CHAPTER VI.

Typed by Susie Koehrsen.

CONFLICTING TERRITORIAL CLAIMS OF PENNSYLVANIA AND VIRGINIA

Basis of Claims - Rival Land Offices - Dr. John Connolly Appointed Vice-Governor of the District of West Augusta - Proclamation of Lord Dunmore - Arbitrary Acts of the Vice-Governor - Memorials To Congress And To The House Of Delegates Of The General Assembly Of Virginia - Efforts To Settle The Disputes - Meeting of Commissioners From Virginia And Pennsylvania - Their Settlement Of The Difficulties Ratified.

We return now to the consideration of a question which agitated for some years the feelings of the early inhabitants both of the western border of Virginia and of the southwestern section of Pennsylvania, and in which passion and anger at intervals threatened to break out into open hostilities.

The following account of this controversy, written by the editor of this book, was furnished by him to the “History of the Upper Ohio Valley,” from which it is taken:

The boundary line between Pennsylvania and Virginia, defining the jurisdiction of these two colonies, had for several years prior to 1774 been a subject of controversy. At the close of Dunmore’s campaign, the excitement of the inhabitants of Westmoreland (a county which had been established in the year 1773 by the legislature of the first named colony) and those of Augusta county, Virginia, began to assume a threatening character, occasioned by the state of Pennsylvania including in the new county all of the territory in dispute between the colonies. The origin of this difficulty is traceable mainly to the indefinite provisions of their charters and the loose manner in which they were worded, thus involving their respective boundaries in uncertainty and doubt. In 1773 Lord Dunmore, the colonial governor of Virginia, attempted to enforce the jurisdiction over the territory around the headwaters of the Ohio, claiming it as being within the boundaries of Augusta county, Virginia. Virginia claimed title under the charter of James I, granted in the year 1606, while Pennsylvania claimed title under the charter issued by Charles II, in 1681.

The ideas of geography, so far as the Western Continent was concerned, in those early days, were rather crude and indefinite. The controversy between Lord Dunmore and Governor Penn in regard to the disputed territory waxed very warm, and in the year 1774 had reached a high state of excitement. Two separate authorities claimed jurisdiction over it; and the inhabitants of the territory in dispute recognized the one or the other as it suited their individual tastes and inclinations. Warrants conveying titles to the same lands were issued under the authority of both colonies, the result of which was to encourage quarrels and disputes and arouse the most embittered feelings among the settlers.

In the year 1774 Governor Dunmore opened offices for the sale of lands in what are now the counties of Fayette, Washington, Allegheny and Greene, in the state of Pennsylvania, which were issued at the rate of two shillings and six pence as fees. The price paid per acre was 10 shillings, but even this sum was not, in many instances, demanded.

The price per 100 acres charged by the Pennsylvania land office was greatly in excess of that charged by the Virginia offices, amounting to about $25. Hence, the inducement to purchase from the Virginia offices in preference to the Pennsylvania office had a prevailing influence with the settlers.

In the year 1774 Dunmore determined to take advantage of the unsettled condition of affairs on the western border, and accordingly appointed Dr. John Connolly as vice-governor and commandant of the district of West Augusta, a rash and unscrupulous man, who with a force of Virginia militia, seized Fort Pitt and held it as the property of Virginia, and changed its name to Fort Dunmore. The nearest court at the time was at Staunton, Virginia. The distance from the western border to that town being so great and the condition of the country being so unsettled , led to the establishment at Fort Pitt of a court, of which Connolly was one of the justices. Upon the return of Lord Dunmore, from his campaign against the Indians, to Fort Pitt, he issued a proclamation with a view of quelling the disturbances prevailing in the disputed territory and warning the inhabitants not to obstruct the administration of His Majesty’s government as he had reason to apprehend. The document we here subjoin:

“Whereas, I have reason to apprehend that the government of Pennsylvania, in prosecution of the claims to Pittsburgh and its dependencies, will endeavor to obstruct His Majesty’s government thereof, under my administration, by illegal and unwarrantable commitment of the offices I have appointed for that purpose, and that settlement is in some danger of annoyance from the Indians also, and it being necessary to support the dignity of His Majesty’s government and protect his subjects in the quiet and peaceable enjoyment of their rights, I have therefore thought proper, by and with the consent and advice of His Majesty’s council; by this proclamation in His Majesty’s name to order and require the officers of militia in that district to embody a sufficient number of men to repel any insult whatsoever, and all His Majesty’s liege subjects within this colony are hereby strictly required to be aiding and assisting therein, or they shall answer the contrary at their peril; and I further enjoin and require the several inhabitants of the territories aforesaid to pay such officers as are or shall be appointed to collect the same within this dominion until His Majesty’s pleasure therein shall be known.”

