DANVILLE is situated on the right bank of the North Branch of the Susquehanna river, and about eleven miles above its confluence with the West Branch at the town of Northumberland. It is surrounded by the most charming and picturesque scenery, and is nestled in a narrow valley, between Blue Hill and Montour Ridge. Tall hills, in their wild grandeur, and clad in their native robes of emerald, rise on every side, and down the pleasant vale, beyond the river, the beautiful white cottages of South Danville and Riverside dot the landscape. In the north-west, and close at hand, Bald-Top rears its barren crown above the stately furnaces at its base, whilst dense volumes of smoke and clouds of steam roll slowly up its rugged steep. A view from the summit is one of the grandest imaginable, if you delight in wild and varied scenery-pine-clad hills and broad majestic rivers. The whole town from that point, from Sidler's Hill to Sageburg, and from Swampoodle to Frogtown, like a vast panorama, is spread out before you. Drowsy Mnemoloton looms up beyond the river, whilst almost beneath your feet railroad trains, like huge serpents with fiery breath, traverse the scene. The asylum, the opera house, the great iron works, almost a score of churches, and two thousand dwellings, are all before you. From below, Bald Top seems like a frowning fortress on the line of Montour ridge, and, although its slopes are covered with spruce and pine, its crest is bald and bare, where scarce a shrub has grown within the memory of man. Half a mile below is the "dark ravine" and the precipice known as "lover's leap." It is true that almost every locality boasts a "lover's leap," but the title to this is derived from a veritable Indian legend well known among the Delawares, and often rehearsed among the early settlers of Danville. It is said that the daughter of an Indian chief, related to the renowned Tamenund, whose wigwam stood in the village, on the banks of the "Crooked river," at the confluence of Mahoning, was given to a young brave of the warlike but waning Leni Lenape; but the dusky maiden had chosen a lover of her own whom she loved with all the deep and deathless devotion of her passionate race. A shdrt time previous to the pro- posed marriage with "Big Turtle," she met her Huron lover near the precipice, and as her tribe was on the war-path against the Hurons, she was discovered by a scout and confronted by her father. The old sachem, with a thunder-cloud on his brow, demanded of his daughter the final renunciation of her chosen lover. True to the impulse of her woman's nature she refused, and with one piercing cry sprang from the rock and sacrificed her life on the altar of a deathless passion. There, in that dusky glen, she sleeps a dreamless sleep in her virgin purity, where now the careless feet of another race and another generation tread upon her lowly mound, and where the merry voices of a strange people have long since broken the solitude of her lonely grave. The gladsome voices of the young and the gay now mingle with the music of the brooklet as it rushes to the river; and as they spread their dainty fare on the mossy rocks, or dance upon the green, do the votaries of pleasure ever think of the dark-eyed maiden that quietly sleeps beneath their feet?
Altogether the scenery around the town of Danville is not surpassed in this portion of the State, and in its wild romantic beauty can only find its rival among the Alleghenies. It is true, the restless enterprise of a growing population is here and there slowly working a change, but the silver sheen of the river will continue to sparkle in the morning sun, and there will stand forever Blue hill, around whose hazy brow, in misty veils, still hang the legends of Indian lore.
The land embraced in the corporate limits of Danville was originally within the boundary of Northumberland county, and its inhabitants were involved in all the horrors of border warfare with the French and their Indian allies, and afterwards with the English and the same bloody savages. The Shawanese, the Senecas, and the Delawares were in the neighborhood. The latter were the most numerous, and, for the most part, the least troublesome. The Iroquois, who made frequent and murderous raids on the white settlements, often acted the part of incarnate devils. The Delawares had a village of considerable importance at the mouth of the Mahoning creek, just below the present town of Danville, and the boys of today still find arrow-heads and other warlike implements fashioned by the rude skill of "old Nakomis," or some other dusky arrow maker of the forest. The same spot is now frequently occupied by the semi-barbarous Zingari-the wandering gypsies-the descendants of Egypt.
In 1772, Northumberland county was taken from Berks, Lancaster, Northampton, and Bedford. It then included Columbia county, of which Montour was a portion. Columbia county was taken from Norhumberland and organized as a new county on the r5th of March, 1813, and Danville was made the county seat of Columbia county. But the county seat, by a popular vote, authorized by the Legislature, was moved to Bloomsburg in 1845. The people of Danville, and those of the lower end of the county, were not satisfied, and demanded a division of the county. Accordingly, on the 3d day of May, 1850, an act was passed by the Legislature erecting the county of Montour, and making Danville the county seat of the new county. The writer of this volume was then a member of the State Legislature, from Butler county, and cast his vote in that body in favor of the new county.
