Spruce Hill Township, Juniata Co PA - Part I
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Spruce Hill Township
Part I

History of that part of the Susquehanna and Juniata valleys, embraced in the counties of Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Union and Snyder, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania...
Edited by F. Ellis and A. N. Hungerford.
Published in Philadelphia by Everts, Peck & Richards, 1886
Pages 791-801

by A. L. Guss

This township was formed by dividing Turbett on September 10, 1858, and is the youngest township in the county. The viewers appointed were Joseph Middaugh, of Turbett, Isaac Kurts, of Walker, and David Bashoar, of Fermanagh. The line from the Tuscarora Creek to the top of the mountain is nearly straight. The first assessment was taken in 1859. There were then about one hundred and eighty-six resident taxables and forty-four single freemen. The name given this township was derived from a place on the bank of the Tuscarora where there were formerly a great many spruce-trees, from which it obtained the name of Spruce Hill. A school-house afterwards had the same name; then it was given to the post office and finally to the township.

Spruce Hill is bounded on the north by Beale and Milford, on the west by Tuscarora, on the east by Turbett with the Tuscarora Mountain to the south. The northern line follows the creek, except the Half Moon, a loop in front of Academia, which is included in Spruce Hill. The Limestone Ridge divided the settlers in the valley next the mountain from those along the creek, excepting at the Half Moon.

As this territory was in Turbett prior to 1859, and in Milford prior to 1817, and in Lack prior to 1769, the reader is referred to those townships for assessment lists of the first settlers, and to Milford for a list of early taxable industries.

EARLY SETTLERS.--Hugh Quigley warranted one hundred and nine acres, June 12, 1762, on the Tuscarora Creek, in a loop, now owned by John F. G. Long. The first road from the Run Gap was to pass his house.

Samuel Christy warranted one hundred and forty-eight acres May 29, 1767, now the Casner brothers. This was Hunter John Williams' old place, where he was in 1763, when the Indians visited the valley and from whom he made a narrow escape.

William Stewart got a warrant, February 3, 1755, for a tract on the south side of Tuscarora. He was killed by Indians before the land was surveyed. John Williams, hunter, married the Widow Stewart, left his "old place" to Christy, as stated above, and moved to the Stewart place, which, January 14, 1788, he warranted in his own name, not forgetting, by an unnatural line, to include the best part of his old place, thus making two hundred and ninety-nine acres, and now owned by J. Nevin Pomeroy, being just across the creek from his store.

Captain John Williams was wounded in the battle of Brandywine. He was the grandfather of Captain John P. Wharton, father of John William, Jr., and grandfather of Joseph Williams.

William Stewart came from the Yellow Breeches and was married to an Irwin. His children were William, Jr., James, and a daughter married to Edward Milliken and another to Thomas Kenny. Milliken moved to Washington County and Kenny to Kentucky. James died in Carlisle. William married Alice Graham. He died about 1805, leaving the following children: William married Peggy Copeland; Annie, wife of William Wharton, who was in "St. Clair's Defeat;" Margaret; James, above Johnstown; George went to Chillicothe; John went to Indiana County; Thomas, married to Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Rice, and is still living at a very ripe old age in Turbett; Robert, a tailor, married Margaret Groce; Rebecca, wife of Nicholas Arnold; Mary, wife of Peter Hench. The children of Mrs. Stewart to John Williams were John, Benjamin, the wife of Robert Patton, the wife of William Jacobs, the wife of George Jacobs, the wife of Jesse Packer, grandfather of ex- Governor Packer.

The circumstances of the death of the first William Stewart are related by Thomas, above named, as follows: He went across the creek to hunt for his horses at John Allen's place. Two Indians came upon him--a large one and a small one. Stewart and the large one got into a scuffle; Stewart took the Indian's tomahawk from him and threw it away. The small one got it and struck him on the head. They took his scalp and departed. While this was taking place, his son William, who had accompanied him, made his escape. When found, his dog was beside him and fought for his body. He was buried there under a poplar tree which is said to be still standing.

