Clearfield County Pennsylvania
Present and Past

Chapter IV
The First White Visitors

The first white visitors to the county were explorers, hunters, scouts, captives and surveyors. The story of her trip through the county as an Indian captive in 1755, written by Anne Marie le Roy, is the first authentic recorded account of such a visit so far as is known.

By the treaty of 1754 the heirs of Penn claimed all of the West Branch Valley, but the Indians said they never intended this and resented the whites settling on these lands.

On the 16th of October, 1755, the settlement on Penn's Creek, just west of where Sunbury now stands and across the river from it, was set upon by a body of Indians from the West Branch and every person in the settlement consisting of twenty-five men, women and children, except one man who made his escape, were killed or carried into captivity. Among those carried away as captives were Anne Marie le Roy and Barbara Leininger, two German girls, and Anne Marie's young brother. In the division of captives, these girls fell to the share of an Indian named Calasko. After her escape, Anne Marie wrote out the following account of their experiences and final escape from the Indians, in German.


Barbara Tries to Escape. "We traveled with our new master for two days. He was tolerably kind and allowed us to ride all the way while the Indians walked. Of this circumstance Barbara Leininger took advantage and tried to escape. But she was almost immediately captured and condemned to be burned alive. Thereupon they made a large pile of wood and set it afire to burn her up. But a young Indian boy begged so earnestly for her life that she was pardoned, after having promised not to attempt to escape again and to stop crying.

They Reach Chinklacamoose. "The next day the whole troop was divided into two bands, the one marching in the direction of the Ohio [Duquesne?], the other, in which we were with Galasko, to Chinklacamoose [on the present site of Clearfield], a Delaware town on the West Branch of the Susquehanna. There we stayed ten days and then proceeded to Punxsutawney, or Eschentown. Marie's brother was forced to remain at Chinklacamoose.

To Punxsutawney and Kittanning. "After having rested for five days at Punxsutawney, we took our way to Kittanny [Kittanning]. As this was to be the place of our permanent abode, we here received our welcome, according to the Indian custom. It consisted of three blows each on the back. They were, however, administered with great mercy. Indeed we concluded that we were beaten merely in order to keep up an ancient usage and not with the intention of injuring us. We arrived at Kittanny in December and we remained until September, 1756.

The Indians Set Them to Work. "The Indians gave us enough to do. We had to tan leather to make shoes [moccasins], to clear land, to plant corn, to cut down trees and build huts, to wash and cook. The want of provisions, however, caused us the greatest suffering. During all the time we were at Kittanny, we had neither lard nor salt, and sometimes were forced to live on acorns, roots, grass and bark.

There was nothing in the world to make this new sort of food palatable except hunger itself.

The English Attack and Burn Kittanning. "In September Colonel Armstrong came with his men and attacked Kittanny town. Both of us happened to be in the part of it that lies on the right side of the river [the Alleghany]. We were immediately taken ten miles farther into the interior, in order that we might have no chance of escape. After the English had withdrawn, we were again brought back to Kittanny, which town had been burned to the ground.

While here, we had to endure the sight of the torturing and killing of different captives who had tried to escape. It is easy to imagine what an impression such fearful instances of cruelty make upon the mind of a poor captive. [The English had been cruel also, hence the retaliation.]

At Fort DuQuesne. "Soon after these occurrences, we were brought to Fort Duquesne, [a French Fort where Pittsburgh now stands] where we remained about six months. We worked for the French and our Indian master drew our wages. In this place, thank God, we could again eat bread. Half a pound was given us daily. In some respects we were better off than in the Indian towns. The French tried hard to induce us to forsake the Indians and stay with them, but we believed that it would be better for us to remain among the Indians, inasmuch as they would be more likely to make peace with the English than the French would, and also there would be more ways open for flight in the forest than in a fort.

On the Move Again. "So we declined the French offers and went with our Indian master to Sackum, at the outlet of the Beaver River into the Ohio, where we spent the winter keeping house for the Indians who were continually on the chase. In the spring we were taken to Kaschkaschkung, [now in Lawrence county], where we had to clear land, plant corn and do other hard work. We were here one and one-half  years.

