Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 158 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 158 of 193)
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present frame building. AVilliam Ellis was the first
teacher after the enactment of the new school law.
At that time Col. Samuel Evans and William Bryson
were directors in Union township.

In 1851 the township was divided for school pur-
poses, and the old brick school-house was erected in
South Union. The first teacher in this school was J.
P. Blair. The school-house was torn down a few
years since, and a new brick building erected in its



Levi Springer, a notable and characterful man of
bis times, was born in North Uniontowu, Aug. 14,
1777, anil died Feb. 15, 1862. His ancestors came to
America fr(jm Sweden, but his stock was remotely
(lerman. The name "Springer" was given, in sport,
by an emperor of Germany, in the eleventh century,
to a relation of his, in consequence of an adventurous
leap by the latter into the river Saale from the castle
of Geiliichenstein, where he had been imprisoned for
an alleged crime. This original Springer was par-
doned by the emperor, and his estates and powers
also increased.

Dennis Springer, the grandfather of Levi Springer,
lived in early life in New Jersey, where he married
at Burlington, in 1736, Ann Prickett, where, it is said
to be without doubt, Josiah, Levi, Sr., and other
children were born to him. Levi, born 1744, married,
about 1768, Annie Gaddis, by whom he had seven
children, — Drusilla, Abner, Ruth, Annie, William,

1 For the "etymology" of the name Springer, and above-mentioned
facts concerning Dennis Springer, tlie writer is indebted to the " Gene-
alogical T.ible and History of the Springer Family, by M.C. Springer, of

J/\l //IL-U.0





Zadoc, and Levi, Jr. His wife died in 1778, and in |
1780 he married the widow Sarah Duke (whose
maiden name was Shephard), by whom he had eight
children, — Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, Lydia, Rachel,
David, Dennis, and Job. Levi, Sr., died March 26,
1823, and his second wife, Sarah, Oct. 25, 1832. Den-
nis eventually moved to Virginia, and purchased
and settled upon land surveyed to him on Apple-Pie
Ridge by George Washington. It was obtained from
Fairfax, who resided in the neighborhood. Levi
Springer, Sr., lived for a time with his father, Dennis,
in Virginia, where he married, and where were born
two of his children, with whom and their mother he
removed into Fayette County about 1773, and here
the younger Levi, as noted above, was born, and here
raised, being instructed in childhood, according to the
manner of the times, in domestic private schools.
Early in life he engaged in boating from Brownsville
to New Orleans, La., and frequently made return
trips home from that far-off point on horseback
through the wilderness, though sometimes coming
back by vessel as far as New York. His active life-
time home was within a quarter of a mile of his birth-
place, which is now in possession of the family of
Dennis Springer (deceased), having never been sold
since first taken possession of by the elder Levi under
the law of "tomahawk improvement."

Mr. Springer after his boating days led the life of a
farmer mainly, but occasionally dealt in real estate,
and withal became a man of wealth. His judgment
of the value of lands and other property was excel-
lent, and leading operators in his vicinity were wont
to consult him when proposing to invest their money.
He bore an unsullied character for integrity, was a
man of large stature, very energetic, of strong will,
and, it is said, never failed to accomplish what he
undertook. He was an old-line Whig, and afterwards
a Republican, taking earnest interest in politics.

Ill the spring of 1828 he married Catharine Todd,
a widow (whose maiden name was Condon), and who
had one child, John O. Todd, who resides in North
Union township. Mr. and Mrs. Si>riiiger (who died in
March, 1859) were the parents of three daughters, —
Ruth Ann, who married Henry W. Gaddis ; Kate,
married to John Fuller; and Priscilla G., wife of
D. O. Cunningham, of Pittsburgh.

Mr. John Jones is the grandson of one of the first
settlers of Hunimeltown, near Reading, Pa., and the
son of John Jones (Sr.), who migrated, with his wife,
from Berks County to Fayette County, and settled in
LTnion township in 1792. His mother was Sarah
Lincoln, of Quaker ancestry, the daughter ^f Mor-
decai Lincoln, born in the neighborhood of Hummel-
town, and of the same stock as Abraham Lincoln, the
martyred President. Mr. Jnncs was born near where

