HISTORY OF PERRY COUNTY
S. Wright; 1873
CHAPTER I: INDIANS & FIRST SETTLERS
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"Cumberland county, east of the Kittatinny Mountains, was organized in
January, 1750. It was then believed that a people of a common nationality
should locate in the same settlement, and with such instruction from the
Proprietary their agents sent the Irish, Scotch and English settlers to
Cumberland, and the Germans to York county. When organized Cumberland had
807 taxable inhabitants.
The country north of the Blue Hills was valued by the Indians as their best
hunting grounds, and when in 1740 and '41 their rights began to be invaded by
German and other squatters who had built cabins in Sherman's Valley, and on the
Juniata, their complaints caused the Provincial government to order their
immediate removal and to forbid others following their example. After this
nothing of a decided character was done to prevent settlements until a seat of
justice was established in the North, or Cumberland Valley. Previously
there was no county seat nearer than Lancaster, Lancaster county.
Soon after the organization of Cumberland county, in 1750, it was decided that
all persons living on lands north of the Kittatinny Mountains should be
removed. For this purpose Secretary Richard Peters was sent by the
Lieutenant-Governor, James Hamilton, to remove all persons from the country
north of the Blue Mountain. These people had been warned and advised to
leave in 1748, and now, the 23d of May, 1750, Richard Peters, Matthew Dill,
George Groghan, Benjamin Chambers, Conrad Weiser, Thomas Wilson, John Finley and
James Galbraith, Esqrs., accompanied by the under-sheriff of Cumberland county,
went to the place where Andrew Lycon, George Calhoon, William Galloway an David
Hiddleston had settled, where they found five cabins. Taking all of
the settlers into custody who suffered themselves to be taken, they set fire to
the log cabins and proceeded from thence to Sherman's creek, where they found
James and Thomas Parker, Owen McKeeb, John McClare, Richard Kirkpatrick, James
Murray, John Scott, Henry Gass, Simon Girty, and John Kilbaugh, whose cabins
were also burned. These men were bound in recognizance of one hundred
pounds each to appear and answer for their trespass at the next county court to
be held at Shippensburg.
In order to prevent settlements in the future, or the return to their former
residences of the persons thus driven out, Andrew Monture was licensed to settle
and reside in any place he might judge convenient. He settled on the north
side of Sherman's creek, on the Elliott farm, about five miles from George
Croghan's, who lived on the present Cumberland side of the Kittatinny, near
Sterret's Gap, --Monture's run bears evidence of the location. Frederick
Starr, a German, with two or three of his countrymen, made settlements on Big
Juniata, about twenty-five miles from the mouth thereof, and about ten miles
north from the Blue Hills, at a place much esteemed by the Indians as their best
hunting ground Starr's settlement was probably on the flat ground not far from
the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge across Big Buffalo creek, in Oliver township,
and was in all probability too close to an Indian encampment of the Six Nations.
Lycon, Cahoon, Galloway, Hiddleston and White probably built their cabins in
Pfoutz's Valley, not far from Millerstown, which was then the site of the other
of the only two encampments of Indians within the present limits of Perry
county. These Indians either willingly quitted their homes, or were
forcibly compelled to leave them after the Albany Treaty of 1754. They
afterward settled in the country of the Ohio. By the treaty of 1754 all
the land extending from the Kittatinny Mountains to the Alleghany Mountainswas
added to Cumberland county. There are traces of either a long residence at
Millerstown, or probably a fierce battle which was fought between the resident
Delawares and the immigrating Shawnese.
The location of this conflict was no doubt near the canal bridge, for they were
interred in a wide and deep mound west of the house now the residence of Mrs.
Oliver, and found by the workmen who dug the canal.
These were the only Indian villages on the Juniata in Perry county, owing to the
fact that the river was too much hemmed in by mountains between its mouth and
Newport, and the distance to Millerstown was not great enough for two sets of
people to live nearer, who depended upon hunting and fishing for a living.
The Newport Indians had the celebrated fishery now owned by Robert Mitchell,
Esq., while those at Millerstown doubtless fished from North's Island, below the
rope ferry, westward. The hunting grounds of the former extended along the
Buffalo creek, on the west, and into Buck's Valley on the east of the Juniata.
