From Eire to the Wilds of Early Pennsylvania

04 Jan

Widow Piper’s Tavern, Shippensburg, PA. Built by Samuel Perry in 1735.

About 1730, my husband’s 6th great-grandfather, Samuel Perry came to this country from Northern Ireland with his wife and two children. Eventually, they would have five more children after settling in Pennsylvania. Samuel originally made his home in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, later moving to Lancaster County. Both places had hostile Indians who did not take kindly to squatters on their land. Samuel relocated his family to the relative safety of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, where he built three stone structures that still stand. The buildings are at 332 King Street which was called the Sign of the General Washington, a structure on the corner of North Queen and East King street, formerly Widow Piper’s Tavern, and was later used as the Courthouse, and finally, 427 East King Street, referred to as the Sign of the Spread Eagle.

Samuel moved the family again, this time from the town of Shippensburg to the wilds of Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Indian raids were still taking place on farmers and settlers, but Samuel decided to risk it anyway. It was a fateful decision. Samuel Perry was attacked by Indians early in November 1756,  near Conococheague Creek. Accounts vary, one saying he was with two young boys/men, one being his son, Oliver, the other being a nephew or other relation; Robert Neely. One account has him leaving McDowell’s Fort in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, to his home when he was attacked. Another account says he was on his land, clearing it, when he was attacked, killed, scalped and then covered with leaves.  While we do not know which version is true, we do know that he was killed, scalped and covered with leaves, as there were several people who wrote of the attack to Pennsylvania Governor Denny.

Samuel’s nephew, Robert Neely lived the remainder of his life with the Seneca Indians after being taken by them during the raid. Many years later, Samuel’s son, Col. James Perry, inquired of his cousin Robert through an Indian agent. James asked the Indian agent to determine if Robert had any desire to rejoin his white family. Robert’s response was a firm “no.” The Indian agent told the family that Robert had a squaw and family of his own, and chose to live the rest of his life with the Seneca. This decision of Robert’s to stay with the Indians must have been troubling to his cousin, James, who probably had a hard time understanding why Robert would choose to live with the people who had killed his own uncle.


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