History is filled with strange twists of fate.
Take for example the location of the Pennsylvania Association of Notaries’ headquarters at One Gateway Center, Pittsburgh. The site was once owned by Isaac Craig, the first notary to be appointed under the new independent state constitution of 1791.
Craig, originally from Ireland, and his business partner, Stephen Bayard, purchased all of the ground between Fort Pitt and the Allegheny River from John Penn and his son in 1783.
A Revolutionary War captain who saw action at Brandywine and Germantown and wintered at Valley Forge, Craig came to Fort Pitt in 1781. Eventually, he purchased the site of Fort Pitt and resided in the blockhouse with his family for several years.
After the war, Craig served as deputy quartermaster general and military storekeeper of Pittsburgh and led federal troops in 1794 during the Whiskey Rebellion. In “The History of Pittsburgh: Its Rise and Progress,” published in 1906, Craig is credited with filling “many offices of public trust, and took an active part in making and developing his adopted town.”
When Gov. Charles Mifflin first appointed notaries on March 5, 1791, he said, “There shall not be at any time more than six notaries appointed and commissioned to reside within the city and county of Philadelphia, nor more than three to reside in any county within this state.”
Mifflin also set the amount of notary bonds, “in a sum not exceeding six hundred pounds (or $1,200), and two sureties in a sum not exceeding three hundred pounds ($600) each.”
Notarial fees were set at 26 cents per notarized affidavit, 75 cents for an acknowledgment of a bill of sale or mortgage, and 25 cents for certifying a power of attorney for transferring or selling stock.
According to several published histories, notaries such as Craig were credited with playing “vital roles in documenting the formation of the country. They performed the notarial acts necessitated by owning property and titling land, electing governmental leaders, and building the economy.”
In the 1790s, western Pennsylvania was considered the Wild West. In a letter dated May 19, 1791, to Major General Henry Knox, secretary of war, Craig wrote, “We have frequent accounts of murders being committed on our frontiers by the Indians.”
Despite the danger, Craig purchased a large quantity of lumber from Cornplanter, a Seneca chief who had a saw mill in what is now Warren County. Craig’s other business interests included owning and operating a distillery. He also established the first Pittsburgh glassworks factory in 1796, the earliest to use coal as fuel in the United States. His eight-pot furnace turned out 300 square feet of window glass per day. Bottles and other “hollow ware” were also made.
Craig’s duties continued during the War of 1812 when he helped prepare munitions. He died in 1826 at the age of 84 and is interred at the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Pittsburgh.