Our recent column on the evolution of Native Americans in this area ended with the Iroquois in control of the Ohio Country at the beginning of the eighteenth century, treating it primarily as “hunting grounds”. At this point, other nations began to move back into the area – notably the Delaware being forced west by the settlers in eastern Pennsylvania and the Shawnee returning from their diaspora in the south.
We will begin our discussion of this era by dealing with the Indian settlements in western Pennsylvania, and defer talking about individuals for a later column. We have chosen the term “settlements” rather than the more obvious “villages” because of the transient nature of the places where their inhabitants could be found. Let’s begin with Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and then project outward.
Here we must mention an individual after all – Queen Alliquippa – because she is involved in at least four local settlements. Wherever she chose to locate immediately became a settlement. “Allaquippa’s Town” was at the mouth of Chartiers Creek, at McKees Rocks. Washington visited her at the confluence of the Youghiogheny and Monongahela Rivers, McKeesport, in 1753. At some other time her “town” was a few miles farther up the Youghiogheny. Another report has her at “Shannopin’s Town”. We presume her entourage consisted of several dozen persons and that her towns became ghost towns when she left them.
Shannopin’s Town is a different story. Located in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, it was established by the Delawares in the early 1700s when they arrived from eastern Pennsylvania. Shannopin’s Town was the western terminus of the Raystown Path, an important east-west artery leading to Harrisburg. It was abandoned in 1754 when the French occupied Fort Duquesne. During its heyday it probably housed several hundred Indians.
Another short-lived settlement is Chartier’s Old Town. Established in 1734 by Peter Chartier and Shawnee Chief Neucheconneh in Tarentum, it was abandoned in 1745 when Chartier led the Shawnees west, in alliance with the French.
Any discussion of Indian settlements in Allegheny County must include “Murdering Town”, also known as Connoquenessing, near Evans City. It was there that Washington and Gist acquired a guide who subsequently attempted to kill them.
Although Logstown is actually in Beaver County, its significance warrants its being discussed next. It was initially settled by Shawnees in the 1720s, along the Ohio River near Ambridge. In 1744 another group of Shawnees driven out of the Wyoming Valley arrived, led by Chief Kakowatcheky, increasing the settlement’s population to several hundred. In 1747 the French built thirty log cabins on the plateau above the village, establishing Logstown as a prominent trade and council center.
In 1748, following the end of King George’s War, the British sent Conrad Weiser to Logstown to meet with representatives of the Ohio Country natives, to advise them that the war with the French had ended, and to establish a basis for peaceful trade. A census taken of warriors in the Ohio Country at that time totaled 300 Iroquois, 165 Delawares, 160 Shawnees, 100 Wyandots, and 55 others.
In 1755 Logstown was occupied by the French, burned down by Seneca Chief Scarouady, and rebuilt by the French. Its importance waned after Forbes’ Campaign in 1758 and the subsequent construction of Fort Pitt.
Farther down the Ohio is “Shingas’ Town”, also known as “King Beaver’s Town” or “Sauconk”. Located at the spot where the Beaver River enters the Ohio, it was established in 1725 and housed Shawnees and Delawares until the Battle of Bushy Run in 1763.
The Beaver/Mahoning/Shenago watershed was the home for a number of Indian settlements. Most important was Kuskuski, at the confluence of the Shenango River and Neshannock Creek, New Castle. There were small Seneca villages there in 1742 when the Delawares arrived from the East and founded several communities housing perhaps three or four hundred inhabitants. The complex lasted until the Revolutionary War, when the Delawares moved to Ohio.
Located near West Middlesex, Shenango was another Delaware settlement loosely connected to Kuskuski, housing perhaps one hundred Indians. Pymatuning, near Sharpsville was even smaller.
Comparable to Kuskuski, was Kittanning, on the Allegheny River. Located at the western terminus of the important east/west Kittanning Trail, it was settled in 1724 by migrating Delawares and soon became home to several hundred Indians. Kittanning was a rallying point for warriors in the bloody autumn of 1755 when the Shawnees and Delawares attacked colonial settlements in central Pennsylvania. In response Colonel John Armstrong led an expedition that effectively destroyed the village.
A few years later the village was rebuilt and became a center for Indian raids during Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763. The 8th Pennsylvania Regiment was mustered in there in 1776 and Fort Armstrong constructed to protect the settlers against hostile Indians.
The Kiskiminetas River watershed has another collection of Indian settlements. Near Leechburg was “Kiskiminetas Old Town”. “Black Leg’s Town” was on one side of the river near Saltsburg, “Kickenepaulin’s Town” on the other. “Loyalhanna” was at Ligonier. “Conemaugh” was at Johnstown. These all were Delaware settlements, probably housing three or four hundred natives.
Up the Allegheny River was “Venango”, at Franklin, at the mouth of French Creek. “Custaloga” was on French Creek, near Utica. “Maghingquechahocking”, also on French Creek, was halfway between Cochranton and Meadville. At Meadville was “Cussewago”. These were all small settlements ruled by Delaware Chief Custaloga.
Indian settlements south and southeast of Allegheny County were nearly non-existent. “Catfish Camp”, now downtown Washington, was little more than a transient camp for hunters. This certainly facilitated the influx of immigrants after the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 opened up the area south of the Ohio River.
In summary, we are convinced that the Native American population of Western Pennsylvania in the mid 1700s was somewhere between one and two thousand, scattered in four or five dozen sites, with the only major villages being Kuskuski, Logstown, and Kittanning, and that their durations were measured in decades.