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History of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present online

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Fort Pitt and Detroit. On the 5th and 6th
of August, 1763, he was nearly overwhelmed
by the savages at Bushy Run, who were re-
pelled by the bayonet charges of the Highland-
ers, but the numbers of the enemy were so
great that they would have been routed, but
for the stratagem of the commander of the
British, who feigned retreat.f This victory
led to peace, and the Indian ravages ceased.


On the 19th of December, 1763, the Gov-
ernor, John Penn, agreeably to the advice of
the Council, wrote the following letter to the
Magistrates of York, Lancaster and Cumber-
land Counties. " Having received information
that on Wednesday, the 14th inst., a party of
men, armed and mounted, did, without cause
or provocation, in defiance of all authority,
proceed to the Conestogo Indian Town, in
Lancaster County, and murder six of our
friendly Indians, settled there under the
protection of this Government, and its laws.
I do hereby direct and require you immediately
to exert yourselves on this occasion, and to
issue warrants and take all other measures
in your power for the apprehending of all the
principals concerned in the murder of the
said Indians and their accomplices, and se-
curing them in some of the gaols of this
Province, that they may be brought to justice
and receive a legal tryal for the crimes they
have committed, "t

The Indian hostilities of 1763 were marked
by great cruelty, and suspicion and hatred

; followed even the neutral Indians. The
repeated murders perpetrated by the Indians
roused the men of the Paxton settlement to
revenge. In Lancaster County still dwelt a
large body of Indians, known to us already
as the Conestogoes. On Wednesday, the 14th
of December, 1763, a body of men entered
the town of CoDestogb, and massacred all
the Indians they could find there. The major-

j ity were absent. Those on their retui-n were

*IX Col. Eec, 35.
tBancroft's Hist. U. S.
1 XIX Col. Kec, 92.


taken in charge by the Magistrates of Lancas-
ter County, and were placed for safety in the
workhouse at ■ Lancaster. The Paxtan men
with a larger force, from 50 to 100 men,
on the evening of the 26th of December,
galloped into the town, " seized the keeper
of the workhouse, overpowered him, rushed
into the prison, and speedily accomplished
the work of death. The poor Indians, to the
number of fourteen, were butchered in cold
blood, and the Paxtan men elated by their
success, left the town in the same haste with
which they had entered it." A number of
Indians on the frontier had, at their own
request, been removed from their habitations
and taken to Philadelphia, and were seated
for a better security on Province Island and
in other places in the neighborhood of the
city. Threats were made by the insurgents
to march down and destroy them. The
Assembly took measures to resist them. The
Indians petitioned to be sent to England.
Gov. Penn ordered them to be taken to New
York. The people of New York became
offended at this. Gen. Gage directed two
companies of the royal Americans to re-escort
them to Philadelphia, where they were
secured in the barracks. The barracks were
fortified, and regular troops protected them.
The insm-gents went to Germantown, and
learning of the large force opposed to them,
after listening to remonstrances, promised to
return home, and left two men, Matthew
Smith and James Gibson, to lay their griev-
ances before the government, which they did,
in the name of the inhabitants of York, Lan-
caster and Cumberland Counties. The two
representatives, in behalf of themselves and
his Majesty's faithful and loyal subjects, the
inhabitants of the frontier counties of Lan-
caster, York, Cumberland, Berks and North-
ampton, presented their remonstrances and
grievances before the Governor and Assem-
bly, on the 13th of February, 1764 :* That
they were attacked and ravaged by skulking
parties of Indians ; that the Indians were
taken under the protection of the govern-
ment ; that the trial was to be removed from
Lancaster County. They protested against
Indians living within the inhabited parts of
the province ; that no provision was made
for the care and cure for wounded men ; that
there was in this war no reward for Indian
scalps ; that John Penn abetted the Indians,
and made unauthorized treaties with them ;
that Fort Augusta had furnished little assis-
tance, with no reflection against the com-
manding ofiScer, who was directed by those
from whom he received orders. There was

*IXCol.Rec., l.'iS.

another memorial with 1,500 signatures. The
county of Berks, by its Grand Jury, pro-
tested against it. The Assembly considered
the remonstrance and protest, but nothing
was done to bring the parties concerned to
punishment.* In the letter of Gov. Penn,
January 5, 1764, he says : Our back inhabi-
tants, who have indeed suffered a great deal
by the Indian war, have got it into tlieir
heads that one Indian should not be suffered
to live amongst us, and have carried their
resentment so far as to go and kill some
Indians who lived under the faith and pro-
tection of this government for sixty years, in
an Indian town near Lancaster. At request
of Indians, they were sent to the protection
of Sir "William Johnson. It was necessary,
in the opinion of the Governor, to extend
the English riot act to the province, to
apprehend the mui'derers and to quell the
like insurrections in the future.f Such an
act was accordingly passed by the Assembly.


