Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 185 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 185 of 193)
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coke. At Pittsburgh they bought, on credit, pro-
visions, for which they paid on their return. Below
Pittsburgh the coke got on fire (from a fire built for
cooking purposes upon a quantity of sand laid over
the coke), and they fouud that the more water they
poured upon it the lower the fire went, and they
were obliged to dig down and get out the embers. At
this period little was known about the " character"
of coke and how best to handle it. Having gathered

lumber along down the river, when they arrived at
Wheeling they made a shanty over the coke and so
secured shelter. Arrived at Cincinnati, they were
obliged to lie there for several days before they could
dispose of the coke, and allow Miles Greenwood, a
foundryman, to try it. He used the same quantity
which he had before used of the Monongahela coke,
and finding theirs much better than the latter kind,
bought both loads, paying seven cents a bushel, half
down, and giving for the other half his notes, which
he paid before maturity. This was the first of the
Connellsville coke ever sold for money.

Mr. Cochran has ever since been engaged in man-
ufacturing coke. He is the principal of the firm of
Cochran & Keister, owning the Spring Grove Works,
of one hundred ovens, on the old Huston farm, at
Dawson. He is also owner of a large interest in the
Fayette Works (one hundred ovens), which he has
conducted since 1866, and is interested in the Jack-
son Mines, in Tyrone township, his son, John T.,
being in charge of the same. He is concerned in two
works in Upper Tyrone, the Franklin Mines and the
Clinton Mines, both of coking coal. In company
with John H. and George E. Shoenberger, Solomon
Keister, N. A. Rist, and his three sons, John, Philip
G., and H. T. Cochran, he owns in Dunbar township
over twelve hundred acres of bituminous coal lands,
lying mainly on the line of the new Pittsburgh and
Lake Erie Railroad, now in process of building.

As an item of interest in the history of navigation
on the Youghiogheny River, it should not be over-
looked that during a portion of his life, extending
from about 1846 forward for twenty-five years or so, or
as long as boating was done on that stream, Mr.
Cochran safely piloted boats down its dangerous
channel, on occasion, three or four times a year.
This was a work which but very few men had sufli-
cient skill to do.

Feb. 24, 1848, Mr. Cochran married Miss Clarissa
Huston, daughter of Joseph and Mary Ann Hazen
Huston, of Tyrone township, by whom he has had
eleven children, seven of whom, six sous and one
daughter, are living.

Stewart Strickler, the only son of Jacob Strickler,
a farmer of Fayette County, was born at New Salem,
near Uniontown, Feb. 17, 1812, and received a com-
mon-school education. When he was sixteen years
old his mother died, and his father breaking up house-
keeping, Stewart and his eight sisters, all younger
than himself, were scattered among their relatives.
In the spring of 1830, Stewart hired out to John
Smiley, a farmer, at six dollars per month, and stayed
with him till Christmas, after which he began ped-
dling chickens and eggs, which he carried down
along the Youghiogheny River in a very simply-con-
structed boat made by himself of boards, giving away



the boat when he had sold his merchandise, and
walking hack, making such a trip every few weeks
during the year 1831. Early in 1832 he began work-
ing about for different persons at making railg and
washing sand (which was taken to Pittsburgh to the

In the latter part of 1832 Mr. Jacob Strickler got
his children together again, Stewart with the rest
joining him on the old place, known as the Jimtown
farm, where he (Stewart) remained till 1835, when
he married Mary Newcomer, of Tyrone township, and
bought a piece of land from his father at Jimtown,
and built thereon a house and barn and commenced
farming. In 1837 the great financial panic came, and
found Stewart badly in debt for his farm (he says
times were then so hard that he had to pay fifty cents
in "shinplasters" to see a quarter in silver). He
struggled on till about 1840, when times began to
improve, but farming being poor business, he found
it necessary to exercise his brain-power, and began to
conjure up ways to enable him to pull through and get
out of debt. Here let us remark that in an early day
there had been an iron furnace at the mouth of
Jacobs' Creek, known as Turnbull Furnace, but then
long abandoned and in ruin. Near it was a huge
pile of cinders, containing a great amount of iron
unextracted from the ore. Mr. Strickler conceived
the notion of taking the cinder to iron-works in
Pittsburgh, bought it for fifty cents a ton, built a
large flat-boat, on which he carried the cinder to the
city, and there sold it for four dollars and a half a
ton, and afterwards sold his boat, making something
on it. This enterprise stimulated him to plot and
plan still further, and early in 1842 he bought ten
acres of coal land on the Youghiogheny Kiver, at the
point now called Sterling Coal-Works, built six ovens,
and began making coke, which he shipped by flat-
boats to Cincinnati, Ohio. He carried on this busi-
ness successfully for several years. About the same
time there were others engaged in the business, but
they were not successful, and became discouraued
and gave it up. About 1855 Mr. Strickler iFiuiLilit
eighty acres of coal land, known as the John Taylor
farm, and began improving it with the intent to carry
on the coal business as before, but on a larger scale.

