File 001 Ireland

Pg.5
Address of Judge Thomas M. Bigger


 

Returning to Washington's visit, the failure of the deputation sent tomeet him at Gilbert Simpson's, Washington states that  on the 19th of  September, which he says was on Sunday, he arrived at the home of a man named Cassons or Casson, whom he calls Colonel.  We think it probable that this was Colonel Cannon, from whom Cannonsburg takes its name.  Washington was careless about names and he spells "Bigger" in different ways in his account, once correctly and again with a final "T".  Casson, or Cannon, it appears from his diary, lived a short distance from this land on Miller's Run.

 

   The following is quoted from Washington's Diary:

  

   "Being Sunday, and the people living on the land apparently very religious, it was thought best to postpone going among them until tomorrow, but rid to Doctor Johnson's, who had a copy of Colonel Crawford's surveying records, but not finding him at home, was disappointed in the business which carried me there."

 

   Under date of September 20th he makes the following entry:

  

   "Went early this morning to view my land and to receive the final determination of those living upon it.  Having obtained a pilot near the land, I went first to the plantation of Samuel McBride."

 

   He then states the amount of land which Samuel McBride had undercultivation, and the nature of the improvements thereon.  He then states he came next to the home of James McBride, and again describes the land and its amount, and the portion of it under cultivation and the improvements, as he does in the case of each of these settlers on the land he claimed.  He then came third, according to his account, to the home of Thomas Bigger, our ancestor, and here the entry is as follows:

 

   "Thomas Bigger-Robert Walker living thereon as tenant.  No meadow-about 20 acres of arable land, dwelling house and single barn, fences tolerable and land good."

 

   This Robert Walker was undoubtedly Thomas Bigger's brother-in-law, who was married to his sister Jane, the sister he brought with him when he came to America.

 

   After visiting the home of each of these settlers upon the land he claimed, the diary continues:

 

   "The foregoing are all the improvements upon this tract, which containes 2813.  The land is leveler than is common to be met with in this part of the country and good.  A part of it is in white oak, intermixed in many places with black oak, and is esteemed a valuable tract."

 

   Continuing his diary, under the date of September 20th, he says:

 

   "Dined at David Reed's, after which Mr. James Scott and Squire Reed began to inquire whether I would part with the land, and upon what terms, adding that they did not conceive they could be dispossessed, yet to avoid contention they would buy, if my terms were moderate.  I told them I had no inclination to sell.  However, after hearing a good deal of their hardships, their religious principles, which had brought them together as a Society of Seceders, and unwilling to separate or remove, I told them I would make them  a last offer, and this was the whole tract at twenty-five shillings per acre, the money to be paid at three annual payments with interest, or to become tenants under leases of nine hundred and ninety-nine years of ten per hundred per annum.  The former they had a long consultation upon, and asked if I would take a price at a longer credit with interest; being answered in the negative, then they determined to stand suit for the land.  But it having been suggested that there were among them some who were disposed to relinquish their claim, I told them I would receive their answer individually, and accordingly called upon them as they stood:  James Scott, William Stewart, Thomas Lapsley, James McBride, Brice McGeechan, Thomas Bigger, David Reed, William Hillas, Samuel McBride, Duncan McGeechan, Matthew Johnson, John Reed and Thomas Glenn, they severally answered that they meant to, after this meeting, stand suit and abide the issue of the law."

 

   Washington, after this meeting, proceeded with his usual vigor and thoroughness to carry out his purpose of ejecting these Scotch-Irish people from his land.  He states that on the 22nd of the month he visited Beeson's Town, and engaged a lawyer named Thomas Smith to bring an action in ejectment, which was done.  This suit was brought in 1784, but was on motion of Washington's counsel transferred to the Supreme Court, (editor Les Peine's note inserted: According to the "History of Washington County" pages 100-101,  tells of action in Philadelphia by the grantor, before James Biddle, President of the Court of Common Pleas of the first district.  It also speaks of the ejectment action of the court,) and in 1786 it was tried before two judges of the Supreme Court and a jury at Washington.  The verdict of the jury and the judgment of the Court were in Washington's favor.

 

   Colonel J. T. Holmes, one of the most distinguished members of the Columbus, Ohio Bar, stated to the writer that he had spent a great deal of time and money in investigation the early history of Washington County, PA., as his ancestor was contemporaneous in this county with ours.  He stated that the failure of these Scotch-Irish settlers to establish a good title was due to the fact that they derived their title to the land from Colonel Crogan, an early Indian Trader and Surveyor in

western Pennsylvania.  This title of Crogan rested upon an agreement of treaty between Crogan and the Indians, while Washington's title rested upon a grant from Virginia.  Therefore, Washington's title prevailed and the settlers lost their land.  If the question be raised as to how Washington could establish a good title to land in Pennsylvania under a grant from the Colony of Virginia, it appears that the legislative body in Pennsylvania, after the western boundary of Pennsylvania had been determined, validated all of the Virginia grants of land in Washington County, and thus made good the title of Washington.

After the decision of this case, Thomas Bigger brought his family to the home he had occupied near this spot, and there continued to live for the remainder of his life.  Thomas Bigger died on February 7th, 1829, in the eighty-ninth year of his age.  He was buried in the churchyard of Candor Presbyterian Church, in the Village of Candor in Washington County.  In his burial lot there had already been interred, of the Bigger family, the mother of Thomas Bigger, who died on May 20th, 1780, in the seventy-eighth year of her age; James Bigger, a son of Thomas Bigger and Elizabeth, his wife, who died October 1st, 1780, at the age of one year and seven months; John Bigger, son of Thomas and Elizabeth, who died on November 11th, 1808, in the twenty-ninth year of his age. Jane Walker, a sister of Thomas Bigger, who died at the age of eighty-eight years, was also buried there.