By George Dallas Albert.


Pages 609-627.

The first extract following is from "The History of the Backwoods, or, The Register of the Ohio," by A. W. Patterson, published at Pittsburgh, by the author, 1843,—a reputable work, now not in circulation.

"During the year 1790 and the year following, settlements along the Allegheny began to be vigorously commenced. In 1784, the lands on the northwestern side of the river had been surveyed; but as the channel of the stream, was still looked upon as the line between the settlements and the Indian country, but few were willing to hazard a residence beyond it for several years. And at a time when the settlements were strewed along it on either shore for more than forty miles from its mouth, scarcely a single improvement was to be found any distance from it to the northwest.

"The stream at some distance above being occupied by hostile Indians, the Senecas and Munsies, who not unfrequently came down upon the unsuspecting settlers, spreading alarm and consternation among them, rendering a residence in this part of the country precarious, and perhaps retarded the settlement much. Had it not been for the early protection given by Brodhead, and the startling victories achieved by his daring "Captain of the spies," [Brady] thus early, aweing the savages into comparative silence, there is reason to believe there would often have been just cause for alarm, which the appearance of a single savage in his canoe descending the river, long afterwards, in time of peace, was accustomed to create.

"During the Revolutionary War, Crawford's Fort and one at Kittanning, were the only ones on the stream. About 1790 a number betwixt the latter place and Fort Pitt were erected. Coe's "station," as these posts were called, stood on the opposite side of the river from Crawford's Fort, and nearly a mile below. This latter fort, bearing the name of the lamented person who erected it some time prior to 1778, had, by this time, from a disoccupancy of it for several years, fallen into disrepair. Reed’s station was the next above, which had been built about the same time with Coe’s, but on being accidentally burned shortly after St. Clair’s defeat, was removed a mile and a half higher up the river, to the present site of the borough of Freeport, where it continued to be commanded for some time, by Captain John Craig, still a resident of that vicinity. Nicholson's and Green's were two others intermediate to Kittanning. The former at the mouth of what is called Nicholson’s run, about seven miles above Freeport, and the latter six miles below Kittanning.

"It was early in the summer of 1792, the capture of Massy Harbison, the most memorable of any on the frontier, occurred.

"Upon the close of Wayne’s war in 1794, that portion of Western Pennsylvania, between the Allegheny and Lake Erie, began to be settled.

"In 1796, the village of Freeport was laid off, and known for a time as Todd’s town, being named after the proprietor." (Hist'y of The Back Woods, p. 297.)

These stations named, with others on the Allegheny river were garrisoned in part by the militia called out by the State, and partly by detachments of regular United States troops from the post at Pittsburgh.—(See Knox to Gov. Mifflin, Dec. 26, 1791, Arch. iv, 676, sec. ser.) The State militia were primarily intended for scouting and patrol duty. This cooperation between the State and the Federal government was deemed necessary on account of the urgency of the situation.


REED’ S STATION - (Westmoreland County)

On May 22d, 1792, "a party of Indians, said to be about forty in number attacked Reed’s Station, on the Allegheny river, about four miles below Kiskiminetas. They killed one man and a child, and wounded a soldier of McCully’s corps, and took a woman and some children prisoners." (Arch. Iv 720, sec. ser.)

Hon. Wm. Findley reports to Secretary Dallas, June 1st 1792, (Arch. Iv, 725, sec. ser.), the same occurrence as follows The Indians broke into the settlement at Reed’s Station. It was garrisoned by rangers under Cooper. They had never scouted any. They had been frolicking and were surprised in want of ammunition, and the officers were absent from the station. However, the Indians fired only a few rounds upon the blockhouse, with which they killed one man and wounded another, and went away without any exertions made by the rangers. They then killed and took Harbison’ s family, in site of the station. Harbison was one of the spies.

