" Mud Island" was the given name of the small tract of land purchased by Zachariah Connell 1n 1787. Surveyed in 1794, this quote is taken from a FAY-WEST web site:

Zachariah Connell

Authored by: Connellsville Area Historical Society on Feb 2, 2000

Zachariah Connell, the founder of Connellsville, was one of the earliest settlers in the region. Born in 1741 near Winchester, Frederick County, Virginia, he settled in present day Fayette County sometime after 1771. This area was known as the District of West Augusta and was claimed by both Virginia and Pennsylvania. Zachariah Connell served as a gentleman justice for Youghiogania County, District of West Augusta, as well as a justice of the peace. During the Revolution he was a captain of militia and a Ranger of the Frontier in William Perry's company, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, Rangers of the Frontier, 1778-1783.

As a surveyor and land agent for Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia, Howard of Maryland, and the Chew family of Philadelphia, Zachariah Connell was an able and highly respected judge of land.

He surveyed a tract of land on the east bank of the Youghiogheny River containing 147 acres, which he called "Mud Island." This piece of land became a natural stopping-place for emigrants & travelers to build rafts to float down the river. He decided that this important route to the west would be an excellent site for a city. Zachariah Connell surveyed a town of 180-quarter acre lots and secured a charter on March 21, 1793 for the town he called Connellsville.

His kindness and generosity were illustrated by the charter, which gave the town residents permission to make use of the stone quarry, coal bank, and adjacent timber & springs. He also donated land for a public building, churches, schools, and a graveyard.

Zachariah Connell, a son of James & Ann Williams Connell, married (1) Rebecca Rice and (2) Margaret Wallace. He died in 1813 and is buried on a hill overlooking Connellsville. Many of his descendants moved west, but there are still Connell's in Connellsville.

David Lindsay probably settled the tract early but never surveyed it or sought a warrant of possession. He probably had "Tomahawk Right's" to the land.

Tomahawk Right. The W. H. Beers History of Montgomery County, Ohio, published in 1882, said: "Before the [land] surveys, the title fully respected by the settlers of the county is known as the 'tomahawk right.' It was made by deadening a few trees near a spring, or at some other prominent point on the tract: and by blazing trees at the corners, or along the lines. A 'settlement right' was even stronger, as the pioneer was on hand to defend his property. Either of these rights, however, were recognized as establishing a priority of claim, and were often bought and sold, as it was better to buy the improvements, rather than quarrel with parties who held them."
A Bedford County, Pa., genealogical site offers this explanation: "Before the lawful land titles were issued in 1769, the first step necessary for the early settler to obtain land, was to establish what they called a 'Tomahawk Right.' This meant for the settler to deaden a few trees near a spring and cut his name or initials in the bark of the trees near the spring. This showed the settler's intention to hold and occupy the land which was usually surrounded by blazed or deadened trees. These 'Tomahawk Rights' gave the settler no legal title unless followed by occupation or a warrant and a patent secured from the land office. But the 'Tomahawk Rights' were quite generally recognized by the early settlers, and many of them were purchased cheaply by other settlers who did not want to enter into a controversy with the claimants who made them."

Today, the land is part of downtown Connellsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania.




Chapter entitled "PIONEERS OF THE YOUGH"   (A PDF file)