EARLY SETTLERS ON MURLEY'S BRANCH, ALLEGANY COUNTY, MARYLAND

By Jerry Twigg

The Murley's Branch area of Western Maryland lies in eastern Allegany County. The branch, which is fed by numerous springs runs NNE along the west side of Warrior Mountain to a gap in the mountain where it turns East and empties into Town Creek. Though this area is credited to a man named Murley, nothing has come to light of his contribution to the name. Hilary Willison, great grandson of Jeremiah Willison, has written that Murley is buried on the farm once owned by Elijah Robinette. Adjacent to the branch is a large valley which extends North beyond the branch to the Pennsylvania line. In the early years before the colony had advanced it's settlements, this area was traveled into by Indians coming from as far away as New York, through Pennsylvania and Maryland into Virginia and further South. One of the first men to make contact with these Indians was Thomas Cresap, who established a trading post along the Potomac River at the site of an abandoned Indian Village called Shawnee Old Town, in 1741. Here he traded with the Indians as they passed through and for many years was considered a good friend. To the North, near the Pennsylvania line was another trader, Joseph Flint, who had a post on Flintstone Creek. A possible third man, John Perrin, Sr., is thought to have possibly had a trading post along Murley's Branch between Flint and Cresap. His son, John Perrin, Jr. b. 1722, married a sister of Robert Ray who had a trading post to the North in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, on a branch of the Juniata River, in 1750 then called Ray's Town, now Bedford. In 1756 John Jr.'s wife and daughter were killed by Indians in a raid in Bedford County. It is the Perrin family that holds the most interest to those who settled in the valley for John Sr. owned numerous tracts of land along the branch. Thomas Cresap, among other things was, himself, a surveyor and had acquired a great deal of land along the Potomac River. Joseph Flint also had several tracts in the Flintstone and Town Creek area, one of which was called "Grassy Bottom," patented by Flint in 1752. All of these were patented before the rush of settlers came and were probably surveyed by Cresap who also surveyed the Cumberland tract, "Walnut Bottom" (Walnut Bottom became what is now downtown Cumberland.) and many of the tracts around Antietam Creek. These men, in addition to their trading posts in the west, had homes in the Antietam Valley.

In 1749, King George II granted to the Ohio Company, a group of men from Maryland and Virginia, 500,000 acres of land in the Ohio Valley, then occupied by France. The company built a small trading post on the Virginia side of Will's Creek and proceeded West to survey land and establish forts in the Ohio territory. This action brought immediate reaction from the French who forced the company to retreat to Will's Creek. In the meantime, John Penn, in his attempts to secure the "Western Purchase" of Pennsylvania had deceived the Indians into giving him title to a vast tract from the Susquehanna westward. When the Indians who did not understand such land contracts, realized they had given away their hunting grounds, they united with the French in an effort to regain their land by force. Attacks were made on all English settlers in the western parts of the colonies by the burning of homes and crops and the killing or capturing of those who could not protect themselves. These attacks caused virtually all families in western Maryland and Pennsylvania, mostly isolated, to abandon their homes and come to the East.

1754 marked the beginning of the French and Indian War. In that year, George Washington began the construction of Fort Cumberland on Wills Creek to protect the western frontier. This failed to stem the Indian attacks and following the defeat of General Braddock in 1755, Gov. Sharpe of Maryland, in 1756, authorized the construction of a fort on North Mountain, called Fort Frederick. The war with France lasted until English victory was attained in 1763, but was followed briefly by Pontiac’s Rebellion. During these years, many militia companies were formed among the colonists and all men between 16 and 60 years of age were required to serve. It is among these militia groups that many of the families who eventually moved to the western part of Maryland, can be found. It should be noted, however, that the available militia lists do not represent all of the men in a given area as these rosters were written each time a group of men was needed for a given period of time and varies in the number and men called up. Thus the exclusion of a person believed to be in the area does not mean he was not there.

