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"McKean: The Governor's County"
Rufus Barrett Stone
Submitted by PHGS Member
"McKean: The Governor's County", Rufus Barrett Stone. Lewis Publishing Company, Inc. New York, 1926. Page 16--24
When the first white settlers entered the county of McKean it was uninhabited. By the final treaty at Fort Stanwix in 1784 Sinnontouan (Seneca Land) in Pennsylvania had been relinquished. But no general movement of white settlers towards this region took place prior to 1795. In that year there were but four white families in the county of Eric and not one in McKean. It is, however, recorded that a little earlier a trunk line or route from Philadelphia and the Susquehanna settlements to Erie and Franklin had been inaugurated by one or two instances of portage from the Sinnemahoning to the Allegheny at Canoe Place (Port Allegany). There is reason to believe that as early as 1735 Abraham Wandell was a New York trader on the upper Allegheny and Genessee. In 1791 Colonel Proctor, with messages from General Washington, had visited Cornplanter on the river, and twenty-five years earlier Zeisberger, the Moravian missionary, had reached the Oswayo and descended that stream for his ministry to the Indians on the lower Allegheny, but his mission was of such character as to preclude incidentaI settlement.
It is probable that the earliest white settlement in McKean was at or
near the confluence of Foster Brook and Kendall
Creek with the Tunungwant, for here it was that in 1796 upon proof of settlement,
the Connecticut-Susquehanna Company granted to Joshua Downer, Exekiel Hyde
and Samuel Ensign a township called Lorana (Company Records Liber F, page
112). In like manner that company created other townships, including one
called "Newtown," within the limits of which the settlement at Ceres. was
(From Miner's History of Wyoming)
But the rights of the Company were disputed by the administration of the State government of Pennsylvania, and in the face of controversy these settlements were not long maintained. The contest, however, in its further stages, was to greatly stimulate the settlement of McKean and adjoining counties.
The Connecticut Company claimed under a royal charter earlier than Penn's from Point Judith to the South Sea (Pacific Ocean), including so much of the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania as was lying north of the 41st degree of latitude. It had harassed the Provincial government by the rapid advances of its surveys and settlements, even after the conflict known as the Pennamite War had abated. Both the Penns and the Connecticut company recognized the right of the aborigines to the soil. They competed therefore in treaty negotiations with them for the purchase of lands. The result was the rapid depletion of Indian territory. When the aborigines realized that by boundary descriptions they did not fully understand they had parted with their most valuable hunting grounds, and were being driven toward the setting sun, a race, peaceable by nature and intent, rose in revolt, and became a race of savages to devastate the white settlements with massacre and pillage. (Note 1)
The Connecticut controversy, therefore, became primarily responsible for two flagrant consequences which have never been taken into account.
First -- It converted the determination of a concm between two royal grants into a. scramble to gain territory from the aborigines until at length they became aware that they were being stripped of their land, rose in revolt and a world-wide scandal ensued.
Second-By overreaching, misleading and fraud it converted a peace-loving people, tillers of the soil, commended for their virtues by Parkman, Pastorious and Jenkins, a gentle unsuspecting people, who had clasped hands with William Penn, into a race of savages, and sent them down into history with that stigma upon them .(Note 2)
The acquisition by Pennsylvania in 1778 of the proprietary
interests of the Province was a mere substitution of the state, and left
the relations of the contestants unchanged. But in the relation of the
state to the national government a new factor of influence had been gained.
The controversy was laid before Congress, and by its action a Commission
was appointed to hear and determine the matters at issue. The result was
a victory for Pennsylvania. But the Connecticut company, under the intrepid
leadership of Colonel John Franklin, held that the determination was one
between the states, and that its rights were not affected. Accordingly
it pressed westward with its surveys and settlements. The state sought
to negotiate and compromise through legislation, passing act after act
without substantial progress. The first five volumes of the Laws of Pennsylvania
contain sixty-three acts relating to the Connecticut controversy.
Revolutionary Patriot; Leader of Claimant Connecticut Settlers; once Representative of McKean, as a part of Westmoreland County, in the Connecticut Assembly at Hartford With acknowledgements to "Pioneer and Patriot Families" (Heverly) (Engraved by Bragdon)
William Bingham, then rated as the wealthiest citizen in Pennsylvania,
and also its most influential political figure, having been a delegate
in the Congress of 1787, and a representative
of the government abroad, as speaker of the Pennsylvania House in 1791
and president of the Senate in 179S, was in a position of advantage to
procure desired legislation. The plan in view was to Policy throw Pennsylvania
settlers in large numbers into vacant lands in advance of the Connecticut
Company and organize local governments therein under the laws of Pennsylvania.
