Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 162 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 162 of 193)
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Washington his first hint concerning the obtaining of a tract of land



time for reflection, I now write deliberately and witli greater
precision on tlie subject of my last letter. I then desired the
favor of you (as I understood rights might now be had for the
lands which have fallen within the Pennsylvania line)i to look
me out a tract of about fifteen hundred, two thousand, or more
a«re8 somewhere in your neighborhood, meaning only by this
that it may be as contiguous to your own settlement as such a
body of good land can be found. It will be easy for you to
conceive that ordinary or even middling lands would never
answer my purpose or e.\peotiition. so far from navigation and

son can be a better judge than yourself) and, if possible, level.
Could such a piece of land be found you would do me a singular
favor in falling upon some method of securing it immediately
from the attempts of others, as nothing is more certain than
that the lands cannot remain long ungranted when once it is
known that rights are to be had.

"... It is possible, but I do not know that it really is the
case, that the custom in Pennsylvania will not admit so large a
quantity of bind as I require to be entered together; if so, this
may perhaps be arranged by making several entries to the same
amount, if the c-ipenses of doing it is not too heavy. If the
land can only be secured from others it is allj want at present.
The surveying I would choose to postpone, at least till the
spring, when, if you can give me any satisfactory account of
this matter, ;ind of what I am next going to propose, I expect
to pay you a visit about the last of April."

No information is found as to the preliminary steps
taken by Capt. Crawford to select and secure these
lands on behalf of Washington, but it is certain
that on the opening of the land-office at the time
above mentioned warrants were issued for lands in
the present township of Perry, amounting to more
than sixteen hundred acres, all of which came into
possession of the general. The only tract in this
township warranted to George Washington was one
named " Meadows." The warrant bore date April
3, 17(59, and the survey October 27th of the same
year. There was, however, at the same time one
tract called " I'urk^,'' wairaiited to John Augusta
[Augustine?! Washiiigoii ; one called " Bear Hills,"
to Lawrence \Va.sliingtuii ; one called "Spring Run,"
to William Athel ; one called " Flatts," to John
Bishop ; one called " Grab-Tree Run," to John Paty ;
and one called "' Deer Range," to Thomas Jones. The
surveys, made with large allowance, gave the area of
these several tracts as follows: "Meadows," 329
acres ; " Forks," 320 acres ; " Bear Hills," 320 acres ;
" Spring Run," 331 acres ; " Flatts," 319 acres ; " Crab-
Tree Run," 330 acres ; and " Deer Range," 332 acres.
There is nothing found tending to show that either
John A. Washington's " Forks" or Laurence Wash-
ington's " Bear Hills" tract ever caine into the hands
of George Washington ; but that he did purchase

under Pennsylvania " rights" in the trans-Allegheny country was Val-
entine Crawford, who located upon Jacob's Creek, Westmoreland Co,,

' By the Pennsylvania line Washington meant the boundary line be.
tween Pennsylvania and Virginia, which at that date was being nm
beyond the AUet^lieny Mountains. His undei-standing as to rights was

or otherwise acquire all the other tracts above emiz
merated, amounting in the aggregate to 1641 acres,
and that they were patented to him Feb. 28, 1782, is y
made certain by a recital to that effect in deeds given
in the year 1802 by his executors. None of the names
of the warrantees of the tracts above named as having
been patented to Gen. Washington are found in con-
nection with any later settlement or transfer, and
therefore it is probable that they took up the lands
in his interest; and it is certain that the warrants
taken by them passed to him before the issuance of
the patents.

Capt. Crawford, who selected these lands for Wash-
ington, acted also as his agent in locating many other
tracts in what is now Washington County, Pa., in
Ohio, and along the Ohio River Valley in Virginia.
In 1770, the year next following the location and
survey of these lands, Washington made a tour
through this section, and down the Ohio to the Great
Kanawha, and kept a journal of the trip. A part of
that journal is given below, commencing on the date
of his departure from Mount Vernon, viz. :

" October 5th. — Began a journey to the Ohio in company with
Dr. Craik, his servant and two of mine, with a led horse and
baggage. Dined at Towlston's, and lodged at Leesburg, distant
from Mount Vernon about forty-five miles. Here my port-
manteau horse failed. [Here follows the journal of six days'
journey by Wiiy of Old Town, Md., and Fort Cumberland to
' Killman's,' east of Castleman's River.]

" 12th.— We left Killman's early in the morning, breakfasted
at the Little Meadows, ten miles off, and lodged at the Great
Crossing (of the Youghiogheny at Somerfield), twenty miles far-
ther, which we found a tolerably good day's work. . . .

