The Beginning of the Revolution.-Early Movements Towards Freedom.-Westmoreland Patriots� Revolution.-The Rattlesnake Flag.
The people of Westmoreland may well feel proud of their record in the Revolutionary War. Though the county had been open to settlement but six years, and erected but three years prior to the great contest; though we were almost entirely a community of farmers, and struggling pioneers, with but two small towns, neither of which had a population of five hundred; yet we have the proud distinction, as the records show, of having furnished more men for the various branches of the Revolutionary army than the city and county of Philadelphia furnished. True, they were not all under the direct command of Washington, but they were an integral part of the forces which brought about the glorious victory at Yorktown. That Philadelphia had many Quakers who would not fight, and many Tories, who were against us, must not lessen the glory which attaches to our Revolutionary record.
The battle of Lexington, on April 19, 177, brought on a rapid crystalization of the general spirit of freedom and independence which pervaded all of the colonies in America. Whatever may have been the ill feeling between Pennsylvania and Virginia, before this, they were as one colony or one province when united in the cause of freedom, or as against England whose oppressive policy they thought they could no longer endure. This was true of all of the colonies. But we believe there was a special reason why the people of Westmoreland county were more hostile and bitter against the mother country than the inhabitants of any other section of the Province. Dunmore, as we have said, was an English Earl, and had been appointed by George II as they thought, for the purpose of punishing the Virginia colony for resisting the Stamp Act of 1765. But his punishment fell as we have seen, most heavily on Westmoreland county. Our people associated him directly with King George, and traced their misfortunes under Dunmore directly to the English government.
The news of the battle of Lexington doubtless flew across the colonies very rapidly for that day, though it did not reach the western section of the province till about the first of May. Four weeks after the battle, on May 16, 1775, a largely attended meeting was held at Hannastown. The call must have been general in this county, for a similar meeting was held on the same day in Pittsburg.
In many respects the meeting in Hannastown was the most glorious one ever held in the county, even up to our present day of great events. True, they met in a log cabin - met as pioneers, and many of them were doubtless clothed in homespun garments, or hunting suits of buckskin; met in the shade of the "forest primeval", on the border of civilization. But nevertheless, let the reader suggest a meeting in modern times, and compare its proceedings with those of the Hannastown meeting and its patriotic resolutions, and they will pale into utter insignificance. There is but one document in American letters which can be compared with the Hannastown Resolutions, and that is the Declaration of Independence itself, which was not then in existence except in the mind of Thomas Jefferson. It must always be remembered that the Hannastown Convention met and adopted its resolutions more than a year before the Declaration of Independence was signed. The Hannastown Resolutions embrace the substance of the Magna Charta as wrested from King John at Runnymede in 1215, and nearly every principle enunciated in them was repeated in the Great Declaration of July 4, 1776. Take the two together, and we find sentences in either which may be substituted in the other, and read without detection, except upon the closest scrutiny. Nay, more. Had the principal clauses of the Hannastown Resolution been adopted in Philadelphia as part of the Declaration on July 4, 1776, the statesmen of the day would not have noticed the substitution. It is as positive as any state paper we have in the English language, not excepting the best writings of Alexander Hamilton. It defines as clearly the causes of complaint, and points out the remedy for our evils, with a precision as unerring as any paper ever printed either in Europe or America:
Resolved unanimously. That the Parliament of Great Britain, by several late acts, have declared the inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay to be in rebellion; and the ministry, by endeavoring to enforce these acts, have attempted to reduce the said inhabitants to a more wretched state of slavery than ever before existed in any state or country. Not content with violating their constitutional and chartered privileges, they would strip them of the rights of humanity, exposing lives to the wanton and unpunishable sport of licentious soldiery, and depriving them of the very means of sustenance.
Resolved unanimously. That there is no reason to doubt but the same system of tyranny and oppression will, should it meet with success in Massachusetts Bay, be extended to every other part of America: it is, therefore, become the indispensable duty of every American, of every man who has any public virtue or love of his country, or for posterity, by every means which God has put in his power, to resist and oppose the execution of it; that for us, we will be ready to oppose it with our lives, and fortunes, and the better to enable us to accomplish it, we will immediately form ourselves into a military body, to consist of companies to be made up out of the several townships under the following association, which is declared to be the Association of Westmoreland county.
