Neill Log House

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Neill (Neal) Log House
NeillLogHouse.jpg
Picture of the Neill (Neal) Log House on April 10, 2010
Neill Log House is located in Pittsburgh
Neill Log House
Location East Circuit Road near Serpentine Drive in Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 40°26′09″N 79°56′08″W / 40.435847°N 79.935606°W / 40.435847; -79.935606
Built/founded ca. 1765[1]
Governing body/owner City of Pittsburgh
City designated February 28, 1977[2]
PHLF designated 1970[3]

The Neill (Neal) Log House is a historic log cabin built in 1765 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the oldest home in Pittsburgh. The other two oldest buildings in Pittsburgh are not homes. The Old Stone Inn was built in 1756 and The Fort Pitt Block House was built in 1764. The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation placed a Historic Landmark Plaque on the building in 1970.[3] In 1977, it was named a City of Pittsburgh Designated Historic Structure.[2] It is part of Schenley Park U.S. Historic District[4]

The building was constructed around 1765 by the Neill (Neal) family, who owned 262 acres in what is now Schenley Park.[1] John Neal came from Ireland around 1736 and set up a homestead in what is now Harrisburg Pa. He then went back to Ireland and brought his son William and his wife Margaret to the homestead in Harrisburg Pa. He then had seven more children - John, Robert, James, Margaret, Jean, Eleanor, and Agnes (Nancy). John and William purchased farm land in what is now Indiana County Pa. Robert bought the land in Pittsburgh and built the cabin and developed a Conestoga trade route from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia using his father's homestead in Harrisburg as one of the stopping points.

The house passed through several hands before being sold to Col.[1] James O'Hara, who left the property to his granddaughter Mary Schenley, who donated the land to the city in 1889.[1]

It currently sits preserved in Schenley Park with a fence around it (though it is open to the public periodically).

The log house is also featured on the cover of A Guidebook To Historic Western Pennsylvania by Helene Smith and George Swetnam.[5]

May 8, 1915 Pittsburgh Bulletin- "A log house, once the fortified home of a rugged, full-bearded frontiersman, stands near Indian Springs in Schenley Park, and is now used as a rest house for Pittsburgh business men and stylishly dressed women who seek recreation during the summer months playing golf on the city links.

This cabin was built in 1765 by Robert Neal, of thick hewn logs, the interstices being chinked with flat stones and clay as a protection against the attacks of Indians. It is one of the few pioneer cabins still standing in Western Pennsylvania in which the stone chimney is entirely within the walls and in which the loophole windows, originally about two feet long and less than a foot high, were not enlarged after danger from Indian attack had passed.

This home stood close to Nemacolin’s trail, later known as the “old Road”, which lead from Philadelphia to Fort Pitt. Packhorse trains and heavy Conestoga wagons bearing supplies from the East passed it on their way to the log village of Pittsburgh. Several times it was besieged by Indians and bloody encounters have occurred about its log walls.

Neal himself owned a Conestoga outfit and with Jack Andrews, a neighbor, made frequent trips to Philadelphia during which he was exposed to constant danger of attack by bands of Indians, for the capture of a heavily laden freight wagon yielded much booty.

One midsummer evening a few years before the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Neal and Andrews had almost reached the cabin on a return trip from Philadelphia without adventure when suddenly just as they were starting down the hill at what is now Murray Avenue and Forbes street an Indian darted out of the bushes and hurled something at the team. The six horses plunged violently down the hill, frantic with fear and pain. The Indian had thrown a wasps’ nest which struck the back of one of the horses and broke, liberating the insects which stung the horses and the driver viciously.

Neal with two “tenderfoot” passengers from Philadelphia who were on the back of the big covered wagon were not stung but they narrowly escaped being thrown to the ground by the unexpected plunge of the horses, the passengers losing their rifles.

A half dozen Indians followed the runaway horses down the hill, firing as they ran, apparently for the purpose of adding to the fright of the panic-stricken animals. The Indians were disappointed in the evident expectations that the wagon would overturn or be wrecked among the trees and be easy to capture. Although smarting from numerous stings, Andrews kept the plunging horses on the road. By the time they had crossed the bottom of the narrow ravine and started up the steep ascent leading into what is now Schenley Park where the Neal home stands, most of the wasps had been left behind, and the mad speed of the horses slackened during the steep climb.

Furious at the failure of their scheme to cause a wreck, the Indians fired directly at the men on the wagon and wounded both the passengers. Neal returned the fire of the Indians and one of them dropped as if dead. The Indians became more cautious but continued firing from behind trees until they killed one of the horses and brought the wagon to a standstill close to the Neal home.

Neal assisted the two passengers, who were wounded but slightly, into the cabin while Andrews cut the traces of one of the horses and galloped towards Fort Pitt for aid. The wounded men were of no assistance in defending the cabin but the walls were thick and Neal with the aid of his two sons, both under 16 years of age, kept the Indians away from the wagon by firing carefully through the loophole windows. Elizabeth Neal, the wife and mother, reloaded the rifles and kept watch to see that none of the Indians approached form the opposite side of the cabin.

After an hour’s siege the Indians withdrew, evidently fearing the arrival of soldiers from the fort. When Andrews returned with aid, no trace of the Indians could be found.

Neal continued to live in the cabin until 1787 when he sold it to John Reed, another waggoner, for 360 pounds sterling, making a profit of 203 pounds for the property. After changing owners many times the log house came into possession of the Schenley estate and was included in the tract donated to the city for a park. The city restored the cabin to its original appearance except for the roof and gables, and now it is used as a rest house for golf players on the city links."

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