Recollections of My Early Farm Life in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
Isaac Paxson Biography
Read Before the Historical Society, April 24, 1907
Upon the first day of April, 1849 when in the 18th year of my age, I removed along with my parents, John J. and Laura Heston Paxson and five brothers, all younger than myself, who constituted the whole of the family, from a small truck farm of thirty acres, situated at Hestonville, a small village founded by my maternal grandfather, Col. Edward W. Heston, who was an officer of the Revolutionary War. We had settled on a large farm at the foot of "George" Hill Fairmount Park, about the year 1766 and had a family of fourteen children, the youngest of whom was my mother, born in 1801. The thirty acres which my father owned were originally part of this farm, and at the time of our removal was three miles distant from the city of Philadelphia, but it is now within the city, which was entirely absorbed the little farm leaving no landmarks except a street called Paxson Street and the little old farm house in which I spent my youthful days and which still stands on Master Street with its gable end toward that street, a few doors from the corner of 52nd.
My father, who was very much attached to his occupation of farming and truck raising, desired his sons to follow in his footsteps, and as the little farm did not seem large enough to give them all employment at that occupation, and as his means would not allow him to purchase a large farm in the vicinity of Philadelphia, he decided to locate in Schuylkill County where land was cheaper, and where there was a good market for vegetables and all kinds of farm produce. At that time the greater part of the supplies of that nature needed for Pottsville and surrounding towns of the coal region, was shipped from Philadelphia, owing to the fact, that the farmers instead of farming made their living by cutting off their timber, which was very plentiful, and selling it to the Canal Co. which used large quantities for the building of canal boats, and their landings and locks; and to the railroad company for their engines, as such a thing as coal burning locomotives were unknown at that time. The purchasing of all the sills and cord wood used by the railroad was under the supervision of Capt. Henry Hesser, with the assistance of his son A. A. Hesser, which fact probably accounts for the reason the latter takes such a deep interest in forestry at the present time.
When my father had decided to locate in Schuylkill County he requested Evan J. Thomas, a farmer neighbor at Hestonville, who had removed to Washington Township in the spring of 1847 to look out for a farm that he thought would suit him, and after looking at several farms in that Township which he thought were objectionable on account of being too great a distance from Pottsville market, he finally bought the farm on the top of the Schuylkill mountain south of Schuylkill Haven consisting of 160 acres of land, from James B. Levan, who was one of the active merchants and wood dealers in the early history of Schuylkill Haven.
This farm was purchased several months before the time of our removal as stated above, at which time the family, with the exception of my mother and my second brother Edward, who went in one of the fast trains of those days, started from Hestonville in a two horse market wagon for Schuylkill Haven, to which point all our household goods and a muley cow had been sent in cars leased from the company for that purpose. Our route with the wagon was the greater part of the way over the Centre Turnpike, and occupied a little over two days, and as the weather was pleasant and the scenes all new, it was a very enjoyable trip. The first night we stopped at Pottstown at a large hotel, and the second at Port Clinton.
My brothers and I after getting up pretty early in the morning at Port Clinton, thought it would be a good idea for us to walk to the top of the high mountain which we saw looming up before us at our hotel, so that we might get a good appetite for our breakfast, as well as to gratify our curiosity; as we had never been near a mountain and climbing one would be a new experience for us. We therefore started for the top at a pretty lively gait, but alas! for human ambition; after we had ascended what we thought was quite a long distance, the top seemed to be quite as far away as it did when we started; so we returned to our breakfast of SCHUYLKILL COUNTY ham and eggs, without attaining the object at which we had aimed.
After finishing our breakfast, we had our team hitched up and resumed our journey, it being the writer's first ride over the roads of Schuylkill County, but was by no means the last, having since that day rode many miles through its valleys and over its hills, but there were none of those rides perhaps in which he had greater enjoyment, As we drew near to Orwigsburg we met a man walking toward us and my father stopped the team and asked him if we were on the right road to Orwigsburg. After a look of surprise, and some hesitation, he replied, "Yah Yah! dos is de way to Oricksburg," or that is about the way it sounded to us who had never before heard such a strange language. But in rambling around the country since that time, we have heard quite a number of sentences expressed in that language and it has become quite familiar to our ears.
