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Bradford County, PA
The heart of the Endless Mountains Region in Northeastern Pennsylvania
Bradford County, PA

Our History

Bradford County History

Bradford County, PASome historians say the first man to set foot in the area now known as Bradford County was Etienne Brule, an explorer with Champlain, who traversed the entire length of the Susquehanna River in 1615-1616. He entered the state near South Waverly. He spent the winter of that year in an Indian Village near Spanish Hill on the state line, and in the the spring he explored the Susquehanna down to the Chesapeake. The first permanent settlers were Rudolph Fox and Peter Shefeldt, who traveled from New York State. Rudolph Fox and his family came down the Susquehanna to build his cabin on the Towanda flats.

Athens was a favorite treaty ground of the Indians and was visited by Conrad Weieer, the great Indian interpreter and peacemaker in 1737. At LeRaysville, an attempt was made by another Frenchman, Vincent LeRay de Chaumont to establish a colony named Phalanx but the experiment was unsuccessful.

Bishop Cammerhoff in 1750 mentioned Wyalusing as an old Munses and Iroquois fortified town. Also living here was Papunhank, an Munsee Indian Chief, who was a religious leader and teacher whose activities were inspired by Quaker doctrines.

It was through the principal town of the Iroquois Indians at Tioga Point that prospective settlers or trappers were required to pass if they desired to enter the lands of the Indians in New York State. To Wyalusing in 1763, went David Zeisberger and co workers to carry religion and peace to the redmen. Two missions were established but these were later pushed forward into Ohio on the expanding frontier. This move came following the treaty with the Indians at Fort Stanwix in 1768. Bradford County was the source of difficulties between settlers from Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

In 1773, settlers from Connecticut began coming up the river to settle along Wyalusing Creek. But the Revolution interrupted the flow until around 1783. Then rapidly the land adjacent to the Wysox, Towanda and Sugar Creeks was settled. But beginning in 1805 the flow of settlers came down from New York State, largely from Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, being attracted by the rich lands along the Susquehanna.

In 1779 General Washington sent about one-third of the Continental Army against the Iroquois Indians of central New York. This army started at Easton, crossed the Poconos to Wilkes-Barre, and then followed the Susquehanna to its junction with the Chemung at present Athens. The route is well marked with historical markers. In his expedition against the Indians, General Sullivan had his headquarters at Tioga Point.

In 1812, a legislative act was passed creating the county with the name of Bradford, honoring William Bradford, the second Attorney General of the United States under George Washington. Towanda was selected as the county seat and the first election was held on October 13, 1812. The first Court was held at the "Red Tavern" of William Means in Towanda on January 13, 1813. Bradford County had at various times been part of the state of Connecticut and the counties of Luzerne and Lackawanna in Pennsylvania.

Stephen Foster, one of America’s great song writers, attended Towanda Academy and Athens Academy in 1840-41. While at Athens he composed his first musical composition, a trio for flutes called "The Tioga Waltz." He also wrote the song "Camptown Races." At Riverside Cemetery in Towanda, is buried David Wilmot, author of the Wilmot Proviso, which would have required the United States to prohibit slavery in any lands purchased from Mexico.

Bradford County is rich in history and much of this history survives at many places and museums throughout the county.

Bradford County Courthouse History

The first courthouse was built in Towanda in 1817 and served as the center of county government until 1847. A second courthouse was built in 1848 and used until 1898 when the third and present courthouse was constructed. Thomas Bradley was the architect for this neoclassic building of the late Victorian era.

The courthouse is a three-story stone structure. The front facade consists of columns and pilasters, which support the second floor arches, which in turn support the third floor pediment. The interior has a massive octagonal five-story central hall covered with an eight-sided dome. The dome rests on a cornice supported by eight arches. A contemporary chandelier hangs from the top of the dome. The main staircase is y-shaped with elaborate iron grill-work and paneling. The courthouse is said to be an outstanding example of late Victorian use of space to create monumental effects in a relatively small building.

Compliments of Bradford County Historical Society

Bradford County, PA

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