Chapter 2
Settling of the County

line.gif (2154 bytes)



Weary, travel-worn and haggard, a little party of whites and Indians emerged from the deep forests of old Westmoreland county upon the banks of the sparkling Allegheny river and at once proceeded to make camp. Not a sound broke the silence of the wilderness, save the songs of the birds and the sighing of the wind, accompanied in an undertone by the rippling of the clear waters in the shallows of the stream. No factories obscured the clear sky, the whistle of the locomotive was not heard and the scene was truly primitive and peaceful. From the then undefiled waters they soon drew a bounteous supply of fish, fires were lit, and a feast prepared and as night fell the little band sank into repose, refreshed and prepared for the taking up of the trail on the morrow.

This party was led by an Evangelical Lutheran missionary, Conrad Weiser, whose mission to the Indian tribes has been written of in many volumes of early history. He was the advance guard of the flood of settlers who soon thereafter invaded the county now included in the bounds of Armstrong county. The writings of Weiser had great effect in inducing other Germans to enter the country, and settlers of that nationality have always been in the majority in this section of the State. They have left such an impress upon the population that this county is considered the center of the "Dutch" portion of Pennsylvania.

However, although a German was the first to view the land, the Scotch-Irish were the first of the real settlers, the Germans following closely upon them. Previous to 1796 the Indian wars, the danger from savage raids, the uncertainty of land titles, and the frequent and costly litigation growing out of unwise land laws, retarded the settlement of the county and caused many to pass on to Ohio and other territory west of there, where chances were more evenly divided. Many who settled here were later compelled to abandon their homes owing to the harassment of other claimants to the lands. Of the different kinds of land grants in this county details will be found at the end of this chapter. There were the "Holland" lands, the "Depreciation" lands, and the "Donation" lands, all with their many complex and baffling rules of entry or sale.

The Scotch-Irish

The Scotch-Irish settlers came mostly from Westmoreland county, while the Germans were from Lehigh and Northampton counties. There was a great difference between the customs of the two classes of pioneers and their methods of taming the wilderness were somewhat different. The Scotch- Irish were great hunters and trappers, delighting in the chase and conforming greatly to the methods of the Indians. Upon them devolved most of the wars of defense and reprisal, although when aroused in defense of their homes, the Germans were tireless and courageous adversaries. Among those who served in the various expeditions against the savages the German names were as frequently found as those of other nationalities. Each of the two branches of the white race were fitted to fulfil their destinies in conquering the wilderness and building the foundations of the present glorious heritage left by them to their descendants.

When these settlers reached their destination they at once erected temporary "shacks" to shield their loved ones until the more permanent log homes were built. When it is remembered that the woodsman's axe was the only tool at first used the crudeness of these habitations will be more fully appreciated and their constructors given credit due them for the arduous toil necessary in their construction.

The Germans

The habitations of the settlers were all similar in design, but the Germans usually added more comforts to the interior. Most of them had brought their featherbeds with them over the moutons, and they soon adapted the custom s of the Fatherland to their primitive surroundings. As soon as the family of the "Dutchman" was properly housed he made provision for his stock. One writer says that the "Dutchman's barn was generally the best building on his farm." For many years he would endure all the discomforts of a small log house and build a spacious barn for the stock. He always kept this barn filled with hay, and all the domestic animals, even the swine were housed for the winter.

All the settlers were hard workers, but the Germans particularly so. The Scotch-Irish simply deadened the trees and allowed them to rot away, but the Germans cut them down, utilized every part and finally grubbed out the stumps before planting a crop. Thus they saved their plow points. The women all worked at their household tasks, but the German "hausfrau" generally assisted in more laborious work of the farm as well. They were possessed of wonderful capacity for labor and were truly helpmates to their husbands.

The cultivated portion of the farm of the Germans was not as large as that of their Irish neighbors, but it was more intensively cultivated. As a result their descendants are the most prosperous of the inhabitants of this portion of the State. Theodore Roosevelt, in his "Winning of the West" says that of the twelve families of each nationality, nine Germans, seven Scotch and four Irish prospered, while the others failed. Their frugality was another source of wealth. They never wasted anything. While the Irish lived on "hog and hominy" the Germans had sauerkraut und speck, schnitz und knopf, grumbire supp und nudels, roggenbrod und schmierkaese, and none of them ever thought of starving.

