Chapter 13, Section 1

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On the 22nd June, 1841, the petition of diverse inhabitants of Kittanning, Plum Creek and Wayne townships was presented to the proper court of this county, asking for the erection of a new township out of parts of those above named. On the 25th of the same month it was dismissed because of informality; no particular part of either of these parts was designated in the petition. The application was renewed December 21, 1847, and John McEwen, Findley Patterson and George B. McFarland were appointed commissioners, who presented their report, designating the boundaries of the proposed new township, February 8, 1848. A remonstrance against its confirmation was presented and filed March 20. The report was confirmed December 22, 1848, and the township of Cowanshannock was by decree of the court erected, with these boundaries: "Beginning at the purchase line on land of Samuel Elgin, thence north 62 perches to the Cowanshannock creek; thence north 6 degrees east along the Pine township line 898 perches to a stone on Hannegan’s land; thence east 8 miles to a post on John McEwen’s farm, at the Indiana county line; thence south along said county line 4 miles and 100 perches to a chestnut at the purchase line; thence south 37 degrees west along county line 3 miles to a post on Hoover’s land; thence north 75 degrees west 7 ½ miles to a post on Bradford’s lands, at the Kittanning township line; thence along said township line north 24 degrees east 2 miles and 14 perches to the purchase line, the place of beginning."

At the first spring election, 1849, the following township officers were elected:

Justice of the peace, Samuel Cassady; constable, John Adams; assessor, Samuel Black; assistant assessors, Jacob Beer and James Stewart; supervisors, John Whittaker and John Stoops; school directors, Samuel Elgin, John McEwen, Samuel Fleming, Samuel R. Ramage, William McIntosh and Joseph Elgin; overseers of the poor, Alexander P. Ormond, William Rearich; judge of election, George Stewart; inspectors of election, James Reid, Robert Neal; township auditors, Joseph Kirkpatrick, William Sloan, Samuel Potts; township clerk, David Hill.

The township was named Cowanshannock after the creek flowing through the very picturesque valley which it drains the entire length—beyond the entire length—between its eastern and western boundaries. Cowanshannock is an Indian name, and, like other such names, is significant. The general opinion of the people of this region is, that it means "banks of flowers." On the 26th of January, 1833, "C.", enchanted with the beauty of this valley, as he or she had seen it in the different phases, indited a poem, the them of which was, "Cowanshannock, or Bed of Roses," from which this stanza is cited:

From sloping hills and valleys deep,

The Bed of Roses takes its rise,

Winding its way through glade and steep,

From eastern tow’rd the western skies.

The pretty conception of the meaning of Cowanshannock is, however, spoiled by the reality, for Heckewelder says: "Cowanshannock, a branch of the Allegheny in Armstrong county, corrupted from Gawansch-hanne--- signifying green-brier1 stream, or brier creek. Gawunschige--- briery. So it must be inferred that the Indians found this now lovely valley more thorny than rosy.