"13th. — Set out about sunrise, breakfasted at the Ureat
Meadows [Fayette Co.], thirteen miles, and reached Captain
Crawford's about five o'clock. The land from Gist's [Mount
Braddock] to Crawford's is very broken, though not mountain-
ous, in spots exceedingly rich, and in general free from stone:
Crawford's is very fine land, lying on the Youghiogheny, at a
place commonly called Stfwarl's Crossing.

" 14th.— At Captain Cr.awford's all day. Went to see a coal-
mine not far from his house on the banks of the river. The
coal seemed of the very best kind, burning freely, and abun-
dance of it.

" 15th. — Went to view some land which Captain Crawford
located for me near the Youghiogheny,^ distant about twelve
miles. This tract, which contains about one thousand six hun-
dred iicres, includes some as fine land as I ever saw, and a great
deal of rich meadow ; it is well watered and has a valuable mill-
seat, except that the stream is rather too slight, and, it is said,
not constant more than seven or eight months in the year; but,
on account ot the fall and other conveniences, no place can ex-
ceed it. In going to this land I passed through two other
tracts which Captain Crawford had taken up for my brothers
Samuel and John. I intended to have visited the land which
Crawford hadprocured for Lund 3 Washington this day also, but,
time falling short, I was obliged to postpone it. Night caine
on before I got back to Crawford's, where I found Colonel Stc-

- Referring to the tracts above mentioned, lying in the present towu-
Bhip of Perry.

3 Meaning Laurence Washington, who was not a relative, or if he was,
a very distant one, and who is mentioned in the general's will as an
"acquaintance and friend of my juvenile years.''



phen. The lands which I passed over to-day were generally
hilly, and the growth chiefly white oak, but very good notwith-
standing ; and, what is extraordinary and contrary to (he prop-
erty of all other lands I ever saw before, the hills are the richest
land, the soil upon the sides and summits of them being as
blaok ns coal, and the growth walnut and cherry. The flats
are not so rich, and a good deal more mixed with stone.

" Ifith. At Captain Crawford's till evening, when I went to
Mr. John Stephenson's, on my way to Pittsburg. . . . 17th.
Dr. Craik and myself, with Capt. Crawford and others, arrived
at Fort Pitt; distance from the Crossing forty-three and a half

On the 20th, Washington, with Dr. Craik, Capt.
Crawford, William Harrison, Robert Beall, and others,
with some Indians, proceeded down the Ohio in a
large canoe, having sent their servants back to Craw-
ford's with orders to meet the party there on the 14th
of November, but they did not reach there until ten
days after the time appointed. The journal then
proceeds, —

'■ Nov. 24th. When we came to Stewart's Crossing at Craw-
ford's the river was too high to ford, and his canoe gone adrift.
However, after waiting there two or three hours, a canoe was
got, in which we crossed, and swum our horses. The remain-
der of this day I spent at Capt. Crawford's, it either raining
or snowing hard all day.

"25th. I set out early, in order to see Lund Washington's
land ; but the ground and trees being covered with snow, I was
able to form but an indistinct opinion of it, though upon the
whole it appeared to be a good tract of land. From this I went
to Mr. Thomas Gist's and dined, and then proceeded to the
Great Crossings at Hogland's, where I arrived about eight

From there he journeyed back to Mount Vernon
by tlie route over which he came.

Except by the parties above mentioned as receiving
warrants April 3, 1769, the only purchases made in
the present township of Perry during that year were
those of Eleanor and James Hunter, of Philadelphia,
the tract of the former being 316 acres, and that of
the latter 276iJ acres. They were located on the
waters of Virgin Run, and warranted April 19, 1769.
1 Of all these purchasers of lands in the present town-
ship of Perry in the year 1769, none ever became
settlers on them. And from that year until 1784 no
other purchases of land were made within the present
bounds of the township.

It is evident from the language of Washington's
journal, above quoted, that the tracts of his brothers,
Samuel and John A. AVashington, were on the route
from Capt. Crawford's (New Haven) to his own land,
at and near the site of the present town of Perryop-
olis, but that Lund (Laurence) Washington's land lay
some distance away from the direct route. It has not
been ascertained to whom the title of these lands
passed, nor their exact location.

