American Historical Society George Thornton Fleming.

History of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 online

. (page 24 of 81)
Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 24 of 81)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the siege of that work in 1763, during Pontiac's War. Egle and Darling-
ton are full concerning Trent. Gist, who was with him in Kentucky
and on the Muskingum, has given many particulars of a trader's life
and perils among the savages of the Ohio region. Trent and Ward's
names have been commemorated in two of Pittsburgh's streets. More
concerning Trent will necessarily be written herein.

Hugh Crawford is another historic name, that of a wilderness trader
who came to the West perhaps in 1739. There is a record of him as
a licensed trader in 1747, but none the next year. He was one of
Croghan's most efficient servitors; was among the Shawanese in Ohio
for several years, 1750-52, and before 1755 took up land about Standing
Stone, now the site of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. He was one of the
unfortunates captured by Pontiac's Indians at the mouth of the Maumee
in 1763, but most luckily escaped with his life. Crawford sometimes
traded for Thomas Smallman, another name prominent in all of Pitts-
burgh's Colonial and Revolutionary history. Crawford was in the
employ of Smallhian when captured, and made a return of the value of
Smallman's goods confiscated by his captors, totalling £3,805 los.
Crawford must be accorded more extended mention in the story of
events between 1750 and 1770, when he died. Smallman, who attained
the rank of major during the Revolution, became a resident of Pitts-
burgh and has numerous descendants here, and his name is most familiar
in Smallman street. Crawford, too, lived awhile at Fort Pitt, for Bouquet
enumerated him in 1760, when he took the first census of Pittsburgh.
Crawford's greatest fame, however, was that obtained from his services
as interpreter for Mason and Dixon, when they ran that famous boun-
dary line between Maryland and Pennsylvania in 1767. Crawford gave
his name to "Crawford's Sleeping Place" on the Youghioghcny, twenty

Digitized by



miles above Fort Pitt. Veech says it was on one of Gist's tracts in the
present county of Fayette, hence the distance assigned is erroneous.
This tract, or "Sleeping place," was a "Grant of Preference" given by
Governor John Penn in 1768 for Crawford's services with Mason and
Dixon, and was five hundred acres in extent. Both Smallman and Hugh
Crawford served as officers in Colonel Weiser's battalion of Pennsyl-
vania militia in 1756, and Crawford in Forbes' campaign of 1758, as an
ensign in Captain Hance Hamilton's company from Pennsylvania.

A tragedy of the wilderness trail was noted by Weiser, for he recorded
under date August 24, 1748, after passing the Shawanese cabins : "Found
a dead man in the road who had killed himself by drinking too much
whisky. The place being very stony, we could not dig a grave. He
smelling very strong, we covered him with stones and wood and went
on our journey." This man was Thomas Quinn.^* He was an Allegheny
trader, and from the circumstances of his death most likely of that class
described by Judge Veech and M. S. Lytle, and aptly by Pitkin.**

In the list of merchants trading at Fort Pitt in 1763, signed to a
memorial presented to the Hon. Col. Henry Bouquet, commanding his
Majesty's Troops, both Trent and Crawford's names appear, Trent
heading the signers. The others were Ephraim Blaine, Thomas Mitchel,
Thomas Welsh, John McClure and James Harris.

Blaine's name is spelled Blane, and the same way in Bouquet's Cen-
sus of July 22, 1760, which was an enumeration of the inhabitants of
the village at Fort Pitt not belonging to the army. At that time nearly
all such male inhabitants were traders in Indian goods. The total, men,
women and children, then was 149. A similar census was taken the
following April, but of house owners only. Seventy-two names were
added, and twenty-eight who were enumerated in the July preceding.
Hugh Crawford, Ephraim Blane, John Finley, and William Trent, occur
on both lists; James Harris, Lazarus Lowry, Edward Ward, John Mc-
Clure and Thomas Welsh on the first ; George Croghan, John Campbell,
John Ormsby, Thomas Mitchel and John Owens on the second. This
shows that there were some inhabitants absent at each enumeration,
doubtless on trading trips.

Nothing is recorded of James Harris at this time. He was a resident
of Cumberland county, and after 1785 well known as a surveyor in Bed-
ford and Huntington counties. Thomas Mitchell was a bad one. In
Isaac Craig's annotated list of the inhabitants of Pittsburgh in 1761,
there are to be found the names of many traders among the 253 in-
habitants living outside the garrison, and the number of houses and
the names of the owners. John Langdale's name appears first on this

28"Thc Wilderness Trail," Vol. II, p. 339, quoting there Thwaites* "Early Western
Travels," Vol. I, p. 44«

""History U. S.," Vol. I, p. 132.

