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History of Bedford and Somerset Counties

Chapter 6, Volume 2  


The original “Forbes” or Bouquet” road traversed the present townships of Shade, Quemahoning and Jenner.  It passed through all of these townships at a greater or less distance north of the present turnpike.  We also know that it touched the extreme southeast corner of Conemaugh township.

It was long this early thoroughfare that the first settlers in the northern part of the county located, but, as in other parts of the county, there is more or less uncertainly both as to who they were and the time of their settlement.  The best information that we have on the subject tells us that those who first came did so prior to the time that this region became open to legal settlement, and that they settled or located on the road under the permission or sufferance of the military authorities.  Necessarily there was more or less passing to and fro over the road by officers and soldiers belonging to the garrisons at Fort Pitt and elsewhere, as well as by traders and others.  All military supplies for these western garrisons had to be hauled either over this road or the Braddock road.  Therefore it cannot be doubted but that these settlers, being along the road, enabled such persons as passed over it to obtain more or less accommodation in the way of lodging and the like, all of which was a sufficient reason for their being allowed to come or remain after they did come.  While no date can be assigned for the time of their first coming, the late David Husband, than whom no one of our own time was better informed on matters pertaining to the early history of Somerset county, seems to have had no hesitation in saying that there were settlers along this Forbes road as early as 1762, basing this on papers left by his grandfather.                                           

Be the time of first settlement what it will, of these settlers along this road John Miller is the first of whom we have any definite account.  He seems to have first come into the country as a pack-horse man.  As a settler it may be said that we have some account of him as early as 1762.  Jacob Heckwelder, A Moravian missionary, with Charles Frederick Post and others, made a journey from Litiz (Lancaster) to the Indians at Muskingum, in Ohio, in the year 1762,  From Heckwelders’s account of this journey the following facts have been gleaned:

At Fort Bedford he states they found a strong garrison.  On March 30th they began to cross the Allegheny mountain.  At that time the ground was covered with snow three and a half feet deep.  They saw many carcasses of horses scattered along the mountain road.  More snow was falling, and they feared to be covered up with it.  After a painful ride they gained the summit of the mountain.  At last, aster a hard day’s journey, they came to the cabin of Jack Miller, in or at “ Edmonds ’ swamp.”  This place is well up toward the top of the mountain.  Washington and his Virginia contingent are said to have encamped here while with the Forbes expedition in 1758.

Heckwelder states that Miller was called or known as “Saucy Jack,” and it is also true that he speaks of him as a hunter.  As soon as nightfall came on the wolves put in an appearance and raised their dismal howl.  This was the night music of the place all the year around.  Miller had no stable, and to protect the horses of these travelers ward and watch was kept up all through the night by him and his sons.  In the morning they again started on their journey, and soon reached the Stony creek, where the small stream was too swollen to be crossed.  The small garrison and few settlers were on the other side.  After some time a sugar trough was brought from the woods and they were ferried over, but their horses narrowly escaped destruction.

Such is the account that comes down to us from the Moravian missionary, Heckwelder.  While it makes no mention of names, it clearly says that there were settlers at the crossing of the Stony creek, independent of the garrison at the time (1762), and this is further strengthened by the statement about the bringing of sugar trough from the woods, because this shows that some person or persons were then there who already had given enough attention to farming to have opened a sugar camp, an adjunct to every pioneer farm on which the sugar maple was found.  Else why could such a thing have been found as this sugar trough, by which these travelers were ferried across this flooded stream?  For many years there were few, if any, sugar camps in the county that had anything else save these large troughs in which the sugar water could be stored as it was gathered from the trees.  We have seen many of them within our town time.

To return to John Miller.  While Heckwelder speaks of him as being a hunter, the fact he also says that his sons assisted in guarding their horses against the wolves would go to show that his family was there also at that time.

The next account that we have of this man is derived from Harmon Husband, who came into the county some years later, first stating that his family was there also at that time.

The next account that we have of this man is derived from Harmon Husband, who came into the county some years later, first stating that the Forbes road was at that time well traveled, and a number of persons had built cabins along it for the entertainment of wayfarers.  John Miller is mentioned as one of these settlers and as living near top of the mountain.  He had been a pack-horse man and was employed by and accompanied the first military expedition over the road, and, being a loose-tongued, devil-may-care sort of a fellow, was known as “Saucy Jack.”  Among the stories told of him is that on one occasion, in a convoy that was crossing the mountain, one of the Miller’s horses carried a couple of kegs of whiskey.  Somewhere along the road they were fired on from an Indian ambush.  Some of the horses were killed and a couple of bullets took Jack’s whiskey kegs in their course.  While others were getting out of the way Jack was holding shut the bullet holes in the kegs with a finger of each hand, and shouting lustily, for some one to make stoppers and save the whisky.

