National Pike, Road of History, Romance
Wednesday, March 30, 1955 page 13 of
The Washington Reporter, Washington, Pennsylvania
by Earle R. Forrest
(Continued From Yesterday)
The most tragic and pathetic event in all the long history of the old
Stone tavern at Scenery Hill was the death of Lieutenant Colonel Roger S.
Dix, while on his way from the battlefields of the Mexican War to Washington,
D.C., to settle his accounts as army paymaster. He then expected to join his
wife and children in Baltimore.
The late Dr. Homer L. Clark, son of Dr. Byron Clark, wrote an interesting
account of Colonel Dix�s death and burial which he published in a small book
edition in 1905. For years before his death death in 1915. Dr. Clark was
a member of the editorial staff of he Observer a very accurate
Two contemporary accounts of Colonel Dix's death and burial were published,
in The Reporter on January 10, 1849, and in The Examiner on January
13. The Reporter says that he had been unwell coming up the Ohio River and
felt worse after leaving Wheeling. When he reached Washington on Saturday,
January 6, 1849, he was unable to eat his supper with the other passengers but
continued on when the stage left. The coach reached Hillsborough about 8 o'clock
in the evening and when the horses had been changed he said to one of the
passengers that he had the cholera and could not go on.
He was removed to the Stone Tavern, then kept by Samuel Youman and
at the colonel's request a Justice of the Peace was summoned and drew up
his will. The Reporter says that he was accompanied by several army
officers, but their names were not given. However, Dr. Clark names a
Major Anderson, and says that Drs. Joseph W. Alexander and Winston
Rogers, of near Canonsburg, were summoned. The Reporter account mentions
four physicians, but names are not given. They agreed that he had cholera,
and did all that was humanly possible to save him. The Reporter account
says that "he lingered in great agony until Sunday morning about 2 o'clock,
when he died." He was the first victim of the cholera epidemic that swept
Western Pennsylvania in 1849.
Colonel Dix was buried at 7 o'clock that Sunday morning of January 7,
in the little graveyard on the hill with brief services conducted
by Major Anderson. Dr. Clark states that the next year his brother,
Timothy Brown Dix, Esq., of Boston erected a plain marble slab at the grave
with this inscription:
Roger S. Dix
Jan. 7, 1840
His grave may still be seen in the cemetery on the hill, but the
storms of more than a century have weathered the headstone until the
inscription is hard to trace. Years ago while it was still legible, the
grave was photographed, and Dr. Clark published this picture.
One day during the past summer I searched in vain for the grave and
at last appealed to C. E. Wonsettler, the village watchmaker who lives just
across the road from the cemetery. He conducted me to the grave
weathered headstone on which I could barely trace the name of Dix.
Neither Dr. Clark nor the contemporary newspaper accounts give the
first name of Major Anderson. However, the National Archives sent the
information that he was Major Nathaniel Anderson of the Tennessee
volunteers. In the Archives is the original letter written by Major Anderson,
reporting the death. It is short, but it gives all the information:
January 15th, 1849
I regret to have the painful duty of announcing to the
death of Bvt. Lt. Col. R. S. Dix, paymaster USA -- I was
traveling with him in an Extra which left Wheeling, Va., on
Saturday morning the 6th � We stopped in the evening about 5 or
6 O. C. PM at a village in Penn. On the National Road called
Hillsborough, when he was violently attacked with cholera and
died between 1 & 2 O. C. A. M. in the morning of 7th of
this month �
I remained until I saw him buried & then came on -- His
Clerk M. T. S. Goddard took charge of his trunks & Official
papers which he brought to this City.
I have the honor to be, Genl.
Yr obt servt.
Major & Qr M.
Brig. Genl. USA
Adj. Genl. USA
Washington City D.C.
Within six weeks after the death of Colonel Dix in that year of
1849, another noted visitor and a hero of the Mexican War, passed over
the old pike--President Elect General Zachary Taylor on his way to his
inauguration. General Taylor had expected to go by way of the Ohio River
to Pittsburg, but on account of drifting ice left the boat at Wheeling
and continued his journey over the pike. He arrived in Washington
on February 21, in an open barouch, and after a public dinner at the Mansion
House, continued his journey at 2 o'clock in the afternoon to Uniontown.
While nothing is said of stopping at Hillsborough it is only reasonable
that he did tarry for a short time at least at the Stone Tavern for a change
of horses, and possibly for some refreshments, as it was still a long drive
to Uniontown, which he reached at 7 o'clock that evening.
Fresh from the battlefields of an Indian war in Illinois and Wisconsin,
Black Hawk, the noted leader of the Sauk and Fox tribes in the Black Hawk
War of 1832, and five of his principal chiefs passed this way as prisoners
of war. President Jackson had ordered them taken to Washington, D.C.
