REPORT OF THE COMMISSION TO LOCATE THE SITE OF THE FRONTIER FORTS OF PENNSYLVANIA.
CLARENCE M. BUSCH.
STATE PRINTER OF PENNSYLVANIA.
The Frontier Forts in the Cumberland and Juniata Valleys.
By Jay Gilfillan Weiser.
Darlington's 1755 Map
"FORT PITT AND LETTERS FROM THE FRONTIER"
edited by Mary C. Darlington, 1892.
FORT ANDERSONA BLOCKHOUSE.
This fort was erected in 1778. It was situated on Shaver's creek near the junction of the creek and the Juniata river, on the farm of William H. Lower, near where now stands the borough of Petersburg. Mr. John Gaffius stated to the writer when on the spot that it was close by a spring on the farm of Mr. Lower, and was on a bank west of the spring about seventy-five to one hundred feet and one hundred and fifty feet north of the public road leading from Petersburg to Alexandria. Mr. W. W. Striker stated that in 1848 the fort was pointed out to him by the old settlers as being about three hundred yards farther west than the above description and on the same side of the public road.
The erection of forts began in this locality about the time of the Indian depredations, one of which forts was built directly across the creek from Petersburg along the road leading to Alexandria, the old site being visible on the hill side a short distance from the bridge that crosses the stream from the town. This was called Fort Anderson. It was in West township and six miles above Huntingdon. This fort, it is believed, was erected by the white settlers to defend themselves from the incursions of the Indians. The creek which flows through one of those fertile valleys for which that section of the county is so celebrated, the land being equal in productiveness to any in the State, takes its name from Peter Shaver who made the first settlement upon it, presumably at the mouth of the creek. Prior to the Revolutionary war, others settled there. Mr. Shaver met his death in the neighborhood where he had lived in a most singular manner. One evening he left his home just at twilight for the purpose of putting his horse into a pasture field. He did not return, but his absence did not create any special alarm, as this was before the war and before any savages had appeared in the valley, with murderous intent. The following morning his family not finding him, made a search and his body was found in a lane near the pasture field, minus his head. This was regarded as a most mysterious murder and as a matter of course would have been charged to the Indians, had they ever been known to take a man's head off on any previous occasion. The perpetrators of this murder were never discovered, even though a reward of fifty pounds for the head was offered by the family, and it is suspected that the Indians had nothing to do with it.
Samuel Anderson, from whom the fort derived its name, was regarded as the most active and energetic man in Shaver's creek settlement during the Revolutionary war. He succeeded by his own exertions and the aid of his neighbors on the creek and the little Juniata, in erecting this blockhouse fort, near the mouth of the creek, which was more or less occupied while the war continued, and it is but a few years since the last vestiges of this old fort were obliterated. As near as can be ascertained the fort itself never was assailed by the Indians. And coupling this fact with the well known circumstance that during the Revolutionary period the Indians held aloof from forts, it can be readily seen why this fort was never assailed by them. And another idea would seem tenable, that they were overawed by the large number of the garrison in the forts, which possibly had a powerful effect in holding them in check upon any attacks upon forts then. This fort like all other forts, was frequently disturbed by alarms, sometimes real, sometimes false.
The Hon. J. Simpson Africa furnishes the following concerning this fort:
"My grandmother, an early settler about the time of the Revolution, sought protection there. The inhabitants of the fort, after defending themselves for a long time against the attacks of the savages, finding their supplies becoming exhausted, fled to Standing Stone Fort. In their flight two of the men named Maguire were killed by the Indians and their sister, afterwards Mrs. Dowling, who was guarding the cows, was chased by them. Springing from ambush, the sudden surprise frightened the cows and they started to run. The foremost Indian caught her dress and imagined he had made sure of the victim, but she simultaneously grasped the tail of one of the cows, held on, her dress tore and she escaped. She reached Fort Standing Stone half dead with fright still holding on to the tail of the cow."
The facts here given support the notion that Anderson was a fortress used by the early settlers against the incursions of the Indians, and the writer recommends its history, surroundings, etc., to the same consideration which the other forts doubtless will receive under the act of Assembly, viz: that they be marked by memorial tablets, the offices of which shall be the preservation of the history attaching.
This fort was erected for a defence of the settlers in Woodcock Valley about 1778, when a number of other minor forts were built at or about the same time in this (Huntingdon) county. This fort is near Marklesburg, on the Broad Top railroad, in Penn township. Dr. J. H. Wintrode kindly took the writer to the site of this fort and we found that it was located on a high brow of a hill on the farm now owned by David B. Brumbaugh, about one hundred and fifty feet east of a public road, leading from Marklesburg to Huntingdon. There is not a vestige of the fort left to mark the place. Tradition places it upon the highest point of Brumbaugh's farm. In appearance, the site was the most commanding in Woodcock Valley, as one can have an uninterrupted view in all directions from this point of location. The writer was unable to learn that it had ever been used for any other purpose than to harbor the settlers.
This fort was located on the old Indian path coming from the eastward through the Tuscarora Valley, Aughwick, Woodcock valley, to Hollidaysburg and to Kittanning Point. Being on this commercial highway to the westward, the track pursued by the traveler in early times, when in quest of a home west of the Alleghenies, it is likely that its importance to the settler, the soldier, the adventurer, in fact to all who were arrayed against the red man, was of such a character as to entitle it now to some memorial stone which shall preserve its history.
Fort Lytle was erected about the year ____, in Porter township, this county (Huntingdon). From data we have at hand, there is no doubt but that this fort actually existed, the site of which was located on what is now known as the Knode farm, between Alexandria and McConnellstown, and about two and one-half miles from Alexandria, but as to what part of the farm it was located the writer cannot learn.
We here insert the information received from Mr. Louis G. Knode, of Alexandria, under date of 25th August, 1894, as follows:
"I see by our county papers that you have been in our county, that is, Huntingdon, locating Indian forts. Fort Lytle was on the farm we now occupy. It is in Porter township, two and one-half miles south of Alexandria. In regard to Mr. Lytle's History of our county, it is a little defective. Jones History of the Juniata Valley is far better, although my grandfather, who fought the Indians, told my mother that there were a good many errors in that; old Mr. Maguire furnished the information for it, and he was quite a boy." * * * *
This was also a blockhouse or a stockade erected about the time, in the same locality, and for purposes quite similar for which the preceding two forts were intended. They all had their places individually in the early history of the State and particularly in that concerning this section, namely, Huntingdon county, and while it would seem unwise to rank them in the degree of importance with reference to the more staunch and better known forts erected and held under the Provincial authority, with places and fortifications holding a large garrison and occupying a well known position in the history of the Indian times, they are, nevertheless, entitled to all the mention which the meagre data at hand justifies us in bestowing upon them and their character in the frontier line of defences and as places of resort and safety from the attacks of the savages.
We here state that this fort was located on land belonging to Robert McCormick, afterwards on the land of John M. Oaks, and which is now owned by John M. Johnson, and its site was about a quarter of a mile from where Neff's Mill now stands, in Huntingdon county. Mrs. Mary C. Oaks, widow of the late John M. Oaks, who now lives in Huntingdon, says that she can point out the exact location of the fort; that it was shown her by her grandfather, William Ewing, and she heard many stories of occurrences that took place there, during the times when the people had to protect themselves from the savages and tories. She says, that at about forty years ago, while living on the McCormick farm (about 1854) an old barn that had been standing many years was torn down and that she noticed peculiar notches in some of the logs. On inquiry, she was told that these logs had been in the fort and that the notches were portholes. Mrs. Oaks details many circumstances which seem to establish the claim that the fort stood there and was used for the protection of the people from the Indians.
