An American Family History

Early Settlers in Shaver's Creek Valley


Barree, West and Logan Townships,
Cumberland/Bedford/Huntingdon County, Pennsyvania

Bedford County, Pennsylvania was created on March 9, 1771 from part of Cumberland County.

In the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic of 1793, 5000 or more people died between August 1 and November 9.

A militia is a military unit composed of citizens who are called up in time of need.

During the American Revolution a Tory or Loyalist was used in for those who remained loyal to the British Crown.

Shaver's Creek is a tributary of the Juniata River in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. It was named for Indian trader, Peter Shaver, who settled on the west side of Shaver's creek about 1754. He was found decapitated near his home and his head was never recovered.

Shaver's Creek Manor was reserved by the proprietaries of the province for their own use. The warrant for its survey was dated October 30, 1760.

A warrant to John McNitt date August 31, 1787, was for land improved in June, 1760.

In the warrant to James Childs, granted August 2, 1762, for the tract of land lying on the creek above Fairfield, it is described as being about ten miles from the mouth of Shaver's Creek, and known by a globe painted on a tree by an Indian. The stream entering the creek within the lines of this survey evidently derives its name, GLOBE RUN, from the circumstance.

In 1763, Samuel Finley applied for land on Shaver's Creek, "next below the Globe."
The track immediately below was called the "Crane Neck Spring."

On June 8, 1763, William Wilson applied for a warrant for two hundred acres, "to include his improvements on the west side of Shaver's Creek."

James and John Dickey settled near Shavers' creek about 1764. John mentioned improvement made three years before in his application No 3119, dated March 23, 1767, for three hundred acres.

Barree Township was created from Cumberland County in 1767. The name was originally written Barré. Old Bedford County was made from part of Cumberland County, in 1771. Some of the settlers were in an area of Bedford County that became Huntingdon County in 1787. West Barree was formed from Barree in 1796. Jackson Township was formed from Barree in 1845.

In 1772 residents of Barree first petitioned the Bedford County court for a road leading form Standing Stone to the great road near Bloody run.

In 1784, William Long, Jr. was residing on a tract, which was improved in the fall of 1774.

In 1775 a tax assesment was made in Barree Township, which was then in Bedford County.

In 1776 William McLevy, Alexander McCormick, James Williams, Abraham Haines, Robert Smith and Nathaniel Jarrard [Gerard?] were chosen to lay out needed roads.

During the Revolution, settlers from the area were in the 3rd Battalion which was formed in 1777 commanded by William McAlevy. It also included men from Frankstown and Hopewell.

Early settlers found protection in blockhouse forts. When an alarm was raised, women and children were taken to the fort.

McAlevy's blockhouse fort was on a bluff east of the village on a bank of Standing Stone Creek. It was built in 1778 on the border of Barree and Jackson Townships.

In 1778 there was a failed Tory plot in Barree Township.

Crum's blockhouse fort was built in 1780 and was a refuge for settlers in Stone Valley. Peter Crum leased a mill from the Minor brothers on a branch of the Little Juniata. Peter was killed by indigenous warriors in 1781.

McCormick's blockhouse fort was on Stone Creek.

Rickett's blockhouse fort was located about between Saulsburg and Manor Hill.

In 1781 a tax assesment was made in Barree Township which was then in Bedford County.

In 1785 a tax assessment was made in Barree Township which was then in Bedford County.

In 1787 part of Bedford County, including Barree Township became part of Huntingdon County.

In 1788 Robert Smith made a tax assesment list for Barree. At that time it was in Huntingdon County. Some of the residents also appeared on the Logan and West tax list.

In 1788, John Little was captain of the militia in Huntingdon County. His company was made up of men from Barree.

In August, 1788, the settlers were gathered at McCormick's fort. James McClees and Mrs. Huston left the fort to gather flax and were killed by indigenous people.

In 1791 Arthur Bell was captain of the second company of the first battalion from Huntingdon Township.

Many pioneers of Shaver's Creek Valley moved on to Ohio and Kentucky.

Among the earliest settlers in the township were the Ewings, McMahons, Riddles, and Tolans, who settled in the northern part; the Ricketts, Hennens, and Murrays settled in the vicinity of Warrior Ridge in the southern part. Later came the Moores, Bells, Stewarts, McIlhennys, and Henrys, who settled in the central part.

