“Report of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania”
Lambing, Andrew Arnold, 1899
Pg. 11 MAJOR EBENEZER DENNY, THE FIRST MAYOR of PITTSBURGH by the REV. A. A. LAMBING, LL. D.
(Read before the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, December 13, 1898.)
On the 18th of March, 1816, the borough of Pittsburgh, like the Roman youth of old, threw aside the habilaments of childhood, and assumed the toga of maturer years.EBENEZER DENNY was called by his fellow citizens to the office of mayor.MAJOR EBENEZER DENNY, for that was his military title, and by it he is still best known, was born in Carlisle, Pa., March 11, 1761, of WILLIAM and AGNES (PARKER) DENNY.WILLIAM DENNY was born in Chester County, Pa., in 1737, and came with his brother WALTER to Carlisle in 1745...(pg. 12) Accordingly, at the age of thirteen, he secured the position of carrier of dispatches from the east of the mountains to the commander at Fort Pitt.He is described at this time as “a slender, fair, blue-eyed, red-haired boy.”During this service he had often to cross the mountains, and frequently lie out in the woods at night with parties of packhorsemen, not without fear of savage beasts and still more savage men.On two of his return trips east, once from Loyalhanna (now Ligonier), and again from Turkey Foot (now Confluence on the Youghiogheny River), he was pursued by the Indians and chased into Fort Loudoun, near the present town of Loudon, in Franklin County.
Some time after he enlisted on a vessel that had secured letters of marque and reprisal, which was to ply between Philadelphia and the West Indies, that he was promoted to the command of the quarter-deck.The service on land was more congenial to him.He next enlisted in the colonial army for the most part in Virginia.In the course of this service he received the commission of Ensign in the First (pg. 13) Pennsylvania Regiment, and in time found himself with the army in front of Yorktown, just before the surrender of Cornwallis...
(pg. 14) Later ENSIGN DENNY was with Lieutenant-Colonel Harmar and the First Pennsylvania Regiment in the Carolinas and at the investment of Charleston, where he remained some time after the evacuation.But he returned to Philadelphia, where he arrived June 1,1783.He was now permitted to retire to private life for a short time; but he was soon called upon to commence his military, civil and political career west of the mountains.He was a man of scarcely twenty-three years...I was nominated by Harmar one of his ensigns; the appointment reached me at Carlisle.Marched a dozen men to Philadelphia; joined the camp on the west side of Schuylkill.September marched through Lancaster to Pittsburgh.Waited for the arrival of commissioner appointed to hold a treaty with the Indians. Indians invited to attend at Fort McIntosh, about thirty miles below Fort Pitt, on bank of (pg. 15) Ohio on the site of Beaver.Ordered to Pitt.Cornplanter, chief of the Senecas, arrived at Pitt.He had signed the treaty of McIntosh.This was the ratification of the treaty held with the Six Nations at Fort Stanwix, now Rome, New York, October 23, 1784, by which the Indians claim to all the remaining territory of Pennsylvania, that is all north and west of the Ohio and Allegheny rivers, was extinguished.It was confirmed by the representatives of the Wyandot and Delaware tribes at Fort McIntosh, January 21, 1785.Cornplanter was dissatisfied and came to revoke.Cornplanter dismissed with assurances, but no revoking.
As the term of enlistment of many of the soldiers was about to expire, ENSIGN DENNY was appointed one of the recruiting officers, an office which, he declares, he disliked.He set out for the east of the mountains and returned to Pittsburgh on the 29th of September of the same year, 1785.From there he embarked with the forces that were to operate against the western Indians, and landed at the mouth of the great Miami.He returned on a short furlough to Pittsburgh, (pg. 16) arriving August 18, 1786.He then set out for Philadelphia on personal business, and returned, reaching Fort Pitt, September 26.On the 30th he left for the mouth of the Muskingum, the site of Fort Harmar, arriving on the 3d of October.He returned to Fort Pitt about the middle of April, 1788.
He is next found going on an expedition up the Allegheny River with General Harmar to visit Fort Franklin, which stood on the spot now occupied by the town of the same name, and which had been built the previous year by Captain Jonathan Heart to hold the Indians in check.After a tedious passage, for the river was very high, they reached the fort on the 3d of May.Left Franklin May 4th.Arrived and landed at the fort (Pitt), on the Monongahela side, precisely at eight o'clock – fifteen hours' passage.On May 13thin this journal he writes, Visited my uncle JOHN McCLURE'S family nine miles above Fort Pitt, on the Monongahela..May 15th – A Mr. White, accompanied the General in the barge, on a visit up the Monongahela to Braddock's Field.We viewed the battleground..(pg. 17) The bones of the poor soldiers are still lying scattered through the woods, but the ground where the heaviest of the action was is now under cultivation.”