This is said to have been abundant in deer and smaller game.
The Millerstown Indians had the range of Wildcat, Pfoutz's and Raccoon valleys,
which furnished rich returns of deer, bear, raccoon, turkey, squirrels,
etc. Then the rarest of Juniata shad sported in their greatest abundance
in its waters, while every tributary abounded in the speckled trout and salmon.
Fishing was followed as a business by the early settlers until 1840, during
spring and fall, and yielded large returns. The public works threw dams
across the river, and saw-mills were erected on the tributary streams, thus
preventing the return of the fish in the spring of the year to spawn, and
destroying them by the sawdust. The making of the Juniata canal marks the
era of the downfall of the fisheries. Since then fish-baskets have been
erected below the Millerstown dam, but the Legislature has declared it an
illicit business, and as such only is it now pursued.
Safe from all harm, except the net, spear and hook, it is hoped the fill will
again multiply and fill our waters, as in days of yore.
After the burning of the cabins and binding the settlers in recognizance of 100
pounds each, settlements were made in various parts within the present limits of
Perry county. The arm of the Provisional government could remove the
settlers and burn their cabins, but it could not prevent their returning.
The Indians threatened summary vengeance if the government did not prevent
this. Hence, to satisfy all parties and obviate further difficulties, the
purchase of a large tract of land from the Indians was strongly recommended by
Governor Hamilton. This brought about the Albany treaty, to which allusion
has been made previously, in which it was stipulated that for the consideration
of 400 pounds, John and Richard Penn should have all tract of land extending
from the Kittatinny Mountains east of the Alleghany Mountains. The Indian
chiefs and sachems who were not present at the treaty declared the whole
transaction a fraud, and even those who were present afterward contended that
they did not understand the points of the compass and if the line were to run to
include the west branch of the Susquehanna they would never agree. This
treaty, according to Smith's Laws, vol. xxi., p. 120, included the land where
the Shawnee and Ohio Indians lived, and the hunting grounds of the Delawares,
the Nanticokes and the Tuletos.
On the 3d of February, 1755, the Land Office was opened for the sale of lands in
Sherman's Valley and on the Juniata river. While the sale of these lands
was progressing, General Braddock was moving toward "Braddock's
Field," where British pride and contempt for the advice of experienced
American officers in Indian warfare paid for the dissatisfaction of the savages
a year ago at Albany. This was the longest retreat on record, and well
evinced the leadership of Washington, who so masterly conducted the haughty
red-coats from the scene of their leader's death.
Owing to the fact that Braddock's defeat left the whole frontier exposed to the
ravages of the cruel and merciless savages, very little land was entered at the
Land Office from the fall of 1755 to 1761.
All the settlements north of the Kittatinny Mountains were wasted by the savages
and the improvements destroyed or deserted, and their inhabitants fled to
Cumberland Valley for protection. The settlers of Sherman's Valley, and on
the Juniata, suffered in common with all others similarly exposed. In
Pfoutz's Valley, we have vague accounts of the torturing of white human beings
while the relentless savages held their demoniacal revels around the fagots
which slowly consumed their victims. Such a scene is said to have occurred
around a hickory tree at St. Michael's church, more than a century ago. It
is probable that the same hickory tree which now stands at the corner of the
grave-yard was the one.
In Sherman's Valley Indian atrocity reached the highest degree of cruelty.
Here the well-known savage vengeance was wreaked upon man, woman and child.
From Robert Robinson's narrative we obtain the following: In the year 1756, a
man named Woolcomber, living on the south side of Sherman's creek, not far from
Center, declined to leave his home or remove his family, on the ground that it
was the Irish who were killing one another; "the peaceable Indians"
said he, "will harm no one."
While at dinner one day, a number of Indians came into Woolcomber's house.