This proclamation indicates to some extent the feeling prevailing in the Upper Ohio Valley at that day. The prevailing state of affairs was the more to be deprecated from the circumstances surrounding the political situation of the colonies at this period, which were making the necessary preparations at the time to meet the approaching storm of war, which threatened in a few months at the furthest to develop into actual conflict between the mother country and the colonies. The conservative and patriotic citizens of each colony exerted their influence in endeavoring to quell the passions and excitements of the hours, but in vain. The passions of the masses appear to have become more inflamed and their excitement to have increased. Deeming it the best mode to arrive at a solution of the difficulty, it was proposed finally to petition Congress to establish a new state, in which was to be included the disputed territory. Hence as petition to this effect was presented to Congress proposing the fourteenth state. In this petition was set forth the conflicting claims of the two states, and also justly complaining of the laying of land warrants on land claimed by others, which had been issued by Dunmore’s officers. The unfortunate state of affairs existing at the time will be more evident from a circular letter, addressed to the discontented inhabitants and appealing to their patriotism, to desist from extreme measures, and to exercise a spirit of mutual forbearance. This letter was issued by the delegates from the two states in Congress, and bears the date of Philadelphia, July 25, 1775, and is as follows:

To the inhabitants of Pennsylvania and Virginia on the west side of Laurel Hill:

“Friends and Countrymen: It gives us much concern to find that disturbances have arisen and still continue among you, concerning the boundaries of our colonies. In the character in which we now address you, it is unnecessary to inquire into the origin of those unhappy disputes, and it would be improper for us to express our approbation or censure on either side; but as representatives of two of the colonies, united among many others for the defense of the liberties of America, we think it our duty to remove as far as lies in our power every obstacle that may prevent her sons from co-operating as vigorously as they would wish to do toward the attainment of this great and important end. Influenced solely by this motive, our joint and earnest request to you is, that all animosities, which have heretofore subsisted among you, as inhabitants of district colonies, may now give place to generous and concurring efforts for the preservation of everything that can make our common country dear to us.

“We are fully persuaded that you, as well as we, wish to see your differences terminate in this happy issue. For this desirable purpose we recommend it to you, that all bodies of armed men, kept up under either province, be dismissed; that all those on either side who are in confinement, or under bail for taking part in the contest, be discharged; and that until the dispute be decided, every person be permitted to retain his possessions unmolested. By observing these directions the public tranquility will be secured without injury to the titles on either side; the period, we flatter ourselves, will soon arrive when this unfortunate dispute, which has produced much mischief and, as far as we can learn, no good, will be peaceably and constitutionally determined.

We are your friends and countrymen:

John Dickinson
George Ross
P. Henry
Richard Henry Lee
B. Franklin
Benj. Harrison
James Wilson
Th. Jefferson
Chas. Humphreys

