Sunday, June 29, 2014

Excursion to Somerset

    Hi folks. I've got to say, I'm crazy about the Laurel Highland region of western Pennsylvania, and rightly so. Having said that, the truth is, we're a little off the beaten path for blog posts here. Read on and you'll get a sharper insight as why it's included.

    First up is a quick issue I need to get out of the way. This could of fit well with 'Relatives And Ancestors', though with the graphic intensity already on that post and soon to be more, it made more sense to create a separate posting altogether and forget about it. That was nicely resolved by this trip east.

   Back a week or so ago, we sauntered up past Laurelville and Acme with Salt Lick on our right, taking the asphalt through the trailer trucks into Donegal township crossing the Indian Creek Valley Trail and Jone's Mill over the Laurel Ridge toward Jefferson Township and a piece of western Somerset County. We eventually basked a bit in Bedford County, too. Fill up the tank, for sure! A word about the Indian Creel Valley Railroad might be in order:

   Began in 1906 for hauling timber, the railway was soon completed through Mill Run, Melcroft, Indian Head and Champion and the freight cars were bustling back and forth carrying coal from the mines. The operation was connected to the Blair Brothers in Kregar. By the 1920's it was bought out by the B&O. Saltlick Township and the Mountain Watershed Association created seven miles of trail for recreation through the southeast of Westmoreland and northeast Fayette, with ownership in Saltlick, another mile and a half has been added in Donegal.

   Now, I would like to of had time to get down to Forge Road between Meyersdale and Summit Mills, but that was not to be. This wasn't one of those well planned and thought out excursions, more a spur of the moment decision that tomorrow might be an open day, so we jumped in the car and headed off. Now, next time maybe I can prepare more thoroughly and check out Rockwood on the Cassleman River, traditionally one of the places my great grandfather called home. Well, the main reason was we determined to personally show respects to our maternal great grandfather, Israel Hoover, who by oral tradition, was quite a brave soldier in the Civil War. This was the first I had found out the location. I hadn't thought as far as a separate blog post. Regardless of preparations, this was high time to see it through.

   The June weather threatened storms, but the further I approached the land of many of our ancestors, the more the clouds parted, and by early afternoon the sun shined down as a kind and propitious  welcome on our vehicle. Going past the road to Hidden Valley Resort in Jefferson Township, and Kooser State Park on trusty Rt. 31, down past the Laurel Mountain Inn and then driving on south further along the way. There is little of the white pine and hemlock that use to be so abundant, but there are many old coal and strip mines scattered around. I just don't get to this area often enough. When we were kids, my mom and grandmother use to take us to see some of their closer relatives who were still alive. I won't bore you too much with that here. We always went on in to Somerset to shop at places like Newberry's and finally, get lunch and back home toward evening. This was usually done in the fall and a real treat for us youngsters back then.
   This is where the Somerset County Memorial Park is, and where Herman Husbands lived, of 'Whiskey Insurrection' fame, at the Coffee Shop Farm, (restaurant), from 1785-1792. He used the unusual alias of 'Tuscape Death'. His mill was on Coxe's creek southward, mapped by John Wells in 1818 on the Melish-Whiteside map; the Husband Cemetery is up on the north side of Somerset Borough, but, it looks like I'm getting ahead of myself. Of course, earlier we passed Jones' Mill before leaving the Donegal area and Fayette behind us.

   With the Cemetery as our main destination in Bakersville, off of Route 31 East, in Somerset, we continued traveling along the old 'Glades Pike' until arriving near at what is said to be the small Lutheran Church. Here commencing our final search, soon finding his grave and some other relatives, including what I believe was his wife, Mary. I did take these photos:

Bakersville Cemetery


Israel Hoover

     After paying our respects at what was a very moving moment, I can only take off my hat, bow my head and wonder what he was really like. Well, soon I was leaving the cemetery and driving on past the old historic rural buildings, back roads and such. We pushed our car all the way into Bedford. Past the Lincoln Highway's, somewhat mysterious, Jean Bonnet, (at the junction of Route's 30 and 31, and the old Forbe's and Burd roads as well, near Rt. 70), which has a late 1700's cabin from Fayette County and great food with a nice atmosphere for any weary sojourner, well, it gives you a real breather. I passed some old covered bridges  and where, oddly enough, I forgot to take more photos, can you believe that? To add to that, the camera wasn't well charged, so there you go. Sorry of being distracted with other things, BUT, I still managed a few worthwhile pictures; here's one:

