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The McGills
Arthur on the Highways—The Teuton Came With Itching Palm, Etc.


Arthur McGill pushed on his hustling way. He was in his element—a free country and a free hand to any conceivable enterprise that promised fair results in public good and private gain. His was a broad culture and he possessed wide, liberal views of men and affairs. His domestic relations were a model of kindest solicitude and love and his doors were open to wayfarers and friends alike with a welcome so hearty and free that it gave zest to his bounteous fare. His heart went out after the poor people of his native land, who were straggling into the wilds to find a home in a free land—a blessing unknown to them for many generations, but for which their souls longed. He picked them up by the wayside and gathered them into his castle by the big spring, fed them, lodged them and journeyed over the hills with them to point out the way, and his place became famed from the Delaware to the Lakes for its unstinted hospitality, especially to people from the "old sod."

As soon as the erection and armament of his fortress was completed he turned his attention to the approaches, and the highways became the dominating object of his energies. The instincts of the old wagon-master were strong within him, he knew the value of a good road and how to make it. His men and teams were at work building bridges and culverts all the way to Lake Erie, corduroying swamps, grading down hillocks and making communication as easy as possible from his home to the great natural channels of commerce and trade. He was not the man to sit down and make plans and drawings and estimate expenses and profits, as Patrick would probably have done, but it was his to take hold and force the barriers and complete the job before the plans were finished. There seemed to be no limit to his force and compulsion of men and material when energetic push was required. It was said of him that he never had any friction with his employes, but had a faculty of inspiring them with his own enthusiasm and zeal in the work which enabled him to accomplish more in less time and at less cost than any contractor on the line.

In 1801 a one-horse mail route was established between Erie and Franklin, which supplied the French Creek valley with mail transportation. In 1806 the route was changed to Warren, and a one-horse route opened from Erie to Pittsburg, and Arthur McGill had the contract of carrying the mail. Arthur, the son of Arthur, the Pioneer, was then a youth of about sixteen years - mounted in the saddle and carried the first U. S. mail over the route. It was from Pittsburgh to Butler - to Mercer - to Meadville - to Waterford - to Erie and return, there being post offices, I think, at each of the points named, and the young postman passed his father's door both going and returning. The route was over one hundred and thirty miles, mostly through woodland and forest. After the completion of the Waterford and Susquehanna turnpike the mail was transferred to that route, two miles east. The mode of transportation was soon changed from one horse to two-one to carry the mail bags, the other the carrier. This method soon gave way to a two-horse conveyance, and then came the Stage Company, with its four-horse coaches and aristocratic drivers, who posed as the social equals of river pilots and other great personages of the frontier. Arthur became interested, not only in opening up the routes over the mountains, but also in the stage lines and other methods of transportation from the East to the shores of the Great Lakes. How long he continued in the coach and mail business I am unable to say, but he at least held his grip on the lines until his son Arthur was firmly seated on the box.

The first twenty-five years of the nineteenth century were strenuous years for the people of Western Pennsylvania. Dr. Bates says "they were very poor," and then like several other writers expends large store of rhetoric on the dangers they encountered from the wild beasts of the forest, venomous reptiles and ruthless savages.

Their hardships, woes and privations, in their lonely cabins, have been sung in song, told in story and rehearsed in the declamatory efforts of theological students from time immemorial, or, at least, until they have become stale, but a careful survey of the ground fails to disclose a solitary instance of the human form being torn by wild beasts within the limits of our county nor any one being destroyed by the venomous rattlers. "They were very poor," saith Dr. Bates - and that is what hurt most.

The soil was good and very productive - the water and air the best on earth - the grazing grounds the finest - the pastures the sweetest - the men and women were frugal and industrious and by no means devoid of intelligence and enterprise. They were not forlorn on account of the wild beasts! and there was no failure of crops nor destruction by flood, famine or fire! How is it then that they were very poor?

There were other reasons for the hard times that had fallen upon them. They were four hundred miles away from a market for their products. Pittsburg was not then the "Birmingham of America" as it afterwards became and afforded them no market, and the great river trade that in time developed unheard of proportions was not available for them - their only outlet was over the mountains to Philadelphia four hundred miles away, and their only method of reaching that mart was on horseback or on wheels. Under these conditions their means of making money were very limited, yet they could live and be happy. They had resources within themselves to improve their lands and furnish their dwellings with comforts of home production independent of the far away traffic of the East. They could feed, clothe and shelter their little ones and bide the time for the incoming tide of improvement trending their way.

But other troubles came to thwart their purposes and absorb the hard earned fruits of their industry. Their ancient enemy and oppressor of their race found them out, hidden away as they were beyond rivers and behind mountains, and with the keen instinct of a predatory beast made a descent upon their homes.

THE TEUTON CAME.