Philadelphia, July 25, 1775

Such was not only the state of affairs at the time the foregoing document bears date, but such they continued to be in 1776, at the time of the declaration of our independence. Neither the kindling of the flames of the Revolution, nor the conciliatory and kind letters of the delegates in Congress from the two colonies, nor the patriotic and earnest appeals of individuals, had the effect of wholly quenching the spirit of bitterness and prejudice which had been enkindled and which continued to smolder and at intervals to burst forth in fearful intensity and power. It was believed at the time and this belief, in part at least, appeared to have been confirmed by subsequent events, that it was the policy of Lord Dunmore to fan the flames of discord and to keep alive the jealousies existing between the discontented of the two colonies as the issue between mother country and the colonies was rapidly assuming shape, and the hour for decisive action was near at hand. Hence, if he could succeed in embroiling the inhabitants of this region in internecine quarrels and at the same time to turn loose upon them the savages as allies of the mother country, his sagacity assured him that to that extent at least he would paralyze the energies of the colonists and compromise their cause. As has been supposed, with a view of accomplishing this purpose, he had appointed Dr. John Connolly as an instrument, who could be depended upon. As heretofore stated, Connolly took possession of Fort Pitt, and proceeded to repair and build it, and changed its name. This man Connolly was a native of Lancaster county, in the state of Pennsylvania, and was a Tory of the deepest dye. He was an unprincipled schemer and withal extremely ambitious. He devoted himself earnestly to the work which he had in hand and ingeniously kept alive the broils and trouble existing between the inhabitants of the two colonies. Some of the means employed by him consisted in the arrest and imprisonment of unoffending magistrates for no other reason than that they held commissions from the governor of Pennsylvania and were acting under the authority of these commissions. These persons he would send to Virginia for trial on treasonable charges. The property of individuals deemed by him to be personally obnoxious, he unhesitatingly confiscated or destroyed. Private houses were entered and carefully searched for letters or documents with the purpose of finding evidence which might compromise them or in some manner involve them as being criminally guilty of offenses. He also insolently abused those individuals who did not think, speak or act as he did, as enemies. The more surely to attach himself and to secure his services, Dunmore made him a grant of 2,000 acres of land at the Falls of the Ohio, where the city of Louisville now stands. He occupies in local history the same unenviable notoriety which Arnold does in national history. Both were traitors to their country - both were the victims of licentious wickedness and unbridled ambition - both were unprincipled and treacherous - both sold themselves and would, if they could have accomplished it, have sold their country for British gold, as they in fact attempted to do, but failed in the effort, and both merited the gibbet. To complete their likeness, both were placed on half pay on the British establishment as a further reward for their treason to their country.

A few years since, the writer discovered among the papers of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, a document which has never been published heretofore and which was found among the papers of Hon. Jasper Yeates, which had, just before the writer’s discovery, been turned over to that society. The writer was subsequently informed that the original was lost and could not be found. If this is so, this copy taken by me at the time is, so far as we are aware, the only one in existence. Judge Yeates was a distinguished jurist of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. In the year 1776 he was sent by the Continental Congress to Fort Pitt to act as commissioner of Indian affairs. In 1774 he had been a member of the committee of correspondence of Lancaster county. He was one of the judges of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania from the year 1801 to the year 1817, and was also a member of the convention which ratified the Constitution of the United States. He also published reports of cases decided by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. He was a man of fine abilities, scholarly and refined, and exercised a guiding and directing influence in shaping the future greatness and growing destiny, as well as in forming and shaping of history, of his native state. A man of enterprise and great public spirit, he has left behind him as a proud heritage the noble record of a well-spent, exceptional and honorable life.

The document above referred to sets forth the differences and complaints of the inhabitants in the disputed territory, and their request to be established as a separate state. The length of the document, which is in the form of a petition, does not detract from its value and importance. Jacob, in his “Life of Captain Cresap,” has a brief reference to this page, but declined to publish it on account of its length. But as it fits into the boundary question and is a part of its history, no apology is needed for its publication. It is as follows, verbatim et literatim:

To the Honorable the President and Delegates of the thirteen united American Colonies in General Congress assembled:

The Memorial of the Inhabitants of the Country, West of the Alleghany Mountains represents:

That - Whereas the Provinces of Pennsylvania & Virginia set up Claims to this large and extensive Country, which for a considerable comitants & pernicious & destructive Effects of discordant & contending Jurisdictions, innumerable Frauds, Impositions, Violences, Depredations, Feuds, Animosities, Divisions, Litigations, Disorders & even with the Effusion of human Blood, to the utter Subversion of all Laws human & divine of Justice, Order, Regularity & in a great Measure even of Liberty itself & must unless a timely speedy Stop be put to them in all Probability terminate in a Civil War, which how far it may effect the Union of the Colonies & the General Cause of America, we lean to your prudent, impartial & Serious Consideration.

