Reasons for organizing the Pennsylvania Regulators, termed "Black Boys"—-James Smith, their Chief Leader—-His Experience as an Indian Captive—-A large Pack- Horse Train Destroyed near Sideling Hill—-Smith’s Version of the Affair—-Official Side of the Story, Including Letters from Gen. Gage, Gov. John Penn, Col. Reid, and Curious Literary Productions of the Black Boys—-Smith Tells how he Captured Fort Bedford—-His Subsequent Arrest and Acquittal—-His Career Subsequently—-Mason and Dixon’s Line—-Conflicting Land Grants—-Their Boundaries—-An Early Geographer—-Long Continued Disputes—-Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon finally Establish the Line between Pennsylvania and Maryland.


After a period of more than ten years of relentless savage warfare, the conclusion of peace, in 1765, with the various tribes of the Northwest, found many of the inhabitants occupying the border settlements of Pennsylvania still embittered and mistrustful of their late enemies. They placed no confidence in Indian promises, and were also well aware of the fact that the Indians were destitute of the munitions of war. Hence, when, with the first opportunity, the detested traders, well supplied with Indian goods, including spirits in cask, bright tomahawks, rifles, powder, flint and ball, began moving toward the frontiers for the purpose of trading with customers who, though destitute of supplies dear to them, were yet well stocked with furs and peltries, the men on the border, ever watchful, at once became alarmed. Their alertness resulted in the organization of a determined body of men termed the "Black Boys." Their homes were in the vicinity of Forts Loudon and Littleton, a region then included in Cumberland county, and their "singular and summary administration of justice bore a marked affinity to the codes sometimes adopted by that worthy disseminator of criminal jurisprudence in the West, Judge Lynch."

The principal leader of the "Black Boys" was James Smith. It appears that in May, 1755, while engaged with others in opening a road from Fort Loudon toward Raystown, he was captured by the Indians, taken to Fort Du Quesne, and was there when the victorious French and Indians returned after defeating Braddock. After undergoing many severe trials, such as running the gauntlet, etc., he was taken to Ohio and adopted into the Conowaga tribe. No other alternative being left him, as a measure of self-defense he conformed to the manners and customs of the tribe, and wandered over the West with them until an opportunity offered to escape, which did not occur until he reached Montreal in 1760, when he obtained his freedom in an exchange of prisoners which there took place. Subsequently, as a lieutenant and captain, he had served with the Cumberland county provincials, under Armstrong and Boquet, until the savages were whipped into submission.

Early in March, 1765, a trader named Wharton, of Philadelphia, sent forth a packhorse train loaded with goods of the value of £3,000. He intended to be the first in the market at Fort Pitt, and well aware that his enterprise would be viewed with suspicion by the "back inhabitants," he denied being the owner of the goods, declaring they were consigned to George Croghan—-deputy Indian agent under Sir William Johnson—-then at Fort Pitt; but the "Black Boys" did not believe the tale told by Wharton’s employees, and discovering that a large quantity of warlike stores were included in the invoice, all were destroyed on the route near Sideling Hill. Of this exploit Smith speaks as follows:

Shortly after this (1764) the Indians stole horses and killed some people on the frontiers. The king’s proclamation was then circulating, and set up in various public places, prohibiting any person from trading with the Indians until further orders.

Notwithstanding all this, about March 1, 1765, a number of wagons loaded with Indian goods and warlike stores were sent from Philadelphia to Henry Pollens, Conococheague; and from thence seventy packhorses were loaded with these goods, in order to carry them to Fort Pitt. This alarmed the country, and Mr. William Duffield raised about fifty armed men, and met the pack horses at the place where Mercersburg now stands. Mr. Duffield desired the employers to store up their goods and not proceed until further orders. They made light of this, and went over the North Mountain, where they lodged in a small valley called the Great Cove. Mr. Duffield and his party followed after and came to their lodging, and again urged them to store up their goods. He reasoned with them on the impropriety of their proceedings and the great danger the frontier inhabitants would be exposed to if the Indians should now get a supply. He said as it was well known that they


had scarcely any ammunition, and were almost naked, to supply them now would be a kind of murder, and would be illegally trading at the expense of the blood and treasure of the frontiers. Notwithstanding his powerful reasoning, these traders made game of what he said, and would only answer him by ludicrous burlesque.