YORK, as one of the frontier counties,
had participated with great spirit in
the military measures to resist the inroads of
the savages and the encroachments of the
French. Though the means of inter-commu-
nication between the colonies were very lim-
ited, according to the present views of expe-

j dition, intercourse was constant and cor-
respondence continuous, as it was between

j this frontier region and Philadelphia. News
arrived slowly, but it impressed deeply the
minds of the leading citizens, and that
news cemented more and more firmly the
bonds of union. After the close of the
French and Indian war it was not long
before the parliament of Great Britain
commenced those measures that so com-
pletely estranged the colonies from the moth-
er country. The strife with the Proprieta-
ries and Lords of Trade began in Pennsyl-
vania in 1760. J The great Franklin had
appeared before his Majesty's Council for
Plantation Affairs to defend the liberties
of our people. But the restrictions on trade
from time to time and the arbitrary means
used to enforce them by writs of assistance,
caused American resistance. The notorious
stamp act had been passed in 1765, and on

♦Gordon's History of Pennsylvania.
tlX Col. Eec, 112.
JVIII Col. Bee, 554.


the 22d of March in that year, the King being j
then insane, it had received the royal assent
by commission.* The military power in the
colonies had been placed above the civil.
The claims of American representation had
been scoffed at by the ministry, as was also
the assent of the American Assemblies to
any manifest internal regulation. There
had been proposed in Massachusetts, a Con-
gress of committees from each of the colo-
nies, and the plan had prevailed. The Penn-
sylvania Assembly accepted it, and declared
it an inherent right not to be taxed without
consent. This was in the month of Septem-
ber, 1765. f The Congress had met in New
York, in October, 1765, by which the stamp
act was annulled. J In attempts to enforce the
act the officers had been severely handled by
the people. The first cargo of stamped pa-
pers had arrived under protection of a man
of war, in this province, on the 5th of Octo-
ber, 1765. Mr. John Hughes had been ap-
pointed to distribute them, and so unpopular
did he become that his house was surrounded
by a mob and he was burnt in effigy. When
the ship arrived, the vessels in the harbor
put their flags at half mast, and the bells of
the city of Philadelphia were tolled. An
immense meeting assembled at the State
House, and John Hughes was requested to
resign. He denied having any commission,
and as there was no place of security on
shore, the Governor ordered the stamps to be
taken on board one of the ships of war. Mer-
chants of the city agreed not to import goods
till the act was repealed. § After fluctuations
in the minds of the official powers in En-
gland, the act had been repealed in the
month of March, 1766, and the repeal cele-
brated by bonfires and the ringing of bells.
There had been public satisfaction and gen-
eral rejoicing in England, as well as in Amer-
ica, yet to maintain the principle that there
existed the power to bind the colonies, in
July, 1767, among other things, the fatal
tax of three pence a pound on tea had been
adopted, and a board of customs established
in Boston. The people of that city had as-
sembled and voted to forbear importation,
and the Assembly of Massachusets Bay had
addressed a circular letter to the several As-
semblies in America, which was dated the
11th of February, 1768. This circular, con-
taining an early declaration of the principles
of the American Revolution, will be found


fix Col. Eec, 300.


