History of Bedford and Somerset
EARLIEST SETTLEMENTS IN
In dealing with the question of the early settlement of Somerset county we are largely dependent on the oral traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation in the families of the original and earlier settlers, whose descendants yet live in the original and earlier settlers, whose descendants yet live in the county, for there is a great dearth of written or documentary evidence.
With the frailty of human memory, these traditions, as time passes and the generations of men come and go, become fainter and more uncertain, and at last they entirely fade away in to the mists of the dim past. It may be truthfully said that whenever an aged person dies, whose whole life has been spent in a community, at least some part of the local history of that community passes away with him.
When it is remembered that our inquiries must reach back into the distant past for a period but little less than a hundred and fifty years, it will readily be seen that the story of many things that would be of interest and worthy of preservation has been lost or has become so vague and uncertain that no use can be made of it. It is true there may not be so much scarcity of tolerably well authenticated accounts of occurrences relating to our early history, but dates are often unknown and uncertain. Usually it is a most difficult undertaking anywhere to obtain dates relating to local history. Our pioneer forefathers seldom kept diaries, or made a written note of their neighborhood happenings. They had little time for such things, and, besides, they probably never thought that away on in the future, among their descendants, there would be any who would take a keen interest in every act of theirs, the knowledge of which may have filtered through the passing years down to their own times.
records in the court house of the county are in many instances useful in
confirming some dim tradition, some old woman’s story, or they may help fix a
date near which time some event or other must have taken place.
Some information may be had from the assessment records as preserved in
the commissioners’ offices of
other words, the title often consisted in the settler being in actual possession
of lands within certain metes and bounds that he himself had marked.
These titles, as among themselves, were usually respected, although the
actual title to the lands still remained in the Lords Proprietary (the Penns) or
later in the commonwealth. It is,
therefore, a fact that lands had been held and occupied for many years, and even
had been bought and sold, before either the warrants for the surveys or the
patents for the land had passed from the land office.
Indeed, these are farms all over
the finding of a name in the survey book is not always to be accepted as
positive proof that the party had ever himself settled in the county.
For, even in those early days, the land hunter (as he must be designated
to distinguish him from the home seeker, for he was not seeking a home for
himself, but keeping well up with the advancing tide of settlers) was ever on
the lookout for choice tracts of land, on which he obtained patents in the hope
of gaining a profit therefrom from the increased value given by them by the
settlement of adjacent lands. Among
these speculators who thus acquired lands in
earliest permanent settlements were made: 1st. In the Turkeyfoot
region, and under this name to be included what is now
is quite probable that hunters and trappers had established their camps at
favorable points in different parts of the county, thus preceding the actual
settlers by several years. This
certainly was the case so far as the
It can hardly be doubted that some, at least, of the first permanent settlers were induced to come into these parts by the accounts that these hunters and trappers gave of the country. It is also known to a certainly that some of these hunters themselves took up “improvement rights,” as they were called, and became permanent settlers with the other first settlers.
Taking up the Turkeyfoot settlement to begin with, and having for authority the report of the commission of which the Rev. John Steele was the head, we have the names of nine settlers who were living in this region as early as March, 1768. As already stated, their names were Henry Abrahams, Ezekiel DeWitt, James Spencer, Benjamin Jennings, John Cooper, Ezekiel Hickman, John Enslow, Henry Enslow, and Benjamin Pursley. It is claimed that there were still others whose names do no appear on this list. In any event, its correctness must rest on the accuracy of the information which the commissioners said they had received from the man Speer. While Steels’s report fixes the date at which theses settlers were here, there is also some documentary evidence that some of them were here several years earlier than the date given in this report.
Of these settlers named by Steele, Henry Abrahams located on the point of land situated between the junction of the Youghiogheny and Castleman’s rivers. In all, he would seem to have had 225 acres, but apparently in four parcels, all contiguous to each other. Some time about the year 1798 one Archibald Irwin laid claim to a part of this land, this resulting in a law suit.
