Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 146 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 146 of 193)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

dred and forty-seven acres in the tract that had been
warranted to Jonathan Arnold in October, 1785, at
which time also his son, Jonathan, Jr., located an
adjoining tract. In July, 1785, William Hammond
received a warrant for three hundred and fifty-two
acres upon which is now the Andrew Porter farm.

In 1784, Rezin Virgin located the lands now occu-
pied by Jacob Jamison and William Heller, the prop-
erty being known as " Perkins' Beauty." The Richard
Covert place was first settled by Kinsie Virgin, and
in 1792, John Lawrence located land west of William
Hammond. The Nelan property was warranted to
Thomas Gilpin, and called "Gilpin's Adventure;"
the William Hurford farm (known as Ulster) to



Thomas Lingan in 17S5. Daniel Goble and Tliomas
Goodin warranted lands in 1784 just west of Cox
Run, and Obed Garwood tracts near by in 1789 and
1792. Michael Cox received his warrant in 1786, and
James Williams his on June 30, 1796. John Covert,
who came to the river about 1800, lived there until
his death. William Horner and Nicholas Black
ranked among the old settlers on the river. Black
was one of William Hammond's slaves, received his
freedom because of his faithful service, turned basket-
maker, and in time earned money enough to buy a
fiirm, upon which his descendants are living at this

A deed dated Nov. 10, 1777, recites the transfer
from John Craig to Charles Porter of three hundred
acres (consideration £600), adjoining lands of John
McKibben, Robert Smith, Lewis Deem, and others.
Feb. 7, 1798, a tract called " Newery" (adjoining
Jonas Kitts) was patented by Robert Adams, and sold
by Adams to Alexander Nelan, July 8, 1799.

Before the outbreak of the Revolution James Cun-
ningham, of Chester County, Pa., came out to Wash-
ington County, and tomahawked a claim near the
present site of Washington borough, where there was
at that time but one house, and that a log cabin. Mr.
Cunningham put up a hut, did a little chopping, and
returned to Chester County to make ready for a re-
turn trip to his proposed new settlement, looking to a
permanent location thereon. He did come back that
fall, but found that his cabin was already occupied,
and although he hated to be beaten away from what
he considered his own by right, he concluded not only
to leave the interloper in peaceliil ]>iis>e>si(Pi], Imt tu
abandon utterly the projectofscliliiii; in llie Wi^Kiu
wilds, being urged to that conclusion, iiu diml.t, Ipv iIr-
conviction that the country looked a nille wiidcr and
more desolate than heat first thouL^lit ii diil. I^ubaek
he went to Chester County, bought a liinii, and pur-
sued a quiet and uneventlul existence until the tocsin
of war sounded, and then with four of his brothers,
living also in Chester County, he entered the service
in the Continental army. His brother John and a
William Ramsej were captured by the enemy and
confined in one of the abominable prison-ships into
which the English thrust many of their captives.
The ship in which Cunningham and Ramsey were
confined was dispatched to a far-off port, and en mute
the unhappy prisoners in the dark and reeking hold
died each day in great numbers, of actual suffocation.
Ramsey and Cunningham were lucky enough to sus-
tain life at a small aperture through which refreshing
air came to them, but it was at that only by dint of
sticking closely and constantly to the opening that
they did manage to keep breath in their bodies. Dur-
ing their subsequent confinement on shore they had a
terrible and painful experience. As a portion of their
daily food (it is said) they received bread mixed with
lime, and as a part of their daily exercise they found
employment in separating the lime from the bread so

that eating the latter seemed possible. They passed
safely if not happily through their cai>tivity, to be
restored at last to home and friends.

The experiences and sufi'erings they had endured in
common made them fast friends, and at the close of
the war they resolved to seek together a new liome in
the West. Both were baclielors, and a location and
settlement in the wilderness was a matter of speedy
accomplishment. They bought lands in Luzerne
township, Fayette Co., and erected a distillery upon
the place now occupied by Armstrong Porter. The
log house they built for a dwelling they used in
part as a malt-kiln, and in a little while they were
doing quite a business in the manufacture of wliiskey.
Ramsey generally carried the product by flat-boat to
New Orleans, and in making the return trip would
sometimes come back on foot, but most frequently
proceeded by sea to Philadelphia, and tiience by horse-
back over the mountains, taking occasion also to bring
a lot of salt with him, and such necessaries as the
backwoods ftviled to afford.

