Crawford County, Pennsylvania
History & Biography
Copied for this site by Robin Brown
<page 135> (continued)
It is impossible now to ascertain the motives which actuated the first settlers in emigrating to this county. The contest between claimants under the Connecticut and Pennsylvania titles to lands in Northumberland, seems to have led to the first visit of David Mead. After much trouble and controversy, he lost his farm near Sunbury, and subsequently received indemnity from the commonwealth, by the grant of lands west of Alleghany. Cornelius Van Horn was also involved in that controversy, and received a partial equivalent in money from the state for the losses he sustained. The greater part of the first settlers came from the Susquehanna River, probably in quest of better and cheaper lands.
A. There are no houses in this neighbourhood remarkable for their antiquity. The oldest house now in Meadville is probably one which stands on the west side of Water Street, belonging to the estate of H. C. Bosler, deceased. It was built in 1796, of hewed logs, and, though much dilapidated, is still occupied.
B. The number of houses or inhabitants, at any given time since the first settlement, cannot now be satisfactorily obtained. In 1814 the entire population of the county was estimated at 5765. (See Note IV.)
C. There are several ancient papers of historical interest in this county. An original deed between Lord Baltimore and the sons of William Penn, is in the possession of J. S. Riddle, Esq., who has kindly permitted me to make an abstract of its contents. It purports to be a deed between the Right Hon. Frederick Lord Baron of Baltimore, in the kingdom of Ireland, only son and heir at law, devisee, and residuary legatee, of the Right Hon. Charles, Late Lord Baltimore, deceased, proprietor of the Province of Maryland in America, of the one part, and Thomas Penn and Richard Penn, Esqs., sons and devisees, under the will of William Penn, their late father deceased, true and absolute proprietaries of the Province of Pennsylvania and the three lower counties of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, of the other part. The deed is dated July 4th, 1760; is a voluminous, formal instrument, covering six large sheets of parchment, and made and executed for the purpose of settling the boundaries of their respective provinces.
Mr. Riddle has also an original commission from Thomas Penn and Richard Penn, proprietaries, as above, to John Penn, dated 11th August, 1766. The commission refers to a former one, and reappoints him Lieutenant-Governor, from the 1st December, 1766, to 1st December, 1769. This instrument is recorded in Rolls Office for the Province of Pennsylvania, in Com. Book A, vol. 3, page 269, on the 2d April, 1767. And at New Castle, in Book V, page 42. Also a commission from Thomas and Richard Penn, to John Penn, dated 24th August, 1769, continuing him as Lieutenant-Governor, until 1st December, 1772, recorded in Commission Book A, vol. 3, page 528, and recorded in New Castle, in Book Y, page 6.
Mr. Joseph C. G. Kennedy has also in his possession some documents of historical interest, among which are an ancient drawing of Fort Du Quesne; one of the orderly books of General Washington while at Cambridge in Massachusetts, and an original letter-book of James Logan, secretary of William Penn, commencing about the year 1718, and containing letters for some ten or twelve years. Mr. Logan seems to have written his letters in this book, from which copies were sent to his correspondents. These letters are quite interesting, as showing the state of things at that time.
In one of his letters, addressed to Mrs. Penn, after the death of her husband, he informs her that, according to the best of his judgment, the northwest corner of the province is about the middle of Lake Ontario (or Lake Frontignac); that there are no navigable rivers except the Delaware and about sixty miles of the Susquehanna, and that the <page 138> latter river is rather a detriment than a benefit to the province; that west of it there is no land worthy of cultivation, and that it would be difficult to obtain one hundred thousand acres west of that river suitable for settlement. In another letter, he speaks of the first silk made in the province. Mr. Kennedy has also an original order of his Majesty, of 25th April, 1738, to the inhabitants of Maryland and Pennsylvania, commanding the observance of peace.
D. I do not remember anything remarkable in the character or appearance of this county, that would seem to be worthy of especial notice. Geologically, it belongs to the upper secondary formation, is apparently destitute of calcareous rock, except in very thin veins, and does not contain within it much bituminous coal; layers of it, it is true, have been found in some half-dozen places, in different parts of the county; but they have not generally been of sufficient thickness to afford much encouragement to the miner. This section of county is abundantly supplied with excellent water, and presents as great a variety of large and valuable timber as, perhaps, any other county in the state. Three main streams, the Shenango in the southwest, Oil Creek (so named from springs upon its margin, which annually produce large quantities of petroleum or Seneca oil), in the east; and French Creek, with its tributaries, the Muddy Creek, Cussewago, and Sugar Creek, traverse the county from north to south; and in the northwest, Coneaut Creek takes its rise, whose waters, after passing through a portion of Erie County, finally discharge themselves into Lake Erie, in the state of Ohio. Along each of the above <page 139> streams are rich and productive valleys. The fertility and extent of the valley along French Creek, are alluded to by General Washington, in the notes he kept of a visit made by him to Fort Lebœuf (now Waterford), in the year 1753.
