The Burning of Hannastown

referenced under James White of the White Line
referenced under John Theobald "Dewalt" Mechling of the Mechling Line

On 13 Jul 1782, in one of the last conflicts resulting from the American Revolution, British-allied Muncie Indians and Tories were led by Guyasuta in an attack on the settlement of Hannastown. Hannastown, named for Robert Hanna, is located in Hempfield Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA and was the county seat of the time. It was located on the older Forbes Road, the main route out to Ohio. It consisted of a small number of log cabins and a stockade.

Tensions between natives and settlers were extremely high. The murder of the Moravian Indians the year before by the militia led by Colonel Brodhead (Dewalt Mechling's former commander) had only escalated the hostility. The soldiers at the Hannastown garrison had deserted due to lack of pay. Settlers started performing their tasks, such as harvesting, as a community for protection. On the day of the attack, some of the town folk were at a wedding being held at Miller's Station a couple of miles to the south. Many others were out harvesting the fields of Michael Huffnagle. While taking a break between finishing one field and starting another, they saw a band of Indians hiding in the trees. The harvesters immediately fled back to town and gave the alarm. The inhabitants immediately rushed into the stockade. The door of the jail was broken open so that the prisoners might seek the fort's safety, as well.

The attackers did not at once pursue the settlers. Some have speculated that they thought the settlers would return to fight and so stayed in the trees to conceal their numbers. In any event, they waited about an hour before proceeding to the town. There, they looted and burned almost every building in the town. About 50 of the 150 attackers then headed south toward Miller's Crossing. The fort gates had been closed in time, but the situation was not good. There was little food and only a handful of cast-off militia rifles. However, eventually the other attackers tired and moved to join those who had headed south.

The attackers reached Miller's Station and captured several of the settlers. Other settlers managed to get inside the blockhouse. It wasn't particularly strong and things might have gone even worse. However, in the evening, the attackers withdrew a bit down to Crabtree Creek and approximately thirty men from the surrounding country were able to join those at the blockhouse. A rather colorful account of that, and the stratagem used to discourage the attackers, is found in the entry for James White, who was among those thirty men.White Line

Those who were taken prisoner did not fair well. Many were beaten or tortured. The family of Captain Brownlee and his family were taken prisoner. Brownlee had made quite a name for himself as an Indian fighter and was hated by the natives. He attempted to conceal his identity, but a chance remark by a fellow prisoner revealed him and he was immediately slain, along with his young son. A woman nearby was mistaken for his wife and was also killed. The bodies of these three were eventually found by settlers and buried where they fell, in fields belonging to Dewalt Mechling.Mechling Line The remainder were marched to Canada where they remained until a final peace was effected between the British and the Americans and they could return to Westmoreland Co.

Though Hannastown was rebuilt, the town never really recovered. The county seat was moved to New Town (later renamed Greensburg) and Forbes road routed through that town. Today Hannastown is a tourist attraction with well-preserved buildings recalling a terrible period in Pennsylvania's history.