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Copyright (C) 2000 Jean Suplick Matuson.


This page contains three sections:

Southwestern Pennsylvania History Timeline

Note that "western" or "southwestern" Pennsylvania refers to the area where present-day Washington County (an others) is located, although ownership of the land changed many times before 1786.
  • 1669 - Earliest French exploration of western Pennsylvania.
  • 1739 and 1749 - More French expeditions to establish fur trade with the Indians.
  • 1748 - The Ohio Company is formed by Virginia gentlemen, including two of George Washington's brothers, to affect settlement in southwestern Pennsylvania and carry on Indian trade on a large scale.
  • 1750 - Disgruntled Indians pushed back from the east into western Pennsylvania by this time.
  • 1753 - French build forts and begin asserting their claim to the region including western Pennsylvania.
  • 1754 - Spring, Col. George Washington sent by Virginia with a military force to get the French to leave the territory. Washington loses the ensuing battle at Fort Duquense.
  • 1755 - British Gen. Braddock takes troops west, is joined by militia, and is ambushed and massacred before reaching Fort Duquense. Indians begin attacking settlers along the frontier, forcing them back east of the Alleghenies.
  • 1755 to 1756 - Settlements begin in the area of present Washington County.
  • 1756 - Colony of Pennsylvania declares war on the Shawnees and Delawares. Pennsylvania begins building forts along the frontier, provisioned with men and supplies.
  • 1758 - Peace treaty signed between Pennsylvania and the Shawanees and Delawares.
  • 1758 - November, British Gen. Forbes takes Ft. Duquense with a force of 2500. Fort renamed Fort Pitt.
  • 1759 - French abandon area of western Pennsylvania
  • 1762 - British sign treaty with French, British left in possession of all eastern America.
  • 1763 - Summer, remaining dissatisfied Indians attack all along the frontier. Some forts defeated. British send troops reinforce Fort Pitt. Indians defeated at battle of Bushy Run.
  • 1765 - Settlements made at Redstone (below Brownsville on the Monongahela) and Turkey Foot.
  • 1768 - October, Proprietary of Pennsylvania purchases country from the Indians as far west as the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers.
  • 1769 - April, opening of land offices for sales of lands obtained in the 1768 Land Purchase. Within one month, 3200 applications for warrants were made, mostly by Scotch-Irish in eastern Pennsylvania.
  • 1770-1771 - Influx of Scotch-Irish from Chester, Lancaster, Bedford, and York counties and some directly from Ulster.
  • 1775 - April, war breaks out in Massachusetts against the British.
  • 1776 - July, Continental Congress declares the American Colonies independent.
  • 1776 - Pennsylvania given a new constitution, overthrowing the proprietary Penn government and shifting control away from the Quakers.
  • 1780 - Pennsylvania passes slave emancipation law.
  • 1781 - March, County of Washington established with population 23,866.
  • 1781 - October, British surrender to the Americans and the Revolution is over.
  • 1786 - Region of southwestern Pennsylvania previously under the claim of Virginia is ceded to Pennsylvania by a joint commission of the two states.
  • 1787 - Early, Constitutional Convention convenes in Philadelphia.
  • 1787 - December, Pennsylvania becomes the second state to ratify the Constitution.
  • 1788 - Allegheny County established, taken from Washington and Westmoreland Counties.
  • 1789 - April, George Washington inaugurated President.
  • 1791 - Tax on whiskey passed by the Federal government.
  • 1794 - Farmers in southwestern Pennsylvania openly oppose all efforts collection of the tax. President Washington sends militia troops to the area and the rebellion is quashed.
  • To be continued...

Who were the settlers and what routes did they take?

  • The first settlers of southwestern Pennsylvania were primarily English and came from Virginia and Maryland following Braddock's Road (see History Timeline above) to Redstone Fort. These were the settlers enticed by the Ohio Company to settle and commence trade with the Indians in the early 1760's. Many of these held "Virginia Certificates", which referred to land warrants issued by the Colonial Virginia. With the passage of Pennsylvania's slave emancipation law in 1780, many of these early Virginian and Maryland settlers commenced a migration to Kentucky which continued brisk for the next 10 or so years.

  • From George K. Schweitzer's 1986 work Pennsylvania Genealogical Research, page 22, we read:
      "Most settlers of the new land [western Pennsylvania] followed the river valleys and old Indian trails to the interior, but the trip beyond the Alleghenies was more difficult, since this required going across the mountains. The most used route was known as the Great Pennsylvania Road, running from Philadelphia to Lancaster to York to Gettysburg to Chambersburg to Bedford to Somerset to Greensburg to Pittsburgh."

    The Great Pennsylvania Road started as Braddock's trail, created for Gen. Braddock's ill-fated expedition to take Fort Duquense in 1755. Essentially, this is the course of modern day US Rt. 30.

  • See the on-line sites:
    National Road - Route 40
    National Road Heritage Park
    National Park Service's National Road Site
  • After provincial Pennsylvania's land purchase from the Indians in 1769, a migration of primarily Scotch-Irish people began coming from the eastern counties of Chester, Lancaster, York, and Dauphin as well as those of Northern Maryland. By 1773 the Scotch-Irish population was increasing steadily. And it was between 1771 and 1775 that the lands west of the Monongahela River were settled. Most of these lands were obtained under Virginia titles, especially along Chartiers Creek, rather than Pennsylvania, mostly because the price Virginia was asking is said to have been one fourteenth the cost asked by Pennsylvania.
  • After the Revolution, the preponderance of settlers in southwestern Pennsylvania were Scotch-Irish mingled with some English, Germans, and others. By 1790, ten Presbyterian churches had been established in the area. By the second generation, even more settled by these peoples which overflowed to the north and to the west into Ohio, making the region a stronghold of this ethnic group in the commonwealth. 

  • From a letter written in 1832 by Rev. Dr. John McMillan we get a glimpse of conditions in 1775 when he first crossed the Allegheny Mountains to preach along Chartiers Creek in what is now Washington Co.:
    • "...But we had neither bedstead, nor tables, nor stool, nor chair, nor bucket. All these things we ad to leave behind us, as there was no wagon road at that time over the mountains."

WWW Links for the History Buff

Be sure to check our Regional Societies page for links to historical societies.

Whiskey Rebellion - Whiskey Insurrection - A site dedicated to the telling of the story of the Whiskey Insurrection in Washington County, PA.

Bradford House - A web page about the Whiskey Insurrection in Washington County, PA.

The Papers of George Washington - Including journal entries pertaining to the Whiskey Insurrection.

Historic Towns of Washington County - A collector's series of books.

Meadowcroft Museum of Rural Life - A site that preserves the history of life on the land in Western Pennsylvania over the past 14,000 years

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional 
History Center
- A museum and research facility devoted to the history and heritage of the Western Pennsylvania region.

Jefferson College Historical Society - Information about America's most historic transcontinental highway.

Route 40 - National Road - Information about America's most historic transcontinental highway.

History Computarization Project - With links to many other projects.

Heritage Route - The Allegheny Experience: An American Transformation. This project was done by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission.

Michael D. Meals' Revolutionary War Links - A very extensive site that includes a huge set of links to sites relating to the Revolutionary War.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation - dedicated to identifying and preserving the architectural landmarks, historic neighborhoods, and historic designed landscapes of Allegheny County and educating people about this regions architectural heritage and urban landscape design history.

Path of Progress  - Virtual tour of the state heritage tour route which meanders through nine counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Traditional Pottery Historic Context
for Southwestern Pennsylvania
- An article.

Pennsylvania Disaster History - 1954-1998

Pennsylvania History Websites - 1954-1998