He invited them to eat, when an Indian answered that they did not come to eat,
but for scalps. When Woolcomber's son, who was then about fifteen years of
age, heard the Indian's reply, he left the table and walked out of the house
through a back door. Looking back when he was out of the house, he saw an
Indian strike his tomahawk into his father's head. He then ran across
Sherman's Creek, which was near to the house, and as he ran his fears were
confirmed by the screams of his mother, sisters and brothers. He came to
our (Robinson's) fort and gave the alarm, whereupon forty volunteers went to the
scene of the murder and buried the dead. The Indians were never
punished. Woolcomber was a Quaker of the non-resistant kind; one who
relied upon the promise of the Indian orator who assured William Penn,
seventy-four years before that, "the Indians and English will live in love
as long as the sun and moon shall endure," and thus sacrificed
himself and family to his faith in a savage's promise.
In July, 1756, which we are induced to believe was subsequent to the murder of
the Woolcombers, the settlers of Sherman's Valley gathered the women and
children into Robinson's Fort, and went out in companies to reap the
A party of Indians stealthily approached the fort and killed a Miss Miller,
daughter of Robert Miller, John Simmeson, Mrs. Wilson, wife of James Wilson, and
the widow Gibson, and carried with them as prisoners Hugh Gibson and Betsy
The reapers, hearing the firing of guns at the fort, returned home as hastily as
possible, but they came too late to meet the savages, who had made good their
The following is Hugh Gibson's account of his captivity: "At the time
my mother was killed, I was taken prisoner, and suffered much from hunger and
abuse. Many times they beat me severely, and once sent me to gather wood
to burn myself. I was adopted into an Indian family, and lived as they
did, though the living was poor. I was fourteen years of age when I was
captured. My Indian father's name was Busqueetam. He was lame in
consequence of a wound received from his knife, while skinning a deer; and being
unable to walk, he ordered me to drive sticks into the ground, and cover them
with bark, to make a lodge for him to live in; but the forks not being securely
fastened, they gave away and the bark fell down upon him and hurt him severely,
which put him in a great rage, and calling for his scalping-knife, he would have
killed me, but my Indian mother took care to convey the knife away and ordered
me to conceal myself, which I did until his passion wore off, and we did very
well in the future. Some time after this, all the prisoners in the
neighborhood were collected to be spectators of the death by torture of a poor,
unhappy woman, a fellow-prisoner, who had escaped and been recaptured.
They stripped her naked, tied her to a post, and pierced her with red-hot irons,
the flesh sticking to the irons at every touch. She screamed in the most
pitiful manner, and cried for mercy, but the ruthless barbarians were deaf to
her agonizing shrieks and prayers, and continued their horrid cruelty until
death came to her relief.
"At last a favorable opportunity offered to gain my liberty.
Busqueetam lost a horse and sent me to hunt him. After hunting some time,
I came home and told him I had discovered his tracks at some considerable
distance and that I thought I would find him; that I would take my gun and
provisions, and would hunt for three or four days, and if I could kill a deer or
bear, I would pack home the meat on the horse." Thus lulled, the
suspicions of Gibson's real design were not aroused until he had ample time to
effect his escape.
During the year following the murders by the Indians which have just been
related, so many urgent petitions were sent to Governor Morris that he sent a
message to the Assembly, stating that the people to the west of the Susquehanna,
distressed by the frequent incursions of the enemy, and weakened by their great
losses, are moving into the interior parts of the province, and I am fearful
that the whole country will be evacuated, if timely and vigorous measures are
not taken to prevent it.
The Assembly were at first disposed to regard this statement as the mere fancy
of an excited mind, but the news of the horrible savage slaughter coming from so
many quarters, they were induced to pass a bill for raising forty thousand
pounds, but carefully incorporated into it a clause taxing the proprietary
estates. For the reason that the bill contained the odious clause relating
to the proprietary, it was vetoed by the Governor.
The proprietary presented the Governor five thousand pounds about this time,
which were immediately applied to the frontier defense of the colony.
Governor Morris and the Assembly disagreed as to the urgency of protecting the
defenseless frontier settlements from the ravages of the French and Indians
combined. The matter, with the petitions of citizens of Cumberland county,
was referred to the King of Great Britain. The petitioners were heard in
London, before a committee of the Privy Council, Mr. Paris acting as their
agent, with Messrs. Yorke and Forrester as his counsel, and Messrs. Sharp, Henly
and Pratt representing the Assembly.
