The adventures of the Tryon clan
Read about the history of a town started by two Tryon brothers and populated with the major help of two sisters named Amanda and Artemesia also from Litchfield,Conn. Each gave birth to eleven living children- a rare feat in any age!
Located near Erie, PA, Tryonville still stands albeit only some of the buildings are from the time of the Tryon family's presence.
See pictures,maps and read more about this part of the family that pioneered at a time when going West meant to walk.
There are many vignettes of family history contained in the work of Wesley Tryon's book "The Tryon Family in America", but not until 2004 did the curator of this web page happen to be reached by a cousin named Schuyler Tryon Wallace of Bakersfield, CA, who sent a treasure trove of information on one of the towns in our communal family tree. Schuyler and Richard R. Tryon II are both descendants of David, the co-founder of Tryonville.
Not all of us are descendants of the two brothers, James and David Tryon who first walked from Litchfield, Conn to the area of Centerville, PA, not but about eight miles from Meadville and a bit further from Erie, PA. But, all of us Tryons or others connected by the female progeny can find some towns or places where some number of relatives lived in the past.
But, few can claim the connection to two brothers who married two sisters and each had eleven children to populate the place and give it a name! These two bought 1,400 acres of timberland on both sides of the Oil Creek which passed through the holding in a N-S direction heading South toward Titusville. Yes, that is where David took some of his lumber cut from the largely pine woods down the Oil Creek to where a Colonel Drake wanted to build a tower in 1859.
It was the discovery of the reason for the oily seepage seen in the creek that gave it its name before anyone knew that lamp oil did not have to come from whales. Colonel Drake inspired my grandfather's grandfather David to go back home and try to duplicate the feat on his land.
My note to Schuyler Tryon Wallace related a few more details about Tryonville.
AS I scanned the great newspaper account done by someone named H. Kellogg for the Titusville Herald for Christmas 1828, I recalled my first view of a news clipping about David Tryon seen on my first visit to Tryonvile. I sure don't know who it was that I chanced to meet in Tryonville in 1980. I still recall approaching the village from the West and thanks to the Schuyler supplied map that shows no compass points, but one assumes that North is at the top, I now know exactly where I was.
I must have stopped the car at the corner of the tract line when I had just passed a sign proclaiming Tryonville. A young maybe eleven year old boy was walking along and my wife rolled down the car window so I could ask the boy- "Can you tell us which way to the center of Tryonville?" The boy looked quizically at me asked what did I mean? I said, "You know the focal point where community things happen". He looked me in the eye and said, "Mister, the ain't hardly nothing happening here no more!"
He was right! But, we did stop a few hundred yards further at a home on the right side of the street. The map names make me think it was the home of about where the Hartwell house is found.
To my surprise, the woman who answered the door invited us in to see her collection of papers and artifacts of the town. That is where I first read of David Tryon's work with Col. Drake and then an effort to drill for oil right at home! The fact that so many papers back then had time, money and skill to publish to such a few people is amazing to me. But, they had no competition from radio, TV or distant papers and people craved the news.
It reported that David's well came up with a little gas and a lot of mud, but no oil! Oh well, it gave me reason to claim that the family was into oil before it became fashionable!
We did see the David Tryon house on that trip and the cemetery, but nobody was at home in the house as was fortunately not the case when we met the Bradys in 2003.
Now I am more intrigued than ever about your idea of buying back the town! Somebody might think that it has value as a tourist destination,but I doubt it. I have seen refurbished towns with curators and lots of hired actors to demonstrate the tasks of the early days. It would be interesting to see Tryonville so featured, but that isn't going to happen and expect anyone to come but Tryons for the most part.
Still, if it didn't take much to have a stake in it, some fun would come of it. But, that would be it.
This section will expand as time permits the curator to add details via pictures, maps,etc. The first section features the published account of the first 100 years of Tryonville.
The following story was typed from someone’s copy of a 1928 newspaper. Editor Richard Tryon has added a comment or two and made judicious corrections of typos of unknown origin.
