Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 26 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 26 of 193)
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is evident that the persons composing that company
(most of whom were Virginians) believed that the
country about the "forks of the Ohio," and, in fact,
all to the westward of the Laurel Hill, was withiu the..



jurisdiction of Virginia, or at least beyond that of
Pennsylvania. The first attempt to build a fort where
Pittsburgh now stands was made by a company of
Virginians, under the Virginian captain, Trent. It
was the Virginia Governor, Dinwiddio, who sent
Washington on his mission in 1753 to the French
posts on the Allegheny, and who sent him again in
1754 to endeavor to take and keep possession of
this region by military force; and Virginians, more
largely than troops of any of the other provinces,
marched with Braddock in 1755 in the unsuccessful
attempt to wrest this territory from the power of the
French. Thus the Virginians, believing that the
trans-xVlleglieny country belonged to their province,
had been forward iu all the measures taken for its oc-
cupation and defense, while Pennsylvania had, up to
that time, done little or nothing in that direction.

But as early as the beginning of the year 1754,
Pennsylvania, though making no active effort to hold
and defend the bordering country Allegheny and Mo-
nongahela Rivers, began to see the value and import-
ance of the point at the head of the Ohio, where Capt.
Trent had commenced the erection of a fort for the
Ohio Company (afterwuds Fort Du Quesne, and later
Fort Pitt). The first entry which has been found in
the official records of Pennsylvania concerning the
matter is as follows: "March 12, 1754, evidence sent
to the House that Venango and Logstown, where the
French forts are built, are in the province of Penn-
sylvania." And a little later came Virginia's rejoin-
der, in a letter written by Governor Dinwiddle to
Governor Hamilton, of Pennsylvania, dated March
21, 1754, in which the former said, " I am much mis-
led by our surveyors if the forks of the Monougahe'.a
be within the bounds of the province of Pennsyl-
vania." This may be regarded as the beginning of
the controversy, but the defeat of Washington and
Braddock, which followed soon after, caused the
matter to be held in abeyance for a number of j'ears;
for neither Pennsylvania nor Virginia thought it
worth while to quarrel over their respective claims to
a country which was in the full and absolute posses-
sion of the French.

After the expulsion of the French power by the
military forces under Forbes in 1758, and the conse-
quent occupation of the country by the English, the
rival claims of Pennsylvania and Virginia were again
revived ; but no collisions occurred nor was any very
general dissatisfaction apparent until after the forma-
tion of the Pennsylvania county of Bedford, to extend
across the mountains to the western limit of the pro-
vince, covering the disputed territory west of Laurel
Hill, claimed by Virginia to be within her county of
Augusta, which had been laid out thirty-three years
earlier. Upon the erection of Bedford (March 9,
1771), the officers of that county were directed to
collect taxes from the inhabitants west of the moun-
tains for the establishment of courts and the erection
of county buildings at Bedford; and this created a

wide-spread feeling of dissatisfaction, and a deter-
mination to resist thecollection, which state of affairs
is noticed in a letter written by Robert Lettis Hooper,
Jr., to his Excellency Governor William Franklin ,
of New Jersey. The following is an extract from the
letter, in question, viz. :

"FonT Pitt, Sept. 1.0,177:;.

" Sir, — A few Days ago I was at Redstone, when I
had an opportunity of knowing the sentiments of the
People of that Part of the Country with Respect to
the Western Boundaiy of Pennsylvania, and find a
great Number of them are determined to pay no
respect to the Institution of the Court at Bedford.
They believe the Western Boundary of Pennsylvania
will not extend so far a; Redstone Settlement, and say
it is an imposition to oblige them to pay taxes for
Building Court Houses, &c., in Bedford County when
there is the greatest probability of their being out of
Pennsylvania, and that they shall be obliged to con-
tribute to publick Uses in the New Colony. These
sentiments do not proceed from Licentiousness in the
People, nor from a desire to screen themselves from
Law as some would represent, but from believing
themselves out of Pennsylvania and being burthened
with exorbitant Taxes and Mileage, which they are
unwilling to pay till it is absolutely determined
whether they are in Pennsylvania or not.

