Driftwood in Gibson Township

The Tail End of the Bennett's Valley

The Bennett’s Valley Boundaries

The Mt Zion Historical Society is chartered in Weedville covering Jay and Benezette Townships and especially honors its pioneers and military veterans with a special focus on the Mt Zion Historical Park in Jay Township. The Bennett’s Valley itself stretches beyond the Jay and Benezette townships in Elk County. For genealogy purposes some families and their lands are in now what is Gibson Township in Cameron County. Similarly Huston Township (Tyler, Penfield especially) in Clearfield County is of interest to many for the overlap of families and historical-economic-genealogy environments.

Historically, the beginning ( or Head) of Bennett’s Valley began in Clearfield County near Winterburn and Penfield . At the other end – the Tail of the Valley -is Driftwood in Gibson Township in Cameron County. And in between are Jay and Benezette Townships. Much of the history of Jay and Benzette Townships overlaps into Clearfield and Cameron Counties as Jay and Benzette were once in Clearfield County, and Benezette was once in Gibson Township which is now in Cameron County. The Society enjoys a good working relationship with the historical societies in both Dubois (Clearfield County) and Sterling Run (Cameron County). It is the desire of the Mt. Zion Historical Society to work with and share information with neighboring historical societies for the purpose of preserving and recognizing the history and heritage of the Bennett’s Valley Area. If you have any information to share please email Bob Nay at the Mt Zion Historical Society, Inc. To begin sharing information of historical interest primarily and of the pioneers of the Driftwood area we have copied from Beers “History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter Pennsylvania”. This information is from 1890. Similarly we will present additional information on Huston Township in the near future. Also in the spirit of open access to historical and genealogy information sharing, use this information as you desire but please do not use for any profit purposes.

Introduction to Driftwood and Gibson Township

The following introduction to Gibson Township was excerpted from the Cameron County genealogy website. Please visit their excellent website at Cameron County Genealogy Project for additional information and a complete transcription of the Beers History or from your Internet browser-it is available in Goggle books and other online services. Other sources of information can be found in the following sites:

If your ancestors lived in Gibson Township, they could be difficult to track down. The land that we call Gibson Township today resided in more counties than any of Cameron County’s townships. The original township was much larger—it included not only the present township of Gibson, but also Benezette Township and part of Jay Township (both part of Elk Co today). To find early records, search these counties (earliest to present): Northumberland, Lycoming, Clearfield, Elk, then Cameron. You might also look in Centre Co., because some Clearfield County’s records are stored there.


Northumberland County Formed (Including the land that is Gibson Township today).


Lycoming County formed (including the land that is Gibson Township).


Clearfield County formed (including the land that is Gibson Township).


Gibson Township formed in Clearfield County. Gibson Township was named in honor of John Bannister Gibson, an attorney and jurist who became a justice of the Supreme Court in 1816 and was appointed the Chief Justice of the Commonwealth of PA in 1827.


Elk County formed. Gibson Township became part of the new county.


Benezette Township formed from the western part of Gibson Township and the eastern part of Jay Township. All three townships remained part of Elk County.


Cameron County formed. Gibson Township became part of the new county.


Since becoming part of Cameron County, Gibson Township has had no changes to its boundaries except for the incorporation of Driftwood as a borough in 1872.

Early Settlers

There were no settlements in what is now Cameron County until 1804, when a hunter named John Jordan and his sons built a solid tent of rough hewn logs at Second Fork (known as Driftwood today). These were the taxable inhabitants of the Sinnemahoning District (Lawrence Township, Clearfield County) in the year 1814.

1814 Lawrence Township, Clearfield County Tax List

Sinnemahoning District:

Stephen Barfield, Ralph Johnston, Andrew Overdorf, James Mix,Robert Barr, Thew Johnston, Andrew Overdorf, Jr., Joseph Gaugey, Daniel Bailey, James Jordan, Samuel Smith, James Sweezey, Jacob Burch, John Jordan, Charles Swartz, John Ream, Dwight Cadwell, Henry Lorghbaugh, Jr., Curran Sweezey, John Biss, Thomas Dent, Joseph Mason, Benjamin Smith, William Lewis, Richard Galat, Amos Mix, Jacob Miller, William Shepherd, Joseph Gaughey, James Mix, Leonard Morey’ George Lorghbaugh, Levi Hicks, William Nanny, William Calloway, William T. Hardy, John Overdorf, George Derring.