WEDNESDAY MORNING THE TITUSVILLE HERALD DECEMBER 25 , 1928
1828— CENTENARY OF TRYONVILLE - 1928
By H. Kellogg of Saegertown
The pleasant little village of Tryonville situated in the Eastern part of this county and some eight or nine miles north of Titusville, has, perhaps unnoticed by many, now reached the age of one hundred year. Although numbered among the smaller towns, yet the date 1928 should be memorable one in the minds of those who are historically inclined, as marking the origin of one of Crawford county’s permanent settlements.
Tryonville is especially endeared to the writer of this little sketch, having been the place of his birth and the town in which one was born, and which cradled us in our youth occupies a large nitch in the memories of most of us: The school we attended when a child; the church and the village stores all recur to our minds in moments of leisure thought.
Before the days of improved roads and concrete highways many of these small towns had all but been forgotten, but of late, through this modern improvement, they have sprung into considerable prominence and their names once more placed on the map as a guide to the traveling public and wandering tourist. Greater pride by the citizens in the early history of their respective home towns is noticeable since the coming of good roads.
It is interesting to a traveler to note at the entrance of the main thoroughfare,is a sign on which may be read the name of the pioneer who first stopped there and left his name as a heritage to those who were to come later and perpetuate that name. Every town, no matter how small, has a history,and to give a complete account of any one of them would require many pages. Taking into consideration the limited space in a newspaper for a narrative of this kind, the writer has undertaken a review of only the main facts and a few sidelights regarding the early history of his native village.
Among the early pioneer to Crawford county were the brothers, James and David Tryon, who emigrated from Litchfield, Conn., in the year 1821, locating first at Centerville, which was then a new settlement, having been started sometime earlier by Charles Page.
Here the Tryon brothers remained till the summer of 1828,engaging first in trapping for the furs of wild animals and later operating a fulling and carding mill three-fourths of a miles south of Centerville.
While engaged in hunting and trapping they made several trips back East, generally to Boston, for the purpose of disposing of their accumulation of furs. These journeys were always made on foot, both ways. Miss Arabella, a surviving daughter of David Tryon, states that on one of these trips her father disposed of his cargo in Boston for $300, which was considerable sum of money in those days.
Having purchased from the Holland Land Co. a tract of 1,400 acres of timber, mostly pine, the brothers, James and David, removed with their wives to the sight of the present village which bears their name. David erected a log cabin on the east side f Oil creek a short distance southeast of the present sight f the Pennsylvania station and James located on the wet side of the creek a few rods north of the resent village stores. Here the brothers reared their families of eleven children each, all of whom have passed away except three daughters of David- Rachel Hotchkiss of Waukegan, IL., and Misses Arabelle and Ella, living at the old homestead built by their father from lumber sawed sad kiln dried at his own mill. [Editor’s note: Rachel Hotchkiss may be connected to the founder of Deluxe Check Printers, who invented a special press bearing his name that was built to print restaurant menus and became worth a fortune when bank checks came into use.]
A great task, indeed, and hardships there must have been in the raising of such large families when one considers the few conveniences which were to be enjoyed here at that time.
Innumerable difficulties had to be surmounted, such as the lack of roads, which were then mere trails, slow method of travel, making it impossible at times to secure food supplies and other necessaries. And, aside from these, there was the danger and depredations of wild animals to contend with . The latter were still quite numerous in this region and the pioneer who was a poor shot put his life at extra risk.
The principal thieves of the time were notorious bears, illustrative of which the following story, as related to the writer by Miss Arabelle Tryon, is a true example: Her father, who was a keeper of bees, was one night awakened from his sleep by a great commotion among his hives. Leaving his bed, he quietly opened the door through which he peered into the darkness, discerning, as he expected, the shadowy form of a bear overturning the hives in search of the precious honey, which to a bear was a delicacy more to be desired than any other food. Hastily procuring his trusty old musket from its place on the wall, Mr. Tryon started in pursuit of the robber, which by this time had secured the prize and was making off for the woods as fast as possible, encumbered as he was with a hive of honey held tightly between his strong forepaws. The bear was soon overtaken and shot and the honey safely recovered.