Having started from Port Clinton pretty early in the morning we arrived at Schuylkill Haven about 9, or 10 o'clock in the forenoon, and here we found the teams of Evan J. Thomas, John Conrad and William Riland, of Washington Township who were awaiting our arrival in order to haul our household goods from the depot to tile farm where the family were to spend so many years of their lives. This farm was procured by Adam Eiler by a patent deed from the State of Pennsylvania dated at Harrisburg, September 10, 1810, and is therein named Edenbower Farm which title it still holds, and Is at present owned by George M. and Edwin H. Paxson, the writer's sons.
In looking around after our arrival at the farm, we found the prospect very unEden like, as the former owner who had resided there for many years, had kept a lot of teams for the purpose of hauling stone from a quarry on the place to the canal to be used by the Schuylkill Canal Company for the building of locks and he also did hauling of various kinds for parties in Schuylkill Haven and consequently the farm and its surroundings had been very much neglected, and the appearance of things were very uninviting. A stone wall in front of the house was crumbling down, fences were dilapidated, and around the building were scattered the remains of worn out wagons and other worn out material. In the house which was built of stone and a quite old one several of the rooms had never been plastered. As these things did not look very homelike, my father first turned his attention to straightening things out, and by the aid of Daniel Koch, a mason living in Schuylkill Haven, and of his own six boys, he soon had things looking very much better and was then enabled to turn his attention to farming.
My father when moving to the county had contemplated starting a small milk dairy in connection with raising truck for the Pottsville market, but after going to Pottsville several times with milk found it hard to get customers he became discouraged and gave up that idea, and turned his attention entirely to the raising of truck and general farming, at which occupation he spent the remainder of his life and became one of the noted farmers of the county, being one of the principal originators of the Schuylkill County Agricultural Society and its first President. Joshua L. Keller, of Orwigsburg, one of the pioneer farmers of the county, who was celebrated among other things for the introduction of strawberry culture on a large scale, was the first Secretary, and they were for many years very close friends and co-workers for the advancement of agriculture. My father was also President of the Farmer's Fire Insurance Company, of Schuylkill County for a number of years, and though never an active politician, he was without any solicitation on his part placed on the ticket of the Republican party for Associate Judge, but was defeated by his opponent, Judge Kline.
The year before our removal to the county two market houses had been built in Pottsville in what is now Market Square, and my father rented a stall in the upper one, about where the Soldier's Monument now stands, the rent of which was $503 year payable quarterly. The houses were well equipped for the purpose and were looked after by a clerk in the person of George Lerch, a brother-in-law of George Bright the Centre Street hardware merchant. I being the oldest son was installed at that place as market man.
Amongst others who occupied adjacent stalls were John Conrad, William Riland, George Cressman and Evan J. Thomas, all truck farmers from Washington Township; and as they like ourselves, were all recent settlers in the county, coming from English-speaking communities, we soon became fast friends and frequent visitors to each others homes. John Conrad in addition to raising truck had a large timber tract and a saw mill on his farm, and furnished a considerable amount of heavy lumber to the Schuylkill Navigation Co, for the purpose of building their boat landings at Schuylkill Haven. He also had a daughter who attracted the attention of the writer, who is still living and known as Mrs. Isaac Paxson.
As the original farmers of the county were at this time un accustomed to raising truck they did not take kindly to the Market house, and many of the stalls were left vacant. The former continued their custom of driving around, and in consequence in a year or two the Market houses were abandoned by the farmers, and after they had been used a few years by several butchers and hucksters, were abandoned altogether. If the originators of the Market had encouraged the farmers by giving the stalls rent free for a short time until the market had been established, it might have ended differently, Amongst the butchers who occupied stalls the writer remembers the Glassmires, and Heffners. The only huckster whose name I can recall was a genial old German lady by the name of Roerig, who would frequently buy vegetables from the farmers at the close of the market at a very low figure, they preferring to sell them at a low price rather than take them home.
