Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 145 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 145 of 193)
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from which lie is said in that time never to have re-
moved himself a distance of more than fifty miles.
He was married more than sixty years, and had seven
children. His sons Shepard, Yates T., John, and
George settled and died in Luzerne. One of his
daughters married Judge William Ewing, another An-
' drew Porter, and the third John Arnold. With his
brother, Capt. William, he rests now in the old Con-
well burying-ground upon the George Conwell farm,
j -where lie also numerous others of the same name.
Jehu Conwell was not only a farmer, but a nianu-
fiicturer and miller. He built a log grist-mill upon
Big Run, which was certainly the first grist-mill in
the township, and, according to some authorities, the
first in the county.^ A half-bushel measure, made

~ Clark Breading, of Unioiitown, siiys Jehu Conwell fold liiin he con-
structed the mill the year after he came to the township. It was us d
simply fur pounding corn. A flutter-wheel was the niolive-power fur a
great sw.eii, tj wlii.'li a lijuiijer was attached Tlic luurtal «u» a rock



of mulberry wood and used in the mill when the
latter was first erected, is yet in the possession of
George W. Conwell. Jehu built also a distillery at
the same place, and as the business transacted there
assumed an appearance of extraordinary briskness,
while it attracted many patrons, the locality was
given the name of Frogtown, and by that name was
known for many years.

About the time of the coming of Jehu and William
Conwell there came also to Luzerne Aaron Hackney,
grandfather of Aaron Hackney, now of Luzerne. He
settled in the Conwell neighborhood, but, like the
Conwells and other early settlers, was soon compelled
to vacate his new home by the threatening danger of
Indian aggressions. He returned to his former home '
in Virginia, but came again to Luzerne after an ab-
sence of about two years, and remained there ever
after until his death in 1807. His sons were George,
Joseph, John, Jehu, and Aaron. George, Joseph,
and Jehu died in Luzerne, John moved to Menallen,
and Aaron to Mercer County.

Richard Aschraft, a Revolutionary spy and scout,
claimed also to be a settler and land-owner upon the
Monongahela, just above Heaton's mill, nearly oppo-
site the mouth of Ten-Mile Creek. He was liviiin'
there about, and perhaps before, 17(57, and likely
enough was simply a hunter, scout, and trader, with-
out any ambition in the direction of a husbandman's
vocation except to raise what little he needed for
home consumption. From the record of the procee 1-
ings of the West Virginia Historical Society in 1871
is taken the following copy of an affidavit made by
Richard Ashcraft and Thomas Carr before James
Chew, July 19, 1777 :

" Richard Ashcraft and Thomas Carr, two of the
spies, came before James Chew, nnv nf tlir ihiL'is-
trates for Monongahalia County, ami iiiadr ciatli lli;it
on Thursday evening, the 17th inst., thc-y di^nivireil
on the head-waters of Buffiiloe creek (tracks) which to
the best of their knowledge appeared to be them of
the enemy, and that from the sign of the said tracks
their number might be seven or eight, that the said
tracks were making toward the Mnnongalialia river,
and appeared to be gone the said day."

The land tract on the river known as " The Bone
of Contention" is thus alluded to by Veech :



" The land just above Bridgeport,
-some three or four hundred iicres, >yivs in early time the subject
of long and angry controversies— from 170!) to 17S5— between
adverse cbiimants under military permits. It was well nami.-d
in the official survey (which one of the parties procured of it
under a Pennsylvania location) 'Bone of Contention.' One
Angus McDonald claimed it, or p:irt of it, under a military
permit from Col. Bouquet, dated April 26. 1763, and a settle-
ment on it. In March, 17711, he sold his cbim to Capt. Luke
Collins, describing the land as • at a place called Fort Burd, to

include the field cleared by me where the saw-pit was, above
the mouth of Dcliip's Creclt.' Collins convoyed it to .Michael
Cresap (of Logan .speech celebri(y) on the l.'Uh of April, 1772,
'at half-past nine in the morning,' describing it as situate be-
tween ' Point Lookout and John Martin's land,' recently owned,
we believe, by the late Mrs. John T. Krepps. Cresap's execu-
tors, in June, 17S1, conveyed to one William Schooly, an old
Brownsville mcrcliant, who conveyed to Kces Cadwalladcr. The
adverse claimants were Henry Shryock and William Shearer,
assignees of George Andrew. Their claim readied farther
southward towards the creek, and farther up the river, covering
the John Martin land. They fold out to Robert Adams and
Thomas Shain. Although they had the oldest ;)crmp( (in 1762),
their title seems to have been overcome by the settlement and
official location and survey of their adversary. One Robert Thorn
seems also to have been a claimant of part of the land, but
Collins bought him out. This protracted controversy involved
many curious questions, and called up many ancient recollec-
tions. No doubt the visit to this locality of Mr. Deputy Sheriff
Woods of Ecilf.rd in 1771 was parcel of thi^ controversy. Many
of tliescearlviliiiins "( r.' I'.-t or forfeited by neglect to «c/(/e the

land acconlm- t m. iiii.l thus were supplanted by other.«.

