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Centennial History of Susquehanna County
Rhamanthus M. Stocker 1887
Chapter L

Clifford Township

Page 787

CLIFFORD - This township occupies the extreme southeastern part of the county, bordering on Wayne county, on the east, and on Lackawanna County on the south.

Clifford Township

Page 788

In the order of time it was the sixth township erected within the present bounds of Susquehanna County, by a decree of the court of old Luzerne county, at its April session, in 1806. It was made to embrace all that part of old Nicholson township, "beginning at its northeast corner, on the Wayne County line, and running nine miles due west, thence due south thirteen miles." When Susquehanna County was formed about one mile was shorn off from the southern end, leaving Clifford nine by twelve miles in extent. This area was reduced by the erection of Gibson, in 1813, which took a little more than half its territory, and by the erection of Herrick, in 1825, when nearly six square miles were taken off from the northeastern part, extending westward to the base of Elk Mountain. Hence the northern bounds are the townships of Herrick and Gibson, and on the west is Lenox township. Nearly the entire surface of Clifford has an altitude varying from eleven hundred to eighteen hundred feet, but rising above the highest point is Elk Mountain, in the northern part, and extending into Herrick. It is an elevation of singular beauty, terminating in dual peaks, which are locally known as the north and the south knobs, and which overtop by hundreds of feet everything else for miles around them. North Knob has an elevation of twenty-seven hundred feet and is higher than any other elevation in the State, except in the southwestern districts. South Knob, one mile distant just inside of Clifford rises to a height of twenty-five hundred and seventy five feet. Some of the sides of the mountain have well-faced land, much of which has been cleared into good farms, and all the heavily wooded elopes have been thinned out, a sparse growth of timber only remaining. One of the distinguishing features of the South Knob, is a projecting ledge of rocks, at an elevation of twenty-four hundred feet, forming a wide level, which may be approached to within a. short distance by means of a carriage-road. From the top of this level, which has appropriately been called "Prospect rock," one of the grandest of nature's panoramas may be seen. The eye takes in at one sweep, a vast and diversified stretch of country, covering a greater variety of landscape, than can be seen in any other part of the state. Hills, valleys, lakes, cultivated fields and forest lands, with curving streams flowing in and among them, are spread before the observer in their most fascinating forms, creating a picture which makes an indelible impression on the mind. The entire county is picturesque, and from this rock a birds' eye view of the whole is afforded, extending to the billowy crests of the Moosic Mountain Range, which is replete with all the forms of rural scenery, and the glowing evidences of rural and mining life. Said a writer of this spot: "Necessarily, a clear day, good eyes and a spy-glass of some power, are needed to enjoy all that may be seen from any of these sublime altitudes. From all points but the southeast the elevations seem to be covered with the native forest. Approaching it from Dundaff or Clifford, however, it is cultivated to its summit. We left the horses at a point where Mr. Finn has erected a three-story house for the entertainment of travelers and sight seers. (Clark Finn owns the land including the rock, but the western slope belongs to David Thomas). A path through small trees and brush, brings you to a .perpendicular ledge of rocks, skirting which on the east you find some stone steps, (For these accomodating steps the public are indebted to Charles Wells, of Clifford) upon which you ascend to Pulpit or Table Rock quite a level plat of sodded surface, just in the edge of Clifford township. The view from the Rock comprehends a distance of forty miles, but from the North Knob a still greater distance is brought within the vision, including a clear view of the Delaware Water Gap, the Blue and Catskill Mountains and, distinctly, the rugged scenery along the Susquehanna. Bold bluffs indent the extreme distance, along the wide and graceful sweep of the river; on the intervening hillsides, which rise apparently one above another, like an amphitheater, until the horizon is reached, numerous tracts of cultivated ground appear, as if cleft out of the deeper green of the forests; while, here and there, gleaming in the sunlight, many a crystal lake is seen, adding life and brilliancy to the picture."

ROUND HILL is properly a spur of Elk Mountain and takes its name from its shape. Both this and Thorn Hill, in the southwestern part of the township, are points of interest to the sight-seer, possessing elements of beauty which make them attractive objects. By far the greater part of their surface is tillable, and on their sides some fine farms have been opened, which run down into the small, but beautiful Clifford Valley. In the eastern part of the township, bordering the Lackawanna on the west, is Millstone Hill, containing an excellent stone for milling purposes, and southeast are the hills in which valuable deposits of anthracite coal have been found, whose development is noted in connection with Forest City.