Warrior Ridge
Warrior Ridge

Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania was established on September 20, 1787 as a large region of Central Pennsylvania. It was previously part of Bedford County and the earlier Cumberland Region.
The indigenous population in the United States before the arrival of Europeans included many distinct tribes and languages
A blockhouse or garrison house is a small, isolated fort. The typical blockhouse was two stories with the second story overhanging the first. It had small openings to allow residents to shoot attackers without being exposed.



from History of the Juniata Valley

The father of Alexander Bell, Captain Jack Bell, was the pioneer of Barree township, Huntingdon county, and to this day his feats with gun and rod are related


from History of Huntingdon and Blair counties, Pennsylvania by J. Simpson Africa

Pioneer Settlers [Jackson Township]
...To provide a place of safety in case of sudden emergency a stockade fort was erected near the house of Gen. William McAlevy, which locality and existence has been perpetuated by the village of McAlevy's Fort. It was built about 1778, in consequence of the many Indian alarms in the lower part of the valley, and may have been designed more as a place of rendezvous for the people who wished to go in a company to the stronger forts at Standing Stone or in the Kishacoquillas Valley than as a place of defense.

...It appears that this fort was occupied in the summer of 1778 by a number of settlers, who had gathered here in consequence of a rumor that hostile Indians had entered the valley, although their presence had not been clearly noted, and some were doubtful whether the alarm was well founded.

Murder of James McClees and Mrs. Huston.
Among these was an old lady by the name of Huston, whose age had made her somewhat garrulous. Her home was in the valley several miles above the fort, and among the other crops she had growing on the farm was a patch of flax, whose possession and care gave her a world of concern. Indeed, after she reached the fort she could do nothing but talk about her flax and lament constantly that it would go to waste because she could not give it her attention. Yet, yielding to her fears, she dared not leave the fort alone to attend to it, and tried in vain to persuade the men of the fort to accompany her. To no purpose did they set forth that the flax was well enough off where it was, and that owing to the wildness of the country adjacent her land to go there would be attended by the greatest risk of ambuscade by the Indians, - a venture too great when no good could be accomplished.

She persisted in her purpose to go to her flax-patch until she became an object of good-natured ridicule and the butt of some jokes. One morning, about the middle of August, 1778, a group of men were seated before the fort when she again commenced talking about her flax, to the amusement of the men, who began twitting her about the great loss if her flax could not be gathered. At this a young man by the name of James McClees got up and said,

Boys, it's bad enough to be too cowardly to help the old woman gather her flax, but to ridicule her misfortune is a shame.

To this the others retorted, "If you think it is cowardly, why don't you go and help her pull it." "That is just my intention," replied the spirited young fellow, and turning to the old woman he said, "Mrs. Huston, get ready, and I'll go with you to pull your flax."

The old woman was overjoyed, and in a few moments the two departed, the young man carrying with him his rifle. He was but eighteen years of age, but well developed, strong, and utterly without fear. They left promising to return that evening or the evening following at furthest. The first evening passed and they came not. The second one went by and still no signs of them. Their absence caused alarm, and a search was instituted. When the scouting party reached

Mrs. Huston's house they found everything quiet, with no signs of one having been there. They started up the hill to the flax-patch, where they found Mrs. Huston dead and scalped, with cuts from a hatchet in her forehead. The flax was untouched, showing that she was killed on her way to the patch. About one hundred years [yards] farther lay the body of young McClees, stabbed and cut in every part of the body, no bullet-holes being visible, while on every hand were the evidences of a fearful close encounter. The ground was bloody for twenty yards around, and there were remnants of Indian dress lying around, but his rifle was gone. By his side was his knife, broken and bloody. The full nature of the conflict was not known until a few days later, when on a bench of the mountain, a mile distant from the cabin, were found the remains of three Indians covered with bark. It was thought that there were five Indians, and that McClees killed two outright, dying in a hand-to-hand struggle at the same time that the third Indian yielded up his life.

The annals of the township do not contain accounts of other Indian outrages, but the massacre of Mrs. Huston and young McClees had the effect of keeping out many settlers until after the close of the Revolution.

A participant in that struggle and the first to make a permanent home in the upper part of Stone Valley was the Gen. William McAlevy spoken of in connection with the fort. He was born in County Down, Ireland, in 1728, his parents being of Scottish descent. About the middle of the last century he emigrated to America and settled in the neighborhood of Carlisle, in the Cumberland Valley.

He married Margaret Harris, a sister of John Harris, the founder of Harrisburg, and had by this union sons, named
William and
George, and daughters,
Margaret, and

Some time prior to 1770 he came to Huntingdon County, and with the aid of an assistant put up a cabin and made a small clearing where the village of McAlevy's Fort now is, upon which he planted some of the common vegetables. Having done this, he felled a large tree on the bank of the creek near his home, from the trunk of which he fashioned a large canoe, which he floated down Standing Stone Creek into the Juniata and so on down that stream into the Susquehanna, landing at a point nearest to his old home.

