One of the largest and most important townships in the county is the township of Derry. It was established and
organized by the court of quarter sessions at April term of court, held in Hannastown in 1775. It was, moreover,
the first township erected after the original ones erected when the county was formed. The original boundaries
began at the Loyalhanna and ran thence along the Fairfield line to Blacklick Creek, thence to the Conemaugh River
and down the river to the Kiskiminetas and thence by the Loyalhanna to the place of beginning. It was therefore
much larger originally than at the present time. It was cut down by the formation of Indiana county; and by the
formation of Loyalhanna township on the Westmoreland side. The township is now bounded on the north by the Conernaugh
River, which separates Westmoreland from Indiana county; on the east by the townships of Fairfield and Ligonier,
the dividing line being the crest of Chestnut Ridge; on the south by the townships of Unity and Salem, the natural
boundary line being Loyalhanna Creek; and on the northwest by the township of Lovalhanna. The boroughs within the
limits of the township are: Latrobe, New Alexandria, Livermore, Derry and Cokeville.
The first settlement made in Derry township was almost as early as the earliest in the county. Some of the soldiers
who came west with Forbes' army settled there as early as 1762, and were there as pioneers and citizens when Pontiac's
war came in 1763. Among the very first, if not the first settlers, was John Pomroy. He had been a farmer in the
Cumberland valley, and was of Scotch-Irish descent. He had heard of the large quantity of land in this section
from the soldiers that had returned with Forbes' army, and he made up his mind to leave the rich Cumberland valley
and come and locate west of the Alleghany mountains. He came west on the Forbes road and stopped at Fort Ligonier,
where he had relatives living, and who were compelled to live under the shadow of the garrison because of the Indians.
He did knot remain in the valley, but crossed the Chestnut Ridge, selected a piece of land, and took possession
of it. Upon it he built a rude log cabin. Not long after that another white man came to visit him and located on
a tract of land nearby. His name was James Wilson. Both names are familiar to all who are conversant with our pioneer
history. These two tracts of land were near the present site of New Derry. They assisted each other in improving
them, and Pomroy assisted Wilson in building his cabin, which was about a mile from Pomroy's. During the first
summer, which was probably the summer of 1762, they raised some corn and potatoes and cleared small pieces of ground
upon which they sowed wheat and rye. They had brought the seed from the garrison of Fort Ligonier, it being one
of the provisions of the English government while it held dominion in western Pennsylvania, that seeds of all kinds
must be furnished to the settlers. This has been treated of in former chapters. Late in the fall they killed some
game and stored it away that they might get it in the spring, and then they set out for a trip east of the mountains,
where their friends lived. They passed the winter in the east, and when spring came they met by previous arrangement
and started for their new homes west of the Alleghany mountains, then known only as the extreme frontier of Cumberland
county, for it was many years before the formation of Bedford county. On this second trip they were accompanied
by an Irishman named Dunlap, who came for the purpose of buying skins and furs from the Indians. He had heard great
stories about the love of the Indians for knives, beads and trinkets, and came well supplied with these, as well
as with a stock of rum, all of which he brought west on horseback. The pioneers found their cabins undisturbed,
though there were signs that the Indians had visited them. Ward was soon sent abroad among the Indians, and a great
many of them made their appearance at Pomroy's camp laden with furs and peltry of all kinds. The bartering went
on very rapidly, for the anxiety of the Indians to obtain trinkets, brooches, knives, etc. that Dunlap had brought
made them offer almost any valuable fur they had for them. Finally the rum was brought out, and this pleased the
Indians still more. They had formerly learned the effects of this drink upon their race, and had established a
system, which they exercised here; that is, before giving themselves entirely to its effects, they selected one