As a general rule the two nationalities remained separate in customs and living, but in a few instances there were intermarriages between them, some of our most noted citizens of later days being descendants of such unions of the Irish and Germans.

The Purchase Line

The treaty of 1768 between the Six Nations and the English established the famous "Purchase Line," mention of which will frequently be found in this history, so a description of the boundaries of this purchase will be of interest

No. XLI of London Documents, published soon after the making of the treaty of 1768, contains the entire deed then executed, establishing the boundary or purchase line. Various good and prudential reasons and considerations are given in the preamble or recitals why such a line should be established. The grantors in that deed were the Sachems and Chiefs of the Six Confederate Nations, and of the Shawaneese, Delawares, Mingoes of Ohio, and other dependent tribes. The grant, consideration and boundaries are in these words:

"Now, therefore, know ye, that we, the Sachems and Chiefs aforementioned, native Indians or proprietors of the lands hereinafter described, for and in behalf of ourselves and the whole of our confederacy, for the considerations hereinbefore mentioned, and also for and in consideration of a valuable present of the several articles in use amongst Indians which, together with a large sum of money, amount in the whole to the sum of ten thousand four hundred and sixty pounds seven shillings and threepence sterling, to us now delivered and paid by Sir William Johnston, Baronet, His Majesty's sole agent and superintendent of Indian affairs for the northern department of America in the name and on behalf of our sovereign Lord George the Third, by the grace of God," etc,, "the receipt whereof we do hereby acknowledge:

"We, the said Indians, have, for us and our heirs and successors, granted, bargained, sold, releaded and confirmed, and by these presents do grant, bargain, sell, release, and confirm unto our said sovereign Lord King George the Third all that tract of land situate in North America, at the back of the British settlements, bounded by a line which we have now agreed upon and do hereby establish as the boundary between us and the British colonies in America, beginning at the mouth of the Cherokee or Hogohege (Tennessee) river, where it empties into the river Ohio, and running from thence upward along the south side of said river to Kittanning, which is above Fort Pitt, from thence by a direct line to the nearest fork of the west branch of the Susquehanna, thence through the Allegheny mountains along the south side of the said west branch until it comes opposite to the mouth of a creek called Tiadghton (Pine Creek), thence across the west branch along the south side of that creek and along the north side of Burnett's Hills to a creek called Awandae, thence down the same to the east branch of Susquehanna and across the same and up that river to opposite where Tianaderha falls into Susquehanna, thence to Tianaderha and up the west side of the west branch to the head thereof, and thence by a direct line to Canada creek, where it empties into Wood creek at the west of the carrying-place beyond Fort Stanwix, and extending eastward from every part of the said line as far as the lands formerly purchased, so as to comprehend the whole of the lands between the said line and the purchased lands or settlements, except what is in the Province of Pennsylvania, together with all the hereditaments and appurtenances to the same belonging," etc.

This document was sealed and delivered, and the consideration paid in the presence of William Franklin, Governor of New Jersey; Frederick Smith, Chief Justice of New Jersey; Thomas Walker, Commissioner of Virginia; Richard Peters and James Tilghman, of the Council of Pennsylvania. It was executed at Fort Stanwix Nov. 5, 1768, in the presence of Sir William Johnston by Tyorhansere, alias Abraham, for the Mowhawks, Canaghaguieson for the Oneidas, Seguareesera for the Tuscaroras, Otsinoghiyata, alias Brant, for the Onondagas, Tegarria for the Cayugas, Guastrax for the Senecas.


The lands comprising the bulk of Armstrong county were held at different periods by various companies and persons, chief among them the Holland Land Company. Besides this, many methods of sale were adopted by the state under various acts, thus causing a vast amount of litigation between the rival claimants, and placing their titles in jeopardy until settled by the courts. The principal classes of lands were those of the Holland Company, the "donation" and the "depreciation" lands of which a description is hereby given, in order to show the legal difficulties which beset our forefathers in their attempts to create homes in this county.