From 1828 to about 1838 the Tryon brothers were engaged in making a clearing in the forest for their homes and continuing their fulling business. In the latter year they erected a saw mill on the east bank of Oil Creek, near the present iron bridge which spans that stream. This was the second saw mill erected in Steuben township, the first having been erected on Mudddy Creek, near Townvi11e, in the year, 1830, by Colonel Zepbaniah Kingsley, who emigrated from Fort Ann, Washington County, N. Y. Later or, the Tryons started another saw mill on the west bank of Oil Creek, not far distant from the £first, and at one time had two saw mills and a grist mill in operation, furnishing employment to a number of men.
For nearly thirty years lumbering was the chief occupation of Tryonville, as it was in many other settlements along Oil Creek. After a strenuous winter cutting, skidding and sawing the timber into lumber, they anxiously awaited the coming of the spring freshet. Great was the excitement among the villagers as the time drew near for the cutting of the splash. Boats, such as scows and flat-bottoms, some sixty feet or more in length, had been constructed during the winter, and, with experienced men as pilots, they now swung into the current with their cargoes, to be carried on the crest of the flood down Oil Creek to the confluence with old Allegheny, where they were borne swiftly along to their various destinations, which were Pittsburgh, Wheeling, on the Ohio, and other points far down the Mississippi. It surely was no child’s play piloting these boats along swift currents, over sand bars and through swirling eddies, around unseen rocks. Not a few men actually lost their lives in this hazardous work.
With a safe arrival at their destination, the owner would sell his boat and cargo and return hone on foot, a distance, if from Pittsburgh, of 110 miles. The writer’s father, who was engaged in rafting lumber in the years just prior to the Civil War and often made the trip to Pittsburgh, said the return journey required three days of walking.
That all was not gain in this business the following narrative will prove. My father once related how his boat and five others, all loaded with pine lumber, started with a freshet from a point near the Eddy bridge, just south of Tryonville at the mouth of Marsh run, (which by the Way was a favorite starting point) with Pittsburgh as their destination.
The channel of Oil Creek was quite free from ice at the start, but having passed down stream with the high water, but upon reaching the Allegheny much ice was encountered, making it difficult to manage the fleet. However,, they finally reached May’s Landing, where, on learning that a large gorge had stopped a few miles farther on, they decided to tie up their boats and await the moving of the gorge. But the weather suddenly turned cold and they were obliged to remain at this place three weeks, ice having formed on the river again, freezing their boats in. At the end of this period a warm spell arrived and the river began to rise, then, to their dismay, about 2 o’clock one morning, they were awakened by loud shout of "A gorge! a gorge!" All hands rushed to the landing, one or two pilots succeeding in getting their boats untied, while the rest of the fleet were torn loose, boats and cargoes being carried down the river, where some were lodged on an island, where others were never head of again. Some lumber was later salvaged and sold for what they could get, but most of their hard winter’s work was a total loss.
Shipping of lumber continued to occupy the settlers in this vicinity until the development of the oil regions created a demand for it. Pine, which grew abundantly in early times, was about all that was in demend. Its value here was from $4 to $8 per thousand feet and about twice that amount at Pittsburgh. The profits of the business were not large when one considers the losses suffered through rafting and other causes.
Pine shingles were also made and sold at Pittsburgh, the price being about $7 per thousand. They were split and shaved by hand, a good shingle maker turning out about l,500 per day. Labor unions were unknown in those days. Their hours of labor were frorn sunrise to sunset and wages ranged from 50 cents to $1.00.
James and David Tryon, the founders of Tryonville, should be given great credit for their industry and business accumen, when one considers that they were the prime movers ard principal employers for over thirty years in this little town.
They it was who kept the first store in the village, though mainly for the purpose of supplying the large number’of mill hands with provisions. We might say also that the business associations between employer and eniployee must have been agreeable as no labor troubles have been recorded. The business of the pioneer was work, and work it must have been.
The first general store was kept by E. B. Lee, started in 1848, located near the northwest corner of Main street and Sherman avenue.
The first church meetings in Tryonville were held in the home of James Tryon, led by Rev. Patterson, a Methodist minister. The original members were Mr. and Mrs. James Tryon, Mr. and Mrs. David Tryon and Mrs. Harriet Mathews.