Many of Gibson’s earliest settlers can be identified by the place names in the township:

Wykoff Run is named for the family who settled at the mouth of the run (descendants of Auke[y] & Sarah Schenk Wykoff).

Mix Run, both a run and a neighborhood, is named for the Amos and Clarinda Barnes Mix family, who settled there about 1814.

Bennett’s Branch is named after Dr. William Bennett.

Miller Run is named for Mack Miller who settled there about the same time that the Amos Mix family settled.

Hicks Run (aka Hicks Hollow, Little Hicks Run, or Jack Hicks Run) is named for the Levi & Rebecca Hicks family, who settled on the flat in 1812. Most of the branches of this run are in Shippen Township.

The Huntley neighborhood got its name in a contest sponsored by the railroad. Bill Huntley won out over Mr. Nelson.

John Johnson was the first to settle in Johnson Run.

The Nelson family had a lumber camp at the fork of Nelson Run.

Dent’s Run is named for the Dent family (descendants of Thomas & Elizabeth Overturf Dent).

Fink Hollow is named for Fink families who lived there until after World War II.

Mason Hill, Mason Grove, John Mason Run, and Wash Mason Run are all named for Joseph & Margaret Grugan Mason and their descendants.

The following is excerpted from Beers' “History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter Pennsylvania”

Gibson Township

Gibson Township, bounded north by Lumber, west by Elk county, east by Grove township, and south by Clearfield county, is twelve and a quarter miles in length along its eastern line, eleven and three-quarters along its western line, eight and one-third miles wide in its northern half, and seven and one-eighth miles in its southern half, being the second township in point of area in the county. The highest points measured are 2,252 feet above ocean level, while Driftwood depot is only 843 feet above the ocean. …. The feeders of the Sinnemahoning in this township are Mason run and Big run, rising, in Lumber township; Big run, Dry run, Tanglefoot run and Grove run, flowing southwest or south from the divide, the latter entering the river at Grove’s Battleground, just west of Sinnemahoning depot. A number of small streams enter from the southwest, while Bennett’s branch* forms a confluence at Driftwood on the west side and Wykoff’s run, near the Barclay mills, at Wyside. Bennett’s branch claims Mix run as principal feeder in this township, while Upper Jerry run rises in the southeast corner.

* This branch was so named after William Bennett, who first settled at Benezette about 1811, who is said to have broken up his land with much cows harnessed as oxen.

The March elections of 1861, for Gibson township, resulted as follows: Justice of the peace – Samuel Barr, 24; Asa Inglesbee, 17. Constable – G.W. Tanner, 27. Supervisor – Washington Mason, 16; James Wylie, Jr., 21. Auditor – William Barr, 18; Henry Mason, 24. Election inspectors – Isaac Smith, 9: Joseph Lane, 5. Assessor – James Mason, 16. Clerk – Henry Mason, 7. School directors – Isaac Smith, 23; Henry Mason, 15. Judge of election – William Nelson, 23. The clerks, inspectors and judge of this election, were William Nelson, Isaac Smith and W.E. Jourdan.

In the records of Elk county the election returns of this township, of February 27, 1844, appear: William Shepard and William M. Mason were elected justices; James Barr and Jacob Smith, supervisors; Daniel Smith, constable; Hezekiah Mix, Thomas Dent and William Montgomery, assessors; Joshua Idells, treasurer; E.C. Wykoff, Ralph Johnson, James Wylie, Samuel Conway, William Barr and Joe Mason, Jr., school directors; William Montgomery, clerk; John Shafer, Jos. Mason and William Johnson, poor overseers; W. Brooks, W. Coleman and R. Johnson, auditors; B. Hollingsworth, judge; with M. Spangler and G. Hollingsworth, inspectors of elections; Solomon Mix and Solomon Bailey, fence-viewers. C.E. Wykoff and W.M. Mason were elected justices in 1849.

The officers of Gibson township, chosen in February, 1890, are Nelson D. Jordan and John B. Hicks, supervisors; George E. Wylie, clerk; John McMillen, constable; George W. Huntley, Jr., and W.U. Barr, auditors; H.M. Bailey, overseer of poor. F.A. Blackwell received 69 votes, A.W. Mason 37, and Anson Mason 34 votes, for school directors. John W. Nelson was elected justice.

Grant Station post-office, on Bennett’s Branch Railroad, twelve miles from Driftwood, was established in 1873, a year before the completion of the Low Grade Railroad.