Miles Henderson, Esquire, Neff's Mills, Huntingdon county, Pa., states that McCormick's Fort was on the farm near Neff's Mills. John Hagan also gives graphic accounts of this fort as well as of Rickett's, and Mr. Ewing, nephew of Katharine Ewing, who was captured by the Indians with Miss McCormick, near McCormick's Fort, in 1782, is still living. He often heard his Aunt Katharine tell of this event, and has several times related it to the writer. The two girls were captured on the Ewing farm adjoining the one on which the Fort stood, and Mr. Henderson further states that he is able to show the sites of these forts, and especially after a rain when the fields are ploughed. It is indicated then by the color of the soil, which is darker than that surrounding it. I think gun flints, arrow heads, old iron, pottery, pipes and other articles can be still found. It was near this fort (McCormick's) that a daughter of Mr. McCormick, in company with Katharine, daughter of James Ewing, and an aunt to our friend and neighbor, Huston Ewing, still living near, was captured by the red men and carried prisoner to Montreal, Canada, where fortunately an exchange of prisoners took place and Miss Ewing was sent to Philadelphia and from there made her way home. It was during the winter of 1782 that McCormick learned of the fate of his daughter, it being the first word of any kind whatever he had of her. He immediately started after her on horseback and after a long and weary journey, by paying a heavy ransom secured her. He found her in an Indian family where she was treated as one of them. Miss McCormick was a sister of Robert McCormick, Sr., who died some years ago in Altoona, and an aunt of William, Robert and Alexander McCormick, of that city. The farm upon which these two named girls were captured is now owned by Samuel and Joseph Duff. This capture occurred in October, 1782. They traveled for seven days through sleet, rain and snow until they reached the lake. Miss McCormick was given to an old Indian woman who happened to take a fancy to her, and wandered about until found by her father.
In consequence of rumors rife in 1778, of the country being filled with Indians the people of Stone Valley, north of Huntingdon, determined to build a fort. While making arrangements for its erection, Mr. McCormick stated that inasmuch as the population of the valley was not very large and the labor and expense attending the erection of a fortress very great, he would agree that his should be put in repair, pierced for defence and that the people should fort with him. This was accordingly done, and in a very short time, his house was converted into Fort McCormick, into which nearly all the settlers of Stone Valley fled at once.
This fort or blockhouse was another place of refuge for the early settlers of Stone Valley. It was located on the farm now owned by Wesley G. Myton, in Barree township, and about midway between Manor Hill and Salsbury. It was built in the angle formed by the public road and the old "Belle Isle" road, now vacated and about thirty-five rods southeast of the present farm buildings. Mr. Ramsey states that his grandfather, William Hennen, who was born in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, in 1771, and who came to this county with his father's family during the Revolution, frequently told him of these two noted places, McCormick's Fort and Crum's Fort.
"In company with my grandfather," writes Mr. Ramsey, "I have passed the site of Crum's Fort and often heard him detail the exciting times when an alarm was raised that the Indians were likely to make a move upon the settlers. Then it was that the women and children were taken to one of the forts, either McAlevy's, Crum's or McCormick's. Through one of his nieces, I have learned that James Cheney, a life long resident of Barree township was born in Crum's Fort in the year 1780."
Another statement coming under the notice of the writer claims the same locality as being the site of Rickett's Fort. There seems to be some confusion regarding it.
This fort, according to the Historical Map of Pennsylvania, we find to have been erected in what is now Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania, in the northwestern corner of that county. It is on a line directly south of where the site of Old Fort, or Potter's Fort, was located, directly across the mountains in Centre county, and is near the famous spring named after the Indian chief Logan, which spring is in Muffin county.
We gather from certain reliable sources that this fort or blockhouse was located on the bank of Standing Stone creek about twenty miles above Huntingdon, in Jackson township, it being the present place known as Fort McAlevy, the postoffice there bearing the name. This fort, from what we can ascertain, was erected in 1778. As stated, the erection of a series of forts began at this time, one of which was Fort Anderson, McCormick's Fort, and others, for the protection of the settlers, and we conclude, therefore, that Fort McAlevy was then erected.
Mr. Lytle states that the township in which Fort McAlevy is located was named after Joseph Jackson, one of the first settlers within its limits. It is in the northeastern portion of the county and joins Centre county on the north and Mifflin county on the east and southeast, and is bounded by Barree township on the west and southwest. One of the earliest settlers who came to this spot, the writer finds from personal researches, was Captain William McAlevy, whose name is mentioned frequently in connection with the Revolutionary war and the political troubles of 1788. He was a Scotch Irishman by birth, and formerly resided in Cumberland county, north of Carlisle. His wife was a Harris, but of which family is not definitely settled. He came up to this locality, which afterwards bore his name, about the year 1770. After concluding to settle there, he made a canoe out of a pine tree, in which he descended Standing Stone creek and the Juniata and the Susquehanna rivers to Harris Ferry, and in which he returned, bringing his family up those streams to his future home. The stream was very rocky, the water shallow and his craft light, it struck the rocks and bars, from which it could not be moved by himself, but only by the power of a horse which he kept conveniently near.
It was at this place that he undertook the hardships that had to be endured by the first settlers of the valley, for the purpose of carving out for himself a future home. Like the old heroes further up the valley, meaning Stone valley, they had to fight for this coveted prize, as did Captain McAlevy and his followers, until their red neighbors quit the valley and turned their faces toward the setting sun. He acquired all the lands in and around McAlevy's Fort. The fortification which was thus known was but a blockhouse on the bluff east of the village, built as a defence against the hostile incursions of the savages. He was once wounded in the leg by the Indians, but escaped from them while his companion was overtaken and scalped. Brave, resolute and daring, he was just the style of man that would be ready to take up arms in behalf of American independence.
The existence of a number of forts in this county aside from the principal forts, as Forts Shirley and Standing Stone, during the days of danger from the savages, is well established. The facts have been handed down by tradition through the few generations that have passed since they stood there. It seems they are not mentioned (Anderson, Hartzog's, Lytle's, McCormick's, Rickett's) in the Archives of the State, but that is no evidence that they did not exist, as there are persons here living who can give facts and circumstances related to them by their immediate ancestors which prove their existence beyond a doubt.
Darlington's 1755 Map
"FORT PITT AND LETTERS FROM THE FRONTIER"
edited by Mary C. Darlington, 1892.
This fort was erected in the year 1755 by the express orders of Governor Morris. It stood in Huntingdon county, on or near the banks of the Aughwick creek, flowing northward into the Juniata river, and not many miles distant from that river to the southward. The Tuscarora range of mountains passed by it on the south, its location being on a line due north from where Fort Lyttleton was erected, and distant from that place perhaps about twenty miles. This line northward from Fort Lyttleton to where Fort Shirley stood, passes through the celebrated Jack's Narrows and turns slightly northwest to the town of Huntingdon, so that its location would indicate its connection with a chain of early posts, to which resort was had for defence from the encroachments of the Indians, and for the necessaries of life which the settlers and travelers then sought at such places.
