When searching for ancestors, an experienced genealogist knows to take into consideration the changing jurisdictions of the area in which the ancestor lived. Your ancestor may not have moved out of the area. Instead, the governing jurisdiction may have changed. Tyrone Township, Blair County, Pennsylvania is a case in point. When the township was formed, it extended into what are today twelve different townships in four different counties.

Townships were created by petitioning the county’s court of quarter sessions. Tyrone Township was first mentioned in the Bedford County court records of April 1787. However, the exact date of the formation of the township has not been determined because the petition to form the township and the description of its boundaries has not yet been found. Other records can be used, however, to arrive at an approximate date and the boundaries.

There is no mention of Tyrone Township in the 1786 minutes of the Bedford County commissioners. That year, the tax assessment and return for the area that became Tyrone Township was included in Frankstown Township, Bedford County.

The first Tyrone Township tax assessor, Charles Montgomery, was appointed by the Bedford County commissioners on January 2, 1787. Montgomery held 150 acres by warrant in what is today either Franklin or Spruce Creek Township, Huntingdon County.
The year 1787 was the first and only time Tyrone Township paid Pennsylvania state and local taxes through Bedford County. The following year, the township paid the tax through Huntingdon County. It seems safe to say that the township was formed sometime after the March 1786 Frankstown Township, Bedford County tax returns but before January 2, 1787, when the Tyrone Township, Bedford County tax assessor was appointed.

In September 1787 the citizens of Tyrone Township, Bedford County, along with those in Frankstown Township of the same county, petitioned the Pennsylvania General Assembly for the erection of Huntingdon County. The petition, which can be found on the Huntingdon History Research Network at this link http://www.huntingdonhistoryresearchnetwork.net/?page_id=140, contains the names of men known to have settled in a given area. For example, Abraham Elder settled near what is today Stormstown in Half-Moon Township, Centre County. And James Crawford settled on the proprietaries manor in Sinking Valley, which is the present Tyrone Township in Blair County.

With the formation of Huntingdon County, Tyrone Township became one of its eight original townships. The extent of Tyrone Township, Huntingdon County can be ascertained through the tax assessment records of 1789. In addition to residents Abraham Elder and James Crawford, the tax record contains descriptions of the property locations that were held by non-residents. The township encompassed unseated property at the locations that follow:
• Head Buffalo Run (Half-Moon Township, Centre County)
• Beaver Dam, Head Spruce Creek (Ferguson Township, Centre County)
• Head Bald Eagle Creek (Worth Township, Centre County)
• Logan’s Narrows on Little Juniata River (near Tyrone, Blair County)
• Water Street Run (Morris Township, Huntingdon County)
• Yellow Spring Run (Catharine Township, Blair County)

The first division of the township occurred in March of 1789 when all the land on the north-east side of the Little Juniata River was formed into Franklin Township, Huntingdon County. The northern most part of this area went to Centre County in 1800.

Present day Tyrone (Blair County), Morris (Huntingdon County) and Catharine (Blair County) townships remained as one for only a few more years until Morris (then including Catharine) was separated from Tyrone in August of 1794. At that time, Tyrone Township was confined to Sinking Valley proper. In 1841, Snyder Township was formed and the Tyrone Forges were removed from Tyrone Township. After almost 60 years as part of Huntingdon County, the present boundaries of the township were set upon its incorporation into Blair County in February of 1846.

The townships that were formed out of Tyrone are as follows:

Tyrone Township (Bedford County 1786, Huntingdon County 1787, Blair County 1846)

Franklin 1789 (Huntingdon County)

Morris 1794 (Huntingdon County)
Warriors Mark 1798 (Huntingdon County)
Part of Ferguson 1801 (Centre County)
Half-Moon 1802 (Centre County)
Rush 1814 (Centre County)

Part of Snyder 1841 (Blair County)

Catherine 1846 (Blair County)
Taylor 1847 (Centre County)
Worth 1848 (Centre County)
Part of Spruce Creek 1895 (Huntingdon County)

This brief history of the evolution of Tyrone Township through Bedford, Huntingdon, Centre, and Blair Counties, underscores the importance of knowing the changing jurisdictions of the area in which your ancestor lived in order to find primary sources that document their existence.

