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History of Lycoming County Pennsylvania
edited by John F. Meginness; 1892




THE last treaty with the Indians for the acquisition of lands east of the Allegheny mountains was held at Fort Stanwix, October 23, 1784. At this con-ference the Indians admitted that the true line of the treaty of 1768 was Tiadaghton creek (Pine) and not Lycoming, as they had previously claimed. By this admission a dispute regarding boundary, which had existed for sixteen years was settled.

In the meantime many adventuresome persons settled on the disputed "Indian lands," and as they were beyond the limits of the law they were forced to rely upon themselves for protection. They were, to use a modern phrase, "squatters," and could appeal to no courts for redress. As the lands along the north side of the river from Lycoming creek westward were generally choice the "squatters" staked out claims and resolved to hold them if possible. Long and annoying litigations followed, and the disputes which arose were not finally settled without legislative action.

As the "squatters" increased in numbers they found that they must have some form of law to protect themselves, with power vested in some person or persons to enforce it. The vicious must be restrained, else the community would become a lawless aggregation, in which the weak would be oppressed by the strong and every semblance of a well regulated society destroyed. It was the realization of this fact by the leading men among the dwellers on the Indian lands, which originated what was known as the "Fair Play System." Three commissioners, therefore, were chosen by ballot each year in the month of March, whose duty it was to see that each settler had "fair play," and to punish those who violated the local laws. From the decisions of these commissioners there was no appeal. It has long been a source of regret that their records, if they kept any, were lost, for tradition informs us that the "Fair Play Men" were often called on to settle disputes and impose punishments. The period during which this code had full sway was from the year 1773 to the 1st day of May, 1785, when the Land Office was opened for applications within the purchase of October 23, 1784; and the Fair Play territory was embraced within the present townships of Old Lycoming, Woodward, Piatt, Porter, and a portion of Watson, Lycoming county. It is known that the commissioners for 1776 were Bratton Caldwell, John Walker, and James Brandon. The latter probably lived not far from Lycoming creek; Caldwell lived on Pine run, and Walker's residence was near Pine creek. The names of no other commissioners are now known. It is inferred, however, that on account of the representative character of these men-especially Caldwell-that they held office for some time, if not during the entire period of the occupation of the Indian lands. It is supposed, furthermore, that they were the leaders in the 4th of July demonstration in favor of independence, held at Pine creek in 1776. And it is believed that they were in office as governors of the territory at the close of the Revolution, and continued as such up to the time of the transfer of the lands to the State by the terms of the treaty.

As the Fair Play system was organized for the mutual benefit of all living within its jurisdiction, it has been truly said that it is a matter worthy of record that the commissioners exercised their functions of lawmakers and arbitrators with such wisdom that the "justice of their decrees has never been, questioned." It does not appear that the Fair Play men had any fixed time or place of meeting to hear complaints, but were governed by the exigencies which might arise. The court could be convened at any time or place within the territory over which it exercised jurisdiction, and on short notice, to try any cause that might come before it. It is said that when a "squatter," or any other person, refused to abide by the decrees of the court he was placed in a canoe and pushed to the mouth of Lycoming creek, the boundary line of their province, and sent adrift down the river with orders not to return.

When it was agreed to hold a treaty at Fort Stanwix with the Indians, after the declaration of peace, the commissioners of Pennsylvania were instructed to inquire which creek-Lycoming or Pine-was the real Tiadaghton, and boundary line of. 1768. But as late as December 21, 1784, before the result of the proposed inquiry could be known, the Assembly (See Dallas's Laws, Vol. II, page 233) declared "Lycoming creek to be the boundary of the purchase, to all legal intents and purposes, until the General Assembly shall otherwise regulate and declare the same." The Indians confirmed this declaration by replying that by Tiadaghton they meant Pine creek, but the purchase then consummated, (October 23, 1784,) made their answer of no consequence, divesting, as it did, the Indian title to all lands in Pennsylvania west of Pine creek, and therefore rendering it unnecessary for the Assembly to legislate further about the line, and ending forever "squatter sovereignty" within the limits of this Commonwealth, after it had existed for nearly sixteen years.


With the "New Purchase" the area of the county, west of Lycoming creek and north of the river, was largely increased, and it was found necessary to divide the northwestern townships. At the August sessions, 1785, a petition was presented to the court praying for the organization of the new territory, "for the purposes of order and a civil state of society," and asking the Court "to erect that part between Lycoming and Pine creeks, being near fifteen miles, into one township; and from Pine creek upwards into another township." This was done, the former receiving the name of Lycoming, and the latter that of Pine Creek.

Another petition presented to the court at the November sessions, 1785, resulted in the annexation of the lower end of Bald Eagle township (from opposite Lycoming creek, and extending up the south side of the West Branch of the Susquehanna as far as opposite Pine creek, to include Nippenose valley) "to Lycoming township; and from the mouth of Pine creek, extending up the Bald Eagle valley as far as the mouth of Beech creek, up the south side of said branch as far as inhabited, and from Beech run a southerly course until it joins Potter's township, to Pine Creek township." Bald Eagle as originally organized was about seventy miles long, and with the exception of Wyoming was the largest township in Northumberland county. At August sessions, 1785, Washington township was set off from White Deer. Loyalsock was formed at February sessions, 1786, from that part of Muncy lying above Loyalsock creek.


