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Chapter 3 – Life Among the “Pike Boys”.

Hello All,
My families’ story continues; this time back to the American frontier in the late 18th Century, in South Western Pennsylvania. I will soon make a research trip there to better document the link between Johnson’s Tavern and Johnson’s Farm. Please remember that I am utilizing italics for my working hypotheses, while using standard type for documented family history.

Johnson’s Tavern
Robert Johnson was born in the waning years of the 18th Century, probably in Fayette County. He first worked at the Jackson & Sharpless paper mill along Redstone Creek. He moved on to work at the Green Tree Inn, where he became the proprietor. In 1816 – 1817 he hired Randolph Dearth to build a stone tavern where the National Pike was being built, just northwest of the Menallen Township line. This site was informally called “Tuckertown”, even though the only other structure was a blacksmith shop, where the young orphan William Hatfield was apprenticed. Will soon took over the shop, and earned his fortune building toll gates for the road. He and Robert Johnson are listed as neighbors in early 19th Century Census Reports.
“Johnson’s Tavern” was known as the best along this stretch of the pike, and was visited by many notables, including US presidents. In 1842 Robert turned the business over to renters, and moved to a farm in nearby Franklin Township, where he died. He was said “To have left behind a good name, which is grater than great riches, of which the latter he had a goodly share”. He was father-in-law to Thomas Searight, county sheriff, as well as to Jefferson Township farmer, Henry L. Murphy. In 1852 William Hatfield bought the inn, and operated it until 1855, when declining traffic, due to railroad competition, forced its closure. {from The History of West Fayette, Co., pp. 724-749 – The History of Redstone Township , 1898. and from The Old Pike, Thomas Brownfield Searight, published in Uniontown, Pa. 1894}

Johnson’s Farm
The preceding section was based upon history. It takes a bit of conjecture to show that Robert Johnson was indeed my great-great-great-great (?) – grandfather. My own researches have shown the approximate location of James Johnson’s farm was “east of National Road, in Searight’s Post Office, and in Redstone Township (near the Franklin Twp.line), where Robert retired to farm forty years earlier. Working with the Fayette County Genealogical Society might resolve the 1840-1870 gap in the record.
In 1870, James Johnson, and his brothers John and Robert, and sisters Sarah and Lucy, ran the farm near the tavern. My then 5 year old great-grandfather George, was being raised by these aunts and uncles. {1870 & 1880 US Census} By 1900 George and Margaret (nee. Kelley) ran the farm, had nine children (including my grandfather McClelland), and cared for their elderly aunts and uncles. In 1910 Margaret was the head of household, and her sons ran the farm. {1900 & 1910 US Census}
McClelland (aka Shipley) registered for the draft in June 1917, and met my grandmother Julia (aka Jewel) Cumashot, daughter of itinerant Ukrainian coal miners. Shipley went into the service, and my mother was born on March 1918 at her mother’s parent’ home in Ambridge, Pa. They divorced soon afterwards, and Julia told both her daughter, and her ex-husband, that the other had died. My never met her father. By 1920 McClelland (a.k.a. was mining coal at the #2 Allison Works.
Margaret died in June of 1926. She died on the farm, and several of her children still lived with her. She was buried at the Pleasant View Cemetery. The family sold the farm, and moved away. McClelland moved to West Virginia, following the coal. and married his second wife, Bessie. They moved to Pittsburgh, and he worked as a mechanic for Vang Construction Co. He died in 1973; I never met him even though he lived 20 miles away. Dorothy Johnson had a hard time growing up in the Great Depression without a father.

Thomas J. (Dunn) Marti

PS: I recently sent on a research trip to Uniontown’s Library, home of the Fayette Co. Genealogical Society. I learned a fair bit there, but need to confirm some of it. Seems like historical accuracy was not always up to par in early-20th century reference books that were written to sell them.
I also took a side trip to Redstone and Franklin townships. I visited the still living coal patch town of Smock, where my grandfather was born (the other coal towns that the Johnsons lived in are pretty much strip-mined away). The good thing is that the coal companies have been forced to ‘re-mediate’ the land, and the old coal pits are mostly green again.
I also visited the Pleasant View Presbyterian Church, and searched their cemetery for my family, but many of the stones of poorer working folks were weathered. I drove past the still-standing stone ruins of Colley’s Tavern, on the Old Pike. But to my joy, Johnson’s Tavern still stands, and it has been made habitable by a family who lives there. I had a good chat about the history of the tavern, and perhaps when I next visit.
When I learn more about my family history in any of these previous ‘chapters’ I will update them when I get around to it. In fact the rain has stopped, and after posting on my “Farm Journal”, I need to go out and “Hoe Hoe Hoe”. Farming in weed season is a barrel of laughs! thom

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