of their number who should drink nothing, that lie might watch the interests of the rest. All the skins which they
had, which included the entire work of the winter before, were soon traded to Dunlap for trinkets and for a few
canteens of rum. The latter was greatly relished by the Indians, who became very dangerous in the night. As the
Indians drank more. Dunlap weakened the rum with water that its effects might be less upon the Indians' mind, for
he feared these hostile men when they drank too much. Dunlap refused ever to go into the business again. Pomroy
and Wilson escorted him part of the way home, that is to Ligonier, where he fell in with some others returning
east from Fort Pitt. Then the two pioneers returned to their clearings and devoted themselves, like honest men,
to the clearing away of the forest, and the breaking up of the soil. The second winter they again visited their
old homes in the east, and when they came back each brorght with him a wife. Pomroy's wife was Isabel Barr, the
daughter of a neighbor in Cumberland valley, who himself subsequently migrated to Derry township. With him came
his two sons, James and Alexander Barr, also William Guthrie and Richard Wallace, and others whose names are lost
to us. These two women were the first to locate in western Pennsylvania. It is said that they often went out With
the men when they were surveying land, being afraid to remain at home because of the treacherous Indians who were
George Findley very early settled in this same community, being a near neighbor of Pomroy's and Wilson's. Both
were there before the treaty of 1768, and therefore had no legal right to the land upon which they, lived. About
1776 Findley brought his wife out from Hagerstown, Maryland, and they lived in a cabin which he bad previously
erected. They had to repeatedly seek shelter in Fort Palmer, in Fairfield township, and in Fort Ligonier.
Samuel Craig was another settler of Derry township. He removed from New Jersey to Westmoreland county about 1770,
and purchased a large farm on the Loyalhanna, where the Crabtree run flows into it. He entered the Revolutionary
war and was with Washington in a number of campaigns. His three sons, John, Alexander and Samuel, were also soldiers
in the Revolution. After the father returned from the war he took an active part in the defense of the frontiers
from the Indians, and filled several military offices among the Home Guards. The duties of one of these offices
called him to Fort Ligonier, a place he had frequently visited. He started out one morning and was never heard
of again. His horse was found on Chestnut Ridge, between his home and the fort, with eight bullet holes in it,
but all efforts of the family to obtain any information about Captain Craig were fruitless. The Craig boys were
active soldiers in the Revolutionary war. Alexander at one time had a lock of hair shot off his head by a bullet
from the enemy. In 1793 he was commissioned a colonel in the militia, and was a brigadier in 1807 and again in
1811. He was, however, better known as Captain Craig, and with the Shields, Slogans, Wilsons and Wallaces, formed
a strong band of fighting men who in an early day defended the settlers of Derry township from the meandering Indians.
He is buried in Congruity churchyard, about eight miles north of Greensburg. His brother John afterwards moved
to a farm near Freeport, and earned the high respect of his neighbors in that community. He lived to be ninety
five years old.
Fort Barr and Fort Wallace were two early forts in Derry township. They were used in Dunmore's war, but were built
some years before that to protect the citizens against the Indians. Some claim that they were erected as early
as 1764 or 176, but there was no settlement in Derry township at that time sufficiently strong to warrant the building
of a fort. There were but few forts built in the county prior to 1770. Fort Barr was located on the farm of one
of the Barrs, and was abort a mile north of New Derry. By some it was called Fort Gilson. Fort Wallace was about
five miles distance, and was erected on a farm belonging to a man named Wallace, on McGee's run. Craig's Fort on
the Loyalhanna, near New Alexandria, came later, as did the fort on the John Shields place, within four miles of
Hannastown. Both of these forts were erected about 1774, as a protection against the Indians and against marauding
armies in Dunmore's war.