av Archives, 242 ; IX Col. Rec, 298 ; Egle's Hist. Penna.,

among the published Archives of this com

During the colonial difficulties, John Penn,
son of Richard Penn, one of the pro-
prietaries, and who had been born iu
Philadelphia, and was known as the Amer-
ican Penn, was Lieutenant-Governor of
the province, having been appointed in
1763, and he held the office to the end of
the proprietary government. He was in-
tensely loyal, so much so that during the
Revolution he suffered imprisonment and re-
moval from the State rather than sign a pa-
role.f There was great jealousy entertained
at Court of popular representation in any
way. Hillsborough, Colonial Secretary of
State, rebuked the Governor in the name of
the King, for communicating to his Council
and Assembly the letters received from the
Secretaries of State, and also for the sending
of addresses and petitions to his Majesty,
otherwise than through the channel of the
proprietary or his deputy. The Assembly of
Pennsylvania had sent a petition to his Maj-
esty, on the subject of the acts of parlia-
ment, which had been delivered by Dr.
Franklin. This was declared by the cabinet
as tending to deny and draw in question the
supreme authority of parliament to bind the
colonies by laws in all cases whatever, and
"when applied to taxation was the less to be
expected from the province of Pennsylvania,
as there was a clause in their charter saying
to the crown such impositions and customs as
by act of parliament are and shall be ap-
pointed."^ A copy of the circular from the
colony of Massachusetts Bay to the other col-
onies was transmitted by Hillsborough to
Gov. Penn, stating that his Majesty.' consid-
ered " this measure to be of a most danger-
ous and factious tendency, calculated to in-
flame the minds of his good subjects in the
colonies, to promote an unwarrantable combi-
nation, and to excite and encourage an open
opposition to, and denial of the authority of
Parliament, and to subvert the true princi-
ples of the constitution. And that it was his
Majesty's pleasure, that the Governor should
prevail upon the Assembly to take no notice
of it. That the Pennsylvania Assembly had
given repeated proofs of their reverence and
respect for the laws, but if there should ap-
pear a disposition to receive or give any
countenance to the seditious paper, it would
be his duty to prevent any proceeding upon
it by an immediate prorogation or dis_so]u-
I tion. This letter was dated April 21, 1 (68.§

! *IV Archives, 286.

tXI Col. Rec, 264.
1 JIV Archives, 311.

JIX Col. Eec, 546.


In September, 1768, the Assembly declared by
resolution that the Governor of the province
had no constitutional authority to dissolve
the Assembly:*

The British cabinet finding that the
diities on their own manufactures of glass,
paper, and painters' colors were con-
trary to the true principles of commerce,
agreed that they should be repealed. But
there still remained the duty on tea. Al-
though intensely interesting, we need not fol-
low the eoui-se of the ministry in their per-
sistent determination to enforce this tax. A
large number of the best of English states-
men warmly espoused the cause of America;
Chatham, Camden, Conway, Burke and
Barre. But the Lord Chancellor, Thurlow,
called it rebellion, and that had to be quelled
by the military power. Troops had been sent
to Boston, and by their insolent bearing, pro-
voked hostilities. On the 5th of March,
1770. had occurred an event that sent a thrill
through the colonies — the first fearful news
of the shedding of blood, in the Boston Mas-
sacre. Thfs seems to have awed them over
the water for a time, and there was apparent
conciliation, so much so, that it was supposed
that the spirit of liberty was dead on the re-
sumption of commercial intercourse. But
the ministry were blinded by a false assump-
tion of submission, while the fires were only
slumbering. The crisis was brought about
by the tax on tea. The non-importation on
the part of the colonies had caused a great
accumulation of that article in the stores of
the East India Company, and it was author-
ized to export tea to America, with a draw-
back of the duty — payable in England — but
three pence per pound was payable in the
colonies. Consignments were made to
Charleston, Philadelphia, New York and Bos-
ton. In Philadelphia the people met in the
State House, and condemned the duty, and
declared every one who should countenance
its imposition, an enemy to his country, and
the agents of the company were compelled to
resign. t On the 16th of December, 1773,
had taken place in Boston Harbor that ever
memorable event, known in history as the
Boston Tea Party. Three tea ships were
taken possession of and 840 chests, the whole
quantity imported was emptied into the har-
bor. The tea ships were driven by a storm
off the coast from Xew York, and in South
Carolina, the tea perished in the cellars in
which it was stored. On the 25th of Decem-
ber, 1773, the ships destined for Philadel-
phia approached that city. The pilots were

warned not to conduct ?hem into the harbor.
A town meeting of 5,000 people was held,
and the ships, with their cargoes of tea, were
compelled to sail back to England.*

