The Fair Play Settlers of the West Branch Valley, 1769-1784 - A Study of Frontier Ethnography
by George D. Wolf
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The Fair Play Settlers of the West Branch Valley, 1769-1784: A Study of Frontier Ethnography



Harrisburg, 1969



CHARLES G. WEBB, Vice Chairman





DAVID H. KURTZMAN, ex officio Superintendent of Public Instruction


MRS. SARAH ANDERSON, Representative

PAUL W. MAHADY, Senator ORVILLE E. SNARE, Representative

JOHN H. WARE, III, Senator


RAYMOND P. SHAFER, Governor of the Commonwealth

ROBERT P. CASEY, Auditor General

GRACE M. SLOAN, State Treasurer


SYLVESTER K. STEVENS, Executive Director

WILLIAM J. WEWER, Deputy Executive Director

DONALD H. KENT, Director Bureau of Archives and History

FRANK J. SCHMIDT, Director Bureau of Historic Sites and Properties

WILLIAM N. RICHARDS, Director Bureau of Museums


In an Age when man's horizons are constantly being widened to include hitherto little-known or non-existent countries, and even other planets and outer space, there is still much to be said for the oft-neglected study of man in his more immediate environs. Intrigued with the historical tale of the "Fair Play settlers" of the West Branch Valley of the Susquehanna River and practically a life-long resident of the West Branch Valley, this writer felt that their story was worth telling and that it might offer some insight into the development of democracy on the frontier. The result is an ethnography of the Fair Play settlers. This account, however, is not meant to typify the frontier experience; it is simply an illustration, and, the author hopes, a useful one.

No intensive research can be conducted without the help and encouragement of many fine and wonderful people. This author is deeply indebted to librarians, archivists and historians, local historians and genealogists, local and county historical societies, and collectors of manuscripts, diaries, and journals pertinent to the history of the West Branch Valley. A comprehensive listing of all who have assisted in this effort would be too extensive, but certain persons cannot be ignored. My grateful appreciation is here expressed to a few of these; but my gratitude is no less sincere to the many persons who are not here mentioned.

Librarians who have been most helpful in providing bibliographies, checking files, and obtaining volumes from other libraries include Miss Isabel Welch, of the Ross Library in Lock Haven; Mrs. Kathleen Chandler, formerly of the Lock Haven State College library; and Miss Barbara Ault, of the Library of Congress.

Archivists and historians who have been most generous in their aid are the late Dr. Paul A. W. Wallace, of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Mrs. Phyllis V. Parsons, of Collegeville; Dr. Alfred P. James, of the University of Pittsburgh; and Mrs. Solon J. Buck, of Washington, D. C.

Perhaps the most significant research support for this investigation was provided by a local historian and genealogist, Mrs. Helen Herritt Russell, of Jersey Shore.

Dr. Samuel P. Bayard, of the Pennsylvania State University, analyzed the Fair Play settlers using linguistic techniques to determine their national origins. This help was basic to the demographic portion of this study.

Dr. Charles F. Berkheimer and Mrs. Marshall Anspach, both of Williamsport, magnanimously consented to loan this author their copies, respectively, of William Colbert's Journal and the Wagner Collection of Revolutionary War Pension Claims.

County and local historical societies which opened their collections for study were the Clinton County Historical Society, the Lycoming Historical Society, the Northumberland County Historical Society, the Centre County Historical Society, the Greene County Historical Society, and the Muncy Historical Society and Museum of History.

For his refreshing criticisms and constant encouragement, Dr. Murray G. Murphey, of the University of Pennsylvania, will find me forever thankful. Without him, this study would not have been possible.

The author would like to thank the members of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and its Executive Director, Dr. S. K. Stevens, for making possible this publication; he would also like to thank Mr. Donald H. Kent, Director of the Bureau of Archives and History, and Mr. William A. Hunter, Chief of the Division of History, who supervised publication; and members of the staff of the Division of History: Mr. Harold L. Myers, Associate Historian and Chief of the Editorial Section, who readied the manuscript for publication; Mrs. Gail M. Gibson, Associate Historian, who prepared the index; and Mr. George R. Beyer, Assistant Historian.

My sincerest thanks are also extended to Mrs. Mary B. Bower, who typed the entire manuscript and offered useful suggestions with regard to style.

Finally, for providing almost ideal conditions for carrying on this work and for sustaining me throughout, my wife, Margaret, is deserving of a gratitude which cannot be fully expressed.



Between 1769 and 1784, in an area some twenty-five miles long and about two miles wide, located on the north side of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and extending from Lycoming Creek (at the present Williamsport) to the Great Island (just east of the present Lock Haven), some 100 to 150 families settled. They established a community and a political organization called the Fair Play system. This study is about these people and their system.

The author of a recent case study of democracy in a frontier county commented on the need for this kind of investigation.[1] Cognizant of the fact that a number of valuable histories of American communities have been written, he noted that few of them deal explicitly with the actual relation of frontier experience to democracy:

No one seems to have studied microscopically a given area that experienced transition from wilderness to settled community with the purpose of determining how much democracy, in Turner's sense, existed initially in the first phase of settlement, during the process itself, and in the period that immediately followed.

This research encompasses the first two stages of that development and includes tangential references to the third stage.

The geography of the Fair Play territory has been confused for almost two centuries. The conclusions of this analysis will not prove too satisfying to those who unquestioningly accept and revere the old local legends. However, it will be noted that these conclusions are based upon the accounts of journalists and diarists rather than hearsay. This should put the controversial "question of the Tiadaghton" to rest.

A statistical analysis has been made as a significant part of the demography of the Fair Play settlers. However, limitations in data may raise some questions regarding the validity of the conclusions. Nevertheless, the national and ethnic origins of these settlers, their American sources of emigration, the periods of immigration, the reasons for migration, and population stability and mobility have all been investigated. The result offers some surprises when compared with the trends of the time—in the Province and throughout the colonies.

The politics of Fair Play is the principal concern of this entire study—appropriately, it was from their political system that these frontiersmen derived their unusual name. This was not the only group to use the name, however. Another "fair play system" existed in southwestern Pennsylvania during the same period, and perhaps a similar study can be made of those pioneers and their life. As for the Fair Play community of the West Branch, we know about its political structure through the cases subsequently reviewed by established courts of the Commonwealth. From these cases, we have reconstructed a "code" of operation which demonstrates certain democratic tendencies.

In addition to studying the political system, an effort has been made to validate the story of the locally-famed Pine Creek Declaration of Independence. Although some evidence for such a declaration was found, it seems inconclusive.

The West Branch Valley was part of what Turner called the second frontier, the Allegheny, and so this agrarian frontier community has been examined for evidence of the democratic traits which Turner characterized as particularly American. This analysis is not meant to portray a typical situation, but it does provide support for Turner's evaluation. As this was a farmer's frontier, and as transportation and communication facilities were extremely limited, a generally self-sufficient and naturally self-reliant community developed as a matter of survival. The characteristics which this frontier nurtured, and the non-English—even anti-English—composition of its population make understandable the sentiment in this region for independence from Great Britain. This, of course, is supremely demonstrated in the separate declaration of independence drawn, according to the report, by the settlers of the Fair Play frontier.

Fair Play society is, perhaps, the second-most-important facet of this ethnographic analysis. An understanding of it necessitated an inquiry into the social relationships, the religious institutions, the educational and cultural opportunities, and the values of this frontier community. The results, again, lend credence to Turner's hypothesis. Admittedly, Turner's bold assertion that "the growth of nationalism and the evolution of American political institutions were dependent on the advance of the frontier" is somewhat contradicted by the nature of this Pennsylvania frontier. Western lands in Pennsylvania were either Provincial, Commonwealth, or Indian lands, but never national lands. As a result, western land ordinances, and the whole controversy which accompanied the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, had no real significance in Pennsylvania. However, in subsequent years, the expansion of internal improvement legislation and nationalism sustains Turner's thesis, as does the democratic and non-sectional nature of the middle colonial region generally.[2]

The intellectual character which the frontier spawned has been described as rationalistic. However, this was a rationalism which was not at odds with empiricism, but which was more in line with what has been called the American philosophy, pragmatism. Or, to put it in the vernacular, "if it works, it's good." The frontiersman was a trial-and-error empiricist, who believed in his own ability to fathom the depths of the problems which plagued him. If the apparent solution contradicted past patterns and interpretations, he justified his actions in terms of the realities of the moment. It is this pragmatic ratio-empiricism which we imply when we use the term "rationalistic."

An examination of the role of leadership, suggested by the Curti study, presents the first summary of this type for the West Branch Valley. Here, too, the limited numbers of this frontier population, combined with its peculiar tendency to rely upon peripheral residents for top leadership, prevents any broad generalizations. The nature of its leadership can only be interpreted in terms of this particular group in this specific location.

The last two chapters of this study are summary chapters. The first of these is an analysis of democracy on one segment of the Pennsylvania frontier. Arbitrarily defining democracy, certain objective criteria were set up to evaluate it in the Fair Play territory. Political democracy was investigated in terms of popular sovereignty, political equality, popular consultation, and majority rule, and the political system was judged on the basis of these principles. Social democracy was ascertained through inquiries concerning religious freedom, the social class system, and economic opportunity. The conclusion is that, for this frontier at least, democratic tendencies were displayed in various contexts.