And Whereas (exclusive of & as an Addition & further aggregation to the many accumulated Injuries & Miseries and complicated & insupportable Grievances & Oppressions, we already labor under, in Consequences of the aforesaid Claims & the Controversies, etc. thereby occasioned the fallacies, Violences, and fraudulent Impositions of Land Jobbers, Officers & Partisans of both Land Officers & others under the Sanction of the Jurisdiction of their respective Provinces, the Earl of Dunmore’s Warrants, Officer’s & Soldier’s Rights & an Infinity of other Pretexts, in which they have of late proceeded so far, as in express Contradiction to the Declaration of the Continental Commissioners made on the ninth day of October 1775 at the Treaty of Fort Pitt made encroachments on the Indian Territorial Rights by improving laying Warrants & Officers Claims & Surveying some of the Islands in the Ohio and Tomahawking (or as they term it) imposing in a Variety of Places on the Western side of the said River, to the great, imminent & Manifest Danger of the involving if the Country in a bloody, ruinous & destructive War with the Indians , a people extremely watchful, tenacious & jealous of their Rights, Privileges & Liberties, and already it is to be doubted, too much inclined to a Rupture and Commencement of Hostilities from the Persuasions & Influences of British Emissaries, Agents & Officers & the little attention unfortunately hitherto paid to them by the American Confederacy in Conciliating their affections, Confidence and Friendship:) there are a number of private or other Claims to Lands within the Limits of this Country, equally embarrassing & perplexing: George Croghan Esquire, in various Tracts, Claims Land by Purchase from the Six Nations in 1748 & confirmed to him at the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 to the Amount by Computation of 200,000 Acres on which are settled already 150 or 200 Families: Major William Trent in Behalf of himself & the Traders who suffered by the Indian Depredations in 1763 another large Tract containing at least 4,000,000 of Acres by Donation & Cession of the six Nations aforesaid at the aforesaid Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 & on which 1,500 or 2,000 Families are already Settled: and there was on the 4th day of January 1770 a Certain Contract & Purchase made by the Honorable Thomas Walpole & Associates (including the Ohio Company & the Officers & Soldiers in the Service of the Colony of Virginia Claiming under the Engagements of that Colony in the year 1754) under the name of the Grand Ohio or Vandalia Company with & of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury on Behalf of Crown for an Extensive Tract of Country within the Purchase & Cession from the aforesaid Six Nations & their Confederates at the said Treaty of Fort Stanwix aforesaid made & by his Majesty’s Special Command & Direction notified to the Indians of the Western Tribes of the aforesaid Confederacy on the 3rd day of April 1773, by Alexander McKee, Esq. Deputy Agent of the Western Department for Indian Affairs on the claims of Scioto, who by their Answer of the 6th of the Same Month expressed their Approbation thereof, & Satisfaction & Acquiescence therein, at the same time justly observing that for the Peace of the Country it was as necessary for Prudent People to govern White Settlers as for the Indians to take Care of their foolish young men. This is a country of at least 240 Miles in Length from the Kittanning to opposite the mouth of Scioto 70 or 80 in Breadth from the Alleghany Mountains to the Ohio, rich, fertile & healthy even beyond a credibility & peopled by at least 25,000 Families since the year 1768 ( a population we believe scarce to be paralleled in the Annals of any Country. Miserably distressed & harassed & rendered a scene of the most consumate Anarchy & Confusion by the Ambition of some & Averice of others, and its wretched Inhabitants (who through almost insuperable Difficulties, Hardships, Fatigues & Dangers at the most imminent Risque of their lives, their little all & every thing that was dear & Valuable to them, were endeavoring to secure an Asylum & a safe Retreat from threatening Penury for their tender & numerous Families with which they had removed from the lower Provinces & settled themselves in different Parts of the afore said Lands & Claims. Agreeable to the usual Mode of Colonization & Ancient equitable & long established Custom & usage of the Colonies, the Rights of Pre-Emption whenever those Lands could be rightfully & legally conveyed & disposed of after surmounting every other obstacles to their hopes, their wishes, their Expectations now unhappily find themselves in a worse & more deplorable situation than whilst living on the poor barren rented Lands in their various respective Provinces below; through Party Rage, the Multiplicity of Proprietory Claims & Claimants & the Precariousness & Uncertainty of every kinds of Property from the fore cited causes, the want of regular Administration of Justice & of a due & proper Execution & Exertion of a system of Laws & Regulations & Mode of Polity & Government adapted to their peculiar Necessities, local Circumstances & Situation & its Inhabitants, who through neighter Politicians, Courtiers nor orators, are at least a rational & Social People, inured to hardships & Fatigues & by Experience taught to despise Dangers & Difficulties, & having immigrated from almost every Province of America, brought up under & accustomed to vareous different & in many respects discordant and even contradictory Systems of Laws & Government & since their being here from the want of Laws & order irritated & exasperated by ills & urged & compelled by oppressions & sufferings, & having imbided the highest & most extensive ideas of Liberty, as the only pure efficient Source of happiness & Prosperity will with difficulty submit to the being annexed to or Subjugated by (Terms Synonomous to them) any one of those Provinces , much less the being partitioned or parcelled out among them, or be prevailed on to Entail a State of Vassalage & Dependence on their Posterity or suffer themselves who might be the happiest & perhaps not the least useful Part of the American Confederacy as forming a secure extensive & Effectual Frontier & Barrier against the Incursions, Ravages, Depredations of the Western savages to be enslaved by any set of Proprietary or other claimants or arbitrarily deprived & robbed of those Land & that country to which by the Laws of Nature & of Nations they are entitled as first occupants & for the Possessions of which they have resigned their all & exposed themselves & Families to Inconveniences, Dangers & Difficulties which language itself wants word to express & describe, whilst the Rest of their Countrymen sottened by Ease, enervated by Affluence & Luxurious Plenty & accustomed to Fatigues, Hardships, Difficulties or Dangers are bravely Contending for & Exerting themselves on Behalf of a Constitutional, National, rational & Social Liberty:

We the Subscribers Inhabitants of the Country as aforesaid therefore by Lean- hereby plenarily, amply & specially delegated, interested, authorize & impowered to act & to do for us on this occasion as our Representatives, Solicitors, Agents & Attornies Humbly to represent to you, as the Guardians, Trustees & Curates, Conservators & Defences of all that is dear to us or valuable to Americans, that in our opinions no Country or People can be either rich, flourishing, happy or free (the only laudable rightful, useful, warrantable & rational Ends of Government) to enjoy the Sweets of Liberty, the Love & Desire of which is radically impressed or Self Existent with & animates & actuates every brave, generous, humane, and honest soul, and for which every American Breast at this time pants & glows with an unusual Flow of Warmth & Expectation & with redoubled Zeal and Ardor whilst annexed to or dependent on any Province whose Seat of Government is those of Pennsylvania or Virginia four or five hundred miles distant and Separated by vast, extensive & almost impassable Tract of Mountains by Nature itself formed & pointed out as a boundary between this Country & those below it, that Justice might be both Tedious & Expensive, the Execution of the Laws dilatory & perhaps mercenary, if not arbitrary ; Redress of Grievances precarious and Slow and the Country so Situated without participating of any of the Advantages, Suffer all the Inconveniences of such a Government & be continually exposed, as we already too well know by Dear bought & fatal experience, to the Violence, Frauds, Depredations, Exactions, Oppressions of interested, ambitious, designing, insolent, avaricious, rapacious, & mercenary Men and Officers.

And pray that the Said Company be constituted declared & acnowledged a separate, distinct, and Independent Province & Government by the Title and under the Nature of - “the Providence & Government of Westsylvania” be empowered & enabled to form such Laws & Regulations & such a System of Polity & Government as is best adapted & most agreeable to the peculiar Necessities, local Circumstances & Situation thereof & its inhabitants invested with every other Power, Right, Privilege & Immunity, vested, or to be vested in the other American Colonies, be considered as a Sister Colony & the fourteenth Province of the American Confederacy: that its Boundaries Beginning at the Eastern Branch of the Ohio opposite the mouth of the Ohio opposite the mouth of the Scioto & running thence in a direct Line to the top of the Alleghany Mountains, thence with the tops of said Mountain to the Northern Limits of the Purchase made from the Indians in 1768, at the Treaty of Fort Stanwix aforesaid, thence with the said Limits to the Allegheny or Ohio River, and thence down the said River as purchased from the Indians at the aforesaid Treaty of Fort Stanwix to the Beginning.