THE HOLLAND LAND COMPANY was organized at the city of Amsterdam, in the Kingdom of Holland, in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Its original members were Wilhelm Willink, Nicholas Van Staphorst, Pieter Stadnitski, Christian Van Eghen, Hendrik Vollenhoven and Rutgert Jan Schimmelpenninck, of that city; at least those are the names mentioned in a prevention patent for a tract called "Normandy," dated Oct. 7, 1799.

The original members, it is said, had loaned large amounts of money, either directly to the United States, or indirectly to Robert Morris, to aid in achieving American independence. As they preferred to invest the amount which they received, after the close of the Revolutionary War, in this country, they purchased from Morris, in 1792, an immense quantity of land west of the Genesee river, in the state of New York, on which they, as one of their agents stated, lost $3,000,000. They acquired, about the same time, inchoate titles to numerous tracts of land in Pennsylvania, on both sides of the Allegheny river, in the territory included in the purchases from the Six Nations, at Fort Stanwix, Oct. 23,1784, and from the Delawares and Wyandots at Ft. McIntosh, at the mouth of Beaver river, in January, 1785.

The boundaries of these purchases began " at the south side of Ohio river, where the western boundary of the State of Pennsylvania crosses said river, near Shingo's old town, at the mouth of Beaver creek, and thence by due north line to the end of the forty-second and the beginning of the forty-third degrees of north latitude, to the east side of the east branch of the river Susquehanna, and thence by the bounds of the purchase line of 1768 to the place of beginning." which included all the northwestern part of this State, except the triangle bordering on Lake Erie, which having been purchased from the Indians by the United States, Jan. 9, 1789, by the treaty at Fort Harmon, for 1200 pounds, was conveyed by the latter to Pennsylvania, March 3, 1792, for $150640.25. "The Holland Company," said Judge Yeates, in summing up a case in 1800, " have paid to the State the consideration money of 1,162 warrants, and surveying fees on 1,048 tracts of land, besides making very considerable expenditures by their exertions, honorable to themselves and useful to the community, in order to effect settlements. Computing the sums advanced, the lost tracts, by prior improvements and interferences, and the quantity of 100 acres granted to each individual for making a settlement on their lands, west of the Allegheny river, it is said that, averaging the whole, between $230 and $240 have been expended by the company on each tract of land they now claim."

The Holland Company soon after its organization appointed Paul Burti, an Italian gentleman, of Bloekley's Retreat, Philadelphia, and Harm Jan Huidekoper, a Holland gentleman, of Meadville, their agents and attorneys in fact, the latter being designated in one of the former's letters of attorney to David Lawson as "the superintending agent." They not only sold lands belonging to the company, but in some instances acquired and held in themselves the legal title to some of the latter's tracts, and as grantors conveyed tracts and parcels of tracts to purchasers. Patents for various tracts were granted to them in trust for the company.

The act of March 31, 1823, authorized the company to sell their lands and their vendees to purchase them, though they or any of them were aliens, notwithstanding any previous law to the contrary.

In 1849 the surviving members of the company were Waldgrave Van Henkelom, Wilhelm Willink, Jr., and Gerret Schimmelpenninck, Rutgert Jan's son. On April 26th they, by their attorney-in-fact, John Jacob Vanderkemp, whom the company had appointed as such and as the successor to Paul Burti, deceased, Sept 5, 1824, conveyed all their lands, tracts, pieces and parcels of land, tenements and hereditaments that had not been previously conveyed, including all outstanding contracts for the sale and purchase of their lands in Armstrong, Indiana and Jefferson counties to Alexander Colwell, Dr. John Gilpin, Horatio N. Lee, of the borough of Kittanning, Alexander Reynolds and David Richey, then of Madison township, in this county, embracing 23083 acres and 45 perches of unsold land, and about 55,000 acres subject to executory contracts for $50,000. Reynolds entered into a conditional agreement with his copurchases, Aug. 11, 1835, to purchase their interests in about twenty-one thousand acres of these lands for $26,130. By divers transfers that agreement was consummated, and these interests became vested in him and P. Jenks Smith of Philadelphia. All the lands which were included in the purchase from the Holland Company were sold at such an advance that the last purchases realized handsomely from their ventures. Some of those lands have since become so valuable that they cannot now be purchased for a hundred times the price for which Reynolds and his copurchasers bought them.