Some time before the year 1800, Mr. Ramsey con-
cluded to leave Luzerne for Cincinnati, where he
judged there was a wider and more profitable field for
the excrcisr <.i' liis rii, rgies. The Luzerne distillery
had brou,i;lit niiul] prulit to himself and his partner,
but Cincinnati |.in,„i>,.d nioiv, and so lie dissolvd
his businc^> i.arliiri-s!ii|, uilli lii- oM iri.-nd Cunning-
ham and iiiovfil 111 tlir liituri' City. Not rel-
ishing the idea of lieiii- lelt alone, .lolin (.'unningham
wrote to his brother .laine>, still livin- in Chester
County, that if lie would eome out to Luzerne and

linild a i; I ^lon,- \u.u-~r he might have in exchange

one-liali ol iho .liMillrry l.iiM.iess, as well as one-half
oT tin- laiiil eoiiiericd 1 lier. '.vith. James responded
promptly by sellini; liis Cliester County farm and
moving to Luzenir with hi- family. The house that
he built upon his airival, aeionling to contract, is the
one now occupied by Ann-lrouL' Porter, Set in the
stone-work is a wooden taliK-t, hearing' the inseriptiim,
" James and Mary Cunningham, ismi." Of William
Ramsey it will suffice to say that he engaged in busi-
ness in Cincinnati, grew up with the town, and became
in time one of its wealthiest merchants. John and
James Cunuinghara carried on the distilling business
in Luzerne until 1820, and grew rich. The distillery
was operated by others until 183o, William Porter
being the last proprietor.

John Cunningham died in the old stone house in
1830, at the age of eighty-seven, remaining to the last
a bachelor, and bearing wherever he was known the
title of " Uncle John." He was a member of the
State Legislature thirteen successive years. For the
fourteenth time he was nominated, but was defeated
in the contest by Charles Porter, afterwards county
judge. Uncle John took his defeat sorely to heart,
but declared he would stand another nomination, just
to show that he could beat Porter, and, in fact, both
being nominated the next year, he did beat him. His



ambition fulfilled, he declined to appear any more as
a candidate. Upon his first election he sent to Eng-
land for a silver watch, that he might properly support
the dignity of his exalted station, and wore it ever after
with much pride. It is now in the possession of his
brother's grandson, and although an article of some
consequence in Cunningham's time, does not now
look like much of a watch as compared to time-pieces
of modern production.

John Cunningham's brother James died on the
home farm in 1832. Of his two sons, William be-
came a merchant at Merrittstown, and died in 1819.
John boated on the Monongahela for his fatlier and
uncle, and died at an early age. In his school life he
was a famous debater, and was, witli his brother Wil-
liam, a schoolmate of Andrew Stewart, who enter-
tained a high regard for John's educational abilities.
James Cunningham's daughters were Arabella and
Jane. The former married David Porter, and the
latter William Gallaher.

Armstrong Porter came westward in 1774, and
bought seven hundred acres of land in Luzerne town-
ship, including the fmn now owned and occupied by
W. J. Stewart. He lived in a two-story log house on
the ]iresent Stewart place. His sons numbered six
and liis daughters two. The sons were named An-
drew, Jared, William, David, John, and Armstrong,
all of whom, excejit J'llin (who moved to Ohio), set-
tled and died in the township. Their mother lived
to be over ninety, and each of them to an advanced
age. Andrew died at the age of eighty-seven ; Jared,
at eighty-one ; William, at eighty ; David, at ninety-
one ; and Armstrong (in 1879), at ninety-six, — a re-
markable showing of long life in so many members
of one family.

Early settlements were made along Cox Run, near
Dunlap's Creek. Among them a conspicuous figure
was Michael Cox, who was famous as a great Indian-
fighter and an ex-Revnlutiiniary soldier. The Coxes
were at one time quite muaerdus in Luzerne, but now
may be looked for in vain. A story about Michael
("iix and a hog stands as a laughable episode in the
old man's experience. He had been so much troubled
by the animal's depredations that he arose one day
in his might and swore he would jerk the hog to an
unmentionable place, meaning to throw him over a
high bluff into a depth known locally as "hell."
Accordingly Cox caught the hog by the tail, and
dragging him toward the precipice put his available
strength into a last pull that was to land the porker
in perdition. Unluckily (\,s. i«ulli'd with such vigor
that he fell on the precipice brink, the earth gave
way, and C<ix promptly relinquishing his hold upon
the tail, descended into the place where he had hoped
to send the beast. It was a terrible fall and well-nigh
lilled Cox, who lyiii'f wlurr he fell and groaning out
his misery attracted a lad nauRd John Covert to the
scene, and the boy nuiiiiiig- for assistance Cox was
got home and to bed. His injuries were serious in-

deed, but he recovered after a long confinement.
John Covert, the boy above named, died in Luzerne
in 1881 at the age of ninety-three. Michael Cox died
in Luzerne, and was buried upon the present C. H.
Swan place. Cox had a large family, and to each of
his sons gave a farm. One of these sons was a cap-
tain in the militia, and, what was singular for a militia
captain, invariably appeared upon parade in his bare
feet. One day at parade he got a thorn into one of
his feet, and halting to repair damages yelled to his
men, "Go ahead, boys, and march to yon mullein
stalk while I pull this blasted thorn out of my foot."

