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Tough Times Greeted Early Settlers

Milestones Vol 28. No. 4

From the Beaver County Times 175th Anniversary Edition

The first white settlers to the Beaver Valley, the Scotch-Irish, were Ulster Presbyterians who fled religious persecution and the economic conditions in Northern Ireland.

Thousands came to America in the latter part of the 1700s and most settled in Pennsylvania. Many traveled 300 miles by wagon over the rugged Pennsylvania wilderness to establish new homes on the western frontier.

The Scotch-Irish brought with them a burning hatred of all monarchical institutions. They later became the seed-plot of revolutionary sentiments

Economic oppression, religious persecution, and social conditions throughout Western Europe in the 18th Century forced many emigrants to flee their native homelands in search of a new start in the American Colonies.

In England, the middle and lower classes were revolting against the bonds of Puritanism while the aristocracy lived in wanton luxury on the gains wrought from the poor. Gambling and drunkenness were the order of the day. Crime was rampant. The peasantry were brutalized by centuries of depression.

The same conditions could be found in Scotland which was not permitted to trade with the American Colonies. As Scotland's commerce decreased, her seaports fell into ruin, and the people were so impoverished that hundreds of thousands were forced to emigrate to Ulster or America rather than become vagrants.

The Irish, who contributed a large segment of their population to America. were considered to have the most ignorant, poverty-stricken and oppressed people in Europe at the time.

Most of the Irish countryside was owned by absentee landlords. The average income of the typical poor Irish family was only about $25 a year.

The German contribution came mainly from the Rhine country, which had been devastated 'by the 30 Years War and the wars of Louis XIV of France.

The French emigration was not large. It mostly consisted of French Protestants who were fleeing Catholic persecutions.

Once in America, each man developed his own independence and gained self-respect. On the western frontier of Pennsylvania. every man was equal and each depended upon his resourcefulness and his neighbors for survival against the elements and Indian attack.

Of the 12,953 families living in the five western counties in 1790 (Beaver being a part of Allegheny County), settlers of English origin accounted for 37 percent; Scotch, 17 percent; Welsh. 7 percent; Irish 19 percent, and German, 12 percent.

Perhaps the first known settler in Beaver County was Levi Dungan who with his wife and small children and two slaves lived at the head of King's Creek, the present location of Frankfort Springs.

The Dungans built a fortress which served as their home and a refuge for their neighbors in times of danger. Mrs. Dungan, who studied medicine under the tutelage of a Philadelphia physician. often doctored the wounded or ill.

About the same time, George Baker, a German. and his wife built a farm on a ridge overlooking Raccoon Township in 1772. Baker, his wife and children were taken captive by Indians and delivered to the British in Detroit. They returned to their home some years later.

David Kerr, an Irishman, emigrated to America in 1778 with his wife and two children and later settled near Frankfort Springs.

Sickness and the expense of travel financially exhausted the Kerr's but they survived and managed to cultivate a large farm.

Thomas Moore and his wife settled a 500 acre tract in Hookstown in 1776. They arrived in Hookstown from Virginia. Moore helped defend Fort Pitt against the Indians and later died from typhoid fever.

On Raccoon Creek was the Foulkes family which was the victim of many Indian raids. In 1780, the Foulkes were visiting two other families when they were surprised by an Indian attack. Five men were killed and six children were taken captive.

One of the captives, Samuel Whitaker, who was about 11 years old at the time of the attack, lived to manhood among the Indians and married Elizabeth Foulkes, also a captive, when they were released 11 years later.

George Foulkes, also a prisoner with the Indians for 11 years, became a well-known Indian scout for Captain Samuel Brady.