Digitized by



list as an Indian trader, and he with Josiah (Jonas) Davenport and
Robert Burchan were nominated and recommended to the governor as
suitable persons for agents at Pittsburgh by the commissioners under
the Act for Preventing Abuses in the Indian Trade, passed April 8, 1758;
reenacted April 2, 1763. John Barklit is mentioned as an Indian trader
as late as 1792; this name is likely a misprint for Barkley. Alexander
Ewing is mentioned as a trader as late as 1772. Joseph Spear was
another of the later traders, 1775. In Pittsburgh he resided near John
Ormsby. Spear was prominent in Pittsburgh during Connolly's regime
in 1774, and will be noted later in consequence. The list contains the
name Robert Paris, doubtless meant for Richard Paris, a celebrated
trader frequently mentioned by General John Armstrong, and especially
recommended by Armstrong in a letter to the governor, dated Carlisle,
May 5, 1757. John Graham was known to have been in the Indian trade
as late as 1772. John McClure was coroner of Cumberland county,
1754-58. He was an uncle of Ebenezer Denny, the first mayor of Pitts-
burgh, and is recorded by Denny as residing "nine miles above Fort
Pitt on the Monongahela," which would be about or opposite Braddock.
McClure was the ancestor of all the McClures in that neighborhood.**^
John Coleman is thought to have been a dealer and manufacturer in
rifles and packsaddles, as well as a trader among the Indians, of a well
known Lancaster family.

Of all the names on the list, that of Ephraim Blaine is the most
familiar. He was the great-grandfather of James G. Blaine, and com-
missary-general of the middle department during the Revolution.*®

John Campbell's is a most important name in the annals of Pitts-
burgh, for he laid out the first plan of lots in the village about Fort
Pitt in 1764, this plan still referred to, and not changc^d by Woods and
Vickroy in their plotting of the town in 1784. Campbell's plan is
known as the "Military Plan of Pittsburgh," and as the "Plan of Lots
in Pittsburgh in 1764 by Col. John Campbell." Campbell emigrated
to Kentucky and founded Louisville, first called Campbelltown. In
that State his name has been commemorated in Campbell county. While
at Fort Pitt, Campbell worked as a surveyor, but his principal employ-
ment was as clerk for George Croghan. During Connolly's usurpation,
Campbell was allied with the Virginia party. In 1767-68, Campbell was
in the employ of the extensive trading firm of Baynton, Wharton &
Morgan. He is mentioned in Croghan's will as "My friend, formerly
my clerk, John Campbell of Pittsburgh." He was one of the witnesses
to the treaty of alliance with the Delawares in 1778, with General Mc-
intosh, Colonel Brodhead, Colonel William Crawford, Colonel John

ae^Military Journal:" Ebenezer Denny, p. 92.

2«"History Pittsburgh;" S. H. Killikelly, pp. 67-72. Sec also "Penn. Mag. Hist.;"
Vol. II, pp. 303, 469. Ibid., Vol. VI, pp. 344-347-

Digitized by



Gibson, and other noted men of the region during the Revolutionary
period. CampbeU's name is second on the list of the Augusta county-
committee at Fort Pitt, May, 1775, Croghan's name preceding. Camp-
bell's was prominent in the affairs of the committee.^''

Colonel William Crawford was for a time an Indian trader ; however,
the story of this celebrated borderer and his most terrible death at the
stake will find its proper place in this work, and will include a brief

Barnaby Curran, one of the traders with Washington on his mission
in 1753, is found mentioned as Barny Currant. In 1747-48 he was a hired
servant of Hugh Parker. When Gist met Curran on the Muskingum in
1750, Curran was a trader for the Ohio Company. There is slight
mention of John McGuire, the other trader with Washington, and none
of Stewart and Jenkins, servants of the two traders.

The statement has been made that many of the traders were dissolute
characters. This applies more particularly to their helpers. In the
language of Judge Veech :

About the time the boundary troubles began between Pennsylvania and Virginia,
two very different classes of people had come into this region, and as these contributed
in very diverse ways to the stirring events which center so largely in our history during
the last quarter of the last century (eighteenth century), they may now be introduced.

