The intent of this page is to give an early account of Western Pennsylvania and then to build a history of the migration into Westmoreland County by collecting the Oral Histories of the living descendants of the early settlers. Send your story to DN



The territory that formed Westmoreland County was purchased in 1768 by the family of William Penn from the Six Nations and it was opened to settlers in April 1769. This included what is today generally considered southwestern Pennsylvania and from it were carved Washington, Greene, and Fayette counties, as well as sections of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Indiana, and Somerset counties. From The Westmoreland County Historical Society

Arnold Viele, a Dutch trader from Albany may have been the first white man who passed through western Pennsylvania on his way to the Ohio in 1692. Occasional traders made the trip over the Allegheny Mountains by 1715. The first Pennsylvania trader was to have been James Le Tort from east of the Susquehanna River. The next from Cumberland County were Peter Cheaver, John Evans, Henry Devoy, Owen Nicholson, Alex Magenty, Patrick Burns, and George Hutchison. By 1732 the French from Canada, who were trying to tie up with the French of Louisiana via the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, were building a fort at the forks of the Ohio. A Mr. Frazier had a trading house at the mouth of Turtle Creek at the Monongahela River. But there was no permanent settlements west of the Alleghenies before 1748. The first actual settlement was in 1752 by Christopher Gist at Mount Braddock west of the Youghiogheny River in what is now Fayette County.

The present Southwestern section of Pennsylvania was thought to be Cumberland County, PA with the County Seat at Carlisle and  also Augusta County, a part of Virginia with the County Seat at Staunton. The area was visited by Wendel Brown of Virginia with his two sons and Frederick Waltzer who lived four miles west of Uniontown. However these and others before the Treaty of 1762 were repeatedly molested, families murdered, and cabins burnt. Col. Bouquet brought peace and the real permanent settlements began after 1764. The early settlers came from the Western Counties of Virginia and Maryland. The Baptist came to Uniontown in 1766-68; the German Lutherans to German Township, Fayette County in 1770. The Quakers and Scotch Irish Presbyterians came from Eastern Pennsylvania to Brownsville before 1770 and the population of Western Pennsylvania was estimated at 1500 at this time. By 1776 the district was divided by Virginia into three counties of Ohio, Yohogania, and Monongalia. The first court was held in 1777 at the Virginia Court House erected near the present town of Elizabeth which is east of the Monongahela seven miles SSW of McKeesport.

The French Catholic's were some of the the first Europeans in the Allegheny River Valley.  However at that time, in the East, the British did not permit Catholic's to own land or build a church, except maybe in Maryland. The catholic's who went to Conewago, PA thought that they had settled in Maryland and paid taxes to Maryland until the Mason-Dixon Line was established when they found them selfs in Pennsylvania. They were reluctant to move into the western part of the state until after the war when religious freedom and land ownership was a fact. It was at this time that the Catholic's of Eastern Pennsylvania  and Western Maryland moved to the Latrobe - Mt Pleasant area of Westmoreland County.  The first group came in about 1787 from Goshenhoppen in eastern Pennsylvania and were mostly German and Irish. These were followed by the French and German people of  Conewago, PA and Taneytown, MD who settled in the same area including Derry Township. By 1800  they had also moved to Loretto to the east in Cambria County.

Before the French and Indian War most of the roads in the Colonies ran north and south with little ingress to the west. The first traders used the Indian paths and so the settlers followed . These trails were in the hundreds in Pennsylvania alone. Later on, some of these trails were joined together and widened for wagon travel and the first roads leading to the west were those built by Braddock and Forbes to support their armies. After the War of Independence there was a large movement into western Pennsylvania and down the Ohio River to Kentucky and the Northwest Territory.

From the 'Early History of Western Pennsylvania' and other works.

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Rugh's Blockhouse

In 1771, Michael RuchRugh Sr. led his family west into the wilderness beyond the Allegheny mountains and with the able help of his adult sons and their families they settled a very large tract of land in Southwestern Pennsylvania which eventually became part of Westmoreland County. They constructed cabins and a sturdy stockade used by both family and neighbors for protection from Indian attack. This "fort" became well known in that part of early Pennsylvania as "Rugh's Blockhouse". It was located just a mile or two south of the present City of Greensburg and was on the old Hannastown-Beesontown road. His large two-story log house had musket portholes and was where a large company of people could stay and defend themselves during times of Indian attack.

In the year 1773, along with a small handful of other individuals, he played a part in the formation of the new County of Westmoreland. He was appointed by the Pennsylvania governor of the day as one of the 14 original Westmoreland County "Justices". He was also one of a very small group of men named to set up the new county seat at the home of Robert Hanna. The town thus erected soon became known as "Hannastown". A few years later, in 1782, Hannastown was totally destroyed during an Indian attack inspired by the British.

Michael was one of five individuals then chosen by the Governor of Pennsylvania to "purchase and take assurance" land for the creation of yet another county town. That new town, first known as "New Town", eventually became known as Greensburg, and is the county seat of Westmoreland County to this day. He served for several terms as County Coroner, beginning in 1780.