Clifford contains several lakes, the principal ones being Crystal Lake, on the county line, and Long Pond in the northwestern part. Its name indicates its shape, the width being but a little more than an eight of a mile. Both this and Mud Pond are environed by high hills, giving them a sequestered appearance. The outlets are brooks flowing into the Fast Branch, at Lonsdale. The latter is the principal stream of the township, entering Clifford from Herrick and flowing southwest through a narrow, deep valley, which widens out within a few miles of the Lenox line, where are fertile and highly cultivated flats. At this point the creek takes the waters of a brook, variously called Dundaff, Betsey's and Alder Marsh Brook, the latter name applying on account of the swamp of alders along its course. It flows through Dundaff, taking the waters of the outlet

(1) Clark Finn owns the land including the rock, but the western slope belongs to David Thomas. (2) For these accommodating steps the public are indebted to Charles Wells, of Clifford.

Clifford Township

Page 789

of Newton Lake, in Lackawanna; passes into that county and then re-enters Susquehanna County at Clifford Village. The Lackawanna River runs parallel with the east line of the township, and after taking the waters of the east and the west branches, from Herrick, forms a. long, quiet sheet, appropriately named the "Stillwater," then breaks through a spur of the Moosic range, and flows a mountain-stream into Lackawanna County. Along this stream were heavy forests which remained unbroken until the building of the Jefferson Branch of the Erie Railroad in 1871. It was the favorite home of noble game, and as late as 1867, William Hartley, of Lenox, killed a deer in these woods. Many other parts of the township were covered with a dense growth of timber, the chief varieties being chestnut, hemlock, beech, birch, maple and other hard woods. The undergrowth was dense, and afforded fine feeding for the elk which seemed partial to this section, probably on account of its altitude; and in early times the country was known as Elkwoods. This name lost much of its currency, soon after 1800, when the abundance of beech nuts, in the woods along the East Branch, attracted immense flocks of wild pigeons, which caused the locality to be spoken of as the Beechwood Country, by hunters who came from long distances to capture this game. Only a small portion of Clifford remains in a primeval state, and the woods left standing bear evidence of the demands made upon them by the industrious citizen. The greater part of the trees has been well cleared up, the stones gathered into neat fences; fruitful fields abound, which have made possible the erection of many neat farm buildings, Clifford standing in this respect second to no other township in the county.

THE PIONEERS - Settlement was not made as early in Clifford as in some other localities of the county, the first clearing being made in 1799. That year Amos Morse and his son, William A., located on the East Branch a mile below Elkdale, and began improving a farm. Some years later Sally Morse, of this family, taught the first school in this part of the county. In 1816 they sold the farm to Ezra Lewis, and soon after left the county. Ezra Lewis was a son of Elder Gideon Lewis who came to Clifford, it is claimed, in February, 1800, and rolled up a log house on the Tunkhannock, on the farm afterwards occupied by P. R. Stewart. Having no nails, the shingles were held on by poles wired together. He cleared up a large place and paid for it several times, but finally lost it through defective titles. As a Baptist preacher he preached about the country and was widely known among the early pioneers. His family consisted of children named Polly, who married Elder William Robinson; Betsey, Sally, Abner, Ezra, Levi and Lyman. Levi had a family of ten children, among them being Orvis, living in Thomson, and Ezra S., living on the old Morse farm, noted above.