They See Frederick Post. "After having, in the past three years, seen no one of our own flesh and blood except those unhappy beings who, like ourselves, were bearing the yoke of the heaviest slavery, we had the unexpected pleasure of meeting with a German who was not a captive but free, and who as we heard, had been sent into this neighborhood to try to make peace between the English and the natives. His name was Frederick Post, the Moravian. We were however not allowed to speak to him. He himself by the reserve with which he treated us, let us see that it was not the time to talk over our afflictions. But we were greatly alarmed on his account. For the French told us that if they caught him they would roast him alive for five days, and many Indians declared that it was impossible for him to get through safely, that he was destined for death.

The Indians Retreat to Muskingum.

"Last summer the French and Indians were defeated at Loyal-Hannon or Fort Ligonier. This caused the utmost consternation among the natives. They brought their wives and children from Loggstown, Sackum, Shomingo, Mamalty, Kaschkaschkung, and other places, to Moschkingo, about one hundred and fifty miles further west. Before leaving, however, they destroyed their crops and burned everything they could not carry with them. We had to go along and we stayed at Moschkingo [Muskingum, now in Ohio], the whole winter.

A Chance To Escape. "In February, Barbara Leininger agreed with an Englishman named David Breckenridge, to escape and gave her comrade Marie le Roy notice of their intention. On account of the severity of the season, winter, and the long journey which lay before them, Marie strongly advised waiting until spring, when the weather would be milder, and promising to accompany her at -that time.

"On the last day of February nearly all the Indian men left Moschkingo and went to Pittsburgh to sell pelts, and their women traveled ten miles up the country to gather roots, and we accompanied them. Two men went along as a guard. It was our earnest hope that the opportunity for flight, so long desired, had now come. Accordingly, Barbara Leininger pretended to be sick, so that she might be allowed to put up a hut for herself alone. On the fourteenth of March Marie was sent back to town in order to bring two young dogs which had been left there, and on the same day Barbara Leininger came out of her hut and visited a German woman ten miles from Moschkingo.

A Wonderful Woman. "This woman's name was Mary and she was the wife of a miller from the South Branch of the Potomac. She had made every preparation to accompany us on our flight; but Barbara found that in the meantime she had become lame and could not think of going along. She gave Barbara the provisions that she had stored, namely two pounds of dried meat, quart of corn and four pounds of sugar. Besides she gave her some pelts for moccasins. Moreover, she advised a young Englishman, Owen Gibson, to flee with us two girls.

"On the 16th of March, 1759, in the evening, Gibson reached Barbara Leininger's hut, and at 10 o'clock our whole party, consisting of us two girls, Gibson and David Breckenridge, left Moschkingo.

The Escape. "We had to pass many huts inhabited by the Indians and knew that there were at least sixteen dogs with them. In the merciful providence of God, not a single one of those dogs barked. Their barking would have betrayed us and frustrated our design. It is hard to describe our anxious fears under the circumstances. The extreme probability that the Indians would pursue and recapture us was as two to one compared with the dim hope that perhaps we might get through and escape. Even if we escaped the Indians, how would we ever succeed in passing through the wilderness, unacquainted as we were with a single path or trail, without a guide, half naked, broken down by three years of hard work and privation, with scarcely any food, the season wet and cold and many rivers and streams to cross?

"Under such circumstances to depend upon one's own powers alone would be the worst of follies. If one could not believe that there is a God who helps and saves from death, one had better let running away alone.

They Find a Raft and Cross the River. "We safely reached the river [the Muskingum]. Presently we found a raft left by the Indians. Thanking God for the raft, we got on board and soon reached the other side, but were carried a mile down stream.

"Now our journey began in good earnest. Filled with anxiety and fear, we fairly ran that whole night and all the next day. Then we lay down to rest without daring to kindle a fire. Early next morning, Owen Gibson fired at a bear. The bear fell, but when he ran with his tomahawk to kill it, it jumped up and bit him in the feet, leaving three wounds. We all hurried to his assistance, but the bear escaped in a narrow hole in the rocks where we could not follow it.

"On the third day Owen shot a deer, and we cut off the hind quarters and roasted them at a fire. The next morning, he again shot a deer, which furnished us food for that day.

They Reach the Ohio. "In the evening we reached the Ohio at last having made a circuit of over one hundred miles in order to reach it. About midnight the two Englishmen rose and began to work at a raft, which was finished by morning, when we got aboard and safely crossed the river. From the signs that the Indians had put up there, we saw that we were, about one hundred and fifty miles from Fort Duquesne. After a brief consultation, we decided to travel straight toward the rising sun. This we did for seven days heedless of path or trail. On the.seventh day we found we had reached Little Beaver Creek and were about fifty miles from Pittsburgh.