In the extracts above given from Washington's jour-
nal of 1770 it will be noticed that he makes reference

to a mill-seat on the small stream (since named Wash-
ington Run) which flowed through his tract. It was
his purpose to build a mill at this place, and prepa-
rations were soon after commenced for it by Gilbert
Simpson, whom Washington sent out as manager
of his property here. His first business, however,
was to erect a log house, which stood adjoining the
present residence of John Rice. This was the farm-
house which was the headquarters of the operations
carried on by Simpson for the proprietor. The mill
was built on the run, in the immediate vicinity of the
present village of Perryopolis. From the time of its
completion until the present (with the exception of a
few years prior to 1790) a mill has been in constant
operation on this site.

Between 1770 and 1774, Valentine Crawford (who
had settled on Jacob's Creek) succeeded his brother,
Capt. William Crawford, as Washington's financial
agent in this region, Simpson being merely the man-
ager of his farming and other operations on his lands
in the present township of Perry. Below are given
some extracts from letters written in the year last
named by Valentine Crawford to Col. Washington,
having reference to the improvements then being made
under the direction of Simpson on the Washington
tract, viz. :

" Jacob's Creek, A|)nl 27, 1774.
" I went to Gilbert Simpson's as soon as I got out and gave

your Bottom unti
fear they would i

and the bill of his arti-
at he might take them to
work ; but he refused for

"As to the goods, I have stored them; and I went to Mr.
Simpson as soon as I came up, and offered him some of the car-
penters and all the servants ; but he refused taking them, — the
latter for fear they would run away ; he has, however, now
agreed to take some of both, thecarpenters to do the framing for
the mill, and the servants to dig the race. Stephens has agreed
to quit, provided the Indians make peace, and it would be out of
his power to get them back again, as he has no means of con-
veyance. I am afraid I shall be obliged to build a fort until
this eruption is over, which I am in hopes will not last long. I
trust you write me full instructions as to what I must do. Mr.
Simpson yesterday seemed very much scared; but I cheered
him up all I could. He and his laborers seemed to conclude to
build a fort if time? grew any worse."

" Gist's, May I?., 1774.
ite to let you know that all your servants
c of them have run away. Mr. Simpson
has as many of the carpenters as he can find work for, and has
got some of the servants assisting about the seat for the mill
until this storm of the Indians blows over."

"Jacob's Creek, May 2.5, 1774.
"From nil accounts Capt. Connolly caught from the Indian
towns they are determined for war. ... I have, with the as-
sistance of some of your carpenters and servants, built a very
strong block-house ; and the neighbors, what few of them have
not run away, have joined \vith me, and we are building a
stockade fort at my house. Mr. Simpson, also, and his neigh-
bors have begun to build a fort at your Bottom : and we live in

"Dear Sin,-
are well, and th


hopes we can stand our ground till we can get some assistance
from bcluw."

A letter from Crawfurd, dated June 8th, informed
Washington tliat Simpson had completed the fort at
the Bottoms :

"Jacob's Creek, July 27, 1774.

" My wagon ari.l l-ani li;i i ,' 1 n at work at your mill f.u- sumo

time, hauling tinil.. I , -I .ana liiuc and ,-an<l I'nr it. 1 went



workmen, and I have brought home my team. I consider it a
pity that the mill was erer begun in these times. It apia ar,=
to me sometimes that it will be a very e.xpensive job ti> you
before it is done. All the carpenters I brought out for you
stopped work on the sixth of May, except some who were at
work on your mill. These I pay myself. I shall observe your
orders in regard to settling with the carpenters."

But it seems that the work on construction of the
mill was delayed for some cause (doubtless the open-
ing of the war of the Revohiti.mi. so tliat two years
had elapsed from the time of its i-omiiiciiL'ement be-
fore it was completed and put in (i]>eration, as is
shown by a letter,' dated Sejit. 2i), 1771!, written by
Valentine Crawford to Gen. Washiugtun when the
latter was engaged in the operations of his army
around the city of New York after the battle of
Long Island. The following extract from that letter
has reference to the building of the mill, and tells the
time when it was first started, viz. :

" I this spring, before I came over the mountain,
called at Simpson's to see your mill go for the first
time of its running, and can assure you I think it the
best mill I ever saw anywhere, although I think one
of a less value would have done as well. If you re-
member, you.stnv some rocks at the mill-seat. These
are as fine millstone grit as any in America. The
millwright told me the stones he got for your mill
there are equal to English burr."

