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The McGills
Further Adventures in Search of a Permanent Home

At the close of the War, Patrick MíGill was about thirty years old, and Arthur probably five years older. They had located in Northumberland County, Pa., near Duncanís Island, on the Susquehanna, and the time had arrived when it devolved on them to establish themselves as citizens of the great Commonwealth, and to this end it was proper that they marry and set up family relations in the land. Arthur, it is thought, was married about 1788 to Mary Logue, a lady of the vicinity, of good sturdy family and extensive kin among the settlers in that valley. Many of the Logue family subsequently removed to Crawford, and their descendants are favorably known throughout the county.

On the third day of April, 1792, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania passed an Act entitled "An Act for the sale of vacant lands in this Commonwealth," providing, that on the payment of a nominal sum, covering cost and expense of survey, and making proof of an actual settlement of five years, the settler should be entitled to a patent from the state for a tract of four hundred acres of land, with an allowance of six per cent for roads. Said lands to be occupied within two years from the date on which they were located. Residing at no great distance from Harrisburg (Fort Harris), the place where the state capital had been located, the brothers were early apprised of the action of the Legislature, and having heard favorable accounts of the French Creek Country lying between the Allegheny and the Lake, they determined to explore and see for themselves "how the land lay." Accordingly, in the fall of the same year in which the Act was passed they shouldered knapsack and rifle and took up the line of march across the mountains into Westmoreland County near the lower Allegheny. The object of taking this route instead of the upper and shorter track was to meet many friends and acquaintances and obtain definite information of the state of affairs in the up-river country, for there had been hostile demonstrations by Western Indians and forays by roving bands as far East as the French Creek Country.

There are many interesting historical facts in relation to the early settlement of this section to which we can barely allude. In the first place all that portion of the state north and west of Allegheny, though included in Penn's grant, was not included in his purchase from the Indians and was never reduced to Quaker jurisdiction.

Up to the close of the Revolutionary War this territory was held and claimed by the Six Nations. England was on good terms with this Confederacy of red men, and forbade the whites to make settlement on their lands. When the war came on the redskins sided with England, and committed horrible depredations on struggling settlements wherever found.

In 1783, relieved from British pressure, the United States sent General Sullivan with a competent force to pacify the noble red man, which he did to such effect that there was never any more fight in the Senecas, and by the treaty of 1784, they relinquished all claim to the territory in question, and thenceforth became good Indians.

After the treaty the State sent surveyors into the wilderness and the land was laid out in four hundred acre tracts and offered for sale to settlers.

It will be seen that under the management of the Crown and the hostility of the Indians, emigration had been stopped on the east bank of the Allegheny and all the northwestern part of the state was uninhabited except by the Indians, but the venturesome Celts crowded the frontier for all there was in it, and Westmoreland was well peopled at this early date almost exclusively by Irish and Scotch-Irish people, who had pushed on through Northumberland and other counties east, keeping the Star of Empire well in view. The Act of 1792 was designed to encourage settlement and open up the country - or such was supposed to be the purpose.

Adventurous men, however, followed the surveyors and located lands before the Act was passed or any adequate provision was made for their protection, and in 1789 the Meads and others from Northumberland County had commenced a settlement in the French Creek Country and brought back favorable reports of the beauty and fertility of the valley, and it was this point our ancestors had in view when they went down into Westmoreland and Allegheny.

At Pittsburg (Fort Pitt) they obtained information as to the route to be explored and the best way to proceed, and in pursuance of this they bought a "dugout" (canoe) and camp equipage and proceeded to paddle and pole their way up the Allegheny. In due time and without mishap they arrived at Fort Venango (Franklin) and turned the prow of their rude craft up the French Creek, having followed the identical route pursued by George Washington in 1754.

On arrival at the mouth of the Cussewago they met a cheery welcome from the Meads, Fitz Randolph, Van Horn, Wentworth, Lord and others, who three years before had broken the first ground in the new settlement.

These pioneers had come in from Sunbury while the M'Gills were from Duncan's Island, in the same county, farther down the Susquehanna.

After enjoying the rude, but hearty, honest hospitality of their friends and looking over the new settlement the brothers on the following morning pushed on up the stream. They had heard rumors, from hunters and trappers, of the wonderful fertility of the Le Boeuf meadows some twenty miles beyond, and they thought of looking over the ground before effecting a permanent settlement.

