Founders Day: Exhibit at historical society highlights founding events of Warren County

Times Observer photos by Josh Cotton A portrait of Cornplanter and early maps of the Cornplanter Grant are included in the exhibit.

April 18 has some special significance in the history of Warren County.

And both are highlighted with a Founders Day exhibit – highlighted by a letter signed by the county’s namesake Dr. Joseph Warren – that’s on display at the Warren County Historical Society throughout this month.

The first piece of April 18 significance occurred in 1775.

“On April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren had intelligence that British troops were on the move,” C.J. Chase, the Society’s program manager said. “He sent Paul Revere on a ride through the Massachusetts countryside to warn the Americans.”

Yes, it’s that ride. The famous one.

A letter written and signed by Dr. Joseph Warren, the city and county’s namesake, is on display this month as part of a Founders Day exhibit at the Warren County Historical Society.

“The following morning, Warren led American militia against the British when the war for American independence began,” Chase said. “Warren was commissioned a major general on June 14, 1775, but he was killed in action just three days later, at the Battle of Bunker Hill.”

The exhibit includes a letter signed by Warren as well as a copy of the famous painting that depicts Warren’s death.

Managing Director Michelle Gray said the Warren letter was donated by John Blair in 1976.

It’s been housed in a safe at the Historical Society that hasn’t been inventoried so the letter had been forgotten to some degree. The gift agreement doesn’t indicate how the letter came into Blair’s possession.

Here’s a transcript of the letter: Gentlemen, Mr. Pigeon is now sick, his business must be attended to, he requests that Mr. Charles Miller the Bearer hereof may be appointed his assistant and immediately directed to go upon Business – pray desire the young Gentleman you were pleased to appoint to be my clerk, to attend here as I have much writing to do and want a number of papers copied for the use of Congress. I am gentm you most obed svt.”

An April 18, 1795 act of the Pa. General Assembly paved the way for a survey to be completed, laying out the town of Warren. This surveying equipment dates to the late 19th or early 20th centuries.

According to the WCHS, Pigeon was the commissary of stores and Miller was a deputy commissary.

The second April 18 of significance occurred in 1795. “in order to facilitate and promote the progress of settlements within the Commonwealth, and to afford additional securities to the frontiers by the establishment of towns….”

The act included establishment of towns at Presque Isle, at the mouth of French Creek, at the mouth of Conewango Creek and at Ft. LeBoeuf.

The French Creek location is likely what we now know as Franklin while “Presque Isle” isn’t what we know now as Presque Isle State Park but rather Erie proper.

The General Assembly’s action required that commissioners be appointed by the governor that “shall survey or cause to be surveyed three hundred acres for town lots and seven hundred acres of land adjoining thereto for out lots, at the most eligible place within the tract heretofore reserved for public use at the mouth of Conewango Creek; and the lands so surveyed shall be respectively laid out and divided into town lots and outlots, in such manner, and with such streets, lanes, alleys and reservations for public uses, as the said commissioners shall direct.”

Warren’s signature on the letter donated to the Historical Society by John Blair in 1976.

The act further stipulated that none of the town lots should be more than one-third of an acre and the outlots no more than five acres “nor shall the reservations for public uses exceed in whole, ten acres.”

The legislation also named the town “Warren” and required that “all the streets, lanes and alleys thereof, and of the lots thereto adjoining, shall be and remain common highways.”

Gen. William Irvine and Andrew Ellicott were given the task of coming to Warren and surveying what would become the town.

Chase explained that the exhibit includes antique surveying equipment and explorers’ journals as well as early maps.

“The exhibit will run throughout April at the Historical Society’s 210 Fourth Avenue, Warren, location, Mondays-Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,” Chase said. In conjunction with the special exhibits, the Historical Society Board of Directors is sponsoring a Warren’s Founders’ Day raffle to support the preservation of local artifacts. Tickets are available, with the drawing to be held on April 18 at 4:00 p.m.”


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