Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 175 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 175 of 193)
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was given by Col. George Wilson, the earliest settler
on Georges Creek (at its mouth, in what is now Nichol-
son township), who had come here from Springhill, in
Augusta, Va., and had given that name to the new
region in which he settled. That was while all the
Monongahela country was included in Cumberland
County ; and the old Springhill township of that
county embraced an immense territory, covering all
the southern part of what is now Fayette, all of
Greene, and the south part of the present county of

Washington. The township as erected by the Fay-
ette County Court, in December, 1783, was embraced
in the following description of boundaries, viz. :

" A township beginning at the mouth of Jacob's
Creek ; thence up the Monongahela River to Mason
and Dixon's line; thence by the same to the line of
Wharton township on the top of Laurel Hill; thence
by the same to the line of Georges township ; thence
by the same to the place of beginning. To be here-
after known by the name of Springhill township."

The surveyor has never yet (in accordance with
this description) reached "the place of beginning;"
and Springhill is really only bounded on three sides
j and a, part of the fourth, according to the act of the
I court. Sixty-two years after the erection into a town-
ship, Springhill lost the Egypt of her territory by the
formation of Nicholson township, losing all that rich
farming land lying between Jacob's Creek on the
north and Georges Creek on the south, including New
Geneva with all its historical associations. In New
Geneva was one of the four post-oflices of Fayette
County in 1805, the other three being Uniontown,
Brownsville, and Connellsville.

Prominent among the early settlers of Springhill
township was Col. Theophilus Phillips. In May,
j 1767, he, in company with his brother-in-law, the
, Rev. James Dunlap, emigrated to Fayette County
from New Jersey, and settled, or rather squatted, on
a stream which has been called Dunlap's Creek fir
more than a century. After clearing a piece of land
and farming it jointly for a time, they dissolved part-
nership and cast lots for the land, which fell to Dun-
lap. Phillips then purchased a large tract of land in
Springhill township, called " Phillips' Choice," con-
taining 453 1 acres and allowance. The patent is dated
Dec. 12, "1786. Mr. Phillips enjoyed the respect and
confidence of all who knew him, and was often called
to fill public positions. It was near his residence that
the courts of Monongalia County, Va., were held in
the last half of the eighteenth century. The build-
ings have long been demolished, and nothing but the
foundations of them remain to mark the site. To
the left of the New Geneva and Springhill Furnace
roads, via Morris', and about two hun-
dred yards from the same, on a long knoll, with a di-
rection northeast, stood the Phillips residence, with
many outbuildings, including shop, negro quarters,
still-house, and stables. Among his grandchildren


are Theophihis P. Kramer, Theophilus Williams, and
Adolph Eberhart, whose ages are eighty-one, seventy-
eiirht, and sixty-four years respectively. They recol-
lect hearing their parents say that the Monongalia
court was held in the shop which stood near the old
Phillips dwelling-house.

Col. Phillii.s was ordained an elder of the -Mount
Moriah Church, in Springhill town-lii|i. in 1774. He
was among the first to ship Hour and \vlii<ky to New
Orleans from Wilson Port, as the mouth of Georges
Creek was then called. In 1789 he was elected to the
State Legislature, wdiicli at that time met in the city
of Philadelphia. His boats were ready laden for New
Orleans, and he resolved to go with them, and instead
of crossing the mountains, sail round by the Gulf
and the Atlantic to Philadelphia. Before starting
he willed his estate, giving to each of his children
their portion, in case he should never return. This
proved to have been the act of a seusible man, for not
long after leaving the port of New Orleans, en route [
for Philadelphia, he fell a victim to shiji-fever, and |
was buried at sea. He left a numerous family. Capt. i
John Phillips, of the war of lsi:2, was liis son. He I
.lied of elioleru near f'ineinnati, Ohio, in 1832. Of
ilic' William- laiiiily, many olwhoni have been elected
|ii>ii,-e>,ar,".loliii {'./I'liomas .lo.seph ( K, and Thomas,
Jr., grandsons, and Liirai i;iands()n of Col. Theophilus.
Dr. William WiUn,,. ol Indiana, brother of Mrs. Eli-
ezer Robinson, o I I iiiontown, married a granddaugh-
ter. Miss Elizabeth Kramer. Theophilus Phillips
married a Miss Joanna Prater. It is said that on
several occasions Washington visited the Monongalia
court-house, near Col. Phillips' place. It is, however,
doubtful whether he was ever in that vicinity more
than once, — in the year 1784.