The final chapter, although relying to a large extent upon Turner's great work, is in no way intended to be a critical evaluation of that thesis. Its primary objective is to test one interpretation of it through a particular analytic technique, ethnographic in nature. Frontier ethnography has proved to be a reliable research tool, mainly because of its wide scope. It permits conclusions which a strictly confined study, given the data limitations of this and other frontier areas, would not allow.

Democracy, it is no doubt agreed, is a difficult thing to assess, particularly when there are so many conflicting interpretations of it. But an examination of it, even in its most primitive stages in this country, can give the researcher a glimpse of its fundamentals and its effectiveness. In a time when idealists envision a world community based upon the self-determination which was basic in this nation's early development, it is essential to re-evaluate that principle in terms of its earliest American development. If we would enjoy the blessings of freedom, we must undergo the fatigue of attempting to understand it.

Some seventy years ago, a great American historian suggested an interpretation of the American ethos. Turner's thesis is still being debated today, something which I am certain would please its author immensely. But what is needed today is not the prolongation of the debate as to its validity so much as the investigation of it with newer techniques which, it might be added, Turner himself suggested. This is the merit of frontier ethnography, and, perhaps, the particular value of this study.

To me, Robert Frost implied as much in his wonderful "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." Yes, the "woods" of contemporary history are "lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep."

It is hoped that this investigation is the beginning of the answer to that promise, but it is well-recognized that there are miles to go.


[1] Merle Curti et al., The Making of an American Community: A Case Study of Democracy in a Frontier County (Stanford, 1959), p. 3.

[2] Frontier and Section: Selected Essays of Frederick Jackson Turner, intro. by Ray Allen Billington (Englewood Cliffs, N. J., 1961), pp. 52-55.

Table of Contents















Fair Play Territory: Geography and Topography

The Colonial period of American history has been of primary concern to the historian because of its fundamental importance in the development of American civilization. What the American pioneers encountered, particularly in the interior settlements, was, basically, a frontier experience. An ethnographic analysis of one part of the Provincial frontier of Pennsylvania indicates the significance of that colonial influence. The "primitive agricultural democracy" of this frontier illustrates the "style of life" which provided the basis for a distinctly "American" culture which emerged from the colonial experience.[1]

While this writer's approach is dominantly Turnerian, this study does not necessarily contend that this Pennsylvania frontier was typical of the general colonial experience, nor that this ethnographic analysis presents in microcosm the development of the American ethos. However, on this farmer's frontier there was adequate evidence of the composite nationality, the self-reliance, the independence, and the nationalistic and rationalistic traits which Turner characterized as American.

In his famed essay on "The Significance of the Frontier," Turner saw the frontier as the crucible in which the English, Scotch-Irish, and Palatine Germans were merged into a new and distinctly American nationality, no longer characteristically English.[2] The Pennsylvania frontier, with its dominant Scotch-Irish and German influence, is a case in point.

The Fair Play territory of the West Branch Valley of the Susquehanna River, the setting for this analysis, was part of what Turner called the second frontier, the Allegheny Mountains.[3] Located about ninety miles up the Susquehanna from the present State capital at Harrisburg, and extending some twenty-five-odd miles westward between the present cities of Williamsport and Lock Haven, this territory was the heartland of the central Pennsylvania frontier in the decade preceding the American Revolution.

The term "Fair Play settlers," used to designate the inhabitants of this region, is derived from the extra-legal political system which these democratic forerunners set up to maintain order in their developing community. Being squatters and, consequently, without the bounds of any established political agency, they formed their own government, and labeled it "Fair Play."

However, despite the apparent simplicity of the above geographic description, the exact boundaries of the Fair Play territory have been debated for almost two centuries. Before we can assess the democratic traits of the Fair Play settlers, we must first clearly define what is meant by the Fair Play territory.

The terminal points in this analysis are 1768 and 1784, the dates of the two Indian treaties made at Fort Stanwix (now Rome), New York. The former opened up the Fair Play territory to settlement, and the latter brought it within the limits of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thus legalizing the de facto political structure which had developed in the interim.

According to the treaty of 1768, negotiated by Sir William Johnson with the Indians of the Six Nations, the western line of colonial settlement was extended from the Allegheny Mountains, previously set by the Proclamation of 1763, to a line extending to the mouth of Lycoming Creek, which empties into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. The creek is referred to as the Tiadaghton in the original of the treaty.[4] The question of whether Pine Creek or Lycoming Creek was the Tiadaghton is the first major question of this investigation. The map which faces page one outlines the territory in question.

Following the successful eviction of the French in the French and Indian War, the American counterpart of the Seven Years' War, the crown sought a more orderly westward advance than had been the rule. Heretofore, the establishment of frontier settlements had stirred up conflict with the Indians and brought frontier pleas to the colonial assemblies for military support and protection. The result was greater pressure on the already depleted exchequer. The opinion that a more controlled and less expensive westward advance could be accomplished is reflected in the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

This proclamation has frequently been misinterpreted as a definite effort to deprive the colonies of their western lands. The very language of the document contradicts this. For example, the expression "for the present, and until our further pleasure be known" clearly indicates the tentative nature of the proclamation, which was "to prevent [the repetition of] such irregularities for the future" with the Indians, irregularities which had prompted Pontiac's Rebellion.[5] The orderly advancement of this colonial frontier was to be accomplished through subsequent treaties with the Indians. The Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 is one such example of those treaties.[6]

The term "Fair Play settlers" refers to the residents of the area between Lycoming Creek and the Great Island on the north side of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, and to those who interacted with them, during the period 1769-1784, when that area was outside of the Provincial limits. The appellation stems from the annual designation by the settlers of "Fair Play Men," a tribunal of three with quasi-executive, legislative, and judicial authority over the residents.

The relevance of the first Stanwix Treaty to the geographic area of this study is a matter of the utmost importance. The western boundary of that treaty in the West Branch Valley of the Susquehanna has been a source of some confusion because of the employment of the name "Tiadaghton" in the treaty to designate that boundary. The question, quite simply, is whether Pine Creek or Lycoming is the Tiadaghton. If Pine Creek is the Tiadaghton, an extra-legal political organization would have been unnecessary, for the so-called Fair Play settlers of this book would have been under Provincial jurisdiction.[7] The designation of Lycoming Creek as the Tiadaghton tends to give geographic corroboration for the Fair Play system.

First and foremost among the Pine Creek supporters is John Meginness, the nineteenth-century historian of the West Branch Valley. His work is undoubtedly the most often quoted source of information on the West Branch Valley of the Susquehanna, and rightfully so. Although he wrote when standards of documentation were lax and relied to an extent upon local legendry as related by aged residents, Meginness' views have a general validity. However, there is some question regarding his judgment concerning the boundary issue.

Quoting directly from the journal of Moravian Bishop Augustus Spangenburg, who visited the West Branch Valley in 1745 in the company of Conrad Weiser, David Zeisberger, and John Schebosh, Meginness describes the Bishop's travel from Montoursville, or Ostonwaken as the Indians called it, to the "Limping Messenger," or "Diadachton Creek," where the party camped for the night.[8] It is interesting to note that the Moravian journalist refers here to Lycoming Creek as the Tiadaghton, some twenty-three years prior to the purchase at Fort Stanwix, which made the question a local issue. Yet Meginness, in a footnote written better than a hundred years later, says that "It afterwards turned out that the true Diadachton or Tiadachton, was what is now known as Pine Creek."[9]

Perhaps Meginness was influenced by the aged sources of some of his accounts. It may be, however, that he was merely repeating the judgment of an earlier generation which had sought to legalize its settlement made prior to the second Stanwix Treaty. The Indian description of the boundary line in the Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1768 may also have had some impact upon Meginness. Regardless, a comparison of data, pro and con, will demonstrate that the Tiadaghton is Lycoming Creek.

John Blair Linn, of Bellefonte, stood second to Meginness in popular repute as historian of the West Branch Valley. However, he too calls Pine Creek the Tiadaghton, though the reliability of his sources is questionable. Unlike Meginness, whose judgment derived somewhat from interviews with contemporaries of the period, Linn based his contention upon the statements made by the Indians at the second Stanwix Treaty meeting in 1784.[10]

At those sessions on October 22 and 23, 1784, the Pennsylvania commissioners twice questioned the deputies of the Six Nations about the location of the Tiadaghton, and were told twice that it was Pine Creek.[11] In the first instance, Samuel J. Atlee, speaking for the other Pennsylvania commissioners, called attention to the last deed made at Fort Stanwix in 1768 and asked the question about the Tiadaghton:

This last deed, brothers, with the map annexed, are descriptive of the purchase made sixteen years ago at this place; one of the boundary lines calls for a creek by the name of Tyadoghton, we wish our brothers the Six Nations to explain to us clearly which you call the Tyadoghton, as there are two creeks issuing from the Burnet's Hills, Pine and Lycoming.[12]

Captain Aaron Hill, a Mohawk chief, responded for the Indians:

With regard to the creek called Tyadoghton, mentioned in your deed of 1768, we have already answered you, and again repeat it, it is the same you call Pine Creek, being the largest emptying into the west branch of the Susquehannah.[13]

This, of course, was the "more positive answer" which the Indians had promised after the previous day's interrogation.[14] It substantiated the description given in the discussions preceding the Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1768.[15] However, the map illustrating the treaty line, although tending to support this view, is subject to interpretation.[16] Regardless, this record of the treaty sessions provides the strongest evidence to sustain the Pine Creek view.