John Coleman, who died in Grove township in April, 1886, was born near Muncy in 1810, and was brought to this section about that time. His father owned the site of Driftwood, also the Huntley farm and lands up Bennett’s branch as far as Dent’s. The Coleman property was sold to the Allegheny Valley Railroad Company in 1872, and their shops are located on part of this purchase. Mrs. Sally Johnson, who died in May, 1889, is said to be the last member of the original Coleman family, although a Mrs. Colegrove is thought to be still living in Wisconsin. Benjamin Smith, who was accidently killed at Castle Garden, June 25, 1887, was born at Huntley, April 5, 1820, and in 1839 married Ann Eliza Mix. She died in 1868.

The Philadelphia & Erie Railroad, begun in 1859, was completed through this township in 1864, and the Low Grade Division of the Allegheny Valley Railroad, begun in 1869, was completed in 1874. Between the years 1804 and 1815 the pioneers came hither, as written in the general chapter on the settlement of the county, and in the history of Shippen township. In 1806 the Spanglers settled on the Driftwood branch. In 1848 Michael Spangler located in Jay township, Elk county, where he died in August, 1877.

Borough of Driftwood

Driftwood, formerly known as “The Second Forks,” is the site of one of the first settlements of this county. The celebrated hunter, John Jordan, built his cabin at this point in 1804, and following him came the pioneers of industry named in the pages devoted to pioneer history.

The first store was opened by Jacob Coleman in 1834, about the sight of the Lafayette House. Samuel Brobst and John Coleman built a house near the south end of the railroad bridge, and opened a store there. This building is still standing. G.R. Vosburg came about 1853, and then O.J. Spafford. Bates & Coryell, a little later Rothrock, DeWitt & Co., and then J.O. Brookbank. In 1862- 63, during the construction of the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad, the village cast aside the swaddling clothes of a hamlet, and during the building of the Low Grade Railroad assumed higher pretensions. The leading residents at that time are named in a document from which the following paragraph is taken: The petition for the incorporation of Driftwood was presented August 15, 1871, by the following named citizens: O.J. Spafford, D.J. McDonald, H.E. Gore, S. Miller, C.Y. White, J.M. Fillmar, C.F. Laughton, T.M. Hains, Edward Hatton, W. Harkenberg, J.O. Brookbank, Joshua Lupole, John Kunes, Jacob Shaffer, F. Bush, Scott W. Jones, Patrick McInerney, M. Cullinan, M. McMahon, Patrick Creevy, Frank Hagonbush, Thomas Liddey, Thomas Barrington, H.J. McDonald, J. Gleason, H.E. Chamberlin, D.P. Polen, Levi Musser, George B. Patshel, J.B. Coryell, Joseph L. Bates, Anthony McCabe, Ed. Vosburg, M. O’Brien, J. Lupro, J.D. Whitman, George D. Kincaid, William Roache, John Kane, Reb. Bolton, Clark Beatty, J. Doulanghautz, J.D. Withem, John McMahon. The petition was considered and granted January 17, 1872, the election ordered for February 6; C.F. Laughton was appointed judge, with J.O. Brookbank and C.L. White, inspectors.

Municipal Affairs – The charter election of Driftwood, held February 6, 1872, resulted as follows:

O.J. Spafford, burgess, twenty-one votes; H.E. Chamberlin. fifteen; D.B. Polen, nineteen; Joshua Lupole, six votes for justice of the peace; William Roach, twenty-two; D.J. McDonald, twenty-two; Wesley Chamberlin, twenty-two; E. Vosburg, twenty-four; L.W. Gifford, twenty-two, and David Lupro, twenty.three votes for councilmen.; C.Y. White, twenty-two for assessor; J.O. Brookbank, twenty-three for auditor; A.J. McDonald and John Kunes, elected poor-masters; David English, twenty for constable; D.J. McDonald, twenty-two for constable and collector; Levi Musser, W.F. Mizhols, L. Gifford, William Roach, twenty-two votes each; E.Vosburg and O.J. Spafford, twenty-one each for school directors.

The officers elected since 1872 are named in the following list:

Burgess – L. Musser, 1873; J.S. Bates, 1874; Ed. Vosburg, 1875; C.Y. White, 1876- 77; Robert Rothrock, 1878- 79; F.A.. Blackwell (tie vote with Rothrock), 1879; F.A. Blackwell, 1880; Levi Dougherty, 1881- 82; James P. McNarney, 1883; R.L. Earl, 1884; R. Rothrock, 1885- 86; S.S. Smith, 1887; F.F. Kirk, 1888.