Though Theophilus Phillips was among the earliest,
if not the very first, of the actual settlers within the
territory now Sprin-liill township (Col. George Wil-
Miii, liowever, being eonsideralily earlier on the other
side of (4eorges Creekj, yet tliere were a considerable
number of warrants taken by others for lands in
Springhill antedating the warrant to Phillips of the
tract, " Phillips' Choice," on which he settled. Among
these early locations of lands in Springhill were the
following, viz. : Andrew Contral, a tract containing
347 acres and allowance, warrant dated July 3, 1769,
surveyed 2d of July, 1770 ; Joseph Cox, 302 acres, war-
ranted July 3, 1769, surveyed Nov. 17, 1770 ; Hugh |
Evans, 181 acres, surveyed 1785, warrant dated IMareh
23, 1785; Thomas Ashby, 307 acres, warrant .l.ated
July 3, 1769. There were a great many others whose
warrants and patents are one hundred years old and
upwards. Settlements increased very slowly for some
years, but much more rapidly after the close of the
Revolution, so that in the year 1785 the number of
taxable persons, including " single men," in Spring-
bill vtiia over two hundred, and the total assessed
valuation of property 1112,532 5-v. (Irf. This, however.

included in addition to the territory that is now
Springhill a considerable additional territory that
is now in the township of Nicholson.

John Swearingen and Van Swearingen, father and
son, were among the earliest settlers in Springhill,
being here as early as 1770, and po,ssibly in 1769, Van
Swearingen being in the latter year twenty-six years
of aiif. Thomas Swearingen, Sr., and his son Thomas
came to Western Pennsylvania about the same time,
and settled west of the Monongahela. The ancestors
of all the Swearingens in this region were Garrett
Van Swearingen and Barbara De Barrette, his wife,
who came from Holland to America, settled in Mary-
land, and were, with their children, Garrett and Bar-
bara, naturalized in that province in April, 1669, as
is shown by the records in Baltimore. Two other
children of theirs, Elizabeth and Zachariah, were
born in the Delaware counties, and so needed no
naturalization. The prefix " Van" was afterwards
dropped from the surname of the family, but was
used, as we see, as the Christian name of the son of
John Swearingen.

Of this John Swearingen who settled in Springhill
township very little is known beyond the fact of his
settlement here, and that he was a resident of the
township in 1785. His son. Van Swearingen, did not
remain long in Springhill,' but removed to a new
location on the east side of the Monongahela, near
the mouth of Redstone, but retaining the ownership
of his lands in Springhill at least until 1785. Before
that time, however, he had left his second location
near Redstone and removed to Washington County,
of which he was elected sheriff upon its organization
in 1781. After a few years spent by him in Wash-
ington County he removed to laud which he had
located as early as 1772 in Ohio County," Va., and
died there Dec. 2, 1793. During all the period of his
residence west of the Alleghenies he was a prominent
man both in civil and military life.

The Crow family were very early settlers of this
section of country. Michael Crow was born in Mary-
land, near Williamsport, and was the first of the
name to settle in Springhill. After a short residence
in his new home he married Hannah Huhn. (The
Huhns owned the property where Crow's mill now
stands, but the number of acres is not known.) At
the death of Huhn, the father of his wife, Michael
Crow, inherited the farm. Here he continued to re-
side until his death in 1858, at the age of ninety-eight
years. His descendants are perhaps more numerous
ihan those of any of the first settlers of this region.
Several of them have filled important county offices.
Jacob Crow was at one time treasurer of Fayette

1 Van Sweariugt-n and foui' other persons were tlie Imilders of the
old lug fort built as a place of refuge during the Indian troubles of 1774,
near Morris Cross-Roads, on lands now owned by Mr. Crow. The lu-
ilians captured a son of his named I>uUe, whom they never restored.
Cato Hardin, a soldier "f the war of 1812, after his return from service
told several that he believed he saw Duke Swearingen among the In-
dians during his stay in Ohio, near Siindusky.



