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Lawrence County Newspaper Articles


Some thrilling tales of the days of Indians and the primeval forest in western Pennsylvania - days when wild beasts roamed through the Shenago and the Slippery Rock valleys, when farm houses were several days' journey apart, when the fight for existence was one of the rugged pioneer life of the time of the American revolution , are repeated in history with some impression of their real meaning, but to one resident of Lawrence county, W. H. Amberson of the Harlansburg vicinity, they are known by actual report from on the pioneers who was here before the nineteenth century had blossomed into being with all of the wonderful progress.

He was not living in the year 1780 or before the nineteenth century, but he is some 70 years of age and during his active life was a successful photographer. Forty years ago he went out into the vicinity of Harlansburg, and took a photograph of Mrs. Bentley, who was then aged 103 years. She had been living in the western Pennsylvania wilds since childhood and from her by actual account he was informed of many of the occurrences of more than a hundred years ao. Mrs. Bentley lived on a farm where the nearest neighbor was 6 miles away. It was long before matches were dreamed of. One day the fire at the Bentley home went out and the tinder and other usual means of starting fires refused to work. Then she made a trip of six miles to the next farm house secured hot coals and by means of feeding sticks, kept the coals burning on the shovel all the long perilous way back to her home, where the fire was lighted again. It was kept burning continuously for years, because of the trouble occasioned in relighting when once the flames died out.

At another time, Mother Bentley was left alone over night, her husband having been called away. A high stockade had been built and the cattle driven into this each night. During the absence of her husband, a bear got into the stockade and was making away with the cattle. What did this pioneer woman do? Call the police, as a twentieth century woman could do? No, she was the only living human being with miles. With an axe she plunged into the blackness of the stockade where the wild and terrific fight for life was on and fought the bear, finally dispatching it with an axe. A gun could not be used because the cattle would have got the charge intended for the bear and before the gun could be reloaded in the old primitive fashion the bear would have been a victor in the fight.

These are but a few of the incidents which the aged woman related to Mr. Amberson of the fight for existence long before the time that railway trains, steamboats, telephones, telegraph lines, and the thousands of other modern conveniences now enjoyed, were ever dreamed of.

Mr. Amberson remembers considerable old Lawrence county history himself. He was a member of the Co. G. 109th Pennsylvania Volunteers during the war, being in Hooker's corps, the twelfth.

Footnote: Mrs. Bentley may have been Mary Bentley, if so, according to the 1850 and 1860 census - her husband was John Bentley. In the 1850 census Mary reports she was born in Ireland. There is a possibility that this women is the great grandmother of Catherine Howe Burnside.

Source: New Castle News, Sept. 23rd, 1913

Submitted by lindajholley

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