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Bradford County

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County text and building entries by Richard J. Webster

The North Branch Susquehanna River winds its way through the heart of Bradford County, cutting through successive ranges of hills to produce a picturesque landscape of steep escarpments towering over the river. The river has been the primary force in the county's development. Early settlers entered the region along its banks, as did General John Sullivan's army in 1779 in successful pursuit of the British and their Loyalist and Iroquois allies. In the 1850s, the North Branch Canal skirted the river's banks, followed by the Lehigh Valley Railroad after the Civil War. Bradford County's earliest settlement was Friedenshutten (German for “huts of peace”), a Moravian mission village built in 1765 along the river, south of today's Wyalusing. At its height, it consisted of twenty-nine log houses, huts, stables, and a church, and the Moravians converted, baptized, and married a number of Delaware Indians. When the Delaware moved to Ohio in 1772, the Moravians, without potential converts, abandoned the settlement. Permanent settlers, many from New England, arrived after the Revolutionary War. The dispute between Connecticut and Pennsylvania that plagued the Wyoming Valley before and after the war, washed over into this area. Some early settlers who had purchased land from Connecticut's Susquehanna Company found their claims did not hold. Other New Englanders wisely purchased from Pennsylvania speculators.

Bradford County was formed out of Luzerne County in 1812 and named for Pennsylvanian General William Bradford, the nation's second attorney general in the Washington administration and son of the Revolutionary fire-brand and printer. Because the legislature had dictated that the county seat had to be within five miles of the county's center, only three communities qualified. The two primary claimants were Wysox and Meansville (named for settler William Means and now called Towanda). Wysox residents laid out a town plan and proposed a name, New Baltimore, but when the Wysox delegates arrived at William Means's house to make their case to the trustees, they discovered that the decision had been made the previous day and that Means's hillside town was the new county seat.

Land away from the Susquehanna River gradually filled with farmers, giving rise to small agricultural trading centers; the largest today are Canton, Troy, and LeRaysville. LeRaysville is notable for several turn-of-the-twentieth-century houses with trim produced by the local Johnson Furniture Company. Troy has some fine Greek Revival buildings, a small Italianate commercial district, an 1875 Gothic Revival Presbyterian church by J. Q. Ingham, the 1893 St. Paul's Episcopal Church, and the imposing 1894 Van Dyne Building by Culver and Hudson that resembles the medieval city gates of Lübeck, Germany. As new settlers arrived and as New York's southern tier grew in importance, the county's following generations tended to look northward for cultural guidance and commercial contacts, rather than to New England. The Lehigh Valley Railroad, with its terminals in Buffalo and New York City, reinforced this connection to New York State.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas

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