The grant to William Penn.--Disputed Boundaries.--Mason and Dixon's Line.--Indian Purchases.--Military Permits.--Titles, etc.
In order to understand the methods by which our country was settled , and by which our titles were granted, the reader must glance at our earlier history and its effects upon our Province prior to the opening of the land office in 1709. All of the Province of Pennsylvania was granted by Charles II of England to William Penn for services which his father, Admiral Penn, had rendered the English government in various European wars. These wars had brought the royal army to ruin, and the monarch himself to the verge of bankruptcy. Through the stately courts of Windsor Castle the bankrupt monarch wandered back and forth, trying to devise a means of paying this debt of 10,000 pounds. Finally, a grant of land was determined on, and with the result that our province, unlike any other in America, was granted solely to an individual and not to a company or colony, as the others had been. William Penn began a settlement in his Province at Philadelphia in1682. It was never called a colony, as other settlements were, but a Province, indicating, in some degree, that its government and direction was under the dominion of one man. The heirs and descendants of Penn were called Proprietaries, and the country which they governed a Province, or a Proprietary Government. From William Penn's first settlement in Philadelphia, his policy was primarily one of peace with the Indians. Though his title to the land was preeminent, yet he repurchased these lands from the natives; these lands which were already his own by a royal grant. In this way the Province was saved much bloodshed, and only when his pacific principles in dealing with the Indians were forgotten or disregarded was our western section deluged in blood. William Penn's grant began at the Delaware River, near the 40th degree of north latitude, and extended west in a straight line a distance of five degrees of longitude, and thence north to Lake Erie. When it was finally surveyed there was no doubt about its boundaries. But, at the time of the first settlement of our county, the boundary of Virginia conflicted, as it was then believed, with our territory. In 1609 the Virginia Company had been chartered by James I. By their charter, though it had been revoked in1624, they laid claim to southwestern Pennsylvania and Ohio, and all of the territory north and west to the Pacific Ocean. The Virginia authorities claimed that Penn's grant of five degrees west of the Delaware would not reach beyond the Allegheny Mountains, or, at all events not west of the Monongahela River. This river flowing nearly north, and the Allegheny River, flowing south, would have made a natural western boundary for Pennsylvania. The Virginia authorities claimed further that they had fought for this district to wrest it from the French and Indians, in the armies of Braddock and Forbes, and that the territory had been already settled to a considerable extent by people from their colony who had been guarded and protected in every way by Virginia. These pretensions were somewhat arrogant, and, in the main, ill founded for, while Virginia soldiers were fighting in western Pennsylvania, our soldiers, enlisted by the same authority, were in the army sent to the northern lakes. the southern boundary had been in dispute, too, but in 1767 Lord Baltimore, Governor of Maryland, arranged with the Penns that two surveyors should survey the line and forever determine the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania. The surveyors chosen were Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, but their authority extended west only as far as western Maryland. The line they located has since been known as Mason and Dixon's Line, but it did not settle definitely the line west of Maryland, though Governor Farquier and the Virginia authorities never seriously doubted its western location after that. Of course it settled nothing as to the western boundary line of western Pennsylvania, and Virginia continued to claim the land between the Monongahela and the Ohio rivers. They sold lands in that section at lower rates than the Pennsylvania authorities were selllingthem in any section, and the latter discouraged all settlements in the disputed territory until the boundaries could be determined. The reasoning on the part of both colony and province was obvious. To Virginia it was a clear gain to sell this land at any price, for the authorities did not hope to hold it under the ultimate decision. But Pennsylvania had plenty of land for sale in undisputed territory, and why, therefore, sell and improve lands which might some day fall within the domain of Virginia? Moreover, it was the policy of the Pennsylvania authorities to settle lands gradually as they went west, so that frontier settlers might unitedly protect themselves against the Indians. But there was another still greater reason why, as far as possible, they discouraged all settlements in this section. William Penn, as has been said, purchased or repurchased his lands from the Indians, and he so thoroughly implanted this pacific principle in the minds of his sons and representatives that though he had then (1768)been dead fifty years, they were still following his precepts in this matter. The Proprietaries never willingly permitted any one to settle on land in a district or section which had not been purchased by them from the Indians. Of course, the Indians were gradually receding before the white race. They were by nature a wandering tribe, and the white race was naturally progressive and aggressive. Those purchases were made at treaties between the Indians and the white men. At these treaties both races were represented, and no territory was supposed to be ceded by the Indians to the white race, that is. purchased from them, except for valuable concessions on the part of the whiteface, and except upon a mutual agreement entered into between the representatives of the white race and the representative Indians in the treaty. These treaties from time to time secured to the Indians certain