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Tell Township History


History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties, Pennsylvania by J. Simpson Africa Philadelphia, PA: Louis H. Everts, 1883, pp.364-368. Contributed by Judy Banja.






Geographical and Natural Features. - This is one of the southeast border townships of Huntingdon County, and was erected from Dublin township in April, 1810, and bounded as follows: On the northeast by Juniata County, on the southeast by Franklin County, on the southwest by Dublin township, and on the northwest by Cromwell and Shirley townships. The surface of the township is very uneven, the summit of Tuscarora Mountain forming the southeast line between the township and Franklin County. Nearly or quite four hundred rods northwest from Tuscarora Mountain is Hunting Ridge, a limestone formation running parallel with Tuscarora and the entire length of that side of the township. About four hundred and fifty rods northwest from and nearly parallel with Hunting is Big Ridge, a series of limestone elevations running across the township, and still farther northwest and parallel with Big is Pine Ridge, which might better be termed mountain. This, too, extends the entire length of the township, and last, but not least, is Shade Mountain, along the crest of which is the dividing line between Tell, Cromwell, and Shirley townships. These mountains and ridges all run in the same direction, from southwest to northeast, and between these mountains and ridges are several hills or knobs of no very small dimensions, and reach also to a respectable altitude. Between the mountains, ridges, and hills are long, narrow valleys, in which are several very good farms, where large crops of wheat, corn, oats, and potatoes are raised. There are four roads or highways running through as many valleys the entire length of the township, besides several roads passing through the mountain gorges from one valley to the other.


The principal creek of the township is the Tuscarora. This rises in Dublin township and flows northeasterly along the northwest foot of Hunting Ridge, through the hamlet of Nossville, to the Kern farm, where it breaks through Hunting Ridge in an easterly direction, then flows northeast into Juniata County.


Trough Spring Creek rises on the McNeal and Berrier farms in the southerly part of the township, flows northeasterly along the narrow valley between Pine Ridge and Shade Mountain to Silverthorne's mill at Shade Valley post-office, where it turns easterly, breaks through Pine Ridge, and empties into Tuscarora Creek on the Kern' farm, at the foot of Hunting Ridge.


Block's Run rises on the Shoop farm, in the southwest part of the township, flows northeasterly along the valley between Pine and Big Ridge, emptying into Trough Spring Creek a mile east of Shade Valley post-office.

Georges Creek rises in the north corner of the township, and flows southeast to Coulter's old mill-seat, thence easterly into Juniata County.


Narrows Creek rises in Franklin County, flowing northwesterly, past Orr's mill-seat, into the Tuscarora below Blair's Mills.

Three Lick Creek rises in the southwest end of the township, and flows southwest into Dublin township. There are some twenty-five or thirty tributaries of the above-named creeks, but without names.


Pioneer Settlers. - In the "Land Lien Docket" for Huntingdon County may be found a right granted Feb. 3, 1755, to Barnabas Barnes, for a tract of land in Tell, or what is now Tell township. Just where this tract was located, or whether Mr. Barnes settled on it, we have been unable to ascertain; however, many tracts of land are located by parties who never see the land or know anything of its value only through their agents.


Among the pioneer settlers of what is now Tell township we find the following who located here previous to 1800: Samuel McMath came to this township in the year 1780, and located in the valley near the mouth of Trough Spring Branch Creek, where several of his descendants still reside. John McMath, son of Samuel, located at the Ridge. Robert Vaughan located some time in 1780 or 1781, on the farm now owned by his son, Robert Vaughan, who is now an old man. He located northwest from what is now Blair's Mills. James Stonkard located near Blair's Mills previous to 1790. The farm is now owned by Mrs. James Orr. Thomas Morrow located here in 1784. He came with his father, Richard Morrow, who was grandfather of J. B. Morrow, son of Thomas, and took up one hundred acres of land, now the property of J. A. Blair. J. B. Morrow is now a resident of the hamlet of Blair's Mills. Robert Stonkard was one of the pioneers of this part of Tell. The property is now owned by G. H. & R. A. Speer. William McMullen located in the north part of Tell in 1786. The tract that he located is now owned by J. M. Blair, J. M. Morrison, and --- Robinson. Isaac Gifford located west of Blair's Mills in 1780. There were also William Gifford and Joseph Gifford. The Gifford tract is still in the Gifford family. Jonathan S. Briggs, John Gilliland, and John Jeffries located in this township in 1790. Among the other early settlers in this neighborhood were Jacob Stong, Adam Stong, Sr., Adam Stong, Jr., Daniel Stong, James Pattison, William Down, Samuel Briggs, John Briggs, and Michael Kern, all of whom were here previous to 1791.