Near the source of Coneaut Creek, about eight miles west of Meadville, is Coneaut Lake, the largest entirely inland lake in the province; it is from three to four miles in length, and from three quarters to a mile, or upwards,
in width. The lake is now used as a reservoir for the Erie Canal (which was opened last year for navigation), and
for that purpose its waters have been raised by an embankment across the outlet, some eleven feet above their
About four miles northwest of this lake, at the summit, the Erie Canal passes through a formation of quicksand extending about a mile and a half along the line, and averaging some two feet in thickness. The sand lies from fourteen to sixteen feet below the surface of the ground, which here is a Black Ash and Hemlock swamp, formerly very wet, but now dry, being drained by the canal. From the yielding character of this sand, this portion of the line was a very expensive one to make, the cost of constructing some two miles and a half where it prevailed, to a
greater or less extent, being estimated at $213,000. Piling, from eighteen to twenty-four feet deep, had to be
resorted to, forming a perfect wall on each side of the canal, with cross timbers for a floor, all so compact and firmly united, as to resist the inward and upward pressure of the sand. To one unaccustomed to it, this sand seems
a very strange kind of material. In constructing the canal, <page 140> wagons could be driven across the bed of it, provided the team was kept in motion; but if a horse stood upon it for a moment or two, even long enough to drink, he would gradually sink into it, and it would adhere to his limbs with a tenacity that no power of his could overcome. A country-woman, with a child in her arms, undertaking to cross the canal one day, where the water was about a foot deep, stopped for a moment to let her horse drink; when she attempted to pursue her way she found herself suddenly thrown into the water, and her horse so firmly planted in the mud, that it required the
spade of one of the labourers before he could be extricated. When a wagon crosses it, it undulates with a
wavelike motion. Yet, notwithstanding its yielding nature, a lock can be built and made to stand upon it, if piles
are driven around it to prevent any lateral motion of the sand.
At the upper end of Coneaut Lake, near Brightstown [now Harmonsburg], is a formation of shell-marl. It covers an area of about thirty-three acres, and from examination, appears to be seven feet thick at the upper end, and about two feet and one half at the lower. The shells are minute, of the genus Planorbis, and abundant; this marl is worked into brick form and burned, when it makes a pretty good quality of lime, though not very white.
The improvements for the last twenty, and especially for the last ten years, have been very great. The mainline of Erie and Beaver Canal passes through the western part of the county, and not only affords facility in getting to market with the ordinary articles of export, but has also created new objects of commerce.
Timber which before was regarded as useless, or at <page 141> best required to be reduced to ashes before it became available to the farmer, is now converted into staves and lumber in various forms, for the New York market. The feeder of this canal, passing through the county seat, has increased the business of the village and reduced the rates of transportation; while the transfer of the carriage of heavy articles from the turnpike to the canal, has had a decidedly beneficial effect upon the roads. Less than thirty years ago, the mail from Pittsburg arrived in Meadville but once in a week, and was carried on horseback; now a mail stage arrives daily from Pittsburg and Erie, and terweekly from Bellefonte via Franklin. At the former period, there was but one public building in Meadville,.the lower story of which was used for a jail, the upper for a court-house, and on Sunday for religious services; there are now a frame and five brick churches, a large brick court-house, with rooms for the county offices, a brick academy, two brick houses for schools under the new system, a brick college, a brick
arsenal, and a brick building for the theological institute. There is also a considerable improvement in the class of buildings now being constructed, both in the town and country; more attention paid to taste in architecture, and more regard to convenience in the plan of arrangement. Within two years past, a large manufactory for the making of picket fence has been put in operation by Messrs. H. and C. Cullum, at Bemustown, two miles north of Meadville. This establishment, doing all its work by machinery, affords its wares at so cheap a rate, that the farmer may now have his yard or his grounds inclosed with an ornamental fence, at a cost little if any beyond <page 142> what he formerly paid for a rough one of simple post and rails.
With the physical improvement of the county, there has also been a corresponding moral and intellectual progress in the inhabitants; while school-house and churches have multiplied, distilleries and taverns have
diminished. On the subject of ardent spirits, the change of popular sentiment has been so great, that at the last
session of the legislature an act was passed authorizing the inhabitants of this (with many other counties in the state), to determine at the spring election in '47, whether any licenses whatever, shall be granted for the sale of vinous or spirituous liquors for the ensuing year, except such as are wanted for sacramental or medicinal purposes.
