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Sunday, July 6, 2014

52 Ancestors # 26 Alexander Negley, Revolutionary Soldier

     Alexander Negley was one of the founders of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In that city there is a Negley Avenue named for him. He was born about 1734, probably in Frankfort am Main, Germany. His parents immigrated to America in 1739 but his father, Jacob Negley, died on the way over.  His mother, Margaretha, and her three children (Alexander, Caspar, and Elizabeth) settled in Bucks Co., Pennsylvania.  Margaretha married Felix Leh, a blacksmith there. Alexander learned this trade from Felix Leh.

     In 1758, as a young man of 22, he fought in the French and Indian Wars. He served with General Forbes' forces at Ft. Duquesne. This was a fort built by the French at the point where the Monongehala and Allegheny Rivers join and form the Ohio River. The British defeated the French and built a new fort at the spot, called Fort Pitt. Alexander was much taken with the country in this area.  He returned to Bucks Co. and married Mary Ann Berkstrasser in 1762.  Their first 6 children were born there but in 1777 he moved his family west. They first settled in Westmoreland Co., near Ft Ligonier. Here they had to fight Indians and run for shelter in the fort. The story is told of Alexander and his oldest son, Felix, holding the Indians off with gun fire as they ran for the fort while Mary Ann (pregnant with her seventh child) drove the wagon, with the other children in it, ahead of them. They all made it and their son, John, was born in the fort.

     In 1778, Alexander joined Capt. Samuel Moorehead's Independent Company, 8th Pennsylvania Regiment  in the Revolutionary War.  This was a frontier militia and they are described at the time as wearing buckskin breeches. Here he fought to take Fort Pitt from the British which they did and it became the western headquarters during the war. He was then stationed at Fort Ligonier and the above incident with the Indians may've taken place at that time. At any rate in 1778 he moved his family to the area of Fort Pitt. He settled in what is now East Liberty but then was called "Negleytown". It is also simply "Pitt" in the 1790 Census. He had a farm of 300 acres on what is now Highland Park in Pittsburgh which he named "Fertile Bottom". He first built a log house but eventually built a red brick house with "look" holes for rifles for protection from the Indians.  It was said to be the finest house west of the Alleghenies at the time. There were orchards and groves, he was quite a prosperous farmer. They were supposed to be the first white settlers in the area. At first they had few neighbors but eventually other pioneers joined them. He and his sons established a grist  mill and a fulling mill.  He was instrumental in founding the first church in Pittsburgh, the First German Evangelical Protestant Congregation. He was a smart businessman judging by the fact that he was able to purchase a farm for each of his children.

     He died Nov 3, 1809, aged 75. His wife died in 1829.  He left 8 surviving children. He and Mary Ann were buried on the farm in what is now Highland Park along with about 50 other pioneers.  It is now marked with a monument and referred as "Negley circle".

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