The party was composed of Black Hawk (Ma-ka-tal-mesh-she-ka-kal or
Makatawimesheka'ka); Mesh-she-was-kuck, his son; We-pe-kie-shick, the
Prophet; Pa-me-ho-its, the Prophet's brother; Pe-we-shick, the Prophet's son,
and Nal-po-pe or Broth, arrived in Washington on April 16, 1833, in charge of
Lieutenant T. L. Alexander, United States Infantry, assisted by Sergeants
Greene and Meredith, Sixth Dragons, and a Mr. St. Vrain, interpreter.
The coach upset at the corner of Mains and West Maiden streets, causing
injuries to several of the passengers which necessitated a lay-over of two
days at the Globe Inn.
On April 18 the journey was resumed, with the exception of Sergeant
Greene who was left behind to recuperate from a broken arm. The stage
undoubtedly stopped at the Stone Tavern; as least to change horses,
as this was a way station for that purpose. The old newspaper accounts
do not state whether the party refreshed themselves with food and during,
but they probably did.
Henry Clay, a famous statesman thrice defeated for the Presidency,
passed over the National Pike on numerous occasions to and from his Kentucky
home and the National Capitol. He usually stopped over night in Washington and
went on east the next morning; and it is very probable that he took breakfast
more than once at the Stone Tavern. At least the stage stopped there to
A visit to Hill's Old Stone Tavern, now the Century Inn, should not
be passed by, for it will live in your memory. If you found such a place in
some other state or another section of Pennsylvania you would be entranced.
Furnished throughout with antique furniture and ancient relics collected
by the Harringtons, you have the feeling as you enter the hall that you have
stepped back across the years to those fabulous, romantic days when the old
National Pike was young. The honking of automobile horns and the noise of
passing trucks seem to change to the rattle and clatter of stage coaches and
Conestoga wagons; the hoarse voices of stage drivers and Pike Boys come
drifting down through the clouds of long dead years.
Whiskey Insurrectionists' Flag
A curious flag, 25 by 34 inches, in a frame on the wall just inside
the entrance, will attract immediate attention. Probably the most priceless
possession in the collection, it was presented to Mrs. Harrington by a
member of a pioneer family. On the blue field is a white eagle, holding in its
beak a white ribbon, edged at the bottom in light red. Across the top are
six six-pointed stars and seven more are scattered over the blue field. The
material is muslin; the stars are of some white material sewed on the field.
The design is on one side only, and the flag is bound with a tiny hand-sewed
The origin of this flag is a mystery. According to family tradition
told to Mrs. Harrington, it was raised over the cabin in which Whiskey
Insurrectionists, captured on the "Dreadful Night: on November 13, 1794,
were confined; and when the troops left the next morning they forgot the
I thought at first that it was the colors of some troop of cavalry
or infantry company. General Andrew White, of New Jersey, commanded
the troops that held these prisoners. The First City Trop of Philadelphia
was also in this locality at that time.
I sent a color photograph to Frank J. Nivert, of the National
Archives, and he made an exhaustive search through both the Archives and
Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the Department of the Army, and
the Daughters of the American Revolution. He reported that Mr. DuBois, of
the Office of Army Quartermaster, a specialist on flags, was unable to
John Lowry Ruth, of the York County Historical Society, at Lancaster,
another specialist of many years' experience, was unable to furnish a
solution. The Pennsylvania Historical Society, at Philadelphia, was not
able to identify it, but stated positively at was not the standard of
the First City Troop. All agreed that it was not a Federal flag, but was of
local origin, such as a troop flag.
New Jersey troops were in Washington County during the Whisky
Insurrection, and a query to the Department of defense of that state was
made, Captain C. A. Tocco reported that, after a careful search, it was the
consensus of opinion that this flag was not an official unit flag, and
made this comment: "It seems inconceivable that soldiers would fight to
the death to prevent the capture of their flag, would another occasion
walk, off and forget to take their flag with them." None of these
authorities raised any question of its authenticity.
This is not only a very logical conclusion, but it gives color to
the theory advanced by Mrs. Mary K. Sturges, of the reference library of
the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and concurred in by Dr.
S. K. Stevens, Pennsylvania State Historian. Mrs. Sturges was unable to
furnish any information as to its origin, but from its crude manufacture
she did not believe that it was the flag of any of the "regular militia
called from the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland or Virginia,
(during the Whisky Insurrection), and had their historic flags well established
previous to and at the time of the Revolution, and more properly made."
In commenting further she said: "The Flag in question is more likely
to have been the Flag of the insurgents who opposed the excise of the Federal
government imposed March 3, 1791. The delegates meeting at Parkinson's
Ferry (now Monongahela City), August 14, 1794, and attended by about 200
from the western counties of both Pennsylvania and Virginia, representing an
armed insurrection of about 7,000 men, undoubtedly had their own emblem, or,
Dr. Stevens is inclined to agree with this theory, and is of the
opinion that if correct it is certainly a find. I can add that it is in
connection with the Whisky Insurrection. No historian that I am aware of
has ever even intimated that the insurrectionists had their own flag; but
it could well have been.
