From the Earliest Period to the Purchase of 1784 (Chap. 5)


edited by A. J. Davis, 1887



Aborigines, Senecas, and Delawares -- Indian Remains -- Petroleum -- Christian Frederick Post -- Tobeco and Toby -- Redbank Creek -- Brodhead's Expedition -- Captain Samuel Brady.

transcribed by
Gene Shirey

[p. 57]


THE aboriginal tribe who dwelt on the shores of the Allegheny were the Allegwi, a people of gigantic stature who inhabited fortified towns. The Lenni Lenape, or Delawares, in navigating from the West sought a residence with them, but this was refused; the Allegwi only granting them leave to cross the river and proceed eastward. While they were doing this the Allegwi, alarmed at their numbers and strength, fell on those who had reached the eastern bank and destroyed many of them. Eager for revenge the Lenni Lenape entered into an alliance with the Mengwe, or Iroquois, a nation lying south of Lakes Erie and Ontario, and engaged in a war with the Allegwi, which, after a desperate struggle of many years, ended in the defeat of the latter, who retired down the Ohio and Mississippi, never to return. The Lenni Lenape then, together with the Iroquois, took possession of the valley of the Allegheny and upper Ohio. In the lapse of years, however, they became enemies, and the different tribes of the Mengwe -- the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas -- wisely increased their strength by a closer union styled the Five, and, after the accession of the Tuscaroras, the Six Nations. They were thus enabled to acquire an ascendancy over the Delawares, which, though it was weakened by the energy of their chief in 1756, was asserted at intervals. The Delawares, Wyandots, and Shawanese occupied the upper Ohio, the lower Allegheny, and the West Branch of the Susquehanna indiscriminately. The empire of the Senecas covered Southwestern New York and the northern half of Western Pennsylvania. The language of the Delawares was Algonquin, of the Senecas, Iroquois. Clarion county (1) was on the dividing neutral belt between the Senecas on the north, and the Delawares on the south. The Senecas claimed it, but it was too far distant from their nearest "long cabin," or village at Venango, to be held in more than nominal possession by them. They hunted the deer and the elk over its wilds, and occasionally encamped for a while on a warlike or predatory mission. In their absence the Delaware or Shawanese hunters would take their place. The Munsey, Loup or Wolf tribe, a disaffected branch of the Delawares, whose home was on the West Branch of the Susquehanna, had [p. 58] encroached on the territory of the Senecas as far as the Allegheny. They dwelt among them by sufferance, along that river north of the Clarion. Ce1eron found some villages of them on the right bank of the Allegheny near the mouth of Big Sandy Creek, and Zeisberger, the Moravian missionary, established himself among them on the Allegheny, in what is now Forest county, in 1767.

A considerable number of Indian relics have been found in this county, indicating that it was once the habitat of some aboriginal tribe. Indian graves were discovered near Mr. Isaac Neely's, in Richland township; in Clarion township, a little east of Strattanville, and in considerable numbers in Limestone township. They consisted of piles of stones loosely heaped together, and concealing tomahawks, arrow-heads, and knives, which had been buried with the departed brave. Vestiges of savage encampments were found in abundance near Clugh's Riffle, which appears to have been a regular camping-place for wandering bands. Occasionally farmers have plowed up flint heads. On Mr. John Crick's farm, on the west branch of Cherry Run, a large number of these relics were unearthed. They were confined to a particular spot, and must have been the débris of some fierce conflict between the Senecas and Delawares. How the aborigines without the use of iron or hard instruments could fashion flint hatchets and arrow-heads so well, and in such large numbers, is a mystery that can only be explained by the presumption that they were acquainted with, and ingeniously took advantage of, the tendency of flint or quartz stone to split into layers.

