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

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the consent of the Penns as a safeguard against the mutual enemy of both
colonies, the French. Dinwiddie had sent Washington to the French
forts in 1753, a futile mission it turned out. It must have amused the
redoubtable and gentlemanly Legardeur de St. Pierre, the French com-
mander, when he considered the presumptions of Dinwiddie. At any
rate St. Pierre evidently had a quiet little laugh in the interior of his
sleeve, and was fully justified in giving old Robert Dinwiddie, the rapa-
cious grouch at Williamsburg, Virginia, a raucus one, bordering on the
horse variety. And all the time the Penns sighed, and Dinwiddie swore,
and his fort was not built. Thomas Penn, wise man, stipulated that if
this fort was built it must be without prejudice to his claim if the site be
found within the Pennsylvania limits. The Penns claimed that the Forks
were six miles within her grant. In the ultimate settlement of the bound-
ary line they got much more; what the map of Pennsylvania shows.
However, by consent of the Penns, Dinwiddie sent Captain Trent and his
company to build the fort at the Forks, the Point, we call it.

iSee Chapter XIII herein, and "Gist's Journals f Darlingtoa, pp. 224, et seq.



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VIRGINIA ASSUMES JURISDICTION 547

Ensign Edward Ward, left in command by Trent, was in charge at
the fort. Contrecoeur and his flotilla came down the Allegheny river and
April 17, 1754, summoned Ward to surrender. Resistance was useless.
Ward had but forty-one men, Contrecoeur hundreds. Contrecoeur built
Fort Duquesne. The French jurisdiction began. Bloody deeds followed
for over four years. Braddock came, Major Grant came, and both met
defeat. Forbes came, and Bouquet; Duquesne vanished, Pitt arose. A
larger and better fort in 1759 succeeded the first Fort Pitt and Pittsburgh
began. It was still unsettled whether the town belonged to Virginia or
to the Penns. In October, 1772, General Thomas Gage, of Boston Revolu-
tionary fame, commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America,
who had been under Braddock in 1755 and in the battle where his chief
lost his life, ordered the demolition of Fort Pitt. To that end Major
Charles Edmondstone (not Edmonson, or Edmund Stone, as some his-
tories name him) was in command, and sold the fort, all the pickets,
brick, timber and iron in the buildings, the walls and redoubts, to Alex-
ander Ross and William Thompson for £50, New York currency. The
work is estimated to have cost the British government £60,000. It was
a formidable and well constructed fortress. Judge H. H. Brackenridge,
in the first number of the "Pittsburgh Gazette," July 29, 1786, in writing
of the fort, places this estimate upon the cost of the fort. Other his-
torians think the amount excessive and that a typographical error in-
creased the amount from £6,000.. Building forts in the wilderness
necessarily was expensive work. The bricks were made on the ground ;
the timber cut nearby and it is difficult to see how upwards of $250,000
could have been expended in construction. The fort, which was designed
to secure British empire forever on the Ohio, was within thirteen years
ordered to be abandoned, Craig remarks. However, the fort was not
destroyed, though abandoned. Some of the material of the fort was used
to erect houses in the town before the sale was set aside. In 1772 a cor-
poral and three men only had been left in charge. In 1773 Richard
Penn advised that a small garrison be left in the fort as a protection
from the Indians. As early as 1770 the Virginia authorities beg^'n to
interest themselves in the colony on the Ohio, and settlers came into the
region. In 1773, the Penns petitioned the king to settle the boundary
dispute, but Dunmore denied their rights and declared a large tract
of land some fifty miles within Pennsylvania territory to be under his
control. Dunmore's pliant tool, John Connolly, came, settlers were
granted land by Virginia and many petty feuds ensued between settlers
claiming rights from both parties. There were stirring times in embryo
Pittsburgh in the two years preceding the Revolution. The year 1774
especially was one of much movement here. In that year the citizens of
the colonies engaged in war with the Indians for the last time as sub-
jects of Great Britain and under the command of British officers and this
was distinctly a Virginia war. In that year Lord Dunmore passed
through Pittsburgh on his way down the Ohio to cooperate with General
Andrew Lewis in an attack upon the Ohio Indians. In that year the
massacre of Logan's family took place at what was then known as



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548 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

