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Excerpts from the History of Laceyville, PA 1776-1976

"Laceyville known as Braintrim in its earliest days, was one of the first towns settled in the county. In fact, before the Revolution there had been only two attempts at clearing the area — one at the mouth of the Tuscarora Creek by John Depew and one almost two miles below, at Black Walnut, by Frederick Vanderlip. On the latter was erected a tavern which soon became a favorite stopping point for hunters and trappers. Here, too, General Sullivan's army encamped on the night of August 4, 1779, on its march up the river.

Undoubtedly spring rains, with their subsequent flooding of the land, influenced the Black Walnut settlers to move to higher ground, and the elevation at Laceyville proved much more desirable. In ten years' time immigrants from Connecticut began to locate along the river, and by 1794 a dozen or more families had constructed permanent homes in this wilderness. Prominent among these settlers were Mark Keeney and his sons, Joshua and Richard (Keeney's Ferry), many of whose descendants have been life-long residents.

Isaac Lacey was also among the pioneers, locating on a farm on Lacey Street, named after him. Samuel Sturdevant settled in Black Walnut on the land previously occupied by Frederick Vanderlip, where a few years later he built a framed dwelling, spitting from pine logs the lumber for finishing it and dressing it with his own hands.

There were others who contributed much to the development of this region: Henry B. Champion, first Justice of the Peace; Benjamin Edwards, schoolteacher and peddler of the Yankee clocks; General Bradley Wakeman, Associate Judge and nominated by the Whigs for State Representative; William Thompson, blacksmith; and Levi Gregory, carpenter and joiner by trade.

Because of the character of the area was still wilderness and its settlers were determined to work the land and prosper, it was only natural that provisions were made to carry out their cause. Samuel Sturdevant, Jr., built the first sawmill as early as 1797 near the mouth of Tuscarora Creek. Two others were constructed a few years later. The first gristmill was also erected by Sturdevant about 1819. His son, Peter Sturdevant, built a wool carding and cloth-dressing establishment on Tuscarora Creek about 1830, operating it for several years.

The little band of settlers, however, was not without outside communication. A post route had been established from Wilkes-Barre to Tioga via Black Walnut in 1803, mail being carried at first on foot once in two weeks. By 1810, Conrad Teter began carrying the mil by coach once a week over this route, and that system continued for many years. A post-office was finally established at Black Walnut and was maintained by Daniel Sterling.

Nor had the need for education been overlooked during these days. Joseph Gamble opened a day school as early as 1813 in a log dwelling at the west end of Laceyville; the first school actually built was on Lacey Street in 1824 and its first teacher was George Gamble.

The region had at least two resident physicians. Dr. Royal Robinson, who was a native of Amsterdam, New York, set up practice about 1823 and continued until his death in 1841. Dr. Edward Crandall arrived about the same time but left the area in 1830. Five others subsequently served the people in the practice of medicine.

The first death among Laceyville's residents was that of a child named Baker. It occurred about 1793 and the burial took place on Lacey Street, site of the local cemetery since that time. Black Walnut had its own burial ground, begun in 1795 at the death of Sarah, wife of Samuel Sturdevant.

The first marriage ws performed September 18, 1788, when Mercy Keeney was wedded to Richard Keeney, a very distant relative. Their son, Chester Keeney, was the first recorded birth, December 10, 1789.

Elihu Hall, the town's first carpenter and joiner built the earliest framed dwelling for James Smith. That house today stands opposite the Laceyville School building.

The first preacher was Reverend Jacob Drake (Baptist) who ministered occasionally at Black Walnut and elsewhere in the area in 1792. Others who served likewise prior to any real church organization were Davis Dimmock, Griffin Lewis, and Joel Rogers." 

Compiled by the Laceyville Book Committee
Mrs. Betty Jayne, Chairperson
Mrs. Anna Tyler
Mrs. Margaret Long
Mrs. Marjorie Hinds
Mr. Herbert Williams

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