Catawissa Township
This portion of
The History of Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania
by J. H. Battle, 1887

is made possible through the efforts of

TRANSCRIBER: Cindy Saniter


         CATAWISSA was formed from Augusta in 1785, and originally covered the
triangular area now embraced in the townships of Beaver, Conyngham
Franklin, Locust, Maine Mifflin, Mayberry, in Montour county, and part of
Union, in Schuylkill. Practically, it has been reduced to its present limits by
the formation of Roaringcreek in 1832, Franklin in 1843, and Maine in 1844.
It is the oldest political subdivision of the county, having completed the first
century of its history.
     Authorities differ as to the nationality of the aboriginal tribe which con-
ferred upon the mountain, creek and town their beautiful and euphonious
designation. Redmond Conyngham, who has extended his researches into
everything relating to the primitive history of the region, states that "The
Piscatawese, or Gangawese, or Conoys had a wigwam on the Catawese, at Cata
wese, now Catawissa." Stewart Pearce asserts that the Shawanese, after suc-
cessive immigrations from New York to Florida, from there to Wabash,
and from that region to the Susquehanna valley, established a village at Cata-
wissa in 1697, or about that time. The orthography of the word affords no
additional light on the subject. Catawese occurs in the different dialects of
the Shawanese and Delawares, and always with the same meaning,"pure
     The first Europeans who visited Catawissa were not interest in attempt-
ing to dissipate the obscurity which involved its primitive history. James Le
Tort, and adventurous Indian trader, found the valley of the Susquehanna a
profitable field for his operations. The provincial authorities frequently
employed him on diplomatic missions to chiefs of the various tribes. In 1728
he bore the governorâs compliments to the celebrated Madame Montour and
several Delaware chieftains, presenting to each a ãstrowd match coatä as an
expression of continued friendship. The communication in which Le Tort
acquainted the executive council with the views of the chiefs, though throwing
no light upon local affairs, still possesses special interest, inasmuch as it con-
tains the first mention of any part of Columbia county. It is herewith

CATAWASSE, May ye 12, 1728.                                        

    We always thought the governor know nothing of the fight between the Shawaynoa
and the White People. We desire the governor to warn the back Inhabts Not to be so
ready to attack the Indians, as we are Doubtful they were in that unhappy accedent, and
we will use all Endeavaurs to hender and Such Like Proceeding on the part of the
Indians. We Remember very well the League between William Pen and the Indians
which was, that the Indians and white people were one, and hopes that his Brother, the
present Governor, is of the same mind, and that the friendship was to continue for three
Generations; and if the Indians hurt the English, or the English hurt the Indians, itts the
same as if they hurt themselves: as to Governors Desire of meeting him, we Intend
as soon as the Chiefs of the Five Nations Come to meet the governor, we will Come with
them: but if the come not before hereafter, we will to Philadelphia to wain on the Gov-
ernor. We have heard that William Pen Son was come to Philada., which We was very
Glad of.

JAMES LE TORT.                                     


     After the visit of the French leader, the place is not again referred to un-
til 1754, when Conrad Weiser, in a letter from Shamokin, mentions Oskohary,
supposed to be identical with the Catwasse of Le Tort, and the Catawissa of
the present. Lapackpitton, a Delaware chief who figured prominently in the
settlement of disputes at the close of the French war, made his residence at
the village, which was known for some time by his name. Local tradition as-
signs to this dusky warrior the character of "Hunkee Punkee," in J. W. Adlerâs
"Indian Legend." It appears that Minnetunkee, his daughter, was disposed
to encourage the advances of a lover whose prospective position as a member
of the family was not received with complacency by her father. On a summer
evening he followed them to the summit of an eminence known as "Lovers
Leap," and announced his presence in a manner characteristic of Indian nature.
The younger brave, mortally wounded by an arrow, fell over the precipice.
The splash of the river as the body parted its waters had scarcely subsided
when the maiden, with a cry expressive of defiance, triumph and despair,
threw herself from the dizzy height, and followed her lover to a watery grave.
the sequel harmonizes with generally recognized ideas of the succession of
events. The whole tribe removed from a locality rendered to them intolerably
sad by this tragic occurrence.
     The region of "pure water" did not long remain unoccupied. A number
of English Quakers from Maiden Creek and Exeter, in Berks county, planted
their homes in the Catawissa valley. Following the route generally traveled from
Reading to Sunbury, and the valley of the "North Branch" from that point,
they finally reached their destination after days of exhausting labor, and nights
of weariness and insecurity. The natural advantages of the locality had been
early recognized by land-jobbers and others who preferred to be proprietors
without being residents. Among those who succeeded the their titles, or estab-
lished claims as warrantees were William Collins, William Hughes, James
Watson, John Lore, John Mears, Isaiah Willits and John Lloyd. It was
between 1774 and 1778 when these persons arrived. Moses Roberts in 1774 built
the first house in the vicinity of Catwissa.
     Subsequent additions to their number represented a different nationality.
Some were Germans, but a few were English. They journeyed on horseback
and followed and Indian trail over the Broad, Blue, Locust and Little moun-
tains. Among those who reached Catawissa in 1782 were Michael Geiger,
Joseph McIntyre, John Furry, Thomas Wilkinson, George Huntizinger and
Conrad Wamphole. About this time a party of Indians re-established a wig-
wam at the old site of Lapackpittonâs town, greatly to the annoyance of the
settlers. Thomas Wilkinson incurred their displeasure by interfering with
their fishing operations, and on one occasion was compelled to seek shelter in
the river. He was unable to swim, but waded out into the channel where the
depth was sufficient to cover him. He was obliged to raise his head above the
water in order to breathe, and whenever he did so, became a target for several
practiced Indians who had taken a commanding position on the bluff. Al-
though thus subject to the greatest danger he reached the opposite shore in
safety, much to the chagrin of his foes, who thenceforth believed that he bore a
charmed life. His explanation to the effect that he was only "gauging the
water," created some merriment over the incident, and secure for him the
name of "Tom Gauger."
     Another occurrence was more tragic and less jocose in its details and re-
sults. July 26, 1782, a party of Indians made a descent upon the German
settlement, the exposed condition of which invited attack. John Furry had
settled on the west side of the river. His family consisted of two daughters