We declare to the world, that we do not mean by this Association to deviate from that loyalty which we hold it our bounded duty to observe; but, animated with the love of liberty, it is no less our duty to maintain and defend out just rights, which with sorrow we have seen of late wantonly violated in many instances by a wicked ministry and a corrupted Parliament, and transmit them entire to our posterity, for which purpose we do agree and associate together.
Possessed with the most unshaken loyalty and fidelity to His Majesty King George the Third, whom we acknowledge to be out lawful and rightful King, and who we wish may long be the beloved sovereign of a free and happy people throughout the whole British Empire: we declare to the world that we do not mean by this association to deviate from that loyalty which we hold it to be our bounden duty to observe; but, animated with the love of liberty, it is no less out duty to maintain and defend out just rights (which with sorrow, we have seen of late wantonly violated in many instances by a wicked ministry and a corrupted Parliament) and transmit them entire to our posterity, for which purpose we do agree and associate together.
1st. To arm and form ourselves into a regiment or regiments, and choose officers to command us.
2nd. We will with alacrity, endeavor to make ourselves masters of the manual exercise, and such evolutions as shall be necessary to enable us to act in a body with concert; and to that end we will meet at such times and places as shall be appointed, either for the companies or regiment, by the officers commanding each when chosen.
3rd. That should out country be invaded by a foreign enemy, or should troops be sent from Great Britain to enforce the late arbitrary acts of Parliament, we will cheerfully submit to a military discipline, and to the utmost of our power, resist and oppose them, or either of them, and will coincide with any plan that may be formed for the defense of America in general, or Pennsylvania in particular.
4th. That we do not desire any innovation, but only that things may be restored to, and go on in the same way as before the era of the Stamp Act, when Boston grew great and America was happy. As a proof of this disposition, we will quietly submit to the laws by which we have been accustomed to be governed before that period, and will, in our several or associate capacities, be ready when called on to assist the civil magistrates in carrying the same into execution.
5th. That when the British Parliament shall have repealed their late obnoxious statutes, and shall recede from their claim to tax us, and make laws for us in every instance, or when some general plan of union or reconciliation has been formed and accepted by America, this, out association, shall be dissolved; but till then it shall remain in full force; and to the observation of it we bind ourselves by everything dear and sacred amongst men. No licensed murder; no famine introduced by law.
Resolved. That on Wednesday the 24th instant, the township meet to accede to the said association and choose their officers.
These resolutions, with the proceedings are found in the American Archives, Fourth Series, vol. 2, page 615. The reader cannot but ask who wrote them. Some eastern writers have claimed that they were not written and adopted then, but were forged many years afterwards. It was probably hard for them to think that here in the western wilderness were men who were intellectually equal to the task of preparing them thus early in the great struggle against England. Their genuineness is not difficult to prove. Arthur St. Clair, in a letter to Governor Penn, writing of the meeting, the resolutions, etc., says: "(I got a clause added to it by which they bind themselves to assist the civil magistrates in the execution of the laws they have been accustomed to be governed by." This undoubtedly refers to the latter part of the fourth clause of the resolutions. Furthermore, in a letter written to Joseph Shippen from Ligonier the day after the meeting, in referring to the arming and disciplining of the citizens of the county, St. Clair says, "I doubt their utility, and am almost as much afraid of success in this contest as of being vanquished." Both of them agree exactly with the text of the resolutions, and we take it therefore that those who doubted their genuineness were not aware of the existence of this correspondence.
On the other hand, it has been claimed that St. Clair was the sole author of the resolutions. This claim is not borne out, indeed, it is almost disproved by his letters as quoted above. Had he been their sole author he would scarcely have written, "I got a clause added," etc., and in the second letter, if he "doubted their utility," etc., he would not have written that clause. But from their general style, from the strong English, interspersed with English law terms, it is known that they were prepared by a thoroughly educated man and one of high literary attainments and likely by some one who had been educated in Great Britain. Such a man in every particular was Arthur St. Clair, and he was present in the convention, also, as is indicated by his letters. He is generally regarded as a soldier purely, but he was in reality one of the best educated men of the Revolution, and a master of English letters. No one can read his writings without admitting this. He had, moreover, the benefit of a college education, was descended from a long line of ancestors, illustrious alike for deeds of noble daring and for their intellectual and social standing. In America he had associated with our most polished people. To those who will look into his modest life, the fact that he never claimed their authorship is no evidence that he was not the author, and that he was one of the leading spirits of the convention. Yet there was one clause in them which he did not endorse, and one which could not have been in the original draft, for St. Clair says he had it added to them.
