Land Occupancy and Property Ownership
In 1681 the English king Richard II granted the province he called Penns Woods to William Penn and his sons with proprietary rights to colonize it. The eastern territory near the Atlantic coast at the mouth of the Delaware River was settled first. The western territory was unavailable. It was Indian-held and accessible only by pathways or partly navigable waterways.
In the west were long, low, richly timbered ridges cut by waterways. Springs, sinks, and large or small streams were common above and below ground. Between the ridges lay large and small valleys with mineral-rich soils. Some such as (later named) Penns Valley were open and grassy, while others such as Brush Valley were densely brushy. For thousands of years, woodland Indians had hunted, fished, gathered and grown food there. They regularly burned fields and forests to maintain hunting or farming grounds. They might have built stone structures still evident on the ridges for purposes now unknown. Native-made trails actively used for travel and trade crisscrossed the territory.
By the 1750s, Europeans - German, Scotch-Irish, and English immigrants - were coming into the region to hunt, trap, timber, trade, and squat. They could not legally own land there until 1768 when the New Purchase Treaty of Stanwix between England and the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois nation moved the provincial boundary west to include this territory.
The Penn family discouraged land speculation by restricting land sales. Nonetheless, three speculators - Quaker Philadelphia brewer Reuben Haines; Baptist lawyer-soldier and Philadelphia mayor Samuel Miles; and Scotch-Irish Presbyterian farmer-soldier James Potter - acquired thousands of acres in the west for colonization. Anticipating successful treaty negotiations releasing the land for settlement, Haines, Miles, and Potter accumulated deeds, then sold individual tracts to farmers and artisans, mostly Pennsylvania Germans immigrating from the province's eastern counties. Haines and Miles, investors who remained in Philadelphia, built early roads into the Valleys to from the east. Potter, a resident of Cumberland County who later moved to Penns Valley, formally directed settlement first as a Penn family commissioner and later as a land sale company's surveyor and manager.
Present-day Chicory Lane Farm originated in Reuben Haines' holdings. It began as a tract originally surveyed by William McClay in Cumberland (now Centre) County on September 26, 1766. This tract was specified as "Hopewell situate on the head of Penns Creek containing three hundred thirty three acres seventy two perches with the usual allotment of six acres percent for roads." Valentine Epler warranted or ordered the survey. Deeded to Haines in 1767, the tract was located roughly two miles southeast of Penns Creek's headwaters and a mile east of (later named) Egg Hill just below Brush Mountain's western end. The warrantee map (of now Centre County) shows this tract as a long rectangle extending from (later-named) Green Grove Road on the north to Heckman Cemetery Road on the south. Notable features identified by the surveyor were the large stream flowing from Brush Mountain south through the tract, as well as a white oak tree at its southwest corner.
A brief reference in a 1775 travel journal has Daniel Long, a blacksmith, living there; presumably he purchased from Haines. We do not know what part of the tract Long occupied, or how much of it, or for what purpose. Tax records in 1778 show Daniel Long holding "200 acres, 10 improved." Improvement could mean clearing, or planting, or building structures, or something else. Long might have built a dwelling house on the site, or he might have only timbered it for making charcoal iron to be used in blacksmithing. Or both.
Based on our deed and tax record research so far, an incomplete list of owners of parcels within the original tract follows, below. Additional owners might yet be identified. Acreage amounts and locations might be corrected. We hope to learn more about each owner's identity and land use. This list shows the owner's name; occupation if recorded; acreage if recorded, and year of purchase:
- Daniel Long (or his son Michael), blacksmith, 200 acres, prior to 1775
- Adam Reed, blacksmith 1794
- Andreas Hausman, one hundred one and one half acres 1796
- Coalman, wagon maker, 31 acres 1800
- Jacob Hering, tanner, 116 acres, 1809; heirs 23 acres 1829
- Peter Pauly, shoe maker, 47 acres 1829
- J. Swartz, 1836
- J. Rockey, 2 acres, 1846
- J. Shadow, 1850
- Philip Ertle, miller, and Catharine Ertle heirs 1850
- J. Dunmoyer, 80 acres 1866
- Michael Ream, weaver, farmer, 75 acres 1875
- Adam Ertle, 72 acres 1875
- S. Bickle, 3+ acres 1925
- D. Ertle, 72 acres 1926
- Theodore Sweeley, farmer, 72 acres 1942
- Jake McCool, farmer, 72 acres 1961
- Clyde Glick, truck driver and farmer, and Verna Glick, 72 acres 1969
- John Smith and Catherine Smith, educators, 69 and one half acres 1974
From this list we glimpse the lineage of one place in Penns Woods between 1766 and the present. A 2010 tax map showing present-day lot boundaries, when laid over the original 1766 tract, shows two centuries of reconfiguration. Chicory Lane Farm (Smith property) is shown at the north end of the tract.
The HouseLandowners undobtedly built dwellings on this site, although we have not found records of construction. For example, we don't know:
- who built the present three-story log house that we occupy
- when it was built
- from what kind of trees
- what kinds of earlier dwellings on site might have preceded the present house
We do know that other historic, still-standing log houses in the valleys (many covered by siding so that the logs are not visible) are made of pine, hemlock, oak, chestnut, butternut, or a combination of these trees. We assume that trees were felled, the logs cut, and the boards milled on site or nearby. We assume that sandstone for the foundation was dug from ridges or fields nearby. (Clue: "They used what they had on hand.") To learn the singular history of a specific log house requires research that might end inconclusively. But we're working on it.
