(Continued From Saturday)
WILLIAM MONTGOMERY RESIDENCE
The old one-story house, covered with lap siding, on the north side of the
pike at the top of West Chestnut street hill was once the home of Hon. William
Montgomery, one of Washington’s most prominent lawyers of his time and representative
in Congress. From the beginning he was a champion of the National Pike, and
was later elected to Congress on the Democratic ticket—October 1856, and again in
October 1858. He was not a candidate in 1860.
The door of this house on the side next to Chestnut street is one of
the most unusual to be found in all western Pennsylvania. It is a very early type
with tow long panels, decorated with long lines of raised woodwork on the
sides and at the top and the bottom. It may antedate the “witchcraft”
doors generally found in houses built before 1860.
John M. Rankin’s wagon stand, that stood a short distance west of
Washington, was an important and prosperous stopping place for Pike Boys, from the
opening of the old road through Washington County in 1820 until travel ceased in
the 1850s. It was some distance west of the borough line in those days, but
now the location is on West Chestnut street, in the Eighth Ward.
Spalding, the first keeper of a stand at this point, was succeeded in a
short time by John Rankin, who soon created an extensive establishment that
catered principally to the Pike Boys. Searight says that they preferred to stop
there rather than at hotels in Washington which they classes as “tony places.”
There was the usual yard for the accommodation of wagoners and their Conestogas,
a large barn, blacksmith shop and other necessary buildings for such an establishment.
At one time Alpheus Murphy was the blacksmith and wagon maker.
John Rankin died in the early 1840s, and his wife continued to operate
the old stand until 1845, when it was sold at public sale by order of court for
$2,200 to Andrew McDaniel. However, the deed was not given until August 2, 1854, at
which time Mrs. Agnes Rankin, the widow, was living in Randolph County, Ill.
The old tavern building was torn down in 1898 by Thomas R. Hart, who
erected the present dwelling at 790 West Chestnut street, upon the site. It is
now owned by his son, Donald R. Hart.
The other buildings gradually disappeared –until April 1954, when the last
one, which had been the home of James L. Shannon, was purchased by Peter Provenzano,
and razed. This house was built of logs covered with lap siding, the style of that
period. It was built by Rankin in the 1820s, probably just after he acquired the
THE RED BARN
The next point of historic interest was the old Red Barn, which stood,
for more than a hundred years on the south side of the pike just west of the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad crossing. This was the scene of a noted murder 126
years ago, which was told by people in all Western Pennsylvania for many a year
afterwards, for homicides in those days were very infrequent.
It was on Friday morning, February 1, 1828, that the body of a white
man was found near the Red Barn. According to the old newspaper accounts, he was
recognized as a “Negro Drover,” who had passed through Washington several
days before, on his way south with several runaway slaves. The first news of the
crime was given at a nearby house by a Negro, who said that while his master
was walking along the road he was attacked by three men. The alarm spread, and
in a short time many people had gathered at the spot. The man’s head had been
crushed by a club or a stone, and the freshly fallen snow was stained with
blood. The victim was afterwards identified as Robert Carlyle, from Woodford
Carlyle had been in Washington several days before, and had started for
Wheeling with his slaves, but some distance west of town one named Christian
Sharp, better known as Kit, escaped. Leaving the other slaves in Washington under
guard Carlyle started in search of the runaway, whom he captures somewhere between
Washington and Brownsville. On Thursday night, January 31, he arrived back in
town with Kit on the westbound stage. They stopped that night at Briceland’s Tavern
(Auld House), and before daylight the next morning Carlyle set out on foot for
Wheeling with his prisoner. He did not intend to give Kit another chance,
and had him handcuffed. What became of the other slaves had had left in Washington
under guard was never stated. They seemed to have been lost sight of amid the
excitement of the crime.
The murdered man was buried in the old graveyard, where his headstone
was an object of curiosity for almost a century. It disappeared long ago, but the
bones of Robert Carlyle still rest there.