Troubles a-plenty. "And now that we imagined ourselves so near the end of all our troubles and misery, a whole host of mishaps came upon us. Our provisions were all gone, Barbara Leininger fell into the water and was nearly drowned and, the worst misfortune of all, Owen Gibson lost his flint and steel [for making fire]. Hence we had to spend four nights without fire, amidst rain and snow.

"On the last day of March, we came to a river, Alloquey [Chartiers Creek ], about three miles below Pittsburgh. Here we made a raft which however, proved too light to carry us across. It threatened to sink and Marie fell off and narrowly escaped drowning. We had to put back and let one of our men convey one of us across at a time. In this way we reached the Monongahela river, across from Pittsburgh, the same evening.

Pittsburgh at Last. "Upon calling for help, Colonel Mercer immediately sent out a boat to bring us to the Fort. At first, however, the crew did not want to take us on board thinking we were Indians, and saying they would bring us in the morning. When we had succeeded in convincing them that we were English prisoners who had escaped from the Indians and that we were wet and cold and hungry, they brought us over. There was an Indian in the boat who asked us whether we could speak good Indian. Marie said she could speak it, and the Indian inquired why she had run away. She replied that her Indian mother had been so cross and had scolded her so constantly that she could not stay with her any longer. This answer did not please him very well, but like a courtier, he said he was glad we had safely arrived at the Fort.

"Most heartily did we thank God for all the mercy and care which he had shown us and for finally bringing us to Pittsburgh to our countrymen in safety.

Help to Get Home. "Colonel Mercer helped and aided us in every way which lay in his power. Whatever was on hand that would refresh us was offered in the most friendly manner. The Colonel ordered for each of us girls a new chemise, a petticoat, a pair of stockings, garters and a knife. After having spent a day at Pittsburgh, we went with a detachment under command of Lieutenant Miles, to Fort Ligonier. There the Lieutenant gave us each a blanket. On the 15th, we left Fort Ligonier under the protection of Captain Weiser and Lieutenant Atlee, for Fort Bedford, where we arrived on the 16th and stayed a week. Thence provided with passports by Lieutenant Geiger, we traveled in wagons to Harris' Ferry, [now Harrisburg], and from there by way of Lancaster to Philadelphia, afoot.

"Owen Gibson remained at Fort Bedford and David Breckenridge at Lancaster. We two girls arrived at Philadelphia on Sunday May 6th, 1759_"

[Anne Marie le Roy afterwards lived at Lancaster, Pa.]


In April 1757 Captain Patterson with a small party, made the trip from Fort Augusta, at the junction of the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna, to Chinklacamoose and found that the path to Buchaloons, the Indian town that stood near where Warren now is, passed that place, and that it branched about forty miles south of Chinklacamoose, the other branch going to Cumberland County. [It also branched near where Luthersburg now is, the branch toward the west going through Punxsutawney to Kittanning.

In August 1758 Frederick Post, the Moravian, traveled through the county on a mission to the Indians in the west, for Governor Denny. He had with him two friendly Indians. He saw Anne Marie le Roy and Bertha Leininger at Kittanning. On his way back in September, he came through Punxsutawney and "on the 14th he came to the Susquehanna, and after crossing it six times, arrived at Chinklacamoose, where there had been an old Indian town." They must have slept here, crossing the mountain on the sixteenth and seventeenth, and came to the Big Island. [near where Lock Haven now stands.]


Bishop Ettewin in his journal gives the following account of the flight of the Moravians from Freidenshutten, their town on the North Branch, up the West Branch through what is now Clearfield county, and over the mountains to the Ohio.

They had purchased their land on the North Branch in good faith, from a Connecticut company, the state of Connecticut claiming that their grant from the King of England extended to the Pacific Ocean. [The tract of land bought from the Indians by the Susquehanna Land Company, a Connecticut organization, for two thousand pounds, also included the northeast corner of what is now Clearfield county within its boundaries]. This overlapped Penn's grant, and though his heirs were said to have promised the Moravians that they would not be disturbed, the Penn surveyors came and ran over their lands, so they decided to leave and seek a home in the west, taking with them their household goods, horses and cattle, starting on their long journey on the eleventh of June, 1772.

