his story appeared in the Sullivan
Review on October 14, 1943. It is a rare survivor of a time past.
At the time of the report Mr. Rouss was 100 years old.
" Mr. Rouss was born
in County Sligo, Ireland, October 14, 1843, a son of the late Steven and
Ann Convey Rouss, who came to America when Thomas was a very young boy.
After their arrival in New York, they went to Carbondale, (PA) and a
little later, the father secured employment on the North Branch Canal,
moving his wife and son to a point near Tunkhannock. (ed.
probably where John Harrison was employed at that same time) Mrs.
Rouss died soon after moving to this home, from a fever she contracted
while on board ship. Her remains were taken to Pittston (PA) for
Steven Rouss, after
the completion of the canal, came to Sullivan County, with a number of
his countrymen, and purchased a tract of land on what is known as Rock
Run in Forks Township. Here he maintained a home until his
After the death of
his mother, Thomas Rouss was cared for by an aunt who later became Mrs.
Anthony Philbin and some time later moved to Sullivan County locating on
a farm at what is known as "Irish Ridge".
Thomas came with them
and received his education at the schools of Sullivan county, walking
four miles night and morning to either the Cherry Mills or
Ringer Hill school which continued in session for three months each
winter. (at left is the Cherry Mills
learned to read, write, and cypher, he looked around for a job, which he
secured in a tannery at Dushore where he remained for three years. He
was also employed for the same length of time at the Laporte and Proctor
Mr. Rouss was a carpenter by trade and
assisted in the erection of coal breakers for Gunton, Connell,
and Murray, and O'Boyle & Foye. When the
Williamsport & Northbranch Railroad was being built from
Nordmont to Satterfield, he was employed by that company for some time
on bridge construction.
On November 25, 1873, he was united in
marriage with Miss Catherine Cowley (probably Cawley) whose
parents came from Ireland, and settled on a farm on Irish Ridge. Mr. and
Mrs. Rouss purchased a farm of Mr. Jordan, father of Father Jordan
deceased, where they commenced housekeeping. The farm is located in
Laporte Township where he still makes his home. ....
Mr. Rouss is fond of recalling the
memories he has of his early life and comparing them with the times of
today. When his father was employed on the North Branch canal, he
received 50 cents a day during the winter months and 75 cents a day
in the summer. A day's work was from daylight until dark. When the
"boss" called the roll in the morning, if one were not present , he
would be docked a "quarter" or a quarter of a day, even if he were but a
few minutes late. The day laborer on the canal used pick and shovel to
loosen the earth and then a wheelbarrow to carry it up the steep bank of
the sides, leveling this off for a "towpath". Carefully guarding his
earnings he saved enough to make a first payment on his home in the
wilderness when he came to Sullivan county.
Mr. Rouss remembers distinctly when
school teachers were paid from $10 to $15 a month and boarded around,
and that the county superintendant at that time received the princely
sum of $300 per year for his services.
Nearly all of the houses were built of
logs, chinked with clay and had stone fireplaces and chimneys to warm
the rooms and provide a place to do the cooking over the coals. Bread
was baked, either on stone bake ovens outside the house or in a tin bake
oven placed before the fire on the hearth. What light was used at night
was from homemade tallow dips. Most of the farms consisted of a small
acreage around the buildings, the rest of the country being a dense
forest. Much of the clearing was done by felling the trees and piling
them in heaps and burning them on the ground. Millions of feet of much
better timber than we see today was burned in order to provide a place
for raising a little wheat and vegetables for family use. It was almost
impossible to use a plow to prepare the land for the seed, so the
blacksmith made what is known as a "grubhoe" with a flat blade on one
side and a sharp blade
on the other.
With this instrument it was
possible to stir up the earth and cut off roots so that a seedbed could
be planted. There was no blight or potato bugs at that time.Potatoes
were dropped in a trench, dug open with the grubhoe, then covered with
dead leaves, then earth, and then left to care for themselves until
digging time in the fall. Some good crops were raised in this manner.
There were no railroads in the country
when he first came here, and very few roads, except foot paths and
bridle trails. .... Horses were scarce and very few teams were in the
country. Oxen, instead of being the exception as today, were the teams
When anyone passed away it was necessary
to go to the undertaker or cabinet maker to have a casket built. This
was done at a cost of from $2 to $5. A team of horses and lumber wagon
were secured if possible to carry the casket and immediate family to the
grave. All others walked. (ed. it is 8 miles from Irish Ridge
to St. Basil's Church and cemetery where all these families
All of the clothing of the family was
made in the home. Wool from the sheep, carded and spun by the women, was
taken to the weaver where the yarn was woven into cloth. Sometimes flax
or cotton yarn was used as the warp thus making what was known as
"linsey woolsey"cloth. This was taken home and garments for men ,women,
and children were fashioned and made in the home."
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