War on the Pennsylvania Frontier: Part 4 of 5: Hanna’s Town

Just north of Greensburg, PA, about twenty five miles from Pittsburgh, is the site of the Westmoreland County Courthouse at Hanna’s Town. The settlement included a few log buildings and was a gathering point for militia throughout the Revolution.

Robert Hanna settled here in 1773 and the first county court for Westmoreland County met here that April. It is thought to be the first courthouse west of the Allegheny Mountains. The village that sprung up straddled the 1758 Forbes Road, built by British troops during the French and Indian War and now a major route for settlers to the region.

The court house was two stories high and nearby was the one story the jail. At the northern end of the village a small stockade fort of upright logs surrounded a spring. This would be a rallying point in any attack.

As tensions grew with the mother country in the 1770s, these western settlers felt the dissatisfaction too. Meeting at the court house, they passed the Westmoreland Resolves in May 1775, an early expression of American rights. It read: “it had therefore become the indisputable duty of every American, of any man who had any public virtue or love for his country, or any compassion for posterity, to resist and oppose by every means which God had put in his power the execution of this system, and that as for them they would be ready to oppose it with their lives and fortunes”

When fighting broke out in Massachusetts, local militia rallied here and marched east to join the Continental Army. John Proctor’s Independent Battalion of Westmoreland County Militia fought in the east from 1775-81. Their flag, showing a rattlesnake ready to strike the British Union Jack and the words “Don’t Tread on Me,” is now the official flag of Westmoreland County. Yet for most of the war the area was not greatly impacted by the conflict. That changed in 1782.

The region’s settlers had suffered heavy losses in the preceding year by the destruction of Colonel Lochry’s militia force which had ventured into modern Indiana. Many of the best men in the settlement were lost in that expedition, and also lost were the best weapons. Thus Hannas Town was not prepared for a proper defense in 1782.

On Saturday, July 13, in one of the last acts of the war in the state, a group of 100 Seneca and 60 Canadians raided the town, burning many buildings, including the court house. Residents and soldiers survived inside a stockade fort.

From the shelter of the surrounding homes, the Indians and Canadians fired on the stockade. The fort had just 20 men, and only 17 guns among them. To their dismay, only 9 were serviceable. Yet the defenders fired back through the loopholes of the fort, keeping the raiders from rushing the stockade. It is not known how many attackers were killed, witnesses saw at least two slain.

Sixteen year old Margaret Shaw was the only defender wounded. She was hit while rescuing a child near a hole in the fort wall, and she died after suffering for nearly two weeks.

The raiders drove off all the horses they could find, killed a hundred cattle, many hogs and chickens, and plundered the deserted dwellings. Following their departure several jackets were found bearing buttons of the British 8th Regiment, a unit stationed around the Great Lakes.

The town never recovered and soon a nearby settlement grew and became the county seat: Greensburg, named for Revolutionary General Nathanael Greene.

Today visitors to Hanna’s Town will find several reconstructed buildings such as a tavern, home, and the fort.

Donohoe Road R.D. #12, Box 203 Greensburg, PA 15601 724-830-3950 or 1-800-442-6926 http://www.inwestmoreland.com/wcparks/CountyParks/hannastown.aspx

One thought on “War on the Pennsylvania Frontier: Part 4 of 5: Hanna’s Town

  1. Pingback: History after a Pandemic | Emerging Revolutionary War Era

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