We append the fullest particulars concerning its site, as indeed this is the first matter to which we must turn under the authority of the act of Assembly, in establishing the existence of any fortification. The writer, after an inspection of the site found it on an elevated plot of ground, where now stands the Shirleysburg Female Seminary, within the limits of the borough of Shirleysburg and on the east side of it about one-fourth of a mile from Aughwick creek. A small stream passes southwest through Germany Valley between the spot where the fort was located and the end of Owing's Hill, and empties into Aughwick creek. This stream was known as Johnson's run and furnishes the water supply for Brewster's mill, which is near where the fort stood.
In an interview with a Mr. Barton and Mr. Doyle, both agreed that the fort was located on the south bank of what was known to them as Fort run, on the land now owned by P. M. Barton. This fort was in from the public road leading from Mt. Union to Burnt Cabins about one hundred and fifty feet west of the main road and about one hundred and fifty feet east of Mr. Barton's house. The location commanded a direct view of the surrounding country, and was also opposite a high ledge of rocks due north, where it is said, the settlers used to practice shooting mark from the fort against these rocks. An inspection of the ground furnishes no traces, excepting at what was supposed to be one corner of the fort, there is a slight depression in the ground, and it was stated that in digging up the soil, large stones were taken out. This fort was not easily defended, as the water was liable to be cut off by the enemy, it running at the foot of a high bank east of the fort and there being no well.
The original order that was given by Governor Morris was the erecting of three stockades, but it was not strictly adhered to. There were four built: one at Mexico, called Fort Patterson, hitherto treated of; one at the mouth of the Kishacoquillas, above Lewistown, called Fort Granville, before mentioned; one at Aughwick, called Fort Shirley, and one at the Sugar Cabins, called Fort Lyttleton, Fulton county, fully treated of in the history of the forts of that territory. There was another path mentioned by the Provincial authorities, that began at the Conococheague settlement, in Cumberland county, passing through Sterrett's Gap to Fort Robinson, in Perry county, thence to Fort Bingham in Juniata county, and thence to Fort Aughwick or Fort Shirley, from which latter point the means of communication to Standing Stone or Huntingdon borough were quite easy.
Governor Morris was upon the frontiers in the months of December, 1755, and January, 1756, visiting this line of fortifications. On his return to Philadelphia, on the 28th of the latter month, all the forts west of the Susquehanna were completed, named and garrisoned. He caused to be placed at each of them seventy-five men, with orders to range the woods in both directions toward the other forts. In a letter dated February 9th, 1756, Governor Morris writes to General Shirley, "about twenty miles northward of Fort Lyttleton, at a place called Aughwick, another fort is erected something larger than Fort Lyttleton, which I have taken the liberty to honor with the name of Fort Shirley. This stands near the great path used by the Indians and Indian traders, to and from the Ohio, and consequently the easiest way of access for the Indians into the settlements of this Province."
A point here which the writer wishes to introduce, although a matter which relates in point of time a little earlier than the establishment of this fort, yet it is one of interest and so closely connected with it that we can do no better than to insert what Mr. Lytle has so well said in his history of Huntingdon county.
"Croghan now revived the project of fortifying Aughwick, which had been under consideration during the latter part of the previous year, but being out of the service of the government, he looked for no assistance from that source. A regard for the safety of himself and other residents of that exposed region led him to undertake the work with such help as he could obtain in the neighborhood. On the ninth of October, 1755, he wrote to a friend in Shippensburg that he hoped to finish his stockade by the middle of the next week and requested the loan of six guns with powder and twenty pounds of lead, promising to return them in about fifteen days, when he would get arms and ammunition from the mouth of the Conocoeheague."
At that time the frontier settlements were exposed to extreme danger, consternation and alarm had spread throughout the entire country west of the Susquehanna, and those settlers who could escape the fury of the savages were fleeing precipitately from their homes. The towns of Carlisle, York and Lancaster were daily filled with the refugees. But few remained except those who paid with their lives and scalps for their temerity. At Aughwick, however, Croghan had made his position sufficiently strong to prevent an attack. In the east there was great anxiety for his safety and many rumors as to his fate. Scarroyady came down from Shamokin to Harris' Ferry, inquired after him, and on being informed that he was fortified at Aughwick, sent him advice to remove or he would be killed.
Governor Morris wrote to the Governor of Virginia on the 2d of November that "By letters of the twenty-ninth and thirtieth of last month, I am informed that the people of Aughwick and Juniata are cut off and among others, George Croghan" From intelligence then in the possession of the Governor it is certain that no inhabitants remained on the Juniata. Croghan's situation is stated in a letter written by himself on the 12th of November: "I have but a stockade fort at Aughwick and have about forty men with me there, but how long I shall be able to keep it, I really can't tell."
The reasons given for this unprotected and defenceless condition of the country at that time, was that the Quakers were in possession of the political power in the general Assembly. They were averse to giving away money or supplies or any authority for the enlistment of men or the forming of a militia. The complaints of Governor Morris were constant against the Assembling for adhering to a policy that prevented them from saving the lives of their citizens, and were made to the British government, to the Penns, to the Governors of the neighboring provinces and to the Assembly itself. So completely was he deprived of military power that not a man was furnished to Braddock from Pennsylvania, except Croghan and his few Indians. The teams for the transportation of baggage and supplies for the army were hired in York and Cumberland counties by Benjamin Franklin on his own responsibility and the Governor gathered a store of provisions at Shippensburg without legislative aid. The people were divided into parties upon this issue. Petitions from them were numerous, asking protection on the one hand, and opposing any warlike measures on the other. When at length the Assembly passed a militia law, they did so without abandoning any of their religious scruples. Immediately after its enactment, a plan was devised for the defence of the frontiers. Five hundred men were to be taken in the service, half of whom were to be stationed on the east and the other half on the west side of the Susquehanna.
George Croghan was given a Captain's commission issued under the new law previous to December 18th, 1755, and his may have been the first. He was directed to superintend the erection of fortifications west of that river. The forts being the three as above set forth, each to be fifty feet square, with blockhouses on two corners and barracks within, capable of accommodating fifty men. All the circumstances seem to point to Aughwick as the place for one of these forts. Its defence had occupied the attention of the government a year before and the necessity for its protection had greatly increased. Croghan had built a stockade at his own expense and labor and the selection of the sites for the new ones was, to a great extent under his control. It was natural that he should prefer the strengthening of the one he had built. And probably nothing more was required. He had been secure during the most dangerous times and with a garrison under military discipline, was ready to defy any force that could be brought against him.
Capt. Croghan, in addition to his duties as superintendent of the erection of these works was entrusted with the recruiting of men to garrison them. He continued in command of Fort Shirley and one of the companies raised by him until the latter part of March, 1756, three months after the fort was built. There were issued to him during that time two hundred tomahawks, one swivel, twenty-nine small arms and two hundred and forty blankets. He had also some arms belonging to himself which were retained and receipted for by his successor in command, Capt. Hugh Mercer.
Sherman Day, in his Historical Collections, states that the earliest attempt at a settlement by the whites, within the present limits of Huntingdon (meaning doubtless Huntingdon county), was probably the year 1749, on Aughwick creek, in the extreme southern corner of the county. The adventurous pioneers of Cumberland county, disregarding the limits of purchases from the Indians, had penetrated to a number of places on the waters of the Juniata, beyond the Kittatinny mountain. But, by order of the Provincial government, and in consequence of complaints from the Indians, Richard Peters and others, in May, 1750, routed these intruders and burnt their cabins. The report states that "at Aughwick they burnt the cabin of one Carlton, and another unfinished one, and three were burnt in the Big Cove." The name of Burnt Cabins is thus derived from this affair.