In May, 1774, Gea. Gage entered the har-
bor of Boston with vice-regal powers; he
and his army and the civil officers no longer
amenable to the American courts of justice.
The port was closed on the 1st of June, which
was made a day of fasting, humiliation and
prayer. Again an appeal came from Massa-
chusetts to her sister colonies, and a close
correspondence was maintained by them with
her. The Bostonians called upon the other
colonies to unite with them to stop all impor
tations from Great Britain until the port act
should be repealed, and if they should do so
it would prove the salvation of North Amer-
ica and her liberties. These troubles trans-
pired during the Tory administration of the
Duke of Grafton and Lord North. The
Whigs supported the cause of the colonies. f
The name of Whig became incorporated
into American politics. That party had its
origin nearly a century before, and one tra-
dition attributes the name to the initials of
the motto, " We hope in God," at one time
borne upon its banners. It was the liberal
party, the party of reform and progress, and
the Tory jitarty adhered to the establishments
in Church and State. Hence, those who
maintained our cause were called Whigs,
and those who adhered to the crown and op-
posed separation were styled Tories. There
were Tories here as well as elsewhere, many
good and wealthy citizens; but what was
called loyalty in England became treason on
this continent ; and when independence was
declared, the estates of such were confiscated.
The archives of the State contain accounts
of their names and properties. But for us
here let them rather rest in oblivion.

A class of men appeared here who played
their parts nobly in the history of the great
struggle for liberty, who taught the people,
or rather guided them, for they already held
a power not to be relinquished. Among these
was a man who had come to reside here,
whose biography is intimately connected with
her history — James Smith, for some time the
only practicing Attorney in York.| We

*IV Bancroft, 281.

tCampbell's Lord Chaacellors, vol. 7, p. 37.

JGraydon, in his " Memoirs," tells us, that beine a student

aw, to enable him to pursue his studies without interrup-

a, his uncle advised his spending the approaching summer

Torktown. Mr. Samuel Johnston, the prothonotary, was a

lar friend, who had been in the practice of the law and

ery good library; and tendered his books and services,

nd complimented him with a dinner. " It was in the spring of

773 that I was transferred to this pleasant and flourishing

illage." . . . "There were several young men in the town,

■hose company served to relieve the dreariness of my solitude ;

)r such it was compared with the scene from which 1 had re-



can imagine how the beauty of the situ-
ation of Yorktown brought families to it, '
and young men of intelligence and enter- ;
prise seeking new places for the exercise of i
their talents. Among such was Thomas
Hartley, who came to York from Reading at
the age of eighteen years, commenced the
study of the law under Samuel Johnston, and
and was admitted to the bar in 1769. For
some time he and Smith were the only prac-
ticing lawyers in the county, Mr. Johnston
being then, and for some years after, pro-
thonotary. In this last mentioned year,
Henry Miller moved to York from Reading,
and was also student at law under Mr. John-
ston ; and soon after came another law student
of his from Lancaster, John Clark.


In all history it appears that popular pro-
gress has been achieved by the spontaneous
action of the citizens of a country outside of
the constituted forms of law and government.
The vox populi must be heard, because no
government has that within it that can pro-
vide for all emergencies. The public meeting
has always controlled, sooner or later, legis-
lative action. We have already seen that on
this continent and in this province whatever
was accomplished in support of freedom, was
done by the assembled inhabitants through
their committees appointed to do the work.
It is a peculiar feature in American history
that united action was maintained in the
earlier contests ^vith the British Government,
with a spontaneity and enthusiasm that no
organized system could have secured. The
factors were committees of correspondence.
The intercourse between the colonies and the
different parts of a colony was thus conduct-
ed, and there was a sympathetic response to
the appeal of Boston. The committee of

moved. These" (no doubt Hartley and Clark and Miller), " for
the most part (18U), are yet living, generally known and
respected. There was also in the place an oddity, who, though
not to be classed with its young men, I sometimes fell in with.
This was Mr. James Smith, the lawyer, then in considerable prac-
tice. He was probably between forty and fifty years of age,
fond of his bottle and young company, and possessed of an
original species of drollery."

