Contributed by Nancy Piper
[Source: Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, by Sherman Day, Philadelphia, 1843, Page 448-457]
Lycoming County was taken from Northumberland by the act of 13th April, 1795. It then comprised all the northwestern part of the state beyond Mifflin, Huntingdon, and Westmoreland counties, and as far as the Allegheny river. Its limits have been curtailed by the successive establishment of Centre, Armstrong, Indiana, Clearfield, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga, and Clinton counties. Length 60 miles, breadth 30; area 1,500 sq. miles. Population in 1800, 5,414; in 1810, 11.006; in 1820, 13,517; in 1830, 17,636; in 1840, 22,649.
The West branch of the Susquehanna flows through the southern portion of the co., receiving as its principal tributaries, on the left or north bank, Pine, Larry's, Lycoming, Loyalsock, and Muncy creeks ; and on the right bank, Nippenose, Black Hole, and White Deer Hole creeks. Nature has divided this co. into two distinct portions, forming a perfect contrast to each other. One, and by far the largest portion, comprises the wild, rugged, and sterile region of Allegheny and Laurel Hill mountains, which sweep in a broad belt across the northern and central parts of the co., rising to the height of 1,500 or 2,000 feet above the lower country. This region can only sustain a very sparse population along the narrow valleys of the streams. It contains, however, several valuable beds of bituminous coal and iron ore, and vast forests of pine timber. The other portion of the co., comprising the lovely valley of the West Branch, with the subordinate limestone valleys to the south of it, and Muncy valley on the east, is not surpassed in picturesque beauty or fertility by any section of Pennsylvania, and promises to sustain a very dense population. The valley of the W. Branch is shut in on the south by the continuation of the Bald Eagle mountain, which separates it from Nippenose and White Deer Hole valleys. The southern boundary of the co. is the White Deer Mountain.
The Nippenose valley presents a very curious formation. It is an oval limestone basin, about ten miles long, surrounded on every side by high hills, the streams from which, after descending a short distance towards the centre of the valley, lose themselves under the surface of the limestone rocks. Nippenose cr. collects their waters from springs bursting up from the rocks on the north side of the valley, and conveys them away to the West Branch.
The internal improvements of the co. are the state canal along the left bank of the West Branch, extending into Clinton co.; the Williamsport and Elmira railroad, finished as far as Ralston, 26 miles from Williamsport ; and an excellent stone turnpike along the West Branch.
Agriculture and lumbering form the principal -occupations of the citizens; there are several iron works along Lycoming cr. and its tributaries. The census of 1840 enumerates in the co. 4 furnaces, 3 forges, bloomeries, rolling-mills, &c., 20 tanneries, 10 fulling-mills and woollen manufactories, and 11 distilleries.
|The population of the co. was originally composed of Scotch-Irish and
Quakers, from the lower counties of the state, and their descendants still
occupy the valleys, together with many Germans and others from Pennsylvania
and New York.
The purchase of land by the proprietary government at the treaty of Fort Stanwix,* Nov. 5,1768, then known as the " new purchase," opened the way for the settlement of the whites on the West Branch. Previous to this date, the valley had been occupied by a few straggling bands of Shawanee and Monsey Indians, who had retired from the lower valley of the Susquehanna; and occasionally parties of the Senecas came down to hunt, or more commonly to fall upon the defenceless families of the frontier. The Indians dwelling here were visited by David Brainerd, and by the Moravian missionaries, about the years 1744 to 46. The terms and boundaries of the purchase were as follows:-
* Fort Stanwix occupied the present site of Rome, on the Erie canal, in New York.
