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"McKean: The Governor's County"
Rufus Barrett Stone

Submitted by PHGS Member
Mike Henderson

"McKean: The Governor's County", Rufus Barrett Stone. Lewis Publishing Company, Inc. New York, 1926. Pages 12--15


IF the explorer, Hennepin, in the eighteenth century, had been seeking for vast deposits of earthly wealth, oil, gas, shale, the magic horseshoe which the river Allegheny forms around the county of McKean would have led him as by a charm within its bountiful precincts. And the river had another secret to impart. It could have murmured of a mighty pre-historic Armageddon on this very battlefield, the final conflict between mountain and glacier. It was indeed a distinction that of all the borderland the onset should have struck the defiant hills which raise their rugged heads in front of Allegany State Park and stand guard over the fields and forests of McKean. See how the Arctic cohorts were cloven as by a plowshare, leaving their trailing moraine to tell the tale as they fled southward on either hand! Failing in a titanic attempt to penetrate the hills surrounding Bradford the defeated column was content to cleave a picturesque canon for its escape through the mountain wall below Kinzua.

The river itself is like a chain of pearls of great price, of which McKean is but a link. The Allegheny and its tributaries once constituted an imperial highway for Spain, France and Great Britain. It was a disputed international boundary, an arena

(Sketch by the Author)

of unceasing warfare. It was the border of the region known as "The Debatable Land." "That soil," says Hanna in the "Wilderness Trail," "had been drenched with the blood of more slaughtered foes and massacred innocents, white and red, than perished by violence elsewhere within the bounds of the colonies in all the actual battles of Spanish and English, English and French, British and American, from the accession of Queen Anne to the death of George Washington."

The deposits of great natural wealth in the Allegheny valley were then unknown. When peace came and the territory was reclaimed, it was seen that nature had been so lavish in its bounty to this region as to clearly distinguish it from the contiguous eastern territory, better known as Pennsylvania, whose political capitals were at Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Nature as by boundaries of its own had renounced an unnatural allegiance. Moreover, not only distance from the eastern settlements but physical configuration, rugged mountain ranges, practically impassable, and the better commercial access to the valley of the Ohio, challenged the union. It was then that the erection of an independant state, to be known as the state of Allegheny, was projected. The project was finally put to sleep, although only by degrees in the course of years, by such highway and ultimately railroad construction over the forbidding grades as to bind the sections forever into one enduring commercial union. ( Note 1 ) Out of the twilight zone or "no-man's-land," intermediate between the mountains and eastern Pennsylvania, more than forty counties have since been formed.

McKean was in the midst of a wild, unexplored highland region on the northeastern verge of the proposed new state. It was the hunting-ground but never the home of the Indian, the Senecas preferring to set up their "castles" along the lower waters of the Allegheny. Not a single trail within the borders of the county has been authenticated. At length the last battle with the Indians had been fought. Their settlements up the river had been destroyed by Brodhead's Expedition, and for shelter and subsistence they had been driven to their northward retreat.

(Note 1) See Act of April 9, 1827 (P. L. 192), "To provide for the further extension of the Pennsylvania canal," which required the board of canal commissioners "as speedily as "say be to locate and contract for making a canal locks and other works necessary thereto up the valley of the Juniata from the eastern section of the Pennsylvania to a point at or near Lewistown; also a canal locks, &c., up the valley of the Kiskeminetas and Conemaugh from the western section of the Pennsylvania canal to a point at or near Blairsville. . . . And the said board shall also proceed to make or cause to be made such examinations and surveys from Frankstown on the Juniata to Johnstown on the Conemaugh across the Allegeny Mountains as may enable them to determine in what manner and by what kind of works whether by the construction of a smooth and permanent road of easy gravitation or by a rail with locomotive or stationary engines, or otherwise, the portage or space between the said two paints may be passed so as to ensure the greatest public advantage, and the said board shall also cause further examinations, surveys and levels to be made with a view of ascertaining the practicability and cost of an entire navigable communication between the West Branch and the Allegheny river."

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