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Robert Dilworth, the fifth principal of Greersburg Academy and later pastor of several churches in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was one of the sturdy, faithful pioneer educators and ministers who did yeoman service for God and men throughout western Pennsylvania. His father, George Dilworth, in the spring of 1796, removed to Beaver County, and settled in the forest near Greersburg, now Darlington. With his family he camped out in the woods until he had built a small cabin, which they made haste to occupy even before it was roofed over
Robert was doubtless a student in the academy that was established there at an early date by Thomas Edgar Hughes, and became, as stated, its fifth principal.
For many years, i.e., from 1820 to about 1860, he kept a daily journal ' in which in a fine hand, on small sheets, of note-paper size, he set down in circumstantial manner the minutest details of his life and of the happenings in the communities around him. A few extracts may interest the reader, as they show the life of the past and reveal a type of humble, rural heroes to whom the world is debtor.
Teacher of Latin and Greek, later minister and missionary, woodchopper, fence-builder, tailor, shoemaker, blacksmith, there was almost no employment for head or hand or heart that did not find him ready to honestly do his part in it.
March 5, 1821. "Today attended school. Declined teaching in the afternoon and attended 'Society,' it being the order of our church to meet for prayer on the first Monday of every month."
12th. "For some time past I have employed my leisure moments in reading voyages, travels and journals and find my mind relaxed as well as improved. I am now reading Robbins' journal among the wandering Arabs, which excites sympathy and indignation, while it gratifies curiosity. "
14th. "A fencing master commenced teaching a school in the academy mornings and evenings."
24th. "The company of fencers spent the evening in training on horseback."
28th. "Early in the morning the fencing master having ended his term, left town, and was escorted a short distance by his pupils, who marched in military order with a violin and clarionet in front."
Muster and review days were great events in those times. There were few guns, and most of the men, in lieu of weapons, carried sticks, broom handles, and cornstalks while being drilled. An old citizen of the county, in recalling these events, has told us that they were occasions of much drunkenness and brawling, the quarrels of the previous months being then fought out. Master Dilworth confirms this statement in his entry for:
May 15th. "Major Boyd's battalion met in this place for training. The collection of men was large. In the evening there was a little quarreling and one skirmish in the street." Later in the summer, other meetings of the military are recorded. Several fights are noted.
July 20th. "My students all harvesting. Made a pair of shoes for myself."
April 11, 1822. "Attended school. Several absent in the afternoon, having attended the marriage of Clarkson Freeman and Hetty Marshall. The groom's company having been joined by the bride's, passed through town." Later he describes another marriage custom of the olden time, that of holding "the infair," and his walking with a family party to one in the country side.
26th. "Went to the Falls of Beaver and sold there 111/4 lbs. of wool, for which we received 5 lbs. of cotton yarn and a due bill for $1.95 cts., to be paid in check. Bought fish for 183/4 cts. The fish were running smartly in Big Beaver and they were catching a great many.
May 1st. "Began to make a pair of shoes for Margaret. Weather warm. Planted some cucumber and watermillion seed."
Dr. Dilworth was one of the first to welcome the temperance movement, but at this time there was no awakening yet upon the subject, so there would be no objection in his mind to the proposition of which he now speaks. Money was scarce and both teachers and ministers were frequently paid for their services in whisky.
In October Margaret and he, in a "little waggon" of which he often speaks, and which was in great demand in the neighborhood, went to Pittsburg to "shop," and this is what they got for their money: "Bought a bonnet for Margaret and trimming, about $9.00; also crape dress $5.00; also bombazette $2.70; also dimity petticoat $1.061/4; also for myself vest pattern, $1.621/2; also muslin for shirt $1.75; also 3 silk handkerchiefs $3.50; also 2 scissor chains $30; also Andrew's Logic $0.75; also tin horn and copper kettle $1.371/2; also 3 knives $0.621/2; also a watch chain $0.371/2; also wheel irons $0.25; also a little bottle $0.121/2; shaving soap and two awls $0.121/2; washing sister Peggy's bonnet $0.371/2; and perhaps other articles amounting to about $30.00." On this trip they stopped at Mr. Vicary's at Freedom, PA, and heard "the forte piano," a novel experience apparently.
He decided to go to college, and in company with Mr. Hughes and his two sons John and Watson and Eliza and Margaret, his wife, he proceeded on the 22nd of May to Canonsburg. He had $7.00 and his father gave him $14.00. "Arrived at the river in the evening, and crossed, paid 50 cents ferriage. Tarried a short while in Georgetown and fed. Paid for cider 25 cents. Lodged at Mr. Moody's at Hookstown." He was now thirty-three years of age and had given hostages to fortune with a wife. But she was a helpmeet too, as we have seen; able to keep house and even to "shear sheep." He relates his manner of college life, full of earnest study, but with a little recreation mixed in, for see:
26th. "Attended college. In the evening Margaret and I went to see an elephant, for which we paid 25 cents."
Sept. 25, 1823. "The degree of A.B. was conferred on me, for which I paid 2 Dol. & 50 cents." It is to be remembered that he was a classical scholar before he went to college. This accounts for his speedy graduation.