All these, while called forts, were in reality only blockhouses, and have been sufficiently described in previous
chapters. There was a signal which was agreed upon among the settlers, that when three rifle shots were fired in
quick succession the men must flee to the blockhouses or forts. Colonel James Wilson used to relate that he stood
rifle in hand watching for ambushing Indians while his wife went to the spring for water. Richard Wallace was taken
a prisoner by the Indians and was taken to various points in western Pennsylvania and Ohio. He was finally sent
to Montreal, where he was exchanged and came home after an absence of eighteen months. The last hostile demonstration
about Fort Wallace was after the Revolutionary war, in 1783. At that time a half breed, who had been in the British
service, approached the fort with a flag which lie used as a decoy. But the settlers had been frequently deceived
in this manner, and they made short work of him by shooting him before he reached the fort. He was buried where
he fell. It was Richard Wallace, who after he had put his farm in fine order, erected a mill with one set of stones.
Before this the grain raised by the settlers was pounded in mortars with stones.
James Wilson was one of the foremost men in Derry township. His farm near New Derry contained about eight hundred
acres, and is now a very valuable piece of land, but in that day he had hard work to procure enough money from
one year's end to another to pay the tax collector. He lived on this farm until 1820, the year in which he died.
In appearance he was a typical pioneer, over six feet tall, and very straight and active. His remains and those
of his wife and a married daughter, a Mrs. Knott, are buried on the farm near their home.
Colonel Wallace and James Pommy remained close friends, and were only separated by death. Pomroy was never as much
of a military leader as Wallace was, but was a more prominent leader in civil life. He, it will be remembered,
was one of the five commissioners appointed by the Act of Assembly in 1785 to locate a counts seat, which appointment
resulted in the selection of Greensburg. When Alexander Allison was on the bench, Pomroy was an associate judge
and served this county in that capacity for many years. He had a brother. Francis Pomroy, who lived near him, and
who was likewise held in high esteem.
William Guthrie was another early settler of Derry township. He made application for three hundred and fifty acres
of land when the Land Office was opened; in 1760, and it has been kept by his descendants almost continually since.
He also took an active part in the border troubles, and was a militia officer in 1794. His son, James, served in
the war of 1812. William Guthrie built a stone house on his farm in 1799.
Captains John Shields came from Adams county to Westmoreland in 1766. He was a man of great physical strength,
well suited to bear the hardships incident toe pioneer life. The land he purchased was near the present town of
New Alexandria. He was a captain in the Revolutionary war, and faithfully performed his duties. Mr. Shields was
a man of more than ordinary education. He was also a blacksmith, and had made pinchers and tools with which he
could extract teeth, there being no dentists, and most of the time no physicians within reach. He could also reduce
a fractured leg or arm. He was one of the five commissioners appointed in 1785 to purchase land in trust for the
inhabiiants of the county upon which to erect a court house. He was also a justice of the peace, and for many years
a ruling elder in the Congruity Church, when Rev. Samuel Porter was pastor. He died November 3, 1821, aged eighty
two years, and was buried in Congruity cemetery.
Other settlers in this township were Thomas Allison, George Trimble, Alexander Taylor, John Lytle, Daniel Elgin,
Conrad Rice, Thomas Wilkins, Daniel McKisson, James Mitchell, Andrew Dixon, John Agey, Thomas McCree, Thomas Burns,
William. Lowry, John Wilson, Robert Pilson, John Thompson, Patrick. Lydick, James Simpson, Christopher Stutchall,
William Smith, Nathaniel, Jonathan and Zehulon Doty, Joseph Pounds and Alexander McCurdy and others.
Few townships have as many interesting incidents in their history as has Derry township. It was peculiarly laid
open to Indian incursions as they came clown from the north. They were moreover annoyed a great deal because of
wild animals. Bears in great numbers harbored within the limits of the ridge, and came down from the wilds north
of the Conentaugh river. For many years in the early part of last century the farmers had to keep their hogs enclosed
during most of the year, and sheep were continually carried off by the wolves. At night these animals made hideous
sounds as they prowled around homesteads in search of domestic animals, so that the country was literally then
nothing more than a "howling wilderness." There was no howl more dismal to an early settler and his family
than the howl of a famished wolf, unless it was the blood curdling war cry of the Indian, which was frequently
heard by the early inhabitants of Derry township. Other wild animals, such as panthers, catamounts and foxes, were
common in this region, and were for many years a great impediment to agriculture.
