This account of Milltown was written in the 1930s. The author who is unknown used Early Times on the Susquehanna, Old Tioga Point and Early Athens History, Bradsby’s History of Bradford County and The Evening Times Industrial Edition 1926 as sources for the work.
The early history of Milltown is very closely linked with the early history of Athens and Tioga Point.
Late in the century, about 1799, a street was laid out in the north of Athens on the ridge extending to the state line and to a settlement which was called Milltown. The settlement received its name because of the many mills located there.
In the” History of Bradford County,” by Bradsby, one of the earliest names mentioned in the history of Milltown is that of Prince Bryant who ran a saw and grist mill. An ancient record taken from the history reads as follows: “Athens and Tioga Point was laid out in 1786 by John Jenkins under a grant to Prince Bryant and others from the Connecticut Susquehanna Company and May 9, 1786 Milltown between said town and state line.
Two years later, 1788, we read in a journal one John Shepard bought Prince Bryant’s mills. This was the first purchase of land made by Mr. Shepard and was under Connecticut title.
Mr. John Shepard was a native of Connecticut, born April 17, 1765. He was a nephew of Capt. Simon Spalding and came to Tioga Point about 1784 and clerked in Hollenback’s stores.
In 1790 he married Anna, daughter of Judge Gore of Sheshequin and they settled on a farm at Milltown which he also bought of John Jenkins under Connecticut title. This purchase contained about 140 acres. They lived there for more than 20 years. In 1796 he purchased of T. Thomas 1000 acres in the state of New York beginning 52 rods east of the 59th mile stone. This purchase embraced all of Waverly and Factoryville and several miles back on the hill. His first purchase embraced the land on both sides of the Cayuta or Shepard’s creek. The old deed spoke of it as a “gore” of land containing 600 acres. Mr. Shepard paid about $2.50 per acre. In this purchase the grist mill was an important industry being the only one within 50 miles. It was run day and night and grain was brought in from a distance of fifty miles or more.
The story is told that Mr. Shepard was returning from a trip to New York City in a buggy, was overtaken by a heavy snowstorm 150 miles from home, which made it necessary for him to exchange his buggy for a sleigh.
In the transaction more money was required than Mr. Shephard was prepared to pay, so he said, “I will give you my note.” The proprietor hesitated as Mr. Shepard was an entire stranger. So, Mr. Shepard said “Have you ever heard of Shepard’s Mills?” “Oh yes,” said the man. “Well I am the owner, “and the proprietor, “Take the sleigh and give me your note.”
In addition to the saw and grist mills also added by Mr. Shepard were a fulling mill, oil mill and a distillery. In 1798 the grist mill burned, and the story is told that people had to go to Wilkes-Barre with their grain, that being the nearest mill.
Mr. Shepard in 1804, began his big house. Just the exact location of this is unknown. Old residents of Milltown point at several different locations.
Early settlers in Milltown included a physician, a tanner, a shoemaker, a blacksmith, a carpenter and a deer leather dresser. These with the mills and the stores and the public house made Milltown a thriving business place. The cemetery, the Rest, was laid out as it is now. A schoolhouse was erected on the same lot. The plot of ground was given by Mr. Shepard.
Dr. Amos Prentice, uncle of Mr. Shepard, was the first teacher, A house was built for him by Mr. Shepard, known as the Elm Cottage.
A drug store was built in connection with it and was the first in the valley, Dr. Prentice taught school and practiced medicine for several years. He died very suddenly in 1805.
Dr. Spring succeeded Dr. Prentice. Dr. Spring was called the “traveling drug store.” He covered a territory of fifty miles. He also taught school in the schoolhouse on the burying ground lot. In 1808 this schoolhouse burned and about this time a man by the name of Josiah Crocker from Lee, Mass., with his family settled in Milltown and engaged with Mr. Shepard in the fulling mill on the Thomas tract.
Mr. Crocker had a large family of sons and daughters and his first object was to have the school rebuilt. The new schoolhouse was on the opposite side of the road and was used as a church.
The second building was in use many years when it burned. The next school was built at the lower end of Milltown, corner of Cayuta and Shepard streets in the township. It was deeded to Milltown for school and religious purposes.
A later prominent family in Milltown was Samuel Wheelock’s. The Wheelock’s were influential citizens and their memory was perpetuated by a beautiful memorial chapel erected by their descendants. It was later destroyed by fire. Other names are Elwell, Perry, Rice, Thomas, Lother, Stone, Col. Levi Wolbrook and Morgan, who was an expert potter and made bowls and milk pans out of red clay and decorated them in yellow.
Contemporary with Mr. Shepard were Adam and Celestia Cranse. They had a large family. Many are buried in Rest Cemetery. He owned 500 acres of land and established a ferry near the state line. He was also superintendent of the shad fishery as late as the winter of 1814, which was a long cold winter with much snow. Wolves bears and panthers were driven down from the mountains in search of food. People were much in fear of them and did not walkout much in the daytime and never at night.
Henry Farley is a founding member and a current board member of the Sayre Historical Society. He is also president of the Bradford County Historical Society.