|Aeneas McKay (1769)|
|Written by Administrator|
|Thursday, 13 May 2010|
In 1769, Aeneas McKay, a resident of Fort Pitt who served in the British colonial government, was granted a warrant for a 300-acre tract of land he had come upon one day when exploring the Turtle Creek Valley on horseback.
He was already a prominent citizen of Pittsburgh when, in 1773, Westmoreland County was established in Western Pennsylvania, encompassing what is today’s Allegheny County. Hannastown was designated as the county seat -- but not without some controversy. It was McKay who wrote a letter expressing the opposition to the choice:
“ Where is the convenience for transacting business there since there are neither houses, tables nor chairs. The people must sit on the roots of trees and on stumps, and in case of rain, the lawyers books and papers must be exposed to the weather. Nothing can be done except receiving fees, and everybody attending court, except lawyers, must be sufferers.”
During this period as settlements moved westward, and the vague boundaries between the American colonies had to be more clearly drawn, disputes arose. The land west of Alleghenies was being claimed by two colonies: Pennsylvania and Virginia. Once again, Aeneas McKay was to lead the opposition as one of the local magistrates who sided with Pennsylvania over the disputed territory. In 1774, he and his fellow magistrates, at some peril, were to lead the fight and win against Virginia’s efforts to form a militia under Virginia’s authority in Pittsburgh.
Even though he had bought land further east, McKay continued to live in Pittsburgh. If he had any plans to eventually settle on his new farm land in the Turtle Creek Valley, they must have been put on “hold.” For in 1776 the Revolutionary War broke out, and in July of that year Congress authorized the raising of a battalion of continental troops from Western Pennsylvania. Aeneas McKay was instrumental in organizing the 8th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, and was commissioned its Colonel in 1776. The regiment spent that fall at its camp in Kittaning, and that winter started out on a march over the mountains towards Philadelphia. Badly-equipped and supplied, the poorly-clothed soldiers suffered and died during that grueling winter march, including the regiment’s Colonel, Aeneas McKay, who died in January 1777.
McKay’s land (the “Dirty Camp tract” as it was then called) was then passed to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Major Stephen Bayard. The neighboring land (“Rich Camp”) owned by his son, Samuel McKay, was also sold to the Bayards. Stephen and Elizabeth Bayard then moved on to buy land on the east bank of the Monongahela river and there they founded Elizabeth Town (later, Elizabeth, Pennsylvania) ; the combined tracts they left behind being eventually sold to a John McGinnis to form the core of the modern Borough of Pitcairn.
While Aeneas McKay never actually resided on his land in the Turtle Creek Valley, his place as the first European settler to be granted land in what is today’s Pitcairn, places him among the areas’ pioneering families.
Pitcairn, Pa, 1894-1944: 50th Anniversary Souvenir Book.
Western Pennsylvanians : a work for newspaper and library reference. Charles Alexander Rook , et al. (eds). James O. Jones Company: Pittsburgh: Western Pennsylvania Biographical Association, 1923.
Boucher, J.N. and Woolf, J. History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania v.1.
Boyd, C. Minute Book of the Virginia Court held for Yohogania County :First at Augusta Town (now Washington, Pa.), and afterwards on the Andrew Heath farm near West Elizabeth; 1776-1780 / v.2 County Court (Yohogania), Virginia.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 June 2010 )|