SESQUI-CENTENNIAL PUBLICATIONS NO. 1
1795 -- 1945
EARLY SOMERSET COUNTY
EARLY SOMERSET COUNTY
SOMERSET COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
SESQUI-CENTENNIAL PUBLICATIONS No. 1
THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE
TO THE PIONEERS of SOMERSET COUNTY
Drawn especially for this publication
by Kindred McLeary:
Washington at the Great Crossing
General Forbes and the Great Road
Fort Stony Creek
Harmon Husband, the Insurgent
Facing Page 20
Facing Page 24
Facing Page 32
Facing Page 52
The history, traditions, and legends of Somerset County are colorful threads interwoven in the evolving pattern of American Civilization. They have their beginnings in the dawn of antiquity, intertwining themselves among the conquerors and conquered peoples of Europe and Asia. Extending across the oceans, the frayed ends, tangled and knotted with the struggles of all mankind against his universe, are again caught up and spun into the web of our every-day lives.
So sensitive have been, and are, these traditions that the whim of some European court favorite for the soft fur of a beaver echoed in a rifle shot across the Glades at the headwaters of Stony Creek; or a bomb dropped on a little island at the Cross Roads of the Pacific brought ten thousand Frosty Sons of Thunder to their feet to proclaim anew their allegiance to freedom's cause.
Historically speaking Somerset County is young, even in a new world. At the time Christopher Gist, George Washington, General Braddock, and General Forbes were pondering over the problem of opening a road through the tangled wilderness across the Allegheny Mountains and the Laurel Hills to the Ohio Valley, Spanish settlements were old; their government buildings, churches, schools, and market places were green with the moss of two centuries, and their halls were filled with ancient intrigue.
For you and me, looking backward through the mist of a hundred and fifty years of Somerset County's history, the scenes, blending into the distant past, lose their sharp outlines until the exploits of the Spanish Conquistadores may be more sharply etched on our memories than the trials of Braddock, Forbes, or Harmon Husband.
Yet, if we draw our attention to a focus, and direct it to a wooded valley on the western slope of the Allegheny Mountains, the haze of time clears. The time is June 5, 1771. A horseman is picking his way through the forests along a small mountain stream. The horse is foam-flecked from the long, hard climb up the eastern side of the mountain, while the rider sits erect, dodging now and then an overhanging hemlock bough or the leaning bole of an oak.
The sun is already low over the western rim of the Laurel Hills, and the rider watches with some apprehension from under the shade of his broad-brimmed, low-crowned hat. Approaching a natural meadow, he takes mental notes to be later recorded in his journal which he carries in his saddle bag.
Early Somerset County
The words march through his mind--this valley is what properly may be termed rolling in its general features, divided into hills, bottoms, and glades; generally densely timbered, and with little or no underbrush, the bottoms open and sodded with a short fine grass--as to the glades; nothing could exceed in beauty and luxuriance these plains-in many places, for acres, grass as high as a man, of a bluish color, with feathery heads of bluish purple.
Suddenly the word, halt! The man draws reign. Rising in his stirrups he looks to the west. Wood smoke is spiraling up from a low ridge a short distance ahead. For an instant all the weariness of the day gives way to a feeling of exultation; at last after many years he has found his old friend. But wait, Indians and loyal subject to His Majesty King George III also build fires. Pontiac's savage hordes still lurk in these woods thirsting for revenge. The long arm of British "Justice" reaches far beyond the last
outpost of civilization, and there is a Royal price on this lone traveler's head.
Harmon Husband, better known as The Old Quaker, Toscape Death, and one of Somerset County's earliest pioneers slowly settles back in his saddle, and breathes deeply of the clean, bitter scent of the pines. Resolutely he urges his horse toward the purple plume of smoke.
Echoes in the Forest
The echoes of Columbus' command, "Westward Ho!" reverberated against the eastern wall of the Allegheny Mountains in the year of our Lord 1492. It was a faint and distant call mingled with rustle of drifting autumn winds.
Few of the Red Men heard.
More than two and a half centuries passed; seven generations measured by the sun and the moon and the stars, and the births and deaths of the great warriors.
Still the Red Men listened with the ears of their fathers.
They watched the cycle of the seasons wheel over the mountains-those rigid waves of rock that rose gently out of the great salt waters, and splashed against the heavens. Kneeling at the cool springs that bubbled from the rocks near the summit of the mountains that were called the Alleghenies, they saw flecks of bark from the giant hemlocks snatched by silver threads from the springs, and carried swiftly toward the land of the Beautiful River, and the mighty Father of Waters. At the very crest of the mountain the sparkling springs spilled toward the rising sun to mingle with the flood of the Susquehanna. Even the rivers of the southland reached one slender finger into the mountains that looked out over the Dawn Land. Cradled between the two long ridges that extended north and south for half the length of the continent were the forests, the meadows, the
glades, and the gurgle of the infant rivers. The forests were endless; dark columns of hemlock marched steadily into the infinite horizon. Oak, maple, chestnut, walnut, ash and a host of other hardwoods unfurled their multicolored banners across the rolling plateau when the hunter's moon hung high. After the season of the white rains, green spears of grass sodded the glades and open meadows of the forest.
The elk and the buffalo eyed each other across the glassy pools of the glades, while the white tailed deer stood knee deep in the rippling reflection of the purple spires of the hemlock. The smack of a beaver's tail on the still waters near the breast of his dam warned of the stealthy approach of the panther. Muskrats sat hunched on half sunken logs munching the succulent roots of the cat-tail and water lily. Squirrels, red, black, and gray, chattered ceaselessly among the high branches that fringed the
meadows. The wild turkey and the grouse strutted among the shadows of the thorn berry bushes.
The Red Man saw and was pleased, and gave thanks in his fashion to Manitou, the Great Spirit that ruled over the forests, the rivers, and the glittering stars. He built his campfires at the headwaters of the Ohio, the Susquehanna, and the Potomac. His canoe paddle flashed along the willow
fringed banks of the Cowamahoning (Quemahoning Creek) Stony Creek,
and the dark waters that danced at the foot of the Laurel Mountains.
With bow and arrow, spear and tomahawk he slew the elk, the deer, and the buffalo, and feasted on savory haunches of meat roasted over the slow fires of green hickory logs. There were fish; slim speckled trout, white suckers, and bass that seemed to wait only the spear thrust. Wild turkeys, grouse, and wild pigeons fattened themselves on the purple clusters of wild grapes, acorns, and chestnuts, while wedges of wild geese and ducks circled low over the quiet forest pools. The waspish twang of the stone tipped arrow scattered the flocks-leaving one flapping helplessly. The horn of plenty bulged.
Doe skins, smoked and chewed to the softness of velvet, clothed the naked savage when the north wind muffled the long drawn howl of the wolf, and closed the forest aisles with the ever mounting drifts of white rain. Coarse robes from the backs of buffalo and black bear floored the frail bark huts that clustered in the sheltered folds of the forest. No man now living knows by what name these dawn men went, but the goose quills that began to label the bundles of furs gleaned from the bark huts began also to label the tribes from which the respective bales were taken.
By their own names, fashioned and refashioned by the laborious scrawl of a blunt quill in the hand of a fur trader, the Red Man began to make himself known. Algonquin was a name to be spelled out; an all embracing name subordinated by lesser words such as Delaware, Shawnee, Mingo, Pottawattomies, Sacs and Foxes. A braid or a twist in the scalp lock or an added stripe of war paint identified the warrior and his respective tribe. To the north was the land of the Iroquois; the Mohawks, the Onidas, the Onodagas, the Cayugas and Senecas.
Whatever the name of his tribe might have been each man--each woman --was an individual with a wild love of liberty and a savage intolerance of restricted control. His ruling passions were ambition, revenge, enmity, and jealousy. Hero worship and love of glory were the balancing factors in his nature; ofttimes overruling his wary and cautious nature even in the face of death.
It was only natural that the interests-the hunting grounds-of the various tribes must overlap, and being savages they resorted to war, which
was more or less a natural and perpetual state of affairs among the scattered tribes of the wilderness.
The Iroquois had proclaimed themselves the Master Race--the Algonquins were squaws. But a proclamation, whether it be inscribed on fine parchment or a birch stick is an empty boast without an accompanying hatchet. And so it was that the Mingoes of the Iroquois drank at the same springs with the Delawares and the Shawnees in the Stony Creek valley between the Laurel Hills and the Allegheny Mountains.
War, in a sense, is a leavening factor in the affairs of men. While it marshals and brings to the surface the sub-beastial instincts, it also awakens nobler passions. The Red Man was keenly alert to the qualities of human nature that served him best. Driven by his enemies from one hunting ground to another, or pursuing a weaker foe into strange and quiet valleys his every sense was whetted to animal keenness. He could see and hear far beyond the normal zones of these faculties. His sense of smell served him from afar, quickening him to the distant tang of wood smoke, or the grease smeared skin of an enemy hidden in the shaded underbrush along a mountain trail.
This alertness was reflected in the quality of his weapons. The conquering tribes fashioned their flint arrow tips with artistic grace. They shaped them from the hardest flint, and clearest quartz, beveling the edges of the points so that the shaft would spin true to its mark; piercing the heart of a deer or the enemy tribesman at fifty or a hundred paces. Other implements of work and war, the tomahawk, the spear point, the skinning knife, the "grist mill" were stamped with the indelible grace of his savage mind.