When I beheld this, and found that Mr. Duffield could not compel them to store up their goods, I collected ten of my old warriors that I had formerly disciplined in the Indian way, went off privately after night, and encamped in the woods. The next day, as usual, we blacked and painted, and waylaid them near Sideling Hill.* I scattered my men about forty rods along the side of the road, and ordered every two to take a tree, and about eight or ten rods between each couple, with orders to keep a reserved fire—- one not to fire until his comrade had loaded his gun. By this means we kept a constant slow fire upon them, from front to rear. We then heard nothing of these traders’ merriment or burlesque. When they saw their packhorses falling close by them, they called out, "Pray, gentlemen, what would you have us to do?" The reply was, "Collect all your loads to the front and unload them in one place; take your private property and immediately retire." When they were gone we burnt what they left, which consisted of blankets, shirts, vermilion, lead, beads, wampum, tomahawks, scalping--knives, etc.

The traders went back to Fort Loudon, and applied to the commanding officer there, and got a party of Highland soldiers, and went with them in quest of the robbers, as they called us; and, without applying to a magistrate or obtaining any civil authority, but purely upon suspicion, they took a number of creditable persons (who were chiefly not anyway concerned in this action) and confined them in the guard-house in Fort Loudon. I then raised three hundred riflemen, marched to Fort Loudon, and encamped on a hill in sight of the fort. We were not long there until we had more than double as many of the British troops prisoners in our camp as they had of our people in the guard-house. Capt.* Grant, a Highland officer who commanded Fort Loudon, then sent a flag of truce to our camp, where we settled a cartel and gave them above two for one, which enabled us to redeem all our men from the guard-house without further difficulty."

This act of the "Black Boys" created a profound sensation throughout the provinces of New York and Pennsy1vania. It led to an animated correspondence between Maj.-Gen. Thos. Gage (the commander-in-chief of the British forces in America) and Gov. John Penn, of

*Local writers have erroneously stated that this affair occurred at Bloody Run, now Everett.

*Smith makes a mistake here when he says that Captain Grant was the commander of Fort Loudon. Lieut. Charles Grant was the commanding officer at Loudon at that time, and so continued until the following November. During the same period Capt. William Grant was in command at Fort Bedford.

Pennsylvania, the issuance of proclamations by Gov. Penn, and the taking of many depositions. However, by referring to the minutes of the Provincial Council, the other or official side of the story is related as follows:

At a Council held at Philadelphia the 26th June, 1765:

Present: The Honourable JOHN PENN, Esquire, Lieuten‘t. Governor, &ca., Benjamin Chew, Richard Penn, Lynford Lardner, Esq’rs.

The Governor laid before the Board a Letter he received from his Excellency Major General Gage, dated the 16, June, 1765, inclosing extracts of 2 Letters, and a Copy of an Advertisement he had received from Lieutenant Colonel Reid complaining of the riotous Conduct of the Inhabitants of Cumberland, their Insults & Abuses to his Majesty’s Troops, &ca, which were severally read, & are as follows, viz.:


NEW YORK, June 16, 1765.

Sir: I have the honor to transmit to you some Extracts of Letters which I have received concerning the Proceedings of the inhabitants of Cumberland County, who appear daily in Arms and seem to be in actual State of Rebellion. It appears, likewise, that the Rebels are supported by some of the Magistrates, particularly one Smith, a Justice of the Peace, and headed by his Son. Unless these Insurrections are immediately quelled, and the Authors and Abettors of them brought to punishment, it is impossible to say where they will end. If the King’s Troops are fired upon, and his Forts threatened with Assaults by Men in Arms, headed by Magistrates, who refuse the ordinary Course of justice demanded of them by the Officers, I can’t pretend to answer for the Consequences. It belongs to you to point out the Measures proper to be taken in such Circumstances, but it is my duty to represent these matters to you, and to offer you every assistance in my power for the support of Government, and to enforce an Obedience to the Laws, both which seem in danger of entire Subversion.

It is proper to acquaint you that a very large Convoy of Goods went from New Orleans for the Illinois last February, & that it is probable they are by this time arrived there. This makes it necessary for us to open the Trade at Fort Pitt as soon as it is possible, & that the Officers commanding there should be made acquainted when the Traders may be expected, that he may give notice of it to the Indians of Ohio, and prevent their going to the Illinois for their necessarys. If the Trade is postponed at Fort Pitt, the Indians will soon discover where supplies are to be had, & we shall drive them again into the Arms of the French.

I am, with great regard, Sir

Your most Obed’ humble Servt.,


Hon’ble. Gov’r. Penn.



CARLISLE, 1st June, 1765.