The facilities of country mails, by distributing newspapers and periodical literature, have also done something towards educating and improving the popular mind.
The art of manufacturing paper from straw, was first discovered and successfully practised in America, by Colonel William Magaw, a resident of Meadville, in the year 1827. Colonel Magaw was previously the proprietor of a paper-mill, and was led accidentally to the discovery by chewing a stalk of rye straw which had been used in the letching of ashes, the alkali having affected the texture of the straw, so as to make it easily converted into pulp. Large quantities of wrapping paper are now made of this material, and also boards for the binding of books. Though the art of making paper of straw, by some process, was known prior to that time, in
Europe, yet the discovery of preparing the straw with alkalies, was an original one with Colonel Magaw, and has been a highly useful one to the community.
E. The wild animals that have been seen in this county since its settlement are—the elk, deer, panther, wolf, bear, wildcat, fox marten, otter, polecat, beaver, groundhog or woodchuck, opossum, raccoon, hare, rabbit, black, gray, red or pine, flying, and ground or striped squirrels, muskrat, mink, weasel, porcupine, field-mouse, deer-mouse, common rat and mouse.
The elk and panther are now entirely extinct, and the wolf, the bear, and the beaver, altogether or very nearly so.
Among the birds which visit this county annually, either to build or touching it in their migration to a more northern region, are the bald and gray eagle, rarely seen; the hen-hawk, fish-hawk, pigeon-hawk, sparrow-hawk,
the white, the cat, and screech owl; the swan, wild goose, black-duck, mallard, wood duck, shell drake, teal, butterbolt, loon, dipper, water-hen, plover, jacksnipe, sandsnipe, kingfisher, turkey, pheasant, partridge or quail, woodcock, rail, pigeon, dove, whippoorwill, robin, thrush, catbird, cuckoo, lark, oriole, bluejay, fieldfare, martin, the barn-swallow, bank-swallow, oven-swallow, bluebird, wren, cowbird, bob-o'-link or reed-bird, yellowbird, redbird, blackbird, red-wing, starling, black, or large woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, gray woodpecker, flicker, cedar-bird or toppy, the crookbill, meadow-hen, greenbird, and a variety of small birds with whose species I am not familiar. The oven-swallow, which is now quite common made its first appearance in this county only some eight or ten years ago. They now come annually in great numbers, and build long rows of oven-shaped nests, constructed of mud, under the eaves of the barns, with a small aperture in one side for an entrance.
The snakes that are found in Crawford County, are the black and yellow rattlesnake; the former of which is most frequently found in swampy or wet land, and the latter, upon hilly or drier ground; water-snake, large
black-snake, growing from five to seven feet in length; the small black-snake, or white-ringed viper; the brown, or
house-snake; the garter-snake, and green-snake. All these species are innocuous, except the rattlesnake, and it is fortunately now almost extinct.
F. The preceding pages contain about all that I have ever heard, concerning the condition of the country when first settled. When first visited by the whites in '87, in the valley of French Creek were old meadows, destitute of trees, and covered with long wild grass and herbage, resembling the prairies; but by whom those lands were originally cleared, will probably for ever remain a matter of uncertainty.
The Indians alleged that the work had not been done by them; but a tradition among them attributed it to a larger and more powerful race of inhabitants, who had preoccupied the country. Whether some far-straying
Frenchman, or straggling Spaniard, whose wanderings have been unrecorded, made this first opening in the primeval forest, or whether some semi-civilized tribe of Indians from the central regions of America, leaving the sunny south, pushed their canoes up the Ohio and Alleghany, and settling in the western regions of Pennsylvania, were finally subdued and destroyed by the fiercer and more war like tribes of the north, may be an interesting subject for speculation; but <page 145> the records are too ambiguous and indistinct, to solve the questions which they raise.
While on this branch of the subject, I would mention that in the year 1834, while engaged in surveying in the extreme western part of the county, near Sorrel Hill, I came across trees that had been blazed one hundred and twelve years before that time. On blocking these trees, the mark of the axe or edged instrument was very perfect and distinct.
I am not aware of any one that has made any collection of the matters and things classified under this head.
A periodical called the Alleghany Magazine, was formerly published in Meadville, by the late Reverend Timothy Alden, in which there were some interesting articles on Indian names, and matters pertaining to the early history of this section of the state. The Magazine was commenced in 1816, and continued for about a year. Copies of it are preserved in the library of Alleghany College, and in several of the private libraries in this place. [See Note VI.] I am told that Mr. Alden, in his lifetime, had a manuscript narrative of a Mr. Gibson, who was at a very early day, a prisoner among the western Indians. I have made some inquiry for this manuscript among the heirs of Mr. Alden, but, as yet, have been unsuccessful in finding it.
