Crawford County, Pennsylvania
History & Biography
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I N C I D E N T S
E A R L Y H I S T O R Y
CRAWFORD COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA.
BY ALFRED HUIDEKOPER.
Meadville, August 1, 1846.
In reply to the circular received last year, from the Society, I would say that, though a native of the county, I am too young to be acquainted personally with its earliest history, but have employed my first leisure time in procuring such information as I could, from the most authentic sources within my reach. But few of the first pioneers to this county are now living, and but a small number of those who do survive have minds which have stood the wear of time and infirmities of age sufficiently to retain and describe, with satisfactory clearness, the events of early life.
In doing justice to one of them, at the present time, I should say, that many of the facts hereinafter related, I have gathered from the lips of Mr. Edward Randolph, now (with the exception of Mr. Cornelius Van Horn) the oldest settler in the commonwealth, west of French Creek. Though young at the time, Mr. Randolph took a prominent <page 114> part in the first settlement of the county, was occasionally employed by the officers of government, and had otherwise an opportunity of becoming well-informed about its early history. For fifty-seven years he has lived in this county, forty-nine of which have been spent upon the farm where he now resides, about two miles west of Meadville. Tall, erect, venerable, and active, his vigour at the age of seventy-four, adds another to the many instances of a hardy constitution, acquired by exposure in youth to the vicissitudes of a border life. When I called upon him, I found him at work alone in his sugar camp, and while seated on a log in front of his boiling-kettles, recounting his reminiscences of past events, he seemed indeed an appropriate historian of times when men's homes were the open air, and their whole stock of furniture and iron vessel like the one before us.
That part of the state of Pennsylvania which is now called Crawford County, was separated from the county of Alleghany in the year 1800, and was first explored by white American citizens, with the view of making a
permanent settlement, in the year 1787. North of it, at Lebœuf, the French, and south of it, at Venango, the
French and English, had previously had military posts, and a few white men were found by the first pioneers
residing among the Indians, by whom they had been captured during the revolutionary war, and whose manners
and habits of living they had adopted. (See Note I.)
(1787.) The first persons who visited the county to examine its character, with the intention of occupying it, were David and John Mead, who, escaping from the diffi- <page 115> culties they had encountered, in the conflicting claims between Connecticut and Pennsylvania, left their homes in Northumberland, in the summer of 1787, and, traveling westward, explored the valley of French Creek.
They found the soil rich and productive, and many of the finest portions of the valley covered with herbage and grass, the forest trees having apparently been long previously removed by some prior occupants of the county, giving to the cleared portions, at this time, much the appearance of a natural prairie. Prepossessed with the looks of the county, the Meads, on their return, made a favourable report, and in the spring of 1788, a small company, consisting of David Mead, John Mead, Joseph Mead, Thomas Martin, John Watson, James F. Randolph, Thomas
Grant, Cornelius Van Horn, and Christopher Snyder, started from Sunbury, with the intention of making the valley of French Creek their future place of residence.
Van Horn and Snyder arrived at Sunbury, from New Jersey, about the time that Mead and his comrades were preparing to leave, and they united themselves with the party. They reached French Creek, as appears by a memorandum kept by Van Horn, on the 12th day of May, and encamped and spent their first night under a large cherry tree east of the stream, near where now stands Kennedy's Bridge. The next day was spent in exploration, and the party then moved across French Creek above the mouth of the Cussewago Creek, and erected a temporary structure to live in. They then commenced ploughing in one of the old Indian fields, with four horses to the plough, and after breaking up some eight or ten acres, <page 116> they planted them with corn. A freshet in the stream soon after destroyed their crop, and it was replanted again in the month of June.
In the selection of farms, Thomas Grant chose the tract on which Meadville, the county seat, is now situated, but for some reason left it again in the fall, and returned to live in Northumberland.
The same autumn, David and John Mead brought out their families. John chose for himself a farm west of the creek, about a mile north of what is now Meadville, and David selected at first the tract immediately south of his brother, but soon after removed to the tract Grant had left, and built his cabin on the east bank of the stream, in what is now the north part of the village bearing his name, and where at present stands the tasteful residence of Mr. William A. V. Magaw.
On the tract which Van Horn had surveyed for himself stood an old Indian cabin, on the west side of the creek, into which he moved, and remained until October; during this month, he received a visit from Archibald Davison, Archibald's father, and Jacob Van Horn, who spent about a week with him, and then all four returned to New Jersey.
