Cameron County History

History of Cameron County, Pennsylvania 1890

by J. H. Beers & Co



Transcribed by Carol Rice




The act establishing Cameron county was approved March 29, 1860. The report of the committee appointed by Gov. Packer to determine where the county seat should be located. The gentlemen composing that committee were A. B. Cummings, F. W. Knox and P. F. Kelley. They reported on August 6, 1860, and fixed the location in the township of Shippen, bounded and described as follows: "On the north by Sixth street, and on the south by Fifth street, on the east by Chestnut street, and on the west by a thirty-foot wide alley, as shown on a plat accompanying the report." Capt. Rogers, in his reminiscences of Emporium in 1860, says: "The idea of creating a new county out of portions of McKean, Potter, Elk and Clinton was not seriously contemplated until the Sunbury & Erie (now Philadelphia & Erie) Railroad was completed to Lock Haven and Warren, and grading was being pushed west and east of those two points. The people of McKean county did not at first look with much favor upon the project, because it would take from us Shippen township, which was then one of the most if not the most important township as to wealth and population, in the county. There were forcible reasons advanced, however, why that township should be permitted to go, prominent among which was its location and the difficulties and great inconvenience encountered, particularly during inclement seasons, in getting to the county seat. The more the question was discussed the more willing were the citizens of McKean to submit to the divorcement, and when the legislature of 1860 assembled there were many petitions for, and few remonstrances from McKean county against, the organization of the new county. During that session of the legislature I was in Harrisburg, and took considerable interest in the passage of the bill creating the county of Cameron. It was there that I made the acquaintance of a number of gentlemen who were interested in what was known as the 'Land Company,' and who controlled a piece of territory on which the principal portion of Emporium is now built. They consulted me considerably during the winter about moving my printing office to Shippen (now Emporium), and presented in glowing colors what an important town it would be when the railroad was completed, and the railroad shops, which were certain to be located there, were in full blast. They assured me that it would be second only to Altoona, as a railroad town, in the State. I was inclined to give some weight to their statements, for I knew that several of the gentlemen who were interested in the 'Land Company' were connected with the building of the road, and supposed that they knew what they were talking about."

In March, 1889, Representative Johnson's bill, providing for the changing of county lines and prescribing the manner of changing the lines was printed, but did not receive a majority of votes.

The first meeting of the commissioners was held in the small frame schoolhouse which stood on the site of the present buildings, near the place where Eli Felt kept the post-office, or near Judd's store, at Shippen, March 15, 1861 [written 1860]. Hezekiah Mix and C. J. Moore being present, and J. E. Ulman appointed clerk. The illegality of the elections in Grove and Gibson townships was discussed, when Caleb Haynes, with Alex. Wykoff and A. G. Huntley were appointed assessors for Grove; James Mason, William Nelson and Daniel Miller, for Gibson, and John Bensley, George Barclay and James Barton, for Wharton. Thompson Huff was assessor of Portage, and R. M. Lewis of Lumber. On March 29 the first grand jury was drawn, the members being L. Adams, Josiah Fink, Adam Miller, Fred Arnts, Jacob Peters, C. C. Lyman and William Floyd, of Grove township; Delos Burlingame and Russell Carter, of Portage; A. J. Beers, S. Z. Gottwalls, Clark Harrington, A. E. Kelly, J. M. Judd, William R. Rodgers, Horace Stiles, C. H. Sage and H. T. Taggart, of Shippen township; George Chapman, William Hamilton and Charles White, of Lumber township.

In May, 1861, a tax of ten mills was authorized, and on November 4 the commissioners and associate judges organized as a board of relief, under the act of May 15, 1861. This board ordered that a sufficient sum be paid to wives, mothers and heads of families depending on volunteers in service of the State or of the United States.

The re-elected commissioners---Messrs. Mix, Josiah Fink and Williams--organized January 7, 1862. In March E. B. Eldred was appointed county attorney. On September 16, 1862, Levi Williams and Josiah Fink met at Shippen, and appointed J. B. Newton clerk. On the 17th, Hezekiah Mix, the third member of the court, took his seat. At this time the store-house at Shippen, formerly occupied by J. M. Judd, was rented for the use of county officers, and on December 2 the issue of county orders in sums of 15, 10, 25 and 50 cents was authorized. The orders were printed November 19, 1862, in view of the action of the commissioners, in the form of the United States shin-plasters of the period, and signed by the commissioners and the clerk.