And that for the more effectual Prevention of all future & Further Frauds and Impositions being practiced upon us, thereby all Property or other Claims or Grants heretofore, by, or to whomsoever made of Lands within the aforesaid Limits of the said Province be discountenanced & Suspended to all Intent & Purposes, until approved of & Confirmed by the Legislature Body of the said Province with & under the Approbation & Sanction of the General Congress , or Grand Continental Council of State of the United American Colonies.

And your Memorialities, as by all the Ties of Duty, Interest & Honor bound as Americans, Brethren & Associates, embarked with you in the Same Arduous and glorious Cause of Liberty & Independency shall ever Pray that your Councils & Endeavors for the Common Good, may be continually attended, blessed & crowned with a never ceasing & uninterrupted Series of Success, Happiness & Prosperity.

This document, so verbose and quaint in style, has the following indorsement: “Memorial to Congress for erecting the government of Westsylvania 1776”. In less than a century after this document was penned the greater portion of the territory is proposed to establish “as the fourteenth province of the American Confederacy,” was admitted into the Union as a separate and distinct state under the name of West Virginia.

The proposals contained in the foregoing memorial for the accommodation of the disputes between the counties of Westmoreland, in Pennsylvania, and West Augusta, in Virginia, it would appear, did not represent the unanimous sentiment of the inhabitants of West Augusta, and hence a committee of this latter district, as representatives of the conservative portion of its inhabitants, in the fall of 1776 drafted the following address and memorial to the house of delegates of the general assembly of Virginia, with the purpose of inducing that body to take such steps as in its wisdom might be deemed best to arrest the contemplated object which that paper had in view. We give it literally and in the form in which it was originally drafted:

To the Honorable, The Speaker of the lower House of Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia:
Most humbly sheweth
That you Memorialists conceiving themselves in some sort the Guardians of the rights of the people in this Frontier County find themselves under the indispensable necessity of representing to your Honorable House Some matters which they have lately learned.

A number of designing Persons influenced by motives of Interest & Ambition about the beginning of July last have set on foot a Memorial to the Honorable Continental Congress, praying that a Tract of Country Beginning {here are inserted the boundaries and discriptions as given in the memorial we have heretofore recited}might be constituted declared & acknowledged a district and independent government by the Title of the Government of Westsylvania; and in prosecution of this, their favorite Scheme, the persons aforesaid have dispersed Advertisements throughout the Country recommending it to the Inhabitants of the different Districts to meet at their respective Places of appointment, to give voice whether they would join in a Petition to Congress for their Interposition in settling the unhappy Disputes which have prevailed in these parts, or whether they should not immediately colonize themselves by their own authority & send their Delegates to Congress to represent them as the fourteenth Link, in the American Chain, the Copies of which said Memorial & Advertisement we now do ourselves the Honour of transmitting to you for the Consideration of your House, your Memorialists humbly beg leave to observe, that in Consequence of the Scheme aforesaid and the Measures taken to effect it, this Frontier Country is divided & distracted by jarring views and Contradictory Opinions concerning public Operations: - the Rigour & Energy of Government & of its inhabitants instead of consulting the safety of the whole as their only security & Happiness assiduously attach themselves to their own private Views & Interests, regardless of the Obligations of Gratitude for the many great Sums expended by the State of Virginia for their Defence &Protection. Your Memorialists cannot but consider the present Scheme of a new Government as infallibly productive of the same Mischiefs & Disorders which have lately been experienced by the Inhabitants of this Government from the unsettled Limits of the State of Virginia & Pennsylvania which all good men most sincerely wish to be happily accommodated.

Your Memorialists therefore humbly pray that your Hon’ble House will take Such Steps in the premises and make such necessary Regulations, to Insure Union to the Inhabitants in these Time of Public Calamity & obviate the Unhappiness & Difficulties attendant on this wild scheme of a new Government, as the wisdom of your Hon’ble House may suggest to you.

And your Memorialists as in duty bound will ever pray, etc.