(1789.) In this year Frederick Baum, Robert Fits Randolph, and Darius Mead, the father of David and John Mead, brought out their families. Sarah Mead, a daughter of David Mead, was born during the same season, being the first birth in Crawford County (as now organized). A saw-mill was commenced to be built, by Matthew
Wilson, for David Mead, and was completed the following year. In the fall, Cornelius Van Horn made a second
visit to <page 117> French Creek, and remained until Christmas, when he returned to New Jersey.
(1790.) In the spring of the following year (1790), the saw-mill having been finished, the little colony, with characteristic enterprise, assumed the importance of an exporting community, and the first raft of boards that ever descended the Alleghany River, was taken from this mill, and, together with a raft of logs, was run to Pittsburg. The hands on board were, Edward Randolph, John Ray, William Wilson, James Randolph, Frederick Baum,
Tunis Elson, and John Gregg. The lumber was sold at one dollar and fifty cents per hundred, to Major Isaac Craig, quartermaster in the army at Pittsburg.
A canoe loaded with baggage and provisions, for Meadville, had been pushed up the river, by James F. Randolph and Joseph Mead, as early as 1788.
In October (1790), Cornelius Van Horn, in company with Thomas Lacey, Peter Colsher, and Matthew Colsher, having with them a wagon and two horses, left New Jersey, and set out for Cussewago, by the way of Philadelphia and Pittsburg. At the latter place, the wagon was sold, the horses put out for the winter, and the party ascended from thence to the Cussewago in a canoe. During the whole of this year, the colony seems to have been undisturbed, and the settlers worked in peace upon their farms.
At the time of its first occupation, Crawford County appears to have been a kind of boarder or neutral territory, between the eastern Indians or Six Nations, who had made treaties of peace with the whites, and the western
Indians, who still remained hostile. The nearest settlement <page 118> or village of the eastern Indians, was that of Cornplanter, on the Alleghany River, at Tinneshantago, a word which, in the Indian dialect, signifies, "burnt town," the village having been once destroyed by fire, by order of General Brodhead. The nearest settlements of the western Indians were at Cuyahoga and Sandusky. The neutral ground was occupied principally by nomadic parties of Indians, who lived by hunting, and a few Indian families, who had cabins along the valley of French Creek, and at the mouth of the Coneaut Creek, in Ohio. Among the latter, living at the mouth of Coneaut Creek, was an Indian chief of the name of Canadaughta, to whom, and his three sons (Flying Cloud, Big Sun, and Standing Stone), the white settlers were indebted for many acts of kindness, and friendly protection, bestowed upon them on their first arrival in the west.
(1791.) About the first of April in this year (1791), Flying Cloud gave notice to the settlers on French Creek, that the western Indians (Wyandotts, Shawanees, &c.) were meditating an invasion. Immediate preparation was made for the approaching attack. On the second day of April, all the women and children were collected and sent in canoes down French Creek to the garrison at Franklin, a small military post established in 1787, under the care of Captain Hart. In connexion with this incident, and the deeds of blood perpetrated by the western Indians which followed it, it is pleasant to record some of the strongly marked acts of kindness shown to the settlers by the Indians who were friendly.
On the occasion referred to, Halftown (a full-blooded Indian chief, and a half-brother to Cornplanter), of whose fidelity the early settlers speak in the emphatic language, <page 119> that he was as true a man as General Washington, sent six of his warriors on each side of the stream, to keep pace with the canoes, and guard them against an ambuscade and attack from shore.
Halftown then placed himself at the head of his remaining force, amounting to some fifteen warriors, and with the white settlers who had remained, lay in wait during the whole day, on the east bank of the creek, at a fording-place (now Kennedy's Bridge), in expectation that the hostile Indians (of whom eleven had been seen by William Gregg in the morning, on Davis's Hill, four miles below) would select that as the most convenient place for crossing the stream. The day being spent without any further appearance of the enemy, the Indian chief and his men passed the night at the house of David Mead, a double log cabin, before alluded to. The next day, the settlers took their cattle and movable effects, and left for Franklin. They progressed but six miles, and encamped for the night on the east bank of the creek, opposite Bald Hill, in one of the old prairie-like clearings. On the fourth of April, they reached Franklin in safety, having been accompanied the whole distance by Halftown, and his men. Mr. Randolph, who was along on the occasion referred to, and who was otherwise well acquainted with
this chief, in describing his personal appearance speaks of him as having been about five feet ten inches high, well
made, with an unusually good countenance, indicating great intelligence and most unwavering firmness.