We find tantalizing clues in primary sources such as historical maps, survey notes, family histories and wills, deeds, tax records. Secondary sources add multiple viewpoints and perspectives, sometimes conflicting. Published local histories are helpful, as are conversations with loggers, excavators, carpenters, stonemasons, architects, landscape architects, artists, and surveyors familiar with the area. Friends or neighbors whose families lived in the house in earlier generations add significant details, sometimes opening up new lines of inquiry. Observation and reflection help, too. Prompted by something encountered on an old map, in a deed, in a conversation, a published history, or a field guide, we look again at familiar scenes as we walk or drive to recognize more than before. Perception changes.
Because the house is a product of its setting, they should be considered together. They quietly tell a multi-dimensional story of interaction between people and a particular place.
Land and Human Interaction
Brush Valley, Brush Mountain, Green Grove, Beaver Dam, Muddy Run, Pine Creek, Elk Creek - these names on an 1822 county map by John Melisher tell the locale's landforms, water types, plants and animals (Melisher drawn map). [To see these places on the Melisher map, zoom to the southeast corner of the county to find Haines Township. In Haines, look in the northwest corner, below Brush Mountain’s western end, and zoom more to see a church and a tavern, Cooks. This is the locale of Chicory Lane Farm. Move the cursor around the immediate area to see local place names.]
Town names such as Spring Mills and Millheim tell where local industry in the form of water-powered mills developed around water sources. The mills sawed wood, cut boards, ground grain for flour, clay for plaster, and apples for cider. Around the sawmills, leather tanning (soaking skins in ponds of tannin from tree bark), wagon making, and other local industries grew up. Mills became trade hubs and social centers.
The Tilden 1861 map of Centre County shows two sawmills, a cider mill, and a wagon shop along the stream flowing from Brush Mountain through the original Valentine Epler tract. [To see the stream on this 1861 map, select Gregg Township, then zoom to enlarge the Township image, then use the navigation tool to the left of the map to see the stream and The Pines.] An overlay of the 2010 tax map shows where these 1861 map features would be today. Signs of their existence can be seen now in a deep cut into the stream bank indicating a mill-building site and nearby depressions indicating millponds.
On the 1861 map, the stream is shown west of John Dunmoyer's farm (now Chicory Lane Farm) flowing straight south rather than meandering through as before. This suggests the stream might have been straightened and re-routed to create a "head race" powering the mills along it. There are now signs of this re-routing in a hand-dug berm running alongside the stream in woods on the farm. Why was this berm dug, when, and by whom? Who changed the course of the stream to "improve" its flow for some purpose? Individual farmers draining pastureland or operating their own saw mills? Neighbors jointly managing community water resources? Deeds show that owners of adjacent properties gave each other access rights to maintain waterways, suggesting that in 1861 streams were treated as community resources. Not only local homebuilding or wagon making, moreover. By 1860 Pennsylvania led the United States in timber production and export. Streams that could float logs were assets in common for landowners with woodlots.
Brush Mountain was mostly cleared by 1860 and the Valleys were farmed. All the more surprising, therefore, is another notable feature of the locale on the 1861 map, The Pines. This iconic conifer forest is not shown elsewhere in Centre County on the 1861 map or an 1874 county atlas except in a barrens farther north. Why were these woods uncut in agricultural Penns Valley? Were they a vestige of Penns Woods or, locally, Green Grove? What values might have led several neighboring landowners in the mid-1800s to agree to leave these particular trees standing? Was this small forest held in common?
Does it persist unrecognized today, as James Lesher's observation suggests?I drove around . . . the area formerly known as The Pines, and was shocked by what I'll call the presumed vegetative legacy left by "the Pines'" a conspicuous concentration of white pine and hemlock across Stitzer's, Hosterman's, the church along Rte 45, and other landowners I don't know yet. It stands out for me because I'm used to deciduous associations in the valleys. I'm thinking about a concept called a heritage landscape to describe these still wooded evergreen areas if I can prove their connection to the past. I need to find out what ecologists and foresters think.
The observation refers to hemlocks, pines, and associated species such as beeches now growing in riparian areas on the eastern boundary of Chicory Lane Farm about where the northern reach of The Pines would have been. Elsewhere on our farm and adjacent farms, deciduous species such as ash, maple, hickory, locust, and oak predominate.
A theme of our research is the past's persistence in the present. The Pines represents this theme by continuing to grow where it has long grown. In a different illustration, log houses made of trees now nearly extinct (chestnut) or dying out (hemlock) keep old forests alive in human memory.
Another theme is change over time. For a century in the 1900s, Chicory Lane Farm was primarily a farm. Crop fields and animal pastures increased. Woods and wetlands decreased. In the early 2000s, farming ended and conservation became primary. Old fields and pastures were released, woods returned, wetlands increased. Aerial photographs from 1938, 1957, 1971, and 2012 show the land's differences under different conditions of use [these views may be seen from the View Maps menu item within the Database segment, reachable from the left navigation panel]. The return of woods is highlighted by an overlay on the aerial photographs.
- Excerpts from Linn, John Blair. History of Centre County, CentreCounty PAGenWeb, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pacentre/chistjm1.htm. Accessed July 5, 2011.
- Deeds in Centre County Courthouse, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
- Historic Buildings of Centre County Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980).
- Lesher, James P. 2012. Notes and correspondence.
- Linn, John Blair. 1975; 1883. History of Clinton and Centre Counties, p. 289.
- MacNeal, Douglas and Tom Doman. 2005. A Penns Creek Companion.
- Edward J. Heary, The Warrant Map of Centre County, Pennsylvania
November 1, 2012
Research and writing by Catherine Smith and James Lesher.
Drawings by James Lesher. Web pages by John Smith.