The pioneer locator and settler in the Shade Valley, or rather along Trough Spring Creek, southwest of Shade Valley post-office, was Jacob Goshorn, who came here in 1780. This name has been written differently at different periods, first Ganshorn, then Gooshorn, as will be found in early town records, and now Goshorn. He located a large tract along this valley, for nearly or quite three and a half miles by one mile wide. The tract ran nearly a mile northeast of Shade Valley post-office, or Silverthorn's Mills. The original tract is owned in part as follows: Samuel Book, three hundred and sixty-eight acres; William P. Goshorn, one hundred and fifty acres; Martin Fleming, eighty acres; Samuel Waters, one hundred and twenty acres; and Robert Goshorn owns a large plantation out of the original tract. Samuel Book located here in 1849. The Quinns and Wagners were also early settlers in this locality.


Along farther towards the southwest end of the township we find the families of Felmlee, Shorp, Wilson, Cisney, Waters, Parsons, Chilcote, Bollinger, and others, who located here from 1795 to 1820.


Religions. - From the number of meeting-houses in Tell township used for religious purposes it would naturally be inferred that the spiritual welfare of the inhabitants had not been forgotten, however much it might have been neglected in after-years. For want of proper records we are unable to give date of organization of the societies or churches, names of pioneer members, or date of building the meeting-houses, except in one or two instances, and must content ourselves with giving merely the location of each. One of the United Brethren's Churches is located opposite the school-house, in the Parsons settlement, south part of the township. Adjoining the church is the burying-ground. Methodist Episcopal Church, located in the hamlet of Nossville, built in 1872. The old Union Church, north of Nossville, built in 1830, has not been occupied for a long time, and is fast going to decay. Mount Zion United Brethren Church, northwest of Blair's Mills, was built in 1852. W. B. McMullen, James Rhea, and Edward Roles are among its prominent members. There is also a small Methodist Episcopal Church situate in the extreme north point of the township, the membership of which is nearly or quite all residents of Juniata County. Richvale Methodist Episcopal Church, located on Silverthorn's Mill, or Shade Valley post-office, is a neat frame building, erected in 1874. D. P. Osborn is the superintendent of the Sunday-school connected with this church, and Revs. Dunning and Hamm are the preachers on this circuit.


Villages and Hamlets. - NOSSVILLE is a flourishing little hamlet, located about midway between the southwest and northeast end of the township, on the banks of the Tuscarora Creek. There is at this place quite an extensive tannery, built in 1848 or 1849, and now owned and operated by Oswill B. Mosser, who also owns a store in connection with his tannery. There is also a store at this place by William B. Kling. The grist- and saw-mills of Thomas Cisney, located half a mile above the town, were built in 1836 or 1837. There is also at Nossville a blacksmith-, shoe-shop, post-office, and Methodist Episcopal Church.





DAVID MOSSER, the father of the subject of this sketch, was born in Lehigh County, Pa. His ancestors are of German extraction, and settled in the above-named county prior to the Revolutionary war. David, when seventeen years old, entered as an apprentice the tannery of Benjamin Semmel, at Neffville, Lehigh Co., and remained there until 1862, working as a journeyman after having learned his trade. In the last-named year he went to Lehighton and assumed the management of the tannery of Stephen Kissler. This he managed so successfully that when the Kissler Brothers, in 1870, built their large tannery in Lock Haven, he was asked by them to fill the important position of manager thereof, which position he accepted and still retains. It is a very large establishment, and has an average capacity of twelve hundred hides per week. Mr. Mosser married Miss Eliza Houseman, who was born in Lehigh County, and was daughter of Jacob Houseman. Their children are Albert, Oswill B., Elias, Joseph, and Martha. Oswill B. was born in Lehigh County on the 28th day of January, 1854. When seventeen years old he with his father's family removed to Lock Haven, where he met, and on the 25th day of March, 1881, married Miss Alpha Rippy, who was born in Lock Haven, Dec. 29, 1859, and is daughter of Frank and Frances (Stringfeller) Rippy. They have one child, viz., Frank D., born July 1, 1882. When eleven years of age Oswill B. commenced work in the tannery of Stephen Kissler, in which he worked only summers at first and went to school winters. After he was seventeen years old he devoted his entire time to the business, and eventually became skilled in all its branches. In 1848, Col. George Noss built a steam tannery in Nossville, Huntingdon Co., which was operated until 1870, when it was burned down. It was then owned by Messrs. Hense, Reese & Sops, who at once rebuilt it on the foundation of the old one. It was kept in operation until 1878, when it was closed, and remained closed until 1881, when Oswill B. Mosser bought it of Robert Harkison, who had come into possession of it through the Spanogles. It was then in a very dilapidated condition, but has been put in thorough repair, and now gives employment to twenty men, and turns out one hundred and fifty hides per week. Its stock is drawn on wagons to Orbisonia, and from there shipped to all points east and west. Its greatest drawback is the scarcity of bark, which will be obviated upon the completion of railroads now in contemplation. Mr. Mosser is a young man who has made his business a study and loves it, and is now managing his works with skill and marked success.