he now lives, Oct. 8, 1802, the youngest child, of his
parents, who had two sons and three daughters. In
childhood Mr. Jones went to the common schools,
and enjoyed the instructions of a gentleman who
afterwards became the distinguished Judge James
Todd, and at sixteen years of age attended a select
school for a while. In 1819 he was apprenticed to
learn the trade of cabinet-making, at which, as ap-
prentice and journeyman, he continued for five years,
during which he took a course of book-keeping.
Thereafter for two summers he was occupied with the
civil engineers who made the United States surveys
for the then contemplated extension of the Chesa-
peake and Ohio Canal westward from Cumberland,
under Capt. Shriver. He next engaged for a while
in stock-driving, wherein he obtained an experience
which has since in life availed him profitably as a
stock-raiser and dealer. In lS2fi he betook himself
to the life of a farmer, stock-ruiscr, rU-., which he has
since pursued. In 183.') he lioujrht a farm, which he
now occupies, and to which lu' has added until it now
covers about two hundred and forty acres of excellent
land, one hundred and twenty acres of which are un-
derlaid with the celebrated nine feet stratum of Con-
nellsville coking coal. On July 26, 1851, he suffered
a notable disaster in the destruction of his house and
farm buildings, near midnight, through a violent tor-
nado, being then obliged to retreat from his house
with a family of thirteen persons. He rebuilt the
house and barns in the same year.

Mr. Jones is a life-long Democrat, but not a poli-
tician, always averring that he would not accept
political office on any condition. He is, and has been
for forty-seven years, a member of the Methodist
Episcopal Church, having been steward nearly all
that time. During his long life of eighty years he
has borne himself with unquestioned fidelity to duty,
and enjoys among his neighbors a high character for
probity and honorable business dealing.

He was in June, 1826, united in marriage with
Jane Van Horn, of Fayette County, who died Feb.
10, 1879, in her seventy-seventh year, and by whom
he had five sons and six daughters, all of whom
reached majority, and eight of whom are now living.

Mr. Samuel M. Clement, of English descent and
Quaker stock, was born at Camden, N. J., Aug. 8,
1798, and emigrated thence with his father and family
to Fayette County at the age of twelve years. He
was educated at the schools of Uniontown, and re-
sided on a farm in North Union township for a num-
ber of years. About 1834 he kept a hotel in the
mountains at the old Inks stand, half a mile east of
Farmington ; and about 1835 he and a partner took
and prosecuted a valuable contract for macadamizing
on the National road, a few miles east of Wheeling,



W. Va. Leaving the mountains he removed to his farm
in North LTnion township, where he conducted for
several years, and very successfully, a woolen-mill,
which he subsequently converted into a ^rist-mill
that is still in operation. Mr. Clement died Jan. 8,

He was a gentleman of genial temperament, jovial,
possessed of much humor, and of course was very
social. Honest in all his business transactions, he
was held in high esteem by his neighbors. He was
especially remarkable for the purity of his life, and
despised all such vices as profanity. Although not
a communicant, he attended and aided in the support
of the Baptist Church. In politics he was an earnest
Republican, and the very last time he left his house
it was for the purpose of going to the polls, as a mat-
ter of duty to his country as he regarded it. During
the war of the Rebellion he was, though too old to
go into the field, one of the most ardent of patriots,
giving all his moral influence and much of his time
and money to the furtherance of the cause of the

In 1.S23, Mr. Clement married Miss Rebecca
Springer, daughter of Jacob Springer, of L'uion-
town. His wife died only a few months before him,
on the 20th of September, 1875. They had nine chil-
dren, only one of whom is now living. Miss Eliza-
beth Clement, who resides on the old homestead and
skillfully manages the farm.


Among the active, practical men who have con-
tributed to the prosperity of Fayette County is the
now venerable Isaac Brown, of South Union town-
ship, who was born Jan. 4, 1802, in Georges township,
less than a mile from his present home. Mr. Brown's
grandfather, Emanuel Brown, came from Germany,
and was one of the earliest settlers of Fayette County,
whose son Abraham, the father of Isaac, settled upon
a tract of land lying near Uniontown,on which Isaac
Brown now lives, and one of the most valuable tracts
of the region. Abraham, the father, was born on the
same spot on which Isaac first saw the light. Isaac
was married first to Sarah Hutchinson, Aug. 2.3, 1829.
Sarah died July 30, 1834. By this marriage there
were three children, — Mary A., who died in infancy;
Sarah, who died April 6, 187C ; and Phebe A., who
married Robert Brownfield. They have one living
child, Robert. Isaac was married again Jan. 6,
1839, to Mrs. Mary Jane Grier. To them were born
four children, — Caroline, Clarissa, Elizabeth, and
Isaac Skiles Brown, who married Helen Moore, and
resides upon his father's farm. They have two chil-
dren, — Carrie May and Isaac. Mary Jane died Sept.
19, 1875.