The committee denounced the conduct of the Assembly in relation to the public
defense since the year 1742, and characterized their militia bill as a flimsy
pretext to exempt persons from military service, rather than to promote and
encourage them to take up arms in defense of their homes.
After considering the report of the special committee, the Privy Council were of
opinion that the Legislature of Pennsylvania, as of every other country, was
bound to support such government and its subjects; that the measures heretofore
adopted by the Assembly for that purpose were improper, inadequate and
ineffectual; and that there was no cause to hope for other measures, whilst the
majority of the Assembly consisted of persons whose avowed principles were
against military service; who, though not a sixth part of the inhabitants of the
province, were admitted to hold offices of trust and profit, and to sit in the
Assembly without their allegiance being secured by the sanction of an oath.
In February, of 1756, a party of Indians from Shamokin came to the Juniata to
Hugh Mitcheltree's who lived near the river. He had gone to Carlisle on
business and got Edward Nicholas to stay at his house until he should return.
The Indians killed Mrs. Mitcheltree and young Nicholas before they left.
From Micheltree's this same party of Indians proceeded up the river to where the
Lukens now live. Mrs. William Wilcox and her son had crossed the river shortly
before and while she was staying for a visit at old Edward Nicholas' house, they
made their appearance, killed old Mr. Nicholas and his wife, and took Joseph,
Thomas and Catharine Nicholas, John Wilcox, (the son who accompanied his mother
over the river), James Armstrong's wife and two children, prisoners. While
committing these depredations in Juniata county, an Indian named Cotties wished
to be captain of this party, but they did not choose him; whereupon he and a boy
went to Sherman's Creek; and killed William Sheridan and his family, thirteen in
number. They then went down the creek to where three old persons lived,
two men and a woman, named French, whom they killed. Cotties often boasted
afterward that he and the boy took more scalps than all the others of the party.
These murders were caused by the French, who offered large rewards for the
scalps of the English which should be brought in by the Indians.
In autumn of 1756, James Bell and his brother agreed to go into Sherman's Valley
to hunt for deer and were to meet at Sterret's Gap, on the Kittatinny
Mountains. By some means or other, they did not meet, and Samuel slept
that night in a cabin belonging to Mr. Patton, on Sherman's creek. The
next morning he had not traveled far before he spied three Indians, who saw him
at the same time. They all fired at each other; he wounded one of the
Indians, but received no damage, except that his clothes were pierced with
balls. Several shots were fired from both sides, each sheltered by the
covert of trees. He now stuck his tomahawk into the tree behind which he
stood, so that should they approach he might be prepared. The tree was
grazed with the Indian's balls and he had thought seriously of making his escape
by flight, but hesitated, fearing his ability to outrun them. After some
time the Indians took the wounded one and put him over the fence, one taking
course and the other another, intending to make a circuit so that Bell could no
longer secure himself by the tree. But in trying to reach these
advantageous positions they had to expose themselves, when he had the good
fortune to shoot one of them dead. The other ran and took the dead Indian
on his back, one leg over each shoulder. By this time, Bell's gun was
re-loaded; he then ran after the Indian until he came within forty yards of him,
when he shot through the dead Indian and lodged a ball in the living one, who
dropped the dead man and ran off. On his return home from the deer hunt,
Bell coming past the fence where the wounded Indian lay, he dispatched him, but
did not know that he had killed the third Indian until his bones were found
In July 1756, a small party of Indians attacked the plantations of Robert
Baskins, who lived near the present railroad station of the Pennsylvania
Central, at the mouth of Juniata river. They murdered Baskins, burnt his
house, and carried his wife and children away with them as prisoners.