We, Tyanhasare, alias Abraham, sachem or chief of the Indian nation called the Mohocks, Senughsis-of the Oneydas; Chenughiata-of the Onondagos ; Gaustarax-of the Senecas; Sequariscra-of the Tuscaroras; Tagaaia-of the Cayugas, in general council of the Six Nations at Fort Stanwix, assembled for the purpose of settling a general boundary line between the said Six Nations, and their confederate and dependant tribes, and his majesty's middle colonies, send greeting, &c. In consideration of ten thousand dollars, they grant to Thomas Penn and Richard Penn, all that part of the province of Pennsylvania, not heretofore purchased of the Indians, within the said general boundary line, and beginning in the said boundary line, on the east side of the East branch of the river Susquehanna, at a place called Owegy, and running with the said boundary line, down the said branch on the east side thereof, till it comes opposite the mouth of a creek called by the Indians Awandac, (Tawandee,) and across the river and up the said creek on the south side thereof, and along the range of hills called Burnett's hills by the English, and by the Indians , on the north side of them, to the heads of a creek which runs into the West branch of the Susquehanna, which creek is by the Indians called Tiadaghton, and down the said creek on the south side thereof, to the said West branch of Susquehanna, then crossing the said river, and running up the same on the south side thereof, the several courses thereof to the fork of the same river which lies nearest to a place on the river Ohio, called the Kittanning, and from the said fork by a straight line to Kittanning aforesaid, and then down the said river Ohio by the several courses thereof to where the western bounds of the said province of Pennsylvania cross the same river, and then with the said western bounds to the south boundary thereof, and with the south boundary aforesaid to the east side of the Allegheny hills, and with the said hills on the cast side of them to the west line of a tract of land purchased by the said proprietors from the Six Nation Indians, and confirmed October 23d, 1758, and then with the northern bounds of that tract to the river Susquehanna, and crossing the river Susquehanna to the northern boundary line of another tract of land purchased of the Indians by deed, (August 22d, 1749,) and then with that northern boundary line to the river Delaware at the north side of the mouth of a creek called Lechawachsein, then up the said river Delaware on the west side thereof to the intersection of it, by an east line to be drawn from Owegy aforesaid to the said river Delaware, and then with that east line to the beginning at Owegy aforesaid.
During several years previous to the purchase, the Scotch-Irish rangers of the Kittatinny valley had often visited the valley of the West Branch, extending their excursions as far up as the Big Island, for the purpose of cutting off hostile parties of Indians, and their practised eyes had not failed to notice the extreme fertility and beauty of the land. Accordingly, no sooner was the purchase known, than a crowd of these adventurers flocked in, and when the land-office was opened in April following, it was besieged by a great number of applicants, and it became necessary to decide the priority of location by lottery. The purchases were limited to 300 acres for each individual, at £5 per 100 acres, and one penny per acre quit-rent. An allotment was made of 104,000 acres to the officers of the provincial regiments, who had served during the Indian campaigns, and who were desirous of settling together. Soon after the purchase of 1768, a question arose between the settlers and the government, whether Lycoming cr. or Pine cr. was the English name for the stream called Tiadaghton in the treaty; and the question remained unsettled for sixteen years, when, at another treaty at Fort Stanwix, in 1784, it was learned from the Indians that Tiadaghton meant Pine cr. In the mean time, says a note in Smith's Laws, vol. 2-
|There existed a great number of locations of the 3d of April, 1769, for
the choicest lands on the West branch of Susquehanna, between the mouths
of Lycoming and Pine creeks; but the proprietaries from extreme caution,
the result of that experience, which had also produced the very penal laws
of 1768 and 1769, and the proclamation already stated, had prohibited any
surveys being made beyond the Lycoming. In the mean time, in violation of
all law, a set of hardy adventurers had from time to time seated themselves
on this doubtful territory. They made improvements, and formed a very
considerable population. It is true, so far as regarded the rights to real
property, they were not under the protection of the laws of the country;
and were we to adopt the visionary theories of some philosophers, who have
drawn their arguments from a supposed state of nature, we might be led to
believe that the state of these people would have been a state of continual
warfare; and that in contests for property the weakest must give way to the
strongest. To prevent the consequences, real or supposed, of this state of
things, they formed a mutual compact among themselves. They annually elected
a tribunal, in rotation, of three of their settlers, whom they called
fair-play-men, who were to decide all controversies, and settle disputed
boundaries. From their decision there was no appeal. There could be no
resistance. The decree was enforced by the whole body, who started up in
mass, at the mandate of the court, and execution and eviction were as sudden
and irresistible as the judgment. Every new-comer was obliged to apply to
this powerful tribunal, and upon his solemn engagement to submit in all respects
to the law of the land, he was permitted to take possession of some vacant
spot. Their decrees were, however, just; and when their settlements were
recognised by law, and fair play had ceased, their decisions were received
in evidence, and confirmed by judgments of courts.
