Thomas I Milliken Centennial Address
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Thomas I Milliken Centennial Address




The Port Royal Times
Tuesday, October 14, 1958

The Early History of Juniata County


The following article was written by Thomas I. Milliken, the grandfather of Miss Millie B. Milliken and was recorded in the Democrat and Register, a newspaper of Mifflintown, Pa, dated Wednesday, July 19, 1876.

It was read before the McCoytown Celebration on July 4, 1876 on the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.


"Being desirous to add my mite to the enjoyment of the 'One Hundredth Anniversary of our Nation's Birthday', and having neither ability nor the inclination to appear as a public speaker, I will jot down a few reminiscences of early years, hoping they may be interesting to all who gather around the speakers rostrum."

"Born on a farm now owned and occupied by John Barnard Sr. (He was born December 4th, 1795) I have never during the eighty years of my life made my home more than two miles from the spot on which I reside. Having grown up in the neighborhood the changes have not struck me so forcibly until now, standing upon the threshold of the Centennial Year, I have paused to look back, and down a long vista of years. But, as the forests were unbroken and the opportunities for winning glory as a walkist (though unbounded) were not very cordially appreciated or embraced, you will not expect a treatise upon the while valley, as a faint sketch of my most immediate neighborhood and some places prominently connected with it will try your patience, sufficiently for this time. Our forests were the pride of our hearts, and many times I have watched the felling of the lofty oaks, chestnuts and pines, while the ring of the woodsmans axe seemed to be the death knell of a friend, and those who saw them they never wondered why they names our state the Forest land of Penn."

"The first and the only road which ran through the valley is the one now called the mountain or the back road, leading from the extreme upper end of the valley to the Juniata river, near or below where Mexico now stands. Over it all the grain was hauled to the old Strouse warehouse at the junction of the terminus road, being then transported on arks or boats to its destination. No competition at that time distracted the markets, the only person being one, Barney McDonald, who, for many years, made a tour of the valley and bought of all, setting his own price, the seller to deliver at Strouses warehouse."

"After some years a road was started at the mountain directly opposite Wisdom school house, a point then called Hogg's Gap (the land being owned by a man of that name) crossing the hill to Pleasant View, called Jimmy Andersons hill, and unsettled except by Jimmy himself,) leading in the present route of Bryner's bridge, then called Carsner's fording (from thence crossing by Jacob Reed place to Auld Robin MasKelleys's (where C. Beale now lives) from thence by divers turnings until it landed on the banks of the Blue Juniata opposite the nucleus of what is now the town of Mifflin (across to which man and beast would be transported by ferry, having a choice between two, Loves and Littles. This was the most direct route to Mifflintown."

"The first mill I ever recollect was built by Thomas Beale (a Quaker,) on the Tuscarora creek, a few rods above where Pomeroy's mill now stands. It was the first ever built in the valley and for a time the only one in it. The second was built by David Beale, on the sight where Sweringen's mill now stands, the lower story of stone and the upper story of wood, held only one pair of burrs and a pair of chopping stones, the latter merely large rough stones. The third was called Anderson's, built by a man by that name, and stood where McCulloch's now stands. The fourth, a more modern affair and is called Doyle's mill, but being built by Stewart, was for a long time known as Stewart's."

"At the present time there are but three houses standing which date beyond three score and ten. The one occupied by Abraham Reed built upon the site of the old fort; the second on the old Gray property, owned by John Bennett occupied by his son, and the one on the Patterson mountain farm, about three quarters of a mile above Wisdom school house, occupied by J. Sarver and owned by H. Ebberts. The first stone house I ever remember is the one occupied by John Esh built in 1801 by Squire Graham."

"The earliest settlers of whom I have any recollection, and owners of lands are the Grays, who entered a scope from now Myers farm to the T lane including several places occupied by E. R. Gilliford, W. P. Gruver, J. Bennett and J. Fitzgerald, the mansion house being the one occupied by Amos Bennett. Hogg who claimed from the T Lane to Andrew Patterson's line and from the mountain road to the foot of the hill at Pleasant View, including all now owned by the Pattersons, Yoders, etc. Joseph McCoy whose property bordering on the now Jas. Okeson farm, extended to the top of the mountain, including the Warwick and Alex Patterson mountain farms, the mansion house standing on the site of the stone building now occupied by H. W. Davis. The Milliken's whose properties extended from the McCoy line, with the exception of some thirty acres belonging to a man named Martin, including part of the Jas. Beale, John Barnard Jr. and the Smith property, with the place now in possession of the writer (Thomas I. Milliken), the mansion house standing upon the hill east of the meadow owned by Smith heirs, on land which is now included in the Smith estate. The David Beale's owning all of the land above Bealetown almost indefinitely, the mansion house standing where the stone house of Jas. Beale now stands. Thomas Beale being equally fortunate in his settlement near what is now Academia. The Pattersons and the Grahams, being later settlers bought of the early pioneers instead of entering claims."