Another party belonging to the same band made Hugh Carroll and his family
At another time, the Indians murdered a family of seven persons on Sherman's
creek and then passed over the Kittatinny at Sterret's Gap, wounded a man,
killed a horse and captured Mrs. Boyle, her two sons and a daughter living on
The following is from Robert Robinson's narrative: "From 1761 to 1763
there was comparative quiet and security from the incursions of the
The number of settlers increased rapidly, and much land was secured by location
In June, 1763, the plan was matured for a concert of action among all the
Indians upon every British post, but it was the 5th of July, and Sabbath day,
when they came to the house of William White on the Juniata. It was
harvest time, and the reapers were resting on the floor, when the Indians crept
up close to the door and shot them while in that position. They killed
William White and all his family that were there, excepting one boy, who, when
he heard the guns leaped out of the window and made his escape. The
reapers all escaped through the back door excepting William Riddle. Some
swam the river; others escaped in different directions. Riddle, hardly
conscious of what he was doing, walked toward the front door, where a savage met
him and fired his gun, but the ball grazing him he was fortunately enabled
afterward to escape by flight. This marauding party consisted of ten or
twelve of the Shawnee tribe.
The same band of Indians stealthily approached the house of Robert Campbell and
fired at the persons in the house. James Campbell was wounded in the wrist
and taken prisoner, but there is no authentic account of any person being
killed. Immediately after the Indians had discharged their rifles, one of
them sprang into the house, and with uplifted tomahawk rushed upon a bed on
which George Dodds was resting, but fortunately his rifle was within reach,
which he grasped and fired at random, wounding him in the groin. The
Indians retreated and Dodds went up-stairs and escaped hastily through an
opening in the roof. He went immediately to Sherman's Valley and spread
the alarm. He came to William Dickeson's, who sent a young man to inform
the Elliots, who were then at Edward Elliot's farm harvesting.
This same marauding party of Indians proceeded up Tuscarora Valley until they
came to the house of William Anderson. The old man was seated at the table
with the open Bible on his lap, conducting the evening worship, while his son
and an adopted daughter were around him. They shot the old man and
tomahawked and scalped his son and adopted daughter. Two brothers named
Christy, and a man named Graham, who lived near Mr. Anderson, hearing the firing
of guns at his place, fled and reached Sherman's Valley about midnight.
Their report spread new terror and alarm among the settlers. In order to
save Collins' and James Scott's families, who lived farther up the valley and
had returned to reap their harvests, twelve men volunteered to go over into the
upper end of Tuscarora Valley.
They went by Bingham's Gap, the outlet of Liberty Valley, and reached the valley
early on Monday morning. When they came to Collins' they saw by a broken
wheel and their bark spoons where they had breakfasted on water gruel, that the
Indians had been there, and that there, were thirteen of them. They
tracked the savages down to Jas. Scott's where they had killed some fowls.
Continuing on, they came to Graham's; there the house was on fire and burned
down to the joists. Here the men were divided into two parties, of which
William Robinson was the captain of one and Robert Robinson, the narrator, the
other. These parties made a circuit, but found that the Indians had just
left. They were joined here by the party of eleven or twelve Indians, who
came up the valley. Before leaving Graham's the Indians killed four hogs,
dined heartily and at leisure, being satisfied that there were none of the
settlers west of the Tuscarora Mountians who would pursue them. From this
place the Indians crossed over the Tuscarora into Perry County. The
pursuers took the path by way of Run Gap, north of Ickesburg. The two
paths met at Hickolson's farm where the Indians arrived first, and being
apprised of their pursuers approaching, they lay in ambush for them. They
had the first fire and being twenty-five in number and only twelve white men in
pursuit, they killed five and wounded Robert Robinson. The particulars of
this engagment are given by Robert Robinson, whom we have just mentioned as one
of the participators, as follows:
"William Robinson was shot in the abdomen with buckshot. John Elliot,
a boy of seventeen, fired his gun and then ran, loading as best he could by
pouring powder into it at random and pushing a ball into it with his finger,
while he was pursued by an Indian with uplifted tomahawk, and when he was within
a short distance of him Elliot suddenly turned around and shot the Indian in the
breast, who gave a cry of pain, and turning fled. Elliot had gone but a
short distance when he came to William Robinson, who was weltering in his own
blood upon the ground and evidently in the agonies of death. He begged
Elliot to carry him off so that the Indians would not find and scalp him; but
Elliot being a mere boy found it utterly impossible to do so, much less lift him
from the ground. Finding the willing efforts of this young friend fruitless to
save him from the savages, Robinson said, 'Take my gun, and if ever in war or
peace you have an opportunity to shoot an Indian with it, do so for my sake.'