General Alexander Craig referred to above, was born November 20, 1755. He was married to Jane Clark, the second
daughter of James Clark. The marriage ceremony was performed by the noted pioneer minister, Rev. James Power. The
bride was arrayed in a home grown and home spun linen dress, bleached until it was perfectly white. General Craig
was commissioned lieutenant colonel of militia in 1793, and a brigadier general in 1807 and again in 1811. When
the war of 1812 broke out he was greatly excited, and at length said, have but one son, and he is too delicate
to perform military duties, but if I can be of any use, though growing old, 1 am willing to enlist. The farm upon
which lie lived had been purchased in 1773 from Samuel Wallace, a merchant of Philadelphia, who had purchased it
in 1769 from Loveday Allen. After the trouble with the Indians was over, General Craig often met with them, for
he was a surveyor and did much outside work. He often visited camps, and displayed such skill in shooting at a
mark that they thought there must be some charm or witchery about his gun. The whites in Derry towaship. as elsewhere,
were always prejudiced against the Indians, but General Craig sympathized with them as far as possible, and treated
them kindly. He was for several years agent of Governor Mifflin for lands which he owned in this section, which
was then called the backwoods. He did not have the advantage of as liberal an education as many of his day, but
he had good judgment, was fond of reading, and had a retentive memory. In his old age therefore his mind was well
stored with useful knowledge. He was about six feet tall, and very muscular. His death occurred on the 29th of
October, 1832, aged seventy seven years, and he was buried at Congruity cemetery.
Thomas Anderson, another Revolutionary leader, lived with Colonel Guthrie, the eider, and died in his home in 1827.
Michael Churn, Sr., settled in Derry township in 1782. John McGuire, a neighbor of Churn's, settled near him in
1778. Robert Armstrong was another early settler near Salem church, and at his house were held the first itinerate
services of the Methodist church in that community. Lorenzo Dow, the noted and eloquent preacher, so famous in
the Christian world a century ago, was frefluently a guest at his house. Peter Knight settled near the village
of St. Clair, and was one of the ancestors of the Saxman's and Schall's. Andrew Allison took up land on the banks
of the Lovalhanna between Latrobe and Kingston, near the Kingston House. His daughter was married to Charles Mitchell.
John Sloan was also a near neighbor, and of these in the Indian days we have spoken in another chapter. Thomas
Culbertson settled in an early, date north of Latrobe. To him is given the honor of building the first stone house
in that part of the country. William Hugus was another of the early settlers. His oldest son was said to be the
first male child born in Derry township, but of this we are not certain. Jame Cummins settled near the Chestnut
Ridge about the close of the Revolutionary war. Hugh Cannon was one of the first settlers on the land near Derry
Station. He was a teamster, and brought flour and salt from the eastern side of the mountain, and lived until 1818.
He had a son Alexander Cannon, who died in 1842 in the seventy second year of his age, who often spoke of the hardships
he had endured in the pioneer days.
A great natural curiosity of Derry township is commonly called the "Bear Cave." It is a cavern among
the rocks on Chestnut Ridge, and is closest to Hillside Station, on the Pennsylvania railroad. There have been
many descriptions of it in newspapers and periodicals. It was first made known throughout the press in 1840, when
it seems to have been thoroughly explored. In 1842 it was explored by a party of young men and women from Blairsville.
After entering they divided into two parties, one going to the right hand and the other to the left. They passed
over many deep fissures, and could hear water gurgling far below them, so far below that the light of their torches
did not reveal it. In some places, when passing through the cave, one must crawl on his bands and knees, and at
other times he must stoop slightly, but for the greater part of the distance the rocks above him are higher than
his head. Writers have said that they have explored as high as forty nine different rooms in the cave, all varying
in size from eight tofluantities forty feet square. Large quantities of carbonate of lime are found on every hand.
