Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 148 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 148 of 193)
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Merrittstown, lying upon Dunlap's Creek, and on
the eastern line of Luzerne township, ranks among the
old villages of the county, but that it has materially
improved with age cannot be truthfully said. It con-
tains to-day as its representative business interests
two stores, a grist-mill, tannery, and the usual minor
village industries, and a population of sixty-two in-
habitants by the census of 1880. Seventy years ago
it was a livelier place, for then it was a station on one
of the traveled routes between East and West, and a
halting-place for stock-drivers, freighters, etc. The
opening of railway communication diverted such
traffic, and took away much of Merrittstown's im-
portance, but now the probability of a railway to
touch at this point has awakened hopes of renewed
prosperity, and brightened the prospect materially.

Merrittstown was founded and laid out by two
brothers, named Caleb and Abram Merritt, of whom
Abram was a man of considerable energy. Just
when the Merritts laid out the village cannot be as-
certained, although the statement is made that the
original plat of the town is in the hands of some
person living in the far West. The date may, how-
ever, be fixed with moderate certainty as not far
from 1790. It is known that Samuel Douglas had a
grist-mill and saw-mill there as early as 1785, and
sold his interests to the Merritts, who conceived the
notion of building a village around the nucleus of a
mill. The place was at first called New Town, but
directly after Merrittstown. Abram Merritt's house
stood opposite the present shoe-shop of Lewis Dur-

nell. Caleb lived on the lot now occupied by John
Moore. But little can be said touching the history
of Merrittstown up to 1805, but it would appear that
at or before that time people journeying across the
mountains and drovers taking stock to market began
to make a point of stopping there, and the demand
for accommodation naturally led to the opening of a
public-house. In the year mentioned, therefore, wc
find that Adam Farquar was keeping a tavern in the
old Caleb Merritt house, and that by that time the
Merritt brothers had sold their property and nmved
to Ohio. Simeon Cary was then making nails by
hand in a little log shop, and although he turned out
some coarse and clumsy work in the shape of shingle-
nails, he found the demand quite equal to the supply,
for, as luck would have it for him and other unskillful
manufacturers, the pioneers were not over-fastidious
in that direction. A man named Richard Bates was
the miller at the old Douglas mill, and it is said that
the mill proprietor was Encal Dodd. Bates seems to
have been especially conspicuous for the generous
way in which he treated himself to strong drink.
Upon the old account-books kept by John and James
Cunningham, the distillers, it may be observed that
charges against Richard Bates for "one gallon of
whiskey" appear with remarkable frequency. Encal
Dodd was esteemed a great talker, as well as one of
the most rigidly honest men in the country, but
slightly given to absent-mindedness withal. It is
told of him that while grinding a grist for James
Cunningham he maintained with that gentleman an
incessant flow of argument, and as he talked he
helped himself quite absent-mindedly to toll so fre-
quently that when the grist was ground the miller
had decidedly more of it than his customer. Mr.
Cunningham, who had noted with much amusement
the freak of his friend, laughingly remarked, " Well,
Mr. Dodd, suppose I take the toll for my share and
you take what I have." •i.t this Dodd looked and
felt much ashamed of his action, and then turned
not only the toll into Cunningham's bag, but added
an extra allowance from the mill stock, saying he
was determined to punish himself for being so absent-

In 1805, Elijah Coleman carried on a tannery
where E. T. Gallaher now pursues the same busi-
ness, and from best accounts obtainable Coleman had
then been there some years. Of the Colemans none
are now to be found in the township. Daniel Bixler
was the village shoemaker, and upon the lot now oc-
cupied by W. L. Guiler, George Hogg kept a store,
the pioneer store in Merrittstown.

A post-office was established in Merrittstown before
1805, with Elijah Coleman as the first postmaster.
Old Dennis McCarty was the mail-carrier between
Uniontown and Brownsville via Merrittstown, and
for a long time made the trip on foot once a week.
Although his mail-pouch was exceedingly light, he
always carried a bulky batch of copies of T/ie Genius



of Liberty, which he left to subscribers en route.
Dennis was a white-haired old man, but a merry one, '
and regularly upon his approach to Merrittstown was I
greeted by the village lads, then in waiting for him,
with the announcement, " Here comes old white head !"
Having delivered his mail Dennis would bestow him- '
self in the bar-room of the village tavern, and sing
rollicking songs as long as the landlord would pay '
him for the songs in cider. Then Denny was in his
glory, and the gathered villagers in a state of delight.
Denny bore about with him a pair of ears of which
each was ornamented with a slit. Eather proud
than otherwise of the marks, he called frequent at-
tention to th*em, and boastingly related that early in
life he had been taken captive by the Indians, and
thus received from them signs of their kindly at-

Elijah Coleman did not fancy being postmaster be-
cause of tlie troulile it always gave him to make out
his quarterly returns, and fiiiling to get a better idea |
of the business as time passed he resigned in utter j
disgust. Adam Farquar, who kept the village tavern, j
is said also to have had a bowling alley in it, and be- j
tween selling whiskey, furnishing entertainment, and
running the nine-pin alley managed to make life j
pleasant and lively for the travelers who came that
way in considerable force and halted at old Farquar's
for tlie night.

