Who Was Hugh Fergus? (4/20)

BY ELSIE MOREY, CTHS CHAIR / APRIL 2020

In what would become Pennsylvania, the Penn family owned what was called the Manor of the Maske. As was typical of the time, early setters needed to homestead for permanency.

The procedure was to apply for a warrant so the land could be surveyed. Duncan Evans is an example of this procedur. He was probably the first settler as he is listed as a settler on the subject property in 1736. Evans had to submit a warrant to declare his intentions to have the land surveyed and a survey was completed in 1765, which set the legal boundaries of his property.

Sometime after the survey, Fergus purchased the property from Evans. However, the deed of transfer was not recorded. What we do know is Fergus is listed on the first Septennial Census from Cumberland Township in 1771, and he appears in the Cumberland Township tax records in 1772. In 1783, the tax list shows Hugh Fergus owned 100 acres of land which has one house and two outbuildings. Six people resided in the house.

By 1793, on the Cumberland Township tax list if shows Fergus owned one Negro for that year. Fergus’s occupation is listed as a weaver, as he had to pay an occupation tax. By the tax records of 1798, Hugh Fergus is listed as owning a one-story dwelling house built of old logs and three windows with eight panes of glass. The property also had an old barn and a weaver shop.

Fergus received a Penn Agent Deed which granted him 131 acres of land in 1798. To receive the land, Fergus paid back taxes on the land of 64 pounds, 14 pence and 11 shillings. The tax was figured from the first date of settlement in 1736.

The Cumberland Township Historical Society has a copy of the land grant signed by Hugh Fergus, Edmund Physick representing the Penn’s and has the signatures of Thomas and Richard Penn who are the sons of William Penn.

The Federal Census 1800, indicated Fergus was 45 years old and in the household with a male under the age of 10 and a female over the age of 45. By 1804, Fergus wrote his will. He leaves to his beloved wife Sara “the right to live in the end of the house next to Henry Clutz and half of the kitchen for two years after my demise. He names Joseph Walker and Henry Clutz his executors.

Hugh Fergus passed away on Aug. 18, 1804. The property transferred to his estate to await settlement. As Fergus stated in his will, the executors placed an advertisement in the newspaper on July 9, 1806, offering the property for sale at public venue. The property was described as having a tolerable good dwelling house, a double barn and a good orchard.

The heirs sold the property to Henry Clutz for $815.25. Clutz is a neighbor who owned the adjoining 198-acres of land. Clutz rented out the property probably to his brother Martin and it is assumed they resided in the log dwelling.

The property changed hand many times over the years from the Clutzes to Eyers (1859-1861), Sharretts (1861-1893), Reavers (1893-1910), Weikerts (1910-1929), John W. McCleaf (1920-1954), McCleaf heirs (1954-1970), and to the Waybrights 1970 and heirs with Beatrice Waybright the present owner.

Elsie D. Morey is chair of the board of directors of the Cumberland Township Historical Society.