274and four sons. The three older sons, John, Jonas and Lawrence, were absent,
having gone for flour to the mill at Sunbury. On their return they found their
parents and sisters killed and scalped. Their mangled remains were interred
under an apple tree near the house. The brothers buried their household
goods and farming implements in the ground and returned to Reading. The
panic seeded contagious, for several other families became alarmed and fol-
them. The sequel of this story would seem to verify the old adage that
ãTruth is stranger than fiction.ä Years afterward Jonas and Lawrence Furry
were in Montreal, and there formed the acquaintance of Henry Furry, a pros-
perous trader. The similarity of names was once noticed. Mutual ex-
planations followed: his identity as their brother was readily established.
He described to them the tragic death of their parents and sisters and the
brutal treatment he had received on the journey with his captors to Tioga. At
that place he was ransomed by a Frenchman, and treated by him with kind-
ness and consideration.
     Notwithstanding the general the Quakers remained, and in 1787
William Hughes laid out the town of "Hughesburg, alias Catawissey, in the
county of Northumberland, state of Pennsylvania, North America," on the
"bank of the north-east tract of the river Susquehanna near the mouth of the
Catawessey creek, about twenty miles above Sunbury and about one-hundred
and six miles from Philadelphia." William Gray and John Sene were the sur-
veyors. Water, Front, Second, Third and Fourth streets extend east and west,
parallel with the course of the river; Lumber, south, Main and Pine cross
these, and are named in order from the creek. The proprietor provided that
lots were to be disposed of by lottery, and this seems to have been customary, in
order to prevent partiality. It does not appear that this was done, for in 1789
John Mears secured titles to sixty-five lots, and became virtual proprietor. It
is well authenticated that William Henry, by virtue of his warrant for its sur-
vey in 1769, was the original owner of the tract in which the town plot was em-
aced; but Edward and Joseph Shippen were the patentees, and from them
the title was transferred to Hughes. In 1796 James Watson laid out
"Roberts addition," extending Second, Third and Fourth streets, and opening
Walnut and North, parallel with Pine.
     The size of the town plot was then considerably in advance of its pop-
ulation or business interests, although the latter were of considerable local im-
portance. In 1780 Isaiah Wilits established a tannery at the corner of Third
and South streets. Knappenberger and Wilits were proprietors of a ferry,
and landed their flat where the bridge approaches have since been constructed.
George Hughes and William Mears were justices of the peace. The Watsons,
Jacksons, Lounts, Lloyds and Hayhursts were familiar to the whole community
as substantial, hospitable farmers. In 1774 the first mill in the county was
built on the site of the Paxton mill on Catawissa creek. It was a primitive
structure and was frequently out of repair; at such time Sunbury was the
nearest million point. In 1789 Jonathan Shoemaker built a grist mill on the
north side of this stream. This was then the only mill in a radius of many miles
and at once received an extensive patronage. In 1799 Christian Brobst erected
a second and larger mill a short distance above Shoemakerâs. It was com-
pleted in 1801, and when a boat began to ply regularly between points on
both branches of the Susquehanna, Catawissa became an important and well
known point.
     Another circumstance to which this may be attributed was the existence
there of a store, one of the first between Sunbury and Wyoming. Isaiah Hughes
was proprietor. The building occupied by him is still standing on the river