In 180S, John McDougal came from Maryland to
Jlerrittstown and set up a cabinet-shop. He was
also a builder, and with John Allander to assist him
did a good deal in the hou^e-carpentering w.av. In
1810, (k-nivr IIm^- liavin- -iveii UM I,u>ii.ess as a vil-
lage tra^Lr, William rnnin,ig,liai„,<nn(,!- James Cun-
ningham, the distiller, upened a little ^tore on the lot
now occupied by L. C. McDougal's residence, and
built also the house known as the Baird residence ad-
joining :\IcDougars. Mr. Cunningham's establish-
ment was known as the Cantinental store, and as he
had other business interests to look after, he employed
John Gallagher and Benjamin Barton as his store
clerks. He bought also the grist-mill property, iind
employed John Dunlap as his miller. He was excise
officer f(u- some years, and altogether had his hands
full of industrial enterprises. He removed from the
village to the Cunningham farm in 1S17, and there
, During the latti r portion of his stay
'\vn he operated a fuUing-inill as an at-
the grist-mill. .Merrittstnwn had in 1810
;■,] Joshua Wilson, wlio Iiad a shop across
from wlii'ic Lewis Durnell's shoe-shop is, and there
made heavy fur lials. He had in front of his place a
great sign, upon wliicli lie had painted the picture of
a hat, a fo.x, and other fur-coated animals. Matthias
Lancaster, his workman, succeeded him in the busi-
ness. Lancaster afterwards moved to Redstone. Ca-
leb and Joshua Harford were the village blacksmiths,
and Daniel Wilson the wagon-maker. The black-
smith's shop stood near where Mr. Moore's house

at M


now stands. In that shop James Cunningham, now
of Luzerne, worked as an apprentice under George
Brown, beginning in 1826. Speaking of his inr-
pressions of Merrittstown's early history, Mr. Cun-
ningham says he is sure that Daniel Wilson, the
wagon-maker, was in the village in 1812, for Daniel
Wilson's wife Hester once told him (Cunningham)
that she carried him, then a babe, to the window one
day in that year to see a company of soldiers march
past on the way to the army. George Chandler was
then the village tailor, and in his shop he had as ap-
prentice Josephus Lindsley, who afterwards set up a
shop of his own and became the village postmaster.
Chandler carried on tailoring until his death, when
the business was continued by his son Isaac, who not
long afterwards removed to Ohio. Noah Lewis suc-
ceeded Adam Farquar as the village tavern-keeper in
a house occupying the lot that adjoins Gadd's black-
smith's shop.

One of Merrittstown's local characters about 1812
was Lott Green, a Quaker and a good mechanic. He
was a noted manufacturer of flax-hatchels and also a
skillful repairer of firearms.

The year 1823 saw considerable activity in Merritts-
town. John McDougall, the carpenter (who was said,
by the way, to have put the cabin upon the first
steamboat built at Brownsville), built a brick tavern
stand upon the site of William Cunningham's Conti-
nental store, the frame of which latter was included
within the new structure. Mr. McDougal kept the
brick tavern until 1845, since when it has been used
as a family residence, it now being the home of Mr.
L. C. McDougall. John McDougall died in 1856.

In 1826 there were three village taverns in Mer-
rittstown, namely, McDougal's, Hiram Miller's (in
the old Noah Lewis stand), and Daniel Marble's, in
the building now occupied by Lewis Durnell. A
new grist-mill had replaced in 1824 the old Douglas
mill, and was owned by Joseph Thornton, wdiose mil-
ler was John Grimes, who removed at a later date to
Ohio. William Ramsey and his son Jesse were for
many years millers at the Thornton mill and the Gil-
more mill, a «hort distance up the stream. The
Thornton mill is now carried on by Lynch & Hanna.
After John McDougal closed his tavern stand no
public-house was kept in Merrittstown from that day
to this. The opening of the National road had turned
traffic from the route through Merrittstown, and of
course the consequence of no travel was no tavern.