  From here near central Somerset County we headed through the township of the same name fairly quick, angling through Stony Creek Township, near Raystown, partly through what I think was the old Dublin District, and part of Allegheny Township further into central Pennsylvania and thence, Bedford County. Next up, passing close to the very historic area of Shawnee Cabins. My dad used to take us fishing up here when I was a kid. A few miles east of Juniata Township into Harrison, near Mann's Choice further on the scenic Glade Road, is the old coaching tavern of Jean Bonnet's at the summt of Laurel Ridge and the Alleghenies. Back the opposite way at a place called 'Black's, (can anyone provide any material about an old tavern there?), near Brotherton, north of Berlin on the Mud Pike, lived the ancestors of the Supreme Court Justice Jeremiah Black. White Horse Road, 2023, is just east of Berlin of the German community. Mustn't forget Snyder of Berlin fame either! This seems to work better with Rt. 219 so one can also go left from coming west on 31 and travel the White Horse road southwest to 219.

  But, anyway, this approaches to where the Joseph Filson's White Horse Tavern was near Dividing Ridge. And then to the area of the Conestoga Inn at Lavansville where the old Glade Road returned southerly to Rt. 31 again. Conversely, the Glades Road went back toward Donegal by Jone's Mill near Stahlstown. This leads down off the mountain by way of the Three Mile Hill to where you have the choice of staying westerly and straight on to Mt. Pleasant, or making a left toward the Mt. Vernon Furnace by way of Rt. 982 and using Interstate 119 to Connellsville. To many people, one good thing about traveling Somerset County is there are so many conjoining roads with names descriptive of historical significance helping to make an unfamiliar experience that much better. Just when someone may think they're getting lost, (and I am capable of such a befuddlement), you come upon an area giving a fair idea to where you went wrong. There are those kinds of signposts all around.

   I realize this is just a mini-tour and not a travelogue as it turns out. This is simply what it was, as a journey to some of the places along the route through eastern Fayette, central Somerset and into Bedford. An ancestral quest beckoning me on as a bonus. For the readers' benefit I felt the need to point out the basics of a summer day trip through the heart of Somerset to Bedford and hopefully, I accomplished that much. Hey, at least there was No Rain.

  Here is a view from the Dry Ridge area:

   Once reaching Bedford we stopped at the popular flea market of 'Hoke-e -Geez' way over "that a way", past Shawnee State Park and the Lake and old Shawnee Cabins from Rt 96, a fascinating area full of archeological treasures. This is not far from Old Bedford Village and Fort Bedford Park, but, just where exactly you may ask? I bet you guessed part of it- Bedford Plaza. There is also 'We've Got Stuff' a few miles east of Everett. You name it, these places are sure to have some of it. I found a few items, mostly, some old silverware. Maybe I should think about melting it down! I will try to find another opening in my schedule to travel a bit and return to this beautiful area soon. Could be, I'll even get in one of those rare moods for an historical poem; you never know, crazier things have happened! More on that inclination another time. Bedford goes back to the mid 1700's and Washingotn brought the federal troops here to put down the Whiskey Insurrection in 1794, though, in fact he had been here before during the French and Indian War. Bedford was originally incorporated the next year. Well, a nice little getaway into the country and finishing up with a quick stop for ice cream sealed it as a pretty darn good, memorable day.

    There isn't too much basic historical information cited for Somerset and Bedford for a reason: In the works I have an article about the origins of the surrounding counties, just so you know. Why bother to add this to the excursion post, it would end up being redundant. So, keep checking the blog,  alright?

   As it's well to keep in mind when going off road around here, please try to remember,  there are sudden storms at times and copperheads and rattlers and wild animals are lurking nearby in the woods, so be forewarned and stay careful and still have fun. And maybe above all, learn something. Whatever you choose to do, if you plan to go hunting the game, swimming, or fishing the many lakes and ponds as well as the streams and rivers, here's to Somerset and old Bedford!