I received Letters from Lieut. Grant, Commanding at Fort Loudon, complaining much of some Insults received from the Rioters near that post. He says on the 28 Ultimo, he was taking the air on Horseback, and about half a mile from his post was surrounded by Five of the Rioters, who presented their pieces at him; the person who commanded ordered them to shoot the Bougar, that one of them fired at him which frightened his horse, who run into the Bushes, and occasioned his being thrown upon the Ground. They then disarmed him, carried him fifteen Miles into the Woods and threatened to tye him to a Tree and leave him to perish if he would not give them up some Arms, which, by his Orders, were taken from the first party of Rioters that appeared at his post. When he saw they were determined to put their threats into Execution, he thought it was best to promise them their Arms, and was made to give Security to deliver them up in five Weeks under a penalty of Forty Pounds which being obtained in that manner, certainly cannot be binding. Mr. Grant has also sent me a Copy of a very singular Advertisement, which was found pasted up by the rioters at some distance from his post, which I have taken the liberty to inclose. The Express who brought the dispatches from Loudon tells me he was stopt by some of the Fellows on the road, who would have taken his Letters from him, but being Armed with a Broad Sword, & his Companion having a Pistol, they stood on their defence & wou’d not Submit.


FORT LOUDON, 4th June, 1765.

The first rendezvous of the Rioters was at Justice Smith’s, about 5 Miles from Fort Loudon, the 6 day of March last; From thence they followed the first Convoy of Goods, consisting of eighty-one horse loads, twelve miles further, and burnt and pillaged Sixty-three loads. Capt. Callender applied to Lieut. Grant for a Sergeant and 12 Men, which he agreed to, who saved the remaining loads, chiefly consisting of Liquor, and made some of the rioters prisoners, who were afterwards released upon Bail, and took eight rifles, in all which Lieut. Grant is justified by Brigr. Boquet; in his Letter of the 14th of March, who desires him to keep the rifles in his possession till the Owners’ names shall be found out, which he has accordingly done. Lieut. Grant in his Letter to Brigadier Boquet, of the 9th of March, informs him that he was threaten’d if he did not deliver up his prisoners, that, 200 Men in Arms would come and burn the Fort and rescue them by Force, which obliged Lieut’t. Grant to keep his Garrison under Arms a whole night, being in expectation of an Assault, and upon their being admitted to Bail, Smith, the ringleader of the Rioters, had the Assurance to come into the Fort, and told Lieutenant Grant that they were determined to fire upon the Troops, in case they attempted to carry these Men Prisoners to Carlisle.

Several Horses loaded with Liquors, and Necessaries for the Troops on the Communication, belonging to Joseph Spears, arrived at Fort Loudon, where the Goods were deposited, and the Drivers carried their Horses as usual into the Woods to Feed, where they were attacked by about thirty of the Rioters in disguise, with their faces blacked, who tied them up and flogged them severely, killed five of their horses, wounded two more; and burnt all their Saddles. One of the drivers who made his Escape, returned to the Fort and implored the Protection and assistance of the Commanding Officer, in rescuing his Companions and preventing the Horses from being killed. Lieut’t. Grant thought it his duty to send a Sergeant & 12 men for that purpose; the Rioters finding themselves pursued, fired upon the Party, who returned the Fire, & Slightly wounded one of them in the Thigh.

10th of May. About 150 of the Rioters in Arms, Commanded, as I am informed, by James Smith, and attended by three Justices of the Peace, appeared before the Fort & demanded to Search the Goods, with an intention, it is believed to plunder and destroy them as they had done before. Lieutenant Grant, suspecting their design, told the Justices that the Goods were under his protection by order of time Commander-in-Chief, who had been pleas’d to send him Instructions to have an inventory of the Goods taken by a Justice of the Peace, and that he intended to apply to one of their number to have it done, but did not think it safe at that time in presence of such a Mob, whom he had reason to suspect; to which the Justices made answer that they wou’d not come again, and impertinently said that they were not under the General’s Orders, but that it is their Governor’s Orders they are to obey. The Justices further told Lieutenant Grant that they would pay no regard to any Military Officer’s pass of whatever rank he might be, and that no Goods whatever could be safe in going along the Communication without a pass* from a Justice of the Peace. After this declaration it cannot be doubted that some of these Justices have encouraged the rioters, & even protect them in

*The passes issued by Justice William Smith, and his son, James Smith, the leader of the "Black Boys," were usually written as follows:


"By William Smith, Esq., one of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace, of said County.

