Through the courtesy of Anna K. Rupert, Saltsburg's efficient librarian, I am in possession of the first installment of "Early History of Indiana County," written by J.L. Allison for the Indiana Evening Gazette in May of 1931. I find it most interesting. Very few people care to follow the line of a surveyor's instruments or to read dry statistics, so we'll try to give the human side of that history, with a minimum of dry data. It is interesting to note that beautiful, picturesque Westmoreland County was 30 years old before Indiana County was born. The former was established by an act of the Legislature in 3 B.D.I. (which, translated, means three years before the Declaration of Independence). So very much happened in those 30 years. Through prolonged and painful travail the great United States was born, men of destiny arose, who have become immortals. One of these, whose greatness is hard to measure, was Thomas Jefferson. By a stroke of pure genius he secured the valuable "Louisiana Purchase" from France in 1803. And that was the year that Indiana County came into being. Judging from Mr. Allison's brief stories, Indiana county was well named. I like to think that the old, winding road from Saltsburg to Clarksburg, and points north, was once an Indian trail. The first white settler in Indiana County was George Findley, who had come to Derry Township, Westmoreland Co., in 1764. The next year he chose a tract of land in what is now West Wheatfield Township, in the extreme southeastern part of Indiana County. This selection was made by the "Tomahawk Right." He would make frequent visits to his land and remain as long as the Indians would allow him to remain in safety. He had cleared about ten acres when the Revolutionary War began. During the war he abandoned this land, but returned to it afterward, and continued to live on it except when forced to flee to Fort Ligonier, to escape the ravages of the Indians. As you know, there were certain sections of land in Pennsylvania set aside to redeem depreciated currency. Other tracts were set aside as donations or pensions to soldiers. The applications and grants of these parcels of land make odd and amusing reading today. For instance: "No. 2390 - George Brown hath made application for Three Hundred acres of land on the Black Lick, to the left hand of the old Indian path leading from Ligonier to Kittanning. Dated at Philadelphia this 3rd day of April, 1769." Indiana was organized as a county in 1805. George Clymer of Philadelphia, a land owner, gave 250 acres of land for the use of the county. Three acres in the town of Indiana were given for a courthouse. All have been sold but the two lots on which the courthouse and jail now stand. The first courthouse was built in 1808 and 1809. Mr. Allison tells of an interesting incident in the old courthouse: A negro, who had been a slave and had escaped, was living in Indiana. His former owners, or their agents, apprehended him and were about to return him to Virginia. His friends instituted habeas corpus proceedings to test whether an escaped slave (Anthony Hollingsworth) could be returned to his master under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1794. Judge Thomas White was on the bench, and he ordered the negro set free. ****
Now the allotted space is filled for this week, but more at another time. Let's have some human interest stories from you, my dear readers, that make up the interesting tapestry of life in Western Pennsylvania.
Florence B. Taylor
2907 Hampshire Rd.,
Cleveland Hts., 18, O.
P.S. That mysterious word in last week's column "Jeovanic," was supposed to be "Jeavonic," meaning that Ina and I loved to emulate Irene Jeavon the elder.
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