Among the names chiseled on the rocks is that of Norman McLeod. Many, of the chambers are studded with stalactites,
and inhabited by bats. There are many chasms and long dark halls reaching from one room to another. Rooms have
been given high sounding names frequently abitants and by those who frequently visit them, such as "Snake
Chamber," the "Altar Room," and "Senate Chamber."
The early schools of Derry township were all built of logs, as was the case throughout other townships, and, as
we have said elsewhere, until 1825 there was not a frame school house within the limits of Derry township nor were
there any in the county. The desks were, as usual, fastened around the wall, and the seats, called "peg seats,"
without backs, were the best found in any school in the township. An early teacher was Tawny Hill. James McCallip
taught the McClelland school about 1830. William Cochran taught the first free school at McClelland's after the
adoption of the free school law. His teaching was notable because of its religious features. He opened school with
prayer, had a Bible class twice a day, and read in the New Testament four times a day. The Shorter Catechism was
the leading text book. His mode of punishment was to compel the unruly pupils to commit part of the Catechism or
verses of the Bible. He was succeeded by Mr. Wheeler, from one of the eastern states. It is worthy of mention in
this connection that both John W. Geary, afterwards governor of Pennsylvania, and his father, Edward Geary, were
at one time teachers in Derry township.
The Salem Presbyterian Church made a call for a pastor to the Red Stone Presbytery in October, 1786, so that they
must have been formed some time prior to that date. They were preached to by supplies for four or five years after
1786. They had no meeting house, but used a tent as a place of worship. Later they built a log house, put a stove
in it, and called it a Session House, but this was used only in cold weather or on wet day services for they preferred
holding services outside in mild weather. Before the close of last century they had built a much larger log church,
certainly the largest then in the county. It was seventy by forty feet in the main, and in the center it was forty
six feet wide. The recess on the inside was utilized for the pulpit. There was a sounding board over the preacher's
head, and his platform was about eight steps above the congregation. There was a door in each end of the old log
church, and there were afterwards seventy one long seats in it, and six or eight hundred people could be accommodated
in the church at once. For many years there were no seats at all, and then after a while the communicants began
to bring sawed planks for seats, and sometimes they used a wide rail which with four pins in it for legs, afforded
a comparatively good seat. This church for a good many years did not have a stove in it, and the Session House,
which stood close to it, was used in extremely cold weather for those who got very cold to warm up in. In 1832
the log church was sealed with boards and plastered on the side walls. In 1848 a boy in kindling the fire put shavings
into the stove, and some of the sparks fell on the old wooden roof, and when the people assembled for prayer meeting,
the time honored house, which they had cherished so long, and reverenced so deeply because of its early history,
was rapidly being consumed by the flames. In 1790 this church (that is, Salem Church) with the Unity Church, called
Rev. John McPherrin to minister to them. He was installed on the loth of September, and preached there for thirteen
years. In 1803 the two churches had some difficulty and he was released from further services at the Unity Church.