"Permit the Bearer, Thos. McCammis, to pass to Fort Bedford, with nine Kegs of Rum, Eight Kegs of Wine, One Keg of Spirits, One Keg of Molasses, Three Kegs of brown Sugar, Four Kegs packed with Loaf Sugar and Coffee and Chocolate, in all Twenty-six Kegs, and One bag of Shoes, provided always, that this Permit shall not Extend to Carry any Warlike Stores, or any Article not herein mentioned.

"Given under my Hand & Seal, 15th May, 1765.

"(Signed) WM. SMITH.

"As the Sidling Hill Volunteers have already Inspected these goods, and as they are all private property, it is Expected that none of these brave fellows will molest them upon the Road, as there is no Indian Supplies amongst them. Given under my Hand, May 15th, l765.

(Signed) JAS.SMITH."


their lawless measures; none of the Justices have taken any notice of the outrage and violence committed on Lieut. Grant and the two Sergeants I made mention of in my last; on the contrary, Smith, who heads these villains, together with the rest of the party who committed these Violences, have appeared ever since openly at Justice Smith’s house and were seen there by Lieut. Grant himself, who complained of them to the said Justices, but could obtain no redress. Mr. Maxwell, a Justice of the Peace, who has always disapproved of the measures of the rioters, has had his life threatened by them. He tells me that one of the Rioters had the assurance to confess to him the day before they appeared in arms before the Fort, that they were determined by Force to seize upon the Goods, and plunder them, which he says the Rioters made no secret of. Mr. Maxwell also says that the common place of Rendezvous for them is at Justice Smith’s, who, he believes, encourages them. I have seen some passes signed by Justice Smith and his Brother-in-law, not only for traders, but even for Soldiers of the Garrison, who are not safe to go any, where about their lawful affairs by a pass from their own Officers. They use the Troops upon every occasion with such indignity & abuse that Flesh and Blood cannot bear it. A party of them had the impudence again to intercept the Express I mentioned in my last, in his return from Carlisle to this place, used him cruelly and detained him all day yesterday; one Wilson, who seemed to head the party, told the Express that they were determined to stop the Cloathing of the Regiment on its way from Carlisle.


These are to give notice to all our Loyal Volunteers, to those that has not yet enlisted, you are to come to our Town and come to our Tavern and fill your Belly’s with Liquor and your Mouth with swearing, and you will have your pass, but if not, your Back must be whipt & your mouth be gagged; You need not be discouraged at our last disappointment, for our Justice did not get the Goods in their hands as they expected, or we should all have a large Bounty. But our Justice has wrote to the Governor, and everything clear on our side, and we will have Grant, the Officer of Loudon, Whip’d or Hang’d, and then we will have Orders for the Goods, so we need not Stop; what we have or mind and will do for the Governor will pardon our Crimes, and the Clergy will give us absolution, and the Country will stand by us; so we may do what we please, for we have Law and Government in our hands, & we have a large sum of money raised for our support, but we must take care that it will be spent in our Town, for our Justice gives us, and those that have a mind to join us, free toleration for drinking, swearing, Sabbath-breaking, and any outrage what we have a mind to do, to let those Strangers know their place. It was first Possess (Black’s Town), and we move it to Squire Smith’s Town, and now I think I have a right to call it, and will still remain till our pleasure, and we call it Hell’s town, in Cumberland County, the 25th May, 1765.


Your Scripture says that "the Devil is the Father of Lies," but I assure you this is the plain truth what I say.

God Bless our brave, loyal Volunteers, and success to our Hellstown.

The foregoing letters, etc., having been duly considered, the council advised the governor to write to the justices of the peace of Cumberland, fully acquainting them with the complaints made by Col. Reid against the people of that county, and requiring them to obtain a full account of their behavior, the names of the persons concerned in any riots, supported by affidavits, and particularly as to making Lieut. Grant a prisoner, and to transmit the same to the governor; and also commanding them to use their utmost endeavors to suppress all riots, to preserve the public peace, and bring the offenders to justice. The members of the Board were likewise of the opinion that a letter should be sent to Justice Smith requiring him to visit Philadelphia to answer the new charges against him; another to Justice Maxwell requiring him to appear at the same time, with witnesses to support his testimony; another to Lieut. Grant, desiring him to send depositions relating to his being made a prisoner, and the abuses and insults he had received, and lastly that the governor reply to Gen. Gage’s letter, giving him a detailed statement of his own conduct on receiving intelligence of the destruction of the goods at Sideling Hill. The following is an extract from Gov. Penn’s letter to Gen. Gage:

PHILADELPHIA, 28th June, 1765.

