Guide to the Records of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, 1769-1857

Digital Research Library, University Library System

Summary Information

Repository
Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center
Title
Records of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
Collector
Westmoreland County
Collection Number
MSS#134
Date [inclusive]
1769-1857
Extent
3.0 cubic feet (5 boxes)
Language of Materials
The material in this collection is in English.
Abstract
Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania is located east of Pittsburgh, and is currently bordered (clockwise from the Northeast corner) by Armstrong, Indiana, Cambria, Somerset, Fayette, Washington, and Allegheny Counties. The Westmoreland County (Pa.) These records include court minutes and court action papers, oaths of public officers, election tallies and voter lists, land diagrams, tax rolls and deficiencies, letters, and receipts.
Sponsor Note
This finding aid has been encoded as a part of the Historic Pittsburgh project a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Funding for this portion of the project has been donated by the Hillman Foundation.

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History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania

Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania is located east of Pittsburgh, and is currently bordered (clockwise from the Northeast corner) by Armstrong, Indiana, Cambria, Somerset, Fayette, Washington, and Allegheny Counties. Westmoreland County was created from land previously in Bedford County by an act of the Pennsylvania Assembly on February 26, 1773; becoming the the eleventh and last county founded in colonial Pennsylvania. It was the first Pennsylvania county established west of the Allegheny Mountains, however. Westmoreland County's foundation was intended to stem Virginia's claims on Western Pennsylvania, and to provide a county seat and courthouse nearer to the western cities than Bedford. Its original area, covering all of southwestern Pennsylvania, was later divided into Greene, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties. Parts of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, and Indiana Counties were also carved out of Westmoreland County. The last change in its area and boundary lines was made in 1803. The Youghiogheny River flows through the County and forms part of its western boundary. Westmoreland County currently covers 1,033 square miles, and is the same size as the state of Rhode Island.

In 1758, Brigadier General John Forbes cut a military road from Carlisle to the forks of the Ohio River to move the British Army west in a campaign against French-held Fort Duquesne. Forbes Road, which traverses Westmoreland County, became an east-west immigration route after the Treaty of Fort Stanwix made territory west of the Allegheny Mountains open to settlers. Later, the general path of the Forbes Road became the foundation of the Lincoln Highway (Route 30). Like much of Western Pennsylvania, the population of Westmoreland County was largely Scotch-Irish, German, French Huguenot, Irish, Quaker, and some English. Hanna's Town, the first county seat in Westmoreland County, was located on the busy Forbes Road. It was attacked and burned by Senecas and British in 1782, the year Greensburg was planned and began to be built. Greensburg, named for Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene, became Westmoreland's county seat in 1785, and opened its courthouse in January of 1787.

Westmoreland County's early products included iron, bituminous coal, coke, glass, salt, and gas. Westmoreland County had 16 stone blast furnaces producing iron, and many beehive coke ovens. Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919) played a key role in establishing the coke manufacturing industry in the county. Westmoreland County remained an active industrial county in Pennsylvania into the twentieth century with the development of facilities in Vandergrift, Mt. Pleasant and other communities.

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Scope and Content Notes

The Westmoreland County (Pa.) Records include court minutes and court action papers, oaths of public officers, election tallies and voter lists, land diagrams, tax rolls and deficiencies, letters, and receipts. The records provide rich documentation of court cases, land dealings, and elections held in the county. These records also have a strong genealogical value by documenting the early residents of the county. The tax rolls provide lists of local residents, sometimes with their occupations and the amount of tax they owed. Of interest in the miscellaneous series are some documents from the early nineteenth century concerning the local regiment of the Pennsylvania Militia, the Westmoreland Bank (Greensburg, Pennsylvania), and land and estate items. Because of the changes in county lines during the late 18th century in Western Pennsylvania and daily business that crossed county lines, numerous records document other counties in Pennsylvania. The most numerous of these records are for neighboring Indiana County and Erie County and are found with the Miscellaneous Records in series IV.

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Arrangement

Series have been designated for court records, election and public office documents, tax papers, and miscellaneous materials.

The Westmoreland County (Pa.) Records are housed in five archival boxes and are arranged in four series.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Digital Research Library, University Library System Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Fall, 1999

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
library@hswp.org

Revision Description

 Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002 July 1, 2006

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or publish, please contact the curator of the Archives.

Acquisition Information

These records were received in three accessions and were combined into one body of records in 1994.

Acc# 1944x Gift of Susan Deter, (Records).

Acc# 1946x Gift of Mr. A. L. Moredock, (Records).

Acc# 1989.145 Gift of James Richardson for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, (Ledger books arranged in Series I. These items, along with others, were sent to the Historical Society after being deaccessioned from the Carnegie Museum).

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jessica Broadwell on July 28, 1994.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Susan M. Allen on September 10, 1999.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Westmoreland Bank (Greensburg, Pa.)

Geographic Name(s)

  • Westmoreland County (Pa.) -- Courts.
  • Westmoreland County (Pa.) -- Genealogy.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Veterans.
  • Pennsylvania -- Militia.
  • Westmoreland County (Pa.) -- Officials and Employees.
  • Westmoreland County (Pa.) -- Politics and Government.

