Early History of Potter County

  Most of the information on this page was given to us by Bob Currin of the Potter County Historical Society. If you want more information you can stop by the Historical Society, in Coudersport Monday or Friday 1pm. to 4pm.

   The Iroquois or Six Nations claimed this area previous to the arrival of the white man. They had conquered the land from the Lenni-Lenape or Delaware. Sites of Indian encampments and villages have been discovered at several places. Those most often mentioned were located near Roulette and in Hebron Township.

   The land which included Potter County and thirteen others was purchased from the Iroquois Chiefs at Fort Stannix in 1784. The price paid came to one cent for 161/2 acres. At that rate all of the county land cost the amazing sum of $397.28. Early the next year a minimal settlement was made with the Delaware at Fort McIntosh.

   The first land owner of importance in the county was William Bingham, who along with another company known as the Holland Land Company, purchased the area in 1793. Bingham had loaned money to the state during the Revolution and received land in payment.

   In 1797, John Keating, a former officer in the French Army who acted as agent for the Ceres Land Company, purchased 300,000 acres of land in Potter and Mckean Counties. This had been part of the Bingham holdings. Keating was very liberal with the settlers. He also donated land for roads, schools, and government buildings. To Keating more than any other person should go the credit for the success of early settlement in this county.

   When the bill was introduced into legislature to form six counties early in 1804, Sinnemahoning was the name proposed for present Potter. The Senate wanted to honor the name of General James Potter, an Irish born hero of the  American Revolution so the proposed name was changed. General Potter had no connection with the county which bears his name but he had played an important part in Washington's Army during the campaigns in southern Pennsylvania. He was also one of the persons who aided the frontiersmen of the state in their struggle against the Indians.

   Settlers did not rush into the region. The first permanent settler in the county was William Ayers who moved in during March of 1808. Ayers owned the only slave ever to be held in the  county. When Ayers settled in what is now Homer Township, there were two others already in the Shinglehouse region. These, Thomas Butler, a British Army deserter and a Frenchman by the name of Generet who did not stay long before moving on. The second permanent settler, Isaac Lyman, Came to Lymansville, now Ladona, in 1810. The census records list 29 persons living in two families, Ayers and Lyman. Lymansville became the main center for population. It had the first post office, hotel, gristmill and sawmill. Other early arrivals were Benjamin Burt and John Peet in 1811.

   The first township to be organized was Eulalia in 1810. It included the total area of the county and was named in honor of the wife of John Keating. In 1816, Roulette Township was organized and named for John S. Roulet, one of the backers of the Ceres Land Company. The next to be organized was Harrison Township in 1823. Because of its location in the northeastern section of the county, it grew more rapidly than any of the others, leading the population until 1900 when some of the boroughs surpassed it. Other townships were not formed until 1856. East Fork District was formed in 1869 and attached to Eulalia. In 1860, the inhabited portion of the Portage Township became part of the newly formed county of Cameron. Portage was reorganized as a township in 1871.

   Until 1824, Lycoming County was the seat of our Government, then for ten years records were kept in McKean County. Commissioners and some other county officials were elected but it was not until September 1, 1835 that Potter was to become a fully organized and independent county. The first term of court was held the week of September 28, 1835. 

   Potter County is one of the central northern tier counties bordered on the north by New York. Its is also bordered on the east by Tioga and Lycoming Counties, on the south by Clinton County, on the southwest by Cameron County and on the west by McKean County. It has an area of 1,092 square miles.

   It is part of the dissected Alleghany Plateau, which is characterized by steep valleys and fist-topped hills and ridges. The highest point in the county is 2,568 feet above sea level and is located east of Kaple Hill in Summit Township. The lowest point is 1,000 feet where the First Fork of Sinnemahoning Creek crosses the county line into Clinton County. The tops of the plateau average from 2,000 to 2,500 feet while the valleys average from 1,200 to 1,650 feet. The average local relief is about 600 to 900 feet.

   One of the unique physical features is its location on the eastern Continental Divide, where an individual nay stand on the hill and look into drainage basins that flow into three different bodies of water. Located in the north central part of the county is the source of the Genesee River which flows into Lake Ontario, the source of Pine Creek which flows into the Susquhanna and thence into the Delaware Bay, and the source of the Alleghany River whose waters find their way into the Gulf of Mexico.

   Mineral water springs were opened at Harrison Valley and Genesee soon after the turn of the century. These lost their patronage and are no longer doing business.

   Although recreations and vacation facilities have been developed within the county, there is only one small natural lake within its border. Rose Lake which has an area of about two acres is located in Allegany Township. It is the headwaters of one branch of the Genesee River. Several man made lakes provide recreation.

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