BLAIR'S MILLS is located between the Narrows and Tuscarora Creeks, a short distance above their confluence, and on the northeast border of the township and county. There is at this place a grist- and sawmill, chop-mill, blacksmith- and shoe-shop, and store. The place was settled and the first grist-mill built as early as 1790, and a second mill upon the site of the first, which had been burned, was built as early as 1820, and the present grist-mill built in 1839, upon the site of the two former, by John Blair. He subsequently sold to his son, A. C. Blair, who in 1875 sold the mill to John A. Blair, grandson of John Blair, and is the present owner. The chop- and sumach-mill, built subsequently to the building of the gristmill, is now owned by J. A. Blair.


The saw-mill was built by A. C. Blair, and sold subsequently to J. A. Blair, present owner.


The store, which is doing quite an extensive business, has passed under several firm-names, as follows: A. C. Blair, A. C. & J. H. Blair, Blair & Morrison, D. H. Morrison, Blair & Morrison, J. A. & J. M. Blair, Blair & Son and J. M. Blair, the present owner, with J. B. Morrow as clerk. One of the blacksmith-shops is owned by J. A. Blair, and operated by Henry Knox, blacksmith; and the other is owned by James Gifford, with John Knox as blacksmith.


SHADE VALLEY POST-OFFICE. - This beautiful little hamlet, nestled down among the hills in what is known as Shade Valley, is also known as familiarly by the names of " Silverthorn's Mill" and " Richvale" as by the former name. It is also located on the old Jacob Goshorn tract, and surrounded by rich farming and grazing lands; and although far from any railroad or other public improvement, there is a large amount of business done here, and the thrift of the little town is plain to behold in the neat appearance of the town generally.


The first grist-mill at this place was built, as near as can be ascertained, one hundred years ago, and no doubt Jacob Goshorn, the then owner of the land, was the prime mover in the work. Two mills have preceded the present grist-mill, which was built in 1865 or 1866 by Richard Silverthorn, and is still owned by the Silverthorn family.


The first store at this place was opened in 1865 by William McFeeter, who had been a sutler in the army. He subsequently sold to --- Kepler, and Kepler sold to --- Parsons, who sold to Messrs. Crawford & McCulloch. The firm-name was again changed to Jones & Birdge, who sold out to --- Blair, and in the spring of 1882 H. S. Thompson became proprietor, also postmaster at the Shade Valley post-office.


The first blacksmith at this place was a Mr. Stinson, who was succeeded by - Fogle, and he by J. C. Pyle, the present blacksmith.


BOLLINGER TOWN is one of the smallest hamlets in the township, yet is known throughout this section by this name. It is located at the head-waters of Trough Spring Creek, in Shade Valley. There are at this place two or three dwellings and the remains of a school-house.


Educational. - There are in Tell township eight school districts, in which were five months' school taught in 1881, with an average attendance of two hundred scholars during the term. Total tax levied in the township for school purposes during the year, $945.60; State appropriation, $199.92; total expenditures during the year, $1028.51. There were eight male teachers employed, at $21 each per month.


Civil List. - The following is a list of the principal township officers since its organization:




1810, James McNeal; 1811, William Waters; 1812, Jacob Gooshorn; 1813, Jacob Crow; 1814, Abraham Hagey; 1815, Thomas Murphy; 1816, David Parsons; 1817, Michael Kern; 1818, John Parsons; 1819, John Jeffries; 1820, Jacob Gooshorn; 1821-22, Samuel Walters; 1823, John McMath; 1824, Samuel Walters; 1825, David Parrout; 1826, David Parsons; 1827, Philip Walters; 1828-30, David Parsons; 1831, James Ford; 1832-33, David Hockedorn; 1834-35, Nicholas Gooshorn; 1836, Samuel Gooshorn; 1837, Nicholas Gooshorn; 1838-41, James Pattison; 1842-44, David Parsons; 1845, Samuel Gooshorn; 1846, Abraham Bollinger; 1847-48, George May; 1849, William Gooshorn; 1850-54, William Cawn; 1855, William Vaughan; 1856-60, Robert Vawn; 1861, Robert B. Jones; 1862-66, William Vawn; 1867-68, R. B. Jones; 1869, Wm. Vawn; 1870-73, G. M. Briggs; 1874, J. H. Coulter; 1875, F. S. Briggs; 1876, George Smittle; 1877, William Wilson Vawn; 1878-79, George Schmittel; 1880, J. S. Vanwhy; 1881, T. J. Love.




