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Ebenezer Denny
(1761-1822)

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 the West.

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.

Researched, authored, and edited by John Osborne, Ph. D., and James Gerencser.


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