The area along Murley’s Branch became one of the first to be populated following the war and is the subject of this article. Selection of land in a previously unsettled part of the country required one important, immediate need and that was water. Timber was not a problem, poor access to the area was to be expected, but good water was needed for both people and livestock. That need made Murley’s Branch a most attractive area. There were no roads west of Hancock prior to 1758, with the exception of a road along the Potomac River from Town Creek to Fort Cumberland cleared by Thomas Cresap at Old Town. During Braddock’s campaign of 1755, troops had to cross the Potomac at Conococheague into Virginia, then to Winchester and back across the Potomac at PawPaw and to the Cresap Road. A survey was made in 1758 to construct a road from Fort Frederick to Fort Cumberland entirely in Maryland. This road entered Allegany County at the lower end of Sidling Hill Creek, followed the Potomac River to Little Orleans and then South on the East side of Town Hill to Town Creek where it connected with the Cresap Road. A second road connecting Hancock to Cumberland was built in 1791, though little more than a rough wagon road. Neither road served the interior of the county. It was left to the early settlers to blaze and clear the way to their homes and communities. In the beginning Indian trails were used but could only accommodate pack horses. It is said that a man named Johnson (Griff Johnson?) blazed the old Williams road from Pratt Hollow to Rush. By 1786, a wagon trail was in use between Old Town and Murley’s Branch, and extended to Flintstone. It was not until 1821 that the National Road (Rt. 144) then called the Bank Road, was built.

Robert Twigg, Sr. sold the family farm along Antietam Creek in 1764. Of his three sons, Robert Jr. and John were likely married and Francis, the youngest, was only 14. This was possibly the reason for selling the farm. Robert and Hannah’s daughter, Naomi, had married Jeremiah Cheney about 1748 and was living a few miles away. The whereabouts of the Twigg family for the next four years is totally unknown, but were Robert Sr. the son of John and Mary Twigg of Kent County, it is possible that Robert returned there with at least part of his family. No other suggestion has been forthcoming and no other property for these four years is known. In 1768, Robert Twigg, Jr. purchased "Sink Hole Bottom," 100 acres just southwest of the springs that fed Murley’s Branch, from John Perrin, Sr. John, who was then living in the Marsh Hundred area of the Antietam Valley, was by trade a tanner and through his contact with most of the men in the area made known his holdings in western Maryland. This would seem to be the most logical explanation for Robert Jr’s knowledge of and his purchase of land from Perrin. John Perrin died the following year and by the terms of his will, requested that all of his property be sold by his sons, John, Joseph and Edward and the money divided equally among them. Over the years, this was done and the following are the known purchases in the Murley’s Branch area made from his estate.

Hezakiah Hyatt purchased 75 acres, part of "Two Springs," one of the Perrin properties on Murley’s Branch and with his wife Esther came West as the appointed Constable of Oldtown Hundred in 1769. At this time, Old Town Hundred, an area designated to support 100 families, extended from Old Town on the Potomac River, North to the Pennsylvania line. As the area became more populated this was divided in two, the southern portion being renamed Skipton Hundred and the northern portion, Murley’s Branch Hundred.

Moses Robinette, son of Nathan and Elizabeth, then in the Antietam area, married his cousin, Ann, in 1761, daughter of George and Catherine Robinette. He purchased 50 acres, part of "I Am Lost" on Flintstone Creek from John Perrin in 1765, but likely did not move into the area until other families were migrating there since the Indian hostilities had not really ended by that time. The Mason/Dixon survey had been suspended for this reason.

John Twigg, son of Robert and Hannah, purchased, in 1773, 50 acres called "Three Spring Head" from the estate of John Perrin located at the headwaters of Murley’s Branch and just Northeast of his brother’s property. An interesting aspect of this purchase is found in the deed, which describes the sale as including "all houses, buildings and improvements." This was a typical inclusion of most later deeds, but for previously unsettled lands it would seem to imply that this tract had been occupied and lived upon. If so, this may have been where John Perrin had spent some time as a trapper and trader. He was the father of five children. His wife is not mentioned in his will, indicating she had died at an earlier date, perhaps the reason for his return to Marsh Hundred.