After making the necessary arrangements he embarked with his wife and children and what goods he had, and after days of arduous toil he reached his forest home. Most of the way the boat was propelled by means of poles, but where he could do so he hitched a horse to the boat, leading him along the banks of the streams.

Not long after his settlement his wife died, and marrying a second time he had for his wife Miss Mary Hays.

For his third wife he married Mrs. Margaret Allen, and had children named
Allen and

Gen. McAlevy served with credit in the Revolution,...He died in 1822, full of honors, at the unusual age of ninety-four years, and was interred on the high hill on his farm, which he had set aside for a cemetery....

Joseph Oburn was another of the soldiers in the McAlevy company in the Revolution. He came from Delaware about 1770, and settled on the present David Cunningham place. He was a very righteous man, and extremely generous. It is related of him that in 1777 he raised a large crop of wheat, when that grain had failed in many localities and commanded so large a price that it was eagerly sought after, and many buyers were attracted to Mr. Oburn's house. One morning a man, reputed to be rich, rode up to the house, and accosting the owner, said,

"Mr. Oburn, have you any wheat?"
"Plenty of it: have you the money to pay for it?"
"A horse to carry it, and bags to put it in, I see."
"Oh, yes; everything," replied the wheat-buyer.
"Well, then," said Mr. Oburn,
"you can go to Big Valley for your wheat; mine is for people who have no money to pay, and no horses to carry it off."....


At where are now Strunk's Mills, John Little settled about 1770. He too went out to do service for the patriot cause in the Revolution. Little built pioneer mills and made other substantial improvements at an early day. He died about 1814, and his only son also died many years ago.

One of the daughters married Samuel Porter, an early settler near Little's, and the progenitors of the Porters of the township.

....Thomas and John Ferguson were early citizens, but removed to Centre County, where a township bears their name.

The Glen family also moved to that township, and made some good improvements on the head-waters of Spruce Creek.

Robert Smith was the warrantee of a large tract of land above the claim made by Gen. McAlevy, which he improved somewhat,

and then sold out to Samuel Mitchell, of Mifflin County, who located on it in 1790. He built his house above the present Mitchell homestead, and there commenced the distillation of liquor, afterwards selling that interest to Gen. McAlevy. The sons of Samuel Mitchell were
Thomas, [married Betsey Hughes]
James, and
Samuel, and the daughters married
John Stewart,
David McClelland, and
Robert McClelland. ....


[Barree Township]

Although the township was not wholly free of Indians, no outrages seem to have been committed in its borders. To be prepared in case an incursion occured, a stockade fort was built at Manor Hill on one of the Rickets farms. It was designed primarily for temporary defense, and its existence doubtless gave the settlers assurances of safety which they otherwise would not have entertained. It was occupied on several occasions of Indian alarms, in one of which, it is said, occurred the birth of Jacob Chaney. The farm was sold by the Rickets to Arthur Moore, who in turn conveyed it to John Crum, who used the timbers in building a sheep barn on the same farm, which was demolished not many years since.

The Massey Family originally lived in Chester County. Soon after the Revolution two brothers, Mordecai and Phineas, settled in the Spruce Creek Valley, where they built the first forge in Franklin township, some time before 1800. They sold out their interests to John Gloninger & Co., and Mordecai crossed Tussey's Mountain into Barree, and purchased a large tract of land in the Shaver's Creek Valley along the base of the mountain. Here he died at the age of ninety years.

He had daughters who married -
Sarah married John Henry;
Phoebe married John McCartney; and
Jane married Israel Pennington of Centre County.

His sons were
Mordecai, a physician at Masseysburg in Barree, until his death in 1855. His widow survived him until 1881, dying at the age of eighty-seven years, leaving no issue.
The second son, Robert, was married to Martha, daughter of Joseph Jackson, and lived on the farm now occupied by his son Reuben, until his death, aged eighty-two years. Besides Reuben he had children - Mordecai B., an attorney at Huntingdon; and sons named Daniel and John. A daughter, Jane, became the wife of William Miller of West Township.

John Bell - Another early settler in this part of the township was John Bell, who lived on the place now owned by Alexander Oaks until his death in 1833, a very aged man. He was the father of sons -
George W. [Bell], who was married to Margaret McMahan, and who died in 1864, at the age of eighty-two years;
Alexander, [Bell] married to Elizabeth Moore; William, married to Elizabeth Henry; Thomas, married to Margaret Ewing; and John and Arthur, who were single men.

