I couldn’t resist sharing with you some of the facts about one of the interesting relatives in the family tree of Mary Baxter Huffstutter, the wife of Ulrich Huffstutter. Mary’s aunt was Rachel Brown the wife of Michael McGuire Jr. an early Indian trader, hunter and trapper on the frontier. The McGuires lived near the Huffstutters both in Frederick Co MD and Huntingdon Co PA. It was to Michael McGuire Jr that Ulrich Huffstutter sold his farm “Dyer’s Mill Forest in Frederick County, Maryland in 1782. When the Huffstutters settled in Huntingdon Co it was near the McGuires. Doubtless the early explorations of the frontier by Michael McGuire furnished first hand accounts that influenced the Huffstutters in their move westward into Pennsylvania.
from The Benedictine Fathers in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, by the Rev. Modestus Wirtner, O.S.B. (1925), pages 11 and 12:
“The First Settlement on the Allegheny Mountains
“The history of Catholicity on the Allegheny Mountains begins with the first permanent settlement in Cambria County. Up to the year 1768 Frankstown, at the foot of the mountains was the last frontier settlement. Captain Michael McGuire, a hero of the Revolutionary War for Independence, was a noted trapper and hunter. Before the revolutionary struggle broke out, he was accustomed to start at intervals from his home in Taneytown, Md., and to make expeditions far into the interior of Pennsylvania.
“By a law of Pennsylvania, such as built a log house and cleared a few acres of land acquired a presumptive right to purchase at $5.00 per 100 acres. On one of his trips, about the year 1768, traveling up the Kittaning or Indian Trail, he crossed the Alleghenies and established his hunting camp near the present Chest Springs, on land later owned by Mr. Robert Sisk, then for over 20 years by Lawrence Sutton. This location is to be seen on an old draft of the country made as far back as 1793, which shows the exact location of “Captain McGuire’s Camp.” It is practically beyond all dispute that the Captain was, as Robert L. Johnston, the historian of early Cambria wrote, ‘The first white man who settled within the present bounds of Cambria County.’ Records, deeds, papers, etc., in the possession of his many descendants are more than sufficient to verify this statement.
“When the Land Office was opened Captain McGuire was among those who ‘took up’ land on which he subsequently planted the ‘McGuire Settlement.’ His first and for several years his only neighbors, were the settlers at Blair’s Mill, more than 12 miles away, with a dense, unbroken forest between.
“According to the Rev. Edwin Pierron, O.S.B., of Patton, John McGuire (who built the McGuire grist mill, about the year 1845, on the site which is now within the borough of Patton) in relating his reminiscences stated that his grandfather, Captain Michael McGuire, built a second log cabin near Ashville, which later became the homestead of Augustine Hott, Father Gallitzin’s hostler. No doubt the majestic oak trees at Loretto indicated better land, so he built, with the assistance of his nephew, Michael McGuire, a third cabin in 1784, at Loretto.
“The exact spot, chosen by him for a settlement was the valley just below the present town of Loretto to the east. In a short time a few log cabins were built, and these served for shelter and protection until more permanent structures could be erected. This land is now part of the tract owned by the Franciscan Brothers.
“Captain McGuire brought his family to McGuire’s settlement in the year 1788. In 1790 Luke McGuire, eldest son of the captain, took up his residence on the farm now owned and cultivated by his grandson, George Luke McGuire. He completed his house in 1794 and at present it still stands well preserved. Captain Richard McGuire the younger son of Captain Michael McGuire, was married in 1800, located and built in the vicinity of his brother.
“Taking advantage of the law, Captain Michael McGuire lost no time in providing for the church, for which his wonderful faith alone could have given him hopes, and took up 400 acres of land which he made over to Bishop John Carroll, who had been just consecrated, and returned to the United States. On this land Prince Gallitzin built the first church, used for divine services, between Lancaster, Pa., and St. Louis, Mo.
“The settlement founded by Captain McGuire attracted other pioneers to the Alleghenies, and he was soon followed by Cornelius McGuire, Richard Nagle, William Dodson, Richard Ashcraft, Michael Rager, James Alcorn and John Sturm. These were followed by others. John Trux, John Douglas, John Byrne, William Meloy and many others whose names together with the names of their descendants, are preserved in a Register of St. Michael’s Parish, Loretto. …
“In the summer of 1796 Father Gallitzin came here on a sick call. Mrs. John Burgoon, a protestant woman, was taken very ill (5), and begged so hard to see a Catholic priest, that Mrs. Luke O’Hara McGuire, a good Catholic neighbor and another lady set out on horseback through the wilderness of Conewago, 130 miles distant, to find a priest who would be able and willing to visit her. The message came to Father Smith, now revered as Father Gallitzin, who returned with them, and received the sick woman into the church. He said Mass in Luke McGuire’s log house, administered baptism to a number of children, and even to one or two adults, exhorted them to faith, prayer, courage and perseverance. After that he made several visits.
“In the beginning of 1799 there were ten or twelve families at the McGuire settlement, sometimes also called Clearfield, and also Allegheny. These people with those of Frankstown and Sinking Valley petitioned Rt. Rev. Bishop Carroll, D.D., to give them a resident priest. Father Gallitzin made this request his own and the Bishop cordially acceded to it. On March 1, 1799, Bishop Carroll appointed him pastor of Clearfield, Frankstown and Sinking Valley.”
Additional notes on Michael McGuire
In 1775, Michael McGuire, joined the Continental Army. He served as a captain directly under General George Washington. In 1787, he was awarded a land grant as payment for his service during the Revolutionary War. This meant he could claim all the land around which he could walk his horse from sunup to sundown. He had previously traveled through Central Pennsylvania and decided to stake his claim there.
At the time, he was co-owner of a tavern in Taneytown, Maryland. His partner, also a veteran, traded his land grant for Michael’s share of the tavern. Now Michael had two days in which to block out his territory. Naturally, he chose the time of the summer solstice! Upon taking possession, he became the first white man to inhabit that part of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
This land is largely in what is now Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Captain Michael McGuire died in 1793, bequeathing one-third of his property to Bishop Carroll of Baltimore, to be held in trust for resident clergy. Part of it became the Borough of Loretto. In 1796, Rev. Demetrius Augustine Smith (the alias used by the Russian prince/priest, Demetrius A. Gallitzin) arrived at McGuire’s Settlement, as it was then known. He saw the potential of the area as a sanctuary for Catholics and invested $150,000 of his personal fortune in land adjoining that which Michael McGuire had given to Bishop Carroll.
It is mainly because of McGuire’s largesse that Catholicism flourished in this region of the state, but Gallitzin’s legend of trading princely robes for priestly ones gets more attention. The town of Loretto has been under church control for centuries. It once included St. Francis Seminary, which was sold to the federal government when vocations to the priesthood faltered. It still boasts Prince Gallitzin’s Chapel House (historic site), the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, St. Francis University, and the Carmelite Monastery (strangely named, since it houses nuns). Retired Franciscans live at the former estate of Charles M. Schwab, steel magnate.
Prince Gallitzin is much revered locally. Presently, he is under consideration by the Vatican for canonization. The small town of Gallitzin was, of course, named in his honor.