Being nomadic by nature and necessity the Red Man left few scars in the forest with his dwellings or villages. Oven shaped huts, quickly constructed with poles, bark and skins formed his rude shelter while a breech cloth, moccasins, a robe of panther skin over his shoulders and a feather in his scalp lock made up his scanty attire.
His skin varied from a pale golden yellow to a deep mahogany. He was generally of medium stature, lean, muscular, marked with symmetry and vigor with dark eyed features stamped with a stern expression to mask more compassionate emotions.
That was before the Red Man heard the echo from the Dawn Land. He had not yet met the pale faced trader with the forked tongue who came into the wilderness bearing gifts of guns and gun powder, beads and bells and little casks of flaming water that burned through the Red Man's veins; set swarms of fire flies dancing in his brain, and crumpled him in a coarse flea infested trade blanket to wallow in the stench of his own vomit.
Into these woods the traders came-and their motive was profit. It was a language that made all races akin, and the first strand of a cordon that was ultimately to round up the last savage, and safely enmesh him in the folds of Western Civilization.
They followed the nameless paths of the rivers from the eastern seaboard to the very heart of the territory that is now known as Somerset County. A quarter of a century before William Penn was born beaver pelts, and buffalo robes trickled in from the "glades" to the Scandinavian and Dutch settlements along the Delaware River. From thence they flowed to the Continent.
The trails across the Alleghenies and the Laurel Hills, worn deep by countless generations of moccasined feet, began to be scarred with hard leather boots and the hooves of pack horses.
They came from several directions. From the headwaters of the Juniata River they followed old traces across the Alleghenies to Stony Creek and the small reaches of the Conemaugh, and down to the forks of the Ohio. Arriving at the Turkey Foot of the Youghiogheny, the Casselman, and the Laurel Hill from the settlements along the Potomac they made their way into the scattered Indian villages in the mountains.
The records of the exploits of these early traders have long since vanished. Having made their excursions, they traced with their fingers a map in the sand, and in the minds of the bolder spirits of the settlements, the trade routes to follow.
When the traditions of these trails began to be recorded there was a ring of familiarity with these old paths in a new world. In the year 1740--nine years before any white man was positively known to have set foot on the territory of Somerset County-the conversations around the campfires of the traders at the eastern foot of the Allegheny Mountains drifted to speculation on whether or not the French had already gathered the catch of furs from the Indians, and supplied them with guns. They discussed the four days ride that would take them to the Turkey Foot of the Youghiogheny, and thence to the valley of the Ohio. They complained of the incoming number of settlers who were drifting into the mountains, and were apprehensive of the western migration of the Indians. They found hogs running
loose in the woods that had escaped from the settlers, and they feasted on roast pork. They pondered further on the extent of Penn's Woods into the West. Did the Penns, the Virginians, the English, the Delawares or the Mingoes own the land along the valleys of the Turkey Foot?
Their pack horses, cropping the grass beyond the outer glow of their campfires, were hobbled and laden with trade blankets, guns, flints, knives, tomahawks, beads, hawks bells, and kegs of rum to be traded for beaver pelts.
And the names of some of these men were John Frazier, John Harris, Rea or Ray, Denning or Dunning, and Ferguson.
More than a century after the French had established Port Royal, and the coureurs de bois had driven the prows of their canoes down the St. Lawrence, and across the Great Lakes almost to the Rocky Mountains, a few hunters from the province of Pennsylvania stood at the foot of the Allegheny Mountains weighing the hazards of a season in the wilderness against the bales of furs and skins that would afford them several months leisure in the settlements.
Provincially speaking these men were outlaws. The mountains still belonged to the Indians by sovereign right, and the Penns, by lip service at least, respected the Red Man's claim.
In the early half of the eighteenth century when a man crossed the Susquehanna River at Harris's Ferry, and headed into the wilderness of the West he was a law unto himself. These men were the first to glean for themselves the abundant harvest of the woods, and by so doing they found themselves not only at cross purposes with the Penns, but in bold competition with the Indians.
The remains of these camps, long since having staggered into decay, were found by the later hunters, the first settlers, and the leaders of the first military expeditions who penetrated into this territory.
Sheltered by, half-faced cabins, that is, a log lean-to with the roof covered with bark or skins, and the whole front open to the weather, these hunters selected for themselves isolated valleys or coves. The extent of the circle of their traplines depended upon the number of steel traps they had in their possession, but the range covered by the hunter himself and his long rifle was limited only by the hunter's physical endurance.
In order to outwit the red fox, the ermine, the otter, the beaver and the elk, they learned the animal's habits, and tracked it to its lair. The hunter himself, ofttimes being stalked by the Indians, had to learn the new language of the mountains or have his trail blotted out by the twinkling of a flint-tipped feathered shaft. Yet, fur being the coin of the realm, the people's money, with which they bought gun powder, flints, salt and meal, the hunters penetrated deeper and deeper into the wilderness as the fur crop diminished.
When the tide of Colonial affairs turned, and a bounty was placed upon the scalp lock of the Delawares, Shawnees, and Mingos--"For the scalp of every male Indian enemy above the age of ten years, produced as evidence of their being killed, the sum of one hundred and thirty four pieces of eight; and for the scalp of every female Indian enemy above the age of ten years, produced as evidence of their being killed, the sum of fifty pieces of eight." --it was the hunter who took up the Indian's trail, never resting until the coveted scalp lock was stretched over a willow hoop, and drying over the hot coals of the hunter's camp fire.
In more instances than is comfortable to contemplate it was the Red Man who harried the hunter; tying him to a stake and charring his legs to his knees while the squaws gouged pine splinters under his finger nails, and spat contemptuously upon him.
At a later date it was the hunter who was to become the Ranger--the Long Knife--who was to form the shock troops--the spear points of the forces that ultimately were to pry loose the shackles of Old World tyranny. The names of the very early hunters are officially unrecorded in the ledgers of Somerset County, but legends, based upon authentic records of surrounding counties, lead into the Glades, the Turkey Foot, and along the Quemahoning long before a log of the first permanent settler's cabin was notched.
When the hives of men in England, and on the Continent became overcrowded, and their best laid plans of intrigue against each other overflowed the margins of their minds they escaped to America. In their midst, and in their wake were the gamblers in the good earth-the land speculators. Notable among the many imperial designs was the Ohio Company which was granted on paper--400,000 acres of land along the Ohio. Fortunately or unfortunately all of the stockholders of this Company were not sure of the actual existence of this tract of wilderness; so one Christopher Gist, a surveyor from North Carolina, was appointed to search out and discover these lands.
Now the shortest distances between the Atlantic settlements and the Ohio valley was by the way of two Indian trails, either of which must cross the territory which is now Somerset County.
Gist chose for his first journey the southern route, later known as Nemacolin's Trail, which led him through Addison Township to the Great Crossing of the Youghiogheny.
This is the first official record of any white man having set foot on the territory that is now Somerset County, and the year was 1749. This was two hundred and fifty seven years after America was discovered, and one hundred and forty two years after the first permanent English settlement in the New World was founded; a span of time almost equaling the age of our Nation.
Gist, having blazed a white man's trail across the mountain barriers, set out the following year to search out another route, and particularly to observe the ways and passes through the mountains, also the courses and bearings of the rivers and mountains as well as the nations, strength and number of the Indians inhabiting the country, and with whom they traded. He was also to note the quality of the land, and to make a plan of the country through which he would pass, and to make a true report to the Company.
On Monday, November 5, 1750, Gist and his party reached the top of the Allegheny Mountains where they camped for three days; again arriving in this territory from a different direction, that is, from the headwaters of the Juniata River, and he was still the first white man officially to reach this section of Penn's Woods.
From the top of the Allegheny Mountains the party journeyed west about eight miles where they crossed Stony Creek, and camped in an abandoned Indian hut. This was Friday, November 9, 1750. Remaining in this camp Friday and Saturday, they resumed their journey on Sunday, November 11, crossing the two branches of the Quemahoning Creek, and reaching the foot of the Laurel Hill Mountains. The next day, November 12, they crossed these mountains.
Gist recorded the distances and directions between the various points in his Journal. He spent four days in actual travel between the summits of the Allegheny Mountains and the Laurel Hills.
This survey, along with the chart of Nemacolin's Trail, was one of the first official charted routes through Somerset County. Being filed with the Ohio Company they could be studied by anyone whose interest or inclinations extended beyond the fringe of the Atlantic settlements.
In the event you were not in the good graces of the Ohio Company, and were denied the privilege of fingering these parchments, you had only to find Mr. John Harris in his camp somewhere along the Juniata River, and as he filled his pipe with finely chopped red willow bark mixed with tobacco he would have told you through the rings of smoke, that from the Shawnee Cabins in Bedford County it was just six miles to the top of the Allegheny Mountains; to Edmond's Swamp, eight miles; to Stony Creek, six miles; to Kickenapaulins, six miles; to the Clear Fields and over the Laurel Hills, seven miles. Harris was an old timer, having trod the Indian trails of the Allegheny Mountains for fifteen or twenty years before Gist and his party arrived at the crest of these highlands.
