Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 159 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 159 of 193)
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On X'.v. L'^. ]^-Ii, he married Mrs. Hannah Collins
Foster bom i let. l's. 1795), widow of John Foster, a
captain in tin re;;ular army in the war of 1812, and
daughter o| I'leniia- Collins, of Uniontown, who was
a eolonel in the -anie war, and at one time sheriff of
Fayette Couiuy, a num of great business capacity.
Soon after marriage Mr. Barton settled with his wife

:i^/ J





on the old Collins farm, which eventually became by
inheritance the property of Mrs. Barton, in South
Union township, where he prosecuted farming all his
life, adding to the farm by the purchase in 1830 of an
adjoining tract equal to it in size. Mr. Barton became
a considerable stock-raiser withal, and for twenty
years or more ran a distillery, the products of which
had a great reputation all along the line of the Na-
tional road when that thoroughfare was at the height
of its glory.

He was an old-line Whig, afterwards a Republi-
can, and took great interest in national politics par-
ticularly, and though confined to his house mainly
for the last eighteen years of his life, he always caused
liimself to be carried into town to deposit his vote.
He died Nov. 6, 1865, while the war of the Eebellion
can be said to have been hardly settled, and during
that struggle watched its course with intense anxiety,
but with full confidence from the first in the ultimate
success of the cause of the Union. He was a genial

man and noted for his thorough integrity in business,
his word being all the " bond" his neighbors needed
of him. He took great interest in the public schools,
and was a director for a number of years. Mr. Barton
was a great reader and an independent thinker, and
was never attached to any religious organizations ; in
ftict, was distrustful of if not opposed to such organi-

Mr. Barton died leaving four children, one daugh-
ter and three sons, all now dead save one son, Mr.
Joseph Barton, who served as a private in the First
West Virginia Cavalry during the war of the Rebel-
lion, and who owns the old homestead, in which with
his family resides his aged mother, an intelligent
woman, still hearty and active, occasionally walking
to town even in coldest weather, a distance of two
miles, over a road too rough at times for horses to
travel with safety to limb, and one of the wretchedly
bad roads too common in the county and a disgrace
to the people of Uniontown.

NICHOLSON township;

Nicholson lies south of German and north of
Springhill township. Its area is over twenty square
miles, and its topography is similar to that of all
the western portion of the county. Along the river,
from the mouth of Georges Creek to that of Jacob's
Creek, the river-bluffs crowd close upon the river, in
many places leaving scarcely enough space to fornl a
road. From Jacob's Creek down to Catt's Run are
tlie broad flats known as " Provance's Bottoms." The
principal stream, next to the river, is Jacob's Creek,
near the centre. Georges Creek receives several con-
siderable affluents on the south, and Catt's Run
several small ones on the north. The soil is generally
very fertile, being for the most part heavy limestone.
Wheat, corn, oats, and other grains are produced in
great abundance.

Nicholson township was formed of territory taken
from the old townships of Springhill, German, and
Georges. The first movement (unsuccessful) towards
forming a new township from parts of these town-
ships was made a little more than forty years ago,
as follows :

At the Seiitember term of court, 1841, a petition
was presented " of divers inliabitants of Springhill,
Georges, and German townships for a new township,
to be composed of parts of the aforesaid townships,
to be called ' Gallatin.' " Thomas Boyd, of Bullskin,

George Craft, of Redstone, and George Dawson, of
Brownsville, were appointed commissioners. A favor-
able report was made, and approved Dec. 11, 1841.
On the 11th of June, 1842, objections were filed,
which were confirmed by the court on the 2d of Jan-
uary, 1843, and thus the proceedings of Dec. 11, 1841,
were rendered void and of no effect.

The effort was renewed with success in 184.3. At
the June session of the court in that year, " On the
petition of divers inhabitants of Springhill, George,
and German for a new township, to be composed of
parts of the aforesaid townships, to be called 'Nich-
olson,' James Paull, James H. Patterson, and Jacob
Murphy were appointed commissioners. ... to lay
out a new township to be called Nicholson out of
parts of Springhill, George, and German townships."
On the 19th of August, 184.'), these commissioners re-
ported, —

" That a new township should be made within the following
boundaries, to wit : Beginning at the mouth of Georges Creek :
thence up the same to Robert Long's fulling-mill; thence along
the Morgantown road to a point at or near Rev. A. G. Fair-
child'.s; thence by a road as far as Bonaparte Hardin's: thence
by a straight lino to the northwest branch of "i'ork's Run to a
stone-pile a white-oak ; thence [by various courses and dis-
tances] to a stone in Catt's Run, westwardly of .Jacob Emley'.«,
and on land of George Dcfenbaugh, about three perches from a
spring-house; thence down Catt's Run to the land or farm of
John Poundstone, where the road crosses said run; thence by


said road, runuing north of said Puundstone':? bouse, nearly
due west to the Monongahela River; thence up said river to the
place of beginning."

