Flinn Nature Reserve
Located on Boxcartown road about 1/4 mile from the intersection of School Road South. Our new parking lot has been constructed along the east side of Boxcartown Road. It is a 1-way access/exit lot and will provide a staging area for boundary marking, trail creation and a new kiosk beginning Autumn/Winter 2019-20.
This saddle-shaped 20-acre property is located along Boxcartown Road with two arms stretching to School Road South. The land is mostly on slope with a level shrub meadow of gray and flowering dogwood on top. Being abandoned pastureland it is colonized by pioneer trees and invasive plants. The trees slowly increase in maturity as you approach the summit. Although highly disturbed in the past we are surprised at some of the plant diversity and need to spend more time there. Since the majority of the trees are red maple, tulip poplar and sassafras, it is probably the most colorful reserve in the fall season and worth just a drive by. As yet there are no trails or parking lots established on Flinn and it is not marked yet with an identifying sign, but this is scheduled to occur in the very near future.
Westmoreland Conservancy received another very generous gift of 84 acres very nearly adjacent to the original 20-acre parcel in late 2018. This land protects a significant part of Lyons Run, and we’re excited to evaluate and monitor the quality of the habitat and wildlife.
The trails are being designed to highlight the history of the land, illustrating remnants of the coal mining heritage that was prevalent locally.
One of our Conservancy members asked a local real estate agent to be on the lookout for a parcel of land that could be subdivided into a building site and a larger plot for gifting to the Conservancy. After locating a suitable parcel, the agent contacted the owners who live in California telling them what the prospective buyer had in mind. The owners, Paul and Mary Ellen Finn who had lived in Murrysville twenty years earlier, liked the idea so much that they gifted their twenty-acre parcel to the Conservancy to create the Flinn Nature Reserve on Boxcartown Road.
While living in Murrysville the Flinns bought a 62-acre parcel from the estate of Mildred V. Keister. In 1806 Mildred's ancestors bought lot number 18, a 481-acre parcel, from the George Woods subdivision in 1784 of the Manor of Denmark which encompassed 5772 acres. It was the last of the 92 manors to be sold off under the Divesting Act of 1779 that were owned by John and Richard Penn, sons of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.
Paul and Mary Ellen Flinn purchased a 64-acre property on Boxcartown Road from the estate of Mildred V. Keister in 1960. This property was part of a larger parcel purchased by Philip Keister on March 18, 1806 from Alexander Cobean, a land speculator from Gettysburg, who had acquired a larger tract of 3580 acres from agents for John and Richard Penn, sons of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. In 1769, the Penns established by proprietary warrant and survey a 5000 acre tract called the Manor of Denmark when the sale of lands from the New Purchase of 1768 was authorized. In 1784 the Penn’s had the Manor subdivided into eighteen lots by George Woods. Philip Keister purchased Lot No. 18 of the subdivision of 1784. The “5000” acre tract encompassed 5771 acres.
By virtue of the charter granted in 1681 to William Penn by Charles II in consideration of the debt owed his father, all of Pennsylvania was deeded to the Penn family as a proprietary. However, the Penns had to acquire land rights from Native Americans at their own expense. The New Purchase of 1768 was the latest wave in the march westward that started when William Penn began the colonization of Pennsylvania in 1682. The deed granted by Charles II to the Penns permitted the continuance of certain elements of feudal law with the concept of manors or tenths to be set aside as the personal property of the Penns. In all, 92 manors were established, five of which were in southwestern Pennsylvania with two of these in Westmoreland County. The idea was simple. Set aside the choicer land and sell off the surrounding land to drive up the value of the set-aside. The revolutionary spirit of the times decried ownership by the Penn family of such vast tracts. In 1779, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed the Divesting Act that preserved the Penns private estates and manors but returned unsettled lands to the public domain. The Penns were paid 130,000 pounds sterling in compensation for this taking. The Divesting Act also abolished the quitrent. This was a nominal rent, often one pepper corn per year if demanded, used to insure that principal title to the land remained with the Penn family.
Between 1791 and 1805 the Penns were able to sell six of the eighteen lots in the Manor of Denmark. Alexander bought the remaining twelve lots which he managed to sell off by 1814. The Westmoreland County Patent Map No. 89 shows the boundaries of the northwest corner of the Manor of Denmark, namely, Lots Nos. 17 & 18, and the northern portions of Lots Nos. 14, 15 & 16. Using the sub division boundaries you can locate the parcel acquired from Mildred Keister and the Flinn Nature Reserve.
Some of the information here was obtained from an Indenture on loan to us which showed a conveyance between Alexander Cobean and Philip Keaster. An early plot plan of the Manor of Denmark has the name Geo. Philip Keister written in lot No. 18 and John Mochnick’s book refers a Philip Keister as having bought lot No. 18 on March 18, 1806. The two spellings must refer to the same person. The indenture between Alexander Cobean and John Coates, an agent of the Penns helped with this information. We also obtained information from the Westmoreland County Patent Map and the Mochnick’s chapter on the history of the Manor of Denmark.
The connection of the Flinn Reserve with the Manor of Denmark will help to make the community more aware of its colonial past.