A certified copy of the survey was procured from Daniel Broadhead, surveyor general of the commonwealth, with an accompanying explanatory report made by Alexander McLean, deputy surveyor general, from which it would appear that McLean must have been on the ground two or three times, and that the first survey contained sixty-six acres. The draft shows the improvements, viz.: “1. Represents the first cabin built by Henry Abrams, in 1765. 2. The second cabin built in 1769. 3. His latest dwelling house. 4. James Spencer’s house near the first cabin he lived in. 5. The dwelling house of Henry Abrams, Jr. 6. Represents the orchard, consisting of 132 beautiful bearing apple trees, a few that have been injured excepted.” To quote further:
dotted lines represent the bounds of his claim under the 66 and 100 acre
warrants, the former of which is dated back to the time of Abram’s settlement,
viz.: to 1765, and includes all the
improvements yet made in the bounds of the whole tract except a few trees that
appear to have been cut down near the old cabin and a quantity of rail timber
that has been cut and split this winter and are yet on the ground.
deception mentioned in the caveat is simply this: The sixty-six acre warrant he
thought would include the improvements, and, considering himself under
obligation to date his interest with the time of his settlement, he took the
warrant for no more than would secure the best of the land, and, a few acres
excepted, the residue will only be serviceable for range or timber, as the hill
is so steep that it will be impracticable ever to till the sides of it, and the
top on which a tolerable field or two may be made is totally inaccessible but by
digging a road to it. And he
thinking it hard to pay so much interest for land of so little value has
followed the example of many others to get it as cheap as he could. * * * The
rivers are so large that I have not thought proper to cross them, the middle
fork being from 80 to 130 yards wide and the west branch from 100 to 150 yards
plat also refers to other well seated lands over the river between the forks of
the Cattleman and the North fork (Laurel Hill creek).
Archibald Irwin’s location is mentioned as across the river.
James Spencer’s location was the point between the Middle fork and the
North fork. The lands of John Pursley and Robert Plunket are mentioned as
adjoining. There is no date on this
draft other than the date of its certification by the surveyor-general,
have dwelt on this survey at some length because it furnishes the earliest known
date for any improvement in
land covered by this survey has in later years been known as the Jacob Starner
farm, and is in what we now know as
Abrahams must already have had a family of well-grown boys at the time of his
coming into the Turkeyfoot region, for in the first assessment made for Brothers
Valley township (1771), which then took in all the territory west of the
mountain, we find the name of Gabriel Abrahams among the single freemen, and
within a few years later, that of Henry Abrahams, Jr., and others of the same
surname. In 1779 we find that Henry
Abraliams was a first lieutenant in the First
Battalion of the organized militia of
Spencer, whose first cabin is marked on the Abrahams draft, located on the land
between the junction of the Castleman’s river and the Laurel Hill creek.
While he must have been here as early as Abrahams was, as in 1772 he had
twenty-one acres of cleared land, which was above the average, he did not have
his land surveyed or patented until 1786. It contained about two hundred and
fifty acres, and is called “Good Fane”
in the patent. In 1798 he
sold the land to Captain William Tissue, who up to that time had been living in
Elk Lick township. Some time before
his death Captain Tissue sold the land, one part to his son, Isaac Tissue, and
the remaining part to William Tissue, Jr. It
is this part of the land that afterward became the site of that part of the town
to the most reliable traditions of the
Pursley most probably settled on land that is now in
to John Enslow and Henry Enslow, their places of settlement cannot now be
located. So far as
DeWitt, Hickman and Cooper, named in Steele’s report, nothing is known.
As to the man Speer, from whom Captain Steele derived his information
concerning these Turkeyfoot settlers, he most probably is the same as Jacob
Spear, and probably was one of those permitted to locate along the military road
by authority, and at that time had been here several years.
Jacob Spear received a warrant for a survey that bore the date of
Other very early settlers in the Turkeyfoot region, as we glean from the earliest assessment lists made after Bedford county was first formed, were William Greathouse, George Drake, Nicholas Friend, Thomas Green, John Friggs, Richard Hoagland, John Pursley, Danes Pursley, James Pursley, Robert Plunket, Martin Keever, Michael Keever, John Reed, Thomas Stanton, Jacob Ropel (or Rupel), Henry Brown, John Mitchell, Andrew Friend, Augustine Friend, Charles Friend, Henry Smith. Some of these names are found on the first assessment, that made in the fall of 1771, and all of them within a couple of years after, and there must have been others, but up to 1783 Turkeyfoot township extended to about a dozen miles north of Somerset, and until Milford township was formed, reducing old Turkeyfoot to what is now Upper Turkeyfoot, Lower Turkeyfoot and Addison townships, it is no easy task, so far as these lists are concerned, to identify any particular names with the Turkeyfoot region proper. But after Milford was cut off, comparing the names still left on the Turkeyfoot list of 1783 with the older lists, a goodly number of names are to be found as have been in these parts as early as 1771, 1773 and 1774. But it is not to be understood that the list that is here given comprises all of them.