From this time until 17S.i little is known as to what
was done with Washin,i;lniiV mill, or i.ii his lauds in
this vicinity. On the :i:M of Siptnulirr in that year
he wrote to Thomas Freeman (who had succeeded
Valentine Crawford as his agent) as follows :

•• [f you should not have offers in a short time for the hire
of my mill alone, or for the mill with one hundred and fifty
acres of land adjoining, I think it advisable, in that case, to
let it on shares, to build a good and substantial dam of stone
where the old one stood, and to ereet a pn-iMr t~uie-lia\ in i.lare
of the trunk which now conducts tlic natrr i., ilic- «h.r!. and,

driven to this for want of a tenant, let public notice thereof be
given, and the work let to the lowest bidder, the undertaker
finding himself and giving bond and security for the perform-
ance of his contract. The charges of these things mu.^l be paid
out of the first moneys you receive for rent or olherwis.-. 1 1 1
could get fifteen hundred pounds for the mill ami .un- hun Ind
acres of laml most convenient thereto I would b-t it l'" lor that


• This, as well as the extr.icls before given, is from the " Waildngton-
Crawford Letters."

Gen. Washington, however, did not succeed in sell-
ing or otherwise disposing of his lands until the fall
of 1789, when they were leased for a term of five
years to Col. Israel Shreve,- who afterwards became
their purchaser. He (Col. Shreve) emigrated to
Western Pennsylvania in 1788 from New Jersey,
leaving his old home in Hunterdon County in that
State on the 7th of July. With him came others,
firming a party of thirty persons in all, viz. : Israel
Shreve and Mary, his wife, with their children, — Ke-
ziah, Hester, Israel, George, Greene, Rebecca, and
Henry, with John Fox and James Starkey ; William
Shreve and Rhoda, his wife, with their children, —
Anna and Richard (the preceding named traveling in
three two-horse wagons and driving three cows) ; Jo-
seph Beck and Sarah, his wife, with their children, —
Benjamin, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Henry, Joseph, and
Ann (in one three-horse wagon) ; Daniel Hervey, his
wile, Sarah, their son Job, a mulatto boy, Thomas, Jo-
seph, and Ann Wheatley,and John Shellow, the last-
named seven traveling with one three-horse wagon,
one two-horse wagon, and one cow.

They came over the mountains to Westmoreland
County, Pa. Without pausing to follow the fortunes
of other members of the party, it is sufficient to say
that Col. Shreve stopped with his family in Rostraver
township, occupying the house of Joseph Lenman
for something more than a year, until he rented the
Washington lands, as before mentioned. Soon after
concluding the bargain, he wrote to his brother, Caleb
Slircvc, iif .Mansfield, N. J., a letter which shows what the cnndition of the Washington lands at that
time, as also the ftict that the mill built by Gilbert
Simpson was then in disuse, and too much out of re-
jiair to be again started without considerable expense.
The letter' referred to is here given, as follows:

• Dic.iR Bro

" F.iRKS OF YouOH, Dec. 2G, 1789.
!R, — Having an opportunity to Philadelphia,
— ition my situation - ' "'-'' — '='' —

itended one

1 h i> c been here, have worked to get Washington Bottom, and
ba\e at last c»btained the whol

! to the

id the whole tract on rent for five years,
(ieneral by his Agent in this county. Col

- Israel Shreve was born Dec. 24, 1739, at the Shrove homestead, Mount

i't. i^atit, AlaTi-iifl.l, liiiilinu'tnu Co., N. J., but at a later period removed
ti. Ilnnn-i.i.n r-uiiii ill 111 ■ Mime State, where he was living at the out-
li ikl n l; . :,'i II Wh.-n the first two battailous were raised in
Ni'^v .liiv.v I r I ■ III 111 i' arnn. Ill' 1- :t - ayi]'ninted by the Congress
iM JN r, am ,, >- III] • 111. \\. Ilia nattalion, William

tile regular t'untiiiental eervice in tlie falluwing Deceniber,and marched
to tlie vicinity of the city of New York, wliich was then occupied by the

()ii till' reor;;ranizatioii of the New Jersey line he was made colonel

lit 111" Si . II I l; .11 1, 111,1 remained in that command to the close

Ml I 111! \\,ii , .IV : II M wM ll's brigade, and taking part in many of
\\.i-liiN-i II lull battles, iucluding that of Monmouth.

Ill- I'liili I all Mm- First New Jersey Regiment, «nd another

liriither ^Samuelj liLaitenaut-colonel of the First Battalion of New Jersey
in the Continental line.

^ This letter, as also the account of the party with which Col. Shreve
eniigraled from New Jersey tu Western Pennsylvania, was published in
the Ammcui Mngadne of HiMoni in 184>.



