In the book, The Kernel Of Greatness, a traditional story was included which stated that a "recorded" settlement of eleven families took place in the year 1728 by a group of Virginians. In that year, Joseph Powell, a grandson of Thomas Powell, led a group of thirteen other men into the Town Creek Valley to look for a place to settle. The group consisted of Powell and Herodeus Blue, Philip Brandwater, Robert Fleethart (Freehart), Michael Huff, Richard Iiames, Joseph Johnson (Johnston), George Painter, Thomas Prather, Ignatius Rock, John Spergen (Spurgeon), John Still, George Tunis and Achor Worley (Wooley). Powell, himself, returned to Virginia without homesteading in this region at that time; he would return later. Of the remaining twelve men, all but one, George Tunis, traveled back to Virginia and brought their families northward to live in what would become Bedford County.
It should be noted, that of this group, only Michael Huff's, Joseph Johnson, John Spergen and Achor Worley's names (or those of their descendants) appeared on any tax assessment return for this region ~ perhaps because the others died prior to being "caught" by the tax assessors. Joseph Johnson became the first Euro-American to die and be buried in this region. His tombstone, engraved with the death date of 1731, was located in the Shawnee Graveyard. It was, unfortunately, destroyed by highway construction. Iiames died in 1758. Brandwater died in 1768. Still died in 1770, and his wife, an Indian, took their children and moved west. Worley died in 1775. Blue, Fleehart, Painter and Rock's death dates are not known, but they died by drowning early on while trapping.
The fact that the Town Creek settlement was able to survive, without its existence being questioned by the Proprietary government of Pennsylvania, is pretty astounding. Permanent settlement in this region was forbidden by the Proprietaries prior to the formal purchase of it from the Indians in 1754 as part of the terms of the Treaty of Albany.
Click on this icon to go to a page detailing the "Lineage of Mother Bedford"
Only traders were given permission, in the form of a license, to reside in this portion of the Cumberland County frontier before 1754. The Indians tended to complain to the provincial authorities of infractions upon the agreements made by the treaties. And the provincial authorities tended to take action to prevent any Euro-American settlement on lands not formally purchased from the Indians. The incident of the "Burnt Cabins", in May of 1750, in what is present-day Fulton County, is a prime example of the efforts the provincial authorities made to prevent bad relations with the Indian tribes inhabiting this region.
According to the traditional story, in 1730 John Spergen constructed a grist mill powered by the water of Town Creek. It stood for one hundred and fifty-nine years. Floodwaters in 1889 destroyed the mill, and then in 1936, flooding tore out the mill dam. There is no mention of this mill in the published histories of Bedford County, nor does it appear on any tax assessment return. The fact that a mill stood in 1889 may not be questionable, but whether it's construction occurred in 1730 cannot be proven by any public records. Information about the mill is found only in the book, The Kernel Of Greatness.
According to the traditional story, in the year 1737, Joseph Powell returned to the Town Creek settlement. This time he brought his brother, George, with him. He had also married Rachel Perrin, (daughter of John Perrin and niece of trader, John Ray) and she accompanied him on this trip. The Powells settled along the Little Sweet Root creek. According to the traditional story, it was there that Joseph and George established a trading post along the east slope of Martin Hill. The public records do show that Joseph Powell served as a representative from Bedford County to the conventions that adopted the Pennsylvania State Constitution on 28 September, 1776 and later the United States Constitution on 05 February, 1790. It is also noted that Joseph Powell served as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives prior to his death at the age of ninety-nine in 1820.
The earliest Euro-American settlers in Mother Bedford, so far as public records can confirm, were the five or six men who made their living as traders to the local Indian population, possibly as early as the 1730s. They tended to be single men, primarily of Scot or English descent, who would establish a trading camp in a certain location, operate their business there for a few years, and then move on. The traders, of whom we have record, included John Ray and Garrett Pendergrass, who set up their trading posts in the vicinity of where the borough of Bedford would come to stand in present-day Bedford County; James Dunning, who set up his trading post along the creek which bears his name in the northern part of present-day Bedford County. Frank Stevens, who established his trading post in the vicinity of the village of Frankstown in present-day Blair County; George Croghan, who settled along the Aughwick Creek in the vicinity of the village of Shirleysburg in present-day Huntingdon County; and John Hart, who established a trading post in the vicinity of the village of Alexandria in present-day Huntingdon County.