Griffith Johnson, a son of Thomas, is not found in the Antietam area records. However a Thomas Johnson is found in the militia company of Moses Chapline with Robert Twigg. A brief mention of Griffith Johnson is found in the Maryland Gazette for 1758 which mentions that he was on a scout with John Lane on Savage River near the Potomac River, and encountered Indians, who they fired upon. Perhaps these two men were assigned as scouts to British troops. It is also thought that Griffith served with Gen. Braddock on the ill fated expedition of 1755. Nevertheless, in 1774, Griffith purchased 50 acres from Joseph Flint on Town Creek called "Morgan’s Choice" and by the start of the American Revolution, he had been commissioned Captain of Militia in the 3rd Western Battalion of Western Maryland, indicating a strong military background. Among the men in Griffith’s company are a number known to have been in the Murley’s Branch area. They are: John, Robert and Francis Twigg, Andrew Dew, Samuel, Moses and Joseph Robinette, Cornelius Willison and his brother Jeremiah from Fort Cumberland (a Lieutenant), Hezakiah Hyatt, George Moore Sr. and Jr, John and Joseph Leasure, William Crabtree and Basil Pearl from Town Creek.

It should be mentioned here that "Two Springs", a Perrin property, was a tract of nearly 300 acres and lay along the West side of Murley’s Branch from "Three Springs Head" of John Twigg, to Rush, MD. Among the shares of "Two Springs" from 1783 tax records are Hezakiah Hyatt 75 acres, Cornelius Willison 50 acres, his son Edward Willison 50 acres, and Joseph Lazear (Leasure) 50 acres. By this time two additions had been made, likely from a survey of one of the parts. These were in the names of Moses Robinette 50 acres, George Robinette Sr. and John Willison (the elder), son of Cornelius, 96 acres.

George and Nathan Robinette, sons of Samuel and Mary Taylor, came to the Antietam area from East Nottingham Twp., Chester County, (southeast) Pennsylvania, with their families about the time the French and Indian War began. Both were in their mid 30s and were in the militia company with Robert Twigg. Though not found in Griffith Johnson’s company in 1776, George is found in the 1783 tax records for Murley’s Branch Hundred, with 50 acres of the "Addition to Two Springs." It is not known if Nathan came west but George Robinette, son of Nathan, bought "Mountain Tract" 50 acres, from the estate of John Perrin. Joseph Robinette, b. ca 1713, likely an older brother of George and Nathan, is found on the debt books of Frederick County in 1756/1757 with two parts of "Pile’s Forrest of Needwood". He is likely the same Joseph on the tax list for Murley’s Branch Hundred, 1783, with 50 acres of "Two Springs". Moses Robinette, a son of Nathan, may be the same who purchased part of "I Am Lost" 50 acres in 1765. This was a large tract of at least 370 acres owned by John Perrin and located on the boundary line with Pennsylvania along Flintstone Creek. It appears the remainder of this tract was sold to Basil Williams (not a resident of the area) who sold it in parts in 1791 to the following: William Willison, Charles Willison, Richard Willison, Nathan Robinette and John Constable. The 1793 tax list also shows James Blair and Jeremiah Robinette. Moses Robinette sold his 50 acres of "I Am Lost" to William Willison in 1801. The remainder of names found in the 1783 tax list which may be either in the Murley's Branch, Flintstone or Town Creek area are: Basil, George and Charles Pearl, Jas. Crabtree, Truman Tuell, Nicholas Fast, Thomas Stewart, James Blair, Andrew Dew, Ann Carr, Stephen Faughty, Andrew Linn, John Grimes, Upton Scott and Elijah Robosson. The largest tract in the area prior to 1783 was "Robinette’s Victory," a tract of at least 850 acres. In 1783, Joseph Robinette is the only one on the tax list shown to own part of this tract (acreage not given) and it may be that it was he who patented it. The exact location is not known, but by 1793 some of those who owned parts of this tract are those who lived along Murley’s Branch. They were George Robinette, 11 acres, John Stallings 31 acres, Lancelot Stallings 31 acres, Edward Willison 29 acres, Jeremiah Willison 38 acres, John Willison 5 acres. This would suggest that the tract adjoined Murley’s Branch and was likely on the East side of the branch. The remainder of the tract was owned by Thomas Gassaway, 596 acres, and Charles Gassaway 119 acres.

