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I have here set down rather hurriedly and imperfectly an outline of the social and civic conditions that prevailed in and near the historic ground where old Fort Duquesne, afterwards Fort Pitt, stood during the decade from 1885 to 1895. I have also noted the fight that went on during those years for the social and civic betterment of the downtown community. Today things are very different. The pressure of business has crowded out many of the residents of this part of the city, and of those who still remain the writer learns that they are honest, upright, model citizens of Pittsburgh.
Perhaps the fight for higher and better civic ideals on this historic ground, like the struggle between the two great nations, France and England, for supremacy, was not in vain. At any rate the period covered by this paper (1885-1895) makes an interesting chapter in the history of Pittsburgh, to which the future historian may turn in dealing with his subject. If so what is here set down may prove to be worth while.
THE LIFE AND TIMES
HENRY KING SIEBENECK*
Robert King, the subject of this sketch, was born in Donegal County, Ireland, on January 3, 1747. (1) Little is known of his ancestry beyond the fact that it was ScotchIrish, and, of course, Presbyterian. His forbears, at the time of the Ulster Plantation, in the reign of James the First, doubtless migrated with hundreds of others from the Lowlands of Scotland. That stock, historians generally agree, had as little Gaelic blood in it as any in the northern half of Great Britain.
The aim of Sir Francis Bacon and other Jacobean statesmen in the Ulster Plantation was to establish a permanent garrison to protect British interests in Ireland against the encroachments of the native Celts, always a source of worry to the government in England. The memorable defenses of Londonderry and Inniskilling in the Revolution of 1688 showed how well the Scotch-Irish colonists were fitted for the purpose of their "plantation.” Yet, both before and after the overthrow of the Stuarts, these Ulstermen received but scant courtesy from their British overlords. Irish shipping was restricted to narrow bounds by the Navigation Acts. The export of Irish wool, the staple industry of the island, was totally prohibited; and the Dissenters (three-fifths of the Protestant population) were excluded from holding any office, civil or military, above the lowest grade. (2)
*The writer contemplates an additional publication on the subject of Robert King, and anyone having papers or other information about him, not contained in the above article, will confer a favor by communicating with the writer.
These measures brought about an extensive migration from Ireland to America, and mainly to Pennsylvania. Two authorities, separated from each other by a half century of time, Archbishop Boulter in 1728 (3), and Arthur Young in 1776,, agree that this exodus was confined almost entirely to Scotch-Irish Presbyterians engaged in the linen trade. When that business was brisk, says Young, emigration was slack, and vice versa. Linen making was a cottage-industry, and linen manufacturers were capitalists in a small way. When business prospects were bad, the linen maker sold his equipment, and paid his and his family's passage to the New World. (4)
Under conditions such as these, it may be surmised, Thomas King broke up his home in Donegal and sailed for Pennsylvania in the year 1753, bringing with him his sixyear-old son, Robert. (5) Of the latter's education nothing is known, and all that can be inferred with certainty is that he learned to compose a good letter, and to spell far better than many of his superior officers.
Robert first appears in the records as a grown man. In a letter of his written to Judge Charles Huston, he explains that in the year 1769 he was hunter for the surveyors in what is now Centre County. To appreciate his surroundings and activities, it is necessary to delve into the colonial history of Pennsylvania.
