Massy Harbison-Fort Hand Chapter, NSDAR,
Chapter History

Chapter History

Massy Harbison Chapter, NSDAR, was founded in 1941 by forty-two women who named it after a local pioneer woman; the founding regent was Margaret Rugh Henderson.

Fort Hand Chapter, NSDAR, was founded in 1929 by forty-six women. The chapters name comes from General Edward Hand; the founding regent was Mrs. Henderson.

The chapters merged in July of 2002.

Massy Harbison

On May 22, 1792, a group of Seneca and Munsee Indians entered a cabin, located near Bull Creek at the northern end of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. It was owned by John Harbison, a spy for the American army, and his wife Massy (also spelled Massey or Massie). Whether or not the door had been left unlatched by scouts who had spent the night and had left earlier that morning was never established. Massy, who was pregnant, had fallen asleep with her year old baby in her arms. Her two young sons slept nearby. The Indians pulled her out of bed by her feet. They ripped open the feather beds and stole or destroyed everything in the cabin. Massy was able to get outside the door and let out a terrific scream which alerted a neighbor, on his way to the well, who was able to dash into the nearby blockhouse and alert others of the trouble. The Indians shot him in the arm, causing it to break, but he was otherwise unharmed. One of her sons decided he didn't want to leave the cabin with the Indians and put up a fight. They killed him by slamming his head against the door frame and then scalped him. A shooting battle ensued between the men in the blockhouse and the Indians. Massy, hoping to escape to a nearby cave during the melee, told the Indians, some of whom spoke good English, that there were many well-armed men in the fort. The Indians decided to retreat, taking her, the baby, and her five year old son with them. In fact, the men in the blockhouse were almost completely out of ammunition.

The group traveled on stolen horses toward present-day Butler, Butler County, Pennsylvania. They abandoned the horses when they balked at crossing the river. The party continued on foot. The five year old began to noisily lament the loss of his little brother. The Indians took him to the back of the line and killed and scalped him. The march continued for two days with very little food. After the second night Massy was able to escape with her baby. For the next four days she carried the child in her arms and used the stars and the sun to guide her toward her home. At one point the child cried out. Massy hurriedly ducked into the underbrush off the trail and put the child to her breast to nurse. She observed an Indian who came to the spot where she had been when the baby cried out. He stood rooted in the spot for two hours, let out a whoop, and left. Massy continued to try to find her way home. She was barefoot, sunburned, and starving. After some wrong turns she heard a cowbell and realized that there must be settlers nearby. At the shore of the Allegheny River, near Squaw Run, Allegheny County, she saw three colonists on the far shore. When she called out to them they wanted her to walk along the shore in case the Indians were using her as a decoy. She replied that she couldnt because her feet hurt. One of the men, a neighbor, came across for her in a canoe. He did not recognize her because she had changed so much in the previous six days. Over 150 thorns were removed from her feet. The settlers tried to help her by placing her indoors near a fireplace. She was not doing well. American army Major MCulley came to see her and realized that she needed to be moved outdoors and fed the whey of buttermilk. She recovered enough to be floated to Pittsburgh in a canoe for a deposition. All the papers of the day carried the story.

- Exerpt from "Digging Up The Past" by Massy Harbson-fort Hand Chapter, NSDAR, condensed from "Flood tides along the Allegheny" by Francis R.Harbison

Massy Harbison is buried in Freeport Cemetery, in Freeport, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. The chapter has placed a DAR sign on the property, which is owned by the city of New Kensington. It is located at Oates Boulevard and Route 56 near Valley High School, and is called Massa Harbison Park.

Fort Hand

Fort Hand was built during the darkest days of Westmoreland County history. The Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment had been formed and was ordered East to serve with George Washington in the Revolution. This left the frontier settlements open to attack by Indians eager to earn the scalping bribes offered by the English Colonel Henry Hamilton, the hair-buyer.

In the present Washington Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, a small group of settlers had farms. John McKibbens large log house became a shelter from Indian attack for those settlers. During the summer of 1777 many families thought it necessary to stay at the McKibben house. The men went out only to harvest crops or meet an Indian threat.

The nearest fort, Carnahan's Blockhouse, was three or four miles to the east but communications were often cut off between McKibben's and Carnahan's Blockhouse. A small military force of sixty men ranged the area of northern Westmoreland and assisted the settlers around both settlements; however, this was not enough to provide for the safety of the frontier. In August of 1777, when men from Carnahan's Blockhouse were reaping oats, they discovered an Indian raiding party and warned both settlements. Carnahan's was subsequently attacked. To protect the area, General Edward Hand, in a letter, ordered the building of a fort at Continental expense. This fort was built near the McKibben house in the fall of 1777. It was named after General Hand.

The most serious attack on Fort Hand itself came on April 26, 1779. Two men plowing near the fort were fired upon by Indians. They escaped into the fort but the Indians killed the horses and oxen used for plowing as well as all their cows and sheep. The fort, commanded by Captain. Moorhead, had only seventeen soldiers inside. The Indian force was thought to number not less than a hundred, including some white renegades. The few women inside the fort made bullets for the men by melting down their pewter spoons and dishes when they ran out of lead. One person was killed in the attack.

- Exerpt from "Digging Up The Past" by Massy Harbson-fort Hand Chapter, NSDAR, information provided courtesy of the Leechburg Museum, Leechburg, Pennsylvania

A four ton boulder, bearing a bronze tablet identifying the location of Fort Hand was erected by the Fort Hand Chapter, NSDAR, on a corner of the old foundation of the fort. Land for this monument was deeded to the Fort Hand Chapter on January 12, 1931, by the late John B. Kerns, owner of the farm.

Fort Crawford

Fort Crawford was located on the Allegheny River at what is now the Parnassus section of New Kensington, Pennsylvania. It was used primarily as a supply fort.

A four ton marker with a bronze plaque was put on the site by the Massy Harbison Chapter, NSDAR, and dedicated on May 13, 1942, during the 150th anniversary of the Logan's Ferry Presbyterian Church on whose property it stands. It was re-dedicated on July 30, 1991, during New Kensington's centennial celebration.

The chapter was granted an easement in 1999 so that the monument would never be moved or destroyed should the property on which it stands be sold.