districts over which they were to have sole and despotic dominion, in return for others which were ceded to the white race. The districts thus ceded to the white men were called purchases With but slight provocation, the Indians broke their treaties, but it is doubtful whether they ever, as a race, flagrantly broke a regularly authorized treaty without some unnecessary provocation or reason given them by the white settlers. At the treaty at Albany in 1754,all lands lying west of the Susquehanna river to the limits of Pennsylvania were supposed to be ceded to or purchased by the white men. But the Indians very soon discovered that their representatives in the treaty did not understand the location of the western boundary, nor the points of the compass, as well as the white representatives, for by this treaty they had parted with all their rights as far west as Ohio. Much of this land had been virtually secured to them by former treaties between the white race and the Six Nations, viz.: the Mohawks, Oneidas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Senecas and Tuscaroras. To say the least, the purchase at the Albany treaty was irregularly (if not fraudulently) gained from them. So flagrant was this fraud perpetrated on the Indians that Governor Morris in 1755 issued a proclamation in which he denounced the Albany purchase as a fraud which he said was an affront to the whole world. It took from the natives, said he, that which had been virtually ceded to them, and with which they had not knowingly parted, and was so sweeping in its dimensions that it left them no country east of Ohio to roam over and call their own. The white representatives of the Albany treaty defended their actions by giving out that they, too, were ignorant of the geography of western Pennsylvania, and by the terms of the purchase had received much more than they intended. This may have been true. This, awe have observed before, was one of the great incentives which prompted the Indians to unite with the French in opposing Braddock, and which spurred them on to the violence and bloodshed which followed in the next three years after his defeat. The white race thus paid dearly for the actions of their incompetent if not dishonest representatives in the Albany treaty. For this, as a further reason, the Proprietaries opposed the settlement of our territory. They had no right to grant lands in this section except by virtue of the Albany purchase, which they admitted and published was fraudulently obtained, and to grant them would have been at least in violation of the implied prior rights of the Indians. There were several of these treaties by which this section was practically secured to the Indians, the principal ones being those of 1736, 1749 and1758. But far above and paramount to the rights of the Proprietaries, were the reservedprvileges of the King of England. At will he had the right to send his armies anywhere in America, to make conquests, open roads, establish military posts, and even to support here a standing army, if his policy demanded it. When the French and Indian war was terminated in favor of England, the Crown secured the Canadas as well as the boundless west. The military posts built by the French fell into possession of the English. These had to be kept up, and for the purpose of supplies alone, if for no other reason, a communication had to be kept up between them and with the eastern settlements as abase of supplies for the garrisons. Most of the forts, whether built by the French or English, were garrisoned all the time, and all of them part of the time. Generally the commandant was an English officer, though sometimes he was an American. These fort commanders were delegated the power, under certain restrictions, to grant permits to anyone to settle on, occupy and improve lands near the forts or on military roads leading from one fort to another. This seemed necessary, too, for the sustenance of the garrison. These settlers, particularly after the first year, raised farm products in abundance to supply themselves, and were glad to sell a sufficient amount to supply the garrison. In this way alone, perhaps, the garrison could be supported. It was a scheme of the great war minister, William Pitt, and was worthy of him. the most acute intellect of his day. The commandants did not grant absolute titles, but titles which might be perfected afterwards by complying with such regulations as the 4Proprietaries might require. The English government never even recognized the Indians claim to the land, and, of course, never questioned Penn's or his successors titles. In the meantime hundreds of settlers had located in our section, many with military titles, and many without any right and in direct disobedience to the mandates of the Proprietaries, who did not allow private individuals to settle here at all. They squatted on land which they thought desirable and hoped eventually to become its owners. It was wisdom on the part of the Proprietaries to keep out these settlers, for their presence was a constant menace to the Indians, who did not and could not know but that they were there by grant of the Penn's, and, therefore, in violation of their treaties. Several acts were passed to prohibit settlers from locating on these proscribed lands, and on February 13, 1768,an act was passed which provided that any one having settled here without permission, and who should neglect to remove after a legal notice was served on him to do so, should, after being convicted of such neglect, or be punished with death without the benefit of the clergy. There was a severe penalty, imprisonment and fine, imposed on those who even hunted turkeys or deer or other wild animals in the prohibited district. Of course, these drastic measure did not apply to those who had long before settled here, nor to those who settled by military permits. Most of those adventurous spirits who were determined to come here, evaded the law in a measure by securing military permits, and these were granted right readily by the accommodating commandants. The following is a copy of a military permit, which needs no explanation.