Councilmen – J.S. Bates, 1873- 75- 76; E. Hatten, 1873; H.E. Chamberlin, C.F. Laughton, 1873- 74; Ed Vosburg, 1873- 76; A.J. McDonald, 1873- 80- 83; J.P. Horman, 1874; H.C. Gore, 1874; William Roach, 1875 – 76; C.F. Laughton, 1875; William Gore, 1876; J.B. Earl, 1875; J.O. Brookbauk, 1876; Ira DeWitt, 1876; D.J. McDonald, 1876- 78- 79; Bernard Nefcy, 1877- 78; Jacob Shaffer, 1877; R. Rothrock, 1877- 80- 82- 83- 87; W.A. Hatten, 1877- 78- 79- 80- 82; C. McMinn, 1878; John I. McCarty, 1878; Milo Fitzgerald, 1880; Samuel Buck, 1881; M.F. Leslie, 1881; Daniel Nolan, 1881; S.S. Smith, 1882; A.H Parsons, 1883; F.G. Rothrock, 1883; T.J. Riley, 1884- 86- 87; A.R. McDonald, 1884; J.B. Grimshaw, 1884; C.F. Laughton, 1884; Samuel Louck , 1884, W.G. Sanders, 1884- 85- 86; J.O. Brookbank, 1885- 88; Ed. Bishop, 1885; Walter Scott, 1886; D.B. Reed, 1888.

Justices – C.Y. White, 1873- 74; T.C. Page, 1876; Jerome B. Earl, 1879; Harry Dutcher, 1880; H.B. Mears, 1881; James Brusan, 1882; John McGillis, 1883- 88; J.B. Earl, 1884; B. Nefcy, 1885.

School Directors – E. Hatten, 1873; G.H. Chamberlin, 1873; D. Lupro, 1873; William Roach, 1873- 75; Saul Buck, 1874; C. McMinn, 1874- 78; J.M. Reynolds, 1875; A.J. McDonald, 1876- 79- 82; Mark Scudder, 1876; Levi Musser, 1877- 80; J.O. Brookbank, 1877- 80; J.B. Earl, 1877- 80- 82; John E. Barr, 1878- 81; William Young, 1879; D. Angell, 1879- 81- 84; S.S. Smith, 1883; B. Rothrock, 1884; John McDonald, 1885; B. Nefcy, 1886; T.J. Riley, 1886; J.A. Muthersbaugh, 1887; M.J.B. Brooks, 1887; P.W. Householder, 1888; G.L. Smith, 1888.

Assessors – W.A. Hatten, 1873; E. Vosburg, 1874; G.W. Smith, 1875; Mark Scudder, 1876; C.F. Laughton, 1877; John I. McCarty, 1878; Levi Dougherty, 1879- 80- 81; F. Rothrock, 1882; M.P. Whiting, 1883; J.G. Grimshaw, 1884; F.G. Rothrock, 1885; T.J. Riley, 1886- 87; R. Rothrock, 1888.

Auditors – J.O. Brookbank, 1873; M. Curdde, 1874; C.Y. White, 1875; T.C. Page, 1875; F.A. Blackwell, 1876; John McGillis, 1876; W.H. VanLew, 1877; A.C. Becken, 1878- 79; Levi Dougherty, 1880; A.C. Becken, 1881- 82; J. Grimshaw, 1883; H.D. Earl, 1884; D.B. Reed, 1885; M.P. Whiting, 1886- 87; C.E. Pealer, 1888.

The Driftwood elections of February, 1889, resulted in the choice of A.R. McDonald, burgess; W.G. Sanders and Charles E. Pealer, councilmen; S.D. McCool, justice of the peace; Thomas J. Riley, Samuel Louck and F.F. Kirk, school directors; M. Fitzgerald, constable and collector; George Towers, high constable; Robert Trude, constable; J.W. Carey, overseer of poor; F.B. Sanders, auditor, and P.M. Hanes, assessor. Mr. McDonald did not qualify, when C.F. Laughton was appointed by the district court. The constable elect failed to qualify, when the court appointed Matt. Kirk, who also failed in this matter, so that the borough was, for a time, without that officer.