The actual legal interpretation of the ninth clause of the act of April 3, 1792, which required that the settler should "before the date of his warrant, make or cause to be made an actual settlement thereon by clearing, fencing and cultivating at least two acres for every 100 acres contained in one survey, erecting thereon a ' message' for the habitation of man, and residing or causing a family to reside thereon for the space of five years next following his or her settling of the same," brought about a long-drawn-out series of suits in which settlers and the Holland Land Company were involved.

The controversy as to title between the land company and the settlers was finally decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in favor of the Hollanders.


The act of the Legislature of March, 1783, donated to all officers and soldiers of the Revolutionary war, free of taxation, various tracts of land, to be laid off into districts, and apportioned according to a plan, with reference to the standing of the applicant. These lands were called "donation lands."

The surveyor general and each of his deputies were required to be sworn or affirmed that in laying off those lots he would not select the best land, either as to quality or situation, to favor anyone of those four classes of lots to the prejudice or injury of the others, or this State, and in running the boundary lines of the lots, each surveyor should cause them to be well defined, by marking trees on the lines, at small distances, and particularly the angles, and on the northwestern corner tree of each lot should be marked, in roman figures, the number of the lot, but if there should be a post at any such corner, on the tree in the lot nearest the post. When all lots had been laid off, a draft of them should be made, which should be deposited in rolls in the office after all the applications were satisfied. The supreme executive council was required to cause numbers, corresponding to each of the four classes, to be made on square pieces of white paper of uniform size, or as nearly so as might be, and in their presence to roll and bind well those numbers separately and carefully, with silken thread, as uniformly as possible, and deposit them in four wheels, "like unto lottery wheels" which, before, any applicant should be permitted to draw therefrom, should be repeatedly "well turned round."

Those wheels were to be safely kept and remain sealed, except when drawn from, under the direction of a committee of three members of the supreme executive council, who were to judge and determine on the right of each applicant to receive grants of land, with the right of appeal in all cases of doubt and difficulty to the supreme executive council, whose decision thereon was final and conclusive. The successful applicants were entitled to draw thus: A major-general, four tickets from the wheel containing the numbers on the 500 acres lots; a brigadier-general, three tickets; a colonel, two tickets, a lieutenant-colonel, one from that wheel and one from the wheel containing the numbers on the 250 acre lots; a surgeon, chaplain or major, each two tickets from the wheel containing the numbers on the 300 acre lots; a captain, one ticket from the wheel containing the numbers on the 500 acre lots; a lieutenant two tickets from the wheel containing the numbers on the 200 acre lots; an ensign, or regimental surgeon's mate , respectively, one ticket from the wheel containing the numbers on the 300 acre lots; a sergeant, sergeant-major or quarter-master-sergeant, respectively, one ticket from the wheel containing the numbers on the 250 acre lots; a drum-major, fife-major, drummer, fifer, corporal or private, respectively, one ticket from the wheel on the 200 acre lots.

Before the boundary line between Pennsylvania and New York was definitely established, some of the donation lots were laid off on territory of the latter State. It was provided by acts of April 5, 1793 and Feb. 23,1801, that those who had drawn lots in that territory should be allowed, under prescribed regulations, to draw others in lieu of them from the undrawn ones in any of the donation districts within the State. After April 1, 1810, the undrawn donation lots reverted to the commonwealth, which were to be disposed of in such manner as the Legislature should thereafter by law direct.

By the act of April 9, 1828, the secretary of the land office was authorized to extend the provisions of the act to encourage the warranting and patenting of lands north and west of the Ohio and Allegheny rivers and Conewango creek, passed March 1, 1811, to the settlers or owners of the undrawn donation lands.