After William Cunningham closed his store, in 1817,
Merrittstown was without a local trading-place until
1830, when John Smith opened trade in a store-house
built by George Brown, the blacksmith. In that year
Hugh Gilmore had a distillery near the town, and
Elijah Coleman was still carrying on his tannery.
Coleman was no less famous for being a tanner than
he was for being the father of nineteen children.
Hiram Durnell had been the village shoemaker from
1818. George Brown, the blacksmith, had opened



Iiis shop in 1822, prospered, and went to store-keeping.
He traded about ten years, when in consequence of
business misfortunes he became deranged. George
Brown, who was Merrittstowii's fourth store-keeper,
was the successor of Robert Brown, and the prede-
cessor of Samuel Henderson and John Gallaher. In
1876 the village had two stores, kept by Alfred Cun-
ningham and Thomas D. Miller. Cunningham's
store was burned in 1877 and Miller's in 1879, at
wliich time the post-office with all' the mail, being in
Jliller's store, was likewise destroyed.

In 1822 the foot-bridge across Dunlap's Creek at
Merrittstown was washed away by a flood, and from
that on to 18.36 fording or ferrying was the method of
crossing. In that year .lohn Langley and Liberty
Jliller built the mason-work, and StofTel Balsinger,
with his son Perry, the frame-work of a new bridge.
The mason-work remains, but the frame, being badly
constructed, fell soon after it was put up. The pres-
ent frame was constructed by William Antrim.

In the post-office the successor of Elijah Coleman
was William Cunningham, who was succeeded in
1817 by Josephus Lindsley, the tailor. Lindsley re-
signed in 1832 and left the town. The next post-
master was George Brown, the blacksmith, who, after
holding the place several years, was followed by Hugh
Gilmore. Then came Margaret Gilmore, Alexander
Brown, John Armstrong, and James McDougal. The
succession after McDougal was Hiram S. Horner,
1861-62; Lewis Durnell, 1862-68; Mary Messmore,
1868-69 ; Samuel H. Higinbotham, 1869-72 ; E. H.
Baird, 1872-75 ; T. D. Miller, 1875-79; Harriet A.
Cook, 1879, to the present time. For a small place
Merrittstown appears to have had a pretty extensive
supply of postmasters.

The first resident physician at the village now re-
membered was Dr. Morrill Parker, who located there
in 1821 or 1822. He was at no time very popular, for
he appeared to esteem himself a grade above his
neighbors in the social scale, and' instead of culti-
vating friendly relations with them he had visitors
from abroad at his home constantly, and rather de-
lighted in showing oft' what he was pleased to term his
aristocratic company before the villagers. By the
latter he was termed a high-flyer, and when he left
the town, after a stay of a few years, he was not much
regretted. He aspired to be an nutlinr, and wrote
"The Arcanum of Arts and S.i> nr..-," Imt it is not
known that it created a very .-umi .nmiMntion in the
world of letters. After Dr. Parker's ae|nirture there
•was no village physician for some time.

Dr. Meason was the next to locate, and after him
Dr. Wilcox, but neither remained more than a year.
In 1827 came Dr. Elliott Finley from Westmoreland
County, who, after a stay of a few years, moved to

Greene County, where he was killed by an accidental
fall from a wagon. After another interval the field
was occupied by Dr. William L. Wilson, who left
after the expiration of about a year. In 1840 an
office was opened by Dr. J. N. Craft, son of David
Craft. Dr. Craft practiced in Merrittstown and vicin-
ity until his death in 1846, and achieved a popularity
that causes grateful mention of his name to this day.
His successor was Dr. H. R. Roberts, who had
but little practice. N. L. Hufty followed Roberts,
and in 1847 was succeeded by Dr. Henry East-
j man, who came to Merrittstown in June of that
year. Since then he has been steadily in practice in
and about the village, and rides a wide circuit in a
practice that has been extensive and profitable
through his residence of thirty-four years and made
his name a household word in hundreds of families
in the county.

The only civic society in Merrittstown is Merritts-
town Lodge, No. 772, 1. O.'O. F., which was organized
Aug. 5, 1871, with charter members as follows: Isaac
Messmore, P. G. ; Samuel H. Higinbotham, John A.
] Messmore, P. G. ; James M. Jackson, William Knight,
Johnson Miller, James H. Rail, Jesse Coldren, Wil-
liam H. Higinliolliuiii, (;.oi;:r \V. (Ireen, Jacob N.
I Ridge, Samuel L. .-^tuvaii, Ja-.l. Huber, Casper
' Haynes, George Thompson, William S. J. Hatfield,
^ F. F. Chalfant, R. Brashear, John Coldren, J. C.
I Wood.