As to the names of customers that I as well as other farmers had known that early day, I recall Rev. Azariah Prior of the Episcopal church, Congressman Charles Pittman, Dr. Halberstadt, the father of Dr. A. H. Halberstadt, Mrs. Lee, the mother of Riolay Lee, deceased, Lewis Reeser, Esq., the marble cutter and William Wolf, the tanner, who all lived on Market Street. On Centre Street were Mrs. Whitfield, the mother of Roland Whitfield, Mrs. Sanderson, whose husband had a drug store, Mrs. Luther, the mother of former Supt. of Coal & Iron Co., Strange N. Palmer's family and the Thompsons. On Mahantongo Street were Dr. James Carpenter, John Shippen, Mrs. Newhall, John Clayton, George Patterson, Mrs. Pinkerton, E. F. Taylor, Andrew Russel, John Chamber's and John Shell's families. There were also the family of Gen. George C. Wynkoop, on George Street and Nathaniel Mills on West Norwegian Street. There were others whose names the writer can't recall, but the above will be sufficient to show some of the old citizens of Pottsville whose inner wants he and others tried to supply for a compensation.
And now it will be in order to return to the old farm and say how it was managed. We did not start out very extensively at first in the raising of truck, but having established ourselves in the Pottsville market, in a few years with the aid of John Meek, an English gardener whom we employed, we would sometimes cultivate 8 or 10 acres of truck, and by so doing would greatly astonish some of the old farmers of the county, who would at times come from quite a distance to see how it was done. In the general farming which my father did in connection with his truck raising he introduced many new innovations such as deep ploughing, liming the land heavily, cleaning out old fence rows, so that the fields would present a neater appearance, as well as preventing the spread of briars and noxious weeds. He may therefore, readily be classed amongst the pioneer farmers of the county whose influence has been felt in bettering its farming industry.
Our few nearest neighbors, each like my father, bore the name of John; namely, John Noecher, John Dewald, John Focht and John Berkheiser. In addition were George Reber, Daniel Deibert, Philip Moyer and Christian Kennedy. They were all kind neighbors and with the exception of John Berkheiser, who had no children of his own, but had two adopted daughters, were all of them blessed with large families. They were all good moral in men, industrious and good farmers as farming was understood at that time in the county but none of them, though all were intelligent, possessed a college education, and it was said of one of them that at the time the public school system was about being adopted he said it would never do, "for you see if every one gets an education, there will be nobody to do the work." Had we been placed in the same circumstances we might perhaps have come to the same conclusion, as owing to the rude implements in use, the want of commercial fertilizers, which had not been introduced to any great extent, they were forced to till a greater acreage, and they and their families had to work hard and for very long hours, in order to raise enough grain and other produce for their sustenance, consequently had little time to improve their intellect and attend to the outward appearance of their homes. This state of affairs was not, however, confined to our immediate neighborhood, but was general throughout the farming districts. It was no unusual thing in pausing along the roads to see briary fields, dilapidated fences, and rough buildings devoid of paint, though it was generally considered a poor farmer who was not able to paint his barn red, if nothing was painted.
In contrasting these farms with those of the present time we find that many changes have taken place for the better. Amongst some of the causes for these changes, it might be mentioned that after a time the timber on which so many of the farmers had depended for their income had become exhausted, and they were therefore forced to turn their attention to farming and truck raising, and selling their produce in Pottsville and other markets, like the parties I have already mentioned. The institution of the Schuylkill County Agricultural Society's Fairs were also an incentive to improve ways of farming, as the farmers could get together and discuss matters relative to their occupation, and by comparing notes could help each other. They also enabled them to become acquainted with the new farming implements and machinery that were introduced to facilitate and lighten their labor.
The first one of these fairs that was held, and which the writer attended, was at Lessig's Hotel on Centre Turnpike about half way between Schuylkill Haven and Orwigsburg. I think it was the fall of 1852. This fair was held in a small field on the same side of the road as the buildings, which were on the south side, and was just back of the large hotel barn. It was well attended by farmers as well as by citizens of Pottsville, Schuylkill Haven, Orwigsburg and other towns. On the opposite side of the Turnpike in a large field there was a circular race course nearly a mile in extent, upon which a great deal of racing was done.