Baker's Bottom on the Ohio at the mouth of Yellow creek. In that year,
also, the celebrated speech of Logan was delivered to Dunmore by Colo-
nel John Gibson at the camp near Chillicothe, Ohio. In 1774 the bound-
ary controversy came to maturity and almost glided into civil war. The
obnoxious Connolly, partisan and factotum of Dunmore, came to Pitts-
burgh early in 1774. He had ample authority from Dunmore. Some-
times we find Connolly mentioned as "major," more often as "Dr." Con-
nolly. On his arrival he took possession of Fort Pitt, then partly dis-
mantled. He changed its name to Fort Dunmore. He called the militia
together by proclamation, naming January 25, 1774, as the date of assem-
bling. In Pennsylvania the Pittsburgh section was included in West-
moreland county, the county seat at Hannastown, its site about four
miles north of Greensburg, which had not yet arisen.

Arthur St. Clair, a Westmoreland county magistrate under appoint-
ment of the Governor of Pennsylvania, issued a warrant for Connolly's
arrest and put him in jail at Hannastown. Hannastown was a mere
frontier hamlet of rude log houses. It was utterly destroyed by the
Indians July 13, 1782. Connolly was released on bail, and proceeded to
Staunton, Virginia, the county seat of Augusta county, and still the seat
of what has been left of the origfinal county. Connolly had himself sworn
in as a justice of the peace of the county which, it was alleged, embraced
the country around Pittsburgh. In the latter part of March he returned
here with both civil and military authority to put the laws of Virginia in
force.

Court met at Hannastown on April 5. A few days later Connolly,
with 150 armed partisans with colors flying, appeared there and placed
guards about the court house. These guards refused to admit the Penn-
sylvania magistrates without orders from Connolly. Meeting the magis-
trates, Connolly denied the authority of the court, even the right of the
magistrates to hold a court. On the contrary the magistrates insisted
that their authority rested on the legislative authority of Pennsylvania;
that it had been exercised in a regular manner, that they would continue
to exercise it in the same way, and that they would do all in their power
to preserve public tranquility. They gave assurances that Pennsylvania
would use every exertion to accommodate the differences by fixing a
temporary boundary until the true one could be ascertained. But Con-
nolly was not satisfied and refused assent to the sensible offer of the
Pennsylvania magistrates.

On April 8 iEneas Mackay, Devereux Smith and Andrew McFarlane
returned from the court to Pittsburgh. All three were Pennsylvania
justices, and all resided in Pittsburgh. On the following day they were
arrested by Connolly's sheriff and, refusing to give bail, were sent under
guard to Staunton. After a day's travel Mackay got permission to go
to Williamsburg and proceeded there and consulted with Dunmore.
Mackay came to Staunton after inducing his lordship to write a letter
requesting the sheriff to set the three prisoners at liberty and permit
them to return home. Dunmore stated he would be answerable for the
appearance of Mackay, Smith and McFarlane in case it should be re-



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VIRGINIA ASSUMES JURISDICTION 549

quired. Mackay wrote Governor Penn from Staunton on May 5, detail-
ing all the circumstances of their case and the fact that they were at
liberty and about to return home. Penn had received the news on April
19. On April 21, at a meeting of the Provincial Council, it was de-
termined to send two commissioners to Virginia to prevent the ill conse-
quences sure to ensue if an immediate stop were not put to the disorders
about Fort Pitt. The commissioners appointed were James Tilghman
and Andrew Allen. They were to consult upon the best means for estab-
lishing peace and good order hereabouts. They were to ask Virginia to
unite with the proprietaries of Pennsylvania to petition the king to
appoint commissioners to run the boundary line, to agree to a temporary
line, but in no event to assent to any line which would give Virginia
jurisdiction of the country on the east side of the Monongahela river.

The Penns were honorable and just in this. Dunmore agreed to sub-
mit the controversy to the king and requested the commissioners to sub-
mit their proposition for a temporary line. This they did ; in brief a line
running five degrees westward from the courses of the Delaware, the
southern line starting at the mouth of Christiana creek on that river, to
follow Mason and Dixon's line and that line to be extended as far west
as might be needful. As the courses of the Delaware are curved to a
remarkable degree, the Penns' western temporary boundary line was a
zigzag line, but it left Pittsburgh well within their province. The perma-
nent line was to be settled by royal authority. Dunmore objected to
such an inconvenient line on the west. He wanted a meridian line at a
distance of five degrees from the Delaware from the forty-second degree
of latitude. This is the present northern boundary of Pennsylvania ex-
cept the Erie triangle. If we take the most eastern point on the Dela-
ware, Dunmore's proposal left Pittsburgh within Virginia territory.
Negotiations were soon broken off as useless. Dunmore became dis-
courteous and rude. He absolutely refused to relinquish Fort Pitt and
the surrounding territory in dispute until ordered to do so by the king.
In his correspondence he referred always to Fort Pitt, never once calling
it Dunmore. It was May 27 when the commissioners gave up their bad
job and started homeward. Though calling the fort Pitt, Dunmore had
nevertheless recognized the new name bestowed by Connolly.