G. None but those referred to in pages 136 and 137.
R. None, that I know of, except an interesting description in the Alleghany Magazine, before referred to, of a young lady in Meadville, who is apparently possessed of a twofold state of consciousness; entirely unconscious in her second state of what she has known and learned in her primary one, and when relapsing into her first state, equally forgetful of what has occurred in her second state.
The first change came on her after a slight indisposition, when her mind returned to the blank vacuity of infancy, and she was obliged to commence in her learning with the alphabet, and to be introduced to friends and acquaintances with whom she had long been familiar.
Three or four changes have taken place in her mind, though none now for several years. The subject of this mental phenomena is engaged at present as teacher in one of the primary schools in Meadville, and is a lady of sprightly disposition, and poetic turn of mind.*
* See a full account of this singular case in Days Historical Collections of Pennsylvania.
I am not aware of any tables of descent that have been preserved, of the families of the first settlers of the county.
A memoir of General David Mead, the pioneer to the waters of French Creek, is given in Aldens Alleghany Magazine, on page 77. He was born at Hudson, in the <page 147> state of New York, about the year 1751. In the year '74, he was married to Agnes Wilson, sister of the Honourable Thomas Wilson, of Northumberland. In #&146;96, having lost his first wife, he was again married, to Janet Finney, daughter of Robert Finney.
During the revolutionary war he lived at Sunbury, where he kept a public house, and at the close of the war removed to Wyoming, where he had a farm. Driven from it after a long conflict arising from the Pennsylvania and Connecticut disputation of title, he removed to the west, and settled on French Creek. He was a man of uncommon bodily strength, six feet three and one-half inches high and large in proportion. He died at Meadville, on the 23d day of August, 1816.
Robert Fits Randolph, another of the first settlers, came from Essex County, in the state of New Jersey; his ancestors came originally from Scotland. He was born about they year 1741; and in 1812, at the advanced age of seventy-one, on an alarm's being given of the war with England, he started for Erie, with four of his sons and two of his grandsons, to volunteer in the service of his country. He travelled some fifteen miles to the Coneauttee Lake, in Erie County, where he was persuaded by some of his relatives to return. He retained his vigour many years afterwards, and died at Meadville, at a very advanced age.
Edward Randolph, a son of Robert Fits Randolph, and heretofore spoken of as one of the first settlers, was born in what is now Lehigh, formerly Northampton County, on the first day of March, 1772. In 1773, his father moved from Northampton to Northumberland, and in 1789, the old man and his wife, with some of their children, viz., <page 148> Sarah, Taylor, James, Edward, and Robert, in the month of November, emigrated to what is now the county of Crawford. The route they pursued passed by the places where Bellefonte and Milesburg now stand, and through Chimkakemoose (the Indian name for Oldtown), by Franklin.
Of the family of Robert Randolph, three sons, viz., Taylor, Esaac, and Edward, still survive. The latter, who was seventeen years of age when he first moved west, was a volunteer in the army in the year '91, and did duty at Franklin from the first of April to the first of July. He then went to Pittsburg, and in the spring of '92, entered the service of the United States, in transporting provisions from Pittsburg to Franklin. During this year, he and Daniel Ransom were sent by government to build a mill for Cornplanter, at Tinneshantago. Ransom, who was the millwright, for some reason did not build the mill, and after remaining at Cornplanter's village for four months, Mr. Randolph returned to his former occupation of transporting provisions. During the year '93 he carried a part of the time to Franklin, and a portion of the season to Meadville, for Ensign Bond. In September of this year, he was employed by Major Isaac Craig, to take charge of a boat loaded with ammunition, under Colonel Clark, to Cincinnati; the latter being on his way to join General Wayne. In December, Mr. Randolph returned to Pittsburg, and from thence went to Meadville. On the first of May, 1794, he again descended to Pittsburg on a raft of boards from Mead's mill. At Freeport, then called Buffalo station, they were hailed from shore by the officers at the station, and took on board William Cousins, who had been wounded in his hip by the Indians, near the mouth of the Kiskeminetas <page 149> Creek. A canoe had gone just before, bearing the body of John Carter, killed by the Indians, and Peter Kintner, wounded in the arm.