Charles Smith, Esq., of Sunbury, who compiled that invaluable work known as Smith's Laws, gives this clear insight into the causes operating to develop the Fair Play system, together with a resume of the land law of Pennsylvania, (Vol. 11, page 195,) as it related to the code adopted by these settlers:

A set of hardy adventurers seated themselves on this doubtful territory, made improvements, and formed a very considerable population. They formed a mutual compact among themselves, and annually elected a tribunal in rotation of three of the settlers, who were to decide all controversies and settle disputed boundaries. From their decision there was no appeal, and there could be no resistance. The decree was enforced by the whole body, who started up in mass, at the mandate of the court, and the execution and eviction were as sudden and irresistible as the judgment. Every newcomer was obliged to apply to this powerful tribunal, and, upon his solemn engagement to submit in all respects to the law of this land, he was permitted to take possession of some vacant spot. Their decrees were, however, just; and when their settlements were recognized by law, and fair play had ceased, their decisions were received in evidence and confirmed by judgments of court.

This last accession of lands was called by the whites the "New Purchase," and when the Land Office was opened, May 1, 1785, emigrants rapidly flocked to the territory for the purpose of taking up the choice lands. Nearly all the original settlers on this land previous to the "Big Runaway," returned to the land on which they had made improvements and claimed it by virtue of pre-emption right. Speculators were also on the alert to make purchases and the greatest activity prevailed. Samuel Wallis and some others, offered the Commonwealth 30 per hundred acres for all improvements, and fearing a like action to that which despoiled the Connecticut settlers at Wyoming, the Fair Play residents memorialized the Assembly with the following remonstrance:

To the, Honorable the Representatives of the Freemen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

The petition of the subscribers, inhabitants of the county of Northumberland, most humbly sheweth: That your petitioners have lived for a number of years before the Revolution at and near the Great Island, on the West Branch of the River Susquehanna, and were the first settlers, and have made very considerable improvements without having procured any officers' rights under the former government, and were at the beginning of the war obliged to abandon our farms and fly to the interior parts of the State for refuge, where we were under the necessity of selling our stock for the support of our families.

We have lately understood that application has been made for the lands we have improved, and which we have defended at the risk of our lives. We humbly conceive that your honorable House will rather give the preference to those whose lives have been spent in endeavoring to procure an honest livelihood on lands which were unappropriated, and we do conceive that the merits of defending the frontiers and being the most active against the savages will have its due weight with your honorable House. All that your petitioners desire is to have your sanction for retaining our improvements, and that those only who have been tillers of the ground and livers on the land-their rights alone shall be deemed valid for their proportionable shares.

Permit us further to mention to your honorable House, that some evil disposed persons have lately sold the rights of other improvers in their absence, and have even gone so far as to make private surveys. We humbly conceive that your honorable House will make a distinction between those tillers and our claims. We can assure your honorable House that our intention and real design is for complying with the terms of the Land Office, and we only wish that preference may be given to the real improvers.

Your petitioners are apprehensive some disputes may arise among us in setting lines, which we beg leave to request your honorable House to appoint men as a committee or otherwise, as you in your wisdom think best, to settle disputes and lines on the premises, as we conceive disinterested men may prevent lawsuits and give the legal improvers and claimers their proportionable shares of the lands. And your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray.

The petition was signed by James Curry, William Dougherty, Thomas Forster, Joseph McMahan, John Fleming, John Baker, William Maginley, Peter Maginley, William Dunn, John Chatham, James Erwin, John Dougherty, John McKinney, William McMeans, Thomas Nichols, William Jackson, F. Hilor, J. Woodsides, Ben-jamin Warner, Samuel Fields, Fred Bodine, John Price, Edmund Huff, Brattan Caldwell, A. Kitelinger, Richard Manning, James Forster, John Hamilton, William Luckey, John Holmes, John McElwain, James Alexander, Adam King, Robert Holmes, Richard Suthern, James Stewart, Joseph Mahaffey, William Dougherty, John Jackson, David Hammond, William Walker, Edward Masters, John Arklridge, Roger Brayley, Thomas Ferguson, Samuel Camel, James Jackson, Robert Reynolds.

The petition is endorsed: "Read one time, March 17, 1784."

Those familiar with county names will readily recognize a number on this petition whose descendants live in this valley, while many others have faded out of existence. One of the Fair Play commissioners, Caldwell, is a signer, and Richard Manning was one of the founders of Jersey Shore. McKinney lived on Pine creek, whilst Hamilton, Jackson, and Dunn, were residents of what is now Pine Creek township, Clinton county. Forster lived on Long Island, opposite Jersey Shore; McMeans on the "Long Reach," and the Doughertys, who were conspicuous, have their names perpetuated by a small run which empties into the river on the western boundary line of Williamsport. There are others, too, who bore a conspicuous part in the early days of the settlement and contributed their full share towards improving the country.


The allusion in the petition to "applications" having been made for their improved lands refers to Samuel Wallis. As early as 1773 Wallis made an effort to acquire all the desirable lands lying on the river from Lycoming to Pine creek. Three of his drafts show the lines of his surveys: The first begins at a point on Lycoming creek near where Bridge No. 1 of the Northern Central railroad crosses that stream, or as the survey designates it, "opposite the point of the first large hill." The line then turned and followed what appears to be the route of the present public road "to a marked locust on the side of the river a small distance below the mouth of Quinashahaque run, thence down the river by the several courses to the place of beginning." The "survey was made on the 22d and 23d days of June, 1773, for Samuel Wallis, in pursuance of seven orders of survey dated the 3d of April, 1769," and the tract contained 2,328 acres. The names of the seven persons to whom the applications were granted appear on the draft, but they are not familiar names of today. They were strangers who had obtained the grants and then transferred them to Wallis for "five shillings," which seems to have been the established price. This survey took in all the fine land lying on the river between Lycoming creek and Linden, and it was made on land which the Proprietaries of the Province had no control over.