He then describes with some minuteness some of the pecul-
iarities of Mr. Smith in the way of jokes. One in particular,
practiced upon Judge Steadman, of Philadelphia, a man of read-
ing and erudition, who In a full display of his historical knowl-
edge was set raving by a monstrous anachronism. "Don't you
remember, Mr. Steadman, that terrible bloody battle which
Alexander the Great fought with the Russians at the Straits of
Babelmandel?" "What, sir!" said Steadman, repeating with
the most ineffable contempt, "which Alexander the Great
fought with the Russians ! Where, mon, did you get your
chronology?" "I think you will find it recorded, Mr. Stead-
man, in Thucydides or Herodotus." On another occasion, being
asked for his authority for an enormous assertion, in which
both space and time were fairly annihilated, with unshaken
gravity he replied, " I am pretty sure I have seen an account of
It, Mr. Steadman, in a High Dutch almanac printed at Aleppo,
his drawling way of pronouncing Aleppo." Every one laughed,
says Graydon ; but the Judge, who resided in Philadelphia, and
was ignorant of Smith's character in this particular, thought
him the object of the laughter, so all parties were pleased.

correspondence for the city of Philadelphia,
addressed the following circular to the sev-
eral counties: "The Governor declining to
call the Assembly, renders it necessary to take
the sentiments of the inhabitants; and for
that purpose it is agreed to call a meeting of
the inhabitants of this city and county at
the State House, on Wednesday, the 15th
inst.* And we would wish to have the sen-
timents and concurrence of our brethren in
the several counties, who are equally inter-
ested with us in the General Cause, we earn-
estly desire you to call together the princi-
pal inhabitants of your county, and to take
their sentiments. We shall forward to you,
by every occasion, any matters of conse-
quence that come to our knowledge, and we
should be glad you would choose and appoint
a committee to correspond with us. Signed
by order of the Committee of Correspon-
dence for the city of Philadelphia.

Chas. Thompson, Clerk.

The call was very promptly responded to
by the citizens of York, and of the county, y
YoHKTowN, June 24, 177-4.

In consequence of a letter from the com-
mittee of Philadelphia, the inhabitants of
this town met on Monday, the 21st ult. ;
Michael Swope, Esq., was appointed chair-
man, who explained the design and cause of
the meeting; the distressed state of the in-
habitants of Boston, and the nature and the
tendency of the Acts of Parliament lately
passed. After due deliberation, the follow-
ing resolves were come into, nem. con. 1.
That we will concur with our brethren of
Philadelphia and sister colonies in any con-
stitutional measure, in order to obtain re-
dress. 2. That it is the opinion of this
meeting, that the inhabitants of Boston are
now suffering in the common cause of liberty.
3. It is directed, that to obtain the sense of
our fellow inhabitants of York County upon
the present important and alarming occasion,
notice shall be given to the inhabitants of
this county, that they, or such as shall be
delegated by the several townships in the
county, do meet in the Court house in York-
town, on Monday, the 4th of July next, at 1
o'clock in the afternoon, to enter into such
resolves as may be for the public good, and
tend to restore the liberties of British Amer-
ica. J

A committee of thirteen persons was then
appointed for this town, ta remain till altered
by any other general meeting which they
were authorized and directed to call. The

I tMumbert's Hist: of Lane. Co., 199.

j JRupp's Hist. York County, 662.


committee of correspondecne again, on the
28th of June, enclosed to the different coun-
ties the resolves passed at a meeting held in
State House Square, on the 18th of June, by
which it was left to the committee " to deter-
mine on the most proper mode of collecting
the sense of this province, in the present
critical situation of affairs, and appointing
deputies to attend the proposed Congress" —
and submitted two propositions: 1. That
the Speaker of the honorable House of Rep-
resentatives be desired to write to the several
members of the Assembly in the province,
requesting them to meet in this city as soon
as possible, but not later than the 1st of
August nest, to take into their consideration
our very alarming situation. 2. That
letters be written to proper persons in each
county, recommending it to them to get com-
mittees appointed for their respective coun-
ties, and that the said committees, or such
number of them as may be thought proper,
may meet in Philadelphia at the time the
Representatives are convened, in order to
consult and advise on the most expedient
mode of appointing deputies for the General
Congress, and to give their weight to such as
may be appointed. That the Speaker of the
Assembly in a very ready and obliging man-

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 24 of 218)