The officers of Driftwood borough elected in February,1890, are C.F. Laughton, burgess; Charles E. Pealer, T.J. Riley, B. Rothrock and Charles Gleason, councilmen; M.J.B. Brooks, John T. Earl and S.P. Kreider, school directors; M.P. Whiting and Charles Gleason, overseers of poor; James Letz, high constable; Wilbur Miller, constable; M. Fitzgerald, constable and collector; James Fulton, justice, and William G. Miller, auditor.

Driftwood in 1876 – In September, 1876, the editor of the Lock Haven Republican visited the village, and before the close of the month published the following description:

There is undoubtedly more business done at Driftwood than at Emporium, or any town of its size on the West Branch. We were shown through the mammoth store-room of J.O. Brookbank & Co., dealers in general merchandise, and find they are carrying a heavy stock, with sales reaching from $8,000 to $10,000 per month. J.O. Brookbank, Robert Rothrock, J.W. Cochran and J.H. Cochran compose the firm, and they occupy a room about 200×40 feet, stocked with a line of goods suitable to their trade, which embraces largely the Bennett’s branch and Driftwood branch of the Susquehanna; and their house largely supplies the jobbers on these streams and their tributaries with such articles as are needed to carry on their lumber camps etc. It is needless to say they are enterprising, reliable business men. The fact is patent. There is a Masonic hall in the second story of this building, finished in elegant style, and furnished very completely. Col. J.S. Bates, an enterprising citizen engaged in the real estate business, is largely the man to whom the fraternity are indebted for this beautiful and comfortable lodge room. The Cochran Bros. are putting in about 27,000,000 feet of lumber on the tributaries to Bennett’s branch, etc., for different parties at Williamsport and other points along the river.

It struck us the curse of the place was the number of hotels and saloons; seven hotels and two saloons we should deem a superabundance, and yet there seems to be that number to be supported or starved by the citizens and visitors to Driftwood. As an offset to this, there is a Murphy organization, which seems to be thriving amid all the opposition from the dealers in liquors. Some new buildings are in progress, which are improvements to others already occupied, and, taken all in all, Driftwood seems to be about over the crisis, and proposes to march forward, taking the advance among the up-river towns.

In the Centennial year the borough officers were: Burgess, C.Y. White; councilmen, J.S. Bates, E. Vosburg, William Roach, J.O. Brookbank, Ira DeWitt; D.J. McDonald; justice of the peace, T.C. Page; school directors, Mark Scudder, A.J. McDonald; judge of election, T.C. Page; inspectors, William Roach, E. Vosburg; assessor, Mark Scudder; assistant assessors, Ira DeWitt, John McCathy; high constable, John Lupole; auditors, Fred Blackwell, John McGillis; overseers of poor, D.J. McDonald, L. Musser.

The Catholic Church was presided over by Dr. Brennan, and Rev. L.G. Heck was the minister in charge of the Methodist circuit. The hotels comprised the McDonald House, conducted by A.R. McDonald; the Sherman, by John A., Gillis & Co., and the Tyler by M.V. and R.J. Gillis. The restaurants were conducted by T.H. Cartin and J.B. Earl; W.H. VanLew was baker and confectioner. The great general store was carried on by the then new firm of Robert Rothrock, Ira DeWitt, J.W. Cochran and J. Henry Cochran; the drug and hardware store by O.J. Spafford; the Brookbank store; the boot and shoe store, by T.J. Robison, and the liquor store by Coleman & Nefcy. A few small concerns were also in existence. The postmaster was J.O. Brookbank, who held the office from 1872 to 1888, when M.P. Whiting was commissioned. In January, 1890, J.O. Brookbank was commissioned. O.J. Spafford has also been postmaster at this point. The Philadelphia &. Erie Railroad and the Low Grade Division of the Allegheny Valley Railroad were in operation as well as a lumber road, all of which are noticed in the pages devoted to railroads. The American Union telegraph line was completed to Driftwood via the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad in 1880, thus giving four telegraph lines.

Manufactures – Miles Dent, born at the old homestead, near Mix run, June 16, 1823, died March 18, 1889, at Dent’s run, where he settled forty-two years before, and where his wife died in December, 1887. He was one of the leading lumbermen of the State. In 1881 he built a large sawmill, a railroad and bridge in 1883- 85, and the store building in 1888.