The garrison at Franklin was commanded at this time by Ensign John Jeffers, from Connecticut. Two old and well-known citizens of Crawford County, Samuel Lord <page 120> Esq., and John Wentworth (now both deceased), were soldiers under him, and had assisted in the construction of the fort, in 1787.
The year of '91 was one of danger and anxiety to the western settlers in Pennsylvania. About the first of May, Cornelius Van Horn, Christopher Lantz, William Gregg, and Thomas Ray, voluntered to leave the fort at Franklin, and return to Meadville, with their guns in their hands, and endeavour to put in a crop of corn. To do this, it was necessary that Van Horn should first get his horses from Pittsburg; and accordingly he went after them. In returning, he was obliged to follow a wild path through the woods, from Pittsburg to Venango, and he describes his ride as lonely, desolate, and disagreeable. Crossing the Slippery Rock Creek the first day, he encamped for the night in a deep ravine. He had obtained some bread and two pounds of butter at Pittsburg, out of which he made his supper, and then threw himself on his blanket to sleep with his gun by his side. Shortly afterwards, he was awakened by the crackling of the fire, and found that, spreading among the dry leaves, it had communicated itself to his butter. In his endeavours to extinguish the flame, his hands were so severely burned, as to prevent him from sleeping any more for the night. At daybreak he found that his harness was much injured by the fire, and that the horses he had turned out to browse had wandered away, so that it was ten o'clock before he was able to find them, and resume his journey.
The second day, he progressed as far as Sandy Creek, and slept again in the woods. On his route he encountered one Indian, who was on his way to Slippery Rock, and <page 121> whose good will he endeavoured to gain by sharing with him, from his bottle and his remaining stock of bread. On the third day, he reached Franklin in safety, where he found the officer, with about twenty-five of his men, preparing to set out in a few days for Erie.
On the fifth day of May (Christopher Lantz being too unwell to accompany them), Cornelius Van Horn, William Gregg, and Thomas Ray, having returned to Meadville, went to their field to plant it with corn. They worked during the morning, Van Horn ploughing, and the others planting until noon, when Ray and Gregg returned to their cabin for dinner, leaving Van Horn ploughing alone, they engaging to bring his dinner to him. Shortly after they left, Van Horn, who had laid his gun on the bag of corn, at the end of the furrow, observed his horses to appear frightened, and on turning round, discovered two Indians running towards him. The foremost one threw down his bow and arrows, knocked off Van Horn's hat, and drew his tomahawk to strike. Van Horn, who, though short, was a stout-built man, seized the tomahawk and held it with such force that the Indian could not wrest it from him. The second Indian, having laid down his gun, now came up, and endeavoured to get a stroke with his tomahawk, but Van Horn managed to keep up so much action, and to throw the other Indian so frequently between himself and the danger, that he could not accomplish it. Van Horn pleading for his life, the Indians conferred a moment together, when one of them, who spoke English, after cautioning him with an oath to make less noise, told him they would spare him, and that he might go with them. The Indians commenced
unharness- <page 122> ing the horses, but Van Horn requested them to take the gears along, promising to plough for them. They took each a horse, and Van Horn ran between them. Crossing the Cussewago near its mouth, and going west, up a ravine, for about a quarter of a mile, they came to where two other Indians were waiting for them on the hill. Here the Indians inquired of Van Horn the situation of the settlement, and on learning how things stood, three of them took up their arms and went back, leaving the remaining one, an elderly Indian, in charge of the prisoner. After remaining about three quarters of an hour, the Indian put Van Horn on one of the horses, while he rode the other, and they pursued a dim Indian path until they came to Coneaut Lake. After crossing the outlet they dismounted. The horses were fettered so that they could not escape, and the Indian then tied the rope, which confined the arms of his prisoner, to a tree, and left him; going back upon the trail, it is supposed, either to fish in the lake or to watch if they were pursued. When left alone, Van Horn, who had given up his knife and powder-horn to the Indian who had captured him, began to search in his pockets to see if he could find any instrument to escape with. He fortunately discovered a small toy knife, which he had picked up the day before. It was deplorably dull, but, after whetting it on the key of his chest, and sawing awhile, he succeeded in cutting off that part of the rope which confined him to the tree. He immediately ran down the outlet, crossed it, and after struggling through the swamp, succeeded in making his way eastward, until he came to a path leading up French