In the meantime Connolly continued to domineer with a high hand at
Fort Pitt. In June, Mackay wrote a doleful letter to Governor Penn, in
strong language complaining: "The deplorable state of affairs in this
part of your government is truly distressing. We are robbed, insulted
and dragooned by Connolly and his militia in this place and its environs."
Connolly certainly made things hot for the adherents of the proprietaries,
Arthur St. Clair, Devereux Smith, Mnezs Mackay, Andrew McFarlane,
John Ormsby, Richard Butler, James O'Hara, Andrew Robinson, John
Irwin and others. Pittsburgh was included in the District of West
Augusta in the Virgfinia county of Augusta, later in the coimty of Yoho-
gania, the district including two other counties, Monongahela and Ohio,
which remained Virginia counties and are to-day counties in West Vir-
ginia, with Morgantown and Wheeling the county seats respectively.



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550 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

The District of West Augusta, as mapped by Boyd Crumrinc, included all
that part of Pennsylvania west of the Alleghenies south of the Indian
boundary line at Kittanning, and west of the Laurel HilL Yohogania
took in that part of West Augusta north of the mouth of Cross creek and
the point where the Laurel Hill crosses the south line of Pennsylvania.*

The conduct of Connolly was certainly oppressive. The colonies were
violently disturbed by the exactions of the crown, and the Revolution
was rapidly approaching.

The war begun by Dunmore was actually raging between the Vir-
ginians and the Indians and all the Pennsylvania border was in peril.
So great was the anxiety and distress of the Penn adherents that they at
one time contemplated leaving this place and removing to Kittanning,
which lay in another manor of the Penns. Another project was to raise
a stockade around the town of Pittsburgh, which then included the
ground which lies between Water street and Second avenue and Market
and Ferry streets. These projects were evidences of the acute state of
feeling here. The Earl of Dartmouth, one of the secretaries of state for
George the Third, wrote Dunmore and took him sharply to task. He
blamed Dunmore for the Indian troubles then existing and disavowed the
acts of Connolly, saying that he was informed that :

One Connolly, using your lordship's name and pleading your authority, has pre-
sumed to reestablish Fort Pitt at Pittsburgh, which had been demolished by the King's
express order. The facts asserted herein if not true, may be contradicted by your lord-
ship's authority, but if true, which I cannot suppose, such steps may be taken, as the
King's dignity and justice shall dictate.

September 17, 1774, Dunmore was in Pittsburgh, preparing for his
expedition against the Indians. He issued a proclamation claiming the
country hereabouts for Virginia and called on "All his majesty's sub-
jects West of the Laurel Hill to pay due respect to the proclamation,
prohibiting the execution of any act of authority on behalf of the province
of Pennsylvania at their peril ; but on the contrary, that due regard and
entire obedience be paid to the laws of his majesty's colony of Virginia."
On October 12, Governor Penn counter-proclaimed in a lengthy docu-
ment maintaining that his northern and western bounds were fully recog-
nized, and ended by calling on all persons west of Laurel Hill to retain
the settlements made under the province of Pennsylvania and to pay due
obedience to the laws of that province ; and charged all the magistrates
to proceed as usual in the administration of justice.

Connolly continued his high-handed proceedings. Twice with armed
forces he broke open the jail at Hannastown and released prisoners, the
first time two men under sentence of death.

By the summer of 1775 the conflict of authority culminated ; the power
of Dunmore and his agent was fast drawing to a close.

The shots heard around the world had hastened a new era, the era of
revolution. Dunmore, on June 8, went on board a British man-o'-war
and was soon joined by Connolly. This was in July. Connolly was sent

2**History of Washington County, Pa.," p. 183 ; "History of Augusta County, Va.."
Peyton, p. 176.



