Sunday, July 21, 2013

8. The Family Gets Settled In The Ohio Valley

              The Revolutionary War was officially over by signed treaty on December 31, 1783, but only the British stopped hostilities; the Indians did not. This fact did not stop the westward migration of the white settlers. Americans felt that they had won the war and the continent was theirs for the taking.
              A huge wave of settlers moved into the Ohio Valley and the Ohio country following war’s end; among them was Henry Darrah and his family from York County. For Henry’s children, the cheapest available land to be had for new farms was in western Pennsylvania. At the time, too, that area was the furthest you could go and still be around enough other settlers to provide a reasonable level of defense for your family.                   
            The American states, formerly a Confederation, began ratifying the new Constitution in 1787 (Pennsylvania became the second state on December 12), and the new Congress passed the Ordinance of 1787, establishing the Northwest Territory. Much of the frontier began moving into central and western Ohio and Indiana, but sporadic conflict between the white settlers and roving bands of Indians continued for several years in western Pennsylvania, northwestern Virginia [now West Virginia], and eastern Ohio.
           Henry moved westward not long after Robert’s will was probated, probably in stages, as he was located in Manallen Township of Fayette County in 1786, and not into Washington County, now Greene County, until 1789. The Forbes Road was the most probable pathway, as it ran from eastern Pennsylvania to the Fort Pitt area, passing along the Monongahela River in Greene County. For a man with a family, that was the best way to go west.
            The 1790 Census shows Henry established in Washington County with two sons under sixteen and two females, ages not listed. Based on later records, Joseph Darrah at this juncture would have been 21 years old, Robert 20, Henry 15, and John 14.  As all four of his sons had a lifespan of over 75 years, we may presume that this genetic trait applied also to the father. This presumption would have made a birth date for Henry, Senior, of around 1734-35, making Henry aged 56 or 57 in 1790.
The two sons on the census were most likely Henry and John. The two older sons may have been working for other farmers or roaming the frontier as young men were prone to do.
            The two females may have been the wife/mother and one daughter. An Elizabeth Darrah with a birth date between 1770-1780 appears on Greene County records through the 1850’s. Further investigation may prove this Elizabeth to be an unmarried daughter of Henry’s. Henry mentioned a grandson in his will, implying another daughter who was deceased at that time. One of these females may have been the mother of the grandson.
           A later written account from Monongalia County, (W)VA, reported that the son Robert accidentally killed his mother while cleaning his rifle, but we do not know if this incident occurred before or after the 1790 census. I would surmise that it happened after 1790, as two other daughters later appeared in Henry’s will.
            To verify that this family was the one I sought, I checked Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, and numerous other states within hundreds of miles, and no Henry, Robert, or Joseph came to light. The only other John Darrah in Washington County was the family that later migrated to Allegheny County and raised a future mayor of Pittsburgh. This Joseph-Robert-John-Henry name combination turned out to be strong clue for the tracing of this family group. Following Occam’s Razor, this is the simplest answer.

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