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Garrett Pendergrass

If you've read Hervey Allen's trilogy (The City in the Dawn), you probably remember meeting, in volume two, Bedford Village the trader and tavern owner, Garrett Pendergrass. It is amazing, in the absence of any actual records and pictures, that Allen could give such an accurate description of the man ~ short, stocky, etc. etc. Something that is even more amazing than that is the fact that so many people believed Allen's books were factual, rather than the fiction that they were.

The Garrett Pendergrass of Hervey Allen's imagination owned both a tavern and trading post, both housed in a gigantic structure that was two stories tall. The ground floor was built of stone and was over forty feet in length. The second floor was constructed of logs, supported on the first floor by numerous floor joists ~ all of them straight and over forty feet in length. Thomas Imler, a historian who once stated that he didn't get his information from public records, increased the size of Pendergrass's trading post / tavern. According to Thomas Imler, Pendergrass built a three floor building, consisting of a stone first floor and log second and third floors. Imler claimed that it was forty feet wide and eighty feet long, with eighty foot walnut beams supporting the top two floors. Ignoring Allen's information because it was definitely written as fiction, and ignoring Imler's information because the source of his information is not known, we can get a clearer picture of the Pendergrass structure by looking at public records.

According to a petition submitted to Governor John Penn by 'Gerard' and Anne Pendergrass on 10 October 1766, his dwelling had measured just 24 feet square: That your Petitioner, at his own proper Cost and expence, did erect and build, on the aforesd Premises, a good and substantial round Log house, of 24 ffeet square. well shingled, and had cleared and enfenced between 40 & 50 acres of Land, when in the year 1755, he was obliged to fly before the Indian ennemy, who laid waste all that Country, burnt your Petitioner’s House, and destroyed all his Improvements. In that letter (called a petition) to the Governor of Pennsylvania he noted that he had come to this region circa 1752.

Not only the size of the structure was mentioned in public records, but the use of it was also mentioned in a letter. Garrett Pendergrass was mentioned in a letter from Pennsylvania Governor James Hamilton to Maryland Governor Horatio Sharpe dated 07 January 1754. Hamilton noted that: The Pender Grass you mention, is known to Mr. Peters, who says he kept a Publick house at Raystown, is a little addicted to drink, but knows the Woods Extreamely well, and might Serve for want of a better, in the Capacity of a Guide… So from that letter we get confirmation that Pendergrass did indeed operate a tavern. Whether he also operated a trading post there is not known with any certainty, but it is very possible. It stood at the foot of the hill on which Fort Bedford would eventually be constructed, to its east. The Hoffman Hotel and the New Hoffman Hotel stood on the site of the tavern, and currently the Mountain Valley Aparetments stands on the site.

When Braddock met defeat at Fort Duquesne in 1755, many settlers fled from this region because of the increase in Amerindian attacks. Garrett Pendergrass took his family to Fort Littleton. Unfortunately, while there, one of his daughters was murdered by Amerindians. Pendergrass and his family returned to their Raystown home, to find it burned with the stone first floor only standing. As if that was not enough hardship for the Pendergrass family, the Pennsylvania provincial authorities surveyed the Proprietaries Manor of Bedford, in the process appropriating much of Pendergrass' tract. Pendergrass informed the representatives of the Iroquois Six Nations of his loss, and they, in compensation, granted to him a large tract of land on the north side of the Allegheny River opposite to Fort Pitt. But Garrett felt that he was wronged by the Pennsylvania authorities and tried to get his land back. Endeavoring to help their friend prove his ownership and retrieve his land from the Proprietaries, three Iroquois sachems vouched that he had received the land as a gift. The attempt failed and Pendergrass moved his family westward to the vicinity of the Forks of the Ohio.