The process of ejection, when any person refused to comply with the decrees under the code of fair-play, was to place the offender in a canoe, row him down to the mouth of Lycoming cr., the boundary of civilization, and there set him adrift. The " seat of justice" of the fair-play-men is said to have been at Chatham's mill, now Ferguson's, near the mouth of Chatham's run. After the true construction of the treaty had been learned, a law was passed, allowing the settlers between Lycoming and Pine creeks a pre-emption right to not over 300 acres each, on proof of actual settlement previous to 1780. This pre-emption was granted, as the law declared, in consideration of " their resolute stand and sufferings during the late [revolutionary] war." Many cases subsequently came before the courts under this law, in which it became necessary to prove by oral testimony the usages of the fair-play men. While Chief-justice McKean was holding court in this district, partly, perhaps, from curiosity, and partly with reference to the case before him, he inquired of Bratton Caldwell, a shrewd old Irish pioneer, if he could tell him exactly what the provisions of the fair-play code were ? Bratton's memory did not serve him as to details; he could only convey an idea of them by comparison. " All I can say is," said he," that since your honor's courts have come among us, fair-play has entirely ceased, and law has taken its place."
|During seven years after the purchase, a state of peace prevailed on
the frontier, and the pioneers of the West Branch were permitted quietly
to build their cabins and clear their fields. Scarcely, however, had they
begun to enjoy the comforts which their industry had secured, when the alarm
of the opening revolution called them to a new field of duty. The change
was not great from the life of the hunter and backwoodsman to that of the
soldier. Always patriotic; accustomed to war by long training in the frontier
campaigns of 1755 to '63; and having been ever the decided opponents of royal
government, even as a substitute for that of the proprietaries, the Scotch-Irish
of the West Branch eagerly seized their arms in the cause of independence:
and although their own homes were exposed to savage invasions, and their
families but poorly provided with the necessaries of life, they cheerfully
left them for the scenes of active service at Boston. .
Stockade forts were erected at each important settlement along the river, as places of refuge for families in times of invasion. Some of these were garrisoned by continental or provincial troops; others were defended by the settlers of the neighborhood. There was a blockhouse near the site of Lock Haven, commanded in 1778 by Col. Long. Samuel Horn's fort was on the right bank of the West Branch, a little below Chatham's mill, and three miles above the mouth of Pine cr. Antis' fort was also on the right bank, at the head of Nippenose bottom. Fort Muncy was between Pennsborough and the mouth of Muncy cr. Fort Menninger was at the mouth of Warrior's run, and Freeland's fort was four miles up the run.* Fort Schwartz was one mile above Milton; and Boon's fort two miles above Milton, on Muddy run; Fort Bosley, on the Chillisquaque, near where Washington now is; Fort Jenkins near Bloomsburg, and Fort Augusta at Sunbury.
|Lycoming co. during the revolution was a part of Northumberland, and
much of its history will be found under the head of that county. One of the
most important events that occurred on the West Branch at that epoch was
the big runaway, as it is called by the early settlers. The following account
of it was given to the compiler by the venerable Robert Covenhoven, (usually
called Crownover,) an aged pioneer, who still lives in the neighborhood of
In the autumn of 1777, Job Gilloway, a friendly Indian, had given intimation that a powerful descent of marauding Indians might be expected before long on the head-waters of the Susquehanna. Near the close of that season, the Indians killed a settler by the name of Saltzburn, on the Sinnemahoning, and Dan Jones at the mouth of Tangascootac. In the spring of 1778 Col. Hepburn, afterwards Judge Hepburn, was stationed with a small force at Fort Muncy at the mouth of Wallis' run, near which several murders had been committed. The Indians had killed Brown's and Benjamin's families, and had taken Cook and his wife prisoners on Loyalsock cr. Col. Hunter of Fort Augusta, alarmed by these murders, sent orders to Fort Muncy that all the settlers in that vicinity should evacuate, and take refuge at Sunbury. Col. Hepburn was ordered to pass on the orders to Antis' and Horn's forts above. To carry this message none would volunteer except Covenhoven and a young Yankee millwright, an apprentice to Andrew Culbertson. Purposely avoiding all roads, they took their route along the top of Bald Eagle ridge until they reached Antis' gap, where they descended towards the fort at the head of Nipponese bottom. At the bottom of the hill they were startled by the report of a rifle near the fort, which had been fired by an Indian at a girl. The girl had just stooped to milk a cow-the harmless bullet passed through her clothes between her limbs and the ground. Milking cows in those days was dangerous work. The Indians had just killed in the woods Abel Cady and Zephaniah Miller, and mortally wounded young Armstrong, who died that night. The messengers delivered their orders that all persons should evacuate within a week, and they were also to send word up to Horn's fort.