By Arthur St. Clair, Late Lieut. in his Majesty's Sixtieth Regt. of foot, having care of His Majesty's Fort at Ligonier. I have given permission to Frederick Rohrer to cultivate a certain piece of Land in the neighborhood of Fort Ligonier, over a certain creek, which empties into the Loyalhanna known by the name of Coal Pit Creek: Beginning at a White Oak standing on a spring and marked with three letters F X R and running from thence to another tree marked with the same letters and standing on another spring called Falling Spring, and from these two marked trees to the said Coal Pit Creek supposed to contain two hundred acres: He the said Frederick Rohrer being willing to submit to all orders of the Commander in Chief, the Commanding officer of the District and of the Garrison. Given under my hand at Ligonier this 11th day of April,1767. Ar. St. Clair.
The Proprietaries, fearing an outbreak of the Indians, did everything they could to keep all other settlers off the prohibited district. Yet, in spite of all opposition, this section of Pennsylvania was rapidly filling up. Had there been nothing to prevent its settlement save the Indians, it would have been filled up almost at once with an aggressive pioneer element who would have made short work of the aboriginal race. Settlers came west by the Braddock road and by the Forbes road, the only highways open, and, both these ways traversing our county, a great many settled here. The Indians were always at war among themselves, and no doubt often killed each other. But when a dead Indian was found, the murder was always attributed to the white settlers. Nevertheless, George Crogan, a brave, loyal and most capable white settler and Indian diplomat atRedstone, reported many Indians killed by white settlers, and insisted on the Proprietaries devising some means to stop it effectually. These early settlers, it maybe inferred, were a stubborn race and accustomed to roughness. Cogan's representations were never disbelieved nor questioned. He was undoubtedly correct in his report. In April and May of 1768 a preliminary treaty was held at Fort Pitt. Crogan was the leading spirit among the white people, and there were about 1700 Indians present. Many presents were given to the Indians, but no agreement or settlement of difficulties was arrived at. It was rather a friendly meeting, and the Indian spirit was somewhat allayed but the settlers would not remove, and more were constantly arriving. The authorities, therefore, knew that a general Indian war might be expected almost anytime. One of the most prominent men then living in America was General Sir William Johnston. He lived near the present city of Johnstown, in New York, and was, all things being considered, the ablest diplomat in Indian affairs in this country. He had managed many treaties, and was thoroughly honest and thoroughly trusted by both races. He had at the age of nineteen come to America in 1734 because of a disappointment in love in Ireland, it is said, and settled in the Mohawk Valley in New York, where he managed and gradually acquired large tracts of land and traded extensively with the Indians. He became very wealthy, and built a stately mansion, which is yet standing near Johnstown. He was married to a Dutch woman, and upon her death married a handsome Indian girl. Hews equally a leader, whether among the well bred citizens of his native land, or among the savages of America, among each class adapting himself readily to their habits of life. He had been a major general in the French and Indian War, and was afterward knighted by George I. The novel, Cardigan by Chambers will be instructive to the reader if he is further interested in Indian life, or in Sir William and his marvellouspower among them. He had great influence either to end or prevent Indian outbreaks. So now, when the Indians of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio were rapidly putting on their war paint, and when the trembling wife and mother scarcely knew when she parted with her husband and child in the morning whether she would ever see them again or not, all sections turned to Sir William as the arbitrator of the difficulties between the white and the Indian race. He suggested and called a convention at Fort Stanwix, in New York, in the fall of 1768. By his great power over all representatives most of the Indian grievances were redressed, tomahawks were buried, arrows were broken, and peace and harmony was secured. The final treaty was reached November 5th, 1768, and by its terms all territory from a point where the Susquehanna crosses the New York line, down to the south-west corner of Pennsylvania, including the Allegheny, Conemaugh, Monongahela and Youghiogheny river valleys, was conveyed to the Proprietaries. This was and is yet called The New Purchase and embraces the present territory of Westmoreland county. It was to us therefore the most important of all purchases, and was the last made by the Penn's from the Indians. The consideration paid to the Indians is said to have been $10,000 in presents and money and unlimited rum. This, of course, opened up the territory so that the Proprietaries could grant lands in this section if they saw fit. There was accordingly a great clamor for land in western Pennsylvania. The east, they said, was overpopulated, and their ambitious young men who wanted more