There were then few tools in use by the farmer compared with those found on a well regular farm now. Scarcely any farmer had a wagon, but hauled his crops on a sled, which he could easily manufacture himself if he had an auger, a saw and an axe. Hay was often hauled with a grape vine instead of a rope, and a comparatively good sized pile weighing several hundred pounds could be thus dragged in at once by drawing the grape vine around it. There were no ropes in the community then. They had a rude shaped plow, but very few harrows. To mellow the ground after plowing it, they dragged a thorn or other scrubby tree over it. The land was covered with deadened trees and stumps, and was very unproductive compared with the same land when thoroughly cleared and farmed. Grass was cut with a scythe, and grain with a sickle. Finally grain cradles were introduced, but were used only in cutting buckwheat. So it will appear that a farmer with an axe, saw, auger, sickle, scythe and plow could manage to get along reasonably well.
There was little else done in the county then except farming. There were no towns of any consequence, nearly all the people depending upon agriculture for a livelihood. Women invariably worked in the fields and helped to perform much of the labor which is now done by men exclusively. To destroy the forest was the pioneer's first duty, for it will be remembered that the entire country was practically an unbroken wilderness at that time. The work on the farm was very hard. A day's work was from daylight till dark. In the winter months they cleared lands, and later threshed their grain with flails. No one who worked a day or a few days for a neighbor, was paid in money, but in return labor when the neighbor needed help. Any one who lived within three or four miles was a neighbor.
Prior to 1790 there was scarcely a market for any farm product, but each was content if he raised enough to live on from year to year, and improved his farm or enlarged it. After that, when there came a market for rye, if distilled, or when the manufacture of iron made a market for horses, oats and corn, then the farmers began to build better houses, and all over the county we can see the crumbling ruins of old stone houses and barns built in the early years of the last century. The farmer during these primitive years had few expenses. He had no doctor bills, because there were no physicians. His fuel was cut from the surrounding forest. His clothes were homespun or grew on the backs of wild animals. Salt, a few iron implements and lead for bullets, were among the few necessaries which he could not produce, but even these were subjects of barter, and he could procure them in return for rye, potatoes, or skins of animals.
A good hunter in those days used nothing but a rifle, and for small game a gun of very small bore and bullet was used. It was not uncommon for a hunter to bring in a dozen squirrels or small birds like partridge or pheasant, and all of them shot in the head. Squirrels were often killed by "barking them," that is, by shooting a ball into the bark, or between the squirrel and the bark. This was almost sure death to the squirrel, and did not destroy its meat.
Wolves were a great nuisance to the farmer. Taken singly, a wolf was a cowardly, skulking animal, but a pack of them, when driven to desperation by hunger, would attack either man or beast. The wolf of Pennsylvania was brown in color, rather than the gray wolf of the west with which we are familiar. They hunted their prey by scent like a dog. A pack would approach the cabin of a farmer in quest of pigs or sheep, and announced their presence by prolonged howls which terrified the community almost as much as did the warhoop of the Indian a few years previous. In that frenzied condition produced by hunger, a gang of them would spring on a horse or cow, fasten their teeth and claws into its flesh, and, though fought off by all the strength the suffering brute could command, in a few minutes the animal was brought to the ground and devoured. A man alone after nightfall was equally in danger. All wild animals were bolder, and more likely to assault either man or beast a century ago than they are now. This was due, as President Roosevelt repeatedly says in his "Winning of the West," to the fear that has been bed and born in the animal by generations of gun-bearing enemies. The only safety for am an pursued by a pack of wolves was to climb a tree. They could not follow him there, though they could watch him till morning, and it was not a pleasant place to spend the night. An early settler named Christian Shockey, a resident of the Unity township, was returning home from a hunt one cold evening in the first or second year of the last century. A pack of wolves pursued him a long distance. He could have shot one of them, but he knew this would not arrest the pack, so he hurriedly climbed a tree. The animals howled around the trunk of the tree all night. They would jump, with jaws opened, as far up towards him as they could, and he would hear the sharp sound of their closing teeth. Far up the sides of the tree the bark for years afterwards showed the marks of their teeth and claws. In the morning they skulked off to their rocky dens, and Shockey was permitted to come down and go home. Near Shockey's cabin was a large spring which never froze over, though it was about twenty-five or thirty feet either way, being in fact the largest spring in the county at that time. Here the wolves came for water, and here he caught hundreds of them in steel traps, and sold their skins. The spring to this day is called Wolf Spring.