John Friggs is mentioned by Rev. Captain Steele in his report as have been a guide for Harris and Wallace, whom the trespassing settlers of that period had charged with being engaged in spying out the land for speculative purposes.
Plunket’s land joined the Henry Abrahams lands, and was therefore in
name Pursley is also in some of these old lists, spelled Pusley and Busley.
John, James and Danes Pursley may have been sons of Benjamin Pursley, who
was one of the trespassing settlers, and they may also have lived in what is now
Hoagland must have been a very early settler, his land being on the east side of
the Youghiogheny river. He also had
a large tract that lay on both sides of the Braddock road.
The assessment of 1772 returns him as having seventy-one acres of cleared
or improved land. This is nearly
four times as much cleared land as any one else had who was then living in what
is now Somerset county, and it certainly indicates a number of
years of previous settlement. It
is not unlikely that he was one of those who were permitted to locate along the
Braddock road under sanction of the military authorities, who did this sometimes
because it was of some advantage to have at least some persons settled along the
road. And he may have found it to
his profit to clear and cultivate so much more land than others did by reason of
having a ready sale for its product to those who were at all times passing over
the road. He must also have been a
man of some reputation, for we find that in 1773 he was commissioned a justice
of the peace, the second to be commissioned in what is now
Mitchell, the ancestor of a family that is still well known in our own day, was
in this region as early as 1773, but we are not able to give the precise
location. When his name first
appears on the assessment list it has the word “Doctor” written after it.
If he really was entitled to this appellation, then he was the first
Green family were a noted family in the early days of the Turkeyfoot settlement,
and at least three generations of them are buried in the Six Poplar graveyard,
near Harnedsville, among them three Richard Greens – father, son and grandson.
John Green, one of the family, was killed by Indians near the Cheat
CAPTAIN ANDREW FRIEND, PIONEER AND INDIAN FIGHTER
Andrew Friend, one of the early pioneers who settled in the Turkeyfoot region,
was a noted hunter and Indian fighter. According
to the best accounts that we have of him, his ancestors had settled in the
Friend and his brother Augustine are supposed to have been sons of one or other
of these two brothers. While yet
young men, Andrew and his brother, being of an adventurous turn, and at the same
time enthusiastic hunters, hearing of these mountain fastnesses full of all
kinds of game, went to the mouth of Will’s creek, or Fort Cumberland, as it
was better known, and which was then considered one of the most advanced of the
frontier settlements. From there
frequent excursions were made into the mountainous regions to the westward.
This, of course, was in a region forbidden to white men, and those who
entered it did so at their own peril, and it may be expected it did so at their
own peril, and it may be expected that the Indians did not look upon trespassers
with too friendly an eye. It may even have been during the period of the
one of these excursions, which it is said was largely made for the purpose of
exploring and viewing the country, occurred an incident which has given the
Negro mountain the name by which it is now known.
At the head of quite a party of hunters, Andrew Friend started on this
trip into the western wilderness, its purpose carrying them much farther into
the wilderness than usual. Coming
to the confluence of the three rivers, as the tradition has it, they followed
the river as far as Ohio Pyle. They
found the woods full of game, such as deer, elf, wild turkeys, to say nothing of
panthers, bears and other animals of that kind.
