The Family of Rosa Anna Abbott and John Joseph LaValle

Collier Township History

This township history is transcribed from History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Volume II, A. Warner & Co., Publishers, Chicago, Ill., 1899, Chapter II, pp. 26-28.

(only Collier transcribed)


January 12, 1875, a petition of citizens of Robinson, North Fayette and South Fayette was presented in court, praying for a redistribution of the territory comprised within their limits, whereupon J. B. Stilley, Capt. John Gilfillan and Alexander D. Burns were appointed to the usual service of taking the matter into consideration. Under date of February 26, 1875, they reported in favor of forming a new township from the contiguous portions of Robinson and South Fayette, one-third and one-fourth of their respective areas, with about a half square mile from North Fayette, to constitute the new division. At an election May 11, 1875, the measure thus proposed was adopted by a majority of sixty-six in a total vote of one hundred and ninety. June 7, 1875, by decree of court, the new township was erected and its organization forthwith ordered. The name was conferred in compliment to Hon. Frederick H. Collier, of the common pleas bench of the county courts.

The first families who settled in this township were the Ewings and Walkers. James Ewing, the first representative of the former, was born in Cecil county, Md., about 1730, emigrated to the west in 1770, and built the first gristmill on Robinson's run, if not in the county. His claim extended from Chartiers borough to Walker's Mills, a distance of two miles, and comprised a thousand acres. In common with a majority of the emigrants from the slave states, he brought his slaves with him; their labor was utilized to great advantage in clearing the land, erecting improvements, etc. Boatswain, a Negro of exceptional intelligence and faithfulness, was manumitted by Mr. Ewing in consideration of his fidelity, and established to comfortable circumstances at a locality since known as Camp Hill. James Ewing was a strict Presbyterian, and was identified with the early history of Montour's church.

Gabriel and Isaac Walker, the first of that name in this section of the country, were born in Lancaster County, Pa., the former in 1744, the latter in 1746. They were of Scotch-Irish descent, and tradition asserts that their ancestors were in the siege of Londonderry. They emigrated to the west in 1772, and purchased land from John Henry. It was of that general class known as "tomahawk claims," and extended from Robinson's run to Scott's run, embracing two thousand acres. Gabriel located near Hays crossing, on the Pan Handle railroad, and Isaac at Walker's Mills. Supplies of ammunition and other necessaries were brought from Lancaster county every spring and autumn by Isaac Walker, who was a young man, and unmarried. This was before the era of wagon-roads, when the packhorse was the only means of conveyance. There was a further inducement for Isaac Walker to repeat this journey as often as convenient, he was paying his addresses to a young lady in Lancaster county, whom he married in 1779 - a Mrs. Richardson, the widow of an early settler on the Loyalhanna, in Westmoreland county.

In September, 1782, a party of Indians, about twenty-five in number, approached the cabin of Gabriel Walker, and concealed themselves near by, with the intention of surprising the family while at dinner. In the meantime two hunters approached and entered the house, and as they were well armed the savages thought best to defer the attack until their departure. Visitors at that early period were not frequent, and the hospitalities extended them required a long time in the discussion of current events. And so, immediately after dinner, the younger members of the family, including William Harkins, an indentured boy, were sent to the field, while Mr. Walker entertained his guests. Several hours passed in this manner, when the latter finally departed. The Indians rapidly closed in around the unsuspecting family, but their movements did not escape the practiced eye of Mr. Walker. He called to his children in the field to run, which they did, but only Harkins escaped, and the five others were captured. Hearing the alarm, Mrs. Walker seized the two children who were with her in the house, and concealed herself until she could safely proceed to the fort. Mr. Walker also escaped. After pillaging the house and burning it to the ground, the Indians killed the two youngest of their captives, and set out with the three that remained, two young women and a boy. They then started out in a northwesterly direction, stopping that day long enough to burn the cabin of a Mr. Breckenridge. When the course of a stream coincided with the direction of their journey, they waded its channel; when a fallen tree lay in their course, they walked its trunk, making their prisoners do the same.

Harkins, after making his escape, alarmed the family of Isaac Walker, and they also made their way to the fort, which was situated a short distance above the mouth of Robinson's run. On the following day a body of men numbering forty or fifty collected at the scene of the massacre. Under the leadership of John Henry they set out in pursuit, and overtook the Indians as they were crossing the Ohio river. The captives were taken to a British post in the northwest, and returned upon the cessation of hostilities in 1784.

Other early residents of Collier township were Rowley Boyd, who reared three sons; ______Rogers, whose sons were Thomas and James; John Nesbitt and David, William and Ebenezer, his sons; Joseph Hickman, Alexander Leggett, John Wilkinson, Ezekiel Harker, Richard Cowan, the Hardmans, Joneses, Moores and others. This town was the theater of some of the violent proceedings which occurred at the outbreak of the whisky insurrection, as an account of which is given elsewhere. For an account of the Allegheny County Home, located in this township, see page 422, Vol. I.

The Pan Handle railroad passes thought he township from east to west, with stations at Fort Pitt, Walker's Mills and Hays. The first coal mine on this road west of Mansfield station is that of W.L. Scott & Co., known as the Grant mine. The next in order is Camp Hill, one mile west of Mansfield station, operated by David Steen. These works were established in 1870. The daily capacity is 5,000 bushels. Twenty-two houses are owned I connection with the works, and 75 cars. One hundred men are employed, . . . The McConnell mines, 1,000 feet west of Fort Pitt, are operated by James McConnell. Fifty men are employed. This mine was opened in 1865 by the Pittsburgh Union Coal company, John A. McKee, manager. Huntsman & Miller were the lessees for a number of years. . . .The Boyd mines, 1,000 feet west of Walker's Mills, were opened in 1885 by Ewing & Gordon, from whom the works were leased in 1887 by Edward Fisher. . . .The Jackson mines, 5,000 feet west of Walker's Mills, are operated by D. C. Jackson. Cherry mines, at Hays station, Morris McCue, proprietor, employ 40 miners and produce 25,000 tons yearly.

The principal village is Woodville, on the Chartiers Valley railroad. The Diamond flourmills at this place, Joseph Campbell, proprietor, were built in 1857 by Robert Lea.

A postoffice was established here in 1871. Walker's Mills, in the central part of the township, became a postoffice in February, 1841. The coal-mines and stone-quarries of the vicinity, and the extensive flouring mills, render this an important local point. The population by the census of 1880 was 1,697.