Shockey was, as his name indicates, a German, and we can not pass him without a few words concerning his character. He was the son of a Revolutionary soldier who had been wounded at Brandywine. Christian dealt in skins more or less all his life, trapping all the animals he could, and buying many from his neighbors. In 1807 he went to Hagerstown, Maryland, with two packhorses laden with furs. He had been a lifelong patron of Jacob Gruber's Hagerstown Almanac. now that he was in the city where they were published, he determined to get at least enough to supply his neighbors. They were offered at a low price, much lower than he expected, so, with an eye to a good business investment, he invested the proceeds of his skins largely in almanacs, printed some in German and some in English. But, unfortunately, when he reached home he found that they were for the current year, which was near its close, so he could not sell them. It is said that he bore it good naturedly, and blamed only himself.
Wolves were always gregarious animals. They generally inhabited mountains with they could fine dens among the cavernous rocks, and where they were not too far removed from the domestic animals of the settler. The settlements contiguous to Laurel Hill and Chestnut Ridge therefore were most subjected to their depradations. In 1782 the state offered five dollars for the scalp of a wolf whelp and twenty-five dollars for that of a full grown wolf. This was in continental currency, which was greatly depreciated, but in 1860 a reward of eight dollars in gold was offered for every wolf killed, and this was afterwards raised to twelve dollars. In addition to this, some counties which were sorely afflicted with them offered special rewards. As a result the premium offered for scalps was much larger in Westmoreland than it was in Somerset county, though the animals were more plentiful in Somerset, because there were more mountains and it was not so well settled. So may old hunters baited the wolves near the county line, but on the Westmoreland side, and drew them over to Westmoreland, where the bounty was greater, each hunter having to prove that the scalps were from animals taken in the county where the bounty was demanded. One old hunter named Dumbold, of Somerset county, drew the carcass of an old horse over to the Westmoreland side, and there trapped ten wolves from it. HE also received one dollar for each wolf skin.
Squirrels and crows were also a great nuisance to the farmer. They dug out the newly planted corn grains and feasted on the ripening fields of grain. Premiums were put on their scalps also. Westmoreland and Fayette counties were authorized by a special act of the legislature to assess and collect a squirrel scalp fund. The premium offered was two cents for squirrels and three cents for crows. The premium was but little more than the cost of ammunition. This ammunition question alone was a perplexing one, for they could not produce the ingredients of powder, nor could they dig lead from the earth. All firearms were then discharged by flint locks, and hence they were not compelled to buy caps. But lead must be purchased. Powder was often manufactured by the pioneer. Its explosive qualities are brought about by the chemical action of a union of three non-explosive ingredients, viz., saltpeter, charcoal and sulphur. Taking about six-tenths of the former and two-tenths of each of the latter, they first pulverized each separately, then mixed then in water, and dried the mixture in a skillet or pot on the house fire. To keep the mixture from becoming a solid mass they were compelled to stir it constantly. When finally dried they had a fair quality of powder. The charcoal they could produce, but had to purchase saltpeter and sulphur. It could still be made at a less cost than the selling price of powder. One old hunter in the eastern part of the county was thus manufacturing powder and drying it on a cook stove. Forgetting himself, or perhaps not realizing it was dry, he stirred the fire below with the same paddle he was using in stirring the powder. When he again began to stir the powder a small coal perhaps adhered to the paddle. At all events it exploded, and very nearly cost him his life.