The Gentleman From Virginia
The Englishman who knows his history has never quite forgiven the hordes of Frenchmen who crossed the Silver Streak in the year 1066; took up their abode in Ye Olde England, and snatched from the fair haired islanders all of the good things of life. And when the Englishmen, crowded along the eastern seaboard of America, saw themselves hemmed in--on paper--by a string of French Military forts extending from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico they decided to do something about it. The Englishman's primary interest in America was land, whereas the French were making satisfactory profits from furs. When the trapper and the farmer faced each other across a log in the western wilderness of Penn's Woods, each man knew that one or the other must take his foot off the fallen tree.
A young gentleman from Virginia, a dirt farmer from a family of some influence, was commissioned by the English to inform the French of their erring designs. And so it was that George Washington, with his politely worded, but stern message from His Majesty, King George II, safely tucked in the bosom of his hunting shirt, left Fort Cumberland on the 15th of November 1753 with his destination Fort Venango. With him were Christopher Gist as the leader of the party, John Davidson, Indian interpreter, Jacob Van Braam, French interpreter, and two frontiersmen.
Following Nemacolin's Trail, they arrived at the Turkey Foot and the Great Crossing where Mr. Washington carefully observed the lay of the land with a military eye. This was the first glimpse that the future Father of our Country had of our county, but the destiny of Colonial affairs was to bring him back not less than eleven times.
The French, as we all know, received Washington and his message from the King with such grace as only a Frenchman can affect, but replied with equal grace that the English must stay on their own side of the mountains, and mind their own business.
Mr. Washington retraced his steps to the Great Crossing of the Youghiogheny bearing this reply to the Governor of Virginia who stormed as only a provincial governor could.
For the next decade a military fort at the forks of the Ohio was to be the pivot of French and English differences in the New World, and Washington, with all the optimism of youth, and one hundred and sixty riflemen from the Old Dominion were dispatched to pin down that point for the British.
This small army, marching from Fort Cumberland, assembled on the Somerset County side of the Great Crossing in 1754, and after a short expedition into the wilderness, retreated to the same spot with their ranks thinned by French musket balls, and the optimism of their leaders somewhat shaken by the reception.
With a new and revised respect for the French, General Braddock, with two regiments of British regulars hacked his way from Fort Cumberland through the wilderness to the Great Crossing the next year-1755. The blustering General was not so fortunate as the gentleman from Virginia, in that, while Washington-who served under Braddock in this campaign returned for the second time to the Great Crossing in Somerset County to reflect upon the fortunes of war, the British General and half of his lobsterbacks lay dead in the forest.
It was in 1784 when George Washington stood for the last time on the land that was to be the home of the Frosty Sons of Thunder. This farewell journey was made over the old Braddock Road, and it requires little imagination to picture the thoughts of this man who was to be our first president as he stood at the Great Crossing of the Youghiogheny. For indeed, the Youghiogheny was the River Styx for many a brave Virginia rifleman, while the bones of Braddock-the Charon of a legion of homesick British lads-lay trembling under the wheel ruts of the pioneers' rumbling ox carts.
A Tie That Bound
The news of the fall of the Eternal City was indeed a minor item in the World in Review compared with the fearful tidings that trickled into the Atlantic settlements of the annihilation of a British army in the wilds of Penn's Woods.
Mmbers of the British Parliament across the Atlantic fingered their snuff boxes, and filled the sacred halls with vindictive oratory. In the doorway of a settler's cabin along the Laurel Hill Creek, a woman, holding the hand of a child that clutched at her homespun dress, watched the purple plumes of the camp fires of the last remnant of a defeated army. Controlling the panic that was in her heart, she assured the child that the French, who now held undisputed sway in the mountain wilderness, would do them no harm. The Red Coats would return.
But it was three long years before the promise was fulfilled. The British, now fully awakened to the dangers that threatened, organized an army of six thousand men with the determination to end, once and for all time, the French peril.
General John Forbes was placed in command with Colonel Henry Bouquet, a very capable Swiss military officer, second in charge. Under the generalship of these two men the army gradually assembled at Fort Bedford in the spring of 1753. After considerable discussion as to the most practical route to pursue across the mountains to the French fort at the forks of the Ohio, General Forbes settled the issue by choosing the old Indian trail which led directly across the Alleghenies instead of Braddock's Road by way of Fort Cumberland.
The reasons for this choice were that the distance would be fifty miles shorter; there were no large rivers to cross, and there would be plenty of forage for the oxen and pack horses. On July 31, 1758, General Forbes issued orders to begin clearing a trail through the wilderness. Thereafter this trail was known as the Forbes Road or Bouquet's Road or the Great Road.
It was this order that subsequently was to be of major historical significance in Somerset County. The Great Road was to be a leash which would effectively tie the Atlantic settlements to the British claims beyond the Allegheny Mountains. Extending from Fort Bedford, the last outpost of colonial culture, to the heart of the wilderness at the forks of the Ohio, it was to be knotted with military forts in a fashion that would turn the edge of the keenest French blade.
At least seven of these knots were within the present bounds of Somerset County. They were constructed at strategic points near the summits of the Allegheny Mountains and the Laurel Hills with intervening stockades and entrenchments spaced a few miles apart. Midway between these two points in Somerset County was Fort Stony Creek on the west bank of the stream that bears its name.
While these fortifications varied considerably in design and size, the most common plan was the stockade. This was rectangular in shape with a range of cabins forming one side of the stockade. Divisions or partitions of logs separated the cabins from each other. The walls on the outer side were ten or twelve feet high, with roofs sloping wholly inward. A few of the cabins had puncheon floors, but most of them were earthen. These cabins were used for military quarters, and for the families of settlers who were frequently driven into the forts during Indian raids.
A block house or bastion formed each corner of the fort. These were so constructed as to project about two feet beyond the outer wall of the cabins and the spiked stockade. This arrangement provided the riflemen and cannoneers with a clear view on all sides of the fort.
The entrance to the stockade, usually near a spring, was closed by a large folding gate made of thick slabs. The stockade, bastions, cabins, and block houses were furnished with port holes at proper heights and distances.
Such must have been the general plan at Fort Stony Creek at the time it was successively commanded by General Forbes, Colonel Bouquet, Colonel St. Clair, Colonel Washington, and Captain Ecuyer.
From a sentry's point of view, stationed at the south east bastion of Fort Stony Creek, in the early fall of 1758, the whole road building project must have seemed like another Braddock blunder.
Already there was the tang of frost in the air, the forest covered hills rising out of the valley to the east reflected the red glare of the autumn sun melting into the purple mist of the Laurel Hills. To the sentry it was an ominous sign.
Facing up stream he could see the sharp curve of a new moon shearing into the rippling waters of Stony Creek. As the shadows lengthened, a dank, fishy odor arose from the river. With the first new cut stars that sparkled over the southern ridge came the long drawn howl of a wolf. Or was it a wolf? A Mingo or a Shawnee crouched in the forks of a red oak awaiting the cover of darkness oft-times shattered the stillness of the forest with his signal of attack.
Beyond the stockade in the open meadow between the creek and the fort, pack horses, freed of their burdens, but belled and hobbled, cropped the dwindling blades of grass. The stealthy approach of a panther from the direction of the sulphur spring that bubbled at the forest's edge might stampede the herd, smashing hobbles and bringing down the malevolent wrath of the drivers on all the cat tribes of the world, with the "painters" in particular receiving the loudest and most vociferous cursing. Glancing within the stockade the sentry could see the campfires of Bouquet's seven hundred Regulars dotting the field. Their rifles were stacked, and the glistening bayonets sprouted like pineapple tops from the cluster of muzzles. Cannon barrels, the pieces that Bouquet could haul no further until the Road was improved, glinted along the inner margin of the stockade.
A candle was lit at Headquarters. It cut a yellow square of light in the gathering dusk. Yes, old "Bucky" was having troubles of his own. Camp rumor had it that the French had attacked the fort at Loyal Hanna beyond the mountains.
The Express had told the corporal of the day guard that the mountains were full of Indians. They were taking pot-shots at anyone who ranged ten steps beyond the side of the Road.
Would General Forbes meet the same fate that the French and Indians had prepared for Braddock?
The sentry was not alone in his moody apprehensions. There were many men and officers in all the forts along the Road in Somerset County who did not rest easy until it was officially proclaimed that the French had abandoned Fort Duquesne without a struggle, and that the British were now in complete possession of the great wilderness.
General Forbes, after having repaired, re-garrisoned, and renamed Fort Duquesne to be Fort Pitt, left there December 15, 1758. Being too ill to ride, he was carried on a litter from fort to fort across Somerset County to view for the last time the Great Road that he had built. He died in Philadelphia the following spring.
According to the rules of the game of war the French should have acknowledged defeat, and returned to their respective quarters to lick their wounds. Officially speaking they did just that; but their Indian allies, not being so well versed in the white man's subtle arts, looked askance at the Union Jack fluttering in the midst of their hunting grounds.
The average Indian mind could conceive little more than immediate revenge against the British for trespassing on the Red Man's ancestral homeland. The result of this reasoning revived and intensified the ancient game of collecting enemy scalps. The desired trophies, at this particular stage of the game, were still attached to the skulls of His Majesty's subjects. Into this bloody foray stepped the greatest Indian warrior in all American History. He struck more terror to the hearts of every man, woman, and child living in the territory that was to be Somerset County, than any man that ever lived.
His name was Pontiac.
