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"McKean: The Governor's County"
Rufus Barrett Stone
Submitted by PHGS Member
"McKean: The Governor's County", Rufus Barrett Stone. Lewis Publishing Company, Inc. New York, 1926. Pages 25 --29.
DRAMA OF STATECRAFT
Proprietary under the State of Pennsylvania
With acknowledgments to The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
(Photo by P. B. Wallace, Philadelphia)
Upon the successful consummation of his part in this great drama of statecraft, it is interesting to note that Mr. Bingham was immediately promoted from the Speakership of the State Senate to a seat in the Senate of the United States, in which body he served from 1795 to 1801, during which period he was for a time its presiding officer ( Note 1 ) Meanwhile in 1799 Thomas McKean became Governor, and proceeded to carry out the correlative design for the establishment of local, civil administration.
Concurrently, however, a further important auxiliary step was to be taken. just as fifty years later the Union Pacific Railroad was constructed to bind California to the Union, so the East and West Road was projected by Act of Assembly to be built from the Moosic Mountains across the State "in a westerly direction to the Western boundary of the State." It was such an assertion of the immediate and beneficent presence of the State in this region that there can be little doubt but that as the construction of the road progressed through that great area of the Northern Tier now embraced in the counties of Bradford, Tioga, Potter and McKean, it truly served as a bond to hold to the Commonwealth the allegiance of the settlers. (Note 2)
The great controversy between the Commonwealth and the Connecticut Company, which at times became national in its proportions, engaging the attention of Congress, as already observed, led quite inevitably at its climax to the suggestion of an independent state to be formed out of the Northern Tier, embracing in such purpose for a second time the area of McKean; and General Ethan Allen, be hero of Ticonderoga, came with cocked hat and feathers, (Note 3) swearing that he had made one State ( Note 4 ) and "By the Eternal and the Continental Congress" he would make another. But the hour had passed. In the course of time the sagacious policy of Senator Bingham prevailed, and the contest was abandoned, not, however, without lingering bitterness and assuaging litigation.
The contribution of Governor McKean to the final triumph of the Commonwealth is now to be considered. Pursuant to the policy hereinbefore noted, he wrote his approval March 26, 1804, upon an Act of Assembly forming the county of McKean, notwithstanding it was then uninhabited. By the same Act five other counties were carved out of the border region. To the Most remote of this frontier breastwork of counties Governor McKean gave his name, and with it he threw the weight of his personal and political influence into the movement to check the harassing progress of the Connecticut Company. Its outpost township southward in McKean covering the Marshburg district bore the name of Connecticut's governor, Trumbull, and this was doubtless regarded by Governor McKean as a personal challenge. Significant of his determined personal interest is the fact that without awaiting exploration or survey, he bought from Colonel John Bull of Philadelphia, a tract of three hundred acres which proved to be a little "roundtop" mountain lying east of the present Pennsylvania railroad between Sartwell and Turtle Point and now embraced in the township of Annin. In his will, in which he devised it to, his grandson, Samuel M. McKean, he mentions it as "my plantation Mount Equity." In connection with the county centennial celebration held at Bradford in 1904 the McKean County Historical Society caused a boulder to be hauled from this tract and set up in the public square at Bradford, bearing a suitably inscribed metal tablet. It is suggested that the Society should purchase "Mount Equity" as an historical shrine and that it should be surmounted by a memorial structure or by a statue of Thomas McKean.
The triumph of the State herein narrated was the crowning achievement in his career, and here his life and character should be celebrated. In a galaxy of the illustrious leaders of the Revolutionary era he was a foremost and dominant figure. Thrice Governor of Pennsylvania, President of Congress and at the same time Chief justice of Pennsylvania and President of Delaware, he saved the unanimous adoption of the Declaration of Independence by securing the dramatic presence of his colleague.( Note 5 ) He was a statesman but no less a jurist. It was a highly laudatory message which Lord Mansfield wrote to him on receipt of the first volume of Dallas' Reports, containing the first publication of American judicial decisions. "They show," said Mansfield, "liberality in principle, strong reason and legal learning."
Note 1: For some time prior to 1880 the Bingham Estate was represented in McKean by Hon. Robert H. Rose, at Smethport, later member of the General Assembly.
Note 2: See Chapter East and West Road.
Note 3: Pioneer and Patriot Families, P. 178.
Note 4: Vermont.
Note 5: It was deemed of great importance that the Declaration should be adopted by a unanimous vote. The votes were taken by States. Pennsylvania was the only State known to be opposed. Delaware was represented by Thomas McKean, George Read and Caesar Rodney. Read was opposed to the Declaration, McKean was for it, Rodney was absent. McKean dispatched an express at his own expense for Mr. Rodney who was then in Delaware. That gentleman hastened to Philadelphia and arrived at the State House in his boots and spurs, just in time on the morning of the 4th to cast his vote in favor, and so the vote of Delaware was secured. Two Pennsylvania delegates absented themselves and that State was also united with the majority making the vote unanimous.
George Alfred Townsend has set to rhyme McKean's soliloquy as he waited on the State House steps for Mr. Rodney. The concluding stanzas are as follows:
"'Read is sulking; Dickinson is
With conceit and fright our foeman,
Wedded to his Quaker monies,'
Mused the grim old rebel Roman;
Pennsylvania spoiled by faction,
Independence will not dare;
Maryland approves the action;
Shall we fail on Delaware.'
"In the town the old bell rumbled,
Striking slowly twelve o'clock;
Down the street a hot horse stumbled,
And a man in riding frock,
With a green patch on his visage,
And his garments white with grime,
'Now, praise God!' McKean spoke grimly,
'Caesar Rodney is on time.'
"Silent, hand in hand together,
Walked they in the great square hall;
To the roll with 'Aye' responded
At the clerk's immortal call;
Listened to the Declaration
From the steeple to the air:
"Here this day is made a nation,
By the help of Delaware!"'
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Last Update January 30, 2020