Another crying need of the settle was salt. This they could not produce from their land, and neither they nor their live stock could get along well without it. In Craig's "History of Pittsburgh" is quoted a letter from Broadhead, written to the president of the council, in which he says salt will purchase material which money would not buy. He urges them to send salt, and that they can't possibly send too much salt. All the salt was then brought here on packhorses from Hagerstown, Maryland, or from Philadelphia, hence its great scarcity. In 1790 one bushel of salt was worth twenty bushels of wheat. Meat could not be kept without salt, so the scarcity of salt brought about a corresponding scarcity of meat. When Pittsburgh was garrisoned it was not uncommon to send the soldiers out to hunt in the woods for game. Few cattle were raised because of the enormous prices of salt. About 1800, Kentucky salt was manufactured from the inexhaustible salt wells of that state, and was brought by up to Pittsburgh in barrels on boats, and after that it was cheaper. Yet, in 1806, Kentucky salt was worth fourteen dollars per barrel, though the barrels were about one-third larger than they are now. For many years it was worth from 12 1/2 to 20 cents per quart at retail. Deer licks were known here long before the Revolution, but the farmers had neither the money nor the knowledge to bore for and manufacture it. It was not infrequent that a train of packhorses went east laden with skins and furs and returned laden with salt.
Both congress and the legislature of Pennsylvania passed measures to relieve the people from their crying need of salt. In September, 1776, a large amount of salt was found secreted by some Tory merchants in Philadelphia, and it was at once confiscated and divided around among the counties, the share of Westmoreland county being three hundred and nineteen bushels. In 1778 the legislature purchased a large quantity for free distribution, and they also passed a law against any one having a monopoly of the salt trade. The Continental Congress itself established a salt works in New Jersey, but like most of its exploits, the works were not successful. in 1779 a "Committee of Salt" was appointed by the state to regulate its price and to force its sale on the part of those who had laid by large quantities of it. In a "Merchants Memorial" relative to a seizure of salt made by the "Salt Committee" on October 23, 1779, it is stated that they had refused $200 per bushel for it, and that now when taken from them for the state's benefit they were only receiving 30 pounds, or $150 for it. Flour was very scarce in the east, so President Reed proposed in 1799 that salt be distributed among the counties in proportion to the amount of flour sent east by them.
Salt wells were inexhaustible in Kentucky, but they had not as yet begun to distill whiskey, so when our people began to make whiskey, boat loads of it were sent down the river and exchanged for salt. But salt in the early part of the last century remained high in price, and it was not unusual for farmers to unit and send down to Hagerstown or Kentucky a train of packhorses which could carry back the salt for the farmer for the coming year. Each packhorse could carry from three to four hundred pounds of salt. As late as 1820 farmers' boys went in groups for salt. One horse could carry two hundred and fifty pounds of salt, and a boy rider in addition. The rate of travel was about twenty-five miles per day. The boys looked forward all year to the prospect of the trip to the salt works in the fall. When they returned they were veritable young heroes, and were sought to tell of their sight-seeing trip. Shortly after 1800 salt was discovered in the Conemaugh Valley by an old woman named Deemer, who saw salt water oozing up in the river bottom in times of low water. William Johnston first sunk a well and started a salt works there. His land lay near Saltsburg, where he built a grist mill and called his place Point Johnston. This was in 1812 or 1813, and his works, which could produce about thirty barrels of salt in a day, brought down the price considerably.
Salt was known on Jacob's Creek long before this, because of the deer-hides there. William Beck first began its manufacture in that locality, that is on Sewickley Creek. It was there about five hundred feet below the surface, while Johnston bored a well only about two hundred and ninety feet deep, where he found an abundance of salt water. On Sewickley they bored the well by man-power purely. Four men stood on the ground, four on a platform above them, and the eight men grasped the shaft of the auger, and, raising it about three feet, let it fall; this was repeated time after time, and the auger was turned an inch or so each time. There was a rope fastened to the auger after the end of the shaft passed under the ground. It is known that they were three years in boring a hole five hundred feet deep, but it is scarcely probable that the work was steadily pursued. The well was tubed and the manufacture of salt began, and this reduced the price of salt in Westmoreland county from five to seven dollars a barrel, the manufacture being fairly started in 1820. It was boiled in kettles and salt pans over wood fires. The water was pumped from the well with horse-power. All this primitive manner of manufacture made it very expensive, and for years afterwards a good cow might be exchanged for salt, but brought only one barrel.
