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A Rendezvous with History in Georgetown

Milestones Vol 27. No. 3


Dear Editor,
I read with interest the articles on Rev. George M. Scott and Pioneer Cemeteries in the latest Milestones. I have an ancestor that was very closely associated with both Rev. Scott and Mill Creek Church. Robert Doak is buried in Old Mill Creek Cemetery. He was a founder of Mill Creek Church and was the one sent East to bring Rev. Scott and his wife to the church. I am enclosing an article (about the area).

Robert Doak was a veteran of the Revolutionary War having been a teamster for George Washington before and during the war. After the war Robert settled in Beaver County on 400 acres of land in Hanover Township. His heir's sold off most of the land, but there were 80 acres that remained in the Doak family until it became part of Raccoon State Park. This land is at the very back of the park and remains from the old house can still be found. There was a quarry on the farm and the tombstone for Robert was quarried on the farm and carved by his son Moses. This article from 1917 says the stones have toppled; but when we last visited the cemetery, they were again upright.

I hope you find this article interesting and will use the information in a future Milestones.

Patricia Doak Beckham
Newton, Iowa

Current Mill Creek Presbyterian Church near Hookstown, PA.


From The Presbyterian Banner--August 2, 1917

Many people this year, because of the excitement of the war and the local duties that need close attention, are either not taking a vacation or planning, if they take one, to spend it at home. The true lover of the open will have little trouble in taking a vacation very pleasantly at home in this district, for where is nature more beautiful this time of year than among these Ohio river hills, and in what year have they been fuller in the beauty of their foliage and flower than this year? Trips that lead into the heart of the most attractive nature and that offer interest to the student of local history, can be taken north, south, east or west. We would suggest taking one west. If you are an automobilist you can reach the point we have in mind either by way of Sewickley or out the Steubenville Pike. If you prefer walking, go to Smith's Ferry on the Ohio Division of the Fort Wayne system and cross the river on a very interesting ferry and go south some six or seven miles, part of the way through fine agricultural country, to one of the most interesting old cemeteries in this part of the country.

It is called the Mill Creek cemetery, after the country Presbyterian church of that name that stands nearby. The cemetery itself is on the old frontier trail that ran through from Pittsburgh west in the early days. On one occasion tradition tells us a woman died on the trail a little way east of this point, and they brought her body forward and buried it at this place.

A little later a man died on the trail a little beyond the present cemetery, and they brought his body back and buried it beside that of the woman. This spot became a sacred spot in that section.

When later the new settlers discussed the question as to where they would hold their religious services, these two graves in the wilderness determined the matter for them, and there they built one of the first houses of worship erected in this region of the country and called it the Mill Creek Presbyterian church, after the name of a stream that flows northward through this section to the Ohio river.

Its architecture was peculiar. It was built of logs but had no doors or windows. It was lighted wholly by skylights from the roof. This was done as a precaution against the Indians. The male worshipers attended divine service, as did the early pilgrims of New England, with their rifles on their shoulders. When they entered the church it was by the basement, where they left their rifles, and ascended the basement stairs to the church, where the preacher preached and the people listened and worshipped by the aid of light that streamed in from above. The last vestige of this building has long since disappeared, but it stood on the west side of this ancient and now much neglected cemetery.

There are several tombstones here that will interest you. First, that of Andrew Poe, who was born in 1742 and died in 1823, in his eighty-first year. Andrew Poe, with his brother Adam, came into this section from New England, among the very earliest settlers. They were possibly here as early as 1770 or 1775. In 1779, when the Presbyterian congregation of Cross Creek and Buffalo, Washington County, invited the Rev. Joseph Smith--Hell-fire Smith as he was called--to the pastorate of these two churches, the brothers Poe signed the call. From this little hint found on the record of these churches, we know that these brothers were early settlers on this section and that they were Presbyterians, as almost all the settlers of that day were. These men gained celebrity throughout all this country by their courage and prowess as Indian fighters. Andrew especially was famed for his great physical strength. For the accuracy of these narratives we cannot vouch, but we record them as they were told by local people to us.

Poe House replaced the original log house on the property
erected in 1820 by Thomas Poe, a raftsman.

On one occasion, at Georgetown, being a trifle under the influence of liquor, he was said to have made a wager of a gallon of whisky that he could kill, with his naked fists, a bull which was tied to the hitching-post in front of the store. The wager was accepted and tradition tells us that he won his wager by actually killing the bull with fist blows upon the animal's neck.

But Andrew Poe's local celebrity rests largely on the story of his killing an Indian named Bigfoot--a giant Indian chief. This took place in the fall of 1781. A small body of Indians had committed depredations on the northern edge of Washington County and were reported making off with their booty, including one old man as captive, towards the Ohio river. The Poe brothers started in pursuit. They could see by the marks in the sand along the Mill Creek bottom that the giant Indian, "Bigfoot," was in the company. It is said his footmarks in the sand bore about the same relation to the footmarks of the other Indians as that of a calf to the footmarks of a sheep. A violent struggle took place, first on the shore and then in the water of the river, in which not only Bigfoot was killed but also an Indian who came to his relief. These stories have doubtless gathered something in their frequent telling, but that the Poe brothers were fearless Indian fighters and that Andrew especially was a man of unusual physical prowess are residua of truth, sifting through to us, that can be relied upon. Some of the Poe descendants still live near Georgetown, and we are told display some of the relics taken from the Indians on the day of that famous battle.

Just a couple of rods away from the tomb of Andrew Poe are two toppled-over, pyramidal-shaped stones that mark the earthly resting place of one Robert Doak and his wife, who departed this life in 1810. Who was Robert Doak? Listen, patriotic reader. He was the man that hauled the private luggage of George Washington all through the eight years of the Revolutionary War. After the Revolutionary War he came west and settled in this bountiful country about Mill Creek, and here lived and died after a peaceful rural life. We would like to have known this man. His duties must have brought him in frequent personal touch with the father of his country and supplied him with some invaluable personal information about George Washington. Robert Doak became the patron saint to all the teamsters in that section of the country and is their patron saint to this day.

When the newly-organized church of Mill Creek called, in 1799, the Rev. George Scott, of New Jersey, to become its pastor, the community sent its famous teamster, Robert Doak, east to get the preacher and his family and belongings and transfer them to this frontier world. Doak left in the spring, just after he put in his crops, and did not get back with Rev. Mr. Scott and family until the mid-summer--the members of the congregation, according to the contract, taking care of his crops during his absence.