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Montgomery Historical Society reveals 125 year history

By Staff | Mar 27, 2012

Glenda Heasley, Paul Decker and Doug Snyder with one of several memorabilia items displayed at the March 19 meeting of the Montgomery Area History Society (MAHS).

MONTGOMERY – Noting native Indian tribes as early inhabitants of the valley, Montgomery Area Historical Society President, Doug Snyder presented a synopsis of events including the incorporation of Montgomery Borough in 1887.

“First there was the Iroquoian speaking Susquehannocks and then the Monsee tribes of the Delaware Indians that were part of the eventual six nations of the Iroquois,” Snyder said.

Cornelius Low/Lowe of New Jersey was mentioned as an early white settler whose five year residence abruptly ended the same year his family arrived with “The Great Runaway” of 1778.

Snyder said Low never returned, but some of his children eventually did with an unnamed great grandson taking up a portion of the original 320 leased acres.

In 1802, Michael Sechler came to the area. He was a potter by trade and while here served as a Justice of the Peace. The progenitor of many current area residents, his claim to fame was as George Washington’s body guard during the Revolutionary War. Sechler and his wife are buried in Clinton Baptist Cemetery at the north edge of town. The Sechler’s parented eight children.

Additional information came from namesake Michael Sechler of Turbotville, in attendance at the meeting. He attributes Rebecca Low as Sechler’s wife and a daughter of Cornelius Low. Being 17 years old at the time of their 1797 marriage, Rebecca was 18 years her husband’s junior.

In his research, the current Sechler used a time line to determine that during the runaway, Rebecca would have been one year old when her Low family fled to the safety of Fort Augusta at Sunbury.

Snyder went on to tell of additions and changes for the borough enumerating several names. Examples being John G. Huntingdon, owner of the wool carding mill near Jonathan Bower’s sawmill.

Levi Houston, owner of what became known as the Montgomery Machine Shop, producing woodworking machines sold all over the world.

In 1888, Montgomery Table Works was organized with the partnership of C. W. Fehr, H. M. Weller and William Decker. In 1903 Decker became sole owner and two years later added a new brick building making it the largest structure in size and employment in the borough.

With reference to Clinton Township which surrounds the borough, its name is attributed to DeWitt Clinton, a New York State governor in 1825.

The first railroad is said to have been the Philadelphia and Erie, coming through town in 1853.

It was on these rails on September 16, 1901, that the funeral train transported President William McKinley’s body to be interred in Canton, Ohio.

Showing respect for our third assassinated President, flags were draped at half mask, borough businesses closed for one hour, and townspeople lined the tracks throwing flowers as the train cars passed.

Although a Post Office had been established in 1836, it wasn’t until 1887 that the town’s founding fathers petitioned the Court of Lycoming County for incorporation. According to Snyder, “Montgomery is the youngest borough in the county.”

The first burgess was Dr. Alem Price Hull, a physician and native of Washingtonville. After serving in the Civil War, the doctor came to Montgomery in 1873.

Among several memorabilia items displayed at the meeting was a framed copy of a Montgomery High School diploma brought by Glenda Heasley, and penned in the name of her great-aunt, Genevieve Harman.

The May 1912 document was signed by Principal George A. Ferrell (whose name is affixed to the school in Picture Rocks), and president, M. L. Yarrison, along with secretary, S. A. Bastian, treasurer, A. J. Housel, and directors L. V. Waltman and James L. Miller.

Heasley shared that a tragedy had occurred in the Harman family just four years prior to the student’s graduation. In 1908, Genevieve’s father, William Harman, had been killed while employed as a worker on the Rockville Train Bridge, a span over the Susquehanna River many miles to the south. At that time, Genevieve was 14, and her brother Paul Harman (Heasley’s grandfather), was age 9.

Additional information provided by Heasley occurred about ten years ago when she found on e-bay, the original copy of the borough’s incorporation papers and donated a copy to the borough office. A discrepancy in what was previously thought to be the March signing date is not the 27th, but March 21st, 1887. The names of numerous petitioners can be found on the document.

Among the 30 plus in attendance at the recent meeting was Paul Decker, at age 91 deemed the eldest borough native present. Currently a Williamsport resident, he’d spent his youth in Montgomery before going off to war.

Snyder said the borough’s official celebration will be held August 9, 10 and 11, 2012, with the public invited to the MAHS museum located in the former Adam Print Shop in the lower level of the library.