There is little doubt that Meginness and Linn were influenced by the record. This is certainly true of D. S. Maynard, a lesser nineteenth-century historian, whose work is obviously based upon the research of Meginness. Maynard repeated the evidence of his predecessor from the account of Thomas Sergeant by describing the Stanwix Treaty line of 1768 as coming "across to the headwaters of Pine Creek." Maynard's utter dependence upon Meginness suggests that his evidence is more repetitive than substantive.[17]

A more recent student of local history, Eugene P. Bertin, of Muncy, gives Pine Creek his undocumented support, which appears to be nothing more than an elaboration of the accounts of Meginness and Linn.[18] Dr. Bertin's account appears to be better folklore than history.[19]

Another twentieth-century writer, Elsie Singmaster, offers more objective support for Pine Creek, although her argument appears to be better semantics than geography.[20]

Edmund A. DeSchweinitz, in his biography of David Zeisberger, errs in his interpretation of the term "Limping Messenger" (Tiadaghton), used by Bishop Spangenburg in his account of their journey to the West Branch Valley in 1745. He notes that on their way to Onondaga (Syracuse) after leaving "Ostonwaken" (Montoursville) they passed through the valley of Tiadaghton Creek. They were following the Sheshequin Path. But he identifies the Tiadaghton with Pine Creek. There was an Indian path up Pine Creek, but it led to Niagara, not Onondaga.[21]

Aside from the designation by the Indians at the second Stanwix Treaty, there is only one other source which lends any credibility to the Pine Creek view, and that is Smith's Laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. After the last treaty was made acquiring Pennsylvania lands from the Indians, the legislature, in order to quell disputes about the right of occupancy in this "New Purchase,"[22] passed the following legislation:

And whereas divers persons, who have heretofore occupied and cultivated small tracts of land, without the bounds of the purchase made, as aforesaid, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and sixty-eight, and within the purchase made, or now to be made, by the said commissioners, have, by their resolute stand and sufferings during the late war, merited, that those settlers should have the pre-emption of their respective plantations:

Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every person or persons, and their legal representatives, who has or have heretofore settled on the north side of the west branch of the river Susquehanna, upon the Indian territory, between Lycomick or Lycoming creek on the east, and Tyagaghton or Pine creek on the west, as well as other lands within the said residuary purchase from the Indians, of the territory within this state, excepting always the lands herein before excepted, shall be allowed a right of pre-emption to their respective possessions, at the price aforesaid.[23]

It may be worth observing, however, that legislation tends to reflect popular demand rather than the hard facts of a situation. In this case the settlers of the region prior to 1780 stood to benefit by this legislation and formed an effective pressure group.

The contrary view in this long-standing geographical debate is based, for the most part, upon the records of journalists and diarists who traveled along the West Branch prior to the first Stanwix Treaty and who thus had no axe to grind.

That the Lycoming Creek was in fact the Tiadaghton referred to by the Indians at Fort Stanwix in 1768 is strongly indicated by the weight of evidence derived from the journals of Conrad Weiser (1737), John Bartram (1743), Bishop Spangenburg (1745), Moravian Bishop John Ettwein (1772), and the Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian (1775). In addition, the maps of Lewis Evans (1749) and John Adlum (1792), the land applications of Robert Galbreath and Martin Stover (1769), and a 1784 statute of the Pennsylvania General Assembly all tend to validate Lycoming's claim to recognition as the Tiadaghton. Each datum has merit in the final analysis, which justifies the specific examination which follows:

Supporting evidence is found in Weiser's German journal, which was meant for his family and friends, and translated into English by his great-grandson, Hiester H. Muhlenberg. (Weiser also kept an English journal for the Council at Philadelphia.) Weiser wrote: "The stream we are now on the Indians call Dia-daclitu, (die berirte, the lost or bewildered) which in fact deserves such a name."[24] (This is an obvious misspelling of Diadachton.) Weiser was following the Sheshequin Path with Shickellamy to Onondaga and this entry is recorded on March 25, 1737, long before there was any question about the Tiadaghton.

There seems to be some confusion over Bishop Spangenburg's use of the term "Limping Messenger" in his journal for June 8, 1745. He too was traveling the Sheshequin Path with David Zeisberger, Conrad Weiser, Shickellamy, Andrew Montour, et al. He describes the "Limping Messenger" as a camp on the "Tiadachton" (Lycoming), whereas DeSchweinitz in his Zeisberger interprets the term to mean Pine Creek.[25]

Another traveler along the Sheshequin Path was the colonial botanist, John Bartram. Bartram, in the company of Weiser and Lewis Evans, the map maker, notes in his diary of July 12, 1743, riding "down [up] a valley to a point, a prospect of an opening bearing N, then down the hill to a run and over a rich neck lying between it and the Tiadaughton."[26] Incidentally, the editor of this extract from Bartram's journal makes the quite devastating point that Meginness did not know of Bartram's journal, which was published in London in 1751 but which did not appear in America until 1895.[27]

One of the Moravian journalists who visited the scenic Susquehanna along the West Branch was Bishop John Ettwein, who passed through this valley on his way to Ohio in 1772. He wrote of "Lycoming Creek, [as the stream] which marks the boundary line of lands purchased from the Indians."[28]

Perhaps the most interesting and informative diarist who journeyed along the West Branch was the Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian. Fithian came to what we will establish as Fair Play country on July 25, 1775, at what he called "Lacommon Creek." His conclusion was that this creek was the Tiadaghton.[29] It is this same Fithian, it might be added, whose Virginia journals were the primary basis for the reconstruction of colonial Williamsburg.

The work of colonial cartographers also substantiates the claim that Lycoming Creek is the Tiadaghton. Both Lewis Evans, following his 1743 journey in the company of Bartram and Weiser, and John Adlum, who conducted a survey of the West Branch Valley in 1792 for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, failed to label Pine Creek as the "Tiadaghton" on their maps.[30] In fact, Adlum's map of 1792, found among the papers of William Bingham, designates the area east of Lycoming Creek as the "Old Purchase." Furthermore, as is the case with Evans' map, Adlum does not apply the Tiadaghton label to either Pine Creek or Lycoming Creek.[31]

Two applications in 1769 for land in the New Purchase show that the Tiadaghton, or in this case "Ticadaughton," can only be Lycoming Creek. The application of Robert Galbreath (no. 1823) is described as "Bounded on one side by the Proprietor's tract at Lycoming." Martin Stover applied for the same tract (application no. 2611), which is described as "below the mouth of Ticadaughton Creek."[32] The copies of these two applications, together with the copy of the survey, offer irrefutable proof of the validity of Lycoming's claim.

Perhaps the final note is the action of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on December 12, 1784.[33] The legislators affirmed the judgments of the frontier journalists, whose recorded journeys offer the best proof that the Lycoming is the Tiadaghton. Prior to this action, the Provincial authorities had issued a proclamation on September 20, 1773, prohibiting settlement west of Lycoming Creek by white persons. Violators were to be apprehended and tried. The penalties were real and quite severe: L500 fine, twelve months in prison without bail, and a guarantee of twelve months of exemplary conduct after release.[34] Court records, however, fail to indicate any prosecutions.

Finally, the latest scholar to delve into the complexities of the Stanwix treaties, Professor Peter Marshall, says that there was no prolonged and close discussion about the running of the treaty line in Pennsylvania (the Tiadaghton question), no discussion in any way comparable to that which took place over its location in New York.[35]

In summary then, it appears that the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 was responsible for opening the West Branch Valley to settlement, such settlement being stimulated by the opening of the Land Office in Philadelphia on April 3, 1769. James Tilghman, secretary of the Land Office, published the notice of his office's willingness "to receive applications from all persons inclinable to take up lands in the New Purchase."[36] The enthusiasm generated by the opening of the Land Office is shown by the better than 2,700 applications received on the very first day. However, the question of the Tiadaghton came to be a source of real contention. The ambiguity of the Indian references to the western boundary of the first Stanwix Treaty led the eager settlers, who were seeking to legitimize claims in the area between Lycoming and Pine creeks, to favor Pine Creek. There was substance to the settlers' claim.

The significance of the boundary question to this study is better understood when it is recognized that the so-called Fair Play system of government in lands beyond the Provincial limits must have a definable locale. It is this writer's firm conviction that Fair Play territory extended from Lycoming Creek, on the north side of the West Branch of the Susquehanna, to the Great Island, some five miles west of Pine Creek. The foundation for the establishment of Lycoming Creek as the Tiadaghton, and consequently, as the eastern boundary of the Fair Play territory is apparent once all the evidence is examined. Aside from the comments of the Indians at the treaty negotiations and Smith's Laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, there are only secondary accounts with little documentation to sustain the Pine Creek argument.

On the other hand, the Lycoming Creek claim is buttressed by such primary sources as the journals of Weiser, Bartram, Spangenberg, Ettwein, and Fithian, three of which were written before the location of the Tiadaghton became a subject of dispute. Since none of these men was seeking lands, they can be considered impartial observers. Furthermore, the cartographic efforts of Lewis Evans and John Adlum followed actual visits to the region and say nothing to favor the Pine Creek view.

Perhaps the Indians were merely accepting an already accomplished fact at the meeting in 1784. Dr. Paul A. W. Wallace says that this would have been expected from the subservient, pacified Indian. Regardless, the Provincial leadership made no effort to settle the lands in what some called "the disputed territory" until after the later agreement at Stanwix; in fact, they discouraged it.[37] The simple desire for legitimacy gives us very little to go on in the light of more than adequate documentation of the justice of the Lycoming view.