Thomas Robinson stood behind a tree firing and loading as rapidly as possible,
until the last white man had fled. He had just fired his third shot when
his position was revealed to the Indians. In his hurried attempt to load
again, he exposed his right arm, which received the balls of guns of three
Indians who fired at the same time. He then fled up a hill with his gun
grasped in his left hand, until he came to a large log which he attempted to
leap over by placing his left hand on it; but just as he was stooping to make
the leap a bullet passed through his side. He fell across the log. The
Indians coming up beat him on the head with the butts of their guns until he was
mutilated in the most horrible manner possible. John Graham and David
Miller were found dead near each other, not far from the place of attack.
Graham's head was resting upon his hands, while the blood streamed through his
fingers. Charles Elliot and Edward McConnel succeeded in escaping from the
Indians and reached Buffalo creek, but they were so closely pursued that when
they had crossed the creek and were scrambling up the bank they were shot and
fell back into the water where their dead bodies were found.
This little band of twelve, whose Spartan bravery is scarcely equaled in all the
history of Indian and border warfare, consisted on three brothers Robinson,
William, Robert and Thomas; two brothers Elliot, John and Charles; two brothers
Christy, William and James; John Graham, David Miller, Edward McConnel, William
McAllister and John Nickolson.
After this engagement, the Indians proceeded very leisurely to Alexander
Logan's, feeling their security, no doubt, on account of the inhabitants having
fled to the lower part of Sherman's Valley.
A party of forty men, well armed and disciplined, started for Tuscarora Valley
to bury the dead; but when they came to Buffalo creek and saw them, having
previously heard the reports of the settlers, which doubtless increased the
number of the Indians, the captain thought it prudent to return. In the
meantime the six men who escaped in the engagement at Nickolson's went to
Carlisle, and reported what they saw and experienced, whereupon a party of fifty
volunteered to go in quest of the savages. They were commanded by High
Sheriff Dunning and William Lyon. From the best information that could be
had of the Indians, it was judged that they would visit Logan's to plunder and
kill the cattle. The men were ambushed and in readiness when the Indians
appeared, but owing to the eagerness in commencing the attack by some of the
party, but four or five Indians were either killed or mortally wounded, until
they made their escape into the thick woods, whither pursuit was deemed too
perilous. Previous to this engagement, Alexander Logan and his son, John,
Charles Coyle, William Hamilton and Bartholomew Davis, hearing of the advance of
Sheriff Dunning's party, and was engaged with them at Logan's. In the
engagement at Logan's there was but one white man wounded. The soldiers
brought with them what cattle they could collect, but great numbers were killed,
and many of the horses were taken away by the Indians.
The Indians set fire to the houses and barns, destroyed the growing corn, and
burnt the grain in the shock and the hay in the stacks, so that the whole valley
seemed to be one general blaze of conflagration as far as they went. The
distress of the settlers of Sherman's and Tuscarora valleys can better be
imagined than described. They were reduced from a plentiful and
independent people to real objects of charity and commiseration within the short
space of one week. Carlisle was the only barrier between the frontier
settlers and the merciless savages, and it so crowded that every stable and
shelter in the town was filled to its utmost capacity and on either side of the
Susquehanna the woods were the only shelter of many other refugee families, who
had fled thither with their cattle, and whatever of their effects could be
hastily collected and carried with them.
On the 25th of July, there were in Shippensburg 1,384 refugees from the
settlements north of the Kittatinny, who were obliged to sleep in barns, sheds
and temporary shelters.
To relieve these sufferers, the Episcopal, Christ's and St. Peter's churches, of
Philadelphia, collected an amount of money equal to $2,942.89 in the currency of
the present time, which was expended in supplying flour, rice and medicine for
the immediate relief of the sufferers. To enable those who chose to return
to their homes, two chests of arms, half a barrel of powder, four hundred pounds
of swan shot and one thousand flints, were purchased. These were to be
sold at greatly reduced prices to such persons as would use them for their own
Induced by an offer which placed protection in their own hands, the settlers
returned to their former homes, where they lived in constant dread of the wily
foe until Bouquet occupied Fort Duquesne, on the 24th of November, 1764.
