esq.
** Named in honor of Robert Sayre, superintendent of the Lehigh Valley railroad.

Pennsylvania AHGP | Bradford County


Source: The History of Bradford County, Pennsylvania, Published by L. H. Everts & Company, 1878.


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