So far they had encountered no Indians, and were not molested by them
until some time after they had set out on their return, when they were attacked
by a considerable party of savages. Just
where the attack commenced tradition is silent, but Friend and his party
continued their retreat toward
With the party was a Negro, who most likely was a servant of Captain Friend, as he certainly had come from a slave-holding community. This negro, by all accounts, must have been a powerful man and of gigantic stature. Like all of the part, he was armed, and displayed great bravery in aiding to repel the attacks of the Indians. Exposing himself somewhat recklessly late in the evening, he received what was found to be a mortal wound. This was some distance up the mountain. His comrades would not carry him off with them, and this he himself saw, and, believing that he would die at any rate, he urged them to leave him where he was and continue their retreat. This Fiend was unwilling to do, as he did not wish to abandon him in this manner. So he determined to remain with him. One other man, whose life Friend had on a former occasion saved, volunteered to remain also. During the last halt that had been made Friend and this man got the dying negro off the trail, and concealed themselves in the dense underbrush, while the remainder of the party, still pursued by the Indians continued their retreat.
negro was in great pain, and just before daylight death came to him.
In the bottom of the a hole left by the roots of a fallen tree a grave
was hastily dug by the help of sticks, knives and hatchets, and he had a
reverent burial, uncoffined save by the hull of a rotten chestnut log that had
been used to shelter him from the rain that had fallen during the night.
The leaving him in his mountain grave, they continued their flight.
The Indians were still on the mountain.
In the early morning they could hear them imitating the call of the wild
turkey-a lure often used to draw any one toward them who might be in the
woods-but Friend was too war a hunter to be deceived in this way. With
difficulty and after several narrow escapes Friend and his comrade succeeded in
eluding the Indians and reached
Friend and his brother Augustine both became settlers in the Turkeyfoot region
at a early day, and the names of both appear as land owners on the first
assessment lists that we have. Augustine
Friend, after remaining here some years, went further up the Youghiogheny river
and settled in what is now Garrett county,
On one occasion, in the owner’s absence, a settler’s cabin had been plundered and burnt. While it be known that the perpetrators were Indians, still they could not be located. The next day Friend happened to see an Indian on the hillside on the opposite side of the river. He was carrying a looking-glass on his back, and it was the reflection of the sun on the glass that had first attracted Friend’s attention. Raising his rifle he fired at the glass, putting a hole both through it and the Indian. The glass had belonged to the settler whose cabin had been burned, and the Indian was without a doubt one of its destroyers, but on several occasions afterward Friend was heard to express regret that he had shot him on purely circumstantial evidence.
On another occasion some Indians had come into this or some neighboring settlement, burned a number of cabins, and carried off several persons as prisoners. Word was sent to Friend, and hastily organizing a party he started in pursuit of the savage marauders. It was in the winter season, with snow on the ground. The weather being cold, after three or four days had passed in a fruitless attempt to overtake them, some of the men in his party became discouraged and desired to give up the chase and return home, but Friend prevailed on them to continue the pursuit until evening, promising that if they did not overtake them by night, or at least be very near them, they would return home in the morning. Before night they came upon the body of a man who had been scalped, apparently skinned alive and his body tied to a tree. This sight so incensed the men that they needed no further urging, but declared their purpose to follow them until overtaken. They continued the pursuit through the night, and near daybreak came on them, and surprised and killed the entire party, save one, who escaped.
The Indians had learned to know and fear Friend, and made several attempts to capture him. On one occasion, while hunting in the woods, he had just shot a wild turkey. Two Indians suddenly sprang at him from a cover. They had guns and could perhaps have shot him, but his gun was then empty, they thought that they might capture him alive, and had they succeeded it is easy to see what his fate would have been. Friend was a swift runner, and started off at his best speed, with the Indians close behind him. For a while he held his lead, but one of his moccasins becoming untied, he began to lose ground, and the Indians gained on him. They also knew that they were driving him toward a precipice, and parted, so as to keep him from avoiding it. Friend also knew this, but kept on at his best speed, intending to jump or get down in the best way he could, but as he neared it he saw that a large tree had been blown down in a recent storm. The Indians were quite near and sure of their man, and one of them called to him, “Anny, got um, got um, now stop,” but by a mighty jump he cleared the trunk of the tree and found himself at the bottom of the precipice, with only a few bruises. He went back to the place a hew days later with some of his neighbors, but did not care to repeat the jump. The loose moccasin was lost in the jump, and picked up by the Indians as a trophy. It is said that a good many years afterwards one of them, then a very old man, showed it to a hunter, and told him how he came to have it, his story being substantially correct except he was so near him that he thought he could catch him by the foot, and tried to do so, but only caught it by the toe as “Anny” cleared the log, the moccasin remaining in his hand.
