Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 2 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 2 of 193)
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these ranges, broken somewhat by detached hills, is
drained by Indian Creek and its small tributaries.
Its soil is better adapted for grazing purposes than
for the production of grain. West of the Chestnut
Ridge is a valley drained by Mount's Creek and its
branches. Beyond tliis the land rises into hills, of
which alongand high rangelies between the Youghio-
gheny and Jacob's Creek, sloping away towards both
streams, along the margins of which are narrow bot-

On the southwest side of the Youghiogheny the
name of Laurel Hill is applied to the mountain range,
which is in fact the prolongation of that known on
the other side as Chestnut Ridge. This Laurel Hill
range extends from the Youghiogheny southwest-
wardly nearly by the geographical centre of the county,
and about two miles east of L'niontown, the county-
seat ; its summits being more than two thousand five
hundred feet above se.a-level, and one thousand feet
above neighboring valleys. Across the southea-i
corner of the county, extending southward from thr
Youghiogheny to and across the State line, is a ridge
of rugged hills, which may properly be termed th.
prolongation of the Laurel Hill range on the other
side of the river. These hills are, however, in general
much lower and more flattened, there being among
them but one summit (Sugar- Loaf ) which in hciglit
appro.ximates to those on the northeast side of the

West of the Laurel Hill range, and extending in :i
direction nearly parallel to it across this part of tie
county, is a beautiful valley several miles in width.
drained on the south by York's Run and Georges
Creek, and on the northwest and north by Redstone
Creek and several small tributaries of the Youghio-
gheny River. This valley is the "Connellsville'
Coal Basin," extending west to the " barren meas-
ures," about four miles west of the countv-seat.
West of this valley are elevated uplands, undulating,
and in many places hilly, particularly as they ap-
proach the Monongahela, where they terminate some-
what abruptly in what are termed the " river-hills,"



which descend to the rich bottom-liinds, rarely ex-
ceeding one-fourtii of a mile in width, which lie along
the margin of the river.

In all thia part of the county west of the Laurel
Hill, including the broad valley, the rolling upland,
the hilly lands (often tillable to the summits), and the
river bottoms, the soil is excellent for the production
of grain and fruits, and the country in general well
adapted to the various requirements of agriculture.

l)cl:iiK'y's t'avo, situated in Fayette County, is a
wonderful natural curiosity, which appears, from the
descriptions of many who have visited it, to be scarcely
inferior to the celebrated Mammoth Cave in Ken-
tucky. Its location is about nine miles in a south-
easterly direction from Uniontown. A great number
of descriptions of the cave have been given by per-
sons who have visited it from time to time, but most
of these accounts bear the appearance of too great
embellishment. The description which is given be-
low was written by Mr. John A. Paxton, who visited
the cave in 1816, and published his account of it im-
mediately afterwards in the American Telegraph of
Brownsville. Mr. Paxton was a Philadelphia gentle-
man, who being in this section of country in the year
named, engaged in the collection of material for a
gazetteer of the United States, was detained by an
accident to his horse, and obliged to remain two or
three days at Uniontown. While there he heard of
the great cave, and determined to see and explore it.
A party was accordingly made up, consisting of Mr.
Paxton, William Gregg, John Owens, James M. John-
ston, John Gallagher, and Epliraim These
having provided themselves with refreshments, can-
dles, tinder-box, brimstone niatche-s, lanterns, com-
pass, chalk, and a line for measuring, set out on
Wednesday, Sept. 11, 1816, and proceeded southeast-
wardly to Laurel Hill, and ascended the mountain
towards the cave. They left their horses at the farm-
house of Mr. Delaney (from whom the cave was after-
wards named), and requested him, in case they should
fail to return from their exploration the following
morning, to have the people of the vicinity aroused
to search for them, as they had heard the story of two
young men— Grain and Merrifield— who had been lost
in the cave for nearly two days, and were found at the
end of that time locked in each other's arms and des-
pairingly waiting for death. It was about the middle
of the afternoon when the party, fully equipped, .set
out on foot for the entrance of the cave, and the story
of their exploration was narrated by Paxton, as fol-
lows :