1810, John Jeffries, Andrew Campbell; 1811, Jacob Grier, Lawrence McMiller; 1814, William Gifford, George Magee; 1815, Samuel McMath, John French; 1816, William Wilson, James Campbell; 1817, Robert Vaughan, Jacob Gooshorn, Jr.; 1818, John Briggs, Jacob Bolinger; 1819, Hugh Doran, Archibald Stitt; 1820, James Jones, John Ward; 1821, James McFaters, Frederick Cove; 1822, Thomas Morrow, Jacob Gooshorn, Sr.; 1823, Robert Sturkard, William Walters; 1824, Jacob Gooshorn, Nesbet Jeffries; 1825, David Hockedorn, Jacob Wagner; 1826, Benjamin Briggs, Samuel Gooshorn; 1827, George Gooshorn, John McMath; 1828, Jacob Heagy, David Hockedorn; 1829, James McNeil, Samuel Gooshorn; 1830, John Briggs, Isaac Gifford; 1831, James Pattison, Abraham Bollinger; 1832, John French, William Colter; 1833, John Ward, John Jeffries; 1834, William Wilson, John McMath; 1835, George Gooshorn, James James; 1836, John Stinkard, Samuel B. McFeaters; 1837, Robert McFarlan, James Ford; 1838, William Orr, John Briggs; 1839, William Gooshorn, Jacob Shoup; 1840, John McMath, Michael Bolinger; 1841, Jonathan Briggs, James Jones; 1842, James Coulter, Joshua Price; 1843, William McMullin, George Wilson; 1844, George Gooshorn, John Snyder; 1845, Jacob Hegie, John Jones; 1846, John Hegie, James Patterson; 1847, William Morrow, David Parsons; 1848, William Gooshorn, William Orr; 1849, Samuel Gooshorn, David Hockedorn; 1850, Robert Morrow, James Pattison; 1851, Samuel Parsons, Nicholas Gooshorn; 1852, John Fultz, George Wilson; 1853. John Sturkard, William Clayton; 1854, John Beaver, Thomas Cisney; 1855, --- ---; 1856, John McMath, Samuel Book; 1857, James Pattison; 1858, W. McMullin, C. Stohlman; 1859, William Vaughn, John Jones; 1860, J. S. Briggs, V. Schmittle; 1861, James Coulter, David Reader; 1862, Benjamin Briggs, John Hagie; 1863, W. Coulter, W. Clayton; 1864, James McNeal, Samuel Berger; 1865, John M. Louden, Lewis Evans; 1866, James Gifford, Jackson Briggs; 1867, John Jones, Samuel Watters; 1868, J. S. Briggs, M. J. Shoop; 1869, M. S. Shearer, Vos. Schmittel; 1870, S. Widney, S. Book; 1872, Samuel Watters, V. Schmitle; 1873, A. S. Cisney, M. Shearer; 1874, Robert Parson, W. X. Orr; 1875, R. B. Jones, Samuel Briggs; 1876, George Vaum, J. F. Parson; 1877, Jacob Starr, David Snyder; 1878, W. B. McMullen, V. Schmittel; 1879, V. Schmittel, Joseph Snyder; 1880, M. F. Shoop, Michael Shearer; 1881, Michael Shearer, M. F. Shoop.




1810, Samuel McMath, William Wilson; 1811, Samuel Parsons, Michael Run; 1820, Thompson Manard, Jr., John French; 1822, James Campbell, John Walters; 1825, Robert Blair, Robert McFarlan; 1826, Abraham Bollinger, James Jones; 1827, Jacob Wagoner, John Jeffries; 1828, Nicholas Gooshorn, James Jones; 1829, James Piper, Thomas Orr; 1830, David Hockedorn, Joseph Parsons; 1831, Benjamin Briggs, Samuel Parsons; 1832, Robert McFarlan, William Scott; 1833, David Parsons, Philip Walters; 1834, Samuel Patterson, Samuel Parsons; 1835, John McMath, John French; 1836, Peter Kern, Jacob Hegie; 1837, John Watter, William McGee; 1838, Benjamin Briggs, George Mayhath; 1839, --- ---; 1840, Jacob Shoop, James Pattison; 1841, William McMullin, William Hicks; 1842, William Clayton, William Hicks; 1843, William Hicks, Frederick Love; 1844, Joshua Price, M. F. Shoop; 1845, John Carl, William Clayton; 1846, Jacob G. Jones, James Jones; 1847, J. G. Jones, Jacob Gooshorn; 1848, Abraham Bollinger, Jacob Shoop; 1849, David Hockedorn, James McNeal; 1850, Benjamin Ramsey, William Mitchell; 1851, Jonathan Briggs, Daniel Conn; 1852, H. Wilson, W. Walters; 1853, William Cawn, Thomas Love; 1854, Samuel Parsons, W. S. Lyons; 1855, --- ---; 1856, Alexander Gilland, Samuel Burdge; 1857, --- ---; 1858, --- ---.




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