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VIRGINIA ASSUMES JURISDICTION 551

to Boston, an emissary to General Gage from Dunmore, and returned in
September. The continued conflict of authority and disorder at Pitts-
burgh attracted the attention of all patriotic citizens. In the first Conti-
nental Congress, which included Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and
Benjamin Franklin as members, a circular was agreed upon and sent to
the disputed region, urging the people to mutual forbearance. It recom-
mended that ''all bodies of armed men kept by either parties be dismissed
and that all on either side in confinement or on bail for taking part in
the contest be discharged.'*

There were no armed men maintained by Pennsylvania, and Craig
thinks that the expression "either party" was used to avoid the appear-
ance of invidiousness. Connolly and his men had taken effectual meas-
ures for the release of any Virginians in confinement.

Devereux Smith was particularly a victim of Connolly's vindictive-
ness. Old archives contain a long letter from Smith addressed to Dr.
William Smith under date June 10, 1774. He begins:

Sir— I returned to this place the iith of May, and found my family in the greatest
confusion owing to the appearance of an Indian war and the tyrannical treatment they
received from Dr. Connolly in my absence.

This was Dunmore's war and Smith had arrived home from Staunton,
where he had been taken a prisoner by Connolly's orders.

Smith recites various happenings in the Indian country, tells of
Logan's vengeance, referring to him as "a Mingo man, whose family had
been murdered;" tells of the outrageous conduct of Connolly's men in
entering Smith's house by armed forces and of the interposition of Wil-
liam Butler to save Smith's goods, of the blasphemous language of Con-
nolly and one of his captains, George Aston, who attempted to run the
muzzle of a guh into the face of - Eneas Mackay ; and that Aston would
have killed Smith had not bystanders prevented ; tells of pulling down
outbuildings of Smith's and Mackay's, and in fact relates all of the "dirty
work" as we say now of Connolly.

Smith says in one paragraph: "The inhabitants of the town are
busily employed in stoccading it round about ; yet we have no reason to
expect anything better than ruin and destruction." Dunmore's war bore
heavily upon the distressed inhabitants of Pittsburgh.

Under "Remarks on the Proceedings of Dr. Connolly," dated Pitts-
burgh, June 25, 1774, printed in Rupp's "History of Western Pennsyl-
vania and the West," and in Craig's "Olden Time," all the facts of Con-
nolly's wrongdoing are recorded, the preamble reading:*

The distressed inhabitants of this place have just cause to charge their present
calamity and dread of an Indian war entirely to the tyrannical and unprecedented con-
duct of Doctor John Connolly whose designs (as we conceive) is to better his almost
desperate circtunstances, upon the distress of the public, and the ruin of our fortunes
as will appear from the following facts :

These follow much as have been told above. These "remarks" were
sent by Devereux Smith with his letter, the line appearing after his sig-

•Former, App., pp. 215-219. "Olden Time;" Vol. I, pp. 499-502.



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552 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

nature, "The inhabitants of this country are petitioning Gov. Penn by
this opportunity." The "remarks" conclude : "These arc but few of the
many distresses we labor under, and without protection and speedy re-
dress, cannot long support ourselves under grievous persecution and
tyranny."

No relief came for over a year, as we have seen. The memorial to
Penn was sent and was unavailing.*

The following list of "persons well disposed to his majesty's govern-
ment living on the frontiers of Virginia in 1775, was furnished by Dun-
more and prepared by Connolly, George Croghan's name not appearing
in it:

Alexander McKee and James his brother; Alexander Ross, a Scotchman (estate
confiscated), John Campbell (proved to be a patriot), C^pt Cko. Aston (killed at Pitt
by Devereaux Smith in the summer of 1775), Lieut. William Christy, Lieut. Jacob
Bausman.

Indians — ^White Eyes, The White Mingo, Cornstalk, Guyasutta, John Montour and
Logan.

At Allegheny Mountains, Major William Crawford, Valentine his brother, John
Stephenson, half brother of the Crawfords, William Harrison, son-in-law of William
Crawford, Thomas Gist and brother.

Some of these men turned out staunch patriots, the Crawfords and
Gists notably. The parenthetic remarks are not Dunmore's. Valentine
Crawford wrote George Washington, June 24, 1775 :

Pennsylvanians came to Fort Pitt with their sheriff took Major Connolly about
midnight and carried him to Fort Ligonier. On Major Connolly being taken, the people
of Chartiers came in a company and seized three Pennsylvania magistrates who were
concerned in the taking of Connolly, George Wilson, Joseph Spear and Devereaux
Smith. They were sent in an old leaky boat down to Fort Fincastle (Wheeling) under
guard. Our court however had no hand in this. It was done by a mob of Connolly's
friends who live on Chartiers Creek.