The front room on the west side has been changed somewhat from its
original appearance, but general design and wall paper carry out the colonial
effect in a most pleasing manner. In the rear of this is the dining room
where the colonial motif dominates as in all the rooms of the building.
The barroom in the rear of the east side is one of the most attractive
tavern rooms between Baltimore and Wheeling. The plaster has been removed
from the ceiling, the original hewn oak beam were finished in a most attractive
manner, and a high wainscot was added. An attractive collection of antiques-
-old prints, several ancient caplock rifles and powder horns--adorn the
Mrs. Harrington told me that Colonel Dix died in this room; but Charles
M. Ewing later declared that the Dix room was in the front of the second
floor. After thinking this over I could not believe that colonel's
comrades would carry a dying man, suffering from the terrible agony of
cholera, up the stairway; and he would hardly be able to walk up in the
condition he was in at that time--with only six hours of life left.
I felt certain that Mrs. Gehrlein would know, and she informed me
that many years ago Sarah (Sally) Jenkins, who lived with the Youman
family and was present at the time, told her that Colonel Dix died on
the floor of the first room on the right as you enter the hotel. Youman,
no doubt, had blankets placed on the floor when he saw the colonel's
condition and knew that he did not have long to live.
The original mantels of that quaintly beautiful pattern in vogue around
the beginning of the 19th century, are found throughout the house.
There are 10 bedrooms on the second floor and a finished third
Mr. Harrington has the original dinner bell that notified guests at
Hill's Tavern in the long ago that it was time to ear; and in the hallway
is the old sundial that told the time of day to travelers, stage drivers and
Pike Boys. For a century or more it was in the garden, but was removed and
stored under the porch where it lay forgotten until found by Mrs. Harrington.
In her collection of antiques, Mrs. Harrington is the proud owner of two
pieces of the rare Albert Gallatin glassware, manufactured in the works he
established at New Geneva, Faletta County. This was the first glass factory
west of the mountains, ante-dating Craig and O'Hara Pittsburgh plant of
1797 by several months.
RIGGLE TAVERN. Picture
Mrs. Gehrlein and her stepson gave me some interesting information
on other taverns in Hillsborough during the pike era, information
that would soon be lost.
On the south side of the pike, a short distance east of the Century Inn,
is a large two-story house with a high pointed gavel in front, and joined
to east side of the main building is a one story duplicate, each with a high
pointed gable. Covered with stucco, it is rather showy; but it is a
beautiful old home built in the architecture of long ago.
Zephaniah B. Riggle kept a tavern here in early days, and Searight says
that he enjoyed a good trade. How long he remained is not known, but probably
during the prosperous era. After his time it became a private residence.
Riggle had also kept a tavern at Centerville.
The old deeds in the Recorder's Office show that Stephen Hill sold
four lots to Nathan Pusey, two on March 20, 1822, and two on December 29,
1826. It is not known whether Pusey erected a house in either 1822 or
1826, but the chances are that he did. However, nothing has been found
to indicate that he operated a public house, although it was not until March
5, 1849, that he sold the four lots to Riggle for $1,500. This purchase
price indicates that there was a house on the property, and Pusey may
have conducted a tavern in the early days and later rented it to Riggle.
After he ceased keeping a tavern Riggle went to Tyler County,
Virginia, as shown by a deed from Riggle to Abraham Mowl, dated August 12,
1858. The consideration of $800 indicates that Pusey built the house, no
doubt for a tavern. This shows how the value of public houses fell with
the decline of pike travel.
Some interesting history centers around this old house. Dr. Byron Clark,
later of Washington and the father of Dr. Homer Clark already mentioned,
purchased this property from the heirs of Abraham Mowl on January 22,
1862, for $1,100, and lived there until about 1880. This is the home of the
first mail order business in patent Medicines.
It was in this house that the same "Scenery Hill" had its origin. His
grandson, Paul Clark, of Washington, and Mrs. Gehrlein both told me the same
story. Dr. Clark's mail was very large, and much of it was missent to
Millsborough, only a short distance away. This is easily understood
for the only difference between the names of the two post offices was
the first letter, and an "H" could easily be mistaken for an "M." This
caused much delay and annoyance, and the doctor, asked the Post Office Department,
to change the name of the Hillsborough office. The postal authorities
had no objections, and he was asked to suggest another name.
Dr. Clark asked his wife for a suggestion. Sitting in her chair looking
out of the window she finally said: "Why not call it Scenery Hill? The view
from here over the hills is wonderful. You can see for so many miles in every
direction." This name was sent in and accepted, and ever since that long ago
day the village has been Scenery Hill.
The date Dr. Clark left Scenery is not definite, but by April 1,
1882, he was on East Maiden street, for on that date he sold his Scenery
Hill house. This deed shows that Dr. Clark at that time was a resident
of South Strabane Township.
The original tavern of Zeph Riggle's time is the main building.
Dr. Clark built the additions on each side, and added the ornate wood trimmings.
(To Be Continued)
For part 11 of The National Pike Story For part 13 of The National Pike Story
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