The Founding of South Connellsville

Before the Borough of South Connellsville was on any map, legend has it that a Pennsylvania trapper named Longabaugh built himself a solitary cabin in the area of Soisson Park in 1732. He lived there for sixty years, according to a neighboring settler, John Trump, and was said to have foraged his living out of the wilderness by trapping and trading for the necessities of life. He was supposedly successful in all his encounters with the Indians of the area, but in the summer of 1800 he mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again. The ravine that traverses the park carried his name for many years. Whether the tale of Longabaugh if legend or fact is unclear, but in the early 1700’s this entire area of Pennsylvania was virgin forest, and only a few hardy white men had ventured into the territory of the Indians. The flow of white settlers had yet to materialize, and the mountains and valleys rang only with the sound of game and the rushing of streams that joined the Youghiogheny River on its way to the Monongahela.

Over fifty years before Longabaugh settled near Soisson Park, William Penn had secured a charter from King Charles II of England that was to start the colonization of Pennsylvania. In 1681 the colonists responded to William Penn’s promise of religious freedom and settled in Eastern Pennsylvania.

By the mid 1750’s, a few white settlements had been started in this area, then known as Cumberland County. However, the French and Indian War was to stem the tide of white settlers and turn back those hardy few that had already effected settlements in the area. Not until 1759 were the boldest of the pioneers to return and once again build their homes, destroyed during the French and Indian conflict.

In 1765 William Crawford came to the area from what is now Berkley County, West Virginia, and built a cabin at Stewart’s Crossing.

The influx of settlers was soon to begin.

In 1768 the territory in Western Pennsylvania was acquired from the Indians, and in 1769 the Pennsylvania Land Office was opened to dispose of this land. At that time the entire area was part of Cumberland County. In 1771 the County of Bedford was established from Cumberland County and ten years later, Westmoreland County was set aside from Bedford. In 1783 the county of Fayette was to emerge from Westmoreland with the present boundaries.

As the original land grants from William Penn were warranted to the early pioneers, many picturesque Indian names were to be lost forever. Civilization had arrived in name, if not in fact, and titles such as Rome, Constantinople, Poland and Norway would be penned on the deed books of Fayette County for all time.

In 1770, Zachariah Connell was to come in the Connellsville area, and after a time, settle with his family on the east bank of the Youghiogheny River. In 1793 he was to survey and secure a charter for the town of Connellsville. He was also to obtain other valuable tracts of land, some of which would comprise the Borough of South Connellsville over one hundred years later.

Rome, Constantinople, Newry, Connell’s Last, the Jacob Furry Tract, and the Confidence Tract were the original land grants from William Penn that are a part of South Connellsville Borough. The individuals who acquired this land would sell it to others who came later. This, then, was the beginning of the ownership of private property in Fayette County, and was the start of the recording of deeds, as we know it today.

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