Upon the farm where C. H. Swan lives a man
(whose name is now not remembered) put up a fulling-
mill and carding-niachine as early as 1800. He dug
at the expense of much time and labor a race through
the limestone, and tried hard to make the venture a
paying one. It proved instead a failure, and was
abandoned by the projector in disgust. After lying
idle some time the property was b'ought by Rev. Wil-
liam Johnston.

James Coleman was among the early settlers on
the run, and on Oct. 24, 178.3, deeded a tract to John
Roiley, of Westmoreland, who for a consideration of
£■575 sold it to Andrew Oliphant, of Chester County.
The land is described in the deed as " lying and being
in Menallen township, Westmoreland County, ad-
joining the lands of Andrew Fraser, William Gray,
Thomas Gregg, Michael Cox, Sr., Henry Swindler,
and M. Douglas." The Thomas Gregg mentioned was
a Quaker, but was charged, nevertheless, with hold-
ing his house open as a Tory rendezvous. The name
of Gregg is now extinct in Luzerne. A grandson of
Thomas has been recently the subject of some public
notoriety in one Elihu Gregg, who burned the jail of
Preston County, W. Va., in 1869, was sentenced to be
hanged, escaped the day before the date fixed for his
execution, was recaptured in Greene County, Pa., two
years afterwards, tried a second time, and a second
time sentenced to death. Governor Matthews com-
muted his sentence to a life-imprisonment, but this
commutation the prisoner (then seventy-seven years
old) refused to receive, s.aying he would have liberty
or death. His case was reviewed a year later by Gov-
ernor .lackson, who, in April, 1881, issued an uncon-
ditional pardon.

As an evidence of the kindly and selfdenying
humanity that characterized some of Luzerne's early
settlers stands the story of the man who, coming into
the township from Hagerstown to find employment,
accidentally broke his leg only a little while after he
came in. He was poor and unable to pay for such
service as his case required, but eight of the inhabit-
ants of old Luzerne improvised a hammock, laid the
wounded man thereon, and shouldering the burden
marched through the woods and over hills until they
i reached Hagerstown, and there delivered their charge
' into the hands of a surgeon, wdiom they bade attend
him at their expense. Five of these men were



Thomas Davidson, John Conwell, Michael Cox, Eli
Virgin, and William Roberts.

Passing down from Cox Run towards Brownsville,
the chronicler of history comes upon an early Quaker
settlement south of Bridgeport. Among those promi-
nent among the " Friends" were Stephen Darlington,
Jonas Cattell, Robert Miller, Obed and Jesse Gar-
wood, David Cattell, John Haines, Joshua and John
Moore, Jonah and Septimus Cadwallader, and Thomas
Gregg. Septimus Cadwallader was a fuller, and set
his mill on Dunlap's Creek, where Miller's mill now
stands. Jonas Cattell built a tannery in 1808, and
hired Samuel Wheaton, now living in Redstone, to dig
the vats for him. William Dales became a proprietor
of the tannery, and carried it on until his death in
1845. William Binns had also a tannery, which Joel
Painter subsequently converted into a malt-house.
Capt. I. C. Woodward, who was raised in the family
of David Cattell, and began his service on the river
in 1834, lives now in the same neighborhood that
knew him in his boyhood's days.

The Quakers built a log church about 1800 in the
Charleston District, at the site of the old graveyard.
This church was destroyed by fire, and when a new
house of worship was built the location was changed
to Bridgeport. Among the Dearths known as early
settlers in Luzerne, John Dearth is known to have
been here in about 1780, for in August, 178.3, he quit-
claimed to Armstrong Porter a tract of land lying on
Dunlap's Creek, and adjoining lands of Rogers, Robert
and Lewis Deem.