The Three Companies Unite. They traveled in three different companies and by different routes until they came together at the Big Island [near where Lock Haven now stands} and all crossed the mountains; journeying to the Moshannon, and crossing into what is now Clearfield county, on July 8th, 1772. On the ninth day they came to a running swamp [in Cooper township]. On the tenth they lay in camp to hunt strayed horses. On the eleventh the poor little crippled boy, Nathan, had died, unobserved. His mother had carried him all the way in a basket up to the time when he died. He was ten or eleven years old and was buried near Moravian Run. Sunday the twelfth, there was a collection of corn and beans for the poor, after worship in the evening. July thirteenth they proceeded six miles to a spring in a beautiful, widely expanded mountain meadow. A storm came up, but the men cut saplings, collected bark and built huts to shelter themselves. On the fourteenth, they reached Clearfield Creek [two miles southeast of the old town], where the buffaloes, [he says], had cleared large tracts of undergrowth so as to give the scene the appearance of cleared fields. This gave the name "Clearfield" to the creek and later to the town.

They Reach Chinklacamoose. On the route, there were one hundred and fifty deer and three bears shot, nine of' the deer being killed here. Thursday July sixteenth, they journeyed on two miles to the site of "Chinklacamoose" where but three huts were found, with a few patches of Indian corn. [See story of Indian hermit or sorcerer that the Indian legend says lived here]. Then they moved on four miles and were obliged to wade the river three times. It was rapid and full of riffles. Friday July seventeenth, they advanced only four miles, to a creek that comes down from the northwest [Anderson creek]. Thence crossing it five times, up the creek three miles, thence northwesterly to the summit spring, four or five miles farther over. [This summit spring is a feeder of a branch of the Mahoning creek, which flows down to Punxsutawney. It is one-fourth of a mile from Luthersburg.] Sunday, July nineteenth; in the evening the ponkis [gnats] were a plague to man and beast, but in the swamp they were especially bad. So the Indian town to which we now came was called Ponksutenink [Punxsutawney] "the town of the ponkis" [the town of the gnats.] Later the company journeyed on to the Ohio, where they settled.

Difficulties of the Journey. Out of the two hundred and eleven persons Bishop Ettwein says were in the company of Moravians and friendly Indians, "None received injury to his or her person, though upwards of fifty rattlesnakes were killed, some of the animals being bitten by them. Among the rocks and fallen timber we fell countless times. Sister Roth fell from her horse four times, once with her child into a bog up to her middle, and once into the bushes backward from her horse with her child, and once she hung by the stirrup. My horse once took a leap down an embankment on the bank of a creek throwing me over his head onto my back in the water."

Early Surveys. Judge Smith, an old surveyor, ran off a considerable tract of land in this vicinity in 1769, but not until after the treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784 and of Fort McIntosh in 1785, did the rush begin. Samuel Brady made surveys, as possibly, John Brady. Brady township was named after the Bradys. There were many surveys made by men who were hired by speculators who got patents for lands as a promising means of making money later when the bonafide settlers came. When the Lees, Wrights and others from Chester and Delaware counties and Maryland, to the number of five families came to Clearfield creek through the woods, they each held title to one thousand acres for which they had paid a land speculator five dollars an acre, though a fair price at the time would have been less than fifty cents per acre. That does not mean that all these early surveyors were unscrupulous, for many of them were very conscientious. Formerly all deeds called for 106 acres where 100 acres changed hands, because the state originally reserved six per cent of the land in the state for roads. So the old deeds specified so many acres "and allowance."

In an early day a man holding a patent and survey of a tract of land would sell it in lots of 100 acres to some settler wanting to clear out a farm, on very easy payments with only five or ten dollars down. Some of these purchasers were quite unscrupulous too. A scheme worked by a man, was to buy 100 acres paying five dollars for it in cash, balance on payments. Then he would fail to pay the taxes and when it was sold for taxes, he would have his brother buy it for the small amount of tax due, eventually gaining title in this way.

Source:  Pages 68-79, Clearfield County Pennsylvania Present and Past,  T.L Wall, 1925
Transcribed May 2008 by Nathan Zipfel for the Clearfield County Genealogy Project
Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Clearfield County Genealogy Project (

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