This page contains three sections:
Note that "western" or "southwestern"
Pennsylvania refers to the area where present-day Washington County (an
others) is located, although ownership of the land changed many times before
1669 - Earliest French exploration
of western Pennsylvania.
1739 and 1749 - More French expeditions to establish fur trade with the Indians.
1748 - The Ohio Company is formed
by Virginia gentlemen, including two of George Washington's brothers, to
affect settlement in southwestern Pennsylvania and carry on Indian trade
on a large scale.
1750 - Disgruntled Indians pushed
back from the east into western Pennsylvania by this time.
1753 - French build forts and
begin asserting their claim to the region including western Pennsylvania.
1754 - Spring, Col. George Washington
sent by Virginia with a military force to get the French to leave the territory.
Washington loses the ensuing battle at Fort Duquense.
1755 - British Gen. Braddock
takes troops west, is joined by militia, and is ambushed and massacred before reaching Fort Duquense. Indians begin attacking settlers along the
frontier, forcing them back east of the Alleghenies.
1755 to 1756 - Settlements begin
in the area of present Washington County.
1756 - Colony of Pennsylvania
declares war on the Shawnees and Delawares. Pennsylvania begins building
forts along the frontier, provisioned with men and supplies.
1758 - Peace treaty signed between
Pennsylvania and the Shawanees and Delawares.
1758 - November, British Gen.
Forbes takes Ft. Duquense with a force of 2500. Fort renamed Fort Pitt.
1759 - French abandon area of
1762 - British sign treaty with
French, British left in possession of all eastern America.
1763 - Summer, remaining dissatisfied Indians attack all along the frontier. Some forts defeated. British send
troops reinforce Fort Pitt. Indians defeated at battle of Bushy Run.
1765 - Settlements made at Redstone
(below Brownsville on the Monongahela) and Turkey Foot.
1768 - October, Proprietary
of Pennsylvania purchases country from the Indians as far west as the Allegheny
and Ohio Rivers.
1769 - April, opening of land
offices for sales of lands obtained in the 1768 Land Purchase. Within one
month, 3200 applications for warrants were made, mostly by Scotch-Irish
in eastern Pennsylvania.
1770-1771 - Influx of Scotch-Irish
from Chester, Lancaster, Bedford, and York counties and some directly from
1775 - April, war breaks out
in Massachusetts against the British.
1776 - July, Continental Congress
declares the American Colonies independent.
1776 - Pennsylvania given a
new constitution, overthrowing the proprietary Penn government and shifting
control away from the Quakers.
1780 - Pennsylvania passes slave
1781 - March, County of Washington
established with population 23,866.
1781 - October, British surrender
to the Americans and the Revolution is over.
1786 - Region of southwestern
Pennsylvania previously under the claim of Virginia is ceded to Pennsylvania
by a joint commission of the two states.
1787 - Early, Constitutional
Convention convenes in Philadelphia.
1787 - December, Pennsylvania
becomes the second state to ratify the Constitution.
1788 - Allegheny County established,
taken from Washington and Westmoreland Counties.
1789 - April, George Washington
1791 - Tax on whiskey passed
by the Federal government.
1794 - Farmers in southwestern
Pennsylvania openly oppose all efforts collection of the tax. President
Washington sends militia troops to the area and the rebellion is quashed.
To be continued...
Who were the settlers and
what routes did they take?
The first settlers of southwestern
Pennsylvania were primarily English and came from Virginia and Maryland
following Braddock's Road (see History Timeline above)
to Redstone Fort. These were the settlers enticed by the Ohio Company to
settle and commence trade with the Indians in the early 1760's. Many of
these held "Virginia Certificates", which referred to land warrants issued
by the Colonial Virginia. With the passage of Pennsylvania's slave emancipation
law in 1780, many of these early Virginian and Maryland settlers commenced
a migration to Kentucky which continued brisk for the next 10 or so years.
From George K. Schweitzer's
1986 work Pennsylvania Genealogical Research, page 22, we read:
"Most settlers of the
new land [western Pennsylvania] followed the river valleys and old Indian
trails to the interior, but the trip beyond the Alleghenies was more difficult,
since this required going across the mountains. The most used route was
known as the Great Pennsylvania Road, running from Philadelphia to Lancaster
to York to Gettysburg to Chambersburg to Bedford to Somerset to Greensburg
The Great Pennsylvania Road
started as Braddock's trail, created for Gen. Braddock's ill-fated expedition
to take Fort Duquense in 1755. Essentially, this is the course of modern
day US Rt. 30.
See the on-line sites:
National Road - Route 40
National Park Service's National Road Site
After provincial Pennsylvania's
land purchase from the Indians in 1769, a migration of primarily Scotch-Irish
people began coming from the eastern counties of Chester, Lancaster, York,
and Dauphin as well as those of Northern Maryland. By 1773 the Scotch-Irish
population was increasing steadily. And it was between 1771 and 1775 that
the lands west of the Monongahela River were settled. Most of these lands
were obtained under Virginia titles, especially along Chartiers Creek,
rather than Pennsylvania, mostly because the price Virginia was asking
is said to have been one fourteenth the cost asked by Pennsylvania.
After the Revolution, the
preponderance of settlers in southwestern Pennsylvania were Scotch-Irish
mingled with some English, Germans, and others. By 1790, ten Presbyterian
churches had been established in the area. By the second generation, even
more settled by these peoples which overflowed to the north and to the
west into Ohio, making the region a stronghold of this ethnic group in
From a letter written in 1832
by Rev. Dr. John McMillan we get a glimpse of conditions in 1775 when he
first crossed the Allegheny Mountains to preach along Chartiers Creek in
what is now Washington Co.:
"...But we had neither
bedstead, nor tables, nor stool, nor chair, nor bucket. All these things
we ad to leave behind us, as there was no wagon road at that time over
WWW Links for the History
Be sure to check our Regional
Societies page for links to historical societies.
Rebellion - Whiskey Insurrection - A site dedicated to the telling of the
story of the Whiskey Insurrection in Washington County, PA.
- A web page about the Whiskey Insurrection in Washington County, PA.
The Papers of George Washington
- Including journal entries pertaining to the Whiskey Insurrection.
Towns of Washington County - A collector's series of books.
Meadowcroft Museum of Rural Life
- A site that preserves the history of life on the land in Western Pennsylvania over the past 14,000 years
Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional
History Center - A museum and research facility devoted to the history and heritage of the Western Pennsylvania region.
Jefferson College Historical Society
- Information about America's most historic transcontinental highway.
40 - National Road - Information about America's most historic transcontinental highway.
Project - With links to many other projects.
- The Allegheny Experience: An American Transformation. This project was
done by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission.
Michael D. Meals' Revolutionary War
Links - A very extensive site that includes a huge set of links
to sites relating to the Revolutionary War.
Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
dedicated to identifying and preserving the architectural landmarks, historic neighborhoods, and historic designed landscapes of Allegheny County and educating people about this regions architectural heritage and urban landscape design history.
of Progress - Virtual tour of the state heritage tour route which meanders through nine counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Traditional Pottery Historic Context
for Southwestern Pennsylvania - An article.
Disaster History - 1954-1998
History Websites - 1954-1998