    I may be rather slow on the rare occasion and a hair on the forgetful side. Yet, as certain as the sun will come up tomorrow or the moon will shine again soon, there will be a new post revealing a unique taste of our regional and local history uploaded SOON.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Brief History of Springfield and Saltlick Townships


    Located beside each other in the northeast corner of Fayette County, the township includes the villages of Pleasant Hill, Normalville, Rodger's Mill and (Skinner's), Mill Run and has always been a fairly rural place. Clearly, an area also known for it's saw, flour and grist mills. Bordered on the southwest by the Youghiogheny River, the west Connellsville and Bullskin townships, Saltlick on the north, Stewart on the south and Laurel Ridge State Park and thereby, Somerset County on the east. By action of the court it came into existence in 1848 and constituted with what was left of the old Youghiogheny township in 1855.
   It is traversed by the Laurel Hill and Chestnut Ridge mountains making it a steep and hilly place in much of the lay of the land. It contains the Indian Creek valley, so called on account of Native American artifact d found near to it. It certainly does appear the old designation of the township was 'Youghiogheny' long ago, but was not found satisfactory as the re-naming would seem to prove.

 The clay pike ran through here by 1810. Many of the early travelers to these townships, as with Bullskin, were German Lutherans.



   The later of the two townships for this article, is the farthest east and the most northeasterly as well. The main villages are Indian Head, Melcroft, Champion, Maple Grove, Clinton, Millertown and White. It has the fishing and boating area of Lake Donegal, a popular destination.

   Most settlers came here from the east in Somerset and Bedford and from Maryland as early as the late 1700's. Many of these gathered near Indian Creek which flows from the northeast to the southwest, once better known as Salt Lick Creek. Benjamin Davis was one of these who had a tavern in 1795. Andrew Trapp was another early settler with many children. He died in 1824. Also George Poe and John Martin should be mentioned as early residents. The Dumbauld family came quite early too with a blockhouse on Four Mile run in the Loyallhanna, or Ligonier valley.. The township is bordered by Springfield on the south, Westmoreland on the northern side, Somerset to the east and the Chestnut Ridge and Bullskin  bounds it on the west.

   Late in 1797, the residents successfully petitioned for a new township separate from the mother township of Bullskin. the old traditional name in use was either Yough or more probablyYoung, maybe from a usage connected with Maryland and Virginia, but this is speculation. It ia very hilly with deep valleys and does have more of a plateau area in the west that helped with agriculture. There was much coal and limestone taken from here. There were also many types of mill here high in importance before the coming of the railroads. A post office was established at Champion, near Jone's Mill in 1875, though the oldest was at Spark's store in Indian Head and Indian Head was first called Dawson, then finally Indian Creek.

   The area of Salt Lick was much larger once, but by 1848 the new township of Springfield had then limited the scope of Salt Lick in the size it presently holds. I noticed that one of the oldest road was petitioned from Broadford to a Christain Perkey's Mill and to Redstone in 1784.Schools were started by 1803.

(taken partly from Ellis' "History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania", in the public domain). 

   Anyone with more historical information or genealogical material for you family, please e-mail me or you can easily leave a comment, anonymously if you wish.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tribute To Arthur St. Clair of Greensburg

Major General Arthur St. Clair, (thought to be 'Sinclair' by some), lived an interesting life of varied fortunes, which ended in a rather sad state of affairs,"in poverty and neglect." He is historically closely connected with Westmoreland County, PA. This is his illustrious story.

Arthur St. Clair II, wiki creative commons

  Born on April 3, 1736 in Thurso Castle in Caithness, Scotland, of Norman birth, from a family of aristocrats and knights. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, then moving to London Under the ministry of William Pitt, he enlisted as an ensign May 13, 1757 and he sailed for the United States under the control of Admiral Edward Boscowen. He was placed in the division of the army directly under General James Wolfe and was involved in fighting in the taking of Quebec from the French forces. Designed by the Duke of Cumberland, he was in the popular Sixtieth Royal American Regiment, the same as other greats to be, as Colonel Monkton, Colonel Henry Bouquet and General Murray. It was convenient that General Gage was his cousin, and he was sent to him in Boston.

