First Settlers

From: "History of Dauphin, Cumberland, Franklin, Bedford, Adams, Perry, Somerset, Cambria, and Indiana Counties," Rupp, 1848, "History of Bedford County," pp. 514-518.

Chapter XXXVIII. First Settlers, &c.

First settlers--Intruders upon Indian lands at Path valley and Aughwick; their cabins or log houses burnt. In Big Cove, similar fate--Petition sent to the Governor--Incidents in the early history of this county--Education--Support of the poor.

The first traders in this county were some Indian traders, and adventurers from the Conococheague and Conodoguinette settlements. Some of the more daring acted as pioneers and settled at Path Valley, some at Aughwick, and others in the Big Cove, within the present limits of the county. These settled between 1740 and 1750. The principal pioneers in Path Valley, or Tuscarora Valley, were Abraham Slach, James Blair, Moses Moore, Arthur Dunlap, Alexander McCartie, David Lewis, Adam McCartie, Felix Doyle, Andrew Dunlap, Robert Wilson, Jacob Pyatt, Jacob Pyatt, jr. William Ramage, Reynolds Alexander, Samuel Patterson, Robert Baker, John Armstrong, John Potts. Those at Aughwick, Peter Falconer, Nicholas De Long, Samuel Perry, John Charleton and others.

The adventurers at Big Cove were Andrew Donaldson, John MacClelland, Charles Stewart, James Downy, John Macmean, Robert Kendell, Samuel Brown, William Shepperd, Roger Murphy, Robert Smith, William Dickey, William Millican, William MacConnell, Alexander MacConnell, James MacConnell, William Carrel, John Martin, John Jamison, Hans Patter, John Macollin, Adam MacConnell, James Wilson, John Wilson, and others.

All the above named had settled on lands not then purchased from the Indians, and were warned by government to leave the settlements. In May, 1750, Richard Peters, Secretary, accompanied by the sheriff of the county and others, proceeded to Path Valley, and burned 11 cabins; at Aughwick they burnt 1, and in Big Cove 3, and required the settlers to enter into recognizance to appear at the following court.

The settlers in the Little Cove & Conalloways were Joseph Coombe, John Herrod, William James, Thomas Yates, Lewis Williams, Elias Stillwell, John Meeser, John Newhouse, Rees Shelby, William Lofton, Charles Wood, Henry Pierson, George Rees, William Morgan, John Lloyd, Levi Moore, John Graham, William Linn, Andrew Coombe, John Polk, Thomas Haston.

The next day, after Mr. Peters had left, and while yet at the house of Mr. Philip Davies, a number of the inhabitants of Little Cove met, handed him the following petition with the request to present it to Governor Hamilton.

We are exceedingly sorry, as well we may, that any part of that letter sent from the Great Cove to the magistrate of this county should have given hour Honor any umbrage to suspect we should desire to get rid of being under the government of this Province, and forcibly to maintain the possession of these lands on which we at present live; in opposition to your authority. It is, and always has been our strong inclination to enjoy the privileges of the Government of Pennsylvania, above these of any other of his Majesty's colonies in America. We never did directly or indirectly apply to Maryland for a right to said Land, and should anything in said letter seem to insinuate as if we had a mind to do so, or should any of our inconsiderate or even guilty expressions be reported to you, we hope you will not interpret these things to our ruin; but in mercy forgive then; for your Honor may know, what extremes, people of weak policy, when they see their all in danger, may be guilty of.

Yet suffer us to inform your Honor, notwithstanding of what was done by us before, when perplexed and confounded, that the most of us did not take up said land, in opposition to the authority of a Governor's proclamation, but after we were informed some in power did permit, if not grant liberty to settle said land with honest men; yet by this we would not be understood, as if we would oppose what proceedings your Honor might judge necessary for the safety or interest of the Province with regard to us. No, in this we resolve to be entirely at your disposal, or that of any whom you may appoint.

We humbly and earnestly beg, if consistent with the great designs of your government, you would permit us yet longer to cultivate these lands for the support of our families. But if this cannot be granted, that you would interpose with the Proprietors, for our obtaining a right to these plantations, on which we at present live, when said land shall be purchased from the Indians, we paying what is due to the Proprietor, and recommend it to the Secretary to be active for us: on whose mercy we would notwithstanding all our folly depend much.

And the blessing of many, who will otherwise be reduced to pinching, distressing difficulties, shall come upon your Honor, Sept. 27, 1750.

Robert Smith, Roger Murphy, John Jamison, Samuel Brown, Robert Kendall, William McConnell, John McClellan, Andrew Donallson, William McClarell, James Downey, Alexander McConnell, Charles Stewart William Dickey, William Mulligan, John McCollom, John McMeans, John Martin.

To Gov. Hamilton.

The sufferings of the first settlers of this county during the French and Indian war, and at a much later period, were almost intolerable. They were exposed for more than 25 years to hostile incursions and the depredations of savages. Hundreds fell victims to the relentless fury of the Indians. Numerous instances of massacres that happened have been related in a preceding part of this compilation.

From the Provincial Records at Harrisburg, it appears that in the upper part of Cumberland county, 27 plantations were burned, and a great quantity of cattle killed; that a woman 93 years of age was found lying killed with a stake run through her body. That of 93 families which were settled in the Coves and Conollaways, 47 were either killed or taken, and the rest fled, besides numerous of whom no account has been preserved, except in the traditions handed down in the massacres.