The family of Adam Miller was the first to retain a permanent residence in the township. In the spring of 1800 he came with his wife and four children and settled on the flat a short distance west from Clifford village. He was one of the first settlers in Brooklyn township, but had immigrated to Ohio, with his family, in 1799. "All were on horseback - four horses transporting the family and baggage -- the two younger children, Charles and Anna, being carried in baskets placed over one of the horses. The baskets were made in the shape of cradles, so the children could sit or lie down, as suited them. A journey of six weeks through a wilderness, such as the country exhibited in 1799, was far from agreeable to any of the party. Before they reached their destination, Mrs. M. fell and broke her collar-bone, and they were detained three weeks at the wigwam of a hospitable Indian family. When they gained the promised land, Mr. M. could not suit himself in regard to location, and after a few days he broached the subject of a return to Pennsylvania. His wife, who had secretly longed for this, was soon ready to resume journeying, and the same season found them in the vicinity of Tunkhannock, and in the following spring they followed up the east branch of the creek to the flat at Clifford Corners. Here they lived ten years, when they removed to Thorn Hill, where Elder William A. Miller, their grandson, now resides. While clearing at the latter place, Mr. M. had the use of the flat two years. (Miss Blackman) The house on Thorn Hill was at that time the largest in Clifford, being a two-story frame. Ebenezer Baker, who had married the oldest daughter, Polly, several years before, was the carpenter. After some time Baker removed to the Lake region in New York. Of the other three children of the family - William, the oldest son, after living a number of years on the homestead, on Thorn Hill, moved to Lenox, where he died. His children were George Miller, of that township; William, of Carbondale; and Mrs. Lyman Bell. The youngest son, Elder Charles Miller, died on Thorn Hill, in 1865, aged seventy-two years. He was the father of the Revs. William A., S. Eliakim and of Joseph S. Miller, Esq., all living on Thorn Hill. The youngest daughter, Anna, became the wife of John W. Wells, of Elkdale. The wife of Adam Miller died in 1816, but he survived until 1831, when he departed this life nearly sixty-six years old. Both belonged to the Free-Communion Baptists, to whom Elder Epaphras Thompson preached as early as 1802, and left that sect, two years later, to join the Abington Church of Regular Baptists. Their son, Charles, was for many years the pastor of the present Clifford Baptist Church.

In the summer of 1800 Amos Harding also settled on the flat at Clifford, buying some of the land taken up by Adam Miller, and purchasing the remainder of the farm in 1810, when he owned all the land in the flats.

Clifford Township

Page 790

In his family occurred the first death, a child Huldah, drowning by falling into a spring which is near the house of William Lott, the blacksmith at Clifford. Two of his daughters married James Stearns and Joseph Baker. He had sons named Salmon E. and Luke T. The entire family moved to Ohio about 1820, and the farm was divided among several purchasers. The upper part of the flat was improved by John Robinson, who died in 1814, when the farm was owned by Elder William E. Robinson, who removed after 1834, and the place passed into the hands of William W. Wells, the father of the Wells of this part of the township. Another portion of the farm became the property of Nathan Callender, and is now owned by J. M. Callender.

In the same year, 1800, David Burns came from Otsego County, N. Y., and settled northeast from Dundaff, west of the small stream which is now known as Tinker's Brook. Near this place he lost his only son, about six years old, the rest of his family being composed of four daughters. The youngest of these married Thomas Burdick, and in August, 1869, furnished an account of the lost boy to the Montrose Republican.

Captain Jonathan Burns, an elder brother of David, first lived in the neighborhood of Dundaff, but, in 1802, located north of the East Branch, near the mouth of the brook which bears his name. From him descended the Burns family of the township, his sons being Henry, Orrey, Alexander, Ziba, Jonathan, Thomas and Ellery. Some of these removed from the county, and others died in the township. A daughter married Nathaniel Cotteral, who removed to Providence. The Burns were of Scotch Irish descent, a hardy race, and some of the descendants still live in the northern part of Clifford and the southern part of Herrick.

James Norton, the father-in-law of David Burns, came from Saratoga, N. Y., in 1803, and settled near him on what is now known as the Burch road. He had sons named Reuben, Samuel and Ishi, who lived in the same locality, the latter living where is now the Crystal Lake Hotel. Near the same time the widow Norton, with three daughters and sons, named Abner, Daniel, Asahel, Luther, Lemuel and Silas, came into the township and settled north and east from Dundaff. Asahel Norton was the first settler at Elkdale, and both he and Lemuel were interested in the early mills there. This once numerous family has no descendants remaining in Clifford. In 1813 Lemuel Norton was one of the heaviest tax-payers.

