The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Monday, Feb. 28, 2000


Pandenarium was dream that turned into a nightmare

By Christina Greggs
Allied News Staff Writer

While many former slaves arrived in Pennsylvania via the Underground Railroad, in at least one case secrecy wasn’t necessary.

In 1854, a group of newly freed slaves announced their arrival to western Pennsylvania by building a settlement, according to Mercer County Historical Society documents. The local settlement, named Pandenarium, was formed in Indian Run, near East Lackawannock Township. It included 61 freed slaves from Charlottesville, Va., according to the documents. The settlement’s name was a possible misspelling of the biblical term Pandanaream, which means fertile, the documents said.

While the former slaves didn’t arrive locally until 1854, the concept of Pandenarium began in the mind of Dr. Charles Everett in 1837, according to a Herald article by Mairy Jayn Woge, a Hermitage resident and local history buff.

The Virginia doctor was a wealthy landowner. While he owned a number of slaves, Dr. Everett firmly believed slavery was a sin, Ms. Woge said.

To atone, Dr. Everett intended to set them free in 1848; he wanted to make sure the families were provided for.

Dr. Everett, along with his nephew, Cutlip Everett, bought 50 acres of land in Indian Run to be the building site of his “utopia.” The land was part of a farm owned by John Young, Ms. Woge said.

Dr. Everett planned to have shops, eateries and stage coach stops in the settlement. Although the Everetts found a place for their slaves, they weren’t to be released yet.

Dr. Everett commissioned the building of a road, homes, wells, gardens and a Baptist church to be put in place for their arrival, Ms. Woge said.

He died before he saw his dream enacted, but his nephew continued it. After the buildings were completed, 61 former Everett slaves and their families moved in on Nov. 12, 1854, Ms. Woge said.

They arrived wearing muslin clothes and shoes, something only masters and their families enjoyed. The new residents found 24 two-story homes complete with furniture, household necessities and crop seeds, Woge said.

To add to their fortune, Everett also provided each new landowner a deed for two acres and a purse of $1,000.

While the settlement seemed to be off to a good start, in a matter of years Dr. Everett’s dream would turn into a nightmare.

The Southerners weren’t prepared to face harsh Northern winters, Ms. Woge said. When winter came, many died of pneumonia and its complications. Matters only were made worse when the Pandenarium citizens refused to seek medical treatment.

The ones who survived the winter were faced with floods the following spring. The so-called Indian River, a stream which flowed nearby into the Shenango River, flooded twice, ruining the settler’s clothes, furniture and farming tools, Ms. Woge said.

Making things even worse, personal relations began to deteriorate as settlers blamed one another for stealing.

Also, they were not used to handling money, and many fell prey to white swindlers, Ms. Woge said. Within two years, the citizens were plagued with an outbreak of tuberculosis that claimed more lives.

It was the last straw for some of the dwindling number of settlers who packed their salvaged belongings and moved.

Five families moved into Mercer and two families moved south to Tennessee, she said. Ironically, a majority of its citizens found surrendered themselves back into a life of slavery. The few families who remained in Pandenarium bought more property and built bigger farms, she said.

Despite their attempts to maintain the original settlement, shortly after the turn of the 20th century, Pandenarium would be no more, as the remaining few residents left to find jobs in places like Farrell, Sharon and New Castle, Woge said.

Unlike Liberia, the Stoneboro settlement, there is no marker left behind to tell Pandenarium’s tale. The only evidence it existed at all are a few dilapidated foundations and the stories its residents left behind.

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