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  Athens Township, Bradford County ~ Biographies

David and Clement Paine

David and Clement Paine who were among the earlier settlers of Athens, Pennsylvania, were natives of Eastham, Cape Cod, and the youngest of the seven sons of Thomas Paine and Phebe Freeman, his wife. At various periods, from 1767 to 1782, Thomas Paine was a representative to the Massachusetts legislature, and in the list of deputies to the Old Colony court the names of his father and grandfather often occur as far back as 1671, the family having resided at Eastham from almost the first settlement of the Cape. The name of Thomas Paine appears in the history of Eastham upon various committees appointed for carrying out the principles of freedom in resistance to British tyranny during the Revolution. His mother, Alice Mayo, was a descendant of Governor Thomas Prince, and Robert Treate Paine, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was his cousin and occasional correspondent, as was also William Payne, the father of John Howard Payne, author of "Home, Sweet Home."

Having lost most of his property by the reverses of the war, and his wife dying, he removed from Cape Cod to Boston, and subsequently to Maine. He was a man of intelligence and piety. In a diary kept during his later years the following verse frequently appears as its ruling sentiment:

"This day be bread and peace my lot;
All else beneath the sun
Thou know'st if best bestowed or not,
And let thy will be done!"

The family being thus broken up, the sons were thrown upon their own resources and widely scattered, though keeping up by correspondence the bond of family union. One of the elder brothers was an early volunteer in the Continental army, and another was twice taken prisoner on board a privateer. Clement, the seventh son, born August 11, 1769, went to Portland (then Falmouth), at the age of fourteen, to learn the printing business. A large volume of the Falmouth Gazette, on which he then worked, is still preserved; also some letters of considerable length, on agriculture (for which he manifested an early taste) and on the character of the Supreme Being, which evince a degree of thought and reflection unusual for one of his then early years.

He was subsequently engaged in various publishing offices in Boston and New York, and in 1791 formed the project, in connection with his brother Seth, of establishing a press and journal at "Kaatskill on the Hudson." But the type and other material ordered by them from London was lost at sea in the brig "Betsey," and the enterprise was abandoned, although we find that the publication of the Catskill Packet was commenced a year or two later by Croswell & Co. with good success. In 1791 and 1792 Clement Paine was engaged in the office of Claypoole's Daily Advertiser, at Philadelphia, then the seat of the general government under Washington's administration. It was there he frequently saw the first president, and a strong sentiment of respect and admiration, then formed for the person and character of Washington, remained with him through life.

David Paine, born March 19, 1768, was in his youth a clerk and school-teacher. He was for some time engaged in the land-office of Captain Blodgett, at Bennington, and in 1791 was partner in a store at Canaan, Conn. In September, 1792, the brothers, David and Clement, erected a store and potash-factory at Rensselaerville, New York. The business, however, did not prove a success. In March, 1794, David writes from "Owago, on the Susquehanna," to Clement, who remained to wind up the concern, and soon after from "Tioga Point," where the former had become connected with William Bingham in the purchase and sale of lands, under the Connecticut title. In August, 1794, he states that "Brockway, of Catskill, has established a post to ride weekly to this place," and refers in October to his own opening of a land-office with very flattering prospects. "I have never been acquainted," he adds, "with a better country for a young man to acquire property."

Clement came to Tioga Point in December, 1794, and the brothers were there connected in trade and land operations for ten years. During the winter and spring of 1796, Clement had charge of the business of his brother Seth, at Charleston, South Carolina, who was publisher of the City Gazette, the first daily paper ever printed there. His partner was Peter Freneau, secretary of the State, and the brother of Philip Freneau (well known as a poet and journalist of that period), who was a personal friend and correspondent of Seth Paine.

In 1796, David and Clement Paine erected the house which was in after-years, and for a long period, the family residence of the latter. It was in part built by the father of Judge William Elwell, of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, and at the time of its destruction by fire, about ten years since, was probably the oldest frame house in Athens. The Avery family (subsequently of Owego) were its earliest occupants. It was at about the same time that the old academy building (burned in 1843) was begun by them and other citizens.

The conflicting land titles of Connecticut and Pennsylvania began to interfere much with both public and private prosperity throughout the region, and in 1797 Clement Paine writes: " Many people are of opinion that violent measures will be resorted to before the dispute is finally settled; but I can hardly persuade myself that this State will attempt a thing so amazingly absurd, as it would be under the present circumstances, to send on troops to dispossess the settlers here, who, by estimation, now amount to from 12,000 to 15,000 people. We shall continue regularly to prosecute our business notwithstanding the hostile attitude of our enemies, and such is the general intention of the people."

Later in the same year he writes: "A great stagnation of mercantile and speculative business is the universal complaint throughout this northern country. The sale of new land in any situation seems entirely suspended, and it is difficult to obtain money for any kind of property." The brothers were associated with Colonel Franklin and others in vindicating the rights of the settlers, and, in behalf of the common cause, David made repeated journeys to Philadelphia and New England.

During the uncertainty and depression of the times, Clement began the study of law, and again spent a winter or two in Philadelphia. In March, 1801, on a passage from that city to New England, his vessel was wrecked on the south coast of Long Island, and he, with other passengers, barely escaped with their lives. In October, 1801, his esteemed brother, Seth Paine, whose publishing house had grown into an extensive business, died of yellow fever at Charleston, and at that city, for a part of several subsequent years, Clement Paine was engaged in the collection of claims and the settlement of the estate, in which he succeeded beyond expectation. The reminiscences of his winters spent in Charleston afforded him pleasure to his latest years.