In 1768, the Penn family made their last Indian purchase. It had always been their boast that they had never forcibly deprived the Indian of his hunting-ground, but had taken only what they had bought. Thus, the vicinity of Philadelphia had been acquired through the famous Treaty, made by the Founder with the Lenape under the Great Elm at Shackamaxon. And so, before 1760, the Penns had purchased from the Redmen all the lands in their province that lay East of the Alleghany Mountains and South of Penn's Creek (near the centre of Pennsylvania) and a line drawn from the Susquehanna to the confluence of the Lackawaxen and Delaware rivers. After Pontiac's conspiracy had been crushed, the whites and the Indians met at Fort Stanwix, New York, and there on November 5, 1768, the "Proprietaries," as the Penns were called, negotiated the
purchase of a belt of land running from the Northeast corner of their province to its Southwest corner. The "New Purchase" was bounded to the North and West by the New York line, by Towanda and Tiadaghton creeks, the West Branch of the Susquehanna, by the Allegheny and Ohio rivers, and by the Virginia line. This irregularly shaped tract, resembling on the map a crude dumbbell, includes the whole of twelve of our present counties and parts of thirteen others. It contained nearly fourteen thousand square miles of land, overlying the greater portion of the coal, anthracite and bituminous, on which the present prosperity of the State is based. The price paid by the Penns to the Indians for this Golconda was $10,200.00. (6) If one-fifth, only, of its area had been available for farms, the rates at which it was immediately offered to the public would have made that fifth worth $448,000.00.
The first step taken by the Proprietaries in this real estate operation was to reserve one-tenth of the land as "Manors," or private estates. Then came the turn of Bouquet's officers who had overcome Pontiac's Indians at Bushy Run. These veterans had planned to form a military colony, somewhat on the model of the Ulster Plantation. (7) To them were allotted 24,000 acres, partly on Bald Eagle Creek, near the present site of Bellefonte. Then 1,500 acres were set off to Dr. Francis Allison, the Schoolmaster of the Revolution, another native of Donegal. And then on April 3, 1769, the Land Office was opened to the general public. Any citizen might buy 300 acres for fifteen pounds sterling, and one penny per acre, a year, quit-rent; but a survey had to be made on each "application" within six months and the full price paid within twelve. (8) A wild fever of landspeculation at once seized the Province, a craze never since surpassed in intensity. Pennsylvania then had 240,000 inhabitants, of whom about 39,000 were taxable persons. (9) Before August 31, 1769, no less than 4,000 applications for land in the "New Purchase" were entered (10), nine-tenths of which were for acreage on the West Branch of the Susquehanna. The proceeding was simple. Captain Grant, "a pirticular friend" of Robert King, paid a dollar for the privilege of applying for 300 acres "just above the Pro
prietaries' land at Muncy Creek, including Wolf Run". (11) On each "application," thus loosely expressed, a warrant issued to the deputy-surveyor of the district to locate and run the lines of the tract applied for; and when the survey was returned and the purchase price paid, a deed, or patent, was delivered to the applicant or his assigns. Surveys cost a considerable sum, and probably were never made on half of the applications, although the Land Office regularly extended the six months period allowed for surveying. On the other hand, some of the most desirable lands would be surveyed half a dozen different times on as many applications. The rule was always to find some tract to suit the application. It became quite an art to locate the best acreage in this land of mountain ranges and fertile valleys, and required the services of expert woodsmen and explorers, such as Hawkins Boone (a cousin of Daniel Boone), who will be encountered later.
The whole territory was uninhabited and uncultivated, without roads in most places, and to enable the surveyors to perform their labors it was, of course, necessary to supply them with provisions. To do so, in a region teeming with game, the hunter became an adjunct to the surveyor. Robert King, then twenty-two years of age, followed this calling. Many years later, when interrogated about a disputed land-title he wrote that in 1769, 1770 and 1771 he was hunter for the surveyors, and that, incidentally, he himself had entered an application for a tract on March Creek, on the north side of Bald Eagle and adjoining the "Officers Survey," (12) near the present village of Milesburg, Centre County. King wrote, "I should be one of the most ungrateful wretchs on earth, if I did not do everything in my power to serve Mr. Grant, as I know him to be my pirticular friend"-but adds that in the suit against Gunsaulus he can be of little assistance. He remembers that the agent of Samuel Wallis, the "land king" of the day, got a number of surveys made in that vicinity, but he is uncertain of their exact location-"as I did not carry the chain the whole of the time. I was hunter for the surveyors." And then he mentions another man who might be a good witness in the pending suit of Captain Thomas Grant, Sheriff of