They wevc v.^lu,- I l.v iliri,- owners at a very low mark, an 1 often
sold for triilin,' humi.."

The Crawford settlemen

1 ..llr rr-|,ort. It Was tl




lords I'.Tiv, -oath of lock No. .3. The heads of the
('lawlonl laiiiilies were James and Josiah, who came
tni;,ih.i In. Ill Maryland to Fayette County in 1770
or 1771, and Ixjiiglit about sixteen hundred acres on
the Monoiigaliela, in Luzerne. James Crawford built
his cabin a little below Fredericktown, on the bank
of the stream, and not long after established a ferry
there. Before that ferry was established, Josiah Craw-
ford, his brother, who had settled near the river upon
the place now occupied by Josepli Crawford, south of
lock No. 5, had put a ferry on at that point. That was
probably the pioneer ferry on the Monongahela along
the Luzerne line. Illustrative of the wild character
of the country when he founded his settlement, James
Crawford said that when he and his brother Josiah
came out on tlieir land-prospecting tour, they found
houses so scarce they had to sleep in the woods at
night with the snow knee-deep all about them, and
that when he (James) put up his cabin it was the
only house between the river at that point and Union-
town. The log house that James Crawford built at
the river is still standing, and is said to be in good
preservation despite the fact that scarcely any repairs
have been put upon it. The weather-boards with
which he inclosed it he got out by hand upon his
place with the aid of his slaves, of whom he had sev-
eral. James and Josiah Crawford were known to the
Indians as Quakers and friends to William Penn.
For this, it is said, the savages not only did not mo-
lest them, but took frequent occasion to show an ex-
ceedingly friendly disposition. Once the Indians
gave James and his family a severe fright. A party
of them came down the river one evening and put up



for the night upon James' place. In the morning they
said to the old gentleman that they had determined
to take one of his children with them, and to empha-
size their remarks with an apparent threat showed
him some scalps. The old man pretended that he
wasn't much frightened, and in that fiction was helped
along by his good wife, who knew as well as did her
husband the value of a strong policy of conciliation
toward the redskins, and thus they acquiesced in the
taking of the child, while in response to the Indian de-
mand that he (James) too should accompany them
apparent willing resignation was yielded. To the un-
speakable relief of the Craui'ords the Indians in-
formed them, laughingly, that neither child nor old
man should be taken, and that the project was simply
put forward by way of a joke. Joke as it was, the
Crawfords did not for many a day forget the terror it
had brought upon them.

In the course of time James Crawford concluded to
go still farther west, and dividing the bulk of his
property among his children, moved to Ohio and set-
tled upon land now occupied by the city of Chilli-
cothe, where he died. His sons were John, Ejihraim,
"William, and Joseph, all of whom died in Luzerne.
John and William lived to reach the age of ninety-
six. Josiah (brother of James Crawford), who died
in Luzerne at the age of eighty, had seven sons, named
James, Josiah, Jr., Benedict, Elijah, Levi, Ephraim,
and Abel. Benedict was killed on the river by the
Indians; Elijah, Ephraim, and Levi died in Luzerne;
the rest removed out of the township. There are
still among the residents of Luzerne many bearing
the name of Crawford. Of these the oldest represen-
tatives are William, aged eighty-two; Joseph, eighty-
three; Ephraim, seventy-five; and George, seventy.

The ferries established by James and Josiah Craw-
ford were maintained for many years by some mem-
ber of the family, and before the great volume of
traffic between the East and West was diverted to the
National road they were kejit busy night and day
transporting passengers, live-stock, and freight that
at one time moved throui;h that region. There was
at a very early (hiy a Julm Crawford at what is now
known as Jaeolis' Ferry, wliere he had a ferry. He
was not of the other < 'lawl'iir^l f^miily, but belonged,
it is believed, to the Crawfurds of Greene County.
He disappeared from Luzerne history, and gave place
at the ferry to Jeremiah Davidson, wlio came from
Mercer County before IsOll, and continued the ferry
established by John Crawford. Davidson must have
been in the rivrr leuion during tlie time of Indian
troubles, for recollection- of liini and his time men-
tion the circumstance ollii; ^w-i^iinu ;il tlie organiza-
tion of a party of settloi - \i|iM \\,.nl oui n|.on an ex-
pedition that had foi- it> 'il.jr.-t iel:i!i:iiion upon a
band of savage> who hjd liron comniitting depreda-
tions. D;ivid-onV lir-t lerry-ljoat is said to have been
a dug-out, whicli he soon 'reidaced with a flat-boat.
Besides being a ferrvman and farmer, he was also a