John Sherrard warranted two hundred and four acres October 25, 1765, and John Armstrong three hundred and fifty-six acres February 3, 1755. It would seem, from the fact that Sherrard had to pay interest on his land from March, 1760, the same as James Gray, hereafter cited, that Sherrard had improved his tract as early as Gray, namely in 1754, allowance being made, as in the case of Mrs. Mary Anderson, for the time he was driven away by the Indians. Armstrong's application calls for "300 acres on Tuscarora Creek, where some Indians called by the name Lakens live, about six miles from the mouth of Tuscarora." These two tracks constitute the Half Moon, being that part of Spruce Hill township lying north of the creek. Armstrong had surveyed his tract and then it was resurveyed together with the other tract May 10, 1768, and soon after Cox & Co. got both tracts and are so marked in 1770. In this loop there was an Indian town of the Tuscarora tribe called "Lackens" in 1755, and the bill of sale given under the head of Beale township shows that in 1754 the ridge running across the neck of the Half Moon loop was "the extent northward of the Indian claim who are now settled on the bottom surrounded by the creek." They were still there in 1762, when a chief from New York came to Philadelphia and wished to be shown the way and given a pass to see his brethren in Tuscarora Valley.

Across the creek westward from John Armstrong, on February 3, 1755, George Armstrong got a warrant for one hundred acres "on the south side of Tuscarora, opposite to the settlement of the Indians called Lackens." This warrant was addressed to William Maclay, surveyor. This survey was along the creek where David Esh now lives and Esquire John Patterson's old place. It was soon added to the William Graham surveys and shares their history.

Above this, on the creek, lay the survey of James Kenny, one hundred and seventy-six acres, warranted February 3, 1755. The date of this warrant, and that for his large tract in Turbett, show that this man had been sighting around for lands at an early date. It is now owned by William Telfer, Joseph Ard's and Jacob Esh's heirs. On this Kenny survey, near the Mill Run, a fourth of a mile east of Pleasant view, is Ebenezer Church and grave-yard--"surveyed February 4, 1843, at the request of Samuel Heddin for the use of a Methodist Episcopal Church." The draft shows a spring in the corner of a one-acre lot. The present church was dedicated October 7, 1877; Rev. E. J. Gray, president of Williamsport Seminary, officiated.

John Beale, one of the early settlers, had a survey on the bend of the creek, above Kenny and below Chambers, to which he added from time to time, some of it, perhaps, warranted in the name of other people, the whole making about two hundred and twenty-five acres. He was here in 1763. Enoch Beale now lives here at the Okeson fording. John, Thomas and David were sons of William Beale, of Whiteland, Chester County. Their father never moved here, but took up in his name several tracts, and other tracts were taken up by his sons after they moved here and had established themselves. John is first named on the tax-lists in 1763, Thomas in 1767, David, 1772. Thomas lived at Pomeroy's, in Beale; David is a single freeman in Milford in 1772, and after that date at Bealetown. John had a son William, the father of Samuel, who was the father of Enoch, the present owner, and they all lived on the same place at the Okeson fording.

Ralph Sterrett, an Indian trader, had a claim to a tract of about seven hundred acres, now the site of Pleasant View, and held part by right of sundry improvements in the name of other persons, and they were warranted in the name of David Chambers, Charles Stewart and others, except one hundred and twenty acres which Sterrett himself warranted, September 22, 1766, and took in the land of the present little village. The Charles Stewart warrant for one hundred and seventy-two acres is dated August 3, 1787. These lands are now held by James Fitzgerald, J. L. Barton, Theodore Meminger, Jacob Esh's heirs and David Barton. Northward of the above, on the creek, lay the David Chambers survey, one hundred and sixty seven acres, November 4, 1766, now known as the Bryner property.

PLEASANT VIEW is a small village, containing only eight dwelling houses. The school house here has the title La Grange, so named by Benjamin Reynolds, who deeded the ground for school purposes in 1856. The post office here was formerly called Tuscarora Valley, and seems to have been established about 1830, with James Milliken as postmaster; after his death James B. Milliken, then Benjamin Cresswell. About 1848 Henry Louder became postmaster, and about this time the name was changed to Pleasant View. The postmasters since have been as follows: Joseph Barnard, James S. Patterson, from 1862 to 1870, and J. L. Barton, since the last date.

