George H. (George Henry) Thurston.

Allegheny county's hundred years online

. (page 5 of 43)
Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 5 of 43)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

safest to give good words and good drink on the occasion rather than powder and
balls. It cost me four barrels of good whisky that day, and I would rather spare
that than a quart of blood."

On the 14th of August a meeting of 260 delegates was held at Parkinson Ferry,
now Monongahela City. Albert Gallatin and H. M. Breckenridge both took
prominent p "'•t in the discussion. The original force of the insurrection was
condensed down to a committee of 60, which was to be represented by an execu-
tive committee of 12, who were to confer with the U. S. Commissioners. To gain
time, and thus restore quietness, was the object of Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Brecken-
ridge and their friends. The Commissioners proposed an amnesty, which, at a
meeting held at Redstone Fort, August 28, was accepted through the arguments
of Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Breckenridge. This meeting virtually ended the insur-
rection, although there were enough malcontents left to render it necessary, in the
opinion of the President, to send an army of 15,000 men to Pittsburgh, under
General Lee. The army arrived in Pittsburgh in November, but met with no
opposition, nor was any blood shed. The army soon returned to their homes ;
General Daniel Morgan being left with a few battalions to maintain quiet during
the winter, and in the spring, order being fully restored, those were withdrawn.

With the army came also General Knox, the Secretary of War, General
Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury, and Judge Peters, of the U. S. Court.
An inquisitorial court was held at Pittsburgh, in which testimony was taken
against citizens denounced for treasonable acts or expressions. Only two were
tiied and convicted, and those afterwards pardoned. Mr. Br&^kenridge was in
personal danger from his course in the insurrection, having been denounced as one


of its leaders. He had taken an active part in the meetings of the insurgents,
but his motive, which was to get hold of the counsels of the insurgents, and
thereby, as he did, bring the enmity to a peaceable end, had been understood by
the Hon. James Ross from the first, and he was, after examination, honorably
acquitted. Although David Bradford, H. H. Br^kenridge and Albert Gallatin
are, in general accounts of this formidable insurrection, prominent, many other of
the leading citizens of the town and country took active part in the private and
public movements, and at a public meeting held to take action in the matter,
General John Gibson, a revolutionary soldier, nicknamed Horse-head Gibson, was
the chairman ; Matthew Ernest, secretary; H. H. Brepkenridge, Peter Audrian,
George Robinson, George McMasters, John Wilkins, Andrew Mclntyre, George
Wallace, John Irwin, Andrew Watson, George Adams, David Evans, Josiali
Tannehill, William Earle, Andrew McMickle, James Clow, William Gormley
and Nathaniel Irish were sympathizers with the opposition to the excise. With
the government were Major Isaac Craig, Judge Alexander Addison, Major Kirk-
patrick, General John Neville, Colonel William Butler, James O'Hara, Ebenezer
Denny, John Ormsby.

This insurrection, coming so soon after the adoption of the Constitution, caused
great foreboding in the public mind as to the permanency of the Republican form of
government. President Washington and his cabinet were much disturbed as to the
course to pursue. Seven counties were in actual revolt against the laws enacted
by Congress and defying the government. At a meeting held at Brownsville, at
which the standing committee of the insurgents were to hold a conference with the
Federal commissioners who had been appointed in a final attempt at pacification,
a flag was raised by the insurgents with seven stars, one for each ^confederate
county, as the standard of what was looked upon by many as an incipient govern-
ment, to be ultimately declared independent of the United States. Recurring to
the despotism evinced by discontented, corrupt and ambitious men, of whom
General Irwine wrote in his letter to General Washington, of April 20th, 1782^
already quoted from, there is ground for the suspicion that while the whiskey tax
was with the public general the motive of resistance to governmental authority,
there may have been fomenting the insurrection the same element at work thiit
General Irwin alludes to, to effect a separation from the United States and tiie
establishment of an independent State under British protection if necessary. As
before observed. President Washington and his cabinet were greatly exercised by
the condition of public sentiment.

That they looked upon it as no ordinary exhibition of merely dissatisfaction
with an Act of Congress, but as an organized rebellion, was manifest from the
large army, the tried generals sent to restore order, and the large expense incurred
so doing. The expenditure costing over one and a half millions of dollars
when, at that time, the annual expenditure of the whole government was only about
four millions.