For over forty years James Tryon was a leader of this church. In 1870 a fine church edifice was erected at a cost of $7,000, which of late unfortunately was torn down and moved away.
A school house was built in 1830, the first schoolmaster being James Tryon, who also furnished the lumber from his own sawmill for the new building, which stood for a great many years at the Cross-roads one-half mile east of the present village stores. As the writer’s father, who later attended this same school, often said: "The books were few but what was taught by the master was taught well."
One of the earliest rolls of this school contained the names of fifteen pupils. In order to derive advantages from their school, many of the children were obliged to travel several miles through the woods and subject themselves to a discipline entirely unknown to the youths of the present day numerous schools.
The discovery of oil August 27, l859, completely reversed the order of things in this section and the struggling village of Tryonville was affected along with other towns. Land was leased for oil, former mill hands became drillers and producers and as a result the lumber business, to a large extent, fell into decay.
Another industry which was an outgrowth of the oil business, was coopering and barrel making, which was carried on extensively in Tryonville for a number of years. The following is a partial list of names of those so engaged at Tryonville during the 60’s and 70’s: Henry J. Baugher, William Burger, Frederick S. Hathaway, Fred W. Kohman, Wortor G. O’dell, Lewis M. Streeter and John Bell. An experienced cooper could earn from $3 to $5 per day, and even more. Barrel staves, which were in great demand in those days, sold for $8 per thousand.
Since the passing of the great oil excitement the citizens of Tryonville have settled down to the quiet life of farming and the fertile hills and valleys which once resounded to the woodsman's ax and the crashing of giant trees now support fine herds of dairy cattle and sheep. The land around the village is especially adapted to dairying, being well supplied with sparkling brooks and clear, cold springs.
Tryonville at one time supported two taverns. The first was built by Lyman Jones in 1839, on the north side of Main street, opposite the store and gasoline station now owned by Clarence Herring. The other tavern, kept by Adam Beck during the Civil War, was located on the southwest corner of Main street and German avenue.
After the organization of Steuben township in 1861 the first election was held at the home of Mr. Hannah, about midway between Tryonville and Townville. James Tryon was elected justice of the peace, serving this office continuously thereafter for over thirty years.
The writer’s grandfather, Josiah Kellog, who emigrated from Jamaica, Vt., to Jamestown, N. Y., in 1820, removed to a point one mile south of Tryonville in 1830. Here he settled on a 5OO-acre tract donated to him for services in the war of 18l2. Another ancestor of the writer Dennis Carrol, who had seen service in the Revolution, took up an adjoining tract, both being in the eighth Donation District. Both were dispossessed by the Holland Land company after years of hard labor on the part of these veterans. There was much evidence of an Indian village having been located on this tract of land,the writer of this having found many arrows, skinning knives, stone hatchets and other relics here. Also while my grandfather and others were engaged in removing some large sandstones, which, after nearly a century, still form the abutments for the Eddy bridge, near the L. B. Preston farm, they discovered beneath the stones skeletons of thirteen Indians, all lying in a circle with heads pointing toward the center. With these skeletons were found also much pottery, arrow heads and other implements which indicated a tribal burial place with the necessary equipment for the Happy Hunting Ground.
D. E. Castle, another pioneer and also a veteran of the war of 1812, located one mile east of the village at an early day. His son, D. E. Castle, Jr., who lived to be over 90 years of age, was well versed in local Indian lore and often told the writer facts concerning the Indian occupancy of this region, which he had gleaned from his father and others.
The old Indian trail which traversed this region between the Allegheny river and the Great Lakes, passed within a few rods of Mr. Castle’s home, and a short distance east of the house may be Seen, if one wishes, the evidence of what must have been either a large Indian mound or fort. Covering about one-half acre, the
ground is strewn with stone weighing from 50 to 100 pounds each and to a depth of about ten feet. Years ago John McGinnes, another early pioneer, under the impression that silver ore had been concealed beneath these rocks, took the trouble to investigate and remove enough to satisfy his curiosity. He found the ground but no silver. Here, perhaps, was staged a decisive battle between the war-like Senecas and some other tribe or may haps the final resting place of some noted chieftain.