Canon, who a few weeks ago returned from New York ; the
General was pleased to order Col. Canon to let me have the
whole of the Bottoms so called at my offer. The old fiirm con-
tains about 80 acres of improved upland and about 40 of the
best kind of meadows, a bearing orchard of 120 apple and 100
peach trees, the buildings as good ns most in this county,
pretty well situated, and five other improved farms that at
this time rent for £43 10«. I am accountable for the whole
rent, which altogether is £fiO, so that I shall have the old place
for £16 lOs., to be paid either in money or wheat at 3«. per

" I considered that the land at the Miami settlement was
rising fast, and that I had better pay this low rent for a well-
improved farm than barter away my land at a low rate for land
here. Land docs not rise much in this place owing to the great
emigration down the river. It seems as if people were crazy to
get afloaton theOhio. Many leave very good livings, setoutfor
Iliey know not where, but too often find their mistake. I believe
I his as good as any of the settlements down the river for the
present. The Mississippi trade is open at this time, and all the
wheat, whisky, bacon, etc., buying up by those concerned in it.
The highest price for wheat is four shillings in trade, or three
shillings nine pence cash, whisky three shillings cash, and

: pence per pound cash.

the far

fhere I i


going is as good a chance for a grist-mill as any
forks, and a mill that can be set going for I believe fifty pounds,
' and a number of years given for the repairs. I am in hopes of
being able to set it going, as it will produce more grain than all
the six farms t>n the tract. I am to have possession the first of
April next, and flatter myself I have as good a chance as any
person in my circumstances could expect. I shall have nothing
to attend t^ but my own private concerns. I think this way of
life far preferable to any other. Ricoard Shrieve is to have one
of the small farms. They contain of improved land as follows :
One forty acres upland and five good meadows; one thirty-five
acres upland and six good meadows; the other two twenty-five
acres upland and five or six good meadows; the whole in fences,
they beingtheyear before last rented for repairs. Peggy .Shrieve
has a daughter. She and her husband have been very sickly
this last fall, but have recovered. I am grandfather to another
son. John and his wife are pretty well, as is our family at
present, but except the measles, as it is in the school where our
boys go. I hope you are well also.

" I am. with great respect and love,

"Your Brother, Israel 'Shrieve."

On the 31st of July, 1795, Gen. Washington, by
his attorney, James Ross, of Pittsburgh, entered into
articles of agreement to sell and convey in fee simple
to Israel Shreve, for the consideration of four thou-
sand pounds, sixteen hundred and forty-four and a
quarter acres of land with allowance, consisting of
the five surveys before mentioned, viz. : " Meadows,"
"Deer Range," "Crab-Tree Run," " Flatt," and
"Spring Run," for which patents had been issued
Washington Feb. 28, 1782. Gen. Washington died
in 1799, never having conveyed the tracts under the
articles of agreement to Col. Shreve,' who also died
in the same year.

1 At one time, not long before the death of Washington and Shreve,
the former, notwithstanding his great wealth, having becooie somewhat
straitened for money, pressed Shreve hanl fur payment on the lands, and
caused an execution to be issued against luni, at the same time writiug
him a severe letter in reference to his delin.iuency ; hut at its close he
relented, and Siud to his old comrade of Trenton and Monmcmtli, "Not-

Nearly two years after Gen. Washington's death
his executors, George Steptoe Washington and Sam-
uel Lewis, constituted James Ross, of Pittsburgh, their
lawful attorney, to convey the five tracts in pursuance
of the agreement of July, 1795 ; and accordingly, on
the 17th of June, 1802, Ross did so convey the prop-
erty to the heirs of Israel Shreve.

Col. Shreve had four sons, — Henry, John, Samuel,
and Israel, Jr. Henry was a civil engineer, and was
employed by the government to clear the channel of
the Red River in Louisiana. He finally settled on
that river at the present town of Shreveport, which
was named in his honor. John Shreve lived in what
is now the township of Perry, and represented the
district in the Assembly with John St. Clair and Col.
Henry Heaton. Samuel Shreve settled in Perry, and
was one of the original proprietors of Perryopolis.
Israel Shreve, Jr., also lived and died in Perry.

The heirs of Col. Shri'vr ^oM tln' ,i;:reater part of
the property piircliuscl from (im. Washington to
Isaac Meason. In the division ol' tlu- property after
his death the Shreve homesteail, r..iitaiiiiiiLr <me hun-
dred and sixty-one acres, was set oil to Mr-. Williams,

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 162 of 193)