Henry Heaton, at one time a prominent man in
Luzerne history, was a miller on the river at Mills-
boro', and carried on a mill upon each side of the
stream. He was a representative in the Legislature,
but far from a handsome man. As to the latter ref-
erence to his personal appearance a good story is still
extant to the effect that a man calling at his niill to
see him was told that Mr. Heaton was attending a
Legislative session at Harrisburg. The visitor was
exceedingly anxious to see him, and accordingly
started for Harrisburg. Although a stranger to
Heaton he knew the latter as soon as he encountered
him at the capital, and at once accosting him pro-
ceeded to unfold his business. Heaton appeared to
be impatient while the man told his story, and before
the latter had got half through broke in with, "See
here, my friend, I'm mightily curious to know how
you, who had never seen me before, knew me the in-
stant you saw me. I'm so curious to learn that your
business can wait until I find out." The man fidgeted
some and said he'd rather not tell, but upon being
informed that he must tell or go without transacting
his business replied, " Well, Mr. Heaton, if you must
know, I met a man near your mill of whom I asked
a description of your personal appearance, so that I
could pick you out unaided. He told me it would be
the easiest thing in the world for me to know you, for
I had but to look about me until I saw the ugliest-

looking man in America and call him Heaton, with
a positive assurance that there would be no mistake."
Heaton was philosopher enough to laugh, and as a
proof that he was not sensitive about it used himself
to tell the story as a capital joke. Another story
about Heaton deals with him as a miller. He set out
one day with a boat-load of stones to stop a hole in
his mill-dam. He got his boat around in what he
j judged tlie proper position, and caught hold of a great
bowlder which he proposed to push into the opening.
By some mischance he failed in his intent, so that
instead of pushing the bowlder in he lost his balance
and himself went headlong from the boat into and
through the aperture. He shot into the lower depths
with considerable velocity, but managed to scramble
up and out of his involuntary bath without feeling
seriously damaged. Indeed, he was more surprised
than hurt, and as he recovered his mental balance he
exclaimed, with a good deal of emphasis, " By Jovi',
the man that beats that performance will have to go
through the other way !" He said, moreover, that it
was about the closest shave lie had ever sustained, for
his body just about fitted the opening, and while he
was going through even he feared he might stick
fast and be drowned. Mr. Heaton was widely
known and highly respected, and in business as well
as politics bore a conspicuous place. Singular to re-
late, four of his children were born mutes, and thus
remained all their lives.

Nathaniel Breading, living in Cecil County, Md.,
found himself at the close of the Revolutionary war
in possession of considerable Continental money, and
not knowing what better to do with it, carried it away
on horseback over the mountains to Southwestern
Pennsylvania, and laid it out in about seven hundred
acres of land lying upon Dunlap's Creek, in Luzerne
townshiii, aljout one mile above Merrittstown. Having
bought lii> lauil. Mr. Breading proceeded at his leis-
ure to luiiii; hi^ 1-uuily out, and got comfortably located
some time during 17S4. Later he built a grist-mill
and saw-mill down the creek, and hired Samuel Bunt-
ing as his miller. Mr. Breading always appeared in
knee-breeches and silver buckles, and wore his hair
in a cue. He rose to the distinction of member of
the Supreme Executive Council from 1790 to the close
of the Council, and of associate judge of the County
Court, serving from 1790 until his death in 1821. He
bore otherwise a prominent part in local affairs. The
stone house which he built in 1794, and in which he
died in 1822, is still a solid structure, and serves as
the occasional residence of his grandson, George E.
j Hogg, of Brownsville, who owns the old Breading
farm. A portion of the land purchases of Nathaniel
Breading, as above noticed, appears to have been ac-
quired by him from David Breading, his brother, of
i Lancaster, as per recorded deed bearing date May 8,
1783, the consideration being £500. The land is men-
tioned as being "a certain tract lying and being on
Dunlap's Creek, in the township of Menallen, in



AV'estmoreland County, containing three hundred
and eighteen acres, adjoining lands late of Robert
Evans, Charles Porter, John Ewing, and other lands,
it being the tract whereon John McKiljbeu, of the
County of 'Westmoreland and Commonwealth afore-
said, settled on the 24th of April, in the year of our
Lord 1766, and which was surveyed and located to the
aforesaid John McKibben by Alexander McLean, but
without warrants." McKibben sold to David Bread-
ing, and he to Nathaniel Breading, as stated. A tract
adjoining this, and containing two hundred and twelve
acres, was surveyed under two warrants, dated respec-
tively Nov. 6, 1771, and June 4, 1772. Rev. John
McMillan, a pioneer preacher in the West, recorded
in his journal under date of "second Sabbath in Au-
gust, 1775," " Preached at the house of Jolin McKib-
ben, and lodged there all night." David Breading,
who with his brotlier Natlianiel served through the
Revolutionary war, bouglit land in Fayette County
while still living in Lancaster, and in 1786 followed
Nathaniel to the new countr}' as a settler. He lived on
the fiirm now owned by Robert Hogsett, who lives in
the stone house erected there by David Breading in
1800. Both David and Nathaniel Breading died in
Luzerne. None of Nathaniel's children are now
living. David's son, Clark, the only remaining
member of the family bearing the name of Breading,
resides in LTniontown.