Mrs. Harbison, known as Massy Harbison, made her escape from her captors after having been carried some distance into the wilderness, and her Narrative, set down circumstantially and supported by her affidavit, is one of the most remarkable in frontier annals. The unaffected simplicity of the style, the maternal devotion of the mother carrying her babe with her through the storm in her flight from the savages, the anguish and hunger and suffering which she endured, her providential rescue, the collapse of her physical nature and mental faculties, and her gradual restoration to health, form the subject matter of one of the most attractive chapters in the history of the border.

The site of the first blockhouse which was the nucleus of the station is located by Mr. David Reed, Sr., a descendant of John Reed on whose land the station was originally, on land now owned by Capt. Wm. F. Aull. The last of the blockhouse was washed into the river Allegheny in 1840. A run which flows into the river at a point where the blockhouse stood, now known as Dimit run. After the burning of the blockhouse, as narrated above by Patterson, the one erected at (now) Freeport took its place. Its name is associated with Reed’s station, being in close proximity. The location of the later structure is given thus in Mr. Walter Smith’ s History of Armstrong county. It is in Freeport township.



Sometime prior to the establishment of permanent peace by Wayne’s victory over and treaty with the Indians, a blockhouse was erected on the Allegheny, about a hundred and twenty rods above the mouth of the Buffalo, which is now on Water, below Fifth street, Freeport. Its commandant was Captain John Craig, whose command consisted of forty or fifty men, most of whom were inexperienced soldiers.

During 1791-92 blockhouses and stations were erected near the Ohio, covering that river, at various points in the Pan Handle, for the protection of the Washington county region.

Col. Charles Campbell, from Black Lick Feb. 27th (1793), wrote to Gov. Mifflin that although there had not been any damage done for some time, the people on the frontiers of his county were apprehensive that they would receive a stroke from the Indians in the spring, as the winter had been very clear and open of snow. In the same letter he stated that there were then about thirty of the continental [State] soldiers stationed "at the Cattannian" and at Coe's station. The latter was on the west side of the Allegheny river, about a mile below a point opposite Fort Crawford, or the mouth of Pocotas. The former must have been Green’s, as it was called "the Kittanning" for several miles along the river above Crooked creek. Kittanning was pronounced and spelled variously in those times by those who knew not its correct orthography and orthoepy. That station became and was called a fort—Fort Green—on being occupied by the State troops." (Smith’s His. Armstrong Co., p. 332.)


FORT GREEN—(Armstrong County)

"Among the first, if not the very first, white settlers on the southern part of the Manor [Armstrong county] were Wm. Green and his sons James, John and Samuel, who emigrated from Fayette county, in the spring of 1787, and took up their abode above the mouth of Crooked creek on what is now the site of Rosston.

"The Indians were numerous and had camps on both sides of the Allegheny river, (now Manor township near Kittanning). From 1787, until 1791, they were not troublesome. They had their war-dances where Rosston now is, and occasionally vied with the white settlers in running footraces.

"Soon after the Indians became troublesome and dangerous, Col. Charles Campbell wrote to William Green to remain there ten days longer, and assured him that he would send thither some soldiers. Mrs. Green and the children for safety occupied the fodder house at night, which consisted of a ridge-pole, placed upon two forked stakes which were sunk into the ground, with poles about four feet apart, slanting therefrom in opposite direction to the ground, on which smaller ones were fastened transversely. Bundles of topped corn were placed on the outside, and calves, husks and pumpkins were deposited within. In ten or twelve days thereafter, a body of soldiers arrived and built a log fort about the size of a common blockhouse, and a number of huts around it for soldiers dormitories, about thirty-five rods above the mouth of Crooked creek, or what is now (1883) the Highley lot, or lot No. 22, eight or ten rods below the street extending from the railroad past Christy’s store to the river. It was called Fort Green, at least it is so named on the Historical Map of this State. There were different commandants, one of whom was Capt. Sparks, who is the only one whose name the writer’s informant, Samuel Green, of North Buffalo township, a grandson of William Green, remembers to have heard mentioned in connection with the foregoing and following facts respecting these pioneer settlers, and that fort. Both drafted and enlisted men were stationed there. The number of scouts usually sent out together was twelve or fourteen, and the number of spys two. Among the events that occurred, while that fort was thus occupied, and which Samuel Green remembers to have heard related, is this: Capt. Sparks and William Green discovered, one day, an Indian under a large sugar tree on the opposite side of the river. Having crossed to Bushy island, afterward called "Cast-off," they shot at him. But the scouts who were sent over to ascertain whether he had been killed could not discover any trace of him. They supposed, from the appearance of the trail that there were about thirty Indians on the top of the hills further back from the river." (Smith's His. Armstrong Co., p. 328.)

