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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.