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"McKean: The Governor's County"
Rufus Barrett Stone
Chapter 6

Submitted by PHGS Member
Mike Henderson

"McKean: The Governor's County", Rufus Barrett Stone. Lewis Publishing Company, Inc. New York, 1926. Pages37-44.


GENESIS of Bradford

Bradford was formed in 1827 upon the petition of John F. Melvin, a saw mill proprietor, and fourteen others, in which they requested the new township to bear that name. It was the name of the New Hampshire town where Melvin's Mills, Melvin's former residence, was situated. When the borough was incorporated in 1873 it took the township name. Although some query has since been raised as to why the village name of Littleton was not adopted, there was apparently no division of opinion at that time. Forty out of the sixty-two resident freeholders signed the petition to create the borough under the name Bradford. Bradford was the name of the post office after 1854. Littleton was the name of only one of me villages within the proposed borough, and confusion had arisen as to whether the true name of the place was Littleton or Littleville. By die latter name it was called in an act of Assembly fixing the place for holding elections. In a contest which was appealed to the Supreme Court it was found that although the statute said Littleville, the sheriff in his proclamation called the place Littleton, and in fact the election was held in a schoolhouse outside beyond the creek, and was accordingly invalid. In accordance with the petition, therefore, decree was entered creating the borough in the name of Bradford. And so, logically, it was in 1873 incorporated as a city in the same name.



Eldred was named in honor of Hon. N. B. Eldred, of Warren, a presiding judge; Duke Center took the name of a resident proprietary family; Port Allegany superseded "Canoe Place"; Mount Jewett was honored with the name of a prominent railroad official and Kane was named for General Thomas L. Kane, the most distinguished citizen of the county, founder of the borough, promoter of the Philadelphia and Erie railroad, and organizer of the Scandinavian settlement of the Big Level


from Bunker Hill to the Southern boundary of McKean ( Note 1 ). Kendall bore the name of Postmaster General Amos Kendall, who was a resident of Dunstable, New Hampshire, which was the ancestral home of the Melvin family.

The settlements were commonly along the courses of the principal streams. They were the first highways. They were made navigable by law (Note 2). Early in the nineteenth century the great forests had begun to move seaward,-more truly than "Birnam wood to Dunsinane" - from many a pineclad slope of McKean, and for years to come,yes, for fifty years, the Allegheny and Susquehanna and their tributaries were to be clogged by logs running wild and by rafts and booms. But at length the day was at hand when the raft was to become historic for the human freight that it bore.

On the 13th of April, 1861, General Kane having obtained authority from Governor Curtin, organized a rifle regiment which assembled on the banks of the Sinnemahoning, and took passage for Harrisburg on three rafts, upon one of which, "the flag-ship," they set up a green hickory pole, placed above it a bucktail and from this floated the flag of the Union. It soon became known as the Bucktail Regiment. It included volunteers from McKean and adjoining counties. General Kane was in communication with Judge Arthur G. Olmsted and Hon. Byron Hamlin, pursuant to which he came to Smethport, and at the close of an enthusiastic meeting in front of the court-house enlistments were received. The regiment made an unsurpassed record for Spartan bravery. McKean County also contributed volunteers to the 58th, 83rd, 150th, 172nd and 211th regiments of Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and to regiments of other states. The honorable record of Company C of the Sixteenth Regiment in the Spanish-American War, and of the several organizations to which the county contributed soldiers and sailors in the World War, upon which its citizens will dwell with pride in the long years to come, is not now accessible for mention with historic particularity.

Posted throughout the county in early April, 1861

Distinguished for bravery in the War of the Rebellion; Civil Engineer
of note; founder of Kane; Proprietary of the Region; Republican State
party leader; first President State Board of Public Charities. Painted
by his son Doctor Evan O'Neill Kane; an ideal portrait in uniform as
Colonel of the famous Bucktail Rifle Regiment with cap in hand plumed
 with the regimental bucktail. (Engraved by Bragdon)

The incorporation and merger of railroads it is needless to mention in detail, the present control having long ago, gravitated to four principal companies, the Erie, the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh, the Shawmut and the Pennsylvania, including Buffalo and Philadelphia-Clermont Branch and Philadelphia & Erie, each of which have been powerful commercial factors in the prosperity and progress of the county.

The several railroads of narrow gauge now, excepting the Kushequa, traversing as they did the hills and valleys of the oil region, were called into existence by the necessities of the petroleum industry, and played an important part in its development.

The early explorers noted the splendid forests of pine, but did not regard the secondary value of the hemlock and its bark, and the manufacture of hard wood into chemical products was then unknown, nor had the possibilities of shale for the making of brick been considered. They observed the exposed veins of bituminous coal at Mount Alton, Clermont and elsewhere in the southern townships, but the deposits of petroleum and natural gas were yet to be developed, as also the use of gas in the manufacture of glass.

The county has reaped its harvest from the hemlock and its bark, but found its coal veins too thin for profitable operation, in view of the extensive discoveries of competitive deposits (Note 3). The manufacture of glass, although continued here and there, has passed its zenith by reason of the exhaustion of the natural gas supply. The county entered vigorously upon the manufacture of chemical wood products, more factories being erected within a radius of forty miles than elsewhere in the country, and Bradford subsequently became the headquarters of the industry, since of diminishing volume. Among the pioneers of the shale brick industry George A. Berry was preeminent. In other hands it has become a highly successful and important commercial business.

Note 1: See Chapter: The Big Level.
Note 2: See Chapter: Navigable Highways.
Note 3: Act of April 28, 1857 (Pa. 557), incorported S. Sartwell, S. C. Hyde, J. C. Backus, S. B. Sartwell, G. B. Backus, Thomas Pethrick, William Keating and George Wiggins (of Schuylkill County) as the McKean Coal & Iron Company.

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