They were taken to their former home, about six miles above Pittsburg. On reaching Pittsburg, Mr. Randolph was employed by General John Wilkins, to go as an advance guard for Major Denny, from Pittsburg to Waterford, a distance of one hundred and twenty miles. At Meadville, Mr. Randolph became sick, and his brother, James Randolph, conducted Major Denny from thence to Waterford. Having returned to Pittsburg, Mr. Randolph, about the first of July, fell in with Captain John Heath, on his way with troops to Franklin, and they kept in company
with their canoes. The party celebrated the fourth of July at Catfish Falls (about four miles above the Great
Western Iron Works), feasting themselves upon a saddle of venison, and a big pike which they had captured in the
About the first of August, a soldier having been killed by the Indians, near Franklin, Captain Heath wrote to Robert F. Randolph, for some men competent to act as spies. He recommended Luke Hill, John Wentworth, John Baum, and Edward F. Randolph. Mr. Randolph engaged in this service, and served from the beginning of August to the beginning of September as a spy, and in carrying expresses from Waterford to Pittsburg. His only roads were Indian paths, and at night he bivouacked with no other protection than his blanket. In August, 1795, Mr. Randolph and his brother Taylor, were employed by Major Craig to go to Erie as teamsters, to help build the fort. Robert Randolph, their father, furnished three yoke, and Cornelius Van Horn one yoke of oxen for this purpose. Mr. Randolph worked <page 150> at Erie until November, when he returned to Meadville. In 1797, he married Benjamin Wilson's daughter, Elizabeth Wilson, and settled on the farm where he now resides. In 1812, he was for three days at Erie with the troops, and went to Buffalo as teamster for the commissary.
Cornelius Van Horn, another of the first settlers is still living, now at the advanced age of ninety-five. His body and mind, however, have both become very frail, and his recollection of things cannot now be relied upon; the old man, a few years since, commenced a narrative of his life, but the manuscript remained unfinished, and, unfortunately, was commenced so late in life, that but a few of the prominent events of his history in early life were remembered by him, and recorded. And in these his memory had evidently failed him as to dates.
There are two libraries of some magnitude, in this county. The principal is the one attached to Alleghany College, which contains from seven to eight thousand volumes, of books, pamphlets, &c., embracing many standard works of great value, and comprising volumes on literary, historical, and scientific subjects, in nearly all
the ancient and modern languages.
The other library is that connected with the Theological Institute, and containing between two and three thousand volumes. In the private library of Mr. Frederick Huidekoper, one of the professors in this school, is a work printed in 1475, and entitled, "Sermones Aurei Sancti, quos compilavit Leonhardus de Utino." The mechanical exe- <page 151> cution of the work, which is a large book, and bound literally in boards, is quite creditable to the artists of that age. President Stebbens, of the same institution, has in his private library a work of similar character, printed in 1519, each chapter of which is commenced with an illuminated or embellished letter. It is a large book, with the same kind of substantial binding as that mentioned above.
In the library of Alleghany College are also some works of very great antiquity.
There are three newspapers now published in this county, the "Meadville Gazette," "Crawford Democrat," and "Meadville Republican." The first newspaper published in the county was commenced in 1805, as mentioned on page 131.
I know of no works published in the county illustrating its literary history. The poetry has generally been of a fugitive character, and, with other compositions on literary and scientific subjects, has found its way to the public through the ordinary channel of the newspapers.
A Mr. Say appears to have collected some fasts relating to the history of this and other counties in the state, and published a work, of which a small number of copies only <page 152> appear to have been struck off. It is out of print, but I have not learned why.
I do not know of any civil trials which have taken place in the county involving principles of general interest, that are worthy of note. Among the subjects of criminal trials, but two persons, convicted of homicide, in the county, have suffered the highest penalty of the law. The first a native of Quebec, of the name of Van Holland, who, while serving in the army in the West Indies, received a coup de soleil, which affected his mind permanently; he wandered out to this county, and in the winter of 1815-16, while sleeping over night in a cabin, he arose in the night and murdered the man at whose house he was staying, with an axe. The man's wife and child escaped from the cabin, and concealed themselves for the night under a bank of a ravine, where they nearly
perished from cold. Notwithstanding a good deal of cunning and adroitness practised by Van Holland to escape,
he was at last captured by his pursuers, tried, and convicted. He was a man of great physical power, and at one
time nearly made his escape from <page 153> prison by bending with his hands the iron bars under the hearth in his room. At the time of execution, he pushed the deputy employed by the sheriff from the scaffold, and endeavoured to jump upon him, but was frustrated in his design by the rope, which prevented him from jumping so far. The man subsequently died from the effect of his fall.
After Van Holland's death, letters were received requesting a suspension of execution, if not inflicted, in order that he might give some explanation of a murder committed in New Brunswick, in which it is supposed he was implicated. He was a man of very respectable connexions, and was no doubt partially deranged.
The other person punished capitally, was David Lamphier, who killed a constable with the stroke of an axe, while attempting to arrest him. It was a hasty act, without premeditation, and a foolish warning previously given to the constable to keep away from him led principally to his conviction.
