Hon. George Plumer
George Plumer was of English descent. His great-great-great grandparents, Francis and Ruth Plumer, with their children, Samuel, Joseph,Hannah, and Mary, emigrated in 1633 from Newbury, in Berkshire, England, to New England, and in May, 1634, Francis Plumer took the freeman’s oath in Boston.
Francis Plumer was descended from an ancient and honorable family, which from the time of the barons’ wars has always maintained a respectable standing in the midland counties of England.
In 1635, Francis Plumer, in company with some of the inhabitants of Ipswich, under the pastoral care of the learned Dr. Parker, obtained leave of the General Court to remove to Quascacunquen, and began a town at that place which they called Newbury, Francis Plumer being one of the original grantees; and it may be here mentioned that it is stated in a recent history of Essex County that “the meeting-house, which was likewise the school and the town-house, was on land owned by one of the descendants of Francis Plumer, who have held the paternal acres through all the years to this date” (1878)
Joseph, the second son of Francis, was born in 1630 married Sarah Cheney, Dec. 23, 1652; Jonathan, the youngest son of this couple, was born May 13 1968, and on the June, 1696, he married Sarah Pearson; John, the eldest child of the last-named pair, was born March 25, 1697, and Jan. 30, 1722 he married Rebecca Wheeler; and their second son, Jonathan was born april 13, 1724, and June 6, 1744, he married Mehitable Herriman.
Jonathan Plumer resided in Newbury, the place of his nativity, until the death of his wife, which occurred about the year 1749 or 1750. Her loss was so great an affliction that he decided to seek relief in change of scene. Accordingly he arranged to leave their three sons, who were entitled to a good estate from their mother, with her relative in Rowley, and traveled southward.
In his youth Jonathan Plumer had been converted under the preaching of Dr. George Whitefield, and always took a deep interest in the religious movements of his day. Whitefield in his travels through the colonies had made long visits in the congregations in Southern Pennsylvania and neighboring Maryland, under the charge of the Finleys and Blairs and Smiths, then the great lights of the Presbyterian Church in those regions, and it doubtless was from his report of them, and of the fertility of the soil, etc., that young Plumer was led to seek his fortune among them.
A record prepared in Newburyport many years ago say of him: “Johnathan Plumer (5th) emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1750; was commissary to gen. Braddock in 1755.”
One of the foremost and most remarkable men of that day in Maryland was Col. Thomas Cresap, who had fixed his residence in what was then called “Old Town,” near Fort Cumberland.
After the disastrous failure of Braddock, Jonathan Plumer seems to have settled in Old Town, for it is shown in a published correspondence between Governor Dinwiddie to Col. Adam Stephen, at Fort Cumberland, and from the latter to Capt. Dagworthy, ath Fort Frederick, that Cresap and Plumer were at the date, - March, 1757, collecting commissary supplies in that country.
It is traditional in Mr. Plumer’s family that he was also in the army of Gen. Forbes the following year, when that “Head of Iron” took possession of the smoking ruins of Fort Du Quesne and named the place Pittsburgh.
The main portion of the army made only a short stay, and then returned to the east of the mountains, Mr. Plumer accompanying them.
It was in Old Town, or in Fort Frederick, that Jonathan Plumer, on short acquaintance, married Miss Anna Farrell, who proved a loving wife and helpmeet in all their after-life of dangers and trials.
Their oldest son, William, was born in or near Fort Cumberland in 1757, and one other son in 1758, named John; but while it is certain that the father was in Fort Pitt in 1759, there is nothing now to show that he had his family west of the mountains til in 1761.
Col. George Croghan having obtained a grant from the Indians of fifteen hundred acres on the Allegheny River, extending from Two-Mile Run up to the Narrows, Jonathan Plumer became interested in the grand, and in the summer of 1761, “by permission of Col. Henry Bouquet, built a cabin and made many valuable improvements thereon” (Binney’s Reports, vol. Ii, page 95, et sep.) and it was in that cabin, on Dec. 5, 1762, that George Plumer, the subject of this sketch, was born.
When Jonathan Plumber built his cabin all that region was in a state of transition. The claim of the British had not been acknowledged by France, and the territory to the westward was held by force of arms.
Quebec had fallen the previous year, and the approaching end of French domination seemed certain, but the hopes and fears of the settlers kept them in continued anxiety and alarm. Houses were going up around the fort, but until news of certain peace non could tell in whose territory they would stand.
At the last, on the 21st of January, 1763, intelligence was received in Philadelphia that on the 3d of the previous November preliminary articles of peace between France and England had been signed, and as speedily as the army express of those days could reach Fort Pitt, the announcement there was greeted with great joy and thanksgiving. “This peace,” says a writer in Mr. Craig’s “Olden Time,” “removed forever from our vicinity all fear of the arts and arms of the French.”