The first officers were J. A. Messmore, N. G. ; Isaac
Messmore, V. G. ; S. H. Higinbotham, Sec.; James
M. Jackson, P. S. ; Johnson Miller, Treas. The
i Noble Grands have been J. A. Messmore, Isaac Mess-
more, John Allen, James Jackson, Samuel Higin-
i botham, S. J. Gadd, William Gadd, S. L. Stewart,
] George Robert.^, W. S. Craft, Absalom Hostetler, J.
1 N. Ridge, Johnson Miller, John Williams, and New-
ton Jackson. The members are now twenty-tour, and
' the officers as follows : Newton Jackson, N. ( i. ; John
I Norman, 'V. G. ; Robinson Savage, Rec. Sec. ; Richard
I Miller, P. S. ; Jo.seph Woodward, Treas.

The most important industry in Luzerne, aside
from that of agriculture, is the distillery of George
W. Jones, on the river near Bridgeport. The business
was founded there and a distillery built in 1857 by
John Worthington and J. S. Krcpps. Fire destroyed
the establishment in 1859, and in 1860 John Worth-
ington rebuilt it. He carried it on until 1866, when
' he sold out to Britton & South, who were succeeded
in 1868 by Britton & Moore, and they in 1869 by
Jones & South. In 1876 George W. Jones became
the sole proprietor. Mr. Jones has recently enlarged
the works. They have at present a capacity of one
hundred and fifty bushels, employ fifteen hands, and
produce about twelve barrels of whiskey daily.



Among the immigrants into Fayette County at an
early day was Judge Nathaniel Breading, a man of
strong character and of peculiar note in his time*.
His grandfather, David I'.ivadin-, was ,,l' Sr,,tth de-
scent, and was born inar (/nirraiiie, Londuiidurry
Co., Ireland, and coming to America settled in
Lancaster County, Pa., about 1728, bringing with him
his family, of wdioni was his son James, the father of
Nathaniel Breading.

Nathaniel Breading, son of the above-named James
and Ann Ewiug Breading, was born March, 1751, in
Little Britain township, Lancaster Co., Pa. Being
given a iine classical education, he took charge of an
academy at Newark, Del., and afterwards taught
school in Prince Edward County, Va. \

We next hear of him serving in the army of the
Revolution under his future father-in-law, Geu.
Ewing, commissary of the Pennsylvania line, while
the army was encamped at Valley Forge during the
hard and gloomy winter of 1777. Having married
Mary Ewing, he removed his family to Tower Hill
farm, Luzerne township, Fayette Co., in 17S4. Dur-
ing 17S5 he was appointed one of the five justices of
the peace, who were the sole judges in the Court of
Common Pleas for some years, until Judge Addison
was appointed president judge, on which event Mr.
Breading was appointed associate, and continued
such until his death. After the close of the war he ^
was chosen as one of the Supreme Executive Council [
of Pennsylvania, with whom was lodged all the ex-
ecutive power of the State. This office he held about
five vears, until the adoption of the new constitution
of 17'J0 providing i'or the election of a Governor.

At an early day Judge Breading did much to de-
velop the infant trade between the western counties
of the State and New Orleans by sending annually
to that market a flat-boat laden with flour and whiskey,
at that time almost the only articles of production
and export, though as he was early engaged with
John and Andrew Oliphant in the furnace business, ,
they occasionally included salt- and sugar-kettles, '
hoUow-warc, etc. ,

During the troublous times of the Whiskey Insur- ,
reclion Judge Breading, as a law-abiding citizen,
used all his influence in maintaining the laws
taxing whiskey, notwithstanding these laws were de-
structive tn Li- iiii' re<t and so obnoxious as to create
a rebellion whi. h could be suppressed only by the
strong arm of military force. So strong indeed was

amounts of Judge Breading's property were burned
by the insurgents. He, in connection with Edward
Cook and John Oliphant, was a delegate from Fay-
ette County to a convention of gentlemen which met
at Pittsburgh, Sept. 7, 1791, to take measures in re-
gard to suppressing the Whiskey Insurrection.

Judge Breading was commissioned by the State,
March 5, 1785, to survey all the lands then recently
purchased from the Indians north and west of the
Ohio and Allegheny Rivers to Lake Erie, as also to
assist in running the lines between Pennsylvania,
Virginia, and Ohio.

We recur here to the days of Judge Breading's
early manhood to note that he purchased the Tower
Hill farm, before referred to, in 1783, buying at that
time the tomahawk right of one McKibben, who had
taken it up and was then living upon it, and " paid
out the land" to the State in 1784, and immediately
moved upon it, and in 1790 built thereon a stone
house, which is in perfect preservation, and is now in
the possession of one of his grandsons, George E.
Hogg. Judge Breading lived continuously in this
house after its erection, and died therein.