From a letter of Mr. Yeates, written by him from Pittsburg, under date of July 30, 1776, we learn that the memorial to Congress had been laid aside by its originators and abandoned, and in lieu thereof an advertisement had been published and circulated among the inhabitants of the disputed territory (as is mentioned in the memorial address to the speaker of the house of delegates of Virginia), suggesting “The dividing of the people of the proposed new government into districts and desiring them to choose convention men who are forthwith to meet and appoint delegates to represent them in Congress” “How shockingly,” he explains in his letter, “are the people here divided! And to what ridiculous lengths are not most of them hastening?” He proceeds to say - “I cannot procure you the convention boundaries mentioned in my letter, but thus far I am well informed that the temporary line to be established reaches to the Bullock - seven miles from hence - the wrong way.” Various suggestions were made from time to time for the settlement of the existing difficulties between the inhabitants of the disputed territory; but none of them proved to be acceptable and the question remained an open one. Among others the following entitled - “A proposal for accommodating the disputes between the counties of West Augusta and Westmoreland until the boundary between them can be settled,” was submitted and its acceptance urged:

“First, That the laws as far as respects the jurisdiction of the county of West Augusta, be exercised on the south side of the Youghiogheny River, and said river be considered as the boundary between the two counties in respect to the jurisdiction of their respective courts only.

“Second. That the people, claiming under the county of Westmoreland, may continue to be represented at their capital as usual and have liberty to choose their representatives and all other officers of government, only their sheriffs, magistrates and constables shall not act in their office on the south side of said river: provided, always, that nothing herein contained shall tend to invalidate any judgment in the courts held heretofore for Westmoreland, but when a boundary is run they may execute such judgments on their side of the said boundary, anything herein to the contrary notwithstanding.

“Third. That the inhabitants on the south side of the Youghiogheny and east of the Monongahela River as far as the Great Line, shall not pay taxes to either government until said boundary is settled, and all persons associated in the militia are to serve under the government they associated under. If the proposals shall meet the approbation of the public, the people of West Augusta shall meet at Mr. Martin Kemp’s on the second Tuesday in November next, and those claiming under Westmoreland at Mr. Edward Cook’s the same day, to choose six men to be their trustees to negotiate and confirm the above proposals,” and bore date of October 18, 1776.

Thus it will be perceived that there was not wanting any effort on the part of the conservative inhabitants to settle their vexatious disputes, and to adjust in an amicable manner the questions at issue among them. The great drama of the Revolution had opened, and it was important that all sections of the country should be united and present a firm and unbroken front. The inhabitants of the disputed territory were not slow to realize this necessity, and they tacitly and very naturally subordinated their local issues to the more important, greater and more pressing issue of national independence, never, however, losing sight of the former, to which they clung with stubborn tenacity, but never allowing their sectional prejudices and feelings to interfere with their duty to the whole country.

Thus while all attempts at adjustment among themselves for the time being proved to be abortive, yet with commendable zeal and forbearing grace they were untied in a common desire and common effort to throw off the yoke of foreign power and influence in the inspiring prospect of securing national autonomy and independence.

The inhabitants of these Western wilds were a loyal and devoted people, else would they not have insisted so strenuously and persevered with such persistence for what they deemed to be their rights and privileges in that portion of the country in which they were more directly and individually interested. Their loyalty and devotion they thus demonstrated was not bounded by an insignificant section of the country as compared in territorial extent with the whole, but the common interests of the whole prompted them to give their labors and services to the promotion of the general weal and the advancement of the common welfare. Inured to privations and hardships from their earliest years, these sturdy pioneers were not deterred by the fear of danger, nor thwarted in their purpose by the appearance of difficulties. Their lives and pursuits had bred in them sternness of purpose and decision of character, while at the same time there was implanted in their bosoms the principles of a noble generosity and an open-hearted and frank hospitality. Hence they suffered not their individual interests and personal preferences to weigh in the scales against the great boon of national freedom, which the colonies were with a chivalrous determination to bend all their energies toward the accomplishment of so desirable an end.

