The Lost Grave of Andrew Barnett
Since its founding in 1804, plenty of people have been through Jefferson County, located along the I-80 Frontier of the Pennsylvania Wilds.
Maybe you’ve been through there yourself.
Anyone driving through, if you’re not taking Interstate 80, is likely to be using Route 322. If you happen to be on 322, and you have an interest in local history, you might consider making a quick stop just east of the county seat of Brookville. Stop at the intersection of 322 and Knox Dale Road.
Now get out of the car and walk west, stopping very near where Mill Creek meets Sandy Lick Creek. Take a look around.
Congratulations. Even though you can’t tell by looking, you’re about at the grave of the area’s first settler.
In 1794, Andrew Barnett was sent to explore western Pennsylvania on behalf of his brother Joseph, to find a good place to build a saw mill. Andrew and Joseph were orphans, ever since their mother had died in 1760 after bringing them from Ireland. Raised by farming relatives, they went into business together as they got older.
The expedition got as far as Mill Creek in present-day Jefferson County, and Andrew loved the area and called it good. He turned around at that point and went back for his brother Joseph, and they returned in the spring of 1795 to build their mill.
According to “History of Jefferson County” by Kate M. Scott, the brothers had assistance from Barnett’s brother-in-law Samuel Scott, and several Native Americans from the Seneca tribe, sent by Chief Cornplanter to assist. The Native Americans, according to the book, refused to help put up the mill until they’d eaten and slept for two days in preparation.
It was said to be the first structure in the county. The brothers planned to run the business together, but first, Joseph traveled back to Lycoming County to get his family in the fall of 1795. While he was gone, Andrew became sick, and died.
Scott buried Andrew with the help of two Native Americans, along the bank of Mill Creek. The exact spot is, essentially, “Around here somewhere,” but it was definitely at the conjunction of the two creeks.
There wasn’t much of a funeral. The book says, “He laid him in his lone grave where the winds of Heaven, as they whispered through the pine woods, were his only requiem.”
Samuel Scott then traveled back to Lycoming to bring the news to Joseph, and, discouraged, they didn’t return until 1797, when the whole family came on horseback. They settled and began running the mill.
Andrew’s grave was never marked. It’s referred to in the book as “The Lone Grave of Andrew Barnett.” To this day, it’s still a grassy area, and according to the Jefferson County Historical Society, the exact location is unclear.
A mill stands nearby, built by James Humphrey in the 1800s. This is the location of the Barnett mill, over two hundred years ago, which no longer stands.