A second survey commenced on the west of the locust tree, where the first survey ended, and apparently followed the present public road "to a post on the bank of the river," and thence down the same to the beginning. This survey was made June 24th and 25th, 1773, "for Samuel Wallis, in pursuance of five orders of Survey dated April 3, 1769," and issued to that number of persons, and contained 1,547 acres. This survey took in that fine scope of farming land now known as "Level Corner." The only familiar names mentioned on the draft are those of Elizabeth Walton and Josiah Hews.

The third is a "draft of a tract of land situate on the north side of the West Branch of Susquehanna below and adjoining Pine creek, surveyed the 17th and 18th days of June, 1773, in pursuance of eighteen orders of survey dated the 3d day of April, 1769. It will be noticed by the dates that the work of surveying these three great tracts commenced at Pine creek and extended eastward.

The eighteen orders for this large tract were granted as follows:

No. Name. No. Name.
107 William Porter. 1147 John Cummings.
118 Richard Setteford. 1373 Samuel Taylor.
318 Thomas Morgan. 1546 Benjamin Cathrall.
327 Joseph Couperthwalt. 1558 Peter Young.
464 William Wilson. 1573 Samuel Nicholas.
592 John Sprogle. 1588 Samuel Nicholas.
608 Isaac Cathrall. 1701 Thomas Bonnel.
724 Joseph Hill. 2127 Henry Paul, Jr.
807 Joseph Paul. 2231 Joseph Knight.

The line of survey is indicated as follows on the draft: "Beginning at a marked elm standing on the north side of the West Branch of Susquehanna above and at the mouth of Larry's creek, and turning thence N. 45 E. 400 perches, thence N. 67 W. 310 perches, thence S. 77 W. 765 perches, thence S. 51 W. 700 perches to Pine creek; thence down the said creek by the several courses thereof to the month; thence down the northerly side of the West Branch by the several courses thereof to the place of beginning at the mouth of Larry's creek, containing and laid out for 5,900 acres with allowance of six per cent. for roads and highways." This draft is signed: "John Lukens, Esq., Surveyor General, by order and direction of Jesse Lukens, per Samuel Harris." The latter, who seems to have done the field work, lived at Loyalsock and was an active man of the time. This draft is neatly drawn and carefully notes every prominent point on the line, not omitting Long Island. This tract embraced every foot of ground on which the borough of Jersey Shore stands. The aggregate of the three drafts is 9,775 acres, and they took in all the land on which the Fair Play settlers dwelt. With these surveys hanging over their lands, is it any wonder they manifested alarm, and memorialized the Assembly to protect them? If these grants should be declared legal they would be dispossessed of their claims and perhaps get nothing for their improvements.

But it turned out that his great scheme to gobble all these fertile acres came to, naught, for the Assembly at once saw the injustice of ignoring the claims of the memorialists and straightway recognized them by passing this act, which may be, found in the same authority (Smith's Laws,) as already cited:

And whereas divers persons, who have heretofore occupied and cultivated small tracts of lands without the bounds of the Purchase made as aforesaid in the year 1768, and within the Purchase made or now to be made, have by their resolute stands and sufferings during the late war, merited that those settlers should have the pre-emption of their respective plantations, it is enacted that all and every person or persons, and their legal representatives, who has or have heretofore settled on the north side of the West Branch of Susquehanna, between Lycomick or Lycoming creek on the east, and Tyadaghton or Pine creek on the west, as well as other lands within the said residuary purchase from the Indians of the territory within this State (excepting always the lands herein before excepted,) shall be allowed a right of pre-emption to their respective possessions at the price aforesaid.


As foreshadowed by the petitioners in their appeal, trouble arose in a number of instances about claims, lines, and titles, and much litigation followed. A few years ago a number of depositions relating to these land trials were found among the papers of Hon. Charles Huston, the eminent land lawyer, and published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History, Vol. VII, page 420.

In the case of Greer vs. Tharpe, William King, who located on the site of Jaysburg as early as 1775, testified "that there was a law among the Fair Play men by which any man who absented himself for the space of six weeks, lost his right to his. improvement." King, it will be remembered, was the man whose wife was killed in the Indian massacre, June 10, 1778, on what is now West Fourth Street, Williamsport. Tharpe was his brother-in-law.

In reference to this case Brattan Caldwell, one of the last Fair Play commissioners, testified:

In May, 1774, I was in company with William Greer and James Greer, and helped to build a cabin on William Greer's place (this was one mile north of the river and one-half mile west of Lycoming creek). Greer went into the army in 1776, and was a wagon-master till the fall of 1778. He wrote to me to sell his cattle. I sold his cattle. In July, 1778, (the "Runaway,") John Martin had come on the land in his absence. The Fair Play men put Greer in possession. If a man went into the army, the Fair Play men protected his property. Greer was not among the Sherman's valley boys [the witness no doubt refers to the early settlers of what is now Perry county, who were forcibly removed in May, 1750]. Greer came back in 1784.

The land on which the Greers settled was above Dougherty's run, not far from the western line of the city of Williamsport. They were brothers; James lived and died on the tract which was in dispute.