At this time the French and their savage allies were compelled to sue for the
peace, which placed the frontier settlers of Perry and Juniata counties in
conscious security from Indians ever afterward.
Rev. David Brainerd, in speaking of the Shawnese who lived on Duncan's Island,
stigmatizes them as "drunken, vicious and profane." They
journeyed from the south, say their traditions and had no doubt inherited the
vices of the various tribes with whom they contended in their wanderings
northward, and hence, were ever ready to carry out the murderous designs of the
We have just learned what a scourge these Indians were to the frontier settlers
of our own and neighboring counties, but we have scarce given in these pages a
tithe of the suffering they caused, for they prowled about, night and day,
seeking the unsuspecting moment to strike a fatal blow.
The record made by the sons of Perry during the Revolutionary struggle will be
found in chronological order, under "The War Record". It is
worthy of a people who had so recently passed the trials of which these
pages bear a record.
Settlers occupied the lands from time to time in Pfoutz's Valley, along the
Juniata and in Sherman's Valley.
The first land located by order from the Land Office, in Pfoutz's Valley, was by
John Pfoutz, in 1755. He was the first considerable land owner, by any
right, hence had the honor of giving his name to the valley. This valley
was principally a German settlement. The Germans either entered the lands
themselves, at the Land Office or bought them second-hand from the pioneer
Scotch-Irish who moved farther west.
Pfoutz's Valley is still characteristically a German settlement, though there
are many persons unable to converse in any but the English language. For
our fertile soil the German is slowly exchanging his language; his children
receive an English education, in the free schools, without dissent. In
fact, many of our best scholars were the children of German parents.
Pfoutz's Valley has a Lutheran, a Reformed and a Methodist church, with public
worship frequently held in the school-houses.
Although the soil of Perry county was first settled by English-speaking people,
the farming population is now largely composed of German origin.
The first settlement of Wildcat Valley, known as the settlements of the Juniata,
were on the place now owned by James Patterson, by Joshua North, Esq., who owned
a tannery where the stone farm-house now stands. Martin Derr settled the
property on which Capt. Joseph Ulsh now resides. The Jacob Leas property
was located and improved by William North. John Shuman first improved,
though David Miller was the patentee of the land, the Shuman property. He
built the mill which is still known as "Shuman's mill." Conrad
Steiger first settled and improved the property now owned by Henry Martin.
Davy Crcokett settled the farm recently owned by John Marshall. Daniel
Baker made the improvement rights on the farms owned by Henry Nipple and
Benjamin Long. John Sweezy settled the David Sarver farm. John Betz
settled the property owned by Reuben Grubb.
Old Mr. Ellmaker of the third generation, back from Enos and Reuben, who
emigrated to Iowa when young men, and have since removed to the Willamette
Valley, Oregon, was the pioneer settler of properties now owned by David
Buchanan, John Gruff and Wesley M. Cauffman. Charles Wright, Sen., cleared
the farm out of the woods which is now owned by George Wright. The places
mentioned were the oldest settled portions of the valley, and do not date back
further than the close of the Revolutionary War, when many emigrants from the
eastern portion of the State removed west of the Blue Mountains. There are
three churches in the valley, Christ's Lutheran, in Liverpool township, built in
1844; Liberty Hall church, and Wright's church, in Greenwood twp.
Lewis Forge was east of Millerstown, on Cocalamus creek, in Pfoutz's Valley, and
from all we can learn was operated as early as 1800. The old forge hammer,
broken through the eye, still remains in the dried-up race, while the stone
abutment breastwork of the dam, on the east side of the creek, may still be
see. During our boyhood days the cabins were occupied by negroes.
The "old forge" with the legend variously told (the following is the
substance of the various versions) of the Devil's Hole, about a mile
distant, gave our daily cow-hunts an interest, and ofttimes a dread that will
not soon be forgotten.