There are many traces of Indian inhabitants still met with throughout the county. There were originally two circular forts about a mile below the present village of Meadville. The one in the valley, on the farm of Mr. Taylor Randolph, and the other a quarter of a mile below, on the bluff point of a high knoll, where a small stream puts into the creek, or now into the canal. The plough, and annual tillage of the soil, have now destroyed them. There was also a mound still to be seen a short distance above <page 154> the fort, which stood in the plain. It is now nothing but a smooth eminence, some two or three feet high, and extending from north to south, some fifteen or twenty feet, and about twice as much from east to west. It is described, however, by Mr. Esaac Randolph, one of the oldest settlers, on whose farm it stands, as having been composed originally of two mounds, connected by a narrow neck between them. The material of one of the mounds, he represents as having been of gravel, and the other of alluvial earth. The ground around the mound is alluvial, without stone, and it is evident the material was carried from some distance to construct the mound, as there was no ditch or excavation near it, from which it could have been taken. The mound stands some thirty rods from the stream, where gravel is abundant.
The fields in the neighbourhood abound with small pieces of Indian crockery, resembling common
earthenware, except that it is not glazed, nor so well burned.
In ploughing in the neighbourhood of the above mound some years ago, an Indian grave was discovered, covered with a large stone, under which, among the bones, were found some interesting relics. Among the rest, some sharp instruments of agate or other hard stone, shaped in the form of a segment of a circle, from three to five inches long, and having one edge, and the points very sharp; they were probably used either for surgical
instruments, or for tattooing, &c. Indian arrow-heads of flint, and axes of greenstone, are frequently found in the flats along the creek, and occasionally the remains of pipes for smoking, carved out of stone. A small idol, carved in the form of an owl, out of soapstone, was found a few years since, and is now <page 155> in the cabinet of Mr. Frederick Huidekoper, in Meadville. A small turtle, either a petrifaction, or a relic of Indian sculpture, has lately been discovered in excavating for a furnace on the Big Sugar Creek; it is now in the possession of Mr. J. Russell, at Russellville, in Venango County. The fossil is a siliceous stone, and was unfortunately and wantonly broken by the labourers who exhumed it; the pieces, however, have been obtained and preserved by Mr. Russell. The head and front part of the body are entire; the head a little distorted, but very distinct. From a hasty inspection I had of it in passing Mr. Russell's, a few days since, I should be inclined to believe it a specimen of Indian sculpture, and an idol of the Delaware, or some other tribe of Indians, who regarded the turtle as sacred. [See Note VII.]
The most perfect of the Indian fortifications in the county, is a circular fort, still in a tolerable state of
preservation, which stands on a point of land projecting into the Pymatuning Swamp, in North Shenango
township. The area of the fort includes some two acres of ground, now covered with large timber. The
breastwork is about three feet high, and the fosse from two to three feet deep; there are from four to five places of
egress from the fort, where there are intervals in the ditch. The breastwork has probably originally been fortified
with a stockade, and the portals occupied with gates. On the land side, or the side opposite to the swamp, is
another breastwork, some twenty or thirty yards from the fort, and now less distinct.
In the interior of the fort, there are a great number of places where there is a slight depression in the surface, as though a hole had been dug some two feet in diameter. In excavating in these places the ground had a burnt look <page 156> and among the earth are small pieces of charcoal, indicating that these holes have been receptacles for fire, and were probably made use of in cooking. On the top of the breastwork trees are now growing, one of which, a white oak, measured more than ten feet in circumference. In the neighbourhood of the fort are Indian graves and remains, that have not yet been explored. I hope to make a further and more satisfactory report at a future day, to the Society on this subject.
The Pymatuning Swamp, in the vicinity of this fort, is a subject of interest to the geologist. From ten to twelve miles long, and from a half to two miles in width, it has every appearance of having once been a lake whose bed has been gradually filled up with the accumulation of vegetable matter. Covered with the cranberry vine, with occasional clumps of alders, and islands of larch and other timber, the subsoil is so loose that a pole can be thrust into it from ten to twenty feet. Ditches that have been cut through it, for the purpose of draining, exhibit fallen timber below ground, and the dead stumps of trees still standing in place, show, by the divergence of their roots,
that the surface of the soil is now from two to three feet higher than it was when the trees were standing and
This swamp was the home of the last beaver that was caught in the county. It is probable that the present marsh was a shallow lake at the time the above fort was occupied by the Indians.
