Anne's Bio

Monday, August 27, 2018

What's Up? Historic Hannastown!

This past summer our family plans included a family reunion on my side of the family at Laurelville Mennonite Camp near Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. So I plotted as usual to see what family history might be nearby that we could stomp around and see some historical sites where our ancestors might have lived.

I'm fascinated by living history--walking in the footsteps of our ancestors!

We've been coming to Laurelville for years and I happened to notice that it's in the same county where my husband's 5th great grandfather had lived in 1773--Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. So I quickly googled and stealthily suggested that our day trip should divert from the group's planned trip to historic Fort Ligonier, to historic restored Hannastown where the settlers of 1773 lived. Ted agreed and I even scheduled a meeting with the local historical society, where a volunteer researcher had looked up any available records for John O'Gullion, Ted's 5th great grandfather.

It felt like an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" which I'm crazy about!

We drove what felt like over hill, over dale through the back roads and farms of Southwestern Pennsylvania and parked at Hannastown. I was nearly giddy!! We had a wonderful tour guide, a young history major who was doing his summer internship on colonial history.

To prepare for our little excursion, I had reviewed the life of this ancestor through reading his pension applications from the Revolutionary War. These applications include first hand accounts from applicants and those who knew them, testifying their activities in fighting for American Liberty.

By visiting, I found his application and read:

Then I searched and found some documents about the first court held in Hannastown and it dawned on me that this government was under the allegiance to the Crown of England in 1773, as the colonies had not yet declared their independence! However, they were on the western front of the fight for what they termed collectively as American Liberty---the very term used in the personal Revolutionary pension application for John O-Gullion. Their use of the term during the pre-independence days meant they still spoke allegiance to the Crown, but they chafed under it mightily. They were indignantly demanding the Crown not rule in America through tyranny, making them essentially slave states destined to send all their profits back to England, subjecting them to the rule of corrupted land owners and political figures. In short, they were the earliest definition on the western frontier of Rebels. 

In fact, as we learned on the tour, this flag was created by them and represented their ideals of freedom. The earliest forms of "don't tread on me" started here. Our guide explained that the rattler, a native snake to the U.S. was poised ready to strike at England, whose authority it was still under in 1773.

By 1776, our ancestor John O'Gullion had signed up to fight in the Revolution and marched East to fight in the battles of New Jersey, New York, and was wounded in the leg and the jaw at Valley Forge, where his 8th Pennsylvania regiment fought along side Washington's men. Returning to Hannastown, he lived until 1788 before moving with his family to Ohio, then on to become some of the first settlers of Lexington, Kentucky, not long after Daniel Boone's men opened the frontier through the Cumberland Gap.

He might have lived in a Scots-Irish style home such as this one, where the chimneys were on the ends of the buildings as they were in their homeland where the winters weren't so harsh. Whereas the German immigrant homes on the frontier had their chimneys in the center of the home to conserve heat, as they'd been used to harsh winters.

The men of Hannashstown convened a convention and wrote the resolutions that became the precursor to the Declaration of Independence.

On the 16th of May, 1775, the inhabitants of Westmoreland county met at Hannastown in convention and produced remarkable Resolutions which stated:

"Meeting of the inhabitants of Westmoreland county, Pa.

"At a general meeting of the inhabitants of the County of Westmoreland, held at Hanna's town the 16th day of May, 1775, for taking into consideration the very alarming situation of the country, occasioned by the dispute with Great Britain:

"Possessed with the most unshaken loyalty and fidelity to His Majesty, King George the Third, whom we acknowledge to be our lawful and rightful King, and who we wish may be the beloved sovereign of a free and happy people throughout the whole British Empire, we declare to the world, that we do not mean by this Association to deviate from that loyalty which we hold it our bounden duty to observe; but, animated with the love of liberty, it is no less our duty to maintain and defend our rights (which, with sorrow, we have seen of late wantonly violated in many instances by a wicked Ministry and a corrupted Parliament) and transmit them to our posterity, for which we do agree and associate together:

"1st. To arm and form ourselves into a regiment or regiments, and choose officers to command us in such proportions as shall be thought necessary."

This was the first of five resolutions. It was followed by a letter from St. Clair, a representative of Gov. Penn's, to Penn stating: "We have nothing but musters and committees all over the country, and everything seems to be running into the wildest confusion. If some conciliating plan is not adopted by the Congress, America has seen her golden days, they may return, but will be preceded by scenes of horror. An association is formed in this county for defense of American Liberty. I got a clause added, by which they bind themselves to assist the civil magistrates in the execution of the laws they have been accustomed to be governed by."

From these proceedings a local militia was formed to protect the frontier settlement and seat of government, but within the year they were quickly recruited to Washington's Continental Army after the Declaration of Independence, and marched from Southwestern Pennsylvania to New Jersey and New York. After the war, many returned, including our ancestor, John O'Gullion and his two brothers, Jeremiah and Robert, who became known as riflemen, Indian spies, and rangers.

The fate of Hannastown was a disastrous one that ended in a raid of Indians and British in July 1782, after which most settlers relocated and the county seat was moved to Pittsburgh. Though the seat of government was removed from Hannastown, diehard settlers must have remained since the land records and census records record that our ancestor stayed there until about 1788.

I was amazed as I reread the multiple pages of sworn testimony of John and his friends and family, that because he fought  prior to the Declaration during a time the well known settlement had declared allegiance to the King through thickly veiled words of revolution in their resolutions, they had to testify to having known him to be a loyal and faithful servant and fighter for American Liberty. I even found a record of his father having been evicted from his lands by order of the King! (basically because Pennsylvania and Virginia governments under King George III were vying for frontier lands.)

In the end, John, Robert, and Jeremiah O'Gullion were each granted Revolutionary War pensions, but not  until the 1830's when Congress passed pension laws. I could not find any proof that any of them were granted bounty lands as payment for their service, though they went on to fight in the Indian wars with George Rogers Clark, and eventually settled near Lexington, Kentucky, and Howard County, Indiana. By the time John was died in 1850 in Howard County, Indiana, he was nearly 100 years old!

How I wish we could have visited with him!

Twin Springs Cemetery, Howard Co., IN

Anyone else addicted to Who Do You Think You Are?
Have you ever discovered your own roots, only to be surprised by their fortitude?
Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
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Old posts at: Coffee Cups & Camisoles

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