Major Samuel McColloch is a famous name in Northern Panhandle history. However, when called upon to recollect incidents of his life, one is hard pressed to remember anything other than his "leap."
What do we actually know about this man, who seems so important but whose life is quite obscure? The following is a compolation of information from many sources, and will be given in chronological order.
Samuel was born in 1750 or 1752 in Gloucester Township, New Jersey, the son of John and Sarah Inskeep McColloch. Soon thereafter, he and his parents moved to Hardy County on the Potomac River, and then to Ohio County in 1770. John McColloch was highly influential in Ohio County history. He, by 1776, was a colonel in the Continental Army, for which he was commissioned to raise six battalions on November 9. Also, he arranged the meeting of local landowners at Hezekiah Dewitt's house on December 8, to vote for a place to hold court. Likewise, he administered the oaths of office for their various positions to David Rodgers, David Shepherd and James McMechen. Our references are vague on these points, but they do point out the authority of the man. He died in 1778 while serving as sheriff of Ohio County.
As will be seen with Samuel, there is a distinct lack of publicity about John. Many items are given which leave much to the interpretation of the researcher. One possibility for this is the very fame which we try to discover. It may be that John and then Samuel were so well known, and that their actions were also, that little of these was recorded at the time, since knowledge about them was already public.
The time before 1777 is totally void of information about Samuel. This is surprising in the light of the outbreak of Dunmore's War on April 26, 1774. This was the result of the desire of Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, for money and land. Major John Connelly, Dunmore's aide, was responsible for the hostilities which began at the mouth of the Great Kanawha River. It set the settlers against the Indians with such ferocity that the public demanded and received permission to build and garrison several small forts, such as Van Metre's Fort, for protection.
The war was declared at Wheeling, by George Roger Clark, Ebenezer Zane, and others. At the same time, the need for a fort here was recognized, and, on June 28, Fort Fincastle-Henry was completed. This fort was the staging area for all expeditions during the conflict.
1777 was an eventful year for the Panhandle, and for Major McColloch. With the hostilities with the Indians and the first indications of his business expertise, this year marks the beginnings of his famous, if short, career. McColloch became a major in the Ohio County militia on January 6, and began his command of Van Metre's Fort in West Liberty. A somewhat later document attests to his presence there.
"Sir, please to let the bearer ensign Wm. Leet have twelve pounds of lead for the use of the militia stationed at this place and obliged, sir, your humble servant Samuel McColloch given under my hand at Van Metre's Fort this 4th day of August, 1778 to Zephariah Blackford at Fort Henry."
Exactly how McColloch earned his rank is unknown. We have no records of his qualifications. Possibly, the money he had already made, and the influence of his father were helpful. Although appointed at this time, the oaths of office or rank were not given to Samuel, David Shepherd, Joseph Ogle, John Biggs and others until June 2.
On January 28, Samuel attended a council of war at Catfish Camp (now Washington, Pa.) with Col David Shepherd and others, to discuss retaliation against the Indians, and to list the numbers of forts, men and supplies which would be vital to the war effort.
In March, we find evidence that McColloch was involved in land near Pittsburgh.
Deed Book 1-C, Washington County, March 1777.
"Between Dorsey Penticost, John Canon, Andrew Robinson, Samuel McColloch and Ebenezer Zane all of Ohio County as co-partners of the Ohio Trading Company members and purchases from Capt. Paul Froman, a tract, plantation, and improvement on Saw Mill Run one mile above Pittsburgh. Whereas Col John Neville was a co-partner with Froman and with him in the army of the United States, and Isaac Cox, Esq. relinquishes their right to Dorsey Penticost on April 15, 1778 and Penticost did get title to the 635 acres for 635 pounds. Now he sells to John Canon, Samuel McColloch and others for 317 pounds 10 shillings."
As a prelude to this topic, we must note the confused situation in Western Pennsylvania at this time. Because of a boundary dispute, most of Western Pennsylvania was claimed by both Pennsylvania and Virginia. Thus, there were two sets of laws governing this area, and one could, it seems, choose to follow the law giving the most advantage at a given time.
The problem concerns land warrants, that is, land given to individuals by the government for military service.
One could dispose of this land in any way he chose. In Pennsylvania, several tracts of warrant land could be combined, bought, or sold legally. But, in Virginia, the practice of land-jobbing, as it was called, of forming a company to combine and sell warrants, was illegal. So, it is with great interest that we read of Samuel McColloch and the others buying 635 acres from Dorsey Penticost at one-half pound per acre, half the price Penticost paid for it, and later selling the land at a sizeable profit. We do not know the circumstances, but Penticost lost 317 pounds on the deal. 1777 was a terrible year because of conflict with the Indians. Possibly Penticost could not sell his property, or live on it, and decided to sell it for whatever he could receive. He may have been a partner for this very reason. The legality of the sale is dependent upon which of the states' laws one follows. According to Pennsylvania, the transaction was proper; in Virginia, it was not.
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and funded in part by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.