" The Sheriff of Bedford County told me he had
Governor Penn's orders to execute his office as far as
the Settlements did extend on the Ohio, and even to
the Kenhaways, which the Governor must know is
fiir below the Western Boundary of Pennsylvania ;
and though he dare not attempt it, yet I think it my
Duty to inform your Excellency that the settling of
this Country is much hindered by these Disputes, and
that many respectable and substantial settlers are
prevented from coming into it by these Disputes, and
to the great injury of the Gentlemen who have ob-
tained a Grant on the Ohio. . . ."

After the erection of Westmoreland County from
the western part of Bedford in 1773, the popular dis-
satisfaction was less, but by no means wholly allayed ;
and a considerable portion of the people still re-
mained favorable to the claims of Virginia.

About the beginning of the year 1774, Lord Dun-
more, Governor of Virginia, developed his determina-
tion to use strong measures for the assertion of the
claims of his province to jurisdiction over the dis-
puted territory. To this, it was said, he was incited
by Col. George Croghau and his neijhew, Dr. John
Connolly, an intriguing and ambitious p.arlisau resid-
ing at Fort Pitt. Connolly had visited the Governor
at Williamsburg, and now returned with a captain's
commission, and power and directions from the Gov-
ernor to take possession of the Monongahela country
and the region around Fort Pitt, in the name of the
king. Upon this he issued his proclamation to the
people in the vicinity of Redstone and Fort Pitt to



meet on the 25th of January in the year named, to be
embodied as Virginia militia. Miny assembled in
uccordance with the proclamation ; but in the mean
time Connolly was arrested by Capt. Arthur St. Clair,
as an officer of Westmoreland County, and the militia
were lor the time dispersed;^ but after Connollj^'s re-
lease he, with the aid of the militia, took possession
of Fort Pitt, which he pretended to name, in honor of
liis patron, Fort Dunmore. Some of the means which
he took to enforce the authority are set forth in the
letter ad<lressed to Governor Penn by William Craw-
Cord, who was then presiding justice of the courts of
Westmoreland, and a resident in that part of the
county which afterwards became Fayette. It is
luuper to state here that he soon afterwards turned
against the Pennsylvania interest, and became one of
the most active partisans of Virginia, and a civil
officer under that government. The letter in question
was as follows :


''Sir, — As some very extraordinary occurrences
have lately happened in this county, it is necessary
to write an account of them to you. That which I
now give is at the request and with the approbation
of the magistrates that are at present attending the
court. A few weeks ago Mr. Connolly went to
Staunton [Va.t, and wa,~ sworn in as a Justice of the
peace for Augu-ia t.'i.uiity, in which it is ])retended
that the country around Pittsburgh is included. He
had before this brought from Williamsburg com-
missions of the peace for several gentlemen in this
part of the province, but none of them, I believe,
have been accepted of. A number of new militia
officers have been lately appointed by Lord Dunmore.
Several musters of the militia have been held, and
much confusion Ii:is 1h fii orcasioned by them. I am
inlbrmed that the militia i^ composed of men without
character and without fortune, and who would be
equally averse to the regular administration of justice
under the colony of Virginia as they are to that
under the province of Pennsylv.ania. The disturb-
ances which they liavr |.i-oilui'i..l at Pittsburgh have
been particularly alaniiiiig to tlie iiihaliitants. Mr.
Connolly is constantly surrounded with a body of
armed men. He boasts of the countenance of the
Governor of Virginia, and forcibly obstructs the exe-
cution of legal process, whether from the court or
single magistrates. A deputy sheriff has come from
Augusta County, and I am told he has writs in his
hands against Capt. St. Clair' and the sheriff for
tlic arrest and confinement of Mr. Connolly. The
sheriff was last week arrested at Pittsburgh for serving
a writ on one of the inhabitants there, but was, after
some time, discharged. Oii Monday last one of Con-
nolly's people grossly insulted Jlr. Mackay, aud was
confined by him, in order to be sent to jail. The
rest of the party hearing it, immediately came to

Mr. Mackay's house and proceeded to the most vio-
lent outrages. Sirs. Mackay was wounded in the arm
with a cutlass. The magistrates and those who came
to their assistance were treated with much abuse, and
the prisoner was rescued.