SIR: Last Week I was honoured with your Excellency’s Letter of the 16 inst.; inclosing extracts of two Letters from Lieut.-Col. Reid, concerning the Riotous Conduct of some of the Inhabitants of Cumberland County. In the detail the Col. has given you, he begins the affair of the Destruction of the Goods at Sideling Hill, in March last, about which I wrote you at the time, and mentioned my intention of going to Carlisle, in order to get more certain Intelligence about that matter, & to take the proper Steps to bring the Offenders to Justice. This affair was an object of much concern to me, and I was extremely anxious to make a discovery of the Offenders, that an effectual stop might be put to any practices of the like sort for the future. I accordingly made a Journey to Carlisle & took with me the Attorney General and two other Members of Council. On my Arrival there I immediately sent for Capt. Callender, one of the Owners of the Goods that were destroyed, to give me all the Information he could of the persons he suspected were principally concerned in the outrage, and to furnish


me with all the names of ye Witnesses who could be supposed to know anything of the matter; altho’ I could not gain certain proofs of the persons who committed the Fact, I caused Warrants to be instantly issued for such as were suspected, and the Sheriff was dispatched to execute them, being authorized to collect the power of the County to his aid, and instructed to desire the assistance of the King’s troops at Fort Loudon, if he should find it necessary. This Step, however, proved ineffectual; the suspected persons had all absconded before he arrived in the part of the County where they lived, so that no one was apprehended. In the meantime the Witnesses were sent for & examined on Oath, and I here with send you Copies of several of the Depositions by which you will perceive what part Justice Smith, who is charged to have encouraged the Rioters, appears to have acted upon that occasion. All the Witnesses who were examined, as well as a number of others who were then absent, were, by my orders, bound over to give Evidence at the next Court, and Bills of Indictment were accordingly presented to the Grand Jury, but tho’ all the Witnesses appeared and were examined by the Jury, it seems, they were of Opinion that there was not sufficient Testimony to convict a single Person charged, and the Bills were returned ignoramus.

Thus I have the Satisfaction to acquaint you, that in a regular Course of Justice, I have done everything on this occasion that could be done consistent web Law. Indeed, if the Assembly had paid any regard to my recommendation some time ago, and framed a proper Militia Law, all the late Mischief and disturbance might have been prevented, such a Law being absolutely necessary to aid the civil powers, and indeed the only natural defence and support of Government.

With regard to the late disturbances mentioned by Col. Reid, and which you have recommended to my Notice, I shall take all possible means to come at the truth of them in a legal and regular way, most of them having been communicated to me as bare reports, I did, however, in consequence thereof, in my late Proclamation, repeat my injunctions and strict Commands to the Magistrates, Sheriffs, and other Officers to use their utmost endeavors to suppress all Riots and disorderly proceedings among the people, and I am in hopes, now, that the Indian Trade is everywhere opened, and all persons in this Province who carry up Goods for that purpose, will have Licenses from me, & all these disturbances will be at an end.

The Advertisement you did me the honour to inclose me is a very extraordinary one. The insinuations in it, that the Conduct of those lawless people is countenanced & abetted by me, are Villainously false & scandalous, and most injurious to my Reputation. I shall spare no pains in detecting the Authors of it, but I cannot help suspecting that it takes its rise from a party in this province, who have been indefatigable in. their endeavors to malign and traduce me on all occasions.

I am much obliged to you for your offers of assistance to me in the support of Government to & enforce an obedience to the Laws. You may well be assured that if I gain information & proof of the persons who have been concerned in these Outrages, particularly the insults offered to the King’s Forts & the abuse of the Officers & Soldiers, I shall immediately order them to be apprehended & made Examples of, & if, in the Execution of this Business, the assistance of the regular Troops shall be found necessary, I shall take the liberty of applying to you to furnish me with a Detachment on the occasion.

I am with great regard,

Sir, your most Obedt. h’ble servant,


To His Excellency TheHon’ble Thomas Gage.

Nevertheless, with all the efforts made to apprehend, convict and punish Capt. Smith and his daring band of regulators, it seems they were futile, for, in the vicinity of Forts Loudon and Bedford, they continued to make life burdensome, as regarded British soldiers and unscrupulous Indian traders; for several years thereafter. In 1769 Smith performed one of the most lawless and fearless achievements of his life—-the capture of Fort Bedford. Of this exploit, in a narrative written by himself while a resident of Bourbon county, Kentucky, in 1799, he says:

In the year 1769, the Indians again made incursions on the frontiers; yet the traders continued carrying goods and warlike stores to them. The frontiers took time alarm, and a number of persons collected, destroyed, and plundered a quantity of their powder, lead, &c., in Bedfordcounty. Shortly after this, some of these persons, with others, were apprehended and laid in irons in the guard- house in Fort Bedford, on suspicion of being the perpetrators of this crime.