The Senecas were the most numerous and powerful of the Six Nations. In war they were fierce and treacherous, in common with their brethren. In times of peace they displayed good nature and amity when treated with justice by the Caucasian; there are several instances when they forebore revenge for injuries, when there was a chance of redress by legal means. The petroleum that welled up along the upper Allegheny and its branches furnished them unique adornments and rites. They had a peculiar regard for it as "great medicine," and mixed it in their war-paint with a glistening, fantastic effect. Contrecoeur, the commandant at Fort Du Quesne, wrote to Montcalm, governor of Canada: "I would desire to assure your excellency that this is a most delightful land. Some of the most astonishing natural wonders have been discovered by our people. While descending the Allegheny, fifteen,leagues below the mouth of the Conewango, and three above Fort Venango, we were invited by the chief of the Senecas to attend a religious ceremony of his tribe. We landed and drew up our canoes at a point where a small stream entered the river. The tribe appeared unusually solemn. We marched up the stream about half a 1eague where the company -- a large band, it appeared -- had arrived some days before us. Gigantic hills begirt us on every side. The scene was really sublime. The great chief then recited the conquests and heroism of their ancestors. The surface of the stream was covered with a thick scum, which burst [p. 59] into a complete conflagration. The oil had been gathered and lighted with a torch. At the sight of the flames the Indians gave forth a triumphant shout that made the hills and valleys re-echo again."

The French claimed this territory -- "inasmuch as the preceding kings of France have enjoyed it by their arms and by treaties, especially by those of Ryswick, Utrecht, and Aix la Chappelle," (2) and in 1753 they erected a fort where the Seneca village of Venango stood, and Franklin now stands, naming it Fort Machault. No post was erected in Clarion county, there being no necessity for it, owing to the proximity of Venango.

The first white man, of whom we have any record, who set foot within the limits of Clarion county, was Christian Frederick Post; the time, 128 years ago. Post was a sturdy, artless Moravian, a sort of lay missionary, who undertook in 1758 to bear a message from the Proprietary Council to the tribes on the Allegheny and to endeavor to win them over to the English. It was an arduous and perilous errand; the long journey lay through an almost unexplored wilderness; the French and Indian War was at a crisis; the savage allies of the French had been fierce and resolute; the Shawanese and those favorable to the English, weak and wavering.

Post reached Fort Augusta (Sunbury) from Bethlehem on July 25, 1758; here he heard the news of the defeat at Ticonderoga, "which" he says in his journal, "discouraged one of my companions, Lappopetung's son, so much that he would proceed no further." From here he set out on the 27th, accompanied by a couple of Indian guides and a chief, Pisquetumen. At Big Island he crossed the Susquehanna and took the trail up the Bald Eagle valley, leading to Venango, and after a journey of three days reached "Shinglemuhee " (Chinklacamoose), a deserted Indian town on the site of Clearfield. From here the main trail led on to Redbank, crossing that stream at Port Barnett; but the Moravian and his companions struck off on a northern branch, which crossed the upper part of Jefferson county. On the next day, the 3d of August, he writes: "We came to a part" -- that is, a branch -- "of a river called Tobeco over a very bad road." This "road" of course was only a trail through the forest. Post had not mastered the nomenclature of the West, and some of his expressions savor of a foreign simplicity. This "part of a river called Tobeco" was the present Little Toby, in Jefferson county.

On the 5th -- "We set out early this day, and made a good long stretch, crossing the big river Tobeco, and, lodged between two mountains (i. e., in the valley); I had the misfortune to lose my pocket-book, with three pounds five shillings and sundry other things. What writings it contained were illegible to any but myself." The "big river Tobeco" is the Clarion, and Post must have crossed it in the vicinity of Cooksburg and thence traversed the northern part of the county towards Franklin. After crossing "all the mountains [p. 60] and the big river Wesahawaucks," they came in sight of the French fort on the 7th.