Creek, which he followed until he reached a small nursery of apple trees he had planted near Kennedy's <page 123> Bridge. Finding the nursery full of weeds, and apprehensive if the fire got among them that his trees would be injured, he commenced weeding, as well as he could with his arms fettered. He had been at work but a few minutes, when he heard some one call him from across the creek. Fearful of danger, he dared not to answer; but when the call was repeated, he recognised the voice of John Fredebaugh, an old acquaintance. He immediately left his work, and, though the water was deep and cold, he waded through it to Fredebaugh, who conducted him to Ensign Jeffers, who, with thirty soldiers and three Indians, was at Mead's house. Jeffers cut the cord which bound Van Horn, and immediately ordered sentinels to be posted, and sent part of his men to the island for his horses, intending at once to leave for Franklin. The horses were all found but the Ensign's, and he with his men left, leaving behind two Indians and Van Horn, the latter refusing to go, until he had collected some articles he wanted. He passed the night with the two Indians under some oak trees, east of the present village, and in the morning, finding he had nothing to eat, he returned to the field where he had the day before been made a prisoner; and where he discovered, in a basket, the dinner which had been brought out for him the day before, by Gregg and Ray. After breakfast, having succeeded in catching the missing horse of Ensign Jeffers, he put his own saddle upon it, and gave it to one of the Indians to ride, while the other Indian and himself took a canoe, and descended to Franklin by water. The Indian on horseback was not heard of afterwards, and probably took his booty and rode off with it to the west.
William Gregg and Thomas Ray, whom we left going <page 124> to their cabin, after dinner went out to where they had left Van Horn, and found that he was gone, and immediately after discovered the three Indians
approaching them. They retreated, but as Gregg was crossing the Cussewago Creek, near its junction with French Creek, he was shot through the thigh, and disabled for further flight. He called to Ray to assist him. Ray stopped, and the Indians came up. Both Ray and Gregg appear to have been panic-stricken, or they might have defended themselves. The Indians took Greggs gun (their own being unloaded) and shot him with it, as he was seated on the bank of the creek. They scalped and left him, taking Ray with them as a prisoner. They followed the trail of the Indian who had preceded them, and on arriving at Coneaut Lake found their comrade, and learned from him that Van Horn had made his escape; a circumstance which, the Indians told Ray, was entirely in his favour, as they had determined to risk taking with them but one prisoner, and that either he or Van Horn must have perished, if the latter had not eluded them. Indeed Ray, throughout this matter, seems to have had an unusual run of good fortune. After undergoing the usual vicissitudes of Indian captivity on his way to the west, his captors brought him at last in the neighbourhood of a British garrison, near Detroit; here Ray, who was a Scot by birth, recognised one of the British officers (a Captain White) as a fellow-countryman, whom he had seen in Scotland. On making known his situation to Captain White, the latter, with generous benevolence purchased his liberty from the Indians, gave him a suit of clothes, and paid his passage in a schooner to Buffalo. On reaching the latter place, Ray met with a <page 125> Mohawk chief, of the name of Stripe Neck [see Note II], who resided at Meadville, and who
conducted him to Franklin, and from thence he proceeded to join his family at Pittsburg, to the agreeable surprise
of his relatives and friends, who had relinquished all expectation of having him return.
During this season Darius Mead (the father of David and John Mead) was made a prisoner by two Indians, while ploughing in a field adjacent to the fort at Franklin. The Indians conducted him to near the Shenango Creek, in Mercer County, where he was found dead the next day, by a friendly Seneca chief, named Conewyando, who sent his daughter, a young squaw, to the fort at Franklin, to give notice of it to his friends. It is supposed that Mead was killed in an attempt to escape, as by his side, when found, was lying, also dead, one of his captors, whom Conewyando recognised as a Delaware chief, called Captain Bull. Bull was known to the settlers as a professedly friendly Indian, but his fidelity had been suspected. From appearances, Mead, during the night, had got Bull's knife, and killed him with it, but was himself overcome, and killed by the other Indian: the latter is reported to have afterwards died of the wounds he received in the struggle. Two men (Luke Hill, originally from Connecticut, and John Ray, a revolutionary soldier from Northumberland) went out from the garrison at Franklin, and found Mead and Bull lying together as above described, and buried them.
