Potter County History
When were the Townships of Potter County formed and why is this
important to genealogists?
Genealogists need to realize that this part of Pennsylvania has
settlements (or villages), boroughs and townships. For example,
Harrison Valley is
a settlement - a cluster of houses - which is in Harrison Township -
an area of land which may have many settlements. For example, the
settlement of Mills is in Harrison Township as well.
A borough is a large settlement that incorporated. For example,
the borough of Coudersport incorporated from Eulalia Township in 1848.
The genealogist must realize that in the 1800s, people in this area
of Pennsylvania would say they were born in such-and-such township.
For example, I spent years looking
for an ancestor born in Deerfield, Pennsylvania in 1819. I could not
find any town or settlement of that name. Finally, I discovered that
she was born in Deerfield Township, Tioga County, PA.
This distinction between settlement and township of where events
occurred continued at least to the end of the 1800s. The 1874 newspaper
entry for my great-grandmother's marriage says `` ... and Miss
Addie L. Hill of Sweden'' The uninformed genealogist might think she
was from the country of Sweden! But in reality her place of
residence was somewhere in the
township of Sweden, Potter County, not the settlement entitled
Sweden Valley. Therefore, an individual could be born in Sweden (the
township) and later move to Sweden Valley (the settlement).
It is even more confusing since some settlements changed their
names over time. For example, the settlement of Lewisville was in Ulysses
Township and in 1870 incorporated as the Lewisville Borough. The post
office, which was located at Ulysses Center, was moved into the
village, but the government would not allow a name change, so the mail
was sent to Ulysses Post Office located in Lewisville Borough. After
almost one hundred years, the confusion of two names was removed when
in 1968, Lewisville Borough became Ulysses Borough [Reference: Potter County
Historical Society's Quarterly Bulletin, No. 123, January,
1997]. My relatives always said they were from Ulysses but they
graduated from Lewisville High School. When I was a kid, we would
drive to Ulysses to see Grandpa Hyde. But when we entered the
settlement, the sign said "Lewisville Borough". When I asked my Mom,
why the two names, she would just laugh and say "Confusing isn't it!!"
See my map of Townships of Potter
The formation of the townships of Potter County was in three phases.
The first phase from 1810-1828 was the formation of the first township
Eulalia and carving from it the three large townships of Roulette,
Harrison and Wharton.
The second phase occurred in 1828 with the division of the northern half
of the county into townships six miles square. The townships starting
at northwest corner near New York State line were named: first tier -
Sharon, Chester (later Oswayo), Loudon (later Genesee), Bingham,
Harrison; second tier - Milton (later Clara), Hebron, Denmark (later
Allegheny), Ulysses, Hector; third tier - Roulette, Eulalia, Sweden,
Jackson (later merged with Ulysses) and Pike.
- 1810 Eulalia At the time of the creation of Potter County,
the entire area was in Dunstable Township, Lycoming County, and
Eulalia Township became the original township of the new county on
December 5, 1810. At
creation in 1804, Potter County was rectangular including the triangular part
that later would become part of Cameron County in 1860. Eulalia was
named for Eulalia Deschapelles, wife of John Keating, the land
agent who brought the first settlers into the area.
- 1816 Roulette Was organized from Eulalia Township, January
29, 1816. This township embraced what is now the townships of present
day Roulette, Pleasant Valley, Clara and Sharon. Township originally
named Roulet to honor John Sigmund Roulet, an associate of John
Keating. It is believed that the change in spelling was a mistake
made by the Post Office Department.
- 1823 Harrison Formed from Eulalia Township, February 6,
1823, named for George Harrison, a large landowner. The township at
the time included most of the present townships of Harrison, Bingham,
Ulysses and Hector townships.
- 1826 Wharton Formed from Eulalia Township, May 3, 1826.
Named for Isacc Wharton, an early landowner. The original area of
Wharton embraced most of present day Wharton, Sylvania and Portage; and
parts of Keating, Summit and Homer; and
that part of the county cast off when Cameron County was erected.
- 1828 Sharon and Clara February 26, 1828, Roulette
was reduced when Sharon and Milton townships were formed. Milton
later changed name to Clara and was divided into Clara and Pleasant
Valley in 1847.