Norris Williams, on the creek above, warranted eighty acres January 13, 1791. On this place was the Jesse Evans saw-mill, 1795; now Thomas Ramsey; late Telfer. The saw-mill tract (three acres) was sold by Samuel Williams to Jesse Evans, May 4, 1805. On November 28, 2805, Charles Morrow sold Daniel McDonald the mill-race, etc., formerly occupied by Jesse Evans. On August 29, 1807, Evans sold the three acres to McDonald.

Joseph McCoy took up three tracts, making one hundred and eighteen acres, in 1788, lying between Williams and the John Gray place. These he sold to Jesse Evans, March 18, 1805; and he to Daniel McDonald, one hundred and thirty acres, August 29, 1807. Theodore Meminger, present prothonotary, now resides upon and owns most of this tract.

Charles Murray warranted, March 26, 1788, three hundred and thirty-nine acres, west of McCoy, comprising the highlands.

James Scott's survey extended across the creek to the amount of sixty-seven acres, warranted April 16, 1767, now David Swartz.

Abraham Enslow had a tract in the northwest corner of the township, now owned by G. & D. Ubil.

Having followed the creek side, we now return to the main valley adjoining the Turbett line.

William Rennison warranted two hundred and sixty-four acres at the Spruce Hill line adjoining Turbett, surveyed May 6, 1761, and warranted February 3, 1755, though the Land Office itself seems to be without this date. It was a choice tract and is now owned by Thomas Stewart, Yost Yoder, Joseph Yoder and Samuel Graham. Rennison sold seventy-five acres to his son John, who sold to William Stewart, November 28, 1782, who also got twenty-five acres more of the main tract in 1784, and it has been held by the Stewart family ever since.

John Crozier warranted two hundred and nineteen acres September 10, 1766, where Samuel Wharton now lives.

William Kenny and Charles O'Harra, in two tracts, took up four hundred and thirty-nine acres over towards the mountain from the above now Calvin Gilson and others.

William Christy, by application 1994, November 4, 1766, took up one hundred and fifty-four acres west of Rennison, which, by will, descended to his son William, who sold it to William Wharton, August 14, 1811, then one hundred and seventy-eight acres. It has since passed to William Wharton, Jr., and is now owned by his son William, being the fifth William owner of this place. This is probably the original settlement of the Widow Christy on the tax-list of 1763, and possibly her husband lived here. William, James, John, Samuel, who took up this and adjoining tracts, and also Dennis, on Licking Creek, were probably all her sons. The Wharton grave-yard is located on this farm.

James Christy, on order of November 27, 1766, had surveyed, April 15, 1767, one hundred and twenty-eight acres, now owned by Henderson Gilson. It lay between Crozier and Patton.

A little east of this the traveler will observe a farm with a conspicuous residence perched up against the side of the Tuscarora Mountain. This is where Leonard Mauger now lives, before this called Stewart Cummin's place, two hundred and two acres. It is historic as the residence of John Cummin, the father of Juniata County. Side by side with the above, and highest up the mountain, may be seen the old home of Roger Staynor, and old Revolutionary soldier.

John Patton, by warrant of August 23, 1785, took up two hundred and fifty acres at Spruce Hill, now owned by John Gilliford, George Meminger, William Evans, Thomas T., William A. and J. Harvey Patton and others. By his will, it descended to his son William. John Patton's church certificate, July 22, 1753, shows he came from Ballygawley, Ireland. John Patton never lived on his tract, but his son William came upon it in 1787. Patton is taxed for this land already in 1763, and is constantly given as an adjoiner.

William, son of John, served all through the Revolutionary War. His son, James S., married Jane Gilliford, a granddaughter of John, who settled opposite Hollidaysburg, or, as Jones says, near Blair Furnace, and was killed by Indians in 1778, a number of whose descendants now reside in this county.