During the Revolution, he was the Westmoreland County Militia "Commissioner of Purchases". The Rugh Blockhouse was apparently considered then what today would be known by the military as a "supply depot". He appears on a county tax listing for Hempfield Township in 1789 and is in the nations first census (1790) as the head of his household within that township.

Much of the original land of Michael (the Sr.) and his sons has now become known as "South Greensburg". He and friend Anthony Altman were the trustees of 106 acres of land provided for the church and school of the Zion Lutheran Church at Harold's (so designated in 1789).

The old house of Michael (the Sr.) still (1991) exists in a highly remodeled state at 1213 Broad Street in South Greensberg. The original existing stone walls were said to be 2 feet thick. The location of this house, built on Michael's original foundation, is but a few blocks from a road presently called "Rugh Street".

by Phil Knox        TOP OF PAGE   Return To The Migration Page


The attack on the Henry(Heinrich)of Northampton, Burlington County, New Jersey, settled shortly after 1770, in the Herold settlement, about two miles north of the schoolhouse(now the John G. Miller farm; the A.M.Zundel farm and Solomon Bender farm were parts of the original tract). In time, the new settlers cleared some land and erected a house and stables. Four children cheered this lonely settlement. During the spring of 1779, when the husband, Frederick Henry, was compelled to leave home to take some grist to a distant mill, a band of Indians, perhaps Senacas, decended upon the helpless home. As was their custom, the Indians sneaked up to the house to ascertain if the men were home and on guard. Now, the Henry's had a large cock that frequently came to the door of the home to be fed. Mrs. Henry, seeing some feathers moving near the door, sent one of the children to shoo away the big rooster, whereupon the Indians, decked out in the feathers of their war headgear, burst in upon the helpless family. Mrs. Henry bravely attempted to defend her little ones, where upon she was "tomahawked" and scalped in the presence of her small children. One child, seeing the Indians coming at the door, fled into the cornfield and hid among the corn, thus escaped, the Indians being in a hurry, fearing the wrath of the settlers. The Indians now took the three children captive, and after firing the buildings, started on their journey toward the Indian country. It soon developed that the youngesst child, a mere infant, would be to much bother to the Indians, so when it began to cry, a big Indian took it by it's feet and dashed its brains out against a maple tree on the Solomon Bender farm, now owned by William Henry. This tree was held sacred by the pioneers and it stood until recent times(about 1900). The other two children were carried away. Immediately upon the return of Henry, a posse of settlers started out in pursuit of the Indians. One account relates that the Indians were in their camp above Pittsburgh on the Allegheny, and after a lively skirmish, the children were recaptured, and the murderer of the wife and child identified; tied to a tree, and despatched by the daughter, Anna Margaret, then about nine years old.(The eldest child recorded in Baptismalrecord of Frederick Hinrich and Catherine his wife was Sarah, born October 24, 1777.) Anna Margaret Henry married Adam Steiner in 1793 and her daughter, Sarah, became the wife of George Eisenmann.

From 'OLD WESTMORELAND'               TOP OF PAGE   Return To The Migration Page


Much has been written in Westmoreland Co. history sources about the killing of Joseph/John Brownlee at the 1782 Indian attack on Hannastown.  I have researched this in an attempt to clarify the discrepancies in the printed information.

Betty Rudolph

Joseph Brownlee served in Capt. Joseph Erwin’s Company during the Revolutionary War. This company was raised in Westmoreland County, PA, and joined the regiment at Marcus Hook. It was subsequently included in the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Regiment, then in the Second, and finally discharged at Valley Forge, Jan. 1, 1778, by reason of expiration of term of enlistment. Engagements were Long Island, White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Quibbletown, Brandywine, and Germantown.

Joseph was commissioned Third Lieutenant on April 15, 1776, Second Lieutenant on Oct 24, 1776, and First Lieutenant on April 18, 1777. He was captured at the Battle of Long Island on July 27, 1776, and exchanged December 9, 1776. He resigned June 22, 1777. Joseph married Elizabeth Guthrie in 1775. They had two children, John and Jane. The death of Joseph Brownlee can be found in several different printed sources. Some of these sources, notably the History of Westmoreland
County Pennsylavania by John N. Boucher, identify the Brownlee killed by the Indians as John. However, in Boucher's Old and New Westmoreland, he is identified as Joseph. The confusion may result from the fact that a John Brownlee served with Joseph in Irwin's Company in the Revolution.  Or, because the young son who was killed with Joseph was named John.  But
extensive research shows that it was Joseph who died at Hannastown.

Joseph was a well known Indian fighter on the Frontier. As one source states, "He did not discriminate between a good and a bad Indian, thinking perhaps that there were none of the former class." In a letter from Col. Brodhead dated Nov. 2, 1780, he named Lieutenant Brownlee as one of several men who attempted to "destroy" a group of Delaware Indians under Brodhead's

On July 13, 1782 Joseph Brownlee and his family were attending a wedding at Miller's Blockhouse at Hannastown in Westmoreland Co. PA when the Indians attacked. Several of the guests, including the Brownlees, were captured. One
of the captured women happened to address Joseph by name. The Indians, upon finding out who he was, killed him with a hatchet blow to the head, and then killed his three-year-old son John who he was carrying on his back. The
Indians also killed another woman, identified in one account as Mrs. White, assuming she was Joseph's wife.