The major part--about three fourths-- of that part of this county on the north and western side of the Allegheny river consisted of depreciation lands, a large tract appropriated by the act of Assembly of March 12, 1783, for the redemption of depreciation certificates. Its boundaries, as specified in that act, were: Beginning where the western boundary of the state crosses the Ohio river, thence up that river to Fort Pitt, thence up the Allegheny river to the mouth of Mogulbuchtilon (Mahoning) creek, thence by a west line to the western boundary of the State, thence along it south to the beginning, of which three thousand acres opposite Fort Pitt and an equal quantity on both sides of Beaver creek, including Fort McIntosh, were reserved for the use of the State. The surveyor district assigned to Joshua Elder consisted of the territory between the Allegheny river and a line extending due from or near the mouth of Bull creek to the northern boundary of the depreciation tract, a portion of which, under a previous allotment of surveyor districts, had been embraced in Stephen Gapen's district.

The bills of credits issued both by Congress and this Commonwealth depreciated between 1777 and 1781 from one to nearly one hundred per cent. The difference of opinion as to the degree of depreciation and the consequent cash value of those bills of credit, the chief portion of the money then in circulation caused much confusion in the settlement of accounts between both individuals and public officers. The act of Assembly of Dec. 18, 1780, provided that the hereinafter mentioned certificates of depreciation, given to the officers and soldiers of the Pennsylvania line in the army of the United States in payment for their services, should be receivable at the land office of this State, equal to gold and silver, in payment of, if they should wish to purchase, unlocated lands, and the act of April 3, 1781, adjusted the scale of the depreciation of these bills of credit at from one and a half to seventy-five per cent, varying each month from 1777 to 1781, and in accordance with that scale certificates, called certificates of depreciation, were issued to those officers and soldiers for the indebtedness of the State to them.

The above cited act of March 13, 1783, also provided that the unreserved portion of the tract of depreciation lands should be laid out thus: The surveyor general, in accordance with such directions as should be given him by the supreme executive council, should cause it to be laid out into lots of not less than 200 and not more than 350 acres each, numbering them in numerical order. As soon as the whole tract, or a hundred lots of it, were surveyed, the surveyor general, secretary of the land office and the receiver general were directed to sell them, in numerical order, at such times and places, and under such regulations, as should be prescribed by the supreme executive council. The amounts bid at these sales were to be paid into the receiver general's office either in gold or silver or in those certificates; whereupon, and on the payment of the expenses of surveying and the fees of the different offices, patents should be issued to the vendees, and whatever specie the receiver general thus received he was to pay into the State treasury for the purpose of redeeming such of those certificates as remained unsatisfied at the close of these sale.

Three pounds and ten shillings, including the wages of chainbearers and markers, were to be allowed for laying out and returning the survey of each lot into the surveyor general's office, to be paid in specie before patent could be issued. But very few lots or parcels of that depreciation tract were sold until after the passage of the act of April 3, 1792, respecting the provisions of which enough has already been given in the sketch of the Holland Land Company.


Wiser laws and more liberal interpretation of those existing, caused the country to be settled more rapidly after 1796. The pioneer settler of Armstrong county was Capt. Andrew Sharp, who settled in Plum Creek region in 1784, with his wife and infant child. He resided there for some years, suffering much from the depredations of the Indians, until finally tiring of the exertions necessary for existence in that harassed region, he decided to return to Kentucky. In May, 1794, he built a boat, in partnership with three other men, Taylor, Connor and McCoy, and with their combined families started down the Kiskiminetas river. At the mouth of Roaring run, near the rapids, they decided to halt for the night, preferring to shoot the rapids by daylight. However they were scarce started for the bank ere they were fired upon by a band of Indians, who had lain in wait for them. In the ensuing fight McCoy and Connor's son were killed and Connor and Sharp severely wounded. The boat was quickly pushed off from the bank and rapid progress made away from the danger point. Owing to the wounding of the men, Mrs. Sharp was compelled to row the boat all night, but at daybreak she succeeded in attracting the attention of some men on the bank, who took charge of them and piloted the freight of wounded and dying to Pittsburgh, where Sharp died July 8th. From that city Mrs. Sharp went with her brother-in-law, Andrew, to Cumberland county, remaining there three years, later returning to her former home at Plum Creek after conditions were favorable.