Subject(s)

  • Almshouses -- Pennsylvania -- York County.
  • Banks and Banking -- Pennsylvania -- Westmoreland County.
  • Courts -- Officials and Employees.
  • Courts -- Pennsylvania -- Westmoreland County.
  • Criminal Justice Personnel -- Pennsylvania -- Westmoreland County.
  • Elections -- Pennsylvania -- Westmoreland County.
  • Genealogy -- Pennsylvania -- Westmoreland County.
  • Inheritance and Succession -- Pennsylvania -- Westmoreland County.
  • Law -- Pennsylvania -- Westmoreland County.
  • Real property -- Pennsylvania -- Westmoreland County.
  • Revolutionary War -- Veterans.
  • Taxation -- Pennsylvania -- Westmoreland County.
  • Veterans -- Pennsylvania -- Westmoreland County.

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Collection Inventory

Series I Court Records  1773-1850 

Scope and Content Notes

Included with the court records are debtors' petitions that contain property itemizations, providing an interesting indication of insolvent laws and personal finances of Westmoreland County citizens. The documents cover both the Grand Inquest, which led inquiries into causes of death, and the Court of Common Pleas at Greensburg. Included in the undated section at the rear of the series are several petitions to the judges at the Court of Quarter Sessions for Tavern Keepers' Licenses. Four late-eighteenth century court books with names, dates, and brief summaries of court cases are also included with this series. These records primarily document the operation of the court in early Westmoreland County and provides detailed information on officers of the court and those citizens who appeared before the court.

Arrangement

The Court Records are arranged alphabetically by folder title and include summaries and notes of court cases, subpoenas and other court action papers, lists of costs, and jury rolls.

  boxfolder
 1779-1794 11
  folder
 1795-1799 2
  folder
 1800-1805 3
  folder
 1806-1817 4
  folder
 1818-1821 5
  folder
 1822-1826 6
  boxfolder
 1827-1830 21
  folder
 1831-1834 2
  folder
 1835-1850 3
Index  1773-1795 
Issue Docket  1773-1794 
List of Causes  1773-1792 
  folder
Sheriff's Docket  1783-1784 4

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Series II Election and Public Office  1784-1854 

Scope and Content Notes

The oaths of voter inspectors, clerks, and judges are occasionally on printed forms, but are more commonly handwritten. Election records cover the gambit of townships in Westmoreland County. These records provide the same type of information for each election: who was the election officer, where was the election held (generally at the officer's house), how many votes did each candidate receive, and who were the people who voted. Elections documented in these records are for both local, state, and national elections. The offices sought by these candidates ranged from overseer of the poor to constable, but occasionally were for state-wide and federal offices. The other type of records in this series document the duties and functions of several official positions.

Arrangement

The Election and Public Office Records are arranged chronologically and consist primarily of the oaths of public officials, election tallies and returns, voter lists, and lists of justices of the peace.

  folder
 1784-1815 5
  folder
 1816-1825 6
  boxfolder
 1826-1827 31
  folder
 1829-1839 2
  folder
 1840-1843 3
  folder
 1844-1847 4
  folder
 1849-1850 5
  folder
 1850-1854 6

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Series III Taxes  1773-1848 

Scope and Content Notes

The tax rolls provide names of township residents with the amount they owed. Lists of exemptions and "unavoidable deficiencies" were sworn to by an assessor for the people who could not pay their allotted taxes. Reports of unseated lands, which affected both the school and the road taxes paid to the state, were also made by assessors. Local assessors answered to county commissioners, who answered to state officials in Harrisburg. Letters to the Westmoreland County Commissioners, often from state officials making demands for payments or outlining the county land tax apportionment and other legal matters, appear in this series. Several small booklets for the returns of Greensburg and Hempfield are housed separately. These tax rolls for the townships provide the most comprehensive information of the residents of Westmoreland County during the early years of the nineteenth century.

Arrangement

The Tax Records are arranged alphabetically by folder title and include assessment rolls for the county, as well as Greensburg and Hempfield Townships.

  boxfolder
 1773 41
  folder
 1785-1810 2
  folder
 1811-1848 3
  folder
Greensburg  1808-1829 4
Hempfield  
  folder
 1786-1814 5
  folder
 1818-1842 6

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Series IV Miscellaneous Material  1769-1857 

Scope and Content Notes

These records include land documents, receipts, financial material, correspondence, and other sundry items. The land and estate folders contain diagrams and many land warrants. The bulk of these land warrants are dated from the end of the eighteenth century, and include applicants' names along with specifically delineated tracts of land. The folder marked "General Materials" contains various sundry receipts (including those for wolves' heads, upon which there was a bounty in the late 18th and early 19th centuries), letters, and items pertaining to county improvements such as road and bridge building. A military file contains exemptions, officer election papers, and militia member rolls from the first half of the 19th century. A folder of material on the Westmoreland Bank includes letters, debts owed, receipts, and stock transfers from 1806 to 1832, providing documentation for this Greensburg bank. Material designated for other counties includes a wide variety of other Pennsylvania counties including, but not limited to, York, Cumberland, Northumberland, Mifflin, Erie, Schuylkill, and Crawford. These records are primarily land and court documents and are arranged chronologically within these folders. Of note among other county materials is the auditor's report of the Poor House of York County from 1829 and 1830.

Arrangement

The Miscellaneous Materials are arranged alphabetically by folder title with material from other counties arranged to the rear.

  boxfolder
General Material  1786-1857 51
Land and Estate Records  
  folder
 1769-1800 2
  folder
 1801-1851 3
  folder
Pennsylvania Militia  1805-1850 4
  folder
Westmoreland Bank  1806-1832 5
Other Counties  
  folder
 1784-1833 6
  folder
 1834-1850 7

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