Indiana, PA - Indiana County

New book explores life of Gen. Armstrong

by RANDY WELLS rwells@indianagazette.net on January 29, 2011 3:00 AM

There once were about 25 small forts and blockhouses in what is now Indiana County, evidence that the Native Americans and new European settlers did not always live together peacefully.

In October 1755, Indians attacked a settlement near Sunbury and took 10 captives.

As recorded in Clarence Stephenson's "Indiana County 175th Anniversary History," the Indians led their prisoners west before two of the female captives were rescued. The women -- Marie Le Roy and Barbara Leininger -- while later recounting their ordeal with the Indians, said, "After having rested five days at Puncksotanay, we took our way to Kittanny."

The women probably were taken across what is now northern Indiana County, and may have been the first white women to enter the county.

The following year, Lt. Col. John Armstrong led more than 300 men from present-day Huntingdon County through Indiana County. They traveled a trail that roughly parallels present-day Route 422, and attacked the Delaware Indian settlement at Kittanning in reprisal for murders of whites by small bands of Indians.

On their way to Kittanning, Armstrong and his men passed through what is now Indiana Borough, and camped one night at Shaver's Spring, where the Hadley Union Building on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus now stands.

Those events are some of the backdrop for a new book that author William Betts Jr. believes will be of special interest to Indiana County residents.

Betts' new biography is "Rank and Gravity, The Life of General John Armstrong of Carlisle."

Armstrong was known as the "first citizen" of Carlisle and the "hero of Kittanning." Betts describes him as "a giant of the Colonial times."

Armstrong, in Betts' opinion, was one of the most notable figures in 18th-century Pennsylvania, and in all of the Colonies. Following the raid on Kittanning, Armstrong headed up the defense of the Pennsylvania frontier as a builder and administrator of a "ring of forts" and as commander of the militia.

He served in the Continental Army before assuming command of the entire Pennsylvania militia for the early years of the Revolution.

Betts also said Armstrong was a close friend of and confidant to George Washington for 40 years, and helped persuade Washington to accept the presidency.

For two terms, Armstrong represented the Quaker State in the Continental Congress. He also was an energetic force in the growth of the Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania, and with Benjamin Rush and John Montgomery, he founded Dickinson College, one of the first colleges established in the United States.

Betts, a retired IUP English professor, believes Indiana County residents will find Armstrong's story especially interesting because of the general's ties to this area during a period of American history that has not been widely documented. Armstrong County and Armstrong Township in Indiana County are both named for the general.

"Rank and Gravity, The Life of General John Armstrong of Carlisle" is being published by Heritage Books of Westminster, Md. It is a lengthy book (668 pages), arranged in two parts -- "The Pioneer" and "The Patriot" -- and organized into 27 chapters and an "Afterword."

The new biography will soon be available at The Book Nook in downtown Indiana and from Amazon.com. Orders can also be placed with Heritage Books.

Another historical biography with ties to western Pennsylvania written by Betts, "The Hatchet and the Plow, The Life and Times of Chief Cornplanter," went on sale earlier this month.

and consequential figures

of eighteenth century Pennsylvania. Best known as the "first citizen" of the

historic community of Carlisle, and as the "hero of Kittanning," John

Armstrong was in fact a giant of the colonial times. He was Scotch-Irish and

the chief surveyor for the Proprietary the Presbyterian Church of

Pennsylvania, and, with Benjamin Rush and John Montgomery, founded

Dickinson College, the first college to be created in the United States. Drama

attended him everywhere. The life of John Armstrong was a life of service--

to his fellow Scotch-Irish, to his Carlisle community, to his Pennsylvania, to

the birth of the nation, to his family, and to his of

Pennsylvania land, and helped to persuade him to accomplish the writing of

the Constitution, and to accept the presidency. For two terms General

Armstrong represented the Quaker state in the Continental Congress. He

proved an energetic force in the growth of the Presbyterian Church of

Pennsylvania, and, with Benjamin Rush and John Montgomery, founded

Dickinson College, the first college to be created in the United States. Drama

attended him everywhere. The life of John Armstrong was a life of service--

to his fellow Scotch-Irish, to his Carlisle community, to his Pennsylvania, to

the birth of the nation, to his family, and to his Presbyterian God

Next Article
NASA marks 25th anniversary of Challenger accident
January 28, 2011 1:04 PM
Related Articles
Comments
Disclaimer: Copyright © 2014 Indiana Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.