The ground occupied by the town of Danville belonged to several tracts, and it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to trace the various transfers previous to the purchase and settlement of Gen. William Montgomery. By the old parchment deeds and surveys, in the office of George W. West, Esq., present surveyor of Montour county, it appears that one of these tracts, containing one hundred and twenty acres, extending from Chestnut to Church street, and from the river to the base of Montour ridge on the north, was surveyed to George Jewel, on the 3d of April, £769, and transferred to Turbet Francis on the 16th of December, in the same year, and on the 2d of May, 1782, sold to John Simpson, and by John Simpson and his wife, Ann Grimes, sold and conveyed to William Montgomery, for £600, on the r5th of April, 1783. The tract below Chestnut street, including the mouth of Mahoning creek, containing one hundred and eighty acres, was known as a Proprietary Manor, and was patented to Rev: Richard Peters. Another account says that the Proprietor, John Penn, patented the same tract to Juhn Lukens, the State Surveyor at the time. A. F. Russell, Esq., in his biography of General William Montgomery, says that William Montgomery purchased land here of J. Cumming, and also that ohe bought a tract of one hundred and eighty acres of J. Simpson, on which the town of Danville was laid out, by a deed bearing date November 26, 1774. If the reader can get the precise facts, by studying the old records, he is wiser than the writer of this book. It is certain that the land occupied by the greater portion of Danville was purchased by General William Montgomery, prior to 1776, the period of his location in this place. There may have .been conflicting claims to the land, that were subsequently purchased by General Montgomery, and so to us confused the records. On the north of these tracts, the land belonged to John Montgomery on the north-east to Amos Wickersham, which afterwards became the property of the Frazers and the Yorks ; on the south-east, were the lands of the Sechlers, who were among the earliest settlers of this place.
This was known for some time as "Montgomery's Landing," and also as " ahoning Settlement," until the town was laid out by General Daniel Montgomery, son of William Montgomery, in the year 1792, or that part of the town lying between Mill and Church streets, and from the river to the canal, which ground he had our-chased from his father. As Daniel Montgomery was then the most enterprising business man in the place, whose store and mill were the centers of attraction to all the country around it, and as he was very popular and highly respected, the people, by general consent, began to call it "Danville," out of compliment to Daniel Montgomery. In i76, General William Montgomery built the log house that still adjoins the stone mansion he afterwards erected, and there his youngest son Alexander was born, in 1777, and died in the same room in 1848. The widow of Alexander resided there until her death, which occurred only a few years ago.
At an early day Jacob Gearhart established a ferry across the river. The ferry-house stood above Ferry, at Pine street. John Sechker, father of Jacob Sechler recently deceased, laid out that part of the town above Church street. Between the Montgomerys and Sechlers, they made something of a muddle near where the planing-mill now stands in not properly joining the streets.
General William Montgomery, after Daniel had laid out his land in town tots, laid out that part lying below Mill street, down to Chestnut, donating at that time thirty-one lots for the endowment of an academy, stipulating that it should be under the control of the Presbyterian church, and that one of his descendants should always be on the board of trustees.
Amos Wickersham donated to the Presbyterians the ground on which the Grove church is built, and also the adjoining burying ground.
The court-house ground was donated by General William, and that on which the jail stands by General Daniel Montgomery.
General William Montgomery.
General William Montgomery was the most notable settler of this region. He came from Chester county, where he was born on the 3d of August, 1736, and was a prominent actor in the Revolutionary war, and also in civil life before he came to this place. He first located in Northumberland, and moved to Danville in 1776. He immediately began to make improvements, but on account of the murderous raids of the Indians, he took his family to a place of safety until the campaign of General Sullivan gave security to the settlers. General Montgomery himself was inured to the hardships of war, having been schooled in the camp, the field, and the forest. During his lifetime, he was called by the people to a variety of responsible positions, both civil and military. He was a representative in Congress and president judge of the courts in Northumberland county. But chiefly does he claim the gratitude of posterity for his constant efforts for the material and moral welfare of Danville, for his devotion to the physical comfort and religious training of the growing community of which he was the founder. He occupied many positions of public trust during his long and useful life, and always with honor to himself and to the advantage of the public. He died in 1816. This note is brief, but his life-work will, in a measure, appear in these pages, as we trace the various movements and enterprises that gave birth, life, and character to the town of Danville.
We have no special record of the terrible ordeal through which the early settlers of Danville had to pass. Enough to know that it was like the hard experience of others on the frontier. The danger from the merciless savage was constant, day and night. The farmer was suddenly struck down by the bullet of the stealthy foe; the assemblies for worship or social enjoyment often terminated in a bloody tragedy; "the darkness of midnight glittered with the blaze of their dwellings, and the war-whoop of the savage awoke the sleep of the cradle." The settlers of Danville were surrounded by the Six Nations, including the Tuscaroras that had been driven out of North Carolina. The Five Nations adopted the Tuscaroras into their confederacy, by which they became the Six Nations. The renowned Shikellimy was, at that time, the grand chief of all the tribes. His lodge was at Shamokin. The Delawares were spread from the Hudson to the Potomac, but were conquered by the Six Nations. The Shawanese came from Florida, and were allies of the Delawares. The most northern village of the Shawanese was at Chillesquaque. The Delawares were divided into three tribes-the Turkeys, the Turtles, and the Wolfs or Munci. The latter tribe was the most fierce and warlike ; and the most gentle, if that term may be applied to savages, were those whose emblem was the Turtle. The Delawares called themselves the Leni Lenape, or original people. The settlers called the Six Nations' o Mingoes," "Maquais." The French called them "Iroquois."
