Ebenezer Denny was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on March
11, 1761, the eldest son of William Denny, the first coroner west of
the Susquehanna River, and Agnes Parker Denny, granddaughter of one
of the earliest Cumberland County settlers. In order to augment the
family's income, the young Denny, at the age of thirteen, took up duties
as a dispatch rider taking messages to Fort Pitt, several hundred miles
through largely hostile territory. His adventures continued when he
took service in an American privateer vessel sailing from Philadelphia
to prey on British shipping in the Caribbean. He returned to Carlisle
with prize money and would have continued this very lucrative career
had he not been given a commission in the Pennsylvania Line in 1780.
Before the next year was out, he had marched with Generals Washington
and Wayne to reinforce the French in Virginia and was reputed to have
planted the first United States flag on the emplacements around Yorktown.
Following the Revolutionary War, Denny became an officer in the First
American Regiment, and during three campaigns against the western Indians
he rose to the rank of Major, serving under Generals Butler, Harmar,
and St. Clair as adjutant and messenger connecting them to George Washington
in Philadelphia. While at Fort McIntosh in 1785, he compiled a glossary
of the Delaware and Shawnee languages. His military journal for this
period is a valuable commentary on the difficulties facing the new nation
as it disbanded its Army, but yet still had to defend settlements in
Denny led a mission to the old Fort Le Boeuf to help lay out communications
and a new town in 1794, but by 1795 he had resigned his commission for
good and settled near Pittsburgh. He had married Nancy Wilkins, another
Carlisle native, in July 1793 and was set upon raising a family. Starting
as a farmer, he invested in glass manufacture in Pittsburgh in 1801,
was elected treasurer of Allegheny County in 1803, and took up banking
as the local director of the Bank of Pennsylvania (later the Bank of
the United States) in 1804. He was then intending to relocate to Louisiana
for the sake of his young wife's health, but she died in May 1806 at
the age of thirty-one. Denny remained in Pittsburgh and was chosen as
the first mayor of the city when it was incorporated in early 1816.
He served only one term before returning to his business pursuits. He
died suddenly on July 21, 1822 at the age of sixty-one.
Please visit the following link for materials authored
by Ebenezer Denny maintained in the Their Own Words database:
Denny, Ebenezer, 1761-1822.