Trouble was brewing, nevertheless Connolly was released. He left
Pittsburgh, July 25, started to visit Dunmore as mentioned above.

In the following November he was seized by the Maryland authorities
at Hagerstown and imprisoned at Frederick as an enemy to his country.
He remained a prisoner for several years.

George Croghan was accused of being a tory. He was really a neu-
tral. All his estates were confiscated and he died bankrupt at the close
of the Revolution, as detailed in the next chapter. The last Virginia
court for West Augusta in which Croghan took part as a magistrate was
held in Pittsburgh, November 21, 1775, for the examination of Devereux
Smith for the murder of Captain Aston. Smith was admitted to bail on
condition that he "appear at the next general court if he were able at that
time to attend from the situation of his wound and the state of his
health." Aston was the brutal officer complained of by Smith.

The inference is that Aston was killed in an affray and Smith was
wounded. The war coming on, it is probable that Smith was never tried.
Smith lived unmolested in Pittsburgh for years after the Revolution.



*In addition to above references see "History of Pittsburgh;" Craig, Edition 191 7,
Cliap. VI.



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VIRGINIA ASSUMES JURISDICTION 553

The statement has been frequently made that the boundary dispute was
bitter. It was characterized by much bitterness by the respective parti-
sans, especially on the part of the Virginia authorities. Not so on the
part of the Penns themselves. Their course was dignified and just
throughout. They relied on the merits of their claim and attempted
nothing by force of arms and coercion. Richard Penn, a younger brother
of John Penn, was lieutenant-governor, 1771-73, and John Penn from
August, 1773, until July, 1776, when independence was proclaimed.
These were sons of Richard Penn, who died in 1771, and grandsons of
William Penn. These two, with their uncle, Thomas Penn, were the
proprietaries of the province of Pennsylvania. Thomas Penn died in
London, March 21, 1775. Arthur St. Clair was the agent of the Penns in
Western Pennsylvania. He was also prothonotary, clerk and recorder
of Westmoreland county. With this mention, St. Clair, subsequently of
national fame, comes into the history of Pennsylvania, and with the
possible exception of Franklin has filled more pages than any of his con-
temporaries.

St. Clair was bom in Thurso, Caithness, Scotland, in 1734. It may
be noted he was the fourth from the land of Bruce to have extended
mention in Pittsburgh history — his predecessors, Braddock, Halket and
Forbes. St. Clair was the grandson of the Earl of R,oslyn and was well
born, and well educated at the University of Edinburgh. He studied
medicine, but having inherited a fortune from his mother he purchased
a commission as ensign in the 60th Regiment of Foot in 1757 ^ind came
to America with Admiral Boscowan's fleet. He served under Amherst
at Louisburg in 1758 and with Wolfe at Quebec the next year. He
resigned his commission in 1762 and coming to Pennsylvania in 1764
settled in the Ligonier Valley, then in Cumberland county ; next Bedford,
until 1773, when Westmoreland county was formed, in which this famous
valley has remained. St. Clair was an active pioneer in the region, own-
ing much land on which he erected a mill and an imposing residence for
the times. He was first made surveyor of the Cumberland county dis-
trict, next was a justice of the court of quarter sessions and common
pleas, a member of the Proprietary Council, and previous to the forma-
tion of Westmoreland county a justice of the peace and recorder and
clerk of the orphans' court in Bedford county. In July, 1775, he was
made colonel of militia, and in the fall of that year he accompanied as
secretary the commissioners that were appointed to treat with the west-
em tribes at Fort Pitt. He took the side of the colonies in the Revolu-
tion. He served through the whole war and rose to the rank of major-
general. He represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress from
1785 to 1787, and was president of that body when it passed the famous
ordinance of 1787, by which the Northwest Territory was organized. He
was governor of this territory from 1789 to 1802. In 1791 he commanded
the expedition against the Miami Indians, which ended so disastrously.
He was sick at the time and gave his orders on a litter; but public
opinion obliged him to resign his command. He returned to civil life
and became a farmer on his Westmoreland county land. After a long and



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554 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

distinguished public service, it was this good man's fate to live poor and
neglected for many years, and to die from an accident, having been
found insensible in the the road, evidently having been jolted from a



Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 78 of 81)