Tioga County Historical Society

Historical Societies: News and Highlights presents news and information about Pennsylvania's regional and county historical societies.

The Tioga County Historical Soci­ety. granted a charter on September 5, 1904. was formally organized April 10, 1905. At that time a committee was appointed to secure members, one hundred of whom signed up before any dues were collected.

Very active during its first ten years, the society presented historical talks which were published in a series of bulletins; collected books, pamphlets and relics; and purchased book cases. These form the nucleus of the society holdings to this day. However, during the period 1914 through 1940 the society became less active and ex­perienced alternating periods of ac­complishment and dormancy between 1940 and 1970. In 1971, as the Ameri­can Bicentennial approached, the soci­ety sponsored the reprinting of the 1883 and 1897 histories of Tioga County. Some of the more recent projects have been a 240-page pictorial record of Wellsboro during the turn of the century (1880-1920) and the re­printing of Wellsboro, The First 25 Years by Charles G. Webb.

Growth during the past ten years rendered the museum facilities at the Green Free Library inadequate so ef­forts were made to find a new home. A building, owned by the county and located next to the courthouse, was leased and appropriately named the Robinson House after its former occupants. The building’s early history and architectural features qualified it to be placed both on the State Inventory and the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1813, the central portion of the Robinson House, an example of early American architecture, was known as the “Cheney Tavern.” During the late 1840s, John L. Robin­son, founder of the First National Bank of Wellsboro. expanded the front portion of the building; the classical Greek influence of graceful columns distinguishes this addition. Mr. Robin­son then used the enlarged house as his residence – hence its present name.

Furthering its historical interest, the Robinson House was the scene of one of the more sensational crimes of the 1800s. On the night of September 16, 1874, seven bank robbers, unable to open the safe in the bank next to the Robinson dwelling, aroused the occupants and forced the eldest son to open the bank vault. The robbers tied the family members to chairs in the upstairs bedroom before escaping with about SS0,000. Eventually, two of the robbers were caught and some of the loot recovered.

With the assistance of grants from local foundations, individual contribu­tions and volunteer labor, the Robinson House opened as the Tioga County Historical Society Museum and Genealogical Library on May 4, 1980. In accordance with its charter. the society is dedicated to serving the public by collecting, preserving and making available through the museum displays, the artifacts and documents pertaining to the heritage of Tioga County. Closed during the winter months, the museum and library opens again in the spring with hours from 2 to 5 P.M. on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. No admission is charged, but donations are gratefully accepted. Special tours can be arranged for school groups, boy and girl scout troops and other interested organiza­tions. The public is invited to pro­grams on local history and can receive meeting notices sent out prior to the monthly meetings.

To foster interest in the heritage of Tioga County, a historical and geneal­ogical column entitled “Journey to Day before Yesterday” appears in the local newspapers. It consists of three sections – Genealogical or Historical Mini-Sketches, Genealogical Tips of the Week and Queries. Also, frequently on Sundays, individual and group family research workshops are held. In addition, there is a tape library available for public use, an oral history program is underway and lists of vol­unteers with a knowledge of historical data are maintained. In the library there are family and historical files, as well as a growing collection of geneal­ogical reference works. In order to up­date and expand its holdings, the society welcomes further material on the county. Any interested individuals with questions about programs or ad­ditional information for society files should address all communication to the Tioga County Historical Society Box 724, Wellsboro 16901.

 

Forrest W. Watkins is president of the Tioga County Historical Society.