In 1857 the Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad
was completed, and Mr. Strickler put into operation
on his place eighty coke-ovens. At this time he built
a side-track from his works to the main line of the
railroad, for the purpose of shipping coke and coal to
Graft; Bennett & Co., of Pittsburgh, keeping their
furnace going from 1860 to 1864, with two thousand
bushels per day. He then sold a third-interest in
his business to the above-named firm for $35,000, a
few months afterwards selling the balance to Shoen-
berger & Co. for $45,000.

Somewhere between 1835 and 1840 Mr. Strickler
bought all of his father's old farm, paying $30 per
acre. In the spring of 1864 he sold it to J. K. Ewing
for .§200 per acre, the latter afterwards selling it for
over $400 an acre.

In 1867, Mr. Strickler removed with a -portion of
his family to Middle Tennessee, near the Cumberland
Mountains. He is the father of eight children, two
sons and six daughters, the eldest of whom, Mrs.
Caroline Hill, died in March, 1879. His wife and the
rest of his children are living. Three of the daugh-
ters reside in Tennessee. Two sons and two daugh-
ters live on the farm formerly owned by John Smiley,
for whom and where Mr. Strickler worked in 1830,
as above related. The children living in Fayette
County are Mrs. Maria Boyd, Lyman, Dempsey, and
Mrs. Martha Herbert. Those in Tennessee are Mrs.
Harriet Ramsey, Mrs. Kate Thompson, whose hus-
band is a physician, and Miss Deccie F. Strickler, the
laltiT residing with her parents.

Mr. Strickler is now over seventy years of age, and
notwithstanding his serious labors in life and many
dangers encountered, from some of which he barely
escaped with his life, he is in good health and in full
possession of intellectual vigor. He is respected by
his wide circle of acquaintances as a man of strict
integrity and of nobility of heart. Not only can he
look back upon a life well spent, triumphant over
early and great difiiculties, but he is also entitled to
enjoy the reflection that through his excellent judg-
iiierit, advice, and influence not a few persons in the
iiLiion where he spent his most active days are also
successful, enjoying, many of them, the blessings of


Washington, occuin'ing the northwestern corner
of the county, is, with regard to territorial area, one
of the smallest of Fayette's townships ; but it is one
of the largest with regard to population, if we include
with it the boroughs of Belle Vernon and Fayette
City, both of which lie within its boundaries. The
population of the township proper, however, was but
twelve hundred and fifty-seven by the census of 1880,
while that of the two boroughs was by the same census
two thousand and thirty-one. Belle Vernon having
eleven hundred and sixty-four, and Fayette City eight
hundred and sixty-seven inhabitants.

The boundaries of Washington township are the
Westmoreland County line on the north, Jefferson
township on the south, Jeft'erson and Perry on the
east, and the Monongahela River on the west. The
assessed valuation of the township in 1881 was .'i;41.S,-
460, or a gain of $15,000 over the valuation of 1880.
Rich in agriculture, Washington has also valuable
coal deposits, that await only the creation of railway
transportation within the township borders to be made
available. At present coal-mining is confined to the
river district, where the mining and shipment of coal
has been a profitable business for upwards of forty
years. The only noticeable mill-stream in Washing-
ton is the Little Redstone, which empties into the
Monongahela just above Fayette City.

Important by reason of his connection with the his-
tory of Washington township and Fayette County,
and also with that of the nation. Col. Edward Cook
deserves first mention in the chronicle of Washing-
ton's early settlement. He was born in Chambers-
burg in 1741, and in 1770 made his first journey west
of the mountains in search of lands, for he was at that
time the possessor of considerable means. He brought
with him also a stock of goods. When he made his
location, near the present line between Fayette and
Westmoreland Counties, he built a log cabin near the
present home of his grandson, John Cook, and in
one corner of it opened a small store. The country
was new then and stores were not easy to reach, so
that when the opening of Cook's store became known
among settlers within a radius of many miles they
gladly gave to him their patronage. Cook kept also
a house of entertainment, where such few travelers as
happened that way might find rest and refreshment.
Under the law he charged six and a half cents for a
horse's feed, and twelve and a half cents for feeding

a man. In 1772 he began the erection of a preten-
tious mansion, constructing it entirely of the lime-
stone that was found in abundance on his land. In
1776 he moved his family into it, and there it still
stands a sub.stantial edifice. After Col. Cook's death, i.
his son James occupied the mansion as his home, and
now James' son, William E., lives in it.