The circular letter of Gov. Muffin, Jan. 20th, 1792, to the lieutenants of Allegheny, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties, advised them, among other things, that three companies which had been authorized by him, pursuant to an act of the Assembly, when filled, should be stationed thus: The first one at the southwest corner of Washington, now Greene county, and range thence to the Ohio; the second at the mouth of Great Beaver, and range thence by the heads of Pine creek to Fort Crawford; the third one at the Kittanning, and range thence up and down the Allegheny river.

Such was the exposure of the white settlers to hostile attacks from the Indians along the Allegheny and Ohio river, from above Kittanning to Yellow creek, when the site of Fort Green was selected as one of those "fixed posts," whither it is probable "Ensign Murphy marched, on Thursday, 29th March (1792), with twenty-eight men of Capt. Guthrie’s company, completely armed, to join some who, had been sent out before to cover the frontiers of Westmoreland county," as Major McCulley wrote from Greensburgh on the 31st, adding that he was then on his way to those frontiers, and that he should order Capt. Guthrie out with the rest of his company with all possible haste. * * * The latter probably remained at Fort Green several weeks, and then the principal portion of it was stationed several miles below; for Col. Charles Campbell, from Black Lick, his residence in what is now Indiana county, May 28th, [1792] wrote to Gov. Mifflin, that on the 22d the Indians attacked Lieut. William Cooper’s Station, near the mouth of the Kiskiminetas [Reed’s], and killed one man and wounded another, and that Maj. McCulley had taken all his men away from Green’ s and Reed’ s stations except a few to keep up Green’s. He suggested that as Smith’s and Guthrie’s companies were to be stationed at the mouth of the Puckety—Fort Crawford—he would have to give up the settlements near these stations, or, as requested by McCulley send the militia thither. He insisted that both of these stations should be supplied or manned by continental troops, as it was distressing to call on the militia of the one county to guard so extensive a frontier, to stand as a barrier to the interior, but that, if a sufficient number of men were not kept out, those settlements would break up, as they could not support themselves without raising some crops. In a postscript he stated that he had just received a dispatch by an express, that one hundred Indians had crossed the Allegheny river, and fifty others had been seen the day before in the inhabited parts, and one man had been killed. William Findley, June 1st, 1792, to Secretary Dallas, after relating the attack at Reed’s Station (see Reed’s Station) stated that the alarm caused by it spread rapidly. The Indians heralded their approach by burning some of the houses which they first reached. There were only about forty of them, but they created so great a panic that the people fled before them. They went out in squads of from five to seven, keeping nearly the course of the Kiskiminetas. They did not seem to be so anxious to kill as to plunder. Their eager desire to capture horses seemed to divert their attention from shedding blood."

"William Green and his Sons removed, prior to 1804 to the west side of the river, and Judge Ross became thereafter the first permanent white settler in this southwestern portion of the Manor, probably in 1807. In the course of a few years he built the stone house now (1883) owned and occupied by his son, Washington Ross, which was the first one of that material erected in this region, and probably one of the first within the present limits of that part of this county which is on the east side of the Allegheny river, except the one in Kittanning borough."