In January, 1863, J. B. Newton's salary, as clerk, was increased from $100 to $125. Philip W. Whiting took the place of Josiah Fink on the board of commissioners. On August 5, 1864, the county offered a bounty of $300. In December a county tax of 10 mills, a bond (volunteer) tax of 20 mills, and a per capita tax of $3, to meet bounty bonds, in addition to the twenty-mill tax, were authorized. The use of the court-house was at this time tendered to the various religious denominations, Amos Finton, the new commissioner, being an advocate of this measure. Clerk Newton's salary was increased to $250 per annum. A bounty of $300 was offered, on February 17, 1865, to volunteers who would enlist under the last call for 300,000 men. In April a relief tax of two and one-half mills, a bounty tax of twenty mills, and a bounty per capita of $3 were levied. About this time county bonds were issued to F. B. Hacket and D. B. Mather for substitutes put on prior to the draft.

In 1866 P. M. Dickenson, now of Binghamton, N. Y., was appointed clerk. Asa Ingalsbee, with Finton and Whiting, formed the commissioners' board, and in May of this year they authorized the removal of stumps from the court-house grounds. In the fall, Jacob D. Smith appears as commissioner vice Whiting, while A. E. Kelly was acting clerk; but in January, 1867, John H. Vosburg was appointed vice Dickenson. In February the question of building a jail and boarding-house adjacent to the court-house was decided, and $10,000 appropriated. In May the contract was sold to L. R. Decker, who also agreed to grade the grounds and paint the court-house for the sum named above. On November 1 the commissioners refused to entertain the demand of S. S. Hacket to qualify as a member, but allowed C. S. Sage that privilege on the 12th. On the 15th Asa Ingalsbee resigned, when H. F. Sizer qualified. The jail and sheriff's residence were reported complete, and accepted January 13, 1868. In November the question of building bridges at Driftwood and Sterling was considered. In 1870 Messrs. Sage, Rothrock and Cook were commissioners, but in October William Howard qualified, and he, with J. L. Cook and Rothrock, formed the board, S. F. Lupole being clerk. In August, 1871, O. P. Warner was chosen clerk. R. M. Williams qualified as commissioner vice Rothrock, in November of this year. In August, 1872, a cell in the county jail was set apart for the use of Emporium malcontents, on petition of the council. Howard, Williams and Housler were commissioners. The county printing contract was sold to the Press and Herald, the bids being equal, while the Independent, being higher, lost in the race. In November, 1873, Commissioner Cochran took the place of Mr. Howard. In February, 1875, the Press won the contract for county printing at $1.75 per square. Commissioner Ramage took Mr. Williams' place on the board, and in June the question of erecting office buildings was looked upon with favor. In January, 1876, Commissioners B. V. Wykoff, J. S. Wiley and C. C. Lyman formed the board, and A. H. Boynton succeeded Warner as clerk. In June, 1877, Newton & Green were requested to borrow $12,000 at 6 per cent for use of the county, one-half to be paid in 1880 and the balance in 1882; the clerk was authorized to visit Buffalo and procure plans for a fire-proof office building. In April, 1879, Thomas Dougherty, William Howard and Hezekiah Mix formed the board; but two years later Howard's place was occupied by G. A. Walker. In January, 1885, John R. Buckwalter, John A. Wykoff and Joseph C. Danckelman qualified as commissioners, and H. H. Mullin as clerk. In July the contract for rebuilding the jail was sold, while a former resolution granting the water company $2,000 for water for the use of the county buildings for twenty years was rescinded. In October, 1885, Clinton county rendered a bill of $6 for damage done to the jail of that county by a Cameron county prisoner named Leonard. In May, 1886, the project of building a wrought-iron bridge over the First Fork creek at Sinnemahoning was adopted. In January, 1888, L. Lucore, M. C. Tulis and C. W. Beldin qualified as commissioners; J. C. Johnson was reappointed attorney, and H. H. Mullin clerk. In January, 1890, G. F. Balcom was installed treasurer.

The jurors drawn in Cameron county during the three years ending in February, 1889, were, it is alleged, illegally placed in the wheel. Benjamin Sweazey, one of the jury commissioners, was elected two terms in succession, which is a violation of the law; and again, the filling of the jury wheel has never, in the history of the county, been legally conducted. The court at Ridgway gave a decision requiring the new jury commissioners to refill the jury wheel for 1889, and impress their seal in wax thereon.

The question of remodeling and rebuilding the court house was brought before the commissioners May 6, 1889. The proposed improvements call for the moving back of the present building forty feet, and the erection of a brick and stone addition with clock tower in front.

In order to secure the county seat for Emporium, it was necessary to raise sufficient money to erect the court-house. Five-thousand dollars were subscribed by the few people then residing here, and $5,000 contributed by the Philadelphia and Erie Land Company, the edifice costing the tax-payers of the county nothing. The generosity of the early settlers of Emporium for the benefit of the town was commendable, and the citizens of to-day are nobly following the example of the pioneers who have nearly all gone to receive the reward of their well-doing.



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