- 1828 Oswayo Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26,
1828, and was first called Chester. Name changed February, 1830, when
the township was organized. Named for the Indian name of a branch of
the Allegheny River that flows through the township.
- 1828 Genesee Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26,
1828, and was first called Loudon. Name changed February, 1830, when
the township was organized. Named for the river flowing through
- 1828 Bingham Erected from Harrison, February 26, 1828.
Named for William Bingham, an extensive landowner.
- 1828 Harrison Reduced to present size, February 26, 1828.
- 1828 Clara Erected from Roulette Township, February 26,
1828. First called Milton. In 1830, name changed because another
town existed of that name. Clara was split in half in 1847 to form
Pleasant Valley Township.
- 1828 Hebron Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26,
1828. Originally named Nelson for the pioneer Nelson family. Name
changed when the Seventh Day Adventists [probably really Seventh Day
Baptists. The Adventists had not arrived yet.] established a thriving
community on Crandall Hill who gave the township the Biblical name.
- 1828 Allegheny Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26,
1828. First called Denmark. Changed it's name to that of the great
river in 1830.
- 1828 Ulysses Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26,
1828. Named by Charles Parris for his native place, Ulysses, New
York. Part of Jackson Township was annexed to the township in 1896.
- 1828 Hector Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26,
- 1828 Roulette Was reduced by Act of February, 26, 1828.
- 1828 Eulalia Was reduced by Act of February, 26, 1828.
- 1828 Sweden Formed from Eulalia Township, February 26,
1828, was named for the native country of its early pioneer settlers.
- 1828 Jackson Was created by Act of February, 26, 1828.
Later became part of Ulysses Township.
- 1828 Pike Erected from Eulalia Township, February 26,
1828. Named for a public road which traversed the township's area.
The third and last phase from 1842-1856 was the occasional carving up
of the southern part of the county.
- 1842 Portage Erected from Wharton Township, in 1842.
Included the present Sylvania Township. Part of the area was set off
for the erection of Cameron County in 1860. In 1871, part of Sylvania
Township up to Sinnemahoning River was moved to Portage Township.
- 1844 Stewardson Erected from Eulalia Township, in 1844.
Named for Thomas Stewardson, an early landowner. Land of the great
Norwegian violinist, Ole Bull.
- 1844 West Branch Erected from Eulalia Township, in 1844.
Named for West Branch of Pine Creek.
- 1847 Pleasant Valley Was formed from Clara Township in
1847. The western half becoming Pleasant Valley. Named for its
situation and the fertility of its soil.
- 1851 Abbott Erected from Eulalia Township in 1851. Named
for Thomas B. Abbott, first postmaster at Carter Camp.
- 1853 Homer Erected from Eulalia and Wharton Townships in
1853. Named for the former residence of its pioneer settlers.
- 1854 Summit Erected from parts of Sweden and Homer Townships in
1854. Named for its exalted situation.
- 1856 Keating Erected from parts of Homer and Portage Townships in
1856. Named in honor of John Keating, principal landowner and land
agent of the county.
- 1856 Sylvania Erected from parts of Wharton and Homer Townships in
1856. The name is that part of Pennsylvania which refers to the
marvelous woodland of which William Penn was so fond.
- ?? East Fork Was called Oleona by some map makers. After
the original township Eulalia was carved up, two disjoint pieces were
left: the part around Coudersport and a narrow strip in the south
between Wharton Township and Abbott and Stewartson. In 1890, it was
"wilderness," no people lived there and still officially part of
Reference: Chronicles of Central Pennsylvania, by Frederic
A. Godcharles, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc.,
1944, Vol. VII, page 311-317. [Since this reference has lots of
typographical errors, be careful using it. Dan]
Reference: History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter,
Pennsylvania with Biographical Selections, J. H. Beers and Co., 1890,
Page maintained by Dan Hyde, hyde at bucknell.edu Last update
March 20, 1997
No guarantee on the accuracy of the data found on this web site is given or implied by the site owner. As with all family research, the researcher should strive to obtain primary documents for necessary proofs. Furthermore, permission must be obtained from the original submitter of information on this site before publishing any information found here.
Copyright © 1996-2005
Daniel C. Hyde
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