Chapter 1
Historical Sketch of Armstrong County

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1. The subject matter of this chapter was originally prepared for and partly delivered as an address on the occasion of the observance of the centennial anniversary of American independence, July 4, 1876, at Cherry Run, in Plum Creek township. The author says: "On the thirteenth day of March, 1876, a joint resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States was adopted and duly approved, recommending the people to assemble in their respective towns or counties on this centennial anniversary of our national independence, and cause to be then delivered an historical sketch of their town or county from its formation, and that either a written or printed copy thereof be filed in the clerk's office of the county, and an additional one in the office of the Librarian of Congress, so that a complete record may thus be obtained of the progress of our institutions during the first century of their existence. The purport of that joint resolution has very properly been brought to the knowledge of the people by proclamations of the President of the United States and the Governors of this and other States.

To render that recommendation of Congress effective, so far as this county is concerned, these historical sketches were in part originally prepared at the instance of the people of Armstrong county.

The writer remarks, in passing, that there is a wide difference between a sketch and a history of either a county, state, or country. The former is simply an outline, a general delineation, or incomplete draft of one or the other, as the case may be. A history, or a complete narrative of the events which have happened within the territorial limits of this county, since its history began, would require a much longer period of time for its preparation than has been allotted to the writer, and it would be much more voluminous than is the sketch which he has prepared. He may also remark that he has studiously refrained from infusing original and speculative ideas into these sketches, but has rather endeavored to fill them with such facts of history as he has gathered in the course of his earlier and more recent researches. Some of them are much older than is the organization of our country, but they are, nevertheless, remotely connected with its history.

2. We know that King Charles christened the state, and why he gave to it the name which it still bears. But how came the original county from which this county has descended to be christened Chester? Clarkson, in his "Life of Penn" (vol.1, p. 259), alluding to the assembly being called at Upland, says: "This was a memorable event, and to be distinguished by some marked circumstance; he determined, therefore to change the name of the place. Turning round to his friend Pearson, one of his society, who had accompanied him in the ship Welcome, he said, 'Providence has brought us here safe; thou hast been the companion of my perils; what wilt thou that I should call this place?' Pearson said, 'Chester, in remembrance of the city from whence I came.' William Penn replied that it should be called Chester, and that when he divided the land into counties he would also call one of them by the same name."

3. A part of the evidence to the contrary was the statement of Nicholas Scull, Surveyor-General, made before the Provincial Council, Tuesday, January 25, 1757, in which he alleged that in September, 1737, he was present at the running of the line of the Indian purchase of those lands, and that he had reduced to writing what he remembered about it. His statement having been signed and affirmed by him before the Governor in council, it was duly entered. He affirmed that the day and a half's walk begun near Wrightstown, in Bucks county, and continued thence some distance beyond the Kittatinny mountains; that he believed the whole distance walked did not exceed fifty-five statute miles; that Benjamin Eastburn, the then Surveyor-General, Timothy Smith, sheriff of Bucks county, and himself, attended that walk from beginning to end; that particular care was taken not to exceed eighteen hours; that he always thought and believed that walk to have been fairly performed, the walkers not having run or gone out of a walk at any time; that he did not remember of any of the Indians then present making any complaint of unfair practice; and that Eastburn, he and others lodged the night after the walk was completed at the Indian town Poacopokunk, where were Capt. Harrison, a noted man among the Indians, and many of the Delawares, none of whom did he remember as having made any complaint or shown any uneasiness concerning that walk.

4. Read at a meeting of the council of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, February 15, 1826.

5. Jonah Davenport, an Indian trader, in his examination or affidavit, taken before Lieut. Gov. Gordon, at Philadelphia, October 20, 1731, says: "Last spring was four years, as he remembers, a French Gentleman in appearance, with five or six Attendants, came down the River to a settlement of the Delaware Indians, called Kithanning, with an Intention as this Examit believes, to inquire into the number of English Traders in those parts, and to sound the minds of the Indians," etc. James Le Tort's examination, taken at the same time, gives the name of that French gentleman as M. Cavalier. A list of Delaware and other Indians on the Connumach and Kithenning rivers and elsewhere is attached to those examinations, in which is this item: ''Kithenning River � Mostly Delawares. Fam. 50; men, 150. Dist. 50." The last probably means the distance from Fort Du Quesne.

6. It was called both Ohio and Allegheny as early as 1748.

7. For personal sketches of Col. Armstrong, and other officers engaged in the expedition against Kittanning, the reader is referred to the note at the close of this chapter.

8. Col. Mackey was a citizen of Westmoreland county, where he owned a plantation.

9. Gen. Brodhead, whose name appears above, was the commandant of Fort Pitt in 1778-9. He enjoyed, to a high degree, the esteem and confidence of Gen. Washington, who said in his letter to him informing him that he had been selected to succeed Gen. McIntosh at that post: "From my opinion of your abilities, you former acquaintance with the back country, and the knowledge you must have acquired on this last tour of duty, I have appointed you to the command: but if you quit the post, I apprehend there will be no other officer left of sufficient weight and ability."