bank at the foot of South street. The second merchant was Joseph Heister,
whose store was located on Water street several doors below Main. John
Clark was its second proprietor. He was a man of courage and determination
as may be inferred from the following incident: He was making a journey to
Philadelphia on horseback to make his usual purchase of goods when a robber
seized the bridle of his horse and summarily demanded his money. The mer-
chant was unarmed, but his ready wit was equal to the occasion. He drew a
spectacle case from his pocket and opened it. In the darkness the sharp click
of the lid produced the desired effect. The horse plunged forward while the
highwayman was both deceived and nonplused.
     At this period the shad fishery was of considerable local importance. Salt
was brought from reading and exchanged for fish which sold for six cents
apiece. The circulating medium was extremely scarce, a result of which was
that nearly all business was transacted by barter. New stores were opened at
irregular intervals, as the growth of population or enterprise of the proprietors
justified it. Among those who will be remembered as merchants during the
early history of the town are Thomas Ellis, Stephen and Christopher Baldy,
David Cleaver, Jacob Dyer and Samuel Brobst. In all of their stores there
was an assortment of every variety of merchandise--dry goods, groceries, hard-
ware, drugs, etc.
     The importance of a bridge across the Susquehanna was realized by public
spirited citizens at an early period. The original projectors were Christian
Brobst, Joseph Paxton, Leonard Rupert, Philip Marling, William Baird,
Isaiah N. Wilits and Richard Dennett, of Columbia county; Cadwallader Evans
and Samuel Wetherill of Philadelphia; J. K. Boyer, Lewis Reece and Gabriel
Heister, of Berks county; James Linton and Daniel Seager, of Lehigh; Daniel
Graff and James McFarlin, of Schuylkill, and Samuel Baird, of Montgomery.
The site at first proposed was the present crossing of the Catawissa railroad.
March 15, 1816, the legislature passed an act authorizing the opening of books
to receive subscriptions. It does not appear that flattering progress was made
in organizing the company for eight years later. Thirteen additional commis-
sioners were appointed for that purpose, among whom Columbia county was
represented by David Cleaver, William McKelvy, John Barton, William
Miers, Jacob Rupert, James C. Sproul and John Derr.
     With the citizens of the county, the success of the project was a matterof
primary importance; the only bridge within its limits crossed the river at Ber-
wick, a point where it failed to confer material benefit on the large proportions
of the population south of the river. Although disappointed for twelve years,
those most interested at Catawissa continued to present this consideration with
unabated persistence, and finally, in 1828, secured an appropriation of five-
thousand dollars from the treasury of the state. Half of this was to be paid
when the abutments and piers had been constructed, and the remainder when
the entire work had been completed; but no part could be secured until ten-
thousand dollars had been paid by individuals, and an amount additional sub-
scribed sufficient to finish the bridge. George Taylor and Jacob Alter, of
Philadelphia; Philip and John Rebsome, of Muncy; George Keim, George
Getz and Henry Foster, Of Berks, county; John C. Appelman and Samuel
Brooke, of Schuylkill; Benjamin Beaver, Peter Schmick, George H. Willits,
Stacy Margerum, John Barton and william McKelvy, of Columbia, were
appointed to reorganize the company and establish its finances on a firm basis.
The North Branch canal was at this time in course of construction; it was
plainly apparent that the bridge was a necessity if Catawissa was to derive
any benefit from that line of traffic, and this consideration induced many to

276subscribe to the stock of the company. The bridge was finally completed at
a cost of twenty-six-thousand dollars, and opened for travel January 15, 1883.
In view of the inconvenience of reaching the county-seat (then at Danville),
it was not built, as originally proposed, to the mouth of Fishing creek. Sub-
sequently the stock in the bridge held by the state was sold, and proceeds
applied to the construction of a public road on the berme side of the canal
between Rupert and the bridge approach on the north side of the river.
     The bridge has repeatedly suffered from the freshets and ice floods which
periodically threaten life and property in the Susquehanna valley. In 1846
five spans were destroyed; they were rebuilt the following year. March 17,
1875, the entire structure was swept away. A Howe truss, thirty feet above low
water mark, was constructed the same summer on the piers of its predecessor.
It was opened fro travel November 22, 1875.
     The slowness and vacillation which characterized the bridge scheme did
not prevent Christian Brobst from planning an enterprise, the future develop-
ment of which he scarcely comprehended. He conceived the idea of a rail-
road from Catawissa to Tamaqua, and in 1825 traversed the distance between
the two points on foot, studied the topography of the Quakake valley, and
concluded that the plan was feasible. With Joseph Paxton he interviewed
prominent capitalists of reading and Philadelphia and interested them inthe
scheme. He induced several who seemed favorably impressed with the repre-
sentations to accompany him on horseback over the proposed route. Mon-
cure Robinson, a civil engineer, was one of the party. March 21, 1831, an
act was passed by the legislature authorizing Christian Brobst and Joseph
Paxton, of Catawissa; William McKelvey and Ebenezer Daniel, of Blooms-
burg, and others and Philadelphia and Reading, to receive subscriptions for
the stock of the Little Schuykill and Susquehanna Railroad Company. The
terminal points of the road were to be Catawissa and the Broad mountain
where the Wilkesbarre state road intersected the Little Schuykill. The
mountains were to be avoided by traversing the valleys of Mosserâs run and
Catawissa creek.
     Energetic measures were at once taken to execute these plans. Edward
Miller, and experienced engineer, surveyed the line. Contracts were issued for
grading and building bridges. Capital was furnished by the United States
bank of Philadelphia. With the collapse of that institution, in 1838, and of
other corporations dependent upon it for financial support, the projectors of
the railroad were compelled to abandon their enterprise. For fifty years the
unfinished embankments and bridges reminded unfortunate investors of the
alluring prospect which prompted their erection.
     March 20, 1849, the original corporation was reorganized under the name
of the Catawissa, Williamsport and Erie railroad Company. During the
succeeding five years, the road was finally completed. The first locomotive
that ever appeared in Catawissa was the ãMassachusetts,ä which was brought
from Philadelphia by canal and transported across the river on a flat. Sunday,
July 16, 1854, the first passenger train entered the town. William Cable was
conductor and John Johnson, engineer.
     Unfortunately the new company was not financially prosperous, and in
pursuance of an order from the supreme court of the state, its property was
sold; March 21, 1860, its purchasers were constituted the Catawissa Rail-Road
Company. In November, 1872, the Philadelphia and Reading Rail-Road
Company became lessees. In 1858 the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg Rail-
Road became an available line of transportation from Catawissa. In 1870
a third road, the Danville, Hazelton and Wilkesbarre, was opened through the