And in the”History of Old Redstone” Dr. Joseph Smith says, page 52, “After the encroachments of the French and their Indian allies were successfully repelled, and the treaty of peace signed at Fontainebleau, Nov. 3, 1762, secured to the British crown this long-disputed section of the West, emigrants from Eastern Pennsylvania, Virginia, Scotland, and the north of Ireland began to pour in,” etc.
Other testimony might be quoted to show that the date of “British dominion” was then fixed as of the third of November, 1762.
What is here recited is in explanation, in so far as now may be, of what was said by the few settlers and the officers and soldiers then in and around Fort Pitt, that George, the son of Jonathan Plumer, was the first male child born “to the westward: under the “British dominion.”
The portion of Croghan’s grant owned by Jonathan Plumer was held by him till about 1777, when he sold it back to Croghan; but he, Col. Croghan, was then in financial troubles, and the whole was sold at sheriff’s sale in July, 1783, and bought by Samuel Ewalt, whose old home on the land is yet in good condition.
The Plumer cabin stood about one hundred yards east of the Ewalt mansion.
George remained with his parents, becoming a noted hunter and scout, and occasionally accompanying parties of surveyors.
Soon after the close of the Revolutionary war, Miss Margaret Lowrey, the youngest daughter of Col. Alexander Lowrey, of Donegal, Lancaster Co., Pa., came over the mountains to visit her sisters, Mrs. Daniel Elliott and Mrs. John Hay.
Col. Lowrey was a prominent, wealthy, and influential Indian trader of that day. Miss Lowrey first met with George Plumer in the store of Mr. Elliott, who introduced him quite kindly to her, as he had a friendly regard for the young “Buckskin.”
They had occasional meetings, and became engaged; but Mrs. Hay, whith whom Margaret was staying, opposed the match, but in the following August of 1784 they made a “runaway match” of it and were married.
The first home of the newly-married pair was on the right bank of the Pucketow(now called Puckety) Creek, near Fort Crawford, where the husband had taken up three hundred acres of land and built a log cabin and cleared thirty acres. Here they struggled against cares and trials new to the wife, with no hope of the father’s forgiveness. He worked hard, clearing and cultivating the land. Deer, bears, turkeys, and other game were abundant, and afforded them all the fresh meat which they needed.
They were, however, often annoyed by Indians, and compelled to take refuge at night in the adjoining woods, and occasionally in Fort Crawford.
Their neighbors were Samuel Skillen, James Gray, Alexander Logan and Robert Hays, who had married Mr. Plumer’s sister Nancy.
George Plumer and Robert Hays being called on to perform one month of military service s scouts, an attorney of Pittsburgh took advantage of their absence to send a surveyor to survey their lands, and had patents taken out before they knew anything about it; by this they lost their all.
Up to this time Mr. Plumer had never met his father-in-law; their meeting was a curious one. Col. Lowrey had a body of land north of Hannastown, about which there was some litigation. Preparatory to the trial of the case, Col. Lowrey was out with surveyors, when George Plumer, who was hunting in that direction, accidentally met the party. The surveyors, with whom he was well acquainted, after shaking hands, introduced him to his astonished father-in-law; but the colonel, having been prejudiced against him by John Hay, was cold and distant, but eyed him sharply. Mr. Plumer however, maintained his serenity, and making gradual approaches to the colonel, finally invited him to go home with him and see his daughter and grand children. But the colonel declined, and after shaking hands they separated.
But the old trader’s heart was touched, and he followed his son-in-law in a day or so, and entering the cabin unannounced, overwhelmed his daughter and her little sons with embraces, and all was well again. After spending some days with them he told Mr. Plumer that there were three fine tracts of land near the mouth of Big Sewickley Creek belonging to Simon Gratz (with whom he was in extensive business relations ), and for him to go and make a selection, and he would give to him and his wife. This was speedily done, and in 1791 George Plumer built a house on the tract, at the mouth of the Sewickley, and moved into it.
After the Plumers had been two years on their new place Col. Lowrey made then another visit, and was so much pleased with improvements by Mr. Plumer’s energy and industry that he gave him eight hundred pounds to erect mills.
The next year the colonel was out again, and found the saw-mill up, running, and masons at work on the foundation for a grist-mill. He was delighted, and gave Mr. Plumer three hundred pounds, and sent him burr-stones for his mill. The following year Mrs. Plumer and her sister Mary went East to see their father, and just before they started for home he gave them each five hundred pounds.
