African-American Settlement in Cambria County

This Settlement was founded in the late 1790's by Edinborough Smith and William Harshberger - whose families have called the Johnstown Area home for over 200 years.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Possible Picture of Laurel Hill Settlers

I recently ran across this photo of African Americans helping with the clean up from the 1889 Flood. There weren't that many living around here at the time. I have a feeling that included in this picture could possibly be John Smith, John Brown, even a 20 year old Elmer (Harshberger) Brown  along with Lizzie Harshberger. They had the wagon and the means, considering rescue crews needed all the help they could get.
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Friday, August 6, 2010

Summer at the Brown Farm

A rare trip to Laurel Hill Settlement in the middle of summer. Headed up - to geocache and get apples from what's left of the old 150 year old orchard.
I have to say - it's beautiful with all the lush green of summer - but rather uncomfortable with all the muggy weather and bugs - which must have been even worse 200 years ago - with all the livestock.
Heading over towards the cemetery and what's left of the orchard. This shot shows where the old cabin used to be.
This is one of the three apple tree's left - this grand old lady of the forest has a charm and a history all its own.
It's hard to tell from this photo - but what you are looking at is the cemetery full of weeds and tall grass.
I call these apple trees - the three sisters.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pennsylvania Grand Review - Honoring USCT - John E. Smith

African American Patriots and the Civil War. Imagine my surprise when a reader from Montana, George M.  brought to my attention that John E. Smith from Laurel Hill Settlement/Browns Farm is mentioned in the current issue of American Heritage. For more on the life of this one soldier from the Laurel Highlands click 3rd-usct-john-e-smith-laurel-hill
The Pennsylvania Grand Review will serve as a commemoration of the November 1865 event of the same name organized by the women of Harrisburg to honor the United States Colored Troops who were not permitted to participate in the Grand Review of the Armies, a military procession and celebration held May 23-24, 1865 in Washington, D.C., following the end of the Civil War.

The Grand Review will include exhibition, presentation, and conservation projects that will reveal the hidden histories of the USCT. This commemoration will culminate November in Harrisburg.

For information can be found on the official website:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

3rd - U.S.C.T. - John E. Smith - Laurel Hill Settlement

In honor of today's Memorial Day (Decoration Day) Holiday. I will be talking about John E. Smith. John was the first child born in up the mountain in 1827. E is for Edinborough his father's name.
His parents - Free colored Edinborough Smith (1780-1865) and Keziah Harshberger (abt 1800-1827) made the long trip by wagon train from Lancaster County in the fall of 1827. They arrived at what is now called Brown's in November of that year.
Along with the Smith Family, making the rough trip across the Alleghenies that took a little over month, were were the parents of Keziah - Free colored William Harshberger (abt 1765-1831) and his white wife Jane. 80 years old Elizabeth Harshberger who is believed to have been William's mother, and another set of Harshbergers that moved on to Ohio in the spring. Along with William's son John and his white wife Nancy who was pregnant with Lizzie (1827-1909).

Old Elizabeth was the first person to die and be buried in what is now known as Brown's Cemetery. She died shortly after arriving. The second person was John's mother Keziah who died a few days after John's birth. And it was probably only because his Aunt Nancy gave birth to Lizzie around the same time - that John was able to survive at all. She most likely nursed both children. In John's Obituary his mother is listed as a 'Native Squaw'. My gut feeling is that even though Keziah's mother Jane is listed as white - one of her parents were Native American and most likely either from the Delaware or Susquehanna tribe.
John spent all his life on the family farm except for the time he spent in Civil War Service. He was a member of the Third Regiment - United States Colored Troops. By 1864 the troops were moved down to Florida with the forces under General Truman Seymour. They spent their time between garrisoning the forts around Jacksonville and heading into the countryside bringing in contraband and destroying rebel government property.

John died in 1895 - without a proper GAR Marker and that was because he said he was a member of the 4th U.S.C.T. and not the 3rd. On the 1890 Veteran's Census - he states his papers were either lost or destroyed. Which meant he also lost out on his military pension.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Civil War Colored Troops - Laurel Hill Settlement

More today on some of the Civil War Veterans buried at Browns Cemetery. First up John Brown (abt 1830 - 1889). Old Elmer Brown was his son. And Keziah Harshberger (Lizzie's daughter) was Elmer's mother. John and Keziah were not married and for years Elmer went by Harshberger. It was set up that way to insure the land passed down to Keziah's children.
Company H, 4th Pa Cav. - was actually part of an all white regiment from Westmoreland County headed by George Covode.
Born in Covodesville (near Bolivar), Pennsylvania, Covode was the oldest son of John Covode, a U.S. congressman and staunch abolitionist. In his youth, George Covode was noted for his athletic proportions, being tall and well built and peculiarly fitted for the hardships of military life. He was educated in Ligonier Academy and Elders Ridge. After he left school, he engaged in mercantile pursuits for some years, but not with much success. In 1858, he married Annie Earl of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, who died a few months after their marriage. He remarried a few years afterwards to Bettie St. Clair Robb, a granddaughter of Arthur St. Clair, a major general in the Continental Army and the ninth President of the Continental Congress.
John Brown along with Old Orange Dorman walked down the old military road and joined up.
Covode was known to be very near-sighted, which caused trouble for him in identifying people at a far distance. On June 24, 1863, while in command of a brigade in Virginia, he mistook some Confederate skirmishers for his own troops and rode toward them. He discovered his mistake too late and, as he was turning to ride away, he was shot in the arm and stomach by an enemy volley. In the retreat, he was left within the enemy lines and died a few hours later.
John Brown is listed in the records as a barber - but had a tendency to take off for long periods at a time. Leaving the family without a means of support. He was 20 years older than Kesiah. And there is a story of the time she nearly tried to kill him by throwing a heavy chunk of wood at his head - all because he was smoking around some of their kids that were suffering from whooping cough at the time.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Brown's Farm - New Flags

Took a couple of new flags up - since the old ones had seen better days.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Military Road Heading to Westmoreland County

This road comes up from down at Browns and heads directly to down the ridge to Westmoreland County. Most likely an old military road from around the French and Indian War time.
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Friday, April 16, 2010

Mound in the Distance

Browns Farm is chalked full of earth and rock mounds, besides a couple of sets of nice walls.
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In a couple of weeks, I'll be starting up again to write about the proper history of the area. Right now though, I don't have the time, since the weather has been so nice. I've been spending part of every weekend up there.