The jealousies that remained from the Revolution prevailed to a greater or less
degree with the public men, in civil life as well as in the army, the disappointed


ambitions, the lingering Tory elements, and the crude conceptions among the
people, especially in the frontier towns, of the powers and rights of a Republican
government, made possible many complications. It was felt necessary to assert the
supremacy of the Federal government in a decisive manner, and show the people
of the infant nation that a strong and genuine government had been established
and could be maintained, and thus put an end to any such ideas and schemes a&
Washington had been informed of by General Irwine, and seem to be incipient in
the Whiskey Insurrection.

In connection with this historical incident, it is of curious interest that a mas&
meeting held at Pittsburgh, August 21st, 1792, of which Albert Gallitin was
secretary, and as such signed the proceedings, the following resolution was
passed denouncing the conduct of persons in accepting commissions to collect the
whiskey tax, " Resolved, that in future we will consider such persons as unworthy
of our friendship, have no intercourse with them, withdraw from them every
assistance, withhold all the comforts of life which depend upon those duties which
as fellow citizens we owe each other, and upon all occasions to treat them with that
contempt they deserve, and that it be, and is hereby most earnestly recommended
to the people at large to follow the same line of conduct towards them." Here is
a vigorous threat of " boycotting " long before the word found a place in the
English vocabulary, and as eminent authority as Albert Gallitin to justify the
action. It is rather a saddening reflection that nearly a hundred years after the
progress of civilization and education, the establishment of over two hundred
churches at Pittsburgh should have made no change in the methods of men who
are carried away by personal passions, and quite as savage boycott proclamations
and resolutions were published in the city in the 1880ties, as when from the
frontier habits of thought and action that prevailed in 1792-4, such thoughts and
proposed actions were to be expected. The subjoined verses which were published
during the Whiskey Insurrection are a relishable bit of local literature to be
quoted, as illustrative of the sentim.ents of the time.

Great Pow'r, that warms the heart and liver.
And puts the bluid a' in a fever,
If dull and heartless I am ever,

A blast o' thee
Makes me as blyth, and brisk, and clever

As any bee.

I wat ye are a cunning chiel,
O' a' your tricks I ken fu' weel,'
For aft ye hae gien me a heel.

And thrown me down.
When I shook hands wi' hearts so leel,

Ye wily loun.


When fou o' tiiee on Scottish grun',
At fairs I've aft' had muckle fun,
An' on my head wi' a guid rung,

Gat mony a crack :
An' mony a braw chiel in my turn,

Laid on his back.

An' here, tho' stick be laid aside.
An' swankies fight in their bare hide ;
Let me o' thee ance get a swig,

I'll tak my part,
An' bite, and , and gouge and tread

Wi' a' my heart.

Great strength'ning pow'r, without thy aid
How could log heaps be ever made ?
To tell the truth, I'm sair afraid,

('Twixt ye and me)
We want a place to lay your head,

Hadn't been for thee.

But when the chiels are fou' o' thee>
Och ? how they gar their axes flee,
Then God hae mercy on the tree,

For they hae nane,
Ye'd think (the timber gaes so free)

It rase its lane. —

Without thee how cou'd grass be mawn ?
Grain shear'd, and into barn-yards drawn ?
An' when auld wives wi' faces thrawn

Ly in the strae,
I doubt, gin ye were nae at had',

There'd be great wae.

But it wou'd tak a leaf and mair
To tell o' a' your virtues rare;
At wedding, gossipping and fair,

Baith great and sma'
Look unco dowff if ye'r na there,

Great soul o' a'.

Then foul befa' the ungratefu' deil
That wou'd begrudge to pay right weel.
For a' the blessings that ye yiel

In sic a store ;
I'd nae turn round upo' my heel

For saxpence more.


They were wiitten by David Bruce, who came from Maryland in 1784, and
settled near where Burgettstown now is, in Washington County.

These lines were published in the Western Telegraph, printed at Washington,
Pa. This and other poems, together with replies by H. H. Breckenridge, under
7107)1 de plume, were published in or about 1801, in a volume now rare.

From 1794 to 1811.