Pontiac was the one Indian, and possibly the only one, whose mind could embrace the full significance of the French defeat on the American Continent. Before 1758 the Indian had played a major role in French and English differences; allying himself with both major powers and reaping the spoils of victory in the recurring conflicts. The Indian was made to feel that his destiny lay with one or the other of these nations. Pontiac had fringed his leggings with the scalps of Braddock's men, and had glowed with patronizing praise of the French; but times had changed. With the English now in the saddle the Indian's prestige vanished. They were trampled upon with impunity by both the French and English.
Resolving on a last desperate effort to clear the woods of all white men, Pontiac sent belts of wampum to every Indian village in the Mississippi valley urging the Red Man to take up the hatchet. Most of the tribes responded. This Conspiracy of Pontiac's began with a low ripple of revenge in the veteran warrior's mind, and ended in a gigantic tidal wave of howling savages slashing their way with tomahawk and scalping knife almost to the Atlantic seaboard.
In their path was the future Somerset County. With the exception of Fort Pitt, Fort Ligonier, and Fort Bedford every British military fort on the frontiers of Penn's Woods crumpled under the barbaric impact, leaving the isolated settler's cabin, the hunter's camp, and the trader and his pack horse exposed to the merciless Red hordes.
To fully appreciate the ominous gloom that sickened and paralyzed the senses of the pioneer in Somerset County in the Black Year of 1763 we need only to glance at the letters which the Express-the postman of '63- carried in his saddle bag as he splashed across the ford at Fort Stony Creek. The excerpts are taken from military communications of Sir Jeffery Amherst, British Commander-in-Chief, Colonel Henry Bouquet, Captain Ecuyer, and their subordinates.
Fort Pitt, May 31, 1763. Ecuyer to Bouquet. "We have the most melancholy accounts here--the Indians have broken out in several places, and murdered Colonel Clapham and his family; also two of our soldiers at the Saw Mill, near the Fort and two scalps were taken-last night eleven men were attacked at Beaver Creek eight or nine of whom it is said were killed-twenty-five of Macrae's and Alison's horses, loaded with skins, all are taken-we are obliged to be on duty night and day. The Indians have cut off about 100 of our traders in the woods-"
Fort Bedford, June 30, 1763. "This morning a party of the enemy attacked fifteen persons who were mowing in Mr. Croghan's field, within a mile of the Garrison, and news is brought in of two men being killed. Eight o'clock. Two men were brought in, alive, tomahawked and scalped more than half the head over. Our parade just now presents a scene of bloody and savage cruelty; three men, two of which are in the bloom of life, and the other an old man, lying scalped (two of them still alive) thereon: Any thing feigned in the most fabulous Romance, cannot parallel the horrid sight now before me; the gashes the poor people bear are most terrifying. Ten o'clock. They just expired-one of them, after being tomahawked and scalped, ran a little way; and got on the loft in Mr. Croughan's house, where he lay till found by a party of the Garrison-"
Amherst to Bouquet. June 25, 1763. "All the troops from hence that could be collected are sent you; so that should the whole race of Indians take arms against us, I can do no more."
Amherst to Bouquet. "Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them.-I wish we could make use of the Spanish method, to hunt them with English dogs, supported by rangers and some light horses, would, I think, effectually extirpate or remove that vermin."
Throughout the entire length of the Forbes Road terror reigned supreme. Bouquet stated that it was of the utmost importance to hold the few remaining forts along the Road which contained stores and munitions, the capture of which by the Indians would lead to the worst consequences.
"I cannot help thinking," he said, "that the enemy will collect, after cutting of the little posts one after the other, and bend their whole force upon the frontier." The people were driven like stricken animals before a raging forest fire "the road was near covered with women and children flying to Philadelphia"-" haunted with visions of the bloody knife and the reeking scalp." Pontiac smiled.
Bouquet to the Rescue
"All our hopes are turned upon Bouquet," wrote one panic stricken citizen of the Pennsylvania frontier. July 5, 1763.
Recalling Braddock's overwhelming defeat, Benjamin Franklin observed that the English "gave us Americans the first suspicion that our exalted ideas of the prowess of British regular troops had not been all well founded."
And indeed, the history of Somerset County no doubt would have taken a different turn during the fateful year of 1763 if a less capable man than Colonel Henry Bouquet had been assigned to command the wilderness campaign against Pontiac.
On the 25th of July, 1763, Bouquet assembled his army at the foot of the Allegheny Mountains. His force did not exceed five hundred men, of whom the most effective were Scotch Highlanders.
"The troops and convoy defiled along the Road made by General Forbes in 1758, if the name of road can be given to a rugged track, hewn out by axemen through the forests and swamps, and up the steep acclivities of the rugged mountains; shut in between impervious walls of trunks, boughs, and matted thickets, and overarched by a canopy of restless leaves. Nature had formed the country for a war of ambuscade and surprises, and no pains were spared to guard against them. A band of backwoodsmen led the way, followed by pioneers; the wagons and the cattle were in the center, guarded by the regulars; and a rear guard of backwoodsmen closed the line of march.
"Frontier riflemen scoured the woods far in front, and on either flank, and made surprise impossible. Thus they toiled heavily on till the main ridge of the Alleghenies, a mighty wall of green, rose up before them; and they began their zigzag progress up the woody heights amid the sweltering heat of July.
"The tongues of the panting oxen hung lolling from their jaws; while the pine trees, scorching in the hot sun, diffused their resinous odors through the sultry air. At length from the windy summits the Highland soldiers could gaze around upon a boundless panorama of forest covered mountains wilder than their own native hills.
"Descending from the Alleghenies, they entered upon a country less rugged, and formidable in itself, but beset with constantly increasing dangers."
And so it was that after five years, Bouquet again watered his horses at the ford at Stony Creek; repaired and re-garrisoned the fort along with the other posts along the Great Road. Campfires again blazed within the spiked stockades while the Scots with their plaid kilts and bare legs rested after the day's march. Contrasting sharply with the Highlander's bright regalia were the backwoodsmen-thirty in all-dressed in buckskins and moccasins and with coonskin caps.
The garrison that remained to defend Fort Stony Creek against the Indians received word in less than two weeks that Bouquet had met and defeated the Indians at Bushy Run, August 5, 6, 1763, thereby shattering Pontiac's dream of redeeming the wilderness for the Red Man.
From a military point of view the lands west of the Alleghenies to the Ohio were now cleared of both French and Indians, and therefore subject to the seeds of English culture. A civilian, viewing the grounds from another angle, saw a hotbed of cross purposes. There were the hunter, the trader, the land speculator, the pioneer settler who based his land claims upon squatter rights, and the Indians.
In 1767 there had been an extension of the Mason and Dixon line which showed that most of these citizens lived within the bounds of Pennsylvania, and a number in the future Somerset County. Sensing inevitable clashes among these people because of their different interests, John Penn, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, attempted to avert trouble by advising the Assembly to pass a law to remove the people now settled in these parts, and to prevent others from settling in this area of the province. These settlers had been previously warned in 1763 by a royal proclamation of both the Pennsylvania and Virginia governors, and upon other occasions. In January, 1768, a law was passed by the Pennsylvania Assembly which read in part: "persons so neglecting or refusing to remove with his or their Family or returning to settle as aforesaid or they shall settle on any such lands after the Requisition or Notice Aforesaid being thereof legally convicted by their own confession or the verdict of a Jury shall suffer Death with benefit of clergy."
With the exception of the strip of land now known as Allegheny, Northampton, Southampton, Fairhope, Larimer, and Greenville Townships, the remaining sections of Somerset County were included in this forbidden territory. Ostensibly the order was to prevent fresh clashes with the Indians from whom this land was not yet purchased.
Accordingly John Penn appointed the Reverend John Steele of the Presbyterian Church at Carlisle, John Allison, Christopher Lemes, and James Potter to make known and explain the law to the settlers. Leaving on March 2nd, 1768, they traveled by way of Fort Cumberland, and the Braddock Road to the Western settlements.
Returning to Fort Cumberland on the second of April they prepared their report to Penn which concluded with: "on the thirty-first of March we came to the Great Crossing of the Youghiogheny and being informed by one Speer that eight or ten families lived in a place called Turkeyfoot, we sent some proclamations thither-" A postscript adds that the names of the people at the Turkeyfoot were: Henry Abrahams, Ezekiel De Witt, James Spencer, Benjamin Jennings, John Cooper, Ezekiel Hickman, John Enslow, Benjamin Pursley.
The settlers read the proclamation while they leaned on the handles of their grubbing hoes, or went on cleaning their long rifles. They returned to their cabins.
The following autumn, November 5, 1768, the Penns made another treaty with the Indians, called the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, in which all the forbidden lands were purchased from the Red Men for the sum of ten thousand pounds.
After acquiring the Indian title the Penns immediately offered this land for sale for five pounds sterling per one hundred acres, and one penny an acre per annum quit rent. Just who was the first person to receive the first warrant in what is now Somerset County will probably never be known, but there is one warrant in Elk Lick Township that bears the date of April 12, 1769, or just nine days after the opening of the land office.
The Promised Land
Twenty-five years before the Reverend John Steele was commissioned to remove the settlers from this territory, an entry in an old diary discloses a scene along the Juniata River of a young man and his wife who are determined to "go on The Western Ride to the land of the Turkey Track."-- "they crossed over the river with many calls back and forth of sad farewells, and so off into the woods to the west-running waters."--"Says he wishes to be reborn again, and so they go to the promised land."