* For an account of the capture of Free-land's fort, see Northumberland county.
On his way up Covenhoven had staid all night with Andrew Armstrong, who then lived at the head of the long reach, where Esq. Seward now lives. Covenhoven warned him to quit, but he did not like to abandon his crops, and gave no heed to the warning. The Indians came upon him suddenly and took him prisoner with his oldest child and Nancy Sunday: his wife, who was enceinte, concealed herself under the bed and escaped.
Covenhoven hastened down to his own family, and having taken them safely to Sunbury, returned in a keel-boat to secure his household furniture. As he was rounding a point above Derrstown (now Lewisburg,) he met the whole convoy from all the forts above ; such a sight he never saw in his life. Boats, canoes, hog-troughs, rafts hastily made of dry sticks-every sort of floating article had been put in requisition, and were crowded with women, children, and "plunder"- there were several hundred people in all. Whenever any obstruction occurred at a shoal or ripple, the women would leap out and put their shoulders, not indeed to the wheel, but to the flat boat or raft, and launch it again into deep water. The men of the settlement came down in single file on each side of the river to guard the women and children. The whole convoy arrived safely at Sunbury, leaving the entire line of farms along the West Branch, to the ravages of the Indians. They destroyed Fort Muncy, but did not penetrate in any force near Sunbury; their attention having been soon after diverted to the memorable descent upon Wyoming.
After Covenhoven had got his bedding, &c., in his boat, and was proceeding down the river, just below Fort Menninger, he saw a woman on the shore fleeing from an Indian. She jumped down the river bunk and fell, perhaps wounded by his gun. The Indian scalped her, but in his haste neglected to strike her down. She survived the scalping, was picked up by the men from the fort, and lived near Warrior's run until about the year 1840. Her name was Mrs. Durham.
Shortly after the big runaway, Col. Broadhead was ordered up with his forces of 100 or 150 men to rebuild Fort Muncy, and guard the settlers while gathering their crops. After performing this service lie left for Fort Pitt, and Col. Hartley with a battalion succeeded him. Capt. Spalding from Stroudsburg, also came down with a detachment by way of the Wyoming valley. Having built the barracks at Fort Muncy, they went up on an expedition to burn the Indian towns at Wyalusing, Sheshequin, and Tioga. This was just after the great battle at Wyoming, and before the British and Indians had finished getting their plunder up the river. After burning the Indian towns, the detachment had a sharp skirmish with the Indians from Wyoming, on the left bank of the Susquehanna at the narrows north of the Wyalusing mountain. Mr. Covenhoven distinguished himself in that affair by his personal bravery. He was holding on by the roots of a tree on the steep precipice, when an Indian approached him and called to him to surrender. Mr. C, in reply, presented his gun and shot the Indian through the bowels.
|Williamsport, the seat of justice, is very pleasantly situated on an
elevated plain, on the left bank of the West branch of the Susquehanna, between
Lycoming and Pine (Pine crossed out) creeks. The town is remarkably well
built, and in many instances the architecture of the public and private buildings
bears testimony to the intelligence and taste of the citizens. The public
square, on which stands the courthouse, is shaded with trees, and enclosed
with an iron railing; and the courthouse and several of the churches are
surmounted with graceful spires and cupolas, which form conspicuous objects
amid the rich scenery surrounding the borough. The hotels are spacious, and
abound in the luxuries and comforts, without being encumbered with the enormous
charges of those of our large cities. There are here Old and New School
Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist, and German Reformed churches, and an
academy. There are also a large foundry and two extensive tanneries, in which
the operations are carried on by steam. The numerous stores are well stocked,
and the place has altogether that appearance of thrift and bustle, which
distinguishes it as the centre of a large internal trade. Population in 1840,
1,353. The U. S. court for the western district of Pennsylvania is held
alternately here and at Pittsburg. The West Branch canal, which was opened
for navigation in 1834, passes through the town. The Williamsport and Elmira
railroad, constructed by a company, has been finished as far as Ralston,
26 miles from this place. The whole length of the road is 74 miles, and when
completed it will open an important route for travel and the transportation
of coal, iron, and agricultural produce.