William Finn, the youngest of five brothers, who eventually came to Clifford, was the son of James, a Baptist preacher, who was in the Wyoming Valley in 1778, and one of the party who were left to defend the women and children gathered together in the block-house or fort at the time of the massacre. He was forced to retire to Orange County, N. Y., whence he had emigrated; but in a few years he returned to Wyoming, and subsequently moved to Tunkhannock, where he died. His widow came with William Finn soon after, or in 1802, to the present township of Clifford, and afterwards married Daniel Gore. William Finn cleared and cultivated a large farm lying one mile west of Dundaff, where he reared his family of eight children. He built three dwelling-houses, one of stone, which was then considered a fine affair. His first framed house was the second of the kind in Dundaff. His saw-mill was the first in successful operation there. He married the youngest daughter of James Norton. Solomon, John, James and Daniel, brothers of William Finn, also came in, and some of their descendants are still in the township. John was a blacksmith; James was a justice of the peace in 1821, and had twelve children, ten of whom lived to adult age. Of eight sons, Clark, living on Elk Mountain, is the only one in Clifford."

As early as 1806, James Wells, a miller, came from the Minisink, on the Delaware, and located on a hundred-acre farm at Elkdale, after having lived a short time at the mouth of the Tunkhannock. Here he put up mills and also a substantial house, with a sloping roof and well-guarded porch, which is still standing at Elkdale. He sold his farm to Lemuel Norton and Horace Q. Phelps, and moved several miles down the East Branch to the flats, where is now the farm of James C. Decker. Here his wife died, in 1831; but James Wells lived until 1839, when he died at the home of his son, Eliphalet, at the age of eighty-nine years. Eliphalet afterwards moved to Carbondale. He was one of thirteen children,-eight daughters and five sons. The oldest son, John W., was married to Anna Miller, daughter of Adam, and finally settled on the south side of Elk Mountain, where he died, in 1843, aged fifty-five years. He was the father of the Welles living in that part of the township, several of whom died of a disease called the black fever. James Wells, Jr., another son, lived on a farm north from Dundaff, the place being still occupied by his descendants. William, still another son, was a millwright, and lived at Dundaff. He was the father of Sidney B. Wells, for thirty years a merchant in New York City.

(Miss Blackman)Matthew Newton came from Connecticut, in 1806, with his wife, daughter and five sons,--Henry, Matthew, Benjamin, Isaac and Thomas. He bought the first improvements of Jonathan Burns. Newton Pond commemorates the name of this family. Matthew Newton, Jr., manufactured all the wheels used by the first settlers in spinning wool or flax. Erastus West succeeded him in the business, but moved into New York State over fifty years ago. From 1806 to 1811, we have no certain data, except that Epaphras Thompson, a Baptist minister, became a resident. The year 1812 is spoken of as 'a religious time.' Ransford Smith settled near the forks of the Lackawanna,

Clifford Township

Page 791

just above Stillwater Pond. His sons were Ladon, Ransford, Benjamin, Samuel and Philander.

Joel Stevens, a clothier, came from Massachusetts, in 1813, locating near Elkdale. Later he lived on a two hundred-acre farm east, where he died, at the age of eighty-four years. Of his sons, - Joel occupied the homestead; David B. died August 10, 1819, on the farm occupied by his son, D. L. Stevens; Hiram moved to Ohio; Elias lives near Clifford; and William lives at Elkdale. Frank and Edmund moved to the West.

In 1813 the name of Richard Meredith appeared on the tax list. He was the first person who applied for naturalization in Susquehanna. County. He was born in the perish of Bubourn, County of Kent, England, July, 1773; sailed from Liverpool, June, 1808, and landed in New York the September following. His application to the court was made January, 1814; but it does not appear that he received his papers until February, 1822.

In 1815 the taxables in the township of Clifford, including that part which was set off to form Herrick in 1825, were the following:

Andrew Buck, John Buck. Burnett Buckingham, James Bennett, Jonathan Burns, David Burns. C. Drayton, Peter F. Ball, Albigence Bucklin, Elnathan Baker, Ebenezer Baker, Henry Cobb, Asa Cobb, Ezekiel Chapman, James Coil, James Coil, Jr., Enoch Curtis, James Curtis, Edward Dimmick, Mortial Dimmick, Calvin Daley, Luther Daley, Stephen Ellis, John Finn, Wm. Finn, Solomon Finn, James Finn, James Giddings, Abijah Hubbell, Wm. Halstead, Jas. Halstead, Alanson D. Halstead, Jno. Halstead, Jonas Halstead, Truman Holmes, Salmon E. Harding, Luke T. Harding, Amos Harding, Ira Justin, Calvin Knox, Gideon Kent, Amos Knapp, David N. Lewis, Levi Levis, Walter Lyon, Geo. Lowery, Wm. Miller, Samuel Miller, Adam Miller, 2nd, Chas. Miller, Wm. A. Morse, Benajah Millard, Richard Meredith, Saml. Norton, Lemuel Norton, Luther Norton, Abner Norton, Ishi Norton, Silas Norton, Jas. Norton, Daniel Norton, Jno. B. Nichols, Eli Nichols, Thos. Newton, Wm. O'Brian, Jas. Reeves, Wm. C. Robinson, Leonard Rought, Jacob Stevens, Joel Stevens, Thomas Scott, Ransford Smith, James Stearnes, Benjamin Tripp, Isaac Tripp, Daniel Taylor, William Upton, Erastus West, James Wells, William Wells, John Wells, James Wells.