The Brookbank & Company’s lumber and stave mill at Castle Garden was established nine years ago as a stave mill, and in 1889 sawmill machinery was introduced. This industry gives employment to six men. The Standard Shingle Company’s mill on Red run, near Driftwood, was built in 1887- 88. S.S. Miller’s stave-mill at Castle Garden, near Driftwood, is another labor-giving concern. L.R. Gleason & Sons’ tannery, established at Driftwood in 1889, promises to equal in importance the great tanneries at Wilcox, Johnsonburg, Ridgway, Emporium, Costello and other places in this district. The tannery is now producing one car-load of leather per week. This industry gives employment to thirty-five men. It was reported in March, 1890, that another tannery would be brought into existence here this year.

Fires, Floods, Etc – The Driftwood fire of April 14, 1875, destroyed J.B. Earl’s hotel and W.A. Hatten’s billiard saloon, and A.J. McDonald’s dwelling was torn down. The Patchel House was saved by great effort. The fire of May, 1882, destroyed the Kelso House, Simon Brothers’ store and barns, the principal loser being A.R. McDonald. In June, 1882, another fire swept away Kane’s new block, on the Kelso lot, in which was Frank Rothrock’s store. Patrick Kane’s loss was $3, 000 and Frank Rothrock’s $4, 500. A month before the locality boasted of the Kelso House, two stores, a dwelling, barns, etc., but after this fire the old, three-story Gore House was the only building on the square between the post-office and depot. The forest fires of May, 1884, did much damage in the neighborhood, but that summer did not pass away until the fire fiend returned. On July 8 a number of oil cars were standing on the siding, and it is said the cars were put in at an unreasonable speed, causing them to collide with the oil tanks, and setting them on fire. The burning oil was thrown in every direction, and soon the heart of the town was in a blaze. The barn back of the McDonald House first took fire, then Duell’s confectionery store, spreading to McDonald’s block near the railroad, and then to Torbert’s drug store, and crossing the street to Cochran Brothers’ buildings on the south and the McDonald House on the east, and to the buildings east of the McDonald House, destroying, in all, fifteen buildings. Losses: D.J. McDonald’s loss was as follows: McDonald House and furniture, $8,000; store building, $2,900; goods in store, $6,000; dwelling and household goods, $4,000; Blakely House, $2,000; two warehouses, $600; barn $300 – total loss, $23,800. A.J. McDonald’s estate, loss on store building, $2,500, fully insured; Cochran Brothers, on buildings, $6,000, insurance $3,000; Torbert & Co., loss $10,000, insurance $5, 500; Well clothing store, loss $3,000; Gazette printing office and book store, loss $5,000, insurance $3,500; Duell confetionery, loss $500, no insurance; Thomas Buck, household goods, $100; Timley Tailor saved most of his goods, loss small; Edward Drumel, loss small in moving household goods; Joseph Lechner, boots and shoes, loss $150, no insurance; George Heiserman, barber, loss $150, fully insured; J.B. Earl’s loss on furniture, $200, fully insured; the band lost their instruments (in the Gazette office), valued at $200; G.A.R. Post, No. 241, loss on furniture, $100; no insurance. In October, 1887, B. Nefcy’s house, occupied by Joe Krotzer, was burned.

The windstorm of January 12, 1890, carried away part of the roof of the Hotel Lafayette, destroyed one of the large windows in Brookbank’s store and created other damage. The floods of 1889 did not let Driftwood escape. The waters of Bennett’s branch, as well as the Upper Sinnemahoning, met here, converting the valley into a broad, rushing river. The new county bridge over the Sinnemahoning creek, constructed in 1883- 84, by the borough, one span of which was carried away in the flood of June 1, 1889, was rebuilt in January and February, 1890, by Contractor Palmer, for the county.

Since 1872 Driftwood and vicinity have become famous for the number of accidents on railroads and in the woods. Among the number the following are noticed: James Nefcy, of Driftwood, was killed by the cars August 18, 1880; Charles McQuade was accidentally killed while hunting, near Huntley, in October, 1879. William Grafius was killed on Bark Shanty run by a falling tree, in July, 1888. Benjamin Smith, a native of this section, also died from the results of an accident at Castle Garden. In January, 1890, 3. L. Barclay, of Potter county, was crushed under the wheels of a freight train at Emporium, and died a few days later.

