On Sunday, the Allegheny Township Historical Society dedicated a historical marker and sign honoring pioneer woman Massy Harbison.

Massy (also spelled Massey in some records) Harbison was captured by Native Americans in her cabin along the Allegheny River, located in what is now the River Forest Country Club in Allegheny Township. According to Phyllis Framel, founder of the Allegheny Township Historical Society, the specific location is along the Tredway Trail at the women’s tee of the golf course’s fourth hole.

Among the most admired female pioneers of the state, and perhaps of the era, Harbison outwitted her Native American captors after capturing her and killing two of her children on May 22, 1792.

The new historical marker was dedicated to the 230th anniversary of the capture of Harbison.

“It was a project that had been in the works for a long time,” said historical society vice president Kathy Starr. “It means that in the Township of Allegheny, we value history. We used the best possible construction so that it would last a hundred years.

David Harbison, a direct descendant of Massy Harbison, was on hand for the unveiling of the marker. He said he was happy that the community preserved its history in this way.

“It’s a great recognition. There were a lot of women who were captured and she is no different from a lot of settlers in this area,” Harbison said. “The only thing that makes her unique is that her story has been recorded. I think she’s representative of a lot of families. The descendants are here and still going strong after 230 years.

“It was a clash of cultures. They refer to these (Native Americans) as savages, but they were people who were protecting their own land.

With unfathomable courage, Harbison – then 22 and pregnant with her fourth child – staged her escape after being threatened by a tomahawk. She watched Native Americans kill one of her sons, then saw the fresh scalp of another son they killed.

She made her way through the desert, shoeless, from Butler to Fox Chapel, carrying her remaining son as she was followed by her captors.

The brutality is shocking, but such savagery was rampant in Pennsylvania and the Allegheny River Valley at this time. White men and Native Americans were guilty of atrocities. The Pennsylvania government offered bounties for Native American scalps, according to historical accounts.

History in the making

Harbison’s capture was among many Native American attacks on settlers along the Allegheny during what have been called the Indian Wars and Uprisings. Harbison, her husband, and their three children lived on the frontier in what is now Allegheny Township, with the land just across the Allegheny River considered Indian land.

Massy Harbison’s 70-mile, six-day odyssey began at River Forest, then traveled to an Indian camp at Butler and ended with his rescue along the Allegheny River in the area of ​​present-day Fox Chapel Yacht Club, according to two former Alle-Kiski teachers. who studied Harbison’s life. Their booklet, titled “Escape”, charts the trailblazer’s route, synchronizing historical and current maps with Harbison’s own published narrative.

“Lazily I think it’s eerily quiet, there are no bird calls as I pull my blanket back and fall asleep,” Harbison wrote. “Only to be roughly dragged from my bed by the feet, by Indian warriors!” Attention, I am instantly alert…”

The booklet was put together by the late Drenda Gostkowski of Winfield and Susan Przybylek of Buffalo Township. They only released 200 copies of “Escape,” which was used as a fundraiser years ago; he is no longer available. In addition to “Escape”, Gostkowski edited a version of Harbison’s account of his capture, which is available at the Heinz History Center and other locations.

Harbison’s ordeal was also the subject of a local theatrical production. Written by Allegheny Township Supervisor and Freeport Theater Festival Co-Director Ren Steele, the historical drama “Massey Harbison” was first produced in 1998 for the Freeport Theater Festival. It became one of the theater’s most popular productions.

The location of Harbison’s cabin has been determined by numerous sources, but without formal archaeological investigation of the site or possibly the nearby fort, according to state archives and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Framel said the late Wynn Tredway – who developed and owned the River Forest Golf Club – had an idea of ​​the cabin’s exact location.

“Massey Harbison provides one of the earliest eyewitness accounts of what life was like on the periphery of Western civilization in our region at that time,” Framel said.

When Tredway first purchased the site in 1965, there was perhaps a timber or two left from the cabin’s foundation. The only clue that remains is a plaque installed on the golf course by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

“Mr. Tredway did his best to preserve whatever artifacts he could during the construction of the golf course,” Framel said.