More than ten thousand men, including the armies of Washington, Braddock, Forbes and Bouquet, crossed and re-crossed the promised land of Somerset County before there was recorded officially the name of one permanent settler.
Most of this land was marked, "Indian Territory" on the maps and ledgers of the Penns; therefore anyone living here was, according to the provincial authorities, out of bounds, off the record and disinherited. But to neglect to enter a name on a docket in no wise affected the men and women who were clearing the land, building cabins, and reaping the golden ears from their patches of squaw corn.
But when the time arrived, April 3, 1769 at 10 o'clock A. M., City of Philadelphia, for the sale of land and the collection of quit rents by the Penns, a survey and inventory of their flocks became a matter of prime importance. The disinherited automatically became bona fide citizens; subject to the benevolent governing powers of the Penns, and taxes.
Already the provincial authorities had the names of nine settlers living at the Turkeyfoot, and according to the records they were listed as the first permanent settlers of the County. The year was 1768. At the same time we know that cabins were built by the side of Braddock's and Forbes' Road and deep in the woods many years before that time. And to single out any one particular family and their cabin as being the first settlers in the county would be like naming the first star to appear on a clear winter's evening; they suddenly begin to sparkle on all horizons. And. so it was with the first settlers in Somerset County.
However, a local habitation and name had been given to nine men of whom Henry Abrahams, like Abu Ben Adam's, led all the rest, and to him goes the credit of leaving one of the earliest if not the first, permanent imprint of the homeseeker on this section of the New World. Henry Abrahams located on a point of land situated between the junction of the Youghiogheny and the Casseleman rivers. In all he had 225 acres of land divided into four sections. He built his first cabin in 1765, a second in 1769, and a third dwelling was constructed at a later date. James Spencer's location was on the point between the middle fork and the north fork of the Turkeyfoot. He had 250 acres of land, of which twenty-one were cleared in 1772.
Benjamin Jennings settled on a claim along the Laurel Hill Creek between the present towns of Confluence and Ursina.
Benjamin Pursley located near by along the small mountain stream which now bears his name.
Of the remaining five names listed by the Reverend Steele there is no record, except Mr. Speer, who located along the Braddock Road by permission of the military authorities.
There were many other settlers living in the Turkeyfoot area in the same period whose names shine forth with equal brilliance. Among them is Captain Andrew Friend, whose exploits as a hunter and Indian fighter rival those of Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone.
Home to the Mountains
The lure of far away places has always tugged at the heartstrings of people in every land; particularly when their pastures are not so lush. Having heard of the rich mountain valleys that lay among the great folds of the Appalachians, a group of people living along the mosquito infested flats of Essex and Morris counties in New Jersey decided to seek new homes in the virgin wilderness of the Penns' domain.
In the spring of 1770 a little band of these discontented settlers loaded their worldly goods upon the backs of their oxen, and started toward new homes in the western mountains.
Following the general course of Braddock's Road to the Negro Mountains, they swung into the narrow vale of White's Creek and thence north to the Valley of the Laurel Hill Creek. Arriving here about the first of May they pitched their tents, after which the "men folks" went forth to select a portion of land on which to build a home for himself and his family. By mutual understanding among themselves each one was to be limited to such quantity of land as he could walk around in a single day. In all there were about eighteen or twenty families. Tradition gives us the names: Robert Colborn, David King, Oliver Drake, William Rush, Andrew Ream, Reuben Skinner, John Mitchell, John Hyatt, William Tannehill, James Moon, Edward Harned, David Woodmancy, John Copp, John McNair, Joseph Lanning, William Brooke, Jacob Strahn, Obadiah Reed, and William Lanning.
With the Turkeyfoot settlers as their nearest neighbors these families flourished like the green bay tree; establishing permanent landmarks which are now known as the Jersey Settlement, Jersey Church, Draketown, Drake's Mill and King's Mill (two of the first grist mills in Somerset County) Harnedsville, forts and block houses which formed the nuclei of the present towns of Ursina and Confluence.
Apple orchards, cleared lands, and military and civil records are fitting monuments for the spirits of these brave pioneers.
Stony Creek Glades
When the early hunters thumped their packs of furs and skins on the counter at Harris' trading post on the Susquehanna as early as 1726, they referred to their hunting grounds as the Stony Creek Glades. By this they meant all the lands lying between the Alleghenies and the Laurel Hills, and extending from what is now known as Summit Township north to Conemaugh Township.
But when a few German settlers began to trickle westward across the Alleghenies to this region, they called the new land BrudersThal or Brothersvalley.
Thereafter the wide valley between the mountain ranges was known by these names each in his respective tongue.
The records of the very earliest white men to invade this fertile region have vanished into the mists of the mountains. They left only a few vague directions for the later pioneers to follow, and accounts of those who came to stay-and did stay-overlap to a point of confusion.
The church, the state, the private journals kept by the people themselves, and the tall tales of the hunters and traders, each report their own version of the matter.
Narrowing down this territory of the Stony Creek Glades to what is now known as Brothersvalley and Stonycreek townships the History of the Brethren Church tells us that George Adam Martin came to Stony Creek in 1762. Martin was a minister, and in 1770 his congregation numbered seventeen persons, among them were: Henry Roth and wife, Henry Roth, Jr. and wife, and Abraham Gebel. (Rhodes and Cable.)
Steele and his fellow commissioners in their trespass notice report of 1768 were aware that there were settlers in this area at the time, but they recorded no names.
A private journal kept by a man traveling through this territory in 1771 tells of the first settler he came upon, being one Philip Wagerline. The journal also records the names of Henry Rhodes and his sons, and Jacob Newmayer who were located along the stream which is still known as Rhodes' Run in the present township of Stonycreek.
The first known assessment list for this area gives us the names of: Walter Hoyle, Jacob Fisher, John Sweitzer, Valentine Lout, John Glessner, Philip Wagerline, Frederick Ambrose, Sebastian Shaullis, Peter and Jacob Wingard, LudowickGreenwalt, Adam Palm, Matthias Judy, Abraham Cable, Frederick Shoaff, and Francis Hay.
Names on this list of people living on neighboring farms were: Christian Ankney, George Countryman, Frederick Walker, Frederick Allfather, John Eideneger, Jacob, Peter, and Henry Glessner. Still others living a few miles west of the present town of Berlin were: Peter Nicholas Foust, and John Coleman.
At the extreme southern end of Brothers Valley or the Stony Creek Glades, near the present town of Meyersdale, a hunter named Jacob Castleman blazed a trail for the early settlers. His name still ripples over the waters that drain this valley.
Another hunter, Flaherty, leaves his name on the mountain stream that joins the west running waters of the Castleman. (Later spelled Casselman.) With the coming of the home seekers these hunters followed the vanishing herds of deer and elk into the blaze of the setting sun, leaving us to wonder.
The tradition tells us of the Mennonites, Amish, and Dunkards who built their homes on the camp sites of these hunters. None of the names are on the first assessment, but their records assure us that they came shortly after 1768. They were: Jacob Saylor, John Saylor, Christian Knaigey, Christian Berkey, Peter Fahrney, Michael Buechley, John Olinger, John Burger, and the Burntrangers.
The region which approximates the Elk Lick township of today, that is, the valley of the Casseleman river which lies between the Allegheny and Negro mountains, and extending from the Maryland line north to Flaherty's Run was not overlooked by the early homesteaders. John Markley's name heads the list of pioneers.
On the first assessment list of 1772 are named: Benjamin Biggs, William Dwire, Andrew Hendricks, Hugh Robinson, William St. Clair, John St. Clair, and James Claypool.
The land office at Philadelphia received its first application from the region that is now Somerset County for a warrant for a survey. The application was received April 12, 1769, or nine days after the land office was opened; indicating that William St. Clair, the applicant, who then had six acres of land cleared, was not a stranger in these parts. St. Clair sold his holding to Peter Livingood in 1773.
Among the many colorful characters of this region was "Axie" Yoder. He was famed far and wide for his skill in making fine axes.
Mars and Jehovah
Viewed from the perspective of a century and a half, the early settlers of the southern area of the Stony Creek Glades were guided by the Hand found between the lids of their respective Bibles, whereas the watchword of the pioneers along the military road to the north was, "keep your powder dry."
By the same token these northerners recorded their deeds with their Long Rifles and Long Knives, leaving quills and ink pots to transient military officers and other wayfarers. Time has long since stopped the muzzles of the flintlocks with dust, and sheathed their scalping knives, leaving family traditions as a thin source for the inquisitive investigator of their adventurous lives.
It was not by accident that Christopher Gist, in 1750, plotted an unerring course across the territory that is now Shade, Quemahoning, Conemaugh, and Jenner townships. Other white men had pointed the way.
Twelve years later, 1762, Jacob Heckewelder, a Moravian missionary, with Charles Frederick Post came over this same route, leaving a written record of their findings.
Traveling west across the Allegheny Mountains they made their first overnight stop with Jack Miller at Edmond's Swamp, March 30, 1762. The next day, March 31, 1762, these missionaries arrived at the Stony Creek crossing, and stated that they found settlers independent of the military garrison that was maintained at Fort Stony Creek.
Military sources give us the name of Benjamin Jollys as one of the settlers at Fort Stony Creek.