Blood stains on Kit’s clothing led to his arrest, and the coroner’s
jury held him for court. He was brought to trial on June 25, 1828, before
President Judge Thomas H. Baird, and Boyd Mercer and John Hamilton,
associate judges. William Waugh, deputy prosecuting attorney, assisted by John
S. Brady, conducted the case for the Commonwealth.
The accused slave did not lack friends; for, although he was without
money, no less a person than Samuel McFarland, a prominent member of the bar
and an abolitionist, volunteered to defend him, assisted by William Baird and
John Kennedy, both well known lawyers. Dr. Francis J. LeMoyne, our first abolitionist,
took a deep interest in the trial.
Kit’s counsel fought hard to save his life. Unfortunately, many
of the details of the evidence have been lost; but the blood stains on Kit’s
clothing and certain tracks in the snow were points the jury could not overlook—and
he was just a slave. He was convicted of first degree murder.
Kit declared to the bery last that his master had been attacked by three
men, one of whom he described as a large black man of powerful build. Living in
Washington at that time was a free Negro know as “Tar” Adams, who fitted this
description. He was never accused of doing any work. His main occupation was aiding
runaway slaves on their way to Canada, in which he was a past master, and many a
runaway slave owed his freedom to “Tar” Adams. Many people of that day firmly
believed that he was one of the trio whom Kit claimed attacked Carlyle. Old Negroes
in my own time had known this man when they were children, and many were the stories
they told of his exploits and the Carlyle murder, which they had heard from their
elders. They all believed that “Tar” Adams was the guilty man.
On June 28, 1828, Judge Baird sentenced Kit to be hanged. The execution
took place on November 21, 1828. In those days a hanging was in public, a regular
Roman holiday. The Examiner account states that between 10 and 11 o’clock
the two local volunteer battalions of militia, commanded by Majors McFarland
and McBurney, formed a hollow square in front of the jail. The condemned man,
preceded by the Rev. Mr. Brunson and the Rev. Mr. Cook, was followed by Sheriff
Robert McClelland and other civil officers, physicians and attorneys. After all
had entered the square, the procession moved down South Main street to the place
There is some doubt as to the exact place where Kit was hanged. Mr. Alfred
Creigh states that it was on Gallows Hill, but The Examiner account says
that it was on the “common south of the borough.” This location would be at or
near the foot of Gallows Hill, or else where Trinity Hall now stands, as that
was once a common.
At his own request Kit was allowed to walk that last long mile, and,
surrounded by the militia and county officers, the procession marched to the
gallows in the form of a hollow square. When the place of execution was
reached the two ministers ascended the platform with the condemned man,
and after talking with him the Rev. Mr. Brunson addressed the crowd. He stated
that after the death warrant was read to him, Kit had taken an oath that he could
not confess, and he kept that oath to the end. Did he kill Carlyle or was it
“Tar” Adams? That question has not been answered after the passing of 126
After prayer by the minister, the prisoner bid farewell to the sheriff
and the others present. The rope was tied around his neck, the black cap was adjusted,
the cord holding the trap was cut by the sheriff, and the slave dropped through the
opening. But something unforeseen happened. The rope broke about three feet above
the condemned man’s head and he fell to the ground unharmed. A feeling of horror
swept through the spectators, and they surged forward as though to interfere; but
the militia held them back while Kit once more ascended the gallows, and this
time the rope held. It was believed at the time that it had been cut, but this was
never proven. That was the last of three executions that gave Gallows Hill its
sanguinary name, and all efforts since then to change it have failed.
Thirty-nine years passed before another execution took place in Washington,
but this time it was in the jail yard, with a high board fence to screen it from the
public. The condemned man was Robert Fogler, hanged on May 15, 1867, for the murder
of Robert W. Dinsmore on December 4, 1866.
It is a strange coincidence that when the next Negro, William West,
was executed 62 years after Kit, the rope broke as the trap fell, and he was
taken up on the gallows a second time.
Kit was buried in the old graveyard, but the location of his grave is not
known. An old tradition says that it was just over the fence in the public road,
now West Walnut street extension.
The Red Barn stood for more than a century after the Carlyle murder, a
noted landmark on the old pike. It was finally torn down some years ago and the
lumber used for a garage on the same lot.
