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Mountain Home Magazine

Looking Back

Apr 17, 2014 05:18PM

Our decisions and actions flow like water in the river of time.

It was a dry and dusty day when Ira Mudge and his wife Asenath Chrissey, called Sena, trudged up the waterless Corey Creek bed from the area later known as Mansfield to higher ground in the wilderness of Tioga County, Pennsylvania. Rocky as the creek bed was, it was still easier traveling than struggling through the narrow trails in the surrounding brush and forest along the shore. It was 1806, and the newly formed county was only two years old. They were heading to its far eastern edge.

Ira and Sena had traveled south from Unadilla, New York, on the expectation of good farmland in newly opened areas in Northern Pennsylvania. Ira was twenty-nine years old, born in the year of the new nation’s formation, and Sena was thirty when they headed into unknown territory. They followed the Susquehanna River from Unadilla, all the way through the settlement that would become Binghamton, to Tioga Point. We don’t know their exact route. Did they follow the Chemung River west from there and then south into Pennsylvania at Lawrenceville and the Tioga River to the area later known as Mansfield? Or did they cut across on land trails?

Even Asa Mann, who is credited with leaving his name in the later borough of Mansfield, had only been in the area for two years and had probably cleared no more than part of an acre of land. It’s likely that they met and talked to Asa Mann and his family as they made the final leg of their long journey. Ira and Sena settled just west of the farmstead of Asa Mann’s sister,

Anna Mann, and her husband, Sam Reynolds, in the area now known as State Road in Sullivan Township. In 1810, the first census in which Tioga County had a separate identity, there were fewer than 1,700 people in the entire county. Conversation and news were welcome.

Sena and Ira brought with them everything they owned on an ox-drawn wagon. They may have had a plow, a saw, some carpentry tools, food for the journey, one or two cooking pots, and some seeds to start farming. They’d been married five years. Eldest son Cornish, named for his grandmother Mary Cornish, was three years old. Calista was two years old, and baby Aurilla was born only weeks before the journey began. Travel was slow.

Lumber was plentiful, but sawmills were few and distant. They put up a crude log cabin near a spring and started clearing land for farming. On the average, small homesteads could clear one acre per year for tilling. They probably had a cow for milk, maybe a pig, and some chickens. The oxen pulled the plow and hauled off felled timber, which was burned for fuel or just to get it out of the way.

Sena gave birth to five more children: Sena in 1808, Ira in 1809, Hannah in 1811, Israel in 1813, and Amos, the youngest, in 1815. And then, on the 25th day of July 1819, she died. She was buried in what is now the State Road Cemetery. Except for a neighbor’s child buried earlier, she was the first to be interred in that now-large cemetery. Ira was buried next to her in 1822. They were forty-four and forty-six years old at the time of their deaths and left eight children aged seven to eighteen to carry on in the barely tamed wilderness.

In the first Sullivan Township election after formation in 1819, Ira was elected supervisor with twenty- eight votes. Considering that only men voted at the time, this gives us an idea of the population. There were forty (all male) taxpayers at township formation, so either twelve did not vote or did not vote for Ira. William Luddington was also elected supervisor at the same time with thirty-two votes.

Although their lives here were brief, the impact of their migration extends to the present. Two centuries later, in 2013, Tom Robbins, a fourth great grandson of Ira and Sena, is a supervisor in Sullivan Township. The author of this article, Joyce M. Tice, a third great granddaughter, is Sullivan Township auditor. Both are on the township planning commission. Bill Chamberlain, a third great grandson, is also on the planning commission.

William Luddington, the other first supervisor, left his mark, too. Gayle Morrow, a Mountain Home columnist, and her sister, Linda, who is a rural mail carrier in Sullivan Township, are among his local descendants.

Aurelia and Israel eventually ended up in Iowa, but the other Mudge children remained in the area and have hundreds or even thousands of descendants living in Tioga and surrounding counties in the present day.

Joyce M. Tice is the creator of the Tri- Counties Genealogy and History Web site (www.joycetice.com/jmtindex.htm) and the new History Center.