The summary process of ejectment in vogue among the Fair Play men is described by William King in a deposition made March 15, 1801, in Huff vs. Latcha, in the circuit court of Lycoming county. He says:

In 1775 I [King] came on the land in question. I was informed that Joseph Haines claimed the land. He asked C30 for it, which I would not give. He said he was going to New Jersey, and would leave it in the care of his nephew, Isaiah Sutton. Some time after I heard that Sutton was offering it for sale. I had heard much disputing about the Indian land, and thought I would go up to Sutton's neighbors and inquire if he had any right. first went to Edmund Huff, then to Thomas Kemplen, Samuel Dougherty, William McMeans, and Thomas Ferguson, and asked if they would accept me as a neighbor, and whether Isaiah Sutton had any right to the land in question. They told me Joseph Haines had once a right to it but had forfeited his right by the Fair Play law, and advised me to purchase. Huff showed me the consentable line between Haines and him. Huff's land lay above Haines's, on the river. I purchased of Sutton, and was to give him C9 for the land.

I did not come to live on the land for some weeks. One night, at a husking of corn, one Thomas Bond told me I was a fine fellow to be at a husking while a man was taking possession of my plantation. I quit the husking, and Bond and I came over to the place, and went into a cave, the only tenement then on the land, except where Sutton lived, and found some trifling articles in the cave, which we threw out. I went to the men who advised me to go on the land, all except Huff and Kemplen; they advised me to go on, turn him off and beat him if I was able. The next morning I got some of my friends and raised a cabin of some logs which I understood Haines had hauled. When we got it up to the square, we heard a noise of people coming. The first person I saw was Edmund Huff foremost with a keg of whiskey, William Paul was next with an axe, and many more. They got on the cabin, raised the Indian yell, and dispossessed me. and put William Paul in possession. I and my party went off. Samuel Dougherty followed me and told me to come back and come on terms with Paul, who had money and would not take it from me for nothing. I would not go back, but waited for Dougherty, who went for Paul. The whole party came and brought the keg along. After some conversation, William Paul agreed to give me 13 for my right. He pulled out the money, gave it to Huff to keep until I would assign my right. I afterwards signed the conveyance and got my money.

William Paul went on the land and finished his cabin. Soon after a party bought Robert Arthur and built a cabin near Paul's, in which Arthur lived. Paul applied to the Fair Play men, who decided in favor of Paul. Arthur would not go off. Paul made a complaint to the company at a muster at Quinashahague that Arthur still lived on the land and would not go off, although the Fair Play men had decided against him. I was one of the officers at that time and we agreed to come and run him off. The most of the company came down as far as Edmund Huffs, who kept stills. We got 4 keg of whisky and proceeded to Arthur's cabin. He was at home with his rifle in his hand and his wife had a bayonet on a stick, and they threatened death to the first person who would enter the house. The door was shut, and Thomas Kemplen, our captain, made a run at the door, burst it open and Instantly seized Arthur by the neck. We pulled down the cabin, threw it into the river, lashed two canoes together and put Arthur and his family and his goods into them and sent them down the river. William Paul then lived undisturbed upon the land until the Indians drove us all away. William Paul was then (1778) from home on a militia tour.

It will be noticed that King says a "cave" was the "only tenement" on the place at the time, and in it he probably lived. This shows that "dug outs," among settlers on the western plains are not new for they were in use in the West Branch valley over 117 years ago. And although King was dispossessed, Paul did not want his improvement for nothing and paid him for it. This show that the code did not sanction robbery, but aimed to protect all the settlers-in their rights and claims. Huff was a typical frontiersman and figured in, many exciting affairs. It appears that he was a "moonshiner" also to use a modern phrase, and his whiskey was a powerful factor in adjusting the dispute between King, Paul, and Arthur. He was conspicuous as a Fair Play man in the enforcement of their laws, but in later Years, when the civil law went into operation, he became a lawbreaker and made himself so obnoxious in the community that his house (or "fort" as it was sometimes called) was pulled down and he and his family expelled from the settlement, like Arthur was some years before. Captain Kemplen was killed by the Indians at the mouth of Muncy creek in March, 1781. What became of Arthur is unknown. Paul was the owner of the land on which Jaysburg was built. He afterwards sold it to Latcha, who laid out the town. All these exciting events, or nearly all-occurred on the land lying west of Lycoming creek, and now embraced in the Seventh ward of the city of Williamsport.

In the land disputes Amariah Sutton testified, July 5, 1800, that he came to the plantation on which he then resided in 1770. That Joseph Haines, who was his relative, came from New Jersey a few years after, and began to improve on the tract of land at the mouth of Lycoming creek, on the Indian land side, making his home at his, Sutton's, house; that in the course of three years he returned to New Jersey and never came back. "We were all driven off by the Indians in May, 1778."

John Sutton, a relative of Amariah, made his deposition regarding his knowledge of these claimants, March 13, 1797, as follows:

I came to Lycoming creek in 1772, went to the Indian land in 1773, and have lived there ever since, except during the "Runaway." There was a law of the Fair Play men, that if any man left his improvement six weeks without leaving tome person to continue his improvement he lost the right to push his improvement. After the war I was one of the first to come back. I believe that William Tharpe and myself were, the two first men who came to the Indian lands. I never understood that William Greer's claim extended as far as where Tharpe now lives; the improvement made by William Greer was near the house in which Greer now lives. A man named Perkins lived on the land in dispute between William Greer and William Tharpe. In the winter of 1775-76, Thomas Kemplen bought out Perkins, and Kemplen sold to James Armstrong, commonly called "Curly Armstrong." I saw William King living in the cabin in which Tharpe now lives. I sold my place which adjoined William Tharpe's to John Clark. I came back after the war with the first that came in '83. William Dougherty lived on Tharpe's land, after him Richard Sutton. Sutton lived in the cabin in '84 or '85. I am sure he lived there before Mr. Edmiston came up to survey.

