The Land Forgets

IOOF cemetery, lennox Perrins grave

IOOF Cemetery, Flintstone, Maryland. Lenox Perrins grave

Friday, June 1, 2007

We had figured that early June would be a good time to travel, that summer would wait a week or more before starting in earnest. Wasn't so. The nights were humid, and we worked up quite a sweat just walking a few blocks around "historic Bedford", Pennsylvania; well, a few blocks was pretty much the whole town, but we saw several dozen houses dating from the prime days, when timber was king and James Buchanan called this town his summer White House.

That morning we got up to swim through the condensation, eat breakfast, and split ways -- Barbara to inspect the boutiques in this barely alive tourist town ("see Historic Fort Bedford") and for me to inspect the historical society. As it was Bedford which had the best stories on the Perrins. Well, really just one story, and it was told over and over again in their book of Genesis

The next [second] recorded settlement by white man in present Bedford County was in 1728, in what we know today as Southampton and Mann Townships. It was made by thirteen men from Virginia, whose leader was Joseph Powell. . . . The men of his group were . . . Joseph Johnson . . . . The first of this group to die was Joseph Johnson, whose tombstone in Shawnee Graveyard, now demolished for highway construction, was engraved "1731." . . .

Joseph Powell married Rachel, daughter of John Perrin. During Joseph's lifetime, he found time from operating the trading post to become a representative from Bedford County to the convention that adopted the Constitution, February 5th, 1790. . . . [i.e. living to be at least 100 years old, and marrying Rachel when he was at least 70 --ed.]

Robert Ray, the founder of Ray's Trading Post, and for whom Ray's cove, Ray's Hill, and the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River were named, was a cousin of Powell. He may have started his post about the time Powell did, as they came from Virginia over the same trail the early expedition traveled. While attending his trading post in the month of September, 1756, Ray became ill. Four men, Joseph Powell, John Perrin, Michael Huff, and one known as Vogan carried him to the Powell Post, where in the course of time he became better. As his sister, the wife of John Perrin, lived only six miles away, he decided to visit her before returning to his home. A few days after he arrived at the Perrin farm, he died and was buried there. . . .

John Perrins wife, the sister of Robert Ray, was captured by the Indians led by the Shawnee chief Will, at the same time that Mrs. Vogan, Mrs. Clark, Mrs. Davis, and Mrs. Tombleson were taken prisoners [said to be 1756 -- ed.]. After traveling some three miles, Mrs. Perrin was unable to keep up with the fleeing Indians. On the point of Tussey mountain near two white rocks called Perrins Rocks, she was killed and scalped, along with her infant. When the alarm was given, Perrin, Davis, Vogan, Clark, Michael Huff and George and Joseph Powell pursed the Indians and their captives. By the time they got near, the Indians were joined by about a hundred more of their warriors, on top of Will's mountain. In the morning the Indians split up, those with the prisoners going west, while the others went north, except Chief Will. He remained at the camp site till evening. Then he also left, being carefully followed to the pinnacle of Will's Knob. The next morning when the sun began to show over the eastern horizon, the old chief arose to a sitting position. George Powell, ever on the alert, was at a distance of seventy five steps. When his flintlock rang out over the still mountain range, the old chief's spirit took its flight to the "Happy Hunting Grounds." His topknot was removed and his body buried. It was removed by unknown persons about 1825. Six years after being captured the women who had survived were found at Montreal, Canada, and returned home.

Rachel McCoy was John Perrins second wife. He was the father of twenty two children, and in his day was loved and respected by all who knew him. He passed away at the age of eighty years and was buried on his farm.

The story was biblical -- internally inconsistent and overall incredible. The John Perrin of this story was said to be the son of another John Perrin, of the Hagerstown area, whose history was at least documented by extensive land purchases in Allegany County, Maryland around Flintstone. But there were few records involving Pennsylvania, only some tax assessments from 1768 of a John Perrin, owner of two cows and one horse. The Bedford County records cited the attempt of one John Haines to purchase a 200 acre plot of land "claimed by one Perrin" in 1766. Perhaps John "Jr." purchased this land from Maryland, only to have Mason and Dixon put it in Pennsylvania when they drew their line in 1765. But there was insufficient time to see the original record from the courthouse; we were due in Silver Spring that afternoon (and Barbara had already purchased enough kitsch).

We pack up and drive to the east side of town, then south on rte. 326, through pleasant farms for about ten miles, then up and over a ridge into Sweet Root Gap, which others have identified as the site of the Powell Post above.

southampton township, bedford county

Portion of Southampton Township, USGS map from modern times

Then we leave the state route (which goes through the gap and then south along Town Creek and stay west of the ridge, along what is now known as Black Valley Creek, but what shows up on an old map as Perrins Run. At the next gap (Black Valley Gap), the putative location of John Jr's land, the state route rejoins us and we head the next six miles to Flintstone, Maryland. No Hanna and Barberra here; with the exception of the new interstate (I-68) just north of town, the map from 100 years ago will work just fine.

flintston, maryland, 1912

Flintstone, Maryland from a 1912 USGS map

In fact there are fewer buildings now than then. A single two pump gas station, a general store, and the Stone Age Cafe, where we stop to eat (it is noon). Maybe five others there for lunch; we take a table and have coffee, a piece of coconut creme pie for me, and apple pie plus ice cream for Barbara. After we pay the bill we ask about the Perrins. The woman (our age) says she doesn't know anything about the family, but recommends we go to the post office and ask there. While the woman in question is not in that day, we do stop there the next week on our way back from Maryland and learn that there is still one family by that name, living on Perrin Lane.

perrin lane, flintstone

Perrin Lane

We take this picture of Perrin Lane, along with the one above of Lennox Perrin, died 1892 and buried around the corner in the IOOF cemetery, and consider the fact while in 1840 the Thomas Perrin family lived near here, and could conceivably have seen William Henry Harrison on his way by stage to his inauguration (and the respiratory infection that would kill him) traveling this once main street of America. Now everyone else in that family is gone, having moved west