Lot No. 22 in the village of Rosston, Manor township "a town or village on the Ross tract, extending from the mouth of Crooked creek up along the left bank of the Allegheny river, on its west side, and the Allegheny Valley railroad on its east side—is said to be the site of Fort Green. It was surveyed and laid out into thirty lots for Washington Ross, hence its name—Sept. 18, 1854. Lot No. 22 was conveyed to Emanuel Heighley. [Smith’s Hist. Armstrong Co., p. 340, et seq.]


CLARK’ S BLOCKHOUSE—(Armstrong County).

The Historical Map of Pennsylvania indicates that there was an Indian town about a mile and thirty rods above Crooked creek, on or very near the Indiana county line, in the southeastern part of the township, (Plum Creek township, Armstrong county.)

Permanent settlements by the whites were made in the eastern and southeastern portions of Plum Creek township, as originally formed, before and when it was a part of Armstrong township—earlier than in any other part of this county. The reason why it was not first settled is not stated. The streams, the water-power, and the considerable scope of productive and comparatively level land in that section may have been more attractive to pioneers than the more broken and rugged land in other sections.

"The early settlers were subject to the attacks of the Indians. A blockhouse was built on the land then owned by William Clark, but which is now (1883) owned by S. E. Jones. There was another house with port holes—not built, perhaps, expressly for a blockhouse, but used as a place of refuge and defense from those attacks—on the road now leading from Elderton to the old Crooked creek salt-works, on the farm heretofore known as the Down’s farm. It was attacked one morning by the Indians. George Miller and James Kirkpatrick were then in charge of it, the Indians fired upon them, killed a child in the cradle and wounded an adult person in the building. The women made bullets while the men were defending them and their children. One Indian, while putting a charge of powder in his gun, was shot through the hand and body and was killed, and some of the other Indians were wounded. George Miller escaped from the rear of the building, mounted a horse and started for Clark’s blockhouse. In his absence the Indians fled, carrying with them the dead and wounded. Two children, John Sloan and his sister Nancy, were captured about the time of that affair on the farm near the present Lutheran and Reformed church, formerly in Plum Creek, but now in South Bend township and about sixty rods northwest from the present residence of William Heintzelman. They were working in the cornfield at the time. Having been retained by the Indians several years, they were exchanged near Cincinnati or Sandusky, Ohio. They returned home the same year that Samuel Sloan, still living [1883], was born. Their relatives and some other settlers soon after their capture followed the trail of the Indians to the point where they crossed the Allegheny river above Kittanning. The writer’s informant, Ex-Sheriff Joseph Clark, also said he had seen bullet holes in the door of the above mentioned house on the Down’s farm, and that his aunt, Mrs. Joseph Clark, had told him that she used to stand with rifle in hand, and guard her husband while at work on the farm now occupied by William T. Clark in Plum Creek township. * * * * George Miller was the earliest white settler in this township. He located where the Kittanning and Indiana turnpike crosses Plum Creek, in 1766." [Smith's History, p. 201.]

For mention of the attack on the house of James Kirkpatrick, see Archives iv, 660, sec. ser., and page 664 same volume.



"A blockhouse called the Claypoole blockhouse was built by James Claypoole about eighty rods below Fort run, near the river bank. It is not known just when it was built. It must have been between 1790 and 1796. His wife, Lavinia Claypoole, died in the last-mentioned year, and was buried but a few rods from the grave of the three men killed by the Indians as hereinafter stated. Peter Ehringer, with the ax-end of his mattock, cut her name and the year of her death on the headstone of her grave, which some persons still living remember to have seen. That blockhouse was one of the places of refuge for the settlers and their families from the attacks of the Indians. * * * As soon as it was safe to live out of the blockhouse, his son George built a log-house between it and the hill where D. S. Herrold now resides (1883).