Between the date of this event and the year 1756, a place called Aughwick is frequently mentioned in the old Provincial records; but whether a settlement of the whites or Indians, it does not distinctly appear. It was probably the same place where Fort Shirley was subsequently built, in 1756, one of the line of frontier posts.
As is well known, after Braddock's defeat in 1755, the Indians advanced upon the settlements, then sparse as they were, with renewed ferocity and barbarity, and Mr. Sergeant, in his abstracts of the Provincial Records, speaks thus:
"From Aughwick, October 9, 1755. That 14 days before 160 men were about leaving the Ohio to attack the frontiers. That the Indians meant to draw off all the Indians from out of Pennsylvania and from the Susquehanna, before they attacked the Province. 1755, November 2. Accounts of C. Weiser and others, that the people at Aughwick and Juniata were cut off. And in * * * * * * * 1756, August 2, Mr. Morris informed the Governor and Council that he had concerted an expedition against Kittanning to be conducted by Col. John Armstrong, who was to have under his command the companies under Capt. Hamilton, Capt. Mercer, Capt. Ward and Capt. Potter; and to engage what volunteers he could besides; that the affair, etc., was to he kept as secret as possible and the officers and men directed to march to Fort Shirley and from thence to set out for the expedition. "And that Col. Armstrong was acting under particular instructions, entered in the orderly book, in consequence of which and conformably to which Col. Armstrong had made all necessary preparations, writing a letter from Fort Shirley, stating that he was on the point of setting out. Letter from Col. Armstrong, containing an account of the capture of Fort Granville by the French and Indians, and the garrison taken prisoners. That they designed very soon to attack Fort Shirley, with four hundred men."
We see thus that Fort Shirley during the times of Braddock's disastrous venture was an important post to and from which bodies of armed men under Provincial authority were being constantly directed, and we have further the statement that Col. Armstrong marched from Fort Shirley on the 29th of August. This was doubtless on the Kittanning expedition, reaching his advance guards at Beaver Dams, near the old village of Frankstown, which appears then to have been in existence. And again on October 18th, 1756, the governor related that he found the frontiers in a deplorable condition; Fort Granville being burnt by the enemy, Fort Shirley evacuated by his order, etc.
This famous valley heretofore referred to as Aughwick, is described as being in the extreme southern part of Huntingdon county, one of a series of valleys through whose entire length ran the celebrated path from the Kittanning to Philadelphia, being the great western highway for footment and pack horses. It is reported that traces of this path can yet be seen in various places and especially in the wilds of the mountains. It commenced at the Kittanning on the Allegheny river and crossed the Allegheny mountains in a southeastern direction, the mouth of which is five or six miles west of Hollidaysburg, at what is well known as Kittanning Point. From here it diverged in a southern direction until it led to the flat immediately back of Hollidaysburg, from thence east, round the gorge, back of the Presbyterian grave yard, and led into Frankstown. From thence it went through what is now called Scotch Valley, Canoe Valley, and struck the river at Water Street, before mentioned. From thence it went to Alexandria, crossed the river and went into Hartslog Valley. From thence into Woodcock Valley, from the latter across the Broad Top Mountain into Aughwick, from thence into the Tuscarora Valley, and from thence into Shearman's Valley by Sterrett's Gap.
Previous to the arrival into the Juniata Valley of the actual settlers, every inch of it was known to the traders. How long they trafficked with the red men before the settlers came is unknown. Close to this place it was that the trader John or Jack Armstrong, with his two servants, were murdered by the Indians at what is now Jack's Narrows, in Huntingdon county. From a statement of the distance by John Harris, he says from Aughwick to John Armstrong's Narrows it was eight miles.
Much has been said concerning a Captain Jack who flourished about Aughwick, but while there is a little truth, there is much that is fictitious about him. As his adventures were chiefly in this neighborhood, we give them for what they are worth. It is stated that he early went to the Juniata, built himself a cabin, his sole occupation, apparently, being fishing and hunting. His life seemed to be clothed in a mystery which not even his companions were able to solve. It is stated that he was a man of herculean proportions, with a swarthy complexion; in fact he was either a half-breed or a quadroon. He was possessed of considerable intelligence. One day when he returned from a day's fishing he found his cabin burned and his wife and two children murdered. From that moment on he became a different man and quit his pursuits, seeking shelter in caves and hollow logs. He made a vow afterwards to spend his life slaughtering Indians, which solemn pledge he evidently faithfully adhered to for the balance of his days, for many bodies of the savages were subsequently discovered, partly decomposed, their flesh being torn by birds and their bones bleaching in the sun. At last, being encountered by three or four Indians and after slaying three of the number, he grappled with the fourth one and a long and bloody struggle ensued with knives, and only ceased when both were exhausted. The Indian managed to escape, leaving Jack the victor on the field. But weak as he was, he scalped three savages, and made his way to the settlements where his wounds were dressed. The settlers were so highly pleased with his single handed attack on the savages that the facts of the case were never made known to the government. These qualifications made him a terror to the Indians and endeared him among the settlers to whom they could look for protection. A company of rangers was formed and Capt. Jack was tendered the command of it. On one occasion with his band he followed a party of Indians to the Conococheague settlement and put them to rout. This act reached the authorities in Philadelphia, and Governor Hamilton granted him a roving commission(?) to hold in check the unfriendly Indians of the frontier. Afterward, he offered his services to the government to accompany Braddock on his expedition against Font Duquesne. This offer on the part of Capt. Jack and his band of rangers was declined by Braddock because he intended his company to go as volunteers free from the restraint of camp life, which a strict disciplinarian like General Braddock would not permit. Braddock was not an admirer of the Indian fashion of fighting and wanted to achieve a signal victory over the French without the aid of the skulking Indians or men who imitated their methods of warfare. He, however, had already accepted a company of Indians under Capt. George Croghan. It is also stated that Capt. Jack's offer was accompanied by a statement made to Braddock by another gentleman that they, "Capt. Jack and his men need no shelter at night, they are alike insensible to the hardships of heat and cold, etc." Braddock never lived to discover his error in refusing to accept Capt. Jack and his men, nor did he ever have occasion, except in the confusion and distress perhaps of an impending death, to reflect upon the Indian fashion, so much detested, of fighting. Mr. Hazard, in his Pennsylvania Register, in speaking of the non-acceptance of Capt. Jack's offer, "It was a great misfortune for Braddock that he neglected to secure the services of such an auxiliary." Very true, for such men as Jack's hunters would never have suffered themselves to be fired upon by an enemy hid away in a ravine. They would not have marched over the hill with drums beating and colors flying in pride and pomp, as if enjoying a victory not yet won; but they would have had their scouts out, the enemy and his position known, and the battle fought without any advantages on either side, and in such an event it is more than probable that victory would have crowned the expedition. Of the final end of Capt. Jack, we have nothing definite. One account says he went to the west, another that he died an old man, in 1772, having lived the life of a hermit after the end of the war of 1763. Capt. Jack was, we see, more unique than the brothers Robinson, the Pattersons, father and son, eclipsing them in the solitariness and the mystery of his life, but that he rendered equally conspicuous service to his country, though in quite a different manner, none will deny.
