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 County.

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.

The third and last phase from 1842-1856 was the occasional carving up of the southern part of the county.

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, pages 1008-1009.

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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