Col. Brodhead was also very popular with the Indians. The Delaware chiefs resolved to confer upon him the greatest honor in their power. Accordingly, April 9, 1779, they did so. At a conference of those chiefs and others, then held at Fort Pitt, they addressed him as the Great Warrior thus: "Of our ancestors, the good men of our nation, we now hand you down a name, as we look upon you to be an upright man. You are henceforth called by us the Delaware nation, the "Great Moon,' that is in Delaware, 'Maghingua Keeshock.' Hereafter our great-grandchildren, yet unborn, when they come to years of understanding, shall know that your name is handed down as their great-grandfather. All the speeches you now send to the nations must be signed with your present name, Maghingua Keeshock, an all the nations will address you by that name. There were five great, good kings of our nation. One of their names you have. Taimenend is another. We have yet two to bestow. Our ancestors in former times were of a good disposition, and on the cause of our now being as one man, we now place you in the same light with us. Now hereafter, perhaps, those of our nation yet unborn are to know that that was the name of the ancestor, the good man and the great warrior of the thirteen United States, given to him by the chiefs of the Delaware nation, at the great council fire at Fort Pitt." It is related that he was a tall, fine, noble-looking man, with a strikingly bland and open countenance and a mirthful, laughing blue eye. Although his services were important, valuable and ably rendered, yet they were not such, no matter by whom rendered, as would be likely to be blazoned before the nation, so that he may not have received � in fact, he did not receive � the full guerdon of praise which was richly his due."

10. At a meeting of the Armstrong county bar, held at Kittanning, May 3, 1871, on the occasion of the retirement of Judge Buffington from the bench, ex-Gov. Johnston, in the course of his remarks, said: "I remember well the conflicts to settle land titles in this county, growing out of the many questions connected with the 'Donation Lands,' the 'Stuck District,' the 'Depreciation Titles,' the 'Old Military Permits,' the 'New Descriptive Warrants,' the 'Shifting Locations' and the titles arising under the 'New Purchase,' as well as the original grants from the Penn family, and the stormy disputes and controversies arising under the act of April 3, 1792, with its warrants of acceptance, and the rights relating to settlers under its supplements, et id omne genus, how warm and energetic our contests were."

11. At the corner of the tract surveyed and patented to Robert Patrick, which now belongs to Gen. Orr's estate.

12. A short distance below the rolling-mill, and a little less distance below the present southern limit of the borough of Kittanning.

13. It was suspended Saturday, December 9, 1873.

14. Mr. Thompson, although not a citizen of Kittanning when elected, or while on the bench, was so for several years prior to 1830. He came here from Butler, Pennsylvania, in 1826, being then twenty-two years of age. He was a printer, and took Josiah Copley's place in the office of the Kittanning Gazette while the latter was absent getting married in Philadelphia. He afterward assisted in printing Bennett's Lectures on Theology, and read law in the office of Thomas Blair, working at his trade three hours a day to pay for his boarding. During a part, if not all, the period of his clerkship, he boarded with Mr. Copley, who says he found him "a very pleasant and genial member of his family. He was a good printer and had literary genius of a high order for one of his age and opportunities." On Wednesday, March 19, 1828, he was admitted to, and then for a year and a half or so practiced at the bar of this county, having in the meantime married a daughter of Rev. Nathaniel G. Snowden, after which he removed to Franklin, Venango county, Pennsylvania. In an old number of the Gazette, and of the Columbian, is his professional card in these words:

"James Thompson, attorney at law has opened an office on Jefferson street, in the borough of Kittanning, next door to the office of David Johnston, Esq., where he will be found at all times, and ready to transact any business in the line of his profession. Deeds, bonds, mortgages, etc., will be drawn at a short notice, in legal form, and on moderate terms.

"Kittanning, April 19, 1828."

His residence here was not long continued. The office which he had then opened must have been on lot No. 152, on the west side of Jefferson, and the third lot above Jacob street, for on that lot was the office of David Johnston, afterward occupied by Darwin Phelps, and now by John Kennerdell.

15. Josiah Copley.

16. Furnished to the writer by George Stimson.

17. Twelve of those appraised in this class were exonerated from paying mercantile license, because they proved that they were not engaged in the mercantile business at all. So that the real number of wholesale and retail dealers in all classes is 346 instead of 358, and the number in the 14th class is 266 instead of 278.

18. A movement must have been inaugurated as early as 1823, for organizing an agricultural society in this county, which, so far as the writer can learn, was not consummated. That an attempt was then made to organize such a society is evident from the following clause in a letter from Malthus A. Ward, who had previously been a resident physician at Kittanning, to the late Eben Smith Kelly, dated Salem, Mass., August 8, 1823: "I rejoice to see the doings toward as agricultural society, and wish that in a few years your cattle-show may rival that at Brighton. I fear, however, that it will be many years before Armstrong county can show such a farm as Josiah Quincy's or Henry Denby's."

19. He died at Carlisle, Pa., March 9, 1795.

20. Joseph Reed, adjutant-general, and Stephen Moylan, Colonel.

21. Vid. Pa. Mag. Of Hist. and Biog., Vol. I, p. 346 et seq.

Source: Page(s) 13-59, History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania by Robert Walker Smith, Esq.
             Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1883.
Transcribed January 1999 by Jeffrey Bish for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Published 1999 by the Armstrong County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project.

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