Doubtless this plan was conceived conjointly by the master spirits of the
Commonwealth's cause, Timothy Pickering, Chief-justice McKean and Attorney-General
Bradford; but Mr. Bingham entered zealously into it. It is quite conceivable
that the Philadelphia home of Senator Bingham was at this juncture a salon
of political importance. His wife, Anne Willing, (Note 2) says her biographer,
"was distinguished in that city by her beauty, elegance of manners, and
the magnificent hospitality which the means of her husband permitted her
After painting by Gilbert Stuart)
Wife of Senator Bingham; Daughter of Thomas Willing, Member of Continental Congress; also Wild Land Proprietor
By act of 1792 the price of these lands of the
"New Purchase" (1784) was reduced, and upon the same being offered for
sale, Senator Bingham became the chief purchaser, particularly in the disputed
region over which McKean and adjoining counties now extend. He proceeded
to circularize New England with descriptive advertisements designed to
secure settlers. Many of the warrants so purchased by him in 1793 he negotiated
to John Keating, the Holland Land Company and others who actively undertook
to forward settlements, the Holland Land Company in turn selling to Cooper,
Ogden and others large tracts, now mainly in Sergeant township, and Keating
to Nicholson and Morris in 1795, by them back to William Bingham, including
Lorana, just then claimed by the Connecticut
grantees, and warrant numbered 3906 named Pampluna.
This warrant embraced the entire site of the City of Bradford excepting the portion known as the "East End." As Bradford is surrounded on three sides by its picturesque hills and entered by seven valleys, it is probable that the Spanish surveyor who named the warrant observed a fanciful resemblance to Pampluna (interchangeably called Pompelon), a Spanish fortified city surrounded an three sides by the Pyrenees and entered by seven gates. It is to be hoped that the two pleasing names, Lorana and Pampluna, of such historical significance, will find a permanent place in the nomenclature of the city.
John Penn, then governor, communicating a letter from General Gage on the subject of the continued discontent of the Western Indians, said to the Assembly: "I would willing take every measure in my power, not to move the just causes of their complaints for past injuries, but to protect their persons and properties for the future." And Gen. Gage's letter thus communicated has this remarkable paragraph: "The encroachments made upon the Indian lands, for which they could obtain no justice, with the daily threats of more invasions of their property, lost us the affections of the savages before, and was the principal reason for their throwing themselves into the arms of the French for protection From hence arose the hostilities they committed upon us in 1754 and 1755, and the war that followed."
"'They were remarkably loyal in friendships, and faithful to their agreements. They received the white men in Pennsylvania kindly and with little appearance of suspicion.
"Francis Daniel Pastorious, of Germantown, says, writing in 1695, of -the Indians whom he had seen: 'They are entirely candid, keep to their promises and deceive and mislead nobody." -I Pa. Colonial and Federal 15.
"They subsisted only in part by the chase and the fishery; they depended in part for their food on a systematic tillage of the soil; they had developed some arts of manufacture; their arms and implements were mostly of the Stone Age, but they bad begun to emerge from it; they had a political system well settled and effective; their social usages were in many particu. lars well developed and strictly observed."-Ibid., page 3.
"There were times," says Parkman, describing Indians of Canada, "when savages lived together in thousands with a harmony which civilization might envy."-See Chapter: Connecticut vs. Pennsylvania.
(Note 2): Mrs. Bingham was a daughter of Thomas Willing, member of Continental Congress. He was also the owner of large areas of land in Northwestern Pennsylvania. The following allusion to Mrs. Bingham is quoted in the "Wellsboro Agitator" of September 30, 1925, from the "Philadelphia Public Ledger":
Shortly after his return from service abroad, Bingham married the beautiful and accomplished young daughter of a prominent Philadelphia family, Miss Anne Willing, who was then 16. The ceremony took place in the Old Christ Church on October 26, 1780.
The next six years were spent in gay social activities. Mrs. Bingham was unquestionably at the head of American society -and early histories-of Philadelphia say that "her beauty, her influence, the elegance of her house, the taste and aristocratic distinction of the assemblages which frequented it, were as household words in this city at the time of her dazzling career, and are now historical of the higher social life of America.
Mrs. Bingham's father was Thomas Willing, whose business partner, Robert Morris, and brother-in-law, Mr. Clymer, were, like him, members of the Continental Congress in 1776. The family fortune was very great.
In 1784 Mr. and Mrs. William Bingham journeyed abroad, creating a social sensation in London and Paris. Mrs. Bingham charmed all with her beauty, grace and elegance and wealth, and she received marked attentions at the court of Louis XVI.
Upon their return home they erected a mansion for their city residence on Third Street above Spruce. It was the talk of the town, excelling anything in this country by far, with its three acres of ground in the heart of the city and its hint of Roman splendor in the white marble approach and columns. Most of the interior furnishings were imported. .
The Binghams also had a country home, situated in Lansdowne, on the west bank of the Schuykill. At these two places swarmed the youth and elite of the country.
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