A great many references have been made to the Continental money of this formative period of our county, and to its fluctuating values. The real value was so indefinite that it is hard to say what it was worth in gold or silver. It was, however, an important factor in the settlement of our county, and must be properly considered. It was practically the only measure of values they had for years. Gold and silver had scarcely any circulation at all in those years west of the Allegheny mountains, but it became a measure of values in 1789, when the country as a Union came under the new or present constitution. Prior to that Continental money had scarcely any purchasing power at all. An old order book of 1780 among other things prescribes the amounts which landlords are allowed to charge their patrons for liquor and accommodations. These rates are as follows, and are given in Continental money: One-half pint of whiskey, $6; whole pint of whiskey, $8.50; supper, $2; breakfast, $2; lodging, with clean sheets on the bed, $3; one horse and hay over night, $3.
So no valuation of property based on such depreciated currency can be of any value to us. In 1779 flour and bacon were very scarce here and were brought across the mountains on packsaddles. Bacon sold for one dollar a pound, and flour was $16 per barrel. Congress resorted to all manner of devices to sustain the value of its currency. It passed embargo acts, legal tender acts, limitation of prices acts, enacted penalties for refusing to take it, etc., but all their enactments were ineffectual in giving it a purchasing power equal or anything like equal to its denomination. The only result seemed to be to bring the Continental Congress into greater contempt. Perhaps our people suffered more from it after the Revolution than at any other time. Soldiers at the close of the war were paid off in it. This brought much of it into our county, and resulted in the immediate disappearance of what little gold and silver we had. As if this was not enough, the state also issued a currency. There was no reason why this might not have been good, for it could have been redeemed by the issuing power. But the people were so opposed to paper money that the state's currency had but little more value than that of Congress.
The county commissioners of our county in 1780 adopted a system of value which must have been about fair, for it was confirmed by our courts. In this system $30 in Continental money was valued at three shillings and six pence. This would indicate that one dollar in gold was worth more than $150 in Continental currency. David Duncan, commissioner of purchases, reported that he had purchased in 1781 stall-fed beef at one shilling per pound, state money, and whisky at six or seven shillings per gallon. He further said, "I have had men in the Glades trying to purchase beef, but not one would sell without hard money."
The people in Westmoreland had much trouble to pay their preachers. Instead of money they often delivered farm products. In Fairfield township, in 1789, they stipulated that the amounts subscribed by the members were to be paid either in money or grain, and wheat was to be rated, when delivered at the parsonage, at four shillings per bushel, rye or corn at two shillings and six pence per bushel. They also bargained that this should be paid quarterly, and that it should be sued for as lawful debts if not paid. In Sewickley congregation in 1792 they agreed that one-half the preacher's salary should be paid in money and one-half in produce. They rated wheat at four shillings per bushel, rye at three shillings, and corn at two shillings and six pence per bushel. Rye was higher than corn, because they had begun to manufacture it into whisky. It is not uncommon to find an old will among our records in which the father gives his land to a son, or perhaps divides it between his sons, and stipulates that he shall deliver to the other son or daughters, as the case may be, a certain number of bushels of wheat, rye, oats or corn, and sometimes these products of the farm were to be delivered annually to such heirs as their entire share of the estate. Thus he made, as he supposed, an equal division of his property, and one which his children could carry out.
