Warren the Frontier

Early settler and Revolutionary War veteran can be linked to Cornplanter, Washington, Burr

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton/photo from mountvernon.org James Morrison’s grave at the Willow Dale Cemetery outside of Bradford. He was re-interred from the Kinzua Cemetery prior to the creation of the Allegheny Reservoir via the Kinzua Dam.

James Morrison was one of the very first settlers in Warren County.

While that alone makes the man interesting, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

And the rest of the iceberg includes Cornplanter and George Washington.

Morrison was born and raised in Bucks County near the Durham Iron Works on January 4, 1745.

At the age of 26, he moved to Loudon County, Virginia and married his first wife, Margaret Rice, in 1770.

The family moved back to pennsylvania our years later and settled in what would become Cumberland County, just west of Harrisburg.

When the American Revolution broke out in 1776, Morrison answered the call, joining the service at Path Valley under Captain John Elliot and Lieutenant James Lawther. The troops moved to Amboy, New Jersey.

“While in Amboy, I went with about 500 other volunteers on Staten Island where the British and Hessians were building a fort,” Morrison said in his pension application. “We attacked them and after a smart skirmish, succeeded in driving them off.”

He was likely referring to the Contential soldiers’ first action against the British and German troops on Staten Island in September 1776.

The American forces had reached the point of attack when loyalists on the island tipped the British to their arrival. A skirmish resulted in two or three dead on both sides as well as the Colonists taking 17 British as prisoners.

After two months centered in New Jersey, Morrison returned home.

But not for long.

A couple months later he re-enlisted under Captain Thomas Askey and Lieutenant John Campbell.

They then joined Washington.

And were with Washington on Christmas Eve 1776 when Washington personally led the charge over the Delaware to attack Hessian mercenaries the following morning.

In addition to the military victory, supplies were obtained and 1,000 prisoners were captured.

A week later, Morrison wrote in his pension application, “we started after night and all from Trenton, to march to Princeton, where the college was. The Americans, at daylight, placed their cannon in the streets of Princeton and began the attack on the British. We came on them by surprise and took about 300 Hessians, including a few British officers.”

After victory at Princeton, Morrison was sent to Morristown, New Jersey, where the Army was quartered for the winter.

His company was then detached and deployed as an advanced outpost near the British pickets. A late February skirmish resulted in seven killed patriots and more wounded.

Early in March, he was discharged after four months service.

Morrison returned to Path Valley in 1777, now Franklin County in the Juniata Valley and said that “the Indians were then swarming about the settlements and destroying everything that they could lay their hands on. The British, having offered them 50 shillings for each American scalp and the same for each prisoner.”

The following year, after planting his fields, Morrison was stationed at Fort Carmichael on the Juniata River “to defend against the Indians” and stayed there “three months or upwards.”

But the natives – at the behest of the British – continued to threaten the civilian population, requiring sentinels to guard each field.

Back in the service in 1781, A command was sent to the valley with the purpose of sealing the gaps in the Allegheny Mountains by which the Indians were entering the valley. When the effort didn’t get underway as soon as the settlers thought it should, they took the initiative, forming a volunteer squad of 25 men to scout the area for two months.

Morrison was one of those 25 and he wrote in his pension application that the band marched from Juniata to Standing Stone (now Huntingdon) and then to Fort Lytle, located in modern-day Huntingdon County and then to Fort Holliday.

The men planned on proceeding via the Kittaning Gap to Pittsburgh and then home via Bedford before they learned of an Indian encampment close at hand.

Hearing fighting ahead, the men proceeded single file on a narrow trail and were ambushed by an Indian party as 15 of the men were killed immediately.