This evidence might suggest changing the name of the long-revered "Tiadaghton Elm" to the "Pine Creek Elm" and bringing to a close the vexatious question of the Tiadaghton. However let us strike a note of caution, if not humility. Indian place names had a way of shifting, doubling, and moving, since they served largely as descriptive terms and not as true place names. It is not at all unusual to find the same name applied to several places or to find names migrating. The Tiadaghton could have been Lycoming Creek to some Indians at one time, and Pine Creek to others at the same or another time. Consider, for example, that there were three Miami rivers in present Ohio, which are now known as the Miami, the Little Miami, and the Maumee. It hardly makes any real difference to the geography of the Fair Play territory, or to the delimiting of its boundaries, which stream was the Tiadaghton. Actually, it was the doubt about it which drew in the squatters and created Fair Play. These settlers justified their contention that the Tiadaghton was Pine Creek by moving into the territory and holding onto it. This may be reason enough for calling the famous tree the Tiadaghton Elm, even if early travelers and the proprietary officials said that the Tiadaghton was Lycoming Creek.[38]

The topography of the region also influenced the delineation of what we call Fair Play territory. The jugular vein which supplies the life-blood to this region is undoubtedly the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. This branch of the great river, which drains almost fifty per cent of the State, follows a northeasterly course of some forty miles from the Great Island, which is just east of present Lock Haven, to what is now Muncy, then turns southward.[39]

The West Branch of the mighty Susquehanna, which has plagued generations of residents with its spring floodings, was the primary means of ingress and egress for the area. Rich bottom lands at the mouths of Lycoming, Larrys, and Pine creeks drew the hardy pioneer farmers, and here they worked the soil to provide the immediate needs for survival. Hemmed in on the north by the plateau area of the Appalachian front and on the south by the Bald Eagle Mountains, these courageous pioneers of frontier democracy carved their future out of the two-mile area (more often less) between those two forbidding natural walls. With the best lands to be found around the mouth of Pine Creek, which is reasonably close to the center of this twenty-five-mile area, it seems quite natural that the major political, social, and economic developments would take place in close proximity—and they did.[40]

Thus, an area never exceeding two miles in width and spanning some ten miles (presently from Jersey Shore to Lock Haven) was the heartland of Fair Play settlement. Lycoming Creek, Larrys Creek, and Pine Creek all run south into the West Branch, having channeled breaks through the rolling valley which extends along the previously defined territory.

"The land was ours before we were the land's," the poet said, and it seems apropos of this moment in history.[41] Fair Play territory, possessed before it was owned and operated under de facto rule, would be some time in Americanizing the sturdy frontiersmen who came to bring civilization to this wilderness.


[1] Carl L. Becker, Beginnings of the American People (Ithaca, N. Y., 1960), p. 182.

[2] Turner, Frontier and Section, p. 51.

[3] Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York, 1963), p. 9.

[4] E. B. O'Callaghan, Documentary History of the State of New York (Albany, 1849), I, 587-591.

[5] Henry Steele Commager, Documents of American History (New York, 1958), I, 49.

[6] An earlier twentieth-century historian misinterprets the first Stanwix Treaty in much the same manner as earlier colonial historians erred in their judgments of the Proclamation of 1763. Albert T. Volwiler, George Croghan and the Westward Movement, 1741-1782 (Cleveland, 1926), p. 250, really overstates his case, if the Fair Play settlers are any example, when he claims that the Fort Stanwix line, by setting a definite boundary, impeded the western advance. Establishing friendships with the Indians and then persuading them to sell their lands proved valuable to more than speculators, whose case Volwiler documents so well, as West Branch settlements after 1768 will attest.

[7] The extension of Provincial authority to Pine Creek would have taken in three-fourths of what we have labeled Fair Play territory.

[8] John F. Meginness, Otzinachson: A History of the West Branch Valley of the Susquehanna (Williamsport, 1889), p. 106. The full passage from the Bethlehem Diary (now in the Moravian Archives) was translated by the late Dr. William N. Schwarze for Dr. Paul A. W. Wallace, historian of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, as follows: "In the afternoon [June 8, New Style] our brethren left that place [beyond Montoursville] and came in the evening to the Limping Messenger on the Tiadachton Creek, where they spent the night." In the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, II (1878), 432 (hereafter cited as PMHB), Zeisberger's account is translated in this manner: "In the afternoon we proceeded on our journey, and at dusk came to the 'Limping Messenger,' or Diadachton Creek [a note identifies this as Lycoming], and encamped for the night." Here the error is in identifying the Limping Messenger with the stream. Meginness, of course, repeated the error in his Otzinachson (1889), p. 106. Referring the passage to Vernon H. Nelson of the Moravian Archives, through Dr. Wallace, resulted in a clarification of the translation and the affirmation of the "Limping Messenger" as a camp on the stream. In the Bethlehem Diary, under June 8, 1754, the sentence appears as follows: "des Nachm. reissten unsre Brr Wieder von da weg u kamen Abends zum hinckenden Boten an der Tiatachton Creek, u lagen da uber Nacht." In the original travel journal the passage reads: "des Nachm. reissten wir wieder von da weg, u kamen Abends zum hinckenden Boten an der Tiatachton Crick u lagen da uber Nacht." De Schweinitz in his Zeisberger further confused the issue in his description of the journey. He takes the adventurers (Zeisberger, Spangenburg, Conrad Weiser, Shickellamy, and Andrew Montour) through the valley of the Tiadaghton Creek on the Sheshequin Path to Onondaga (Syracuse). There was an Indian path up Pine Creek, but it led to Niagara, not Onondaga.

[9] Meginness, Otzinachson (1889), p. 106. This is an added note of Meginness' commentary upon the citation noted above.

[10] John Blair Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1883), p. 468. Linn also deals with the Tiadaghton question in his "Indian Land and Its Fair Play Settlers," PMHB, VII (1883), 420-425. Here he simply defines Fair Play territory as "Indian Land" encompassing the Lycoming-Pine Creek region.

[11] Minutes of the First Session of the Ninth General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ... (Philadelphia, 1784), Appendix, Proceedings of the Treaties held at Forts Stanwix and McIntosh, pp. 314-322.

[12] Ibid., Oct. 23, p. 319.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., Oct. 22, p. 316.

[15] E. B. O'Callaghan, Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, VIII (Albany, 1857), 125. In the discussions preceding the Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1768, the Indians' description of the boundary line could be interpreted as favoring Pine Creek: "... to the Head of the West Branch of Susquehanna thence down the same to Bald Eagle Creek thence across the River at Tiadaghta Creek below the great Island, thence by a straight Line to Burnett's Hills and along the same...." The juxtaposition of Bald Eagle Creek, the Great Island, and "Tiadaghta" Creek makes this conclusion plausible.

[16] See also ibid., Guy Johnson's map illustrating the treaty line, opposite p. 136.

[17] D. S. Maynard, Historical View of Clinton County, From Its Earliest Settlement To The Present Time (Lock Haven, 1875), p. 8. The line is given by Maynard as follows: "... and took in the lands lying east of the North Branch of the Susquehanna, beginning at Owego, down to Towanda, thence up the same and across to the headwaters of Pine Creek; thence down the same to Kittanning...."

[18] Eugene P. Bertin, "Primary Streams of Lycoming County," Now and Then, VIII (1947), 258-259.

[19] Dr. Bertin, former associate secretary of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, adds nothing to the Meginness and Linn accounts, his probable sources. He speaks of settlements as early as 1772, whereas it is a matter of record that Cleary Campbell squatted in what is now north Lock Haven sometime shortly after 1769. He refers to the establishment of homes, properly, but then goes on to add churches and schools. The source for his "Children and elders met together periodically to recite catechism to the preacher, who was a travelling missionary, one being Phillip Fithian," was J. B. Linn. But Fithian, an extremely accurate diarist, fails to mention the occasion during his one-week visit to this area in the summer of 1775. However, the real value of this article is the editorial note by T. Kenneth Wood on the Tiadaghton question. In it he refers to John Bartram's journal of 1743, twenty-five years before the Stanwix Treaty at Rome, N. Y., with the Iroquois, which recounts his travels with the Oneida Chief Shickellamy and Conrad Weiser. Lewis Evans was also in the party, making notes for his map of 1749. The party, on its way to Onondaga (Syracuse), was approaching Lycoming Creek at a point just south of Powys, via the Sheshequin Indian path. Bartram, the first American botanist, who wrote in his journal nightly after checking with his two guides, gives this account, T. Kenneth Wood (ed.), "Observations Made By John Bartram In His Travels from Pennsylvania to Onondaga, Oswego and the Lake Ontario in 1743," Now and Then, V (1936), 90: "Then down a hill to a run and over a rich neck of land lying between it and the Tiadaughton." No contact was made with Pine Creek. Dr. Wood contends in his note to the Bertin article, and this writer is inclined to agree, that the Indian of 1743 and the Indian of 1768 were telling the truth and that the white settlers of 1768, and for sixteen years thereafter, were wrong, either through guile and design or ignorance. He says, "The original Indian principals signing the treaty had retreated westward and sixteen years of fighting over the question (and possibly a few bribes) had settled it to the white man's satisfaction. The Indians always had to yield or get out." This is essentially the point which Dr. Wallace made to me in his letter of Feb. 16, 1961.

[20] Elsie Singmaster, Pennsylvania's Susquehanna (Harrisburg, 1950), p. 87. Her Pine Creek description (while describing tributaries of the Susquehanna) speaks of the gorge as the upper course of Pine Creek, which is now part of Harrison State Park. Here, she says, "The rim is accessible by a paved highway, and from there one may look down a thousand feet and understand why the Indians called the stream Tiadaghton or Lost Creek."

