An early settlement

Sinclair Groupings - The Families of Pennsylvania - by Donald L. Sinclair

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Many Scots & Scotch/Irish chose Pennsylvania as the place to land in America. The most common ports of entry were Philadelphia and Chester Pennsylvania, along with New Castle Delaware. They arrived much later than the English and Germans, who claimed most of the eastern and middle state, so they hurried past them to the mountainous region of the western part of the state. Here they were subjected to the rugged frontier life and hostile Indians. It could not have been more perfect. Not unlike the rugged Highlands of Scotland and their feuding Clans. If there was ever a race of people who could thrive in and tame an area like this, it was the Scottish Highlanders.

Early St Clair/Sinclairs included Sir John Sinclair of the Stevenson Sinclairs of Midlothian, not far from Rosslyn. Sir John was the Quartermaster of Braddock’s Expedition of 1755 to overtake Ft Duquesne (Pittsburgh) from the French. Although the expedition ended in disaster, many men found the experience they would need in later wars that would soon infect the area. George Washington, Christopher Gist George Croghan, Thomas Gage, Horatio Gates, and others who would soon become household names on either side of America’s Revolution were brothers in arms in this particular march.

Lt. Arthur St Clair ventured into the Ligonier Valley by 1766. The late hero of the Battle of Quebec was at this time still part of the King’s Army, was assigned to command Ft Ligonier. Gen. Thomas Gage, who also had Sinclair blood on his mother’s side, signed the order.  The preservation of the Westmoreland valley settlements is as much attributed to St Clair’s influence over the Indian tribes as to any other cause. He spoke to them manly and in plain words, and they had the utmost confidence in him. In one of the conferences when we was not present they called him their friend and the Pennsylvanians their brothers. Afterwards when the agents appointed by congress came out to visit the tribes about Fort Pitt and to secure the alliance they with St Clair, and prevailed upon him to accompany them. There is no doubt St Clair watched attentively, the struggle between the colonies and the crown, and there is likewise no doubt from the first, his mind was made up. With the traditions of the Scotch uppermost it was not in his strong nature to give in to the latest of the tyrannical rulers of his native country, which the Scots allowed was at that day held by the tenure of usurpation. And although the Revolution found him busied in domestic relations, yet he was recognized from the first as a friend of the colonies, and was in correspondence with the patriots in the east. That he was instrumental in calling the meeting at Hanna's Town of May 1775, and that he secured the passage of the remarkable resolutions that day adopted there can be no reasonable doubt. Arthur was a land agent for the Penn family, and the Ohio Company. My theory is that Arthur sent for his extended family to settle this wilderness.

Samuel Sinclair (my forbearer) came into the valley by 1786 where he was a ferry operator at the confluence of the Monongahela and the Youghiogheney rivers near present day McKeesport Pennsylvania. Samuel’s son, also Samuel, married Elizabeth McKee, daughter of  Robert, founder of McKeesport. Samuel Sr was married to  Jane St Clair, the sister of James  St Clair. Samuel’s land patent was called, “The Bruce”.

James St Clair was born 1774 in York County Pennsylvania and moved into the Ligonier Valley before 1809.

Jessie St Clair was born in the area in 1796 and eventually floated a flatboat down the Ohio River to Indian Territory, now Clark County Indiana

In the summer of 1781 Washington County Pennsylvania was culled from the county of Westmoreland. Westmoreland was the first county west of the Allegheny Mountains. High hills, fertile valleys, and sparkling rivers wound there way to the Ohio valley. White settlers encroached upon the Indian lands starting in 1773 at Catfish Camp, now the present day city of Washington. Indian attacks were a constant worry in early western Pennsylvania.  Just twenty years removed from the French and Indian war, the deeps woods were concealing danger. In 1781 William Sinclair purchased 294 acres of land on the west fork of Chartiers Creek in Cecil Township of Washington County. His land was locally known as “Scotch Settlement“. His son William Sinclair Jno purchased land in the same area in 1783. Both would be involved in the massacre of natives at Gnadenhutten in 1782 in Ohio Territory.

Hugh St Clair, born in Tyrone County Ireland and a miller by trade moved near the valley by 1806 and raised a very large family.

Gordon Sinclair of Aberdeen Scotland lived and died in Cambria County Pennsylvania.

Duncan Sinclair of Revolutionary War fame, born in Scotland. He married his wife Hannah Templeton in Dauphin County Pennsylvania.

Other family members in the Revolution from Pennsylvania were; John Sinkler, Berks County, George & William Sinclair, Chester County, Robert & John Sinclair of Philadelphia City, and Neal, Phillip, & Jacob Sinclear of Cumberland County.


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