In the northeastern part of the township a number of places were now located and improved in the course of the next half a dozen years, among the settlers being Ellery Crandall, the Burdicks, Tinkers and Asher Peck. The latter came from Connecticut in 1818, and settled on the place now occupied by his son, Bela T., where he lived until his death, in May, 1878, Aged eighty-six years. Other sons were Seril and Asel H., both of whom died in the township.

Elias Burdick and his nephews, Thomas and Billings, came from Rhode Island in 1815, settling on farms east from Peck's. The farm improved by Elias is now owned by his son, Elisha. Other sons were Luther, Stephen and Caleb. On this farm is the Burdick Cemetery. Thomas Burdick lived on the farm south, now owned by one of his sons, Avery. Other sons were Thomas, Asher and David. Simeon Burdick, another brother, came in 1816, and lived on the Robert Tinker farm, where he reared a large family. He died in December, 1870, nearly eighty two years old.

PHILIP BURDICK.--After the close of the Revolutionary War, among the many persons bearing the above family name in Rhode Island was a farmer known as Stephen Burdick, a good member of the Baptist persuasion, and who enjoyed the esteem of his fellows. He married Mary Church, who bore him Joel, Billings, Caleb, Joshua, Thomas, Zebadiah, Stephen Kendall and Elias Burdick; also Polly, who became the wife of Barber Cardner. Kendall Burdick, born in 1778, married Hannah Gray (1775-1843), and had the following children: Elias, was a mechanic, in Rhode Island, until his death; Mason, a farmer, in Clifford, afterwards removed to Lackawanna County, where he died; Dolly, married, first, Putnam Edwards, in Rhode Island, and came to this township, where he died (she subsequently married Roswell Ames, and is now deceased).; Abraham and Zebadiah were farmers, and died in Clifton; Philip, as above; Harriet is the widow of L. S. Burdick, a farmer of this township; and Happy Burdick, who married Ezra Carpenter, a farmer, of Herrick, and has since died. Kendall Burdick, with his wife and children, left his early home in 1824 for the West, and bought a farm near the present Seventh-Day Baptist Church, in Clifford. Feeling the need of religious connection, he soon interested himself in the establishment of a place of worship, and was one of the constituent members of the church above-named and retained his membership until the last. He died in 1871, in his ninety-third year, having preserved his mental and physical powers to an unusual degree. He was well informed on matters of Scripture and an earnest Christian.

Philip Burdick, born in Rhode Island, July 1, 1814, had but few school advantages, as he had to accompany his parents to a new country when but ten years old, and the family was large, so that all able to do anything had to work. He helped his father on the farm until twenty-two years old, and became a practical man, energetic and earnest. In 1837 he married his cousin, Mary Burdick (born August 31, 1816), and bought a small farm near the church, whereon they remained a few years before removing to the present home. Both himself and wife assisted in the organization of the Seventh-Day Baptist Church, of which he has been one of the honored deacons for over thirty years. For many years he has been its delegate to the Annual Conference, held in various parts of the country, and his counsels there and elsewhere are valuable. A Republican, he desires to place the best men in public places. The father of Mrs. Burdick was Elias (1780-1858), the youngest son of Stephen Burdick, before mentioned. He was born in Rhode Island and, in 1806, married Patty Brightman (1786-1810), who bore him Patty, born 1807, was the wife of Gideon Palmer, of Rhode



Next section (Part Two)
for Clifford township extracted from the Stocker Centennial History of Susquehanna County

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