County. Hon. Alexander Crow, of New Geneva, was
associate judge. The family is noted for its firm ad-
herence to the principles of the Democratic party.
• Mary Duvall's name should not be omitted from
the list of early settlers of Springhill, though it does
not appear that she ever reflected much credit on the
township. Free from fear, she came from the East
with the first settlers more than one hundred years
ago, and located on a small stream, a tributary of
Grassy Run, in an unbroken forest, inhabited only by
Indians and wild animals. But the Indians had no
terrors for her. " Logan was the friend of the white
man," and it does not appear that he regarded this
■white woman as an enemy. When the Indians visited
Springhill they always encamped at lier spring and
enjoyed her hospitality. If the community feared an
Indian raid, and fled to the fort for protection, Mary
Duvall remained at home in quiet and peace. Sev-
eral years before her death she told many of her
friends that the Indians knew of lead-mines not far
away from her liouse, because they were never gone
long when they needed a supply of lead, and that
they always ran their bullets at her house. She was,
it was said, a Roman Catholic, and hated most de-
voutly all Protestants, particularly the Methodists.
For them, in particular, her hatred was sleepless and
untiring. She left a family, mostly boys, who were
said to have exhibited strong Indian peculiarities,
both physical and mental. They were very quarrel-
some, and exceedingly expert in the use of the rifle.
Daniel married in Springhill, and emigrated to Ken-
tucky, selling his land here to George Hardin. Lewis
also emigrated with his brother Daniel. All traces of
the other members of the family are lost.

Jacob Gans was an early settler of Springhill, emi-
grating hither from Virginia with a large number of
other hardy adventurers more than a century ago.
Little is to be said of him except that he lived and
died in Springhill, and left an untarnished character,
as well as a numerous progeny in this part of Fayette
County. To sketch all of his descendants would be
to write the biography of a large portion of the citi-
zens of the township. Ann Gans, a granddaughter
of his, married a Mr. Arnold, and lives or did live on
Ten-Mile Creek, in Greene County. Susanna, another
granddaughter, married Jeremiah Burchinal, one of
the most respected citizens of Springhill, and is now
living, at a very advanced age, on Grassy Run, west
of the old Springhill Furnace property.

John McFarland was one of the early adventurers
who dared the dangers of the Indian country west of
the mountains. His settlement was made in Spring-
hill, near Cheat River, where he had also a mill and
.still-house. He left several children, among the num-
ber being John McFarland, who married Nelly Mor-
ris, daughter of Absalom Morris, after whom Morris
Cross-Roads was named. Morris was the tavern-
keeper who resided between the cross-roads and
Geneva. From the McFarland and Morris union

have sprung many prominent families of Springhill.
The Weltners of Cheat Forks are also connections of
the family.

Robert Jones and Benjamin Jones, brothers and
natives of Wales, came to Fayette County in 1792,
and located in Springhill township. In 1793, Robert
Jones entered a large tract of land in this township,
and on that tract he, with his brother Benjamin,
erected in 1794 the Springhill Furnace,' and com-
ilienced the manufacture of iron, Robert being the
principal man in the concern. After a few years the
furnace was leased (and afterwards sold) to Jesse
Evans (a son-in-law of Robert Jones), who carried it
on with success. Benjamin Jones was little of a
business man, but of fine scholarly attainments and
an ardent promoter of education. While living with
his brother Robert, and to some extent concerned with
him in the furnace, Benjamin Jones opened a select
school in Smithfield — sometimes called Brownfield —
town. How long he taught this school is not known,
but it is certain that by his example and eftbrts the
people of the township became greatly favorable to
select schools, and the establishment of the Springhill
Academy was the result. Benjamin Jones was an
ardent Baptist, and a substantial supporter of the
worship of that denomination in his vicinity. From
Springhill township he removed to Greene County,
where he died, and was buried in the ground of the
Baptist Church near Garrard's Fort, on Big Whitely

Robert Jones was born in Wales, March 20, 1743,
and died April 16, 1809. His executors were his
brother Benjamin and his only son, John, but before
the estate was settled John died at his residence on
Whitely Creek, Greene Co. The furnace and other
property of Robert Jones passed to his daughter
Mary, the wife of Jesse Evans, who had leased the old
furnace in 1797. A son of Jesse and Mary Evans is
Col. Samuel Evans, who is now living, at more than
eighty years of age, in North Union township, about
two miles from Uniontown. He has filled many
offices of honor and trust, and has for more than half
a century enjoyed the esteem and friendship of many
of the most notable men of the State and nation. His
sister Eliza — daughter of Jesse Evans — married Mr.
Wilson, of Morgantown, Va., who lost his life by
drowning in the Monongahela River below Browns-
ville. They were the parents of the Hon. Alpheus
E. Willson, now president judge of the courts of
Fayette and Greene Counties. His sister is the wife
of the Hon. J. K. Ewing, of Uniontown. Rachel
Jones married Lewis Evans. They resided and died
in Greene County. Lieut. Lewis K. Evans, of
Waynesburg, is their son.