town. The latest acquisition to its commercial facilities was the North and
West Branch Railway, completed in 1882.
     It is a matter of surprise that extensive manufacturing industries havenot
been established at a place commanding such advantages. The Penn furnace,
operated by Fincher and Thomas, and a nail factory conducted by Thomas
Hartman on a small scale at the time when a laborious and tedious hand pro-
cess was employed, were formerly of some local importance. The only estab
lishment of any magnitude that now exists, the Catawissa wood-pulp mill, has
had an existence of three-quarters of a century. It was established in 1811 by
Benjamin Sharpless. It appears that he lived near Sunbury, but resolved to
remove to Ohio and settle there. He visited a brother on his journey and
found him amassing wealth manufacturing paper. Returning to Catawissa, he
embarked in a similar business in company with John Clark. The Shoemaker
mill was purchased, and, with small expenses and trifling alterations, adapted
to the prospective industry. Raw material became finished fabric after under-
going a slow and laborious process. The first stage was the reduction of
straw or rags to pulp; this was removed from the vat with a wire sieve and
poured over a felt cloth; when a certain number of alternate strata of pulp and
felt had accumulated, the water was extracted by powerful pressure; the sheets
were then dried, folded and pressed, when they were ready for the trade. Af-
ter passing through different hands, the mill has come into possession of Mc-
Cready Brothers, of Philadelphia. It was completely destroyed by fire in 1882.
In the structure as rebuilt, the manufacture of wood pulp receives exclusive
attention. The general management ins entrusted to E. B. Guie, a gentleman
of extensive business experience and thorough acquaintance with all the details
of the manufacture.
     The development of the railroad scheme of Christian Brobst and Joseph
Paxton has been briefly outlined. If the existence of the road is to any extent
due to the sagacity and persistence of Catawissaâs citizens, it is also true that
the town has been amply compensated for their efforts. This is rather a coin-
cidence that the expression of any feelings of gratitude or obligation the rail-
road or its management might be supposed to have entertained. It had not
been operated six months until the superintendent found it impossible to move
the trains south from Catawissa that could be brought to that point from the
northern terminus of the line. This is due to the altitude at which the moun-
tain is crossed, the slope of which begins at the Susquehanna. Arrangements
were therefore made for the general forming of trains at Catawissa, which thus
became the home of nearly all the operatives employed in the freight service of
the company. Extensive repair shops were also established there in 1864.
They have become an important factor in furthering the growth of the town.
     The rapid increase of population in consequence created a tendency among
property holders to advance rents, and a demand for homes. Two institutions,
the Catawissa Land and Building company, and the Catawissa Mutual Build-
ing Fund Association, were organized in 1865 and 1870, respectively, to
assist their stock-holders to obtain homes. Although their operations have
been severely criticized, they were, in the main, conducted in the interest of
the class of persons it was proposed to benefit. A result of their existence
was a period of considerable building activity, extending from 1869 to 1873.
The number of dwellings was still inadequate, and in 1882 F. L. Shuman
purchased the Zarr farm, and laid off "Shumantown." Poplar, Shuman,
Zarr and Mill streets extend northwest from the creek. Cemetery street
crosses these at right angles, and is deflected from its course at the cemetery,
where it intersects the public road. There was an immediate extension of the

278town over this addition to its building area. The efforts of citizens in thus
establishing homes is an earnest of an improved condition of society in every
     In 1870 the population of the township was one-thousand, six hundred
and fourteen; in 1880 it had increased to two-thousand and four, and at that
time four-fifths of this number were residents of the town. It is estimated
that a census at the present time would show a population of two-thousand
five-hundred. Strenuous efforts have been made for years to secure legal en-
actments for the erection of Catawissa into a borough. Township govern-
ment is notoriously inadequate. It makes no provision fro police regulations
of any kind. When this is recognized and judiciously considered, incorpor-
ation will logically and promptly follow.
     Private enterprise, however, has to some extent supplied this deficiency.
Sidewalks have been constructed along the principal streets, and lamp-posts,
erected and supplied at private expense, are found here and there in the town.
Soon after the laying out of the village a market house was erected, but this
fell into disuse and became the resort of the village cows and hogs. Thence
forward it was chiefly noticeable for its fleas, and was generally declared a
nuisance, though there was sufficient influence to save it from destruction.
Sometime after 1820 its demolition was determined upon, and one night a
loud explosion called out the startled inhabitants to find that the market house
had been blown up. Some fruitless attempts were made to discover and pun-
ish the perpetrators, but no immediate effort was made to replace the building.
     In 1831 it was proposed to erect a town-hall and market house in Main
street at the intersection of Third, on the site of the old structure. Discus-
sion on this proposition became acrimonious and personal; the project was
defeated, and no attempt to revive it has since been made. A more unfortu-
nate result of this difference of opinion was the dissolution of the only fire
company which has existed in the village. The "Catawissa Fire Company"
was organized May 17, 1827, at Stacy Margerumâs hotel, with Joseph Paxton,
president, and Ezra S. Hayhurst, secretary. The latter, with Christian Brobst,
George Hughes, Stephen Baldy, George H. Willits and Jacob Rupert, was
appointed a committee to "draft and essay of a constitution." Four days later
the "essay" was adopted and signed by fifty-four persons. Meetings were
held quarterly at Margerumâs; an assortment of buckets, ladders, hooks and
chains was secured and distributed so as to be conveniently accessible in an
emergency. The utmost harmony prevailed until the building of a hall was
suggested. In February, 1832, after repeated adjournments the organization
was unceremoniously disbanded.
     The volume of business transacted at Catawissa has been constantly aug-
mented since 1864. Large general stores have not yet been superseded by
special and exclusive lines of merchandising. The Catawissa Deposit bank
(originally incorporated May 26, 1871, as The Catawissa Deposit and Savings
bank) has been known by its present name since April 12, 1872. It was or-
ganized in that year with John K. Robbins, president and B. R. Davis, cashier.
The capital stock is fifty-thousand dollars. The Catawissa Water Company,
chartered June 29, 1882, is another prominent business feature of the village.
F. L. Shuman, P. H. Shuman, William H. Rhawn, Gideon E. Meyers and
Reuben Shuman were the first board of directors. The water is obtained
from Catawissa creek and distributed to every part of the town.
     Various fraternal and benevolent societies are numerously represented.