[21] Edmund A. DeSchweinitz, The Life and Times of David Zeisberger (Philadelphia, 1871), p. 133. Further evidence of DeSchweinitz' confusion is found in his Geographical Glossary in the same book. On page 707, he calls the Great Island, Lock Haven; on page 709, he calls Long Island, Jersey Shore; and on page 713, he refers to Pine Creek as the Tiadaghton, "also called Diadaghton."

[22] The term "New Purchase" was frequently used, both officially and otherwise, to designate the area on the north side of the West Branch of the Susquehanna from Lycoming Creek to the Great Island, although in actuality the purchase line terminated at Lycoming Creek.

[23] Charles Smith, Laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1810), II, 274.

[24] Paul A. W. Wallace, Conrad Weiser, Friend of Colonist and Mohawk (Philadelphia, 1945), p. 81.

[25] Wallace mistakenly attaches the appellation "Limping Messenger" to "a foot-sore Indian named Anontagketa," ibid., p. 220. However, this error was corrected in a letter to this writer, August 24, 1962.

[26] Wood (ed.), "Observations Made By John Bartram," p. 90.

[27] Ibid., p. 79.

[28] Meginness, Otzinachson (1889), p. 411.

[29] Robert Greenhalgh Albion and Leonidas Dodson (eds.), Philip Vickers Fithian: Journal, 1775-1776 (Princeton, 1934), pp. 69-76.

[30] Hazel Shields Garrison, "Cartography of Pennsylvania before 1800," PMHB, LIX (1935), 255-283. Information on Adlum's maps was obtained from [T. Kenneth Wood], "Map Drawn by John Adlum, District Surveyor, 1792, Found Among the Bingham Papers," Now and Then, X (July, 1952), 148-150.

[31] [Wood], "Map Drawn by John Adlum," pp. 148-150.

[32] Bureau of Land Records, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, New Purchase Applications, Nos. 1823 and 2611, April 3, 1769.

[33] Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, XI, 508.

[34] Colonial Records, X, 95.

[35] In a letter to this writer, May 19, 1962, Professor Marshall states: "It was my opinion that the treaty marked, in one aspect, a bargain between Johnson and the Six Nations. I do not accept Billington's charge of betrayal of their interests. But it does seem to me that this meant hard bargaining in New York, when the state of Indian and colonial lands was precisely known to both sides, and indifference and ignorance beyond this point.... As far as I am aware, there was no prolonged and close discussion about the running of the line in Pennsylvania in the least comparable to that which took place over its location in New York." See Peter Marshall, "Sir William Johnson and the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, 1768," The Journal of American Studies, I (Oct., 1967), pp. 149-179.

[36] Meginness, Otzinachson (1889), p. 340.

[37] Helen Herritt Russell, "Signers of the Pine Creek Declaration of Independence," The Northumberland County Historical Society Proceedings and Addresses, XXII (1958), 1-15.

[38] The fame of this historic elm stems from the fact that it is reputed to be the site of a local declaration of independence made the same day as the adoption of Jefferson's draft in Philadelphia, July 4, 1776. The author is indebted to Donald H. Kent, Director of the Bureau of Archives and History, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, for the idea and some of the expression in this paragraph.

[39] Paul A. W. Wallace, Pennsylvania: Seed of a Nation (New York, 1962) p. 3. This delightful book in the "Regions of America" series, edited by Carl Carmer, contains an excellent chapter on the significance of Pennsylvania's "Three Rivers."

[40] Gristmills—meeting places of the Fair Play tribunal—a school, and a church would all be found in this Pine Creek region. However, the church (Presbyterian) would not be built until the territory became an official part of the Commonwealth following the second Stanwix Treaty in 1784.

[41] Robert Frost, Complete Poems of Robert Frost (New York, 1949), p. 467. This poem somehow characterizes the experiences of the settlers of this frontier and many frontiers to come.


The Fair Play Settlers: Demographic Factors

James Logan, president of the Proprietary Council of Pennsylvania, 1736-1738, once declared that "if the Scotch-Irish continue to come they will make themselves masters of the Province."[1] His prediction, which was to be generally proven in the Province during the French and Indian War, was to be demonstrated particularly in the West Branch Valley during the Revolutionary period. The Scotch-Irish were the dominant national or ethnic group in the Fair Play territory from 1769 to 1784. This dominance is demonstrated in Chart 1, which indicates the national origins of eighty families in the Fair Play territory.


National Origins of Fair Play Settlers[2] Expressed in Numbers and Percentages

Total Scotch-Irish English German Scots Irish Welsh French ==================================================================== 80 39 16 12 5 4 2 2 % 48.75 20 15 6.25 5 2.5 2.5 ——————————————————————————————————

Not only were the Scotch-Irish the most numerous national stock among the Fair Play settlers of the West Branch Valley, but they also represented a plurality and almost a majority of the entire population. The significance of this finding in terms of the "style of life" of the Fair Play settlers cannot be over-emphasized. It influenced the politics, the religion, the family patterns, and thus the values of this frontier society.

Several other important conclusions can be drawn from this chart. In contrast to the population of Pennsylvania in general and the assumptions regarding frontier areas in particular, the English, rather than the Germans, were the second most numerous national stock group. The Germans, however, made up the third-largest segment of the West Branch Valley population. The Scots, Welsh, Irish, and a few French inhabitants formed the remaining sixteen per cent of the population. Obviously, this was a dominantly Anglo-Saxon Protestant area of settlement.

The impact of this Scotch-Irish hegemony upon the religion, politics, family life, and social values in general will be dealt with in a later chapter. However, it can be noted at this juncture that the strong-willed individualism which characterized these sturdy people was as much influenced by their national origin as by their experience on the American frontier. Furthermore, Presbyterianism influenced and was influenced by a developing democratic political system, which paralleled the American Presbyterian system of popular rather than hierarchical church government.[3] A prominent immigration historian has pointed out that "the theory of Presbyterian republicanism, as a matter of church policy, could easily be reconciled with demands of the more radical democrats of 1776."[4] Finally, the social life and customs and, hence, the values of this frontier society were governed for the most part by this majority group. Thus, dogmatic faith, political equality, social and economic independence, respect for education, and a tightly-knit pattern of family relationships express appropriately the institutional patterns by which the Scotch-Irish of the West Branch operated.

It is interesting to contrast the national stock groupings of this Susquehanna frontier with the results of a study of national origins of the American population made by the American Council of Learned Societies and published in 1932:[5]


Classification of the White Population into Its National Stocks in the Continental United States and Pennsylvania: 1790; and in the Fair Play Territory: 1784 (Expressed in Percentages).

Scotch-Irish English German Scots Irish Welsh French Other ========================================================================= Conti- nental United States 5.9 60.1 8.6 8.1 3.6 0 2.3 10.6

Penn- sylva- nia 11.0 35.3 33.3 8.6 3.5 0 1.8 6.5

Fair Play Terri- tory 48.75 20 15 6.25 5 2.5 2.5 0 ————————————————————————————————————-

From this comparison it can readily be seen that the national origins of the Fair Play settlers in no way conform to either the national pattern or the State pattern of just a few years later. Although this limited frontier area can be recognized as having its own individual ratio of component stocks, it is representative rather than unique in its culture and values. The reaction of those of other national stocks to the frontier experience buttresses the conclusion that their values were influenced more by the frontier than by national origin. It is this common reaction to the problems of the frontier which gives rise to the conclusion that this West Branch Valley environment was characterized by and that its inhabitants held values which Turner evaluated as democratic. The nature of those democratic values is, however, dealt with in greater detail in subsequent chapters.

The American sources of emigration form the next question to be considered in examining the origins of the Fair Play settlers. Lacking adequate statistical data for a complete picture of migration in terms of percentages, the following chart indicates only the probable origins of the three most numerous national stock groupings in the Fair Play territory:


American Sources of Emigration[6]

National Percentage of Stock Population American Source of Emigration =============================================================== Scotch-Irish 48.75 Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster counties

English 20 New Jersey, New York, southeastern Pennsylvania (Philadelphia and Bucks counties)

German 15 Chester, Lancaster, Philadelphia, and York counties

Total 83.75 ———————————————————————————————-

Obviously, the primary sources for the West Branch settlements were the lower Susquehanna Valley and southeastern Pennsylvania. However, an appreciable number of English settlers appear to have come originally from New Jersey to settle in what they called "Jersey Shore," immediately east of the mouth of Pine Creek. One explanation for the migration of the dominant stock, the Scotch-Irish, is probably the fact that the Provincial government refused to sell more lands in Lancaster and York counties to the Scotch-Irish. In effect, they were driven to use squatter tactics in the Fair Play territory.[7]

The internal origins of sixteen of these settlers can be verified in either Meginness or Linn. Four came from Chester County, three each from the Juniata Valley and Lancaster County, two each from Cumberland County and New Jersey, and one each from Dauphin County and from Orange County in New York. Nine of these settlers, incidentally, were Scotch-Irish. Although these data are insufficient for any valid generalization, they do conform to the characteristic migratory trends indicated in Chart 3.