My recollection of these races was a riding race by two brothers, Albert and George Burton, of Schuylkill Haven. It was a pretty even race until the horse that George was riding bolted the track and jumped with the rider over a fence into an adjoining field and as the rider was unhurt it caused much merriment. Albert kept his horse on the track to the starting point and of course won the race. One other incident which I recall was a driving race between some of the farmers fast horses and a scrawny looking old horse brought there just before starting, by a stranger who had him hitched in an old buggy, and as the harness was old and dilapidated, it caused a good many remarks by the bystanders who were amused at his appearance. The owner, however, paid no attention to the remarks made and offered to join in the race, and the parties concerned having accepted his offer he started along with several other horses and won the race. He was afterwards proved to be an old race horse.
The fairs after being held at Lessig's for two or three years were removed to a hill back of Orwigsburg in 1854 and were held very successfully at that place until 1868, when they were again removed to the flat ground at that place near the farm of Joshua L. Kellar, at which place they were held until quite recently, when they were abandoned.
After the fairs had been removed from Lessig's to Orwigsburg, many of the farmers in the west end of the county became dissatisfied on account of its being in an inconvenient place for them to attend, A new organization was therefore effected at which my father, John J. Paxson, was elected President, and Henry Bowman, of Schuylkill Haven, Secretary. The project of holding a fair at Schuylkill Haven having been greatly encouraged by the prominent business men of that place, a flat piece of ground very suitable for the purpose was procured from the P. & R. Railroad Co. on the west side of the road, and but a short distance from the depot, rendering it very convenient of access. This piece of ground was enclosed with a high board fence, and buildings were erected suitable for exhibition purposes, and a nearly circular race course of about three-fourths of a mile was laid out; and as the grounds contained a large, never failing spring of the purest water, it was then ready for business. The first of these fairs was opened on October 14, 1857 and were held there yearly until about 1867, when they were discontinued. These fairs proved to be very successful both financially and otherwise, having been attended largely by the citizens of Pottsville, Schuylkill Haven and the surrounding towns as well as by a great many farmers. The writer remembers very distinctly that two of Pottsville's prominent sporting men, Jack Temple, and Tom Dornan, were nearly always conspicuous when a horse race was going on and became very enthusiastic when their favorites were in the lead.
In moving to the county in 1849, the family found that the customs amongst the Pennsylvania Dutch were very different from what they were accustomed to in their old home. Even the games of the boys were different, and instead of playing corner ball, shinney, ticcley over marbles, etc. as we were accustomed to do, they had their game of "loch-balla." or hole ball, and their game called "kneps," in which there was a large amount of running. But as it has been so long a time since the writer participated in the games, he is unable further to describe them. The boys were also quite expert in jumping and wrestling. In the fall of the year it was customary to have corn huskings and apple butter parties in the evening's in which the writer and his brothers frequently participated. After husking the corn and pealing and cutting the apples was finished, a substantial meal was served, and the young men and maidens would join in playing games of various kinds until a late hour. In some of these games there was a good bit of marching accompanied by singing of a sentimental kind, such as;
"Charley is the boy for me, Charley is the dandy,
Charley loves to kiss the girls, because he can do it so handy."
and the boys present generally took care to follow the example of Charley, being different in that respect from those preachers who it is said do not always practice what they preach. Another favorite marching tune, was,
"Ohio, Ohio, my true love and I will go,
And we'll settle on the banks of the pleasant Ohio."
These couplets were not always sung in the purest of English, but they answered the purpose, and made just as much fun as if they had been rendered in the best of English.
Other customs which appeared strange to us were those of conducting funerals. The Bible says that it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, but they managed to have the two combined. As soon as death would occur, especially of an old person, the women of the neighborhood were called together to cook and bake and make all necessary preparations for the wants of the inward man on the day of the funeral, as it was customary for neighbors for quite a long distance around to attend, making the gathering very large. At a number of these funerals which the writer attended, he always found a unique character in a man called Johnny Blank. He was slightly demented, with a heavy and unusually portly build, was gifted with a ravenous appetite, and seemed to think that the chief end of man was to get a good square meal. He was well known in the surrounding neighborhood of his home, which was generally with some of the farmers in or near the Long Run valley, between Schuylkill Haven and Friedensburg. As he was in the habit of going to the house of mourning as soon as he heard of a death occurring, in order to cut wood and carry water and otherwise to assist the women folks in their preparation for the funeral clay, some of his many acquaintances would usually apprise him of the fact, soon after a death would occur, and he was generally prompt to tender his services; and as he had no regular home, would remain with the family until the funeral services were over. At the time of which I am speaking, hearses had not yet been introduced in the farming districts of the county. The coffin winch was generally a plain wooden one, was placed in one of the large farmer's wagons devoid of a cover, and the deceased family were seated in the same wagon, which was on some occasions drawn by three or four horses.