The annexed view shows the principal street, with the courthouse and public square on the left. Williamsport was laid out, and selected by the commissioners as the county seat, in the year 1795, the same year that the county was organized. Mr. John Hall, an early settler here, was one of the commissioners. Several other places were rivals for the advantages of the county seat. The site of the town was owned by Michael Ross, and the lots were sold for his benefit, except what might have been reserved for public uses. Mr. William Hepburn had much influence in procuring the location of the county seat. Mr. William Woodward, father of Apollos Woodward, Esq., was one of the earliest settlers, soon after the town was laid out. An important point was gained for the prosperity of the place, when the U. S. courts were appointed to be holden here; and a still stronger impetus was given by the construction of the canal and railroad, and the opening of the iron and coal mines above. About the same time an addition was laid out, adjoining the town, by Jeremiah Church, Esq.
About the year 1803, the indignation and sympathies of the citizens of Williamsport, and of the whole valley, were highly excited by an occurrence which took place in the then wilderness, on the south side of the river, some miles from the borough. It appears, from the village newspapers of that day, that-
A young lady suddenly appeared at a lonely cabin, almost in a state of nudity, in great distress from cold and hunger, and her limbs and wrists galled and bloody, as if they had been chafed with a rope. For some time she could scarcely speak. At length she recovered strength enough to say that she had been travelling on horseback, from her uncle's in Kentucky, where (be had been at school, to Montreal, where her parents resided. She had been accompanied by one Benjamin Connet, a Canadian, either an agent or servant of her father, whom he had sent expressly to conduct her home. Not far from the cabin, in a lonely part of the road, he had presented a pistol at her, compelled her to dismount, stripped her, robbed her of all her money as well as her clothing, tied her to a tree, and left her there to perish with hunger, or be devoured by wild beasts. She had remained in that situation all night, when, after the most desperate struggles, she had extricated herself. After being refreshed, she went with the family and pointed out the tree, and the path she had beaten round it in her struggles to get loose. There was something artless in her appearance; and her modest demeanor, and delicate frame, left no doubt in the minds of those who saw her that her statement was true. She appeared to be overwhelmed with distress at the thought of her situation. Her name she said was Esther McDowell. The kind people of the cabin soothed her distress, clothed her, and took her on as far as Williamsport, where she was lodged with a worthy and pious family, until news could be conveyed to Montreal.
In the mean time, public indignation was highly excited against the villain Connet; the chivalry of the West Branch was aroused, and scouts and handbills were sent out in all direction!. He had twenty-four hours' start, however, and had eluded all observation; for no one had seen any stranger pass, answering his description. Two or three weeks had elapsed, and no news was beard of the villain : no letters had been received from Montreal; nor had any discoveries been made concerning this mysterious affair, except that a bundle of man's clothes had been found hidden near the tree whore the robbery was committed. These might have been left by the robber, who had shifted his suit. Some people were malicious enough to insinuate that the young lady had robbed herself; but her deportment in the family where she lodged was a triumphant answer to any such base insinuations. She was lady-like in her manners, highly intelligent, and possessing a well-cultivated mind; and if not pious, at any rate piously disposed. She rather modestly avoided, than sought society, and would only converse with persons of the most sedate character. Time, however, wore away; no news was received from Montreal; and the number of the suspicious began to increase. The clothing found near the tree had been recognised as that of a young tailor, who had lived for some time in a neighboring town, and had lately moved away. Some of those who knew the tailor happened to visit Miss McDowell, and there, forsooth, they found the very fact, which the young tailor had worn, upon her shoulders. Here was a development ! Since the secret was out, she confessed that she was the daughter of highly respectable Quaker parents in Philadelphia: she had been beguiled into evil ways; but detesting the career of vice, she had fled from the city, and, trusting to her needle for support, she had, with no less ingenuity than enterprise, established herself as a gentleman tailor, in one of the villages on the West Branch, (either at Jersey Shore or Muncy.) She succeeded tolerably well in her new sex and profession; but eventually becoming tired of it, she adopted the stratagem described above. Her duped, but still sympathizing friends, restored her to her disconsolate parents ; and it was learned afterwards that she went to the west, under a new name, and was married. The whole affair was some months in progress, before its final development; and alter it was out, many a wise one chuckled, as he said to his neighbor, " I t-o-l-d you so '."
