George [D] and a profusion of Pennsylvania land claims

Michael A. O’Neill
Copyright 02 July 2016
Redmond, King, Washington, USA

A multitude of land records from the late-1700s—most of them in counties that were outside existing settlement areas prior to 1763—create an added difficulty with researching all of the George Sloughs. For example, tax records show George Sloughs with property in Northumberland, Westmoreland, Huntingdon, Bedford and other counties, all of which fall within the Appalachian mountain range or beyond it.

At this time, the Appalachians were a significant barrier to settlement. The lands beyond them were claimed by both the French and by Native Americans, and the remoteness combined with the danger of French and/or Indian raids mean these areas were only sparsely populated by the English. After the French and Indian War concluded in 1763—with the French yielding their claims in the area to the English—Pennsylvania began to open the west and north west of the state for colonization.

George Slough’s land claims followed a clear pattern:

  1. They were all in counties created in the 1770s and 1780s in areas that, prior to 1763, had unclear national ownership, or that would have suffered from periodic military activity.
  2. The claims were of similar size and made at similar times by men named Jacob Slough and Matthias Slough Jr., both of whom were, at the time, living brothers of George [D].
  3. At least one of the claims made by George Slough was originally signed by Matthias Slough Sr..[1]

George [D]’s father, J. Matthias Slough Sr., was a moderately wealthy, well-connected Pennsylvania politician. I believe that all of these land transactions were an attempt on his part to secure his sons’ economic future through land speculation. The idea was to buy large parcels of land in unsettled areas from the state, and then break that land up into smaller parcels, either selling or leasing to others. This practice was actually a core principle of Virginia’s political structures—the sons of connected families were able to buy thousands of acres of land for a pittance, and then live off the rents they could collect.

As such, I conclude that these records do not represent additional George Sloughs, but are all related to George [D].

End Notes

[1] e.g., McCrea, Kenneth D. Pennsylvania Land Applications Vol 2: New Purchase Applications, 1769-1773. Genealogical Society of Penna. Philadelphia. 2003. p. 3.