It was also during the month of April, in this year, that seven men were killed in a cabin by the Indians, near Freeport, on the Alleghany River, when Agnes Clark, wife of Richard Clark, made her miraculous escape, with her <page 126> child in her arms, by leaping on the backlog on the fire, and springing from thence over the low chimney of the cabin. This, however, belongs to the history of another county.
These murders, and the frequent alarm of Indians about this time, caused the settlement on French Creek, at Meadville, to be for a time abandoned, and in 1792 no white settlers resided in Crawford County.
(1793.) In the spring of 1793, some of the first settlers, whose apprehensions had subsided, or regardless of the danger, returned to their farms, and about twenty more persons came out about this time, from the
neighbourhood of the Susquehanna. During the course of the summer, notice was received through Flying Cloud, that the western Indians were preparing for another attack, and the county was again deserted until late in the fall and winter, when several persons returned to Meadville. Cornelius Van Horn and Matthew Wilson, in the fall of '92, having obtained a couple of young panthers, took them to the east, and appear, from notes kept by Van Horn, to have exhibited them at Pittsburg, Philadelphia, New York, and, after the intermediate places, finally at Boston, where Van Horn (who had purchased Wilson's interest in the animals at New York) deposed of them, and returned to Meadville.
Ensign Lewis Bond, with a small detachment of twenty-four men, appears to have guarded, during a part of this season, the house of David Mead, which had been fortified with a stockade, to serve as a garrison,—but he and his men were called elsewhere before notice of the Indian invasion was given.
(1794.) In the early part of this year (1794), the set- <page 127> tlers organized themselves into a military company, and Cornelius Van Horn was chosen captain.
A blockhouse was also built for the protection of the inhabitants, in the upper story of which was mounted a cannon. It was a rough log building, with the second story projecting beyond the lower one, and having a sentry-box on top. It was situated east of Water Street, immediately south of the present residence of J. W. Farrelly, Esq., where it remained standing until the summer of 1828, when, in the progress of improvement in the village, it was removed. In the month of May, a small garrison was established at Waterford, twenty-two miles north of Meadville, by Major Dennis.
The farms about Meadville were cultivated this year by the inhabitants, who worked in small companies, ever on the alert to anticipate the danger and avert the evil with which they were as constantly threatened. On the tenth day of August, James Dickson (commonly known, to distinguish him from a namesake, as Scotch Jemmy), while in search of his cows, about half a mile north of the village, on the farm of Samuel Lord, Esq., was attacked by a party of Indians in ambuscade. He was wounded by the first fire of his adversaries in the shoulder, in his hip, and his hand, and while stooping, to see if he could discover any of his concealed foes that he might return their fire, a ball passed through his hat, just grazing the crown of his head. Whereupon the old man, who seems to have been of good pluck, returned them a shout of defiance, exclaiming in broad Scotch, "Come out of that, you rascals, and fight us fair." The Indians showing no disposition to assent to so reasonable a proposition, Dickson commenced <page 128> a retreat for the village. The Indians followed him with tomahawks, their guns being unloaded, but were afraid to approach too near to him, he having retained his fire. The old man insisted to the day of his death, that once, when he was just in the act of firing, a low voice said to him, "Don't shoot;" whereupon he reserved his load, and thereby preserved his life. When Dickson came near to Mead's mill he shouted for help, and was heard
by Luke Hill, who gave the alarm. Flying Cloud, who was here at the time, and three or four men, immediately started in pursuit, and Dickson, wounded as he was, was with difficulty dissuaded by his wife and friends from joining them. The hostile Indians, however, escaped the impending retaliation, by a timely retreat.
Rumours of Indian invasions were rife during the whole of this year; but this appears to have been the only attack made upon the settlers at Meadville.
The wife of Darius Mead died this summer at Meadville, being (except those occasioned by the Indians) the first death in Crawford County among the white inhabitants.