" Laurel Hill Cave, which I have taken the liberty to
name, it being in want of one, is situated in Pennsyl-
vania,— Fayette County, Georges township, — on the
top of Laurel Hill Mountain, nine miles southeasterly
of Uniontown, three miles easterly of Delaney's farm-
house. At four o'clock p.m. we commenced our
operations. We first descended into a small pit, on

the side of which wc found the mouth, about three
j feet by four, which we entered, and immediately
found ourselves in a passage about twenty feet wide,
and descending about fifty ilegrecs for forty feet in a
j northwest course, when we found a less declivity and
I smoother floor; here we left our great-coats and things
we had no immediate use for, and proceeded in the
I same course a short distance, when we found that the
j passage forked into two avenues more contracted,
I both leading, by a considerable descent, into the first
I room ; this is about twenty-four feet in diameter, with
a roof of rock about twenty feet high. A large de-
scending passage leads from this room, the same
course, with a very high roof, and is about twelve
feet wide for .some distance, when it becomes more
j contracted and leads into the second room, which is
j fifty feet by one hundred, with a large body of rocks
I on the floor that have fallen from the roof, which is
not very high. At the end of the passage is a running
spring of excellent water. In this room the person
who had the tinder-box unfortunately let it fall
among the rocks, which opened it, and by this acci-
dent we lost nearly all our tinder. A very narrow,
uneven,, and descending passage leads from the second
room, in a northeast direction, to the narrows, — a )ias-
sage two and a half feet high and about fifty feet
broad, leading horizontally between rocks, with a
small descent for about one hundred and fifty feet to
a perpendicular descent over rocks; through this
small passage we had in many places to drag our-
selves along on our bellies, and the buttons on niy
coat were torn off' by the rocks above. This passage
evidently was formed by the foundation of the nether
rock being washed by the veins of water, which
caused it to separate from the upper rock and formed
the route to the perpendicular descent, which we
found to be twenty-two feet. I descended by a rope ;
but my companions found their way down by cling-
ing to the rocks. We now found ourselves in a very
uneven rocky passage, which ascended about twenty
degrees for two hundred and thirty-four feet; but as
we could not find an outlet from this, after the most
particular search, we returned and ascended the per-
pendicular precipice, and to the right of it discovered
a passage which had a great descent, was very rocky,
uneven, and so contracted for about eighty feet that
it was with the greatest difficulty we made our way
through it; this led to a second perpendicular de-
scent of thirty feet over rocks, which we with great
difiiculty got down. We now found ourselves in a
large avenue, or Little IMill-Stream Hall (as I called
it), with a very high roof and about twenty-five feet
wide; it had a sandy floor, with a stream of water
running through it sufliciently rapid and large to
turn a grist-mill. On the sides of this stream were
some large rocks which had fallen from the roof. This
avenue- is about six hundred feet in length, with a
considerable descent tn where the water loses itself
through a small ajicrture in the rocks.



"On returning from the bottom of the avenue ^-e
discovered a passage leading horizontally and at right
angles from the side of this avenue, the entrance of
which is elevated about eight feet above the floor.
We found this a. very pleasant passage in comparison
to the rest ; the roof, sides, and floor were quite smooth,
and we could walk upright. It is one hundred and
twenty feet long, and leads into the last and largest
avenue, or Great Mill-Stream Hall. This we found
to be very spacious, being about from twenty to thirty
feet wide, from thirty to eighty feet from the floor to
the roof, and twelve hundred feet in length, with a
stream sufficient to turn agrist-mill running its whole
length. From the source of this stream, where there
is a considerable collection of white spar, formed in
flat cakes and cones, caused evidently by the constant
dripping of water, the avenue has a descent of about
thirty degrees to where the stream disembogues itself
through a small aperture in the rocks. Before we
arrived at this aperture the avenue became so con-
tracted that Mr. Gregg and myself had to creep on
our hands and knees through the water for about fifty
feet. Here in the sand we found the name of ' Grain'
written, which we considered a mortifying discovery,
as we thought we were the first persons who had
penetrated so far in this direction. We wrote our
names likewise iu the saud and then joined the rest
of the party.