William Patton had erected a saw-mill on his tract as early as 1790. On February 26, 1798, he conveyed to John Francis thirteen acres, including the saw-mill, which he then sold to Thomas Gilson, January 1, 1799. Thomas Gilson is first taxed with a grist-mill in 1790, the same year that the saw-mill commences. That was his old mill up the run, where the fulling-mill and tannery were erected afterwards. It was not without some research that the location of the old mill was discovered. Thomas Gilson was drowned at the bridge at the "Old Port" town in 1816. His son William carried on the mill, and from him the thirteen acre mill property passed to his son William, who conveyed it to Jesse Rice, March 5, 1839; Rice sold to W. H., John and Robert Patterson, May 1, 1816, who sold to Robert Patterson, Jr., April 3, 1849, whose heirs still own it.

BAPTIST CHURCH.--On June 9, 1794, William Patton conveyed to Nathan Thomas, Daniel Okeson and Jesse Fry, "representing the Baptist congregation of Milford township, in trust, one acre, to erect a house of worship," adjoining Patton's mill-dam and race, "together with the free privilege of a spring and way to and from it, situated over the mill-race." On this ground they erected a log church building, in which they occasionally held service. The congregation becoming weak in this vicinity, it was abandoned to strengthen another church erected near the old forge on Licking Creek. The land was sold to William Gilson by Lewis Horning and Dennis Randolph, trustees of the church, April 12, 1829. Before this a number of persons were buried here on this church property.

On a part of this tract Thomas Gilson erected a grist-mill, taxed as early as 1790, built of logs, and which he abandoned in 1799, after purchasing the saw- mill and water-power lower down. On the old mill-site he put up a fulling-mill in 1811, which was run by him and his son David until the product of such mills was superseded by factory goods. After this, about 1850, John Moffet, Elias Gruver and Samuel Shearer built a tannery where the fulling-mill had stood, and after running it some time, it was burned, when they rebuilt on a larger scale and did an extensive tanning business. It was sold to John A. Sterrett, of Lewistown, and ceased running about 1880. It is near by Spruce Hill post-office, often called "Conn's Store," a small hamlet near the mill, on the main road up the valley.

Arks were formerly built at Spruce Hill (before the erection of Patterson's mill- dam), in the creek, which, when floated down to the Royal Port, could be loaded with five hundred barrels of flour, and taken safely out of the mouth of the creek and down the river.

Samuel Rogers, on application, September 15, 1766, took up two hundred and five acres southwest of Patton, which passed to Charles Stewart December 23, 1766; to David McNair August 14, 1771; to Joseph Gordon May 4, 1772; to John Kerr, who had it patented, calling it "Prospect." From Kerr it passed to Samuel Hogg, and then to George Gilliford, the present owner.

Stephen Cochran warranted three hundred and thirty-five acres September 28, 1767, west of Rogers, which he sold to Matthew Henderson, which he sold to William Graham June 10, 1774; now owned by Samuel Graham's heirs, Jonathan Swartz and Allison Hench. There is a cave back of Widow Graham's house, which has never been explored.

John Graham had a warrant for one hundred acres, "including a Deer Lick at the foot of the Tuscarora mountain," September 20, 1762. He was a son of William Graham, mentioned below, and was killed by the Indians on July 11, 1763, over the mountain at Buffalo Creek. When last seen he was sitting on a log near the place of attack, with his hands on his face and the blood running through his fingers. His tract is now partly the property of Noah Esh, one hundred and seventy-two acres. John Graham had also warranted one hundred and seventy-two acres March 1, 1763. The deer-lick is on Noah Esh's farm.

John Fitzgerald warranted a tract January 11, 1765, part of which was included in the Cochran survey.

William Graham, a pioneer in this section, warranted a tract of one hundred acres September 20, 1762, adjoining James Kenney, Robert Hogg and his other lands. He also warranted one hundred acres "on south side Tuscarora creek, in Lack township, including his improvement," March 2, 1763. His house on this property was burned by the Indians July 11, 1763. It stood on Benjamin Hertzler's lot, near a spring in front of Mrs. Isabella Graham's house. He purchased the tract of John Armstrong, already named as being opposite Lackens, and the three surveys added together made four hundred and nineteen acres, and are known as the "Graham lands." The lines have been very much changed. Parts of the survey of Armstrong, John Graham and the two William Graham tracts were patented, March 12, 1839, by Joseph Yoder, two hundred and thirty-nine acres; now owned by David B. and Noah H. Esh. John Patterson, Esq., patented one hundred and fifty-four acres April 12, 1827, parts of Armstrong and the two William Graham tracts. On this tract, on a mountain-stream, William, son of William Graham, erected grist and saw-mills in 1813, which were continued by his sons, then by Yost Yoder, John Esh; now Benjamin Hertzler; but the mills have been abandoned for several years.