Though I did not altogether approve of the conduct of this new club of Black Boys, yet I concluded that they should not lie in irons in the guard-house or remain in confinement by arbitrary or military power. I resolved, therefore, if possible, to release them, if they even should be tried by the civil law afterward. I collected eighteen of my old Black Boys that I had seen tried in the Indian war, &c. I did nut desire a large party, lest they should be too much alarmed at Bedford, and accordingly be prepared for us. We marched along the public road in daylight, and made no secret of our design. We told those whom we met that we were going to take Fort Bedford, which appeared to them a very unlikely story. Before this, I made it known to one William Thompson, a man whom I could trust, and who lived there. Him I employed as a spy, and sent him along on horseback before, with orders to meet me at a certain place near Bedford one hour before day. The next day, a little before sunset, we encamped near the Crossings of Juniata, about fourteen miles from Bedford,


and erected tents, as though we intended staying all night; and not a man in my company knew to the contrary save myself. Knowing that they would hear this in Bedford, and wishing it to be the case, I thought to surprise them by stealing a march.

As the moon rose about 11 o’clock, I ordered my boys to march, and we went on, at the rate of five miles an hour, until we met Thompson at the place appointed. He told us that the commanding officer had frequently heard of us by travelers, and had ordered thirty men upon guard. He said they knew our number, and only made game of the notion of eighteen men coming to rescue the prisoners; but they did not expect us until toward the middle of the day. I asked him if the gate was open. He said it was then shut, but he expected they would open it, as usual, at daylight, as they apprehended no danger. I then moved my men privately up under the banks of the Juniata, where we lay concealed about one hundred yards from the fort gate. I had ordered the men to keep a profound silence until we got into it. I then sent off Thompson again to spy. At daylight he returned and told us that the gate was open, and three sentinels were standing upon the wall; that the guards were taking a morning dram, and the arms standing together in one place. I then concluded to rush into the fort, and told Thompson to run before me to the arms. We ran with all our might; and, as it was a misty morning, the sentinels scarcely saw us until we were within the gate and took possession of the arms. Just as we were entering, two of them discharged their guns, though I do not believe they aimed at us. We then raised a shout, which surprised the town, though some of them were well pleased with the news. We compelled a blacksmith to take the irons off the prisoners, and then we left the place. This, I believe, was the first British fort* in America that was taken by what they call American rebels.

Some time after this, Smith, his younger brother and brother-in-law, set out on horseback from their homes for the purpose of visiting and surveying lands owned by Smith in the Youghiogheny valley. When within about nine miles of Bedford, they overtook and joined company with men named Johnson and Moorhead, who likewise had horses, loaded with liquor and seed wheat, their intention being to make improvements on lands owned by them west of the mountains. When the combined party arrived at the forks of the road just east of Bedford, the company separated; one part, going through the town to get a horse shad, were apprehended and put under confinement, but for what crime they knew not, and treated in a manner utterly inconsistent with the laws of their country, and the liberties

*It is claimed that the flag which floated over this fort on the morning of its capture by Smith is now in the possession of parties residing in the vicinity of Bedford, but we cannot vouch for the correctness of the claim.

of Englishmen, whilst the other part, namely, James Smith, Johnson and Moorhead, taking along the other road, were met by John Holmes, Esq. (see history of Bedford Borough, where, in 1761, John Holmes is mentioned as owning land just northwest of "Bedford manor," and on the right bank of the Raystown branch), to whom James Smith spoke in a friendly manner, but received no answer. Mr. Holmes hastened and gave an alarm in Bedford, from whence a party of men were sent in pursuit of them; but Smith and his companions, not having the least thought of any such measures being taken (why should they?), traveled slowly on. After they had gained the place where the roads joined, they delayed until the other part of their company should come up. At this time a number of men came riding, like men traveling; they asked Smith his name, which he told them, on which they immediately assaulted him as highwaymen and with presented pistols commanded him to surrender or he was a dead man; upon which Smith stepped back, asked them if they were highwaymen, charging them at the same time to stand off, when immediately Robert George (one of the assailants) snapped a pistol at Smith’s head, and that before Smith offered to shoot (which said George himself acknowledged upon oath), whereupon Smith presented his gun at another of the assailants, who was preparing to shoot him with his pistol, the said assailant having a hold of Johnson by the arm; two shots were fired, one from Smith’s gun, the other from a pistol, so quick as just to be distinguishable, and Johnson fell. After which Smith was taken and carried into Bedford, where John Holmes, Esq., the informer, held an inquest on the corpse, one of the assailants being evidence."* Smith was brought in guilty of willful murder, and, being placed in irons, was strongly guarded at Fort Bedford. A few days later, fearing a rescue, the authorities sent him privately through the wilderness to Carlisle, where he was again heavily ironed. A body of six hundred of his old companions and neighbors assembled as soon as they heard of his arrest, marched to Carlisle and demanded his release. Smith refused to be released, made a speech to his friends, and counseled them to return home, which they did. He remained in prison for four months, was tried before the Supreme Court, at Carlisle, in 1769, and acquitted.