In analyzing the migration of settlers into the West Branch Valley beyond the line of the "New Purchase," it becomes apparent that the Scotch-Irish came from the fringe areas of settlement, whereas the English and Germans tended to migrate from more settled areas. Furthermore, the English migrants often came from outside the Province of Pennsylvania, either from New Jersey or New York. In fact, if one were to construct a pattern of concentric zones, with the core in the southeastern corner of the Province and the lines radiating in a north-westerly direction, the English would be found at the core, the Germans in the next zone, and the Scotch-Irish in the outlying area. This zoning offers no real contradiction of the usual pattern of Pennsylvania migrations. However, when one combines the data of internal movements with those of external origins, certain contradictions do appear. The most noteworthy of these is, of course, the prominence of English settlers on this Fair Play frontier vis-a-vis the Germans.

Since the Pennsylvania frontiersmen of the Wyoming Valley were of English stock, and immigrated from New England, it might have been assumed that some of these Connecticut settlers came into the West Branch Valley. Here, however, all evidence points to the fact that Connecticut settlers did not migrate west of Muncy, which is located at the juncture of Muncy Creek and the West Branch of the Susquehanna River (where the bend in the river turns into a directly western pattern). Thus the Connecticut boundary dispute of 1769-1775, which erupted into the Pennamite Wars, did not involve the Fair Play settlers.[8] Nevertheless, at least one Fair Play settler looked forward to the possibility of an advance of the Connecticut settlement along the West Branch.[9]

The impact of events upon the settlement of the Fair Play territory is particularly apparent when one examines the periods of immigration to and emigration from the region. Three events seemed to have had the greatest influence upon the immigration: the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, which extended the Provincial limits to Lycoming Creek in this region, and the resultant opening of the Land Office for claims in the "New Purchase" on April 3, 1769;[10] the almost complete evacuation of the territory in the "Great Runaway" of the summer of 1778, which was prompted by Indian attacks and the fear of a great massacre comparable to the "Wyoming Valley Massacre" of that same year;[11] and finally, the Stanwix Treaty of 1784, which brought the Fair Play area within the limits of the Province.[12]

The first Stanwix Treaty, made by Sir William Johnson with the Six Nations in November of 1768, extended the legitimate line of English colonial settlement from the line established by the Proclamation of 1763 to a point on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River at the mouth of Lycoming Creek (the Tiadaghton, as it was so ambiguously labeled).[13] This extension, ostensibly for the purpose of providing lands for the colonial veterans of the French and Indian War, became a boon to speculators and an inducement to the Scotch-Irish squatters who took lands beyond the limits of this "New Purchase" in what was to become the Fair Play territory.

In the summer of 1778 the war whoop once again caused the settlers of the West Branch Valley to flee from their homes for fear of a repetition of the Wyoming Massacre. The peril of the moment is vividly described in this communication to the Executive Council in Philadelphia from Colonel Samuel Hunter, commander of Fort Augusta:

The Carnage at Wioming, the devastations and murders upon the West branch of Susquehanna, On Bald Eagle Creek, and in short throughout the whole County to within a few miles of these Towns (the recital of which must be shocking) I suppose must have before now have reached your ears, if not you may figure yourselves men, women, and children, Butchered and scalped, many of them after being promised quarters, and some scalped alive, of which we have miserable Instances amongst us.... I have only to add that A few Hundreds of men well armed and immediately sent to our relief would prevent much bloodshed, confusion and devastation ... as the appearance of being supported would call back many of our fugitives to save their Harvest for their subsistence, rather than suffer the inconveniences which reason tells me they do down the Country and their with their families return must ease the people below of a heavy and unprofitable Burthen.[14]

Robert Covenhoven, who lived at the mouth of the Loyalsock Creek and who fled to Sunbury (Fort Augusta) also, described the flight:

Such a sight I never saw in my life. Boats, canoes, hog-troughs, rafts hastily made of dry sticks, every sort of floating article, had been put in requisition, and were crowded with women, children, and plunder. There were several hundred people in all.... The whole convoy arrived safely at Sunbury, leaving the entire range of farms along the West Branch to the ravages of the Indians.[15]

In this eighteenth-century Dunkirk, the West Branch Valley was practically cleared of settlers.

The Indians, it is true, proved troublesome to the entire advancing American frontier; but unlike the French, whose menacing forts had been removed in the recent wars, the Indians were unable to halt the westward penetration. An expedition under the leadership of Colonel Thomas Hartley was sent out expressly for the purpose of boosting morale in the West Branch Valley following the Wyoming Massacre and the Great Runaway. Colonel Hartley's letter to Thomas McKean, chief justice of Pennsylvania and a member of the Continental Congress, gives bitter testimony to the conditions which he observed in September of 1778:

You heard of the Distresses of these Frontiers they are truly great—The People which we found were Difident and timid The Panick had not yet left them—many a wealthy Family reduced to Poverty & without a home, some had lost their Husbands their children or Friends—all was gloomy.... the Barbarians do now and then attack an unarmed man a Helpless Mother or Infant....

The colonel indicated, however, that strong militia support and some offensive action would restore confidence and cause the people to return to the valley. His interpretation of the significance of his mission is quite clearly stated in the conclusion of his letter: "We shall not have it in our Power to gain Honour or Laurels on these Frontiers but we have the Satisfaction to think we save our Country...." Hartley's solution to the Indian problem, which had driven off the settlers, was to expel them "beyond the Lakes" excepting only the more civilized Tuscaroras and Oneidas.[16]

Despite the danger from the Indians, the Fair Play settlers began trickling back to their homes, or what was left of them, toward the end of the Revolutionary War. Once the war was ended and the Fair Play territory was annexed by subsequent purchase, the mass movement of settlers to the West Branch Valley resumed.

Incidentally, Dr. Wallace in his Conrad Weiser assesses one John Henry Lydius with the major responsibility for the Indian massacres in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. Wallace notes that Lydius' Connecticut purchase from the Indians in 1754 caused "war between Pennsylvania and Connecticut and ... [precipitated] the Massacre of Wyoming in 1778." This massacre, as West Branch historians know, had its subsequent impact on the West Branch Valley in the Great Runaway, although the Winters Massacre of June 10, 1778, which prompted the evacuation of the valley, actually preceded the Wyoming affair.[17]

Finally, the purchase of the remaining Indian lands in Pennsylvania (except for the small corner of the Erie Triangle) was made on October 3, 1784, in a second Stanwix Treaty. This accession ended the Pennsylvania boundary dispute with the Six Nations; and it also ended the need for any extra-legal system of government in the West Branch Valley, for this new treaty encompassed the Fair Play territory.[18] However, this treaty raised the troublesome Tiadaghton question once again, a question only partly resolved by the Legislature's designation of Lycoming Creek as the Tiadaghton and the recognition of the squatters' right of pre-emption to their settlements along the West Branch of the Susquehanna.[19] The land office was opened for the sale of this purchase July 1, 1785; by 1786 fifty heads of families were listed for State taxes in Northumberland County.[20] Approximately fifty per cent of these taxables had been in the area earlier.

Perhaps the only significant nationality trend to be noted in this important sequence of events is the tenacity of the Scotch-Irish and the subsequent increase of English and German settlers following this last "New Purchase."[21] Over half of the taxables in Pine Creek Township, the new designation for much of the Fair Play territory after it became an official part of the Province, were Scotch-Irish. As a result, these Scots from the north of Ireland continued to maintain their position of leadership even after the area was included in the Commonwealth.

The reasons for migrating to the West Branch Valley in this fifteen-year period from 1769 to 1784 were varied and numerous. For the most part, the various nationality groups which emigrated from Europe came for economic opportunity and because of religious and political persecutions. Their movement to the frontier regions was prompted by similar problems. In fact, much the same as the earlier settlers of Jamestown and Plymouth, the squatters of the West Branch Valley came for gain and for God. Furthermore, the promise of Penn's "Holy Experiment," in which men of diverse backgrounds could live together peacefully in religious freedom and political equality, encouraged them to come to Pennsylvania. However, once the dominant group of the Fair Play frontier, the Scotch-Irish, arrived in Pennsylvania, they found themselves unsuited to the settled areas. The natural enemy of the English, who had oppressed them at home, these settlers soon found themselves repeating the Old World conflicts. In addition, the German Pietists caused them further embarrassment in their new homes. Their Calvinism, fierce political independence, and earnest desire for land and opportunity soon made them personae non gratae in the established areas. Hence, they migrated to the frontier areas and even beyond the limits of Provincial interference and control.[22]

The paucity of population data makes impossible any extensive analysis of the stability and mobility of the Fair Play settlers. However, the tax lists, both in the published archives and in the files of the county commissioners in Northumberland County, offer limited evidence for the early years, though they provide ample data for the years after 1773. Prior to the Great Runaway in 1778, tax lists are available for the entire county of Northumberland; the lists simply indicate the taxable's township, acreage, and tax. Records in the Northumberland County courthouse give the assessments for 1773, 1774, 1776, and 1778.

Due to the fact that the Fair Play territory was outside the Provincial limits until after the purchase of Fort Stanwix in 1784, the assessment lists give only those persons residing within Northumberland County. As a result, there were only six to twelve settlers who associated with the Fair Play men who were included in the lists for 1773-1778. Chart 4 indicates the names, national origins, and years listed for those settlers.