Almost from the first plantation of Virginia up to the outbreak of the Revolution,
Great Britain had enforced the policy of sending over to the middle and southern Ameri-
can Colonies from England, Scotland, and Ireland, many of the very worst and meanest
convicted felons. James I. began it by ordering "dissolute persons to be sent to Virginia."
In a statute of fourth George 1. (1718), among the reasons assigned for this shameless
policy was, that "in many of his Majesty's colonies and plantations there was a great
want of servants, who, by their labor and industry, might be the means of improving
and making the said colonies and plantations more useful to his Majesty." It was cal-
culated that about the year 1750 not less than from three to four hundred felons were
annually brought into Maryland. Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania repeatedly
passed laws in restraint of this influx of a vicious population ; but they were disallowed
by the King in G)uncil, as being derogatory to the supremacy of the Crown and Parlia-
ment. Of course, after being landed, they had the run of the colonies. It is known that
many of them were from southern and western provinces of Ireland, some even from
Ulster. Naturally, they would drift to the further shores of civilization, as far as pos-
sible beyond the reach of law, ready for participation in any tumults that might arise.
Many of them are said to have congregated in and around Pittsburgh, and especially
along the borders of the Monongahela and upper Ohio — ^hangers-on upon the Indian
trade, or retainers of men who aimed at prominence around them. All of these went by
the general name of Irish, and were too easily confounded with the better class of

Historians of Huntingdon county have much to tell of the traders,
naturally, for the trail went across the county, passing the Standing

27Cf. "History of Kentucky;" Collins, Vol. II, pp. 356-357, 360. "History of
Pittsburgh;" Craig, Orig. Ed., pp. 128, 132; Ed. 1917, PP. ii5-"8- **01d Westmore-
land ;" Hassler, pp. 10, 79.

28 Judge Veech refers to Pitkin's "Hist U. S.." Vol. I, 132; Judge Chambers'
"Tribute," 35 ; "Col. Rec. of Pa.," V, 499, 5S0. "Centenary Memorial of the Planting
and Growth of Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania and Parts Adjacent/' etc.;
"Secular History;" James Veech, p. 309. See also "Alienation, etc,;" Thomson, p. 56.

Digitized by



Stone, a natural curiosity that was destroyed, that stood on the site of
the town of Huntingdon. Milton S. Lytle says:

.The traders did not belong to that class of persons who reduce to writing the events
of their daily lives. It does not appear that anything transpired with them which they
deemed worUiy of remembrance. They did not penetrate the new country in the spirit of
explorers, seeking discoveries of value to the world and benefit to themselves. Even a
passage of hundreds of miles through an unbroken forest made no impressbn on their
unappreciative senses. Intent upon traffic, they transported their wares on pack-horses
from one end of the province to the other, with a view to profitable commerce with the
Indians, whose innocence of mercantile transactions, at that early day, rendered them an
easy prey to cupidity and avarice. In later years when, with the utmost vigilance, it was
impossible to prevent the French on the Ohio from obtaining information wlidch the
interests of the English required they should not possess, it was said of these traders by
Governor Morris that they were "mostly a low sort of people, generally too ignorant to
be employed as spies, but not at all too virtuous." He was speaking of George Croghan
when he made this remark, but rather excepted him from the sweeping assertion. As we
become more familiar with the life and character of the latter, as developed in his con-
nection with the affairs of this county from the time which we write until 1756, we will
be better able to judge wherein he differed from his fellow-traders. It is not strange that
men of the qualities ascribed to them by Governor Morris, should have perpetuated so
little concerning themselves and should be so soon forgotten.

The route taken by these commercial travelers of the olden time was along the old
Indian warpath, coming from' the eastward through the Tuscarora Valley, Shade Gap,
Black Log, Aughwick, Woodcock Valley, Hart's Log Valley, Water Street, Franks-
town, Holidaysburg, and crossing the Allegheny mountains at or near Kittanning Point.
It was this trail that gave Huntingdon county its early importance. It was the great
highway between the East and the West, and continued to be so for many years. The
traders, the agents of the government, and the pk>neers, as they moved westward, fol-
lowed it In 1754, when there was a pressing necessity for military operations against
the French on the Ohio, and the ways and means of moving troops and conveying sup-
plies were under consideration, there was no other road to the Ohk> than this path, which
Governor Morris described as "only a horseway through the woods and over mountains,
not passable with any carriage." Travel was not diverted from this route until 1755,
when the road was made to enable Braddock and his army to march against Fort
Du Quesne.2<>