A packer named Calendar (probably Robert) located on a glade to the east of Buckstown, known by the name of Calendar’s Meadows, the place being near the head of a small stream that still bears the name of “Calendar’s run.”  Here at the proper season of the year he had men employed to cut and cure hay from the natural grasses that grew here every summer.  In passing over the road his train of pack-horses would stop here to rest and recruit.  Necessarily some person or persons must have been permanently settled here to look after and care for his interests.

Husband also names Daniel Stoy and Casper Statler as being of these early settlers, although we do not find their names on the first assessment.  Casper Statler had been an officer in a regiment attached to Boquet’s forces.  Several of the Stoys had also been connected with that army, and there can be no doubt but that the opportunities they then had of seeing what ever advantages the country really did possess was what induced them to come in as permanent settlers and among the earliest known.  Casper Statler settled on an improvement well up the Allegheny mountain on its western side.  In the earliest accounts in which mention is made of this trail or road this place was called “the Fields,” and on its way westward Forbes’ army was encamped here.

The wife of Casper Statler had been in her girlhood an Indian captive for a long while, and shortly after her return from captivity she was married to Mr. Statler, and with her husband moved out to the frontier.  Her years of captivity among the Indians had fitted her to be the wife of a pioneer settler.  It was a school that gave her the required training to enable her to meet the privations and dangers and endure the labor attendant on pioneer life everywhere.  Statler began clearing and farming his land immediately after settling on it, devoting only as much time to hunting as would keep his family supplied with meat.  At the same time he was so located as to benefit from the travel over the road.

The road in many places passed directly through swampy places or levels, and, with the great amount of travel over it, often became almost impassable mires.  Military stores were hauled over it, and the current of emigration became so great that it became necessary to make a new road.  This road left the old one at or near the top of the mountain and became known as the old Pennsylvania , or the Great Road .  With the making of the new road the travel for a time divided, some still following the old road and the remainder the new road.  This, of course, diverted some of Mr. Statler’s patronage to that road.  To hold this patronage he put up a cabin on the new road at or near the place that it left the old one.  Employing a man to stay here, he hauled out oats, hay and provisions, which were sold to the wagoners who camped out or slept in their wagons.  After some time, there being an increased demand, he put out an extra large supply of forage and other necessaries, but when the time for reckoning came the steward proved faithless.  Repairing to the place he found that the cabin had been abandoned, the stock sold out and the steward decamped.  He then placed his son John, a bright boy of perhaps fifteen years of age in charge.

After some years a building was erected to be used as a tavern, and, so far as is now known, the first in all that region to be built for such a purpose.   In time John Statler became its owner, and it may as well be said here as elsewhere that when the turnpike was made it became a noted place, and during the great staging and wagoning days it is to be doubted whether it was surpassed, either in reputation or profit, by any other public house on the road.

It has already been said that the wife of Casper Statler, while a girl, had been a captive among the Indians for a considerable length of time.  Long years after she and her husband had been settled in their mountain home, and when by their industry and good management they had been able to surround themselves not only with the necessaries of life but also, for those times, with many of its luxuries, a delegation of some twenty-five Indian chiefs and braves, with their interpreter and a small military escort, were passing along this road on their way to hold a talk with the great chief of the white people.  It was evening when the party arrived at the Statler farm, and the officer in command asked permission for them to remain there over night.  The Indians built a fire near the spring.  Mrs. Statler soon recognized several of them as belonging to the tribe among whom she had been captive.  Informing the officer who was in charge of the escort of this, and expressing a wish to speak to an old chief that she pointed out, he was accordingly invited into the house.  When Mrs. Statler addressed him in his own tongue he was greatly surprised and asked how she had learned Indian talk.  After mentioning to him several incidents that had occurred in his family and tribe during her captivity, he recognized her as the pale-faced squaw who had been with them so long and who had fallen asleep when the white men came for her.  Greatly pleased, he asked about her brothers, and then she told him her younger brother had returned to the Indians he was still more gratified.  The next morning the chief said they were tired traveling so far, and asked it they might stay and rest a day.  This being cheerfully granted, they remained over another night.