To resume the history of Fort Shirley, after the command had been given to Capt. Mercer, at about the time of his assuming command of the fort, Captain Elisha Salter was appointed commissary general of musters and ordered to inspect and pay all the companies in Cumberland county. He performed this duty, visiting the forts on the frontiers. His presence at Fort Shirley is referred to by Capt. Mercer in a letter to Governor Morris written from Carlisle, on the 18th day of April, 1756. Capt. Mercer had gone to that place to recruit men for his company. It is gratifying to have from him a description of the situation of affairs at the fort, of the difficulties connected with the Provincial service, and of the deficiency in pay, arms, equipments and rations. The following is his letter in full:
"Honoured Sir: The commissary general of the musters with your Honour's instructions to review and pay off the garrison at Fort Shirley, arrived in a very lucky time, when the greater part of our men were about to abandon the fort for want of pay. It was with great difficulty I could prevent their doing so, for three weeks before, that is ever since the time of enlistment had been expired. I am sorry to observe that numbers of our best men have declined the service and reduced me to the necessity of recruiting anew through diffidence with regard to their pay, and I have been obliged to engage that even such as left us when paid off, should have the same allowance as formerly for their overplus time, depending upon my being reimbursed, as without such engagement, it was impossible to prevent the fort from falling into the enemy's hands. I am now about filling up my company to sixty men, agreeable to your orders, and have drawn upon the commissaries for thirty pounds for this purpose. A garrison of thirty men are now at Fort Shirley, engaged to remain there until the first of May, by which time I am in hopes of continuing the company and shall immediately thereupon repair thither. It is to be feared that our communication with the settlement will soon be cut off unless a greater force is ordered for the garrison. As your Honour is sensible that I can send no detachment to escort provisions equal in force to parties of the enemy who have lately made attempts upon our frontiers, and considering how short of provisions we have hitherto been kept, the loss of one party upon this duty must reduce us to the last necessity.
"Mr. Hugh Crawford is upon the return of Lieutenant and Mr. Thos. Smallman, who acted before as commissary in the fort as ensign to my company. It will be a particular obligation laid upon me to have an exchange of Mr. James Hays for Lieutenant and Mr. Smallman continued. And perhaps Mr. Crawford would be satisfied to fill Mr. Hays place with Capt. Patterson, as members of that company are of his acquaintance. I have given Mr. Croghan a receipt for what arms and other necessary articles belonging to him are at Fort Shirley, a copy of which, together with my journal and general return shall be sent by Captain Salter, and find it impossible to arm my men or complete what yet remains of our outworks without them. The guns are preferable to those belonging to the government and I hope will be purchased for our use. The arms being unfit for use, and cartridge boxes, powder and lead being wanted, I will direct a general order to the commissary at once for all these things. It is my desire that the men should be paid once every month, and I have so written the department, and unless we can do this we can expect little satisfaction in serving the public.
"The trust your Honour has been pleased to repose in me, in giving me the command of Fort Shirley, calls for my warm acknowledgments and cannot fail of engaging my utmost attention and zeal in the execution of your orders."
In July, 1756, the Indians from the Kittanning, under their chiefs Shingas and Jacobs, captured and burned Fort Granville, killing and making prisoners of the garrison. Later in the season they prepared for new incursions against the frontiers and an attack on Fort Shirley. Governor Morris determined that they should not have the opportunity of striking the first blow. He concerted an expedition against them to be commanded by Col. John Armstrong, who was to have under him the several commands heretofore mentioned in treating of this expedition.
These were the forces that garrisoned the fortifications west of the Susquehanna. They were to rendezvous at Fort Shirley, which they accordingly did, and march from there on the 30th of August in that year. Col. Armstrong was successful in surprising the Indians at the Kittanning at daybreak on the morning of the 8th of September, in completely routing them, destroying their town of thirty houses and killing Capt. Jacobs, the chief who had declared he could take any fort that would burn, and that he would make peace with the English when they would learn him to make gunpowder. Capt. Mercer was wounded in the arm early in the engagement and became separated from the main body of the troops. When the latter arrived at Fort Lyttleton on their return from Kittanning he had not joined them. The losses in his company were seven killed, one wounded and nine missing. Among the latter was himself. At the time of this disaster Capt. Jacobs was about to set out to take Fort Shirley. On that day two batteaux of Frenchmen and a party of Delawares and other Indians were to have joined him at Kittanning and were to have gone with him the next morning.
April 9th, 1756, Capt. Hance Hamilton says to Capt. Potter, giving an account of an affair at McCord's Fort for Fort Lyttleton: "We have sent an express to Fort Shirley for Doctor Mercer, because it was supposed that Doctor Jamison is killed, though at the same time he requests an express to be immediately sent to Carlisle, for Doctor Prentice, we imagining that Dr. Mercer cannot leave the fort under the circumstances that the fort is under." In a letter from Col. Armstrong at Carlisle, he says to Governor Morris, August 20th: "To-morrow, God willing, the men march from McDowell's for Fort Shirley, and this afternoon some part of my own company with the provisions here, sets out for Shearman's Valley, there to halt until the residue comes up. This night I expected to have been at Fort Shirley, but am much disappointed in getting in the strays." He is doubtful about remaining for some intelligence which he deems material, if he does he cannot reach Fort Shirley until Tuesday.
"The harvest season, with the two attacks on Fort Granville has left us so bare of ammunition that I shall be obliged to apply to the stores here for some quantity for the expedition. The Captains Hamilton and Mercer having broken open the part I sent to McDowell's for Fort Shirley, and given their receipts, though I know it is for the particular defence of them two posts, nor will it be in my power to prevail with double the number of men and a double quantity of ammunition to keep a fort that would have done it before the taking of Granville. By a deserter named Walker, it is learned that the French (after Granville) designed very soon to attack Fort Shirley with four hundred men."
"As Fort Shirley is not easily defended, and their water may be taken possession of by the enemy, it running at the foot of a high bank eastward of the fort and no well dug, I am of opinion, from its remote situation, that it cannot serve the country in the present circumstances, and if attacked, I doubt will be taken if not strongly garrisoned, but, extremities excepted, I cannot evacuate this without your Honour's orders."
The frontiers were found to be in a deplorable condition, Fort Granville was burned by the enemy, and on the 15th day of October, 1756, Governor Denny announced to the Council at Philadelphia that Fort Shirley had been evacuated by his order. This was not done because the dangers against which it was intended to guard had passed away, but because it had increased to such an extent that it could no longer be relied upon as a protection. The enemy had become more powerful. The country people being dispirited, sought safety in the smaller forts.
FORT STANDING STONE.
This fort was erected in Huntingdon county in the year 1762, on the Juniata river, near the mouth of a creek named for the stone there erected by the Indians. The ground on which it stood is situated in the southeastern portion of the borough of Huntingdon, and west of where Second street now is in that town, and quite near to the river. The Hon. J. Simpson Africa, in a letter states that it was located on the northwestern bank of Standing Stone creek; a short distance above its mouth was an Indian village. The land was used for the purpose of raising corn, and a part of it was used by the Indians to hold their council meetings and war dances. During the subsequent cultivation of this soil, many evidences of Indian relics were found, being turned up by the plow, and many have been preserved in the place.