boat-builder, and constructed barges for himself as
I well as for others. Not infrequently he would jour-
ney down the river in one of his barges on trading
expeditions, and thus became a pretty well known
character. The ferry he maintained until his death,
about 1850.

The old Davidson property is now owned by Adam
Jacobs, of Brownsville, who in 1862 bought and
j took possession thereof. His land embraces two
tracts, patented respectively by John Crawford and
Samuel Stokely. The Stokely farm was called " The
Cave," by reason, it is said, of the fact that early
explorations noted the presence thereon of a cave,
but what sort of a cave, what its dimensions, or even
its' locality are to-day unknown, since not one of the
many later searchers has been able to locate it. Capt.
Jacobs has about one thousand acres of land near
the river, and has at the ferry a summer residence,
store, grist-mill, boat-yard, etc. At his boat-yard he
has built four steamboats and numerous 'barges.
: During 1881 he employed a large force of men -in the
boat-yard upon steamboats and barges already con-
tracted for. Upon the hill overlooking the river
Capt. Jacobs has sunk a shaft running perpendicu-
larly down one hundred feet, and four hundred and
sixty feet along a slope. At that depth he lias found
the "nine-foot Pittsburgh vein," and intends de-
! veloping the coal interests of that region. A branch
j wire of the Western Union Telegraph Line from
Brownsville to Davidson's Ferry connects the latter
place with Jacobs' Ferry. East Kiverside post-ofBce
was established at Jacobs' Ferry in 1864. The first
postmaster was Adam Jacobs, Jr. The second and
lu-esent one is John N. Jacobs.

Another early ferry was the one established by
I David Davidson, where his son David has maintained
1 a ferry for many years. At this place a steam ferry-
boat was once put on, but business did not warrant
! its retention. There was another ferry at Rice's
Landing, and still another at Millsboro', which latter
j was owned by Henry Heaton and Eezin Virgin.
Below were the Crawford ferries, already spoken of.

In 1772, Andrew Frazer built a fine log house on
the present W. S. Craft place, and placed high up oi
the chimney the mark "A F 1772." A lock weigh
ing eleven and a half pounds secured the door, and
is still held as a relic by his descendants in Cincin-
nati. Some of the apple-trees planted by Mr. Frazer
about the time of his settlement are still bearing.
Mr. Frazer died in 1800.

Eobert Baird, Sr., was the eldest son of Moses Baird,
Sr., of New Jersey, and was born in the year 17
He came to this county first in the year 1777, a young
man, and bought the lands in the southeastern part-
of what is now Luzerne township, and southwestern
part of Redstone township, now owned by Jei'emiahi
Baird, heirs of L^riah Higinbotham, Samuel M. Baird,
and others, in all .six hundred acres or more. He re-
turned to New Jersey, married a Miss Elizabeth;




Keeves, and came back with liis young bride, bring-
ing their household goods on horseback over three
hundred miles. They had a good cabin near a large
spring, amidst the almost wilderness of sugar,
black walnut, oak, etc. He was an energetic man,
and soon had several acres cleared. His brothers and
sisters came after a few years, and a family by the
name of Frame, who settled on the next farms south.
His brothers, John, Moses, and James, soon married,
and moved to Ohio, as did also his younger sister.
Moses was the father of Mrs. James Ewing, of Union-
town, Pa. His sisters Jane and Margaret married
Charles and John Porter, of this county. The former
was associate judge for many years.

Robert Baird, Sr., and his wife were very industrious
and frugal, and raised a family of four sons and four
daughters, all of whom married and raised large fam-
ilies. He was a man of true Christian merit, and
stood among the best of men in his day. His wife's
brothers, Manassah and Michael Reeves, came to
Western Pennsylvania soon after, and settled near
to where Belle Vernon, Pa., now stands. Some of
their descendants are in that section yet.