I am not able to give the signification of many of the Indian names, of which, unfortunately, too few have been preserved. The dialect of the Pennsylvania Indians appears to have been much softer than that of the New Eng- <page 157> land tribes, and the names imparted by them to mountains and rivers, much more euphonious. Cussewago, the Indian name for a creek in Crawford County, signifies "big snake," probably from the sinuosity of its course, though tradition says it was named so from a blacksnake seen on its banks. Coneaut, the name of a lake, signifies "snowplace," and may get its origin from the snow which remains on the bosom of the lake, after having thawed away in the spring from the adjacent lands.
Alleghany, in Delaware language, means "great warpath." Monongahela signifies "muddy water." Ohio, "beautiful water;" the Indian pronunciation was something like Ho-hee-yu; the river of this name, with the Indians, extended above Franklin. Connewango signifies "the dead water is above," it being the outlet of Chautauque Lake.
I have not, as yet, been able to obtain anything under this head, except the narrative of incidents in the life of General Hugh Mercer, which is herewith transmitted. [See Note V.]
Mr. Joseph C. J. Kennedy has an ancient copy of a letter written by a prisoner in Fort Du Quesne, a copy of which he will no doubt furnish to the Society, with other matters which I believe he intends shortly submitting.
I might mention, under this head, that Mr. Frederick Huidekoper has in his possession a visiting card of Colonel George Washington, which was devised to him by a son of the late Honourable Henry Shippen, in whose family it had been preserved. It is simply a plain piece of pasteboard, except that the ends are gilt, with the name and <page 158> title written on it, as above, by Washington himself. Mr. James Allison, of Beaver County, is also in the possession of an original letter of attorney of General Washington, written by himself and framed in the clear and business-like manner characteristic of its author.
When at Warren, a few days since, I met with an old parchment, in the possession of Mr. Robert Falconer, of Sugargrove, which purports to be a declaration of trust, dated the 27th February, 1799, and executed by Herman Le Roy, William Bayard, James M'Evan, of New York, and Thomas Morris, of Ontario, setting forth that they had in their hands certificates of certain three per cent. stocks, of the interest of which they were to pay $250,
annually, during his life, to the Indian chief Cornplanter, and after his death, to his family. This document is now the property of Charles O'Bail, the oldest son living, of Cornplanter.
Cornplanter was a half-breed Indian chief (whose father was a white man, named O'Bail); he was a man of great integrity, and the firm friend and ally of the whites. He died a few years since, aged upwards of ninety. He had testimonials of friendship signed by Washington and Jefferson which he valued highly, and preserved with great care.
I have met with nothing under this head, except what is here before narrated. Any of the persons referred to will cheerfully permit the Society to take copies, and would no doubt aid in the obtainment of them if desired.
N O T E S .
Among the Indians, the first white settlers found, as mentioned on page 114, several prisoners who had been captured during the revolutionary war; among them were Lashly Malone, taken at Bald Eagle, below Milesburg; Peter Krause, taken on Duncan's Creek, near the head of the Monongahela, in Virginia.
Elijah Matthews, taken at Grave Creek, in Ohio; Nicholas Rosencrantz, the son of a minister, and Nicholas Tanewood, taken from the Mohawk; the former was subsequently a caption in the army.
Matthews, Rosencrantz, and Krause, were married to squaws, and when the first settlers came to the county, the two former had children eight or ten years old. When the Indians left the country they went with them.
The Indian chief, Stripe Neck, spoken of on page 125, was a very aged Mohawk chief, who lived in the year 1789, on the west bank of French Creek (near Kennedy's Bridge), where he and his family occupied three small cabins. When the old man died, he was buried by the settlers on the south bank of the creek, near the present residence of Mr. Samuel Torbett, Jr. This mark of attention did much to secure the good will of the Indians
residing here towards the settlers. The grave was disturbed a few years since, in the building of a tannery for Mr.
The files of the Crawford Messenger, alluded to on page 132, have since passed into the hands of Mr. Joseph C. G. Kennedy.
In Alden's Alleghany Magazine, page 249, the population of the townships in Crawford County, for the year 1816, is estimated as follows:—Mead Township, taxables, 300; Wayne, 105; Oil Creek, 91; Bloomfield, 28; Rockdale, 127; Venango, 112; Cussewago, 94; Beaver, 66; Coneaut, 64; Sadsbury, 135; Shenango, 165; Fallowfield, 126; and Fairfield, 100; total, 1513. Computing about five inhabitants to each taxable, would give the population of the county at 7,565.
Meadville, the county seat, was originally planned in 1790, by General David Mead; but the plan was enlarged and matured in the year '95 by Major Roger Alden and Dr. Thomas R. Kennedy. The plot for the town was divided into seventy-five squares, by-streets, alleys, and lanes. One square, called "The Diamond," laid off in the form of a parallelogram, measuring three hundred feet east and west, by six hundred feet north and south, was designed for public use. On the east side of this square now stands the court-house, a large and commodious brick building, erected in 1825, and planned by Mr. Strickland, of Philadelphia. On the west side stands the Episcopal church, a neat brick edifice, in the Gothic style, from a plan by Bishop Hopkins, of Vermont. And on
the south is the Unitarian church, a brick building in Grecian style with Doric columns, from a plan of Captain George W. Cullum, of the United States Army.