Robert Hogg, claimed by some writers to be one of the first settlers, had a large tract of three hundred and ninety-three acres warranted April 11, 1763. It is choice land, and is now held by John L. Patterson, George Patterson, William Patterson, Christ Yoder, James Fitzgerald, the latters' mill being on the tract.

Robert Hogg's daughter, Mary, was married September 15, 1778, by Rev. Hugh Magill, to John McKee, and they occupied part of the mansion tract. Their children were Robert, Thomas, William, Mary, James, John, Martha, David, Logan and Sarah. They all left Tuscarora Valley except William, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Laird, in 1816. Mrs. Samuel Cooper, of Port Royal, and Mrs. M. Forsyth, of Derry, Mifflin County, are daughters. John McKee laid out on his land a lot for a church and grave-yard. No church was ever built here; but the ground was used for a grave-yard, and here Robert Hogg and wife, Letitia, John McKee and others are buried. It is known as "McKee's grave-yard," and is on the farm now Christ Yoder's. Here, therefore, repose the remains of one of the pioneer adventurers in Tuscarora. There is a story that, at the time of the taking of Bigham's Fort, Mrs. McKee and her father (Robert Hogg) were taking some goods across the mountain on a cow, and were seen by the Indians, who let them pass, because they did not wish just then to alarm the fort.

Although William Maclay surveyed and returned for Hogg three hundred and ninety-three acres under his warrant, yet this was more than could be held under it. One John Kennedy thought he would like to lay a warrant on the surplus. Hogg entered his caveat and they were cited to appear July 28, 1765. Kennedy not appearing, Hogg was heard. The decision was, "That Hogg made an improvement on the place in dispute long before Kennedy obtained any warrant for the same, and was driven off by the Indians; therefore Hogg is to have three hundred and ninety-three acres, provided he take out a new warrant for one hundred and fifty acres, but this must not interfere with John Gray." Hogg sold the benefit of this grant to John McKee June 7, 1786, who warranted one hundred and fifty-one acres inside of Hogg's old lines. The time Hogg was driven off by Indians must refer to 1756, when Bigham's Fort was taken. The reader will note the special tender regard for Hannah, widow of John Gray, that the lines of her survey remained unchanged, and that she not be troubled with any interferences.

The name of this old pioneer was spelled Hogg in former days. He came from East Pennsborough, in Cumberland County, where numbers of the family spell their name Hoge. Jonathan Hoge was long active and useful in the early days of this State. The tombstones say Robert Hoge died January 20, 1798, aged eighty years. Letitia Hoge died March 12, 1812, aged eighty-eight years. John McKee died November 10, 1830, aged seventy-six years. His wife, "old Mrs. McKee," of the famous law-suit, and only daughter of Robert Hoge, died in the West. There is an old path here, crossing the mountain, which was known as Hogg's, and later McKee's Gap, though there is no depression in the mountain.

Arthur Eccles, two hundred and nineteen acres, November 3, 1766, south of Hoge; now W. J. Evans, David Naylor, E. S. Petit and Wisdom School-house, so- called from the name given to the tract on the patent granted to Robert Eccles.

William McMullen, westward of the southern part of Hogg's survey, warranted two hundred and twenty-two acres, April 4, 1755, and June 8, 1762; now Samuel Ebberts, Hugh Davis and others. These were formerly called "Warwick lands." Here formerly lived Joseph McCoy, one of the most active men in the early enterprises of the Presbyterian Church. It was sold from McMullen in 1771 to John Cox, and bought by Joseph McCoy, February 22, 1772. West and south of McMullen lay lands of Merchant John Steele, now heirs of Rev. Thomas Smith. No house on this tract--farmed by Ebberts.

John Stiger's survey, one hundred and seven acres, November 5, 1787, lay next the mountain. James Matthias, or Mathews, had one hundred and seventy- four acres, February 19, 1793, near by, now Silas Smith's heirs.