From Kittanning Point the Wilderness Trail led across Cambria
county to the "head of navigation" on the Susquehanna, at what is now
the town of Cherrytree, thence across Indiana county to the Kiskim-
inetas, near Saltsburg, and along that stream to its mouth and thence
by canoe down the Allegheny to the Ohio, passing two Indian towns
on the Kiskiminetas, and Chartier's Old Town and Shannopin's Town on
the Allegheny, thence to Logstown on the Ohio, passing Aliquippa's
Town on the north shore and Shingoe's Town (Shingiss' town) at the
mouth of Chartiers creek. All these were places of importance in the
days of the traders, and all have mention in the journals of the early
travelers of the middle of the eighteenth century, Celoron, Weiser and
Washington's especially to be told of, and Gist's and Croghan's mention
passim. Logstown, a rude village that passed away forever, was for
more than two decades a place for history making, and its story will

2»"History Huntingdon County, Pa.;" M. S. Lytle; pp. 18, 19.

Digitized by



be told in later pages. It was a place of resort for traders, and some
important treaties were made there. One is noted in Croghan's Journal
for 1751, May 28th that year, when Andrew Montour was the interpreter
and there were present deputies from the Six Nations, — the Delawares,
Shawanese, Wyandots and Twightwees or Miamis, and the following
traders: Thomas Kinton, Samuel Cuzzens, Jacob Pyatt, John Owens,
Thomas Ward, Joseph Nellson, James Brown, Dennis Sullivan, Paul
Pearce and Caleb Lamb. The proceedings at this conference will be
mentioned in the chapter on Logstown.

The traders also went to Attique, the French name for the Delaware
town, Kittanning. The expression "On the Allegheny" meant as applied
to trade, that the traders along this stream visited the Indian towns that
have been named above. Some had storehouses — Croghan one on the
river at Pine creek. The traders were makers of history. Many were
outlaws ; many drunken and dissolute ; many vile morally. Nevertheless,
they were intrepid men, and the day came when they suffered and died,
and that was when the great Pontiac gave the signal.

Digitized by


Conrad Weiser, Ambassador Extraordinary.

It will have become apparent that almost all Pennsylvania's Colonial
history deals with the Indians; and the French and Indians from about
1730 to the taking of Fort Duquesne in 1758, and that the inability of
the English to secure the friendship and retain the trade of the Indians
shaped the whole course of that history. We have been told how the
French quickly adapted themselves to the Indians' customs, learned
their languages and used their metaphors, and thereby gained the
friendship and consequently the trade of the Indians, especially the
Western tribes. The English despised the Indians and their ways, and
the record of the English intercourse is mainly that of misfortune and
disaster. Different indeed the relations of the Germans and the Dutch,
for these people were signally successful in dealing with the Indians,
because they were honest and because they, too, mastered the Indian
tongues and idioms and entered fully into the spirit of their language.
Hence there came a day when the Pennsylvania authorities needed an
ambassador among the Indians of the province and the neighboring
province of New York. They sought and found him in a German from the
Palatinate who had lived among the Mohawks. For a score of years
this tactful emigrant was the champion of the English among the Indians
with whom the Pennsylvania authorities had to deal. This was Conrad
Weiser. No other excelled Weiser ; none more dependable. He enlarged
the trade facilities of the Province, and the traders of Virginia and Mary-
land took note of his skill and iinesse and profited accordingly. Weiser
ever strove against the encroachments of the French and was most
loyal to the interests of the English.

When Weiser first came into the service of Penn's Colony, a radical
change was taking place. The Delaware tribes had lost their former
prestige and the powerful Six Nations — ^the Six United Nations, they
called themselves — ^were claiming more and more the attention of the
Pennsylvania authorities. From the first dealings with Pennsylvania
Indians by William Penn the rule had been placation. A broad belt of
purchased land had been kept between the frontier settlements and the
Indians' eastern claims. Penn's heirs were indifferent in this matter
and misunderstandings arose between the Indians and the settlers and
between the proprietaries and the governors of their appointment, and
the records of the time are depressing with tales of trouble. One of
these governors. Sir William Keith, learned while at Albany of the
sufferings of the Germans in the Schoharie Valley, and sympathizing
with them, offered them a home in Pennsylvania where they could have
clear titles and hold their land free of Indian claims. Many came, led

