Family's Immigration West Includes Tales of Wanderlust

Family history recounts a girl's captivity and generations of travelers on an immigration west.

| Good Old Days

Our family's immigration west begins in 1755, so the story handed down in our family goes (and history books and a monument erected in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to honor her confirm it), when my maternal grandmother seven generations back was carried off by the Indians after they had killed her father and brothers and burned her home.

Her name was Regina Hartman; the home the Indians ravaged was near the eastern boundary of Pennsylvania. Regina and her sister were hurried off and made to travel fast day and night through woods and over rocks, up and down hills. A third and smaller girl the Indians had taken captive clung to Regina as to a mother. Although Regina was only 9, she had to carry the weary child a good part of the way. When they finally came to a halt the sister was taken on, never to be heard from again. Regina worked hard for the Indians during the nine years she was held captive and became as one of them.

After the battle of Bushy Run, her mother sought the girl when the released prisoners were taken back to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She found a swarthy maiden who could talk only in the Indian tongue. Efforts at recognition failed. Then the mother thought to sing a song she had taught Regina as a tiny tot. The girl, with memories of her childhood revived, took up the refrain, sang it through, then repeated Luther's Catechism as she had learned it in her home, and rushed into her mother's arms.

Thirty years later, Regina's daughter Maria and her husband, John Adam Baker, loaded their three children and a few choice possessions into a covered wagon. Leaving their Northampton County home, in eastern Pennsylvania, they started on the long and weary journey westward across the state, wending their way over mountains where bears and other wild animals were often their only company. The trail they took doubtless followed the one of the forced march the Indians had taken Regina over years before, so they were ever on the alert for treacherous natives. This was about 1795, when travel for many between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh was on foot, which was the means of delivering messages. The State road had been built at a cost of $20 a mile, so it is likely they did not do much more than cut down the trees. Isn't it interesting to compare that price with the present rate per mile of road building?

Despite the hazards of travel, the little family made the trip safely, coming at last to Westmoreland County, where they bought land south of Greensburg, about 40 miles from Pittsburgh. There they built a log cabin, settled down to grow up with the country, propagated and prospered for at least 80 or 90 years before the wanderlust again set in.

In the mid-70s, "Kansas Fever" struck western Pennsylvania like the plague. Inoculation was unknown those days, so the westward trek was on! Many came by covered wagon. Not so my father, Edgar Clark Fowler.

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