Mrs. Elizabeth Baird died in 1826, and Robert, Sr.,
married for his second wife Mrs. Sarah McClelland,
of Greene County, Pa. He lived until Oct. 5, 1835.
His oldest son, Alexander, inherited that part where
the widow Uriah Higinbotham now lives and where
Samuel M. Baird lives ; his second son, Aaron, the
part where Mr. Grove now lives ; and his son Moses,
where Jeremiah P. Baird now lives. His youngest
son. Rev. Rofcert Baird, D.D., was educated at Jelier- -
son College, Pa., and at Princeton, N. J., where he j
married Miss Fermine O. A. DeBoisson. Dr. Baird i
was for a long time corresponding secretary of " The
Foreign Christian Alliance," diirins: whicli time he
crossed the ocean fourteen times and visiteil eighteen
different crowned heads. He cduld converse in many j
languages, and was the author of several works. His j
" Travels in Northern Europe," " Religion in Amer- j
ica" (written in French and afterwards translated i
into English), with many smaller works, live after
him. He died iu 1861, leaving a wife (who died a
year afterwards) and four sons, — Rev. C. W. Baird,
D.D., of Rye, N. Y. ; Rev. H. M. Baird, D.D., Pro-
fessor of Greek in the New York University ; Judge
E. P. Baird, of New York City; and William W.
Baird, Esq., of the same place. Among the descend-
ants of Robert Baird, Sr., now living there are six
ministers of the gospel, five ruling elders of the
church, and many that are useful mechanics and

Shortly after Robert Baird, Sr., settled iu Fayette
County, Pa., a family by the name of Morgan settled
near where Morgantown, W. Va., now stands. The
Indians were troublesome; the men who cleared the
lands had to keep their guns with them or near at
hand in the fields. On one occasion the elder son of
the Morgans went away on business, and when he

returned he found their house burned, and his fatiier,
mother, one brother and sister mnrilered by the In-
dians. He stood terror-stricken. Two of the younger
children, a boy and girl, had run away and hidden
themselves. John Morgan, then and there, took an
oath that he would kill every Indian he ever set eyes
on. Several years after this, during which time he
did kill many a redskin, he went to Baltimore for
salt with his pack-horses. In the city one day he saw
a small crowd of men and boys who were having
fun over something; as he looked in among them
he saw an Indian cutting pranks. Capt. Jack Mor-
gan turned pale as he started away, and remembering
his oath he turned, went back, pushed into the crowd,
and with his knife stabbed the Indian to the heart
and walked away. Of course he was remanded to
jail for trial for murder. His attorney heard his
story, his oath, etc., then asked if he had no friend
that could testify to these things. He said Robert
Baird, of Western Pennsylvania, could. So Baird was
sent for, and when he heard of Capt. Jack's bad luck
went to him in time to give testimony before the
court and jury that tried the case. After the hearing
the jury returned a verdict of not {juilli/. Capt.
Morgan and Mr. Baird came home together, witli
their train of pack-horses laden with salt, etc. They
were fast friends.

Mr. Baird's treatment of his youngest son, Robert,
Jr., showed his wisdom and judgment in planning
the future of his boy. The parents desired very
much to educate their youngest son, whom they had
so often prayed God to call into the ministry, so they
toiled hard to get means and clothing (home-made at
that) to send him to school. There a grammar
school at Uniontown, Pa. (twelve miles away), taught
by a Mr. Gilbert. When the spring of the year came
they took Robert, Jr., to the school, arranged for his
board and tuition for six months, by which time he
could enter college. Robert stayed a few weeks, when
he packed up and walked home. It wa-s near noon
when he arrived. His mother soon learned with
sorrow that he did not want to stay at school. His
father came in from work, found his boy there, and
learning his dislike to books, etc., or rather staying
from home, he said, " Well, Robert, get a mattock,
and come with me after dinner down to the thicket
and help grub." Here they toiled for several days
beneath a hot sun. Robert's hands blistered, — the
thorny wild plum was hard to grub, — but still his
father did not say a word about a change of work.
About ten o'clock, the fourth or fifth day, Robert,
Jr., said, " Father, I'll go to school and stay." " Well,
my son," said his father, "if you are determined to
do so you can go, otherwise this thicket must be
cleared." " I'll daij." Young Baird went. At the
end of six months he entered college, and graduated
with honors and became one of the great men of

Robert Baird, Jr., greatlv attached to the cause



of religion and education; gave a great deal to the
support of the church and schools and colleges. He
was a ruling elder in the Dunlap's Creek Presby-
terian Church more than forty years.