"George Cook, who was born about 1764, was a soldier, a scout, and resided in the Manor (Manor township) from either his boyhood or his early manhood until he was nearly four score, used to narrate to his neighbors, among whom was William McKellog, of "Glentworth Park," from whom the writer obtained a statement of these tragical facts: While Cook was a member of a scouting party who occupied a fort or blockhouse near Fort Run, so called from Fort Armstrong, some Indians made a small cord from the inner bark of a linden tree, with which they anchored a duck in a hole or pool in that run, formed by the action of the water about the roots of a sugar maple tree on its brink. Three of the scouting party, while out on a tour of duty, noticed the duck which must have appeared to them to be floating on the water. They set their guns up against a buttonwood tree, which, with the sugar maple tree, was cut down after that land came into the possession of Richard Bailey. While they were stooping to catch the duck, as it was presumed they did, they were shot by Indians, probably three, because three reports of gun shots were heard. They fell dead into the run, whose water was colored with their blood. Hence that stream also bears the name of Bloody run. The bodies of those three men were buried on a knoll opposite where they were shot, eight or ten rods higher up the river. The Indians were probably concealed among the weeds, which were then quite rank and abundant. Several of the men who were in the fort or blockhouse, on hearing the gun shots, came out, saw what had occurred, and discovered the Indians' trail, which, on that or the next day, they followed to the mouth of Pine creek, and were about to give up the pursuit, when, looking up the hill, they saw a smoke on its face. After dark, they crossed the mouth of the creek, and ascertained the exact position in which the Indians were. The next morning they crawled as carefully and quickly as possible through the weeds and willows, until they thought they were within sure gunshot of the murderers of their comrades. They saw one of them mending his moccasin. The other two were, they thought, cooking meat for breakfast. They shot and killed two of the Indians, and captured the other. Having brought him past the mouth of that creek, on their return, and having reached "an open grove," they told him that they would give him a start of some distance ahead of them, and if he would beat them in running a race he should be released. He accepted the offer, started, but was overtaken, fatally shot, and his body was left where he fell." (Smith’s His. Armstrong Co., p. 325.)



In the biographical sketch of Captain Robert Orr, of Armstrong county, which was published in the Kittanning Gazette for Sept., 1833, it is stated that Captain Orr, on returning from his captivity at Montreal whither he had been sent for exchange after his capture, with others taken at the massacre of Lochry’s party in 1781 (he), in the summer of 1783, raised another company for the defense of the frontier, to serve two months; and that "he marched them to the mouth of Bull creek, northwest of the Allegheny river, built a blockhouse there, and served out the necessary term."—(Quoted in Day’s Historical Coll., page 98.)

This point is now Tarentum, Allegheny county. * * * There is some evidence to indicate that this was a place of some importance sometime earlier, although there is nothing to indicate that there was a blockhouse here for a rendezvous. It is probable that this was the place meant in the order which Col. Brodhead gave to Lieut. John Jamison, Nov. 27, 1779, directing him to evacuate Fort Armstrong (Kittanning), in which he says, after considering that he might not be able to transport all the store by water, "if not you must have recourse to pack horses, which you can receive from Capt. Carnahan, who is now with a party at Bulls town or the mouth of Kiskiminetas." (Brodhead’s Letter Book No. 101, Arch xii. 193.)



The data for the blockhouses here mentioned within the limits of what is now Indiana county are to be found in the History of Indiana county, published by J. A. Caldwell, Newark, Ohio, 1880. The compilers of this work incorporated into it a great deal of material prepared and previously published by gentlemen of information, and accurate knowledge. Of these were Richard B. McCabe, Esq., and Jonathan Row, Esq., both long since deceased. Much of the matter, however, is of a biographical character. This part has been discriminated carefully for the extracts here given, and nothing has been here inserted without having been inquired into and as far as possible corroborated by additional circumstances or plausible considerations.


McCONAUGHY’S FORT-(Indiana County).

In a biographical sketch of James Simpson of Centre township, Indiana county, published in the History of Indiana County referred to, it is said that he "came to this country from Scotland, locating first at what was called the Old Scotch Fort, or Ligonier, near Laurel Hill in Westmoreland county. He suffered all the trials of frontier life in the Indian war and the Revolutionary war, and with his brother Andrew and the brothers White, served for several years as scouts. His wife was Hannah White, and he and the Whites removed at an early date to the vicinity of Blairsville (now), and built a blockhouse and stockade. They remained there several years. Andrew was killed by the Indians near the mouth of Black Lick creek while going to warn a settlement below of danger. John White was with him, but escaped with a broken arm. Shortly after this they removed to Cherry run, on Two Lick creek, just below the mouth of the run. They erected a blockhouse on a bluff on the bank of Two Lick creek, which was called the "Old McConaughy Fort."


