Monday, July 24, 2017

Regional Historians of the Nineteenth Century

     It is good to be 'back' with another post for Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History.

    As an introduction, I will begin by briefly advising you not to pass this post by on any account. In truth, this is NOT really a boring, drab post, folks. Trust me on this one. Finding proper photos was a problem, especially considering copyrights, so I didn't get too far in that respect.

    There were a few other historians of note, some of a more minor level, which I planned on covering, although there was some difficulty in locating quality information on their background. That being the case, I chose to only include those grand gents that proper research material wasn't too difficult to gain about and were the more pertinent to this post. Historians and folklorists, like Henry W. Shoemaker, were left out basically because we are mainly concerned with biographies which best encapsulate those deeply involved in this region; specifically, Fayette and Westmoreland counties.


   Nothing less would be worthy of the honor due to their position as true guardians and forebears of Western Pennsylvania. Please, read on:

   James Hadden


   According to the "Acts and Proceeds Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies", published in 1905, Mr. Hadden wrote the "The History of Uniontown", in 1913. I suppose it goes without saying, I have read it, along with other volumes by these distinguished gentlemen. He also  edited the book "The Monongahela Of Old", although much of his writing appears to be original ideas prepared by James Veech on older sources compiled by himself and adapted by Hadden and presented in his own unique way. This historian and antiquarian was a native of Uniontown, Pa. was the fourth son of Armstrong and Jane Hadden, born on the 17th of August, 1845.

   His father was a county seat postmaster; he was of Scottish descent, going back to the Isle of Mull and the region of Scone, seat of crowing kings. His family came here soon after the establishment of the county of Fayette back in 1783. His grandfather, Thomas, became a lawyer in 1795 and so he naturally followed in those prominent  footsteps. He also descended from Col. Alexander McClean, the famous surveyor involved with running the Mason and Dixon line as well as a member of the Supreme Executive Council of the state. (Much of this information derives from John Jordan's PENNSYLVANIA book of 1914 of the "Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography"). Young James went to Waynesburg College and was a photographer for fifteen years, then pushed for a memorial park and monument to General Braddock. He was happily married in 1872.

   G. D. Albert

    George Dallas Albert, as far as what I have been able to find out, wrote, or should I say, actually is credited as the editor of "History of the County of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, with biographical sketches of many of its prominent men" of 1882 with a total of 966 pages. Also, "Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of the Frontier Forts of Western Pennsylvania" as well as "The Frontier Forts of Western Pennsylvania" Volume 1, written in 1896. This included reports of John M. Buckalew, J. Gilfillan Weiser, etc. All in all, a very thorough and insightful study. The last volumes were contained in the prestigious Harvard College Library from August 17, 1903.

    As an example of what can be found in these writings, Albert's story basically begins with Celeron's 1749 journey down the Allegheny and Ohio rivers and back again and the planting of leaden plates in the name of the King of France, leading on to Du Quesne, Le Boeuf, Fort Necessity and Fort La Fayette, Fort Pitt, Fort Allen, Trent's efforts at Redstone and beyond which went some way to counteract the Royal Grant to the Ohio Company of the English of 1748. Conversely, this was partly designed to divert the french occupation. Washington's dispatching to the Ohio country in 1753 began the serious efforts to gain the control of the region and Forbes and Bouquet did much to end the French and Indian obstinacy to control the area and the eventual opening up of Pennsylvania and acquiring the land with proper claims of their own. This friction caused much of the future rivalry and quickly led to the creation of the various forts under examination in Albert's intensive treatment of the subject.

    According to John Newton Boucher's, "History of Westmoreland County", of 1906, pg. 369, Albert was born in Youngstown, Westmoreland County in 1846, appropriately enough, and admitted to the legal bar in 1869. A polite, retiring, yet intelligent gentleman; "he has done more to unearth and perpetuate the history of Western Pennsylvania, and particularly of Westmoreland County, than any other man living or dead." He was a frequent writer of in depth and perceptive newspaper articles, it was considered assured that when he examined a subject it received a painstaking investigation, indeed. He developed cancer and died in 1898 being buried in Latrobe.

    Judge James Veech

    The Esquire usually accompanying his name indicates this man was a successful attorney of the bar of Fayette and Allegheny counties. The epithet of 'judge' was conferred on him through his esteem and popularity. He also wrote various article s along with "Washington's and Braddock's Expeditions", a small volume covering the incidents on a subject of historical import. He was born in Menallen township, Fayette County on Sept. 18, 1808. He then graduated from Jefferson College in Canonsburg, going on to represent the legal profession and did so in Uniontown until 1834 before moving on to Pittsburgh and becoming the Assistant District Attorney for Allegheny County and later returned to Fayette County to practice law. He was actively interested in various proceedings, a dignified man of profound ability, retiring in 1872 and furthering his studies in history and literature. He died near Pittsburg in 1879, buried in Union Cemetery, and should be able to figure out the whereabouts of this place. After a Mr. Freeman Lewis gave up on his researches from 1850, this was taken over by the good judge in grand style and with much energy and thought. "The Monongehela of Old" was first published in 1859 for private use as he did not get to finish it becoming paymaster of the army in the Civil War, and later finished by his daughter E. V. Blaine in 1892. Who knows just how much more information would of been provided since it is said in the Preface by James Hadden in 1910, that he intended for twice as much material as it has in its present condition.

