Pioneer Life in Point Township
The triangular area bounded by Montour Ridge, West and North branches of the Susquehanna River, which is now Northumberland and Point Township, was part of Turbot Township when this section of Pennsylvania was first divided on April 9, 1772. In February 1775, Mahoning Township was formed from this area and in February 1786, Point Township was formed from Mahoning Township.
Contrary to modern presentations, the Pioneers did not spend their entire time fighting the Indians. They built homes, prepared the soil, harvested their crops as well as hunting the woods for wild turkey, deer, elk, bear, and buffalo.
In November 1768, this territory of Pennsylvania was purchased from the Indians. It extended from southern Northumberland County to the New York border and from Lycoming Creek to the eastern line of Luzerne County. Large trees grew in the forest that covered the fertile Susquehanna Valley. This thick forest was composed of hardwoods, hemlock, and pine. Here and there a meadow and former Indian Village could be found near the Susquehanna River. Many Indian arrowheads are now found in the river fields by avid arrowhead hunters, especially near the “Red Man’s” farm along Route 11.
The settlers who came to this new territory included those of Scotch-Irish descent from Lancaster County and the Dutch from Berks County. The price of land was five pounds for one hundred acres and no settler could purchase more than three hundred acres.
There were no roads into this area, only a few Indian trails. A road from Reading to Fort Augusta was opened in 1770, but no one maintained this road through the wilderness.
The pioneer placed his wife, small children, and few possessions on his horses, and driving few animals, he set out for the new wilderness at the forks of the Susquehanna River.
At the site of his future home, the pioneer erected a temporary shelter of poles and brush. He then started to fell the large trees with his sharp, broad-bladed backwoods axe. The land had to be cleared before he could plant his crops. In the meantime, the family picked wild fruit berries, and nuts in the fall, hunted the abundant wildlife, and fished the many streams to have food on the table.
After the planting was done, the pioneer had to construct a log cabin. He called his neighbors together on the appointed day to help him put the logs in place. The size of the cabin depended on the material possessions of the settler. If poor, the cabin was one room of unhewn logs. If the pioneer was of some means, the logs were neatly hewed, and the cabin consisted of a large living room, a dining room with a large stone fireplace, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a loft above for the boys’ bedroom.
The furnishings of the log cabin were hand made and meager. The clothing was all made in the home. Each settler had his field of flax and a few sheep so flax and wool could be spun into thread. The thread was then woven into cloth and finally made into clothing. Some of the outer clothing was made of leather and skins of the animals.
The houses were constructed of logs until 1798 when there were two brick houses, four stone houses, and three frame houses in Point Township. One of these stone houses is owned now by Leon Epler Farms, Inc. This house was built by William Cooke, a justice who signed the 1794 records of the Point Township Overseers of the Poor.
As the area became more populated, the settlers could share their talents with their neighbors and each man could work in his trade for the good of the community. In Point township a shoemaker, carpenter, mason, bricklayer, tanner, tailor, storekeeper, chair-maker, clock-maker, lawyer, gunsmith, physician, saddler, cover-lid weaver, cord winder, distiller, cooper, baker, carter, schoolmistress, skin-dresser, printer, ferryman, gardener, cold-nailer, coach-maker, miller, painter, coopersmith, shingledresser, and nailer were occupations listed in 1796.
In order to learn a trade or profession a child was apprenticed to a tradesman for a number of years, usually until the age of eighteen.
Each township took care of their own ill, poor, widows and orphans. Records show that there were two “Overseers of the Poor” for each year starting in 1791. Four “Settlers of Accounts” audited the overseers records each year. The “Overseers of the Poor” record gives “Orders of Maintenance Issued for Mary Berry dated the 27th Day of December 1792 Signed by William Cook and Robert Martin Esq.” She was discharged by Cowden and Dering on the 16th Day of September “being well enough to Support herself.”
Destitute children were often indentured, bound to a citizen until they were twenty-one years of age to learn a trade. The record shows that on November 6, 1800, “Polly McCharg by and with the advise and consent of her mother and the Poor overseers of Point Township in the County of Northumberland doth voluntarily and of her own free will and accord put herself apprentice to Wm. Gibbons and to his heirs, to learn the art trade of a spinister and after the manner of an apprentice to serve her said master from _ _ _ _ this date _ _ _ _ and to the full end one term of sixteen years and twenty-four days . During all which term the said apprentice her said Master faithfully shall serve his secrets keep, his lawful commands obey and the Lord master shall use the utmost of his endeavors to teach or cause to be taught or instructed the apprentice the trade and mysteries of a spinster and procure and provide for her sufficient meat, drink and wearing apparel, lodging fitting for an apprentice. During the said term..the master shall give said apprentice one year of schooling when she arrives to the age of Nine years and at the expiration of the time, the said master..shall give the apprentice one spinning wheel, one cloak, two new suits of clothes and one new hat or bonnet.” Signed; William Gibbons and Mich Tucker and Ben Hubley, Jr. Overseers.