Cameron County Genealogy Project

Cameron County Genealogy Project

Gibson Township

History


 

Development

If your ancestors lived in Gibson Township, they could be difficult to track down. The land that we call Gibson Township today resided in more counties than any of Cameron County's townships. The original township was much larger—it included not only the present township of Gibson, but also Benezette Township and part of Jay Township (both part of Elk Co today). To find early records, search these counties (earliest to present): Northumberland, Lycoming, Clearfield, Elk, then Cameron. You might also look in Centre Co., because some Clearfield County's records are stored there.

1772
  Northumberland County formed (including the land that is Gibson Township today).
1795
  Lycoming County formed (including the land that is Gibson Township).
1804
  Clearfield County formed (inculding the land that is Gibson Township).
May 1, 1817
  Gibson Township formed in Clearfield County. Gibson Township was named in honor of John Bannister Gibson, an attorney and jurist who became a justice of the Supreme Court in 1816 and was appointed the Chief Justice of the Commonwealth of PA in 1827.
1843
Elk County formed. Gibson Township became part of the new county.
1845
Benezette Township formed from the western part of Gibson Township and the eastern part of Jay Township. All three townships remained part of Elk County.
March 29, 1860
Cameron County formed. Gibson Township became part of the new county.

Since becoming part of Cameron County, Gibson Township has had no changes to its boundaries except for the incorporation of Driftwood as a borough in 1872.


Early Settlers

There were no settlements in what is now Cameron County until 1804, when a hunter named John Jordan and his five (or four?) sons built a solid tent of rough hewn logs at Second Fork (known as Driftwood today). These were the taxable inhabitants of the Sinnemahoning District (Lawrence Twp, Clearfield Co) in the year 1814:

1814 Lawrence Township, Clearfield County Tax List
Sinnemahoning District:


Single Freemen:

Stephen Barfield

Ralph Johnston

Andrew Overdorf

 

James Mix

Robert Barr

Thew Johnston

Andrew Overdorf, Jr.

 

Joseph Gaugey

Daniel Bailey

James Jordan

Samuel Smith

 

James Sweezey

Jacob Burch

John Jordan

Charles Swartz

 

John Ream

Dwight Cadwell

Henry Lorghbaugh, Jr.

Curran Sweezey

 

John Biss

Thomas Dent

Joseph Mason

Benjamin Smith

 

William Lewis

Richard Galat

Amos Mix

Jacob Miller

 

William Shepherd

Joseph Gaughey

James Mix

Leonard Morey

 

George Lorghbaugh

Levi Hicks

William Nanny

   

William Calloway

William T. Hardy

John Overdorf

   

George Derring


Many of Gibson's earliest settlers can be identified by the place names in the township:


Geography and Resources

Gibson Township is bounded on the north by Lumber Township, on the west by Elk County, on the east by Grove Township and on the south by Clearfield County. The township is 12 miles long and 11 on the west boundary. The highest measured points are 2,252 feet above sea level, while the borough of Driftwood, the principal community of the township, is just 843 feet above sea level. Streams emptying into the Sinnemahoning in Gibson Township are Mason and Big Run, which rise in Lumber Township; Dry Run, Tanglefoot Run, and Grove Run, flowing southwest or south from the divide, the latter entering the river at Grove's "Battleground", just west of the Sinnemahoning depot. A number of small streams enter from the southwest, while Bennett's Branch forms a confluence at Driftwood on the west side and Wykoff Run, near the former Barclay Mill at Wyside.

Salt. Sinnemahoning is an Indian word that means salt lick. The county has two salt fields where hunters found deer and elk; one in Sinnemahoning and the other in Sizerville. Surprisingly, the first industry in the county was salt mining. From 1811 to 1819, the Lycoming Salt Company of Philadelphia ran a salt works at Driftwood. They evaporated water from a spring near the railroad junction (exact location disputed). It was a short-lived industry, replaced by a salt works at Sizerville. The Sizerville Salt Works closed down in the early 1830s when it was discovered that the New York state salt mines could produce salt at a lower cost.

Coal. Most of the coal in Cameron County lies west of the Sinnemahoning-Driftwood Creek, although there are some deposits in the extreme northwest corner of the county. Regardless, a piece of Mason Hill still has the coal rights reserved even though there hasn't been coal in the ground there for at least one million years.

Oil and Gas. Most geological studies showed that Driftwood would be the spot for gas, so when the Eaton Well above Castle Garden was discovered, Driftwood was drilled full of holes. Not much was found, because it turns out that the Eaton Well was the tip of a vast field called the Driftwood-Punxsutawney Field. In 1914, a gas well was drilled in Driftwood that went down 2400 feet. Only a small pocket of gas was discovered, so the holes were plugged. Still, from time to time drillers return to the county searching for their fortune.

Stone. Early settlers found ledges of rock about 10 feet thick in Huntley and immediately went into the rock business. They made grindstones and chimney pots (stone caps for the tops of brick chimneys), which were loaded on timber rafts and taken to market. The seller sold both the stones and the raft, then walked the entire distance home. The stone from Gibson Township was used for the lintels and window sills on the Clinton County Court House in Lock Haven and may also have been used for the Lycoming County Court House (but many claim the rock for the Lycoming Court House came from Grove Township). The most prominent use of flagstone from the Sinnemahoning quarries was for the pavement at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, DC.

Lumber. Lumber was king along the Sinnemahoning stream for many years. Levi Hicks, who first came to Gibson Twp in 1806, is said to be the first white man to build and run a raft down the Sinnemahoning, ushering in the lumber era. Rafts of lumber were floated down the Sinnemahoning to the Susquehanna River, where they made their way to Marietta, PA or as far as Philadelphia. The trip took a week or more and was not very profitable until the canal to Lock Haven was completed. Once the canal was finished, settlers made high profits on their goods because of lower freight rates, and they had more access to finished cloth and other manufactured goods. And once the railroad came through, business boomed. Sinnemahoning itself had three stores. In Driftwood, J.O. Brookbank had the good fortune of being the only store in town. By 1900, the store was so large that it had its own railroad siding.

 

Sources: History of Cameron County Pennsylvania, Royally Rugged Cameron County, and hundreds of Cameron County family researchers.


 

This page was last updated on  Monday, January 01, 2001.

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