The regiment, the necessity of which was suggested in the resolutions, and the utility of which he doubted, was almost at once organized at Hannastown, and was the first in the county at the breaking out of the Revolution. It was moreover commanded by our first sheriff, John Proctor, of whom we have formerly spoken. It adopted a flag for its own use before the colonies had conceived the idea of a general flag for all of the American troops. The flag has been preserved, and is yet one of the most noted and highly valued mementos of the past. It is made of crimson silk, and has in its upper left hand corner the coat-of-arms of Great Britain, for it will be remembered that we had not yet thrown off the yoke of England, but were still professedly loyal subjects to His Majesty, George the Third. On its folds is a rattlesnake with thirteen rattles, indicative of the thirteen colonies in America. Underneath the snake are the words "Don�t tread on me." In a half circle are the letters, "J. P. F. B. W. C. P.", which are the initials of the words: John Proctor�s First Battalion, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. The flag has long years been in the possession of Elizabeth Craig, of New Alexandria, a small station on the New Alexandria branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It came to her by descent from her ancestor. The flag has not been seen by many because of the inaccessibility of the town in which its owner lives. Many antiquarians and collectors of Revolutionary relics have wisely been refused its possession, though large sums of money have been offered for it. It is properly one of Westmoreland�s most valuable heritages of the past, and we trust will ever remain with our people, and be preserved for the admiration and patriotic inspiration of generations yet unborn.
The Boston Port Bill was to go into effect on June 1, 1774. In brief, it closed the port to commerce; forbade town meetings except at the pleasure of the governor; placed the appointment of the governor, council and sheriffs in the crown; and gave to the appointed sheriffs the power of electing juries. On May 13, the Boston authorities by resolution called on other colonies to unite with them to stop all importation from Great Britain and the West Indies. In Pennsylvania a meeting or representatives from all of the counties was called for July 15, at Philadelphia. A Westmoreland county meeting was held at Hannastown to elect delegates to the Philadelphia convention. It resulted in the selection of Robert Hanna and James Cavett to represent our county and they attended. Both of them were men of little education or culture, and were probably but illy fitted to associate with men like Thomas Mifflin, Joseph Reed, and the learned and polished John Dickinson. Hanna had recently been a tavernkeeper, and was a justice, while Cavett was a county commissioner. They were perhaps called upon to pass on questions of government and royal prerogatives which more learned men would have handled with better grace. But they were strong in common sense, a very useful quality in popular assemblies, while there were plenty of abler men to supply the necessary dignity and learning. The Continental Congress acted on the recommendations of this and other assemblies, and resolved to raise an army, of which George Washington was chosen commander-in-chief. The Province of Pennsylvania was to furnish 4300 troops for this army. The Philadelphia assembly suggested that all counties secure arms and provide minute-men who should be able to march to the seat of war on the shortest notice. In our county a committee of safety was appointed, and William Thompson, our first assemblyman, elected in 1773, was alone constituted the committee.
The militia men associated themselves together to resist foreign invasion, and were accordingly called "Associators" all over the Province. The assessors were asked to furnish the names of all who were physically able to bear arms. On all who were not Associators a tax of on-half pounds in addition to the regular tax was levied. The assembly provided that if any of the Associators was called to was and should thus leave his family without proper means of support, in his absence, the justices of the peace and the overseers of the poor should look after them and see that they were supported at public expense. Late in 1775 four battalions were called from Pennsylvania, and one of them was put under the command of Arthur St. Clair, who was made its colonel.
