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Penn Township lies west of the junction of
the Juniata and Susquehanna Rivers, almost in the form of a triangle. It
is bounded on the north by Wheatfield Township, on the east by the rivers, as
stated, on the opposite side of which is Dauphin County; on the south by Rye
Township, and on the west by Rye and Wheatfield.
Penn Township contains a unique physical formation within its borders, "The
Cove." Peters Mountain, from the break at the Susquehanna River below
Duncannon, runs southwest for probably ten miles, where it makes a beautiful
"horseshoe curve" and tends eastward to the banks of the Susquehanna,
above Marysville. This was originally known as Barnett's Cove, after
Thomas Barnett, who warranted 400 acres of land there in 1785, as well as the
property on which the county seat is located. He had lived there prior to
that, however, as he was assessed with fifty acres of land in Rye (now Penn)
Township, in 1767. Later it was known by the name of Allen's Cove, and now
is ordinarily spoken of as "The Cove." Prof. Claypole, the
geologist, thus describes it:
"The district enclosed by the mountain is drained by a small
stream rising at the Horse Shoe Bend and receiving the waters of both
slopes. The district is peculiarly isolated from the rest of the country
by its physical formation. Surrounded on two sides by the mountain, and on
the third by the river, access to it is very difficult. Two roads zigzag
across the range to the south, from Rye Township, and one enters from the north,
through the gap of the Susquehanna, and passes out by the same outlet. The
Pennsylvania Railway has taken advantage of the same natural pathway to enter
and leave the valley. These excepted, there is no practicable road from
the outside world into this secluded district, which is, as it were, a little
world by itself."
The township is well drained, the waters of both Sherman's Creek and
Little Juniata Creek passing through and emptying into the Susquehanna.
From 1766 until 1826 the territory comprising Penn Township was a part of
Rye. It then became a part of Wheatfield, and so remained until 1840,
when, upon petition to the courts it was made a township with the lines as they
now exist, being the fourteenth township.
Further references to early settlers will be found in the chapters devoted to
the Indians in the early pages of this volume. John Harris had formed a
temporary settlement in this vicinity, but it was not in Penn Township.
Marcus Hulings had holdings in what is now Penn Township, but the reader will
find the history of his early settlements under the chapters devoted to Duncan's
and Haldeman's Islands an Watts Township, his place of abode.
James Baskins, who is mentioned by Hulings in his communications with the
secretary of the province, was a resident here before 1762, but did not warrant
land until 1766, when he took up 300 acres, upon which the northern part of
Duncannon is located and which was long known as Baskinsville. He also
owned lands on the island and was the owner of a ferry. His daughter
married Alexander Stephens, who was a soldier under Braddock, and from this
marriage was born at Duncannon, Andrew Stephens, who became the father of
Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy. That topic is
covered by a chapter in this book. Also refer to description of Juniata
Township and Old Ferries. James Baskins' descendants conducted ferries in
the vicinity until they were replaced with bridges. The old Presbyterian
graveyard on the bluff above Duncannon was originally known as Baskins'
graveyard, and there sleep these Baskins pioneers. An act of the
Pennsylvania Legislature, dated April 4, 1838, provided for the building of the
first bridge "at the Juniata's mouth," and named George Stroop, Robert
Clark, Amos A. Jones, Thomas Duncan, Jacob Keiser, Wm. Clark, Alex. Branyan,
Henry Hackett, James Black, Robert Mitchell, John Wagner, Jacob Shively, Benj.
McIntire, Daniel Grove, George Barnett and Fred'k Rinehart, as
Above the James Baskins tract was a place known as "Barren Hills,"
which contained 300 acres, and was taken up by William Baskins in 1766. On
Little Juniata Creek was 263 acres taken up by Isaac Jones in 1766. This
is the Haas' mill tract. East of it Andrew Berryhill took up 331 acres in
1766. It is named in the warrant "Sherman's Valley." He
sold the right and it passed to John Shearman, who is the first man by that name
to patent land in the county (November 24, 1781), although the western part of
the county was known as "Shearman's Valley" and the creek as "Shearman's
Creek" as early as 1750.
In The Cove lands were warranted by Joseph Watkins (1774), Thomas White, James
White, Elizabeth Branyan, Alexander Gailey and Israel Jacobs. David and
William Ogle warranted 500 acres in 1792. David Stout settled along the
river, this warrant being dated March 14, 1755. George Allen resided here
before 1762, and from him is derived the names of Allen's Cove and Allen's
Island. Allen never warranted the lands, and it is likely that the tract
taken up by Thomas Barnett was negotiated for through Allen and was one and the
same tract. On June 4, 1762, Thomas Barnett took out a warrant for 317
acres, and resided there until 1787, when he purchased the right of David
Mitchell for 418 acres, upon a part of which the county seat is now
located. Mr. Barnett had two sons, Frederick and George. His Cove
lands he conveyed to his son Frederick, who lived and died there, leaving the
property to his descendants, one of whom, Joseph Barnett, long postmaster at
Cove, still resides there. Thomas Barnett then lived upon the Bloomfield
tract until his death, in 1814, when that property passed to his other son,
George Barnett. The island, known as the Wister Island, was a part of this
Cove holdings, it acreage being stated as sixty-four. Another early
warrantee was Alexander Branyan.
Among other lands warranted were: Samuel Goudy, 215 acres in 1766; Richard
Coulter, 217 acres in 1762, later owned by Rev. James Brady; Alexander
Rutherford, 300 acres in 1787; Robert Nicholson, 682 acres in 1769; Joseph
Kirkpatrick, 100 acres in 1790; Isaac Kirkpatrick, 300 acres in 1814, and
Benjamin Abraham, 207 acres on both sides of Sherman's Creek at "the
loop," in 1766.
On the Little Juniata Creek, above Duncannon, which is located on the John Brown
warrant, was a tract of 263 acres surveyed to Isaac Jones in 1766. His
son, Robert Jones, erected a sawmill and a gristmill, whose son, Cadwallader
Jones, owned it when the county came into existence. From him it passed to
Frederick Albright, who sold it to Jacob Bruner. Mr. Bruner erected a
woolen mill with fulling and carding machinery, and did a large manufacturing
business in the making of cloth. It later passed to John and Benjamin
Shade, Samuel Shull and Samuel Haas, the latter being the last owner to conduct
the milling business. Sylvester S. Sheller purchased the property in
1898,and erected a large ice dam in 1900. He sold the property in 1919 to
Thomas Mutzabaugh, who is the present owner.