land could not be provided for. Perhaps the very fact of settlement in this section having been so long prohibited, made the young pioneer all the more anxious to locate here. We were not then very far removed from England, with its large landed estates. The use of coal had not been discovered, and every land owner thought he should have enough timber to furnish fuel for him and his descendants forever. While they were necessarily wasteful of timber in clearing land they nevertheless reserved an abundance. Our people were almost purely an agricultural people, and nothing so pleased them as broad acres of land. Besides, there were many coming here from Europe, who had been held down by the landlord's heel of oppression, and whose great cry and burning desire was large tracts of land. It had always been the custom of Penn and of his successors to reserve sections of land for themselves. The proportion was generally about one acre of reserved land in ten acres sold. This custom was begun in 1700 and kept up constantly for three-fourths of a century. There were two such reservations in our county. The first was called the Manor of Denmark and was situated on the Forest road, where the battle of Bushy Run was fought, and contained four thousand eight hundred and sixty-one acres. Manor station of the Pennsylvania railroad marks its location. The second was known as Penn's Lodge containing five thousand five hundred and sixty-eight acres, and is now within the limits of Sewickley township. The latter is rich in agricultural wealth, and the former was under laid with bituminous coal. But the Penns did not sell all of this reserved land. They were Philadelphians, and, when the Revolution came, many of that city's best people were Tories, and among them were the Penns. They took sides with England and against the colonies. In these reservations they had retained absolute rights of government. They could make laws, establish courts, appoint judges, and grant or withhold any special privilege they saw fit. Our state government by its representatives which followed the Declaration of Independence, rightly reasoned that a power siding with a foreign nation at war with us should not hold such dominion over any considerable part of a free commonwealth. Therefore, on June 28, 1779, they passed the Diverting Act which took from the Penns most of their territory, leaving them only their private reservations, and vested it in the Commonwealth or Pennsylvania. The Penns were, of course, properly recompensed for it. It will therefore appear that the titles to lands in these two section may be traced to the Penns, even though granted after the date of the Diverting Act. All other titles granted after that date, June28 , 1779, were granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, though all titles between April 3, 1769, and the states independence were granted by the Penns. The land office was opened for warrants from the new purchase in 1769. The date was April 3d. The method of parting with land adopted by the Proprietaries has been practically unchanged even to this day. The party desiring land from the Provincial government first made an application for it. Upon this application a warrant was issued. A warrant was not a title in itself, but an order from the Land Office to have the tract applied for located and surveyed, and was directed to the surveyor-general, who in person or by deputy surveyed it and returned the survey to the Land Office Then, if there was no irregularity or no prior claimant, the land was conveyed by the state to the application by a patent under the seal of the Commonwealth and the signature of the governor. From the foregoing it will be learned that no warrant for land in Westmoreland county antedated 1768, the year of the Fort Stanwix Treaty and the New Purchase, though we have many settlements which are older than these titles. Those who had settled and improved their lands were now allowed to perfect their titles by securing warrants and patents. A preference of location was shown to those who had served in the army, and likewise to those who had settled by military permits. But warrants were not issued till 1772 to those who had made improvements or had land surveyed without some right to do so. After that, as far as it was possible to do so without imposing on the rights of others, the Land Office authorities, when it came to grant titles, recognized the claims of the enthusiastic pioneers who had settled here in defiance of law and authority. But the titles to some lands within the present limits of our county settled in this way were involved in almost endless litigation. In some instances these tracts were sold often more than once. before a title from the Proprietaries or the Commonwealth was possible. From this and other complications arose land litigation which for almost a century perplexed the minds of the ablest lawyers and judges we have yet produced. They were known as land lawyers, a title which is almost unknown to our generation.
Source: Page(s) 33 - 41, History of Westmoreland County, Volume I, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed March 1999 by Barbara Archer for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed by Barbara Archer for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)
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