None of his children are living now. When his
youngest son, Robert, Jr., brought home his wife, a
few days after their marriage, according to the cus-
tom of those days, there must be a gathering of
friends and a dinner. The old father had invited all
his children and grandchildren to be present at the
old mansion, Oct. 14, 1824, to take part in the festive
occasion. They were nW present : his three sons and |
four daughters, with their children, making in all [
forty-flve persons, besides the bride and groom and i
the family. After dinner Rev. Robert Baird, .Tr.,
made a short address to the vhuhl: loll;-;. And the
old grandfather handed each grandrhiM. tliiily-eiLrht
in number, a copy of the New Testament, bound in i
calf, saying, "My dear grandchildren, this is a small i
gift, but a very precious one. Make it the guide of '
your lives." Many of these are yet in the families of
those grandrliildn'n.

In Seiitciiiber. 1S70, the Bairds held a centennial '
gathering at the old home, in memory of the first set-
tling of old grandfather Robert Baird, Sr., on these
lands. There were present thirty-eight representatives,
a singular coincidence. There are now living descend-
ants in Fayette County of the family of Alexander
Baird, one ; of Aaron Baird, six ; of Moses Baird,
two; of Elizabeth, who became the wife of Randolph \
Dearth, one. The rest are scattered in the West I
and South. [

Lewis and .John Deem came to Luzerne among the
earliest settlers, and located a tract of four hundred
and fitly acTos, wliicli include now the farms of James j
Cunnin-liani, I. X. Craft, and John Acklin. Lewis I
built a In- cabin iqn.ii the present Craft place in l
1777. John j.ut up his cabin on the Acklin farm, i
The portion now owned by James Cunningham was
bought of the Deems by Eber Horaan. A part of the
house built by Hninan in 17.'^0 still serves as a por-
tion of the ic-i.lcnc ol' .laiMc^ ('unningliain, and, as
far as appearance- -.., i- yd >tanch and tight. Eber
Homan si't u]> a Macksniith's shop on the Cunning-
ham place, and employed also a hand-mill for grind-
ing corn, not (inly for himself, but for many of his
neighbors, who were glad of even that primitive
kind of a mill. Grated corn was a common and !
sometimes exclusive diet with some people, simply
because they were too poor to buy anything else.
Instances are given of how farmers, preliminary to
harvestin,g, finding themselves unable to purchase
bread, would cut unripe wheat, dry it and take it to
mill, so that bread might be |irovided to feed the har-
vesters at their comitig to gather the crop.

In the list of Luzerne's pioneers — a list of some
magnitude — may be recorded the names of James
and William Dearth, the Vernons, Acklins, Ewings,
Samuel Durnell, John Patterson, Joseph Ritchie,

John Denny, John McConnell, John Wanee, Swethen
Chandler, Charles and John Stewart, Job Briggs, and
the Thorntons. Samuel Durnell was a Chester County
shoemaker, and about the year 1800 located in Lu-
zerne upon a place now owned by AVilliam Roberts,
where he resumed his trade of shoemaking. He
bought a farm later, and in 1819 he sold it, intending
to remove to Ohio. While making his preparations
for the journey he was taken ill and died.

John Wallace, of Chester County, migrated to Lu-
zerne with hjs family, and settled on the river hill
near Jacobs' Ferry. Of his two sons, Robert moved
to Washington County; William settled in Ohio, re-
turned to Luzerne, and died in the township. The
only member of John Wallace's family living is the
widow of Aaron Baird, now residing in Merrittstown.

Hugh Gilmore, a settler in German township about
1780, built a grist-mill and saw-mill on Redstone
Creek, in Redstone township, and gave the charge
thereof to his sons, James and Hugh Jr., who lived
over the creek in Luzerne. James and Hugh Jr.
died in Merrittstown. Three brothers named Dearth
came in before 1780, but only two, James and Wil-
liam, made actual settlements. The third brother
was a great hunter, and devoted himself almost con-
stantly to the sports of the chase. As civilization
advanced and cleared the forests he kept in the ad-
vance, and still clinging to his nomadic life among
the wilds, pushed on westward as the pioneer's axe
opened the way for the march of progress, and so
kept on toward the setting sun a hunter and a roamer
to the last. He died somewhere in the far West.

William Ewing, who married one of Jehu Con-
well's daughters, lived on the J. W. Conwell place,
and operated for some years the distillery started by
Jehu Conwell. He was father of Nathaniel Ewing,
who served the county as president judge. William
Miller was on the present William Miller place (lo-
cated by Amos Hough in 1784) in 1800, where he died
in 1822. Samuel Hurford, one of his farm-hands,
married his daughter Margaret, and died in the town-
ship in 1842. David Jamison, from Delaware, and
afterwards of Washington County, settled in 1804,
in Luzerne, near the river, upon land now occupied
by A. G. and J. R. Jamison. There were one hun-

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 145 of 193)