On the 19th of December, 1845, this report was ap-
proved and confirmed by the court, and by this ac-
tion Nicholson was erected a township with the above-
described boundaries.

In the December session of court, 1846, a petition
was presented " to change part of the boundary line
between George and Nicholson townships." An
order was issued and viewers appointed, viz.: John
Eobinson, Isaac Core, and Jeremiah Kendall, who
made a report on the 2iith of February, 1847, favora-
ble to a change in the line between Nicholson and
Georges townshi|)s, the effect of which was to include
the petitioners, John Harris, James Abram, and
Henry Bowell, in the township of Nicholson. The
report was approved and confirmed by the court
June 12, 1847, making the change of boundary as
prayed for by the petitioners.

The name Nicholson was given to the township in
honor of James Witter Nicholson, a noted citizen
of New Geneva. He was the second son of Commo-
dore James Nicholson, U.S.N., who became senior
oflicer in the navy October, 1776, and who died in
New York, Sept. 2, 1><04. His mother was Frances
Witter, a native of Maryland, as was also her husband.
James W. Nicholson was born Ajjril 20, 1773, his
parents residing on Nichohuii manor, near Nicholson
Gap, Md. His wil'r «a^ Ann GritBn. He was em-
ployed by Alliirl Gallatin to manage the financial
affairs of his glass-factory on Georges Creek, one mile
east of New Geneva, which he established in 1794.
Nicholson died at his residence, Oct. 6, 1851, aged
seventy-eight years. His property was known in the
early land titles as " Elk Hill ;" title dated June 26,
1770. He was a brother of Albert Gallatin's second
wife. Charles N. Nicholson is his grandson.

One of the earliest settlers within the territory now
Nicholson township was George Wilson, who came
to this section about the year 1765, and settled on
Georges Creek. From the time of his first settlement
here he appears to have been a notable man among
the pioneers of the Monongahela Valley, and he, with
Thomas Scott, of Dunlap's Creek, were marked by
Lord Dunmore, and arrested by his order, in 1774, as
chief among the Pennsylvania adherents in the terri-
torial controversy between this State and Virginia,
which was then at its height. It was at the house of
George Wilson that the Rev. John McMillen stopped
when he first preached to the Mount Moriah congrega-
tion in 1775. On the breaking out of the Revolution
Wilson entered the Revolutionary army in the Eighth
Pennsylvania Regiment, and became its lieutenant-
colonel. Referring to him, and to his honorable
career. Judge Veech says, —

" Col. George Wilson is a historic character. He was
a Virginian, from Augusta County, where he had been

an officer in the French and Indian war of 1755-62.
He came to the West about 1768-69 [Mr. Veech has the
date about three years too late] , and settled on the land
where New Geneva now is, owning the land on the river
on both sides of Georges Creek, to which it is believed
he gave the name, and being from a locality in Au-
gusta called Spring Hill, he caused that name to be
given to the township in which he resided.' He was
a Pennsylvania justice of the peace there while it was
a part of Bedford County, and his commission was
renewed for Westmoreland. Pennsylvania had no
more resolute officer than he was in all the boundary
troubles. . . . He died in the service of his country as
lieutenant-colonel of the Eighth Pennsylvania Regi-
ment, Col. Enos McKay, at Quibbletown, N. J., in
April, 1777."

His family received the first intelligence of his
death from his black servant, who returned from New
Jersey with the colonel's horse. Of the children of
Col. George Wilson little is known with certainty,
except that William George, John, and Jane were
three of them. Jane married, for her first husband, a
man named Bullitt, who proved a spendthrift and
ran through his wife's patrimony. She was at one
time the owner of the farms now owned by Jason
Woolsey and Daniel Sharpnack, as also of many acres
of other lands. After Bullitt's death she married Mr.
Hawkins, an excellent man of the Friends' Society.
By him she had children, among whom the most
widely known was the Hon. William George Haw-
kins, of Pittsburgh. After a few years Mr. Hawkins
died, and his widow married, for her third husband,
Gen. John Minor, of Greene County, by whom she
had two children, — Lawrence L. Minor, Esq., of
Greensboro', Greene Co., and Minerva, who married
John Crawford, of Greensboro', and who died in 1864,
aged about fifty -six years. Her son, Lieut. John
Minor Crawford, served in the war of the Rebellion
in the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Regiment, and is
now a resident of Greensboro', Greene Co., Pa.