■' In our search through this great avenue we had to
climb over or creep under a thousand craggy rocks
that lay scattered on the floor, and which had fallen
from the sides and ceiling. I have every reason to
believe that no person except us ever visited the
source of the stream and head of the avenue, as we
found no sign of human invention within many hun-
dred feet of the spot, and which was very common in
every other part of the cave, as the sides of every
place that had been previously visited were covered
with names and marks made with coal, and if any
pirson had penetrated this far they certainly would
have left some token of their perseverance. We now
found ourselves at the end of our exploring expedi-
tion, and as we had plenty of candles left and had
taken the precaution to mark with chalk an arrow on
tlie rocks at every turn, we were confident of being
able to retrace our steps to the entrance.

" Returning, we measured with a line the extreme
distance we had been in, and found it to be three
thousand six hundred feet, but we must have trav-
elled altogether upwards of two miles. Our return
was found to be much more tiresome, as it was an as-
cemling route nearly the whole distance. We arrived
in safc'ty at the mouth at ten o'clock at night, after
having traveled incessantly for six hours. We were
alinut sixteen hundred feet perpendicularly below the
entrance. We heard the water running beneath the
rucks in every part of the cave. The temperature we
found agreeable, but owing to our great exertions we
were kept in a jn-ofuse perspiration during the whole

time we were in. In different parts we saw a few
bats, but a gentleman from Uniontown informed me
that the roofs of the two first rooms were covered
with millions of bats hanging in large bunches in a

, torpid state and clinging to each other.

I "This cave is composed of soft sandstone rocks,

j and has every appearance of having been formed by
the veins of water washing them and their founda-
tions away, which caused by their weight to separate
from the standing rocks above. There is not the
smallest doubt in my mind but this cave is consider-
ably enlarged by the friction of the water each year,
for all the rocks on the floors of the diflerent apart-
ments would exactly fit the parts of the ceiling im-
mediately above them. The rocks that now form
this cave will certainly fall by degrees as their foun-
dations are washed away, therefore it is impossible to
form an idea of the very great spaciousness that it
may arrive to. The knowledge that the rocks above
are subject to fall is calculated to create the most in-
expressible horror in the minds of persons who visit
this subterranean wonder. The arches of all the
avenues are formed by rocks meeting in the middle of

j the roofs, with a crack extending in each the whole



In Fayette County, as in many other parts of West-
ern Pennsylvania, and in a great number of locali-
ties farther towards the southwest, there exist evi-
dences of a very ancient occupation of these valleys
and hills by a people other than the native Indians
who held possession at the time when the first white
settlers came here. These evidences are found chiefly
in curious mounds and otlier forms of earthwork,
some apparently having been devoted to purposes of
sepulture alone, and others having the form and ap-
pearance of defenses against hostile attack.' The
great age of these structures was proved, not only by
their general appearauce of antiquity, but more de-
cidedly by the fact that in many instances trees of the
largest size were found growing on the embankments.
In reference to these works and the evidence which
they furnish that this region, in common with others,
covering the entire Mississippi and Ohio River val-
leys, had been anciently occupied by a people su-

1 Tlie Mornvian writer, Zeisberger, snys, in reference to tliis Bubjcct,
" In war they [tlie builders of tliese cjirtben works] uscJ some ranip.Trl>
about tbeir towns, and round hillocks, in the top of which they made a
hollow place to ehcller their women and children in ; tliey placed them-
selves around and uponitio figlit; in siicli batllcswere commonly niai ly
killed, wliom tliey buried all in a heap, covering the corpses with tin?
bark of trees, stones, eartli, etc. On the place where Scboi^nbrunu, (1il>
Christian Indian town, was built [in OhioJ, one can plainly sec such a
wall or rampart of considerable extent, and not a great way off, in llie
plain, is such a burial-place, or made hillock, on which large oaks nuw


perior in skill and intelligence to the Indian tribes
whom the first white visitors found in possession, '
Judge Veech says, —

" That these [the native Indians] were the succes-
sors of a race more intelligent, or of a people of dif-
ferent liabits of life, seems clearly deducible from the
remains of fortifications scattered all over the terri-
tory, and which are very distinct from those known
to have been constructed by the tribes of Indians
named or any of their modern compeers.