Lieutenant H. H. Hoagland, Post No. 170, Grand Army of the Republic, was
organized in October 1868, with the following members: M. M. Brobst,
Samuel Waters, Daniel Walters, John G. Forborg, Thomas Harder, I. W.
Schmick, George W. Waters, John R. Brobst, and John Reicheldeefer. In
1876 it was disbanded for want of a quorum. June 16, 1880, a reorganization
was effected. M. M. Brobst, D. W. Spalding, G. W. Reifsnyder, I. W. Wil-
lits, John R. Brobst, I. H. Seesholtz, D. W. Walter, John McCoy, J. G. Wa-
ters, B. B. Schmick, Joseph P. Hause, T. E. Harder, Theodore Fox, John
Wostine, Joseph Walter, John Getkin, M. V. B. Kline, Thomas F. Harder,
C. F. Harder, Daniel Gifflin and J. C. Fletcher constituted the membership at
this time. The Post is in a flourishing condition with encouraging prospects
of future usefulness.
     Concordia Lodge, No. 50, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was chartered
September 24, 1838. The first officers were Owen D. Leib, N. G.; John F.
Mann, V. G.; Michael Farnsworth, secretary, Joel E. Bradley, assistant, and
Christian A. Brobst, treasurer. Meetings were held at the house of the latter
on Main Street until April, 1882, when the Pine street school building was oc-
cupied. It was purchased the previous year.
     Catawissa Chapter, Holy Royal Arch Masons, No. 178, was instituted Feb-
ruary 19, 1855 with James D. Strawbridge, H. P.; John K. Robbins, K. and
J. Boyd McKelvy, S.
     Catawissa Lodge, No. 349, Free and Accepted masons, was granted its
charter by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania December 5, 1964. Its first
officers were John Sharpless, W. M. ; W. M. Monroe, S. W., and Walter Scott,
J. W.
     December 8, 1869, the Catawissa Masonic Association was organized by the
following persons, members of the chapter and lodge: I. W. Seisholtz, George
S. Gilbert, M. V. B. Kline, Walter Scott, W. B. Koons, J. B. Knittle, W. H.
Abbot, C. Ellis, I. Monroe, John K. Robbins, C. B. Brockway and John
Thomas. A hall was erected in 1870 at a cost of $15,000. The association
subsequently became involved, financially, , and was obliged to seel its property.
     Catawissa council, No. 96, Order of United American Mechanics, received
its charter from the state council October 1, 1866. The following persons
were original members: Simon Raup, Charles Garner, J. Q. A. Brobst, Henry
S. Geiger, Valentine Metz, Jacob Millard, Nathan Northstein, John Getchey,
C. P. Reese, Gideon Haldeman, John M. Gordon, Adry Bowers and Charles
H. Kateer.
     The Catawissa Silver Cornet Band Association became a corporate body
April 7, 1869. The names of Monroe Seitzinger, Jeremiah S. Cornelius,
Allen J. Brandt, Emery Getchey, Charles Schmick, Perry Walters, A. Z.
Lewis, J. M. Walsham, Luther Eyer and F. D. Beringer appear in the list
of its first members.
     Washington Camp, No. 132, Patriotic Order of Sons of America, was organ-
ized April 3, 1870, with the following members: W. H. Inhoff, Jacob Cool, J.
K. Rhawn, Harry Yeager, Charles H. Bibby, Samuel H. Young, C. P. Pfah-
ler, C. D. Hart, George L. Kostenbauder, W. K. Russel, P. A. Brown,
Thomas E. Harder, Dennis Waters, William F. Bibby, Jacob Morrison,
Thomas B. Cullihan, A. W. Stadler, Charles D. Cool, W. H. Abbot, O. D.
Kostenbauder and J. Kostenbauder.
     Catawissa Grange, No. 216, Patrons of Husbandry, was chartered April 30,
1874. Among its first members were Matthias Hartman, Josiah Roberts, E.
M. Tewksbury, Solomon Helsig, Martin T. Hartman, Samuel Fisher and John