(1795.) The year of '95 was distinguished in Northwest Pennsylvania by the commencement of some improvements of a public and permanent character. In the spring Mr. M'Nair was employed to cut a road from Waterford to Presque Isle harbour. Captain Grubb (since an associate judge in Erie County), Captain Russell Bissell, and Captain Levant, commenced the construction of a fort about the same time on the harbour near Erie. One of the persons employed as carpenter in the construction of this fort, was Mr. James Gibson (now deceased), well known both at Pittsburg and Meadville as the keeper of <page 129> an excellent hotel. The first wagon which traveled the new road cut out by M'Nair was loaded with tools for the fort, and was driven by Mr. Edward Randolph, of whom I have before spoken. Mr. Randolph speaks of crossing, on this trip a bridge built by the French, made of chestnut timber, and said to be forty-five years old, the wood of which was still sound.
The year of '95 was also marked by several sanguinary incursions of the western Indians. Early in June, Thomas Rutledge and his son, a lad about sixteen years of age, were killed by the Indians near the M'Nair road, about a mile south of Erie. The boy when found still showed symptoms of life, and was carried to Waterford, where his wounds were carefully dressed by Dr. Thomas R. Kennedy (now deceased), a physician in Meadville, but he survived but a few hours.
On the third day of June, James Findlay and Barnabas M'Cormick, engaged at the time in splitting rails for John Haling, below Meadville, about a mile west of the present aqueduct for the canal, were destroyed by the Indians. A report of guns having been heard, search was made for them, and they were found where they had been at work, both dead, having been shot and scalped by their savage assailants. Their bodies were brought to town, placed in one coffin, and interred in the Meadville cemetery. On the fifth day of June, the same band of Indians robbed the camp of Mr. William Power, who was engaged as deputy surveyor, in making surveys of tracts in what is now South Shenango Township. James Thompson, the hand who had charge of the camp at the time, was taken prisoner, but subsequently effected his escape. While in <page 130> custody of the Indians, he became aware of the misfortune which had happened to Findlay and M'Cormick, from seeing their scalps in possession of the Indians, which he recognised by the colour of the hair. The scene where Power's camp was robbed is known to the inhabitants at the present day, as the "White Thorn Corner."
For the purpose of establishing a town at Presque Isle, and protecting the frontier, on the eighth day of April, 1793, and again on the eighteenth day of April, 1794, the legislature offered a bounty of a lot and outlot to each of the first two hundred persons who should build and reside for three years at that place. These acts, however,
having failed in their object, were repealed on the 18th day of April, 1795.
The treaty of General Wayne with the western Indians, made on the 3d day of August, '95, and ratified on the 22d of the following December, brought peace, so far as the Indian hostilities were concerned, to the settlements in Northwest Pennsylvania. From that period, this portion of the state began to improve more rapidly, and though its prosperity was checked for a time by the contest which immediately after arose between the actual settlers and the warrant-holders under the act of '92, about the titles to lands west of the Alleghany River, yet the interruption was but brief, and in 1805, the rights of those holding by warrant under the commonwealth, having ultimately prevailed in the United States Court, (which decided that where the warrant-holder had endeavoured to make his settlement within two years, and was prevented by force of arms, or imminent danger from the enemies of the
United States, he was excused by doing so subsequently,) repose <page 131> again smiled upon the west, and no barrier any longer presented itself to the occupancy of the country by that hardy class of men, who, coming from the eastern portions of our own country, or escaping from the over-populated provinces of Europe, became here, on easy terms, proprietors of the soil and found among the hills and valleys of the west abundance of room and a peaceful home for themselves and families.
During the year of '95, the towns of Erie, Warren, and Franklin, were surveyed and laid out by Andrew Ellicott, Esq.
(1802.) In 1802, an act was passed incorporating a seminary of learning in Meadville, and David Mead, James Gibson, with five other persons, were appointed trustees. A brick building was erected for the purpose, which was completed in the fall of 1805, when a school was opened in it, under the care of the Rev. Joseph Stockton, who gave instruction in the Latin and Greek languages, and the common branches of an English education. The building was a one story edifice, containing two rooms; it was situated in the extreme eastern part of the village, where it remained standing for about twenty years, when the lot attached to it was sold to Mr. Arthur Cullum, who removed the academy to make room for a dwelling-house; the trustees have since erected a larger and more commodious building for academic purposes in a central part of the village.