The rule of Mr. Brown's life has been, " Owe no
man :invtlung." He is an acute business man, is

hospitable, and respected by his neighbors for his
honesty and charity. He has always been an ardent
Democrat, casting his first Presidential vote for An-
drew Jackson. His memory is retentive, and he de-
lights in relating incidents in the early history of the
j county. His race is nearly run. and he realizes the
truth of the proverbial saying, "Once a man twice a

Basil Brownfield, one of the most remarkable men
, who ever lived in Fayette County, or any other part
I of the world, died at his residence in South Union
' township, Aug. 21, 1881, in the eighty-sixth year of
his age. It is a matter of but little importance from
what stock was descended, or where was born and
reared, or what special business in life was followed
by such a man as he ; for nature gave him stature and
intellect of such large proportions as to derelate or
distinguish him from almost any special race of men,
— made him a giant, a symmetrical anomaly, who
might properly look with contempt down upon what-
ever ancestral line led up to him, as well as upon his
fellow-beings generally. But since Mr. Brownfield
left a brief record of what he was pleased to declare
his lineage, it is well enough to say here that accord-
ing to that record he was of Brito-Scotch-Irish stock,
and was the great-grandson of Charles Brownfield,
■who emigrated to America from Ireland before the
Revolutionary war, but whose parents were Scotch
Presbyterians, who left their native land and settled
in Ireland, and who traced their line back to one
' George Brownfield, a native Briton, who belonged
to Cromwell's horse, and went over to Scotland with
the great Protector and his army.

Charles, with other members of his family, settled
j near Winchester, Va., and finally came into Fayette
I County through the persuasion of the husband of a
j sister of his. Col. Burd, the builder of Redstone Old
Fort, at the mouth of Redstone Creek. Charles re-
j mained in the region now known as Fayette County,
built a cabin near where stands the present Brown-
field Station, on the Southwest Pennsylvania Rail-
j road ; was several times dislodged and driven away
! by the Indians, but at last succeeded in fixing his
abode. The first fee simple deed on the records of
Fayette County is that of Charles Brownfield, granted
to George Troutman, and dated Nov. 29, 1783.

Charles married and became the father of Robert
I Brownfield, who in his turn had a son, Robert Brown-
! field, Jr., and this latter Robert was the father of
' Basil Brownfield, our hero, who was born March 2,
j 1796, on the Brownfield homestead farm, near Smith-
field, Georges township. At the age of twenty-four,
! March 2, 1820, he married Sarah Collins, daughter of
Joseph and Margaret Collins, of Union township.
She died Oct. 1, 1870, aged sixty-eight years. They
had eleven children, — Joseph C, Robert, Margaret
C, who married Jehu, son of Col. Benjamin Brown-

^ c^ C^'(L ^ ^ ^ z^ ^.

yj^hJ. /ako-uAy^^^


field ; Mary, who married Isaac Hutchinson, a son of
Isaac H., of Union township, but a native of Trenton,
N. J., and died Feb. 3, 1857 ; Eliza, who died un-
married July 20, 1853, in the twenty-fourth year of
her age ; Sarah N., who married Wni. F. Core ; Ruth,
who married Joseph Barton, son of the late William
Barton, Esq. ; William N., who for his first wife mar-
ried Elizabeth James, and after her death married
Elizabeth Sackett ; Isaac Allen, who married Sarah
Burchfield, of Pittsburgh ; Lydia C, wife of Thomas
McClelland ; and Harriet Helen, who died March 22,
1870, in her twenty-fourth year.

