Milton History

a pictorial history of Milton, PA

Pioneer History of Milton

From Bell’s History of Northumberland County 1891: Within a few years after the purchase of 1768, the valley of the West Branch was marked by the presence of the adventurous pioneer, and to this class belonged Marcus Hulings, Jr., who secured the ”Big Island” in the Susquehanna directly west of Milton in 1770 by purchase from the Proprietaries. He built a log house on its eastern side north of the river terminus of Center street, and north and west of this residence planted an orchard of apple trees, one of the best in the county. In that rich alluvial soil the orchard flourished; the trees became large and spreading, and produced abundant harvests of white and yellow summer and autumn fruit and large red winter apples. At the same time the pioneer husbandman also cleared his land and planted crops of grain and corn. Separated by many miles of unbroken forest or winding river from the older established communities in the southeastern part of the State, he next directed his attention to the construction of a canoe for the transportation of his products. This was accomplished by hollowing out a large pine log, and with this rude specimen of river craft he could take grain or peltries to the amount of about one ton down the river at each trip. The first regular river boat made here was constructed by John Clendenin, and after that Hulings also built boats, some of them large enough to carry from eight to ten tons. About this time he transferred his residence to the eastern bank of the river at the western extremity of Broadway; there he erected a crude log cabin, in which he was licensed to keep a house of public entertainment in 1772. At some time during the Revolutionary period he went down the Susquehanna by boat to Duncan’s island, near the mouth of the Juniata. Subsequently he removed to Pittsburgh and thence to Franklin, Venango county, Pennsylvania, where he again found himself in the vanguard of civilization and pursued the occupation of boatman the remainder of his life. His descendants still reside in that county.

The lands in the southern part of the town, afterward comprised in the Farley and Cameron estates, were occupied in 1772 by Neal Davis as tenant, and a year or two later George McCandlish established his residence in the eastern part of the present borough limits. It was at his house that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1776 were elected for Northumberland county. When Andrew Straub first visited this locality the improvements made by Hulings had been burned, and there were no buildings of any kind in the immediate vicinity. There was, however, a log house of good size in process of erection and about ready for the roof, evidently intended as a farm house and probably built by the Black family of Sunbury, by whom that part of the town above Broadway was partly owned at that date. This house was subsequently completed, and in later years was owned by Dr. David Waldron. It stood at the corner of Broadway and Front street, and was destroyed by fire on the 4th of May, 1876.

The ”Big Island,” after Huling’s departure, was practically unoccupied until the Indian troubles had subsided. Its next resident was Isaac Himrod, who combined the occupations of agriculturist and waterman; in 1782, or shortly thereafter, Bethuel Vincent, having returned from Canada, purchased the island from Hulings. When the convenience of the public required it, a ferry was established, the landing on the eastern bank being at the end of Broadway. This ferry was the principal feature of the place and almost the only evidence of civilization. While the travel was not large, there was sufficient to attract attention to the eligibility of the location as a town site, and this governed its selection for that purpose perhaps as much as any other consideration.

A body of land aggregating nearly three thousand acres, embracing the mouth of Limestone run and extending inland from the river a considerable distance, was secured by Turbutt Francis, one of the first justices of the county and otherwise prominent in its early history. He divided this extensive tract into smaller subdivisions suitable for sale or lease to actual prospective settlers; that part embracing the site of Milton, which remained in his possession at the time of his death, was purchased by Andrew Straub and Christian Yentzer at sheriff’s sale on the 1st of March, 1790, and confirmed to them by deed of June 10, 1790. The recital of this deed states that in the common pleas court of Philadelphia County at June term, 1783, ”judgment was given for a certain Isaac Hazlehurst against John Conolly and Sarah his wife, late Sarah Francis, executrix, (who survived Samuel Mifflin, executor,) of the testament and last will of Turbutt Francis, late of the county of Northumberland, aforesaid, deceased, in the sum of eleven hundred pounds. Of this sum two hundred fifteen pounds were derived from the sale of property by the sheriff of Philadelphia; for the remainder a writ of fieri facias was issued, September 6, 1788, directed to Martin Withington, sheriff of Northumberland county, by virtue of which this tract of two hundred acres was levied upon. On the 13th of November, 1789, it was appraised, and having been found insufficient to satisfy the debt, was accordingly sold, and purchased by Straub and Yentzer for five hundred fifty pounds. At that date it was in possession of Henry Lebo, probably as tenant; the adjoining tract on the east was owned by James Jenkins, and that on the south by Neal Davis. Yentzer was not, evidently, well satisfied with the purchase, for on the 18th of March, 1791, he disposed of his moiety to Straub for one hundred one pounds, thirteen shillings, and five pence, less than half its cost to him a year previously.

Andrew Straub, the founder of Milton, was born on his father’s farm just back of the town of Columbia, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, February 14, 1748. In his early manhood he learned the trade of millwright. He first visited the West in April, 1784, returning to his home in the spring of the following year, and on the 1st of May, 1787, married Mary Eveline Walter. In 1790 he took up his residence at Milton and built a log house on the lot now owned by the Milton National Bank. Two years later he built a house near the intersection of Center and Filbert streets and moved his family thereto. In 1795 he completed a residence on the eastern part of his farm, at or near the southeast comer of Center street and Turbut avenue, and lived there until his death, August 2, 1806. He was an enterprising and public spirited citizen, and was active in promoting the growth of the town with which his name will ever be associated. He made donations of ground for religious and educational purposes, established mills, encouraged local business and manufacturing enterprises, and lived to see Milton, a village of considerable relative importance, then, as now, one of the most prosperous towns in the valley of the West Branch.

Matthew Smith, who resided on his farm a short distance above the mouth of Limestone run at the time of his death, was the eldest son of Robert Smith, of Paxtang, Dauphin county, Pennsylvania. He served in Bouquet’s expedition, the final campaign of the French and Indian war; at the outbreak of the Revolution he organized a company of riflemen, which was assigned to Colonel Thompson’s battalion and joined the Continental forces at Boston. On the 5th of September, 1775, his company was detached to Arnold’s command for the expedition to Canada. Captain Smith survived the hardships of the march through the Maine woods, the disastrous assault at Quebec on the 31st of December, and the brief confinement as a prisoner of war which followed, and rejoined his regiment with the survivors of his company, but resigned his commission on the 5th of December, 1776, on account of the appointment of a junior captain to a majority. He was thereupon promoted to major in the Ninth Pennsylvania, to rank from September 27, 1776. In the spring of 1778 he was elected member of the Supreme Executive Council for Lancaster county and took his seat in that body on the 28th of May; he was elected vice- president of the State, October 11, 1779, but resigned shortly afterward. When intelligence of the fall of Fort Freeland reached Paxtang he marched to Sunbury with a volunteer company at the earliest possible moment, and commanded the five hundred militia who endeavored to overtake the retreating invaders. On the 4th of February, 1780, he was appointed prothonotary of Northumberland county, serving in that position until September 25, 1783, and resided in the county the remainder of his life.

The following obituary appeared in Kennedy’s Gazette, July 80, 1794:

Died, the 22d instant, about sunset, at Milton, Colonel Matthew Smith, aged fifty four years, being one of the first patriots for liberty; went to Canada in the year 1775, and suffered extremities. He was once prothonotary of Northumberland county, was interred 23d instant, attended by a number of his friends and acquaintances, together with the volunteer company of light infantry from Milton; conducted by Major Piatt and commanded by Captain James Boyd, who, after marching about six miles to Warrior Run burying ground and shedding a tear over the old patriot’s grave, deposited his remains with three well directed volleys and returned home in good order.