When the Rev. John Steele and other commis-
sioners were sent to the Monongahela country, in
1768, to ascertain what settlements had been made
here, they reported to the Governor the names of
those found settled in this region, and among them
were mentioned as living "near Redstone," "John
Wiseman, Henry Prisser, William Linn, William Col-
vin, John Vervalson, Abraham Teagard, Thomas
Brown, Richard Rodgers, Henry Swatz, James Mc-
Clean, Jesse Martin, Adam Hatton, John Verval, Jr.,
James Waller, Thomas Donter, Capt. Coburn, John
Delong, Gabriel Conn, George Martin, Thomas Down,
Andrew Gudgeon, Philip Sute, James Crawford, John
Peters, Michael Hooter, Daniel McCay, Josiah Craw-
ford, one Provence." Of these, several can be lo-
cated. Gabriel Conn was an early settler in the Mo-
nongahela Valley, where many of the descendants are

1 The f,l;

iVDship until the



found to-day. The Crawfords were located in what
is now Southwestern Luzerne ; Abraham Teagard, on
Big Whiteley Creek, in Greene County, where the
name is common, several residing in Jefferson and
other places in the same county. The "One Pro-
vence" evidently means John W. Provance, who re-
sided on the river bottom between Jacob's Creek and
Catt's Run, in Nicholson township, and who settled
there in 1767.

William Yard Provance was also one of the very
early settlers on the Monongahela in the same section.
In the early years of their residence here an old In-
dian chief named Bald Eagle lived in or frequented
the valley of the Monongahela. He was on the most
friendly terms with the white settlers, and in passing
up and down the river on his hunting and fishing ex-
peditions never failed to stop to visit the Provances.
Finally, while hunting at some point up the river
(supposed to be near the mouth of Cheat), he was
murdered in cold blood by three white men named
Jacob Scott, William Hacker, and Elijah Runer,
who after doing the deed thrust a piece of corn-
bread into the mouth of the dead chief, and placed
the lifeless body in an upright position in the canoe,
which was then sent adrift on the river. It floated
slowly down the stream, and finally came close iu
shore opposite the residence of Mrs. Sarah Provance,
who saw it, and wondered that the Bald Eagle main-
tained his motionless position in the canoe, making
no movement to land. Going down to the bank she
made a closer observation and learned the truth, that
he was dead. She procured assistance, had the body
brought ashore, and buried in a Christian way. The
Indians were greatly enraged when they learned of
the unprovoked murder, but they were as deeply
grateful to Mrs. Provance and her family for the re-
spect they had shown to the remains of the murdered
chief. The bones of Bald Eagle still rest in an un-
marked and unknown grave by the Monongahela,
near the place where the old Provance house stood
more than a century ago. The Provances were noted
for their size and muscular powers as well as for their
love of all athletic sports. Many of the descendants
of the family still reside in Fayette County. By some
of them the name has been changed to Provins, one
of them being Jacob Provins, of Masontown, who is
a representative in the State Legislature from Fayette

The brothers John Hardin and Martin Hardin
have already been mentioned as among the first set-
tlers in the Monongahela Valley. All of Martin
Hardin's family afterwards removed to Kentucky, and
became prominent citizens of that State. They are
mentioned in Marshall's " History of Kentucky," in
which it is stated that Martin Hardin, who was the
father of the somewhat famous Col. Jnlm Ilanliii, of
Kentucky, emigrated from Fauquier ( 'miiity, \':i.. to
Georges Creek, in Fayette County, Pa., within what
is now Nicholson township, when his son John was

twelve years old. That was in 1765. Not long after
their arrival on Georges Creek there came Indian
troubles, and the situation of the settlers became pre-
carious and alarming, but they held their position
and did not abandon their possessions, as was the
case with many other settlers.