With the final settlement of the " Whisky Insurrection," Pittsburgh began to
fall into city shape, if the expression may be allowed. In 1794 the Act was
passed April 22d incorporating the town of Pittsburgh into a borough. The first
court-house and jail were completed; the Eagle Fire Engine Company was organ-
ized, and a line of boats to carry passengers between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati
M^ere started, of which a further account is subsequently given in the chapter
treating of the ship and boat building at the former city. In 1795 the lumber
trade of Pittsburgh had its inception by the action of Major Thomas Butler, then
commanding at Franklin. He had been informed that the Seneca Chief, Gyanta-
wachia, or Cornplanter, as he was caUed by the English, had at his saw-mill a
large quantity of boards. Major Butler dispatched and sent one Marcus Hulings,
with three bags of money, to buy the lumber. He also sent James Beard with a
letter to Cornplanter to inform him of Hulings' mission. The following reply
from Cornplanter is given from Craig's Olden Time :

"Genesadego, 3d December, 1791.
"I thank the States for making me such kind ofers. We have made peace
with the United States as long as watter runs, which was the reason that I built a
mill in order to support my family by it. More so because I am getting old and
not able to hunt. ^ I also thank the States for the pleashure I now feel in meeting
them again in friendship. You have sent a man to make a bargain with me for
a sertain time which I do not lick to do ; but as long as my miU makes boards the
United States shaU have them in preference to any other, at the market price, and
when you want no more boards I can't make blankets of them. As for the money
you sent, if I have not boards to the amount, leave it and I will pay it in boards
in the spring."

This famous Indian chief is frequently mentioned in connection with the busi-
ness of Pittsburgh in its earlier days, and he was often a resident of the town. It
is said he at times spent a winter with his family in the city, occuping the base-
ment cellar of a house on Irwin street (now Seventh), below Penn. The traffic of
the Pittsburgh merchants with the Indians of Cornplanter's tribe in the earlier
days seems to have been then an important element in the business of the town.
Of this H. H. Breckenridge says in his " Eecollections :" ''Who would imagine


that the arrival and encampment of the Cornplanter Indians on the bank of the
Allegheny would make a great stir among our merchants. It was quite a cheering
sight, and one that made brisk times, to see the squaws coming in with their packs
on their backs."

Cornplanter was born at Cenewaigus, on the Genesee river, and was a half-
breed, the son of a white trader named John O'Blail. When about twenty years
of age he was allied with the French, and was in the engagement of Braddock's
Field. During the revolution he was an Indian~chief of high rank, and partici-
pated in the principal Indian engagements against the United States. He was on
the war path with Brandt during General Sulivan's campaign in 1779, and in the
following year he led the Senecas in an inroad through the Mohawk Valley. On
this occasion he took his father prisoner, and making himself known to him,
offered to provide for him if he chose to remain with the Senecas, or to send him
back unharmed if he desired to return, which latter course he chose. Cornplanter
became the fast friend of the United States when hostilities ceased, and threw ail
his influence in favor of peace at the treaty of Fort Stanwix and Fort Harmer.
For his course on those occasions the State of Pennsylvania granted him the reser-
vation on the Allegheny on which he resided. In^what absolute faith the Seneca
chief accepted the reservation as a gift is illustrated by an incident. In 1821 the
commissioners of Warren County assumed the right to tax his property; the old
chief resisted, considered it not only unlawful, but a personal indignity. When
the sheriff came with a small posse to enforce the collection of the tax, Corn-
planter took him and his posse into a room, around which were arrayed about
one hundred rifles, and with Indian brevity intimated that for each rifle an In-
dian would come upon the ground at his call if the sheriff did not withdraw. The
sheriff promptly withdrew, threatening to call out the militia. Prudent citizens,
fearing a collision, sent for the old chief, and persuaded him to give his note for
the tax. He, however, addressed a remonstrance to the Governor, asking a return
of the money and an exemption from tax. This the Legislature granted, and
sent two commissioners to him to explain the occurrence.

After peace was fully established between the Indians and the United States
Cornplanter retired from public life, and devoted his labors to his own people. He
entertained a high respect and friendship for General Washington, which Wash-
ington fully reciprocated. When Washington was about retiring from the Presi-
dency Cornplanter made a special visit to Philadelphia to take leave of him.