Her second daughter, the first white child born in Armstrong county, was the wife of David Ralston, and later James Mitchell, Other pioneer settlers in this county will be found mentioned in sketches of the different townships and boroughs.


In early times neighbors were scarce and far apart and mutual cooperation was a necessity. The interchange of the heavier labors was frequent. When a log cabin was to be raised the inhabitants for several miles would assemble at the proposed site, with their teams, axes, and other necessary implements. Such a cabin was generally one and half stories high, roofed with clapboards weighted down with poles, with openings cut in the sides and ends for doors and windows. The logs were round, the loft covered with puncheons, and the chimney of stones and sticks daubed with mud. Greased paper was used in place of glass for the windows. The only tools to be had were the ax, the heavy saw, the drawing knife, adze, broadaxe, and the now obsolete centerbit, which was often made at some rude forge by the carpenter himself.

A suitable spot was selected on which to erect the house and on the appointed day a company of choppers felled the trees, cut them to proper lengths, and hauled them to the chosen spot. Meanwhile the carpenter had selected a straight-grained tree and was splitting out the clapboards. These were split with a large " froe" and were four feet long by the greatest width the tree would allow. Next puncheons for the floor were made of trees eighteen inches wide, halved and faced with a broadaxe. All being ready, on the second day neighbors gathered and assisted in the " house raising." On the third day the house was furnished . A table was made of a slab, supplied with sapling legs driven into auger holes. Several three-legged stools were made in the same manner. Pins stuck into the logs served to support the clapboard shelves for the kitchen and were receptacles for the few pewter dishes, plates and spoons; but often the tableware consisted of wooden bowls, " trenchers" and " noggins." When even these were scarce, gourds and hard-shelled squashes made up the deficiency. A few iron pots, knives and forks had been brought from east of the mountains, together with salt and the bedding, by means of packhorses.

A pole with a fork near the lower end was driven into an auger hole in the floor and the upper end fastened to a roof joist. Poles were laid across the fork to the walls and supported through the cracks between the logs, forming the frame of the bed. Across these were laid other poles to bear the grass mattress, which was later filled with corn shucks after the crop was gathered. A few pegs around the single room, to suspend the few dresses of the women and the coats of the men, completed the "furniture."

Then came the " house-warming," and a real one it was, lasting for days, or as long as the limited supply of " corn-juice" held out. The nights were occupied with dancing until almost dawn.

It required two days to notify the men then living within a circuit of thirty miles of such a raising. Until as late as 1834 trees suitable for building logs on this and adjoining tracts were considered common property. If any one saw a tree which would answer his purpose , either on the tract on which he had settled or on any other, he appropriated it to his own use, without leave from any one.


The universal costume was a composite of civilized and Indian dress. The hunting shirt was universally worn. It was a loose frock, reaching half way down the thighs, with large sleeves, and so wide as to lap over in front a foot or more when belted at the waist. It often had a cape collor, handsomely fringed with some bright colored cloth. The expansive bosom of the shirt served as a pocket to hold a chunk of bread, gun wadding or other necessities of the hunt. The heavy buckskin belt had manifold uses. Mittens and a bullet bag were stuck in front, the tomahawk on one side and the hunting knife on the other, there being a space for smaller articles between. The shirt was generally made of linsey, sometimes of coarse linen, and a few of dressed deerskins. These last were very cold and uncomfortable in wet weather. A pair of breeches, or drawers and leggins were the covering of the legs. Moccasins answered much better than shoes for the feet. They were different from the modern design of moccasin, being made of dressed deerskin in a single piece, with a gathered seam in front and at the heel, as high as the ankle joint. Flaps were left at each side, reaching some distance up the legs, laced with deerskin so as to exclude the snow and dust. The ordinary moccasin cost but a few hours to make, while shoes were expensive and hard to procure. In cold weather the moccasins were stuffed with deer hair or dried leaves for warmth. The linsey petticoat and gown were the universal dress of the women of pioneer days. A small home-made handkerchief was the only ornament at the neck. In summer they went barefoot, and in cold weather wore moccasins and hand-made " shoepacks." Stockings were a luxury. When any head covering was worn, it was the universal sunbonnet.