Elizabeth and Jane, who was only four months old at the time, were taken to Buffalo and Niagra where Elizabeth was sold to British officers for $20 and Jane for $10 and 2 gallons of rum. They were then taken to Montreal and exchanged and returned to Hannastown in July 1783.  The bodies of the slain captives were buried where they were found on what was later the Meckling farm.

After her return from captivity, Elizabeth married William Guthrie in Jul 1784 at Hannastown. He was killed by a fall from a wagon 10 Mar 1828. She d. 11 Feb 1842. Jane married James HUGLE and moved to Muskingum Co., Ohio.

Joseph Brownlee owned a 150 acre tract of land in Hempfield Township in Westmoreland Co. which was sold in 1786 to pay his debts and support his surviving child. Hugh Brownlee, possibly Joseph’s brother, was appointed as one of the Administrators of his estate, but had died by Feb. 1785.

Sources for this information include:
· Pension File for Elizabeth Brownlee Guthrie, #3245 PA.
· American Guthries and Allied Families
· American Biographical Library, The Biographical Cyclopædia of American Women, Volume II. Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution
. Old and New Westmoreland, by John N. Boucher, The American Historical Society, Inc., NY, 1918
· Old Westmoreland Newsletter, Vol. 2 #1, #3, #4, Vol. 3 #1, Vol. 9 #4, Vol. 12 #1, Vol 13, #3
· Pennsylvania Archives, 6th Series, Vol 14, pg 297
· Pennsylvania Archives, 3rd Series, Vol 22, pg 512
· History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, by John N. Boucher, Lewis Publishing Co. 1906
· Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, Vol. II. Letter from Michael Huffnagle to Irvine, dated the day after the battle at Hannastown

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The Andrew Phillip Harman/Harmon Family       by  Sharen Field Williams

From Germany to Westmoreland Co

Andrew Phillip Harman was b. abt 1740 in Germany. He was among the early settlers in Westmoreland County and settled there in violation of the law which forbade settlement of a section until it was first purchased from the Indians. He and his family settled in Western Pennsylvania in the 1760's and tradition says they had little else but a rifle, an ax, and a mattock and that the first summer they lived in a hut built against a rock.  He came with his wife Elizabeth, his sons Andrew, John, and Phillip, and his daughter Elizabeth. Andrew and his family were the first white men to settle in this valley. When neighbors finally came the dangers increased because while the indians might ignore one lone family they could not be expected to do so when his neighbors became more numerous.

The Harmans lived between Stahlstown and Donegal on Four Mile Run.  Living where they were, they couldn't transport grain from the east for bread and were glad if they could get enough for seed for their crops.They lived on the product from their garden, wild berries and fruits, and game.

In 1777, Andrew Harman and three of his neighbors were returning from a sale north of the area when they were attacked by Indians and killed.  One of the men lived long enough to ride away on his horse and was found the next day by his neighbors.

Harman's widow and three sons moved to their blockhouse over the winter and in the spring tried to resume clearing and planting the land. One morning Elizabeth Harman saw some neighbors' horses in a field of grain and sent the two oldest boys (the oldest, Andrew, was only 14) to drive them off. Three hostile Indians were lying in wait and captured John, but Andrew ran towards their cabin.  The Indians overtook him and asked if there were other men in the cabin and he said there were - a lie that probably saved the lives of his family.  They started down Four Mile Run and were able to capture a young horse which they used to carry utensils and skins they had with them.

On the journey one of the Indians showed they boys a pocket wallet which they recognized at once.  When asked where they had gotten it the Indians replied that they had taken it from a white man they had killed the year before. It was their father's wallet and at least one of the Indians had been among those that had killed their father the year before.

Andrew and John soon learned they had been captured by Senecas.  John died the first winter after they were captured of a sickness which also killed many of the tribe.  Andrew lived and was adopted by the Chief, Cornplanter, and lived with them about five years.

After the old chief's death they sold Andrew to an English officer for a bottle of rum.  He lived a year or two in England and then was exchanged at the end of the Revolutionary War and sent to New York. He made his way home from there and walked into his mother's home six years after his capture. Everyone had given him up for dead and settlers came from miles around to see him.

Andrew married Catherine Sandles in 1790 but he never lost his love for the wilderness and spent much of his free time hunting and fishing until he died at the age of 74 in 1838. Andrew and Catherine had eight children, three girls and five boys.

The youngest brother, Phillip (b. Sept 6, 1769) also stayed and settled in the area.  He married Elizabeth Humm and had nine children, four girls and three boys.

There are still many Harmans living in the Stahlstown area.  The family intermarried with many other of the pioneer families including the Campbell, Hines, Roadman, and Stahl families who stayed and settled in Westmoreland county for generations.

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