The Daily Reporter - August 24, 1881

In Memoriam


The subject of this sketch, came of a New Jersey ancestry.  Soon after the beginning of this century, they removed to Dryden, Tompkins county, where he was born Dec 19, 1811.  His father dying, the lad William with his mother and brothers, set forth to make a new home in Scio, Allegany county, where most of the time since he has lived.  This was in the spring of 1819; the location chosen was what has since been known as the “Middaugh Settlement”.

At this early day this section of the country was mainly an unbroken wilderness.  The fertile valleys and rugged hills, which now present so many evidences of thrift and well earned ease, where then heavily covered with forests of pine and hemlock, with other timber, to remove which and transform into fruitful fields has required vast outlay of toil and time and money.  The prospects for a fatherless lad of eight years were not inviting.  But it was here and with just this outlook, that the real experiences of an eventful life began.  From the first it was a life of hard, unremitting toil, of alternating success and disappointment, and of wearying hardship.  A little corn, planted with an axe, in the narrow clearing or among the freshly burned logs, with a few potatoes planted with a pick, were the chief crops and articles of food.  Wild meat was plenty; deer abounded, also bears, wolves and panthers, against which the settlers had to guard their cattle and sheep as well as themselves.  Money was an article scarcely known to those earliest pioneers; the little they did handle was obtained in payment for “pearlash,” which was manufactured from the wood of the forests by burning it, extracting the lye, and then boiling it down and putting it through certain other processes.  In those days pearlash was quite an article of manufacture and export; but to find a market, it had to be drawn by ox teams a hundred or more miles to Tompkins county, and even to Geneva.  Not much ready money, very few luxuries, but plenty of hardships were the lot of pioneers.

In this hard rough life, the boy William met with serious mishaps. When eleven years old he was boiling sap alone in the woods; chancing to slip, he fell backward into a kettle of the boiling liquid, and in his efforts to get out, thrust his arms into the kettles hanging by its side.  This accident laid him up for months and came near costing him his life.

When thirteen, and scarcely recovered from this accident, he was sent down with two yokes of oxen to take a load of pearlash to Geneva.  When about a hundred miles on the road, he was thrown from the wagon, and falling under it, a wheel ran over one of his legs below the knee, breaking and badly crushing it.  But the plucky boy picked himself up, put his crushed leg into shape, scrambled onto his wagon, and drove on to the nearest house, where we was cared for.  These were rough experiences for a lad still under fifteen; but they showed the quality and fiber of the coming man.

At twenty, he bought fifty acres on Middaugh Hill, working hard and saving his earnings to pay for it. Not getting on satisfactory in farming, he engaged in the lumbering business in Pennsylvania.  Owing to an untimely depression in the market, by which he lost heavily, he soon gave up and returned to Knight’s Creek.  Here he was more prosperous for a time; but presently buying a mill, we find him driving the lumber business with characteristic energy.  Just when prosperity was apparently within reach, another series of reverses brought losses and embarrassment.  Meanwhile his most devoted wife and excellent counselor died, and left him sorrowing and discouraged.  But gathering heart again we go on after to find him the owner of large mills, with tracks of timber lands, and a heavy manufacturer of lumber at Portville, Cattaraugus county.  These he ran for several years, with varying fortunes, until by flood and fire he found himself bankrupt, and again almost disheartened.

About this time, the Bradford oil field began to be developed.  Most fortunately, and he believed, providentially, his timber lands, which lay in McKean county, proved to be valuable oil territory.  This was the beginning and source of Mr. Middaugh’s permanent financial prosperity.  He soon realized enough to cancel every indebtedness, dollar for dollar, and to leave him as a surplus, a handsome fortune.

About four years ago, he purchased the Riverside property and resided there until his death.  By wise and liberal expenditure of money, he made it an attractive place, a convenient and pleasant home.

His was truly a life full of incident and struggle, of hard, persevering toil  followed by alternating successes and reverses.  Energy, endurance, and resolute courage were the more marked features of the man.  In these traits he is a fair type of many of the pioneers

who, working by his side, have converted the Allegany wilderness into well cultivated farms, owned and enjoyed by a thriving and happy people.  Yet for a life of privation and hardship in his earlier years, while many might equal, few indeed surpassed it.  We of the younger generations know little of the stern features of a pioneers life.

Mr. Middaugh was twice married, his first wife, Miss Abigail H. Norton, sister of Wm L. Norton of Knight’s Creek, was a woman of force and character, and a great help and encouragement to him in the severe battle of life.  Her courage and wise counsels did much to sustain and cheer him forward in adversity.  Five children were given them, three of whom, a son and two daughters are living.  For his second wife, he married a Miss Jane D. Clark, of Mr. Morris, whom he found a worthy companion and efficient helper, and with whom he lived most happily - .  She died about two years ago, alter a peculiarly painful illness.  Of four children by this marriage, a son and daughter survive.

While yet a young man, Mr. Middaugh made a profession of religion, united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and Sunday School, giving liberally to the support of the gospel.

In later years, amid the pressure of business and temptations to worldliness, it must be said of him as of so many others; that he came to neglect religious duties and to live mainly for this world.  But, as the end drew near and he saw that he must let go of the world, he saw his error, and spoke of this as the great mistake and sin of his life.  Returning to God as a penitent, and seeking pardon and acceptance through the mercy of God in Jesus Christ only, he died affirming his faith and his readiness to answer the summons.  For nearly seven months his health has been decidedly failing, and for seven weeks past he was confined to his house.  He died after much suffering on Monday, 9 PM Aug 22nd with his children and other friends including an only elder sister at his bedside.  His age was 69 years 8 months and 3 days.

The funeral services were held Wednesday the 24th at Scio, conducted by Rev. A. Coit of Wellsville assisted by Dr. Cummings and Rev. Mr. Hart of Scio.

A large congregation of business friends and associate and neighbors assembled for the service, after which the remains were borne up the valley so long familiar to him and laid to rest in the Knights Creek cemetery.