*From a statement prepared by William Smith, of Conococheague, October 16, 1769.


In 1772, he was elected one of the county assessors of Bedfordcounty. He then removed to Westmoreland county and served there in the same capacity. In 1774, he was captain of a company operating against the Indians. Two years later he commanded a company of rangers in New Jersey, and with thirty-six men defeated a detachment of two hundred Hessians, taking a number of them prisoners. The same year (1776) he was elected a member of the Convention of Pennsylvania, from Westmoreland. In 1777, he was elected a member of the assembly from that county, and re-elected as long as he desired to serve. While serving in the assembly, he applied for and got leave of absence to raise a battalion of riflemen to serve against the British in New Jersey. This body of troops he led into the field, but after a few months he was compelled to relinquish their command by reason of sickness. In 1778 he was commissioned colonel and served against the Western Indians. In the expedition against the French Creek Indians, he commanded a battalion of four hundred riflemen, and did good service. He finally became a resident of Bourbon county, Kentucky, removing to that state in 1788, where he served in the state convention, and in the legislature, continuously, until 1799. He died about the beginning of the present century.


We now come to the consideration of the second topic indicated by the heading of this chapter-—Mason and Dixon’s line. It is a subject deemed relevant by reason of the fact that with the establishment of this line a strip of territory, nearly twenty miles in width and extending the entire length of the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania (a region to that time claimed by the heirs of Lord Baltimore, and with justice, too), was determined to be a part of the province of Pennsylvania. Hence, by the settlement of the vexed question respecting the boundary line between the two provinces, the point was also decided, whether, for the past one hundred and twenty-three years, thousands of the inhabitants of Bedford and Somerset counties should exist, perpetuate their kind and finally depart this life, as Marylanders or Pennsylvanians.

The knowledge of American geography two hundred and fifty years ago was very imperfect. It embraced little beyond the great headlands, bays and rivers, and their true positions were not reliably known. But the monarchs of Europe, who cared little about their undeveloped possessions in America, and who executed conveyances which covered the larger parts of a continent, assumed that they knew all about the location of capes, bays, islands and rivers, and that the distances they placed them apart were reliable. They were less precise in the location of points and in the use of terms which were to define the boundaries of future states than people of today would be in describing a town lot. The consequences were, that conflicting grants were made, leading to long and angry disputes, such as that which grew out of the opposing claims regarding the boundary line between the provinces of Maryland and Pennsylvania.

It appears that in the early part of the seventeenth century a bold navigator, named Capt. John Smith, had been employed by the companies to whom King James I of England had granted the greater part, of his New World possessions, to explore the American coast and make a map of the true location of its most prominent natural features. Having finished surveys, he returned to England in 1614 and made out a map and an account of his explorations, which he presented to the heir-apparent, afterward Charles I, who thereupon named the territory New England.

Eighteen years later, or in June, 1632, Charles I granted to Cecilius Calvert, Lord Baron of Baltimore, all the land from thirty-eight degrees of north latitude "unto that part of Delaware Bay which lieth under the fortieth degree of north latitude where New England terminates; an\d all that tract of land, from the aforesaid bay of Delaware, in a right line, by the degree aforesaid, to the true meridian of the first fountain of the river Potomack."

In 1664, Charles II granted New York and the greater part of New Jersey and Delaware, to his brother the Duke of York, afterward James II. So far as this grant purported to give away the territory embraced in the present State of Delaware, it was undoubtedly a violation of the grant made by King Charles I in 1632 to Lord Baltimore. The latter’s successor, however, labored without success to have this grant annulled.