Dr. Samuel P. Bates, the historian and champion apologist for the misdeeds of corporations and men, in his history, entitled "Our Country and Our People," page 182, thus records the coming of the Dutch, "At the close of the Revolutionary War several wealthy gentlemen of Holland, who had loaned money to the Government to carry on the war, desiring to keep their money invested in this country, accepted lands in payment. The company holding these lands was known as the Holland Land Company, and their holdings in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania were about 900,000 acres."

This would seem to be a plain statement of a business transaction between the state and the company, and whatever might be thought of the justice or policy of compelling the northwestern corner to pay the state's quota of the expenses of the Revolutionary War, the Holland Company appears in the light of a very innocent purchaser, simply accepting lands in payment for money loaned. But on looking further into the methods of the transfer of this vast property the deal is presented in a very different light, and the statement of Dr. Bates seemingly so beautifully candid appears misleading, and untrue, in fact. The Holland Land Company did not accept lands in payment of their loan, but, instead, availing themselves of certain conditions in the Act of April 3, 1792, that made a gigantic fraud possible, they, with unlimited capital at command, entered into competition with the actual settlers for possession of the lands, and won out !

Sitting in their offices in the City of Philadelphia, or on the Zuyder Zee for aught we know, with the maps of the state survey of the lands acquired by the treaty of 1784 spread out before them, those "several wealthy gentlemen in Holland" located their claims on every available foot of land in "the corner" under the provisions of the Settlement Act of 1792, without having driven a stake, or blazed a tree, or placed an occupant on the ground. This Act contained a clause known as the prevention clause, which provided that if the settler was prevented from entering upon the lands he claimed by Indian hostilities he might by showing such fact obtain warrant for survey on that account. This clause was ostensibly in the interests of the actual settler, but was later believed to have been in furtherance of the great conspiracy to steal 900,000 acres of land in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania.

Having technically located these lands which gave them a pre-emption of two years in which to commence permanent and continuous settlement the Hollanders promptly proceeded to become frightened on account of Indian incursions and claimed title to all that vast domain under the "prevention clause of the Settlement Act." A more preposterous claim could not be conceived! From 1784, the date of the treaty at Fort Stanwix, when the state acquired title from the Indians, to 1804, a period of twenty years during which this villainy was hatched - two men only had been killed by savages within the limits of Crawford County, and that occurred in 1791 and did not drive away the half dozen settlers who in company with the murdered men had located lands in the French Creek valley - nor did it prevent the coming and remaining of the Humes, Dicksons, McGills and others, who made good their titles in spite of the Indians and the Dutch, having secured their rights to title before the Hollanders got their clutches on the property. All the time this villainous scheme was in embryo poor men from the East and from over the water were toiling along the rugged ways toward this land of promise, unaware of the impending robbery that awaited them. The Indians kept no emigrants out and the Holland Land Company brought none in. They were coming all the time as fast as they could - coming to be skinned, though they knew it not.

The company set up a test case to establish their titles, which after going through the lower courts with unsatisfactory results finally reached the United States tribunals and upon pretexts too frivolous to mention the pretentions of the Hollanders were sustained.

With the hostile Indians on the Maumee more than three hundred miles away, not daring to venture farther East, it was held by the learned court that their presence at that remote distance, and their known hostility, prevented the Holland Land Company from putting settlers on their lands along Muddy Creek and elsewhere, and that because the would-be occupants were scared at the rumor of hostiles therefore this foreign company, who never did anything for this or any other country, except in gratification of greed, were entitled to those nine hundred thousand acres of the most fertile and beautiful lands in the state at a cost of twenty-five cents per acre, to the exclusion of our own people ! The real facts were, whatever may have been proven before the court, that not a soul outside the offices of the land company was scared a bit, and no one was prevented from entering upon the lands except by the Holland Land Company! This was the substance of the whole matter. It was a fraud from start to finish, and everybody knew it, but in the presence of the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States the old men in the woods were powerless. Once in the saddle, the land business was soon reduced to a system. Every settler whose title was found defective was ousted or given the alternative of buying his own settled acres from this foreign corporation at an advance of one thousand per cent, which was very cheap and reasonable for such elegant lands; $2.50 per acre was certainly not exorbitant, and of this the state got twenty-five cents and the company $2.25, and the settler got skinned. I do not give the above figures as exact (except the last item), but they approximate the real facts. The rate of purchase given (.25) is the same as paid by actual settlers under the Act of 1792, and it is a sure case that these speculators did not pay more than the law allowed. Millions of dollars were paid by the people for those lands, all of which went over the sea never to return. It is not necessary to say that the struggling little settlements in Western Pennsylvania for twenty-five years, suffered a financial stringency unknown in any other part of this great free country. Our old men who paid the state for their homesteads found themselves marooned in this sea of poverty, without means of escape—yea, "They were very poor!"


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