The great Shikellimy was the grand ruler of the conquered Delawares and Shawanees, though he himself belonged to the Oneidas, of the Six Nations. But there was constant war among the savages; treachery circumventing treachery; torture and murder succeeding torture and murder. The condition of civilized society brought into contact with the bloody savages may well be imagined, and without any special record of their individual suffering, a glance at their surroundings will teach us to know how much we owe the settlers of Danville for the peaceful homes we now enjoy. Shikellimy was the father of Logan, whose celebrated speech you have doubtless read in the school books of to-day. The speech in which he bids adieu to his home and turns towards the setting sun, and in which he says that not a drop of his blood coursed in the veins of any relative. He was alone, and yet had always been a friend to the white man. This sad farewell to the scenes of his youth and the graves of his fathers will ever remain on our records as the grandest model of Indian eloquence. Logan was a Mingo chief. His lodge was at the mouth of Chillesquaque; afterward, he lived further up the valley. In 1774, the expedition of Lord Dunmore was the occasion of Logan's departure and of his celebrated farewell address. It is said that he was at the Indian town, at the mouth of the Ma-honing creek, now within the borough limits of Danville, about the year 1772. He is said to have been six feet high, well proportioned, and straight as an arrow-a perfect model of manhood. He went to Michigan in 1774, and was cruelly assassinated there. While sitting at a camp fire, with his blanket over his head, a hostile Indian stole up behind him and tomahawked him, thus putting out the light of life from as much nobility as the Indian is capable of possessing.
The Danville post-office was established in 1806, General William Montgomery being the first postmaster at this place. o He and Daniel Montgomery served until 1813 when Rudolph Sechler was appointed, April 3 of that year. lie held the office until James Loughead was appointed, on the 24th of November, 1820. David Petrikin succeeded him, on the 1st of February, 1834. Next John Best was appointed on the 21st day of March, 1837, who served until the appointment of Sharpless Taylor, on the 25th of March, 1841. He was followed by Alexander Best. who was appointed on the 9th of November, 1842. Gideon M. Shoop was appointed on the 11th of April, 1849. During his term the new county of Montour was created. On the 26th of November, 1852, Thomas C. Ellis was appointed, and on the 21st of September, 1853, Thomas Chalfant received the appointment. During his term, in r856, the Danville post-office became a Presidential appointment, and Mr. Chalfant was re-appointed by the President, on the 21st of February, 1856, and served until the 28th of May, 186,, when he was succeeded by Andrew F. Russel, who was re-appointed on the 14th of July, 1865, and served until Ogden H. Ostrander was appointed, on the 16th of April, 1867. Charles W. Eckman was appointed on the 5th of April, 1869, and re-appointed on the 18th of March, 1873, and again reappointed on the 7th of April, 1877. Colonel Charles W. Eckman is the present incumbent. Under his administration there have been great improvements, both in the arrangements and appointments of the office and in its management, giving the highest degree of satisfaction to the department and to the public. In September, 1874, he moved the post-office to the opera-house, a central location, fitting it up with seven hundred and fifty-six Yale boxes. These boxes, with the handsome casing, give a stylish appearance to the office, where every desired convenience is afforded. There is not a country town in the State that can boast a better-conducted, better-arranged, or more elegant post-office than that of Danville.
In every country town the post-office is a good place to study human nature See that individual who only gets one letter in six months, who always struggles to be first at the delivery. At last he gets a letter! See how he turns it over and over, looks at the address, examines the stamp, and seems astonished to find himself in possession of the prize. He looks up at the crowd with an air of importance, whilst the crowd is silently reading him. Next look at that spruce young clerk, who gets a dozen or more for his employer. How wise he looks, and seems to say to the crowd, "Look at my correspondence." Then comes the indignant individual, who wonders why he got none, and thinks there must be something wrong in the management of the mail. He calls on the postmaster to know why it didn't come. Now comes the bashful young man, who expects a letter from his lady love. He looks as if the postmaster and everybody else knew the nature of the precious epistle, and slips away to enjoy it by himself. There comes a big man, carelessly treading on other folks' corns. He gets a dun from his wash-woman, and tries to pass it off for a draft on the bank. Do you see that booby on the side-walk, or, in cold weather, backed against the inside wall, just to see who comes and goes, or to glance at what others get. There comes Miss Sweet Sixteen.. She expects a letter from "somebody," but, seeing the crowd, she retreats until the coast is clear. She does not choose to let all the world see her blushes as she receives the prize. But now make room for the man from the rural district, who inquires for the whole neighborhood. He at last gives way to the confident chap, who gets mad when he fails to get a letter, because he is sure it was mailed. So if you want to take a good lesson on human nature, just go to the post-office at mail time, And don't forget to take a quiet smile at the fussy man, who rushes in, peeps into half the boxes, then peers down the schute where the drop letters go. What he sees there, has never been revealed.
SOURCE: Page(s) 9-17; Danville, Montour County Pennsylvania; D.H.B. Brower, Harrisburg; 1881