Fair Play Settlers on the Tax Rolls 1773-1778.[23]

Name National Origin 1773 1774 1776 1778 ============================================================== James Alexander Scotch-Irish x x George Calhoune Scotch-Irish x x x x Cleary Campbell Scotch-Irish x William Campbell, Jr. Scotch-Irish x x x x William Campbell, Jr. Scotch-Irish x x John Clark English x Thomas Forster English x x x x James Irwin Scotch-Irish x x x x John Jamison English x Isaiah Jones Welsh x Robert King German x x x John Price Welsh x x —- —- —- —- Totals 6 8 7 7 ———————————————————————————————

From these limited data one obviously concludes that the Scotch-Irish were not only the most numerous but also the most persistent of these frontiersmen. Also, nine of these men, that is all except Clark, Jones, and King, appear on the tax lists for Northumberland County for the year 1785.[24] Interestingly enough, six of these nine were Scotch-Irish; and although our sample is limited, it is readily apparent that the stalwart Scots had a way of "hanging on." It would be presumptuous to conclude that seventy-five per cent of the residents before 1778 returned by 1785; but it is fact that some forty families had made improvements in the area by 1773 when William Cooke was sent out by the Land Office to "Warn the People of[f] the unpurchased Land."[25] Furthermore, as indicated earlier, some fifty families appear on the assessments for 1786, more than half of whom had been in the region before.

Any effort to analyze the population in terms of stability and mobility runs head-on into the creation of new townships in the 1780's, the inability to establish death rates for this frontier, and the inadequacy of probate records. The result is that the data are intuitively rather than statistically sound. Chart 5 offers a comparison of tax lists over a period of nine years as the basis for some conclusions regarding the stability and mobility of the Fair Play settlers.


Population Stability and Mobility Based Upon a Comparison of Tax Lists For the Period From 1778 to 1787.[26]

1778-80 1781 1783-84 1786 1787 ========================================================== Number of residents assessed 27 29 34 40 68 Number appearing on previous assessments 6 19 21 14 33 —————————————————————————————

Except for the 1783-84 figures, all of the tax data are for State taxes. The exception is the listing for the federal supply tax in 1783-84. The steady growth rate of the area is easily recognizable both in raw figures and in percentages. Beginning with an increase of a little more than seven per cent between the first two listings, we find a seventy per cent increase in the final figures. The tremendous increase in the last two assessments may be due to the purchase of 1784 and the subsequent legitimizing of claims through the establishment of pre-emption rights.

The stability of the population is particularly noted in the consistently high percentage of residents with some tenure in the valley. Furthermore, the apparent contradiction of this statement by the decline to fourteen residents in the 1786 listing who had once left and then returned is offset when one examines the neighboring township assessments for that same year. Here fourteen additional names of former Fair Play settlers are to be found which would sustain the characteristic pattern of tenure. The statistical problem is complicated by the creation of new townships following the purchase of 1784. Pine Creek and Lycoming were the new designations for the former Fair Play territory, Pine Creek running from the creek of that same name west, and Lycoming extending from Pine Creek east to Lycoming Creek.

Petitions from the area in 1778, 1781, and 1784 give a similar picture. Almost half of the names which are found on the tax lists appear on two or more of these appeals. These include a distress petition in June of 1778, and petitions asking recognition of pre-emption rights in 1781 and 1784.[27] The signatures on the petitions range in number from thirty-nine to fifty-one, and at least twenty-four of these settlers signed two or more of these documents. The very nature of these petitions, particularly the later ones, indicates the tremendous desire on the part of these sturdy pioneers to remain in or return to their homes in the West Branch Valley. Here too, however, this tenacity of purpose is not strictly confined to the Scotch-Irish.

What conclusions can be drawn from this analysis of the demographic factors in the Fair Play settlement? Particularly evident is the dominance of the Scotch-Irish, who numerically composed the greatest national stock group in the population. This dominance, as we have already noted, greatly influenced the political and social institutions of the area. Secondly, one might consider the numbers of English settlers, as compared with the number of Germans, surprising. As a matter of fact, if one adds the numbers of Scots and Welsh inhabitants to the English and Scotch-Irish, the result is an "English" percentage of seventy-seven and one half for the entire population. Thus it is quite logical to assume that English customs and language would prevail, and they did. Incidentally, it should be added that the "English" nature of the population, combined with the Scotch-Irish plurality, meant that the Scotch-Irish were more representative of this frontier than they were innovators of its customs and values.

If a majority of the Fair Play settlers came from the British Isles, from where did they emigrate in America? Here it is quite clear that these frontiersmen were predominantly from the lower Susquehanna Valley and southeastern Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was to them a land of liberty and opportunity;[28] and when they failed to find these privileges in the settled areas, they moved out on the frontier where they could make their own rules, that is to say, establish their own familiar institutions. The result was the Fair Play system.

Although the Fair Play settlers came to America and central Pennsylvania for the usual political, economic, and social reasons, the two Stanwix treaties and the Indian raids of 1778 had the most influence on population fluctuations. The pioneers came into the territory over-reaching the limits of the "New Purchase" of 1768. They were driven out, almost to a man, in the Great Runaway of 1778. And finally, they returned after the second "New Purchase" in 1784, which resulted in the recognition of their pre-emption claims for their earlier illegal settlements. It is interesting to note that pre-emption claims were recognized in the West Branch Valley some forty-five years prior to federal legislation to that effect.[29]

Despite fluctuations in the population, the Scotch-Irish were able to maintain their hold over the valley and thus influence the pattern of development for this frontier outpost. Horace Walpole, addressing the English Parliament during the American Revolution, said, "There is no use crying about it. Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson, and that is the end of it."[30] The Scotch-Irish with their Presbyterianism had run off with the West Branch Valley as well; and their independent spirit would see them in the foreground of the "noblest rupture in the history of mankind." That independent spirit and leadership is particularly noted in the political system which they established along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Their "Fair Play system" is the primary concern of the next chapter.


[1] E. Melvin Williams, "The Scotch-Irish in Pennsylvania," Americana, XVII (1923), 382.

[2] This chart was compiled by making a list of eighty names appearing in an article on the genealogy of the Fair Play men, Helen Herritt Russell, "The Documented Story of the Fair Play Men and Their Government," The Northumberland County Historical Society Proceedings and Addresses, XII (1958), 16-43. Mrs. Russell is genealogist of the Fort Antes chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Jersey Shore, Pa. The names were checked in Meginness and Linn for possible national origin. Approximately one-fourth were verified in these sources. Although this writer questioned the validity of the geographic conclusions of Meginness and Linn, both have ample documentation for their findings regarding genealogy and national origins. These findings can be validated in the published archives. The entire sample of names was submitted to Dr. Samuel P. Bayard, a folklore specialist and professor of English at the Pennsylvania State University, whose determination was made on the basis of linguistic techniques.

[3] Popular control was an American rather than a Scottish influence necessitated by the absence of sufficient numbers of ministers. In Scotland, the minister chose his elders and thus dominated the session; in America, the selection was made by the congregation. See James G. Leyburn, The Scotch-Irish: A Social History (Chapel Hill, 1962), p. 150.

[4] Carl Wittke, We Who Built America (Cleveland, 1963), p. 57.

[5] American Council of Learned Societies, "Report of Committee on Linguistic and National Stocks in the Population of the United States," Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1931 (Washington, 1932), I, 124.

[6] This summary has been prepared from three main sources: Wayland F. Dunaway, The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania (Hamden, Conn., 1962), pp. 89-91; Meginness, Otzinachson (1889), pp. 161-167; and John B. Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1883), pp. 447, 481-482.

[7] Williams, "The Scotch-Irish in Pennsylvania," p. 382.

[8] Wayland F. Dunaway, A History of Pennsylvania (Englewood Cliffs, N. J., 1948), pp. 131-137. According to John Bacon Deans, "The Migration of the Connecticut Yankees to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River," The Northumberland County Historical Society Proceedings and Addresses, XX (1954), 34-35, eighty-two Yankees came to Warrior's Run in September of 1775, but none went farther west.

[9] Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., The Zebulon Butler Papers, Jonas Davis to Zebulon Butler, March 16, 1773.

[10] Meginness, Otzinachson (1889), p. 340.

[11] Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, p. 475; Meginness, Otzinachson (1889), pp. 508-511.

[12] Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, p. 477; Meginness, Otzinachson (1889), p. 666.

[13] O'Callaghan, Documentary History of the State of New York, I, 587-591.

[14] Meginness, Otzinachson (1889), p. 509. This July 12, 1778, communication from Colonel Hunter did not fall on deaf ears, for Colonel Thomas Hartley was ordered to the area with his regiment before the summer was out.

[15] Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, p. 475.

[16] Richmond D. Williams, "Col. Thomas Hartley's Expedition of 1778," Now and Then, XII (1960), 258-259.

[17] Wallace, Conrad Weiser, pp. 362-363. Lydius had gotten the Indians drunk following the settlement at Albany between the Six Nations and the Proprietaries. This boundary line (Albany) "crossed the West Branch below the Big Island," p. 374.

[18] Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, XI, 508.

[19] Meginness, Otzinachson (1889), p. 667.

[20] Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, p. 477. Pennsylvania Archives, Third Series, XIX, 711-713.

[21] The ambiguity of the term "New Purchase" becomes apparent once it is recognized that territorial acquisitions of both Stanwix treaties adopted that appellation.

[22] Dunaway, The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania, pp. 28-49.

[23] Northumberland County Courthouse, Sunbury, Pa., Penns & C. 1782-1811 Tax Assessments, Cabinet #1. This book, found in the cellar of the courthouse, also contains the Pine Creek assessment for 1789.

[24] Pennsylvania Archives, Third Series, XIX, 618-622.