Mr. Africa, continuing, says: It is not known what tribes of Indians occupied this particular locality, as is apparent by some contradictory statements in regard to the name of Standing Stone. Some writers contend that the word or the term Standing Stone signifies Oneida in our language, and that the Oneida Indians of New York were of southern origin. It is stated in various early Indian publications, or more properly in books pertaining to the savages, that the Oneidas indulged in the practice of placing wherever they tented or remained for any time, in an upright position between the forks of branches and limbs of trees, long stones, thus indicating that they had used that spot as a resting, camping or hunting ground.
Standing StoneAchsinninkis the proper name for this place. The word alludes to large rocks standing separate and where no other is near. I know four places within five hundred miles which have this name, two of which are large and high rocks in rivers. For noted places where a small rock is they give the name Achsinnessink, the place of the small rocks; thus speaks Heckewelder, whose name and discoveries in the missionary capacity are imperishably associated with the Indian.
Huntingdon, the town in which this fort is located (remains only being traceable) lies to the westward of the Juniata Valley, being practically but a continuation of that beautiful valley, so euphoniously named by the Indians. We find that this word Juniata, like Oneida, is derived from Onenhia Onenya or Onia, a stone, and Kaniote, to be upright or elevated, being a contraction and corruption of the compound.
Onenniote is rendered "the projecting stone." Horatio Hale also translates in the "Iroquois Book of Rites" the word Onenyute or O-nen-yo-deh, as "the protruding stone," denoting the name of a town. Only the latter part of the second word has been retained in the compound. Sir William Johnson says that the Onoya, a stone is the true symbol of the Oneidas, and that they call themselves Onoynts. They designated their village by a stone in the fork of a tree, and when on the war path as a defiance to their enemies. Would it not seem, then, even in the absence of historical data to sustain satisfactorily the theory that the Oneidas most probably peopled this particular locality, in view of so many places bearing the name Standing Stone in this neighborhood to-day?
The Standing Stone, that is the original stone, was, according to John Harris, in 1754, about fourteen feet high, six inches square. It stood on the right bank of Stone creek near its mouth, and in such a position as to be seen up and down the river. The original stone, we are led to believe, it addition to serving in the capacity of a guide board at a cross roads, was the official record of the tribe. On it, no doubt were engraved many important periods in its history. Its wars, its deeds, its prowess in battle, etc. It might, too, have served as a sacred tablet to the memory of many a noble chief who fell by the arrow of an enemy. These things were, no doubt in cabalistic characters; and, although we can know that each inscription may have been small, its meaning may, taken in at an almost unbounded scope, as the Indians are noted for brevity.
The first white man that ever passed through this section of country was Conrad Weiser, as early as the year 1748. Whilst he kept a chronicle of events, yet he has preserved no data as to whether there were any settlements at this place or not.
The first settlers of this place have left very little historical information. They were supposed to be traders whose pursuits led them to make journeys from the east to the Ohio river, and this fact is established by a letter written by George Croghan, who was then at Hunter's Fort, on the Susquehanna river, about five miles west of Harris Ferry. He refers to a trader who had just arrived from the Ohio and gives such other information as would indicate that it was a common occurrence to make these trips. The fact is that Croghan himself was a trader. This fort, Standing Stone, was along the Old Indian Path, coming from the eastward through Tuscarora Valley, Shade Gap, Aughwick, Woodcock Valley, Hartslog Valley, Water Street, Frankstown, Hollidaysburg and crossing the Allegheny mountains at or near the Kittanning. In fact, it was a long and important highway, and certainly was one of the means inducing pioneers to push on to the westward in search of settlements. There were a few white settlers living at The Stone in 1762, partially erecting a stockade fort, but were a short time thereafter compelled to abandon it and seek protection at Carlisle. When they again returned, the fort still stood, though partially destroyed.
On the breaking out of the war of the revolution, the fort was rebuilt on a more extensive scale by the inhabitants of the town and surrounding country, and was located as heretofore described. It was strongly built and was considered the only reliable place of refuge for the people residing as far west as the Allegheny mountains. There was never an attempt made to destroy it; neither were there any Indians lurking about it, except on two or three unimportant occasions. We have the following letter, dated April 24, 1778, from Carlisle, Lieut. Carothers writing: "This moment I received an express from Kishacoquillas for a supply of arms that Colonel MacAlevy, of Bedford county, came there express himself with an account that a body of Tories near three hundred and twenty, in and above Standing Stone, had collected together and drove a number of the inhabitants from Standing Stone town. Immediately Col. Buchanan and Col. Brown marched off with a few men who could be got equipped. We are waiting with impatience the issue. I have applied to the Board of War for some ammunition, which I have sent up with eighteen muskets, the property of this State. Which, with some arms, General Roberdeau took up to those parts lately, will, I expect, be sufficient to arm those classes."
General Roberdeau, in a letter to John Carothers from Standing Stone, under date of April 23d, 1778, says:
"The enclosed was put into my hands to be forwarded to you by express. The intelligence it contains is abundantly confirmed by several persons. I have examined both fugitives from the frontiers and some volunteers, who have returned for an immediate supply of ammunition and provisions to be sent forward to Sinking Spring Valley, as the troops will be obliged to quit the service unless they are served without delay. Want of arms prevents those who would turn out. I shall furnish what I brought from Carlisle as soon as they come forward, but owing to the low water and the contrary wind they may be retarded. To remedy this, I have dispatched two canoes this morning to meet them on the way. I am giving Mr. Brown, who is here, every assistance in my power, but your aid is greatly wanted to stimulate the militia and furnish arms, ammunition, pack horses and everything necessary in your line of duty.
"I am informed the insurgents from this neighborhood are about thirty; one of them has been taken and confessed under extortion, from which it appears that his venditti expect to be joined by three hundred men from the other side of the Allegheny. Reports more vague mention one thousand whites and savages. The supply of provisions for so great a number renders it improbable, but in answer to this I have been informed by the most credible in the neighborhood that strangers supposed to be from Detroit have been this winter among the disaffected inhabitants and have removed with them. If you have authority to call out the militia, in proportion to the exigence of the times, I think it of great importance that a considerable number of men should be immediately embodied and sent forward to meet the enemy, for it cannot be expected that the volunteers will long continue in service, and I find that recruiting the three companies goes on too slow to expect a seasonable supply from them, of any considerable number; if you have not authority to call the necessary aid of militia you no doubt will apply to the council and may furnish them with my sentiments, and to the Board of War with arms and ammunition.
"With ten men here under the command of Lieutenant Clugage in Continental service, until the first of December next, I intend to move forward as soon as the arms, ammunition and other things come forward to afford an escort to Sinking Spring Valley, where I shall be glad to meet as great a number of militia as you will station there, to enable me to erect a stockade, (Sinking Spring Valley), to secure the works so necessary to the public service and give confidence to frontier inhabitants by affording an asylum for their women and children. These objects, I doubt not, you will think worthy your immediate attention and utmost exertion, which I can assure you, making the fullest allowance for the timidity of some, and credulity of others, is a very serious matter, for without immediate aid the frontiers will be evacuated, for all that I have been able to say has been of no avail with the fugitives. I have met on the roads a most distressing sight of men, women and children flying through fear of a cruel enemy."