He deplored the evils of intemperance, and exerted himself to suppress it.
In the war of 1812 Cornplanter took no part, although the Senecas took sides with
the United States. His son. Major Henry O'Blail, and his intimate friend. Half-
town, were conspicuous in several battles on the Niagara frontier. Cornplanter
died at his residence on his reservation March 7th, 1836. He was at all times
hospitable to emigrants. Mr. James Shidle, who came to Pittsburgh in 1805,
stopped at Cornplanter's reservation with his family on his way down the Alle-
gheny, and Avas entertained a night and day by the old chief. Mrs. Shidle, who is
still living, recalls the incident with pleasure.


As the rafting of the lumber down the Allegheny to Pittsburgh continued to
increase, the Cornplanter Indians were large factors in its transportation, and the
spring and fall freshets always brought numbers of the tribe in charge of rafts ta

Whatever may have been the chief's efforts to suppress intemperance, they
seemed to be nugatory when once his young men landed their lumber at Pitts-
burgh. "Fire water" they wanted, and "fire water" they had, and the precincts
street of old Irwin, now Seventh, and Duquesne way was the scene of many of their
drunken escapades.

Up to the present day the lumber rafts that float down the Allegheny have
among their owners descendants of the old Seneca tribe, who still inhabit the-
Cornplanter reservation.

In 1796 another matter of commercial importance to Pittsburgh occurred,,
through the energy and commercial sagacity of General James O'Hara, by which
a great revolution was effected in the supplying of salt to Pittsburgh and the
west. Of this Judge Wilkeson gives the following account : He entered into a
contract with the government to supply Oswego with provisions, which could then
be furnished from Pittsburgh cheaper than from the settlements on the Mohawk.
General O'Hara was a far-sighted calculator ; he had obtained correct information
in relation to the manufacture of salt at Salina, and in his contract for provision-
ing the garrison he had in view the supplying of the western country with salt,
from Onondaga.

This was a project that few men would have thought of, and fewer undertaken.
The means of transportation had to be created on the whole line ; boats and teams
had to be provided to get the salt from the works to Oswego ; a vessel built to
transport it to the landing below the falls; wagons procured to carry it to
Schlosser ; then boats constructed to carry it to Black Rock. There another vessel
was required to transport it to Erie. The road to the head of French creek had
to be improved and the salt carried in wagons across the portage ; and, finally^
boats provided to float it to Pittsburgh. It required no ordinary sagacity and per-
severance to give success to this speculation. General O'Hara, however, could
execute as well as plan. He packed his flour and provisions in barrels suitable for
salt. These were reserved in his contract.

Arrangements were made with the manufacturers and the necessary advances
paid to secure a supply of salt. Two vessels were built, one on Lake Erie and
one on Lake Ontario ; and the means of transportation on all the various sections
of the line were secured. The plan fully succeeded, and salt of a pretty fair
quality was delivered at Pittsburgh and sold at four dollars per bushel, just half the
price of the salt obtained by packing across the mountains. The vocation of the
packers was gone.

In this year, also, General O'Hara took the first steps toward the establishment
of what, under the progress of years, has been one of Allegheny County's most im-
portant manufactures. He, in connection with Major Isaac Craig, arranging in


1796, to establish a window glass factory at Pittsburgh, although tlie works were
not in operation until 1797. Of this enterprise, together with the subsequent pro-
gress and development of the industry, further account is given in the chapter
■devoted to the history of glass manufacturing in the city and county, as being in a
•continuous recital more satisfactory to those interested ihan in the various chrono-
logical periods of this general history. With this year it may be considered that
the destiny of Pittsburgh as a manufacturing center began to develope.

Situated at the head of a great reach of the cheapest transportation known,
■with the Indians being gradually quieted by government policy, and driven back
\>y the advancing current of emigration, the future, to sagacious commercial minds,
gave promise of a broad and wealthy market. This would, of necessity, demand
-all the heavier kinds of manufactured articles whose transportation across the
mountains by the methods then in vogue, would greatly inhance their cost. With
abundant material in easy reach to produce these Pittsburgh seemed, logically, the
national supply point of the west.