ALLISON'S FORT—(Indiana County).

"James Mitchell located in 1788 on Black Lick, on the tract of land at present (1880) owned by his two sons William and James Mitchell, where he died in September, 1832. He began a clearing and put up a cabin house and barn, and after living alone two years got married and subsequently erected the buildings which are still standing. He often served as a scout during the border troubles, and in the spring of 1791, went with his family to "Allison’s Fort," at [now] Homer. After the alarm had subsided, he returned to his farm, and was not afterward molested by the Indians." [History of Indiana Co., p. 452.]

The Allison Fort above referred to was probably the cabin of Andrew Allison, who, after serving in the Revolution, came into the Derry region in Westmoreland county, in 1785, where he made a settlement; but in 1788 he sold out his improvement, crossed the Conemaugh, and settled on the bank of the Two Lick, opposite the present village of Homer. Here he built a cabin and cleared some ground. In 1790, his father came from Cumberland county, and took charge of his improvements and Andrew penetrated farther into the forest and opened up to the farm now owned by Archibald Nichol, three miles east of the borough of Indiana. Here he remained until 1792, in which year owing to Indian depredations, he was obliged to flee with his family to Moorhead’s Fort [house], on the farm now owned by Isaac Moorhead. He then returned to his father’ s on Two Lick, where another fort was being erected; there he remained till sometime in 1793, when he removed to the Forks of Two Lick and Yellow creek on an improvement already made by another person. [From sketch of the Allisons, in Hist. of Indiana Co., p. 455.]



"David Peelor, from Berks county, Pa., located on what is now (1880) the Joseph McCoy property. Armstrong township, Indiana county, in 1790. He was killed by the Indians while working a short distance from the blockhouse on the McElhose farm, Armstrong township. The families were in the blockhouse, owing to the troublesome times of the Indian war then in progress. The blockhouse was situated eighty rods northeast of the house. This is on Curry [Cherry ?] run, and the residence referred to is the residence of John B. Peelor. [Hist. Of Indiana County, page 430.]


ELDER'S BLOCKHOUSE—(Indiana County).

"Robert Elder who came with his family—his children having reached maturity—made his first settlement on what is called Elder’s ridge, in Young township (Indiana county), in 1786. They lived in a simple manner in a temporarily constructed shelter until they were able to erect a house of hewn logs, which was built in a very short time on the ground now (1880) used as a garden, beside Prof. S. J. Craighead’s house. This building was used as a blockhouse." [Hist. Ind. Co.]



"The blockhouse on the John Thompson (now David K. Thompson) farm in Rayne township, Indiana county, [about six miles northeast of Indiana borough] was erected in 1790, and torn away in 1807. The names as far as known, of those engaged in its construction were, Jacob Hess, Henry and Jacob Shallenberger, Ezekiel and Elisha Chambers, James McKee, John Stuchell, Timothy O’ Neil, Shoenberger, and a few others. The building was originally about eighty feet long, thirty feet wide, and two stories in height, and small round logs were used in its construction. It had two ranges of port-holes; the brush and lumber were cut off, and it was surrounded by a stockade made of sharpened poles driven in the ground, and about ten feet in height. The building was nearly a ruin when John Thompson came to it in 1801. He removed the stockade, and used a part of the house to repair the remaining portion. We cannot learn that this blockhouse was ever attacked." From notes furnished by Joseph Thompson, a descendant of John Thompson. [Hist. Indiana Co., p. 524.]