Digitized by



by John Conrad Weiser, father of Conrad; cutting their way through
the forests to the headwaters of the Susquehanna and then finding
navigable streams, finally locating in the Tulpehocken Valley, now in
Berks county. Of course their settlements made trouble with the
Indians almost immediately, for these settlers were not free from Indian
claims. A decade almost passed before the controversy was settled,
when the purchase of 1732 quieted matters for five years until the walking
purchase made the great trouble with the Delawares.^

The immigration of these Schoharie Germans gave the first notice
to the Six Nations that the Pennsylvania lands of the Delawares, their
vassals, were valuable, and immediately the Confederacy denied the right
of the Delawares to sell lands in Pennsylvania. With great skill and
vigor the Six Nations pressed their own claims, and there was no deny-
ing them by the Penns and their agents and authorities. The Six
Nations had quickly learned that the English and French were rival
nations and claimants for the vast areas each intended for colonization.
The Iroquois foresaw that their Confederacy, skillfully used, could be
made the balance of power between the warring European powers. We
are concerned in this history only because the Penns claimed and ulti-
mately obtained the region about Pittsburgh, of which the present history
is written, and because it brings to our notice the career of Conrad
Weiser, and the value of his services and the story of his mission to
the Indians on the Ohio at a critical time. Though Weiser did not come
to Pennsylvania with his father's people, he followed with his own family
nine years later, and thenceforth was a Pennsylvanian. Two years
afterward his public life began, and he had little rest thereafter. His
life was one of exceeding hardship and that he did not attain an extreme
age is not strange. Weiser's close relations with the gjeat Iroquois
sachem, Shikellimy, overlord, or vicegerent of the Six Nations at Sha-
mokin, were such as to become exceedingly valuable to the Pennsylvania

Our Pennsylvania historian, Isaac D. Rupp, has given us a brief
biography of Weiser:

Conrad Weiser, whose name is intimately associated with the early history of Penn-
sylvania, and from whom descended some of the most useful men of the country (the
Muhlenbergs), was a native of Herrenberg, Germany. He was bom November 2, 1696.
His father, John Conrad Weiser, with ten of his children, immigrated to America,
arrived at New York in June, 1710, and shortly afterwards settled in Schoharie, where
he was repeatedly visited by Quagnant, a chief of the Mohawk Nation. At the urgent
solicitation of Quagnant, young G>nrad went with the chief to his country to acquire
knowledge of the Mohawk language. During his stay he endured many hardships and
suffered great privations. Having mastered the language he returned to his father's
house and was occasionally employed as interpreter. In 1729, then married, he came
with his wife and five children to Pennsylvania, settled in the Tulpehocken Valley,
located half a mile east of the present site of Womelsdorf, Berks county.

i"Penna, Archives ;" First Series, Vol. I, pp. 344-347-

Digitized by



Conrad Weiser, as occasion demanded it, acted in various capacities, both private and
public. Determmed, on his arrival in Pennsylvania, to spend the remaining days of his
eventful life on his farm, his talents, however, soon attracted attention. Governor Gor-
don as early as 1731 required his services in the capacity oi an interpreter. Soon after-
wards Governor Thomas appointed him justice of the peace, and when the French War
commenced. Governor Morris conmiissioned him as colonel of a regiment of volunteers
of Berks county. He spent more than a quarter of a century in the service of his coun-
try. He closed his eventful life July 13, 1760.2

However, since Rupp's day a competent biographer of Weiser has
appeared in Joseph S. Walton, his extensive work suggested by Dr.
Nathan C. Schaeffer, long superintendent of public schools of Pennsyl-
vania. From this biography it is possible to obtain readily additional
details of Weiser^s public career, whose skill in guiding and controlling
the Indian policy of Pennsylvania postponed the threatened rupture
with the Six Nations and gave the English colonies time for prepara-
tion for the inevitable war with the French.

Some additional facts pertinent to Weiser's biography, are obtained
from Walton's book.* When young Conrad went to live with Quag^ant,
the Mohawk, he did so at his father's request. Conrad's own story is
that he endured great cold and hunger in his situation, but after eight
months returned to his father's house. He did good service by acting
as interpreter between the Dutch and the Iroquois. There was plenty
of this work, but no recompense. Perhaps Conrad was a stubborn boy ;

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 24 of 81)