For quite a long period after its first settlement, Athens was the centre of trade for a considerable part of the country. During the earlier years of his business there, Clement Paine purchased his stocks of goods principally from Orrin Day and Dr. Croswell at Catskill, from whence (as for more twenty years afterwards from New York and Philadelphia) he had them transported in wagons to Athens. Sometimes, however, they came up the river on "Durham boats," which were propelled with poles. Among the various clerks employed by him were Constant Mathewson, of Athens, and O. P. Ballard, subsequently a wealthy and well-known merchant of Troy, Pennsylvania.

In July, 1806, he was married to Anne Woodbridge, a native of Glastenbury, Connecticut, the daughter of Major Theodore Woodbridge, an officer of the Revolutionary army, whose commission from the Continental congress, as also a portion of his journal kept during the war, are still preserved. Mrs. Paine was one of the few original members of the Presbyterian Church at Athens, and remained through life steadfast and active in the cause of religion and humanity. Both in her correspondence and published productions of prose and verse she cultivated a strong native literary taste, and the recollections of her benevolence and Christian virtues still shed a lustre upon her memory. She died in October, 1834, at the age of fifty years. In 1812, Clement Paine was a presidential elector, casting the vote of his district for James Madison and Elbridge Gerry. During the War of 1812 he was active in procuring volunteers for the army, together with arms and supplies for their use. For many years he drew pensions for a large but rapidly decreasing number of Revolutionary soldiers from all parts of the county, who with their wives met regularly each year at his house. In exchanging personal recollections of the times that tried men's souls,

''Twas there they fought their battles o'er,
And show'd how fields were won.''

Major Zephon Flower, of Athens, was the last survivor upon his list of pensioners.

The cultivation of the soil was always with him a favorite occupation; the fields which, for a long series of years, he owned and tilled lay on the cross-street connecting the Elmira and Owego roads, and along the west side of the latter to the "mile hill," including the present site of the Lehigh Valley railroad station. Few of the original landmarks remain, however, except the large Lombardy poplar on the carriage-road near the depot. He was the owner at different periods of a considerable amount of real estate through the county. In 1818 he sold to Francis Tyler the Stephens farm, on which the latter lived until his death. He bought in 1827 the mill property on Shepard's creek, near the State line, afterwards occupied by M. W. Wheelock as a woolen-factory. He also owned some mills, with a considerable amount of land, near Troy, and a large tract of wild land in Franklin township, ou which, in 1814, his son James began a settlement. In 1835 he erected a number of dwellings on what was then known as Paine street (now Lombard street), in the borough of Towanda. He was remarkable among the many who knew him personally for the sound and practical character of his views, the promptness and punctuality of his dealings, and the plainness of his speech and manners. Seldom sacrificing his own ideas of utility, comfort, or independence to mere conventionalism, he thereby gained some reputation for eccentricity. Although naturally of a strong will and impetuous disposition, he was ever thankful in the sunshine and resigned in the storm. By an unvarying system of diet and exercise, principally on horseback (as were his journeys), his business faculties and personal health were sustained to advanced years in a somewhat slender constitution. In December, 1844, he left Athens (his home for a period of just fifty years) for the residence of his son at Troy, where he died, March, 1849, in the eighty-first year of his age. His sons were Rev. Thomas E. Paine, who died at Woodville. Mississippi, in 1843; James A. Paine, who died at Marengo, Iowa, 1867; Seth W. Paine, and Charles C. Paine, who still reside at Troy, Pennsylvania.

David Paine, in 1799, received the appointment of magistrate from Governor Mifflin. He was postmaster of Athens from 1808 to 1824. In 1803 he was married to Phebe Lindley, the sister of Mrs. Ebenezer Backus and Mrs. Dr. Hopkins. After her death he married, in 1823, Anne W. Harding, of Portland, Maine, an amiable and accomplished lady, who still survives. He had no children by either marriage. About 1825 he was associated with his nephew, Seth Paine, in the publication of the Gazette of Maine, at Portland. Returning to Athens, his home for the remainder of his days was a tasteful cottage, with beautiful grounds attached, on a portion of which the Episcopal rectory now stands. Few homes presented in those days more of refined social enjoyment. He was the first burgess of Athens borough, and with him originated the planting of the beautiful shade-trees which adorn its streets. At an early day he laid out the village of Burlington, and gave it the name of ''Nonesuch."

"Died on the 7th September, 1851, at Athens, Pennsylvania, David Paine, Esq., aged eighty-three. He was a native of Eastham (Cape Cod), Massachusetts, and settled at Athens early in the year 1794. Few, indeed, of his old associates in the settlement of the country now remain; yet in the annals of the beautiful valley, which fur more than half a century he made his home, his name will be remembered as one of those identified with its history and improvement. His warm heart and social disposition ever won the esteem and love of those who knew him, and although traits like these naturally strengthen man's attachment to life, yet, as the increasing infirmities of age warned him of approaching dissolution, he was accustomed to look forward to it as a happy release, evincing at the same time a spirit of meek resignation to the will of his heavenly Father."

Enoch Paine, a brother of David and Clement Paine, came to Athens in 1803. At about the age of eighteen he was twice taken prisoner on board a privateer by the British during the Revolution. He subsequently made voyages to South America, Europe, and the East Indies, and resided for a time at Cape Francois, in the West Indies, then under the government of Toussaint L'Ouverture. His friends were often for years without tidings from him. He died at Athens, unmarried, in 1815, aged fifty-one. His monumental inscription reads:

"This modest stone (what few vain marbles can) May truly say, Here lies an honest man."

Athens Township

Bradford County Biographies

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Created May 2014 by Judy White