The purchase line of 1768, or the old purchase line, as it is often called, traverses the township from the chestnut tree mentioned in the boundaries at the angle south of the north branch of Plum Creek in the line between this and Indiana county, north 79 degrees west, passing through the brick house of Jno. Boyer about twenty-five rods east of Huskins’ run, and crossing the western boundary of the township a little above the angletherin. All that portion south of that line was taken from Plum Creek township, and was included in the old purchase of 1768, and it constitutes about one-third of the territory of Cowanshannock township. The original tracts in this portion were in the names of warrantees as follows: A part of the Alexander Dallas tract; the John D. Mercer tract, 402 acres, seated by David McCausland; James Dundas, 402 acres; Parsons Leaming, 406 ¾ acres, seated by John Byerly; parts of the Jacob Amos and Mary Semple tracts; Joseph Fisher, 402 acres; Joseph Nourse, 402 acres, seated by David McCausland; Patrick Farrell, 406 ¾ acres ; Samuel Fisher, 443 ¾ acres, seated by William McCausland; Joseph Norris, 356 acres, seated by James Guthrie; Thomas Bradford,452 acres; Elizabeth Henderson, two tracts, 415 ½ and 413 ¾ acres; nearly all of Andrew Henderson’s, 413 ¾ acres, seated by George McLaughlin; the greater part of Robert Semple, Jr., tract, 421 acres; William Finney, 427.5 acres, seated by John Black; William Wistar, 306 acres; John Dealing, 318 ½ acres; parts of the Isaac and Samuel Morris tracts; John Lart, 330 ¾ acres, seated by Daniel Wampler; George Snyder, 307 ½ acres; John Gill 321 1/3 acres, seated by Jacob Beer, Jr.; Benjamin Davis, 325 ½ acres, one-half above the purchase line, seated by George and Michael Somers; Jonathan D. Sergeant, 402 ¾ acres- small portions of it are in Kittanning and Plum Creek townships; parts of the Larken Dorsey and James Dubbs tracts; Richard Wellsk, 330 ¾ acres, seated by Jacob Beer. Wells purchased, January 7, 1774, the George Snyder tract and various other tracts elsewhere mentioned, at five shillings per tract. 2 He was an adherent of the English in the revolutionary struggle. Colonel John Bayard, in his letter to the Council of Safety, from the camp at Bristol, Pennsylvania, December 13, 1776, wrote this of him: " We are informed today by a gentleman from Burlington that Richard Wells was there yesterday, doubtless with advice to the enemy and returned that night. He informed the people that General Putnam intended burning the city." At a meeting of the Council of Safety, January 14, 1777, Wells was nominated as a member of that body. In his reply to the communication informing him thereof , the next day, he said : "Sincerity and candor forbid my concealing the true reason of my wishing to decline the appointment; I hope not to offend by my honesty, yet I cannot, I think, with an upright conscience, withhold the confession. The post, gentlemen, which you fill is built on a foundation so opposite to my sentiments, and the money I should have to distribute on your account so expressly put into your hands for the purposes of war, that I should stand condemned by my own heart if I accepted the charge. Far be it from me to undertake here to arraign your conduct in the prosecution of your office; I cheerfully grant to all men that freedom of action which I claim in return, and assure you with great sincerity that whilst, on the one hand, I cannot give a hearty approbation to the present system; on the other, I will never oppose or disturb it; my constant study being to pass through life at peace with my own breast and all the world. I know that I have been more explicit than common policy might have dictated, but thought I should have been wanting in justice to you and myself not to have ingenuously told you the truth. I am much obliged by your entertaining so good an opinion of my integrity as to nominate me to so important a trust, and hope you will not think too unfavorably of me for the part I act."

In the other portion, north of the purchase line, were these tracts: Henry Shade, 400 acres, warrant 584—bounded by the purchase line on the south, which, according to the description of this tract in the mortgage from Shade to John Foyle, Jr., July 2, 1805, must have been the northern boundary of Westmoreland county, for this tract is there represented as having previously been in Northumberland county, and if so, that northern boundary line of Westmoreland county must have struck the Allegheny river near Truby’s run, in Kittanning, instead of near the mouth of the Cowanshannock, as seems to have been the case by its location in some of the old maps; H. LeRoy & Co., 958 acres, warrant No. 3118, along the north side of the purchase line; H. LeRoy & Co., two tracts, 948 ½ and 990 acres, warrants Nos. 3126 and 3128, partly in Indiana county; H. LeRoy & Co., 1096 ½ acres, warrant 3125; James Kirkpatrick, 100 ½ acres, mostly in Indiana county; Samuel Bryan, 544 acres and 106 perches, warrant 679; T. W. Hiltzimer, 1,100 acres, warrant 5146, partly in Wayne; H. LeRoy & Co., 847 ½ acres, warrant 3095, seated by John Simpson and John Kirkpatrick; John Denniston, 180 ¾ acres, warrant 3829, tract called "Dublin"; John Denniston, 170 ½ acres, warrant 3830, tract called "Abbington"; John Sloan, 226 ¼ acres, warrant 5639, tract called "Stanton"; Joseph Cook, treasurer of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, in 1789-90, 393 acres, warrant 5637, called "The Grove"; part of the Wallace tract, warrant 4162; part of the Dr. Wm. Smith tract, mentioned in the sketch of Wayne township - he was a member from Philadelphia of the committee for the Province of Pennsylvania, July, 1774, and one of the deputies chosen by the several counties; George Bryan - he was vice-president of the supreme executive council of this state in 1777, and was commissioned a puisne judge of the supreme court, April 3, 1780- 548 ¼ acres, warrant 669; Samuel Denniston, 255 ½ acres, warrant 3621, tract called "Alexandria"; John Denniston, 239 acres, warrant 3922, tract called "Derry"; Joseph Cook, 447 ¾ acres, warrant 3636, tract called "Wheatfield"; Aaron Wor, 447 acres, warrant 5483; John Craig, 245 acres, warrant 3652; John Denniston,3 309 acres, warrant 3618, seated by Robert McIlwain; William Denniston, 220 acres, warrant 3620; Archibald McGahey, 100 acres; Meason & Cross, 543 ½ acres, warrant 675; George Bryan 1,097 ½ acres, warrant 672- 500 acres seated by John Schrecongost, and 500 by Jacob Torney; William Findley, 281 acres, warrant 5638, dated June 27, 1894, tract called "Fidelity", patent to George Roberts, March 2, 1895, Roberts’ heirs to Samuel Patterson (55 acres), April 16, 1836; Robert McClenechan,328 ¾ acres, warrant 515; William Findley, 100 acres, warrant 3658, seated by Daniel River; Reynolds & Clark, 428 ¾ acres, warrant 6041; H.LeRoy & Co. (Holland Company), two tracts, 1028 ¾ and 1000 acres, warrants 3022 and 3030; Timothy Pickering & Co., 627 ½ acres, warrant 11, seated by James Craig, James Simpson and Isaac Simpson; Timothy Pickering & Co., 1057 ½ acres, warrant 176; Timothy Pickering & Co., 1132 ¼ acres, warrant No. 25.