Several other facts which came under my observation during the four years' spent on the farm before beginning my life-work at the railroad shops, may be worth noting. One of these is the inferior quality of the stock that then prevailed, with the exception of horses in which some pride was taken; so much so that it was sometimes said that farmers cared more for their horses than they did for their wives. The cattle and hogs were of an inferior breed, were kept in an unthrifty condition, and were in quite a contrast to the better class of stock kept by the farmers of the present clay, Many of the swine were left to range the woods in the fall of the year to hunt acorns for their sustenance, and were consequently very thin and slender looking, with long snouts adopted to "root hog or die;" but they were exceedingly active, and would at times when chased jump over a fence four or five feet in height. One of my farmer relatives on a visit to OUT home, who lived in the vicinity of Philadelphia where better stock was kept, denominated them wind splitters.
There were, however, a few notable exceptions to this state of affairs, and one of the neighbors came to visit us a few days after our removal to the farm to acquaint us of that fact. After stating to my brothers and myself who he was and that he had come to pay us a friendly visit, one of the first things he told us was that shortly before he had killed a large fat hog that weighed over 300 pounds, and fearing we might doubt such an incredible thing, said, "Yes that is so, if you don't believe it, you can ask the butcher." As he reiterated this expression about a half dozen times during our conversation, for several years afterwards, my brothers and I when relating to each other any fact that might possibly contain any reason for doubt, would generally add, "If you don't believe it, you may ask the butcher."'
Amongst other things in which the farmers were very far behind those of the present time was their inattention to the raising of poultry and fruit. Though most of them kept large flocks of chickens they thought a chicken was a chicken and would always be chickens, and had no idea that there might be an improvement made in the quality of their stock by new and better varieties, and by so doing, making that industry more profitable. In regard to fruit, little of any kind was raised, with the exception of apples of which they generally had an abundant supply for the wants of the house, and to make cider and apple butter; but the newer and better kinds for market and table use had not yet been introduced, and it was not until after the large nurseries sent their agents through the county with their highly colored plates of new varieties of apples, pears, peaches, plums and grapes, that the farmers were induced to plant them and that after care had been exercised, the cultivation of fruit could be made both a pleasant and profitable industry.
A short time before our removal to the county, the county seat had been removed from Orwigsburg to Pottsville, and a new court house had been built which was in the same location as the present one. It was at the time considered a fine building and was greatly admired but it was small in comparison with the present stately building. The writer was present at one of the early sessions of the court and after waiting with a number of others for the opening of the court, was surprised to see a small hump-backed man walk up the steps and take the presiding Judge's chair. He proved to be Judge Hegins, the first judge in the new county seat, and who for many years filled that position in a very able manner, notwithstanding the fact that Schuylkill County was at that early day celebrated for its legal talent. Some of the lawyers practicing at the bar at that time which the writer can recall were Christopher Loeser, Francis W. Hughes, James H. Campbell, Charlemagne Tower, Benjamin Cummings, John Bamian, Robert M. Palmer, Edwin Owen Parry, Seth W. Geer, W. L. Whitncy, D. B. Green, who was later Judge Green, John P. Hobart, later Sheriff, and Decatur Nice. Among the younger lawyers there were two young men who had but recently been admitted to the bar at the time of a visit which my father made to the court a short time after our removal to the farm, to whom his attention was particularly attracted. On his return home he related that these two young men had been appointed by the court to conduct a case and that they had managed it in such an able and gentlemanly manner that he had no doubt that both would attain to high honors in their profession. One of these young men was Franklin E. Gowan, who afterwards became a noted attorney and a President of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company; and the other was George M. Dallas, who was a nephew of Geo. M. Dallas.. one of the Vice Presidents of the United States, and who is at the present time a Judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
About this time occurred two events that may be worthy of noting as a part of the early history of Schuylkill County. One was the building of a large dam by the Union Canal Company in Washington Township, for the storing of water which they could use in the canal at the time of a drought. The head or breast of the dam was near Merger's Mill, a short distance east of Pinegrove, and though the dam was not very wide, it extended along a valley eastwardly for four or five miles and was of considerable depth, holding a large amount of water for time of need, and was a good place for fishing. At the time that it was built it was considered quite an event and was much talked about in the country districts surrounding Pinegrove, which was the terminal point for shipping coal in the small boats used on that canal. This dam remained there for many years until the breast was swept away by a freshet, and was not rebuilt.
