Located on the site of an old cherry tree in the town of Cherry Tree is a monument, which signifies a boundary marker for the Purchase Line treaties of the late 1700s, more significantly was the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. These treaties called for the Iroquois to first sell land west and south of the marker to the colonial government of Pennsylvania and later to the north of it. It was these acquisitions that opened the door for the settlement of a large portion of western Pennsylvania. This site was later used as a survey point to determine the boundaries for Indiana, Cambria, and Clearfield Counties, where the three counties met.
It was in the late 1800s that community leaders made the decision to replace the cherry tree with a monument in order to preserve the legacy for future generations. This large cherry tree stood near the confluence of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Cush Cushion Creek. The tree was used to mark the western boundary of land purchased by William Penn from the Iroquois tribe; the meeting of the land purchase was transacted in Fort Stanwix (now Rome, NY). The straight line from Canoe Place (Cherry Tree) to Kittanning in Armstrong County is widely known as “The Purchase Line.” This line today is the boundary between the eight northernmost townships and the rest of Indiana County, and the name sake for the Purchase Line School District.
After the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, it was legal to settle south of the Purchase Line, except for the “Mahoning Country” which remained forbidden territory. Unfortunately, the Shawnee, Delaware and other westerly tribes refused to recognize the sale. (See a future blog post on the Indian horrors that would follow as a result.)
Unfortunately, around 1837 the cherry tree was washed away in a flood, destroying the last physical evidence of the William Penn-Iroquois Nation Treaty. It was not until 1894 that enough money was raised to erect the monument. In November 1894, the monument was dedicated in an elaborate ceremony attended by Governor James A. Beaver and a number of other dignitaries from throughout the region. At the unveiling, the inscription read “this monument is erected to mark Canoe Place, the corner of the property purchased from the Indians at Fort Stanwix, New York, on November 5, 1768.”
Beginning in 1916, the Cherry Tree Women’s Association has maintained the monument and the ground surrounding it. Then in 1922, the organization petitioned the state to have a circular wall built around the structure to stabilize it.
The borough of Cherry Tree has long been the site of confusion of which county it actually belongs because of its proximity to all three counties. It has also been known as a variety of different names since the first settlers arrived, including: New Lancaster, Campville, Bardsville and Newman Mills. In 1867, it was named Cherry Tree-Grant Post Office, and then changed to Cherry Tree in 1907.
Besides the history of the monument, the town was also home to a “private subscription” school which opened in 1831 and took students from all three counties. A male and female college was started in 1854 and remained opened until the Indiana Normal School (IUP) opened in 1875. Besides education, Cherry Tree had a rich history involving the lumbering and rafting trades thanks in large part to the navigable waters near the town.