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Ligonier Borough

Ligonier Borough Hall is located at 120 East Main Street, Ligonier Pennsylvania 15658; phone: 724-238-9852.

Beginnings [1]

The town of Ligonier was laid out by Colonel John Ramsey in 1817. It is the chief place of interest from a historic point of view in the Ligonier Valley. It is the most important town in the township, and is located near its center, on the northern bank of the Loyalhanna. Its situation is at once delightful and romantic. It is in the center of the valley which bears its name, and has on the east and northwest the blue line of Laurel Hill, which forms the rim of a partial amphitheater as viewed from the town. On the southwest is the Chestnut Ridge, with the cut where the Loyalhanna breaks through the ridge, plainly in view from almost any section of the valley. Among the first to settle there when the town was laid out in 1817 were Samuel Adams, Hugh Deever, Samuel Knox, Thomas Wilson, Micah Mendell, and George Matthews. The founder of the town had come from Chambersburg. He became a large land owner around Ligonier, and did a great deal to improve the valley. He built the old mill which stood on the bank of the Loyalhanna and was finally burned. One of the earliest houses built in the town after it was laid out was a frame structure on the public square where the Marker block now stands. It was built by Henry Reed and occupied by him as a hotel. Reed also owned the Freeman farm, southwest of Ligonier. Removing there, the hotel was kept by Harmon Horton. Upon his death his widow, Elizabeth, made the hotel a famous hostelry in the early days of turnpike travel. One of her daughters, Ximena, was married to Dr. George B. Fundenberg. Another landlord of a later date was Philip Miller.

The old brick house on the corner of Main street and the public square, lately moved and now the one wing of the Breniser Hotel, was built by John Myers in 1818. It was a hotel for some years, but with the decline of travel on the pike was used as a store and dwelling house. Thomas Seaton built the Ligonier House in 1824, and it has been used as a hotel ever since. Its first landlord was Henry Ankney. After him as landlords came Robert Elder, James Waugh. Benjamin Marker, John Blair, the Franks, Glessners and others. Samuel Adams built the hotel which stood on the corner now occupied by Murdock's store. It was kept by one Riffle, and after his death by his widow. The last landlord in it was Christian Roth. Peter Aurents, sometimes called Orange, built the old house which stood so long on the northwest corner of Main street and the public square. He kept store there, and was also a sale cryer. Later it was used as a store and dwelling house, and for many years as a post office. Aurents also kept a livery stable — one horse, which he hired out for twenty-five cents per day. Thomas Lawson, the father of the late James Lawson, built a house standing where W. J. Potts' residence now stands. In 1818, when he was roofing the house, a violent storm came up suddenly and blew it down, and Mr. Lawson was killed by falling timbers. James McKelvy built the present School House, and in it kept the post office and also his office as justice of the peace, for he was the first postmaster of Ligonier. In 1833 he removed to Indiana, when John Hargnett, then a young merchant, was appointed postmaster, and Joseph Moorhead was appointed justice of the peace, which position he held by appointment and election till his death in 1865.

A few words concerning the Godfather of Ligonier, Sir John. Lord Viscount Ligonier, may not be out of place. The handsome picture printed in these pages is from a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the most eminent of all English portrait painters. An engraving from the painting was purchased in Philadelphia by the late Doctor William D. McGowan, and by him devised by will to the University of Pennsylvania. By special request it was presented by the University to the Ligonier Library, and is new in the library room of the Ligonier high school building.

At the time of the Forbes campaign against Fort Duquesne in 1758, Lord Ligonier was commander-in-chief of the home department of the English army. He had won great distinction in the army in the wars of Queen Anne. Purely by merit he gained the highest military rank under the British government. When he was seventy-three years old he became engaged to marry a young woman of great wealth and of considerable prominence in London society. The newspapers of the city took up the matter and made so much ridicule of the proposed union that, greatly to the distress of Sir John, the match was broken off. He threatened to sue them for libel because they had circulated that he was eighty years old, whereas he was seven years younger.

He continued at the head of the English army until, because of his great age, he obstructed the conduct of public businesses, and yet the authorities could not remove him and he would not resign. Horace Walpole wrote in his diary in 1766 that "Lord Granby was made commander-in-chief, to the mortification of Lord Ligonier, who accepted an Irish Earl's coronet for his ancient brows and approaching coffin, and Ligonier got fifteen hundred pounds per year settled on his nephew." Ligonier had been knighted by George the Second, was created Lord Ligonier in Ireland in 1757, was raised to an English peerage under the same title in 1763. He was made Earl of Ligonier in 1766. He died in London in 1770, aged ninety-one years.

His nephew was Edward Ligonier, and was married to Penelope, a daughter of Lord Francis Rivers. Some years after their marriage an Italian poet named Alfieri, became, as Lord Edward thought, too much of a favorite of Lady Ligonier. He thereupon sent him a challenge which the hot-blooded Italian promptly accepted. They fought with swords, and Alfieri was wounded. After the duel Ligonier was divorced from his wife by an act of Parliament. The Annual Register states that George the Third made a special trip to the House of Lords for the purpose of signing the bill. About a year after, Ligonier was married to Mary Henle, daughter of the Earl of Northington, Lord Chancellor of England. In 1764 Edward Ligonier was made aide-de-camp to King George, and was also colonel of a regiment of the Coldstream Guards. When the Revolutionary war opened he came to America with a regiment to fight against the Colonies. In 1783 he died in America, without children, and so the lordly line of Ligoniers died with him.

The name Ligonier was given to the fort by Forbes or Bouquet. By some means it was also given to a bay on Lake Champlain. It is also borne by a town in Indiana, which was settled by John Caven, from Ligonier Valley, who gave the old name to the new town which he helped to found.

  1. Boucher, John N., History of Westmoreland County Pennsylvania, Volume I, The Lewis Publishing Company, New York, 1906.
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