Youngsville celebrating bicentennial

Youngsville was incorporated in 1849.

So why is the bicentennial being celebrated this weekend?

Alex Watkins, in a Warren County Historical Society event held on Thursday, answered that question and many others during “Warren County Tales” held at the Wilder Museum in Irvine.

“(It’s) amazing how interesting the town of Youngsville is,” Watkins said, noting that the land was occupied by the Seneca Indians at the time of European settlement.

The story of the town goes back to the Revolutionary War. The colonial government did not have enough money to pay the army all it was due, so it elected to offer land grants to veterans as payment for their service.

Watkins explained that Gen. William Irvine was sent to survey the land around Erie and was given 3,000 acres at the confluence of the Brokenstraw Creek and the Allegheny River, 2,000 acres in the Harborcreek area as well as plots in Erie as his payment.

But the land grant had to be developed settled and cleared or the federal government could take it back. So, in 1803, a man by the name of Matthew Young was hired to oversee the farm.

Young had also served in the militia during the Revolutionary War and received 400 acres as a result.

According to Watkins, while Young was a tenant farmer for the Irvine family, he didn’t stay in that station. Watkins explained that Young, who either emigrated from Scotland or was born in southwestern Pennsylvania (no one is quite sure), was the first school teacher of the settlement that now bears his name, teaching many of the settlers how to read and write.

Watkins explained that in the early days of Youngsville, many of the residents signed contracts by simply marking an “X.” As the settlement grew over time, Watkins said that the record shows that many of the residents started to be able to sign their own names.

Young was also the first treasurer of Warren County and “kept impeccable books,” he added. Part owner of five sawmills as well, Watkins said, “Matthew Young did well for himself.”

Watkins said that Young was exhumed and reinterred at the Odd Fellow Cemetery when it was formed.

But all of this doesn’t explain why the bicentennial is this year.

Watkins explained that the Centennial Committee met in the early 20th century to figure out when the centennial should be celebrated. They reviewed an 1813 letter from a businessman in Sugar Grove to a trader who suggested that he change his route because of the settlement on Young’s land.

Coupled with the incorporation of the first church, what is now the Methodist church but at the time was the Methodist Episcopal, the centennial committee settled on 1813.

The borough was not incorporated officially until 1849 and Archibald Tanner, a business partner of Young, was named the first burgess.