The location of John Hardin, Sr., was upon a tract
of land which he called "Choice," containing three
hundred and nineteen and a quarter acres and allow-
ance. The warrant for this tract was dated April 17,
1769. It was surveyed May 22d of the same year.
On this tract he made his residence, and lived on it
until his death. Martin Hardin located a tract named
" Harbout," of three hundred and seventeen and a
quarter acres and allowance, warranted April 17,
1769, and surveyed on the 22d of May, 1770. He
emigrated to Kentucky in or soon after the year 1780.
His son John (afterwards Col. John Hardin) went to
Kentucky in that year, and took up lands for himself
and friends in Nelson County, afterwards Washing-
ton County, in that State, luit returned to Fayette
County, and remained here six years longer before he
finally removed to Kentucky. In Dunmore's war of
1774 he (John Hardin, Jr.) served with a militia
company as an ensign. In the Revolution, in the
year 1776, he joined the Eighth Pennsylvania Regi-
ment, and became a lieutenant in one of the compa-
nies. In December, 1779, he resigned, and returned
home to Georges Creek, declining the proffered pro-
motion to the rank of major in a new regiment. In
1784 he received the nomination for sheriff' of Fay-
ette County, and was returned to the Executive Coun-
cil as one of the two candidates receiving the highest
number of votes. ( )ii that occasion and under those
circumstances ( len. .ramcs Wilkinson asked the Coun-
cil to commission Hardin as sheriff in a letter ad-
dressed to President Dickinson, of the Council,' dated"
November, 1784, and running as follows:

"... On the present return of the Election for Fayette
County, Major John Harden stands second for the Sheriff's
Office ; permit me brieBy to state to your Excellency this man's
merit without detracting from that of his competitor. Mr.
Harden served in the alert of the Army under Generals (then
Colonels) Morgan & Butler, in the Northern Campaign 1777.
His rank was that of a Lieutenant, and I can, as the Adjutant
General of the Army of Gates, assert that he was exposed to more
danger, encountered greater Fatigue, and performed more real
service than any other officer of his Station. With Parties never
e-xceeding 20 men, he in the Course of the Campaign made up-
wards of sixty Prisoners, and at a Personal Rencounter in the
rear of the Enemie's position, he killed a Mohawk express, &
brought in the dispatche.s which he was conveying from Genl.
Burgoyne to the Commanding Officer at Ticonderoga with the
loss only (indeed) of a Lock of Hair, which the Indian's Fire
carried away. It is sufficient for me .Sir to testify his merits;
the Justice which characterizes your administration will do the

In 1786 he removed his family to the new settle-
ment in Kentucky, where his father and brothers had


him. In the same year he yolunteered
under George Rogers Clarke for the expedition against
the Indians on the Wabash, and was ajspointed quar-
termaster. He was afterwards engaged in the suc-
ceeding Indian campaigns in Ohio and Indiana, and
rose to the rank of colonel. He was killed in the cam-
paign against the Miami vill;iL'c~ in the fall of 1702.
A son of his was killed Feb. S.;. 1>4:. ;it iIk- battle i)f
Buena Vista, under Gen. Taylor, in Mexico.

Miss Martha Hardin, a granddaughter of .lohii
Hardin, Sr., now living in ><^icholson township in
her eighty-sixth year, gives the following account of
the family of which she is a member: The Hardins,
she says, came originally from France. John Hardin,
Sr., Martin Hardin, and Lydia Hardin (who became
Mrs. Tobin) were brothei-s and sister. John Hardin,
Sr., married Isabella Shubranch, by whom he had
eleven children, viz. : John, Absalom, Henry, N'estor,
George, Cato, Hector, Mary Ann, Miriam, Matilda,
and Alice. He died in Fayette County, and his wife
survived him many years. Martin Hardin married
Elizabeth Hoagland, liy whom he had seven children
liesides Col. John. He i Martin i emigrated from Fay-
ette County, as before mentioned, to Kentucky, and
lived in the latter State until his death, though he
revisited his old home in (then) Springhill town-
ship, and the narrator recollects that when she was a
little girl she saw him here on one of those visits.
All the Hardins of Kentucky, she says, are his de-

Lydia Hardin, sister of John and Martin, married
Thomas Tobin, from which marriage came the family
of Tobins of Fayette County.