A man and a boy lodged with them, and he says next day: "The man who lodged with us paid his reckoning in pins and pearl ash." Nearly everything was paid in barter in those days of small currency. Again he says, "Margaret bought of Mrs. Harvey three geese to be paid for in wool," and shortly after, "Margaret bought of Mr. Boyd a silk handkerchief, 871/2 cents to be paid for in butter."
As we turn the pages we see entries of "Attended to study" alternating with such as these, "Made two benches," "Built a back-wall in my house," "Hailed some fire-wood." And so these notes of his diligence in business run on: 17th. "To day began to write a sermon." 18th. "Cut a pair of pantaloons for myself out of cloth from the Lisbon (New Lisbon) factory." 19th. "Sheared James Smart's and John Marshall's hair" (even a tonsorial artist!). Dec. 2d. "Collected a few hands and raised my stable higher," and later we find him hoeing corn, cutting rye, butchering sheep, building haystacks and fences, cutting beetrees, doing duty in Beaver as a juror, and what not!
May 29,1827, he went to Economy and had his wool graded. "I had 81 lbs., which was valued at $26.00 - the 2/3 of which they paid in cash, the balance I took out of the store, viz., 32 yds. sheeting muslin, $4.48 - 93/4yds. ticking $2.44 - 51/2yds. calico $1.371/2 and 3 yds. girthing $0.371/2 - in all $8.67."
May 15, 1828. "Furrowed my corn ground. Two pedlars called with clocks. I bot one, for which I gave 3 ewes with their fleeces and two lambs."
October 20. "Attended Synod (at Pittsburg). Went over to Allegheny town and got a bag of yarn which I left there, that was sent by the women of Pleasant Valley to procure table linens for the meeting house. Paid a cartman 61/4 cents to carry it over to Pittsburgh. It amounted to $8.50, for which I got 14 yards of table linen at 371/2 per yard - $5.25; 15 lbs. of nails at 70 cents per lb. and a thumb latch 121/2 - $1.621/2; 3 yds muslin at 22 cents per yard; a school bible 621/2; 1 tumbler and two stock glasses 34 cents - $1.62. Amounting to $8.50, the price of the yarn."
Oct. 31, 1828. "Raised my potatoes and buried them. Attended the election for electors to elect a President - Voted in favor of Adams."
His marriage fees were generally small, but one which he mentioned in a previous note was very trifling, only 871/2 cents, but then he was consoled a few days afterwards, for a Mr. Aton, with whom he lodged, gave him "a pup and a little basket to carry it home in," and later as he remarks, "Ralph Martin, Andrew's son, brought me 1/2 bus. dried peaches to assist in paying stipends." For one wedding he got "a French crown, a Spanish dollar and a five franck piece."
The Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad was the first road constructed in Beaver County (it is now the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne, and Chicago), and we have a notice of the interest which it excited among the rural population. Dr. D. goes to Presbytery at New Brighton, and that day the 16th of September, 1851, is a red-letter day in his calendar. He writes: "Had the pleasure of seeing the cars pass on the railroad thro Brighton. They made a splendid appearance." Next day: "Spent the forenoon in viewing the cars and the railroad."
On the 15th of the next month, October, he decides on a ride on the cars to Pittsburg. "Isabella (Andrews) and I started for Pittsburgh a little before 4 o'clock & arrived at Bridgewater a little after 7 o'clock. Left my buggy and beast at Dunlap's tavern. Paid $2 for tickets for Isabella & me to Pittsburgh and back. We took the cars & arrived at Allegheny city at about 91/2 o'clock." Dec. 1st as he is returning home from a visit he sees "the cars which convey the iron for the railroad run off the track near James Duffs." Dec. 8th: "Yesterday was the Sabbath. Felt grieved to see a number of men at work on the railroad. This morning learned that the cars are to commence running as far as Palestine today & to continue running daily. Heard their whistle & the report of a cannon at Palestine."
Jan. 1, 1956. "Heard that a fearful accident happened last evening about 5 o'clock at the Darlington station by the meeting of a freight train of cars and a passenger train by which Mr. Stokes, stage agent, Mr. Johnston, brother to David Johnston, tavern keeper, & a stranger were instantly killed & about 17 persons were wounded."
August 20, 1856. "The company constructing a railroad thro our place (the Darlington Carmel Coal Company, afterwards the Pittsburg, Marion, and Chicago Railroad Company) had a celebration to-day. A carload came down their railroad to our place & they had a dinner in grove which the company obtained of me. We all went up to the grove & took dinner. Several short speeches were delivered. When they returned I went in the car with them to James Duff's. The road is now ready for transporting coal."
Dr. Dilworth's last days were spent in Enon Valley, where he died April 18, 1868. He was buried in the family burying-ground on his father's farm, and Sept. 26, 1890, his remains were removed to Little Beaver cemetery.
For more from this diary refer to Appendix No. XPage 1279 from Volume H of Bausman's History of Beaver County.