In a circular to the county lieutenants issued by the council at Philadelphia, July 16th, 1778, it is stated:"
"That Col. Brodhead's regiment now on march to Pittsburgh, is ordered by the Board of War to the Standing Stone, and we have ordered three hundred militia from Cumberland and two hundred from York to join them."
It is not likely that the Board of War had any intention of changing the destination of Col. Brodhead's command, or that his remaining at Huntingdon was to be more than temporary. There is data that the regiment was there on the 8th of August, because on that day Council wrote to Dr. Shippen that, "Besides the militia at Sunbury, there are two other bodies in Continental service which will also require a supply of medicine; one body of five hundred men at Standing Stone, on Juniata, in Bedford county, the other consisting of four hundred and fifty men at or near Easton. You will therefore please to pay attention to these two bodies, at the same time that those at Sunbury are applied."
As General Potter writes, on the 19th of May, 1779, from Penns Valley (now Centre county, Pa.), that "what small company of thirty men has encouraged the people of Standing Stone Valley to stand as yet, although it is too few for that place."
On May 13th, 1782, Bernard Dougherty, from Standing Stone writes, that on the date preceding "A company of Cumberland militia consisting of thirty-five men arrived there on their way to Frankstown garrison where they are to be enjoined by Captain Boyd's Ranging Company. The people of this county are mostly fled from their habitations."
Those daring and intrepid Indian fighters, the Bradys, frequented the locality where Standing Stone Fort had its situation as we find Hugh Brady's name appears in many of the old title papers, and the father of Sam Brady lived at the mouth of a small stream on the opposite side of Huntingdon. General Hugh Brady and his twin sister were born, within the walls of Standing Stone Fort. After this, all the Bradys went to the West Branch of the Susquehanna during the Revolution. Hugh entered the army and became a matchless soldier, rendering the most valorous and distinguished service to his imperiled country, rising to an eminent position in the army and few names in early Pennsylvania history are so brilliantly adorned by the distinction of heroic deeds, in war and in peace, as that of Hugh Brady's.
The only note we have of a massacre occurring at Standing Stone was on the 19th of June, 1777, at what was known as Big Spring, several miles west of the fort. On account of a hostile band of Indians who had infested the neighborhood a general alarm was given, and the settlers commenced flocking to the forts from every direction. It is further reported that Felix Donnelly and his son Francis and Bartholomew Maguire and his daughter, residing near Shaver's creek, desiring to fort at Standing Stone, placed their effects upon horses, went to the fort, and when nearly opposite Big Spring an Indian who was lying in ambush, fired and killed young Donnelly, and the rest of the party rode with him and held the body until they reached the fort. Here he was buried upon what was then vacant ground, but the spot where they now rest is pointed out as being in a garden in the heart of the borough of Huntingdon.
It also appears that many of these stories with relation to the alleged attacks upon the fort by Tories, etc., were very greatly exaggerated; however, there is no doubt that there was great distress arising from the want of provisions and ammunition.
Standing Stone left its name upon the place where it stood. Although the town of Huntingdon was laid out as early as 1755, it was called Stone Town for many years hereafter. With the exception of Frankstown, it is the oldest town on the Juniata.
After this fort was built up a second time, and remained so for many years, it was wantonly destroyed and several pieces of it have been preserved, one of them having been built into the foundation of the dwelling house at the northeast corner at Third and Penn streets, and another being in the possession of one of the citizens of the town. We thus present the historical data at hand concerning this important outpost during the early times, and it would seem to recommend itself to the favorable consideration of the act of Assembly under which these investigations are being made.
This fort was erected in the year 1749 by Samuel Bingham. It was in the nature of a stockade and blockhouse together, and is referred to in the History of Juniata County as having been a "strong" blockhouse and stockade. It is located in Tuscarora Valley, Tuscarora township, Juniata county, Pennsylvania, about twenty rods from the Tuscarora Valley railroad, and about one-fourth of a mile from Reed's school house, and one-eighth of a mile from the public road leading from Port Royal to East Waterford, and eleven miles from Port Royal.
This fort was located on the farm now owned by John Reed. Formerly the garden occupied this spot, and a variety of iron, knives, spears, as well as stone tomahawks and arrow-points were found there. Adjoining the present house there stood an old dwelling, in the chimney of which was found a gun barrel, on which pots were swung, by means of chains and hooks. On an examination of the gun barrel it was found to be loaded with a musket ball and three buckshot. After the establishment of this strong stockade fort, John and James Gray, and Robert Hogg settled with Samuel Bingham on Bingham's land, as a place of refuge and protection for themselves and families. They were Scotch-Irish, and came from East Pennsboro, Cumberland county, Pennsylvania.
The location of this fort was on the famous Traders' Path leading from the Conococheague settlement in Cumberland county, through Sterrett's Gap and Fort Robinson, in Perry county, extending through Bingham's Gap to the location of this fort, and extending westward to Fort Shirley at Aughwick. This settlement was made in the famous Tuscarora Path Valley, as it was formerly called, and is one of the most fertile and beautiful within the Juniata range. It embraces an extent of probably thirty miles in length, beginning in Franklin county, and ending at the river at Perrysville, in this county.
The name of the "Path" was given to it in consequence of the Old Western Indian Path running through it nearly its entire length. Tuscarora, in its day, must have been a famous place for the Indians. Its great natural advantages, and the abundance of game it contained must alone have rendered it an attractive place, independent of the fact that it was the regular highway between the east and the west, where the warrior, the politician and the loafer could lie in the, (as Mr. Jones says), umbrageous grottos and caves of cool recess," before the wigwam door and hear from travelers all the news astir worthy of their profound attention.
These persons, whom I have mentioned before as coming from Cumberland county, were in search of a location for permanent settlement. The valley pleased them so much that they immediately staked out farms; and, notwithstanding the Indians of the valley treated them with apparent hostility, they took the precaution to build themselves this fort for a defence, which was named Bingham's Fort. Some few years later, several other persons settled in Tuscarora, among them George Woods and a man named Innes. The people in this settlement, notwithstanding the hostility of the Indians, remained peaceable for a number of years, when an onslaught was made on the fort (Bingham), the savages taking all the occupants prisoners and burning the stockade. The account is given as follows: "We have advice from Carlisle that on Friday night last, June eleventh, (1756), Capt. Bingham's Fort, in Tuscarora Valley, was destroyed by the Indians. There is no particular account come to hand, only in general it is said that all that were in it are either killed or carried off; and that a woman, big with child, was found dead and scalped near the fort, and mangled in a most shocking manner."
From the Pennsylvania Gazette, June 24th. "The following is a list of persons killed and missing at Bingham's Fort, namely: George Woods, Nathaniel Bingham, Robert Taylor, his wife and two children, Francis Innis, his wife and three children, John McConnell, Hannah Gray and one child, missing. Some of these are supposed to be burnt in the fort, as a number of bones were found there. Susan Giles was found dead and scalped in the neighborhood of the fort. Robert Cochran and Thomas McKinney found dead, scalped. Alexander McAllister and his wife, James Adams, Jane Cochran and two children missed. McAllister's house was burned and a number of cattle and horses driven off. The enemy was supposed to be numerous, as they did eat and carry off a great deal of beef they had killed."