The last-named company consisted of Timothy Pickering, Tench Coxe, Samuel Hodgdon, Duncan Ingraham, Jr., Andrew Craiger, and Morris Fisher. It is set forth in their article of agreement, dated April 6, 1785, that they expected a land office to be opened on the 1st of the next month for the sale of lands purchased from the Indians in 1784, which is frequently called "the late purchase," and that they were desirous of purchasing a considerable quantity of these lands. Pickering, Coxe, Hodgdon and Ingraham were appointed a committee to procure warrants and manage the other business of the company. It was stipulated that the members of the company should be joint tenants, that the lands purchased by their committee should be conveyed to them as such in fee, and that a contract should be made with Gen. James Potter to locate their warrants, to show the lands covered by them to the surveyors of the districts or counties in which they lay, and to cause returns thereof to be made to the Surveyor-General’s office. Potter was to receive seventeen thousand acres as his compensation for surveying and locating sixty-three thousand acres for the company, for the division of which from the company’s land, by his executors or two of them, he provided in his will, dated October 27, 1789. The company and Andrew Gregg and James Poe, two of Potter’s executors, entered into an agreement for the partition, March 3, 1795. By that partition the Pickering tracts, warrants Nos. 11 and 176, were allotted to Potter’s executors for the use of his heirs.

The ostensible evidences of earliest occupation in that part of this township south of the purchase line are on the farm now owned by Thomas McCausland, which is a part of the Joseph Nourse tract.

There are vestiges of a circumvallation on that Nourse tract, which encompassed about one acre and a half, and was circular. According to reliable information, which has been transmitted from the persons who settled thereabouts in and prior to 1812, the parapet must have been four or five feet high, with a fosse or trench surrounding it, the depth and width of which could not be accurately ascertained, as it was partly filled when it was discovered. There is the stump of a cherry tree within the parapet, eighteen inches, and another one of the same kind in the trench, twenty inches in diameter. The tree had grown from an old stump which is very much decayed. Both of these trees were cut down in 1872 or 1873.

There is a mulberry tree from twelve to fifteen inches in diameter two rods south of the parapet, which has also grown from an old stump, and there are two white-oak trees about two feet in diameter about the same distance east of the parapet. There appears to have been a well at the center within the parapet.

Clay smoking-pipes, with the initials "W.W." upon them, and hatchets, of a superior quality of steel, supposed to be of English manufacture, were found here by the early settlers. Traces of that circumvallation are still visible. Its location is on a beautiful elevation, which commands an extensive view up and down the valley of the north branch of the Plum Creek, anciently called Finney’s Run, thirty rods north of this branch and twenty rods west of McDole’s, or Madole’s run; between that location and Branch is the Plum creek road; one hundred and twenty rods southwesterly from it is the site of what, tradition says, was "Hutchison’s hunting camp," on a run emptying into the Branch on its south side, and therefore, called Hutchison’s run. Who Hutchison was or whence he came has not been handed down to the present residents of this region.

Source: Page(s) 286-309, History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania by Robert Walker Smith, Esq. Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1883.
Transcribed December 1999 by Pamela Clark for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by Pamela Clark for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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