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Mifflin County Genealogy Project
A Short History by Cynthia Rosenberry
Located in south central Pennsylvania, Mifflin County encompasses 431 square miles, or 275,840 acres. While much of the county is mountainous and nearly 60 percent is forested, the county still has a thriving agriculture industry with the strongest emphasis on dairying. The county is bisected by the Juniata River.
As early as 1731, English traders visited the Juniata Valley traveling upon the Indian paths. They were driven away from settlement by the many hostile Indians living in the area. The village of Ohesson was home to over one hundred Shawnee and Delaware Indians where Lewistown now resides.
Map of Indian Territories (larger view)
From History of that part of the Susquehanna and Juniata Valleys, embraced in the counties of Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Union and Snyder, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:
"The Juniata Valley region was purchased from the Indians July 6, 1754. Settlers had been intruding on this land before this date, and were driven away, but they returned. At length, in 1750, the justices of Cumberland County, with the under sheriff passed through Sherman's, Path and Tuscarora Valleys and the Cove in Fulton County and dispossessed the intruders. It was at last determined to purchase this region as the only sure method of averting serious trouble. This was effected on Albany, at the date above given. A great many men in the Cumberland Valley and farther eastward were ready, at the signal, to locate upon the more desirable places."
Settlement and Ethnic Division
The first settlers in PA were mainly English, one of which was William Penn, a Quaker, who in 1692 established a colony reputed for it's religious freedom: Pennsylvania. Three counties were founded that year: Bucks, Philadelphia, and Chester.
In the 1720's, a flood of Scotch-Irish and Germans began to arrive. At first the Scotch-Irish settled in what became Lancaster County in 1729 but by the 1730's they had reached the Cumberland Valley with concentrations in Carlisle, Chambersburg, and Shippensburg. Within a half century, the number of immigrants to the area reached the hundreds of thousands. Following the trader routes and Indian Paths, the immigrants would have pushed farther west but William Penn was friendly toward the Indians and would allow no settlement until the lands were legitimately purchased from the the indigent populous. In 1742, a dispute arose between the Germans and Scotch-Irish which was the beginning of a term of discord between the two nationalities so that the governing body of Pennsylvania took the opportunity In 1755 (immediately after signing the treaty with the Indians) to establish a policy of encouraging and enforcing a separation of Scotch-Irish from Germans. The Irish were told to leave Lancaster Co. and move on to York and Cumberland Counties. Wherever they settled, the governing bodies were encouraged to keep the two nationalities separate to avoid further conflicts in the future. (See 15 Hazard's Register, p. 81.)
Scotch-Irish Presbyterians settling in the Mifflin County area formed the following congregations:
1767 East Kishacoquillas - Brown Township, near Reedsville
1768 Wayne (Holiday's Mill/ Andrew Bratton's) - Bratton Twp., McVeytown
1773 Derry (Capt. William Armstrong's) - Lewistown, Derry Twp.
1774 West Kishacoquillas - Menno Twp., Belleville
In 1990 the county's church membership was approximately:
Catholic - 2,107
Methodist - 7,483
Lutheran - 4,055
Christian - 46
Jewish - 0
Mennonite - 4,880
Migrations, Evacuations & the Indian War
New lands purchased greatly increased the boundaries of Cumberland County (Mifflin's parent county) so that by 1754, there were 15 townships. Settlement of these townships was rapid between 1730-55 however afterwards, the Indian Wars of 1755-64 had a dramatic effect following Braddock's defeat in July of 1755. After this there was nothing to stop the Indians as they joined with the French and began attacking settlers of the Cumberland Valley within months. The province established nine forts within two years to respond to the new threat. In the area of Mifflin County, Fort Granville was based in Lewistown. In what would later become Juniata Co., (then still part of Mifflin Co.) was the privately established Fort Bigham. Few of these private forts in the surrounding counties existed with the exception of Franklin County containing twelve.
Circumstances became harsh for the settlers during this time. Mifflin County and other dangerous areas were emptied by 1756 when the settlers were either killed, captured, or fled closer to more densely populated areas -some never to return to the Mifflin Co. area. Peace rested briefly between 1758-63 until attacks began again near present Franklin County under Pontiac's leadership. By 1765, peace resumed and settlers returned to the evacuated areas and farther west as far as present Huntingdon Co. In 1777, Indian attacks began again but although many were killed along the edges of Cumberland Co., few fled this time with the exception of the area now Centre Co. which was completely evacuated. Toward the end of the war, things got much worse before they got better. Several of the winters were especially severe and taxes inflated ridiculously up until the war's end in 1781. Mifflin County was established 1789 and named for Thomas Mifflin, a man of Scotch-Irish descent who was born in PA, was the first governor of the Commonwealth under the Constitution of 1790, and was a Revolutionary War hero.
Juniata County was created on March 2, 1831, from part of Mifflin County and named for the Juniata River which runs through both counties. The Indian name "Juniata" is said to mean "people of the standing stone."
The Logan Guards of Mifflin Co. were among the first to respond to President Lincoln's call for volunteers to put down the rebellion at Fort Sumter.
During the Civil War, some residents of Mifflin County were known participants in the Underground Railroad, helping the enslaved from the south escape to freedom:
Johnston, Wm. B.
Maclay, Dr. Samuel.
Nourse, Rev. Joseph.
Many men and boys of the area fought in the Civil War, although the threat of invasion never reached Mifflin Co. having been turned at Gettysburg.
Mifflin County PAGenWeb
Josie Baughman, Mifflin PAGenWeb County Coordinator
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This page was last updated 01/05/2018