Edward Cook was one of the most extensive of
land-owners in Southwestern Pennsylvania. He
had altngptlier about three thousand acres, located
in Washiiiiituii, \\'i-stmoreland, and Fayette Coun-
ties, and (Miiipiiil ridw in part by the farms of Joseph
Brown, John I!. Cook, William E. Cook, Mrs. John
Brown, Mr. Montgomery, the site of Fayette City,
and numerous other tracts. The patent for the tract
called " Mansion" was issued to Col. Cook, and de-
scribed the tract as four hundred and two acres, situ-
ated in Fayette and Westmoreland Counties, surveyed
in pursuance of a warrant issued to Col. Cook, Dec.
17, 1784. A patent for " Mill Silr," on the forks of
William Lynn's run, wa.. issiird irj 1796. Col. Cook
was a resident of the county from 1771 until his death,
in 1812, and during that time achieved considerable
public distinction. He was a member of the Pro-
vincial Congress convened in CuriMiilci's IIuU, Phila-
delphia, June 18, 1776, that dniflr.l tlir liiM declara-
tion of independence presented ht ( 'uTiLni-s, .lune 25,
1776 (see "Journal of Congress," vol. ii. p. 2.30); was
a member of the State Constitutional Convention that
convened Sept. 28, 1776 ; was the first commissioner
of exchange, and appointed sub-lieutenant of West-
moreland County March 21, 1777. He was one of
the founders of Rehoboth Church, a member of its
first session, its first representative to the Redstone
Presbytery, and the Presbytery's first representative
to the General Assembly. Jan. 5, 1782, he was ap-
pointed lieutenant^ of Westmoreland County, to suc-
ceed Col. Archibald Lochry (who had been captured
and killed while on an Indian expedition). It was
from this appointment that Col. Cook received his
military title. He aided in fixing the boundaries of
Fayette County, and was a member of the commission
that located the county-seat. Nov. 21, 1786, he was
appointed justice of the peace, with a jurisdiction that
reached into Washington County. April 8, 1780, he

1 Thia uffice gave


was appointed president of the Court of C(
Pleas and Quarter Sessions ; was associate judge of !
Fayette County in 1791, and from 1796 to 1798 treas-
urer of Westmoreland County.

It will be seen that Col. Cook's public record was a
remarkable one for that or any day, and in its brief
chronicle tells in nnmistakalile terms that he must
have l>een vi-ry hii;li indeed in public esteem to have
won surh di>tini;tiijn. He was one of the foremost
men of his time in Southwestern Pennsylvania. His
landed and other interests were extensive, and these
he looked after closely despite the pressure upon his
time by his official cares. He built a saw-mill and i
grist-mill on Cook's Run, laid out Freeport (after-
wards Cookstown, and now Fayette City), and was
largely engaged at his home-farm in distilling. He
•was conspicuous in the Whiskey Insurrection, and j
having been prominent in some of the meetings of
the insurgents, his arrest was ordered, Imt in the
mean time, before any action eonld lie taken, he ap- i
peared (Xov. 0, 1794) before Thomas McKean, chief '
justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and '
in presence of William Bradford, Attorney-Gen- j
eral of the United States, voluntarily entered into |
recognizance to the United States for his appearance
before the justices of the Supreme Court of the
United States at the next special session of the Cir- ,
cuit Court held for the district of Pennsylvania, " then 1
and there to answer to such charges of treasonable and
seditious practices and such other matters of misde-
meanor as shall be alleged against him in behalf of
the United States, and that he will not depart that
court without license." Having taken this bold and
honorable course, he quietly awaited the result, wdiich j
was simply that nothing was found against him, and '
he was not molested in person, but some cavalrymen '
belonging to the army that came out to quell the in-
surrection visited his home, and did considerable
damage, nearly demolishing his distillery, knocking
in the heads of the liquor casks, and spilling a vast
amount of whisky.