Robert McLain was a Scotchman who settled in
Nicholson township, south of the mouth of Catt's
Run, on the bank of the Monongahela River. He
■was an elder of the Mount Moriah Presbyterian
Church of Springhill, which was organized by the
Rev. James Power in 1774. Among the early set-
tlers he was highly esteemed and respected. He was
so unfortunate as to be compelled to kill a fellow-
being to save himself and family from being burned
to death. The region along the Monongahela was
infe.sted by a band of robbers, called " Bainbridge's
Gang," with headquarters at a high bluff of the river,
now owned by Jesse E. McWilliams, and known as
the Robbers' Den. McLain was the owner of a very
valuable stallion, which they resolved to take. Mc-
Lain having been notiiied of their intention, stabled
his horse in the kitchen of his house. When they
arrived they soon discovered the whereabouts of the
horse, and commanded McLain to bring him out.
Receiving no reply, they warned him that unless he
did as they bade him his house would be fired. Still
receiving no answer, Bainbridge commanded some of
his men to get straw, and he would .show the d — d
Scotchman wliether his commands were to be disre-
garded. Seizing the straw and advancing to execute
his threat, McLain fired, killing him instantly. He

was then carried off by some of the gang, who
wrapped the body in a bed coverlet, with stones, and
sunk it in the Monongahela. Mr. McLain, in the
later years of his life, was greatly troubled in mind
by the recollection of this justifiable homicide. Mr.
[ John Bowman (deceased), grandfather of Morgan H.
Bowman, Esq., of L'niontown, told the writer that
Robert McLain frequently visited his father's house,
and that he had often heard him express his deep re-
gret for having killed the desperado Bainbridge. The
date of Mr. McLain's death has not been ascertained.
His remains lie in the McLain burial-ground, in

Isaac Griffin was one of the pioneer settlers, as
well as one of the most prominent men in public and
private life for many years in what is now Nicholson
township, owning a large amount of land here, a part
I if which is known as the Morris farm. He was a
native of Delaware, Vicing born and reared in Kent
L'nunty ill that State. Although wild and reckless
while young, he won the heart of a young Quakeress,
named Mary Morris, whose family were strict Friends.
She was locked in a room up-stairs to prevent her
union with the young worldling. He found out the
situation, obtained a ladder, put it to the window, and
she climbed down and eloped with him. This bit of
romance has been handed down in that neighborhood
to this day. A meeting of the Friends was called,
when she was notified that " If thee will say thee is
sorry that thee married Isaac, thee can stay in." But
as she would not say it she was expelled from their

Isaac Griflin was a captain in the war of the Rev-
olution, and had a great deal of trouble with the
Tories, who were very numerous in Delaware. He
was mainly instrumental in capturing their leader,
Chany Clow, who was executed. When Clow came
home from the Tory camp, Capt. Griffin with his
company, and accompanied by Maj. Moore, sur-
rounded the house. It was dark, and in attempting
to reach the door Griffin stumbled and fell. Maj.
Moore got ahead of him and was shot dead by Clow,
who said he was sorry it was not Griffin. The adher-
ents of Clow hated Griffin intensely, and after the
close of the war his personal safety was endangered.
This in part caused him to change his residence.
He bought his first lands in Springhill (now Nichol-
son) township, Fayette Co., Pa., of the Hardins, but
the Indians lingering near, his wife feared to move
there. He then traded his Western lands to his rel-
) ative, Charles Griffin, for a farm in Delaware, where
j the town of Clayton now stands. His wife having
lost her health, and his enemies constantly harassing
I him, she finally consented to go to Western Pennsyl-
] vania. He again visited the West and bought land
of the Evans'. He afterwards bought several farms,
and became one of the most successful stock-raisers
on the Monongahela.

Mr. Griftin owned a few negro slaves that he brought


with him to Fayette County. Soon after he became
a citizen of Pennsylvania the Governor appointed him
justice of the peace, in 1794, in which capacity he
served several years. In 1807 he was elected to the
Legislature, and re-elected until he served four suc-
cessive terms. In 1809 there were six candidates for
the office, but Mr. Griffin ran far ahead of all the
others, receiving the entire vote of Fayette County
with the exception of about two hundred votes. Al-
though living in the opposite end of Fayette County
from Mr. John Smilie, Mr. Griffin was appointed by
that gentleman one of the executors of his will, and
at his death in 1812 Mr. Griffin was elected to Con-
gress as Mr. Smilie's successor. It is related of him
that upon being notified of his election he brought
cloth of home manufacture to Thomas Williams, Esq.,
of New Geneva, for the purpose of having him make
him a suit of clothes. He informed the persons pres-
ent that " he raised the sheep, carded, spun, dyed, and
wove the cloth on his own premises." At a mass-
meeting in Uniontown he was nominated for Congress
by acclamation. At the election his competitor was
Gen. Thomas Meason, a prominent member of the
Fayette County bar. He defeated Gen. Meason by
a large majority, and was once re-elected without op-
position. He served in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 159 of 193)