The HERITAGE published quarterly by the Cambria County Historical Society.
Volume 22  Issue 2    MaY 2002


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The Heritage is published quarterly and mailed to CCHS Members. A few of the articles will be published here. 
Become a Member of the CCHS and get the full version of the Heritage.

John Martin Cable, Age 21, from the CCHS

 

 

 

Editor’s Note: A historian much wiser than myself once told me that a centennial or bicentennial celebration does not begin on the date of incorporation or the date of the founding. Instead, it should commemorate the years leading up to and even past the very date in question. The following summarizes the time period prior to March 26, 1804 (the official date of county incorporation) and is taken from the brochure On the Pioneer Trail in Rural Cambria County, by W.R. Davis-1990.  

           Due to the Penns’ pact with local Indian tribes, the Allegheny Wilderness was closed to white settlement until the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768. Only an occasional traveler on the Governor’s business or a licensed trader like John Hart ventured in. There is little proof that there was a large population of the “Early People” but a few sites are visible to the trained eye today.

          These sites include Fort Hill (near your Prince Gallitzin State Park), the Indian village at Old Conemaugh Town (Johnstown), the Indian Steps (near Wilmore) and the famous Kittanning Indian Trail which cuts though the northern woods of Cambria County.  Making good use of that path was John Hart. He first received his trader’s licenses in 1744 from the Governor’s Office.  His stop in Cambria County became known as Hart’s Sleeping Place (near Hastings). At Huntingdon his trading place was known as Hart’s Log.

          In 1769, only a year after the treaty of Fort Stanwix opened the door, the white settlers, Samuel, Rachel and Solomon Adams made their way up from Bedford County to settle near Elton. This pioneering family had to make several hasty retreats back to Bedford due to hostile Indian attacks. Finally, after about eight years of hostilities Samuel and an Indian warrior killed each other in hand-to-hand combat. Rachel herself was later killed by Indians. Today the family is remembered in the place names such as: Adams Township, Solomon Run, Rachel Hill and Rachel’s Run.

          Around 1783 a Dunkard, John Martin Cable (Kebel in German) brought his family to the Elk Pastures near Wilmore. Two of his daughters married two Pringle brothers and together they built their homestead on Pringle Hill back in 1795.

          There is no more stirring image in the history of Cambria County than that of the Revolutionary patriarch, Captain Michael McGuire, coming over the mountain at the age of 71 years with a string of grown sons, Cornelius, Luke, Richard, Peter and Michael to found a new home for his family at the very limits of our infant nation. Captain McGuire had also arrived about the time of the Fort Stanwix Treaty (1768) to hunt and fish in the Ashville area. Up from his native Maryland the Irish-Catholic McGuire had recruited and commanded a company of the Fredrick militia in 1776. By 1788 he and his family were living on the 1400 acres they had bought near Loretto. 

          Having arrived in the Summerhill area around 1794,  Thomas and Barbara Croyle built their fortress stone house in 1800. The Croyle’s had their hands full with marauding Indians despite the fact that Thomas was raised by a Native American (Seneca) mother. Barbara Croyle dictated that their house be made of stone, solid on the vulnerable sides and windows only where they provided a clear lane of rifle fire. This stone house stands today.

          Around this time (1795) a Pennsylvania German, Joseph Johns,  moved his farm to Conemaugh, which later developed in the county’s largest city, Johnstown. By 1800, however, Johns had moved again to the Davidsville area.

          In late 1796, the first band of Welshmen, new to America, arrived in the Ebensburg area and a year later at Beulah. Obviously having no clue as to the type of weather conditions they might encounter, these hearty settlers left Philadelphia in September only to arrive atop the Allegheny Mountain in the November preceding one of the coldest winter’s on record. They survived in hemlock shacks being built of limbs “no larger than a man’s thigh”. The group’s leader, Rev. Rees Lloyd, built the first house of worship in the Allegheny Wilderness. Built in 1799, it was known as the Ebenezer Chapel.

          A year after the Ebensburg party arrived, Morgan John Rhys, brought over “100 professional and mechanics”. Having rejected the site chosen by the Ebensburg advance party, Rev. Rhys mounted an organized assault on the rocky lands of the Blacklick, some three miles to the west. The surveyors of his Cambrian Company laid out a town one mile square with land set aside for public buildings, a library, schools and a seminary. The streets had optimistic names such as: Truth, Zeal, Hope, Joy and Free. Town lots were bought by famous people such as Joseph Priestly, the discoverer of oxygen, and M. Boudinot, Master of the U.S. Mint.