Soon after his wife’s return Mr. Plumer was taken down with fever, from which he recoved slowly. During his protracted illness a sudden freshet swept away his mill-dam, which in his feeble condition greatly discouraged him, and finally, in connection with his physician’s warning against continued hard work, induced him to sell his mills, with some adjoining lands, to Maj. Michael and Adam Frichman.
In the following year Mr. Plumer built a large square log house on the upper portion of his farm, to which he removed, and in it spent the remaining portion of his days.
Early 1808 he opened a store in connecion with his large distillery and farming business. In 1812, Mr. Plumer was elected to the Legislature, and was re-elected in 1813, 1814, 1815, and 1817.
On the 24th of June, 1818 he lost his wife, the beloved of his youth. In her cultivated and refined society he had in a great measure overcome the disadvantages of imperfect education, and suited himself for the higher duties which, in the latter years of his life, he was called to perform.
In 1820, Mr. Plumer was elected a representative to the Seventeenth Congress of the United States, and was re-elected to the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Congresses.
On the 14th of November, 1821 he was married to his second wife, Miss Martha Dean, of Indiana County, Pa., who survived him some years.
In 1826 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church decided to establish a theological seminary west of the mountains, and a board of directors, consisting of twenty-one ministers and nine ruling elders, was elected by ballot to report the following year a suitable location for it in or near Pittsburgh. Mr. Plumer was one of the nine ruling elders; he, however, did not favor the site finally selected on Hogback Hill, in Allegheny Town, but advocated the purchase of Braddock’s Field.
In 1832, Mr. Plumer was again urged to permit his name to be used as a candidate for Congress, but he declined, and spent the remainder of his days in the quietude of private life.
Of the children of George and Margaret Plumer, four, namely, Jonathan, Alexander, John C., and lazarus Lowrey, were born on Puckety, and the remainder of their children, Mary, Nancy, Sarah, William, Elizabeth, and Rebecca, were born on the place bounded by the Youhiogheny and Sewickley. All but Jonathan and Rebecca were married and raised families, and all are deceased except William, whose years go with the century, having been born in 1800, an old man indeed, but still erect in form, remarkably active, and with memory quite unimpaired in all matters of the local history of his native county of Westmoreland, an invaluable assistant in his recollection of men and events of a past generation.
The following are a few of the names of the first Sewickley neighbors of George Plumer; Anthony Blackburn and his sons, Joseph, John, Anthony, and William; James and John Thompson,; Isaac Miller, a soldier of the Revolution; Isaac Robb, who bought out John Simerall, who established “Simerall’s ferry” and laid out “Robbstown”, now West Newton; Col. Davis, a surveyor; Christian Funk, farmer and miller; Gaspard Markle, the father of that noble man, Gen. Joseph Markle; Patrick Campbell; Alexander and William Simerall; Nathan McGrew; James Caldwell, whose father was cousin to the father of John Caldwell Calhoun, of South Carolina; Benjamin and Abner Gilbert; James, David , and Isaac Maines; James and Abraham Davidson; John Milligan, Esp.; John Jack; John Carnahan; John Cooper; James Carothers, a soldier of the revolution, and others, but these will suffice.
We close this sketch of one of the representative men of the early day of Western Pennsylvania with the following notice of his decease from the pen of his nephew, the Rev. William S. Plumer, D.D., at that time editor of the newspaper Watchman of the South, in which it appeared in Richmond, Va., June 22, 1843:
“Died, near West Newton, Pennsylvania, on the 8th inst. Hon. George Plumer, who was a representative in Congress for six years from the Westmoreland district, aged eighty years, six months, and three days.
It has often been said of him that he was the oldest man living born west of the mountains. He outlived all his brothers, of whom he had seven. He was by nature remarkably generous and kind. A more affectionate relative no man had. He has left a large family of children and grandchildren. His last illness continued more than four weeks. A large concourse of sympathizing friends and acquaintances attended his burial from his own residence, where his pastor, Rev. Mr. Gillett, delivered an appropriate and impressive discourse. By a fall in winter he received considerable personal injury, but recovered so far as in the month of May to ride several miles to Sewickley Church, where he conducted a prayer-meeting with much ability and solemnity. That night he was taken with violent pains through his whole frame. From the first of this attack he believed it would be fatal, and set his house in order. “His views of religious truth were clear and solemn and appropriate. The blessed doctrine of the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ imputed to believers lay near his heart and was all his hope. He recommended the blessed Saviour to all who visited him. He had spiritual conflicts in his last hours, but hope and faith triumphed. “Thus has fallen asleep one of the best of men, who while living was revered by all good men who knew him; one who proved what uprightness and the fear of God can do for those who are called to drink deeply of the cup of human suffering and sorrow. “May his children and relatives (the editor of this paper is his nephew) and their descendants have like precious faith, and obtain like good report.
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