Late in the century the merchant came, and stores were started by the merchant laying in a stock of groceries and common fabrics, which he replenished twice a year by going east for them. Heretofore we have been dealing almost entirely with the farmers, for there were few others worth considering in the community. But late in the century came the first stores kept by the old-time merchants. They were usually at some important crossroads, where was also a blacksmith shop and a few other houses, and sometimes, when water-power was near, a gristmill was the center around which the others clustered. The merchant kept a "store," not a shop, and usually lived in the rear of his storeroom. his storeroom was perhaps not over twelve by sixteen feet, and had counters around three sides of it. It was heated by a wood fire. On his shelves he had dishes, groceries, ammunition, tobacco, and a few common fabrics by the web. His goods were sold mostly at about one hundred per cent. profit. While this seems enormous, it was perhaps not too great, for he took all kinds of farm products in payment, and sometimes had great difficulty in disposing of them. He took in bacon, wool, butter, eggs, whisky, flour, and, as an old-time merchant of a much later date once told the writer, "a little of everything except money." With all his profits on his goods he generally had hard work to replenish his store twice each year. This he did in the early years after 1800 by a long horseback journey to Baltimore or Philadelphia, carrying in his saddlebags the gold with which to pay for the goods he purchased. He was usually looked up to as the leading business man of his community. He wrote letters, articles of agreement, etc., for his neighbors, and sometimes founded a little town, which frequently even yet exists. Later he was postmaster of the community or the village, and kept an account of letters sent from the office, and charged his patrons with those which they received, for the postage was then paid by the person who received the letter. So, if the patron who received the letter did not have the cash to pay the postage, it was charged to him on the books of the storekeeper, in the postoffice book, however, as though he had received so much powder or lead. A book of that kind kept by an old-time merchant in the early half of the last century is now in the possession of the writer. It is a home-made, red-lined book, and is kept very neatly with a quill pen. It gives the names of the people receiving letters, the office or state from which they came, and the amount of postage charge, for this varied according to the distance the letter was carried. A letter from any place in this county is charged six cents postage: one from Pittsburgh 10 cents and 12 1/2 cents, perhaps according to its size. From Ohio a letter cost 18 3/4 cents; from New York, 25 cents. There are several charges of 39 1/2 cents, and in each the word "ship," or England, is opposite, indicating that it came from a foreign land. Only about one letter in a hundred is written to a woman, and even these are mostly to widows.
Western Pennsylvania is by nature a grain producing county. When the century closed, Pennsylvania was the only state that was producing more grain that its inhabitants consumed. For this surplus there was but a limited market. Flour could not, with profit, be shipped a long distance on packhorses, even though the east had great need of it. Every section in that age had learned, because of the limited facilities for transportation, to produce enough of each commodity to supply its own needs if possible. Nevertheless, we had a surplus of grain, and this brought about the manufacture of whisky. When it was taxed by the United States, as we have before seen, it came very nearly bringing about a civil war, so great had the industry grown in a few years.
Furthermore, the country dealer had to purchase skins and furs from the Indians, who wanted liquor more than any other commodity. We have therefore preserved to us many letters from traders to their houses in the east, stating that they are handicapped in securing furs and skins by not having whisky to offer in return for them, and that those who have whisky get all the paltry trade. Their universal request if for whisky.
About 1784 the firm of Turnbull, Marmie & Co., who were iron producers in Philadelphia, sent a few stills to Westmoreland county. They were at once set up, and the business grew very rapidly. In a few years the Philadelphia company opened up an iron business in Pittsburgh with the main purpose of making stills, though they engaged also in a general iron business. They were among the first, if not the first, iron producers in a city which has since controlled the iron market of the world. Our people now could find a market for their whisky, and could not find a market for their rye and corn. Hence they were in a measure compelled to distill their products. By 1792, or thereabouts, stills were very numerous all over Western Pennsylvania. Judge Veech, who wrote a great deal on the Whisky Insurrection and the early history generally, says that there were only a few less than six hundred in the western counties of the state. Every community had them. In some sections there was a still in every fifth or sixth house. Many, indeed all of them, were very small affairs compared with our mammoth plants of this generation, but they made whisky, and that was all they were meant to do. Many farmers traded land for stills. A farmer who had no still took his grain to his neighbor who had one, and the neighbor took a part of the product in pay for distilling it. Resultant from this the farmers engaged largely in rye culture, and even those who had no money could convert their rye into liquor. The stills were small, such as are used by the latter day "moonshiners," and could be put in a cellar, a spring-house, or a small log cabin built for that purpose, and which has since been known by the pretentious name of "still-house." Very few of them had mills connected with the stills, but some of the larger ones were located near an old-fashioned gristmill. The farmer took his grain to the mill, and after it was properly ground, hauled it to the distiller.