    Here was a perceptive person of understanding who we should be able to agree was a final authority on many matters pertaining to our local and regional history. This is all the more intriguing when reading his early chapters on the origins of our culture, some of his own speculations and educated conjectures and the influence of the Indians and earlier peoples.

    Lesser mentions might include  John W. Jordan's editing of "Genealogical and Personal History of the Allegheny Valley, Pennsylvania", from the Librarian of the Historical Society of the state itself, in 3 volumes in 1913, and possibly such works as "The History of the Pennsylvania Railroad" by one William Bender Wilson, privately printed, also in the apparently meaningful year of 1913. There are many more beyond the scope of this article.

  John Newton Boucher

   Mostly, all I was able to discover on this particular historian, who penned a valuable book, "Old and New Westmoreland", was, that he was born to Hiram and Abigal Boucher on Oct. 12, 1854, in Ligonier, Pa., the community that houses the justly famed Fort Ligonier which I've posted an article on years ago.  He married May Hargnett and and was a practicing attorney where he later died in his late 70's in Greensburg, the seat of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, shortly after a fall from his porch, on April 14, 1933. Boucher is buried in the Ligonier Valley Cemetery..

    John Lacock

    Professor John Kennedy Lacock. (Nov. 21, 1871- Mar. 8, 1933), is a bit of an exception in the sense of being much a part of the early twentieth century. He gets the nod in this formidable list because of his tremendous influence, especially on a subject dear to the blog - the Braddock Road, the Cumberland Road and Route 40. He also published a book on Boston's historic landmarks. According to, his parents were, Isaac Clark and Catherine Bell Lacock and he is buried in Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church Cemetery. He also compiled a quality map of Braddock's route in 1912, partly from Middleton that included certain improvements, (first published in Olden Time II, pg. 528).

    Lacock was originally from Washington, Pennsylvania. He was the former assistant of Canonsburg's Jefferson Academy of Washington County with close connections to Harvard University. Lacock did lectures around the state, was involved in many organizations and led the way with a large number of influential people; a very knowledgeable fellow indeed, he conducted expeditions over what he termed 'the old Braddock Road', a term with some meaning. One was in 1907 and the other in 1909. What a great mind for detail, in spite of a few mistakes along the way. Lacock was instrumental in providing much needed attention to the matter he specialized in, whether speaking at a college gathering, a high school gymnasium, or a local church and explaining the huge undertaking General Braddock made in the history books in building a road with the help of young George Washington from Cumberland to Braddock's Field, which yet led to an amazing British and colonial defeat. He also introduced some famous postcards illustrated from Ernest Weller's photographs, whom he hired for the task. These were taken of the key camp sites and some of the more picturesque, scenic views showing memorable areas of the old road. They were quite popular and were utilized in Robert Bruce's, 'The National Road.'.

   This historian, alas, died a rather tragic figure after experiencing a fall in his elderly years while  investigating Half King's Rocks off the Jumonville Road in Fayette County, back in the day.


  As much as we are indebted to modern historians, and their work cannot be disregarded, without the concern and knowledge of the older stalwarts of dedicated research, we would never have the resources to tackle even a fair description of historical matters of these two counties. They were those special folks who treasured and celebrated such a variety of subjects describing our foundations and heritage. Although one has to freely admit their research was not necessarily always without errors, and some of the material collected can appear a bit on the dry side, yet the great depth of knowledge possessed led to a thorough listing of local industry, early settlers, and vast amounts of stories of places detailed so well, within the neighborhoods of people who live here and pass through their boundaries almost every day on our busy way to work, school, or whatever.

   Oh sure, there would be a certain amount of information available in some form or another from other sources such as the occasional old newspaper articles, but not near the proclivity of the specific, explanatory stuff from those that lived here and knew about them and their unique concerns. I feel these fellows of boundless energy and enthusiasm still matter very much in our day and age, since they were intimately connected to the places they studied and loved so heartily. After all, did these men not walk these same streets nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, travel around by horse and carriage, inquiries always on their lips and ideas playing on their minds, carefully documenting what they saw and heard, visiting all they knew with indefatigable questions until they received as many answers as possibly could be uncovered? We can be truly grateful for this information so easily avaliable to us and at our fingertips.

    In fact, the names of the old historians should be on the tongue of every school child and every teacher, even far beyond the confines of southwestern Pennsylvania. They were indeed influential and well known in the nineteenth century. In fact, every citizen should of heard of and read of the books written by their hand. The authorities of our modern state are hopefully as very proud to acknowledge the important and invaluable manner that the early roads of thought so paved the way to our understanding. Contributing so heavily to our sometimes troubled, but sublime estate and learning institutions.

   So stating, if anyone has difficulty in finding these old books, or if they may not be online in some form, which a few of them surely are at this time, please consider a trip to the local or regional library. Either way, it will be well worth the time spent! And as you make the drive around, think of the many landmarks which remain, and how fortunate it is to be able to learn of them. Sadly, there are a substantial amount of important sites which are lost and forever removed from our lives, even as these men have long ago passed on to their reward.

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