Tlie hamlet of HeistersVuirg, so named from Gov-
ernor Heister, was in ].s2"i the location of a roadside
inn that Yates S. Conwell opened to accommodate the
travel that passed between the livcr and the moun-
tains over the State road. A -'•■\-r wa- 'i|Mn.'il tliere
in 1830 by Robert Brown, who ki |.t .'iKo the ('unwell
tavern. This latt.T liou-.- lias Iktu a ii.iii~r (,f enter-
tainment since l^■^~'. aii^l a Inn- tiiiir was known
as "The Exchaii-r." Tli,. Ia<t landlnni was Samuel
Kelly, who died in the winter uf issiusl. 1„ Is-.
Samuel Kol.erts built a l.ri.k house at 1 Iei-,ter.liur_'.
and in a little while aiterwards William Rice hought
it, and kept store in one portion of it. In 1S37, Zebu-
lou Ridge rented it of Rice and converted it into a
tavern stand. For some years Heistershurg boasted
two taverns, each of which wa~ taritly nmlcrstood to
bearallying-priiiit for nioiubcrs ofcach political party,
and report has it that Heistersburg was on more than
one occasion a very animated locality. The best
known of the respective landlords during the exciting
political ci:i^ woir Zebulon Ridge and John S. Con-
well. J hoiiias Acl;lin is remembered as among the
early storc-kcc|icrs at Heistersburg, but he failed to
make much of a mark as a merchant. The present
brick store, kept l>y John Ridge, was built by John
S. Conwell, and kept by him for some time. The
first postmaster at Heistersburg was John S. Conwell.
The ofiice wag discontinued after he resigned, and
remained so for some time. Upon its revival Neil
Hosteller was ajipointed. Succeeding him the in-

cumbents have been Taylor Lynch and David Con-
well, the latter being the present postmaster.

From 1785 to 1800 licenses to tavern-keepers in
Luzerne were issued as follows : William Homan,
March, 1785; Abrain Forker, March, 1792; Job
Briggs, December, 1792 ; Samuel Large, June, 1796 ;
Eber Homan, September, 1796 ; James McCoy, Sep-
tember, 1797 ; John Black, September, 1797 ; Elijah
Crawford, March, 1799 ; Isaac Kimber, September,
1799 ; Adam Blair, June, 1800.

In the records of the September sessions in 1784
appears the following entry: "William Homan, of
Luzerne, having been reported to the court by the
constable of that township for keeping a tippling-
house, and Thomas Scott, Esq., having declared upon
his oath to the court that in his opinion all the prop-
erty of said William Homan would be insufficient to
pay the fine and costs on an indictment, and that he
must become a charge on the township, the Court
duly considering these circumstances do recommend
to the attorney for the State not to prefer a bill of in-
dictinent against him."

One of the early roads laid out through Luzerne
was the one extending from James Crawford's ferry
to Uniontown. Upon a petition for the road, pre-
sented at the June sessions of court, 1784, Roger
Roberts, Josiah Crawford, Aaron Hackney, Wil-
liam Royl, David Jennings, and Nathaniel McCarty
were appointed viewers. A report of the road was
made at the September sessions of the same year.
The course of the road lay through Luzerne, Red-
stone, and Menallen townships, by way of "Mr.
Lawrence's," " Mr. Fenting's," and " Big Meadow-
Branch," and so to Uniontown. At the same ses-
sions the court confirmed the report and ordered it
ojjened, cut, cleared, and bridged, thirty-three feet
wiile. A petition for a road from Oliver Crawford's
Icrry to Uniontown was presented at the June ses-
sions in 1784. Samuel Adams, William Ross, Wil-
liam Gray, James Hammond, Andrew Fraser, and
William Haney were appointed viewers. The road
is spoken of as " the nearest and best way from Oli-
ver Crawford's ferry to Uniontown," and passed by
Thomas Davidson's house, Absalom Littel's, Charles
Porter's, intersecting the road leading from James
Crawford's ferry to Uniontown, and thence by the
course of said road to Uniontown. A road twenty-five
feet wide from Josiah Crawford's ferry to Uniontown
was reported at the December sessions of 1784 by the
viewers, Messrs. Armstrong Porter, Henry Swindler,
Amos Hough, Samuel Douglas, Josiah Crawford, and
Thomas Gregg, and accordingly confirmed. The
route was from the ferry by way of Daniel Gud-
gel's, Samuel Douglas' mill (at Merrittstown), Amos

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 146 of 193)