Judge Breading was very enterprising, and aside
from various other important operations he, in com-
pany with others, built at Brownsville, in 1814, a
steamboat named the " Enterprise," which was the
first steamer built at Brownsville, and which, after
making a number of trips to Pittsburgh, was sent
down the river to New Orleans and never returned.
In 1810 the same persons built a second steamer.

Nathaniel Breading died April 22, 1822, his wife,
Mary Ewing, surviving him, and dying Aug. 31, 1845,
aged seventy-eight years. Their children, now all
deceased, were George ; Mary Ann, intermarried with
George Hogg; James E., who married Elizabeth
Ewing ; Sarah, who married Dr. James Stevens, of
Washington, Pa. ; Harriet,* who was the wife of Dr.
Joseph Gazzam ; Caroline Margaret, who married
Dr. Joseph Trevor, of Connellsville and Pittsburgh,
Pa. ; Elizabeth, who married Rev.Wm. B. Mcllvaine ;
William E., a lawyer, who died in the twenty-fifth
year of his age ; and two children who died in in-

Nathaniel Breading and his wife Mary, as also his
father, James, and his wife, Ann Ewing, were interred
in the Laughliu burying-ground, two and a half miles
east of Brownsville, in sight of the National road.


op I

■ainst the excise laws that large

James E. Breading, son of Judge Nathaniel and
Mary Ewing Breading, was born at Tower Hill farm,
Luzerne township, Fayette Co., Pa., Oct, 19, 1789.
While quite young he entered on his long career as
a merchant at New Haven, in his native county, then
the centre of the largest and almost the only iron in-
terest west of the mountains. Thence he removed to
Brownsville, and there pursued the same Hue of busi-



//^ C'-

Or c^'-i-^^t



ness until the death of his father made it necessary
for him to take charge of Tower Hill farm in 1822.
He removed to Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1829, where, in
connection with his brother-in-law, George Hogg,
and William Hogg, the uncle of George, both of
Brownsville, he embarked very largely in the whole-
sale trade of groceries and dry-goods. Herein, by his
recognized character for honesty and integrity and
his fine business capacities, he was eminently success-
ful, and secured the confidence and respect of a large
community with which he had business relations.
He retired, however, some years before his death to
enjoy that rest in the evening of his days to which
his long life of activity entitled him.

Mr. Breading was connected with the commissary
department during Gen. (afterwards President) Wil-
liam H. Harrison's campaign against Tecumseh and
his braves. He was for many years connected with a
large mercantile establishment in St. Louis as a silent
partner, holding the most responsible position in the

In 1821, Mr. Breading married Elizabeth, daughter
of William and Mary Ewing, and died without issue
in Allegheny City, Nov. 19, 1868, his wife surviving
him. His remains were interred in Allegheny Cem-

Mrs. Elizabeth Ewing Breading, his widow, now in
the eighty-fourth year of her age, resides at Emsworth,
a few miles west of Allegheny City, on the Fort
AVayne Railroad, where she passes her venerable
years in affluent domestic quiet, her life being now
given, as her earlier d.iys were in a great measure ex-
pended, in literally doing good, and commanding the
afl'ection of all who know her.

David Breading, who was the son of .Tamos and
Ann Breading, was one of the early settlers nl' Fayette
County, moving thereinto in 1794 from Lancaster
County, Pa. He entered the army as a private in
1776, and passed the winter at Valley Forge, and was
afterwards made an officer of the commissary depart-
ment, wherein he continued during the remainder of
the war of the Revolution, except for a short time
while he was aide-de-camp to Gen. Maxwell in the
battle of Monmouth, during which Mr. Breading was
witness of a notable incident in the military career of
the " Father of his Country." While the battle was
progressing, Gen. Maxwell, thinking that the divis-
ion general, Lee, was not conducting his forces as
he should, sent Breading to Gen, Washington, then
in a distant part of the field, to inform him of the
state of affairs. Washington on receiving the dis-
patch asked, " Young man, can you lead me to Gen.
Lee?" Breading replying, "Yes, general," Wash-
ington promptly said, " Well, you lead and I will
follow," and soon Breadin? became witness of the se-

vere reprimand which, as is well known, Washington
bestowed upon Lee, curses and all.

In 1785, Mr. Breading married Elizabeth Clark, of
Lancaster County, Pa., and moved to Luzerne town-
ship, Fayette Co., in 1794, as above noted. He had a
large number of children, the majority of .whom died
of yellow fever, at about the same time, in Vincennes,

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 148 of 193)