In 1681 William Penn obtained his grant from Charles II. The territory embraced in it


was described as "all that tract or part of land in America, with all the islands therein contained, as the same is bounded on the east by Delaware river, from twelve miles northward of New Castletown unto the three and fortieth degree of northern latitude, if the said river doth extend so far northwards; but if the said river doth not extend so far, northwards, then by the said river so far as it does extend; and from the head of said river the eastern bounds aide to be determined by a meridian line to be drawn from the head of said river unto the said three and fortieth degree; the said lands to extend westward five degrees in longitude, to be computed from the said eastern bounds; and the said lands to be bounded north by the beginning of the three and fortieth degree of northern latitude, and then by a straight line westward to the limits of longitude above mentioned." On the south the boundary was to be by the circular line, from the river, twelve miles distant from New Castle, "unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of north latitude," and thence by a due west line to the extent of five degrees of longitude from the river Delaware.

History informs us that in making those grants Smith’s map of 1614 was used. By that map the fortieth degree is laid down as crossing the Delaware a little below where New Castle stands, whilst its true location is known to be a little over nineteen miles north of that point, and above the city of Philadelphia. This error was not discovered until 1682, during which year also William Penn purchased the Duke of York’s claim on the western shore and bay of Delaware; the former having early perceived the importance of owning that side of the river all the way from his Province to the ocean. Hence the annexation of the "three Lower Counties on Delaware" now forming the state of that name.

It was now found to be a very difficult task to establish the southern line of Penn’s grant against Maryland. A series of bitter disputes and collisions ensued, which during a period of fifty years brought about no progress toward the desired settlement. In 1732 the successors of Penn and Calvert entered into articles of agreement for fixing the boundary, and under this agreement a temporary line was run in 1739 as far west as "the most western of the Kittochtinny Hills," which now form the, western boundary of Franklincounty. There the matter rested until July 4, 1760, when a new agreement was made and seven commissioners appointed for each proprietary to establish the line. These commissioners chose four surveyors to execute the work, namely: John Lukens and Archibald McClean for Pennsylvania, and John F. A. Priggs and John Hall for Maryland. They immediately commenced operations, but by reason of the great natural difficulties to be overcome and the imperfection of their instruments and appliances, their progress was so slow that in 1763 the proprietaries residing in London became impatient, and in August of that year employed Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, "London astronomers and surveyors," to complete the work.

These surveyors came to America at once and commenced operations, but it was nearly two years before they had finished the preliminary work at the eastern end and fairly started on the due east and west line which has been since known by their names—-Mason and Dixon’s line. By the end of that year they had advanced as far west as the end of the temporary line of 1739. In the spring of 1766 they again commenced work, and on June 4th had reached the top of Little Allegheny Mountain,* but dared not proceed farther for fear of the Indians.

After that no progress was made until June, 1767, when the surveying party again took up the work, being then escorted by a party of warriors of the Six Nations to hold the threatening Shawnees and Delawares in check. The point where Braddock’s road crosses from Maryland into Somerset county, Pennsylvania, was reached on August 24th, and there the Iroquois escort left them; but they pushed on, crossing the Youghiogheny and Monongahela rivers, and in October came to the broad Indian trail known as the Warrior Branch, near the second crossing of Dunkard creek. The Delawares and Shawnees had been growing more and more threatening since the departure of the Six Nations’ warriors, and they now positively forbade any advance by the surveyors west of the crossing of the trail. The party deemed it not prudent to proceed in defiance of this prohibition, and consequently the line stopped at that point, beyond which it was not extended until about fifteen years later.

*The point of division between Bedford and Somerset counties, on the Southern border.


Messrs. Mason and Dixon returned to Philadelphia and reported the facts to the commissioners, when they received an honorable discharge (dated December 26, 1761), having been engaged in the service about four years. They were allowed twenty-one shillings each per day for one month, from June 21, of the last year; the rest of the time and until their arrival in England they were paid ten shillings and sixpence each per day. From 1760 to 1768, the Penns paid out for these surveys the sum of £34,200.

We add, in this connection, that much difficulty was likewise experienced by the Penns in establishing a boundary line between their province and Virginia, the latter claiming the region west of Laurel Hill and northward to and including Fort Pitt. Yet, as that was a matter which intimately concerned the early inhabitants of Bedford county for but a brief period—-from the time Bedford county was formed until the organization of the county of Westmoreland-— it will be alluded to in a few words, only, in the chapter entitled "Organization, etc., of the Ninth county of the Province."

(Source: The History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania, Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1884, pp. 49-57.)

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