Some time in the month of September, 1773, when he was away from home with a party of scouts in pursuit of some Indians who had committed some depredations in the neighborhood, word came to the little settlement in the evening that it would probably be attacked before morning by a much larger band of savages, and who would burn and destroy it. Captain Friend’s wife was alone with two small children in a field of high corn. Here she remained all through the night, momentarily expecting to hear the savage warwhoop. In the very early morning she heard a noise, evidently made by a body of men, and for a time she thought that the Indians had at last come, but presently they proved to be her husband and his party of scouts. He also had learned of this anticipated Indian attack, and had hastened his return to put the women and children into a place of safety. All were at once taken to the stockade fort that had been erected for such emergencies, but fortunately the Indians did not make their appearance. In this fort that night was born Captain Friend’s daughter Diana, who when she grew up to womanhood became the wife (and a good one) of that John Mitchell who afterwards was known all over that part of the country as “The Squire.”
Captain Friend is also said to have commanded a company of rangers during the war of the Revolution. It has already been stated that he was as noted a hunter as he was an Indian fighter. Some time after he had settled here, one morning, when out hunting with James Spencer, a neighbor, they discovered a herd of eight or ten buffalo on the opposite side of the river, on what is now known as the Reid farm, and near where the present dwelling house now stands. One of these, a fine, fat young bull, they shot, the rest escaping. It is also said this was the last buffalo killed, and the herd the last one seen in these parts.
Captain Friend was popular among those who knew him, a genial, kind-hearted and generous man, never quarrelsome or contentious, without any frills or fringes except on his buckskin hunting shirt. He was of a modest and retiring disposition and not given to talking to himself. He was also a man of fair education for those days. He was rather tall and slim of figure, very strong, active and wiry and of unusual agility. He had a very quick eye and was a good marksman. He was also well versed in woodcraft. Even in his old age he was straight as an arrow and always carried himself erect. When eighty years old he would occasionally relax his habitual dignity, and would amuse himself and his grandsons by sunning whipsaws with them. He was a manly man, a true gentleman, one of Nature’s noblemen, and among the many things told of him around the firesides in the community is which he lived so long, on one has ever made a single accusation of a single mean or dishonorable act. His integrity, patriotism and bravery were unquestioned.
wife of Captain Friend was a sister of Captain Oliver Drake, one of the
Of these daughters, Diana was the one who was born in the fort or stockade. Her husband, John Mitchell, Esq., was a son of James Mitchell, who also was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, and a comrade of Andrew Friend. Their children were Levi, James, Andrew, Joseph, John, Jesse and Hiram Mitchell, Elizabeth (Darrell), Diana (Ross), Mary Thayer), and Cynthia (Ross). The late Thomas Kyler, who himself attained the age of eighty-four years, lived in the family of Diana Friend Mitchell, and said he was always treated as one of the family, and never tired of relating his reminiscences of good Mother Mitchell.
writer does not know the precise time of Captain Friend’s death.
It is known that he sold his farm or land to David Ankeny in 1793.
On this land it would seem that he had never taken out the patent, the
deed reciting that
Very many of the old Turkeyfoot families, such as the Mountains, Tannehills, Hyatts, Oggs, Abrahams, Jennings, Rosses, Rushes, McNeals, Spencers, Skinners, Mitchells, Brookes, Reams, Tissues, Heimbaughs, Colborns, Moon, etc., can rightly claim relationship to him.
neighborhood about the
have spread far to the eastward of the fine country beyond the Allegheny
mountains-a country that was well watered, and which, while covered by forest of
many kinds of timber, also possessed a fertile soil, on which, when cleared,
everything might be raised: a region wherein fish, game and wild animals
abounded almost without number; and with all these advantages, it had a climate
healthful and delightful. A
pleasing picture indeed to these people, who had become tired of the sandy
wastes and the thin soil of the country in which they then lived.