"Some days before the meeting of the court a re-
port was spread that the militia officers, at the head
of their several companies, would come to Mr. Han-
na's, use the court ill, and interrupt the administra-
tion of justice. On Wednesday, while the court was
adjourned, they came to the court-house [at Hannas-
town, Westmoreland County] and paraded before it.
Sentinels were placed at the door, and Mr. Connolly
went into the house. One of the magistrates was
hindered by the militia from going into it till permis-
sion was first obtained from their commander. Mr.
Connolly sent a message to the magistrates informing
them that he wanted to communicate something to
them, and would wait on them for that purpose.
They received him in a private room. He read to
them the inclosed paper,ltogether with a copy of a
letter to you, which Lord Dunmore had transmitted
to him, inclosed in a letter to himself, which was
written in the same angry and undignified style.
The magistrates gave the inclosed answer to what he
read, and he soon afterwards departed with his men.
Their number about one hundred and eighty
or two hundred. On their return to Pittsburgh some
of them seized Mr. Elliott, of the Bullock Pens, and
threatened to put him in the stocks for something
which tliey deemed an affront offered to their com-
mander. Since their return a certain Edward Thomp-
son and a young man who keeps store for Mr. Spear
have been arrested by them, and Mr. Connolly, who
in person seized the young man, would not allow him
time even to lock up the store. In other parts of the
country, particularly those adjoining the river Monon-
gahela, the magistrates have been frequently in-
sulted in the most indecent and violent manner, and
are apprehensive that unless they are speedily and
vigorously supported by government it will become
both fruitless and dangerous for them to proceed to
the execution of their ofl5ces. They presume not to
point out the measures proper for settling the present
disturbances, but beg leave to recommend the fixing
of a temporary line with the utmost expedition as
one step which in all probability will contribute very
much towards producing that effect. For further
particulars concerning the situation of the country
I refer you to Colonel Wilson, who is kind enough to-
go on the present occasion to Philadelphia. I am,
sir, vour verv humble servant,

"W. Crawford.
"To THE Honorable Johx Pexn, Esquire."
While at Fort Dunmore (Pitt), in the following
September, the Governor of Virginia issued and
caused to be published the following :

= An adilrcss bj- Dr. Cunuolly to the niiigistratc'S of Westmoreland

• St. Clu



By his Excellency John, Earl of Dunmore, Lieutenant and
Governor-General in and over his Majesty's Colony and Do-
ul' Virginia, and Vice-Admiral of the same.


'icrrite, the rapid settlement made on the west side of the
Allc-hcny Mountnins by his Majesty's subjeo's within the course
of these few years has become an object of real concern to bis
Majesty's interest in this quarter; And whereas the Province
Df l\iinsylvania have unduly laid claim to a very valuable and
■xtriiive quantity of his Majesty's territory, and the execu-
ivr jiiit nl'that government, in consequence thereof, has most
iil.i.K.ii ily and unwarrantably proceeded to abuse the laudable
|idvnnL-c[iicnts in this part of his Majesty's daminions by many

;iveand illegal methods in the discharge of this imaginary
uthoiiiy ; And whereas the ancient claim laid to this country
colony of Virginia, founded in reason, upon pre-occu-
lancy and the general nequiescence of all persons, together with
ho instructions I have lately received' from his Majesty's scr-

ordering mo to lake this country under my administra-

nd as the evident injustice manifestly offered to his
kinjesty by the immediate strides takeu by the proprietors of
'cnnsylvania in prosecution of their wild claim to this eoun-
ry demand an immediate remedy, I do hereby in his Ma-
esty's name requiro and command all his Majesty's subjects

■ the Laurel Hill to pay a due respect to this my proela-

. stiicHy prohibiting the execution of any act of au-
horiiy on behalf of the province of Pennsylvania at their

1 this country ; but, on the contrary, that a due regard and
ntire obedience to the laws of his Majesty's colony of Virginia
inder my administration beobserveil, to the end that regularity

isue, and a just regard to the interest of his Majesty in
his quarter, as well as to the subjects in general, may be the
onscquencc. Given under my h;ind and seal at Fort Dunmore,
ept. 17, 1774.


"By his Excellency's command,
"God save the King."

The publication of tliis proclamation by Dunmore
rought out the following i'rom the Governor of Ponn-
ylvania, viz. :

the Honorable John Penn, Esquire, Governor and Com-
r in Chief of the province of Pennsylvania and counties
f New Castle, Kent, and Susscv, on Delaware.