From there he went to Butler county, where he spent the remainder of his life as a minister, dying there February
10, 1823, in the sixty fifth year of his age. He was regarded by most of the Salem Church communicants as one of
the. ablest preachers of his day. Rev. Thomas Moore was called to preach there in 1804, but there is no record
of his installation. He was dismissed in 1809, and the congregation was supplied with various pastors until 1813,
when, on April 21st, Robert Lee was called and installed shortly afterwards. He was a tall slender man, with a
thundering voice, and, it is said, would not allow a child to sleep in church. He was released by the Salem Church
in 1819, and moved to Ohio. Thomas Davis, an Englishman, who had long been an elder in the Second Presbyterian
Church in Pittsburgh, had been licensed to preach by the Red Stone Presbytery when over fifty Years of age. He
was sent to Salem and West Union as a supply, but they were so pleased with him that they retained him, and in
October, 1822, he was installed as the regular pastor of Salem Church. He preached to them about nineteen years,
although in the meantime he had been crippled for life by the fall of a limb from a tree, and his labors were attended
with great difficulty. He died May 28, 1848, in the seventy seventh year of his age. The old log church was burned
down but a short time before he died. After. the burning of the church they held services in a barn belonging to
John Robinson. Rev. Davis was a plain, earnest and impressive talker, and with a better preliminary education might
have ranked as one of the great pastors of his day. Rev. George Hill began to preach at Salem and Blairsville churches
in 1840, following Rev. Davis. From March. 1841, he preached regularly until his death. After a vacancy Rev. Reuben
Lewis was installed as pastor in 1851. He was released in January, 1855, and his successor, J. P. Fullerton, installed
in 1857. Rev. William F. Hamilton began to preach there in 1868.
The New Alexandria Presbyterian Church was organized October 4, 1836. It consisted then of about seventy one members.
Rev. Adam Torrance was its first pastor, being installed June 13, 1838. The charge has always had a high standing
in Presbyterianism in the county because of the high standing and character of its members.
The Livermore Presbyterian Church was organized in 1851, with Rev. George Morton as its pastor. He was released
on April I, 1853. During several succeeding years there were few supplies, and they were seldom ministered to.
In May, 1861, Rev. J. B. Dickey was installed for half of the time. Rey. Dickey was released in June of 1863, and
in October, 1865, Rev. David. Harbison was called and supplied this church for half the time for eighteen months,
after which he moved to New Salem Church. Rev. W. F. Hamilton was his successor, and divided his time between Livermore
and Salem. He was installed on September 14, 1868. The first house of worship at Livermore was a frame structure,
in which the Baptists had a share. At present it is a comfortable brick house, which was built in 1862.
As has been seen in the general history of the Roman Catholic Church in Westmoreland county, in an early day they
had a small site in Derry township. In 1844 Rey. J. J. Stillinger began to minister to the people between Blairsville
and St Vincent's, at a log church called Mt. Carmel. The church in Derry was erected in 1856, with Rey. Alto, of
St. Vincent's, as pastor, until 1861, when Rev. T. Kearney, who had the charge at Latrobe, took charge of it at
the same time. The line of public works, the first canal, the railroad, etc., running through the township, brought
a large number of foreign laborers into it, a large proportion of whom were Catholics, and the erection of churches
to accommodate them became a necessity. The number of Catholics who became permanent inhabitants of Derry township
increased correspondingly. They were supplied regularly from the monastery at St. Vincent's until 186.
The township of Derry has fifty one schools, with 2,192 pupils enrolled.
Livermore borough is also within the limits of Derry township, and was formerly a canal town. It was laid out
in 1827 by John Livermore, who named it after himself. It has not increased greatly, though it maintains several
stores, and three churches - the Methodist. Presbyterian and United Brethren. It was incorporated by the Westmoreland
courts on February 13, 1865. The men principally interested in its incorporation were John Hill, Richard Freeland,
James Duncan and G. M. Beham. It has one school with thirty two pupils.
The village of New Derry is one of the old time villages of the county and is much older than Derry, which is near
by and in the same township.
Derry is a modern railroad town situated forty five miles east of Pittsburgh, and at the base of the Chestnut
Ridge. It has grown up entirely since the building of the railroad, and mostly since 1870. The Pennsylvania railroad
has many sidings there, and it is the end of a "run." Resultant from this arrangement a great many railroad
men live in the town, and it is essentially a railroad town. It was formerly called Derry Station, and was incorporated
under its present name the 22nd of October, 1831. The first election was held on Tuesday, November 8th, following,
at schoolhouse No. 28, in Derry township. Henry Neely was appointed judge of the election, and Messrs. Wynn and
Sweeney were appointed inspectors. Derry has sixteen schools, with 648 pupils enrolled.