Hotels – The first hotel was kept by Jacob Coleman on the bank of the creek near the north end of railroad bridge. Andrew Dent and others kept this house prior to the building of the Lafayette House by Gore during the Civil war, which is the beginning of the modern hotels. F.F. Kirk is the genial proprietor of the Lafayette House, having come here in 1885; John Coleman built a. hotel on the south side of the river (the site being now covered by railroad embankment) before the war, which was rented to Corny Wainright.

The Commercial Hotel, completed in February, 1887, is one of the most complete houses in the State. The building is 80×50 feet, three stories high, with mansard roof; the dining-room, 26×28; office, 20×20; sample room, 16×18; writing-room; 17×18; ladies’ parlor, 15×22, and twenty-seven bedrooms – all large and airy – the ceilings on first and second floors being twelve feet, and on third floor ten and a half feet. The plans for this building were prepared by T.J. Riley, assisted by G.T. Smith, who had charge of erection. The house is papered and painted artistically, and finished in hard wood. The house employs nine hands. Electric bells, steam-heaters and gaslight mark the completeness of the house.

The present Curtin House was erected in 1885- 86 on Driftwood avenue by John Kane. The building is 116×44 feet, with a wide hall on the first floor; large reading and waiting-rooms; a dining room, 41×30; large kitchen and private parlors. There are twenty-four bedrooms on each of the upper-floors. The building was completed in November, 1885.

Churches – The Methodist Episcopal society of Driftwood dates back to 1810, when Rev. James Allen preached to his strange audience at Overturf’s house, the particulars of which service are given in the history of the Methodist society of Emporium, where also the story of the old Methodist circuit of this district is related. Services were held in the old school-houses of the village and neighborhood until the completion of the Union Church house, since which time regular meetings have been held therein. The present membership is fifteen. The camp-meeting at the Driftwood confluence with Bennett’s branch was held August 18, 1853, with Elders J.V. Himes, J.T. Lanning and J. Litch in charge.

Rev. Thomas Holler died in May, 1882. He was married first at Sinnemahoning, January 10, 1836, but the lady dying in 1871, he married, a second time, in July, 1873. The second wife died in December, 1880, and the pioneer himself on the date given, in his seventieth year.

The Messiah society hold services here at intervals, over which the preacher of Kersey, Elk county, presides.

The Catholic Church of St. James is the central church of a large mission, extending almost to the line of Tioga county, or to Galeton, in Potter county. Germania is also included in this extensive parish, Sterling being the only mission easy of access. The congregation at Driftwood is large and influential, as is evident from the beautiful house of worship and pastoral residence. The buildings are situate on the side of the mountain above the railroad depot, and command a view of the Sinnemahoning and Bennett’s, Branch valleys, as well as of the town beneath. The congregation was formed here about the period of railroad building, and has grown steadily since that time. Monsigneur Brennan, to whom references are made in other pages, is the respected pastor of this church.

Schools – The old school-house near the flats was built about 1870- 71, and in that building religious services were held by all the Protestant denominations. Prior to this services were held in a school-house, at Castle Garden, built during the Civil war, and prior to the war, in the old school-house which occupied the site of the present engine-house. Among the pupils in that old building were John Coleman’s children, the Wykoffs, Dents, Smiths, Wesley Shafer and a few others. The contract for the present school building was solid in July, 1886, to G.T. Smith, for $2,950.

Cemetery – Oak Hill Cemetery Company, of Driftwood, was chartered August 2, 1886, with S.S. Smith, W.G. Sanders, W.A. Hatten, John McDonald, F.A. Blackwell and M.P. Whiting, stockholders.

Societies and Associations – Driftwood Lodge, No. 532, A.F. & A.M., was chartered December 2, 1874, with the following named members: J.S. Bates, C.F. Barclay, Fred A. Blackwell, Mack Scudder, David B. Reed, J. Henry Cochran, G.W. Huntley, G.B. Barclay, Samuel Buck, Levi Musser, J. Orlando Brookbank, James Fulton, Sylvester S. Smith, J.M. Shaffer, James Wylie, Jr., Alonzo Bailey, A.E. Taylor, Josiah Fink, J.S. Shirk, David P. Baird, M.J.B. Brooks. The past masters have been J.S. Bates, C.F. Barclay, F.A. Blackwell, J.H. Cochran, G.B. Barclay, G.W. Huntley, S.S. Smith, C.G. Matson, J.O. Brookbank, J.H. Fink, W.G. Sanders, C.W. Beldin, L.W. Sanders, present master. The office of secretary has been filled first by David B. Reed, followed by F.A. Blackwell, J.C. Martin, W.A. Hatten and F.A. Blackwell, who is now serving. The hall was completed December 2, 1874. This lodge claims seventy-six members. The officers for 1890 are as follows: J.C. Martin, W.M.; D.P. Baird, S.W.; F.B. Sanders, J.W.; C.F. Barclay, treasurer, and F.A. Blackwell, secretary, in December, 1889.