In August 1850, the breast of the lower Tumbling Run dam broke at the time of a freshet in the Schuylkill, and adding its water to the already high water in the valley, it swept everything before it in its path between Mt.Carbon and Schuylkill Haven. Although the loss of property was very great there was but one loss of life, that of the wife of John Conner, the Watchman at Conner's Crossing, who was drowned whilst attempting to rescue some of her property. At the time that the dam broke my father had walked a short distance from the house where he could see the high water which covered the flats at Schuylkill Haven, and could also see the water up the valley toward Pottsville for quite a distance. He saw that the water came rushing down the valley looking like an embankment several feet in height, carrying everything before it. Coming back to the house he told the family of what had occurred, and when we went out to view the scene we found all low ground around Schuylkill Haven covered with water, the bridge across the Schuylkill at that place washed away, and the water so high around the houses in the low grounds that families had to be removed from their homes in boats. The Toll House and a number of houses along the Centre Turnpike were entirely washed away, one of them being a large stone house occupied by Benjamin Kline, a boatman, who afterward lived for many years in Schuylkill Haven where he reared a large family. For a long distance the Centre Turnpike on the side of the mountain in the vicinity of what is now called Cape Horn was washed away and it was several months before it was put in condition for travel. In the meanwhile market wagons and other teams that had been accustomed to use that portion of the road to reach Pottsville were forced to drive through Cressona and over the mountain road leading from that place to Mt. Carbon, leaving to go down the ravine at that place striking Centre Street at Schmidt's brewery, as the upper road to Pottsville had not been made at that time. In time, however the Turnpike Company had the road put in condition for travel and had a new Toll House placed at Mt. Carbon between the railroad crossing and the bridge to take the place of the one washed away at Cape Horn, and Capt. Gray was installed therein to collect toll pennies from passing travelers.
These events which I have recorded may seem trivial, but they are facts which occurred under my own observation, and may serve to show that great progress has been made in the last half century in farming as well as in other occupations, and in spite of the prediction of the old gentleman who said, that if every one would be educated there would be no one to work. But perhaps the results have been partially fulfilled as anticipated, for at least a score of grandsons of my father and his neighbors on the Schuylkill Mountain have forsaken the hard work of the farm, to fill positions in life which would be easier, and perhaps more profitable. Amongst this number who are pretty well known, are James A. Noecker, attorney at law, Horace M. Reber, Ex-County Commissioner, and George M. Paxson, attorney at law.
