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
Edited by F. Ellis and A. N. Hungerford.
Published in Philadelphia by Everts, Peck & Richards, 1886
TUSCARORA TOWNSHIP, Part II.
by A. L.
BIGHAM'S FORT was on the site of the residence of the Reed
brothers. Formerly their garden occupied this spot, and a variety of rusty iron
knives, spears, as well as stone tomahawks and arrow-points were found there.
Adjoining the present house there stood an old dwelling, in the chimney of which
was found a gun-barrel, on which pots were swung, by means of a chain and
hooks. On an examination of the gun-barrel it was found to be loaded with a
musket ball and three buckshot. The Bighams came from East Pennsboro'
township, Cumberland County, but nothing is known of them after selling out to
Francis West, a wealthy Englishman living in Carlisle.
An account of the attack by the Indians on Fort Bigham on July, 1756, will be
found in the third chapter of the General History, pages 68-69, which gives
names nowhere else preserved. It reads as if Woods, Innis and the others first
named had been in the fort; but it was not known just where the captives were
taken. The Innis tradition says they were taken in the fort; and Woods, in an
unsworn affidavit, says he was taken on "the 12th or 13th in the settlement of the
Tuscarora." Rev. Charles Beatty narrates a capture of a fortification in his journal,
in 1766, found elsewhere, which must refer to this fort, but in which he says there
were nothing but women and children. It is probable that the men were killed or
picked up singly, and the fort only assaulted when it was found
The Innis tradition is that he was at the fort at the time of the capture, rather
by chance than habit, for an attack was not anticipated; and further, that only one
other man was near it at the time. This seems to carry out the story related by
Beatty. Hannah Gray will be mentioned under the head of Spruce Hill, and
Francis Innis under Beale, and George Woods under Lack, and Robert Taylor
under Milford township. Mrs. Giles was probably the wife of the John who sold
his claims to William Anderson, in Spruce Hill. McDonald probably lived north of
the McKee tract. Little or nothing is now known of the others killed and carried
off, nor have their incipient homes been identified.
John McDonald was captured and made his escape. He was with an Indian,
who had him in charge. They came to a run in a thicket of laurels, where the
Indian, being thirsty, lay down at the stream to get a drink, keeping his prisoner at
a safe distance. McDonald made a spring and dashed into the bushes; the
Indian, as quickly as possible, was in hot pursuit, guided by the sound of cracking
bushes rather than by sight. After McDonald had run a distance, he started up a
deer. He lay down behind a log, and the Indian passed on, misled by the sounds
of the disturbed thicket, as the deer bounded onward in front of his pursuer, who
supposed that the crashing noise was made by his recent prisoner. McDonald
crouched beneath the log until the danger was over, and
then returned to the settlement. His wife was probably the sister of John Gray, as
he says in his will that in case neither his wife or daughter should ever return,
their half of the plantation was to go to "my sister, Jane McDonald," and he also
mentions "Mary McDonald, my niece." He had taken out a warrant for one
hundred acres on September 8, 1755. He was the father of Theophilus, Joseph,
John and Daniel, from whom there are numerous descendants still in Tuscarora
Valley, as well as scattered over the Western States.
From the fort there was a path over to Perry County by way of Bigham's Gap.
This route has not hitherto been understood. Liberty Valley was an impenetrable
thicket of laurels and spruce. No early trader or adventurer passed through it. It
took much and hard labor to make a path through it. The West Tuscarora
Mountain and the Conococheague Hills form an anticlinal axis, with Horse Valley
scooped out of the crest. Just where they begin to separate, the broadened
mountain has ravines on each side, and it was long these ravines that the early
path led over the mountain. The old "Traders' road" passed up through a ravine
north of Andersonburg, and came down a ravine at Mohler's tannery, in Liberty,
and crossed directly over the depressed end of the East Tuscarora Mountain by
Bigham's Gap. Isenminger's Ridge is a foot-hill parallel with the mountain and
nearly as high. The path led eastward behind the ridge, and bent westward
around its end.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS.--Tuscarora township has ten public schools.
McKinley's, Barren Run, McCoysville, McCulloch's Mills, Willow Run, Collins',
Union, Reed's, Bealetown and Waterford. James Butler taught near McCoysville
in 1807. John Erskine taught in a house where William Woodward lives, near
Reed's Gap. In 1812 a Mr. Gardner opened a school near Anderson's fulling-mill.
He treated his pupils to whiskey and sugar. In 1813 William Knox taught at
"Beggars' Row," near where Joshua Barton lives; James McKinstry was one of
his pupils. William P. Law taught in Tuscarora, 1807-20. Alexander Given, John
Glasgow and Dr. James Montgomery taught in a house near Mrs. Laird's, in
McCoysville. At McCulloch's Mills Samuel Telfer taught in 1825. John Keys and
Thomas Telfer taught in a house now owned by Charles Milhouse. In 1825 there
was a log school-house in East Waterford, where the present house stands,
where Samuel and William Barton taught. William W. Kirk and Robert Barnard
taught at Bealetown. The first school board was Matthew Laughlin, John Dobbs,
Thomas Morrow, William Arbuckle, Jesse Beale and Dr. James Galbreath. The
first schools under the law were those at East Waterford, McCoysville,
Bealetown, Collins' and the house of James Knox. The number of children in
Tuscarora attending school in 1884 was four hundred and thirty.
Tuscarora township has sent out some of her sons to benefit mankind in other
fields. Rev. D. J. Beale is the Presbyterian minister at Johnstown, Pa. Rev. John
Laird is a teacher as well as preacher in the same church. He is a grandson of
Rev. John Coulter, whose papers are still preserved in the Laird family.
The graphics on this website are not in the public domain.
© 2013 by Michael Milliken