The incident of the "Burnt Cabins" was mentioned above. It provides us with the publicly documented story and names of a group of families that settled in this region prior to 1750. The movement of families across the Susquehanna River, into the western regions that had not been formally purchased from the Indians began around 1740. At various times, the provincial authorities of the Colony of Pennsylvania would make an appearance at the settlements to inform the settlers of their trespass and get them to move back across the river. In 1750 the Indians remonstrated to the provincial authorities that there were many families residing in Tuscarora Path Valley, the Valley of Aughwick and the Big (or Great) Cove. Of these, the Big Cove was located within the bounds of what would become Bedford County (i.e. in the present-day Fulton County).
A group of sheriffs, under the direction of Richard Peters, the secretary of the province, and Conrad Weiser, an Indian interpreter, set out on 15 May, 1750 to investigate the Indians' claims of the settlements. They were instructed by the provincial authorities to expel all of the settlers. This they did by announcing their mission and convicting the settlers as trespassers on the Indian lands. They compelled the settlers to give bonds for the immediate removal of their families and possessions, and to appear at the next term of court. They then proceeded to burn the log cabins to the ground, thereby giving the name of "the burnt cabins" to the incident and the region in what is today the northern boundary of Fulton County.
The names of the heads of the families that settled in the Big Cove, and who were evicted from their homesteads in 1750 were: Samuel Brown, James Campbell, William Carrell, William Dickey, Andrew Donaldson, James Downy, John Jamison, Robert Kendell, John MacCollin, Alexander MacConnell, William MacConnell, John MacMean, John Martin, John McClelland, William Millican, Roger Murphy, Hans Patter, William Shepperd, Robert Smith, Charles Stewart, James Wilson and John Wilson.
Apparently, the Burnt Cabins incident did not deter the Euro-Americans from homesteading in this region. Reports were received by the provincial authorities in the fall of 1755 that a party of Indians had committed a great massacre of settlers in the Great Cove. On 01 November, 1755 a party of about one hundred Shawnees and Delawares swept through the Great Cove. They destroyed twenty-seven homesteads, killed much of the cattle on the farms and murdered or captured forty-seven families (in the Great Cove, the Little Cove and the Conolloways). The 13 November 1755 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette listed the murdered settlers as: William Berryhill, William Fleming's son, Elizabeth Gallway, Henry Gilson, ----- Hicks, David McClelland and Robert Peer. Taken prisoner were: William Fleming and his wife, William Gallways' wife, two childen and a young woman, John Martin's wife and five children, David McClelland's wife and two children and Charles Stewart's wife and two children.
In spite of the apparent danger of residing on the frontier, especially on lands not legally their to settle on, some Euro-American families, nonetheless, moved back in after the Great Cove Massacre. Records in the Pennsylvania Archives reveal that between 1755 and 1763 quite a number of settlers fell victim to the Indian massacres not only in the Great Cove, but all through the frontier that was to become Bedford County in 1771.
A number of the earliest settlers in this region gave their names to natural landscape features or manmade places.
Hans Peter Shaver was killed by the Indians in 1755, scalped, and then tossed into the creek which bears his name.
Robert Ray's name not only provided the name for the village that developed around his trading post: Rays Town, but also that of the waterway that flowed past it: the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River, and the mountain that stands nearby: Rays Hill.
John Hart's trading post was established in present-day Huntingdon County near it a large fallen tree, which provided a landmark for travelers through the region: Harts Log.
Christian King, an early, but brief, settler in the Indian Path Valley in present-day Bedford County provided the name for King Township after being taken captive by Indians.
Tussey Mountain, which forms a portion of the natural boundary between Blair and Huntingdon Counties, received its name from the widow Elizabeth Tussey who is believed to have resided on the mountain as early as 1763.
John Friend received a patent for a tract of land in the southern part of present-day Bedford County around 1762, and gave his name to the Friend's Cove.
Jacob Schmitt / Smith homesteaded in Frankstown Township in 1775, served in the Bedford County Militia during the American Revolutionary War, and gave his name to the Smith Corner region in Freedom Township, Blair County.
Frank Stevens' name provided the name for the village that developed around his trading post: Frankstown, and for the river: the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River.
The Great Cove, which stretches northward along the eastern side of present-day Fulton County, was settled at an early date by the McConnells, from whom comes the name for the town McConnellsburg.
Well's Valley in present-day Fulton County was named for an early settler who homesteaded at the head of the valley circa 1760.
William Shirley provided the name for Shirley's Knob in Cass Township, Huntingdon County when he settled there in the 1770s.
Jack's Narrows, a narrow gorge through which the Juniata River flows, along with Jack's Spring in present-day Huntingdon County, were named for John Armstrong, who was called "Jack". Armstrong was a trader. He was murdered by Indians near the Narrows in February, 1744.
James Dunning's name was used for Dunning's Creek and Dunning's Mountain, which stretches from the middle of Bedford County northward into Blair County.