In southwestern Pennsylvania, between present-day Bedford, PA and Cumberland, Maryland, run a series of long narrow valleys created by a system of ridges in the Allegany Mountain Range. In one of them, between the Allegany Front on the west and Will’s Mountain on the east, runs Little Will’s Creek joining the main artery of Will’s Creek. The valley then opens up to where numerous “runs” traverse the valley, emptying into the ever widening Will’s Creek as it works its way to the Potomac. Situated on the edge of the frontier, European settlers began trickling into this valley in the mid 1700’s.
The area was under the jurisdiction of Cumberland Valley Township up until 1785 when Londonderry Township was formed. By taking the first tax records for Cumberland Valley Township, 1771 (found in The Kernel of Greatness: an informal bicentennial History of Bedford County) and comparing them to the Londonderry Township list from 1786, I was able to infer the names of the first and subsequent settlers into the valley. An overview of the results is found here. Outline of inhabitants of Wills Creek (If anyone is interested in the spreadsheet where I calculated my results, let me know and I will send it to you.)
Andrew Huston, father of Alexander Huston, my five times great grandfather, was the first recorded settler in the Will’s Creek area in 1771. His land warrant, recorded in 1784, gives March 1763 as the date of first habitation. In 1773, Laurence Lamb entered the valley (again based on tax records.) His daughter, Mary Lamb, married, Richard Croy, the probable brother of Jacob Croy. The Croys first appear on Cumberland Valley tax records in 1776. Jacob Croy married Mary Huston, the daughter of Alexander Huston. Jacob Oswalt, who married Rebecca Huston, Andrew’s daughter, arrived in 1776 as well. If that isn’t hard enough to follow, the son of Jacob and Mary Croy, Andrew, married the daughter of Jacob and Rebecca Oswalt, Susannah.
While today’s society views blood ties as close as these skeptically, frontier America during the revolutionary period was scantly populated and these close-knit relationships were inevitable. Based on my research, for example, no more than 15 to 20 families represented by no more than 8 or 9 surnames lived in the isolated Will’s Creek community by 1779.
Note in the land warrant pictured in this blog that the warranted land borders a Nicholas Liberger. The lives of these people best finds expression through their own first-hand accounts. One vivid account comes from Nicholas. My next blog looks at the more intimate details of those lives.