S. Mensch. May 25, 1883, the Catawissa Grange and Hall Association was
incorporated. A commodious brick structure was erected the following year
at a cost of six-thousand dollars. June 13, 1884, the hall was dedicated by
James Calder, D. D. May 28, 1884, a stock company was formed for its
management with William T. Creasy, president, E. M. Tewksbury, secretary, and
William J. Martin, treasurer. It may be proper to mention in this connection
several agricultural discoveries for which Catawissa is noted. The Catawissa
monthly raspberry has been propagated from a single plant discovered in the
Friends burial ground some years ago. Blossoms and berries appear at the
same time from July to October. In 1872 J. K. Sharpless originated the
Sharpless seedling strawberry, and in 1878 William J. Martin discovered a new
variety of an extensively cultivated cereal widely known as Martinâs amber
     Sylvania Division, No. 23, Order of Railway Conductors, was organized
May 18, 1881, with the following members: John W. Dent, P. S. Robison,
Samuel L. Bowers, William H. Berger, James F. Miller, Lewis C. Reifsnyder,
Peter Runker, Benjamin F. Ryan, Theodore Schmick, George W. Forrer and
John W. Fenstermacher.
     Mountain Grove Lodge, No. 324, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, was
organized July 14, 1886. The members at that time were Daniel Geiger,
James Kelley, Jeremiah Haley, Charles Brown, George D. Bowman, James
Fisher, Charles E. McAfee, George E. Mensch, Ham. Yeager, William R.
Smith, Ira B. Ervin, Boyd Longenberger, Frank Perry, John L. Getkin, John
I. Chambers, George W. Ervin, and G. W. Linn.
     The Quakers who first settled Catawissa shared in that devotion to their
faith which characterized its adherents at this period. Their meeting-house
may be seen on a knoll a short distance from the confluence of the creek and
Susquehanna. It is a log building, nearly or quite square, and no entrance is
visible from the front. It presents a weather-beaten but substantial appearance.
The furniture of the interior is severely plain and not suggestive of comfort or
elegance. In the rear of this structure is a burial ground surrounded by a
stone wall. Within the inclosure are a number of trees, the massive trunks
and spreading branches of which would seem to indicate great age. The majes-
tic oaks, the low, wooden building and the quiet burial ground are invested
with associations of the most sacred character. This plain structure was the
first completed house of worship in the valley of the "North Branch" between
Sunbury and Wyoming.
     How long it has been a place of worship cannot be definitely determined.
It is the oldest building in Catawissa, and this statement implies an existence
of more than a century. In 1787 William Collins, William Hughes, James
Watson, John Love and other Friends resident in the vicinity were granted
permission to hold religious services here be the Exeter (Berks county) meeting,
the ecclesiastical body in the jurisdiction of which they were embraced. At
the Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting, November 2, 1795, Exeter Friends re-
ported having for some time been considering the advisability of forming a new
meeting within their limits. After due deliberation the proposed change was
made and Catawissa monthly meeting established. April 23, 1976, the body
thus instituted held its first session. It was attended by Ellis Yarnall, Arthur
Howell, Henry Drinker, John Morton, James Cresson, David Potts, Thomas
Lightfoot and Benjamin Scarlot, from Philadelphia; and by Amos Lee, Jacob
Thomas, Owen Hughes and Thomas Pearson, from Exeter. An organization was
effected by the election of Isaac Wiggins as clerk. Among other business trans-
acted was the appointment of Ellis Hughes and William Ellis to prepare suit-


able marriage certificates; and of James Watson, John Lloyd, Joseph Car-
penter, Benjamin Warner, Thomas Eves, Reuben Lundy, Nathan Lee and John
Hughes to care for the Friends burial ground. The meeting thus begun con-
tinued for twelve years. Toward the close of that period the Friends had be-
come so reduced in numbers that this body dissolved December 24, 1808. Since
that time meetings have been held by the few Friends who still reside in the
vicinity, but such occasions are neither frequent nor regular.
     The German element of the population also took measures at an early date
to secure fro themselves those religious privileges they had previously enjoyed.
When Christian Brobst entered Catawissa in 1795 he was accompanied by Rev-
erend Seely;, a Lutheran pastor from Berks county. May 1, 1796, a commun-
ion was held at Brobstâs recently built cabin. The following persons partici-
pated: Michael Raup, Michael Hower, Daniel Geiger, Christian Brobst, John
Wirts, Jacob Yocum, Conrad Geiger, Catherine Wirts, Barbara Brobst, Regina
Hartel, Maria Gillihans and Catharine Hower. This is the first service of this
kind held at Catawissa. January 1, 1796, the first baptisms recorded oc-
cured. The subjects were Joseph, Edna, Maria, children, respectively, of
Christian Brobst and Frederick Knittle and Daniel Yocum.
     Denominational distinctions were but slightly observed in those days. Rever-
end G. V. Stock became Lutheran pastor in 1802, and Reverend John Dietrich
Adams six years later is mentioned as occupying a similar position over the
Reformed congregation. March 10, 1804, articles of agreement in the joint
ownership and use of a house of worship for both denominations were signed by
Michael Hower, Jacob Yocum and Harmon Yost, elders, Samuel Felter and
Daniel Geiger, deacons. Christian Brobst presented a building site. In
the same year the church building was completed and dedicated. It was a
stone structure.
     The furniture and arrangement of the interior conformed to the usual style
of the period in that respect. The galleries extending round three sides, and
the nine-glass pulpit would present a novel appearance if viewed at the pres-
ent day. In 1853 this building was replaced by the brick edifice of which
Saing Johnâs German Lutheran congregation is now exclusive owner. Rever-
end Frederick Plitt succeeded Mr. Steely in 1808; Peter Hall became pastor
in 1817; Peter Kester in 1820; Jeremiah Schindle in 1831; William J. Eyer
in 1838; William Laitzel in 1874; L. Lindenstreuth in 1878; and J. H. Nei-
man in 1881. Mr. Eyerâs pastorate covered a period as long as those of his
predecessors combined.
     At his suggestion June 25, 1845, a meeting was held to devise means for
the organization and government of that portion of the congregation which pre-
ferred English services. Christian Brobst was called to the chair and Charles
Witmer appointed secretary. It was decided to make the proposed division,
and confer upon the new organization the name of Saint Matthewâs English
Lutheran church. William J. Eyer, Stephen Baldy, Joseph Brobst, Jacob
Kreigh, John Hartman and Peter Bodine were directed to prepare a constitu-
tion. July 13, 1845, the draft submitted by them was adopted; and
November 19, 1850 the church became a corporate body. William J. Eyer
remained in charge as pastor until 1851; J. F. Wampole and J. R. Dimm
served in that capacity until 1867, when Daniel Beckner became regular pas-
tor; Sylvanus Curtis followed in 1870; C. F. Coates in 1871; R. F. Kings-
bury in 1872; E. H. Leisenring in 1875: F. P. Manhart in 1878; J. F.
Deiner in 1879; D. M. Henckel in 1882; and U. Myers in 1883. In 1851
a church edifice was erected; in 1884 this was remodeled at a cost of ten-
thousand dollars. The rededication occurred October 14, 1884. Reverends