As a result the use of the liquor became very general, though the almost universal testimony is that but a few of our ancestors drank to excess. Storekeepers took whisky regularly in exchange for goods, and sold it to their customers. It was not unusual, indeed it was quite common, for the country merchant to have a barrel on his counter, and to give each customer a dram, the women and children as well as the men There were few farmers who did not have a barrel in their cellars, to which all members of the family had free access. This custom was kept up and was not uncommon as late as 1840. The general custom was to drink it straight, but sometimes it was mixed with tansy or mint, or sweetened with maple sugar. Taken in moderation, it was probably a preventive of fevers, ague and colds, and many other diseases in their incipiency. Davy Crockett said it made a man warm in winter and cool in summer. It was used by the barrel at raisings, parades and musters. It was common to pass it around at weddings and at all other gatherings. ministers did not preach against it as they do now. Often at funerals, in cold weather, it was heated and given in tin cups to those who had a long ride or walk to the graveyard. This appears almost shocking to us, but it must be remembered that they drank it as a tonic or medicine, as we drink coffee, and not as a beverage. Clergymen drank it openly. Rev. Dr. McMillan was certainly a man of high character and many virtues, yet his biographers all relate of him that when on his way to Presbytery, in company with Rev. James Patterson, they stopped at a tavern to get a drink. When the liquor was poured into the glasses, Patterson, being a very devout man, proposed to ask a blessing before drinking it. But, the blessing being a somewhat protracted effort, while it was in progress and Patterson's eyes ere closed, the old doctor drank both glasses, and then admonished the young preacher that he must ever thereafter "watch as well as pray." But the young preacher did not go away thirsty. On one occasion Bishop Onderdonk came to Greensburg to attend and officiate at rather extensive and important confirmation. On his way to the church, clad in the usual robes of his order, he stopped at Rhorer's hotel and drank a tumbler of brandy and no one thought he had done anything particularly out of the way. It is not correct to say that clergymen generally drank, using the term as we use it now, but many of them, like their parishioners, used liquor, but in moderation.
In 1756 Reverent Beatty, who has been spoken of as chaplain in Forbes' army, and as preaching the first sermon at Fort Duquesne after its capture, accompanied Benjamin Franklin and his forces to Fort Allen. Franklin says in his autobiography that the preacher complained to him that the soldiers did not attend prayers with any degree of regularity, and Franklin told him that each soldier was entitled to a gill of rum each day, and advised Rev. Beatty to act as steward in dispensing the rum, and to distribute it each morning after prayers, or after the sermon. The reverend gentleman took the advice kindly, and told Franklin afterward that it worked to a charm, saying that prayers were never more generally nor more punctually attended. Yet he was a man of high character, and, as the reader will see, figured largely in the early Presbyterianism of the county and of Western Pennsylvania.
In 1811, Washington Furnace, near Laughlintown, had just been completed, and on the Fourth of July, the citizens had a great celebration, not only of the nation's birth, but of the great strides they were making in the iron industry as well. The "Register" of that date reports the proceedings, and says that "after partaking of a handsome and wholesome repast, they drank some whisky mixed with pure water." These people were leaders in the religious and social world, and we must not be considered as seeking to cast a reflection or disrespect upon their memories. We are merely endeavoring to give the reader a few illustrations of the almost universal custom of using liquor among our better people.
The government, though economical by necessity, purchased a great deal of whisky for the Revolutionary soldiers, and issued it to them as regular rations. It was not uncommon for a young man to engage to work with a farmer all winter for his bed and board and three drams per day. In fact, whisky in those days was used somewhat like coffee is now. A favorite proverb of our liquor using ancestor was, "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish and wine unto those that be heavy of heart." "Let him drink and forget his poverty and remember his misery no more."
When General William Irvine announced the "Glorious News" of the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, he added the following: "The commissaries will issue a gill of whisky extraordinary, to the non-commissioned officers and privates upon this joyful occasion." Commissioned officers were not limited to a "gill, extraordinary." This was in Pittsburgh, and the surrender was doubtless properly ratified.
Furthermore, in the age of which we are writing, whisky was almost a measure of value, a medium of exchange in the place of gold which did not circulate, or of Continental or state money which had no fixed value. Corn, wheat, rye, etc., were valued by the quantity of whisky a bushel would bring. John Barleycorn was always a ready sale, and with it the pioneer could purchase all groceries, household goods or anything else in the market. Land was often bought with whisky. Our best men bartered farms for stills or their products. Our records show that farms now in the coal belt, and worth more than a thousand dollars per acre, were once sold for a few gallons of whisky. Even subscriptions to the clergyman's salary were sometimes paid in whisky, and not infrequently it was used in paying off church debts.