[25] Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, XII, 286-287. The squatters, apparently warned in advance, had practically all vacated the premises. However, neighbors across the river willingly gave their names.

[26] Pennsylvania Archives, Third Series, XIX, 437, 468, 557, 711, 790.

[27] Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, III (1875), 217, 518-522. The original petitions of 1781 and 1784 are located in the State Archives, Harrisburg.

[28] Penn's colony was well advertised, and the emphasis upon liberty of conscience, when contrasted with the restrictions of the Test Act, gives ample support for the significance of liberty as a motivating factor. However, economic causes predominated.

[29] Ray Allen Billington, Westward Expansion (New York, 1960), p. 380. Billington refers here to the distribution-pre-emption measure of 1841, whereas Congress actually recognized squatters' rights in the act of 1830.

[30] Williams, "The Scotch-Irish in Pennsylvania," p. 382.


The Politics of Fair Play

The political system of these predominantly Scotch-Irish squatters in the Susquehanna Valley, along the West Branch, offers a vivid demonstration of the impact of the frontier on the development of democratic institutions. Occupying lands beyond the reach of the Provincial legislature, with some forty families of mixed national origin in residence by 1773, these frontier "outlaws" had to devise some solution to the question of authority in their territory.[1] Their solution was the extra-legal creation of de facto rule historically known as the Fair Play system. The following is a contemporary description of that system:

There existed a great number of locations of the third of April, 1769, for the choicest lands on the West Branch of Susquehanna, between the mouths of Lycoming and Pine creeks; but the proprietaries, from extreme caution, the result of that experience, which had also produced the very penal laws of 1768, and 1769, and the proclamation already stated, had prohibited any surveys being made beyond the Lycoming. In the mean time, in violation of all law, a set of hardy adventurers, had from time to time, seated themselves on this doubtful territory. They made improvements, and formed a very considerable population. It is true, so far as regarded the rights to real property, they were not under the protection of the laws of the country; and were we to adopt the visionary theories of some philosophers, who have drawn their arguments from a supposed state of nature, we might be led to believe that the state of these people would have been a state of continual warfare; and that in contests for property the weakest must give way to the strongest. To prevent the consequences, real or supposed, of this state of things, they formed a mutual compact among themselves. They annually elected a tribunal, in rotation, of three of their settlers, whom they called fair play men, who were to decide all controversies, and settle disputed boundaries. From their decision there was no appeal. There could be no resistance. The decree was enforced by the whole body, who started up in mass, at the mandate of the court, and execution and eviction was as sudden, and irresistible as the judgment. Every new comer was obliged to apply to this powerful tribunal, and upon his solemn engagement to submit in all respects, to the law of the land, he was permitted to take possession of some vacant spot. Their decrees were, however, just; and when their settlements were recognized by law, and fair play had ceased, their decisions were received in evidence, and confirmed by judgments of courts.[2]

The idea of authority from the people was nothing new; in fact, it is as old as the Greeks. Nor is the concept of a "social compact," here implied, particularly novel to the American scene. The theory was that people hitherto unconnected assembled and gave their consent to be governed by a certain ruler or rulers under some particular form of government.[3] Theoretically justified by John Locke in his persuasive defense of the Glorious Revolution, it had been practiced in Plymouth, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, where practical necessity had required it for settlements occasionally made outside charter limits. The frontier, whether in New England or in the West Branch Valley, created a practical necessity which made popular consent the basis of an actual government.

They were not "covenanters" in the Congregational sense of having brought an established church with them to the Fair Play territory. But the Fair Play settlers understood and subscribed to the principle of popular control, which was fundamental to such solemnly made and properly ratified agreements. Separated from the authority of the crown, detached from the authority of the hierarchy of the church by the Protestant Reformation, possessing no American tradition of extensive political experience, these settlers could only depend upon themselves as proper authorities for their own political system.

Furthermore, the great majority of the settlers who came to the Fair Play territory came from families who had left their homes in the old country to escape political, economic, and social restrictions, only to be made unwelcome in their new homes in the settled areas of Pennsylvania. Displaced persons in a new country, they were forced by lives of conflict to seek better opportunity by moving to undeveloped lands. As a result, they settled along the West Branch of the Susquehanna, beyond the authority of the crown and outside the pressures of the Provincial legislature.

If man is a predatory beast in his natural state, a belief some expressed in the eighteenth century, then it follows naturally that every society must have some agency of authority and control. The universally standardized solution to the problem of social control is government. The Fair Play system was the answer on this Susquehanna frontier to the need for some legitimate agency of force.[4] This system vested authority in the people through annual elections of a tribunal of three of their number. The members of the tribunal were given quasi-executive, legislative, and judicial powers over all the settlers in the West Branch Valley "beyond the purchase line."[5]

Although no record of any of these elections has been preserved, the composition of the Fair Play tribunal in 1776 has been established and verified by subsequent reviews of land claims in the county courts.[6] Also, two of the members of the tribunal of 1775 are identified in a pre-emption claim made before the Lycoming County Court in 1797.[7] It is interesting to note that among these five men are represented the three most prominent national stock groups in the area, with the Scotch-Irish, as our earlier sample demonstrated, in the majority.

Lacking returns of the annual elections of the tribunal and minutes of its actual meetings, we have only Smith's Laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, petitions from the Fair Play settlers, and the subsequent review of land questions by the Northumberland and Lycoming County courts to evaluate the tribunal, its members, and its procedures. However, these data are more than adequate in giving us a picture of this de facto, though illegal, rule, which existed in the West Branch Valley until the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784 brought the territory under Commonwealth jurisdiction. The composition of the electorate varied with the fluctuations in population caused by the two Stanwix treaties, the Revolution, and the Great Runaway.

Since property and religious qualifications were the primary prerequisites to voting at this time, it seems logical to assume that a similar basis for suffrage operated in the West Branch Valley.[8] Having no regular church—the first, a Presbyterian, was not organized until 1792—property qualifications appear to have been the basis for what, in this area, was practically universal manhood suffrage. Due to the fact that the entire settlement consisted of squatters, practically all of the heads of households were property holders, regardless of the questionable legality of their holdings. The tax lists indicate holdings of some 100 to 300 acres on the average for residents, so it is particularly difficult to know whether or not a minimum holding requirement prevailed. The Provincial suffrage requirement in this period was generally fifty acres of land or L50 of personal property.[9]

Although this study encompasses a fifteen-year period from 1769 to 1784, it appears that the Fair Play system functioned for about five years, from 1773 to 1778. This is due to the fact that only "fourty Improvements,"[10] meaning forty family settlements, existed in the area by 1773, and that following the Great Runaway of 1778, the territory was almost devoid of settlers. The void was filled, however, when settlers began returning toward the end of the Revolution and following the accession of the territory in the second Stanwix Treaty, in 1784. Thus, for all practical purposes, the functioning of the Fair Play system was confined to this more limited time. Furthermore, the system was supplemented in 1776 by the introduction of the Committee of Safety, and later that year by the Council of Safety.[11]

As is indicated in Smith's Laws, annual meetings were held to select the governing tribunal of three for the ensuing year. Generally convened at some readily accessible place, these sessions were presumably held in the open or at one of the frontier forts erected in the area: Fort Antes, across the river from Jersey Shore; or Fort Horn, located on the south side of the Susquehanna about eight miles west of Jersey Shore. There were frontier forts in the vicinity of the present Muncy—Fort Muncy—and Lock Haven—Fort Reed; but Fort Muncy was some twenty-odd miles east of the Fair Play territory and Fort Reed was beyond the Great Island at its western extremity. As a result, these outposts were unlikely meeting places for the tribunal or for its election.[12] Unfortunately, there is no recorded evidence of a specific meeting of the Fair Play men.

The authority of the Fair Play tribunal extended across the entire territory from Lycoming Creek to the Great Island on the north side of the West Branch of the Susquehanna. However, most of the disputed cases, which can be verified by subsequent court reviews in either Northumberland or Lycoming counties, seem to have involved land claims in the area between Lycoming and Pine creeks. The tribunal accepted or rejected claims for settlement in the area and decided boundary questions and other controversies among settlers.[13] As to a specific code of laws, there is none of record. However, the cases subsequently reviewed in the established county courts refer to some of their regular practices. For example, any man who left his improvement for six weeks without leaving someone to continue it, lost his right to the improvement;[14] any man who went into the army could count on the Fair Play men (the tribunal) to protect his property;[15] any man who sought land in the territory was obliged to obtain not only the approval of the Fair Play men but also of his nearest potential neighbors;[16] and the summary process of ejectment which the Fair Play men exercised was real and certain and sometimes supported by the militia.[17]

The specific membership of the Fair Play tribunal is rather difficult to ascertain due to its failure to keep minutes of its proceedings and the absence of any recorded code. However, as indicated earlier,[18] the existence of the tribunal between the years 1773 and 1778, and its actual composition in 1775 and 1776, have already been established from the review of its decisions by the Circuit Court of Lycoming County. Assuming the principle of rotation from a contemporary description, some eighteen settlers held the positions of authority during the years noted.[19] The cases reviewed reveal the names of five of these eighteen. Recognizing the limitations of our twenty-eight per cent sampling, however, it is interesting to note that the three major national stocks are represented in this restricted sample. Furthermore, as was mentioned previously,[20] the Scotch-Irish settlers, being in the majority, enjoyed the majority representation on the tribunal. An analysis of leadership in the territory, to be developed more fully later, leads one to conclude that the Scotch-Irish, in the main, were the political leaders of the area.[21]

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