Basil Brownfield enjoyed some, but little, opportu-
nities of early education in the subscription schools,
and though quite generally understood by his ac-
quaintances throughout life to be, as they expressed
it, " unlettered," in the sense of ignorant of books,
investigation discovers that he read books extensively,
was particularly well versed in ancient history and
in the history of his country, and read the Bible so
carefully and appreciatively as to be able to quote it
fluently and pertinently upon occasion of warm dis-

Mr. Brownfield commenced his active business
life (dating from about twenty years of age) equipped
with little " book-learning," but with extraordinary
native intellect, a marvelously retentive memory, and
an herculean body. By industry, rare tact, with
which from the beginning he was gifted, and by
economy, he made his way steadily on to fortune, so
that at the age of about thirty-five he was accounted
wealthy in the local sense. But at about forty or
forty-five years of age, burdened through unfortu-
nate free-hand indorsements and universal bail-giv-
ing for others, prompted by his great benevolence, he
became financially embarrassed, and mortgaged much
of his real estate, but finally managed to lift his bur-
dens. But during this period of financial difficulty
his business complications became numerous and vex-
atious, and a career of litigation in his history was
inaugurated which won for him a remarkable distinc-
tion in the courts, and which continued till the day
of his death, — a career in which he was for the most
part the victor, by one means and another. Litiga-
tion became a recreation to him, obviously a necessity
to his happiness. Strong-willed, aggressive, evi-
dently feeling that great intellect, massive muscles,
and tireless endurance are " gifts of God" to men with
which to fight the battles of life, and the assertion of
a powerful manhood a very duty, Mr. Brownfield
made of course hosts of enemies to himself, but he
had an army of friends ; and there was another body
of people, neither friends nor foes, who stood aloof,
admired the prowess and diplomacy of the man, how-
ever much they might have questioned the propriety
of some of the weapons with which he fought. These
were wont to descant about what a throne this provin-
cial demi-god might have occupied in the world if his
education in literature and the sciences had only been

fitting to his superb natural gifts. He was doubtless
much misunderstood by even those who thought they
knew him best; for underlings and the common-
ality possess no means of measuring the mental ca-
pacity or weighing the moral worth, or, for this mat-
ter, touching the bottom of the ingenious diabolism,
it may be, of the giants about the outskirts of whose
being they hang.

But want of space forbids our enlarging on this head.
Many legends and stories of more or less truth and
some fancy are current regarding Mr. Brownfiold's
peculiarities, his methods of operation, his eccen-

I tricities, his heroic struggles against his foes, his vic-
tories, his sagacious demeanor under defeat, turning
it often into victory, etc. ; — such tales, as everywhere,
cluster about the memory of extraordinary men; but
they mostly lack verity in details, and can hardly be
crystallized into permanent history.

I Mr. Brownfield's great experience as a litigant made
him conversant with the arts of the practice of the
law, and gave him very considerable knowledge of

I common law principles and of the statutes of the
State, and his fine intellect was not slow to take the
measure of the attorneys who swarmed about the
Fayette County courts. He held the most of them
in royal contempt. To his mind they were pigmies,
and he was wont to say, among other things, of those
attorneys and pettifoggers that they were " not fit to
feed stock," a declaration which had its great weight
with his acquaintances, and probably its effect upon
the career of the luckless attorneys, for such men as
Brownfield make " public opinion," and, it may be
said, the law too. And here a well-authenticated tale
regarding him, a peculiar fact in his history, such as
possibly never had place in the history of any other
man, may be pertinently narrated. The gist of it is
this, that Brownfield, in his large-hearted good nature
and consummate adroitness, as well as dominating
wisdom, was accustomed to freely feed and shelter in
his own house his most active, belligerent foe.s, har-
boring and nursing them while they were bitterly
" lawing" him (to use the provincialism of the county)
in the courts. These men were mostly " savages,"
too, from the mountains, who not only accepted his
courtesies when extended, but, knowing his good na-
ture, often quartered themselves unceremoniously
upon him, turning their horses into his pastures, and
betaking themselves to his table and fireside, when
they came down to town to wage legal war upon him.
He at one time owned many thousands of acres of
land in the mountains, and here and there made
clearings therein, put up cabins, and got tenants to
occupy them. Almost invariably these fellows quar-
reled with him, launched suits at law for one cause or
other against him, and in the midst of their bitterest
legal fights camped at his fireside, as above related.