At other points along this road we find Daniel Stoy, Casper Statler, Richard Wells, James McMullen, Robert Smiley, and Calender. Wells located at the forks of the Quemahoning and Stony Creek, near the site of the old Indian town of Kickenapaulin with McMullen and Smiley as his nearest neighbors. Statler was attached to Bouquet's expedition and remained to brave the hardships of the pioneers at a point near the top of the Allegheny Mountains called the Fields. Stoy was a hunter settling near the present site of Stoystown. Calender was a packer who cleared land near the present town of Buckstown at the headwaters of the stream which is now known as Calender's Run.
Contrasting the mental attitudes of these early pioneers in their respective clearings we find one settler in the southern area of the Glades pondering: "I, always a noncombatant of the Quaker school, in the midst of a howling wilderness, not a fellow-being within ten miles of me that I knew of, a stranger to the use of firearms left in my care and for my defense, liable at any moment to be attacked by the primitive claimants of the domain on which I was a trespasser-then again the thought of shedding the blood of a fellow creature would rise up in all its horrible features." Jack Miller with his clearing and cabin at Edmond's Swamp is jogging along the old Forbes Road at the head of a convoy of pack horses. Suddenly the stillness of the mountains explodes with Indian war whoops and the roar of musketry. Several of the horses stagger, and fall with blood spurting from their flanks.
Turning about Saucy Jack sees his drivers ducking behind stumps and rocks to escape the whining rifle balls. In the same sweeping glance Miller is whipped into action at seeing his precious cargo of whiskey spouting from bullet holes in several of the kegs.
Jumping from his horse he races to the casks, stops the leaks with his fingers, all the while yelling wildly for someone to make stoppers to save the firewater.
Daniel Stoy shot at least one Indian from the doorway of his cabin; the Indians having burned one of Stoy's buildings.
The wife of Casper Statler had been a captive among the Indians for a number of years, and Casper's feelings toward the Shawnees and Mingos was well understood.
Reflecting upon the Dark Years of 1762 and 1763 when Pontiac took vengeance upon the early settlers of Somerset County, scalping them, or driving them across the mountains to the established settlements of the East, there was only one garrisoned British military fort in Somerset County in which the settlers could seek refuge, and that was Fort Stony Creek.
Signs and symbols, carved in the rocks by the hands of our ancestors, are uncertain accounts of the lives they led. The most expert archaeologists disagree as to their exact meanings.
Written words bind the past to the present as no other medium can. Unfortunately the early settlers of Somerset County were spare to the point of parsimony in their use of the quill and inkpot.
Harmon Husband is the one exception. So it is to him that we look for the most intimate accounts of the every day lives of the men and women who came into the virgin wilderness to carve out a new civilization; and it was a new civilization. The seaboard settlements were merely an expansion of the inflexible English design, whereas the settlements west of the Alleghenies were new experiments in empire building.
Harmon Husband, riding horse back into the Glades in 1771 was farther removed from the Atlantic settlements than the sons of Penn were from the powers beyond the sea. In common with the hunters and a few settlers of the Glades, Husband now belonged to that small band of pioneers who had snapped the last tie that bound them to the traditions of the ages-in short he belonged to the disinherited.
Approaching the plume of smoke that arose from the clearing near the headwater of Stony Creek, Husband was hailed in broken English with: "Welcome, broder, where you come?"
Relieved at finding neither French, English nor Indians at his first sign of human habitation in the mountain country Husband replied: "From Hagerstown."
"And where you will go in the bush?"
Husband hesitated. Swiftly, expertly, with an eye trained to exploring details he saw the cabin in the clearing; the burning brush piles near the forest's edge from which a number of boys and girls of various ages darted toward the shelter of the cabin like startled partridges. The dog that heralded his approach now stood by with bristling hackles. The settler with his gnarled hands still grasping the plow handles nodded to a sixteen year old boy to unyoke the team of oxen. Not waiting for Husband's reply the settler again turned to the horseman and said: "Come along; you be hungry, you be tired."
Thus was the greeting of Harmon Husband to the Stony Creek Glades by Philip Wagerline and his family in the late evening of June 5th, 1771. After a night's rest under the Wagerline's roof, Husband explained during the course of a breakfast of venison, boiled rye, and boiled potatoes, his mission into the wilderness. His explanations, however, were recited with some reservations.
He had come from Hagerstown, his name was Toscape Death, and he was looking for an old friend named Isaac Cox.
In turn Philip Wagerline informed Husband of the Stony Creek Glades. Wagerline's nearest neighbor was five or six miles away, and there were other settlers farther off in the woods. There were also some hunters and trappers with seasonable abodes.
Remaining with Wagerline throughout the day, Husband started in search for Isaac Cox the following morning.
As his horse, Old Tom, picked his way through the lush ferns of the forest's shade Husband reflected on the information that was withheld from Wagerline.
Before coming to the Glades Husband had spent his early boyhood days in Chester County, Pennsylvania and Cecil County, Maryland. As a young man he went to the province of North Carolina, where he gained property, position, and influence. In the role of a reformer he was instrumental in marshalling the forces of the common people in that province. He called them the Regulators or Sons of Liberty.
The pivotal issue was taxes.
Tryon, the provincial governor of North Carolina, was well versed in the well known, universal, and timeless game of subtraction and division; that is, taxing his subjects to the utmost to maintain himself and his small group of satellites in royal style. But Tryon made the fatal mistake, as many have before and since, of over-adjusting the thumbscrews of taxation. The result was rebellion, climaxed by the Battle of Alamance-the first battle of the American Revolution which was fought May 16, 1771. At the sound of the first clash of battle, Harmon Husband, the leader of the Sons of Liberty, jumped on his horse and fled.
In fairness to Husband, who was a Quaker, indoctrinated with principles which would not allow him to fight, he had the courage of his convictions, and when forced to display these inner truths, there was no show of hypocrisy. Veterans of the Battle of Alamance grant that: "Charity must stretch her mantle to cover the delinquency of the leader of the Regulators." Tryon, the Great Wolf of North Carolina, was not so generous; proclaiming on the 9th day of June, 1771 that: "Whereas, Harmon Husband, (and others) are outlawed and liable to be shot by any person whatever, I do therefore, proclaim that they are to be punished for the Traitorous and Rebellious crimes they have committed, issue this my proclamation thereby offering a reward of 100 pounds sterling, and 1000 acres of land to any person or persons who will take dead or alive and bring into mine or General Waddell's camp either or each of the above-named outlaws."
On the same June day that Tryon was scrawling out this vitriolic message to the people of North Carolina, Harmon Husband's faithful Old Tom had carried him to a hunter's cabin which was located almost within the present limits of the Borough of Somerset.
Finding the owner of the cabin absent Husband made himself at home, and remarks:
"The first and most agreeable sight was a half-dozen of venison hams that were suspended from the ridge pole of the roof."
When the owner of the cabin, William Sparks, returned he informed Husband that Isaac Cox's camp was a short distance away.
"What strange whim is it that has brought you out here into the backwoods?" asked Cox, after the greeting of handshakes and backslapping.
"You would never take part in our hunting and sporting expeditions in the settlements. Now I suppose you are going to turn regular hunter."
"No," replied Husband, "I have as little inclination for hunting as I ever had."
Sparks, leaning on the long barrel of his flintlock, said in utter astonishment, "You come out here into the wilderness and no gun! Why man, you're a fool to travel, settle, and live in the wilderness and have no gun. Why, man, you're crazy !"
Husband explained in more detail his urgent mission into the woods, adding that henceforth he would be known as Toscape Death. Sparks frowned on the curious nom de plume as being too formal. Cox suggested that they use the name, Quaker-and to the end of his days Husband was known to many as the old Quaker.
There is a monument at Hillsboro, North Carolina to twelve of Harmon Husband's compatriots who were hanged by the neck until they were dead by the British Governor on June 19, 1771, or about the same time that Husband was being reborn and rechristened in the cool shade of a Somerset County maple grove.
Thus Husband was installed as a member of the band of hunters of Cox's Creek Glades in the month of June, 1771. This region was so named because the waters flowed in an opposite direction from Stony Creek, and Isaac Cox had established an early hunting camp near the headwaters of the stream which is named for him.
The names of the hunters in this community were: Isaac Cox, William Sparks, David Wright, A. Wright, S. Wright, Aquilla White, John Pen- rod, Sr., John Penrod, Jr., John Vansel, Wilson, Wills, Bucher, Pursley and Rhodes.
Husband, having thus far Escaped Death, "took up my abode for the present with Cox, but after looking around for some days, having made up my mind to remain at least until the next spring, that I might be better able to form a just and proper opinion of all the circumstances connected with the bringing out of a family into the wilderness and sustaining them during the winter time, I concluded to raise myself a cabin near my host."
Reassured by the following summer that he had made a wise choice in selecting a site for a settlement, Husband purchased claims from the hunters and brought his wife and family to his new home in the autumn of 1772.
In mental stature Harmon Husband stood head and shoulders above the very early pioneers of Somerset County. He had his finger on the throbbing pulse of colonial affairs of the day, and through Benjamin Franklin, Jefferson, and their contemporaries, he kept abreast of the great scientific discoveries of the age. With the mental gap that yawned between Husband and his jovial hunting companions it is no surprise to know that they called him the Queer Old Quaker.
But Husband's searching mind left an imprint that is indelible on the early history of Somerset County, for it was here that he was to create a haven for the disinherited.
A few of the hunters laid aside their long rifles to take up plow handles, stake out claims, and bring wives to the Somerset Settlement. Among them were: William Sparks, John Vansel, John Penrod.