282Sharrets, Manhart, Schinde. Leisenring, Bodine and resident ministers of
other denominations, assisted the pastor.
     Reverends Diefenbach, Knable, Tobias, Fursch, Steeley, Daniels, Moore,
Dechant and Derr successively followed Mr. Adams as pastor of the Reformed
congregation. During Mr. Dechantâs pastorate the joint ownership of Saint
Johnâs union church was dissolved. May 18, 1882, the corner-stone of a new
Saint Johnâs was laid. The building operations were directed by Mr. Dechant,
who was entrusted with entire supervision over the work, financial and other-
wise. May 6, 1883, the completed edifice was dedicated. The pastor was as-
sisted by Reverends O. H. Strunch of Bloomsburg, and William C. Scheaffer
of Danville.
     The history of Methodism in Catawissa is different from that of the denom-
inations mentioned. The latter owe their existence to emigration from local-
ities where they were already established; the former dates it origin from a
visit of Bishop Asbury, the founder of that religious body in America. Tradi-
tion asserts that he stopped at Joseph McIntyreâs on a journey from Sunbury
to Wyoming; that he held services there which resulted in the conversion of that
family and others; and formed a class, which in course of time became a regu-
lar appointment. Asbury was followed by other itinerant missionaries--
Nathaniel Mills, James Paynter and Benjamin Abbot. Services were held in
McIntyreâs house and barn, where E. M. Tewksbury lives. In 1828 a church
building was erected; July 4, 1869, a second structure was dedicated. At
that time it formed part of Elysburg circuit, but has since been transferred to
     In the town of Catawissa Methodism has been represented since 1834 by a
church building; the second structure was built in 1854, and a third in 1884. At
an adjourned Quarterly Conference held November 4, 1883, the following action
was taken--"Resolved, that it is the judgment of this Quarterly Conference
that we enter at once upon the work of building a new church; and that a
committee be appointed to take subscriptions for that purpose." Pursuant to
which, Reverend R. E. Wilson, J. M. Smith, L. B. Kline, H. F. Clark and
C. C. Sharpless were authorized to solicit subscriptions. February 16, 1884
a building committee was appointed composed of R. E. Wilson, H. F. Clark
W. W. Perry, J. M. Smith, C. C. Sharpless, Jesse Mensch and L. B. Kline.
Saturday, July 12, 1884, the corner-stone was laid. Sunday February 15,
1885, Doctors Vincent and Upham dedicated the structure in the presence of
a large concourse of people.
     The services of the Protestant Episcopal church were first held in Cata-
wissa in 1860 by the Reverend E. N. Lightner, rector of Christ church, Dan-
ville. Some years later the Reverend T. H. Cullen, rector of Saint Paulâs
church, Bloomsburg, held services monthly, and administered baptism to few
adults and infants at various times. In 1879 his successor, the Reverend John
Hewitt, conducted bi-monthly services in Masonic hall, alternating with the
Reverend J. M. Peck of Danville. During this time the Right Reverend
William B. Stevens, bishop of the diocese, officiated at two confirmations.
In May, 1871, Saint Johnâs parish was formed. George S. Gilbert, Walter
Scott, Isaac H. Seesholtz, William H. Abbott, W. B. Parkins and--Jones were
elected wardens and vestrymen. They immediately applied to the convention
of the diocese of Pennsylvania for a charter, but for some reason failed to
secure it. Catawissa being geographically within the limits of the Central
Pennsylvania diocese, that body at its first annual convention received the
parish into union with itself June 12, 1872. A short time previous, the Rev-
erend Joseph L. Colton was called to the rectorship. April 2, 1872, he