A long struggle ensued between the Penns, the Proprietaries of the Province and their adherents, and their opponents, who were called Whigs. At length the Whigs called a convention, the ultimate object of which was to devise means by which a new government of the state could be formed. Westmoreland sent Edward Cook and James Perry. This convention met in May, and among other things decided that a new form of government was necessary, and recommended a convention of representatives from the different counties of the Province, who should be elected with the understanding that they were to form a new constitution. A committee of this convention was also appointed to decide the number of delegates each county should be entitled to, and to determine the method by which the delegates should be elected, etc. There were two members from each county in the Province except from Westmoreland, which was represented by but one, and Edward Cook was out representative. In providing for the election of these delegates it was decided that only those who had paid a Provincial tax for three years should be entitled to vote. Our county and Bedford being new counties, had been relieved from the payment of Provincial tax, and consequently under that ruling could not have been represented at all, so an exception was made for these two counties. Otherwise it was supposed that a man who had not paid tax for three years should not have much to say in the overthrow of the Provincial government. For the purpose of election these delegates, our county was divided into two districts. All south of the Youghiogheny River were to vote at Spark�s Fort, on the river, and all north of the river, which embraced nearly all of our present county, were to vote at Hannastown. Each county in the Province was to elect eight men who should, if they thought fit, reorganize the state government. Those elected from Westmoreland county were James Barr, Edward Cook, James Smith, John Moore, John Carmichael, James Perry, James McClelland and Christopher Lobingier. Since these men were elected to perform the most important duty which had yet devolved upon any of the county�s representatives, it may be well to look briefly into their lives. All were, moreover, prominent men who made their share of the early history of our county and Province.
James Barr was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, in 1749, and came to
Westmoreland county, settling in Derry township, which then extended to the far north, about 1770. He very early became a leader in the organization of companies to defend the border settlements against the Indians, and performed similar services in the early days of the Revolution. He was a member of the convention of July 15, 1776, and was also a justice of the peace in our county till 1787. From 1787 till 1789 he was a member of the general assembly, and opposed in every way the calling of a state convention, the object of which was to change the organic law of the state in 1790. Nevertheless the convention was called, and a new constitution, known as the Constitution of 1790, was adopted. Under this constitution he was associate judge of Westmoreland county. When Armstrong county was organized, in 1800, he fell within the limits of the new county. He died May 11, 1824.
Edward Cook was born in 1738, of English parents who had settled in the Cumberland Valley. In 1772 he came to Westmoreland and took up lands on the Youghiogheny and Monongahela rivers. In 1776 he built a stone house, which is still standing. He was a storekeeper, farmer, and distiller, and also owned slaves, which came under the gradual abolition law of 1782. He was a member of the committee of conference which met in Carpenter�s Hall, Philadelphia, June 18, 1776, and of the convention of July 15, 1776. In 1777 he was appointed by the assembly of Pennsylvania to meet similarly appointed delegates from other states in New Haven, Connecticut, to regulate prices of all commodities produced by the new states. They met November 22, 1777. In 1781 he commanded a battalion for frontier defense, and was county lieutenant from early in 1782 till early in 1783. Later he was a justice for both Westmoreland and Washington counties, and under the new constitution was associate judge of Fayette county. He was largely instrumental in ending the Whiskey Insurrection of 1794. He died in 1808, and his wife died in 1837, aged ninety-four, both dying in the stone house in which they had moved when built in 1776.
James Perry lived near the mouth of Turtle Creek. He was a member of the Provincial Convention which met in Carpenter�s Hall on June 28, 1776, and of the convention of July 15, 1776, after which he moved to Kentucky.
John McClelland was born in 1734, in Lancaster county, and after coming to Westmoreland county lived in that part which fell within Fayette county on its organization in 1783. He was a member of the convention of July 15, 1776, and represented Westmoreland in the general assembly in 1778. He was a captain in the First Battalion of Westmoreland Militia at the beginning of the Revolution, and was also prominent in the Whiskey Insurrection.
Christopher Lobingier was a son of Christopher Lobingier, of Wittenberg, Germany, and was born in Lancaster (now Dauphin) county, in 1740, shortly after his parents came to America. In 1772 he removed to Mount Pleasant township in Westmoreland county, not far from the resent village of Laurelville. He served on the Revolutionary Committee of Correspondence and was a member of the convention of July 15, 1776. Her was also a member of the general assembly under the constitution of 1790, in the lower house, 1791 to �93. He died July 4, 1798, leaving a widow whose name had been Elizabeth Mulley, who died in Stoyestown, Pennsylvania, September 15, 1815. His son George was associate judge of Westmoreland county and also a member of the assembly.