Most of the clothing of the pioneers was hung on the pegs around the cabin walls, and visitors could readily estimate the wealth of the occupants by the visible display of wearing apparel.


In early days every cabin was a factory where clothing was manufactured. Busy hands kept the spinning-wheel and loom buzzing and slamming early and late. In almost every household there were a large number of mouths to feed and bodies to clothe. Shoes were used sparingly by the lucky few who possessed them, for leather was high and money scarce. Often girls and women would walk to church barefoot, carrying shoes and stockings, which they put on when near the house of worship. Tow and linen, buckskin and similar home-made goods formed the clothing worn by males of all ages. The girls' best dresses were frequently spun, woven, dyed, cut and made by the wearers. An old resident remarks: "The girls were just as pretty in those days as they are now, and were probably satisfied with their costumes, but could one of our present fashionably-dressed belles have stepped among them, they might have gone wild with envy and excitement."


All of the travel of the settlers was performed on foot or horseback. Wagons were almost unknown within the memory of men now living, while carriages are a comparatively modern innovation. As in most new settlements, the first lines of travel were paths marked by a blazed trees. Afterward trees and underbrush were cut away, and some of the principal routes were converted into highways. There is, however, scarcely a road in the county that follows its course as originally traced. Thoroughfares were built at the cost of great expenditure of time and labor.


Skill in hunting was the chief accomplishment of the men and boys, and from childhood they were trained in the use of weapons. The boys emulated the Indians in the use of the bow and arrow and became almost as expert as their red rivals. Throwing the tomahawk and knife, running, jumping and wrestling were also frequently indulged in by all. In addition, most of the males could imitate the cries of the wild fowl and beasts of the forest, and thus bring them within shooting distance.


Honesty was held in great esteem in those days, and a thief not only received what justice the few laws imposed, but was often ostracized by his neighbors as well. Lying was not a common practice, and offenders of that kind were soon labeled by their companions. Female virtue was respected and as a general rule the morals of the early days might well be set up as a criterion for those of the present times. One curious custom was for an aggrieved party to challenge the aggressor to a "fisticuffs" match, and if one or the other thought he was physically overmatched he could obtain a substitute.


"Hog and hominy" constituted the principal diet of the first settlers. Johnnycake or pone were the breads for breakfast and dinner; mush and milk a standard dish for supper. Milk was often scarce and a substantial dish of hominy took its place. Mush was frequently eaten with sweetened water, molasses, bear's oil or fried meat gravy.

The early settlers found game abundant, and very little hunting enabled them to keep a constant supply of fresh meat on hand. Grain food was not so easily procured. The farmer's supply of wheat and flour was often exhausted before harvest time; and in such cases wheat was cut while in the milk, and boiled, making a very palatable and wholesome food. Salt was a valuable commodity and very scarce. The settlers were obliged to go to the eastern counties to obtain it. When a man made a trip "east of the mountains" or to Pittsburgh or Westmoreland county, he went literally loaded with errands, generally taking several pack-horses along to bring back supplies.


The amusements in rural districts in early times consisted chiefly of frolics, or "bees," grubbings, railmaulings, corn-huskings, quiltings, singing-schools at private houses, and occasional dances at frolics. In 1828 there was a prevalent mania for circular fox and wolf hunts. The areas of the several circles covered nearly the entire territory of the county. Several columns in the papers were filled with notices of the routes, times, and arrangements. Those hunts temporarily excited a deep and general interest in the aged, middle-aged, and the young. They were designed not only for amusement, but for the beneficial purpose of exterminating these pestiferous and destructive animals.