Copyright © 2012 Karen K. Morrow

Sources

Bell, Raymond M. (1989). Mother Cumberland: Tracing your ancestors in South-Central Pennsylvania. Hearthside Press, Midlothian, VA

Huntingdon History Research Network. Historic Documents, Petitions for the formation of Huntingdon County, Petition from Frankstown and Tyrone Townships.
http://www.huntingdonhistoryresearchnetwork.net/?page_id=140
Retrieved 8 Feb 2012

Huntingdon County Historical Society. Tyrone Township Tax Assessment Records.

Africa, J. Simpson (1883). Huntingdon County. History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties, Pennsylvania. Reproduction by Unigraphic, Inc. Evansville, Indiana. Page 6.

Africa, J. Simpson (1883). Blair County. History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties, Pennsylvania. Reproduction 1974 by Unigraphic, Inc. Evansville, Indiana. Page 231.

Linn, John Blair (1883). Centre County. History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania. Reprinted 1975, Unigraphic, Inc., Evansville, Indiana. Page 308.

Boor, James D. State taxes paid by each township in Bedford County Pennsylvania 1781-1789.

Minutes, Board of County Commissioners, Bedford County, PA, Bedford County Historical Society, microfilm LR228.1

http://www.usgwarchives.net/maps/pa/county/blair/1873/

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The Conestoga Wagon in which George Fleck hauled his belongings when he moved his family from Montgomery County, PA to Sinking Valley (now Tyrone Township, Blair County, PA) is on display at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.

Fleck wagon 2009-8-8

The following information about this Conestoga Wagon was written by an unknown author at an unknown date.  It was found in the archives at Fort Roberdeau, a reconstructed Revolutionary War era fort in Sinking Valley.  Any information about the source of this article would be greatly appreciated.

Fleck – Clawson Conestoga

A Conestoga Wagon from the private collection of Frank W. Clawson, New Florence, Pennsylvania and acquired by the Museum Commission of the State of Pennsylvania in June of 1971.

The unique feature of this wagon must be that it was not discovered until 1970.  It was found in Blair County, Tyrone Township in the beautiful Sinking valley.  It would be a interesting story to relate hos this writer found the Wagon but for fear of taking too much space he will let it go at this time.

The farm where this wagon sat for so many years is known as the Frank Fleck farm, where Mr. Fleck and his sister still live.  George Fleck of Montgomery County who had served in the Revolution came to Sinking Valley the year after that struggle and settled on the farm now occupied by great, great, ?, grandson, Frank Fleck.  He had moved his belongings, etc. to the Sinking Valley farm in this Conestoga Wagon.  He died there in 1830 after raising a large family.

The Wagon box had been removed from the undercarriage and put up on rollers with 1″ ropes rolled around them.  This bed was then rolled up against the rafters of a very high wagon shed and Mr. Frank Fleck, now in his seventies, tells the writer that he never knew the wagon bed to be down from the ceiling.  This accounts for the excellent condition of the wagon box.  It has the original blue paint on it.  This method of storing the wagon bed saved it two times because they had two barns burn on the farm and are on the third one now.

The wagon is mounted on an old lunch-pin running gear with a side brake.  It is in excellent condition, It came from Bedford Boro and last hauled a load of lumber in 1883.  The original running rear (left with Clawson as Mr. Ripton deemed it not worth while) is also with the wagon, but the writer found it in the orchard underneath all kinds of farm hay ladders and beds.  It would be hard to imagine the vast amount of use it has endured.  The front and rear wheels have been cut down at least three times.  The hubs and almost everything else are original.  The tires are 3 1/2″ width.  The brakes is of the rear end variety.  The original running rear is not in good condition so this owner has put the bed on the lunch-pin running rear that has been described in an earlier paragraph.

It might be of interest to note some of the extra equipment that came with the wagon.  It has a beautiful tool box on the left side, a feed box mounted on the rear, a Tar Pot on thee rear axle, an axe holder with ring, a wagon jack and an original “jockey stick”.