|Newbury is a small village two miles west of Williamsport, on the right bank pf Lycoming cr., about a mile above its mouth. It contains Methodist and Presbyterian churches, three taverns, several stores, and two very extensive flouring-mills. It was laid out about the same time with Williamsport, and was a competitor with it for the honor of the county seat. Jaysburg, a village nearer the river on the same side of the creek, was also intended for the county seat. The commencement here of the old road to Painted Post in New York, commonly known as the Blockhouse road, gave to Newbury considerable importance at that early day. The road was laid out by Mr. Williamson, an agent of Sir William Pulteney, about the year 1795.|
|Jersey Shore is a very flourishing village on the left bank of the West
Branch, three miles below the mouth of Pine cr., and 15 west of Williamsport
It contains Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist churches. Within about ten
years past, since the completion of the public works, the place has increased
very rapidly, and the public and private edifices erected during that period
are elegant and substantial. A very extensive lumber trade is carried on
with the country on the head-waters of Pine cr. There is little or no
manufacturing done here. Pop. in 1840, 525.
When the settlers who had fled in the big runaway returned to their homes after the peace of 1783, Jeremiah and Reuben Manning, two brothers from New Jersey, and others from the same state, came up and settled below the mouth of Pine cr., and called their neighborhood the Jersey Shore. The Mannings purchased the island from Thomas Foster, who had previously bought it from Henry Sterret, who removed to Lycoming cr. About the year 1800, one of the Mannings laid out the town and called it Waynesburg; but the long-established habit of calling it Jersey Shore could not be eradicated, and it is well that it could not- for the old name is by far the most distinctive ; there are already two other Waynesburgs in the state. The name was fixed by its incorporation as a borough 15th March, 1826.
Just above Pine creek, and north of the road to Lock Haven, is one of those ancient circular fortifications of earth, so well known in this state and Ohio. The banks are becoming gradually obliterated by the action of the elements. Near the fort, and on both sides of the creek, are ancient Indian burying-grounds, from which bones and trinkets have been occasionally disinterred by the whites. Tradition says that two hostile tribes once lived on each side of the creek.
A very flourishing settlement has recently grown up at the forks of Pine creek, eight miles northwest of Jersey Shore. A large double sawmill has been erected, several stores, tavern, &c.
|About four miles below Jersey Shore, a little south of the road to
Williamsport, lives the venerable Robert Covenhoven, (commonly known as Mr.
Crownover,) at the advanced age of 88. His venerable lady is still living
with him, with her faculties bright and unimpaired. Mr. Covenhoven was born
of Low Dutch parents in Monmouth co., New Jersey. He was much employed during
his youth as a hunter and axe man to the surveyors of land in the valleys
tributary to the North and West branches of the Susquehanna. The familiarity
thus acquired with all the paths of that vast wilderness rendered his services
eminently useful as a scout and guide to the military parties of the revolution,
which commenced about the time of his arriving at manhood. It is unnecessary
to say, that the graduate of such a school was fearless and intrepid- that
he was skilful in the wiles of Indian warfare-and that he possessed an iron
constitution. With these qualifications, at the call of his country in 1776,
he joined the campaigns under Gen. Washington. He was at the battles of Trenton
and Princeton. His younger brother had also enlisted ; but his father took
his place, and the general, with his characteristic kindness, permitted the
boy to return and protect his mother. In the spring of 1777 Robert returned
to his home on the W. Branch, where his services were more needed by the
defenceless frontier, than on the seacoast. Mr. Covenhoven was one of those
men who were always put forward when danger and hard work were to be encountered,
but forgotten when honors and emoluments were to be distributed. Nevertheless,
he cheerfully sought the post of danger, and never shrunk from duty, although
it might be in an humble station. Few men have passed through more hairbreadth
escapes : few have encountered more personal perils in deadly encounters
with savages than Mr. C. His services at the big runaway have been mentioned
above; he was eminently useful in obtaining intelligence at Fort Freeland,
the day before its capture; he was the guide to Col. Hartley's expedition
up the North Branch after the battle of Wyoming ; and he was in several bloody
skirmishes with Indians on Loyalsock and Pine creeks. On one occasion, (I
think it was after the return of Col. Hepburn to Fort Muncey,) a detachment
was started out under the command of Capt. Berry, to recover some horses
stolen by the Indians, reported to be up on Loyalsock. Covenhoven for some
reason was sent out to advise Berry to return, but the latter would not
acknowledge the colonel's authority, and persisted in going forward. Several
of Covenhoven's brothers, and his uncle Wyckoff, were in Berry's detachment,