Col. Cook was one among Gen. Washington's per- '
sonal friends, and on two occasions at least entertained 1
Washington in the old stone mansion now the home
of William E. Cook. On one of the occasions named
Washington was journeying that way to visit his lands
in Washington County, and stopped at Col. Cook's
lor a brief rest. Cook was at that time engaged in
reviewing a body of militia near by, and knew nothing
of the arrival of his distinguished guest. Word of
the arrival was whispered to the men before it reached
the colonel, and when he, observing the commotion,
learned what was in the wind, he relaxed all discipline
and set off unceremoniously for the house. The
militiamen followed at the double-quick, and hurrah-
ing enthusiastically for Gen. Washinjion, liron^lit
him to the porch, and evoked from him in icply a-ood-
natnred, fatherly speech, which the soldiers cheered to
the echo.

Col. Cook had but one son, James, who married
Mary Bell. The colonel's yearning ambition was to
become a grandfather, and when the news came to
him that he had a grandson his joy knew no bounds.
In the exuberance of his delight he waited upon his
old friend, Joseph Downer, and insisted upon his
drafting a will, in wdiich all the Cook estate should be
left to the grandson Edward, and it was only by per-
sistent elTort that Downer persuaded him from the
project, and convinced him that as there might be
more grandchildren such an act would be one of in-

Col. Cook died in the old stone mansion, Nov. 6,
1812, and his remains rest in Eehoboth churchyard.
His widow survived him twenty-five years. She died
in 1837, aged upwards of ninety. Col. Cook's son
James had a family of six sons and one daughter.
The daughter, Martha, lives now in West Newton.
Of the sons, Edward, James, Joseph, and Michael are
dead. John B. and William E. occupy portions ot
the homestead farm.

One of Col. Cook's early friends and neighbors was
Andrew Lynn, who made his first settlement in South-
western Pennsylvania, on the Redstone, about 1761.
He was driven away by the Indians, but returned not
long afterwards to remain permanently. He bought
land not only on the Redstone, but a tract below
there, in wdiat is now Washington township, and lived
a while upon the last-mentioned tract. The Wash-
ington land, now owned and occupied by Denton
Lynn, was sold to old Andrew by Thomas Pearce,
and conveyed to him by deed dated Aug. 20, 1769.
Thomas Pearce entered an application for the tract
April 3, 1769. A warrant was issued to Pearce. An
order of survey was issued to Andrew Lynn June 3,
1788, and a patent for one hundred and thirty acres
granted March 1, 1790. The tract was called Sedgy
Fort, from an Indian or prehistoric fort that sto,od
on it.

This fort was located upon an elevation close to the
present site of Denton Lynn's barn. There was a
large space inclosed, having within it a spring and
some Indian graves. Near at hand was a fine sugar-
bush, whose near presence may have accounted for
the location of the fort upon that site. The field was
called, and is yet called, " Old Fort Field." Indian
relics and skeletons have been frequently turned up
from that field by Mr. Denton Lynn. In 1859 he
came upon several skeletons, and upon investigation
concluded that the bodies must have been buried two
diep. Each body appeared to have been surrounded
with earthenware dishes, composed of baked mussel-
.shells and clay. One of the skeletons proved to be
that of a man fully eight feet in height. Some of the
skeletons were so placed as to give the impression
tliat tlic Ijodies had been interred in a sitting position.
Wlicn Andrew Lynn came to the place (in 1774) the
line of the old fort was marked by a growth of thick
buslies and straggling stone heaps. Andrew Lynn,



Jr., son of the Aiidivw Lyuii lir*t ii:iiiilhI, InluM-itcd
the lands to which he came witli his father in his
eighth year, or in 1774. He told the present Denton
Lynn, his grandson, there was then no clearing on
the tract. Being out in a field with Denton one day,
Andrew, Jr., said to him, " Denton, in this field was
built the first cabin put up on the Lynn farm." Den-
ton replied, " Well, grandfather, it seems queer to me
that, whoever the man was, he should have put up
his house here upon low ground, while lie could have
chosen a dozen higher and better spots." " The rea-
son was," remarked old Andrew, " that the man had
only his wife to assist him in putting up the cabin,
and his chief desire, therefore, was to get where trees
were handy. That's why he selected a low spot."
The first Andrew Lynn increased his original lands
by the purchase of an adjoining tract that had been
tomahawked byAVilliam Lynn, — not related to An-
drew. The entire farm of four hundred and fifty
acres came into the possession of Andrew Lynn, Jr.,
who lived upon it from 1774 until his death in 1855,
at the age of eighty-nine. Three hundred and twenty
of the four hundred and fifty acres are now owned
by Denton Lynn.