entered upon his duties, and opened a parochial school. In January of this
year, the church purchased the property of the Catawissa Seminary Company,
but worshiped in Masonic hall until the necessary alterations had been made
in its interior furnishing. The communion was first celebrated in the town
agreeably to the ritual of the Protestant Episcopal church the first Sunday in
June, 1872. Two weeks later the congregation worshiped in its own building.
July 21, 1878, Mr. Coltonâs connection with the parish ceased with his resig-
nation. December 31, 1881, Reverend Charles E. Fessenden resigned after
a rectorship of six months. The Reverend L. Zahner. Of Bloomsburg, has
conducted occasional services then.
     The educational history of Catawissa, as well as it religious record, was
begun by the society of Friends June 24, 1797. John Mears informed the
monthly meeting that a sum of money raised by general subscriptions among
Philadelphia Friends had been placed in his hands, for the purpose of establish-
ing a school at Catawissa, "for the education of children in useful learning," and
that he had expended part of it in the purchase of a lot of ground, the title to
which was held in trust by John Lloyd, Robert Field, Charles Chapman and
Ellis Hughes. The following year the gratifying announcement was made that
John Pemberton, a prominent citizen of Philadelphia, had bequeathed the
sum of twenty pounds toward the encouragement and support of the school,
to be applied to the instruction of children of members of our society in use-
ful and necessary school learning.ä The school thus begun in 1797 was con-
tinued with satisfactory results until the dissolution of the monthly meeting.
     The Germans also manifested a degree of interest in establishing and main-
taining schools. In 1800 Martin Stuck, of Hamburg, Berks county, opened a
school in Michael Geigerâs dwelling near McIntyreâs. The following year
he removed to a building erected for school purposes nearer Catawissa creek.
He was employed by Peter Fornwald, Archibald Hower, Frederick Knittle,
Thomas Fester and others. In 1804 Mrs. Mary Paxton opened a school in
her house in Catawissa. In addition to the usual branches, she taught the
girls to sew and knit. Elijah Barger and Ellis Hughes were teachers about
this time in the Friendsâ school. Messrs. Kent and Ely, of New York, suc-
ceeded to the patronage of Mrs. Paxtonâs school when she closed it. In 1818
Thomas Barger established the most extensive educational institution that had
yet existed. His scholars came from Mainsville and other points as well as
the immediate vicinity. The "institution" was conducted on the second
floor of a spring-house.
     The year 1838 marks the beginning of a new era in the school history of
Catawissa. The advent of the new regime is thus explained:

CATAWISSA, March 16, 1838.                            

To the School Board of Catawissa Township:
     GENTLEMEN: At a meeting of the qualified electors of said district, held this day at
the house of Stacy Margerum in pursuance of an act of assembly entitled: "An act to
consolidate and amend the several acts relative to a general system of education by com-
mon schools," passed the 13th day of June, 1836, they, the said electors, determined by a
majority of those then and there present and voting on the question, to accept of the sys-
tem of common schools as established by said act, of which you will take notice, and
govern yourselves accordingly. Witness our hands the date above mentioned.

EZRA S. HAYHURST,                         
CHARLES CONNER.                         
Secretaries of said meeting.                         

     Accordingly March 19, 1838, a meeting of the first school-board was held.
William Clayton, Isaiah John, Ezra S. Hayhurst, Caspar Hartman, Christian
A. Brobst and Milton Boone constituted this first board of directors. They
were called to order by Casper Hartman, who nominated Christian A. Brobst

for president, and Ezra S. Hayhurst for secretary. Both were elected unani-
mously. A code of resolutions, fourteen in number, was presented by the
secretary and adopted as rules of order. Messrs. Clayton, Boone, Hartman
and John, agreeable to instructions from the board, divided the township into
ten sub-districts. Provision was made for the erection of ten house, the
amounts paid ranging from one-hundred and eighty-five to two-hundred and ten
dollars. More than four-thousand dollars were expended the first year. The
taxation necessary to provide for this was regarded by many as onerous and
unnecessary. At an election held March 19, 1841, the continuance of the sys-
tem was sustained by a small majority. It was again submitted May 5, 1846,
and this time there were but four dissenting votes.
     Although the system gave general satisfaction, there were those who de-
sired better educational advantages than it could confer. After mature delib-
eration on the part of those most interested, it was decided to establish a
school "for the promotion of education, both in the ordinary and higher
branches of English literature and science, and in the ancient and modern
languages." To accomplish this, they secured a charter for "Catawissa
Seminary." February 9, 1866, George H. Willits, Charles W. McKelvy,
Samuel B. Diemer, George Scott, Isaiah John, Henry Hollingshead, David
Clark and John K. Robbins were its first trustees. Professors Lance, For-
syth and Case were among the teachers. The general results of the school
were satisfactory and beneficial; but on account of the limited patronagere-
ceived, it was closed before completing the first decade of its history.
     Although not apparently a fortunate occurrence, this circumstance has in-
directly advanced the educational interests of the community in general.
When the seminary closed, intelligent and public spirited citizens began to
direct their attention to the improvement of the common schools, which had
retrograded from the high standard established by Joel E. Bradley in 1838.
The question of replacing the dilapidated school-house with a structure of ade-
quate size, and of lengthening the term, was agitated with energy and per-
sistence. A director of pronounced views in favor of both changes was elected
in 1877. The movement gained strength, and in 1879 its supporters had a
controlling influence in the board. The ideas which actuated their policy of
improvement are tangibly expressed in the imposing structure which Catawissa
has dedicated to the cause of education.
     It is pleasantly located at the head of Main street and commands a view of
the most picturesque section of the Susquehanna valley. The surroundings
are eminently adapted to exert that unconscious influence on pliant minds
which creates in them aspirations for what is beautiful, true and good in char-
acter. The location is healthful, salubrious and agreeable. The building pre-
sents an attractive, symmetrical and substantial appearance. A marble block
in the wall is inscribed with the names of E. B. Guie, B. R. Davis, G.
W. Reifsnyder, J. B. Yetter, L. Eyer and Dr. W. Walter, directors; W.
W. Perry, architect, and Charles King, contractor. The interior is con-
veniently and judiciously arranged. It was first occupied for school pur-
poses in April, 1882. Charles H. Albert was principal and E. B. Guie
first assistant. A library of well selected books, to which pupils have con-
stant access, and a cabinet of philosophical and chemical apparatus add
interest to every study embraced in the curriculum. The establishment of this
institution, and its successful operation under the management of competent
teachers and enterprising directors, reflect credit on the intelligence of the en-
tire body of citizens.

The Catawissa Township history was transcribed by Cindy Saniter.
This page is maintained as part of the USGenWeb Project.