This large party of Indians attracted much attention among the neighbors, quite a number of them of whom gathered together on the next evening to see them.  The Indians were asked to give some exhibition of their customs and dances, at which they were highly pleased, and accordingly they entertained the company with illustrations of their manners, customs and ceremonies.  At the close of the war dance the old chief, who is said to have been  the great Cornplanter, appeared to be greatly excited.  At a signal which he gave the warriors silently seated themselves in a half circle before him, when he addressed them in a speech which, interpreted, was as follows:

“The Six Nations were once a mighty people. These mountains were our hunting grounds, and the arrow heads of our hunters are lying all around. I have been here in my youth.  I have chased the deer over yonder plain, and drank the water from this beautiful spring.

At that time all the nations trembled when we dug up the tomahawk. And he that trespassed on our domain, the blood of his people paid the penalty.  But what are we now?  Who trembles before us?  The Great Spirit has gone over to the white man.  He points us to the setting sun as the place for our future home.  We are now going to make peace with the great chief of the white people that we may bury the tomahawk forever.”

The manner of this Indian orator was even more impressive that his words.  Tall and straight as an arrow, his mighty chest heaved and strong emotion marked his face.  All who heard him were deeply impressed-all save the young Samuel Statler, then a boy.  The one thing about the old Indian that attracted his attention was a large silver ring that he wore in his nose.  The problem that occupied Samuel’s boyish brain was how he might steal upon him unawares and slip a cord through this ring, “Could I have done that, I would have made him snort like a good fellow.”

Daniel Stoy seems to have come into this region about the same time that Casper Statler came.  He eventually became the owner of a considerable amount of land, but the place where he first settled was where Stoystown now is, and of which town he is looked upon as being the founder.  While he devoted some attention to the primitive agriculture of the pioneer days, according to Harmon Husband’s account of him, as well as those of others, he was at first more of a hunter than anything else, and largely gained his livelihood in that way. The traditions have it that during periods of Indian troubles he was on more than one occasion run out of his mountain home and compelled to take refuge in Fort Bedford .  The traditions of his family have it that on occasion he shot an Indian from the door of his cabin.  It is also a generally accepted tradition that his cabin was burned at least once by the Indians.   It is quite certain that Daniel Stoy was a man of some capacity and reputation, for we find him to have been the township assessor for Quemahoning township for the year 1783.  At a much later period of his life he served several terms in the Assembly of Pennsylvania.

Benjamin Jollys was an early settler, and his location was probably where the road crossed the Stony creek.  There certainly was a man of that name there, and it would seem as though he entertained travelers at that place.  It is a name that has long since disappeared from these parts.

After John Miller, Richard Wells the elder was as early a known settler in this region as any one.  The traditions of the Wells family are that he came into what is now Somerset county as early as 1763.  W know that similar claims are made for others in different parts of the county as to the time of their first coming, and which have little or nothing to rest on.  But the Wells family have been somewhat more careful in preserving their family history than most of families have been, and on that account their traditions are entitled to somewhat more credence.  Still, they may easily err several years as to the date of settlement here.  His name is found on the first assessment list with ten acres of cleared land, rather a small amount, it must be admitted, to have been here so far back as 1763.  We are not able to locate his place exactly, but it must have been on or near the Forbes road.  We can only find one tract of land as having been surveyed for him, which was in 1774.  It is described as being in the forks of the Quemahoning.  Lands of James McMullen, whose name is also on the first assessment, join the Wells tract.  These last are on the west (probably the north) branch of Quemahoning, and these in turn were joined by lands of Robert Smiley, all of which would indicate that the Wells lands were on or near the Forbes road and in Jenner township.

Richard Wells was a native of Baltimore , was twice married and the father of twenty-four children, twelve in each family.  It is said that at the time of his leaving Somerset county he had eight sons who were capable of bearing arms.  His son, Richard Wells, Jr., was in 1771 a member of the first board of county assessors for Bedford county.  He was also a member of it in 1772.  According to the Wells family traditions he left these parts in 1774, going to the Panhandle section of West Virginia .  Later he settled in Ross county, Ohio , where he died in 1808 at the age of ninety-three.  It is further related of Richard Wells that when he moved away, and had reached the Ohio river , a band of Indians stole all the horses of his party.  He and his sons followed them, killed two of the savages and one horse and recovered seven of the remaining horses.  All of his large family left with their father except two of the sons, James and John, both of whom were men of some note in our early history, and were sons of this Richard Wells,  James Wells left the county about 1802, while John Wells remained here until the time of his death in 1828.  Some of his descendants in the female line still may be found in Somerset county.

[Source: The History of Bedford and Somerset Counties by Blackburn and Welfley, published in 1906. Chapter 1, pages 1- 9. Transcribed and donated by Batha Karr <[email protected]>. ]

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