The first crossing of Oil Creek at Tryonville was done by fording, the place being a few rods south of the present bridge. Later came a foot bridge and then the old covered bridge which was swept away by the memorable June flood of 1892. This bridge was replaced by the present substantial one which formerly spanned Oil Creek at Franklin Street, Titusville, and likewise swept out by the same disastrous flood.
The pioneers toiled to secure a home for their children whose descendants now live upon these same lands in comfort and ease. It was a period of hard labor, close economy and homely fare, but in a measure offset by nights of repose, good appetites and excellent health.
In closing this narrative the writer wishes to say a few words in honor of the pioneer women who certainly had their full share of hardships and privations, but which in any recitation of the events of the early settlements too often receive but brief mention. Often her heart must have sunk within her when first she beheld the rude log cabin which was to be her future home. Memories of distant friends, church privileges and many other comforts must have been painful, indeed. The women of that day sang their songs to the hum of the spinning wheel as compared with the modern girl at the piano. No electric washing machine, nevertheless the linen was made clean and white. Although the cooking was done in an open fireplace and the baking often in an out-door clay oven, yet the food was wholesome and nourishing.
But with all the hardships it must have been a glorious adventure, taking such a part in the development of there future happy home. Each year saw the clearing in the forest which encircled the log cabin grow larger and larger.
Often at night the sky was lighted with the fires of great heaps of logs which today would be worth a fortune. The neighbors held “logging bees” for this purpose and wore only concerned in the clearing of the land which, of course, was necessary before planting could be done successfully.
Population increased with the clearing of the land, again the comforts of society were enjoyed and once more church and school advantages were realized.
In closing this reference to the pioneer women, the writer’s grandmother, who was one of these, used often to tell of her lonely experiences while living in a log houses erected in the forest just south of Tryonville. One such story is illustrative of the experiences of many other pioneer women. The story, which had its setting in this primitive forest is as follows:
In the winter of 1833, my grandfather having run short of provisions on account of a continuous stormy period, took a bag of corn and, mounting his horse, started off through the forest for Centerville, the nearest point at which a grist could be ground, saying, as he left his home, that he would return before dark. Being detained at the mill longer than he expected, and the days then being short, darkness had settled over the valley of Oil Creek before the return journey had been half finished. The wolves, which were always stalking about the forest soon after sundown, were not long in getting on the trail of this lone rider, and their weird howls grew closer and closer until grandfather thinking discretion the better part of valor, stopped his horse beneath the overhanging branches of a giant oak, and in this primitive manner ascended into its protecting arms, at the same time urging his faithful horse to continue on.
This act was none too soon performed, as the wolves, which had increased in numbers, were soon at the spot making the woods echo with their unearthly cries. Thinking to appease their ferocious appetites and gain time to allow his horse to reach the home shelter, grandfather, from his secure position in the tree, removed his leather boots and dropped them to the ravenous animals, The boots wore soon devoured, but in the scramble for the precious tidbits they fought, killed and devoured one another till the break of day, when the remainder slunk away to their lairs, All night long grandmother could hear the savage howls and, seeing the horse return home riderless, supposed her husband had fell a prey to these ever starving beasts. Imagine her joy and surprise when with the dawning of a new day she saw the familiar form of her life partner emerging from the woods safe and sound.
Adventures of this kind were not uncommon to show something of the brave and hardihood of the pioneer mothers.
After a trip through the picturesque little town of Tryonville and viewing its situation from one of the nearby hills, a visitor will readily agree that the pioneers, James and David Tryon, suffered no illusions when they erected this spot to pitch their tent, Their work has long since been finished, but the fruits of their labors are still to be enjoyed by their successors.
In point of growth and population, Tryonville has changed little since Civil War days, when there were some 40 houses and about 150 people. Many other inland towns also have changed but little in recent years, but with the coming of good roads and other advantages resulting therefrom, we will soon witness great changes and it is the hope of the writer that a just share of progress will come to his native village which it has justly earned in 100 years of toil.
August 10, 1964
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