          Rev. Morgan John Rhys campaigned in Washington D.C. to established the first U.S. Post Office and polling place at Beulah. Despite its ambitious beginning, however, Beulah quickly failed as morale crumbled under the brute labor of coxing tillable land from rocky forest soil. The difference between Beulah and Ebensburg may have been the difference between its two leaders; Rev. Morgan John Rhys and Rev. Rhees Lloyd. It may have been as simple as Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare. Whereas Morgan John Rhys spent the initial years of Beulah’s life traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard promoting his ideal town of the future; Rev. Rhees Lloyd labored tirelessly between his fields and his religious flock.

          Back in Loretto, Captain McGuire set aside 200 acres of land for a church, cemetery and home for a priest. With that offer the Russian Prince-Priest, Father Demetrius Gallitzin, arrived in 1799. His legacy has created a unique milestone in the history of Roman Catholicism in America. He was the first priest wholly educated and ordained in America and he founded the first Catholic parish between the Appalachians and the Mississippi.

 

 

          Bicentennial Dateline: May of 1802. The biggest news in these parts is the race for the new county seat. While Beulah has the Post Office and polling place, Ebensburg and Munster are both on the Galbraith Road. Conemaugh, with 60 people is not in contention. Both Beulah and Ebensburg’s town leaders are making offers of free land for public buildings. Now the latest rumor is that the State Legislature wants the county seat to be closest spot to the center of the county- That would be Ebensburg.

 

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In The News - 
Spirit Night Returns in October 2002

Join us for Spirit Night in October 2002

Remember Spirit Night 1999? This very popular fund-raising event will be returning this October to the delight of many volunteers and spectators alike. Spirit Night is a walking tour from the Courthouse in Ebensburg to the Cambria County Historical Society in which the participant encounters a variety of historic figures from the past.

Who should volunteer for Spirit Night?  This event requires organizers, tour guides, representatives from various organizations such as church choirs and the fire department, individuals who will portray historic characters and groups of friends who will portray historic groups such as the WCTU or a 1918 boy scout troop. Everyone is welcome to volunteer for Spirit Night.

Participants develop their own ideas on how they will portray characters or events from the past. They are then matched up to a site along the route and are responsible to perform a five-minute program for each tour group that comes by.

This year’s Spirit Night route will take walkers from the Court House to the Historical Society via North Julian Street. This new route will take the visitor past the News Stand, Gazebo, Post Office, Jail, Fire Hall, Old Town Hall, Senior Citizen’s Center, Houser’s Funeral Home and Holy Name Church. Along the path one might encounter a group of WCTU ladies calling for prohibition, Old Smitty - “the man they could hang”, the 1825 Borough Council, a “seniors” bridge party, an old hearse driver, Father Christy, an 1800’s choir (Latin Rite) and a Victorian “Coming Out”  Party at the A.W. Buck House. Of course, these are just some ideas floating around. This is a very popular event that has a set number of tickets available. Tickets will not go on sale until the Ebensburg Reunion which is always held on the last Saturday in July.

  • In an unprecedented move, the Executive Board sought and filled eight of nine empty positions on its panel. At the time of this writing these positions are still being finalized so we will be introducing you to this “Freshman Class” in the next issue.

  • A few lines here cannot express the regret we have incurred at the resignation of our friend and Vice President, Dr. John Coleman. Jack had served as President and Vice President for many, many years.  His knowledge of history and contacts with historical associations are only surpassed by his love of history.  Jack often “guided” board members to focus on the mission and to look at the big picture. With Jack’s resignation our board will have to break out its copy of Robert’s Rules of Order as our instant “point man” will not be there with the answer. Good Luck, Jack, in all that you endeavor.

  • Volunteers, Ann Makin and Susie Lipps  have plunged headlong into our 50 year collection of Mountaineer-Herald photographs. Donated by Dave Thompson, the collection includes thousands of photos, negatives and “print jobs” in some 50 boxes. Dave has promised to come back and put together an exhibit on the history of his printing business.

  • Board member, Randy Seymour has taken on the task of finalizing the details of the Community Room / Lecture Hall. Betty Seymour and Helen Paige are working on a project to microfilm the newspapers that are inaccessible. And the Board as a whole is continuing the discussion of our role in the Cambria County’s Bicentennial (March 26, 2004).

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