Samuel Edminston, to whom he refers, was the deputy surveyor of district No. 17, which embraced the Indian, or Fair Play, land. He made the survey. of the William Greer tract, 302 acres and 148 perches, December 4, 1788, on a warrant issued May 6, 1785. The return of survey calls for John Sutton's land on the east, and Widow Kemplen and John Clark's land on the south.

After the passage of the act giving original, or Fair Play, settlers a "right of pre-emption to their respective possessions" at a certain price, it was laid down as a rule that to establish their claim it must be shown that the claimant had made an actual settlement before 1780, and no claim was to be admitted for more than 300 acres, and the consideration tendered to the receiver general of the Land Office on or before the 1st of November, 1785. Several cases of litigation arose among settlers which were decided under the pre-emption clause. The first was John Hughes against Henry Dougherty, tried in 1791. The plaintiff claimed under a warrant of May 2, 1785, for the premises, and a survey made thereon the 10th of January, 1786. On the 20th of June, 1786, the defendant entered a caveat against the claims of the plaintiff, and on the 5th of October following took out a warrant for the land in dispute, on which he was then settled. Both claimed the pre-emption of 1784. The facts given in evidence are as follows:

In 1773, one James Hughes, a brother of the plaintiff, settled on the land in question, and .made some small improvements. In the next year he enlarged his improvement, and cut logs to build a house. In the winter following he went to his father's, in Donegal, in Lancaster county, and died there. His elder brother, Thomas, was at that time settled on the Indian land, and some of the Fair Play men, who assembled together, made a resolution, (which they agreed to enforce as the law of the place,) that "if any person was absent from his settlement for six weeks, he should forfeit his right."

In the spring of 1775 Dougherty came to the settlement, and was advised by the Fair Play men to settle on the premises which Hughes had left. He followed their advice and built a cabin. John Hughes, the, plaintiff, soon after appeared and claimed the improvement in the right of his brother; and, aided by Thomas Hughes, he took possession of the cabin. Dougherty rallied his friends and a fight ensued, in which Hughes was beaten and driven off, and Dougherty retained possession. He continued to improve, built a house and stable, and cleared about ten acres of ground. In 1778 he was driven off by the Indians and went into the army. When the war closed both parties returned and laid claim to the land. A, suit followed, when the jury, after hearing the evidence and arguments, decided in favor of Dougherty.


Another curious case, between John Toner and Morgan Sweeny, appears on the records. Toner settled on the Indian land in 1773, a few miles west of the Dougherty improvement; but he exchanged his place for another, on which he resided, with the view of making a permanent home for himself and family. When the war broke out and there was a call for men he was disposed to enlist, but hesitated for fear he would forfeit his improvement under the Fair Play law. His friends, however, promised to protect his claim for him and he entered the army.

In 1775 Sweeny entered into a contract with him (Toner) to lease the land under conditions that he should make certain improvements on the place for the benefit of Toner. This lease was deposited in the hands of a third party to hold. Mrs. Sweeny, however, managed to get hold of the lease and she and her husband destroyed it, thinking by so doing to make the place their own. They continued to occupy it till driven off by the Indians. In the meantime Toner was absent from the settlement in the service of his country. When he returned from the army he found Sweeny in possession of his improvement and he refused to give it up, denying that there was any contract or lease requiring him to do so. Toner brought a suit of ejectment in the court and won.


As has been stated the Land Office opened for the sale of land in the New Purchase, July 1, 1885, at 30 per hundred acres. The price was too high for extensive speculations, and such portions only were selected and purchased as were considered worth the 30, and the balance rejected. In 1792 the legislature perceived the fact that "the vacant lands were so high as to discourage settlers from purchasing them," and the price was reduced to 5 per hundred acres. Much of the mountain land was still considered too high at the reduced price, and remained uncalled for. The act of 1792 was short lived. In 1794 an entire change in the system took place. The supplement, passed September 22, 1794, to the act of April 22, 1794, granted the vacant lands of the Commonwealth only to actual settlers. This law arrested speculation, and the state of things continued in regard to the purchase of 1784 until 1817, the vacant lands of the Commonwealth being granted only to actual settlers.

In order to more clearly define the law relating to land titles the Assembly under date of April 6, 1802, passed an act which declared "that after May next no conveyance of any land within the counties of Lycoming, Luzerne, and Wayne shall be good or effectual to pass any right, title, estate, interest, or claim whatever, unless the title to the land in such conveyance mentioned is derived from this State, or the late Proprietaries thereof, before the 4th of July, 1776; and unless the said conveyance shall expressly refer to and recite the substance of the warrant, survey, patent, or title under which the same is so derived from this State."

The act of March 10, 1817, opened the office at $26.66 the hundred acres, freed from the conditions of settlement; yet vacant lands were open to the settler, and his rights held sacred. In the long interval from 1794 the spirit of speculation had subsided, tracts were abandoned by distant owners as not worth keeping, and the annually accruing charges overlooked and forgotten by them, and sold by thousands of acres for taxes. On the 13th of March, 1815, the legislature made every effort to confer good titles on purchases at tax sales, allowing a period of two years for redemption on tender of taxes and costs, with twenty-five per cent. on the same, and with no inconsiderable aid from the Supreme court the object has been pretty fully attained.