We have the following interesting historical facts to append concerning the destruction of this fort by the Indians: "Some time in the spring of 1756, John Gray and Francis Innis went to Carlisle with pack horses for the purpose of procuring groceries. On their return, while descending the mountain in a very narrow defile, Gray's horse frightened at a bear which crossed the road, became unmanageable and threw him off. Innis, anxious to see his wife and family, went on, but Gray was detained for nearly two hours in righting his pack. As far as his own personal safety was concerned, the detention was a providential one, for he just reached the fort in time to see the last of it consumed. Every person in it had either been massacred or taken prisoners by the Indians. He examined the charred remains of the bodies inside of the fort, but he could find none that he could bring himself to believe were those of his family. It subsequently appeared that his wife and only daughter, three years of age, George Woods, Innis wife and three children, and a number of others, had been carried into captivity. They were taken across the Allegheny to the Old Indian town of Kittanning, and from thence to Fort Duquesne, where they were delivered over to the French. Woods was a remarkable man, and lived to a good old age, and figured somewhat extensively afterward in the history of both Bedford and Allegheny counties. He took his captivity very little to heart, and even went so far as to propose marriage to Mrs. Gray while they were both prisoners in the fort. Mrs. Gray, however, had no inclination for a partnership in misfortune, and peremptorily declined.
The French commander, in apportioning out the prisoners, gave Woods to an old Indian John Hutson, who removed him to his own wigwam. But George proving neither useful nor ornamental to Hutson's establishment, and as there was no probability of any of his friends paying a ransom for him inasmuch as he had neither kith nor kinhe opened negotiations with George to let him off. The conditions made and entered into between the two were that George Woods should give to him an annuity of ten pounds of tobacco, until death should terminate the existence of either of the parties named. This contract was fulfilled until the massacre of the Bedford scout, when Harry Woods, a lieutenant of the scout, and son of George Woods, recognized among the most active of the savages the son of John Hutson, who used to accompany his father to Bedford, where Harry Woods had often seen him. It is hardly necessary to add that Old Hutson never called upon Woods after that for his ransom annuity.
"Mr. Woods, after he removed to Bedford, became a useful and influential citizen. He followed his profession, and most of the original surveys in the upper end of Juniata Valley were made by him. He reared a large family, and his descendants are still living. He lived to a good old age, and died amid the deep regrets of a most extended circle of acquaintances. Mrs. Gray and her daughter were given to some Indians who took them to Canada. In the ensuing fall John Gray joined Col. Armstrong's expedition against Kittanning in the hopes of recapturing or at least gaining some intelligence of his family. Failing to do this, he returned home, broken in health and spirits, and made his will, and died. The will divided the farm between his wife and daughter, in case they returned from captivity. If the daughter did not return, a sister was to have her half, and here comes the most famous law suit that was ever tried in Central Pennsylvania. About a year after the fort was burned, Mrs. Gray, through the connivance of some traders, managed to escape from the bondage, and reached her home in safety, but unfortunately, was compelled to leave her daughter behind her. She proved her husband's will and took charge of the property. The treaty of 1764 brought a large number of captive children to Philadelphia, to be recognized and claimed by their friends. Mrs. Gray attended in the hopes of finding her child; but she was unsuccessful. There remained one child unclaimed, about the same age as Mrs. Gray's, and some persons who evidently knew the provisions of the will, hinted to her the propriety of taking the child to save the property. She did so, and in the year 1789, the heirs of the sister having received some information as to the identity of the child, brought suit for the land. This suit was brought in the year 1789 and was tried in the courts of Lewistown and Mifflintown, involving the title to a farm of three or four hundred acres of the best land in Tuscarora Valley. The farm was in controversy for about fifty years before these various courts. It is known among the lawyers as "The Gray Property Case," being one of the most celebrated suits in ejectment ever tried in the courts of Pennsylvania, being reported in 10 Sergeant & Rawle, pp. 182.
Many of the facts given in evidence are interesting as elucidating the history of the times; and the marked originality of many of the principal personages would constitute an excellent theme for an historical novel. The final issue of this long contested legal battle resulted in a decision for the heirs and against the captives.
"The other captive, Francis Innis, remained among the Indians until the treaty. His wife escaped a short time previous. Two of her children were recovered in Philadelphia, but the third had been drowned by the savages on their way to some place in Canada. By the exposure it became sick and very weak, and to rid themselves of any further trouble with it they put it under the ice. When the captive children were at Philadelphia, some person had taken one of Innis's and he had considerable difficulty to recover it. Had it not been for a private mark by which he proved it, the person who had it in charge would probably never have surrendered it."
The Indians of Tuscarora, before the French War, were on terms of great intimacy with the whites. They used to meet at the fort (Bingham) and shoot mark, and, when out of lead, would go to the mouth of the valley and return with lead ore almost pure. Lead was a valuable article and difficult to transport; hence the settlers were anxious to discover the location of the mine. Many a warrior was feasted and liquored until he was blind drunk, under a promise of divulging the sites or whereabouts of the lead mine. Its discovery, if it contained any quantity of ore, would have realized any man a speedy fortune in those days; but, in spite of Indian promises and the most thorough search for years, the lead mines of Tuscarora were never found, and probably never will be until it is occupied by another race of cunning Indians.
Fort Bingham was destroyed, as previously stated, by fire in the year 1756, the red man applying the torch, and four years thereafter, through the exertions of Ralph Sterrett, an old Indian trader, it was rebuilt. His son William was born within this fort and in fact was the first child born in Tuscarora Valley. It is related of Ralph Sterrett, while sitting outside of the second fort a wayworn Indian came along who was hungry, thirsty and fatigued. Sterrett called the savage in, gave him bread, meat, rum and tobacco. This circumstance had passed out of Sterrett's mind until one night, in the spring of 1763, when the Indians were again becoming hostile, the inmates of Fort Bingham became alarmed by some noise at the gate, it being moonlight, Sterrett looked out and saw it was an Indian. This created alarm and some of the impetuous ones were for shooting him down as a spy. Sterrett coolly demanded of the Indian his business. The Indian in a few words stated the hospitality extended to him at some time previous, and that he came to warn them of impending danger. He stated that the Indians were as plenty as pigeons in the woods and that even then they had entered the valley, and before another moon would be at the Fort (Bingham) with a determination to scalp and burn all the whites within their reach. The alarm was suddenly given and in consequence of the weakness of the fort they determined to abandon it. Nearly all the settlers in the valley were in it, but the statement of the Indian as to their number completely overawed them, so that they set to work to pack their horses with their most valuable effects, and long before day they were on their way to Cumberland county. The Indians, however, came the next night and after reconnoitering for a time, approached the fort and found to their astonishment that it had been vacated; but to show the settlers that they had been there, they burnt it down and on a cleared piece of ground in front of the fort they laid across the path a war club painted red, the infallible symbol of revenge and pillage, which means to the savage the destruction of life and property when on the warpath.
We thus see that the pioneer Sterrett in his innocent act of generosity to the lone Indian, when he furnished him with the common hospitalities of the rude border life, subsequently resolved itself into the most powerful means of saving the lives of over eighty persons. It is one of the isolated casesfew and far betweenof Indian magnanimity, a trait as marked in the unlettered child of the wilderness, as were his passions of hatred and undying enmity to his white brother instinctively intense and pronounced, and we may well say with that gifted writer, Charles Sprague, "God has written the laws for the Indian not upon tables of stone, but has indelibly impressed them upon the tablets of his heart."
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