" These remains of embankments or ' old forts' are
numerous in Fayette County. That they are very
ancient is shown by many facts. The Indians known
to us could give no satisfactory account of when, how,
or by whom they were erected, or for what purpose, ex-
cept for defense. While the trees of the surrounding
forests were chiefly oak, the growths upon and within
the lines of the 'old forts' were generally of large black-
walnut, wild-cherry, and sometimes locust. We have
examined some which indicated an age of from three
to five hundred years, and they evidently of a second
or third generation, as they were standing amid the
decayed remains of their ancestors. How they got
there, whether by transplanting, by deposits of floods
or of birds, or otherwise, is a speculation into which
we will not go. .-

" These embankments may have been originally
composed of wood, as their debris is generally a veg-
etable mould. No stones were used in their construc-
tion, and among their ruins are always found some
remains of old pottery, composed of clay mixed with
crushed mussel-shells, even when far off from a river.
This composite was not burnt, but only baked in !
the sun. These vessels were generally circular, and, |
judging from those we have seen, they were made to '
hold from one to three quarts. I

"These 'old forts' were of various forms, — square,
oblong, triangular, circular, and semicircular. Their
superficial areas ranged from one-fourth of an acre to
ten acres. Their sites were generally well chosen in
reference to defense and observation, and, what is a
very singular fact, they were very often, generally in
Fayette County, located on the highest and richest i
hills, and at a distance from any spring or stream of j
water. In a few instances this was otherwise, water

being i

sed or contiguous, as they are generally ii

Ohio and other more western parts of the Missis- '
sippi Valley.

"Having seen and examined many of these 'old |
forts' in Fayette County, and also those at Marietta, |
Newark, and elsewhere in Ohio, we believe they are
all the works of the same race of people, as are also,
the famous Grave Creek mounds, near Elizabethtown, i
Va., and if this belief be correct, then the conclusion
follows irresistibly that the race of people was much
superior and existed long anterior to the modern In-
dian. But who they were, and what became of them, I
must perhaps forever be unknown. We will briefly
indicate the localities of some of these ' old forts' in '

Fayette County. To enumerate all, or to describe
them sei)arately, would weary the reader. The curi-
ous in such matters may yet trace their remains.

" A very noted one, and of most commanding lo-
cation, was at Brownsville, on the site of ' Fort
Burd,' but covering a much larger area. Even after
Col. Burd built his fort there, in IT')!!, it retained' the
names of ' the old fort,' ' Redstone Old Fort,' or ' Fort

" There was one on land formerly of William Gee,
near the Monongahela River, and just above the
mouth of Little Redstone, where afterwards was a
settler's fort, called Cassel's or Castle Fort; and an
old map which we have seen has another of these old
forts noted at the mouth of Speers' Run, where Belle
Vernon now is.

" Two or three are found on a high ridge south-
wardly of Perryopolis, on the State road, and on land
late of John F. Martin. Another noted one is on the
western bank of the Youghiogheny River, nearly op-
posite the Broad Ford, ou land lately held by James

"There are several on the high ridge of land lead-
ing from the Collins' fort, above referred to, south-
westwardly towards Plumsock, on lands of James
Paull, John M. Austin, John Bute, and others ; a re-
markable one being on land lately owned by James
Gilchrist and the Byers, where some very large human
bones have been found. There is one on the north
side of Mounts' Creek, above Irishman's Run.

" A very large one, containing six or eight acres,
is on the summit of Laurel Hill, where the Mud
pike crosses it, covered with a large growth of black-

" One specially noted as containing a great quan-
tity of broken shells and pottery existed on the high
land between Laurel Run and the Youghiogheny
River, on a tract formerly owned by Judge Young.

"There are yet distinct traces of one on land of
Gen. Henry W. Beeson, formerly of Col. McClean,
about two miles east of Uniontown.

" There was one northeast of New Geneva, at the
locality known as the 'Flint Hill,' on laud now of
John Franks.

" About two miles northeast of New Geneva, ou
the road to Uniontown, and on land late of William
Morris, now Nicholas B. Johnson, was one celebrated
for its great abundance of mussel-shells.