Thus encouraged, adventurers became numerous in a new mode of land jobbing. Instead of resorting to the Land Office for rights at $26.66 the hundred acres, they applied to the commissioners of counties or attended sales of the treasurers, where they procured land in any quantity at less than that sum by the thousands of acres. Vacant mountain land was suffered to remain vacant, even if the fact of its vacancy were generally known, when plenty of the same sort and size, and patented in the bargain, were offering at the court house doors at greatly inferior prices. The act of 1817 thus nullified the act of 1815 at its birth, and effectually turned the eyes of adventurers from the Land Office to the commissioners' office.


In the administration of the Fair Play laws some amusing as well as serious cases came before the commissioners for adjustment. Joseph Antes related this: A squatter named Francis Clark located a short distance west of Jersey Shore. He mysteriously came into possession of a dog. In a short time friendly Indian claimed that he (Clark) had stolen the dog from him and made complaint to the Fair Play men. They heard the case, found Clark guilty, and sentenced him to receive a certain number of lashes. Lots were drawn to decide who should administer the lashes, by placing a grain of corn for each man present, with one red grain, in a bag. Whoever drew the red grain was to do the flogging. Phillip Antes drew the red grain and he at once made preparations to inflict the punishment. Seeing that Clark was about to be flogged, the Indian, who was a tender-hearted savage (?) became sympathetic and made a proposition that if he would abandon the land where he had settled he would recommend that the sentence be remitted. Clark was given a few minutes for consideration, when he decided to leave. He transferred his claim to Andrew Boggs, who afterwards disposed of it to Samuel Campbell and he conveyed it to James Forster.

Another anecdote illustrates Fair Play principles. When Chief Justice McKean was holding court at one time in this district he inquired, partly from curiosity and partly in reference to the case before him, of a shrewd Irishman named Peter Rodey, if he could tell him what the provisions of the Fair Play code were. Peter's memory did not exactly serve him as to details, and he could only convey an idea of them by comparison, so, scratching his head, he answered: "All I can say is, that since your Honor's courts have come among us, Fair Play has ceased and law has taken its place!" This sharp rejoinder created a good deal of merriment in court, and Justice McKean was satisfied to ask no more questions reflecting on the tribunal.

The ninth decade of the eighteenth century was rapidly drawing to a close. The influx of emigrants continued, and the valley rapidly filled with inhabitants. Farms were opened on every hand, improvements made, and the people began to recover from the blighting effects of war.


The navigation of the Susquehanna river was at an early period considered as an important object to the trade of the State, and not only engaged the attention of the State government, but of many societies and individuals. Previous to 1770 the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia appointed a committee to view the Susquehanna and its lower falls, that proper measures might be recommended to render the water communication complete to Peachbottom Ferry. The committee made their report the 16th of February, 1770, in which they stated the great obstacles in the channel that would have to be removed. Philadelphia was greatly interested, on account of having trade drawn to that city, and for a long time it was the belief that water communication could be established between that place and Lake Erie, by building canals and utilizing the rivers. The legislature also had the matter under consideration early, and surveys were made and large sums. of money spent to demonstrate the feasibility of the project.

On the 9th of April, 1790, the Supreme Executive Council commissioned Samuel Maclay, Timothy Matlack, and John Adlum, experienced surveyors, to examine the head waters of the river and explore the streams of the "New Purchase," to discover, if possible, a route for a road or canal to connect the waters of the Allegheny with the West Branch and Schuylkill. The commission started - from Lebanon the latter part of April, 1790, descended the Swatara to Middletown, and then ascended the river by boat, making surveys and noting the condition of the channel. During the time employed in making this survey, Mr. Maclay kept a daily personal journal, which is still in existence, wherein he entered everything of interest that occurred during their long and tedious journey.

May 21, 1790, they entered the present limits of Lycoming county and "pushed up about six miles when we [they] stopped and breakfasted." About 2 o'clock in the afternoon they reached a point about two miles above Wallis's island, where they camped for the night. This large island lies in the river in front of the Wallis, or Hall mansion, and is a fine body of land, belonging to the estate. On Saturday, the 22d of May-according to an entry in Mr. Maclay's journal-they "passed up the, race ground early in the morning, and stopped and leveled it." He gives the result as follows:

Fore sight, 894; back sight, 781; difference, 387, in 102 perches distance. In this place there are two large flat stones and a number of loose ones to be removed, which, when done, boats can with ease and safety be towed up this place. From thence to Loyalsock ripples is a. fine, easy current. Loyalsock ripples: Back sight, 915; fore sight, 535; difference, 380, in 102 perches.

The "Race Ground" island lies in the river about a mile below the mouth of Loyalsock, and was so named because the water runs swiftly around it on the side next Bald Eagle mountain. It was a dangerous place for boats and rafts, and many have been wrecked on the head of the island, as the water rushes to the right with great velocity. Care, therefore, was required on the part of pilots to prevent their crafts from being drawn on the bar at the head of the island. The ascent of the, ripples below, as well as the "Race Ground" above, was always difficult to make with loaded boats. Strong iron rings were fastened in a number of rocks exposed in these ripples, through which a rope was passed and brought back to a windlass on the boat, to enable the boatmen to haul their craft up by means of this power. Several of these rings may yet be seen in the rocks.

After surveying the "race ground," Mr. Maclay informs us they passed up the river and encamped for the "night opposite a small island called Toner's island," and on the 23d they started early, and as "the men worked hard all day," they reached the mouth of Bald Eagle a little before sundown, "where they encamped."