By 1784 John Twigg, son of Robert Twigg, Jr. had married Ruth Farmer, a girl from Bedford County, Pennsylvania. In 1788 his father added to his "Sink Hole Bottom" property, two tracts: "Discovery" 100 acres and "Addition to Sink Hole Bottom" 29 acres. The later tract and 20 acres of Sink Hole Bottom, he gave to John upon which John and Ruth built their home.

Shortly after the death of his father, Nathan, in 1784, then in Antietam Hundred, Isaac Cheney gave to his mother, Hanna, his willed share of "Rich Hill" and moved to the Flintstone area and sometime before 1793 purchased "Fresh Spring", 90 acres on Murley’s Branch where he and his wife Lucy made their home for many years. Isaac appears to be the first Chaney to arrive in the area.

In 1785, Charles Twigg, son of John and Rebecca, purchased part of "Two Springs", 25 acres from Hezakiah Hyatt who had moved to Ohio with his son in law, Elisha Willison of Jeremiah. This property was next to "Three Springs Head". In 1790, he sold 18 acres of this tract to Joseph Robinette, who had a gristmill on Murley’s Branch. He then moved to Town Creek where he married Jane Johnson, daughter of Griffith Johnson.

John Perrin Jr. and his brother Joseph returned to Western Maryland. John remarried twice after the death of his first wife and went back to Bedford Co. PA. He had a total of 22 children and died in 1785. Two of John’s daughters married sons of Griffith Johnson. Drusilla Perrin married Benjamin Johnson; Elizabeth married John M. Johnson. Both went to Ohio.

The Middleton family began its’ presence in Western Maryland when Hugh Middleton of Charles County and later Fairfax County, VA, moved to the Evitts Creek area by 1790. His son, Hugh, Jr., bought property on Warriors Mountain and lived there until his death about 1860. He and wife Lurena had four children. His son Joel was the father of Benjamin Franklin Middleton. Ben, his brother, Thomas and two sisters, Jennie and Lurena, married into the Twigg line.

Thomas McElfish, the son of David and Mary Elizabeth Leeke McElfish of Antietam Creek, born 1740, arrived on the branch prior to 1793 and is shown in the tax list of that year with 112 acres, part of the "Addition to Two Springs." His wife was Mary Powell. Thomas died in 1805.

Benjamin Stallings, son of Richard Jr. and Mary Kent Stallings, is said to be the first of the family to live in Allegany County though no date or property is known. He married Elizabeth Thompson. Thomas and Lancelot Stallings, sons of Benjamin, appear in the 1793 tax list, as does a John Stallings. Thomas, who married Nancy Thomas, is the father of Lloyd who married Rachel Robinette in 1820. They were the parents of Mary Ann Stallings who married Oliver Twigg. These Stallings are of the line of Richard Stallings of Calvert County, who died there in 1703.

There are obviously other families who could be added to this list of early settlers whose stories have not been researched. The area became quickly populated. Land patents and purchases were in abundance. In 1787, by an act of the Maryland Legislature, the town of Cumberland was authorized and by the act of 1788 a large tract West of Cumberland was divided into 4,165 parcels of 50 acres each. Preference to these lots was given to veterans of the American Revolution. A report on the families who took advantage of this offer indicated that 323 families had settled on, cultivated and improved 636 lots. The 1800 census, the earliest we have, indicates a wide spread settlement of Allegany County. Land acquisition continued throughout the nineteenth century and listed among them are nearly 800 transactions involving the Twigg name alone, mostly in the county.

This article was researched and prepared by JERRY TWIGG in the year 2002. It is a research tool for those who wish to use the information herein. However, all those pursuing genealogy should look at this article as sort of a place to start. Unless you do your own research at the Courthouses involved, the data is useless when you share it.

Transcribed by:
Connie Beachy
cbeachy@hereintown.net

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