From the first, as we have seen, its manufacture and sale were under the control of the courts, which also fixed the rates the landlord might charge his customers for accommodations. By our law a justice of the courts could neither make nor sell liquor. Several times Edward Cook, one of the justices, was returned for distilling liquor. These informations were always either quashed by the court or ignored by the grand jury. In 1784 several men in our county were convicted and fined for both making and selling liquor without license. The council in Philadelphia remitted the fines because of "the peculiar distress to which the frontier inhabitants had been subjected during the Revolution." While a justice could not sell liquor, he could grant the permission to his relatives, and so Robert Hanna, a justice, had his daughter Jean repeatedly licensed to sell spirituous liquors.
In March sessions of our court in 1794 the judges regulated the number of tavern-keepers' licenses to be granted in this county. They licensed eight for the town of Greensburg. There were no other towns in the county then, for Pittsburgh had left us with the formation of Allegheny County, in 1788, but there were several highways leading to Greensburg. On each of these they granted licenses, and to these were granted twenty-seven licenses, making thirty-five in all. At that time a great many little matters now paid for by the county were done without the thought of pay, except a free allowance of whisky. When the trial lists were to be made up the lawyers met in the prothonotary's office and selected the cases to be tried. The prothonotary had for this occasion a jug of old rye and a plentiful supply of tobacco. On election day the constables served at the window of the election room, and never receive any other remuneration than as much whisky as they wanted to drink. Jurors served regularly without pay or mileage, but the county commissioners supplied them with free whisky while here. Later was added the pay for their dinner at the hotel, but no further remuneration was thought of till about 1810.
The first mills for grinding grain were small hand affairs, which could be hauled around from one farm to the another, to suit the trade. Later on a larger and better style was introduced, which were turned by a water-wheel, but they generally had tread-wheel attachments by which they could be propelled in times of low water. These mills were called tub mills, because of the tub-shaped hoper into which the grain was put to be ground. From this we have several streams named Tub Mill, Tub Creek, etc., after the mills located on them. These streams, it may be observed, were larger then than now, and were regularly in their flow. This is of course due to the cutting away of the forests, which allows the rainfall to flow at once from the hillsides, consequently many of the streams which formerly turned mills are now almost gone.
The location of mills brought about petitions for roads to them. Many of the early road petitions set forth that the proposed road is necessary to reach a permanently located mill, etc. Arthur St. Clair built, we think, the first permanent mill in the present Westmoreland county in about 1772. It was located on Mill Creek, near where Hermitage Furnace site, about one and a quarter miles north of Ligonier. A notice of it may be seen in the quarter sessions docket.
Dennison's mill, on the Loyalhanna, and Saxman's mill, below Latrobe, on the same stream, were built about the close of the Revolution. Jones' mill, on Indiana Creek, and Irwin's mill, on Brush Creek, were built about that time, but we cannot determine the date. The farmer or his boy took a bag of wheat to the mill and waited till it was ground. Water mills on small streams could not run all year because of the low water. In the winter, moreover, the ice clogged the water-wheels, and the grinding again had to stop. Some of the mills had horse-power attachments, and, in times of low water, men who wanted grain ground had to furnish horses to propel the mill, and to pay toll also, for from time immemorial grain was ground for a part of the flour.
The reader can have but little bout that our county owed its first settlement to the roads cut through it by Braddock and Forbes. We are always slow to acknowledge what we, as a community, really owe to good roads, to speedy methods of travel and transportation of goods. Forbes' road traversed the county from east to west, and was long known at the "Great Road." Braddock's was not so directly across the county. Each was about twelve feet wide, and in early days was arched nearly all the way with overhanging branches. Close by the side of the road stood the tall trees of the original forests. The road was made for heavy army wagons and mounted guns, but after a few years, owing to the undergrowth of the forests and the wash of periodical floods, they were almost impassable. Bouquet, it will be remember, in passing over the Forbes road five years after it was constructed, was compelled to leave his heavy wagons at Ligonier in order to facilitate his journey to Fort Pitt. This was mainly because of the roughness of the road, and Dunmore's troops were fortunately handicapped in the same way.