Washington Camp, No. 310, P.O.S. of A., was instituted under charter April 19, 1888, with the following named members: W.E. Dougherty, J.T. Earl, A.C. Winslow, F.S. Kirk, I.E. Hatten, J.D. Tinsley, C.E. Pealer, S.P. Kreider, S.D. McCoole, E.L. Means, D.B. Reed, J.P. McNarney, P.M. Hanes, M.A. Lane, M.M. Smith, Nate Ives, Joseph Krotzer, G.B. Richardson, V.E. Crum, W.E. Rothrock, H. Clay, M.C. Crum, C.E. Haues, E.D. McCracken, T.F. McCracken, John C. Zell, C. McCracken and E.S. Vosburg. The first president was J.P. McNarney, and S.P. Kreider is presiding at present, with P.M. Hanes, recording secretary. There are now thirty-eight members. The officers elected in December, 1889, are John T. Earl, P.; E.L. Means, P.P.; W.E. Dougherty, V.P.; S.D. McCoole, M. of F. and C.; William VanLew, C.; John F. Miller, O.G.; P.M. Hanes, I.G.; C.E. Pealer, S.; E.D. McCracken, F.S., and W.E. Rothrock, T.

In July, 1880, the first cornet band of Driftwood was organized, with J.H. Cochran, president; G.W. Huntley and D.J. McDonald, vice-presidents; H. Mitchell, secretary; Levi Dougherty, corresponding secretary; W.A. Hatten, treasurer; John T. Murphy, manager; Thomas Dougherty, R. Rothrock, D.D. Angell and A.R. McDonald, trustees. Of the musicians in the old band, only one, Eddie Dougherty, is a member of the present band.

The officers of Lieut. D.W. Taggart Post No. 241, G.A.R., elected in, December, 1889, are: G.B. Barclay, C.; J.R. Buckwalter, S.V.C.; G.W. Gore, J.V.C.; Almeron Chapman, O.D.; G.A. Dudley, O.G.; D.D. Colcord, surgeon; P.O. Chelson, C.; J.O. Brookbank, Q.M.; Lemuel Lucore and M.M. Larrabee, delegates, and T.W. Deninney and Sam Faucett, alternates. The history of this post is given in the pages devoted to Emporium.

The W.R.C. elected the following named officers in January, 1890: Mrs. Marion Thompson, P.; Mrs. Helen Taggart, S.V.; Mrs. Deninney, J.V.; Mrs. A. Dougherty, treasurer; Mrs. Downey, chaplain; Mrs. Jane Brooks, conductor; Mrs. Mary VanLew, guard; Mrs. Adams, Julia Earl and Helen Taggart, delegates; Miss Maria Brookbank, secretary; Mrs. Mattie Slagle, assistant conductor, and Mrs. P. Mumford, assistant guard.

A.O.H., Division No. 1, of Driftwood, was organized May 12, 1889, with E.G. Bishop, P.; P. O’Connor, V.P.; John McMahon, secretary; Rev. Dr. T.F. Brennan, treasurer, and W.H. Roach, financial secretary. The present president is P. O’Connor, and vice-president, M. Hacket. There are forty-two members in good standing.


Driftwood of pioneer days is no more. Here, in years long passed, a few of the earliest settlers of the county gathered and withstood the rigors of climate and deprivations of pioneership, as well as the daily excitements of the times. There is in the history of this old river settlement a poetic romance and rustic simplicity that fascinates; but the days of old Driftwood are gone forever- good old days – and in their place have come the hurry and amenities of civilized times. The cabins have disappeared with the solemn woods – all the past is wiped out save in memory, and on its ruins appears the modern town, with its churches, schools, secret, benevolent and literary societies, and municipal government.

Source: Page(s) 900-910, History of Counties of McKean, Elk and Forest, Pennsylvania. Chicago, J.H. Beers & Co., 1890. Transcribed February 2006 by Nathan Zipfel for the Cameron County Genealogy Project