One of the settlers of Sugar Creek township was David Rumbaugh, who was an original genius in his way and a great practical joker. He had the likeness of a clock painted on the gable end of his house next to the public road, being what is now the Kittanning and Brady's Bend one, The hands representing the time to be 11:45 o'clock, and he was occasionally amused by travelers comparing the time indicated by watches with and setting them by it.

Such was the class of pioneers who formed the population of this of this county in early times. They were rough but honest, poor but enterprising, limited in education but religious, and had as a fine a standard of life as we hold at the present day. To show that the feeling of neighborliness has not been destroyed by modern civilization, we will relate a little incident that occurred in December, 1912. Mr. and Mrs. Levi J. Cook of Bethel township, celebrated their golden wedding Christmas Day. They were both born on the same day and also married on their birthday. In issuing the invitations they were anxious that none should be omitted, so instead of writing the messages they had the school teachers announce the affair in the schools, with a promise of welcome to all who would come. In the language of modern slang, "Can you beat it."


Among the early settlers in the southern part of the county, in the section afterward allotted to Burrell township, was George Shoemaker, a very successful farmer. At his death he left all his property to his wife Margaret without reserve. In due time after his death the widow married the second time a man named Barnard Davers. Before the wedding she insisted on his signing an agreement that she was still to hold possession of the property left by her former husband, to dispose of as she wished, and that at her death it should go unreservedly to her children by the first husband. In the event of his death she was to be free of his debts and the property was to remain in her possession. She also agreed that she would never lay claim to any of his individual property either before or after his death. The marriage occurred early in 1825, and they used, managed, and occupied their separate estates distinctly and independently of each other, pleasantly and harmoniously, until Davers' death in December, 1829.

Again in proper season another suitor sought her hand---George A. King, a substantial farmer. Her children had then grown up, some of them were married, and with her cultivating and managing the fertile acres of "Monmouth," which their father had devised to her. In that emergency-- as related by the then editor of the Pittsburgh American, and whose statement is reproduced in Sherman Day's "Historical Collections of Pennsylvania" --she consulted the late Samuel Houston, of Kittanning, her factor and confidential merchant. When she had stated to him her intention to marry again, he is reported to have said, "I should suppose that one so happily situated as you are, with everything rich and comfortable about you, and your sons and daughters grown up, would not think of such a think at your time of life. I would advise you by no means to entangle yourself again in any marriage alliance." "You tink not, Mr. Houston?" "Why, it is very sincerely the advise I would give you, if that is what you want." "Well, dat may be all very well and very goot; but, see here, a man I vant, and a man I vill have!" " O, that is a very different thing altogether, and in that case, I would advise you by all means to marry."

She, however, would not accept her new suitor's proposal, unless he too, would enter into an ante-nuptial agreement, like that with Barnard Davers, which he did. The date of this second agreement is March 8, 1832. They were subsequently married, and managed their respective estates as she and Davers had done. In both instances husband and wife were separate, on their farms, from Monday morning until Saturday night each week; their accounts were kept separately; they knew hardly any more about each other's business affairs than if they were single. There were no clashing interests, no coveting of each other's possessions, to cause trouble and discord. At the death of her third, in the spring of 1843, as at that of her second one, the Shoemaker estate was left intact. She never claimed dower in either Davers' or King's estate. From loyalty to her first husband's estate, not from stinginess, did she, by ante-nuptial stipulations, require each of her last two husbands to pay, as they cheerfully and regularly did, an annual stipend in flour for his boarding and horsekeeping from Saturday night until Monday morning of each week of their singular, and, in this county unprecedented, conjugal lives. She is said to have been well educated in German. She survived her last husband several years, having enjoyed the affection of her kindred, and the esteem of friends and acquaintances, to which the good qualities of her heart and mind justly entitled her.

Source: Page(s) 10-18, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 19114.
Transcribed September 1998 by Rodney G. Rosborough for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by Rodney G. Rosborough for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

Armstrong County Genealogy Project Notice:
These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format, for any presentation, without prior written permission.

Return to the Beers Project


Return to the Armstrong County Genealogy Project

(c) Armstrong County Genealogy Project


Return to the Armstrong County Genealogy Project

(c) Armstrong County Genealogy Project