and a friendly Indian by the name of Capt. Sharpshins. As so many of his
own family were in this expedition, Robert Covenhoven determined to go along
as a guide; but he could not persuade Berry to keep the woods, and before
long they found themselves ambuscaded. A bloody struggle commenced, in which
a brother of Mr. C. was killed, another brother was taken prisoner, with
several of his cousins, and his uncle Wyckoff. The latter had been previously
bald, but strangely enough, after the hardships of imprisonment, he returned
with a fine head of hair. Robert Covenhaven, after hard fighting, was chased
some distance along the bank of the creek, dodging up and down the bank
alternately that his pursuer might get no aim at him. He escaped and returned
to the fort. Brave as he was, the old man speaks of the fluttering of his
heart often during this chase. The skirmish occurred on Loyalsock, just above
Scott's, one mile above the bridge. The old man tells a queer story about
his "surrounding," in company with Rob't King, a party of Indians and refugees
who were working a loaded boat up the N. Branch from the depredations of
Wyoming. The party in the boat greatly outnumbered them, but the prize was
too tempting to be resisted. King, remaining in the bushes, kept up a prodigious
hullabaloo, whooping and shouting to his imaginary comrades to come on.
Covenhoven rushed out with gun in hand, and ordered the fellows in the boat
to surrender, which they did, and permitted themselves to be secured. King
made his appearance, and the two, forcing the prisoners by threats to assist
then], arrived with their prize at Wyoming-where, says Mr. Covenhoven, the
officers and soldiers of the continental army cheated the poor provincials
out of their share of the plunder.
Mr. Covenhoven is now enjoying a hale and hearty old age, surrounded by his family, and possessing a farm which yields him the comforts of life.
|On Saturday evening last, the ice in the West Branch which had been formed since the late freshet, took its departure for the Chesapeake bay. The river was exceedingly high, and it passed off smoothly, doing but little injury as we have yet learned. An incident, however, occurred, which is, we think, without a parallel in the history of ice-freshets upon the Susquehanna. About dark, on Saturday evening, Mr. Joseph Bailey, of the island opposite Jersey Shore, in endeavoring to secure a flat-boat, which lay near the lower end of the island, exposed to the loose ice, ventured into it, and at that moment a large quantity of ice came in contact with the boat, broke the rope by which it was fastened, and drove it past the point of the island. The river being entirely covered with floating ice, his lamentable cries for assistance were in vain-no human power could rescue him from his perilous situation. About midnight, several citizens of Jersey Shore arrived at this borough and gave the alarm. A light was placed upon the bank of the liter to attract his attention, and in a few minutes he passed by, without the least possibility of saving him. He informed us that he was almost perishing with cold and fatigue, and that he was not able to escape from the ice with which he at first started. All hope of saving him except at the bridge was now abandoned, and' an express sent on to Milton to make preparations. He passed over the race-ground rapids, and through the breach of the Muncy dam before daylight I and arrived at Milton about nine o'clock in the morning, after a voyage of near 50 miles. The spirited citizens of Milton, whose conduct upon this occasion is deserving of the highest praise, had every means prepared to save the life of a fellow-being which ingenuity could invent, and it is with unbounded pleasure we state they were successful. He was drawn up by a rope suspended from the bridge, amid the shouts of the assembled multitude. Who can imagine the feelings of hit relations and friends during his absence, particularly of his bosom companion and aged mother 1 -Lycoming Gazette, Feb. 8, 1832.|
|Ralston is situated at the mouth of Stony or Rocky run, on Lycoming cr., 26 miles above Williamsport. There are at this place a furnace, rolling-mill, nail-factory, saw-mill, and valuable bituminous coal mines. The Williamsport and Elmira railroad was finished to this point in 1837. The place derives its name from the late Matthew C. Ralston, Esq., of Philadelphia, President of the Railroad Co., to whose enterprise and capital both the village and the railroad owe their existence. Unfortunately, however, his large fortune was absorbed in the undertaking. The late Wm. P. Farrand, Esq., the engineer of the railroad, also devoted himself most enthusiastically to the accomplishment of this enterprise. As the fruit of their labors in opening a way into this secluded region, several large iron works have within a few years past sprung up along the valley of Lycoming cr. At Astonville, or Oakville, near Frozen run, below Ralston, there is a furnace; below Trout run is Mr. Hepburn's forge; and still further down is the extensive rolling-mill of Mr. Eilman.|
|Muncy borough, formerly called Pennsborough, is situated near the left
bank of the West Branch, a short distance below the mouth of Muncy creek,
and 14 miles by the road from Williamsport. The river here makes a graceful
bend to the south. This is a neat and flourishing village, rapidly increasing.