Taking council together, a number of these people determined to emigrate
to what to them appeared as a new
the spring of 1770, placing their slender belongings, with their women and
children, on ox-teams, bidding farewells to such of their kindred who remained
behind, with brave hearts they left the sand hills of
may be said to be the sum of the traditions relating to the coming of these
particular settlers. It is further
said that in al there were some eighteen or twenty families of them, the heads
of which were Robert Colborn, David King, Oliver Drake, William Rush, Andrew
Ream, Reuben Skinner, John Mitchell, John Hyatt, William Tannehill, James Moon,
Edward Harned, David Woodmancy, John Copp, John
McNair, Joseph Lanning, William Brooke, Jacob Strahn, Obadiah Reed, and William
Lanning. Some accounts include the
Mountains, Morrisons and William Tissue, as well as
the names of Benjamin Jennings and Hickson, but as
these last two are mentioned in Captain Steele’s report, they could not have
come with the main party, although they also may have originally come from
Ream (the name is also spelled Rhim) settled on and improved the farm which
afterwards became the site of the present town of
David King went up the Laurel Hill creek, where he selected his land, and where in later years he built a grist mill that is still known as King’s Mill. Descendants of David King bearing the family name are still to be found in the county, and one of them served a term as state senator
Colborn selected his land beyond where Draketown now is.
The place is still known as the Robert Colborn farm, and the family name
is one that still well known in these parts.
Oliver Drake settled on the land where Draketown now is.
He undoubtedly was a leading man in this pioneer settlement.
Soon after coming into the country he built a grist mill, which so far as
we have able to learn was the first built in these parts.
John Mitchell, said to have been one of these early
Lanning located on what is now known as the Lichty farm, and it is on this farm
that the famous
Jon McNair’s place was between Harnedsville and the “Hog Back.” Fruit trees said to have been planted by him are still growing wild in the woods.
William Tannehill located his land above where Draketown now is. It has always remained in the Tannehill family, and some of them are now living on it. Tradition has it that Tannehill found a settler or squatter on this land; in consideration of a gallon or two of whiskey and a grubbing hoe he consented to vacate it
Rush lived on the farm that we in our day know as the Minder farm; it is above
the town of
John Hyatt’s farm was on the hill above Confluence, in the direction of Draketown. This name also is one of those names of the early settlers that still has it representatives here.
Jacob Strahn (or Strahan) settled on the Kuhlman farm of the present day, and which lies not far from Ursina. The modern spelling of this name appears to be Strawn. William Brooks’ place was above Ursina. Obadiah Reed, John Copp and Reuben Skinner all settled on farms in the north of Draketown. Reuben Skinner was commissioned a justice of the peace in 1783.
Woodmancy, named as among the
These settlers had to suffer all the hardships incidental to pioneer life everywhere, but with strong arms and stout hearts they went to work and cleared their lands. In time the first cabins that had been hastily raised to shelter themselves and families gave way to better houses, and still later they were able to surround themselves with at least some of the comforts of life.
These settlers, with those who had come in from other parts, had come to stay. While they were at times harassed by Indian war parties, and sometimes were compelled to take refuge in the forts and blockhouses that they had erected for their safety, we have no account of their ever having been run out of the country.
There were at least two of these forts or blockhouses, one being at the point of junction between the Castleman’s and the Youghiogheny rivers, the other where Ursina now is. It is more than probable that these forts, as they are called in the traditions that we have of them, were really stockades; that is, built by cutting timbers of the proper length, setting them up on end and embedding them in the earth to a depth of three or four feet, leaving the timbers some ten or twelve feet above the ground. They usually were of an area large enough to contain a house or two for sheltering the women and children who might be compelled to take refuge there. Sometimes, however, they were blockhouses built of heavy timbers, usually two stories in height, the upper one projecting over the lower one and pierced with loopholes. We have no definite information as to the manner in which these particular defenses were built.
Quite a number of these early settlers whose names have here been given participated in the Revolutionary war, some of them serving in the Continental line, others in the organized militia, or as rangers for the defense of the frontier. These will be referred to elsewhere in these pages.
That these early settlers were a God-fearing people goes without saying, and we may assume that they brought their religion into the wilderness when they came, for here was organized the first known religious congregation in the county, and which has a written history that dates back to the year 1775.
all of the names that we have given as being those of these first
[Source: The History of Bedford and Somerset Counties by Blackburn and Welfley, published in 1906. Transcribed and donated by Batha Karr <email@example.com>. ]
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Last Revised: April 13, 2013