At Magoffins Falls, three miles north of the Meads, on a little flat bordered by a romantic glen, certain hard-headed old Scotchmen by the name of Dickson had located claims on the west side of the stream, and where the Dicksons located they were likely to stay. Farther on they came to the mouth of Woodcock Creek, on the east side, and here opened up to their view a vista of unparalleled beauty. The banks of French Creek were fringed to the water's edge with evergreen bushes and trees, while ranged along on the higher bank was a row of stately pines beautiful in their majesty as the cedars of Lebanon. In rear of the pines half a mile in extent was a very gently undulating plain on which grew great old oak trees with spreading tops, the rare old oak that tells of Centuries, a variety that now seems to be extinct. They grew with ample space between without underbrush or obstruction to the view, to the limits of this wonderful park. Around the outer semi-circle of the park there arose a little plateau, not ten feet in elevation, and from its base flowed springs of pure cool soft water, which fed a circlet of mighty elms, unrivaled in size and beauty by the cultured growth of the princely gardens of the Old World, and there were hundreds of these great trees with wide spreading branches supplementing in grandeur the giant oaks they encircled. Beneath these grew hazel bushes, blackberry and raspberry bushes, hawthorn and crabapple trees and many varieties of beautiful shrubs and plants, while near the northern extremity there was a veritable orchard of wild plums bearing a great variety of large red and yellow fruit. The ground rose from the river margin in regular successive plateaus of easy grade covered with the finest timber of the most valuable and useful kind. The view was enchanting and they moored the canoe to the bank to make further explorations. Here they were met by John Fredebaugh, who had located a claim that took in the Woodcock Creek and joined on the north the land that had attracted their attention. His land being at the confluence of the two streams  was naturally alluvial and very rich, but rather low and liable to overflow in case of high water. It was a forest of white walnut (butternut) with here and there a great sycamore towering above and extending its weird white arms over the umbrageous growth beneath. The wild grape vine interlaced the trees and hung in festoons from the branches, forming arborial recesses of rare and inviting beauty. Birds of bright plumage and resonant song fluttered in the trees and woodcock and grouse in great numbers clucked and crowed unawed by the presence of man.

John was one of those honest souls who are seldom immortalized in history, but he was useful in the forest and by the camp fire, and now he came blithely forward to welcome the adventurers in broken dialect and guide them through the everglades and the thickets. He showed them the springs - the finest trees - and where the brownest nuts and richest wild fruits might be gathered. He led them over a wide territory, adjoining the jungle wherein he had taken up his abode, and showed them that on all the broad acres there was not a foot of waste land, unless they wanted to plow up the bed of the trout brooks that here and there meandered through the downs, watering the trees and irrigating the meadows. There was no vantage ground with which John was not familiar, and his enthusiasm was simple, genuine and entertaining.

As evening approached John led them toward the river to a great spring, near the head of the valley, about a mile above the place where they had moored the canoe, from whence rippled a bubbling brook meandering its way to the head of a bayou that reached out from the creek to no great distance from the spring. It was an ideal camping ground and the canoe was brought up, and on a level spot just above the spring, the canvas was spread, cooking utensils brought forth and a campfire lighted - and on that identical spot Arthur M'Gill afterward built his house.

Woodcock and quail, fried and roasted and boiled, formed the substantial part of the banquet that signalized this first arrival of the future lords of the Manor. John was a handy man with the ax, and these old campaigners knew well how to extract comfort and enjoyment from less favorable surroundings - the day's scout had proved the most satisfactory of their lives and they were content.

They no longer had any desire to explore the Le Beouf meadows, seventeen miles away, for had they not here found a place that for wealth of beauty rivaled the fabled gardens of the East?

Fredebaugh was their guest during the night and they were lulled to sleep by the hooting of the owls down along the bayou.

At early morning the orchestra of the forest waked them from their slumbers and they proceeded to take their bearings.

To the east some sixty miles away were the Camps of Cornplanter, the reconstructed Seneca Chief, extending along the Allegheny. There was little danger to be apprehended from these thoroughly licked savages. To the west, within striking distance, were the hunting grounds of many hostile tribes, but they seldom ventured so near their ancient foes the Senecas. Thirty miles to the north was Lake Erie, and so far as they knew there was not a white man north of them in the French Creek Valley.

But it required no elaborate consideration to determine what was to be done. They had looked over and found unoccupied the most beautiful spot in the new Commonwealth and here they would plant - the M'Gills.

Arthur, always the leader and more impulsive and energetic of the two, with the aid of Patrick and Fredebaugh, immediately proceeded to the erection of a rude shack that was to stand as the sign - manual of his ownership and possession of the four hundred acre tract of land on which it stood.

This completed, they dropped down the river to the head of the great oak park where they landed and Patrick proceeded to formally take possession of the tract located between that of Fredebaugh and Arthur. He drove the stakes for his improvement with his own hands and then and there hired Fredebaugh to clear off one-half acre of ground and build thereon a cabin for his occupancy when he returned with his family.

That this improvement was made, all except building the cabin, is proven by a memorandum made in the Surveyor General's office at Harrisburg, of a resurvey of the land for Patrick McGill in the presence of an improvement made for him in February, 1 793. Now several things happen right here. This record fixes the date of the expedition as in the fall of 1792, just as tradition gave it. It could not have been made in midwinter.

It settles the question as to any other person taking up the land and then making a present of it to Patrick as has been often stated. He "took it up" himself.

It changes our name and here we drop the good old Scotch apostrophe M'Gill that had traveled with us down the centuries and adopt the Irish form McGill.

The Clerks in the Land Office made it necessary.

With their future homes located on the outer edge, our ancestors, true to the instincts of their race, were now pioneers in the broadest sense. It is a notable circumstance that these two Irish lads - now men -were in America before there was any United States - were in Pennsylvania before there was any Commonwealth - were in the French Creek Country, permanently, before there was any Crawford County - or township of any description.

They were on the frontier ahead of all the political subdivisions that followed in their trail. They were pioneers, not alone of population, but of civilization, blazing the westward course of empire.

Bestowing their canoe and other trappings on Fredebaugh and charging him with the care of their great landed interests they struck out by the upper trail for the Susquehanna land to prepare for removal to their new home.

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