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Colonial leaders extended legacy to Mon Valley towns

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James William Morgan Jr. of Roscoe received a commission to the U.S. Naval Academy as a midshipman in 1960.
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The tombstone of Eliza Jane DeHaven offers a silent but symbolic reminder of the colonial family’s presence in the area. Eliza Jane, the wife of Jehu DeHaven, was only 57 when she died in 1863 and was buried in the old California Cemetery.

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Peter DeHaven not only produced muskets, he developed the long rifle using his knowledge of German technology, James William Morgan Jr. said in recounting more stories passed through the generations of his family. Muskets, he explained, were short-barreled, short-ranged, smooth-bored, inaccurate and inexpensive firearms used in warfare tactics of the day.

That point is one of many emphasized by Morgan of Roscoe, a direct descendant of the DeHaven family, in his reminiscences of the colonial Americans.

“Opposing armies would confront each other at close range and fire volleys of shot at each other as fast as they could reload, then charge in with bayonets causing great carnage,” Morgan said.

“Muskets were the weapon of choice because they were relatively fast to reload and manipulate in close quarter combat. On the other hand, the long rifle was not a musket, although both were muzzle loaders. It was much longer, highly accurate at a much greater range, firing a more powerful projectile because of the riflings in the barrel and the use of a tamped patch over the powder charge. But they took much longer to load and were incompatible for standard warfare tactics. Their forte was for hunting and each took on the personal air of its owner.

“Muskets were for warfare and long rifles were for hunting until men like Maj. Daniel Morgan saw their value in a new kind of strategy that he had learned from the Indians while serving in the French and Indian War. He equipped his battalion of rangers with those weapons produced by the DeHavens and was instrumental in defeating the British at Saratoga, N.Y. One of his marksmen was Edward DeHaven, who with others from Pennsylvania had become one of what was our country’s first battalion of snipers. The long rifle was one of the DeHaven-Morgan connections.”

Daniel Morgan went on to become a general and defeated the British Army at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina, forcing them out of the southern states.

Morgan said many families in the Philadelphia area like the DeHavens, Morgans and Boones were on the move prior to, during and after the Revolutionary War using different trails and roads in all directions “looking for lands and opportunities.” Some of them turned south via the Great Valley Road; west through The Cumberland Gap, Forbes Road and the Cumberland Road, also known Braddock’s Road; and later the National Pike (old Route 40).

“Because of the good lands in this area, some decided to settle around Brownsville, which was a main trading post for the Ohio Company of Virginia where farm land was available,” he said. “Shipbuilding, mining and whiskey distilleries also were predominant trades.”

Not far downstream, Morgan said, was an area called Greenfield, where Indian tributes once gathered for trade, hunting and fishing.

“It also was good farmland, provided timber for shipbuilding, abundant coal reserves and railroad construction,” he said. “This area became California.”

Morgan’s third great-grandfather, Jehu DeHaven served in the 5th West Virginia Cavalry when he lived in California. His great-grandfather James William Morgan met and married his great-grandmother Sara Catherine DeHaven in California.

“Other small towns like Elco, Roscoe and Belle Vernon were springing up toward Pittsburgh, soon to provide many work opportunities in industry and business in the Mon Valley that attracted members of my family,” he said.

“Every generation of my family has served in the military voluntarily, including my son James III during Desert Storm and the present service of my grandson, Capt. Steven Hoak, a 2006 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and an Iraq veteran.”

Morgan’s military service began a few years after his graduation from California Community High School in 1957.

He was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., while attending California State College.

While attending the Academy at Annapolis, Md., as a member of the Class of 1964, Morgan found it necessary to return to Roscoe.

“My mother, who was living alone, developed a life-threatening illness,” he said. “The American Red Cross advised me that I might interdict her precarious circumstances if I left the Academy. I did and my return home was credited with saving her life. Thankfully, she was with us for many more years.”

Norma E. Bryden Morgan, a native of Elco, was 87 when she died on Sept. 9, 2009.

Morgan completed his studies at California State College while caring for his mother and earned a bachelor of science degree in biological science in 1962.

He returned to the Navy during the Cuban missile blockade and served as a test subject for high-gravity flight experiments in visual acuity and navigation for the Mercury Project at Pensacola Naval Station in Florida.

He later became a special agent for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Buffalo, N.Y., and Pittsburgh.

Ultimately, after experiencing other venues of service, Morgan retired from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

As his father was, Morgan is a longtime member and past commander of American Legion Post 801 in Roscoe.

“The story of the DeHaven Revolutionary War loan and my being one of the older heirs is a true one,” Morgan said. “However, there were many loans and sacrifices of other families that were also not repaid.”

To repay or honor just one family or individual “would serve only to marginalize the sacrifices of another,” Morgan said.

“To repay at one time what should have already been repaid with the eternal gratitude of all Americans would be a monumental task because of the passage of time with all the inherent vagaries of lost documentations, identification of recipients and determination of equitable recompense.

“Therefore, might I suggest that Congress pass legislation to identify and determine the value of such Debts of Honor and supply the revenue without reservation, as did our honorable forefathers, and create a Veterans Rehabilitation Fund to really care for and revere another too often forgotten group of patriots, our veterans. That would be an inheritance I would consider as payment in full.”

Ron Paglia is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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