The following incidents in the history of this county were collected by the Hon. George Burd and John Mower, Esq. of Bedford, and appeared originally in a work on a similar subject:

The county contained within its present limits, at a very early day, a number of forts, erected by the inhabitants for their protection. The first, and principal, was Fort Bedford, although that name was only given to it when it began to assume the appearance of a settlement. The others were Fort Littleton, Martin's fort, Piper's fort, and Wingam's, with several other unimportant ones. Bedford was the only one ever occupied by British troops; and about 1770, the earliest period of which we have any traditionary account, the walls of it were nearly demolished, so that it must have been erected many years before.

The first settlement, it is conjectured, must have been made prior to the year 1750, how long before, cannot be stated with any thing like accuracy; but I not long since conversed with a very old man, named John Lane, who told me that he was born within the present limits of the county. His age fixed his birth about 1751, and from the account he gave, settlements must have been made several years previous to that. It was also before that time that the Indians had made complaints of the encroachment of the whites upon their hunting grounds, and particularly in the neighborhood of the Juniata.

As early as 1770, the whites had made considerable settlements at a distance from the fort at Bedford, as far as twelve and fifteen miles, particularly on Dunning's cr., and on the Shawanee run, near the Allegheny mountains, where the tribe of Indians of that name once had a town.

The principal building at Bedford, at that day, of which there is any account, was a two story log house, called the "King's House." It was occupied by the officers of the fort until the marching of the English troops at the breaking out of the revolution. It is still standing, and is now, with two additions, one of stone, the other brick, occupied as a public house. At the time Bedford county was erected, the only building in which the court could sit was a one-storied rough log house. It was for some time also occupied as a jail. It stood until a few years since.

The town of Bedford was laid out, by order of the governor, in June, 1766, by the surveyor general, John Lukens. The settlement was originally called Raystown, but at the time of laying it out, it was called Bedford. This, Mr. Vickroy says, was in consequence of some similarity in its location to a place of the same name in England. [But more probably derived from the name of the fort, which was supposed to be named in honor of the Duke of Bedford.]

For a considerable time after the town was laid out, the inhabitants had to go upwards of 40 miles to mill. It was then an undertaking that occupied sometimes two weeks, those taking grain having to wait until others before them were accommodated. The first mill was built near the town by an enterprising man named Frederick Naugle, a merchant, doing what was, at that day, called a large business.

For many years Bedford was the principal stopping-place for all persons, and particularly packers going from the east to Fort Pitt. All government stores, as well as groceries and goods of every description, were for a long time carried west on pack-horses. One man would sometimes have under his control as many as a hundred horses. For the protection of these, guards had always to be supplied, who accompanied them from one fort to another. Bedford always furnished its guards out of that class of the militia in service at the time they were required. These guards travelled with the packers, guarded their encampment at night, and conducted them safely across the Alleghenies to Fort Ligonier, west of Laurel hill.

At the commencement of the revolution, the county of Bedford furnished two companies, who marched to Boston; and although but a frontier county, at a distance from the principal scenes of excitement and points of information, contained as much of the patriotic spirit of the day as could be found anywhere. A meeting was held, composed of farmers and the most substantial citizens, who, entering fully into the spirit of the revolution, passed a number of resolutions, prohibiting the introduction and use of every article of foreign manufacture.

The prominent men of that day who lived at and about Bedford, were Thomas Smith, who held several appointments under the government, and was afterwards a judge of the supreme court, Gen. Arthur St. Clair, who was the first prothonotary of the county, George Woods, county surveyor, under whose instructions the city of Pittsburg was laid out, Thomas Coulter, Col. Davidson, and Thomas Vickroy, who afterwards, in 1783, laid out the city of Pittsburg. He is still living.

Although the inhabitants were from the time of the first settlements constantly on their guard against the Indians, yet the principal troubles commenced at the breaking out of the revolutionary war. A frontier life at that time was the Allegheny frontier, and her inhabitants were, consequently, exposed to the full force of savage fury, and severely did it often fall upon them. The following incidents of those times are well authenticated.

The oldest native of the county living [in 1843] is Wm. Fraser. His father left Fort Cumberland about 1758, and came to the fort at Bedford. He built the first house outside the fort, and Wm. was the first white child born outside the fort. He was born in 1759, and is now about 84 years of age. He was in my office a few days since. He had come about 14 miles that morning, and intended returning home the same day; this he frequently does.

The original white population was composed of Scotch-Irish, and their descendants, constituting the frontier settlers. It is said by one, whose opportunities for accuracy of research, were favorable, "that the county did not prosper much until 1780, or thereabouts, when the Germans from Franklin, Cumberland, York and Lancaster, began to pour into our fertile vallies and caves. This was not until the Indians had ceased to be a terror to the settlers." The Germans here now own much of the best land, and form a great proportion of the present population.

The religious denominations are Lutheran, German reformed, Presbyterian, Episcopal Methodist, Protestant Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, United Brethren, Evangelical Association, Quaker, Mennonites, Dunkards or German Baptist, Seventh Day Baptist, Church of God or Winebrennerians. The Lutheran, German Reformed and Methodist, are the most numerous.

The cause of popular education had been long much neglected among the people of this county; but of late, an increased attention ha been paid to this all important cause, and seems to advance steadily.

The common school system has been adopted in every township except Londonderry, Napier, St. Clair, Southampton and Union. Eighteen districts have adopted it, in which 127 schools are open for about 4 months in the year, employing 127 male and 1 female teacher; 1,770 male and 2,001 female scholars are taught. A district tax of $5,227.63 was raised in 1844; the State appropriation was $4,813.00. Cost of instruction $6,450.51.

Provision for the poor, or paupers, is made in this county. A poorhouse within the town of Bedford has been established within the last 4 years. There is connected with it, a farm of upwards of 600 acres. The average number of poor is between 30 and 40.

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