In 1817, Meadville contained about eighty families. The population at the present time, 1846, is about two thousand.
The first minister of the Gospel, at Meadville, was the Reverend Joseph Stockton, lately of Pittsburg, now deceased; who was settled over the Presbyterian congregation in 1801. He removed to Pittsburg in 1808, and was succeeded by the Reverend Robert Johnston, now living at the forks of the Yougheogany River.
INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF GENERAL HUGH MERCER.
General Hugh Mercer was born in Scotland; his father was a Presbyterian clergyman, and educated his son Hugh. for a physician. <page 161> After he had competed his studies, he received an appointment, and sailed for several years as surgeon, aboard of an East Indiaman.
About the year 1750, he emigrated to America, landed in some port in Maryland, and entered in partnership with Doctor Ross, of Bladensburgh, an eminent physician. A few years after, he moved to East Conococheage, now Franklin County, near Greencastle; where he remained in practice of medicine until after Braddock's defeat. The Indians then began to murder the frontier inhabitants of Pennsylvania, at which time there were raised several companies of troops, by the government, and placed at stations of forts on the frontiers. One at Auchwik, named Fort Shirly, commanded by Captain George Croghan and Doctor Hugh Mercer, his lieutenant. Soon after, Croghan was appointed superintendent of Indian affairs, with the rank of colonel, and Mercer succeeded to the command. Shortly after this he marched with his company, under Colonel John Armstrong, to attack Kittaning, an Indian town, noted for its chief or head man, Captain Jacobs, who, with many other of the Indians, was killed, and the town burnt. During the battle, Captain Mercer received a gunshot wound in his right arm, which shattered the bone; he was sent to the rear under the protection of a small guard, and unfortunately missed joining the main body, when they retired, after the destruction of the town. The guard was attacked, and all were killed except Mercer himself, whom the Indians observed to be wounded, and passed, expecting to get him on their return; but while the Indians were destroying the guard, Mercer hid himself in a thicket of hazel so as to elude their search, although they were often very near to him. When they were gone, he set out for the nearest settlement, and wandered for two weeks without any sustenance or support, except a rattlesnake which he had killed. In the mean time, his wound had become maggoty for want of proper dressing, and, to add to his suffering, his shoes were worn out and his feet much injured. He at length reached Fort Shirly, where he found a few roasting ears of corn that had been left by a scouting party of rangers, who had been in pursuit of Indians. From thence he proceeded to Lancaster, for the cure of his wound. When he <page 162> reached that city, he was so emaciated by pain, starvation, and fatigue, that his former most intimate acquaintances did not recognise him. After his recovery, he was appointed to the command of two companies, stationed at Shippensburgh, in a garrison called Fort Morris, and continued there until the campaign opened against Fort Du Quesne, when he was appointed to the command of a new regiment, called New Levies, added to the two former regiments raised by the province of Pennsylvania, commanded by Colonel J. Armstrong and E. Burd, and served three campaigns under Generals Forbes, Stanwix, and Moncton, against Fort Du Quesne; and when it was evacuated by the French, and the regular troops retired into winter quarters, Colonel Mercer was left commandant at Pittsburg, and remained until a general peace was concluded, when he removed to Fredericksburg, in Virginia, and settled in a very extensive practice of physic, until the beginning of 1776, when he was appointed a Brigadier General by Congress, in the Revolutionary army. He commanded a brigade at the capture of the Hessians at Trenton, and soon after fell gallantly fighting, at the head of his troops, at Princeton.
The above narrative of incidents in the life of General Mercer, is by Doctor William Magaw, who died at Meadville about twelve years ago. He was surgeon of the ninth Pennsylvania regiment, and his oath of allegiance is dated at Valley Forge, on the 11th day of May, 1778.
Since writing the foregoing, I have understood that a copy of the Alleghany Magazine has been presented to the Society, by Mr. Frederick Huidekoper, through Mr. Tyson.
Two of the relics spoken of on page 154, are in the possession of the family of Professor Andrew Norton, at Cambridge, in Massa -<page 163> chusetts. Similar instruments, made of volcanic glass, from Mexico, are said to be in the collection at the Athenæum, in Philadelphia.
To the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the foregoing imperfect sketch of the early history of the County of Crawford is respectfully presented, by
Meadville, September 12, 1846.