"Joseph McCartney, a surveyor and school teacher, a native of Ireland, settled on the tract of which the Benson Hill farm in Buffington township, is a part, sometime previous to the Revolution, and was driven away by the Indians. He did not return until about the closing year of that struggle. He and his neighbors erected a blockhouse on this place, its situation being near the site of the old residence." [Hist. Indiana County, page 540.]


MEAD’S BLOCKHOUSE—(Meadville, Crawford County)

By act of Legislature April 18, 1793, the Governor was directed to cause 1,600 acres of land to be surveyed and laid out into town lots at Presqu’ Isle (Erie). In March, 1794, Capt. Denny was directed by Gov. Mifflin to provide and command troops to aid in carrying into effect the act. At the same time Mr. Andrew Ellicott and General William Irvine were appointed Commissioners to lay out a road from Reading, Pa., to the lake shore and lay out the town of Presqu’ Isle. On June 29, 1794, Mr. Andrew Ellicott made a report of a conference which he had held on the 26th—with Captain Denny as his colleague—with the representatives of the Six Nations, at Le Boeuf; and in this report he advised the erection of three blockhouses "on the Venango path" one of which should be at Mead’s settlement (Meadville), and the other two at Le Boeuf and Presqu’ Isle. In a letter from Mr. Eilicott from Le Boeuf to Gov. Mifflin, July 4th, 1794, he says: "The detachment of State troops yesterday moved into the new fort at this place," (Le Boeuf).

The blockhouse at Meadville was one of the three advised by Andrew Ellicott, and was built in the summer of 1794, on what is now the northeast corner of Water street and Steer’s alley. It was built of hewn timber, square in form with the upper story projecting over the lower some three or four feet as was common in the blockhouse construction of that period. It was never garrisoned by troops, as the victory of General Wayne over the Indians in August of that year freed this part of the border from danger of Indian attack, and the rapid increase of settlement gave full protection to this portion of the State. This Mead settlement took its name from the family of Meads who were among the first whites to occupy that portion of the country.

The quotation which follows is from the Hon. William Reynold’s contribution to the Centennial History of Crawford county:

"In the twilight of the evening of May 12, 1788, a party of ten men built their camp fire beneath a wild cherry on the bank of French creek, near the present site of the Mercer street bridge, in the town of Meadville. They were the first settlers in Crawford county—Cornelius Van Horne and Christopher Snyder, from New Jersey; David Mead and his brothers—Darius, John and Joseph—John Watson, Thomas Martin, James F. Randolph and Thomas Grant, from Sunbury, Northumberland county. On the next day these pioneers built a cabin on the deserted corn fields of the Indians on the bottom, between the Cussewago and French creek, and commenced their first planting. Grant selected the present site of Meadville, but abandoned the settlement the same summer, when David Mead took possession and built a double log house on the bluff banks of French creek, where is now the residence of James F. McFarland, Esq. This house was built with a view of defense against Indian attacks, and was surrounded with a stockade and protected by a small, square log blockhouse on the northwest corner.

During 1789 the little colony known as "Mead’s settlement" was reinforced by the arrival of the family of Darius Mead, Frederick Baum, and Robert Fitz Randolph with their families, Frederick Haymaker, William Gregg, Samuel Lord and John Wentworth. On April 1st, 1791, the settlers were warned by Flying Cloud—a son of the Chief Connedaughta— of threatened danger from the hostile western tribes, and on the same day eleven strange Indians were seen a few miles northwest of the settlement. The women and children of the colony were gathered within the Mead house and cellar and on the next day sent in canoes to Fort Franklin. The Indian chief, Half Town—who was a half-brother to Cornplanter— was encamped here at the time with twenty-seven of his "braves." Twelve of these he sent to guard the canoes, six on each side of the creek, and with his remaining warriors he joined the settlers in a fruitless search for the hostiles seen by Gregg. On the following day all the men departed for Franklin with their horses, cattle and moveable effects.