"Whereas, I have received information that his Excellency,
ic Earl of Dunmore, governor general in and over his
lajcsty's colony of Virginia, hath lately issued a very e.\traor-
inary proclamation, setting forth [here is recited the substance
f Governor Dunmore's proclamation of thcl7th of September] ;
.nd whereas, although the westein limits of the province of
'cnnsylvania have not been settled by any authority from the
rown, yit it has been sufficiently demonstrated by lines accu-
itely run by the most skillful artists that not only a great
if country west of the Laurel Hill, but Fort Pitt also are
omprchended within the charter bounds of this province, a
real part of which country has been actually settled, and is
ow held under grants from the proprietaries of Pennsylvania,
nd the jurisdiction of this government has been peace:ibly ex-
rcisod in that quarter of the country till the late strange claim
;t np by the Earl of Dunmore in behalf of his Majesty's colony
f Virginia, founded, as his Lordship is above pleased to say.

own undoubted property from the encroachment of others. I
have thought fit, with the advice of the council, to issue this,
my proclamation, hereby requiring all persons west of Laurel
Hill to retain their settlements as aforesaid made under this
jirovince, and to pay due obedience to the laws of this govern-
ment; and all magistrates and other officers who hold commis-
sions or ofiiecs under this government to proceed as nsual in
the administration of justice, without paying the least regard
to the said recited proclamation, until his Majesty's pleasure
shall bo known in the premises, at the same time strictly
charging and enjoining the said inhabitants and magistrates to
use their utmost endeavors to preserve peace and good order.
Given under my hand and the great seal of the said province,
at Philadeliihia, the twelfth day of October, in the year of our
Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-four, and in
the fourteenth year of the reign of our sovereign Lord George
the Third, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and
Ireland, king, defender of the faith, and so forth.
" By his Honor's command.

" Jon

SiiifPicN, Ja
: the King."

When Lord Dunmore had finished his campaign
against the Indians in 1774, he returned to Virginia by
way of Redstone, and made a short stay at Fort Burd
(Brownsville). While he was there (November 24th)
Connolly sent an officer with a summons to Thomas
Scott (who then lived on Dunlap's Creek) to appear
before the Governor to answer for several offenses al-
leged to have been committed while acting under au-
tJiority from Penn.«ylvania. Mr. Scott refused to pay
any attention to the summons, and on the same day
\ a number of armed men appeared at his house and
I forcibly carried him to Fort Burd, where he was re-
quired either to give bail with two sureties to appear
at the next court to be held for the county of Augusta,
at Pittsburgh, December 20th next following, or at
any future day when the court should be held there,
or to be committed to prison. He chose the former
j and entered into a recognizance for his appearance.
The records of the Augusta court,' under date of May
18, 1775, show that Mr. Scott, " being bound over to
this court for his acting and doing business as a jus-
tice under Pennsylvania, in Contempt of the Earl of
Dunmore's late Proclamation," was on hearing ad-
judged guilty, and committed to prison in default of
£500 bail. There is nothing found showing how long
he remained incarcerated, but Judge Veech says "he
was not released until accumulated resentment and
the beginning of the war for liberty had burst his
prison bonds and set many of Connolly's captives

I the I



and tb(

quiescence of all

cfore, to the propr

this onti-y: '* George AVilsun, gout., 1.
being confederate witli. a ,11 _,.rh.- i
persons, who on the in : -
aad carried away Bliij .' ' >
otliel-s to not aid ffTiLi 1- , t ii,>: 1 ^
aforesaid disturbers of the jH'.iee, liei
ordered that he be prosecuted on his
to Cul. George W"iIson, who lived iieai
died in New Jersey, while iu the Co;

fovince of Pennsyl



free." lu December following Connolly issued a
proclamation, with the object of preventing the col- |
lection of taxes by Westmoreland County officers, as ,
follows: I

" Whereas I am informed that certain persons, by. \
written instructions directed to different people ^
through this country, under the denomination of '
collectors, are apparently authorized to break open
doors, cupboards, etc., and to commit summary acts
of violence in order to extort money from the inhab-
itants under the appellation of taxes, these are there- i
fore to acquaint all his Majesty's subjects that as there i
can be no authority legally vested in any persons for j
any such acts at this juncture, that such attempts to !
abuse public liberty are unwarrantable, and that all j
]ier.sons have an undoubted natural as well as lawful |
right to repel such violence ; and all his Majesty's
subjects are hereby required to apprehend any person '
whatever who may attempt a seizure of their effects j
in consequence of such imaginary authority, to be
dealt with as the law directs. Given under my hand
at Fort Duumore, this 30th day of December, 1774.
"John Coxxolly.''