In 1805, the first newspaper in the state west of the mountains was established at Meadville, by Thomas Atkinson and W. Brendle,—the latter, however, remained in the concern only some eight months, when he sold out, <page 132> and Mr. Atkinson became the sole proprietor. The title of the paper was the "Crawford Weekly Messenger," and the editorial leader in the first number, published on the second day of January, 1805, announces the paper to be republican in its politics, but that its columns will be open to all who think their principles or political connexions injured, as freely to the one side as the other, with the wholesome restriction, that the discussions should be liberal, candid, and decent. This commendable rule seems to have observed for the first few numbers of the new paper, but shortly after, when the contest began to increase in warmth between the friends of Mr. Snyder and Governor M'Kean, we find the political essays in the Messenger marked with the same bitter personalities which mar and disfigure similar contests at the present day; such, however, was not the character of the editorial matter. The editor himself was a man of mild disposition.
He continued to edit and publish his paper, until within about four years of his death, which took place in '37. Regular files of this Journal have been preserved, and were devised by Mr. Atkinson to his son, Monroe Atkinson, who still retains them. (See Note III.)
I had hoped from the files of the Messenger to have obtained much relating to the early history of the county; but though it is interesting to look over, as containing the marriages, and deaths, &c., of many of the oldest citizens, to one who was acquainted with them, yet its columns are principally occupied, (as it perhaps is natural they should be,) rather with giving to its readers a knowledge of what was going on in the world abroad, than in communicating <page 133> to those elsewhere, information of what was transpiring in the little community at home.
It appears that in March, 1805, one of the highest freshets ever known to the settlers occurred in French Creek, attended with the destruction of considerable property. In December of the same year we find a statement of the business done on this stream in the salt trade, a business which now, with the improved facilities of
transportation, has been entirely transferred to other channels. During the rise of water in this month, it appears
that eleven flat-boats and six keel-boats passed down French Creek, carrying about 2230 barrels of New York salt, valued at Meadville at $11 per barrel, and worth $24,530, but selling at Pittsburg at $13 per barrel, and amounting there to the sum of $28,990. The revenue that might be derived from tolls in this trade is pointed out by the editor, as an inducement for the opening of a turnpike to Erie. A matter worthy of notice is the contrast between the present price of salt (which is $1 37 per barrel) and that which it bore in 1805, when it sold for eight times as much.
Though out of place, I may mention that I find, in 1805, a farmer in this county, recommending to
argiculturists, as a tried and successful remedy for the smut in wheat, to let the grain for seed become more fully
ripe than that which is used for grinding, a remedy which is recommended as a discovery by some of the agricultural papers of the present year.
At the time the Messenger was first published, the paper on which it was printed had to be brought from Pittsburg on horseback. The mail was carried in the same way, <page 134> arriving once a week, sometimes by the way of Franklin, sometimes through Mercer; and the carrier who brought the foreign news, generally brought with him the paper upon which it was to be republished at home.
The first volumes of the Messenger contain a history of most of the co[n]temporaneous events of any interest; the foreign intelligence, the congressional and legislative proceedings, the impeachment and trial of Judge Chase, and of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania; of the times when the assertion of popular rights was carried far towards the verge of ultraism, and when new social and civil, commercial and political relationships and interests springing up, developed individual character, modified old habits and opinions, and made almost every man in the community a student of law, and an imaginary, if not a real professor, of the science of
On the 13th day of March, 1800, David Mead, and on the 14th day of the same month, John Kelso, received commissions appointing them Associate Judges for the county of Crawford. Thomas Ruston Kennedy was appointed Prothonotary, &c., at the same time, and on the second day of August in that year, the late Hon. Henry Baldwin, was appointed as deputy prosecuting Attorney for the commonwealth. The first court that appears, by the record, to have sat in the county, was held by Judges Mead and Kelso, on the 6th day of July, 1800. The number of suits, appeals, &c., brought to this term, appears to be ninety-five. On the 20th day of December, 1800, William Bell received a commission as Associate Judge, in the place of David Mead, who resigned. And the <page 135> third session of the Court was held at Meadville, on the 6th day of April, 1801, by the Hon. Alexander Addison, President, and the Hon. William Bell, associate judge. The average number of suits and appeals to a term for the first year after the organization of the county, was sixty-five. The average number to a term, during the year 1845, was two hundred and forty-five.
Regretting that so much of the information collected is confined almost entirely to the Indian invasions, which being of paramount importance to the settlers at the time they occurred, are remembered with more distinctness than anything else; the rest of my paper will be occupied with a more methodical reply to the inquiries made in the circular of the Historical Society.