On May 3d, Cornelius Van Horne, William Gregg and Thomas Ray returned to plant the spring crops. Stopping for the night at Gregg’s cabin, they shelled a bag of corn, part of which they ground the next morning at the Mead house. Arriving at the corn field, Van Horne laid his gun on the bag of seed corn and ploughed while Gregg and Ray planted. At noon Gregg and Ray returned to the Mead house for dinner and fresh horses. While ploughing, Van Horne saw two Indians emerge from the woods. The one dropping his bow and the other his gun, they rushed to the attack with their tomahawks. Van Horne grasped the uplifted arm of the first savage and entered on a struggle for life. By his superior strength and agility he shielded himself from the attack of his more formidable foe with the body of his weaker antagonist, calling loudly for help. After a time the Indians promised his life on condition of surrender. Mounting the horses, Van Horne between them, they crossed the Cussewago, and entering a ravine on the hillside they met two other Indians. They tied the arms of their prisoner and three returned to the corn field. Van Horne and the Indian rode the horses to Conneaut Lake and crossed the outlet. Here they dismounted and Van Horne was tied by the ends of the rope which secured his arms to a tree while his captors left in search of game. With a knife he had secreted he succeeded in cutting the rope and made his escape to the settlement where by good fortune he found thirty soldiers under Ensign Jeffers, on their return from Erie to Fort Franklin.

"Gregg and Ray returning with the horses discovered the three Indians and fled, crossing the Cussewago near its mouth. Gregg, after reaching the opposite bank, was wounded, and seating himself on a log he was shot by his pursuers through the head with his own gun. Ray was captured and carried to Detroit, then occupied by a British garrison. Here he was recognized by an old school-fellow of his boyhood in Scotland, Captain White, who purchased him from his captors for two gallons of whiskey, furnished him money and sent him on a vessel to Buffalo, from whence he was piloted to Franklin by Stripe Neck—an old Mohawk chief, who lived after the early settlement on the west side of French creek near the site of the present tannery in Kerrtown. Ray made his settlement and ended his days in the northwest corner of Mead township.

"In the summer of the same year Darius Mead, the father of David and John, was captured near Franklin. His body was found side by side with that of one of his captors, Captain Bull, a Delaware chief. The duel had been to the death and they were buried side by side where found, near the Shenango creek in Mercer county.

"The exposure of the frontiers by the defeats of General Harmar (October, 1790) and General St. Clair (November, 1791) necessitated the abandonment of the settlements on French creek during the greater part of 1791 and 1792. During the winter of these years Mead’s house was garrisoned by a detachment of fifteen men from Fort Franklin. The command of the army in 1793 by General Wayne encouraged the return of the settlers, who were for a time protected by a garrison of twenty-four soldiers under Ensign Lewis Bond. This company having been withdrawn by General Wayne, and the settlers being again warned by Flying Cloud, the greater number returned to Franklin.

"Restored confidence in 1794 added many new colonists, and substantial improvements commenced. Law was in some degree enforced and a small company of militia was enrolled under the command of Mr. Van Horne as Ensign. Alarms, were, however, not infrequent, and many times the Mead house and cellar gave refuge to women and children from apprehended danger. On August 10, 1794, James Dickson was wounded from an ambush of three Indians, near the intersection of Spring street and the Terrace (Meadville). For the better protection of the increasing settlement a blockhouse was built in the autumn of 1794."

The blockhouse alluded to was the one first referred to in the beginning of this article. An interesting fact is treasured in that locality connected with the old blockhouse. The first school in that section was opened by Jennette Finney (afterwards wife of David Mead) in 1795, in a log house on North Market street. The blockhouse, no longer needed for defense, was soon by David Mead made suitable for school purposes, and in it was opened a school in the winter of 1798-99. This, according to the Hon. William Reynolds of Meadville, was the first school house in that part of the State north of Franklin.

Note.—I am indebted to the Hon. William Reynolds for the above extracts on the early history of this settlement, and also for other statements made in connection with the Presqu’Isle settlement, on which subjects he is a judicious and a recognized authority.

End of Volume II.


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