Francis Little – Settler

Francis “Frank” Little lived much of his adult life in Bedford County, Pennsylvania near what is today Saxton. He is believed to have been born in Maryland about 1760, found his wife, Susanna Shields, about 1788 and began our family’s legacy. We do not know who his father was, nor of any siblings. However, through advanced Y-DNA testing it is certain  that his lineage came from the border regions of Scotland, where the Little’s were a well-known riding family. It is also probable that Francis’ forbearers were among the “Ulster Scots” emigrating from  Northern Ireland in early to mid-18th Century after spending a few generations there.

Francis is first found in an 1783 Assessment in Upper Antietam Hundred, Washington County, Maryland. This would be north-east of Hagerstown. He was listed as a “Freeman” which generally means he was single, over 21, and free from any indentures. Using this information, and age ranges in the 1810 and 1820 US Censuses, we are able to deduct that his date of birth was “about” 1760. He also appears in a 1787 Tax and Exoneration for Peters Township, Franklin County PA, again as a Freeman. By 1790, Francis Little, his wife, and their first daughter appear in the U.S. Census for Hopewell Township, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

Ten years later, they are found back in Washington County, Maryland in the 1800 Census. The next time they came to Pennsylvania, they stayed, this time in Bedford County. According to family tradition, they came from Maryland as described in the 1883 Waterman, Watkins & Co. account of Liberty Township, Bedford County, believed to have been contributed by Isaac Little, Francis’ grandson:

“Frank Little came from Maryland in 1803, and settled in Hopewell, whence, in 1805, he removed to Raver’s Run. Frank and Susanna (Shields) Little were the parents of eight children: Elizabeth, John, Polly, Rebecca, William, Susanna, Scisly, and Archibald.” –

Hopewell Township in Bedford County was the larger township from which Liberty Township was formed in 1848. The family’s Maryland origins are further confirmed in the 1880 US Census, where their son, William, states that he, and both  parents were born in Maryland.

It’s hard to know where the family first settled in Hopewell. An early map of Bedford County[1] shows a gap in the mountain and a stream labeled “Reaver’s Run.” The 1877 Atlas by F.W. Beers & Co.[2] calls it “Raver’s Run”, as well as showing the “Raven’s Run District” in which the stream flows. This would be the current map at the time that Isaac wrote the Waterman, Watkins & Co account.

1816 Map detail, showing Reavers Run in lower left.


Bedford County tax records give us some solid clues. There were triennial assessments and yearly tax rolls. Francis Little first appears in the Hopewell Township records in the triennial assessment for 1807. This assessment shows Francis was taxable but he held no acreage, held 2 cows, and listed his occupation as a “Laborer.” By 1814, an assessment shows Francis holds 100 acres by “Improvement” with one horse and one cow. Later years, 1826 and 1829, continue to reflect 100 acres but just a horse and a cow or two. There is no record of how many acres were cleared. We tend to remember Francis as a farmer. He and Susanna, no doubt, grew their own food, but how much extra to trade, sell, or barter, we have no idea.

There is no record of Francis ever applying for a warrant, or survey to patent his land, nor any other record of a deed or other instrument – not uncommon across the frontier counties at this period. Unless there was some sort of dispute, lands held by “improvement” were eventually recognized by the land office as legitimate, but not during Francis’ life-time.

1814 Tax Assessment for Hopewell Twp., Bedford County Pennsylvania, showing “Little, Francis” The headers from l-r are: Patent, Warrant, Location, Improvement, Furnaces, Forges, Grist Mills, Saw Mills, Distilleries, ????, Nail Factories, Rolling Mills, Horses, Cattle, Occupation, Valuation, Lien, Taxes.


Francis and Susanna Little had eight children across the span of their marriage, which is believed to have begun about 1788 or 89. If we assume the list in the above account is in order, William Little, born 7 December 1800 in Maryland, would be the fifth child and second son. Elizabeth married Abel Putt and lived her years in the area. John Little apparently lived in Huntingdon County and we know of his lineage through a DNA discovery of his family.


Because Francis appears in the 1829 tax assessment and tax rolls, but not in the 1830 US Census or 1830 tax records, it is possible that he died in the latter part of 1829 or early 1830. While it may be that Francis and/or Susanna left to live with another son or daughter, we have such sketchy information on them, so it is hard to tell. Family data only appears in the US Census records at ten-year intervals, so the last record for Susanna was in 1820. So, we cannot say with any certainty how long either Francis or his wife Susanna lived, nor has there ever been any record of their burial.

[1] RG-17; Melish-Whiteside Maps, 1816-1821 {series #17.534}. Pennsylvania State Archives

[2] MG-11, Map #793; Atlas of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, 1877, published by F.W. Beers &Co., 36 Fessey Street, New York. Pennsylvania State Archives.


Author: T.J.Little

I grew up on a northern Bedford County, Pennsylvania, dairy farm as did my father. Those roots go seven generations deep there, By Y-DNA testing, my Little surname roots go to the Scottish Borders in the 14th century, but my family has been in America from the mid-18th. The quest to connect the story continues.

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