This simple chronicle is all that breaks the obscurity involving the condition of this country at that remote period; it is only a gleam, an incidental but interesting mention in the note-book of a plain, practical man who took down only the most salient features of his journey, and then with a brevity we must regret. However, in a negative way we may gather some information concerning the state of this country at that distant day. From the day Post left the Susquehanna till he arrived at Venango his little party appears to have traversed a vast solitude; there is no mention of either white men or savages, except of their own number. At Chinklacamoose there were some signs of Indians in some "poles painted red," which were stuck in the ground and served as stakes for prisoners; but here in Clarion county there is no mention even of a sign of red men. This was partly due to the war which occupied many at distant points; but it also serves to confirm the statement that, except in the hunting seasons or in returning from an incursion to the Susquehanna, they were rare in the district embracing Clarion and northern Jefferson counties. No Indian villages were located in the county, the nearest being Goschgoschunk (near Tionesta), Venango, Punxsutawney, and Oldtown, opposite the mouth of Town Run in Armstrong county, and lying on the Venango trail. Oldtown was a prehistoric village of the Shawanese, and in 1790 there were only vestiges of it. The most tangible part of Post's journal relates to the river. Nowhere else but here and in Heckwelder do we meet with "Tobeco." The French name was "rivière au Fiel," River of Hate. (3) The circumstance which gave it this name is a mystery. The oldest English maps and mentions, the two above excepted, are unanimous in calling it "Toby's," or "Toby Creek." But Post and Heckwelder (4) give us the clue to the true origin of "Toby," and enable us to pronounce false the popular legend which assigns it to a hunter and trapper of that name, who annually came up the river in pursuit of game. What hunter ascended the Clarion so long before 1758 as by that time to have identified it with his name? Toby is from Tobeco, which in turn is either a corruption of Topi-hanne, i. e., alder stream, from whence Tobyhanna, a tributary of the Lehigh is derived; or it more probably comes from "Tuppeek-hanne," the stream that flows from a large spring; an origin implied from the clearness and sweetness of its waters.

The Indian name for Redbank Creek was Lycamahoning, from "leguai" which in the language of the Delawares signifies sand, and "mahonink," where there is a lick -- i. e., Sandy Lick Creek, which translation it actually bore, together with the original, up to about 1820, when it was relegated to its southern branch. It was styled Redbank, too, at an early date -- at least as early as 1798; [p. 61] it is a descendant of "rivière au Vermillion," or Red River, as this stream was called by the French. How this name came to be applied to it is involved in doubt; the most reasonable conjecture derives it either from its outcropping red ore or the deposits of Mauch Chunk red shale in its banks.

Paint Creek, which has several companions in this State, comes from the Algonquin "Wallamink," "where there is paint," from the iron ore exposed along its edges, whence the aborigines in this vicinity got their pigment for warpaint. Tom's Run received its appellation from an Indian who bore that Christian name; Town Run, from the old Indian town opposite its mouth. The "Weshauwaucks " spoken of by Post is East Sandy; this designation is not found elsewhere, and its origin is unknown.

To return to our Moravian: He crossed the river near the fort and reconnoitered circumspectly, being fearful of detection. "I prayed the Lord," he quaintly says, "to blind them as he did the enemies of Lot and Elisha, that I might pass unknown." The Indians with him penetrated the works and reported a garrison of only six men. Finding no number of Indians near Venango, he proceeded down the right bank of the Allegheny or Ohio, as it was then called, to the Shawanese villages in Butler and Allegheny counties, where he held numerous conferences and harangued them, with varying results.

In the same year Fort Du Quesne was captured by General Forbes, and in the following (1759) the French abandoned Venango and Le Boeuf in order to strengthen Fort Niagara. In 1763 the little garrison at Venango shared the fate of all the northern posts in Pontiac's war; the men were massacred and the fortifications leveled by flame. Northwestern Pennsylvania then relapsed into barbarism, and its history from this period to the Revolution is, with one exception, a blank. It was abandoned by the authorities to the uncurbed sway of the wild denizens of its forests, and in many years -- except an occasional hunter and fur trader, half savages themselves -- but one man had the courage to penetrate its depths. This was David Zeisberger, an intrepid Moravian missionary. He came into Forest county in 1767, and so rare had been a white face that on his arrival at the first Seneca village, in Warren county, a messenger was dispatched in haste to the neighboring town to notify the chief of the stranger's appearance.


