Historic Irish Settlement – Stowell, PA

~Originally published in Lest-We-Forget Wyoming County Pioneers, Vol. 11 No. 1 (15 September 1991) p18

The following interesting article, written by a person who chooses to employ the pseudonym “An Old Resident”, is furnished this newspaper at a most appropriate time, for the breaking of ground in the “Irish Settlement” was coincidental with the setting off of Wyoming county — both taking place in April 1842. It is published with our sincere thanks to the writer. — Editor, Wyoming Countian 10 April 1942

Although there are not many left to tell about the early settlers of Stowell (in those days it was “The Irish Settlement”), it seems a shame to let anniversaries pass without recollecting some facts our forefathers have preserved for us.

In the forties and fifities England govered Ireland with excessive force. During these years of famine and of attempted revolution the population of Ireland was reduced to nearly two million by starvation, bloodshet and immigration.

For several years the Irish immigrants landed at our seaports annually in large numbers. At the time of this immigration the North Branch Canal was being constructed through the country and this brought a great many of these immigrants in this direction.

When the work of the canal stopped those emplyed had to become engaged in other pursuits to maintain themselves and their families. Among those thus affected was John KINSLEY, who a few years prior had come from Ireland to adept this country as his home. He had a wife and several young children and had been employed on the canal at the point then being opposite Scottsville.

Some of the men went to the Lehigh region where they found work, but Mr. KINSLEY, desiring a place where could make his permanent home, first visited Dushore, where an acquaintance named John DOYLE lived but for some reason he failed to make a purchase there.

Later he purchased 150 acres at $2.50 per acre from Judge Lemon, but afterwards Mr. KINSLEY sold 50 acres to his brother, William, this part ling near “French Creek”.

The First Settlers

It was April 1842, (just one hundred years ago) that Mr. KINSLEY began to occupy his new possession, thus making him the first to break ground in the “Irish Settlement”. He erected a long house which became his home for many years. Richard KILLDUFF came in the fall of the same, 1842. Other settlers who soon followed were Michael CORCORAN, Philip BYRNE, Barney RILEY, Patrick CONNERTY, William O’RILEY, Paul CARROLL and Richard CRUSE.

Peter HOPE, or “Old Peter”, as he was called (to distinguish him from Peter F.), came in 1844. Bernard RILEY came directly from Ireland in 1844. Patrick STAFFORD came in about 1846 from Pottsville. About ten years later he was killed by a falling tree and his death case great gloom over the new settlement. John BYRNE and his wife arrived from the old country in 1849.

Every settler in the new country had to endure great hardships, but upon these Irish men and women were put greater ones than upon others, because of the resentment of the people in the surrounding country to their Catholic faith. Also they came from a cleared up country, and one of mild winters. At home their severest winter compares with our March.

These men went into the forest and laboriously felled the trees, and husband and wife together rolled up the logs into houses. They built not barns, but cattle pens. The spaded a garden patch among the roots, sowed grain and raked it in. With them at first teams and plows and harrows were but dreamed luxuries. Then think of the terrors of the first winter to them — the howling winds, the drifting snow, the impossible roads, the empty pork barrels. See the family as its members sat shivering around the unwarming file. What a change from home. Their poor cows suffered also; some died of starvation. Michael COYLE kept his alive by doling out to her straw from his bed.

The first frame house in Stowell was erected by William KINSLEY, brother of John. The building was erected in 1844. Though not a pretention dwelling, it answered the purpose of those early times. Its location was between St. Anthony’s church and the rectory. The old dwelling stood for years, but in recent years it was torn down when it became necessary to enlarge the cemetery.

The First Marriage

The first marriage was that of Peter HOPE and Miss Mahala HATFIELD. The event took place in Towanda, July 5th, 1844. Rev. Father O’RIELLY united the twain.

The First Birth

The first birth occurred on Sunday evening in Oct. 1844, when by a singular coincidence a son was born to Mr & Mrs John KINGSLEY and a daughter to Mr and Mrs Bernard RILEY, the former named James and the latter Mary. In later years Mary married Michael CULLEN.

The First Death

The first death occurring in the “The Irish Settlement” was that of Robert GOLDEN who bought land of Judge LEMON. It was on the road to Sharptown and is now the property of Peter CORCORAN. Mr. GOLDEN was unmarried and having no home, was taken to that of John KINSLEY, where he was cared for during his illness. His burial was at Dushore.

The first burial at Stowell was that of Miss Elizabeth COSTELLA, a sister of Mrs. Owen BRADY. It occurred in 1859. Miss COSTELLA was a charming young girl who died shortly after arriving from Ireland. Her death cast a general gloom over the entire settlement. This was the beginning of the cemetery adjoining St. Anthony’s church, which is now filled. A few years ago it became necessary to enlarge it.

Prior to the erection of St. Anthony’s church the spiritual wants of the people were first attended to by Rev. Vincent O’RIELLY. In 1847 the pastor of Towanda too charge. The older children of “The Settlement” were confirmed by Bishop NEUMAN in a little old school house which stood near KILLDUFF’S. About 1852 Rev. Father MCNAUGHTEN was made the first resident pastor of Dushore and the mission of “The Settlement” was placed in his charge. Mass was said once a month in the little old school house previously mentioned.

Ground for a church had been given by John KINSLEY and in about 1859 the present building was erected, and occupied in 1860. Although they had a church, it was still a mission of Dushore, attended reularly once a month, until in the seventies when they had mass every other Sunday. On the off Sundays it has been known the some men and women walked to Dushore to fulfill their religious duty.

From 1858 to 1861 St. Basil’s Church, Dushore, was attended by the Fanciscan Friars Minor, from the foundation at Allegany, NY.

Father William CARROLL was rector from 1861 to 1863. Father KAIER came in 1863. He was in charge until Nov. 1890, when Rec. P.C. HURST was sent to St. Anthony’s Church. He was the first resident pastor of St. Anthony’s. Since that day it has had its own priest.

The people in those days were always ready with helping hands to help one anothers, in sickness or when one had some particularly hard or difficult task to perform.

This is only a bried sketch of “The Irish Settlement” written from old statements from our forefathers.

~An Old Resident

Read more on the PA Sullivan County website: Settlers XXVI: John Kinsley’s Irish Settlement: 1830-1986