The reader who admires the tender Christian kind-
ness, the forbearance, the benevolence, and other vir-
tues which Mr. Brownfield surely evinced under .such



extraordinary circumstances must not suspect him of
having indulged in childlike simplicity and imbecility
in all this. He knew not onlj' how, with the Chris-
tian graces, to draw the temper and dull the edge of
his adversary's sword or turn the point of his stiletto,
but how as well to catch him at fault, put him in re-
pose, and woo from him the di'tails (if his ]il(it and
circumvent him. He understn.Ml. in sin, it, tliat it is
better to have a legal foe at your lii-fside and quii'tly
study his weapons than to keep him at bay and be
unconscious all the while whether or not he carries ■
dynamite torpedoes in the shape of " testimony" of
peculiar coinage, etc., which he may cast and explode
under your feet at any time. Mr. Brou-nfield's great
benevolence was not of tlie crude, uinlisripliiied, iin-
discriminating kind, tlniui;li it wa> 'il'tiMi spoiitaiienus
and hearty; but his grrat brain was ever supreme,
and probably even his occasional religious zeal was
never so hot-tempered as to set his good sense agog.

If Jlr. Browntield at times forgot liis great virtues
of benevolence, great social virtues, and ri^iid sense
of justice and stooped to the use of 'pe-iinnaMe arts
in his life warfare, it must be said in his defense tbat
he was surrounded by a corrupt set of men, some of
them, too, men of comparatively good education, able
jurists, for example, who when off the bench kept the
ermine spotless by hanging it away out of sight while
they systematically wallowed in the mire of business
hypocrisies, and attempted to, and sometimes did,
plunder Browntield himself, — in short, surrounded by
pious knaves of all kinds, and of a high degree of
"respectability," and who, like Basil himself, be-
longed to churches which were for the most part !
cages for unclean Ijirds; and Brownfield was, in a I
sense, compelled to figlit these wretches with their
own weapons, and learned of them what may have
been bad in his life and ways. It is safe to say that
with his large nature he was always better than his

That the poor, who through his whole life enjoyed
his largesses, sorely felt his loss and temlerly mourned
himdead, sj.eak- vohinirsini-tliemaii. And it should
be added regardin- him that he s., profited by the in-
i(iuities whieh hr di-eovered hidden und. r the .-h.aks
of lii^ I'dlow ehureh-members and members of eom-
munions other than his as to be aroused to strong
suspicion that church membership is not necessarily
a sure road to "glory." Indeed, he was bitter in de-
nunciation of some church-members, and as he had
jcloubts at last about the existence of an orthodox
"hell," he seemed to think that there could be no
suitable home for them in the future.

But even Ttasil Browntiehl, who potently "lives
after he is dead," the favorite public sobriquet of
whom, " Black Hawk," a name which when associated
with his will and brawn bore terror to evil-do, i>,
living and to live on forever in history, even this
"Black Hawk" Basil must not be allowed too nuich
space in this history, though eventful and wonderful

was his life, and this sketch must come to aclose. Per-
haps nothing more fitting in its ending could be added
than the following extract from an obituary notice of
him, published editorially in the Genius of Liberty of
Uniontown, Aug. 25, 1881, four days after Mr. Brown-
field's de.ath :

" His neighbors bear testimony that he was a man
cd" good impulses, and was always ready to forgive an
injury when he was approached in a proper way.

" His physiognomy had the impress of greatness
strongly marked in every lineament, and we venture
to say that no man ever lived and died in Fayette
County with a stronger east of expres.sion. Mr.
Brownfield was a pleasant and agreeable gentleman,
and his home was always open for the reception of
his friends and neighbors, and whilst he was always
able to impart correct knowdedge of the secular things
that had transpired around and about him for more
than threescore and ten years, he was notable as a
good listener, which is a sure indication of a well-
lialaiieed mind."

This written of the wonderful man when near
the close of a life of eighty-six years, in far-length-
ened old age, when most men of like years would be
passing through second childhood into the nursed
infancy of drivelling dotage. Brownfield had no
]ieer in his domain, and nature's monarchs, unclassi-
fied, spring from and found no races. Their histories,
like their lives, are grandly individuate, and other
men record but cannot imitate them.

Mr. J. W. Moore, a portrait of whom appears in

this work, is a resident of Greensburg, Westmoreland
County, in which county he owns extensive tracts of
eoal lands, and has other possessions, but he is also
largely interested in the manufacture of coke in Fay-
ette County, especially at the coke-works of J. W.
Moore & Co., in South Union township.


William Barton, who was born in New Jersey, Sept.
i:l, 1795, of Quaker stock, and of English ancestry,
i-.mie into Fayecte County with his parents at about
twelve years of age. He enjoyed good advantages of
education for the times, and in early life was occupied
for some years as clerk and manager of a furnace in

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 158 of 193)