Excerpt. . .
As already noted, a crucial goal of William Penn, in regard to governing his colony, was to encourage peaceful accord with the Amerindians who inhabited the land. To that end, he insisted that treaties be ratified with the tribes who actually occupied the lands he wished to purchase. Although not authenticated by written record, the acquisition of land from the Amerindians by Penn as soon as he landed (as represented in Benjamin West’s famous painting, Penn’s Treaty With The Indians) is believed to have, in reality, occurred.37
Treaties for the transfer of lands from the Amerindians to the Euro~Americans were negotiated in the years 1682, 1683, 1684, 1718, 1732, 1736, 1737, 1749, 1754, 1768 and 1784.38 Such negotiations were conducted by members of the Pennsylvania Provincial Council with the assistance of Indian traders who could speak the Algonquian and Iroquoian languages.
The fallacy of the treaties was that the Amerindians held the belief that no individual could personally ‘own’ any portion of the land; it was there for everyone to use (for hunting, fishing, travel and so forth).39 They did not fully comprehend the Euro~American concept that ownership implied being able to prohibit others from using the land. The Amerindians assumed that despite the formality of signing the treaties, the use of the land would still be available to them. They were understandably upset when the Euro~Americans began to build permanent farmsteads (often enclosed by fencing) upon those lands acquired by treaty.
Each successive treaty ‘legitimized’ the Euro~Americans’ claim to more land west and northward from the Delaware River.40
As noted above, the treaty of 1682 was negotiated for a thin strip of land parallel to the Delaware.
In 1683, two treaties purchased the land between the Neshaminy and Pennypack Creeks and between the Chester and Schuylkill Rivers.
During the following year, 1684, a treaty brought lands encompassed by the present-day counties of Bucks, Lehigh, Berks and Montgomery into the province.
In 1718, a treaty purchased the lands which make up York and Lancaster Counties today. This tract encompassed valuable farming lands on either side of the Susquehannah River, which would be put to good use by German farmers emigrating from the Rhineland region of Germany and Switzerland.
The treaties of 1732, 1736 and 1737 acquired lands as far north and westward as the Blue Mountain range. The acquisitions, along with those from the prior treaties, brought into the control of the Euro~Americans the entire land area known today as the Pennsylvania Piedmont. The tract acquired in 1737 was known as the Walking Purchase; it has the dubious distinction of being one of the first instances of subterfuge being used to con the Amerindians out of more land than originally agreed upon.41
On the 10th of May 1729, the county of Lancaster was the fourth county to be erected in the province. It was created primarily out of the lands acquired in the treaty of 1718, and extended the western frontier of the province to the east side of the Susquehanna River.
Euro~American settlers were steadily moving into the lands farther west ~ to those drained by the Juniata River. Homesteads were springing up in the Big and Little Conolloways, the Great and Little Coves, and through the Tuscarora Valley. The Euro~American families who were encroaching on those lands, as yet unpurchased from the Amerindians, were primarily Ulster-Scots (i.e. immigrants from the Ulster Plantation in northern Ireland, and variously called Scots-Irish).42 Whether inability or unwillingness to pay for the land, or impatience with the land office, was their motivating force, the settlers chose to ignore the laws of the province. Anger and revenge were, understandably, the response of the Amerindians to the intrusion.43 The provincial authorities believed that if they made an example of some of the intruding settlers, it would appease the Amerindians. So to that end, they ordered the inhabitants of one such village, that had grown to eleven families by 1750, to vacate their homes and move back east. All of the buildings in that village (located west of the Susquehanna in the region that would eventually become Bedford County, and later Fulton County), were burned to the ground, giving the name Burnt Cabins to the vicinity. Similar burnings were conducted at Path Valley, Sherman’s Creek, Aughwick and the Big Cove.44
Lands defined by, and to the southeast of the North Branch of the Susquehanna River were acquired in 1749. On July 1st of that year sachems from the Seneca, Onontago, Tutato, Nantycoke and Conoy tribes met with James Hamilton, then Lieutenant Governor, along with others at Philadelphia.
The Amerindians brought complaints that the Euro~Americans were settling on lands not yet purchased. They noted: “As our Boundaries are so well known, & so remarkably distinguish’d by a range of high Mountains, we could not suppose this could be done by mistake…” By the 16th of August, an agreement was achieved. The tribal leaders announced that they were “willing to give up the Land on the East side of Sasquehanna from the Blue Hills or Chambers’ Mill to where Thomas M’Gee the Indian Trader lives…”45
New treaties were conducted, and new counties continued to be erected. On 19 August 1749, the county of York was erected out of Lancaster from lands acquired in the treaties of 1718 and 1736. Soon after, on 27 January 1750, the county of Cumberland was erected. The lands from which the sixth county was created came partially from the land acquired in the treaty of 1736, with the bulk coming from as-yet-unacquired lands to the north and west.
During June 1754, in response to the maneuverings of the French in the western frontier of the Province of New York and southward into the Ohio Valley, New York governor, James DeLancey called for a congress to be held at Albany.46 The French were constructing a series of fortifications along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and the English colonies needed to neutralize the threat they implied. Delegates from the various English colonies were invited to the conference. Seven responded. In addition to delegates from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York and Maryland, five members of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly and Supreme Executive Council attended the congress. Sachems from the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy were invited also, and 150 of them attended the conference. The colonial delegates and the Iroquois sachems met in council from 19 June to 11 July 1754. One outcome of that conference was that the Six Nations sold another large tract of land to the Province of Pennsylvania.47
It stretched between the summits of the Blue and Allegheny Mountain ranges from east to west, and from Penn’s Creek (known by the Iroquois name, Kayarondinhagh), just south of the forty-first latitude to the southern boundary line of the province (which, until the Mason-Dixon Line was completed in 1768, was in dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland). The actual tract of land was described as follows:
Beginning at the Kittochtinny or Blue Hills on the West Bank of the Sasquehannah River, and thence by the said River to a mile above the Mouth of a certain Creek called Kayarondinhagh; thence North-West and by West as far as the said Province of Pennsilvania extends to its Western Line or Boundary; thence along the said Western Line to the South Line or Boundary of the said Province; thence by the said South Line or Boundary to the South Side of the said Kittochtinny Hills; thence by the South Side of the said Hills along the said Hills to the Place of Beginning.
The newly acquired territory included a large portion of the region that would, nearly twenty years later in 1771, be erected into the county of Bedford. The present-day counties of Blair, Huntingdon, and Fulton, which were erected out of Bedford, along with present-day Bedford County itself, trace their genealogy directly back to this purchase of land in the year 1754. Therefore, the year 1754 could be considered the ‘legitimate’ beginning of the Euro~American occupation of present-day Bedford County.