John Gray had a warrant, dated February 8, 1755, for "one hundred and twenty acres, including his improvement on the south side of Tuscarora Creek, adjoining Robert Hogg and James Gray." This survey was "said to contain two hundred and forty-two acres." "By virtue of the judgment of the Board of Property, and an Order of re-survey from the Surveyor-General, dated April 25, 1796," William Harris re-surveyed this tract February 6, 1799, agreeable to the old lines, for John Gray, the heir-at-law of John Gray, deceased," and made it contain three hundred and eighteen acres. This is the most celebrated tract of land in Juniata County. (See appended narrative on the Gray property case.)

John Milliken, in the right of James McConnell's heirs, warranted three hundred and thirteen acres, April 21, 1794, south of James Gray, and improved at an early day (now John Barnard's and others').

James Gray was a brother of John Gray, whose wife, Hannah, was abducted by Indians. James held his land without any warrant until November 18, 1774, when it was said to contain three hundred and thirty-two acres. It lay in the main valley west of that of John. After the death of James the place was divided between his sons, John, Jr., and Hugh,--John the lower, and Hugh the upper half. Hugh dying, his tract was left to his son, James, and a daughter married to James Hughes. In making this division, February, 1812, it was found that the tract had four hundred and seventy-seven acres, or two hundred and thirty-three to each son of James, situated partly in Lack and partly in Milford. When these lands came to be patented, it was found they could not hold all the lands under the old warrant; so there was obtained a new warrant in the name of James Gray, October 6, 1815, for one hundred and sixteen acres inside the south side of the tract, containing, as the surveyor says, "lands improved at least as early as 1778 (another draft says 1774), if not earlier, and continued in cultivation." James Gray himself, in his day, lived on the upper end of his place. He was to be left in Lack, in 1768, on the formation of Milford; but nearly all his land went into the new township. He died about 1795. His lands are now owned by John Bennett, David Bale, William Graver, John Leonard and Isaac Books.

It was James' son, John (and his children after him), who were the active parties in the great law-suit. He is said to have lived a long time in a cave, where the mother of Elder Gilliford formerly resided. Had he diligently cultivated the two hundred and thirty-three acres inherited from his father, and attended to his own business, he might have lived in a good house, and left his children a fine estate. He sought by law to take his Aunt Hannah's farm, and the lawyers ate him up. Seeking more, all was lost.

Samuel Wharton, Sr., was a Revolutionary soldier, who was under Wayne at Boston and in every battle from Bunker Hill to the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, and was never wounded. He came from Chester County and settled, about 1774, at the Delaney (now Miles) place, and died in 1831. His wife was a Wilson, and both families were originally Quakers. His children were John, Samuel, William, Robert, Mary (wife of Samuel Meloy) and Sarah (wife of John Middagh). John's descendants moved mostly to Delphi, Ind. Samuel, Jr., moved to Columbiana County, Ohio. William's sons were William and Samuel; the former married Jane Mary Delancy, and has sons, William and Robert. Captain John P. Wharton is a son of Robert, son of Samuel.

The land of William Anderson lay northeast of Spruce Hill post-office. Possessed of squatter improvement rights, Anderson settled at a spring, and was commissioned assessor of Lack township, October 28, 1762. He took the first assessment of Lack for 1763. A certificate for himself and wife shows they came from Fagg's Manor, in Chester County, and numerous neighbors testify that they "know nothing of him but honesty." On the 10th of July in that year, in the dusk of the evening, "the old man was killed with his Bible in his hand, supposed to be about worship," by a band of marauding Indians, who also killed his son Joseph and a girl brought up in the family. The wife, Mary, was at the time at their former home, in Middleton township, Cumberland County. On March 14, 1765, she presented her case to John Penn, and he was pleased to issue to her a special warrant, No. 88, in which he recites, that Mary Anderson says, "her late husband, March 27, 1760, purchased an improvement of Peter Titus on two hundred acres and made considerable more improvements, and continued thereon till July, 1763, when, in the late war, her husband and Joseph, their son, with a servant, were all murdered at their settlement by the Indians." [see third chapter of General History, vol. i. p. 76]

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