McMahan Family - After the Revolution,

Benjamin McMahan came from the Tuscarora Valley, and settled on the place now owned by his son John, were he died in 1829. During the war he served in the garrison at Northumberland, where his brother James settled, not far from Danville. He was married to a daughter of Daniel McAleece, and reared three sons and two daughters. The latter married George W. Bell and James Johnston, both of Barree. ..

The McAleece, or McClees family removed to Kentucky at an early day. The young man McClees, killed by the Indians in Jackson township, was a nephew of Daniel McAleece, his parents never living in the county.

Casper Croyl lived in the Maffitt family, and some of his family now occupy the Maffitt homestead. He had sons named George, Samuel, Henry, Philip, Jonas, and Thomas.

McCartney Family - Farther down the valley lived George McCartney, and Daniel and James McCartney lived in Jackson, all being of different parentage, and not related to one another. They were among the early settlers, and their descendants have become quite numerous.

The Rudy Brothers - George and Barney, came from York County after the Revolution, the former having been engaged in the struggle. He occupied what is known as the Rudy homestead, where he lived until his death. His five daughters married John Scott, Casper Croyl, and A. Morrison, of Barree, and John Warefield and Robert Wilson, of Jackson. His sons Martin, Reuben, Samuel, and John yet live in that locality.

John Henry, an Irishman, was an early settler on the farm which is now owned by John Smith. Here he reared three sons, names James, John and Samuel, and daughters who married John Hutchinson of Barree, Asa Fagan of Barree and Samuel Morrison of Huntingdon. The oldest son moved to Clearfield, Samuel went out in the War of 1812 and never returned, and John married Sarah Massey, and lived in Barree until 1844, when he moved to Fairfield, where he died in 1856, leaving sons, Jesse, James, Mordecai, and John.

David Gilliland, of Irish birth, was one of the first settlers below the Manor, rearing a large family, one of the daughters, Mary, yet being a resident of the township, at the age of about eighty years. John Henderson, an Irishman, settled in the same locality on one of the Dickey farms. He was the father of two sons, John and George. The former married Sally Campbell, and moved to Cass County, Iowa. George married Harriet Taylor, of Mifflin County, and settled on the William McIlhenney farm, on the Manor tract. He died near Petersburg in 1855. A son, Miles, is yet living on the homestead.

In the neighborhood of Saulsburg settled Thomas Forrest a few years before the Revolution, and lived there until his death in 1806. The two daughters he reared married John Morrill and Isaac Myton, both of whom moved to Ohio.

The oldest son, John [Forrest], married Martha Wilson, and settled in Barree. He was the father of Joseph Forrest, at present one of the oldest citizens of the township, and James and John Forrest, who moved to the West. Other sons of Thomas Forrest were Joseph and Thomas, who were among the first settlers of the northwestern part of the state.

Along the northwest base of Warrior Ridge, James Watson improved what later became known as the Olyer and Gibbony farms.

Christian Olyer was from Chester County. He had a son, also named Christian, who made the substantial improvements now on the farm, removing to Ohio more than a quarter century ago. The daughter of Christian Oyer, Sr. married George Wilson and Richard Sankey.

John Gibboney, the father of Joseph Gibboney, came from Lancaster County about 1824.

William Stewart, a pioneer, lived south of the Manor. He was the father of Judge John Stewart, who lived in the same locality; James and Samuel, others sons, lived in Jackson, while Thomas Stewart died on the homestead. Several daughters were married to James Sample and John Oaks, the latter of Jackson Township.

William Hirst came about 1795 and settled in the upper part of the township, where he died in 1852 at the age of seventy-eight years. His daughters married in the Fowler, Evans, and Peightal families. Of his sons, John died at Saulsburg; William became a Methodist minister and died at Washington City; Andrew H. served as county treasurer, and afterwards became a merchant at Philadelphia; and James was a physician in Illinois.

Near the Jackson line lived John Duff, who came to the place from the Kishacoquillas Valley. He reared tens sons, namely William, Samuel, John, Cornelius, Andrew, Edward, James, David, Reuben, and Charles. There were also four daughters who attained womanhood.

Colonial Maryland
Colonial New England
Colonial Virginia & West Virginia
Quakers & Mennonites
New Jersey Baptists
German Lutherans
Watauga Settlement
Pennsylvania Pioneers
Midwest Pioneers
Jewish Immigrants

©Roberta Tuller 2023
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