One of the first of may petitions presented to our first court, in March, 1773, was from men living along the Forbes road, asking the court to appoint viewers to report the condition of the road with a view of having it repaired. They represented that because of washouts, fallen timber and undergrowth, it was impossible in some places to pass along it. Of course, the roads in a new country, with comparatively few settlers, could not be kept in good condition. There was no broken stone in the road-bed. It was, moreover, shaded all the year, and therefore very slow to become dry and hard. Over the swamps, bridges of corduroy were thrown, but there were no bridges built across the streams. All streams were forded. There were no fences to speak of, and but few cleared fields on the western section of the road. The traveler frequently saw a bear crossing the road in front of him, a deer bounding away from a stream as he approached. Sprouts grew rapidly from the stumps of the trees felled to make the road, and it is possible that the roads generally were not better than those that are now made hurriedly through out mountains to remove ties and bark from the central parts of the forests.
The reader will understand that travel on these roads by wagons was out of the question, even if our early settlers had possessed such vehicles. Goods were carried long distances by pack-horses only. Wagons did not come in use for long hauls till several years after the Revolution, when the State road, which will be considered later, was constructed. Men journeyed on horseback when traveling either on pleasure or business. This was much more speedy, much safer and more comfortable than being jolted over a rough road in a carriage or wagon. By horseback remained the popular way of travel long after it ceased to be the only means of going about.
English writers of an early period, notably Smollett in his "Adventures of Roderick Random," and Shakespeare in "Henry the Fourth," have spoken of pack-horses traveling thirty miles per day. If well laden, on our rough roads this was impossible. Twenty miles was a good day's journey, and with a burden of three or four hundred pounds, it required an extraordinary horse to make that much. The pack horse train became a regular business. They made much better time than a wagon train could have made, and perhaps transported mnearly as much weight as the early wagoners. They carried one hundred weight by regular contract from Philadelphia or Baltimore to Pittsburgh, for from ten to twelve dollars, depending somewhat on the character of the goods. Pack-horses were driven in trains, and one driver, who rode on another horse, managed from eight to twelve of them. All were tied by halters to a rope which was fastened to a breast strap or other similar device on the front horse, and all walked in single file. The horses soon learned to walk along quietly under their heavy burdens, following the one in front, which carried also an iron band across his shoulders, on which was fastened several bright sounding bells. They made the trip from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in about two weeks, and did not travel on Sunday, as a rule, for at June sessions of our court, in 1785, Michael Huffnagle receipted to George Nixon and Philip Bradley for six pounds for "breaking Sunday" by driving pack-horses through Hannastown.
A pack-saddle was made of wood, and except that it was wider and longer it did not differ otherwise from a modern cavalry saddle. Upon it a skillful packer could load a great variety of goods if necessary. To make a saddle fit the horse and not injure his back, required a skillful tradesman, and there was a regular pack-saddle maker in Pittsburgh and one in Greensburg. Pieces of cloth or old blankets were put under the saddle to prevent it from galling the horse. These saddles, with the addition of stirrups, were used for horseback riding also, though they were not so well adapted to it as the regular saddle. Upon the pack-saddle were often tied baskets which contained babies, the children of emigrants to the west, bars of iron, clothing, webs of dry goods, tools of all kinds, kegs of powder, salt, glass, skins and furs, whisky and even ten-plate stoves.
Merchants for safety generally rode to Baltimore or Philadelphia, when on their annual or semi-annual trips to purchase goods, in companies of from four to a dozen, and trains of pack-horses brought back the goods they purchased. Members of Congress and of the Assembly went east at the first of the session and remained till its close. They generally went in companies of from eight to ten, and had pack-horses to follow with such clothes or other articles as they might need there. Lawyers and judges rode from the west to the east on business, or from one county seat to another, to attend court. A good riding horse would carry a man from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia in about eight days, and sometimes in less than that. At night they stopped at the wayside tavern, and sat around old-fashioned log fires in the evening, telling stories.
Source: Page(s) 208-233, History of Westmoreland County, Volume I, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed July 1999 by Linda Day Vourlogianes for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed by Linda Day Vourlogianes for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)
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