ROBERT R. REED HOUSE
A few feet west of the site of the Red Barn, on a high bank south of a
small stream, is an old brick house, once the residence of Dr. Robert R. Reed,
an eminent Physician of Washington more than a hundred years ago. Elected to
Congress on the Whig ticket in October 1843, he served one term and was not a
candidate in 1850. It was Dr. Reed’s son, Robert, who marched away to war in
1861 with the Washington Invincibles to die of smallpox in Washington, D.C.
As soon as Dr. Reed received the message he hastened to his son’s bedside.
His friends strongly urged him not to go; but his boy was sick and nothing could
keep the father away.
After the son’s death, Dr Reed returned and within two weeks died of
smallpox. His grandson, Colin M. Reed, once told me that “Windy” Marshall, a well
known violinist of those days, dug the grave and took Dr. Reed’s body in a wheelbarrow
to the old graveyard on West Spruce avenues, and buried him. The fear of contracting
the disease was so great that no one else would volunteer.
THE HUMP BRIDGE
A short distance west of the site of the Red Barn is an old stone bridge
over Chartiers Creek, many of which were built along the pike from Baltimore to
Wheeling. The Hump Bridge, so-called because the center arch was rather high forming
a decided hump to eliminate a rut at each end of the bridge, is the second largest
in Washington County, the largest being the “S” Bridge, although in feet they are
almost equal. It was built when the pike went through this section by David
Hull, a Washington stone contractor. That he did his work well is shown by the
fact that this is still one of the most substantial bridges on the pike, although
for 136 years it has stood the wear and tear of all kinds of travel from stage
coach to heavy tractor trailers. David Hull was the grandfather of Miss Alice Hull
and the great-grandfather of Mrs. Earle R. Forrest.
The hump in the center caused passengers on a fast rolling stagecoach
to feel that the bottom was dropping out of their stomachs. The same sensation was
felt in the early days of automobile travel. When the pike was rebuilt between
Washington and Claysville in 1929 the hump was eliminated by sills on each
Just west of the Hump Bridge the pike climbs over the steep slope of
Sugar Hill; but the new route turns to the right and goes around the hill at an
easy grade. The old route was dangerous alike to stages coaches and automobiles.
Two stories are told of the origin of the name. John Eagleson, who
lives in the old William McQuay house on top of the hill, and his brother,
Stewart Eagleson, told me recently that the hill was named for a grove of sugar
maples and a sugar camp on the summit many years ago. Two or three of these
trees are still standing.
I remember hearing my father, J.R. Forrest, tell of a Conestoga loaded
with sugar, breaking down on the hill. A barrel rolled out and broke open when
it hit the ground. During the absence of the driver, who had gone for help, a
gang of boys carried sugar off in any receptacle they could get their hands on.
Father was one of the boys. There was no juvenile court to appeal to in those
days. It was just the driver’s hard luck; and from that day it was called Sugar
Hill. This version is corroborated by an item in The Recorder in 1893, explaining
that Sugar Hill received its name from a Conestoga wagon loaded with that upset
on the steep grade.
On the west side of Sugar Hill is the old mining town of Lincoln Hill. The
town was built and a coal mine was opened about 1917. The mine was worked out and
abandoned years ago, but a thriving residential community has grown up.
According to Searight, Robert Smith kept a tavern two miles west of
Rankintown, on the old road from Washington to Wheeling as early as 1818, in an old
frame building on the south side of the highway, at the top of the hill just west
of Lincoln Hill. Smith probably kept this stand during the early days of the pike
era. James Coulson, of Washington, who will be mentioned in connection with
the Coulson Tavern, informed me that his mother, Mrs. Clara B. Coulson, aged 90,
told him that Jacob Weirich operated this tavern after Smith. Ed Ashbrook bought the
farm, tore the old tavern building down about 1908, and erected the present residence
on the same spot.
Stewart Eagleson, Chris Altvater, and Charles Crothers told me that the
old road passed through the orchard in the rear of the present house. From there
it followed the ridge to Sugar Hill; then down a steep grade to the Hump Bridge
and on through the Brownlee farm to Washington.
(To Be Continued)
For part 21 of The National Pike Story For part 23 of The National Pike Story