John Carmichael was a native of Cumberland county, and was born about 1757. Shortly before the Revolution he had settled in Westmoreland county, but in the part which afterwards fell in Fayette county. He lived near Redstone Creek. He owned a mill and a distillery. In addition to being a member of the convention of July 15, 1776, he was a member of the assembly in 1777. He died in1796.
Brief sketches of John Moore and James Smith will be found in other sections of this work, the former in the chapter treating of the judiciary of Westmoreland, he being one of out early judges, and the latter in that part which treats of Westmoreland in the Revolution, he having earned additional laurels later in our later history.
This convention met July 15, 1776, eleven days after the Continental Congress had declared all the colonies free and independent states. Hitherto the oaths taken by all officers had acknowledged loyalty to the King of England, but now congress prescribed an oath which pledged allegiance to the new government, and was so sweeping that it cannot but be of interest to the reader. The following is the text in full:
"I do swear (or affirm) that I renounce and refuse all allegiance to George the Third, King of Great Britain, his heirs and successors, and that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a free and independent state, and that I will not at any time do or cause to be done any matter or thing that will be injurious to the freedom and independence thereof as declared by Congress; and also that I will discover and make known to some one justice of the peace of said state all treasons or traitorous conspiracies which I now know or hereafter shall know to be found against this or any of the United States of America."
The old assembly, mostly composed of the Penns, their relations and adherents, objected violently to the supreme authority assumed by this new convention, but, under the Declaration of Independence, with soldiers marching everywhere and liberty bells ringing out the old and in the new, they made but a slight impression. The new convention took supreme authority over the state affairs, approved the Declaration of Independence, appointed new justices who were compelled to take the new oath. They declared us a free state and arranged for a new plan of government, known as the Constitution of 1776, which went into effect September 28. The convention paid great attention to the military of our new state. All white citizens over eighteen years of age were to be enrolled for military duty, and to take the oath of allegiance before August 1st.
All who refused or neglected to go before the justices and perform this duty were to be regarded as Tories, that is, enemies of the state, and adherents of the King, and were to be subjected to fine and imprisonment.
The military affairs were further put under the supervision of an officer called the county lieutenant. He had power to order out the militia and send them where he pleased. He distributed arms and clothing, and paid the military the money raised in the county to the supreme executive council. His authority was limited only by the council itself, except of course when the county was under the supervision of a branch of the regular army, in which case he was subject to its commander. Archibald Lochry, one of the many progressive Scotch-Irish who had settled in the county, was the first and, we believe the most efficient county lieutenant of Westmoreland county. He was appointed March 21, 1777. He resided on a large estate in Unity township, near the present town of Latrobe. In 1782 he was succeeded by Edward Cook, but as he lived in that part of Westmoreland now embraced in Washington county, which was formed in 1781, he was soon succeeded in this county by Colonel Charles Campbell. He was a plain unpolished man, but was a noted Indian fighter, and filled the office well, though his duties were extremely onerous. He was not only expected to furnish Westmoreland�s quota on men for the front, but to look after the Western border as well. It is fair to state, however, that on account of the many men for the service in the eastern army as its number of inhabitants would warrant. But they were expected to look after themselves, in addition to the troops they sent east. The Indians were more or less allied with the English, and frequently raided the western border. During the Revolution they regarded it to be their just right to exterminate the white population if they could. They were paid for scalps by the English, and were strongly in sympathy with them because of presents, firearms, ammunition and money - all of which were plentiful with the British and extremely scarce with the colonial army. No alliance could be made with the Indians by the colonists, for a neutral hostility was bred and born in both of them. Their interests were always inimical.
By the constitution adopted the executive power was vested in a President and Council. The council was to consist of twelve members from various parts of the state. Westmoreland county was allowed one to be elected by the people, and John Proctor was our first member. He was succeeded by Thomas Scott, who filled the office three years, the limit as defined by the constitution. Scott lived in what is now Washington county, was a man of fine ability, and was afterwards elected as the first member of congress from that county.
Source: Page(s) 122 - 131, History of Westmoreland County, Volume I, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed March 1999 by Kathy Jo Lowrie for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed by Kathy Jo Lowrie for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)
Westmoreland County Genealogy Project Notice:
These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format, for any presentation, without prior written permission.
Return to Westmoreland County History Project
Return to Westmoreland County Home Page
(c) Westmoreland County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project