He makes no mention of Williamsport, because there were no settlements on its site at that day, excepting those of Amariah Sutton and two or three other improvements on Lycoming creek, nearly a mile from the river. There were some improvements on the Site of Jaysburg, and Culbertson's mill and house were on the South side of the river, opposite the mouth of Lycoming. Toner's island, where they on camped, (then quite large) was in the river opposite Linden. Since that time it has. been almost entirely washed away by the action of the water. No other places are, mentioned by him till Great Island was reached. There they succeeded in purchasing three horses, when they hurried up the river, reaching Sinnemahoning the, 29th of May.


In June, 1790, an affair occurred on Pine creek which caused much talk as well as trouble. It was known as the "Walker tragedy." At that time Seneca Indians were in the habit of coming from their villages on the Genesee to hunt along Pine creek, and they frequently remained till late in the fall. They were on good terms with the whites and often stayed over night at their houses, sleeping on the floor, Indian fashion, before the fire which burned in the chimney places. They kept up this practice until the last Indian disappeared.

At the time mentioned, three brothers, Benjamin, Joseph, and Henry Walker, lived on a farm not far above the mouth of Pine creek. Their father, John Walker, was killed and barbarously scalped at the time the Lee family were so atrociously murdered by a band of marauding Indians in August, 1782, a few miles above Northumberland. Two Indians, one middle-aged, the other quite young, came into the Pine creek settlement on a hunting expedition and remained for some time. One day they were at the public house of a man named Stephenson, near the mouth of the creek-probably where the public road crosses that stream. A number of men were collected there, the Walker brothers being among them. The Indians became intoxicated and performed some drunken antics for the amusement of the spectators. The older Indian threw himself on the ground before the Walkers, and making the most horrid grimaces said: "This is the way your father acted when I killed and scalped him!"

The brothers became greatly enraged at this shocking and tantalizing exhibition by the drunken Indian, who thus boasted of having murdered their father, and mockingly described his death struggles when he tore the scalp from his head. This fiendish exhibition caused their blood to boil with rage and they swore vengeance on the savage, and would have torn him from limb to limb at once but for those present.

That evening they persuaded Samuel Doyle, a bold frontiersman, to accompany them a short distance up the creek, when they planned the murder of the two Indians. They boldly went to their camp and announced their intentions. The young Indian begged piteously for his life, declaring that he was not concerned in the murder of the elder Walker, but his appeals were unheeded and he was quickly tomahawked. The older Indian was then attacked and a desperate struggle ensued, in which knives and tomahawks were used. He fought desperately for his life and wounded two of the Walkers, and probably would have killed them, had they not succeeded in shooting him through the head. They then sunk the bodies in the creek not far from where the Phelps, Dodge & Company saw mills were afterwards built.

The sudden disappearance of the Indians caused some surprise in the neighborhood, and the Walkers were suspected of having killed them; but as almost everyone felt that they deserved death for their conduct their disappearance was soon forgotten. In a short time there was a rise of water in the creek and the dead bodies were washed on a gravel bar not far from where they had been thrown. The murder now became the subject of much talk; some asserted that the Walkers were justified in doing what they did, whilst others thought that as the deed had been committed in time of peace it was a grave violation of law and might cause trouble with the Indians.

In course of time information of the affair reached the ears of the authorities and caused a feeling of uneasiness. When the friends of the Indians learned how they had been treated by the whites, they became greatly excited and threatened to descend Pine creek in force and avenge their deaths. This threat alarmed the authorities and they promptly condemned the act of the Walkers and took steps to arrest them.

The people well knew the revengeful spirit of the Indians, and as reports reached them that they were greatly agitated and threatened to raid the settlement along the creek, they became much alarmed for their safety, and failing in their efforts to arrest the offenders, they straightway petitioned the Governor and Supreme Executive Council. The petition, which never was printed before, is given herewith. It shows the names of the residents on both sides of the creek at that time:

To His Excellency Thomas Mifflin, Esquire, President, and the Supreme Executive Council of the State of Pennsylvania:

The humble petition of the subscribers, inhabitants of the westward part of the county, of Northumberland respectfully sheweth: That your petitioners failing in their attempts to apprehend and secure the bodies of Benjamin, Henry, and Joseph Walker, and Samuel Doyle, the persons who lately killed the two Indians at Pine creek; and they having fled from the county, puts it out of our power to do anything further therein. And the settlement at and near Pine creek is likely to be evacuated on account of the dangers they suppose themselves liable to by the Indians hunting on the head waters of the creek; the settlers for seventeen miles are now moving, and they doubtless will be followed by others, which will ruin this new settlement, which is only beginning to recover [from] the damages they sustained by the late war, unless speedily stopped.

We therefore humbly pray your Excellency and Council to take some speedy and effectual method for securing the settlers on the frontiers by treaty or otherwise; and at the same time to adopt some speedy method for our aid and support, in case the Indians should make a descent upon our settlement, and your petitioners will ever pray, etc.

Pine Creek, July 4, 1790.

The petition was signed by Robert Crawford, James Chatham, William Dunn, Sr., Alexander Porter, Samuel Quinn, Thomas Nichols, Ephraim Morrison, James Erwin, James Fields, Barnabas Parsons, Robert Fleming, William Hepburn, Thomas Forster, William Bell, James Long, David Lusk, William Dunn, John Jackson, Robert King, Richard Salmon, Thomas Greenwood, Isaac Luse, John McMichael, Samuel Marrison, Jr., William Winter, George Fredericks, Alexander Johnson, James McClure, John Wilson, Ez. Smith, David Hanna, John Maffet, Arthur Bell, Matthew Adams, James Jackson, John McCormic, Brattan Caldwell, John King, John Anderson, James Lee Crawford, Joseph Cogley, Hugh White, James Wilson, Thomas Golaugher, George Nilson, Jacob Tomb, William Custard, Samuel Torbert, Edmund Huff, Robert Lee, William Glass, James Thompson, James Dunn, Robert Moore, P. J. Moore, Frederick Hill, John Parrey, James Crawford, Benjamin Demill, George Caihour, Anhalle Stewart, and James Stewart.

