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Westmoreland County History Page 


Leech account of the Hannastown Massacre

Westmoreland County was the first county of the colony of Pennsylvania erected west of the Allegheny Mountains and the last under the hereditary Penn proprietaries and the 11th county established by the colony. The principal reason for erecting the county was to establish a government bulwark against the claims of Virginia for western Pennsylvania, from which colony encouraged by the Ohio Company many pioneers were emigrating via Braddock Road and settling in this territory. Another reason was to have a County Seat and Courthouse nearer than Bedford.

The county was likely named either for Westmoreland County in England or in Virginia, or for both. By the law which created Westmoreland County, Hanna's Town was temporarily designated as the County Seat, court to be held at the "House of Robert Hanna." He, with his friends and neighbors, were appointed by the same statute trustees to select a permanent county seat. Hanna's Town was on the Forbes military road, the only road leading from eastern Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh. The "House of Robert Hanna" was also a tavern and hostelry and thus Hanna enjoyed a lucrative patronage because of the road end of "court days". However, the hand of God, or the hand of Guyasuta, Seneca Indian Chief, forced the hand of Robert Hanna.

On July 13, 1782, the Senecas, aided and abetted by the British, attacked and burned Hanna's Town, comprising of some 30 houses. This was the last notorious hostile act of the Revolutionary War. The "House of Robert Hanna" and, hence, the court records herein, and the fort were not destroyed. The General Assembly then discharged the inactive Hanna and his trustees and appointed five more trustees to establish a permanent seat of justice. After hearings by advocates of Hanna's Town, Greensburg, and Pittsburgh, the latter of which was still part of Westmoreland County, the committee disagreed. Discharging these trustees, the Assembly then appointed new trustees and defined a limited area for locating a Courthouse which excluded the Pittsburgh area. These trustees selected Greensburg, then called Newtown, because of Christopher Truby from Newton in Bucks County, who owned and settled on the land which is part of Greensburg.

The county was also the site of the most fiercely fought battles in America's anti-revolutionary history---the Battle of Bushy Run, on August 5th and 6th, 1763. Had it not been for Bouquet's victory in this battle of Pontiac's conspiracy on Westmoreland soil, all of the territory west of the Allegheny Mountains would have been lost by England and the colonial settlers.

Contributed for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)

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