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The Will’s Creek Community

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Andrew Huston Land Warrant

Andrew Huston Land Warrant

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.

Finding Jacob Croy in Pennsylvania

St. David's (Sherman) Church

St. David’s (Sherman) Church

I went to Pennsylvania hoping to find the origins of the Croy family in the United States. I did not. I know nothing more than when I started but, if such a thing is possible, I know it with greater clarity. Does that mean I know nothing with great clarity? In a word, yes.

I thought I found reference to Jacob Croy in the records of those arriving from the Palatinates in 1740’s Philadelphia. As noted in a previous blog, another researcher thought this was true. After careful handwriting analysis and some research regarding the script of that period, I am no longer sure. In fact, based on information from a German speaker, it is unlikely that the name Croy comes from the Palatinates since surnames from Germanic heritage rarely begin with “C.” (Perhaps, French speaking areas of what is now Belgium where Croy Castle is found?)

What do we know regarding “Croy” in the Americas? To the best of my knowledge, in chronological order, I have discovered the following:

  1. The Walloon, Jan De Croy, arrived in Virginia in the early 1600’s.
  2. A Winifred Croy (likely male) owned land in Virginia in the early 1600’s.
  3. A Peter Croy is noted in Massachusetts’s court records in the 1620’s.
  4. A Michael Croy with wife Anna Marie participated in a christening in 1767 York County, PA. (see photo)
  5. An Esther Croy , born about 1745, is listed as the wife of Adam Romberger  with a Jacob Croy managing the estate in Annville, Lebanon County, PA in 1800. There was a Jacob Croy in the area at the time. This could be our Jacob, but our patriarch was definitely in Bedford County from 1775 to 1790 with record of a land purchase in the neighboring county in 1794. By 1804 the family had moved to Ohio.
Wills Mountain with Cook Homestead

Wills Mountain with Cook Homestead

View near Wills Creek

View near Wills Creek

Without doubt though, our family lived in Londonderry Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania at the time of the Revolutionary War. They settled with the Huston and Oswalt families not far from the Mason-Dixon line between Wills Mountain and Wills Creek neighboring the Cook homestead. With a little help from some wonderful people at the library in Hyndman, my (very patient) husband and I found the spot. I stood silently absorbing the rustle of leaves falling like rain from the trees, an unending chorus of frogs and crickets, the fecund scent of rotting leaves and fungi, and the embrace of the past. Can’t you feel them?