Joseph Markle

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JOSEPH MARKLE, generally known as General Markle, was born near West Newton, February 15, 1777. His father was an extensive business man, and the son began in his young days to manage a pack-horse train transporting salt and other necessaries from the east across the mountains. Early in the last century he was entrusted with flatboats which conveyed flour down the rivers to New Orleans. Several times he returned en foot, and from Natchez to Nashville the Indian trail through the lands of the Chickasaws, a distance of over six hundred miles, was taken. On these trips he camped out at night and traveled for days without seeing a sign of a human habitation. The incidents related by him of the journeys, his narrow escapes in fording large streams and from attacks by the Indians, if preserved, would make a most interesting and valuable addition to our pioneer literature.

In 1811 he abandoned the river trade, and in partnership with Simon Drum, of Greensburg, erected a paper mill near West Newton. It was the third mill of that kind west of the Alleghenies. This business was scarcely started till the War of 1812 came. He raised a company of cavalry, as we have seen, and at once entered the service. When they reached Pittsburgh the provisions which were promised them were not at hand. In this exigency Captain Markle, like General St. Clair, raised the necessary money by giving his own note for $1,250. The note was endorsed by Joshua Budd, William Fullerton and John Daily. It was payable in six months and was discounted by the old Bank of Pittsburg. Quartermaster Wheaton also raised $800 and these sums enabled the troops to move on to the front. Their services in the war have been briefly detailed. From an order made at the close of their enlistment,

August 16, 1813, there can be little doubt of the gallantry of the captain and his troops. It is as follows:

"The period for which the troops of the Light Dragoons, commanded by Captain Markle, was engaged, being about to expire, the commanding general directs that they proceed to Franklintown for their baggage, and that they be there discharged, or proceed embodied to Pittsburgh before they are discharged, as Capt. Markle may think proper. Gen. Harrison returns Capt. Markle, his subalterns, non-commissioned officers and soldiers, his thanks for their good conduct whilst under his command. In the course of eleven months' service, in which they have performed as much severe duty as any troops ever did, the General has found as much reason to applaud their steady and subordinate deportment in camp as their coolness and valor when opposed to the enemy, both of which were eminently displayed at the battle of Mississinewa and at the siege of Fort Meigs.

A. H. HOLMES. Adjt. General."

"A true extract."

A short time after their return from the army, Capt. Markle was elected a major-general of the Pennsylvania Militia for the division composed of Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

He also at once began to build up his business, which consisted in flour and paper making, and in farming and store keeping. These had all greatly suffered during his absence. The paper business, under his supervision, grew rapidly, so that they soon supplied the greater part of Western Pennsylvania and were able to ship large quantities to Ohio and Kentucky. He retired from active business in 1829 and turned it over largely to his sons.

In politics he at first supported Thomas Jefferson and his political tenets. He also voted for Madison, Monroe and John O. Adams. In 1828 he voted for Andrew Jackson, but did not support him in 1832, because, in the meantime, their ideas on the tariff question became widely divergent. In 1836 and again in 1840 he supported William Henry Harrison for the presidency. In all these years he was an admirer of Henry Clay, and supported him and every other Whig and Republican candidate for the presidency up to the time of his death. In r8 he was nominated by the Whig party for the governorship of Pennsylvania. In order to understand that campaign it will be necessary to take a brief retrospective view of the political contests of Pennsylvania. In 1835 Governor George Wolf was nominated for the third term of the governorship. This displeased a strong element in the party, which met and nominated Henry A. Muhlenberg as their candidate. The Whig and Anti-Masonic party followed by nominating Joseph Ritner as their candidate. With two candidates in the Democratic party, Ritner was elected. The regular Democratic party blamed their defeat on Muhlenberg, and he was very unpopular among them. Nine years later, in some way he secured the nomination for the governorship, but his independent candidacy was not forgotten. Many Democrats in all parts of the state refused to touch him. The Clay and Markle Whigs were correspondingly jubilant, for, with the Muhlenberg defection, they had every prospect of a victory. But shortly before the election Muhlenberg died, and the Democrats at once united and nominated Francis R. Shunk for governor. He was one of the most popular Democrats in the state, and the cry of "Polk, Dallas and Shunk" was heard from every Democrat in Pennsylvania. His popularity united the party, and this carried the state against Clay and Markle, defeating the latter for the governorship and the former for the presidency. Markle, however, lacked only about 4,000 votes of an election, while Clay was 8,000 short. The effect of Markle's defeat in October probably accounted for Clay's reduced vote in November. Prior to this Markle had been a candidate for Assembly, and in 1838 was a candidate for Congress, but in each instance was a candidate against his wishes. When the Civil war came he was a strong supporter of the Northern cause. When our state was threatened with an invasion he raised a company for home defense, and was elected its captain, though he was then over eighty-six years old. All through his life he had been -a great reader and had, moreover, a remarkable memory. In mature years, -therefore, he had a great fund of information, and was a friend and companion of the most eminent men of his day. His leading characteristics were his courage, his honesty and his benevolence. Particularly did he display this last -quality in visiting his poor neighbors when afflicted, and in supplying them with every necessary comfort.

Source: Page(s) 650-652, History of Westmoreland County, Volume I, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed August 2008 for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (

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