From the early circumstances of the settlement founded amid horrors of the
French and Indian wars, and the succeeding contests by which a population*
largely of brave, hardy, but in most cases uncultured men, skilled more in wood-
craft and arms than commercial pursuits, formed the nucleus of the settlement,
the first impression would be that commercial enterprise and manufacturing know-
ledge would be wanting to give that direction to the business character of the
settlement which would and did plant the germs of its present greatness. With
the occupation of Fort Duquesne by Forbes' army, came men in various positions
in the forces with acute and commercially educated minds. To them, as well as to
their correspondents in the east, the possibility of profitable traffic with the
Indians for their furs and peltry, had the same attractions that has preceded the
march of commerce across the continent, and drawn by certainties of gain men
from the safer haunts of business to the dangers and discomforts of the frontier.

This fur trade of the west was important in the closing decade of the eigh-
teenth century, and Messrs. Peter Maynard and William Morrison were largely
engaged in it at Pittsburgh from 1790. They received supplies of goods from Mr.
<xuy Bryan, a Philadelphia merchant, which goods were taken to Kaskaskia in
barges, that returned yearly to Pittsburgh ladened with bear, buffalo and deer
.skins, which were sent to Philadelphia. The war of the Revolution had brought
to Pittsburgh such men as General Neville, General O'Hara, Major Kirkpatrick,
Denny and others, while previously Colonel Croghan and other governmental
Indian agents had from their duties been permanent settlers, with whom came the
Craigs, Bayards, and other men of ability. With the army sent to quell the
Whiskey Insurrection, came many young men from the eastern States, who liaving
'become impressed with the opportunities at Pittsburgh, came back and settled
rafter the army returned.

The establishment of Allegheny County and the selection of Pittsburgh as its
county seat opened a fresh field for the ambitious young members of the bar at


Carlisle and other eastern towns, and added to the material whose impulses and
judgment strengthened the commercial spirit of the town, of whom were Breck-
enridge, Wilkins, Ross, Addison and other men of culture and energy.

There had, therefore, congregated at Pittsburgh much of the material on
which to build a manufacturing community, needing but a leader to make the first
forward move in that direction. This General James O'Hara was, and likewise
Isaac Craig. From the traces of General O'Hara in the records of the times he
seemed not only to have been a man of enterprise, but also of great persistent en-
ergy and executive ability. General O'Hara seems, however, to have been but a
good second in the founding of Pittsburgh's leading manufactories, although
pioneer in glass. In iron this credit belongs to Mr. George Anshutz, an Alsatian?
who emigrated to the United States in 1789, at the age of thirty-six years; and
in the year of 1792-3 came to Pittsburgh and built a blast furnace at what is now
Shadyside station, on the Pennsylvania Railroad. This point was about three
miles distant from the town boundaries at that time, but is now nearly, if not
quite central, in the city of to-day. The place where the furnace was built i&
still marked by an old sycamore tree, just beyond the Shadyside station, on the
north side of the road.

At the time that Mr. Anshutz projected his furnace there were indications of
iron ore at the location, and tradition says a small deposit of it. The exact date
of the blowing in of the furnace or what was its capacity is not of record, but it
was in blast in 1794.

This, however, was not the case. The red shale that abounded in the neigh-
borhood was assumed to be indications of iron, and without making any critical
examinations the furnace was built, on the presumption that the iron ore was
there. When ready for the blast it was discovered too late that there w^as no ore
in the vicinity. The parties interested proceeded to get ore from Roaring creek,,
on the Kiskiminitis, which they boated down that stream to the Allegheny, and
down that river to Pittsburgh.

It was not found profitable to bring ore from Kiskiminitis to the furnace for
emelting, and the furnace was blown out. Whether it would have been subse-
quently put in blast again cannot be said. It is, however, stated that the "Whisky
Boys" were one cause of its abandonment. The company had about one thousand
cords of wood cut and piled at a point now in the Fourteenth ward of the city of
Pittsburgh, locally known as Oakland. This the "Whisky Boys" set fire to and
burned. The loss of this, with other discouragements, led to the final abandon-
ment of the furnace.

From this circumstance the strides that manufactures have made in Alle-
gheny's hundred years is forcibly shown. When, at the time of the existence of
the Shadyside furnace, it would not pay to bring ore a distance of twenty-five

Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 5 of 43)