The legend of Forge Hill has sufficient local interest to claim the following
recital: Before Lewis's forge was in operation, it is related that the
devil contracted with three men to prepare him an underground dwelling, and
secure him a black sheep, without a white spot on it, until he should come to
examine them. A specified time was agreed upon for the completion of this
subterranean abode, for which, and the sheep, the builders were to receive a
half-bushel of silver dollars. The work was completed, the sheep secured
and the laborers awaited the coming of this satanic majesty. Precisely at the
appointed time the devil appeared in the air, showing his cloven foot, to the no
little discomfit of the builders, as he alighted at the open door of his
intended abode. He proceeded to an examination of the building which was
constructed underground of logs, and covered with earth, so that it might appear
at the surface nothing more than an elevation of the summit of a hill, requiring
a sesame to open it. The abode was pronounced satisfactory; when
the sheep was produced with the greatest confidence that it was black enough to
satisfy the requirements. Imagine their utter astonishment when the devil
no sooner saw the sheep than he demanded one of them, declaring that it was not
without a white spot, as agreed upon, and in order to convince the contractors
that such was the case he lifted it from its feet and turned it upon its back,
when, lo, the white spot was there. This so alarmed one of the men, who
was a Dutchman, that he began to cry out: "Heilig Yasu! Heilig Yasu!"
whereupon his insulted devilship departed, taking with him the half bushel of
money, leaving the chagrined builders in a bewildered condition, one of whom it
is said remained insane during the rest of his life.
This is briefly the legend which has been handed down from parents to children,
and firmly believed. It probably had no better foundation in fact than
that this so-called Devil's Hole was a robbers' cave.
As a sequel to the Indian history of this chapter, we present the following
Simon Girty (spelled Girtee in the old records) was born and raised in the
Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania. His parents were Swiss Germans, and were much
addicted to the use of strong drink and gambling, both of which became
characteristics of Simon. It was, doubtless, owing to the fact that Simon
Girty's parents taught him by example these bad habits, and left him no legacy
but one of dishonor, that he forsook the settlements to serve with young Simon
Kenton on the frontiers. He joined the Virginia militia and seemed anxious
to distinguish himself as a soldier. He was disappointed in being promoted
and instead, through the influence of his colonel, publicly disgraced. He
fled from the settlements and took up his abode along with a number of others on
Sherman's Creek, but here he was again followed by the whites, who burnt his
cabin in 1750, and turned him loose to roam the wilds as an outcast under the
bans of the law. He took up his abode with the Wyandotte Indians, with
whom he lived a foe to the whites, more cruel and relentless than his adopted
people. He made frequent incursions from the Wyandotte settlement to the
Susquehanna. He is said to have slept during his stay at Halffall Hills in a
cave next the river in the end of the mountain. He came here for the
purpose of watching the whites at Fort Halifax from the top of this
mountain. The narrow channel in the river at the end of Halffall Hills was
named Girty's Notch. The traveler is reminded of his approach to the notch
as he descends the river by the sign "Girty's Notch Hotel."
The subsequent career of this notorious man is rather uncertain. It is probable
that he was killed by Col. Clayton, in Kentucky. It is related that Girty
stole Clayton's wife from his home while the latter was with Forbes and Bouquet
in the expedition against Fort Duquesne in 1757 and '58. Clayton returned
home after the war to find that his wife had been stolen by an Indian, which he
devined to be Girty, whereupon he pursued the renegade with a savage thirst for
revenge, and finally met the despoiler of this household on "the dark and
bloody soil of Kentucky," where, in a desperate contest, Girty was slain.
Raccoon Valley, Rye township, Cumberland County, was settled by the Blacks,
Nobles and Robinsons, in the order named, from the Juniata.
In this selection certain distinctions gave precedence of location.
Their pastor, Rev. Wm. B. Linn, having the
preference, chose his portion near Robinson's Fort; the father of the Irvin
families, in Saville township, chose their old mansion property; he was joined
by Elliot's on the west and he in turn by a younger man, until we reach the
Robinson, Noble and Black farms in Raccoon Valley, extending to the Juniata
River. This chain of settlements extended more than twenty miles, and
included some of the best and most highly respected citizens of the
county. It is historic for its arrangement o families in chronological
order, as well as the noble record made during every war in which its own or the
general welfare was endangered.
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