Other settlers soon arriving on the scene were: Ulrich Bruner, Henry Bruner, George Bruner, Richard Brown, Richard Wells, Michael Huff and John Ferguson.
Among the settlers who came in 1774 and 1775 were: Christian Ankeny, Peter Ankeny, Jacob Barnhart, Peter Barnhart, John Rowley, James Black, George Barron, Nicholas Barron, Young, Kifer, and Doom.
South of the line that forms the lower boundaries of Addison, Elklick, Greenville, and Southampton townships it is conceded that the Battle of Alamance was the first battle of the American Revolution with Harmon Husband as the leader of organized resistance to the British Crown. North of the Mason and Dixon line the poet tells us that it was at Concord where the "shot heard round the world" was first fired on the 19th of April, 1775.
Both have ample proof for their opinions, while all agree that frontier Americans held high the torch of Liberty, and with their squirrel rifles, defended that light to their death.
The pioneers of Somerset County (called Bedford County at the time) were no exceptions. Under the command of Captain Richard Brown, with James Francis Moore as first lieutenant, men from the region of the Turkeyfoot, Cox's Creek Glades, Stony Creek Glades, and along the Forbes Road shouldered their flintlocks and joined Washington's forces. Few returned. The account they gave of themselves is a saga in itself. On the home front there was far more excitement than in the year of 1763 when Pontiac let loose his savage wrath. The simple reason for this was that there were many more settlers here during Revolutionary days, and the battle lines were drawn on both sides of the mountains. The ablest fighters had emptied the buck horn racks of the best rifles, and had marched eastward to meet the Red Coats, leaving the older men and boys with worn and rattling flintlocks to guard their cabins and families against Indian raids from the west.
With the British holding the western military forts it was their strategy to arm the Indians with long rifles, scalping knives, and fire water, and send them to the frontier settlements with murderous intent. The Indians, aided by a few renegade whites, such as the Girtys, cut a staggering red swath through the mountain clearings.
Express riders, the spearhead of civilian defense, galloping from the Forbes Road to the Cox's Creek Glades and Brothers Valley shouted to the panic stricken settlers:
"James Wells from Jenner Fort shot by the Indians! Flee for your lives !" (Autumn of 1776)
"The Indians have attacked Fort Stony Creek! One of our men killed !" (November 27, 1777)
"Five people killed by the Indians over against the mountains !" (Shade Township, November, 1777)
Written messages carried in the saddlebags of these express riders revealed the chaotic conditions in the mountain settlements.
Petitions to the Delegates of Pennsylvania in Congress were filled with pleas of:
"The distressed situation of our county is such that we have no prospect but dislocation and destruction. The whole county on the north side of the Road (Forbes Road) from the Allegheny Mountains to the river is all kept closed in forts and can get no substance from their plantations-"
"There is very few days there is not some murder committed on some part of the frontier-"
"The present situation of this county is truly deplorable " (November 27, 1777)
"An Indian war is raging all around us-"
"An extent of 60 miles has been evacuated to the Savages full of Stock Corn, Hogs and Poultry-"
"Proclamations was Left by the Savages from the Governor of Detroit Requesting all Persons to come to him or any other of the Garrisons occupied by His Majesties Troops and they should Receive Pay and Lodgings as they rank with us, every Private Person for encouragement to have 200 Acres of Land-"
"We must beg assistance of Congress-"
Congress, with its hands full, did not come to the aid of the men and women of Somerset County.
Judging from the report of the county assessors dated February 16, 1779, with Henry Abrahams and Hugh Robinson from Turkeyfoot and Brothers Valley as two of the members of that body we may be assured that while death may be certain, taxes were not. Writing to the Honorable Representatives of the Freeman of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in General Assembly met, they state:
"That the Petitioners have met in order to Lay the Taxes directed by Law to be paid by this County, but the Situation of the greatest part of the County is such that Humanity forbids them to levy the Same and induces them to apply to the Honorable House for relief and to represent That for eighteen months past the frontier Inhabitants have almost entirely been deprived of the fruits of their labor by the incursions of the Indians-"
Added to the constant menace of the Indians were the wolves that preyed upon live stock that was abandoned by the settlers who fled across the mountains. In May, 1777, a few men who remained formed an organization to destroy them. The rules were:
"The undersigned hereby agree to form themselves into an association to encourage the destruction of wolves, by subscribing and paying two shillings for each wolf scalp killed within the settlement or within a circuit of ten miles, Col. Brown's to be considered the centre, but each person bringing in the scalp shall become a member of the company and a joint contributor before receiving the premium on the scalp." Signed: Jacob Morningstar, A. Wright, Henry Bruner, J. Wells, A. Kiefer, G. Young, P. Brougher, Jacob Loute, Peter Ankney, J. Unsill, Woolerick Bruner, T. Wells, S. Wright, J. Washabaugh, H. Husband, Christian Ankney, Fred Unsill, D. Loute, George Bruner, Fred Mostallor, Bowlin, John Penrod, Jr., Michael Huff, P. Barnhart, John Penrod, Sr., J. Kimberly, J. Doom, James Black.
There are few detailed descriptions of the events that took place along the Forbes Road in Somerset County during these dark days, but indirectly we know that the Indians used it as a main trail into the eastern settlements, taking as many scalps as they could along the way. And while the settlers who remained in the Glades lived in constant terror of the scalping knife, there is no record of the Indians ever having actually invaded that territory during Revolutionary days.
Harmon Husband removed his family to Fort Cumberland, himself returning to his farms near the close of the war to find (March 1783) that the Somerset settlement had not been invaded. By the spring of 1784 nearly all the settlers had returned.
John Rhodes, along with several old hunters, stuck to their claims. Rhodes explained that he wanted to go, but his wife refused. Mrs. Rhodes said, "Mer hen eva a mohlaweckgesprunga fur nix und ich spring nimmemae." (We ran away once for nothing and I will not run away again.) Revolution 51
Rum and Rebellion
The final draft of a peace treaty between England and America was signed on September 3, 1783, leaving the swaggering young Republic to face the cynicism of the adult nations of the world.
Growing pains of the infant empire were mistaken by the Old World for more serious maladies.
The Big Three who held the bottle of Soothing Syrup for the wriggling young America were George Washington as President, Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasurer, and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State.
Hamilton believed in a strong central power that would command the dignity and respect of the "common herd." Jefferson had ideas of his own. Faced with a $77,000,000 war debt, Hamilton conceived the idea of placing a small tax on all spiritous liquors.
At the time there were, according to estimates, 5000 distilleries in Pennsylvania with at least 24 within the present bounds of Somerset County.
Now the idea of government officers entering private homes, measuring the products of the stills and collecting taxes for the same was not, according to the principles of the mountain settlers, among the ideals they had fought for. There was also the spectre of a swarm of these "revenuers" with their hands in the public coffers.
The reactions of the mountain folk to these measures were mass meetings of protest, and some rather rough handling of Hamilton's agents.
Harmon Husband was delegated to represent the citizens of the Somerset Settlement and of Somerset County at a meeting at Parkison's Ferry on August 14, 1794, for the purpose of deliberating on the situation. At this meeting a standing committee was appointed, which in turn appointed a committee to meet with the Commissioners of the United States and of the State of Pennsylvania.
Harmon Husband was elected a member of this committee, which, in the eyes of George Washington, branded Husband as an "Insurgent."' In the towns of Somerset and Berlin "Liberty Poles" were raised on which banners bearing the inscription, "Liberty and No Excise" fluttered in the breeze.
Rum and Rebellion
These demonstrations were mild in comparison with protests that were staged in the surrounding counties.
Hamilton prescribed drastic measures to restore law and order. With a blare of trumpets, an expeditionary force of fifteen thousand men under the command of "Light Horse" Harry Lee and accompanied by Hamilton himself, headed toward Somerset County over the old Forbes Road.
They arrived in all their glory, fanning out in all directions after having crossed the Alleghenies. A small detachment who came over the Braddock Road joined forces with them.
While the whole episode was serious enough in its implications, it resulted a rather curious and comic pageant.
The Invading Force met no real organized resistance; there were no battles, and with the compromising influence of the products from the mountain stills which was passed indiscriminately among the gatherings of soldiers and civilians, all were assured that there would be no "hard feelings" over the matter.
Samuel Statler, who lived along the Forbes Road at the time, October 1794, gives us this picture:
"When the army returned it passed over our place, and the name of Whiskey Boys applied to the soldiers was well deserved. The mud was knee deep and one-half the troops were beastly drunk, while very few of the other half were sober. An officer came ahead and told us to lock up everything about the premises, as they could not keep the soldiers from stealing everything that was not under lock and key. At length they began to arrive, some singly, some in pairs, and others in squads of a dozen or more. Some, by bracing themselves against others, tried to keep up the appearance of ordered ranks, but most of them were straggling along without any show of discipline or subordination. They staggered along, whooping, singing, and swearing altogether. They were spattered with mud. Some had fallen and were completely plastered over with it. We had a porch on one side of the house from which the musicians were invited to play. They drummed for a couple of hours, making a great deal more noise than music, and were then treated to some refreshments.
"A strange circumstance that resulted from this noisy concert was that the rats, which were quite numerous about the place, were all frightened away, and did not come back for more than a year. The next day the infantry passed on their way, and on the evening following the Cavalry having the prisoners in charge encamped on the same ground. The prisoners, probably a dozen of them, were all locked in one room together. They were by far the most respectable part of the company. They sang together the greater part of the night and seemed very happy.
