Simeon Pfoutz: Lord of the Manor
|Simeon Pfoutz, 1780-1856|
Last week's post about Kettle Creek State Park seemed to interest a lot of readers (I had no idea my blog was read by so many people from Clinton County!). I recieved several emails from readers who wanted me to share more stories about this area; in particular, they wanted to learn more about Leidy Township and one of its earliest settlers, Simeon Pfoutz.
Simeon Pfoutz, as it turns out, was one interesting character.
Pfoutz first arrived in the region in the spring of 1813, accompanied by Paul Shade. Although both men were from Perry County, they shared a common dream of establishing a farm in the pristine wilderness. They explored Kettle Creek and worked their way upstream until they found a location that would make a suitable farm. When they found the ideal spot, Shade and Pfoutz cleared the area and built a log cabin.
By summer the two men managed to clear several acres of farmland and, in the fall, they returned by canoe to Perry County in order to bring back their families. The following spring they returned to Kettle Creek, bringing with them Pfoutz's wife, Susannah, and their young son, Simon. In the spring of 1815, Mrs. Pfoutz gave birth to a daughter, Mattie, who became the first white child born on Kettle Creek. Mattie would later wed Isaac Summerson, and she lived to the age of 74.
It has been written that Simeon Pfoutz, who was of German heritage, was a firm believer in the European feudal tradition. Simeon considered himself "lord of the manor", believing that every susbequent settler on Kettle Creek owed him a portion of their earnings and a share of their crops. This tradition, which originated with the Anglo-Saxons, dates back to the 11th century. Unfortunately for Pfoutz, this feudal system had died out in Europe about two hundred years before he settled Kettle Creek.
When Jake Hammersley became the second man to settle Kettle Creek he was, naturally, quite surprised when Pfoutz paddled his canoe twelve miles upstream and began gathering half of Hammersley's cabbage crop. Hammersley, who was of English origin, surely must have pointed out to Pfoutz that the British crown had outlawed feudalism in 1660. A heated argument ensued and the debacle ended with one trampled cabbage patch and Simeon Pfoutz returning home with both eyes swollen shut. According to local legend, Hammersley threw Pfoutz over the garden fence, dragged Simeon into the canoe and shoved it off. Although records are sketchy, it's safe to assume that Pfoutz returned to his manor without a single cabbage.
But Pfoutz was undeterred. The following October he held a "pumpkin drive". He gathered half of the pumpkins from the settlers' gardens (with the exception of Jake Hammersley) and threw them into the creek. He, along with daughters Mattie and Katie, floated the pumpkins down Kettle Creek.
The English and Irish settlers of Kettle Creek considered Pfoutz to be a nuisance. Simeon believed that anyone hunting in the woods of Clinton County was poaching from his land, and he was known to claim deer and elk from other settlers. His wife often tanned the hides of these animals, making the leather into gloves, which Simeon would take downstream and sell. Although the English settlers thought he was crazy, it has been written that the German settlers of Kettle Creek were very loyal to Pfoutz and that they defended the "Lord of the Manor" idea. Some of them even considered themselves lords of their own manors, and this led to many heated disputed among the German and English settlers.
These disputes occasionally turned violent, but seldom escalated beyond a bloodied nose, a black eye or a sore jaw. The English responded to the Germans by important a tough Irishman named Iky Corns to guard their property. According to local lore, Iky Corns once beat Simeon Pfoutz half to death with his fists, thus temporarily putting an end to Pfoutz's feudal system.
Pfoutz responded to this rude treatment by hiring a "bodyguard" of his own, a man described as "a giant Negro from Renovo". Pfoutz promised him a cow if he would track down Iky Corns and "teach him a lesson". The much anticipated battle was fought in an orchard. Corns, who was much quicker than the black giant, pummeled his opponent at will. After two hours of fighting, the Negro was beaten into submission and Corns was declared the winner.
When Corns later learned that the Negro had been promised a cow by Pfoutz, he declared that his opponent deserved his reward. He paid a visit to the Negro's cabin in Renovo and told his opponent, "Ye earned that cow, come with me and I'll see that ye get it". The two men confronted Simeon Pfoutz, who protested very little as the two men led his best cow away on a rope.
From that moment on Simeon Pfoutz abandoned his feudal system; as more settlers built their homes along Kettle Creek Pfoutz reluctantly concluded that he was "Lord of the Manor" no more.