" On the high ridge southwardly of the head-waters
of Middle Run several existed, of which may be
named one on the Bixler land, one on the high
knob eastwardly from Clark Breading's, one (m the

^ Mr. Veech did not (as some of his critics have Appeared to suppose)
intend to say thnt Burd's fort occupied the site and took the name uf
Redstone Old Fort. It was Iniilt a short distance from the site of tlie old
eartliworl;, and was always called Fort BurJ. But tlie tocalUy—a. prom-
inent point on the Monongahela — did retain the appellation of*' Bedstone
end Fort" for a great many years; and even at tlie present day no
reader of history is at a loss to undei-stand that the name designate;) the
site of the present borough of Brownsville.


iiistohy of fayette county, pennsylyania.

Alexander Wilson tract, and one on theland of Den-
nis Riley, deceased, formerly of Andrew C. Johnson.
" These comprise the most prominent of the 'old
forts' in Fayette. Of their cognates, mounds erected j
as monuments of conquests, or, like the Pyramids of ;
Egypt, as the tombs of kings, we liave none. Those |
that we have seen are of diminutive size, and may j
have been thrown up to commemorate some minor
events, or to cover the remains of a warrior.

"Piles of stones called Indian graves were numer-
ous in many places in Fayette, generally near the
sites of Indian villages. They were generally on |
stony ridges, often twenty or thirty of them in a row.
In many of them have been found human bones in-
dicating a stature of from six to seven feet. They
also contained arrow-lieads, spear-points, and hatchets
of stone and flint, nicely and regularly shaped, but
how done is the wonder. On a commanding eminence
overlooking the Youghiogheny Eiver, upon land now
(1869) of Col. A. M. HilT, formerly William Dicker-
son, there are great numbers of these Indian graves,
among which, underneath a large stone, Mr. John
Cottoni a few years ago found a very curious chain,
consisting of a central ring and five chains of about
two feet in length, each branching off from it, having
at their end clamps, somewhat after the manner of j
handcuffs, large enough to inclose a man's neck, indi-
cating that its use was to confine prisoners, perhaps
to fasten them to the burning stake. The chains
were of an antique character but well made, and
seemed to have gone through fire."

Of all the prehistoric works noticed in the above
account by Mr. Veech, none was so tamed, none so '
widely known as the first one he mentions, — Redstone
Old Fort. In the early years it was frequently visited
and examined by antiquarians, and many descriptions
of it (all of them, however, apparently exaggerated
and embellished) were written. One of these ac-
counts is found on page 84 of "American Antiqui-
ties," by Josiah Priest, 1834, being taken from an
earlier account in the "Travels of Thomas Ashe,"
who claimed to have visited the old fort and made
some excavations there in the year 1806. The ac-
count is as follows :

" The neighborhood of Brownsville, or Redstone, in
Pennsylvania, abounds with monuments of antiquity.
A fortified camp of a very complete and curious kind,
on the ramparts of which is timber of five feet in
diameter, stands near the town of Brownsville. This
camp contains thirteen acres inclosed in a circle, the
elevation of which is seven feet above the adjoining
ground. This was a herculean work. Within the
circle a pentagon is accurately described, having its
sides four feet high, and its angles uniformly three
feet from the outside of the circle, thus leaving an
unbroken communication all around. A pentagon i'?
a figure having five angles or sides. Each side of thu
pentagon has a postern or small gateway, opening
into a passage between it and the circle, but the circle

itself has only one grand gateway outward. Exactly
in the centre stands a mound thirty feet high, sup-
posed to have been a place of lookout. At a small
distance from this jjlace was found a stone measuring
eight feet by five, on which was accurately engraved
a representation of the whole work, with the mound
in the centre, whereon was the likeness of a human
head, which signified that the chief who presided
there lay buried beneath it.

"The engraving on this stone is evidence of the
knowledge of stone-cutting, as it was executed with
a considerable degree of accuracy. On comparing
the description of this circular monument with a de-
scription of works of a similar character found in
Denmark, Sweden, and Ireland, the conclusion is
drawn that at some era of time the authors of this
kind of monumental works in either of those countries
have been the same."

Having given the above account, as written by
Ashe, it is proper to remark that he did, without
doubt, enlarge upon the plain facts, — in some particu-
lars, at least. Old residents of this locality — among
them Mr. Nelson B. Bowman, who was born in 1807,

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 2 of 193)