"The first settlers were not so fortunate as to possess comfortable places for the preaching of the gospel, and the first place I ever remember hearing the word of God preached was on the shady side of the hill near where J. Kelley Patterson's mill now stands. Our church pillars being the glorious old oaks and chestnuts, our carpet the moss and fallen leaves. The canopy above us, formed of intertwining boughs, through which we caught occasional glimpses of blue arch of the sky, while the stentorian voice of the Rev. Thomas Smith awakened the echoes as he expounded the word of God to us from a pulpit of nature's own rearing, and his hearers sought in vain for the soft side of the rocks on which to rest while refreshing themselves by drinking in the words of the Psalmist or making the welking rine with the good tunes of mear, "Old Hundred," etc."

"The Lower Tuscarora Church, as I remember it, was a square log building, standing on the site of the old Beard house, only that and nothing more, if we do not except the high box seats which held not the least inductments to sleepers to visit them, as the sides were too high to lean their heads on, and too perpendicular for lolling. The elders were Johnny Williams, Wm. Bell, the grandfather of Col. William Bell of Mifflin, and 'Squire' Graham, grandfather of the Grahams now in the valley, Mr. Coulter ministering, he being the first temperance advocate ever known in the valley, else might I have had another elder's name on record, for one to whom the eldership was tendered said, "He would not give up his little drop of grog for all their elderships."

"At that early date the grain was all harvested with sickles, and families turned out en masse to assist, else 't'were too tedious a job. J. McCoy onct told me that he had reapt grain on the last day of June and every day from that until the first of August, the same year. Methinks if he could stand upon the hills and see our improved reapers of the present day, his hair would turn gray with surprise. Our bread was baked in dutch ovens, one loaf at a time and being so tedious a job, mush and milk formed our staple for breakfast, with milk and mush for dinner, having the same reversed for supper. no woman was considered thoroughly educated, unless she could spin and weave, full and dye, as every body expected to raise flax and wool, and provide the cloth for family wear. our apparatus for winnowing grain, was primitive, being a sheet tied at one end to the barn, and shook back and forth by a man or a woman, who held the other end. Think you not the change is great, though gradual from that of the present wind mill and from the treading out of the grain to the flail, thence the gradual transition through many grades, to the almost perfect steam thresher of the present date."

"To those who have never known things other than they appear now, it may not appear great, but to one who has seen the means of travel, end with the foot or the back of a willing steed. Imagine the change to the railway cars of today, and where the means of communication were so uncertain that many were lost to friends for the want of them, see now the lightening transit, by the telegraphic wires, and thank God for this age of progress. Alas, also an age of crime. Of our political doings in thost days I had almost forgotten to speak. The county was then included in Mifflin County, and Lewistown being the county seat, we were obliged to repair thither if summoned to court, or for any business of that kind, although every Squire was almost a king in his district, being empowered to act in minor cases. The county was divided into four districts; two on each side of the river, viz: Fermanagh and Greenwood, Milford and Lack. During my boyhood, all from this neighborhood wert obliged to go to where Port Royal now stands, in order to vote, notwithstanding the inconvenience, (When we remember they went on foot or horseback) they turned out almost to a man, being too patriotic to make anything so small an excuse for staying away. At the time when I attained my majority, the county had been subdivided, and then numbered four townships on this side of the river, respectfully named Milford, Turbett, Tuscarora and Lack. Our place of voting being Turbett and continuing so for three years. In my boyhood and youth, beast and deer were the rule, where they now the exception, and grazed and prowled undisturbed on many a grassy slope, while the wolves howled dolefully making the night hideous with their voices. The Mifflin Eagle was the first paper ever printed in this county after it was cut off from Mifflin County."

"Our Military organizations were entered into with spirit, and reviews and encampments formed the chief amusements of our national holidays. The first arched bridge over the Tuscarora creek was built in 1826, being the first arched bridge in the county, and so fearful wert they of its untried strength, that as the first funeral (that of my brother) was passing over it two men stood by it and refused to allow more than six horses as on it at one time. At that time carriages were unknown in this part of the world. Methinks you art weary and I am done."

Signed Thomas I. Milliken










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