The importance of this question of territorial rights may be estimated from the fact that notwithstanding the stirring events of the times, and the consequent agitations and excitement of the period, the Virginia legislature felt it incumbent to take some decided action, inviting a settlement of the question by the establishment of a boundary line of delegates of Virginia, passed a resolution which was agreed to by the senate on the day following the passage of it by the house, appointing commissioners to settle the disputed boundary line between the two colonies. In June following the general assembly passed a resolution declaring “that three commissioners ought to be appointed to adjust the boundary between Virginia and Pennsylvania whose proceedings were to be ratified or disagreed to by the general assembly.” In accordance with this resolution, James Madison, Robert Andrews and Thomas Lewis were appointed commissioners on behalf of the state of Virginia. Pennsylvania, also having taken legislative action, appointed as commissioners on her part, George Bryan, John Ewing, and David Rittenhouse.

The first meeting of the commissioners was held in the city of Baltimore on the 27th day of August, 1779. Thomas Lewis, one of the commissions from Virginia, was not present at this meeting. Upon assembling, the commissioners present from Virginia proposed that the commissioners from Pennsylvania should state their claim in writing so that the same might be specific and definite in its demands, to which proposition the latter acceded. Accordingly, the Pennsylvania commissioners lost no time in submitting the same, as on the day following they addressed a letter to the Virginia commissioners setting forth in extenso the nature of their claim, the grounds upon which they based it, and the conclusions to which they had arrived. Their views were not acceptable to the Virginia commissioners, and they replied to the Pennsylvania commissioners to that effect. This was followed by several propositions, and counter propositions from each side, none of which were favorably received, and hence were severally rejected. The indications for a time were that no arrangement acceptable to either could be arrived at, as the claims of neither seemed to be reconcilable. The individuals composing these respective commissioners were sincere as well as earnest in their desire to arrive at a fair and reasonable conclusion of the matter, which had been submitted to them, in a satisfactory manner, but each side was just as anxious as the other, at the same time, to protect the interest of the respective states represented by them. After some time had been consumed unsuccessfully in their efforts to arrive at an adjustment of their conflicting views and opinions, the Virginia commissioners finally offered as a compromise the following:

“To continue Mason and Dixon’s line due west five degrees of longitude, to be computed from the river Delaware, for your southern boundary, and will agree that a meridian drawn from the western extremity of this line to your northern limit shall be the western boundary of Pennsylvania.” Hence, on the 31st day of August, 1779, this proposition, on the part of the Virginia commissioners, was accepted on the part of those representing Pennsylvania, and an agreement to that effect was duly entered into by the commissioners of the two states. On the 23rd of June, 1780, the agreement thus entered into was ratified and confirmed by the general assembly of Virginia. “On condition that the private property and rights of all persons acquired under, founded on, or recognized by, the laws of either country, previous to the date thereof, be saved and confirmed to them, although they should be found to fall within the other; and that in decision of disputes thereupon, preference shall be given to the elder or prior right, whichever of the said states the same shall have been acquired under, such persons paying to that state, within whose boundary their lands shall be included, the same purchase or consideration money which would have been due from them to the state under which they claimed the right; and when any such purchase or consideration money hath, since the Declaration of American Independence, been received by either state for lands which, according to the before recited agreement, shall fall within the territory of the other, the same shall be reciprocally refunded and repaid. And that the inhabitants of the disputed territory, now ceded to the state of Pennsylvania, shall not, before the first day of December, in the present year, be subject to the payment of any tax, not at any time to the payment of arrears or taxes, or impositions heretofore laid, by either state.” At the same time the governor was empowered with the advice of the council to appoint two commissioners on behalf of Virginia, in conjunction with commissions to be appointed by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to extend Mason and Dixon’s line five degrees of longitude from the Delaware River and from the western termination of the same to run and mark a meridian line to the Ohio River, which was as far as it could be run at the time without fear of giving offense to the Indians. On the 22nd of September, 1780, the general assembly of Pennsylvania also ratified and confirmed an agreement entered into between the commissioners of the two states, at the date heretofore mentioned, and empowered the president and council of the state to appoint two commissions to act in conjunction with the commissioners to be appointed on the part of the state of Virginia. Thus, this disturbing element which had caused such intense strife and bitterness between the two states was forever eliminated from all future controversies, should such unfortunately ever arise between them.


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