The Conestoga has eight bows.  The box length inside is 15′ 2″.  The box width inside is 41″ and the height inside is 29″.  The rear wheel diameter is 58″ and the front wheel diameter is 45″.  Tire widths are rear 3 1/2″ and front 3 1/2″.  It would have to be classified as a medium size Conestoga Wagon.

The posted photo was taken at the Heinz History Center in August 2009.  The History Center describes the wagon as follows:

Conestoga wagon, c. 1784

George Fleck used this wagon to move his family and belongings across the Allegheny Mountains to Western Pennsylvania in 1784. At that time most families traveled west on foot, using ox carts to carry their possessions. Conestoga wagons were commonly used to transport large shipments of goods and were considered the tractor trailers of their day.

Courtesy of The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, donated by Frank Clawson.

This description of the wagon raises some questions. Will visitors at the History Center get the impression that George Fleck drove the wagon the whole way to Pittsburgh?  What does this say about George Fleck’s wealth and situation in life that he would use a Conestoga Wagon instead of an ox cart?  And why have a Conestoga Wagon if you are not going to use it to haul freight locally?

And of course, I’d love to know the full story of how this wagon was discovered.

Image

Before the standardization of place names in 1890, early primary source documents such as maps, surveys, deeds, letters, and tax records used the names that follow for what is today known as Sinking Valley:

 

  • Sinking Creek Valley
  • Sinking Spring Valley
  • The Lead Mine Valley
  • Sinkhole Valley

 

Sinking Creek Valley was chosen as the title for this history because the valley was so named in the first survey that set aside the land as a manor for the heirs of William Penn in 1762.

 

Sinking Valley, which is a triangular shaped valley, lies between the V-shaped arms of Brush Mountain.  The point of the valley is known as the “Kettle” due to the shape of the curve in the mountain as it turns back on itself.  The broad end of the valley is defined by the Little Juniata River.

 

As a part of the ridge and valley geological formation, Sinking Valley is one of the western most valleys of its kind before the daunting barrier of the Allegheny Front.

 

Since 1794, Tyrone Township, then under the jurisdiction of Huntingdon County, has been confined to Sinking Valley proper.  The present shape of the township was set when the Tyrone Forges were given to Snyder Township right before the erection of Blair County in 1846.

 

 

Map Source (topographical):  mytopo/Map Pass subscription service http://map-pass.mytopo.com/

Map Source (township):  Blair County Genealogical Society (1983). Publication No. VI, 1859 Map of Blair County, PA, Tyrone Township.

The Crawford Oak

When my husband and I moved into the big house on the Morrow farm in 1979, we were the fourth generation to raise a family here. As we got settled in, I began to find evidence of past generations tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the house that was built in 1870. Particularly intriguing were the old photographs. Who were these people? Thus began a passion for genealogy and the history of Sinking Valley. From the beginning, I was reminded of Hebrews 12:1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…”

The Morrows are descended from four of the earliest settlers in Sinking Valley. They were among the 43 early settlers who purchased land in the Sinking Valley Manor from William Penn’s heirs between 1787 and 1813. Some of them arrived in the valley before the Revolutionary War.

The early settlers came with different religious convictions. The families with surnames of Crawford, Murray (Morrow), Stewart, Dysart, Moore, and Wilson were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. They founded the Sinking Valley Presbyterian Church in 1790. Settlers with surnames of Fleck and Cressman were German Lutherans who formally organized a church in 1804. The McClain and McMullen families were Catholic. They built a church in 1840 but it closed in 1916 when the remaining members joined the Catholic Church in Tyrone borough. A German Reformed congregation was organized in 1846 but disappeared in the early 1900s. Regardless of the domination, their Christian faith endured through the hardships of settling on the frontier and reminds us to “…run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Marriages between these families and subsequent landowners resulted in a complicated web of relationships that can be a challenge for the modern researcher to sort out. The Sinking Valley Family Tree Project is an effort to connect the ever spreading branches of these family trees and to locate their original property in Sinking Valley.

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