The following article was written by Richard Goms and is reproduced here with the permission of the author:
John Morris, the first resident of Portville, NY, was born in 1774 in Newport, RI. His father, Samuel Joseph Morris, had married in Wales and had come to America as a young man. John used to tell of hiding in a pile of brushwood while Indians on the warpath killed his parents and their other children. He was the only one of the family to escape from the Indians, being saved by white settlers who concealed him in the woods. The terrified child could never forget seeing an Indian warrior gleefully waving a scalp of beautiful red hair that he recognized as his mother's tresses. John was old enough to know his name, and survivors knew the family had come from Newport. In the neighborly fashion of pioneer days, these people took the child in, on a farm near the New York-Pennsylvania line. They fed him and even sent him to the primitive winter school terms, while he worked on the farm nine months of the year.
In August 1794, he served with Gov. Isaac Shelby's Kentucky militia supporting Gen. Anthony Wayne's Army, defeating the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, opening the territory north of the Ohio for settlement. Wayne's army was so well trained that they could load their muzzleloaders and fire while running in pursuit of the enemy.
As a young man, John had also been with Aaron Burr on Blennerhasset's Island. Harman Blennerhasset, Aaron Burr, and others were suspected of planning to set up an independent government in the southwest, where Burr had acquired title to more than a million acres of land in Orleans Territory. By the summer of 1806, boats, supplies, and men were being procured, mainly at Blennerhasset's Island on the Ohio River. Burr and some 60 followers set out for Natchez, Mississippi, before they were stopped. In 1807, Burr and Blennerhasset were arrested and tried for treason, but both were acquitted.
John Morris arrived in Olean, New York, in 1811, and for some two years was employed by Major Adam Hoops. Major Hoops had purchased huge tracts of land in Olean on the Allegany River, hoping to build a gateway to the west. During this time John married Matilda Decker, daughter of Brewer and Mary Decker, an emigrating German family whose destination was the valley of the Hockhocking River in Ohio. John served in the War of 1812 from Cattaraugus County.
In 1813, John and Matilda became the first settlers in the village of Portville. Tradition says the family had not yet built a house but lived in a boat tied up at the riverbank at the mouth of the Oswayo Creek. Rev. Samuel Dexter Morris, the prominent Baptist preacher of western New York and Pennsylvania, was born there on 28 Jul 1815. The elder Morris, after a residence of but a short period, sold his improvements to the Dodges, and joined his wife's family in Athens County, Ohio. Here, a daughter, Matilda, was born. Returning to the Allegheny River Valley again, he opened a tavern, and for many years after, as his son states it, "kept tavern all along the river from Olean to Pittsburgh," catering to families bound for Ohio.
The early settlers were mainly engaged in the manufacturing of shingles and lumber. The fall and winter season was devoted to the preparation of a stock on hand so that, with the coming of the spring floods, they were ready to make the trip down the Allegheny and Ohio rivers on these rafts of lumber to the markets of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Louisville, where they were dismantled for sale.
In 1820, John purchased 200 acres from John Keating et al. in Ceres, Pennsylvania, - now Eldred - on the Allegheny River, building a log cabin whose stone-lined cellar and fireplace can still be seen. A son, John F. Morris, was born about this time. By 1830, John had built a house in the Greek Revival style that still stands today. More recently, foundation stones were removed from the cabin to construct an addition to the house.
All traces of this dilapidated log cabin are about to be buried by the railroad, whose right-of-way is where it stands. My 3ggrandfather built this cabin in 1820 and raised three children there until building the house across the way in 1830. I am looking for information on how and where to obtain funding, sponsorship, and archaeological assistance in order to properly dig up the site, remove the remains, and relocate and reconstruct the cabin to its original condition.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has public funding available for such a project, but it is a long approval process and can only be initiated by a society, museum, college/university or foundation. Private funding is also possible. I have contacted a local historical museum, university, and several local historical societies, and offered them first choice on artifacts and the reconstructed log cabin, but prior commitments, limited resources, and all-volunteer staffs prevent their participation. I have also contacted known family in the area, but have had no response. I have been given a short amount of time to produce a proposal and present it to the railroad in order to halt their construction until the relocation can be accomplished. Any specific direction or help would be greatly appreciated.
If you can help with this worthwhile project or would like more information, please contact Richard Goms at firstname.lastname@example.org.