When the Governor received this petition he was much exercised, as he did not want trouble with the Indians on the frontier. At a meeting of the Executive Council, July 9, 1790, official information of the murder of the two-friendly Seneca Indians on the 27th of June was laid before that body, and a proclamation was at conviction of the Walkers once issued offering a reward of $800 for the arrest an and Doyle or $200 for any one of them.

On the 17th of August John Robinson wrote to Col. Thomas Proctor, from Pine creek, as given below:

SIR: I desire to inform you that Messrs. Benjamin Walker, Henry Walker, James Walker, and Samuel Doyle have upon mature deliberation been convinced of their error and are willing to give themselves up to stand their trial according to law. They most earnestly solicit your friendship, and pray you would use your interest and endeavors in their behalf with the Council, in order to mitigate their fault, which they are, from all appearance, very sorry for, and have petitioned the Council for their pardon, and knowing there has been some correspondence between you and my father, have desired me to write to you and state their inducement for killing the Indians, and my desire being great for the preservation of their lives, which I now earnestly crave, I will now give you their reasons for killing the two Indians, which are as follows: One of the two Indians they killed vaunted of his taking twenty-three scalps. One of the scalped persons being alive, is willing to give in on oath that he scalped a woman at the same time their father, John Walker, was killed and scalped, which was their inducement for killing them.

The writer of this letter was a son of Capt. Thomas Robinson, who rebuilt Fort Muncy, and took such an active part in defending the frontier. And while it is believed a large number of the settlers quietly sympathized with the Walkers for what they did, they were forced to publicly denounce the killing in order to keep on good terms with the Indians. An Indian who publicly boasted of having taken "twenty-three scalps" deserved killing, even if peace did exist. The woman he scalped, and who recovered, was the daughter of Claudius Boatman, and they both lived and died on Pine creek. It is not likely that she entertained much sympathy for the Indian on her own account-much less on the account of her mother, who was killed at the same time.

The authorities, to show their good faith in this matter, promptly dispatched "an express" to inform the Indians that they did not approve of the act. He found them greatly irritated, but owing to the influence of Cornplanter a war party was prevented from starting to take vengeance on the frontier settlers.

On the 23d of September, 1790, William Wilson informed Governor Mifflin by letter from Northumberland that he had engaged Thomas Rue, Jr., to go in pursuit of the Walkers and Doyle, and to take such persons with him as he could confide in. He started for Pine creek, but a few days before his arrival sixteen persons residing on the creek, banded together to take the Walkers, but being informed of what was going on they disappeared. Rue went upon the ground secretly and soon found Doyle, whom he arrested and sent him to jail at Lancaster. Mr. Wilson said further that he expected to secure the Walkers, as he had several persons in pursuit of them.

In another letter from the same place, dated September 29th, he informed the Governor that he had drawn on him "for fifty specie in favor of Hepburn and Cowden," for assisting in the arrest of Doyle and taking him to Lancaster. The, Walkers, he said, were still at large, and as the people sympathized with them, he had little hope of securing them. Some persons thought it would be better to have them "outlawed," as well as those who were secreting them.

Strenuous efforts, however, continued to be made by the authorities to arrest the Walkers to appease the wrath of the Indians, and on the 16th of November a, conference was hold at Tioga Point, which Colonel Pickering attended as a commissioner in behalf of the State. Red Jacket and Cornplanter were present, and after a formal consultation, and the assurance on the part of Colonel Pickering that everything possible was being done to bring the offenders to justice, they expressed themselves as satisfied.

A deputation had also been sent to Canandaigua by Council bearing a copy of the proclamation, and to apologize to the Indians for what had occurred, and assure, them that the authorities disapproved of the crime. The deputation returned bearing a string of wampum from the chief counsellors and warriors of the Seneca tribe, which was a token of peace and amity.

The Walkers, it seems, were secreted by their friends, and the officers failed to find them. As might have been expected in a community that had been so frequently assailed by the savages, who had mercilessly butchered their wives and children, burned their dwellings, and desolated their fields, there would be little disposition to deliver up those who had taken it upon themselves to be the avengers for such terrible outrages. The result was that the Commonwealth failed to secure the Walkers.

Doyle was arrested, September 25, 1790, by Thomas Reese and Jacob Maclay, and delivered to the jailer of Lancaster county November 12th. He was indicted by the grand jury of Northumberland county, at Sunbury, for murder, tried, and acquitted, the jury declaring "upon their oath and affirmation that the said Samuel Doyle is not guilty of the felony and murder whereof he stands indicted." Thomas McKean, chief justice of the State, presided at the trial; William Bradford, attorney general, conducted the prosecution, but it does not appear who defended him.

Doyle located at Bath, New York, soon after it was founded and lived there until he died. It seems strange that he should take up his residence near the Seneca country, where the friends of the Indian he assisted in killing lived. The Walkers, who escaped, were lost sight of for some time. In 1798 one of them located in what is now Steuben county, New York, where he lived for several years. He occupied a log cabin and spent most of his time hunting, remaining in the woods several days at a time. What became of him and his brothers is unknown.

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