   After a marriage to a rich maiden, Phoebe Bayard in 1760, and becoming acquainted with the powerful Penn's, the Proprietors of Pennsylvania, he moved to Bedford. here he was given command from 1767-1769. There he was involved in the opening of the Land Office, together with his brother-in-law, Captain Bayard, a good position for a young, aspiring figure to be associated with. With the creation of Bedford County from old Cumberland, he was appointed Justice of the Peace. There he began working on the erection of Westmoreland County in the year of our Lord, 1773. There he continued his rise to prominence being appointed Justice, prothonotary and clerk of the courts, to boot.

    In 1774, when the Virginians, under Lord Dunmore claimed much of the southwest of the state, he took up arms to repel them from the area. In 1776, he was then commissioned a Colonel in the third Pennsylvania Regiment which saw action in at least five major battles of the Revolutionary War era. He became a brigadier General in August of that year and helped mobilize the New Jersey militia. He was present during Washington's famed Crossing of the Delaware on the day after Christmas, 1776. This was a difficult mission performed against the Hessian forces occupying Trenton, New Jersey. This took place three times altogether, with successful campaigns associated with each crossing. He was promoted to major general in February 1777. Though court-martialed for his retreat at Ticonderoga, he was later exonerated and he had brought his forces south to Yorktown, Virginia when Cornwallis surrendered the British forces.

    In 1782 when returning home on furlough, he found most of his estate in ruins.

Washington's Crossing of the Delaware, wiki commons

    St. Clair was thence elected to the Pennsylvania Council of censors in 1783 and rose from the Confederation Congress to President of the Continental Congress in 1787. Under his watchful guidance, the powerful Northwest Ordinance was enacted into law, and signed by Washington. After this he was made governor of the Ohio territory, which included parts of western Pa. He had reached what was, perhaps the pinnacle of his career.

    He was instrumental in gaining agreement for the signing of the Treaty of Fort Harmar with mixed results. In 1791 he was commander and major general of the United States Army becoming embroiled with Chief Little Turtle of the Miami's and Shawnee chief Blue Jacket leading to what was known as 'St. Clair's Defeat', in which Washington was upset, and perhaps rightly so, decided to call for St. Clair's resignation. Indeed, the low point of the major general. The disaster was heavily investigated by the House of Representatives, and it was found that other parties, including Knox and Hodgson, were guilty as well and he was partially exonerated. he was ignominiously removed from the governorship by Thomas Jefferson in 1802.

    There is an award presented annually to those organizations that make a significant contribution toward historical preservation in the region. It is the Arthur St. Clair Preservation Award, sponsored by the Westmoreland County Historical Society at 362 Sand Hill Rd.-Suite 1, Greensburg, PA. 15603. E-mail address is Maybe some day, you never know! It's a bit of a shame that the most recent award form is for 2012.  They keep a Library, do school tours, with much in the way of genealogical materials, and helpful information involving Hanna's Town.

   Many of St.Clair's memorabilia, relics and part of his old home, between Ligonier and Greensburg, The Hermitage, and are now at the Fort Ligonier Museum on display. He depleted his wealth and resources over the years by his gifts and the refusal of Congress to reimburse him for his generous loans.

   The General and the man, died in poverty near Youngstown, August 31, 1818(1818-08-31) at the age of 81 and is buried in St. Clair Park in Greensburg. A  true patriot of southwestern Pennsylvania and a valued colleague and confidant of General and President, George Washington. In 1890 times and feelings had changed and Congress declared, “Perhaps there was not a prominent character of the revolutionary period, with the exception of Morris, who gave so much of his life, his service, and means to America as did St. Clair, and there was none, with that exception, so poorly recompensed.”

(much of the material herein is derived from the 'History of Fayette County, by John Newton Boucher, Lewis Publishing Co. 1906.

 St. Clair, Arthur. United States. House of Representatives. A Narrative of the Manner in Which the Campaign against the Indians, in the Year One-Thousand-Seven Hundred and Ninety-one, was Conducted, Under the Command of Major General St. Clair. Philadelphia: Jane Aitken, pg. 181. 

Major-General Arthur St. Clair: A Brief Sketch. New York: 1910, by Arda Bates; among lesser sources)

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