Andrew Lynn, Jr., was a man of local note, and
among other things was distinguished for having
served as justice of the peace forty years. He built
in 1790 a stone mansion, fashioned after the one
built by Col. Edward Cook in 1772, but it did not
turn out to be as durable an edifice as Cook's. The
latter stands yet and serves its original purpose, while
Lynn's, abandoned as a human habitation in 186(i, is
fast falling to ruin. Near the Lynn mansion stands
a famous locust-tree, under whose wide-spreading
branches Gen. Washington, Andrew Lynn, and Col.
Edward Cook are said to have met and tarried for
some time in social intercourse. The tree is reck-
oned to be at least one hundred and sixty years old.
Its circumference near the ground is nearly twenty
feet. Its lower branches, blown down some years
ago, measured fully one hundred feet from tip to tip.

About 1783, Joseph Downer, a resident of Boston,
Mass., moved westward in searcli of a location for
trade, and finding it oh the Monongahela River at
Elizabethtown, opened a store there and sold goods
until 1794, when he came to Washington town-
ship and bought a tract of land of Col. Edward
Cook, situated on a fork of the stream now called
Downer's Run. Here he set up a store near Col.
Cook's. In 1799 he built a mill and began to make
flour on the present Cooper mill-site, about a mile
below the Col. Cook mansion. When the mill was
fairly in operation he gave up his store business and
devoted himself exclusively to milling. He had not
been on the spot long before he concluded to move
farther down the stream to Col. Cook's newly laid-
out village of Freeport, and on the present Hamer
mill-site erected a second grist-mill, and still below
there put up a saw-mill, of which the ruins may yet

bo seen. The gii.>t-niill he eiiuipped with the ma-
I chinery of the first mill, and moved his family into a
j house that he Ijuilt in Freeport, on the site now occu-
1 pied by the Roscoe Thirkield mansion. About 1820,
Downer sold the abandoned mill on the Cooper place
: to John Roe, an Englishman, who agreed to fit it up
j as a cotton-factory, and upon his part Downer agreed
to take an interest in the enterprise through his son.
j Samuel Roe made the start as agreed, but failing to
make the payments to Downer as contracted was
obliged to relinquish the property to the latter.
Samuel Downer thereupon conducted the business
for his father, but the work proving unprofitable was
given up after a few years. Mr. Downer died in
Cookstown in 1838. Further notice of Mr. Downer
I will be found in the history of Fayette City borough.
j Mention of the Downer organ is called for, how-
I ever, here. Mr. Downer possessed all his life a strong
musical taste, as well as much mechanical genius.
When he lelt I'lu-luii for the West he carried with
him a ciiiile iiiipi-ession of tlie mechanism of a jjipe
organ, intending when he reached his new home to
construct one for his own use. Upon settling at
Elizabethtown he selected a lot of black walnut tim-
ber and seasoned it thoroughly. During such odd
hours as he could snatch from his business duties he
spent his time in the construction of the organ, and
at the end of about a year finished it. It measured
ten feet in height and five feet across each side.
Every part of it was composed of black walnut, even
to the keys and pipes, of which latter there were
three hundred and sixty-five. The face of it was
handsomely ornamented with scroll-work, the which
he fashioned with a pocket-knife. To all the country
round about it was an object of curious interest, and
from far and near people frequently came to see it
and to hear Mr. Downer play upon it. It possessed
an excellent tone and volume, and to play it was one
of Downer's greatest delights.

The organ is still in the possession of Mr. Downer's
daughter, Mrs. Thompson, of Fayette City, and al-
though nearly a hundred years old is not only an
ornament, but yet makes very good music. Mr.
Downer constructed also for Col. Cook a small pipe-
organ containing a chime of bells, now in the pos-
session of Eliphalet Downer, of Monongahela City.
His art ran also to painting, and as achievements in
that direction he painted his own portrait from a
looking-glass reflection, and executed also what were
called most excellent portraits of Col. Cook and his

Adjoining Andrew Lynn, Jr., on the river lived a
colored man known as London Derry, who in com-
I pany with Andrew Lynn and about sixty others went
on a land-looking expedition to Marshall County,
Va. They were attacked en route by a body of In-
dians, and compelled to seek safety in a flight which
included the swimming of the Ohio. Lynn's escape

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 185 of 193)