Although this paper is already quite lengthy, yet as a matter of justice to the pioneer farmers heretofore mentioned, and whose influence contributed to much of the progress in the farming districts of the county, they being hard working, intelligent men, in love with their occupation, and who introduced many new modes of cultivating the soil, as well as new industries, I consider it a duty to record some of their former history. The first one of these to come to the county was William Riland, who moved from Montgomery County, Pa., in 1836, and located on a farm adjoining the Red Lion Hotel in Washington Township. He raised quite a large family of sons and daughters, and two of his sons and a son-in-law were soldiers in the Union army during our Civil War. He was himself a soldier in the war of 1812, of which fact he always felt proud. After retiring from the farm, he served as tax collector for Pottsville for several years, The brother of the above Samuel Riland, came to the county in April, 1839, and settled on a farm in Washington Township, near where his oldest son Albanus S. Riland now resides. This son is well known in the county as a progressive farmer and a very active Sunday school worker, having-served in the capacity of a Sunday school Superintendent for over a half century. Another son is Charles Riland who for many years has furnished chicken and waffle suppers for the citizens of Pottsville and vicinity. The home from which Samuel Riland removed was a farm in Montgomery County one mile north of Norristown. The same year, 1839, three brothers, Daniel, John and Charles Mullen, came from Montgomery County from the vicinity of the village of Blue Bell and settled on a small farm in the same neighborhood as the Riland families. Charles Mullen was quite an active politician, and was the Steward of the Schuylkill County Almshouse for a number of years. As the railroad was only finished to Reading at that date, the above parties moved their families in wagons, and shipped their household goods to Schuylkill Haven in canal boats. John Conrad and family moved from a small farm and mill in Chester County, near the village of Kimberton, which is three miles east of Phoenixville, and settled at Roeder's, Washington Township, where he conducted a grist and saw mill for one year, and then purchased the large farm and saw mill now owned and occupied by Levi Kline. At this place he died October 15, 1876 in the 72nd year of his age. Joshua L. Keller whose farm was near Orwigsburg, came from Greenwich Township, Berks County, in 1842, and at the time was unmarried. He taught school at Orwigsburg and vicinity until 1847, when he purchased the farm on which he afterward resided until his death, which occurred February 23, 1867.
As this paper has become more a of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania of scenes of the old times than a history, it may be well to relate what became of the different members of the Paxson family who pitched their tent on the top of Schuylkill Mountain in 1849. My father John J. Paxson, after living on the farm the remainder of his life, died on March 26th, 1873, in the 68th year of his age, well satisfied in his having been permitted to live and work so long on the farm he loved so well. A short time before his death he made the remark, that the old farm had seemed to him like an earthly paradise. The writer's mother, Louisa Heston Paxson died on the same day of the month, March 26th, 1899, living just 26 years after my father, in the 98th year of her age. On account of her father's record, she had been elected as a member of Marion Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, and a number of them were present at her funeral. Edward H. Paxson my second brother after several years of farm and commercial life in the county returned in 1872 to his native place Hestonville and after continuing six years at that place in the feed business he engaged with H. F. Brunner & Co., who have an extensive coal yard in Philadelphia, and he is still with them. Jonathan and Joseph P. Paxson conducted a milk dairy in partnership on the old farm for several years, but Joseph, in November, 1866, moved with his family to a farm two miles from Norfolk, Va., to engage in the truck business; and he and his large family of children and grandchildren still reside at that place. His wife, who is still living, was Frances Jane Wynkoop, daughter of Gen. George C. Wynkoop, of Pottsville. Jonathan was married twice, first to Martha Wynkoop and then to Louisa Wynkoop, both of whom were also daughters of Gen. Wynkoop. A few years after Joseph had moved to Norfolk, Jonathan having lost his two wives by death also went with his son and daughter to the same place where he died Dec. 12th, 1900. William J, Paxson, my parents' fifth son lived but a short time on the farm as hiss death occurred June 8th, 1857~ from the result of injuries received by the market wagon breaking and the horses running away whilst going down one of the steep hills of Pottsville. The remaining brother, George Paxson, after living with his brother Joseph for several years on the large farm of Sheriff Rausch's, situated on the Little Schuylkill branch of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, removed with his family to the farm of Dr. F. H. Shannon, where he conducted a milk dairy for a while, taking his milk daily to Pottsville. After remaining on this farm, which was situated at Allison's Station on the Mine Hill branch of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, for a number of years, he engaged in the florist business in Schuylkill Haven for a short time, and then conducted a store at Pinegrove, this county for twenty years. Finally, in February, 1898, he drifted back to what our old Dutch friend of the Turnpike, whom he met when first entering the county as a small boy, denominated "Orricksburg," and at that place he is now conducting a general store.
I wish to say to my hearers that I have tried to outline only a few of the changes in farm life since the early days of Schuylkill County. I have endeavored to show the progress of agriculture from the time in which our fathers used the sickle of Boaz as the reaper, to the time when genius has developed the mower and reaper, the self-binder, and now the great reaper thresher and winnower as it tramps over the western prairies changing the bearded wheat stalk into wheat in the bag at the rate of hundreds of bushels a day, and leaving nothing for the gleaner.
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