John Jones left a large family of sons and daugh-
ters. The eldest, Robert, married Ann Eberhart and
emigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio. His son, Adolph

t of til is oM fur

io tbe gcunral chapter



Jones, A.M., M.D., is a prominent politician as well
as physician. A younger son, Frederick, was killed
Dec. .31, 1862, at Stone River, Teun. The celebrated
Robert Jones Burdette is a son of Frederick Burdette
and Sophia Jones. He was born in Greensboro',
Greene Co., in 1838.

The brothers John and Andrew Oliphant were
among the most enterprising men of South Fayette,
living on or near Georges Creek. Andrew Oliphant
was commissioned a justice of the peace for Spring-
hill township Jan. 2, 1804. He married Mary Grif-
fin, a daughter of Hon. Isaac Griffin; only two of
their children lived to maturity, Mary Ann and
James M. Mary A. Oliphant married Edgar C.
Wilson, of Morgantown, Va., but died not long after
her marriage. Mr. Wilson married as his second
wife her cousin, a daughter of John Oliphant. She
is still living at Morgantown, W. Va. James M.
Oliphant, son of Andrew, was married three times,
but left only two heirs. The property once owned by
the Oliphants is now in the possession of Samuel H.
Hunter, Esq. Just above the residence was " Sylvan
Forge," established by John and Andrew Oliphant in

Hon. Joseph Eneix was born June 16, 1788. He
married Hester Oliphant, Sept. 20, 1807. His educa-
tion was much neglected, and he began life but half-
armed, yet by industry and application he became a i
prominent man. By trade he was a blacksmith and
scythe-maker. About 1823 he was elected to the State
Legislature from his native county, Fayette. His !
course in the Legislature meeting the approbation of !
his constituents, he was returned, serving in all three i
terms down to 183.5. During President Jackson's '
second term, in 1834, he received the appointment of
receiver of public moneys at Mineral Point, Wis.
In 1839 he resigned on account of ill health. He
gradually tailed in health, and died in 18.58. He was
a large land-owner at one time, but died comparatively
poor. Jarae? Eneix is a son of Joseph. A daughter
married Samuel Dilliner, Esq., of New Geneva.

Nicholas Blake, an Englishman, was once the owner
of •• Friendship Hill," which he sold to Albert Gal-
latin, and which became the statesman's residence. I
Blake, before his death, became almost penniless.
He left a son, James, who followed butchering. In
disposition he was very peaceable and of few words;
he managed to make a living by hard work and liL'id
economy. Thus he passed his life until about thirty
years of age. The surprise of the Springhill people
was very great when, in 1808, an attorney from Eng-
land arrived at New Geneva and made inquiry for
Nicholas Blake or his heirs. James Blake was the
heir he found. A large landed estate in England
had fallen to him by the death of a relative. The
law of England prohibits the sale of certain estates,
and this entailed fortune of Blake must remain, and
to enjoy his good luck he must become a British sub-
ject or lose it. Without money he was unable to

take possession. In this extremity he applied to Jas.
W. Nicholson, Esq., who generously furnished the
necessary amount of funds. His correspondence with
Nicholson is lost, and with it all trace of the sul>-
sequent career of James Blake in his father's native

The celebrated estate called " Friendship Hill,"
once the home of Albert Gallatin, is situated south-
east of New Geneva, in Springhill township. It con-
sisted originally of three hundred and seventy acres
and allowance, and belonged to Nicholas Blake, as
already noticed. Gallatin, after purchasing Blake's
warrant for the tract, had it patented in his own
name Jan. 26, 1788. By later purchases the number
of acres was raised to five hundred. In 1823 the
main building of Gallatin's residence was built, dur-
ing his absence in Europe. His son James had the
management of affairs during this period, but spent
most of his time in New Geneva at his uncle Nichol-
son's. He, however, found leisure to change his
father's plan of the building, changing the front from
east to south, and thereby greatly injuring it and ne-
cessitating the later addition of a wing and verandas
to cover the defects. The elder Gallatin was greatly
out of humor when he saw it on his return, and did
not fail to express himself in forcible language to that

It was in this house that the Marquis de Lafayette
visited Gallatin when he passed through this section
in 1825.