"We had no granary at the time, and our oats had been threshed out and piled away on the barn floor in the chaff. The soldiers took possession of everything and some of them put their horses in the barn on top of the oats. When I ventured to object to this, they told me to hold my tongue or they would send me to the devil. After their departure three freeholders were called to assess the damages, which were paid by the commissary."
It might not be unfair to say that Alexander Hamilton was disappointed, for the outlay of public money for his expedition was considerable, and nothing of a serious nature really happened. He had, at least, to bring in something tangible for his efforts to save his face.
This he did in the form of a number of prisoners who were paraded through the streets of Philadelphia with placards pinned on their breasts bearing the word, "Insurgent."
Two of these prisoners were from Somerset County; Robert Philson and Harmon Husband. The account of the manner of their capture carries with it the same tone that harmonizes with the whole affair.
A regiment of the Whiskey Boys, approaching the town of Berlin where it was reported that a band of "rebels" were preparing for defense, heard a loud, rumbling noise along the slope of Dry Ridge.
The colonel of the regiment issued orders to proceed in all haste, not even permitting the men to water their horse lest they arrive too late to net the "insurgents."
To the colonel's consternation and dismay the noise, upon investigation, was discovered to have been made by one Adam Menges who was quarrying millstones along the ridge, and at intervals releasing the stones which crashed down the mountain side.
Arriving at Philson's home in Berlin sometime during the night the colonel of the regiment commanded Philson to give himself up. Philson, aroused from his sleep, raised his bedroom window, and yelled down:
"Wait till I get into my breeches !"
Upon reaching the top of the mountain on the way to Philadelphia, Philson who was riding a fine black mare of his own, told his captors that if he had a club two feet long, he and his black mare would whip the whole regiment.
At Bedford where Husband and Philson were temporarily held in jail, Husband writes: "I have just time to let you know that we who are prisoners here are to be sent off to Philadelphia at 10 o'clock. They who were the promoters of the riots and who set up the liberty poles seem to be in most danger. What evidence may be necessary to clear me of this I shall know better when I see my indictment-Make yourselves easy about me, for I am so rejoiced that at times, old as I am, I can scarcely keep from dancing and singing, for which I cannot account-."
While Husband and Philson were the only two persons from this district to answer charges of "treasonable proceedings," thirty-one others from Somerset County were fined from five shillings to fifteen pounds each for "assisting and abetting" in setting up a "seditious pole in opposition to the laws of the United States."
Arriving in Philadelphia Husband and Philson were released on bail with the promise not to leave the city, after having been paraded through the streets along with the rest of the "Insurgents."
"Ladies and gentlemen of the higher social life shivered with apprehension as they stood at their windows and saw the herd of shabby, gangling farmers driven past. Then with a sigh of relief, they returned to their toasted muffins and tea-assured that "all's right with the world."
"Hamilton had saved them."
"The social order was secure."
Washington, who read between the lines, pardoned and released all of the offenders and sent them back to their families.
But Harmon Husband was never again to see the Somerset Settlement, nor watch the red glare of the Sunset change to a cool, purple mist over the western rim of the Laurel Hills. Although Husband had been released by Judge Peters in response to the urgent promptings of Surgeon General Benjamin Rush and others, he died in a tavern on the outskirts of Philadelphia on his way back to his home, and the Promised Land which his martyrdom had helped bring into being.
Peace Comes to the Frontier
The Old West was gone. The frontier that had been the Stony Creek Glades was pushed back to the Ohio and the Mississippi. The log cabin, the long rifle, the axe and the plow took the place of the bark huts and the stone hatchets of the Shawnees and the Mingos. Jehovah watched over the smoking chimneys of the clearings in the forests of the Alleghenies and the Laurel Hills, while Manitou shrieked in vain protest when the winter winds whistled between the black teeth of the spiked stockades.
The settler's keen axe was biting deeper and deeper into the bush. Log cabins mushroomed overnight, clustering together, and taking names like Berlin, Somerset, Meyersdale, and Stoystown.
Shovel plows, now tipped with steel, were ripping open the sod of the fertile meadows where the beaver lodges once stood. Rail fences, marked the boundary lines of each man's "improvement" while the blazed trees of the tomahawk claims were felled, and rolled into smoldering heaps. From far and near they came, these "men with the bark on," jostling in good natured banter, as they heaped high the funeral pyre of the forest. They called them "log rollins." Fields of rippling grain and bulging rows of potatoes soon rewarded them for their efforts.
The long vigil of the Indian watch was over. The keen eye of the hunter caught the wolf in the crotch of his buckhorn sight. He pastured his sheep along the rocky hillside.
The forts that dotted the county at Confluence, Ursina, Salisbury, Berlin, Somerset, Jennerstown, and Stony Creek stood as grim reminders of the taut bow-string of the Iroquois and Delawares. The word "Indians !" whispered in the dead of night through the open window of a settlers cabin struck terror to their hearts. Silently, lest they wake the youngest child, the family would pick their way cautiously through the chill night to the stockade. There they would remain for a day or a month, cooped within the narrow square of pointed shadows.
Whether the war-whoop sounded or not, the result was the same. Fearing to return to their clearings, many of their crops rotted on the vine, promising lean fare for the coming winter.
Sickness and death have always dogged the footsteps of even the most hardy pioneers. Because no disciple of Hippocrates had come, or remained in the wilderness of Somerset County to aid and comfort the afflicted, each family resorted to healing powers at hand. Every cabin had its herb garden, or lacking that they stripped the bark from the wild cherry, the slippery elm and the sassafras to brew health restoring potions.
If their remedies failed them, it is small wonder that they sometimes resorted to "Magic" cures and "pow-wows." These old wives were scarcely one step behind the medical science of the times which prescribed whiskey for rattlesnake bite, pill made from fried toads for small pox, and sow bug tea for fever.
In the days before the little red school house in Somerset County children were brought up in the way that they should go, without specialists to guide or perplex them in the rough hewn paths of learning. Boys were taught early the use of the Dutch scythe, the broad axe, and the flintlock. In the matter of letters few mastered the fine art of the three R's.
Those who did were introduced to them by the way of well thumbed Bibles. Girls were taught the tunes of the rhythmic whir of the spinning wheels and the intricate steps of the hand loom. One of the first attempts to bring regimented "book larnin'" into settlements of Somerset County was in the year of 1777. James Kennedy, one of Harmon Husband's indentured servants, who was a poor hand at grubbing and picking brush, was chosen to lead, guide and direct the lives of the little children of the Somerset Settlement. The young schoolmaster, after surveying and questioning his home spun class for a few minutes dismissed school with the admonition, "Och! but you are set of young haythens."
Law and order were maintained in the clearings by adhering to the simple and age old verities that have served as cornerstones for civilized societies in all times. Without sheriff or justice, the thief and the liar were humiliated by public condemnation until the culprit sought peace of mind and body in some distant settlement where his sins could not find him. In the matter of more personal offenses against honor and virtue, the score was usually settled by other members of the families involved, in rough and tumble fights which in many cases developed into ear chewing and eye gouging matches.
The vitriol of female wagging tongues was neutralized by the simple and effective device agreed upon by the more rigid pillars of the settlements. When the gossips appeared in their doorways, they listened with the usual absorbing feminine inquisitiveness while the mush bubbled in the pot, but discounted every dripping word as child's chatter. In short the gossip was granted a license to talk, and even the "news" of an impending Indian raid caused not one stitch to be dropped by the knowing housewives. The spinning wheel, hand loom, and the backs of 'coon and deer were sources of material for dress. The hunter's frock, a knee-length fringed
coat made of home spun cloth or buck skin was universally worn by the men. This garment was fitted with a belt upon which hung the tomahawk and scalping knife. Lapping over in the front it could be used for a pouch in which to carry provisions in the form of dried venison, salt pork and bread. Coon skin caps, buck skin shirts, and leather stockings were further protection against sleet and snow.
Moccasins served as footgear. These were made of a single piece of deer skin with a gathering seam along the top of the foot, and another from the bottom of the heel, and tied about the ankle with thongs of deer skin. In cold weather they were stuffed with deer hair or dry leaves. During rainy weather and slushy seasons this gear was looked upon as "a decent way of going barefooted."
In some of the settlements the young blades adopted the Indian breech clout, which was a strip of cloth a yard long and eight or nine inches wide passed under the belt, leaving the end flaps dangling before and behind. The flaps were ornamented with fringes of crude embroidery. The young bucks who appeared at public gatherings of worship, with bare flanks exposed, added little to the devotional atmosphere of the scene, especially in the section occupied by the tittering young maidens.
The women of early Somerset County adopted the linsey petticoat as the mode of the times; they wore moccasins, coarse shoes and shoe packs during cold weather. Bare feet were the vogue in summertime. Among the various religious setttlements of the county their several faiths dictated their mode of dress.
Excepting these groups, Sunday was just another day, observed principally by older men and women who paused briefly to rest, while the more energetic went on with their grubbing hoes and bullet molds. But the broad pattern of a new world was being spun on the wide loom of destiny, and the part of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, which was finally woven into that pattern on April 17, 1795, as Somerset County, was to portray one of the most brilliant of all the colorful designs.
Contributed for use by the Bedford County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/~bedford/)
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