Colonel Brodhead left Fort Pitt August 11, 1779, with a force of 600 men, to chastise the Senecas and Munseys of the upper Allegheny. He met with little opposition, (5) and succeeded in burning Conewango, Buchloons, and Yahroongwago, large Seneca villages in Warren county and Southern New York. He returned by way of French Creek, where he ravaged another town. At the mouth of that stream the army crossed the Allegheny and took "the old [p. 62] Venango road,"which led them through Clarion county. They crossed the Clarion at Bullock's Ford, near Callensburg, so named from the circumstance of the cattle being driven over the river there, then, and during the war of 1812. At Bullock's Ford a soldier died and was buried on the river's bank. Snow fell on the homeward march. The command reached Fort Pitt September 14.

Colonel Brodhead writes of this expedition: (6) "Too much praise cannot be given to both officers and soldiers of every corps during the whole expedition. Their perseverance and zeal during the whole march through a country too inaccessible to be described, can scarcely be equaled in history. Notwithstanding that many of them returned barefooted and naked, they disdained to complain . . . . . . It is remarkable that neither man nor beast has fallen into the enemy's hands on this expedition, and I have a happy presage that the counties of Westmoreland, Bedford, and Northumberland, if not the whole western territories, will experience the good effect of it."

Among Brodhead's officers on this campaign were the noted partisans, Captains Jack and Brady. Adam Sheffer, grandfather of William and H. K. Sheffer, of Salem township, enlisted from Ligonier valley, with the Westmoreland militia, and took part in it as a private.(7)


Two important paths crossed Clarion county -- the Susquehanna (Big Island)-Venango, and the Venango-Kittanning, known as the "old Venango road." The Susquehanna-Venango entered the county at about the same place as the turnpike does. It crossed the Clarion at Clugh's Riffle, about a mile northwest of Strattanville. The Venango trail passed the county line in northwestern Salem township; crossed the river at Bullock's Ford, near Callensburg, and then striking southeasterly crossed the Redbank at the mouth of Town Run. This was the route taken by Brodhead on his return. It intersected the Kittanning path to Standing Stone (Huntingdon), in northern Indiana county.

The Allegheny River was then the great highway between the southern and northern part of Western Pennsylvania, as well as the route of French voyageurs from the lakes to the Ohio and Mississippi. It was regarded as continuous with the Ohio, and was so called, at least for a considerable distance up, as late as 1790.

There is no river in America, the Hudson excepted, linked with such stirring struggles and associated so intimately with the romance of the wilderness as the Allegheny. And the scenes of that romance found a worthy setting in the beauty of its banks and the clearness and volume of its waters; issuing [p. 63] from the untrodden forests of the north, drinking in many a shady creek, rounding with bold curves many a sylvan promontory, now rippling ever a pebbly channel, and again expanded into a placid lake; beauties of which the ax of the woodsman and the disfigurements of commerce have not altogether robbed it. Its banks have seen the fleet canoes of the Delawares and the Senecas; its clear waters have reflected the embattled bateaux of Céleron and Contrecoeur, with bronze cannon and hundreds of gleaming bayonets, with the dark-skinned pilots and the black-robed Jesuit or Récollet; and, above all, the lily flag of France to be planted in the wilderness alongside the cross and proclaim the empire of Louis, his most Christian majesty of France! Again the solitary Moravian missionary, quaint and simple in manners and attire, and his faithful Indian converts, have glided down on their way to the "huts of peace," and perhaps roused the echoes from its rocks by a weird psalmody in the tongue of the Algonquin. Its hillsides, too, have heard the tramp of Brodhead's little army; have rung with rifle volley and the scream of the savage; and when danger in the form of the ruthless sons of the forest was abroad, the watch-fifes of the yeomen guards and the challenge of the sentinel cast a glamor over the valley.

1) Hereafter whenever I mention "Clarion county," or speak of "the county," before its organization, I mean, of course, the territory embraced therein, calling it "Clarion county" for the sake of brevity.

2) From an inscription on a plate buried by Céleron at the mouth of French Creek.

3) Father Bonnecamp's map.

4) Indian Names.

5) For Brady's Bend and Captain Brady, see appendix.

6) Letter to Washington.

7) The following Revolutionary soldiers resided in this county: Adam Sheffer, Salem township; James Brown, Porter township; Thomas Meredith, Limestone township; Hugb Callen, Licking township; John Buchanan, Perry township.

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