Five days later he set out by land for Fort Franklin, escorted by five soldiers, to pay the men of that post; and immediately returned to Fort Pitt.On October 23d, “General Arthur St. Clair, lately appointed Governor of the Western Territory, arrived at Fort Pitt.He had been expected for some time.”On the 28th he set out with General Harmar on an expedition against the Indians, and arrived at Fort Harmar, a center of military operations.He records: “February 22 – Married this evening, Captain David Ziegler, of the First Regiment, to Miss Sheffield, only single daughter of Mrs. Sheffield, of Campus Martins, City of Merietta...”..
Having succeeded in getting a furlough on the 11th of November to extend to the 1st of May, 1790, he returned to Pittsburgh, and went to Philadelphia on personal business.He returned to Carlisle on his way back, to visit his mother and other friends, arriving there January 29, 1790.Had been there but a few days, when it was discovered (pg. 18) that he came down with the measles, a disease very prevalent here at this time.Arrived at Pittsburgh on the 22d of March.
Furlough draws to a close.The only conveyance for him down the river is a Kentucky boat loaded with flour for headquarters.The boat and hands are put under his charge, and with three soldiers, making seven of them.Reached Fort Washington, the site of the present city of Cincinnati, on the 2d of May.
He took part in the campaign of General St. Clair against the Miami Indians, in which the army met with the most disastrous defeat in frontier history, on November 4, 1791. Continued to Fort Washington, Wheeling.Took a road through Washington, and reached Pittsburgh.Left Pittsburgh and went to Philadelphia.December 20th, General Knox, the Secretary of War, called him at his quarters and took him to the President, where he breakfasted with the family...
March 1, 1794 commissioned captain of the company and appointed to the command of the Presque Isle detachment...(pg. 23) On July 1, 1793, he married NANCY WILKINS, like himself a native of Carlisle, the youngest daughter of the first wife of JOHN WILKINS, SR., formerly of the same place, who had served as a (pg. 24) captain during the war of the Revolution, but who later moved to Pittsburgh.MRS. DENNY was a sister, by the same mother, of HON. WILLIAM WILKINS, JR., who attained high honors in the service of his country.He lived for a number of years at Homewood, and the flourishing suburb of Wilkinsburg is named after him.In the year 1795 and 1796 MAJOR DENNY resided with his family on his farm at Six Mile Ferry, on the west bank of the Monongahela River, near the mouth of Streets' Run.The next year he sold his farm, took up residence in Pittsburgh, and was elected county commissioner.In 1803 he was elected treasurer of Allegheny County.He was re-elected in 1808.In 1804, when the branch of the Bank of Pennsylvania was established at Pittsburgh, he was appointed director.It was afterward transferred to and merged in the Bank of the United States, and again MAJOR DENNY was a director.(pg. 25) In the meantime MRS. DENNY'S health began to fail, and in 1805 he made preparations to move down the Mississippi River, in the hope that a more southern climate might prove beneficial to her.He had engaged a house at Natchez, and built a barge for the purpose of conveying his family there, when she died on the 1st of May, 1806, in the 31st year of her age.For several years after this he secured from the War Department the contract for supplying of rations to the troops in the northwest.After the beginning of the century he entered into a partnership with Anthony Beelen, a Belgian, the son of the Austrian Minister, Francis de Beelen Bartholf, for the manufacture of glass.This was one of the first factories established at the head of the Ohio, and stood in the lower part of Allegheny City.During his life in Pittsburgh, he was one of the most active members of the First Presbyterian Church; and was the first president of the “Moral Society,” which was formed in 1809.He was also influential in securing the establishment of the Western Theological Seminary, in Allegheny...(pg. 26) It was not till the spring of 1794 Pittsburgh was incorporated as a borough..(pg. 27) EBENEZER DENNY was was elected office of mayor.He declined re-election, and retired from public life, except that he continued to hold the office of director of the branch Bank of the United States, and afterward that of a director of the Bank of Pittsburgh, in which latter he was a heavy stockholder.He especially took an interest in improving his estate at the mouth of Deer Creek, on the west bank of the Allegheny River, twelve miles above Pittsburgh, where the village of Harmarville, named after his friend, General Harmar, now stands.
On the death of his wife he was left with a family of three sons – HARMAR, WILLIAM and ST. CLAIR – and two daughters, the younger an infant, which followed its mother to the grave a few days after her death.In the summer of 1822, while on a visit to the falls of Niagara, in company with his only daughter, he was taken ill, and with difficulty reached his home, where he died on the 21st of July, in the 61st year of his age, beloved and lamented by all who knew him.
On his children, his eldest son, HARMAR, married November 25, 1817, ELIZABETH, daughter of JAMES O'HARA, one of whose children is REV. HARMAR DENNY, a Jesuit priest, at present located at Prividence, R. I.