A copy of this " proclamation" was laid before the
Sujjreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania by Capt.
Arthur St. Clair on the 2-5th of January, 177-3, and i
in the minutes of the proceedings of the Council on ^
the same day appears the following: "Captain St. i
Clair appearing at the Board, and representing that
William Crawford, Esquire, President of the Court
in Westmoreland County, hath lately joined with the
government of Virginia in opposing the jurisdiction
of Pennsylvania in that county, the board advised the
Governor to supersede him in his office as Justice of
the Peace and Common Pleas. A supersedeas was '
accordingly issued." And Edward Cook was ap-
pointed his successor.

That Crawford bscame a pronounced and aggres-
sive partisan of Virginia immediately after his super-
sedure as presiding justice is shown by the record of i
the Council on February 2.5th next following. At the
meeting of the Council on that day the Governor laid |
before them several letters he had received by express ■
from the magistrates of Westmoreland County, com- j
plaining of violi'iicr cuiiiniitted therein the "break- j
ing 0]>ca of t!ic j lil nl' that county and discharging ,
the iirisoin'i - , and uthcr outrages lately committed
by the militia :ia;l people of Virginia," and inclosing
sundry de[ni;:ti rn supporting these complaints. The I
outrages, as it appeared, had been committed by a [
party under the leadership of Benjamin Harrison (a
re.-^ident of that part of AVestmoreland which became |
Fayette), who acted, as he said, under authority of
Capt. William Crawford, president of the court.
Among the depositions mentioned that of Charles
Foreman, which details the circumstances of the out-
rage, and is as follows :

" Westmoreland County, ss. :

" Personally appeared before us the subscribers,
three of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the!
county afore.said, Charles Foreman, who being duly
sworn upon the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God,
doth depose and say that this morning, between
twilight, being the 7th day of February, he heard a
noise at the jail, and getting out of his bed he saw
a number of armed men breaking the door, and
charging the prisoners then in jail to go about theii
business; and he heard John Carnaghan, Esquire,
high sheriff of the county aforesaid, ask one Benjamin
Harrison, who appeared to be their head man, whether
they had any orders for their so doing, upon which he
read a paper, and said it was Capt. William Craw-
ford's orders so to do ; and the said Charles Foremar
further saith that he saw one Samuel Wilson make s
push at one Kobert Hanna, Esquire, with a gun, anc
told him not to be so saucy, and a great deal of il
tongue ; and further this deponent saith not.

"Chakles Foke.max.

"Sworn and subscrib?d before us this 7th day o
February, 177-').


" William Lociiky,
" ^^'^LLIAM Brackex.'

The opening of the Picvolutiou soon after the event
last mentioned drove Dunmore from power in Vii
ginia, and this of course overthrew his friend Connollj
who fled from the scene of his exploits and took refug
with the British. Virginia, however, did not reli:
quish her claims in the disputed territory, but, on tb
contrary, erected new counties upon it, establishe
courts, built court-houses, appointed civil and railitS
officers, and kept up a show of jurisdiction for man

The Virginia county of Augusta was erected i
November, 173S, to embrace all the western and nortl
western parts of that colony, including (as was the
supposed by her legislators) an immense territory th:
is now in Pennsylvania west of the meridian of tl
western boundary of Maryland. According to
Virginia claim, then, the jurisdiction of Aug
County for about thirty-eight years after its form,
tion extended over all the present county of Fayetl
except a strip on its eastern side, and over all thete
ritory between the Monongahela and Ohio Riv

In October, 1770, the General Assembly of Virgin
enacted i that a certain part of the territory of A
gusta County, viz. : " Beginning on the Alleghei
Mountain, between the heads of Potowmack, Che
and Greenbrier Rivers ; thence along the ridge
mountains which divides the waters of Cheat Rh
from those of Greenbrier, and that branch of the M



nongahela River called the Tyger's [Tygart's] Valley ,
River to Monongahela River; theuce up the said ,
river and the West Fork thereof to Bingcrman's
Creek, on the northwest side of said fork ; thence up
the said creek to the head thereof; thence in a direct
line to the head of Middle Island Creek; a branch of

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 26 of 193)