Potter Family History

Centennial Celebration: August 20, 1891

Another happy incident has transpired in the lives of the descendants of Captain Joseph Potter. According to previous arrangement many of the met at J.M. Potter's in Gibson, Susq. Co. PA on August 20, 1891. The was the centennial anniversary of the year that Captain Joseph Potter settled in Gibson. On this account they wished to meet at this place which included the identical land taken up by their ancestor one hundred years ago. 

The large barns were opened for the accommodation of horses and the large house thrown open for the entertainment of those who could and would attend this celebration. Near the house were tables erected under the "spreading apple trees." The table looked as if the ladies had practiced cooking for the last century and no longer were strangers in that department. The ride over Gibson's hills had sharpened the appetites of the merry throng and still improved the viands with which the tables were spread. 

After the dinner was cleared away they were called to order by the president, J.T. Tiffany. The Gibson Cornet Band rendered one of its cheerful selections, which was followed by prayer by Rev. A.O. Stearns. Although we had been made to feel welcome in the morning by the hearty reception given us, we were made to feel still more so by the welcome words of J.J. Potter, great grandson of the Captain. His words made us feel that we were always welcome to his home. Mrs. S. Truesdell presided at the organ and the air resounded with the song "America." Many joined in the song showing that in celebrating the acts of their ancestor, they had not forgotten their country. 

Frank Stearns delivered the historical address in which he said "Today we stand one gorgeous tree in the family tree of Gibson." The band favored us again with their musical talent. The centennial address was delivered by a great-grandson of Capt. Potter, Charles L. Hawley, Esq. of Scranton, PA. He said: "We are proud of our ancestor. Why should we not be? He was always on the side of the right in the questions which arose in the county. Where would he be if he were now present, in regard to the question of Intemperance?" He gave some excellent thought, some of which were in reference to the position that Captain Potter would take concerning this great question. He proved that in all probability, Captain Potter, if he were alive, would be an earnest worker in the temperance cause.* Why should not his descendants take up the honorable work he would do? A talk was given in favor of a monument for Captain Potter and twenty seven people pledged to pay something towards it. It was decided to hold the Potter reunion on the third Thursday in August. The next one to be at the same place. (Today it is held the third Saturday in August.)

*They must have forgotten that Captain Potter once owned a tavern at Half Moon-on-the-Hudson and that his son owned a tavern in Gibson in 1819. ed.


Anecdotes from Noer (Noah) Potter's Descendants 

One of Noer's sons, Albert and his wife Jerusha were early farmers in the Hainsville, IL, area. At the time of the great Chicago Fire in 1871, he relates how the farmers drove their horses and wagons into the city to help clean up the debris and hauling it and dumping it in Lake Michigan. 

A son, Edwin Joseph, was born to Albert and Jerusha in 1844. Below is a quote from the History of the 96th Regiment, IL, on Edwin serving in the Civil War. The Potter family still have a letter written by Edwin, dated Nov. 8th, 1863, while in the General Hospital in  Louisville, KY. Quote: "I am in a First raight hospital and got good nurces so I will git along first raight. I have grub fetched to me so dont haf to go ut of the house and I am giting as lazy as the duce and giting quite fat. I way one hundred and twenty four pounds."

Edwin Potter, of Company B, shot a rebel from his horse in front of the skirmish line. The horse kept right on and was secured by the Union forces. After dark the skirmishers were repeatedly fired on by the pickets of the Third Division, from across the river.


   A True Tall Tale

My (Ruth Potter Stearns) father, Frank Potter, used to tell a snake story that he said was the truth. His father, William Potter, used to capture live rattlers during the haying time. Now some folks liked just to kill them to get rid of the poisonous things. Some killed to brag about how brave they were. Some killed them for their skins, but others just killed them for the rattler to frighten the girls. But because they slept the long winter through, my grand pappy liked to capture them alive, pull their fangs so they couldn't bite anyone, and keep'em to show. During the long cold winters when his turn came around to tell tall tales, he'd bring the snake box in from the barn to show his pets. If he'd been lucky that summer he'd have an ordinary one, an all black one, and the best prize of all, a diamond back one. 

Well, this time he brought in only one, lying in a box as if he were dead. Grandpappy picked him up to show him off to the envy of the men, the screams of the women and the squealing of the kids. The he set the box on the back of the old kitchen stove while he told about the oldest and longest one he ever got. While everyone was held spellbound by Grandpappy's tale tales, the snake was coming to. Thinking the red hot stove lid was the sun, he crawled out of the box toward the front of the stove to get really warm. 

Just then Granma, (Rachael Reynolds Potter), came from the pantry where she'd been preparing dinner, saw what was going on, and up with the long iron stove poker and dealt that rattler a fatal blow! Grandpappy felt pretty bad but when he went to skin that snake, he found it had grown a new set of fangs! That was the last of that hobby. 


 A Note From Julia (Baxter) Potter

I was born in Delaware County, New York, about halfway between East Branch and Cook's Falls, May 27, 1870, the daughter of Tracy and Sarah (Parks) Baxter. My brother, George Baxter, operates a gas and lunch station there now. I can faintly remember the building of the Ohio and Western Railroad and can vividly remember witnessing a head-on [train] collision which occurred opposite our home while the railroad was still a single track!


  Gerald Potter's Appendectomy

Harmony Twp. was the birthplace of Gerald Potter, son of Harry Franklin and Ruth Tobey Potter on Aug. 2, 1929....Jerry went to Thompson to school, not caring nor learning too much in grade school, but ...in high school graduating with second honors. In 1945 Jerry was in serious condition when he arrived at Barnes Hospital because his parents realized their medications were not working and that he needed professional help. Peritonitis set in and Jerry went into a coma. All concerned thought he was dying, but since this was Dr. Zavoy's first case, he said he just couldn't let him die. So he got special permission from Washington to obtain penicillin, which at that time was only available to military personnel and injected the life-saving fluid. Now while he was in the coma Jerry had what is termed an "out of the body experience." He'd described it as some knowing part of him suspended above his sick body looking down at it and thinking, "I wonder what they're doing to me." This only lasted an instant and there were no sensations, no sense of time, nothing, but an experience he'll never forget.... Jerry thinks he died and his soul left his body for just an instant. 


Sources: Early Settlers-The History of Lake Country, Illinois, author not known; and excerpts from the Potter Family History newsletter (74 pages, 14 issues) edited by Jeanette B. Brownell in the 1980's. All issues of the newsletter are/were available in the Orlando (FL) Library, Susquehanna and Wayne County (PA) genealogy files and the Catlin Library in Scranton, PA.; and History of the 96th Illinois Regiment
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