It enjoys the trade of the rich and extensive valley of Muncy, which produces
a vast quantity of wheat and lumber. There are here Methodist, Episcopal,
and Presbyterian churches, and a opopulation, by the census of 1840, of 662.
Pennsborough was incorporated 15th March, 1826 ; but the name was changed
to Muncy by anew act of 19th Jan. 1827. About 5 miles N. E. from Muney, on
Muncy cr., is the village of Hughsville.
This region was originally settled by Quakers from the counties near Philadelphia, as the names of the townships, Penn, Moreland, Shrewsbury, &c., might indicate. There were also along the river quite a number of Irish settlers from the Kittatinny valley. Among these were the family of Capt. John Brady, famous in the history of the frontier wars, and Col. Robb, (concerning whom see Northumberland co.)
Capt. John Brady had a fort near the month of Muncy creek, known as Fort Muncy, during the revolution. The Bradys, father and sons, joined the army at Boston at the first opening of the revolution, but returned again when the exposed state of the valley seemed to need their services. (See page 272.) They were again in service at the battle of Brandywine. They were at Fort Freeland when it capitulated, but escaped.
Shortly after the return from camp of Capt. Brady and his son, a company of six or seven men formed to aid Peter Smith in cutting his oats from a field at Turkey run, about a mile below Williamsport. James Brady, son of Capt. John Brady, and a younger brother of the famous Capt. Sam Brady, was one of the party. It was the custom of those days to place sentinels at the sides of the field, to watch while the others were reaping-the arms being stacked at a convenient point for seizure. The sentinels in this instance were rather careless, and the Indians were down upon the reapers before they were aware of it Brady, who was near the river bank, reached for his gun, but at that moment fell, wounded by an Indian. The latter struck him down and scalped him, but he was left alive. His companions had fled ; but a party from the fort, out in pursuit of the Indians, found Brady with his skull broken in, but still living. He desired to be taken to the fort at Sunbury, where his parents were. Mr. Covenhoven was one of those who assisted in taking him down, and he describes the meeting between the mother and her wounded son as heart-rending. They arrived at the dead of night, and the mother, ever awake to alarms, (although the party did not intend to wake her,1 came down to the river bank, and assisted in conveying her son to the house. On the way down he was feverish, und drank large quantities of water. He soon became delirious, and after lingering five days, expired. Capt. John Brady, the father, was afterwards out with Peter Smith, near Wolf run, a tributary of Muncy cr. At a secluded spot, tliree Indians fired. Brady fell dead. Smith escaped on a frightened horse.
Capt. Samuel Brady was with Broadhead, at Pittsburg, at the time he heard of his father's death ; and he is said then to have taken a solemn vow to devote his life to revenge the death of his father and brother. (See Beaver, Butler, and Clarion counties.) A brother of Samuel Brady's was lately living in Indiana co., and two sisters at Sunbury. Gen. Hugh Brady, of the U. S. army, is also either a brother or nephew of Capt. Samuel Brady.
On the head-waters of Loyalsock creek, in the northeastern corner of this co., and perhaps partly in Wyoming county, a company of enterprising Germans, called the Free German Society, purchased 17,000 acres of land, and about 60 families commenced a settlement in 1841. Sixty more came the next spring ; and they are to follow thus, sixty families each spring and fall, until the whole land is occupied. It is said the colony is thriving.
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