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, March 5, 2010

Chapter 4 - Browns Farm - 1830 Census Records

This photo shows yet another section of Brown's. Since this site is so large. In my own head, I have divided the property into three sections. The house and cemetery area, the area of this photo and another area near the Cambria/Westmoreland County border that sits just above this area.
From the amount of books I've written on family histories and the thousands of hours I have spent looking through census records from both sides of the Atlantic, there is always some type embellishment when it comes to the stories handed down within families. But having said this, within those stories, I've always found that there is a little kernel of truth from which these stories spring to life.
The first census records that list Edinborough Smith, the Harshbergers and others in Lower Yoder Township is the 1830 Federal Census. According to the 1895 obituary of John E. Smith the son of Edinborough, it states that 'Edinborough Smith came to these parts, as nearly as can be reckoned, about the year 1776. He settled in the Laurel Hill mountains and married an Indian Squaw, she died a few days after their son John was born'.
Anyone that's ever done any census research knows first hand that these records - a simple snap shot in time - are far from complete or being perfect. Alot of the information is either missing, incomplete or hard to read. Edinborough Smith and his brother-in-law John Harshberger are listed as living in Conemaugh Township - it's since been renamed Lower Yoder Township. Neither of the two listed anyone else as living in their households. You can take that information for what it's worth.

This the first census that they both show up in.
Which means they settled there sometime between 1820 and 1830. But something here just doesn't just isn't adding up right. Edinborough Smith was around 50 years old in 1830. So was his first wife the 'Indian Squaw' and his second wife John Harshberger's sister or where they both one and the same person? I personally think he was married twice. If they were two different people, did he then have other children besides his son John and was the 'Indian Squaw' really John's mother or just a legend passed down through the years? Also of note in this census, is their neighbor Elizabeth Gray (Gray Run fame I believe).

This is page two of the 1830 Census:

This is where things can at times get somewhat confusing. So I will try my best to make this as clear to you, the reader as possible. So here goes. Page two contains the Free Colored Persons listings:

John Harshberger (Black) who is the son of William (abt 1780) and Jane Harshberger (abt 1780). It shows that John was born about 1800 - along with listing himself - 1 male (under 5), 2 females (under 5) and his wife Nancy (White) born about 1803. One of girls under 5 is their daughter Elizabeth Harshberger, who you'll be hearing of more in the near future.

Edinbourgh Smith born about 1770 and is John Harshberger's brother-in-law. He was supposedly married to Keziah Harshberger. This census proves very interesting for the fact that he might have started a second family. At least it reads that way to me. He lists one male child under 5 (which I believe is his son John E. Civil War Vet), three girls under 5, one female 10 to 24 years old and his wife listed as between 25 and 36.

Chapter 3 - Smith, Harshberger and Brown Families - Slavery in Pennsylvania

Site of one of the first African-American Settlements in Cambria County.
The story of these families is made up of many different elements. Besides African-American, the Smith family also had Native American ancestry in their line. John and Nancy Harshberger and John Brown children have both African-American and white ancestry in their lines. I will now try to help paint a picture for you in a historical  time frame to help give you a better sense of what was going on in American in the early to mid 1800's.
Slavery Central in Pennsylvania - Information from

Place names seem to have been popular as slave names. Slaveholders gave many of their slaves the names of towns, regions, or places from all around the world. Other slave names definitely refer to locations in the old country, paying homage to "London," "Cambridge," "Edinborough," "Plymouth," "Sheffield," "Sligo" (for County Sligo, in Ireland), and "Weymouth," to give some examples. A few slaves were named for what was most likely their own place of origin, as evidenced by the slaves "Africa" and "Jamaica," who appear in the registration lists. It appears that only male slaves received names referring to geographical places. No females in the lists and records had such obvious names, although the names "Carolina" and "Charlotte" do appear.
Pennsylvania Emancipation Act of 1780

The Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 decreed that no child born after passage of the statute was a slave. Black and mulatto children would be servants until the age of 28. A number of other regulations involving blacks were also included in the act. All blacks had to be registered; owners of slaves were liable for their support; blacks would be tried in courts like others; the jury would put a value on a slave in a sentence of death in order to compensate the master; the reward to enslaved blacks who captured runaways would be the same as for white servants. Only those blacks registered by their owners would be considered slaves except runaways from other states; blacks taken from the state could be brought back and registered; and no black or mulatto other than infants could be bound for indenture for more than seven years. Masters could not separate husbands, wives, and children. Penalties were noted for taking blacks or mulattoes out of the state. To safeguard blacks from out of state slave catchers, emancipated blacks were given "freedom papers." To protect blacks from having their papers stolen or destroyed, registries for these papers were established.
It was a rough life even during the best of times.