Thursday, March 12, 2009

“This is the beginning of Bradford County,”

I love stories like this:
Local landowner Todd Kent Campbell couldn’t believe his eyes when he looked at some maps that were contained within the archives of the Tioga Point Museum.

The maps that he discovered were the famous warrant maps drawn up by Zephin Flower back in the 1700s, which laid the foundation for all the land within Bradford County.

That’s not all that Campbell found when he was doing research on the deed to the former Cohen property in Athens Township — he also found the warrant maps developed by Flower’s grandson Z.F. Walker, and also Flower’s great-grandson N.F. Walker.

Historical significance

Every deed for every property in Bradford County is based off the original warrant maps created by Zephin Flower, said Campbell.


This discovery occurred approximately 10 days ago when Campbell was in the midst of researching the deeds for the former Cohen property.

Those old deeds kept referencing the surveys of a “Z.F. Walker,” he related.

“Right up into the adjoining lands, even into 2003, they’re still calling out ‘Z.F. Walker’ because that is what their deeds say,” he said.

Campbell said he went to the county register and recorder’s office, and couldn’t find any copies of those referenced survey maps.

He then contacted local surveyors and asked them if they knew where he could locate these Z.F. Walker survey maps. He was told “No” and “They would be a great find if you found them.”

“So I kept muddling along and I came here to the museum, and I asked if they had any pictures of the Interstate Fairgrounds (which became the Cohen property),” he said.

Campbell said he asked about Z.F. Walker, and the museum’s computers referenced an article on the individual.

Campbell then inquired about any old maps that the museum may have. The museum aide answered in the affirmative and went back into the archives.

“I helped her carry out a big box (and) the first one I opened up, I about fell over — because there (was a) Z.F. Walker map,” he said.

Aside from the local significance, this story is important because it reminds us all that even the small local museums can be repositories of untold information. Sitting in boxes in archives all over the country, unresearched and forgotten, may just be all sorts of significant information that many think has been lost forever.

What became Bradford County, Pennsylvania was anchored at the junction of the Susquehanna and Chemung Rivers, at a place called Fort Tioga, just south of the current Borough of Athens. It was a "frontier outpost" set up by the British to keep an eye on the Iroquois in the western reaches of the colonies of New York and Pennsylvania. The early Americans took it easily, and Gen. Sullivan, after his atrocious conduct in some early battles against the British, was sent there to drive the Seneca and Mohawk away from settlers (these two members of the Iroquois Confederacy were being bribed by the British to rampage through settlement communities) and did not exactly distinguish himself. He did manage to push them as far north and west near to what is now Geneseo, NY before he turned back.

I'm sure there are many who shrug their shoulders and say, "So what?" As the article makes clear, however, the physical layout of Bradford County is rooted in these early warrant maps. It is one of the sources for its current look. In a very real sense, it is a first pass as Bradford County's birth. As someone with deep roots in Bradford County (my grandmother's family settled in Wysox, PA after the Revolutionary War, and that family has members there to this day) I would dearly love to see these warrant maps. As someone who values history and recognizes the importance of every bit of material that aides in understanding how we came to be who we are today, these are priceless pieces of paper.

Many thanks to Tioga Point Museum for holding on to these documents. I hope they manage to get them online, once they are thoroughly reviewed.

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