Gallatin sold the estate to Albin Mellier, May 26,
1832, nearly fifty years after having purchased it of
Blake. Mellier was a kinsman of Gallatin, but lacked
essential financial abilities. He had " too many irons
in the fire," and so divided his forces that he became
the prey of his creditors. To escape their importuni-
ties he built two steamboats, in one of which be went
down the Mississippi, where he died between 1839
and 1843. The principal creditors were Charles and
Frederick Tennig. Upon their claims Sheriff Morris
sold the estate, the creditors becoming purchasers.
For many years the property was without proper
care. In 1858 it was sold to the Hon. John L. Daw-
son, who greatly improved it. For several years he
resided here, enjoying the quiet of domestic life.
Many visitors have expressed their surprise upon
visiting this historic mansion, wondering how it ever
came that Gallatin or Dawson should choose a place
so isolated for a residence. Among these visitors was
Mrs. Henry Adams, who accompanied her husband
when visiting the place in 1879, just before completing
his life of Gallatin. Of the historical interest which
clings to this venerable mansion of " Friendship
Hill," the greater part is due to the fact that it was
for many years the estate and home of Albert Galla-
tin, the great financier and Secretary of the Treasury;
but only second to this is the fact that in after-years
it was the favorite seat of the Hon. John L. Dawson,
who here ended his brilliant and useful life.


It has already been mentioned that Gallatin's son
James superintended the erection of the " Friend-
ship Hill" mansion, during his father's absence in
Europe in 1822-23, and that the elder Gallatin, re-
turning in 1823, was disappointed, if not disgusted,
at the changes which had been made in the original
plan of the building. On his return from Paris, in
May of that year, he remained for some time in
Washington, then went to New Geneva to inspect his
new house, and (presumably) with every hope of
finding a commodious mansion suited to his taste.
Unquestionably he was disappointed. Meeting his
son at New Geneva, they, in company with Ed
Brawley, drove out to see the house. On coming
within sight of it he turned to his son and made the
inquiry, "Which is the front?" He was told it
fronted south — nearly opposite the direction from
which it was approached ! Upon this (as is narrated)
he used language as forcible and nearly as reprehen-
sible as that which Washington used at the battle of
Monmouth when he met Lee in full retreat over the
causeway. But it was an accomplished fact, and vig-
orous language could not change it. He recovered
his equanimity, made the best of what was then past
help, inspected the mansion, liked it as well as he
could, and two or three months later wrote to his
daughter a letter somewhat humorous, giving his
ideas with regard to the Monongahela country and
the new mansion on "Friendship Hill," as follows: '

" New Geneva, ITth Sejiteinber, 1823.
" Notwithstanding all my exertions you will find it hard
enough when you come next spring to accommodate yourself
to the privations and wildness of the country. Our house has
been built by a new Irish carpenter, who was always head over
heels, and added much to the disorder inseparable from build-
ing. Being unacquainted with the Grecian architecture, he
adopted an Hiberno-Teutonic style, so that the outside of the
house, with its port-hole-looking windows, has the appearance
of Irish barracks, whilst the inside ornaments are similar to
those of a Dutch tavern, and I must acknowledge that these
form asingular contrast with the French marble chimney-pieces,
paper, and mirrors. On one side of that mass of stones which
Lucien calls 'Le Chateau,' and in full view as you approach
it, is a wing, consisting of the gable end of a log house, with
its chimney in front, and I could not pull it down, as it is the
kitchen and dining-room, where are daily fed twcj masons and
plasterers, two attendants, two stone quarriers, two painters, a
carpenter, Lucien, Albert's black Peter, and M'., Mad^, Mesd""*,
et les petits Buffle. The grounds are overgrown with elders, i
iron-weeds, stinking-weeds, laurel, several varieties of briers. '
impenetrable thickets of brush, vines, and underwood, amongst
which are discovered vestiges of old asparagus-beds and new ,
artichoke-beds, and now and then a spontaneous apple- or peach- ;
tree. As to Albert, he has four guns, a pointer, three boats, ;
two riding-horses, and a pet colt, smaller than a jackass, who
feeds on the fragments of my old lilacs and althcu frutex. His
own clothes adorn our parlor and only sitting-room in the old
brick house, for the frame house is partly occupied by the Buffle
family, and partly encumbered by various boxes and Albert's
billiard-table, the pockets of which are made with his stock- j
ings." I

1 Adams' Life of Gallatin, page 589.


I The first physician in Springhill township was Dr.
Jacob Green. Nothing, however, is known of him,

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 175 of 193)